‘It’s about time Ottawa started working for Alberta,’ Kenney says, touting a 5-point plan

'It's about time Ottawa started working for Alberta,' Kenney says, touting a 5-point plan

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is in Ottawa today with a detailed plan for federal support he says will help his province grapple with a prolonged commodity price slump that has left the economy reeling.

Speaking at a lunchtime reception in Ottawa, Kenney said for decades Alberta has been an outsized contributor to the Canadian economy and the federal treasury, and now it’s time for Ottawa to lend some support by implementing a five-point plan Kenney has dubbed the “fair deal for Alberta.”

“We’ve have been working for Ottawa for too long; and it’s about time Ottawa started working for Alberta,” Kenney said. “Ottawa needs to stop making it harder for us to jump-start our economy.”

Kenney said he is a patriotic Canadian and he doesn’t subscribe to the separatist sentiment emerging from the Wexit movement, but he understands why so many people in Alberta and Saskatchewan feel isolated from the federation.

Kenney said many western Canadians bristled when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the last election campaign that he’d be a leader who will “fight the big oil companies.”

“Can you imagine a prime minister saying that ‘We need a government that will fight the big auto manufacturers?’ Or ‘We need a government that will fight the big aviation companies?’ It is unthinkable. And rightfully so,” Kenney said. “Friends, this is why we have seen a disturbing rise in alienation on the Canadian prairies, and particularly in Alberta.”

Encouraging Indigenous equity

Chief among Kenney’s demands is a promise to set a “firm, fixed and fast deadline” for the completion of the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline project. The expansion, which will nearly triple the amount of Alberta oil moving to the B.C. coast, has been beset by years of delays and legal wrangling. The Crown corporation-owned company building the line began laying pipe last week but a pending Federal Court of Appeal decision could further stymie construction.

Kenney said he wants Ottawa to encourage Indigenous equity in the project. Indigenous people will be the “greatest beneficiaries” of the project through employment and support payments to affected communities. Indigenous groups in B.C. have been leading the legal fight against the $7.4 billion project.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, speaking to the Canadian Club of Ottawa today, addresses feelings of western alienation and outlines Alberta’s demands for the federal government. The Premier, who says his ‘patriotism will never be conditional’, will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday. 2:15

Kenney is also formally asking the federal Liberal government to lift a cap on fiscal stabilization program that helps provinces facing a short-term cash crunch.

The program, which is administered by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, provides financial assistance to any province faced with a year-over-year decline in its non-resource revenues greater than five per cent.

Raising the cap on assistance

However, the money available to eligible provinces is capped at $60 per resident — something Kenney said is inadequate given the size of the budget deficit the province is facing after oil prices cratered.

“There are no caps on transfers out of Alberta when times are good, so we don’t accept that there should be a cap on the one program designed to help us when times are tough,” Kenney said.

All the country’s provincial and territorial leaders agreed last week to back Alberta in its bid to raise the cap on this program, which Kenney has called an “equalization rebate,” but also to send retroactive payments to Alberta for the last four years.

The third demand is for Ottawa to repeal Bill C-48, which forbids crude-laden ships from docking at ports in the B.C. north. He said the legislation unfairly targets Alberta and severely limits pipeline export capacity.

Kenney is also seeking a “substantial amendment” to Bill C-69. He said his principal concern is with the legislation “projects list,” the criteria Ottawa uses to determine which proposed natural resources developments should go through a federal environmental review.

Under the legislation passed in the last Parliament, Kenney said, the Liberal government has created a “bureaucratic morass” and even cleaner energy projects design to lower greenhouse gas emissions — like transitioning power plants from coal to natural gas — are being held up by the new review.

Kenney wants Ottawa to exempt some projects that fall under provincial jurisdiction — most importantly oilsands projects in Alberta — from a mandatory federal review. The federal government has said it would consider exempting new oilsands developments if Kenney maintains a cap on emissions from the sector.

