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Ontario begins first stage of reopening economy; Queen's Park launching independent commission into long-term care system; Reitmans seeking court protection from creditors – Toronto Star

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

10:15 a.m.: Ontario restaurants and bars will be restricted to serving takeout food and booze until at least May 29.

Premier Doug Ford’s government on Tuesday extended all emergency orders that have been in place since March 17.

That means social gatherings will continue to be restricted to five people till the end of next week.

However, drive-in religious services will be allowed as long as worshippers maintain safe social distance of two metres.

9:55 a.m.: The Toronto Zoo is reopening Saturday as a drivethru for visitors who drive through the front gates and view beasts from within their vehicles, never getting out.

A promotional video shows vehicles navigating a 3.4-kilometre course past animals including zebras, flamingoes, the lion cave and some rhinos who give the convoy a curious stare.

Visitors to the Scarborough site will see some of the zoo’s 5,000 animals while passing the Indo-Malaya, African Savanna, Americas and Eurasia exhibits, before driving out a service gate.

They can learn about the animals they’re viewing via downloaded audio created for tours expected to last 45 minutes to one hour.

9:28 a.m.: Reitmans (Canada) Ltd. says it is seeking court protection from its creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow a restructuring of the retailer.

The company says the application will be heard by the Quebec Superior Court today.

It says the process will allow the company to implement a restructuring plan that addresses the impacts of COVID-19.

The pandemic forced the closure of the retailers stores in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus but its e-commerce websites have remained open.

In conjunction with its court filing, the company says it has undertaken a process to secure interim financing to allow its stores to continue normal operations following the opening of its retail locations and throughout the CCAA process.

Reitmans says it employs approximately 6,800 people and operates 576 stores including 259 Reitmans, 106 Penningtons, 80 RW & CO., 77 Addition Elle and 54 Thyme Maternity.

9:06 a.m.: Ontario is launching an independent commission into the province’s long-term care system.

Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton says in a statement that the commission will start in September, and in the meantime the government will be finalizing terms of reference, leadership and timelines.

She says “an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review.”

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, opposition parties and health-care union SEIU have all called for a full public inquiry into the sector.

Nearly 1,400 long-term care residents have died amid COVID-19 outbreaks in the facilities, as well as five staff members.

The number of long-term care homes experiencing an outbreak has grown over the past few weeks, even as the government has imposed increasing restrictions and implemented widespread testing

8 a.m. The Ontario government is looking at creating an in-person summer-school pilot project in an area with a low number of COVID-19 cases, and will also boost online course offerings for students across the province in July and August, sources say.

The pilot project is among the options the province is considering as Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce prepare to make an announcement on Tuesday about whether to reopen schools before the end of June. Read the full story.

7:06 a.m. Hong Kong’s leader says the city is ramping up testing for the coronavirus, especially for workers at the busy international airport and caregivers at homes for the elderly and disabled.

Carrie Lam said Tuesday that tests would be increased from 4,500 to 7,000 daily, with both the government health department and university laboratories taking part.

Hong Kong has gone several days without new local infections, but a recent family cluster has increased concerns about those who show no symptoms passing the virus on to others, something the authorities hope can be remedied by increased testing.

Hong Kong on Tuesday also confirmed the extension of social distancing measures for two more weeks until June 4, meaning they will be in effect during the annual commemoration of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that is routinely marked with a rally and march in Hong Kong.

A densely populated city of more than 7 million people just across the border from mainland China, Hong Kong has recorded just 1,055 COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

6:32 a.m. A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency doesn’t have an immediate reaction to a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump that listed his complaints against it, including that it had shown “an alarming lack of independence” from China in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib noted that she had seen the letter.

“I don’t have any reaction, we have been busy trying to finalize our agenda for the World Health Assembly,” she said, referring to health agency’s annual meeting, which has been shortened this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak and was set to end later Tuesday.

“I am sure in the course of the day we will have more clarity and reaction to this letter,” she told reporters at a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.

Trump posted a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, dated Monday, on his Twitter page overnight.

Among other things, Trump pointed to his decision to suspend U.S. contributions to the WHO pending a review of its actions in response to the outbreak. He faulted its “repeated missteps” in the response to the pandemic, saying they have proven “very costly for the world.”

6:30 a.m.: Prince Charles is urging the public to join a national effort to help farmers bring in the harvest, comparing the need to pick fruit and vegetables with World War II era programs that fed the nation.

