‘They kill jobs’: Meet Canadians who refuse to use self-checkout machines

'They kill jobs': Meet Canadians who refuse to use self-checkout machines

Tom Eburne and his wife, Peggy, are self-checkout virgins. They refuse to use the machines, determined to keep cashiers employed.

“We will resist as long as we can,” said Tom Eburne, who lives in Chilliwack, B.C. “I think any job loss is a step backwards.”

A new Dalhousie University grocery shopping study found that out of 1,053 Canadians surveyed in October, slightly more than one-quarter said they never use self-checkout at the grocery store — not even for a small purchase.

A new Dalhousie University grocery shopping study found that 26.7 per cent of respondents said they never use self-checkout at the grocery store. (CBC)

Last week, CBC News reported on the survey’s findings that more than half of respondents only use the machines occasionally. The poll’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The story unleashed a flood of comments. Although the survey didn’t investigate shoppers’ motivations, many self-checkout abstainers informed CBC News that their main mission is to keep cashiers employed.

However, in the age of automation, these people face an uphill battle.

Dan Morris, of Brockville, Ont., says he always avoids self-checkout at stores. (Submitted by Dan Morris)

Dan Morris in Brockville, Ont., says he always opts for a cashier, and is wary about the growth of self-checkout in stores. 

“They’re trying to basically herd everyone in, get everyone used to the self-checkouts to continuously cut down on staff,” he said.

“Machines don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay into the pension plan.”

The self-checkout resistance has even sparked petitions and memes on Facebook. A widely shared Canadian one tells shoppers to “never use a self checkout” because “they kill jobs.”

Can’t stop automation

But as technology advances, it may get harder to opt for the cashier line. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs report, cashier jobs, along with occupations such as bank teller and payroll clerk, are “expected to become increasingly redundant” over the next four years.

The reason: these “routine-based” jobs are more susceptible to being replaced by advancing technologies.

Retailers are also apt to buy in because technologies that automate jobs cut labour costs.

“To kind of cling to an old model just because it involves workers is not something that companies and others are set up to do,” said Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Ryerson University in Toronto. 

Over the past year and a half, grocer Metro and retail giant Loblaw announced they would increase their self-checkouts in select stores to help offset minimum wage increases in some provinces. 

Along with rising labour costs, physical retailers also face stiff competition from online shopping sites. The brick-and-mortar landscape is already riddled with casualties such as the now defunct Sears Canada and Toys “R” Us in the U.S. 

A cashier-less future?

Many major retailers offer a mix of cashiers and self-checkout machines, but that could shift as some experiment with a cashier-less format.

Last month, Walmart opened its first Sam’s Club Now in Texas, a cashier-less store where shoppers can only buy items using an app that scans purchases on their mobile phone.

The store still has employees, called “member hosts,” who offer in-store assistance.

Walmart recently opened a new cashier-less store in Texas where shoppers scan and pay for their purchases via their smartphone. (Walmart)

Meanwhile, Amazon is expanding its cashier-less concept — Amazon Go. In this physical store, customers take what they want and walk out, thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves. Customers are billed via their Amazon accounts.

Amazon has opened only seven locations in the U.S. so far, but if the retailer widely expands its concept, other companies will likely have to offer something similar to compete.

“It’ll be hard for companies to not adopt this type of technology,” said Mullin.

Other jobs will appear

But it’s not supposed to be all doom and gloom. Historically, when technological innovations make certain jobs obsolete, they often generate new types of positions. 

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022, 75 million jobs worldwide may be lost due to automation. However, it suggests that they could be more than offset by the emergence of 133 million new jobs.

But the question remains what type of jobs will emerge and if workers in less-skilled occupations can make the transition.

“There’s people that are maybe 60-plus years old. They don’t have the skills or the time to really retrain themselves,” said Morris.

At Amazon Go customers can take what they want without checking out thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves. (Amazon)

Amazon Go currently needs to fill more than 300 positions — but many of them involve high-tech skills such as software development.

