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Budget reflections from the Opposition and Ukrainian horrors : In The News for Apr. 8

He said the government should be spending more on clean energy instead of giving subsidies to fossil fuel companies.

The leaders of the Green party and Bloc Québécois echoed that. 

Amita Kuttner said the plan to get to net-zero is not enough to meet Canada’s emissions reduction targets and the Greens wanted the budget to centre on climate change in every policy area.

Yves-Francois Blanchet, for his part, said he thinks the Liberals intend to be “the instrument” of the oil and gas industry.

Three of the four opposition parties are praising the Liberals’ emphasis on housing.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the commitment to double the number of homes built annually over the next decade is the “landmark ambition” of this budget. 

The $14 billion in new spending on housing also includes a two-year ban on foreign buyers, targeted funding for municipalities to build affordable housing and money to double the first time homebuyers’ tax credit.

Singh said his party forced the Liberals to reconsider what the government considers to be affordable housing. It’s now calculated at 80 per cent of the average market rate rather than 80 per cent of median income, a definition that “would have resulted in not-affordable housing.”

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said the Official Opposition didn’t find what it was looking for in the housing plan. 

“It is a typical, classic NDP spend-and-tax budget,” she said at a news conference.

Also this …

Businesses across Canada are struggling to cope with an apparent sixth wave of COVID-19, as staffing shortages hamper sectors from health care to hospitality and retail⁠ — though the interruption remains more manageable than last winter’s Omicron variant surge.

Dr. Kevin Smith, chief executive at the University Health Network in Toronto, said Thursday that cases have shot up in the past few days, “so much so that staffing is challenging once again.”

Rachel Reinders, who heads administration at the Lieutenant’s Pump pub in Ottawa, says it shut down its lunchtime kitchen for a week in March because four cooks were on sick leave simultaneously.

In Montreal, parka maker Quartz Co. saw about 10 of its roughly 100 employees stay home with COVID-19 symptoms in the last two weeks, though co-founder François-Xavier Robert says the absences were shorter than those in January.

Ryan Mallough, a senior director with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says retailers, gyms and event spaces are taking yet another hit as workers fall ill or steer clear of those sectors altogether, fearing further lockdowns.

Several Canadian provinces are bolstering their defences against the virus amid signs of a sixth wave, with Quebec and Prince Edward Island extending their provincial mask mandates until later this month and Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia planning to expand access to fourth doses of the vaccine.

And this … 

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is scheduled to disclose this morning how the job market fared in March, a month after a strong report that saw the unemployment rate fall to pre-pandemic levels.

The Canadian economy added 337,000 jobs in February, as the labour market shook off the shock from COVID-19 delivered two years ago.

That more than offset the loss of 200,000 jobs as the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 per cent, below the 5.7 per cent level in February 2020.

National Bank of Canada economist Jocelyn Paquet said she expects flat numbers for the month after February’s “breathtaking” figure, even though the labour market situation likely continued to improve, supported by improvement in the pandemic.

Assuming the participation rate remained unchanged at 65.4 per cent, the bank expects that the unemployment rate should be flat at 5.5 per cent.

However, Derek Holt, head of Capital Markets Economics, anticipates a gain of 125,000 jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 5.2 per cent.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

WASHINGTON — It’s a moment 46 days — and more than 46 years — in the making. 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday will celebrate the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the Supreme Court, marking the pinnacle of her legal career and bringing his political story full circle. 

As a longtime Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Biden had a front-row seat to some of the most contentious confirmation battles in the Court’s history. 

He also presided over the hearings for Justice Stephen Breyer, whose retirement this summer is clearing the way for Jackson to join the bench.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian leaders predicted there would be more gruesome discoveries in the days ahead after retreating Russian forces left behind crushed buildings, streets strewn with destroyed cars and mounting civilian casualties that drew condemnation from across the globe.

Kremlin forces devastated the northern city of Chernihiv as part of their attempt to sweep south toward the capital before retreating. In the aftermath, dozens of people lined up to receive bread, diapers and medicine from vans parked outside a shattered school now serving as an aid-distribution point.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned Thursday that despite a recent Russian pullback, the country remains vulnerable, and he pleaded for weapons from NATO and other sympathetic countries to help face down an expected offensive in the east. Nations from the alliance agreed to increase their supply of arms, spurred on by reports that Russian forces committed atrocities in areas surrounding the capital.

