Order to stop Keystone XL construction shows urgent need to get Canadian oil to new markets, energy group says

Order to stop Keystone XL construction shows urgent need to get Canadian oil to new markets, energy group says

The latest legal setback for Calgary-based TransCanada’s $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline through the United States is yet another reminder that Canada needs to export its oil and natural gas to new global markets, says an industry association.

A U.S. District Court judge in Montana put the project on hold in a ruling issued late Thursday, saying the potential impact had not been considered as required by federal law.

Judge Brian Morris granted an injunction to stop construction of the 1,900-kilometre pipeline, ruling that the U.S. State Department was obligated to “analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision” to issue a permit for the pipeline last year.

Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the project, citing property rights and potential oil spills.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokesperson Tonya Zelinsky told CBC News the group is disappointed with the ruling.

“This decision further reinforces the need for Canada to export its oil and natural gas to new global markets — ensuring fair market value for our natural resources, helping to meet growing global demand and expanding our customer base beyond the U.S.,” she said.

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. (Natalie Holdway/CBC)

Crude production in Alberta’s oilsands has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, creating a bottleneck that has driven down prices. 

Canadian heavy crude, traded as Western Canada Select, has been selling at a steadily worsening discount compared with Brent oil, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate in the United States.

On Friday, WTI was trading at $59.98 US compared with $17.75 US for WCS. The steep discount has stripped billions of dollars from the Canadian economy, by some estimates.

State Department reviewing ruling

TransCanada says it remains committed to the project despite the Montana judge’s ruling. 

The U.S. State Department told CBC News that officials are reviewing the order and that there will be no further comment since there is ongoing litigation.

James Coleman, a former professor at the University of Calgary who now specializes in energy law in Dallas, says the ruling could be appealed or the government could try to address the concerns raised by the judge.

“Keep in mind, this isn’t suggesting TransCanada did anything wrong. This is a lawsuit that challenges the U.S. government’s approval of this. So, it’s up to the United States government what happens from here,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the ruling a disgrace and says it will be appealed.

TransCanada shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange fell by as much as 2.75 per cent in early trading on Friday.

Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Neb., where it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs south to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

There is also ongoing legal wrangling over the pipeline in Nebraska. 

The Nebraska Public Service Commission issued an approval  late last year for an alternative route, a ruling that 
environmental groups are challenging.

TransCanada has said it expects a decision on routing from the Nebraska Supreme Court by the first quarter of 2019.

TransCanada has yet to make a final investment decision to proceed with the project, even though it had started construction. It said last week that it is also seeking partners to finance KXL’s construction.

​With files from Meegan Read and Tony Seskus.



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Ottawa’s plan to set up a national securities regulator would be constitutional, Supreme Court rules

Ottawa's plan to set up a national securities regulator would be constitutional, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court of Canada says the Constitution allows Ottawa and the provinces to set up a national securities regulator.

In addition, the high court finds federal draft legislation for countrywide oversight of stocks, bonds and other investments falls within Parliament’s powers over trade and commerce.

The unanimous ruling could help advance plans for a national regulator of capital markets, an idea under discussion since at least the 1930s.

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and the federal government have signed a memorandum of agreement to create a new model.

The plan includes a common regulator, a council of ministers to play a supervisory role, a model law that provinces and territories could pass, and federal legislation to manage systemic risk, allow for data collection and address criminal matters.

The Quebec Court of Appeal said last year that the overall plan was unconstitutional, prompting Ottawa to head to the Supreme Court.



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CIBC among top brands used in phishing attacks: security firm

CIBC among top brands used in phishing attacks: security firm

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is one of the most commonly targeted brands used by cyberthieves in phishing attacks across North America, with a more than 600 per cent surge in fake email attempts in the third quarter, according to analysis by an email security firm.

Vade Secure’s research shows that during that period CIBC was the lone Canadian company among the top 25 brands used by cybercriminals trying to trick people into handing over their credentials and confidential data, according to the France-based company’s engine.

