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Why passport delays are ‘kryptonite’ for Ottawa -YAHOO FINANCE

JULY 01, 2022

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that the government would create a task force aimed at reducing wait times for immigration and passport services. Passport offices across the country have been swamped in recent weeks amid a surge of people applying for new documents.

“We know service delays, particularly in recent months, are unacceptable,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything we can to improve the delivery of these services in an efficient and timely manner.”

The Public Policy Forum’s Sean Speer says the passport issue should be the top priority for the government, and that a task force is not enough to deal with “such a fundamental problem.”

“This is an issue that not only will resonate with a lot of people, it's an issue where the perceptions will harden and last for some time,” Speer said.

“If I was working for the Prime Minister, this would be priority No. 1.”

If you have any policy-related questions, or feedback about the show, please email [email protected].

ALICJA SIEKIERSKA: Ottawa has announced a new task force to deal with the delays in immigration and passport processing. Sean, what do you make of that response to this issue?

SEAN SPEER: As I said, Alicja, these kinds of just basic service provision issues are kryptonite for governments. You know, people pay a lot of taxes. Most people don't interact a lot with the government. Or I don't know about you, but my expectations for my personal sort of relationship with the government is pretty limited at this stage in my life.

But I do expect that at some just basic level I should be able to get a passport without having to sleep outside a passport office or sit out there for several hours at a time. So I think if anything, the government's probably slow to react to this. And I think you've seen some amount of metaphorical eye rolling to the creation of a task force to deal with such a kind of fundamental problem.

You know, it seems to me that if the government doesn't have a more substantive response in the short term, this is the kind of issue that, again, a politician like Pierre Poilievre is going to seize on. And I'll just say one final thing. Governments typically lose elections over time because of issues that are really tangible, that people can kind of connect with in a personal way.

People don't necessarily always follow or understand some of these, like, hyper-complex political issues. But I think people-- this is an issue that not only will resonate with a lot of people. It's an issue that will the perceptions will harden and last for some time. And so if I was working for the prime minister, this would be priority number one. How do we-- do you how do you solve for this kind of immediate crisis around lengthy delays?

And what's interesting is today in "The Globe and Mail--" we're having this conversation on June 28-- a former senior official at Passport Canada set out what struck me is some pretty practical ideas on how to deal with the backlog, including temporary renewals of passports that are expiring, at least to take some of the pressure off the system in the medium term. It's just shocking to me that we haven't seen ideas like that pursued by the government instead of a task force comprised of politicians, which just strikes me as the kind of thing that ordinary people roll their eyes at.

Nigerians eyeing overseas studies battle FX scarcity - BUSINESSDAY

JULY 01, 2022

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“Since May 14, I have been waiting for the £4,000 I requested from the bank to pay for the deposit I must make at the British university where I intend to pursue my master’s degree,” a young Nigerian who identified herself simply as Veronica told BusinessDay.

She said the deposit is needed for her to be able to get a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS), and my course is slated to start in September.

“Without the CAS, I would not be able to apply for a visa, and visa application these days takes up to five weeks,” she added.

BusinessDay learnt that it is difficult for Nigerian students studying or seeking to study abroad to access the funds they need to fulfill their academic obligations because of foreign exchange (FX) shortage in the country.

Last week, there were comments on Twitter that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) wanted to restrict international students from using Form A to pay for their tuition from their bank accounts.

Form A is an application form designed by the CBN to pay for service transactions. The form allows customers to purchase funds at the CBN or interbank rate to make payments for eligible services as predetermined by the foreign exchange manual.

On Twitter, an email purportedly written to a Nigerian student at the University of Hull in the UK said: “From 2023, the requirement to use Form A when transferring your money from your bank account to the university is no longer needed. The change has occurred following a decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria which has resulted in the Form A scheme being eliminated.

“Payers that plan to leverage the Form A scheme over the coming weeks should prepare to do so in advance to ensure sufficient time to meet their financial commitments.”

However, the CBN released a statement, saying it had not stopped the allocation and sale of foreign exchange for the purpose of paying school fees and medical bills overseas.

The International Monetary Fund said in June that despite supportive oil prices, Nigeria’s gross foreign exchange reserves fell to $38.6 billion at the end of May 2022 from $41.5 billion in September 2021.

“The external reserves have been impacted by a lot of factors, which include pressure on importation of goods services, particularly petroleum, rigid foreign exchange fixed policy of the CBN, among others,” Muda Yusuf, chief executive officer of Centre for Promotion of Private Enterprise, said.

The limited access to FX from CBN by commercial banks has led to these banks coming up with rules to manage FX spending.

Banks require a month’s notice for students to request FX. A recent email sent to customers by Access Bank said, “Due to limited FX availability provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria, we require a 30-day period to fulfil requests for school fees, upkeep, and rent payment.”

