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Top executive leaving Aurora Cannabis compounds problems as analysts grow downbeat – The Globe and Mail



Aurora Cannabis stock dropped 10 per cent Monday.

Richard Drew/The Associated Press

The surprise departure of a top executive at Aurora Cannabis Inc. is weighing on the company, with analysts growing downbeat on its outlook and investors sending its shares to a level not seen since late 2017, before marijuana mania hit Canadian markets.

Aurora’s stock dropped 10 per cent Monday, the first trading day after the company disclosed the abrupt departure of chief corporate officer Cam Battley. Mr. Battley had been Aurora’s public face, often handling media interviews and questions from analysts about the cannabis producer’s strategy.

“It is clear to us that the market is lacking conviction in Aurora, and this update will do little to help that,” Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett wrote in a research note to clients Monday.

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Turnover of senior executives has been rampant among cannabis producers this year, with leaders at Canopy Growth Corp., Aurora, Aphria Inc. and CannTrust Holdings Inc. all departing. With share prices across the board already in free fall after investors lost confidence in the sector, the latest exit compounds the problem for Aurora, whose shares were already down 56 per cent year-to-date before the news broke.

“The biggest issue … is trust, with multiple instances of Aurora missing targets or going against its word,” Mr. Bennett wrote in his research note. “With Battley the ‘face’ of the company, this could have been a factor in his departure.”

Mr. Battley did not return a request for comment and Aurora declined to comment.

In the past few months, investors have seen Aurora miss its revenue guidance last quarter, despite issuing it only three months earlier; dilute shareholders by amending the terms of a convertible debenture, despite assuring shareholders it would not happen; and halt production-facility expansions shortly after announcing that they were progressing well.

Last month, Edmonton-based Aurora reported a 24-per-cent drop in revenue quarter-over-quarter and also announced that it was deferring for the foreseeable future the completion of a 1.6-million-square-foot growing facility in Medicine Hat, as well as halting construction work on a greenhouse in Denmark.

Late Friday, Aurora also revealed in a regulatory filing that board director Jason Dyck sold 1.08 million shares last week, or 57 per cent of his stake. Mr. Dyck did not return a request for comment.

“The sudden departure, during a period of insider selling, dwindling cash to cover payables and sector turmoil, does not send a strong message to investors,” MKM analyst Bill Kirk wrote in a research note to clients Monday. “Directors selling and executives leaving give us increased confidence that profitability is not on the horizon and Aurora’s 2.0 products will do little to turn the ship.”

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Across the industry, producers are hyping “Cannabis 2.0,” a term used for the legalization of marijuana-infused foods, drinks and creams. After a disappointing first year of legalized recreational cannabis, Canadian companies, including Aurora, are hoping that a broader selection of cannabis products will entice potential users.

“We are ready [for Cannabis 2.0] and have launched a diversified portfolio of new product formats and are excited for Canadians to have access to high-quality, safe alternative cannabis products such as edibles, vape pens and other derivatives,” the company said in a statement Monday.

But even if the new wave of products boosts overall sales, Mr. Kirk says that Aurora and its rivals face a tough market. He noted that pricing is already decreasing in order to compete with the black market and that there is an oversupply of cannabis.

“Most new, legal markets have shown decreasing profitability for cultivation, yet consensus expects Canadian licensed producers like Aurora to defy precedents,” he wrote. “With legal price gaps widening versus the illicit channel, we believe growth and addressable market opportunities are smaller than others believe.”

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Too soon to know if Canada's COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



MONTREAL – It’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward trend in new COVID-19 cases will continue, Canada’s chief public health officer said Sunday as several provinces grappled with outbreaks that threatened to derail their fragile progress.

Dr. Theresa Tam said there’s been an improvement in the COVID-19 numbers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, but the disease is regaining steam elsewhere.

“While community-based measures may be starting to take effect in some areas, it is too soon to be sure that current measures are strong enough and broad enough to maintain a steady downward trend across the country,” she wrote in a statement.

Some long-standing virus hot spots have made headway in lowering the number of new cases in recent weeks, but are still fighting outbreaks and flare-ups as they race to vaccinate vulnerable communities.

The federal public safety minister announced Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces will support vaccine efforts in a large swath of northern Ontario.

Bill Blair said on Twitter that armed forces personnel will support vaccine efforts in 32 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a collection of 49 First Nations spanning about two thirds of the province.

The military has previously been asked to help with the vaccine rollout in First Nations communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.

Health officials in Ontario were also investigating whether a long-term care home could become the second in the province to be linked to a U.K. variant of COVID-19, after a first home in Barrie, Ont., made headlines when it became infected with the more contagious strain.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said Sunday that an individual with the U.K. variant within the region had close contact with a person who is also part of an outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in Bradford West Gwillimbury, south of Barrie.

Ontario’s daily case count stood at 2,417 on Sunday, up slightly from the figure recorded a day earlier but significantly lower than levels seen earlier in the month when the province consistently logged more than 3,000 new diagnoses every 24 hours.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported a fifth straight day with a decline in the number of hospitalizations as the health minister urged citizens to keep following protective measures. But the province was still dealing with more than 1,350 active outbreaks, including one at a jail north of Montreal with over 60 cases.

Farther west, Police in Regina said they monitored a weekend anti-lockdown protest outside the home of Saskatchewan’s top doctor and are still determining if further action will be taken.

Premier Scott Moe condemned the protest targeting Dr. Saqib Shahab in a statement late Saturday, saying those who disagree with his government’s decisions should take their issues up with him or a local legislator rather than going after a “dedicated public servant and his family.”