The heir to Britain’s throne offered his support to a government’s initiative to bring UK workers and farmers together to ensure crops are not left to rot in the fields.

Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis have impeded the travel of seasonal workers who have done the hard work in the past.

The prince, who runs an organic farm, says in a video that “if the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valued, and it cannot be taken for granted.’’

He says food does not happen by magic and made no effort to gloss over the effort that would be required.

He says “it will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.”

5 a.m.: Some Ontario businesses will be allowed to open their doors today after being closed for two months in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The province is starting the first stage of its economic reopening today, giving the green light to retailers, some sports centres, vehicle dealerships and other businesses to resume.

But the provincial government stresses those businesses still have to comply with public health guidelines such as physical distancing as they welcome customers.

Some business owners have expressed relief and excitement at the prospect of reopening, while others say they feel it’s too early to do so safely.

The province ordered the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential in mid-March and recently allowed those with street entrances to offer curbside pickup.

5:20 a.m.: President Donald Trump’s declaration that he was taking an antimalarial drug of dubious effectiveness to help fend off the coronavirus will likely be welcomed in India.

Trump’s previous endorsement of hydroxychloroquine catalyzed a tremendous shift in the South Asian country, spurring the world’s largest producer of the drug to make much more of it, prescribe it for front-line health workers treating the virus and deploy it as a diplomatic tool, despite mounting evidence against using the drug for COVID-19.

Trump said Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a measure of protection against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has cautioned against using it outside of hospitals because of the risk of serious heart problems.

5 a.m.: Business owners are encouraged to “take it slow” as B.C. begins the second phase of its restart plan.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she understands there will be anxiety as B.C. businesses open their doors for potentially the first time in several months.

Starting today, restaurants, cafes and pubs, retail and personal service establishments, libraries, museums and galleries, office spaces and child care facilities may reopen.

Parks, beaches and recreational facilities are reopening, too.

Henry says she knows people are a “little bit afraid” and says they should “take it slow” during what she anticipates will be “a bit of an anxiety-provoking week” until people get used to it.

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4:01 a.m.: Provinces have been releasing plans for easing restrictions that were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Here is what some of the provinces have announced so far:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador lifted some of the public health restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 on May 11. The province has entered “alert level four” in its five-level reopening plan, allowing some businesses such as law firms and other professional services to reopen along with regulated child-care centres, with some restrictions. Small gatherings for funerals, burials and weddings are also permitted with a limit of 10 people following physical distancing rules. Municipal parks, golf courses and driving ranges can open and recreational hunting and fishing are permitted. Officials are reminding people that the new rules do not allow for parties or other social gatherings.

The province is loosening restrictions in a series of “alert levels” descending from five. The current alert level is to remain in place for at least 28 days. At Level 3, private health clinics, such as optometrists and dentists, are to be permitted to open, as well as medium-risk businesses such as clothing stores and hair salons. At Level 2, some small gatherings will be allowed, and businesses with performance spaces and gyms are to reopen. Level 1 would represent “the new normal.”

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has announced there will be no return to school this year. He also says a decision on whether daycares will reopen will be made by June 8. Nova Scotia has eased some public health restrictions, however, directives around physical distancing and social gatherings remain in place. Trails and provincial and municipal parks can now reopen, but playground equipment is still off limits. Garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open, and while golf driving ranges can open, courses remain closed. Sport fishing is permitted and people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use. Drive-in religious services are now allowed, if people stay in their cars, park two metres apart and there are no interactions between people.

Prince Edward Island

The province is accelerating its Renew PEI Together plan. Phase two of the plan will still begin May 22 as scheduled, but the third phase will now begin June 1 instead of June 12. Phase three will allow gatherings of up to 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, organized recreational activities and the opening of child-care centres and in-room dining. Members of a household can currently gather indoors with up to five other people. Other precautions, such as physical distancing remain in place. Screening also continues at points of entry into the province and all people coming into P.E.I. are required to isolate for 14 days. Priority non-urgent surgeries and select health-service providers, including physiotherapists, optometrists and chiropractors, resumed on May 1. The Renew P.E.I. Together plan also allows outdoor gatherings and noncontact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick’s education minister says licensed daycares can begin reopening today (May 19). Children won’t have to wear masks or maintain physical distancing, but they will be in small groups. Anyone who has travelled outside of New Brunswick will not be allowed to visit early learning and child-care facilities for 14 days. Meanwhile, the province has allowed more businesses and services to reopen. Retail businesses, offices, restaurants, libraries, museums and seasonal campgrounds can do so under certain conditions. Those include having an operational plan that explains how they are meeting public health guidelines including physical distancing, hand hygiene and allowing staff to remain home when ill. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are also allowed if physical distancing is respected. The resumption of elective surgeries is also part of the province’s phase two of its reopening plan.