Those who also require Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) and Business Travel Allowance (BTA) were instructed to submit their applications 14 days earlier to allow disbursement within the timeline.

In March, some banks reviewed the spending limit on their naira cards for international online and PoS transactions to $20 monthly, an 80 percent reduction from the previous limit of $100.

Students are not the only ones affected by the FX scarcity. Some foreign investors have been unable to access their funds. This has discouraged investors from investing, thereby limiting the inflows into the country.

According to the Capital Importation report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the total value of the foreign investment in the country declined by 28.1 percent to $1.6 billion in the first quarter of 2022 from $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

The World Bank, in its latest Nigeria Development Update report, said the country would not be able to attract the desired level of foreign investment if it fails to implement a single exchange rate regime and embrace the timely implementation of foreign exchange policy.

The multilateral lender said favourable external conditions such as high crude oil prices provide the country with the opportunity to implement a single exchange rate that is reflective of the market dynamics.

UK Covid Cases Surge 32% in One Week as Subvariants Spread - BLOOMBERG

JULY 01, 2022

(Bloomberg) --

Britain’s Covid-19 infections are rising sharply as omicron subvariants spark new outbreaks across the country.

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated at 2.3 million in the week through June 24, up 32% from the previous week, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday. 

This suggests that coronavirus is estimated to be infecting every 1 in 30 people in England and Wales, every 1 in 25 people in Northern Ireland as well as every 1 in 18 people in Scotland. 

News of a country-wide jump in cases comes a day after the UK Health Security Agency reported that England’s hospital admissions are climbing again, with intensive-care cases spreading among older age groups. 

UK Sees ICU Admissions Rise Among Elderly as Covid Cases Climb

A recent upturn in infections could lead to more pressure on health systems and disruption to businesses, although deaths and hospitalizations are still well behind levels during earlier Covid waves thanks to widespread immunization. 

Two omicron subvariants -- BA.4 and BA.5 -- have now become dominant, making up more than half of new Covid cases in England, a government report last week found. The rise in prevalence of these subvariants has also led to an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions in some other nations, the World Health Organization said in a report last week. Still, there’s currently no evidence that they cause more severe illness than previous variants, health officials said.

Britain has largely dropped its Covid restrictions since early 2022. Face covering is no longer compulsory in most places and border entry rules related to Covid have largely been ended. 

“In the absence of any population scale mitigations, we are left relying upon vaccination to prevent infection and severe disease,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds. “Whilst the latter is largely successfully achieved, there remains a considerable minority for whom this does not apply, plus we should remember that any severity of infection can lead to long Covid.” 

The government has been urging elderly people, as well as those living in care homes or who are clinically vulnerable, to get their spring booster for protection against serious illness.

UK vaccine advisers last month recommended a new round of Covid boosters for elderly and vulnerable people in the fall, saying the threat could mount again as winter approaches. The new campaign would follow spring boosters for a more limited population.

Flight cancellations: How to rebook quickly, according to an expert - YAHOO FINANCE

JULY 01, 2022

As more passengers head to the airport, airlines are struggling to keep up with demand, resulting in a chaotic summer travel season with thousands of delayed or canceled flights.

More than 5,800 flights within, departing from, or arriving in the U.S. were delayed on Wednesday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, and another 600 flights were canceled.

The recent disruptions add to what has been a very rough summer for travelers, with more than 2,800 U.S. flights canceled over Memorial Day weekend and more than 3,000 scratched over the Father’s Day and Juneteenth long weekend.

So what should you do if your flight gets canceled? The Points Guy Founder Brian Kelly shared some tips on how to rebook quickly and secure your refund.

“If you need to get to where you're going immediately, pull out your phone and buy yourself a new ticket,” Kelly advised (video above). “The airline is probably not going to be able to rebook you. If you're going to wait in line for hours to be rebooked, then chances are any of the remaining seats will be snatched up.”

For reimbursement, Kelly warned it may be best to go through a credit card company because U.S. carriers "don't owe you anything" for canceled flights.

American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire credit cards “have what's called trip delay and cancellation coverage,” Kelly added. “So if you're disrupted, ... go to your credit card company to get reimbursed for hotels and rental cars and all those extra expenses.”

Trip protection has become a popular add-on for travelers amid a tumultuous travel season, but where you obtain that coverage is important, Kelly said.

“If you booked through Expedia and others, they're going to pass you around, and no one's going to take responsibility,” he cautioned. “Always decline their coverage to protect your trip.”

Kelly recommended travel coverage from independent online marketplace InsureMyTrip.com instead. "You can look at all the different policies, and you're going to get much better coverage at a cheaper price,” he said.

