Export Development Canada to pay $969M dividend to federal government

Export Development Canada is paying a $969-million dividend to the federal government this year.

The payment compares with a dividend of $786 million the agency paid last year and $500 million paid in 2016.

EDC generates revenue primarily from interest on loans, fees on its guarantee products, and premiums on its insurance products.

The crown corporation says it finished 2017 with $60 billion in assets and earned $1 billion for the year.

EDC’s full annual report will be released in the second quarter.

Liberal MP who weathered gun registry fight not worried about new firearms bill

He’s the Liberal MP for a large, rural Ontario riding with lots of gun owners, but Bob Nault says he is not worried about a voter backlash over the government’s new firearms bill.

The Conservatives say the legislation would unfairly target law-abiding hunters and target shooters with fresh measures.

Nault, however, sees nothing in the bill that could stir up the sort of controversy that erupted over the universal long-gun registry in the 1990s – a fight he remembers well.

The latest legislation will have no major impacts on legitimate firearms owners, Nault, 62, said in an interview. “I think this is going to be put to bed fairly quickly.”

Not if the Conservatives have any sway.

Since the bill’s introduction last month, Tory MPs have called the move to tighten controls on the sale and tracking of firearms the creation of a new national long-gun registry.

The bill would require retailers to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years, a measure intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes. It would also require a gun seller to ensure a buyer’s licence is valid prior to the transaction.

“By going to the store level as opposed to the home, the Liberals are trying to bring in the registry by a back door,” Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said in the House of Commons. “In several Parliaments in the past we saw that it did not work, it did not hit crime, it cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it targeted law-abiding people as opposed to lawbreakers.”

The Conservative government dismantled the long-gun registry, a Liberal initiative that mushroomed into a costly computer boondoggle and stoked resentment in the firearms community.

The Liberals are quick to note the new plan to require commercial retailers to keep sales records would revive a measure that existed from 1979 until 1995, when universal registration of guns essentially replaced the store ledgers. Most merchants already record sales for safety and liability reasons and because it affects their insurance, the Liberals say.

As for greater scrutiny of sales, it’s the buyer’s licence, not the gun, that’s being verified, and no information about the firearm is exchanged, they add.

The Conservatives are using the firearms bill as “a wedge issue” to capitalize on the wariness of rural residents, said Nault, who won the northern Ontario riding of Kenora by just 498 votes in the 2015 election.

But he prefers to view the latest federal effort to control firearms as one step on a long path that stretches back to the late 19th century.

Nault, a gun owner whose father taught him to shoot as a youngster, was one of the MPs who provided advice to the government about what the Liberal caucus was hearing in the mid-1990s as Allan Rock, then justice minister, pushed ahead with the long-gun registry.

The current bill is nowhere near as far-reaching, Nault said. As of late last week, he had heard from 45 constituents with concerns about the legislation in his sprawling riding that covers one-third of the province.

Among the reservations: a measure that would restore the authority of RCMP experts to classify firearms without political influence, repealing cabinet’s authority to overrule Mountie determinations, and another that would roll back some automatic authorizations to transport restricted and prohibited firearms, such as handguns and assault weapons.

“As I’ve said to my colleagues, of course we’ll lose some votes in rural Canada, because whenever you talk about firearms, people naturally get upset about it,” Nault said.

But he insisted the bill is “quite balanced” and will have “virtually no impact” on 98 per cent of gun owners.

He stressed the importance of a provision that would expand the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire a gun. Instead of just the five years immediately preceding a licence application, personal history questions would cover a person’s entire lifetime.

“In Canada, owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right,” Nault said.

“Hopefully people will start to see this more as a non-partisan issue.”

Insurance industry welcomes news of implementation date for FSRA

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) welcomes the announcement in March 28, 2018’s  Budget that the Ontario government has confirmed that the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) will be operational by April 2019.  The new regulator will bring more effective and coordinated regulation services to Ontario.

“We see FSRA as a proactive, innovative regulator that will lead to sustainable improvement in rates for Ontario’s almost 10 million drivers,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC. “Ontario’s insurers support this new regulator and we look forward to working with FSRA.”

Additional proposed legislative changes will allow FSRA to make rules requiring insurers to provide claims and vehicle repair history information to persons to be prescribed in regulation, most likely used car dealers. IBC has long been advocating for a data access solution.

As part of the budget, the government also announced changes to the Insurance Act to give FSRA prudential oversight of certain insurance companies incorporated in Ontario.

Other key points in the budget include the following:

Ontario Fair Auto Insurance Plan

The government reaffirmed its commitment to transforming the auto insurance system. It also reiterated the measures contained in the Fair Auto Insurance Plan to bring rates down in a sustained way, ensure people who are injured in collisions receive the care they need, and reduce fraud and disputes.

Of note, the government has adopted the recommendation made by the industry on how to best manage the care of those who have suffered a catastrophic impairment as the result of a collision. Instead of making this the responsibility of the Ministry of Health as recommended in David Marshall’s report Fair Benefits Fairly Delivered, there will be funding through the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation to develop evidence-based programs of care for the most seriously injured.

Cannabis

Another key item in today’s budget is contained within Ontario’s framework covering the sale, distribution, purchase, possession and consumption of cannabis. The government is creating a dedicated team of nine Crown counsels and three administrative staff to support drug-impaired driving prosecutions and the new tools for field sobriety testing.

