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Statistics Canada to release October jobs report

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada will say this morning how the country’s job market fared in October, with experts expecting the pace of gains to slow from September.

Job growth in Canada accelerated rather than slowed down in September, as the economy added 378,000 jobs coming out of the summer.

That brought overall employment to within 720,000 of pre-pandemic levels, or about three-quarters of the three million jobs lost at the outset of the pandemic in Canada.

The gains also dropped the unemployment rate to nine per cent.

The country is expected to get a little closer to recouping the losses with the figures for October.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a gain of 100,000 jobs in October and an unemployment rate of 8.8 per cent.

A tsunami of disinformation is coming from the White House

THE BIG STORY | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, almost everything the President of the United States has been saying since election day is false. His family and supporters are following suit. How is the internet handling a flood of misleading claims and outright lies? What makes the post-election disinfo so hard to debunk? How did we end up so far down this rabbit hole and is it even possible to climb back out?

GUEST: Jane Lytvynenko, Disinformation Reporter, BuzzFeed News

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

Freeland grilled over cost of pandemic aid as House fast tracks rent relief bill

JORDAN PRESS AND JOAN BRYDEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was grilled Thursday over the mounting cost of providing relief programs to help Canadians and businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a four-hour question-and-answer session in the House of Commons, Freeland refused to provide any new numbers about the size of this year’s deficit, the overall federal debt or the potential ballooning cost of servicing that debt should record-low interest rates begin to rise.

She told MPs that those projections would come in a fiscal update later this fall, not before. She declined to set a date for that update.

“I don’t think the minister has given a single number with regards to any of these questions,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre complained at one point during a series of sharp exchanges with Freeland.

“She won’t tell us the limits on the debt, she won’t tell us how much the Bank of Canada has printed to fund her government’s debt, she won’t tell us whether the debt will be paid back before interest rates rise. Is there anything mathematical or numerical that anyone on the government side can share with the Canadian taxpayers who will have to repay that debt?”

Freeland countered with two numbers, arguing that debt servicing charges as a share of GDP “are the lowest in 100 years” and that 76 per cent of Canadians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are back at work.

But Poilievre accused Freeland of a coverup and of being afraid of disclosing the real costs of the billions in relief programs the government has created.

“I’m not afraid of much,” Freeland countered, challenging Poilievre to come clean with Canadians.

“The Conservatives need to decide, are they the party of austerity or do they believe in supporting Canadians through this crisis.”

The grilling took place as part of an agreement among all parties to fast-track the government’s latest emergency aid bill, which would provide rent relief for businesses and extend the wage subsidy program.

Bill C-9 would extend the federal wage subsidy until next summer, cancelling a previously planned decline in its value, as well as expand a popular business loan program.

The legislation would also redo a rent relief program that was widely criticized because its original design needed buy-in from landlords, many of whom did not participate.

And it would also provide top-up help for businesses whose revenues crash because of local lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Freeland referenced the bill in a tweet earlier Thursday as she voiced support for an extension of restrictions in Canada’s largest city for another week.

“I know these restrictions are difficult for many Toronto businesses. That is why we (are) working very hard to extend the wage subsidy, create a new rent subsidy, and provide extra lockdown support.”

The Liberals reached an agreement with opposition parties on Wednesday to fast-track the legislation through the House of Commons and have it passed by Friday.

It will still need Senate approval before being enacted. The Senate agreed Thursday to have its finance committee launch a pre-study of the bill, which is expected to occur next week while the rest of Parliament is on a break.

Earlier Thursday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet told reporters he wants to make sure the bill includes a provision to prohibit political parties from benefiting from the wage subsidy.

The Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens all used the program earlier this year when their donations dried up from the pandemic.

“They should never, even if they would have been in difficulty, have touched that money,” Blanchet said.

The bill comes on top of billions already rolled out to sustain individuals and businesses across the country during the pandemic.

The government’s last look at the books in July estimated a deficit of $343.2 billion this fiscal year, but that was before added promises laid out in September’s throne speech.

Freeland has warned against rolling back aid too soon because it would cost the country more in the end.

Statistics tracked by The Canadian Press show there have been about 1.8 million claims for employment insurance since the system came back online at the end of September (after having been temporarily replaced by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit), and about $1.15 billion paid in benefits.

About one million more people have applied for the new Canada Recovery Benefit, which is paid to those who don’t qualify for EI.

The parliamentary budget officer will report Friday on how much spending he believes the federal treasury can handle before deficits spiral out of control.

The New Democrats put a proposal to the House of Commons on Thursday to cover the aid bill via a wealth tax on those worth more than $20 million, which the PBO estimated would rake in $5.6 billion, and tax what the party called excess profits for large corporations.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said excess profits would be anything well above the normal trend lines for business earnings, with an assessment of how much of that was due to COVID-19.

“Instead of putting the burden on people, we should ask those who have done really well in this time to pay their fair share,” he said.

Markham man who slaughtered entire family in their home set to be sentenced

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2020

A 24-year-old man who slaughtered his entire family before they discovered his double life is expected to be sentenced today.

