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As economy falters, restaurateurs look back at oil boom that gave rise to fine dining – CBC.ca

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It was 2012 and times were good in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Oil was flowing offshore, and expensive bottles of wine were flowing in restaurants around St. John’s.

Jeremy Bonia remembers the days when a barrel of oil sold for $120, and a bottle of wine could easily fetch more.

“I mean, we were doing well,” he said with a smirk while standing in front of his restaurant, Raymonds, on Water Street in St. John’s.

The booming economy paved the way for new possibilities on the city’s food scene — high end dining for people with money to spend, and corporations looking to impress potential clients.

There was as much business being done at the dinner table as the boardroom table, and people like Bonia used the influx of riches to build their dream restaurants.

Those places are empty now, as a pandemic and plummeting oil prices have wreaked havoc on the already fragile economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bonia and co-owner Jeremy Charles were forced this spring to lay off about 100 staff members between Raymonds and their other restaurant, The Merchant Tavern, with no idea if or when they could bring everyone back.

Everything is changing

High-end restaurants depend on tourism to make money in the summer months, and are kept afloat throughout the offseason by major industry players, like oil and gas companies.

But when it comes to the symbiotic relationship between oil and restaurants, most of the damage was done before the world knew about COVID-19.

The riches of 2012 were followed by a crash at the end of 2014. The yearly average price for a barrel of oil plummeted from $98.97 to $53.03, and the big players on the Grand Banks started slashing.

“We started to see companies scale back either office sizes, or team sizes, and expense accounts as well,” Bonia said.

“Just the amount of meetings and physical people on the ground started to scale back quite a bit.”

Without a strong economy to prop up the restaurant industry throughout the offseason, Raymonds closed its doors for the winter this year. The decision was made before COVID-19 was on anybody’s radar.

In the historic Quidi Vidi Village, chef Todd Perrin knows all about the rise and fall of oil prices at Mallard Cottage.

Oil had been the catalyst to exploring the world of fine dining with traditional cuisine — places where concoctions of wild game and locally-sourced vegetables could fetch a pretty penny.

Todd Perrin, pictured in this file photo, cuts a cooked lobster at his restaurant, Mallard Cottage, in St. John’s. (Gary Locke/CBC)

“It made it possible to operate a restaurant and be able to pay the bills,” Perrin said. “At the beginning of my career, it was a tough market. When oil really hit, and St. John’s was full of people attached to the oil industry with expense accounts, it made a big, big difference.”

By the time the expense accounts shrunk, places like Raymonds and Mallard Cottage already had reputations bolstered by profiles in publications like The New York Times to help carry them through the leaner years. 

Those international awards and glowing reviews meant tourists were flocking to get in during the summer seasons.

Now, with no tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bonia said he knows they’ll have a hard time continuing the way they had for a decade.

While other restaurants are relying on locals eating out to keep them afloat, he said that’s not likely with a place like Raymonds — especially with more than 30,000 jobs lost in the province since March.

“Fine dining is a niche thing. It’s not something we expect people to come out and do once a week, once a month even,” he said. 

“Raymonds will definitely feel it more than other restaurants.”

How oil will affect the next generation of chefs

But it’s not just local restaurants that are feeling the effects of the downturn in oil.

Roger Andrews, an advanced cooking instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, said he can look at his students on the first day of class, and pick out the ones who aspire to be the next celebrity chef.

He makes it his goal to give them the advice they need to hone their skills, but to also open up their minds to more realistic pathways.

With a downturn in the economy, students can expect fewer restaurants taking people in for internships, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of options.

“Where they’re actually going to go is the big thing,” Andrews said.

“Perhaps we’re not teaching them for the restaurant setting as much as we would for the old age home.”

Roger Andrews is a chef and instructor of the advanced cooking program at College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Another perk of the offshore oil boom was an uptake in the college’s marine cooking program.

People that grew tired of working in the volatile world of restaurant kitchens were returning to upgrade their education and head offshore. Oil companies handed lucrative salaries to cooks, who were ditching meagre pay onshore to head out on the rigs and supply vessels in the North Atlantic.

“They have families, want something more stable, or they go chasing money,” Andrews said. 

“You’ve got big oil offering up someone $100,000 a year — people are going to take that.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore has lost at least one oil platform for up to two years, and public figures from the premier to the president of Memorial University have called on the federal government to support the industry to prevent further losses.

