B.C. wineries see red as Alberta declares war in pipeline dispute

Excerpreted Article was written by Nick Eagland | The Province 

B.C. vintners see red after the Alberta government launched a trade war against B.C. wine in retaliation for this province’s pipeline resistance.

Tuesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the agency of her government that is the provincial wholesaler of alcohol will stop buying B.C. wine.

The ban is Notley’s response to the B.C. government decision last week to try to restrict increases in bitumen shipments from Alberta until more studies are conducted on how spills of oilsands bitumen can be cleaned up.

Notley said Alberta imports about 7.2 million bottles of B.C. wine worth $70 million each year.

It is the latest blow in the fight between the two NDP governments over the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was approved in 2016 by the federal government. It would triple capacity on the 1,150-km line running from Edmonton to Burnaby.

“We will not let the government of B.C. hold Alberta’s and Canada’s economy hostage, and jeopardize the economic security of hundreds of thousands of working families across this province and across this country,” Notley told a news conference at the Alberta legislature.

To scrap the pipeline would cost the Alberta economy $1.5 billion a year, Notley said. She said her province is willing to risk $5 million in fines for violating the New West Partnership Trade Agreement among the western provinces by the trade action.

“The wine industry is very important to B.C. Not nearly as important as the energy industry is to Alberta and Canada, but important nonetheless,” said Notley.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announces that Alberta will boycott all wine from B.C. Larry Wong / PNG
“I’m also encouraging all Albertans: Next time you’re thinking about ordering a glass of wine, think of our energy workers. Think of your neighbours. Think of our community. Think about our province, and maybe choose some terrific Alberta craft beer instead.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan shot back Tuesday, warning Notley to back off. He said in a statement that his government has every right to consult British Columbians on measures meant to protect B.C. lands and waters from a potential spill of diluted bitumen.

“If Alberta disagrees, they can make that argument in the proper venue, in our court system,” Horgan said.

“Our consultation on proposed new regulations hasn’t even begun, but Alberta has seen fit to take measures to impact B.C. businesses. I urge Alberta to step back from this threatening position. We stand with B.C. wine producers and will respond to the unfair trade actions announced today.”

The new B.C. Opposition leader, Andrew Wilkinson, slammed both the Alberta government for its wine ban and the B.C. NDP government for provoking the move with pipeline actions that he said will likely lose in court.

“The wine sector is going to be the innocent victim of a petty dispute between two NDP governments,” the Liberal leader said.

Manitoba PUB approves rideshare insurance, for now

Joyanne Pursaga | The Winnipeg Sun

The Public Utilities Board has granted “interim” approval to an insurance plan for Manitoba ride-share vehicles, which Uber has warned could delay its entry into the province.

In an order released Monday, the PUB approved Manitoba Public Insurance’s interim 2018/19 vehicles-for-hire premium rates.

“This order grants to MPI approval of its rates on an interim basis only, recognizing the urgency of the need for rates to be in place when The Local Vehicles for Hire Act … comes in to force,” wrote the board.

That permission allows MPI to initially require each ride-share driver to pay an “add-on” fee to basic insurance coverage, based on the hours they sell rides, charging them between $1,514 and $1,730 per year. The corporation stressed its plan would ensure other drivers don’t have to subsidize ride-share ones.

“Manitoba Public Insurance looks forward to continuing ongoing dialogue with ride-share service providers, such as Uber and Lyft, to make it as easy as possible to enter the Manitoba market … ,” said Ward Keith, MPI’s vice-president of business development, in a press release.

Uber, however, lobbied to buy blanket insurance coverage on its drivers’ behalf, noting ride-share drivers frequently change their hours.

In a submission to the board, Uber wrote this insurance model would leave it “unable to consider expansion of services to Winnipeg on March 1, 2018,” the first day ride-share companies are permitted in Manitoba.

In a Monday evening statement, Uber indicated it remains opposed to the plan.

“Uber continues to believe a blanket policy designed to cover all drivers during ride-share activity is the best insurance model for a number of reasons, including that it facilitates compliance for rideshare drivers,” wrote Uber spokesperson Susie Heath, in an email to The Sun. “We look forward to continuing to work with MPI and the Minister of Crown Services to find a way forward that expands Manitobans’ access to safe, reliable transportation options like Uber.”

Uber’s competitor Lyft has also expressed “serious concern” over the insurance plan.

MPI must still seek final approval of ride-share rates through its general rate application in 2019, which is due in June 2018.

“That will give MPI an opportunity to have some empirical evidence, some claims history to figure out what they’re actually doing,” said Darren Christle, the PUB’s executive director.

MPI will also be required to refund or charge affected ratepayers to cover any variance between interim and final rates.

Christle said Manitoba will be Canada’s first public insurance system to set rates for ride-share vehicles, which made it tough to gather evidence on what that fee should be.

“We’re on new ground here,” he said.

The board also recommends the provincial government review minimum standards and licensing requirements for all vehicle-for-hire drivers and that MPI further explore safety considerations in its general rate application.

“The PUB order indicates that safety needs to be part of those hearings,” said Christle.

