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If you are returning to Canada from anywhere, you need to self-isolate: Here’s how

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Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 virus in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 24, 2020.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

8:10 p.m. EDT

Toronto Crosstown rail worker tests positive for COVID-19

Part of the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown light rail project in midtown Toronto, the biggest transit line being built in the country, had to be shut until next week for disinfecting after COVID-19 was detected among the workforce. One employee tested positive and another is presumed positive, according to a spokesperson.

The news came the same day London stopped construction of its £17-billion Crossrail mega-project and amid questions about the safety of work continuing on job sites across Ontario.

A spokeswoman for Crosslinx, the construction consortium building the line, said that both the workers were employed at the West Portal part of the project, at Black Creek and Eglinton. The location is undergoing a deep clean that will take days, Kristin Jenkins said in a statement emailed Tuesday evening. Colleagues who may have been in contact with these two are being notified.

Anne Marie Aikins, a spokeswoman for Metrolinx, the regional transit agency which will own the Crosstown, had said earlier in the day that work on the light rail line was continuing, but added in an email that the agency “cannot say what impact the COVID pandemic will have on our project timelines."

Meanwhile, a subway operator for the Toronto Transit Commission has tested positive for COVID-19, according to agency spokesman Stuart Green, the first person in that role known publicly to have caught the respiratory illness.

Mr. Green said that the employee had not been at work since 16-March, when he worked part of a shift but didn’t feel well and booked off sick. Confirmation of the positive test came Tuesday, according to the spokesman, and the agency is identifying what he called the “small number of employees with whom the operator had casual contact” on the 16th.

Subway operators drive the trains from within an enclosed cab, with minimal passenger contact. The cabs are cleaned and disinfected daily, the TTC says.

– Oliver Moore

7:05 p.m. EDT

Canadian Forces close colleges and training centres to fight COVID-19

The Canadian military is closing its colleges, recruit school and training institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those include the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., and the College militaire royal in St-Jean, Que., as well as the basic-training centre there.

The commandants of the colleges, where new officers are educated, ordered the suspension of classes on Tuesday and directed officer cadets to return home where they will finish their final three weeks of studies and final exams online.

The unprecedented move followed an order on March 14 from defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance that the officer cadets were to stay on their campuses and could not receive any guests due to COVID-19.

The two military colleges have also cancelled their convocation ceremonies while graduating officer cadets will receive their commissions as full officers in the Canadian Armed Forces when they join their respective units.

A memo from Vance says everyone who can be sent back to a “secure home environment” is going, but skeleton staffs will stay on, confined to base, to support military students who have nowhere else to go.

“While confined to base and quarters, all will be expected to take maximum precautions to prevent the spread of the virus,” Vance’s memo says. “Civilian staff will be offered an opportunity to isolate within our lines on a volunteer basis. We are doing all we can to take care of you and your families.”

– The Canadian Press

5:45 p.m. EDT

Woman dies at Calgary care home

A woman in her 80s who was living at a long-term care home in Calgary has died of COVID-19, with two other residents and a staff member also testing positive and 11 other residents showing symptoms.

This marks the second COVID-19 death in the province, which added 57 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 358.

Alberta's chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the woman who died was a resident of the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Home, located in the southeastern corner of the city.

The province imposed restrictions on long-term care homes last week to ban all non-essential visitors. More than two dozen people have died of COVID-19 in Canada, with nearly half of them linked to a long-term care facility in the Vancouver region.

– James Keller in Calgary

2:30 p.m. EDT

Manitoba ends non-essential medical testing

Manitoba is temporarily suspending non-essential, routine diagnostic tests to protect health-care workers and patients from the spread of COVID-19.

“Specifically, this includes laboratory blood tests, diagnostic imaging and cardiac services,” Lanette Siragusa, the province’s chief nursing officer, said Tuesday.

Affected patients will be contacted, she added.

“Urgent diagnostic testing ... of course will continue with appropriate screening and cautions in place.”

Health officials also revealed one new probable case of COVID-19, bringing the total of confirmed and presumptive cases in the province to 21.

The latest case is that of a Winnipeg man in his 40s. There was no immediate information on whether he had travelled.

New Brunswick announced one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday. That brings the number of confirmed cases in the province to 18. The newest case is a woman between the ages of 20 and 30 from southeastern New Brunswick who recently returned from international travel.

Newfoundland and Labrador has announced 11 more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. There is now a combined total of 35 presumptive and confirmed cases of the disease in the province.

