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Ontario to release ‘stark’ COVID-19 projections Friday

Ontario to release ‘stark’ COVID-19 projections Friday

Premier Doug Ford promising a ‘sobering discussion’ about the coronavirus

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is pictured during a press briefing at the Ontario Legislature. Ford promised Thursday to release his government’s projections on COVID-19 death rates. He said the data would be ‘sobering.’ (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Provincial health experts are expected to provide a briefing Friday on modelling projections for the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Premier Doug Ford promised health officials would explain “where this could go.” Ford said the people of the province “deserve to see” the same data about the pandemic that he sees.

“People are going to see some really stark figures,” Ford said.

“It’s going to be a real sobering discussion.”

Matthew Anderson, the head of Ontario Health, Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto’s public health department, and Dr. Peter Donnelly, who heads Public Health Ontario, will hold a news conference to explain the models. CBC news will stream that briefing live starting at around 12 p.m. E.T.

Most ICU beds full

The number of available intensive care beds in certain parts of the Greater Toronto Area is rapidly shrinking as the number of COVID-19 patients surges higher, according to data obtained by CBC News.

Just 13 critical care beds remain available among the 153 ICU beds in the hospitals of the Central Local Health Integration Network, which includes Mackenzie Richmond Hill, Markham Stouffville, Southlake, Humber River, and North York General hospitals. 

Those hospitals are caring for 28 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 — double the number they were four days earlier.  

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

After the crisis, what kind of world do we want? Post-apocalyptic novels hold lessons — and warnings

After the crisis, what kind of world do we want? Post-apocalyptic novels hold lessons — and warnings

‘Art gives me hope. Will we take those values, that hope, and use them to imagine a better collective future?’

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road.(Dimension Films)

I had planned to write a totally different column this month. I had the idea, the books. I’d started doing the research. Due to COVID-19 forcing me and so many others to stay at home and inside, I had the time.

But, also due to COVID-19, I didn’t have the inclination to continue doing any of it. For over a week now I’ve felt paralyzed, as though I’ve been watching my friends and family members move through a slow motion horror movie. I imagine a lot of people have felt that way over the past few days, weeks and/or months, depending on how deep into this global pandemic they are. With each passing day it has become clearer that life as we’d once known it is ending before our very eyes. Each day I’ve scrolled mindlessly through social media, waiting for the latest news story that might give some sort of discernible shape to our increasingly uncertain collective future.

There have been daily news conferences and updates. There has been emergency legislation introduced and passed. There have been restrictions on how many people can gather in one place, which businesses are allowed to remain open, and how they must operate if they do. It’s suggested that everyone stay in their homes, provided they have homes; that if you do have to go outside, you remain a certain distance away from others.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How bad will Canada’s COVID-19 recession be?

How bad will Canada’s COVID-19 recession be?

2 million jobs could be at stake, and the economy could shrink by more than it did in 2009

Stock markets have been waylaid by the virus as the global economy slows to a crawl. This NYSE trader has watched as the Dow Jones has lost more than a third of its value in the past month. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

The black swan has landed. 

The novel coronavirus pandemic is well underway worldwide, but it wasn’t until this month that Canadians started coming to grips with the economic pain it can bring, in addition to its heavy human toll.

Economists are struggling to come up with best guesses as to what might be coming. There’s still a lot that they — and we — don’t know. But the picture they’re painting for Canada’s financial future is already bleak.

GDP could significantly contract

At a minimum, the Conference Board of Canada is assuming that most industries across the country will be essentially shut down for at least six weeks.

If they take an optimistic view and assume that’s enough to contain the outbreak, even that short term pain will make a major dent in the country’s total output, a metric known as the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

Should this relatively mild scenario come to pass, Canada’s economy would eke out a tiny 0.3 per cent growth for 2020 as a whole as things ramp up in the latter half of the year. That’s far from booming — Canada’s economy grew by 1.6 per cent last year, for example — but it’s preferable to other alternatives.

Retail workers have been laid off in droves this month as lockdowns have caused a dramatic reduction in demand for the consumer goods they sell. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do electric cars take more CO2 to build than they save?

Do electric cars take more CO2 to build than they save?

EVs take a lot of CO2 to manufacture but should save more over a lifetime of use

Electric vehicles generate about 25 per cent more CO2 than the manufacture of gasoline powered vehicles largely die to the massive lithium batteries. (Getty images)

Listen 2:33 (click on above link to listen)

This week’s question comes to us from John Stinner in Prince George, B.C. He asks:

Do electric car batteries take more CO2 to make than they save?

