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China boosts spending but no big steps for virus-hit economy – CBC.ca

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China’s top economic official on Friday promised higher spending to revive its pandemic-stricken economy and curb surging job losses but steered clear of launching a massive stimulus on the scale of the United States or Japan. 

Premier Li Keqiang, in a speech to legislators, said Beijing would set no economic growth target, usually a closely watched feature of government plans, in order to focus on fighting the outbreak.

The battle against the virus “has not yet come to an end,” Li warned. He urged the country to “redouble our efforts” to revive the struggling economy.

The coronavirus pandemic began in central China in December and prompted the government to isolate cities with 60 million people, adding to strains for the ruling Communist Party that include anti-government protests in Hong Kong and a tariff war with Washington.

China has reported 83,000 virus cases and 4,634 deaths and was the first economy to shut down factories, shops and travel to fight the virus. It became the first to reopen in March, but is struggling to revive activity.

Private sector analysts say as many as 30 per cent of the country’s 442 urban workers — or as many as 130 million people — lost jobs at least temporarily. They say as many as 25 million jobs might be lost for good this year.

Chinese economy contracts

The government’s budget deficit will swell by 1 trillion yuan ($196 billion Cdn) this year to help meet targets including creating 9 million new urban jobs, Li said. That is in line with expectations for higher spending but a fraction of the $1 trillion-plus stimulus packages launched or discussed by the United States, Japan and Europe.

“These are extraordinary measures for an unusual time,” the premier said in the nationally televised speech.

Li said Beijing set no growth target due to the “great uncertainty” of the epidemic and to enable officials to focus on other goals.

Police tell people to move away as delegates arrive to the Great Hall of the People to attend the opening session of China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing, Friday. Private sector analysts say as many as 30 per cent of the country’s urban workers — or as many as 130 million people — lost jobs at least temporarily. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

The world’s second-largest economy contracted by 6.8 per cent over a year earlier in the three months ending in March after factories, offices, travel and other businesses were shut down to fight the virus. Forecasters expect little to no growth this year, down from 2019’s 6.1 per cent, already a multi-decade low.

The big deficit “indicates significant policy support for the domestic recovery,” Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report.

However, Beijing is reluctant to launch a stimulus that would add to already high Chinese debt and strains on the financial system, Kuijs said.

Li also promised to work with Washington to carry out the truce signed in January in their fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus. The premier gave no details, but President Donald Trump has threatened to back out of the deal if China fails to buy more American exports.

Cyclists pass by workers delivering beverages near a mall on the streets of Beijing Tuesday. As job losses surge, China is joining the United States and other governments in rolling out stimulus spending to revive its virus-battered economy. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

Strains with Washington have been aggravated by Trump’s accusations that Beijing is to blame for the virus’s global spread.

Also Friday, the government announced the military budget, the world’s second biggest after the United States, will rise 6.6 per cent to 1.3 trillion yuan ($249 Cdn). The military budget excludes some large items including acquisitions of major weapons systems.

This year’s annual session of the ceremonial National People’s Congress is being held under intensive anti-disease controls. Officials are holding news conferences by video instead of meeting reporters face to face. Reporters are required to undergo laboratory tests for the virus before being allowed into the press centre.

Also this year, legislators are due to take up long-stalled efforts to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. The measure, a sign of Beijing’s determination to tighten control over the territory, has prompted complaints by opposition figures there and a threat by the Trump administration to withdraw Hong Kong’s preferential trade status.

Reporters at the opening session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing are required to undergo laboratory tests for the virus before being allowed into the press centre 2020. Officials are holding news conferences by video instead of meeting reporters face to face. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Li, the premier, gave no details. But Beijing has pushed for measures in Hong Kong such as punishment for showing disrespect for the Chinese flag and increasing patriotic-themed education in schools.

The decision appears to have been prompted by anti-government protests in Hong Kong that began in June over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to cover other grievances and demands for more democracy. A similar measure was withdrawn from Hong Kong’s legislature in 2003 following massive public protests.

