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Pattie Lovett-Reid: Signs of Canada's economic recovery that give us hope – CTV News



COVID-19 has influenced what and where we buy goods even where live and work.

Prepare for a bumpy and uneven recovery, according to Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem, but I’m not so sure Canadians are buying it.

Retail sales have fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. We may be buying different things but we are buying. All you need to do is try to buy something online only to find it is out of stock and while there may not be a lot of cars driving to and from work yet there are plenty of delivery trucks roaring up and down streets.

In the recent May retail sales report, the 18.7% month over month gain in sales was impressive, with e-commerce sales comprising 8% of the total sales while up over the past year 112.7%. Retailers with a strong online presence are cashing in. Those that don’t have less odds of survival.

All provinces registered an increase in retail sales with Quebec and Ontario leading the charge with 10 of 11 sub-sectors higher with the only drag being food and beverage. Grocery stores have exceeded expectations since the beginning of the pandemic and continue to raise their outlooks going forward.

Public transit has taken it on the chin while motor vehicle sales soar. Less health risk and exposure in your private vehicle.

The Canadian real estate markets snapped back in June. National home sales according to the Canadian Real Estate Association jumped 63% month over month in June while sales are up 150% since April. Realtors have gotten creative with open houses and the slight pull-back in prices in some markets has encouraged buyers.

Adding to this, if you are even thinking about getting into the housing market, the Bank of Canada governor was pretty clear, “rates are very low and going to be very low for a long time.” It isn’t every day you get encouragement, almost a guarantee to go ahead and borrow money because we are in a low interest rate environment for a long time.

Working from home has taught us 1) we don’t all need to live in urban centres and 2) we can be highly productive working anywhere, anytime, and brick and mortar office towers don’t really matter as they once did. Employers have embraced flexibility in the workplace with many large corporations suggesting they aren’t in any rush to get employees back into the office.

However, some of the hardest-hit are small business owners — the real backbone of our economy. Gyms, coffee shops, dry cleaners and the list goes on. These small businesses worry about being in business next week. The government subsidies will help but many were barely making ends meet prior to the pandemic and the thought of more debt is staggering. The physical distancing has been vital for public safety but terrible for the entrepreneur that relies on social gatherings and foot traffic to make a living.

But let’s not lose hope, there is a lot of good out there. Communities, businesses and governments are coming together, corporations recognize flexibility in the workplace will become the norm and not an exception, people cherish their homes a little more and the desire is there to buy local.

However, through it all I still feel sad. I feel sad for the people who have lost their lives and the families impacted, I feel sad for people who lost their business, their job or their life savings. But we are resilient and we continue to support the Canadian economy and one another.

Let’s end on a positive: RBC announced today Canada United – a national movement to support local businesses across the country. A movement encouraging Canadians to show some local love by buying, dining and shopping local during the weekend of August 28 to 30. And when you view videos at, or like posts @GoCanadaUnited or use the hashtag #CanadaUnited, RBC will contribute 5 cents up to a maximum contribution of $2M to the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund.

In turn the Fund will provide Canadian small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses related to personal protective equipment , renovations to accommodate re-opening guidelines or improving e-commerce capabilities.

Canada, together we will get through this.

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Ontario reports 78 new COVID-19 cases, education minister 'unlocks' $500M for school return –



Ontario reported an additional 78 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, however numbers for Toronto Public Health were not available for today’s provincial update.

Of those public health units that did report new daily case counts, Peel had the most, with 19. Ottawa had 10, while Windsor-Essex had nine and Waterloo eight.

CBC News has reached out to Toronto Public Health for an explanation about its data, but has yet to receive a response.

At a news conference Thursday, Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical health officer, called Ontario’s overall direction “positive,” but said people need to keep their diligence up to keep the numbers down. 

“Our trends have consistently … been coming down,” he said. “You’re doing great. You need to keep doing well and as you go to the next phase, we have to do that even better.”

Williams estimated Thursday’s total number of confirmed cases would likely fall closer to 95 had Toronto Public Health’s data been included.

“I would estimate … we may be closer to 95,” said Williams. “I don’t think we’re over 100, that’s probably the good news.”

All of the figures used in this story are found in the Ministry of Health’s daily update, which includes data from up until 4 p.m. the previous day. The number of cases for any particular region on a given day may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, which often avoid lag times in the provincial system.

Ontario has now seen a total of 40,367 confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began in late January. Of those, slightly less than 91 per cent are considered resolved. Another 99 cases were marked resolved in today’s update.

