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Where's the beef from?

Beef "raised without the use of hormones or steroids," one fast-food chain touts in its commercials.

"Not Without Canadian Farmers," another burger giant boasts of its menu.

McDonald's has launched the latest salvo in a battle for the stomachs of food conscious Canadians with new ads that picture hamburger buns floating over an empty space where the patty should be. "The Big Mac? Not Without Canadian Farmers," it says.

Prof. Sylvain Charlebois at the University of Guelph's Food Institute says he wouldn't be surprised if the new McDonald's ads are a response to a campaign from A&W. The home of mama and papa burgers started running commercials about two years ago that emphasize the chain only serves beef raised without the use of hormones or steroids.

The A&W ads have stirred up the ire of some in the beef industry, where producers use hormones to make cattle grow faster

Charlebois says one fast-food giant is trying to get closer to the farm gate and the other is focusing on the naturalization of food.

"They're trying to capitalize on the trust farmers actually have from the public," Charlebois says of the McDonald's ads. "Farming has a lot of currency in the marketplace. McDonald's, from time to time, has been criticized for several reasons and so trying to get closer to farmers only makes strategic sense for them."

On the other hand, he thinks A&W's campaign is brilliant, but what isn't clear is where its meat is coming from.

"They're not forthcoming about their procurement strategy at A&W. "They're mostly focusing on the naturalization of food. There's a lot of momentum around (that) ... and people are more concerned about farming practices. A&W is making their supply chain more transparent, not in terms of origin, but in terms of specific production practices."

No one from A&W was available for comment, but the chain has said previously that it gets some beef from Canada, but also brings it in from the United States and Australia to meet the hormone-free guarantee.

McDonald's Canada says it gets 100 per cent of its beef from Canadian producers. That amounted to about 64 million pounds last year, says Sherry MacLauchlan with McDonald's Canada.

She says the company has been getting "more and more questions" about its beef.

"Generally, consumer awareness is continuing to grow around sourcing and where things are coming from, so those things all tie together and really are the reason for the campaign."

Canadian ranchers say there's an innuendo that some beef isn't as good as other beef.

Doug Gillespie, president of the Saskatchewan Stockgrowers Association, says the perception isn't fair. There are more hormones in cabbage than beef, he says.

The Beef Cattle Research Council notes on its website that producing the same amount of beef without hormones would require 12 per cent more cattle and 10 per cent more land, as well as more feed, water and fertilizer. The group says the added production costs would mean more expensive meat.

Gillespie, who ranches near Neville, Sask., says he hopes the McDonald's ads can reassure people.

"I hope they have a great belief in our standards and our way of doing things. We're very open about it. None of it is hidden and ... we need to convey the message that we have a very, very safe product.

"We're proud of what we're doing and we have consumers foremost in our mind."

The Canadian Press

Your voice is the password

Phone passwords and security questions could soon become obsolete as financial institutions race to implement technology that can verify a client's identity based on the characteristics of their voice.

After a successful pilot project last summer, Royal Bank is rolling out "voice biometrics" technology that can identify clients who phone the bank's call centres in a matter of seconds.

Customers will have to opt in to the service, which is being phased in over a three-month period and has been created by tech firm Nuance Communications.

RBC says it is the first Canadian company to implement technology that can create and identify a client's "voiceprint," which consists of more than 100 different characteristics such as the client's pitch and accent, in the course of a regular conversation.

Manulife implemented similar technology for its banking clients and its retail advisers back in September, although users have to say a predetermined phrase — "At Manulife, my voice is my password" — in order for their voices to be verified.

In addition to speeding up the customer service process — agents can immediately begin addressing a client's needs rather than peppering them with a series of security questions — proponents of the technology say it will also boost security.

"It's easy to pick up a piece of mail and look at someone's confidential information, but you can't steal a voice," said Joanna Lohrenz, vice president of contact centres and customer experience at Manulife.

Financial institutions have been striving to innovate lately in response to changing customer expectations and pressure from more agile, tech-savvy startups that threaten to snatch some of their market share.

Earlier this year CIBC opened up an innovation lab in the financial tech cluster at Toronto's Mars Discovery District, a space dedicated to housing early-stage startups and other tech innovators including Airbnb, Etsy and Facebook.

The banks have been criticized for being slow to implement new technologies. CIBC hopes to improve its agility by allowing select employees to work outside of the constraints of the traditional banking environment, says David Williamson, the head of CIBC's retail and business banking division.

At CIBC's Mars lab, co-op students and other staff undertake sprints — "fuelled by pizza and Xbox" — that produce completed concepts in just a few weeks, Williamson said. For example, the concept for CIBC's Apple Watch app was developed in around six weeks, Williamson said.

The bank has been using the space to experiment with a variety of new technologies, including voice authentication similar to Apple's Siri, that would allow customers to use their voices not only to access their accounts but also to perform a variety of tasks such as pay bills, transfer money and even seek advice about budgeting.

