EDITOR’S NOTE: A government news release said golf courses would be allowed to open on Monday but a government spokesperson later clarified that golf courses could open on Saturday. This story has been updated to reflect the new information.
The mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities reacted swiftly and positively after Premier Jason Kenney announced a detailed plan to restart the province’s economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.
“While we remain in the response phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to see the province’s plans for relaunch,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in a news release.
“As public health and economic restrictions are gradually relaxed, we will carefully assess our own approach for Edmonton’s relaunch.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also said he was “pleased that we have plans in place.”
“There’s going to have to be a nice balance of opening things but also personal responsibility,” he told reporters late Thursday afternoon.
“I believe the premier talked a little bit about face coverings today and how we each need to take individual responsibility, that’s important.’
Kenney announced that some changes are coming as early as Saturday as the province will allow golf courses to open as long as their pro shops and clubhouses stay closed. On Monday, non-emergency surgeries can resume and dentists, social workers and physiotherapists can go back to work.
But the first significant date for the first stage of reopening some businesses is tentatively set for May 14.
“While the relaunch plan gives us hope for the future, it’s important to remember that this transition won’t be linear and could last for months,” said Adam Laughlin, Edmonton’s interim city manager.
“We expect to be flexible and adaptive as we refine our approach to ensure public safety.”
City of Edmonton renews local state of emergency, plans for reopening
The City of Edmonton said with the Alberta government announcing its relaunch plan, it will now be reviewing its own response to the pandemic “to ensure that Edmonton continues to strike the right balance between public safety and civic life.”
On Thursday, Edmonton extended its local state of emergency over the novel coronavirus for another week. The city will re-evaluate that once more information becomes available from the province before the next emergency advisory committee meeting on May 7.
Before Kenney announced his relaunch strategy, Nenshi said he believes the response to the pandemic needs to be constantly reassessed.
“My trepidation’s around the fact that we’re not out of this yet,” he said. “You know, we just yesterday had I believe the highest number of new cases in Calgary since the beginning of this.
“We have to understand that it’s the right thing to do to plan. It’s the right thing to do to say, ‘OK, what happens next week? What happens the week after? What happens next month? What happens in September?’”
“The other thing I need to say is remember that faucet can be closed,” he added. “So if we open that faucet and the numbers look bad, I am absolutely prepared to close it again.”
Kenney emphasized Thursday that his relaunch plan hinges on Albertans continuing to be vigilant about following public health orders and recommendations.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Unemployment rate hits new record even as economy adds jobs – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, June 5, 2020 5:18AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 5, 2020 3:25PM EDT
OTTAWA – Canada’s employment minister says the federal government is rethinking a key COVID-19 benefit so workers have more incentive to get back on the job, in an effort to maintain a surprising boost in job numbers from May.
Statistics Canada reported that the country got back 289,600 jobs in May – which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. – after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more people had their hours slashed.
Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10. Ontario was the only province with losses, albeit at a slower pace than in March and April.
Combined with more people reporting getting regular hours, the agency said Canada had recovered only 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday’s jobs report showed the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data. But that’s because more people started looking for work – meaning the rate shouldn’t be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.
The unemployment rate is a measure of the people looking for work who can’t find it, meaning it can actually decline if job-seekers give up, or increase as formerly discouraged seekers see new signs of hope.
Still, the monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.
To keep gains going, business and labour groups called for a revamp of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the employment insurance system.
The first cohort of recipients of the $500-a-week payment will max out their 16 weeks of benefits in early July. Some may qualify for employment insurance, while others may not have any work available, meaning significant drops in income that could hamper the path to recovery, said TD senior economist Brian DePratto.
The Canadian Labour Congress and Canadian Chamber of Commerce separately called for reforms to the decades-old EI system, which the Liberals determined early on in the crisis couldn’t handle the influx of jobless claims.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough suggested all ideas are on the table when it comes to EI, and the future of the CERB.
“As we look into the months coming … we’ve got a different goal in mind: People need to get back to work safely,” she said at a midday press conference.
“So our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers, while not disincentivizing work?”
The most recent federal figures show 8.37 million people applied for the CERB, with $43.18 billion in payments as of June 2. Qualtrough said 1.2 million recipients no longer require it, although it wasn’t immediately clear why.
The Canada Revenue Agency also said this week that almost 190,000 payments of wrongfully received benefits had been made as of June 3.
Economists had been watching the CERB numbers as a proxy for Friday’s jobs report, which set up expectations for another round of job losses.
CERB figures will continued to be watched to track possible job losses and compare it to areas where there are signs of progress, said Brendon Bernard, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab.
“The strength of this rebound is going to depend to a significant degree on what happens with layoffs,” he said in an interview. “We could see some areas of the economy bounce-back as shuttered sectors reopen, but if layoffs continue, then it’s going to be tough for net job gains to be particularly strong.”
The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.
