U.K. will allow Huawei to play a role in building its 5G networks

U.K. will allow Huawei to play a role in building its 5G networks

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday granted Chinese telecom giant Huawei a limited role in Britain’s 5G mobile network, resisting U.S. pressure to exclude the company from next generation communications based on fears China could use it to steal secrets.

In the biggest test of his post-Brexit foreign policy to date, Johnson ruled that “high-risk vendors” would be allowed into the “non-sensitive” parts of 5G networks, but their involvement would be capped at 35 per cent.

They would be excluded from the sensitive core of networks, where data is processed, and banned from all critical networks and sensitive locations such as nuclear sites and military bases, the government said.

The decision will dismay U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which has said it fears China could use Huawei to steal secrets. The U.S. had warned that if London gave Huawei a role then it could scale back intelligence co-operation.

5G is one of the biggest innovations since the birth of the internet a generation ago, offering consumers and businesses much faster data speeds.

‘U.K.-specific solution’

“This is a U.K.-specific solution for U.K.-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now,” British Communications Secretary Nicky Morgan said following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Johnson.

Huawei was not mentioned by name in the British government’s statement, but British cyber security officials said they had always treated the company as a “high risk” vendor.

The White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond for a request to comment.

Prior to the decision, Beijing had warned that blocking the company would hurt Chinese investment.

“Huawei is reassured by the U.K. government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” said company vice-president Victor Zhang on Tuesday. 

“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the U.K. access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market,” he said. 

Sources told Reuters last week senior British officials had proposed granting Huawei a limited role in the 5G network — a “calculated compromise” which could be presented to Washington as a tough restriction but also accepted by British operators already using the company’s equipment.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecom equipment, said the United States wants it blocked from Britain’s 5G network because no U.S. company can offer the same range of technology at a competitive price.

Canada still undecided on Huawei

The British government’s move leaves Canada as the only nation within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network that has not made a decision on whether or not to make Huawei part of its 5G network plans.

Canada is grappling with its strained relationship with the Chinese government, as the first phase of extradition hearings for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou concluded last week and two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — remain detained in China. 

Huawei’s equipment is already used by Britain’s biggest telecom companies such as BT and Vodafone, but it has been largely deployed at the “edge” of the network and excluded in the “core” where data is processed.

The United States has argued that as 5G technology evolves, the distinction between the “edge” and “core” will blur as data is processed throughout the network, making it difficult to contain any security risks.


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Canada, U.K. discussing how to pay for Prince Harry and Meghan’s security costs: minister

Canada, U.K. discussing how to pay for Prince Harry and Meghan's security costs: minister

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said today that the RCMP and security officials in the United Kingdom are discussing how best to protect Prince Harry and Meghan while they live here in Canada — and who ultimately will foot the bill for their security.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Blair said Canada is dealing with an “unprecedented situation” that will see Harry and Meghan step away from active royal life in Britain to settle in North America.

“I know this is an issue of discussion for many Canadians,” Blair said. “Discussions are taking place between our security officials in the RCMP and security officials in the U.K. as it relates to security obligations and how most appropriately to cover these security costs.”

So far, the government has refused to say whether the RCMP has been consulting its British equivalents on the matter. Before today, the official line was that the Mounties were not protecting the couple while in Canada.

Blair’s answer came in response to a question from Bloc Québécois MP Christine Normandin.

She said while it’s “none of our business” whether Harry and Meghan take up residence in Canada, “what is our business is who will pay for their security. Can the minister reassure us that Quebecers will not have to pay for the security of this royal couple?” 

Blair didn’t say for certain whether Canadians would have to pay. Cost estimates for this type of security vary widely from $1.7 million a year to a figure many times that amount.

“There have been no decisions at this time. The ongoing security and threat assessments are taking place,” Blair said.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have said they will stop receiving public funds from British taxpayers through the Sovereign Grant after they leave their official duties behind, but the issue of who will pay their ongoing security costs has not been settled.

The couple draw a yearly stipend from Harry’s father, Prince Charles, through the privately owned farm and land operation, the Duchy of Cornwall.

According to British tabloid reports, Meghan has been spotted in B.C. alongside protection officers from the London Metropolitan Police, the agency tasked with royal security. The couple have been staying at a mansion north of Victoria with their young son, Archie.

Blair said last week certain individuals, such as heads of state and members of the Royal Family, are considered “internationally protected persons (IPP)” under the UN Protection of Diplomats Convention, which obliges Canada to provide a certain level of security.

The definition of an IPP, according to the Criminal Code, is limited to the Queen and other members of the Royal Family who “[accompany] that person in a state other than the state in which that person holds that position or office.”

But because Harry and Meghan essentially have renounced their royal titles, Blair said their status is in question.

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Stock markets slide lower as coronavirus fears spread

Stock markets slide lower as coronavirus fears spread

Stock markets fell on Monday morning as concerns over a new strain of coronavirus emanating out of China spread around the world, infecting major indexes with fears that the contagion could leave the global economy feeling ill.

