If there’s a labour shortage, how come some people are still out of work?

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To read the headlines you’d think nearly every Canadian who wants a job would have one by now.

The country’s unemployment rate hit a 43-year low of 5.6 per cent in December, and in January the economy added 66,800 new jobs. That’s on top of the growth of 163,000 jobs netted over 2018, according to Statistics Canada data. 

Numbers like these paint a picture of a healthy job market where workers have plenty of choice. But as labour market experts explain, that doesn’t mean everyone who needs a job can find work that fits their skills, industry and location. 

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council in Ottawa, says the confusion stems from too much focus on national averages such as the overall unemployment rate or job growth.

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council, says economists tend to think too much about national averages when it comes to unemployment rates. Pockets within the labour market still have challenges finding work. (LMIC)

« Those are very good indicators, and they help us really articulate a temperature check on how things are going, » he says.

« The reality is that national figures do mask the differences in the labour market that are prevailing either by geography, obviously, in a large country, and also that there are pockets of workers where there may be differences. » For example, unemployment is higher among youth and older workers than it is overall, he says.

Even economists have failed in putting too much emphasis on net job numbers, losing sight of the fact that net figures entail some people gaining jobs and others losing them, says Tobin.

Here’s a look at why those numbers — and the headlines — might not reflect reality for all Canadians.

More skill shortage than labour shortage

There’s a lot of conversation about labour shortages, but in many cases what’s really at issue is high demand for workers with particular skills and expertise.

« Quite often we conflate a skill shortage with a labour shortage, » says Tobin. « They manifest themselves kind of in the same way, which is there’s a vacancy that goes unfilled. But they’re really quite different concepts.

« If you have a region which has high unemployment, you’re not likely to be experiencing a labour shortage. But if employers are having difficulty finding people, it’s not that people are not there, but that they’re missing the skill set. »

Workers including Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the national union representing auto workers, gather in Windsor, Ont., on Jan. 11, protesting the planned Oshawa closure. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

For instance, strong demand for app developers or marketing managers does not help a line worker from the GM plant that’s set to close in Oshawa, Ont., nor does it help an out-of-work oil and gas industry veteran. 

Some provinces have fewer opportunities

« One of the main sources of a variation in the Canadian market right now is different strengths across regions, » says Brendon Bernard, economist at job platform Indeed Canada.

« In provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec — where labour shortages and hiring difficulties have picked up — we have seen nice progress in a couple of key dimensions of the labour market. » Measures such as the average length of time it takes a person to find work are improving at « a fairly decent pace, » he says.

But these job market conditions are not present everywhere.

« That’s really the case in the oil-rich provinces, where wage growth used to be the strongest and jobless spells used to be quite low. Those labour markets haven’t recovered since the downturn in oil prices a few years ago, » says Bernard. The prospects seen at the national level are not « really being felt in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan. »

And not everyone can easily move to a province where the job market is better.

« Mid-career to older workers have established themselves in communities, invested in home ownership which either inhibits their ability to move, or they don’t have the desire to move because of families, » says Tobin.

Demand in a region may outstrip supply

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some geographic areas may be short on workers, not just because the economy is strong overall, but because housing prices have pushed those workers out of the area.

One Vancouver bakery, Solly’s Bagelry, famously closed shop for several weeks in 2017 because it didn’t have enough staff to operate.

Solly’s Bagelry in Vancouver closed for several weeks in 2017 due to a worker shortage. (CBC)

It may be hard for workers to get by on wages around $15 per hour in Vancouver, which has the highest housing costs in the country. The benchmark home price was $1,019,600 in January, according to data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association Friday, and rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs around $2,000 a month.

Some industries are struggling

The most notable exception to the overall good news stories emerging about Canada’s job market continues to be the oil and gas industry.

Workers prepare to load a tank car with oil at an Altex Energy terminal in Alberta. The oil and gas industry has still not recovered from losing more than 52,000 jobs in the 2015-2016 downturn. (Dave Rae/CBC)

« We lost about 52,500 direct jobs in 2015-2016, » says Carol Howes, vice-president of communications at Energy Safety Canada, a non-profit that advocates for workers in the oil and gas industry. « And while some of those have come back, certainly we’re not seeing the volume of activity or the requirement for the same number of workers as we lost. »

The result? Howes says the sector is seeing « a lot of discouraged workers » who may not want to come back to oil and gas « if and when things start to turn around again. »

Energy Safety Canada has been advising some of these workers on how they can transfer their skills to industries such as renewable energy and clean tech, says Howes.

