Tag Archives: future

DeBues-Stafford foresees future track success after quiet 2020 racing season

In February, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford set Canadian indoor records in the 1,500 metres and mile, and probably had many wondering if 2020 would rival the runner’s 2019 season of eight national marks and 11 personal-best times.

About a month later, she moved back to Toronto from Scotland with husband Rowan just before the sports world would be shut down by coronavirus. By June, COVID-19 restrictions were eased and races resumed, but there wasn’t a track open for DeBues-Stafford to train.

“I could have forced a trip to Europe for some races, but it wouldn’t have made sense for where I was in my training and my health,” DeBues-Stafford, the world’s No. 2-ranked woman in the 1,500, told CBC Sports recently.

Despite not competing outdoors in 2020, the first Canadian woman to run the event under four minutes will carry a 3:56.12 personal best into 2021 and said she’s “in a good place” entering an Olympic year.

“I feel proud about the hard work I put in this summer. I did what I needed to do to set myself up for success,” added DeBues-Stafford, who, after her stop back in Toronto, moved to Portland, Ore., in September to work with renowned coach Jerry Schumacher at Bowerman Track Club.

Debues-Stafford focused on strength and endurance work in the fall rather than race-specific workouts on the track — though the team did some speed work — and is expecting to train at altitude in the new year.

“I’m not as snappy and speedy as a year ago but I definitely feel stronger over longer distances than I’ve felt in the past,” said the Toronto native, who secured equipment to train in her apartment since the team has no gym access. “I’m building a strong foundation for 2021.

“Building up to [the] Tokyo [Olympics] is going to be all about consistency and slowly building the intensity so I arrive fresh and ready to go.”

DeBues-Stafford’s 2019 Canadian records


  • Jan. 4, Glasgow, 5,000 metres — 14:57.45
  • Jan. 26, Boston, mile — 4:24.80


  • July 20, London, 1,500 — 4:00.26
  • Aug. 29, Zurich, 1,500 — 3:59.59
  • Oct. 5, Doha, 1,500 — 3:56.12
  • July 12, Monaco, mile — 4:17.87
  • May 30, Stockholm, 5,000 — 14:51.59
  • Sept. 6, Brussels, 5,000 — 14:44.12

‘I did what was best for my future’

Health will be paramount for DeBues-Stafford, who experienced a relapse of Graves’ Disease — an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid — during a break in training in August after a “training effort” racing in a 400 at Birchmount Stadium in Toronto.

“It physically wouldn’t have been possible to do late summer races,” she said.

In DeBues-Stafford’s absence, Faith Kipyegon, Sofia Ennaoui and Laura Muir ran 3:59.70 in the 1,500 while several others clocked under 4:01. Muir and Jemma Reekie, an emerging star who ran 4:02.20 on Sept. 3, had trained with DeBues-Stafford in Scotland since the summer of 2018.

“Some athletes had some unreal seasons dropping crazy times and that’s awesome for them and for the sport, but I’m confident I did what was best for me and my future,” said DeBues-Stafford, who is under contract with Nike through the next Olympic cycle.

“2020 was one disruption after another but I can still take a lot from the experience, knowing I can take that kind of disruption and quickly get back on the horse and do workouts.”

WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford runs 3:56.12 PB at 2019 worlds:

Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford places 6th with a time 3:56.12, Sifan Hassan claims gold. 7:02

Becoming a better race tactician was DeBues-Stafford’s focus for 2020 before the pandemic derailed her season.

“The 1,500 is very tactical and you get jostled,” she said. “I was racing so much in 2019 and had so many opportunities to learn that I was able to apply the corrections to my mistakes quickly which was an invaluable experience. I’m more experienced racing at this [elite senior] level.”

These days, DeBues-Stafford is happy being in a team environment where it’s easy to get your “social fix” in a safe way by running outdoors with a teammate.

“Everyone has been super welcoming, and to Rowan as well. He’s been able to sneak in a few runs with us and that is always fun,” said DeBues-Stafford of the former University of Toronto rugby player.

“The West Coast is beautiful, too, which is just icing on the cake. I definitely feel at home and comfortable with the group.”

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CBC | Sports News

Messi remains dour on Barca’s prospects, floats interest in future U.S. move

Lionel Messi won’t make a decision on his long-term future at Barcelona until the season is over, with the soccer great also raising the possibility of playing in the United States one day in a TV interview broadcast Sunday.

“I am going to wait until the end of the season [to decide],” the 33-year-old Messi told private Spanish station La Sexta.

About fifth-place Barcelona’s future prospects, Messi said “there is no money” and “it is not going to be easy to turn this around.”

As of Jan. 1, Messi could negotiate with other clubs as his contract with Barcelona is set to expire in June.

In August, Messi stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave following a season without titles that ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. The club said no, and Messi backed down saying that he could not take his club to court. He has played as hard as ever since then, but has not said if he has changed his mind over wanting to leave.

“Now I am focused on winning titles instead of other things,” Messi said in the rare interview. “I have always had the idea that I would like to have the experience of playing in the United States, but this is not the time for it.”

Messi also said he would not publicly support any of the candidates who plan to run in club elections set for Jan. 24.

Nor was he overly enthusiastic about the immediate prospects of the team.

“Let the best candidate win,” Messi said. “Whoever does will find a very difficult situation, it is not going to be easy to turn this around. It is going to be difficult to bring in players. That requires a lot of money and there is no money. We need several important players to get back to fighting for titles.”

