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Bank of Canada plans to keep interest rate near zero until 2023 –



The Bank of Canada says it has no plans to change its benchmark interest rate until inflation gets back to two per cent and stays there, something it says isn’t likely to happen until 2023.

The central bank said Wednesday it has decided to keep its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25 per cent. The news was expected by economists, as although the economy is showing signs of recovering from the impact of COVID-19, things are still a long way from normal, so cheap lending will be needed for a long while yet.

The bank outlined a fairly bleak assessment of the worst case scenario when it laid out its last Monetary Report in July. But the roughly eight months since COVID-19 began in Canada have given the bank a clearer picture of how things are shaking out, even if the picture isn’t always rosy.

“With more than six months since the onset of the pandemic, the Bank has gained a better understanding of how containment measures and support programs affect the Canadian and global economies,” the bank said.

“This, along with more information on medical developments related to COVID-19, allows the bank to now make a reasonable set of assumptions to underpin a base-case forecast.”

Rocked by COVID-19, the central bank says it expects Canada’s economy will shrink by 5.7 per cent this year, but grow by 4.2 per cent next year, and 3.7 per cent in 2022. Inflation, meanwhile, is expected to be 0.6 per cent this year,
1.0 per cent next year, and 1.7 per cent in 2022.

Bank of Canada Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins and Governor Tiff Macklem spoke to reporters in Ottawa today. 2:35

Those growth and inflation projections, however, are based on two leaps of faith: that there won’t be a second — or third — widespread lockdown in Canada, and that a vaccine or some sort of effective treatment will be widely available by the middle of 2022 at the latest.

“The breadth and intensity of re-imposed containment measures, including impacts on schools and the availability of child care, could lead to setbacks,” the bank said in the quarterly Monetary Policy Report that accompanied the rate decision.

Impact on mortgages

The bank’s outlook and rate decisions have real world impact on Canadian borrowers and savers. Fixed-rate mortgages are priced based on what’s happening in the bond market, but the central bank’s rate has a direct impact on variable rate mortgages.

So telegraphing that rates are going to stay low for long presents something of a conundrums for borrowers, says James Laird, Co-founder of and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial.

“There is no wrong answer right now,” Laird said. 

“Canadians who derive value from certainty should choose a fixed rate. For Canadians who are open to a little more risk, considering a variable rate is certainly appropriate, since the Bank is committed to keeping rates where they are for at least another two years.”

Economist Sri Thanabalasingam with TD Bank says the bank made it clear on Wednesday that the road to a full recovery will be slow. 

“There’s a long way to go for the Canadian economy to emerge out of this crisis, ” Thanabalasingam said.

“The path forward is filled with uncertainty, most of which could set the recovery back a step or two, [so] the bank is set to continue to provide monetary support for many years to come.”

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Former NATO commander to lead Canada's vaccine distribution rollout – CTV News



Former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin will be leading Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts in Canada, multiple sources told CTV News.

There are already military teams working with the Public Health Agency of Canada on planning for the massive rollout. Fortin most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Canadian Joint Operations Command.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to make the announcement confirming the appointment during his press conference Friday morning.

This follows news from Health Canada’s chief medical adviser that the first COVID-19 vaccine approval could happen before Christmas, around the same time as expected approvals in the U.S. and Europe. The review of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, one of three being assessed by the agency and reportedly more than 90 percent effective, is at the most advanced stage, according to the agency’s Dr. Supriya Sharma.

With files from Rachel Aiello

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Elliott says PM's comments on vaccine timeline 'very concerning' but feds say target remains early 2021 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that recent comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggesting Canadians may have to wait longer for any approved vaccines are “very concerning” and she called on Trudeau to ensure a timeline that would see Ontario get its first doses in early 2021.

“This is very concerning and very disappointing because our understanding was that this had been finalized by the federal government. Now it appears maybe it is not,” Elliott told reporters Thursday. “So it’s really incumbent on the prime minister to stand up for Canada, and make sure that we get our share of the vaccines during the timeframes that they originally stated.”

A number of companies are currently seeking FDA approval for promising vaccines, which they could receive as early as December.

