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Feds urge caution in re-opening economy in Canada – National Observer

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Canadian officials acknowledged some regions of the country could be closer to re-opening parts of the economy than others, but continued to stress a careful approach as the border closure with the hard-hit United States was extended for another 30 days during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Let us be very clear, while we want to be optimistic, we need to be absolutely cautious,” Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said Saturday.

Sobering reminders of the need for patience were heard throughout the day as case numbers continued to climb in Canadian nursing homes and prisons.

At Residence Herron, the suburban Montreal long-term care home where 31 people died from COVID-19 in less than one month, 61 of 99 residents have now tested positive for the virus, according to a regional health authority spokesman.

Canadian Armed Forces members with medical expertise headed to long-term care homes in Quebec after Premier Francois Legault asked the federal government for assistance.

Meanwhile, alarms were raised about an outbreak at a federal women’s prison northeast of the Montreal where 60 per cent of inmates have been infected, according to the Elizabeth Fry Society. The organization reported 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Joliette Institution, up from 10 on April 7, and other women’s institutions in Ontario and British Columbia also reported cases.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the extension for the closure restricting non-essential travel across the border, which began on March 21 and was set to expire on Tuesday.

“This is an important decision and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe,” Trudeau said.

U.S. president Donald Trump said earlier this week that the border could open soon, but Trudeau and other Canadian political leaders did not strike the same tone in comments.

The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 700,000 positive tests. Canada has more than 33,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and is closing in on 1,500 deaths.

Despite continuing grim news, glimmers of hope emerged this week as provinces and cities reported slower growth of the virus, and officials began discussing moves towards a “new normal.”

In B.C., officials suggested some restrictions could be eased in the coming weeks in light of numbers showing a flattening of the coronavirus curve.

Prince Edward Island, where 23 of the province’s 26 confirmed COVID-19 cases are recovered, is also looking at easing restrictions on activities while maintaining self-isolation rules for those entering the province.

Toronto Mayor John Tory met with city officials Saturday to discuss when regular life can restart in the country’s biggest city, though he warned that the time has not come yet.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province’s approach will be based on health advice and will only move forward with re-opening with medical officials’ green light. He added that there are various scenarios playing out across the province.

“What’s happening in a big urban centre like Toronto may not be happening in rural areas,” Ford said.

He said that loosening restrictions over time will have to be done in a careful and methodical way, and said it would be “twice as hard” as the current lockdown.

On Saturday, Trudeau repeated the need for caution and reminded Canadians to continue with physical distancing measures.

“If we open too quickly, too soon or in the wrong way, we could find ourselves back in this situation a couple of months from now and everything we will have sacrificed during these months will have been for naught,” Trudeau said.

He said discussions with the premiers have found consensus on the need to co-ordinate how the country moves forward, but acknowledged that different provinces and municipalities are at different stages of the pandemic battle and may be able to relax measures sooner.

“The situation is very different right across the country from one region to the next and the measures that they will be able to move forward with at various moments will vary as well,” Trudeau said. “That’s going to be an important part of the recovery here.”

Trudeau’s messages of collaboration among provinces contrasted with the situation in the U.S. As protests formed against mandatory closures this week, Trump, on Twitter, urged supporters to “liberate” three states led by Democratic governors.

Trudeau’s government has so far held off on defining guidelines for provinces looking to lift restrictions, as Trump did for U.S. governors earlier this week.

At a Saturday news conference with cabinet ministers, Duclos said easing of measures will depend on factors like where the disease curve is heading, the number of deaths, equipment supply and space in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, Trudeau continued to stress he does not think it is a good idea for the House of Commons to resume business as usual Monday — with all 338 MPs, along with their staff, clerks, interpreters, security and cleaners.

An agreement needs to be reached before then on scaled-back sittings if the plan is to change. Federal political parties were continuing negotiations Saturday about when and how Parliament should reconvene in the middle of the pandemic.

Certain regions eye re-opening of economy as cautious approach urged

Trudeau’s Liberals are proposing one in-person sitting each week, with a small number of MPs and extended time for longer questions and more thorough answers than would normally be allowed during the daily question period. More sittings would be added as soon as the technical and logistical requirements for virtual meetings can be worked out.

