NAFTA talks: Like Mexico, Canada may need ‘insurance’ against tariffs

Canada maintains that its efforts to evade American tariffs on steel and aluminum, and threatened tariffs on cars, are on a “separate track” from the ongoing NAFTA talks.

But that’s not how U.S. President Donald Trump sees it. His attempts to use tariffs as leverage in NAFTA negotiations have become such a ingrained habit by this point, he’s started using the word as a verb.

“If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!'” he tweeted Monday.

China was in Trump’s sights at the start of the week — but by week’s end he also could be talking about Canada and his threat to impose “national security” tariffs of 20 to 25 per cent on its auto industry if it doesn’t soon join the new North American trade deal Americans sketched out with Mexico last month.

One of Trump’s loyal Congressional soldiers, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, warned Tuesday that Congress would “consider its options” if Canada doesn’t sign on.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland insists Canada won’t sign a bad deal.

“That’s not rhetoric,” she told reporters before she left again for Washington. Still, she said, Canadians have a “talent for compromise.”

I don’t think we’re going to get a NAFTA deal any time soon.– Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics

Her negotiators face a tough call. Even if they strike deals and close the remaining chapters — by Thursday, Freeland’s Mexican counterpart suggested, if they’re going to have a text for Congress by the end of the month — a bigger question lurks.

Would a renegotiated NAFTA lift damaging steel and aluminum tariffs and shut down threats of future car tariffs? If it didn’t, why would Canada sign on?

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics, said people have been too focused on specific sticking points — dairy concessions, dispute resolution chapters, intellectual property demands and more.

“The big picture is the threat of tariffs,” she said. “And not just the threat. The ones already in place.”

READ MORE HERE: 

CBC News

Mail disruptions possible by Sept. 26 if postal workers approve job action

By Terry Pedwell

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ While postal workers waited Monday to find out whether they’ll be on picket lines later this month, some of Canada Post’s clients weren’t taking chances on whether there would be a strike or lockout at the Crown agency.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, CUPW, wrapped up voting Sunday on a call by the union for a strike mandate after months of contract talks failed to produce a collective agreement. Results of two separate votes are expected to be released Tuesday.

But even before the final votes were cast, companies like Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. were encouraging customers to register for online billing, noting that bills must still be paid, regardless of whether paper copies could be delivered to households.

If CUPW members voted in favour of job action, they could legally strike by Sept. 26 after a “cooling off” period, but Canada Post would also be legally able to lock them out on the same date.

Neither side has said it would take such action.

CUPW said it received wide-ranging contract offers on Friday that it called  “unacceptable.”

One offer covering urban employees included proposed wage increases of 1.5 per cent for each year of a four-year deal. The union said the offer also included what it described as “Trojan horse” language around job security.

Canada Post wants the ability to use temporary employees to cover vacancies, but for a potentially unlimited duration, the union said in a statement to its members Friday.

“There is no limit as to how long they could hold these vacancies and use temporary employees to cover these positions,” the statement said.

The urban offer would also reduce vacation time and eliminate pre-retirement leave for future employees, CUPW said.

The union said another offer to rural carriers would not settle key issues including job security and work hours.

“This offer does nothing to address the issues that are important to (rural carriers),” known as RSMCs, the statement said.

“True respect means full equality for RSMCs.”

Collective agreements governing working conditions for both sets of workers expired in December 2017.

Contract talks, aided by a third party conciliator, ramped up in early June and were moved to an undisclosed hotel in Ottawa.

A spokesman for Canada Post said the Crown agency would not comment on negotiations, except to say both sides were working hard to find common ground.

CUPW national president Mike Palecek warned early last month that union members should be prepared for  “some type of job action” if contract talks fail.

A pay equity dispute involving the carriers’ 8,000 rural and 42,000 urban workers was also at the heart of the negotiations.

Arbitrator Maureen Flynn criticized the pay discrepancies at Canada Post as  “fundamentally flawed” in a May ruling, in which she gave both sides until the end of August to reach a pay equity settlement.

That deadline has passed and Flynn is expected to impose a solution, although CUPW said there are other pay equity issues left to resolve outside of the arbitration process.

Canada Post, in issuing its second quarter financial statement last month, estimated that a settlement could saddle the agency with a one-time hit to its bottom line in the range of a quarter billion dollars.