While the federal government has previously said that it has secured deals for millions of doses of the not-yet-approved vaccines, Trudeau said earlier this week that Canadians might have to wait longer to get vaccinated because we don’t have strong vaccine production capacity in Canada and the first doses will likely go to people in countries where they are produced.

Some of the leading vaccine candidates are mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine that has not been mass-produced in Canada before.

However speaking with reporters at a separate news conference Thursday, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Ottawa is still aiming to get a vaccine to some Ontarians in the first few months of next year.   

“Well, I can’t speak to where Minister Elliot is getting these ideas that Ontario will not have access to a vaccine in early 2021. In fact that’s the target that we’re shooting for,” Hajdu said.

She added that the federal government is working to procure “a diverse portfolio of a variety of different kinds of vaccines, and we are working diligently with all three of the leading manufacturers that have submitted for regulatory approval.”

Public Services and Procurement Canada said Thursday that the federal government has finalized purchase agreements with five of the seven companies it has been negotiating with, including Pfizer and Moderna, but negotiations are ongoing to finalize purchase agreements with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

Hajdu also said that while there is excitement about a possible vaccine, any vaccine distributed to Canadians will undergo a regulatory review by Health Canada first.

She also faced a grilling by opposition MPs in the House of Commons later Thursday, where she reiterated that the government has secured key agreements to get Canadians vaccines when they are available.  

Speaking with CP24, Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said even if Ontario receives doses of a vaccine in the first few months of next year, people should understand that it will not mean an immediate end to the pandemic.

“I think we all need to be cognizant of the fact that even if the vaccines were going to begin delivery and deployment early in 2021, it wasn’t going to be for the vast majority of citizens, and we were going to need to focus on all the important risk mitigation strategies that have benefited us up to this point in time, and we would need to do that for several months thereafter,” he said. “So I don’t think this fundamentally changes that much for most people in our community.”

Government officials have previously said that frontline health care workers and the most vulnerable members of the population would be the first to receive any vaccine.

Premier Doug Ford told reporters at his daily news conference Thursday that he will be seeking clarification from the Prime Minister in a conference call with the premiers later tonight.

“We need to know when,” Ford said. “This is going to be the largest logistical challenge that this country’s overseen in a generation, getting these out.”

Ford said Canada can’t be “last in line” to get a vaccine.

“We can’t have our neighbours down in the states and everywhere else getting vaccines and Canada’s waiting three months as their economy starts taking off when they have the vaccine and we’re sitting back, you know twiddling our phones wondering when we’re going to get it,” Ford said. “So we need some answers from the federal government.”

Ford said he will have more to say Friday about the province’s plan to roll out a vaccine when it is available.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday –



The latest:

Saskatchewan’s health-care system is feeling the strain as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise — and the provincial health authority is warning that some non-essential services are at risk.

The province on Thursday reported 299 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of active cases to 3,146. According to health officials, there were 108 people in hospital, with 18 in intensive care. 

“When our workload increases — particularly when it increases quickly — we are required to redeploy staff and disrupt other services,” Saskatchewan Health Authority president and CEO Scott Livingstone said Thursday.

He also urged people to cut down contacts, saying a single positive case creates hours of work for contact tracers.

“That work can grow exponentially when you factor in the number of contacts,” he said, noting that the tracing system is “under strain.” 

Dozens of the cases announced Thursday were from the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. 

“Of the cases announced today, 72 are from the Saskatoon Correctional Centre — 68 of these are offenders, and four are staff,” a health authority statement said.

The province said new admissions to the jail, which as of Thursday had seen a total of 85 active cases, are being suspended.

A range of new public health measures are now in effect in Saskatchewan, including a rule that says no more than 30 people are allowed to gather inside public venues. Large retail stores are limited to half-capacity, and no more than four people can sit together at a bar or restaurant.

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine trial mistake ‘a real setback,’ says infectious disease specialist:

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam says AstraZeneca’s dose mix-up in its COVID-19 vaccine trial is a knock to public confidence: ‘We don’t really know how well their vaccine works.’   1:52

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 353,097, with 60,375 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,799.

British Columbia health officials reported 887 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the provincial death toll to 384. Hospitalizations stood at 294, with 64 people in intensive care.

