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Varcoe: Oilpatch workers ponder leaving sector as megamerger triggers layoffs – Calgary Herald



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With a drop in global oil prices and the fallout of the pandemic, the jobless rate in Alberta sat at 11.7 per cent in September.

The Conference Board of Canada projects Calgary’s unemployment rate will fall to 10.4 per cent next year, slowly easing to 8.6 per cent in 2024.

Yet, that is still higher than it was entering the pandemic.

The pressure for energy companies to consolidate isn’t going away, either.

“This is a global phenomenon. This is happening everywhere around the world,” Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, told reporters Tuesday.

“Companies are having to reposition themselves, find efficiencies so they can survive in a very difficult time.”

Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

We can’t underestimate the turmoil this is causing, and governments at all levels — hello, Ottawa — shouldn’t either.

In September, the oil and gas sector provided a paycheque to more than 160,000 workers across the country. That’s down 14 per cent — or nearly 26,000 jobs lost — over the past year, reports the PetroLMI Division of Energy Safety Canada.

“A lot of the service sector jobs have been impacted, certainly since February,” PetroLMI vice-president Carol Howes said Tuesday.

“Now we will see a lot of the impact on those other (corporate) roles . . . that will be certainly under scrutiny in terms of a merger.”

At Precision Drilling Corp., CEO Kevin Neveu said the company has reduced the staff at its corporate offices to about 450 from 1,000 earlier this year, with job losses spread across North America. About half of those positions were eliminated in Canada.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 2 –



  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers remain high in most of Canada.
  • Quebec hospitalization rates have doctors there concerned that allowing Christmas gatherings could lead to untenable January scenario.
  • Sask. corrections minister under fire because of COVID-19 outbreak at Saskatoon jail. .
  • U.S. advisory panel makes near-unanimous recommendations on priority groups to first receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Read more: Neskantaga First Nation residents deal with evacuation, pandemic stressors because of water crisis; some of Canada’s biggest retailers say Ontario lockdown rules ‘might actually be making things worse.’

Bob Underhill, 84, and his wife Patricia, 82, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, kiss through a face mask as they are allowed to resume visits with physical contact in London, U.K. at The Chiswick Nursing Centre, which introduced a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test with results ready in 30 minutes. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

Vaccine public opinion polling reflects polarization seen throughout pandemic

Since attention has turned to vaccines and what appears to be the likelihood in the near future that at least one will be authorized as safe to use for most Canadians, the Conservatives in Ottawa have focused their attacks on the federal government’s plan to acquire and distribute the doses, writes CBC’s Éric Grenier.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has claimed that Canada will be “near the back of the line” for vaccines because of the country’s dependence on companies with production facilities outside the country. But this week’s Léger poll suggests a minority of Canadians share O’Toole’s concern — while 37 per cent of Canadians are worried Canada might not get the vaccine at the same time as the United States and the United Kingdom, 48 per cent said they are “not that concerned” and feel “a few months won’t make much of a difference.”

The Léger poll suggests Conservative voters are the ones most likely to be concerned about delays — and the ones least likely to say they would take the first vaccine made available to the public. According to Léger, about half of Conservative voters believe that the current federal government is withholding information about vaccines, with only 15 per cent of Liberal voters holding a similar view.

Trust in a vaccine could have an impact on Canadians’ willingness to get in line, and it appears to be taking on a partisan hue, writes Grenier.

On average, recent polls conducted by Abacus, Angus Reid and Léger suggest only 34 per cent of Canadians would get immunized as soon as possible, while 41 per cent said they would wait a little before getting the needle. Between 11 and 15 per cent of those polled said they would not get vaccinated at all.

In the Reid, Abacus and Léger surveys, an average of just 27 per cent of Conservative voters said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible, compared to 43 per cent of Liberals and 39 per cent of New Democrats.

Click below to watch more videos from CBC News

As Canada prepares to distribute millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in January, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh and David Levine, who managed the H1N1 vaccine rollout for Montreal, say this vaccination campaign won’t be without challenges. 3:56


Quebec hospitals filling up, doctors concerned Christmas gatherings could push them over the edge

Quebec hospitals usually see a rise in visits to the emergency room in early January, but as of Wednesday morning, nearly one-third of the province’s emergency rooms are operating at full capacity or greater.

For now, the province plans to allow Quebec residents up to two gatherings between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27, with a maximum of 10 people in attendance and with no limit on the number of households those people would come from.

