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  1. . New NAFTA - the fine print... 'Shock at the doorstep': New NAFTA raises duty-free limits for private couriers, but not Canada Post Consumers can choose to avoid paying the GST by picking a private courier over Canada Post, but many don't have that option Fri Jun 26, 2020 - Financial Post OTTAWA — Canadians who buy online from stores in the United States or Mexico will get a bit of reprieve from taxes and duties next week but only if their packages are delivered by a private courier. If Canada Post is the one tapped to drop the package in the mailbox or on the doorstep, the old rules will still apply, leaving a two-tiered tax system for the same goods. “We are just mystified that the government would be setting consumers up for that surprise,” said Andrea Stairs, president of eBay Canada and chief marketing officer for eBay North America. The change is part of the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico Free Trade Agreement, which comes into effect on Canada Day. Within the trade deal, Canada agreed to lift the very low limit it had applied for duty and tax-free consumer imports, known as the de minimis threshold. It used to be that any goods purchased and imported by mail or courier would be subject to duty and GST if the total value was anything over $20. On July 1, that threshold is rising to $40 before GST gets applied and $150 before customs duties are added, for all packages delivered by couriers such as FedEx or UPS. The changes do not include Canada Post, for which all tax and duties will continue to be applied after $20. It means if consumers have a choice in how their package is shipped, they can choose to avoid paying the GST by picking a private courier. But consumers don’t always have that choice, said Stairs. She also said postal rates are usually the most competitive for shippers, so this change means the modest break on taxes that consumers could expect from the new trade deal might be eliminated, since it costs more to use a private courier. “It’s really unfair to middle-class Canadians and it’s also very unfair to rural Canadians who just don’t have the option in some cases of having courier service to them,” said Stairs. The modest break on taxes that consumers could expect from the new trade deal might be eliminated, since it costs more to use a private courier. Mike Blake/Reuters files She estimates about 80 per cent of the packages delivered across the border from eBay sellers are shipped by the postal services. “I think consumers fully anticipate that the new thresholds that were negotiated in CUSMA were going to apply to all imports from the U.S. and I think when they realize that actually the majority of those are excluded from the modest increases there is going to be some pretty significant shock at the doorstep,” said Stairs. Graham Robins, the president of A&A Customs Brokers in Surrey, B.C., said the changes are causing confusion and concern for customs agents who now have more work to try to sort out whether packages need to go through customs or not. Robins also said shippers will be deciding if it’s more economical to simply avoid the post office. A spokesperson for Canada Post said the Crown corporation will follow the rules and pay the fees set out by the federal government and had no further comment on the changes. Stairs said she met early in 2020 with Procurement Minister Anita Anand, who is responsible for Canada Post, and felt Anand understood the issue, but that ultimately the decision was up to Finance Minister Bill Morneau. A spokesperson for Morneau had not yet responded to questions about the matter by Thursday evening. .
  2. . George Floyd Worked With Officer Charged in His Death The episode began with a report of a $20 counterfeit bill. It ended in a fatal encounter with the police, which the authorities have described in detail for the first time. Fri May 29, 2020 - The New York Times By Matt Furber, Audra D. S. Burch and Frances Robles MINNEAPOLIS — One was a veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department who moonlighted as an off-duty security guard. The other provided security at a Salvation Army store, and spent some of his evenings at local clubs, working as a bouncer. In the year before their fatal encounter, George Floyd, 46, and the officer now charged with his death, Derek Chauvin, 44, worked at the same Minneapolis Latin nightclub, both part of the team responsible for keeping rowdy customers under control. Their paths crossed for the last time in the waning light of a Memorial Day evening, outside a corner store known as the best place in town to find menthol cigarettes. Within an hour, Mr. Floyd was dead, his last pleas and gasps captured in a horrifically graphic video. In a move that has since prompted protests in cities across the country, Mr. Chauvin knelt down on Mr. Floyd behind a police vehicle outside the store. For eight minutes and 46 seconds, according to a criminal complaint filed on Friday by the Hennepin County District Attorney, the police officer pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck in silence, staring toward the ground as his captive gasped repeatedly that he could not breathe. Bystanders waved their cellphones, cursed and pleaded for help, and still, for two minutes and 53 seconds after Mr. Floyd had stopped protesting and became unresponsive, the officer continued to kneel. The case has become part of a now-familiar history of police violence in recent years in which African-American men have died in encounters that were shockingly mundane in their origins — Eric Garner, who died after a 2014 arrest in New York for selling cigarettes without tax stamps; Michael Brown, who died in an encounter with police the same year in Ferguson, Mo., after walking