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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 8:38:57 AM
   of 117
 
Most Canadians, including most Albertans, appear to be ready to give up on Keystone XL pipeline: poll

The majority of Albertans appear to be on the same page as the majority of other Canadians on feeling that it’s time to give up the fight to get a new section of the Keystone XL pipeline built, according to the results of a survey that were released on Tuesday.

The Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News, saw 44 per cent of respondents say they would rather see Canada focus on building infrastructure within its own borders to transport and refine Canadian oil and natural gas products for international markets.

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That number rose by twelve points (56 per cent) when looking at respondents from Alberta.

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said Canada should focus on priorities other than getting its oil and gas products to international markets, while only 18 per cent said they feel Canada should continue to press the Biden administration to reverse its decision on the contentious pipeline – a number that only rose to 21 per cent when looking at those from Alberta.

In one of his first acts after being inaugurated as U.S. president last month, Joe Biden signed an executive order that revoked the permit allowing for further construction of the 1,947-kilometre pipeline. Had it been completed, the line was to have delivered 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., before being transported to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

READ MORE: Experts say cancelled Keystone XL pipeline expansion won’t lessen oil dependency

Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said he believes the response suggests “Canadians are starting to see the United States as not really as much of a realistic option in terms of exporting oil and gas products as they may have seen them in the past, even though the United States remains our largest trade partner when it comes to oil and gas products.”

“There’s a recognition that there’s going to be four years where it’s probably going to be a lot tougher to get a hearing in the United States about exporting Canadian oil and gas to that marketplace through a pipeline, because we’re still obviously going to be doing it with rail traffic and other methods of getting it to the U.S. marketplace,” he said.

“But Canadians are starting to look at their own jurisdiction as the place to lay down infrastructure, particularly pipeline infrastructure, to allow the transport of oil and gas products from border to border.”

READ MORE: As Alberta continues Keystone fight, majority of Canadians think it’s time to ‘move on’: poll

The results of the single-question survey, which allowed respondents to select one of three options for what Canada should do in light of Biden’s decision on the pipeline, showed that older people were more inclined to want Ottawa to develop more domestic oil sector infrastructure than younger people.

Of those respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, 35 per cent said they want to see infrastructure built within Canada to transport and refine the country’s oil and natural gas resources for international markets. That number rose to 45 per cent when it came to respondents between the ages of 35 and 54 and to 50 per cent among those 55 and older.

Of those respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, 46 per cent said they would now like to see Canada focus on other priorities. That number dropped to 37 per cent among respondents between the ages of 35 and 54 and then down to 33 per cent among those 55 and older.

“It’s a consistent finding that we see that when you talk about the future of oil and gas,” Bricker said about the different trends among various age groups. “You tend to find older Canadians have a more positive predisposition to it than younger Canadians.

“You see it on just about everything you ask… on the future of the oil and gas industry.”

Bricker noted that the responses from Quebec seemed to stand out from those in other provinces when it comes to the future of oil and gas.

Quebec was the only region in which over half (58 per cent) of respondents answered that they would like to see Ottawa focus on priorities other than the transport and refinement of Canada’s oil and gas.

Bricker said he believes the answers from Quebec may be influenced by the fact that the province’s energy production centres on hydroelectricity.

“So it’s not surprising that we continue to see that oil and gas just does not do as well in Quebec as it does in other parts of the country,” he said.

Last spring, TC Energy approved spending US$8 billion to complete the Keystone XL expansion after the Alberta government agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan.

READ MORE: Alberta premier calls for compensation amid cancellation of Keystone XL

Premier Jason Kenney has said Alberta has about $1 billion at risk if the project is killed. In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month, Kenney said he was profoundly disappointed with Biden’s decision and what he believes is a lack of sufficient response from the federal government to Alberta’s “repeated requests for your personal intervention with the incoming administration.”

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Premier Jason Kenney’s comments on the Keystone XL pipeline.

The premier has said he believes that at the very least, Ottawa should press the Biden administration to provide compensation to TC Energy and the Alberta government for billions of dollars of costs incurred in the construction to date. Kenney has also said his government is considering legal action over Biden’s executive order.

Ever since the price of oil crashed over six years ago, Alberta’s economy has struggled and those challenges have been further exposed by the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on demand for the resource. Consecutive provincial governments have sought to expand Alberta’s pipeline capacity in an effort to move more oil and bring it to new markets.

During his campaign to become U.S. president, Biden had promised to shift the American economy away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy.

READ MORE: Biden revokes presidential permit for Keystone XL pipeline expansion on 1st day

The executive order published on the White House website said “following an exhaustive review,” the State Department and Biden “determined that approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest.”

“That analysis, in addition to concluding that significance of the proposed pipeline for our energy security and economy is limited, stressed that the United States must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs,” the order read.