Andrews expects the restaurant industry will thin out, too, with the combination of pains being inflicted on the province from all sides — Muskrat Falls in the north, offshore oil in the east, and a lack of tourists entering the province from the west.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, where you have to be very unique, and interesting and different,” he said.

“I can foresee with a bit of a change in the economy, the number of those restaurants will have to drop down a little bit, unfortunately.”

Raymonds is a fine dining restaurant in downtown St. John’s. With executive chef Jeremy Charles and sommelier Jeremy Bonia at the helm, the restaurant has earned high praise on the global stage. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Jeremy Bonia hopes that won’t include Raymonds. To save his neck, he’s willing to alter the formula that made the restaurant a hit with critics around the world.

“We look forward to the day we can go back to what we were doing before,” he said.

“I’m sure we’ll open Raymonds, it just may be a different capacity, maybe as a different concept for a little bit.”

Bonia and Charles have had offers thrown at them before to leave behind their home province and start new ventures on the mainland, but they’ve resisted those — and Bonia said, they will resist more.

 “We’re not here for the weather and we’re not here for the money. We’re here because we love living here,” he said.

This coverage is part of Changing Course, a series of stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador that’s taking a closer look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting local industries and businesses, and how they’re adapting during these uncertain times to stay afloat.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Economy

Canada Supports Inclusive Growth Through Economic Recovery – Canada NewsWire

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OTTAWA, ON, July 9, 2020 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is committed to innovation and building a clean energy future. This commitment will be more important than ever as we begin to reopen the economy and plan our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, today participated in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit, the first IEA ministerial-level meeting entirely dedicated to the clean energy future. Minister O’Regan joined leaders from governments and industries around the world to discuss actions for sustainable recovery and clean energy technology innovation.

Minister O’Regan led a ministerial session on inclusive growth, which focused on placing people and communities at the heart of economic recovery and the long-term transition to a clean energy future. In recognition of the unprecedented and extensive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, he highlighted the importance of taking action to support workers and create the conditions for a more inclusive workforce.

Governments and industries alike have an opportunity to create more equitable and inclusive employment growth. Mobilizing the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, youth, racialized groups and Indigenous peoples, will be vital to the post-COVID-19 recovery and long-term economic growth.

Minister O’Regan also announced that Canada is leading the development of a reporting framework under the Equal by 30 initiative that will enable signatories to track and report on the concrete actions they are taking to close the gender gap across the energy sector. Led by Natural Resources Canada, Equal by 30 is a global campaign under the international Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Initiative, a joint effort by the Clean Energy Ministerial and the International Energy Agency to advance gender equality in the energy sector. To date, close to 150 organizations across the energy sector, including governments, companies and non-profit institutions, have taken the Equal by 30 pledge. 

The government remains committed to building a clean energy future that will not only support our natural resource sectors through this tough economic time but also grow the economy and create good jobs. 

Quotes

“Greater diversity and gender equality in the energy sector isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do. Through the Equal by 30 campaign, we are putting people at the centre of our clean energy future.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan 
Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

Associated Links

Equal by 30
Diversio

Follow us on Twitter: @NRCan (http://twitter.com/nrcan)

SOURCE Natural Resources Canada

For further information: Natural Resources Canada, Media Relations, 343-292-6100, [email protected]; Ian Cameron, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Natural Resources, 613-447-3488, [email protected]

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Economy

Ontario Expanding Access to the Modern Digital Economy – Government of Ontario News

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Application intake for broadband and cellular program opens today

The Ontario government is expanding access to reliable broadband and cellular service in underserved and unserved parts of the province. The application intake for the $150 million Improving Connectivity for Ontario program (ICON) opens today. This funding will help drive economic investment and job creation across the province, while allowing more people to work from home more efficiently, engage in online learning, and connect with family and friends.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 reinforced the need to improve access to reliable broadband and cellular service as more people work and learn from home in order to practice physical distancing,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. “By making these investments we will help to ensure every region in the province can participate in the modern digital economy, and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery.”    

Any areas across Ontario that do not meet the national standards for broadband speeds would be eligible for provincial funding. Up to 12 per cent of households in the province – mostly in rural, remote or northern areas – don’t have adequate broadband service, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Telecommunication service providers, municipalities, Indigenous communities and non-profits are invited to submit innovative proposals and lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The preliminary application deadline for the first intake of the ICON program is August 21, 2020.

The province’s investment of $150 million announced today is part of the $315 million Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This action plan has the potential to leverage up to $1 billion in partner funding for broadband infrastructure investments.

