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Northern Health audit, addictions, economy take focus during first day back in legislature – Alaska Highway News

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Peace River MLAs Dan Davies and Mike Bernier repeated their calls Monday for John Horgan and his NDP government to audit the Northern Health system and produce a plan for the province’s economic recovery.

Monday marked the beginning of the fall session of the legislature, with hospital staff shortages, mental health and addictions, and the economy the top three priorities addressed by the local MLAs.

Davies, the Opposition critic for social development and poverty reduction, said the COVID-19 pandemic has “worsened the overdose crisis” facing the health care system in B.C., which has seen 1,204 deaths from illicit drugs and the potent opioid fentanyl so far this year. There have been 77 overdose deaths in the north, which has some of the highest death rates per capita in the province.

“For months, the official opposition has called for the NDP government to activate the Select Standing Committee on Health so that we can take an all-party public approach to tackle the mental health and addictions issues faced by countless British Columbians,” said Davies.

“This committee is already there, but this government has not called it together. Why? Sadly, this continues to be ignored. Why? I encourage everyone to ask the government why and to demand more.”

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Davies said health care workers across the province are “being pushed to the point of exhaustion” as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise. Across B.C. there are 326 people in hospital with COVID-19 including 142 in critical care. In Northern B.C., there are 79 patients hospitalized and 18 in critical care.

Locally, Davies said hospitals in the South Peace have been on continuous diversion due to staff shortages, while the ICU at the Fort St. John Hospital has been closed since June 2020, forcing patients to be transferred to Prince George and other areas of the province for care, he said.

In other areas of the province, such as Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, “the workload of more than a dozen nurses is sometimes being handled by three,” Davies said. In Cranbrook, the local emergency room is closed until further notice, he said.

“When people in crisis can’t find a hospital bed or an ICU unit ready to take them, it is a matter of life and death,” Davies said. 

“We must commit to a plan for a comprehensive mental health and addictions system and the complete review and overhaul of our health care system — one that will include a complete audit of Northern Health, to identify and address the staffing shortages that are plaguing our hospitals and entire health care centres. Only then can we bring the services and the supports that our communities need and must have to address this overdose crisis.”

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Bernier, the Opposition critic for finance, said many businesses in B.C. have shown resilience during the pandemic, which he described as “some of the most troubling times economically or even personally that I think many of us have seen in our lifetime.”

But many still need more support and help, Bernier said, adding that businesses need confidence to take risk and make investments in the province.

“Over the last four years, we haven’t really seen an economic plan from this government, to show that certainty, to show that optimism, to show the employers that this is the right place to be. We need to do that,” Bernier said.

“It’s about showing the hope that we need for people to come to British Columbia, to be able to invest. We can’t do that by having some of the highest taxes in Canada. We can’t do that by padding a budget, mostly on property transfer tax, which seems to be helping us lower the deficit. We actually need to be giving confidence to the people and the employers in British Columbia.”

Most MLAs are at the legislature in person, filling the 87 seats and following a safe-return protocol after recent sessions were largely held virtually online with limited seating in the chamber due to the pandemic.

On Monday, the province said it was seeking seeking requests for proposals to provide 22 addictions assessment and recovery beds for various communities on Vancouver Island. 

Ravi Kahlon, the province’s economic recovery minister, said the government would continue to offer relief programs and incentives to businesses, communities, and families hit by the pandemic, and that it would introduce an economic recovery strategy early next year.

Kahlon said he and other members of the government have been consulting widely with business, labour, indigenous, conservation, and non-profit groups about an  strategy that looks out over the next 10 to 15 years.

“We’re looking to have something rolled out in possibly late January and I’m pretty excited about it,” Kahlon said. “What is important is to position B.C., not only for recovery, but for the future.”

— with files from The Canadian Press


Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca

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Swiss National Bank Warns of Risks With Green Economy Push – Bloomberg

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Actively pushing for a green transformation of the economy could undermine the effectiveness of the Swiss National Bank’s monetary policy, Governing Board Member Andrea Maechler said. 

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Business

UBS logs surprise 9% rise in Q3 net profit

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UBS posted a 9% rise in third-quarter net profit on Tuesday, as continued trading helped the world’s largest wealth manager to its best quarterly profit since 2015.

Its third-quarter net profit of $2.279 billion far outpaced a median estimate of $1.596 billion from a poll of 23 analysts compiled by Switzerland’s largest bank.

“Our business momentum, our focus on fueling growth, on disciplined execution and on delivering our full ecosystem to clients – all of this led to another strong quarter across all of our business divisions and regions,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.

In each of the last four quarters, UBS saw double-digit percent gains in net profit as buoyant markets helped it generate higher earnings off of managing money for the rich.