in the street instead of using the sidewalk. Mr. Floyd’s case began with a report of a counterfeit $20 bill that a storekeeper said he tried to pass to buy cigarettes. “He died for nothing — something about a fake bill — that was nothing,” said Jason Polk, 53, a city bus driver and one of a number of South Minneapolis residents who have expressed outrage over the case. With Mr. Chauvin in custody and formally charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors must now try to understand what happened in the chaotic moments before Mr. Floyd was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center and pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. Accounts from witnesses, cellphone and surveillance video and charging documents released on Friday tell much of the story of how the “forgery-in-progress” arrest unfolded. Mr. Floyd had been a star football and basketball player in high school, moving to Minneapolis about five years ago. When he returned to Houston for his mother’s funeral two years ago, he told a cousin that Minneapolis had come to feel like home. “He was such a happy guy, he loved to be around people, loved to dance and he loved Minneapolis,” said Jovanni Thunstrom, who owned the Conga Latin Bistro where Mr. Floyd worked security on salsa nights. “He walked in every day with a smile on his face.” It was another club, El Nuevo Rodeo, where both Mr. Floyd and Mr. Chauvin worked. Maya Santamaria, who sold the club in January, said she doubted that the two men interacted. Mr. Floyd worked the occasional weeknight, she said, while Mr. Chauvin worked security on weekends over the past 17 years. Sometimes during the club’s boisterous “urban nights,” she said, when it draws a primarily African-American clientele, Mr. Chauvin was sometimes overly aggressive with customers, sometimes using pepper spray, she said. “I did have words with him on various occasions, when I thought he was not reacting appropriately based on the situation at hand,” she said. “It was like, zero strikes and you’re out.” Mr. Floyd’s younger brother, Rodney Floyd, 36, said he was the center of any room he walked into. “Always smiling, always somebody you could talk to and know that you would not be judged.” The fatal encounter began just before 8 p.m., when Mr. Floyd entered Cup Foods, a community store run by four brothers, and a store clerk claimed that he had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The police got a call from the store at 8:01 p.m. “Um, someone comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car,” the caller said, according to a transcript released by the authorities. The store clerk demanded the cigarettes back. “But he doesn’t want to do that, and he’s sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself,” the clerk said, according to a transcript of the call to police. “He is not acting right.” The dispatcher pressed for a description, and the caller described the man as tall, bald, about 6 feet tall. “Is he white, black, Native, Hispanic, Asian?” “Something like that,” the caller replied. “Which one? White, black, Native, Hispanic, Asian?” “No, he’s a black guy,” the caller said. Not long after, Angel Stately, a regular customer and former employee, arrived at the store looking for menthol cigarettes. The police were already outside. Ms. Stately said the clerk, a teenager, was feeling bad; he had called the police, he told her, only because it was protocol. The clerk held up a folded bill and showed it to her. The bill was an obvious fake, she said. “The ink was still running,” she said. Ms. Stately said she saw an officer approach Mr. Floyd, with his hand at his gun at his hip. The charging documents say that officers found Mr. Floyd in a parked blue car with two passengers. Soon, additional police units arrived and the officers tried to get Mr. Floyd into a police vehicle. But he struggled. “Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers, intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still,” according to the charging document. Even before he was placed on the ground under Mr. Chauvin’s knee, according to the prosecutors’ account, while standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying repeatedly that he could not breathe. Mr. Chauvin tried to place him in the police car with Officer J.A. Kueng’s help. At 8:19, Mr. Chauvin pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car. Mr. Floyd hit the ground, face down, handcuffs still on. Mr. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back while Officer Thomas Lane held his legs. Mr. Chauvin lodged his left knee in “the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck,” the documents said, and Mr. Floyd continued to protest: “I can’t breathe,” he said repeatedly. He called for his mother. He said, “Please.” One of the officers dismissed his pleas. “You are talking fine,” one officer said, according to the charging documents. At least one officer was worried: Mr. Lane asked if the officers should roll Mr. Floyd over on his side. “No, staying put where we got him,” Mr. Chauvin replied. “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever,” Mr. Lane said. “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” Mr. Chauvin responded. At 8:24 p.m., Mr. Floyd stopped moving. Mr. Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse. “I couldn’t find one,” he said. At 8:27 p.m., eight minutes and 46 seconds after he had lowered himself onto Mr. Floyd’s neck, Mr. Chauvin finally released his knee. .
  3. (Excerpt from Division IX - Canada Labour Code) Where employer deemed to terminate employment (4) Except where otherwise prescribed by regulation, an employer shall, for the purposes of this Division, be deemed to have terminated the employment of an employee where the employer lays off that employee.
