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When will international air travel soar again after COVID-19? – CBC.ca

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A return to a freer level of international air travel likely won’t be possible until there’s greater agreement among nations on the COVID-19 tests and vaccination documentation needed to travel abroad, experts say.

Yet a year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, it’s still not clear when such a consensus will be reached.

“Every country wants to do its own thing and they really have to get over that and get on the same page,” said Marion Joppe, a professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management.

The European Union developed a digital certificate for residents across the 27-country bloc, but it has restrictions in place for non-essential travel from many third countries due to COVID-19 concerns.

The varying border-crossing and travel restrictions imposed by nations around the world in the wake of COVID-19 have left airlines and passengers alike coping with the resulting uncertainty.

 And while more people are flying abroad today than in the early days of the pandemic, passenger levels are still far below pre-pandemic levels.

A long way from 2019

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported that the world saw a 60 per cent dip in the number of passengers who flew in 2020 as compared to 2019.

In July 2021, international travel demand was down nearly three-quarters from what it was in 2019 — though the IATA says the traffic is improving across the globe.

A sign on display at Regina International Airport in May of 2021 reminds people arriving from outside of the country about the rules that were in place at the time amid COVID-19 concerns. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

In Canada, there is hope among airlines their industry will see clearer skies ahead, though the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it tough to forecast exactly when.

At Air Canada, there is optimism now that new travel rules allow international visitors — at least those who are fully vaccinated — to enter the country for non-essential travel. The change took effect Sept. 7.

“We look forward to welcoming customers from around the world back on board,” Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for the airline, told CBC News via email.

Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesperson, says the airline has seen steep revenue declines during the pandemic on the international side of its business. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Fitzpatrick said the airline has seen steep revenue declines during the pandemic on the international side of its business — with its international passenger revenue less than one-tenth of what it was just two years ago as of the second quarter of 2021. 

WestJet told CBC News that it’s “working diligently to predict the balance in demand and to support our guests’ needs” as vaccination rates rise and travel restrictions ease.

“To get to where we need to go, it’s going to take a continued focus on the safe restart of travel,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email.

Montreal-based Air Transat is also hoping to put more people in planes after operating no commercial flights for six months earlier this year.

Air Transat self service check-in kiosks are seen at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, on July 31, 2020. The company went six months without operating commercial flights this year. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

“We’re very pleased we were able to resume operations … and move into the restart phase where our activities can gradually expand,” Air Transat president and CEO Annick Guérard said in a statement accompanying the release of the company’s latest quarterly results.

“Particularly as we look forward to a winter season that promises to be much busier than the last one.”

The airline, however, does not expect its operations to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

Toronto’s Porter Airlines is preparing to restart service to four U.S. cities later this month after a lengthy suspension of flights due to pandemic-related restrictions. The company expects its flights to reach 60 per cent of its 2019 capacity by early October. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Toronto-based Porter Airlines is preparing to restart service to four U.S. cities later this month after an 18-month suspension of flights.

“We believe demand for these routes will gradually return as flights are reintroduced across our network,” Porter spokesperson Brad Cicero told CBC News via email.

“Flights are returning in phases, growing to approximately 60 per cent of 2019 capacity by Oct. 6.”

How to move forward

The use of vaccine passports is one possible tool to encourage international travel.

The federal government has said it “recognizes that proof of vaccination credentials will support the re-opening of societies and economies.”

Joseph Ali, associate director for global programs at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore, believes support for such vaccine documentation is growing — though it may not be “strictly required” for all travellers in the immediate future.

A worker waits for arrivals at the COVID-19 testing centre in Terminal 3 at Toronto’s Pearson airport in February 2021. Some experts believe implementing vaccine passports will encourage international travel. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

“Until there is sufficient supply and distribution of vaccines globally … it won’t be appropriate to require vaccination passports for all passengers,” Ali said in an email.

Such a system would also depend on nations recognizing the vaccines being used outside their borders, as well as on the evolving circumstances of the pandemic.