Olivier Trescases, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Toronto suggests that this is a very important question to answer given the projected increase in the use of electric vehicles in the coming years.

Trescases says there has been research to suggest that the amount of CO2 produced by the manufacture of an electric vehicle is 25 per cent greater than that generated in the manufacture of a gasoline vehicle.

The difference is largely due to the massive lithium battery required to power the vehicle.

In terms of CO2 emissions from driving, EV-related emissions depend on where the electricity comes from. In the United States, even considering the various sources of electricity, the total emission of CO2 over the lifetime of the vehicle is still 50 per cent less than the emissions from a gasoline-powered car.

In the future, that number will increase as more electricity is generated from wind and solar power.

As well, lithium batteries are likely to become smaller and more efficient, and will therefore generate less CO2.

‘Clean’ natural gas is actually the new coal, report says: Don Pittis

‘Clean’ natural gas is actually the new coal, report says: Don Pittis

Global investment of more than $1 trillion in planned LNG plants at risk

Employees work next to tanks for liquefied natural gas at a factory in Xian, China in June. China is a prime customer in a worldwide LNG expansion. (Reuters)

There’s no question that when you burn it, methane, the main component of natural gas, is much cleaner than coal.

With that in mind, you might think a newly released report titled The New Gas Boom should be cause for celebration.

Instead, the fresh analysis from Global Energy Monitor, a group well known in energy circles for keeping track of coal plant construction in Asia, sounds a warning, not just for the climate but for investors in what it calculates as a risky $1.3 trillion US worth of global gas infrastructure.

Effectively, the report warns that rather than being an environment-friendly product that can help solve our climate problems, gas is the new coal.

The explosion in spending on planned new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities — the vast majority in the U.S. and Canada — combined with new calculations for leakage from the LNG supply chain called fugitive gas — means the world may soon turn against gas in the same way it turned against its solid fuel relative.

“New studies have shown there is significantly more fugitive gas than studies showed five years ago, and the gas is also a bigger contributor to climate change than was understood,” said James Browning, one of the report’s authors.

A 34,000-ton heavy lift vessel carries barges for LNG Canada completing pre-construction work at Kitimat, B.C., last fall to prepare the port for larger vessels once the new $40-billion natural gas export facility is constructed.(YouTube/LNG Canada)

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with the chorus of Western countries supporting Canada’s protestations against the “arbitrary,” and “politically motivated” death sentence imposed by a Chinese court on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Pompeo’s “recognition of the principle that we are speaking about.” She argues that the application of the death sentence to a Canadian national in this case is “inhumane”, and represents a, “way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, echoed Freeland’s cry of victory for having won US support. “I hope they continue to back Canada in this particular dispute,” MacNaughton said.

Yet, isn’t it strange that Canada would call on support from the United States in its appeal for clemency in the Shellenberg case? The United States has executed 48 persons in the past 2 years, and drug offences are a capital crime under federal law, and in the states of Florida and Missouri. In fact, President Trump has recently called for more use of the death penalty to punish drug trafficking:

“My department of Justice will be seeking much tougher penalties for the big pushers, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty.”

No wonder the Chinese government has so easily dismissed Canadian objections as“staging the play of a thief crying “stop the thief!”

Canadian self-righteousness in the current dispute with China is also troublesome given its starting point with a notoriously corrupt extradition process, according to which Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the U.S.

The CBC reported in May 2018 that legal challenges face the specialized division of the Canadian Department of Justice responsible for extradition – known as the International Assistance Group (IAG).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Vancouver Housing Starts Flash Red As Chart Rolls Over

Canadian housing construction starts slowed in August, coming in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 200,986 vs. 205,751 in July – missing expectations of 210,300, according to CBC

The decrease came as the annual pace of urban starts fell 2.5 per cent to 184,925 units. Starts of urban multiple-unit projects such as condos, apartments and townhouses fell 2.4 per cent to 132,700 units in August while single-detached urban starts fell 2.6 per cent to 52,225 units. –CBC

“The national trend in housing starts continued to decline in August from the historical peak that was recorded in March 2018,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC chief economist. “This moderation brings total starts closer to historical averages, largely reflecting recent declines in the trend of multi-unit starts from historically elevated levels earlier in the year.”

Of note, housing starts are in Metro Vancouver are slowing to a greater extent, falling 4% from its March 2018 peak, according to Steve Saretsky of the VanCity Condo Guide.

