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First COVID-positive patient admitted to local hospital – SooToday

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Sault Area Hospital is reporting this evening that it has admitted its first patient who is positive with COVID-19.

All the hospital’s staff, physicians and volunteers have been advised by email that the patient had been self-isolating at home prior to today’s hospitalization.

“The patient’s condition has required admission to the hospital. Appropriate isolation precautions have been implemented,” Sault Area Hospital says in a news release.

“Our front-line teams acted quickly and efficiently to ensure the patient received an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.”

“We are fortunate that our teams have been preparing for this type of situation for many months.”

The Sault hospital remains open.

“Clinics and procedures will continue to operate under the current practice. The hospital is safe for patients and visitors,” the release states.

Algoma Public Health announced late this afternoon that one more person had tested positive for COVID-19, raising to 35 the total number of positive cases in the region, with three active cases at this time.

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Energy sector wins temporary tax reprieves as Alberta government tries to spur drilling – CBC.ca

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The provincial government announced a series of measures Monday aimed at helping the beleaguered oil and gas industry, including a three-year property tax exemption for companies drilling new wells and building new pipelines. 

The province is also eliminating its tax on well drilling equipment, lowering the tax assessments for less productive oil and gas wells, and extending a recently introduced 35 per cent assessment reduction on shallow gas wells for three years, Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard announced.

“Alberta needs to be as competitive as possible to attract investment into our communities,” she said in a release.

“We know our municipal partners are committed to do their part to create jobs and support Albertans through this challenging economic time. We are working to secure a brighter future for our province by supporting both industry and communities.”

The measures reflect an effort on the part of the province to achieve what the head of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, Al Kemmere, called a fair balance between supporting the energy sector and keeping rural counties fiscally viable.

“RMA looks forward to working with the Government of Alberta and industry in the coming years to ensure that rural municipalities can address their viability and continue to do their part to support industry competitiveness in a way that reflects a strong partnership,” he said.

Earlier this year, the province laid out four possible new taxation models aimed at providing relief to Alberta’s struggling oil and gas companies by reforming the assessment process for their wells and other operations.

But the RMA reacted with alarm and said 69 counties and municipal districts could have lost up to 40 per cent of their tax base under such plans.

Allard, newly installed as minister of municipal affairs in a summer cabinet shuffle, said last week that she had put the brakes on its proposed revamp of the way oil and gas operations are assessed for taxation. And she said consultations will continue.

“I feel with our decision today, we have balanced the needs of both municipalities and the oil and gas industry,” Allard said as she announced the changes in a virtual news conference. 

“We tailored this solution based on what we heard.”

The province says it will continue its work with municipalities and industry groups to determine how best to update the assessment model for the longer term, after these three-year measures have concluded.

Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), applauded the interim measures.

“The Alberta government’s action to incent new drilling and provide relief to mature wells is a crucial step to help restore investor confidence and preserve and create jobs for Albertans,” he said in a release.

“Rural Alberta is key to the success of the oil and gas industry and we are committed to continuing to work with the municipalities and the province on this issue going forward to rebuild our energy industry and bring prosperity back to Alberta.”

Kemmere said there are still important issues that need to be addressed.

“One of the biggest challenges with this whole process is the unpaid taxes,” he said, noting that municipalities were out $81 milliion two years ago and $173 million last year.

“If we don’t fix that in the near future, all these modifications are going to be for naught.”

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What it's like to pull the plug on your business during the pandemic – CBC.ca

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The numbers are still coming about how many businesses have been shuttered as a result of COVID-19, and considering the financial pain many firms are experiencing, a true tally won’t be known for quite a while. 

But evidence of the tens of thousands of businesses that have closed can be found in shopping malls and on main streets across Canada. 

Behind the figures and bordered-up businesses is the human toll the closures had on the entrepreneurs who saw their passions, dreams and financial lifeblood disappear.

These are the stories of three entrepreneurs from different industries who faced that arduous reality and agreed to share details about their businesses’ downfall, the emotions they’ve felt and how they’re trying to keep their chin up through the heartbreak.

‘I knew we couldn’t weather that storm’

It only took a few days after the Alberta government forced Scott McDermott to close down his fitness gym that he realized the ultimate fate of his business.

