Canada updates thread - virus related (indoor hobby stimulus)

Ontario releases list of essential workplaces that can remain open amid COVID-19 outbreak

INTRO: Workplaces that have been deemed "non-essential" or "at-risk" have until the end of Tuesday to close up shop. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has ordered all non-essential stores and services to close at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. "While this was a difficult decision, we trust that Ontario's business leaders will be able to promote safety while carrying out business and protecting jobs," Ford said in a news release on Monday.

"The grocery store clerks, transit and hydro workers and truckers are out there on the front lines making sure the people of Ontario continue to have access to the products and services they need. It is essential that their workplaces be kept as safe as possible so these local heroes can return home to their families worry free."

List of Essential Workplaces... (MORE - the list)

Alberta gun owners stocking up on ammunition during COVID-19 pandemic

INTRO: The panic buying in Alberta has seen everything from pasta to toilet paper get snapped up in record numbers. And now, some are turning to stockpiling guns and ammunition.

Martin Tinney, owner of Swamp Donkey Outdoors north of Spruce Grove, west of Edmonton, says he's been working around the clock to keep up with the demand. "Right now, nobody wants hunting rifles, they want shotguns, they want defenders, that's what they want," said Tinney, who has been supplying hunters and target shooters for nearly 17 years in the Edmonton area.

He says his store saw gun owners stockpiling ammunition more than a year ago, as rural Albertans loaded up on ammunition to protect their property from what he says is a rise in rural crime due to the slumping economy... (MORE)
Government streamlines, expands COVID-19 benefits program

INTRO: The federal government has streamlined the COVID-19 emergency benefits program and says Canadians struggling financially can now expect payments within weeks. The application process is scheduled to open in early April, with income support payments amounting to about $2,000 a month expected to flow about 10 days later. The benefits will be available for four months.

The government is streamlining the financial support regime as it struggles to cope with an unprecedented volume of employment insurance claims. The new program collapses two previously announced benefits — the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit — into one.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) offers income support for up to 16 weeks to those who lose pay because of the pandemic. A government news release says the "simpler and more accessible" program will cover Canadians who lost their jobs, got sick, are under quarantine or have to stay home because of school closures.

It's available to wage earners, contract workers and self-employed people who don't qualify for employment insurance (EI)... (MORE)

How sick Canadian travellers are masking COVID-19 symptoms to get through airport screening

INTRO: Canadians desperate to return home from abroad in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic are easily circumventing air travel screening aimed at preventing sick and infected passengers from boarding planes, CBC News has found. Some are simply hiding symptoms from officials to ensure they can get back home. CBC News has found a number of instances where sick travellers have boarded airplanes back to Canada, no matter the risks of spreading infection... (MORE)

Parliament passes Ottawa's $107 billion COVID-19 aid package

INTRO: The government and opposition parties in Parliament have passed an $107 billion aid package bill to help Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic — legislation that will boost access to employment insurance and other programs that will flow money to workers and businesses in need. The House of Commons passed the legislation early Wednesday morning after a late night of tense negotiations to limit the Liberal government's ability to spend more money without parliamentary approval.

The Senate heard from Finance Minister Bill Morneau Wednesday, who painted a grim picture of the state of the Canadian economy — saying it was essential for Parliament to approve a plan to get money to Canadians in need as a time when hundreds of thousands of workers are facing unemployment.

Morneau said Canada is suffering an "enormous" number of job losses right now, but the government hopes and expects those losses will be temporary. Morneau was taking questions from senators who wanted details on how the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit would actually work. Under the legislation, Morneau said, workers would have access to as much as $2,000 a month for four months... (MORE)
Alcohol must keep flowing during pandemic to prevent serious withdrawal

INTRO: Making sure alcohol is available may not seem like a necessity during a public health emergency, but it can be a matter of life or death for those with severe addiction. So far, Manitoba liquor stores remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Ontario liquor stores were deemed to be an essential service under a broad public health order that forced every non-essential workplace to shut down.

"If we were to cut off that alcohol, we know that [people with alcohol addiction] may get into withdrawal symptoms," said CBC's medical columnist, Dr. Peter Lin. "You can have terrible seizures," he said. "People can collapse. They could go into all sorts of hallucinations."