There are currently some 891 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide, though there are likely more given the lack of data from Toronto today. Active cases are confined mostly to the southern reaches of Ontario. 

The province’s network of about 30 labs processed 29,626 test samples for the novel coronavirus yesterday.

Ontario’s official death toll from the virus stayed steady at 2,787. A CBC News count based on data provided by public health units puts the real toll at 2,825.

Province unlocking $500 million on ventilation, PPE for schools

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced he had “unlocked” $500 million for the province’s back-to-school plan.

The funding is meant to enhance physical distancing and improve air quality, along with providing PPE and boosting the number of custodians, ahead of the return to school in September. 

The minister also announced an additional $50 million for upgrades to ventilation systems and $18 million for online learning amid concerns over student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Parent groups and education workers held a demonstration outside Queen’s Park on Wednesday, calling on the government to provide funding for smaller elementary school class sizes in the fall. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The half a billion dollars in funding comes after the ministry allowed school boards to dip into reserve funds. Boards that do not have reserves will be provided with funding from an $11 million allocation.

“Our plan is a living document. It is responding to needs on the ground,” said Lecce. 

The education minister said he is also expanding school boards’ ability to access reserve funding for this particular year.

Some parents, educators and medical professionals have criticized the provincial government’s strategy for students. In particular, the decision to keep elementary school class sizes at pre-pandemic levels has faced scrutiny. 

In Ontario, there are no cap sizes for classes in Grades 4 through 8, only a maximum average of 24.5 across each board. That means it’s not uncommon for children in high enrolment school boards to find themselves in classes of 30 or more students. 

The government has said that distancing when possible, combined with a host of other measures such as self-screening by students and staff and mandatory masks for Grades 4 to 12, would keep children safe.

Premier in Windsor

Meanwhile, Ford announced $30 million through the Connecting Links program in order to build and repair roadways in the province. 

The premier also met with local leaders in Windsor-Essex to discuss the region’s economic recovery now that it has entered Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.

Ford said he talked with area mayors about opening a new hospital, as well as expanding capacity at the region’s Ceasar’s Casino. 

“We need to take the same approach as we do with cinemas,” Ford said of the casino.

“I have to protect those jobs,” he said “I have to protect those folks … same as I have to protect the automotive industry here.”

The premier also toured the Ford Motor Company’s Essex Engine Plant where a portion of the facility was retooled to produce plastic face shields for front-line workers during the pandemic.

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Drug shortages could 'imperil the lives' of Canadians, doctors warn Ottawa – CTV News



A group of some of Canada’s leading doctors and pharmacists have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the federal government to address shortages for critical drugs such as Azithromycin, Lorazepam and Remdesivir that could “imperil the lives” of Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The Critical Drugs Coalition issued the letter on Thursday, asking the government to bring attention and resources to Canada’s drug supply challenges. These challenges have existed for the past decade but doctors say they have been “greatly exacerbated” due to the novel coronavirus.

“We simply cannot afford to jeopardize the lives and wellbeing of our patients due to an inadequate supply of critical drugs,” the letter reads.

Some of the drugs currently in shortage include forms of Azithromycin, Ceftriaxone, Dexamethasone, Lorazepam, Midazolam, Propofol, Remdesivir, Salbutamol and Tocilizumab, among others. The letter says that health-care professionals have also seen shortages in antibiotic drugs, some of which are on the Tier 3 list, including Penicillin G.

According to the letter, 24 out of 32 drugs on Health Canada’s Tier 3 shortage list are essential for treating COVID-19. Medications on the Tier 3 list are drugs experiencing an active significant shortage and have no suitable alternatives.

With these critical drugs typically prescribed for various condition such as epilepsy, high blood pressure, pain, and asthma, many pharmacies across the country have been limiting patients to one month’s worth of medication at a time to discourage people from stockpiling medication amid the uncertainties around the pandemic.

CTV News previously reported that doctors are also experimenting with different treatments using existing medications to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which in some cases, have led to misinformed members of the public stockpiling the medicine and causing shortages for patients suffering from other serious diseases requiring the drugs.

“As frontline pharmacists and physicians, we have seen and heard of serious shortages of essential, critical medications. These drugs are often used simultaneously in ORs, ERs and palliative care wards, as well as ICUs,” the letter reads.

While Canada’s ICUs are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients, the Critical Drugs Coalition says the pandemic has placed a burden on their drug supply with patients often requiring weeks of treatment on ventilators.

Deputy Minister of Health Canada Stephen Lucas said in April that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to shortages of drugs and medical devices for Canadians.

