Layoffs at Fiat Chrysler plant in Windsor will affect 1,500 jobs

Unifor says 1,500-job FCA layoff in Windsor 'is not a General Motors issue'

Approximately 1,500 people will be out of work starting Sept. 30, once Fiat Chrysler Automobiles terminates its third shift at the Windsor assembly plant.

It’s a shift that’s been in place since 1993, according to Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

“It’s devastating for everybody. Our feeder plants obviously will feel the ripple effects,” he said, referring to factories that supply parts to the Windsor plant.

Fiat Chrysler has given the union the required six-month notice for a permanent reduction in the plant, according to Cassidy. The plant will return to a two-shift production in September.

While the news came as a shock to the union Thursday afternoon, Cassidy called the change a “sales and business decision.”

“This is not a General Motors-Oshawa situation,” he said, referring to GM’s announcement last November that it would end production at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., by the end of 2019, affecting about 2,600 union workers.

“[Fiat Chrysler] is here in Canada,” Cassidy said. “We build a great product here in Windsor, and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.

Fiat Chrysler says the decision was made to “better align production with global demand.”

Company spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin said in an email that retirement packages will be offered to eligible employees.

“The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid-off hourly employees in open full-time positions, as they become available, based on seniority.”

About 1,500 people will be out of work at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plant in Windsor in six months. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

In December last year, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city needs to start planning as if Fiat Chrysler were leaving Windsor, and spoke about the importance of diversifying the economy and attracting new investment.

When asked if the auto workers need to start diversifying their skills, Cassidy said he had “tried to bridge a gap” with the mayor.

“I have reached out to Drew Dilkens so many times,” he said. “The election is over. Drew Dilkens can’t take his finger off.”

Cassidy said the membership needs to stay together at this time, and will get through the layoff together.

“Our product in Windsor is No.1 in the world. Everyone knows it,” he said. “And we’re going to keep the pressure on the company.”

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Unifor says 1,500-job FCA layoff in Windsor ‘is not a General Motors issue’

Unifor says 1,500-job FCA layoff in Windsor 'is not a General Motors issue'

Approximately 1,500 people will be out of work starting Sept, 30 once FCA terminates its third shift at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

It’s a shift that has been in place since 1993, according to Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

“It’s devastating for everybody,” he said. “Our feeder plants obviously will feel the ripple effects.”

FCA has given the union the required six-month notice for a permanent reduction in the plant, according to Cassidy. The plant will return to a two-shift production in September.

The news came as a shock to the union Thursday afternoon.

However, Cassidy emphasized that this change is a “sales and business decision.”

“This is not a General Motors Oshawa situation. FCA is here in Canada. We build a great product here in Windsor, and we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.

FCA says that the decision behind the lay off is to “better align production with global demand.”

Spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin says in an email that retirement packages will be offered to employees who are eligible.

“The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority.”

There will be 1,500 people out of work at the FCA Windsor Assembly Plant in six months. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

In December last year, mayor Drew Dilkens said the city needs to start planning as if FCA were to leave Windsor. He stressed the importance of diversifying the economy and attracting new investment.

When asked if the auto workers need to start diversifying themselves and their skills, Cassidy said he had “tried to bridge a gap” with the mayor.

“F–k Drew. Seriously,” he said. “I have reached out to Drew Dilkens so many times.”

“The election is over. Drew Dilkens can’t take his finger off.”

Cassidy said the membership needs to stay together at this time and that they will get through the layoff together.

“Our product in Windsor is number one in the world, everyone knows it,” he said. “And we’re going to keep the pressure on the company.”

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Police in Canada, Australia investigate networks behind malicious R.A.T. software

Police in Canada, Australia investigate networks behind malicious R.A.T. software

Authorities in Canada and Australia say police have conducted searches in two cities as part of an investigation of criminal networks that use a type of malicious software to gain unauthorized access to computer systems.

The international investigation is focused on a type of malware known as a remote access trojan, or R.A.T, which can be used to commit a range of offences including theft of personal information and intellectual property.

In Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, says the RCMP used a search warrant on Wednesday at an unidentified residence in the Greater Toronto Area.

Australian Federal Police say they executed search warrants Thursday at an address in Lara, about 60 kilometres southwest of Melbourne.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved with the investigation, according to the AFP and CRTC.

The CRTC says investigators were acting on tips from private cyber security firms but didn’t identify them or provide names of individuals or companies under suspicion.

