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Rail blockades to lead to shortages of propane and consumer goods, 2 national groups say – CBC.ca

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Two national organizations are warning that there could be shortages of propane and consumer goods in Canada if the current rail blockades continue.

Spokespeople for the Canadian Propane Association and the Retail Council of Canada said on Sunday that they are concerned and frustrated in particular about the impact of the blockade near Belleville, Ont. on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory that has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada. 

The blockade entered its 11th day on Sunday. CN Rail has obtained a court injunction to end the protest, but the Ontario Provincial Police have not yet enforced it.

Similar blockades across the country have cut both passenger and freight rail services, with pressure mounting on the federal government to bring them to an end. The protests are in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern B.C.

Nathalie St-Pierre, president and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association, said there is already rationing of propane in Atlantic Canada, Quebec is thinking about rationing the fuel, and there are long wait lines for trucks to be loaded with propane in Ontario.

“Obviously, there are some issues if nothing is being transported by rail,” St-Pierre said. “Thank goodness the winter is pretty mild at this time. The demand is a bit softer than usual.”

In Ontario, there is still access to propane through Sarnia, Ont. by pipeline, but then the propane has to be transported by rail or by truck. There are wait times of eight to 10 hours in Sarnia for trucks to be loaded with propane, she said. Trucks from other provinces are going to Sarnia because they are not receiving shipments. 

She said the waiting times are “critical” and not what she would consider “normal.”

St-Pierre said there are not enough trucks to sustain the demand for propane. The fuel is used in commercial, institutional and residential settings, she said. Forty per cent of Canada’s propane consumption is in Ontario.

A barrier and a fire remain after protesters blockaded trains at Macmillan Yard in Toronto, on Saturday. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Thousands of Canadians use propane to heat their homes, while many businesses and industries use it in their operations. Farmers use to keep livestock warm in barns, for example. Many services, including police, school buses and taxis, use it as a transportation fuel.

“They are talking about continuing the dialogue. But at the same time, and from probably everyone’s perspective, you have to lift the blockades. You can have the dialogue, but at this time, I think the point was made,” she said.

“I don’t think they need to hold all of the Canadian economy hostage and not being able to function. The pressure is mounting.”

Superior Propane, a Mississauga based company, said in a news release last week that it is predicting “critical supply shortages” of propane in Central and Eastern Canada if the blockades continue. 

Karl Littler, senior vice president, public affairs, of the Retail Council of Canada, said there will be shortages of household products and consumer goods if the blockades continue. Such goods could include personal hygiene products, infant formula, both cleaning and sanitary products. There is also concern about the shipping of fresh food.

Littler said the blockades affect finished products ready to be put on store shelves and raw materials needed for manufacturing.

Banners hang on a fence as protesters stage a blockade of the rail line at Macmillan Yard in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

“We are concerned about it,” Littler said. “There is an inability to move goods cross country through the various choke points. It’s of major concern to retail merchants. It both interrupts the flow of retail ready goods and hampers the manufacturing process for Canadian manufacturing.”

Littler said the council respects the right of people to engage in peaceful protest, but said injunctions have been issued and not all have been enforced. The blockades have implications for the health and safety of Canadians, he added.

“Obviously, we support the right to peaceful protest,” he said. “Our primary concern is, the longer these blockades drag on, the more there is a risk that food and consumer goods will not get through to retail outlets, and obviously, that then affects the daily consumption that Canadians need.” 

The council, which represents 45,000 storefronts in Canada, has contacted the federal, Ontario and B.C. governments about the issue.
 

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Canada's housing market moderately vulnerable, CMHC says in first quarterly report since COVID-19 began – CBC.ca

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Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says there was some evidence of overvaluation in Canada’s housing market this spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Crown corporation says in cities such as Victoria, Moncton and Halifax, there was a widening gap between the selling price of houses and the price economists would expect, based on population growth, disposable income, mortgage rates and employment.

That data comes from the agency’s housing market assessment, which gives the housing market a grade based on whether homebuilding and rising prices could ultimately affect the stability of the economy.

