Life looks to stay fairly quiet in Canada’s cottage country this Victoria Day long weekend.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the traditional influx of urbanites in many resort towns for the first big cottage weekend of the year, with some provinces barring pilgrimages to the lake altogether.
Local officials say seasonal visitors have for the most part respected precautions to keep year-round residents safe, but recognize the restrictions on May Two-Four festivities could forbore a tough summer for businesses that depend on tourism to keep their doors open.
In the District of Sechelt, about 50 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, beaches would typically be bustling with revellers ready to light up the skies with fireworks to ring in the start of cottage season, says Mayor Darnelda Siegers.
But come Monday, Siegers expects both the sands and skies to be clear, perhaps with the exception of rain.
“There won’t be any fireworks on the Sunshine Coast,” Siegers said, referring to the coastal region on British Columbia’s southern mainland.
Siegers said the district has enlisted “community ambassadors” to patrol popular spots over the weekend to ensure people are following physical distancing policies.
She’s echoed the urgings of B.C. authorities to avoid non-essential travel. “Now is not the time to travel for tourism or recreation,” the province’s website reads.
While ferries are operating at 50-per-cent passenger capacity, Siegers said that hasn’t stopped a slow trickle of visitors from coming to Sechelt since Easter weekend.
The people have for the most part been responsible about sticking to their properties and minimizing contact with locals, Siegers said.
Roughly half of Sechelt’s full-time residents are seniors, she said, putting them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications if city dwellers bring the novel coronavirus with them to the cottage.
Still, she recognizes the frustrations of cottage owners who have been denied access to their properties, for which they pay taxes.
Business owners are also having a rough go, said Siegers.
“It’s a tough place to be in for everybody,” she said. “None of us know what this is going to look like going forward.”
Similar concerns have turned cottage country into tricky territory for some lawmakers as the COVID-19 outbreak has pitted the rights of property holders against concerns about overwhelming rural health-care systems.
For example, New Brunswick reopened campgrounds and other recreational businesses earlier this week, drawing ire from out-of-province cottagers who remain barred from crossing the border.
Alberta is also allowing “responsible travel” to campgrounds, summer homes, cabins and cottages within the province, prompting local officials in two popular Rocky Mountain destinations to take action to keep people safe.
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen tweeted a video last Monday urging visitors to hold off until June to give the town time to implement proper public health protocols.
“Our message will soon change from ‘stay home and stay safe’ to ‘help keep Banff safe,”‘ Sorensen said.
In Canmore, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, Mayor John Borrowman warned that the “allure of a long weekend” could draw in visitors, and the town must prepare accordingly.
Borrowman said Thursday that officials are considering making the town’s main drag pedestrian-only so people can stroll through downtown while maintaining a two-metre distance from others. He said the temporary measure would coincide with the reopening of campgrounds on June 1.
“We are in this together,” Borrowman said in a statement on the town’s website. “Reopening is a positive step to recovery, but we all need to continue to do our part to stop the spread.”
Meanwhile, about 230 kilometres north of Toronto, Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding said traffic on the roads and on the water has picked up, but there’s nowhere near the “beehive of activity” the town typically sees this time of year.
Seasonal residents comprise roughly 80 per cent of the town’s population, said Harding. While some have come to check in on their boats and homes, Harding said most part-timers haven’t strayed from their properties, and have brought their own groceries to prevent strain on local resources.
Harding said he hasn’t seen many tourists, noting that they’d be hard pressed to keep themselves busy with so many businesses shut down.
While communal gatherings remain prohibited, Harding said residents are welcome to ring in Victoria Day by sparking up fireworks on their own property since Ontario lifted its regional fire ban Friday.
The COVID-19 restrictions may make for more muted celebrations to mark the unofficial start to the summer, said Harding, but cottage country isn’t a retreat from the risks of the novel coronavirus.
“We need to really treat this as business as unusual,” Harding said. “We all need to isolate wherever we are.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2020.
OPEC+ agrees to extend output cuts as cheats offer penance – BNNBloomberg.ca
OPEC+ agreed to a one-month extension of its record output cuts and adopted more stringent methods to ensure members don’t break their production pledges.
The deal is a victory for Saudi Arabia and Russia, who spent a week cajoling Iraq, Nigeria and other laggards to fulfill their obligations. It’s a particular vindication for the kingdom’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, who has consistently pushed fellow members to stop cheating on their quotas since his appointment last year.
With the cartel’s video conference now under way, delegates said all nations have agreed to the new deal. The group will maintain its production cut of 9.7 million barrels a day to the end of July, instead of easing it to 7.7 million after this month as planned.
In addition, the meeting’s draft communique states that any member that doesn’t implement 100 per cent of its production cuts in May and June will make extra reductions from July to September to compensate for their failings.
Oil has just posted a sixth weekly gain in London, more than doubling to US$42.30 a barrel since April as traders anticipate tighter supplies as demand recovers from the coronavirus lockdowns. U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday hailed the cuts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies for saving the American energy industry.
“Despite the progress achieved to date, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels,” Mohamed Arkab, Algeria’s energy minister and current OPEC president, said at the start of the meeting. “The challenge that we face remains daunting.”
The group hopes to build on its success by pushing the market into a supply deficit next month, using a price structure called backwardation to start to chip away at the billion barrels of oil stockpiles that built up during the pandemic.
The cartel will meet again in the second half of June for another review of the oil market. Talks are scheduled on June 18 for the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, which could recommend a further extension if it’s deemed necessary, pushing the deep production cuts into August, a delegate said. The panel will meet every month until December, according to the draft communique.