  4. . WestJet seeks exemption to section of Canada Labour Code covering group terminations If successful, termination of more than 50 employees won't require 16 weeks' notice or pay in lieu Thu May 21, 2020 - CBC News Aaron Saltzman WestJet is asking for an exemption to the section of the Canada Labour Code covering group terminations. In a letter to federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi, the airline says it finds itself in "unprecedented circumstances with regards to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent decline in air travel prompted by containment measures worldwide." WestJet says abiding by group termination provisions in the Labour Code would be "unduly prejudicial to the interests of the company's employees and to the company, and are seriously detrimental to the operations of the company's industrial establishments." The airline also said "measures are already in place to assist redundant employees which have substantially the same or the same effect" as the measures in the applicable section of the code. Division IX of the Canada Labour Code is applicable if a federally regulated company plans to terminate more than 50 employees during a four-week period. Under those circumstances, certain provisions kick in designed to protect the employees and prevent a flood of people entering the labour market all at once. Instead of the two weeks' notice required for individuals, Division IX states employees who lose their job during a group termination are entitled to 16 weeks' notice or pay in lieu of that notice. "Really, that's designed to try to allow people to get things in order," said Philip Graham, a lawyer specializing in employment law at Koskie Minskie law firm in Toronto. "It also allows the employer and representatives of the employees the opportunity to sit down and try to minimize the effects of the layoff: Is it possible to perhaps shift employees around, to furlough employees, to put them on a shared work schedule, so that they don't actually end up having to be terminated and entering the market as job seekers." With group terminations, an employer is also required to co-operate with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission, provide affected employees with a statement of benefits, and establish a joint planning committee. This is the second time in less than a year that WestJet has asked for an exemption from part of the Canada Labour Code. The previous request was not related to the pandemic. 'Very concerning' Last August, WestJet asked for exemptions to rules covering the right of employees to refuse overtime, the requirement they be given 24 hours' notice of a shift change, and the mandatory half-hour break for every five hours of work. "There's no question that this is a very trying time for airlines around the world," said Chris Rauenbusch, president of CUPE 4070, which represents flight attendants and cabin crew members of WestJet, its regional airline Encore and its discount arm, Swoop. "The union has to be mindful of the operating circumstances, but just to ask for a blind exemption to the Canada Labour Code is certainly something that we view as very concerning," said Rauenbusch. "To us it seems every time the code gets in the way, WestJet files exemptions to it. And the point of the code is to protect employees; it's not to be negated and bypassed every time an employer has a perceived need." Rauenbusch says WestJet is trying to bypass the union, which would normally use the 16-week notice to negotiate further for things such as job retraining or new positions within the company. WestJet laid off about half of its 14,000 workforce in March, and announced last month it would layoff a further 3,000 employees, saying its passenger loads had dropped by more than 95 per cent due to travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, the airline has rehired about 6,400 employees with the help of the federal government's wage subsidy program. In an email to CBC News, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said the airline has not made any decisions to move ahead with terminations. "An exemption [to the Canada Labour Code] would allow the airline flexibility to act in a timely manner in this rapidly changing and prolonged crisis. This letter is consistent with our respect for government processes and the Labour Code," said Bell. An email to the labour minister's office was not returned prior to publication. .
  5. . Onex posts $1.1-billion loss, writes down WestJet stake Fri May 15, 2020 - The Globe and Mail by Andrew Willis Private equity firm Onex Corp. posted a US$1.1-billion loss in the first quarter as it wrote down the value of WestJet Airlines and other holdings due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Toronto-based Onex booked a US$985-million loss on its investment portfolio and an additional $67-million loss on its wealth management platform, Gluskin Sheff. Onex says the decrease in fair value of its investments ranged from declines of between 1 per cent and 77 per cent. While the company did not break down the value of individual holdings, analysts estimate the value of WestJet has declined by 65 per cent since the buyout firm acquired the airline in December for $3.5-billion. Onex committed $345-million of its own capital to the WestJet acquisition. Prior to the pandemic-inspired market decline in March, Onex raised US$202-million by selling a portion of its stake in European packaging company SIG Combibloc. In mid-April, Onex announced a major acquisition, agreeing to acquire U.K. medical services firm Independent Clinical Services. Analysts estimate the transaction was valued at US$1.4-billion. Onex is currently holding US$1.9-billion in cash, and maintained its dividend of 10 cents per subordinate voting share. In a press release, founder and chief executive Gerry Schwartz said: “The most challenging times bring out the best in people. Both within Onex and across businesses in our private equity portfolio, there were countless examples of employees ensuring where possible we could all work from home seamlessly; where not possible, ensuring employees were safe while serving their customers." .