Mild withdrawal symptoms include feeling jittery, insomnia and slight nausea, but severe symptoms can result in hospitalization or death. (MORE)

Fort McMurray mayor says 'time to act decisively' on keeping COVID-19 away

INTRO: The mayor of Fort McMurray says the northeastern Alberta city and surrounding communities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because tens of thousands of workers travel from across Canada to work in the oilsands.

Don Scott proposed several aggressive measures to respond to the pandemic during a virtual city council meeting on Tuesday, including an order that residents stay in their homes except to access essential services. Councillors voted against debating his motion. "I'd rather be accused of doing too much than too little," he said in an interview Wednesday. "This is the time to act decisively."

Oilsands operators rely on workers from across the country who fly to sites and stay there for several days or weeks at a time. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo's 2018 census said its shadow population was nearly 37,000 out of an overall head count of nearly 112,000.

Scott has long been critical of industry work camps, saying they are not conducive to building a "sustainable community." The mayor said he's pleased industry is taking rigid measures against the virus, but his motion called for assurances that camps are only allowing essential workers.

Wood Buffalo has two confirmed cases of COVID-19. Scott said he's worried about outside workers bringing more cases into the region "and then the hospital and the local community is the one that has to react to it. (MORE)
Canada 'strongly opposed' to U.S. stationing troops near shared border

INTRO: The Canadian government says it's "strongly opposed" to the idea of sending American troops to the border to intercept illegal migrants as part of that country's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is an entirely unnecessary step, which we would view as damaging to our relationship," said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland today following the first public reports. Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we've made that opposition very, very clear to our American counterparts. At the end of the day, every country takes it own decisions but ours is an important and valued partnership and we are making clear Canada's position."

As first reported by Global News, White House officials are actively discussing putting soldiers near the Canadian border because of border security concerns related to COVID-19 — raising diplomatic tensions on both sides of the border. (MORE)

CMHC to take more mortgages off banks' books to free up cash for loans amid COVID-19 crisis

INTRO: The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is expanding the number of insured mortgages it is willing to buy from banks to give the banks more freedom to lend out more money to consumers and businesses and keep the economy humming. The taxpayer-funded agency, which backstops the vast majority of Canada's housing market by insuring the loans that finance them, announced earlier this month it was willing to take up to $50 billion worth of loans off of banks' books.

On Thursday, the CMHC announced it would expand that mortgage-buying program to $150 billion. "This action will expand the stable funding available to banks and mortgage lenders in order to ensure continued lending to Canadian consumers and businesses," the agency said in a statement. (MORE)

As civil liberties erode, Canada must not allow COVID-19 outbreak to infect the rule of law

EXCERPT: . . . Only an authoritarian government could implement such liberty-infringing measures, right? Yet the premier of Nova Scotia announced strict legal measures Sunday to enforce isolation and social distancing, measures that include fines and even potential imprisonment. He said, "a failure to follow public guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 puts our civil liberties at risk."

That statement might have struck some as counter-intuitive or something of an oxymoron. We usually see our civil liberties as being a bulwark against state action that seeks to deprive us of our rights and freedoms, such as the right to liberty, and the freedoms to assemble in public places and associate with our friends, families and colleagues. And yet here was a provincial premier claiming that these new laws — laws that would do just that — are in effect civil libertarian measures.

Similar measures to counter COVID-19's transmission are now in place or expected at all levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal. Provincial and local governments are cracking down on people who are not following social distancing or quarantine rules to try to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

This raises legitimate legal questions – how far can the state go to erode our civil liberties in the name of protecting them? And where does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which applies to federal, provincial and municipal laws, stand in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A declaration of a local, provincial, or federal emergency does not in and of itself suspend the operation of the Charter. Our fundamental Charter rights currently remain in place, and all laws and government actions aimed at tackling the pandemic still need to be compliant with the Charter. [...] How much further might the government go?

There is now much talk of social unrest. Scuffles have broken out in grocery stores that ran short of items [...] Desperate people sometimes take desperate measures. If the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and poses an even greater threat to our society, we can expect government measures increasingly to infringe on our civil liberties if needed to deal with unrest.

