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Calgary Santas vow no lumps of coal as city stares down economic Grinch – Calgary Herald



Santa, whose elf name is Michael Shepherd, poses in Calgary, Alta on Friday December 16, 2016. Jim Wells//Postmedia

A quarter-century after his first gig as a Calgary Santa, Michael Shepherd says the city’s economic doldrums haven’t dulled the twinkle in his eyes.

But they have made him adapt to a fiscal reality that’s played Grinch with some of his bigger jobs.

“There was one company with a $1,000 gig and one with a $500 or $600 one — and those are gone,” said Shepherd.

“There are layoffs and not so many kids, but there are some places that have doubled their (Santa) hours.”

The veteran St. Nick said he’s remained busy this holiday season, a dozen years after he left the shopping mall throne to do corporate and other party appearances.

But the nature of some of those jobs has changed.

If companies once had an adult Christmas party and another for their children that both demanded a Santa, “most places have gone just with the kids’,” said Shepherd.

Magicians, he said, are doing worse.

But if one of the city’s few dozen professional jolly old elves are short a few jobs, their red-suited colleagues will come sleighing to the rescue as part of a Santa support network, said Shepherd.

“I’ve turned gigs over to them . . . we all have to work together, we have to,” he said, adding he personally knows 10 other local Santas.

“There’s no need of a union.”

But some things never change, said Shepherd, who’ll join adults in their holiday merriment when the time is right.

When that moment arrives, he’ll peel off his red suit to spare it drink and food spills, and avoid dry-cleaning bills, in favour of underlying Kris Kringle apparel.

“For Kris Kringle, it’s just a puffy shirt, it doesn’t take long to clean,” he said.

The dean of Calgary’s Santa School also said its graduates have had to adapt to lumps of economic coal.

“While we might once have done a lot of corporate things, maybe (there are) more mall things instead,” said Jennifer Andrews.

“Some of our corporate customers are out of business, but if people aren’t paying top dollars, (Santas) are still finding a way to do it.”

Overall, bookings remain numerous, though the Santas have noticed some of the gifts at functions “aren’t as big as they always were, but there are still presents,” said Andrews.

Over the past 10 years, the Santa School has trained hundreds of red-clad mirth-makers while finding its grads bookings, she said.

Some of them have gone on to spread joy in places as far flung as Malaysia, Hong Kong and Sweden.

Calgary’s slumping economy, she said, has only bolstered the number of enrollees at the school.

“These are people that have been laid off or packaged out, and this is something they were definitely interested in pursuing but never had the time,” said Andrews.

Among those doing Santa on the side are an ex-RCMP officer, military vets, a judge, a physiotherapist and a lawyer, she said.

A laid-off oil and gas worker is “an excellent Santa, it’s his whole paycheque,” said Andrews.

No matter what happens to the economy, there’ll always be a place for Santas, catering to both adults and younger true believers, said Shepherd.

“I’ll do this until I die,” he said.

Said Andrews: “You speak to the needs of what they are now — you evolve, you always want to keep the magic alive.”

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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China central bank says cuts two key rates to support economy – FRANCE 24 English



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China central bank says cuts two key rates to support economy  FRANCE 24 English


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Here is Trump economy: Slower growth, higher prices and a bigger national debt



If Donald Trump is re-elected president of the United States in November, Americans can expect higher inflation, slower economic growth and a larger national debt, according to economists.

Trump’s economic agenda for a second term in office includes raising tariffs on imports, cutting taxes and deporting millions of undocumented migrants.

“Inflation will be the main impact” of a second Trump presidency, Bernard Yaros, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, told Al Jazeera.

“That’s ultimately the biggest risk. If Trump is president, tariffs are going up for sure. The question is how high do they go and how widespread are they,” Yaros said.

Trump has proposed imposing a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all imported goods and levies of 60 percent or higher on Chinese imports.

During Trump’s first term in office from 2017 to 2021, his administration introduced tariff increases that at their peak affected about 10 percent of imports, mostly goods from China, Moody’s Analytics said in a report released in June.

Those levies nonetheless inflicted “measurable economic damage”, particularly to the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation sectors, according to the report.

“A tariff increase covering nearly all goods imports, as Trump recently proposed, goes far beyond any previous action,” Moody’s Analytics said in its report.

Businesses typically pass higher tariffs on to their customers, raising prices for consumers. They could also affect businesses’ decisions about how and where to invest.

“There are three main tenets of Trump’s campaign, and they all point in the same inflationary direction,” Matt Colyar, assistant director at Moody’s Analytics, told Al Jazeera.

“We didn’t even think of including retaliatory tariffs in our modelling because who knows how widespread and what form the tit-for-tat model could involve,” Colyar added.

‘Recession becomes a serious threat’

When the US opened its borders after the COVID-19 pandemic, the inflow of immigrants helped to ease labour shortages in a range of industries such as construction, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality.

The recovery of the labour market in turn helped to bring down inflation from its mid-2022 peak of 9.1 percent.

Trump has not only proposed the mass deportation of 15 million to 20 million undocumented migrants but also restricting the inflow of visa-holding migrant workers too.

That, along with a wave of retiring Baby Boomers – an estimated 10,000 of whom are exiting the workforce every day – would put pressure on wages as it did during the pandemic, a trend that only recently started to ease.

“We can assume he will throw enough sand into the gears of the immigration process so you have meaningfully less immigration, which is inflationary,” Yaros said.

Since labour costs and inflation are two important measures that the US Federal Reserve weighs when setting its benchmark interest rate, the central bank could announce further rate hikes, or at least wait longer to cut rates.

That would make recession a “serious threat once again”, according to Moody’s.

Adding to those inflationary concerns are Trump’s proposals to extend his 2017 tax cuts and further lower the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 20 percent.

While Trump’s proposed tariff hikes would offset some lost revenue, they would not make up the shortfall entirely.

According to Moody’s, the US government would generate $1.7 trillion in revenue from Trump’s tariffs while his tax cuts would cost $3.4 trillion.

Yaros said government spending is also likely to rise as Republicans seek bigger defence budgets and Democrats push for greater social expenditures, further stoking inflation.

If President Joe Biden is re-elected, economists expect no philosophical change in his approach to import taxes. They think he will continue to use targeted tariff increases, much like the recently announced 100 percent tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles and solar panels, to help US companies compete with government-supported Chinese firms.

With Trump’s tax cuts set to expire in 2025, a second Biden term would see some of those cuts extended, but not all, Colyar said. Primarily, the tax cuts to higher earners like those making more than $400,000 a year would expire.

Although Biden has said he would hike corporate taxes from 21 percent to 28 percent, given the divided Congress, it is unlikely he would be able to push that through.

The contrasting economic visions of the two presidential candidates have created unwelcome uncertainty for businesses, Colyar said.

“Firms and investors are having a hard time staying on top of [their plans] given the two different ways the US elections could go,” Colyar said.

“In my entire tenure, geopolitical risk has never been such an important consideration as it is today,” he added.



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China Stainless Steel Mogul Fights to Avoid a Second Collapse



Chinese metal tycoon Dai Guofang’s first steel empire was brought down by a government campaign to rein in market exuberance, tax evasion accusations and a spell behind bars. Two decades on, he’s once again fighting for survival.

A one-time scrap-metal collector, he built and rebuilt a fortune as China boomed. Now with the economy cooling, Dai faces a debt crisis that threatens the future of one of the world’s top stainless steel producers, Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry Co., along with plants held by his wife and son. Its demise would send ripples through the country’s vast manufacturing sector and the embattled global nickel market.



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