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Hopeful semi drivers rush for Class 1 licences prior to mandatory training

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Prospective semi drivers are rushing to get a Class 1 licence before Saskatchewan’s new mandatory training program comes into effect.

“We are receiving a lot of calls every day, almost 10 to 12 calls every day and most of them are farmers and immigrants,” said Regina driving instructor Rana Hameed.

“They want to get their licence as soon as possible.”

The province announced its plan for mandatory training on Dec. 3, 2018, after facing months of criticism in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

However, the province denied the crash prompted the mandatory training program and said work on it began in 2017. 

Data provided by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) shows 1,122 people took the Class 1 test between Dec. 4, 2018 and Feb. 20, 2019 —  with a pass rate of 64 per cent.

That’s compared to 509 people who took the same test during the same time period, plus a day, the year prior.

Time and money a driving factor

Hameed is still running one- and two-week programs at Skyways Truck Driving School as March 15 approaches.

“The cost is one factor, the second factor is the time, so time is also money and it’s not easy for the people to afford this much time,” Hameed said.

Currently, the courses he offers cost about $2,500 to $3,000 but Hameed said the 121.5 hour mandatory training program will cost closer to $10,000.

Rana Hameed owns Skyways Driving School in Regina. Hameed said he gets about ten calls a day from people wanting to take training before the new rules come into effect. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

“I cannot afford to pay more than what it is now. That’s why we’re here,” said Abdullah Hirsi, who is taking a one-week course at Skyways Driving School.

Hirsi was on the hunt for job security when he decided to pursue trucking. He spent time working seasonal labour jobs and has faced layoffs. He’s optimistic about his future in the trucking industry, if he can get his licence. 

“In North America, it’s easy to find a job if you have a Class 1. It’s commercial, you can go everywhere.”

Mahdi Mohamed, 45, faced the same challenges with employment.  Mohamed said he’s trying for his test now because he won’t be able to pay for the province’s mandatory entry level training and he wants to find financial stability. 

“I want to make money to pay my bills and I have family here, that’s why I do it.”

Trainer says 1-week program is not enough

Hameed acknowledged the barriers the new training program will pose to hopeful drivers, but he also spoke about its benefits. There has never been a training requirement for semi drivers, although SGI says around 90 per cent of drivers took some form of basic training

“A one week program is not enough,” he said. Hameed lacks confidence in the drivers who hit the road with such basic training.

Hameed said there were also gaps on the exam itself, noting manoeuvres like the three-point turns were absent on the road test.

It’s been hard for Skyways Driving School to keep up with demand because of limited staff, but it’s also been tough for students trying to get a test. 

Saskatchewan’s entry level training will be required for all aspiring Class 1 drivers who apply for a test after March 15. (David S. Knee/CBC)

SGI informed Class 1 trainers on Feb. 19 they would be offering testing extensions for people who attempt to book a test before March 15, because it was unable to meet the demand.

There were no exam spots available prior to March 15 in any Saskatchewan city except Humboldt, which had just two remaining on Wednesday.

SGI says extensions are ‘fair and practical’

“Some people might call it a loophole. I’d rather call it being fair and practical with respect to meeting the needs of our customers,” SGI vice-president Kwei Quaye said of the accommodation.

He said the Crown anticipated people would rush for a commercial licence before the new rules kick in, and hired additional examiners, but its measures still weren’t enough to meet the demand.

Drivers who are granted the extension will only be given two chances to pass their exam before they are required to take the mandatory training.

Quaye acknowledged the prospective drivers who take the test prior to March 15 won’t be equipped with the skills taught in the mandatory training.

However, he said SGI is monitoring all those who obtained a Class 1 licence after the announcement in December for a 12-month period. 

Quaye admitted this approach is reactive, but suggested it would still help flag bad drivers early on.

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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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