Investigating sales tactics and condos rush to ban weed: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

Investigating sales tactics and condos rush to ban weed: CBC's Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

Telecom sales tactics

Have you ever felt pressured by employees selling TV, internet and wireless services? The CRTC is inviting you to raise your complaints online or at a public hearing starting Oct. 22. Earlier this year, our hidden camera investigation captured misleading sales tactics used by a company selling Bell services door to door. Since then, hundreds of customers have reached out about not receiving what a salesperson promised.

More from Marketplace: Misleading sales tactics for Bell services.

The Bay drops Ivanka Trump

You won’t find Ivanka Trump’s dresses at the Bay for that much longer. The company will be dropping the clothing line from its department stores and has already removed the brand from its website. HBC didn’t say whether an ongoing boycott against stores carrying Trump family products factored into its decision, but said it pulled the line due to lack of sales.

Condos rush to ban weed

If you plan on smoking at home after weed is legalized, you might be out of luck if you live in a condo or apartment. Across the country, condo boards are scrambling to enact rules banning pot smoking inside units, on balconies and in common areas. The new rules could pit a medicinal pot smoker against a neighbour who complains about contamination of their living space.

Condominium corporations and apartment buildings across the country are rushing to enact rules that would ban pot smoking inside units, on balconies and in common areas. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Extra fee on cellphone bills

If you have a cellphone plan with Bell, Rogers or Telus, you might want to look a little closer at your wireless bill. The system access fee — typically $6.95 — was dropped by the big three in 2009 after facing competition from new providers who didn’t charge it. But customers who didn’t migrate to a new plan still pay it. A class-action lawsuit alleges companies misled customers into thinking the fee was a government charge.

More from Marketplace: How to get a better plan (2016). 

What else is going on?

U.S. beer drinkers pay more as aluminum tariffs hit cans. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum are raising prices for a range of Wisconsin-made goods that use metal for product containers.

Can greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by making cows and other animals less gassy? Livestock are responsible for about 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and scientists are trying to breed animals that burp less, adjusting diets so they produce less methane.

The last U.S. Blockbuster thrives on great customer service. The owners of the Bend, Ore., location haven’t updated their hardware since the ’90s — including a computer system that uses floppy disks.

What should we investigate next?

Our TV season has wrapped until the fall. Miss an episode? Watch Marketplace investigations on demand here. We are busy working on new stories and want to hear from you. What do you think we should investigate next? Email us at marketplace@cbc.ca.



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CMHC moves to make it easier for self-employed to get a mortgage

CMHC moves to make it easier for self-employed to get a mortgage

Self-employed Canadians seeking to buy a home may soon find it easier to secure a mortgage after changes announced by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

CMHC said self-employed people make up about 15 per cent of Canada’s population, but they may have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage because their incomes may vary or be less predictable.

Changes unveiled last week by the federal mortgage insurance agency are aimed at giving lenders more guidance and flexibility when it comes to self-employed borrowers.

In the changes, CMHC said several factors could be used in future to support a lender’s decision to give a mortgage to self-employed borrowers who have been operating their business for less than two years or have been in the same line of work for less than two years. 

CMHC said those factors could include things such as: 

  • Acquisition of an established business.
  • Sufficient cash reserves.
  • Predictable earnings.
  • Previous training and education.

CMHC said that previously, those types of applications could be accepted, providing that a “solid rationale” was noted in the lender’s loan file.

Document options

Additionally, the housing agency also laid out a broader range of document options that could be used to satisfy income and employment requirements to qualify self-employed borrowers for a loan.

When the changes take effect on Oct. 1, those documents will include such things as a notice of assessment accompanied by a T1 General tax form, a proof of income statement from the Canada Revenue Agency, and a form T2125, which is a statement of business or professional activities. 

“These policy changes respond to that reality by making it easier for self-employed borrowers to obtain CMHC mortgage loan insurance and benefit from competitive interest rates,” said Romy Bowers, the agency’s chief commercial officer, in a statement.

Borrowers who have a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the value of the property they’re buying are required to obtain mortgage insurance.

Cynthia Holmes, chair of the real estate management department at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said the main challenge facing self-employed potential mortgage borrowers today is income documentation, adding that the changes announced seem to increase the flexibility in what lenders can accept.

Young self-employed people

Holmes said she is particularly pleased that CMHC is signalling that they will be more flexible when it comes to potential self-employed mortgage borrowers who have been operating their businesses for less than two years.