Lucas said the federal government has a team dedicated to addressing the problem and is working with regulators in the U.S., Australia and Europe to identify where the supply-chain disruptions are occurring.

The federal government has also issued an interim order to allow certain international drugs that may not fully meet regulatory requirements to be imported and sold in Canada to help address drug shortages. However, pharmacists and physicians say they’re still facing shortages.


Health experts behind the letter worry that a likely second wave of infections in Canada will further increase drug shortages and put Canadians lives at risk by compromising the optimal care for their health unless certain measure are put in place.

While the letter is addressed to Trudeau, the Critical Drugs Coalition is calling for immediate action by all levels governments including provincial, territorial, and municipal with national support. The letter said Canada will “perpetually face drug shortages” unless concrete action is taken.

The Critical Drugs Coalition is a grassroots, volunteer-run coalition of physicians, pharmacists and others concerned by drug shortages amid the pandemic. The coalition recommends that Canada find a long-term solution to the problem, starting with the robust stockpiling of critical medications.

“Many of the critical care drugs should be part of the National Strategic Emergency Stockpile. However, it is clear that Canada simply did not have enough stockpiled to meet the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and that there has been under allocation and underspending for the emergency stockpile,” according to the letter.

Some of Canada’s national medical bodies including the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) have also signed the letter.

In order for the stockpiling strategy to be effective, the letter says governments must work closely with hospitals across Canada to establish a comprehensive list of essential medications for hospital-based care. Additionally, it suggests governments develop a plan to obtain medications in a co-ordinated manner to prevent unintended competition.

The letter is also calling for a publicly owned or supported critical drugs manufacturer as a safeguard against future drug shortages.

China and India supply some 80 per cent of the active ingredients and raw materials for many of the medications, and while some drugs are assembled in Canada, none are completely manufactured here from start to finish.

The letter explained that this national manufacturer would specialize in creating the critical drugs on the Critical Medications List, and “would be primarily involved in satisfying significant portions” of national medication demands.

Going forward, the letter is urging greater transparency and communication from governments to the health sector and the public on the supply of critical medicines to ensure drug supply issues are addressed before they pose any serious risks to sick patients.

“We encourage our government to give this urgent issue attention and efforts now, so that Canadians can have the confidence that their healthcare system will be there when they most need it,” the letter said.

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Grieving family says Canada abandoned son in Florida prison – CTV News



Sacha Bond’s family was looking forward to 2022, when, after more than 15 years in the United States, he would finally return to Canada. Instead, his mother is by his side at a hospital in Tallahassee, Fla., watching him die.

Bond, who turns 36 at the end of August, has been an inmate at Apalachee Correctional Institution for nearly half his life. Now chained to a hospital bed and supervised by armed guards 24/7 while in a coma, this is not what Sacha’s family wants for his final days. They blame the Canadian government for not doing enough years earlier — and for not doing more now.

Sacha was found with a fever of 40.5 C around 8:30 a.m. on July 13 after having spent almost three months in confinement, according to his mother, Diane Levesque, and brother, Eric Bond.

“There’s nothing we can do at this point because his brain is completely gone. He’s gone through so much cruelty at that place, and basically now my mom is risking her life … in the worst place in the world for COVID,” Eric Bond told

“It is really, really heartbreaking.”

When he was taken out of the cell, he collapsed and never woke up, Eric Bond said. Sacha’s temperature had climbed to 41 C by the time he was admitted into the hospital, where he was put on life support. Scans revealed severe, irreparable brain damage. His kidneys and lungs were failing and he had a blood infection.

But the family, who live in Quebec, said they would not have even known Sacha was dying in a hospital had Levesque not been in regular contact with him and the Canadian government.

She had called the consulate to ask when they would be visiting her son and was told they couldn’t because he was in the hospital, Eric Bond said. When she tried to find out which hospital he was being treated at, she was met with further roadblocks. A sympathetic staff member at the prison eventually told her.

Doctors diagnosed Bond with serotonin syndrome and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), his family said, both of which are triggered by certain types of medication. Over the last year or so, the prison had been changing his medication for his bipolar disorder, Eric Bond said, changes that were affecting his serotonin levels. The family had asked doctors at the prison to stop making the drug switches because the ones he was taking were working well, he added.

NMS is a very rare reaction to drugs that treat mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder.

Bond had been on life support for about two weeks by the time Levesque, who had power-of-attorney, made it to Florida. She was shocked by the severity of his condition. He was taken off life support two days later.