CMHC says there was a “moderate degree of vulnerability” in the housing market as of the end of June, the same grade the market received in February.

The preliminary report shows the slowdown during the height of COVID-19 lockdown measures, but doesn’t include the record-setting home sales in July and August — nor does the data reflect the ending of government income supports and mortgage payment deferrals.

CMHC economist Bob Dugan says that — despite giving the housing market a steady grade this summer — CMHC still expects a severe decline in home sales and in new construction to come as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

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Sentinel teacher mulling WorkSafe claim over COVID-19 exposure – North Shore News

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A teacher at Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver is considering filing a WorkSafe claim after contracting COVID-19 – most likely from a student – reportedly without being warned that she was potentially a close contact by health authorities.

Over half a dozen students from Sentinel and that teacher are now in isolation after a Grade 12 student in their class tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

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According to West Vancouver Teachers Association president Renee Willock, the teacher was not told to self-isolate by health authorities doing contact tracing on the student – only students sitting closest to that person were told to stay home.

But two days later, the teacher started to develop symptoms and has since tested positive for the virus, said Willock.

Willock said the situation has left teachers concerned that there hasn’t been enough transparency and notification around COVID-19 exposures in schools.

That only some students in the classroom were told to stay home isn’t how teachers thought the cohort system would work, said Willock.

“It’s difficult because the protocols have been changing almost daily,” she said.

If the teacher decides to file a claim, it would likely be the first claim connected to COVID-19 in schools as a workplace issue, said Willock.

A Grade 12 student at the school who spoke to the North Shore News Monday said some of his friends who are in that class and still attending school with a substitute teacher are wondering why they haven’t been told to self-isolate.

“None of the other students in that class have necessarily been told why it’s ok for them to stay in,” he said, noting the physical constraints of the classroom mean students don’t have large spaces between them.

“They’ve heard nothing.”

Teachers and parents were first made aware of the COVID-19 exposure when Principal Michael Finch sent an email notice on the weekend, stating, “We have been made aware that a member of our school community has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Since then, however, there have been few details provided by either the West Vancouver School District or Vancouver Coastal Health.

That’s left teachers stressed and confused, said Willock.

Willock said it’s also concerning that the school has not been listed on Vancouver Coastal Health’s web page of school exposures.

“I know this is inaccurate,” said Willock.

Nine students at Collingwood School, a private school in West Vancouver, are also self-isolating this week after being exposed to a student with the virus at the school last week.

“This is a standard measure that is taken to ensure that there is no ongoing transmission in the school and does not mean that they are sick,” wrote Head of School Lisa Evans in a letter to parents.

Collingwood was also not on a school exposure list from Vancouver Coastal Health – which had not listed any schools in the region on Monday – including Mulgrave private school in West Vancouver where a group of Grade 9 students and their teachers spent 14 days in

Isolation earlier this month after a student in the group tested positive for COVID-19.

In contrast, the Fraser Health Authority listed 14 schools in the Surrey School District with COVID-19 exposures on Monday.

According to information posted on the website, an “exposure” is defined as when a single person with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 attended school during their infectious period.

Henry said Monday that all school exposures were supposed to be posted.

Henry also told reporters that even if they are in the same classroom as someone who has tested positive for the virus, most students won’t be considered close contacts. “If you’re sitting at a desk and you’re not close to them, you’ve not had close contact with them,” she said.

“And unless we start to see transmission within the classroom, it would be very unlikely that an entire classroom would have to self isolate.”

Henry said when people have been potentially exposed to the virus at school “I absolutely am sure that my colleagues and VCH are following up with the individuals who were exposed.”

In some cases, a teacher or student may have become infected with the virus through family or other social contacts but haven’t been in the school during their infectious period, said Henry.

Vancouver Coastal Health did not respond to several requests for comment on the school exposures at Sentinel and Collingwood.

She said so far most of the school exposures have been adults in the school setting.

This week health authorities also changed the list of symptoms that would require children to stay home from school, taking several of those – like a runny nose – off the list. That’s because a runny nose by itself is much less likely to be a symptom of COVID-19, especially among children, said Henry. A fever or cough – by themselves or in combination with other symptoms are much more likely to be a symptom of the virus.