“Vaccine passport systems won’t definitively solve all COVID-related travel challenges, but they may help get us closer to doing things that are important to many,” said Ali.

What about Ottawa?

Canada’s federal government, prior to the election call, made arguments for such a system of proof-of-vaccination documentation for international travel, with the government stating plans to deliver a version by early fall.

Each federal party has its own idea of how to safely reopen for international travel.

Canada’s federal government, prior to the election call, made arguments for such a system of proof-of-vaccination documentation for international travel. Each party has different plans for reopening the skies. (Lars Hagberg/Reuters)

The Conservatives, according to their platform, would require “rapid testing at all border entry points and airports” for all travellers, vaccinated and unvaccinated, without exception. The party says it also intends to help rebuild the country’s airline sector.

The Liberals, meanwhile, say travellers would have to get vaccinated if they wanted to get on a commercial flight

The New Democrats told CBC News that Leader Jagmeet Singh supports Canada developing a national vaccine passport enabling travel around Canada and abroad.

The Greens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A British Airways captain walks through the International arrivals area of Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport last month. Co-ordination of passport systems among nations will be crucial to the plan’s success, some travel experts say. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Arvind Magesan, a University of Calgary economics professor, said it’s imperative to develop co-ordination among nations on vaccine passports for obvious reasons — as there’s “no point in getting on a plane” if your vaccine isn’t recognized by the place you’re trying to fly to.

“That’s a really hard problem, trying to co-ordinate policy across different countries,” Magesan said in an interview.

A different future?

Some observers think the pandemic may spur permanent shifts in airline travel patterns.

The industry may see fewer work trips in future, according to Marc-David Seidel, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

A airport airline limo driver waits for customers in a nearly empty Toronto Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto in April of last year. Some people believe business travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Seidel said people have become accustomed to using technology to conduct business in new ways and the advantages of not having to travel are clear to them.

“Do I really want to have to fly halfway around the world to have a four-hour meeting?” said Seidel, who sees the current moment as an opportunity to rethink what kinds of travel are truly necessary.

The University of Guelph’s Joppe, on the other hand, believes business travel will eventually recover.

“People want to travel and our whole lifestyle has become one of mobility,” said Joppe.

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China tells Evergrande to avoid near-term dollar bond defaults – Aljazeera.com

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Chinese regulators told cash-strapped property developer Evergrande to focus on completing unfinished properties and repay individual investors while avoiding a near term-term default on its dollar bonds, sources tell Bloomberg.

Financial regulators in Beijing issued a broad set of instructions to China Evergrande Group, telling the embattled developer to focus on completing unfinished properties and repaying individual investors while avoiding a near-term default on dollar bonds.

In a recent meeting with Evergrande representatives, regulators said the company should communicate proactively with bondholders to avoid a default but didn’t give more specific guidance, a person familiar with the matter said. The developer has an $83.5 million coupon due Thursday, with a 30-day grace period to make the payment.

There’s no indication that regulators offered financial support to Evergrande for the bond payment, and it’s unclear whether officials believe the company should eventually impose losses on offshore creditors. Policy makers are trying to learn more about who holds Evergrande’s bonds, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive information.

While the regulatory guidance offers few clues about what an Evergrande endgame might look like, it does suggest China’s government wants to avoid an imminent collapse of the developer that might roil financial markets and drag down economic growth. Any sign that Beijing is taking steps to give Evergrande more time to manage its debt problems could calm investor nerves in China and around the world.

Fears of an Evergrande failure have caused a sharp rise in borrowing costs for other junk-rated Chinese developers and cast doubt on the health of some smaller Chinese banks. Individual investors, homebuyers and suppliers have staged protests at Evergrande offices across the country, while markets from Hong Kong to New York have convulsed this week as traders weighed the prospect of financial contagion from the world’s most indebted developer.

