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Ukraine seeking Canada’s help to repair rail system ravaged by war



Ukraine wants Canada to lend its expertise – and donate crucial railway parts – to keep its embattled passenger and cargo rail system running as landmines and missile strikes threaten to stall the country’s lifeline.

The rail system is vital to the war effort, and has been since the first days of the invasion that began one year ago this week.

Millions of people used trains to escape occupied cities and flee to neighbouring countries. Thousands of wounded soldiers and civilians were also transported by rail to hospitals in safer parts of the country.


The railway is also how Ukraine moves aid and soldiers to front-line areas, where the fighting is most intense, and restores residents and supplies to territories returned to Ukrainian control after the Russian occupying forces leave.

Constant attacks on rail and other critical infrastructure has rendered 20 per cent of the system unusable, said Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, the CEO of Ukrainian Railways’ passenger company. He added that more than 300 railworkers have also been killed.

“Very often they have to go right after the shelling ends, when it’s still dangerous, to start repairs,” he said in an interview from Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine.

The state-owned rail company, known in Ukraine as Ukrzaliznytsia, has been operating almost as a paramilitary unit to keep essential goods and people moving from one end of the vast country to the other, Pertsovskyi said.

But Ukraine is looking to do more than repair what has been damaged, he said.

The company wants to build a better, more modern system, and it has asked for Canada’s help.

“Canada is a big industrial manufacturer, so of course there could be certain equipment types or certain technology solutions,” he said.

One of his goals is to make the gauge of the tracks _ the distance between the two rails _ more compatible with the standard in the rest of Europe. It would be no small feat, considering there is 20,000 km of track in Ukraine.

The railway also hopes to replace shattered stations with ones that will better serve Ukrainians after the war, including those with lasting disabilities.

“Unfortunately there’s so many, even young people, who get amputations because of this war, and our key task is to make our railway facilities fully accessible,” he said.

Canada could help with equipment, engineering and advice to rebuild damaged buildings up to accessibility standards, he said.

Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra helped broker an agreement last fall between Canadian rail companies and Ukrainian Railways in response to a request from the Ukrainian government to support the resiliency and reconstruction of the system, including sourcing parts from Canadian manufacturers.

“Our members are marshalling equipment and expertise to help our Ukrainian friends keep trains moving, despite Russia’s incursions, while also planning for the future,” Caroline Healey, executive vice-president of the Railway Association of Canada, said in a written statement.

The Railway Association of Canada represents Canada’s three major rail companies: Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and Via Rail, as well as Canadian rail manufacturers.

The association is working to figure out what parts Ukraine needs most, and where to get them in Canada.

Pertsovskyi said workers in Ukraine have already repaired hundreds of kilometres of tracks and nearly a dozen bridges that have been damaged in the war. He said sometimes, though, they are just temporary fixes.

The most notable example might be the major bridge between Kyiv and the nearby suburb of Irpin, which was occupied by Russian forces at the very start of the war. Ukrainian forces destroyed the bridge over the Irpin River that connected the two cities to prevent Russian tanks from advancing into the capital.

“It’s like major, major destruction,” Pertsovskyi said. “The river is beneath the bridge and it was completely like blown apart.”

Once Russian troops were pushed out of the suburb, it took the country less than a month to restore commuter rail service, he said. Meanwhile, the bridge between the port city of Odessa and the nearby region of Bessarabia has been attacked more than 30 times.

“They keep attacking it and (they’re) still not able to completely stop the operation,” Pertsovskyi said.

The work comes at an enormous human cost. Landmines left behind after the Russians leave make repairs incredibly dangerous for workers.

Missile attacks on power stations have also made it difficult to keep trains running, though deploying diesel trains during power outages now happens quickly and smoothly, he said.

Stations such the one in Lviv have been transformed into what Pertsovskyi calls “invincibility fortresses,” where people from the city can come to warm up, charge their electronic devices and sleep on station benches when Russian bombing cuts the power to communities.

