2 Ontario mayors ask province to help employees fired from RV maker

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Two Ontario mayors say they have asked the province to help hundreds of employees who have lost their jobs at a recreational vehicle maker in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said they learned late Friday afternoon that Erwin Hymer Group North America, which has its headquarters in Cambridge, has filed for receivership and all of its employees have been terminated. 

The company operated plants in the region and between 800 and 900 employees are now out of work, Vrbanovic said.

« This is sad news and our thoughts go to the hundreds of employees and their families impacted by this sudden event, especially as they started their Family Day weekend, » Vrbanovic and McGarry said in a statement.

In a video posted to YouTube, Erwin Hymer Group North America included this shot of the recreational vehicles it manufactures. (YouTube)

McGarry said in an interview CBC Toronto that the mayors are « quite concerned » about the families affected.

« It will be a difficult transition, » McGarry said on Friday.

‘Details are sketchy right now’

« There hasn’t been an official statement that we’ve seen at all from the company or the receiver. The details are sketchy right now about what may be transpiring at the moment. All we know is that the company went into receivership and sent out termination notices to all of their employees, » she continued. 

Two employees said on Twitter that they received termination notices on Friday.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

Both mayors said they have talked to Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith to explore « all possible opportunities » for the company and its employees. 

McGarry and Vrbanovic said they have also asked the province to activate its « rapid re-employment team » to help the fired employees. The team can assist with retraining, McGarry said.

The mayors have talked to Ontario Economic Development Minister Todd Smith in the hopes that the province can activate its « rapid re-employment team » to help the fired employees. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

« Although this is shocking news today, there is hope that they will find good employment in the region of Waterloo, » McGarry said.

Erwin Hymer Group bought Roadtrek in 2016

According to the mayors, Erwin Hymer Group, which is headquartered in Germany, originally bought the Kitchener-based company Roadtrek in 2016. The corporation then expanded its facilities in Cambridge and located its North American operations there.

When Erwin Hymer Group North America opened its doors in Cambridge in September 2017, it produced this video.

Roadtrek, ​started by Jac Hanemaayer in 1974, provided employment to hundreds of people in Kitchener, the mayors added.

« What might offer some additional hope to these affected employees and their families is that our region does have a strong, robust economy and there are many other manufacturers and companies in our area which are currently looking for new employees, » they said.

« We are a resilient community, and as a community we will work through this together. »

On Feb. 1, Thor Industries, Inc., an American company that calls itself the the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles, announced that it had finalized a plan to buy Erwin Hymer Group. 

« The acquisition excludes EHG’s North American businesses, » the news release said.

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John McCallum fired as ambassador to China amid diplomatic crisis

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John McCallum has been fired as Canada’s ambassador to China.

« Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s Ambassador to China, » Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Saturday.

A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed Trudeau delivered the news to McCallum himself.

The statement didn’t offer a reason for the removal, which comes in the middle of a diplomatic crisis with China. It caps off an especially tough week for McCallum after he controversially waded into the extradition request against Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Chinese telecom company Huawei.

On Tuesday McCallum, a longtime Liberal, was quoted telling a gathering of Chinese-language journalists in Toronto that he thought she had a strong case to fight extradition to the U.S. and listed several arguments he thought could help her with her case.

On Thursday, he said he misspoke with those statements.

Then, just the next day, he told a StarMetro Vancouver reporter it would be « great for Canada » if the United States dropped their extradition request against the Huawei executive.

He also said if the U.S. and China make a deal on Meng’s case, it should include the release of the two Canadian men detained in China.

« We have to make sure that if the U.S. does such a deal, it also includes the release of our two people. And the U.S. is highly aware of that, » McCallum told the Star.

Former ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said he believes it was the latest round of comments that prompted his firing. 

« Unfortunately I think the prime minister had no choice but to ask for the resignation of Mr. McCallum, » he said.

« He should have shown a bit more restraint, in my view. »

The firing appears to put the government’s China policy in disarray just days before the U.S. makes a final decision on extraditing Meng and comes at a time that Canada faces difficulties in its relationships with Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and China. These days its historical ally in the White House is often at odds with Canadian foreign policy.

Weakness on this file: Scheer

The decision came too late for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer who had called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fire McCallum earlier in the week, following his first set of comments.

At the time Trudeau brushed off the call, saying his government’s focus is on getting detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor released from China and recalling McCallum wouldn’t achieve that.

« This decision should have been made days ago. Instead [Trudeau has] shown weakness on this file and damaged Canada’s reputation and our ability to handle this very important issue where Canadians’ treatment in China is being affected by this, » Scheer told reporters Saturday.

The NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Hélène Laverdière, said McCallum’s inappropriate statements could complicate the file.

« This chaos has not helped Canadians abroad and has caused confusion everywhere, » she said in a statement. 

« In addition, we remain concerned about President Trump’s statements that he would use this extradition as a bargaining chip in his trade negotiations. We believe that the legal process must follow its course without interference from anyone. »

For now, Jim Nickel, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Canada in Beijing, will represent Canada in China as chargé d’affaires.

Saint-Jacques said the search for a new ambassador in Beijing could take months, straining an already fractured relationship.

« It really complicates things. In my view, this crisis is the worst we have seen with China since we established diplomatic relations back in 1970, » he said. 

« There is a risk of more turbulence in the months ahead. »

‘Play it very delicately’

Lynette Ong, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said McCallum was liked in China, making explaining his removal difficult. 

When McCallum took over the Beijing posting following a 2017 cabinet shuffle, he eagerly pointed out his strong personal connection to China. His wife is ethnically Chinese and he had a large Chinese-Canadian constituency in his former federal riding in Markham, Ont.

« I think we need to play it very delicately with the Chinese, » Ong said.

