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For-profit nursing homes paid out $1.B in dividends; Homeless encampments springing up throughout Toronto; India surpasses China in confirmed coronavirus cases; Air Canada plans to lay off at least 20 – Toronto Star

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The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday (this file will be updated throughout the day). Web links to longer stories if available.

8:58 a.m. For months, the COVID-19 lockdown has removed choice from personal equations: We couldn’t go out, couldn’t travel, couldn’t eat at restaurants, couldn’t spend time with friends.

But slowly, provinces have begun to ease COVID-19 restrictions. This week, Alberta began allowing stores, restaurants and hairdressers to reopen, while Ontario gave the green light for stores to reopen on May 19. B.C. will begin the process after the long weekend.

Simply put, the ball has landed back in our court. Now that you might be able to go out for an evening, will you?

The Star’s Alex Boyd and Douglas Quan asked five Canadians whether they’re eager to get out in the world or holding back to see how things play out.

8:36 a.m. Three of the largest for-profit nursing home operators in Ontario, which have had disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, have together paid out more than $1.5 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last decade, the Star has found.

This massive sum does not include $138 million paid in executive compensation and $20 million in stock buybacks (a technique that can boost share prices), according to the financial reports of the province’s three biggest publicly traded long-term-care home companies, Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell Retirement Residences.

That’s a total of more than $1.7 billion taken out of their businesses.

Read the full story from the Star’s Marco Chown Oved, Kenyon Wallace and Brendan Kennedy.

8:22 a.m. In a world where the masses aren’t travelling, what to do with the jumbo jet that defined the era of mass air travel?

Like most other passenger jets, the venerable Boeing 747 — the “Queen of the Skies” — and its newer superjumbo competitor, the Airbus A380, are parked at airports and desert storage yards, sitting out the travel freeze brought on by the pandemic.

But how many of these famous jets will return to the skies?

In the post-pandemic era, demand for travel is not expected to bounce back fast, meaning the economics of these jumbo jets make less sense, at least for hauling passengers.

Bracing for that business reality, airlines are announcing that some of the jets sitting idle will remain permanently parked, the 747 and A380 among them, in favour of smaller, newer and more efficient twin-engine aircraft.

Read the full story from the Star’s Bruce Campion-Smith

8:10 a.m. Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has seen a dramatic increase in homeless encampments across the city as inhabitants find themselves without shelter space and apprehensive of facilities that have become vectors for the deadly virus.

Early in March, the city imposed a moratorium on clearing homeless encampments, given the challenges of ensuring physical distancing in shelters. But the city has since resumed the removals of the encampments as they implement new, temporary housing measures for the homeless.

On Friday, standoffs unfolded between Toronto’s homeless and city officials at several downtown encampments as police officers and city workers cleared tents.

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Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc.

Saturday, 7:59 a.m. India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed China’s, with the Health Ministry on Saturday reporting a spike to 85,940 infections and 2,752 deaths.

China has reported 82,941 confirmed case and 4,633 deaths since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

The worst-hit Indian states are Maharashtra with 29,100 cases, Tamil Nadu with 10,108, Gujarat with 9,931 and New Delhi with 8,895.

In the last 24 hours, India had confirmed 3,970 new cases and 103 fatalities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is due to announce a decision this weekend on whether to extend the 54-day-old lockdown.

Early this month, the government started gradually easing the restrictions to resume economic activity by allowing neighbourhood shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume. It also has resumed limited train services across the country to help stranded migrant workers, students and tourists.

Friday 6:52 p.m. Air Canada plans to lay off at least 20,000 employees as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the airline industry, The Canadian Press reports.

Effective June 7, the layoffs will impact more than half of the company’s 38,000 employees, the airline said.

The move comes amid border shutdowns and confinement measures that have tanked travel demand, prompting Air Canada to ground some 225 airplanes and slash flight capacity by 95 per cent.

At a minimum, layoffs will reach 19,000 — half of the current payroll — and could go as high as 22,800.

The blow echoes Air Canada’s announcement in March to let go of nearly half of its workforce under a cost-reduction scheme.

The carrier proceeded to rehire some 16,500 laid-off flight attendants, mechanics and customer service agents in April under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, but has not committed to maintain the program past June 6.

Friday 5 p.m. Ontario health units report 23,402 cases of COVID-19, up 394 or 1.7 per cent, according to the Star. The number of people who have died is 1,926, up 24.

Read more of Friday’s coverage here.

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McDonald's sues ousted CEO, alleging he hid affairs with more employees – Financial Post

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As a result, the fast-food chain filed a complaint in the Delaware Chancery Court to recover any compensation and severance benefits that he received when he left his post. The company has also taken steps to prevent Easterbrook from exercising any stock options or selling any shares.

Chris Kempczinski, who took over as CEO when Easterbrook was pushed out, alerted company employees about the action Monday.

“We recently became aware, through an employee report, of new information regarding the conduct of our former CEO, Steve Easterbrook,” he wrote in the internal memo, reviewed by Bloomberg News. “While the board made the right decision to swiftly remove him from the company last November, this new information makes it clear that he lied and destroyed evidence regarding inappropriate personal behavior and should not have retained the contractual compensation he did upon his exit.”

Easterbrook got US$675,000 in severance and health insurance benefits and stock awards that Bloomberg valued at more than US$37 million last November.

McDonald’s shares were little changed in premarket trading Monday in New York. McDonald’s fell 3.5 per cent this year through Friday, roughly in line with the S&P 500 Index.

