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Westjet first casualty of new Liberal pre-flight COVID-19 testing

Westjet grounding more flights and laying off 1,000 employees, due to cancellations resulting from new Liberal pre-flight COVID-19 test requirement

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Calgary-based WestJet has announced the grounding of hundreds of flights and laying off of employees in an attempt to remain viable in the face of continued COVID-19 travel restrictions and the collapse of the airline business globally.

WestJet blamed the Liberal’s new pre-flight COVID-19 testing requirement for the current cliff-fall drop in business.

The layoffs come on the heels of the government’s announcement December 30 of new restrictions requiring all passengers on flights entering Canada to provide negative COVID-19 test results prior to boarding.

The new testing rules were implemented on January 7.

Under the new rules, travellers must pass a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within a 72-hour period prior to boarding, however any travellers who are unable to procure tests before their flights home will still be allowed to travel – and therefore possibly infect other passengers on the flight.

Any passengers boarding with a negative test result may of course been infected at any time during the 72 hours since testing, and may therefore also infect fellow passengers on the flight.

Immediately upon their return to Canada those passengers without pre-flight testing are required to isolate at federally-approved sites until they obtain negative test results, said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

The remaining passengers – now possibly infected by the untested passengers, or otherwise infected since testing – will be allowed to self-quarantine following arrival.

On Friday, Westjet announced a reduction in “capacity,” – equivalent to 1,000 employees – through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours. There is also a hiring freeze in place.

“Immediately following the federal government’s inbound testing announcement on December 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations,” Ed Sims, WestJet CEO, said in a statement obtained by Global News.

“Regrettably, this new policy leaves us with no other option but to again place a large number of our employees on leave, while impacting the pay of others,” said Sims.

The company is removing around 30 per cent of its planned February and March capacity from the schedule, and will operate around 150 daily departures, “returning to levels not seen since June 2001.”

This includes the elimination of more than 230 weekly international flights and 160 domestic flights, including:

  • Edmonton to Cancun
  • Edmonton to Puerto Vallarta
  • Edmonton to Phoenix
  • Vancouver to Cancun
  • Vancouver to Phoenix
  • Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta
  • Vancouver to Cabo
  • Vancouver to Los Angeles
  • Vancouver to Palm Springs
  • Calgary to Las Vegas
  • Calgary to Orlando.

There is also “seasonal” suspension of 13 international and destinations, which include: Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Huatulco, Ixtapa, London (Gatwick), Mazatlan, Nassau (Bahamas), Port of Spain, San Jose (Costa Rica), Tampa, and Turks and Caicos, reported Global.

These are not the first such COVID-layoffs. In March of last year the company announced the layoff of nearly half of its employees – 6,900 in total – and the grounding of 120 aircraft.  

Ken Grafton is the Western Standards Ottawa Bureau Chief. He can be reached at kgrafton@westernstandardonline.com

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UPDATE: GraceLife Church protesters tear down part of fence

A large protest, and possible outdoor service, are expected at the site Sunday morning.

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Authorities have put a third fence around the GraceLife Church hoping to keep out crowds expected to gather Sunday morning.

AHS, with the help of RCMP, raided the church, in Spruce Grove, Wednesday morning erecting the initial barricades. The third level of defence was put up Saturday.

On Sunday morning, about 300 people gathered at the furthest barricade which was manned by more than as dozen police officers.

Protesters sang songs and hymns and yelled at the police.

One woman asked for her son to be allowed to go into the church to use the washroom. She was refused and launched a torrent of abuse against the police.

At one point, protesters tore down part of a chain link barrier. RCMP quickly put in make up. Some of the protesters even helped the police put the fence back up.

Dozens of RCMP cruisers blocked access roads for kilometres surrounding the church.

The church, through their lawyers at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, issued a statement Sunday afternoon

“Grace Life Church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta. Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the church’s facility. Grace Life Church recognizes the place for peaceful protest within the context of a democracy.

