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Hidden cameras capture deceptive tactics used to sell overpriced HVAC contracts
A joint CBC Marketplace/Go Public investigation using hidden cameras is exposing the deceitful tactics being used to trick consumers into overpriced long-term rental contracts for new heating and cooling equipment — and more.
A Marketplace producer went undercover, posing as a homeowner, to test what is behind the flood of complaints coming in from across the country, despite government attempts to fix the problem.
Legal experts say what was uncovered is typical of the way some HVAC rental companies work, costing homeowners far more than the equipment is worth and leaving many with liens against their properties they know nothing about.
"It is a scam. The entire business model is predicated on deception," said Dennis Crawford, a lawyer in Stratford, Ont., who has dozens of clients fighting to get out of these contracts.
"Over and over, I see homeowners who … pay $10,000 or $20,000 to buy out a water softener that they could have bought at a hardware store for $2,500."
Alberta and Ontario banned door-to-door sales of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) products in 2017 and 2018 respectively, but complaints and consumer protection charges continue to pile up.
Many complaints come from Ontario, where the province's ban seemingly did not stop homeowners from getting sucked in. Read more on this story here.
Novak Djokovic faces deportation after Australia revokes visa for 2nd time
(Martin Keep/AFP via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session today ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to revoke the 34-year-old's visa on public interest grounds three days before the tournament is to begin. Djokovic now faces the prospect of deportation again. His lawyers are expected to appeal the decision, as they successfully did after it was cancelled the first time. Read more on this story here.
All truck drivers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated as of Saturday, regardless of whether they are Canadian citizens or foreign nationals, the federal government said Thursday. Confusion over the controversial policy has been widespread since the federal government first announced in mid-November that by Jan. 15, all foreign nationals working as truckers would have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. The same announcement said unvaccinated Canadian truckers would be allowed in, but would be subject to quarantine and testing requirements. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said the federal government was backing down from that commitment and would allow Canadian truckers to enter the country without having to quarantine even if they were unvaccinated or had received only one dose. Yesterday, the federal government walked back that statement, saying that Wednesday's statement was "provided in error" and that the regulations outlined in November will stand. Read more on this story here.
The daycare sector has pivoted multiple times during the pandemic, adopting new health and safety protocols and overhauling different operations. However, the Omicron variant has thrown a significant wrench into the industry that cares for Canada's youngest, who don't always get as much attention as their school-aged peers. Facing a "hyper-contagious" variant that's worsening pre-existing staff shortages as well as fast-changing isolation requirements and reduced access to COVID-19 PCR testing, daycare operators, staff and parents are sounding the alarm. Montreal parent Diana Dacosta believes daycare is vital to Canada's workforce. Though it was shuttered for a few months at the very start of the pandemic, the Montreal dental office where Dacosta works hasn't closed since. Her four-year-old daughter, Sofia, spends most of the day at daycare. "If [daycare staff] weren't here for us … everyone would be at home," Dacosta said. "I think they're angels on Earth." Read more about the challenges facing daycares.
Canada has an "amazing opportunity" to lead a coalition of smaller countries in demanding accountability from Facebook, says former employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen. "If you can get together 100 million, 200 million people — you know, countries — you will be able to force change from Facebook," said Haugen, who left her role as a product manager at the social media giant last May and disclosed thousands of internal company documents to the media. Haugen has accused Facebook of putting profits before the well-being of its users — from failing to protect children and their mental health, to fuelling misinformation and inciting political violence. She's also called for stricter government oversight to address these problems. "I have faith that Canada could be a leader in driving that change," she told The Current's Matt Galloway. Read more from the interview with Haugen.
Volunteer parents could be asked to supervise Quebec classrooms if too many teachers fall sick with COVID-19, the province's Education Ministry says. In a set of guidelines released Thursday, the ministry ordered schools to develop contingency plans for a "very large number" of anticipated teacher absences after elementary and high school students return to in-person learning on Monday. "The objective is to keep students in school safely, despite the high rate of anticipated absenteeism among school personnel," the ministry said. It suggests schools be ready to quickly replace teachers by keeping a list of people to call in as reinforcements, which could include "parent volunteers." Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said parents will not be expected to be substitute teachers. They would be asked, as a last resort, to keep an eye on classrooms, he said. Read more on this story here.
The Queen's move yesterday to strip Prince Andrew of all his military titles and royal patronages has left three Canadian regiments without a patron. Andrew was the honorary colonel-in-chief of the Cambridge, Ont.-based Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, the Princess Louise Fusiliers, based in Halifax, and the Queen's York Rangers, which has armouries in Toronto and Aurora, Ont. The loss of Andrew's military titles and patronages came after a U.S. district judge's refusal on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit against the prince by Virginia Giuffre, who sued him in August, saying she was coerced into sexual encounters with him when she was 17 in 2001 by the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell. Read the full story here.
More and more jurisdictions, including Quebec, Vancouver and New York City, are taking steps to ban fossil fuel heating and touting electrification to cut emissions, slow climate change and reach net-zero targets. Meanwhile, the province of Ontario is building new natural gas heating infrastructure to serve more customers and communities, including some that have been relying on electric heat until now. And it's making existing customers subsidize that expansion. This past June, the province announced $234 million to support 8,750 new gas connections (a cost of $26,285.71 per connection) in rural, northern and Indigenous communities. The funding will come from a surcharge of $1 per month to existing natural gas customers, which includes 3.6 million homes and 160,000 businesses. The government says the goal is to lower energy costs for families, businesses and farmers, since natural gas is "more affordable than other sources such as electricity, oil or propane." But critics say switching more people to gas heating is not the best solution when Canada is aiming for the entire country to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Read more from the latest edition of What on Earth?
Now for some good news to start your Friday: A chef who used to be homeless in Fredericton has teamed up with a local pet groomer to help people who are living outside in tents. Gill Hastings and Angela Hopkins are the people behind the unregistered charity the Homie Project. Twice a week they deliver meals and supplies to about 30 people living in camps in the city. "These people are in a bad situation, and I can sympathize with it because I was there," said Hasting. Read more about the project here.
Front Burner: Pros, cons of Quebec's proposed anti-vax tax
This week, Quebec Premier François Legault announced a new reason for people to get their jabs: His government would place a significant tax on the unvaccinated. The announcement came a day after Legault accepted the resignation of the province's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda — leading some to ask if this bold plan was merely a distraction from the political strife within the province.
CBC Montreal's Sarah Leavitt explains what exactly has been going on in Quebec under the Omicron wave. We then talk about the tax and if it's even a good idea. For some frustrated with people who won't get the shot, the controversial proposal was welcome news. But bioethics scholar Bryn Williams-Jones at Université de Montréal disagrees. He tells us why, in his view, this kind of tax is a legal and moral minefield.
Today in history: January 14
1878: Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the telephone to Queen Victoria, who speaks with her friend, Sir Thomas Biddulph. It was the U.K,'s first publicly witnessed long-distance calls.
1949: The first non-stop trans-Canada flight departs from Vancouver, landing in Halifax more than eight hours later.
1976: The T. Eaton Co. announces the end of its catalogue sales operation, citing losses for more than 10 years and laying off 9,000 employees.
2009: Former telecom giant Nortel Networks files for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters