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Canada's 'C' on innovation

Canada's record on innovation is improving, but experts say governments can do more to support new and emerging businesses.

The Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think-tank, has given the country a C on its latest innovation report card.

That's an improvement from a D rating in the previous report, yet Canada still ranks only ninth among 16 peer countries, while corporate spending on research has fallen to the bottom of the list.

Conference Board CEO Daniel Muzyka said Canada's improvement in the ranking is due to better numbers on venture capital investment and entrepreneurial ambition, a new measure that takes account of the number of working-age Canadians reporting entrepreneurial activity such as setting up a new business.

"While Canada's overall ranking is slightly better, it masks downward trends in some key innovation drivers and highlights the need for the private and public sectors to improve their innovation game in a much more competitive environment," said Muzyka.

Public spending on research declined from 0.89 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 0.81 per cent in 2013, according to the report.

In the same period, private spending on research and development has fallen from 1.02 per cent of GDP to 0.82 per cent, half of the 16-country average.

University of Waterloo professor Margaret Dalziel said Canada's poor showing comes from its reliance on natural resources, where research spending is low relative to revenues, and the dominance of well-established, large corporations that look for incremental upgrades rather than disruptive change.

Dalziel, who teaches at the school's centre for entrepreneurship, said federal and provincial government have made the mistake of using broad programs such as tax credits to stimulate innovation and could do more to encourage the private sector.

"If you have a big, general program that's open to all, you're not just going to be funding what's emerging," she said. "You're going to be funding what's routine."

Transformative ideas, she said, are unlikely to come from the kind of focused research that goes on at older companies with set ways of doing business, regardless of their size.

Rather, she said, governments should stimulate new and emerging businesses, but by having focused programs and not just throwing money at them.

"If we just gave children a bunch of money instead of sending them to school, it would be a disaster," she said.

Dalziel said the idea is to have programs that build networks between entrepreneurs, provide mentorship and education opportunities and make connections with researchers and policy-makers in the public sphere.

Similar programs already exist, but governments are reluctant to pursue them to a greater degree because of the relative complexity when compared with a tax measure, she said.

"The government is going to need to innovate if it wants to support transformative businesses," she said.

University of Calgary professor Richard Hawkins, a fellow at the school’s Centre for Innovation Studies, said governments should focus on doing what the private sector won't do, whether that's building networks or funding early-stage research.

Instead of using fiscal policy and focusing on outcomes, he said, it's important to create an environment where new ideas can be easily pursued.

"There's no standardized solution for innovation," he said.

Governments shy away from getting too heavily involved in the nuances of supporting innovation because they're often concerned about looking too interventionist— picking winners, in other words, he said.

"But if they don't act at all, then they assure that we get losers," he added.

The Canadian Press


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SkyGreece seeks protection

SkyGreece Airlines has filed for creditor protection in Canada, a week after halting operations and standing hundreds of passengers.

Lawyers for the Toronto-based company notified the Canadian Transportation Agency on Thursday that it plans to make a proposal to creditors under the Business and Insolvency Act.

It says the court-supervised restructuring proceedings "will ensure that, over the long term, all stakeholders, including passengers, are treated equitably and receive fair compensation for their claims."

The move stays agency proceedings against the company resulting from a claim filed by passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs. He had been seeking an order to protect and compensate stranded passengers, which ceased operations Aug. 27 after more than a week of disrupted service.

Lukacs had called on the agency to order SkyGreece to rebook its stranded passengers on other airlines and put up $8.7 million in security to cover passenger claims.

Ernst & Young has been named as monitor, which will communicate with creditors and customers of SkyGreece, which was founded in 2012 and started operations in 2014 with one plane.

The Canadian Press


Becoming a better investor

As students head back to class next week, shell-shocked investors looking for a little peace of mind may also want to hit the books to beef up their financial know-how and soothe their frazzled nerves.

The stock market is currently taking investors on a roller-coaster ride, meaning there has never been a better time to have an appropriate financial plan and the right investments in your portfolio.

Tyler Fleming, director of the Office of Investor Policy, Education and Outreach at Ontario Securities Commission, says it's never too early — or too late — to improve your financial smarts.

"An informed investor makes for a better investor," he said.

The OSC runs the GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca website to promote investor education.