The Toronto-based bank was ranked 25th and used in an average of 5.3 new phishing links per day during the third quarter, an increase of more than 622 per cent from the previous quarter, the analysis showed.

The email security firm’s chief executive Adrien Gendre said each of these links, which typically mimic official webpages, can be sent to thousands of users.

Launch of Simplii could be a factor

It’s unclear what is behind the surge in phishing activity, but one factor could be CIBC’s launch of its Simplii Financial direct banking brand last year, Gendre said. When users are less familiar with what interactions to expect, they are easier to deceive with a fake email, he said.

“Every new service, it’s a good target for phishing … People will click more on it,” Gendre said.

Vade Secure, based in Lille, France, protects more than 500 million inboxes, and its conclusions were based on the phishing attacks detected by its artificial-intelligence powered platform.

CIBC said “cyber security is an evolving space that we monitor closely.”

“We have multiple layers of security in place and continuously invest to safeguard our clients,” spokesman Tom Wallis wrote in an emailed statement.

The email security firm’s analysis comes as Canadian banks continue ramp up their spending on technology, including cybersecurity defences, and months after BMO and Simplii said that thousands of customers may have had personal and financial data compromised.

Data breaches lead to waves of phishing, malware attacks

In May, BMO said hackers contacted the bank claiming to be in possession of the personal data of fewer than 50,000 customers, and that the attack originated outside of Canada. At the same time, Simplii also warned that “fraudsters” may have accessed certain personal and account information for about 40,000 clients.

A leak of user data is often followed by a wave of phishing attacks or a malware attack months later, Gendre said.

A few years ago, grammatical errors or language mistakes would easily signal that it was fraudulent, but now these fake webpages are often indistinguishable from the real thing, Gendre added.

The three top targets in North American phishing attacks during the third quarter were Microsoft, PayPal and Netflix, but other large Canadian banks were also among the 86 brands tracked by Vade Secure.

Bank of Montreal was in 33rd place with phishing activity up 317.5 per cent from the previous quarter, followed by Scotiabank in 47th place with activity up 53.1 per cent. Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank saw a drop in phishing activity, down 91 per cent and 57.6 per cent from the previous quarter, respectively, to put them in the 49th and 62nd spots.

However, during the second quarter, RBC was in the 21st spot with an 767.3 per cent increase in phishing links, according to Vade Secure.

Gendre said cyberthieves typically cycle through different targets, switching to a new one as users become aware of the fake links and their attacks become less efficient.

RBC’s vice-president of cyber operations and chief information officer Adam Evans said that as the bank increases its global footprint it becomes a bigger target for phishing attacks, but it has layers of security to protect against these kinds threats. The bank has also been increasing its cyber security budget and investing in technologies to mitigate this threat, he added.

“Organizations that have a global footprint are going to be targeted more often and probably more frequently over time,” he said.

BMO, Scotiabank and TD Bank did not respond to requests for comment.



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How will Facebook keep people on Facebook? By helping them fall in love

Facebook files patent infringement complaint against Blackberry in U.S. court

For those who’ve been paying attention, Facebook’s growth appears to be slowing. It’s not clear why, but one theory is that we’re reaching a saturation point, particularly in North America. Basically, everyone has already signed up for an account. Facebook is literally running out of new people to bring aboard. 

This is a problem (for Facebook, to be clear) for a number of reasons. Most notably, North American users are Facebook’s most valuable. Facebook makes more dollars from each user in Canada and the U.S. than it does anywhere else in the world. If you accept the theory that Facebook is running out of new users — a once-reliable source of new revenue — then it has to find a way to squeeze more out of those it already has.

One answer could be dating. And classifieds, and fundraising, and gaming, and weather, and job-hunting, and live-streaming, and food delivery, and deal-hunting and on and on and on until there is no market or industry left unstamped by the company’s omnipresent blue F.

But let’s focus, for a moment, on dating. Starting this week, Facebook users in Canada can sign up for the company’s new dating service. When it was announced back in May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said about 200 million people had listed their relationship status as single. Facebook thought it could help. 