Quick Facts

  • On June 3, 2020, Ontario announced the ICON program, a multi-year plan which aims to support approved projects as early as 2021.
  • National standards for adequate broadband service are defined by speeds known as 50/10 (50 megabits per second download, and 10 megabits for upload).
  • Over the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve cellular access in eastern Ontario.
  • The Province is investing in the $190 million Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to bring high-speed broadband to 50,000 more homes and businesses across Southwestern Ontario.
  • Ontario has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity in Northern Ontario, such as a project that will connect five remote Matawa First Nations communities, seven broadband projects that will support rural and Indigenous communities, and the Next Generation Network Program.

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Economy

Stocks slump amid economy worries; gold remains strong – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Joe McDonald, The Associated Press


Published Thursday, July 9, 2020 5:56AM EDT


Last Updated Thursday, July 9, 2020 11:28AM EDT

NEW YORK – Stocks are slumping on Wall Street Thursday after a report suggested layoffs continue to ease up across the country, but also that the pace of improvements may be stalling.

The S&P 500 was 1.3% lower, as of 11 a.m. Eastern time, after erasing an earlier modest gain. Treasury yields fell, while the price of gold hung close to its highest level since 2011 in signs of continued caution in the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 468 points, or 1.8%, at 25,598. Smaller stocks were dropping more than the rest of the market, which often happens when investors are downgrading their expectations for the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks lost 2.8%.

Tech stocks were holding up better than the rest of the market, as investors continue to bet they can keep growing almost regardless of the economy’s strength. They helped the Nasdaq composite limit its loss to 0.8%.

The number of layoffs sweeping the country is still astoundingly high, with a U.S. government report on Thursday morning showing 1.3 million workers filed for unemployment claims last week. But that’s down from 1.4 million the prior week and from a peak of nearly 6.9 million in late March.

The improvements back up investor optimism that the economy can recover as states and other governments relax restrictions put in place earlier this year to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Such optimism has helped the S&P 500 recently climb back to within roughly 7% of its record set in February, after earlier being down nearly 34%.

But economists point to a troubling slowdown in the pace of improvements. They’re also worried that worsening infection levels across swaths of the U.S. South and West, among other global hotpsots, could derail the budding recovery.

Investors have been watching infection and hospitalization rates in Florida and other big Sun Belt states in particular.

“At best, these numbers are deemed `less bad,’ but still seem to be indicating that we are travelling on a `slow boat’ to a recovery that looks nothing like the `V’ that so many had hoped it would be,” Kevin Giddis, chief fixed income strategist at Raymond James wrote in a report.

Such concerns helped the price of gold hold above $1,800 per ounce. Gold tends to rise when investors are worried about the economy, and on Wednesday it touched its highest price since September 2011, which was shortly after it set its record. Gold was flipping between small gains and losses in Thursday morning trading and was recently down 0.2% at $1,817.10 per ounce.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation, dropped to 0.62% from 0.65% late Wednesday.

In the stock market, the sharpest losses hit companies whose profits are closely tied to the strength of the economy, such as banks and energy producers.

Financial stocks lost 3.4% for the biggest loss among the 11 sectors that make up the index. Bank of America dropped 2.1%, Citigroup lost 2.6% and Capital One Financial fell 4.8%.

Walgreens Boots Alliance slumped 9.2% for one of the biggest losses in the S&P 500 after it said it lost $1.7 billion in the latest quarter as the pandemic kept its customers around the world at home.

Companies across the country are preparing to report their second-quarter results in upcoming weeks, and forecasts are uniformly dismal.

If the S&P 500 ends up lower for the day, it would be just its second loss in the last eight days. Trading has been erratic lately, though, with many gains coming only after the index bounced up and down repeatedly through the day.

The erratic trading mirrors the market’s movement’s over much of the last month, as investors struggle through massive amounts of uncertainty.

In European stock markets, Germany’s DAX returned 0.6%, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.5%. The FTSE 100 in London slipped 1.2% after the Treasury chief warned about the depth of the recession there and more big retailers said they had to cut jobs.

In Asia, Chinese stocks continued their huge run. Stocks in Shanghai added another 1.4%, bringing its gain for July to 15.6% and further stoking worries that speculators are in charge of the market.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo added 0.4%, as did South Korea’s Kospi. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.3%.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 3.8% to $39.36 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 2.4% to $42.25 per barrel.

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