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Economy and COVID-19 Top Americans' Policy Agenda for 2021 – Pew Research Center



Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand which issues the public views as most important for Congress and the president to prioritize in the coming year. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,360 U.S. adults in January 2021. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology

Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Chart shows strengthening the economy and dealing with coronavirus stand out as the public’s top priorities

As the United States faces twin crises of high unemployment and a global pandemic, large majorities of Americans want Joe Biden and Congress to prioritize strengthening the economy and addressing the coronavirus outbreak in the coming year.

Yet there are wide partisan gaps over most of the 19 items asked about in a new Pew Research Center survey – particularly addressing racial issues and dealing with global climate change, but also dealing with COVID-19 and reducing the budget deficit.

The survey, conducted Jan. 8-12 among 5,360 U.S. adults who are members of the nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds that economic concerns once again top the public’s agenda after declining in relative importance in recent years.

Currently, about eight-in-ten Americans say strengthening the nation’s economy (80%) and dealing with the coronavirus outbreak (78%) should be top priorities for the president and Congress to address this year. Two-thirds (67%) rate improving the job situation as a top priority.

Majorities also prioritize a number of other policy goals, including defending the country from future terrorist attacks (63%), improving the way the political system works (62%) and reducing health care costs (58%). 

About half of the public says the president and Congress should make it a top priority this year to take steps to make Social Security financially sound (54%), improve education (53%), deal with the problems poor people face in their lives (53%), address issues around race in this country (49%) and reduce crime (47%). 

Among the priorities that rank lower on the 19-item priorities list are dealing with global trade (32%), improving the country’s roads, bridges and public transportation systems (32%) and dealing with drug addiction (28%). Notably, majorities rate all of these policy goals either as a “top priority” for the president and Congress or as “an important but lower priority”; for each, relatively small shares say they are “not too important” or “should not be done.”

Partisan differences over many policy goals, but not on ‘improving the political system’

As in past surveys of the public’s priorities, Democrats and Republicans differ on the importance of many policy goals.

Chart shows wide partisan gaps on importance of addressing race, climate change, coronavirus as well as budget deficit

Still, while Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to rate improving the job situation as a top policy priority, majorities in both parties (71% of Democrats, 63% of Republicans) say this is a top goal. 

Similarly, large shares in both parties rate strengthening the economy as a top goal, though more Republicans (85%) than Democrats (75%) say this. The economy and jobs rank among the top five policy goals for both Republicans and Democrats. 

Yet there are stark differences over the importance of other policy objectives – especially those relating to race and climate change. 

About seven-in-ten Democrats (72%) say addressing issues around race in this country should be a top policy priority, placing it among the top five goals for Democrats among 19 policy areas. The issue is among the bottom five priorities for Republicans; just 24% cite this as a top priority. 

Similarly, 59% of Democrats compared with 14% of Republicans say dealing with global climate change should be a top priority. There also is a 33 percentage point gap between the shares of Democrats (68%) and Republicans (35%) who say addressing the problems of poor people should be a top priority. 

The partisan gap over addressing the coronavirus is as large – 93% of Democrats rate this as a top policy priority, compared with 60% of Republicans – though it ranks among the leading goals for members of both parties. 

Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say reducing health care costs (by 21 percentage points), addressing issues within the criminal justice system (also by 21 points) and improving education (by 18 points) should be top priorities this year. 

By contrast, larger shares of Republicans than Democrats rate reducing the budget deficit, strengthening the military, reducing crime and defending against terrorism as top policy priorities. More than half of Republicans (54%) say reducing the deficit should be a top policy objective, compared with 29% of Democrats. Reducing the budget deficit ranks as a middle-tier priority for Republicans and is among Democrats’ lowest priorities. 

Republicans also rated deficit reduction more highly than Democrats last year, at the start of Donald Trump’s final year in office. Among members of both parties, the shares rating the deficit as a top priority declined sharply between 2013 (at the start of Barack Obama’s second term) and 2020. The nation’s debt and its yearly budget deficit have been rising in recent years. 

After a contentious presidential election and a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, comparable shares in both parties identify “improving the political system” as a top priority for the president and Congress (64% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans). Yet in the past, partisans have differed sharply over proposals related to voting and elections

Policy priorities of White, Hispanic and Black Americans

Chart shows Black, Hispanic and White adults differ on importance of addressing racial issues

Economic concerns rank near the top of the policy agenda for Black, White and Hispanic adults. However, there are major differences in their views on the importance of other issues, especially race, poverty, education and criminal justice.

