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Planning for ‘post-COVID’: Lethbridge event organizers in limbo with cancellation decisions

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Canada, large gatherings and travel are being discouraged, impacting the tourism industry in southern Alberta.

The International Air Show announced earlier this week they won’t be going ahead this year, which is a disappointment as the organizers also postponed the event in 2019.

“It’s been a bittersweet experience, it’s been… a long process of making that decision,” said Stacy Green with the International Air Show Association.

The Air Show welcomed an average of 8,000 people each year in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

Green says they were very busy planning the 2020 event, but knows postponing another year was the right decision.

“We thought it would probably be in our best interests, as well as in the interest of those that support us,” he said.

Another popular summer activity for many in the Lethbridge area is Whoop-Up Days, offering family-friendly events, including a parade and midway for five days in August.

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The event is mainly held at Lethbridge’s Exhibition Park, bringing in 30,000 to 40,000 visitors each year — amassing an estimated $2-3 million in revenue every summer.

Rudy Friesen, CEO of Exhibition Park says they are following the health situation closely and have not yet cancelled or postponed the events associated with Whoop-Up Days.

“The focus right now is, what the next 30 to 60 days are going to look like,” said Friesen.

“That’s critical to us at this point.”

According the Tourism Lethbridge, around 400,000 hotel rooms were occupied last year in Lethbridge, in part thanks to the city’s attractions.

“Realistically, these large events bring in substantial numbers of people,” William Slenders, executive director of Tourism Lethbridge said.

He says their principal message for southern Albertans is to look to the future.

“Plan your summer vacation, maybe buy some gift certificates ahead of time to support your local economy,” he said.

“Get everything planned for post-COVID.”

The Lethbridge Jazz Festival could not provide comment on whether they will continue this year or not, but said it had an attendance of around 2,000 people in both 2018 and 2019.

Lethbridge Pride Fest is also in limbo, and estimates nearly 6,000 people participated in the festival in June 2019.

The Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women did not respond to request for comment on the fate of the Alberta Summer Games at time of publishing.


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Coronavirus: Guelph extends closure of all city facilities to April 30

The City of Guelph says it is extending the closure of all city facilities to April 30 in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The closure extension includes recreation centres, libraries, museums, theatres, city hall and the provincial offences court.

Anyone who registered for city programs and events or booked facilities in April will be given a refund, the city said.

“While we’re taking this day-by-day, we know that this situation is not going to clear itself up by April 6 when we had hoped to reopen facilities,” CAO Scott Stewart said. “Should things improve sooner than expected we’d look to re-open our facilities, but for now we’re playing it safe to protect our community and our employees.”

The city also announced on Wednesday that waste drop-off will be closed to the general public. Comercial drop-off will remain open to support essential businesses.

The city has also closed all playgrounds, dog parks and the skate park.

All council and planning meetings have been cancelled as well and any emergency meetings will be considered on an ongoing basis.

A meeting was held on Monday, when councillors approved some fiscal relief measures to help residents and businesses manage the impacts of COVID-19.

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Among those measures including waiving parking permit fees and extending free Guelph Transit service into April.

There is also some relief to taxpayers after councillors voted to waive property tax penalties or interest charges that would have been applied in May, waive non-sufficient funds charges through April 30 and stop all progressive collection activities until April 30.

Businesses and residents will also have the option to defer pre-authorized debit plans for the month of April upon written request of at least ten days prior to the withdrawal date.

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Coronavirus: New fund established to support laid-off Montreal restaurant workers

A group of hospitality workers in Montreal has launched an initiative to provide emergency funds to the thousands in their industry who have been laid off amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kaitlin Doucette was recently laid off from her job as the wine director at the Old Montreal-based Olive & Gourmando Restaurant Group. She told Global News Morning that shortly afterwards, she got the idea to create a fund for others like her.

“When I saw my restaurant close, there was a lot of people — my patrons and in the community — reaching out,” she said, asking how they could provide support.

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Doucette said she later heard about a fund offering relief to hospitality workers in New York City on Instagram.

It didn’t take long for the idea of a similar one in Montreal to take off. She says she and her co-founder are now working with “about 30 people on and off to best use everybody’s skills.”

