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Canadians divided over making coronavirus vaccine mandatory: poll

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 28th, 2020

While researchers across the planet race to find a vaccine for coronavirus, a new poll suggests Canadians are divided over whether getting it should be mandatory or voluntary — setting up a potentially prickly public health debate if a vaccine becomes available.

The federal government has committed tens of millions of dollars to help find or create a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory illness that has infected at least 48,000 Canadians and killed more than 2,700.

Yet the poll conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that while 60 per cent of respondents believe people should be required to get the vaccine once it is ready, the other 40 per cent think it should be voluntary.

While that doesn’t mean only 60 per cent would get the vaccine themselves, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque nonetheless said he would have expected much higher support for a mandatory vaccine given the scale and scope of the pandemic.

“It’s almost as if it’s seen as just another flu vaccine,” Bourque told The Canadian Press. “I myself would have expected a higher number given the severity, given the crisis we’re in. But Canadians are kind of divided on this.”

The Leger poll was conducted April 24 to 26 and surveyed 1,515 adult Canadians recruited from Leger’s online panel. The internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.

Older Canadians, who are most at risk of serious harm from COVID-19, were more likely to support a mandatory vaccine. Respondents who identified themselves as likely to vote Liberal were also most likely to agree with a mandatory vaccine while those leaning Conservative were least likely.

Bourque suggested this was a reflection of ideological differences seen throughout the crisis: those on the left of the political spectrum are more willing to accept government intervention than those on the right who prioritize personal freedoms.

The poll also looked for the first time at what activities Canadians would feel comfortable doing once government restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 are finally lifted, including returning to their offices, shopping, dining out and attending concerts and sporting events.

The results, which comes as many provinces are unveiling tentative plans and timelines for easing restrictions, was a mixed bag. Respondents were comfortable with some activities but not others, particularly those involving large groups of people in the same place.

The majority (58 per cent) felt they would be comfortable allowing in-home renovations by contractors, going to farmers’ markets (57 per cent) and shopping at the mall (53 per cent). And only 15 per cent said they would not be comfortable returning to their own workplaces.

Yet only 45 per cent said they would be comfortable eating in a restaurant while 24 per cent would feel comfortable going to the gym, 23 per cent flying on an airplane and 21 per cent attending a large gathering such as a concert or sports event.

“The ones that are at the top, these are activities where people feel they can manage some form of social distancing,” Bourque said.

The poll also indicated the level of trust and satisfaction Canadians feel toward their leaders and public-health officials has remained consistently high since a similar poll was conducted the previous week. The number who were afraid of catching COVID-19 also remained unchanged.

Yet the number of respondents who admitted to breaking at least one of the guidelines around managing COVID-19, such as practising physical distancing, going out only for necessities and washing their hands more often, was found to have increased to 33 per cent from 27 per cent.

“To me it’s an indication that they’re looking for deconfinement news because they’re starting to slack off a little bit on what they should be allowed to do,” Bourque said. “I think if there is no plan for deconfinement, people will start to become more delinquent.”

Local restaurants feel squeezed by delivery apps’ commission fees

BRENNA OWEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Apr 28th, 2020

VANCOUVER — Restaurants struggling to survive during the COVID-19 crisis have turned to take-out and delivery, but the fees charged by food-delivery companies are eating away their bottom line, some operators say.

Physical distancing measures have decimated dine-in service, which accounts for most industry revenue, said Mark von Schellwitz, a vice-president of the non-profit Restaurants Canada.

Margins are typically less than five per cent at the best of times, he said, and delivery platforms can take up to 30 per cent commission.

Companies including Uber Eats, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes say they’re offering restaurants various supports and the opportunity to keep serving customers, while maintaining their own operations.

“We think they need to sharpen their pencils to reduce the fees … or an increasing number of members will be asking us to implement some sort of a fee cap,” said von Schellwitz, pointing to the temporary 15 per cent cap on commissions established in San Francisco this month.

Terrence Feng owns and operates Kin Kao, a Thai restaurant along Vancouver’s Commercial Drive that previously generated about 15 per cent of its revenue with take-out and 10 to 12 per cent through delivery.

Now, delivery accounts for 50 to 60 per cent and the rest is take-out, said Feng.

“We were basically at break even, if we’re lucky, given the current commission rates.”

Feng said profits have improved in the last couple of weeks because DoorDash cut its commission fees in half for local restaurants on April 13. The commission rate can vary by restaurant, and Feng said Kin Kao now pays 14 per cent.

