The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 3:56 pm | Story:

The federal government wants to make it easier for consumers to choose healthy foods with front-of-package warnings on items that contain high levels of sodium, sugar or saturated fat — ingredients linked to chronic health problems like obesity, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Currently, consumers must check the nutrition facts table on the back of packages to see the sugar, sodium and saturated fat content.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is proposing to make it easier for people to identify foods high in those ingredients by requiring standardized, prominent warning symbols on the front of food packages.

The symbols will “provide a clear and easy-to-understand visual that will make choosing the healthier options the easier option for Canadians,” she told a news conference Friday.

“Having this information available at a glance will allow us to make healthy decisions in seconds and will benefit every, single Canadian.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said two-thirds of Canadian adults and one-third of kids are overweight, which puts them at higher risk of a range of chronic diseases.

“The reality is that these chronic diseases are largely preventable by not smoking, being physically active on a regular basis and by eating nutritious foods that are low in saturated fat, sugars and sodium, which is in salt,” she said.

Petitpas Taylor was accompanied at the news conference by representatives of health advocacy groups such as Diabetes Canada, Dieticians of Canada and the Canadian Public Health Association, as well as the Retail Council of Canada. They lauded the proposed warning labels.

“We’ve all heard the troubling news that, in Canada, diet-related factors are now the leading risk factor of death,” said Yves Savoie, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“Unfortunately, millions of Canadians are living with diet-related disease, taking a huge toll on our health and on our families, not to mention on our economy.”

Foods high in one or more of the three ingredients, but which are nevertheless considered beneficial to health, will be exempted from the new package labelling requirements, including whole and two-per-cent milk (but not chocolate milk), most vegetable oils and fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat, sugars or sodium.

Foods such as raw, single-ingredient meats and those sold at farmers’ markets and roadside stands will also be exempted, as will foods on which a warning symbol would be redundant, such as table sugar and salt, honey and maple syrup.

“If you’re buying a bag of sugar, I don’t think we need to say that it’s high in sugar,” said Petitpas Taylor.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 3:48 pm | Story:

The vigour that carried the Canadian labour market on its impressive run in 2017 hit a speed bump to start this year with its largest one-month job drop in nine years.

The economy lost 88,000 positions — all of them part time — in January for its biggest employment decline in a single month since 2009, Statistics Canada’s latest jobs survey revealed Friday.

The dip helped push the national unemployment rate up to 5.9 per cent, from a revised 5.8 per cent the previous month.

The decrease was driven by the loss of 137,000 part-time positions, including more than 59,000 in Ontario. It was the biggest one-month collapse in part-time work since the agency started gathering the data in 1976.

For Ontario, some experts raised the possibility of a link between the provincial drop and the introduction last month of a controversial minimum-wage hike.

To partially offset the declines, Statistics Canada said the economy added 49,000 full-time positions last month. The survey also detected stronger wage growth in January of 3.3 per cent, which also led some to point out possible connections to Ontario.

However, several experts made sure to note that before trying to draw conclusions from the January report, one should consider the well-known month-to-month volatility in the jobs figures.

“The Canadian economy experienced a very large setback in January … but it also needs to be kept in perspective — we had outstandingly strong job growth over the course of last year,” Craig Alexander, chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada, said in an interview.

“Quite frankly, we were overdue for a bad number.”

Despite Canada’s healthy economic performance last year, Alexander said the surprising pace of job creation had been stronger than the other data. He said the losses reported Friday brought the monthly jobs average more in line with the other economic numbers.

“I don’t think that the January number is the start of a whole series of declines — I think it’s more of a reflection of the fact that we were tracking abnormally strong numbers behind us,” Alexander said.

When it comes to the Bank of Canada’s possible reaction to the January report, Alexander noted the “bad number” could delay the timing of governor Stephen Poloz’s next rate hike. Poloz has repeatedly said future rate decisions will be highly data dependent.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 10:59 am | Story:

The union that represents WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots says it has filed an unfair labour practice complaint over the airline’s recruitment of pilots for Swoop, its new ultra-low-cost carrier slated to begin flying in June.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International, says it has applied to the Canada Industrial Relations Board for a “cease and desist” order.

It alleges WestJet Airlines Ltd. violated provisions of the Canada Labour Code by directly negotiating with pilots instead of the union over employment at Swoop, thus changing and ignoring well-established rules and policies. WestJet declined to comment on the labour board filing.

During a conference call on Tuesday, CEO Gregg Saretsky said he wants to allow pilots from WestJet and WestJet Encore to seek promotions to work at the new airline and that WestJet is negotiating with the union to maintain one seniority list for all of its pilots, thus allowing them to move from one brand to another without losing pay and seniority rights.

Swoop is to launch with three aircraft in June and grow to six by September and 10 by the spring of next year, eventually reaching 30 to 40 aircraft on domestic and international flights.

