Care must be taken in restoring utilities to Fort McMurray

Read more

Police probe of $1 million city hall “fraud” stretches into third year

By Matthew Van Dongen

No charges have been laid nearly three years into a police probe of an alleged $1 million fraud by a municipal accounts worker the city says admitted to theft.

The city announced Monday it had recovered through insurance most of the $1 million that went missing over nine years. But the state of the criminal probe appeared uncertain after police told the CBC last month there was no “active investigation.”

City finance director Mike Zegarac said Tuesday he wasn’t aware the police probe had stopped, adding he gave new information to investigators last week. Police spokesperson Catherine Martin also said Tuesday the investigation is “ongoing,” but didn’t say whether new information had resurrected the probe.

The city’s latest release refers to the financial loss as “mishandling of funds.” That’s a change in language compared to repeated use of the word “fraud” during a press conference in 2013. “The employee has admitted guilt and has admitted to the fraud and has admitted it was an act of the employee,” Zegarac said at the time.

He said then the alleged fraud, discovered during a facility review, involved rental payments from 51 businesses and customers as far back as 2005. Councillors said they were told the worker kept a journal of money juggled between accounts to avoid detection.

It’s not unusual for an insurance claim for fraud to be successful even without a criminal conviction, said Craig Brown, a Western University professor specializing in insurance law. “For a criminal charge, fraud has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “For the purposes of insurance, it’s more likely determined on balance of probability.”

Taxpayers deserve more than a payback of public funds, argued Shane Coleman, a board member of the Hamilton Farmer’s Market. The city contacted vendors, some of whom paid rent in cash, asking for co-operation with the police probe in 2013.

“It’s a matter of public trust,” said Coleman, who has filed a formal request to see the city’s forensic accounting report. “It’s been three years and no one is charged; no one gets to see what happened. Are we just going to sweep it under the rug?”

Zegarac told The Spectator Tuesday the city believes no other employees were involved in the alleged fraud, but added the forensic report is confidential because it contains personal details about employees.

He said that report, combined with the city’s own internal audits, spurred “a series of changes” to city cash-handling like monthly reviews of financial reporting, new supervisory requirements for cash-handling staff, less reliance on use of cash and even cheque payments versus electronic transfers.

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Oil Patch Insolvencies: “It’s Going to Get Significantly Worse Before It Gets Better.”


Consumer insolvencies have jumped sharply in provinces affected by the energy sector downturn and that number appears poised to keep rising, according to the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals (CAIRP).

Bankruptcies and consumer proposals in Alberta rose by 24.6 per cent between February 2015 and February 2016, as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB). That was after only a modest increase in the same period a year earlier of 2.8 per cent.

Similar increases were also recorded in Saskatchewan (18.2%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (22%), which not only has its own oil and gas industry but is home to many workers who travel to the western provinces.

“It’s not surprising that Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan all have increasing numbers of filings as those provinces are all suffering from the decline in oil and gas prices,” said Ian Schofield, CAIRP Board Secretary and a Saskatchewan Licensed Insolvency Trustee.

“We are only just now getting the statistics for February and certainly my experience here in South Saskatchewan is that we have been steadily getting busier since January.”

Canada’s energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in 2014, according to Natural Resources Canada. But the petroleum industry has lost an estimated 40,000 jobs over the past two years, and such massive cuts inevitably leave some laid-off workers without the means to make monthly payments. When an industry loses jobs in an economy that doesn’t have a lot of diversity, insolvencies rise.

“I have found over the past thirty plus years that even if the economy starts turning around insolvency filings generally increase for some considerable time as individuals clear up the debt ‘hangover’ they still have from having lost their previous jobs,” said Mr. Schofield.

“I think it’s going to get significantly worse before it gets better.”

While rates in other provinces remained relatively low – even declining in Ontario by 1.3 per cent from February 2015 to February 2016 – the impact of the oil price downturn has been dramatic in provinces where oil and gas are produced.

“CAIRP’s message to those who find themselves in serious financial difficulty due to the downturn, is that their first step should be to visit a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to get thorough professional advice,” said CAIRP President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Yakabuski.

“Most of our members are Licensed Insolvency Trustees (LIT), and as such are the only professionals licensed by the OSB to administer insolvency proceedings. They are the only professionals who can arrange for a stay on most creditor actions, and can show consumers all of their options.”

CAIRP is the national association that represents nearly 1,500 Licensed Insolvency Trustees and associates. CAIRP is committed to providing consumers with better information about the options offered by Licensed Insolvency Trustees to assist consumers and businesses when they are insolvent, and to clearly distinguish our members from unlicensed service providers.