Expanding flow-through shares

The fourth demand is for Ottawa to expand flow-through shares, a financial instrument used by resources companies to raise capital, so that firms can raise more money to build developments like carbon capture projects or to help pay for the decommissioning of spent oil and gas wells.

Lastly, Kenney wants Ottawa to accept Alberta’s methane reduction regulations. The province has said its plan to curb methane from the oilpatch is just as effective as, but less costly than what the federal government has proposed to impose on the province.

“Look, Albertans are practical people, we’re not unreasonable people. Nothing we are asking for is unreasonable. Everything we are asking for is within the federal government’s power and none of it would hurt any other province. We are simply asking for a fair deal now,” he said.

Kenney said Alberta’s demands of Ottawa are not “selfish or parochial,” but come at a time of genuine unease. An estimated 80,000 high-paid energy workers have lost their jobs as a result of the oil price slump and constrained pipeline capacity, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland responds to questions in the House of Commons on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

In question period Monday, Conservative MPs echoed Kenney’s demands, saying the Liberal government hasn’t done enough to help the province.

Manitoba MP Candice Bergen said the government is “turning a blind eye to half this nation.”

But Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said: “I would like to assure the members opposite and all Canadians that our government takes very seriously the economic challenges that the Prairies are facing.”

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Canopy Growth names Constellation Brands executive as new CEO

Canopy Growth names Constellation Brands executive as new CEO

Canopy Growth Corp. has named a veteran Constellation Brands executive as its new chief executive.

The cannabis company says David Klein, the chief financial officer at Canopy’s largest shareholder, will replace Mark Zekulin, effective Jan. 14, 2020.

Klein has been serving as chairman of the board at the Smiths Falls, Ont, company, which intends to appoint a new chair once he takes over as CEO.

Zekulin is a founding employee at Canopy and served in a variety of roles including president, then president and co-CEO, and finally as CEO after co-founder Bruce Linton was ousted earlier this year.

Linton’s departure came after Constellation said in June that it was “not pleased” with the company’s financial results.

Zekulin is expected to step down as CEO and resign his seat on the board of directors of Canopy effective Dec. 20.


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Car owner forced to replace engine twice within weeks despite safety recall

Car owner forced to replace engine twice within weeks despite safety recall

A B.C. man says he’s in “disbelief” after learning he’ll have to swallow the cost of replacing his SUV’s engine — not once, but twice, within weeks — despite the vehicle being part of a major recall that was issued before the breakdowns.

And he’s not the only one facing thousands of dollars in repair bills for vehicles under recall.

In June, Rick Lingard’s 2011 Hyundai Tucson’s engine seized and died while he was driving down a major highway near Cranbrook, B.C.

“They showed me the engine after they took it out and there was a hole in it. It was destroyed,” said Lingard, who lives in Nelson. 

He paid more than $7,000 to replace it, opting for a used engine with 40,000 kilometres on it, through an independent mechanic, after a Hyundai dealership quoted him more than $10,000 for a new one.

A few weeks later, it happened again.

“The same kind of high-pitched rattle-y sound … and then all the lights came on again and — boom! I was in disbelief,” he told Go Public.

Then, another twist: Just three days after the second catastrophic engine failure, Lingard got a recall notice describing the same problem.

The recall was issued in February, but the notice didn’t arrive in the mail until August. Lingard says no one at two Hyundai dealerships he’d contacted about his engine breakdowns mentioned anything about a recall.

“To me, it’s just irresponsible to the core,” he said.

Transport Canada could easily fix the problem, according to one automotive consumer advocate, by forcing Hyundai to cover Lingard’s costs. But the federal agency, says George Iny of the Automotive Protection Association, tends not to use the full extent of its powers. 

The agency also has the power to force recalls — under changes made last year to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act — but has never used it. 

“Transport Canada is a bit like an out-of-shape person who just got a gold-plated membership to the gym. That doesn’t automatically put you in shape,” said Iny.

“Transport Canada needs to act more assertively.”

