Do We Really Want Safe Roads?

Ticket WriterAccording to media reports some drivers are taking advantage of the current light traffic conditions to behave badly. When stopped by police and ticketed for their actions the latest response is “Why aren’t you fighting the epidemic instead of writing tickets?” I have it on good authority that you are more likely to die in a traffic collision than you are from contracting the COVID-19 virus.

We have quickly taken extraordinary measures, including spending huge sums of money and drastically changing our everyday behaviour to prevent deaths due to the epidemic. Overt displays of disapproval from the majority toward the minority who do not conform to our new reality are commonplace.

Why is this not also commonplace with respect to unsafe road users? Do we really want safe roads?

British Columbia does have a Road Safety Strategy. Take a look at that web page. It appears that the strategy was last updated in 2016.

At the bottom of the page is information on a BC Communities Road Safety Survey conducted by RoadSafetyBC. 81 of 189 municipalities responded to the survey and all of them said that road safety was a priority in their communities. Overall, those responses indicate that organized programs, stakeholder consultation and the use of data for guidance was rare.

Fast forward five years and nothing has been done to check and see if there has been any improvement. This despite the provincial government having transferred significant amounts of money to municipalities for public safety use under the Traffic Fine Revenue Grant program.

Efficiencies in traffic enforcement were heralded in 2012’s Bill 52 that was supposed to replace ticket disputes in traffic court with an administrative tribunal. This would exchange the time officers spent in court for more time on the road improving safety. This is still “over the horizon” for implementation when I last inquired.

Speaking of traffic court, I attended as a spectator last month. There was a lot of deal making between the officer and the disputant prior to trial. Many tickets were resolved by a guilty plea as the vehicle’s registered owner instead of the driver. This means the driver did not receive penalty points or a driving record entry for the violation.

The latest version of the Intersection Safety Camera Program has also removed the owner’s ability to nominate the driver. Under this program no one receives penalty points for behaviours that contribute to over 50% of collisions in B.C.

With a little planning and luck, one could rack up a few violations yet maintain a clean driving record and stay invisible to ICBC and RoadSafetyBC.

July 1, 2008 saw the requirement to report collisions to the police dropped from the Motor Vehicle Act. In March last year police were no longer required to report a crash to ICBC if they investigated one unless the damage exceeded $10,000 or involved injury or death.

How accurate are today’s collision statistics, particularly those for distracted driving? If I failed to see a vehicle stopped in front of me and rear ended it, do you think that I’m going to tell ICBC that I was busy using my cellphone at the time?

My final observation is the cost of insurance for new drivers. $4,000 a year is unacceptable for an ICBC premium, yet that is the equivalent of what I paid when I bought my first car, a used Cutlass Salon. Hardly in the same class as a Camaro or Firebird.

PM: Essential workers to get salary top-up, eligibility for emergency benefit expanded

Rachel Aiello Ottawa News Bureau 

OTTAWA — Part-time and seasonal workers are now eligible to claim the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and new money is coming for front-line workers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.

Now, workers who are earning up to $1,000 a month, such as contract or gig economy workers, or who have seasonal employment and can’t find a job due to COVID-19, as well as those who are running out of employment insurance, can now apply to collect the CERB for up to four months.

“Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter, or a contractor who can pick up some shifts, or you have a part-time job in a grocery store. Even if you’re still working, or you want to start working again, you probably need help making ends meet,” Trudeau said.

Unveiling the anticipated eligibility expansion to the CERB program that six million Canadians have already applied for, Trudeau said he is also working with the provinces to boost wages for essential front-line staff to keep them on the job.

He said, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, wages are going to be boosted for essential workers who are making less than $2,500 a month, “as quickly as possible.” It’ll be on the agenda during his meeting with the premiers on Thursday.

This new temporary top-up will be distributed through a transfer to the provinces, with the cost shared, given public health care is generally a provincial responsibility.

Details on which staff will be deemed essential and would be eligible for this new funding is still being worked out, but the federal government estimates it could help “several million workers.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the idea was first brought up by Trudeau on last week’s call with provincial and territorial leaders and it received an “enthusiastic response.”

Trudeau said that the essential front-line staff in hospitals, seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities are doing “some of the toughest jobs in the country,” and because they are now being asked to only report to work at a single facility, their income could be less than what they’d receive if they stopped working and collected the CERB prior to this expansion.