“This change could especially help young self-employed people access a mortgage more quickly, which supports innovation and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Mortgage comparison website RateSpy.com said the new changes from CMHC will apply to self-employed borrowers who:

  • Have a down payment of less than 20 per cent and require high-ratio default insurance.
  • Have a down payment of more than 20 per cent and are using a lender that insured all of its mortgages.
  • Are switching to a lender that insured all of its mortgages.

RateSpy.com also pointed out that other mortgage default insurers, including Genworth Canada and Canada Guaranty, have programs for self-employed borrowers.

“These insurers have long allowed more liberal proof of income,” such as more flexible documentation requirements, RateSpy said in an online post. 

“But, unlike CMHC, Genworth and Canada Guaranty require the borrower to have been in business for at least two years, in order to benefit from this flexibility.”



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Edmonton man charged in $5.5 million Ponzi scheme

Edmonton man charged in $5.5 million Ponzi scheme

Edmonton police say they have uncovered a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme involving hundreds of fraudulent mortgage loans. 

Police allege Timothy Carruthers facilitated 257 fraudulent bridge mortgage loans worth a total of $5.5 million between January 2009 and June 2017.

Timothy Carruthers used the company name Wakina Consulting Inc. to carry out an alleged ponzi scheme valued at $5.5 million.

The fraud investigations unit charged the 59-year-old with 22 counts of fraud over $5,000 following a two-year investigation.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

According to police, Carruthers posed as a lender, using the company Wakina Consulting Inc., and was able to convince the investors the loans were legitimate by using publicly available land title documents.

“Typically, people who are capable of committing frauds at this level understand the business, so it makes them very believable,” said Det. Linda Herczeg of the fraud investigations unit.

Investors were promised monthly interest payments and administration fees on loans that the real homeowners had never actually taken out with Wakina Consulting. The homeowners, meanwhile, had no idea their information was being used, according to police.

The website for Wakina Consulting Inc., preserved in internet archives but no longer searchable, claims to have offered financial planning services for more than 30 years. The website lists an address located in the Morin Industrial area, in west Edmonton. 

The archived entries go back to 2003 and list several associates with the company, including a Tim Carruthers.

There are no entries for nearly five years but they reappear in January 2010, a year after alleged frauds began.

Those entries don’t list any associates, with one exception. An archived entry from June 20, 2010, includes a biography for a Tim Carruthers.

“Tim has provided personal finance and tax advice since 1984 and he established an advice-only financial planning practice in 1997,” the website reads.

“He assists clients in a wide variety of financial circumstances and has extensive experience with senior executives, families, trusts and estates,” it continues.

A Ponzi scheme is when a person lures investors into financing their project, in this case a bridge mortgage loan, and pays profits to earlier investors using money they received from later investors.

The particular scheme allegedly started to unravel when an investor did not receive the money they were promised. The investor then started looking into the contact and uncovered fraudulent documentation, police allege, which they brought to the attention of the authorities.

Bernie Budney, president of Best Rate Mortgage Corporation, said professional investors would usually ask for more than just publicly available documents before financing a bridge loan.

“They really had to place their trust in this individual to just go with what he was saying,” Budney said, after reviewing the media release.

Police said the investors don’t fit one profile and include businesses, couples and individuals.

The police believe Carruthers may have defrauded others and are asking anyone with additional complaints to come forward.



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Fiat Chrysler chooses Jeep exec Mike Manley to replace ailing CEO Marchionne

Fiat Chrysler chooses Jeep exec Mike Manley to replace ailing CEO Marchionne

Fiat Chrysler Automobile announced Saturday that CEO Sergio Marchionne’s health had suddenly deteriorated following surgery and that its board of directors had chosen Jeep executive Mike Manley to replace him.

Marchionne, a 66-year-old Italian-Canadian, joined Fiat in 2004 and led the Turin-based company’s merger with bankrupt U.S. carmaker Chrysler. Manley, 54, had been heading the Jeep brand since June 2009 and the Ram brand from October 2015.

The announcement, at the end of an urgently convened board meeting, marked the end of the Marchionne era, which included the turnaround of failing Fiat, the takeover of bankrupt U.S. automaker Chrysler and the spinoffs of the heavy machinery and truck maker CNH and supercar maker Ferrari.

Fiat Chrysler said in a statement that due to his deteriorating health Marchionne “will be unable to return to work.”

