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GO Transit disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge – The Globe and Mail

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A protest in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory flared up Wednesday morning as CN attempted to resume train service. A fire lit on the tracks by protesters was cleared and two fright trains were able to pass.

A spokesman for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, whose opposition to the construction of a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia triggered a new rail blockade in Ontario on Wednesday, said talks to ensure the RCMP leave their territory are going well and they hope to meet with federal officials there on Thursday.

John Ridsdale, who also goes by the hereditary name Na’Moks, said the RCMP had already agreed to shutter a temporary office police set up on a logging road in January 2019, and that talks are making progress on a second demand: that police patrols in the territory must end.

“Today we think we can move forward on that and possibly start discussions with the federal government tomorrow,” he said, speaking at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers, B.C.

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“Our hope is that today is the day when we could move forward.”​

The chiefs met for several hours Tuesday evening and convened once again Wednesday morning. Former federal MP Nathan Cullen, whom the province appointed as a provincial liaison in an unsuccessful round of talks in January, also attended on Tuesday.

The talks come as protests linked to the Wet’suwet’en dispute have snarled commuter traffic and stalled shipments of fuel, food and other cargo at ports and railways in several provinces. Some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs oppose the construction of the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory in northern B.C.

A protest in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory flared up Wednesday morning as Canadian National Railway attempted to resume train service on a critical rail route to Eastern Canada.

A freight train was briefly halted near Belleville, Ont., after protesters threw snowballs at train cars. Tires had earlier been burned on the tracks and protesters later attempted to stoke another fire with wood pallets.

“It’s a little bit of a tense situation right now in terms of how CN goes in to check out the tracks,” said Ontario Provincial Police spokesman Bill Dickson. “The big issue is CN’s trying to roll the trains but having tires burning on the tracks is definitely an issue.”

The train and two others were allowed to pass. About 20 police officers remain on the north side of the tracks. A handful more are monitoring the situation from from an overpass above. About 20 Mohawk protesters remain on the south side of the railway.

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The freight trains were among the first to travel through the area since the OPP on Monday cleared a blockade set by Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters that cut a main eastern Canadian railway link. Ten people were charged with mischief and disobeying a court order.

The arrests quickly fuelled new protests across the country, including several rail blockades that disrupted commuter trains during Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour in the Toronto area.

The rail disruption in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, which began Feb. 6, has been the most economically disruptive, halting freight service on CN’s eastern Canadian network and leading to the suspension of most of Via Rail’s passenger trains.

CN had briefly resumed freight-train service on Monday evening after safety inspections were done on the tracks. However, a CN spokesman cautioned that day that the situation remains fluid and the continued presence of protesters near the line could force another halt to service. Protesters had warned their demonstration wasn’t over.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline would stretch across 670 kilometres, transporting natural gas to LNG Canada’s $18-billion export terminal, under construction in Kitimat, B.C.

All 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s route support the project. However, a group of Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary house chiefs has led a vocal campaign opposing the pipeline’s construction, saying hereditary leaders have jurisdiction over their unceded traditional territory located outside of federal reserves, not elected band councillors. About 190 kilometres of the pipeline route cross the Wet’suwet’en’s territory.

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The Tyendinaga blockade forced CN to suspend service on its eastern network on Feb. 14, cutting off freight service to much of the country east of Toronto, including ports in Montreal and Halifax, and laying off about 450 people.

Via Rail, which leases track space from CN, also cancelled most trains and laid off almost 1,000 people. The passenger rail company has gradually restored service in Southern Ontario and between Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, but its trains running east of Toronto remain suspended.

The loss of rail transport has disrupted Canada’s manufacturing industries and harmed its international reputation as a reliable supplier and safe place to invest, Bob Masterson, head of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said Tuesday.

“You’ve got closures, you’ve got imminent closures. Eighty per cent of what we make is exported and our customers don’t understand and don’t care” why supplies have been disrupted, he said, adding, “When you lose those customers, you’ve lost them forever.”

Industry groups have warned of shortages of water-treatment chemicals, propane and even food.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been in discussions with the B.C. RCMP about a de-escalation plan for a community outpost. He said the federal ministers are “eager” to hear the results of these discussions, adding he believes there has been progress in efforts to secure a meeting with the chiefs.

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“We are all aiming, every level of government is aiming for a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” Mr. Miller said in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault says the provincial government has solid intelligence that Mohawk Warriors protesting on Kahnawake territory south of Montreal have “dangerous, offensive weapons” including the AK-47 assault rifle.

