Quebec’s Treasury Board president Christian Dubé tabled Bill 61 last Wednesday, which aims to stimulate the province’s economy after several months in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the bill is not being perceived as a positive step to restarting the economy by all members of the National Assembly. Opposition parties say the bill infringes on people’s basic rights and grants more power to the Quebec government.
The new legislation aims to reinvigorate the province’s stagnant economy by fast-tracking 202 infrastructure projects. Schools, seniors homes and public transit are among the proposed projects.
Last week, Dubé said the bill will make the government more agile when pushing through stalled infrastructure plans. They can also add projects at a later date. The Legault government only needs to debate with opposition parties for an hour.
The National Assembly closes its current session in a few days, which is why many in the opposition feel they are being strong armed by the government. It’s being pushed to pass by Friday as the session comes to halt with hardly any time to dissect the bill.
While Bill 61 focuses on rebuilding the economy through infrastructure, several petitions are circulating online, pointing out many hidden features that might be missed at a quick glance.
The bill gives the current government permanent power over expropriation. This could happen to anybody, at anytime, without proper legal defense. It also helps the government circumvent measures put in place to squash corruption and collusion.
There is also a note in the legislation that prolongs the health emergency in Quebec for up to two years. But the government is the only entity that has the power to end it, so it could last longer than two years. One petition calls this a “dictatorial maneuver”.
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Americans' Aversion to Mask-Wearing Is Holding Back the Economy – BNN
(Bloomberg) — The aversion of many Americans to wearing a thin piece of cloth across their faces is restraining an already-shaky economic rebound.
In Texas, the second most-populous state and a hotspot of the resurgent Covid-19, Republican Governor Greg Abbott on July 2 ordered mask-wearing in a reversal of his earlier opposition to enforcement. He said on local television this week that face coverings will prevent “having our economy shut down again.”
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said Friday that U.S. growth would be faster if all Americans wore masks. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates a national mask mandate could prevent the U.S. from losing almost 5% of its gross domestic product.
Yet millions of Americans — especially Republicans — have been reluctant to embrace masks, with President Donald Trump himself resistant. That’s in contrast with Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who typically dons a black covering in public appearances. Gallup polling in late June showed 98% of Democrats said they wore a mask outside home during the past week, compared with 66% of Republicans and 85% of independents.
Adding to the confusion, medical experts have sent mixed messages about when and how masks should be worn. While the World Health Organization has recommended masks in general, it said last month that there’s “no direct evidence” on the effectiveness of mass mask-wearing among healthy people. Other health officials say that while a mask won’t protect the person wearing it, it can help stop sick people from infecting others.
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The politics may be shifting as some policy makers try to avoid more shutdowns. In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey was initially reluctant about masks and hesitant to let local officials in his state impose rules requiring them. But in recent weeks, as the number of coronavirus cases swelled in the battleground state, Ducey has encouraged everyone to wear a mask.
Without measures like mask-wearing to reduce the opportunity to spread the virus, the health and economic consequences will worsen, said Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And we will have no choice but eventually to lock things down again, which would be devastating to the economy,” he said.
But as major corporations lobby for a federal mask mandate, questions of enforcement remain. In places that have already mandated masks, making that happen in practice has largely fallen on the heads of businesspeople like Tina Yake, owner of The Wooden Spoon restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas.
Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, ordered mask-wearing last week but counties were allowed to opt out and enforcement was left to local authorities. Johnson County, where The Wooden Spoon is located, went along with the mandate; the area includes the Kansas City suburbs along the state’s border with Missouri.
Yake said initially the restaurant put up a sign telling customers to check in at the front and wear a mask. “Those that didn’t want to wear a mask or check in, would leave in a huff,” she said in an email. The restaurant ended up adding a second, and then a third, sign with a neon pink border, as well as posting on social media that masks are required.
Despite some customers getting angry at the mask policies, Yake said the restaurant hasn’t faced adverse effects, and the requirement may even be helping business. “We have been congratulated and thanked for taking a stand on the mask issue and doing everything we can to keep our customers and staff safe,” she said in the email.
The opposite appears to have happened for The Grille at Flower Hill, a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland, outside Washington. The establishment closed indefinitely after its owner received death threats over his refusal to follow the state order requiring masks for staff, according to local publication Bethesda Beat. The restaurant owner could not be reached for comment.
Alan Cobb, president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, called measures including face masks and social distancing “vitally important,” but brought up concerns.
“It should not be the responsibility of businesses to enforce mask mandates,” he said in a statement, adding that state and local governments should be clear on what is required for businesses.
Davis Senseman, a Minneapolis attorney who has consulted with small businesses on face-mask enforcement, said government regulations are a “floor” and businesses can put in place more safety measures that customers tend to appreciate.
Senseman likens face-mask requirements to the signs in some businesses warning: “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”
“That has helped a lot of business owners realize, ‘Oh yeah, I’m not asking you to do much. I’m asking you to have a shirt on, I’m asking you to have shoes on and to put on a mask,’” Senseman said.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The week in COVID-19: B.C. economy improving, but new community cases show virus fight far from over – CBC.ca
British Columbia’s economy is showing glimmers of recovery, but new community cases of COVID-19 show it’s far too early to relax, said B.C.’s top doctor this week.
“We’ve seen elsewhere around the world, including the United States and other places, that things can quickly escalate once again if we let our guard down,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday.
The week saw positive cases pop up at multiple Vancouver nightclubs, a Burnaby fitness club, a McDonald’s in Surrey and a Vancouver 7-Eleven store.
On Friday, the province reported 25 new cases, the biggest one-day jump since May 8. On Thursday, an additional 20 new cases were reported.
This week B.C.’s total COVID-19 case count also passed the 3,000 mark, reaching 3,053 cases by the end of the week.
As of Friday, there were 187 active cases in the province, with 16 people currently in hospital and five in intensive care. A total of 2,679 people who tested positive have recovered.
Because the disease is still circulating, Henry emphasized, everyone must keep up prevention measures such as physical distancing and wearing masks until a treatment or vaccine is available.
The province is also looking into whether nightclubs are following provincial rules after two strip clubs, No5 Orange and Brandi’s, as well as Hotel Belmont, showed positive cases, but officials were unable to contact everyone who had visited the clubs.
Henry also said the province is still working to identify a reliable antibody test to determine how many people have been infected and recovered without ever testing positive for COVID-19.
The tests have been problematic, she explained, with a high prevalence of both false positive and false negative results. As a result, the province is using different tests to validate any positives.
“The bottom line from what I’ve seen so far is it reflects what we have seen here in British Columbia, that very few people have become affected at a population level,” she said, promising more detailed information next week.
‘A picture of cautious optimism’
At the same time, the B.C. economy is showing gradual signs of recovery. According to new data released by Statistics Canada, the province’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.4 per cent in June after rising for three months straight.
It now sits at 13 per cent, with the number of people employed in B.C. rising by 118,000 in June, after an increase of 43,000 in May.
Speaking at a Friday morning news conference, Finance Minister Carole James said the data “paints a picture of cautious optimism, with a long road ahead.”
James said the gains bring back roughly 40 per cent of the jobs that had been lost since February. The total net job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic are approximately 235,000 in B.C.
Closed for business
Speaking of long roads ahead, a growing number of people in B.C. are heading out on vacation — but some B.C. Indigenous communities are expressing concerns over the possible arrival of COVID-19 along with summer travelers.
This week the Lower Similkameen Indian Band closed the Chopaka Bridge Beach, a private beach on reserve land that’s popular with tourists.
“This year with pandemic happening and everything that’s going on in the States, we have a lot of U.S. travelers that end up stopping at this beach,” said Chief Keith Crow on Daybreak South. “It’s time to keep our members safe.”
Meanwhile a luxury fishing lodge on Haida Gwaii says it plans to reopen this weekend despite a state of emergency issued by the Haida Nation as a result of the pandemic.
Queen Charlotte Safaris president Paul Clough says the lodge is 45 kilometres from the nearest community and complies with all orders and guidelines issued by the province and WorkSafe BC.
However in a statement the Council of the Haida Nation said the protection of its communities is paramount.
“These are our lands and waters,” said Chief Councillor Duffy Edgars of the Old Massett Village. “We will decide when it’s time to open back up to visitors, and until that invitation is open, Haida Gwaii is closed to all non-essential travel and non-residents.”
A group of Haida matriarchs also vowed to occupy two ancient villages on Haida Gwaii in protest.