The agency has recently seen a boom in its parcel distribution business while letter mail volumes have plummeted.

Among its demands at the bargaining table, CUPW also wants the Crown agency to bolster its line of services, including the return of postal banking to communities under-served by banks and other lending institutions.

Canada Post employees were last locked out in 2011, but were quickly legislated back to work by the previous Conservative government. In 2016, an Ontario judge ruled that legislation was unconstitutional.

Manulife joining Shoppers Drug Mart in medical marijuana program

By Ian Bickis

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Manulife Financial Corp. has partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to offer enhanced medical marijuana insurance coverage.

The insurance company said Tuesday that clients who have been approved for medical marijuana coverage will be able to consult with Shoppers pharmacists at an Ontario-based patient care centre about different strains of medical marijuana and the different ways to take it.

Manulife customers will then be able to choose treatment that is covered under their Manulife plan and receive ongoing case management.

The program is the first to offer support for clients throughout the process, said Nathalie Khalaf, director of pharmacy benefits at Manulife.

“It’s the only one in the industry or in the market to offer member referrals to a health-care professional.”

The program provides more support for plan members taking medical cannabis, but also has a more structured and controlled system that provides support to companies looking to add medical cannabis to their benefits package, said Khalaf.

“Some of them wanted a little bit more comforts before adding it to their benefits plan. So they wanted to make sure that, first of all that there are enough controls in place.”

The initiative could increase interest in the medical cannabis coverage Manulife already offers on a selective basis, but which has seen very little uptake so far, said Khalaf.

The program will be available as an option for participating group and individual health insurance plans starting in the fall. Manulife said more details of the program will be available once the program takes effect.

James O’Hara, CEO of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, said the program should remove some of the confusion in navigating the system for people who need medical marijuana.

“The added ease of fulfillment from a patient’s side removes a lot of the anxiety and the mystery and the subsequent stress of where do I go from here.”

The partnering of two major companies on such an initiative also contributes to combating the ongoing stigma that medical cannabis patients face on a daily basis, said O’Hara.

It overall contributes to the normalization of cannabis as an accepted and recognized medicine today, which is the way it should be.”

Manulife’s program is part of an evolving landscape of medical marijuana insurance coverage in Canada.

Sun Life Financial Inc. said in February that it was adding medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans. Great-West Life Assurance Co. has said it plans to expand its medical marijuana coverage options in its group plans this year.

However, coverage has generally been limited to specific approved conditions. Sun Life limits coverage to conditions and symptoms associated with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, and palliative care.

In April, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal also overturned a ruling by the province’s Human Rights Tribunal that had found an elevator mechanic was discriminated against because his employer didn’t cover his prescription for medical marijuana.

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Metro Vancouver casinos gang destinations for money laundering

VANCOUVER _ Money-laundering operations in casinos have been tied to British Columbia’s opioid overdose crisis and the real-estate market, the attorney general said Wednesday as he released an independent report detailing how organized crime groups used the gaming industry to distribute its profits.

David Eby said the report highlights disturbing issues related to international gangsters discovering Vancouver-area casinos as destinations to launder illegal drug money and then invest it in real estate.

“The fact that we played not just a local role, but an international role in this should be troubling to everybody,” he said.

Eby said the problem surfaced in 2011, but the former Liberal government failed to address “serious crime with serious consequences.”

“It has to stop,” Eby told a news conference. “We can’t let organized crime get ahead of us.”

Eby tasked former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German to conduct a review and make recommendations last September.

German’s report, “Dirty Money,” said B.C.’s gaming industry and the anti-money laundering system was not prepared for the onslaught of illegal cash flowing through the casinos and they failed collectively.

He estimated more than $100 million was funnelled through casinos as part of a scheme dubbed the “Vancouver model.”

German said the model is linked to Chinese crime organizations that would loan money from their proceeds, usually drugs, to borrowers who would gamble at B.C. casinos. The gambler would then receive Canadian dollars from the proceeds to repay the criminal groups.

“The ‘genius’ of the scheme is the ability to achieve two objectives and be paid for, both in the same transaction,” the report says. “The lender is both servicing a drug trafficking organization by laundering its money, and the Chinese gambler by providing him or her with Canadian cash.”

Much of the laundered money ended up being invested in Vancouver-area real estate, German said.

“Why did this occur? Because it could,” he told the news conference.