To adapt to the effects of automation, the World Economic Forum says businesses and governments will need to adopt “proactive, strategic and targeted efforts” to help redeploy workers.

“The challenge will be the transition,” said Mullin.

Back in Chilliwack, the Eburnes acknowledge resistance may be futile in their campaign to abstain from self-checkout to protect cashier jobs.

Nevertheless, they say they’ll keep up their efforts — on principle.

“Maybe the little bit we do makes no difference at all,” said Peggy Eburne. “But we like to stand by what we believe in.”



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Cyber crooks increasingly targeting home devices: report

Cyber crooks increasingly targeting home devices: report

Cyber criminals are shifting their attention from traditional computers to internet-connected devices in Canadian homes, says the government’s cyber security agency.

In its threat assessment for 2018, the newly created Canadian Centre for Cyber Security says devices connected to the internet — such as a growing number of “televisions, home appliances, thermostats and cars” — have become attractive targets.

“Manufacturers have rushed to connect more types of devices to the internet, often prioritizing ease of use over security,” the centre wrote in its report, made public Thursday.

“We regularly observe cyber threat actors exploiting security flaws in devices resulting in either disruption to device functionality or using devices as platforms to launch other malicious cyber activities.”

Cybercriminals used thousands of devices connected to the internet — from baby monitors to air quality monitors and surveillance cameras — to launch a botnet attack in October 2016, the centre said.

“The botnet conducted a powerful Distributed Denial of Service (attack) that disrupted a major website domain manager, temporarily disabling some of the world’s most popular e-commerce, entertainment and social media sites for millions of users.”

Head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Scott Jones (right), answers reporters questions on the centre’s first report along with Andre Boucher, responsible for the centre’s operations. (Elizabeth Thompson)

Enterprising cybercriminals have even infected devices connected to the internet with malware to mine cryptocurrency — with the owner of the device often being oblivious to what is going on.

While cybercrime isn’t new, the centre predicts cyber attacks on Canadians are going to rise in number.

“Stealing personal and financial information is lucrative for cybercriminals and is very likely to increase.”

The centre said it sees cybercriminals becoming more organized and developing business-like processes.

Selling stolen information

“Cybercrime is now so prevalent and sophisticated that it sustains illegal online marketplaces,” the centre wrote. “These cybercrime marketplaces offer illicit goods, stolen information and malware. Some cybercrime marketplaces even offer customer support and rating functions.”

Speaking to reporters as the centre’s first report was made public, Scott Jones, head of the centre, said his organization isn’t trying to scare Canadians away from new technology. Instead, he said, the report is meant to help Canadians and Canadian companies avoid becoming victims of cyber criminals and state-controlled hackers.

With the next federal election set for 2019, the centre is also expecting other countries to use the web, botnets and troll farms to try to influence the opinions of Canadians and exploit political divisions or controversies.

“Although major web platforms are making efforts to curb the negative effects of manipulative information sharing, the opinions of Canadians will remain an attractive target for cyber threat actors seeking to influence Canada’s democratic processes.”

An increasing number of Canadians are using smart speakers and other devices connected to the internet. (Amazon/Google/Apple)

The centre cited a CBC News report that found Russia’s Internet Research Agency used its trolls to comment on Canadian issues like the January 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and asylum seekers crossing the border in the summer of 2017.

Jones said the centre plans to publish an update this spring on cyber threats to Canadian elections.

The centre said Canadian businesses will continue to be attractive targets for cybercrime — and their executives as well.

“Whaling occurs when an executive with authority to issue large payments receives a message appearing to come from a relevant department or employee, urging them to direct funds to an account controlled by a cyber threat actor.”

Corporate espionage remains a threat, particularly for businesses in strategic sectors of the economy or those that have attractive intellectual property or commercially sensitive information. Companies with large databases are targeted by cyber crooks who try to extort businesses by revealing confidential client information.

