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Business Briefing ‘Dinged’ and ‘pinched’: A long oil rout would sideswipe Canada

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

Canada is going to take it on the chin from the collapse in oil prices.

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The plunge, sparked by OPEC's decision to hold production at its current ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, will chip away at economic growth, eat into government revenues and erode the value of crude exports, which account for about 15 per cent of the total.

Having said that, of course, it's a good thing for the broader global economy because consumers have more to spend.

"Sustainably lower oil prices are negative for Canada on many fronts, including trade, growth, fiscal and perception; it is also likely to weigh on inflationary pressures," said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia.

"Some of this is mitigated by stronger U.S. consumption driving stronger U.S. growth with a positive spillover impact into Canada; however this is unlikely to fully offset the negative economic impact of oil prices."

When oil was at about $85 in October, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz projected the decline to that point could shave about one-quarter of a percentage point off economic growth next year.

And at that point, he said later, in early November, "a quarter-point is significant, but it doesn't derail that story of gradual convergence to potential - not so far."

It's obviously hard to put a number on it all, but economic growth will "get dinged, especially through capital spending," should current prices hold, said chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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At best, he said, gross domestic product will expand by 2.4 per cent next year.

"Corporate profits, government revenues, and even personal income growth will be pinched by the drop," Mr. Porter added, noting, too, that the economies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador could "sag back" to the national average, while central Canada benefits.

Then there are stock holdings, as energy shares are hit.

The price collapse is obviously a threat to Canada's oil patch, though there's some built-in protection from a lower currency, which slid along with oil prices, and different cost structures.

"Our analysis reveals that the oil plays in Western Canada are on average lower-cost than in the United States, partly due to royalty credits and a more flexible royalty system," said Patricia Mohr, a commodities analyst and Ms. Sutton's colleague at Scotiabank.

"While several senior and integrated oil producers have indicated little scaling back in their capital spending intentions, junior oil producers face a tougher funding environment," she said.

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"Drilling activity in Western Canada could drop by 15 per cent in 2015."

There's a lot going on here behind the scenes.

Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council went into the meeting in Vienna opposing any cut to production.

As Ms. Sutton and others noted, the decision was a marked change as it signalled a shift: One might have expected the oil-producing nations to slash output in an effort to bolster prices, but they chose instead to have other countries, including the United States, share the "burden."

"It appears likely that Saudi Arabia is content with low prices for a period of time to slow development of the U.S. shales," added Ms. Mohr.

Based on what analysts are saying, don't expect a pick-up in oil prices, or the Canadian dollar, for that matter.

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"Opinion is divided on whether the fall is good news or bad news, but it looks like the power of OPEC to maintain a balance in the market has been severely weakened, if not broken entirely," said analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG in London.

"Supply gluts are set to stay with us into 2015."

Which means, too, that while manufacturing exporters are no doubt cheering the drop in the currency, snowbirds aren't.

And there may be no relief in sight for those heading to Florida, Arizona, California and the like.

The loonie, as Canada's dollar coin is known, hit a low point of 87.41 cents on Friday, compared to a high of 88.99 cents Thursday morning.

"Should oil prices stay low, we could see the loonie test 85 cents U.S. well before next fall," said senior economist Sal Guatieri of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

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"Suffice it to say, the loonie will get no help from the Bank of Canada, as lower oil prices will only underscore its guarded outlook for growth and sanguine view on inflation," he added.

Things I could do if I got my own drone for Christmas
Personal drones are becoming all the rage. Why let Amazon.com have all the fun?

I started dreaming about all the things I could do if I had one after reading a Wall Street Journal article on how GoPro Inc. plans to roll out consumer drones, in late 2015, equipped with high-def cameras and probably selling for somewhere between $500 (U.S.) and $1,000.

It would be a notable move, the news organization said, because a high-profile player would be jumping into the market.

(A spokesman for GoPro didn't immediately return my call seeking confirmation. Who knows, maybe he was playing with one of these things in his backyard.)

I could scare away people who come to my door asking for money. (That includes the ones who aren't relatives.)

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I could race the pizza delivery guys down the street, though I'd lose every time.

I could send it to pick up my mail at the community mailbox, since Canada Post won't do it.

I could buzz the homes of my neighbours. I like them a lot, but it sure would be fun.

I could take "dronies," which the New York Times tells me are the airborne equivalents of selfies.

I could fly over the neighbourhood recycle boxes at night and snoop on what my neighbours put in them.

I could fly it above a Jays game when the dome's open, with a video feed.

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