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Critics accuse PCs of making ‘misleading’ claims about lower gas prices in Ontario

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Drivers in Ontario have been enjoying relatively low gasoline prices this holiday season and, according to a number of Progressive Conservative MPPs, they have the provincial government to thank for it. 

Over the past week, some big names in the PC caucus, including Premier Doug Ford, have taken to social media to tell Ontarians that the cancellation of a “carbon tax” is fuelling a drop in prices at the pump. 

“Taking the carbon tax off gas prices has helped lower the cost of driving your car across the province!” Ford tweeted in response to one of his MPs, Natalia Kusendova‏, who had just posted her own tweet documenting the price board at a Mississauga gas station. 

Other PC MPPs, including Vic Fedeli, the province’s finance minister, and Christine Elliott, minister of health and long-term care, quickly followed suit with posts of their own. Some garnered considerable criticism from Twitter users, many of whom pointed out that the price of gasoline has dropped throughout Canada

An environmental advocate says the messaging campaign amounts to “intentionally misleading” the public by claiming credit for a decrease in the cost of gasoline in Ontario. 

Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, a non-profit based in Toronto, says low prices are primarily due to external, global factors — not provincial government policy.

“The idea that getting rid of cap-and-trade is responsible for this big decrease in gas prices is just not true at all,” Brooks said on Sunday, noting that the provincial government did indeed repeal Ontario’s cap-and-trade system.

“I don’t think that the government has a great matter of control over gas prices, quite frankly. It’s market forces at play here,” said Keith Brooks. (CBC)

It has also vowed to challenge the federal government’s impending carbon tax, but the province’s cancelled cap-and-trade program and Ottawa’s carbon tax are two different things. 

“What’s happened here in Ontario with gas prices is no different than what’s happened across the rest of country. Cap-and-trade is a very small factor,” Brooks said. 

‘Market forces at play’

The PC government is “confusing” the situation by equating its cap-and-trade climate change program with a carbon tax, he added. 

Cap-and-trade is a form of carbon pricing that Ontario eliminated in October. It aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by capping the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit. If companies exceeded those limits, they had to pay for it. 

“From the get go, this new government has conflated the cap-and-trade system with a carbon tax. They know ‘tax’ is a word that sets people off,” Brooks said.

Michael Ervin, senior vice-president of Kent Group Ltd., a consulting firm that provides data and analysis on the downstream petroleum sector, said in an interview from Victoria that low gasoline prices are largely a result of wholesale gasoline prices. 

Michael Ervin, senior vice-president of Kent Group Ltd., said gas prices have been dropping across North America in recent weeks. (CBC)

“It is very correct to say that the reduction in gasoline prices in Ontario are partly a result of the Ontario government getting out of the cap-and-trade system,” he said.

But that move accounts for a drop of only about five cents per litre, he added.

According to GasBuddy.com, an online aggregator of gas prices, a drop in oil prices caused a 22-cent-a-litre drop in overall gasoline prices in recent months.

“Most of the reduction has nothing to do with getting out of cap-and-trade and much more to do with the fact that wholesale gasoline prices are declining right across North America right now,” Ervin said.

“Fundamentally, gasoline prices go up and down as a result of changes in wholesale gasoline prices. The retail market follows wholesale prices quite closely. The wholesale price, being just driven by supply and demand, is really what causes the volatility in prices.”

In an interview earlier in December with the Canadian Press, Ervin said there’s a glut of gasoline on the North American market brought on by lower than expected demand and refineries being forced to produce excess gasoline in order to manufacture diesel — a gasoline byproduct that is in high demand.

In an email statement sent on Sunday afternoon, a spokesperson for Ford’s office said the provincial government is following through on its promise “to make life more affordable” in Ontario.

“Under the leadership of Premier Doug Ford, our government moved quickly to eliminate the ineffective cap-and-trade program,” Laryssa Waler said. 

“Since then, refiners have removed the additional 4.6 cents per litre, cap-and-trade fee they had perviously been passing onto consumers. Recognizing that gas prices fluctuate based on a variety of reasons, drivers in Ontario are now saving an additional 4.6 cents a litre that they wouldn’t otherwise be saving.”

Meanwhile, many twitters users continued to respond to tweets from MPPs throughout the weekend. Elliott’s post seemed to draw particular ire, with some 800 people voicing an opinion on her message. Some suggested that she was not presenting factual information. 

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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