- Canada’s First Nations close borders over coronavirus, using ‘isolation as a strength’
- Canadian tech sector calls for emergency government-backed bank loans to stave off small business bankruptcies
- Canada-U.S. border to close for ‘non-essential’ travel on Friday night, Trudeau says
- Some Canadian travellers may be stranded for weeks as borders close, Champagne says
- How condo and apartment buildings are encouraging social distancing
- Ottawa announces new income supports for workers who don’t qualify for EI benefits
10:45 p.m. ET
Trudeau, P.E.I Premier Dennis King urge CBC to reverse decision to scrap local TV newscasts
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says he spoke with the premier of Prince Edward Island today about CBC’s decision to scrap most local TV newscasts.
A statement about Trudeau’s conversation with Dennis King says both leaders agreed that people from P.E.I. deserve access to local coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PMO says Trudeau committed to having the minister responsible speak to the CBC to explore options for Islanders “given these extraordinary circumstances.”
The CBC temporarily scrapped most of its local TV newscasts to consolidate resources at CBC News Network amid the COVID-19 crisis on Wednesday.
King said afterward he planned to ask Trudeau to reverse the decision.
9:10 p.m. ET
Former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Philpott on front line
Former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Philpott says she has returned to the front line to help combat COVID-19.
Philpott, who was a family physician before she became involved in politics, says she is helping the team at Markham Stouffville Hospital in Ontario in the COVID-19 assessment centre.
She represented the riding of Markham-Stouffville in the House of Commons before she was defeated in the 2019 federal election.
In a picture posted on Twitter Philpott is wearing protective clothing and a face shield.
She is urging people to use a self-assessment tool if they have virus symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
7:50 p.m. ET
Manitoba government cuts some taxes, sets money aside for emergencies
The Manitoba government is keeping a tight leash on spending and delaying some promised tax cuts as it prepares for the economic fallout from COVID-19.
The Progressive Conservative budget released Thursday follows through on some tax-cut promises from the election campaign last year when the Tories won their second-straight mandate.
Probate fees on deceased person’s estates are to be eliminated July 1. Vehicle registration costs are to be cut 10 per cent on the same day. And the provincial sales tax is to be removed from income-tax preparation services starting Oct. 1.
But two other election promises — removing the sales tax from home insurance and salon services — will wait until next year, Finance Minister Scott Fielding said.
A prime focus of the 2020-21 budget is preparing for emergencies. The government is putting another $300 million into its rainy-day fund and doubling to $100 million the amount it sets aside for emergencies.
The budget predicts that COVID-19 could cut economic growth by as much as half and induce a brief recession.
– Canadian Press
7:20 p.m. ET
B.C. records an eighth death from coronavirus
British Columbia has recorded an eighth death from COVID-19 as the number of infections climbs to 271 cases.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says the latest person to die was a resident of the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where six others have died.
The province also announced 40 new cases today.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the majority of cases are in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions.
She says precautions everyone must take to protect each other are “not optional” but that maintaining social distance must come with keeping a social connection to prevent isolation and that could happen online.
– Canadian Press
5:40 p.m. ET
Edmonton man becomes first to die from COVID-19 in Alberta
Alberta’s chief medical officer has reported the first person to die in that province from COVID-19.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said a patient from the Edmonton region died after being in the intensive-care unit since last Thursday. The patient, a man in his 60s, had underlying health conditions, said Dr. Hinshaw.
“This is extremely sad news and all of us involved in Alberta’s COVID response feel this very deeply," said Dr. Hinshaw, who added that fatalities are nonetheless expected.
“This is a dangerous virus.”
Alberta has confirmed 27 new cases in the past day, bringing the provincewide total to 146.
– James Keller
4:22 p.m. ET
Canada’s First Nations close borders over coronavirus, using ‘isolation as a strength’
Canadian indigenous communities, already facing poor health care options, are closing their own lands’ borders to limit coronavirus exposure as Ottawa dispatches funds and tents to house and isolate sick patients in the country’s chilly north.
The communities are considered at heightened risk in the coronavirus outbreak because of difficult living conditions. The country’s 1.4 million indigenous people have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.
1:43 p.m. ET
Ontario records second COVID-19 death, Quebec cases up to 121
A health unit in Ontario reported a new death as the province had a jump in cases — 43 new ones — on Thursday, bringing its total to 257 with two deaths. Canada is now closing in on 800 cases, 10 fatal. Seven of the fatalities have occurred in British Columbia, which has also surpassed the 200-case mark.
