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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for July 1

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak from CBC News for Wednesday, July 1.

 

A woman wears a face mask and hat in Montreal, as the ongoing pandemic impacts this year's Canada Day celebrations. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press )

In a global economy reshaped by COVID-19, the new NAFTA takes effect

As negotiators shook hands on the revised North American free trade agreement, they couldn't have foreseen the fundamental upheaval their countries would soon be facing thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the Trudeau government is looking to celebrate something this Canada Day, it may be the relative security of the status quo that was more or less preserved in the talks, writes CBC's Janyce McGregor. "Bullet dodged" — that's how Brett House, Scotiabank's deputy chief economist, summed things up for CBC News last weekend. "Sometimes," he said, "the biggest victories are the bad things prevented, rather than new things built."

Unlike Canada's original trade deals with the U.S. and the other major trade deals the Trudeau government has implemented with European and Pacific Rim partners, the new NAFTA doesn't substantially liberalize more trade. Most North American tariffs had been eliminated already. The new automotive chapter, in contrast, adds more protectionism by requiring manufacturers to use more local components and higher labour standards to avoid tariffs. When Global Affairs released its economic impact study for the new agreement last winter, it was criticized for basing its comparisons not on the terms of the original NAFTA but a hypothetically devastating scenario in which U.S. President Donald Trump completely pulled the plug on preferential trade with Canada. How likely was that? Opinions still vary as to whether the Trudeau government had any real alternative to going along with the renegotiation. As last week's threat to reimpose aluminum tariffs suggests, this White House remains unpredictable and, sometimes, unthinkable, even in the face of strong economic arguments about the value of free trade with one's neighbours.

In attempting to modernize NAFTA for the 21st century, did negotiators meet the standard of "first, do no harm"? In a paper released Tuesday by the C.D. Howe Institute, consultant trade economist Dan Ciuriak revisited the economic modelling done by the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. International Trade Commission and Global Affairs Canada, as well as his own figures, and tried to make sense of how things look now — amid the chaos of a pandemic that's disrupted international supply chains, shut down all but essential cross-border travel and introduced a new public health rationale for constricting trade on national security grounds. "Just as companies were starting to prepare and think about [NAFTA implementation], COVID came," said Brian Kingston, outgoing vice-president responsible for trade issues at the Business Council of Canada. "Their focus is turned 100 per cent to survival and making sure that they can get through this pandemic intact."

Despite the pandemic (or perhaps to distract from it), Trump demanded a June 1 implementation date. When he couldn't get that, he insisted on a July 1 implementation to make sure a done deal was ready to campaign on this fall. Rather than risk more punishment and political grief by stalling, Canada and Mexico agreed, paving the way for the Canada Day starting line. The new NAFTA's uniform regulations for automotive manufacturing have only been out for a couple of weeks — during a time when carmakers have been preoccupied with reviving their supply chains and factories from the relative coma of this spring's lockdown. "Without COVID, this would have been the most important issue facing that most important industry, and now this is probably a distant second," said cross-border trade lawyer Mark Warner. But for regular consumers, changes attributable to NAFTA may be almost undetectable — and there are even a few small consumer gains. "The biggest win is that Canadians won't see a lot of change," Kingston said.

While the implementation of the new NAFTA could have been an opportunity to relaunch Canada-U.S. trade relations with a more positive attitude, trade professor Meredith Lilly of Carleton University said she fears this opportunity has been lost. Instead, the pandemic has left Canadians with a bad taste in their mouths about their neighbours. The Trump administration's attempt to prevent 3M from shipping N95 masks to Canada is an example of how there's "no loyalty and no love lost" between the partners in the North American trading bloc right now, said Lilly, a former adviser to Stephen Harper's government. Hassan Yussuff, the president of the Canadian Labour Council who also served on Canada's NAFTA advisory council during the negotiations, said COVID-19 is prompting countries to re-examine how far they have pushed the envelope on international trade and to revisit the idea of making certain things at home, he said. "We cannot be this vulnerable," Yussuff said, adding that even if a new president is elected in November, domestic political pressures will remain.

