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What it all means: the closure of Northern Pulp Mill, the future of forestry, and an act of reconciliation – Halifax Examiner

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Northern Pulp Mill at night. Photo courtesy of Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

The Boat Harbour Act will be enforced as of January 31, 2020,” announced Premier Stephen McNeil this morning. “Northern Pulp will be ordered to stop pumping effluent into Boat Harbour. And let me be clear: there will be no extension.

With that, McNeil upheld his promise to the Pictou Landing First Nation that Boat Harbour would no longer be polluted by the mill, and that remediation of Boat Harbour will begin next year.

In response, Northern Pulp announced that it will begin issuing layoff notices today, and will shut the mill completely in January.

McNeil placed the blame for the present situation, and for the impending mill closure, directly onto Northern Pulp. He said:

The mill now known as Northern Pulp has been pumping effluent into Boat Harbour for decades. Many governments have told the mill and its various owners that polluting needed to stop and that the old treatment system needed to be replaced with a new and modern facility. That has not happened. Year after year, and decade after decade, the mill has continued to pump effluent into Boat Harbor.

In 2015, our government passed legislation known as the Boat Harbour Act. That legislation gave Northern Pulp five years to get an environmental assessment and to start constructing a new cleaner operation.

First, the company filed an environmental assessment which was incomplete and did not include enough scientific information. The company was then asked to file a focused report. The regulator determined that Northern Pulp provided some of the scientific evidence required, but not enough to allow construction to begin. And now the company is being asked for a third time to file yet another report, an environmental assessment report, which will take at least two years.

Look at the history. The company has had five years and a number of opportunities to get out of Boat Harbour. And at this point, we are not even close to doing that. The company has put us all in a very difficult position. And now it is decision time. And this is one of the hardest decisions that we as a government have had to make. The commitment I made to clean up Boat Harbor was a serious one and not something our government did lightly. Many governments before us said they would clean it up, but did not. We will not repeat that pattern.

They’ve had five years to do the right thing and I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this and I’m disappointed, to say the least.

At a second press conference held immediately after McNeil’s press conference, Brian Baarda, who is CEO of Northern Pulp’s parent company, Paper Excellence Canada, blamed not Northern Pulp, but the Nova Scotia Department of Environment for the impending mill closure. He said:

Northern Pulp put together an excellent plan informed by third party subject matter experts based on sound science that showed no meaningful environmental impact, represented significant operational improvements, and ensured Nova Scotia’s forest sector and the thousands of employees could remain a vital part of this economy. 

It also enabled timely closure and remediation of Boat Harbour. The premier chose to disregard those facts. It is apparent that Nova Scotia Environment has long been unable to provide a definitive process over the last four and a half years. We have continued to respond to each and every additional request for further science. Our initial investigatory work changed dramatically from seven reports to 68 current individual areas of study. 

Had Nova Scotia Environment wanted a full environmental assessment from the outset, we would have been prepared to deliver it.

The claim that Northern Pulp put together an “excellent plan” based on “sound science” is contradicted by the evidence.

  1. In March 2019, then environment minister Margaret Miller found 19 key deficiencies in the Northern Pulp registration documents. Hence the request for the Focus Report.
  1. Then the Focus Report was panned by federal scientists and by the many independent ones engaged by PLFN, Friends of the Northumberland Strait, and the fishermen’s association … and a long list of others that were submitted to NSE. (See here for a fuller explanation.)
  1. Because the Focus Report was, as McNeil said, incomplete, and missing so much information required by the very clear Terms of Reference, Northern Pulp was asked to do a full environmental assessment. If it had done a decent job the first time, this would not have happened. And it should have been able to do the science right, given that NP was given $6 million from NS taxpayers for the effluent treatment facility design and environmental assessment process.
  1. So to pretend that the process was not clear, or that Northern Pulp would have done a full environmental assessment if it had been asked to, is misleading and disingenuous. The process is perfectly clear. And the company was given a break when the project was subject to the shorter Class I EA … and still it failed to submit the studies and information needed. It is the fault of Northern Pulp itself that it is now being asked for the full EA report.

Asked about $85 million in outstanding loans still owed the province by Northern Pulp, McNeil said “I fully expect that to be paid.”

The same question was asked of Brian Baarda, the Paper Excellence CEO. “Our focus today is not on those type of aspects,” said Baarda. “Our focus will be on getting back to the mill, talking to the employees that have been devastated by this news.”

