Insurers applaud high profile court ruling on life insurance investments

TORONTO _ A group representing the life insurance industry says a decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal will support consumer protection rules that separate banking from insurance.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says the court found a 2018 regulation prevents life insurance companies from accepting deposits and amounts unrelated to insurance coverage, marking a win in the insurance industry’s fight with investment firms.

In the lawsuit, Mosten Investment LP had argued that Manufacturers Life Insurance Co.’s universal life insurance policy allowed for unlimited deposits and a guaranteed return.

The case caught the attention of prominent short-seller Muddy Waters, which argued in 2018 that a ruling in Mosten’s favour could lead to billions of dollars of losses.

But Manulife says it was successful in arguing that policyholders cannot make unlimited deposits into universal life insurance contracts and that deposits must relate to amounts required to pay the life insurance premium.

Ronald Miller, one the lawyers who represented Mosten, says the firm is reviewing the decision and is disappointed the court would permit governmental interference into a contract that was issued decades before the new regulations were passed.

Manulife says the legal matter did not have any material impact on the company’s business, and shares of Manulife’s stock rose more than one per cent on Wednesday.

“In the interest of protecting consumers, many other provinces including Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have introduced legislation to provide similar clarity and reinforce the separation of banking and insurance,” said CLHIA chief executive Stephen Frank in a statement on the ruling, adding that the industry group was pleased with the decision.

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Insurance Broker Professional Certificate – Training starts March 2021

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British Columbia Level 2 General Insurance Agent License

A level 2 general insurance agent is not restricted to where he or she can work and is not prohibited from signing contracts of insurance. Although insurance industry experience is not required, an applicant must be an authorized representative of a licensed general insurance agency and have met the educational requirements.

Saskatchewan Level 2 General Insurance Agent License

A Level 2 licensee shall not manage an agency.

Manitoba Level 2 General Insurance Agent License

A level 2 general insurance agent is authorized, to sell the insurance policies authorized under section 3, both inside and outside of the office of a general insurance agency, but is not authorized to manage the office of a general insurance agency

Employers clamp down on ‘ambiguous’ mask rules as more infections tied to workplaces

By Brett Bundale

THE CANADIAN PRESS

On the factory floor, masks were optional.

Until last month, workers at TEC Business Solutions’s corrugated packaging plant in Mississauga, Ont. donned a mask, underwent a COVID-19 screening, had a temperature check and sanitized their hands but once inside and at their own stations, they could remove their masks.

“It gets really warm in there and it can be hard to breathe with a mask,” said Mike Prencipe, the chief operating officer at TEC Business Solutions. “We said if workers can physically distance, they can remove their masks.”

Then two shop workers tested positive for COVID-19, followed by two office employees.

“Everyone around them had to quarantine,” Prencipe said, noting that the bulk of the plant’s workforce had to stay home for two weeks. “We’ve now made it our own policy that if you’re in the plant, you have to wear a mask at all times.”

The small outbreak at the Ontario packaging plant illustrates how workplaces are emerging as a driving force in the second wave of the pandemic.

A growing number of infections can be traced back to workplaces, including in manufacturing, warehouse and shipping facilities, according to Ontario data on active outbreaks by setting.

The province declared a second state of emergency Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 case counts and tightened rules around masks in workplaces among other measures.

More than 10,000 workers have contracted COVID-19 due to work-related exposures, statistics from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board show.

One of the issues that appears to be fuelling workplace infections is the lack of clarity or consistency surrounding mask-wearing rules in workplaces in Canada.

Across the country, each province and in some cases individual health units or workplace safety boards offer varying guidance on masks at work.

It’s a patchwork that can be confusing. Multiple business operators say they want to stick to the rules and keep workers safe, but have found the regulations unclear.

The  “ambiguous” messaging around mask-wearing in the workplace prompted the office manager at TEC Business Solutions to repeatedly call public health over the last several months to ensure they were following rules, Prencipe said.

“We wanted to follow the protocols and keep our employees safe,” he said. “They told us we were taking the right precautions.”

Still, Prencipe made the call to tighten the mask rules in his workplace following the December outbreak, a move that Ontario appears to have followed.

In response to the “alarming and exceptional circumstances,” the province said individuals are now required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses at all times.

Ontario is also stepping up enforcement measures. Provincial workplace inspectors are expected to focus on areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and issue tickets those not wearing a mask indoors.

Indeed, Prencipe said the virus may have been spread in either the company’s lunchroom or bathroom, spaces that both plant and office workers access.

Yet other provinces continue to only require masks in workplaces where employees are interacting with the public, or if two meters of distance cannot be maintained between workers.

In Nova Scotia, for example, the provincial mask requirement applies to spaces the public has access to  not private spaces.

“We encourage business owners/employers to set their own policies for private spaces,” Health Department spokeswoman Marla MacInnis said in an email.

Business leaders can learn from political vacation scandal, experts say

By Brett Bundale

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The ongoing controversy involving politicians who ignored travel warnings over the holidays holds important lessons for Canadian business executives, according to experts in public relations and organizational strategy.

They say the situation provides valuable insight into effective C-Suite leadership and communication during a turbulent period.

A growing number of federal and provincial politicians have found themselves in hot water in recent days for travelling outside the country over the holidays even as Canadians were urged to avoid non-essential travel to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The backlash against politicians illustrates how easily hypocrisy, contradiction and privilege are exposed in an age of social media, said Bob Pickard, principal at Signal Leadership Communication.

Outdated  “spin-doctoring” is not only ineffective, he said, it can make leaders appear further out of touch, worsening the backlash.

“There’s a disconnect between how leaders are communicating and how people are feeling,” Pickard said.

“There’s a lot of pain out there and high anxiety, public emotion is on a knife’s edge … leaders need to anticipate the playing out of public emotions.”

The public relations expert said politicians and business leaders alike must “understand the zeitgeist” of the moment and how people feel and allow that to shape their actions and communications.

He said leaders should practise a sort of “radical candour” communication style.

“You’ve got to be transparent, you’ve got to be candid. You don’t need to sugar-coat it,” Pickard said. “Leaders have to be frank and honest if they want to earn the respect and buy-in of the public or their workforce.”

Lorn Sheehan, a professor of strategy at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, said it’s critical that the actions of leaders align with the policies and objectives of an organization.

“If you expect people to behave or act in a certain way, and then the leaders act or behave in a different way, it creates confusion and raises very legitimate questions,” he said. “The leader needs to set the example.”

While crafting a good strategic plan or policy is important for any organization, he said the actions of the leadership will determine its effectiveness.

“Increasingly, we’re realizing that for any organization to achieve its vision, it requires a strong culture,” he said, adding that the culture is often set “at the top.”

“It’s the effect that people in positions of power hold.”

Steve Pottle, director of risk management services at Thompson Rivers University, said the success of a strategic plan at any organization or company hinges on individual buy-in.

He said that’s achieved through strong leadership, an effective plan and consistent follow-through by senior management.

For example, if a company makes masks mandatory but the CEO fails to wear one, Pottle said it sends a message to employees that it’s not necessary to follow the rule.

Meanwhile, Pottle, also vice-chair of RIMS Canada Council, a standing committee of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, said it’s also important to consider a plan from a risk perspective, including what can throw a plan off course and what can help an organization achieve its goals faster.

 

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