Click below to watch more from The National

As Canada cautiously reopens, Toronto and surrounding cities are moving toward making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces in an effort to keep COVID-19 numbers down. 2:03

IN BRIEF

Online shows replace big parties on Canada Day amid pandemic

Canadians are commemorating a unique Canada Day as they mark the national holiday under unprecedented circumstances, as the holiday is taking place amid both a global pandemic and a growing conversation about systemic racism in society. The pandemic forced the cancellation of high-profile events and large celebrations like the annual pomp and pageantry on Parliament Hill in favour of backyard barbecues and online offerings to keep crowds from gathering.

Instead, the Ottawa show was streamed live, to be followed by virtual fireworks as part of a buffet of digital activities curated by Canadian Heritage. The 53 bells of the Peace Tower still rang, with two special recitals streamed live. The lack of official festivities didn't stop about 200 anti-government and anti-lockdown protesters from gathering on the Hill to demonstrate against pandemic restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government. In other parts of the country, crowds were allowed to gather, including for actual fireworks displays. Trudeau, who was volunteering at a farm that grows vegetables for the Ottawa Food Bank, touched on a number of issues confronting Canadians as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in his Canada Day message. "The last few months have been hard, and on this Canada Day, we need to continue to be there for each other," Trudeau said.

Canada Day also comes amid loud calls to eradicate systemic racism in society sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May. Since then, Canadians have marched in protests across the country calling out anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and other forms of racism. The social upheaval has brought intense scrutiny to police treatment of people of colour and led to calls to redirect funding from police departments to social and community services. Indigenous Canadians have long had mixed feelings about Canada Day, with many saying the holiday represents a celebration of decades of colonization that led to genocide and a loss of culture, as detailed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. There are a number of "Cancel Canada Day" protests planned by the Idle No More movement in cities including Vancouver, Hamilton, Saskatoon, Halifax, Prince Rupert, B.C., and Kitchener, Ont. "We know our work together is not yet done.... Not while anyone faces racism or injustice. Not while we still have so far to go on the path of reconciliation," Trudeau said.

Read more about what's happening on Canada Day

Pandemic means loss of safe spaces for LGBTQ community

Businesses across Canada are struggling to keep up with financial pressures amid the forced closures and continued restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in some smaller cities, when an LGBTQ club closes it means the loss of the community's only safe space. "It kills me because that was our only home, that was our only place, our only safe place," Rouge Fatale, also known as Jason Spurrell, said about the closure of Halifax's only dedicated gay bar.

Fatale, who's performed in drag for 17 years and was one of the main performers at Halifax's Menz & Mollyz Bar until it closed in April, said the bar was already struggling and couldn't survive the pandemic. She said word of other gay bars closing "terrifies" her. Fredericton's Boom! Nightclub, the only gay bar in that city, closed permanently last weekend, also citing the pandemic. Amour Love, also known as Mitchell Goodine, had performed in drag at Boom! for the past two years and said the performances saved her life by giving her a safe place to feel encouragement and positivity. She had gone through gay conversion therapy and struggled with depression, anxiety and emotional intensity disorder. "It's pretty profound and pretty important that everybody understands why it's a safe space," she said during a virtual-only performance for Pride month. "It's not that it has a lock or the windows are secure, it's not a physical safety, it's an emotional safety space."

Regina's LGBTQ social club has been struggling too, but things are a little different there. Q Nightclub And Lounge, which has been in operation since 1972, has managed to stay afloat so far. It's a co-op, owned and operated by the community. Its staff and board members have been keeping the place running by working for nothing since reopening on June 8. They also started a GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $25,000 in two weeks. Cory Oxelgren, president of the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina, said he thinks the crowdfunding has been so successful because the club means a great deal to the community, its members and others who support them. He said the club is not in the clear yet, but the donations should be able to help pay off debts acquired when the club was forced to shut down for nearly three months. Oxelgren said he thinks dedicated gay bars are still "extremely necessary," especially for people who are just coming out. "I was lucky because I did have this place when I was coming out and it helped me a lot," he said.

Read more about the situation

Hit hard by COVID-19, Niagara region tries to save summer tourist season by attracting Canadians

Niagara Falls, Canada's most popular natural attraction, welcomes 12 million tourists a year, while another two million people visit the Niagara region in Ontario, which is well known for its orchards, wineries, hiking trails and scenic vistas. In a normal year, tourists would spend about $2.4 billion at the area's close to 3,000 businesses ⁠— but 2020 isn't normal. "Our businesses suffered revenue losses of 95 per cent," Janice Thomson, CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism, said of the toll of the coronavirus pandemic. "It's heartbreaking, because it impacted the lives of so many."