Requests for interviews with CAIRP spokespersons can be arranged via the media contact below.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals (CAIRP)

For further information: Andrew Flynn, Communications Manager, Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals, 416-204-3242, ext. 3563,


Red Cross has raised $60M to help Fort McMurray fire evacuees

By Bill Graveland


CALGARY _ The large amount of money donated to the Red Cross to help Fort McMurray fire evacuees is eclipsing public support for past Canadian disasters.

The Canadian Red Cross has already collected $60 million from individuals and corporations. That number doesn’t include additional money coming from Ottawa and the Alberta government, which have both promised to match donations made by individuals.

“I don’t have a breakdown on what the individual number is yet, but we’ve had very good corporate support,” Red Cross spokeswoman Shelly Makrugin said Tuesday.

She said every disaster is different, “so we don’t compare disasters per se.”

But at $60 million and counting, donations have already surpassed the $43.3 million Canadians gave during the catastrophic 2013 southern Alberta floods. More than 100,000 people in several communities, including Calgary and High River, were forced from their homes.

Red Cross donations after the 2013 Lac Megantic rail disaster that killed 47 people and destroyed half the community’s downtown totalled $14.8 million.

The 2011 wildfire that destroyed one-third of Slave Lake, Alta., five years ago brought in $5.5 million.

Makrugin said the Red Cross is in “emergency mode” in the Fort McMurray area. Cash is being used to make sure those affected get basics such as cots, blankets and hygiene kits.

The agency provides help on top of what insurance companies and government programs offer.

“The phase right now is emergency response, which is covering people’s basic needs, and it will also be used for the recovery and the rebuilding phases as well,” she said.

“Needs emerge over time in disasters like this, so all the money we raise is earmarked for people impacted by fires.”

The Red Cross was involved for four years after the Slave Lake fire, which destroyed 400 buildings.


Canadians more satisfied with car insurance, but pricing still a problem

Canadians more satisfied with car insurance, but pricing still a problem

Excerpted article was written by DARREN MCGEE | The Globe and Mail

Auto insurance is a sore spot for many Canadians. Many believe they are paying too much for premiums while receiving too little in return.

However, those perceptions are changing. An annual study released Wednesday indicates customer satisfaction with auto insurance has increased for the first time in five years.

The J.D. Power 2016 Canadian Auto Insurance Satisfaction Study – this is the ninth edition – measures customer satisfaction with Canadian auto insurers, factoring in non-claim interaction, price, policy offerings, billing/payment, and claims. Insurers were ranked in four regions: Alberta, Atlantic, Ontario and Quebec. Insurance is government-run in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Improvements were noted in each of the five categories, although pricing remained a problem.

In Ontario, for example, where the Liberal government promised to reduce auto insurance rates by 15 per cent, the survey said the percentage of customers who experienced a rate increase rose to 21 per cent, up from 20 per cent in 2015. However, Ontario saw the most significant improvement in customer satisfaction.

“Rate reductions rarely affect every customer equally, with lower-risk customers, who typically have lower rates to start with, frequently being the first, and sometimes only, customers to see an actual price decrease,” said Valerie Monet, director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power. “Improvements in process and customer service benefit everyone and drive the overall improvements noted in Ontario.”

The study, conducted between Jan. 21 and March 7, is based on replies from almost 11,000 auto insurance policy holders.


Customer satisfaction (based on 1,000-point scale)

  • Overall 758 (+8 over 2015)
  • Quebec, 786 (+3)
  • Atlantic, 768 (+6)
  • Ontario, 753 (+9)
  • Alberta, 743 (+8)

Highest-ranking companies (by province)

  • Alberta: The Co-operators, TD Insurance
  • Atlantic: The Co-operators, Intact
  • Ontario: The Co-operators, State Farm, Intact
  • Quebec: The Personal, Industrial Alliance, Promutel

Canadian companies losing business as consumers demand a more personalized experience & human interaction



Canadian companies need to invest in analytical tools and expertise to generate the proactive and predictive insights for a more personalized experience for customers, who are quietly slipping away with little ability to win them back, according to a new report from Accenture Strategy.

Nearly half (49 percent) of Canadian consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service – most commonly from retailers, cable and satellite television service companies, phone companies and banks, according to Accenture’s eleventh annual Global Consumer Pulse Research. The study gauges the experiences and attitudes of 24,489 consumers around the world about marketing, sales and customer services, with 1,334 respondents from Canada.

