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A woman wearing a mask walks past a mural during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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7:30 p.m. EDT

‘Stay home in the north:’ Saskatchewan clamps down on northern travel

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is telling residents in the northern part of the province to stay put as the region deals with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Moe said the minister of government relations has spoken with leaders in the area and a decision was made to further clamp down on travel.

Non-essential travel between northern communities will be prohibited through checkpoints, he said.

“We’re asking people to stay home in the north,” Moe said at a news conference Thursday.

“If you can stay at home, not just in your community — but at home, we’re asking you to do so.”

The government had already restricted some travel into the north.

On Thursday, Saskatchewan reported six new cases of COVID-19, with new infections in two areas hit by outbreaks — La Loche and Lloydminster.

The province has so far recorded 389 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths related to the illness.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also announced the reopening of some businesses and services next week.

- Canadian Press

6:30 p.m. EDT

Reopened golf courses, campsites part of Alberta relaunch plan

Alberta is planning to reopen dental offices and golf courses shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic as early as Monday.

The government says boat launches are also to be made accessible and it is working to open as many campsites as possible by June 1.

Some retail businesses, restaurants, hair salons, museums, daycares and summer camps have been given a target date of May 14.

The relaunch plan comes with restrictions — one will require people to wear masks on mass transit.

The province says schools are to reopen later, but there’s no timeline for that.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also announced the reopening of some businesses and services next week.

- Canadian Press

1:30 p.m. EDT

Ottawa says 500 members of Canadian Forces deployed at Quebec nursing homes

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos says nearly 500 members of the Canadian military have now been deployed to 13 long-term care homes in Quebec.

That includes medical technicians, nurses and support staff to aide the facilities.

He said there will be more deployed soon to at least seven additional care homes in the province and the tasks that they are doing will depend on the needs of each individual facility.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier said military members are also on site at five long-term care homes in Ontario.

- Canadian Press

12:20 p.m. EDT

N.B. Green leader calls for exemptions for temporary foreign workers for farms

The leader of New Brunswick’s Green party is calling on the provincial government to provide a wage subsidy to help farmers recruit and retain workers, and to permit exemptions to the order barring temporary foreign workers from entering the province.

David Coon says the government’s last-minute decision to close the provincial borders to temporary foreign workers, just before planting season, is depriving farmers of trained and experienced workers.

Premier Blaine Higgs announced the restriction Tuesday, saying the situation with COVID-19 makes it too risky to allow a greater number of people to enter the province.

Higgs said there are already 1,500 temporary foreign workers in the province and 70,000 people who are unemployed, who can fill the remaining jobs.

Coon says farmers who can demonstrate they can quarantine their workers for 14 days and provide for physical distancing in their accommodations should be eligible for exemptions.

The National Farmers Union has warned the restriction on temporary foreign workers will force some farmers to reduce the amount of crops they plant this year.

- Canadian Press

10:30 a.m. EDT

Ontario reports highest single-day death toll

Ontario is reporting 459 new COVID-19 cases today, and 86 more deaths – the largest daily death toll so far.

The province has now seen 16,187 cases, an increase of 2.9 per cent over the previous day.

The total includes 1,082 deaths and 10,205 resolved cases.

In the previous day there were 12,928 tests completed, despite a pledge from the province to reach 14,000 tests a day by then.

- Canadian Press

10:20 a.m. EDT

Nunavut confirms first case of COVID-19 in Pond Inlet

Nunavut says it has its first case of COVID-19.

In a news release, the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, says the case was detected in the community of Pond Inlet.

The person is said to be in isolation and is doing well.

Patterson says the territory’s rapid response team is on the way to the community to help manage the situation.

Nunavut is the last Canadian jurisdiction to report a COVID-19 case.

Pond Inlet is located on the northern part of Baffin Island and has a population of about 1,600.

- The Canadian Press

10:20 a.m. EDT

Toronto begins moving homeless people from tents into apartments

The City of Toronto says it is moving some people living in tents into apartment buildings as part of its effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the city’s homeless population.

Encampments have sprouted up across the city as those living in shelters have taken to the outdoors during the pandemic.

