Initial jobless claims number in U.S. fell to still high 860,000 last week

The number of Americans losing their job is inching downward but is still well above the level it was at before COVID-19. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press) The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak. Before the pandemic hit the economy, the number signing up for jobless aid had never exceeded 700,000 in a week, even during the depths of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Now they've topped 700,000 for 26 straight weeks. The U.S. Department of Labour said Thursday that U.S. jobless claims fell by 33,000 form the previous week and that 12.6 million are collecting traditional unemployment benefits, compared with just 1.7 million a year ago. The pandemic has delivered an colossal shock to the economy. Until the pandemic upended the operations of American companies, from factories to family diners, weekly jobless aid applications had never exceeded 700,000 in the U.S. The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, collapsed at an annual rate of 31.7 per cent from April through June, by far the worst three months on record, as millions of jobs disappeared. Analysis Post-COVID-19 economy will put people back to work, but it won't be in all the same jobs: Don Pittis The economy and job market have recovered somewhat from the initial shock. Employers added 10.6 million jobs from May through August, but that's still less than half the jobs lost in March and April. The recovery remains fragile, imperiled by continuing COVID-19 infections as schools begin to reopen, and the failure to deliver another economic rescue package in Washington. An extra $600 US in weekly unemployment benefits ran out July 31, squeezing households that had depended on the beefed-up payments. President Donald Trump issued an executive order Aug. 8 providing a scaled-back version of the expanded jobless aid. Most states signed up for federal grants that let them increase weekly benefits by $300 or $400. That program is expiring. Charissa Ward, 37, was furloughed in April from her job as a server at a restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios resort near Orlando, Florida. Since then, she's been helping at her partner's online retail business, applying for jobs and waiting to see what Disney will do. "We have no idea when we're going to get called back," she said. The extra $600 US in weekly jobless benefits didn't replace all her lost income but helped. The reduced $300 she received briefly from Trump's program made life "a little less stressful." But Ward said Congress needs to agree to another financial rescue and do "what's best for working people." Last week, nearly 659,000 people applied for jobless aid under a new program that extends eligibility for the first time to self-employed and gig workers, down from 868,000 the previous week. The figure for those seeking Pandemic Employment Assistance isn't adjusted for seasonal trends, so it's reported separately. Altogether, the Labour Department said that 29.8 million people are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, though the figure may be inflated by double-counting by states. Analysts also worry about evidence that the number of people collecting special pandemic aid has been swollen by cases of fraud in California. A summertime resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the South and West forced many businesses to close again in July — though the data firm Womply finds that closings have mostly stabilized over the last few weeks. Womply did find a sharp increase in spending at bars in southern and western states, including South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, as college students returned to campus. Unemployment claims "remain high even as economic activity is resuming more fully," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote Thursday. "The risk going forward continues to come from virus outbreaks and intermittent interruptions to activity. Overall, the labour market is less weak compared to April but remains at risk of permanent damage from repeated closures."

Continue Reading Initial jobless claims number in U.S. fell to still high 860,000 last week

