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Former ambassador and public servant Allan Gotlieb dies at 92 in Toronto

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 20th, 2020

TORONTO — Allan Gotlieb, a long-time public servant who was Canada’s ambassador to the United States during the Regan administration, has died.

He was 92.

A death notice says Gotlieb died of cancer and Parkinson’s disease at his home in Toronto on Saturday.

A long-time public servant and companion of the Order of Canada, Gotlieb became deputy minister of the department of communications in 1968 and was later named deputy minister of manpower and immigration.

He became the ambassador to the United States in 1981, and held the position throughout Ronald Regan’s administration.

Gotlieb penned five books, including “The Washington Diaries,” recounting his time in the U.S. capital.

He is survived by his sister Judith Shotten, his daughter Rachel and son Marc, along with six grandchildren.

He is predeceased by his daughter Rebecca.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Lack of deal sets stage for House of Commons to re-open today amid coronavirus

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 20th, 2020

OTTAWA — The House of Commons is poised to re-open today despite the coronavirus pandemic thanks to an impasse between the four main political parties.

The Liberals announced Sunday that they had an agreement with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois to have 32 MPs meet in the House in person each Wednesday starting this week, with up to two virtual sessions also added for MPs to ask questions of the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters it would be “irresponsible” to resume parliamentary sittings at a time when health experts are urging Canadians to limit their movement and work from home as much as possible to prevent the pandemic from spreading.

The House of Commons has already moved some business online with two parliamentary committees conducting hearings by video conference. The British Parliament is also poised to adopt a hybrid approach in wich some MPs will grill ministers in person while others participate online.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer rejected the proposal, suggesting there remained many unanswered questions about holding a virtual sitting of the House of Commons and insisting on three in-person sittings per week.

Negotiations were still underway Sunday evening, but all four parties needed to agree to prevent the House from officially resuming on Monday. The question then will be how many MPs show up and what they will discuss.

The government had suggested that if an agreement wasn’t reached, the House of Commons would resume business as usual with all 338 MPs and their staff, along with Parliament Hill clerks, interpreters, security and cleaners, returning to work in Ottawa.

Scheer, however, noted only 20 MPs need to be in the House for a sitting. He has accused the Liberals of misleading Canadians to put pressure on Opposition parties to accept fewer in-person sessions to hold the government to account for its pandemic response.

Except for two single-day sittings to pass emergency aid bills, Parliament has been adjourned since mid-March. Those two sessions were held with a limited number of Parliament Hill staff, which Scheer said could be easily replicated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The NDP was preparing to have three MPs, including Leader Jagmeet Singh and deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice, in the House of Commons on Monday if a deal could not be reached.

The political wrangling in Ottawa came as provincial health authorities reported at least 117 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the national total to 1,587.

Yet while Ontario and Quebec also reported hundreds more positive tests, bringing the national total to more than 35,000, New Brunswick as well as Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases.

Nova Scotia massacre and COVID Commons wrangle; In The News for April 20

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 20th, 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 20 …



RCMP say 17 people are dead, including one of their officers, after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser went on a rampage across northern Nova Scotia in one of the deadliest killing sprees in Canadian history.

An RCMP officer, Const. Heidi Stevenson, is counted among the dead.

Investigators say the alleged shooter, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was also killed after police intercepted him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

His death is now being investigated by a police watchdog.

Meanwhile, RCMP are probing exactly how the weekend rampage unfolded.

Premier Stephen McNeil described the massacre as “one of the most senseless acts of violence in our province’s history.”

“I never imagined when I went to bed last night that I would wake up to the horrific news that an active shooter was on the loose in Nova Scotia,” McNeil said in Halifax on Sunday.

In a series of tweets, he added that all Nova Scotians would be affected by the tragedy.

COVID-19 in Canada …

The House of Commons is poised to re-open today despite the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to an impasse between the four main political parties.