Paying cyber ransom

“Some businesses decide that paying a ransom is cheaper than the costs associated with ignoring a cyber ransom. Yet cyber threat actors can decide to delete, modify or release information even if a payment is made.”

The increased availability of cyber tools and the increasing interconnection of devices has also made it easier to launch attacks on Canada’s critical infrastructure, the centre said.

“State-sponsored cyber threat actors have conducted cyber espionage against critical infrastructure networks in Canada and allied nations. In Canada, these threat actors have conducted reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering in the energy, aerospace and defence sectors.”

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is predicting other countries will be using Twitter and social media to try to influence Canadian opinion in 2019.

Speaking with reporters, agency officials said those state-sponsored actors may have gathered enough information to disrupt critical infrastructure networks.

However, they said they believe other countries don’t appear to be poised to do anything with that information — at least not yet.

“At this time, we assess it is very unlikely that state-sponsored cyber threat actors would intentionally seek to disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure and cause major damage in the absence of international hostilities,” the centre said in its report.

While the centre was willing to talk about cyber security threats to Canada, Jones was tight-lipped when it came to questions about Chinese telecom giant Huawei and fears expressed by experts that it could take advantage of new 5G networks to spy on Canadians.

While Jones said government has given it a mandate to study security risks posed by the company and a deadline to report, Jones refused repeatedly to say when that report is due.

Jones also was reluctant to say whether the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver Saturday on behalf of the United States could prompt China to retaliate with cyber attacks, or whether the centre has seen any increase in cyber attacks since her arrest.

“We always have to be resilient, no matter what the possible trigger could be. So we increase our resilience against any form of malicious cyber activity that we could be facing as a nation.”

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca



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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to spend weekend in jail after bail hearing adjourns

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to spend weekend in jail after bail hearing adjourns

Meng Wanzhou, the arrested chief financial officer for tech giant Huawei, will spend the weekend in a Canadian jail after a bail hearing adjourned Friday afternoon.

The United States argued that Meng has the means and motive to flee Canada and she should remain in custody until extradition proceedings begin.

That allegation was contained in an affidavit filed this week by the U.S. Department of Justice and provided to CBC News Friday.

Crown counsel told a Friday bail hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Friday that Meng is “charged with conspiracy to defraud multiple international institutions,” with each charge carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Members of the media and public line up Friday to enter a courtroom to attend a bail hearing for Meng at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. Inside, people crowded into the courtroom. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Meng, 46, is wanted for extradition from Vancouver to the U.S. on allegations of fraud, including using a shell company to skirt international American sanctions over five years, court heard.

American officials are seeking Meng’s extradition so she can be prosecuted in the States.

The bail hearing is set to resume Monday in Vancouver at 10 a.m. PT.

Accused of violating Iran sanctions

John Gibb-Carsley, a lawyer acting for Canada’s attorney-general, said Meng allegedly used an unofficial company called Skycom to access the Iranian market between 2009 and 2014 — dealings that would be in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Meng is also accused of making public misrepresentations about Skycom, saying it was separate from Huawei, when the U.S. contends the companies were one and the same.

The case has rattled international stock markets, in fear Meng’s arrest would derail planned trade talks — and a potential trade truce — between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies.

Meng has at least 7 passports, U.S. alleges

The Justice Department affidavit painted a picture of a woman with immense financial resources who had already attempted to evade U.S. arrest warrants for allegedly violating American and European Union sanctions.

It said she possesses “no fewer than seven passports from both China and Hong Kong.” Her father, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, is reportedly the 83rd wealthiest person in the world with a fortune of $3.2 billion US.

Telecommunications giant Huawei has interests in many countries around the world. (CBC)

It alleged that around April 2017, Meng and other Huawei executives became aware of a U.S. criminal investigations into the company’s practices and began to alter travel patterns to avoid American authorities.

“Meng has tremendous financial and logistical resources at her disposal and could easily flee Canada, should she so choose,” the affidavit read.

“Meng has the resources to flee from prosecution and remain a fugitive indefinitely.”