Marchionne, 66, had already announced he would step down in early 2019, so the board’s decision, to be confirmed at an upcoming shareholders’ meeting, will “accelerate” the CEO transition process, the statement said.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, is seen with Jeep brand President and CEO Mike Manley at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant, in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

The British-born Manley had been one of Marchionne’s closest collaborators at the group, and in a previous role had been responsible for product planning and all sales activities outside of North America.

Marchionne was reported to have had surgery for a shoulder problem about three weeks ago in Switzerland.

Fiat is considered a close-knit family, and FCA chairman John Elkann said he was “profoundly saddened to learn of Sergio’s state of health. It was a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a sense of injustice.”

Elkann didn’t give details of Marchionne’s health problems, adding that his “first thoughts go to Sergio and his family.” He asked everyone to respect Marchionne’s “privacy and that of all those who are dear to him.”

Elkann is a grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli, the longtime Fiat dynasty chieftain.

The boards of Ferrari and CNH Industrial, which makes heavy machinery and trucks, were called urgently to meet on Saturday in Turin, Fiat’s headquarters.

Ferrari announced that Louis Camilleri, an Egyptian-board Maltese and longtime executive at Philip Morris International, the tobacco company, was chosen to replace Marchionne as CEO of the sports car maker. 

A Fiat Chrysler sign is seen outside the Chrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., in this file photo. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

Known for sleeping only briefly each night, Marchionne, who is also a lawyer, was holding multiple leadership roles in the companies, notably as CEO of FCA — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as well as CEO and chairman of Ferrrari.

In early June, Marchionne made his last major presentation as CEO of Fiat Chrysler. On that occasion he announced there would be a major investment thrust to make more electrified cars, although traditional engines will continue to dominate production. He unveiled FCA’s plans through 2022.

Brands that have been driving the company’s revenues include Jeep SUVs, Ram trucks and the premium brands, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Those brands were expected to account for 80 per cent of revenues by 2022, compared to 65 per cent currently.

The passenger-car brands of Fiat and Chrysler have been less profitable.

At the June appearance, Marchionne also predicted Fiat was about to eliminate its debt.

Next corporate results are set to be released on July 25.



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IMF warns G20 that tariffs will harm global economy as Trump threatens escalation

IMF warns G20 that tariffs will harm global economy as Trump threatens escalation

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned world economic leaders on Saturday that a recent wave of trade tariffs would significantly harm global growth, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened a major escalation in his dispute with China.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she would present the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Buenos Aires with a report detailing the impacts of the restrictions already announced on global trade.

“It certainly indicates the impact that it could have on GDP [gross domestic product], which in the worst case scenario under current measures … is in the range of 0.5 per cent of GDP on a global basis,” Lagarde said at a joint news conference with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne.

In the briefing note prepared for G20 ministers, the IMF said global growth may peak at 3.9 per cent in 2018 and 2019, while downside risks have increased due to the growing trade conflict.

Her warning came shortly after the top U.S. economic official, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, told reporters in the Argentine capital there was no “macroeconomic” effect yet on the U.S., the world’s largest economy.

Long-simmering trade tensions have burst into the open in recent months, with the United States and China — the world’s No. 2 economy — slapping tariffs on $34 billion US worth of each other’s goods so far.

More tariffs coming?

The weekend meeting in Buenos Aires comes amid a dramatic escalation in rhetoric on both sides. Trump on Friday threatened tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese exports to the United States.

Mnuchin will try to rally G7 allies over the weekend to join the United States in more aggressive action against China, but they may be reluctant to co-operate because of U.S. tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union and Canada, which prompted retaliatory measures.

The last G20 finance meeting in Buenos Aires in late March ended with no firm agreement by ministers on trade policy except for a commitment to “further dialogue.”

U.S. President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017. The U.S. and China have slapped tariffs on $34 billion US worth of each other’s goods so far. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would use the meeting to advocate for a rules-based trading system, but that expectations were low.

“I don’t expect tangible progress to be made at this meeting,” Scholz told reporters on the plane to Buenos Aires.

The U.S. tariffs will cost Germany up to 20 billion euros ($23.44 billion) in income this year, according to the head of German think-tank IMK.

Hope of restraint

Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said he hoped the debate at the G20 gathering would lead to an easing of retaliatory trade measures.

“Trade protectionism benefits no one involved,” he said. “I think restraint will eventually take hold.”

Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday that he has not seen a macroeconomic impact from the U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum and Chinese goods, along with retaliation from trading partners.

