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Economic growth poised to flatline on virus surge, new restrictions – The Globe and Mail

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After a provincial order to shut all non-essential businesses in Ontario, a normally bustling Queen Street West is lined with closed stores and empty of shoppers in Toronto on March 25, 2020.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Canada’s economic momentum is at risk of stalling as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, forcing local and provincial governments to extend or tighten restrictions.

Like most of Europe and the United States, Canada is grappling with a second wave of the novel coronavirus that is growing steeper by the day, and which shows little sign of easing. To curb the spread, Manitoba moved this week to shutter all non-essential stores and Toronto extended its ban on indoor dining.

The economy now finds itself in a vulnerable spot. After a summer of business reopenings and rebounding activity, growth is suddenly no longer a given. Making matters worse, some small-business support programs – for wage subsidies and rent relief – are in varying states of limbo, right when many companies need another dose of financial help.

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“Stagnation is our expectation,” said Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management, projecting that growth will come in flat in November and December. “As sectors get closed, economic damage mounts.”

Heading into the fall, economic growth was strong, albeit slowing from summer’s rapid pace. In a preliminary estimate, Statistics Canada said real gross domestic product rose 0.7 per cent in September. That would leave overall output about 4 per cent lower than before the pandemic.

The early signs for October were encouraging, too. Employment rose by more than 80,000 and consumer spending held firm.

“In both the U.S. and Canada, [last Friday’s] surprising jobs data suggested that a second wave of the virus hadn’t yet dented overall growth in October,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a client note. “But we can look across the pond to Europe, where even higher caseloads seem very likely to squeeze [fourth-quarter] GDP, for what could be in store here if we can’t contain infection rates.”

Containment has been a struggle of late. Canada is now consistently seeing more than 4,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 every day, with the seven-day moving average rising quickly. Despite a variety of restrictions, Ontario set a new daily record on Wednesday. And in Quebec, where much of the province has been under partial lockdown since Oct. 1, cases are trending higher again after a reprieve.

“Suddenly the neat-and-tidy analysis [of how the virus is spreading] has become less neat and tidy,” Mr. Lascelles said.

In Manitoba, the economic situation has taken a turn. Manitoba is now grappling with a virus surge that’s prompted the provincial government to impose the strictest second-wave restrictions in the country, starting Thursday. Those include the closing of in-person retail shopping (except for grocery stores and pharmacies), gyms, movie theatres and salons.

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“I understand where the province is coming from, that we need to get a grip on this quickly before it gets too out of control,” said Roberto Sinopoli, president of Verde Salon Group, which has two locations in Winnipeg. Still, he added, it’s “a shock” to go back into lockdown.

The upside is that Canada’s economy is better equipped for the second wave. Provincial restrictions are more targeted than before, allowing most industries to continue operating. Meanwhile, federal income supports continue flowing to the underemployed. That should keep the economy from backsliding in the fourth quarter.

But for the small-business community, there is a great deal of concern. Ottawa announced updates to the wage subsidy and the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy in early October. However, they still have not received Parliamentary approval after last-minute changes and procedural delays.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to face the Senate Thursday to discuss the programs, but lobby groups and opposition politicians fear the growing delays will leave entrepreneurs without added help until sometime in December.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has estimated that between 55,000 and 218,000 small businesses – nearly one in five – could shut down, depending on government aid. The lobby group is in the midst of updating those numbers, which could rise along with aid program delays and COVID-19′s second wave.

Another concern is how consumers will respond to rising coronavirus cases. “As the virus numbers grow more adverse, people do behave more cautiously and there’s some economic damage that comes from that as well,” Mr. Lascelles said.

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After emerging from the first lockdown, revenue was down sharply at Verde Salon Group, Mr. Sinopoli said. That was because of not only capacity limits, but also wary customers.

“Consumer behaviours have shifted significantly,” he said. When people are panicked by the virus, “the last thing they’re thinking about is getting their hair done.”

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Statistics Canada to say today how country's economy fared in third quarter of 2020 – Humboldt Journal

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OTTAWA — The national statistics office will say this morning how much Canada’s domestic economy bounced back in the third quarter of the year.

The Canadian economy suffered its worst three-month stretch on record in the second quarter as the economy came to a near halt in April before starting to recover in May and June.

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Expressed at an annualized rate, real gross domestic product fell 38.7 per cent in the second quarter, the worst posting on record.

The rebound is expected to be equally sharp in the ensuing three-month stretch over July, August and September.

Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for an annualized growth rate of 47.6 per cent for the quarter.

The firm also says the average economist estimate is for a 0.9 per cent increase in real GDP for September, which Statistics Canada will also unveil this morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.