As for the 2,500 workers facing unemployment with the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa, Ont., expected by December, Bernard says that, while there’s been some overall growth in auto manufacturing jobs in recent years, that comes after a long period of decline. It won’t be easy for Oshawa workers to find other jobs in the industry, he says, « given that new opportunities aren’t just springing up like they might be in other sectors of the economy. »

Not all jobs are good jobs

When we hear of job vacancies, it suggests there’s lots of choice for workers. But not all unfilled positions are ones that people can afford to take, because those jobs may not offer the salary, stability or benefits workers need.

« It’s definitely the case that jobs being plentiful doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good jobs, » says Bernard.

Over the past 10 years or so there’s been « a growing prevalence of term or contract employment and away from permanent employment. While jobs might be out there, they might not necessarily be everything that workers are looking for. »

Someone who loses a job in a decent-paying sector with low turnover could, in theory, take a lower-paying food services job, but that might not be the best decision for long-term career prospects, says Bernard.

« In that case, it might be better to hold off and look for the right fit, even if finding that match isn’t quite immediate. »

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U.S. judge denies request for Keystone XL pipeline pre-construction work

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A U.S. judge has denied a request for pre-construction work to go ahead on the Keystone XL pipeline.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Friday denied a request by Calgary-based TransCanada to begin constructing worker camps for the 1,905 kilometre pipeline that would ship crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. 
 
However, Morris said TransCanada could perform some limited activities outside the pipeline’s right-of-way. Those include the construction and use of pipe storage and container yards.

« I don’t see it as that significant, » said Nigel Bankes, a professor of law at the University of Calgary.

« I think it simply confirms that the permit that TransCanada had remains suspended and what TransCanada has got out of this is some clarification about work that it can continue to do and work that it’s not allowed to do under the earlier judgement. »

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. (Natalie Holdway/CBC)

TransCanada said last month it plans to start clearing trees and foliage for the northern route of the pipeline after the National Energy Board announced it had approved the pipeline company’s request to do some winter clearing work.

The regulator said the company had satisfied requirements to remove trees and shrubs around Hardisty, Alta., and further south in a block known as Keystone’s north spread.

Hardistry is about 210 kilometres northeast of Red Deer, Alta.

The pipeline, expected to cost $8-billion, would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty to Nebraska. The pipeline would then connect with the original Keystone that runs to refineries in Texas.

In December, a Montana Federal Court judge gave the company permission to continue some pre-construction work such as engineering, awarding contracts and taking meetings.

The pre-construction work is essential, the company has said, to be ready for the 2019 spring construction season and meeting its targeted 2021 completion date.

TransCanada is still waiting for approval to continue field work in the United States.

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AG Michael Ferguson remembered in N.B. for ‘tremendous work ethic’

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Michael Ferguson is being remembered in his home province of New Brunswick as a good friend and a dedicated public servant.

Ferguson, Canada’s auditor general, died yesterday, Feb. 2 in Ottawa surrounded by family. 

A statement released by his office said the 60-year-old had been undergoing treatment for cancer since November 2018. 

Ferguson went to Fredericton High School, where he met Chris Mabie in 1975.

The two of them played hockey together at school and in various community and pick-up leagues for almost 30 years. 

« He had a quiet confidence about him, he was a guy who made us all both better hockey players and better people, » Mabie said of Ferguson.

Ferguson served as New Brunswick’s auditor general for five years, and held other various positions in provincial government. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Mabie remembers a tournament he and Ferguson went to in Orono, Maine, where their team of mostly 40-year-olds ended up in the finals against a team from Massachusetts fresh out of Division I hockey in the U.S.

« Mike won the game by himself, I think we won 2-1 or something, and it was largely due to the performance that he put on. »

He said Ferguson had a « tremendous work ethic, » both in hockey and his career.

« He was a leader and he led by hard work. He wasn’t a guy that talked about what he was going to do or anything like that, he just led by example. Seeing the commitment that he made and how hard he worked made everybody else work hard, » Mabie said.

Mabie kept in touch with Ferguson after he went to Ottawa, and said he enjoyed watching his friend’s career from afar.

Political praise

« People in Canada got a chance to see what those of us that knew him in Fredericton knew …  a guy in my opinion that this country could use more of. »

His political colleagues had similar praise for Ferguson.

Before becoming the federal auditor general, he served as he provincial auditor general for five years, and also spent five years as comptroller and a year as deputy minister of finance and secretary to the board of management.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Ferguson made New Brunswickers proud when he was appointed as Auditor General of Canada in 2011.

Higgs and Ferguson met while working as minister and deputy minister of finance, respectively.

« He came with such a high degree of integrity with the position he had held previously [as auditor general] … my first time to meet with him we hit it right off in terms of the results that we wanted to see coming out of government, » Higgs said.

