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With NWT economy 'worse every day,' business groups call for change – Cabin Radio

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Five Northwest Territories business groups jointly called for the territory to change the way it is responding to Covid-19.

The groups, which claim to together represent the majority of NWT businesses, said the territory’s response to Covid-19 had “come at a heavy price and is getting worse every day.”

They called on government leaders to “strike a better balance” between pandemic public health measures and the safe reopening of the NWT economy.

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In particular, the groups want restrictions on incoming travellers to be eased.

Caroline Cochrane, the NWT’s premier, has said “the health and safety of our people, territory, and economy are at the forefront of our decisions” as the pandemic evolves.

The NWT is currently in phase two of its pandemic recovery plan. While many businesses have been allowed to reopen, restrictions on their operations remain and – crucially – the territory is still closed to almost all tourists.

In their news release, the five groups – the NWT Chamber of Commerce, NWT Tourism, Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and NWT and Nunavut Construction Association – said the territory needed to awaken from its protective “induced coma.”

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“We now need urgent action in order to preserve businesses and ensure the survival of the private sector,” the news release stated, characterizing the tourism and hospitality industries as “barely clinging to life.”

Critically, the associations said, the NWT government itself had “shown no initiative” in adapting its ways of doing business to the pandemic.

“GNWT workers remain on full pay with no consequences to their personal incomes, household costs, or pensions,” the groups wrote. “Virtually all its employees continue to work from home where that is possible.

By contrast, the groups said, “the NWT business community is leading the way in adapting to phase two restrictions by reopening safely in the face of an opaque and restrictive public health regime.”

Federal and territorial help

The NWT government has introduced some supports to help industry sectors and relied on Ottawa to bail out others.

For example, the territory’s airlines have received $8.7 million in pandemic funding from the federal government followed by $2.9 million from the GNWT designed to cover gaps in that federal assistance.

Others sectors were already facing problems that the pandemic may have worsened, but for which Covid-19 was not entirely responsible.

Diamond mining company Dominion had already been the subject of bleak financial forecasts before Covid-19 arrived and it chose to shutter its Ekati mine. Dominion subsequently entered creditor protection and is now trying to sell its assets to parent company Washington while fighting another mining company in court.

Katrina Nokleby, the territory’s industry minister, has pushed back at the assertion by some business leaders that the GNWT has done too little to support small and medium-sized businesses.

Nokleby says her department intentionally directed businesses toward federal funding while focusing GNWT money on areas inadequately supported.

However, some have challenged that statement. The NWT’s mining industry body, for example, long complained that neither Ottawa nor the NWT government had provided adequate support for the mineral exploration sector, which did not immediately meet criteria for federal help.

CanNor, the federal economic development agency, has since launched funding initiatives designed to catch businesses that would not otherwise qualify.

A business advisory council – co-chaired by Jenni Bruce, one of the five signatories to the groups’ news release – met for the first time earlier this month. However, the GNWT has faced criticism for the time taken to get that advisory group off the ground.

Five requests

The NWT’s private sector has not been uniformly affected by the pandemic.

While many tour operators have either abandoned their summer season or closed down entirely, some retail outlets have reported steady and even, in some cases, rising sales.

Some companies, like gym operators, spent many weeks unable to generate revenue and even now must operate under restrictive and sometimes confusing measures. (For example, interpretations of the same territorial government guidance regarding squash courts have differed significantly. In Yellowknife, on June 18, the Racquet Club told squash players its courts “are open but you must keep two metres between you and your opponent.” Two days earlier, the Town of Inuvik had told squash players its courts were only open for one person per court, essentially for practice play. The same territorial rules apply to both.)

Three company owners have expressed concern to Cabin Radio that their requests for clarity on restrictions affecting their business are passed back and forth between the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer and the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.

In their news release, the five groups stated they wished to see a greater “sense of urgency” in addressing the needs of businesses.

The groups set out five requests of the NWT government:

  • Reveal “the economic price tag to date” of the NWT’s Covid-19 restrictions and publish “any economic forecasting the GNWT has performed.” (Rylund Johnson, the Yellowknife North MLA, said on Twitter: “The fact this has to be asked for is embarrassing and reflective of a lack of GNWT data transparency.”)
  • Ease travel and quarantine restrictions for those entering the territory, “even if not uniformly across the NWT.”
  • Get GNWT employees back into their offices “in a manner consistent with the private sector.”
  • Provide “consistent and prompt answers” on the interpretation of pandemic rules.
  • Provide “consistent and accurate messaging” regarding the pandemic.