The point is not necessarily to usurp Tinder or Bumble or any of the other popular dating apps and services that people already like. (Though Facebook would no doubt like that.) Rather, it’s Facebook’s way of ratcheting up the gravitational pull of its ever-expanding digital universe — a play to keep its existing users engaged in lieu of rapid new growth. By giving Facebook users more reasons to visit the service more often, and for longer at a time, Facebook has more opportunities to figure out what users like — valuable data for advertisers. More time spent means Facebook can display more accurate ads, and display them more often, too.

That’s the play. And even if Facebook’s dating feature isn’t being monetized yet, it still gets people to spend more time within Facebook’s overall app, where there are plenty of other opportunities for ads to appear.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the company’s dating feature at its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose in May. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Dating is just the latest example of Facebook launching a feature similar enough to something a competitor has built. Clearly the strategy is working well enough for Facebook to do it again and again. Each new product may not be compelling enough to attract new users on their own, but it’s easier to justify using if you’re already on Facebook all the time. The barrier to entry is lower when you don’t have to download one more app, or sign up for something new.

It’s why Facebook has a Craigslist clone called Marketplace, and a GoFundMe clone called Fundraisers. You can use Facebook to find jobs, discounts and offers. You could never check your smartphone’s weather app again in favour of Facebook’s forecast. Its Events app isn’t all that different from Eventbrite, and in some cases you can buy tickets through Facebook too. You can trade Slack for Facebook Workplace, or choose to ignore Twitch and stream yourself playing video games with Gaming Video feature instead.

The most blatant — and arguably successful clone — has been the introduction of Stories, the short-form bursts of vertical video that Snapchat introduced, but Instagram popularized further. It was suddenly possible to use Snapchat less when Instagram had one of its most compelling features too.

It’s also why so many people got their news from Facebook, for a time, until Facebook realized how much of a liability being a news source had become. 

The downside to this — though Facebook may not see it this way — is that it’s difficult to know, or understand, or explain what, exactly, Facebook even is at this point. “Social network” seems too quaint for all the company now does. Perhaps recognizing this, Facebook has more recently opted to broadly frame its utility as a facilitator of relationships in all their forms: romantic, platonic, professional, commercial, recreational and more.

Facebook also bears an increasingly uncanny resemblance to the web portals of yore — the AOLs, Yahoos and CompuServes that sought to put everything the web could offer in one centralized place (so much so that, in some countries, Facebook essentially is the internet, to disastrous effect). We all know what happened next. But unlike those portals, which existed when “logging on” was something you did rather than experience as a perpetual state of being, Facebook is something wholly different — more pervasive, widespread, the firmament of our world. Dating, alongside all those other features, is how Facebook plans to keep it that way. 



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American apple juice is clearly labelled, but Canada’s rules leave consumers in the dark

American apple juice is clearly labelled, but Canada's rules leave consumers in the dark

Bearing glossy red fruit, phrases like “Canada Choice” or “prepared in Canada,” and other subtle hints, the packaging on apple juice gives Canadian consumers the impression they’re drinking apples from this country.

Don’t let those labels fool you: Most of the juice found on grocery store shelves is made from cheaper foreign apple concentrate that’s been flooding into the Canadian market over the last few decades.

  • Watch Marketplace at 8 p.m. on Friday on CBC TV and online.

Consumers are at least partly in the dark because Canadian juice-makers don’t have to list the origins of their ingredients under Canada’s food labelling rules — and the government agency that controls labelling has no plans to change that policy in the near future.

“I think there would be a lot of people feeling really deceived if they knew the whole story. But right now, you can’t get the whole story,” said Brett Schuyler, co-owner of Schuyler Farms, one of Ontario’s largest apple orchards. “You look at the product: How do you know where it’s from?”