The virus, which has so far infected at least 2,700 people and killed 81 of them, seems to have emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan, China before spreading around the world. Canada confirmed its second presumptive case of the virus on Monday morning, in the wife of the man who is the first such case, who is currently in isolation at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

The city’s stock market is not immune to fears over the potential impact of the virus as the S&P/TSX composite index was down 147.89 points at 17,417.45. That’s a decline of almost one per cent.

Companies related to travel and tourism were among the hardest hit, with Air Canada shares down more than six per cent to $44.38. Air Canada shares have lost ground for five days in a row now, a timeline that begins when the first cases outside China were confirmed.

“Entering the new trading week, investors appear to be reading this as a still-worsening situation with uncertainty over its impact on business growing,” said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist with SIA Wealth Management in Toronto.

U.S. stock markets fared even worse, as the Dow Jones industrial average was down 455 points or almost two per cent, while the broader S&P 500 index was down 48.21 points of about 1.5 per cent. The tech heavy Nasdaq composite was down 174.27 points or almost two per cent.

Travel and tourism names were especially hard hit. Las Vegas-based gaming company Wynn Resorts, which has a large presence in the Chinese gambling hotbed of Macau, was off by more than 7.5 per cent. Shares in U.S. airlines United and Delta were both off by roughly five per cent.

Richard Smith, a professor of health economics at the University of Exeter Medical School, told The Canadian Press over the weekend that while travel and tourism companies are so far the hardest hit, “that ripples through the entire economy.”

“But many effects are short-lived during an outbreak as once the panic is over people go back to business as usual,” he said.

U.S. listed shares in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba lost about four per cent to $204 a share.

Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility index jumped to its highest since Oct. 10. 

“The coronavirus … will just elevate volatility due to the embedded uncertainty of things,” David Bahnsen, chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, wrote in a client note.

“The Dow is up a stunning 3,000 points in just over three months — it hardly needs an excuse to see volatility elevated.”

The Canadian dollar was down about a quarter of a cent to 75.83 US nearing midday. The loonie was mostly dragged lower because of slumping oil prices, which were themselves dragged down because of fears that the coronavirus will eat into demand for oil as the economy slows. 

West Texas Intermediate lost  $1.28 a barrel to $52.87. WTI has fallen every day since the virus first gained global attention last week, and the price of oil is now at its lowest level since October.

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Staff at nursing home giant Extendicare abused woman who died from dehydration, says report

Staff at nursing home giant Extendicare abused woman who died from dehydration, says report

An elderly woman who died from dehydration and a urinary tract infection — caused by sitting in wet diapers — was abused by staff at an Alberta nursing home who admitted they were too overworked to care for her properly, according to a scathing government report. 

Josephine Ewashko had been a resident at Extendicare Viking in Viking, Alta. — southeast of Edmonton — since 2016. 

She was rushed to hospital in November 2018 and died two weeks later, just shy of her 80th birthday. 

“Sometimes I feel like a hitman, because we were paying to have our mother killed,” said her son, Dana Ewashko.

“It’s sickening, is what it is,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t get enough water? Somebody doesn’t get changed? They didn’t do their job.”

Shortly after his mother’s death, he complained to Alberta’s office of Protection for Persons in Care (PPC) , which recently issued a report, obtained by Go Public, describing Josephine’s slow deterioration due to the staff’s neglect.

As a result, says the report, she experienced “serious bodily harm” leading to her death.

“I used to work in the financial world and for a lot less than a life we would have our licenses stripped if we … didn’t follow protocol,” said Dana, 57. “Doesn’t seem like the health industry has any consequences to something like this.”

Markham, Ont.-based ​​​​​​Extendicare — one of the three largest nursing home chains in the country, with 96 homes in four provinces — has not been fined in this case.

Alberta and Nova Scotia are the only two provinces in the country where regulators can issue fines when nursing home operators don’t meet standards of care, although Go Public has learned that neither province has ever done this.

A prominent seniors’ advocate says financial penalties are the swiftest way to ensure nursing home operators keep residents safe, and she’s urging other provinces and territories to grant regulators the ability to hit nursing home operators in the pocketbook when they fail in their duties.

“We need to ensure that there is a quick and unequivocal system in place to bring operators into compliance,” B.C.’s seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie told Go Public. “And I think that’s fines — a monetary penalty.” .

Josephine Ewashko’s son, Dana, filed a complaint against Extendicare Viking with the regulator following his mother’s death. (Terry Reith/CBC)

Repeated bladder infections

Dana says in the months leading up to his mother’s death, he and other family members spoke to Extendicare Viking staff many times about her repeated bladder infections, which he says exacerbated her dementia symptoms.

