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Liberals to detail preview of federal deficit, spending affected by COVID-19

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 8th, 2020

The federal Liberals are to lay out Wednesday how they see the COVID-19 pandemic affecting government finances for the fiscal year including an estimated deficit and a projected path for the economy.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be releasing what the government has styled a fiscal and economic snapshot.

The Liberals have regularly updated MPs about total spending on emergency aid, which by last count amounted to over $174 billion, but have yet to put a figure on the deficit for the fiscal year.

The parliamentary budget office has suggested the deficit could be as deep as $252 billion.

Other private sector estimates suggest $300 billion wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

Opposition parties have said they expect Morneau to provide a road map for reshaping emergency aid measures that are set to expire in the fall and keeping spending and deficits under control.

Fuelling the deficit is also an unprecedented drop in economic output and employment that will cut revenues the government expected to receive this year.

Morneau’s document is also to provide the government’s view for the economy over the coming months.

The finance minister has said the document won’t have a five-year forecast traditionally part of federal budgets owing to the uncertain path the pandemic will take.

The Bank of Canada has said it believes the economy has avoided a worst-case scenario due to COVID-19 but is still in for a rough ride this year.

Last month, the central bank updated its GDP forecast, foreseeing a decline between 10 and 20 per cent in the second quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. That is an improvement from the 15-to-30-per-cent drop in the quarter highlighted in the bank’s worst-case scenario in April.

Next week, the Bank of Canada is to again update its forecasts when it releases a monetary policy report along with a scheduled rate announcement.

NHL, NHLPA tentatively agree to CBA extension, return-to-play plan

CHRIS JOHNSTON, SPORTSNET | posted Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2020

The NHL is one giant step closer to restarting its season.

Pending ratification votes by the owners and players, a memorandum of understanding was reached Monday on an extension to the collective bargaining agreement running through 2026. The deal includes transition rules and a new critical dates calendar.

Coupled with the protocols governing training camps and games tentatively agreed to Sunday, that should pave the way for a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament split between Edmonton and Toronto to start on Aug. 1.

The series of agreements were the culmination of months of discussions and came after a busy week where the NHL, NHL Players’ Association and a battery of lawyers fine-tuned the plan to carry the league through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Before training camps are able to open on July 13, ratification votes for the entire return-to-play package will be held by the NHL’s Board of Governors and the full NHLPA membership. A simple majority is needed among players while three-quarters of owners have to support the plan for it to move ahead.

Reaching this stage of the restart plan required a complex rethinking of the league’s economic system for the next couple years. Even though the current CBA was due to run through September 2022, a negotiated extension was needed with the NHL set to lose more than a $1-billion for the 2019-20 season and even more than that in a 2020-21 campaign that will likely be played in buildings at less than full capacity because of COVID-related restrictions.

Under the new deal, players will defer 10 per cent of next season’s salary and see another 20 per cent contributed to capped escrow. The upper limit of the salary cap will be held flat at $81.5-million.

As part of the NHL return-to-play agreements, any player wishing to opt-out of this summer’s restart for any reason can do so without penalty. They must notify their team in writing before camp opens.

The NHL is hoping to award the Stanley Cup to conclude a season paused March 12 by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

It decided on tightly controlled bubbles in two Canadian hub cities as the most effective way to do so. The remaining Eastern Conference teams are due to report to Toronto while those out west head to Edmonton following training camps.

However, with coronavirus infection rates spiking in parts of the United States, it could still be a challenge to get there without experiencing an outbreak because camps are scheduled to be conducted in each team’s home market.

Earlier Monday, the NHL announced that 35 players had produced positive COVID-19 tests since June 8. That came after the St. Louis Blues closed their practice facility Friday due to multiple positive tests.

30 Vaughan mushroom farm workers test positive for coronavirus: York health

SPENCER GALLICHAN-LOWE | posted Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2020

York Region Public Health says 30 workers at a Vaughan-area mushroom farm have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The health unit said the “workplace cluster” is at the Ravine Mushroom Farm, located on King Vaughan Road, which is in between Weston Road and Pine Valley Drive. They said they were first made aware of the situation on June 27.

Twenty-four of the individuals who tested positive for the virus are residents of the region, the health unit said in a notice on their website.

The outbreak is considered large, said Dr. Karim Kurjii, the medical officer of health for the region in a YouTube update Monday.

“We have one large outbreak at a farm and a few cases each at several farms in York Region,” he said. “These have been proactively identified with our hospital partners, in particular, South Lake Hospital.”

He added that public health inspectors have visited the sites.

“Our public health inspectors have been into these farms in order to give infection prevention and control advice to the farmers, as well as ensure the living conditions are adequate,” he said.

Kurjii did not list what other farms were experiencing these outbreaks.

York health said they conducted risk assessments on the infected individuals at the Vaughan site and determined that the risk to the general public is low.

What’s the story behind the Liberals’ cancelled WE Charity deal?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, the organization was supposed to distribute more than $900 million in student grants, but the reaction when the deal was announced was immediate and intense. There’s now an ethics investigation and WE has walked away from the plan. What happened? Why did the Liberals agree to this, and what should they have known about the organization before announcing it would be handling nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer money?