A slowdown in housing starts suggests homebuilders perceive risks ahead or simply can’t make new projects feasible due to elevated land prices and construction costs, which is typical at this stage of the cycle. This does not bode well for future economic growth considering housing and the consumption that goes along with it (renovations, furniture, etc) are a big driver of the economy. In Canada, household consumption and residential investment as a percentage of real GDP is nearly 65%. –VanCity Condo Guide

Saretsky notes that a rebound in housing starts seems unlikely “given how extended this current expansion is,” while the labor market is at capacity and rising interest rates should cause investors to reduce exposure considering that Vancouver home sales are at a 17-year low.

Instead, the construction industry is working at a frantic pace to complete existing units. Housing under construction in Metro Vancouver ticked upwards to a new record high in August- hitting a staggering 43,684 units. well above annual population growth of 30,000. –VanCity Condo Guide

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The hidden power of food: Finding value in what we eat

Ideas
Project Manager Adrianne Lickers and her mom Kitty R. Lynn Lickers run Our Sustenance, a community garden, greenhouse and farmers’ market at Six Nations of the Grand River. (Filmed and edited by Stephen Daag www.stephendagg.com)

In Canada we waste about a third of the food we produce. And yet four million Canadians experience food insecurity. In partnership with the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, we hear from Dawn Morrison whose work focuses on Indigenous food sovereignty and Bryan Gilvesy, a long-horn cattle rancher who puts sustainability first. Part 2 of a 2-part series.

“If you can feed yourself, if you can grow your own food and gather your own food, that gives you the power to be self-governing. There’s an inherent power to know you are safe.” — Kitty R. Lynn Lickers, Six Nations of the Grand River.

Beyond the basic nutrients and calories we ingest, there’s a hidden power behind the foods we consume.

Dawn Morrison has been working with Indigenous communities across the country for the past decade to understand concepts around Indigenous food systems and food sovereignty. One of the things that comes up repeatedly as a theme is the power of food in fostering relationships.

“We’ve never stopped observing the deep understanding of the way we relate to the food and one another,” says Dawn Morrison. “That power — that’s the basis of our economy. Ours is a giving economy. In ecology there’s a reciprocal relationship. It starts with giving to the land.”

The power of that reciprocal relationship is something that long-horn cattle rancher Bryan Gilvesyidentifies with.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“This Could Be Huge”: Gold Bar Certified By Royal Canadian Mint Exposed As Fake

“This Could Be Huge”: Gold Bar Certified By Royal Canadian Mint Exposed As Fake

The last time there was a widespread physical gold counterfeiting scare was in the summer of 2012 when as we reported the discovery of a single 10 oz Tungsten-filled gold bar in Manhattan’s jewelry district led to a panic among the dealer community, which then resulted in local jewelry outlets discovering at least ten more fake 10-ounce “gold bars” filled with Tungsten. Fast forward to today when a similar instance of gold counterfeiting has been discovered, this time in Canada, and where the fake bar in question had been “certified” by the highest possible authority.

According to CBC, the Royal Canadian Mint is investigating how a sealed, “pure gold” wafer with proper mint stampings has emerged as a fake. According to the Canadian press, the one-ounce gold piece, which was supposed to be 99.99% pure, was purchased by an Ottawa jeweller on Oct. 18 at a Royal Bank of Canada branch. The problem emerged when tests of the bar showed it may contain no gold at all.And, when neither the mint nor RBC would take the bar back, jeweler Samuel Tang contacted CBC news.


Joy Creations owner Samuel Tang contacted CBC News when neither RBC nor the

mint would take back the one-ounce gold piece he’d purchased.

“Who is going to make sure those [gold wafers] are real?” asked Tang. “I am worried there are more of those [gold wafers] out there, and no one knows.”

Following the news, RBC felt an obligation to pick up the bar and returned it to the mint for testing, refunding Tang the $1,680 purchase price.

The Royal Canadian Mint said in a statement to CBC it is in process of testing the bar, “although the appearance of the wafer and its packaging already suggests that it is not a genuine Royal Canadian Mint product.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Toronto homeowners cash out of hot real estate market amid uncertainty

Toronto homeowners cash out of hot real estate market amid uncertainty

Agent says some buyers are delaying purchases in anticipation of possible fixes

Many buyers and sellers are waiting to see what will come of Tuesday's scheduled meeting between Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who are expected to discuss ways to rein in Toronto's hot housing market.

Many buyers and sellers are waiting to see what will come of Tuesday’s scheduled meeting between Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who are expected to discuss ways to rein in Toronto’s hot housing market. (The Canadian Press)

Sarah Blakely recalls feeling some trepidation when she and her husband shelled out more than $300,000 for a modest 1 1/2-storey house in a less-desirable part of Toronto.