The city says it has leased and furnished two buildings in the midtown are that had been slated for demolition.

It says each unit will have a kitchen, wireless internet and cable television.

About three dozen people living in tents outside a drop-in centre will be the first to move into the apartments.

Toronto Public Health says 211 people in the shelter system have tested positive for COVID-19, with nine currently in hospital.

-The Canadian Press

9:40 a.m. EDT

Federal deficit could hit $252.1-billion this year, may rise if emergency programs extended: PBO

A new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer says this year’s federal deficit could reach $252.1-billion, representing 12.7 per cent of Canada’s GDP.

The report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux cautions that the figures are an illustrative scenario of what could happen and are not a forecast of the most likely outcome.

The report also noted that the deficit could be larger if the government decides that current emergency programs need to be extended later into the year or if the government approves new spending to stimulate the economy once most businesses are allowed to open.

Under the PBO’s scenario, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio would rise to 48.4 per cent in the 2020-21 fiscal year, a level not seen since 1999-00. However, the report points out that such a level would still below the peak of 66.6 per cent of GDP reached in 1995-96.

“Once the budgetary measures expire and the economy recovers, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio should stabilize and then start declining under pre-crisis fiscal policy settings,” the PBO report states. “However, should some of the measures be extended or made permanent, the federal debt ratio could keep rising.”​

- Bill Curry

8 a.m. EDT

More than half of companies see sales drop at least 20 per cent: StatCan

Almost one-third of businesses could stay open if physical distancing rules remain in place for six months, but nearly as many suggest they won’t survive that long, according to survey results from Statistics Canada that provide a window into the financial strain of anti-pandemic rules on companies large and small.

Those restrictions have hit companies hard, with nearly one-third of respondents saying their revenues have plummeted by 40 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A further one-fifth of businesses reported a revenue drop of between 20 per cent and 40 per cent, suggesting that more than half of Canadian companies have watched sales drop significantly since the crisis began in March.

The sharp decline in businesses’ revenues has led to widespread layoffs and furloughs, with the crowd-sourced survey results from more than 12,600 companies — some with only or two employees, others with more than 500 — suggesting nearly one in five businesses have laid off 80 per cent or more of their workers. The results are from an online survey this month done in tandem with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Statistics Canada said the study cannot be applied to the overall Canadian economy because the voluntary survey does not represent a random sample.

The chamber’s chief economist, Trevin Stratton, said the responses suggest thousands of businesses are at risk of closing permanently as restrictions extend and support programs leave gaps.

- The Canadian Press

8 a.m. EDT

Farm groups oppose New Brunswick’s new foreign-worker restrictions

Farm groups in New Brunswick say a new restriction on temporary foreign workers couldn’t have come at a worse time and will have a major impact on food production in the province.

Premier Blaine Higgs imposed the restriction Tuesday, saying provincial borders need to remain closed with so many serious outbreaks of COVID-19 in surrounding jurisdictions.

“For now it is too risky to allow a greater number of people to enter the province,” Higgs said.

This restriction does not affect the status of about 1,500 temporary foreign workers currently in the province.

Rebeka Frazer Chiasson, president of the National Farmers Union in New Brunswick, said the skilled labour is not easily replaced, and many farmers will reduce their risk by limiting the amount they plant. She said the decision came as a surprise, with no explanation from government.

- The Canadian Press

3:30 a.m. EDT

Toronto city council to hold first virtual meeting

Toronto city council is holding a special meeting online this morning due to restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillors will use an online video conferencing platform while the public can watch a livestream of the meeting.

It’s the first time councillors of Canada’s most populous city will meet virtually.

Mayor John Tory’s report on the COVID-19 emergency response is among the items on the agenda.

- The Canadian Press

3:30 a.m. EDT

Toronto Zoo announces wage reductions

The Toronto Zoo and its union have reached an agreement on a temporary reduction in wages and hours for all permanent staff to avoid further layoffs.

The agreement takes effect on Saturday and is in place until June 6th, when it will be re-evaluated.

Ticket sales are a critical part of the zoo’s revenues, and it’s been closed to the public since March 13th due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

- The Canadian Press

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