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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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Canadian government pushes 3500MHz spectrum auction to June 15, 2021 – MobileSyrup

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In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced that it has postponed the 3500MHz spectrum auction by six months.

The new date for the auction is now June 15th, 2021. Several of the other key dates associated with the auction are listed on the government’s site since they’ve also been pushed back by six months.

“Canada’s telecommunications service providers are doing their part in this difficult time, providing essential services to keep Canadians connected as we face the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic together. A number of providers have raised concerns, and the Government is implementing measures to address them,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“The Government will continue to reach out to telecommunications service providers—and to the private sector more broadly—to understand their challenges and support them to ensure that Canadians have access to high-quality networks and broad coverage at low prices.”

The government’s press release from June 5th, 2020 states that this is in line with what other countries are doing. It will help the telecommunication companies focus on providing robust service to Canadians as many of us are still self-isolating at home.

Beyond this, a consultation on the 3800MHz spectrum is set to begin in August to get the ball rolling on that slice of 5G spectrum as well. Notably, both the 3500MHz and 3800MHz are considered key due to their ability to transport data at 5G speeds at a reasonable range.

In a statement to MobileSyrup, Chethan Lakshman, the vice president of external affairs at Shaw, stated, “given the pandemic’s impact on Canadian society and overall business operations, we support the decision to provide additional time for industry and the government to prepare for this auction. A well-run auction process will ensure that Canadians and the Canadian economy will benefit from strong competition in wireless and 5G for years to come.”

“Our networks are the backbone of so much of our economy and as we continue to rollout Canada’s first 5G network, driving innovation and productivity, we look forward to accessing 3500 Mhz spectrum as soon as it is available,” Rogers said in a statement to MobileSyrup.

Telus, meanwhile, sent MobileSyrup the following statement:

“While we would like to see the auction proceed as soon as possible, we appreciate the government’s recognition of facilities-based carriers for keeping Canadians connected at all times, even during the pandemic. Because of our continued investment in building out communications infrastructure, TELUS’ 4G LTE network speeds are among the fastest in the world; faster even than South Korea’s 5G network speeds, according to Opensignal. We have long been ready to make the crucial investment in 3500 MHz spectrum and network infrastructure required to realize the full promise of 5G so that Canadian entrepreneurs, businesses, and innovators can leverage the next generation of connectivity that promises to benefit us all. In the interim, we will continue to provide our customers with access to the fastest and most reliable networks possible and focus our efforts on supporting Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 in whatever ways we can.”

Update 05/06/20 4:19pm ET: Updated with statements from Rogers and Telus.

Source: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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Canada unexpectedly adds 289600 jobs on gradual reopening – BNNBloomberg.ca

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Canada’s labour market unexpectedly strengthened after two-straight months of record losses as the country gradually reopens from COVID-19 related restrictions.

Employment rose by 289,600 in May, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa, surprising economists who had been anticipating more losses last month. The gains were across most industries and provinces, though largely driven by higher employment in Quebec, the province hardest hit by the pandemic.

The numbers echo recent high-frequency data, which had signaled a recovery is underway, with job postings increasing and more Canadians reporting an increase in work at the end of May. They will be a relief to policy makers who had been scrambling to inject hundreds of billions in cash into the economy to keep it afloat. Still, just under 5 million remain without work or substantially reduced hours with the jobless rate at postwar records.

“The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there’s still a long road back,” Royce Mendes, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a research report. “The increase in May only represents 10 per cent of the COVID-19-related job losses and absences that occurred over the prior two months.”

Unprecedented Losses

The pick up in May follows an unprecedented loss of about 3 million jobs in March and April. More than 2 million employed Canadians continue to experience much lower hours worked than pre-crsisis.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 13.7% in May, from 13 per cent in April, as people returned to the labor force. Economists in a Bloomberg survey expected a loss of 500,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate rising to 15 per cent.

Canada’s currency extended gains on the result, appreciating 0.7 per cent to $1.3406 against its U.S. counterpart at 9:46 a.m. Toronto time. Yields on two-year government bonds rose 2 basis points to 0.35 per cent.

