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UPS executive granted special ministerial exemption from Canada's COVID-19 quarantine – CBC.ca

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The president of U.S. operations for global shipping giant UPS was granted a special ministerial exemption from Canada’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, a CBC News investigation has learned, which he used to lobby Ontario employees to accept the company’s new contract offer.

Nando Cesarone travelled from Atlanta to Toronto for three days of meetings starting Oct. 19.

The company says Cesarone sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada.

It’s a decision that the Teamsters, the union representing UPS workers in Canada, finds mystifying.

“We don’t understand why Mr. Cesarone was allowed to come into Canada and why the government waived his 14-day quarantine requirement,” said Christopher Monette, public affairs director for Teamsters Canada.

“We believe the government needs to explain itself on that one. It’s absolutely crucial.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has granted 191 such quarantine exemptions on “business mobility” grounds since the pandemic began — 138 of them over the past six weeks, a spokesperson said. Permission to skip the self-isolation requirement is given only under “exceptional circumstances,” the department said, and applicants must “thoroughly justify the immediacy of their purpose of travel to Canada.”

Global Affairs refused to discuss Cesarone’s exemption, citing the federal Privacy Act. 

Cesarone declined interview requests, and UPS did not respond to written questions about the exact reasons for his trip or why the meetings couldn’t be conducted remotely. 

Nando Cesarone, president of U.S. operations for UPS, travelled from Atlanta to Toronto in October and spent three days meeting with Canadian employees. The company says he sought and received an authorization for a conditional exemption from mandatory quarantine from Global Affairs Canada. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

But in a statement to CBC News, the company noted that UPS is an essential service, responsible for delivering needed supplies to Canadian businesses and consumers — including personal protective equipment and “hopefully vaccines soon.” 

Cesarone observed “every regulatory and safety protocol” and followed a detailed COVID-19 “risk mitigation plan,” which included wearing a mask, physical distancing and testing, while in the country, the company said.

However, two employees who met with Cesarone dispute the company’s characterization of the trip and his health precautions, telling CBC News that the meetings “were 100 per cent about labour” and that on at least one occasion, the UPS executive removed his mask so that he could be better heard in a crowded room. The employees asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.

Visit raises issues of transparency, safety: union

Teamsters Canada says that Cesarone’s visit, which included stops at facilities in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont., raises issues of transparency on the part of the company and the federal government, as well as concerns about workplace safety.

“What’s important for us is that everybody is just playing by the same set of pandemic rules,” Monette said. “Just out of respect for the health, the safety of UPS drivers and UPS workers in general — who are, at the end of the day, essential front-line workers.”

Voting on the new labour agreement at UPS began on Oct. 22, and the results are expected to be released on Nov. 2.

Trucks at the Peace Bridge, between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., in September. The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 21. But 3.5 million people — essential workers such as truckers and health-care providers — have been excused from quarantine. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press)

Officially, Canada’s border has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 21. But according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 4.6 million people have entered the country over the past seven months. Some 1.1 million, mostly Canadian citizens returning from abroad, were obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. The other 3.5 million — essential workers such as truckers, technicians and health-care providers — were excused from quarantine. 

Over the past month, CBC News has uncovered two instances where senior U.S. executives flew into the country on private jets and were granted exemptions by front-line Canada Border Services Agency officers for non-essential meetings and facility tours — cases that Ottawa now calls errors.

But the growing number of special ministerial exemptions has opposition politicians again wondering why Canada’s supposedly closed border appears so porous at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiking around the globe.

Opposition parties question need for visits

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole raised the issue in question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Last month we learned the Liberal government allowed two different American billionaires to enter Canada, and they waived the quarantine rules,” O’Toole said, going on to ask if there is “one set of rules for the rich friends of this government and one set of rules for everyone else?”

WATCH | Federal party leaders spar over COVID-19 quarantine exemptions:

During question period in the House of Commons, Opposition leader Erin O’Toole grilled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about quarantine exemptions for business executives as reported by CBC News. 1:24

Jack Harris, the MP for St. John’s East and the NDP’s public safety critic, questions why it was necessary for Cesarone to travel to Canada at all.

“You know, we conduct parliament by Zoom. We do meetings though Zoom…. I don’t see the necessity to have some special exemption like this”, Harris said.

“I can’t go to Ottawa and come back to St. John’s, Newfoundland, without a [provincial] 14-day exemption. We have workers from Newfoundland doing the same thing, coming back to work and having to have a 14-day quarantine here.”

Harris is calling on the Liberal government to share more details about which foreign visitors are being granted exemptions from quarantine and why.

“This idea of behind-closed-doors, non-transparent ministerial exemptions, where you have to dig around to find out why it’s happening, that’s not fair to Canadians,” he said. “And I don’t think Canadians would accept that as fair and reasonable.”  

The federal government has recently begun to relax border restrictions and grant entries on compassionate grounds, allowing more foreign citizens and Canadians who live abroad to reunite with romantic partners or visit sick or dying relatives. 

As of Tuesday, Health Canada had received 2,250 such applications and exempted 1,335 people from all, or part, of the 14-day quarantine for what the government decided were compelling personal reasons. Another 630 people were allowed into the country, but forced to self-isolate for the full two weeks.   

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The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.

The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.

To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.

This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.

And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.

Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:

Vancouver

  • Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
  • The average home here costs $1.47 million.
  • It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.

Victoria

  • An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
  • It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.

Toronto,

Toronto

  • To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
  • The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
  • To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.

Hamilton

  • At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.

Ottawa/Gatineau

  • Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.

Montreal

Montreal

  • Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
  • The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
  • Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.

