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Federal budget spending bookended by extended-care, child-care investments – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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The Trudeau Liberal government delivered a federal budget Monday aimed at finishing the fight against COVID-19 and investing in a broken economy while providing much-anticipated good news for Nova Scotians young and old.

Introducing the first federal budget in more than two years, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the pandemic has preyed on Canadian seniors “mercilessly,” ending thousands of lives and forcing all seniors into fearful isolation.

“We have failed so many of those living in long-term care facilities,” Freeland said. “To them, and to their families, let me say this: I am so sorry. We owe you so much better than this.”

The “so much better” is expected to come from a budget announcement of a $3-billion investment over five years, starting in 2022-23, to ensure that provinces and territories provide a standard of care in their long-term care facilities.

Freeland said the pandemic has shed a light on systemic issues affecting long-term care facilities across the country, a light that was focused on Nova Scotia last week when Premier Iain Rankin was bombarded with opposition questions about pandemic failures at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax that resulted in 53 virus deaths.

Michelle Lowe, the executive director of Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, an umbrella group that represents 85 per cent of the province’s 97 nursing homes, said her association has had recent discussion about the push for national standards.

Lowe said the Nova Scotia system is not perfect but “we have a very good system when it comes to standards and outcomes that are required.”

Lowe said the concern is that when the federal government focuses on developing national standards, “it then starts to take the focus off the really critical things that require investment.”

“The immediate issue is (staff) recruitment,” Lowe said. “Standards are important but I would say the standards that many of our facilities here in Nova Scotia abide by are exceptional.”

The Northwood extended care home in Halifax. The federal budget included funding that would create national standards in extended-care homes across Canada.- Tim Krochak

Lowe said Nova Scotia could set standards that would meet and likely exceed national benchmarks and said a variety of government bodies, like Accreditation Canada, audit long-term-care facilities to make sure practices meet national and international standards. 

Lowe said federal government funds would be better invested in paying the sometimes unattainable fees for those governing bodies to audit facilities. 

“The number one issue that’s facing long-term care in this country is recruitment,” Lowe said. “For so long, the emphasis has been on recruiting acute-care staff, recruiting doctors, recruiting nurses, to come into the primary care setting and what’s fallen off the radar and what’s fallen off efforts by government is this whole area of recruiting for continuing care, not only in Nova Scotia, but across the country.”

Lowe said funding for new or renovated facilities is important “but if we don’t have the staff to support that, none of it will matter.”

“If we don’t have some significant investment in recruitment, particularly from what we are seeing here in Nova Scotia … I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this doesn’t happen, you are going to see facilities closing beds for summer vacations because they just don’t have enough staff to provide the care.”

Lowe said providing private rooms for every senior in long-term care is not realistic, based on projections that suggest 199,000 new beds would be needed over the next 15 years to support the baby boomers as they go through the system. 

The federal budget also provides $90 million over three years to look at ways to support an age well at home initiative to support seniors to stay at home, in their home communities as long as possible.. The funding would provide practical support to help low-income and otherwise vulnerable seniors, including matching seniors with volunteers who can help with meal preparations, home maintenance, daily errands, yard work, and transportation. 

“That’s fantastic,” Lowe said of caring for more seniors at home.

The federal government has also promised to increase old age security for Canadians 75 and older.

It means providing support where COVID has struck hardest – to women, to young people, to low-wage workers, and to small and medium-sized businesses, especially in hospitality and tourism. 

At the other end of the spectrum from seniors measures is a federal commitment to invest $30 billion over the next five years in a Canada-wide child-care and early learning program. By the end of next year, the federal government aims to reduce average fees for regulated early learning and child care by 50 per cent that would bring fees for 4egulated child care down to $10 per day on average within the next five years. 

Combined with previous investments announced since 2015, a minimum of $9.2 billion per year will be invested annually in child care, including Indigenous early learning and child care, starting in 2025-26.

“Long overdue,” said Alec Stratford, chairman of the steering committee for the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 

“It’s been 50 years since the Commission on the Status of Women recommended a national child-care program,” Stratford said. “It is finally nice to see words come to fruition with a meaningful investment.”

Stratford said the program will work the same as health care, with the federal government providing funding with federal standards and the provinces figuring out the best way to deliver it.

Stratford said child care is particularly important at this current moment as “we look at the statistics on women in the labour force and the impact that the pandemic has had.”

Stratford said child care is one of the most effective economic policies that we can put into play with every dollar spent returning two dollars to the economy, a policy that creates equity among genders in the workplace.

“As women are able to feel safe in having their kids cared for, they re-enter the labour market, go back to school and find the education and tools that we all need.”

The federal budget comes with a 354.2-billion deficit for the fiscal year just completed and a projected $154.7-billion deficit for the 2021-22 fiscal cycle.

