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Deep freeze offers only cold comfort for natural gas producing firms

CALGARY — Analysts say the cold snap that continues to blanket many parts of North America is driving short-term natural gas prices higher but the trend is unlikely to significantly affect either Canadian consumer bills or producer profits. Cold weather typically increases demand for the home heating fuel, which draws down storage levels and pushes prices higher, but the affect...

Crude awakenings: stabilizing oil unlikely to improve the TSX’s performance in 2018

TORONTO — While stabilizing oil prices helped Canadian equities break out of their doldrums in the second half of 2017, investors expecting the Toronto Stock Exchange to catch up with its outperforming global peers in the new year should instead anticipate more modest returns with the add-on of greater market volatility. "Despite being flat in the early part of the...

Crude awakenings: stabilizing oil unlikely to improve the TSX’s performance in 2018

TORONTO — While stabilizing oil prices helped Canadian equities break out of their doldrums in the second half of 2017, investors expecting the Toronto Stock Exchange to catch up with its outperforming global peers in the new year should instead anticipate more modest returns with the add-on of greater market volatility. "Despite being flat in the early part of the...

Alberta carbon tax jumps, but NDP says it’s connected to improving economy

EDMONTON — Alberta's carbon tax jumped on New Year's Day, but the province's NDP government maintains the tax played a vital role in Alberta's improving economic outlook. Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman told reporters there was a clear link between the approval of several pipelines last year and the tax that Alberta first introduced on carbon on January 1, 2017. Hoffman noted...

Canadian IPOs rebounded in 2017, generating $5.1 billion in proceeds, PwC says

MONTREAL — PricewaterhouseCoopers says a resurgence in the mining sector in the final months of 2017 pushed total proceeds from initial public offerings in Canada to $5.1 billion last year, up from $466.7 million in 2016. There were 38 issues from Canadian companies or companies listing on Canadian exchanges in 2017. That included 13 in the fourth quarter, which raised a total...

Suncor operations cease at base plant after ‘process upset’ knocks out power

CALGARY — Suncor Energy Inc. says operations have ceased at its oilsands base plant near Fort McMurray, Alta., after a temporary power loss Wednesday afternoon. Company spokesperson Erin Rees would only describe the cause of the power loss as a "process upset" but says power was restored as of Wednesday night. Rees says she cannot provide more detail because it's a "day to day operational issue." She says the incident does not...

Draft policy: Alberta United Conservatives eye flat tax, private health delivery

EDMONTON — Alberta's governing NDP says draft policy ideas put forward by the Opposition United Conservatives are risky and would benefit the wealthy — but the new party calls that baseless fearmongering. Finance Minister Joe Ceci says a proposal to return to a flat personal income tax rate would take $700 million out of revenue for the benefit of the highest-income earners. "This is a...

Federal Court judge finds Packers Plus fracking technology patent is invalid

CALGARY — A Canadian court is declaring invalid the patent for a fracking technology held by Calgary-based Packers Plus Energy Services Inc. The Federal Court of Canada says the company's patent granted in 2002 isn't valid because it was an "obvious" improvement on existing systems which had been publicly disclosed before the patent application was filed.  The decision has sweeping implications for the oil and gas industry because variations of the technology...

Many protesters flattering themselves if they think CSIS is watching: former spy

OTTAWA — Many demonstrators are flattering themselves when they publicly fret about coming under the scrutiny of security services, says a former spymaster. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had the resources to monitor only those threats "in the red, high-risk, high-probability zone" when he served as the agency's assistant director of intelligence earlier this decade, Ray Boisvert said Thursday. "That meant...

New U.S. refining demand expected to spur Canadian heavy oil demand in 2018

CALGARY — A new forecast from Deloitte says demand for Canadian heavy oil will likely rise this year as shrinking volumes from Mexico and Venezuela open new opportunities to sell to U.S. refineries. The accounting and consulting firm says the demand surge will work to overcome recently steeper price discounts received by Canadian producers due to pipeline outages that have stretched tight export transportation capacity. The report forecasts the...

Supporters of controversial sunken B.C. ship bouyed by fishy visitors

VANCOUVER — Officials with the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. say the sea floor is adapting well six months after the sinking of a decommissioned Canadian warship in Howe Sound, north of Vancouver.

HMCS Annapolis went down amid controversy in Halkett Bay off Gambier Island in April, ending years of legal battles from critics who argued paint on the ship's hull contained toxic chemicals.

Howard Robbins, the president of the artificial reef society, says those worries appear unfounded and the ship is living up to its environmental goal.

Rockfish stocks have been declining in Georgia Strait, but Robbins says some of the small, spiny fish have already been spotted nosing around the Annapolis. 

He says the old ship is also becoming increasingly popular with divers, closing the loop on a circle route for scuba fans that includes the HMCS Chaudiere in Sechelt Inlet, and several ships near Nanaimo.

In all, the artificial reef society has sunk seven vessels in B.C. waters. (CKAY)

The Canadian Press

Pacquiao could face disciplinary action for not disclosing shoulder injury

LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao could face disciplinary action from Nevada boxing officials for failing to disclose a shoulder injury before his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar said Monday that the state attorney general's office will look at why Pacquiao checked "no" a day before the fight on a commission questionnaire asking if he...

