Alberta may qualify for federal cash injection from little known program

By Andy Blatchford and Joan Bryden

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ The Liberal government is eyeing a little-known federal program as it searches for ways to help Alberta cope with the financial squeeze of sinking commodity prices, The Canadian Press has learned.

The Alberta government is bracing for a steep fall in revenues in 2015-16 due to sliding resource prices, which could result in the province qualifying for cash relief from Ottawa through the so-called fiscal stabilization program.

Provinces can make claims under the program when their revenues tumble by more than five per cent from one year to the next.

But at roughly $250 million, the maximum withdrawal Alberta can claim under the program’s current formula is relatively modest for the province’s economy. Payouts were capped in the late 1980s at $60 per provincial resident; Alberta’s population is about 4.1 million.

A fiscal-stabilization payment is just one of several possibilities Ottawa is exploring as it hunts for ways to ease the pain of hard-hit Alberta, said a senior government source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As it draws up its spring budget, the federal government has instructed bureaucrats across many departments to come up with “innovative ideas” to help the Alberta economy, said the source, who wasn’t authorized to disclose details publicly.

With the federal budget’s release expected in March, and the province’s treasury facing pressure, the clock is ticking.

The source said potential solutions being floated include speeding up infrastructure spending and tweaking the typical, per-capita infrastructure funding disbursement formula to reflect economic need. Another possibility under consideration is a boost to direct transfers to individuals, perhaps through adjustments to the employment insurance program.

The Liberal government pledged to enhance EI during last fall’s election campaign and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to pump an additional $60 billion over 10 years into infrastructure projects. However, only $17.4 billion was earmarked to flow during the Liberals’ first four-year mandate.

Next week, Trudeau is scheduled to visit Alberta, where the Liberals had an electoral breakthrough in October by winning four ridings. Before that, the party hadn’t won a seat in the province since 2004.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci told The Canadian Press in an interview that he’s hoping to discuss his province’s battered books with his federal counterpart, Bill Morneau.

“Certainly, I’m aware that there are some things that we could be following up with together to possibly improve the situation temporarily around the availability of federal monies,” Ceci said Wednesday.

“I would just discuss finances with (Morneau) and I’m interested in seeing if there’s any possibility we can count on federal monies in the near term that would help us through this difficult time.”

Ceci didn’t get into specifics, but when asked whether he might ask Ottawa for a loan, he replied:  “Yeah, potentially.”

Asked for more details, Ceci’s press secretary later said the minister was “really just musing about potential options” when he raised the possibility of requesting financial help from Ottawa.

Leah Holoiday stressed that Ceci remains focused on seeing federal infrastructure investments fast-tracked and more support for getting pipeline access to tidewater.

Ottawa is well aware of Alberta’s significance when it comes to economic growth across Canada, said the federal source.

“Alberta is almost 20 per cent of Canada’s (gross domestic product) even though it’s only 11 per cent of the population,” the source said.

“Alberta’s dragging down the entire Canadian economy.”

When it comes to a more targeted approach to helping Alberta, another senior federal source described a recent article written by University of British Columbia economist Kevin Milligan as making a lot of sense.

Milligan argued that regional strategies are more helpful than a nationwide plan to stimulate the economy because the oil-price shock only causes significant problems in certain areas.

In an interview, Milligan also pointed to EI enhancement as an adjustment that can provide well-targeted, quick relief to the hardest-hit regions, where job losses have been piling up.

The fiscal stabilization program could be another form of assistance, added Milligan, who said he had never heard of it.

“One of the reasons why fiscal federations are a useful thing is that we provide insurance,” Milligan said.  “When one region is doing well, we scoop a little off the top and share it around, as we do with our equalization.”

Equalization payments are designed to transfer funds from so-called “have” provinces, those on a more secure financial footing, to their “have-not” counterparts.

Because it’s calculated on a three-year average, this year’s equalization formula calls for Alberta to continue to pay into the program, even though it is reeling from a precipitous drop in oil prices.

Morneau has rejected calls to tweak the controversial equalization formula, saying that fiddling with the program would be complex.

But Milligan said the federal government might consider adjusting the fiscal-stabilization program to provide more relief to Alberta.

In October, the Alberta government predicted its revenues would drop 11.5 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16. Milligan said it could be worse than that, since oil prices have continued to fall.

Albertans are “hurting,” Ceci declared.

