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Posthaste: Household debt and insolvencies in Canada are creeping up again after COVID hiatus – Financial Post

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They’re back …

Perennial worries of Canadians before the pandemic, household debt and  its worst outcome insolvency, appear to be on the rise again after a hiatus during COVID-19’s initial shock.

Data from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Wednesday showed that after plummeting 38.8% in April and 8.8% in May, consumer insolvencies have begun to creep up again.

Insolvencies climbed 3.7% in July from the month before after a 3.9% increase in June, potentially signaling the beginning of an upward trend, says the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals.

“Prior to the widespread income shock and economic uncertainty brought on by COVID, consumer insolvencies were on the rise in Canada. The latest stats may point to a return to that trend,” said CAIRP chair Mark Rosen.

Consumer insolvencies for the 12 months ending July are still down 10.6% from last year as COVID income aid programs keep many households afloat. But pressure is again ramping up.

With the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ending soon, many people will be moving to employment insurance, which for some will pay less.

“There is a large proportion of Canadians who are already technically insolvent; they are unable to pay their bills and debt repayment obligations each month. Most who are in this position are using COVID-related financial support to make ends meet. But we know that many of these individuals will need debt relief when the temporary support ends,” said CAIRP executive board member André Bolduc.

The Atlantic provinces are already showing that stress with the largest consumer insolvency increases in the country. In July, insolvencies in PEI spiked 41.7% from the month before. In Newfoundland and Labrador they were up 18.1%, Nova Scotia, 11.2% and New Brunswick 6.8%.

But it was a trend seen across most of Canada. Insolvencies were up 4.7% in Quebec and British Columbia, 4.5% in Ontario and 1.7% in Alberta.

The only provinces to buck the trend were Manitoba where insolvencies fell 20.7% and Saskatchewan which saw a 8.6% drop.

“At this point, it is impossible to understand exactly how much the pandemic will impact the number of insolvency filings, but all signs point to a tough road ahead particularly as financial support decreases or runs out entirely,” said Rosen.

Meanwhile, our debt is rising. A report by Equifax Canada today showed that consumer debt was up 2.8% in the second quarter from the year before, reaching $1.9 trillion.

Rising mortgage debt was the biggest driver as record low rates spurred Canadians to keep buying houses in the pandemic. Others are taking longer to pay off their mortgages because of deferred payments.

Equifax says about three million Canadians have taken some sort of COVID-related payment holiday since February, though deferrals have been dropping in recent weeks. In the 35 to 44-year-old age group 15.1% took a payment deferral; among seniors it was 5.7%.

Non-mortgage debt — credit cards, auto loans and lines of credit — though still down from last year because of the COVID lockdown, is showing “the greenshoots of a bounceback with credit card spending starting to rise in June,” said Rebecca Oakes of Equifax.

“Card spending for those not using a payment deferral on their credit card were effectively back to pre-COVID levels by the end of the quarter,” she said.

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Drugmaker Novavax begins late-stage vaccine trial in U.K. – CTV News

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LONDON —
U.S.-based Novavax has begun a late stage trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the United Kingdom because the high-level of the coronavirus circulating in the country is likely to produce quick results, the pharmaceutical company said.

Novavax plans to test the effectiveness of its vaccine in a trial involving 10,000 people between the ages of 18 and 84, according to a statement issued late Thursday. At least 25% of the subjects will be over the age of 65, and 400 participants will also receive a licensed flu vaccine.

The trial is being conducted in partnership with the U.K. government’s Vaccine Taskforce, which was created in April to help speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“With a high level of SARS-CoV-2 transmission observed and expected to continue in the U.K., we are optimistic that this pivotal phase 3 clinical trial will enrol quickly and provide a near-term view of (the vaccine’s) efficacy,” Dr. Gregory M. Glenn, head of research and development for Novavax, said in the statement.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.K. The government reported 6,634 new positive test results on Thursday — the U.K.’s highest daily number since the pandemic began. Britain has the deadliest outbreak in Europe, with nearly 42,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

Drugmakers are rushing to develop COVID-19 vaccines with the backing of governments desperate to find a way of easing restrictions that have hammered the world economy.

The U.K. has already agreed to buy 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine to ensure it can be distributed as quickly as possible if it is approved by regulators.

The government said Friday that participants in the Novavax trial will be drawn from the 250,000 people who have volunteered to take part in COVID-19 vaccine testing through the National Health Service’s Vaccine Registry.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine that works for the majority of the U.K. population is the best way to tackle this devastating disease,” said Kate Bingham, chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce. “Whilst social distancing, testing and other measures can help reduce the impact of coronavirus, the only long-term solution to beating it will be finding a vaccine.”

Novavax also pledged to publish details of its vaccine testing protocol “to enhance information-sharing during the worldwide pandemic.”

Drugmakers are under pressure to release more information about the progress of their vaccine trials — information they normally wouldn’t release until the trials are complete — to increase public confidence in their work.

Several other big pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, have already released the protocols for their trials.

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Demand for sports equipment and home gyms booms as Canadians prepare for pandemic winter – CBC.ca

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Canadians in need of sports equipment and fitness gear to stay healthy and have fun during a pandemic winter have learned a valuable lesson: Shop early to avoid disappointment.

“People saw what happened with kiddie pools and fitness equipment in the spring,” said Gillian Montgomery, who co-owns Skiis and Biikes, a sporting goods chain with three locations in southern Ontario. Her stores are already unusually busy.