Hyundai refuses to reimburse Lingard for the cost of replacing the engines, saying he didn’t change his oil often enough. (Submitted by Rick Lingard)

Debris in engines

After getting the recall notice, Lingard submitted his receipts to Hyundai Canada. It rejected the claim, saying his first engine failure was due to “insufficient engine maintenance, not the recall” because Lingard didn’t do sufficiently frequent oil changes prior to 100,000 kilometres of driving, and didn’t provide receipts for subsequent changes. 

The company says he changed his oil every 20,000 kilometres instead of every 12,000 as required by the manual. After the warranty expired, Lingard says he stopped going to the dealership for oil changes. 

Iny says using oil changes as a reason to deny claims is common but puzzling. 

Zero compassion. Zero empathy. Zero everything​​​​​​.— Scott Wild, Kia customer

“The fact that you didn’t keep records of oil changes doesn’t make you negligent. That’s just an invention,” Iny said. “It’s not a valid reason for refusing coverage.” 

He says both Kia and its part-owner Hyundai have admitted, in some cases, that such engine failures stem from metallic debris left inside during the manufacturing process. 

In those cases, “whether you did oil changes or not,” Iny said, “the debris was already there.” Lingard’s recall notice doesn’t mention debris. 

Hyundai Canada also denies responsibility for Lingard’s second blown engine because, according to a spokesperson, the engine was not “provided, installed or inspected by a Hyundai dealer.”

When Go Public asked why his recall notice took months to arrive, and why no one at the company told Lingard about the recall, it didn’t respond. 

Go Public has heard from dozens of Hyundai and Kia owners who say they, too, are being left out of the recall.

Consumer advocate George Iny says carmakers should investigate claims from their customers before denying them. (Dennis Cleary/CBC)

Scott Wild and his wife Donna Stewart, of Cambridge, Ont., experienced the same dangerous breakdown as Lingard, when the engine of their 2013 Kia Sportage suddenly failed at high speeds on June 4.

Their mechanic also found a hole had been blown in the side of the engine and it needed to be replaced.

“I said, ‘You can’t be serious … this vehicle has 140,000 kilometres on it and it’s finally paid off,'” Wild said.

That’s when the couple discovered there’s a recall on the 2013 Kia Sportage, but their specific vehicle isn’t covered.

Kia told them their vehicle identification number was not listed under the recall. 

Donna Stewart and Scott Wild found out the 2013 Kia Sportage was under recall. But their specific Sportage was excluded, Kia says, because it has a different engine type. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

“It was really weird, ” said Wild. “What happened to our vehicle is exactly the same as what happens to all the vehicles that are on the list.”

Kia Canada told Go Public that the couple’s vehicle had an MPI (“multi-point injection”) engine — and only those with GDI (“gasoline direct injection”) engines are part of the recalls. 

What’s the difference? When Go Public asked, the company didn’t answer. But independent mechanic Chris Solodko, in Hamilton, told Go Public he’s repaired dozens of both types and, in his opinion, their engine problems are almost identical.

“They all have the same noise, the same problem. One [type of engine] is running on a high pressure and the other one is running on a low pressure,” he said. 

Transport Canada told Go Public it has received 65 complaints of engine failures not covered by the Kia and Hyundai recalls since March and says it is investigating whether more vehicles should be added.

Iny says they have to move faster. “There is a pattern here. What we need of the carmakers is an open mind that the complaints that fall outside of the group are not just turned down but that they are looked into,” he said.

Wild and Stewart ended up selling their vehicle for parts, then joined one of at least four Canadian, engine-related class-action lawsuits against Kia and Hyundai. The lawsuits have not yet been certified by the courts. 

Stewart and Wild sold their Sportage for parts after its engine failed and it was excluded from the recall. (Submitted by Donna Stewart)

Left out of settlement

Both Hyundai and Kia have been dogged with engine failure and fire complaints and lawsuits in Canada and the U.S.

Hyundai and Kia have recalled almost 500,000 vehicles in Canada for engine-related defects since 2015, due to manufacturing debris that could cause the engines to fail.

The problem can also cause fires. Millions of other vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. and, in October, the companies agreed to set aside $758 million US to settle related class-actions in the U.S. and South Korea, pending approval by the courts.

