Provinces are cautiously beginning to allow businesses and services to reopen from their pandemic lockdowns, but the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed for at least another 30 days.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the agreement to extend the closure during his daily news conference today.
Both countries reached an agreement in March to temporarily close the border to non-essential travel — meaning no recreational visits — while keeping it open to commercial traffic and essential workers who cross for work.
That agreement was extended in April by 30 days and it was set to expire on May 21.
Trudeau said the provinces expressed a “clear desire” to keep the border closed because of the threat of COVID-19 cases moving north. He said the Americans were “completely open” to extending the closure.
Asked when Canada might reopen to international visitors, Trudeau said the government is making decisions week-to-week based on a rapidly changing situation.
“Every step, we have to make the right decisions based on the circumstances,” he said.
Trudeau said that even after travel restrictions are eased up, strong measures must be in place to limit the spread of the virus and to ensure visitors don’t become vectors for the spread of COVID-19.
Watch: Canada-U.S. border will remain closed for another 30 days: Trudeau:
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that as public health measures are gradually lifted, it will be extremely important for health officials to detect and clamp down on new cases to ensure the health care system isn’t overwhelmed. She said efforts to manage the spread of the virus have been assisted by the reduction in the number of international travellers coming to Canada.
“If there is increased volume, we want to make sure that we have the safety of Canadians top of mind. So we want to make sure we not only keep up but also strengthen some of those measures,” she said, adding that the mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals remains a “cornerstone” of federal pandemic policy going forward.
Watch: Dr. Theresa Tam on the 14-day quarantine rule
Epidemiology vs. economy
Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University, said the border likely will remain closed for several months.
Because economic recovery will require virus testing with rapid and accurate responses and minimal quarantine requirements, he said, governments will prioritize tests for their own citizens first and foreigners second.
“If millions of people cross the border, those millions of tests should be used to ensure the domestic situation is secure first. That type of volume is still months away and, therefore, so is the border opening,” he said.
“This pandemic is the ultimate economics tradeoff: epidemiology versus the economy. Focus on one excessively and it damages the other. For now, the focus has been on the former. We have now reached a point where politicians are turning toward the latter, but not enough that they will risk domestic health for the benefits of access to the foreign economy.”
Trudeau also announced today the government is expanding the eligibility rules for the interest-free loan program for small businesses, giving businesses without payrolls access to government-backed loans of up to $40,000 each.
A quarter of the loan is forgivable.
Expanded access to small business loans
Changes to the Canada emergency business account (CEBA) mean the program is now available to:
- Sole proprietors who draw income from their businesses.
- Businesses that rely on contractors.
- Family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.
Applicants that have a payroll of less than $20,000 need a business operating account at a financial institution, a Canada Revenue Agency business number and a 2018 or 2019 tax return to apply.
They must also have non-deferrable expenses — such as rent, property taxes, utilities and insurance — of between $40,000 and $1.5 million.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said the announcement is good news for family businesses that pay themselves in dividends, for gyms and others that employ contractors, and for those that rent chairs, such as salons.
“It is critical that this expansion of the program be rolled out as quickly as possible, as the firms that were excluded have gone two months with little assistance and are now facing another rent deadline of June first,” CFIB said in a release.
“With many provinces now looking towards reopening their economies, small businesses will need ongoing support to get through the months ahead.”
CFIB has asked the government to boost the amount for the loans, as well as the portion that’s forgivable, because many businesses face a long recovery period.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the announcement addresses its criticism of the previous eligibility rules — that they discriminated against some with different business structures, such as entrepreneurs that take income directly from their firms. But it said the requirement for firms to have a business account will disqualify many small firms that don’t have a separate account for their business.
In Ottawa for a press conference today, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said again that it’s time for Parliament to reopen as well.
He renewed his push for a scaled-down contingent of MPs to return to Ottawa on May 25, consistent with public health guidance on physical distancing.
Calling Parliament an essential service, Scheer accused Trudeau of using the global health crisis to dodge transparency and accountability as his government spends billions of dollars.
“The government must not be allowed to hide things from Canadians,” he said.
Watch: Andrew Scheer again calls for in-person meetings of Parliament
Provinces are taking more steps this week to reopen their economies.
In B.C., restaurants are now allowed to open dining rooms as long as they follow safety protocols such as providing disposable menus and maintaining distancing measures.
