Scotiabank hits pause on return-to-office plan as COVID cases jump

Canada’s third-largest bank had planned to start a phased return-to-office plan for head-office employees who are still working remotely on Jan. 17, but that’s now on hold, spokesperson Clancy Zeifman said in an emailed statement.

“Based on the government of Ontario’s latest guidance, Scotiabank is pausing its plans to begin a phased and gradual return to office for employees working remotely, and will reassess timing in the new year,” Zeifman said. “We continue to make decisions based on guidance from our medical advisers, available data and in consultation with government partners.”

Ontario reported 1,536 new cases on Monday, up 73% in a week. Last week the province said it’s expanding COVID-19 booster-shot eligibility to individuals 18 and older in early January and is a vaccine mandate for many indoor businesses and activities, including restaurants.

Financial companies from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to Fidelity Investments have been pulling back on return-to-office plans in some regions in response to growing COVID-19 cases and worries about the spread of the omicron variant. Goldman told its London staff to work from home if they can, while Fidelity stopped non-essential workers from coming into some offices in the U.S. northeast.

Ottawa intends to fill charging-station deserts to encourage EV adoption

But Steimle, president of the Electric Vehicle Society, said it’s nowhere close to enough.

By 2030, the federal government wants half of all new passenger vehicles sold to be zero-emission vehicles. It wants to get to 100 per cent by 2035. In 2020, only 3.5 per cent of new vehicles were battery-only or plug-in hybrids.

Steimle said persuading Canadians to make the switch rests heavily on convincing them that there will be a charging station available when they need it and that it won’t delay their road trips.

“Studies in Europe and slowly the beginnings of studies in North America, seasoned EV owners consistently say range doesn’t matter,” Steimle told The Canadian Press. “What they care about is reliable access to fast charging.”

Natural Resources Canada has mapped out more than 15,000 publicly available electric vehicle chargers, in 6,800 locations, countrywide. About 3,000 of the chargers are DC fast, which means they can typically add between 250 and 300 kilometres of battery range in an hour.

The rest are Level 2, capable of adding about 30 kilometres of range in an hour.

For the average Canadian, who drives less than 50 kilometres a day, Level 2 chargers are more than enough. Most people could rely almost entirely on charging overnight at home.

For rural Canadians, those going on longer road trips, urban delivery drivers, taxis and the like, DC fast is the only realistic option.

But the charging network is very uneven.

Almost 85 per cent of the DC fast charging connections publicly available are in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. More than 90 per cent of the publicly available Level 2 chargers are in those three provinces.