He is surviving longer than doctors expected because his lower brain stem, which was not damaged, is helping him breathe on his own, his family said.

“How can his soul leave his body when he’s stuck, chained to the bed?” Levesque asked in an interview.

“Canada does nothing. They’re standing by … He’ll be another statistic – that a Canadian died in a U.S. prison. You know what? He’s a human being, he’s my son.”

Neither the Florida Department of Corrections nor the warden for Apalachee Correctional Institution responded to questions about prisoner hospital policies and requests for comment from


Bond was 19 when he got into a drunken fight at a bar during a January 2004 trip to Florida. He returned to the bar with a gun and tried to fire, but there were no bullets in those chambers, according to the family and media reports on the case. He was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years.

He was set to be released on Sept.25, 2022, according to public inmate records from the Florida Department of Corrections.

His family tried many times over the years to transfer him to a Canadian prison under the International Transfer of Offenders Act, where they hoped he could get better treatment for his bipolar disorder, diagnosed just six months before his arrest. Canada approved the transfer twice, but U.S. authorities denied the request each time, Levesque said.

“Canada has made no effort to work with the U.S. government in order to have them send my boy back home,” she said. They sent the family funeral home pamphlets following their most recent pleas, saying there was nothing they could do, she added.

Global Affairs Canada told they are aware a Canadian citizen is being detained in Florida and said they continue to provide consular services to both the individual and their family.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and consular officials are in regular contact with local authorities to ensure he is provided the necessary medical care,” spokesman Jason Kung said via email. Citing the Privacy Act, Global Affairs said it could not disclose any further information.

Correctional Service Canada, which oversees international transfers, did not immediately respond to questions regarding the case.


Prison had “broken” Bond and made him a changed person, his family said. Still, in Levesque’s last phone conversation with him, “he was OK, he wasn’t sick … He was fine, happy, laughed,” she said. But he was very concerned and scared about the COVID-19 situation at the prison, where he said social distancing was non-existent.

The Apalachee East Unit is a large, dormitory-like space that holds some 150 inmates, according to Levesque, with cots set up side-by-side and just enough room to get in and out of bed.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, there have been 152 positive COVID-19 tests among inmates, 25 among staff, and no deaths reported at that facility. Staff are provided with protective equipment including surgical-grade and N95 masks and Tyvek suits. Inmates are required to wear “cloth face coverings” and are monitored by medical staff with temperature checks conducted throughout the day.

Bond tried to ask for “protective management” on health and safety grounds — which would segregate him from other inmates — but his mother said that request was denied. They put him in 45 days of confinement instead, which placed him in a cell with one other inmate, she said.

When the 45 days were over, Bond refused the order to go back to the general prison area, so he was given another 21 days of confinement, this time in a different type of cell that had no bars on the solid doors, a small window with no sunlight, and no ventilation. Phone calls were not allowed.

“My brother was sending letters to all the consulates saying, ‘This is insane, I’m going freaking nuts, I have a rash from head to toe. I can’t even breathe in here,’” Eric Bond said.

Levesque was also exchanging daily letters with Bond during this period, but after his first 45 days, she got a call: “Sacha wants me to pass you a message — stop writing in French because they’re keeping all these letters. He’s not getting them.”

In his last letter to his mother, Bond said he was breathing in black mould all day long, had a body rash and was sweating 24/7. He fell into a coma 10 days later.

Now, Levesque keeps him company in the hospital room day and night, sleeping in a chair and holding his hands under the watchful eye of two prison guards who stay in the small room with them. She is no longer allowed to keep a phone inside the room to connect with her other son, who worries he will not be able to see his brother’s last moments.

“We’re a very strong family. Sacha stayed in prison, did his time for 17 years and we just wanted him to come out of that tunnel … There is zero per cent chance of him pulling out of this and the prison is insisting on chaining his body to that bed,” said Eric Bond.

“I’m 100 per cent going to lose my brother. I’m really scared of losing my mother in this whole process.”

The guards’ presence has made things especially tense, said Levesque.

“The hospital is the best, co-operative and very empathetic, sympathetic, you know. But that prison? They want to control him up to the last minute,” she said, adding that the guards told her: “‘He’s still ours. He still belongs to us.’”

Her presence in the room outside of visitation hours was also questioned, even though she received permission from the hospital to remain with her son.

“There was no way I wasn’t coming over here, even though COVID is like a cesspool down here,” Levesque said. “It’s one of the worst places, but that’s where my son is. That’s where I need to be.”

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