FILE - Planes sit on the tarmac at the Des Moines International Airport, Monday, June 13, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. With an eye on the upcoming July Fourth weekend, airlines are stepping up their criticism of federal officials over recent widespread flight delays and cancellations. The industry trade group Airlines for America said Friday, June 24, 2022, that understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration is crippling traffic along the East Coast. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Planes sit on the tarmac at the Des Moines International Airport, Monday, June 13, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

'Be prepared for disruptions'

Mass cancellations and delays are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, and airlines are blaming pilot shortages and understaffed air traffic control as two culprits.

“Going into this busy holiday travel weekend, airlines still don't have their footing," Kelly said. “People should be prepared for disruptions, and it's pretty much every airline.”

Despite efforts to improve reliability amid soaring demand, airlines have preemptively trimmed schedules this summer.

Delta cut about 100 flights per day in July while United axed about 50 flights a day from Newark Liberty International Airport starting July 1. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue also announced flight reductions.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) projects a busy summer season, with passenger volumes that "will match and may occasionally exceed those of 2019 for the first time since the pandemic began."

Last Sunday, TSA screened more than 2.46 million people, the most air travelers in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. This coming weekend, 3.55 million people are expected to fly ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

“As long as that demand is high and planes are full, we’re going to continue to see these disruptions,” Kelly said. “The demand just continues to grow, and I don't see that stopping unless a big recession hits the U.S.”

Air Canada stock sinks 6% amid flight cancellations - YAHOO FINANCE

JULY 01, 2022

Air Canada's stock (AC.TO) fell as much as nearly 9 per cent in early trading on Thursday, after the company said it would cut more than 15 per cent of its scheduled flights in July and August.

The Montreal-based airline said on Wednesday that it will reduce its schedule – already operating at a capacity below pre-pandemic levels – by an average of 154 flights per day in July and August. Most of the affected flights are to and from Toronto and Montreal, the airline said, on domestic and Canada-U.S. routes.

Shares of the Montreal-based airline closed the trading day at $16.04, a decline of 6 per cent.

While travel demand has resurged from COVID lows this summer, the airline's stock has yet to see a substantial recovery in its price. Shares of Air Canada are down nearly 30 per cent this year. It is currently trading at levels not seen since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the airline dramatically reduced its capacity levels.

Air Canada's chief executive officer Michael Rousseau said in a letter to customers released Wednesday that the airline's operations have been "disrupted by the industry's complex and unavoidable challenges", including flight delays and airport congestion amid a resurgence in travel demand. He said the airline needed to cut its remaining summer schedule "to bring about the level of operational stability we need."

"This was not an easy decision, as it will result in additional flight cancellations that will have a negative impact on some customers," Rousseau said.

"But doing this in advance allows affected customers to take time to make other arrangements in an orderly manner, rather than have their travel disrupted shortly before or during their journey, with few alternatives available."

Consumer rights advocates are pushing for compensation from Air Canada for the cancellations. Under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, compensation of between $400 and $1,000 is required for a cancellation or delay that is "within a carrier's control."

Air Canada is not the only airline that has reduced its schedule amid surging demand. WestJet chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech says the Calgary-based airline is flying 32 per cent fewer flights in and out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport in July than it did in 2019. He says the company made a series of "proactive" schedule cuts – the bulk of which were in Toronto – between March and May in anticipation of snarls and delays at Canada's biggest airport. While airports in western Canada are facing fewer challenges, Hoensbroech says he expects the remainder of the summer to be very challenging.

While the airline industry grapples with challenges in the travel recovery, there are some analysts that see opportunity.

National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen added Air Canada to its list of top ideas in the transportation sector on June 22, citing "recent share price weakness and the view that the air travel recovery still has room to run."

"Air Canada shares are currently trading at essentially the same level as in June 2020 when non-essential air travel demand was close to zero and the prospect for a travel rebound were grim," Doerksen wrote in a note to clients.

"The outlook today for Air Canada is orders of magnitude better than was the case in June 2020, which is why we believe the current share price is a compelling entry point."

 
 
 

With files from The Canadian Press

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

New York City Ends Its Coronavirus Alert System as Cases Rise - BLOOMBERG

JULY 03, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- New York City health officials have ended its Covid-19 alert system that informed residents about periods of higher transmission of the virus. 

The change took place this week and visitors to the city’s website are now met with a message that reads: “We are evaluating the city’s COVID Alert system. Check back here for updates in the coming weeks.”

Before the color-coded alert categorization was dropped, the city was last at a ‘medium risk level’ on Tuesday with New Yorkers being encouraged to continue wearing a mask in public indoor settings. While the masking guidance remains the same, the website now warns of “currently high transmission levels of Covid-19 throughout the city” without saying what the alert level is.

Health commissioner Ashwin Vasan had explained the move in a Thursday press conference, saying it was part of an ongoing reevaluation of the risk alert system that takes into account where New York City is in terms of “perception and the reality of risk from Covid-19.”