Even though Evergrande’s crisis can be traced in part to President Xi Jinping’s campaign to rein in over-leveraged property companies and discourage moral hazard, his government is unlikely to welcome a messy default that could threaten economic and social stability. Large cash injections into the financial system by the People’s Bank of China in recent days suggest policy makers are already focused on shoring up sentiment.

Evergrande, the PBOC and the nation’s financial and housing regulators didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Speculation that Evergrande may avoid a worst-case scenario helped lift its bonds and stock on Thursday. The company’s 8.25% dollar note due 2022 climbed 4.8 cents on the dollar to 30 cents as of 5:39 p.m. local time, hitting session highs after Bloomberg reported regulators’ instructions to Evergrande. The bonds are still pricing in expectations of a deep haircut, but not quite as extreme as earlier this week. Shares jumped 18% in Hong Kong before the Bloomberg report, paring this year’s loss to 82%.

The rally was fueled in part by a vaguely worded statement from Evergrande on Wednesday, in which the company said an interest payment on one of its yuan-denominated bonds had been “resolved via negotiations off the clearing house.” The developer likely struck a deal with local bondholders to postpone the payment without having to label the move a default, analysts said.

It’s unclear whether Evergrande would be able to pull off something similar for its dollar bonds. While some of the notes are likely owned by billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan and his associates, holders also include global investment firms that might be less willing to go along with opaque payment arrangements.

Deeply discounted prices for Evergrande dollar bonds suggest investors view a restructuring of some kind as all but inevitable. Offshore bondholders are widely seen as near the bottom of Beijing’s priority list of Evergrande creditors, though that assessment may depend in part on how worried authorities become about Chinese companies’ access to dollar funding. The turmoil at Evergrande, Asia’s biggest issuer of junk bonds, has sent yields on an index of junk-grade Chinese dollar bonds to a decade high.

In a meeting with Evergrande employees on Wednesday, Hui emphasized the importance of resuming construction on unfinished properties, according to Jiemian, a Chinese media outlet. He also said Evergrande will ensure repayment of investment products.

Property sales are a key source of cash for Evergrande, though the company has struggled to attract buyers in recent months amid waning confidence in its ability to deliver on projects. Homebuyers in China often have to make large down payments on properties that may take years to complete. About 1.5 million buyers are currently waiting for Evergrande to deliver unfinished homes.

The company is also trying to offload assets to raise cash, with mixed success. It said earlier this month it hadn’t made material progress on plans to sell stakes in its electric-car and property services units. Evergrande has hired Houlihan Lokey and Admiralty Harbour Capital to “explore all feasible solutions” to ease its liquidity problems.

While the developer doesn’t have any bonds maturing until 2022, it faces about $669 million in coupon payments this year. The bulk of its $300 billion-plus in total liabilities are to homebuyers, suppliers and local financial institutions.

(Updates markets in eighth paragraph.)

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SNC-Lavalin, former executives charged with fraud in alleged bribery case: RCMP – Globalnews.ca

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The SNC-Lavalin legal saga was thrust back into the spotlight Thursday after the RCMP announced they’ve charged they’ve charged two former executives and the engineering company itself for allegedly paying bribes to obtain a Montreal bridge repair contract.

Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin and former SNC-Lavalin International Inc. vice-president Kamal Francis, along with SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiary, have each been charged with forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government.

The two former executives have been released from custody and are due to appear in a Montreal court on Sept. 27 along with representatives from SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International.

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) has agreed to send an invitation to negotiate a remedial agreement with SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. The invitation went out on Thursday. Neither executive is eligible for such an offer.

Read more:
Jody Wilson-Raybould says new book is not her ‘moment of revenge’ against Trudeau

Such a deal, a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, would allow SNC-Lavalin to continue doing business with the governments of Quebec, Canada and abroad.

“It also reduces the negative consequences on employees, retirees, customers and shareholders of organizations,” the DPCP said in a statement.

SNC-Lavalin said it welcomes the opportunity to negotiate an agreement to resolve these charges that promote accountability while also permitting the company to continue to do business and protect the livelihoods of employees, clients, investors and other stakeholders.

