More pain in store for Canadian marijuana companies after Aurora Cannabis, Tilray cut jobs

By Nichola Saminather
FILE PHOTO: Chemdawg marijuana plants grow at a facility

By Nichola Saminather

TORONTO (Reuters) - Investors are bracing for more job cuts and writedowns at Canadian cannabis producers before the industry stabilizes and becomes profitable, after two of the biggest weed companies, Aurora Cannabis <ACB.TO> and Tilray <TLRY.O> announced cost reductions this week.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis in October 2018 but profits have proven elusive for most marijuana companies as fewer-than-expected retail stores, higher prices than on the black market and slow overseas growth resulted in oversupply.

"The Aurora story will be much more common in 2020," said Hap Sneddon, founder and chief portfolio manager at Castlemoore. "I don't see rationalization. I see companies leaving the business."

Many producers, including Canopy Growth <WEED.TO> <CGC.N>, Aurora, Tilray and Aphria <APHA.TO> rapidly expanded at home and overseas as capital flooded into the industry before legalization.

Aurora announced a writedown on Thursday of as much as C$1 billion, 500 job cuts and the departure of its chief executive. Tilray said on Tuesday it cut 10% of its workforce, or about 140 jobs.

Lack of profitability is common in new industries, but a prolonged period of higher cash burn unnerves investors.

Aurora must almost quadruple quarterly sales to meet expenses and Tilray nearly double them, according to Reuters and Infor Financial calculations, based on their latest quarterly results, before they announced the cuts.

An Aurora spokeswoman said the company was making "aggressive changes" because its previous cost structure was "misaligned with the current market conditions". The cuts and existing financing will cover costs until it sees profits, she said.

Tilray, which says it expects profits by the end of fiscal 2020, will bridge the gap with debt until then, a spokeswoman for that company said.

Short sellers made more than $60 million in paper profits on Friday from a fall in Aurora's Canadian and U.S. shares, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm. Aurora is the third most shorted pot stock tracked by S3 Partners, trailing Canopy and GW Pharma <GWPH.O>.

The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF <HMMJ.TO> has lost 68% since its Oct. 16, 2018 peak.

While the sector could see some consolidation, the shareholder dilution from issuing new stock to fund deals could upset investors, said Bryden Teich, portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management, which avoids cannabis stocks due to the challenges facing the industry.

Companies that have grown more slowly, such as Organigram Holdings <OGI.TO>, can better control costs, and those with big investors, like Canopy, have a cash cushion, said Neil Selfe, chief executive of investment bank Infor Financial.

Oversupply causing a lack of demand for production and processing facilities would weigh on sales, making shutdowns and writedowns more likely, said Alan Brochstein, founder of cannabis-sector information provider 420 Investor.




(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Noel Randwich; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

  • 'That was the master plan': Why Harry and Meghan were going to California — just maybe not so soon
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    CBC

    'That was the master plan': Why Harry and Meghan were going to California — just maybe not so soon

    In the end, it really isn't a surprise.Maybe the timing is unexpected, but Prince Harry and Meghan's reported move to California in recent days seems likely to have been the inevitable end goal for the couple who this week officially started their life outside the senior ranks of the Royal Family."They were always heading to L.A. That was the master plan," Katie Nicholl, Vanity Fair's royal correspondent, said via email.But as with so much else in the world right now, the coronavirus pandemic may have prompted a change in their plans, and moved up the timing of their departure from Vancouver Island, where they had been living with their young son, Archie, since November."I think with North America shutting down because of COVID, they decided to move to California sooner," said Nicholl."Meghan wants to be near her mum [who lives in Los Angeles], which is understandable at this time, and they clearly have projects in the pipeline and wanted to get to L.A. as quickly as possible."Still, it's a move that raised some eyebrows in the U.K., and leaves lingering questions about why they decamped so soon from Canada, which seemed to be in line as their temporary home at least for a little while as they seek to carve out a new life of financial independence."Their early announcements suggest that they might have hoped to undertake royal duties on a part-time basis, and a home in the Commonwealth might have been part of the plan if Prince Harry had retained his role as a Commonwealth youth ambassador," Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said via email.But things didn't work out that way, with Harry giving up that role as part of the agreement for him and Meghan stepping back from official duties."Instead, they are pursuing independent careers in addition to their philanthropy," said Harris, "and are following outside opportunities such as Meghan's recent project narrating the Disneynature documentary Elephant."That documentary is set to premiere on Disney+ on Friday, and has received mixed reviews in the U.K. media, with comments ranging from the Telegraph calling Meghan a "snug fit for this sweet nature doc" to the Guardian saying she adds "schmaltz" to the "Disney yarn." Thanks to CanadaHarris said the short duration of their stay in Canada is also "perhaps surprising" given the fact that their last public appearance as senior members of the Royal Family came at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, and they visited Canada House in London in January to express their thanks for the hospitality they had received while in Canada over the holidays.WATCH | Prince Harry and Jon Bon Jovi meet at Abbey Road StudiosThe move to California, according to various media reports, may have taken place about 10 days ago. It also raised questions in some quarters in the British media about whether the couple should have considered going back to the U.K., given the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, and came at the same time as Harry's father, Prince Charles, tested positive for the coronavirus. (He has since come out of self-isolation, and a palace official has said he is in good health, the BBC reported.)Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Express.co.uk that the timing of their Hollywood move might be perceived by some as selfish.While the timing was driven by the "imminent closing" of the border between the U.S. and Canada, Fitzwilliams said "the image this will create is that they are on a journey for themselves at a time when their undoubted global reach could give some succour to others."Could have 'won praise'Fitzwilliams also suggested the couple missed an opportunity by not returning to the U.K. "If they had temporarily returned to Britain, whatever their personal feelings, this would have been a selfless move and it would have won universal praise."But returning to the U.K. might not have been easy — or perhaps realistic right now."Frogmore Cottage, their house in Windsor, would have been a very safe place to self-isolate, and Harry must, of course, be anxious about his father and his grandparents [Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip]," royal biographer Penny Junor, author of Prince Harry: Brother Soldier Son, said via email."But equally, Meghan's mother is in L.A. It must have been a tough choice, but having made their decision to step back, it would have been difficult to reverse that decision so quickly in order to show solidarity."Not right nowNicholl said she can't see Harry and Meghan moving back to the U.K. at the moment, given that they have just moved to L.A. "And with the royals in isolation, there isn't much they can do, although I suspect Harry will probably be feeling far from home right now," Nicholl said. "They won't want to take any risks by travelling, and their priority is to keep Archie settled and in a routine. I think they will come to the U.K. when it is safer to do so."There could also have been basic logistical challenges that kept them from crossing the Atlantic Ocean."A few weeks ago, a return to the United Kingdom certainly would have been a viable option for Harry and Meghan, but there are now fewer planes crossing the Atlantic because the United States has banned all but essential travel from the United Kingdom and Europe," said Harris.Such a trip could also have renewed focus on their travel, which was criticized last summer when they made four private jet flights within 11 days."If Harry and Meghan were to return to the United Kingdom at this time, they would likely attract criticism for travelling on a trans-Atlantic flight during a pandemic," said Harris.Other factors that could have played into the decision to go to California include questions of taxation and residency.Security considerations?"The decision to move to Los Angeles may also have been influenced by security considerations," said Harris. "During their time in Canada, Harry and Meghan received British and Canadian security, but they will engage private security services in the United States."President Donald Trump tweeted on the weekend that the U.S. wouldn't be paying for their security, and a spokesperson for the couple said they had no plans to ask for such support.As much as the move means Meghan, a former actor who grew up in Los Angeles, is back in familiar territory, questions also remain regarding Harry's feelings toward the move."I would be surprised if all of this has made Harry happy," said Junor.While he may be trying to make Meghan happy by taking her back to her home, her job and people she knows and loves, Harry is moving away from what is familiar to him, Junior suggested."But in so doing, he has left his home, his job and everyone he knows and loves. I fear there are going to be some very difficult times ahead for him."What's next for them isn't clear. In a social media post earlier this week, they told supporters "you've been great," and said they "look forward to reconnecting with you soon."