Iny is hopeful a U.S. settlement might mean one is coming for drivers in Canada, but it could be a while before that happens — if at all.

“We would want total parity,” he said.

In the meantime, Transport Canada is asking car owners who believe they have experienced a safety-related problem with their vehicle to contact its Defect Investigations and Recalls Division at 1-800-333-0510, or submit a defect complaint form online.

Wild and Stewart have filed complaints with Transport Canada. They are waiting to see what the agency decides.

“Zero compassion. Zero empathy. Zero everything,” Wild said about his interaction with Kia staff. “Basically, ‘Sorry about your luck.'”

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Holiday scams to watch out for; Prepare to pay more for groceries in 2020: Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

Holiday scams to watch out for; Prepare to pay more for groceries in 2020: 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.

4 scams to watch out for this holiday season

The RCMP says the incidence of scams tends to rise in December, but we’ve got you covered. Be on the lookout for SIM swapping scams, online shopping deals that seem too good to be true, loan scams and calls from people claiming to be Service Canada representatives

One scam, called SIM swapping, could allow fraudsters to gain access to the apps on your phone, and any account information stored in them. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Get ready to spend more on groceries next year 

The average Canadian family will pay up to an extra $487 for food next year, according to an annual report that highlights climate change as a big culprit for rising prices, especially in the produce department. “We’re deliberately pointing out that, you know: climate change is causing the droughts, is causing the bad snowstorms that’s impacting prices,” says Simon Somogyi, lead researcher from Ontario’s University of Guelph.

The report calls the impact of changing weather patterns on our food systems through droughts, forest fires, heavy precipitation, reduced freshwater access and rising sea levels “the elephant in the room” for 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia outlaws flavoured e-cigarettes and juices. Is your province next? 

The move, which makes Nova Scotia the first province in the country to ban flavoured vaping products, will come into effect on April 20. Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey believes it’s a good first step, and one that will help contribute to a reduction in the number of youth vaping.

Ahmed Milleti, 22, vapes at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The Nova Scotia government says there has been an increase in youth vaping in the province and the ban taking effect in April will help combat that. (Robert Short/CBC)

Organ transplants are increasing … but so is the wait list

As transplant technology improves and Canada’s population ages, more people are opting for organ transplants, says the Canadian Institution for Health Information (CIHI), and this increased demand is leading to longer waiting times for patients in need. Last year, according to CIHI, more than 200 people died while waiting for an organ transplant. 

As more people opt for organ transplants, increased demand is leading to longer waiting times for patients in need, according to a report released Thursday. Each binder represents someone in Atlantic Canada waiting for an organ donation. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

What else is going on?

Canadian communities are tapping into greener ways to heat and cool buildings. District energy systems are increasingly being adopted as a way to provide a greener, more efficient, more reliable source of heat.

The road to vaping. Less than two years ago, the federal government officially welcomed the vaping industry to Canada. The belief among policy-makers and public health experts was that e-cigarettes were safer than combustible cigarettes and would help smokers kick their habit. That’s not what happened.

Potato prices rising in the wake of poor harvests. Cold and wet weather in North America this fall is driving up the price of potatoes.

Uber received more than 3,000 reports of sexual assaults in the U.S. in 2018. The report comes as Uber is under pressure from regulators in many cities, including London, which recently rescinded the company’s licence to carry passengers over a “pattern of failures” on safety and security.

The latest in recalls

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Ottawa accepts Alberta’s new $30-per-tonne carbon plan for large emitters in 2020

Ottawa accepts Alberta's new $30-per-tonne carbon plan for large emitters in 2020

The federal government will accept the Alberta government’s latest plan to tax the greenhouse gas emissions of large industrial facilities at a rate of $30 per tonne in 2020.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Friday his department agrees that Alberta’s system will meet federal requirements for large emitters like oilsands operations, natural gas producers, chemical manufacturers and fertilizer plants.