Nova Scotia to give up to 16 weeks unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence in Nova Scotia would be able to take up to 16 continuous weeks of unpaid leave under legislation introduced Thursday by the Liberal government.

Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis said amendments to the Labour Standards Code would ensure that victims will not lose their jobs when they need leave to seek help.

“This leave will provide support for those seeking safety from their abuser and allow victims the time they need to address the complex situation of domestic violence without the added stress and fear of losing their job,” said Kousoulis.

Kousoulis said the legislation would also provide 10 intermittent days to allow victims to seek out services and supports and includes a confidentiality provision for all employee information.

“I don’t even want the individual to have to provide a doctor’s note,” he said.

Kousoulis said individuals would “on their own word” be able to fill out a simple one-page form that they would provide to an employer. He said they wouldn’t have to provide details of their situation.

The changes would allow victims leave to seek medical attention, to obtain help from victim services organizations, to get legal help, and to relocate either temporarily or permanently.

The leave would also cover situations where an employee’s child is the victim of domestic violence.

According to the department, Manitoba, Ontario, and the federal government provide five paid days as part of their legislation. Alberta provides 10 days _ all unpaid _ while Quebec introduced a bill only last week that provided 26 weeks with two paid days.

Kousoulis said the province hasn’t ruled out paid leave days at a future point, but it wants to consider more information before potentially doing so.

“We want to get data back on how would a paid leave be different from an unpaid leave for individuals and also see how much time is being taken off,” he said.

Kousoulis said he has also written to federal officials to ask that Employment Insurance be extended to people who are in situations involving domestic violence, although he said he hasn’t heard back since making the request two months ago.

The minister said consultations on the bill with the business community were based on unpaid leave and he felt it was better to bring the bill forward now and potentially make additions, rather than hold it up for more consultations on paid leave.

Opposition critics were quick to praise the government’s move as a “good first step,” but they also questioned why a paid leave provision wasn’t included.

NDP critic Tammy Martin wondered how effective the change would be, especially for lower wage workers.

“The minister talked about going to see a lawyer,” said Martin. “How can they afford to see a lawyer let alone buy groceries if they are taking time off without pay?”

Interim Progressive Conservative leader Karla MacFarlane also wondered why the bill was brought forward now if pay provisions will eventually be added.

“The bill is incomplete,” said MacFarlane. “They say they want to ensure that there is economic stability _ well, prove it. It doesn’t say that in the bill yet.”

Miia Suokonautio, executive director of YWCA Halifax, said her organization took part in the consultations and believes the changes brought forward by the government “signal something quite positive.”

But Suokonautio said the government will have to consider whether it’s enough to provide job protection when there is a lack of income protection.

“What we don’t want … is a protection that only benefits upper middle class white women. We want something that will support Indigenous women, African Nova Scotian women and women with disabilities, all of whom we know earn less than white women in this country.”

The province also moved Thursday to amend the Insurance Act in order to ensure insurance companies can’t deny coverage to people in vulnerable situations.

Finance Minister Karen Casey said the current legislation around homeowners’ policies is unclear about whether or not coverage would be provided if the damage was caused by someone listed on the policy.

“This will make a huge impact for all Nova Scotians, especially women, who are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and or abuse,” said Casey.

She said Nova Scotia was joining British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec in addressing the issue.

5 things to know about cannabis from Ontario’s latest provincial budget

As the federal government moves to legalize marijuana for recreational users later this year, Ontario’s latest budget sheds light on the province’s approach to sales, distribution, enforcement and revenue expectations.

– The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, an LCBO subsidiary created to manage sales and distribution of recreational pot in the province, is not expecting to generate profits immediately after legalization. It is expecting an $8-million loss in 2017-2018, followed by a $40-million loss in 2018-19, largely due to initial startup costs to establish the retail network. By 2019-20, the province is forecasting OCRC net income of $35 million, followed by $100 million in net income by 2020-21.

– In a bid to crack down on the black market for marijuana in Ontario, the provincial government is creating a Cannabis Intelligence Co-ordination Centre to shut down illegal storefronts.

– The province will create a specialized legal team to support drug-impaired driving prosecutions. As well, it plans to fund sobriety field test training for police officers to help detect impaired drivers.

– Ontario will be providing municipalities with $40 million over the first two years of legalization to help with the costs of dealing with recreational pot. The Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund will be funded by Ontario’s portion of the federal excise duty on recreational cannabis, at 75 per cent.

– Ontario plans to apply the full Harmonized Sales Tax, at 13 per cent, to off-reserve purchases of recreational cannabis by a Status Indian, band or band council, similar to tobacco and alcoholic beverages. However, medical cannabis purchased off-reserve from a licensed producer will be eligible for a rebate of the eight per cent provincial portion of the HST.

Health Canada warns about dangerous USB chargers as 1.5 million units recalled

Health Canada is warning it has discovered numerous unsafe USB chargers during a national assessment of products on the market and a recall has been issued affecting more than 1.5 million units.

The federal agency has released a list of more than two dozen chargers that “pose an unacceptable risk of electric shock and fire.”

Consumers are advised to stop using the products immediately and either return them or throw them away.

Health Canada recommends consumers check that electrical products have a recognized certification mark before making a purchase.

The certification symbol should be on the product itself and not just the packaging.

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