  6. . 6 Canadian service members killed in helicopter crash to be honoured at CFB Trenton ceremony DND says Canadian Armed Forces members on parade to wear masks, to distance physically Wed May 06, 2020 - CBC News Six Canadian military members killed in last week's helicopter crash off the coast of Greece will be honoured at a repatriation ceremony in Ontario on Wednesday. The ceremony, at CFB Trenton, is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to attend. Family and friends of the service members will have a chance at the ceremony to pay their respects. The Department of National Defence said Canadian Armed Forces members, with the exception of pallbearers, will practise physical distancing at the ceremony to protect the health of those in attendance. "Despite the challenges presented by the current COVID-19 environment and the need to maintain physical distancing, 8 Wing/CFB Trenton is committed to a dignified and respectful repatriation for our fallen aviators and sailors," the department said in an email Tuesday. On Wednesday, April 29, the CH-148 Cyclone crashed in the Ionian Sea while taking part in NATO exercises. Defence officials have said it was returning to HMCS Fredericton at the end of a NATO training mission. The remains of one naval officer, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, were subsequently recovered while the other five service members on board are missing and presumed dead. Cowbrough was a marine systems engineering officer on the HMCS Fredericton and had lived in Dartmouth, N.S., for much of her life. The other five service members are: Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, a pilot originally from New Glasgow, N.S.; Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval warfare officer originally from Truro, N.S.; Capt. Kevin Hagen, a pilot originally from Nanaimo, B.C.; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer originally from Trois-Rivières, Que.; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator originally from Guelph, Ont. The remains of one other person have been recovered but not yet identified. At the ceremony, members of the Canadian Armed Forces on parade will wear non-medical masks, the department said. Pallbearers and those unable to distance physically will wear gloves. The department said it will provide family members of the six with masks and encourage them to distance physically during the ceremony. As for Canadians who wish to pay their respects, the department is urging them to watch the ceremony on television or online instead of gathering at CFB Trenton. The department said the five members who are missing and presumed dead will be represented by different military headgear, depending on whether they were members of the Royal Canadian Navy or Royal Canadian Air Force. The headgear will be resting on pillows to be carried off the plane, a CC-177 Globemaster, by fellow military members. According to the department, once the CC-177 Globemaster arrives at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton, pallbearers will enter the aircraft, the Quarter Guard will march into its position on the tarmac, families of the six will be escorted to locations on the tarmac and the ceremony will begin. Pallbearers from 8 Wing Trenton will carry Cowbrough's casket first from the CC-177 to a waiting hearse. Her remains will be repatriated. An escort party from HMCS Fredericton will then carry pillows with the headdress of the five other members from the CC-177 in the following order of rank, by seniority: Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald; Capt. Kevin Hagen; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin; Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins. As the casket and each pillow is brought to each hearse, respective family members will be brought to the rear of the hearse to pay their respects. The hearse doors will be closed, the Quarter Guard will march off and the ceremony will end. Motorcade to Toronto to follow ceremony Following the ceremony, a motorcade will travel along a section of Highway 401, known as the Highway of Heroes, to Toronto, for a coroner's examination. A portion of Highway 401 is called the Highway of Heroes to mark the road that soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan travelled between CFB Trenton and Toronto in their final journey home. When the bodies of soldiers who died in Afghanistan were repatriated, people would line the overpasses of Highway 401 to pay their respects. "For those who may feel it necessary to have a physical presence at roadside or overpasses along the Highway of Heroes, we ask that you join us in respecting COVID-19 restrictions and practice physical distancing while paying respects," the department says. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday that he is urging people to watch the ceremony and motorcade on TV or online instead of from Highway 401 overpasses to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. It's still not clear what caused the CH-148 Cyclone to crash, but the helicopter's flight data recorders were found in the debris and are to be analyzed at the National Research Council in Ottawa. Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft was used to bring the families to and from CFB Trenton to reduce risk of travel through various airports across Canada, the department said. .
  7. . Two Medical Systems, Two Pandemic Responses May 02, 2020 - The New York Times By Ian Austen After lamenting in a recent Canada Letter about my inability to find an expert who could offer an informed comparison of how the medical systems in Canada and the United States were responding to the coronavirus pandemic, I soon heard from Prof. Peter Berman. He is particularly well placed for such an assessment, after spending 25 years teaching at Harvard, most recently as a professor of global health systems and economics at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Professor Berman is now based in Vancouver as the director of the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia’s medical school. I’ll begin the comparison with some numbers. Massachusetts, the previous home of Professor Berman, has a population of 6.8 million and British Columbia has slightly over five million residents. But the toll of the pandemic on the two areas has been significantly different. As of Friday afternoon in Massachusetts, there have been more than 62,000 reported cases and 3,562 deaths, or 52 fatalities for every 100,000 people. In B.C., there have been just 2,112 reported cases and 111 deaths or just two victims for every 100,000 residents. Professor Berman cautioned that those numbers reflect a wide variety of factors outside the medical system like the demographic makeup of different cities and regions. But he noted that near his old office at Harvard “there must be thousands of the world’s best hospital beds and there are three top international top hospitals within a couple blocks.” So with resources like that, why is there such a great disparity with British Columbia? Part of the answer, for Professor Berman, can be found in how hospitals are funded and managed by the public health care systems of Canadian provinces. “The kind of system we have in Canada — and I think in British Columbia we have a pretty well-run version of it — allows the public health authorities to essentially commandeer the hospital system. It’s a command and control thing, it’s not a coordination thing,” he said. In the United States, Professor Berman said, hospitals are largely private institutions without any overall control. The effect of having these different systems plays out in many ways. “In British Columbia, the province just said: ‘We need to get ready for this, we need to free up 30 percent of the hospital beds,’” Professor Berman said. “And they instructed the health authorities to do it.” But in Massachusetts, he said, not only was there no one to tell hospitals to clear out beds, the economics of the system work against such steps. “If you have a private hospital where all the beds are paid for by patients and by insurance, when you have an empty bed, you have no revenue,” Professor Berman said. “So there’s a strong incentive for the hospital managers, especially in trying economic times, to be reluctant to cooperate. And then you end up with this kind of panicky atmosphere that has been happening in the U.S. where people are saying: ‘We don’t have enough beds, we don’t have enough this, we don’t have enough that.’” By contrast, Canadian hospitals have fixed funding. The number of full or empty beds has no effect on their budgets. The structure in the United States leads to other problems. Few American hospital administrators got together to do things like moving medical supplies and patients around between their institutions, Professor Berman said. “They have a strong disincentive not to do that and in addition there is no one who can make them do that without a pretty heavy duty expression of police powers of the state, which we haven’t really seen happening,” he said. Professor Berman also noted that while the American system has vast medical and scientific expertise, there’s little national coordination. Instead, responsibility has been fractured among a variety of long established agencies like the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the coronavirus task force established by President Trump. “So you see these different agencies being brought in to weigh in with their opinions without any sense of who’s really the spokesperson,” he said. In Canada however, “at a national level, Theresa Tam is doing that and then at the provincial level, we have people like Bonnie Henry doing that. I think in the U.S., no one’s been allowed to do that.” None of this means that Canada’s approach to the crisis and the structure of its medical system is perfect. Among other things, Professor Berman said that Canada’s health systems, which effectively treat doctors as private contractors, sometimes leads to disconnections between primary health care and the hospital systems. He also said that the country has been slow to push testing for the virus out into communities. But none of that has led to the sort of response he’s seeing back in the United States. “I’m a health economist,” Professor Berman said. “So the argument is always given in the United States that we have a lot of innovation, the system is very efficient and so on. But this is the other side of the argument.” .