The team has established a GoFundMe to raise money for what they’re calling the Montreal Restaurant Workers Relief Fund (MRWRF). As of Wednesday morning, the group has raised over $43,000.

“We’ve seen as little as $5 and had one donor who gave $10,000 in one fell swoop.”

Doucette said the fund will provide e-transfers to laid-off hospitality workers who sign up on a sliding scale, ranging from $50 to $150, based on their needs.

She said the experience has affirmed what she always knew about people working in the hospitality industry.

“I think a lot of hospitality people really have that generosity of spirit in them,” she said. “So it’s really great to have that solidarity in these moments of hardship.”

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Montreal shelters’ concerns heightened after homeless man tests positive for COVID-19

A first reported case of COVID-19 within Montreal’s homeless community has prompted concern and questions among those who care for the city’s most vulnerable.

The Old Brewery Mission confirmed that a man who was in line for the food service outside the centre tested positive for the disease, caused by the novel coronavirus.

Montreal police showed up to the scene to inform the individual about his positive test result after he had been screened two days earlier, according to the mission.

Matthew Pearce, the mission’s president and CEO, said the man came into contact with some of their clients on Monday night but that he did not enter the building.

“They were not practicing social distancing in a line where you’re hungry and we’re bringing you food,” he said. “So that was something that was a problem.

“I think we have fixed it now in terms of our protocol, so we can carry on with security with the help of the SPVM but it was tense moments there on Monday night.”

In Montreal, a hotel has been set up to house homeless citizens who are awaiting test results. As part of measures to help the homeless, the city announced the old Royal Victoria Hospital will house individuals infected with the virus but it is only expected to open at the end of this week.

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Pearce said it is troubling that the man was circulating in the area for two days without knowing he had tested positive for COVID-19.

The city’s police department would not comment on the case, but did say there is now increased police presence since the incident.

Global News has reached out to Montreal public health for more information, but has not yet received a response.

‘It’s very risky for clients if ever the virus gets inside the shelter’

The Quebec government has reported that the number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 1,000 in the province. In Montreal, 439 people have tested positive for the disease as of Tuesday.

The possibility that the illness could spread among Montrealers without a home is worrying for shelters and centres that do their best to help.

Sam Watts, CEO of Welcome Hall Mission, said the impact of the novel coronavirus has been a concern since at least February.

“It’s a concern if this particular virus gets into the community,” he said. “It’s an area where it is very, very difficult to control.”

An outbreak among the city’s homeless men, women and children means it could spread across the city, according to Pearce.

“It’s very risky for the clients if ever the virus gets inside the shelter the potential for it to spread is significant,” said Pearce.

“Once you have that kind of spread inside the shelter, all of Montreal has to be concerned because it means it is coming outside our walls.”

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Ontario government set to unveil major fiscal update in response to coronavirus outbreak

The Ontario government is set to unveil how it will spend billions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips is scheduled to deliver the province’s economic and fiscal update in the Ontario legislature at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

When asked about the focus of the update on Tuesday, Phillips said it will contain a “significant focus on the response” to COVID-19.

“We are concerned about making sure that we are delivering the health care resources,” he told reporters.

“We are concerned about making sure we are supporting the business community as we can.”

Phillips said the province’s initiatives will complement the federal government’s multi-billion-dollar aid package that is being voted on in Parliament.

He said the update is a “first step and an important” signal to residents and that it is aimed at providing clarity on how much funding will be provided to municipalities, school boards and other entities funded by the Ontario government.

The update occurs on the same day that a provincial order on shutting down non-essential workplaces takes effect.

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The government was originally supposed to unveil its 2020-2021 budget on Wednesday, but that was sidelined in order to introduce new spending measures related to COVID-19. Phillips said the full budget will be introduced sometime by November.

Provincial officials have announced several initiatives aimed at helping residents in recent days as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened such as $304 million to support immediate needs, $200 million for social services as well as other regulatory changes such as altering the existing time-of-use hydro rates for 45 days.