No Infections From Protests
Anti-racism protests have drawn thousands of people across B.C. but this week Henry also confirmed that the province has not seen any cases of COVID-19 that are linked to the protests, the largest of which took place June 5 and June 19.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said public health officials in other parts of North America have reported similar results.
“We follow up every single case here in B.C.,” Henry said. “The short answer is no … currently we do not have any cases that have been associated with the protests that took place.”
Henry emphasized that infections were likely prevented because people were outside, and most tried to keep their distance and wore masks.
But Henry said officials in the U.S. have connected virus transmission to other large outdoor gatherings — particularly parties on the beach.
“That was surprising,” she said. “Many of us thought there would be a similar risk.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed serious flaws with B.C.’s long-term care system, says health officials, and during the Thursday briefing this week, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said that big changes are needed.
“What this pandemic has absolutely exposed is the vulnerabilities in many of our long-term care homes,” Henry said.
The comments come as B.C. begins opening up long-term care facilities to some non-essential visitors after months of isolation for residents, and a rising tide of complaints from families with loved ones in hard-hit care homes.
Dix said the “fundamental challenge” will be to shift priorities so extending people’s lives isn’t the sole focus.
“We have to allow people to live life. This has been the profound contradiction and it’s why restoring visits was so important,” he said.
Reality check: A look at Trump’s claims on coronavirus, the U.S. economy and Biden – Globalnews.ca
COVID-19 testing would be the envy of the world, the economy would be on the cusp of roaring back, the threat would be receding in a pandemic that has sickened more than 3.1 million Americans and killed more than 133,000.
But repetition doesn’t make for reality. The U.S. is taking a disproportionate hit from the coronavirus globally and does not have it under control.
A look at how rhetoric from the past week compares with the facts on various fronts:
TRUMP: “For the 1/100th time, the reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our TESTING is much bigger and better. We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: His notion that infections are high only because the U.S. diagnostic testing has increased is false. His own top public health officials have shot down this line of thinking. Infections are rising because people are infecting each other more than they were when most everyone was hunkered down.
Trump calls Biden a ‘puppet’ of socialism
It’s true that increased testing also contributes to the higher numbers. When you look harder, you’re going to see more. But the testing has uncovered a worrisome trend: The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country.
That’s a clear demonstration that sickness is spreading and that the U.S. testing system is falling short.
“A high rate of positive tests indicates a government is only testing the sickest patients who seek out medical attention and is not casting a wide enough net,” says the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a primary source of updated information on the pandemic.
Americans are being confronted with long lines at testing sites, often disqualified if they are not showing symptoms and, if tested, forced to wait many days for results.
TRUMP on the coronavirus: “We have the lowest Mortality Rate in the World.” — tweet Tuesday.
THE FACTS: This statement is wholly unsupported.
An accurate death rate is impossible to know. Every country tests and counts people differently, and some are unreliable in reporting cases. Without knowing the true number of people who become infected, it cannot be determined what portion of them die.
Using a count kept by Johns Hopkins University, you can compare the number of recorded deaths with the number of reported cases. That count shows the U.S. experiencing more deaths as a percentage of cases than most other countries now being hit hard with the pandemic. The statistics look better for the U.S. when the list is expanded to include European countries that were slammed early on by the virus but now appear to have it under control. Even then, the U.S. is not shown to be among the best in avoiding death.
Such calculations, though, do not provide a reliable measurement of actual death rates, because of the variations in testing and reporting, and the Johns Hopkins tally is not meant to be such a measure.
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The only way to tell how many cases have gone uncounted, and therefore what percentage of infected people have died from the disease, is to do another kind of test comprehensively, of people’s blood, to find how many people bear immune system antibodies to the virus. Globally, that is only being done in select places.
TRUMP: “Deaths in the U.S. are way down.” — tweet Monday, one of at least a half dozen heralding a drop in daily deaths from the virus.
THE FACTS: It’s true that deaths dipped even as infections spiked in many parts of the country. But deaths lag sickness and the spikes have not played out.
“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday. He advised Americans: “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”
TRUMP: “Job growth is biggest in history.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Yes, but only because it is following the greatest job losses in history, by far.