  • Canada's airline, tourism sectors facing 'catastrophic' decline due to COVID-19 pandemic
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    CBC

    Canada's airline, tourism sectors facing 'catastrophic' decline due to COVID-19 pandemic

    As Canada's aviation and tourism sectors face a decline of epic proportions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government is preparing an aid package to save an industry that employs well over 2 million Canadians.The lobby group that represents dozens of air carriers in this country is warning that, without immediate support from Ottawa, airlines will fold, thousands more will be out of work and the travel landscape in this country will be crippled for the foreseeable future.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said help is on the way — but it can't come soon enough for an industry bleeding cash."We recognize there are certain industries that have been extremely hard hit by both the drop in oil prices and the COVID-19 challenge, whether it's airlines or oil and gas or tourism," Trudeau told reporters Tuesday when asked about the prospect of support."There are significant areas where we're going to have to do more. And as I've said from the very beginning, we will be doing more."Airports across the country are virtually empty as travellers heed the warnings of public health officials to stay home and avoid all non-essential international and domestic travel to stop the spread of the deadly virus."The impact of all this is just devastating. People aren't flying at all or capacity is at 10, 15 per cent. Nobody can sustain that for very much longer, that's for sure," John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, told CBC News."We're eagerly awaiting an aviation-specific plan but we haven't heard anything. We have no idea what's coming."His organization represents both large and small airlines, including Porter — which has grounded its entire operation— leisure carrier Sunwing and more than a dozen regional operators that serve rural and remote communities.McKenna said that some carriers won't make it through this crisis. He warned that the damage to the industry will only increase while it waits for the federal government to act.'Help us out here'He said the promised wage subsidies for all businesses will help but his organization is also looking for interest-free loans to provide carriers with some much-needed capital.He's also asking that certain government fees and surcharges be waived so the companies can stay afloat. He asked that planned changes to the Canada Labour Code — including new rules for rest periods — be deferred to lessen the regulatory burden."Give us a break on everything else while we concentrate on surviving. Help us out here," McKenna said.He said some airlines were already in "dire straits" before COVID-19 hit, as carriers had to park their Boeing 737 MAX jets while still paying purchase agreement loans. The 737 Max was grounded worldwide a year ago after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed outside of the capital Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people onboard.The blanket travel ban means some debt-laden companies will shutter operations altogether."You're telling people not to fly. You can't just leave us hanging like that," McKenna said.Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Tuesday that Ottawa would be waiving rent payments for 21 of the country's airports between March and December 2020.In Canada, most major airports are operated by independent, non-profit authorities, but the land on which these airports sit is still owned by the federal government. With fewer people flying and paying fees, making the rent is a challenge.Morneau said the rental reprieve recognizes that the air transportation industry has "suffered tremendously."That measure will save airport authorities about $331 million a year in rent payments. But that does little for the national and regional air carriers that fly through them."I'd be surprised if we saw any of that," McKenna said.Larger air carriers like Air Canada and Air Transat have been pressed into service to rescue Canadians stranded abroad by travel restrictions driven by the pandemic's spread, but revenue from other operations has all but evaporated.Air Canada, one of the world's largest airlines, is in the midst of a system-wide shutdown that will result in a stunning 85 to 90 per cent reduction in capacity compared to the same period last year. Starting today, dozens of flights to the U.S. or international destinations will be grounded.Nearly 17,000 of its employees have been temporarily laid off as the airline tries to protect its balance sheet and avoid bankruptcy. Beyond a few "air bridges" to locations overseas, Air Canada is a fraction of the size it was only a month ago. The company's share price has declined by some 70 per cent from its high in January."To furlough such a large proportion of our employees is an extremely painful decision but one we are required to take given our dramatically smaller operations for the next while," said Calin Rovinescu, president and CEO of Air Canada.WestJet, the country's second largest carrier, has also halted all international operations and is running some of its domestic flights with greatly reduced capacity at a time when demand has never been lower.WestJet has laid off 7,000 employees and has cancelled virtually all planned capital investments for the year."This is devastating news for all WestJetters," said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO, in a statement to reporters announcing the layoffs.'It's the pits'Major hotels, like Ottawa's iconic Château Laurier, have temporarily closed while others are welcoming fewer than a dozen guests each night.Tony Elenis, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, said hotels are dealing with "a catastrophic" drop in business."It's the pits," Elenis said.Some hotels have been asked by provincial health authorities to house some patients in the future as hospital capacity becomes increasingly limited, but the rates will be lower than what they could get from a regular traveller, Elenis said.Regardless, it could be a much-needed source of revenue at a time when properties sit vacant, he said.Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, said Tuesday that governments across the country are readying hotel rooms and other "alternative sites" to house non-COVID-19 patients or those with milder symptoms.Quebec already has rented out a Quality Inn in Laval, Que. for this very purpose, with other sites expected to come online soon as the province grapples with the country's largest caseload."We're gearing up to accommodate patients. All of us should be working in any way we can to support those who are getting rid of this virus. A lot of hotel managers really want to support this," Elenis said.Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly did not respond to requests for comment.

  • 'Out of time': How a pandemic and an oil crash almost sank Newfoundland and Labrador
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    CBC

    'Out of time': How a pandemic and an oil crash almost sank Newfoundland and Labrador

    His province was reporting just four cases of COVID-19 when Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball wrote the prime minister to warn that his province was about to go under.It wasn't the health crisis that had Ball so concerned — though that clearly was a major worry. It was a financial crisis that had him reaching out to Justin Trudeau for help.In the March 20 letter, Ball warned that Newfoundland and Labrador had "run out of time," according to sources with knowledge of the events.The province with Canada's worst balance sheet had just been told that nobody wanted to buy Newfoundland and Labrador bonds. The government's attempts to finalize both its short- and long-term borrowing programs had failed.In other words, Newfoundland and Labrador couldn't get the money it needed in the face of a pandemic.Sources say the provincial government was on track to run out of cash by the middle of April."There is a point coming soon when this province will not be able to pay its public service," a senior provincial government official said of the situation at the time.Newfoundland and Labrador was spared that fate just days later, when the Bank of Canada stepped in with a plan to buy short-term provincial bonds to "support the liquidity and efficiency" of provincial funding markets."This should ease those financing constraints for the provinces, and at least give them predictability for their near-term cash flows," Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told reporters in Ottawa Friday.It was a move to help all provinces deal with the coronavirus fallout. But the combined impact of COVID-19 and the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia was hammering resource-dependent provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan especially hard — and their borrowing costs were rising as a result.Poloz's move was a lifeline for Newfoundland and Labrador. Before Poloz stepped in, Ball's minority Liberal government was just days away from an emergency session of the House of Assembly to get approval to borrow $2 billion it wasn't sure it could raise.'We can make payroll'At a press conference in St. John's Wednesday afternoon, Ball confirmed that he wrote the letter, telling reporters he thought it was appropriate to draft some correspondence to reflect conversations he's had with the prime minister.The premier said the province's borrowing picture has brightened somewhat since March 20."We've had some success this week in the markets — of course, supported with the Bank of Canada by the changes that they had made to help provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador with their borrowing requirement," Ball said."So essentially, we can make payroll. We will continue to provide the services."Newfoundland and Labrador was in a weakened financial position even before the crisis. Its plight was only compounded by the collapse in oil prices and COVID-19. And as the virus spread around the world, economic contagion spread throughout the provincial economy.Newfoundland and Labrador's most recent budget (this year's fiscal plan has been delayed indefinitely) was betting on US$63 oil. On Monday, it fell below US$23.That price slump means hundreds of millions in revenues expected from producing fields are likely to evaporate in the coming year.  And future offshore projects — including the $6.8-billion deepwater Bay du Nord prospect — have now been put on hold.As many as 500 jobs were lost with the mothballing of Come By Chance oil refinery, which itself accounts for five per cent of the province's gross domestic product.The global slump also has lowered demands for the other key provincial exports — including fish, the backbone of the province's rural economy. The upcoming tourism season, with its cruise ships and conventions, is in peril. Construction work has been suspended on the Muskrat Falls hydro project and Vale's nickel mine expansion in Labrador. It all combines to create a cash-and-jobs crisis in a province that already had double-digit unemployment and no obvious floor under its free-fall in revenue. Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't receive equalization payments. Its balance sheet is completely exposed.The cash situation is so bad, Ball warned publicly last week that his government might not be able to participate in any cost-shared programs Ottawa may use to help spur the economic recovery."You cannot compare Newfoundland and Labrador to other provinces," he said. "We are unique."In the hours after the provincial legislature swiftly passed five pieces of legislation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ball warned about a looming "economic crisis" expected to follow the public health emergency — a crisis that almost certainly would require another plea to Ottawa for help."I think every single industry — every single key industry that's driving this economy right now — is having difficulty," Ball told reporters in St. John's."The federal government will have to be there to help provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador."