Though the tent city of refugees and social services that were outside of Lviv Station is now mostly packed up and gone, one tent remains. There, volunteer Roman Mazur, among others, sleeps when he is not handing out hot tea to travellers leaving or returning to Ukraine.

Inside, the tent is piled high with boxes of food and other supplies to help people along their journey.

The statues that flank the ornate entrance to the station are wrapped up to protect them against damage in case of nearby explosions, but still the trains run mostly on time.

As more territories are reclaimed, Pertsovskyi hopes to repair more rail lines leading to those towns and communities.

“Bringing life back to the occupied cities is now the top priority,” he said.


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Twenty-six organizations call for MSI for migrant workers in Nova Scotia



Halifax, NS (March 21, 2022) – Today, as the spring session of the Nova Scotia legislature opens, twenty-six organizations have published an open letter calling for healthcare access for Kerian Burnett and all migrant workers in Nova Scotia. Today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The signatories to the letter include the Antigonish Coalition to End Poverty, Central Kings Community Health Board, CUPE NS, King’s Students’ Union, National Farmers Union – Nova Scotia, No one is illegal – Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Health Coalition and Western Kings Community Health Board.

In some provinces, migrant workers have access to public healthcare on arrival. In Nova Scotia, migrant workers must have a one-year work permit to be eligible for public healthcare coverage (MSI). This means that Caribbean and Mexican workers who come to Nova Scotia under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) are not eligible, because their contracts are a maximum of 8 months of each calendar year.

“Nova Scotia’s MSI eligibility criteria shuts out this racialized workforce. This is a blatant example of systemic discrimination, which can and must be immediately redressed,” said Stacey Gomez, Manager of the Migrant Workers Program with No one is illegal – Nova Scotia.


Migrant workers in the SAWP only have access to private health insurance, which is tied to their employment.

“Private health insurance from employers and restrictions on eligibility for MSI prevents migrant workers from accessing the care they need leaving them vulnerable and falling through the cracks of our public healthcare system. The NSHC signs onto this letter and supports the call for all migrant workers, especially seasonal agricultural workers, to be eligible for MSI immediately upon arrival in Nova Scotia. Access to free, universal, public healthcare is the right of every human being, regardless of immigration status. We must do better,” said Alexandra Rose,  Coordinator of the Nova Scotia Health Coalition.

Ms. Burnett, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after arriving in Nova Scotia as a migrant worker,  now has a Temporary Resident Permit until January 10, 2024. However, she still does not have medical coverage in Nova Scotia. She was advised by her doctor to remain in Canada to undergo life-saving treatments and for follow-up care. Ms. Burnett is currently hospitalized.

– 30  –


Media contact:


No one is illegal – Nova Scotia

Telephone: (902) 329-9595


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Canada's inflation rate cools more than expected – Financial Post



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OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation cooled in February as it posted its largest deceleration since April 2020.

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Statistics Canada said Tuesday its consumer price index in February was up 5.2 per cent compared with a year earlier.


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Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the annual rate to fall to 5.4 per cent.

The reading compared with an annual inflation rate of 5.9 per cent in January and was the lowest annual inflation rate since January 2022 when it was 5.1 per cent.

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Statistics Canada noted that the decline was due to a steep monthly increase in prices in February 2022 when the global economy was significantly affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the overall cooling, grocery prices remained elevated and outpaced overall inflation.

Prices for food purchased from stores in February were up 10.6 per cent compared with a year ago, the seventh consecutive month of double-digit increases.

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Which food items went up in price in Canada – CTV News



Inflation for goods in Canada is cooling but prices for food remain high, Statistics Canada’s latest report shows.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February was at 5.2 per cent year-over-year, a decrease from January’s 5.9 per cent year-over-year increase.

“This was the largest deceleration in the headline CPI since April 2020,” the StatCan report reads.


Energy reflected the cooling as prices fell 0.6 per cent year-over-year. Gasoline prices are leading the drop, StatCan says, with a 4.7 per cent difference year-over-year — “the first yearly decline since January 2021.”