« He had such respect within the system that he could get immediate answers … and he had such a knowledge of government operation in New Brunswick. »

While he was initially disappointed when Ferguson left New Brunswick for Ottawa, Higgs said it made him proud to see someone from New Brunswick as the country’s auditor general.

A statement from the premier’s office echoed that sentiment.

« The whole country was given the opportunity to see what New Brunswickers already knew — that he was a special person. » 

Kim MacPherson, New Brunswick’s current auditor general, said Ferguson’s death is a huge loss to the legislative audit community.

« Mike was always such a wise contributor and we all respect him a great deal, » MacPherson said.

« We worked together for years. We will really, really miss him. »

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, supporters call for stop work order on Coastal GasLink pipeline

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Driving along the forest service road outside Houston, B.C. voices come in and out over the radio channels as people co-ordinate with one another at a worksite for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

About 15 minutes down the road from the worksite is the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre. The camp is located on the edge of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) and is currently home to dozens of people, many of whom have come to support the Unist’ot’en in their opposition to the pipeline.

The bridge that crosses the river has been used as a checkpoint by the group for nearly a decade. People at the camp have been controlling who has access to the territory past the bridge in an effort to put Wet’suwet’en law into practice on the land.

Approaching the bridge on Wednesday it’s clear much has changed since the RCMP arrived earlier this month to enforce a court injunction for access. That led to an agreement between the nation’s hereditary chiefs and police to allow pipeline workers through Unist’ot’en.

As it stands, work continues on the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink pipeline while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership are still fighting the project, calling for a stop work order from the province. 

Depending on who you ask, the work taking place along the forest service road past Unist’ot’en is either scheduled pre-construction work on a welcome, $40 billion natural gas project that has all the necessary approvals or it is the unlawful destruction of a landbase, according to Wet’suwet’en law, in an era when governments are publicly committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  

Police approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint Jan. 7 to enforce an injunction ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the road and bridge. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In addition to the workers who have been moving through the area regularly, staff and chiefs from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have also been visiting on a regular basis.

A pair of fisheries staff from the office are stopping in at the Unist’ot’en healing centre on their way to check on streams in the area.

But they’re stopped on the bridge because a group of people are standing in the road.

Several members of the RCMP are talking to camp spokesperson Freda Huson. She’s telling them about a truck that drove through and knocked out an electrical box earlier that day and wants to know what the police are going to do about it.

A woman stands next to her with a notebook that is being used to track how many vehicles are coming and going through the area.

Freda Huson (left) at the entrance to the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre with a supporter, speaks to a member of the RCMP Division Liaison Team. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Interactions with the RCMP have become a daily occurrence in the area, with police fielding complaints from both sides. Officers have been coming and going through the territory, sent in from detachments across B.C.

People at Unist’ot’en are growing increasingly frustrated with them and a perceived lack of action on complaints.

List of complaints, allegations

At the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, where several of the nation’s hereditary chiefs work, that frustration has grown into a formal request to the province to issue a stop work order against Coastal GasLink, at least until the litany of complaints and allegations can be properly addressed.

The chiefs have taken issue with several incidents and work activities that have been happening since the enforcement of the injunction at the Gidim’ten checkpoint Jan. 7.

In particular, they’re upset that Coastal GasLink workers razed the buildings at Gidim’ten and about the heavy machinery brought into the area past Unist’ot’en, where workers recently cleared a large treed area the Wet’suwet’en say is a historic trapline site where people were actively trapping.

The buildings that were constructed by the Gidimt’en on the Morice Forest Service Road were razed by Coastal GasLink contractors in late January. The company said the buildings were torn down for safety purposes. The area is now being used by RCMP working in the area. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« Having the RCMP stand idly by when there is personal and private property being destroyed is not anything that the hereditary chiefs would agree to, nor would we expect it, » said Chief Na’Moks, who estimated the area recently cleared is about 20 hectares.

« There’s miscommunication between the RCMP at all levels. »

CBC sent requests to the RCMP to find out how many complaints it’s received and files it’s opened since the enforcement at Gidimt’en but has not received a response.

Remnants of traps that were set in a treed area since cleared by heavy equipment in a pile on the side of the road at the Coastal GasLink worksite. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC )

Coastal GasLink said it stopped work temporarily after the trapline incident, stating in a release « Fully approved and permitted work was shut down temporarily today due to safety concerns arising from a number of individuals entering an active construction site and the continued placement of traps on the construction site.

Work resumed and Coastal GasLink directed any questions about the matter to the RCMP.

On the road

The fisheries staff from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en stop and talk with members of the RCMP Division Liaison Team on their way to the site.

