From Hawkesbury to Estevan documents show towns to be hit hardest by automation

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

HAWKESBURY, Ont. _ Sitting around a table with fellow Steelworkers, Steve Berniquez starts listing companies that once stood in and around Hawkesbury, a small Ontario town an hour’s drive east of Ottawa.

When he mentions Canadian International Pulp and Paper, everybody nods. Its mill closed in 1982 and that was a bad one, more than 400 jobs gone at once.

“We had how many mills around here where everybody could work? Now we don’t have anything else,” Berniquez says, leaning back in his chair.  “They’re not coming back to us.”

If federal calculations are accurate, automation and technological advances could make the local situation worse in the coming years, with Hawkesbury, a town of about 10,000, hit harder than any other city in Ontario.

An internal government presentation from last August listed Hawkesbury as having the largest share of workers at high risk of being affected by automation. The chart in the lengthy presentation to a group of deputy ministers went province by province with the municipalities that were facing the same fate: Bay Roberts, N.L.; Summerside, P.E.I.; New Glasgow, N.S.; Winkler, Man.; Estevan, Sask.; Quesnel, B.C.; and Brooks, Alta.

Also on the list was Lachute, Que., across the Ottawa River from Hawkesbury.

Federal officials expect that rural areas and small towns will feel the biggest negative effects of automation, as well as regions  “dependent on high-risk sectors like manufacturing or mining,” while gains from technological advances accrue to large urban centres.

“Less-educated local workforces mean that rural areas and small towns are less likely to seize the economic opportunities presented by new technologies,” reads the August presentation, a copy of which The Canadian Press obtained under the access-to-information law. “Less-diversified local economies mean that rural areas and small towns are less likely to adapt if incumbent sectors and businesses are disrupted.”

The steelworkers who considered the past, present and future of Hawkesbury on a snowy spring day estimated about one-third of manufacturing jobs that disappeared in the town over the past 30 years could be attributed to technological changes.

Among the recent examples was an automated packing machine that replaced two workers in one plant, and a “magic eye” that does quality control instead of a handful of workers. Three years ago, 100 workers lost their jobs when a local warehouse decided to automate work.

Berniquez has seen it. He works in the next-door village of L’Orignal, in the melt shop at Ivaco Rolling Mills, which makes wire rod and steel billets semi-finished products that go on for further processing elsewhere. Earlier this month, the company announced it will lay off 50 people of the 538 who work there, most directly because of the tariffs the United States has put on Canadian steel imports.

Automation, punishing tariffs and now additional costs from the federal carbon tax in Ontario have left steel and aluminum companies in the town in a bind, the workers say.

But Berniquez isn’t ready to throw in the towel, nor would he considering moving to another town for work. He said it’s not how he was raised. “We need to protect what we’ve got,” he said.

As manufacturing declined, the town has found new sources of employment. More health-care jobs have flowed into town thanks to the local hospital, the steelworkers say, and, according to the latest census figures, the local service sector employs the largest share of workers in the town.

“These folks are making the (local) economy work,” said Richard Leblanc, the area co-ordinator for the United Steelworkers union. “We focus a lot on these big manufacturers that have gone, but some of that has been replaced.”

How quickly towns like Hawkesbury have to adapt is unclear. The government presentation notes that Canadian firms traditionally have low takeup rates of new technology. There is also uncertainty around how quickly new technology will come available and the breadth of its impact on any number of professions, including doctors and accountants.

A report this month from the Brookfield Institute suggested there are few easy answers for workers who want to know what training courses they should take to prepare. The report, produced to help a federal organization studying future skills needs, said a key problem is that the country lacks a “holistic, detailed, and actionable forecast of in-demand skills.”

“A complex array of changes could impact employment over the next 10 to 15 years. Some, such as population aging, are well understood, while others, such as technological change, present a high degree of uncertainty,” the report said. “When these changes interact, uncertainty expands, making it challenging to predict the future of Canada’s labour market, and more specifically, what skills will be most in-demand.”

The federal Liberals’ latest budget promised $1.7 billion in spending to provide a training tax credit and employment insurance benefits to cover wages during time away from work. The steelworkers questioned how low-income workers will be able to afford the upfront costs of programs and worried about time off from companies where training time is at a minimum because staff are stretched thin.

