Good morning! This is our daily news roundup with everything you need to know in one concise read. Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every morning.
Tourism industry may have to live off domestic travel until the fall, says federal minister
The tourism and hospitality sector has been among those most severely affected by the pandemic. With uncertainty over the Omicron variant persisting, the federal minister responsible for the industry said the return of international travellers could still be a long way off.
“During the darkest days of the pandemic, Destination Canada, which normally takes its money and markets Canada to the rest of the world, took that money and marketed inside Canada, to travel,” Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault told CBC News. “I think to at least [the third quarter] of 2022, we’re going to have to see more of that.”
In Canada, domestic travellers account for 78 per cent of tourism spending. But international visitors spend an average of $1,047 per trip, while domestic vacationers spend less than a quarter of that.
“Domestic travel is a crucial step to getting our industry back up and running but [it] will not be able to fill the revenue gap from the halt of international travel,” Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, told CBC News.
The sector has significantly contracted over the course of the pandemic, falling from a $105 billion-a-year industry before the pandemic to one worth about $53 billion now. That represents a drop of 40 per cent in domestic spending and 87 per cent in spending by international visitors.
Industry stakeholders such as Potter say that the sector faces three significant challenges over the next year. The first is simply to survive until visitors return. The second is the impact of ongoing restrictions on travel, while the third is a labour shortage brought on by the pandemic.
In 2020, as the country locked down and the border shut to international travellers, the tourism sector was forced to lay off 43 per cent of its workforce — about 900,000 jobs, according to Destination Canada, the former Canadian Tourism Commission. Some of those jobs have since returned but over the first ten months of the year, the industry’s workforce remained 360,000 shy of the number it employed before the pandemic.
“We had to lay off many of the workers that we did have and many of them will not come back,” Susie Grynol, president and CEO of the Canadian Hotel Association, told CBC News. “They won’t come back, not because their heart isn’t in hospitality but because we are still, 19 months later, not in a position to hire back every single worker because now we find ourselves in the off-season.” Read more on this story here.
Power scores hat trick to lead Canada past Czechs in world juniors opener
(Jason Franson/The Associated Press)
Defenceman Owen Power (25) scored a hat-trick to help Canada defeat the Czech Republic 6-3 at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton on Sunday. The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., became the first Canadian defenceman to score three goals in a single game in the tournament. Read more on from the game here.
Canada has surpassed two million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic as the highly infectious Omicron variant continues to drive a surge across much of the country. On Sunday, Quebec reported reported 7,874 new COVID-19 cases, two days after tallied more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time. Similarly, Ontario reported 9,826 new cases yesterday, a day after it topped 10,000 new cases for the first time. New Brunswick will bring in tightened restrictions today, with households asked to stick to a steady bubble of 10, down from 20. The stricter Level 2 rules also include requiring restaurants to operate at 50 per cent capacity and request proof-of-vaccination, as well as capacity limits for other businesses, public gatherings and faith venues. New Brunswick reported 265 cases on Friday, its highest-ever single-day count. Read more here.
WATCH | Concerns grow over surge in COVID-19 cases across Canada:
The entire province of Alberta is under an extreme cold weather warning as prolonged frigid temperatures continue to cancel activities and force many indoors. Most of the province was already facing an extreme cold warning, but the advisory expanded yesterday to include parts of southern Alberta that were not included on Christmas Day. Environment Canada said wind chill values in Edmonton will be -42 C on Monday afternoon. In Calgary, the current forecast calls for a wind chill around –38 C. “Extreme cold, brutal cold, there is no other way to describe it,” said Dave Phillips with Environment Canada. Parts of B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories were also under extreme cold warnings. Read more on this story here.
WATCH | Frigid weather descends on B.C. and Alberta:
Prior to COVID-19, there was already a serious shortage of nurses across Canada. Perennially, there’s also been stiff competition for acceptance into post-secondary nursing programs. However, the pandemic has underlined the need to ramp up the number of nurses in training — often in creative and new ways — in order to help tackle critical demand in the workforce. The solution isn’t as easy as just accepting more students, especially since COVID-19 has made a serious dent in one vital part of nursing education: practicum placements in hospitals and other health-care settings. Read the full story here.
