CALGARY – If low oil prices stick around much longer, the operations manager at Lac La Biche Transport Ltd. says he may have to lay off workers.
Kevin Warawa says business is down by about a quarter compared with the same time a year ago and oilsands operators that hire his company to haul equipment in northeastern Alberta are pushing for rates to be cut by 20 to 25 per cent.
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“Some of them cancelled projects completely. Some of the other customers said that they won’t be getting back to production until probably the third quarter at least,” he said from Lac La Biche, Alta., about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
So far, the company hasn’t had to let go of any of the roughly 130 workers it employs this time of year, usually the busiest for the oilpatch. But if things keep up, “there will be guys going home,” said Warawa.
These aren’t the massive truck-and-shovel mining operations north of Fort McMurray, Alta., that tend to come to mind when one thinks of the oilsands.
To the south of what is typically seen as the oilsands epicentre, communities are expecting some pain from sub-US$50-a-barrel oil, but they’re taking the challenges in stride.
In these parts, crude is extracted by pumping steam through wells. Projects are normally built in smaller, more bite-sized chunks compared with their mining counterparts. Workers live in communities like Lac La Biche, Bonnyville and Cold Lake — all within a five-hour driving distance of Fort McMurray.
Companies active in the area include Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., MEG Energy Corp., Cenovus Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd.
Canadian Natural said earlier this month it was deferring its $1.45-billion Kirby North project near Lac La Biche. MEG has chopped its 2015 budget by three quarters.
Meanwhile, Cenovus plans to spend up to $1.6 billion at its nearby Foster Creek and Christina Lake developments this year, but is holding off on developing longer-term projects elsewhere in northern Alberta. Imperial has massive oilsands operations near Cold Lake, with its 40,000-barrel-per-day Nabiye expansion in the process of ramping up.
Warawa has been in the business 30 years and even though “it hurts,” he knows the doldrums won’t last forever.
“It’ll always come back. The money they’ve spent is too great. They just can’t shut it down and walk away from it.”
Ron Briscoe, president of the Lac La Biche and District Chamber of Commerce, said he’s noticed a shift in mood.
“I think, up until the last couple of weeks, people were holding their breath,” he said. “It’s now kind of turned over to being worried.”
The area has a sizable “shadow population” — temporary residents who come to the region for work and live in hotels and camps. The 2013 municipal census found this group made up about 26 per cent of the county’s population of 12,000.
“They’re the same people eating at our local restaurants and shopping at our local clothing stores,” said Briscoe.
“If the price of oil stays low long enough for the oilpatch to slow down and those shadow population residents move away. That means fewer customers for local businesses, lower profits and then some hard decisions have to be made by our local retail business about cutting costs, streamlining staff or closing altogether.”
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Teri Moghrabi manages a sporting goods store in Lac La Biche. Sales are OK so far, but he wouldn’t be surprised to see a slowdown if oilpatch jobs are cut.
“Once people start feeling that pinch, we’ll feel it,” he says. “When we come to that point, we’ll feel it, because everything we sell here, nothing’s a necessity. Everything we have here, the majority of it is luxury items.”
His uncle, Omer Moghrabi, is the mayor of Lac La Biche. Oil is by far the biggest game in town, but lumber and tourism are important, too.
“Every six or seven years there’s a correction in the industry,” said the mayor.
“What happens is the first people who feel the effects of it are the service providers and the contractors and that’s happening. They’re starting to lay people off.”
Even still, he said the mood is optimistic.
“We’re a hearty bunch here in this area,” he said. “We just hold steadfast. We’ll be fine.”
If anything, there’s a bit of silver lining: contracts to build new roads and other infrastructure will likely become more affordable as the oilpatch slowdown frees up labourers.
In Cold Lake, closer to the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, Mayor Craig Copeland also sees some benefits. The community of about 15,700 has an extremely young population and has been growing rapidly. Lower construction costs and some cooling in the rental market would be welcome developments.
The price of oil isn’t what keeps Copeland up at night. Delays in building new pipelines out of Alberta cause far more worry.
“If we don’t get a pipeline to the United States and get some straws touching the ocean, I think, for our area, that is more of an issue,” he said.
READ MORE: 2015: Year of the (continued) pipeline debate
The mood in Bonnyville, a community between Lac La Biche and Cold Lake with about 7,000 people, is one of caution, said Mayor Gene Sobolewski.
“I’ve been around the block a few times and if I reacted every time the market dropped and I lost money on my mutual funds — well, I’d be a basket case.”
On a scale of one to ten, Sobolewski said his concern level about the oilpatch’s spending decisions is at about a one or a two.
But as for how the provincial government may react — especially when it comes to provincial funds and grants for municipalities — it’s more like a six or seven.
“That’s where I think the biggest worry is, because the province tends to be very, very reactive,” he said.
“There seems to be sort of a panic that’s evolving through the halls of the legislature.”
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How’s that new year, new you fitness pledge going?