  8. . World’s biggest cargo plane to ship Chinese PPE to Quebec Mon Apr 27, 2020 - The Globe and Mail Steven Chase The cargo specialists arranging a massive shipment of personal protective equipment from China for the Quebec government have turned to the world’s biggest aircraft to carry the load. The Soviet-era Antonov AN-225 is scheduled to carry what will be the largest single delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Canada later this week to Montreal’s Mirabel Airport. The most recent flight plan calls for the huge aircraft to land on Thursday night. Much of the freight is expected to be medical gowns that be can be used by health care workers. Quebec’s gear is taking a different route from some other shipments chartered by the federal government and provinces. The plane will pick up the PPE in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin rather than Shanghai. The Tianjin airport is the only one where the AN-225, which weighs more than 285 tonnes and has a wingspan of more than 88 metres, is allowed to land in China. The AN-225 is a one-of-a-kind plane. The world’s largest operational cargo aircraft, it’s owned by Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines and modeled on an aircraft that carried the Soviet/Russian space shuttle Buran. PPE tends to be light but bulky, and the Antonov can carry 1,100 cubic metres, several times what conventional aircraft can accommodate. The Quebec government on Monday declined to comment on this airlift, saying it did not make the logistics decisions. Montreal-based Nolinor Aviation is the company Quebec contracted to ship the PPE. Nolinor in turn contracted with Toronto-based Momentum Solutions, a logistics and air charter provider, which secured the AN-225. Vincent Dufort, sales director for Nolinor, said it’s very challenging to find reliable transport from China these days, and his company contracted with Momentum Solutions because they have worked together in the past and trust them. Stephen Arbib, chief executive officer of Momentum Solutions, said using the massive AN-225 helps reduce the cost of each unit of shipping medical gear to half or less than half of what it might cost to ship by conventional aircraft because it can carry more. Mr. Arbib said using a Ukrainian-flagged aircraft is helpful when shipping out of China because friction between Canada and China can cause difficulty for Canadian aircraft operators. “Unfortunately, with the political climate between Canada and China, being a Canadian operator isn’t always the most accepted operator.” Momentum Solutions played a key role in bringing Canadians home from Wuhan, China, earlier this year, and has worked for the United Nations, other non-governmental organizations and foreign governments. Antonov Airlines has used the AN-225 to deliver PPE to Poland and Germany and France. In China, crushing demand for masks and other protective equipment has created delays and stressed the logistics system. Shanghai Pudong International Airport has become a key centre for dispatching supplies from factories to other countries. Already the world’s third-busiest cargo hub, it has been stretched in ways never before seen. The number of cargo flights is more than double last year’s, including 329 flights on April 17, the highest daily tally in airport history. China late last week tightened restrictions on exports of masks and other PPE, requiring shipments to be subjected to a mandatory customs inspection. The regulations follow highly publicized complaints from some foreign governments and hospitals that they received PPE from China that they considered faulty. The Canadian government reported last week that one million N95-type masks it purchased from China were substandard. .