DoorDash said its investment of up to $100 million to cut the fees will continue through the end of May.

Kin Kao is still paying 28 per cent commission on sales through Uber Eats, said Feng.

Uber said in a statement that it’s supporting restaurants in a sustainable manner by waiving delivery fees for customers, thereby generating more orders. It said commission fees help cover operating costs and to reduce them would make it difficult to maintain a safe and reliable platform.

Both Uber and DoorDash are also waiving commission fees for orders placed through the app that are picked up in person.

Gino Herring, the general manager of Vancouver Italian restaurant Sprezzatura, said they had never used food delivery platforms before the pandemic, but quickly adopted Uber Eats, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes.

Dine-in service accounted for 90 per cent of the restaurant’s revenue, said Herring, and now it’s about 80 per cent from delivery.

Although he’s pleased with sales, Herring said the companies’ fees are “aggressive” and local restaurants aren’t in a position to negotiate.

“It’s a bit predatory, but we operate at the behest of those apps,” he said.

SkipTheDishes is Canada’s largest food delivery network, headquartered in Winnipeg. CEO Kevin Edwards said the company has a vested interest in ensuring its vendors make it through the pandemic.

“It certainly doesn’t do Skip any good to have any restaurants struggling,” he said.

The company initially offered restaurants a 15 per cent rebate on commissions before increasing the rebate to 25 per cent through the end of May. It’s also offering reduced fees for restaurants that use their own delivery staff when an order is made through its app.

Edwards said his company will think about how it can enhance its support for local vendors, but he’s not sure what form it would take, and the company also has to ensure its own viability.

“Our net revenue is not nearly what people believe it to be and taking 25 per cent and applying it to a rebate obviously changes that,” he said.

Foodora announced Monday that it’s closing Canadian operations next month, saying Canada is a highly saturated market for online food delivery and the company was unable to reach a level of profitability sustainable enough to continue operations.

Feng said local restaurants that don’t have any other way to get food to customers are “handcuffed” to the delivery apps, while struggling to turn a profit during the pandemic.

“If everybody stood up in the industry and said, ‘You know what, that’s too much’ … then I think they’d be way more willing to play ball. But when they know that 95 per cent of their clients can’t do anything about it, they can flex their muscle a little big more, right?”

Edmonton chef Paul Shufelt avoided delivery apps when he opened The Workshop Eatery, opting for an in-house delivery system instead.

In early April, Shufelt posted a video on Facebook breaking down the costs of running a restaurant and how commission fees can affect the bottom line. It’s since garnered more than 586,000 views and Shufelt said he’s heard from hundreds of restaurant operators who are struggling with the fees.

Shufelt said for many restaurants, reliance on delivery is likely here to stay, even after physical distancing restrictions are loosened.

“I think that’s going to make things really hard for restaurant owners who already barely make enough to keep the doors open.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

MPs to meet virtually Tuesday to discuss coronavirus measures

CORMAC MAC SWEENEY | posted Tuesday, Apr 28th, 2020

Federal politicians will be facing off in Ottawa on Tuesday but it will look much different than usual.

Members of Parliament will be holding their first virtual meeting since a majority of parties in the House of Commons agreed to hold just one in-person and two online meetings each week to respect health advice during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past, small committees have met through video link, but never have all 338 MPs been asked to debate online like this.

This massive Zoom meeting will see the opposition hold the government to account and Conservatives say they are ready to question the Liberals on emergency stockpiles, gaps in the emergency benefits, and the restart of the economy.

“The Liberals have been slow to react, and their failures have cost Canadians,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said.

“The Prime Minister owes Canadians an explanation and a plan to fix his mistakes.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the economic restart needs to be a slow and cautious process.

“If we get this wrong, everything we have sacrificed over the past many weeks could have been in vain,” he explained.

This is not technically a sitting of the House, so it will be a different format.

MPs will be allowed a five-minute time slot to ask multiple questions of the prime minister and his cabinet.

On Wednesday, politicians will debate and vote on the government’s $9-billion aid package for students, but that will happen in person with a limited number of MPs.

Crisis lines face volunteer, cash crunch even as COVID-19 drives surge in calls

TERESA WRIGHT, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

OTTAWA — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Wage subsidy program for businesses opening for applications Monday

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

Some key developments are coming this week in the country’s relentless struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.

They begin Monday with businesses being allowed to apply for the federal government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program.