The spending in the 2019 budget comes after billions more, over three previous federal budgets, aimed at helping workers prepare for the tectonic digital shifts in the labour market, and help those in the workforce stay there later into life.

Hawkesbury’s future is more clouded because so many younger workers have gone off to college and university and moved away. In fact, nearby Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., have the lowest shares of at-risk workers in their respective provinces, based on the Finance Department calculations.

David Bruneault stayed in Hawkesbury as friends got higher educations, eventually landing jobs as teachers or physiotherapists down the highway in the capital. The 34-year-old went into manufacturing, but says he’s willing to take a retraining course to learn to do something else.

“You don’t want to be left with nothing,” Bruneault said. “I’m thinking about it a lot more now, too, because everything is uncertain.”

Ontario: Ford’s right, auto insurance is broken

Toronto Sun | Postmedia News

The good news is Premier Doug Ford promised major reforms to Ontario’s broken auto insurance system in last week’s budget.

The bad news is previous governments — including the Liberal one he defeated in June — have attempted such reforms and failed.

Ontario drivers are among the safest in Canada but pay 55% more for auto insurance than the Canadian average, according to a 2017 study — by insurance expert David Marshall — done for the previous government.

As Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said in his budget speech: “It is clear that Ontario’s auto insurance system is broken — and drivers deserve … transformative changes.

Insurers blame the problems mainly on fraud, which Marshall estimated costs them $1.3 billion annually.

But even more money — $1.4 billion, a third of all insurance premium benefits — goes to duelling lawyers and medical experts in court, instead of to treatment for accident victims.

Because of Ontario’s “no fault” auto insurance system, victims often have to sue their own insurance company for benefits.

As the Fair Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform (FAIR) notes, this means they have to hire their own lawyers and medical experts to counter their insurance companies’ lawyers and medical experts, eating up billions of dollars that should be spent on treatment.

Auto insurers complain plaintiffs’ lawyers drive up costs by charging outrageous contingency fees, redirecting money for treatment into lawyers’ pockets.

The root problem is our adversarial court system is ill-equipped to deal with these issues.

Ontario needs a system in which credible, independent, objective medical and insurance experts, approved by the province and accepted by both sides at the start of major claims, determine the injuries sustained, appropriate treatment, and costs.

We agree with the Ford government’s decision to restore the maximum benefit for those catastrophically injured in car crashes to $2 million, and it’s intent to increase competition and consumer choice in the auto industry.

That is, with the caveat that allowing insurers to offer customers cheaper insurance packages providing them with less, and often inadequate coverage, while making them pay more if they want to keep their current coverage, is not genuine reform.

Ford’s government seems to be aware of the major problems. Fixing them won’t be easy, but it needs to be done.

#DriveSmartBC – Please, Not So Close!

This must have been Following Too Closely Week in British Columbia. I received the story of an incident in Sooke, an analysis of a video from Richmond and was subjected to this dangerous behaviour myself. You might be able to get away with ignoring the Motor Vehicle Act, but the laws of physics will eventually prevail.

The story out of Sooke goes like this:

I’ve just witnessed the most inconsistent driver I’ve EVER SEEN in my 38 years of driving!

A black car passed me on the 4 lanes towards Sooke. He gets behind a pickup and commences to follow between 20 to 5 feet, maybe even LESS a couple times, all the way to Sooke. I was waiting for them to crash he was so close!!!

When the pickup turned off he’s right on the bumper of the next driver.

Now here’s the crazy part: He signals properly going through the traffic circle and signals to go into Village foods.

So he KNOWS how to drive properly yet tailgates like the most ignorant driver on the road…

Last Wednesday afternoon I was traveling in the right hand lane northbound on the south side of the Malahat. I had just entered the 70 km/h zone on the south side when I heard a loud air horn sound behind me. A glance in my rear view mirror showed nothing for a few moments but the shiny chrome grille of a green dump truck pulling a pup trailer.

Apparently he did not want to slow down or change lanes.

The drivers in these two stories knew they were wrong.