« Firing someone that they could actually trust, I think we need to do some explanation to the Chinese authorities. We also need to be tough but at the same time assertive to the United States that they really need to jump in here to help us get out of the situation to secure the release of the two Canadians. »

Watch: China demands release of Huawei CFO

A Chinese official is accusing Canada and the U.S. of abusing the extradition system after the U.S. Department of Justice says it will formally ask Canada to extradite the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant, Huawei. That announcement ensures a drawn-out, bitter dispute between the three countries. 2:48

In his statement, Trudeau thanked McCallum for his years of service, including his time as immigration and refugees minister.

« For almost two decades, John McCallum has served Canadians honourably and with distinction, » he wrote.

« His work as minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship in bringing in over 39,500 Syrian refugees remains an inspiration to Canadians and an example to the world. I thank him and his family for his service over the past many years. »

The Liberal party’s Quebec MPs were meeting today in Quebec City, but offered no more details.

« I wanted to just thank John McCallum for all his work for Canada. [I] had the chance to sit with him for many years in Ottawa, » said Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

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Woman arrested after shots fired at first responders following N.B. traffic accident

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A woman has been arrested after she allegedly opened fire on emergency workers responding to a motor vehicle crash in Dieppe, N.B., on Saturday afternoon, police said.

According to an RCMP news release, a car went off the road on Adélard-Savoie Boulevard, about a half kilometre from the Moncton airport at approximately 2:30 p.m.  

When firefighters, paramedics and police responded to the scene, the woman fired shots at them, according to the RCMP.

None of the emergency workers were injured. Several streets were then closed to traffic to « ensure the safety of first responders. » 

After about 45 minutes, the woman was taken into police custody and taken to hospital for treatment of injuries sustained during her arrest. Police have not released any details about the extent of the woman’s injuries, or whether she’s still in hospital. 

Police would not say how many shots were fired during the incident on Saturday. (Submitted)

Police declined to provide any additional information when contacted by CBC News on Saturday evening.  

Several roads in the area remain closed as the investigation continues. 

Ron Legere of the Serious Investigative Response Team confirmed to CBC News that SIRT has received a request to investigate the incident. 

SIRT is a Nova Scotia-based independent police oversight body. They can be called in to investigate matters that involve death, serious injury, sexual assault and domestic violence or other issues of significant public interest that may have arisen from the actions of any police officer.

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BC Hydro lineman fired over legal pot grow-op wins back job

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A BC Hydro lineman who was fired after being accused of stealing electricity to feed a cannabis grow-op on his property should get his job back, the Labour Relations Board has found.

The board recently upheld the decision of an arbitrator, who found BC Hydro had failed to prove that employee Lawrence Petersen had covertly installed a transformer and second electrical line to feed the operation on his Comox Valley property.

And Petersen actually had a licence from Health Canada to grow medical marijuana for sick family and friends, the board heard.

Petersen was fired from his job as a power line technician on June 27, 2013, after an internal investigation prompted by a tip from police, who suspected he was involved in illegal grow-ops at multiple sites.

His union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, grieved the dismissal, and in an August award, arbitrator Wayne Moore said he found Petersen’s defence more believable than his bosses’ claim that he was stealing electricity.

« In the final analysis, BC Hydro had little basis, beyond speculation, for this allegation. It follows that I find the employer has not met its onus to provide clear and cogent evidence with respect to a diversion or theft of power, » Moore wrote.

The arbitrator found that Petersen was entitled to reinstatement without loss of wages, seniority or benefits, a decision upheld by Labour Relations Board vice-chair Andres Barker on Nov. 30.

‘Unsatisfactory’ evidence from BC Hydro investigator

BC Hydro’s case largely relied on evidence from investigator Barry Hurrie, a former police officer who looks into electricity theft and power diversion for the utility.

But Moore described Hurrie’s testimony as « unsatisfactory in a number of ways, » describing him as overly confident, defensive and sometimes aggressive, and unwilling to consider facts that conflicted with his theory of what was going on.

« It was apparent from the outset that, when he received information from the RCMP in March 2011, he was predisposed to believe that the grievor was guilty of marijuana related offences, » Moore wrote.

Petersen testified that the property had two power lines when he bought it in 2007. (CBC)

The BC Hydro investigation found Petersen’s property wasn’t serviced by the transformer listed in the utility’s database. Instead, it was using a more powerful transformer that was missing a serial number.

But other employees testified that BC Hydro’s records were unreliable, and the transformer installed at Petersen’s property wasn’t unusual.

Hurrie also submitted an image taken from Google Street View in October 2011 that appeared to show just one electrical line to Petersen’s property. Hurrie said that when he visited four months later, there were two lines.

But a Google Street View image taken from a different angle in 2009 showed two lines. A contractor who visited the property testified that he noticed two lines when he visited the property in 2010, and Petersen said they were already there when he bought the land in 2007.

Finally, BC Hydro alleged that Petersen had violated policy by not disclosing that he was growing cannabis under a licence from Health Canada. As it turns out, however, Health Canada had advised licensees not to reveal grow-op locations for security reasons.

« Accordingly, I find that this ground for discipline should also be rejected, » Moore wrote.

Though BC Hydro appealed Moore’s award, arguing it was right to fire Petersen, the Labour Relations Board found that the utility had been given a fair hearing and the decision was in line with provincial regulations.

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Shots fired inside Kingston, Ont., emergency room

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A federal inmate is accused of firing a gun inside Kingston General Hospital on Monday evening, leaving one person injured.

According to Kingston police, the inmate disarmed a correctional officer inside the hospital and fired the gun twice. One person was shot and suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Other correctional officers, with the help of hospital security, restrained the prisoner and police were called.

The inmate has been moved to Kingston police headquarters. Police say there is no further threat and the hospital has now resumed normal operations.

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