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Most actively traded companies on the TSX

TORONTO - Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (14,312.07, down 235.64 points):

MBAC Fertilizer Corp. (TSX:MBC). Agriculture. Up 7.5 cents, or 115.38 per cent, to 14 cents on 12.1 million shares.

Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM). Oil and gas. Down 34 cents, or 4.40 per cent, to $7.38 on 4.7 million shares.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ). Oil and gas. Down 61 cents, or 1.56 per cent, to $38.48 on 4.5 million shares.

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace. Up two cents, or 0.55 per cent, to $3.63 on 4.4 million shares.

Athabasca Oil Corp. (TSX:ATH). Oil and gas. Down 23 cents, or 4.99 per cent, to $4.38 on 3.9 million shares.

Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Oil and gas. Down 47 cents, or 1.76 per cent, to $26.27 on 3.9 million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR). Transportation. Down 50 cents, or 0.66 per cent, to $75.18 on 2.1 million shares. The country's largest railway posted net income of $853 million in its most recent quarter, up 21 per cent from a year earlier, while revenues grew 16 per cent to a record $2.7 billion. However, adjusted earnings came in at $1.04, a penny short of expectations.

The Canadian Press


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Open Text says first-quarter revenues grew 40 per cent as profits rose

WATERLOO, Ont. - Open Text Corp. (TSX:OTC) said Wednesday that first-quarter profits more than doubled as its corporate software business experienced particular strength in the services and technology industries, as well as the public sector.

The Waterloo, Ont.,-based company, which reports in U.S. dollars, said that net income rose to US$64.7 million, or 53 cents per diluted share, compared with $30.6 million or 26 cents per share a year ago.

Revenue grew 40 per cent to US$453.8 million from $324.5 million.

The results are the strongest first-quarter performance in the company's history and were reached despite a tougher economy, chief executive Mark Barrenechea said in a release.

"Our focus on enabling a digital-first world is resonating with customers as they deploy projects to reduce costs, grow revenues or scale with greater efficiency," he said.

During the quarter, Open Text worked with customers that included the Alberta government's Ministry of Justice, Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Licence revenue was up six per cent compared with a year ago, reaching $58.6 million.

Cloud services revenue continued its strong performance, growing 260 per cent to $150 million, which matched growth of the previous quarter. Customer support revenue was up nine per cent.

Shares of the company, whose results were released after markets closed, settled $1.18 lower at $60.96 Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The Canadian Press


TSX tumbles 236 points: market steps back after series of solid gains

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market tumbled more than 200 points Wednesday as markets gave back a chunk of gains collected over the previous four days of solid, triple-digit advances.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 235.64 points to 14,312.07, led by falling resource stocks as prices for oil hit a two-year low.

Losses picked up at mid-morning when reports surfaced that a gunman had opened fire at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, fatally wounding a soldier, then moved to nearby Parliament Hill and wounded a security guard before the attacker was himself shot dead. A manhunt was still underway in the national capital, with reports there may have been as many as three gunmen.

However, analysts thought that while there may have been a short, knee-jerk reaction to the shootings, the declines on the TSX had everything to do with markets stepping back after a recent big move upward.

"The market was trading down at the open, it was already in that trend, so the decline was to be expected," said Michael Greenberg, portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton Solutions Group

The Canadian dollar was down 0.12 of a cent at 88.94 cents US as the Bank of Canada announced that it was leaving its key rate unchanged at one per cent. In its monetary policy report, released at the same time as the rate announcement, the bank adjusted the economic growth prediction it made in July, nudging it up one-tenth of a point to 2.3 per cent for 2014.

Traders also took in a worse than expected reading on mid-summer Canadian retail sales. Statistics Canada reported retail sales fell 0.3 per cent overall in August. Economists had expected a flat reading.

U.S. indexes also gave up ground after a string of sharp run-ups, with the Dow Jones industrials down 153.49 points at 16,461.32, the Nasdaq falling 36.63 points to 4,382.85 and the S&P 500 index giving back 14.17 points to 1,927.11.

The TSX had gained almost 700 points over the previous four sessions in a rebound that followed a big sell-off in markets triggered in part by worries about the global economy. The TSX is down seven per cent from the record highs set in early September, although still ahead six per cent year to date.

Investors have also been concerned about the impending end to the U.S. Federal Reserve's key stimulus program involving the purchase of hundreds of billions of dollars of bonds.

Analysts have been careful to warn that it's too early to sound the all-clear on the current retracement and that volatility will be a fixture on markets for a while yet.

"And volatility is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural thing for markets," Greenberg said.

In earnings news, Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) posted net income of $853 million, up 21 per cent from a year earlier. Revenues grew 16 per cent to a record $2.7 billion but adjusted earnings came in at $1.04, a penny short of expectations and its shares dipped 50 cents to $75.18.

The energy sector led TSX decliners with a 3.3 per cent slide as the December crude contract in New York dropped $1.97 to US$80.52 a barrel, oil’s lowest settlement since June 28, 2012. The plunge came amid downward pressure on the euro, which drove up the value of the U.S. dollar. Commodities are priced in greenbacks. Also, data showed crude supplies rose by 7.1 million barrels last week, about three times more than expected.

The base metals sector declined three per cent as December copper faded a penny to US$3.02 a pound.

The gold sector about three fell per cent while December bullion faded $6.20 to US$1,245.10 an ounce.

Financials were also a major drag, falling 1.1 per cent.

The Canadian Press


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Retail sales down 0.3 per cent in August, second consecutive drop

OTTAWA - Retail sales in Canada unexpectedly fell 0.3 per cent in August to $42.4 billion, marking the second consecutive monthly drop, dragged lower by falling gasoline prices.

Economists had expected retail sales to hold steady, according to Thomson Reuters.

"Canadian consumers are taking a bit of a breather after going on a shopping spree in the second quarter," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Benjamin Reitzes wrote in a note to clients.

"But before becoming too downbeat, retail volumes are still expected to see a decent gain for the quarter despite the softness in July and August."

Statistics Canada said Wednesday that August retail sales were down in seven of 11 subsectors, representing 76 per cent of retail trade. Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, sales were down 0.3 per cent, matching the overall decrease.

The biggest drop was seen in sales at gas stations as they fell 2.1 per cent to their lowest level since late 2013, mainly due to lower prices at the pump. Excluding gas stations as well as the motor vehicle and parts dealers sector, August sales were up 0.1 per cent.

Other areas showing weakness for the month included sales at furniture and home furnishing stores, which fell 1.8 per cent, while food and beverage stores saw sales slip 0.4 per cent.

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers saw sales drop 1.8 per cent, while sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores lost 0.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, sales at stores traditionally associated with back-to-school sales stepped higher in August.

Sales at general merchandise stores, which includes department stores, were up 1.8 per cent, while clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 1.1 per cent.

Electronics and appliance stores gained 1.1 per cent.

Retail sales were down in six provinces in August, with lower sales in Ontario and, to a lesser extent, Alberta, accounting for most of the decrease.

The Canadian Press


Loonie lower, BoC leaves rates unchanged, retail data disappoints

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed lower Wednesday as the Bank of Canada announced it would be leaving its key rate unchanged and edged its economic growth forecast for 2014 up slightly.

The loonie lost 0.12 of a cent to 88.94 cents US, pressured by falling commodities as oil closed at a two-year low.

The central bank left its key rate at one per cent, where it has been since September 2010.

In its monetary policy report, released at the same time as the rate announcement, the bank adjusted its July prediction for economic growth this year, nudging it up one-tenth of a point to 2.3 per cent for 2014.

The central bank pointed to rock-bottom borrowing rates as a contributor to "renewed vigour" in consumer spending and the real estate market since July.

The bank signalled it's in no rush to do anything about hiking rates in the near future.

"(It) is the very essence of neutral," said BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter.

"For every negative, there's a positive. For every fading concern, there's an emerging risk. In other words, the bank's main point is that it feels zero urgency to do anything with rates, either up or down."

A morning media briefing that was planned by Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz was cancelled due to a morning shooting incident and lockdown at Parliament Hill. Bank officials later released the prepared text that he was to deliver.

Traders also considered data showing a worse than expected reading on retail sales in August. Statistics Canada reported retail sales fell 0.3 per cent overall in August, versus a flat reading that had been expected by economists.

Commodity prices were lower with the December crude contract in New York down $1.97 to U$80.52 a barrel, oil’s lowest settlement since June 28, 2012.

The plunge came amid downward pressure on the euro, which drove up the value of the U.S. dollar. Commodities are priced in the U.S. currency. Also, data showed U.S. crude supplies rose by 7.1 million barrels last week, about three times more than expected.