The third phase will allow regular church services, dentistry work and the reopening of fitness centres. The final phase, which will probably come only after a vaccine is available, will include large gatherings. Phase one, which started on April 24, allowed limited play on golf courses as well as fishing and hunting. Post-secondary students were allowed to return if it was deemed safe by the school, and outdoor church services were again permitted, providing people remain in their vehicles and are two metres apart.

Quebec

Quebec reopened retail stores outside Montreal on May 11. Lottery terminals are also reopening after being shut down on March 20 with sales moving to online only. Quebec’s construction and manufacturing industries have resumed operations with limits on the number of employees who can work per shift. Elementary schools and daycares outside Montreal reopened on May 11, but high schools, junior colleges and universities will stay closed until September. Elementary schools in the greater Montreal area will remain closed until late August. Premier François Legault says public health conditions haven’t been met in the area hardest hit by the coronavirus, so Montreal daycares will also remain closed until at least June 1. Officials haven’t made a firm decision about retail businesses, which are scheduled to reopen May 25. Meanwhile, checkpoints set up to slow the spread of COVID-19 came down on May 18 in various parts of Quebec, including between Gatineau and Ottawa.

Ontario

Ontario is set enter its first stage of reopening today (May 19) including lifting restrictions on retail stores and surgeries. The province says workplaces can begin to reopen but working from home should continue as much as possible. All construction can resume, and limits will be lifted on maintenance, repair and property management services, such as cleaning, painting and pool maintenance. Most retail stores that have a street entrance can reopen with physical distancing restrictions, such as limits on the number of customers in a store and providing curbside pickup and delivery. Golf courses can reopen though clubhouses can only open for washrooms and takeout food. Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches can also open, as can private parks and campgrounds for trailers and RVs whose owners have a full season contract, and businesses that board animals. Other businesses and services included in the stage one reopening include regular veterinary appointments, pet grooming, pet sitting and pet training; libraries for pickup or deliveries; and housekeepers and babysitters. Ontario has previously announced that publicly funded schools will be closed until at least May 31.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan government’s five-phase plan to reopen its economy started May 11 with dentists, optometrists and other health professionals allowed to resume services. Phase 1 also includes reopened golf courses and campgrounds. Phase 2 will give the green light to retail businesses and salons. Restaurants and gyms could open in Phase 3, but with limited capacity. Phase 4 could see arenas, swimming pools and playgrounds opening. In Phase 5, the province would consider lifting restrictions on the size of public gatherings.

Manitoba

The Manitoba government has lifted its one-month limit on people’s prescription drug supplies, allowing people to again get prescriptions filled or refilled for 90 days. Its health offices, including dentists, chiropractors and physiotherapists can also reopen. Retail businesses can reopen at half occupancy providing they ensure physical spacing. Restaurants can reopen patios and walk-up service. Museums and libraries can also reopen, but with occupancy limited to 50 per cent. Playgrounds, golf courses and tennis courts reopened as well, along with parks and campgrounds. A second phase is to begin no earlier than June 1. That’s when restaurants would be allowed to open indoor dining areas and noncontact children’s sports would resume. Mass gatherings such as concerts and major sporting events will not be considered before September. Meanwhile, Manitoba has extended a province-wide state of emergency until mid-June, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Alberta

Alberta has increased the limit for outdoor gatherings to 50 people — up from 15. The province allowed stores, restaurants, daycares and hair salons to reopen across much of the province on May 14. But hair salons and restaurant dining rooms can’t reopen in Calgary and Brooks until May 25. Restaurants can only open at half capacity. Premier Jason Kenney says if the first stage of reopening goes well, the next phase — which includes movie theatres and spas — could go ahead on June 19. Alberta allowed some scheduled, non-urgent surgeries to start on May 11. Service provided by dentists, physiotherapists and other medical professionals are also permitted. Golf courses reopened May 2, though pro shops and clubhouses remain shuttered.