“For many workers looking after the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors and those with disabilities, we know conditions have gotten more difficult over the past weeks. And you need support right now,” Trudeau said.

READ MORE HERE: 

 

National economic shutdown to last weeks longer, Trudeau says

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the partial shutdown of Canada has to last weeks more to get COVID-19 under control, using his strongest warning yet against loosening economic restrictions too soon as he unveiled expanded help for hard-hit workers.

In the last month, the national economy has contracted sharply as businesses have been ordered closed and Canadians told to stay home.

Preliminary data from Statistics Canada on Wednesday showed economic activity collapsed in March, suggesting the drop could be a record nine per cent.

In a fierce warning from in front of his residence in Ottawa, Trudeau says the country is still contending with the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Loosening controls too quickly could mean the country gives up the ground gained, he says.

That could cause even greater economic damage than the pandemic has already inflicted.

“With spring coming, people are looking outside, wanting to get out, wanting to this to be over  I understand that. It will be weeks more before we can seriously consider loosening the restrictions,” he said.

“As impatient as people are getting all across the country, we need to continue to hold on if what we’re doing as sacrifices are going to be worth it.”

To help, the federal government is loosening the eligibility criteria for emergency federal pandemic aid to cover seasonal workers without jobs and workers whose hours have been drastically cut but who still have some income.

The details announced this morning will allow people who are making up to $1,000 a month to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for COVID-19.

And those whose employment insurance benefits have recently run out will also qualify for the $2,000-a-month benefit.

Some six million people have applied for the help since the middle of March when businesses were ordered closed and workers to stay at home as a public health precaution.

For those doing jobs deemed essential, Trudeau says the federal government will top up their pay to encourage them to keep going into work during the health and economic crisis.

The Bank of Canada is warning that the downturn tied to COVID-19 will be the worst on record and that the economic recovery will depend on the effectiveness of current measures to bring the pandemic under control.

The bank announced that it is keeping its key interest rate target on hold at 0.25 per cent, saying that it is effectively as low as it can go to combat the economic impacts of COVID-19.

If conditions improve quickly, the economic shock is likely to be “abrupt and deep, but relatively short-lived” and followed by a strong rebound for most, but not all, sectors of the economy.

A more severe scenario would likely see a “significant number” of businesses closing for good and longer spells of unemployment as workers look for new jobs.

A longer downturn would also mean households, businesses and governments could have higher debt by the time the recovery takes hold.

No matter the scenario, all the possibilities suggest “the near-term downturn will be the sharpest on record,” the report reads.

“The outlook is highly conditional on how long the containment measures remain in place, and how households and firms adapt,” governor Stephen Poloz said in his opening remarks during a morning teleconference.

He added that  “substantial monetary stimulus needed to be in place to lay the foundation for the post-containment economic recovery.”

The monetary policy report is the last one that Poloz is to be a part of, with his tenure at the head of the central bank scheduled to come to a close on June 2.

He was involved in the first monetary policy report published 25 years ago. Poloz said that he wished the circumstances for his last were “more favourable.”

Cause for cautious optimism in Canada’s COVID 19 fight, top doctor says

OTTAWA _ There is cause for cautious optimism that the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic is slowing, Canada’s top doctor said Wednesday, even as the country’s central bank warned that the downturn tied to the virus would be the worst on record.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that the number of cases in the country is now doubling every 10 days or so, compared to every three days in late March, which means the epidemic is slowing down.

But Tam warned emerging from COVID-19 would “be like making our way down the mountain in the darkness,” stressing that it was too soon to ease physical distancing measures.

“We mustn’t rush or let go of our safety measures, or the fall will be hard and unforgiving,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that widespread testing and contact-tracing will be key to an eventual reopening of the Canadian economy _ something he said is still weeks away.

“We have to be through this first wave sufficiently to be able to know we have the capacity to stamp out and restrict any future outbreaks as they come along,” he said.

“That means technology, that means better testing capacity, that means continued vigilance, not just by governments but by all Canadians …. We’re still a number of weeks away from that.”

Trudeau announced New Brunswick company LuminUltra was increasing production of chemicals needed to provide the required weekly supply for COVID-19 tests in all provinces. The country has received more shipments of the swabs needed for the tests, he said.

The pandemic has led to an unprecedented economic collapse, forcing the closure of businesses and sharp declines in consumer spending as people have been urged to stay home to stop the spread of the virus.

Economic activity dropped a record nine per cent in March, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Canada.