They’ve been there several times recently and have watched as the bulldozers and excavators level an area where the company plans to build a work camp for construction crews.  

« They’re digging a lot, » Gary Michell says to his brother Brian as they pass workers in hardhats and high visibility vests and the heavy machinery on either side of the forest service road.

Pre-construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road near Smithers in northern B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The brothers point out the trapping tents set back from the road, in the snow. This is the area where the trapping equipment was destroyed by the heavy equipment that was clearing the area.

They spot a pile of wooden boxes and traps piled on the side of the road amid tree debris.  

After checking the streams, the brothers drive out where the road ends and point out the signs of another trapper in the area, a pickup truck parked on the side of the road, the trapping sign tacked to a tree and tracks in the snow leading into the bush.

‘Nobody will take responsibility’

Several provincial bodies are involved with fielding the complaints and allegations from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters: conservation officers, the oil and gas commission, the environmental assessment office.

A joint investigation into allegations from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en of non-compliance by Coastal GasLink with its permits is underway and said officials visited the area to conduct a site inspection this week.

« It will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action, » wrote a spokesperson from the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

A man stands at a Coastal GasLink worksite where the company gained access to after receiving an interim injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court in December 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In an email response to CBC about the recent allegations from the hereditary chiefs, a Coastal GasLink spokesperson wrote: « We are committed to undertaking all work in a safe and respectful manner that minimizes any impacts to traditional activities and meets regulatory requirements.

« We will continue to co-operate with the regulators and address any identified deficiencies. We remain open to dialogue with all stakeholder and First Nations.

A previous complaint against Coastal GasLink from the hereditary chiefs took at least a year to resolve. The chiefs say the complaints began in 2013 but the province said the complaint wasn’t received until January 2018.

Site inspections were carried out last summer and found Coastal GasLink was not in compliance with six of the 23 conditions of its Environmental Assessment Certificate specific to pre-construction.

The Environmental Assessment Office issued a warning to the company and an investigation report posted on Jan. 16 said the company is now in compliance at those sites.

Coastal GasLink says it is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In a statement on its website, Coastal GasLink said it was its understanding « that certain work required prior to construction, such as geotechnical earthworks or the placement of monitoring wells typically and routinely done in advance of construction, was appropriate.

« The inspection has since clarified that these activities fell under the definition of construction. Coastal GasLink has since satisfied all the conditions and is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. »

Knowing the results of the current investigation could take a while, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en wants elected officials in the B.C. government to step in.

Na’Moks said at this point it looks like the different provincial bodies and politicians are busy « trying to point fingers at each other. »

« So they’re going to play the name game for a little bit here and nobody will take responsibility, » he said.

« That’s why the cease and desist must happen. »

The elected and hereditary divide 

Twenty First Nation band councils along the route have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink. Some have been outspoken in their support for the project. But others, particularly currently elected leaders within the Wet’suwet’en, have been less eager to talk about the situation.

From left: Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, Chief Warner Williams, Chief Madeek, Chief Hagwilneghl and Chief Na’Moks speak to media following a meeting with RCMP members and Coastal GasLink representatives to discuss ways of ending the pipeline impasse on Wet’suwet’en land earlier this month. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The hereditary chiefs at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have said the band councils have jurisdiction only over reserve lands, and not over the nation’s 22,000 km of traditional territory that was the focus of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case.

The plaintiffs in the Delgamuukw case were the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations. The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed Aboriginal title to land in British Columbia had never been extinguished, laid out the nature and scope for Aboriginal title, and how to prove such a claim in court. 

The court decision did not however go so far as to decide on the nations’ land claims to their territory and instead recommended a new trial.

Victor Jim is someone who knows the Delgamuukw case intimately. He worked as an interpreter on the case for several years. Jim is also a hereditary chief, former teacher and currently the elected chief in the village of Witset.

Sitting in his office on Friday he is visibly drained talking about everything that’s happened in the last couple of months.

« It’s been pretty hard on me, » he said, mentioning that it’s had an impact on his health. He mentions the names of a couple of close friends from whom he hasn’t heard in recent months.

Jim says he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and name calling over his council signing an agreement with Coastal GasLink. But he said it’s not right to frame this pipeline conflict as hereditary chiefs vs. elected band councils.

It’s more about the unfinished business between the Crown, province and Wet’suwet’en post-Delgamuukw.

Signs at the Unist’ot’en camp. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« They need to go back to litigation for jurisdiction and title, and they’ll win it, » he said, in reference to his fellow hereditary chiefs.

« I think if we had ownership and jurisdiction things could have played out a lot differently. You know the governments would realize that they can’t push industry on us if we had title and jurisdiction. »

When it comes to his own band’s agreement with Coastal GasLink, Jim said it came about after they realized the project would go ahead with or without their support.   