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, 2021, and saw a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older be interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18 and older been polled.

–With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson and Caley Ramsay, and The Canadian Press’ Dan Healing

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 8:39:38 AM
   of 117
 
Ineligible self-employed Canadians who received CERB due to 'unclear' information won't be forced to repay

OTTAWA – Self-employed Canadians who claimed up to $14,000 in Canada Emergency Response Benefits despite being ineligible will not have to repay the money, National Post has learned.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough is set to make the announcement — which marks a 180-degree flip of the government’s previous position — as early as Tuesday, according to sources with knowledge of the file.

At issue was some CERB recipients who applied based on “unclear” eligibility information from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Now, self-employed Canadians who applied and received up to $14,000 in CERB payments in 2020 despite not meeting net income eligibility criteria will not be forced to repay the money.

Furthermore, those ineligible self-employed recipients who have already repaid some or all of the amount to CRA will most likely be able to contact the agency to reclaim it once again — so long as they meet all of the program’s other eligibility criteria — sources said, adding that some final details were still being ironed out as of Monday evening.

The decision is likely to create a major sigh of relief among those self-employed recipients who were facing a claim of up to $14,000 from the federal tax agency, as well as advocates who have argued that the claw backs should be cancelled because the error was caused by confusion from the government.

Most COVID-19 aid program recipients will have one year to pay 2020 tax debts: sources

More than $636M in CERB benefits paid to 300,000 teens aged 15 to 17, documents show

It also comes just one week after a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed against the federal government on behalf of retired Canadians with self-employment income who fear they will have to reimburse CERB payments they received.

The problem arose from a miscommunication by the CRA last spring as to how much income self-employed Canadians needed to have made in order to be eligible for the $2,000 a month emergency payment.

CERB eligibility criteria demanded that recipients made at least $5,000 before taxes in either all of 2019 or in the 12 months leading up to their application.

Many self-employed Canadians took that as total income before deducting expenses (gross income), as opposed to their net income after deductions (which CRA argues is always how self-employment income has been calculated).

For example, self-employed people can deduct work expenses, such as some equipment needed to do their job or even certain utilities such as cell phone or Internet services, from their total income when filing their taxes.

To make things more confusing, CRA later admitted that its call centre agents were first provided a script that mistakenly said that CERB eligibility was based on gross income. That message was changed only a few weeks after the program was launched.

“The Government of Canada acknowledges that communications on this topic were unclear in the first days after the CERB was launched. This includes both the CERB webpages, and the information provided to call centre agents,” the CRA said in a December statement.

“We regret that this lack of consistent clarity led some self-employed individuals to mistakenly apply to the CERB despite being ineligible.”

The decision marks a significant flip from the Trudeau government’s original plan to enforce the claw back of those ineligible payments.

Throughout December and January, multiple media reported statements from Qualtrough saying that debt forgiveness was not being considered for ineligible Canadians who applied for CERB due to the confusion between net and gross income.

“There’s not a conversation happening right now where we would forgive people, where we would not require people who were not eligible to pay it back. No,” she told CBC News in December.

Her comments came after CRA sent out 441,000 “educational letters” to emergency benefit recipients for whom they did not have enough information to confirm their eligibility to CERB.

The letter requested that they either provide additional proof of their eligibility to the program, or be ready to repay some or all of their CERB payments.

It also suggested those who would need to repay that they should do so by Dec. 31, 2020, to facilitate their income tax filing for the year.

The letters, which many received in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, created quite some concern for those facing the daunting prospect of having to reimburse up to $14,000 to the CRA.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to come out and reassure recipients that they should not fret over the possible repayment over the holidays.

“We were serious when we said we would be there for people. We didn’t deliver support to millions of Canadians who needed it just to claw it back at Christmas. Be reassured any good faith mistakes will not be penalized, will not be pursued,” Trudeau said during a press conference on Dec. 18.

“We’re going to work with people over the coming weeks and months to ensure that people get the support they need. These letters should not be a source of anxiety for anyone,” he added.

• Email: cnardi@postmedia.com | Twitter: ChrisGNardi

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 8:40:22 AM
   of 117
 
BUSINESS NEWS

FEBRUARY 09, 2021 / 08:02 AM

Pot producer Canopy Growth sees profit in 2022 as costs drop, sales rise

(Reuters) - Canopy Growth Corp, the world’s largest pot producer, said on Tuesday it expects to turn a profit in the second half of 2022 after aggressive cost-cutting and higher demand for cannabis products helped narrow third-quarter losses.

Canadian pot producers have been under pressure from investors seeking returns as profits remain elusive due to oversupply crimping sales in Canada and overseas expansion bets turning sour.

Canopy said it expects to start generating cash by fiscal 2024 and become operating cash flow positive a year before that, soothing market worries on profitability and sending the company’s shares up 2%.

