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Ensign cites slow vaccination pace in Canada for poor drilling recovery versus U.S.

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CALGARY — The president of drilling contractor Ensign Energy Services Inc. blames the federal government’s “dismal” COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan in part for a poor recovery in its activity in Canada compared with its operations in the United States.

Furthermore, says Bob Geddes, the company is having trouble getting its workers back into the field in Canada because government programs are paying them to stay at home.

“Canada’s dismal vaccine procurement plan, or lack thereof, has continued to keep the economy on pause and created some challenges with field labour,” Geddes said on a conference call to discuss first-quarter results on Monday.

The Calgary-based company had hoped to put 40 to 45 of its 92 Canadian drilling rigs to work in the first quarter but the count actually peaked at 36, he said.

Hopes of 250 active rigs for the industry in Canada in the quarter, traditionally the busiest because frozen ground allows access to backcountry drilling sites, fell well short, too, he added, with peak activity stalling after hitting only 186 rigs.

Current benchmark U.S. crude oil prices of around US$65 per barrel and natural gas prices of about US$3 per million British thermal units have improved the outlook for the oilpatch after the severe contraction last year, but the sector is recovering more strongly in the United States than in Canada, he said.

“Canada does have its macro vaccine issues and lockdowns that affect areas,” Geddes said on the call.

“Everyone is having some challenge getting entry-level people to come to work when we have a government that is willing to pay them to stay at home. That of course creates some labour inflation.”

Ensign reported a loss attributable to common shareholders of $43.6 million in its latest quarter compared with a loss of $29.3 million a year ago, as its revenue fell 43 per cent to $218.5 million, down from $383.9 million.

Ensign said its loss was partly offset by a $4.7 million Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy from the federal government.

In Canada, it recorded 1,846 operating days in the first quarter, a 40 per cent decrease from the year-earlier period, while it had 2,581 operating days in the United States, a 50 per cent decrease from a year ago. Its international operations had 859 operating days, down about 40 per cent.

Funds flow from operations for the first quarter of 2021 decreased 45 per cent to $46.5 million from $84.5 million in first quarter of the prior year, it reported.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ESI)

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

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Blue Jays earn top wild card, beat Os 5-1 as Guerrero homers

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By Todd Karpovich in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 32nd homer and the Toronto Blue Jays earned the top seed for an American League wild card series with a 5-1 rain-shortened victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night.

Play was halted by rain with Toronto batting with two outs in the eighth and called after a wait of 55 minutes.

Toronto clinched the right to host a best-of-three playoff series against Seattle or Tampa Bay starting Friday when the Mariners lost to Detroit later Monday.

“There was one singular focus today when the game did start and that was to win,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. “You really can’t say enough how they responded.”

Whit Merrifield went 3 for 3 with an RBI for the Blue Jays, who have won four straight.

Before a crowd of just 10,642, José Berríos (12-7) allowed one run and three hits with five strikeouts and three walks over six innings.

“I thought we were going to have a delay but we started on time,” Berríos said. “I just went there to compete and get that win for the team and we did it. The mound was wet and it was raining all night.”

Tim Mayza earned his second save.

Baltimore’s Jorge Mateo stole his American League-leading 35th base, one ahead of teammate Cedric Mullins.

Baltimore already had secured a winning season for the first time since 2016.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead off Dean Kremer in the second on a single by Merrifield that scored Teoscar Hernández and Matt Chapman.

Guerrero boosted the lead to 3-0 with a 422-drive over the left-field wall in the third. He became the fourth player in Blue Jays franchise history to hit at least 32 home runs at age 24 or younger.

The Orioles got the board in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Santander that Hernandez was able to snag with a running, leaping catch at the right-field fence.

A wild pitch by Kremer allowed Merrifield to score in the fifth as the Blue Jays increased the lead to 4-1.

“I can do different things to help and impact the game,” Merrifield said. “It’s nice that they’re coming at big times for us.”

Kremer (8-7) allowed four runs and six hits with four strikeouts and one walk over six innings. He ends the season with a 3.23 ERA over 21 starts.

Chapman added an RBI single in the eighth.

“Not easy to play in,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Kind of a tough night all around. Wet, cold. Dean, it affected him a little bit. His stuff wasn’t the same as it is normally.”

MVO

Orioles catcher Adley Rustchman is the winner of the 2022 Most Valuable Oriole Award. Rutschman is the third rookie to win the award since its inception in 1954, joining right-handed pitchers Gregg Olson in 1989 and Rodrigo López in 2002.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring strain) could be available when the postseason begins on Friday.

Orioles: RHP Félix Bautista, who leads the team with 15 saves, has been shut down for the season with left knee soreness.

UP NEXT​​

Blue Jays: RHP Mitch White (1-6, 5.21) has pitched against the Orioles once in his career, allowing five runs on three hits, two strikeouts and three walks over 2 1/3 innings last month.

Orioles: RHP Mike Baumann (1-3, 4.34 ERA) is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in three appearances, including one start, against Toronto.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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CP NewsAlert: Blue Jays clinch top AL wild-card berth

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The Toronto Blue Jays will play host to a best-of-three, wild-card playoff series starting on Friday at the Rogers Centre. The Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 in a rain-shortened game in Baltimore earlier tonight. Then the Detroit Tigers knocked off the Mariners 4-3 in Seattle, to allow Toronto to clinch the top wild-card berth, and home-field advantage in the first round of playoffs. Seattle and the Tampa Bay Rays are the other A-L wild-card teams headed for the post-season.

More coming ….

The Canadian Press

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