But he said there have been microeconomic effects on individual businesses, adding that the administration was closely monitoring these and looking at ways to help U.S. farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs.

The U.S. dollar fell the most in three weeks on Friday against a basket of six major currencies after Trump complained again about the greenback’s strength and about Federal Reserve interest rate rises, halting a rally that had driven the dollar to its highest level in a year.



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Aeroplan wants to be your rewards program and travel agent. Will it work?

Aeroplan wants to be your rewards program and travel agent. Will it work?

Aeroplan wants to be more than your rewards program; it also aims to serve as your travel agent.

The program announced its ambitious plans this week, which include offering charter flights to sun destinations, opportunities to book travel with cash while earning points, and the ability to transfer miles to other loyalty programs.

Most of the changes won’t take place until 2020 — when Aeroplan loses its marquee partner, Air Canada.

The program had no choice but to reinvent itself to make up for the loss, but questions remain precisely how its transformation will appeal to members, many of whom are still trying to decide if they should stay put or take their loyalties elsewhere.

‘We’ll have to wait almost two years now to see what will actually happen,’ says Alberta financial writer and Aeroplan memeber Robb Engen. (Submitted by Robb Engen)

“They’re saying all the right things,” said financial writer and Aeroplan member Robb Engen in Lethbridge, Alta.

“The proof is in the pudding, and we’ll have to wait almost two years now to see what will actually happen.”

Come fly with me

When Air Canada departs in 2020 to set up its own rival rewards program, Aeroplan will lose access to deeply discounted seats with the airline.

So it has hatched a plan to buy up seats on flights with select airlines at a discount. It will offer them to members as flight-only or package deals to popular vacation destinations.

‘We know where people like to travel and when,’ says Jeremy Rabe, CEO of Aeroplan’s parent company, Aimia. (Aeroplan)

“We’re going to be contracting with different airlines fully dedicated to charter operations, which means that the whole plane is basically available for Aeroplan,” said Jeremy Rabe, CEO of the program’s parent company, Aimia.

“Most folks wouldn’t venture to do something like that because it’s way too risky.”

Calgary airline consultant Rick Erickson agrees it’s risky.

Aeroplan also plans to purchase blocks of seats for some flights, which Erickson believes is a smart move for a program looking to boost its offerings. But he says the stakes are raised when buying all the seats on an airline’s flight before members have opted to book them.

“To have to enter into the contract with all of their hard costs and be responsible for that?” he said. “That’s a risk.”

Rabe says Aeroplan has an advantage because, with five million active members, it will be able to figure out what flights will be hot sellers.

“We know where people like to travel and when,” he said. “That’s why we think it’s a good strategy for us.”

Who are you flying with?

Aeroplan also plans to let members pay for their chosen flights, hotels and car rentals with cash instead of miles, an option that will earn them more points.

But the big questions for many members are: Who will fill Air Canada’s void, and will they get the same value for their miles?

Aeroplan says members will be able to book with any airline come 2020, but score better deals (as they do now with Air Canada) with new partner airlines that have yet to be announced.

Aeroplan member and frequent flyer Iftekhar Islam on vacation with his wife Tasnuva Afrin in Singapore. (Submitted by Iftekhar Islam)

Iftekhar Islam, an Aeroplan member and frequent flyer, says he can’t commit to staying with the program until he gets some names.

“I need to see their partnerships, their airline partnerships, really important to me,” said Islam, who lives in Toronto.

He’s sitting on about 100,000 miles and was glad to see that Aeroplan promises the miles required for most flight redemptions with partner airlines will stay the same.

But Islam worries the cost will eventually go up if the program fails to score agreements with some big-name airlines.

“I still don’t know how they’re going to continue providing those redemption rates if they don’t have a contract to back that up.”

​Rabe maintains Aeroplan is committed to keeping rates stable for close to 95 per cent of its flight redemptions.

As for prospective partners, he says that’s in the works.

“Those are conversations we’re kind of actively having with a variety of airlines.”

Fluid points

Come 2020, Aeroplan will also allow members to transfer their miles for use in close to 20 airline frequent flyer programs. That will give members even more flight and hotel options.

Financial writer Engen warns there may be a price for that flexibility.

“Will the conversion rates be attractive?” he said. “Will [an Aeroplan mile] only be worth half a British Airways mile?”

Regardless of what Aeroplan offers, Engen says whether members stay on board will largely depend upon what kind of value they can offer travellers in 2020.