Mr. Legault told reporters Wednesday that he shared the information because he wanted to explain why the Sûreté du Québec has delayed serving and executing an injunction ordering protesters to clear Canadian Pacific tracks.

“We have intelligence that confirms there are weapons, AK-47s to name them, very dangerous weapons,” Mr. Legault told reporters at the Quebec National Assembly. “Right now (the SQ) is working on finding someone to serve the injunction and working on a plan to dismantle the barricade. They’re talking to the peacekeepers. But there are armed people and it’s very delicate.”

While Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers are the local police force with jurisdiction over the area, the Quebec Police Act gives the SQ “jurisdiction to enforce the law throughout Quebec.” Mohawk leaders maintain only the Peacekeepers have jurisdiction over the territory. The Peacekeepers have said they have no intention of serving or executing the injunction.

“The Peacekeepers have very good relations with the people here. I have a hard time imagining the Peacekeepers would do anything that would provoke a confrontation,” Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake, told reporters near the protest site. Mr. Deer denied Mr. Legault’s contention that any weapons pose a threat on the barricade.

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In documents filed in Quebec Superior Court to support its injunction application, the Canadian Pacific Railway said the SQ had informed the railway officers wouldn’t intervene on the reserve unless Peacekeepers requested backup.

Meanwhile, workers using heavy equipment and dump trucks poured stones Wednesday to reinforce concrete barricades at the protest site near the railway.

Further west, the agency responsible for a major commuter rail service covering much of southern Ontario said it was not anticipating any of the delays and cancellations that brought trains to a standstill during the Tuesday rush hour.

Metrolinx, operator of the GO Transit network, suspended service on multiple routes as a series of protests sprang up in and around Toronto.

Toronto police said they arrested three people at the demonstrations.

Police said in a tweet Wednesday morning that officers provided protesters with an injunction and began moving them from rail tracks. They said most were co-operative, but “arrests were made when necessary.”

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The blockade threatened to delay morning commutes west of the city, but police said the rail line has been cleared and most commuter rail lines were running on time or with minor delays.

With files from Canadian Press

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Fill up today! Here's when gas prices will rise seven cents a litre in Ottawa – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa motorists will want to fill up the gas tank on Saturday, before prices start to rise at the end of the weekend.

Gas prices dropped to their lowest level in six months at Ottawa stations on Saturday, at $1.599 a litre.  According to ottawagasprices.com, some stations in Ottawa were selling gas for $1.54 a litre.

Prices have dropped 20 cents a litre in Ottawa since Thursday.

However, Canadians for Affordable Energy President Dan McTeague is telling motorists to fill up the gas tank today.

McTeague forecasts prices will rise seven cents a litre in Ottawa and across Ontario on Sunday to 166.8 cents a litre.

Gas prices in Ottawa have dropped 56 cents a litre since hitting a record high of 215.9 cents a litre on June 11. A drop in demand and rising fears about a recession drove down the price of oil. The Ontario government cut the gas tax rate on July 1 from 14.7 cents per litre to 9 cents per litre.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work on Friday, McTeague said the recent drop in gas prices is welcome, but “don’t expect it to last.”

“The markets, I think, are overestimating the amount of demand drop we’ve seen in the United States and underestimating the severest supply shortage that we’re having,” McTeague said.

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Pandemic benefits were too generous with businesses, stringent with workers: experts – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press


Published Saturday, August 6, 2022 11:21AM EDT

Benefits rolled out at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed vulnerable Canadians to stay healthy while maintaining an income, but business supports were excessive and show the outsized influence of business groups on public policy, economists say.

Nearly two and a half years ago, the federal government faced an unprecedented task of shutting down the economy to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. That shutdown led to a series of pandemic relief benefits aimed at softening the blow to workers and businesses, with the two most prominent programs being the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Recent analysis from Statistics Canada based on census data shows two-thirds of Canadian adults received pandemic benefits in 2020, with these benefits cushioning income losses and reducing inequality.

Previous analysis from the federal statistics agency also found that, as was expected, usage of the wage subsidy program correlated with a lower probability of closure and fewer employee reductions.

While there was little time to spend on crafting the benefits and fine-tuning the details in March 2020, economists are now assessing the successes and failures of these programs in retrospect.

City of New York University economics professor Miles Corak, who has written analyses on these programs, says any evaluation needs to account for the uncertainty people and governments were facing at the time and the urgent need to keep people healthy.