GUEST: Jesse Brown, Canadaland

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Ontario to introduce bill to extend some emergency measures over the next year

SHAWN JEFFORDS THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2020

Ontario is set to introduce new legislation to enable the extension of some pandemic emergency orders over the next year.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says she will introduce the bill at the provincial legislature today.

The proposed law would allow the government to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time, with the law expiring a year after it’s passed.

Under current legislation, the province can only issue emergency orders while the state of emergency is in place.

Ontario’s state of emergency is set to expire July 15 and Premier Doug Ford has said he hoped not to extend it again.

If the bill passes, the government could move parts of the province back to earlier stages of the pandemic lockdown if required.

It could also continue the redeployment of health-care staff and change public health orders limiting social gatherings.

Emergency orders that permit the pick-up and delivery of cannabis and prohibit price gouging on essential goods will not be included in the bill, and will expire next week.

Ontario first declared a state of emergency March 17 when the province’s COVID-19 cases began to increase.

It has subsequently issued a series of emergency orders that have been extended a number of times since the start of the pandemic.

Jones said the legislation is needed to “bridge the gap” between the strict lockdown and public health measures required to initially flatten the virus curve, and the less stringent conditions needed as COVID-19 case numbers improve.

“It allows us to transition away from the declaration of emergency, which is an important signal to people that we’re on our way out,” she said. “But it also allows us to ensure that — because frankly, we don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19 — that we still can keep in place the important tools we need.”

Jones said the bill will also introduce additional reporting requirements to bolster oversight. The government will have to report any emergency order extensions to a legislative committee once every month and table a report on the use of the law six months after it expires.

“We want to make sure that we’re not over-using the declaration of emergency,” she said.

Lac-Megantic to mark 7th anniversary of 2013 rail disaster with memorial site

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 6th, 2020

Lac-Megantic will mark the seventh anniversary of a tragic rail disaster that claimed 47 lives by inaugurating a long-planned memorial space.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway train hauling tanker cars loaded with volatile crude oil barrelled into the town of 6,000, derailed and exploded, destroying a large part of the Quebec town’s downtown area.

The memorial — which has taken three years to construct — will be set up at the site of the former Musi-Cafe in the heart of the city, where staff and patrons made up many of the victims.

The project, designed by architects Pierre Thibault and Jerome Lapierre, was created with the objective of everyone being able to remember, in their own way, the community-changing event, the city said in a statement.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures, the inauguration will be broadcast on Facebook, with several guests attending in person and residents invited to visit in the days and weeks to come.

As per tradition, the bells of Ste-Agnes Church will ring at noon in tribute to the victims.

The city says it has obtained written confirmation from Canadian Pacific Railway that no train will run in Lac-Megantic on July 6.

Mayor Juile Morin says it was the least that could be done out of respect for citizens who still have to watch trains passing through the heart of the city daily.

Morin says the city wants the authorization to be renewed in perpetuity, even after a railway bypass is built and the downtown rails are dismantled.

Ontario courts to resume some in-person proceedings Monday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Jul 6th, 2020

Ontario’s courts will resume in-person proceedings Monday after being shuttered for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has said courtrooms will reopen gradually, with the goal of having all courtrooms operational by November 1.

The initial plan was to have 149 courtrooms in both the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice open for trials and preliminary inquiries in 44 locations, but on Saturday the ministry announced that two of those locations were not yet ready to reopen.

It says the College Park courthouse in Toronto and the Guelph courthouse did not have the necessary health and safety precautions in place.

In the courthouses that are reopening, there will be plexiglass barriers in courtrooms, interview rooms, intake offices and at public counters.

The ministry also says everyone will be required to answer COVID-19 screening questions before entering and masks will be mandatory.

The courthouses have been closed since March 16, with some operations moving online.

50 photo-radar cameras across Toronto start ticketing Monday

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jul 6th, 2020

The warning period is over and as of Monday 50 photo-radar cameras that were installed across the city earlier this year are now generating tickets.

The cameras originally went up at the end of January and were up for a 90-day trial period in which only warnings were sent out. Due to the pandemic, instead of starting ticketing after the 90-day period, it was delayed until July 6.

Two Automatic Speed Enforcement cameras have been set up in each ward across the city.

The cameras are apart of the city’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Toronto roadways.

Mayor John Tory said there was a need for these cameras because people have been speeding in spots where the cameras are already installed.

During the trial period in February and March, Transportation Services sent out more than 25,000 warning letters to drivers who had been caught speeding by the cameras, outlining the risks of speeding and encouraging them to change their behaviour.

There were also nine locations singled out where more than 142,000 vehicles were caught speeding between Jan. 27 and June 18.

Here’s how the cameras will work.

An image of the licence plate will be captured and stored and if an offence is confirmed, a ticket will be mailed to who the licence plate is registered too, regardless of who is driving.

Signage has been installed so motorists are aware they are in use and there will be ticketing.

No demerit points will be issued because the ticket is issued to the plate holder who may not necessarily be driving the car.

The fines would be:

  • A driver caught speeding between one and 19 kilometres per hour over will receive a fine of $5 per kilometre over
  • Between 20 and 29 kilometres per hour over, the fine will be $7.50 per kilometre over
  • Between 30 and 49 kilometres per hour over, the fine will be $12 per kilometre over
  • For over 50 kilometres per hour, a summons will be issued to the registered vehicle to set the fine

 

As well, Traffic Services officers will continue their enforcement duties.

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