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In The News for May 19 : Travellers breathe easier after WestJet pilot strike averted

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 19 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
A WestJet plane is shown at the Calgary International Airport in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 19 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

WestJet and its pilots union say they have reached a last-minute deal, averting a strike ahead of the May long weekend.

A statement from the Air Line Pilots Association says union leaders voted to approve an agreement-in-principle, with a membership vote to begin in the coming days.

The airline had grounded the bulk of its fleet Thursday, including for its Swoop subsidiary, parking their 130 planes at airports from Vancouver to Halifax and leaving thousands of travellers in limbo across the country.

The shutdown affected dozens of routes within Canada and to the U.S. and overseas, while flights at the WestJet Encore regional service and the WestJet-owned Sunwing Airlines were unaffected.

Some 1,800 pilots at WestJet and Swoop had been poised to walk off the job as of 3 a.m. mountain time after the ALPA served a strike notice Monday.

Bernard Lewall, who heads the union's WestJet contingent, had said the workers' issues revolved around pay, job security and scheduling, with pilots earning roughly half of what some of their U.S. counterparts make.

In the ALPA statement, Lewall said union leaders believe the contract "delivers on the goals of better job security, enhanced compensation, and more flexible schedules to allow for a better work/life balance consistent with collective agreements other ALPA-represented pilot groups are signing with their employers."

"This contract will also help solve many of WestJet's pilot attraction and retention issues, benefiting everyone involved from our company to our passengers and fellow employees."

In its own statement, the WestJet Group said it is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that is industry-leading within Canada and recognizes the important contributions of its valued pilots.

CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said the agreement provides "meaningful improvements to job security and scope, working conditions and wages.''

"We appreciate we were able to arrive at a deal, however, recognize the impact on our guests and we sincerely appreciate their patience during this time.''

WestJet said it is ramping up its operations as quickly and efficiently as possible, but added it will take time for the network to catch up. The airline advised travellers to continue to check the status of their flights before leaving for the airport.


Also this ...

Experts say shifting factors including wildfires in Alberta, a slowing economy and potential pressures on supply will all have an effect on gas prices as the long weekend heralds the start of the summer. 

“This weekend is the kickoff for summer driving season in Canada,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

This period is usually characterized by higher demand for gas as people go on more road trips and take their motorcycles and sports carts out of hibernation, he said. 

However, the price of crude has been drifting for a while, said Cieszynski, with concerns over demand while the economy muddles along in the face of higher interest rates.

“It boils down to a question of supply and demand," said Roger McKnight, chief petroleum analyst at En-Pro International.

"It's also a question of inflation and recession and how that's intimidating demand,” he said.  

On the supply side, there are some pressures, said McKnight, with U.S. inventories down, especially for heating oil, jet fuel, and diesel fuel.

Demand for all types of gas, meanwhile, is up — especially for jet fuel, he said, indicating lots of interest in travelling outside the country. 

“We have a situation here where supply is tight, and falling, demand is up and rising,” said McKnight.

That means prices will likely be higher for the next couple of months, perhaps cresting US$80, he said. 


And this too ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced new sanctions against Russia while at the G7 Leaders' Summit in Hiroshima.

In short remarks made to media, Trudeau said the more than 70 new sanctions focus on people who are supporting Russia's illegal military action and complicit in human rights violations.

He says Canada will continue to support Ukraine and the international rules-based order.

Earlier in the day, an anonymous government source said sanctions will target Russian companies involved in military technology, while other sanctions have to do with human rights violations, including the transfer and custody of Ukrainian children in Russia. 

The official is not being named because they was not authorized to discuss the details publicly. 

News reports suggest the G7 countries are working together to announce various sanctions against Russia.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

NEW YORK _ Jordan Neely, whose chokehold death on the New York City subway set off a debate about vigilantism, homelessness and public safety, will be mourned by his family Friday at a church in Harlem.

A former Michael Jackson impersonator who had been struggling with mental illness and homelessness in recent years, Neely died May 1 when a fellow subway rider pinned him to the floor of a subway car in a chokehold that lasted several minutes.

The fatal struggle was recorded on video by an onlooker who said Neely had been yelling at other passengers as he begged for money, but hadn't attacked anyone.

Last week the man who pinned and choked Neely, Daniel Penny, was charged with manslaughter by the Manhattan district attorney. Penny's lawyers say he was acting to protect himself and other passengers after Neely made threatening statements.