  9. . Cargojet soars as e-commerce shipments get a lift from COVID-19 lockdowns Thu Apr 23, 2020 - The Globe and Mail Matt Lundy - Economics Reporter As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to squeeze corporate Canada, Cargojet Inc. has emerged as an outlier: Business is strong, the cargo airline is hiring and it is paying $100-a-day raises to staff. Headquartered in Mississauga, Cargojet controls more than 80 per cent of Canada’s priority air cargo market. In contrast to hard-hit passenger airlines, Cargojet is capitalizing on a surge in e-commerce demand as families turn to online shopping while hunkering down at home. Investors have taken notice: Cargojet’s shares have rebounded beyond their prepandemic peak and closed Thursday at a record $129.74 apiece, giving the company a stock market value of about $2-billion. Since hitting a recent bottom on March 18, when equity markets broadly sold off as the novel coronavirus spread in North America and Europe, Cargojet’s stock has rallied 72 per cent. “People who are in the e-commerce business are certainly trending upwards right now,” chief executive Ajay Virmani said. “That’s the intent, because we don’t want people going out to stores” during the pandemic, he added. For years, investors have viewed Cargojet as a unique Canadian play on the rise of e-commerce. With its main hub at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, most of the airline’s revenue is derived from a domestic network of overnight cargo shipments between 14 Canadian cities. Its largest clients include Inc., Canada Post Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. E-commerce was expanding before the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was plenty of evidence to suggest Canadians have been slow to embrace digital shopping. In 2019, e-commerce spending in Canada increased by 32 per cent to $2.6-billion, yet still accounted for less than 5 per cent of total retail sales, according to Statistics Canada data. The Statscan figures are incomplete – for instance, they don’t include common digital transactions such as flight bookings. Even so, analysts say Canada lagged the United States and China. “We have a lot of catching up to do,” Mr. Virmani said. As physical-distancing measures drag on, there are mounting signs the pandemic is accelerating the shift to e-commerce. Statscan recently noted that online retailing was one of the few areas where economic activity is expanding. Cargojet has been a big beneficiary. In a client note last week, Canaccord Genuity analysts said Cargojet had seen a 15 per cent to 20 per cent “spike” in business-to-consumer volumes since mid-March, “driven by increased use of Amazon and other e-commerce traffic.” Mr. Virmani said higher consumer shipments have more than offset declines in business-to-business traffic. "The overall trend is up,” he said. “Cargojet is unique amongst Canadian aerospace names in that the impact of COVID-19 has positive implications that are offsetting the broader economic slowdown,” the Canaccord analysts wrote. “We do not see anything about the current environment that is likely to impact Cargojet’s enviable competitive positioning, virtual monopoly of the overnight air cargo market, and exposure to secular e-commerce trends that will continue to support growth in the years ahead.” Mr. Virmani said total volumes have slowed in recent days, but that could be because households stocked up during the initial weeks of the pandemic, and because online retailers are either struggling to fill orders or placing a higher priority on essential goods. But he said Cargojet has added about 100 employees – including roughly 40 pilots recently laid off by other airlines – to ensure operations run smoothly. And the company is doling out the temporary $100 daily raises to its entire work force. It would be difficult to disrupt Cargojet’s dominance of Canadian air freight, analysts say, given the substantial investments needed to build a competing network, and foreign-ownership restrictions that prevent big global players from invading the market. “Canada isn’t a dense enough market for everyone to efficiently run their own freight operation,” said Chris Murray, an AltaCorp Capital analyst who covers the company. “So what’s happened over time is everyone’s found the best and most efficient way to do it is to actually give their business, or do a contract, with Cargojet.” Mr. Virmani acknowledged the company is not insulated from broader forces weighing on Canada’s economy. “We can only be good as long as there is buying power and people have money to spend,” Mr. Virmani said. “We’re not immune to the recession or depression – whatever you want to call it – but I think we have quite a better chance of survival than a lot of other companies.” .
  10. Cash Crunch Pits Airlines Against Customers in Refund Disputes
  11. . An Air Canada bailout should stick in the craw of Canadian taxpayers . Tue Mar 31, 2020 - The Globe and Mail by Konrad Yakabuski Until the coronavirus crisis stuck, Air Canada had been on an unprecedented roll. In 2019, Canada’s flag carrier posted record revenues, record liquidity and a record stock price. Indeed, since emerging from court protection from its creditors in 2004, the Montreal-based carrier had gone from industry laggard to one of the world’s top performing airlines. “The agility and consistency we displayed in 2019 gives me the confidence that we will successfully execute on the several key opportunities before us,” chief executive Calin Rovinescu said in February as Air Canada reported a year-end profit of $1.48-billion. Now, Air Canada has lined up with the rest of the Canadian air transportation industry in seeking a government bailout. On Monday, Mr. Rovinescu announced the “extremely painful decision” of temporarily laying off more than 15,000 unionized employees and reducing capacity for the second quarter that begins on Wednesday by as much as 90 per cent. What’s more, Air Canada’s pending takeover of Transat AT Inc., which has also laid off most of its work force as the COVID-19 pandemic grounds most international flights, is now in question due to a precipitous decline in global air travel that could last far beyond the current crisis. The coming months promise to be painful for workers. However, no one should shed a tear for Air Canada’s shareholders or top executives. They’ve been richly rewarded in recent years, which will make the thought of their airline now getting bailed out by taxpayers hard to swallow for many Canadians. One reason Air Canada’s stock had outperformed the market had to do with the company’s share repurchase program. Since 2015, Air Canada has spent more than $800-million buying back its own shares. Last year alone, the airline spent $378-million on share buybacks, which had the effect of boosting a company’s stock price by reducing the number of shares in circulation. The company suspended its share buyback program on March 2. On Monday, Air Canada said Mr. Rovinescu and chief financial officer Michael Rousseau have agreed to forgo their salaries for the second quarter, while other top managers will take a pay cut