British Columbia

The provincial government is allowing a partial reopening of the B.C. economy starting today (May 19). The reopening plans are contingent on organizations and businesses having plans that follow provincial guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19. Hotels, resorts and parks will follow in June. Parents in B.C. will be given the choice of allowing their children to return to class on a part-time basis in June. The government says its goal is for the return of full-time classes in September, if it’s safe. Under the part-time plan, for kindergarten to Grade 5, most students will go to school half time, while grades 6 to 12 will go about one day a week. A mix of online and classroom post-secondary education is planned for September. Conventions, large concerts, international tourism and professional sports with a live audience will not be allowed to resume until either a vaccine is widely available, community immunity has been reached, or effective treatment can be provided for the disease.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories announced on May 12 a reopening plan that contains three phases, but the government didn’t say when it would be implemented. The plan includes more gatherings and the possible reopening of some schools and businesses. However, the territory’s borders remain closed indefinitely to non-residents and non-essential workers. There are several requirements that must be met before any measures are relaxed: there must be no evidence of community spread until today; travel entry points in the territory are strong and secure; risks are reduced from workers coming into the territory; and expanded community testing is available.

Yukon

The territory’s reopening plan outlines five phases including a period after a vaccine is available. The plan’s “restart” phase began May 15, with businesses that were ordered to close allowed to reopen as long as they submit an operational plan. Two households of up to 10 people in total are also able to interact with each other as part of a “household bubble.” But bars and restaurants that offer dine-in services won’t be allowed to reopen until the chief medical officer of health lifts restrictions. The territory’s borders also remain closed but residents are allowed to travel throughout Yukon more easily.

Monday 6:20 p.m.: British Columbia is announcing two new deaths and 16 new cases of COVID-19 over the Victoria Day long weekend.

There have been 2,444 total cases of COVID-19 in the province with 1,966 fully recovering.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the latest deaths both occurred in long-term care homes.

Monday 5:40 p.m.: More than 2,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in Ontario, according to the Star’s latest count.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the province’s 34 regional health units were reporting 24,424 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,004 deaths. Those totals represented relatively low increases from the same time Sunday evening, at jumps of 310 new cases — a very low 1.3 per cent increase — and 20 deaths, both among the lowest single-day totals recorded in the province since early April. However, those low totals came amid a sharp decrease in COVID-19 testing over the long weekend.

Earlier Monday, the province reported the testing labs had completed just 9,155 tests on Sunday, down more than 7,000 from Saturday for the lowest single-day tally since April 17, a total far below the provincial target of 16,000 tests a day.

The drop was consistent with recent weekends, which have also seen notable slowdowns at both the testing labs and the assessment centres that collect patients’ samples for testing. Days with relatively low case totals have tended to follow testing lulls, and vice versa.

Still, as a whole, the daily growth in new COVID-19 infections across Ontario has fallen sharply since peaking at more than 700 cases a day in late April.

Meanwhile, the total of 20 deaths reported in the province since Sunday evening was well below the recent average, a sign the rate of new fatal cases in the province has turned a corner after peaking a more than 90 deaths in a day earlier this month, about two weeks after the peak in the daily case totals.

Because many health units publish tallies to their websites before reporting to Public Health Ontario, the Star’s count is more current than the data the province puts out each morning.

The province also reported 972 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 174 in intensive care, of whom 133 are on a ventilator — numbers that have fluctuated in recent weeks. The province also says more than 17,500 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus have now recovered — nearly three-quarters of the total infected.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths — 1,904 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

Click here to read more of Monday’s coverage.

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People more important than the economy, pope says about Covid crisis – The Journal Pioneer

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Sunday that people are more important than the economy, as countries decide how quickly to reopen their countries from coronavirus lockdowns.

Francis made his comments, departing from a prepared script, at the first noon address from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in three months as Italy’s lockdown drew to an end.

“Healing people, not saving (money) to help the economy (is important), healing people, who are more important than the economy,” Francis said.

“We people are temples of the Holy Spirit, the economy is not,” he said.

Francis did not mention any countries. Many governments are deciding whether to reopen their economies to save jobs and living standards, or whether to maintain lockdowns until they are sure the virus is fully under control.

