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Remote working offers employers and employees lots of opportunities – and just as many headaches

The Office Is Over (and what that means) is
a collection of Post stories looking at how
the pandemic has changed the view of the workplace

Big Tech was the first to execute sweeping changes to the way its employees worked. Just days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, almost all the employees at Google LLC, Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Shopify Inc. were sent home, with no word on when they would be allowed to return to their perk-filled offices. 

Two months later, Google and Facebook extended their work-from-home policies until 2021. Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey then dramatically shifted the yardstick, tweeting in mid-May that employees who can work remotely will be allowed to do so forever.

Canadian tech darling Shopify immediately jumped on the bandwagon, announcing a “digital by default” model that would continue post-pandemic, prompting a flurry of online commentary ranging from the death of office real estate to the tantalizing prospect of working from a beach in Jamaica. 

It seems the future of work is shaping up to be a remote one for a staggering number of white-collar workers. Anyone armed with sufficient internet speed and a working laptop could potentially set up in, say, balmy Barcelona for a month, and cool off in the Cotswolds for the next two months. Even small companies would suddenly have access to a global talent pool, no longer needing to demarcate their hiring boundaries by geography. 

A win for all, in theory. 

But the reality would be riddled with myriad legal, technical and security complications, ranging from data breaches and sorting out payroll taxes across global borders, to overhauling existing compensation structures and establishing a consistent corporate culture, say experts helping companies reshape their workforces.

Such a shift in the workplace would be complex, and one that could swing in favour of employers as easily as employees. 

“We’re seeing a different thought process taking shape around the world of work. Employers started this journey saying, ‘Let’s do this temporarily and get cubicle workers back first in a few months,’” said Jean McClellan, a partner at PWC Canada’s consulting practice. “Now they are saying, ‘What are the factors at play and what will it cost us to completely change the way we work?’” 

McClellan said one of her clients, a large financial institution, sought PWC’s services to figure out if it could procure asset management talent from around the world, instead of just locally.

“Their own asset management staff work on quite a global basis as it is, so they also wanted to know does that make them a target for another organization seeking global labour?” she said. “There are implications from an employment-law perspective and from a tax perspective in terms of where the worker resides. All of those things have to be considered before thinking about how to access a different labor pool.” 

If you’re an American company hiring a data scientist in Estonia, then Estonian employment laws apply

Donald Dowling, partner, Littler Mendelson

Processing payroll taxes in a foreign jurisdiction is the biggest issue companies will encounter when hiring abroad, said Donald Dowling, a partner at U.S.-based law firm Littler Mendelson PC, who has extensive experience advising companies on international labor and employment law.

“If you’re an American company hiring a data scientist in Estonia, then Estonian employment laws apply,” he said. “You have to report their income to Estonian tax authorities; you can’t just put them on the U.S. payroll.”

Dowling said many companies won’t go through the logistical hassle of paying taxes in a foreign jurisdiction just for one recruit, even though they could use the services of payroll processing companies such as Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP) and Ceridian HCM Inc. as intermediaries. 

“I’ve seen U.S. companies that pay their foreign recruits offshore, because they know that the local tax authorities would probably not come after an American company that has no roots in, say, Estonia, beyond that one worker,” he said. “But just to be clear, that’s a crime.”

Guatemala, the United Kingdom, Thailand and Ecuador are exceptions to this rule: a foreign company is exempted from local payroll taxes if it doesn’t have any assets or branches in any of those four countries. 

One added complication, according to Dowling, is that a company would also have to give foreign employees all the benefits that come with living in their jurisdiction since it would be subject to local employment laws. 

It is not simple to just let an employee work abroad if they wanted to, or hire a foreign recruit

“I’ve seen a number of cases of employees for American companies in France asking for maternity leave, paid sick days, vacation time and hours according to French employment law, which they are entitled to, but those companies would not have wanted to (give them that),” he said. 