All told, the province estimates these types of heavy-emitting facilities account for 55 to 60 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This system runs in parallel to the federal fuel charge — commonly known as the carbon tax — that applies to individual consumers and smaller-emitting companies.

Alberta already has a carbon-pricing system that charges large emitters at a rate of $30 per tonne. It was brought in by the previous NDP government. The new United Conservative Party government plans to modify that system, however, starting on Jan. 1.

While the carbon price will remain at $30 per tonne, that price only effectively applies to emissions above a target level.

Change in emissions targets

The new plan, known as the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulation, will make it easier for some of the most carbon-intensive facilities to hit their emissions targets, thereby avoiding the tax and potentially earning credits for coming in below target.

That’s because the current targets are set at an industry-wide level — meaning all oilsands facilities, for example, are held to the same emissions standard — while TIER will create individual targets for each facility based on its emissions levels from the recent past.

The province estimates that switching to the new system will save industry more than $330 million in avoided compliance costs in 2020.

The change in targets will apply to all industrial categories except electricity generation.

Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon said Friday he was pleased by Ottawa’s decision to accept the “made-in-Alberta” carbon-pricing system.

“When we engaged with industry on TIER in summer 2019, we heard loud and clear that they want to be regulated by the province, not by Ottawa,” Nixon said in a release.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) issued a statement that also praised the “made-in-Alberta” plan.

“This program has the components to ensure both Alberta’s large and small oil and natural gas operations remain competitive, while clearly satisfying the requirements set by the federal government,” said Terry Abel, CAPP’s executive vice-president of operations and climate.

Alberta will ‘oppose’ $40 price in 2021

Current federal rules will require the price on carbon to rise to $40 per tonne in 2021 and $50 per tonne in 2022.

Premier Jason Kenney said Friday his government would “oppose that measure” but won’t necessarily flout it.

“We’ll have to make a prudent judgment when we get closer to that date,” Kenney told reporters. “Because one thing we don’t want is the federal government bigfooting into Alberta and enforcing their own, separate regulatory regime.”

The federal government plans to impose its carbon tax on the consumer-level sale of fossil fuels starting in 2020.

Carbon tax — and rebates — coming Jan. 1

Under its previous NDP goverment, Alberta had a consumer-level carbon tax that met federal requirements, but Kenney’s UCP government killed that carbon tax as one of its first acts after being elected in April.

The federal “backstop” on carbon pricing, however, means Ottawa’s carbon tax will apply to the purchase of fuels like gasoline, natural gas and propane in Alberta as of Jan 1.

Albertans will also start receiving carbon-tax rebates in the new year, which the federal government says will offset the increased cost for most households in the province.

Those rebates will be calculated as follows:

  • $444 for a single adult or the first adult in a couple.
  • $222 for the second adult in a couple. Single parents will receive this amount for their first child.
  • $111 for each child in the family (starting with the second child for single parents).

The rebate amounts are fixed. You get the same amount regardless of how much carbon tax you pay.

Economists say this helps alleviate the burden of the tax while also maintaining the incentive to consume less fossil fuel, since the less you burn, the less you pay.

That will also be applied at a rate of $30 per tonne in 2020, which works out to 6.63 cents per litre of gasoline.

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B.C. cannabis shop covers window with photo of frontier Mountie. RCMP wants it removed

B.C. cannabis shop covers window with photo of frontier Mountie. RCMP wants it removed

Jeff Weaver has been jumping through the legal hoops required to set up Jimmy’s Cannabis shop in Cranbrook, B.C., but now an image of a famous Mountie Weaver used to cover one of the shop’s windows has caught the attention of law enforcement.

Cannabis stores in B.C. are required to cover their windows so the interior can’t be seen from the street.

Many shops use plain, frosted white coverings, but Weaver opted for a collection of black and white historical images representative of the Cranbrook area.

One of the windows depicts Sam Steele, known as the man who helped bring law and order to the west in the late 19th century.

Weaver’s store had only been open a matter of hours on Thursday when the image of a mustachioed Steele led to a visit by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — and a request to take the picture down.

