UK seeks to attract high-skilled workers with points-based immigration system

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit, points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday, setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labor from Europe”.

Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.

The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.

“For the first time in decades, the UK will have full control over who comes to this country and how our immigration system operates,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.

EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.

The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.

Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.

There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.

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“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labor from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the policy document said.

The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.

Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector.

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B.C. budget 2020 includes tax increases on top income earners, pop drinkers

The B.C. government is increasing taxes on the rich and pop drinkers to help fund the continuation of its affordability agenda.

Finance Minister Carole James announced in the 2020 budget the marginal tax rate for those making more than $220,000 a year will be 20.5 per cent. The increased rate will bring in an estimated additional $216 million next year.

The government will also start charging the provincial sales tax on carbonated drinks that contain sugar, natural sweeteners or artificial sweeteners, making them seven per cent more expensive. The change comes into effect July 1, 2020.

“This is a health initiative to see how we grow healthy young people,” James said.

“I think it’s interesting that if you look at the largest consumption of pop it’s 14- to 18-year-olds. We want to do our part to set the stage for a healthy life ahead.”

The province is projecting a budget surplus of $227 million in 2020-21, $179 million in 2021-22 and $374 million in 2022-23.

Kris Sims of The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says by removing PST exemption on soft drinks, British Columbians will actually not be able to see the impact of the change on the shelves.

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Edmonton City Auditor asked to review anonymous letter listing worries about snow-clearing

The city auditor has been asked to review a letter from parks and roadway services employees outlining concerns with how their department is run.

The anonymous 11-page letter, obtained by Global News and sent to city councillors, details their worries about mismanagement and the quality of leadership since the Transportation and Streets department merged with Parks and Recreation in 2017.

It further summarizes anxiety over street-clearing policies that could put the public in danger and over the use of equipment they claim is ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The concerns in the letter have not been independently verified by Global News and it is not clear how many employees authored its contents.

No one from the city was made available for an interview.

In a statement, the deputy city manager for city operations, Gord Cebryk, said employee concerns are taken seriously.

“We have shared the letter with the Office of the City Auditor as well as the Employee Services department for review and investigation per the City’s established employee complaint process,” Cebryk said.

A verbal update on the city’s snow and ice policy, operational practices and a response to some of the concerns expressed in the letter will be presented to council on Wednesday.

Councillors receive letter

“There’s always two sides to a story,” said Coun. Scott McKeen.

“I think that you can have disgruntled employees so it’s really hard to pick out how credible it is. We have to follow up… What I guess I would like to see is the auditor dig into it.”

McKeen said the letter raises a lot of questions.

“I think the streets this winter … the emails I’ve received have been pretty angry about the state of the streets this year.”

Coun. Mike Nickel said this is not the first time he has heard issues coming out of this department.

“I think we still have a challenge with regards to where employees can come forward and they don’t feel they’re going to be threatened if they want to do things better,” Nickel said.

Nickel said the authors’ anonymity is an issue.

“We can’t operate on rumour and innuendo. That’s the other side of the question. It’s a bit of a conundrum when you’re sitting in council and you don’t have a signature on the bottom of the letter so this is a challenge for management really to address these things.”

However, he supports the city auditor investigating the concerns.

“It’s in their realm.… I think they’ll make a determination on it.”

Have a tip about this story? Contact Vinesh Pratap at [email protected] or Julia Wong at [email protected]

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Storm Ellen fears: Shock chart shows new storm bring 100mm of rain to strike flooded areas

Storm Dennis ravaged the UK last weekend with yellow, amber and red warnings across the nation for wind and rain. The massive amount of rainfall caused mass destruction to areas, particularly areas in North Yorkshire and Hereford where many people were hit by heavy flooding. The next system is forecast to bring heavy rainfall this weekend also, likely making situations worse for many impacted by the floods.

A WxCHART has shown that over the days leading up to the weekend rainfall shall increase.

Rainfall is expected to be heaviest in north-west England, Scotland’s west coast and parts of Northern Ireland.

By Saturday afternoon central Scotland is expected to have had 100mm of rain, the charts claim.

By the end of the weekend, Wales can expect to have seen just as much rainfall.

DON’T MISS: Storm Dennis: Watch plane struggle to land at Heathrow

Storm Dennis forced Wales to declare a major emergency after a month’s worth of rain fell in just 25 hours.