Calgary

  • You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.

Edmonton

  • Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
  • The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

  • Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
  • Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.

Quebec City

  • The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.

Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.

NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.

But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.

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Countries making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory

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A sharp upturn in new coronavirus infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccination rates have pushed governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.

A growing number of countries also stipulate that a shot, or a negative test, will be needed for dining out, among other activities.

Here are some countries’ vaccine mandates:

AUSTRALIA

Australia decided in late June to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.

It has also made vaccinations obligatory for Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo because unvaccinated members on the team could pose a health risk.

BRITAIN

It will be mandatory for care home workers in England to have coronavirus vaccinations from October.

English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination from the end of September.

CANADA

Canada‘s Treasury Board Secretariat said on July 20 it was considering whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government, according to CBC News.

FRANCE

The French parliament on Aug. 2 approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in many social venues.

The government said on July 19 that the planned 45,000 euro ($53,456) fine for businesses that do not check that clients have a health pass will be much lower, starting at up to 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Fines will not be imposed immediately.

GREECE

Greece on July 12 made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff with immediate effect and healthcare workers from September. As part of new measures, only vaccinated customers are allowed indoors in bars, cinemas, theatres and other closed spaces.

INDONESIA

Indonesia made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory in February, with the capital Jakarta threatening fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($357) for refusing.

ITALY

A decree approved by the Italian government in March mandates that health workers, including pharmacists, get vaccinated. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year.

HUNGARY

Hungary’s government has decided to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on July 23.

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan will introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20, the health ministry said on June 23.

LEBANON

Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on July 30. Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours.

MALTA

Malta banned visitors from entering the country from July 14 unless they are fully vaccinated.

POLAND

Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 from August.

RUSSIA

The Russian capital has unveiled a plan https://bit.ly/2TWsroN requiring 60% of all service sector workers to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, according to the Moscow Times.

Moscow residents no longer have to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated or have immunity in order to sit in cafes, restaurants and bars from July 19.

SAUDI ARABIA

In May, Saudi Arabia mandated all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated, without specifying when this would be implemented.

Vaccination will also be required to enter any governmental, private, or educational establishments and to use public transportation as of Aug. 1.

Saudi citizens will need two vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug. 9, state news agency SPA reported on July 19, citing the ministry of interior.

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said on July 7 it was making vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.

UNITED STATES

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on July 29 that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.

New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require, from Sept. 13, proof of vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the Delta variant.

New York will require state employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, a mandate that will go into effect on Sept. 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will require their workers to get the vaccine or get tested weekly, Cuomo said on Aug. 2.

New Jersey state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said that all state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Denver municipal employees and people working in high-risk settings in the city will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michael Hancock said on Aug. 2.

($1 = 0.8418 euros)

 

(Compiled by Paulina Cwikowska, Dagmarah Mackos and Oben Mumcuoglu; editing by Milla Nissi, Steve Orlofsky, Joe Bavier and Nick Macfie)

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U.S. to outfit border agents with body cameras in major oversight move

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The United States will require thousands of border agents to wear body cameras, according to three officials and government documents, a major operational change that could increase oversight of agents and also help capture criminal activity.

The cameras are expected to be rolled out in parts of Texas and New Mexico during the summer and expanded in the fall and winter to Arizona, California, and Texas’ busy Rio Grande Valley, which all border Mexico, according to a recent government assessment of how the devices could impact privacy. Agents in Vermont along the U.S. border with Canada will also be equipped with cameras, the assessment said.

U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year, a border agency official told Reuters.

Pro-immigrant activists will likely welcome the increased oversight that cameras could bring to an agency some have criticized for excessive use of force and institutional racism. But a union for border patrol agents also supports cameras, saying they could assist criminal investigations and help show that agents act professionally.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have called on border patrol agents to use the cameras to improve accountability in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings by law enforcement over the past decade.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, stressed that agents should have access to the footage, including when an agent is accused of wrongdoing.

Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, which presents a unique challenge for video footage collection and storage.

Recordings of illegal activity, use of force or agent misconduct could be used as evidence in investigations or prosecutions, the privacy assessment said.

The cameras could offer new insight into the policing of the southern border, where migrant arrests have risen to 20-year highs in recent months and encounters sometimes take place in remote areas.

In cases where footage could be used as evidence in a criminal case, it could be retained for up to 75 years, according to the privacy assessment. Footage that does not have value as evidence would be destroyed within 180 days.

After a bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheaded efforts to secure funding for bodycams, CBP awarded a total of about $21 million to Axon Enterprises Inc [AXON.O] for body cameras and to connect the cameras to a cloud-based storage system, according to the agency official.

The devices are the size of a deck of playing cards and will be affixed to the front of agents’ uniforms, the official said.

Axon declined to comment on the rollout.

CBP conducted a small pilot of body cameras in 2015, but ultimately opted not to deploy them then.

An agency assessment at the time said the cameras would likely reduce the use of physical force on the job, but cited a number of reasons not to adopt the devices, including cost and agent morale.

Gil Kerlikowske, who was CBP commissioner at the time, said another consideration was that the cameras “did not hold up particularly well” in the field, where they could be knocked off in the brush or mucked up with dust and dirt.

Body cameras have become more commonplace since the 2015 effort. The U.S. Department of Justice said in June that its agents would be required to wear cameras when serving search and arrest warrants.

Kerlikowske said many law enforcement officers support the idea, too.

“There are now police officers who won’t go on the street without their body camera,” he said. “They want that video image.”

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin, Aurora Ellis, Mica Rosenberg and Diane Craft)

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