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Lumber crash leads to 'blowout' sales as prices crater – CBC.ca

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Homeowners who resisted the urge to renovate during the first 18 months of the pandemic may find now is their chance, as lumber prices that soared to dizzying heights in the spring have crashed back down to earth.

At family-run Peacock Lumber in Oshawa, Ont., owner Glen Peacock said retail prices have “collapsed” in recent weeks. An eight-foot-long, two-by-four inch piece of framing lumber that cost $12.65 on June 1 is now selling for $3.95, Peacock said — basically what it would have sold for before the boom.

“It was amazing it went as long as it did before people said, ‘This is too much money,’ ” Peacock said. “People who waited, if they could, to do their projects are going to be in a much better position.”

A pandemic-driven surge in home renovations and do-it-yourself projects sent shock waves through the home improvement and construction industries earlier this year. North American lumber prices hit record highs of more than $1,600 US per thousand board feet in May — three times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The price roller-coaster had customers pre-ordering lumber months in advance to ensure supply and even resulted in a spate of opportunistic thefts from construction sites across North America.

But the ride has come back down even faster than it went up — and that means many retailers have been stuck trying to get rid of product they purchased at higher prices.

Many lumber yards have drastically cut back on production until the backlog of unsold wood moves. (Robert Short/CBC)

“With lumber prices falling as fast as they did, it forced everybody to sell their overpriced inventory at a loss,” said Joel Seibert, owner of Mountain View Building Materials just outside of Calgary. “What would have been the ideal situation would be for the price to take twice as long to come back down as it did to go up.”

Liz Kovach — president of the Western Retail Lumber Association, which represents retail lumber, building supply and hardware stores in Western Canada — said the pandemic price bubble burst with the arrival of summer. Warmer weather and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country resulted in Canadians travelling more and spending less time on projects around the house, she said.

Retailers slashing prices

“It’s been a challenge on the retail side,” Kovach said. “We’ve seen a lot of blowout price sales, just so that they can move the materials.”

The plunging prices have already led to curtailments and reduced operations at sawmills. Vancouver-based Canfor Corp. said at the end of August that it will run all of its B.C. sawmills at 80 per cent capacity until market conditions improve. Conifex Timber Inc., also based in Vancouver, announced Aug. 20 that it would curtail lumber production at its Mackenzie, B.C., sawmill for a two-week period.

The rapid rise in lumber costs earlier this year added “tens of thousands of dollars per home” to new home construction costs, said Kevin Lee, chief executive of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. And while consumers may already be benefiting from lower prices at home improvement stores, homebuyers signing new construction purchase contracts are still seeing elevated prices.

WATCH | High lumber prices were adding up to $30K to the price of a new home:

Price of lumber skyrockets after pandemic disrupts supply chain

6 months ago

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains so much that the price of lumber has gone through the roof. 1:58

“Builders still have to clear their inventories of having purchased higher-priced lumber. It takes a while to clear the system,” Lee said. “Yes, lumber prices from the mills came down dramatically over the summer, but that’s unfortunately taken a while to reach the rest of the industry and consumers.”

Lee said when it comes to new home construction, pricing is being complicated by ongoing pandemic-related supply chain challenges. While difficulties related to lumber have eased, home builders are still dealing with delivery delays and price inflation on everything from plumbing and electrical products to kitchen cabinetry.

“It doesn’t compare to the three to five times price increases we saw with lumber, but I’d say on average, we’re seeing 10 per cent increases on everything, including the kitchen sink,” Lee said. “And we are still seeing delays on closings, just because of an inability to get products and materials.”

In a note to clients earlier this week, RBC Dominion Securities analyst Paul Quinn said with the arrival of fall, lumber markets are already beginning to tick slightly higher. Home centres are noticing increased traffic as customers try to finish projects before winter, Quinn said, and retail demand tends to be a leading indicator for lumber pricing.

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China tells Evergrande to avoid near-term dollar bond defaults – Aljazeera.com

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Chinese regulators told cash-strapped property developer Evergrande to focus on completing unfinished properties and repay individual investors while avoiding a near term-term default on its dollar bonds, sources tell Bloomberg.

Financial regulators in Beijing issued a broad set of instructions to China Evergrande Group, telling the embattled developer to focus on completing unfinished properties and repaying individual investors while avoiding a near-term default on dollar bonds.