“For all these reasons, it is not simple to just let an employee work abroad if they wanted to, or hire a foreign recruit unless the cost and logistical aspect made sense.” 

Data security is another issue since remote workers are easier targets for hackers because they are less likely to have the same kind of encryption protocols as employees back at the office.

In one example that has already reared its head, the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre and the U.S. Department of Home Security in early May warned that sophisticated hacking groups were looking to obtain information related to “national COVID-19 responses, health care research, and targeting organizations in sectors like health care, pharmaceuticals and academia” by exploiting remote workers.

McClellan said large employers would have to consider security implications when expanding their labour pool outside Canada. In particular, heightened security protocols exist when data travels between foreign and domestic servers, assuming a worker abroad is communicating with a domestic team on a daily basis.

It’s potentially expensive. You have to hire the right tech people to support these security protocols

Jean McClellan, PWC Canada

“It’s potentially expensive,” she said. “You have to hire the right tech people to support these security protocols.” 

Despite these complexities, Sara Sutton, the founder and chief executive of FlexJobs Corp., a job search company dedicated to remote work, said she’s seen an uptick in the number of companies offering increased flexibility in location when hiring. 

“The interest in remote work had already been on the rise over the last 15 years or so,” she said. “This pandemic has just exacerbated the openness that both job seekers and employers have towards this way of working.”

The majority of companies increasing their share of remote workers still tend to be from the tech sector, but Sutton said she’s seeing many roles within health care and education that are morphing into remote jobs. 

In a survey of the 54,000 companies listed on FlexJobs site, two e-learning companies, China-based VIPKid and Toronto-based EF Education First, were among the top 10 companies globally that went on a hiring spree for remote workers in 2019. 

Shared office space, such as this at WeWork in Toronto, could help maintain remote worker morale by allowing distanced work spaces among other people.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

The data also show that Inc., American Express Co. and Anthem Inc., an insurance company, were the top three Fortune 500 companies hiring remote workers last year. 

Sutton said companies tend to become more flexible when hiring during a downturn, but revert to more full-time, on-site employees when things are good.

“A full-time employee comes with more costs, so what we’re seeing now is an increase in freelance, remote and part-time hiring,” she said. 

But as companies begin crafting a new way of working, they’ll also look at the elaborate perks they often use to attract employees.

For example, Google employees have access to free custom-made meals, nap rooms, a pantry filled with healthy snacks, kombucha and cold brew, game stations and bathroom shower stalls, not to mention rooms designed for “healthy working” (read: yoga balls). Similar perks exist at many other Big Tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter and Shopify. 

McClellan believes that such perks might attract individuals to a certain company, but her data show that office perks are ranked as “one of the lower incentive items” when compared to better working hours and a meaningful work environment.

“What we are hearing from employers, based on feedback from their employees, is that (employees) want a connection to purpose and meaningful work and that’s what drives retention,” she said. “If you can provide a job with meaning, is that maybe better than all of the bells and whistles?” 

But some perks can also help develop a particular corporate culture, which is more difficult to do if people are in far-flung locales and don’t often meet in person. Sutton’s company, FlexJobs, has adjusted to the work-from-home situation by offering employees online perks.

“We organize online trivia game nights. For Halloween, we are going to send out different packages of treats to our employees’ homes,” she said. “You can do a big variety of things to cultivate a strong remote work culture, and, to be honest, most organizations don’t offer the perks that Google and other big tech companies do.”

Companies are creating positions to assist remote workers with tech and workflow issues, as well as to maintain a corporate cohesiveness.

GitLab, a Silicon Valley-based startup with more than 1,200 employees distributed across 65 countries, created a “Head of Remote” position months prior to the pandemic.

The company said its first Head of Remote, Darren Murph, is in charge of guiding and managing GitLab’s clients and partners through any kind of remote workflow issues, as well as building an “all-remote culture.”