“Her cognitive ability was greatly affected. She would sleep a lot — even fall asleep mid-sentence sometimes,” he said. “It was a lack of care.”

He recalls helping his mother out of her wheelchair three months before she died and looking at its seat cushion.

“It looked kind of an odd shade of black,” he said. “I reached down and touched it and it was soaked in urine. It was as though you took a sponge out of the tub.” 

He says when he and other family members asked staff to help their mother get to the bathroom, or change her foul-smelling diaper, it would often be hours before a nurse or aide responded.

An investigation by the Alberta government’s Protection for Persons in Care found that staff at Extendicare Viking failed to monitor Josephine Ewashko’s deteriorating health. (Terry Reith/CBC)

‘Extremely dehydrated’

Another nagging concern for the family — that Josephine’s water glass was often several feet away from her wheelchair.

“She couldn’t reach it,” said Dana. “We always thought Mother was thirsty.”

Family members raised their concerns two months before Josephine’s death, in an October 2018 meeting with nursing home staff. They later learned those concerns were never recorded in their mother’s care program. 

“The nurse said he was just too busy to do that type of paperwork,” Dana told Go Public. 

A month later, his mother became increasingly weak, was often incoherent and slept for long periods of time. On Nov. 22, 2018, he insisted that she be transferred to hospital.

The PPC investigation into Josephine’s death found: 

  • She was “barely responsive” upon arrival at the hospital.
  • She was “extremely dehydrated.”
  • Blood work detected “critically high sodium levels” — an indication of dehydration and kidney disease.
  • The skin in her mouth “was sloughing off due to dryness.”

The report also noted that, in the weeks leading up to her death, a computer system at Extendicare Viking issued a dozen alerts, noting changes in her condition —  but none was reviewed by a nurse or care aide. Among other things, the alerts signalled:

  •  “New or worsening lethargy.” 
  •  “New or worsening disorganized speech.”
  •  “New or worsening altered perception.”

The report does not include any details of interviews with managers, but a nurse told investigators: “We often don’t have time to read [the alerts] or review charting.”

Another nurse said: “We are supposed to check the alerts … but this is difficult [due to workload].”

Two aides also said they didn’t have time to check the alerts.

Josephine’s family doctor had concerns she put in a letter last February to Alberta’s Ministry of Health.

“I do believe …  that Josephine’s needs were neglected, not on purpose but due to staff shortages and lack in experience,” wrote Dr. Marna Hagan, who went on to say that her concerns about staffing were not new. 

“This is not the first time I feel there was a lack in care and experience,” at the Viking location, wrote Hagan. “Shortage of staff and experience is lacking.”

The province’s investigation also reported concerns about staffing and training, noting that employees needed better education about nutrition, hydration and monitoring infections. 

It also directed the facility to develop policies that ensure staff review and respond to computer alerts. It gave the facility until Feb. 29 to comply. If it doesn’t, it could potentially face fines. 

Dana points out that Extendicare is a for-profit business that answers to shareholders. It is partly funded by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“They’re caring about their profits … I don’t think you can have profit and care in the same sentence,” he says, adding that Extendicare’s CEO received total annual compensation of about $4 million last year. 

According to AHS, there were 273 allegations of abuse at seniors’ homes it funds between April 2018 and March 2019. Most were determined to be unfounded, but many still prompted suggestions for improved care. 

‘Pretty shocking’

Extendicare’s head office declined a request for an interview with Go Public, and would not comment on Josephine’s case. 

Instead, a spokesperson for the Viking facility wrote that it is “very sorry” about her death and that she is “dearly missed by the team and residents.”

Spokesperson Darlene Thibault also said Extendicare Viking has “taken steps to address the situation” and is working “to provide the highest quality of care, dignity and safety to our residents.”

Thibault would not elaborate on what has been done to ensure other residents aren’t neglected, and would not address concerns that the home is not adequately staffed.

Outside of Alberta and Nova Scotia, the only options available to regulators when nursing home operators put residents at risk is to shut down the home — rarely done, as it can displace hundreds of people — or put it under government management — a lengthy and rare procedure, though it was recently done to three homes owned by Retirement Concepts in Victoria, B.C. 

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie speaks to CBC Go Public’s Erica Johnson in Vancouver. Mackenzie is calling for power for regulators to impose financial penalties. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

“It’s very frustrating,” said Mackenzie, the seniors’ advocate, who says it’s time to introduce financial penalties across the country so nursing homes don’t just focus on the bottom line. 

“You need to ensure in publicly funded nursing homes that the contracted operators are operating in the public interest,” she said. 

She points out that publicly funded nursing homes in the U.S. have been subject to fines since 2002.

“Just because something is unpopular with some people doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do,” said Mackenzie. “And we have to remember that our duty is to the protection of the people who we have entrusted to that care home.”

Dana says it’s hard to deal with the grief of knowing his mother’s death may have been preventable, and that Extendicare didn’t pay a financial price.