The federal budget plan is to create one million new jobs by year’s end, extended funding through the fall to bridge Canadians and Canadian businesses through the pandemic crisis toward recovery and support 500,000 new training and work opportunities, almost half of which will be opportunities for youth.

“These are the programs that are needed,” Stratford said. “That, with pharmacare, increased health-care spending, all of those programs and services work to lower the cost of living for Canadians, so that they can live a more quality life, which is a markedly different approach that we’ve seen in past governments where austerity is the policy decision-maker.”

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Dogecoin dropped after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’ on ‘SNL’ show

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By Alden Bentley and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The value of dogecoin dropped sharply in early U.S. hours on Sunday, after Tesla chief and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as $0.47 on crypto exchange Binance, down 28% from levels around $0.65 before the show.

The billionaire Tesla Inc chief executive hosted the show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency into a speculator’s dream.

Asked ‘what is dogecoin’, Musk replied, “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?”, Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.

Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The timing puts Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s stock is losing steam following last year’s monster rally.

The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticized regular old cash for having negative real interest rates.

“Only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said in February.

His cryptic tweets “Doge” and “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto” that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin – created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!” with a video clip attached in which he said, “it should be considered speculation at this point. And so, you know, don’t don’t go too far in the crypto speculation …”

But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a “good chance” of becoming what he called “the future currency of the Earth.”

On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, dogecoin has jumped more than 800% over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalization of $73 billion. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.

It has overtaken more widely used cryptocurrencies such as litecoin and tether.

Tesla said in February it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.

Tesla shares closed 1.3% higher at $672.37 on Friday.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentley in New York, and Noel Randewich and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco Additional reporting by Joe White and Vidya RanganathanEditing by Matthew Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Wealthsimple hits $4 billion valuation on funding from Ryan Reynolds, Drake

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Wealthsimple

(Reuters) -Wealthsimple said on Monday it has raised C$750 million ($610.40 million) in its latest funding round, which more than doubled the Canadian fintech company‘s valuation to C$5 billion.

The latest funding round included participation from celebrities Drake, Michael Fox and Ryan Reynolds, according to the company.

The Toronto-based company that has helped make stock trading, peer-to-peer money transfers and tax filing easily accessible, said it will use the amount raised to further expand its market position, product suite and team.

The latest funding round, led by venture capital firms Meritech and Greylock, also includes investments from iNovia, Sagard, TSV and Redpoint.

The funding consists of C$250 million primary fundraising by Wealthsimple and a C$500 million secondary offering by holding company Power Corp of Canada, its largest shareholder.

Wealthsimple said it has seen rapid growth in the past 14 months as Canadians took an interest in stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the company said it plans to grow revenue by adding premium features for its clients.

($1 = 1.2288 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)

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Ethereum breaks past $3,000 to quadruple in value in 2021

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) –Cryptocurrency ether broke past $3,000 on Monday to set a new record high in a dazzling rally that has outshone the bigger bitcoin, as investors bet that ether will be of ever greater use in a decentralised future financial system.

Ether, the token transacted on the ethereum blockchain, rose 3% on the Bitstamp exchange to $3,051.99 by lunchtime in Asia. It is up more than 300% for the year so far, easily outpacing a 95% rise in the more popular bitcoin.

In part, the big rally is a catch-up to late 2020 gains in bitcoin, said James Quinn, managing director at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong cryptocurrency private wealth manager.

It also reflects improvements to the ethereum blockchain, he said, and a growing shift towards “DeFi”, or decentralised finance, which refers to transactions outside traditional banking for which the ethereum blockchain is a crucial platform.

“At first, the rally was really led by bitcoin because as a lot of the institutional investors came into the space, that would be their natural first port of call,” Quinn said.

“But as the rally has matured over the last six months, you have DeFi and a lot of DeFi is built on ethereum.”

The launch of ether exchange-traded funds in Canada and surging demand for ether wallets to transact non-fungible tokens such as digital art have also pushed up the price.

The ether/bitcoin cross rate has soared more than 100% this year and hit a 2.5-year high on Sunday, pointing to a degree of rotation into the second-biggest cryptocurrency as investors diversify their exposure.

“Surging DeFi volumes continue to push ethereum prices higher as investors gain confidence in crypto and see ethereum as a safe second-place asset,” said Jehan Chu, managing partner at Hong Kong blockchain venture capital firm Kenetic Capital.

Illustrating the momentum for such new transactions, Bloomberg reported last week that the European Investment Bank plans on issuing a digital bond over the Ethereum blockchain, while JP Morgan plans a managed bitcoin fund.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest crypto asset with more than $1 trillion in market capitalisation, regained the $50,000 mark last week and hovered around $58,000 on Monday, up about 3% but well below its record high at $64,895.22.

The U.S. dollar was broadly steady. [FRX/]

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Shri Navaratnam)

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