“Grace Life Church has no control of our Church or grounds at this time. The Church grounds are fully under the responsibility and control of the RCMP and Alberta Health Services. The closing of the Grace Life facility has understandably resulted in significant public outrage and caused even larger crowds to gather in one place. Albertans have a constitutional right to assemble, associate, and worship. By taking the measures the government has, while the matter is still pending before the Courts, the Alberta Government has created an even more divisive situation.”

The church, under Pastor James Coates, had repeatedly violated COVID-19 laws by holding packed services with hundreds of people.

Coates turned himself into the RCMP and served more than a month in jail before being released with a $1,500 fine and a tongue-lashing from the judge.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro personally approved the AHS-RCMP raid and barricading of the Grace Life Church according to a UCP MLA that spoke to the Western Standard on condition of anonymity. Shandro has denied the story.

A large protest, and possible outdoor service, are expected at the site Sunday morning.

This story will be updated as the Sunday events happen.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Jivraj admits planting fake stories with Press Progress, CBC

Under oath, Jivraj admitted he was a long-time informant for Press Progress, the de facto media arm of the NDP.

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Western Standard News editor Dave Naylor has spent two weeks investigating the story of Caylan Ford. Ford seemed a rising political star – intelligent, photogenic and a working mother. She was recruited by Jason Kenney to run provincial for the UCP.

Ford seemed to be on the path to stardom when she was shot down in flames by rumours and planted news stories in a NDP-linked news site.

Ford blames one man for her downfall – Kiram Javrij. 

Over the next week, Naylor will tell their story backed with court documentation and interviews.

Karim Jivraj, under testimony during a deposition, detailed just how complex his undercover harassment of UCP candidate Caylan Ford, and other women was.

Under withering questioning by Ford’s Lawyer, R.E. Harrison, Javrij admitted to planting fake stories with the NDP-linked Press Progress and the CBC.

In October 2018, Jivraj wrote a letter accusing Ford of committing “residency fraud” and claimed she was ineligible to stand as a candidate for election in the riding of Calgary Mountainview.

“He asked nine members of my constituency association board to sign the letter, but did not sign it himself,” said Ford in an exclusive interview with the Western Standard.

“Then he sent it to the media, and invited journalists to report on his allegations. Press Progress did.”

The following is a portion of the Q and A between Harrison and Jivraj.

Harrison: You say that you helped author the letter?
A: Yes.

Harrison then ask Jivraj who else on the board helped author the letter to then UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington.

Q: Now, after authoring the letter, you circulated it to the other board directors to seek their signatures?

A: Yes. I — I and others circulated it.

Read Javrij’s letter to the Mountainview board

Harrison then got Jivraj to admit he didn’t sign the letter he letter. Jivraj then detailed how he was the one who sent the letter to the NDP-linked news website, Press Progress.

Q: The October 13, 2018, article from Press Progress is entitled “UCP Constituency Association Accuses Jason Kenney’s Handpicked ‘Parachute Candidate’ of Breaking Party Rules.” Do you see that.

A: Yeah.

Q: Do you recognize this article?

A: Yes.

Q: Now, do you know who sent the October 1, 2018, letter to Press Progress?

A: I believe I did.

In November 2018, Jivraj purchased Google attack ads on searches of Ford’s name. These ads included a fabricated quotation, which Jivraj attributed to Ford. Harrison asked Jivraj who bought them.

A: I’m not sure if “purchase” is the right word. I received a free $50 budget on Google Ads, and so that was used for this. So there was no monetary investment.”

Q: Okay. So these ads were posted by you?

A: Yes.

In November 2018, Jivraj used a pseudonymous email account to send defamatory statements about Ford to 1,300 of her electors. The emails included another fabricated quotation which he attributed to Ford.

Q: You see the last attack ad has a quote: “My family has lived in southwest Calgary for generations. I could never live in north Calgary. Anywhere above the Bow is basically a suburb.” Do you see that quotation?

A: Yes

Q: Did you create that quotation?