“People go to jail for treating their pets in the same way,” he said. “It’s pretty shocking that nothing [no fine] has happened.” 

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We tell your stories, shed light on wrong-doing, and hold the powers that be accountable.

If you have a story in the public interest, or if you’re an insider with information, contact GoPublic@cbc.ca with your name, contact information and a brief summary. All emails are confidential until you decide to Go Public.

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Ransomware attack on construction company raises questions about federal contracts

Ransomware attack on construction company raises questions about federal contracts

A construction company that’s won millions of dollars worth of contracts with the military and other federal departments has been hit by a ransomware attack — raising questions about how the federal government does businesses with outside firms open to cyberattacks.

Ransomware attacks involve malicious software used to cripple a target’s computer system to solicit a cash payment. Last month, a group known as Maze — infamous for publicly shaming victims until they pay up — claimed to have run a successful strike against the Toronto-based company Bird Construction, stealing 60 GBs of data.

“Bird Construction responded to a cyber incident that resulted in the encryption of company files,” wrote a company spokesperson in an email to CBC.

“Bird continued to function with no business impact, and we worked with leading cyber security experts to restore access to the affected files.”

The company wouldn’t say whether they paid their cyber-assailants — something police forces warn against.

A company spokesperson said government officials were notified at the time of the breach.

While it doesn’t appear that any secure government files were compromised in the hack, the Bird case raises concerns about how secure government contracts are as the number of ransomware incidents multiplies.

Between 2006 and 2015, Bird scored 48 contracts with the Department of National Defence totalling more than $406 million. Bird also helped build the RCMP’s Surrey detachment headquarters and has done work for Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, said Canada could learn from the United States and Britain, countries that have taken steps to ensure the security systems of all government contractors are locked down — even those not dealing with classified information.

“When we look at the major hacks that have occurred, especially on the defence side, where you know fighter aircraft information was stolen — it wasn’t stolen from the prime contractor, it was stolen in a tiny, tiny shop supplying widgets,” she said, citing the 2017 theft of sensitive information about Australia’s defence programs through a government contractor.

“Whether they’re done by nation states or by criminal organizations or by rogue actors, it’s a characteristic of these kinds of attacks to get to governments using businesses as the point of entry, especially … small businesses that tend to be the most vulnerable.”

Cianfarani said Canada needs to start working on its own cyber security certification program for vendors.

A screengrab of Maze’s website from December 2019, where the group claimed to have run a successful strike against the Toronto-based company Bird Construction. (Maze’s website )

Apart from federal work, Bird also has worked on renovations at multiple Ontario Provincial Police detachments and a wastewater treatment plant in Wood Buffalo, Alta., and helped to build Calgary’s new emergency operations control centre. The company also has held contracts with oilpatch and potash companies, including Suncor.

A spokesperson for the RCMP said the police service is aware of the hack but would not say whether it’s investigating.

Little recourse for feds after an attack

Public Services and Procurement Canada, which oversees how the government buys goods and services, has different levels of security clearance depending on whether a contractor has access to classified information.

“The government of Canada does go a long way to do that when there is sensitive information in play. When there’s not sensitive information at play, companies do need to realize that this is a growing [trend],” said Aaron Shull, managing director and general counsel for the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

A spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada said the department is working to ensure all companies are properly vetted.

“Ransomware and the impacts of this type of attack are monitored by Public Services and Procurement Canada in collaboration with other government security agencies,” said spokesperson Stéfanie Hamel.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada is working closely with relevant departmental stakeholders to ensure that, as part of the procurement process, companies it does business with have gone through intensive screening and meet all of our security requirements before any contract is granted.”

Shull said there’s little recourse for government departments once their confidential information is caught up in a cyberattack.

“The problem, of course, is that once a company has been breached it’s a little bit like trying to nail the barn door shut after the horse is already gone,” he said.

“The tools that are available to the federal government to penalize these companies are unsatisfactory. You’re going to end up with a lawsuit for breach of contract or negligence, or something like that.”

The Bird Construction case is just the latest in a series of ransomware attacks hitting Canadian networks — a series that includes attacks on a number of Ontario municipalities, including Woodstock, Stratford and The Nation.

The tools that are available to the federal government to penalize these companies are unsatisfactory.– Aaron Shull, CIGI

The RCMP has reported an uptick in ransomware attacks and a recent survey of Canadian organizations found the vast majority (88 per cent) had experienced a data breach over the last 12 months.

Brett Callow, a security analyst with the anti-virus software firm Emsisoft, said any stolen data could be used to perfect a future scam. He said implementing a bolstered audit system could help the government identify information that has been put at risk. 

“If data has been stolen, there’s obviously no way of getting it back. The most you can do is pay the criminals for a pinky-promise that they will not use that data,” he said.

Vendors need better cyber hygiene: experts

Both DND and the RCMP said they follow Public Services and Procurement Canada’s directions when it comes to contracts for goods, services and construction.