Ryan McDonagh scores in overtime, Rangers beat Capitals 2-1 in Game 5 to stay alive

NEW YORK — Ryan McDonagh scored 9:37 into overtime and the New York Rangers kept their Stanley Cup hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal. Chris Kreider breathed life into the Presidents' Trophy winners by scoring with 1:41 left in regulation to force the overtime. The Capitals...

Don’t want extraordinary measures in end-of-life care? Do some advance planning

TORONTO — A family member or friend is drawing up a living will and asks you to be their substitute decision maker. If you watch TV medical dramas you may have only a partial picture of the decisions you could face should your loved one become unable to direct his or her medical care. Living wills often stipulate that...

One winning ticket for $35-million jackpot in Saturday night’s Lotto 6-49

TORONTO — There was one winning ticket for the $35-million jackpot in Saturday's Lotto 6-49 draw. Officials say it was sold in Toronto. The next Lotto 6-49 draw on Wednesday will have a jackpot worth an estimated $5 million.

France beats Canada 41-18 to reach RWC quarterfinals thanks to bonus point from 5 tries

MILTON KEYNES, England — France became the first team through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals after scoring five tries in a 41-18 win against Canada in their Pool D match on Thursday.

Veteran lock Pascal Pape got the all-important fourth try and the bonus point that France —runner-up four years ago to New Zealand — needed to reach the last eight.

France will be aiming to beat Ireland in its last game to secure top spot in Pool D and avoid a likely showdown with the All Blacks in the quarterfinals.

Despite the fulltime score, it was a somewhat patchy performance from France and the only safe bet was the accurate kicking of veteran flyhalf Frederic Michalak.

The 32-year-old Michalak converted the first four tries and added two penalties on his way to becoming his country's all-time World Cup scorer with 136 points. He made his World Cup debut in 2003.

Michalak went off near the end and was replaced by Morgan Parra, a mainstay from the 2011 squad, who then helped to set up winger Remy Grosso for a try on his test debut as Canada played the last 10 minutes with 14 players after Nanyak Dala was sin-binned.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre will be pleased with a fifth straight win, but will be seeking answers as to why his team switched off in the first half.

The French appeared to be in complete control at 17-0 after tries from centre Wesley Fofana and hooker Guilhem Guirado, but Canada rallied with two quick tries.

Left winger DTH Van Der Merwe crossed out wide and hooker Aaron Carpenter bulldozed over the creaking French line on the right.

That stirred France back into action.

The French won a penalty at the end of the half, but Michalak chose an attacking lineout instead of a shot at goal. The move paid off, the French rolling maul proved too good and prop Rabah Slimani ducked in to pad out the lead to 24-12.

Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press

Almost 30% of oilpatch jobs have disappeared since crash, with 65% of employers cutting this year

CALGARY, A.B. — Recruitment firm Hays Canada says about one third of oil and gas industry employers are expecting another tough year in 2017 after 65 per cent of them were forced to cut staff this year. The annual survey finds that 28 per cent of energy sector employers expect to hire fewer people in 2017 than in 2016, while...

ATB Financial predicts recession for Alberta this year, modest growth in 2016

CALGARY — ATB Financial is forecasting that Alberta's economy will contract in 2015 — a more pessimistic view than in early July when the regional financial services group said the province would likely avoid a recession this year.

"After five consecutive years of exceptionally strong growth, it now appears certain that Alberta's economy will contract in 2015," the bank wrote in its fourth-quarter outlook released Thursday.

The provincially owned bank predicts real GDP contraction of 0.7 per cent in 2015 before the economy gets out of its slump and grows 1.4 per cent in 2016.

That compares with real GDP growth of 4.4 per cent in 2014, when oil and gas prices were much higher.

ATB says the drop in oil prices is the "single reason" for the economic challenges as prices have fallen to about US$45 a barrel at present from more than US$100 in the summer of 2014.

The drop in oil prices has caused energy companies to drastically cut costs, leading to further job losses as well as reductions in both wages and overtime hours.

ATB is predicting that the unemployment rate will rise to 5.9 per cent this year from 4.7 per cent last year before improving slightly to 5.7 per cent next year.

The bank says it expects the North American benchmark price for oil to trade around US$45 to US$50 a barrel for the rest of 2015, rising only moderately to between US$55 to US$60 by mid-to-late 2016.

Indicators outside the oil and gas industry have shown more stability, with the bank saying residential construction was solid, retail and wholesale trade has stabilized and manufacturing has levelled off.

The report says that agriculture, the Alberta's second-largest sector, had disappointing crop production this year due to drought in some parts of the province, while forestry remains in good shape thanks to strong prices for lumber.

For the economy to recover, the bank says oil prices would need to rebound at least a little, labour costs would have to rebalance and sectors outside the energy industry such as agriculture, forestry and tourism need to see strong performances. As well, the Canadian dollar needs to stay low to help exporters.

 

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Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

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