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WestJet drops out of talks with government on pandemic aid – CBC.ca

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Calgary-based WestJet said today that after months of negotiations, it has officially ended talks with the federal government on a financial aid package to help the airline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement from the airline, released this afternoon, comes a day after Canada announced it plans to reopen the border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens next month and to vaccinated travellers from around the world in September.

“Given encouraging vaccination rates across the country, both parties have mutually agreed to shift focus from these negotiations, and away from taxpayer-funded support, to leading the safe restart of the travel and tourism sector,” WestJet said in the statement.

The federal government said it and the airline agreed “mutually … to suspend constructive discussions” and it’s open to restarting talks in the future if necessary.

Major airlines have been lobbying the government for months for financial help. The carriers argued an aid package was desperately needed as a lifeline for an industry hit hard by the pandemic. Air travel dropped to historic lows as airlines endured border closures, travel restrictions and quarantine orders.

Several carriers already have reached multimillion or multibillion dollar deals with the government in exchange for refunding passengers for flights cancelled during the pandemic.

WestJet’s overall passenger volumes dropped nearly 90 per cent in 2020 compared to the year before. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press )

Air Canada reached a $5.9 billion deal with the federal government consisting of low-interest loans; the government took a $500 million equity stake in the company. Air Transat also secured a $700 million support package. The parent company of Porter Airlines received a federal loan of up to $270 million.

Conservative transport critic Stephanie Kusie took aim at Transport Minister Omar Alghabra following WestJet’s announcement. Alghabra posted a video on social media earlier today showing he met with recalled WestJet staff this morning.

“You tried to fool us today with all of your positive @WestJet posts,” tweeted Kusie. “The truth comes out. This announcement proves the industry always knew they were on their own and are ready to move on without you.”

The office of Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Finance Chrystia Freeland said that it has provided “substantial support” to the airline sector.

“That support to date includes more than $2 billion in wage subsidies for airlines and $1 billion announced in the Fall Economic Statement for airports and smaller airlines,” wrote Freeland’s press secretary Kat Cuplinskas. 

WestJet’s CEO said company never wanted a “bailout”

Before entering talks with the government, WestJet’s president and CEO Ed Sims said it wasn’t about the money and his company was not seeking a “bailout.” Instead, the airline said it wanted the government to lay out a recovery plan for the industry, he said.

WestJet’s books are closed to the public since it’s privately owned by Toronto-based Onex Corp.

“We are not seeking policy that strictly supports our bottom line and, frankly, that is not what the nation needs,” Sims wrote to MPs and senators in December 2020.


CBC News has reported that in March, WestJet’s demand for a plan to restart domestic air travel caused some tension at the talks. The talks that started in the new year with Deputy Finance Minister Michael Sabia are confidential and those involved have signed non-disclosure agreements.

In today’s statement, WestJet said it remains open to resuming talks with the government about financial support in the future.

WestJet recently apologized and said it made an error by refusing some customers’ refunds for rebooked flights during the pandemic. The admission came after a CBC News investigation into complaints from customers.

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Nova Scotia reports one new COVID-19 case Friday, active cases drop to nine – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, along with two recoveries, as the number of active cases in the province drops to nine.

The new case was identified in the province’s Central zone and is under investigation.

Public Health says it is closely monitoring all four health zones for community spread.

There have been 5,887 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 5,785 people have recovered, and 93 have died due to COVID-19.

There are currently one person in hospital, in an intensive care unit, due to COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia labs processed 2,964 tests on Thursday, and have now processed a total of 1,027,936 since the start of the pandemic.

There were 3,364 tests administered between July 23 and 30 at rapid-testing pop-up sites in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Bedford, Hubbards, Spryfield and Brooklyn, Hants County.

Since April 1, there have been 4,145 positive COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths. Of the new cases since April 1, 4,109 are now considered resolved.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western zone: 293 cases (no active cases)
  • Central zone: 4,669 cases (seven active cases)
  • Northern zone: 301 cases (no active cases)
  • Eastern zone: 624 cases (two active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to August 8, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

The province’s COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the number of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Wednesday, 1,345,401 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with approximately 76 per cent of the province’s overall population having received at least one dose. Of those, 606,975, or 62.5 per cent of Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

The province says it has received a total of 1,509,410 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15.

All Nova Scotians are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible. COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be made online or by phone at 1-833-797-7772.