Baarda ended the press conference soon after.

The future of the forestry industry

Biomass harvest. Photo courtesy Jamie Simpson

Supporters of the mill have said that its closure would result in the loss of 2,700 forest-related jobs, and that claim was repeated by both Baarda and Linda MacNeil, the director for Unifor Atlantic Region, the union which represents mill workers.

In his announcement, Stephen McNeil announced the creation of a $50 million transition fund, which “will support displaced workers, small contractors and all those whose livelihoods will be affected.”

Linda MacNeil, the union rep, said the $50 million promised is insufficient to replace what she said is $40 million annually the mill pays to its 300 employees.

The premier said the transition fund would help refocus the industry.

[The forest industry] needs to diversify and this [transition] team will help ensure that the forestry sector still has a place in the economy of Nova Scotia,” said McNeil. “And as a government we want and need a forest industry because it helps drive our rural economy. It will look different. It may have new customers in new markets. And this transition fund will help with that. “

In the question period after his announcement, McNeil elaborated, saying “this is about now transitioning in the sector to recognizing what are the other opportunities, what are the other options? It’s really come down to in many ways, the chips that are [in wood lots] across the province. Many of them have been using Northern Pulp as their sole [buyer]. We now need to look for diversified market for that product and other products that we have in this province.” He continued:

One of the biggest issues right now is in the sawmill sector in Nova Scotia, the chips that come out of the residual left over from sawing the logs have ended up in the one marketplace. And they’ve continued to allow Northern [Pulp] to dominate that market. And so we need to find markets for that. 

We believe in Europe there’s there are opportunities in all the hardwood chips that go out of Sheet Harbour now, we believe there are pockets where some of the softwood can be used as well. And our government announced that this coming fall there will be six biomass plants that will be online. Mind you, they will be taking a small amount of residual chips, but they will be part of the ongoing solution of how we continue, quite frankly, to make sure that we can get product out of mills across the province so that they can continue to operate.

Jeff Bishop, the executive director for Forest NS, which represents pulp mills, sawmills, private woodlot owners, and truckers throughout the supply chain that will be affected by the closure of Northern Pulp, is also contemplating what that transition will look like.

“There needs to be a place for those products (a million tonnes of wood chips a year) that are currently consumed by Northern Pulp,” Bishop told the Halifax Examiner. “The problem is a light switch has been flicked off and there simply isn’t another one to reach over and turn on. So there is going to be great period of uncertainty. You don’t create new markets overnight. The concern is there are thousands of Nova Scotians who are scrambling where to find the next switch.”

There will be other ripple effects from the government’s decision. Kraft pulp from the mill in Pictou County is the third largest export through the Port of Halifax. “There are also some 30,000 private woodlot owners that provide the bulk of the wood fibre to the forest sector and today the value of their land has been dramatically cut,” said Bishop. “Many of these lots have been in families for generations and are a form of RRSP.”

“I’ll take the premier at his word that in addition to the money, he will put the time and people within government departments who are interested in seeing forestry continue. I’m willing to work with him on that,” said Bishop.

Fishermen

The July 6 #NOPIPE land-and-sea rally against the Northern Pulp mill plans to pipe effluent into the Northumberland Strait Photo courtesy Gerard J. Halfyard

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be the premier today. He had a difficult decision to make,” said Allan MacCarthy, the head of the Northumberland Fisherman’s Association and a fierce opponent of the mill’s plan to continue to discharge 85 million liters of treated effluent each day into a part of the Strait where the lobster fishery has been very lucrative.

The fishermen who mounted a “NO PIPE” campaign could be viewed as winners in the fight against the mill’s plan to stay in business, but Allan MacCarthy wasn’t doing any gloating.

“The mill has tried to back the premier into a corner. It’s the eleventh hour and the premier made the right decision,” said MacCarthy. “They didn’t give him anything to work with. Northern Pulp was given a Class 1 environmental assessment in Nova Scotia, which would probably be one of the easiest in Canada and the company didn’t do enough work to finish that. So the premier had no choice in the matter. History is going to show he made the right decision.”

