COVID-19: Federal Relief Program Update For Workers And Businesses

When our blog coverage of this pandemic got going on March 20 it was noted that government responses were coming fast and furious. That’s remained true to this day.

On the federal front, the government is close to rolling out its promised programs to help workers and businesses cope with the economic fallout from the virus control measures that have been put in place.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

This broad-brush program applies to anyone who has been laid off, is sick and is in quarantine, is at home caring for children and self-employed people who find themselves unable to earn income during the crisis.

To apply, you have to be over 15 and have earned $5000 plus in 2019 or the last calendar year (ie. March 2019 to March 2020). People who are currently on Employment Insurance are not eligible to apply, and if you’ve recently applied for EI your application will be folded into CERB.

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COVID-19: This Pandemic Is Exposing The Folly Of Magical Thinking

When I was growing up, one saying I remember hearing is “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” The takeaway for me was that opinions were… whatever. What really mattered in deciding a question was real evidence, expert insight and logical conclusions.

What a difference two decades of alt-right and social media makes. Now, in the minds of some people anyway, a person’s “opinion” should carry equal and even greater weight than actual evidence collected, analyzed and vetted by well-educated scientists using state of the art instruments.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” is how that sentiment is typically expressed. For a group that usually rages against “entitlement”, it’s especially ironic.

If we still lived as we did… oh, in Biblical times, or even the early 1950s, it maybe wouldn’t be a problem —at least, as big a problem as it is now. But we don’t live in Biblical times. Or the early 1950s. We live in 2020. And in our fast-paced technological world, we simply can’t afford to ignore what the scientific evidence  is telling us about our current reality on Earth.

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COVID-19: Self-Isolation and Physical Distancing

With all sorts of restrictions in place to promote self-isolation and physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are having to brainstorm new ways of passing time and engaging with family, friends and the broader community.

Cut off from touring, for example, Canadian musicians have been live-streaming performances to entertain fans. Likewise, galleries and museums have been inviting people to take virtual tours of their collections.

Various artists have been reaching out too, both to express solidarity with people going through tough times and to share their talent with the world. Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation), for instance, has been doing online readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The choice is particularly appropriate given that in the year the sonnets were first published, 1609, London was in the grip of bubonic plague and theatres were closed.

One home-based activity I’d like highlight with this post is tied to citizen science. I did an article on it back in November 2015 and the important role ordinary citizens can play in helping professionally trained scientists to collect and analyze data to advance research projects.

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COVID-19: Canada In A Global Context [Update]

As of this morning, the global number of COVID-19 infections has exceeded 620,000. With the virus just beginning to make inroads into heavily populated countries in Africa, Central and South America, and south-east Asia that number is expected to soar in the days to come.

The total number of cases in Canada currently sits at 4757, which puts us at #16 on the global list for infections. A major wild card for Canada is the border we share with the United States, which has surpassed China and Italy in recent days to become the world leader in infections. With tens of thousands of Canadians having recently rushed home from winter getaways in Arizona, Florida and other “snowbird” locations, and the virus having a 14 day incubation period, our numbers will surely jump.

At present, Quebec has the most infections at 2021 2498 — which is over twice as many as Ontario which currently has 993.

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COVID-19: U.S.A. Now Leads The World With Most Infections

It’s probably not the “America First” that Donald Trump had in mind when he was on the campaign trail in 2016 — or maybe it was, at this point, who really knows?

As had been forecast for weeks, the United States has now surpassed China and Italy as the global hotspot for COVID-19 infections. When comparing the performance of different countries in combating the pandemic, as was noted in an earlier blog post, different geographic and cultural factors do come into play.

Regardless of where a country falls on the spectrum between personal freedom and collective responsibility, though, there has to be a balance. And that’s where the U.S. fails grievously in comparison with the rest of the developed world. Instead of providing a decent social safety net with proper health, education and material supports for its citizens, it’s this weird hybrid of a First World/Third World country.

And with COVID-19 in full-swing there, the nation’s inadequacies are on full (and shameful) display.

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The Missing Planet

Please enjoy this file photo of a street box in our absence.

You might not have noticed yet, but there’s no Planet S today.

Our previous paper was out two weeks ago. The new one is due. Where is it? What happened?

I bet you can guess.

Yes, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 strikes again.