The U.S. economy shed more than 22 million jobs in March and April, wiping out nearly a decade of job growth in just two months, as the viral outbreak intensified and nearly all states shut down nonessential businesses. Since then, 7.5 million, or about one-third, of those jobs have been recovered as businesses reopened. Even after those gains, the unemployment rate is 11.1%, down from April and May but otherwise higher than at any point since the Depression.
Trump pushes for U.S. schools to reopen this fall
TRUMP: “Economy and Jobs are growing MUCH faster than anyone (except me!) expected.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Not really. It’s true that May’s gain of 2.7 million jobs was unexpected. Economists had forecast another month of job losses. But most economists projected hiring would sharply rebound by June or at the latest July, once businesses began to reopen. The gains kicked in a month earlier than forecast.
Now, though, coronavirus cases are rising in most states, imperiling the climb back. In six states representing one-third of the economy — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, and Texas — governors are reversing their reopening plans, and the restart is on pause in 15 other states. Such reversals are keeping layoffs elevated and threatening to weaken hiring.
Trump on Biden
TRUMP campaign ad, playing out a scenario where a person needing help calls the police in a Biden presidency and gets a voice recording: “You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry but no one is here to take your call.” The ad closes with the message: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
THE FACTS: Biden has not joined the call of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after Floyd’s killing. He’s proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices.
“I don’t support defunding the police,“ Biden said last month in a CBS interview. But he said he would support tying federal aid to police based on whether “they meet certain basic standards of decency, honourableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.”
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Biden’s criminal justice agenda, released long before he became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, proposes more federal money for “training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths” and hiring more officers to ensure that departments are racially and ethnically reflective of the populations they serve.
Specifically, he calls for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs.
That adds up to more money for police, not defunding law enforcement.
Biden also wants the federal government to spend more on education, social services and struggling areas of cities and rural America, to address root causes of crime.
Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to Trump’s repeated proposals in the administration’s budget to cut community policing and mediation programs at the Justice Department. Congressional Republicans say the program can be effectively merged with other divisions, but Democrats have repeatedly blocked the effort. The program has been used to help provide federal oversight of local police departments.
Despite proposed cuts, Attorney General William Barr last month said that the department would use the COPS program funding to hire over 2,700 police officers at nearly 600 departments across the country.
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE email: “In the wake of rioting, looting, and tragic murders ripping apart communities across the country, Joe Biden said `Yes, absolutely’ he wants to defund the police.” — email Wednesday from Steve Guest, RNC’s rapid response director.
THE FACTS: That’s misleading, a selective use of Biden’s words on the subject.
Joe Biden attacks Trump’s COVID-19 remarks: ‘He’s worried about looking bad’
The email links to an excerpted video clip of Biden’s conversation with liberal activist Ady Barkan, who endorsed Biden on Wednesday after supporting Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. A full recording of that conversation, provided by the Biden campaign to The Associated Press, shows he again declined to support defunding police,
Barkan raises the issue of police reform and asks whether Biden would funnel money into social services, mental health counselling and affordable housing to help reduce civilian interactions with police.
Biden responds that he is calling for increased funding for mental health providers but “that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and that both approaches are needed, including more money for community police.
Asked again by Barkan, “so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding,” Biden then answers “absolutely yes.”
Biden then gives the caveat that he means “not just redirect” federal money potentially but “condition” it on police improvements.
“If they don’t eliminate choke holds, they don’t get (federal) grants, if they don’t do the following, they don’t get any help,” Biden replied.
“The vast majority of all police departments are funded by the locality, funded by the municipality, funded by the state,” he added. “It’s only the federal government comes in on top of that, and so it says you want help, you have to do the following reforms,.”
Biden on Trump
BIDEN: “President Trump claimed to the American people that he was a wartime leader, but instead of taking responsibility, Trump has waved a white flag, revealing that he ordered the slowing of testing and having his administration tell Americans that they simply need to `live with it.” — statement Wednesday marking the rise in U.S. coronavirus infections to more than 3 million.
THE FACTS: To be clear, the government did not slow testing on the orders of the president.
Trump at first denied he was joking when he told a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on June 20 that he said “to my people, `Slow the testing down, please”’ because “they test and they test.” Days later he said he didn’t really mean it.
In any event, a succession of his public-health officials testified to Congress that the president never asked them to slow testing and that they were doing all they could to increase it. But testing remains markedly insufficient.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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