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Statistics Canada to say today how country's economy fared in third quarter of 2020 – CKPGToday.ca

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By Canadian Press

Dec 1, 2020 1:08 AM

OTTAWA — The national statistics office will say this morning how much Canada’s domestic economy bounced back in the third quarter of the year.

The Canadian economy suffered its worst three-month stretch on record in the second quarter as the economy came to a near halt in April before starting to recover in May and June.

Expressed at an annualized rate, real gross domestic product fell 38.7 per cent in the second quarter, the worst posting on record.

The rebound is expected to be equally sharp in the ensuing three-month stretch over July, August and September.

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Powell Sees Hope and Uncertainties for Economy in Vaccines – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The Canadian Press

Top secret: Biden gets access to President’s Daily Brief

WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden has had his first look as president-elect at the President’s Daily Brief, a top secret summary of U.S. intelligence and world events — a document former first lady Michelle Obama has called “The Death, Destruction, and Horrible Things Book.”
Biden has already had eyes on different iterations of the so-called PDB, which is tailored to the way each president likes to absorb information.
More than a decade ago, Biden read President George W. Bush’s PDB during Biden’s transition into the vice presidency. After that, he read President Barack Obama’s PDB for eight years. Beginning Monday, after a four-year break, he’s reading President Donald Trump’s PDB.
“The briefers almost certainly will be asking Biden what he prefers in terms of format and style,” said David Priess, author of “The President’s Book of Secrets,” a history of the PDB. “At a minimum, they’re seeing what seems to resonate most with him so that when they make the book his book, they can tailor it to him.”
Obama’s PDB was a 10- to 15-page document tucked in a leather binder, which he found waiting for him on the breakfast table. Later in his presidency, he liked reading the ultra-secret intelligence brief on a secured iPad.
“Michelle called it “The Death, Destruction, and Horrible Things Book,” Obama wrote in his recently released book, ”A Promised Land.”
“On a given day, I might read about terrorist cells in Somalia or unrest in Iraq or the fact that the Chinese or Russians were developing new weapons systems,” Obama wrote. “Nearly always, there was mention of potential terrorist plots, no matter how vague, thinly sourced, or unactionable — a form of due diligence on the part of the intelligence community, meant to avoid the kind of second-guessing that had transpired after 9-11.”
From now until Inauguration Day, Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will be reading the PDB crafted for Trump, who had delayed giving Biden and Harris access to it as he contests the outcome of the election.
Trump, who prefers absorbing information in visual ways, likes short texts and graphics.
“Trump himself said during his campaign and during the transition in 2016 that he did not like reading long documents — that he preferred bullet points,” said Priess, who has not seen any of Trump’s PDBs. “It probably has charts, tables, graphs — things like that. Not the parody that people make that it’s like a cartoon book … but something that is more visual. But we don’t know for sure.”
The written brief, which Trump doesn’t always read, often is followed by a verbal briefing with an intelligence official, although those oral briefings stopped at least for a time in October. Priess said he didn’t know why they stopped or if they had resumed, but that they stopped at a time when Trump was spending much of his time on the campaign trail.
Before Trump authorized Biden to get the PDB as president-elect, Biden was given some intelligence background briefings as a candidate. But they were more general and did not include the nation’s top secrets.
The other thing that a president-elect gets is a briefing “on CIA’s covert actions,” former acting CIA director Mike Morell said at an event hosted by the Center for Presidential Transition based in Washington. “It’s important for the president-elect to get this briefing … because on Inauguration Day, these covert actions will become the new president’s.”
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy read his first brief while sitting on the diving board of a swimming pool at his retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. President Lyndon Johnson liked to read his brief in the afternoon. President Richard Nixon relied on his national security adviser Henry Kissinger to peruse the briefs and tell him what he thought the president should know.
As the laborious recount of ballots dragged on in 2000, President Bill Clinton decided that then-Gov. George W. Bush should get access to his PDB just in case he was the winner. Bush became was the first incoming president to read it before he was president-elect.
Biden is getting the PDB later than usual because of Trump’s ongoing protest of the election results. Trump approved the briefings for Biden last Tuesday, a day after his administration approved the formal transition process to his successor.
When Biden walks into the Oval Office, he’ll be inheriting nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, changing political dynamics in the Middle East, the winding down of America’s presence in Afghanistan and rising competition from China.
Biden had access to the PDB in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris received it in a secure room at the Commerce Department, where the presidential transition offices are located.
Even Biden, who has decades of experience in foreign policy, could be the victim of an old political adage that no matter how informed he thinks he is, he could learn otherwise from the PDB.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden wrote in his book that revelations and new insight found in the PDB are known as “aw s—” moments. As in: “Aw s—,” he wrote, “wish we hadn’t said that during that campaign stop in Buffalo.”
___
Riechmann reported from Washington.

Deb Riechmann And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

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