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Keystone XL has turned Oyen, Alta., into a boom town in a province that needs it – CBC.ca

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In the waning days of summer, afternoon traffic in Oyen, Alta., moved slowly along Main Street, easing along the weathered asphalt, past the low brick facade of the town office, farm equipment dealer and a cafe promising fresh pie and hot coffee.

But as evening approached on a mid-September day, the activity picked up again. A stream of men — some with fresh faces and others with grey hair — began trickling into town, filling up a pub for wing night, stopping to grab some Chinese takeout or picking up groceries. 

They’re only a fraction of the hundreds of workers who’ve arrived here recently, roughly doubling the town’s population to around 2,000. 

Alberta hasn’t felt the heat of a boom in years. 

But for the last few months, Oyen and its neighbours have been getting a taste of what, for some Albertans, may feel a bit like the good old days.

Roughly 850 workers — skilled trades, engineers and managers among them — have come to work on the Canadian leg of TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline. By the end of October, there will be close to 1,000. 

“It has been a tremendous boost for this community to have workers,” said Wanda Diakow, an economic development officer for the rural municipality. “It’s been a tremendous boost for our region.”

Alberta is a province in need of some boosting, with the unemployment rate pushing 12 per cent. However, the mini-boom in Oyen is underpinned by government investment

The province is taking a gamble on this early construction of Keystone XL, given that U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said that he would kill the pipeline if he won the presidency. 

As well, Keystone XL remains a controversial project that’s faced (and still faces) legal battles, environmental protests and celebrity scorn. It’s part of an industry undergoing intense examination, including from oil companies themselves

Workers and money arrive

In the best-case scenario, the pipeline aims to be in service in 2023, which means the construction boost has a firm timeline. So people are making the most of the opportunity. 

Workers are helping fill hotel rooms, RV parks and rental suites. Crews have raised over $15,000 for the food bank and other programs. The company paid over $200,000 to Oyen for waterline and roadway improvements.

We’ve seen this before, you know, and I think we take these things more to heart. We’re very, very fortunate.​​​​​​– Oyen Mayor Doug Jones

The pipeline is expected to provide more than $4 million in annual property taxes to the municipalities along the right of way in Alberta once it’s in service. Some work along the pipeline route will also continue for a while after it’s built.

Pipe ready to be used for the construction of the Canadian leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Alberta near the town of Oyen in September. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

That’s good news in this community where the oilpatch still feels like the home team, pipeliners are welcome and knowing this small boom has a shelf life, people seem to appreciate it all the more.  

“We’ve seen this before, you know, and I think we take these things more to heart,” said Doug Jones, a retired farmer and the town’s longtime mayor. “We’re very, very fortunate.”

Past uncertainty

Located about 300 kilometres east of Calgary, Oyen doesn’t sit far from the Saskatchewan border. It straddles Highway 41, also known as the Buffalo Trail. The town’s website describes it as “Big Sky, Clean Air & Friendly People.”

Overlooking Main Street is the town’s clock tower, a metal-framed monument that commemorates the community’s founding more than a century ago. It’s a place built on agriculture but with ties to the oilpatch as well. When the downturn hit the industry about six years ago, it stung here, too. 

Pipeliners arrived the previous decade to work on the original Keystone pipeline. 

About 850 people from Alberta and other provinces have arrived in Oyen in recent months to work on the Keystone XL pipeline, a number of whom will stay at this camp located on the edge of town. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

But people were uncertain of when, or if, they’d host work crews for Keystone XL after years of political and legal headwinds. The 1,947-kilometre pipeline would transport oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., and from there onto Gulf Coast refiners. 

Workers finally began arriving over the summer to work on the 269-kilometre Alberta leg after the United Conservative Party government announced it would invest $1.1 billion US as equity and guarantee a $4.2-billion project loan in a bid to get things moving. Some have questioned the prudence of such a big bet on a single project, but the Kenney government has remained committed.

‘That’s huge for us’ 

As afternoon wound down, it was the end of a busy day at the Fountain Tire-NAPA Auto Parts store. 

Dale Walker and Troy Maclean are the owners. In the last few months, the auto parts business has been up five per cent, and the tire business has climbed by as much as 10 per cent.

“That’s huge for us,” Walker said.

Business is good, and so is the rental market.

Rental properties in town are in demand, and some residents have opened their homes to workers and their families. Diakow estimated rentals are injecting roughly $75,000 Cdn a month into the region’s economy, not including hotels.

Resident Kari Kuzmiski has rented out a home to one worker.

“Lots of people are renting out bedrooms in their homes that never would do that,” Kuzmiski said. “It’s helping both, right? Helping [homeowners] with bills, yet helping Keystone out, too.”

Walk down the street from the tire shop, and you smell the aroma of Chinese food leading to the door of The 90’s Restaurant. But no one there had time to talk about business — they’re too busy meeting the appetite for takeout.