Since early last year, Canopy and its rivals like Aphria Inc and Aurora Cannabis Inc have been slashing expenses by shuttering plants, scaling down indoor cultivation and laying off hundreds of employees.

Canopy is also pinning its hopes on the large U.S. market that is likely to open up, thanks to the Joe Biden administration’s favorable view on the cannabis industry.

Meanwhile, market conditions too have improved. As the pandemic shuttered several businesses and economies contracted, demand for cannabis products such as gummy bears, brownies and drinks, known for their links to relaxation, surged.

Canopy, which sells a range of products from dried flowers to chocolates and drinks mixed with weed, said its net revenue rose 23% in the quarter to C$152.5 million.

Its adjusted loss shrank to C$68.4 million ($53.74 million)from C$97 million in the third quarter, although asset impairments and one-time restructuring costs led the company to post a net loss of more than C$900 million.

Expenses dropped by 15% to C$144.1 million.

($1 = 1.2737 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Arunima Kumar and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 8:41:46 AM
   of 117
 
Politics

ANALYSIS

Vaccine wars: Nations race to win friends and influence through vaccine distribution

Russia, India and China are dominating the field of vaccine diplomacy

February 09, 2021

It all seems so long ago now, but as 2019 drew to a close there was a lot of talk about a new "space race."

In November 2019, a Japanese spacecraft headed back to Earth after a successful landing on a moving asteroid. The following month, President Donald Trump created the new U.S. Space Force with a $20 billion (Cdn) budget. Two weeks after that, on January 4, 2020, China made history by landing an unmanned spacecraft on the dark side of the moon.

But news on that same day about a "mysterious and growing cluster of unexplained pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan" would soon consign the space race to second billing.

Sputnik flies again

Perhaps the Russians were thinking of the space race analogy when they decided to name their COVID vaccine Sputnik V, in honour of the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957. Russia approached the vaccine race much as the former Soviet Union approached the space race — by forging ahead, cutting corners on safety and gambling on the outcome.

Coronavirus vaccine tracker

Although Sputnik V was deployed without going through full human trials, it has since turned out to be a triumph of Russian science. This week, The Lancet published the results of a full placebo-controlled study with more than 20,000 participants and found "a consistent strong protective effect across all participant age groups."

Better yet, the Lancet reported "the lessening of disease severity after one dose is particularly encouraging for current dose-sparing strategies."

Vindication in Argentina

That means two other countries that also gambled on Sputnik — Argentina and Iran — have something to celebrate after a brutal year. Argentina's vice-president Cristina Kirchner, whose personal relationship with Vladimir Putin was instrumental in obtaining the vaccine, celebrated the result with a one-word tweet:

Sputnik's adherents in Argentina may feel vindicated after weathering considerable resistance from the medical community and ridicule on social media, where satirical memes warned of Sputnik side effects such as involuntary Cossack dancing.

Doubts, then relief

Victor Ingrassia is a scientific journalist in Buenos Aires who has covered the country's pandemic and clinical trials extensively.

"It generated a lot of doubts and uncertainty," Ingrassia told CBC News. "Sputnik's approval here in Argentina coincided with the approval of Pfizer and AstraZeneca by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, the two biggest regulators in the world.

"But those vaccines had presented clinical data, while in Argentina we had a Russian vaccine that hadn't presented any data in a peer-reviewed international journal. Argentina's drug regulator ANMAT had never before approved a drug that hadn't already passed muster with either the FDA or the EMA. So there was a lot of concern in the Argentine medical establishment.

"Then, overnight, we learned that the Ministry of Health had approved the drug without waiting even for approval from ANMAT."

Ingrassia said public consternation only increased when neighbouring Chile began to receive the Pfizer vaccine, even though more than 4,000 Argentines had taken part in Pfizer's Stage 3 clinical trials during summer 2020. Many Argentines felt that the government's choice of Sputnik had more to do with the political ties between their government and the Kremlin than with science.

But since The Lancet gave Sputnik a solid thumbs-up, he said, Argentine doctors' reticence about the vaccine has mostly evaporated and the government is now planning to re-open schools on February 17, with teachers vaccinated.

Score a win for Russia.

Bad bet in Brazil

Authorities next door in Brazil, meanwhile, have fewer reasons to be thrilled with their bet on CoronaVac, made by China's Sinovac.

The vaccine, which was promoted by its maker as having 78 per cent efficacy, was found to have only 50.38 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in Brazil, barely meeting the minimum 50 per cent WHO threshold for use. Given that efficacy tends to drop when vaccines are confronted with some of the new COVID variants, CoronaVac may fall under the efficacy threshold in the future.

Participants in the government-funded study will get one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by a dose fr

That's a headache for Joao Doria, the governor who ordered mandatory vaccination of all 46 million residents of Sao Paulo state with CoronaVac — against the advice of the World Health Organization, which says vaccination should be voluntary.