The site includes tools and guides for both investing and financial planning, ranging from the basics of opening a bank account and building a budget to information about complex investments such as flow-through shares and hedge funds.

Dozens of investment and budget calculators are also available to help with planning how much money you need in retirement, determining how much your investment fees are costing you and whether you should pay down debt or invest.

The B.C. Securities Commission also runs a similar website at Investright.org, while the Alberta Securities Commission's website offers links to courses in Edmonton and Calgary covering the basics of investing.

Robert Stammers, director of investor education at the CFA Institute, says understanding what kind of investor you are will determine what you need to know.

"If you're a long-term investor, you're really going to be more focused on learning about asset allocation — Where do I put my money to get the best return?" he said. "Diversification and risk management, those are the things that are going to get you to where you want to be."

But investors looking at the short-term will want to look for more specific training.

"Someone like that is going to be more focused on how do I analyse the value of a company so I can understand if their stock is over or undervalued," Stammers said.

To figure out what stocks to pick, you'll need to learn how to take a deeper dive into a company's financial information and how to evaluate it against other opportunities.

The Canadian Securities Course, a requirement for many financial services jobs, can provide the basics for active investors looking to learn how to manage a their own portfolios.

The securities course requires commitment with its 135 to 200 hours of recommended study time and $995 for the online course and PDF version of the textbook. But for the do-it-yourself investor looking to build a foundation, it is the industry standard.

If you're working with an adviser, Fleming said it's important to always ask questions if you don't understand something.

It's important to have an ongoing dialogue and discussion with your adviser for both parties to fully understand your financial objectives and how much risk you are comfortable taking, he said.

"It is also important for you as an investor to understand what it is that you are being invested in, the risks of it, etcetera. It really is intended to be a two-way conversation. "

The Canadian Press




Bankruptcy threat to seniors

New figures show a growing number of seniors are outliving their savings, carrying debt into retirement and facing the looming threat of bankruptcy during their golden years. Numbers from the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy and Statistics Canada reveal 10.9 per cent of British Columbians who declared bankruptcy in 2014 were 65 years of age or older.
 
“Across the country, retirement-age bankruptcy has emerged as a real threat to the financial security of our seniors,” says Jay Christensen, a financial expert with First West Credit Union’s Valley First division. “It’s no secret people are living longer, healthier lives. This longevity needs to part of your financial planning discussions; you don’t want to outlive your retirement income.”
 
Based on the 2014 numbers, the Okanagan, Thompson, and Similkameen valleys could see over 170 retirement age seniors in an insolvency position this year. What’s more concerning for some is the noticeable jump—20 per cent between 2010 and 2014—in retirement-age bankruptcies in the last few years. This increase can be partly attributed to easy access to credit.
 
“The attractiveness of easy money, low interest rates and borrowing beyond our means is usually thought of as a stumbling block something younger Canadians encounter,” says Christensen. “But, seniors aren’t immune to falling into the debt trap. Whereas younger people have many working years ahead to become debt-free, seniors who carry debt into retirement or accrue debt after they’ve finished working may have a hard time balancing the books when relying only on a fixed income.”
 
As a solution, Christensen offers the same advice to those in their senior years as he does to his younger clients: “Thorough and thoughtful financial planning. Regardless of age, you should be reviewing your financial plan at least once a year. Our financial situations and obligations are changing all the time. It’s essential we understand what affect these changes may have on us now and many years into the future.”



Trade deficit narrows in July

Growth in Canadian exports helped shrink the country's trade deficit in July, boosting the case that the economy is on track for growth in the second half of the year.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that the trade deficit narrowed to $593 million in July from June's revised deficit of $811 million. The June deficit had initially been reported at $476 million.

Economists had expected a deficit of $1.3 billion for July, according to Thomson Reuters.

"There's no two ways about it, this is a solid report," Bank of Montreal senior economist Benjamin Reitzes wrote in a report.

"It looks like better U.S. growth and the weaker Canadian dollar might finally be providing a boost to trade."

The trade data follows a report earlier this week that the country slipped into a recession in the first half of the year as the economy contracted in the second quarter.

However, Statistics Canada noted the economy grew in June, raising hopes that the dip was short-lived and that the second half of the year would show growth.