  • In Taiwan, anger at China over virus drives identity debate
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    Reuters

    In Taiwan, anger at China over virus drives identity debate

    Anger at being confused with China amid the coronavirus outbreak and Beijing's stepped-up efforts to assert sovereignty is stirring heated debate in Taiwan about how to further distance itself from its giant and often threatening neighbour. At its core is a debate about whether to drop "China" from the island's official name, the Republic of China. During the virus crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO), which considers the island part of China, has listed Taiwan's far lower case number under China's, and China has repeatedly insisted only it has the right to speak for Taiwan on the global stage, including about health issues.

  • Rouhani: U.S. has lost opportunity to lift Iran sanctions amid coronavirus
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    Reuters

    Rouhani: U.S. has lost opportunity to lift Iran sanctions amid coronavirus

    Iran's president said on Wednesday that, with the advent of the coronavirus, the United States had missed a historic opportunity to lift sanctions on his country, though the penalties had not hampered its fight against the infection. On Tuesday, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the possibility that Washington might consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the epidemic, but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so. "The United States lost the best opportunity to lift sanctions," Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting.

  • 30 dead from COVID-19 in Ontario nursing and retirement homes
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    CBC

    30 dead from COVID-19 in Ontario nursing and retirement homes

    At least 30 deaths of residents in Ontario nursing and retirement homes have been linked to COVID-19, almost triple the number that provincial officials reported on Monday. The growing death toll is based on information gathered by CBC News from local public health units. CBC reached out to all 34 units in the province, although not all responded.At least 26 facilities for seniors are currently experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, with an outbreak defined as simply one lab-confirmed positive test among a resident or staff member.  That has raised fears that the pandemic will result in more deaths in long-term care homes. As of Wednesday, the illness caused by novel coronavirus had killed 41 people in Ontario and 107 countrywide, according to CBC's own tracking of coronavirus data. The province's official tally stood at 37 on Wednesday morning.Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday afternoon that 11 of the deaths in Ontario were residents in long-term care homes, although she acknowledged that the figure was not up to date. But CBC News found that in addition to the deaths of 12 residents and one volunteer worker at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, there were another 18 COVID-19-related deaths at long-term care and retirement homes stretching from Sarnia to Orleans. "It's heartbreaking because people in those homes are very vulnerable," said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, which includes health care unions and patient advocacy groups.     "It's such a serious and deadly disease that I am very frightened for what's going to happen across Ontario's long-term care homes now."WATCH | Pinecrest physician Stephen Oldridge describes how devastating it has been to watch the outbreak sweep through the home:Virus may have spread by staff, visitorsSince the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, Ontario's Ministry of Health progressively ramped up measures to try to keep COVID-19 out of long-term care and retirement facilities, first recommending screening visitors for symptoms and travel history, then advising homes against allowing any non-essential visitors.However, there is concern that the virus may have been spread by staff or visitors who weren't showing symptoms or by others before the restrictions were enforced. "We acted immediately from the advice that we got from the chief medical officer of health," Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday when questioned about the speed of the province's response at his daily press conference."I just wish I had a crystal ball a month ago, a month and a half ago, to see where this was going. We're doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable."The measures "were appropriately timed," said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics for the Sinai Health System and a provincial advisor on seniors' health issues. "Now, we're learning things in real time that it might have been better to do a week ago. That's the reality of working in a pandemic."WATCH | Remembering a beloved friend who died of COVID-19 at Pinecrest Nursing Home:Urging mask use at all timesBased on fresh evidence from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about asymptomatic transmission of the virus, Sinha is urging the province to further ramp up testing of nursing home residents and is recommending that long-term care staff wear masks at all times.The number of officially confirmed COVID-19 cases in some Ontario nursing homes is almost certainly fewer than the actual number of cases, because of a previous provincial policy that prompted some homes to stop testing after a few residents were confirmed to have the disease.For instance, at the Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home in Oshawa, where two residents have died, six have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 25 are showing symptoms of the respiratory illness but have not been tested, according to Glendene Collins, a manager in the Durham Region Health Department.     **The Ontario Health Ministry's official tally lags CBC's own tracking of coronavirus data, which is based on Health Ministry numbers and calls to health authorities around the province. As of Wednesday, that tally showed 40 deaths in Ontario.The province issued a new directive on Monday to homes to test everyone with symptoms in the event of an outbreak.  Sinha says Ontario should go further and test everyone in a long-term care home where there's an outbreak."That's important so that we don't miss cases that could allow us to further spread this virus around and potentially kill more people," he said, pointing to U.S. research showing many residents of long-tern care homes are testing positive for COVID-19 without having any symptoms.  26 outbreaksThe 26 officially declared outbreaks around Ontario and the rising death toll "are showing that nursing homes are like tinderboxes," Sinha said. "If the virus gets in, it can spread quickly and it can have devastating consequences."Mehra criticized the province for failing to have enough personal protective equipment, such as mask and gowns, available for staff of long-term care homes. "The response has been terrible — very slow and without any real explanation as to what happened and why," Mehra said. "I think everyone understands that we're dealing with a situation that no one anticipated. But I think we need a lot more information about what is the plan going forward. How are these things going to be dealt with?"

  • The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada
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    The Canadian Press