WATCH | Life in a boom town thanks to Keystone XL:

Overtime Pub manager Charlene Carlson says her bar and restaurant are full almost every night with so many pipeline workers now staying in town. 2:17

Another block on, and you’re at the Overtime — a brightly lit pub with sports on every TV, hockey and football logos on the walls, and the bar is decorated with metal plate.

Everyone walking in sanitizes their hands, and soon every physically distanced table is occupied for wing night. (TC Energy said Monday there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the work camp.)

Pub manager Charlene Carlson has lived in Oyen much of her life and is raising two kids. Beyond the financial lift, Carlson said, the pipeline has provided a bit of a morale boost as well.

“That’s the big thing with being proud to live here,” she said. “You come from a province that these people are so hardworking [and that] people come here to do that type of work.”

Over the course of the evening, more workers would come and go. Some talked about putting down roots. Carlson said they’re good people. 

But she said her heart remains with the locals, who’ll be there long after the work on the pipeline is done. In the meantime, they’ll make the most of things.

Doug Dingman knows the ups and downs of the oilpatch. He’s lived it.

Dingman was among the thousands of Albertans who lost their oilpatch jobs in the wake of the global crude price collapse a few years ago.

He’s now the owner of the T&D Market Fresh Foods, just off Main Street. Dingman said business is up as much as seven per cent from last year.

The crowd inside the Overtime pub on a Wednesday night in September. Most of the patrons on this night are workers from the Keystone XL pipeline. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Dingman continues to be a supporter of the energy sector, believing strongly that Alberta’s oil will be needed for a long while to come, while acknowledging the push for renewable energy.

It’s something you hear around the province these days, an acknowledgement of the changes in the energy industry and an eventual transition to things like renewables.

“I understand the changeover to new energies and stuff — eventually we have to go that route,” said Dingman. “But, for now, new energies are further out than they want it to be. So I think we still have to use fossil fuels until the proper changeovers are made.”

U.S. election could be key

There are many questions and challenges that lie ahead for the future of energy as the world seeks ways to address climate change. For Alberta’s oil industry, it seems the final fate of the Keystone XL pipeline is among the unknowns.

Though there’s an economic boost in Alberta right now, with construction jobs in places like Oyen, plenty of eyes will be on Washington, D.C, and the results of the next U.S. presidential election in November.

An equipment yard for work on the Keystone XL pipeline near Oyen in September. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Donald Trump is a supporter. But rival Biden has said he’d cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit if elected, though whether he’d make good on the pledge would have to be seen. It’s something workers here talk about, too.

Back at the Overtime pub, when asked for her thoughts on Alberta’s future, Carlson said that’s a discussion she’s had in her own home. She called herself a realist.

“I get that the world is changing, and we all have to adapt to that,” Carlson said. “The world now is a world that’s being built for my kids — and not so much us [older generations]. So we all have to change a little bit. But I hope it’s for the better. I hope we’re all successful.”

As for now, Carlson shared the wisdom of someone who has seen good times before.

“When you have it good, you should never take it for granted,” she said. “But that’s like with everything in life, especially living in Alberta.”

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COVID-19 on Vancouver Island: Health officials to provide update after cases surge – CTV Edmonton

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Victoria –

Health officials identified 204 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region over the weekend.

The cases were among 1,692 new cases found across British Columbia since Friday, including 644 cases on Saturday, 613 on Sunday and 435 on Monday.

There are currently 5,608 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., including 661 active cases in the Vancouver Island region, according to a statement from the B.C. health ministry.

Island Health data identified the locations of 558 active cases Monday, including 309 in the South Island, 203 in the Central Island and 46 in the North Island.

Eleven people in the province died from the disease over the weekend, including six deaths in the Fraser Health region, two in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and three in the Northern Health area.

Since the pandemic began, 1,899 people in B.C. have died of COVID-19, including 58 people in the Island Health region.

There are currently 27 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Vancouver Island, with 16 patients in critical care.

There are 21 active outbreaks at B.C. health-care facilities, including one on Vancouver Island.

On Sunday, Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Victoria care home. Two cases of the coronavirus have been detected at the Victoria Chinatown Care Centre.

All 31 residents of the home are now being tested for COVID-19, as are staff members, the health authority said.

The last health-care outbreak on the island was at Sunset Lodge long-term care home in Victoria. It ended on Friday, after infecting 21 residents and 15 staff members, killing six residents.

Approximately 86.8 per cent of eligible British Columbians have now received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 79.4 per cent have received two doses.

The province has administered 7,711,306 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since it began its immunizing campaign in December.

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U.S. Futures Gain as Stocks Rebound; Dollar Dips: Markets Wrap – Yahoo Canada Finance

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(Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks followed European shares higher on Tuesday as traders reassessed risks from China’s crackdown on the real-estate sector and looked ahead to this week’s Federal Reserve meeting.