“My initial response was to say ‘absolutely,’ because it was our first day of business and it was quite friendly,” said Weaver of the request.

But soon he began to have second thoughts, and he’s now hoping to avoid taking Steele off the window.

In a statement, Cranbrook RCMP said the national police force’s uniform is trademarked and can’t be used without permission.

Sam Steele’s legacy

Steele is among Canada’s most famous Mounties. He was the third recruit in the North-West Mounted Police force — a precursor to the RCMP — and his name rings throughout the Cranbrook area. 

The city celebrates the annual Sam Steele Days festival, there’s a strip club at the Sam Steele Inn, and the heritage town of Fort Steele is about 16 kilometres away. That was the site of the first permanent North-West Mounted Police post west of the Rocky Mountains, originally established by Steele as Kootenay Post in 1887.

Sam Steele of the North-West Mounted Police and his detachment near Revelstoke, B.C., during construction of CPR, 1884. (Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta)

After maintaining law and order in the Kootenays, which included diffusing tensions between settlers and the Ktunaxa peoples, Steele went on to do the same in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.

The iconic red serge was still taking shape as a uniform during Steele’s service in the NWMP. He’s not wearing the Stetson hat in most of the historical images — and many, like the photo used on Weaver’s cannabis shop, don’t have him wearing any hat at all.

He does sport the red serge in many photos, but of course, they’re all black and white.

For Weaver, Steele isn’t just a part of the RCMP’s history, he’s part of the historical fabric of Cranbrook, and the window covering won’t be cheap to replace — about $1,000, by Weaver’s estimate.

Cranbrook RCMP provided CBC with a statement about the issue, saying that the force became aware of concerns about the use of an image of the iconic NWMP uniform.

“Local officials took steps to confirm the images use was in breach,” said the statement. “The owner of the business was not aware that the RCMP uniform is trademarked and as such cannot be used without the expressed permission of the national police force.”

Weaver is now considering his options, and hopes to keep Steele’s image on the building.

A image of a legendary Mountie Sam Steele used to cover a Cranbrook cannabis shop has attracted the RCMP’s attention. (Jeff Weaver)

“I see him as a figure of compromise and meeting people halfway,” he said. “I saw it as a tribute to the RCMP, to be honest.”

Weaver said he doesn’t think he’d be getting the RCMP attention if the store wasn’t selling cannabis, but he wasn’t told it had anything to do with weed.

He said he’s hoping to discuss the issue further with police to get more information about its concerns.

“The last thing I want is to appear disrespectful to the RCMP,” said Weaver.

With files from Bob Keating and CBC Radio West

Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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Here’s how many Canadians get a holiday bonus

Here's how many Canadians get a holiday bonus

More than 60 per cent of Canadian workers will get some kind of reward from their employer this holiday season, but for most, it won’t be the kind they’re looking for — money.

A new survey conducted on behalf of human resources software company ADP Canada found that of the 61 per cent of workers who receive something extra from their employers this time of year, just 15 per cent get a financial bonus.

The online survey of 1,562 employed Canadians was conducted between Nov. 1 and 4, and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Unsurprisingly, 54 per cent of respondents said cash would be their first choice over, say, a Starbucks gift card or an underwhelming employee dinner. Alas, those whose employers do something to show staff appreciation for during the festive season are most likely to get a holiday party (40%), followed by extra time off (28%), some sort of gift (16%) or a charitable activity (7%).

One-third of employers don’t provide any end-of-year acknowledgement at all.

Atlantic Canadians most likely to see the money

There were a few notable regional differences, said Heather Haslam, vice-president of marketing for ADP Canada. 

“Quebecers like to party,” she said, noting that 51 per cent of respondents from that province said their place of work would hold a holiday bash, compared to the national average of 40 per cent.

Those in Atlantic Canada were the most likely to say they’ll be getting a financial bonus this year, with 23 per cent looking forward to something extra on their paycheque, compared to 15 per cent nationwide.

People from British Columbia were most likely to get extra vacation time, while those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the most likely to say their employer does nothing at all to mark the holidays.