Islam agrees, and says he’s still undecided if Aeroplan will be a rewarding program for him when Air Canada departs.

“It looks promising,” he said. “I still think I need more information.”



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Higher crude prices and weaker loonie could offer provinces royalty windfall

Higher crude prices and weaker loonie could offer provinces royalty windfall

Resurgent oil prices this year could deliver three provinces unexpected windfalls — and maybe improved political fortunes — if crude stays strong.

Sagging prices have weighed heavily on resource-based economies in recent years, putting the squeeze on provincial budgets that rely on petroleum revenues.  

But with oil prices tracking higher than expected this year, a new analysis from BMO Capital Markets says Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador, could each see gains in royalty revenues.

A soft Canadian dollar, which traditionally trades higher when energy prices climb, is providing a further lift.

“For those three provinces, it’s a pretty big help,” BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic said in an interview.

“Because oil is doing what it’s doing, we’re seeing a lot more level playing field in terms of economic growth across the country.”

Rebounding oil prices could help Saskatchewan shrink its budget deficit. (Don Pittis, CBC)

Despite recent turbulence, oil prices are much improved over last year when an oil glut dampened crude prices. Oil prices have been bolstered by to a strong U.S. economy, supply disruptions in Venezuela, and geopolitical concerns in other oil-producing countries, including Iran.

On Friday, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil, the North American benchmark, closed at $68.26 cents  US. Brent crude, the world benchmark, was trading over $72 US on Friday.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador each budgeted more conservatively in their assumptions of where crude prices would go.

Alberta budgeted for an average oil price of $59 US per barrel WTI, while Saskatchewan anticipated $58. Newfoundland’s budget anticipated $63 US for Brent crude.

For every $1 rise in average oil prices for the year, there is corresponding jump in provincial revenues.

In Newfoundland’s case, for every $1 increase in the price of oil, the provincial coffers could jump by $23 million, according to the report.

This would be a “much needed positive” for the province, which faces a $683-million deficit this year “despite a wave of aggressive tax and restraint measures,” Kavcic wrote in his analysis.

He suggested if oil prices hold, the province’s shortfall could be chopped by roughly a third.

BMO’s report assumes WTI prices will average around $67 US a barrel for the fiscal year.

Those kind of prices would be a big help in Saskatchewan, which budgeted a projected $365-million budget deficit in 2018-19. 

Improving oil prices, as well as potash, could contribute up to $220 million in additional revenues, the report said. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley could see an additional $3 billion added to her province’s bottom line if oil prices remain robust. (Mike Symington/CBC)

But the biggest impact could be in Alberta where every $1 US change from the projected oil price represents a $265 million adjustment to Alberta’s bottom line.

If Alberta crude isn’t hit with unexpected transportation bottlenecks — like last year — and the loonie’s weaker forecast holds, Kavcic said the province could be looking at about $3 billion of upside.

Those revenues, if realized, could be applied against Alberta’s forecast deficit of $8.8 billion.

“That said, the boost from prices could be partly offset by the outage at Syncrude, and any desire to ramp up program spending in-year,” Kavcic wrote.

“Alberta has an election coming in 2019 and, while we won’t speculate on political strategy, this could be taken as an opportunity to rebuild fiscal credibility in a province that has historically been the most conservative in Canada.”

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said it won’t be easy.

Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has been attacking the government’s handling of the economy and Albertans’ minds may be hard to change — even with some positive fiscal news next year.

“There’s a good news story for the NDP to tell here,” Bratt said.

“The question is whether the swing voters over the last three years have just given up on any credibility from the NDP. That’s the challenge that they’ve got.”



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Teamsters members at CP Rail ratify new contract

CP Rail second-quarter profit hurt by disruptions related to labour strife

Unionized conductors and locomotive engineers at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. have voted in favour of a new four-year collective agreement.

Members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents about 3,000 workers at CP, voted 64.7 per cent to ratify the new contract.

The Teamsters said that under the new deal workers will be able to book 48-hour rest periods three times a month instead of twice. The union said the deal also includes improved rest provisions for yard employees.

The deal also includes a nine per cent pay increase over its term, and addresses equity issues, along with improvements to work rules and benefits, the Teamsters said.

 “Workers won a fair deal from CP,”  said Doug Finnson, president of the TCRC, said Friday.

“Moving forward, we hope to continue working with the company to improve job conditions and ease labour relations,” Finnson said in a release.