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Lyft hikes IPO target to $70-$72 a share as excitement rises

Lyft hikes IPO target to $70-$72 a share as excitement rises

Lyft is lifting the price target for its initial public offering in a sign of the excitement surrounding the stock market debut of a ride-hailing service that’s gaining ground on its rival Uber.

With the revision disclosed Wednesday, Lyft is now seeking $70 to $72 US per share, up from its previous goal of $62 to $68. If it attains its new pricing goal, Lyft will have a market value of about $24 billion, even though the San Francisco company still hasn’t turned a profit since co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer started the service in 2012.

Since then, Lyft and Uber combined have popularized the trend of summoning a ride on a smartphone app that connects them to drivers who use their own cars to pick up passengers. The fares are split between the drivers and the ride-hailing companies that make the connections.

The trend has turned into a worldwide cultural phenomenon with plenty of room with future growth, the key reason why so many investors appear to want a slice of the action now. Uber is expected to price its IPO later this spring.

Lyft’s pricing adjustment comes after the company’s management bankers spent a week meeting with investors to explain why buying into the IPO makes sense even though the company has an uninterrupted history of losses totalling nearly $3 billion so far. What’s more, Lyft has acknowledged it may be many more years before it starts making money, especially if it is unsuccessful in its efforts to develop a fleet of self-driving cars so it can lower its costs.

Final IPO price has yet to be determined

The higher price target implies investors are clamouring to buy the nearly 31 million shares that Lyft is selling in its IPO.

The proof will come Thursday when a final IPO price is determined, setting the stage for the stock to begin trading Friday morning under the ticker symbol “LYFT.” It’s still possible the IPO price could end up being above $72 per share if Lyft’s investment bankers believe investor demand justifies another increase.

Despite its losses, Lyft has other impressive numbers to dangle in front of prospective investors. Its revenue doubled last year to $2.2 billion, as its share of the U.S. ride-hailing market rose to 39 per cent in December, up from 22 per cent at the end of 2016, according to its IPO filings.

Those market gains came at the same time that Uber was being sullied by a variety of unsavoury revelations, including evidence of rampant sexual harassment within its ranks, allegations that it stole some of its self-driving car technology and a yearlong coverup of a massive computer break-in that heisted personal information about millions of passengers and drivers.

Lyft tried to position itself as the kinder, gentler ride-hailing service, a strategy that appears to be paying off in spades. Even before the IPO pricing, some stock market analysts have already released research reports asserting the company’s stock is worth $75 to $80 per share.

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Loyalty program company Aimia to cut jobs as it charts post-Aeroplan course

Loyalty program company Aimia to cut jobs as it charts post-Aeroplan course

The former owner of Aeroplan will cut about 25 per cent of its workforce as it charts a new course following the sale of the loyalty program to Air Canada.

Aimia Inc. said Thursday that it expects to reduce its workforce to about 550 employees by the end of 2019, and plans to evolve its business through a combination of organic growth from its other businesses and acquisitions.

The company’s other assets include Air Miles Middle East, a stake in the Club Premier program in Mexico that it jointly controls with Aeromexico, and an investment with Air Asia in a travel technology company that operates BIG Loyalty.

Bill McEwan, who became chairman of Aimia’s board of directors on Thursday, said it has concluded there is “a tremendous opportunity available” due to a strong balance sheet, tax assets, and expertise in the loyalty and travel sectors.

McEwan, a former president and CEO of the Sobeys grocery business who has been an Aimia director since 2016, succeeds Robert Brown, who retired from the board effective Thursday.

In additional, Aimia chief financial officer Mark Grafton will leave the company in May, to be replaced by Steven Leonard, who has been with the company since 2010.

Aimia provided few details about its workforce reduction in its announcement, but Aimia executives were scheduled to speak about its latest financial results on a conference call on Thursday.

The company also announced its net loss for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, which was prior to the sale of Aeroplan, was reduced to $126.2 million from $214.7 million a year earlier.

Revenue from its continuing operations, as of Dec. 31, was $36.8 million — down 23 per cent from $47.3 million.

That excluded the Aeroplan business, which was designated as a discontinued operation for the fourth quarter.

Aimia said its net loss from continuing operations amounted to 98 cents per share. Adjusted net loss from continuing operations was 51 cents per share.

Aimia’s discontinued operations earned 12 cents per share of net income or 50 cents per share after adjustments.