December copper slipped a penny to US$3.02 a pound, while December gold bullion faded $6.20 to US$1,245.50 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


Health and beauty maker KDC seeks expansion following $165M investment

MONTREAL - The owners of a former Clairol hair colouring plant in Quebec plan to use an infusion of cash from a private equity firm and several institutional investors to double its size and solidify its role as an industry leader in health and beauty products.

KDC (Knowlton Development Corp.), which makes products like deodorant, soaps and shampoos for blue chip clients such as Procter & Gamble, says the more than $165 million investment will support efforts to boost annual revenues to $1 billion by 2018.

"We're looking to do acquisitions in a global way," said Michel Cote, KDC chairman and senior partner of private equity firm Novacap Industries.

The first target will be other niche players in North America, followed by expansions possibly in Latin America, Europe or Asia.

"Our customers are worldwide customers and they like to see us expanding our footprint to other regions," he said in an interview.

Novacap, a private equity firm with $1.5 billion under management, and several unidentified partners acquired KDC in 2002 from managers of the Clairol plant in Knowlton. The workers had bought the facility from Bristol-Myers after it shut the doors in 1991.

Under KDC's leadership, annual sales grew to $500 million from $60 million as more than $140 million was invested in new equipment, the size of the Knowlton plant was doubled and a $58-million production facility was added in Columbus, Ohio.

Employment at the Eastern Townships headquarters increased to 900 from less than 300 as total KDC employment grew to about 2,200. KDC also operates a smaller facility with about 100 workers in Mississauga, Ont., and a large plant in Lynchburg, Va.

Cote said sales initially dipped in 2002 to about $45 million as the new owners stopped making private label products and focused on becoming a top supplier to Fortune 500 companies that were looking to outsource production of their top brands.

Initial efforts to attract the interest of large multinationals was a struggle. But he said the strategy eventually paid off with KDC becoming a large North American supplier to the health and beauty industry. He said it has strong double-digit market share in antiperspirants, skin care lotions, hair care products, shower gels, body washes and anti-bacterial soaps.

About half of its revenues come from new formulations developed in-house.

"We're clearly the powerhouse in our segment and we're the go-to place for our customer base," Cote said. "So if somebody thinks of doing antiperspirant products they come to us."

Novacap says the new investment made with the support of the Caisse de depot, Quebec Solidarity Fund, Investissement Quebec, Export Development Canada and the CSN Fund will fuel KDC's expansion efforts. About two-thirds of the growth is expected to come from acquisitions.

Cote said it is eyeing several targets that could materialize over the next 12 months. It is also looking at adding new product segments, which he refused to identify. Among the largest holes in its portfolio are aerosols, an area that is led by Kik Custom Products (TSX:KCP.UN), an Ontario firm that went public in 2002 and has expanded to 11 manufacturing facilities.

The investment in KCP was made through Novacap Industries IV fund, which currently has $300 million in commitments, including $80 million from the Caisse, the manager of Quebec's public sector pension funds. Novacap expects the Industries IV fund to reach $425 million in a few months.

Private equity firms typically invest in companies for only a few years. But Jacques Foisy, president and managing partner of Novacap Industries, said it has no plans to end its 12-year relationship with KDC.

"We believe that KDC has enough potential to grow to the billion-dollar mark and still we will be able to sell it somebody who will bring it to the other level," he said in an interview. "We're in no rush to sell this jewel."

Christian Dube, executive vice-president for the Caisse de depot, said its investment reflects its efforts to "support Quebec companies in their development and their national and international expansion."

Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter

The Canadian Press


US consumer prices rose tiny 0.1 per cent in September as gas prices dropped for third month

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer prices edged up slightly in September, with the overall increase held back by a third straight monthly decline in gasoline prices. The tiny gain was the latest evidence that inflation remains benign.

Consumer prices rose 0.1 per cent after having falling 0.2 per cent in August, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy, also climbed 0.1 per cent after no gain in August.

Over the past 12 months, both overall and core prices are up 1.7 per cent. The increases are well below the 2 per cent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The modest inflationary pressures have allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows to boost the economy.

Analysts said the big drop in energy prices should hold down inflation in the months ahead and provide more manoeuvring room for the Fed. Many economists don't expect the Fed to raise its key short-term rate until June of next year.

"The softer inflation outlook gives more ammunition to those Fed officials who would prefer to wait longer before raising rates," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

While low inflation has given the Fed leeway to keep interest rates low, it represents a hardship for savers. It also means millions of Americans who receive Social Security benefits get lower cost of living adjustments. The government announced Wednesday that based on inflation over the past year, benefits will increase 1.7 per cent in January, the fifth time in the past six years that the benefit increase has been under 2 per cent.