That said, Corak said while the CERB was “terribly successful,” the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy was a “huge failure.”

“The Canada Emergency Response Benefit got money out the door quickly in time to keep people at home, which is what we wanted to do to save lives,” he said.

On the other hand, Corak said the CEWS “came too late, it wasn’t well-targeted and dramatically over-insured (businesses).”

The CERB was quickly announced in March 2020 and $2,000 monthly to Canadians who lost income because of the pandemic shutdown. That was followed soon after by the CEWS, which subsidized businesses’ employee wages by 75 per cent in hopes of encouraging companies to hold on to their staff.

Corak says that by the time the wage subsidy was introduced, many businesses had already parted ways with their employees.

Another source of criticism for the wage subsidy program was that it subsidized wages for all workers at affected businesses, rather than simply those whose jobs were at risk of being lost, making it especially costly.

Jennifer Robson, an associate professor of political management at Carleton University, also pointed to the wage subsidy program as being unsuccessful. Robson said businesses that would have otherwise closed down for reasons unrelated to the pandemic remained artificially afloat because of the wage subsidy.

“These were not businesses that were going to return to profitability,” Robson said.

Statistics Canada data shows the number of business closures spiked dramatically in April 2020, but a sharp decline followed, bringing monthly closures to a lower level than pre-pandemic.

About 31,000 businesses closed in August 2020, while nearly 40,000 had closed in February 2020. 

In hindsight, Corak said the wage subsidy program should have been smaller in scope and targeted to larger businesses with specialized needs where it would be important for companies to hold on to the same employees, such as the airline sector.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has said the wage subsidy was “crucial” for small business owners and noted in April this year that only two of five of its members reported being back to normal sales.

Adrienne Vaupshas, the press secretary for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement the focus of the government at the onset of the pandemic was to protect jobs and ensure a strong economic recovery.

“Today we have recovered 114 per cent of the jobs that were lost during the darkest months of the pandemic,” Vaupshas said.

In contrast to what some economists have characterized as excessively generous supports for businesses, some low-income Canadians have experienced clawbacks to social assistance benefits because they collected CERB. The Canada Revenue Agency is also hoping to recoup benefits paid out to over 400,000 Canadians whose eligibility was questioned.

In response, anti-poverty group Campaign 2000 has called for CERB amnesty.

Corak said while it’s reasonable to ask those who fraudulently collected benefits to pay them back, businesses should be held to the same standard.

“The concern I would have is the asymmetry in this response between individuals and businesses,” Corak said.

The CFIB has called for more loan forgiveness for small businesses who accessed loans through the Canada Emergency Business Account. The federal government is already offering partial loan forgiveness if repayments are made by the end of 2023.

Robson said when it comes to shaping public policy, business interest groups have well-resourced public relations teams to further their interests.

“There is nothing like that for individual low-wage workers,” said Robson.

Corak noted that at the start of the pandemic, there was a focus on the role of front-line workers, but with time, this shifted to small businesses.

“I think the small business lobby was very effective in informing individual MPs and putting pressure on cabinet and the government to respond in a way that many unseen and unheard mothers, fathers workers and families just didn’t have that same voice,” Corak said.

The danger of the wage subsidy program, Corak said, is that it sets a precedent for providing excessive subsidies to businesses and thereby stifling innovation.

“We’re almost moving towards a basic income for small business rather than a basic income for individuals,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.

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'Head-scratcher:' Economists weigh in on Canada's surprise job loss – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Canada’s July jobs reading caught economists by surprise with a loss of 30,600 positions rather than an expected gain of 15,000 for the month.

Despite the negative reading coming on the heels of a still larger decline in June, the unemployment rate stuck to its historic low of 4.9 per cent based, according to Statistics Canada, on a drop in Canada’s participation rate.

“Canada’s labour market is not in disarray,” said National Bank economists Kyle Dahms and Alexandra Ducharme, in their jobs commentary, noting that year-to-date, the private sector has added 110,000 positions. The pair said they continue to see “resilience in the Canadian economy” making them outliers among other big bank analysts.

After digesting July’s numbers, most economists appear to have taken away two narratives:

  • The Bank of Canada won’t be deterred from raising rates further, and possibly with another bigger than normal hike.

  • July’s jobs reading hints at an economy that is beginning to “lose steam.”