    The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

    The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern): 9:15 p.m.B.C. Premier John Horgan made a direct address to the province tonight, reassuring people that the government has a plan to weather the COVID-19 crisis.Horgan says the province will announce a plan on Wednesday to make sure health-care workers have the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe, including getting them reuseable medical garments.In the five-minute address, he asked people to stick with the advice of public health officials by staying at home as much as possible and to continue keeping a physical distance from others.He says the province will get through the crisis as he announced he is extending the state of emergency through the end of April 14.\---7:40 p.m.A hospital in Mississauga, Ont., says it has an outbreak of COVID-19.Credit Valley Hospital says four patients in an inpatient unit have tested positive.The four patients are being relocated to a unit exclusively for COVID-19 patients.All other patients in the unit are being monitored for symptoms.\---6:10 p.m.British Columbia is reporting five more deaths related to COVID-19.Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says 24 people in total have now died in B.C.She says another 43 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 1,013.Henry says 507 people have recovered.\---6 p.m.Toronto's ban on city-led events through June 30 does not prohibit sporting events at private facilities.That means the Maple Leafs and Raptors could still play games at Scotiabank Arena, and the Blue Jays could play at the Rogers Centre.The same could hold true for the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack on June 27 and the RBC Canadian Open June 11-14 at St. George's Golf and Country Club after Toronto's ban was announced today.However, almost all major sports leagues and events around the world have been suspended, cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis.Also, Ontario has extended its state of emergency through April 14. It prohibits events or gatherings of more than five people.There also is an international travel ban in place, prohibiting anyone deemed non-essential from entering Canada.Almost all major sports events in Toronto include athletes from outside Canada.\---5:30 p.m.Alberta is reporting 64 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 754.The province's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says another resident has also died at Calgary's McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre.She says up to 75 of the total number of cases appear to have been caused by community transmission, and that is concerning.\---4:45 p.m.The Ontario union representing provincial correctional staff say guards refused to work their shift at an Ottawa jail Tuesday over the lack of screening for COVID-19 symptoms.Ryan Graham of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says the entire morning shift of correctional workers at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre refused to enter the institution.He says the union has been pushing the Ministry of the Solicitor General to implement screening measures for signs of COVID-19 for anyone going into the province's jails.\---4:30 p.m.The city of Toronto says it's cancelling all public events for the next three months to try and halt the spread of COVID-19.Mayor John Tory says all festivals, conferences and cultural events scheduled until June 30 are suspended in a bid to comply with public health advice.The cancellation includes major city events including the annual Pride festival.The city says the cancellation date will be reviewed every two weeks and extended further into the summer if needed.\---3:30 p.m.Saskatchewan has eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 184.Health officials say one person is in intensive care, while 21 other people have now recovered from the virus.On Monday, the province announced its first two deaths from COVID-19.Both people who died were in their 70s.\---3:10 p.m.The Northwest Territories has added $8.3 million in aid for residents suffering economic stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.The money is available to families, businesses, Indigenous governments and communities.The territory has now announced a total of $21.6 million in COVID-19 support to date.\---2:35 p.m.Five members of the Toronto police have tested positive for COVID-19.Spokeswoman Meaghan Gray says four officers have the disease, as well as one civilian who works at police headquarters.She says there are other officers off duty in self-isolation, but declined to say how many for operational reasons.\---2:27 p.m.The Manitoba government is reporting seven new probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 103.Public health officials also say a staff member at Selkirk Regional Health Centre has tested positive for COVID-19.They say the person worked in the hospital's emergency department and medicine ward from March 19 to 23.Officials are investigating this case and following up with close contacts among staff and patients.\---1:50 p.m.There are two new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, bringing the provincial total to 70.Chief medical health officer Dr. Jennifer Russell says one case is travel related, and the other is a contact of a previous case.She says there are three cases of community transmission so far in the province, and nine people who were positive have recovered.Russell warns against people becoming complacent.\---1:25 p.m.Ontario says it will extend school closures until May 4 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Premier Doug Ford confirmed the decision at a press conference today saying he is following the advice of medical experts.Earlier this month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce ordered schools closed for two weeks following March break, and the premier said last week schools will not be reopening April 6.School boards across the province have been working on plans to help children learn from home.\---1:21 p.m.Quebec Premier Francois Legault is warning the province could run out of some kinds of medical supplies in three to seven days.He made the announcement as the total number of cases in Quebec rose to 4,162, which is an increase of 732 from yesterday.There were also six more deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the province's death toll to 31.Legault said he hopes new shipments of medical supplies will arrive in coming days, and thanked Ontario Premier Doug Ford for agreeing to send Quebec some equipment.\---12:56 p.m.Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is monitoring closely the spread of COVID-19 among health professionals who live in Canada but work in the U.S.Reports suggest many of the cases in Windsor, Ont., are a result of cross-border travel for essential work.That's the only reason people are currently allowed to cross the border.Freeland says stepped up measures have been put in place at the hospitals on the U.S. and Canadian side of the border.\---12:44 p.m.There are three new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island, bringing the provincial total to 21.Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says all three new cases are people who had travelled internationally and are self-isolating.She says a man in Summerside has been fined $1,000 for failing to self-isolate.\---12:43 p.m.Newfoundland and Labrador has announced four more positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 152.Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officers of health, says all the cases are in the Eastern Health authority.She says 11 people have been hospitalized due to the virus and two are in intensive care.Municipal and privately-owned parks and campgrounds have been ordered to close but Fitzgerald says people should still exercise outside while keeping their distance from others.\---12:27 p.m.The federal government has purchased 157 million surgical masks and more than 60 million N95 masks, used by health-care professional to stop the spread of COVID-19.There are also 1,570 ventilators on order, with officials looking to secure 4,000 more.Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand laid out the state of the government's bulk buy efforts today.\---12:24 p.m.Canada's chief public health officer says there have now been 236,000 tests in Canada for COVID-19.Dr. Theresa Tam says 3.5 per cent are confirmed positive, and more than 93 per cent confirmed negative.She says adults under 40 represent about 10 per cent of hospitalizations.Tam says the greatest concern at the moment is the introduction and spread of the virus in places where high-risk populations reside, including long-term care homes, remote First Nations and prisons.\---12:20 p.m.The Manitoba government is closing elementary, junior high and high schools indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The province originally planned a three-week shutdown that was to end Monday, April 13th.But the education minister now says schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year unless health officials say they can be reopened.Kelvin Goertzen (GURT'-zihn) says assignments and learning will continue as teachers conduct their work remotely.\---12:09 p.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 20 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 147 confirmed cases in the province.Health officials say most cases are connected to travel or a known case, with one case the result of transmission within the community.The affected individuals range in age from under 10 to over 80.Public Heath officials say four people are currently in hospital, while 10 have now recovered.\---11:40 a.m.The prime minister says the government is preparing for worst-case scenarios when it comes to the purchase and distribution of crucial medical equipment to treat and prevent COVID-19.Justin Trudeau says however that Canadians do have some control over how much equipment will be required.He says the more people choose to stay home to curb the spread of the virus, the less urgent the demand will be on the health-care system.\---11:23 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is moving forward with the private sector on agreements to purchase equipment for the response to COVID-19.He says production of ventilators, masks and test kits is now underway.One company, Thornhill Medical, says it is making 500 ventilators and hopes to have them ready within weeks.Trudeau says the government has signed letters of intent with five other firms to bolster the national stockpiles of badly needed equipment.The government is also allocating $2 billion to purchase personal protective equipment for health care professionals.\---10:45 a.m.Ontario is reporting 260 more COVID-19 cases today, for a total of nearly 2,000 in the province.The 1,966 cases Ontario has seen includes 33 deaths and 534 that are resolved.The number of people awaiting test results continues to drop — to 4,280 today — as Ontario adds more testing capacity and clears a backlog that was once nearly 11,000.\---10:15 a.m.The federal government is waiving the monthly rent paid by airport authorities to Ottawa for the rest of the year as revenues plummet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the measure will provide support worth up to $331.4 million in ground lease rents from March through December.The move applies to 21 airport authorities as well as PortsToronto, which operates Billy Bishop airport and pays a charge to the federal government.Morneau says the air transportation sector has "suffered tremendously," as airlines cancel the vast majority of their flights and lay off thousands of staff.\---8:45 a.m.Officials in Florida are meeting later today to decide whether to let the infection-plagued cruise ship MS Zaandam dock after more than two weeks at sea.The Zaandam and its sister ship the MS Rotterdam have about 2,700 passengers and crew on board, including 248 Canadians.The two ships were stranded off the coast of Panama after the novel coronavirus made its way on board.On Monday they passed through the Panama Canal after being anchored on the west side of the canal with four dead and nearly 200 passengers and crew exhibiting flu-like symptoms.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state's health care resources are stretched too thin to allow the ship to dock.\---8:10 a.m.Ontario's education minister is expected to announce an e-learning plan for the province's students during COVID-19 school closures.Earlier this month, Stephen Lecce ordered schools closed for two weeks following March break, but as the end of that draws closer, the premier has said schools will not be re-opening April 6.Lecce and Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano are set to join Premier Doug Ford for an announcement today.The Canadian Press

  • Alberta education minister resists Opposition calls to rescind mass layoffs
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Alberta education minister resists Opposition calls to rescind mass layoffs

    EDMONTON — Alberta's education minister, in her first public comments since laying off more than 20,000 people in an email on the weekend, resisted Opposition calls to reverse her decision.Adriana LaGrange also declined to say why she ordered the layoffs despite promising two weeks earlier to keep full education funding in place for the rest of the school year — but she noted the COVID-19 crisis is a fluid situation."We are in unprecedented times, and both governments and businesses are making difficult decisions," LaGrange told the legislature in question period Tuesday."This pandemic has changed how our education system functions and, like the private sector, we are still adapting to this new reality. This is a temporary measure that will be reversed when classes resume."LaGrange closed schools on March 15 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but at that time announced funding would stay whole.On Saturday afternoon, as schools geared up to begin virtual at-home programming for thousands of students, she directed school boards to lay off more than 20,000 support staff, including substitute teachers, school bus drivers and educational assistants who work with special-needs students.LaGrange said the resources were not needed in the switch to virtual schooling and the estimated $128 million saved could be used to fight COVID-19.Contracts for educational assistants must be concluded by the end of April and reduced use of substitute teachers is to begin Wednesday.United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney, speaking at a pipeline announcement in Calgary, said the province can't afford to pay bus drivers while buses are parked and janitors while schools are closed. They are in the same situation as laid off workers in other industries, he said."I don't ... think it's reasonable to ask people in the private sector who have lost their jobs because of the public health orders to pay for salaries of folks in the public sector who've lost their jobs."We're all in this together."NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said educational assistants are even more critical now to help students with learning challenges adapt to online schooling."They're working every day to provide routine and support and to ensure that these kids don't fall behind," said Notley."Parents know they (LaGrange and the government) are wrong, and they feel betrayed."Tuesday was the first time the Alberta legislature has sat since March 20. Kenney has kept the spring sitting going but is only recalling the house to pass emergency legislation tied to the outbreak.Government house leader Jason Nixon introduced three bills to give legislative teeth to previous announcements on enforcing health rules, protecting renters and reclaiming orphan wells.Alberta is under a public health emergency.Members of the legislature kept their social distance in the house under a cross-party agreement.Earlier in the day, Nixon said the UCP and NDP agreed to reduce their numbers proportionately while still maintaining the 20-member quorum needed to run the 87-member house.During question period, members on both sides sat one empty chair away from each other. There were 31 from the UCP and seven NDPers.Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has directed that public gatherings be no larger than 15 people. But all 87 members could still sit in the legislature because the government is deemed an essential service.Also on Tuesday, Hinshaw reported 64 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the province to 754.She added that another resident also died at Calgary's McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, bringing the number of deaths in the province to nine.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

  • McConnell: Impeachment 'diverted attention' from coronavirus
    News
    The Canadian Press

