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B.C. extends state of emergency, restrictions on fuel and travel, as 'significant weather' poses more challenges – The Globe and Mail

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A man uses a digger next to a flooded farm in Abbotsford, B.C., Nov. 29, 2021.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

British Columbia has extended its state of emergency to support flood recovery efforts as well as orders limiting fuel purchases for non-essential vehicles and restricting travel along hard-hit sections of the province’s compromised highways.

In announcing the extensions on Monday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the “significant weather” continues to pose challenges for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which normally brings in 85 per cent of the fuel that is required in B.C. for refining and has been offline since Nov. 14.

“The fuel conservation measures are working and I want to thank British Columbians for their patience – but we need to stay the course for another two weeks until we have the Trans Mountain Pipeline back online,” Mr. Farnworth said. “We need to ensure our supply chains, and emergency services, have the fuel that they need to function.”

The order restricting fuel purchases to 30 litres per visit to a gas station applies to the Lower Mainland, the Sea-to-Sky region, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. That order, along with the state of emergency that gives the province power to implement it, has been extended until at least Dec. 14.

The province is also extending an order prohibiting non-essential travel on parts of Highways 3, 7 and 99. Those who flout the rules could face fines of up to $2,000.

B.C. is currently in between the second and third of a series of forecasted storms. Efforts to clean up and rebuild following the heavy flooding of two weeks ago, which damaged critical infrastructure and affected every major highway, have taken place alongside overnight efforts involving hundreds of workers and volunteers to sandbag and prepare for more inclement weather. Meanwhile, government has had to find alternate ways to ensure the movement of essential goods such as fuel.

Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said government staff have been working with their federal counterparts at Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada as well as fuel suppliers, retailers and the Canadian Fuels Association to ensure B.C. has a sufficient fuel supply.

“Fuel has made its way into the Lower Mainland from Alberta through the railways,” Mr. Ralston said Monday. “We also know that some barges have arrived to offload fuel from the U.S. This has provided us with a supply of fuel to compensate for the product that would usually come from the Trans Mountain Pipeline while the company works toward restarting the line.”

CP Rail has said 30 locations were damaged following the rainstorm, but resumed some operations last week.

However, some producers are still struggling with the transportation challenges of damaged infrastructure. The forestry company West Fraser has announced it is temporarily shutting down two pulp mills, with 220 workers laid off, according to the Williams Lake Tribune. The company said it is unable to ship product and has run out of accessible storage.

In Abbotsford, Mayor Henry Braun said Monday that water from the Nooksack River that breached a dike in Sumas, Wash., and was expected to flood into his city Sunday ended up taking a day longer than predicted by U.S. officials. As well, the Fraser River dropped low enough that Abbotsford could reopen the floodgates at its Barrowtown Pump Station after a brief closing, which allowed water from the Sumas River to drain.

“Those two things in combination make me very comfortable, and I feel much better today than I did yesterday at this point on the second [weather] event,” the mayor told a news conference. “The third one is still an unknown. Everything is holding, so I think we’re in good shape.”

As costs to B.C. flood response soar, province signals shift in funding

‘An extremely volatile situation’: B.C. ready to use alert system as province faces next storm

The water had not reached the critically affected Sumas Prairie lake bottom as of Monday afternoon, but did reach about two feet in Abbotsford’s Huntingdon Village, along the U.S. border, where an evacuation order remains in place.

Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said Monday that southern B.C. was on a “24-hour break” from rain and that the next system is again an atmospheric river, coming in from near the Philippines, travelling 8,000 to 9,000 kilometres over the past few days.

“It will deliver a relatively strong punch, similar to what we saw this weekend,” he said. “We’re talking about 50 to 100 milimetres on the south coast for the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.”

Mr. Castellan added that the region is dealing not only with rain, but also snow melt and a successive storm event.

“So even if the third storm is not as bad as it could have been in the modelling leading up to today, it will be problematic because they are coming so close, back to back, with the runoff and the saturated soil.”

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre upgraded flood alerts for all of Vancouver Island and a large stretch of the south coast, from Vancouver to Bella Coola, on Monday morning.

In the Cowichan District, which has been in a local state of emergency since mid-November, 147 properties have been assessed for damage from floods in the past two weeks. A flood centre run by the regional district with the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, and Penelakut Tribe served 200 people in the past four days. With additional heavy rains in the forecast, a team of 30 Canadian Forces members was deployed on the weekend to the most affected communities of the region to support sandbagging and preparedness.

With up to 100 millimetres of rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in Howe Sound, the Squamish Nation had emergency crews sandbagging vulnerable areas to protect against rising levels of the Cheakamus River. The nation was securing accommodation and preparing Totem Hall in Squamish as a reception centre in case residents need to evacuate.