“We’re also at a different phase of the pandemic that demands new analytical tools to match our assessments and communications about risk with reality, accounting for the multiple inequitable realities faced by New Yorkers and Americans of different stripes and different situations,” Vasan said.

City data shows a seven-day average of 3,441 positive cases on June 28, up from 3,009 a week before. Daily hospitalizations, however, have shown a steady decline with the seven-day average at 79 on June 28, down from 106 a week before. 

Paris Airport Traffic to Return to Normal Sunday on Strike Halt - BLOOMBERG

JULY 03, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Traffic at Paris’s main airport is expected to return to normal on Sunday after some unions called a halt to a strike that began on Thursday, the French civil aviation authority said.

Airlines haven’t been asked to cancel flights for Sunday, the authority known as DGAC said in a statement, after it ordered them to cut 20% of them for a portion of Saturday because of effects of the labor action. The agency said the decision was based on information provided by airport operator Aéroports de Paris.

The union walkouts also snarled access to the hub on Friday, when staff including firefighters were on strike.

Two of the Charles de Gaulle airport’s four runways were shut for part of Saturday due to the strike. All of the runways are expected to operate as usual on Sunday, DGAC said. 

The strikes and cancellations turned Paris into the latest chokepoint for Europe’s snarled travel networks this spring and summer. Hubs in cities including London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt have scrapped thousands of flights amid labor shortages and disputes over pay.

Those actions could spread. SAS AB is continuing talks with unions to avoid a crippling labor dispute at the airline after the deadline for a pilot strike passed, Norwegian newspaper DN reported, citing representatives from both sides of the negotiations. Mediators are trying to help the parties reach a deal.

In other industrial action, Ryanair Holdings Plc workers in Spain were set to walk out for a second weekend, while staff at EasyJet Plc bases there began the first of a series of three-day strikes on Friday.

American Airlines Says Trips Restored After Technical Glitch - BLOOMBERG

JULY 03, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- American Airlines Group Inc. said it doesn’t expect any operation impact from a temporary glitch that had allowed pilots to drop thousands of flight hours. 

A “technical glitch” in AA’s pilot scheduling system led to more than 37,000 of flying hours in July to be dropped into open time, according to a statement by Allied Pilots Association President Ed Sicher on the union’s website. Sicher urged the carrier to re-engage with the union on talks to fix the system. 

Millions of people are expected to travel through US airports over the July 4 weekend, one of the busiest travel periods of the year for a beleaguered transportation system experiencing thousands of cancellations and delays. As of 9:15 p.m. Saturday in New York, there were 645 flight cancellations in the US, including 100 by AA, according to FlightAware.com.

“As a result of this technical glitch, certain trip trading transactions were able to be processed when it shouldn’t have been permitted,” AA said in an emailed statement. “We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue.”

US Airlines to Offer ‘X’ Gender for Nonbinary Travelers - BLOOMBERG

JULY 03, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Top US airlines will allow nonbinary travelers to purchase tickets with an “X” gender marker by the end of 2024, industry group Airlines for America said on Friday. 

Airlines for America spokeswoman Katherine Estep confirmed the decision, which was detailed in a letter released by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. The industry group’s members include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.  

Wyden said United and American already have changed booking processes to allow the X gender marker.

The US State Department in April implemented a policy allowing Americans to select the X gender marker on their passports.  

 

Here’s how much money it takes to be considered wealthy in 12 major U.S. cities - CNBC

JULY 03, 2022

Depending on where you live, a net worth totaling millions of dollars may still be considered merely “comfortable,” a new survey finds.

In the U.S. overall, it takes a net worth of $2.2 million to be considered “wealthy” by other Americans — up from $1.9 million last year, according to financial services company Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth Survey.

However, if you want to be considered rich by residents of large metropolitan areas, it will require even more wealth. 

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In San Francisco, the threshold for what’s considered wealthy is a net worth of $5.1 million. That’s the highest total in the survey, which examined 12 of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country. 

To be considered “financially comfortable,” a San Francisco resident would need a net worth of at least $1.7 million, the survey finds.

Here’s a look at what it takes to be considered wealthy by city in 2022, as ranked by net worth thresholds:

  1. San Francisco: $5.1 million
  2. Southern California (includes Los Angeles and San Diego): $3.9 million
  3. New York City: $3.4 million
  4. Washington, D.C.: $3.3 million
  5. Seattle: $3.2 million
  6. Phoenix: $2.7 million
  7. Boston: $2.7 million
  8. Dallas: $2.6 million
  9. Houston: $2.6 million
  10. Atlanta: $2.5 million
  11. Chicago: $2.5 million
  12. Denver: $2.3 million

The online survey was conducted in early February, with a sample of 500 to 750 local residents for each metropolitan area, between the ages of 21 and 75.

Net worth is a measure of the value of the assets a person or corporation owns, minus the liabilities they owe.

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