In a recent meeting with Evergrande representatives, regulators said the company should communicate proactively with bondholders to avoid a default but didn’t give more specific guidance, a person familiar with the matter said. The developer has an $83.5 million coupon due Thursday, with a 30-day grace period to make the payment.

There’s no indication that regulators offered financial support to Evergrande for the bond payment, and it’s unclear whether officials believe the company should eventually impose losses on offshore creditors. Policy makers are trying to learn more about who holds Evergrande’s bonds, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive information.

While the regulatory guidance offers few clues about what an Evergrande endgame might look like, it does suggest China’s government wants to avoid an imminent collapse of the developer that might roil financial markets and drag down economic growth. Any sign that Beijing is taking steps to give Evergrande more time to manage its debt problems could calm investor nerves in China and around the world.

Fears of an Evergrande failure have caused a sharp rise in borrowing costs for other junk-rated Chinese developers and cast doubt on the health of some smaller Chinese banks. Individual investors, homebuyers and suppliers have staged protests at Evergrande offices across the country, while markets from Hong Kong to New York have convulsed this week as traders weighed the prospect of financial contagion from the world’s most indebted developer.

Even though Evergrande’s crisis can be traced in part to President Xi Jinping’s campaign to rein in over-leveraged property companies and discourage moral hazard, his government is unlikely to welcome a messy default that could threaten economic and social stability. Large cash injections into the financial system by the People’s Bank of China in recent days suggest policy makers are already focused on shoring up sentiment.

Evergrande, the PBOC and the nation’s financial and housing regulators didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Speculation that Evergrande may avoid a worst-case scenario helped lift its bonds and stock on Thursday. The company’s 8.25% dollar note due 2022 climbed 4.8 cents on the dollar to 30 cents as of 5:39 p.m. local time, hitting session highs after Bloomberg reported regulators’ instructions to Evergrande. The bonds are still pricing in expectations of a deep haircut, but not quite as extreme as earlier this week. Shares jumped 18% in Hong Kong before the Bloomberg report, paring this year’s loss to 82%.

The rally was fueled in part by a vaguely worded statement from Evergrande on Wednesday, in which the company said an interest payment on one of its yuan-denominated bonds had been “resolved via negotiations off the clearing house.” The developer likely struck a deal with local bondholders to postpone the payment without having to label the move a default, analysts said.

It’s unclear whether Evergrande would be able to pull off something similar for its dollar bonds. While some of the notes are likely owned by billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan and his associates, holders also include global investment firms that might be less willing to go along with opaque payment arrangements.

Deeply discounted prices for Evergrande dollar bonds suggest investors view a restructuring of some kind as all but inevitable. Offshore bondholders are widely seen as near the bottom of Beijing’s priority list of Evergrande creditors, though that assessment may depend in part on how worried authorities become about Chinese companies’ access to dollar funding. The turmoil at Evergrande, Asia’s biggest issuer of junk bonds, has sent yields on an index of junk-grade Chinese dollar bonds to a decade high.

In a meeting with Evergrande employees on Wednesday, Hui emphasized the importance of resuming construction on unfinished properties, according to Jiemian, a Chinese media outlet. He also said Evergrande will ensure repayment of investment products.

Property sales are a key source of cash for Evergrande, though the company has struggled to attract buyers in recent months amid waning confidence in its ability to deliver on projects. Homebuyers in China often have to make large down payments on properties that may take years to complete. About 1.5 million buyers are currently waiting for Evergrande to deliver unfinished homes.

The company is also trying to offload assets to raise cash, with mixed success. It said earlier this month it hadn’t made material progress on plans to sell stakes in its electric-car and property services units. Evergrande has hired Houlihan Lokey and Admiralty Harbour Capital to “explore all feasible solutions” to ease its liquidity problems.

While the developer doesn’t have any bonds maturing until 2022, it faces about $669 million in coupon payments this year. The bulk of its $300 billion-plus in total liabilities are to homebuyers, suppliers and local financial institutions.

(Updates markets in eighth paragraph.)

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SNC-Lavalin, former executives charged with fraud in alleged bribery case: RCMP – Globalnews.ca

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The SNC-Lavalin legal saga was thrust back into the spotlight Thursday after the RCMP announced they’ve charged they’ve charged two former executives and the engineering company itself for allegedly paying bribes to obtain a Montreal bridge repair contract.

Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin and former SNC-Lavalin International Inc. vice-president Kamal Francis, along with SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiary, have each been charged with forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government.