Li called on government officials to make progress in an array of areas including employment, trade, attracting foreign investment, meeting the public’s basic living needs and ensuring the stability of industrial supply chains.

Li warned that ensuring economic growth was “of crucial significance” even though Beijing set no official target. Pressure on employment has “risen significantly,” he said.

Automakers and other manufacturers say production has rebounded almost to normal levels, but consumer spending, the main engine of economic growth, is weak amid widespread worries about potential job losses.

Forecasters say China is likely to face a “W-shaped recovery” with a second downturn and millions of politically volatile job losses later in the year due to weak U.S. and European demand for Chinese exports.

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Concordia invests $2M in the Circular Economy Fund – Concordia University News

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The Concordia University Foundation and the Greater Montreal Climate Fund (GMCF) are investing $2 million and $500,000, respectively, in the Circular Economy Fund (CE Fund).

The commitments total more than $18M, bringing the EC Fund closer to its objective of $25M, to which Fondaction is also adding $5M in co-investment.

Unique in Canada, the EC Fund was launched in March 2021 by Fondaction, in partnership with the City of Montreal and RECYC-QUÉBEC. The fund aims to accelerate ecological transition through the circular economy, notably by reducing the production of residual materials and supporting their recovery, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It encourages innovation and the exchange of solutions between startups and the largest Quebec companies.

Partnerships anchored in the mission of the Circular Economy Fund

Marc Gauthier, treasurer and chief investment officer of Concordia, says this investment with the GMCF and Fondaction in the Circular Economy Fund represents a second important co-investment for the sustainable innovation sector.

“Earlier this year, we joined Fondaction in the Urapi Sustainable Soil Management Fund. It is with great pleasure that the Concordia University Foundation is now co-investing in the Circular Economy Fund,” he says.

“Like Urapi, this Fund is perfectly aligned with our goals for sustainable investments and investments with social and environmental impact.”

Marie-Claude Bourgie, executive director of the GMCF, says investing in the Circular Economy Fund allows the Greater Montreal Climate Fund to carry out a mission that is close to its heart: to accelerate the implementation of climate solutions in the metropolitan region.

“It is by supporting entrepreneurs dedicated to meeting the challenge of putting raw materials back into circulation that we can rethink the production chain and thus reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

With this second closing, Fondaction will be able to help more companies that want to optimize the use and recovery of resources as well as the reduction of residual materials and greenhouse gas emissions, explains Marc-André Binette, assistant chief investment officer at the investment fund.

“We are pleased to have wise financial partners who have made the circular economy a major pillar in the fight against climate change,” he adds.

Getting involved in the city’s ecological transition

Since the EC Fund was deployed, four companies (Still Good, Groupe Onym, Ferme Tournevent and CarbiCrete) have received an investment from the Fund to increase their production, open a new plant, increase research and development and test an innovative product.

These companies operate in different sectors, such as agri-food, recycling, resource recovery and eco-construction, but their missions are all part of the circular economy concept.

According to the Pôle québécois de concertation sur l’économie circulaire, this economy is closely linked to practices that optimize the use of natural resources in order to reduce the environmental footprint and contribute to the well-being of the population.

By creating the EC Fund, Fondaction and its partners are investing for the future and these two new investors open up new investment opportunities for the EC Fund and fuel the development of responsible and sustainable innovations.


Find out more about the
Circular Economy Fund (CE Fund).

 

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Oakville's economy 'remains strong,' says Economic Development Report | inHalton – insauga.com

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Published May 26, 2022 at 4:58 pm

The growth of Oakville companies like Geotab were highlighted in the Town of Oakville’s 2021 Economic Development Report. FACEBOOK PHOTO

The attraction of new companies like Amazon and growth at existing ones like Geotab resulted in some 1,000 new jobs, highlight the Town of Oakville’s 2021 Economic Development Report.

Released at the Town Council meeting on Wednesday night, the annual report provides an overview of the town’s economic activity in 2021, highlighting local economic growth, recovery, and resiliency.

