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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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Canada's Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens capture bronze in women's pair

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TOKYO — Canada has its first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Victoria’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens of Surrey, B.C., took bronze on Thursday in the women’s pair with a time of six minutes 52.10 seconds.

The 2018 world champions finished behind the gold-medal winning duo of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler of New Zealand (6:50.19) and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia (6:51.45).

Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., and Kai Langerfeld of North Vancouver, B.C., were the other Canadian rowers in a final Thursday, finishing fourth in the men’s pair on the 2,000-metre course at Sea Forest Waterway.

Canada’s women’s eight will race for a gold Friday.

The country’s rowers are looking to rebound after a disastrous showing at the 2016 Rio Games that saw the program secure just one medal.

The Canadians qualified 10 boats for Tokyo — the most since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta — and have a gender-neutral team for the first time in their history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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ZZ Top: Bearded bassist Dusty Hill dies in his sleep at 72

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HOUSTON (AP) — ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, one of the Texas blues rock trio’s bearded figures, died at his Houston home, the band announced Wednesday. He was 72.

In their Facebook post, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard said Hill died in his sleep. They didn’t give a cause of death, but a July 21 post on the band’s website said Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue.”

At that time, the band said its longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, would fill in on bass, slide guitar and harmonica.

Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, he, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in 1969. The band released its first album, titled “ZZ Top’s First Album,” in 1970. Three years later it scored its breakthrough hit, “La Grange,” which is an ode to the Chicken Ranch, a notorious brothel outside of a Texas town by that name.

The band went on to chart the hits “Tush” in 1975, “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’” in 1983, and “Rough Boy” and “Sleeping Bag” in 1985.

The band’s 1976 “Worldwide Texas Tour,” with its iconic Texas-shaped stage festooned with cactuses, snakes and longhorn cattle, was one of the decade’s most successful rock tours.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Said Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards in introducing the band to the Hall: “These cats are steeped in the blues, so am I. These cats know their blues and they know how to dress it up. When I first saw them, I thought, ‘I hope these guys are not on the run, because that disguise is not going to work.’”

That look — with all three members wearing dark sunglasses and the two frontmen sporting long, wispy beards — became so iconic as to be the subject of a New Yorker cartoon and a joke on “The Simpsons.”

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This story has been corrected to reflect that ZZ Top was formed in the late 1960s, not the late 1970s.

The Associated Press


















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