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Trudeau to announce extension of wage subsidy, financial aid for medical researchers

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, May 15th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce Friday an extension to the federal government’s 75 per cent emergency wage subsidy — just as businesses across the country are taking the first cautious steps towards reopening after a two-month, pandemic-induced shutdown.

He is also expected to announce significant financial support for thousands of medical researchers whose work is unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis.

The $73-billion wage subsidy program was initially slated to run until June 6.

Trudeau last week said it would be extended and today he’ll reveal for how long. The extension is expected to be for at least an extra month.

Under the program, the federal government is currently picking up the tab for 75 per cent of an eligible company’s payroll — up to a maximum of $847 per week per employee — from March 15 to June 6.

Eligible companies are those that saw revenues drop by 15 per cent in March or 30 per cent in April and May.

The government has billed the subsidy as the largest economic program since the Second World War, with the cost pegged at $73 billion.

But so far, it has paid out only $3.4 billion for some 1.7 million workers.

However, the government sees the wage subsidy as crucial to the country’s economic recovery and is hoping that more companies will take advantage of it as they rehire employees laid off when the country shut down in mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That, in turn, would decrease reliance on the $35-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is paying $2,000 a month to Canadians who have been thrown out of work or seen their incomes nosedive due to the pandemic.

More than 7.5 million Canadians have received CERB payments so far — almost double the anticipated number of recipients.

The government is widely expected to eventually phase out the CERB to prevent it becoming a disincentive to work as the economy restarts.

Trudeau is also expected today to announce financial support to prevent the threatened layoffs of up to 15,000 researchers at hospital-based research institutes who, due to a technicality, don’t qualify for the wage subsidy.

Research unrelated to the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was halted in mid-March, including clinical trials and research into cancer, stroke and other diseases. Hospital-based institutes have warned that much of the funding they rely on to pay for that research — including charitable donations, contributions from foundations and clinical trial contracts with pharmaceutical companies — has evaporated.

Without financial support from the government, they’ve warned that they’ll have to begin laying off thousands of researchers by the end of this week.

Trudeau promised earlier this week to personally look into the matter.

Up to 5 staff in Toronto Western emergency department test positive for COVID-19

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 14th, 2020

As many as five healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the emergency department at Toronto Western Hospital.

In an email sent to staff which CityNews has obtained, the hospital says the positive tests date back to April 20th with the most recent one confirmed last week.

Occupational Health and Infection Prevention and Control along with Toronto Public Health are undertaking an investigation to determine if there is a risk of ongoing COVID-19 transmission within the emergency department.

“An outbreak has not been declared at this time but we are reassessing the situation on an ongoing basis,” the letter says.

The hospital says one of the things they are looking into is factors that may have contributed to delays in recognizing this cluster.

Over the weekend the hospital declared a fifth outbreak in one of its units that had been designated as COVID negative.

Mass testing of all patients and staff had been underway since last week and that the positive tests “we’re not surprising.”

“As far as we are aware, we are doing the most testing of any hospital in the country at present,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Back on May 5, the hospital said 19 patients and 46 staff members had tested positive and that two patients had died.

The hospital says environmental cleaning is being increased while staff are reminded to wear their masks and shields, diligently practice hand hygiene and to practice physical distancing “especially during break times.”

It also cautions against sharing of food within the emergency department due to the risk of contamination with COVID-19 and transmission to others.

What we do (and don’t) know about the coronavirus and kids

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, May 14th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, schools in parts of Quebec reopened this week — though they look different. And other parts of the country will likely be considering this move soon. And as this happens we still don’t know exactly how children contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. Nor do we know how they’re impacted by it.

There are a couple of efforts underway to change that in Canada, if we can gather enough data quickly enough to report it. And even though we’re doing all we can, we also won’t really know how this virus behaves in kids until they’re back in their natural element … which means school. So what happens next? And what do we need to be aware of?

GUEST: Kelly Grant, national health reporter, The Globe and Mail

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

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Steam Whistle asks consumers to bring back empties

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 14th, 2020

A Toronto brewery is issuing a plea for consumers to bring back their empty bottles as the Beer Store says a growing number of its locations are accepting returns.