WATCH | B.C.’s deputy provincial health officer takes questions on COVID-19 in the province:

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise across B.C., Dr. Réka Gustafson answers your virus-related questions. 13:08

In Alberta, the number of active COVID-19 cases hit 14,052 on Thursday as the province reported 1,077 new cases. Hospitalizations stood at 383, with 84 people being treated in intensive care.

The numbers came as Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said she was “profoundly disappointed” over a leak of confidential information from meetings she and her colleagues held to develop recommendations on how to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The top doctor in Manitoba said roughly 70 per cent of the 266 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the province were recorded in November alone

“We can’t continue with these daily case counts,” said Dr. Brent Roussin. “We can’t continue to list off this many Manitobans lost daily.”

Manitoba reported 383 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and said there were 307 people in hospital — including 46 in intensive care.

Ontario reported another 1,478 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 21 additional deaths.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 572 of those cases were in Peel Region, and 356 were in Toronto — both of which are in the “lockdown” stage of the province’s pandemic protection plan.

The numbers also show that 556 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, with 151 in ICU.

Quebec reported 1,464 new COVID-19 infections and 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial death toll to 6,947.Health officials said hospitalizations had increased to 675, with 90 people in intensive care.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 14 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while neighbouring New Brunswick reported 12 additional cases

Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases on Thursday, while Prince Edward Island had no new cases.

Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories on Thursday. Yukon reported three new cases on Thursday, with two in Whitehorse and one in a rural community.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:50 a.m. ET

People dine while physically distancing during Thanksgiving on Thursday in Los Angeles. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

As of early Friday morning, there were more than 61.1 million cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide, with more than 39.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.

In the Americas, Americans marked a muted Thanksgiving Day holiday on Thursday, sometimes seeing family only by video after political leaders discouraged travel or large gatherings.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, said he will not take a vaccine, while the governor of Sao Paulo state floated the idea of rolling out one without approval from the national health regulator.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally is above 500 for a second straight day and the country’s prime minister is urging the public to stay at home this weekend to contain a viral resurgence.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday that people should avoid social gatherings and refrain from going out in public this weekend. South Korea has seen a spike in fresh infections since it eased tough physical distancing rules last month.

A medical worker takes samples for a COVID-19 test from a visitor at a testing station in Seoul on Friday. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities reported 569 newly confirmed infections over the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to 32,887 for the pandemic, with 516 deaths. The 583 new cases reported Thursday was the first time that South Korea’s daily tally had exceeded 500 since March.

In the Middle East, Iran on Friday announced that all government offices will effectively close and operate with only essential staff, further tightening coronavirus measures as the country struggles to contain its most widespread wave of infection yet.

Starting this Saturday — the first day of Iran’s workweek — state TV said “only those employees who need to be present will be at work” in government offices. Managers will make the call on who must still come to work. The report did not specify how long the closures would last, but asked Iranians to postpone any planned visits to government offices.

Pedestrians, mask-clad due to the coronavirus pandemic, walk past closed shops along a street in Iran’s capital Tehran on Nov, 21. The country is clamping down as cases rise. (AFP/Getty Images)

Infections have soared in recent months, and on Friday, Iran again set a record for new virus cases in a single day with 14,051 cases, bringing the total to 922,397.

Iran has also recorded more than 400 daily virus deaths since last Saturday, the same day new tightened restrictions went into effect. Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari said the death toll on Friday reached 47,095, after 406 people died since Thursday.

In Europe, Health Minister Salvador Illa said Spain will be able to vaccinate its 47 million residents against the coronavirus in three waves starting in January and ending “during the months of summer.”

Some 2.5 million people, including residents and personnel working in nursing homes and health workers, will be prioritized for the first batch of vaccines that Spain expects to administer between January and March, Illa said Friday.

He said that experts are analyzing what will be the order for vaccinating other groups in the March to June vaccination campaign and for the last batch, over the summer, depending on their risk of contagion and the availability of vaccine doses. Spain has closed contracts to purchase 140 million doses that could cover 80 million people.

In Africa, mass vaccination against COVID-19 is unlikely to start until midway through next year and keeping vaccines cold could be a big challenge, the continent’s disease control group said on Thursday.

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