Seven years later, they found themselves on the right side of a hot housing market, with values tripling in a ‘hood suddenly considered up-and-coming for young families seeking detached homes.

They recently sold that renovated three-bedroom for more than $1 million and now expect to live mortgage-free in a four-bedroom purchase in their hometown of Ottawa.

The 34-year-old says it made sense to cash out of a city that was draining their finances, energy and family time.

“My husband and I saw an opportunity to take advantage of the recent gains in real estate and to move to a less expensive city to live mortgage-free, support our savings for retirement and also to be closer to family,” says Blakely, whose new home has nearly twice the square footage.

Home Sales 20170410

A sold sign is shown in front of a west-end Toronto home. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)

And they may have taken action at just the right time.

Blakely’s real estate agent Josie Stern says the market appears to be cooling, and doubts Blakely could fetch that same jackpot sale today.

“A little bit of air has been let out of the bubble,” she says.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

CIBC CEO explains why bank is replacing Canadian staff with workers from India

CIBC CEO explains why bank is replacing Canadian staff with workers from India

CEO Victor Dodig acknowledges that ‘outsourcing isn’t a popular decision’

CIBC CEO Victor Dodig sent a memo to staff on Friday to explain why the bank sometimes needs to outsource work to other countries.

CIBC CEO Victor Dodig sent a memo to staff on Friday to explain why the bank sometimes needs to outsource work to other countries. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

CIBC’s CEO issued an internal staff memo Friday to address a CBC News story revealing that the bank is eliminating up to 130 Toronto finance jobs and outsourcing the work to India.

The article, which ran on Thursday, generated more than 2,000 comments on the CBC News site — many of them taking a negative view of CIBC’s decision to send the jobs overseas.

“I understand that outsourcing isn’t a popular decision,” wrote CEO Victor Dodig in the memo to employees. “It’s an emotional topic that I don’t want to shy away from because that’s not the culture that we have.”

The story only came to light because some CIBC workers facing layoffs complained to CBC News. They were particularly upset that they have to train other local CIBC employees who then train the workers in India who will be taking over the jobs.

“It feels like no one cares for us,” said one employee.

It’s not about the money

In his memo, Dodig laid out why the bank sometimes outsources jobs to other countries. Some affected employees said they believe CIBC is doing it in this case to save money — at a time when the bank had pulled in $1.4 billion in profit in the last quarter.

“It’s not as simple as you may read that it’s about cutting jobs or costs,” wrote Dodig. He said that outsourcing complements the work done by CIBC staff by helping manage peaks in demand, ensuring work can be done around the clock and helping the bank adapt to changing business needs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Liberals to announce marijuana will be legal by July 1, 2018

Liberals to announce marijuana will be legal by July 1, 2018

Provinces will have right to decide how marijuana is distributed and sold, CBC News has learned

CBC News has learned that the federal government will announce the week of April 10 that new legislation will make the sale of marijuana legal by July 1, 2018.

CBC News has learned that the federal government will announce the week of April 10 that new legislation will make the sale of marijuana legal by July 1, 2018. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government will announce legislation next month that will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018.

CBC News has learned that the legislation will be announced during the week of April 10 and will broadly follow the recommendation of a federally appointed task force that was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who has been stickhandling the marijuana file for the government, briefed the Liberal caucus on the roll-out plan and the legislation during caucus meetings this weekend, according to a senior government official who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity.

Blair Marijuana 20160224

Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, briefed the Liberal caucus on new marijuana legislation, which leaves the provinces to decide how marijuana is distributed and sold, according to a senior government official. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Provinces to control sales

The federal government will be in charge of making sure the country’s marijuana supply is safe and secure and Ottawa will license producers.

But the provinces will have the right to decide how the marijuana is distributed and sold. Provincial governments will also have the right to set price.

While Ottawa will set a minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana, the provinces will have the option of setting a higher age limit if they wish.

4 plants per household

As for Canadians who want to grow their own marijuana, they will be limited to four plants per household.

Legalizing marijuana was one of the more controversial promises Justin Trudeau made as he campaigned to become prime minister.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“We Are All Doing It”: Thousands Of Canadian Bankers Admit Lying To Customers To Boost Sales

“We Are All Doing It”: Thousands Of Canadian Bankers Admit Lying To Customers To Boost Sales

Several days after shares of Canada’s TD Bank tumbled following reports that its employees were engaging in practices similar to those which led to a major scandal at Wells Fargo, which cost CEO John Stumpf his job and led to bonus clawbacks and numerous terminations over the practice of “cross-selling”, employees from all five of Canada’s big banks have flooded CBC’s “Go Public” whistleblower hotline with stories of how they too feel pressured to upsell, trick and even lie to customers to meet unrealistic sales targets and keep their jobs.