The pope’s words were met with applause by hundreds of people in the square, many of whom wore masks and kept several meters from each other. The square was reopened to the public last Monday. Normally tens of thousands attend on a Sunday.

The last time the pope delivered his message and blessing from the window was March 1, before Italy, where more than 33,000 people have died from the virus, imposed a lockdown. The last restrictions will be lifted on Wednesday.

Francis led the crowd in silent prayer for medical workers who lost their lives by helping others.

He said he hoped the world would come out of the crisis more united, rather than divided.

“People do not come out of a crisis like this the same as before. We will come out either better or worse than before. Let’s have the courage to emerge better than before in order to build the post-crisis period of the pandemic positively,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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People more important than the economy, pope says about Covid crisis – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Sunday that people are more important than the economy, as countries decide how quickly to reopen their countries from coronavirus lockdowns.

Francis made his comments, departing from a prepared script, at the first noon address from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in three months as Italy’s lockdown drew to an end.

“Healing people, not saving (money) to help the economy (is important), healing people, who are more important than the economy,” Francis said.

“We people are temples of the Holy Spirit, the economy is not,” he said.

Francis did not mention any countries. Many governments are deciding whether to reopen their economies to save jobs and living standards, or whether to maintain lockdowns until they are sure the virus is fully under control.

The pope’s words were met with applause by hundreds of people in the square, many of whom wore masks and kept several meters from each other. The square was reopened to the public last Monday. Normally tens of thousands attend on a Sunday.

The last time the pope delivered his message and blessing from the window was March 1, before Italy, where more than 33,000 people have died from the virus, imposed a lockdown. The last restrictions will be lifted on Wednesday.

Francis led the crowd in silent prayer for medical workers who lost their lives by helping others.

He said he hoped the world would come out of the crisis more united, rather than divided.

“People do not come out of a crisis like this the same as before. We will come out either better or worse than before. Let’s have the courage to emerge better than before in order to build the post-crisis period of the pandemic positively,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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COVID-19 is hastening the green economy, and we are far behind – CBC.ca

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In Newfoundland and Labrador, we immediately need both jobs and training for workers who want to transition out of oil, writes contributor Lori Lee Oates. (Submitted)

This week Premier Dwight Ball, Minister of Natural Resources Siobhan Coady, new Memorial University president Vianne Timmons and two industry associations held a news conference. They called on the federal government to provide subsidies for oil companies in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore.

Their message demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what has to happen to meet Paris Accord emission reduction targets for 2030. It also ignored the research on where the global economy is going, as other nations prepare green economic stimulus packages.

In May 2018, the International Labour Organization released a report which estimated that 24-million new jobs would be created in the move to a green economy, by 2030.

It also predicted a loss of six million jobs in the oil sector. However, that represents a net gain of 18-million jobs that will be created by this fundamental shift. Green energy is simply more job intensive than the fossil fuel energy sector and a far better bet for the economic future of this province.

What this means for Newfoundland and Labrador is that we need to take steps immediately to ensure we take full advantage of the green economic recovery. We also need to increase training opportunities.

Like any revolution, those who get there first will seize the high ground and become the new centres of excellence. Green energy services are a product that we will be able to export globally, and they will be in high demand for decades to come.

This is an opportunity for us to fully enter the global service economy for the first time in our history.

‘Green energy services are a product that we will be able to export globally, and they will be in high demand for decades to come,’ writes Lori Lee Oates. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via Associated Press)

The writing is on the wall

For some years now, financial analysts such as former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned of the dangers of ignoring climate change in financial planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the move to a green economy. This is likely the best opportunity we will ever have, as a planet, to get on track to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, as outlined by the 2015 Paris Accord.

Even before the pandemic, the IMF was warning against subsidizing the oil industry. A 2019 paper maintained that we must factor in the cost of external factors like natural disasters and health care to calculate the true cost of fossil fuel subsidies.

Furthermore, the IMF found that there was a net economic gain to ending oil subsidies.

Indeed, wildfires in Australia this year are expected to cost $100 billion. There is a very real price tag to failing to deal with climate change. Other costs include drought, starvation, war, pollution and all manner of natural disasters.

Experts have been pressing for jurisdictions that are heavily dependent on oil to diversify. That includes scholars and analysts in this province.

In the absence of an economic update from the provincial government so far this year, best estimates are that Newfoundland and Labrador will run a deficit of $2-3 billion.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we immediately need both jobs and training for workers who want to transition out of oil. We must insist that the federal and provincial governments prioritize workers over oil companies and their major global contractors.