Speaking about Storm Dennis, Jeremy Parr the Head of Flood and Incident Risk Management for Natural Resources Wales, said: “The forecast is for very significant levels of rain, especially in the eastern valleys of South Wales.

“Impacts could be severe overnight, and everyone should take the warnings extremely seriously.

“We are working hard to make sure communities are as prepared as possible and urge people to take care and make arrangements to be safe.”

During the worst weather of Storm Dennis, the Met Office issued warnings and insisted there was a threat to life.

They issued a Red Warning for rain, the highest level of warning, for parts of south Wales on Sunday morning.

BBC Weather: Avalanche warnings issued as snow threatens Europe [WEATHER]
BBC Weather: Warning issued for ‘gale force winds’ in Europe [FORECAST]
BBC Weather: ‘Heavy snow’ threatens Europe with ‘disruptive’ weather [VIDEO]

Over the weekend wind gusts widely exceeded 50mph, even across some inland areas, with gusts of over 60mph over hills, coastal areas and exposed locations.

While these winds had the potential to bring damaging impacts they were not as strong as the gusts from Storm Ciara, when a gust of 97mph was recorded on the Isle of Wight.

The next named storm will become Storm Ellen, with both Dennis and Ciara hitting the nation in recent weeks.

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Cobourg resident falls victim to $78,000 bitcoin fraud: police

Cobourg police are investigating a fraud investigation involving bitcoin.

On Friday, police say a complainant claimed they received a phone call from someone claiming to represent Service Canada. The caller advised that they had the victim’s social insurance number and that it was being used for human trafficking and illegal drug use.

Police say the victim was asked to deposit $78,000 into area bitcoin machines so their money could be kept in a safe spot. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency or electronic money used to buy goods and services on the Internet and in stores that accept digital currencies.

“The victim followed through, believing this to be a legitimate request from the government,” police stated in a release.

Police continue to investigate.

They are advising people that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or any other government agencies will never ask for payment in bitcoin.

Should you have any questions about the legitimacy of any call or request, ask friends, family members or the police before withdrawing or transferring funds in any manner.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Cobourg Police at (905) 372-6821 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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B.C. teacher handed 15-year ban for giving alcohol to, having sex with recent grad

A B.C. teacher has had his certification pulled for 15 years for giving alcohol to and having sex with a student just months after they graduated.

The incident was revealed in a recent disciplinary notice from the B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch (TRB).

The teacher’s name and the school district he worked for have not been released to protect the identity of the student.

According to the consent resolution agreement from the TRB, the teacher had previously engaged in “inappropriate physical contact” with students in 2016 and 2017, including touching their hands, shoulders, elbows, backs, knees and legs.

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Journalist Desmond Cole in Winnipeg to talk racism, new book ‘The Skin We’re In’

A Toronto journalist, activist and author is in Winnipeg Tuesday to talk about his new book and why it’s important to talk about racism in Canada – no matter how uncomfortable the topic might be.

Desmond Cole, author of The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, told 680 CJOB his book is a look at one year – 2017 – in the struggle against racism in this country, as well as a historical deep dive and a month-by-month look at Cole’s own experiences with racism as a Black man.

Cole – who has written for publications ranging from the Toronto Star to BuzzFeed to The Walrus – said writing the book was a very different experience from his comfort zone as a journalist.

“(With) newspapers, which I’ve written a lot for over the years, and magazines… space is a factor, and timing is a very big factor in the news as well. We want things that are relevant to what’s happening in the day, happening in the week, previewing something that’s coming up. You can take a step back in a book.

“I could also pull way back and go more into the history of Black Canada, of colonialism, of white supremacy and the theft of this land from Indigenous people and say, when you hear a story and you hear the word ‘racism’… people get shocked by this language.

“Now I can put all of those things into context and I feel like I don’t have to rush.”

Although The Skin We’re In focuses on 2017 specifically, Cole said it could have focused on any year in Canada’s history, and the same issues would have been present.

“I wanted to have a container to try and frame different stories around education, child welfare, the police, obviously… the prison system in this country, and how those institutions are affecting Black people.

“I could’ve written about 2019 and the leader of this country donning blackface more times than he could remember.

“It’s amazing how easily Canada reproduces anti-Black racism and then just asks Black people to get over it.”

The struggles faced by Black Canadians, Cole said, are reflected in Indigenous protest movements like the Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests.