Meanwhile, close to 10 per cent of blueberry fields in B.C. were affected by the floods, and some farmers aren’t sure whether they will be able to invest the time and money to start over.

The BC Blueberry Council estimates that at least 2,500 acres of blueberries have been affected, including about 1,000 acres that remain underwater in the Sumas Prairie. Statistics Canada reports that the total acreage of blueberry production in the province is about 27,000 acres.

The blueberry council added that some portions of the Matsqui Flats area, and other areas near the Fraser River, were also flooded and are likely to experience varying degrees of damage or loss.

Blueberry bushes die when submerged for long periods. Harry Sidhu, a blueberry farmer in the Sumas Prairie, said it’s likely that severely affected growers will need to pull their bushes and replant, at a high cost.

“Blueberries are a perennial plant and it takes years for a sizable crop yield, so this may be a significant loss of income for many years,” Mr. Sidhu said in a statement.

Mr. Braun said last week that his heart ached for the farmers who told him through tears that they can’t afford to start over.

“Some of those farmers, they’ve told me that they don’t know if they’re going to [replant], they don’t know if they financially can do that,” he said.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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Apple poised as Peloton's saviour among news the company is pausing equipment production – MobileSyrup

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A recent report from CNBC regarding Peloton’s manufacturing rate helped plummet the company’s stock by 24 percent in a single day.

The media outlet reports the exercise bike manufacturer has temporarily halted production of its fitness products because of a drop in consumer demand.

Internal documents revealed bike productions will pause in February and March. Production of Bike+ was halted back in December and won’t resume until June. The Tread treadmill won’t start manufacturing again for six weeks until February. Further, production of Tread+ was previously halted and likely won’t resume this year.

This fueled ongoing rumours surrounding the fitness company’s production problems, with Insider reporting Peloton will lay off 41 percent of its staff in its sales and marketing departments.

Once noted as the darling of connected exercise equipment, the company is now struggling. CNBC says that Peloton overestimated how many people would buy its products after a jump in sales tied to at-home workouts during the pandemic.

Now experts are saying the only way to save the Peloton is if tech giant Apple purchases it. Financial advice publication, The Motley Fool, reports Apple has the cash to spare and “wants to be a force in health and wellness.” However, the article also notes a possible acquisition would “benefit Peloton far more than it would Apple,” given the fitness company’s smaller “market opportunity.”

Peloton CEO John Foley has denied that production is slowing or halted and says media reports are “incomplete and out of context.”

“Rumors that we are halting all production of bikes and Treads are false,” Foley wrote in a letter of response.

However, he did acknowledge layoffs may soon be on the horizon.

“We now need to evaluate our [organizational] structure and size of our team, with the utmost care and compassion. And we are still in the process of considering all options as part of our efforts to make our business more flexible,” he wrote.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Sources: CNBC, Insider, The Motley Fool

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Latest research says combination of throat and nose swabs provides better COVID-19 rapid test results: Nova Scotia Health – CTV News Atlantic

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In a Canadian first, Nova Scotia researchers say COVID-19 rapid tests that include both throat and nose swabs provide greater accuracy in detecting the virus.

Up until now, the instructions provided by the manufacture has been for nasal swab only.

Now, based on research led by Nova Scotia Health’s microbiology team, public health is recommending Nova Scotians using rapid tests swab both their throat and nose when collecting their sample.

In a release Friday, Nova Scotia Health said its working to update the current testing instructions that people receive when they pick up a rapid test.

The research was prompted by public discussion theorizing that a combined sample may produce more accurate results.

Speaking to CTV Thursday, Dr. Todd Hatchette, the chief of the province’s Division of Microbiology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said researchers found using a single swab on a person’s throat first, and then in both nostrils is more effective at detecting Omicron than doing either site alone.

“When we tested just over 1,500 people, we found that either the nose or the throat both detected about 60 per cent of people, but if you did a combined nose / throat, it detected over 82 per cent of people,” said Hatchette.

The research started about a week ago. Officials at the microbiology lab worked with volunteers at the Halifax Convention Centre testing site to collect the data.

In Friday’s release, Nova Scotia Health says collaboration with volunteer-based community rapid testing sites was key to the project’s success and allowed the project to rapidly answer a question that many jurisdictions across the country have been asking.

The investigation compared results of a common rapid take-home test using three sample sites: nasal swab; throat swab and; combined nasal/throat, the release said. All results were confirmed with PCR testing. Compared to PCR test results, samples from nasal or throat swabs each detected 64.5 per cent of cases; however, combining the nose and throat swabs increased sensitivity to 88.7 per cent.