The one in Sooke made a deliberate choice to ignore common sense. Hopefully he has not fallen into the trap of letting this become his default setting because nothing bad has happened from it, yet.

In my case it was either the driver not wanting to slow on the hill or he had a momentary lapse of attention and was warning me of an impending collision because of it.

The video in the Richmond article shows typical following distances on B.C.’s highways today.

ICBC no longer publishes detailed collision data by contributing factor as it did years ago. However, a document from 2007 shows following distance at #7 in the list of top 10 causes of collisions.

This behaviour not make the top 10 in traffic tickets issued during 2017 though. Police wrote about 2,000 tickets for following too closely in general and 48 for commercial vehicle following too closely specifically. This is about 0.5% of the total number of tickets issued that year.

Please, not so close! Leave at least 2 seconds distance between vehicles. The risk may be comfortable for you but it’s not the smart choice.

Link:

DriveSmartBC

Insurance Bureau of Canada – Ontario Budget a win for drivers

The Ontario Government’s multi-year plan to fix auto insurance is a win for consumers. These changes will give consumers greater choice in their coverage and better control over the price they pay for auto insurance.

A keystone of the “Putting Drivers First” plan is introducing “care not cash” to ensure insurance resources are used to pay for the treatment accident victims need to recover from their injuries. The plan will also make it easier for consumers to make informed choices about their auto insurance coverage.

“The Government has put Ontario drivers first with this budget. Today’s announcement focuses resources squarely where they should be: on helping those injured in auto collisions recover,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, Insurance Bureau of Canada. “Auto insurance is complex, but the proposed changes clearly intend to make the claims process simpler for consumers.”

The Government’s reform plan also addresses an important issue raised in the 2017 report by David Marshall on Ontario’sbroken auto insurance system. As Marshall noted, hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance benefits are diverted each year into contingency fees for lawyers. Today, the Government committed to re-evaluating the legal contingency fee arrangement to ensure consumers are protected, and to ensure agreements are transparent.

“Putting Drivers First” encourages greater competition. It also enables electronic proof of insurance, and electronic commerce and communications between insurers and clients to make it easier for consumers.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 126,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $54.7 billion.

If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC in Ontario.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow us on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and @IBC_Ontario.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Ford government reveals ‘transformative’ auto insurance reforms

Insurance providers will be allowed to offer customized packages, new discounts

The excerpted article was written by Nick Boisvert | CBC News

The Ford government has revealed a sweeping plan to reduce auto insurance rates, though it is not saying how much drivers should expect to save under the new rules.

The changes are aimed at increasing the range of plans available to drivers, making the claim process easier to navigate, and creating more competition between insurance providers.

Details of the Progressive Conservatives’ “Putting Drivers First” plan were revealed in the government’s first spring budget Thursday.

“When it comes to driving, it is clear that Ontario’s auto insurance is broken, and drivers deserve better,” said Finance Minister VicFedeli in his speech to the legislature, where he called the plan “transformative.”

Ontarians pay among the highest auto insurance premiums in Canada, with drivers in the GTA generally facing the highest rates.

The previous Liberal government pledged to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent over a two year period that was to end in 2015, but that goal was never realized.

Giving ‘control back to drivers’

The proposed reforms are designed give drivers access to a wider range of plans, including more access to à la carte-style coverage.

By loosening existing regulations, the PCs believe that insurance providers will be able to offer drivers more choices when it comes to coverage options. Doing so will give drivers more power to reduce their premiums through customized plans, the government argues.

“The proposed reforms will give control back to drivers,” according to the 2019 budget document.

It has not yet been determined exactly which types of coverage drivers will be allowed to opt out of.

Insurance companies will also be allowed to offer new types of discounts to drivers — for example, if a driver agrees to a credit check, or to claim benefits through an insurance company’s “preferred providers” of auto repair or health care services.

While these new discounts and coverage options will be possible under the new rules, it does not appear that companies will be compelled to offer them.

Canada’s first ‘Driver Care Card’

The province has also revealed its plan to introduce what it calls a “Driver Care Card,” which would act as a debit-style card for people making insurance claims.

Following an accident, the card would be loaded with money earmarked toward insurance benefits, such as rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Fedeli said the card will “streamline access to care by providing important information that will make the claims process easier to navigate.”