“We’re doing what we can here in Alberta to take care of each other, but federal government public sector investment would be a significant help at this time.”

canada-press

Revenge Porn Leads to $100,000 Award in First of its Kind Case in Canada

When a person shares sexually explicit images with another in confidence and has that confidence betrayed by the recipient posting the images publicly on line are there recognized grounds to sue for damages?  A recent case in Ontario considered this for what I believe to be the first time and  found that such actions indeed attract liability under the existing framework of Canadian tort law.

In the recent case ( Jane Doe464533 v. Doe h/t to the Globe and Mail’s Sean Fine for sharing the case) the court set out the following facts

Screenshot-caselaw

The video was on line for three weeks and the amount of views it received was unknown.  Justice Stinson awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages, $25,000 in aggravated damages and a further $25,000 in punitive damages along with interest and costs.

In finding this conduct to be tortious the court concluded that the torts of Breach of Confidence, Intentional Infliction of Mental Distress and Invasion of Privacy were all made out by such behavior.

Heiltsuk historically used it to treat a range of ailments, from injuries to eczema

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Canada: Here is some of the best-brewed coffee in the country. Has yours made the list?

Canada: Here is some of the best-brewed coffee in the country. Has yours made the list?

10 trailblazing coffee roasters in Canada

Source: Cottage Life | Vesna Plazacic

Muskoka Roastery, Ontario

With a focus on sustainability, community involvement, and the environment, Muskoka Roastery is the first roaster in Canada to achieve 100% Rainforest Alliance certification. Located in Huntsville, the roastery offers its fine quality beans to retailers across Ontario, and online orders are available to the rest of the country. More info: www.muskokaroastery.com

Kicking Horse Coffee, British Columbia

Nestled at the bottom of the Rocky Mountains, Kicking Horse, an organic, fair trade coffee brewery, uses Japanese Hario Syphons with a mix of mountain water and coffee beans to churn out delicious roasts that come from the best coffee-growing mountains in the world. More info:www.kickinghorsecoffee.com

Coastal Coffee Company, Ontario

What started as a small-scale business run out of a green hippie van, Coastal Coffee, which is micro-roasted on Lake Huron, Ontario’s West Coast, is now available in farmers’ markets, local retailers, and restaurants all year round. More info: www.coastalcoffeecompany.ca

Just Us Coffee, Nova Scotia

With a mission to put “People and the Planet before Profits,” Just Us, based out of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, set out to become Canada’s first Fair Trade coffee roaster in 1995. Focusing on social justice for Latin America, they offer the coffee growers fair prices and, in turn, help push forward the local and international movement towards global justice. More info:http://www.justuscoffee.com

Laughing Whale, Nova Scotia 

This East Coast eco-roaster uses a combination of traditional techniques and the low-emission, heat-recycling roasting technology to produce a delicious nuanced blend. Another organic, Fair Trade roaster, Laughing Whale focuses on the people and environment, rather than short-term profits. More info: www.laughingwhalecoffee.ca

Bean North Roasting, Yukon

Situated in the scenic Takhini Valley, northwest of Whitehorse, Bean North Coffee Roasting Company Ltd has been roasting certified organic fair trade coffee since 1997. The roastery offers fairly traded coffees from around the world, and their café has a special employee named Bear, a dog who serves as the shop’s greeter. More info: www.beannorth.com

Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, Yukon

Yukoners love cycling, and they love their coffee. This small, family owned and operated coffee roastery has been a Whitehorse community staple for more than 15 years. They are conveniently located inside of Icycle Sport, one of the best bicycle/ski shops in Whitehorse. Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters teamed up with Yukon Brewing to create the Midnight Sun Espresso Stout, a full, thick stout that has won several awards at the Canadian Brewing Awards and tastes delicious on ice cream. But not to worry, they take online orders for those outside of the province. More info: www.midnightsuncoffeeroasters.com

Salt Spring Coffee, British Columbia

Salt Spring Island marches to the beat of its own drum. This small island has a tight-knit community chock full of farmers’ markets, creativity, and entrepreneurs. Salt Spring Coffee is one of those innovators—a family of pioneers with a passion for roasting coffee, building partnerships with farmers, and putting people and the planet first to produce world-changing cups of coffee. More info: www.saltspringcoffee.com

Fratello Coffee Roasters, Alberta

With nearly 30 years of experience in the coffee business under their belt, Fratello Coffee Roasters, based in Calgary, are passionate about coffee culture in Western Canada. The roasters work directly with farmers in the world’s best coffee growing regions to produce ethically-sourced, quality product to their customers. More info: www.fratellocoffee.com

Jumping Bean Coffee, Newfoundland & Labrador

With a focus on sustainability and the environment, this East Coast roaster offers premium coffee that produces 85% fewer Co2 emissions during roasting, and they roast between 300,000 and 400,000 pounds of coffee a year. In addition to supplying local coffee shops, locally roasted coffee can be found at 118 stores coast to coast, and a number of big retailers, such as Target Canada and six Atlantic Costco stores. More info: www.jumpingbeancoffee.ca

New Training And Safety Requirements For Drill Rig Operators In Ontario

The Ontario government has passed amendments under the Occupational Health and Safety Act which provide new technical and operational safety measures and procedures for rotary foundation drill rigs, and require that drill rig operators be trained and certified.