Rumours remain

Barcelona reported losses of $ 118 million US last season and sold off several veteran players, including Messi’s strike partner and friend, Luis Suarez.

The interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Evole was recorded recently and aired hours after Barcelona announced that Messi would miss Tuesday’s Spanish league game against Eibar due to an unspecified ankle injury.

In a statement about the injury, Barcelona said “first team player, Lionel Messi, is completing the treatment for his right ankle, and is expected to return to training after the FC Barcelona v SD Eibar match.”

Messi is reportedly in Argentina taking a short winter break after Barcelona gave its players some time off following their last game on Dec. 22 against Valladolid.

Messi played the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Valladolid and scored his 644th career goal for Barcelona to overtake Pele’s all-time scoring milestone for their clubs.

After Eibar, Barcelona’s next league match is at Huesca on Jan. 3.

Messi has helped Barcelona win four Champions League and 10 Spanish league titles since his debut in 2004.

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CBC | Soccer News

Player’s Own Voice podcast: Karina LeBlanc and soccer’s future

As goalkeeper for the national soccer team, Karina LeBlanc was part of the generation that put the Canadian game on the map. Between Olympic medals and high World cup expectations, the sky is now the limit.

But for LeBlanc and her cohorts, it was never just about what happened on the pitch.

Even in the big wins, the team aimed beyond the game of the day. The truly big play was to make women’s soccer a force for global change. Helping young women get the chance to participate in the world’s game, more often than not, also helped the national team players reassess themselves in positive ways. 

Since becoming Head of CONCACAF Women’s Football, LeBlanc has had the privilege and pleasure to see it happen again and again in the 41 countries that represent the FIFA  association: a shy girl comes to the pitch for the first time,  and within a few hours sees herself as a player, with all the confidence, enthusiasm and strength that goes with that.

Player’s Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis leads Karina LeBlanc through a refreshingly optimistic conversation about a career in sports that still feels like the best is yet to come — even now.

Earlier this year, Karina wrote a powerful letter to her newborn daughter for CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice essay series, which, like the POV podcast, lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective.

The ‘read’ and ‘listen’ versions of POV are now joined by a new way for athletes to share opinions and expertise about issues in Canadian sports: Player’s Own Voice in Studio brings digital video to the POV approach

To listen to all three seasons of Player’s Own Voice, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts. 

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How the U.S. election outcome could affect Canada’s environment and energy future

This story is part of a five-part series looking at how the policies of the two U.S.presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, differ when it comes to the major issues of interest to Canada, including energy, defence, trade and immigration.

The old truism that elections have consequences is doubly apt for the United States, a country whose politics reach beyond its borders. It’s certainly so for Canada.

Specific policy issues in a U.S. election hold particular stakes for Canada, including energy and the environment, national defence, the border and migration and U.S. relations with China.

In advance of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3, CBC will run stories on these five issues, and how they might play out if the winner is current President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

Our first instalment examines one of the most striking differences between them: energy and the environment.

If Biden wins

Biden drew attention in Canada for promising to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, then doubling down on it. 

Rory Johnston, an energy analyst at Price Street in Toronto, said a president clearly has the legal power to revoke a permit. What’s not clear to him is whether Biden would, in precarious economic times, actually cancel a big project, which would cost jobs and anger construction unions.

The Democratic nominee has a sweeping environmental platform that goes far beyond that one pipeline pledge.

For starters, he said he’d re-join the Paris climate accord on Day 1 of his presidency. Then he would convene, shame and potentially punish other countries that slack on their carbon emissions commitments.

Climate change is linked to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters including forest fires, such as the ones seen in California in recent months. (John Antczak/Associated Press)

Within 100 days, Biden said he’d hold a global climate summit to push countries to join the U.S. in toughening their climate objectives. He said he would also demand a worldwide ban on government subsidies for fossil fuels.

Biden also intends to grade countries on their performance. He promises a global climate change report, similar to the State Department’s annual report on human rights and human trafficking. It would rank countries’ performance in meeting their Paris commitments.

If that doesn’t work, he’s threatening to wield the stick of trade tariffs. Biden said he wants to impose what he calls “carbon-adjustment fees,” or perhaps quotas, on carbon-intensive products from countries that fail to meet climate and environmental obligations.

It’s not clear how many countries Biden would target. “We can no longer separate trade policy from our climate objectives,” says Biden’s platform.

Canada is projecting a lowering of emissions but not nearly by enough to meet its Paris commitment. 

Implementing such a tariff could be tricky. To become embedded in U.S. law, it would have to get through Congress — and receiving the 51 to 60 per cent of votes required in the Senate would be a tall order.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on countries to work together to solve the world’s problems in a pre-recorded video address on Friday. 11:09

Some trade analysts believe such a tactic would also be illegal protectionism under international trade law unless the U.S. imposed a similar carbon tax domestically — also a tall order. 

However, other analysts say there’s one tool Biden could use, which has become famous in the Trump era: declare carbon emissions a national security matter and apply the same trade weapon the current president used against foreign steel and aluminum.

Biden, seen speaking about climate change last month, plans to rejoin the Paris Accord — and then naming, shaming and possibly punishing countries that don’t cut emissions. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Any regulatory moves could face another hurdle in a more hostile Supreme Court.

