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U.K.’s Theresa May travels to Northern Ireland in Brexit bid

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Gregory Katz, The Associated Press


Published Tuesday, February 5, 2019 5:00AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:39PM EST

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May told business leaders in Northern Ireland Tuesday that she is seeking changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement but not the total removal of the backstop plan that is the most contentious part of the deal.

May said during a visit to Belfast that the British government retains its commitment to preventing the construction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland when Britain leaves the European Union.

The prime minister said she was in Belfast “to affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland — which is unshakable.”

She also emphasized the government’s commitment to the Good Friday agreement, largely credited with ending decades of violence known as “the Troubles” when it was signed in 1998.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, but no withdrawal agreement has been approved because Britain’s Parliament has voted down May’s plan, in part because of concerns about the difficult border issues.

The situation is complex because Ireland is a member of the EU while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The currently wide open border between the two entities will after Brexit become the only land border between the UK and the EU.

May plans to meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels Thursday seeking concessions on border-related issues and will return to Parliament next week with what is expected to be a modified plan.

Her original plan was defeated by more than 200 votes, a loss of historic proportion for her minority government.

May is expected to have an uphill fight in Brussels because EU leaders have steadfastly opposed reopening the 585-page withdrawal agreement negotiated over the course of two years.

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Record one million job losses in March: StatCan

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OTTAWA — More than one million Canadians lost their jobs in the month of March, Statistics Canada is reporting. The unemployment rate has also climbed to 7.8 per cent, up from 2.2 percentage points since February.

Canada’s national statistics agency released its monthly Labour Force Survey on Thursday, using March 15 to 21 as the sample week – a time when the government began enforcing strict guidelines around social gatherings and called on non-essential businesses to close up shop.

The first snapshot of job loss since COVID-19 began taking a toll on the Canadian economy shows 1.1 million out of work since the prior sample period and a consequent decrease in the employment rate – the lowest since April 1997. The most job losses occurred in the private sector and among people aged 15-24.

The number of people who were unemployed increased by 413,000, resulting in the largest one-month increase in Canada’s unemployment rate on record and takes the economy back to a state last seen in October, 2010.

“Almost all of the increase in unemployment was due to temporary layoffs, meaning that workers expected to return to their job within six months,” reads the findings.

The agency included three new indicators, on top of the usual criteria, to better reflect the impact of COVID-19 on employment across the country.

The survey, for example, excludes the more commonly observed reasons for absent workers — such as vacation, weather, parental leave or a strike or lockout — to better isolate the pandemic’s effect.

They looked at: people who are employed but were out of a job during the reference week, people who are employed but worked less than half their usual hours, and people who are unemployed but would like a job.

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Employee at Ottawa’s Amazon Fulfillment Centre tests positive for COVID-19

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OTTAWA — An employee who works at Amazon’s fulfillment centre on Boundary Road in Ottawa’s east-end has tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon says it learned on April 3 that an associate tested positive for novel coronavirus and is currently in isolation. The employee last worked at the fulfillment centre on March 19.

Two employees told CTV News Ottawa that management informed all employees about the positive test in a text message over the weekend.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft wrote “we are supporting the individual who is recovering. We are following guidelines from health officials and medical experts, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

The statement also says that Amazon has taken steps to further protect their employees.

“We have also implemented proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the FC.”

CTV News Ottawa asked Amazon about the timeline between when the company found out about the positive COVID-19 case and when employees were notified.

In a separate email to CTV News Ottawa, Crowcroft said “all associates of our Boundary Road fulfillment centre in Ottawa were notified within 24 hours of learning of the positive COVID-19 case.”

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Ottawa facing silent spring as festivals, events cancelled

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This is shaping up to be Ottawa’s silent spring — and summer’s sounding pretty bleak, too — as more and more concerts, festivals and other annual events are cancelled in the wake of measures meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The province has already banned gatherings of more than five people, and on Monday officials announced city parks, facilities and services will remain shut down until the end of June, nor will any event permits be issued until at least that time.

“This leaves us with no choice but to cancel the festival this year,” Ottawa Jazz Festival artistic director Petr Cancura confirmed Monday.

This was to be the festival’s 40th anniversary, and organizers announced the lineup for the June 19-July 1 event the day after Ottawa’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. 

The Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals had already pulled the plug because of similar restrictions in their cities, so Cancura said the writing was on the wall.

“We have a few contingency plans to keep connecting with our audience and working with our artists,” Cancura said.

People holding tickets to the 2020 festival can ask for a refund or exchange for a 2021 pass.

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