WATCH |’I’ve known since forever that this is what I wanted to do’:
Two Alberta municipalities are tackling rural homelessness in unique ways as the issue becomes more visible. Funding for homelessness can often focus on urban centres and money from all levels of government is neither consistent nor timely, leaving some rural communities fending for themselves, community advocates say. In Edson, Alta., a town approximately 200 kilometres west of Edmonton, community advocates have fundraised and received money from the town council and the provincial Rural Development Network to open up five shelter pods — small, heated spaces with enough room for a sleeping mat, fire alarm and charging outlets. Meanwhile, community advocates in the town of Whitecourt, Alta., have converted a motel into transitional housing where clients can live for six months to two years. Shelagh Watson of the Soaring Eagle Support Society, a non-profit that works with the vulnerable in Whitecourt, said 30 people have lived in the Eagle’s Nest motel since it started housing clients in May. A handful have since transitioned into permanent housing. Read more here.
Quebec filmmaker and producer Jean-Marc Vallée, who won an Emmy for directing the hit HBO series Big Little Lies and whose 2013 drama Dallas Buyers Club earned multiple Oscar nominations, has died. He was 58. His representative Bumble Ward said Sunday that Vallée died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec City over the weekend. Vallée was acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking, directing stars including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal over the past decade. He directed Emily Blunt in 2009’s The Young Victoria and became a sought-after name in Hollywood after Dallas Buyers Club, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, earned six Academy Awards nominations, including best picture. Read more about Vallée here.
Curling Canada cancelled its Olympic mixed doubles trials on Sunday. The trials were scheduled to begin on Tuesday and extend through Sunday in Portage la Prairie, Man. The winning duo would go on to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics, which start on Feb. 4. The rising number of COVID-19 cases among athletes, as well as the rapid spread of the virus throughout the country, “made it impossible to stage the event in a safe, responsible manner for athletes, staff and volunteers,” Curling Canada said. The organization also said the quick spike in cases prevented the creation of a bubble to stage the trials, as it did in Calgary for a number of events including the Scotties and Brier earlier in 2021. Curling Canada said its high-performance staff would now consult with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own The Podium, a Canadian organization that helps fund Olympic athletes, to determine the team that competes in Beijing. Read more about the cancellation
Now for some good news to start your Monday: For the sixth year in a row, Winnipeg man Junel Malapad embarked on an ultramarathon during the city’s frigid winter to raise money for local charity Siloam Mission, which serves people experiencing homelessness. By the time he set out around 11 a.m. Sunday for his annual effort to raise funds for the organization, the temperature had dropped to about –17 C with a wind chill that felt closer to –27. But he wouldn’t have had it any other way. “Every day, I see people on the streets as I commute and I know that there are ways to help out the unsheltered. And I feel like, I guess, I have a talent [for] running. So I want to use what I can do to help out in my own way,” Malapad said. “I just want to put one foot in front of another … to help out the unsheltered friends in our community.” He plans to run for 48 hours straight, covering a distance of about 200 kilometres. He hopes the effort will help him raise at least $20,000 for charity. Read more about Malapad’s fundraising run.
Opinion: It’s time we recognize the full value of volunteering. A simple change to the tax code could help
Governments have powerful levers at their disposal to encourage community volunteerism, according to Stephanie Robertson and Chris Jarvis. Read their column here.
Front Burner: (Encore) How the Mighty Ducks, Inspector Gadget tie into the search for crypto billions
A stablecoin — a digital cryptocurrency backed with real-world assets — with ties to a Mighty Ducks star and the co-creator of Inspector Gadget has found its way to the centre of the global cryptocurrency trade.
Crypto giant Tether says each of its coins is backed by one U.S. dollar, keeping its value consistent even in the volatile crypto market. But there are now 69 billion coins in circulation — and the company has little to say about where the supposed billions of dollars propping up the currency’s value might be.
Today on Front Burner, Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux walks us through his search for Tether’s billions, and tells us what it could mean for our wider financial systems if the crypto giant comes up short.
24:38Encore: The Mighty Ducks, Inspector Gadget and the search for crypto billions
Today in history: December 27
1823: Sir Mackenzie Bowell, one of only two Canadians to be prime minister while sitting in the Senate, is born. A Conservative, he was prime minister from 1894 to 1896.
1831: Naturalist Charles Darwin sets out on a round-the-world voyage aboard HMS Beagle.
1949: Queen Juliana of the Netherlands signs an act granting sovereignty to Indonesia after more than 300 years of Dutch rule.
1979: Afghanistan President Hafizullah Amin is executed in a coup that was strongly backed by the Soviet Union. Soviet group troops also move into the country. The Soviet presence led to a bloody war that ended with their withdrawal in February 1989.