Is a total lock-down in our future? Unrestricted state spying or surveillance? Suspension of habeas corpus? Martial law?

It seems safe to say that Canadians are in uncharted territory, and that includes our governments.... (MORE - details)
Living as close as I do to the NY state border I'm ok if Trump uses whatever means possible including troops to stop the spread, especially a secure border. Unbelievably as it may sound and considering our nearness to the USA (The world passes through here) there have been no reported cases of covid in our municipal area....yet. I don't want to be the first.
(Mar 26, 2020 08:29 PM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: Living as close as I do to the NY state border I'm ok if Trump uses whatever means possible including troops to stop the spread, especially a secure border. Unbelievably as it may sound and considering our nearness to the USA (The world passes through here) there have been no reported cases of covid in our municipal area....yet. I don't want to be the first.

Where's John Candy when they need him? (Incredibly, I'm not sure I've ever seen "Canadian Bacon", so I might be way off base with that one having anything to do with border relations.)

Yep, figures... I see he actually played an American who made offensive remarks about Canadian beer.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have fled their home in Canada over fears about coronavirus. (Hollywood --> safer???)

INTRO: The royal couple reportedly took a private jet to Los Angeles before borders shut because of the growing threat of the virus. They will start a new life with their baby son Archie in Hollywood. "Harry and Meghan have left Canada now for good," a source told The Sun.

"The borders were closing and flights were stopping. They had to get out. But this move was planned for some time. They realised Canada would not work out for various reasons and they want to be based in the Los Angeles area. They have a big support network there. It's where their new team of Hollywood agents and PRs and business managers are based. Meghan has lots of friends there and, of course, her mum Doria."

The source claims the couple's dramatic move has "stunned and horrified" other members of the Royal Family, who are said to have been under the impression Harry and Meghan would consider a return to Britain amid the pandemic. (MORE)

What’s Going on With Canadian Energy Stocks?

INTRO: The coronavirus has pretty much taken over headlines as of late. The COVID-19 virus has sent stocks plummeting as the world basically shuts down all non-essential services. Yet if COVID-19 weren’t in the picture, the sole focus on investors right now would be on energy stocks.

Oil and gas stocks have crashed with the recent news coming from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Russia announced it would not be cutting back its production of oil and gas, and Saudi Arabia took it one step further announcing it would be increasing its production.

This has sent both gas and share prices to lows not seen in years, if not decades. West Texas Intermediate crude oil sunk to $20 a barrel, the biggest loss in almost two decades. (MORE)

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Canadian Crude Is So Cheap It Costs More to Ship It Than Buy It

Canadian heavy crude has become so cheap that the cost of shipping it to refineries exceeds the value of the oil itself, a situation that may result in even more oil-sands producers shutting operations.

Food industry will never be the same after COVID-19, expert says

EXCERPT: Panic-buying toilet paper, sanitizing grocery carts and holing up at home might seem like temporary measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. But an expert in the food-supply chain says the coronavirus could change the grocery industry in Canada forever. Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, said he thinks the fear-driven buying we’ve seen over the past few weeks is because “people have lost the ability to plan in advance and just don’t know what two weeks of food looks like.”

He also thinks grocery stores are doing remarkably well, despite the fact many are struggling to keep their shelves filled. [...] He said he thinks grocery store operations may change permanently — not necessarily to the same extent as current changes, but they certainly won’t go back to the way they were... (MORE)

A huge health risk': First Nations pressured to hold elections amid COVID-19 pandemic, say experts

INTRO: First Nations are being pressured by the federal government to hold elections in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, say legal experts and band officials. One Saskatchewan First Nation is going ahead Friday despite pleas from its own emergency management team to postpone for 30 days. "They're forcing First Nations into a really awful dilemma. This is a huge health risk," said lawyer Maggie Wente, whose Ontario firm works with Indigenous communities across Canada.

A number of First Nations across the country are scheduled to go ahead with their votes in the coming weeks. Others, such as the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, already have. A few, such as the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, are postponing.