All opposition parties appear satisfied with that proposal, except for the Conservatives.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding up to four in-person sittings each week, with fewer than 50 MPs in the chamber, to hold the government to account for its response to the health crisis and the resulting economic disaster.

Trudeau also announced Saturday the government is providing $306 million to help Indigenous companies.

Later Saturday, the federal government was set to deploy celebrities in new ads meant to amplify the plea of public health experts for Canadians to stay home.

The ads, one in French, one in English, were to begin broadcasting nationally during the “One World: Together at Home” concert.

The English advertisement features astronaut Chris Hadfield and hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser, alongside Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2020.

– With files from the Associated Press

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Economy

Canadian dollar moves to extend weekly win streak as oil rebounds

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Canadian dollar

The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Friday and was on track for its seventh straight weekly gain as oil prices rose and domestic data added to evidence of robust economic growth in the first quarter.

Canadian factory sales rose 3.5% in March from February, led by the motor vehicle, petroleum and coal, and food product industries, while wholesale trade was up 2.8%, Statistics Canada said.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, reversed some of the previous day’s sharp losses as stock markets strengthened, though gains were capped by the coronavirus situation in major oil consumer India and the restart of a fuel pipeline in the United States.

U.S. crude prices rose 1.2% to $64.61 a barrel, while the Canadian dollar was trading 0.6% higher at 1.2093 to the greenback, or 82.69 U.S. cents, moving back in reach of Wednesday’s 6-year peak at 1.2042.

For the week, the loonie was on track to gain 0.3%. It has climbed more than 5% since the start of the year, the biggest gain among G10 currencies, supported by surging commodity prices and a shift last month to a more hawkish stance by the Bank of Canada.

Still, BoC Governor Tiff Macklem said on Thursday if the currency continues to rise, it could create headwinds for exports and business investment as well as affecting monetary policy.

The U.S. dollar fell against a basket of major currencies, pressured by a recovery in risk appetite across markets after Federal Reserve officials helped calm concerns about a quick policy tightening in response to accelerating U.S. inflation.

Canadian government bond yields were lower across much of a flatter curve, with the 10-year down 2 basis points at 1.549%. On Thursday, it touched its highest intraday in eight weeks at 1.624%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Toronto Stock Exchange rises 1.21% to 19,366.69

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Toronto Stock Exchange

* The Toronto Stock Exchange‘s TSX rises 1.21 percent to 19,366.69

* Leading the index were SNC-Lavalin Group Inc <SNC.TO​>, up 16.0%, Village Farms International Inc​, up 9.8%, and Denison Mines Corp​, higher by 9.4%.

* Lagging shares were Aurora Cannabis Inc​​, down 7.2%, Centerra Gold Inc​, down 3.8%, and Canadian National Railway Co​, lower by 3.7%.

* On the TSX 194 issues rose and 35 fell as a 5.5-to-1 ratio favored advancers. There were 25 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 225.7 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Enbridge Inc, Manulife Financial Corp and Cenovus Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group rose 3.32 points, or 2.7%, while the financials sector climbed 4.80 points, or 1.3%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 2.65%, or $1.69, to $65.51 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 2.68%, or $1.8, to $68.85 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 11.1% for the year.

This summary was machine generated May 14 at 21:03 GMT.

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Economy

U.S., Mexico, Canada to hold ‘robust’ talks on trade deal

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The United States, Mexico and Canada will next week hold their first formal talks on their continental trade deal, with particular focus on labor and environmental obligations, the U.S. government said on Friday.

Trade ministers from the three nations are set to meet virtually on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) deal, which took effect in July 2020.

“The ministers will receive updates about work already underway to advance cooperation … and will hold robust discussions about USMCA’s landmark labor and environmental obligations,” the office of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

The United States is also reviewing tariffs which may be leading to inflation in the country, economic adviser Cecilia Rouse told reporters at the White House on Friday, a move that could affect hundreds of billions of dollars in trade.

The United States, testing provisions in the new deal aimed at strengthening Mexican unions, this week asked Mexico to investigate alleged abuses at a General Motors Co factory.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jonathan Oatis)

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