The sentencing of Menhaz Zaman was initially scheduled for Monday but was delayed due to videoconferencing problems.

Zaman has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder for killing his parents, sister and grandmother on July 27, 2019, in their home in Markham, Ont.

All counts come with an automatic life sentence, and both defence and Crown lawyers are seeking a 40-year period of parole ineligibility for Zaman.

Zaman said in an agreed statement of facts that he killed his family because they were about to find out he had lied for years about going to university to become an engineer.

Autopsies showed Zaman had hit each of his family members in the head, likely with a crow bar and then cut their throats.

Ontario government to present first pandemic budget, lay out next steps for recovery

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is set to unveil its first pandemic-era budget Thursday.

The province has said the budget will lay out the details of the next stage of its COVID-19 response.

That includes the new standard for long-term care announced earlier this week, which would see nursing home residents receive an average of four hours of direct care every day.

The Tories put off delivering a full fiscal plan earlier this year, citing the economic uncertainty caused by the global health crisis.

The fiscal update it gave in March instead initially included $17 billion in COVID-19 relief, though that projection was updated to $30 billion by the end of 2020-21.

The province also originally predicted a deficit of $20.5 billion, which was later raised to $38.5 billion because of the added spending.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips says the document released today will be a three-year budget that aims to “protect,” “support” and “recover.”

“As COVID-19 continues to cause uncertainty in the global economy, we need to position Ontario for a strong recovery, even while being focused on the urgent needs of today,” Phillips said.

Premier Doug Ford also promised in October that he would spend $9 billion in program spending that had not been allocated.

That unspent money was flagged by the Financial Accountability Office, which noted that the cash could be used to bring down a projected $37.2-billion deficit for 2020-21.

The Ford government has also said the financial demands of the pandemic mean it won’t balance the books by 2023-24 as promised.

Trump backers converge on vote centres in Michigan, Arizona

MIKE HOUSEHOLDER AND TIM SULLIVAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

Dozens of angry supporters of President Donald Trump converged on vote-counting centres in Detroit and Phoenix as the returns went against him Wednesday in the two key states, while thousands of anti-Trump protesters demanding a complete tally of the ballots in the still-undecided election took to the streets in cities across the U.S.

“Stop the count!” the Trump supporters chanted in Detroit. ““Stop the Steal,” they chanted in Phoenix.

The protests came as the president insisted without evidence that there were major problems with the voting and the ballot counting, and as Republicans filed suit in multiple states over the election.

The Phoenix protesters filled much of the parking lot at the Maricopa County election centre, where sheriff’s deputies were guarding both the outside of the building and the counting inside.

Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican and staunch Trump supporter, joined the crowd, declaring: “We’re not going to let this election be stolen. Period.”

However, observers from both major political parties remained inside the election centre as ballots were processed and counted, and the procedure was live-streamed online at all times.

Meanwhile, from New York City to Seattle, thousands of demonstrators turned out to demand that every vote be tallied.

In Portland, Oregon, which has been a scene of regular protests for months, Gov. Kate Brown called out the National Guard as demonstrators engaged in what authorities said was widespread violence downtown, including smashing windows. Protesters in Portland were demonstrating about a range of issues, including police brutality and the counting of the vote.

“It’s important to trust the process, and the system that has ensured free and fair elections in this country through the decades, even in times of great crisis,” Brown said in a statement. “We are all in this together.”

Richard March came to an anti-Trump demonstration in Portland despite a heart condition that makes him vulnerable to COVID-19.

“To cast doubt on this election has terrible consequences for our democracy,” he said. “I think we are a very polarized society now – and I’m worried about what’s going to come in the next days and weeks and months.”

In New York, hundreds of people paraded past boarded-up luxury stores on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and in Chicago, demonstrators marched through downtown and along a street across the river from Trump Tower.

Similar protests – sometimes about the election, sometimes about racial inequality – took place in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego.

The confrontation in Detroit started shortly before The Associated Press declared that former Vice-President Joe Biden had won Michigan.

Video shot by local media showed angry people gathered outside the TCF Center and inside the lobby, with police officers lined up to keep them from entering the vote-counting area. They chanted, “Stop the count!” and “Stop the vote!”

Earlier, the Republican campaign filed suit in a bid to halt the count, demanding Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state allow in more inspectors.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, insisted both parties and the public had been given access to the tallying, “using a robust system of checks and balances to ensure that all ballots are counted fairly and accurately.”

Michigan has been on edge for months over fears of political violence. Anti-government protesters openly carried guns into the state capitol during protests over coronavirus restrictions in the spring, and six men were arrested last month on charges of plotting to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

On Election Night, scattered protests broke after voting ended, stretching from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, but there was no widespread unrest or significant violence.

The prolonged task of counting this year’s deluge of mail-in votes raised fears that the lack of clarity in the presidential race could spark unrest.

Judge to decide sentencing for Toronto cop convicted in Dafonte Miller beating

NEWS STAFF, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

A judge will be making a sentencing decision on Thursday in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer convicted of assault in the beating of a young Black man.