Pictou Landing First Nation

PLFN marchers. Photo: Joan Baxter

The premier stated plainly that he was addressing an act of racism against the people of Pictou Landing First Nation:

Over the last six years I’ve seen institutional racism that we have dealt with, whether it has been for the Home for Colored Children or Boat Harbour. Let’s be frank, in the 60s, it was acceptable to put our dumps next to African Nova Scotia communities. Somehow our ancestors thought that was OK. It’s not today, nor is it OK to allow Boat Harbour to continue. And I believe it was put there because it was next to an Aboriginal community.

After McNeil’s announcement, PLFN Chief Andrea Paul and her Band Council issued the following statement today:

Thank you to our supporters. 

Premier Stephen MacNeil had a very difficult decision to make today, a decision that will affect many people in our region, but we feel he made the correct decision. We are grateful that he has decided to put an end to the pollution, and [for] providing an opportunity for us to heal.

We hope the Province of Nova Scotia will work to help those who have been displaced, and there is a plan to help with the transition for those in the forestry industry. 

Cleaning up Boat Harbour is all our people have ever wanted and Premier Stephen MacNeil kept his promise and on behalf of my community we are thankful.

Brian Hebert, the PLFN’s legal counsel, was asked about the possible lawsuits against the province because of the Indemnity Agreement and the 2002 extension of the Boat Harbour Lease; he said:

I think the province should consider having the lease extension and indemnity agreement declared null and void on the grounds that they are contrary to public policy.

Hebert was in PLFN for the announcement, and sent Examiner reporter Joan Baxter a direct message: “Yes. We did it!!!!”

And:

The initial reaction was a mixture of disbelief and tremendous joy. There were tears, shouts of joy, much hugging and honking of horns. Many still in disbelief. The only hint of concern is the fear of how NP [Northern Pulp] supporters may react. People are worried about safety. Chief Andrea [Paul] said this was a huge acknowledgement and affirmation of Indigenous rights — not just for Nova Scotia.

From my perspective this is a turning point in the history of Nova Scotia; we have put the environment and Indigenous rights ahead of jobs. We have honoured the commitments we’ve made to our Mi’kmaq communities. The Premier has looked forward and has set the Province on what I think is the only responsible path — towards an economy that is sustainable. The days of jobs over the environment are behind us.”

Political reaction

After McNeil made his announcement, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston spoke with reporters.

“It’s an incredibly sad day for thousands of Nova Scotia families, people working in the woods, running porters, running the mills, delivering fuel, a devastating day for those families today,” said Houston. I totally got it. For those people, the effect it’s going to have on them over the next couple of years of their life.”

But Houston supported McNeil’s decision. “I’ve always said it’s the responsibility of government to uphold the law,” said Houston. “This is the law. The premier made a very powerful statement that the company is no closer today than it was five years ago to getting [out of] Boat Harbour. And that’s been weighing on my mind very heavy. I was always waiting for the company to get approval as a starting point for a project. And here we are today and there’s still no approval for a project. And that’s just what’s been weighing on my mind.”


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Cells taken from aborted fetuses for COVID-19 vaccines cause moral dilemma for some Canadian Catholics – 680 News

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Many Catholics in Canada are facing a moral dilemma over COVID-19 vaccinations.

Moira McQueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute tells CityNews some of the vaccines being produced were developed by using products of cells that were initially taken from aborted fetuses.

“The AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson ones are both unethical vaccines by Catholic standards,” McQueen says, “if you’re really serious about sort of anti-abortion, pro-life point of view, you don’t want to utilize anything that is, you know, that’s using those kind of cell lines if there’s something else available.”

In December, the Vatican said despite the links to abortions, it is morally acceptable to get a vaccine, but recently the Archdiocese of New Orleans advised its members not to use the Johnson & Johnson shot.

RELATED: Canada to receive nearly 1-million vaccines doses this week despite confusion regarding AstraZeneca shot

The Archdiocese of Toronto says it hasn’t made a decision on the Johnson & Johnson shot, while others are urging governments to allow people to ask for an alternative vaccine if they have a moral objection.

Health officials advise Canadians to take whichever vaccine is available to them.

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Here’s what the provinces, territories have said about AstraZeneca’s vaccine and seniors – Global News

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As the country prepares to accept half a million COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca-Oxford, provinces and territories are working to determine who exactly should receive them.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in adults 18 and older on Friday. However, on Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued new guidance, recommending the shot not be administered to people over the age of 65.

In the new guidelines, NACI cited “limited information” about its effectiveness in older people as the reason it’s not recommending the shot be used in seniors.