Cutting production is always painful for oil-dependent states. Iraq in particular needs every penny because it’s still rebuilding its economy following decades of war, sanctions and Islamist insurgency.
Iraq made less than half of its assigned cutbacks last month, so compensating fully would require it to slash production by a further 24 per cent to about 3.28 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg calculations. Accepting such terms could risk a backlash from Iraqi parliamentarians and rival political parties for bowing to foreign pressure.
The traditional shirkers in OPEC+ have promised many times before to do better. Some analysts were skeptical that this occasion will be any different.
“Everyone saves face with this agreement,” Jan Stuart, global energy economist at Cornerstone Macro LLC, said on Friday after a tentative deal was in place. “But it begs the question: What is the enforcement mechanism? I’m very curious to see how the organization is going to elicit greater compliance from the cheaters.”
There’s also a risk that future OPEC+ curbs could be undermined by a return of Libyan oil. The civil war there halted more than 1 million barrels a day of production, helping OPEC+ rebalance the market, but a cease fire now opens the door for a gradual recovery of supply.
For now at least, members of OPEC+ can enjoy the price gains resulting from their deal. The recovery has eased pressure on the budgets of oil-rich nations, while also reviving the fortunes of energy companies from Exxon Mobil Corp. to shale drillers such as Parsley Energy Inc.
“The oil market is on its way to recovery. Supply has shifted dramatically already,” said Ann-Louise Hittle, oil analyst at consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “At the same time, global demand is recovering with both May and June climbing from the low seen in April as the coronavirus-related shutdowns continue to ease.”
–With assistance from Julian Lee and Khalid Al-Ansary.
B.C. has lost more than 353,000 jobs since pandemic began – CBC.ca
B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said more than 353,000 jobs have been lost provincewide since the pandemic began, with more than 30 per cent of those losses affecting young people.
James said Friday the province’s youth unemployment rates reached roughly 28.7 per cent last month. The minister said young people have been “severely impacted” during the pandemic because they work in the industries hardest hit by the economic slowdown: accommodation, food service, wholesale and retail.
“Those sectors still continue to lead all other industries in job losses, making up 46 per cent of the total jobs lost,” James said Friday.
“We have to remember that those numbers are families. They’re individuals. They’re small businesses who have struggled and continue to struggle as we move into recovery.”
Around 115,000 of the 353,000 positions lost in B.C. in recent months were jobs held by young people.
Statistics Canada said Friday unemployment rate in B.C. rose 1.9 percentage points to 13.4 per cent, up from 11.5 per cent in April.
B.C. did gain 43,300 jobs back in May, James said. The provincial government began easing public health restrictions last month, leading businesses to reopen and more people into the job hunt.
“I think we see some glimmers of hope … when you see the number of jobs that actually were created. It doesn’t touch the loss of jobs, the huge number of loss of jobs over this time period, but I think it does show that you’re starting to see some confidence in the economy,” said James.
“In the coming months, we hope to see more positive results as our economic recovery starts to take shape.
James noted more than 521,000 people have applied for B.C.’s Emergency Benefit for Workers since applications opened on May 1. The benefit provides a one-time payment of $1,000 for residents whose work has been impacted by the pandemic.
Statistics Canada said the national unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than 40 years of comparable data. The previous record of 13.1 per cent was set in December 1982.
The agency said Canada’s economy added 290,000 jobs in May, replacing about 10 per cent of the jobs it lost to COVID-19.
The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women last month, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.
OPEC and allies reportedly agree to extend record production cut – CNBC
An OPEC sign hangs outside the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 29, 2017.
Akos Stiller | Bloomberg | Getty Images
OPEC and its oil-producing allies reportedly agreed to extend the historic 9.7 million barrels per day production cut that was set to expire at the end of June, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The cut will be extended through the end of July, and the group is expected to confirm the agreement at its meeting on Saturday, which kicked off a little before 8:30 a.m. ET.
The closely watched meeting was initially scheduled for June 9-10, but was pulled forward after Iraq agreed to comply with its quota.
On Friday West Texas Intermediate jumped 5.72% to settle at $39.55, while international benchmark Brent crude gained 5.78% to settle at $42.30. It was each contract’s sixth straight week of gains, and the highest settle since March 6.
“OPEC+ looks set to formally announce a one-month deal extension at [Saturday’s] ministerial meeting,” said Helima Croft, RBC’s global head of commodities strategy. “Nevertheless, there could be some last minute theatrics at the virtual gathering and we suspect that some individual producer performance will still be less than perfect on a go-forward basis.”
Under the current agreement, which was set during an extraordinary multi-day meeting in April, the 23-member group cut production by 9.7 million bpd beginning May 1 and through the end of June. The cuts would then begin to taper. From July through the end of 2020, 7.7 million bpd would be taken offline, followed by 5.8 million bpd from January 2021 through April 2022.
The cut — the largest in history — came as oil demand fell off a cliff due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Energy Agency estimates that about one quarter of demand was sapped in April as billions of people around the world stayed home in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. The hit to demand came as producers continued to pump oil, which sent WTI tumbling into negative territory for the first time on record, while Brent fell to a 20-year low.
Since then, prices have steadily climbed higher as economies begin to reopen and as producers further rein in output. In the U.S., production has fallen from a record 13.1 million bpd in March to 11.2 million bpd, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. WTI is still about 40% below its January high of $65.65, however.
“Although small in scale, this cut is however important in squaring the group’s strategy, which has this year alone swung from price focused cuts, to market-share recapture, to internal price war to finally a record large cut,” Goldman Sachs’ Damien Courvalin wrote in a note to clients Friday.
– CNBC’s Brian Sullivan and Michael Bloom contributed reporting.
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