Const. Michael Theriault and his brother Christian were charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice in connection with the December 2016 incident in Whitby.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the victim Dafonte Miller says he is “grateful that we are coming to the end of these proceedings.”

“Throughout this process, all I have ever wanted was for those responsible for causing me harm and altering my life be held accountable. The sentencing decision, whatever it may be, is an important step in the accountability process.”

Prosecutors alleged the Theriault brothers chased Miller, then 19, and beat him with a metal pipe, leaving him with a ruptured eye and several other injuries.

The defence argued the pair wanted to arrest Miller after catching him and his friends breaking into the Theriault family truck.

RELATED: Sentencing underway for off-duty cop who assaulted Dafonte Miller

They alleged Miller was the one armed with a pipe and the brothers were forced to defend themselves.

In a widely watched virtual hearing in June, Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca said he couldn’t rule out the possibility that self-defence played a role in the early portion of the encounter.

Michael Theriault was found guilty of assault while Christian was acquitted on all charges.

A sentencing hearing for Theriault began on Sept. 25.

Miller laid out a lingering impact of the encounter with Theriault.

In the statement, Miller said that as a Black man, he had long heard stories about police abusing their power, but had never experienced it like he did that night.

“To this day, I can’t believe that these would be the actions of a police officer. Someone that is sworn to serve and protect was viciously attacking me without any justification for doing so. No one questioned him. Only I was worthy of suspicion because of the colour of my skin, Michael Theriault could have got away with what he did to me.”

Miller described feeling isolated and on edge since the incident, grappling with headaches and failing to find meaningful employment or return to school. He said the incident will forever be a part of his story.

RELATED: Dafonte Miller says assault by off-duty cop changed his view of police

Theriault’s assault conviction was a first step in accountability, Miller said, adding he would like to see the constable serve jail time.

The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of 12 to 15 months and several other restrictions for Theriault.

Judge Di Luca is set to release his sentencing decision at 9:30 a.m. from an Oshawa courthouse.

Biden inches towards White House with crucial win in Michigan, Wisconsin

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ZEKE MILLER, JILL COLVIN AND ALEXANDRA JAFFE | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2020

Joe Biden won the battleground prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday, reclaiming a key part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago and dramatically narrowing President Donald Trump’s pathway to reelection.

A full day after Election Day, neither candidate had cleared the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 264, meaning he was one battleground state away from crossing the threshold and becoming president-elect.

Biden, who has received more than 71 million votes, the most in history, was joined by his running mate Kamala Harris at an afternoon news conference and said he now expected to win the presidency, though he stopped short of outright declaring victory.

“I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. ”There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.“

It was a stark contrast to Trump, who on Wednesday falsely proclaimed that he had won the election, even though millions of votes remained uncounted and the race was far from over.

The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Biden after election officials in the state said all outstanding ballots had been counted, save for a few hundred in one township and an expected small number of provisional votes.

Trump’s campaign requested a recount, thought statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes. Biden led by 0.624 percentage point out of nearly 3.3 million ballots counted.

Since 2016, Democrats had been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states _ Pennsylvania is the third _ that their candidates had been able to count on every four years. But Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a total margin of just 77,000 votes.

Both candidates this year fiercely fought for the states, with Biden’s everyman political persona resonating in blue-collar towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among Black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.

Pennsylvania remained too early to call Wednesday night.

It was unclear when or how quickly a national winner could be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. But Biden’s possible pathways to the White House were expanding rapidly.

After the victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, he was just six Electoral College votes away from the presidency. A win in any undecided state except for Alaska – but including Nevada, with its six votes – would be enough to end Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up key battlegrounds. Trump falsely claimed victory in several key states and amplified unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties. And the campaign said it was filing suit in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia to demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and to raise absentee ballot concerns.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in the existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there. Yet, the campaign also argued that it was the outstanding votes in Arizona that could reverse the outcome there, showcasing an inherent inconsistency with their arguments.

In other closely watched races, Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota and flipped Arizona, a state that had reliably voted Republican in recent elections.

The unsettled nature of the presidential race was reflective of a somewhat disappointing night for Democrats, who had hoped to deliver a thorough repudiation of Trump’s four years in office while also reclaiming the Senate to have a firm grasp on all of Washington. But the GOP held onto several Senate seats that had been considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas, Maine and Kansas. Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.

The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs.

The candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of Election Day.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory – which he continued on Twitter Wednesday – and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discounted the president’s quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that “claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting.”

Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond Election Day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors met. That’s set by federal law.

Dozens of Trump supporters chanting “Stop the count!” descended on a ballot-tallying centre in Detroit, while thousands of anti-Trump protesters demanding a complete vote count took to the streets in cities across the U.S.

Protests – sometimes about the election, sometimes about racial inequality – took place Wednesday in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego.

Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days later.

Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump’s declaration. Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices – including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, during a donor call, spoke plainly: “The fight’s not over. We’re in it.”

The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.

Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.

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