    McConnell: Impeachment 'diverted attention' from coronavirus

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's impeachment trial distracted the federal government from the coronavirus as it reached the United States in January, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, despite warnings at the time from public health experts and members of Congress about the spread of the deadly virus.The outbreak "came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment,'' McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.The Trump administration has been severely criticized for its slow response to the pandemic, especially for the shortage of coronavirus testing kits when the infection first spread to the U.S. from China. Trump initially downplayed the virus, comparing it to the seasonal flu and declaring it may go away on its own. The administration also has been criticized for not supplying needed protective medical gear for health care workers.McConnell's argument breaks sharply with assurances that the Trump administration made early on about the virus. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who declared a public health emergency Jan. 31, said at the time that the public "can be assured the full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people.”And weeks after his Feb. 5 acquittal in the impeachment trial, Trump continued to minimize fears as he insisted the U.S. was “very, very ready” for whatever the outbreak brings. On Feb. 25, he told business leaders in India: "I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away."Asked about McConnell's comment, Trump said Tuesday that he “certainly devoted a little time to thinking about" impeachment, but added: “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached. ... I don't think I would have acted any faster.”As the pandemic has worsened in recent weeks, Trump has ramped up the federal response. He announced Sunday that he is extending social distancing guidelines through April 30 at least, backing away from an earlier call to have the country “opened up and raring to go” by Easter, April 12.Congress has approved three bills responding to the outbreak, including an unprecedented $2.2 trillion package Trump signed last week.McConnell said Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was among the first in Congress to raise an alarm. Cotton, an outspoken critic of China's communist government, has said he does not trust China to act truthfully about the virus.“He was first, and I think Tom was right on the mark,'' said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "Tom figured this out early, and he was absolutely right."Cotton, in a separate interview with Hewitt on Tuesday, said he had been studying the virus since mid-January. "Unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress, was consumed with another matter ... the partisan impeachment of the president,'' he said."I was focused at the time on what I thought was going to be a growing crisis coming out of Wuhan. And, unfortunately, it’s been proven correct,'' Cotton said. The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has climbed past 3,500, eclipsing China’s official count.The Trump administration briefed the Senate on Jan. 24 — during the impeachment trial — and again on Feb. 5, the day Trump was acquitted.Still, the threat posed by the virus was not widely understood, and some lawmakers complained that Trump wasn’t taking the growing threat seriously. For weeks after the first U.S. case of the coronavirus was confirmed in January, government missteps caused a shortage of reliable laboratory tests for the coronavirus, leading to delays in diagnoses.Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate health and foreign relations committees issued a joint statement after the Jan. 24 briefing, declaring, “We are monitoring the outbreak of a novel coronavirus closely and are in close communication with United States government agencies on actions and precautions needed to prevent further spread of this virus."The statement said China "has taken steps to share information with international health experts'' and thanked administration officials for providing an update.Two days later, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the administration to declare the coronavirus a public health emergency, freeing up $85 million for federal agencies.Azar, in declaring the public health emergency for the entire U.S. on Jan. 31, said: "While this virus poses a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low.”That same day, Trump imposed travel restrictions on China in response to the outbreak. Most major airlines had already suspended flights to China, following the lead of several major international carriers. An earlier State Department advisory told Americans not to travel to China because of the outbreak.Despite those actions, the administration — and Trump himself — downplayed the virus for weeks before taking more drastic steps this month. Trump speculated last week that the country could reopen by Easter, but now says distancing guidelines should remain in place through April.Cotton called Trump's decision to impose travel restrictions on China “probably the single most important thing the U.S. government has done over the last two months.''But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Trump has been slow to respond from the start. “Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren't taking this seriously enough,” he tweeted Feb. 5.His opinion remains unchanged. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has completely botched the response to COVID-19 so far,'' Murphy wrote Tuesday in Foreign Policy magazine. Trump ”denied the risk of the disease for weeks, failed to ramp up testing measures ... and Americans are paying the price for it. The next virus is not going to wait for the U.S. government to get its act together."The virus has caused a global pandemic that has sickened about 800,000 people and killed tens of thousands, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.___Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to this story.Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

  • How to protect yourself and others from infection as COVID-19 cases increase
    News
    The Canadian Press

    How to protect yourself and others from infection as COVID-19 cases increase

    COVID-19 is now impacting the lives of Canadians on many levels and people across the country are seeking answers to numerous important questions they have about the novel coronavirus. Below is a summary: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?Health Canada says those who are infected with COVID-19 may have few, if any symptoms, or may not know they're infected because symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to a cold or flu.Those symptoms have included fever, cough and difficulty breathing.Other symptoms can include fatigue, mucus production, muscle or joint pain, sore throat, headache and chills. COVID-19 can sometimes escalate to pneumonia.According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 78 per cent of the people confirmed to have COVID-19 in this country have developed a cough, 57 per cent reported weakness, and 57 per cent have experienced headaches.Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Health officials are still trying to determine whether the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. While experts believe this is possible, it's considered to be rare. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE SYMPTOMS?If you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they're mild, stay at home and follow local health authorities' instructions to self-isolate.If you feel sick and must visit a health-care professional, Health Canada says you should call ahead or tell them when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness. You may be asked to wear a mask while waiting for or receiving treatment to prevent the spread of the illness.Tell them your symptoms and travel history and let them know whether you've had direct contact with animals or a sick person, especially if they've had symptoms. HOW SICK WILL I GET?Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover.However, for some, especially older adults and those with pre-existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness, such as pneumonia. In some cases, it can be fatal.As of April 1, 64 per cent of all COVID-19 cases were related to community transmission, while 36 per cent were either exposed while travelling or exposed to a traveller returning to Canada.The World Health Organization has found that among patients in China, 80 per cent suffered mild cough and fever symptoms while 14 per cent suffered severe symptoms requiring treatment, including being placed on ventilators. A further one per cent lapsed into critical condition with symptoms that could include respiratory failure, septic shock and organ failure or dysfunction. HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD BE TESTED FOR COVID-19?The best way to determine if you should go to a testing centre is to call your doctor or local public health office.Canada's chief public health officer Theresa Tam has said tests are prioritized for certain types of cases: travellers who have symptoms; those with severe respiratory illness, regardless of whether they've travelled; people in long-term care facilities with influenza-like illness; and hospital-related illness, including health-care workers who are sick.She emphasized, however, clinicians at assessment centres that are opening up across the country still have the ability to make their own judgement on who gets tested.Several provinces and the federal government have created online self-assessment tools that will advise you what to do. WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL?The government has closed the border with the U.S. for non-essential travel, and strongly advises Canadians to avoid travelling anywhere as many countries impose movement bans, quarantines, and airlines ground flights.All Canadian travellers returning from abroad are told they must self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival, regardless of whether they show symptoms, and monitor their health. HOW DO I SELF-ISOLATE?Ideally, self-isolation means halting all contact with others, and setting up a space dedicated solely to the person being isolated.Those who live with others should try to segregate parts of the home. Do not use common spaces at the same time; stay out of the kitchen; dedicate a separate washroom to that person if possible, and don't share towels or toiletries. Clean spaces where that individual has been and do not touch surfaces that person has touched before cleaning.Only leave the home if it's absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care.If you have to interact with others, keep it brief. Try to maintain a safe distance and wear a mask, the agency says. Avoid people with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults. WHAT IS SOCIAL DISTANCING AND HOW CAN I PRACTISE IT?Social distancing involves taking steps to increase the physical space between people to prevent the virus from spreading. Public health officials say this is key to reducing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.Officials insist people stay home as much as possible, and those who must go out should stay two metres away from others.Other tips include avoiding crowds and going to public places during off-peak hours. If you are sick, stay home. WHAT HOUSEHOLD ITEMS SHOULD I HAVE IN CASE I NEED TO ISOLATE?Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has suggested that people gather enough food and other essentials, such as medicines and toiletries to last them through a two-week quarantine if needed.However, Hajdu and other public officials, including Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot, are also urging people not to stockpile or hoard these items, insisting it's not necessary.The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 outbreak has led to many stores being cleared of items such as toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and certain non-perishable foods. HOW ARE CANADIAN OFFICIALS RESPONDING TO COVID-19?Public health officials are working hard to identify and contain cases of community transmission.Many provincial governments are taking extraordinary measures such as prohibiting large gatherings, closing schools and shuttering restaurants, gyms and theatres.Several provinces have declared states of public emergency in response to the pandemic. WHERE CAN I FIND ADDITIONAL CREDIBLE INFORMATION?Check government websites — federal, provincial and municipal — as well as the World Health Organization for the latest, credible information regarding the novel coronavirus.For more information on an epidemiological summary in Canada visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html WHERE CAN I FIND PROVINCIAL TESTING INFORMATION?B.C.: 1-888-COVID-19 or healthlinkbc.caAlberta: alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertansSaskatchewan: saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirusManitoba: 1-888-315-9527 or gov.mb.ca/covid19Ontario: publichealthontario.ca/en/diseases-and-conditions/infectious-diseases/respiratory-diseases/novel-coronavirusQuebec: 1-877-644-4545 or quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirusNew Brunswick: gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/ocmoh/cdc/content/respiratory_diseases/coronavirus.htmlNova Scotia: novascotia.ca/coronavirusPrince Edward Island: 1-800-958-6400 or princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/covid-19Newfoundland and Labrador: gov.nl.ca/covid-19/Yukon: yukon.ca/en/information-about-novel-coronavirus-yukonersNorthwest Territories: 1-833-378-8297 or hss.gov.nt.ca/en/services/coronavirus-disease-covid-19Nunavut: gov.nu.ca/health/information/covid-19-novel-coronavirusThis report by The Canadian Press was published April 1, 2020. The Canadian Press

  • Homeless Canadians Face Increasing Danger Because Of COVID-19 Lockdowns
    News
    HuffPost Canada

    Homeless Canadians Face Increasing Danger Because Of COVID-19 Lockdowns

    Social distancing is a hard ask for those in the shelter system.