The Liberals announced Sunday that they had an agreement with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois to have 32 MPs meet in the House in person each Wednesday starting this week, with up to two virtual sessions also added for MPs to ask questions of the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it would be “irresponsible” to resume sittings at a time when health experts are urging Canadians to limit their movement and work from home as much as possible to prevent the pandemic from spreading.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer rejected the proposal, suggesting there remained many unanswered questions about holding a virtual sitting of the House of Commons and insisting on three in-person sittings per week.

Negotiations were still underway Sunday evening, but all four parties needed to agree to prevent the House from officially resuming on Monday.

The question now is how many MPs show up and what they will discuss.

Also this …

Tossing and turning in the middle of the night. Lying awake for lengthy stretches. Waking up groggy.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be messing with a number of peoples’ ability to get a good night’s sleep these days. And sleep experts aren’t surprised by that.

David Samson, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, believes our restless nights can be caused by our bodies’ fear response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“When fear becomes chronic, you have a mismatch scenario (regarding) your perception of fear, and that creates an inability to fall asleep,” Samson TOLD The Canadian Press. “With COVID-19, the threat isn’t actually a lion or a rival group seeking to take your resources, it’s invisible. And humans simply aren’t very well-evolved to fight off invisible enemies.”

Amanda Jewson, a sleep consultant in Toronto, blames pandemic-related sleep struggles on our bodies’ physiological response to stress and anxiety.

She says hormones like cortisol and adrenaline spike when we’re afraid, and that makes it difficult to get proper rest.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will use the Defence Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus.

Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further evoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus.

Trump has generally been reluctant to do so. But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production reaching 10 million per month.

To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said Vice-President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states.

COVID-19 around the world …

BERLIN — The European Center for Disease Control says the continent now has more than 1 million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the new coronavirus.

According to a tally posted on the ECDC website Sunday, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France.

It listed Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium.

According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths.

COVID-19 in entertainment…

NEW YORK — Organizers of Saturday’s “One World: Together At Home” special say nearly $128-million was raised to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most of the money came from corporate sponsors lined up before the special.

It was intended as a message of support for medical personnel and essential workers and a pick-me-up for those quarantined at home.

Lady Gaga, who curated the special, opened with a peppy version of the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile.”

Canadian artists Celine Dion, Shawn Mendes, and Michael Buble made appearances.

The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Eddie Vedder, Billie Joe Armstrong, Lizzo, John Legend with Sam Smith and Billie Eilish with Finneas were among the other performers.

Beyoncé was a surprise guest who spoke about how the virus is disproportionately affecting the black community.

NEW YORK — Another Broadway star has been hit by COVID-19.

Canadian actor Nick Cordero had to have his right leg amputated because of complications from COVID-19.

His wife says the Tony Award-nominated actor survived the surgery, and is now resting and recovering.

The 41-year-old Cordero was placed in intensive care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 31st.

Cordero’s credits include “Bullets Over Broadway,” which earned him his Tony nod.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

1st federal inmate dies from COVID-19 complications at prison in B.C.

AMY SMART, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 17th, 2020

Lawyers are strengthening their calls to thin prison populations following the first death related to COVID-19 at a federal institution.

The Correctional Service of Canada said in a statement that an inmate from Mission Institution in B.C. died Wednesday from an apparent complication related to the novel coronavirus.

The medium-security institution has been one of the hardest hit prisons during the pandemic, where 54 inmates and eight correctional officers have tested positive for the virus.

The inmate, whom the agency did not identify, died at Abbotsford Regional Hospital where a mobile medical unit has been deployed to provide additional capacity to treat prisoners.

“Given the size of the inmate population it was almost inevitable, but it doesn’t make it any less tragic,” said criminal defence lawyer John Hale, who is vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

The correctional service said it was the first death from the novel coronavirus among federally sentenced inmates in the country.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement the government is looking at further measures to ensure that inmates, staff and communities are as safe and healthy as possible during the pandemic.

The correctional service has already suspended work releases for offenders and visits from the public and volunteers.

“Our greatest responsibility is keeping Canadians safe _ that includes those in our correctional institutions,” Blair said.

“We know the unique vulnerabilities facing correctional institutions during this public-health crisis. The situation around COVID-19 is both challenging and rapidly evolving, and our response will continue to adapt as required to prevent further tragic loss of life.”