Here are the economists in their own words:

Rishi Sondhi, TD Economics

“That’s two in a row in terms of weak headline jobs prints, and employment has now averaged an 11k decline over the past three months. This is consistent with our view that economic growth will soften in the second half of the year. The details skewed to the softer end in July, as full-time employment accounted for a larger share of the overall jobs decline than in June, and hours worked also fell. The latter is particularly notable as it could signal a soft print for monthly GDP, following flat growth in May and a sub-trend gain in June (based on Statcan’s preliminary estimate).”

Stephen Brown, Capital Economics

“The second consecutive monthly decline in employment will raise a few eyebrows at the Bank of Canada but, with the unemployment rate unchanged at a record low and wage growth still strong, we doubt it will prevent the Bank from hiking its policy rate by a further 100 bp at the next two meetings…. While the increase in average hourly earnings was a little lower than we expected, at 0.4% m/m, that gain is still too high for comfort in terms of meeting the Bank’s 2% CPI inflation target. At the margin, the July LFS may tilt the odds a bit toward a 50 bp rate hike in September rather than a 75 bp one, but we doubt it will be the deciding factor.”

Andrew Grantham, CIBC Economics

“The Canadian employment figures were somewhat of a head-scratcher again in July, with employment falling for a second consecutive month but the unemployment rate remaining historically low. The 31K decline in jobs came against consensus expectations for a 15K gain, and added to the 43K decline in the prior month. However, a two-tick decline in the participation rate meant that the jobless rate remained at 4.9%. Job losses were strangely concentrated in the services sector, including wholesale & retail, education and health. With some of those sectors reporting high vacancy rates, labour supply rather than demand appears to be the main issue. That said, the major difference between today’s report and last month’s is that wage growth unexpectedly decelerated (to 5.4% y/y from 5.6% and against consensus expectations for 5.9%) although we always caution that the LFS wage series is extremely volatile month/month. While today’s figures muddy the waters further for policymakers, the Bank of Canada will likely focus on the historic low unemployment rate and still strong wage growth to justify another non-standard rate hike at its next meeting.”

Carrie Freeston, RBC Economics

“In the months ahead we will begin to see the economy lose steam. We are already observing jobless claims rising South of the border, as U.S. labour demand begins to cool. Canada will not be far behind. With the Bank of Canada having raised the overnight rate by 225 basis points (to 2.5%) since March, and at least another 75 basis points slated for the fall, inflation pressures will ease. And labour markets are expected to cool. Our forecast calls for the unemployment rate to begin to trend higher in the coming months and into 2023.”

Douglas Porter, BMO Economics

“Canada’s job market is clearly losing momentum in a hurry, likely due to both a marked cooling in the broader economy but also because a lack of available workers. The downward drift in the participation rate, especially for the 15-64 group, is worth watching closely, with the potential to tighten the labour market further. For the Bank of Canada, the takeaway will be that while growth is clearly cooling, conditions remain drum-tight and wages are stirring. We believe this backdrop is consistent with another rate hike at the September meeting, but of a less aggressive nature than the mega 100 bp move in July. We look for a 50 bp hike at that time.”

Marc Desormeaux, Desjardins Economics

“July’s data were well below the consensus projections, and as such shaved our call for Q3-2022 real Canadian GDP growth to just below 1% (q/q saar). Decelerating wage gains suggest that some progress has been made in the fight against inflation, but the rate of hourly earnings growth continues to track prices closely. Accordingly, while we think inflation may have peaked and have noted previously that the Canadian economy is historically sensitive to interest rate increases, we believe the Bank of Canada will put more weight on the extremely tight labour market and raise rates by 50 bps at its September meeting.”

Kyle Dahms/Alexandra Ducharme, National Bank Economics

Canada lost 31K jobs in July, a second consecutive monthly decline. Despite this development, Canada’s labour market is not in disarray. July’s losses were concentrated in public sector jobs. This sector indeed suffered its worst loss outside of a the pandemic since 1976 (-51K), a perplexing development considering the state of public finances at both the federal and provincial levels. Private sector employment, while also down in July, is still up 110K year-to-date with continued contribution from construction and manufacturing during the month. Despite the July decline, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at its lowest level since 1970 due to a 0.2 pp drop in the participation rate, a third decline in four months. With the unemployment rate remaining historically low, we still see resilience in the Canadian domestic economy. This robustness is also confirmed by the evolution of the wages of permanent employees, which grew 5.4% over the last twelve months, down from June’s 5.6% print but still historically high. At this juncture, the Bank of Canada is still on track to hike at its next meeting on the 7th of September with labour shortages continuing to persist according to the latest figures by the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business).

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