Aimia completed the sale of the Aeroplan loyalty program to Air Canada on Jan. 10. About $308 million of the $497 million in proceeds were used to reduce debt and $100 million are held in a restricted cash account.

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Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceases operations

Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceases operations

Icelandic budget airline WOW Air ceased operations on Thursday, stranding passengers across two continents.

In a statement on its website the airline, which had earlier suspended all its flights, told passengers there would be no further flights and advised them to check flights with other airlines for ways to reach their destinations.

The airline, founded by entrepreneur Skuli Mogensen, began operations in 2012 and specialized in ultra-cheap flights between North America and Europe. The company’s website advertised flights to airports in cities including Toronto, Montreal, New York, Paris, London and its Reykjavik hub.

Its bankruptcy comes after six months of turbulent negotiations to sell the low-cost carrier, first to its main rival and flag-ship carrier Icelandair and later to Indigo Partners, an American company operating the airline Wizz.

“I will never forgive myself for not acting sooner,” Mogensen said in a letter to employees Thursday. “WOW was clearly an incredible airline and we were on the path to do amazing things again.”

Tourists walk around Seljalandsfoss waterfall near Asolfsskali, Iceland in 2018. Tourism is a massive industry in Iceland — but some travellers are now facing massive disruptions after WOW air stopped flying. (Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Tourism is Iceland’s largest industry and WOW’s disappearance is set to have an effect on this summer’s high season.

In its early years the airline expanded fast to 37 destinations and reported up to 60 per cent annual growth in passenger numbers. Its revenue per passenger, however, has not kept up and fell by about 20 per cent in 2017, according to the last earnings report.

WOW grounded at least six planes in North America that were set to leave late Wednesday from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, New York and Baltimore.

In Europe, Reykjavik-bound planes from seven cities — Amsterdam, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Copenhagen — did not take off Thursday morning.

This image, taken from the WOW Air website Thursday morning, shows the announcement that the budget airlines is no longer flying. (Wow Air)

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China pledges to expand financial market opening as U.S. trade delegation arrives

China pledges to expand financial market opening as U.S. trade delegation arrives

China will sharply expand market access for foreign banks and securities and insurance companies, especially in its financial services sector, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday, as senior U.S. officials arrived in Beijing for more trade talks.

The government will also work on more favorable policies for foreign investors to trade Chinese bonds, Li said in a speech at the annual Boao forum held on China’s southern island of Hainan.

“We are quickening the full opening of market access for foreign investors in banking, securities and insurance sectors,” he said.

Li’s remarks add to speculation that China may soon announce new rules that will allow foreign banks and insurance firms to increase their presence in China.

China has pledged to further open its massive financial markets to foreign investors since last year amid a trade war with the United States. Foreign businesses have long complained that liberalization has been too narrow and implementation spotty.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that the United States and China have made progress in all areas under discussion in trade talks, with unprecedented movement on the touchy issue of forced technology transfers as China had put proposals on the table that went further than in the past, but sticking points remain.

Li said the business scope of foreign banks, as well as market access for credit rating companies, bank card settlements and non-bank card payments, will all be “expanded sharply,” with restrictions on the scope of foreign securities companies and insurance brokers expected to be removed.

“Such measures will be implemented this year in a relatively forceful way,” he said.

Li said China will also announce policies to help foreign investors to invest in and trade China’s bonds, just before Chinese bonds’ inclusion in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index, one of the most widely tracked in the world, scheduled to start on Monday.

But global investors’ access to hedging instruments continues to be restricted, and clarification on tax collection policy is needed, ASIFMA, a financial industry lobby, noted in a report last week.

Li said China will also issue more favourable rules for foreign acquisitions of Chinese listed firms. Beijing is drafting rules related to a new foreign investment law that was passed earlier this month. The rules are expected to be completed this year.

Beijing will revise and shorten a “negative” list of areas where foreign investment is restricted, and will publish it before the end of June, Li said.

No trust deficit with U.S.

In a meeting with foreign and Chinese business executives on Thursday afternoon, the premier said he doesn’t think there is a deficit of trust between China and the United States.

“We need to prevent a trust deficit from occurring – otherwise the damage it could do to U.S.-China relations is incalculable,” said Li, adding that trade frictions remain a sticky point.

China must protect intellectual property, otherwise there is no hope for the nation’s transformation, Li said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in Beijing on Thursday and are scheduled to have a working dinner with Vice-Premier Liu He. Talks are expected to last for a full day on Friday.