“Inflation is cooling more than what was typically expected,” David George-Cosh, BNN Bloomberg reporter, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “But when you drill down into some of the details, it’s unlikely to really convince Canadians that the worst is really behind us.”

Despite the overall signs inflation is decreasing, Canadians are not seeing this reflected at grocery stores, where food prices rose 10.6 per cent year-over-year in February. This is a slight decrease from January, which saw a 11.4 per cent year-over-year increase.


February marks the seventh consecutive month of double-digit food inflation, StatCan says.

This pressure is largely due to supply constraints from extreme weather in some regions and higher costs of animal feed, energy and packaging materials.

Pasta products continue to increase in price, with a 23.1 per cent year-over-year difference in February. This is an upward trend from January, which had a year-over-year increase of 21.1 per cent.

Fruit juice had the largest increase in price from January to February 2023, data from StatCan shows. In January, the product had a year-over-year difference of 5.2 per cent; this rose to 15.7 per cent year-over-year in February.

According to StatCan, the quick rise in the cost of fruit juice is led by the increased price of orange juice specifically.

“The supply of oranges has been impacted by citrus greening disease and climate-related events, such as Hurricane Ian,” the CPI report reads.

William Huggins, lecturer of corporate finance and business economics, explained supply chains are under pressure from many areas.

“We’ve had, for instance, problems with avian flu…There are problems with African swine fever in China, we’ve had trouble getting enough employees to come back post pandemic with their steel supply chains,” Huggins told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “We’ve seen this not just in Canada, but also in the United States as well. So rather than people thinking it’s very much a homegrown problem, it’s much more of a North American logistic problem.”

Oranges on their own have not increased quite as dramatically between January and February of this year. According to the data, in January oranges had a year-over-year increase of 14.1 per cent, which rose to 15.1 per cent year-over-year in February.

Similarly, apples rose in price year-over-year to 16.6 per cent in February, a 4.5 per cent increase from January.

Some areas did see prices slowing, StatCan said.

Meat products decreased to 6.2 per cent year-over-year, though this is a smaller decrease than in January.

But Canadians aren’t seeing decreases in all types of meat.

Fresh or frozen poultry remained high, as StatCan pegged the year-over-year increase at 10.7 per cent in February, a slight increase from January.

Fish, seafood and other marine products increased by 1 per cent from January’s year-over-year marker to 7.4 per cent year-over-year in February.

Fresh or frozen beef saw a reduction in February, with a year-over-year increase of 2.4 per cent compared to January’s 3.7 per cent difference.

Buyers of some types of produce are seeing a cooling effect as well, including the costs of lettuce and tomatoes.

Lettuce in January rose to 32.8 per cent year-over-year, but dropped the next month to 20.2 per cent compared to February 2022.

Tomatoes in January had a 21.9 per cent year-over-year increase, which dropped to 7.1 per cent year-over-year in February.


Many Canadians are now acutely aware of how much food items cost, so they can ensure they are not paying more, but a new study shows two-thirds (67 per cent) of people have seen a mistake on their grocery receipts in the last year.

Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab polled 5,525 respondents.

According to the survey, 78.5 per cent of those who noted a mistake reported the most common error was that the price at the cash register was not the same price displayed on the shelf. About one-third of respondents said the daily discount was not applied and a total of 31.4 per cent claimed the cashier scanned an item too many times.

A majority of people said they check receipts for mistakes as they exit the store, before getting home. However, the survey notes not all Canadians have the habit of checking for mistakes; only half said they always check, while 3.3 per cent never do.

“As for frequency of mistakes, 79.2 per cent of respondents claim that they find at least no mistakes on their receipts, at least 10 per cent of the time,” the press release reads. “A total of 15.2 per cent will find at least one mistake on their receipt, 25 per cent of the time.”  

Food inflation tracker





Note: data for some specific grocery items are available only nationally, and are not available by province. Can’t see the interactive above? Click here.

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