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Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit now open for applications – CBC News



The federal government announced today that the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) is open for applications.

The benefit, which gives temporary income support to employed and self-employed people who cannot work due to a COVID-19 lockdown, pays $300 a week. It’s only available to those in a lockdown region who can’t work as a result of capacity restrictions.

In a news release, the Canada Revenue Agency said British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut are designated as lockdown regions.

“This list will be updated as provincial or territorial governments introduce changes to public health restrictions,” the release reads.

Payments will be retroactive to December 19.

The benefit was created early this month but was not initially available to anyone as the federal government had not designated any regions as being in lockdown. The government later expanded eligibility so that COVID-19 public health orders restricting public access to businesses by at least 50 per cent would be included under the definition of a lockdown order.

Full eligibility criteria can be found on the CRA’s website. Applicants must have lost more than half of their income.

“Through Bill C-2 and the expansion of the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, we are supporting Canadian workers through targeted income support as regions implement public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said in the release.

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the government would continue “monitoring the evolving situation closely.”

“These changes will ensure Canadians have the support they need to deal with the economic impacts of the Omicron variant, while also supporting a strong economic recovery,” Lebouthillier said.

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Declining U.S. Petroleum Inventories Push Oil Prices Higher –



Declining U.S. Petroleum Inventories Push Oil Prices Higher |

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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  • U.S. commercial petroleum stocks have fallen in most of the weeks in the past year and a half.
  • The continuously declining U.S. petroleum stocks over the past year suggest that supply has not caught up with rebounding demand.
  • Petroleum stocks at lower than seasonal norms have contributed to market tightness alongside the OPEC+ group’s inability to fully meet its rising monthly production quotas.

Petroleum inventories

Despite a crude oil inventory build in the latest EIA report, U.S. commercial petroleum stocks have declined in most of the weeks in the past year and a half, falling below seasonal averages for the past five years and even below the five-year average before the pandemic.   The continuously declining U.S. petroleum stocks over the past year suggest that supply has not caught up with rebounding demand as U.S. exploration and production companies have not responded with a spike in new drilling activity to the rising crude oil prices.  

Petroleum stocks at lower than seasonal norms have contributed to market tightness alongside the OPEC+ group’s inability to fully meet its rising monthly production quotas and rising global demand as economies look to return to normal. 

Global oil demand has held resilient during the Omicron wave so far, prompting the International Energy Agency (IEA) to revise higher its 2022 demand growth estimate by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) last week. 

In the United States, the latest EIA data as of January 14 showed a small crude inventory build of 500,000 barrels and another large increase in gasoline stocks, which added 5.9 million barrels. This follows a combined build in gasoline inventories of over 18 million barrels for the previous two weeks. 

Despite the increase, gasoline stocks in the U.S. are now in line with the five-year average 2015-2019, before the pandemic, according to estimates by Reuters market analyst John Kemp.

Compared to the latest five-year average, which includes the pandemic years, gasoline stocks are now about 2 percent below the five-year average for this time of year, EIA data showed.

The data also pointed to the fact that total commercial petroleum inventories in the United States decreased by 1.5 million barrels in the week ending January 14. U.S. crude oil inventories are about 8 percent below the five-year average for this time of year. Distillate fuel inventories are about 16 percent below the five-year average, and propane/propylene inventories stood at some 7 percent below the five-year average, according to the EIA. That’s including the pandemic years. 

Compared to the 2015-2019 average, total U.S. commercial inventories are 4 percent below the pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average—the lowest level for this time of the year since 2015, Reuters’ Kemp has estimated. 

In December 2021, for example, U.S. petroleum demand returned to 21.1 million bpd with more people driving places instead of flying, the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist Dean Foreman said in API’s latest Monthly Statistical Report

Related: The Nickel Supply Squeeze Could Send Prices Even Higher

“By contrast, the production of U.S crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) remained flat overall, with a minimal response by investment and drilling even as oil prices returned to more than $80 per barrel in January,” Foreman wrote. 

“Lower domestic oil production has also required refiners to use oil that’s already been produced and consequently reduced U.S. crude oil inventories to below their five-year range,” he added. 

At the end of December, crude oil inventories were below the five-year range and at their lowest for December since 2014, API’s report showed. Moreover, total inventories were at their lowest for December since 2017.

Lower-than-normal petroleum inventories have been putting an upside pressure on U.S. and international oil prices, which hit the highest since October 2014 last week. 

The tighter market these days is reflected in the rising backwardation in the futures prices of both major benchmarks, WTI and Brent, with prompt prices higher and rising compared to those further out in time.

Robust demand, insufficient investment in new supply, low inventories, and declining global spare production capacity have prompted major Wall Street banks – including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley – to forecast that oil prices could hit $100 per barrel as soon as this year. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for

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Bitcoin drops to six-month low as investors dump speculative assets – Ars Technica



Bitcoin drops to six-month low as investors dump speculative assets

Bitcoin dropped to a six-month low on Saturday, extending a steep fall recorded in the previous session as the cryptocurrency market was swept up in a powerful shift by investors out of speculative assets.