The province says the reforms will reduce insurance fraud through the use of ‘enhanced data analytics’ and a modernized online claims process. (Getty Images)

The Tories say the new, centralized system will also make it easier to combat insurance fraud, since it will be easier to monitor which benefits are being claimed.

Ontario will also raise the default benefit limit for catastrophic injuries to $2 million from the current $1 million.

It has not yet been determined if Driver Care Card will be a physical card or electronic. Regardless, it would be the first system of its kind in Canada.

Increasing competition

The new auto insurance strategy is also designed to increase competition among insurance providers, giving companies new abilities to differentiate themselves from competitors.

That will include the allowance of new pricing structures and types of coverage that were not previously available. The budget document cites pay-as-you-go insurance as an example of an innovative business model it wants to encourage, though some companies already offer that type of coverage.

The Ford government also wants more insurance-related transactions to be made possible online, including payments and general communication.

Drivers will also be allowed to use electronic proof of insurance instead of the paper proof that is currently required.

The PC government is also pushing for an end to so-called “postal code discrimination,” which allows insurance companies to charge higher rates based on a driver’s home address. Legislation calling for this change has been proposed but not yet passed by the legislature.

Manitoba man fights to keep personalized plate referencing song

By Kelly Geraldine Malone

THE CANADIAN PRESS

WINNIPEG _ Bruce Spence is used to driving around Manitoba and seeing people pointing at his personalized NDN CAR licence plate, honking their horns, giving him a thumbs up and bursting out laughing.

That why the Nehiyaw man from Opaskwayak Cree Nation said he was shocked to find out Manitoba Public Insurance had revoked the plate, which honours  “Indian Cars,” one of his favourite songs.

“I just don’t think that a provincial government or Crown corporation should be able to walk all over an Indigenous person,” Spence said.

“I’ve been living under the jackboots of Canadian government my entire life. This is a small issue, it’s a domestic issue, it’s a provincial issue, but I think it’s an issue worth fighting.”

Licence plates in Manitoba belong to MPI and the agency has said it can recall or deny them for a variety of reasons, including if they are offensive, suggestive, discriminatory or include racial or ethnic slang.

Spence, who is a producer with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, was issued the plate about seven years ago.

He said it honours the folk tune  “Indian Cars,” by Indigenous musician Keith Secola.

Spence laughed explaining how the song is about a man who is trying to make it to the next powwow down the road.

“He’s got a crappy car and it’s funny and it has a good beat and you can dance to it,” Spence said. “I made an inquiry and the plate was available, so I applied for it.”

There were no problems until May 2018 when Spence said he received a call from MPI claiming the plate was offensive and  “ethnic slang.” He wrote the minister asking for an explanation.

Months went by without a response. Then in February, Spence said the insurer told him his plate was being revoked because it had been identified during a review as possibly offensive.

“I was afraid that MPI would just as arbitrarily suspend my insurance if I did not comply with their demand,” he said.

Soon after, Spence was contacted by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms offering to fight MPI’s decision.

It is the same group that is representing a Manitoba “Star Trek” fan, Nick Troller, who is fighting in court to keep his personalized ASIMIL8 licence plate, which was recalled in 2017.

Assimilate is a well-known saying by the alien race the Borg on the show, but the insurer said it had received a complaint that it was offensive to Indigenous people.

A Justice Centre lawyer argued in a Winnipeg court earlier this week the insurer’s “knee-jerk reaction” was a violation of Troller’s right to free expression.

Manitoba Justice lawyer Charles Murray countered that the word cannot be dissociated from the history of forced assimilation of Indigenous people in the province.

Spence said he understands there is a need for guidelines, but believes his plate was acceptable.

“My plate passed their sniff test seven years ago,” he said.  “And now the plate is gone and I don’t know why. I’d like to know why, and I’d like to get that plate back.”

Personalized licence plates have been controversial before.

A man in Nova Scotia is also to be in court this month over a personalized licence plate. Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his  “GRABHER” plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance recently denied Dave Assman (pronounced Oss-man) a licence plate with his last name on it. In response, he put a large “ASSMAN” decal on the back of his truck.

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