Prof. Jeff Colgan of the Watson Institute at Brown University has argued that high-priced oil jurisdictions such as Canada will be wiped out of the global industry as part of the post-coronavirus oil shock. Colgan, who is Canadian, also predicted a high level of bankruptcies and mergers in the sector.

While the oil industry has long depended on subsidies, some experts are now urging nations to invest in green energy, rather than recover jobs that will have to be replaced in a few years to meet 2030 climate goals.

One of the findings of the IMF 2019 study was that Canada invests $60 billion annually in oil subsidies. Notably, most of this money goes to oil operators and tier one contractors that are headquartered outside of this country.

Oil subsidies largely do not go to supply and service companies that are home-grown and based in Newfoundland and Labrador. These are also companies that could easily transition into supplying lower carbon energy sectors, with fairly minimal supports.

Frankly, our provincial trade associations should be doing a better job of advocating for transitional funding for local companies, rather than championing the cause of major multinationals.

The fact that the oil sector is in such desperate need of subsidies to survive demonstrates that it is not nearly as lucrative as it claims it to be. The data that proponents present on the economic benefits of oil never factors in the total costs of oil subsidies.

Wildfires in Australia this year are expected to cost $100 billion. (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty)

The year the world woke up to climate change

Oxford Dictionaries chose “climate emergency” as its word of the year for 2019. We can expect massive shifts in energy sectors globally during the coming decade.

In 2019, 11,000 scientists across the globe signed off on an article in Bioscience, based on climate data from the last 40 years. They recommended the following:

Replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables and cleaner sources of energy. For them this meant that existing fossil fuels should be left in the ground;

  •  Promptly reducing emissions;
  •  Quickly curtailing habitat and biodiversity loss;
  •  Eating mostly a plant-based diet, while reducing global consumption of animal products;
  •  Shifting governance goals from GDP growth to human wellbeing; and
  •  Stabilizing the world’s population. They said family planning services should be available to all people. We must remove barriers to full gender equity and achieve primary and secondary education, as a global norm.

It has become increasingly clear since the Paris Accord was negotiated in 2015 that keeping an increase in global warming to 2 C is not enough.

We also now know that we must keep global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent irreparable damage to the natural environment. Last year ended with a global average temperature of 1.1 C above pre-industrial levels.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that we are currently way off track in meeting either the 1.5 C or 2 C targets that the Paris agreement called for.

Time is quickly running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption.

Canada, notably, is a signatory to the Paris Accord and has ratified it at home.

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The future is now

Increasingly, there have been calls for green energy stimulus spending since the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

The Oxford Review of Economic Policy has accepted astudy which surveyed 231 financial experts across central banks, finance ministries, and economics experts throughout the G20.

These experts identified five areas of economic stimulus which could displace the fossil fuel intensive economy, rather than entrench it. These include:

  •  Building efficiency retrofits;
  •  Investment in education and training;
  •  Natural capital investment;
  •  Clean research and development (this is NOT oil R&D).

Notably, our government is cutting post-secondary education, in both the university and college systems, at a time when we need to be re-training people for the green economy.

The study also found that without a green recovery, it will be nearly impossible to meet the goals of the Paris Accord. However, if the world comes together on green stimulus, this will be nearly sufficient to mitigate the most disastrous impacts of climate change that are predicted within the next 10 years.

The European Union is now poised to announce the world’s greenest economic recovery package. Proposals include:

  •  Up to 80-billion euros to boost electric vehicle (EV) sales;
  •  Doubling investment in charging networks; an option to exempt EVs from value-added taxes;
  •  91-billion euros a year to seal up drafty buildings;
  •  Plans to offer homebuyers green mortgages (for energy efficient homes);
  •  An annual 10-billion euros to support renewal energy and hydro infrastructure.

We are already behind on retraining

Governments and oil companies should have been retraining and transitioning oil employees for some years now.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we immediately need both jobs and training for workers who want to transition out of oil. We must insist that the federal and provincial governments prioritize workers over oil companies and their major global contractors.

In their stimulus response, they must also prioritize the green economy over the oil economy, as many nations are already doing. If we do this right, we can become a green energy centre of excellence in the global environment.

However, for that to happen, we must act on building the green economy right now.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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