The inmate’s next of kin has been notified and the BC Coroners Service will review the circumstances of death, the correctional service said.

A total of 145 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at federal prisons.

The largest outbreaks have occurred at the Mission prison and Joliette Institution in Quebec, where 48 inmates and 34 correctional officers have tested positive for the virus.

Hale said it’s time to “aggressively depopulate” jails and prisons as much as possible in the interest of public safety.

He pointed to an affidavit by physician and epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Orkin that the Criminal Lawyers’ Association has circulated to its 1,600 members for use in court.

Orkin’s affidavit says an outbreak in prisons or jails would be no different than the spread of the virus on cruise ships or at long-term care facilities involving close quarters where outbreaks have proven “near impossible” to contain.

It’s extremely likely that COVID-19 will arrive in nearly every correctional facility in Canada, which means almost all inmates will be exposed in one way or another, the document says.

“The only available method to substantially reduce the resulting infections and deaths is therefore to reduce the population in those settings.”

Hale said not every inmate is an appropriate candidate for release, but many are.

“Obviously there are people in the jails who are dangerous and need to be kept in to protect the community, but there are a lot of people in jail who are not dangerous who could be either serving a sentence or awaiting trial outside of jail,” Hale said.

Hale said judges have granted release to two of his clients, including one man who was awaiting trial at a minimum-security provincial facility centre in Ottawa.

“He was really concerned because he was in an open area, he didn’t have his own cell,” he said.

The facility had about 30 beds, each about a foot apart from one another. Although most of the beds had been vacated, about 10 inmates remained and they still had to share showers, sinks and other facilities, Hale said.

Donna Turko said she’s concerned about her own clients at both the medium- and minimum-security institutions in Mission, B.C.

She is trying to convince the parole board to grant them a temporary release or parole by exception, which would allow for their release based on unforeseen circumstances at the time of their sentencing.

But she said the bureaucratic system of applying for parole is showing its weaknesses in an emergency.

The situation has been complicated further because she hasn’t been able to reach her medium-security clients since last week and her minimum-security clients since Tuesday, she said.

“They’re not sentenced to death, they’re not sentenced to come out of prison with lung and other permanent afflictions because they were exposed to COVID,” she said.

“The question I have is, is it too little too late?”

Turko said she hopes a response she received from the Department of Justice Thursday promising to assign a lawyer “without delay” to address her concerns with the parole board means things might start moving.

The Correctional Service of Canada did not immediately respond to questions about why the inmates could not be reached.

COVID-19 has been confirmed at several other prisons by the federal government and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

The Federal Training Centre in Laval, Que., counts 25 inmates and four correctional officers who are sick.

Also, in Quebec, 10 inmates and 15 officers tested positive at the Port-Cartier Institution, alongside two new correctional officer cases at the Drummond Institution.

Eight inmates and one officer are sick with coronavirus at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Ontario.

Does letting kids get coronavirus help build immunity among the wider society?

GIUSEPPE VALIANTE, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 17th, 2020

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has suggested that reopening schools and daycares could be a way to both kick-start its economy and slow the transmission of coronavirus in the province.

Quebec’s public health director, Horacio Arruda, told a news conference last Friday it was “very excessively rare” for children to develop severe symptoms from COVID-19. Allowing them to catch the virus and become immunized would help the wider society, he said.

“Because the more children will be, in my opinion, naturally immunized by the disease, the less they will become active vectors with older people,” Arruda said.

Evidence that children infected with the novel coronavirus rarely develop serious symptoms of the disease has led to talk of exposing students to the virus as a quasi-vaccination strategy and a way of building herd immunity — a type of resistance to the disease’s spread within society.

Premier Francois Legault has floated the idea of reopening schools and daycares before May 4, if COVID-19 hospitalizations stabilize, so adults can return to work without worrying about finding care for their children.

But his comments sparked indignation among teachers’ unions and parents, who talked about logistical nightmares of opening schools too soon and the threat of kids transmitting the virus to their older relatives.