However, it is ultimately up to the provinces and territories to decide how to dole out the vaccines.

Who will be the recipient of those AstraZeneca shots? Here’s a closer look at what each region has said.

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Read more:
Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Nova Scotia

A spokesperson for the department of health and wellness in Nova Scotia told Global News the province is “actively looking at what the next use of this vaccine is for Nova Scotia.”

“No decisions have been made,” an emailed statement read.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said the province has been offered an initial shipment of 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will expire in a month.

“Therefore, we would need to have a plan to use them immediately,” he said. “So we’re actively looking at what is the best use of this AstraZeneca vaccine at this time for Nova Scotia.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials are still reviewing evidence regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“As this approval is still recent, we are reviewing the evidence from a provincial perspective to determine where the vaccine will fit in our strategy,” the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told a press conference on Monday.

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Coronavirus: Canada to receive 945,000 vaccine doses this week, procurement minister says

As of Monday, Fitzgerald said they had not yet received a definitive date as to when the AstraZeneca vaccines could land in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“My understanding is we’re still waiting on information at the national level there,” she said.

Read more:
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine not recommended for people in Canada over age 65: NACI

Prince Edward Island

At a press conference on Tuesday, Prince Edward Island’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said when the province confirms how many of the AstraZeneca vaccines it will receive, they will be targeting the shots to “healthy, younger individuals” who are working in “certain front line, essential services.”

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“And that would be our plan and offering it to them and knowing that people will have a choice,” she said. “But AstraZeneca is showing good evidence around decreasing severe illness and hospitalization.”

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Morrison said once they know how many doses the province will receive, they will know exactly which groups to target.

“But that certainly is our current thinking,” she said.

New Brunswick

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Health said the province expects to receive 10,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month.

“We are examining Health Canada’s approval and the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to decide how best to employ this vaccine once it does arrive in New Brunswick,” the statement read.

Read more:
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine won’t be administered to seniors, Ontario health minister says

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Quebec

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services said the province is expecting to receive guidance from its immunization committee very soon.

“This notice will specify the target groups for this vaccine,” the email read in French. “We will adapt our vaccination strategy in the light of this advice.”


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Ontario

Ontario, meanwhile, has decided it will not administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to seniors.

Health Minister Christine Elliott told The Canadian Press that the province plans to follow the advice of NACI.

She said, though, that it is a “very versatile” vaccine because it does not need to be stored at freezing temperatures.

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For that reason, Elliot said the shots could be used elsewhere, like at correctional facilities.


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AstraZeneca vaccine won’t be administered to Ontarians aged 65+: health minister

Elliott said an updated vaccination plan that factors in expected AstraZeneca supply will be shared soon.

“There’s a lot that is in the mix right now, but we expect that to be finalized very shortly and we will be making a public announcement of the plan very soon,” she said.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, told reporters on Tuesday the AstraZeneca vaccine is a “welcome addition to the vaccine repertoire that we have.”

“You know, our goal is to protect as many Manitobans as quickly as possible,” he said. “And right now the rate limiting step is just access to vaccine doses, and for the specific cell that the vaccine task force discussed that, but it’s a welcome addition for sure.”

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Read more:
If AstraZeneca isn’t widely recommended for seniors, who should get the vaccine?

Global News sent a request for comment to Manitoba to clarify whether the province plans to deliver the AstraZeneca to its senior population, but was not answered by time of publication.

Saskatchewan

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saquib Shahab said he anticipates the province will receive “very limited amounts of AstraZeneca next week,” around 15,000 doses.

“And (we) will probably use it for specific age groups up to age 64,” he said. “And we will clarify which specific age groups in a few days.”

Shahab said as the province receives more vaccines from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, the shots will need to be incorporated into the vaccination schedule “depending on NACI recommendations.”

“And we have to remember, by the time AstraZeneca and Johnson supplies pick up, we hopefully will already have done everyone 65 and older anyway with Pfizer and Moderna,” he said.

Alberta

On Monday, Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province will not be providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over the age of 65.


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Shandro said how that will impact the administration for those who are in phase two is “still yet to be determined.”

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“We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon,” he said. “But you’re right that it has been recommended for the AstraZeneca vaccine to not be provided for those who are 65 and older.”