Eighty percent of Canadian respondents who switched said they could have been retained before switching providers, in line with the survey’s global findings. Now that they’ve switched, there’s very little chance they will return, with 68 percent saying they will not return once they have left, compared to 58 percent globally, the survey shows. Further, only 17 percent of Canadian consumers posted negative comments online after a bad customer service experience, 11 percent less than the global average (28 percent).

“Canadians are known to be ‘silent switchers’, which means they will just leave with no opportunity for the provider to ‘make it right’, or to understand and minimize churn,” said Berkeley Warburton, Managing Director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy. “Fortunately, providers now have access to tools that proactively create a positive customer experience through seamless interactions across all channels, using predictive, prescriptive and cross-channel analytics that will figure out what Canadian customers want – before it’s too late.”

The importance of a human connection in customer services

Analytics is only part of the solution for providers trying to retain business, because Canadian customers said they still want to maintain a human interaction, with 85 percent preferring to deal with a live person, higher than the average of 73 percent globally. This additional cost can pay off for providers, with more than half (53 percent) of Canadian respondents willing to be sold new or upgraded products when receiving a face-to-face service compared to online, compared to 45 percent globally.

Canadian consumers place a higher-than-average value on physical or in-store experiences, with 71 percent agreeing that in-store service is the best channel for getting a tailored experience, compared to 56 percent globally. Forty percent are willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensures a better level of service, compared to 49 percent of global respondents.

“Canadian companies must not overplay their digital hand — they should look to balance digital with human interaction so they don’t lose their customer base,” said Ms. Warburton. “These personalized interactions are what the customer values and remembers, and they make a difference when it comes to building and maintaining a Canadian customer’s loyalty and trust.”

Improving customer experience

The Accenture Strategy report reveals that there is huge room for improvement in the delivery of today’s customer services.  Most (80 percent) Canadian consumers say that it is frustrating dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, compared to 73 percent of global respondents. Another 77 percent expect customer service to be easier and more convenient to obtain, versus 69 percent globally, and 65 percent expect it to be faster, versus 72 percent globally. Meanwhile, 60 percent report that if companies could provide customers with better live or in-person customer service, it would have impacted their decision to switch providers, higher that the global average of 52 percent.

How leaders of customer services succeed
Organizations that want to rebalance their digital and traditional customer service channels should look to:

  1. Put the human and physical elements back into customer services: Rethink your investment strategy. The focus should be on delivering satisfying, memorable customer experiences – not methods of interaction. Ensure your channel management approach delivers integrated experiences.
  2. Make it easy for customers to switch channels to get the experiences they want: Build customer service channels that enable consumers to fluidly move from digital to human interaction to get the outcomes they desire.
  3. Root out revenue toxicity: Define and address the most toxic customer experiences across all channels; experiences like data overage charges from telecommunication providers where customers receive no advanced warning. These experiences increase revenue in the short-term but greatly contribute to Canadians “silently switching”, impacting long-term profitability. By focusing on transparent and positive experiences companies can create more sustainable growth through customer loyalty.
  4. Guarantee personal data security: 92 percent of consumers say it is extremely important that companies protect the privacy of their personal information. By not selling or sharing customer data with other companies, and guaranteeing that safeguards are in place to protect it, consumers will be more willing to hand over personal information which can be leveraged to deliver better experiences.


About the research
Accenture Strategy’s Global Consumer Pulse Research is an annual online research project that assess customer attitudes towards marketing, sales and customer service practices and customers’ behaviors in response to companies’ practices. The 2015 survey includes online responses from 24,489 consumers in 33 countries: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, UAE, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore,Norway, Mexico, Malaysia, Ireland, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, Turkey, Poland, Philippines, Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic,India, Indonesia, France, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States. Respondents were asked to evaluate their experiences of up to four industries out of 11 industry sectors: retail banking and financial services, wireless services providers, consumer goods retailers, gas and electric utility providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, property and casualty insurance providers, fixed service providers (excluding cable and satellite), healthcare providers, hotels and lodging, life insurance, and cable and satellite service providers. The survey was fielded in August and September 2015.

About Accenture
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 373,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us

Accenture Strategy operates at the intersection of business and technology. We bring together our capabilities in business, technology, operations and function strategy to help our clients envision and execute industry-specific strategies that support enterprise wide transformation. Our focus on issues related to digital disruption, competitiveness, global operating models, talent and leadership help drive both efficiencies and growth. For more information, follow @AccentureStrat or visit

SOURCE Accenture

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest