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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Economic losses surpass $1 billion from Alberta wildfire

   Canada column for Sunday, June 26/16

   By Jim Fox

   The economic toll from the massive wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta could cost the oil sands industry more than $1.4 billion.
   While the losses continue to add up, local councilors have unpopularly voted themselves big pay increases to cover their increased workload due to last month’s fire.
   The Athabasca oil sands’ community’s 80,000 residents were forced to leave and 2,400 houses and businesses were destroyed.
   The oil industry estimated a loss of 30 million barrels and it is taking longer than expected to restart operations because of damage and clogged pipelines.
   Suncor Energy could end up losing $1 billion over lost production, an Edmonton refinery outage that led to gasoline shortages in Western Canada and restarting costs, analysts said.
   Paul Cheng of Barclays said about half of the 1 million barrels a day of interrupted production has been restored.
   Councilors from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, voted 7-4 to pay Mayor Melissa Blake and three of its members $150,000 a year to work full time on a recovery committee.
   The seven other part-time councilors’ pay will increase to $75,000 a year from $36,000.


   Senator Mike Duffy is being asked by the Senate to repay $16,955 in disputed expense claims after he was acquitted on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
   Duffy, who was reinstated as a senator after being ousted for two years, is disputing the claim that could go to arbitration.
   The expenses range from $8 for personal photos to $10,000 for a personal trainer and Duffy has been asked to “establish the eligibility” of them.
   Duffy was “fully exonerated” of the expenses in question in his trial, lawyer Donald Bayne said.


   News in brief:
   - Dellen Millard, 30, and Mark Smich, 28, were sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a young father while stealing his pickup truck. The sentence provides no parole for at least 25 years for the death of Tim Bosma, 32, of Ancaster, Ontario who had taking them on a test drive. The men are also charged with killing Laura Babcock, 23, Millard’s girlfriend, while Millard is also accused of killing his father, Wayne Millard.
   - NewLeaf Travel of Winnipeg plans to operate 60 flights a week across Canada beginning July 25. The discounter faced a license review because it doesn’t have airplanes but resells seats from Kelowna-based Flair Airlines. It’s “no frills” flights start at $79 one-way, including taxes and fees. It is considering adding destinations such as Florida, California, Texas and Colorado this winter.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is lower at 77.13 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.296 in Canadian funds, before exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Markets are mixed, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index up at 13,946 points and the TSX Venture index down at 712 points.
   The average price for gas has dropped to $1.07 a liter or $4.06 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (June 22) 5, 15, 17, 18, 37 and 42; bonus 44. (June 18) 7, 8, 22, 32, 40 and 45; bonus 25. Lotto Max: (June 17) 1, 16, 20, 29, 33, 44 and 46; bonus 15.


   Regional briefs:
   - A working group will study concerns over heated housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto where single-family detached houses sell at up to $1.5 million. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said overseas money is playing a role and a measure being considered is to tax houses owned by foreigner investors.
   - Bombardier Inc. of Montreal has reached an agreement with the Quebec government for a $1-billion US investment in the CSeries passenger jet program. The deal gives the government 49.5 percent of a new limited partnership. Bombardier is also seeking $1 billion from the Canadian government.
   - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal will forbid priests from being alone with children and other “vulnerable people” in a pilot project starting in September. Canon Francois Sarrazin said the policy will also apply to all diocese employees and volunteers. The church in Quebec has been rocked by child-abuse scandals.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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