Dr. Vincent Bouchard-Dechêne, an internal medicine specialist at Notre-Dâme Hospital in Montreal, doesn’t see how hospitals can deal with an increase in COVID-19 patients after the holidays while still providing service to people with other ailments.

“To limit gatherings during Christmastime would be the best gift we could give ourselves,” said Bouchard-Dechêne.

Premier François Legault has said he will make a final call on holiday gathering guidelines by Dec. 11, but Dr. Matthew Oughton, a physician with the Jewish General Hospital’s infectious diseases division, is among those questioning that timeline.

The characteristics of COVID-19, including the time it takes for its symptoms to appear, make it difficult for trends to change much between now and Dec. 11, some doctors say.

“That’s really at the fine cutting edge of where anything that you would do today, you’d really see changes reflected in the numbers by Dec. 11,” said Oughton.

Read more about what’s happening in Quebec 

Sask. minister under fire over COVID-19 outbreak at jail

Some NDP members of the legislature are calling on Saskatchewan’s corrections minister to resign amid an outbreak at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.

Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell says the government is doing all it can to protect the inmates and staff at the jail, but has offered little in the way of specifics. In the past 10 days, the number of staff and inmates testing positive for COVID-19 at the centre has gone from none to 142.

“Why it came into the facility with all the precautions, I can’t answer that,” said Tell.

Advocacy groups are calling for the targeted release of inmates from the centre. Earlier this year, the province’s Public Prosecutions agency moved to reduce the numbers in the province’s jails, instructing prosecutors to review all new arrests with an eye to keeping non-violent accused out of jail.

The order was a response to fears about the coronavirus getting into the jail system, which has been a problem during the pandemic in a number of North American prisons and jails. A CBC News analysis earlier in the year found infection rates among those Canadians imprisoned or jailed were up to nine times higher than in the general population.

According to the government, decisions about releasing inmates at the Saskatoon facility who don’t pose a community risk would be made by Public Prosecutions.

Tell said the jail has been taking precautions to slow the spread, including mandatory masking, no longer charging inmates for soap and banning visitors.

NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer said the province’s handling and response should cost Tell her position.

“This is a minister who shouldn’t be a minister anymore,” Sarauer said.

Read more about the situation in Saskatchewan 

U.S advisory panel sets out priority groups for 1st vaccinations

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available in the U.S., an influential government advisory panel said this week in a near-unanimous verdict.

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to recommend to the Centers for Disease Control those groups — which comprise about 24 million Americans — get priority in the first days of any coming vaccination program, when doses are expected to be limited.

About three million people in the U.S. live in nursing homes, long-term chronic care hospitals and other long-term care facilities. Those patients and the staff members who care for them have accounted for six per cent of U.S. coronavirus cases and a staggering 39 per cent of deaths, CDC officials say.

The recommendations are not binding, but the panel dates back to 1964 and for decades its advice has been widely heeded by doctors. But one potential complication is that it will be governors and state officials who ultimately have final say on the prioritization of specific populations in their jurisdictions.

The panel will meet again at some point to recommend who should be next in line. Among the possibilities: teachers, police, firefighters and workers in other essential fields, such as food production and transportation, could be among those under consideration then.

In Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, has released preliminary recommendations that prioritize the elderly and others at severe risk of illness, including health-care workers, front-line staff and those with lower access to health care, such as Indigenous populations.

Read more about the recommendations 

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


U.K. approves Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the United Kingdom, approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday.

While the U.K. has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — enough for 20 million people — Conservative Health Minister Matt Hancock said the first shipment will be 800,000 doses and will arrive “within days” to the National Health Service.

China and Russia have offered different vaccinations to their citizens ahead of late-stage testing, but Britain is the first to sign off on a COVID-19 vaccine through a Western-style regulatory process.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to review the Pfizer product. Pfizer’s vaccine is among seven that Canada has pre-ordered, and Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said regulators here are expected to make decisions on timelines similar to those followed by the U.S.

Final testing must still be completed for the shots made by U.S.-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, but results appear to be effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease, with no known serious side-effects so far.

The vaccine itself does come with challenges in terms of deployment. It must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around -70 C, unlike some of the other vaccine candidates, and it will be delivered with a saline solution for dilution purposes.


Nova Scotia study to examine COVID-19 shaming

Motorists go through checkpoints on July 3 leaving the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., as part of Atlantic Canada’s travel bubble. While the region has generally not seen virus outbreaks as in other parts of the country, shaming of those who test positive occurs, says a Dalhousie professor. (Brian McInnis/The Canadian Press)

A Dalhousie University professor hopes that a study of shaming during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a start to breaking the historical cycle. International development studies professor Robert Huish is looking for people who have been the targets of pandemic shaming to tell their stories.