Medical, dental coverage ‘interrupted’ for hundreds paid through Phoenix

By Terry Pedwell

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ A trip to the dentist has resulted in more than just a sore tooth for hundreds of federal civil servants caught up in the ongoing battle with the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system, federal officials say.

The short-term denial of medical and dental benefits is just one of the latest issues many federal employees are struggling with as problems with the pay system persist.

Public Services and Procurement Canada had initially said in mid-December that the issue of civil servants being denied benefit coverage as a result of incorrect paycheques was not widespread.

The department has since revealed that hundreds of government employees whose work terms were extended could have been denied benefits or experienced processing delays.

“We did identify approximately 530 term employees whose work term had been extended and who may have had their coverage interrupted because of processing delays,” Public Services spokeswoman Michele LaRose said in an email.

The department maintains, however, that the problem isn’t far reaching, and that the issues that caused the benefit cut-offs in the first place have been resolved.

“There is no generalized problem with group benefit coverage,” LaRose said. “This situation has since been resolved and processes have been modified in order to mitigate any further issues.”

In the meantime, any employees who have had claims for dental or medical expenses rejected, or new employees whose group insurance benefits haven’t yet kicked in, can submit claims retroactively “once their pay situations are resolved,” the department said.

For those who’ve had to borrow to pay for medical or dental coverage, the government said they can claim the interest on those loans and will be reimbursed.

The auditor general reported in November that more than 150,000 civil servants about half of the people employed by government departments and agencies had experienced pay problems since early 2016, ranging from being overpaid to underpaid or not paid at all in some cases for months.

During that time, the backlog of problem files has swelled to nearly 620,000, prompting suggestions that a permanent, lasting fix could take years and cost taxpayers $1 billion or more.

Public Services has also revised how it collects money overpaid to civil servants as tax filing time approaches.

In a statement Monday, the department said employees who were paid too much in 2017 will have until the end of January to report the overpayments to Phoenix administrators.

Those employees will then only have to repay the net amount of overpayments they received, which do not include taxes and other deductions from the overpaid amounts, according to the new guidelines.

But civil servants who miss the Jan. 31 deadline will have to pay back the gross amount, including the deducted amounts they never actually received.

“If the overpayment was not recorded in Phoenix before the end of January 2018, the original tax slips for 2017 will reflect the overpaid earnings and associated deductions,” said the department.

“An amended tax slip will be produced for you.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents most federal employees, called the deadline a disappointing “half measure.”

The union has demanded that the government only recover the net overpayments that were made to employees through Phoenix.

Some retired civil servants also say they aren’t able to calculate how much they’ve been overpaid since they lost access to the government’s pay website when they left the government.

Unlimited Ubers out; this year, personal assistants are in

Today ChickAdvisor – Canada’s leading reviews and ratings platform – announced the results of a survey it conducted to help Canadians find the most desired gifts this year, all hand-picked by real consumers.

The survey – which was answered by over 5,000 community members – asked a variety of questions about the top brands to give and receive this year, brand loyalty during the holidays, and a series of would-you-rather gift options. The key categories covered ranged from top toys, drugstore cosmetics, prestige beauty, and even automotive gifts — in case someone made the really nice list this year.

“Canadians are still likely to buy from brands they know and trust, but increasingly, they are buying products based on reviews and ratings rather than relying solely on their own experiences with a brand or product,” said Ali de Bold, co-founder of ChickAdvisor. “In fact, only 56 per cent of surveyed shoppers consider brand loyalty during the holidays. To us, that indicates a key opportunity for companies to make a mark and capture new consumers this season; we’re talking about a $13 billion industry in Canada. People are looking to get – and give – something different from their regular products.”

These shopping trends were reflected throughout the survey results. While small mom-and-pop shops have gained popularity, big brands still ranked at the top of people’s lists. For example, CoverGirl, Maybelline and L’Oreal Paris ranked the most popular drugstore beauty brands, while MAC Cosmetics led the pack for luxury cosmetics. When it came to personal care, Johnson & Johnson (the parent company of Aveeno and Neutrogena) ranked first, followed by L’Oreal Paris (Garnier and Vichy) and Unilever (Dove, St. Ives, Simple).

“What really interested us was the technology results,” continued de Bold. “With everyone talking about Apple all the time — especially with the buzz around the iPhone 8 and X this year — we expected it to be the top-tech brand. However, it was edged out by Samsung and followed by Sony, LG Electronics, and Google.”

In addition to brand-related questions, the survey also presented a handful of fun “would you rather” options to uncover Canadians’ real desires this year:

  • 65 per cent of consumers would rather have their debt paid off than receive an all-expenses paid trip
  • 64 per cent of consumers would rather be given a personal assistant over an unlimited Uber account
  • 89 per cent of consumers would rather have free groceries for a year than be given a personal in-house chef

“While some of these gifts are hard to give, it’s important to note the changing consumer appetite,” said Alex de Bold, co-founder of ChickAdvisor. “More than 55 per cent of people surveyed said they’d prefer to give experiences over physical gifts. It makes it increasingly difficult for companies to stand-out in the saturated holiday market. Brands need consumers advocating on their behalf.”