In May, the unionized workers went on strike for just a couple of days before the union and the railway reached a deal with the assistance of federal mediators.

Approximately 25 workers of the Kootenay Valley Railway also ratified a five-year agreement by a vote of 91.7 per cent in favour. 

Both of the contracts run until Dec. 31, 2021.

“Achieving a four-year agreement provides certainty and stability for not only employees at CP, but for customers, shareholders, and the broader economy,” said CP president and CEO Keith Creel in a statement.

Earlier this week, CP said that service interruptions related to labour negotiations and strike notices knocked down its net income by 10 per cent in the second quarter.



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Provinces agree to raise personal exemption for interprovincial booze sales

Provinces agree to raise personal exemption for interprovincial booze sales

The amount of liquor individuals can bring across a provincial boundary for personal use is set to at least double, following a deal struck at the Council of the Federation meetings late Thursday evening in Saint Andrews, N.B.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant told reporters that premiers discussed the deal on Friday morning, and had agreed to “significantly increase personal use exemption limits,” although the news release subsequently handed out by officials did not specify the size of the increase.

“We will be, over the next few weeks and months, clarifying, each and every province and territory, what that will mean for them,” he said.

“But there is a clear willingness to have a significant increase when it comes to what Canadians are able to import.”

CBC News was briefed on the agreement by a source speaking on condition of anonymity. The source said that exact numbers were removed from the release at the last minute, but the deal worked out the night before still stands.

The release left open the possibility that some provinces may go beyond the deal and eliminate their limits entirely.

Limits vary across Canada

Canada’s provinces and territories, which have jurisdiction over the sale of alcohol, formed a working group on alcoholic beverages last year after they were unable to agree on how to liberalize liquor sales before the rest of the text of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement took effect last summer.

That working group reported back earlier this month and made seven recommendations, including the doubling of the personal exemption limit that sets how much beer, wine and spirits an individual can transport across a provincial boundary for his or her own consumption.

Currently, two provinces, Alberta and Manitoba, have no limits whatsoever. The rest have a confusing array of restrictions and limits.

Three jurisdictions — New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland and Labrador — have very low limits, making it illegal to cross a provincial boundary with anything but small amounts of liquor.

In the remaining eight jurisdictions, the personal exemption limits are similar, usually:

  • Nine litres of wine (or a standard case).
  • Three litres of spirits.
  • 24.6 litres of beer (or three standard cases of 24). 

Under the deal hammered out late Thursday evening between provincial officials, these limits will at least double, to:

  • 18 litres of wine (or two cases).
  • six litres of spirits.
  • 49.2 litres of beer (six standard cases of 24).

In the three jurisdictions that have lower exemptions to start, their limits will rise to the level of the other eight provinces and territories, meaning the change is more dramatic for those three.

Yukon, N.L. reluctant

Premiers considered these recommendations during their meetings on economic and trade issues Thursday.

But they were unable to reach a deal during the day. New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, the chair and host of this year’s summer premiers meeting, told reporters late afternoon that a deal was close, but more work remained.

That work unfolded through the evening. Sources from at least two provinces have confirmed to CBC News that Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador were the holdouts.

As a province with a very low limit, Newfoundland and Labrador would be making a large shift to sign on to the doubling proposal.

In Yukon’s case, this negotiation came at a difficult time: the territory is in the process of modernizing its liquor act, and it had significant social responsibility concerns that could be exacerbated by making it easier to bring alcohol into the territory.

Some liquor control boards had warned provincial governments of potential lost sales and tax revenue if it becomes easier to shop across provincial and territorial boundaries.

Gallant acknowledged there could be revenue impacts, but suggested that raising the limits could also contribute to economic growth, if it becomes easier to sell a province’s products in other places.

The Canadian wine industry has argued that when wine sales have been liberalized in some provinces, more wine has been sold.

Manitoba, whose premier, Brian Pallister, appeared on CBC News Network Thursday morning holding a can of beer and endorsing change, was insistent that Canada’s liquor trade be more free. Pallister wrote to his fellow premiers before the meeting began to lobby for a decision when they met this week.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister speaks with CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau ahead of the Council of the Federation talks in New Brunswick 4:48

Gallant was also keen to make a breakthrough this week, in order to be able to show tangible progress on an interprovincial trade issue he’d identified as a priority. 