A: I don’t believe so.

Q: Where did you get that quotation from?

A: I’m not sure. I think Ms. Ford may have said something along those lines when I was looking for a place in Calgary.

Q: You’re aware that Ms. Ford has lived in the neighbourhood of Sunnyside?

A: I became aware of that afterward.

Q: And why did these attack — why did these ads link to Press Progress?

A : That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Under oath, Jivraj admitted he was a long-time informant for Press Progress, the de facto media arm for the NDP.

Q: Did you email or call PressProgress to disclose this conversation?

A: I can’t recall. I don’t — I can’t recall if I reached out directly to Press Progress. I think the — what initiated the cycle of events was my meeting, my physical meeting at (Calgary coffee shop) Vendome.

Q: What I want to know is whether you phoned Press Progress to provide them with the contents of the conversation or provide them information

A: I can’t recall.

Q: Why did Press Progress call you out of the blue as you’ve insinuated.

Jivraj admits he has been in contact with Press Progress previously to discuss provincial and federal politics.

Q: OK, How many times would you have spoken with Press Progress previously to their phone call to you?

A: Again, I don’t want to guess, but several, several times.

Jivraj admits he has been in contact with Press progress since 2015. Ford herself then jumps into the questioning, asking Jivraj about his dealings with the CBC.

CBC Logo (photo credit CBC)

Ford: Did you disclose additional private messages between yourself and me to the CBC?

A: Yes

Ford: Have you created any other pseudonymous Twitter accounts?

A: Yeah. In my various political activities, yes, I’ve created many.

Ford is suing Jivraj, Press Progress and several media outlets for a total of $7 million.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

The saga of Karim Jivraj’s campaign against Ford and other conservative women is just too incredible to be told in a single feature article.

That’s why the Western Standard decided to break it down into a series, which will dive into several of the actions taken by Jivraj. It’s a story we did not believe until we obtained the evidence.

COMING NEXT: Tap on back leads to assault allegations from Rivraj against Ford

PREVIOUSLY: 
How a Conservative candidate worked with the NDP to bring down star UCP candidate
Tory candidate admits using a fake Twitter account to spread false sexual rumours
Jivraj admits to undercover online campaigns against women

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EXCLUSIVE: UCP MLA says Shandro approved barricading GraceLife Church

But a spokesman for Shandro denied any involvement by the minister.

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Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro personally approved the AHS-RCMP raid and barricading of the Grace Life Church according to a UCP MLA that spoke to the Western Standard on condition of anonymity.

RCMP and Alberta Health Services conducted a Wednesday dawn raid on the church in Spruce Grove, Alberta after it repeatedly refused to comply to lockdown and capacity orders from the government.

“Shandro directly signed off on the raid,” said the MLA.

The MLA said the public backlash against the raid has rocked the government, and they are considering removing the wall before an expected large service is held there Sunday.

But a spokesman for Shandro denied any involvement by the minister.

“Minister Shandro did not direct or sign off this action. The law gives AHS independent authority to carry out such an action. The Minister is not required to sign off on enforcement activity such as seen at GraceLife, nor did he sign off. “

The move against the church came the day after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney threw the province back into a COVID-19 lockdown for the third time, discarding the policy of phased reopening based on measurable targets.

The move infuriated even members of his own caucus, with 17 UCP MLAs signing a public letter denouncing Kenney.

Another UCP MLA told the Western Standard they are “100% certain” Kenney will be the subject of an early party leadership review.

“Caucus is in total chaos,” said the MLA, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A new Angus Reid poll this week showed a whopping 75% of Albertans oppose Kenney’s handling of the pandemic, including those that believe he has gone too far in restrictions, and those who believe that he hasn’t gone far enough.

Former federal Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day the Alberta government for barricading the GraceLife Church, saying it would bring “gleeful howls” from dictators around the world.

The church’s pastor, James Coates recently spent 35 days in the Edmonton Remand Centre after refused to agree to stop preaching as a condition of his bail.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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