The U.S., the affidavit noted, has no extradition treaty with China.

Onlookers, media crowd bail hearing

Meng arrived at her hearing without handcuffs, wearing a dark green sweater, smiling and shaking hands with her lawyer before the judge arrived.

Media and dozens of members of the public crowded the courtroom, with another crowd outside the building.

China is demanding Canada release Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was recently arrested in Vancouver after a request from U.S. authorities. (Huawei via The Associated Press)

During the hearing, Gibb-Carsley said the Attorney General of Canada does not want Meng released from custody, echoing U.S. concerns that she has an incentive to flee and vast financial resources.

The Crown also claimed Meng does not have meaningful ties to Canada, noting she owns two homes in Vancouver but only vacations in the city for a few weeks in the summer.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday, en route from Hong Kong to Mexico. Gibb-Carsley said her arrest warrant was issued in New York on Aug. 22.

Members of the media wait outside B.C. Supreme Court as Meng’s bail hearing is held inside. Photography and videography are forbidden inside the courthouse and its courtrooms. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Her lawyer, David Martin, said the court could rely on Meng’s “personal dignity” in trusting she would never breach a court order.

He said private security and surveillance could be an option, if Meng were granted bail. Martin insisted Meng isn’t a flight risk because her husband is in Vancouver.

Previously, a publication ban prevented the U.S. Department of Justice from releasing further details about the arrest and subsequent hearing. Several media outlets, including CBC News, challenged the ban. It was lifted as the first matter of business at Friday’s hearing.

Huawei is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of network gear for phone and internet companies. The telecom company also makes smartphones, standing as the second-leading seller for two quarters straight — behind Samsung and ahead of Apple, according to the International Data Corporation.

The Attorney General of Canada does not want Meng released from custody, citing an incentive to flee and vast financial resources. But Her lawyer, David Martin, said the court could rely on Meng’s ‘personal dignity’ in trusting she would never breach a court order. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

Huawei is also under scrutiny from the U.S. and other governments over suspected ties to the Chinese government and possible links to spying. Meng is also deputy chair of the board at Huawei.

The company says Beijing has no influence over its operations.

Canada given notice before arrest

Chinese officials have expressed concern about the arrest, with the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa calling it a serious violation of human rights. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said Canada should have explained why Meng was arrested.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa had a few days’ notice prior to the arrest, but said he hadn’t had any conversations with China’s premier or ambassador about the case.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, Ambassador John McCallum, had briefed the Chinese foreign ministry.

“He has assured China that due process is absolutely being followed in Canada and consular access for China to Ms. Meng will be provided, and that we are a rule-of-law country and we will be following our laws as we have thus far in this matter and as we will continue to do,” Freeland said from Berlin.





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CN bidding for Halifax container terminal

CN bidding for Halifax container terminal

Canadian National Railway has submitted a bid to buy Atlantic Canada’s largest container terminal.

The company says if successful, it will spend money to upgrade the Halterm container terminal in Halifax.

“As part of our action-oriented approach to grow trade volume on our Eastern Network, CN is exploring the opportunity with a partner of getting involved in the acquisition of Halifax’s Halterm container terminal, the largest intermodal container terminal in Eastern Canada,” said CN spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in an emailed statement.

The purchase of Halterm would give CN even greater control over container movement in and out of Atlantic Canada where it owns the only rail line.

East Coast gateway

Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure put the terminal on the market months ago after 11 years of ownership.

It paid $172 million in 2007 just before a global recession.

The sale, however, comes as container traffic in Halifax is on the rise.

Halterm reports handling about 250,000 containers a year at its 30-hectare facility in the city’s south end.

CN president Jean Jacques Ruest told the Financial Post the railway is looking for an East Coast gateway equivalent to Prince Rupert, B.C.

Melford in the running?

Ruest also told the newspaper CN is looking at two other ports — one on the St. Lawrence and one in Nova Scotia.