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati told CBC News the pandemic has cost about 98 per cent of the 40,000 people who work in Niagara's tourism sector their jobs at area businesses such as hotels, the Fallsview Casino, the campy attractions on Clifton Hill and more. The concentration of tourism jobs relative to total jobs in the Niagara region is 1.7 times that of Canada, according to Niagara Economic Development, a nonprofit organization focused on growing business in the region. The area boasts more than 1,200 full-service restaurants and 300 places to stay. While Americans and other international visitors historically account for one-third of business, travel restrictions and border closures have changed all that.

The region hopes Canada Day will spark a tourism comeback among Canadians, and Niagara Falls Tourism is hoping to lure them with a pandemic-inspired promise: "Safe to play and safe to stay." The Niagara Parks Commission, which maintains most of the region's natural areas and heritage sites, is implementing safety measures that CEO David Adames hopes keep people safe and lets them feel at ease so they stay and spend. The impact of COVID-19 has been dramatic, said Adames, but he said the measures are "things that people will want to see and expect to see." Anna Pierce, vice-president and general manager of Niagara Helicopters, is feeling the urgency for business to pick up. The company had to lay off 18 people — almost 60 per cent of its staff — and two pilots will be leading sightseeing flights this summer rather than six. "We thought it was bad with SARS. That was nothing compared to what this actually did," she said. "And it ain't over."

Read more about what's happening in the region

THE SCIENCE

Is it safe to play hockey? Would a full-face visor protect me?

CBC News readers, viewers and listeners have sent in countless questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, including this one. If you have a question of your own, reach out at covid@cbc.ca.

As for the issue at hand: The first thing to remember is that every province is in a different stage of reopening and has different rules for the number of people who can gather together. So it's important to check your local health guidelines before playing. Now if your region does allow it, is it actually safe? The experts CBC News spoke to said the answer is complicated because hockey is a high-contact sport.

"Hockey is still tough, as there's a lot of contact and heavy breathing," said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ont., and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University. Wearing a full-face visor is likely not a fool-proof way to contain droplets either. "Even with a full visor, unless it wrapped completely around your face and neck, almost like a scuba mask, you'd still have breath coming out," Chagla said. And if droplets are able to escape, it means the risk of transmission increases.

However, wearing a full-face visor is more effective in reducing the risk than half-face visors or cages, said Dr. Dominik Mertz, an associate professor at McMaster University and an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Hamilton Health Sciences. "The full-face visor will stop the vast majority of droplets expelled by the person wearing it, as well as stop most of the droplets from others heading into the direction of the person wearing the full-face visor," he said. While it doesn't provide perfect protection, Mertz said playing hockey with a full-face shield "seems much lower risk" than other sports with similarly close contact.

AND FINALLY...

'Lego Trudeau' returns with a Canada Day message

'Now that it's Canada Day, to have something like this to put out there is really meaningful,' Tyler Walsh said of his new Lego video featuring a message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Submitted by Tyler Walsh)

Remember the Winnipeg dad and his two sons who made a viral Lego video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April? Well, they're back with a new one for Canada Day.

Tyler Walsh said this video is a positive message about Canadians coming together during a difficult time. It shows a Lego version of Trudeau talking to Canadians about how they celebrate https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/lego-video-canada-day-1.5634268 even though Canada Day may look very different this year because of COVID-19. "I think it's a positive message and it's an opportunity to sort of think about this tough time that we went through," said Walsh, who works at Economic Development Winnipeg.

After the first video, which recreated Trudeau's message to young people about how they can help slow the spread of COVID-19, Walsh said he connected with staff at the Canadian Embassy in Italy about sharing it. He said they suggested doing another video for Canada Day. Walsh then connected with staff in the Prime Minister's Office, who he said were happy to collaborate on a script and get Trudeau to record a new message. Walsh said he couldn't have done it without the help of his two sons, Jack and Noah, who helped him build sets and find red and white Lego pieces.

Read the full story about the Lego video

​​Send us your questions

Still looking for more information on the outbreak? Read more about COVID-19's impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca.

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With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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