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StatsCan to release GDP figures and Trump halts WHO funding; In The News for April 15

Last Updated Apr 15, 2020 at 4:28 am EDT

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 15 …

COVID-19 in Canada …

Canada’s central bank is to release its view of the effects of COVID-19 and its outlook for the domestic economy.

The Bank of Canada announcement today will come after the International Monetary Fund predicted Tuesday that the national economy will contract by 6.2 per cent this year.

Its report said heavy government spending in Canada and elsewhere to help households pay bills and businesses to stay afloat may need to be scaled up if the pandemic persists.

Statistics Canada is also to release gross domestic product figures for March and the first quarter of the year.

The national statistics office says the figures will provide a first estimate of the economic impact of COVID-19.

On Saturday, the House of Commons approved a $73-billion wage subsidy program aimed at helping businesses and workers survive the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some six million people had filed claims by Sunday night for a $2,000-a-month emergency benefit for help during the first four-week eligibility period.

Also this …

In the time of the novel coronavirus, Canada and the United States seem to be playing to type: the friendly apologizers of the Great White North coming together against a common enemy, America’s combative revolutionaries threatening to tear each other apart.

While state governors and federal authorities outbid each other for precious protective gear, Alberta has promised its surplus masks, gloves and ventilators to provinces like B.C. and Quebec, two of Premier Jason Kenney’s favourite political targets.

Ontario’s Doug Ford, leader of a province where fed-bashing is like political oxygen, has been getting moral support from the unlikeliest of sources: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who insists the feeling is mutual.

Then there’s those White House briefings, as much like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s doorstep chats as chalk and cheese.

“I’ve never liked the term ‘political culture,’ but it does say something to me about the vast cultural difference between the United States and Canada from this perspective,” said Richard Schultz, an expert on federalism and a 40-year veteran of teaching politics at McGill University before retiring last summer.

“There is this culture (in Canada) of … more deeply rooted community and social services. We fight about the size of government, we fight about deficits — but when push came to shove, we said, ‘Look, there’s no one fighting this.’ “

COVID-19 in the U.S. …

President Donald Trump said that he was cutting off U.S. payments to the World Health Organization during the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the organization of failing to do enough to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China.

Trump, who had telegraphed his intentions last week, claimed the outbreak could have been contained at its source and that lives could have been saved had the U.N. health agency done a better job investigating the early reports coming out of China.

“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said at a briefing. He said the U.S. would be reviewing the WHO’s actions to stop the virus before making any decision on resuming aid.

There was no immediate comment from the Geneva-based organization on Trump’s announcement. But when asked about possible U.S. funding cuts during a regular U.N. briefing earlier Tuesday, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris responded, “Regardless of any issues, our work will go on.”

Trump said the U.S. will continue to engage with the WHO in pursuit of “meaningful reforms.”

The United States contributed nearly $900 million to the WHO’s budget for 2018-19, according to information on the agency’s website. That represents one-fifth of its total $4.4 billion budget for those years. The U.S. gave nearly three-fourths of the funds in “specified voluntary contributions” and the rest in “assessed” funding as part of Washington’s commitment to U.N. institutions.

COVID-19 around the world …

Rio de Janeiro’s Gov. Wilson Witzel said he has tested positive for the new coronavirus after a month of pushing for confinement measures in the Brazilian state.

In a video posted to his official Twitter account, Witzel said he has experienced fever and sore throat since Friday. His positive test results came back on Tuesday, he said, adding that he feels well.

“I will continue working,” he said. “I request once again that you stay at home. This sickness, as you can all perceive, does not choose and contagion is rapid.”

Witzel, 52, has been one of Brazil’s foremost proponents of self-quarantine and last month he imposed restrictions on business, transit and gatherings to contain the spread of COVID-19. This week he extended shutdown measures through the end of the month.

That stance has put him at odds with President Jair Bolsonaro, who has played down the severity of the virus that has thus far killed more than 1,500 people in Latin America’s largest country. Bolsonaro has called for confinement of only high-risk individuals and otherwise for life to resume as normal to avoid economic meltdown.

Rio has the second-largest incidence of COVID-19 of any Brazilian state, with 3,410 cases and 224 deaths. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.

COVID-19 in entertainment…

The Hot Docs festival hasn’t set a new date for this year’s postponed event but it’s unveiled the full lineup nonetheless.

A month ago organizers postponed the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which was scheduled to kick off April 30 in Toronto, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hot Docs says it’s still is looking at ways to bring the entire 2020 festival lineup to Toronto audiences with public screenings.

In the meantime, a sample of the films in this year’s lineup will make their debut for free through the CBC, starting this Thursday with Canadian director Barry Avrich’s “Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art.”

The films announced Tuesday include “Power Trip,” which follows “Property Brothers” star Jonathan Scott across the United States as the celebrity real-estate expert “advocates for renewable solar energy solutions and exposes the politics protecting fossil fuels.”

In “Hong Kong Moments,” directed by Bing Zhou, cameras capture pro-democracy activists and armed police battling in the city’s streets.

A total of 226 docs and 12 interdisciplinary projects from 63 countries are on the docket.

COVID-19 in sports…

Major League Baseball is cutting the salary of senior staff by an average of 35 per cent for this year and is guaranteeing paychecks to its full-time employees of its central office through May.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement Tuesday in a memorandum to staff. Manfred also said the commissioner’s office will make all planned distributions to teams through May.

MLB’s season was to have started March 26, and teams agreed to advance $170 million to players in salary for the first 60 days of the season.

As part of the deal, players agreed to give up claims to the remainder of their roughly $4 billion in salary if no games are played.

MLB and the union have had only a preliminary discussion of potential ways for the season to start if given the go-ahead by federal, state and local governments and health officials. Having all teams based in the Phoenix area is among the contingency plans being examined,

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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