The Bank of Canada, which is expected to make its next interest rate announcement next week, has predicted the economy will grow at an annual pace of 1.5 per cent in the third quarter before picking up to a 2.5 per cent pace in the last three months of the year.

CIBC economist Nick Exarhos said the July trade data suggests third-quarter economic growth could come in above the central bank's forecast.

"After a strong end to the second quarter with June's 0.5 per cent gain in monthly GDP, the gain in non-energy exports and the advance in real volumes points to July following up with a healthy reading of its own," he said.

"That should be enough to keep governor (Stephen) Poloz on the sidelines, with the fourth quarter being the key in charting the course of the economy — and monetary policy — heading into 2016."

The Bank of Canada has cut its key interest rate twice this year in an effort to boost the economy, which has struggled with the sharp drop in oil prices.

Canadian exports in July rose 2.3 per cent to nearly $45.5 billion and were concentrated in non-energy products. Excluding energy products, exports rose 4.0 per cent.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts improved by 9.9 per cent to $7.6 billion in July, boosted by passenger cars and light trucks as scheduled shutdowns at several automotive plants were shorter than usual.

Consumer goods exports gained 7.3 per cent to $6.4 billion, while aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts rose 19.2 per cent to $2.4 billion.

Energy exports slipped 5.7 per cent to $7.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Canada's imports were up 1.7 per cent at nearly $46.1 billion.

The increase came as energy imports advanced 12.8 per cent to $3.0 billion, while imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts gained 22.9 per cent to $1.7 billion.

Imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts increased 4.4 per cent to $5.5 billion.

The Canadian Press


C grade for innovation

An Ottawa-based think-tank says Canada's innovation record has improved but it still ranks only ninth among 16 peer countries and corporate spending on research has fallen to the bottom of the list.

The Conference Board of Canada says this country earned a C in the latest innovation report card.

That's an improvement from a D rating in the previous report, when Canada was ranked at 13th place.

The Conference Board says the latest analysis takes into account entrepreneurial ambition — a new measure that may account for some of Canada's improved scoring.

It says Canada's ranking also improved because venture capital investments rose in a number of provinces while venture capital spending has lagged in European countries since the recession.

However, it says Canadian corporate research and development spending has fallen to last place among the 16 countries.

The Canadian Press


Waiting for work

The rise of so-called precarious employment in Canada — mainly work in the services and retail sectors — has brought with it some questionable employer practices that have employees stressed out and labour activists fuming.

They're calling for the elimination of "on-call" shifts, a practice where management schedules shifts for part-time employees each week, but then requires them to call in ahead of their start time to find out if they're actually working.

"It's really quite troubling from a 'good jobs' perspective because it sometimes forces people into financial turmoil," said Andrew Langille, a labour lawyer based in Toronto.

"This is a growing problem for young workers in their 20s and 30s who make up a significant chunk of retail and service workers. I've seen pretty high rates of mental health issues among this group of workers. It also drives stress and anxiety to a pretty high degree."

In recent months, lawmakers in the United States have taken notice of a growing discontent with volatile workplace schedules.

In April, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to a group of large retailers asking for more details on how they operate "on-call" shifts. He also questioned whether forcing employees to adhere to "on-call" scheduling was legal.

Schneiderman's symbolic gesture sent ripples through the industry and pressured several large U.S. retailers to change how they book their staff hours.

Both Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria's Secret announced plans to discontinue "on-call" shifts shortly after the letter was sent.

Gap. Inc. joined the group last month by saying it would phase out "on-call" shifts across all of its North American stores by the end of September.

In Canada, similar changes for worker rights are harder to come by, though there have been some inroads in recent months.

This summer, Unifor, the union representing Metro employees at stores in the Greater Toronto Area reached an agreement with management to give staff more predictable schedules. The deal also guarantees part-timers a minimum of 15 hours of work after working for one year.

Changes have also been made at some Loblaw stores in Ontario as well.

The supermarket chain reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers for a pilot project at its 60 Great Food and Superstores locations in the province. Under the plan, some employees will get more reliable weekly hours and everyone more advanced schedule notice.

But the new standards at Loblaws don't cover all staff members, and that has left some employees frustrated.

One staff member from Ontario, who asked to withhold her name over concerns that she may be fired for speaking out, said Loblaw has shifted pressure to its newer employees and that has taken a toll on her family.