Almost four in 10 Canadians, according to Statistics Canada, have the technical ability to work remotely if their workforces implemented it permanently, which could end up being both good and bad for employees, said Eddy Ng, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. 

“Many employers have not yet touched the compensation structure, because they are not sure how long this pandemic is going to last,” he said. “But one of the key things to know is that jobs that are advertised as ‘telecommute’ do pay less.”

One of the key things to know is that jobs that are advertised as ‘telecommute’ do pay less

Eddy Ng, Bucknell University

Facebook noted that its salary structure could change based on geography when it announced earlier this month that it was moving towards a model where up to 50 per cent of employees could work from home permanently if they chose to. 

“If you’re out in the Prairies, and you’re no longer paying for commuting and living in downtown Toronto, of course, your employer is going to start arguing that your own costs have gone down, and, therefore, your compensation could come down,” Ng said. 

Geoffrey Leonardelli, a professor of organizational behavior at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, said there’s some evidence suggesting that people higher up in an organization have an easier time transitioning to remote work, because they are more likely to have a home office.

“They may not be aware of the challenges that come with getting work done in a small space,” he said. “How do you address that problem?”

Leonardelli’s research, however, indicates that employees mostly benefit from a remote work scenario, although his research didn’t factor in working remotely during a pandemic.

“Employers may also benefit, but perhaps employees more so,” he said.

There is also the question of how much employers save when employees work from home, given that workers pay their own electricity and internet bills.

“The argument is, should employers be paying for Wi-Fi? If they reduce salaries, what are the costs that employees have to still bear given that they need access to good technology, encryption and strong internet?” Leonardelli said. 

Last week, the German-language paper Tages-Anzeiger reported that Switzerland’s top court ruled that employers were required to pay employees’ rent if they are expected to work from home. The court decision, which has yet to be made public, resulted from a dispute between an accounting firm and an employee who was working from home. The employee said he had to rent a bigger apartment in order to comfortably work remotely.

When it comes to paying income taxes for 2020, it will be necessary to know whether it’s possible to deduct the costs of working from home.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many big Canadian companies, including the big banks, insurance firms and accountants, already provide a small stipend for employees to set up work-from-home offices. Canadians working from home can also claim a portion of some of their home expenses when filing their taxes. 

Ng said companies, for the most part, are not going to want to run two sets of costs when it comes to making a cost-benefit analysis of remote working.

“You’re not going to see many companies wanting to maintain their downtown Toronto offices spaces at high rents, and yet providing technology, upgrades and stipends to their workers at home,” he said. 

The billion-dollar question, of course, is: Will remote work stay at current levels in a post-pandemic world?

Ng is not particularly convinced that the majority of companies will go down the remote work path forever.

“I don’t see a mass migration to telework after we find a vaccine unless employers can reach a critical mass with the number of workers who want to work remotely, in order to realize savings,”  she said.

Sutton, however, who has been involved in the remote work sector for 13 years, is confident the trend will continue, because remote working offers an “emergency preparedness insurance” for employers. 

“It helps employers to have an option for their employees to work from remote locations in case of snowstorms, shootings, massive events that we might not be able to predict,” she said. “I don’t think we are ever going to go back to the naive time where organizations were putting their head in the sand about remote work.”

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German submarine operates under NATO command in the Eastern Baltic Sea – Defence Blog

German submarine U33 has just concluded a several-week-long assurance measure deployment under NATO in the Eastern Baltic Sea. It arrived back to the naval base and home port of Eckernförde on Monday, 25 May 2020.

The submarine, under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Tobias Eikermann, in the past few weeks has operated under NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM).

The patrol was part of the NATO Assurance Measures focused on monitoring the activities of the Russian fleet. U33 is one of the first German submarines detached to MARCOM for this purpose in the Baltic Sea.

Assurance measures are a sign of the Alliance’s cohesion internally and of its strength and readiness externally; they are a pillar of the NATO Readiness Action Plan going back to the 2014 Wales Summit, where the Allies agreed to increase their presence at NATO’s eastern flank.