“Normally we don’t have interest in winter products until we see the snow and even until Christmas, but this year we’ve had maybe 30 calls just since September about getting cross-country skiing equipment.”

At Calgary’s Abom Ski & Board, owner Randy Ahl already has a “big, long” waiting list for entry-level cross-country ski packages that haven’t even arrived at the store yet.

Wait lists already growing

“Whether it’s a couple or a family, they’re saying, ‘We want a phone call when those things come in,'” said Ahl, who has already outfitted entire families with boots, poles and skis that he does have in stock. “I consider over $2,000 to be a fairly big purchase, and that’s happened already more than a dozen times.”

People who plan to exercise indoors are prepping as well.  

Drew Berner has installed a home gym in his Toronto garage.

I fully intend to be out there all winter long,” said the father of three-year-old twins. “My garage is detached, but it is insulated, and I’m going to get a little space heater.”

Early in the pandemic with gyms locked down, health-conscious Canadians made alternate arrangements, following along with exercise instructors on YouTube, joining classes held in parks, or buying exercise gear to use at home. 

Drew Berner of Toronto hustled to assemble a gym in his garage, as many retailers were sold out of equipment and used goods were in hot demand. (Submitted by Drew Berner)

But many retailers were unable to satisfy demand for sporting goods and fitness equipment. Canadian Tire experienced triple-digit growth in the category. 

“Consumer demand far exceeded both historical demand and available inventory,” the company said in a statement to CBC News.  

A sense of urgency

When Berner tried to find a set of weights, an exercise bike and a rowing machine for his garage gym, he found most were already sold out. Only by persisting was he able to get what he needed. He spent $3,000 on a mix of new and second-hand equipment.

“That involved everything from having alerts set on Kijiji … to having email alerts from stores so I would be notified as soon as they had things I wanted in stock,” said Berner, noting that he had to act fast before another buyer scooped them up. 

Now, as cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, national fitness chains such as GoodLife Fitness and F45 Training remain open — with limited capacity. Even so, some gym members are unwilling to return to an environment where people breathe heavily and sweat. And the market for used goods is again red hot.

The most popular search terms on online seller Kijiji are still dumbbells, ellipticals and exercise bikes, said company’s manager of community relations, Kent Sikstrom.  

Second-hand Peloton Bikes have more than doubled since this time last year, while inquiries about elliptical machines are up 39 per cent and treadmills inquiries are up 15 per cent. 

Brother and sister team Devin and Gillian Montgomery, owners of Skiis and Biikes, a small Ontario sporting goods chain, say their stores are unusually busy for this time of year. (Submitted by Devin and Gillian Montgomery)

“Probably in the next couple of weeks we may see snow shoes, cross-country skis,  sleds, and snowboard begin to create a new trend for the season,” said Sikstrom. 

eBay Canada, which sells both new and used goods, is also reporting significant increases. Stair machines are up 230 per cent from this time last year, while treadmills sales are up 280 per cent, according to the head of the Canadian operation, Rob Bigler.

Gear not essential

“We’ve been super busy,” said Bigler. “It’s a great time to sell that treadmill that’s been sitting in your basement, maybe being used to hang up laundry.”

But Samantha Monpetit-Huynh, a fitness coach and trainer in Toronto, pointed out that a lot of gear isn’t essential to stay active and healthy.

Randy Alh, right, the owner of Calgary’s Abom Ski & Board, stands with customer Ken Dyer. Alsh has started a wait list for beginner cross-country ski packages because of the demand. (Submitted by Randy Ahl)

“People forget your body is probably the best piece of equipment you’ve got,” she said. “You don’t need all this stuff — you just need to move and you need to do it regularly. More than once a week.”

Monpetit-Huynh said it’s possible to use laundry detergent bottles or soup cans as weights, and go for walks or runs. However, she recently invested $3,000 in a brand-new Peloton exercise bicycle that allows her to join spinning classes remotely.

“I love going to the gym, but I thought, ‘You know what? I should get something because if we get a second wave I want to be prepared.'”

Berner said for him, there’s more to it than fitness.

“Exercise is crucial for my mental health,” he said. “I notice even if I go for a couple of days without exercise my mood starts to drop.”

Other Canadians who feel the same and haven’t yet made a plan would be well advised to start considering their options — or risk getting left out in the cold during a long pandemic winter.

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Did you return from Teck mine in B.C.? Get tested and stay isolated, says N.L. government – CBC.ca

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The Teck coal mine in Elkford, B.C., has suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 and any workers who returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in the last 14 days are told to stay home and get tested.

That means every worker who came back on or after Sept. 14 must isolate away from their families, and stay at home for the full 14 days regardless of their test results.

The Department of Health and Community Services is also asking anyone who came back from the mine after Aug. 31 to get tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution.

This is the fourth work site identified by the Newfoundland and Labrador government that has suffered an outbreak. Outbreaks at the Canadian Natural Albian oil sands site, the Syncrude Mildred Lake oil sands site, and the Suncor base plant site — all in Alberta — are still active.

The rules for rotational workers from Newfoundland and Labrador who travel outside the Atlantic Provinces do not apply to work sites that have active outbreaks. While others can leave isolation after a negative test result, workers from outbreak sites must remain isolated during their time at home.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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