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CFL asks federal government for $150 million to help cope with shutdown – CBC.ca

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The Canadian Football League is asking the federal government for up to $150 million in financial assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie told The Canadian Press on Tuesday the league’s proposal involves three phases: $30 million now to manage the impact the novel coronavirus outbreak has had on league business; additional assistance for an abbreviated regular season; and up to another $120 million in the event of a lost 2020 campaign.

“We’re like so many other businesses across Canada,” Ambrosie said. “We’re facing financial pressures unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“Our best-case scenario is we’re almost certain to have to cancel games. But at worst if this crisis persists and large gatherings are prevented, we could lose the whole season and the types of losses we could incur would be devastating.”

CBC Sports confirmed the CFL’s ask of the government. Beyond money, the CFL is looking to work with the government on several programs (tourism, broadcast, leveraging Grey Cup for example) in a way to be accountable to tax payers.

If the season is wiped out, Ambrosie said the CFL’s long-term future would be in peril.

“One of the things, I think, that the CFL and all of us who love the league pride ourselves on is we’re striving to be very optimistic,” he said. “But to be realistic, the kinds of losses could have an effect on the future of this league.”

A federal official declined to comment on the league’s proposal.

Federal wage subsidy already in place

The federal government already has introduced a $73-billion wage subsidy program to cover 75 per cent of wages for employers that have seen sharp declines in revenue since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Canada hard last month.

The wage subsidy program makes up half the roughly $145 billion in federal spending on COVID-19 countermeasures, and will cause a ripple of changes for the millions of workers who have either lost their jobs or had their hours slashed due to the crisis.

Three of the CFL’s nine teams — Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg — are community-owned. The remaining six are privately owned.

Ambrosie said the CFL is an important part of Canada’s fabric. The CFL was founded in 1958 following the merger of two previous leagues. The Grey Cup was first presented to Canada’s football champion in 1909.

Unlike many other professional leagues with Canadian teams, the CFL mandates a minimum amount of Canadian content for its rosters. Twenty-one of 46 players to dress each game must be Canadian.

“I wake up every day reminded how important this game is to Canada,” Ambrosie said. “How big a part of Canada it’s been for now 107 Grey Cups and the 108th that would be played this year.

“How many Canadians have been positively affected by this great league and also how aligned we are with Canadian values. In so many ways we are so much like this country and we want to make sure we’re around for the next generation and the generations after that to benefit from what this league has stood for.”

The Grey Cup is scheduled for Nov. 22 in Regina.

‘A lot pointing to September’ as reasonable start time

The CFL hasn’t given up on staging a 2020 season but it has postponed the start of training camps — which were to open next month. It has also pushed back the beginning of the regular season — which was to begin June 11 — to early July, at the earliest.

But many provincial governments have said there will be no sports events with large crowds this summer.

“No decisions have been made but it’s pointing us to a September start, at the earliest,” Ambrosie said.

“We’d love for things to stabilize and improve in the weeks to come and try to play sooner than that but there’s a lot pointing to September as being a reasonable person’s view of when we might be able to resume.

“But again there’s so much we don’t know at this point and so many unanswered questions that we’re just going to have let time march and then determine what’s best as we learn more.”

Ambrosie doesn’t see it as asking for a government handout. He wants the CFL to be able to give back to Canadians in other ways.

“We’ve been clear to the federal government we want to be accountable to taxpayers,” he said. “In all conversations we’ve talked about making sure the model would hold the league accountable to repaying Canadians back through community programs, tourism promotion, the Grey Cup, our digital channels.

“Anything and everything to repay the government we would be amendable to.”

Previous financial crises

This isn’t the first time the CFL has faced a financial crisis.

From 1993 to ’95, the CFL had teams in seven American markets — Las Vegas, Sacramento, Memphis, Baltimore, Birmingham, Ala., Shreveport, La., and San Antonio. The expansion fees paid by the clubs helped keep the league operating.

In 1996, the CFL faced not having enough cash to pay Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts players in the Grey Cup game. But the potential crisis was averted when Tim Hortons provided the league with extra funds.

In 2003, the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats met in the infamous Bankruptcy Bowl because neither franchise had an owner. The league did manage to secure new ownership for both clubs.

Some sports have suggested the idea of resuming play without fans. But Ambrosie said that’s a scenario that would be hard for the CFL to adopt because gate revenues are vitally important.