"You put everything else in your life on hold in the hope that you will get lots of hours," she said, noting that her Loblaw store isn't part of the new pilot project.

Under the current structure, the woman said managers require she keep Friday to Sunday clear, just in case they need her to work. Usually, though, they will only put her on the schedule for as little as four hours over the weekend stretch, she said.

"You can't find another part-time job because what kind of availability are you going to give them?" she said.

The volatile scheduling practices have affected her personal life as well, leaving both her husband and 10-year-old son at the mercy of her employer. Several times friends have been visiting when her manager calls with a shift, and because she needs the hours so badly, she'll take them on a moment's notice.

"It's very embarrassing when you've invited somebody but you can't be here," she said. "My husband has to entertain those people."

In Ontario, complaints about lax workplace guidelines have pushed the Liberal government to launch a formal review of provincial labour laws with an interim report due early next year.

Those findings can't come soon enough for Emily Norgang, a senior researcher at Canadian Labour Congress, an umbrella organization for labour unions and other interest groups.

"Of the new jobs created in the past five years more than half are precarious jobs," she said.

"The recession really has just worsened the situation. Now we have this pool of unemployed workers and so it's a lot easier for employers to overhire and then keep workers on call."

Determining how many Canadian employers utilize "on-call" shifts is difficult because companies aren't required to report those types of labour practices, which are especially common in the food services industry and grocery stores.

A spokesman for Tim Hortons said its head office staff "do not have great visibility to the restaurant owners' scheduling practices" of its franchisees, but that the company believes "on-call shifts are not the norm" across its operations.

Department store Hudson's Bay Co. says they've made a conscious effort to avoid "on-call" scheduling and created their employees' schedules weeks, if not months, in advance.

While working as a server, stability has frequently been a challenge for Ottawa resident Aaron Quinn, who spent seven years at a restaurant which expected him to work at least one "on-call" shift each week.

Quinn was expected to contact the restaurant each afternoon he was scheduled for an on-call shift to find out whether they actually wanted him to work.

"They could say, 'Yes we need you' or they could say 'No,'" he said. "More than anything, I would not get the shift."

To accommodate his employer, Quinn made the rest of his life secondary — including his college education.

Most weeks he would duck out of afternoon classes to call the restaurant and see if they wanted him to work later that evening.

The unpredictability impacted assignments at school where his classmates would never be certain if he'd show up for group projects, he said, and weekend trips to Toronto hinged on whether he would be called in on a Friday night in the final hours before his shift was to start.

On the schedule, when factoring in the on-call shifts that never materialized into actual hours, a 40-hour work week could sometimes fall hours below what it looked like on paper, Quinn said.

What's still undetermined is how retailers will respond as trends shift towards more predictability in work hours for employees.

Retail analyst Brynn Winegard says the industry has grown accustomed to using staff to "ladder-up and ladder-down" in peak times.

"If they can't call in new employees to help service demand or send people home, they're going to have to air on the side of less employees in the interest of costs," she said.

"I think we're going to see a lot more places that are understaffed."

The Canadian Press


Central Green partnership

Two prominent development companies are teaming up to work on several sites on the Central Green property.

Al Stober Construction and Mission Group Homes have struck a partnership to develop three residential buildings on the property.

Mission Group Homes will lead the master planning for the site.

"We take pride in our properties and our dedicated staff, and Mission Group shares our commitment to build iconic spaces while providing exceptional customer service, said Al Stober.

"Kelowna residents have long been waiting for the Central Green community to take shape and we now have two long-standing companies combining our dedication and creativity to transform this key location into the new hub of Kelowna."

In October of last year, the City of Kelowna agreed to sell five parcels of the Central Green site to Stober Construction for $6 million.

The three parcels the two companies will work together on is adjacent to what will be the site's five-acre community park.

Construction of the new park will begin in 2017.

"We're excited to be part of Central Green and the inspired green living it embodies," said Mission Group CEO, Jonathan Friesen.

"Al Stober Construction is one of Kelowna's most respected builders and together we've taken great effort to hold true to the vision for this interconnected community designed to promote a pedestrian and cyclist friendly lifestyle."

Central Green will be Kelowna's first development certified in Leadership Energy and Environmental Design.

It will combine green building practices with smart growth principles such as development density, proximity to transit, land use and multi-modal transportation.