In Saskatchewan, stores, hairstylists and massage therapists are allowed to open under space and hygiene rules.
Ontario is also lifting some restrictions, allowing retail stores with street-facing entrances to reopen.
But Premier Doug Ford announced today that schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year.
We need to get all Canadian students online quickly in the face of pandemic uncertainty – CBC.ca
This column is an opinion by David Fowler, vice-president of marketing and communications at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) in Ottawa. He currently serves on the board of directors for Media Smarts and CENTR. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
What would you do if your internet connection suddenly stopped working? What if you couldn’t get back online for months? With millions of students across Canada forced to do their schooling from home due to COVID-19, internet access has never been more important.
Unfortunately, high-quality internet connections remain too expensive for some Canadians or are simply unavailable where they live. Meanwhile, students who need the internet more than ever have lost their sources of reliable connection through schools or public libraries.
In 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband internet a basic service and set ambitious speed targets that internet service providers (ISPs) have to make available to all Canadians.
Four years later, CRTC data shows that 11 per cent of Canadian households still do not have internet access at home. For those who that do have connections, there are massive disparities between the speeds that rural and urban households receive.
Imagine how difficult online learning, applying for college, or staying in touch with friends and family would be without a high-quality internet connection in your house. Some families and communities have had to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure their kids don’t fall behind.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, for example, has told students to hunker down in school parking lots to access free Wi-Fi if they don’t have the internet at home.
In Alberta, rural schools have set up outdoor bins for students who have no internet access to pick up and drop off hard copy assignments.
In Manitoba, the northern Garden Hill First Nation was forced to cancel the remainder of its school year, citing poor internet connectivity and lack of household computer adoption as contributing factors.
Not only are kids without reliable internet access at risk of falling behind in their education, they are putting themselves and their families’ health at risk by venturing out into the world to find an open wi-fi hotspot or pick up school work.
Obviously, education during COVID-19 would be much easier if every child had access to a high-quality internet connection. Unfortunately, connectivity isn’t the only challenge families are facing.
When it comes to bridging the digital divide, getting one internet-connected device per household is tough for many families. Getting one device per child comes at significant financial cost that is often out of reach.
Educators in rural Alberta, for example, report that access to internet-connected devices like laptops, desktop computers and phones is far from universal.
Thankfully schools, school districts, charitable organizations, and various levels of government are stepping up to deliver laptops, tablets, and other devices to students in need.
The Winnipeg School Division estimates that 40 per cent of its students don’t have access to an internet-enabled device at home, and it is looking at lending devices to students until the social distancing restrictions are relaxed.
The city of London, Ont., has distributed more than 10,000 iPads and Chromebooks to students since the pandemic began.
Before the CRTC’s landmark decision in 2016, a lot of public discussion centred on whether the internet was truly a basic service like water or electricity. At the time, skeptics said that videoconferencing and food delivery apps amounted to little more than luxuries.
Flash forward to 2020, and it’s clear that the internet is the key infrastructure holding our education system, economy, and social lives together. From this vantage point, it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has settled the “is the internet a basic service?” debate once and for all.
With concerns that widespread social distancing could continue for up to a year and that future waves of the disease could force more school closures down the road, it is essential that we do everything in our power to get all our kids online before a generation is set back.
Closing the digital divide during COVID-19 is a litmus test for internet service providers, educational institutions, and all levels of government across this country. Our children have never needed the internet more to succeed.
Canada sees lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months, 759 new cases – Globalnews.ca
The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed 31 more lives across Canada, yet the number represents the lowest daily death toll in two months.
Monday also saw just 759 new confirmed infections across only six provinces — nearly matching Sunday’s number of new cases and marking a full week with numbers below 1,000.
Canada has now seen 91,694 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Of those, 7,326 people have died and 49,739 patients have since recovered from the illness.
The last day the country saw a death toll as low as Monday’s was on April 2, when 27 people died. The number of new deaths has trended downward since Saturday, after weeks that saw an average of 100 people and more dying daily.
While the number of new cases has been trending downward since the beginning of May, the past week has seen a sharper decline since May 26, when fewer than 1,000 infections were confirmed for the first time since March 29.
Monday saw Ontario, with 404 new cases, surpass the total reported by Quebec at 295. The last time that happened was on March 22, as Quebec has regularly topped the country in new infections — often by wide margins.
