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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Ottawa to release economic package to aid with fallout from coronavirus

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In response to growing calls for action in the wake of market turmoil and the plummeting price of oil, the federal government will release an economic package Wednesday to support workers and provinces affected by the fallout from the new coronavirus outbreak. Measures will include changes to employment insurance to assist employees who must stay home, funding for health research and money to help the provinces cope with the crisis, according to a senior government official.

Here at home, Ontario has identified its first instance of community transmission of the new coronavirus in a man who attended a major international conference in Toronto last week. The case is significant because it suggests the virus could be circulating undetected in more people in the province and beyond.

Italy, meanwhile, enforced a sweeping lockdown as infections in the country topped the 10,000 mark with 10,149 cases – more than anywhere else but China – and the number of deaths from the virus rose to 631, from 463 a day earlier, Italian Civil Protection authorities said.

In China, life edged back to normal as the diminishing threat prompted President Xi Jinping to visit the central city of Wuhan and declare: “We will certainly defeat this epidemic.” After weeks of extreme quarantine measures, China reported just 19 new infections Tuesday, down from thousands each day last month.

Canadian and international researchers suggest that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted by infected individuals before symptoms develop – a possibility that could explain why the spread of the epidemic has proved so difficult to contain after it first appears in a new location. The new analysis underscores the importance of social distancing and other strategies that seek to limit opportunities for contact with individuals who may be infected but not realize it.

Canada now has nearly 100 cases of the novel coronavirus and provinces are planning to offer more in-home testing as they try to prevent patients with mild symptoms from overloading the country’s emergency departments.

Travel insurance companies have begun adjusting their policies to exclude the global coronavirus outbreak, labelling it a foreseeable reason for trip cancellations. Allianz Global Assistance Canada is the third Canadian travel insurance company to change its regular trip cancellation policy to exclude claims related to COVID-19 for any policies purchased on or after Wednesday.

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The Bank of Montreal’s economics department in a research note says it expects the Bank of Canada to slash its key interest rate by another three-quarters of a percentage point in its next rate decision in mid-April, as plunging oil prices and mounting coronavirus fears prompt economists to rewrite their economic and rate forecasts. It said it anticipates a 75-basis-point cut in the bank’s next rate decision on April 15, and another 25 basis points in the following decision on June 3. If that happens, it would reduce the Bank of Canada’s key rate to 0.25 per cent – matching its record low, set during the financial crisis in 2009.

Opinion: Even the stable genius Donald Trump can’t bully a deadly virus

  • Lawrence Martin: “Having been slow to respond to it, having put out wrong information, this crisis risks becoming Mr. Trump’s Katrina.”

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Democratic primaries

Joe Biden has won at least three more primaries, including the pivotal state of Michigan, putting Bernie Sanders’s campaign on the ropes and continuing a stunning comeback that sets the former vice-president on a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination. Both contenders, meanwhile, cancelled rallies in Cleveland Tuesday night over concerns about the new coronavirus, raising questions about the feasibility of mass campaign events when all three remaining presidential contenders are elderly men and therefore in the high-risk group for COVID-19. Adrian Morrow reports.

In a significant win for the U.S. House of Representatives, a federal appeals court ruled the Justice Department must give Congress secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Russia inches closer to making Putin president for life

The Russian parliament adopted constitutional changes that would reset the clock on Vladimir Putin’s time in the Kremlin and allow him to get around a prohibition on serving more than two consecutive terms. The Russian President is consolidating his power as Russia, embroiled in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, is bracing for the possibility of a sharp economic downturn.

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OPP commissioner says camera system didn’t detect faulty licence plates - but officers did

Although the OPP tested the new plates in three different lighting conditions with automated licence plate readers, and declared last month that there were no visibility problems, several officers have come forward saying that they’ve had trouble reading the plates in certain lighting conditions.

Head of Ontario police asks for government help to deal with officer suicides and toxic workplace culture

Since 2012, 17 OPP officers have killed themselves – including three in the past year – prompting the government to hire an independent panel to examine the issue. The final report describes the police force’s nearly 9,000 employees as being part of an overly burdened organization that’s beset by “a negative workplace culture.”

B.C. ports prepare for an uncertain cruise ship season

Preparations are under way at Victoria’s cruise ship terminal for the start of this year’s cruising season on the West Coast, with extra hand sanitizing stations being installed amid concerns about COVID-19. But Canadian port authorities, cruise lines and the hospitality sector are waiting to find out whether the season will begin at all.

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MORNING MARKETS

European stocks gain after emergency BoE cut adds to stimulus hopes: European stocks rose on Wednesday after the Bank of England joined other central banks in cutting interest rates, raising hopes for more co-ordinated monetary and fiscal stimulus to counter the economic shock from the coronavirus outbreak. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.80 per cent just before 6:30 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 gained 1.62 per cent and 1.71 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei ended down 2.27 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.63 per cent. New York futures were lower. The Canadian dollar was trading at 73 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Energy companies need to act quickly and decisively this time

Jeffrey Jones: "There’s no reason to keep capital tied up expanding and shipping the company’s oil sands-derived crude output when the stuff is selling for about half of what it was at the start of year. It is the last thing investors need in the midst of an oil price war. "

Quebec budget is already past its best-before date

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Konrad Yakabuski: “It would not take much for Quebec to return to the bad old days when it borrowed to pay for the groceries. Over the past five years, the province has depended on steadily increasing federal transfer payments to stay in the black.”

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

Cartoon

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

Safety measures travel providers are taking to protect passengers during the coronavirus outbreak

Sectors from across the travel industry are increasing health, safety and screening procedures and implementing heightened sanitation protocols to keep people as safe as possible on each leg of their journey.

Tree planting has been the best (and the worst) time of my life

First Person: “When we step out of the trucks, often in the pouring rain, we’re faced with the ultimate jungle gym: a steep chunk of land that’s just been logged. In front of us will be a gnarly hillside covered with piles of logs, bushes, mounds of branches and scattered debris, all of which form booby traps that torment tree planters with endless trips and falls.”

Illness stole this chef’s ability to smell. This is her story of heartache – and hope

When the nuanced palate that built her career stopped working, Joshna Maharaj tried everything to fit into the Canadian culinary world with a hidden disability.

MOMENT IN TIME

ONE-TIME USE ONLY WITH STORY SLUGGED NW-MIT-RESPONSIBLE GOVT-031 -- Statues of Robert Baldwin (1804-1858) and Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864) in the grounds of Parliament Hill, Ottawa, April 29, 2010. Credit: Nikreates / Alamy

Nikreates / Alamy Stock Photo/Nikreates / Alamy

This day in 1848 was a defining moment for democracy in the United Province of Canada, when governor-general Lord Elgin swore in Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin to lead their “Great Ministry.” After a clear electoral victory in the British colony, the two reformers brought in “responsible government,” whereby governance is carried out by elected citizen representatives rather than colonial powers. Previously, colonial governors acted on guidance from representatives they selected. (Joseph Howe had led the way a month earlier in Nova Scotia with his own responsible government initiative.) “[Responsible government] had double significance in Canada: first, that of the people controlling their own government; second, it was about independence from London,” John Ralston Saul wrote in The Globe and Mail on this date in 2008. Together, LaFontaine and Baldwin, a Catholic francophone and a Protestant anglophone, respectively, helped create a society based on inclusion and egalitarianism. Of the pair, Saul wrote: “Their fight was built on their desire to strengthen the public good. They believed that only a fully functioning democracy could accomplish this. And that is the touchstone from 1848 to today.” – Ian Bailey

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