Al Stober Construction will lead development of the mid-rise buildings along Harvey Avenue that will offer both rental housing and commercial spaces. Mission Group Homes is set to begin construction on park-side residential homes at Central Green next spring.

The updated master plan for Central Green is planned to go before City Council at the end of September.

Central Green, the former Kelowna Secondary School site, was split into seven land parcels.

The first building, a supportive housing project run by the Karis Support Society, opened last week.

The seventh parcel was leased to the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society earlier this year.

The society will operate an 86-unit complex.



Laura to close just 15 shops

Laura's Shoppe Inc. is planning to close five fewer stores than originally planned as landlords at several malls have agreed to cut rents and suppliers have offered significant discounts on clothes for the fall season.

The Montreal-based company will close 15 stores on Sept. 13, according to a court filing in Quebec Superior Court. None of the locations were disclosed.

Seven more store leases are set to expire at year-end.

Laura's Shoppe, which like many Canadian fashion retailers has struggled amid an influx of large international competitors, filed for creditor protection last month.

Besides the Laura, Laura Petites and Laura Plus brands, the company operates under the Melanie Lyne banner.

The company originally planned to close 20 stores and seek rent reductions on 26 others. It ultimately secured rent reductions for more than 36 locations that will save $5.2 million a year.

Laura's said the stores being closed contributed less than five per cent of overall revenues and all either generated losses or were marginally profitable.

Meanwhile, Laura's said it expects to earn some $5 million in extra gross profit from discounts provided by suppliers on about $34.5 million of fall merchandise that went on sale a couple of weeks ago.

An additional $1.2 million in annualized savings are expected from the decision to close or reduce the size of office space at two buildings in Laval, Que., and vacate unused offices in Mississauga, Ont. The move has resulted in the temporary layoff of 93 employees, some of which will become permanent.

Laura's said it will employ about 2,000 workers in stores across Canada, the distribution centre and remaining office as a results of the changes, down from 2,330 when its network spanned 162 stores.

Laura's operates in all provinces except Prince Edward Island and also has two e-commerce sites. About half the stores and store-level employees are in Ontario. Quebec has the second-most stores at 37.

The Canadian Press


Sony defends 'Concussion'

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Nearly a year after the devastating hacking attack that leaked thousands of emails, Sony Pictures Entertainment again finds itself trying to justify its own inner dealings, this time over the upcoming Will Smith film about head trauma and the NFL, "Concussion."

The question surrounds just how hard-hitting is "Concussion," a film due out in December that dramatizes the forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who uncovered the fatal effects that repeated head trauma has had on many NFL players. After a New York Times report on Tuesday based on leaked emails that Sony blunted parts of the film to avoid upsetting the NFL, Sony hit back on Wednesday.

In a statement, Sony Pictures called the Times story "misleading" and noted it was written without the benefit of seeing the film.

"As will become immediately clear to anyone actually seeing the movie, nothing with regard to this important story has been 'softened' to placate anyone," said Sony.

Claims that "Concussion" was altered to appease the NFL proved inconclusive following an Associated Press review of the leaked Sony emails regarding the production and positioning of the film.

Instead, the exchanges between Sony Pictures Entertainment executives, lawyers, external consultants and filmmaker Peter Landesman paint a less definitive picture of the behind-the-scenes motivations of script changes and strategy.

"We always intended to make an entertaining, hard-hitting film about Dr. Omalu's David-and-Goliath story, which played out like a Hollywood thriller," said Landesman in a statement to the AP. "Anyone who sees the movie will know that it never once compromises the integrity and the power of the real story."

While the emails reflect near-constant hand-wringing about NFL backlash, which prompted Sony to hire an independent consultant to manage the communications strategy within the massive organization, the emails also show a rigorous obsession with depicting real people and events with accuracy and fairness. That's not an uncommon practice for any fact-based movie — especially one with awards aspirations.

In early July 2014, Sony executive Hannah Minghella sent page notes to a group of executives from a pre-greenlight meeting. "Rather than portray the NFL as one corrupt organization can we identify the individuals within the NFL who were guilty of denying/covering up the truth."

Landesman has acknowledged a scene featuring NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was cut from the film. Emails suggest that at one point, he tried to reach out to an NFL executive with the hope of getting more insight into a closed door conversation he hoped to dramatize in the film.