“Oakville’s economy remains strong because our livability and our pandemic recovery plan continues to attract new investments that are essential to supporting the pandemic recovery, job creation, and the long-term health of our local economy,” said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.

“The town remains committed to helping local businesses recover from the pandemic and remain resilient because together, we can help ensure business and people continue to thrive in our community.”

Some key highlights from the report include:

  • Oakville welcomed several new companies across various industries, including Wiseacre Studios, Amazon and NVA Canada, and saw growth at existing companies, including Geotab, Terrestrial Energy, and SteriMax, resulting in approximately 1,000 new jobs.
  • When compared to 17 surrounding municipalities Oakville’s commercial market remains highly competitive, ranking within the top five in the cost comparison for taxes and development charges.
  • Oakville’s industrial market is comparatively less competitive in the areas of land sale values and taxes, ranking more costly than half of the municipalities reviewed. Cost competitiveness for industrial development charges has improved, and industrial market demand overall remains high.
  • The Town’s Economic Development department continued to focus efforts on supporting pandemic recovery through its participation on the Recovery and Resiliency Committee, patio program, workplace self-screening rapid antigen testing program, and Digital Main Street.
  • In an effort to address the rise in office vacancy rates in Oakville, which reached a peak at 20.7 per cent in the third quarter of last year, the town developed the Where Living Works campaign, which promoted Oakville’s livability as a key differentiator for investment. While office vacancy rates rose across Ontario last year, the market remains optimistic with numbers declining in the fourth quarter. Many companies have also reintroduced return to office plans, with a focus on the hybrid work model.
  • For the third year in a row, Site Selection Magazine, an international business publication covering corporate real estate and economic development, listed the Town of Oakville in the top 20 of Canada’s Best Locations to invest based on significant investment and facility expansions at existing companies as well as new company arrivals.

For more details, review the 2021 Economic Development Annual Report or visit the Invest Oakville website.


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Long COVID fuelling brain health crisis disrupting workforce, economy – Financial Post

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More than one million Canadians, or about five per cent of the Canadian labour force, could be affected

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The effects of long COVID — where symptoms of the COVID-19 virus persist beyond four weeks from initial infection — are disrupting our health, our labour force and our economy.

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An estimated 10 to 30 per cent of COVID-19 survivors are currently experiencing a range of long COVID symptoms, which means that more than one million Canadians, or about five per cent of the Canadian labour force, could be affected.

Though long COVID affects the entire body, many of the most persistent symptoms are linked to brain health. These symptoms include headaches, “brain fog,” chronic fatigue, impaired memory or concentration, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Such symptoms directly limit a person’s ability to work or be productive at their former, pre-pandemic levels. That has implications for the economy. Knowledge-based economies rely on optimal “brain capital” for economic prosperity, and so without brain health, we compromise our wealth.

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What’s more, long COVID is striking people in their prime working years. According to a survey conducted in May 2021 by Viral Neuro Exploration (VINEx), the COVID Long Haulers Support Group Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada, nearly 60 per cent of the more than 1,000 long haulers polled are between the ages of 40 and 59. Their top symptoms include fatigue and “brain fog,” which have impacted their work. Nearly 70 per cent of long-haulers said they were forced to take a leave from their jobs and more than half had to reduce their hours. Over one quarter had to go on disability, but nearly 44 per cent were unable to access disability insurance.

Long COVID brain health symptoms have persisted, and so have its impacts. In a follow-up survey and report conducted this spring, more than 80 per cent of respondents said the virus has negatively or very negatively affected their brain health. More than 70 per cent had to take a leave from work, which in some cases stretched beyond a year. Still others had to leave the workforce altogether. Troublingly, more than 30 per cent of survey respondents felt they weren’t believed when initially describing their symptoms to a health-care professional.

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Women appear to be bearing the brunt of long COVID symptoms; more than 87 per cent of the survey respondents identify as female. This is consistent with other studies showing women are disproportionately affected by as much as a four-to-one ratio to men, impacting women’s labour participation rate and further aggravating gender inequalities.