« We support [Coastal GasLink], but the way they do business I’m beginning to have my second doubts. You don’t run roughshod over a nation to get what you want as industry, » he said.

He said the band has received some financial benefits from the company already that they plan to put toward language instruction and facilities.

Looking forward, Jim said he hopes someone can take leadership to bring the Wet’suwet’en people together so they can talk about what’s gone on and where things go from here.

Injunction case still before the court

The interim injunction that led to the spotlight on this pipeline and those opposed has yet to go to trial. Coastal GasLink has said the injunction application was a last resort after repeated attempts to gain access to the area past the Unist’ot’en camp.

A group of people hold up signs expressing their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en outside the constituency office of local MLA Doug Donaldson on Thursday. His office was occupied by a group of people for several hours. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The named defendants in the case, Freda Huson and hereditary chief Smogelgem, said they’re expected to file their response in court in late February. They haven’t said what their legal strategy will be but they do have the option to file for a counter injunction against Coastal GasLink.

Meanwhile supporters of the Unist’ot’en, Gidimt’en and the Wet’suwet’en continue to organize rallies and actions across the country. On Thursday two people were arrested for mischief after occupying MLA Doug Donaldson’s constituency office in Smithers for several hours.

Those arrested at Gidimt’en in early January are expected to be in court on Monday.

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Laval police looking for sexual abuse suspect pretending to work for a CLSC – Montreal

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Laval police are asking people for help in identifying a suspect in sexual abuse investigation.

The incident happened in a home in Chomedey in Dec. 6.

According to police, a man showed up at the victim’s door and identified himself as a CLSC nurse.

Watch below: Program offers hope to survivors of abuse






Because the victim was expecting someone, she let him in. He then exposed himself to her, police say. She immediately pushed him aside and kicked him out of the house, police say.

Officers say the man simply walked away. However, he showed up again at the victim’s home on Dec. 14, police say. This time around, when she opened the door, police say the victim recognized the man and shut the door.


READ MORE:
A new approach to victims of sexual exploitation: Longueuil police changing how they help

Police say the CLSC confirmed the suspect is not an employee. The man is described as dark-skinned, aged between 25 and 30 years old. He measured around 170 cm and is of medium build. He was wearing a dark coat with a fur hood and a red backpack.

If you have information, call Ligne-Info at 450-662-INFO (4636), or 911, and mention file number LVL 181206 097.

 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Community leaders work to head off anti-Muslim backlash after Kingston terror arrests

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Islamic community groups, mental health workers and police officers met today to calm fears and discuss ways to prevent an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant backlash in the wake of two arrests related to an alleged terrorist plot in Kingston, Ont.

Community leaders say they’re worried about the broader community implications after the RCMP’s national security team charged one youth with two terrorism-related offences and arrested an adult male named Hussam Eddin Alzahabi in connection with an alleged plan to detonate explosives at an undisclosed location.

Alzahabi’s family, originally from Syria, came to Canada in 2017 through a private refugee sponsorship program after living in Kuwait for 10 years.

Bronek Korczynski, who led the family’s sponsorship through Our Lady of Lourdes church, said the community groups that met today will attempt to head off rumours and spread the message that the alleged offences have nothing to do with Islam.

« This is not about casting aspersions on any faith community, on any identifiable ethnic or racial group. This is about an individual or individuals who have been involved in something that was brought to the attention of police, » he told CBC News.

Noting the arrests come near the anniversary of a deadly 2017 mass shooting at a Quebec mosque, Korczynski said police promised they would exercise increased vigilance against a potential backlash. Six Muslim men were shot to death by a lone gunman who walked into a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017.

Addressing immigration concerns

Korczynski said he also fears the arrests and publicity surrounding the alleged terrorism case could spark unnecessary concerns about immigration.

« This certainly doesn’t suggest in any way, shape or form that Canadians shouldn’t remain open to support newcomers, whether they’re immigrants or refugees, » he said.

The backlash fears come as the political debate over immigration heats up again.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of maintaining lax control over the border and immigration system, attempted to assign some blame for the developments to the Liberal government. 

Scheer points finger at Trudeau

« It is also clear that Canada’s refugee screening process needs to be seriously examined, » he said in a statement. « We’ve recently learned of several examples of dangerous individuals entering the country due in part to lax screening procedures. »

Scheer pointed to a 2017 audit of the Canada Border Services Agency which found that potential security threats may not have been identified due to lax screening.