British Columbia

Meanwhile, the British Columbia Ministry of Health told Global News that once the province knows how many doses of the AstraZeneca shots it will be receiving and when, it will be able to further expand who is receiving the vaccine, including to essential workers, many of whom are under the age of 65.

The ministry said due to the clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under the age of 65, the province will need to adjust its plan to include these vaccines, adding that the province’s immunization committee will be looking at how best to do that based on science, data and ethical analysis.

The Territories

Neither the Northwest Territories or the Yukon are anticipating receiving any AstraZeneca vaccines.

Instead, they will be vaccinating their populations with the vaccine from Moderna.

Read more:
mRNA vaccine technology could be used to protect against other deadly diseases: experts

Global News reached out to Nunavut to determine whether the territory expects to receive an allotment of AstraZeneca vaccines and if they will be administered to those over 65, but did not hear back by time of publication.

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— With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Jordan Press and Craig Wong, The Canadian Press


Published Tuesday, March 2, 2021 9:01AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, March 2, 2021 8:20PM EST

OTTAWA – The Canadian economy sprinted to the finish line of 2020 with nearly double-digit growth in the fourth quarter, ending its worst year on record on a strong note that has continued into the start of 2021.

The economy grew at an annualized rate of 9.6 per cent over the last three months of 2020, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday, down from an annualized growth rate of 40.6 per cent in the third quarter when the country fully emerged from the near-shutdown last spring.

Despite the better-than-expected result for the quarter as a whole, growth slowed in December with a 0.1 per cent increase for the month, which followed a 0.8 per cent increase in November.

Looking to January, Statistics Canada said its early estimate was for growth in the economy of 0.5 per cent.

“Lots of small businesses – your local barbers, your local restaurant or stores – may have had to shut down through the restrictions, but a lot of other areas did manage to keep grinding through,” said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter.

“The sectors that did get closed down in the second wave, when they’re able to open up, we think the economy will have a big step up, and then we’ll have another, even bigger step up when the vast majority of the population is vaccinated.”

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a note that the early January figure should set aside fears of an outright downturn in the first quarter of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to trip up the economy after the virus’s spread shuttered businesses and led to millions out of work. The question was how bad would it be.

The answer the statistics agency provided Tuesday was that real gross domestic product shrank 5.4 per cent, the steepest annual decline since comparable data was first recorded in 1961.

The drop for the year was due to the shutdown of large swaths of the economy in March and April.

Economic activity slowly and steadily grew between May and November, though renewed lockdowns in some areas and a subdued holiday retail season in December saw the final month of the year buck taht trend.

Federal spending has also cushioned the blow. Statistics Canada reported on Monday that government aid has more than made up for losses in salaries and wages, particularly for low-income households.

Savings skyrocketed: RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen said households accumulated $212 billion in savings last year, about $184 billion above pre-shock trends, which could give a jolt to the economy as the year rolls on.

“Once containment measures ease, there is a lot of pent-up demand out there for spending on things like travel and hospitality services,” Janzen said.

The different impacts on sectors and the shift in online shopping, among other effects, make GDP an imperfect measure of what the economy went through.

Economist Armine Yalnizyan said an acceleration to digital sales in the retail industry could further disrupt the key economic indicator if technological shifts drive down prices and wages, ultimately affecting tax revenues.

“Even if you’re better off in terms of purchasing power, you may find your quality of life squeezed if we need to raise taxes to offer the same level of services,” said Yalnizyan, a fellow on the future of workers at the Atkinson Foundation.

“That’s why GDP is no longer as robust a measure of progress — because of digital.”

The Liberals have spoken more about employment levels as a key metric of recovery. It’s why experts say Tuesday’s GDP figures likely won’t change federal spending plans the Liberals are set to outline in the coming weeks as part of a budget the government has said would include up to $100 billion in stimulus measures over a three-year period.

“The government has no plan, but they talk about building back better,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. “And that really means they’re going to be leaving some people in some sectors that they don’t like out of the economic recovery.”

O’Toole didn’t offer specifics of his own, saying the Opposition Conservatives would have a detailed recovery plan before the next federal election.

The Liberals are reviewing a laundry list of budget ideas to help manage through the rest of the pandemic, and aid in a recovery.

Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said support should be targeted in the medium-term to the hardest-hit businesses suffering under a debt load that is fast becoming unsustainable.

Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, wrote in an open letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland that the government should invest in skills training, trade-enhancing infrastructure and research and development to raise productivity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.

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