The brain health crisis in Canada isn’t new. Even before COVID-19, one in three people were estimated to have been directly impacted by a disease, disorder or injury of the brain, with indirect costs to families, the workplace, economy and society. But the pandemic, which led to shutdowns that caused social isolation and anxiety about an uncertain future, along with the virus itself and its lasting effects on long-haulers, only increased the prevalence of neurological and psychiatric disorders, putting additional stress on overall brain health.

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We are now facing a global mental health crisis. In the United States, “an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in the grips of a full-blown mental health crisis,” according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll. President Joe Biden also announced a strategy to address national mental health issues as part of his first state of the union address. In Canada, the federal government created a cabinet position dedicated to mental health. The minister of mental health and addiction has a mandate to create a comprehensive, evidence-based plan “to address the crisis in mental health,” and establish a Canada Mental Health Transfer to help expand the delivery of mental health services, including for prevention and treatment.

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These investments in mental health are to be lauded, as is the the greater awareness of long COVID. But they fall short of what is needed for people living with persistent COVID symptoms, mental health impacts from the pandemic, and for those whose brain health is otherwise not optimal.

Lost productivity and increased insurance payouts have resulted from this accelerated brain health crisis. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health estimates poor mental health costs the Canadian economy more than $50 billion annually, of which more than $6 billion is due to lost productivity. And according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s latest data, Canadian insurers paid out $420 million in psychology claims in 2020, a staggering 24 per cent increase from 2019.

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Much of the discussion about the “new normal” at the workplace has focused on how we will work. But we need to pay more attention to ensuring people are able to fully participate in the labour market. We are already facing labour shortages thanks to a shift in demographics and as workers choose to retire earlier or leave the workforce because of the pandemic.

  1. Policy-makers are starting to suspect long COVID is a factor behind the labour shortages seen in the U.S. and U.K., where many older workers are looking to work fewer hours or have left the workforce completely.

    Long COVID: The invisible public health crisis fuelling labour shortages

  2. COVID-19’s scale means prolonged complications and recoveries have the potential to become a national and global crisis that could significantly impact our available workforce, long into the future.

    Why the fight against COVID-19 won’t end with a high vaccination rate

  3. None

    Don’t let the two-dose summer fool you — there is a long battle ahead against COVID-19

There is a way forward: we need to treat the post-pandemic brain health crisis with the same urgency as the pandemic crisis. The development and deployment of vaccines bridged existing technology and research from basic to clinical trials; showed us the power and potential of global collaboration across disciplines, institutions, sectors, and countries; and brought together business and science leadership. We can apply these lessons to both research and care, beginning with long COVID. Governments and funders must move away from traditional silos, and think differently about how these may link to a bigger story about brain health. Here’s what that looks like:

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  1. We need to continue the work to develop a concise definition of long COVID and develop a single test for diagnosing long COVID. This will allow us to better understand the size and impact of the problem;
  2. We need to bring attention to the stories of people with lived experience and counter the stigma being faced by those who are not believed because the illness is not well-defined and not always properly diagnosed. Beyond the mental health stress, this has an impact on the ability to access unemployment benefits and disability insurance;
  3. We need to establish more multidisciplinary care clinics to be able to treat the different dimensions of long COVID;
  4. We need to increase funding for multidisciplinary research and longitudinal studies, in order to advance our understanding of what causes long COVID, how to treat it, and the potential long-term impacts, which may include contributing to the development of neurodegenerative diseases in the future. This is not just up to governments. Businesses and the private sector have a role to play and a stake in funding such research; and
  5. Finally, from a workplace perspective, employers need to provide more flexibility and a gradual return to work for those ready to come back.

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We cannot leave long-haulers behind and let long COVID mine the full potential of up to a million Canadians who may be in their prime working years. Brain health is our most precious asset; the health of our workplaces and of our labour force is a function of our brain health. Acting now to ensure it remains optimal will yield higher productivity, and a more dynamic, creative and resilient workforce.

— Inez Jabalpurwala is global director of VINEx.

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 For more stories about the future of work, sign up for the FP Work newsletter.

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