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Will COVID-19 kill Christmas? – CBC.ca

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Roger Wiebe of Edmonton and his wife are cancelling Christmas this year because they can’t afford it. 

Weibe said he lost his job at a medical supply warehouse in June due to a COVID-19-related work slowdown. His wife, a legal assistant, lost her job in February.  

Neither has been able to land another job as the pandemic drags on, and they’re struggling.  

“We can’t afford presents or anything like that,” said Wiebe. “I don’t even think we’re going to be in the mood to even put up a tree or anything this year. … Christmas is going to be another day.”

Many other Canadians won’t go as far as cancelling Christmas, but will have pared-down celebrations this year as fears of the virus, physical gathering restrictions and a weakened economy put a damper on holiday plans.

Roger Wiebe lost his job in June and says Christmas is on hold this year because he can’t afford it. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

According to Deloitte Canada’s annual holiday retail spending survey, which polled 1,000 Canadians in September, respondents said they expected to spend an average of $1,405 during the holidays — down 18 per cent from the previous year.

“It’s a pretty big drop,” said Marty Weintraub, national retail leader at Deloitte Canada, an accounting firm. He said concerns over the economy and waning consumer confidence are inspiring Canadians to curtail their spending. 

Canada’s economy was on its way to recovery in the summer when provinces eased their lockdowns and businesses reopened. But then the second wave hit as COVID-19 infections spiked once again, forcing some provinces to reintroduce lockdown measures. 

“With wave two and uncertainty, we’re now back into serious headwinds ahead,” said Weintraub. “It’s a bit of a roller coaster right now.” 

Less partying this Christmas

Weintraub said another reason why Canadians plan to spend less this Christmas is simply because there will be fewer reasons to part with their cash — thanks to social gathering limits and Canada’s advisory not to travel abroad.

Deloitte’s holiday survey found that travel, dining out, and alcohol purchased for entertaining will be where the biggest spending cuts are made.

“No one’s traveling anywhere. No one’s having big gatherings,” said Weintraub.

The majority of respondents (51 per cent) said they have no plans to entertain guests at home over the holidays. 

Rashida Malcolm of Toronto said she hopes to have a few close family members over for Christmas. However, large get-togethers — such as her family’s annual holiday party with up to 100 guests — won’t happen this year. 

Rashida Malcolm, her husband and daughters at the annual Toronto Christmas Market in 2019. This year, the market has been cancelled due to social gathering restrictions. (submitted by Rashida Malcolm)

Malcolm said she’s disappointed, but is prepared to make the sacrifice to help curb Ontario’s recent surge of COVID-19 infections

“I think we’re all willing — I hope we’re all willing — to do whatever is necessary. So I’m sad not to see everyone, but we’ll send out Christmas cards and call.”

Another downer for Malcolm is that holiday festivities her family normally attends — such as the Toronto Christmas Market held in the Distillery District — have been cancelled this year due to restrictions on public gatherings. 

WATCH | ‘Big parties are off’ this Christmas, says Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam spoke to reporters during a pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Friday. 2:38

And due to concerns over crowded malls, Malcolm said visiting Santa at the mall is off — news she has yet to share with her two young daughters.

“I’m going to hope that they just don’t ask.”

Holiday celebration alternatives

Adults aren’t the only ones facing a pared-down Christmas. Children will likely take it hard when they learn that Christmas traditions, such as visiting Santa, have been nixed.

But all is not lost as Santa and his helpers scramble for solutions. 

At Toronto’s Eaton Centre and Southcentre Mall in Calgary, Santa is planning COVID-19 friendly appearances. Everyone must wear masks and, instead of sitting in Santa’s lap, children will have to keep their distance. 

“There will be no direct contact with Santa,” said Southcentre Mall in a statement. It also warns that everyone — including Santa — will undergo temperature checks. 

At Toronto’s Eaton Centre this year, Santa will wear a mask and sit two meters apart from visiting children. At another mall, Santa will appear on a video screen turned into a ‘magic mirror.’ (Cadillac Fairview/Facebook)

At Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, Santa will appear virtually via a large screen so kids can get their picture taken without any physical contact. 

“We want to keep everyone safe, including Santa, so we’re going to have Santa there through his magic mirror,” said Will Correia, Scarborough Town Centre’s general manager.

Santa Claus parades have been cancelled in cities across Canada, but some are trying to keep spirits afloat with COVID-19-safe alternatives. 

Several cities including London, Maple Ridge, B.C. and Yorkton, Sask. are planning a “reverse” parade where the floats stay parked. Spectators drive by and enjoy the sights from the safety of their cars.

“The children of London … will not be disappointed!” promises an ad for London’s upcoming parade which will be parked at the city’s airport. 

Santa Claus waves from the final float in the Guelph Santa Claus Parade on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. This year, some parades may be held without spectators lining the streets, while others will be stationary so people can drive by in cars. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Toronto also plans to continue its Santa Claus parade this year. However, it will take a new route that’s closed to the public who can instead view the parade on TV

It may not be the same as seeing Santa in person, but this is the year that Canadians will have to revise their holiday traditions, while still trying to keep up the Christmas spirit. 

“It’s sort of what you make of it,” said Malcolm. “It’s still a great time to be thankful. … Lucky for us, our household is healthy and, things like that, I keep reminding myself when things seem a little bleak.”

The Deloitte survey polled 1,000 Canadians online from Sept. 8 to 14. The margin of error for a comparable sample like this would be +/-3 per cent, with a 95 per cent confidence level.

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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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