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Rent relief and a giant kitchen for COVID-19 pandemic; In The News for April 24

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 24 ... --- COVID-19 in Canada ...
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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of April 24 ...

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COVID-19 in Canada ...

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today significant rent relief to help businesses that can't afford to pay their landlords at a time when their operations are shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal help is expected to be provided in partnership with the provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over rents.

Small- and medium-sized businesses, most of them shuttered since mid-March, have been clamouring for relief as the May 1 deadline for their next rent payments looms.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Dan Kelly told the House of Commons finance committee on Thursday that he was expecting an announcement as early as today.

He was hoping the federal government would pick up the tab for at least 75 per cent of the monthly rent owed by businesses that have been forced to close in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Trudeau is also scheduled to hold a conference call with provincial and territorial premiers this afternoon, at which he is expected to raise another issue that is under provincial jurisdiction — the tragedy unfolding at under-staffed long-term care homes where more than half of Canada's deaths from COVID-19 have occurred.

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In other Canadian news ...

A tribute to the 22 Nova Scotians who died in one of Canada's deadliest mass killings will stream on Facebook this evening.

The vigil, titled "Nova Scotia Remembers," will include messages of support from local and national faces as an alternative to a physical ceremony while the COVID-19 pandemic forces limitations on crowds.

It will be livestreamed from the Colchester-Supporting Our Communities Facebook page at 7 p.m. local time, with CBC, CTV and several radio stations carrying the broadcast.

A group of local residents, all with personal connections to the victims, have spent the week gathering recorded tributes from politicians, spiritual leaders, musicians and other familiar Nova Scotian faces.

Tiff Ward, one of the event organizers, says the aim is not to dwell on the horrors of the weekend.

It's to show grieving families that their community is with them in spirit while unable to drop off meals, hug each other or honour the dead by holding memorials.

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Also this ...

TORONTO — Scotiabank Arena, home to the Maple Leafs and Raptors, has been turned into a giant kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same arena floor that saw Kawhi Leonard sink his buzzer-beater to propel the Raptors past the Philadelphia 76ers last May now houses one big food production line.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, in conjunction with its partners, is looking to prepare 10,000 meals a day to go to Toronto's front-line health-care workers and their families as well as the city's most vulnerable via community agencies and shelters.

MLSE is planning to run the program five days a week at least through June, delivering a half-million meals.

"It will be meaningful," said MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl, who sees the project as a way his company can fill a need in the community during troubled times.

The operation started at 2,800 meals a day and has been climbing steadily. It currently involves close to 20 chefs and some 50 others — MLSE managers with food experience like the general manager of e11even, MLSE's posh restaurant located next to Real Sports bar/restaurant. The total number will ramp up to 90 workers, one third of whom will be chefs, when they hit high gear with 50,000 meals a week.

The need for social distancing is helped by the size of the venue. The operation is currently using five kitchens, with the bulk of food being cooked in the arena's main kitchen. They have used the Hot Stove Club, for example, to prepare and cook potatoes.

There are nine kitchens in all, with more coming into play as the number of meals climbs.

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COVID-19 in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted that he might extend a 60-day hold on green cards for foreign workers that he ordered to protect American jobs during the coronavirus outbreak.

Analysts predict the number of green cards issued annually will drop from about one million to 300,000 if the changes stand.

Critics accuse Trump of using the COVID-19 pandemic as a fig leaf for deep cuts to immigration that he has sought but not been able to get Congress to pass.

Others have said it is an attempt to distract attention from his handling of the pandemic.

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COVID-19 around the world ...

BEIJING — Chinese envoys have set off diplomatic firestorms overseas with a combative defence whenever their country is accused of not acting quickly enough to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

They belong to a new generation of "Wolf Warrior" diplomats, named after patriotic blockbuster films starring a muscle-bound Chinese commando killing American bad guys in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The tougher approach has been building for years under President Xi Jinping.

His government has urged its diplomats to pursue "major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics" in a call for China to reassert its historic status as a global power.

Experts say Beijing sees critics as assailing not just its actions, but also its leadership and right to rule.

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COVID-19 and the summer ...

From music festivals to carnivals to big screen blockbusters, COVID-19 has already put the kibosh on several summer highlights that define the season for many Canadians.

Undoubtedly, we're in for a summer like no other, says Matti Siemiatycki, director of the University of Toronto research institution, School of Cities.

COVID-19 restrictions have already cancelled all city-led major events, conferences and cultural programs in Toronto through June 30, including the Pride parade and Toronto Caribbean Carnival — massive street parties that typically draw thousands of revellers. Calgary Stampede organizers have nixed this year's edition of the annual rodeo and exhibition, and Ottawa says its bombastic Canada Day celebrations will be transformed into a virtual show.

For city-dwellers, the possibility of a summer-long closure of parks, pools, recreation centres and playgrounds "is challenging culturally and psychologically," says Siemiatycki, noting our long winters make the summer weeks especially precious.

"The summer really is festival season here in Canada, and to lose that is a significant cultural loss, as well as a financial loss," says Siemiatycki, noting restaurants and the tourism sector will especially feel the blow.

Political and medical leaders have asked the public for patience while they mull how and when to ease restrictions, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford noting that even his 12-year-old nephew is hounding him for assurances that summer camp will proceed as usual.

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised organizers of big events in her province to consider alternatives this year, and she urged individuals to scale back weddings and family reunions.

"Large parades, large mass gatherings where we all come together — those will not be happening this summer," she said.

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, suggested looser restrictions could begin as early as May 4 in that province, while Prince Edward Island has said they could ease measures as early as May 1. COVID-19 cases and deaths in both provinces are on the lower end of national statistics.

 

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

The Canadian Press




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