“The protection of information is a priority for the Department of National Defence,” said Jessica Lamirande.

“We continue to take every precaution to ensure the proper security and privacy measures are in place, including complying with all relevant Government of Canada policies.”

A RCMP spokesperson said the force also reviews the security requirements for all contracts and may include security clauses that require contractors to safeguard information.

Justin Fier, director for cyber intelligence and analytics at the online security firm Darktrace, said companies need better cyber hygiene and more training to prevent human error.

“The unfortunate and sad truth is no matter how much we educate our workforce, people will get duped into clicking the link in the email or … doing something that they probably shouldn’t be doing just because it gets the job done quicker and more efficiently,” he said.

“It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as we pay the ransoms, they’re going to keep coming back.”

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‘I was livid’: Single mom hit with $32,000 bill to break furnace, air conditioner rental contract

'I was livid': Single mom hit with $32,000 bill to break furnace, air conditioner rental contract

When Tracy Spence tried to get out of her rental contract for a furnace and air conditioner, she was outraged by the price tag. 

After paying more than $7,000 total in monthly rental fees since 2016, she was told she’d have to pay another $32,406 to buy out her contract, giving her ownership of the appliances. 

“I was livid,” said Spence, who lives in Toronto. “In what universe does a furnace [and] an air conditioner cost that much money?”

According to her contract, Spence’s furnace and air conditioner had a combined “cash selling price” of $10,798. That’s a far cry from the approximately $40,000 she’d be out for renting the appliances and then buying out the rest of her 10-year contract  — which includes service and warranty protection. 

“I feel so completely stupid for getting myself involved in this,” said Spence, who was sold on the rental deal by a door-to-door salesperson.

She’s one of many Canadians who’ve complained to CBC News over the years that they feel duped after signing up to rent a home energy appliance — such as a furnace or water heater

Due to a flood of consumer complaints, Ontario banned unsolicited door-to-door home energy appliance sales in 2018. All other provinces, with the exception of Alberta, still allow the practice.

Toronto-based paralegal John Robinson said he currently represents more than 50 clients involved in disputes over their home energy appliance rental contracts. 

He said the main complaints from clients are that the deal is more expensive than they had anticipated, and that it’s too costly to buy out their contract.

“They’re feeling very stuck and they’re feeling taken advantage of. And they’re down, because they think there’s no way out.”

Toronto paralegal John Robinson said his clients often feel stuck when they try to buy out their home energy appliance rental contract and find that the price is too high. (Stephane Richer/CBC News)

Fortunately for Spence, her case was quickly resolved after she shared her story with CBC News. 

CBC contacted Toronto-based Crown Crest Capital, which took over in July 2017 as Spence’s service provider and the lender financing her contract. The company said it had no involvement prior to that date. 

Crown Crest’s external legal counsel said that an error had been made in quoting Spence a $32,406 buyout price.

“It was just something everyone missed,” said lawyer Alfred Apps. “We’re going to step in and resolve this positively in favour of the customer.”

The matter was resolved to Spence’s satisfaction, but CBC isn’t privy to the final buyout price. According to Spence’s lawyer Tyler Declute, Crown Crest had her sign a confidentiality agreement which prevents Spence from speaking any further about the issue.

‘I was really vulnerable’

Before signing her confidentiality agreement, Spence said she felt pressured to sign up for her rental deal when a “fast-talking” salesperson showed up at her home on a hot day in June 2016. Shortly before, her air conditioner had died and her live-in brother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“It was really a stressful time,” said Spence, a 59-year-old single mother of two adult sons who also live with her. “I was really vulnerable.”

She said the cost savings the salesperson had promised she would enjoy by switching from her oil furnace to a new gas one never actually materialized, because they were offset by high rental fees.

“The spiel that they gave me wasn’t exactly how it played out.”

The company that brokered Spence’s deal — Consumers Choice Comfort Services — appears to no longer exist.

Even so, it currently faces 18 charges under the Ontario Consumers Protection Act, including charges of false or misleading business practices, according to the Ontario government

Spence decided to quit her contract in December 2019 when she faced complications trying to refinance her mortgage, because a lien for the air conditioner and furnace had been placed on her home. Often, the lender financing a rental contract does this to ensure it recoups its money if the customer sells the property. 

“I just wanted to be out of it,” said Spence. 

Crown Crest sent her documents stating that she owed $32,406 total to buy out her contract.

In emails to the company, Spence’s lawyer Declute informed Crown Crest that because his client signed a contract with a 10-year term, he calculated that the buyout price should be about $15,000. 

The company’s manager of collections wouldn’t budge on the price, according to the emails. Declute said he got the same response when he called the manager.

“She goes, ‘You’re under a time crunch. You need this paid out. Here’s the payout. If you don’t pay us this amount, we’re not going to get rid of it.'”

