A speech from the throne delivered in Ottawa on Wednesday emphasized a number of enhancements to existing programs put in place in response to the pandemic but did not offer large-scale social policy reforms, such as a basic income guarantee, that were hinted at by government weeks ago.
The speech, read before parliamentarians by Governor General Julie Payette, outlined the Justin Trudeau government’s immediate plans to respond to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months. While the severity of cases of the virus has diminished since a high point seen last spring, a recent spike in cases in Canada’s most populous provinces has provoked fears of the social and economic effects of a second wave across Canada.
In the speech, Payette said the immediate public health response to the continuing pandemic is the first priority of government. The speech pledged to improve rapid testing capacity in Canada and pledged additional short-term assistance for businesses forced to close due to future public health orders. Payette also briefly addressed plans to deploy a vaccine for the virus, although it remains unclear when a vaccine will be approved by health officials.
“The government has already secured access to vaccine candidates and therapeutics while investing in manufacturing here at home. And to get the vaccines out to Canadians once they’re ready, the government has made further investments in our capacity for vaccine distribution,” Payette said.
The bulk of the 53-minute speech focused on immediate economic and social support for Canadians in the coming months, as well as plans for a longer-term economic recovery.
Notably, the speech did not include a pledge to create any new economic supports on the scale of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which will begin to transition to a program under the Employment Insurance system at the end of September.
In terms of commitments in the coming months of the pandemic, the government pledged to:
- Create one million jobs as part of a green economic recovery;
- Extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until next summer;
- Create a transitional Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals who would not qualify for EI;
- Provide more supports for self-employed individuals and gig workers through the EI system.
The speech also included a pledge to “make a significant, long-term, sustained investment” in childcare, but stopped short of committing to a universal childcare program.
In a moment that harkened back to the Trudeau government’s successful 2015 election campaign, the throne speech also pledged to better tax “extreme wealth inequality,” address tax avoidance by tech giants and limit stock option deductions for the wealthy.
The speech also pledged to improve protections for seniors in long-term care homes by penalizing those who neglect seniors. The speech also pledged to “accelerate steps to achieve” a universal pharmacare program.
The more ambitious components of the speech focused on climate change and green economic recovery. The commitments included:
- Legislated commitments for achieving net zero emissions by 2050;
- Improving upon Canada’s emissions reduction goals by 2030;
- Making zero-emissions vehicles more affordable;
- Creating a new national water agency; and
- Planting 2 billion trees.
The Trudeau government’s speech from the throne followed the prorogation of parliament in August, after sustained pressure on the government for its handling of the WE Charity scandal.
At that time, Trudeau said the move would allow the government to focus on a plan for a recovery of the Canadian economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau’s decision to prorogue parliament effectively brought an end to scrutiny of the government’s handling of the WE Charity controversy by several standing committees.
In the weeks that followed, sources in government had communicated to media that the throne speech would set out bold, social initiatives, including a proposal for a Basic Income Guarantee, as well as plans for a “green recovery” of the economy.
But in recent weeks, government staff had downplayed the possibility of large-scale, costly social programs.
Canada’s economy beat expectations in August but likely slowed in September – Global News
Statistics Canada says the pace of economic growth slowed in August as real gross domestic product grew 1.2 per cent, compared with a 3.1 per cent rise in July.
The August figure was stronger than the average forecast of 0.9 per cent for August provided by economists polled by financial data firm Refinitiv.
But in a preliminary estimate, Statistics Canada says growth for September slowed to about 0.7 per cent.
The agency says overall economic activity was still about five per cent below the pre-pandemic level in February.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Losses mount for oil majors as pandemic grips global economy – CTV News
Exxon Mobil reported its third consecutive quarter of losses as the global pandemic curtails travel and cripples global economic activity.
The energy giant on Friday posted a $680 million third-quarter loss and revenue tumbled to $46.2 billion, down from $65.05 billion during the same quarter last year.
The string of losses and what could be a money-losing year is new territory for Exxon Mobil.
“This is a business that’s made a billion dollars a quarter on average from 2011 to 2018 and it’s had a rough go,” said Peter McNally, global sector lead for industrials, materials and energy at Third Bridge, a research firm.
Already struggling with weak prices from oversupply, the pandemic is taking a heavy toll on oil and gas companies. The price of U.S. benchmark crude has fallen 40% since the start of the year. The cost for a barrel of oil tumbled 10% just this week as coronavirus infections surged in the U.S. and abroad.
“We remain confident in our long-term strategy and the fundamentals of our business, and are taking the necessary actions to preserve value while protecting the balance sheet and dividend,” said Darren Woods, CEO in a prepared statement. “We are on pace to achieve our 2020 cost-reduction targets and are progressing additional savings next year as we manage through this unprecedented down cycle.”