The two former executives have been released from custody and are due to appear in a Montreal court on Sept. 27 along with representatives from SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International.

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) has agreed to send an invitation to negotiate a remedial agreement with SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. The invitation went out on Thursday. Neither executive is eligible for such an offer.

Read more:
Jody Wilson-Raybould says new book is not her ‘moment of revenge’ against Trudeau

Such a deal, a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, would allow SNC-Lavalin to continue doing business with the governments of Quebec, Canada and abroad.

“It also reduces the negative consequences on employees, retirees, customers and shareholders of organizations,” the DPCP said in a statement.

SNC-Lavalin said it welcomes the opportunity to negotiate an agreement to resolve these charges that promote accountability while also permitting the company to continue to do business and protect the livelihoods of employees, clients, investors and other stakeholders.

”I want to emphasize that these charges stem from events that took place nearly 20 years ago, involving former employees who left the company years ago and who no longer have any involvement with our organization,“ stated CEO Ian Edwards.

He said the company has made great strides over the past decade and today operates at the highest ethical standards.


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote'



1:19
Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote


Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote – Sep 13, 2021

“We see this as a further step to put the past behind us and allow the company to focus on the future.”

The RCMP said the charges are the result of a complex investigation dubbed Project Agrafe (“Staple”) that started in 2013. It said the investigation was carried out by the Sensitive and International Investigations division of the force, which is mandated to investigate criminal activity that poses a threat to Canada’s government institutions, public officials, the integrity of the Crown, or that imperils Canada’s political, economic and social integrity.

Once the investigation was complete, the RCMP said it passed on its evidence to Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecution to proceed with formalizing the charges and warrants of arrest.

The charges date back to events that took place between 1997 and 2004. Michel Fournier, former president and CEO of the Federal Bridge Corp., admitted to receiving bribes from SNC-Lavalin worth $2.23 million related to a $128-million Jacques-Cartier Bridge repair project through Swiss bank accounts. Fournier of Victoria, B.C., was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2017 and has since received full parole.

Read more:
‘I did not want her to lie’: Trudeau rejects Wilson-Raybould’s claims about SNC-Lavalin talk

After retiring in 2004, Fournier created an offshore shell company in the Virgin Islands to bring the bribe money back to Canada, according to court documents. The government was only able to confiscate $775,000 of the bribes because Fournier lost a significant amount of money in the stock market.

SNC-Lavalin was previously charged with bribery and fraud in relation to its past work in Libya, which was at the centre of the high-profile 2019 battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.

In December 2019, the company reached an agreement in which its construction division pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud, accompanied by a $280-million fine, while other charges related to acts committed in Libya between 2001 and 2011 were set aside. The company retained the right to bid on federal government contracts.

SNC-Lavalin was an issue during the 2019 federal election and surfaced again in the election this year after Wilson-Raybould wrote a book that touched on the criminal prosecution of the company and her testimony that senior party leaders pressed her to halt the case for political reasons.


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution'



1:48
Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution


Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution – Sep 11, 2021

Trudeau said during the recent campaign that the matter had been thoroughly dissected in parliamentary committee hearings, newspaper articles and other testimony prior to the last federal election. He said the RCMP had never contacted him regarding the SNC affair.

The Liberals won another minority government on Monday.

Industry analysts downplayed the significance of the latest charges and potential penalty on SNC-Lavalin.

Yuri Lynk of Canaccord Genuity said the development doesn’t diminish his “bullish stance on SNC in the least.”

He said investors shouldn’t be taken off-guard because alleged improprieties surrounding the company’s involvement in the bridge have been in the news for years and SNC has warned that potential charges are a risk.

Lynk added in a report that the potential financial penalty shouldn’t be significant given that the magnitude of the gains was small and SNC lost money on the project. The past fine of $280 million payable over five years was for $127 million in bribes, compared with $2.23 million in bribes in this instance.

“Based on this, we estimate a fine related to the Jacques Cartier Bridge would be in the tens of millions of dollars range,” he wrote, noting that SNC has more than $660 million in cash.

“We view this as a bump in the road leading to SNC’s recovery.”

Analyst Maxim Sytchev of National Bank Financial said he expects a quicker resolution to these charges because SNC-Lavalin would want to quickly sit down with the federal government, whereas last time it was not invited to negotiate an agreement.