The arrest polarized New Yorkers and people beyond, with some saying Penny, who is white, was too quick to use deadly force on a Black man who posed no real threat, and others saying the 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran was trying to protect people on the train and shouldn't be punished.

The eulogy at Neely's funeral will be delivered by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a noted civil rights activist. The service at Mount Neboh Baptist Church will be presided over by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, a senior pastor who has a long link with Neely's family.

In 2007, Neely's mother was murdered by her boyfriend; Green delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

While Neely had wrestled with disruptive behaviour _ he had been arrested many times and pleaded guilty this year to assaulting a stranger _ friends and relatives have said they don't believe he would have harmed anyone if Penny had just left him alone


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

HIROSHIMA, Japan _ Leaders of the world's most powerful democracies huddled Friday to discuss new ways to punish Russia for its 15-month invasion of Ukraine, days before President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joins the Group of Seven summit in person on Sunday.

Zelenskyy will be making his furthest trip from of his war-torn country as leaders are set to unveil new sanctions on Russia for its invasion. Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, confirmed on national television that Zelenskyy would attend the summit.

"We were sure that our president would be where Ukraine needed him, in any part of the world, to solve the issue of stability of our country,'' Danilov said Friday. "There will be very important matters decided there, so physical presence is a crucial thing to defend our interests''.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats against Ukraine, along with North Korea's months-long barrage of missile tests and China's rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, have resonated with Japan's push to make nuclear disarmament a major part of the summit. World leaders Friday visited a peace park dedicated to the tens of thousands who died in the world's first wartime atomic bomb detonation.

Japanese leader Fumio Kishida said he invited Zelenskyy to the G7 Summit during his visit to Kyiv in March.

Zelenskyy is also set to appear virtually at a Friday meeting of G7 leaders, where they are to be updated on battlefield conditions and agree to toughen their efforts to constrain Moscow's war effort.

As G7 attendees made their way to Hiroshima, Moscow unleashed yet another aerial attack on the Ukrainian capital. Loud explosions thundered through Kyiv during the early hours, marking the ninth time this month that Russian air raids have targeted the city after weeks of relative quiet.


On this day in 1985 ...

Air Canada and the union representing 2,900 striking ticket agents signed an agreement ending a three-week walkout.


In entertainment ...

Lawyer Ryan Manucha has won this year's Donner Prize for his book on interprovincial trade.

"Booze, Cigarettes and Constitutional Dust-Ups: Canada's Quest for Interprovincial Free Trade'' was named Canada's best public policy book.

The award, typically worth $30,000, was doubled to $60,000 this year for the prize's 25th anniversary.

Jurors praised Manucha's book for "making internal free trade lively.''

The shortlisted authors, who each receive $7,500, include Joseph Heath for "Cooperation and Social Justice'' and John Lorinc for "Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias.''

Also on the short list were "The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future'' by Stephen Poloz and "Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change'' by Kent Roach.


Did you see this?

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates _ Who says you cannot reach for the moon? A proposed $5 billion real estate project wants to take skyscraper-studded Dubai to new heights _ by bringing a symbol of the heavens down to Earth.

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Henderson envisions building a 274-metre replica of the moon atop a 30-metre building in Dubai, already home to the world's tallest building and other architectural wonders.

Henderson's project, dubbed MOON, may sound out of this world, but it could easily fit in this futuristic city-state. Dubai already has a red-hot real estate market, fueled by the wealthy who fled restrictions imposed in their home countries during the coronavirus pandemic and Russians seeking refuge amid Moscow's war on Ukraine.

And even though a previous booms-and-bust cycle saw many grand projects collapse, Henderson and others suggest his vision, funded by Moon World Resorts Inc., where he is the co-founder, might not be that far-fetched.

"We have the biggest `brand' in the world,'' Henderson told The Associated Press, alluding that the moon itself _ the heavenly body _ was his brand. "Eight billion people know our brand, and we haven't even started yet.''

The project Henderson proposes includes a destination resort inside the spherical structure, complete with a 4,000-room hotel, an arena capable of hosting 10,000 people and a "lunar colony'' that would give guests the sensation of actually walking on the moon.

The MOON would sit on a pedestal-like circular building beneath it and would glow at night. Henderson discussed the project at the Arabian Travel Market earlier in May in Dubai.

Already, artist renderings commissioned by Moon World Resorts have played with the location for his MOON _ including at the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at a height of 828 metres. Others have placed it at the Dubai Pearl, a long-dormant project now being destroyed near the man-made Palm Jumeirah archipelago, and on its unfinished sister, the Palm Jebel Ali.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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