Politically, it's good news for his main rival and the man he hopes to replace — President Jair Bolsonaro, who has long questioned the Chinese vaccine and has said mandatory vaccination "should only be for dogs."

While Bolsonaro and Doria jockey for position ahead of next year's elections, the geopolitical loser in Brazil's vaccine infighting is China.

The trust deficit

China claims 79 per cent efficacy for the vaccine it's using domestically, made by state-owned Sinopharm. But Sinovac's performance in the Brazilian clinical trials now calls any Chinese efficacy claims into question, said China-watcher Lynette Ong of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.

"I think the biggest issue is the trust deficit," she said. "When Pfizer or AstraZeneca put out a number, we have no a priori reason to question that number. But when Chinese authorities or Chinese companies give you a number, you need justification to trust that number, because of what happened in the last 12 months.

"I think that is what I see as the major implication of the pandemic — that they have to take the extra step to convince people that they could be trusted."

Sinovac's vaccine has been sent to many more countries than has Sputnik. World leaders have received the Sinovac shot, among them Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Indonesia's Joko Widodo. China has set aside $2 billion to fund vaccinations in Africa and has made available another $1 billion for Latin American governments to buy its vaccines on credit.

CBC EXPLAINS What is COVAX and why is Canada getting backlash for receiving vaccines from it?

But since the Brazilian study poured cold water on China's vaccine claims, Malaysia and Singapore have put their plans to use CoronaVac on hold while they wait for more testing results.

Media outlets in the Philippines have been suggesting that President Rodrigo Duterte doesn't want to take the CoronaVac shot himself — and also doesn't want to admit that he's saddled his country with 25 million mediocre doses. Duterte has announced that he's chosen to get his shot in the buttocks, rather than the arm.

"Let's respect that," Francisco Duque, the country's health minister, told reporters recently — adding that Duterte's choice means he'll be getting his shot in private.

India the vaccine superpower

"What we see is that the countries that prefer Chinese vaccines are the ones that have supported the Belt-and-Road Initiative, meaning that as a whole, they're favourable to growing Chinese influence," said Ong, referring to Beijing's ambitious global trade infrastructure strategy.

"Quite a number of countries in the regions are quite receptive to Chinese vaccines, as they are to Chinese investment."

But some Asian countries have preferred to deal with a different giant: India.

India can't compete with China militarily or economically — but India produces more than half of the world's vaccine output.

Not only is India producing vast quantities of AstraZeneca's vaccine under license, it also has its own Covaxin — which, like Sputnik V, was rushed to market under a somewhat dubious process but still seems to work.

And India is giving its vaccine away to neighbouring countries free of charge. It gifted millions of doses in January to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius and the Seychelles, among others — a gesture of generosity so far unique in the world.

India began this giveaway within days of starting to vaccinate its own people. India "shared even before meeting [its] own needs," said Bhutan's PM Lotay Tshering.

Indian officials have made no secret of the fact that they hope to burnish their nation's image at China's expense. Relations between the two countries are at a low point following deadly clashes on the Himalayan border last June.

That might explain why, as January ended, India also sent two million doses to Brazil and plans on shipping more. It's a gesture calculated to highlight the contrast with CoronaVac — which is not only of doubtful efficacy but is also surprisingly expensive.

Split image

But despite its failures in vaccine diplomacy, China's Communist Party can console itself with its performance at home.

"In spite of the early hiccups, Chinese authorities have handled the pandemic way better, domestically, than the Indian authorities," said Ong. "Domestically, they have been able to manipulate the narrative and turn the image around.

Chinese doctor who sounded the alarm about coronavirus dies from the illness

WHO team arrives in Wuhan, China to investigate coronavirus origins

"It's like there was a war with suffering at the beginning, but then the government has fought very hard and won the war. So I think competence has boosted confidence in the government domestically."

Outside of China, she said, "it's been the opposite, especially in countries with a free press that don't rely very heavily on Chinese aid."

Ong said that while China was the only country with a surplus of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the beginning of the pandemic, it's now in competition with other vaccine-producers that have produced better vaccines.

Not over yet

While China flounders and Russia and India gain ground, the West seems curiously absent from the field of vaccine diplomacy.

That's partly because western vaccines are produced by private corporations, rather than state-affiliated organizations like the Serum Institute of India or Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute.

But countries such as Canada have ordered a vast number of doses — many more than they need for their own citizens. And that suggests that they will soon find themselves in a position to play the bountiful ally with developing countries that are likely to still have billions of unvaccinated citizens when 2022 rolls around.

The great game of pandemic diplomacy is far from over.