“It’s something we’ve explored but it isn’t a high-probability scenario,” Ambrosie said. “We’ve basically explored the landscape of all the things that sports are doing around the world and we’ve thrown those into the mix.

“We have said, ‘Let’s at least do the work to see whether that scenario would work for us.’ While many of those options don’t appear to be viable today, we’re not discarding anything because we don’t know what we’ll be facing in a week, much less a month or two from now.”

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, one of the community-owned franchises, reported in 2018 that 13 per cent of their revenue came from the CFL — with the television deal with TSN likely accounting for a large portion of that.

More than half of the team’s revenue came from game operations and concessions.

The CFL and CFL Players’ Association had been jointly discussing all possible contingency plans for the 2020 season. But a disagreement in talks last week resulted in the two sides no longer meeting.

The two sides must agree to make any modifications to the current CBA. But Ambrosie remains undeterred.

“We have an issue we didn’t agree on and that’s fine because sometimes that happens,” Ambrosie said. “But rather than poking at one another while we’ve got so many other issues to deal with, stepping away from it … and taking a deep breath to make sure when we go back to resume those discussions it’s with a clear head and the proper amount of reflection.”

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First-quarter GDP worst showing since 2009: StatCan – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s economy had its worst quarterly showing since 2009 through the first three months of 2020 owing to COVID-19, Statistics Canada said Friday, warning an even steeper drop may be coming.

Gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 8.2 per cent in the first quarter, including a 7.2-per-cent drop in March as restrictions by public health officials began rolling out, including school closures, border shutdowns and travel restrictions.

Preliminary information indicates an 11 per cent drop in GDP for April, but the statistics agency said that figure is likely to be revised as more information becomes available.

Similarly, the agency said first-quarter figures are likely to have larger than usual revisions in subsequent data releases. Some numbers had to be estimated because they were not available.

Early indications are that March and April could end up as the largest consecutive monthly declines on record.

The drastic drop in gross domestic product likely doesn’t fully reflect the experience of every Canadian, said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter, noting GDP is just one barometer of how the pandemic has affected the domestic economy.

“You don’t get the entire picture just from GDP and even from employment (figures) because policy-makers have stepped up with such unusual and aggressive actions that a lot of the common metrics just don’t apply 100 per cent in this episode,” Porter said in an interview.

The federal response to date totals about $152 billion in direct spending. The parliamentary budget officer has said that could leave the deficit at $260 billion, with a national debt north of $950 billion.

A preliminary estimate released by the Finance Department on Friday showed deficit of $21.8 billion for the fiscal year that closed in March. The figure will still be subject to revisions, which may land it closer to the government’s last estimate of $26.6 billion.

The monthly fiscal monitor also showed the debt pushed past $794.4 billion.

Many of the items adding to this year’s deficit are expected to show up in supplementary spending estimates. The documents will be scrutinized for four hours in mid-June based on the motion the adopted this week to put the Commons on extended hiatus until late September.

Budget officer Yves Giroux told a Commons committee on Friday that would provide parliamentarians little opportunity to properly scrutinize tens of billions, if not over $100 billion in proposed spending.

“It comes up as a very expensive four hours potentially for Canadian taxpayers,” he said. “The amount of scrutiny for this unprecedented spending will also be unprecedented, but for the wrong reasons.”

The latest federal spending figures showed $41.44 billion has been paid to 8.29 million people through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and $7.9 billion in wage subsidies to 181,883 companies.

MPs on the Commons finance committee were told Thursday the cost of the wage susbidy program is somewhat less than the original $73-billion estimate. Consultations are underway to understand why companies aren’t accessing the program that covers 75 per cent of salaries, subject to a cap of $847 per week, per employee.

Asked about the lopsided spending, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the subsidy will become “more and more important” as restrictions ease and businesses reopen. He also said the CERB has helped “support millions of Canadians who need help paying for groceries, paying their rent.”

Statistics Canada said household spending, a backbone of the Canadian economy, was down 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the steepest quarterly drop ever recorded.

The drop in household spending was broad, affecting goods like new cars and clothing, and services for food as bars and restaurants in particular were ordered closed. Instead, spending on going out became money spent staying in, Statistics Canada said, noting increases in household food and alcohol by 7.2 per cent and six per cent, respectively.