BREAKTHROUGH DATA

There have been 4,200 cases of COVID-19 from March 15 to July 27, 2021. Of those:

  • 28 (0.7 per cent) were fully vaccinated
  • 235 (5.6 per cent) were partially vaccinated
  • 3,937 (93.7 per cent) were unvaccinated

There were 254 people hospitalized. Of those:

  • 2 (0.8 per cent) were fully vaccinated
  • 28 (11 per cent) were partially vaccinated
  • 224 (88.2 per cent) were unvaccinated

Twenty-seven people died. Of those:

  • 1 (3.8 per cent) was fully vaccinated
  • 3 (11.5 per cent) were partially vaccinated
  • 23 (85.2 per cent) were unvaccinated

MORE WALK-IN TESTING OPTIONS

Nova Scotia Health is introducting several new walk-in testing centres and mobile units across the province.

Testing is open to anyone and can be convenient for out-of-province visitors arriving in Nova Scotia, public health said in a release.

A list of locations offering walk-in PCR COVID-19 testing in addition to testing by appointment can be found on the health authority’s website. Rapid tests will not be offered at these locations.

Testing is available for all ages, for those who have symptoms, no symptoms (asymptomatic), have travelled or been to a potential exposure site and have been a close contact with a positive COVID case.

Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have had several social interactions, even with their own social circle.

COVID-19 tests can be booked through the province’s online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.

People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.

Friday, July 30:

  • Centennial Arena (27 Vimy Ave., Halifax) from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160, Cole Harbour (703 Main St, Dartmouth) from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department (995 NS-215, Newport) from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Halifax Convention Centre (1650 Argyle St, Halifax) from noon to 7 p.m.
  • Dartmouth Summer Sunshine Concert Series (94 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth) from 6 to 8 p.m. 

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion  

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Tbaytel wins wireless spectrum, bolstering 5G plans – Tbnewswatch.com

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THUNDER BAY – Tbaytel has taken one step closer to its plans to build a 5G wireless network in Northwestern Ontario, securing crucial blocks of wireless spectrum in a recent federal auction.

The company picked up a share of the 3500 MHz frequency band across most of its service area in the latest spectrum auction run by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

The 3500 MHz range airwaves are key to providing 5G wireless services, carrying larger volumes of data over long distances.

5G is much faster and capable of handling more connected devices than existing 4G LTE networks, resulting in more reliable service.

The auction win is good news for Tbaytel’s long-term prospects and its ability to keep up with customers’ rising expectations, said communication coordinator Jamie Smith.

“It’s really going to help us deploy the next generation of wireless everyone’s excited about, which is 5G,” he said. “New technologies, new streaming services are all going to demand more [in] the future. Something like 4K Netflix is quite a bit different than the JPEG you sent 10 years ago, and certainly we anticipate that continuing.”

The company began preliminary work to build its 5G network this year.

The blocks it won in the 3500 MHz frequency band, which are ideal for urban and suburban areas, will complement wireless spectrum it acquired in 2019 in the 600 MHz band, which travels further and is more suited to rural areas.

The latest auction was announced in 2020 but delayed by ISED due to COVID-19. Preliminary results published by the department show the action generated a record $8.9 billion.

The country’s “big three” providers (Bell, Rogers and Telus) accounted for more than 80 per cent of that total, though 757 of 1,504 available licenses went to smaller or regional companies.

Tbaytel paid around $1.1 million to add an additional 40MHz to its existing 150 MHz in the 3500 MHz range, winning licenses in four areas with a combined population of over 230,000 people: Thunder Bay, Kenora/Sioux Lookout, Marathon, and Iron Bridge.

Bell, Rogers, and Xplornet Communications also secured blocks in the spectrum in Thunder Bay.

Tbaytel’s success in securing blocks in the auction shows it can keep up with those much larger providers, said president and CEO Dan Topatigh in a statement.

“This most recent bid has shown that Tbaytel can win in the hypercompetitive Canadian telecommunication landscape,” he said.  

The licences come with 20-year terms, with the government promising licensees “a high expectation of renewal” afterwards.”

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1 new case of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia on Friday – CBC.ca

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Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Friday.

It’s in the central health zone and being investigated.

One person is in hospital related to the virus. That person is in intensive care.

There are now nine known active cases in the province, according to a news release from the Department of Health.

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 2,964 tests on Thursday.

2 new exposure notices

To date, 76 per cent of Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 62 per cent have two doses.

The province is no longer reporting cases over the weekend. New case data will be made available on Monday.

Two low-risk exposure notices were also announced Friday. They both occurred Thursday at Halifax Seed and Sobeys on Queen Street in Halifax. More details can be found here along with all other exposure notices.

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