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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 6:08:06 PM
   of 117
 
SNC-Lavalin strikes deal to sell oil and gas unit, ends global energy ambitions

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. agreed to sell its unprofitable oil and gas business to Kentech Corporate Holdings of the United Arab Emirates as the Montreal-based builder sharpens its focus on project management and nuclear energy.

The deal will probably close by mid-year, SNC said Tuesday in a news release. It didn’t disclose financial terms, other than to say the transaction’s “net cash impact” is expected to be minimal.

SNC also said it would book $480 million worth of provisions and writedowns of receivables in the fourth quarter following a review of outstanding litigation and commercial claims and a reassessment of expenses. SNC — which plans to release its fourth-quarter results in the next few weeks — will push “very hard” to recover extra costs associated with the completion of Canadian fixed-cost projects such as the Réseau express métropolitain, chief executive Ian Edwards said.

The asset sale closes the book on SNC’s global foray in energy services — an expansion accelerated by the 2014 acquisition of Kentz Corp. and its 14,500 employees. SNC paid about $2 billion for Kentz, which operated in 36 countries at the time, to expand in oil and gas just as crude prices were crumbling.

The deal allows SNC to “cleanly and quickly reduce our business risk” by exiting oil and gas fixed-price projects, Edwards said Tuesday on a conference call with analysts. The company is also “significantly reducing delivery and warranty obligations on all outstanding contracts.”

Under the terms of the transaction, Kentech will take over SNC’s $745-million oil and gas backlog and the unit’s 7,100 employees, the CEO said. Edwards had disclosed in late 2019 that the company was mulling options for the resources business.

SNC shares jumped about 11 per cent Tuesday to close at $25.31 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. That trimmed the stock’s one-year decline to about 23 per cent.

Fourth-quarter results will include $90 million in charges because productivity continues to be affected by COVID-19, Edwards said. SNC will also book a $95-million charge on its remaining resources business.

Lockdowns in Quebec and Ontario “are restricting the amount of people we can get to the projects,” the CEO said. Productivity is also being affected by contact tracing, which is forcing some workers to isolate and miss work, he said.

“This lockdown is definitely going to go into the spring,” Edwards said. “But really beyond the summer, we’re assuming that things largely get back to normal.”

SNC on Tuesday reaffirmed a forecast calling for fourth-quarter revenue at its engineering services unit to decrease by “low- to mid-single digits” year-over-year. Adjusted profit in the business should represent somewhere between 8.5 per cent and nine per cent of revenue.

Engineering services — which include design, project management, nuclear and infrastructure contracts — accounted for revenue of $1.45 billion in SNC’s third quarter of 2020, or 72 per cent of the company’s total sales. A year earlier, the proportion was 62 per cent.

Since taking over on an interim basis in June 2019, Edwards — whose appointment was made permanent four months later — has worked to reduce risk and generate more consistent earnings and cash flow by reorganizing SNC into two main lines of business and ending the practice of bidding on fixed-price construction work.

So-called lump-sum turnkey projects in resources are “the biggest source of risk for SNC,” Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Benoit Poirier said Tuesday.

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 6:08:53 PM
   of 117
 
Business

Air Canada cuts 1,500 more jobs and cancels 17 more routes

New coronavirus travel restrictions have battered industry

February 09, 2021

Canada's biggest airline has informed 1,500 of its workers that they'll soon be out of jobs as a result of new travel restrictions and a dramatic reduction in demand for flying.

The airline will "temporarily reduce its unionized workforce by 1,500 people and by an as-yet-undetermined number of management positions," Air Canada told CBC News.

The move comes on the heels of a decision last week to temporarily shut down all Rouge flights, which resulted in the loss of 80 jobs.

"This is due to the federal government's introduction of a mandatory quarantine on arrival as well as the continued suspension of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean," the airline's largest union CUPE said.

At least 900 of the jobs lost will come from CUPE members.

"We appreciate the need for measures to prevent the spread of new variants of COVID-19 in Canada," said Wesley Lesosky, who represents the Air Canada component of CUPE. "But restrictions have to be accompanied by solutions."

Route suspensions

The airline is also shutting down service on 17 more routes starting next week including:

Toronto to Fort Myers, Fla.

Toronto to Boston.

Toronto to Washington, D.C. (Reagan)

Toronto to Denver

Toronto to New York City (LaGuardia)

Montreal to Boston.

Montreal to LaGuardia.

Vancouver to Seattle.

Toronto to Bogotá, Colombia.

Toronto to Dubai.

Toronto to São Paulo, Brazil.

Toronto to Hong Kong.

Toronto to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Montreal to Bogotá, Colombia.

Vancouver to London, U.K.

Vancouver to Tokyo (Narita).

Toronto to Dublin, Ireland.

"Affected customers with bookings will be contacted with options, including alternate routings," Air Canada said.

Calgary-based independent airline analyst Rick Erickson, who has no financial relationship with Air Canada, called the news "another serious, serious blow to Canada's air carrier sector."