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The S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 gained, suggesting some improvement in sentiment after concerns about fallout from China Evergrande Group’s debt woes roiled markets Monday. Dip-buyers in the last hour of trading Monday helped the S&P 500 pare some losses, though the index still posted the biggest drop since May.

“You had a lot of pent-up worries all expressed in one day and some of them were perhaps a bit overwrought — there’s still a desperate search for return by investors and still very much a buy-the-dips mentality,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth Management.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index climbed more than 1%, rebounding from the biggest slump in two months, with energy companies leading the advance and all industry sectors in the green. Royal Dutch Shell Plc rose after the company offered shareholders a payout from the sale of shale oil fields. Universal Music Group BV shares soared in their stock market debut after being spun off from Vivendi SE.

Aside from worries over Evergrande’s ability to make good on $300 billion of liabilities, investors are also positioning for the two-day Fed meeting starting Tuesday, where policy makers are expected to start laying the groundwork for paring stimulus. Treasury yields ticked lower and the dollar was steady.

“So much of this information is already known that we don’t think it will necessary set off a wave of problems,” John Bilton, head of global multi-asset strategy at JPMorgan Asset Management, said on Bloomberg TV. “I’m more concerned about knock-on sentiment at a time when investor sentiment is a bit fragile. But when we look at the fundamentals — the general growth, and direction in the wider economy — we still feel reasonably confident that the situation will right itself.”

A Hong Kong gauge of real-estate firms steadied, after developers disputed a report of pressure from the Chinese government. Evergrande slid deeper in equity and credit markets. Concerns remain about broader contagion after S&P Global Ratings said the developer is on the brink of default. China’s markets reopen on Wednesday after holidays.

China’s property-sector upheaval — part of President Xi Jinping’s broader clampdown on private industries under his “common prosperity” initiative to reduce inequality — is adding to the risks confronting investors. These include stretched equity valuations and slower economic reopening due to the delta virus strain amid price pressures stoked by commodities. Markets are also digesting an outlook of reduced central bank policy support.

Elsewhere, Bitcoin slid for a third day in volatile trading, tumbling as much as 7.6% before bouncing back to around $43,000. Oil rebounded from two days of declines, while iron ore futures took a breather following Monday’s rout, though stayed below $100 a ton on China’s steel output curbs.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a third term in a snap election but fell short of regaining a parliamentary majority. The nation’s currency was among the best performers in the Group-of-10 basket.

Here are key events to watch this week:

  • Bank of Japan rate decision, Wednesday

  • Federal Reserve rate decision, Wednesday

  • Bank of England rate decision, Thursday

  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman and Vice Chairman Richard Clarida discuss pandemic recovery, Friday

For more market analysis, read our MLIV blog.

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 rose 0.5% as of 9:30 a.m. New York time

  • The Nasdaq 100 rose 0.5%

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4%

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1%

  • The MSCI World index rose 0.5%

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed

  • The euro was little changed at $1.1733

  • The British pound was unchanged at $1.3657

  • The Japanese yen rose 0.2% to 109.25 per dollar

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries was little changed at 1.31%

  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined two basis points to -0.34%

  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined one basis point to 0.78%

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.7% to $70.78 a barrel

  • Gold futures rose 0.5% to $1,773.30 an ounce

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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COVID booster use may be expanded, US health officials say – Al Jazeera English

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FDA advisory body this week recommended coronavirus booster shots for people more than age 65 and those at high risk.

Top health officials in the United States have said broader approval of COVID-19 booster shots could be weeks away, after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert advisory panel this week recommended a third jab for a limited segment of the population.

The director of the National Institutes of Health said the FDA panel’s decision on Friday to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans age 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease was a preliminary step.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Dr Francis Collins predicted more wide-ranging approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks”.

Collins said the panel’s recommendation was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-jab regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the US and Israel continue to come in showing waning efficacy among more groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.

“I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday,” said Collins, who also appeared CBS’ Face the Nation programme on Sunday.

Some rich nations, including the US and UK, are considering coronavirus booster shots amid a recent surge in cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) this month called for a moratorium on booster shots amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first jab.

A group of international scientists also said last week that even with the threat from the Delta strain, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic”.

“Any decisions about the need for boosting or timing of boosting should be based on careful analyses of adequately controlled clinical or epidemiological data, or both, indicating a persistent and meaningful reduction in severe disease,” the scientists wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

Dr Anthony Fauci, who is US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Sunday praised the FDA advisory board’s plan for covering a “good chunk” of Americans. But he stressed that “this is not the end of the story” based on data that was emerging and said the guidance would likely be expanded in the coming weeks to months.

People in the US who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still awaiting guidance on possible booster shots.

“The actual data that we’ll get [on] that third shot for the Moderna and second shot for the J&J is literally a couple to a few weeks away,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.

“We’re working on that right now to get the data to the FDA so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people.”

The FDA will consider the advisory group’s advice and make its own decision, probably within days. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also is set to weigh in this week.

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