Later in July, Sony chairman Michael Lynton emailed then-co-chair Amy Pascal. "Aimee Wolfson took out most of the bite for legal reasons with the NFL and that it was not a balance issue," Lynton wrote of Sony's top lawyer.

Concerns were motivated not just by the threat of recourse from the NFL, but in antagonizing the enormous potential audience of movie-going football fans. Emails show planning to promote Smith as "pro-football."

In October, Doug Belgrad, president of Sony's motion picture unit, wrote to a group of executives reiterating their need to fact-check: "If we fudge or embellish the NFL's actions on this issue, it could compromise the success of our pic," he said.

Ultimately, despite the unprecedented glimpse into these internal dealings, more questions are raised than answered as to whether the development and marketing of "Concussion" is at all different from any other production about a hot-button issue. The leaked emails ran up until December, so they don't cover the last nine months.

The film's trailer, which debuted Monday, portrays the NFL as a foreboding opposition to Omalu's heroic whistle-blowing. In it, he's warned: "You're going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week."

A handful of football reporters and broadcasters who have seen "Concussion," which opens in December, have backed up Sony's defence of the film.

NBC's Bob Costas, in a statement supplied by Sony, said: "It doesn't appear to me many punches were pulled." Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who has also seen the film, called it "a huge black eye for the NFL."

The NFL has declined to comment on the film, which will hit theatres in the heart of its upcoming season. It's not believed to have any business relationship with Sony.

Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice-president of health and safety policy, has said the league is "encouraged by the ongoing focus" on player safety.

The Canadian Press


Mermaids make a splash

Tiny bubbles float to the surface of a tank as Stephanie Brown blows an underwater kiss, her red hair rippling in the water like seaweed as she flips her metallic yellow and orange tail and swims away.

Brown is the co-founder of Halifax Mermaids, a company that provides educational and entertainment experiences with mermaid performers across the Maritimes.

Brown, also known as Raina the Mermaid, has a background in child and youth development and a bachelor of education. She said her company is cashing in on the mermaid trend while teaching children about the environment.

"We work on the assumption that children learn the best through play, so we create these play envrionments where they get to utilize their imagination and also learn something about the environment and the ocean," said Brown during a recent in-costume interview at the Aquatron Laboratory tank, a research facility at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"We try to combine the entertainment aspect of seeing a mermaid, seeing them swim in the beautiful costumes, but also learning about the ocean and empowering people towards change."

Brown said the roughly five mermaids she employs teach children about everything from microplastic pollution and tidal pool creatures to the ocean food chain and the importance of recycling.

The mermaids wear realistic tails and shell hairpieces at a range of events, from birthday parties to sandcastle festivals and workshops at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

Halifax Mermaids, which is a division of Canadian Mermaids Inc., recently won a $10,000 small business grant in a contest that was run by ADP Canada Co. to expand their fast-growing, year-old business, and it couldn't have come at a better time, said company co-owner Sean Norman.

Norman said they are having a difficult time keeping up with demand, and the extra funding will allow them to hire more mermaids and book more events.

"We plan on getting a mobile tank to travel across Canada," said Norman. "It's been an unbelievable year. ... We couldn't have anticipated how much it was going to take off."

Brown said she started working as an independently as a mermaid in 2007 as a way to combine her education in child and youth development and her love for the imaginary sea nymphs.

Brown, who struggles from chronic illness and pain, said her new career helps motivate her to keep in shape and manage her pain.

She said she had a difficult childhood and benefited from programs like Make-A-Wish, so she's paying it forward by visiting sick children in hospitals.

"It's really wonderful to see how much they light up," said Brown, adding that she uses a wheelchair during hospital visits since walking around in a mermaid tail is impossible.

The Canadian Press


No all-day for Canada

McDonald's Canada has bad news for those looking to get their Egg McMuffin fix past 11 a.m.

Spokeswoman Lisa Hutniak said the company has no plans to launch all-day breakfast, despite the brand's announcement that its American restaurants will introduce the option on Oct. 6.

Hutniak said they are keeping a close eye on the nationwide experiment by the Americans and are always looking to meet the needs and wants of their customers.

McDonald's ran a pilot program of all-day breakfast in select American markets earlier this year.