of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent. Last August, however, Mr. Rovinescu pocketed a whopping $52.7-million profit by exercising Air Canada stock options originally issued in 2013. That was on top of a 2018 compensation package of more than $11.5-million. In the United States, Democratic politicians have sought restrictions on share buybacks and executive compensation packages as part of the rescue packages approved under legislation that passed Congress last week. The US$2-trillion bill signed by President Donald Trump provides for tens of billions of dollars in aid to the country’s airline industry, prompting a major push back from left-leaning Democrats and other critics of corporate largesse. “To what extent are taxpayers being asked to bail out wealthy creditors, and to reward companies that, during the years when they made enormous profits, spent their money propping up their own stock prices?” Columbia University law professor Tim Yu wrote last week in a New York Times Op-Ed, arguing that the relief package “amounts to a bailout of private capital and the endorsement of a decade of self-enriching practices.” Whether the sacrifices being made by Air Canada’s top management now will be enough to prevent a similar backlash here may depend on whether Ottawa imposes stiff restrictions on share buybacks and executive compensation in exchange for providing a lifeline to the airline. The goal of the airline bailout, of course, is to ensure Air Canada and Onex Corp.'s WestJet are able to resume normal operations once the current crisis has passed. Without government aid, both airlines could face crippling cash shortages that threaten their very survival. As it stands, global air travel is unlikely to return to precrisis levels for several months after current travel restrictions are lifted. Some of the capacity now being cut by Canada’s airlines may not be fully restored in coming quarters if the economy fails to rebound quickly and unemployment levels remain high for the rest of the year. Air Canada’s takeover of Transat was already expected to lead the combined airline to cut some capacity on seasonal transatlantic and Caribbean routes. But with 2020 shaping up as a washout, the cuts needed for a return to profitability on those routes could approach or exceed Transat’s entire capacity. So why would Air Canada pay $720-million for Transat now? With Transat’s stock trading at less than half of the $18-a-share Air Canada offered last year to buy the struggling carrier, Mr. Rovinescu will face pressure to renegotiate – if not kill – the deal. .
  12. . Class action launched after airlines give vouchers, not refunds for cancelled trips Suit targets major Canadian airlines and travel companies, could affect hundreds of thousands of people Tue Mar 31, 2020 - CBC News Yvonne Colbert A British Columbia woman is launching a class-action lawsuit against several major Canadian airlines and travel companies over their decision to issue credits and vouchers instead of refunds for flights and vacations cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legal action by Janet Donaldson, whose Vancouver-New York round trip on WestJet in April was cancelled, was filed last week in Federal Court against Swoop, WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing. The suit has not been certified. Sébastien Paquette, a Montreal lawyer representing passengers in the suit, said Donaldson paid by credit card and was "disappointed" when she could not get a refund, "which she was allowed to receive by law." "This is a consumer-protection class action seeking to enforce each passenger's rights to a refund for monies paid for their air tickets, when they are not able to travel for reasons outside of the control of the passengers," the statement of claim said. It said companies should not be permitted to keep passengers' money for an indefinite period of time, whether they want to travel in the future or not. The class action applies to an unknown number of passengers, but it's estimated it could affect hundreds of thousands of people. It includes anyone "residing anywhere in the world" who has not received a refund and who bought a ticket with one of the companies before March 11 for a trip scheduled between March 13 and whenever the federal government withdraw's COVID-19 travel advisories. Airlines defend vouchers Airlines have slashed routes during the pandemic and cancelled many flights as the Canadian government urges people to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country. Many passengers have been frustrated at being offered travel vouchers instead of refunds. Paquette said part of the claim is asking that the money paid for the cancelled tickets be placed with the court until the case is settled. "We want to secure the class members their money. At this point it literally is their money, so there's no reason it should be kept in the airlines' accounts," Paquette said. Air Canada and WestJet did not respond to requests for comment before publication and Swoop had no comment. Sunwing said the decision "to suspend all flights was made as a last resort, in response to the exceptional circumstances faced across the industry and around the world." In an email, Air Transat's vice-president of human resources and corporate affairs, Christophe Hennebelle, said the situation "has placed an extraordinary burden on the industry, which puts its very existence into question." He said the company believes "that in such a force majeure situation, way beyond our span of control, we do not have to issue a full refund for travels that have not been completed." He called the 24-month credit voucher "an acceptable solution," saying Italy, Belgium, France and the U.K. have passed legislation to "secure that solution." 'It's the right thing to be done' Paquette said the airlines are forcing people to fly at a later date, when they may not wish to travel and could face a "substantially different price." He points out the companies are saving money on fuel and other operating expenses because of the cancelled flights. The lawsuit is being welcomed by people like Halifax resident Katie Gillis, one of those denied a refund after Sunwing cancelled vacations she, her fiancé and 30 others planned in Mexico for her wedding. Collectively, they spent more than $57,000 on the trip. "I'm super-pleased to hear that," Gillis said of the lawsuit. "It's the right thing to be done." Class-action lawsuits can take years to wind their way through the courts unless the defendants agree to a settlement. Paquette said he can't predict how the companies will respond, but lawyers are preparing in the event it goes to a trial. "We feel that this is wrong and class members should definitely get their money back," he said. Those who were denied a refund during the specified period are automatically qualified as part of the class action and do not have to do anything at this point. Paquette is urging people to keep their documentation, including ticket bookings, charges and emails, since it may be required in the future to prove a claim. None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court. .