An employee mistake

CBC News contacted Crown Crest, inquiring how it justified Spence’s $32,406 buyout bill. 

Lawyer, Apps responded that the manager was mistaken in how she calculated the bill. 

“She has it dead wrong,” he said. “We’ll be resolving it today.”

CBC News pointed out that other Crown Crest employees were copied on the email correspondence between Declute and the manager, but that no one from the company caught the error. 

“We’ve launched an internal inquiry to figure that out,” said Apps.

He said that he suspects there are some shady companies in the home energy rental appliance business, but that Crown Crest Capital isn’t one of them.

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Greta Thunberg brushes off mockery from U.S. finance chief

Greta Thunberg brushes off mockery from U.S. finance chief

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has brushed off criticism and mockery from the U.S. Treasury chief, saying Friday his comments have “of course no effect” on her and fellow campaigners.

The 17-year-old’s comments marked a final coda to the four-day World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland, where a major theme was tension between environmental activists who want to protect the Earth and Trump administration officials and business titans who want to exploit its resources for jobs, profits and economic growth.

Many of the 3,000-odd business leaders, government officials, UN representatives, civil society representatives and other elites on hand have found themselves somewhere along the spectrum between the positions staked out by U.S. President Donald Trump and Thunberg. The Swedish teen sat in on Trump’s speech Tuesday to the forum, but that did little to bridge their ideological differences.

On Friday, Thunberg, who has been battling the flu this week, apologized for her “low energy” — a term Trump has often used to mock rivals — as she spoke out again in favour of science and facts, and set off on yet another “Fridays for Future” march through snowy Davos streets.

At a news conference before the march, she acknowledged young climate activists “are being criticized all the time” in comments like those from U.S. Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin had a day earlier dismissed Thunberg’s suggestion that governments and companies cut back dramatically on fossil fuels with a condescending barb.

“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused,” he said. Then, following a brief pause, he said it was “a joke.”

“After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.”

Watch Greta Thunberg say her demands over climate change ‘have been completely ignored’ at Davos: 

A disappointed Greta Thunberg says demands over climate change ‘have been completely ignored.’  0:40

Thunberg insisted that her priority was drawing attention and action to concerns about global warming.

“We cannot care about those kinds of things,” said the Swede, who was selected as Time’s Person of the Year for 2019.

“The situation is not being treated like the crisis it is,” she said alongside fellow activists Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Loukina Tille of Switzerland, Luisa Neubauer of Germany, and Isabelle Axelsson of Sweden.

Jane Goodall warns against ‘gloom and doom’ 

Thunberg and her climate advocates have also faced criticism from some longstanding environmental advocates over their tactics, if not necessarily their ambitions.

Famed primatologist Jane Goodall warned about “gloom and doom” messages that cause some young people to lose hope.

“It doesn’t help when young people stand up and point fingers and blame people. That doesn’t work. The only way it works is to tell stories and to get to people’s hearts, and some of these young people I know have such amazing stories, and they really are changing the way people think,” Goodall said in an interview Thursday. “But not in an aggressive way.”

A press handler for Thunberg said she wasn’t available to respond to Goodall’s comments.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, defended Thunberg as the “biggest catalyst for change” over the past year.

“You may argue at the way she says it — some people are a bit upset — but fundamentally you need to listen to young people, that we are stealing their futures and their opportunities,” he said.

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Elite talent: The private school education of NHL All-Stars

Elite talent: The private school education of NHL All-Stars

Of the 37 North American players named to this year’s NHL All-Star game or filling in as replacements, 15 — or 40 per cent —  attended private school. It’s a statistic that reinforces the notion that hockey, particularly at its very highest levels, is increasingly a sport not just for those who can afford it, but for those in the highest tax brackets.

Some attended athletic academies. The Oilers’ Connor McDavid attended Premier Elite Athletes’ Collegiate, a now-defunct private school in the Toronto area with an annual tuition that ranged from $15,500 to $27,000. The Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner went to The Hill Academy in Vaughan, Ont., (where Prep Hockey tuition is currently $13,000) and later Blyth Academy (where tuition is $15,995).

Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton, who was named to the Metropolitan Division team but is injured, and St Louis goalie Jordan Binnington went to Crestwood, a private day school in Toronto, which currently costs $28,500 per year. 

Tuition was even higher among some American players. Chicago’s Patrick Kane went to Detroit Country Day School, where tuition is $32,200 US.

Max Pacioretty of the Las Vegas Golden Knights went to The Taft School, a prestigious private academy in Watertown, Conn., where day school tuition is $46,500 US and boarding runs to $62,500 US.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner will be making his first all-star game appearance. Marner attended The Hill Academy in Vaughan, Ont., and later Blyth Academy in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

All the private schools offer scholarships and some sort of financial aid to those who qualify. CBC News was not able to determine if any of the NHL All-Stars who attended the schools received scholarships or financial aid.