Despite the bleak news, Trudeau was blunt as he warned that easing restrictions too soon could lead to a second wave of infections just as damaging as the first.

“If we reopen too soon, everything we’re doing might be for nothing,” he said.

Even as the rate of new cases has dropped or stabilized in some provinces, devastating outbreaks have swept through long-term care centres, killing vulnerable seniors by the dozens.

The death toll across the country surpassed the 1,000 mark on Wednesday morning with the announcement of 51 more fatal cases in Ontario and 52 in Quebec.

The largest number of the country’s deaths have occurred in Quebec, which counts nearly half the country’s confirmed cases.

Late Tuesday, Premier Francois Legault’s government released a five-page list of seniors’ residences and care homes with at least one case, including 25 institutions with at least a quarter of their residents infected.

Those include a long-term care home in Laval, north of Montreal, which counted 26 dead and over 120 infected.

In an effort to counter the economic blow of COVID-19, the Bank of Canada kept its key interest rate target on hold at 0.25 per cent, saying that it is effectively as low as it can go.

The central bank’s economic outlook said the speed of the anticipated rebound rests on the shoulders of containment efforts to bring the pandemic under control.

Some six million people had filed claims by Sunday night for a $2,000-a-month emergency benefit for help during the first four-week eligibility period.

To give a boost to struggling workers, Trudeau expanded the criteria of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit on Wednesday to include seasonal workers, those who are still working but earning less than $1,000 a month and those whose employment insurance has run out.

He said he would also be working with the province to raise the salaries of essential workers who earn less than $2,500 a month, which includes many working in care homes.

Fairfax Financial warns of US$1.4 billion net loss in the first quarter

TORONTO _ Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. is warning that it expects to lose US$1.4 billion in the first quarter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toronto-based holding company says its preliminary result will also mean about a 12 per cent decrease in book value adjusted for the $10 per common share dividend paid in quarter.

Chief executive Prem Watsa says that despite the unprecedented turbulence its insurance companies continued to have strong underwriting performance in the quarter.

Net losses on investments currently estimated at about US$1.5 billion primarily reflect unrealized losses in the fair value of our common stock and bond portfolio from the sudden shock of COVID-19, he said. That reverses a significant portion of the US$1.7 billion net gains on investments reported in 2019.

Watsa says in a statement that the company has drawn on its credit facility solely to ensure that it maintains high levels of cash. It had about US$2.5 billion in cash and marketable securities in its holding company at March 31.

Fairfax will also absorb its share of US$200 million in losses related to its investments in Quess, Resolute Forest Products and Astarta.

Nearly 5.4 million receiving emergency federal aid

OTTAWA — The federal government says nearly 5.4 million Canadians are now receiving emergency aid to replace incomes lost due to COVID-19.

The figures this morning show 5.38 million applications have been processed since March 15, a figure that includes people who were previously on employment insurance before being moved over to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

During the first week it was available, there were just under 3.5 million claims for the $2,000-a-month benefit, including nearly 172,000 over the past two days.

n all, the government has received 5.97 million claims for financial help since the crisis began about one month ago.

More help is to arrive next week in the form of a new loan program to help eligible small businesses cover costs.

And more federal aid from a 75-per-cent wage subsidy program, approved by Parliament on Saturday, will be available by early May.

Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre is calling on the government to rejig the credit program that runs through banks and credit unions to increase the value of loans and allow small businesses to use it to pay wages.

He says that would help companies pay workers now instead of waiting a few weeks for the wage-subsidy program to pay out.

When the government is able to pay the subsidy to eligible businesses, Poilievre is proposing that companies take the first tranche to pay off the increased loans.

The Opposition Conservatives are also calling on the Trudeau Liberals to come up with a plan specifically to help the nation’s restaurant, hospitality and tourism sectors.

Many of those businesses were either among the first to close due to public health concerns related to COVID-19, or have seen dramatic declines as consumer spending drops.

A handful of Conservative critics say in a statement this morning that the government must give these businesses the tools to open their doors again, and to retain workers through the pandemic, especially in areas with historically high unemployment.

Among the ideas being proposed are temporarily allowing owner-operators to qualify for the federal wage-subsidy program as well as refunding a year’s worth of GST remittances to small businesses.

A report last week by the parliamentary budget officer estimated that refunding federal sales tax to small businesses would cost Ottawa’s coffers about $12.9 billion

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