A rendering of the proposed cargo terminal in Melford, Guysborough County. (Submitted by Richie Mann)

Speculation turned quickly to Quebec City and the proposed Melford International Terminal — a greenfield site at the Strait of Canso separating mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.

Melford vice-president Richie Mann said Melford is a lot like Prince Rupert.

“No encroachment, no competition for recreational, residential, other commercial, industrial uses. Doesn’t have a lot of the problems that have sprung up in ports where cities are located,” he said.

If CN and others have submitted proposals for the Halterm facility, Mann said he “would also encourage them to take a look at Melford while they are doing that and compare the two.”

Macquarie​ did not respond to a request for comment.



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Junior oil firms cut dividends, output despite crude oil price rebound

Junior oil firms cut dividends, output despite crude oil price rebound

Prices for western Canadian oil continued to strengthen on Friday as markets adjusted to a plan by the Alberta government to eliminate a glut of oil that has plagued producers for months.

After hitting highs of more than $52 US per barrel in October, the discount on Western Canadian Select bitumen-blend crude versus New York-traded West Texas Intermediate settled at about $15 US per barrel on Friday, according to Net Energy.

That’s a level that analysts consider to be normal or typical based on higher transportation costs and lower quality compared with WTI.

A week earlier, just before Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the province would curtail production from large companies to remove 325,000 barrels per day of oil from its over-taxed pipelines starting Jan. 1, 2019, the WCS-WTI differential was twice as much, at $29 US per barrel.

“What changed with the premier’s announcement is now there’s confidence that the market will be balanced with the cuts that are being made in the first quarter and the increase in crude-by-rail,” said Jackie Forrest, research director for the ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary.

“I expected it would happen fairly quickly because the futures market is really set by expectations about how things will evolve over the year and, with the premier’s announcement, that view changed drastically.”

Good news for Canadian oilpatch

The province also announced it would buy railcars and locomotives to move more oil starting in late 2019.

Forrest said increasing prices for WTI linked to production cuts announced Friday by OPEC and its allies are also good news for the Canadian oilpatch.

The oil price improvements came as a pair of junior Calgary oil companies announced they would cut payouts to shareholders and reduce production because of the current quarter’s low oil prices to date.

Both Cardinal Energy Ltd. and Granite Oil Corp. said they can’t afford to wait and see if Alberta’s production cuts will result in a sustained recovery in oil prices.

Cardinal shares closed down 8.1 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday after it announced late Thursday it would cut its monthly dividend from 3.5 cents to a penny per share and had trimmed 15 per cent from what had been record production of 22,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Granite stock closed 3.5 per cent lower after it announced it would suspend its monthly dividend of 2.3 cents per share and had stopped production of about 200 boe/d after posting third-quarter output of just under 2,000 boe/d.

“Although we don’t think that the current pricing differentials between Canadian barrels and U.S. barrels will be permanent, we are obligated to our shareholders to protect our business and our balance sheet until Canadian prices improve,” said Cardinal in a news release.

Junior oil firm Bonterra Energy Corp. announced last month it would cut its monthly dividend to a penny from 10 cents per share because of low oil prices.

Bonterra and several other Alberta oil companies have said they will delay announcing budgets and providing guidance for 2019 until January in anticipation of more visibility on where oil and gas prices are headed.



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Aurora Cannabis to supply medical pot to Mexico

Aurora Cannabis to supply medical pot to Mexico

Aurora Cannabis says it will supply medical cannabis to Mexico through a partnership with pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor Farmacias Magistrales.

Farmacias recently got the green light to import cannabis, which Aurora says is the first and only import license granted by federal Mexican authorities to date.

Aurora’s chief executive Terry Booth says the exclusive partnership expands the cannabis grower’s early mover advantage in Latin America.

The Edmonton-headquartered pot producer says Farmacias has a reach of roughly 80,000 retail points, and 500 pharmacies and hospitals across Mexico.

It adds that Farmacias has also received licences from Mexico’s Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks to manufacture and distribute products with CBD and THC.