“There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between employees and employers,” said Haslam.

The results suggest that employers should think about tailoring their offerings to the individual, she said.

‘Create a more engaged team’

Bosses might opt to provide individual employees with a choice to either attend the company holiday party or putting that money toward a charity, said Haslam. Or provide the option to choose between a financial bonus or some extra time off.

“That’s creating an environment where people’s individual preferences are understood and acknowledged, and it helps to create a more engaged team,” she said.

Klick Inc. staffers take in a presentation during the town hall meeting that highlights the year’s accomplishments, before celebrations get underway. (Submitted by Klick Inc.)

Glenn Zujew, executive vice-president at Toronto-based Klick Inc., a group of companies that includes the world’s largest independent health marketing company, said the organization goes big with employee incentives this time of year.

The company, which was the recipient of 11 best employer awards in 2019, aims to “surprise and delight” this time of year.

The company holds a town hall to reflect on the past year, followed by a splashy party where all staff spouses are invited, including those who are flown in from other parts of the country.

I don’t have to book any vacation time off, and I get to spend all that time at home.– Ian Marquette, Halifax tech worker and father of three

“Sometimes people need to stay a little bit later and we want to make sure we thank the spouses for those kinds of things,” said Zujew.

At this year’s party, management announced that it’s organized an upcoming early screening of the new Star Wars movie. 

In addition to lively charitable activities, including the production and release of its annual holiday video that features staff as actors, the office will close between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day so employees can have the time off without having to dip into their vacation time.

Each staff member also receives a personalized, coffee table-style yearbook that captures photos and details about each individual’s year.

Things like financial bonuses are handled on an individual basis, said Zujew.

For Ian Marquette, who started working as product designer at software company Proposify in Halifax this year, it was a delight to discover that the office will be closed for two full weeks over the holidays. Being off for the entire school break will give him time with his three kids and remove any child-care challenges the family would normally face.

“It’s great. I don’t have to book any vacation time off, and I get to spend all that time at home,” said Marquette. “I’m really happy. It’s very fortunate.”

Although the holiday closure didn’t come up during the recruitment process, Marquette said he believes the company could have made it a big selling point. “I’ve never worked anywhere that does that.”

Although Haslam said it’s always good to show employees appreciation, the holidays in particular offer an opportunity to pause, reflect and acknowledge the contributions of staff, which is particularly critical for engagement and retention in a tight labour market.

“People want to feel valued,” she said.

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Roots cuts sales forecast as it grapples with several challenges

Roots cuts sales forecast as it grapples with several challenges

Apparel retailer Roots Corp. downgraded its sales expectations for the current financial year as it grapples with a shortened holiday shopping period and other challenges.

“We’re uncertain how the consumer is going to respond to that shortened period,” said CEO Jim Gabel in a conference call with analysts Friday morning after the company released its third-quarter financial results.

This year, shoppers face a crunched gift-getting time frame with only a little over three weeks between Black Friday and Christmas Day. Last year, when American Thanksgiving fell a week earlier on Nov. 22, shoppers had more than four weeks to buy presents.

Roots noted its same-store sales, a key retail metric, is positive.

But Roots declined to provide a new sales guidance figure. The company previously anticipated sales for the year to total between $358 million and $375 million.

Also weighing on sales is the company’s ability to get the right products in the right place at the right time, said Gabel.

The company moved to a new distribution centre recently where it continues to face inefficiencies, he said, including delays in product flow to stores. Those delays are also driving up costs.

The expected slower sales were announced as the company reported its third-quarter earnings dipped from last year and came in below its target range.

Roots reported net income of $1.97 million, or five cents per share in the quarter ending Nov. 2, down from $2.8 million or seven cents per share for the same quarter last year. Analysts had expected earnings of $4.3 million, or eight cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The company’s third-quarter sales totalled $86.4 million compared to $87 million in the same quarter the previous year.

Corporate-owned stores and e-commerce sales grew 4.6 per cent from $70.7 million in the third quarter of 2018 to $73.9 million in the most recent quarter.