Speaking of the environment and trade, Biden is proposing a massive, $ 2 trillion green-infrastructure plan aimed at new transit, vehicles and a carbon-free power grid by 2035. Biden says the construction would be done by U.S. firms under Buy American rules.

He would also re-establish policies from the Obama era that Canada has signed onto, from methane and auto regulations to an Arctic drilling ban.

Gerald Butts, who was a former senior aide to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and worked on some of those agreements with the U.S, said Biden’s climate policies go far beyond Obama’s and reflect a growing recognition of the environmental threat.

“Biden’s plan would have been unthinkable for a presidential nominee for a major party even one cycle ago,” said Butts, now vice-chair of the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found a rise in the number of climate disasters that have caused more than US$ 1 billion in damage (adjusted for inflation) since 1980. (NOAA)

Bob Deans, a spokesman for the political action committee of the Washington-based Natural Resources Defence Council, called climate change a defining issue for this election.

“The American people are facing a stark choice in this election. Two completely different energy futures,” Deans said. “We need to be reducing our reliance on oil and gas, not locking future generations into this climate nightmare.” 

If Trump wins

In his 2016 platform, Trump promised more oil drilling, more pipelines — and less regulation. He delivered that on several fronts.

Just last month he announced a border permit for a multi-purpose rail project that, if built, could eventually ship Canadian oil through Alaska. 

Trump ditched a number of Obama’s climate rules, and left the Paris Accord. (His pullout from the Paris agreement officially goes into effect the day after this year’s election.)

Trump is seen in 2017 signing a permit approval for the Keystone XL pipeline to enter the U.S. from Canada. Construction is just now getting underway. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Trump hasn’t published a platform for the next four years. His campaign website simply lists things he’s done to slash regulations and promote fossil-fuel development. He’s promising no major policy changes.

“We would continue what we’re doing,” Trump told The New York Times, when asked about his overall second-term plans.

As far as Canada is concerned, that means a continued commitment to the still-unbuilt Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry nearly one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the U.S. each day.

Johnston said that pipeline isn’t, on its own, a make-or-break issue for the Canadian oilpatch, but it would help, he said.

He said the oilsands likely need two pipelines completed over the next few years out of the three major projects underway — Trans Mountain to the Pacific Coast, the Line 3 expansion to the Great Lakes and Keystone XL to the Gulf of Mexico — to avoid the type of transportation bottlenecks that have previously devastated Canadian oil prices.

“It’s never ideal to be just at the limit of your [transportation] capacity,” Johnston said.

Even with the current president’s support, Keystone XL faces challenges. The ground has been cleared for only 100 kilometres of pipe to be laid inside Canada. A border-crossing segment has been built, and 17 pump stations out of an eventual 36 along the route are under construction.

That leaves the project about two years, many hundreds of kilometres and some legal and regulatory fights shy of completion. A Supreme Court decision this summer allowed a Montana ruling to stand, which forced the pipeline company to get permits for crossing waterways. Permit hearings were scheduled for late September in Montana and North Dakota.

It’s an uncertain moment for oil — and the financial stakes for Canada are considerable. It’s Canada’s top export to the U.S., in dollar figures; Canadian oil accounts for about half of U.S. oil imports, following years of growth.

But energy giant BP projects that global oil demand has peaked. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects U.S. imports will flatten out and even decline a bit. That’s happening as several automakers say they will keep building vehicles to the stricter emissions standards set in California — standards that are backed by Ottawa.

California, the largest U.S. vehicle market, recently announced it planned to ban sales of gasoline-powered cars by 2035.

Some of these changes in energy markets will proceed regardless of who’s president.

Johnston’s own projection? Barring a sudden change in the market, Canadian oil production will grow a bit for two to five years, then plateau at similar levels for decades.

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CBC | World News

Nvidia Crushes New MLPerf Tests, but Google’s Future Looks Promising

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So far, there haven’t been any upsets in the MLPerf AI benchmarks. Nvidia not only wins everything, but they are still the only company that even competes in every category. Today’s MLPerf Training 0.7 announcement of results isn’t much different. Nvidia started shipping its A100 GPUs in time to submit results in the Released category for commercially available products, where it put in a top-of-the-charts performance across the board. However, there were some interesting results from Google in the Research category.

MLPerf Training 0.7 Adds Three Important New Benchmarks

To help reflect the growing variety of uses for machine learning in production settings, MLPerf had added two new and one upgraded training benchmarks. The first, Deep Learning Recommendation Model (DLRM), involves training a recommendation engine, which is particularly important in eCommerce applications among other large categories. As a hint to its use, it’s trained on a massive trove of Click-Through-Rate data.

The second addition is the training time for BERT, a widely-respected natural language processing (NLP) model. While BERT itself has been built on to create bigger and more complex versions, benchmarking the training time on the original is a good proxy for NLP deployments because BERT is one of a class of Transformer models that are widely used for that purpose.

Finally, with Reinforcement Learning (RL) becoming increasingly important in areas such as robotics, the MiniGo benchmark has been upgraded to MiniGo Full (on a 19 x 19 board), which makes a great deal of sense.