Brett Schuyler, co-owner of Schuyler Farms in southern Ontario, would like Canadian consumers to know where the apples that go into their juice come from. But he says it’s often hard to tell under our country’s current labelling system. (Norm Arnold/CBC)

In a given year, Schuyler will produce 4,500 tonnes of apples in a dozen varieties. But he estimates that less than five per cent of his harvest ends up in cartons of apple juice sold on store shelves in Canada.

Marketplace reviewed the labels of about two dozen apple juices produced by large-scale Canadian juice-makers and stocked by major grocery stores — and found a handful that advertise they are made with Canadian apples, including Graves McIntosh Apple, Oasis Classic (not from concentrate) and Tropicana Pure Premium (1.75 litre).

(A few others indicate they consist of “domestic and imported ingredients” but provide no other details.)

Marketplace reviewed the labels of about two dozen apple juices produced by major Canadian juice-makers, and found just a handful that advertise they are made with Canadian apples, including Oasis Classic (not from concentrate), Tropicana Pure Premium (1.75 litre) and Graves McIntosh Apple. But other products made by these same companies contain ingredients from outside the country. (CBC and Tropicana.ca)

U.S. labels tell a much clearer story

It’s a different story south of the border, where since 1987, U.S. Customs has insisted that manufacturers indicate country of origin on their juice labels.

So while a Minute Maid juice box packaged and sold in Canada does not include any country information about its ingredients, its American counterpart clearly states “contains apple juice concentrate from the U.S.A., Argentina, Chile, China, and Turkey.”

A Minute Maid juicebox produced in the U.S., shown at left, lists the country-of-origin details. But the Canadian equivalent, shown at right, does not. (CBC)

It’s that kind of transparency Schuyler says is missing from Canadian shelves.

“It is a great example, looking at what they’ve done in the States to just put it on the label. Clear country of origin labelling would be a very good thing to see in Canada,” he said.

Food lawyer Glenford Jameson, who works with companies to ensure their labels meet Canadian standards, says country of origin requirements on juice is a “voluntary statement” in Canada.

“All you need to say is that it’s prepared in Canada,” he said. “And you can choose to say it’s prepared from imported or domestic ingredients — but you don’t necessarily have to spell out where it’s from.”

Apples from around the world

While apple juice labels aren’t legally required to list the country of origin, similar to a number of fruit and vegetable products prepared in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does require the labels to include company information.

In an attempt to learn the source of apples for some of the most popular juice brands sold in Canada, Marketplace contacted the customer service departments of five different companies.

The agents we reached told Marketplace that their juices were produced with apple concentrate from China, Poland, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and the U.S. as well as with “some” apples from Canada.

Marketplace asks consumers if they can tell the origins of a juice’s ingredients, based on the label:

Marketplace tests consumers on if they can tell the origins of the ingredients in their juice, based on the label. 0:39

With its massive orchards and cheap labour force, China has become the world’s largest producer of apple juice concentrate over the last few decades.

China is also the number one supplier of apple juice concentrate to Canada, far outpacing other countries, according to Statistics Canada and the World Apple Review.  Last year, nearly 30 million litres of apple juice concentrate alone was imported into Canada from China.

Apple concentrate is produced from apple juice that is boiled down into a thick liquid, packaged in plastic-lined steel drums and transported around the world by tankers. Once in Canada, the concentrate is mixed with water and reconstituted into a drinkable juice.

The CFIA is currently reviewing its labelling practices in Canada, though the agency says there are no plans to change the rules around apple juice labels in the future. (Norm Arnold/CBC)

While the U.S. does not believe that adding water to a concentrate changes the product substantially, the Canadian government does. In Canada, adding water to apple concentrate is considered “a substantial transformation,” the CFIA says, and therefore no country of origin is required because it becomes a “processed product.”

Marketplace also reached out to Canada’s largest apple juice-maker, A. Lassonde Inc., to ask about the source of its apples or concentrate.

The Quebec-based Lassonde owns and produces about a dozen juice brands throughout North America, including Oasis, Fairlee, Rougemont and Graves — and the iconic Allen’s, with that navy blue can sporting shiny McIntosh apples, a maple leaf and the slogan: “A Canadian Favourite For Over 80 Years.”