– The Canadian Press

12:45 p.m. EDT

House of Commons’ reopening delayed

The House of Commons met briefly at noon as scheduled and then suspended for behind-the-scenes negotiations. It remained suspended as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.​

One Conservative MP, Scott Reid, defied his own party orders to stay away from Ottawa in order to ensure the legislation does not receive unanimous consent.

In a blog post, Mr. Reid referred to the legislation as a “Henry VII Bill” for allowing the executive to function without the approval of Parliament.

“So, unless someone stands athwart the march of history, crying ‘No!’ a new convention will be established,” he wrote. “None of the incipient new conventions outlined above can be allowed to stand, or Responsible Government in Canada is over. Full Stop.”​

– Bill Curry in Ottawa

12:00 p.m. EDT

Nova Scotia says new cases due to travel

Nova Scotia is reporting a total 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, with 10 new ones identified yesterday.

The cases are travel-related or connected to earlier reported cases.

Several of the new cases are connected to groups or families who have returned to Nova Scotia following travel outside of Canada. None of these cases are from spread within the community.

The 51 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70s.

– The Canadian Press

11:45 a.m EDT

New cases in Ontario

Ontario is reporting 85 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial total to 588.

The large increase includes one more death, meaning seven people have now died in the province.

Complete information is not listed for most of the new cases, but the latest death is a man in his 90s from Durham Region.

– The Canadian Press

10:20 a.m. EDT

Scheer says Tories will back Liberals on economic measures, not on new powers

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer says his Conservatives will back the economic measures Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to cushion the blow from COVID-19 in a vote expected this afternoon.

But he says they won’t give the consent the Liberals would need to take massive new taxing and spending powers for the cabinet, without Parliament’s supervision.

If the government wants more authority to act without votes in the House of Commons, Scheer says Parliament should sit again to consider them.

-The Canadian Press

10:20 a.m. EDT

Business, labour groups say Liberals’ wage subsidy too little to help

The federal government’s planned wage subsidy for businesses hit hard by COVID-19 is being panned this morning by a voice for thousands of small businesses and a major union.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the United Steelworkers union in separate statements say the Liberals’ proposed help to offset payroll costs doesn’t go far enough to save jobs.

The federal government’s stimulus bill contains provisions for a 10 per cent wage subsidy for 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per business.

The CFIB is calling on the government to increase the subsidy to 75 per cent, capped monthly at $5,000 per worker, while the Steelworkers want it increased to 80 per cent as is being done in the U.K.

The small business group says about one-third of its members are worried that they won’t survive more than a month under the current economic conditions.

CFIB says most of its members have seen a sharp drop in sales, up to 75 per cent in some cases, with the average hit around $136,000.

-The Canadian Press

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A Canada Post worker delivers mail in Montreal in this 2018 file photo.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

9:45 a.m. EDT

Canada Post announces new service procedures

Canada Post is announcing changes to its in-store and delivery procedures, including asking Canadians not to answer their doors until after mail carriers have left to protect the health of workers and customers by implementing physical distancing measures.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Crown corporation said Monday that delivery employees will now use a “knock, drop and go” approach, knocking or ringing doorbells, finding a safe place to leave parcels and then leaving.

Customers are asked to give carriers space and to “avoid opening the door or greeting them personally when they are at the door to deliver, or filling a community mailbox.” The post office encouraged customers to instead give their mail carriers “a smile and wave through the window” or a “thumbs up” to passing Canada Post trucks.

Many Canada Post retail locations will now open one hour later and close an hour earlier than usual, giving staff time to clean and restock. For the first hour of each day, post offices will offer priority service to the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. (These policies may differ at franchisee-owned locations.)

- Christine Dobby

9:45 a.m. EDT

Bombardier announces one-month shutdown

Bombardier Inc. is closing at its Canadian manufacturing plants for one month, longer than the shutdown mandated Monday by the governments of Ontario and Quebec, as the company races to limit the financial impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Montreal-based company said Tuesday it will suspend all non-essential work at most of its Canadian-based operations starting Tuesday night until April 26. The suspension includes Bombardier’s aircraft and rail production activities in Ontario and Quebec.

About 12,400 Bombardier workers, representing about 70 per cent of its Canadian workforce, will be placed on furlough, which means they will not be paid but will continue to receive company social benefits, Bombardier spokesperson Jessica McDonald said. The company is inviting its workers to apply for employment insurance, she said.

During the furlough period, Bombardier said incoming chief executive Eric Martel and his senior leadership team will forgo their pay. Chairman Pierre Beaudoin and other board members have agreed to forgo their director compensation for the rest of 2020.