 

 

 

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CMHC saw 'moderate' risk of overvalued markets, stands by price forecast – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) saw ‘moderate’ evidence of an overvalued housing market in the Spring of 2020.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The organization’s Housing Market Assessment report released Monday says real estate imbalances (whether the market skewed towards a buyer or seller’s market) in Canada had eased by the end of 2019.” data-reactid=”13″>The organization’s Housing Market Assessment report released Monday says real estate imbalances (whether the market skewed towards a buyer or seller’s market) in Canada had eased by the end of 2019.

In the second quarter, the Vancouver market sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR) sunk from the mid-60 per cent range to mid-40 per cent, swinging it closer to a buyer’s market. For Toronto, the ratio fell to 55 per cent in the second quarter, but only because COVID-19 lockdowns temporarily hit the brakes on transactions. At the beginning of the third quarter, the market began to rebound with pent-up demand bringing the ratio back closer to 65 per cent.

However, the pandemic led to rising unemployment and reduced hours worked, which lowered income in most regions. Prices rose more than expected in areas like eastern Canada, Ottawa, Montréal, Moncton, and Halifax, considering factors like lower population growth, rising unemployment, lower income, and lower mortgage rates.

Sales fell slightly more than new listings, which tumbled at a record pace. This tipped housing closer to a balanced market, with a drop in the sales-to-new-listing ratio to 61.9 per cent from 65.8 per cent in 2019. The shock of the pandemic shutting down open houses and stalling transactions caused the average house price to fall. However, the data do not reflect the federal government supports or the record-breaking house prices the country has seen in recent months.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="August may have set another record for house prices, though the Crown corporation stands by its nine to 18 per cent house price decline forecast in May. “We stand by our forecast in the sense that I think there remain a lot of conditions in the housing market and the economy, for that matter,” said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan over the report’s briefing call, adding that there are risks with provinces lifting their lockdowns. “There are risks related to the different mortgages that are in place right now and for the risks to come upon them going forward. So I don’t think we’re out of the woods, yet.”” data-reactid=”17″>August may have set another record for house prices, though the Crown corporation stands by its nine to 18 per cent house price decline forecast in May. “We stand by our forecast in the sense that I think there remain a lot of conditions in the housing market and the economy, for that matter,” said CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan over the report’s briefing call, adding that there are risks with provinces lifting their lockdowns. “There are risks related to the different mortgages that are in place right now and for the risks to come upon them going forward. So I don’t think we’re out of the woods, yet.”

The simultaneous occurrence of [social distancing measures and employment losses] caused the number of transactions and the number of new listings entering the market to fall at a record pace. With sales falling by slightly more than new listings, the sales-to-new-listings ratio dropped to 61.9 per cent from a recent high of 65.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (Figure 1). SOURCE: CMHC

Consistent with the prior tightening of the resale market, the inflation-adjusted MLS national average price experienced four consecutive quarters of growth through to the first quarter of 2020. By the second quarter of 2020, following the sudden shock to housing market fundamentals and two quarterly declines of the sales-to-new-listings ratio, the real average price had fallen. Consequently, evidence of price acceleration also remains low. SOURCE: CMHC Consistent with the prior tightening of the resale market, the inflation-adjusted MLS national average price experienced four consecutive quarters of growth through to the first quarter of 2020. By the second quarter of 2020, following the sudden shock to housing market fundamentals and two quarterly declines of the sales-to-new-listings ratio, the real average price had fallen. Consequently, evidence of price acceleration also remains low. SOURCE: CMHC

Overheating in Canada’s Major Markets

The company’s estimates for overvaluation in Toronto and Vancouver picked up as both cities saw a boost in house prices in the second quarter despite the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Heading into the second quarter, the CMHC's concerns around overheating and price acceleration eased. However, the overall assessment purports that the region may have moderate degrees of vulnerability. SOURCE: CMHCHeading into the second quarter, the CMHC's concerns around overheating and price acceleration eased. However, the overall assessment purports that the region may have moderate degrees of vulnerability. SOURCE: CMHC

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