But the number of private school alumni is astounding, considering the chances of any young hockey player having a steady — non-All-Star — career in the NHL are just .02 per cent, according to an oft-quoted study.

Game for the rich?

And it may be the starkest evidence yet of what some say is a growing socioeconomic exclusion in hockey due to skyrocketing costs.

“For generations — and I don’t think that’s overstating it — generations we’ve been talking about the cost of the game,” says Sean Fitz-Gerald, author of Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink.

Fitz-Gerald’s book suggests the expense of playing hockey now has the sport approaching a state of crisis, and that expense runs far beyond $300 sticks and $1,200 skates.

“It’s power skating lessons, skills, development lessons and skating on treadmills. It’s private coaching. It’s all of these things and they start from the age of four. Sometimes I bet you you can go out and find one under the age of four,” says Fitz-Gerald.

Sean Fitz-Gerald is the author of Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink. He says the number of NHL All-Stars that are private school alumni is not surprising, given the soaring costs of the sport. (James Dunn/CBC News)

Parents can pay between $10,000 and $15,000 per year or more for their children to play in minor hockey’s highest level, AAA. But as Fitz-Gerald notes, those are just capital costs.

“It’s [also] the soft costs, the costs you don’t necessarily think of,” he says.

“Competitive tournaments now start on Fridays. Are you able to get that Friday off of work to go? Your child might have after school skating on a Wednesday or practice before school on a Thursday. Do you have the flexibility in your job to be able to accommodate that?”

All of that has the effect of winnowing down potential players not just economically but also geographically.

Fitz-Gerald cites a series of 2016 articles by Teri Pecoskie at the Hamilton Spectator. The series looked at players in the Ontario Hockey League (Major Junior A) and found 80 per cent came from neighbourhoods with median family incomes above the Ontario average of $80,987.

Roughly 15 per cent of the players came from neighbourhoods with median family incomes at least 50 per cent higher than average. And the vast majority of players also came from urban areas, which just happen to be where the expensive extra-curricular hockey training and facilities are often located.

It’s a far cry from the days when NHL legends like Gordie Howe honed their game on used skates on frozen prairie ponds. Wayne Gretzky, whose father worked as a telephone repairman, addressed the differences in an interview on The National in 2016.

“Do you think your parents would have been able to support you through hockey in today’s world?” asked Peter Mansbridge.

“Probably not,” said Gretzky.

WATCH | Peter Mansbridge interviews Wayne Gretzky

The possibility that the next Great One might never become great due to lack of financial resources is very real, says Fitz-Gerald.

“Those [less well-off, small town] children statistically don’t make it to the NHL anymore. Because today, statistically speaking, you have to be from a well-to-do part of an urban area,” he says.

Number of players not dropping

Overall participation rates in hockey dropped for five straight years from 634,892 in 2013/14 to 626,090 in 2017/18. But the number of registered players in 2018/19 leapt back up to 643,958, thanks a huge jump in female players.

Hockey Canada is well aware of the economic constraints in the sport.

“When it comes to the cost of hockey, I think there’s no doubt with hockey, just like all sports, as you get to the higher levels and more competitive levels, that cost does go up,” says Corey McNabb, Hockey Canada’s director of player development.

McNabb says Hockey Canada has several programs designed to make the game more accessible financially. The First Shift program offers full equipment and six on ice sessions for $200 as a way of introducing new players to the game.

There are also 150 Hockey Canada Skills Academy programs across the country that operate with local schools. They allow kids to get on the ice up to four times per week at a cost of about $750 per year.

At the same time, McNabb attributes some of the soaring costs of the sport to parents spending far more than required.

“I think parents need to sometimes take a step back and really look at how much is too much,” he says.

“You don’t need to be going to six hockey schools in the summer and being on the ice 12 months a year. I think that’s one of the things that is a little bit of a misperception in the game right now.”

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Lyft, Uber waste little time launching in Vancouver

Lyft, Uber waste little time launching in Vancouver

Uber and Lyft wasted little time launching competing ride-hailing operations and apps in Vancouver Friday morning, less than 24 hours after receiving approval from the provincial government.

Uber claimed its debut passenger booked a ride in a Tesla 3 at 7:45 a.m. in Richmond. 

Lyft driver and general manager Peter Lukomskyj picked up his company’s first rider at a ceremonial kickoff outside the Vancouver Convention Centre at 8:30 a.m.

Neither company will divulge how many drivers each have signed up, but it’s clear from pitches delivered at the launch news conferences, both are looking for more.

Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s head of Western Canada at the launch in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lukomskyj said Lyft will limit operations to the core of Vancouver until it has more drivers, using Dunbar Street to the west, Victoria Drive to the east and 41st Avenue to the south as boundaries. It will also service the Pacific National Exhibition and Vancouver International Airport. 

Uber’s operating area covers a much bigger swath of Metro Vancouver, including Coquitlam, Surrey, Delta, West and North Vancouver. 