As a result of less spending overall, the savings rate rose for the quarter to 6.1 per cent from the 3.6 per cent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2019 with higher rates recorded at higher income levels.

The savings built up during the shutdown period could translate into extra spending as restrictions ease, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes in a note.

TD senior economist Brian DePratto wrote in a note that it isn’t unreasonable to think a modest recovery may already be forming.

“The key question is what kind of recovery? Given the significant hits to incomes and longer-lasting impacts on some industries, a marathon appears more likely than a sprint.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020.
 

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Alberta partners with fast-food restaurants to distribute 4 non-medical masks to every resident – Globalnews.ca

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The Alberta government will provide every resident with four non-medical face masks, as the province continues its phased approach to relaunch the economy.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Friday morning that the government has partnered with A&W, McDonald’s Canada and Tim Hortons to distribute the masks at the restaurants’ drive-thru locations.

The masks will be free of charge.

“Alberta is the first and so far, as far as I know, the only province that has decided to distribute masks province-wide,” Shandro said. “This program will help Albertans get back to work and enjoy everyday activities safely.”

While mask use is not mandatory, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has recommended Albertans wear a non-medical mask when two metres of physical distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transit.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Non-medical masks now recommended for Canadians, officials say

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A total of about 20 million non-medical masks will be distributed at a cost of around $20 million. Shandro said partnering with the fast-food restaurants will cut down on the distribution cost to government, which is around $350,000.

“These three partners are doing it without added expense to the Alberta taxpayer,” Shandro said.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Alberta changes PPE distribution, businesses must obtain own masks after June 30

The drive-thru pickup also provides safe physical distancing for Albertans, as people will be able to stay in their vehicles.

Shandro said the three restaurant companies have about 600 drive-thru locations in the province, and 95 per cent of Albertans live within 10 kilometres of one of these locations.

The province is working on a plan to ensure distribution of masks is possible to the remaining five per cent of the population, Shandro said.

“Even if you don’t have an A&W, a McDonald’s or a Tim Hortons in your community, you will be able to get your four masks,” he said.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Alberta government asks non-AHS staff needing PPE to request via email

The government’s distribution cost is “for us to be able to pay for the gap distribution for the other five per cent of folks who may not be able to get to a drive-thru,” according to Shandro.

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Distribution will be done on the honour system.

“We’re not asking for folks to bring in their health-care card and get a punch to show that they’re already picked up,” Shandro said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“This is on the honour system, but Albertans are responsible and they’ve shown us that. Throughout the response to this pandemic, Albertans have shown us that they are responsible.

“Obviously there may be some folks who will be unable to make their way to a drive-thru — I’m thinking about one of my parents in particular — and whether it’s me or one of my siblings who has to go pick up for my parents, that’s going to be the case. And the folks at the 600 stores, the employees, are going to just have to trust Albertans and we’re going to have to trust Albertans.”






2:54
Alberta’s Dr. Hinshaw lays out best practices for wearing face masks to slow COVID-19 spread


Alberta’s Dr. Hinshaw lays out best practices for wearing face masks to slow COVID-19 spread

The health minister stressed the three-layered, non-medical face masks are not part of the provincial supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) meant for health-care workers and first responders.

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The masks are single-use, Shandro said.

“They are not medical grade masks. We are not taking away any of the PPE from our front lines,” Shandro said.


READ MORE:
University of Alberta works with AHS to make 3D-printed face shields

In a media release from the province, all three restaurants expressed their pleasure to be part of the mask program.

“A&W is very pleased to support the government of Alberta with this great initiative. Our restaurants across the province have been quick to step up and help organize the distribution of masks, and are looking forward to welcoming Albertans at our drive-thrus,” A&W Canada president and CEO Susan Senecal said.

“McDonald’s Canada, together with our franchisees, have been committed to helping our communities throughout this pandemic. We welcome this opportunity to use our drive-thru operations to assist the Alberta government, and do the right thing for Albertans when they need us most,” said Jeff Kroll with McDonald’s Canada.

“Throughout the pandemic, the 1,500 Tim Hortons owners across Canada have been eagerly supporting their local communities and stepping up to answer calls for assistance. When we were asked by the Alberta government to help distribute masks through our drive-thrus we did not hesitate. We’re proud to have been asked to participate in this important program and do our part to help Alberta move forward on its relaunch strategy,” Tim Hortons COO Mike Hancock said.

