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‘Hundreds’ of Canadians stranded for days in Mexico after Sunwing cancellations


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By Sarah Smellie

Hundreds of Canadians are stranded in Cancún, Mexico and don’t know how they’ll get home after their Sunwing flights were cancelled last week.

Passengers said they’ve been shuffled from hotel to hotel after sleeping on floors at the airport and in lobbies, saying there’s no end in sight to their ordeal.

“We just want to go home,” said Tess Friedenberger, who was scheduled to fly home to Calgary on Dec. 22 aboard a Sunwing flight from Mexico. “I never expected us to be in a situation like this, I never thought that it would even be possible. We’re writing to the consulate, we’re writing to hire lawyers, we’re ready to do whatever it takes.”

Friedenberger said in an interview the information from Sunwing has been inadequate and inaccurate, noting many of her fellow travellers are angry and beginning to feel desperate. Video shot by a stranded Sunwing passenger and viewed by The Canadian Press shows dozens of people in the Cancún Airport chanting “Liars!” and “Get us home!”

“There is no help and there’s no one who we can really trust at this point,” she said. “We’re pretty much fending for ourselves.”

Friedenberger left Calgary on Dec. 15 for a Sunwing vacation in Cancún. She was supposed to return home a week later, but she got a notification saying the flight was delayed. Over the next few days, the notifications kept coming, pushing the flight later into the week.

Finally, she and her companion were told their flight would leave on Christmas Eve, she said. But when the time came, she said a Sunwing representative said the flight didn’t exist.

They haven’t heard anything since about when they might get home, she said.

In the meantime, she and her fellow passengers have been shuffled by Sunwing between hotels in Cancun, paying for cabs themselves to get there, she said. The second hotel they arrived at didn’t know they were coming and had no rooms booked for them, she said. People slept in the hotel lobby until finally they were given a bed.

“There were elderly people who needed medication,” she said. “There were children all over the lobby, screaming, crying and trying to sleep.”

When Sunwing directed them to another location on Christmas Eve, some were so distrustful they stayed behind to sleep in the lobby again until they had proof a room was waiting for them, she added.

Sunwing said in tweets on Dec. 22, 23 and 24 that it had cancelled flights because of the severe wintry weather conditions in various parts of the country. Friedenberger said she understands that bad weather can wreak havoc, noting: “We’re Canadians.”

“It’s the lack of communication and the not knowing what’s going to happen and the bouncing around,” she explained. “If you know we’re not going to get home until Dec. 28, that’s fine. Tell us that, and put us up in a room at one hotel.”

Friedenberger said she’s encountered other Canadians stranded in Cancún by other Sunwing flights, and she said they’re coping with the same unknowns.

“There’s plenty more than just us,” she said. “I would say hundreds at this point.”

Cristina Oppedisano said her Sunwing flight home from Cancún to Toronto on Dec. 21 was also cancelled. Like Friedenberger, Oppedisano said in an interview that she and her family don’t know when they’ll get home.

She said she and her group of 10 family members, which includes four children, have also been sent from one unprepared hotel to another, sleeping on airport and lobby floors all the while. She and her family are part of a group of about 100 passengers who were scheduled to be on the cancelled Sunwing flight, she said.

“We’re trapped here,” she said, adding that she, too, has not received any word from Sunwing on when they might get home.

In a statement emailed Sunday afternoon, Sunwing said “a number of northbound flights” continue to face delays as severe weather hampers its ability to move planes and crews to other airports.

The company did not say how many flights were affected.

“Our teams are working hard to re-accommodate customers by subservicing aircraft where possible, in addition to arranging alternate hotels and transfers for those with overnight delays,” the statement said, adding that customers should keep checking their flight status online.

“Our teams locally and in destination continue to proactively manage the situation, and are doing everything possible to return customers home in the coming days,” the company said.

Sunwing did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking when those stranded in Cancún might get home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 25, 2022.

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Federal Election 2021

Trudeau chief of staff Katie Telford to testify on foreign interference at committee

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Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Katie Telford arrives to appear as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a motion to compel his chief of staff to testify about foreign interference at a House of Commons committee will not be a confidence matter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ottawa (CP) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says his chief of staff, Katie Telford, will testify at a House of Commons committee on the issue of foreign interference in the last two Canadian elections.

The move came Tuesday as Trudeau’s office issued the mandate for special rapporteur David Johnston, giving him until May 23 to recommend whether any additional mechanisms — like a formal public inquiry — are necessary.

Johnston will have until the end of October to complete his review of foreign interference issues and make further recommendations for how the government should proceed.

Trudeau told reporters Tuesday morning that Johnston will have access to all relevant documents, including classified information.

The Liberals’ decision to drop their opposition to having Telford testify at committee made moot a vote planned for Tuesday afternoon on a Conservative motion asking the entire House of Commons to demand her appearance.

Liberal members of Parliament had been filibustering the Procedures and House Affairs committee for several weeks to prevent a similar motion that would compel Telford to appear.

The announcement on Telford’s testimony came moments after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would back the Conservative motion if the government didn’t stop filibustering at the committee.

Singh insisted the committee is not the best placed to get to the bottom of the foreign interference problems, and he wants a public inquiry. He said the Liberals and Conservatives are too bent on scoring political points at the committee for it to do the best job.

Trudeau has not heeded the calls for an inquiry thus far, but has said he will listen if Johnston recommends one.

Trudeau appointed Johnston, a former governor general, last week amid allegations Beijing attempted to influence the results of both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The government and opposition parties have said those attempts did not compromise the validity of the elections, a contention backed up by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

But opposition parties have been demanding the government produce more information about what Beijing tried to do, what Trudeau knew about it and what he did about it. They want a full public inquiry but Trudeau instead appointed Johnston to look into the issue and make recommendations.

He has said if Johnston recommends an inquiry he will abide by that.

Trudeau said earlier Monday he wanted the issue of foreign interference to be treated with the seriousness it deserves and accused Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of turning the matter into a “political circus.”

The Liberals left the door open on Monday to making the vote on the Telford motion a confidence matter, but Trudeau shut that door firmly Tuesday morning.

“No, it’s not going to be a confidence motion,” he said, prior to the Liberal cabinet meeting.

“Obviously, it goes to how important the issue of foreign interference is, and I’m actually pleased to contrast the approach that we’ve taken.”

He said the process the Liberals are following “is an expert process that will dig into this in a nonpartisan way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

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Food inflation in Canada shows signs of easing, but grocery prices to remain high

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A woman shops for produce in Vancouver, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Food inflation appears to be easing in Canada but experts say consumers shouldn’t expect lower prices at the grocery store. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Food inflation appears to be easing in Canada, but experts say shoppers shouldn’t expect lower prices at the grocery store.

Statistics Canada says the cost of groceries in February rose 10.6 per cent compared with a year before, down from an 11.4 per cent year-over-year increase in January.

Yet a falling food inflation rate doesn’t mean the price of food is coming down.

Instead, it means prices are rising less quickly, signalling the worst of the era of grocery price hikes could be behind us.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says the food inflation rate is expected to continue to cool throughout the spring and into summer.

But he says Canadians may still experience sticker shock at the grocery store as some food prices are still significantly higher than a year ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

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