While a customer service agent first said she thought the apples used in Allen’s juice were “Canadian,” a later email from the company indicated that the apple concentrate used “can come from a variety of places, including North America, South America, Asia and Europe.”

Juice apples not worth the squeeze

But those answers don’t sit well with Schuyler. “For farmers, it’s just frustrating that you can’t identify what [or] if this juice was made with Canadian apples.”

For farmers like him, growing and selling apples for juice is no longer worth the squeeze. Like many Canadian apple farmers Schuyler focuses on cultivating large, perfect eating apples which fetch a higher price than juice or “salvage” apples.

“It’s just pure economics,” he said.

Marketplace host Charlsie Agro and Brett Schuyler test some of the apples grown at Schuyler Farms, which produces 4,500 tonnes of apples each year in a dozen varieties. (Jeannie Stiglic/CBC)

Schuyler says he is paid about 25 cents a pound for fresh McIntosh apples for eating, for example, compared to just five cents a pound for undercoloured, small, bruised or misshapen fruit that don’t meet the standard of perfection for produce aisles.

That means he makes no money selling juice apples — because it costs him about that much per pound to harvest them.

And there is little incentive for Canadian juice-makers to pay local apple farmers higher prices because of the plentiful supply of cheap, foreign concentrate.

“This is the problem,” said Schuyler. “There’s not a lot of interest at the company level about growing Canadian juice.”

Canada’s rule-maker responds

The CFIA is currently reviewing its labelling practices in Canada, though the agency said there are no plans to change the rules around apple juice labels in the future.

And while the CFIA won’t force companies to add country of origin information, the agency “encourages” companies to add those details for consumers, said Aline Dimitri, executive director and deputy chief food safety officer.

“What’s in everybody’s best interest is … for the information to be available,” she said. “As long as this information is available, the consumer has the ability to get it — and that is what’s important for us.”

She added: “It is not just about reading the label; it’s about reading the label and asking questions. I think that we often forget that the consumer isn’t just a passive player in all of this.”

The current labelling policy is also about balancing consumer need for immediate information and industry need for flexibility, Dimitri said.

And if the answers consumers seek are not forthcoming or complete, Dimitri urges Canadians to contact the CFIA.

“The reality is if you’re not satisfied with the answer that the industry is giving you — and that’s something that I say to all Canadians — CFIA welcomes all Canadians to actually come and talk to us.”



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Annual pace of housing starts picked up in October, topped expectations

Annual pace of housing starts picked up in October, topped expectations

An increase in multi-unit projects such as condominiums, apartments and townhouses helped push the annual pace of housing starts in October higher, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Thursday.

The housing agency said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts last month came in at 205,925 units, up from 189,730 in September.

Economists had expected an annual rate of 200,000, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

CMHC said the six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates was 206,171 in October, down from 207,809 in September.

The report confirms that national housing construction, though slowing, remains healthy and above long-run household formation rates, supported by solid demographic trends.– Sal Guatieri, BMO Capital Markets senior economist

BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri said the housing market continues to stabilize after getting dinged by tougher mortgage rules earlier this year, and remains healthy despite higher interest rates.

“The report confirms that national housing construction, though slowing, remains healthy and above long-run household formation rates, supported by solid demographic trends,” Guatieri wrote in a brief report.

However, CIBC economist Royce Mendes noted the growth was due to the multiples component.

“The fact that headline starts rose on the month is still a positive for tracking estimates of the economy,” Mendes wrote.

“But given that it came on the back of an increase in multiples coupled with a drop in singles, means that the latest reading on starts may not prove sustainable. We still see the cocktail of tighter lending rules and higher interest rates as causing housing activity to become a drag on the economy come 2019.”

The growth in housing starts in October came as the annual pace of urban starts climbed by 8.6 per cent to 191,964 units.

The annual rate of urban multiple-unit projects increased by 16.8 per cent to 145,442 units. Urban starts for single-detached homes fell 10.7 per cent to 46,522 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13,961 units.

