Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Deteriorating Canadian Condition

So what would you say if I were to offer you $100 CAD per hour to do any job, perhaps such as a kitchen job? Well I'm guessing if you're a Canadian you would probably scoff at such a proposal at least if Garth Whyte, president of Restaurants Canada, is to be believed.
Even if restaurants offered $100 an hour for kitchen jobs, they'd still need to hire temporary foreign workers to fill the posts because Canadian workers just don't want the jobs, the head of Canada's restaurant association says.
You just don't want those gosh darned jobs, not because the wages aren't even close to keeping up with rampant inflation in essentials, but because you're just too fucking lazy, or snobby, etc. The labour shortage bullshit has now turned from a story of not enough bodies, to one of Canadians just not wanting those jobs, probably because it's already been shown the labour shortage was actually a hoax to further the government's TFW agenda driven by corporations intent on keeping the illusion of growth alive in a post-peak oil world.

Of course as has been discussed on this blog before even it was revealed that the "labour shortage" was a hoax the reality really is that compared with things such as the price of housing there isn't so much a labour shortage so much as there is a paycheque shortage. The idea that Canadians wouldn't take a kitchen job that paid $100 per hour is of course ludicrous but for these presidents and CEO's which have been the only ones to largely see any evidence of growth I'm sure the difference between a $100, or a $10, is negligible; they're used to way more zeros behind it!

The problem with the TFW program isn't that "they're taking Canadians' jobs", they're not your jobs anymore and haven't been for a long time unless you're willing to settle for an ever lowering standard of living, the TFW program is simply a continuation of the free trade cheap labour exploitation corporate America (Canada) has been utilizing for years. It's now become the primary focus as the cost of energy is beginning to impact profits due to the transportation needs for goods from the country's we've been exploiting up until now.

TFWs are a subsidy gifted upon corporate Canada by the federal government at your expense in service to the banking Gods and the infinite growth monetary ponzi-conomy which will require and demand ever growing sacrifice from you and your community as wages stagnate and cost-cutting (read: corner cutting) continues to eat away at the fabric of society while they look down upon you from their alter of currency making excuse after excuse as to why you don't need to earn more.

Meanwhile according to a recent poll 39% of Canadians have given up looking for work at the same time the federal government has granted thousands of "skilled" minimum wage jobs to temporary foreign workers which I'm sure the "Canadian" companies are very grateful for as they struggle to keep up with rising costs even though they have been sitting on piles of capital with nowhere to go.

Rising costs are becoming a major problem particularly for the producers of extreme energy such as Canada's own economic black hole known as the oilsands.
CALGARY -- Total E&P Canada is putting its Joslyn oilsands project northwest of Fort McMurray, Alta., on hold indefinitely, saying Thursday that the economics aren't good enough to move ahead.

The decision means 150 jobs will be cut by the end of this year, but CEO Andre Goffart said some of those workers may be moved to other parts of the French energy giant's global operations.

On a conference call with reporters, Goffart said the challenges Joslyn is facing aren't confined to that project alone.
"Costs are continuing to inflate, when the oil price -- and specifically the netbacks for the oilsands -- are remaining stable at best, thus, squeezing the margins. We see that this situation cannot be sustainable in the long term," he said.

"We know that mining projects are challenging. New mining projects are all megaprojects and they are very capital intensive... There is a clear shift now from the industry on cost discipline and return on investment versus the pace of development."

Total and the project's minority partners will now spend time trying to find ways to drive down costs at Joslyn, but there is no timeline for when it may be revived.

"We believe that the best way to unlock this project is not to wait for the price increase, but to work proactively on cost optimization, and that's what we are doing."
For readers of my blog one paragraph from that excerpt is probably very familiar as it's been one of my primary arguments against the oilsands and the profit Albertans think they produce: "Costs are continuing to inflate, when the oil price -- and specifically the netbacks for the oilsands -- are remaining stable at best, thus, squeezing the margins. We see that this situation cannot be sustainable in the long term," he said.