Food costs rose 0.3 per cent in September and are up 3 per cent over the past 12 months, exacerbated by drought conditions in parts of the country. Beef and veal prices jumped 2 per cent in September and are up 16.7 per cent since January.

Energy prices fell 0.7 per cent, the third consecutive monthly drop. The index includes a third decline in gasoline prices, which fell 1 per cent in September and are down 3.6 per cent from a year earlier.

A plunge in global oil prices in recent weeks is expected to keep downward pressure on energy prices. Oil is trading below $85 per barrel now, down about 27 per cent from its high point this year, giving people a big break at the pump. The AAA says that the nationwide average for gas is now $3.09, down 25 cents in just the past month.

Airline fares fell 0.5 per cent in September, and some analysts predicted even bigger declines in the months ahead.

Economists are optimistic that lower energy prices will help fuel consumer spending in coming months. If consumers are spending less filling up their tanks, they tend to spend more on other items.

The Fed seeks to promote maximum employment and stable prices. Price increases measured by the Fed's favourite inflation gauge have been running below 2 per cent for two years.

The Canadian Press


French oil giant Total names Pouyanne CEO, replacing executive killed in Russian plane crash

PARIS - French oil giant Total SA has named Patrick Pouyanne as chief executive to replace Christophe de Margerie, who was killed earlier this week in a plane crash in Moscow.

Barely 36 hours after de Margerie's death, Total's board chose Pouyanne, 51, at a board meeting Wednesday. The swift appointment indicates the board's desire to limit the uncertainty on one of France's biggest companies. In its statement, Total's board hailed De Margerie's "exceptional human and professional qualities."

Pouyanne has led Total's refining and chemicals division since 2012. He has been with Total since 1997, starting off as head of exploration and production in Angola.

The quick succession recalled similarly prompt executive replacements following tragic accidents at Fortune 500 companies McDonalds Corp. in 2004 and Micron Technology Inc. in 2012.

Total said Thierry Desmarest, who was chief executive from 1995 to 2007 and honorary president of the board of directors since 2010, would become chairman of the company until the end of 2015. Pouyanne will combine the roles of CEO and board president after that.

Pouyanne is a graduate of two of France's top engineering schools, Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines. He's been a member of Total's 28-member management committee since May, 2006, and joined the seven-member executive committee in 2012.

De Margie was killed when his Dassault Falcon 50 business jet clipped a snowplow on takeoff late Monday at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow. The accident also killed three French crew members on board. Investigators are questioning the snowplow's driver, who they say was drunk at the time, a charge his lawyer has denied. They have also said they are looking into the role of air traffic controllers and the airport's managers.

Total is France's second-largest listed company by market value and employs around 100,000 people around the world, making it one of France's largest private sector employers.

Total's share price was down 0.3 per cent in lunchtime trading in Paris.

The Canadian Press


Bell TV says Rogers breaking CRTC rules with exclusive features in sports app

TORONTO - Two of Canada's largest sports broadcasters are scrambling to score points with hockey fans through a regulatory battle over whether certain NHL game content can be offered exclusively to Rogers customers.

Bell TV says that the GamePlus mobile app should be made available for free to all NHL GameCentre Live subscribers, not just those who are customers of Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B).

"Consumers who are not Rogers customers will be harmed as a result of being blocked from accessing this content," Bell TV argues in a filing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

BCE's Bell (TSX:BCE), owner of the TSN and RDS sports channels and other businesses that compete with Rogers, says that CRTC rules prohibit its Toronto-based rival from giving its own customers preferential access to the GamePlus mobile app.

Rogers has until Nov. 20 to respond formally to the complaint but it said in an emailed statement that the company believes the app is covered by an exemption for digital media broadcasting.

"It's a shame that Bell is trying to stop innovation in hockey," the Rogers statement says.

"We have made significant investments in innovations to bring Canadians an enhanced experience and judging by the thousands of fans that are logging in every game night it is working."

Rogers says conventional television broadcasts the exact same program to a mass audience and every person sees the same content, presented the same way, but that's not the case with this digital product.

"With GamePlus, each fan has a unique experience since they can choose the camera angles and the replays they want to watch. These user enabled camera angles were designed primarily for the Internet — we wouldn't have developed them solely for broadcast use."

