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Confusion over mask advice and Leafs hit the ice; In The News for June 10


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 June 10 ...


COVID-19 in Canada ...

Parliament's spending watchdog will detail today the possible costs associated with extending and changing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Budget officer Yves Giroux's report scheduled to be released this morning comes as the House of Commons is set to discuss proposed changes to the COVID-19 pandemic-related aid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that his government wants to rework how it doles out the 2,000-a-month benefit and get more people back to work, while also cracking down on fraud.

The most recent federal figures show 8.41 million people have applied for the CERB, with $43.51 billion in payments made as of June 4.

The figures surpassed anything the government originally expected, which is why the Finance Department recently updated its spending projections to put a $60-billion price tag on the measure, up from $35 billion.

Costs could go up if the government were to agree to extend benefits between the 16-week maximum, which the first cohort of recipients will hit early next month.


Also this ...

The non-partisan spirit that has allowed Parliament to swiftly pass emergency legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic seems likely to come to an abrupt end today.

And that could leave in limbo a number of promised measures, including benefits for disabled Canadians and expansion of the wage subsidy program to include seasonal workers and some additional businesses.

The Trudeau government's latest bill — which would also impose penalties for fraudulently claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — appears to have no support among the main opposition parties.

Without unanimous consent, the government will not be able to pass the bill this afternoon after just a few hours of debate, as it has done with four previous pandemic-related bills.

The NDP is balking at the prospect of Canadians who fraudulently claimed the $2,000-a-month CERB being fined or sent to jail — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's assurances that the punishment is aimed at those who knowingly and deliberately defraud the government, not those who make honest mistakes.

The Conservatives are holding out for a full resumption of House of Commons business.


Alberta set to reopen ...

EDMONTON — After taking a small step toward reopening its economy last month, Alberta is embarking on a giant leap forward.

Premier Jason Kenney says everything from gyms and arenas to spas, movie theatres, libraries, pools and sports activities are being given a green light as of Friday.

More people will be allowed to book campsites and sit in restaurants at the same time.

Fifty people will be allowed to gather indoors and up to 100 will be able to congregate outside.

Kenney said Alberta has continued to flatten the COVID-19 curve. There are 355 active cases, with 44 people in hospital and five of those in intensive care. There have been 149 deaths.


Leafs hit the ice ...

TORONTO — Walking into the Maple Leafs' practice facility represented a small return to normalcy for John Tavares.

Toronto's captain also got an immediate glimpse of how different life looks as the NHL moves forward in hopes of completing its pandemic-hit season.

Testing, hygiene, masks when not exercising and observing physical distancing rules are all part of a new normal as the league enters Phase 2 of its return-to-play protocol — the second of four steps with an eye towards resuming play this summer.

But Tavares quickly realized the time constraints of having roughly 45 minutes for off-ice workouts and 40 minutes of skating for these voluntary sessions with a small groups of teammates.

"The intensity is there. There's a ton of benefit, there's no doubt," he said on a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. "But to just give you an example, after (Monday) I brought my sticks home so I could tape them up (and) save time at the rink. And even for guys to get some manual therapy after developing some soreness on the ice, the windows are fairly small.

"But overall, the actual work we were able to get in and being out on the ice and in the gym is going to go a long way in helping us prepare and get ready."

Tavares skated with Ilya Mikheyev, Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell on Monday and Tuesday, with Cody Ceci and Mitch Marner expected to join later this week to complete their six-man group.

Six other Leafs — Zach Hyman, Alexander Kerfoot, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott and minor-league goalie Joseph Woll — make up the other group confirmed to have hit the ice for the sessions that are closed to the media.


Greta Thunberg has climate message for Canada ...

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is urging developing island nations to use the upcoming United Nations Security Council election as leverage to push Canada and Norway to step up their games on climate change.

The 17-year-old from Sweden has become one of the most recognized climate activists in the world with her climate strike movement growing into a global phenomenon last year.

She is the headline signatory on a letter to UN ambassadors of small island developing states, which says that Canada and Norway both give lip service to climate action but remain steadfast in their commitment to expand fossil fuel production and subsidizing oil companies.

"For the young generation who will inherit the consequences of these decisions, it is critical that those who claim to be leading on climate action are held to account for decisions they are making back at home," the letter reads.

Three other youth climate activists and 22 global climate scientists also signed the letter, including Eddy Carmack, a recently retired Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist who was awarded the Order of Canada this year for his work on climate change.

The letter asks the ambassadors to raise the issue with Canada and Norway "and demand that they unite behind the science" of climate change, commit to no new oil and gas exploration or production, and phase out their existing production.

Canada is going up against Norway and Ireland for the two seats available in next week's election to the prestigious UN body. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has devoted a lot of political capital to trying to win the spot.


Confusion reigns as UN scrambles mask, virus spread advice...

It's an issue that's been argued about for months, both by experts and by people strolling through parks all over the world: Can people who don't feel sick spread the coronavirus, and if so should we all be wearing masks to stop it?

Even the World Health Organization can't seem to get it straight. On Tuesday the U.N. health agency scrambled to explain seemingly contradictory comments it has made in recent days about the two related issues.

The confusion and mixed messages only makes controlling the pandemic that much more difficult, experts say.

"If you are giving them confusing messages or they're not convinced about why they should do something, like wear masks, they will just ignore you," said Ivo Vlaev, a professor of behavioural sciences at the University of Warwick.

The communications debacle highlighted WHO's change to its longstanding mask advice — a revision that was made months after many other organizations and countries already recommended people don masks.

On Friday, WHO changed its mask advice, recommending that people wear fabric masks if they could not maintain social distancing, if they were over age 60 or had underlying medical conditions. Part of the reasoning, WHO officials said, was to account for the possibility that transmission could occur from people who had the disease but weren't yet symptomatic.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2020

The Canadian Press

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