In nearly 1,000 emails, employees from RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD and Scotiabank locations across Canada describe the pressures to hit targets that are monitored weekly, daily and in some cases hourly.  “Management is down your throat all the time,” said a Scotiabank financial adviser. “They want you to hit your numbers and it doesn’t matter how.”

The deluge is fuelling multiple calls for a parliamentary inquiry similar to that which followed the Wells Fargo revelations, even as the banks claim they’re acting in customers’ best interests, CBC reported, adding it has agreed to protect their identities because the workers are concerned about current and future employment.

Some examples:

An RBC teller from Thunder Bay, Ont., said even when customers don’t need or want anything, “we need to upgrade their Visa card, increase their Visa limits or get them to open up a credit line.” “It’s not what’s important to our clients anymore,” she said. “The bank wants more and more money. And it’s leading everyone into debt.”

A CIBC teller said, “I am expected to aggressively sell products, especially Visa. Hit those targets, who cares if it’s hurting customers.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Royal Dutch Shell signs deals to sell oilsands assets

Royal Dutch Shell signs deals to sell oilsands assets

Anglo-Dutch energy giant shedding interests in Athabasca, Peace River and other leases

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the deals revealed Thursday are are a 'significant step' in re-shaping Shell's portfolio in line with its long-term strategy.

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the deals revealed Thursday are are a ‘significant step’ in re-shaping Shell’s portfolio in line with its long-term strategy. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

​Royal Dutch Shell says it has signed two agreements to sell its undeveloped oilsands interests in Canada for a net consideration of US$7.25 billion.

Under the first agreement, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant will reduce its 60 per cent interest in the the Athabasca Oil Sands Project to 10 per cent and sell its 100 per cent interest in the Peace River Complex in-situ assets, including Carmon Creek, and a number of undeveloped oilsands leases in Alberta to a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Shell says it would remain the operator of the project’s Scotford upgrader and Quest carbon capture and storage project. Canadian Natural would be expected to operate Athabasca’s upstream mining assets.

Shell says the deal is worth approximately US$8.5 billion ($11.1 billion Cdn), comprised of $5.4 billion in cash plus around 98 million Canadian Natural shares currently valued at $3.1 billion.

Under the second agreement, which is also subject to regulatory approvals, Shell and Canadian Natural will jointly acquire and own Marathon Oil Canada Corp., which holds a 20 per cent interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, for $1.25 billion each.

The transactions are expected to close in mid-2017, subject to regulatory approvals.

“These assets are an excellent fit for Canadian Natural, a highly experienced oil sands developer,” said Shell Canada president Michael Crothers in a release.

‘Significant step’

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said the deals are a “significant step” in re-shaping Shell’s portfolio in line with its long-term strategy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Conference Board sees modest economic growth in 2017

Conference Board sees modest economic growth in 2017

Alberta expected to lead all provinces in economic growth this year

Retail sales activity is expected to cool this year and next, the Conference Board of Canada says.

Retail sales activity is expected to cool this year and next, the Conference Board of Canada says. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The national economy should see a slight pick-up this year, the Conference Board of Canada said in a new report out Thursday.

The independent research group said it sees overall growth of 1.9 per cent this year, up from the 1.3 per cent it expects will be reported for last year.

“The plunge in energy investment is expected to slow and we should finally see a resurgence in non-energy investment,” the Conference Board said.

“Canadian exports are also expected to fare a little better as the U.S. economy picks up speed and the Canadian dollar remains weak,” the group said, but added that exports levels will still remain low by historical standards.

Federal stimulus spending is expected to give a boost to national economic growth, although provincial belt-tightening is forecast to offset some of that.

Looking ahead to 2018, “dismal” business investment levels and slowing labour force growth mean it is unlikely there will be any acceleration in GDP growth, they said.

Retail sector seen cooling

The group said that consumer spending has been a “bright spot” in the economy, seeing increases in recent years despite weak job growth in some provinces and  soft wage gain.

“However, the ability to sustain these increases will be limited by the run-up in household debt over the last several years,” they said.

The Conference Board sees retail sales growth cooling from 3.8 per cent in 2016 to 2.9 per cent this year and down to 1.9 per cent in 2018.

The soft economic growth expected for this year and next mean the Bank of Canada is expected to hold off boosting interest rates until 2018.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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