Black adults (83%) are about twice as likely as White adults (40%) to say addressing issues around race in this country should be a top priority; 68% of Hispanic adults view this as a top priority. 

Black Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) are more likely than White Democrats and Democratic leaners (68%) to say that addressing issues around race should be a top priority. Still, far more White Democrats than White Republicans (21%) rate this as a top priority. (see detailed tables for more).

While 77% of Black adults say dealing with the problems of poor people should be a top goal, smaller shares of Hispanic (64%) and White adults (46%) say the same. 

There are also wide divisions between White and Black adults – with Hispanics generally falling in between – over how much the government should prioritize improving education, addressing issues within the criminal justice system, dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and a number of other issues. 

Across all 19 items, there is none that significantly more White adults than Black or Hispanic adults view as a top policy priority. However, there are no meaningful differences in the shares across racial and ethnic groups who want to prioritize dealing with immigration, dealing with global trade, strengthening the economy or reducing the budget deficit.

Gender and policy priorities

Chart shows women place higher priority than men on addressing issues around race, criminal justice and health care

Women prioritize a number of policy goals more highly than men do, especially addressing issues around race, the criminal justice system, health care and education.

A majority of women (56%) say addressing issues around race in this country should be a top priority, compared with fewer than half of men (41%). 

More women than men also say addressing issues within the criminal justice system (52% vs. 40%), reducing health care costs (63% vs. 52%) and improving education (59% vs. 48%) should be top priorities. 

Overall, a greater share of women than men say improving the job situation, dealing with poverty, dealing with immigration and several other issues also should be top priorities in the year ahead.

Age and policy priorities

Older adults are more likely to view several goals as top priorities compared with younger adults.

Chart shows young adults far less likely than older people to prioritize a stronger military, anti-terrorism defenses

By contrast, there are only three items – improving education, addressing the criminal justice system and dealing with climate change – that larger shares of younger than older adults rate as top priorities.

The biggest gaps between older and younger adults occur on national defense policy priorities. About three-quarters of those 50 and older (77%), compared with only about four-in-ten of those ages 18 to 29 (39%), say defending against terrorism should be a top priority. Within both parties, older Americans are more likely to want the policy agenda to focus more on defense issues (see detailed tables for more).

Similarly, more than three times as many adults 50 and older (51%) say strengthening the military should be a top issue on the nation’s agenda compared with those under 30 (14%). Older adults are also more likely than younger adults to prioritize Social Security, the economy, the job situation and reducing crime.

Education and policy priorities

Chart shows wide educational gaps on importance of Social Security, crime, stronger military and climate change

There are notable differences in views of policy priorities by education. Those with less formal education rate more goals as important priorities than do those with more education.

Nearly seven-in-ten adults with a high school diploma or less (68%) say taking steps to make the Social Security system financially sound should be a top priority, compared with 54% of those with some college, 36% of college graduates and 40% of those with a postgraduate degree.

Views are similar regarding the priority Biden and Congress should give to reducing crime: 57% of those with no more than a high school diploma say it should be a top priority, but this share falls across the other educational groups, reaching a low of 31% among those with a postgraduate degree.

Americans without college experience say a number of additional issues should be top priorities as well, including such policy areas as strengthening the military, defending against terrorism, reducing the budget deficit, reducing health care costs and dealing with drug addiction.

Those with more education beyond a college degree, on the other hand, are more likely to say that the president and Congress should give top priority to dealing with global climate change: About half of Americans with a postgraduate degree (49%) say it should be a top priority, compared with 37% of those with a college degree or some college experience and 35% of those with a high school degree or less. And adults with a postgraduate degree are modestly more likely than others to say addressing issues around race in this country and dealing with the coronavirus should be top priorities this year.

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Opinion: Waves of sanctions were supposed to crush the Russian economy, but it is still showing signs of resilience – The Globe and Mail



Valves near a drilling rig at a gas processing facility on the Arctic Yamal peninsula, Russia, on May 21, 2019.MAXIM SHEMETOV/Reuters

Near the start of the war, as the sanctions piled up, the Russian economy was thought to be doomed, possibly forcing President Vladimir Putin to sue for early peace. Almost three months later, there is no sign that a peace deal is about to be negotiated, nor is there much sign that the Russian economy is collapsing. The two may be related.

