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Alberta

Survey shows two-thirds of energy company employers cut labour costs due to COVID-19

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CALGARY — A survey by energy labour market organization PetroLMI shows that more than two-thirds of the employers in Canada’s oil and gas sector imposed labour cost reduction measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, including 37 per cent who enacted permanent layoffs.

The division of Energy Safety Canada surveyed 300 energy industry workers in August and September and interviewed 13 company leaders in September and August for its four-part report looking into industry reaction to lockdowns that slashed global oil demand, leading to rapidly falling oil prices.

It found that 35 per cent of the companies invoked a hiring freeze, 29 per cent cut executive pay, 28 per cent trimmed worker pay, 27 per cent had temporary layoffs and 21 per cent restricted work hours.

Only 32 per cent did nothing to reduce labour costs.

The survey found that only 13 per cent of energy workers worked from home at least one day per week before COVID-19 but that rose to 70 per cent in March, with 57 per cent working from home at least five days a week.

At the time of the survey, 47 per cent were still working from home at least one day per week and 31 per cent were working from home five or more days per week.

“Due to the sudden economic impact resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic after five years of depressed oil prices, energy employers had to find ways to reduce operating costs,” the report notes.

“While nearly four in 10 energy workers surveyed said their company implemented permanent layoffs, many companies were seeking alternatives to layoffs.”

On its website, PetroLMI notes that oil and gas employment increased by 4,450 jobs in October to 164,590 compared with September, but was down 12 per cent or 21,400 from October 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2020.

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Alberta

Calgary panda pair heading home to China after pandemic crimps zoo’s bamboo supplies

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CALGARY — The Calgary Zoo says two giant pandas are on their way home to China today.

The zoo said in May that it would be sending the pair back early because the COVID-19 pandemic was making it difficult to source bamboo.

The plant makes up 99 per cent of the animals’ diet and the zoo has said it was an expensive and all-consuming effort to cobble together supplies from across North America.

The zoo says on Twitter it was a difficult decision to send the pandas home three years earlier than planned.

It says it took months of hard work to secure international permits to get the pandas home.

The zoo posted photos of reams of paperwork needed for the journey, the crates that were to carry the pandas and the Lufthansa Cargo plane that was to take them to China.

The two adults, Er Shun and Da Mao, were on loan from China to Canadian zoos as part of a 10-year deal signed in 2012. They were to stay in Calgary until 2023.

Two cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, were born in Toronto in 2015. They were sent to China as planned in January.

The price tag to have the pandas in Calgary was around $30 million, including $14.4 million for the Panda Passage exhibit itself. Expanded parking lots, washrooms and restaurants were also required to accommodate an expected influx of visitors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta adds 700 enforcers to stop COVID-19 rule-breakers as hospitalizations climb

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CALGARY — Alberta is giving 700 more peace officers the power to enforce COVID-19 restrictions as hospitalizations for the virus continue to climb in the province. 

“We are not asking these officers to stop cold their day-to-day priorities or to harass responsible Albertans going about their everyday lives,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Friday, as Alberta reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths. 

Police officers and health inspectors also have the ability to enforce the rules. 

Federal data shows that as of Friday, Alberta had the highest seven-day infection rate in Canada with 209 cases per 100,000 people. 

Alberta has 405 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 86 in intensive care. A week ago, there were 55 patients in intensive care with COVID-19. 

Postponing surgeries is one of the ways the province is freeing up space to accommodate more people severely ill with the virus. 

New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday. 

Fines for breaking the rules range from $1,000 to $100,000 in extreme cases that make it to court. 

When asked whether there would be crackdowns on anti-mask rallies, Madu said police will make independent decisions. 

“But as minister of justice, my expectation is that those who are in violation of the measures that we have put in place would have to be held accountable.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she is disappointed to hear about Alberta Health Services inspectors being verbally abused. 

“Nobody deserves that, least of all the people who are working to keep all of us safe,” she said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020. 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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