Health experts also question that strategy and say there are larger ethical questions that need to be considered.

Alison Thompson, a professor at University of Toronto’s faculty of pharmacy, said letting children be exposed in schools to COVID-19 is a far cry from a mandatory vaccination program.

“It’s not just a matter of building immunity — they have to get sick first,” she said in a recent interview, calling the proposal a “sickness strategy.”

Erin Strumpf, a professor in the department of epidemiology at McGill University, said Arruda’s strategy follows the same logic as a vaccination program. When people receive a vaccine, they are given a weakened form of the virus, allowing their immune system to build antibodies to kill it.

The more people in a society are vaccinated against a virus, the fewer people are around to transmit it to a vulnerable person.

Strumpf, however, questioned whether Arruda’s strategy would build a sufficient herd immunity in society to protect the most vulnerable. Schools should eventually be opened for other reasons, she explained, but immunizing children is a side benefit.

Reopening schools would allow more people to go back to work and to ensure children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to proper education, she said: “It would level the playing field.”

But the logistics of allowing daycares as well as primary and secondary schools to open are not obvious.

Josee Scalabrini, president of the federation that represents the majority of Quebec’s teachers, questioned how older and vulnerable teachers can be protected from infected students and how physical distancing can be maintained in crowded classrooms, cafeterias and school buses.

Thompson recognizes that closing schools hurts the economy, but she said opening up the schools too quickly poses many problems. She noted that children are major vectors of pathogens.

“This is not immunity acquired through vaccine,” she said. “This would be naturally acquired immunity, and it’s hard to know how they would acquire that without posing a great risk to the adults that they are in contact with.”

Legault has since tempered some of his initial optimism about opening schools before May 4. He now says the schools will stay closed until public health officials agree to open them and until he has the assurance that there is no risk to children and teachers.

But the premier said Thursday that COVID-19 hospitalizations “are under control” and he is preparing a plan to open up the economy. “We will start with companies. We want to do it in a very gradual way, in an intelligent way,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2020.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Trudeau deflects Trump and Belgian bluebells in bloom; In The News for April 17

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Apr 17th, 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 17 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be under pressure today to flesh out his promise to do more to protect the elderly in long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau promised earlier this week that the federal government would provide funding to top up the wages earned by essential workers in nursing homes who earn less than $2,500 a month.

That promise was the subject of discussion during a conference call among first ministers late Thursday.

No details of the call were immediately forthcoming, other than a brief summary of the discussion issued by the Prime Minister’s Office which said first ministers “agreed on the urgent need to ensure long-term care facilities have the resources they need to protect the health and well-being of their residents and workers.”

Since the salaries paid to workers in long-term care homes fall under provincial jurisdiction, Trudeau has been clear whatever the federal government does must be in collaboration with the provinces.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte told CBC News late Thursday that the federal government will boost transfer payments to the provinces and territories, to allow them to top up wages. She did not say how much money Ottawa is prepared to ante up.

Also this …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to let Donald Trump down gently, warning that Canada is still a long way from being ready to agree to relax mutual travel restrictions along its border with the United States.

Trudeau said he discussed the issue with the U.S. president during a videoconference with fellow G7 leaders, and the two agreed, given the unique relationship between the two countries, that they would continue to take a different approach to managing bilateral travel with each other from the ones they use with the rest of the world.

That does not mean, however, that a decision to relax the travel ban is imminent, he added.

“The work that we continue to do to keep our citizens safe, while co-ordinating very carefully, is unlike our approaches with other countries around the world. There’s a recognition that as we move forward, there will be special thought given to this relationship,” Trudeau said.

“But at the same time, we know that there is a significant amount of time still before we can talk about loosening such restrictions.”

Trump, who often makes it abundantly clear that he’s in a hurry to get the American economy back on its feet, seemed to suggest Wednesday that his impatience might well extend to the northern border — a shift in the usual balance of anxieties that has tended to define the Canada-U.S. relationship.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

President Donald Trump and some of his officials are flirting with an outlier theory that the new coronavirus was set loose on the world by a Chinese lab that let it escape. Without the weight of evidence, they’re trying to blame China for sickness and death from COVID-19 in the United States.