Yet both provinces recorded their lowest death tolls in weeks: Quebec saw 20 more deaths, while in Ontario, 10 people died over the past 24 hours.
Nova Scotia was the only province in Atlantic Canada to report any cases Monday, and only saw one new infection.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau calls for more ‘granularity’ on COVID-19 data
In the west, Alberta announced 34 more cases, while British Columbia recorded 24 new cases — representing numbers over the past 48 hours — and one additional death. Saskatchewan also reported a new case while announcing a previously-reported case had come back negative after retesting.
Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick reported no new cases after seeing upticks in recent days. Prince Edward Island and the three northern territories have gone several weeks without new cases.
Every province and territory has now relaxed some physical distancing and economic shutdown measures, with an eye towards reopening businesses and public spaces.
The federal government is now setting its sights on contact tracing and supporting municipalities and provinces. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said Ottawa is rushing $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada’s cities.
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.25 million people and killed over 375,000 people. The United States remains the country with the most confirmed cases, at 1.8 million, while its death toll of 105,000 is also the highest globally.
Canada is currently the 14th most infected country in the world based solely on the number of cases confirmed, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Trudeau says anti-black racism is alive in Canada and 'we need to be better' – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed today to do more to end anti-black racism in Canada after days of massive street protests in U.S. and Canadian cities against police brutality.
Trudeau said racism is not a uniquely American problem and more must be done in Canada to address systemic inequalities that have long plagued black and Indigenous communities.
“We need to be better in Canada. Even though we’ve made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada,” he said. “To young black Canadians, I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry.”
He said his government has funded black community groups, supported anti-racism programming and bolstered the collection of racial data at Statistics Canada to fight against discrimination, but he promised to do more.
Watch: Justin Trudeau addresses anti-black racism
Protests have erupted in major North American cities in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Floyd, 46, died a week ago after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for just over eight minutes. His death was caught on video and swiftly went viral around the world.
All four responding officers were fired. The officer who pinned Floyd to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the video of George Floyd’s death “chilling” and “painful” and called on Canadians to channel the anger they feel over his death into action against injustice here in Canada.
Singh said Canadian police need more “de-escalation” training so routine police stops don’t turn deadly for racialized Canadians.
Singh started his political career in provincial politics and led a fight against the police policy of random street stops of minorities, known as ‘carding’.
“We need to tackle the injustice in the criminal justice system — the over-policing of black bodies and black lives,” he said.
Watch: Jagmeet Singh calls for criminal justice reform
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was “heartbroken” to see the video of Floyd’s death.
“No one should ever feel unsafe around police officers who must uphold the law for all, or feel unsafe because of the colour of their skin. We all have a responsibility to fight anti-black racism,” he said.
Watch: Andrew Scheer says he’s ‘heartbroken’
Some of the protests demanding fair treatment from police have turned violent. A number of cities have been hit by looting and rioting.
In Montreal Sunday night, vandals broke into a music store and stole guitars, while others defaced buildings with graffiti.
Trudeau condemned the violence, saying it distracts from calls for an end to institutional racism.
“They do not represent the peaceful protesters who are standing up for very real issues in Canada,” he said.
Asked whether his own history of wearing blackface diminishes his ability to provide moral leadership on the problem of anti-black racism, Trudeau said he has “spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people.”
“We need to focus on doing better every single day, regardless of what we did or hadn’t done in our past,” he added.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian, said in a tweet Sunday that he has “heard from people who have said that we should not worry about what is happening in the U.S. because that is not our problem.”
But he said racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” and he asked other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”
He said black Canadians are disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers have every reason to be anxious when they’re pulled over by a police officer.
“Check the unconscious bias around you and within you,” Hussen said.
That tweet received an angry response from Ed Ammar, a former chairperson of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, who tweeted at Hussen: “Don’t bring this to Canada you f—ing loser.”
Tweeting a video of the destruction in Montreal, Ammar, a Lebanese-Canadian immigrant, said: “Don’t bring what’s happening in the U.S. across the borders.”
Hussen addressed Ammar’s comments in an interview with CBC News Monday. “I publicly invite Mr. Ammar to call me,” he said.
FIFA calls on organizers not to sanction in-game gestures supporting George Floyd – CBC.ca
A new free-to-play game from Tencent is poised to be the next billion-dollar franchise – CNBC
Calls intensify for public inquiry into Nova Scotia mass murders – TheChronicleHerald.ca
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