Members of the U.S. trade delegation Steven Mnuchin, left, and Robert Lighthizer arrive at a hotel in Beijing. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Li also sought on Thursday to ease investors’ concerns over China’s cooling economy, saying Beijing has enough policy tools to fight a “hard battle.”

Li said China will cut “real interest rate levels” and lower financing costs for Chinese companies, but did not elaborate on which interest rate he was referring to. Li had made similar comments in a speech earlier this month.

Positive changes in China’s economy in March exceeded the government’s expectations, he said.

Some analysts say shockingly weak industrial profit data on Wednesday have added urgency for more policy easing.

China’s industrial firms posted their worst slump in profits since late 2011 in the first two months of this year amid slowing demand at home and abroad.

Analysts at Capital Economics said they believe the benchmark lending rate will be cut in the weeks ahead, though sources have told Reuters such a move may be a last resort if the economy does not show signs of responding to previous support measures.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, centre, is expected to take part in more trade talks with senior U.S. officials. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Other China watchers say policymakers may be waiting for March and first-quarter data in mid-April for a better picture of whether conditions are starting to stabilize, and how much additional policy easing may be needed.

Li said he could not rule out the possibility that there would be some fluctuations in the world’s second-largest economy this year, but added that earlier policy steps were gaining traction.

However, Chinese policymakers, including Li, have stressed that Beijing would not resort to “flood-like” stimulus that would unleash huge amounts of cheap credit, out of concern that could add to a mountain of debt.

The central bank has not cut benchmark rates since the last downturn in 2015, but it has been guiding financing costs lower since last year through various means including liquidity injections.

China’s economic growth cooled to 6.6 per cent last year, the slowest pace in nearly 30 years, and analysts polled by Reuters expect a further pullback to 6.3 per cent in 2019.

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‘We can’t eat our way out of this problem’: Buying canola oil won’t offset China’s cuts

'We can't eat our way out of this problem': Buying canola oil won't offset China's cuts

An online push for Canadians to buy more canola products can’t begin to replace China’s appetite for roughly four million tonnes of raw seed a year — but canola farmers and industry representatives say every sale and sign of support counts for something.

“It’s heartwarming,” canola farmer Lane Stockbrugger said from his farm near Englefeld, Sask. Stockbrugger, who is the chair of Saskatchewan’s canola development commission, plans to seed 2,000 acres of canola this spring.

Social media posts encourage Canadians to “buy local” and “support farmers” by purchasing store products that contain canola oil, such as cooking oil, margarine, shortening, mayonnaise and dressings. Stockbrugger’s sister lives in Calgary, and he says the China dispute prompted her friends to inquire about buying canola cooking products.

“It makes the hair on my neck stand up a bit to hear that people in urban areas and rural areas want to show us that support.”

(Bradly Tucker/Twitter)

(Alain Desharnais/Twitter)

The Canadian-developed oilseed, known for its picturesque yellow flowers, was developed by prairie plant scientists nearly half a century ago using traditional plant breeding techniques. It was then given the name “canola” using “can” from Canada.

In the decades since, it’s become a major crop for Canadian farmers.

But 43,000 canola producers are now facing market uncertainty and dropping prices after their largest seed customer, China, barred shipments from two major Canadian canola companies — Richardson International and Viterra — saying they had found pests in some shipments. 

Problem is selling seed, not oil

With a population of 1.4 billion, China buys 40 per cent of Canada’s canola seed, worth about $2.7 billion.

“The Chinese market for seed is larger than the next three major markets combined: the United States, Mexico and Japan,” said Canola Council of Canada president Jim Everson.

When news of the ban on Viterra was announced, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the quality of Canadian canola and said he may send a high-level delegation to China in an effort to resolve the bans on Canadian canola.

Anytime we can go local, we will, to support our farmers.– Dale MacKay, Saskatoon restaurateur

A push for Canadians to buy more cooking oil is encouraging for farmers, but won’t have a real impact  — for two reasons.

One, Canada’s population of about 37 million is far too small to consume enough canola products to offset the loss of the Chinese market. Two, there isn’t a problem selling refined canola oil. The challenge is selling raw seed.

“We can’t eat our way out of this problem,” Richard Gray, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Saskatchewan, said.