That said, while Canadians are more exploratory during the holidays, ChickAdvisor is well-aware that a whopping 84.5 per cent actively read reviews as part of their purchasing journey before buying a product. More importantly, 73 per cent people will complete a purchase if the product has positive and authentic reviews.

“Reviews are more important than ever, to both brands and consumers,” added Mr. de Bold. “Consumers need to read about products, understand what others are saying about them, and make educated purchasing decisions. Regardless of the stats, this is the best way to ensure you’re buying a quality product that you know your loved ones will enjoy.”

To read reviews and ratings from over 156,000 Canadian consumers or to find the full survey results, please visit ChickAdvisor.com.

About ChickAdvisor:
ChickAdvisor is the first ratings and reviews platform in Canada, designed specifically for female consumers. Founded in 2006 by wife and husband duo Ali and Alex de Bold, ChickAdvisor has over 800,000+ authentic reviews on the platform and has worked with tier A brands including Unilever, and Aveeno, NIVEA. ChickAdvisor’s sister sites, XYStuff and FamilyRated, are Canada’s premier platforms for male and family-focused product reviews, respectively.

SOURCE ChickAdvisor

B.C. sets minimum age of 19 to consume marijuana, plans mix of retail sales

British Columbia has become the latest province to lay out its plan for regulating recreational marijuana, announcing that pot sales will be allowed through both public and private stores to buyers who are at least 19 years old.

B.C. is following other provinces in keeping the age of consumption, purchase and possession of marijuana consistent with alcohol and tobacco laws, which Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said Tuesday will more effectively protect young people and eliminate the black market.

“We know that the largest consumers of cannabis are young people,” Farnworth said when asked about evidence from health experts on the danger of cannabis on the developing brains of people older than 19.

“If you set it too high, for example at 25, you’re not going to get rid of the black market because they’re going to go and get it elsewhere.”

The federal government intends to legalize non-medical cannabis in July. B.C.’s announcement follows a public consultation period that received submissions from nearly 50,000 residents and 141 local and Indigenous governments.

The B.C. Liberals pressed the government to act quickly on the questions that remain about how pot will be sold and where.

“This should not be seen as a profit centre for government and any extra revenue should be redirected to enforcement and addiction services,” Liberal legislature member Mike Morris said in a statement,

Farnworth released few details about retail sales, beyond saying both public and private vendors will be allowed. He was unable to comment on online sales or whether current marijuana dispensaries would be able to apply for licences to continue operating after legalization.

The government expects to release details of its retail model towards the end January or the beginning of February, he said.

Work also remains to be done on whether people will be allowed to grow plants at home for personal use, a practice that has been banned by Manitoba over concerns about enforcement. Manitoba also released its plans for overseeing marijuana sales on Tuesday.

B.C.’s public consultation produced a report that was released alongside its announcement Tuesday. It revealed polarized views on drug-impaired driving, showing that some want zero tolerance while others said cannabis doesn’t impact the ability to drive.

The report also says there was some confusion among consultation participants on the distribution and retails sales of marijuana, but many opposed Ontario’s model. Ontario intends to sell the drug in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and ban consumption in public spaces or workplaces.

“Most of these individuals preferred to see the existing dispensaries and their supply chain legitimized, licensed and regulated,” the report says.

It also says two points emerged on public consumption: People don’t want to be subjected to second-hand smoke in public places and they want cannabis consumption limited to indoor use at a private residence or a designated space.

 

Mother Nature proves less troublesome for Prairie farmers in 2017: report

A report from the Canadian Crop Hail Association says a reduction in potentially damaging storm activity on much of the Prairies this past summer led to one of the lightest hail-claim seasons in eight years.

The 2017 report from the Regina-based association shows there were just over 8,600 claims in Western Canada that generated $96 million in insurance payouts.

The report says there was a decrease in storm frequency from the five-year average, while damage claim frequency was down about 30 per cent for the same period of time.

Manitoba farmers suffered the most losses, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The association says the lack of moisture was widespread this year with record to near-record dry conditions throughout much of Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta.

The organization also says farmers continue to insure their crops for hail damage at near record levels.

The report said there was more timely precipitation in Manitoba where producers enjoyed good yield and quality, despite dry conditions. The province’s loss ratio of 45.9 per cent was well below 2016’s record loss ratio of 158.9 per cent.

Alberta followed at 33.7 per cent, compared to 83.6 per cent in 2016. Saskatchewan reported a 30-per-cent loss ratio compared to 73 per cent in 2016.

The report said producer premiums totalled just over $286 million for an industry loss ratio of 33.8 per cent.

A dry spring combined with 2016 unharvested acres and some continued industry rate declines resulted in a five-per-cent decrease in producer-paid premiums this year.

The Canadian Crop Hail Association is a member-driven organization that represents the interests of the Canadian crop hail managing general agencies and insurance companies. It’s been serving the crop insurance industry since 1915.

Association member companies write crop-hail insurance products totalling more than $250 million in premiums, and liability totalling about $6 billion.

 

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