According to the complaint, the evidence against Easterbrook includes dozens of naked or explicit photographs and videos of various women, including some employees, that Easterbrook had sent as attachments to his personal email account from his work account. The time stamps on the photos of employees show they were all taken in late 2018 or early 2019, when he was CEO.

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Strong medical pot sales help Canopy Growth beat Q1 expectations – Article – BNN – BNN

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Canopy Growth Corp. reported fiscal first-quarter results that beat analyst expectations, despite suffering a decline in recreational cannabis sales in Canada due to COVID-19 and increased competition. 

Canopy, the world’s largest cannabis company by market valuation, said that its medical cannabis business outperformed in its three-month period ending June 30, while also seeing revenue gains from its German pharmaceutical subsidiary and its topical cream products.  

Meanwhile, the company’s recreational cannabis business saw an 11-per-cent decline in revenue to $44.2 million as COVID-19 impacted Canopy’s retail operations across the country. Meanwhile, increased competition led to a decline in dried flower market share, the company said. 

The Smiths Falls, Ont.-based company reported first-quarter revenue of $110.4 million, up 22 per cent from the same quarter a year earlier, while posting a loss of $128.3 million, a 34 per cent improvement from last year. 

Analysts expected Canopy to report $98.1 million in revenue in the quarter while posting a loss of $151.3 million, according to Bloomberg.

In a phone interview with BNN Bloomberg, David Klein, Canopy’s chief executive officer, described the past year as being rife with change as the company pursued profitability. 

“We’re going through a process where we’re re-thinking everything,” Klein said. “We’re thinking how we interact with the consumer, how our products leave our facilities and the kinds of products we produce.” 

Canopy’s better-than-expected results end a recent streak of disappointing quarters that were overshadowed by the company’s recent moves to restructure its operations under the guidance of Klein, who formally took on the CEO role in January. Since then, the company shed hundreds of staff over the past several months while announcing it would shut down cultivation operations in Canada and the U.S. to contain spiraling costs. 

Canopy said Monday it reduced its staff count by about 18 per cent from the beginning of the year. The company said it had 4,434 total employees at the end of March, according to recent filings. 

Initial reports from Ontario’s cannabis wholesaler showed Canopy’s share of the recreational pot market has faced pressure from its peers such as Aphria Inc. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. Analysts estimate Canopy has about 15 per cent of the Canadian recreational pot market, down from about 20 per cent from the beginning of the year. 

Canopy executives also shared their plans during a presentation to investors in June to trim the number of products it sells to the recreational market by one-third in order to avoid confusing consumers with too many offerings. They also said that sales were hurt from early April to late May by the COVID-19 pandemic preventing customers from shopping in retail stores as well as lower purchase orders from provincial wholesalers. 

Klein said he’s focused on recovering lost market share by ensuring the company’s products aren’t out of stock and are of high quality, while not overproducing more cannabis in a market already swamped with existing inventories. 

“We’re doing a good job on those things but it didn’t manifest itself in this quarter,” he said. 

Canopy also appears to be in the early days of a broad-based U.S. strategy aimed at securing a top spot in the burgeoning CBD market. The company recently signed NFL all-star Patrick Mahomes to an endorsement deal for its Biosteel sports nutrition subsidiary, launched an online sales portal for its U.S. CBD brand, and restructured its deal to acquire U.S. pot producer Acreage Holdings Inc. once it is federally permissible to do so. 

Klein said the company is moving “as quickly as we can” to expand its U.S. operations under the limitations of only being able to compete in the CBD space. The launch of Canopy’s CBD partnership with lifestyle icon Martha Stewart is expected to happen next month, he added.  

Despite its various woes, Canopy continues to cast an influential shadow over the cannabis sector. The company maintains the largest cash position in the sector with about $2 billion on its balance sheet, unchanged from the prior quarter. 

“While we are concerned with the estimates for Canopy, we do believe the company’s balance sheet strength warrants a premium in the current environment, especially if further Canadian [licensed producers] go bankrupt,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Douglas Miehm, in a report to clients last month. 

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35 new COVID-19 cases announced in Manitoba Sunday – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
Provincial health officials have identified 35 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, made the announcement on Sunday afternoon.

This brings the province’s total number of lab-confirmed and probable positive cases to 542 since early March.

The current test positivity rate is 1.45 per cent.

The cases are from the following regions:

  • 20 new cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region;
  • 10 new cases in the Southern Health – Santé Sud health region;
  • four new cases in the Winnipeg health region; and
  • one new case in the Interlake-Eastern heath region.

Roussin said seven of the new cases are related to a business in Brandon and most of the cases are related to known clusters. 

“The cases are currently self-isolating and contact tracing is underway,” said Roussin. “At this time there continues to be no evidence of workplace transmission, however, the case investigations are continuing.”

He also noted that some cases are from an unknown source in that area.

“While many of today’s cases appear to be linked to known clusters in Southern Health Region and Western Manitoba, notably Brandon, or are close contacts of previously known cases, preliminary information suggests that there may be a small number of cases with unknown acquisition in these areas and this is what we term as community-based transmission,” Roussin said. 

Six people are in hospital right now due to the virus, three of them in intensive care.

The province has 182 active cases and 352 people have recovered from the virus.

The number of deaths in the province related to COVID-19 remains at eight.

On Saturday, 756 laboratory tests were performed, bringing the total to 100,830 since early February.

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