The price of the biggest digital token by market value fell 4.3 percent on Saturday morning in Europe to $35,127, the lowest level since July 2021. Bitcoin has now lost almost a quarter of its value this year.

Other cryptocurrencies have also come under intense selling pressure, with an FT Wilshire index of the top five tokens excluding bitcoin down 30 percent in the first month of 2022.

The cryptocurrency rout comes as investors have dumped shares in tech companies on expectations the US Federal Reserve will move to rein in loose pandemic monetary policy to combat inflation. Global stock markets posted their biggest declines in more than a year this week, with the fast-growing companies that powered the rally from the depths of the coronavirus crisis enduring intense falls.

Investors now forecast the Fed, the world’s most influential central bank, will raise interest rates three to four times this year, something that has sent bond yields surging. Higher yields on low-risk assets like US government bonds make the potential returns that can be earned through speculative investments like cryptocurrencies look less appealing, analysts say.

Andrew Sullivan, managing director at Outset Global in Hong Kong, said Asia was seeing “huge volumes going through in a number of markets as investors move to cash” on Friday, as technology shares in the region fell.

The sharp sell-off in digital assets also came a day after the Russian central bank announced on Thursday draft proposals seeking to ban all cryptocurrency trading and mining. The proposed regulations would also block cryptocurrency investment by banks and forbid any exchange of cryptocurrency for traditional currencies in Russia, one of the world’s largest centers for crypto mining.

The central bank said in its 36-page report that the rapidly rising value of cryptocurrencies “is defined primarily by speculative demand for future growth, which creates bubbles,” adding they “also have aspects of financial pyramids, because their price growth is largely supported by demand from new entrants to the market.”

The announcement initially had little impact on bitcoin, which rose as much as 3.7 percent against the dollar on Thursday. But by Friday afternoon in Asia the cryptocurrency had dropped more than 10 percent from the previous day’s high to hit its lowest level since August.

“The Russian regulators have been frustrated [with the cryptocurrency industry] for several years and none of their warnings have been heeded,” said Vince Turcotte, Asia-Pacific sales director at Eventus Systems.

He added that, while the Russian proposal was “relatively harsher,” it was only the latest in a slew of announcements on cryptocurrencies by regulators across the globe focused mainly on protecting retail investors.

Turcotte likened the situation in Russia to that of China before Beijing began a more forceful crackdown on the industry. “Nobody listened to [Chinese officials] until they actually brought the hammer down,” he said. Last year, China declared that all crypto activities were illegal.

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved Not to be redistributed, copied, or modified in any way.

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Enterprise dings woman who rented truck on sunny day more than $5,500 for hail damage – CBC News



Keli Chick never expected a one-day rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car to turn into a year-long battle over a damage claim for more than $5,500.

Her fight with the biggest car rental company in North America began when she rented a truck in Dawson Creek, B.C., on Dec. 29, 2020 and drove it to Red Deer, Alta., the next morning — a seven-hour trip. 

The skies were blue and the sun was shining, so Chick says she was more than a little surprised when a letter from Enterprise’s damage recovery department arrived six weeks later, saying she was on the hook for $5,578, due to hail damage.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Chick. “I had to read it a few times just because it was so out there. I thought, ‘This cannot be possible.'”

Go Public has heard from about a dozen other Enterprise customers who say they, too, were told long after their rental period was over that they were responsible for various repairs costing thousands of dollars.

Chick took a photo of the horizon that included the hood of the truck she rented. A closeup reveals small dents, considered to be hail damage. (Submitted by Keli Chick)

A consumer advocate and lawyer, who is an expert on contract law, says car rental companies have to inform customers of damage in a timely manner — and can’t just tell them they have to foot the bill for repairs.

“The onus is on the rental car company to prove their allegations,” said Daniel Tsai, who teaches consumer and business law at Ryerson University in Toronto. “If they say that you’ve caused the damage, they actually have to provide some evidence.”

Enterprise turned Chick’s case over to the collection agency Credifax, which sent numerous letters and threatened to take her to court. (Colin Hall/CBC)

A picture is worth… nothing?

Before leaving the Enterprise location, Chick and an agent completed a walk-around inspection and noted a scratch on a door and a broken tail light. The truck’s roof and hood were covered in snow and ice, says Chick, but she assumed they were in good condition.

As she hit the highway the next morning, the sun melted the frozen white stuff off her rental vehicle. A photo Chick stopped to take of the horizon happened to include part of the hood and captured pock marks from what appeared to be hail. 

When she arrived in Red Deer, the agent who signed off on the truck’s return told her not to worry about the obvious dents.