“Submarines are a key part of the NATO strategic maritime plan. Deployments like this contribute substantially to sustained assurance measures. We need to ensure that we are capable and ready to defend and protect,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Burcher, Commander NATO Submarines.

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Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely

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Some members of the Snowbirds team will call Kamloops home, remaining in the city to look after their CT-114 Tutor jets that remain grounded indefinitely on Fulton Field at Kamloops Airport.

On May 17, one of the jets crashed in Brocklehurst shortly after takeoff, claiming the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injuring Capt. Richard MacDougall who was piloting the plane. Both managed to eject from the plan before it crashed, but Casey succumbed to injuries suffered in the incident.

The Snowbirds were on a cross-Canada tour called Operation Inspiration, intended to salute frontline health-care workers and lift the spirits of the public amid the pandemic. The tour, which began on May 3 in Nova Scotia, has been suspended due to the tragedy.

Capt. Jenn Casey is seen in this undated handout photo from the Royal Canadian Air Force Twitter page. The family of Capt. Jenn Casey says the member of the Snowbirds aerobatic team died while supporting an important mission

Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer for 19 Wing Comox, said most members of the Snowbirds have now departed the city for Moose Jaw — the Snowbirds’ home base — via a Hercules plane, but a small contingent is staying behind, acting as stewards of the jets for as long as they need to be.

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Big banks able to weather Bank of Canada’s worst-case scenario, but risks higher for households and businesses

Canada’s six biggest banks survived a severe stress test by the Bank of Canada, which is a relief since they might be the only thing standing between a relatively short recession and something much worse.

The analysis was part of the central bank’s latest Financial System Review (FSR), which is devoted to the COVID-19 crisis.

Generally speaking, the central bank appears confident that its historic response to the shutdown of vast swaths of the global economy has averted disaster. Governor Stephen Poloz stuck to his contention that the recession will be brutal, but probably relatively short, in part because there appears to be little reason to worry about a financial meltdown.

The pandemic remains a massive economic and financial challenge, possibly the largest of our lifetimes, and it will leave higher levels of debt in its wake

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz

“The country’s banking system and financial market infrastructures are strong enough to deal with the situation,” Poloz said before taking questions on a conference call with reporters. “To be clear, the pandemic remains a massive economic and financial challenge, possibly the largest of our lifetimes, and it will leave higher levels of debt in its wake.”

Still, thanks to decent economic growth during the past few years and the hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency funds that Ottawa is pushing into the economy, the governor said he was “confident that a strong financial system will help Canada emerge from this episode in relatively good shape.”

Unlike many of its peers, Canada’s central bank doesn’t have any regulatory authority over financial institutions. But it does have moral authority, and it wields the country’s most impressive array of economic researchers. Thus, the FSR is an important instrument of policy, since central bankers use it to try to guide behaviour, just as they attempt to steer spending habits by raising and lowering interest rates.

Normally, the annual FSR is a warning mechanism. The Bank of Canada flags vulnerabilities it thinks could lead to pain in the event of a shock. Since we’re currently living through such a shock, this year’s review was more of a “state of play,” as Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Brian DePratto observed. “Vulnerabilities abound, but on balance the bank appears to be cautiously optimistic that the system can handle the current and emerging stresses,” he said in a note to his clients.

The Big Six and the hefty cash reserves they must maintain to satisfy federal regulations are a firebreak in this crisis

Policy-makers are confident that they have avoided a credit crunch, albeit only because they took the unprecedented step of creating tens of billions of dollars to buy government bonds and company debt. The policy seems to be working, since interest rates, which spiked in March as investors retreated when the coronavirus spread through Europe and North America, have returned to pre-crisis levels.

Poloz and the central bank’s other leaders are probably less sure about how many companies and households will survive the recession without declaring bankruptcy.