“Given the long-dated nature of the contract and its small size, we believe any charges would be commensurate with the infraction,” he wrote in a note to clients.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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As COVID-19 vaccines for kids get closer, experts weigh up how to reassure parents – CBC.ca

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Read Story Transcript

As Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech say they’ve moved a step closer to providing their COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, one mother says she’s keen to have her eldest vaccinated, but hears some hesitation among other parents.

“As parents, you’re nervous and you’re apprehensive, obviously, about any risks,” said Fallon Jones, who lives in Halifax with a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“But we have to weigh the pros and the cons here, and I think that this is a good opportunity to protect them against a potentially deadly virus,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Pfizer-BioNTech said Monday that a clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine recorded a robust immune response in five- to 11-year-olds, and the company plans to seek regulatory approval as soon as possible. Children received two shots, each one-third the dose size given to adults. The findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine appears safe, effective in younger kids, expert says

3 days ago

Although he cautions Pfizer-BioNTech has yet to release the raw data supporting the claim that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective in kids aged 5-11, it’s ‘reasonable’ to assume that’s accurate, says Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology. 2:35

For any vaccine to be approved by Health Canada, the manufacturers supply the necessary clinical trial data for review. If the regulator grants approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation on their use, but the final decision to deploy the vaccines rests with provincial authorities.

In a statement to The Current, Health Canada said the makers of all COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are conducting or planning studies in adolescents and younger children, but it has so far not received any submission for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.

In her work at a vaccine hesitancy clinic in Calgary, Dr. Cora Constantinescu meets parents who are experiencing “a lot of fear and anxiety” around their children potentially getting the vaccine.

“We often have parents who are fully vaccinated themselves, who may be hesitant about their kids,” said Constantinescu, a pediatrician and infectious disease doctor at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

She said that parents talk to her about things they’ve seen online, including “anti-vaccine rhetoric and a lot of misconstrued science.”

In Halifax, Jones said she often hears other parents say they don’t know what’s in the vaccine, so they won’t give it to their kids. When she asks if they knew what was in the vaccines their kids received as babies, the response is usually no, she said.

“I completely respect and understand how there would be some fear associated with it,” she said. 

But ultimately, “we trusted our doctors then and we trusted the science then, and we need to do the same with this vaccine.” 

Dr. Cora Constantinescu said that as parents approach the decision, they should consider the negative impacts of COVID-19 on children. (Submitted by Dr. Cora Constantinescu)

How should parents approach vaccine question?

Constantinescu said many parents have seen misinformation on social media, where there is a “huge polarization of the pro-vaccine and the anti-vaccine crowd.”

“The parents are caught in the middle, scared and worried about their kids, trying to make the best decision they can,” she said.

As parents approach the decision, they should consider the dual impact of COVID-19 on children, she said.

“We’re seeing the direct effects of COVID on children, and we know that that can range from mild disease, to respiratory illness, to being hospitalized, having a multi-system inflammation, to ending up in ICU,” she said.

There is also an indirect cost, including mental health issues and issues around socialization, she said.

How a doctor discusses vaccine hesitancy with patients

10 months ago

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, an infectious disease specialist from the Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic in Calgary, discusses how she approaches conversations around vaccine hesitancy, the impact of those conversations and what’s needed in messaging around the COVID-19 vaccine. 3:44

The news from Pfizer-BioNTech gives her hope that those impacts can soon be addressed, but she warned that the data has not yet been made public, or reviewed by Health Canada.

If it is approved, she said parents should approach the vaccine as an issue of “personal protection first.”

“It’s about protecting their kids directly, looking out for them, and wanting to return them to a normal life,” she said.

‘Pull out all the stops’ to protect kids

Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, wants to see a safe vaccine for kids approved and available as quickly as possible.

“I’m calling for all of these processes to be speeded up and done very transparently,” said Pirzada, who is also a co-founder of Masks4Canada, a group that advocates for public health measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Kashif Pirzada said that when a vaccine is approved for younger children, ‘we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.’ (Dr. Kashif Pirzada)

He added that more work should be done to reassure parents that the vaccines are safe. He warned that COVID-19 is not harmless to children, and the longer they remain unprotected, the more infections there will be.

In the meantime, vaccination sites and health-care workers could be prepared to ramp the vaccination campaign back up, he said.

“Once that approval comes, we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.”


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin, Arianne Robinson and Joana Draghici.

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