Shares of Aurora rose as much as 10 per cent to hit $7.82 during Thursday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.



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Marlboro maker places $2.4 billion bet on Canadian marijuana company

Marlboro maker places $2.4 billion bet on Canadian marijuana company

One of the world’s biggest tobacco companies is diving into the cannabis market with a $2.4 billion buy-in.

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. is taking a 45 per cent stake in Cronos Group, the Canadian medical and recreational marijuana provider said Friday.

Altria will pay another $1.4 billion for warrants that if exercised would give the Altria a 55 per cent ownership stake in the Toronto company.

That would mean Altria’s investment would be in the same league as the $4 billion spent earlier this year by Constellation Brands to acquire shares of Canopy Growth Corp., another Canadian pot producer.

The August investment by Constellation, which makes Corona and other beverages, was the largest to date by a major U.S. corporation in the cannabis market.

Whatever hesitation larger corporations in the U.S. had about entering the cannabis market appears to be fading if there is a financial justification.

Cronos shares jump

Altria’s huge investment lit up shares of cannabis companies that have begun to set up shop in Canada, where recreational use was legalized this year.

Shares of Cronos Group Inc. jumped 31 per cent and neared an all-time high at the opening bell Friday.

Rapid growth in the cannabis market is expected to continue as legalization expands in the U.S. and social norms change. On Tuesday, ultra-conservative Utah became the latest state to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes.

Consumers are expected to spend $57 billion per year worldwide on legal cannabis by 2027, according to Arcview Market Research, a cannabis-focused investment firm. In North America, that spending is expected to grow from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion in 2027.



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Oil prices spike after OPEC countries decide on production cut

Oil prices spike after OPEC countries decide on production cut

Oil prices spiked sharply higher Friday after OPEC countries agreed to a proposal that would see global oil production reduced by 1.2 million barrels a day.

Following a morning meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iraq Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban told reporters the proposed cut would be made up of 800,000 barrels per day from OPEC countries and 400,000 barrels per day from Russia and other non-OPEC nations.

His Iranian counterpart, Bijan Zanganeh, confirmed the proposed cuts ahead of a closed-door session to finalize the deal with the non-OPEC countries. He said the cuts were to begin January 1, 2019, for a period of six months.

Oil producers have been under pressure to reduce production following a sharp fall in oil prices over the past couple of months. The price of oil has fallen about 25 per cent recently because major producers — including the U.S. — are pumping oil at high rates.

The mooted reduction has certainly met with the response hoped for by ministers. Brent crude, the international standard, up $3.11 US a barrel, or 5.2 per cent, at $63.17. Benchmark New York crude was $2.23, or 4.3 per cent, higher at $53.72 a barrel.

A ‘real positive’

The proposed cut was in line with the 1 million to 1.3 million barrels per day expected by analysts.

Neil Wilson, chief analyst for Markets.com, said the cut was at the upper-end of forecasts and is a “real positive.”

“The fact that the OPEC-Russia alliance is still holding matters as much as the details of the deal itself,” he said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak did not mention the specific proposal as he addressed colleagues in public before the beginning of the closed session, but said he was “confident” they would be able to “send a strong message to the market, to act with resolve.”

“I believe that our unity of thought and our resolve will help us achieve success in the goal of achieving long-term sustainability and stability of the market,” he said.

Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh arrives prior to the start of an OPEC meeting at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Thursday. (Ronald Zak/Associated Press )

The cut is unlikely to be greeted warmly by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been pressuring the cartel publicly to maintain production. On Wednesday, he tweeted: “Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does not want to see, or need, higher oil prices!”

Heading into the first round of meetings, Saudi Arabia, the heavyweight within OPEC, said it was in favour of a cut of about a million barrels a day.

One stumbling block to an agreement had been Iran, Saudi’s regional rival and fellow OPEC member, which had been arguing for an exemption to any cuts because its crude exports are already being pinched already by U.S. sanctions.

Zanganeh told reporters Iran had been given the exemption.