The central bank reckons about twenty per cent of mortgage borrowers entered the downturn with only enough cash and other liquid assets to cover two months (or less) of loan payments. Many companies are equally fragile, as some of the industries hardest hit by the crisis are also the ones in which companies were already operating with relatively little money in the bank.

“COVID‑19 has hit many households and businesses hard, especially those that are highly indebted or have low cash buffers,” the FSR said. “During this period, emergency measures that provide basic incomes to households and help businesses access credit are crucial.”

Government rescue efforts now exceed 10 per cent of gross domestic product, more than double the value of the fiscal stimulus deployed during the Great Recession a decade ago. Much of the assistance is in the form of emergency loans, and most of that funding is being administered by the biggest banks.

Canada’s banking oligopoly constrains competition and innovation in good times. But the Big Six and the hefty cash reserves they must maintain to satisfy federal regulations are a firebreak in this crisis. Things would be much worse if the banks were as fragile as airlines and oil companies. Fortunately, the banks should be able to withstand a deterioration of current conditions.

Policy-makers ran a simulation of what would happen to the six biggest banks — Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and National Bank — if the Bank of Canada’s worst-case economic outlook came to pass.

That scenario, which the central bank acknowledges is plausible, involves a 30 per cent plunge in GDP in the second quarter from the end of 2019 and a slow recovery that would leave economic output below pre-crisis levels for more than two years.

It’s ugly, but the banks survived the test: arrears peaked at a rate that was about double the peak during the financial crisis, and non-performing loans would exceed recent highs. But monetary and fiscal policy counter much of the pain, and the banks’ reserves do the rest. Capital requirements remain above the level required by regulation, which was made tougher after the Great Recession precisely so the most important lenders would be ready for the next economic calamity.

“The six largest banks entered the COVID‑19 period with strong capital and liquidity buffers, a diversified asset base, the capacity to generate income and the protection of a robust mortgage insurance system,” the FSR said. “With these strengths, as well as the aggressive government policy response to the pandemic, the largest banks are in a good position to manage the consequences.”

Financial Post

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Spanish A400M Atlas suffers bird strike while landing – Defence Blog

Spanish Air Force A400M Atlas military transport aircraft suffered a bird strike while landing in Zaragoza.

The bird-aircraft collision happened when an A400M was performing a landing to Zaragoza Air Base, according to the Breaking Aviation News.

The aircraft successfully landed and performed a roll-out as the captain informed Air Base tower that they had struck a bird shortly before touching down.

There were no injuries in the incident even though the aircraft suffered substantial damage to its under-fuselage near one of the aft wheel well, per

The first A400M was delivered to Spain in November 2016. The first 14 aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2022 and the rest 13 will be delivered from 2025.

The Airbus’ website said the A400M Atlas is the most advanced, proven and certified airlifter available, combining 21st century state-of-the-art technologies to fulfil the current and upcoming armed forces’ needs. The A400M combines the capability to carry strategic loads with the ability to deliver even into tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips and can act as a frontline-tanker. One aircraft that can do the work of three – the A400M.

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Vancouver Weather: Blue skies and balmy

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VANCOUVER, B.C.: Friday, May 8.Today’s weather is expected to be sunny, with highs of 22 C and 27 C inland, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Watch again for the UV index, which is listed at 8, or very high. Overnight, it looks clear, with a low of 11 C. Then the temperature is expected to heat up on Saturday, with sunshine and highs of 22 C or 28 C inland. The agency says with the humidity it’s going to feel more like 30 C inland. Sunday looks like a scorcher too, with highs of 24 C and 29 C inland. Then, it looks like the weather begins to cool off after that. It’s a mix of sun and cloud for Monday, with highs of 21 C and 26 C inland, a slight chance of showers on Tuesday and 18 C, and then it looks like a good chance of rain on Wednesday.

Weather: Vancouver, B.C.