Market expected to moderate 

Earlier this week, CMHC said it expected the real estate market to moderate over the next two years.

In its annual outlook, the agency forecasted housing starts and sales to both decline in 2019 and 2020.

It expects housing starts for single and multi-unit starts will fall to between 193,700 and 204,500 in 2019, while sales are expected come in between 478,400 and 497,400 units.

Prices are anticipated to range from $501,400 and $521,600.



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U.S. judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

U.S. judge orders Keystone XL pipeline review in setback for Trump

A federal judge in Montana filed an injunction to stop construction on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday. 

Brian Morris, the district judge in Montana, wrote a 54-page order addressing allegations from Indigenous and environmental groups, alleging the U.S. Department of State made several violations when it approved the Keystone project.

In August, Morris ruled that the State Department was obligated to “analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision” to issue a permit for the pipeline last year.

Stephan Volker, who represented the Indigenous Environmental Network called the order a win.

“When the Trump administration reversed course it failed to address those factual findings,” Volker said. “Under a number of different laws in the states administration has to explain the reasons why it feels it can change a decision when it was made contrary to actual findings in the past.”

Volker said the Keystone XL project violated several environmental laws and emphasised that the Trump administration failed to address a key flip flop from a previous ruling by former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, Kerry ruled that the project wasn’t in the public interest, citing climate change issues and alleging the project wouldn’t be the economic driver it promised to be.

Volker said the judge’s ruling means the project has been set aside and can’t proceed — but the order can be appealed.

Promising or problematic?

Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema said the ruling is a significant setback for TransCanada’s Keystone XL project and a big win for Indigenous groups and environmental defenders. 

“This should also be huge warning sign to the Liberal government about the inevitable legal hurdles they will face if they continue to rush and curtail the Trans Mountain assessment process,” he wrote in a statement. “We can’t afford new fossil fuel infrastructure if we want to save the planet.” 

He added that halving fossil fuel emissions in the next ten years means work on any new pipelines must come for a full stop in order to avoid a “climate catastrophe.”

In contrast, Dennis McConaghy, a former executive at the Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation, said the ruling is bad news for Canada but guessed that the ruling will be looked at and reversed in a higher court. 

“This would be very, very problematic and put even more pressure on a Trudeau government to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built,” he said. “Canadians should hope that this thing is vigorously litigated and reversed.” 

‘Not over’ for Indigenous activist

Dallas Goldtooth has been following the twists and turns of the project for years, and the Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network said he was flustered because the ruling was “huge news.” 

“We keep killing it, and it keeps coming back from the dead,” said Goldtooth, who is a Mdewakanton Dakota and Diñe man based in Minnesota.

Goldtooth, one of the plaintiffs represented by Volker, said if necessary he would show up at a construction site with judge Morris’ ruling to stand his ground and make sure it is followed.

“It’s not over for us, we’re just going to keep on going ahead,” he said.




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Alberta Energy Regulator spent more than $14,000 flying boss to weekly meetings

Alberta Energy Regulator spent more than $14,000 flying boss to weekly meetings

The chief executive of Alberta’s oil and gas regulator no longer lives in the province and the organization is spending thousands of dollars to cover frequent flights from his home in B.C. to meetings in Calgary and Edmonton.

Expense reports posted on the Alberta Energy Regulator website show that from last November until the end of October, the organization regularly paid for CEO Jim Ellis to fly from his home in Penticton, B.C. to Alberta.

CBC News counted nearly 50 trips, mostly return airfares between Calgary and Penticton, to transport Ellis for the express purpose of attending AER meetings. 

A tally of those flights shows costs topping $14,600, not including airfare change fees.

The AER board approved the arrangement earlier this year after Ellis moved to Penticton for “personal, family reasons.” 

But a spokeswoman for the NDP government said it was disappointing to learn such expenses had been approved, adding the government has worked to rein in salaries and perks at provincial agencies, boards and commissions.