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Tanya Doucette, a Tim Hortons owner who runs eight locations across central Alberta, said the province has asked that they not hand out the mask bags inside the restaurant, just through the drive-thru.

“They want to ensure safe social distancing, and I think because they’re worried people might show up in large numbers and queues in person, that could create risk,” Doucette said.

“We have acrylic shields in our drive-thrus and our team members are wearing non-medical grade masks, so this is a safe distance option to hand out the masks.”


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She said people must be in a vehicle, they cannot walk through the drive-thru.

“What you can do if you don’t have a vehicle or you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can ask a friend or family member to pick up your allotment of masks for you through a drive-thru location at Tim Hortons,” she said.

Representatives from McDonald’s and A&W also say that masks will only be handed out through the drive-thru, and people must be in a vehicle.

The masks have arrived and will be ready for distribution early next month. Further details of the rollout will be released in the coming days.

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Shandro encouraged Albertans to source their own non-medical masks through local businesses or make their own at home.

“This is not meant to be able to provide Albertans with an unlimited supply.”

More information on how to safely put on and take off a non-medical face mask can be found on the government’s website.






1:08
Hinshaw clarifies that N95 masks are not required for ‘typical care to a patient’


Hinshaw clarifies that N95 masks are not required for ‘typical care to a patient’

Shandro said that on Friday morning, Alberta surpassed the 250,000 mark when it comes to how many COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province. He said about 220,000 unique Albertans have been tested, as some people have been tested twice.

On Thursday, Alberta Health reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and two additional deaths related to the disease.

There were 652 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday afternoon.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Laurentian Bank slashes dividend by 40 per cent as profits tumble – The Globe and Mail

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Laurentian Bank of Canada slashed its dividend by 40 per cent on Friday following a sharp drop in profit, becoming the first large Canadian bank to cut its dividend payout in nearly 30 years.

The Montreal-based bank reported a 79-per-cent drop in profit for the three months ended April 30, with net income falling to $8.9-million from $43.3-million in the same quarter last year. This was largely due to a spike in provisions for potential loan losses tied to weakening economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laurentian responded by cutting its dividend to 40 cents a share, down from 67 cents. This is the first time a large Canadian bank has cut back dividend payouts since National Bank of Canada did so in 1992, according to data from Refinitiv.

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“Although we believe that current earnings are not reflective of the future earnings power of the organization, we have reduced the dividend to $0.40 per share which improves operational flexibility until we reap the anticipated benefits of our strategic plan,” chief executive François Desjardins said in a press release.

Laurentian shares fell more than 9 per cent in trading Friday morning.

The bank’s earnings cap off a week of dismal results from Canadian banks, which saw profits eviscerated by a rise in loan loss provisions due to expectations of future defaults and weakening credit. Laurentian, a regional bank which focuses primarily on Quebec, managed to keep revenues flat on a year-over-year basis. But higher provisions slammed the bottom line.

Laurentian recorded $54.9-million in provisions for credit losses, compared to $9.2-million a year ago. Gross impaired loans, which are loans that the bank does not expect to be paid back in full, rose to $235-million, up 25.8 per cent year-over-year. The biggest increase in loan impairment came from the bank’s commercial loan book, where gross impaired loans rose 42 per cent year-over-year.

The results were worse than analysts had anticipated. The bank reported an adjusted earnings per share of $0.20, well below the $0.38 average that analysts had expected, according to Refinitiv data.

In a note to clients, National Bank analyst Gabriel Dechaine noted that the miss was driven by a combination of higher than expected provisions for credit losses and elevated expenses, which were partially offset by a lower-than-forecast tax rate.

“While necessary, a 40 per cent dividend cut may be viewed as insufficient, as pro forma payout ratios are still elevated,” Mr. Dechaine wrote.

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The bank’s capital position deteriorated slightly in the quarter, with the closely watched common equity tier 1 ratio falling to 8.8 per cent from 9 per cent.

“This level of capital provides the Bank with the flexibility to pursue organic growth, as well as to continue to invest in the implementation of our core banking system,” the bank said in a news release.

However it added that it expects “regulatory capital ratios will remain below the level observed over the recent quarters.”

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