In an internal email obtained by CBC News, Yves Denoncourt, acting director in the federal government's Indigenous Governance Operations Directorate, said First Nations have the right to postpone their own elections but they aren't allowed to extend the terms of the current leaders. "At the end of the mandate, a First Nation will find itself dealing with a governance gap," Denoncourt wrote in the email sent to more than two dozen government staff last week.
Officials instructed to clean tables 'every 5-10 voters'

Denoncourt outlines steps for First Nations to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. Election officials should supply 50 pens and pencils, and clean them after each use; voters should be encouraged to bring their own pens and pencils; and voting tables and screens should be cleaned "every 5-10 voters."

Up to 50 people will be allowed into each polling station, although Denoncourt noted any stricter provincial orders would take priority. In Saskatchewan, for example, gatherings of more than 10 people were banned starting Thursday. Wente said many of her client First Nations are calling her in a panic. They don't want to put people at risk, especially elders. But they are confused and afraid by the federal rules, she said.

They wonder if the federal government will refuse to deal with their community in the event of a "governance gap," delaying or halting life-saving supplies or economic relief, Wente said. "I mean it sounded very threatening," Wente said. "'We're not going to accept your government if you decide to extend your own term and so you should take sanitizer and pencils to the polls,' which had a real kind of, 'Let them eat cake,' attitude, which I found really distasteful." (MORE)
A third of Canadians hospitalized for COVID-19 under age 40

INTRO: Almost one-third of the people in hospital for COVID-19 are under the age of 40, Canada’s chief public health officer says. “I am reminding Canadians not to underestimate the severity of this disease,” Dr. Theresa Tam told a news conference Saturday, noting there are now 55 deaths and 5,153 confirmed cases from testing across the country. “The devastating impact of COVID-19 is evident in Europe and parts of the United States.”

The rate of hospitalization has ticked up to 7 per cent from 6 per cent in the last couple of days, and the percentage of patients who are critically ill is up about half a point to 3, while fatalities remain stable at 1 per cent. “We continue to keep an eye on the severity of the disease because, although there will be day-to-day fluctuations, the sustained trend of increased severity could point to a higher rate of infections in vulnerable populations or that the health system is being overwhelmed,” Tam said. (MORE)
Trudeau pledges more help for vulnerable Canadians struggling with coronavirus crisis

INTRO: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more help is on the way for Canadian youth and seniors struggling with staying at home and accessing critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his daily address on Sunday, the prime minister first delivered a message to youth across the country, acknowledging for many Canadians "home isn't a safe place to be" and that for "many more, they have no place to go at all."

The federal government has pledged $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide mental health support to children and youth impacted by school closures and reduced access to social support and community resources. The government will also boost aid for Canadian seniors, contributing $9 million through United Way Canada to help the country's older population get groceries, medication and other critical items.

The aid will also go toward assessing seniors' individual needs and connecting them to the necessary community resources.  The new relief measures come on top of previous commitments to assist Canadians experiencing homelessness, as well as those relying on women's shelters, sexual assault centres and similar facilities in Indigenous communities. (MORE)

'Do something now:' Inmate's wife calls for release of non-violent offenders

EXCERPT: . . . Infusino-Tomei says people like her 33-year-old husband — who have no other criminal history, were convicted of a non-violent crime and have a safe place to stay — should be released from prison, where she fears COVID-19 would spread uncontrollably. “There is no excuse for making bad decisions,” she says. “He is paying his dues. He plead guilty from the onset and he was a man from the beginning by standing up and facing the music.”

But she says prisoners are unable to self-isolate and have limited access to hygiene and sanitary products, so sending those who are not a risk to public safety may be the best thing during a pandemic. “We know mass quarantines don’t work because of those people left on cruise ships for weeks at a time,” Infusino-Tomei says. “If something like that happens in prison, it’s going to be far more dangerous, far more catastrophic on a far larger scale.”

[...] In a statement, the Correctional Service of Canada says measures such as a contingency planning for food, supplies and necessary medical equipment has been adopted. “CSC has taken full inventory of existing personal protective equipment supplies and has worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada to purchase additional supplies as necessary,” it says. “We have also distributed additional soap, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer to staff and inmates and we are educating staff and inmates on the prevention and spread of illness, including the importance of good hygiene practices.”