“He didn’t add the hail damage because clearly the weather was a beautiful day and no hail damage had occurred when it was in my possession,” said Chick.

It wasn’t until six weeks later that Chick received the Enterprise letter, telling her she’d received “significantly discounted repair rates” and that she was responsible to pay the cost.

Contract law expert Daniel Tsai says the onus to prove damage occurred during a rental period is on the rental companies, and that unhappy customers should fight damage claims in court. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

Chick thought she had insurance, because she’d paid with a credit card — most provide coverage. But she discovered that credit cards only cover car rentals, not trucks. On top of that, she says, filling out an insurance claim would have been fraudulent, because she wasn’t responsible for the damage. 

She sent Enterprise the photo and a link to a local TV weather report that said there had been clear skies during her rental period. A meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada later confirmed that for Go Public.

“They told me that that didn’t matter,” she said. “They were very clear that this was my fault.”

Enterprise sent her case to the collection agency Credifax, which added interest to the repair bill — so it grew to over $6,200 — and threatened legal action.

“Every time I tried to reach them [Enterprise], they completely ignored me and just kind of gave me the runaround,” said Chick. “It’s a lot of time. A lot of energy. And just so frustrating that this has happened for a whole year.” 

Enterprise told Pat Abbott three months after she returned a rental car that she owed more than $12,000 for a blown motor — a problem for which the car was under recall. (Submitted by Pat Abbott)

Can’t ‘conclusively determine’ fault

Enterprise spokesperson Lisa Martini told Go Public that the company’s terms and conditions spell out that customers are responsible for damage caused by an “act of God,” which includes hail. If they don’t have insurance that cost becomes an out-of-pocket expense.

Similar clauses exist in agreements for the three companies that account for an estimated 95 per cent of all car rentals in Canada: Enterprise (which owns National and Alamo), Avis (which owns Budget) and Hertz (which owns Dollar and Thrifty).

After Go Public requested an interview with Enterprise, the company dropped its claim against Chick.

In a statement, Martini said the company was “unable to conclusively determine” when the truck was damaged so “the wrong renter was likely held responsible.”

But the rental company’s about-face doesn’t sit well with Tsai.

“You deny a claim you can’t even prove and make the customer go through a horrendous experience where they might even have to go to court?” he said. “That’s a major marketing fail.” 

Enterprise eventually dropped both claims against Chick and Abbott. (Sam Nar/CBC)

Vehicle recalled

Likewise, Pat Abbott didn’t find out for three months that she was supposedly responsible for $12,322 in damages to the 2020 Elantra she’d driven for a month. Enterprise said the motor was shot. 

“I said, ‘I’m not paying this. That car was in perfect condition,” Abbott, 71, said from her home in Abbotsford, B.C.

She then learned that that model of vehicle had been recalled due to motor issues.

“I was livid,” she said. “The motor was under recall, so why are they pinning the damage on me?” 

WATCH | Woman charged more than $5,500 for hail damage on rented truck:

Rental company charges customer for hail damage | Go Public

12 hours ago

Duration 1:51

An Alberta woman says Enterprise charged her for thousands of dollars in hail damage to a truck she rented, even though it was sunny during her rental period. 1:51

Enterprise ended up dropping the claim — after it emerged that the vehicle’s odometer showed almost 1,300 kilometres more than when Abbott had returned it. Its letter to Abbott did not include an apology. 

Taking months to hit a customer with a major repair bill is too long, says Tsai. 

“There should definitely be a time limit if there’s any damage or any circumstance where the customer owes additional money,” he said. “That delay is totally unacceptable. And in fact, it makes it suspicious.”

Enterprise says a “miscommunication” caused the claim to be sent out while the cause of the engine failure was being determined.

It says fewer than 0.2 per cent of all rentals in Canada last year resulted in cases “where the customer had a concern with the way the claim was handled.” 

When asked, Martini, the spokesperson, said she could not say what percentage of renters who had a concern about their claim weren’t satisfied with the outcome.

Nor is it clear what percentage of Enterprise’s total rentals for 2021 resulted in claims. 

Martini also said in the statement it can take “several weeks” to inform customers of damage because it “is not always noticeable immediately” and that a bill isn’t sent out until repairs are complete.

Tsai says the car rental industry is “long overdue” for regulatory oversight.

“We should have a regulatory standard in place where car companies that make their claims have to prove it before they pursue them,” said Tsai. 

“And have to provide some kind of mediation process to get these things dealt with fairly and quickly – to ensure that rental car companies are accountable to their customers.”

Keli Chick says she’s relieved the hail damage problem is over, but that she’ll be holding Enterprise accountable in a different way.

“I’m telling everybody I know not to use that company ever again,” she said. “I will never go back to them.”

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Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories, shed light on wrongdoing and hold the powers that be accountable.

If you have a story in the public interest, or if you’re an insider with information, contact with your name, contact information and a brief summary. All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public.

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