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Winnipeggers toast to restarting the economy as Manitoba loosens COVID-19 restrictions – CBC.ca

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The sky was grey, but the beer was cold.

The chilly weather wasn’t going to stop Kathy Teetaert from enjoying a patio in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, after COVID-19 limited her dining options for more than a month.

“I think it’s time to start supporting our restaurants,” she said at the King’s Head patio on Monday afternoon, “and besides, I’m tired of cooking.”

Manitoba is embarking today on one of the most aggressive economic restarts of any Canadian province.

In addition to restaurant patios, the province is giving hair salons, dental clinics and most retail outlets the choice to open their doors starting today, so long as they follow strict rules surrounding physical distancing and sanitation.

Many were surprised at how quickly the government kick-started the economy, announced only five days earlier, after health officials spent weeks preaching a cautious return.

Patio-goers in good spirits

Customers enjoying a brew at the King’s Head patio were in good spirits, despite the unusual experience.

“I didn’t bring my mask because it’s kind of hard to eat,” Teetaert joked to their waiter, while her husband chuckled.

“At least you’re out in the air,” the waiter said, any smile disguised by her face-covering.

Dennis and Kathy Teetaert are enjoying the chance to get out of their kitchen and onto a patio, even if the temperatures are below seasonal. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Christopher Graves, the pub’s owner, said he’s pleased the dreary start to the day turned pleasant. The temperature began to approach 10 degrees during the noon-hour.

“We’re very excited; it’s been a very tough six weeks for us,” he said. 

WATCH | Patio season in a pandemic:

King’s Head Pub owner Chris Graves says he’s cautiously optimistic as the outdoor patio opened for business on May 4. 1:14

Graves said the King’s Head could quickly pivot to patio service because they already had staff in place from the grocery delivery business it launched in the early days of the pandemic. They shut the doors of their pub in mid-March, before the mandated closure of non-essential businesses.

Each of their waiters are wearing masks and gloves, they’re spacing tables at least two metres apart, and disposable glasses and cutlery are found in bulk.

“We’re going above and beyond to make sure that we’re doing it as safely as possible,” Graves said.

The province will open indoor dining at restaurants no earlier than June 1, according to the province’s reopening plan, announced last week.

For now, the government is continuing to encourage people to stay home, even as it gives many businesses the license to reopen. Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s top doctor, is advising that people shouldn’t gather at patio tables with individuals from other households, but that isn’t enforceable.

WATCH | Dr. Roussin offers advice for patio-goers

Dr. Brent Roussin says restaurants won’t be expected to ask customers if they’re part of the same households, but urges Manitobans not to gather in big groups. 0:37

Hunter and Gunn owner Jeremy Regan has changed the way his barbershop operates.

A haircut is only available by appointment, no walk-ins. Clients must wait outside, or in their vehicles, until their barber is ready. Only half his barbers are working at a time.

“We don’t have the biggest shop so we have to kind of be a little creative on how we keep people apart,” Regan said.

He hasn’t heard any pushback from customers.

“I think people are so damn desperate to get a haircut that they’re willing to almost do anything to be able to come, so it hasn’t been a problem.”

Sandra Foehr, seated, is back at Essentique Spa and Salon for the first time since February. She’s excited to finally return to her hair stylist and doesn’t mind that she’ll be wearing a mask. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

At Essentique Spa and Salon, Sandra Foehr is trying to look like herself again. Her roots haven’t been done since February.

“I got really excited [to return], I’m almost not recognizing myself in the mirror when I look in the morning,” she said at the Academy Road salon, which began operating Monday without its spa. 

The province re-opened segments of the economy on Monday. That included restaurant patios, hair salons, dental clinics and clothing and sporting good stores. 2:06

Many storefronts at Winnipeg’s malls, however, were not ready for opening day.

Only 30 of the roughly 200 stores at CF Polo Park were even open. The mall had maybe 400 shoppers at once in the afternoon, a fraction of the 20,000 to 35,000 shoppers the mall usually averages in an entire day.

Mall’s emptiness strange

“It’s strange,” said Florence Salvador, who wanted to return products at two stores, but both were closed.

“Usually it’s packed, right?”

General manager Peter Havens said many mall stores will open in the coming week and a half. Stores had just three working days to prepare, and some are still looking for personal protective equipment.

Shoppers follow floor markers to maintain a distance between each other at CF Polo Park. Most of the stores in the shopping centre were closed on Monday, the first day the mall could open in a month. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

“Everybody, I would say, is a little apprehensive, not exactly knowing what to expect, although we feel very confident that we provided lots of visual cues and safety for our tenants and our customers,” he said.

Using floor markers, the mall wants shoppers to treat their hallways like highways — stay to the right and pass on the left, Havens said.

Loren Remillard calls Monday a turning point for a business sector bruised by an economic shutdown.

“Psychologically, what this day represents is that the efforts to flatten the curve have yielded some significant successes for Manitoba,” said the president and chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

“Today, because of the successes, because of our diligent efforts, we’re able to begin to slowly, responsibly and safely start to re-engage our business community.”

He wouldn’t estimate how many eligible businesses are welcoming customers, but said the many companies still closed are prioritizing safety.

They could also be scrambling to get signage ready and employees trained, added Jonathan Alward with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

And once they’re open, will their customers come back?

Winnipeg began to show signs of life on Monday as the first phase of the province’s economic restart began opening up many non-essential businesses, including most retail outlets. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

“You can’t really overstate how important the month of May is going to be for a lot of businesses,” Alward told CBC Manitoba’s Radio Noon, anticipating that consumer confidence has taken a beating.

“A lot of customers are going to be reluctant, I think, to go back and shop,” said Alward.

At his pub, Graves was thrilled to see a scattering of customers again. When asked if he had a deal on the menu to get customers there, he laughed.