Leading up to the coronavirus lockdown in March, he had already cancelled group workouts and child-minding services as fears grew about the coronavirus pandemic. He and his staff were busy preparing online workouts, meal plans and programs for members.

Two days after Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake, a resort town in central Alberta, was told to close its doors, McDermott had his weekly meeting with his bookkeeper. 

As they looked over the numbers, it hit him. No matter how successful the online offerings were, there was no financial path to overcoming how deep of a hit COVID-19 was going to have on his gym.

“I just had to stop and go, ‘You know what, this isn’t gonna work.'”

Photos before and after Best Body Fitness closed. Instead of a place for physical improvement, it’s now for spiritual devotion since a church is leasing the building. (Submitted by Scott McDermott)

Even if gyms would reopen quickly, there would be restrictions, and he knew some members wouldn’t feel comfortable returning for quite a while, regardless of the health and safety protocols introduced.

“I knew we couldn’t weather that storm,” he said.

“It was crystal clear. There was not a cell in my body that didn’t know that was the right decision.” 

That March night he wept at his desk until 2 a.m. After 18 years in business, it was over.

“We put so much into it, and we helped so many lives, and we made such a difference, and it was just gone.”

WATCH | How this fitness gym owner realized his business would have to close:

During a meeting with his accountant, Scott McDermott knew instantly he had to shutdown his fitness gym for good. 3:43

After he informed the staff, customers who had prepaid memberships were invited back to take some of the fitness equipment as a trade.

Now, months later, McDermott is trying to stay positive. Instead of working upwards of 100 hours a week as an entrepreneur, his stress levels are noticeably down.

Part of the reason is because the gym was open 24 hours a day, so he always felt like he was working. In addition, the last five years were difficult financially with a struggling Alberta economy and rising business costs.

We stole from our RRSP, and we took from our savings account, and we borrowed money from our parents because you kept believing it’s going to get better. It’s going to turn the corner. When COVID hit, it’s like, no. That’s it.– Scott McDermott

“We stole from our RRSP, and we took from our savings account, and we borrowed money from our parents because you kept believing it’s going to get better. It’s going to turn the corner. When COVID hit, it’s like, no. That’s it.”

As painful as it was to shutter his business, he’s trying to enjoy this transition in life. He’s active with public speaking, online fitness coaching and writing two books. He’s also promoting a documentary about his recovery from a horrific cycling crash in 2015 during an ultra-endurance race.

He isn’t sure if any of these ventures will flourish enough to pay the bills, but he’s excited to find out.

“It’s like a blank slate,” he said. “I’m just trying to be creative and find a way.”

Scott McDermott is spending some of his time promoting a documentary about his recovery from a cycling crash in 2015 during an ultra-endurance race in Hawaii. (Living the Warrior Code)

‘Telling the team was really, really hard’

Unlike McDermott, Brianna Hallet was able to reopen her hair salon after the lockdown began in March. However, as the summer wore on, it became clear SwizzleSticks Salon Spa in Calgary was no longer viable.

Adhering to health restrictions meant operating at less than half capacity with up to seven stylists working at one time, even though there are 16 chairs.

The spa side of her business never did reopen to offer massages, facials and other services.

Meanwhile, she said her landlord wouldn’t budge on providing any relief, and the business struggled to pay the rent that was still owed for the spring months when the shop was closed.

Hallet also didn’t qualify for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account, which provides small businesses with interest-free loans of up to $40,000.

“It just seemed like there were too many blockades, and we really didn’t know what the rest of the year would also hold. So even if we got through the next month, what would the next month bring? Would we have to be closed again?”

When the decision was made to permanently close, Hallet had her accountant in the room to help explain the situation to staff and help with the transition.

“Oh my gosh, telling the team was really, really hard. I had the PricewaterhouseCoopers team with me. So that was really nice to have some support on site, but that was an emotional day. Lots of tears.”

WATCH | It wasn’t just one financial obstacle to overcome:

Brianna Hallet was able to re-open SwizzleSticks after the lockdown measures, but it proved to be difficult. 2:25

The end of SwizzleSticks is still a painful reality for Hallet who worked there 14 years and was the owner for the last six years.