Quebec is reporting 121 confirmed COVID-19 cases today, up from 94 the day before, with seven people in hospital. The province’s health authorities say all regions of the province now have confirmed cases.
– The Canadian Press
1:20 p.m. ET
Sunwing offers free seats on repatriation flights to stranded Canadians
Sunwing Airlines Ltd. is offering seats on its repatriation flights free of charge to any Canadians stranded in sun-kissed parts of the hemisphere, including to non-Sunwing customers.
Stephen Hunter, CEO of the carrier’s parent company, says opening up extra capacity is “the Canadian thing to do.”
The travel company aims to fly about 11,000 Canadians back to home soil today, bringing the total number of repatriated Sunwing passengers to more than 33,000.
Thousands of Canadians stuck overseas are continuing to struggle to a way back home as borders close and airlines cut flights in response to the spread of COVID-19.
Sunwing says it expects to have all of its customers home by Monday.
Global Affairs Canada said Tuesday that “Canada has no current plans to repatriate a significant group of people from other countries.”
– The Canadian Press
1:03 p.m. ET
Cruise ship passengers in France with tickets home will disembark
Passengers who have airline or other tickets for travel back to their home countries will be allowed to disembark from the coronavirus-hit Costa Luminosa cruise ship in Marseille, its port authority said today.
There were more than 1,420 passengers on the liner, including 230 Americans, 168 Italians and 100 Canadians, according to the cruise operator, Italy’s Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp.
12:02 p.m. ET
Provinces urged to end newcomer waits for public health insurance amid pandemic
Hundreds of doctors, nurses and activists are calling on provincial governments to ensure immediate access to free health care for new arrivals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an open letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott this week, the group OHIP For All says urgent action is needed in light of a looming public health emergency in Canada.
“We are deeply concerned about these pre-existing barriers to health care for uninsured individuals in Canada, and the potential public health implications in the context of a pandemic,” the letter states. “As a group of health-care providers and community members, we call on all levels of government, health institutions, and public health leaders to act now to ensure care for everyone.”
Typically, new arrivals in Canada have to wait at least three months to access provincial health coverage. The newcomers include Canadians returning from longer stretches abroad, recent immigrants, some temporary foreign workers and international students, and undocumented workers. In some cases, people who have lost identity documents may also have trouble getting coverage.
– The Canadian Press
11:29 a.m. ET
Border restrictions to kick in Friday night, PM says
The border between Canada and the U.S. will close for non-essential travel by Saturday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
At his daily press conference, Mr. Trudeau said the two countries are still finalizing the details of an agreement that will leave the border open to essential goods and workers but will close to non-essential travellers, such as shoppers and tourists.
The two countries each announced the partial closure on Wednesday.
The unprecedented move is being made to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Mr. Trudeau has sought to reassure businesses and individuals that essential travel will continue and supply chains “will not be affected.”
– Marieke Walsh and Daniel Leblanc
10:45 a.m. ET
After weak start, North American stocks rise
North American indexes turned positive in morning trading Thursday after a weaker start as stimulus efforts by world governments and continuing volatility continue to roil global markets.
Just after 10 a.m.. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX Composite index was up 90.21 points or 0.77 per cent at 11,811.63. A day earlier, the index dropped more than 7 per cent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.72 per cent to 20,042.80. The S&P 500 gained about 0.51 per cent to trade at 2,409.29. The Nasdaq was up 2.68 per cent at 7,183.86. On Wednesday, the Dow sank more than 6 per cent to close below 20,000 for the first time since early 2017.
10:10 a.m. ET
Ontario legislature expected to pass emergency bill to help workers
The Ontario government is expected to pass emergency legislation today aimed at protecting workers forced to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford has said it will apply to employees under investigation, supervision or treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Workers in isolation or in quarantine and those who need to provide care to someone related to COVID-19, including for a school or daycare closure, would also be protected.
– The Canadian Press
8:45 a.m. ET
B.C. cancels byelections and referendum
British Columbia’s Municipal Affairs Ministry has cancelled three municipal byelections and a referendum in four communities around the province as part of efforts to avoid the spread of the new coronavirus.
A statement from the ministry says it has scrubbed byelections set for Victoria and Rossland on April 4, a referendum in Kamloops on the same day and a byelection slated for Lytton on April 25.
None of the votes have been rescheduled.