In closing, the groups said they believed the NWT’s political leaders had “relinquished many … governing responsibilities” to the chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola.

Premier Cochrane has stated throughout the pandemic that political pressure would not be placed on the chief public health officer regarding public health measures.

The five groups, though, said Dr Kandola’s decision-making “can no longer take place in a vacuum.”

“Businesses in the Northwest Territories are doing their best to survive. Our elected officials need to step up and govern, lest we see irreparable damage to our once vibrant business community,” the news release concluded.

Kandola has previously said reopening the territory to other Canadians will rely primarily on how southern Canada handles an anticipated second wave of Covid-19 in the fall.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer said last week: “We do not have plans to alter our self-isolation or travel restriction protocols at this time.

“In our public health assessment, they remain essential to continuing to protect the territory from Covid-19 – and especially to prevent outbreaks in remote communities – while allowing activities folks have been missing to get going again safely.”

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Asian stocks sink after Wall St losses on economy worries – CTV News

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BEIJING —
Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday on worries economic recoveries might fade as coronavirus cases increase in the United States and some other countries.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia retreated a day after strong gains driven by the rise of U.S. tech stocks.

Global stock prices have recovered most of this year’s losses on optimism about a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But forecasters warn the rise might be too big and too fast to be supported by uncertain economic conditions.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.6% overnight.

“The market is concerned about the uptick in cases globally,” said Stephen Innes of AxiCorp. in a report. “Money is funneling into perceived safe areas of the market like tech, which should hold up broader indexes to a degree.”

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.2% to 3,408.93 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.7% to 22,368.44. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated 1.9% to 25,702.64.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 1.2% to 2,141.63 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.6% at 5,917.60. India’s Sensex opened 0.6% lower at 36,523.82. New Zealand, Jakarta and Bangkok retreated, while Singapore markets were closed.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 declined to 3,152.05. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.4% to 25,706.09.

Three out of four stocks in the S&P declined. The biggest losers were oil companies, airlines and other stocks that are most heavily affected by a reopening and strengthening economy.

The Nasdaq composite, dominated by tech stocks that are seen as relatively resilient to the pandemic, added 0.5% to a record 10,547.75.

U.S. government data showed 1.3 million workers filed for unemployment claims last week. That is down from 1.4 million the prior week and a peak of nearly 6.9 million in late March.

The improvements have helped validate investors’ optimism that the economy can recover as anti-virus controls are relaxed. That helped the S&P 500 rebound to within 7% of its record, after being down nearly 34%.

But economists point to a troubling slowdown in the pace of such changes, including moderating declines in the four-week average of jobless claims.

Investors are worried that worsening infection levels in the populous U.S. states of Florida, Texas and California could derail a recovery. Some states are rolling back their reopenings, while others are ordering people arriving from hotspots to quarantine.

Other countries including Brazil and South Africa also report rising case totals. Australia’s populous state of Victoria closed its border with neighbouring New South Wales this week to contain an outbreak.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 70 cents to $38.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 63 cents to $41.72 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to 106.94 yen from Thursday’s 107.95. The euro edged down to $1.1271 from $1.1286.

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Japan's economy to shrink at fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to pandemic: Reuters poll – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Kaori Kaneko

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s economy will shrink at the fastest pace in decades in the year through March 2021, forcing the government to compile another stimulus package to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

Many respondents predicted the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ’s) next policy step would be to expand stimulus, but they do not see the pandemic triggering a banking sector crisis this year.

The world’s third-largest economy is forecast to contract 5.3% this fiscal year, a July 3-9 poll of over 30 economists shows, the most it has shrunk since comparable data became available in 1994.

It will rebound 3.3% next year, according to the poll.

The economy will grow at an annualised 10.0% pace in the current quarter of the calendar year 2020 after having shrunk 23.9% in the second quarter ended June, the poll shows.

“It would take two to three years for economic activity to return to normal levels in Japan as its overseas markets are likely to continue suffering from the spread of the virus,” said Atsushi Takeda, chief economist at Itochu Research Institute.

Two-thirds of economists polled expect Japan to compile its next stimulus package this year to ease the pain on companies and households. Japan has so far rolled out two packages totalling $2.2 trillion.