“You’re getting served on a patio in Winnipeg — there’s your special,” Graves said, chuckling.

City officials approved seven temporary patios in time for Monday’s reopening.

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Trudeau to offer premiers billions to help reopen the economy safely – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to offer premiers billions in federal funding to help them safely reopen provincial and territorial economies without triggering an explosive second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Trudeau is expected to present the offer to premiers during their weekly conference call today — the twelfth such call since the pandemic sent the country into lockdown in mid-March.

Precise details, including how to allocate each province’s share of the cash, are to be negotiated in the coming days, but federal officials hope agreements can be reached quickly to get the money flowing fast.

The offer comes with some strings attached, according to federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Trudeau is offering to transfer the money to provincial and territorial governments, provided they agree to spend it on a number of areas the federal government considers necessary to reduce the risk of a second surge of the deadly coronavirus.

They include testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, bolstering municipalities, helping the most vulnerable Canadians and strengthening the health care system, possibly including improving conditions in long-term care homes linked to more than 80 per cent of the deaths in Canada so far.

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Trudeau to offer premiers billions to help reopen the economy safely – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to offer premiers billions in federal funding to help them safely reopen provincial and territorial economies without triggering an explosive second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Trudeau is expected to present the offer to premiers during their weekly conference call today — the twelfth such call since the pandemic sent the country into lockdown in mid-March.

Precise details, including how to allocate each province’s share of the cash, are to be negotiated in the coming days, but federal officials hope agreements can be reached quickly to get the money flowing fast.

The offer comes with some strings attached, according to federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Trudeau is offering to transfer the money to provincial and territorial governments, provided they agree to spend it on a number of areas the federal government considers necessary to reduce the risk of a second surge of the deadly coronavirus.

They include testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, bolstering municipalities, helping the most vulnerable Canadians and strengthening the health care system, possibly including improving conditions in long-term care homes linked to more than 80 per cent of the deaths in Canada so far.

Making a difference in just one of those areas — municipalities — is a pricey proposition. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates communities across the country, which have been on the front lines of the pandemic, need $10-15 billion to make up for the loss of revenue resulting from reduced transit fares, user fees and deferred property taxes.

At the start of the pandemic, the federal government boosted transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care by $500 million — an amount that seemed large at the time but which has since paled in comparison with the more than $150 billion Ottawa has shovelled into direct financial aid to Canadians and economic stimulus measures.

While Trudeau is now offering provinces and territories substantially more money, there is likely to be some push back from some premiers over his attempt to direct the general areas on which it should be spent rather than letting them spend it as they see fit.

The prime minister is also expected to announce financial support for nearly four million disabled Canadians, who already faced some of the highest costs of living before the pandemic made daily life even more expensive.

Among other things, the pandemic has resulted in many people with disabilities having to rely on in-home care, pay delivery fees for groceries and other items, and fork out higher dispensing fees for prescription drugs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.

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BoC eyeing supply, consumer demand for July economic outlook, deputy says – BNNBloomberg.ca

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OTTAWA — A senior official at the Bank of Canada says the central bank will be paying close attention to what the post-pandemic economy can supply and what consumers demand.

Deputy governor Toni Gravelle said Thursday it’s possible that supply could recover faster than demand if businesses reopen quickly while consumers remain cautious.

In a speech by video conference to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, he said it will be key for the bank’s governing council to understand how the pandemic has affected demand, employment and the economy’s capacity to produce goods and services by its next interest rate decision in mid-July.

At that time, the bank will also release an updated economic outlook.

The Bank of Canada held its key policy rate at 0.25 per cent on Wednesday, but said the economy appears to have avoided a worst-case scenario due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gravelle made clear that’s as low as the bank believes the rate can go before it causes problems in markets, a nod toward talk about negative interest rates to spur spending.

The bank also reduced some of its market operations after it “cranked up the volume to 11” to allow the banking system to tap directly into much-needed funding liquidity, Gravelle said.

“Despite the positive signs, though, many risks and uncertainties remain,” Gravelle said, according to a text of his speech released by the bank.

“A lot will depend on whether we as a country are successful in managing the risk of possible future waves of COVID-19, and the pace at which containment measures are lifted. This applies to the global economy as well as Canada’s.”

He said the bank will pay close attention to how the pandemic is affecting growth and demand in key markets for Canadian exports.

Statistics Canada said the domestic economy shrank by 2.1 per cent in the first three months of the year. The Bank of Canada now expects output to drop a further 10 to 20 per cent in the second quarter, which is below its April expectations of a 15 to 30 per cent drop.

As bad as that sounds, Gravelle said, it would be closer to the best-case scenario the bank envisioned in April.

Gravelle pointed in his speech to silver linings in otherwise gloomy economic data.

Statistics Canada jobs figures showed that three million workers became unemployed over March and April as the pandemic took hold, but 43 per cent said they expected to return to their jobs once the pandemic passes. Gravelle said that figure was 15 per cent during the global financial crisis over a decade ago.

“These are all sort of subtle indications,” he said during a media teleconference following the speech.

“It was just more of a hopeful sign that the attachment rate of these employees will be stronger in this crisis or this environment than it was in 2008-2009.”

Inflation has dropped close to zero, driven mainly by plunging gasoline prices, and Gravelle said inflation will remain below the bank’s two per cent target in the near-term due to temporary factors.

Despite the positive tone of the speech, it’s clear no one at the central bank is breathing a sigh of relief just yet, said TD senior economist Brian DePratto.

“The multiple references to its ability to provide further stimulus, and the reiterated goal of keeping asset purchases running until the bank is certain the economic recovery is well underway make it clear that the foot will be firmly on the accelerator for some time to come,” he wrote in a note.

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