Canada’s 14 crushing and refining plants are already working at capacity, or nearly so, churning out canola oil and meal. The largest customer for those products is the United States, and the oil often ends up back on Canadian store shelves as an ingredient in food products, such as potato chips.

It would be impossible for Canadian processing plants to suddenly absorb and process millions of tonnes of extra raw seed that was rejected by China, no matter how eager Canadians are to snap up canola products. 

Buy local 

Still, it’s worth the effort, says an award-winning Saskatchewan chef.

Dale MacKay, a former winner of Top Chef Canada and Saskatoon restaurateur, ditched olive oil and butter in favour of canola oil in his restaurants years ago. He said he prefers the lighter, more neutral flavour of canola oil and its ability to withstand high temperatures without burning.

In light of the recent trade dispute with China, MacKay said it’s time for more casual cooks to buy local.

“Anytime we can go local, we will, to support our farmers,” MacKay said. “That goes for lentils, beans, pulses, really anything our farmers are farming, we try to promote.”

Canada’s Top Chef and restaurateur Dale MacKay, of Ayden Kitchen & Bar, ditched olive oil and butter in his restaurants in favour of canola oil. (Rachel Bergen/CBC News)

Brian Innes, a vice-president with the Canola Council of Canada, says the food processing industry is so integrated in North America, with canola being shipped over the border multiple times for processing and packaging, that Canadian consumers shouldn’t get too hung up on the address listed on a bottle of canola oil.

“They can rest assured that most of the canola oil, whether it’s labelled a product of Canada or not, most of it is coming from Canada,” Innes said.  

Canadian canola is an ingredient in some mayonnaise products, as well as bottled cooking oils and sprays. (Bonnie Allen/CBC News)

There are some smaller private labels that carry that “Canada Brand” to certify it’s grown, processed and bottled in Canada

In central Alberta, Pleasant Valley Oil Mills crushes 60 tonnes of canola every day. All of it is purchased directly from local farmers. The company is automating its bottling line, so it’s not producing its cold-pressed canola cooking oil for store shelves at the moment, but it is providing canola oil for dog food, such as that sold by Champion Petfoods.

Pleasant Valley’s president, Kyle Makila, appreciates the “buy Canadian” movement and says it’s an opportunity to educate consumers about the health benefits of low-cholesterol canola oil, which Agri-Food Canada says has “the least saturated fat of any culinary oil.”

Public awareness, political pressure

While there are many non-food uses of canola, found in everything from cosmetics to printing inks and biofuels, it would be difficult for Canadian consumers to source canola in those products.

But producers and canola boosters are grateful for the support at a time when it’s hard to determine what the next year will look like.

Canola farmers in Canada export 90 per cent of their crop to other markets. (Josh Allen/Submitted)

Innes says the Canola Council of Canada appreciates that Canadians want to buy more product, even though it can’t offset the loss of the Chinese market.

“It’s not going to save the market, but it is important, because we need to understand the value of canola to our country,” he says. “So efforts around raising awareness … those are wonderful efforts.” 

Innes says Canadians can put pressure on the federal government to resolve the issue with China.

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China urges Canada to ‘correct the mistakes it made earlier’ as canola spat deepens

China urges Canada to 'correct the mistakes it made earlier' as canola spat deepens

China says Canada should make moves to “correct the mistakes it made earlier” amid a brewing diplomatic and trade row following the detention of a top Chinese telecom executive.

China said Wednesday its suspension this week of the licence of a second major Canadian canola exporter — Viterra Inc. — is justified by safety concerns.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said China’s actions are “scientific and reasonable.”

But, he added, Canada should “take practical measures to correct the mistakes it made earlier” in dealing with the overall relationship.

China cited hazardous organisms in shipments in suspending the licence of Viterra’s canola seeds on Tuesday.

The latest punitive measure is a blow to $2 billion worth of exports and widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s December arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the behest of the United States.

China halted imports from Canada’s other major canola exporter, Richardson International Ltd., earlier this month due to hazardous organisms allegedly found in the company’s product.

Without mentioning Huawei directly, Geng said China hopes Canada can “get along with us to ensure the sound and steady development of China-Canada relations.”

PM defends canola inspection

Canadian farmers say the moves have left them facing uncertainty just ahead of the planting season, which begins in mid- to late-April for many farmers.

“There is a lot of confusion amongst farmers about what is able to be exported,” said David Quist, executive director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

The Canola Council of Canada said all its members have reported that Chinese importers are unwilling to purchase their products.