  • News
    CBC

    City of Victoria allows camping in parks so homeless can physically distance

    The City of Victoria won't be enforcing rules on camping in parks, as part of an effort to let people experiencing homelessness follow instructions to physicially distance themselves from others during the COVID-19 pandemic.With the increase of homeless people camping along Pandora Avenue in downtown Victoria, the city is now allowing the homeless to sleep in tents in city parks.as a temporary measure.Victoria mayor Lisa Helps told On the Island host Gregor Craigie the city has chosen Topaz park and Royal Athletic park as designated sites where harm reduction services, food services and security will be set up. Both were also chosen because they have running water so people can wash their hands."The prime minister gets on his podium everyday and says 'stay at home.' Sadly for some Canadians, home is a tent so that makes this really, really complicated," said Helps.Helps said bylaws that outline what time a camper can set up and take down their tent will not be enforced by officers at any parks at this time. Moving insideHelps said the long-term plan is to get homeless people inside but with limited city-owned facilities that can be used, B.C. Housing has had to help find places like vacant motels for homeless people to stay. In her daily address on the City of Victoria Facebook page on March 31, Helps said B.C. Housing has acquired additional motel rooms for people to stay, bringing the total to number of secured spaces to 115.As for residents who are frustrated with the situation along Pandora Avenue, Helps said she wishes there was a simple fix for the problem but there just isn't one."Of course, when people don't have homes or when they don't have access to the supports they need, it doesn't look pretty for anyone," she said. B.C. Housing said in a statement it's in the process of finalizing agreements with facility providers. It said local health authorities will identify people who require self-isolation and the organization will work with them to make these spaces available to those people. There are now over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 in B.C.

  • Two-thirds of Lufthansa's staff to shorten work hours due to coronavirus
    News
    Reuters

    Two-thirds of Lufthansa's staff to shorten work hours due to coronavirus

    Two-thirds of Lufthansa's global staff will work reduced hours after the German airline grounded much of its fleet due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lufthansa said on Wednesday. Lufthansa has applied or will apply for state aid to keep around 87,000 staff working on shorter hours, a spokesman said. The move was first reported by Business Insider.

  • Premier John Horgan urges British Columbians to 'do your part' on COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    Premier John Horgan urges British Columbians to 'do your part' on COVID-19

    In a public address Tuesday evening, Premier John Horgan called on British Columbians to work together and support each other to slow the spread of COVID-19.He told viewers the next 14 days will determine whether the province is able to slow the outbreak."What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses, and first responders face ahead. It will determine how many of us will stay healthy and how much we can do to flatten the curve," Horgan said."You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. is pulling together … We can't stop now."After the public address, the B.C. government announced that the provincial state of emergency has been extended to April 14 to ensure a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis.The premier urged members of the public to stay at home as much as possible and stay at least two metres away from others when outside."Do your part. Stay home and stay safe and we'll bend this curve together," he said.Watch: Horgan praises health-care workersHorgan also offered thanks to health-care workers responding to the crisis, and said the province is "leaving no stone unturned" to make sure there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment.Horgan's appearance comes after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 43 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 1,013.Five new deaths have also been recorded, bringing the B.C. total to 24.Watch the full address below

  • City of Toronto cancels events, Pride Parade through June 30
    Global News

    City of Toronto cancels events, Pride Parade through June 30

    Toronto’s mayor announced the cancellation of events through June 30 over concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. As Erica Vella reports, this includes the annual Pride Parade.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Suspect arrested in killings of Saskatchewan boy and his grandparents

    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A man has been arrested in what a Saskatchewan police chief calls the horrific killing of a seven-year-old boy and his grandparents."As a police service we continue to investigate what happened while also working to make sense of something that is absolutely tragic," Prince Albert police Chief Jonathan Bergen said.The suspect was taken into custody Tuesday and is to be charged in the coming days, Bergen said. The man was known to the victims but police did not release details about how.Officers were called to a home Sunday evening after the grandparents and two of their grandchildren were not heard from. Bergen said police are still looking into when the killings happened."The evidence would suggest that it happened anywhere between late Friday night into that time that we responded," he said.Denis Carrier and Sandra Henry, both 56, were found dead along with their grandson Bentlee.The boy's five-year-old sister, Kendrah, was in critical condition when transferred to a hospital in Edmonton. She is now in a stable condition.Police have not released the children's last names at the request of their family.Prince Albert is about 140 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Words to remember: Canadian newsmakers have their say on COVID-19
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Words to remember: Canadian newsmakers have their say on COVID-19

    A look at some of the top quotes from across Canada on Tuesday in relation to COVID-19: "They had nowhere to stay and didn't really know what they were doing in the community besides just coming here." — Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm on a Quebec couple arriving in Old Crow, Yukon on Friday to flee the pandemic, only to be told there was no room in town and they should leave.———"Through all this, we did not lose Shawn. We gained a fighting, caring, wonderful angel ... and he is still working from beyond." — Jennifer Auger, of the High Prairie, Alta., area. Her husband, 34-year-old Shawn Auger, died Monday from complications of COVID-19.———"Right now, we're using 10 times more medical equipment as normal. So what we used in one year, we're using in four weeks." — Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann.———"I just wish we had a crystal ball a month ago, a month and a half ago, to see where this is going, but it's all hands on deck and I won't spare a penny to protect anyone, not to mention our seniors are a priority." — Ontario Premier Doug Ford.———"Calling it a chief positivity officer, not unlike a CFO or a COO, is trying to also say that's how important it is. It's at that level of importance right now." — Newmarket, Ont., Mayor John Taylor on his town appointing a chief positivity officer for staffers as they help deliver essential services.———"I'm seeing so much anxiety. A lot of people don't have hope things will get better." — Credit counsellor Pamela George on financial worries.———"We will need more masks, ventilators and testing kits, but how many more we need depends entirely on you. If you stay home and follow public health recommendations, you can slow the spread." — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020The Canadian Press

  • Review: Paranoia seeps through a starship in 'Providence'
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Review: Paranoia seeps through a starship in 'Providence'

    "Providence” by Max Barry (Putnam)A crew of research scientists makes first contact with an alien species of creatures that look like salamanders and it all goes horribly wrong. The violence is captured on video, and now Earth is at war.Seven years into the battle, four people go through extensive training to be chosen as the crew of the Providence Five, a warship designed for long-term travel and support for soldiers on the front. The four are chosen for their knowledge of weaponry, engineering talents, ability to not panic in tense and claustrophobic situations and how they appear on the cameras back home. It’s a reality show set in outer space, and the ship itself is run by artificial intelligence.The long periods of isolation and vast space take their toll anyway, and they soon struggle with their tasks and patience with each other. It becomes difficult for them to interact without distrust, paranoia and hostility. It doesn’t help that even after all this time, the enemy’s motives remain a mystery.Barry mixes the classic sci-fi novels of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke and updates them for the internet age. At times the story is reminiscent of Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow” and Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers,” but Barry makes the story compelling and innovative. In unpredictable ways, he uses his flawed characters to comment on artificial intelligence, propaganda in a social media landscape and how isolation affects people differently, even when they’re trained to handle that challenge. Barry takes a story that has been done countless times before and makes it seem original.Ultimately, “Providence” is really about how we can all overcome adversity even when answers and resolutions are not clear-cut.Jeff Ayers, The Associated Press

  • News
    CBC

    Kugluktuk MLA resigns from Nunavut Legislative Assembly

    Mila Kamingoak has decided to resign as the MLA for Kugluktuk, according to a news release sent Tuesday by the clerk of Nunavut's Legislative Assembly.Her resignation will be effective as of April 3.Kamingoak has formally informed the Speaker, states the news release.A byelection must be held "as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than six months after a seat becomes vacant," according to the Nunavut Elections Act.  I thank Ms. Kamingoak for her service and wish her well as she focuses on the needs of her young family. \- Paul Quassa, Speaker of Nunavut LegislatureThe news release did not specify a reason for her departure. But a quote from Speaker and Aggu MLA Paul Quassa referred to Kamingoak's young family."On behalf of all members of the Legislative Assembly, I thank Ms. Kamingoak for her service and wish her well as she focuses on the needs of her young family," said Quassa in the news release. Quassa said he anticipates the date of the byelection will be "announced shortly."

