Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
Developing: House of Commons vote delayed as behind-the-scenes negotiations continue on relief package
A reduced House of Commons met briefly at noon today, then suspended, as behind-the-scenes negotiations continued on legislation to provide relief to Canadian citizens and companies coping with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. One Conservative MP, Scott Reid, defied his party orders to stay away from Ottawa in order to ensure the legislation does not receive unanimous consent. Check back here for the latest developments in our news digest.
Before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s daily press conference this morning, his office said a controversial section to give the federal cabinet extraordinary measures over taxation and spending would be removed from the final bill. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said this morning that his party is willing to support the spending measures announced last week, but not a “power grab.”
Meanwhile, coronavirus-related business shutdowns have led to nearly one million Canadians applying for unemployment benefits in the past week. The estimated 929,000 employment insurance claims represent roughly 5 per cent of all employees in the country.
More layoffs and furloughs: WestJet Airlines says roughly half of its 14,000 employees will leave the company – some temporarily – amid the coronavirus fallout. The 6,900 departures include early retirements, resignations and both voluntary and involuntary leaves after WestJet asked staff to choose one of those options or reduce their hours or pay, CEO Ed Sims says.
Air Canada has reached an agreement that would allow it to furlough up to 600 pilots because of plummeting traffic as a result of the pandemic.
Bombardier says it will suspend all non-essential work at most of its Canadian-based operations starting tonight until April 26, including its aircraft and rail production activities in Ontario and Quebec. Employees affected by the temporary shutdowns will be placed on furlough, which means they will not be paid but will continue to receive benefits, a spokeswoman says.
In Canada: At a press conference, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases in this country, with 25 deaths. She also said that while there is an equal number of travel-related cases and those exposed in a community setting, the trend is turning toward community spread. Keep up to date: Check out how many coronavirus cases there are in Canada, by province, and worldwide with the latest maps and charts here.
Meanwhile, Parks Canada is restricting vehicles in national parks and historic sites after people flocked to the popular areas on the weekend. Officials are suspending motor vehicle access, starting tomorrow, until further notice.
Provincial updates: Ontario is temporarily slashing hydro rates for families, farmers and small businesses, Premier Doug Ford announced today, to offset higher household consumption as more people work from home or remain in self-isolation. Off-peak “time of use” electricity rates will be apply around the clock for at least six weeks.
The measures Ontario and Quebec announced yesterday to close non-essential business go into effect by midnight. But what is considered an essential business in a coronavirus pandemic? Here’s our guide to the rules so far.
The United States: The U.S. has the potential to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic because of a “very large acceleration” in infections, the World Health Organization says. More than 42,000 Americans have been infected.
Still, President Donald Trump pressed his case today for a reopening of the U.S. economy by mid-April, playing down the pandemic as he did in its early stages by comparing it to the seasonal flu.
Meanwhile, Congressional and White House officials say a deal appears to be at hand on a nearly US$2-trillion package to ease pandemic-related economic damage.
In Arizona, a man has died and his wife is in critical condition after they ingested chloroquine phosphate – an aquarium cleaning product that shares the same active ingredient as the malaria drugs touted by Trump as potential treatments for coronavirus infection.
Other global developments: The International Olympic Committee bowed to mounting pressure and today officially confirmed the 2020 Tokyo Games are postponed. After a call between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, both said the games would move to summer 2021 at the latest. Canada had earlier said it would not send athletes to the Olympic Games and Paralympics if they went ahead as scheduled.
The ebullient race to normal has swept China, Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe writes. But as Beijing’s roads and restaurants grow crowded, scientists warn second coronavirus wave is “inevitable.”
World-famous singer and saxophonist Manu Dibango has died from a coronavirus infection at 86 in France.
Have you had to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus? We want to hear your story. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Canada’s main stock market rallied today, rebounding from an eight-year low yesterday, as hopes rose that global stimulus measures will ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index surged 1,342.59 points or 11.96 per cent to 12,571.08. Since peaking in February, the index has tumbled about 30 per cent.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2,112.98 points or 11.37 per cent to 20,704.91, the S&P 500 gained 209.93 points or 9.38 per cent to 2,447.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 557.18 points or 8.12 per cent to end at 7,417.86.
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Verdict in Tess Richey death: Kalen Schlatter has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Tess Richey, whose body was found crumpled at the bottom of an outdoor stairwell in Toronto. The first-degree conviction means jurors found he sexually assaulted her as part of the series of events that led him to kill her.
Asterix co-creator dies: Albert Uderzo, one of the two creators of the beloved comic book character Asterix, has died at 92. His family says he died of a heart attack with no links to the coronavirus.
Rob Carrick has launched a weekly Pandemic Personal Finance Update, featuring practical, actionable ideas and tips to help you manage your money through the difficult times ahead. In the first instalment, he offers advice on three defensive things you can do right now:
- Stop beating yourself up about stock market losses.
- Create a “wartime” family budget to slash costs where required.
- Prepare for your bank to get nosy about your finances.
And if there’s anything you would like to see covered in future editions, reach out to him at email@example.com.
LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE
Not in the stars: Canadian horoscopes dish outdated advice amid coronavirus outbreak
The stars haven’t aligned for some astrologers in the age of COVID-19.
A glance at some recent Canadian online horoscopes reveals eyebrow-raising suggestions at a time when public health authorities are recommending self-isolation and minimal outdoor activity.
Hopefully Capricorns didn’t follow advice last Sunday to “get together with people you share history with” or “attend a reunion.” Scorpios had a challenge on their hands: “Go to a yoga class” seems rather ambitious given that studios are closed. Read the full story here.