Both wheat and canola groups have called on the government to send a delegation to China to address the issue.

China — a major market for Canadian canola that accounts for about 40 per cent of Canada’s exports of canola seed, oil and meal — is the sole country to raise a technical issue with the product.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned the possibility of sending a delegation during a stop in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“We know that the canola produced here in Canada is top quality, and the oversight, inspection and science that surrounds what we do here is top-notch and world-class, and that is certainly something that we are going to continue to impress upon … our Chinese interlocutors on this issue,” he said.

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Cannabis connoisseur Seth Rogen creates marijuana brand backed by Canopy Growth

Cannabis connoisseur Seth Rogen creates marijuana brand backed by Canopy Growth

Pineapple Express star Seth Rogen and screenwriter Evan Goldberg have teamed up with Canopy Growth Corp. to launch a Toronto-based Canadian cannabis brand called Houseplant.

The Vancouver-born actor-comedian and the Canadian screenwriter with whom Rogen collaborated on the stoner film co-founded the Toronto-based company along with “other great friends and colleagues.”

“We have been working on this quietly for years and seeing everything come together is a dream come true,” Rogen said in an emailed statement.

“We could not be more passionate about this company and are dedicated to doing everything the right way. It is extremely important to us to treat cannabis with the reverence it deserves. What a time!”

Houseplant said Canopy acquired 25 per cent of the business, and invested working capital, but the new company would not disclose any further financial information.

Rogen and Goldberg are the business leads of the company, while Canopy in its role as venture partner is providing the facilities, expertise and infrastructure to grow cannabis.

“We have been getting to know the Houseplant team for quite a while now and continue to be impressed by their understanding of the cannabis consumer, attention to detail, and drive towards their vision,” Canopy president and co-chief executive Mark Zekulin said in a statement.

Rogen, who has also portrayed pothead characters in films such as Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, is not the first celebrity associated with cannabis to dabble in the pot industry:

  • Tommy Chong, one half of the Cheech & Chong comedy duo, has a line of medicinal cannabis products called Chong’s Choice, available in certain states where legal.
  • In late 2017, director and actor Kevin Smith and actor Jason Mewes — better known as their stoner movie characters Jay and Silent Bob — entered into a brand licensing agreement with Hamilton, Ont.-based cannabis company Beleave Inc. to develop strains.
  • In 2016, rapper Snoop Dogg struck a deal with Canopy to grant the licensed producer the exclusive right to use certain content and brands such as Leafs By Snoop.

However, since Canada legalized recreational cannabis last October, these companies are subject to strict rules governing promotion of the products.

The Cannabis Act prohibits the promotion of cannabis, cannabis accessories or any service related to cannabis by means of a testimonial or endorsement or by means of the depiction of a person, character or animal, whether real or fictional. It is also prohibited to present cannabis or any of its brand elements in a manner that “evokes a positive or negative emotion” about a “way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”

Any promotion that could be seen as appealing to young people is also forbidden.

Houseplant noted that Rogen and Goldberg are not paid spokespeople, but founders and business owners who have been involved in its strategic development and decision making since the beginning.

“Since inception, the Houseplant team has maintained a strong focus on abiding by the regulations which is why, not due to a lack of opportunity both pre and post legalization, Seth and Evan have not participated in any cannabis related event or promotion in Canada,” the company said in an emailed statement.

“They are founders and owners, not spokespeople for the brand and have been very careful not to confuse that.”

Houseplant’s team in Toronto consists of a chief commercial officer and marketing manager while its strains will be grown at Canopy’s facilities in Smiths Falls, Ont., the company added.

The first strain Houseplant Sativa will be on sale at legal retailers in B.C. starting next month, with hybrid and indica strains to follow. The company said pre-rolled joints and softgel products will also follow later in the year as the brand rolls out across Canada.

Houseplant said it does not have any current plans to launch in the U.S. — where cannabis is legal for medical and recreational purposes in several states but is illegal federally — but both its partner and the company have “global aspirations.”

The company said there are no current plans for any products branded with Pineapple Express.

Rogen and Goldberg’s partners in Houseplant also include the California-based United Talent Agency through its business ventures group.

The pair have spent five years preparing for the launch, said Goldberg.

“We are so proud to be launching in Canada, our home… We’re excited to be able to share our passion for cannabis with Canadians in this way,” he said in a statement.

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