Passengers can request an Uber anywhere within the service area and they can be dropped off anywhere inside or outside the service area.

However, passengers cannot start a trip outside the service area.

For example, a passenger can request an Uber from downtown Vancouver to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, which is outside the service zone. But they can’t request an Uber from the ferry terminal to downtown Vancouver. 

The same goes for Tsawwassen ferry terminal, which is also outside the service area. 

In a release, Uber said it would expand “as soon as more drivers complete the permit requirements.”

After months of delays, the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) suddenly announced it had approved ride-hailing midday Thursday.

Taxi association fighting back

Carolyn Bauer, spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association and general manager of Yellow Cab, said association members are extremely upset with the decision.

“This is going to be financially devastating for the taxi industry and the families that have built their lives around this industry,” Bauer said Friday on The Early Edition.

Uber operating area in Metro Vancouver. (Uber)

Bauer said the association is pursuing a judicial review and requesting the PTB put a brief stay on the decision until the injunction application can be heard.

She is calling on the board to regulate the number of ride-hailing vehicles in the same way it restricts the size of taxi fleets.

“If we have 2,500 taxis operating in Vancouver, put out 2,500 ride-share vehicles,” said Bauer. “Bring ride-share, but bring it fair.”

In a statement, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum reiterated his opposition to ride-hailing.

“What continues to be my chief concern is the unfair advantage that has been created without any regard as to how it will impact those who are employed in the taxi industry. It is no secret that a large percentage of cab drivers live in Surrey,” he said. 

McCallum said he will be asking the PTB for an increase in taxi licences in Surrey.

In a statement, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokeswoman Danielle Pope said the government is committed to working with both industries to address outstanding concerns and issues that arise in the coming months.

Municipalities can set requirements for business licences for ride-hailing operators but provincial laws prohibit blocking ride-hailing altogether. 

Day 1 snapshot

Ride-hailing services use demand pricing, as opposed to fixed taxi charges. Here’s a look at what the companies’ apps were saying this morning about two sample journeys:

A ride from CBC at 700 Hamilton Street to English Bay at 8:30 a.m:

  • Yellow Cab: estimated $9 fare, estimated wait time 5 minutes.
  • Lyft: $10.38 fare, estimated wait time 25 minutes.
  • Uber: no cars available.

CBC to English Bay at 9 a.m. 

  • Yellow Cab: estimated $9 fare, estimated wait time 23 minutes 
  • Lyft: $10.37 fare, estimated wait time 24 minutes.
  • Uber: $9.92 fare, estimated wait time 10 minutes.

Rate structures for the two companies are 33 cents a minute, but Uber will charge 70 cents per kilometre while Lyft charges 65 cents, and base and services fees for Uber are $4.50 compared with Lyft’s $5.

Taxi rates can vary in Metro Vancouver, but the base fare is generally $3.25 and $1.88 per kilometre.

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Nestlé, world’s biggest food company, taps Manitoba for plant proteins

Nestlé, world's biggest food company, taps Manitoba for plant proteins

Winnipeg is about to become home to a plant that will supply the world’s largest food company with plant-based protein.

Nestlé is partnering with Merit Functional Foods and Burcon NutraScience to supply protein from peas and canola that will be used in food and beverages.

The plant-based protein industry is booming with meat and dairy alternatives being carried by many restaurants and grocery stores, and much of that comes from peas.

“It is large and growing rapidly. If you look online, you’ll see all sorts of people trying to make estimates of how large it will grow. It’s a huge opportunity,” Burcon CEO Johann Tergesen said.

“And it’s not only something — products — that are good for you in terms of health, they are good for the planet as well.”

All the peas and canola will come from farmers in Canada, and a significant amount will be supplied by Manitoba producers, he said.

Burcon, a developer of protein extraction technology, has been operating for about 20 years just off McGillivray Boulevard in south Winnipeg. In 2019, it established Merit, which manufactures those proteins into commercial ingredients.

Merit is currently building a 94,000-square-foot production facility in Winnipeg that is scheduled to open in fall. It will produce multiple plant proteins with specific applications for food and beverage products, Tergesen said.

There will be about 85 employees when the plant opens but Tergesen said there are already expansion plans for a total of about 240 employees.

It made sense to locate the new Merit plant in Winnipeg, Tergesen said.

“We’ll use a huge amount of electricity and Manitoba has some of the lowest hydro electricity rates in the world, an excellent and skilled workforce and access to the peas and canola right there,” he said.

“There’s many reasons that make Manitoba a perfect location for doing this.”

The news from Nestlé comes a week after French-based Roquette, a developer of plant-based ingredients, announced a multi-year partnership to supply pea protein to Beyond Meat.

Much of that supply is expected to come from Manitoba, where Roquette is currently building a $400-million pea processing facility near Portage la Prairie.

The facility is expected to be completed by November.

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