“More and more, we’re hearing the story,” Trump says. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adds, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”

A scientific consensus is still evolving. But experts overwhelmingly say analysis of the new coronavirus’ genome rules out the possibility that it was engineered by humans, as some conspiracy theories have suggested.

Nor is it likely that the virus emerged from a negligent laboratory in China, they say. “I would put it on a list of 1,000 different scenarios,” said Nathan Grubaugh of Yale University, who studies the epidemiology of microbial disease.

Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.

Even so, Pompeo and others are pointing fingers at an institute that is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and has done groundbreaking research tracing the likely origins of the SARS virus, finding new bat viruses and discovering how they could jump to people.

COVID-19 around the world …

The British government announced that a nationwide lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus will remain in place for at least three more weeks, as health officials said the U.K.’s coronavirus outbreak — one of Europe’s worst — was nearing its peak.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.”

The lockdown has been in place since March 23. Schools, pubs, restaurants and most shops are closed, and most people are allowed to leave home only for essential errands or exercise.

Medical officials say the outbreak in the U.K. is reaching its peak but it’s too early to loosen restrictions on daily life.

Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance said that while transmission of the virus has been dramatically reduced, “we run the risk of a second peak” if the lockdown is loosened now.

As of Thursday, 13,729 people have died in U.K. hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, an increase of 861 from a day earlier. That number still understates the true toll of the pandemic since those figures do not include hundreds, and maybe thousands, of virus-related deaths in nursing homes and other settings.

COVID-19 in entertainment…

Chris McKhool still has many questions about how the federal government will support Canadian artists in the latest update to the COVID-19 emergency benefits program — but for now he’s trying to stay focused on the music.

The violinist in Sultans of String, a three-time Juno nominated act, has spent the past several weeks in a holding position as he wondered if accepting live streaming performance spots that paid a couple hundred bucks might disqualify him from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

He got a somewhat clearer answer on Wednesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expanded the reach of CERB to include support for people who are still working, but earning $1,000 or less per month, meaning McKhool could start accepting those gigs with confidence.

“I can still be an artist because of this, that’s how I feel,” McKhool said.

“It’s a huge burden lifted off me, that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I can be performing.”

But he’s still unclear on the specifics around getting paid, including whether the Canada Revenue Agency will claw back more of his earnings than anticipated in the future. Similar questions have echoed across Facebook groups dedicated to musicians and others in the creative community.

COVID-19 in springtime…

When nature is at its brightest this year, it needs to be hidden from sight.

Parks and woods in Belgium, like in much of Europe, are a riot of colour and scents in springtime, many so magnificent they would draw far too thick a crowd in the times of a pandemic.

So some are closed, or parking areas are off limits and non-locals are banned from visiting. Many tourists are sent back and some are even fined if they won’t take no for an answer.

The extraordinary measures are felt deeply as bluebells are in bloom in the Hallerbos forest, some 15 kilometres (10 miles) south of Brussels. In a good year, up to 100,000 tourists come to gaze in wonder at its vast purple carpet under the beech trees.

“This pains the heart badly,” Halle mayor Marc Snoeck told the Associated Press. “This goes against anything that we normally work for.”

During the annual April Bluebell Festival, the throngs on weekends or sunny days are so big that social distancing would become impossible along the walking paths. During their three-week stretch of flowering, the bluebells attract tourists from as far as China and the United States.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press

WestJet to lay off 1,700 pilots after coronavirus shutters airline travel

NEWS STAFF | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 2020

WestJet is planning to lay off up to 1,700 pilots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered commercial airline travel.

The union representing the pilots with WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop says the first 700 layoffs will take effect May 1 with an additional 1,000 layoffs coming June 1.

The layoffs will be done in reverse seniority order, meaning those pilots who were hired most recently will be the first to be furloughed.

“Issuing layoffs, in response to this crisis, has always been a last resort for WestJet; however, the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry is colossal, and WestJet is making difficult but necessary decisions to right-size our airline to weather the crisis,” the airline said in a statement.

WestJet adds that almost three-quarters of its fleet has been grounded due to the dramatic reduction in flying due to COVID-19.

Air Canada said plans to rehire 16,500 laid-off workers via Ottawa’s emergency wage subsidy program after they were let go under a cost reduction program that saw nearly half of the airline’s 36,000 employees lose their jobs.

Air Canada has suspended most international flights until June, while Air Transat and Sunwing Airlines have cancelled all trips until May 31 due to the pandemic.

China delays pandemic warning and ‘Canada Together: In Concert’; In The News for April 16

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 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 16 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today more financial help for small businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought much of Canada’s economy to a standstill.

It’s likely to involve some changes to the eligibility rules for the Canada Emergency Business Account program that banks and credit unions began delivering last week.

Under the program, the federal government is backing interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for businesses with annual payrolls between $50,000 and $1 million.

One-quarter of each loan will be forgivable if the remainder is paid off by the end of 2022.

Some small and medium-sized businesses with payrolls just under or just over the threshold have complained that they’re not eligible for the loans.

In a motion passed Saturday during an emergency sitting of the House of Commons, the federal government effectively promised to expand the loan program.

It promised to implement additional measures that would be partially refundable and have “the primary objective of maintaining jobs and reducing debt related to fixed costs, while maintaining access to liquidity in the form of loans.”

Also this …

The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping to address a critical shortage of experienced pilots by scooping up some of the hundreds of commercial pilots whose jobs have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Commercial carriers across Canada furloughed hundreds of pilots, technicians and other staff last month as the airline industry struggled with plummeting demand due to travel restrictions and other fallout from the global pandemic.

Airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet have since been able to rehire the majority of their employees with help from federal wage subsidies, but there remains great uncertainty around when staff will actually return to work as most flights remain grounded.

That is where the military wants to make the most of a bad situation.

Even before COVID-19, the Air Force had been reaching out to former military pilots who had left for commercial gigs in recent years in the hopes of enticing them back into uniform as it faced a shortage of more than 200 experienced aviators.

The shortfall, which saw Air Force commanders walking a delicate line between keeping enough seasoned aviators available to train new recruits and lead missions in the air, coincided with significant growth in the global commercial airline sector.

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

Citing the coronavirus, Donald Trump is threatening unprecedented action — adjourning both houses of Congress — to entice the Senate to approve more of his nominees.

In recent years, Congress has refused to fully adjourn during most breaks precisely to prevent the president from making recess appointments. Little or no business is conducted in such “pro-forma sessions,” but they give members of both chambers of Congress the chance to go back home without going into recess.

It’s a process lawmakers also employed to thwart President Barack Obama’s nominees.

Trump says he’s had enough and warns that he will seek to adjourn both chambers of Congress if lawmakers don’t formally declare a proper recess. That way, he could appoint some nominees without the Senate’s approval. Trump said, “Perhaps it’s never been done before, nobody’s even sure if it has, but we’re going to do it.”

The Constitution does not spell out a unilateral power for the president to adjourn Congress. It states only that he can decide on adjournment if there is a dispute over it between the House and Senate. Such a disagreement does not now exist, nor is it likely to arise.

Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley said on Twitter the Constitution gives a president authority in “extraordinary occasions” to convene or adjourn Congress. However, he said, “This power has never been used and should not be used now.”

COVID-19 around the world …

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began travelling through for Lunar New Year celebrations.

President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by then, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press and estimates based on retrospective infection data.

The delay from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was neither the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels in confronting the outbreak, nor the longest lag, as governments around the world have dragged their feet for weeks and even months in addressing the virus.

But the delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected almost 2 million people and taken more than 126,000 lives.

“This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient.”

However, another epidemiologist, Benjamin Cowley at the University of Hong Kong, noted that it may have been a tricky call. If health officials raise the alarm prematurely, it can damage their credibility — “like crying wolf” — and may cripple their ability to mobilize the public, he said.