« This is completely unacceptable and must be immediately remedied, » he said. « Conservatives will continue fighting against Justin Trudeau’s attempts to weaken Canada’s national security laws and implement real policies to ensure that Canada’s streets and communities are safe. »

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale dismisses Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s comments on refugee screening in wake of arrests, says police should be left alone to conduct investigation free of speculation 0:43

Last night’s arrests came just hours after Trudeau warned Canadians to expect « fearmongering » over immigration in the run-up to the fall election.

At a town hall meeting in northern New Brunswick, a young Syrian refugee thanked Trudeau for allowing her family to come to Canada, drawing applause from the crowd.

Trudeau said in an era of rising intolerance and misinformation about migrants, Canadians have a responsibility to engage in « a positive and a thoughtful way. »

According to a bulletin posted to the website of a Kingston-area Catholic church detailing the journey of the Alzahabi family, the family’s sponsorship application was approved in the spring of 2016, but the family was still awaiting its final security and health checks that fall due to the « overwhelming number of applicants. »

At the time, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was working to bring more than 50,000 Syrian refugees to Canada through government and private sponsorships.

Community supports for family

According to the bulletin, five committees were working diligently to prepare to welcome the family and had raised more than $30,000 to assist their resettlement.

A storage room was rented to hold donated furniture and supplies, and an extensive support binder in Arabic and English was assembled to ensure a smooth transition.

The Anglican Diocese of Ontario and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kingston, which support refugee sponsorship and resettlement programs, issued a statement after learning through the media that one of the individuals arrested was a member of a sponsored family.

« As the investigation evolves, we support the work of law enforcement. Our concerns, thoughts and prayers are for the Kingston and surrounding area, the faith communities involved, the family and all those affected by this unfortunate situation, » the statement says.

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Ontario seeks to cut pay for family doctors, but MDs dispute claim they make too much for too little work

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The provincial government wants to claw back how much it pays thousands of Ontario family doctors and force them to put in longer hours, arguing they are averaging $400,000-plus annually for what amounts to part-time work.

Doctors are up in arms over the proposals and charge that the government has got it wrong when it comes to their workload. They warn if they are hit with another pay cut — on top of one imposed four years ago as well as an ongoing compensation freeze — patients will pay the price because family physicians will be driven from the field.

Dr. Tara Kiran, vice chair of quality and innovation in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, said she worries deep cuts being proposed by the province will make if difficult for patients to find family doctors.
Dr. Tara Kiran, vice chair of quality and innovation in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, said she worries deep cuts being proposed by the province will make if difficult for patients to find family doctors.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

“I’m worried that the deep cuts being proposed will make it near impossible for people to find a family doctor, and that will have repercussions for the whole health system,” family doctor Tara Kiran, vice chair of quality and innovation in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto, wrote in an email.

The two sides have been arguing their cases before a board of arbitration, which completed seven months of hearings Sunday. The Ontario Medical Association contends the government has built its case upon faulty findings by the provincial auditor.

The arbitration board is tasked with resolving an almost-five-year-old contract dispute between the government and the OMA, which represents the province’s 31,000 practising physicians.

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The government’s proposed changes to family medicine (also known as primary care) are among the most controversial issues the board has been asked to weigh in on as part of its deliberations over the size of the physician services budget. Ontario now spends more than $12 billion — or 10 per cent of the entire provincial budget — on doctors.

The three-member board is expected to come down with binding decisions this spring, ending phase 1 of the arbitration process.

Phase 2, expected to be even more contentious, will address how to divvy up the pot of money among some 35 specialty groups.

All of this is happening at the same time the province is undertaking a massive restructuring of the entire health system. Next week, the government is expected to announce the creation of a new “super health agency” to replace more than 20 smaller agencies. Sources say the super agency will oversee primary care.

The 5,300-plus family doctors facing the prospect of pay cuts comprise about half of Ontario’s roughly 11,000 practising primary care doctors. They work in more than 800 group practices across the province, known as “family health organizations,” or FHOs.

FHOs were developed in 2007 to improve primary care — for example, by increasing access through after-hours availability — largely through changing financial incentives for doctors.

Twelve years later, the government argues it has paid for improvements in care, which have not materialized and that the price is too high to expand this model further.

In the past, family doctors were paid mostly through fee-for-service, which saw them reimbursed for every service rendered. There is an inherent incentive in the fee-for-service model to have high-volume practices; the more services provided, the more money made.

But under FHOs, doctors derive the bulk of their income through “capitation,” a form of compensation that reimburses them a set amount for each patient signed up with them — no matter how many times a patient is seen or even if a patient is not seen. The amount varies according to a patient’s age and health.