”I want to emphasize that these charges stem from events that took place nearly 20 years ago, involving former employees who left the company years ago and who no longer have any involvement with our organization,“ stated CEO Ian Edwards.

He said the company has made great strides over the past decade and today operates at the highest ethical standards.


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote'



1:19
Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote


Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote – Sep 13, 2021

“We see this as a further step to put the past behind us and allow the company to focus on the future.”

The RCMP said the charges are the result of a complex investigation dubbed Project Agrafe (“Staple”) that started in 2013. It said the investigation was carried out by the Sensitive and International Investigations division of the force, which is mandated to investigate criminal activity that poses a threat to Canada’s government institutions, public officials, the integrity of the Crown, or that imperils Canada’s political, economic and social integrity.

Once the investigation was complete, the RCMP said it passed on its evidence to Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecution to proceed with formalizing the charges and warrants of arrest.

The charges date back to events that took place between 1997 and 2004. Michel Fournier, former president and CEO of the Federal Bridge Corp., admitted to receiving bribes from SNC-Lavalin worth $2.23 million related to a $128-million Jacques-Cartier Bridge repair project through Swiss bank accounts. Fournier of Victoria, B.C., was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2017 and has since received full parole.

Read more:
‘I did not want her to lie’: Trudeau rejects Wilson-Raybould’s claims about SNC-Lavalin talk

After retiring in 2004, Fournier created an offshore shell company in the Virgin Islands to bring the bribe money back to Canada, according to court documents. The government was only able to confiscate $775,000 of the bribes because Fournier lost a significant amount of money in the stock market.

SNC-Lavalin was previously charged with bribery and fraud in relation to its past work in Libya, which was at the centre of the high-profile 2019 battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

In December 2019, the company reached an agreement in which its construction division pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud, accompanied by a $280-million fine, while other charges related to acts committed in Libya between 2001 and 2011 were set aside. The company retained the right to bid on federal government contracts.

SNC-Lavalin was an issue during the 2019 federal election and surfaced again in the election this year after Wilson-Raybould wrote a book that touched on the criminal prosecution of the company and her testimony that senior party leaders pressed her to halt the case for political reasons.


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution'



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Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution


Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution – Sep 11, 2021

Trudeau said during the recent campaign that the matter had been thoroughly dissected in parliamentary committee hearings, newspaper articles and other testimony prior to the last federal election. He said the RCMP had never contacted him regarding the SNC affair.

The Liberals won another minority government on Monday.

Industry analysts downplayed the significance of the latest charges and potential penalty on SNC-Lavalin.

Yuri Lynk of Canaccord Genuity said the development doesn’t diminish his “bullish stance on SNC in the least.”

He said investors shouldn’t be taken off-guard because alleged improprieties surrounding the company’s involvement in the bridge have been in the news for years and SNC has warned that potential charges are a risk.

Lynk added in a report that the potential financial penalty shouldn’t be significant given that the magnitude of the gains was small and SNC lost money on the project. The past fine of $280 million payable over five years was for $127 million in bribes, compared with $2.23 million in bribes in this instance.

“Based on this, we estimate a fine related to the Jacques Cartier Bridge would be in the tens of millions of dollars range,” he wrote, noting that SNC has more than $660 million in cash.

“We view this as a bump in the road leading to SNC’s recovery.”

Analyst Maxim Sytchev of National Bank Financial said he expects a quicker resolution to these charges because SNC-Lavalin would want to quickly sit down with the federal government, whereas last time it was not invited to negotiate an agreement.

“Given the long-dated nature of the contract and its small size, we believe any charges would be commensurate with the infraction,” he wrote in a note to clients.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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As COVID-19 vaccines for kids get closer, experts weigh up how to reassure parents – CBC.ca

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Read Story Transcript

As Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech say they’ve moved a step closer to providing their COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, one mother says she’s keen to have her eldest vaccinated, but hears some hesitation among other parents.