“There’s going to be a march today, a Wet’suwet’en solidarity march,” he said. “Why is that happening? Because after hundreds of years of colonialism, Indigenous peoples are still saying, ‘You don’t own the land, you don’t own the water, you don’t own the air and the resources, and you have to protect them… and you’re not listening, and we’ve been telling you this for hundreds and hundreds of years.’

“That’s the frame for my existence here as a Black person, is that this is a British colonial occupied space. It does not belong to the governments that say it’s their land, it does not belong to the police, it does not belong to the RCMP… but they have taken this land by force.

“We don’t like to look in the mirror in Canada, and this book was an opportunity for me to make us do that.”

Cole will be at McNally Robinson Booksellers to sign copies of The Skin We’re In and talk about the issues in its pages at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The event is being hosted by grassroots community organization Black Space Winnipeg.

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Pearl Jam drops single, ‘Superblood Wolfmoon’

Less than a month after releasing their first single in two years, Dance of the Clairvoyants, grunge rock outfit Pearl Jam has already put out another new song. It’s called Superblood Wolfmoon.

The three-minute, 50-second track dropped on Tuesday morning, following a week of teasing by the band, in which a quick snippet of the high-energy, upbeat rock anthem could be heard when fans pointed their cellphones to the moon through the band’s own digital app by using augmented-reality technology.

Superblood Wolfmoon also serves as the second taste of Pearl Jam’s upcoming album, Gigaton — their first record in seven years.

It’s the second of 12 brand new original tracks from the Josh Evans-produced record, including the yet-to-be-released songs Seven O’Clock, Retrograde and River Cross.

Gigaton, the long-awaited 11th studio album by Pearl Jam, is scheduled for a March 27 release worldwide.

On the album as a whole, longtime Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament said in a press release, “I can’t tell you how proud I am about this group of songs.”

“As you know,” he added, “we took our time and that benefited us taking more chances.”

For additional band updates or additional tour dates, you can visit the official Pearl Jam website.

Superblood Wolfmoon and Dance of the Clairvoyants are now available through all major streaming platforms.

Ahead of Gigaton’s release this spring, Pearl Jam will play four concerts in four Canadian cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Hamilton, Ont.

Tickets for the highly-anticipated events are now on sale, with only select tickets remaining for each show.

Pearl Jam’s 2020 Canadian tour dates:

March 18 — Toronto, Ont. @ Scotiabank Arena
March 20 — Ottawa, Ont. @ Canadian Tire Centre
March 22 — Quebec City, Que. @ Videotron Centre
March 24 — Hamilton, Ont. @FirstOntario Centre

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Victoria police seek victims of B.C. group charged with human trafficking in Saskatchewan

Victoria police are appealing to potential victims of an alleged human trafficking ring to come forward.

The appeal comes several weeks after four Vancouver Island residents were arrested in Swift Current, Sask., on suspicion of human trafficking.

Swift Current RCMP says it stopped the group, which was speeding along Highway 1 in a three-vehicle convoy, on Jan. 28.

Police became suspicious when they discovered two young female passengers with no ID who were being transported in separate vehicles with tinted windows.

Shawn Alexander Kelly, a 23-year-old Victoria man, Shermineh Sheri Ziaee, a 36-year-old Langford woman, and her two sons Seyed Kourosh Miralinaghi, 19, and Seyed Kamran Miralinaghi, both 19-year-old Victoria residents, are now facing a variety of human trafficking-related charges.

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Watch harrowing rescue of women buried by avalanche

When an avalanche hit on a slope in Switzerland, two experienced snowboarders knew what to do.

Verbier resident Victor Liebenguth was snowboarding near Col du Creblet on Jan. 30 when the worst happened — mounds of powdery snow slid down the side of the mountain, trapping two female sports enthusiasts under its weight.

With a camera attached to his helmet, Liebenguth approached where one of the athletes was trapped, quickly digging the first woman out from under the snow.

In the harrowing footage, originally shared on Liebenguth’s Instagram account, the woman can be heard saying: “Find my friend.”

Her companion was buried 70 metres downhill from her.

As “the first on-site,” Liebenguth and his group of friends immediately started to do “beacon research” to find others buried under the snow.

A beacon check refers to a life-saving technique that allows first responders to pick up on peoples’ locations when they’re buried or not immediately visible. Beacon devices can be worn in a harness or in a pocket, according to Outdoor Research.

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