Air Transat temporarily shutting down, other airlines offer refunds amid new pandemic measures

The job cuts mean that Air Canada has essentially cut its workforce in half, from roughly 40,000 people before the pandemic to about 20,000 today. WestJet has cut even deeper, he says, from 14,000 workers before to only about 3,500 today.

Erickson says he was more surprised by the route suspensions, because they are not all to the U.S. and Caribbean sun destinations that new travel rules targeted.

Air Canada pulling out of those routes won't do much to limit travel, because foreign airlines will likely maintain their service.

"The situation is dire," he said. "The air carriers have had no choice but to continue to make cuts."

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 6:09:33 PM
   of 117
 
POLITICS

Self-employed Canadians caught in CERB confusion won’t have to repay, Trudeau says

The federal government will no longer require self-employed Canadians to pay back thousands of dollars in emergency benefits if they were among those who became ineligible due to confusion over how the program defined income.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit was the largest support program for workers who suddenly lost almost all their income due to the pandemic. It was open to Canadians who had earned at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months or in the 2019 calendar year.

The CERB paid $2,000 a month over seven months, for a total maximum benefit of $14,000.

COVID-19 news: Updates and essential resources about the pandemic

In recent months, some self-employed Canadians said they were being told to repay their CERB money because they did not meet the $5,000 income threshold. The issue was that some had understood the threshold to mean gross income – before taxes or other deductions – but if the government used net income, they would fall below the threshold.

The Canada Revenue Agency has previously acknowledged that some explanations on its website and through CRA call centres “were unclear in the first days after the CERB was launched,” adding, “We regret that this lack of consistent clarity led some self-employed individuals to mistakenly apply to the CERB dispute being ineligible.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the individuals in this situation will not have to pay back the benefit as long as they had $5,000 in gross income.

“For people who accessed CERB based on their gross income instead of their net income, as long as you met the other eligibility criteria, you will not have to return those CERB payments,” he said.

He also announced that the government would be providing one year without interest on certain 2020 tax debt, which would give people more flexibility to repay amounts. He said this will be available to individuals who received federal emergency benefits such as the CERB and earned as much as $75,000 in taxable income.

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 6:10:22 PM
   of 117
 
BUSINESS NEWS

FEBRUARY 09, 2021 / 12:32 PM

Canada plans hydropower push as Biden looks to clean up U.S. grid

CALGARY, Alberta/ MONTREAL, (Reuters) - Canada sees an opportunity in U.S. President Joe Biden’s push to achieve a carbon-free electrical grid by 2035: hydropower exports.

With Canadian crude exports taking a hit from Biden’s decision to scrap the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Ottawa is increasingly focused on sales of clean energy.

Around 60% of the 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed in the United States in 2019 came from fossil fuels, government data show. Biden’s push to convert that to clean energy gives Canada, the world’s third-largest producer of hydropower, a window to sell more hydro exports to its southern neighbour.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Reuters last week the United States is interested in boosting hydro imports. In a separate interview Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said combining Canada’s clean energy with U.S. wind, solar and geothermal power was a priority for early talks between the two countries.

“We do think that’s a big economic opportunity,” Wilkinson told Reuters.

A White House spokesman, asked about Canadian hydro exports, said the new administration is “leaving no sources of renewable energy off the table.”

Canada generated about 440 billion kilowatt-hours from hydropower in 2020, just over half its maximum installed capacity. Canada’s electricity exports to United States dropped in 2019 to a six-year low of 47 billion kilowatt-hours, worth C$1.9 billion ($1.5 billion), influenced by factors like water levels and domestic demand, Canada Energy Regulator specialist Matthew Hansen said.

While a massive U.S. effort to build renewable energy infrastructure might meet Biden’s targets, an interconnected grid and sharing resources with neighbouring countries would keep energy more affordable, said Steve Clemmer, director of energy research and analysis with the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Having the hydro from Canada gives some more flexibility to control costs,” Clemmer said.

POWER STORAGE

Hydro Quebec, Canada’s largest electricity producer, has already been working to advance two new high-voltage lines to neighbouring New England and New York.

“We share Prime Minister Trudeau’s optimism and we are enthused by President Biden’s commitment....as we believe HQ can play a major role in our neighbours’ decarbonisation efforts, at the lowest cost possible to rate payers,” said Hydro Quebec spokeswoman Lynn St-Laurent.

When more renewable energy comes online, power storage facilities that Canada’s reservoirs provide to the U.S. grid should become even more valuable, experts said, noting reservoirs can function like giant batteries. When demand is low but the sun is shining or wind is whipping, the power generated can pump water for release later to run a turbine when electricity is needed.