MLPerf Training added three important new benchmarks to its suite with the new release

MLPerf Training added three important new benchmarks to its suite with the new release


For the most part, commercially available alternatives to Nvidia either didn’t participate at all in some of the categories, or couldn’t even out-perform Nvidia’s last-generation V100 on a per-processor basis. One exception is Google’s TPU v3 beating out the V100 by 20 percent on ResNet-50, and only coming in behind the A100 by another 20 percent. It was also interesting to see Huawei compete with a respectable entry for ResNet-50, using its Ascend processor. While the company is still far behind Nvidia and Google in AI, it’s continuing to make it a major focus.

As you can see from the chart below, the A100 is 1.5x to 2.5x the performance of the V100 depending on the benchmark:

As usual Nvidia was mostly competing against itself -- this slide show per processor speedup over the V100

As usual, Nvidia was mostly competing against itself. This slide show per processor speedup over the V100

If you have the budget, Nvidia’s solution also scales to well beyond anything else submitted. Running on the company’s SELENE SuperPOD that includes 2,048 A100s, models that used to take days can now be trained in minutes:

As expected Nvidia's Ampere-based SuperPOD broke all the records for training times

As expected, Nvidia’s Ampere-based SuperPOD broke all the records for training times. Note that the Google submission only used 16 TPUs, while the SuperPOD used a thousand or more, so for head-to-head chip evaluation it’s better to use the prior chart with per-processor numbers.

Nvidia’s Architecture Is Particularly Suited for Reinforcement Learning

While many types of specialized hardware have been designed specifically for machine learning, most of them excel at either training or inferencing. Reinforcement Learning (RL) requires an interleaving of both. Nvidia’s GPGPU-based hardware is ideal for the task. And, because data is generated and consumed during the training process, Nvidia’s high-speed interlinks are also helpful for RL. Finally, because training robots in the real world is expensive and potentially dangerous, Nvidia’s GPU-accelerated simulation tools are useful when doing RL training in the lab.

Google Tips Its Hand With Impressive TPU v4 Results

Google Research put in an impressive showing with its future TPU v4 chip

Google Research put in an impressive showing with its future TPU v4 chip

Perhaps the most surprising piece of news from the new benchmarks is how well Google’s TPU v4 did. While v4 of the TPU is in the Research category — meaning it won’t be commercially available for at least 6 months — its near-Ampere-level performance for many training tasks is quite impressive. It was also interesting to see Intel weigh in with a decent performer in reinforcement learning with a soon-to-be-released CPU. That should help it deliver in future robotics applications that may not require a discrete GPU. Full results are available from MLPerf.

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Microsoft Lays Out a Player-Centric Vision of Gaming’s Future

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Microsoft’s Phil Spencer released a blog post today discussing what Microsoft sees as the future of gaming and how it will deliver that future to its customers. According to the company, “Our vision has one hero at the heart of it all: You.” (Emphasis original).

Companies love making claims like this in lieu of actually doing anything to improve their products or services, but I’m not sure that’s the case here. Spencer leads by emphasizing that hate speech and abusive behavior have no home on Xbox. Any player who has been harassed or mistreated should contact the Xbox safety team. There’s also reference to new tools for blocking toxicity, with the implication that these are being developed for the Xbox Series X.

Microsoft’s next guarantee? Inclusivity, with more diverse storytelling representing more cultures and individuals. I have never understood why some gamers saw this idea as a threat. More people making games means more stories and different stories. It means titles that tap mythologies and worldviews that are different from the ones we’re familiar with, and that’s by no means a bad thing. Of course, this depends on Microsoft actually carrying out its promise.

Turning attention to the more technical side of things, Spencer pledges that all Xbox games will look and play best on Xbox Series X, including all titles from previous consoles supported by emulation. All Xbox Studios titles will also launch same-day on Xbox Game Pass, including Halo, Forza, Age of Empires, Gears of War, Minecraft, Hellblade, The Outer Worlds, Psychonauts, Microsoft Flight Simulator, State of Decay, Wasteland, Minecraft Dungeons, and Sea of Thieves.

Finally, Microsoft notes that it will continue to release titles for the Xbox One and the Xbox One X. All titles developed by Xbox Game Studios will be supported on older platforms for at least “a couple of years.” It’s not unusual for games launched near a console’s debut to get multiple releases for different platforms, but it’s usually obvious pretty quickly that the game wasn’t built for them. It’ll be interesting to see if the quality of last-gen releases improves, or if Xbox Game Studios do a better job of optimizing for old platforms than other developers tend to do.

The Forward Compatibility Guarantee

This is honestly a rather nifty feature that brings the Xbox Series X closer to matching what PCs can do. If you buy a PC game for a system that’s a little underpowered for the title, you can drop your graphics detail settings to compensate. Consoles don’t typically offer much in the way of adjustable settings, but thanks to Microsoft’s new Smart Delivery system, there’s an effective forward-compatibility guarantee. If you buy a game that supports Smart Delivery to play on the Xbox One, when you upgrade to an Xbox Series X, you’ll be able to download the same title in an optimized format for your new system, with higher graphics fidelity, enhanced effects, and higher resolutions.

Granted, it’s not clear how many games outside of Xbox Game Studios titles will actually use this feature, but we have a small list of titles confirmed to deploy this way, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Cyberpunk 2077, and Marvel’s Avengers. Games that support Xbox Play Anywhere — and there are 77 titles on the list — can be played on either your Xbox or your PC.