Huish is starting his study in Nova Scotia, but hopes to expand it across Atlantic Canada and eventually across the country.

“There is always someone who is shunned, someone who is shamed, someone who is made to feel marginalized, and that’s been an unfortunate consequence of quarantine for thousands of years, Huish told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.

The expected arrival of a vaccine, presented as a “light at the end of the tunnel” scenario, could paradoxically be a difficult time, Huish said. In the beginning there will not be enough vaccine for everyone, and the federal and provincial governments will prioritize groups to first be vaccinated. Many Canadians will have to physically distance and wear masks well into 2021.

“Allowing people to be vaccinated and then suddenly free of any of the ordinances that the rest of society is following, that could build huge resentment, stigmatization and all sorts of weird social complexities that we may not see coming,” he said.

Read more about the study here

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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Watch live: Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement – CTV Toronto



Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s still pushing to “knock down” the 14-day quarantine for travellers returning into Canada from overseas.

Ford made the comment on Wednesday afternoon after being asked whether border restrictions between Canada and the United States should be tightened given the escalating number of COVID-19 cases in both countries. 

In response to the question, Ford said he still pushing to replace the quarantine with a rapid COVID-19 testing program, similar to what Alberta implemented earlier this year.

Under the plan, international travellers receive a COVID-19 test upon entering Canada before going into quarantine. If the test comes back negative, those travellers are allowed to leave quarantine but will have to take another test six or seven days after their initial arrival.

“We’re working with the federal government right now at Toronto Pearson to reduce the downtime once you come back,” Ford said. “You have to quarantine for 14-days, we want to knock that down.”

“I’m really pushing it because if you can land and you can get tested right away and then you get tested, I think it’s five to seven days later, and they both come out negative, you should be able to go on your way.”

Ford said he is expecting an answer later Wednesday afternoon on the status of the pilot project. 

Ford went on to say that he believes the federal government needs to “step it up” when it comes to travellers returning in to Canada and at the very least take people’s temperatures. 

“Don’t just let them walk off and hop in a taxi and away they go,” Ford said. 

He also said he believes that some people are not adhering the quarantine rules when arriving back in Canada. 

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Feds plan to provide Canadians with tools to fight coronavirus vaccine misinformation – Global News



The Public Health Agency of Canada plans to roll out webinars in an effort to combat increasing misinformation surrounding the impending novel coronavirus vaccine.

Speaking to reporters at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference on Wednesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the webinars will include a broad range of topics, including Health Canada regulatory perspectives, the different types of vaccines that will be available to Canadians, how to run immunization clinics as well as guidance for use from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“Because of the social media and its Internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past,” said Tam, adding that it was important Canadians understood how vaccines are developed.

Read more:
The global race for coronavirus vaccine doses: how does Canada compare?

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“The regulatory process is rigorous and (the federal government) would only provide vaccines that have gone through safety evaluations and efficacy evaluations.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found a majority of Canadians surveyed, 59 per cent, said they would still support for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines — but more than 70 per cent said they would feel nervous taking a vaccine that went through such quick development.

Tam said the webinars will seek to dispel some of those fears, and explain how scientists were able to compress years worth of vaccine research into what she described as an “incredible global collaboration that has resulted in vaccines being available essentially within the year of the start of a pandemic.”

Click to play video 'U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine'

U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

The top health official did not explicitly say when the webinars would be rolling out, but said to “expect the first webinars to be delivered very shortly.”

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Tam’s announcement comes as Health Canada reviews multiple vaccine candidates, including Pfizer and BioNtech’s, which became the world’s first vaccine to receive approval after it was authorized by British health officials earlier on Wednesday.

The federal government has so far secured a minimum of 20 million doses from Pfizer and BioNtech, with the option to secure millions more if they’re approved.

Read more:
Your guide to COVAX, the WHO’s coronavirus global vaccine plan

According to Tam, Canadians can expect to see the first shipments of the vaccine roll out early next year, adding that front-line workers, high-risk groups like seniors and those in more isolated Indigenous communities will be considered for prioritization.

“As we roll out a vaccine, we have to take into account who is most at risk — at risk of exposure of severe outcomes and ensuring that these populations have priority access,” she said.

“Vaccine developers in phase three clinical trials are including some of these key populations.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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