The CSC, as well as the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, says there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the federal system. But, the province of Ontario confirmed Thursday that an inmate and corrections officer at the South Toronto Detention Centre tested positive. Saskatchewan announced Friday that two workers at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre also contracted the virus. (MORE - details)

COVID-19 financial questions: deferring payments, mortgages and investment opportunities

INTRO: As many Canadians are facing tough questions surrounding their financial stability amid the COVID-19 crisis, Global News reached out to experts for advice. They say there are things you can to do ease the financial burden... (MORE)

TORONTO — Canada is effectively nationalizing many private payrolls by offering businesses large and small a 75% wage subsidy for their employees amid the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says businesses that have seen a 30% decrease in revenue are eligible. The prime minister says the government will cover up to 75% of salary on the first 58,700 Canadian dollars (US$41,455) that is earned. That means up to $847 Canadian (US$598) a week. Trudeau did not put put a price tag on it or say how long it would last but he called it a bridge to better times.

Ontario could run out of medical supplies in two weeks if there's a COVID-19 surge

EXCERPT: Ontario's ability to give frontline medical workers crucial equipment will be "severely challenged" if there's a "massive surge" of COVID-19 cases in the next two weeks, Premier Doug Ford said Monday. Last week, Health Minister Christine Elliott denied reports of equipment shortages on the frontline of the pandemic.

But speaking to reporters by teleconference, Ford repeated pleas for residents to stay home as much as possible, saying that limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus would buy the province more time to get crucial personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers. [...] Ford said officials are working day and night to procure more medical supplies, even as shortages hamper pandemic response efforts worldwide. Some Ontario manufacturers are now repurposing their equipment to make PPE, and "millions" of pieces are expected soon, he said. (MORE - details)

Major residential landlords signal flexibility for tenants in need during outbreak

INTRO: Some of Canada’s biggest landlords say they’re committed to working with tenants who have lost their job because of the coronavirus pandemic. The signals come as efforts to contain the outbreak have led to huge business disruptions and surging unemployment levels that have made many Canadians worried about how they will pay next month’s rent.

The unprecedented times have led some tenants to call for an all-out rent strike, but major rental companies are urging those who are able to pay their rent to do so, while offering assistance to tenants who find themselves in need.

Mark Kenney, CEO of Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, says the company is committed to working with those who have suddenly lost their job, and is “violently against” evicting anyone who’s in distress. He says, however, that he’s worried about the roughly 80 per cent of landlords in Canada who are small-scale owners of units who won’t have the same flexibility... (MORE - details)

Charities seek extra help from feds to keep services running as revenues dry up

INTRO: Canada’s charities say they have begun laying off staff and shutting down their services, which are usually in high demand during economic downturns, as the sector feels the financial sting from COVID-19. Now the almost 86,000 registered charities in Canada are looking to the federal government to help, with multiple groups calling for immediate cash injections.

Estimates from Imagine Canada, a charity that promotes the work other charities do, suggest donations will drop between $4.2 billion and $6.3 billion, and that between 117,000 and 195,000 workers could be laid off depending on the length of the COVID-19 crisis.

There was some help for the sector on Monday when the Liberals announced that charities would qualify for a 75 per cent wage subsidy to help retain workers, so long as they have seen revenues drop by one-third due to COVID-19. But other programs in the form of loans may be more difficult to access because charities can lack collateral. (MORE)

24,000 Canadian military members ready to respond — if asked — to COVID-19 crisis

INTRO: The federal government has mobilized 24,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces — nearly one-quarter of all regular and reserve members — to help provincial and municipal authorities who may need support during the novel coronavirus pandemic with everything from delivering supplies to assisting civilian authorities enforcing quarantine orders.

So far, no provincial government has asked for the help of the Armed Forces, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, said Monday that the Canadian Forces have been planning and preparing for the day when those requests might be made. “We will be there. We’re ready to help,” Sajjan said.

In the meantime, the single biggest task for the CAF’s 67,492 regular service members over the last several weeks has been to stay healthy. Training exercises have been postponed or cancelled, recruiting programs have been put on pause and orders have been in place for weeks now for CAF members to practise social distancing. (MORE)

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