From July through September, favourable market conditions, and higher lending and trading amongst its wealthy clientele, unexpectedly helped raise earnings over the bumper levels reported in the third quarter of last year.

 

(Reporting by Oliver Hirt and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields and Edwina Gibbs)

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America Inc and the shortage economy – The Economist

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IF YOU LOOK only at the scale of the profits cranked out by American businesses, they seem to be indestructible (see chart). Despite a pandemic and a savage slump in 2020, large listed American firms’ net income for the third quarter of this year is expected to reach over $400bn, at least a third higher than in the same quarter in 2019. Yet as earnings season gets into full swing this week, bosses and investors are watching for signs that three related worries are biting: supply-chain tangles, inflation, and hints that a long era of profitable oligopolies is giving way to something more dynamic and risky. Already big firms such as Snap, Honeywell and Intel have given the jitters to investors. Could there be more to come?

Only a quarter or so of firms in the S&P index have reported results so far. Those that have done so have pleased investors with better than expected figures. Superficially the picture is of “back to business as usual”. Bad-debt provisions taken by banks in the depths of the panic over the economy, which proved unnecessary, have been unwound. JPMorgan Chase got a $2bn benefit to its bottom line from this reversal in the third quarter. Goldman Sachs has shelled out $14bn in pay and bonuses so far this year, up by 34% year on year. American Express reported a leap in revenues as small firms and consumers spent on their cards more freely. United Airlines confirmed it was on track to hit its performance targets for 2022.

Yet look again and the three worries loom. Start with supply chains. The number of ships waiting off California’s big ports remains unusually high at about 80, according to Bloomberg. On 22nd October, Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said that supply-chain problems may last “well into next year”. The knock-on effects are feeding through industry. Union Pacific, a railway firm, lowered its forecast for traffic volumes because semiconductor shortages (often in Asia) have hit car production, in turn reducing the number of vehicles and components transported by rail. Honeywell, an industrial firm, cut its full year sales target by 1-2% complaining of a shortage of parts. VF Corp, which makes shoes (including white ones that fans of Squid Game, a hit TV show, hanker after) complained of supply-chain problems in Asia. So far the problem is not disastrous but it is inflating costs and forcing firms to adapt.

This supply chain headache is one element of a second, broader worry, about inflation and its impact on profits. Commodity prices are a source of pressure, with crude oil reaching $86 a barrel this week. Wages are too: although there are still 5m fewer people employed across the economy than before the pandemic hit, average hourly pay rose by 4.6% year on year in September. The immediate effect tends to be felt by low-margin firms that employ a lot of people: Domino’s Pizza has complained of a “very challenging staffing environment” and falling sales.

Elsewhere a mild inflationary mindset is slowly infiltrating boardrooms. Procter & Gamble predicted that commodity and freight inflation would raise its operating costs this financial year by about 4% and that sales would rise by up to 4%, owing to a mixture of price rises, and volume and mix effects. Honeywell warned there would be a “continued inflationary environment” in 2022. All firms are weighing how much they can raise prices to compensate for higher costs. So are fund managers who are busy running screens for companies that they judge to exhibit the all-important quality of “pricing power”. The shifting psychology of bosses and investors towards expecting more inflation should concern Mr Powell at the Fed.

The final big issue is whether an economy with shortages that is running hot ultimately forces an end to the managerial consensus of the past decade, which has favoured keeping margins high and being stingy with investment in order to maximise short-run cashflow. Already there are signs that attitudes are shifting in response to shortages and pent-up demand: economy-wide investment, excluding residential investment, rose by 13% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the preceding year. United Airlines has said it will increase its capacity on international routes by 10%. FreePort McMoRan, a huge miner of copper (used in electric vehicles among a wide array of industrial applications), has said that it is “prepared to make value enhancing investments in our business” in response to red-hot prices. Hertz has announced an order of 100,000 cars from Tesla. And on Wall Street a fund-raising bonanza for speculative start-ups continues, including last week the merger of a special-purpose acquisition company with the social-media ambitions of a certain Donald Trump.

Rising investment is exactly what economists want because it increases capacity today and boosts the economy’s long-run potential. Yet whether investors are prepared to take the plunge remains to be seen. Habituated by years of high margins, they tend to run shy of rising investment and competition. Snap’s share price dropped by over 20% on October 21st as signs that the war over privacy settings on the iPhone between Apple and social-media firms, and the intensifying competition in advertising between a wide array of tech firms, is hurting its results. And Intel, which earlier this year boldly announced plans for a huge rise in investment in order to return to the frontier of the semiconductor industry, alongside TSMC and Samsung, presented Wall Street with the bill in the form of much lower than expected short-term earnings: its shares dropped by 12%. If you run a company or invest in one this is the new calculation: demand is recovering and costs are rising. Can you raise prices? And should you expand capacity? By the end of this earnings season the answer may be clearer.

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