Companies that qualify will get a subsidy worth 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $847 per week, retroactive from March 15 to June 6. And for those organizations that can, the government is asking employers to fill in the remaining quarter.

First payments are expected to arrive by the end of next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be talking about that, as well as some other coming initiatives, at his daily coronavirus briefing.

 

Wage subsidies and crisis lines in crisis ; In The News for April 27

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 27 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Some key developments are coming this week in the country’s relentless struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting today businesses can apply for the federal government’s $73 billion wage subsidy program.

Companies that qualify will get a subsidy worth 75 per cent of each employee’s wages, up to $847 per week, retroactive from March 15 to June 6.  And for those organizations that can, the government is asking employers to fill in the remaining quarter.

First payments are expected to arrive by the end of next week.

Later this week, Quebec and Ontario, which account for the vast majority of Canada’s COVID-19 cases, are expected to unveil frameworks for reopening their locked down economies.

Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have already announced tentative timelines for a return to some semblance of normality.

Despite evidence of some flattening COVID-19 curves, both politicians and public health officials are stressing the need for a cautious, go slow approach to guard against a surge of second wave infections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said that none of the recovery plans hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.

In other Canadian news …

OTTAWA  — Despite a surge in demand due to COVID-19, many distress centres across Canada are dangerously close to folding thanks to major declines in both volunteers and revenue.

Stephanie MacKendrick, CEO of Crisis Services Canada, which runs the only national suicide-specific helpline in Canada, says community distress centres across the country have seen 30 to 50 per cent more crisis calls since the pandemic began.

Yet they have also seen fewer volunteers, with some reporting a loss of up to 90 per cent.

While centres have started turning to paid staff to make up the difference, their cash flows have also been hit hard as their main sources of revenue — training and workshops — have dried up overnight due to the pandemic.

MacKendrick calls this the “perfect storm” for these centres, with many now struggling to stay afloat.

MacKendrick says that is why her organization has asked Ottawa to provide $15 million in emergency funding to keep distress centres from having to close their doors.

Also this …

These are trying times for Canada, but we’re all in this together and hope is on the horizon.

Such was the message of last night’s “Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble,” a star-studded show of support and solidarity for those on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.

A who’s who of Canadian artists, athletes, authors, activists and even astronauts appeared from their respective locations during the 90-minute broadcast benefit.

Many English and French Canadian broadcasters aired the show on dozens of T-V, streaming and radio platforms.

The event was centred around a 150-million dollar fundraising campaign for Food Banks Canada.

Artists who appeared included singers Celine Dion, Michael Buble, and Anne Murray, who addressed her home province of Nova Scotia, which is reeling from a recent shooting rampage.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — After two months of frantic response to the coronavirus, the White House is planning to shift President Donald Trump’s public focus to the burgeoning efforts aimed at easing the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

Days after he publicly mused that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Trump has now rejected the utility of his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with scientific experts. Trump’s aides are aiming to move the president onto more familiar — and safer, they hope — ground: talking up the economy, in tighter controlled settings.

It’s a political imperative as allies have seen an erosion in support for the president. What had been his greatest asset in the re-election campaign, his ability to blanket news headlines with freewheeling performances, has become a daily liability. At the same time, new Republican Party polling shows Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Some states have started to ease closure orders, and Trump is expected to begin to highlight his administration’s work in helping businesses and employees.

COVID-19 around the world …

— Some countries and U.S. states are starting to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and focus on fixing their battered economies.

In Spain, the streets echoed again with joyful cries as the nation let children go outside for the first time in six weeks.

In Italy, the premier laid out a long-awaited timetable for getting back to normal, announcing that factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures in place.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going back to work today at 10 Downing St. after being hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Johnson spent a number of days in intensive care and after he got out thanked  health-care workers for saving his life.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Chef Massimo Capra’s ground chicken lettuce wrap

Massimo Capra | posted Monday, Apr 27th, 2020

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp minced ginger
  • ½ chopped white onion
  • 1cup mixed diced colour peppers
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 julienne green onions
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leafed iceberg lettuce
  • matchstick potatoes (optional)
  • toasted peanuts (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat a pan on hi-heat, to it add the oil and immediately add the chicken, stir and make sure to break up the chicken as much as possible.
  2. Once the juices have dried up add the garlic and the ginger and sauté for a minute add the peppers.
  3. Add the hoisin, soy, vinegar, cook for a minute and taste for correct seasoning, serve at once with a stack of lettuce leaves. Garnish with matchstick potatoes, some toasted peanuts or crispy cereal.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Apr 24th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on April 24, 2020:

There are 42,105 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 21,838 confirmed (including 1,243C deaths, 4,484 resolved)

_ Ontario: 12,879 confirmed (including 713 deaths, 6,680 resolved)

_ Alberta: 3,720 confirmed (including 68 deaths, 1,357 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 1,824 confirmed (including 94 deaths, 1,092 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 827 confirmed (including 16 deaths, 358 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 326 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 261 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 251 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 174 resolved), 11 presumptive

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 256 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 199 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 118 confirmed (including 104 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 26 confirmed (including 24 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed

_ Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 8 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 42,105 (11 presumptive, 42,094 confirmed including 2,147 deaths, 14,746 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020

The Canadian Press

Farmers markets looking for ways to stay afloat during the pandemic

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 24th, 2020

Canada’s farmers markets, traditionally reliant on bustling crowds paying cash for locally produced food, seem particularly ill-suited to the age of physical distancing.

But those in the industry say business is surprisingly robust as they find ways to stay afloat in the present while hopefully modernizing the field for the future.

Farmer Dave Kranenburg said he’s never been busier despite not setting foot at a traditional market for weeks.

When faced with the prospect of losing 95 per cent of his annual revenue due to pandemic-related shutdowns, the co-owner of Kendal Hills Farm near Orono, Ont., set about creating an online alternative to the sorts of spaces that allowed him to make a living prior to the outbreak.

By teaming up with at least 35 nearby farmers, Kranenburg and his partner set up a virtual farmers market. Shoppers can browse a list of what local food growers expect to have on hand in the coming week and arrange to have their purchases either delivered to their homes or dropped off at a handful of regional businesses.

Kranenburg said the notion of turning the farm into a local food hub had been under discussion for years, but seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream until circumstances caused by COVID-19 forced their hand.

“At first it was very, very scary around what it meant for the future of my farm and small food businesses,” Kranenburg said in a telephone interview. “It’s morphed into a very exciting and hopeful period now. A lot of us are hoping that … it’s not just an emergency solution. It’s addressing some of the challenges we’ve always faced as farmers.”

Kranenburg said he and others in the field have long struggled with the distribution side of the business, noting that spending time driving to markets, restaurants and other potential customers significantly decreases the amount of time farmers can spend raising crops and animals.

By creating a food hub and contracting out the deliveries to students looking for work, Kranenburg said that problem has been addressed through the virtual market.

Some traditional markets have also had to adopt virtual practices to reach their usual patrons while they’re heeding public health advice and remaining at home.

Evergreen Brickworks, a popular year-round market in central Toronto, now allows customers to order and pick up boxes filled with local produce, bread and cheese.

Others have adopted a community-supported agriculture model that sees customers pay at the start of the season for a share of the year’s harvest.

But Kranenburg and other market regulars said there’s still a need for traditional spaces to buy and sell local goods, though concedes the constraints of the public health crisis may change how those spaces look and operate.

A list of directives prepared by Farmers’ Markets Ontario outlines some of the new measures that will be in place once markets reopen for business. The organization said only food should be available for sale in order to comply with government emergency legislation that shutters non-essential businesses but allows food retailers to keep their doors open.

The list also says stalls will have to be sufficiently spaced out to allow for proper physical distancing protocols, and customer traffic should be monitored or managed to keep patrons safe.

Food samples and reusable containers should be banned, the directives say, adding that hand sanitizing stations and washrooms will have to be readily available and properly maintained.

“Markets should not be viewed as a place to linger or socialize and should be viewed as a ‘shop and go’ market,” Catherine Clark, executive director of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, said in an email. “It won’t be business as usual.”

But the head of an industry group in Atlantic Canada said that may well prove to be a boon rather than a drawback.

Justin Cantafio, executive director of the Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia Co-Operative, said it has been exhilarating to see how quickly markets across the province have embraced online sales and other alternative sales methods.

He said challenges remain for markets in more remote communities that may not be able to tap into the same resources, but said the months ahead will hopefully see the industry as a whole become more innovative than it has been for years.

“We have a great new tool in the form of these online stores, but we’re also going to have a unified people seeking being together again after being isolated for so long,” Cantafio said.

“A farmers market is going to be that perfect blend of that cultural vibrancy and abundance mixed with the ability to get your food and necessities in one place. I think a farmers market will be one of the most important institutions moving forward if we play our cards right.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2020.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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