During the afternoon setting, there will only be 28 MPPs in the legislature in order to keep in line with physical distancing recommendations provided by health officials.

Global News will have complete coverage of Wednesday’s economic and fiscal update after 4 p.m. ET.

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44% of Canadian households report lost work amid COVID-19 pandemic: poll

As daily life in Canada comes to a pause, 44 per cent of Canadian households say they’ve lost work or have seen layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s according to an Angus Reid survey released Wednesday, which outlines that another 18 per cent of Canadian households anticipate work loss.

Of the 44 per cent that have lost work, 66 per cent of Canadians said their employer is not paying for any lost hours. Twenty per cent said they are receiving all their regular pay, despite lost work; the remaining have some sort of pay but not full.

The loss of work has had a “disproportionate impact” on younger Canadians, explained Angus Reid Institute’s executive director Shachi Kurl.

“Who are younger workers here? They’re servers, they’re people working in the service industry, people working in retail, people working in the hospitality and tourism sector,” Kurl said.

Canadians aged 18 to 24 made up 45 per cent of the total number of those who lost work or jobs, followed by those between the ages of 24 and 34 at 30 per cent.

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Canada to spend millions to help world’s poor amid COVID-19 pandemic: minister

International Development Minister Karina Gould says Canada will spend millions to help the world’s most desperate people fight COVID-19 because it is in the country’s long-term security interest as well as being the right thing to do.

Gould says that’s why Canada has earmarked $50 million, part of its response to today’s launch of the United Nations COVID-19 humanitarian response plan.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Gould rebutted criticism in some quarters that the government ought to be focusing instead on Canadians hunkering down at home to limit the spread of the virus.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to launch a $2-billion global appeal today, calling for a co-ordinated response to help the world’s war-torn, displaced and otherwise most destitute people who are facing new misery because of the pandemic.

Guterres has sent a letter to the G20 members, including Canada, urging them to spend more to prevent the virus from spreading like wildfire in developing countries burdened by poor health systems and massive refugee influxes.

Gould says the government needs to help Canadians at home with an $82-billion spending package, but it must also spend $50 million globally to protect Canada’s future security and economic prosperity from a virus that knows no borders.

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Montreal Canadiens roll out temporary job cuts during COVID-19 crisis

The Montreal Canadiens are reducing their workforce during the COVID-19 crisis.

Groupe CH, which also owns the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket, says it will proceed with a temporary reduction in personnel, impacting 60 per cent of the organization’s employees.

The reduction will start Monday.

Grope CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period.

The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.

The NHL and AHL suspended their seasons earlier this month.

“Now more than ever, it is important to support our community and demonstrate our solidarity to one another. We are working extremely hard to limit the impact this situation will have on our employees,” Groupe CH owner Geoff Molson said in a statement.

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Social distancing is crucial, but Canada also needs more coronavirus testing: experts

Canadians are being urged to stay home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but experts say social distancing isn’t enough to combat the disease – we need to be doing more testing, too.

“Testing is essential,” said Craig Janes, director of the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo.

“Without testing, you don’t know what’s going on in your community and you also can’t respond out there to isolate clusters, and self-isolating, quarantining households, that sort of thing.”

The World Health Organization agrees.

“You can’t win a football game by defending, you have to attack as well,” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference Monday.

“Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the virus and buying us time. But they are defensive measures that will not help us to win.”

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Canadians ignoring COVID-19 orders should face consequences, be fined: doctor

Measures limiting personal contact to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have seemed like suggestions to beachgoers in the Vancouver area, where basketball games and picnics in the midst of a pandemic prompted the mayor to announce fines on Monday.

Vancouver has closed parking lots at popular sites like Kitsilano Beach, where basketball hoops have also been removed.

Citizens concerned about the flouting of public health orders prohibiting group gatherings have taken to posting photos and videos of such scenes, with pleas for municipalities to enforce compliance.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a stern message Monday to people who have been gathering in groups. Those who choose to ignore social-distancing advice or venture into crowded places are putting themselves and others at risk of infection, he said.

“We’ve all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they’re invincible. Well, you’re not. Enough is enough,” he said. “Go home and stay home.”

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