Yes, the Russian economy is hurting and no doubt in recession. But the economy is also showing annoying signs of resilience, in good part because oil and natural gas revenues are climbing even as Europe tries to wean itself off Mr. Putin’s hydrocarbons as punishment for having launched an unprovoked war that is killing an alarming number of civilians and triggering war crimes investigations.

Last week, the International Energy Agency said that Russia’s oil revenues are up 50 per cent this year even though some refiners are refusing to take Russian shipments. But other refiners are buying as much as they can – China and India are gobbling up the cargoes no longer wanted in Europe and North America. Moscow has been earning about US$20-billion this year – money that is used to fund the war – from the sale of crude and refined products.

At the same time, the sanctions, coupled with the proposed embargo on Russian oil exports to Europe, are putting the Europeans into a low-grade panic that is intensifying by the day as energy prices soar and across-the-board inflation takes off – always a popularity-shredding recipe for any ruling politician.

This week Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, calling for a ceasefire and the start of peace talks, indicated that the country’s support for the war is waning. Italy was one of the European countries most dependent on Russian energy and one of the biggest exporters to Russia – until the war began. Recent polls say nearly half of Italians now oppose sending arms to Ukraine and a similar proportion say that Russia should be handed Crimea and the eastern parts of Ukraine it now occupies, if doing so is what it takes to end the war. The figure is double the level of those who think Ukraine should fight to reclaim the territories lost to the Russians.

Sanctions and embargoes are tricky, often hazardous, pursuits. The working idea is that those on the receiving end should suffer far more than those delivering them. In this case, the pain is shared by both sides, though Russia is suffering more. Still, as energy writer Irina Slav points out, Europe’s assumption – that Russia needs to sell Europe its hydrocarbons more than Europe needs to buy them – may not hold true.

Take Hungary. The European Union is struggling to ban oil imports from Russia because Hungary is completely dependent on Russian oil; its economy would shut down without them, all the more so since most of its refineries are incapable of processing non-Russian oil. About two-thirds of Hungary’s oil, and more than 80 per cent of its gas, come from Russia.

And because much of the rest of Europe is addicted to Russian hydrocarbons too, the sanctions are taking on a two-sided flavour. Finland revealed Friday that Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas giant that holds a monopoly on Russian gas exports, will cease gas supplies to Finland on Saturday (since Russia supplies only 5 per cent of Finnish gas, the move won’t hurt much but will act as a warning to the European heavyweight economies far more reliant on Russian gas, notably Germany and Italy).

The sanctions and embargo wars, like the war in Ukraine itself, are getting ugly, with no obvious winners or losers. The West is still waiting for the Russian economic implosion.

In March, shortly after war started, JPMorgan predicted a 35 per cent fall in second-quarter Russian GDP over the same period in 2021. Earlier this month, the Wall Street bank said the GDP hit would likely be less severe than it had forecast. They wrote that the data “do not point to an abrupt plunge in activity, at least for now.”

One of the reasons for Russia’s relative rude health is the country’s oil and gas export revenues are not only intact – they’re rising – even as the EU tries to curtail, and ultimately stop, imports of those fuels (the United States and Canada have already banned Russian oil and refined oil products).

Russia was making fortunes from oil and gas revenues even before the war started as global demand rose. Oil began to surge about this time last year as pandemic restrictions eased off and economies bounced back to life. Brent crude, the international benchmark, is up 73 per cent in a year; OPEC undershooting its oil production target is certainly adding to the upward price pressure, much to the irritation of the Americans. Mr. Putin is not complaining.

As Russia’s hydrocarbon revenues rise, its current-account surplus, which includes trade and some financial flows, is hitting record levels. The Institute of International Finance recently estimated that Russia’s surplus could hit US$250-billion this year, about double the figure recorded in 2021. Meanwhile the Russian ruble, which got slaughtered in the early days of the war, has rallied and is one of the top performing currencies in the world, in part due to capital controls and Moscow’s insistence that Gazprom be paid in rubles, not dollars or euros.

To be sure, Russia is suffering. Various Russian and international forecasts predict Russian GDP will shrink by 10 per cent this year. Russia’s central bank is hobbled by the sanctions on its foreign exchange reserves and Western companies are leaving in droves (though Russian companies are picking up some of those discarded assets at fire sale prices). But the country is not suffering enough to be motivated to end the war to save its economy. That may change, but probably not anytime soon.