COVID-19 in entertainment…

Shania Twain, Lady Antebellum, and Luke Combs are among the headliners set to perform from their homes for a five-night broadcast event next week in support of Canada’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

ET Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Country Music Association and the CCMA Foundation, will present “Canada Together: In Concert.”

The series premieres Monday and will air weeknights on “ET Canada” on Global, turning the entertainment news show into mostly performance-based episodes for the week.

The event will also air simultaneously on Corus country radio stations Country 105, CISN Country 103.9 and Country 104.

All proceeds raised will be donated equally between Food Banks Canada and the Unison Benevolent Fund to support Canadians during the pandemic.

Monday’s episode includes remote performances from Twain with Dallas Smith, Lindsay Ell, and High Valley.

A total of 20 acts are participating through the rest of the week, with others including Brett Kissel, Dean Brody, Gord Bamford, James Barker Band, and MacKenzie Porter.

COVID-19 in sports…

Some golf courses in British Columbia are open or about to open and Alberta golf clubs want to do the same despite the reluctance of provincial health officials to give the green light.

Winter loosening its grip on Alberta has the province’s golf industry lobbying to let courses open with protocols and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We for sure realize golf is not the most important thing in the world, but we want to be part of the solution,” says Calgary’s Barry Ehlert, owner of six courses in the Windmill Golf Group.

“We do think there are other things coming down the pipe at us like mental health, economic drivers, the forty-two thousand jobs that golf represents.”

The Alberta chapter of National Allied Golf Associations said in a recent letter to its members that “NAGA Alberta will be working closely with the Alberta Government in seeking an exception like the courses in B.C.”

An online petition on change.org calling for Alberta golf courses to be exempt.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health wasn’t ready to give the all-clear to golf, however.

“I would say to golfers the same thing I would say to other Albertans, which is to trust we are looking very closely at our numbers, and that as we get to a point where we can think about easing restrictions, outdoor recreation is certainly on that list of things to be considered,” says Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“But at this time, we’re not yet at that point yet where we can start easing off.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press

RBC Canadian Open cancelled due to the coronavirus

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 2020

The RBC Canadian Open, one of the jewels of the national sports calendar, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the tournament as part of its revamped 2020 schedule. The four-day competition was scheduled to begin June 11 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.

The Canadian Open, first contested in 1904, is the third-oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA Tour behind the British Open and the U.S. Open.

It’s the first time the tournament has been cancelled since 1944, when it missed a second straight year due to the Second World War. It was also scrapped from 1915-18 because of the First World War.

The Canadian Open becomes the latest major annual late spring or summer sporting event in Canada to be wiped out or postponed because of COVID-19. The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the Queen’s Plate in Toronto will not run on their scheduled June dates, while the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Montreal, scheduled for August, will not be held in 2020.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won the title last year at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club. The last Canadian to win the tournament was Pat Fletcher in 1954.

A cancellation seemed increasingly likely in recent weeks as the pandemic worsened. Three regional qualification tournaments set for mid-May were scrapped last month.

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently announced the city was cancelling its permits for all public gatherings up until June 30.

The edict didn’t apply to sporting events held on private property — like MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, or the Canadian Open itself at St. George’s in the city’s west end.

“Obviously it’s not an easy decision and there’s very valid reasons for things getting cancelled or postponed,” golfer Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., said before the cancellation was official. “It’s an event that I’ve been looking forward to all year, really.

“It’s so much fun to play in front of the Canadian fans, the support’s incredible at the RBC Canadian Open.”

The tournament is scheduled to return to St. George’s in 2024. The venue has hosted the event on five occasions, most recently in 2010.

The city edict cancelled a two-night concert series planned for tournament week. The Chainsmokers and Keith Urban were scheduled to perform at a nearby school.

If the tournament had gone ahead as scheduled, construction on the course would have had to begin later this month, another hurdle for making the Canadian Open’s original start date.

The CP Women’s Open is still on the LPGA Tour schedule. It’s slated for Sept. 3-6 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver.

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko won last year’s tournament at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ont.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., won in 2018 at Regina’s Wascana Country Club. She become the first Canadian to win the tournament since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.

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