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Unemployment reaches 40-year low with 94,100 new jobs added in November

Unemployment reaches 40-year low with 94,100 new jobs added in November

A blast of 94,100 new jobs last month has knocked the country’s unemployment rate down to 5.6 per cent — its lowest level since Statistics Canada started measuring comparable data more than 40 years ago.

The overall number marked the labour force survey’s largest monthly increase since March 2012, when there was a gain of 94,000 jobs, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The November employment surge was fuelled by the addition of 89,900 full-time positions. For employee work, the private sector added 78,600 positions in November, while the public sector gained 8,300 jobs.

Last month’s increase pushed the jobless rate down from October’s reading of 5.8 per cent, which had been the previous low mark since comparable data first became available in 1976. The old statistical approach — prior to 1976 — registered an unemployment rate reading of 5.4 per cent in 1974.

But Friday’s report also contained disappointing details.

Weak wage growth

Year-over-year average hourly wage growth for permanent employees continued its decline in November to 1.46 per cent — to deliver its weakest reading since July 2017.

Experts have been expecting wage growth to rise thanks to the tightened labour market, but it has dropped every month since its May peak of 3.9 per cent. It now sits well below inflation.

The Bank of Canada keeps a close watch on wages ahead of its interest-rate decisions. On Wednesday, the central bank held its benchmark rate at 1.75 per cent. But in explaining its decision, it highlighted other economic negatives, such as weaker-than-expected business investment and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Statistics Canada’s report Friday also said that, compared to 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.2 per cent following a net increase of 218,800 jobs. The addition of 227,400 full-time positions offset a small decrease in part-time work.

The November jobs report showed the goods-producing sector added 26,900 jobs, following a notable gain of 14,800 construction positions. The services sector generated 67,200 jobs last month with help from the addition of 26,000 positions in professional, scientific and technical services.

By region, employment rose in six provinces and was led by gains in Quebec and Alberta.



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Canada will feel oilpatch pain, but not as badly as 2015: Poloz

Canada will feel oilpatch pain, but not as badly as 2015: Poloz

The negative impacts of low oil prices that have struck Western Canada will reverberate across the entire national economy, the head of the Bank of Canada said Thursday.

But governor Stephen Poloz estimates the latest drop in crude prices will likely have less bite across the country than the 2015 oil-price crisis, which contributed at the time to a slight, technical recession.

In prepared notes for a speech in Toronto, Poloz said oil and gas production now makes up just 3.5 per cent of Canada’s economy, compared with six per cent in 2014.

“It is already clear that a painful adjustment is developing for Western Canada, and there will be a meaningful impact on the Canadian macroeconomy,” Poloz said in an address to be delivered at a breakfast event hosted by CFA Toronto.

“That said, given the consolidation that has taken place in the energy sector since 2014, the net effects of lower oil prices on the Canadian economy as a whole, dollar for dollar, should be smaller than they were in 2015.”

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Poloz said the adjustment from that oil price drop was “speeded up by the fact that we cut rates twice in 2015.”

Economy otherwise doing well

Looking at the positive side, Poloz said the ongoing “oil-price shock” has also arrived at a time when Canada’s economy is running close to full tilt and the unemployment rate is at a 40-year low.

The stronger economy has put the central bank on a rate-hiking path — to keep inflation from running too hot — for more than a year. It raised its trend-setting interest rate at its October meeting for the fifth time since the summer of 2017.

But on Wednesday, the bank left the rate unchanged as it underlined fresh negatives, such as the recent drop in oil prices and an unexpected decline in business investment.

Market watchers, many of whom had expected the bank to increase the rate in January, now believe the recent economic developments will delay the timing of future rate hikes.

“In terms of the Canadian economy, it is fair to say that the data released since our October [monetary policy report] have been on the disappointing side,” said Poloz.

Poloz added that he remains hopeful that business investment will rebound now that much of the uncertainty surrounding the North American free trade has been eased following the signing of a new agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.



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