  • News
    CBC

    Housing homeless in hotels would take too long due to suicide prevention retrofits: minister

    Alberta's minister of community and social services says placing homeless Calgarians in hotels rather than larger facilities is problematic because the hotel option is too slow given the need for suicide prevention retrofits."Getting hotels ready does take a lot of time because hotels do need to be retrofitted," said Rajan Sawhney. "When you're dealing with vulnerable clients, you have to make sure that you have suicide prevention measures in place. That entails removing curtains and anything that has a string attached to it including shower curtains, making sure there aren't long cords attached to any of the TVs, removing light fixtures that have chains."She said the hotel option was about the same price as housing people in the Telus Convention Centre — the option chosen for the Calgary Drop-In Centre's clients announced on Monday — and that the province also considered venues like the Max Bell Centre."We were working with the city to look at different locations and know that we looked at the Stampede grounds and that wasn't a viable solution because they didn't offer a 24/7 presence there," said the minister. Time, however, was the major consideration, she said. Costs not knownSawhney said she could not provide a cost breakdown at this time, and said the details of the Telus Convention Centre deal are still being finalized.She also could not say how much of the $25 million pledged by the province to help homeless populations during the pandemic will be spent in Calgary. Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said he still prefers the city's initial program to house Calgary's homeless in hotels, but that the city was overruled by the province."I think it would be a very positive mental health intervention in tough times to have your own shower, to have your own door," he said on Monday.Nenshi's office staff said on Tuesday that while they were not part of the conversation on choosing hotels and couldn't comment on the requirements mentioned by Sawhney, those concerns were never brought to the office's attention.The Calgary Hotel Association did not immediately return a request for comment. Sawhney said the province worked with local agencies and the city to find the right solutions for local circumstances, and that some Calgarians are housed in hotels already. Alpha House hotelCalgary's Alpha House has about 40 people in a hotel, but the shelter's executive director said the agency didn't have to make any of the alterations cited by the minister. "We were fortunate that as part of our grant agreement with the government we did get social supports in place," said Kathy Christiansen. "We do have two staff on site 24/7 doing case management, doing check-ins with folks. There is ongoing involvement, so that mitigates other risks that would require alterations to a building, perhaps."Christiansen said Alpha House is looking at the hotel operation as an opportunity to transition clients out of shelters. "We're trying to find the gift in all of this for people, and that is, how do we ultimately reduce our numbers for a longer term," she said. "I'm not sure if that's possible, but that's the lens that we're looking at it."Other locationsSawhney said the convention centre is providing food and security as part of the makeshift shelter and that there will be shower facilities provided in a loading area. The city's other major shelter, the Mustard Seed, has already acquired space in the First Alliance Church in southeast Calgary. Other hotels are being worked on at the moment in order to be used for isolation, according to Sawhney.

  • The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada
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    The Canadian Press

    The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada

    The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:30 p.m. ET on March 31, 2020:There are 8,591 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada._ Quebec: 4,162 confirmed (including 31 deaths, 1 resolved)_ Ontario: 1,966 confirmed (including 33 deaths, 534 resolved)_ British Columbia: 1,013 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 507 resolved)_ Alberta: 754 confirmed (including 9 deaths, 120 resolved)_ Saskatchewan: 184 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 21 resolved)_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 152 confirmed (including 1 death, 7 resolved)_ Nova Scotia: 147 confirmed (including 10 resolved)_ Manitoba: 91 confirmed (including 1 death, 4 resolved), 12 presumptive_ New Brunswick: 70 confirmed (including 9 resolved)_ Prince Edward Island: 21 confirmed (including 1 resolved)_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed_ Yukon: 5 confirmed_ Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases_ Total: 8,591 (12 presumptive, 8,579 confirmed including 101 deaths, 1,214 resolved)This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said there have been no deaths in P.E.I. and one resolved case.

  • More masks, ventilators on the way as industrial response to COVID-19 ramps up
    News
    The Canadian Press

    More masks, ventilators on the way as industrial response to COVID-19 ramps up

    As Canadians self-isolate in droves to help buy time for the health system to get ready for a potential deluge of COVID-19 cases, the federal government is buying supplies.Upwards of 60 million N95 masks, crucial gear for health-care workers, are expected this week, and 1,570 ventilators are on order, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday.The government has also secured 157 million surgical masks, and COVID-19 testing kits. "As the items come in, they go out to the provinces," Anand said in an interview.The search continues for 4,000 more ventilators, and the government is allocating upwards of $2 billion to ensure more protective gear can be bought for the health-care industry.The money and supplies from the federal government were announced as hospitals call for donations from the public, and medical professionals sound the alarm that they don't have what they need to protect themselves and treat the patients."Every day, every hour and sometimes every minute counts, so we encourage the federal government to ensure this critically needed equipment gets to the frontlines as soon as possible," said Paul-Emile Cloutier, the president of the umbrella health-care organization HealthCareCan. In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault warned Tuesday his province could run out of some supplies in three to seven days.The premier said the shortage of equipment was due in part to orders that have not been delivered, as well as a high rate of use — a point that was echoed by Health Minister Danielle McCann."Right now, we're using 10 times more medical equipment than normal," she said. "So what we used in one year, we're using in four weeks."The next two weeks are believed to be crunch time for Canada's efforts to curb the spread of the virus.Though the number of new cases being reported daily is increasing, public health officials note that lags in testing mean those results are from infections dating back days.So all eyes are on whether the aggressive physical distancing measures implemented in the latter half of March have gone far enough to halt a potential spike in infections that could in turn overwhelm the health-care system.The ventilators are a key piece of equipment. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, and while most cases are mild, it does affect the lungs.Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 291 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 125 in intensive care and 82 of them on ventilators. That is 21 more people on ventilators since Monday.The orders being placed represent the maximum of what the government thinks is available, Anand said, rather than being linked to disease modelling of future demand. Excess inventory could be sold to other countries, or just stockpiled.Some of the orders announced Tuesday were the result of a plea to Canadian industry from the federal government just a few weeks ago to pitch in and help produce badly needed goods.Three contracts were initially signed between Canadian firms and Ottawa and the government announced five more on Tuesday.Anand said the government has heard from upwards of 16,000 firms interested in helping.Around 500 ventilators are coming from Toronto-based Thornhill Medical, which said Tuesday it expects to deliver some units next week. The firm also has a separate agreement to supply Ontario.Doris Grinspun, the chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, said the pivot to getting more made-in-Canada goods is essential — and encouraging — but the global hunt for supplies must continue.Canadian industry can't produce fast enough to meet demand and the global pool of supplies is shrinking. "We are in the middle of the pack," she said of Canada's efforts to get enough supplies compared to other countries."We can catch up if we speed up."How much gear Canada will ultimately need rests in part on Canadians themselves, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday."We will need more masks, ventilators and testing kits, but how many more we need depends entirely on you," Trudeau said during his daily briefing."If you stay home and follow public health recommendations, you can slow the spread."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

  • Consider releasing some inmates to stem COVID-19 in prisons, minister requests
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Consider releasing some inmates to stem COVID-19 in prisons, minister requests

    OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has asked the federal prison service and the parole board to look at early release for some offenders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.The government is committed to protecting inmates, correctional staff and the public given the unique risks the virus poses for prisons, said Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for the minister."This pandemic continues to evolve and we have been clear that our response will as well," she said Tuesday in a statement."Minister Blair has asked both the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether there are measures that could be taken to facilitate early release for certain offenders."The Correctional Service is working closely with the Parole Board "to examine all options with respect to the safe release of offenders into the community," said Martine Rondeau, a spokeswoman for the prison service.Under the law, decisions on the conditional release of inmates lie with the Parole Board, she noted.The Correctional Service is conducting an analysis of the offender population to be in a position to make evidence-based recommendations, Rondeau added.The Parole Board welcomed the minister's direction and said it was working closely with officials from the Correctional Service and Public Safety "to ensure a broad number of options are considered to safely release offenders into the community in response to the COVID-19 situation."Spokeswoman Iulia Pescarus Popa added that the board continues to review parole applications from offenders based on the specific circumstances of each case.The prison service said Monday two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at Port-Cartier Institution, a maximum-security facility in Quebec — the first confirmed cases involving prisoners in a federal institution.The service said nine employees at Port-Cartier had also tested positive for the virus.The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents employees in 49 federal institutions, says the release of a few inmates would not stem the spread of COVID-19 in prison but would increase the risk for Canadians."The focus must be on changing routines in our institutions to respect social distancing and self-isolation directives to every extent possible," the union said."Canada is in crisis, and its citizens are already dealing with a potentially deadly threat. It is irresponsible to introduce further threats into our communities."The Canadian Bar Association has previously raised concerns about inadequate levels of health care in federal institutions, including crowded immigration-detention facilities, the respective chairs of the association's criminal law and immigration law sections said in a letter to Blair this week. They added that health-care demands are likely to increase with an aging prison population."Coupled with the close quarters in these facilities, limited access to hygiene and preventive products, and inability to act on social-distancing recommendations from public health authorities, we believe the current situation may soon become dire," they wrote.With the emerging health threat, it is important to look at releasing those who can be safely let out of prisons and immigration-detention facilities, the letter said.One option is to consider those on remand or sentenced for non-violent crimes for early release, it said. Other possibilities include expanding use of conditional pardons under the Criminal Code, accelerating the parole process, and relaxing requirements for temporary absences and intermittent sentences."These approaches must be co-ordinated, with consistent policies between federal, provincial and territorial institutions."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Quebec couple's COVID-19 escape to Old Crow, Yukon, short-lived, says chief

    OLD CROW, Yukon — Indigenous communities in the Far North should not be considered safe places for people to escape the novel coronavirus pandemic, says a First Nation chief in Yukon.Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm said Tuesday a couple from Quebec arrived in Old Crow on Friday to flee the pandemic but were told there was no room in town and they should leave.Old Crow is located about 125 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. The community has about 250 residents, Tizya-Tramm said.The chief said he was called when local airport officials at the fly-in only community were told by the man and woman that they drove across Canada and flew to Old Crow from Whitehorse seeking an isolated community to hide from COVID-19."They had nowhere to stay and didn't really know what they were doing in the community besides just coming here," Tizya-Tramm said in an interview. "He had informed me that they sold everything that they owned in Quebec and drove across Canada and grabbed the first flight into the community."He said the couple, who he believed were in their late 20s or early 30s, appeared unprepared for life in Old Crow."He got off the plane in sweat pants, a jacket and a hat," said Tizya-Tramm. "He didn't have even mitts on. It's minus 30 here today."Tizya-Tramm said he spoke to the couple by telephone after consulting with airport officials."He told me he figured that Old Crow ... is the safest place to weather the COVID storm," he said. "I informed him there's no housing available. We don't even have enough housing for our own members and we are scaling down all construction projects."Tizya-Tramm said the man, whom he did not identify, expressed a fear of the pandemic that was "palpable." He said the community is not prepared to accommodate those who could possibly spread the virus among its residents."What I informed them is they are actually putting themselves and our community in danger because we do not have a doctor in the community and one-fifth of our community are elders with most having underlying medical issues," Tizya-Tramm said.The couple were taken to a local hotel and told to stay inside their room until they left on a flight on Sunday for Whitehorse where they were met by government health officials, he said.— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • What to do when rent is due? Tenants, landlords face uncertainty amid COVID-19 outbreak
    News
    CBC

    What to do when rent is due? Tenants, landlords face uncertainty amid COVID-19 outbreak

    Many New Brunswick tenants will face their largest bill since the emergency declaration when their rent comes due Wednesday.The first of the month brings a wave of uncertainty for tenants and landlords alike. That has some advocates calling on government to afford renters affected by the COVID-19 outbreak extra protection and support, while others are looking to apartment owners for compassion and compromise.For Willy Scholten, president of the New Brunswick Apartment Owners' Association, the expectation is that tenants will pay."We still have the same obligations that we've had in the past. We have to pay our expenses and continue to employ our people, pay maintenance, pay the operating costs, pay our mortgage payments," Scholten said."Our expectation is that rent will be paid when it's due."That aligns with comments from Premier Blaine Higgs shortly after declaring the state of emergency March 19. As part of the measures, the province suspended the right of landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent until May 31."We are not saying tenants don't have to pay rent," Higgs said at the time. "They absolutely do. We're simply asking for flexibility that may be required as people and businesses lose income."The "flexibility" will have to be negotiated by tenants and landlords on a case-by-case basis. Scholten said the association does not control its members, who set their own policies.Asked what could happen if tenants do not pay, Scholten said: "Everything is completely uncertain at this point. We don't know what's going to happen."He said owners expect tenants eligible for government financial aid to use those supports. In New Brunswick, the government will provide a one-time income supplement of $900 for workers or small business owners who lost their income on March 15 or after. The first payments could be delivered later this week.The federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit offers income support for up to 16 weeks — about $2,000 a month — to those who lose pay because of the pandemic. The application process is set to open in early April, with support to come about 10 days later.Help for those who fall between the cracksThose aid packages won't be available in time for Wednesday and they fail to help some low-income workers and people living on social assistance beyond a bump in the GST rebate,  according to Jean-Claude Basque, provincial co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice.His organization is proposing government waive rent payments during the crisis for anyone living in New Brunswick Housing or non-profit social housing. They're also calling for the Department of Social Development to reinstate 75 rent subsidies that were cut in December. "They have a lot of difficulty in the best of times to have a decent life and now with the crisis certainly they're being impacted a lot," Basque said.On a broader scale, the group wants apartment owners to reduce rent payments by 25 per cent per month during the crisis. Basque said owners were given a boost in the latest provincial budget with news the non-owner-occupied residential property tax will be cut in half over a four-year period, and now, he said, is a time to give back."Government and everybody is saying we're all in this together, which is true, but then we're asking the province and the federal [government] to do their part to help our tax system, to help people," Basque said. "But the private sector also has to do their part. They're going to receive all kinds of money to help either their business or help their employees. But they have to do their part also."Eligible businesses and non-profit organizations will receive wage subsidies up to 75 per cent, retroactive March 15, Ottawa announced. Interest-free loans of up to $40,000 will also be available to small businesses and not-for-profits in order to to help cover operating costs.Basque advises anyone concerned about paying rent to speak to their MLA.Opposition calls for more supportOpposition MLAs say the provincial government should consider doing more for tenants and landlords. Liberal MLA Lisa Harris, Opposition critic for Social Development, said New Brunswick could look to other provinces."Nova Scotia is also helping landlords with a rent deferral program where they agree to defer rent for businesses that have had to shut down and the province will cover rent that can't be recovered," Harris said in a statement to CBC News."In BC, there's a program that offers $500 to cover the cost of rent. We think more can be done in New Brunswick."Green Leader David Coon said provincial and federal officials should work with banks on a mortgage-deferral program, which would release some of the pressure on apartment owners.  The province must suspend rent increases, he added.Coon hopes tenants can manage to make rent with government aid they receive, but he said the province will have to deal with the question of what happens once the crisis is over, the no-eviction order is lifted and tenants have accumulated debt to their landlords — a debt that can't be paid all at once.It's a concern for Basque, who wonders how tenants can be protected from retaliation once the pandemic and lockdown has passed."We don't have a tenants' association like other provinces, so we rely on government action or on owners of apartments to do the right thing and we hope they won't kick people out, for sure," he said.A novel ideaThe co-founders of Damage Deposit Refunds, a Saint John business that assists tenants in getting money entitled to them from their landlord, are pitching a compromise to address the issue.Elizabeth Vickers and Loai Jaouni say illegal pet fees collected by some apartment owners for years that are now owed to tenants could be deducted from rent payments. "That would reduce the amount of money they would owe the tenant and it would acknowledge that they owe the tenant that money," said Vickers."It would allow the tenant to still pay some of their rent. It would be a reduced amount, but then the landlord would receive hopefully enough to cover his mortgage and electric or whatever their arrangement was."Jaouni said that could be a workable solution, but he hopes to see compassion from owners for affected tenants already shown in places like Prince Edward Island, where one landlord waived rent entirely, and in Wisconsin, where the landlord lowered rent to $100."I don't think they should bring the price down because of the illegal fees, if landlords want to be nice enough, like the landlord in Wisconsin," he said. "That should be a separate thing because of the situation we're in with COVID-19."