Microsoft is also combining Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud. Spencer writes:

With cloud gaming in Game Pass Ultimate, you will be able to play over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles on your phone or tablet. And because Xbox Live connects across devices, you can play along with the nearly 100 million Xbox Live players around the world. So when Halo Infinite launches, you and your friends can play together and immerse yourselves in the Halo universe as Master Chief—anywhere you go and across devices.

The reason all of this is interesting, at least in my opinion, is that it’s a stark contrast to how badly Microsoft blew the Xbone unveil. Then, the company stonewalled questions on features and capabilities. By refusing to answer questions, Microsoft invited enthusiasts to reach the worst possible conclusions. It took the company months to change course, and when it finally did, it threw the baby out with the bathwater, killing off features people wanted rather than simply pushing back their introductions or reworking them to work with the new (old) gaming distribution model.

Though there have been a few missteps involving gameplay demos and showcases, Microsoft has done much better on the whole. There’s a clear sense of what this Xbox Next will offer and what the benefits are: Robust backward compatibility across all previous Xbox products, cloud gaming, and a great deal of flexibility around ideas like sharing games across platforms or devices.

There is, however, one exception to the above guaranteed to hurt the feelings of at least six people: The Xbox Series X will not support Kinect or Kinect games. If you still use one, you’ll need to retain an Xbox One to use it with.

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Federal government will deliver fiscal ‘snapshot’ today; will it offer a glimpse of the future too?

In a normal year, the federal government tables a budget in the spring and then an economic statement or fiscal update in the fall.

But this is not a normal year. The budget that was supposed to be presented in March was pushed back and then completely swamped by the first wave of COVID-19, the economic shutdown that resulted and the federal aid that soon followed.

Some opposition MPs and economists subsequently pushed for a fiscal update. The Liberal government contended, with some justification, that making long-term projections in a time of such incredible uncertainty would be — to use Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words — “an exercise in invention and imagination.”

What’s being released this afternoon is being described instead as a fiscal “snapshot” — a status report on where things stand after four months of the pandemic.

It should provide some insight into what the last four months have meant for the federal government’s balance sheet and Canada’s economy. Ideally, it also would offer some sense of what the future might look like — at least the near future.

The deficit is going to be alarming

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s presentation is not expected to offer new policy announcements, but it could further quantify both the economic disruption and the government’s response to that shock. That undoubtedly will include the projection of a large deficit for the current fiscal year.

The exact number might be new, but it’s already clear that the deficit likely will be in excess of $ 250 billion.

Last fall, months before the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China, Morneau projected that the deficit for 2020-2021 would be $ 28.1 billion. Since then, a lot has changed.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau releases a ‘snapshot’ report today that will measure the hole blown in Canada’s fiscal health by the pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

This spring’s pause in economic activity and employment meant a drop in the revenue the government receives from taxes. Meanwhile, more money has been going out in the form of government support measures to help individuals and businesses get through the shutdown.

Since April, the Liberal government has provided bi-weekly updates on its relief spending to the finance committee of the House of Commons. The most recent tally, provided on June 25, showed $ 174.1 billion in direct support for individuals and businesses and $ 19.4 billion in federal funding for health and safety measures.

The office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer also has provided a regularly updated “scenario analysis” that projects the broad economic and fiscal implications. In its most recent analysis, released on June 18, the PBO projected a deficit of $ 256 billion for 2020-2021.

Sticker shock

As a percentage of Canada’s GDP, a deficit of that size would be the largest for the federal government since the Second World War.

There has been little to no debate about the need to spend the money on emergency relief; if anything, the Liberals have been under political pressure to spend more and faster. Recent analysis by Scotiabank found that failing to provide that relief would have led to much worse economic results and an only slightly lower level of federal debt.

But after any deficit-related sticker shock wears off, the next question will be how well the government is positioned to manage that accumulated debt.

Governments are not like households — a government can effectively carry debt in perpetuity — so their primary goal is to manage that debt rather than pay it off outright. Most of the fiscal analysis of government debt focuses on its size in comparison to the national economy.

The PBO estimated that the federal debt-to-GDP ratio will reach 44.4 per cent, while Scotiabank projects that the ratio will be closer to 48 per cent.

It’s bad — but it’s been worse

Either number would be a significant increase over what Morneau projected last fall, when the Liberals forecast a debt-to-GDP ratio of 31 per cent in 2020-2021, declining annually thereafter.

But something around 45 per cent also would still be well below Canada’s historic peak of 66.6 per cent back in 1995-1996. That debt ratio, coupled with high interest rates and nervous international markets, led Jean Chrétien’s government to make drastic cuts to balance the budget and get the national debt under better control.

A health care worker does a test at a drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre at the Etobicoke General Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

If the federal debt-to-GDP does increase to 45 per cent, it will be back to where it was in 2001.

But the fiscal story of COVID-19 will be only partly about what has happened over the last four months. It also will be about what happens over the next few months — and then several years after that.

Where do we go from here?

It’s not clear how far into the future the Liberal government is willing to look, but there are a number of questions it could start trying to answer.

What are the potential pathways for economic recovery? How much longer might the temporary relief measures be needed? How much more new spending might be necessary? And how does Morneau see the recovery and the debt being managed?

“There will be significant unemployment across Canada for the duration of the recovery,” Rebekah Young, director of fiscal and provincial economics at Scotiabank, told CBC’s Power & Politics on Tuesday.