“We’ll  continue to make sure dollars are well spent at government agencies and will be directing the AER not to allow this arrangement in the future,” Kate Toogood said in an email.

This arrangement was also independently vetted by the AER’s Finance department.– Alberta Energy Regulator statement

Ellis, who Albertans learned last week is leaving the position at the end of January after five years with the organization, did not file accommodation expenses while attending the Alberta meetings. 

The provincial government sets the budget for the AER but the industry itself funds the regulator through administrative fees.

In a statement to CBC News, the AER said that Ellis initially paid for weekly travel to Calgary himself, using the cheapest fares available.

“However, frequent changes to his itinerary caused by AER business resulted in increasing change fees,” it said. 

“The AER considered reimbursing Mr. Ellis for these ongoing costs, but concluded that it would be more cost effective to simply coordinate and pay for his travel.

“The AER Board therefore reached an agreement, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, to pay for weekly travel. This arrangement was also independently vetted by the AER’s Finance department.” 

The AER said it does not pay for any other travel or accommodation expenses related to this arrangement.

All of these travel expenses are available on the public record and are clearly documented on the AER website.

The AER has paid for its CEO to travel from his home in Penticton, B.C. to Calgary for meetings, but it says it does not pay for any other travel or accommodation expenses related to the arrangement. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

According to the regulator’s financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2018, Ellis is paid a base salary of $525,000. Total compensation is stated as $728,000, including cash and non-cash benefits.

The next person to hold the job will be paid a maximum base salary of $396,720 due to changes in provincial regulation.

Peter Bowal, an expert on board governance at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, said paying for people to regularly commute from one province to work in another creates both practical and symbolic issues.

“It’s a personal decision where you live and the province you choose is a personal decision,” Bowal said.

“I think if you’ve chosen to take one of the top jobs in the province you have to make a commitment to that province.”

At the federal level, Bowal said people appointed by cabinet to a top, full-time job at an agency are required as a term of that appointment to live within the national capital region or a reasonable commuting distance.

“I think it’s basically understood in the province — if it’s not explicitly stated, it would be probably implied — that one has to live fairly close to where they work, especially top management,” Bowal said.

It was announced last week that Ellis would be leaving his post atop the AER at the end of January.

Prior to his appointment in 2013, he’d held deputy minister positions in the Alberta government, serving in the departments of energy and environment.



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New coworking spaces let you take your kid to work, every day

New coworking spaces let you take your kid to work, every day

After having kids, Amanda Munday realized that child care was often inaccessible and unaffordable. That’s why she opened The Workaround, a parent-friendly coworking space housed in a converted bank featuring a play area for children supervised by an early childhood educator.

“[The vault] is where we relax,” said Munday. “It can be a nursing suite. It’s also, surprisingly, the place where the most babies have slept.”

The vault is the former bank safe and regular customer Jen Allison says her son Jack loves it.

Jen Allison, pictured here with her son Jack, says a coworking space that offers childcare relieves a lot of anxiety and enables her to run her photography business. (Jason Osler/CBC)

“I come about three times a week [for] between four to six hours,” said Allison, a self-employed family photographer. “That includes maybe napping in the vault with Jack, some lunches and getting some work done or collaborating with other people in the space.”

For Allison, being able to get some work done while staying near Jack is a relief. She doesn’t want to be too far from him because he’s still young and he has congenital heart disease.

“I can be on site with him and it relieves a lot of the anxiety of taking him to daycare, especially as an entrepreneur and a business owner,” said Allison. “It’s just such a fantastic space for that. Already the benefits I’ve had from coming here, to me, are going to be long term.”

More coworking spaces opening with child care

The Workaround is one of several coworking spaces opening with child care. And the timing couldn’t be better.

Close to half of Canadians live in areas with very few available daycare spaces, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, so there is an unmet need for this type of business model.

Entrepreneur Madeleine Shaw is working on a project called Nestworks, which partners a shared office space with a licensed daycare provider to allow entrepreneurs to bring their children to work with them. Shaw hopes to open the ten thousand square foot Vancouver space in 2019.