- Nicolas Van Praet

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Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during Question Period in a 2012 file photo.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

9:20 a.m.

Conservative Finance critic Pierre Poilievre raises concerns about emergency aid bill

Conservative Finance critic Pierre Poilievre says there’s no deal between the Liberal government and the Opposition over the proposed emergency aid bill.

A draft of the bill that circulated yesterday suggested it would give cabinet, not MPs, extraordinary power over taxes and spending, so ministers could act without Parliament’s approval for months.

Late last night, House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said the government would make changes.

But Poilievre says the bill contains several problems and he is concerned the Liberals won’t address all of them.

He’s calling for a copy of the bill - which has yet to be formally introduced - to be given to the Parliamentary Budget Officer immediately, so the watchdog can review it in tandem with MPs and let the public know its real implications before the vote.

- The Canadian Press

7:30 a.m.

Veterinarians offer ventilators

Canada's veterinarians say they're willing to join in the nationwide efforts to address the pandemic even as they fight to ensure they can provide care to the country's animals.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association said members have come forward offering to make their ventilators available for human use to ease the strain on the country's overtaxed medical system. The association said it's surveying its members to see how much spare equipment could be pressed into service.

Veterinarians are also hoping to persuade governments who are increasingly declaring states of emergency to declare them an essential service, as they look after not only pets but play a crucial role in the agricultural system and help to ensure food safety.

Vets are listed among businesses allowed to stay open in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and made the list of critical services released by the Ontario and Quebec governments on Monday.

- The Canadian Press

7:30 a.m. EDT

Cellphone data may be used to track compliance

Ottawa's medical officer of health says the public health authority may use cellphone data to find out whether people really are self-isolating.

Dr. Vera Etches says the agency is trying to get a better handle on whether people are following the advice to stay home and away from others.

She says one way to do that is with polling, but the group is also looking at ways to use “electronic data” to see if people are congregating in public spaces or moving about.

- The Canadian Press

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Kim Borton, left, works from home while her children Logan and Katie work on an art project in Beaverton, Ore.Craig Mitchelldyer/The Associated Press

6 a.m. EDT

Ontario to slash hydro rates to offset costs of working from home

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, alongside Energy Minister Greg Rickford, is set to announce on Tuesday that the province will charge customers lower rates for the next 45 days to offset higher electricity costs as more people work from home, are self-isolating or have lost their jobs, according to a senior Ontario government source. The source was granted anonymity to discuss internal government matters.

The estimated cost will be $162-million, the source said. The Ontario Energy Board is also extending the current ban on electricity disconnection for households and small businesses to July 31.

Starting Tuesday, rates will be lowered to current off-peak overnight and weekend charges of 10.1 cents per kilowatt hour. Currently, mid-peak rates are 14.4 cents and on-peak rates are 20.8 cents. On-peak hours are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, while off-peak hours are 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., as well as weekends and holidays.

- Laura Stone

5 a.m. EDT

Closure of non-essential Ontario businesses starts tonight

The closure of all non-essential businesses in the province to help curb the spread of COVID-19 will take effect later today.

Premier Doug Ford announced the closures Monday to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The closures start tonight at 11:59 p.m. and will last for at least 14 days.

The government says that Ontarians will still have access to grocery stores and pharmacies, and their power and telecommunications will continue to run.

Businesses that support IT infrastructure service providers, power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water will also stay open.

- The Canadian Press

5 a.m. EDT

Parliament to debate emergency spending and government powers in COVID-19 fight

The House of Commons sits today to deal with an emergency bill to spend billions of dollars to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and cushion some of its economic harms.

The opposition parties have said they’ll back the $82 billion in direct spending and deferred taxes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to put up to prepare the country for mass illness and help Canadians cope with lost jobs and wages.

The Liberals backed off an attempt to get the federal cabinet extraordinary power over taxes and spending, so ministers could act without Parliament’s approval for months — powers the Conservatives balked at giving them, at least on the scale the Liberals sought.

When there’s a minority government like the one Trudeau leads, the chance to bring the government down on a spending bill is what gives the opposition its power.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s and Quebec’s premiers are ordering non-essential businesses to close their workplaces by midnight tonight, provinces are contemplating closing their borders to each other, and Trudeau has hinted that harsh measures might be used to keep people from gathering in groups.

The death toll in Canada reached 24 yesterday as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 passed 2,000.

- The Canadian Press

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

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March 23: Nearly half of Canada’s COVID-19 cases now acquired through community spread

March 22: Canada refuses to go to Olympics unless postponed; Trudeau not at point of declaring federal emergency

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