The mayor of Bucha, near Kyiv, said investigators have found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians during the Russian occupation. Most victims died from gunshots, not from shelling, he said, and some corpses with their hands tied were “dumped like firewood” into recently discovered mass graves, including one at a children’s camp.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said the count of dead civilians stood at 320 as of Wednesday, but he expected the number to rise as more bodies are found in his city, which once had a population of 50,000. Only 3,700 now remain, he said.

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that the horrors of Bucha could be only the beginning. In the northern city of Borodianka, just 30 kilometers northwest of Bucha, Zelenskyy warned of even more casualties, saying “there it is much more horrible.”

In the seaport city of Mariupol, Ukranian authorities expected to find much the same. “The same cruelty. The same terrible crimes,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian and several Western leaders have blamed the massacres on Moscow’s troops, and the weekly Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency had intercepted radio messages between Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians. Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.

On this day in 1969 …

The Montreal Expos played their first regular-season game at New York’s Shea Stadium. Home runs by relief pitcher Dan McGinn and third baseman Jose “Coco” Laboy helped the Expos edge the New York Mets 11-10. The Expos finished the season with a record of 52-and-110. The Mets overcame that opening loss to astound the baseball world by winning the World Series.

In entertainment …

TORONTO — The medical drama “Transplant” and supernatural western “Wynonna Earp” are among the big winners at the Canadian Screen Awards.

Trophies were handed out Thursday night at virtual ceremonies celebrating the best in drama and comedy crafts, and in scripted programs and performance. A week of presentations will lead to the marquee bash Sunday, set to air on CBC and its streamer, Gem.

CTV’s hospital series “Transplant” nabbed five awards including best supporting drama actress for Ayisha Issa. It also bested the drama categories for editing, writing and photography, and claimed best casting for a fiction program.

CTV Sci Fi’s “Wynonna Earp” won five trophies including best supporting actor, music, costume design, hair and production design or art direction.

Other big winners included four prizes for CTV Drama’s “I Was Lorena Bobbitt,” including best TV movie, and four for CBC’s “TallBoyz,” including best sketch comedy program or series.

CTV’s “Letterkenny” collected three awards including best supporting actress for Kaniehtiio Horn, best editing and photography, while CBC’s dramedy “Sort Of” nabbed two awards including best comedy writing and makeup.

A virtual presentation Friday will celebrate the best in cinema, with the Indigenous thriller “Night Raiders” among the leading contenders.

Previous events this week honoured children’s, animation, reality and lifestyle programs on Wednesday; sports, digital and immersive programs on Tuesday; and broadcast news, documentary, and factual on Monday.

Did you see this?

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Of all the 6,576 shots that were officially struck at Augusta National on Day 1 of the Masters, only one truly mattered.

It didn’t go in the hole. It wasn’t down the center of the fairway. Nothing special about it at all, really.

Except for the fact that it was off a club swung by Tiger Woods.

With his opening tee shot at 11:04 a.m. Thursday, the Masters was truly back to normal. The full allotment of patrons was crammed into Augusta National to watch a tournament round the first time since the pre-pandemic days of 2019, the year in which Woods won the most recent of his five green jackets. They watched a man who could have lost a leg — or his life — in a car crash 15 months ago return to the spot of his past glory, and albeit moving perhaps a bit more slowly than he used to, chase glory again.

“If you would have seen how my leg looked to where it’s at now … to get from there to here, it was no easy task,” Woods said.

The scorecard said Woods shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday. That’s basically average for Woods at Augusta National; literally, his career average in 91 tournament rounds at the place is 70.9. It is easy for nobody, not even champions, not even five-time champions, especially five-time champions who needed rods and screws and pins a little over a year ago to reassemble a right leg and right foot that were mangled in a car crash. Yet Woods answered the bell and then some Thursday, probably surprising some by playing at all, surprising even more by looking like someone who could contend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Apr. 8, 2022

The Canadian Press

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