In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning …
—COVID-19 in Canada …
The federal government is beefing up efforts to persuade businesses to rehire workers now that Canada’s economy is starting to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.
It is expected today to unveil more details of its promised loan program for large corporations and commercial rent relief for small- and mid-sized businesses.
That includes more information on how businesses can apply for the programs and what conditions will apply.
Today’s focus follows last week’s extension of the 75 percent wage subsidy for three months, to the end of August, and Tuesday’s announcement that the government is expanding the eligibility criteria for its small business loan program.
The latter program provides interest-free loans of $40,000 for eligible small businesses to cover costs like rent and utilities, with the possibility of forgiving one-quarter of the amount if it is paid off by the end of 2022.
Tuesday’s fix extended the program to companies that don’t have traditional payrolls, such as family-run businesses that pay themselves in dividends and companies that employ only contractors.
“This is about getting people back to work and giving businesses the confidence to reopen, rehire and even grow because the way our economy will recover and the way our country will remain resilient and successful is by getting Canadians back to work,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
—In Other Canadian News …
Statistics Canada is expected to report that the consumer price index decreased in April, the first full month the economy was gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economists on average had expected a reading of negative 0.28 percent for April, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
That’s a further decline from March when the annual pace of inflation in Canada was 0.9 percent, marking the biggest one-month decrease in more than a decade.
It was down from 2.2 percent in February as the price of oil collapsed and the economy then ground to a halt when governments ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Consumer Price Index measures price changes for a fixed basket of goods and services that are divided into eight major components.
These are food, shelter, household operations, furnishings and equipment, clothing and footwear, transportation, health, and personal care, recreation, education, and alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and recreational cannabis.
—Also this …
As provinces take their cautious first steps to allow people back into local businesses, a new poll suggests most Canadians don’t think province-wide measures are the best way to reopen the economy.
The latest poll on the COVID-19 pandemic by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggests only 35 percent of people thought restrictions should be loosened for entire provinces.
In contrast, 47 percent thought those decisions should apply to specific regions within each province. Just 18 percent said reopening measures should apply to all of Canada at once.
Still, just over half of those polled said they trust provinces to make the call about what businesses should reopen and when, whereas about one-third said that should be up to Ottawa and 14 percent said local governments should decide.
That is essentially what happened in Quebec, where the provincial government delayed the planned reopening of schools, daycares, and businesses in the Greater Montreal area for one week because of the particularly high COVID-19 infection rate in the area and a shortage of health-care workers.
The proportion of people who said they would like decisions to be made region by region was highest in that province at 73 percent, followed by Alberta at 52 percent.
—COVID-19 in the U.S. …
President Donald Trump emphatically defended himself against criticism from medical experts that his announced use of a malaria drug against the coronavirus could spark wide misuse by Americans of the unproven treatment with potentially fatal side effects.
Trump’s revelation a day earlier that he was taking hydroxychloroquine caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify his action. But their attempt to address the concerns of health professionals was undercut by the president himself.
He asserted without evidence that a study of veterans raising alarm about the drug was “false” and an “enemy statement,” even as his own government warned that the drug should be administered for COVID-19 only in a hospital or research setting.
“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape,” Trump said. That was an apparent reference to a study of hundreds of patients treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs in which more of those in a group who were administered hydroxychloroquine died than among those who weren’t.
“They were very old. Almost dead,” Trump said. “It was a Trump enemy statement.” During a Cabinet meeting, he elicited a defense of his practice from other officials, including VA Secretary Robert Wilkie who noted that the study in question was not conducted by his agency.
But the drug has not been shown to combat the virus in a multitude of other studies as well. Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no COVID benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published last week in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
No large, rigorous studies have found the drug safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19.
—COVID-19 Around the World…
President Donald Trump’s declaration that he was taking a malaria drug of dubious effectiveness to help fend off the coronavirus will likely be welcomed in India.
Trump’s previous endorsement of hydroxychloroquine catalyzed a tremendous shift in the South Asian country, spurring the world’s largest producer of the drug to make much more of it, prescribe it for front-line health workers treating the virus and deploy it as a diplomatic tool, despite mounting evidence against using the drug for COVID-19.
Trump said Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a measure of protection against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has cautioned against using it outside of hospitals because of the risk of serious heart problems.
Suhhil Gupta, a pharmacist in New Delhi, said Tuesday that Trump’s announcement shouldn’t carry any weight in India.
“He’s not a pharmacist. His statements are not relevant to the field,” Gupta said.
Still, India’s policy on the decades-old drug used to prevent malaria and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, drastically changed after Trump tweeted in March that the drug, used together with an antibiotic, could be “game changers” in the fight against the pandemic. India’s health ministry quickly approved it as a prophylactic for health care workers and others at high risk of infection, and as a treatment for critically ill patients.
—In Non-COVID-19 Entertainment News
Alanis Morissette is among the special guests set to appear in next week’s finale of the new incarnation of “Fraggle Rock” on Apple TV Plus.
The Ottawa-born singer-songwriter will appear along with several other stars in the sixth installment of “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” next Tuesday.
She’ll sing the classic “Fraggle Rock” theme song, along with Common, Jason Mraz, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish, and Ziggy Marley.
The original 1980s version of the children’s puppet series from the Jim Henson Company was filmed in Toronto.
The new U.S.-shot series features mini-episodes that have appeared every Tuesday for free on the streaming service since last month.
—COVID-19 in Sports…
Alberta’s Jason Kenney is the latest premier to make a pitch for his province to host National Hockey League games should the league resume play.
The league suspended its season in February and is now eyeing a format to complete it with an improvised playoff scenario. One possibility is a tournament of 24 teams spread over two hub cities.
Kenney says he is working with the Edmonton Oilers on a proposal to be a host city and expects to be discussing the issue later this week with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
He says Edmonton would be a prime location, given it has low COVID numbers and a new downtown rink with a hotel attached to provide an isolation safe zone for players.
“I think we’ve got a tremendous pitch to make,” Kenney says.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020
The Canadian Press