Steam Whistle Brewery says restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a decline in bottle returns, leaving it with a potential shortage just as sales are expected to ramp up for spring and summer.

Tim McLaughlin, the company’s vice-president of marketing, says there could be “rolling shortages” of Steam Whistle beer in the coming months unless it’s able to recover and reuse more empties.

He says the company used up an entire year’s worth of new bottles to make up for the lack of returns, and it’ll take months for a new order to be delivered.

Bottles returned to the Beer Store or the brewery itself, he says, can be back in use within days.

The Beer Store temporarily stopped accepting empty cans and bottles in March to adjust to the new health and safety measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since allowed returns to resume at most locations.

Homicide investigating fatal apartment fire near Yonge and Davisville

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, May 14th, 2020

The homicide unit is investigating after a man was found dead following a fire at an apartment building in midtown Toronto.

Emergency crews were called to the building on Balliol Street near Yonge Street and Davisville Avenue just after 2 a.m. on Thursday.

Fire officials said they received reports of smoke in the laundry room on the second floor.

Firefighters found the man on the second floor but the exact location is not yet known.

Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.

‘Is this year really possible?’ A coronavirus vaccine explained

THE BIG STORY | posted Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, you know the timeline we’ve been quoted every time a coronavirus vaccine is discussed: 12-18 months. But how accurate is that? What if we get lucky? What if we really, really don’t?

When you see news of a new vaccine entering a trial, how should you react? What percentage of vaccines that enter trials actually end up working? And if we do find a vaccine, how can we possibly make enough for more than seven billion people, and get it to them across the world?

GUEST: Robert Vanexan

 

No injuries in Mississauga armed carjacking

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Peel police are investigating an armed carjacking in Mississauga overnight.

Emergency crews were called to the area of 10th Line and Thomas Street, near Winston Churchill Drive and Britannia Road, just after midnight Wednesday.

Police say the stolen vehicle is a black BMW 5XG with the licence plate CKDP029.

No injuries were reported.

Police say four suspects were involved in the heist, all believed to be in their 20s, with slim builds, between five-foot-eight and five-foot-eleven, and they were wearing hoodies and masks.

The suspects were driving a black BMW S Series.

Feds to unveil details of $1B in regional aid for small businesses

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

The federal government will disclose details Wednesday of nearly $1 billion in emergency aid to be doled out to small businesses through its six regional economic development agencies.

The government announced several weeks ago the creation of a new Regional Relief and Recovery Fund but did not reveal much in the way of detail, apart from the overall amount of $962 million.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly are expected to fill in some of the blanks today, including how much money each of the six regional agencies — for the West, North, Atlantic, Quebec and northern and southern Ontario — are to receive and what each plans to do with it.

Each agency is expected to take a somewhat different approach to its share of the fund, targeting small businesses most in need in each region.

Overall, the fund is to commit $675 million to support regional economies, businesses, organizations and communities and another $287 million to support the national network of community futures development corporations, which are to specifically target small businesses and rural communities across the country.

The fund is intended to cushion the financial blow experienced by businesses and organizations to allow them to continue their operations, including paying their employees, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also intended to support projects by businesses, organizations and communities to prepare for a successful recovery.

The money, to flow through the regional development agencies, is on top of other measures the federal government has announced to help small businesses weather the pandemic, which has shut down non-essential businesses for almost two months.

Other measures include the 75 per cent wage subsidy, 75 per cent commercial rent relief, loan guarantees and interest-free loans of up to $40,000.

Trudeau has faced opposition criticism that the various measures still leave out many businesses that don’t meet the eligibility rules.

He is likely to face more of that criticism today when a several dozen MPs gather for the once-a-week in-person sitting of the House of Commons.

Following a lengthy question and answer session, the Commons is expected to debate and quickly approve legislation that will authorize the Dairy Commission of Canada to increase its borrowing capacity by $200 million.

The commission’s additional borrowing power is intended to help it support the cost of storing butter and cheese while the market for such products is severely reduced due to the pandemic, which has closed restaurants, hotels and other institutions that typically purchase large volumes of dairy products.

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