Arata Oto, market economist at Societe Generale Securities Japan, expects the next stimulus package to be worth about 1-2% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The package “would aim at accelerating Japan’s recovery … once there are more signs the pandemic is beginning to subside, or to help further cushion the blow from COVID-19 if the likelihood of a second wave heightens”, he said.

Globally, more than 12 million have been infected by the virus and over half a million people have died. In Japan, more than 21,000 people have been infected and over 900 killed.

Policy support for hard-hit firms should help counter worries about Japan’s financial system, over 90% of economists surveyed said.

Asked about BOJ’s next move, 26 of 40 economists said they expect it to expand its stimulus, with 18 saying it would happen this year and five predicting it would be next year.

At next week’s rate review, the BOJ is expected to roughly maintain its view the economy will gradually recover this year from the virus-led downturn, sources have said, even as fears of a second wave of infections cloud the outlook.

Japan’s core consumer prices, which exclude volatile fresh food but includes energy costs, will drop 0.4% this fiscal year and rise 0.3% next fiscal year, the latest poll showed.

(For other stories from the Reuters global long-term economic outlook polls package)

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Polling by Daniel Leussink in Tokyo and Shaloo Shrivastava, Tushar Goenka and Manzer Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Leika Kihara and Himani Sarkar)

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Biden offers 'build back better' approach to reviving economy – BNN

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Joe Biden launched his plan on Thursday to revive the economy from the coronavirus-related recession with a promise to “build back better” than what existed before the crisis.

Offering a contrast with President Donald Trump’s insistence that the economy is bouncing back, the Democratic nominee framed his economic agenda for the general election. The economy is the one policy area on which he lags Trump in public opinion polls.

One part of the plan is intended to foster manufacturing and encourage innovation, adopting some ideas from his progressive primary rivals but avoiding the big-ticket proposals like the Green New Deal.

“The challenges faced today are among the biggest in our history,” he said at a metalworks factory in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, a few miles away from his childhood home in Scranton, a place that’s been synonymous with the blue-collar workers who helped Trump win the state in 2016.

“I have no illusion how tough the road ahead is going to be for our country,” Biden added.

But he said he’s still “an optimist” because the American people are up to those challenges if they follow his lead.

“I see a different America than Trump. One that despite all our flaws and shortcomings and failures is still, after more than two centuries, dedicated to equality, liberty and human decency,” he said.

Biden also said the idea that U.S. companies only bear responsibility to their shareholders is “an absolute farce” because corporations have a duty to workers and their country.

“It’s time corporate America pay their fair share of taxes,” Biden said, reiterating his plan to raise the current corporate tax rate back to the 28 per cent it was during the Obama administration from the current 21 per cent.

The former vice president’s economic plan is divided into four areas, the first of which he addressed in some detail on Thursday: a push to buy American and create manufacturing jobs, costing at least $700 billion; building infrastructure and clean energy; advancing racial equity; and modernizing the “caring” economy such as child-care and elder-care workers and domestic aides.

He said he would roll out his plans to rebuild U.S. infrastructure and emphasize clean energy next week.

Biden covered a wide range of issues, from what he called Trump’s lack of empathy for people suffering from the current crises to the removal of Confederate monuments. He took from his standard stump speech his admiration for the middle-class and unions, which he says “built this country.”

On Thursday, he proposed US$400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers over the course of his first term — based on a proposal that his primary opponent Senator Elizabeth Warren offered — as well as US$300 billion for federally funded research and development. In all, the Biden campaign estimates that its proposals on manufacturing and buying American will create 5 million jobs.

He didn’t offer a plan to pay for these initiatives.

“When the federal government uses taxpayers’ money we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs,” he said of his buy American plan.

Steve Moore, a conservative economist and informal adviser to Trump, said the plan represents “a radical plan of wealth redistribution, not wealth creation.”

“I believe if this plan were implemented all of the economic gains from the Trump era would be erased and we would be thrust into a second great depression that would hurt the poor and minorities most,” he said in a statement.

There was small progress toward recovery in the jobs numbers released Thursday. Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. declined last week by more than projected, easing concerns of a renewed downturn in the labor market after several large states reported an increase in coronavirus cases.

Trump has made buy-American policies and protecting the U.S. steel and aluminum industry a centerpiece of his administration but some domestic manufacturers have complained his actions didn’t go far enough.

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