The ministry says public health and local government officials asked for the postponements to ensure voters don’t gather in polling stations, and to free up local resources to focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
– The Canadian Press
8:29 a.m. ET
Toronto Transit Commission sees first case among employees
On Thursday the Toronto Transit Commission announced its first case of a positive test among its employees – a bus mechanic who had been travelling. The employee returned to work for one shift, on 11-March, before being sent home sick. The agency said it learned of the diagnosis late Wednesday.
The agency said that between 130 and 170 of the person’s fellow employees were being asked to self-isolate. Their workplace, part of the Hillcrest TTC facility near Casa Loma, was to get a “thorough disinfection, with special attention paid to common high-touch areas.”
Also Thursday, GO Transit said it had learned that a passenger who took the route 40 bus from Pearson International Airport to Hamilton in the early evening of March 12 tested positive. The driver of that bus is showing no symptoms and is in isolation as a precaution, according to the agency, and the vehicle was removed from service for cleaning.
“Hamilton Public Health has determined the risk is low & does not need to speak with customers,” the agency said in a tweet. “Customers with concerns about their health should speak with their healthcare provider.”
– Oliver Moore
6:10 a.m. ET
Dollar gains; ECB stimulus boosts bonds
The U.S. dollar surged on Thursday as extraordinary steps by central banks across the world to cope with a coronavirus-induced financial rout had mixed success.
The greenback gained against the British pound to its highest since 1985, last up 0.8% at $1.1535, as investors rushed to secure liquidity.
Against a basket of six major currencies the dollar gained 0.6%, near a more-than-three-year high touched a day earlier.
6 a.m. ET
Online performances by Canadian entertainers announced
The National Arts Centre and Facebook Canada have banded together to present live online presentations by Canadian performers. Professional musicians, dancers, comedians, theatre artists and more are encouraged to apply for $1,000 grants from a $100,000 relief package funded by Facebook Canada.
Called Canada Performs, the series kicks off Thursday at 2 p.m., with a concert by Blue Rodeo members Jim Cuddy and Colin Cripps, along with Cuddy’s musician sons Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley. Adhering to social-distancing protocol, they will stay 1.5 metres apart from each other while performing live, with no audience, from Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studio.
Musical artists including Serena Ryder, William Prince, Irish Mythen, Erin Costelo and Whitehorse will share online performances in the coming days, with more to be announced.
– Brad Wheeler
5:45 a.m. ET
Pet adoptions on hold as animal shelters struggle to cope
Humane society offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto are closed to the general public. Volunteers have been sent home and dogs and cats already at the shelters are going to have to wait before getting a chance to find a new home.
“We really just don’t want people coming in and out of the building, so unfortunately all of our animals ... are staying put,” said Jessica Bohrson, communications manager for the Calgary Humane Society. “It could potentially be months. It’s anyone’s guess right now.”
The Toronto Humane Society, however, has come up with an innovative way to continue adoptions.
“The Toronto Humane Society actually will be doing adoptions on a digital first-come, first-served basis,” said public relations specialist Hannah Sotropa.
“We’ll be conducting interviews via phone and scheduling meet-and-greets in person to the shelter in an effort to proceed with adoptions in some capacity.”
Sotropa said staff are making sure the animals get their “walks and loves” every day.
-The Canadian Press
5:30 a.m. ET
Food banks, non-profits ask for a helping hand
Non-profit organizations and charities say the impact from COVID-19 has been immediate and may also have ripple effects in the long term.
Chris Hatch of Food Banks Canada said he has “several worries” about how the coronavirus will affect them.
“We’ve got over 5,000 food banks across Canada and what we’re seeing is a dramatic drop in volunteers right now,” he said.
Most of the food banks are volunteer-driven and many volunteers are seniors, who are staying home because they are a vulnerable, he explained.
“We have a real challenge in terms of staffing and running our food bank operations across the country,” Hatch added.
He also fears that the food supply will not be replenished fast enough.
“The food banks currently have about a 10- to 14-day supply and we’re just not seeing food donations coming in as fast as we need them to come in to replenish our supply,” Hatch said.
–The Canadian Press
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March 18: Trudeau unveils sweeping new aid package; U.S.-Canada border to close to all non-essential travel
March 17: Ontario, Alberta, B.C. declare states of emergency; B.C. closes schools to combat virus spread
March 16: Total number of cases in Canada stands at 407; Ontario asks bars, restaurants to close
March 15: U.S. Fed cuts interest rates to near zero, Trudeau says more screening being put in place