January, the start of New Year’s resolution month, sees a healthy uptick in sign-ups at gyms and specialized studios offering such things as Pilates, kickboxing and yoga. But money-saving expert Andrea Woroch in Bakersfield, California, said recent statistics show 67 per cent of people who join don’t use their memberships at all.
With the average monthly fee at $58, that means a potential waste of up to $700 a year or more, she said.
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“Gyms across the country see the increase in January and it continues into March as people are still trying to hit that resolution,” Woroch said. “Losing weight is the No. 1 resolution. Getting fit is in the top five, but many people really don’t know how to get there.”
If you’re looking to kick-start, save money or can’t decide on an approach, Woroch offers these tips:
MAX OUT TRIALS
Finding the right gym fit is key. A great way to check out classes, instructors or an overall environment is to take advantage of freebies. Woroch said most gyms offer three free days to a free week. Salespeople may try to entice during trial periods with limited-time discounts, but don’t bite if it doesn’t feel right. Move on to another gym until you find the right one.
“You want to test out the equipment, go at the time that you typically think will fit into your schedule, whether it’s after work, at lunch. See what the crowds are like,” she said.
READ MORE: HIIT tops list of fitness trends for 2015
Think of your gym membership like buying a car, Woroch said. Salespeople have quotas and that puts you in the driver’s seat. Nothing is set in stone, she said. Perhaps you can score a lower monthly rate or have the initiation fee waived. Ask for the first month free, more guest passes, extra personal training sessions or complementary child care.
“There’s always wiggle room,” she said.
Is there a nagging voice in your head declaring: “You’ll never keep it up!” You might get a lower monthly rate when committing to a two-year contract, but you’ll pay over time if you don’t go. A punch pass may be a wise choice, Woroch said. She cited a recent study that found people who choose a contract with a monthly fee over a 10-visit pass paid $600 more a year. If you know you won’t go every day or find that you prefer outdoor activities instead, paying per visit could also mean avoiding early termination fees down the line.
“Then you’re not bound to a contract or you can’t go for a week or two weeks because you’re travelling for work, you won’t lose the money,” Woroch said.
WHO IS FAMILY?
Family membership deals abound, but such deals aren’t always limited to actually family, Woroch said. Joining might be more fun with friends, but trust comes into play in terms of payment. Pick one person to make the monthly payment and come up with a reimbursement plan. That could mean each person sends the designee a check, transfers money via Paypal or pays in one lump sum for the year. Make sure to work it out ahead of time.
“More and more gyms are just looking for numbers at this point,” Woroch said. “They’ve loosened up on who your people are.”
COUPONS, WAREHOUSE CLUBS AND DAILY DEALS
Look around. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial often offer deep discounts up to 70 per cent on local gym memberships and personal training. Warehouse clubs also offer deals but you usually have to take a one-year or two-year membership for those. CouponSherpa苏州夜网 offers coupons and free passes for health clubs. Monthly flexibility will allow you to jump around from gym to studio to boot camp until you find what you’re looking for, Woroch said.
“This is a good way to leave room to re-evaluate,” Woroch said. “You can save a little for three or four months before signing a contract.”
©2015The Associated Press
TORONTO – NASA’S Dawn spacecraft is on its final approach to a world that humans have never seen in detail. On Monday, NASA released a series of images as a taste of things to come.
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Dawn’s mission is to explore the asteroid belt, a region of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter that is occupied by tens of thousands of rocky bits left over from the formation of our solar system. From 2011 to 2012, Dawn orbited Vesta, the second-largest body in the asteroid belt, snapping more than 30,000 photos. Now, it is on its way to Ceres, the most massive body in that region of space.
READ MORE: NASA spacecraft readies for rendezvous with dwarf planet
Though Ceres is the biggest object in the asteroid belt — it comprises about 25 per cent of the entire asteroid belt — it’s small, measuring just 950 km across.
First discovered in 1801, Ceres was initially classified as a planet. It was reclassified as an asteroid, and then, in 2006, reclassified again as a dwarf planet along with Pluto, once considered our solar system’s ninth planet.
“We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about dwarf planet Ceres,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Now, Dawn is ready to change that.”
This image, taken on Jan. 13, 2015, shows Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft as it approaches the dwarf planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
This image, taken on Jan. 13, 2015, shows Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft as it approaches the dwarf planet.
Dawn is not alone in its exploration of dwarf planets. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on approach to Pluto, making its closest flyby of the icy world in July.
READ MORE: Space telescope spies water plumes on dwarf planet Ceres
The photos released this week were taken at a distance of 383,000 km and have already revealed some details about the small, rocky body.
“Already, the [latest] images hint at first surface structures such as craters,” said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen, Germany.
Though we have a good understanding about our solar system, there are still many unexplored regions, such as the asteroid belt and the outer solar system near Pluto and beyond. Astronomers seek to learn more about the formation of our Earth and our small region in space by studying these regions that contain fragments left over from the birth of our solar system.
Dawn will arrive at Ceres next month.
WATCH: The lead author of the study, Dr. Vicente Corrales-Medina, explains the findings.
TORONTO – If you’re hospitalized for pneumonia in old age, your chances of having a heart attack or stroke increase significantly, according to new Canadian research that suggests the sickness should be a risk factor for heart disease.
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Ottawa scientists say that doctors and elderly patients need to pay attention to cardiovascular health while battling pneumonia. Patients could encounter a heart attack while in hospital for pneumonia, and even weeks or months after their recovery.
“It’s not uncommon for patients to come in with acute pneumonia and a few days or weeks later, they come back with a heart attack. Our observation was that people with pneumonia, even when they survive the infection, have lower survival rates than people who don’t have pneumonia. Even with the same comorbidities, the same medical history,” Dr. Vicente Corrales-Medina, the study’s lead author, told Global News.
“The mechanisms for this association are still not well-characterized. We don’t understand why that happens,” he explained.
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Corrales-Medina is an infectious diseases expert at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. The Peruvian native and U.S.-educated doctor had this “clinical observation” during his tenure.
“We thought it was more than a coincidence and wanted to look into it further,” he said.
Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that causes inflammation in the air sacs. Its victims deal with symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever and chills. In severe cases as the infection progresses, patients have impaired control over their vital functions – that’s when blood pressure could drop, for example.
It typically afflicts infants and seniors. The study, which Corrales-Medina conducted with University of Pittsburgh doctor Sachin Yende, zeroed in on adults, starting at age 45. The health records of about 3,800 U.S. patients were studied – 1,271 had pneumonia and 2,542 were control patients – both groups’ health data was studied for a decade.
READ MORE: Quarter of heart attack patients weren’t tested for diabetes or high cholesterol
Pneumonia patients had a “raised level of risk” for heart disease over the entire 10 years – the highest risk was in the first year. For 65-year-olds and older, for example, a pneumonia patient was four times more likely to develop heart disease in the first 30 days following an infection. By their tenth year, they were about twice as likely next to their counterparts who hadn’t encountered pneumonia.
A 72-year-old woman with two heart disease risk factors – hypertension and smoking – increases her risk from 31 per cent to 90 per cent if she catches pneumonia, Corrales-Medina says.
Currently, there are only hypotheses to explain the ties between heart disease and pneumonia. In the short term, patients’ bodies are under high levels of stress. They could also have underlying cardiac conditions that trigger a heart attack.
“It may be that the heart can’t keep up with the demands. We suggest the cardiac reserve is not enough to meet demands imposed by the [pneumonia] and the heart can suffer, blood flow may already be impaired and then it faults in the stressful situation,” Corrales-Medina explained.
READ MORE: Male heart attack patients receive faster care than women
But that doesn’t apply to long-term heart health issues. In that case, Corrales-Medina says the mechanisms are more complex: atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries, might be at play. Pneumonia sparks inflammation in the arteries, and could affect plaque levels in the artery walls over time.
His next steps in his research are to understand the biological mechanisms behind this raised heart disease risk post-pneumonia. That way, doctors can find interventions to stop the onset of heart disease.
For now, Corrales-Medina is hopeful his findings will encourage the elderly and medical communities do their best to prevent pneumonia in the first place. Vaccination and basic hand hygiene are their best bets.
READ MORE: Do heart attack survivors change their unhealthy ways? Study suggests they don’t
“This is especially important for the elderly and those with other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol,” he said.
And if an elderly patient gets pneumonia, doctors can pay close attention to his or her heart health and develop a care plan with this information in mind.
Corrales-Medina’s full findings were published Tuesday morning in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
WATCH ABOVE: Splashdata has released its list of the worst passwords of 2014. So listen up – if yours is on the list then it’s time to make a change. Nicole Bogart reports.
TORONTO – If there were ever a more important lesson for web users to learn over the last year, it’s practicing good password security. But if the following list is any indication, not everyone is listening.
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SplashData, a password management application company, has released its annual list of the 25 worst passwords of the year. The list is compiled from files containing over 3.3 million leaked passwords in 2014.
READ MORE: Is the password really dead? (Hint: Not even close)
“123456’ and “Password” top this year’s list – as they have every year since SplashData started compiling the data in 2011.
This year, some of the newer – and arguably more creative – passwords include “batman” and “trustno1” (which is, ironically, bad for security).
Here is the full list:
Tips for creating secure passwords
If any of your passwords made this list, you might want to consider some of the following advice.
Stay away from easy-to-guess passwords like “123456″ or “Password” and easy to guess identifiers, like your dog’s name.
Numbers included in a password should never be something easy to guess based on the user. That means your age, the current year, or your address are not good choices. Similarly, the longer the password the better.
READ MORE: How to protect yourself from security breaches on social media sites
Passwords that use up to ten upper- and lower-case letters mixed with numbers are proven to be more secure – despite being hard to remember.
One tip is to construct a password from a sentence, mix in a few upper case letters and a number – for example, “There is no place like home,” would become “tiNOplh62.”
And remember, try not to use the same password for any two accounts.