  13. . Porter Airlines to get $135 million in funding from federal government after coronavirus grounds flights Porter halted all of its operations on March 20 with plans to keep its planes grounded until June 1 Sat Mar 28, 2020 - Financial Post The federal government will provide Toronto-based Porter Airlines with $135 million in commercial financing during the coronavirus pandemic that has grounded most air traffic and strained the global air travel industry. Porter Airlines told the Financial Post Friday that it arranged commercial financing with Export Development Canada secured by a portion of its fleet of 29 aircraft. The regional carrier, which operates from an island in Toronto Harbour, owns all of its aircraft and only has debt on three, according to an emailed statement. “With this strong balance sheet, we secured a loan similar to other arrangements previously made with EDC,” an airlines spokesperson said. “Many companies are making financially prudent plans in the current environment and this additional capital provides flexibility for our business. Porter has the financial resources to sustain the airline through this public health crisis.” Porter halted all of its operations on March 20 with plans to keep its planes grounded until June 1. It waived change and cancellation fees for customers who had to make last-minute travel arrangements. At the time, chief executive Michael Deluce called the speed of COVID-19 related developments “shocking.” “It is having an unprecedented impact around the globe on businesses, economies and people,” Deluce said in a statement, adding that Porter supports government efforts to restrict the spread of disease. Over the past few weeks, the federal government has met with representatives from Canada’s airline industry, including calls between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the CEOs of Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd., the country’s two largest carriers. The industry has called for government support as demand for air travel plummets to near zero thanks to travel restrictions in place to quell the spread of the virus. It’s not yet clear exactly how Ottawa will support the wider industry, but requests for help got louder after the government banned non-essential travel to the United States. Canada’s major carriers have already laid off thousands of employees. WestJet laid off 6,900 employees, Air Canada 5,149 and Transat A.T. 3,600 people. The International Air Transport Association estimates that global airlines will collectively lose more than $252 billion in revenue due to the drastic drop in travel. .
  14. . Sunwing Airlines to halt operations after March 23 amid pandemic Tue Mar 17, 2020 - The Globe and Mail Eric Atkins - Transportation Reporter Holiday carrier Sunwing Airlines is temporarily halting operations, becoming the first Canadian airline to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto-based Sunwing said it is no longer taking passengers south, and will suspend all flights once it has flown its customers back to Canada from resort destinations in Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and Florida. About 470 pilots have been told flights will end after March 23 and were issued layoff notices, said Jerry Dias, head of Unifor, the employees’ union. Sunwing has a fleet of about 40 Boeing 737s. The privately owned company flies domestic routes as well as vacation trips to sun spots in the Caribbean and Europe. Rachel Goldrick, a spokeswoman for Sunwing, said the shutdown is “temporary” and will last until April 10, but “at this time we cannot confirm when commercial southern flight operations will resume. That is why Sunwing was forced to communicate layoffs to our flight and cabin crew members [Monday] evening.” She said the carrier intends to recall the pilots and flight attendants when service resumes. “This unprecedented situation has had a drastic impact on our business during a short space of time,” she said. Sunwing’s parent company, Sunwing Travel Group, bills itself as the largest “vertically integrated” travel company in North America, with $3-billion in yearly revenue from divisions that include three tour operators and more than 7,000 hotel rooms at vacation resorts in the Caribbean. The first of four Sunwing “rescue flights” from Toronto and Montreal departed on Monday to bring 500 Canadians home from Honduras, Aruba and Panama, countries that have announced border closings, she said. On Tuesday, “we expect to bring over 11,000 customers home to Canada and we are committed to doing so until all our customers are safely home,” Ms. Goldrick said. “Customers are returning on their scheduled flights, with any remaining seats being used to accommodate other Sunwing customers wanting to return earlier at no additional cost.” A global airline group on Tuesday said most airlines have only enough cash to survive for three months, and predicted a large number would fail because of the pandemic that has closed some borders and caused a steep plunge in demand for air travel. Mr. Dias and Sunwing added their voices to calls for government aid to prop up the industry. “We will not accept any situation where workers are left to fend for themselves, not at Sunwing, not anywhere," he said. “That’s why we’ve called on all levels of government to confront this unprecedented pandemic with unprecedented action to protect the livelihoods of workers affected by this crisis.” .