“The [employment insurance system] was not and is not sufficient to cover all Canadians that will be out of work, but the [Canadian Emergency Response Benefit] clearly is too expensive for that duration. So I think … we would like to see some signals that they have a plan for the next 18 months in terms of addressing his persistent shock that the economy will be facing.”

Hospitality workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 40, hold a car caravan protest in Vancouver June 3, 2020. They were calling on provincial and federal governments to ensure workers are hired back as the economy recovers from the pandemic. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In an email, Young said she thinks Wednesday’s “snapshot” could set up a fall budget that lays out longer-term plans.

“In addition to an updated statement of transactions, the country needs a fiscal plan from the federal government,” said Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer who is now president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa. “We need a fiscal plan to understand what role federal fiscal policy will play to support the recovery.”

A proper plan, Page said, would boost consumer confidence and investor confidence and mitigate the possibility of further downgrades to Canada’s credit rating.

Finance officials might be quick to note the unprecedented amount of uncertainty at the moment, but Page said a plan could be debated and adjusted.

“A ‘snapshot’ that is only backward-looking would be a major missed opportunity,” he said.

In the midst of managing a national response to a pandemic, it’s important to not get ahead of yourself — to focus on the crisis in the here and now.

But sooner or later, the federal government will need to confront the future.

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Hong Kong’s future thrown into doubt with planned Beijing legislation

Hong Kong activists called on Friday for people to rise up against Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in the city, prompting alarm that the new laws could erode freedoms through “force and fear.”

A proposed march at noon in the central financial district did not materialize after online calls were heeded only by a handful of activists and as riot police made their presence visible on the streets.

But new calls have emerged for flash mobs at night across the territory. The Canadian Consulate there has warned of a “heightened possibility of demonstrations in Hong Kong this weekend,” advising Canadians to monitor local media for any developments.

“This is a great moment to reboot the protest,” said university student Kay, 24, who participated in last year’s mass scale and often violent anti-government and anti-Beijing protests, which this year entered a lull due to the coronavirus.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will “fully co-operate” with the Chinese parliament to complete the legislation, which she said will not affect rights, freedoms or judicial independence.

Members of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party hold a banner and placards during a protest in front of the Chinese central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Friday. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

The security law plan hit financial markets on Friday, due to concerns the semiautonomous city’s status as a global financial hub was at risk. Hong Kong stocks were sold off as China’s parliament sat to discuss the new law.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 5.6 per cent to a seven-week low.

Foreign diplomats are urgently seeking more details, fearing the statement could formalize and expand the presence of mainland security and intelligence services in Hong Kong. Currently they can take no enforcement action in the city.

More U.S. friction expected

The proposed legislation could heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington, whose relationship is already frayed by trade disputes and reciprocal accusations over the pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that Washington would react “very strongly” if Beijing went ahead with the security law, and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a condemnation a day later.

There was also bipartisan condemnation in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, called the development “deeply alarming.”

“Attempting to circumvent the [Hong Kong] legislature shows a complete disrespect for the rule of law,” Pelosi said on Twitter.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said he would introduce a resolution in the chamber on Friday, “condemning this attempted crackdown and [to] call on all free nations to stand with Hong Kong.”

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was concerned about the situation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters on Friday. 1:00

“We have 300,000 Canadians who live in Hong Kong and that’s one of the reasons why we want to ensure that the ‘one country, two systems’ approach continues for Hong Kong,” said Trudeau. “We have long called for a de-escalation of tensions and genuine dialogue between Hong Kong citizens and Beijing, and we continue to call for that.”

Trudeau did not address a reporter’s question as to whether the government was considering a diplomatic rebuke of China or any kind of sanctions.

Laws could characterize protest as subversion, or terrorism

Speaking on Friday in his annual report to the Chinese parliament, Premier Li Keqiang said China will establish a “sound” legal system and enforcement mechanisms to ensure national security in Hong Kong and Macao, its other semi-autonomous city.

The proposed legislation for Hong Kong requires the territory to quickly finish enacting national security regulations under its mini-constitution, the Basic law, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong reacts:

The document said the laws will tackle secession, subversion and terrorism activities, as well as foreign interference. It says it will safeguard the central government’s “overall jurisdiction” as well as Hong Kong’s “high autonomy.”

“When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies” in Hong Kong to safeguard national security, the draft said.

U.S. President Donald Trump is shown with China’s President Xi Jinping in June 2019 at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump has repeatedly praised Xi in the past, but the coronavirus pandemic and the planned Hong Kong legislation could further damage relations between the superpowers. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A previous attempt to adopt similar legislation in 2003 was met with a protest that drew around half a million people onto the streets and was eventually shelved.

Pro-democracy activists and politicians have for years opposed the idea of national security laws, arguing they could erode the city’s high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” handover agreement, which China says it is undermined by protesters.

Assets, talent could leave

Hong Kong competes fiercely with Singapore to be considered Asia’s premier financial centre. Global private banks including Credit Suisse and UBS, as well as Asian wealth managers, have their regional operations in the two hubs.

Rule of law is widely seen as a major factor for global financial institutions that make the former British colony their regional home but the legislation could lead to the flight of capital and executives from the Asian financial hub, bankers and headhunters said on Friday.