The better-than-expected report suggests the governments programs to cushion the blow to the labor market are working. By mid-May, 179,000 businesses had applied for the government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy program. The pace of applications to Canada’s emergency income benefit program has also decelerated in recent weeks, suggesting the worst of the layoffs and job losses is over.

In addition to the employment pick up, Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours dropped by 292,000. That means the number of Canadians who have either lost their job or worked substantially fewer hours has fallen to just under 5 million, from about 5.5 million in April. Hours worked rose 6.3 per cent in May from the prior month but were still 23 per cent below February’s levels .

Cautious Reopening

The surprise jump reflects the cautious reopening of the economy across provinces. By the time the employment survey was taken from May 10 to May 16, some provinces including B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec allowed some non-essential businesses to reopen.

Quebec accounted for nearly 80% of May’s gains, the statistics agency said. In contrast, Ontario -– where the economy remained largely shut until May 19 –- saw more losses.

In the early days of the reopening, employment rebounded more strongly among goods producers, the data show. The goods-producing sector added 165,000 jobs versus 125,000 in services. Lower-wage jobs also rebounded more, particularly in retail trade, accommodation and food services.

Women Lagging

Demographically, male employment increased more than twice as fast as that for women, consistent with the more rapid increase in the goods-producing industry. Women were among the earliest victims of the Covid-19 related job losses in March and the latest data suggest they are slower to recover as well.

“The kinds of jobs that reopened earlier tend to be more male dominated in employment and also that more women don’t know how to get back to work because they don’t know what to do with their kids because schools aren’t open,” said Armine Yalnizyan, a research fellow at the Atkinson Foundation.

Women with at least one child under age 6 showed a slower return to work than women with older children. Statistics Canada said it will continue to monitor labor market outcomes for men and women with children in the months to come.

Youth are still suffering heavily from the Covid-19 economic shutdown. While employment recovered by 30,000 for those aged 15-24, the cumulative job losses for this age cohort are still a whopping 843,000 from February to May.

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg.

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London region sees 28400 jobs lost to COVID-19 – CTV News London

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LONDON, ONT. —
The unemployment rate in London increased dramatically in May, according to Statistics Canada.

London’s jobless rate climbed to 11.7 per cent in May, compared to 8.9 per cent in April.

It’s the lowest number of people working in London since 2003, when there were over 80,000 fewer people living in the area.

Based on a three-month rolling average, London-St. Thomas has lost 28,400 people from its labour force – and that’s just since February.

That figure includes Shannon Rumble, “Since the beginning when everything shut down, I haven’t been to work at all.”

Temporarily laid off from her job as a line cook, federal CERB payments are helping, but Rumble needs things to get back to normal soon.

“I’m a single mom, so (my daughter) can’t go to day care. My parents are helping out, but I can’t go to work if she can’t go to school or day care,” she explains.

“Its not just numbers, it’s people,” London Mayor Ed Holder isn’t sugar coating the situation, “It impacts people on a very personal level and if you are trying to make a mortgage (payment), or make sure your kids are alright, I get that.”

From the perspective of businesses, Holder says large employers who are part of his COVID-19 economic task force are balancing an urgent desire to get staff back to work, with the need to keep them safe from COVID-19.

“We will be doing business, we may just be doing it differently,” he says.

Holder predicts a moderate, consistent comeback as businesses reopen, “I am optimistic that, while I don’t think it’s a quick recovery, I think it will be steady.”

On a national level, Statistics Canada reported a record high unemployment rate even as the economy added 289,600 jobs in May, with businesses reopening amid easing public health restrictions.

The national unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, topping the previous high of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as more people started looking for work.

The increase in the number of jobs come after three million were lost over March and April.

The average estimate from economists is for the loss of 500,000 jobs in May and for the unemployment rate to rise to 15.0 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

– With files from CTV’s Melanie Borrelli and The Canadian Press.

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