The The Irving, Texas, company produced 3.7 million barrels of oil per day in the third quarter, up 1% from the second quarter. But production was down compared to the third quarter of 2019, when Exxon pumped 3.9 million barrels of oil per day.
Also on Friday, Chevron reported losses of $207 million after turning in a profit of $2.9 billion last year. It brought in $24 billion in revenues, down from $35 billion during the same period last year.
“It’s not going well,” McNally said. “You have to squint at some of the things to find things that are good.”
And the third quarter was an improvement compared with the last, when oil futures crashed below zero. Exxon and Chevron lost a combined $9 billion.
Oil prices appeared to stabilize this quarter, however, and better conditions enabled Exxon to recover some of its production curtailments, the company said.
Demand for refined products also improved, and chemical sales volumes rose as demand for packaging increased and automotive and construction markets recovered, Exxon said.
On Thursday Exxon announced 1,900 job cuts in its U.S. workforce and Chevron, after closing on its acquisition of Noble Energy earlier this month, said it would cut a quarter of that company’s jobs.
Oil demand is expected to fall 8% globally this year, according to the International Energy Agency. While some demand has recovered since oil fell below $0 a barrel in April, countries are again locking down as the coronavirus surges anew across Europe and the U.S.
Canada's economy moves into 'recuperation phase' as second-wave impact looms – The Globe and Mail
Canada’s economic recovery continued to moderate as summer wound down, leaving activity still well short of pre-pandemic levels before the second wave of the COVID-19 virus hit, new data from Statistics Canada show.
The agency reported Friday that real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.2 per cent in August from July, slightly more than its preliminary estimate of 1 per cent. It was the fourth straight month of growth, as the economy continued its rapid rebound from the lockdowns in the spring aimed at containing the virus, although the pace of the recovery has been slowing after the dramatic effects of the re-openings in May and June.
Statscan also published an advance estimate for September of 0.7-per-cent growth – which, if accurate, would mean the economy expanded by about 10 per cent in the third quarter, consistent with Bank of Canada and private-sector estimates. But that still leaves the economy about 4 per cent below its pre-COVID levels.
With October’s sharp increase in the spread of the virus, both in Canada and abroad, renewed virus-containment restrictions threaten to put the brakes on the recovery.
“The economy is now moving into the recuperation phase, where additional gains in economic activity are harder to come by. With pandemic-related uncertainty weighing on business and consumer confidence, most industries are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels of output,” Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said in a research note.
The August GDP gains were led by a continued strong recovery in the service sectors of the economy (up 1.5 per cent), which were more deeply affected by the spring lockdowns and subsequent re-openings, while goods-producing sectors grew a more modest 0.5 per cent. Economists noted that the segments that drove much of August’s gains – services such as arts, entertainment and recreation (up 13.7 per cent) and accommodation and restaurants (up 7.3 per cent) – stand to be the hardest hit in the second-wave containment measures, as authorities focus on reducing contact through indoor gatherings.
“The way forward has been deeply clouded by the second wave and renewed restrictions, so growth will cool considerably in the fourth quarter,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said in a research report.
Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada issued new forecasts predicting fourth-quarter growth of only 0.2 per cent quarter over quarter – or 1 per cent annualized – in light of the second wave of the pandemic and the return of some government-mandated closures and business restrictions. Ontario and Quebec have already shut down indoor restaurants and bars in large urban centres where COVID-19 cases are highest, while other provinces are clamping down on indoor gatherings and debating whether additional measures are warranted.
Some economists think the central bank’s forecast is overly pessimistic.
“We suspect that with ongoing massive fiscal support, less restrictions than earlier, and, simply, that consumers and businesses have learned to operate in this new environment, the late-year setback should be relatively mild,” said Mr. Porter, who forecast that quarterly growth would top 2 per cent annualized.
“We think there is still scope for continued rebounds in those sectors not directly affected by the restrictions, so we are pencilling in a much larger fourth-quarter gain of 5 per cent annualized,” said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics, in a research note.
But the COVID-19 virus remains a massive wild card in any economic forecast, as a growing number of countries face the prospect of renewed restrictions – while at the same time eagerly looking forward to the growing possibility of a viable vaccine in early 2021.
“We are now in a phase of the recovery that could see strong winds and dangerous tides. Navigating through the turbulence will not be easy, as much will depend on the course of the virus,” TD’s Mr. Thanabalasingam said. “Getting the spread under control could right the ship, but seas will remain choppy without a vaccine or effective treatment.”
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