The union says it has also asked the federal labour minister to appoint a conciliation officer to help move along stalled negotiations with WestJet to conclude terms of its first contract. WestJet pilots voted to be represented by ALPA last year.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 9:48 am | Story:

Ontario shed 59,300 part-time jobs in January as the province implemented a $2.40 cent minimum wage hike at the start of the month.

Statistics Canada says the province shed 50,800 jobs total from December 2017, gaining 8,500 full-time positions but losing 59,300 part-time gigs.

That’s 46,100 fewer people in part-time posts in January 2018 than the same time the previous year — a 3.4 per cent drop.

The province hiked minimum wage by some 20 per cent to $14 per hour at the beginning of the year, a move some economists said could result in mass job losses as employers look to reduce costs.

The Conference Board of Canada’s chief economist Craig Alexander said in a note that while some may speculate the provincial employment drop could be related to the new minimum wage, there is a lot of volatility in job numbers and time will tell to what extent the two are correlated.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 9:30 am | Story:

Mexico’s chief NAFTA negotiator is brushing off the idea of breaking the three-country agreement into separate one-on-one deals.

Kenneth Smith Ramos is using Twitter to argue for the merits of a trilateral NAFTA.

He said that gives it strength.

He made the statement a day after a confusing sequence of events in the U.S. capital.

After a Capitol Hill meeting between U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and American lawmakers, one of them left the meeting and said Lighthizer floated the idea of two NAFTA negotiations: A quick one with Mexico and one later with Canada which Lighthizer described as more difficult.

After three other lawmakers refused to confirm or deny what Lighthizer said and he wouldn’t comment, his office eventually reiterated support for a three-country NAFTA.

The idea of separate negotiations appeared to hold little interest for Mexico in any case.

”The strength of NAFTA comes from its trilateral nature: a region working together in order to compete effectively with the rest of the world,” Smith Ramos tweeted Thursday.

”NAFTA has strengthened supply chains across (North America) in key sectors such as autos, aerospace, and (agriculture) among others, benefiting (all three countries).”

The U.S. is increasingly expressing frustration with Canada in the negotiations — not Mexico. While the southern neighbour was the original target of most complaints from the Trump administration, it’s been riled by the northern neighbour’s negotiating tactics.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 9, 2018 / 7:56 am | Story:

A U.S. tobacco leaf merchant has acquired majority stakes in a PEI licensed medical marijuana producer and a cannabis company that is developing indoor growing operations in Ontario.

Alliance One International Inc., based in North Carolina, says its subsidiary Canadian Cultivated Products acquired a 75 per cent equity position in Charlottetown-based Canada’s Island Garden last month.

The publicly held tobacco supplier says its subsidiary last month also acquired an 80 per cent stake in Goldleaf Pharm Inc., a medical marijuana license applicant which is building a roughly 1,850 square metre growing facility in Ontario.

Alliance One chief executive Pieter Sikkel says the acquisitions, for undisclosed amounts, are part of the company’s efforts to branch out into higher-margin, fast-growing agricultural products such as cannabis.

It marks another move by a U.S. company to tap the Canadian cannabis industry as the country prepares to legalize marijuana for recreational use later this year.

In October, Corona-beer maker Constellation Brands inked a deal to acquire a nearly 10 per cent stake in licensed medical marijuana producer Canopy Growth Corp. for $245 million.

Rob Gibson
Feb 9, 2018 / 7:10 am | Story:

The number of jobs in Canada fell by 88,000 in January to give the labour market its steepest one-month drop in nine years, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The overall number was dragged down by a loss of 137,000 part-time positions in what was easily the category’s largest one-month collapse since the agency started gathering the data in 1976.

Statistics Canada’s latest jobs survey said the net decline helped push the national unemployment rate up to 5.9 per cent in January, from a revised 5.8 per cent the previous month.

But on the other hand, the agency said the economy generated 49,000 full-time positions last month.

“Overall, a mysterious mix of good and bad, with the latter’s impact blunted by how strong job gains were in the lead-up to these figures,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a research note to clients.

Even with the overall decline in January, Canada has been on a strong run of job creation that has seen the country add 414,100 full-time jobs over a 12-month period. The growth represents an increase of 2.8 per cent.

Over that same period, the number of less desirable part-time positions declined by 125,400 or 3.5 per cent.

The January reading marked the end of a 13-month streak of job gains, however, about half of those positive numbers were within the survey’s margin of error.

A closer look at the numbers revealed that the number of paid employee positions also experienced a significant loss last month by shedding 112,000 positions.

By comparison, the number of people who identified as self-employed workers — often seen as a less desirable category that includes unpaid work in a family business — increased last month by 23,900.

B.C.’s unemployment rate was pegged at 4.8 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent the previous month.

In Kelowna, it was 6.5 per cent, up from 6.2 per cent a month earlier.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 8, 2018 / 3:57 pm | Story:

Three Canadian solar panel manufacturers have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the 30 per cent tariff it set on solar cell imports last month.

Ontario-based Silfab Solar Inc., Heliene Inc., and Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., along with U.S.-based distributor Canadian Solar (USA) Inc., filed the challenge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York on Wednesday.