At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren’t actively looking for jobs, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren’t counted in unemployment figures.
The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work – largely unchanged since April.
Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-10th of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to be a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.
Lower-wage workers were among the first- and hardest-hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants and hotels that closed early in the pandemic.
Besides seeing less improvement generally compared with men, women with children under age six saw slower job gains than those with older children.
Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.
Saskatchewan says economy is rebounding despite 12.5% unemployment rate – Globalnews.ca
The Saskatchewan government is feeling confident its economy is on the rebound.
By the end of April, the unemployment rate in the province was 11.3 per cent. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is, however, the second-lowest among provinces and below the national average of 13.7 per cent.
“The Saskatchewan workforce is still being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but there are a number of signs that show Saskatchewan’s economy is both recovering faster, and was less impacted, than other provinces,” said Jeremy Harrison, immigration and career training minister, in a statement.
“We have the second-lowest unemployment rate in Canada and the number of people working rose in May, which is a strong, positive sign in the COVID-19 era. The Saskatchewan economy is positioned to strongly improve as we move forward with the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.”
In Saskatchewan, there were 600 more jobs in May than April, while 87 per cent of those working in February were working in May.
Since February, the number of hours worked in the province has dropped by 9.1 per cent. It’s the second-lowest decline in provinces. Nationally, the average decline in the number of hours worked over that same period is 19.3 per cent.
Coronavirus outbreak: All options on the table for benefits to help those impacted by COVID-19
“Looking forward, we are seeing positive economic news in Saskatchewan, including announcements about helium and lithium recently,” Harrison said.
“These new investments will bring jobs and investment to communities across the province and will help lift our economy out of the current challenges facing markets globally.”
The province said businesses in Saskatchewan are faring better than other jurisdictions, claiming to have closed fewer than other provinces did.
“This speaks to the strength of Saskatchewan’s economy and a strong reopening plan aiding in economic recovery,” the province said in a release issued on Friday.
Despite the optimism from the provincial government, the Saskatchewan NDP has laid out three actions it believes the province should take right now to strengthen the economy going forward.
First, to put Saskatchewan businesses and workers first through a Sask-first procurement plan that helps keep jobs in the province. Secondly, make the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency program more accessible.
Saskatchewan tops up economic stimulus package by $2 billion
Finally, to end the six-month lockout between Regina’s Co-op Refinery and its workers, which would put 800 Saskatchewan people back to work.
“New Democrats have urged Premier Moe and this Sask. Party government to protect jobs and small businesses, but clearly not enough has been done,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.
“We know that Saskatchewan’s economy was already shrinking before COVID – and now the Premier’s lack of action to put Saskatchewan workers and businesses first is making things worse.”
Saskatchewan continues its reopen plan with Phase 3 beginning on June 8.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Uncertainty abounds as Nova Scotia economy reopens – TheChronicleHerald.ca
Premier Stephen McNeil is encouraging people to “think local, support local” as the province’s economy reopens Friday but the future of many small businesses struggling to meet government public health guidelines remain uncertain.
“Businesses will require our support on a go-forward basis,” said McNeil Thursday, before facing criticism from opposition leaders for what they deemed a poorly orchestrated and communicated reopening plan that has left businesses scrambling to reopen.
“There should be a massive information exercise by the Province of Nova Scotia that gives Nova Scotians confidence in the system that’s in play,” said Tory Leader Tim Houston.
Government announced its plan to reopen sectors of the economy, including restaurants and bars, salons and gyms last week. The premier has faced ongoing criticism for not offering clear direction on what specific public health requirements, including equipment, businesses need to meet in order to reopen.
“The lack of information over the last few weeks and couple of months has really put businesses at a disadvantage,” said Houston. “I’m hearing from lots that are having difficulty getting supplies that they think they need for disinfecting. There’s a whole host of businesses that still don’t know what they’re required to do and what their customers are required to do.”
The province is offering a $25-million grant program that offers up to $5,000 for small business, non-profits and other operations, including dental offices. The program is intended to help those groups with the costs of buying equipment and cleaning supplies needed to reopen.
Sectors, including barber shops and hair salons, are frustrated over the limit of 10 occupants permitted in their businesses. Restaurants will essentially be reduced to half capacity. Many businesses are unable to secure protective equipment and cleaning supplies in time to reopen.
Meanwhile, many small businesses are still pleading for rent relief. The federal Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program, offering to cover 75 per cent of rent for small businesses, has had limited uptake largely because it’s optional for landlords.
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan admitted that businesses would require added financial assistance at least through the initial months of the reopening. He said that’s especially true given that tourism numbers are predicted to drop dramatically this summer, a primary source of for many businesses reopening.
“I think that’s inevitable, to be honest,” said MacLellan.
His department is working directly with associations representing businesses working to get their reopening plans approved by public health and government.
“We’ll open up and see how things go the first few days,” said MacLellan. “I’m absolutely certain we’ll hear back from those associations.”
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