He said Shahab should not be subjected to harassment from a “group of idiots” and that the government is looking into long-term security options to protect the chief medical officer of health and his relatives.

The Regina Police Service issued a release saying officers monitored the situation and conducted an investigation until the protesters departed after about an hour.

Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 case count rose by 260 on Sunday as the province announced it had exhausted its supply of vaccines.

Officials said they had delivered 101 per cent of available inoculations, accounting for the overage by saying they’d found “efficiencies” when drawing doses from vaccine vials.

Manitoba, meanwhile, logged 222 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and three more deaths.

Alberta also recorded a decline in case counts with 463 new diagnoses, news the province’s top public health official characterized as reassuring.

“We continue to see encouraging signs with the decline in active cases and hospitalizations,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a tweet. “Let’s keep the momentum going and follow all public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The news was less positive in Nunavut, where officials recorded a surge in new COVID-19 cases after weeks without infections. The territory reported 13 new diagnoses in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 which had been the centre of Nunavut’s largest COVID-19 outbreak and at one point had 222 cases.

While some provinces and territories reported flare-ups of new infections, other provinces had better news to report.

Newfoundland and Labrador did not record any new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while Nova Scotia identified just one.

New Brunswick fared less well as it reported 20 new cases, just hours after the hard-hit Edmundston region entered lockdown.

In a statement, Tam said the prospect of vaccines has offered Canadians “hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

But in the meantime, she stressed that all Canadians need to keep following health measures, even after they’re immunized.

She said following public health measures will also reduce the spread of new variants of COVID-19, including the ones identified in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 24, 2021

With files from Victoria Ahearn in Toronto, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Kevin Bissett in Fredericton

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Ontario teen who died of coronavirus worked for cleaning service at Delaware, Ont., LTC home: union – Global News



The teenager who passed away due to the coronavirus in London and Middlesex worked with a cleaning service at a long-term care home, Global News has learned.

Unifor Local 302 said in a statement that 19-year-old Yassin Dabeh was working with a cleaning service that was brought into Middlesex Terrace, a long-term care home in Delaware, Ont., during its COVID-19 outbreak.

Middlesex Terrace is represented by Unifor Local 302, but Dabeh was not a member, the statement said.

His death was reported by the Middlesex-London Health Unit on Saturday when three deaths were reported in the region. The other two involved a man in his 60s and a woman in her 80s, all of which were associated with a long-term care home.

Read more:
At least 52 residents have died at Toronto long-term care home after coronavirus outbreak

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According to the MLHU, Dabeh was the youngest person in the region to die of COVID-19.

“This is a very rare occurrence where (someone) recently diagnosed with COVID-19 passes away,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health with the MLHU.

“When someone who is younger passes away, I think it reminds us (how) tragic this pandemic really is.”

MLHU data indicates a facility wide COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Middlesex Terrace on Dec. 23. There’s no word on how many staff and residents have been infected.

Middlesex Terrace in Delaware, Ont.

Morganne Campbell/Global News

Read more:
‘Staff are in shock’: Documents reveal chaos inside Ontario nursing home during COVID-19 outbreak

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Yassin,” said Mary Raithby, the CEO of APANS Health Services, in a statement to Global News.

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APANS Health Services operates five homes across Ontario, one of them being Middlesex Terrace.

The long-term care home’s website indicates it provides “104 long-term care beds and one respite bed to the seniors of local communities.”

Saturday marked the 23rd day in a row the region had reported a COVID-19-related death.

More to come…

-With files from 980 CFPL’s Sawyer Bogdan

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after exclusion from provincial plan – CTV News Vancouver



Dentists are the latest group to take issue with British Columbia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

In a letter sent to Premier John Horgan Saturday, the BC Dental Association says it is “extremely disappointed” that dental professionals were not included in Phase 2 of the province’s vaccine rollout.

According to documents released by the provincial government on Friday, Phase 2 of the plan is intended to take place in February and March and will be focused on high-risk populations, including seniors ages 80 and older who have not yet been vaccinated, Indigenous elders, and “vulnerable populations in select congregated settings.”

Phase 2 also includes vaccinations for “hospital staff, community (general practitioners) and medical specialists not yet immunized.”

It’s this latter group that the dental association takes issue with in the letter. The association argues dentists should be included in Phase 2 “along with our medical colleagues.”

“Dentistry is an essential service,” the letter reads. “More importantly, dental care, including aerosol-generating dental procedures, are provided to patients who cannot wear a mask during treatment.”

The association notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include dentists alongside doctors and medical specialists in their COVID-19 vaccine schedule. B.C. dentists also cite Ontario’s vaccine plan, which includes dentists in stage two.

“B.C. dentists continue to do everything they can to ensure dental offices are safe for patients and staff,” the association’s letter reads. “Early access to vaccines will ensure continued access to urgent and emergency dental care.”

The B.C. government announced its full immunization plan on Friday, prioritizing residents by age rather than occupation. 

The BC Teachers Federation expressed disappointment with that decision, saying teachers had hoped there would be prioritization for frontline workers. At the same time, the union acknowledged that vaccine supply is beyond its control and that the most vulnerable “must be vaccinated first.”

“Teachers are stressed, anxious, and even afraid,” the federation said in a statement. “We do not have the layers of protection in our schools that exist in other environments. If teachers are not prioritized for a vaccine, this government must take immediate action to improve safety measures in our schools.”

Among those safety measures are mask mandates, better physical distancing and improved ventilation in schools, the union said. 

The full text of the BC Dental Association’s letter is embedded below.

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