Three-person board of arbitration tasked with resolving OMA contract dispute: Ron Pink, OMA nominee, left, Bill Kaplan, board chair, centre, and Kevin Smith, health ministry nominee.
Three-person board of arbitration tasked with resolving OMA contract dispute: Ron Pink, OMA nominee, left, Bill Kaplan, board chair, centre, and Kevin Smith, health ministry nominee.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

In 2016/17, the average FHO doctor (with 1,300 patients) made $406,390, according to the government’s written submission to the arbitration panel. That compares to $214,015 for a family doctor paid fee-for-service.

(Physician compensation is not the same as income. From their compensation, FHO doctors have to pay for overhead costs such as staff salaries and rent. Arrangements vary from practice to practice, with the health ministry, hospitals and local communities also pitching in for non-physician expenses.)

Some fee-for-service family doctors and specialists have even taken to social media to argue that their FHO peers are paid too much.

The government’s submission states that FHOs have become so popular, the number of doctors working in them has surged by 154 per cent since 2008/09. To contain costs, the ministry says it was forced to limit their growth starting in 2012.

The government is now seeking to cut the pay of FHO doctors by an average of 9 per cent each, or about $33,600. That would be on top of a cut of 2.65 per cent the province imposed in 2015, as well as a compensation freeze in place since 2012.

In making its case, the government relies heavily on the 2016 provincial auditor’s report, which states that FHOs have not proven their worth. FHO doctors were paid $522 million more in 2014/15 than they would have received if they were paid fee-for-service, according to the report.

That was, in part, because they were paid for 1.8 million patients rostered with them, even though they did not actually see those patients, the auditor wrote.

“The $522 million is significant, as it indicates that the physicians were not providing core primary care services as often as they should be (or expected to be) and/or that base capitation payments are excessive,” the report reads.

The auditor found that an average FHO doctor works only 3.4 days per week.

The province made significant investments in FHOs, but “most objectives (were) not met,” wrote the auditor, charging that they failed to increase access to care, quality and continuity of care and cost effectiveness.

FHOs have not delivered on commitments to provide after-hours care, the auditor said, adding they have also not done much to shorten wait times for primary care.

Many patients get their primary care elsewhere, including walk-in clinics, other family doctors and hospital emergency departments, meaning the province is paying twice for these patients to be treated, according to the report.

The auditor concluded by urging the province to review how much it pays these doctors to ensure taxpayers are getting good value for money.

In addition to seeking pay cuts, the province wants more work and accountability from FHO doctors. The government wants the average physician to put in a 36-hour work week.

“It’s a very expensive model to deliver primary care physician services and it is not performing optimally,” government negotiating team member Bob Bass told the arbitration board on a recent hearing day. “From the government’s perspective, significant change is required to both moderate the costs and improve the quality.”

But the OMA says the government has built its case on bad information from the auditor who failed to understand how they work.

OMA lawyer Howard Goldblatt said the government is more intent on prescribing or dictating a solution without really diagnosing the problem.
OMA lawyer Howard Goldblatt said the government is more intent on prescribing or dictating a solution without really diagnosing the problem.  (Supplied photo)

“It was done by accountants, not by doctors,” OMA lawyer Howard Goldblatt told the arbitration panel, referring to the auditor’s report.

“The government is more intent on prescribing or dictating a solution without really diagnosing the problem,” he continued.

The OMA wants the government to join it in studying FHOs so that any decisions taken are based on what it contends is accurate information.

The auditor erred by calculating the workload of FHO doctors based on the number of patient visits, the OMA charges.

It stands to reason many patients would have fewer appointments, given one reason for creating FHOs was to move doctors away from high-volume, fee-for-service practices, the OMA argues. Financial incentives were changed to encourage doctors to deal with multiple conditions in a single visit rather than call patients back for multiple visits.

(Depending on the doctor, those working in fee-for-service family practices may also deal with multiple conditions in a single visit.)

The auditor also failed to take into account the fact FHO doctors are more likely to communicate with patients via email and phone since their pay is no longer based on face-to-face visits, the OMA adds.

Then there is all the paperwork that comes with working in a FHO, noted Kiran who practices out of one in downtown Toronto. Because FHOs provide full-service family medicine, there is much administrative work associated with appointments, tests and referrals, she explained, adding that FHO doctors also spend time communicating with other providers in a patient’s circle of care.

“This work is what can lead to burnout and frustration, and is not accounted for in the government’s proposals,” she wrote in her email.

Kiran and the OMA warn the proposed changes to family medicine will drive doctors back to practising high-volume, fee-for-service medicine.

“Family doctors would be forced to see a ludicrously high volume of patients in-person each day,” she said. “For patients, this would likely mean shorter appointments, less flexibility to bring up multiple problems in a single visit, and less flexibility to call or email your doctor about an issue.”