This research project has been submitted for publication.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, speaking Friday from Ottawa, welcomed the Nova Scotia swab study.

“I’ve asked our laboratory network, our laboratory experts, to take that into account and see whether we can provide some sort of guidance,” Tam said. “But, of course, I think we’ve been discovering that the Omicron variant may be behaving a bit differently to the previous variants, so this approach, this swabbing, might be useful.”

One thing to note, public health is advising that if only one location of the sample is being used, it should be the nasal swab, as the throat swab alone is not as effective as the nasal swab.

Nova Scotia is the first to report research results supporting a combined throat/nose collection method for self-administered rapid antigen tests.

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Gold price next week: a breakout or a sideways trap? All eyes on hawkish Fed and stocks volatility – analysts – Kitco NEWS

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(Kitco News) The gold market surprised with a breakout above $1,830 an ounce this week. And analysts say next week will be pivotal in whether gold breaks out or gets stuck in the sideways price action again.

In an unexpected move, the precious metal surged to two-month highs this week, with investors flocking to safe havens as volatility rocked the equity markets ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting next week.

With stocks and the crypto space selling off, money has to go somewhere, RJO Futures senior market strategist Frank Cholly told Kitco News.

“Gold rallied this week due to all the weakness in the equity market. Bitcoin is down pretty good too,” Cholly said. “We have a bottom in gold. The question is, are we going to go lower and stay sideways or climb towards $1,900. The precious metal needs another close above $1,830. It’s critical to hold that level before a move above $1,850.”

The move in gold did surprise some analysts because of how swift it was, said Gainesville Coins precious metals expert Everett Millman.

“The gold market has been going sideways for several months. To see a breakout in either direction was a bit surprising. Coming into this week, sentiment in the gold market was very negative. Many big banks were projecting the gold price to go down. This ended up playing in gold’s favor as negative sentiment set us up for a reversion in another direction,” Millman said.

Also, rising oil prices and strong retail demand have contributed to higher price levels in gold. “Higher oil does make it more expensive to get gold out of the ground. We could see constraints in the gold supply being mined. Plus, the real demand for gold is still strong. The U.S. Mint saw 12-year highs in gold sales, while the Perth Mint saw 10-year highs. Average retail investors are still buying gold at the fastest pace in ten years,” Millman added.

All eyes are on how markets will react to the Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, scheduled for Wednesday. Cholly estimates to see a steeper sell-off in U.S. equities as the central bank maintains the same level of hawkishness.

“We could go through a more meaningful correction in equities. We’ll have more evidence of the Fed’s direction. And the stock market likes to throw tantrums to get the Fed’s attention. Next week, gold’s strength will hinge on equities moving lower and reallocation of money into precious metals. Silver may even become the leader as we move forward,” Cholly pointed out.

If gold does break above $1,850, it opens the door for $1,870-80 and eventually $1,900, he added.

Fed in focus

The Fed meeting, which will be followed by the central bank Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference, is the biggest macro event next week.

Analysts expect to get more hawkish clues in terms of the first rate hike in March and more clarity around the potential balance sheet runoff. Currently, markets are pricing in four rate hikes in 2022.

“With the Omicron wave now past its peak nationally, there is little to hold the Fed back, particularly if next week brings news of a further acceleration in wage growth,” said Capital Economics chief North America economist Paul Ashworth. “A dissenting vote, to raise rates immediately, from one of the hawkish regional Fed Presidents – who will be voting as part of the annual rotation – could also add fuel to the recent bond market sell-off.”



There is also a risk that the Fed could get even more hawkish by announcing the completion of the tapering process immediately, said ING chief international economist James Knightley.

“The Federal Reserve meeting will be the main focus, and we strongly suspect that we could see the announcement of the ending of QE asset purchases brought forward from the mid-March end-point currently signaled, to an immediate cessation, “Knightley wrote. “In an environment where the economy has fully recovered the lost output from the pandemic, where unemployment is back below 4% and where inflation is at near 40-year highs, it seems strange to say the least for them to continue stimulating the economy.”

Other key data releases to keep an eye on will be Tuesday’s CB consumer confidence, Thursday’s Q4 GDP number, jobless claims and durable goods orders, as well as Friday’s PCE price index.

“We expect to learn that fourth-quarter GDP growth was a slightly disappointing 4.0% annualized. But markets may focus more on the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Private wage growth hit 4.6% y/y in the third quarter and could have climbed as high 5% in the fourth, which would make a March rate hike a near-certainty,” Ashworth noted.

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