WATCH l The National report:

The Chinese government is about to impose harsh new security measures on Hong Kong, which could further rile up the pro-democracy movement instead of tamp it down. 2:03

“We have had instances where clients were considering establishing a presence in Hong Kong … but due to the pro-democracy protests in 2019, they decided to set up a presence in Singapore instead,” said Rahul Sen, London-based partner for wealth management headhunting and consulting firm Boyden.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong urged Beijing to spell out more details, saying in a statement the enactment of the law could “jeopardize future prospects” for international business.

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Parents unsure about future of minor hockey with COVID-19

There are two black hockey bags sitting in the office of Mike Baumgartner’s home, and he wonders if they will be used again.

Minor hockey associations across Canada have had to cut their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them are trying to determine when they will resume and how to make the game safe for children.

Through a statement, Hockey Canada said it will decide when minor hockey will return with the guidance of public health officials. Until then, they “cannot provide an accurate or fair comment on the state of minor hockey.”

It means hockey parents like Baumgartner, who has a son and daughter who play in Laval, Que., nearly 30 minutes north of Montreal, are left wondering if it will be safe to put their children back on the ice.

“I’m on the fence about that. We live with my mom, who’s an older woman. I’m asthmatic, my kids are asthmatic,” Baumgartner said.

Hockey Quebec will send an action plan for minor hockey to the Quebec government at the end of the month.

Hockey Montreal president Yves Pauze confirmed some rule changes that were being discussed, such as teams playing each other at 3-on-3 or 4-on-4, as well as teams playing locally and not participating in tournaments outside of their region.

‘Maybe we won’t even have the numbers’

“As long as we don’t have a vaccine, there won’t be hockey played like how it’s normally played,” Pauze said.

Some local associations, such as one in Kahnawake, 15 minutes away from the Island of Montreal, are bracing for huge drops in enrolment once hockey returns.

Kahnawake Minor Hockey Association board member Lou Ann Stacey said there are over 100 children enrolled annually in her organization. She said parents have indicated through social media that they would rather see no hockey being played than to have their kids play with fewer children on the ice, and some levels might be cancelled altogether as a result.

“What if some parents choose not to send their kids or not to register?” Stacey said. “Maybe we won’t even have the numbers.”

In Ontario, the Peterborough Hockey Association is awaiting news from Hockey Canada, the Ontario Hockey Federation, and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association before proceeding.

PHA president James Bradburn is also keeping an eye out for organizations in other sports such as the Ontario Soccer Association, which recently cancelled sanctioned activities for the month of June. With summer sports like soccer being postponed, it means fall and winter sports will be next to have their fate determined.

“We’re just in a holding pattern,” Bradburn said.

Physical distancing measures off the ice?

Bradburn also anticipates a drop in participation, partially because families might not be able to afford letting their children play.

“You have people who’ve lost their jobs, can they afford it?” Bradburn said. “Hockey’s not cheap. Registration is $ 600. Throw in the equipment, if you need new equipment, you’re up to $ 1000. It’s a lot of money that may not be on the table for families this coming season.”

While associations determine the best course of action for on-ice play, Baumgartner says he is more concerned with what can be done to enforce physical distancing measures off the ice.

“I’d be more comfortable just getting [my kids] dressed at home, going to the arena, playing the game, and then coming home,” he said. “No interaction, you just play your game and leave.”

Jordan Bateman, an executive with the Langley Minor Hockey Association in British Columbia, suggested ideas for minor hockey in an online article that has circulated around associations across the country.

He feels there will need to be reconfigurations of dressing rooms and entrances to ice surfaces, more hand sanitizers in arenas, limits to physical contact on the ice and having only team officials as spectators in order for minor hockey to safely return.

Even if it means hockey won’t be the same for parents and children as it once was.

“Hockey is a really social sport,” Bateman said. “You get to know the families on your team really well. You become a little team for that year that you’re together. It’s difficult to express how different the sport will be for a year or two if kids can’t be in dressing rooms, if you can’t travel for tournaments, if you can’t have your full team come back because of money issues.”

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Without riches of Big 4, Canadian sports leagues brace for uncertain future

Mike Morreale and David Clanachan were under no illusions when they began their foray into the Canadian sports landscape a year ago.

As commissioners of the two fledgling Canadian sports leagues — the Canadian Elite Basketball League and the Canadian Premier League, respectively — both knew it was going to be an uphill battle in the early years of existence just to survive.

They made room for growing pains — smaller attendance, hiccups in the game day production, tweaks to their social media game plan, along with the uncontrollable variables that come with starting a new league.

But after what each league calls successful inaugural seasons, it was the hope and expectation of Morreale and Clanachan to further cement their positions in communities across the land in the second year.

They could have never, in their wildest contemplations, come up with a scenario that saw both leagues grounded, along with almost everything else, due to a global pandemic.

“We’re keenly aware of what’s going on around us and our priority is making sure people are safe and healthy,” Morreale said. “There a lot of people not thinking about sports right now.”

On Wednesday, Morreale announced the beginning of the CEBL season, set to start in May, has been postponed until at least June.

Mike Morreale. (Submitted by CEBL)

“With restrictions in place limiting the size of public gatherings and the closure of some team practice and game venues into June, opening the season as scheduled in May is not feasible,” Morreale said.

Morreale said the postponement is obvious and needed and won’t come as a surprise to anyone. But he said the league wants to be thoughtful and measured when it comes to making announcements and providing updates.

“We’re going to revisit it every month,” Morreale said. “I feel for our players. I’m trying to create some normalcy in their lives, and I can’t. So, there’s some frustration there.”