New CEO Steve Easterbrook is looking to make his mark at the fast-food giant, where sales have faltered as consumers seek out fast food beyond the burger.

The Canadian Press


Bublcam raises $4.6 million

Bubl Technology Inc., the Canadian developer of Bublcam 360-degree cameras, is making changes to its executive structure after securing $4.6 million from a team of investors that includes technology giant Samsung.

The Toronto-based company announced Wednesday that its founder, Sean Ramsay, will leave his post as chief executive officer and assume the role chief innovation officer as he turns his attention solely to building the product and the technology.

Dan Mills, who also helped launch the startup, will become CEO on an interim basis, after serving as vice president of hardware for the past several years.

Bublcam takes both pictures and video in a spherical range which creates a new experience for photographers who feel constrained by panoramic shots. The baseball-sized camera has four lenses, which grab images from all directions, and laces the information together to create a realistic 360-degree version of a natural environment.

Once it's loaded onto a computer, viewers can scroll across the moving image, quite like exploring the virtual world on Google Maps.

"We've got a proven, viable product now — both hardware and software — and we're ready for prime time," said Mills in an interview.

"It really is just getting it out there ... and building on some of the relationships that Sean has already put together."

The move comes as Bubl closes financing from a group of private investors, which includes Samsung Ventures, a division of the electronics company which invests in small developers for an equity stake in the company.

The other key investor is J-Tech Capital, a consortium of Chinese investors who are looking to help Canadian startups enter Asian markets.

Bublcam is just one of many 360-degree cameras vying for a share of a niche part of the photography sales market.

Earlier this month, the company delivered its first round of shipments to customers who helped fund the company during its initial Kickstarter campaign.

"We really want to stay ahead any emerging competitors," Mills said.

In the coming months, Bubl aims to ramp up manufacturing to make online inventory of its cameras more consistent.

In the meantime, the board of directors is conducting a search for a permanent CEO, the company said.

Bubl Technology was founded in 2011 and has about 30 employees.

The Canadian Press


Sears turns corner in Q2

Sears Canada's second-quarter revenue was down 9.1 per cent from the comparable period last year, but the company says its core retail network showed positive sales momentum and the sale of some properties helped produce a profit.

For the second quarter ended Aug. 1, Sear Canada's revenue was $768.8 million and net income was $13.5 million or 13 cents per share. Included in the profit was a $67.2-million gain, before taxes, from the sale and leaseback of three properties.

In the comparable period last year, Sears Canada had a loss of $21.3 million or 21 cents per share with $844.4 million for the quarter ended Aug. 2, 2014.

The struggling retailer says it had a "turning point" in the month of June when its core retail network grew sales compared with last year, but added that the company's overall cost structure is too high.

"Although we have had significant cost reductions in the past two years, we still have an inefficient cost structure."

Sears Canada Inc. says it plans to bring down annual operating expenses by $100 million to $125 million compared with 2014 levels, and to implement cost reduction initiatives in the current quarter that began Aug. 2.

The company's press release didn't provide details on where it expects to make cost savings.

It announced it has reached agreements to "monetize" an additional $28 million of non-mall real estate but said that "at the current time, we do not have any plans to sell or exit any of our full-line stores."

The core retail store network consists of Sears Canada's 95 full-line stores and 45 Sears Canada Home stores, and excludes Outlet and Hometown stores.

Sears Canada says it has 177 Hometown stores, over 1,200 catalogue and online merchandise pick-up locations, 84 Sears Travel offices and a nationwide repair and service network in addition to its corporate stores.

Sears Canada said it may be able to operate more profitably within smaller individual store sizes. It also said it will open a wave of branded shops within its stores by November under agreements with 12 vendors, including Haggar and Dockers.

Overall same-store sales, including non-core locations, fell 3.9 per cent for the quarter. But same-store sales at its core retail network were down just one per cent for the quarter and positive in the months of June and August.

The company said it's continuing to search for a new chief executive to replace Ronald Boire, who announced in July that he was leaving to become president and CEO of the Barnes & Noble chain of bookstores in the United States, effective Sept. 8.

Boire became CEO of Sears Canada ilast fall. He followed Douglas Campbell, who left in September 2014, and Calvin McDonald, who quit suddenly in September 2013 in the midst of a multiyear turnaround plan.

The Canadian Press


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