Meanwhile, other smaller ventures are emerging such as the Coworking Parents Studio in Guelph, which exists in multiple rooms on the main floor of a house.

‘This isn’t an experiment,’ says coworking expert

Ashley Proctor says we can expect more of this type of business model.

She’s a coworking pioneer who has opened spaces or consulted for others since 2003. She’s also the executive producer of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, billed as “the largest coworking conference series in the world.”

She says adding child care services to coworking spaces makes sense.

Ashley Proctor is a coworking consultant and the executive producer of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference. (Creative Blueprint)

“This isn’t an experiment, this is a fully formed business idea and I think we’re going to see more of it because of these incredible operators who are coming on,” said Proctor. “They’re gonna really lead by example and show many other operators that it can be successfully done. It can be an added amenity to a traditional space.”

Proctor says the space itself, which could include the practical needs of child care, is only a small part of the coworking community.

“A real coworking space is more about the movement, so it’s more about the people,” said Proctor. “It’s about dismantling loneliness. It’s about economic development and increasing productivity and supporting social enterprise and small business.”

She says as more people learn about and utilize the coworking model, customers will expect child care options at their coworking space. And businesses that already offer that service will likely see the benefits.



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More workers are tired on the job and it’s bad for business

More workers are tired on the job and it's bad for business

Do you ever go to work tired? New research suggests you’re not alone. The results from an online survey from Robert Half, an HR consulting firm, suggests that 76 per cent of people are regularly tired while working.

Nearly one-third or 31 per cent of respondents said they were “very often” tired on the job, 45 per cent said “somewhat often” and 23 per cent said it “rarely” occurred that they were tired on the job.

David King is the Canadian director at Robert Half, an HR consulting firm. (Robert Half)

The online survey randomly selected 570 Canadian employees in February 2018. The results are considered accurate plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20.

David King is the Canadian director at Robert Half. He says a tired workforce severely impacts a company’s bottom line.

“One of the big concerns is that you’ll generally have a level of disengagement by employees,” said King. “That leads to, certainly, a loss of morale; loss of productivity and things such as the missed deadlines or the mistakes in the person’s work. That leads to a poor relationship with the employer and, potentially, ultimate turnover in their employment.”

‘Reframe your mindset to the value of sleep’

Clare Kumar isn’t surprised that so many people are tired on the job. It’s one of the complaints that she consistently hears from her clients.

Clare Kumar is the founder of Streamlife and calls herself a productivity catalyst. (Submitted by Clare Kumar)

Kumar is the founder of Streamlife, which helps clients to get organized, improve productivity and achieve greater peace of mind at work. She says people don’t value sleep enough, but it’s the foundation of a successful day at work.

“You need to get your head around that sleep is when your body heals,” said Kumar. “It’s not time when nothing is going on. You have to reframe your mindset to the value of sleep. You have to believe that you deserve the sleep and then you have to set your schedule up to claim it.”

But Kumar says that companies also have a significant role to play in combating a sleepy workforce.

“Look at the culture that you’re creating and the language around sleep in your office,” said Kumar.

Tips to decrease incidents of tiredness

Kumar suggests employers take bold steps to decrease incidents of tiredness by, for example, creating an electronics-free wellness room where workers can go to relax for 15 to 20 minutes or even take a power nap.

She encourages bosses to lead by example by not consistently working late nights or sending emails after hours. She also says encouraging employees to unplug when they leave the office and not rewarding employees who work long hours can go a long way to boost morale and promote a restful workforce.

Ultimately, says Kumar, we have to take responsibility for ourselves by making sure we get seven to eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly and eat right.

“The broader, more important strategy is around cultivating the right amount of sleep for you,” said Kumar. “And I call that getting in touch with your sleep number: determining exactly how much sleep you need and then setting up not only the environment for sleep, but also your schedule so that you actually claim the sleep that your body needs.”

All the stuff we know we should do, but every once in a while need a reminder to actually do it.



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