 As a former CFL all-star, Morreale knows all about momentum.

The two-time Grey Cup champion helped guide his 1999 Hamilton Tiger-Cats all the way to a championship, including an upset victory over Montreal in the East Final, and was named the Most Outstanding Canadian in the title game against the Calgary Stampeders.

But momentum can be a fickle and fleeting thing.

“What can we do to turn that positive momentum in the inaugural season into future positive momentum?” Morreale told CBC Sports. “There will be a CEBL in 2021 whether we play this year or not. That is going to happen.”

Hopes were high heading into the sophomore season of the CEBL — the league announced during the offseason the addition of the Ottawa BlackJacks.

There will be a CEBL in 2021 whether we play this year or not. That is going to happen.– Mike Morreale

The seven-team league — with Hamilton, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Guelph, Ont., Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, B.C.) and St. Catharines, Ont. (Niagara River Lions) —competes with 70 per cent of the 10-player rosters made up of Canadian content.

Fans in communities not accustomed to seeing any kind of professional sport had a team to rally around. It culminated in the Saskatchewan Rattlers winning the inaugural title in front of a raucous home crowd in Saskatoon.

“I’m trying to look at this on the bright side,” Morreale said. “We’re trying to do everything in our power to ensure we return to normalcy.”

With the season postponed indefinitely, however, Morreale revealed that a number of weeks ago the league had to lay off some ticketing staff.

“We’re going to take advantage of as much as the government subsidies to keep our staff and to get back from this as fast as possible,” he said.

Fans cheer on the Saskatchewan Rattlers during a game last year. (Submitted by CEBL)

Make no mistake, this unexpected and unprecedented halt is certainly going to provide challenges moving forward for the CEBL and other Canadian leagues. They don’t come with the billions in dollars of revenue that bigger leagues, like the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, bring in regularly.

“We need help. We are still a fledgling league. It’s us, the CFL and the CPL,” Morreale said.

The CPL on Monday announced it would be reducing wages for players and staff.

In a statement, Clanachan said players will have 25 per cent of their contracts deferred, while coaches, technical staff, and club and league employees will take unspecified pay reductions.

The season was set to start last weekend and run through Oct. 4. In late March, Clanachan announced the league is postponed indefinitely.

In February, the CPL said it was moving away from spring and fall split-seasons to a single-table format in 2020. The eight teams, including Expansion Atletico Ottawa, were scheduled to play 28 games total, 14 at home and 14 on the road.

The eight teams include Cavalry FC (Calgary), FC Edmonton, Forge FC (Hamilton, Ont.), HFX Wanderers (Halifax), Pacific FC (Langford, B.C.), Valour FC (Winnipeg), York 9 FC (York Region, Ont.) and expansion Atlético Ottawa.

Clanachan said they continue to run through a number of permutations to salvage some sort of season, including a condensed schedule.

“It’s concerning. It’s tough. We wait. And at the right moment we’ll be ready to go,” Clanachan said.

Clanachan’s optimism is unwavering in the face of the unknown — he said despite the financial toll this is taking on a start-up league needing wins early in its existence, the CPL is not going anywhere.

The Canadian Premier League announced pay cuts Monday as its second season has been delayed because of the pandemic. (Twitter/@FCEdmontonNow)

“We see a bigger purpose here. We’re here to stay,” he said.

“At the end of the day it goes back to one thing. We said this was going to be a league for Canadians, by Canadians and we’ve stayed true to that.”

Clanachan points to the roster structure to reflect the homegrown nature of the league — it’s designed for the benefit of Canadian players.

Like the CFL, there are strict roster rules in place. Teams must be made up of at least 50 per cent plus one Canadians, and must field a minimum of six Canadian starters during matches.

“This game has taken seed in a big way in this country. We’ve hit the ultimate point and we need to keep moving it forward,” Clanachan said.

While the CEBL and CPL tries to survive this pandemic only having very little in way of history and experience to lean on, the CFL is also facing challenges despite existing for more than 100 years.

In a recent interview with CBC Sports, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said a cancelled season would be “devastating” for the league.

“Almost all your revenue streams go away at that point,” Ambrosie said.

The league, which was slated to kick off the regular season on June 11, announced in the beginning of April that the season won’t start before the beginning of July.

Ambrosie said they continue to hold regular meetings and are having conversations with all CFL stakeholders about what a condensed season would look like and if it’s plausible.

As the days tick by and clarity continues to elude Ambrosie and sports leagues around the world, the CFL is running out of time and options to save a 2020 season — there are some conversations involving playing games without fans, but the CFL is heavily dependent on gate revenue which makes it seem nearly impossible.

CFL season hangs in balance

“I wish there was a silver bullet to this to make it better. But because there isn’t, we’re using good, honest dialogue as our guide,” Ambrosie said.

While the season hangs in the balance, the stoppage has also ended much of the excitement and momentum, at least for now, around expansion to Halifax.

In December, the Halifax regional council voted in favour of providing a one-time $ 20-million contribution to a stadium project, with a few caveats attached to the funding. There were steps being made toward realizing a 10-team league. That’s all been sidelined for now.

When asked specifically about how this pandemic would impact such things as expansion to Halifax and playing the Grey Cup this year, Ambrosie would not directly speak to it.

“We’ll take this one day at a time and hope all of these things can happen,” he said.

It’s all anyone can do right now.

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