Bell counters in its filing, dated Oct. 14 but released this week by the CRTC after removing some portions that contain competitive information, that the digital content is "inextricably linked" to the TV programming and that Rogers only has it because of the people and equipment used for television broadcasts.

It alleges that Rogers is trying to use a "loophole" in the exemption to undermine the regulator's intent.

"This loophole, if endorsed by the commission, will of course be aggressively exploited by all stakeholders," Bell says in its eight-page complaint.

Bell adds that the onus is on Rogers to demonstrate that "subscribers to other mobile and Internet providers are not being subjected to an undue disadvantage when access to the GamePlus content is blocked for them even if they pay $199 to access GameCentre."

Bell says that the GamePlus application will be, in practical terms, exclusively available to Rogers mobile and home Internet customers although it acknowledges the possibility that people with a rival wireless or Internet provider could get the app if they have a Rogers cable or home phone service.

"It does break CRTC rules because these kinds of features are already available on broadcast TV, but hockey fans just aren't happy about being denied access after paying full price," Bell spokesman Mark Langton said in an email Wednesday.

"In Canada, hockey isn't something one company can really restrict as it pleases, it's not something TSN or (its French version) RDS do with their hockey broadcasts and mobile products. Hockey lovers who've paid full price for a hockey service should be able to access all of its features, simple as that."

Once Rogers responds formally to the complaint, Bell will have a chance to make another written submission before the CRTC makes a decision.

The Canadian Press


Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG consortium reviewing B.C. tax announcement

CALGARY - A consortium led by Malaysian energy giant Petronas says it's reviewing British Columbia's newly announced tax on its liquefied natural gas.

Spokesman Spencer Sproule says the Pacific Northwest LNG partnership has believed all along that British Columbians deserve to benefit from resource extraction.

But at the same time, he says all levels of government must recognize the need for Canada to stay competitive with other LNG exporting countries around the world.

On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced a preliminary LNG tax rate of 3.5 per cent, half of what it had proposed earlier.

The CEO of Petronas had said previously that the earlier proposed tax scheme, along with a sluggish regulatory process, put the economics of the multibillion-dollar LNG export facility near Prince Rupert, B.C. into question.

CIBC World Markets analyst Jon Morrison says he expects the Pacific Northwest LNG consortium to decide to go ahead with the project before year end, despite reports in recent months that it could be delayed or cancelled.

The Canadian Press


Former Cargill worker fined for tampering with waste-water samples

CALGARY - A judge has fined a former employee at the Cargill meat-packing plant in southern Alberta for tampering with waste-water samples two years ago.

Pushp Pal Singh was fined $7,500 for the offences, which occurred at the High River plant between February and March of 2012.

Singh added a substance which reduced the amount of phosphorus before waste-water samples were sent to an external laboratory for analysis.

Excessive phosphorus can reduce oxygen in water and hurt aquatic life.

Singh met with Cargill officials a month later and admitted that he tampered with the samples.

Cargill notified Alberta Environment and was later fined $80,000 for failing to immediately report what had happened

.

The Canadian Press


BoC sticks to 1% interest rate, warns of 'renewed vigour' in household spending

OTTAWA - The Bank of Canada says it's essential for the bulk of Canadian economic activity to begin shifting from the backs of households to business investment and exports, as it kept its trend-setting interest rate fixed Wednesday at one per cent.

In its monetary policy report, the central bank pointed to rock-bottom borrowing rates as a contributor to "renewed vigour" in consumer spending and the real-estate market since July.

"Household spending still represents more than its long-run sustainable share of growth, and a rotation away from household spending toward business investment and exports is essential," the bank said in the report.

"Exports have been gaining traction, in line with the growing momentum in the U.S. economy, but investment remains weak."

The bank warned consumer spending has led to near-record-high housing prices and debt, leaving households exposed to economic shocks.

For Canada, the bank adjusted its July growth prediction, nudging it up one-tenth of a point to 2.3 per cent for this year. It's keeping to its 2015 expectations of 2.4 per cent growth.

Global growth, meanwhile, has been disappointing due to factors such as financial stress in China and geopolitical uncertainties.

"Although the outlook remains for stronger momentum in the global economy in 2015 and 2016, the profile is weaker than in July and growth prospects are diverging across regions," the document said, referring to the bank's projections from its last monetary policy report in the summer.

The bank says it's maintaining its overnight-rate target at one per cent — where it's been set for four years — because of the collection of pressures from all sides on Canadian inflation, such as the lower dollar, cheap oil prices and disappointing global growth.