“There’s this version of Canadian hydro not only being firm (capacity) but being something like a battery. That’s the big picture informing the vision of some policymakers,” said Justin Gundlach, senior attorney at the New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

Potential problems include integration of cross-border grids. Local communities often object to efforts to build more high-voltage transmission lines. Another worry: provincial utilities may be leery of long construction times for power projects and lack of finalised U.S. clean energy regulations.

Hydro Quebec’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect project has secured state and federal permits but could face a fall referendum. Opponents, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, argue it will displace U.S. clean energy projects at a time when Biden is touting domestic production.

“We hope that facts, science and trust in the robust regulatory review of the project will prevail,” Hydro Quebec’s St-Laurent said, adding other projects would not reduce emissions on the same scale as quickly.

($1 = 1.2751 Canadian dollars)

Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Denny Thomas and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

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From: Joachim K2/9/2021 6:11:11 PM
   of 117
 
MARKET NEWS

The close: TSX ends at record high as pot stocks, Shopify surge

The Canadian stock market closed at another record high Tuesday, extending its winning streak to seven days, even as the benchmark U.S. stock index ended with a slight loss.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed up 78.36 points, or 0.43%, at 18,408.62. Cannabis shares surged, pushing the health-care index up just over 8%. The tech sector also had a strong session on the back of Shopify, which spiked 6.11% to its highest price ever.

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq extended a winning streak to seven straight days but the broad market closed slightly lower as investors rotated out of large-cap tech names into other sectors seen as benefiting from President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq hit an all-time high for the fifth consecutive session on early gains in Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Google-parent Alphabet Inc, which later turned lower amid a shift in portfolio allocations.

The NYSE FANG+TM index, which includes Facebook Inc, Netflix Inc and Tesla Inc, rose to an all-time high.

With the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases falling and expectations the stimulus package will be approved in Congress, investors are hard-pressed to find significant negatives, said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“You’re not seeing money coming out of the market and going into cash,” James said. “You’re seeing money coming out of one sector and being rotated into another sector to maintain an overall long bias.”

Largely upbeat corporate earnings, along with monetary and fiscal support, have powered the major U.S. stock indexes to record highs. But analysts caution the new COVID variants and any glitches in vaccine rollouts could sour positive sentiment.

“The backdrop is largely positive for stocks and I’m not sure there could be a better backdrop for risk assets in the near to intermediate term,” said William Herrmann, co-founder and managing partner at Wilshire Phoenix in New York City.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10.72 points, or 0.03%, to 31,375.04, the S&P 500 lost 4.3 points, or 0.11%, to 3,911.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 20.06 points, or 0.14%, to 14,007.70.

The energy sector, among those that led the recent rally, slipped a bit, while communication services rose.

Data last week showing slower-than-expected jobs growth in the labor market underscored the need for more government aid to blunt the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden has said.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate continue to try to find a way to include a minimum wage increase in a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill they aim to advance in the coming weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

Toymaker Mattel Inc rose, while telephone equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc slipped ahead of reporting earnings after market close.

Analysts forecast a fourth-quarter S&P earnings gain of about 2.5%, a stark reversal from the 10.3% annual decline seen at the beginning of the year, per Refinitiv.

Gucci lipstick maker Coty Inc tumbled as weak demand for makeup products wiped millions off its quarterly revenue.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc fell after the videogame publisher posted a drop in quarterly adjusted sales and shied away from announcing any new big releases.

Bitcoin fast approached the $50,000-mark as the afterglow of Elon Musk-led Tesla’s TSLA.O investment in the cryptocurrency had investors reckoning it may become a mainstream asset class for both corporations and money managers.

Cryptocurrency miner Riot Blockchain and Marathon Patent Group extended sharp gains for the second day, but Tesla’s shares dropped.

Oil prices rose for their seventh straight session of gains, touching 13-month highs as investors kept betting that fuel demand will rise while OPEC and allied producers keep a lid on supply.

Brent settled up 53 cents, or 0.9%, to $61.06 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) for March was at $58.36 a barrel, up 39 cents or 0.7%.

The session peaks for both benchmarks were the highest since January 2020.

“With Brent over $60, it’s been great psychologically ... and everyone is feeling bullish about stronger demand and global inventories in further decline,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

The markets have rallied since November as COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed worldwide, and as governments and central banks deploy huge stimulus packages to boost economic activity.

Top exporter Saudi Arabia is curbing supply in February and March, on top of cuts by fellow producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, prompting forecasts of a supply deficit this year.

“The Saudis’ intent to eliminate a global supply surplus appears to be on track and capable of boosting crude prices further,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

Read more: Stocks that saw action Tuesday - and why

Reuters, Globe staff

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From: Joachim K2/10/2021 11:47:30 AM
   of 117
 
More death, more deficit: The dire consequences of Canada's botched vaccine procurement

It is now clear that Canada is dramatically behind the rest of the developed world in immunizing its citizens against COVID-19.