‘Headwinds’ in Asia, disappointment in U.S.

In the U.S., where the company had seven corporate-owned stores by the end of the quarter, Roots says its new stores are performing well below expectations.

The company is encouraged by its American e-commerce business, and its two legacy stores remain very profitable, said Gabel.

However, the company’s new stores have yet to build a community following, like the brand enjoys in Canada, he said.

Growth in sales at corporate-owned stores was offset by a $3.8 million or 23.5 per cent fall in partner and other sales, which totalled $12.4 million down from $16.3 million. That drop came from some deliveries to a partner in Asia made a quarter earlier than initially planned, as well as macroeconomic and geopolitical headwinds in Asian markets.

That shortfall is expected to persist in the fourth quarter, said Gabel.

“The macroeconomic headwinds that we face in those markets, I think, are well-known,” said Gabel, citing an upcoming election in Taiwan and ongoing unrest in Hong Kong.

The company ended the quarter with 114 partner-operated stores in Taiwan, 35 in China and one in Hong Kong.

Same-store sales grew three per cent in the quarter.

The company also announced the immediate resignation of the company’s chief merchant, Nancy Lepler, for personal reasons. Roots will launch an immediate search for a replacement, the company said.

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Canada’s unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Canada's unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

The Canadian economy posted its biggest monthly job loss since the financial crisis as the unemployment rate also pushed higher in November, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The economy lost 71,200 jobs last month and the unemployment rate rose to 5.9 per compared with 5.5 per cent in October, the data agency said.

Economists on average had expected a gain of 10,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 5.5 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The number of full-time jobs fell by 38,400, while part-time employment fell by 32,800.

The goods-producing sector lost 26,600 jobs in the month as the number of manufacturing jobs fell by 27,500 and the natural resources sector shed 6,500. Meanwhile, the services sector lost 44,400 jobs as the number in public administration fell by 24,900 in November.

Regionally, Quebec lost 45,100 jobs in November due to a decline in manufacturing as well as accommodation and food services. Alberta and B.C. both lost 18,200 jobs.

In terms of cities, Regina saw a rise of 0.8 percentage points in the jobs number since last month, to 6 per cent, with Edmonton’s unemployment rate climbed to 7.7 per cent from 7.1 per cent since October. Saint Job, and the Ontario cities of Peterborough and Barrie also saw the rate tick up slightly.

Compared with November last year, however, the economy has added 293,000 jobs.

The jobs report followed a decision by the Bank of Canada earlier this week to keep its key interest rate on hold at 1.75 per cent, where it has been set for more than a year.

In making its decision, the central bank said the Canadian economy has remained resilient despite the global uncertainty caused by the trade war between the United States and China.

The Bank of Canada has stood out from many of its international peers that have moved to cut rates and loosen monetary policy in response to weakness in the global economy. The U.S. Federal Reserve has cut its rate three times this year.

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Approved oilsands project now awaits pipeline capacity increases: developer

Approved oilsands project now awaits pipeline capacity increases: developer

The developer of a 12,000-barrel-per-day thermal oilsands project approved Thursday by the Alberta government says actually going ahead with construction depends largely on when new pipelines can be in service.

President Serge Bisson of privately held Grizzly Oil Sands ULC says the company will now meet with its owners, Wexford Capital LP with 75 per cent and Gulfport Energy Corp. with 25 per cent, to discuss how to proceed with the May River project, which is estimated to cost more than $200 million to build.

He says he’s encouraged by a ceremony held this week near Edmonton to mark the start of pipeline construction for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Bisson says the approval has been a “long time in the making,” noting an application was filed six years ago with the Alberta Energy Regulator and the project was deemed complete about four years ago.

On its website, Grizzly says the May River property was purchased in 2012 for $225 million and the regulatory application filed in December 2013.

In a news release, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage says the approval shows the province is “open for business.”

The United Conservative government recently approved the 260,000-barrel-per-day, $20.6-billion Frontier oilsands mine proposed by Teck Resources Ltd. It also requires federal approvals to proceed.

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