“It’s been hard. It’s been a really tough identity thing. I didn’t realize how much of my identity I placed within SwizzleSticks. Even last night, I was journaling some thoughts, and it’s still — it’s the identity,” she said, along with grief and mourning. 

Hallet is thankful she kept up her skills behind the chair after becoming the salon owner, as she’s been able to find work at a different salon.

While her first experience as a business owner didn’t end the way she would have liked, it hasn’t diminished her entrepreneurial spirit.

“Absolutely, it’s just a part of me. There are too many opportunities not to do it again.”

Brianna Hallet is thankful she kept up her skills behind the chair as she’s been able to find work at Josef Saliba Salon in Calgary. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

‘It feels like a huge loss of yourself’

At the beginning of the year, business was actually pretty good at Enzo Energy Services. The oilpatch has had many struggles since the severe price crash began in 2014, but in the early months of 2020, Casey Johnson’s shop in Red Deer, Alta., was pretty active, and crews were busy.

The trucking company hauled chemicals and other fluids for the oil and gas industry.

Still, he clearly remembers March 9. Saudi Arabia and Russia had begun flooding the market with oil as part of a price war and — coupled with growing coronavirus fears beginning to hurt demand for fuel — sent crude prices spiralling to their lowest levels in several years.

Enzo qualified for multiple government aid programs, but it didn’t make an impact.

“For the size of company we were, it was like firing a paintball gun at a tank. It just wasn’t enough,” he said. “The core issue was such a drop in demand for our services.”

Casey Johnson with his two sons in 2010 when he started his business, left, and pictured again this year before the final truck left the yard. Johnson says they wanted to recreate the photo because his boys were always part of the business, and it ‘gave me pause for reflection about what we’ve been able to do over the last decade.’ (Submitted by Casey Johnson)

In August, the business shutdown, and two auction companies were called to sell off everything from large trucks to office desks and chairs. Johnson always thought his business would eventually be sold or merged with a larger company.

“It was excruciating,” he said. “It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

At its height, the firm had 25 employees.

“To tell them and their families that their paycheque will not be coming from the business any longer was really hard.”

WATCH | The tough transition after closing your business:

After shuttering his business, Casey Johnson was fortunate to get a new job and in a way, create a new identity for himself 1:12

Johnson himself has been able to find work at an environmental company, which he described as a relief to keep him busy while this part of his life winds down. There’s still more work ahead to be done with creditors, and finding a new tenant for the building won’t be easy.

Still, he’s optimistic about the future. When he does reflect on the business, he tries to focus on the many high points of the 10-year journey.

“When a business closes down, it feels like a huge loss of yourself,” he said. “[But] we’re more than the job we do or the business that we own. And there’s more value to life than the business, even though when you’re in the middle of it, it can be hard to make that distinction.”

Enzo Energy Services operated for 10 years in the oilfield services sector. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

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Alberta exempts energy companies drilling wells or building pipelines from property taxes for three years – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

But the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) warned that the models under considerationwould cause “potentially devastating impacts on rural Alberta” and could cost rural municipalities more than $290 million in 2021 alone.

Allard said Monday the government would not be choosing any of those previous models.

Instead the government estimates its three-year plan will save the industry between $81 and $84 million.

“These measures are intended to provide much needed certainty to industry investors, municipalities, and other taxpayers for the next three years,” Allard said.

Meanwhile, Allard said the government will be startinga longer-term review of the system, including the ongoing issue of energy companies’ unpaid property taxes.

Tim McMillan, president and CEO of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the property assessment values being used under the current system are not accurate so he doesn’t view the changes for the next three years as a tax break.

“This is an interim measure, as we’re working to correct a broader system issue that has built up over a very long period of time,” he said.

RMA president Al Kemmere said he hasn’t crunched the numbers yet to see exactly how much municipalities will lose under this plan but said it will be “nowhere near what we were looking at under the proposals.” He said he believes members of the association are willing to do their part.

Kemmere saidunpaid taxes continues to be his organization’s top priority and that some members are on the cusp of not being able to pay their bills. Municipalities estimate they are owed approximately $173-million.

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