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Roadshow offering free activities while boosting local economy – My North Bay Now



If you’re looking for a free outing that’s good for all ages, the Great Northern Ontario Roadshow is in the city this weekend.  

The event is taking place Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm outside the North Bay Museum.  

Ryan Land, Director of Education and Northern Programs with Science North, says the two-day event features demonstrations and activities with the Science North bluecoats, a staycation expo, and so much more. 

“We’ll have activities for, we like to say, kids of all ages 0-99, there will be food vendors and we have a big stage set up where we’ll have local entertainment.  It’ll be MC’d by northern comedian Ron Kanutski, and we’ll also have local musicians performing,” he says. 

Land says the roadshow, which is touring across 50 communities, will attract 70,000 visitors.   

“It really is all about re-energizing the local economy and tourism, inviting out makers, growers and vendors to just supercharge the local economy a little bit as we all start to recover on the back end of the pandemic,” he says. 

The event will also highlight some of the private and public tourist attractions and natural wonders around the North.

(Photo by staff)

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Cargojet CEO says inflation, labour shortages suggest 'almost recessionary economy' – Financial Post



2022 ‘very different picture’ for freight carrier

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Cargojet Inc. chief executive Ajay Virmani said fuel prices and labour challenges suggest a recession is looming.

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“All the challenges that you see out there [are] pointing towards almost a recessionary economy,” he said in an interview with the Financial Post’s Larysa Harapyn.

Virmani has a unique sightline on what’s happening in the economy. Cargojet had a good crisis, as the Mississauga, Ont.-based airline tripled its loads as consumers started ordering goods for delivery that they typically would have purchased at a store. Year-over-year revenue growth increased by 46 per cent in the quarter ended March 31, rising to $233.6 million from $160.3 million in the first quarter of last year.

Despite beating earnings expectations, Virmani said that business has levelled off since 2021. “That was a bit of a different story,” he said. “Today, it’s a very different picture.”

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The once-fluid supply chain has faced numerous disruptions, including blockades, floods, and shortages. The chaos of the past couple of years has generated debate about whether supply chains will be shortened, as manufacturers and retailers seek suppliers closer to home to reduce the risk of being left with empty storerooms in the future.

Virmani said he isn’t seeing that yet. But he is seeing firsthand the extreme labour shortages that have come with the recovery from the COVID recession.

“Our biggest challenge right now is making sure that we can have people on the ground,” said Virmani. ”Inflation is a big factor, especially when you have wage rates go up 20 to 30 per cent to find any decent people to work.”

Canada’s inflation rate hit a new 31-year high of 6.8 per cent in April from a year earlier. Wages have also jumped as firms try to retain staff in the country’s tight job market.

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“Everybody’s increasing prices,” said Virmani. Examples of recent price hikes in the airline industry include airport landing and parking fees, NAV Canada navigation charges, and jet fuel prices.

Passing on inflationary costs has been tricky for Cargojet because many of its customers have locked-in contracts.

“You’re not able to pass on 100 per cent of those charges,” said Virmani. ”It’s kind of hard to jam through every area of increase to your customers because there’s no ability for them to pass [it] on either,” said Virmani.”

Cargojet has been branching out into the international market as part of its growth strategy in the post-pandemic world.

“I’ve always said that Cargojet needs to diversify,” said Virmani. “We have the infrastructure in place, we have the resources in place, so basically we had to get some planes and people to fly them.”

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The airline used to be primarily domestic – 80 to 90 per cent of its business, Virmani said – when it launched in 2001. Its business has since evolved, and domestic orders now account for only 50 per cent of business, the CEO said.

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  2. A Cargojet plane lands at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

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“It’s like McDonalds. They used to serve you lunch and dinner and they added breakfast to their menu,” said Virmani. “We have added sort of our version of breakfast which is international to the menu.”

Air Canada recently expanded its fleet with the acquisition of new freighter aircrafts. But Virmani said it has done little to change the playing field for Cargojet.

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“International is a big market,” he said. “We’ve got a business plan and we’re going to execute it.”

At home, Virmani said Cargojet is shielded from Air Canada and other competitors because few have been in the business for as long as he has. Cargojet has taken over 20 years to build its network in the Canadian market, and that has value, the CEO said.

“There’s a cargo pedigree. There’s a cargo system in place. Minutes matter and I don’t think that anybody who wants to expand in that market field will have great luck,” said Virmani. “You have got to spend a lot of money, or you have got to spend a lot of time on it – and we’ve done both.”

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