One quarter of Israel is now fully vaccinated, and the U.K. has administered 13 million doses. But in Canada, procurement issues and late deliveries have effectively stalled our vaccination program after only one million doses; roughly the amount of shots that the United States administers every 16 hours. It’s now estimated that Canada will not achieve widespread vaccine coverage until mid-2022, nearly six months after the same goal will have been met by the United States, the U.K. and the E.U.

More than any typical policy oversight, Canada’s failure to secure timely vaccines will have a measurable effect on the lives and well-being of its citizens. Each day spent waiting for vaccines is another day of lockdowns, another day of hospitalizations and another day of COVID-19 fatalities. The next 12 months of COVID-19 could take any number of twists and turns, but the National Post assembled a very rough accounting of what it will cost Canada to endure this pandemic longer than almost any other country with similar wealth and resources.

Every month this pandemic continues, hundreds of Canadians can be expected to die

If Canada did nothing and allowed this disease to simply spread unchecked, it’s conceivable that in addition to the 21,000 already taken by COVID-19, another 46,000 Canadians could ultimately be killed. Some public health researchers suggest that if left unchecked, COVID-19 could start to fizzle out on its own after infecting 66 per cent of a population.

If this happened to Canada, it would mean 24.8 million total cases. Given that the World Health Organization now estimates that COVID-19 has a fatality rate of 0.27%, this would mean 67,000 total Canadian deaths. And given new evidence that unchecked COVID-19 can actually infect up to 76 per cent of a population, that number could potentially be higher still.

The pandemic models at the University of Washington are a bit less grim, but nevertheless have forecast that Canada will reach just under 30,000 deaths by June 1. Notably, when that same model made projections for Canada in September, their death count proved to be an underestimate.

Since COVID-19 first led to widespread lockdowns across Canada, an average of 1,900 people have died from the disease every month. That’s a figure that applies even to the six months since Sept. 1, when Canada had established widespread masking, social distancing, care home quarantines and advanced hospital treatments. If Canada is still being ravaged by community spread at a time when the virus has been crushed in the U.S. and U.K., it would probably be an overestimate to say that it would kill as many as 1,900 per month, but it’s easy to see how the death count could remain in the hundreds.

Right now, Canada appears to be on the tail end of its second wave of COVID-19. After a January 26 peak of 165 deaths, that figure has gone down each day until, on Monday, only 68 Canadians succumbed to the virus. If this trend continues, Canada could soon be back where it was in the summer with single-digit daily fatality rates. But the question now is whether Canada will be hit with a third wave. Experts with the COVID Strategic Choices Group estimate that, under current conditions, that wave could be underway by late-March.

Each day under lockdown costs us at least $500 million

Most of the economic damage caused by COVID-19 has come from government-imposed lockdowns. So it’s not a given that as vaccinations progress, lockdowns will cease: Any number of political or epidemiological factors could yield a world where vaccinated populations still live under some form of quarantine order.

Nevertheless, a Queen’s University team led by economist Christopher Cotton has attempted to quantify what continued lockdowns do to the Canadian economy. They’ve estimated that COVID lockdowns have imposed a hit on Canada’s economy of between eight and 14 per cent. Given that Canadian GDP was $2.2 trillion in 2019, this roughly represents a hit of between $176 billion and $308 billion. Or, between $500 million and $850 million in missing revenue every day.

At the same time, government spending has been sent into the stratosphere by the pandemic. COVID-19 has shattered the economic records of even countries relatively unaffected by the pandemic, such as New Zealand. Still, in relative terms Canada has spent more than anyone else, and accumulated more debt to cover it. For 2020, the accumulated cost of COVID-19 emergency aid was expected to top out at $382 billion.

Recent months have seen the curbing of some of these costs, such as the end of CERB, but regardless, even when averaged across an entire year, Canada has easily been able to spend at least $1 billion per day on pandemic relief. Another six months of that, and it’s easy to imagine that the additional cost could easily match the $55 billion deficit that Canada ran up in all of 2008/2009, the worst year of the last great recession.

More time unvaccinated means more time for new variants to form

This is the most speculative result of a prolonged vaccination delay in Canada, but we do know that if given time COVID-19 will mutate into variants that are harder to contain. So far, three known COVID-19 variants have spontaneously cropped up in South Africa, the U.K. and Brazil.

In countries with reliable vaccine procurement, these new variants have provided public health officials with an added impetus to step-up vaccinations to deny the new strains a place to spread. The more time that Canadians spend unvaccinated, the more time these variants have a chance to take root and complicate the country’s efforts to crush its spread. And with every extra infection providing its own infinitesimal risk of a new spontaneous mutation, it’s not impossible that Canada could be combating its own home-grown variant.

Email: thopper@postmedia.com| Twitter: TristinHopper

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