The asshole pandemic has forced us to cancel today’s scheduled edition—a small disruption in the big scheme of total chaos but pretty world-shaking from our point of view. Between a near-total advertising collapse and total cancellation of pretty much everything happening in the city, it made zero financial sense and only limited editorial sense to put the paper out. That said, we plan to be back April 9 with a special plague-fighting issue.

It will be good. In the meantime, keep an eye on our blog for more stories and nonsense.

Hang in there!


A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS The Coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for our community. We’re all hurting. It’s no different at Planet S, where COVID-19 has wiped out advertisements for events, businesses and restaurants as Saskatoon and Saskatchewan hunker down in quarantine. As an ad-supported newspaper already struggling in a destabilized media landscape, this is devastating. We’re hoping you, our loyal readers, can help fill in the gap so Planet S can not only continue to exist but even expand our coverage—both in print and online. Please consider donating, either one-time or—even better!—on a monthly basis.

We believe Planet S’s unique voice is needed, now more than ever. For 17 years, this newspaper has been a critical part of Saskatoon’s social, cultural and democratic infrastructure. Don’t let us fade away. If Planet S is destroyed, it’s never coming back.

COVID-19: Changes To Government Response Plans [Updated]

A few days ago we did a post about different actions gvernments have taken to grapple with the challenge of coping with the chaos caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some of those measures, such as the GST and Canada Child Benefit top-ups,  the Indigenous Community Support Fund, income and property tax deferrals at the federal and municipal level, and a 10 per cent wage subsidy for businesses to keep people on the payroll*, are still in place. But some other measures have been updated.

Federal Government

On March 25, the federal government, with all party support, passed a revised $107 billion emergency package to provide relief to Canadian workers and business owners whose lives have been disrupted by the outbreak.

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COVID-19: Cold Calculation

In addition to the toll the virus has taken on peoples’ physical and mental health, it’s exacted a huge economic toll. Around the world, stock markets have cratered and business has ground to a halt: putting many millions of people (small business owners and workers alike) at risk.

To provide short-term relief for Canadians, the federal Liberal government has stepped up with a $82 billion package to support business owners, families and workers who have had their employment impacted by the slowdown.

South of the border, U.S. Congress agreed Tuesday night to a $2 trillion stimulus bill after several days of political wrangling. The Democrats were concerned the bill focused too much on corporate interests and didn’t do enough to help ordinary Americans and provide support for much needed healthcare services.

The bill gives a one-time payment of $1200 to every American earning less than $75,000, and $500 per child. There is also $367 billion in support for small businesses to help make payroll, and $130 billion for hospitals.

The primary area of contention between the Democrats and Republicans was a $500 billion subsidized loan package for big business. As originally proposed by the Republicans, the hotels and golf resorts owned by U.S. president Trump would have been eligible for assistance. But the Democrats won a concession that businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials — including Trump and his family — would not be eligible.

Naked self-interest aside, politics are also in play with this stimulus package. With November’s election looming, Trump is desperate to kick-start the economy to boost his re-election bid.

How desperate?

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COVID-19: Global Snapshot

COVID-19 first appeared in China in December. Since then, it’s spread relentlessly around the world. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the virus a global pandemic.

When looking at the success each country is having (or not having) in dealing with the outbreak different factors obviously come into play.

Remote island nations may be facing significant hardship in years to come from rising sea levels due to climate change, but with COVID-19 they’re better off than countries that share borders with multiple other countries — especially where population densities are high.

Countries with underdeveloped medical systems might not have the capacity to accurately gauge how many COVID-19 cases they have. And getting honest stats from countries with authoritarian regimes –cough, Russia, cough — is problematic too.

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COVID-19: Duelling Governments [Updated]

On Friday, both the Saskatchewan government and City of Regina declared states of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the municipal regulations mirrored those enacted by the province. But whereas the province’s regulations prohibited gatherings of over 25 people, Regina city council restricted gatherings to five people or less. The city regulations, which were to take effect today and last for a week, also included closure of non-essential retail outlets such as clothing, toy, furniture and shoe stores.

Saskatoon activated its Emergency Operations Centre, but did not pass any additional restrictions on businesses and public gatherings as Regina had done. But on Sunday, the Saskatchewan government announced that it would be rescinding Regina’s restrictions. The Saskatchewan Party government justified the move by saying it wanted to ensure regulations were consistent across the province.

Under Canada’s antiquated constitution, provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over cities via s.92 of the BNA Act. So the province certainly has the power to rescind Regina’s regulations. But whether it should or not is another matter.

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