Today: Sunny. High 22 C except 27 C inland. Humidex 28 inland. UV index 8 or very high.

Tonight: Clear. Low 11 C.

Tomorrow: Sunny. High 22 C except 28 C inland. Humidex 30 inland. UV index 7 or high.

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Traffic: Lower Mainland

Zoom in and out to to find incidents of note or to peek at a traffic camera.

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‘We do not want to start a civil war’: Fight grows over seasonal access to cottages during COVID-19

The approach of Victoria Day long weekend — the starting pistol for cottage travel for many in Ontario and across the country — coinciding with a deadly pandemic brings fear of “a civil war” between cottagers and residents of Canada’s waterfront regions.

With concerns that cottage owners from cities with higher COVID-19 caseloads may spread the coronavirus or drain the small grocery and health-care resources of rural communities, the usually warm welcome for summer residents is in a deep chill.

“There is lots of tension between the seasonal and the permanent residents,” said Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, Ontario, 190 kilometres northwest of Toronto, which is bisected by the Saugeen River, popular with canoeists and anglers.

“We do not want to start a civil war with our cottagers.”

For some, conflict is already here.

There are some people who are fearful for their lives. They’re really scared

Some popular destinations have issued a ban against cottage owners coming to their property; others discourage cottagers by shutting off their water or closing boat ramps. Others are just pleading with cottagers to stay away.

“It’s a struggle we are all facing as mayors. It is not fun times,” said Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinross in southwestern Ontario, which includes a stretch of Lake Huron waterfront. In March he ordered water service to seasonal properties shut off.

“I get it: people want to get away to some form of semblance of their regular life, to put everything else behind. But that’s where the angst is, because for their self-comfort and their mental health and wellbeing they come and they put their thoughts ahead of people who are here year-round.

“There are some people who are fearful for their lives. They’re really scared. We do have folks that decided that, in their best interests they have a right, because they’re a taxpayer, to drive back and forth. So you try to make a decision, it’s the not the most popular decision all the time.”

For Twolan, it is not theoretical.

He said a cottager from Kitchener-Waterloo region was treated in the area’s hospital in Kincardine and later tested positive for COVID-19, sending three or four nurses home for 14 days of quarantine.

“That was what we are all scared of and it happened,” Twolan said.

Many seasonal property owners are pushing back.

Bill Armstrong, who lives in Aurora, north of Toronto, owns a cottage on Horse Island in Carling Township, not far from Ontario’s Killbear Provincial Park, which requires a boat to get to. The municipality has closed boat ramps, leaving him unable to get to his second home, he said.

In response, he is sending regular “invoices” to the township for its “rental” of his cottage at $1,500 a week. He said he also plans to hold the township liable for preventing him from checking his property after the winter, as his insurance policy requires.

“We’re all just fuming,” he said. He warned that if cottagers aren’t welcome now, cottagers might not want to spend their money in the communities in the future.

“I get it: people want to get away to some form of semblance of their regular life, to put everything else behind.”

Peter Redman/Ntional Post/File

Allane Andrusko, a cottage owner in Prince Edward County, said if the municipality bans cottagers from their property it will spark a legal fight.

“I will initiate a small claims court action requesting a refund of all fixed costs for the period they told me to stay away and then ordered me to stay away. This includes taxes, insurance and hydro.”

David Kreaden, a Toronto medical doctor and cottage owner, argued it is safer to stay in his cottage.

“It is much easier to isolate in the cottage setting than it is in a high-rise in Toronto having to use the elevator multiple times a day,” he said. He disputed suggestions he might be a burden on local health care if he has COVID-19: “I daresay it would prompt a quick return to the city.”

Complaints of seasonal owners are not drawing sympathy from many permanent residents.

“We don’t need any extra pressures on our modest hospitals,” said Brian Burke, a resident of Norfolk County in southern Ontario, where the medical officer of health has issued an emergency health order banning seasonal owners from occupying their property.