The amendments containing the new drill rig requirements, which have been passed in regulation, will come into effect on July 1, 2016 to allow time for the construction industry to comply.

The Ministry of Labour states in its press release that rotary foundation drill rigs are used for boring holes in soil in order to install foundations or earth retention structures.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada to implement explicit training requirements for drill rig operators in its health and safety legislation. The Ministry states in its press release that these changes are intended to build on actions that the province is already taking to improve safety for construction workers, including the Working at Heights Training requirements (read our article about this training here). The Ministry says that Ontario’s construction industry has traditionally experienced higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities than other workplace sectors, and that there were 200 critical injuries in construction last year and 21 fatalities.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release announcing the changes can be found here.

For more information, visit our Occupational Health & Safety Law blog at www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com

About Dentons

Dentons is a global firm driven to provide you with the competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected marketplace. We were formed by the March 2013 combination of international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) and international law firm SNR Denton.

Learn more at www.dentons.com

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

Article by Chelsea Rasmussen

Technology In The Workplace: Top 9 Issues For Employers

Technology In The Workplace: Top 9 Issues For Employers

Technology enters the workplace in many ways and there are a number of risks and issues that employers need to consider.

  1. Cybersecurity and Data ProtectionA number of data breaches have been making headline news. These threats do not only come from criminal hackers or other external sources. Much of the risk around data security comes from the way employees manage company data. Instituting policies, practices and training around acceptable use, storage and retention of employer data, systems and property is key.
  2. Employee Misuse of Social MediaWhere there is a nexus between an employer and inappropriate content posted online by an employee, such conduct may provide a basis for employee discipline up to and including termination of employment. A number of recent cases demonstrate that terminating with just cause is possible, particularly when the post is harmful or potentially harmful to the employer.
  3. When Not to Discipline For Misuse of Social MediaWhile disciplining employees for misuse of social media is quite appropriate in many circumstances, on the other hand, we may find that Canada follows the U.S. trend in which some employees argue that social media posts are protected or that discipline is an unlawful reprisal under employment standards and other legislation.
  4. Privacy on Workplace ComputersEmployees will likely have some expectation of privacy on workplace computers where personal use is permitted. This expectation of privacy can be limited by way of computer use policies that provide for employer monitoring of workplace computers, where the employer has a legitimate need to conduct monitoring and where such monitoring is reasonable in scope. Such policies should be clearly communicated to employees.
  5. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ProgramsIn August 2015, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner and the B.C. Information & Privacy Commissioner issued joint guidance for organizations considering the implementation of BYOD programs, where employees are permitted to use personal mobile devices for both business and personal purposes. BYOD programs give rise to privacy and security risks that warrant careful consideration prior to rollout.
  6. Social Media Background ChecksPre-hire social media background checks may give rise to privacy concerns, including in respect of issues of consent, accuracy, over-collection of information, collection of irrelevant information and collection of the personal information of third parties. Such background checks must be reasonable in the circumstances of the employer’s operations and should be carried out in accordance with guidance from Canadian privacy commissioners.
  7. Educating Employees on E-DiscoveryGiven the growth of electronically stored information and a growing tendency for employees to email or text rather than use the telephone, it is important that employees understand that what they write may be produced in subsequent litigation.
  8. Protecting Your Client List from Employees’ Online PresenceWho owns the social media account? In this era of online networking, employees may leave their employment with a social media account that functions as a client list or company contact point. This may undermine contractual non-competition and non-solicitation covenants. To help manage risk in this respect, employers should establish corporate ownership of social media accounts that are used for business purposes, including by way of the employer’s social media policy.
  9. Updating PoliciesPolicies dealing with email, Internet, acceptable use, social media, electronic devices or BYOD, travel and passwords should regularly be reviewed and updated given the changing digital landscape. Education around phishing emails and other nefarious communications is also important.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Article by Andrea York and Brian Thiessen

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