Canadian megamall developer's U.S. project on shaky ground due to pandemic

The American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was patterned on the West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the other two well-known destinations owned by the wealthy Ghermezian family of Edmonton. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images) VIP cocktail parties, DJs, dancers, fashion shows, balloons and much more — opening day at the Canadian-owned U.S. megamall called American Dream had been planned for maximum effect and excitement. The project in New Jersey, just across the bridge from Manhattan, was nine years in the making, and patterned on the West Edmonton Mall and the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the other two well-known destinations owned by the wealthy Ghermezian family of Edmonton. All three properties combine retail shops with amusement park attractions. The American Dream's approximately three million square feet includes attractions like a DreamWorks water park, Angry Birds mini golf, Legoland and an indoor ski slope plus some 450 retailers such as Levi's, Sephora, H&M and Zara.  But, of course, the March 19 grand opening didn't happen. A global pandemic happened instead. The venue was shut down March 16 along with all casinos, gyms, and movie theaters in the state.  Now an October 1 reopening is planned, but it comes amid financial turmoil. Mortgage not paid since March All three of the Ghermezians' entertainment/shopping venues have been linked together in a financial arrangement that shows signs of weakness.  In order to help finance American Dream, the family's company, Triple Five Group, mortgaged both West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America. According to Trepp LLP, a data company that tracks commercial mortgages, Triple Five has missed payments on the $1.4 billion US Mall of America loan since March. The status of finances at West Edmonton Mall aren't clear.  "The Ghermezians have a very complex business empire, and shopping centres are part of it, but it's a privately owned company so we don't have all the information," says Nick Egelanian, a retail consultant in Annapolis, Maryland, who's been watching Triple Five's gamble closely. "But it looks like this situation could put all the properties into default." Both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, the New York City-based investment firms that helped arrange construction loans for the Ghermezians, declined a CBC News request for comment.  Lineups for ski hill Members of the Ghermezian family aren't talking either. They are "extremely busy" with the new October 1 grand opening plan for American Dream, according to a spokesperson. The venue's chief creative officer, Ken Downing, is handling media interviews, and he insists all is well in hand.   "The team is super-excited," he said in an interview from Manhattan. "We've been wanting to reintroduce and reopen to the public, and we want to do it the right way." WATCH | Dianne Buckner tours American Dream megamall under construction in 2018: Dianne Buckner reports on the latest massive project from the Ghermezian family 5:39 The launch of American Dream was planned to happen in stages, and a few of the attractions did indeed open in the fall of 2019. Retailers and the remainder of the theme park's attractions had originally been intended to open with a bang in March. For now, admittance to the entire megamall is restricted to a quarter of its capacity due to COVID. "I don't think you'd be able to find many large projects like ours that haven't been touched by COVID," said Downing.  He points to the sole attraction that reopened on September 1 this year, the indoor ski hill, and says people have been waiting in line as early as 8:00 a.m. with their skis and snowboards. "People love that ski slope," said Downing. "It's been as busy as it can be with 25 per cent capacity."   Snowboarders and skiers pictured at the grand opening of Big Snow last December. The attraction shut down in March due to the pandemic, and reopened on Sept. 1. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press) But even before the economic catastrophe of the pandemic, there was plenty of skepticism about the wisdom of opening the new mall amid a climate marked by multiple major retailers seeking bankruptcy protection or liquidating assets.  Besides, there are already more than enough malls in the state, according to Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey chapter of environmental group Sierra Club. He says there's no way American Dream will solve the financial predicament for all three of the Ghermezians' properties.  Wrong place, wrong time "People going to New York City want to go to the Radio City Music Hall or the Empire State Building," he said. "They're not going to get on a bus and come to New Jersey."   The Sierra Club has opposed American Dream from day one due to its impact on wetlands in the area. "It's always been the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Tittel. But the Ghermezian family — whose patriarch arrived in Canada from Iran in the 1950s and built Triple Five along with a fortune in real estate development, with the help of his four sons and now grandsons — is not easily discouraged. Don Ghermezian of Edmonton’s Triple Five Group, on site in 2018 at the construction of the American Dream megamall in New Jersey. The West Edmonton Mall, also owned by his family, has been used as collateral to help fund construction in a financial arrangement that now looks shaky due to COVID-19. (Jon Castell/CBC News) In the late 1990s, they spent four years battling a lawsuit brought by the Alberta Treasury Board and emerged triumphant. And before West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America were built, there was doubt either of those venues would ever work. Both have been remarkably successful, ranked as top tourist attractions.  The future of malls Steve Rappaport, a New Jersey commercial real estate broker who specializes in retail leasing, says talk of malls being doomed is off-base. "People love to congregate," said Rappaport. "It's always been about much more than shopping at a mall. They are places where people go to mall-walk in the morning, and teenagers go there after school just to hang out." The view of Manhattan from Triple Five Group’s offices in New Jersey, located next to American Dream. ( Jon Castell/CBC News) He believes profitability at American Dream will be a struggle, but he says he has no doubt the Ghermezians will stay the course. "I don't think that all of the sudden they're going to say all is lost and just hand the keys back." There is, however, that matter of the mortgages. Late payments on an almost $1.4 billion loan are no small thing. The managing director of Trepp LLP, Manus Clancy, says everything hinges on the lenders.  "They have to assess does the borrower want the property, and do they have the financial ability to keep this thing going? Or are we better to take the property over and find a new team to run it?" Some in the industry believe that only the Ghermezians have the experience to run unique destinations such as American Dream, West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America, with their distinctive mix of retail and theme park attractions. Clancy isn't convinced. "We do have big players in the U.S., like Simon and Brookfield; they are operators of high-end malls in the U.S. So there are people that would be candidates," he said, if the lenders lose confidence in Triple Five Group. In Edmonton, the executive director of the Building Owners and Management Association, Percy Woods, has faith in the family.  "They might have their PhD in dealing with financial situations," he said. "They always come out OK. They're very smart. And they've been very successful." 

Continue Reading Canadian megamall developer's U.S. project on shaky ground due to pandemic

Without more support from Congress, Fed chair says U.S. economy could be scarred: Don Pittis

The good news is that interest rates will likely stay low for years, but U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, shown on Wednesday in Washington, says that's due to an uncertain recovery following the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year that could damage the economy. (U.S. Federal Reserve) At some moments practically cheery and at others his familiar dour self, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday seemed delighted by the economy's speedy recovery so far but pessimistic that the pace can continue. For Canadians weighed down with mortgage debt or for those looking to buy a home, the best news was that Powell and his advisers predict that North America's record-low interest rates — sitting at below one-quarter of a per cent — will continue at least until the end of 2023. While the Bank of Canada sets rates independent of its U.S. counterpart, Canadian lending is closely tied to commercial rates set in New York, which in turn are guided by the Fed. But on the pessimistic side, there's the reason for those continued low rates. Powell warned that the unexpectedly quick recovery in the economy following the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year is not likely to persist and that without more government spending, it will be even longer before the other half of the 22 million people thrown out of work in the U.S. find jobs again. Fiscal boost worked "There's been a really positive effect," Powell said, referring to government spending so far that has already knocked the U.S. unemployment rate to just above eight per cent — down from nearly 15 per cent in April. Not only that, but the U.S. housing market, just as in Canada, has bounced back strongly. There are also signs of renewed business spending. "That said, my sense is that more fiscal support is likely to be needed," Powell told reporters at Wednesday's news conference in Washington following the release of the Fed's latest policy statement. "Of course, the details of that are for Congress, not the Fed, but I would just say there are still roughly 11 million people still out of work due to the pandemic." Just like in Canada, low interest rates have helped the U.S. housing market bounce back. For Canadians carrying mortgage debt or for those looking to buy a home, Powell and his advisers predict that North America's record-low interest rates will continue at least until the end of 2023. (Don Pittis/CBC) Just like the Bank of Canada's governor, Tiff Macklem, last week, Powell expressed strong concern for the growing gap between rich and poor that has been accentuated by the economic crisis due to COVID-19. Just as Macklem suggested the best he could do was stimulate the economy in an attempt to "raise all boats," Powell admitted it was hard for the Fed to correct wealth differentials. But he made it clear that the central bank's research shows that a spreading gulf in relative wealth was not just a social concern but something that was bad for the entire economy. "The productive capacity of the economy is limited when not everyone has the opportunity, the educational background and the health care — all the things you need to be an active participant in our workforce," he said. Once again, Powell said tinkering with redistribution was the job of elected officials, not the Fed. But he said the recovery after the Great Recession, which followed the 2008 financial crisis, showed that the strategy used by the bank at that time could work again. By pumping up the economy with monetary stimulus, the Fed helped bring unemployment down to record lows, and statistics now show that before the latest crisis, low unemployment had begun to push wages up. No nipping inflation in the bud Unlike after that recovery, the bank's innovation this time is that it will make no attempt to nip inflation in the bud with precautionary rate hikes. Instead, the Fed's new policy will be to welcome inflation above two per cent until such time as jobless rates fall again. One reporter at the news conference expressed concern that such low rates for so long would create an asset bubble in stock markets, leading to a crash. The same worry has been expressed in Canada as home prices soar to new heights. But Powell said the Fed would keep a close eye on markets and watch for instability. People look over job applications at an Illinois Department of Employment Security centre in Arlington Heights, Ill., in May. While the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to just above eight per cent from nearly 15 per cent in April, 11 million people remain unemployed due to the pandemic. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press) An interesting question that Powell never really answered was whether those 11 million unemployed would get their jobs back only when the face-to-face industries where many had been employed resumed, or whether the economy would have to create new and different jobs. "All of this recovery we've seen is in a context where people are still at risk of catching it, and yet we're able to resume lots and lots of economic activities," Powell said, referring to the coronavirus. Defeating the disease with a vaccine or by some other means could mean a sharp rebound. But until that time, without government support to tide over those from industries where millions remain jobless, "that will show up in economic activity," he said. "It will also show up in things like evictions and foreclosures and, you know, things that will scar and damage the economy." Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis

Continue Reading Without more support from Congress, Fed chair says U.S. economy could be scarred: Don Pittis

Federal Reserve signals plan to keep U.S. interest rate near zero until 2023

Jerome Powell is chair of the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, which signaled on Wednesday that it plans to keep interest rates near zero for at least three years. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press) The U.S. Federal Reserve adjusted its inflation target to seek price increases above two per cent annually, a move that will likely keep interest rates low for years to come. The Fed on Wednesday also left its benchmark short-term rate unchanged at nearly zero, where it has been since the pandemic intensified in March. Fed officials also indicated in a set of economic projections that they expect the rate to stay there at least through 2023. The Fed's benchmark interest rate influences borrowing costs for home buyers, credit card users and businesses. The Fed's statement says that because inflation has mostly fallen below its target of two per cent in recent years, Fed policymakers now "will aim to achieve inflation moderately above two per cent for some time." It also says it will keep rates low until inflation averages two per cent over an unspecified period. The change is significant for the central bank, because it means that Fed officials will accept higher inflation to make up for its previous shortfalls below two per cent. Previously, the Fed has ignored such shortfalls. Fed chair Jerome Powell first said last month that the Fed would seek inflation above two per cent over time, rather than just keeping it as a static goal. The change reflects a growing concern at the Fed that in recessions, inflation often falls far below two per cent, but it doesn't necessarily reach two per cent when the economy is expanding. Over time, that means inflation on average falls further from the target. As businesses and consumers come to expect increasingly lower inflation, they act in ways that entrench slower price gains. The Fed prefers a little inflation because that gives the central bank more room to cut or raise short-term interest rates.

Continue Reading Federal Reserve signals plan to keep U.S. interest rate near zero until 2023

Canada and the U.S. put tariff threats on ice, but expect more trade uncertainty amid COVID-19

Canada and the United States ended their tariff dispute on Tuesday when a deal was announced by the U.S. to drop a 10 per cent levy imposed on Canadian aluminum imports, halting Canada's plans to retaliate. (Cole Burston/Bloomberg) In the end, the great tariff war of 2020 didn't last long. Just as Canada was about to announce its own round of tariffs on products made with American aluminum, the Americans announced Tuesday that a deal had been reached. But the whole ordeal serves as a reminder of two key things: Tariffs may be dumb, but that doesn't mean they're going away any time soon. Why are they dumb? Perhaps Canada's deputy prime minister put it best: "The U.S. is taking the absurd decision to harm its own people at a time when its economy is suffering the deepest crisis since the Great Depression," Chrystia Freeland said after the U.S. imposed the latest tariffs in August that would have placed a 10 per cent levy on Canadian aluminum imports. "Any American who buys a can of beer or a soda or a car or a bike will suffer." So, the good news for people on both sides of the border is that Freeland was not in the end compelled to introduce her own tariffs, because they would have been just as harmful to Canadians. Remember, a tariff is just a fancy word for a tax. And their efficacy has been debated for more than a century. Any Canadian tariffs on American imports would have forced Canadian consumers to pay more for products hit by the measure — just as the U.S. tariffs would have driven up the cost of everything from beer to cars by forcing American consumers to pay a tax on products made with Canadian aluminum. The Americans seem to have accomplished what they really wanted in the deal with Canada — which is a limit on the amount of aluminum Canadian producers can ship into the U.S., one trade expert says. (Shannon VanRaes/Bloomberg) "It really makes no sense whatsoever, if you think about it," trade lawyer Mark Warner said of the very notion of retaliatory tariffs. Warner, principal of Toronto-based firm MAAW Law, said retaliatory tariffs make a certain amount of sense from a political standpoint. He said Canadians felt wronged by the U.S. measures against aluminum imports. "It hurts our sense of ego and our sense of fair play," he said. "So we retaliate by putting tariffs on American exports to us, so Canadians pay for it." Americans got what they wanted In the end, Warner said, the Americans seem to have accomplished what they really wanted — which is a limit on the amount of aluminum Canadian producers can ship into the U.S. as part of the deal. "It's face saving on both sides," he said. "The Americans get a quota, the Canadians get the tariffs dropped. But remember the Americans wanted the quota to begin with." But even if the tit-for-tat measures are no longer in play, some economists feel the distortion from the threat of tariffs will be felt for a long time to come. "This volatility, this is here to stay," said Frances Donald, managing director and chief economist with Manulife Investment Management. The dispute over Canadian aluminum is 'symbolic' of a grander debate happening around the world concerning globalization and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (James MacDonald/Bloomberg) Donald said that for much of modern economic history, much of the West has operated under the assumption that globalization and free trade benefit everyone. But as globalization took root and brought down the cost of many products, she said, it also saw the hollowing out of factory towns and the rise of income inequality and racial disparities. She said de-globalization forces have been in play since 2015 — with populist sentiment against free trade, Donald Trump's election as U.S. president and Brexit in the United Kingdom all examples of growing opposition to the orthodoxy of free trade. Then, just as it did to everything else, COVID-19 changed the economic landscape starting in March. "COVID-19 has been a second de-globalization shock," Donald said. "Because even if we wanted to do business with the rest of the world, our borders have been shut." She said it would make sense for businesses first hit by tariffs and then by closed borders to think about sourcing goods or labour domestically. "Even if it costs more in the short run, it's almost like an insurance policy against disruptions in the future," Donald said. Ideas like that help to explain why the conversation around globalization has changed. "We are in the middle of a paradigm shift away from a massive economic theme that defined the last several decades and moving into a new environment," she said. The end of globalization? Donald said globalization won't go away. Many aspects of it are permanent fixtures, including the digitization of the economy and the ability to buy products around the world and have them shipped to our doorsteps. But she said consumers and businesses are currently looking around and wondering what sort of world will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common themes revolve around more local support for products and services, she said. The problems that businesses will soon face are ones they didn't have to think of until recently. "Businesses are going to feel an increasing amount of barriers and uncertainty toward expanding their supply chain to other countries," Donald said. And for that reason, she said, the tariff dispute between Canada and the United States is really just symbolic of something happening around the world on a much grander scale. And it's a force that is expected to remain with us for many years to come.

Continue Reading Canada and the U.S. put tariff threats on ice, but expect more trade uncertainty amid COVID-19

U.S. reacts angrily to losing WTO ruling on China tariffs

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, seen during congressional testimony earlier this year, cited the decision as proof that the World Trade Organization isn't equipped to deal with what he characterizes as China's unfair trade advantages. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press) A World Trade Organization panel ruled Tuesday that Trump administration tariffs on $200 billion US worth of Chinese goods are illegal, vindicating Beijing even if the United States has all but incapacitated the WTO's ability to hand down a final, binding verdict. The decision marks the first time that the Geneva-based trade body has ruled against a series of high-profile tariffs that U.S.President Donald Trump's government has imposed on a number of countries — allies and rivals alike. Trump has repeatedly claimed that the WTO treats the U.S. unfairly. In its decision, the WTO's dispute settlement body ruled against the U.S. government's argument that China has wrongly engaged in practices harmful to U.S. interests on issues including intellectual property theft and technology transfer. The ruling, in theory, would allow China to impose retaliatory tariffs on billions' worth of U.S. goods. But it is unlikely to have much practical impact, at least in the short term, because the U.S. can appeal the decision and the WTO's appeals court is currently no longer functioning — largely because of Washington's single-handed refusal to accept new members for it. Analysis Is the global trading system unravelling before our eyes? Here is where things stand The appeals court issues final rulings in trade cases and stopped functioning last year when the terms of two of its last three judges expired with no replacements. That means the United States can appeal the decision "into the void," said Timothy Keeler, a lawyer at Mayer Brown and former chief of staff for the U.S. Trade Representative. "This panel report confirms what the Trump administration has been saying for four years: The WTO is completely inadequate to stop China's harmful technology practices," said U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in a statement. He said the U.S. had presented "extensive evidence" of China's intellectual property theft and the WTO has offered no fixes for it. "The United States must be allowed to defend itself against unfair trade practices, and the Trump administration will not let China use the WTO to take advantage of American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers," he said. Abolish the WTO: Republican senator Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the prominent China critics in the Republican Party, said it was "more evidence that the WTO is outdated, sclerotic, and generally bad for America. USA should withdraw and lead the effort to abolish it." The Chinese ministry of commerce said the ruling was "objective and fair" and called on the U.S. to respect it. The U.S. tariffs target two batches of Chinese products. Duties of 10 per cent were imposed on some $200 billion worth of goods in September 2018, and were jacked up to 25 per cent eight months later. An additional 25 per cent duties were imposed in June 2018 against Chinese goods worth about $34 billion in annual trade. Breaking U.S. presents plan to drop duties on aluminum imports after Canada threatens retaliation The Trump administration has justified the sanctions under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, once a common tool used by the U.S. government to impose sanctions — and recently revived by Trump. The U.S. argued that China's actions had amounted to "state-sanctioned theft" and "misappropriation" of U.S. technology, intellectual property and commercial secrets. The WTO panel ruled that the U.S. measures violated longstanding international trade rules because they only applied to products from China, and that Washington had not adequately substantiated its claim that the Chinese products hit with the extra duties had benefited from the allegedly unfair Chinese practices.

Continue Reading U.S. reacts angrily to losing WTO ruling on China tariffs

Canadian security firm GardaWorld launches $5B hostile takeover bid of Britain's G4S

Garda has gone public with its offer to buy out British security firm G4S after the target company rebuffed previous private negotiations. (Carl Recine/Reuters) GardaWorld, the world's largest privately owned security company, said Monday it was making a cash offer worth 3 billion pounds, or $5.2 billion Cdn, for G4S, a London-based rival that has rejected or ignored the Canadian company's previous approaches. Montreal-based GardaWorld said it decided to publicize its revised bid of 190 pence per share to pressure G4S's board into talks. G4S responded by saying the bid "significantly undervalues the company and its prospects." "Shareholders are strongly advised to take absolutely no action in relation to the new proposal," G4S said. G4S shares jumped 25 per cent to close at 182.45 pence on the London Stock Exchange. The stock is still down more than 40 per cent from its peak in June 2017. GardaWorld doesn't list its shares on a stock exchange. Since last year, London-based BC Partners has been the controlling shareholder in the Quebec company after reaching a $5.2 billion deal in exchange for a 51 per cent stake. GardaWorld founder Stephan Cretier owns 43 per cent, while the remainder belongs to other managers of the company. Cretier, who is chief executive officer of GardaWorld, said in a statement that "we believe that the combined business's operations will offer a better future for all those who depend on G4S." He wasn't available for interviews Monday. Employees across the world G4S, which employs more than 500,000 people in 85 countries, said its financial performance has been "particularly resilient" since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, G4S posted underlying first-half earnings of 97 million pounds (or about $167 million), the same as for the year-earlier period. Revenue fell 1.5 per cent to 3.35 billion pounds (just over $5.6 billion). In a letter dated Aug. 31 sent to the board of the British company, Cretier acknowledged that these results have exceeded expectations, which were not very high in the current context. He also recalled that the first proposal was 102 pence per share, roughly half of the current offer.

Continue Reading Canadian security firm GardaWorld launches $5B hostile takeover bid of Britain's G4S

Why most Canadians support the Canada-U.S. border closure, despite the costs

A new online poll found that, out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed at the end of August, 90 per cent supported the ongoing Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press) Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong, despite a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a decimated tourism industry. A new poll by pollster Research Co. found that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, a whopping 90 per cent agreed with the current Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic.  The show of support comes at a time when several Canadian border cities are licking their wounds over a loss of U.S. tourism. Nevertheless, they're maintaining their support for the border closure, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from the country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths. "As much as this hurts — and it hurts — it's all about short-term pain for long-term gain," said Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont. He said that pre-pandemic, U.S. tourism pumped close to $1 billion annually into the economy of Niagara Falls and its surrounding area. Even so, Diodati said he supports the border closure, and so do around a dozen other Ontario border-town mayors who took part in a video conference call with the federal government last week. "We're not in a hurry to open that border until we've got control of what's happening on both sides," he said.  Despite the economic impact, Jim Diodati, the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., supports the border closure. (Submitted by Jim Diodati) Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, Ont. — who was also on the call — agrees. Tourists from neighbouring Michigan usually bring millions of dollars annually into Sarnia's economy, but not this year.   "We need to take care of our own people first," said Bradley. "Of all the steps that we've taken in Ontario and taken locally to protect our public … to give all that up now, for a bump in dollars just doesn't make sense." The Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic expires on Sept. 21. While American travellers — with the exception of some immediate family members — are barred from entering Canada, the U.S. still allows Canadians to fly to the country. Both Ontario mayors predict the Canadian government will announce this week that it will extend the border closure for at least another 30 days.  "I think it's kind of a foregone conclusion," said Diodati. U.S. numbers decline Canadians began loudly expressing support for the Canada-U.S. border closure on social media in July, when U.S. COVID-19 case numbers were soaring to new and worrisome highs.  Since then, the U.S. numbers have declined — but Canadian support for the border closure hasn't. According to U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, new daily U.S. cases peaked above 70,000 in late July, then dropped to below 50,000 per day by mid-August.  "It's going down very rapidly," U.S. President Donald Trump said last week. He said the U.S. has done "an amazing job" combating the spread of the virus. Despite the news, Canadians continue to warn Americans to stay away. In the latest case last week, a truck with Texas license plates in Victoria was vandalized and spray-painted with "Trump." Well #yyj, some really nice Victorians badly vandalized my dad’s truck with Texas plates. Smashed windshield, stole license plates and graffiti’d it.@keithbaldrey @Adam_Stirling @richardzussman @cfax1070 @RyanPriceCFAX @GlobalBC @CTVNewsVI @CTVVancouver @jjhorgan @vicpdcanada pic.twitter.com/xI6MUul0U0 —@jonny_vi Canadians are also on the lookout for American travellers sneaking into the country.  George Creek — a member of a group of volunteer boaters reporting U.S. pleasure boat sightings in Canadian waters to border officers — said he's far from convinced that the U.S. has the virus under control. "They're so fractured down there. They have no national cohesive approach," said Creek, who lives just outside Nanaimo, B.C.. "Their [medical] experts are being ignored." George Creek, a B.C. resident who is part of a group of volunteer Canadian boaters which has been reporting U.S. pleasure boat sightings in Canada, said the United States has 'no cohesive approach' to the pandemic. (Submitted by George Creek) Global health specialist Steven Hoffman suggested that even with a decline in case numbers, many Canadians will continue to support the border closure due to concerns that politics is influencing the U.S. response to the virus. "It really starts to raise questions among people as to whether the response is being designed in a way to maximize its effectiveness, or is it being designed in a way to maximize or to influence the outcome of a forthcoming election," said Hoffman, a professor of global health, law and political science at Toronto's York University.  For example, at a U.S. rally in June, Trump told a group of supporters — who weren't required to wear masks — that he wanted to "slow the [COVID-19] testing down."  At a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June, U.S. President Donald Trump told supporters that he wanted to 'slow the [COVID-19] testing down.' (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP) Last month, the CDC changed it's guidelines on COVID-19 testing to recommend that asymptomatic people who come into contact with an infected person "do not necessarily need a test." The guideline change has been reportedly tied to Trump.  Critics have also accused Trump of downplaying the severity of the virus.  "There's a lot of reasons why everyone in the world should be concerned about the way that this pandemic has been addressed in the United States," said Hoffman.  Diodati of Niagara Falls predicts Canada won't entertain discussions over reopening the Canada-U.S. border until after the U.S. election, when perhaps politics is no longer muddying the waters. "We call this silly season when there's an election," he said. "Let's let the Americans get through their election process ... and then we're going to probably have more meaningful dialogue." The Research Co. poll surveyed 1,000 adults in Canada online between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of 20.

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