“Staring at our COVID numbers the past few weeks, the thought of even something as simple as someone from out of town falling off their bicycle and breaking their arm is terrifying — we simply don’t have any room for error here.”

We’re all just fuming

Other residents use social media to try to shame out-of-towners by posting photos of tourists stocking up in local stores.

Cottage country mayors are looking to the Ontario government to bring province-wide rules before the Victoria Day weekend, several said.

Premier Doug Ford, who will be speaking with cottage country mayors this week, said he won’t bring in a ban.

“You have to give a little leniency. If you put down the hammer and say you just aren’t coming, well, people aren’t going to listen,” Ford said.

That sentiment is reflected in a memo dated May 3 from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, sent to municipal medical officers of health, obtained by National Post.

“My current recommendation is to not prohibit access to secondary residences through legal order, but to continue to provide communications that discourage their use,” it says.

Williams also advised against medical officers of health issuing broad prohibitions against access to seasonal property under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, as was done in Haldimand and Norfolk counties.

Ford said his a message to cottage country is: “Be prepared, people are coming up on May the 24th.”

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Maple Leaf expects higher pork demand from Asia after quarterly sales jumps 13%

Maple Leaf Foods Inc on Wednesday said it expects higher pork demand from Asia in the second quarter, while reporting a 12.8 per cent jump in first-quarter sales due to consumers stockpiling food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company had a bump in sales in the quarter from restrictions on movement put in place to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus, which prompted consumers to buy more essential supplies such as meat, tissues and disinfectant products.

The company’s first-quarter sales rose to $1.02 billion from $907.1 million, even as it reported a loss because of higher costs.

Sales in Maple Leaf’s meat protein group unit, which sells value-added fresh pork and poultry products, jumped 12.7 per cent to $981.4 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

The Schneiders- and Mina-branded meat producer said it would record more charges of up to $20 million in the current quarter due to increased labour, personal protective equipment, sanitation and other expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also projected weakness in the company’s food service business even as it expected more traction in its plant protein business.

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods Inc. has been forced to temporarily close its pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, further tightening meat supplies after other major slaughterhouse shutdowns.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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General Atomics awarded $9,9 million for U.S. Army’s Gray Eagle – Defence Blog

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), an affiliate of privately-held General Atomics, was awarded a $9,9 million contract modification for continuation effort for the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

This contract is funded by the U.S. Army. Work will be performed in Poway, California, with an estimated completion date of April 23, 2021.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is an extended range / multipurpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US Army.

Gray Eagle has an endurance of 25 hours, speeds up to167 KTAS, can operate up to 29,000 feet, and carries 1,075 lb (488 kg) of internal and external payload. The aircraft can carry multiple payloads aloft, including Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) with laser designation, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), communications relay, and four Hellfire missiles.

Compared to the Predator predecessor, Gray Eagle’s Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) supports the Army’s “single fuel in the battlefield” concept and provides increased horsepower and significantly improved fuel efficiency, utilizing either jet or diesel fuel.

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COVID-19: Praise for pandemic health pros prompts patio dance party

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Each night at 7 p.m., Vancouverites collectively stand on their balconies, patios and yards to bang pots, pans and other cookware, as a way of applauding essential workers across the city who continue to step up in the face of COVID-19.

A few minutes after that is when the party gets started – that is, the Mount Pleasant patio dance party.

Harry Curtin, 28, is a teacher and has been working remotely from his condo near Main and 7th since health officials ordered schools and workplaces closed to curb the spread of the virus.

He and two roommates had been regularly participating in the nightly 7 p.m. cheer when, on a sunny Tuesday in early April, the trio decided to play some music over a speaker when the clanging and banging subsided.

“It just seemed like – we could all clearly see each other but we just kind of walked back into our apartment,” Curtin said of his neighbourhood, which consists of condominiums clustered around a Main Street intersection.

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