Since July, the bank said core inflation, which excludes some energy and food-related goods, climbed more quickly than anticipated, but remained close to its optimal two per cent target. The bank said underlying inflationary pressures are "muted."

The central bank projects the Canadian economy to gradually return to its full production capacity in the latter half of 2016.

The report also examined some of the pros and cons of the sudden plunge in oil prices in recent weeks.

"While lower oil prices would benefit consumers, their effect on Canada would, on balance, be negative, reducing Canada's terms of trade and domestic income," the document said.

An enduring stretch of cheap crude could also discourage investment and activity in the oil industry as well as the sector's supply chain, which reaches well beyond Alberta's oil patch.

Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

The Canadian Press


Next phase of anti-spam law, coming in January, targets software

TORONTO - Canada's controversial anti-spam law has already forced businesses to change how they communicate with consumers by email.

Early next year, the law will also start targeting software makers.

Starting on Jan. 15, 2015, companies will have to get consent before installing a program on a person's computer if the software has the ability to covertly send electronic messages or has other functionality outlined in the legislation.

While the law has been framed as an attack on the creators of malware and spyware, it also affects legitimate software companies, which face fines of up to $10 million for non-compliance.

"We are regularly installing, or being asked to install, huge numbers of software programs — sometimes on a daily basis — and very often we are unaware of what is happening," says Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, who supports the legislation.

"Consumers are putting a plethora of stuff on their systems often without knowing much about it. This raises the bar in terms of consumer awareness when they're installing software, better awareness about what that software will do, and greater disclosure requirements on the part of businesses seeking to install those programs."

The first part of the law targeting programs that can send electronic messages from a user's computer will allow the CRTC to go after malware or spyware makers that use infected computers to surreptitiously distribute spam.

Companies must also clearly disclose to users if its software could collect personal information, interfere with the normal operation of a computer, alter settings or preferences or data on a computer, or allow a third party to access a computer.

The law states that the disclosure must be described "clearly and prominently and separately and apart from the licence agreement."

Exemptions are given for operating systems, web cookies, HTML and JavaScript code, and software updates or upgrades if a company can prove a user had previously consented to installing its program.

Michael Fekete, a lawyer with the Toronto-based Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt law firm, says the law is overreaching and should've focused specifically on malware and spyware.

"There's a mismatch between the stated purposes of the legislation as found in the regulations and the scope of the legislation," says Fekete.

"There is really no question that malware and spyware are things that should be prohibited ... but there's a very broad range of programs that are regulated regardless of whether the software will have a negative impact."

He says the law could lead to technology companies deciding to keep their products from the Canadian market.

"There's no other law in the world that I'm aware of that comes close to regulating computer program installations as broadly," Fekete says.

"The question will be whether some distributors of computer programs will ultimately decide to geofence Canada and preclude the download of products in Canada because they haven't made the investments that would be necessary to change the interfaces. We don't know just yet what the ultimate impact on consumers would be from that standpoint, but that remains a possibility."

He also says he's concerned that the law appears to cover not only computers but mobile devices and virtually any other device that works with software code.

"The rules apply to virtually any computer program, even computer programs embedded on devices that do not have a user interface. And so if you look at the ubiquity of computer programs in not just consumer devices but with just about any device that can be wirelessly connected these days, we're introducing to Canada this unique set of rules that don't exist anywhere else and cover the broadest possible scope of computer programs," Fekete says.

"I think it's fair to say it's a grey area and there remains a lot of uncertainty. There's a lot of interpretation issues that remain unsettled and that's just one of them."

But Geist thinks complying with the law won't be onerous and Canadians will support the change.

"I don't think it's so unreasonable to tell people what it is you're installing and why you're installing it," Geist says.

"If someone thinks that's overly onerous to provide that level of disclosure and to obtain an appropriate consent I suspect that many Canadians would say perhaps that's not something I want on my system."

The Canadian Press


J&J to spend up to $200 million in push to speed up potential Ebola vaccine development

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Johnson & Johnson will start safety testing in early January on a vaccine combination that could protect people from a strain of the deadly Ebola virus.

The health care products maker says it has committed up to $200 million to speed up and expand production of a vaccine program being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

J&J is developing the vaccine with the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic. It involves a regimen in which two vaccines are delivered two months apart. The combination provided complete protection in animals against a virus strain similar to the one causing the current outbreak in West Africa that has killed thousands of people.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company says it will also determine whether its vaccine protects against the version causing the outbreak.

The Canadian Press




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