The lawsuit claims that an investigation last year by the International Trade Commission found Canadian products don’t significantly hurt U.S. manufacturers and don’t account for much of the overall imports of solar cells to the country.

The companies state that the Commission made no recommendation of tariffs on Canadian solar cells, and that the imposition of them goes against rules in NAFTA.

The lawsuit claims that the tariffs, which the U.S. administration says was done to put American companies and jobs first, will inflict immediate, severe, and irreversible injuries to the companies.

The tariffs on solar cells, which are combined to create solar panels, have also been challenged by the EU, China, South Korea, and Taiwan at the World Trade Organization.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 8, 2018 / 12:57 pm | Story:

Major new energy projects will have to be assessed and either approved or denied within two years under a massive new national assessment bill being introduced in the House of Commons.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who tabled the 341-page Impact Assessment Act, says it will provide clarity and certainty about how the process works, what companies need to do, and why and how decisions are made.

Over $500 billion in major resource projects are planned across Canada in the next decade, McKenna told a news conference as she announced the new bill.

“These projects would mean tens of thousnds of well-paying jobs cross the country, and they would provide an economic boost for communities and our economy as a whole,” McKenna said.

“But we cannot get there without better rules to guide our decisions about resource development.”

McKenna accused her Liberal government’s Conservative predecessors of having “gutted” the environmental assessment process to the point of damaging public trust in the process almost to the point of no repair.

“Approvals were based on politics, rather than robust science,” McKenna said. “There were concerns that changes were putting our fish, our waterways and our communities at risk, and were not taking into account the climate impacts of projects.”

The ensuing pack of public trust resulted in “polarization and paralysis” that persists to this day, she noted.

Once the new law is passed, major projects will continue to be evaluated by a federally appointed review panel, but that would happen in concert with bodies such as the Canadian Energy Regulator — the new name of the current National Energy Board.

Smaller projects that have fewer assessment requirements will need to be decided on within 300 days, instead of the current 450.

All projects will be assessed not just for environmental impacts, but also for impacts on health, the economy, social issues, gender and Indigenous rights.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 8, 2018 / 12:01 pm | Story:

Rexall Pharmacy Group Ltd. says a naloxone kit is now available at each of its Canadian stores to help prevent opioid overdose deaths.

The company says it trained pharmacists to assist in assessing and responding to potential overdoses using naloxone.

Since December, Rexall says there has been a 150 per cent increase in the number of kits its pharmacists have dispensed.

The enhanced training also focused on enabling pharmacists to educate patients, family members and friends about the risks associated with opioids.

Prescriptions are not required to receive a naloxone kit.

Rexall has 446 locations in Canada.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 8, 2018 / 6:58 am | Story:

Twitter beat Wall Street’s cautious expectations with its first quarterly profit in history, but that isn’t going to solve the company’s broader problems any time soon.

The company isn’t alone in dealing with abuse, fake accounts and attempts by Russian agents to spread misinformation. But with its troubles compounded by a revolving door of executives and stagnant user growth, Twitter has been facing questions about just who’s minding the store. Every time Twitter tries to respond to a problem, it’s either not good enough, or some other problem emerges.

“They are playing whack-a-mole with these problems,” said Michael Connor, whose Open Mic group helps investors push tech companies to address privacy, abuse and other issues. “They say they have the problem under control, but they don’t know what the problem is exactly.”

User growth has stagnated at Twitter, even as President Donald Trump’s no-holds barred tweets have attracted plenty of attention to it from around the world. Twitter faces stiff competition for people’s attention from much bigger and more established rivals like Facebook along with younger services such as Snapchat and Instagram.

On Thursday, the company said it had an average of 330 million monthly active users in the final three months of last year, unchanged from the previous quarter and below Wall Street’s estimate of 333 million.

In some good news, the company grew revenue by 2 per cent to $732 million, above the $687 million that analysts polled by FactSet were expecting. Its net income — a first in the company’s nearly 12-year history — was $91 million, or 12 cents per share. Adjusted earnings were 19 cents, above analysts’ expectations of 14 cents. The company’s stock jumped 25 per cent in pre-market trading.

The quarter “was a breath of fresh air for investors that have patiently awaited for this turnaround story to manifest after years of pain,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.

The Canadian Press –
Feb 8, 2018 / 6:56 am | Story:

A new study suggests nearly 90 per cent of Canadian organizations suffered at least one security breach last year and sensitive data was exposed almost half of the time.

The survey found that one in five breaches was classified as “high impact” because sensitive customer or employee information was exposed.

The report was done by IDC Canada for Scalar Decisions Inc., a Toronto-based IT services company that has issued similar reports since 2015.

It was based on a survey of 420 people with on-the-job responsibility for cybersecurity in their organizations.

The 2018 report estimates that almost 87 per cent of Canadian companies suffered at least one successful breach and 41 per cent had sensitive data stolen last year.

It also estimates that a breach costs $3.7 million, on average, in terms of network down time, employee work days, lost files and compromised information.

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