Although New Brunswick took one of its residents all the way to the Supreme Court to argue in favour of its jurisdiction over setting liquor limits, the current Liberal government is not opposed to liquor sales liberalization per se.

Gallant said he has no problem with raising limits, but provincial officials advised proceeding with the court case to defend New Brunswick’s jurisdiction to regulate in this area.

The working group presented another option to the premiers: eliminating all limits whatsoever, as Manitoba and Alberta have already done voluntarily. But this option was not endorsed by everyone, so the other option of doubling the limits was embraced.

The other six recommendations set to be adopted are neither prescriptive nor controversial, and will have fewer practical consequences for consumers. They’re a call to “improve information and transparency in pricing and listing practices and enhance e-commerce platforms within local markets,” according to the release circulated Friday. 

“Premiers directed ministers to consider options to increase consumer choice and access to alcoholic beverages, and ensure any proposed changes be done in a socially and fiscally responsible way.”

The recommendations do not affect online direct-to-consumer sales, the restrictions for which remain unchanged. Some provinces may act in this area in the future, Gallant suggested.

This move also does not apply to businesses with commercial liquor licenses, which have their own separate sets of rules.

In Thursday night’s deal, provinces and territories have agreed to amend their necessary legislation or regulations within 18 months, meaning that by 2020 it should be easier for Canadian consumers to browse for booze across interprovincial borders.

‘Twin Towers’ in charge

Gallant also outlined four priority areas raised many times before as regulatory barriers on which premiers would like “immediate and meaningful action” taken:

  • Occupational health and safety, including different requirements for first aid kits across Canada.
  • Transport regulations, including trucking rules that are barriers to competition and efficient trade.
  • Abbatoir licensing rules, which do not allow provincially inspected meat to cross interprovincial borders.
  • Business registration requirements, which mean companies have to do separate paperwork for each jurisdiction in which they operate.

All of these areas have been identified as requiring urgent action ever since the text of the CFTA was released in the spring of 2017. Gallant could not identify anything that had happened on these files in the months since.

Two premiers, Manitoba’s Brian Pallister and Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil, have been asked to lead future discussion between provincial and territorial trade ministers of more action items by this fall.

Gallant nicknamed them the “twin towers” of the process, because both premiers are very tall in height.

“Donald Trump is wanting to erect a wall between us and our strongest trading partner — and theirs,” Pallister said.

“These premiers took positive steps in the last couple of days … and we have been working together for months to make sure we take those walls down inside our country.”

At an event in Markham, Ont., on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We very much welcome the movement by provinces on internal trade. While we are signing great trade deals around the world that are great for our citizens, it’s really important that within Canada we have the same open trade and partnerships that we get to have elsewhere around the world.”

As the premiers requested Thursday, Trudeau will host a first ministers meeting this fall focused on trade, something he said was very important to him personally.

Newly sworn-in Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc “will lead the charge on this,” Trudeau said.



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Japan resumes Canadian wheat imports after suspension

Japan resumes Canadian wheat imports after suspension

Ottawa says Japan has ended its temporary suspension of Canadian wheat imports.

Japan had halted shipments after some unauthorized genetically modified wheat was found in southern Alberta.

Ottawa says the decision marks an end to all international trade actions arising from the discovery on June 14.

South Korea resumed shipments late last month.

Modified wheat is not approved for commercial use in Canada.

The Canadian government says the unauthorized wheat was not present in the food or animal feed system, or anywhere other than where it was discovered.

The full statement from the Government of Canada is below: 

“The Government of Canada welcomes the decision by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture to lift the temporary suspension on imports of Canadian wheat, following its own thorough scientific testing of Canadian wheat shipments.

The decision by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, and the already-announced decision by South Korea on June 26, 2018 to resume shipments, reaffirms the excellent quality and consistency of Canadian wheat.

This marks an end to all international trade actions arising from Canada’s announcement of an isolated discovery of unauthorized genetically modified wheat in southern Alberta on June 14, 2018.

Based on extensive scientific testing at that time, the Government of Canada concluded that this unauthorized wheat is not present in the food or animal feed system, or anywhere other than the isolated site where it was discovered. Officials worked quickly and collaboratively with Japanese authorities to provide the necessary information to secure this positive outcome.

Canada is a safe and reliable global supplier of wheat. Canadian wheat production in 2017 was 30 million tonnes across an area of 22 million acres, making it one of the largest field crops in Canada. Canadian exports of wheat globally are valued at approximately $6.6 billion annually.”


With files from CBC Calgary



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