Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:
The federal government and the Bank of Canada say help is on the way
As the number of positive COVID cases pile up in Canada, critical-care beds start filling up and some with the illness pass away, it is still, unfortunately, early days for the virus’s impact on Canadians’ health and well-being. As public-health officials say, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Unfortunately the economic impacts of the disease and the measures we are using to fight it are already here. More than a million Canadians have already filed for unemployment benefits, and the government expects millions more to join them.
The government has been scrambling in the past two weeks to introduce new funds to help. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would dramatically increase its wage-subsidy program in line with what countries such as Denmark are doing. Now the government says it will pay 75 per cent of employees’ salaries for eligible companies, up from a promise of just 10 per cent last week. The details about who is eligible are to come on Monday.
The Bank of Canada, too, scaled up its action on buying debt and slashed its key interest rate for a second time this month, down to just 0.25 per cent.
The damage to the economy will be severe, but – hopefully – temporary. The Parliamentary Budget Office said Canada’s gross domestic product could decline by as much as 25 per cent in the second quarter, but that it could begin to rebound by winter.
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Some signs for optimism: Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, says she sees some “glimmers of hope” in the province’s current data that cases are beginning to level off. Given the long incubation period for the coronavirus, social-distancing measures will have to remain for now. But the province is hoping it will be able to keep the number of cases to a level that hospitals can manage.
One more: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’s tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he’s had a cough and fever in the day, but will continue to lead the government’s efforts by video-conference. “Together we will beat this,” he said in a statement.
That’s not nice: A New Brunswick man who had just returned from an overseas trip was charged with assault for purposely coughing in someone’s face.
What comes next: Authorities may be lifting the official lockdown on China’s Hubei province – where the virus appears to have originated – but that doesn’t mean citizens aren’t ready for an unofficial lockdown. Residents of nearby provinces are distrustful of those from Hubei, and don’t want them moving in. This has led to some violent clashes in the area.
And getting out of there: Soon-to-be-former royals Meghan and Harry’s brief sojourn in Canada may already be at an end, with the couple and their young son reportedly off to Los Angeles.
Canada’s main stock market resumed its slide after a three-day winning run as investors grew more nervous about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the Bank of Canada slashed interest rates to nearly zero.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX Composite Index closed down 5.11 per cent, or 683.43 points, at 12,687.74, while shares declined globally in a sign investors were focusing once more on the spread of the virus despite hopes for further stimulus measures to combat its economic impact.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 915.39 points, or 4.06 per cent, to 21,636.78, the S&P 500 lost 88.6 points, or 3.37 per cent, to 2,541.47 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 295.16 points, or 3.79 per cent, to 7,502.38.
There is no perfect economic response for Canada’s coronavirus shutdown
“The contraction we are enduring is not the result of a sudden and mysterious cratering of business and consumer confidence, but rather of a government-imposed shutdown, in response to a public-health emergency. Once the emergency has passed and the shutdown is lifted, economic activity can resume – though it may be many months before it returns to prepandemic levels.” – Andrew Coyne, columnist
Physical distancing is our only hope. We must all adhere to it faithfully
“We can hope for a vaccine, which experts believe will take at least 18 months to be developed in the best-case scenario. The reality is that physical distancing, in contrast to these hopes, has been shown to have successfully contained COVID-19 in China for the time being, taking it out of the realm of “hope” and into the realm of imperative direction.” – Vincent Lam is the medical director of the Coderix Medical Clinic, an addictions medicine clinic, and a faculty member at the University of Toronto. He is the co-author of The Flu Pandemic and You.
Indigenous communities and COVID-19: The virus may not discriminate, but responses to it do
“Scholars have shown that Indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by communicable diseases and have unique determinants of health that lead to rapid disease transmission. Our populations suffer high rates of pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease. Precisely because these types of diseases have hard-hitting, and longstanding, implications in our communities, we continue to feel their effects well after they have been addressed for non-Indigenous people in Canada.” – Gina Starblanket is Cree/Saulteaux and a member of the Star Blanket Cree Nation, and is an assistant political science professor at the University of Calgary. Dallas Hunt is Cree and a member of Wapsewsipi (Swan River First Nation), and is an assistant professor of Indigenous literature at the University of British Columbia.
One of the biggest impacts of the early days of the pandemic is that entire sectors have had to shut down, such as entertainment and restaurants. Millions of Canadians will lose their jobs (hopefully temporarily). For those who have lost their jobs, there are new government benefits. For those who still work, you might be wondering: what can I do? Rob Carrick, The Globe’s personal finance columnist, offered some suggestions in his newsletter. Charities of all sorts are in dire straits right now, and the need at food banks is acute – so if you have money to spare, you might consider donating to your local. As well, local businesses, such as restaurants, that have been forced to close might night be able to take orders right now, but they would likely appreciate if you bought some gift certificates.
LONG READ FOR A LONG COMMUTE
This week in Canada the theatres are dark, the concert halls are silent and the art galleries are empty. As all arts and entertainment venues close their doors to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the losses are beginning to mount, from the microscopic to the macro-economic.
Yet, trapped inside our houses, it is to the arts that we turn: to novels, to recorded music, to movies and TV shows. It is how we find escape but also how we seek meaning. Contagion, an apocalyptic drama about a global pandemic, was one of the most-watched Netflix movies in Canada this week.
And, while artists are losing gigs, they are hardly inactive. There’s a daily buzz of virtual concerts, classes, conversations and art displays using everything from the good old telephone to sophisticated software that can patch together remote performances by individual voices or instruments.
The large losses and the ironic gains of the pandemic are offering sharp lessons about why we need the arts. Read Kate Taylor’s full story here.
Evening Update was compiled by Chris Hannay, with the kindness of Lori and Jordan. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.