German’s report says the RCMP viewed real estate as a hiding place for illegal money.

“It has been said that ‘everything in B.C. comes back to real estate,’ “the report says. “It has also been suggested that you can see a ‘rat move through all of it,’ meaning that each component of the industry is vulnerable to criminal actors who tend to operate in more than one discrete area of real estate sales, mortgages, insurance, and so forth.”

German said the amount of suspicious money entering casinos since a high point in 2015 has been greatly reduced due to police and industry actions, but the prevention measures must continue to ensure the problem does not resurface.

He warned organized crime will move on to other sectors of the economy, including luxury vehicles and horse racing.

“We need a strong provincial regulator, which is not currently the situation,” German said.

The report makes 48 recommendations, including the establishment of a gaming regulator and a police unit that specializes in criminal and regulatory investigations in the industry.

Eby said the government accepts all the recommendations.

“We will be moving as quickly as possible to slam the door shut on dirty money,” he said.

He said the former Liberal government turned a blind eye to money laundering in B.C. casinos for years.

“Nobody said No to taking this money and that is inexcusable.”

Liberal jobs critic Jas Johal said he expected the report to include announcements of arrests and crackdowns on organized crime.

Billions of dollars have been invested in B.C.’s real estate market in the last few years so “$100 million is a drop the bucket,” he said in an interview.

Johal said German’s recommendations will strengthen the system, and the Liberal government was moving towards making improvements before the last provincial election in May 2017.

Eby launched an investigation after the government’s gaming enforcement branch showed him surveillance video of gamblers walking into casinos with suitcases and a hockey bag full of $20 bills.

The BC Lottery Corp., which operates casinos, said the report is an important road map for multiple organizations involved in fighting money laundering in the province.

“We are poised to implement the direction set out by Attorney General David Eby to keep dirty money out of casinos alongside our industry, government and law enforcement partners,” corporation president Jim Lightbody said in a news release.

By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

Warning: Don’t be fooled by the working income tax benefit tax scheme

 The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is warning Canadians about getting involved in schemes where promoters, usually tax representatives or tax preparers, are claiming they can get a tax refund for participants from the working income tax benefit (WITB) even if they have no work income.

Setting the record straight: What is the working income tax benefit?

The working income tax benefit (WITB) is a refundable tax credit intended to give tax relief for eligible low-income individuals and families who are currently in the workforce. It also encourages Canadians to enter the workforce. You can only claim the WITB if you are earning income from working in Canada.

Be careful—here’s how the scheme works:

Here is what to watch for in the WITB scheme:

  • The promoter, who is usually a tax preparer or tax professional, will tell you they can increase your tax refund.
  • They will tell you that they will prepare a T4 (a T4 is a slip that shows your work earnings, or employment income) in your name and they will list an income amount in box 14 of the slip that will maximize your tax refund.
    • If you have not worked as an employee in Canada then you should not have a T4 slip with your name on it.Reporting this amount may result in serious consequences to you.
  • By law, when preparing a T4, an employer must subtract certain amounts from your work earnings. These include deductions such as: income tax and mandatory employee contributions to certain programs (Employment Insurance (EI), the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP)). The promoter will tell you that you must pay them the tax deductions they noted on the T4 slip as well as a fee for them completing your tax return. A legitimate tax preparer will never ask you to pay back deductions and will not prepare a T4 for you when you did not earn income in Canada

A good rule of thumb – If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

What are the consequences to you if you participate in these schemes and what can you do?

The WITB is not intended for individuals who have no work income. If someone claims it is, they are misleading you and there may be serious consequences.

Those who choose to participate in these schemes and those who promote them face serious consequences, including penalties, court fines, and even jail time.

People who avoid or evade taxes take resources away from social programs that all Canadians benefit from.

All taxpayers, including those who pay tax experts to prepare their taxes, are legally responsible for the accuracy of their tax returns.

The CRA encourages all Canadians to seek an independent second opinion from a reputable tax or legal professional on important tax and legal matters.

If you suspect someone of promoting or participating in an abusive tax scheme, you can report it at Canada.ca/taxes-leads or by calling the Leads program at 1-866-809-6841. You may give information anonymously.

For more information on tax schemes, please visit Canada.ca/tax-schemes

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More information
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SOURCE Canada Revenue Agency

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