I've said this was going to be happening to oilsands production ever since my Hellberta blog, but here, I just chose a post at random on the subject from 2012, here is an excerpt:
This conclusion is based on the assumption that had the U.S. not had it's shale gas boom the price of oil would have continued to rise exponentially as had been the pattern prior to 2008 and therefore the oilsands themselves must not be flawed, it is the market situation. What this ignores is that the flaw in the oilsand's financial viability is simply being made visible by the "lower" (remember when $80+ for oil was expensive? Wasn't that long ago) demand for oil attributed to the natural gas boom. The flaw always existed, the Alberta government's moving target for a profitable oil price shows this problem. Focusing on the reason for the price drop ignores the fact that all assumptions of profitability were made on an ever-rising price and that assumption is unto itself erroneous as it's absolutely ridiculous to think that high prices would be sustained and affordable. The basics of demand and supply blow holes in that assumption. The problem isn't centered around competing energy sources, the problem was adopting an unsustainable business model based on unrealistic oil prices which essentially said "what goes up never comes down". 
 Think about it, oil price remaining "stable" isn't enough to make oilsands companies profitable, why? Because the illusion of oilsands profit came from the rapid rise of oil price prior to 2008 in which Alberta was literally producing oil at a lower market price and then turning around and selling it at the higher market price. Oil produced with an input cost based on $70 barrel oil was sold for $90, etc. The thing about producing energy is that it takes energy to produce energy. This is why the price doesn't matter and why likewise Total's CEO says: "We believe that the best way to unlock this project is not to wait for the price increase, but to work proactively on cost optimization, and that's what we are doing."

Extreme energy with low energy returned on energy investment (EROEI) ratios just isn't profitable and it's not just oilsands either, shale oil companies in the U.S. are now discovering the same thing.
"Traditionally we’ve been a financially conservative company," explains one fracking company, warning that "we’ve become more leveraged than we historically have been and we’ve become uncomfortable with that." This is the growing message from a shale boom that, as Bloomberg reports, is facing a shakeout as drillers struggle to keep pace with the relentless spending needed to get oil and gas out of the ground. As everyone chases the dream, well counts have soared and production per well has tumbled. "The list of companies that are financially stressed is considerable," warns one analyst as shale debt has almost doubled over the last four years while revenue has gained just 5.6% "not everyone is going to survive. We’ve seen it before."
It should be no surprise however as the rapid rise in the cost of energy accounts for central bank's inflation targets.
What will give the central bank comfort, said Porter, is that core inflation index, which excludes volatile items such as gasoline and some fresh fruits and vegetables, remained well contained at 1.4 per cent in April.

On a month-to-month basis, consumers paid 0.3 per cent more than they did in March.

Energy was the main driver in the increase in the monthly and annual rates, with gasoline costing 6.6 per cent more in April than a year ago, natural gas 26.6 per cent more, and electricity coming in 4.6 per cent higher.

Excluding the energy component, inflation was steady 1.4 per cent, mirroring the core reading.

"That tells us that energy has been the big driver here," noted Porter, "not food, not clothing, not cars."
This is bad news for leadership liarship hopefuls such as Jim Prentice who are now working hard to convince the proud debt-free Albertans that the only path forward is to take on debt.
If he were to become premier, half of future budget surpluses would go to debt repayment and the other half would go to savings, Prentice told reporters at a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

"The current fiscal plan calls for Alberta's existing debt to be repaid over 30 years," he said.

"I believe that debt can be repaid over 15 years, perhaps 20. It will depend a bit on oil prices."

Under former premier Alison Redford, the province began borrowing for infrastructure. This year, the debt will rise above $8 billion and is to reach $21 billion by 2017.
Of course what pretentious Prentice isn't telling you is that all of this debt is simply to catch up to the spending Alberta has avoided making in the first place starting under Ralph Klein which just like now realized that the infrastructure demand and associated costs of oilsands "growth" far outweigh any return the province receives from them. These expenses will be ever growing, and never ending. By the time Alberta supposedly pays off this new debt (depending of course on oil prices) to catch it's infrastructure up to the growth of the last 30 years under current plans for oilsands growth we will have had to take out much more debt to account for future demands on infrastructure. Albertans are so obsessed with what they believe is "money" that they've been lulled into a bullshit belief that the province is "rich". It's not and as I've stated before this is simply going to become more apparent by the day.

Sometimes, though, you need to step back to see the forest for the trees. 15-30 year forecasts under the current monetary system are quite meaningless as the world is changing right now.
If there was one takeaway from Russia's annual economic shindig in St Petersburg last week, it was that the country is continually looking to its neighbor China for trade and investment. While the United States can't claim that it might be losing a friend with Russia's pivot east, it might be a different story for the dollar, with the alliance having the potential to undercut the domination of the U.S. currency.
"Taken alone, these actions do not mean the end of the dollar as the leading global reserve currency. But, taken in the context of many other actions around the world including Saudi Arabia's frustration with U.S. foreign policy toward Iran, and China's voracious appetite for
gold, these actions are meaningful steps away from the dollar," Jim Rickards, portfolio manager at West Shore Group and partner at Tangent Capital Partners, told CNBC via email.
Canada's big and upcoming problem is that all of our bullshit predictions, bullshit forecasts, and bullshit hopes and economic dreams are predicated on our relationship with the United States and our easy access to the global reserve currency, the U.S. dollar. If you think things are expensive now you haven't seen anything yet.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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