“As parents, you’re nervous and you’re apprehensive, obviously, about any risks,” said Fallon Jones, who lives in Halifax with a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“But we have to weigh the pros and the cons here, and I think that this is a good opportunity to protect them against a potentially deadly virus,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Pfizer-BioNTech said Monday that a clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine recorded a robust immune response in five- to 11-year-olds, and the company plans to seek regulatory approval as soon as possible. Children received two shots, each one-third the dose size given to adults. The findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine appears safe, effective in younger kids, expert says

3 days ago

Although he cautions Pfizer-BioNTech has yet to release the raw data supporting the claim that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in kids aged 5-11, it’s ‘reasonable’ to assume that’s accurate, says Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology. 2:35

For any vaccine to be approved by Health Canada, the manufacturers supply the necessary clinical trial data for review. If the regulator grants approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation on their use, but the final decision to deploy the vaccines rests with provincial authorities.

In a statement to The Current, Health Canada said the makers of all COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are conducting or planning studies in adolescents and younger children, but it has so far not received any submission for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.

In her work at a vaccine hesitancy clinic in Calgary, Dr. Cora Constantinescu meets parents who are experiencing “a lot of fear and anxiety” around their children potentially getting the vaccine.

“We often have parents who are fully vaccinated themselves, who may be hesitant about their kids,” said Constantinescu, a pediatrician and infectious disease doctor at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

She said that parents talk to her about things they’ve seen online, including “anti-vaccine rhetoric and a lot of misconstrued science.”

In Halifax, Jones said she often hears other parents say they don’t know what’s in the vaccine, so they won’t give it to their kids. When she asks if they knew what was in the vaccines their kids received as babies, the response is usually no, she said.

“I completely respect and understand how there would be some fear associated with it,” she said. 

But ultimately, “we trusted our doctors then and we trusted the science then, and we need to do the same with this vaccine.” 

Dr. Cora Constantinescu said that as parents approach the decision, they should consider the negative impacts of COVID-19 on children. (Submitted by Dr. Cora Constantinescu)

How should parents approach vaccine question?

Constantinescu said many parents have seen misinformation on social media, where there is a “huge polarization of the pro-vaccine and the anti-vaccine crowd.”

“The parents are caught in the middle, scared and worried about their kids, trying to make the best decision they can,” she said.

As parents approach the decision, they should consider the dual impact of COVID-19 on children, she said.

“We’re seeing the direct effects of COVID on children, and we know that that can range from mild disease, to respiratory illness, to being hospitalized, having a multi-system inflammation, to ending up in ICU,” she said.

There is also an indirect cost, including mental health issues and issues around socialization, she said.

How a doctor discusses vaccine hesitancy with patients

10 months ago

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, an infectious disease specialist from the Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic in Calgary, discusses how she approaches conversations around vaccine hesitancy, the impact of those conversations and what’s needed in messaging around the COVID-19 vaccine. 3:44

The news from Pfizer-BioNTech gives her hope that those impacts can soon be addressed, but she warned that the data has not yet been made public, or reviewed by Health Canada.

If it is approved, she said parents should approach the vaccine as an issue of “personal protection first.”

“It’s about protecting their kids directly, looking out for them, and wanting to return them to a normal life,” she said.

‘Pull out all the stops’ to protect kids

Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, wants to see a safe vaccine for kids approved and available as quickly as possible.

“I’m calling for all of these processes to be speeded up and done very transparently,” said Pirzada, who is also a co-founder of Masks4Canada, a group that advocates for public health measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Kashif Pirzada said that when a vaccine is approved for younger children, ‘we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.’ (Dr. Kashif Pirzada)

He added that more work should be done to reassure parents that the vaccines are safe. He warned that COVID-19 is not harmless to children, and the longer they remain unprotected, the more infections there will be.

In the meantime, vaccination sites and health-care workers could be prepared to ramp the vaccination campaign back up, he said.

“Once that approval comes, we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.”


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin, Arianne Robinson and Joana Draghici.

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