The OMA points out another reason for introducing FHOs was to address past shortages of family doctors by making family medicine more attractive. The proposed changes threaten to turn back the clock on those gains, doctors argue.

In a written brief submitted to the arbitration panel, the OMA used strong language to warn of dire consequences if the arbitrators and government get it wrong:

The ministry’s proposals have “the potential to cause huge destabilization in primary care … The very real risk to patient quality of care and provider well-being cannot be ignored.”

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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How Hawa Arsala Handles the Work With Techno and Dharma Talks | Healthyish

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In our series Office Crush, we’re asking people with the coolest jobs to take us to work. Up next, creative consultant Hawa Arsala lets us shadow her for a day of creative directing and journaling.

Hawa Arsala is always hustling. The freelance creative director has an eye for aesthetics and a drive for diversity, working with boldface names like Nike, Glossier, and Vogue España to bring underrepresented bodies into media’s foreground. It’s a task that demands authenticity, and Arsala looks at millennial culture with an eye that’s equally curious, curatorial, and critical. She currently works on thought leadership and experiential projects at Viacom
and manages her own media agency, Browntourage, which supports curatorial projects, brand collaborations, immersive media, and other endeavors with a socially conscious slant.

“I’m essentially juggling two almost-full time jobs right now but I’ll always try to find moments for self-care, whether it’s going to the gym or getting my monthly facial,” says Arsala. “I’m also trying to focus on more personal and community-based projects. The past two years have been a whirlwind of a landing in New York, and I’m ready to plant some seeds with the amazing creatives and thinkers I’ve met here.”

As a card-carrying member of the gig economy, it goes without saying that Arsala’s day is never the same. Her workspace shifts from Viacom’s Times Square offices to her own sunny Crown Heights apartment, but no matter the location, she’s fueled by a steady stream of music. With Fela Kuti in her ears and Andy Stott in the queue, she transitions from lunch meetings to Dharma talks without missing a beat. Here’s how Arsala does her day.

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Work to replace Hamilton bus shelters begins this month – Hamilton

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The work to replace approximately 500 transit shelters throughout the City of Hamilton begins next week.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the first 45 replacements are scheduled to start as part of Hamilton Street Railway’s 2019 Shelter Renewal Program.


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HSR says notices advising customers of the disruptions will be posted in advance at the existing shelter locations as well as on social media.

Temporary stops will also be identified for the duration of each shelter’s removal and installation.


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The transit agency is asking customers to please prepare for inclement weather conditions while the new shelters are being installed.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Alberta charities work to ensure donation box safety after B.C. death

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A number of charities serving Alberta that use donation bins are reviewing their safety protocol after the death of a man in Vancouver this week.

On Monday, a man became trapped and died in a donation bin in West Vancouver, the 5th such death in the region since 2015.

A similar death took place in Calgary in July 2017, followed by a serious injury the following summer.


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Safety upgrades

Goodwill Industries of Alberta is one charity that has installed upgraded boxes. Some of the improvements include rollover chutes — which block inside access while pulled open — and stronger locks.

“We take it very seriously and we do everything we can to ensure that when people choose to use the after-hour bins that every essence of safety is involved,” said Brenda Hawryluk, the director of brand integrity and business relations at Goodwill.

Diabetes Canada, which has 4,000 boxes located across Canada, is working with its Canadian-based manufacturer to retrofit its bins, spokesperson Kathleen Powderley told Global News by email on Friday.

“Although death or injury related to the misuse of clothing donation bins is not common, we feel that if there is an opportunity to prevent this type of tragic incident, we must make every effort to find a solution,” Powderley wrote.

Inclusion Alberta, which specializes in helping children and adults with special needs, has 50 bins in the province, about a quarter of which are older models, according to the organization’s CEO, Trish Bowman.

“In terms of these 12 boxes, we’ll be taking some immediate action in terms of increasing the safety notices on the boxes,” Bowman said. “We’re going to be speaking with first responders to see if there’s anything that we could be doing to ensure they can respond quickly should someone get trapped in a box.”


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Multi-faceted solution

While design changes are part of the solution, it’s also about solving the root causes, anti-poverty group Bissell Centre told Global News.

“People that are sleeping [in the bins] or people that are seeking refuge are pretty desperate. They’re looking for ways to stay warm, stay dry,” said Matt Ashdown, the director of community programs and services at the organization.

For charities like Goodwill, it’s an effort to ensure safety while maintaining a valuable revenue tool.

“Without the donations, we do not have the revenue stream for our stores. Without the venue stream, we’re not able to provide almost 90 cents to every dollar back into our mission,” Hawryluk said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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