However, Williamson said it's important to determine whether customers are ready for the technology before the bank moves forward. CIBC is currently conducting research to determine how much appetite clients have for voice-authenticated banking.

"This is all about the client," said Williamson. "We need to put out things that make banking better for them ... if they think it's creepy, they won't adopt."

The Canadian Press

Volkswagen pollution dodge

Volkswagen's pollution-control chicanery has not just been victimless tinkering, killing between five and 20 people in the United States annually in recent years, according to an Associated Press statistical and computer analysis.

The software that the company admitted using to get around government emissions limits allowed VWs to spew enough pollution to cause somewhere between 16 and 94 deaths over seven years, with the annual count increasing more recently as more of the diesels were on the road.

The total cost has been well over $100 million.

That's just in the United States. It's likely far deadlier and costlier in Europe, where more VW diesels were sold, engineers said.

Scientists and experts said the death toll in Europe could be as high as hundreds each year, though they caution that it is hard to take American health and air quality computer models and translate them to a more densely populated Europe.

"Statistically, we can't point out who died because of this policy, but some people have died or likely died as a result of this," said Carnegie Mellon environmental engineer professor Peter Adams. He calculates the cost of air pollution with a sophisticated computer model that he and the AP used in its analysis.

Computer software allowed VW diesel cars to spew between 10 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than allowed by regulation, making this "clearly a concern for air quality and public health," said Janet McCabe, acting air quality chief for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nitrogen oxides mostly form smog — that murky, dirty air that makes it hard to see and for some people to breathe — but also amplify a deadlier, larger problem: tiny particles of soot.

Numerous medical studies show those tiny particles cause about 50,000 deaths a year in the United States, mostly from heart problems.

Nitrogen oxides can travel hundreds of miles, so pollution spewed in Pittsburgh can be felt on the East Coast, Adams said.

Experts calculate how much pollution costs society by looking at the value of lost lives. In this case, Adams and other said the lost lives — valued at $8.6 million apiece — overwhelm other costs such as lost work days or hospital costs.

The overall annual cost of the extra pollutants from the VW diesels ranged from $40 million to $170 million, environmental engineering professors calculated.

"Even the small increase in NOx from VW diesel emissions is likely to have worsened pollution along the roadways where they have travelled, and affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in Boston.

"To say millions of people of people are breathing poor air as the result of that is not off the mark," said Greenbaum, who runs the institute that is funded by both the EPA and the auto industry to serve as an independent arbiter of the science.

In a response Saturday night to an earlier request for comment, Volkswagen said the EPA has noted that the affected vehicles do not present a safety hazard and are legal to drive. "General allegations regarding links between NOX emissions from these affected vehicles and specific health effects are unverified. We have received no confirmed reports that the emissions from such vehicles caused any actual health problem," the company said in a statement.

The calculations should be put in context of air that is getting dramatically cleaner in the United States, experts said. Also, the deaths from extra pollution are dwarfed by the 35,000 people in the U.S. a year who die in auto accidents and are closer to the annual U.S. death toll of spider or snake bites.

The AP calculated how much pollution was spewed year by year, starting with that broad 10 times to 40 times emissions level estimate from the EPA, then factoring in mileage and car number totals from EPA, the car company and Kelley Blue Book.

The results show an upper and lower limit of extra nitrogen oxides pollution allowed by VW's subterfuge. The AP took those figures to scientists who previously created a sophisticated computer program that looks at air movement and numerous epidemiological studies on the health effects of pollutants. The result was a rough estimate on deaths and costs to society based on a certain amount of pollution triggering each death.

The EPA has its own open source computer model that calculates death and social costs of emissions, roughly finding it takes nearly 1,300 tons of nitrogen oxides to cause one death. Using that calculation and AP's emission totals, the total death figures over the past seven years range from 12 to 69, slightly lower than the AP calculations.

The AP ran its calculations and results by more than a dozen experts in emissions, risk and public health. They all confirmed the calculations and results seemed right.

One scientist had even done a statistical analysis on his own and came independently to the same conclusion. The experts were mostly university professors or from research institutes. They were not environmental advocates or representatives of auto companies.

But engineers caution that these figures come with many caveats and are ballpark estimates. They rely on many assumptions and a range of potential emissions per car. Air pollution impacts on people are usually calculated on a local level because that's where it is felt, and it changes from place to place. But these calculations were broadened to a national level, which adds more uncertainty.

The computer simulation that made the death calculations use conservative medical studies as their baseline. Other epidemiological studies would more than double the deaths and health costs, said Adams and model co-creator Jinhyok Heo of Cornell University.

Chris Frey, an engineering professor at North Carolina State University, has been testing the VW diesels in real world conditions, driving more than 100 miles with monitors in the car tailpipes.

He found pollution 10 times higher than the federal standard, and noticed that the worst pollution came as he got on to highways and in stop-and-go traffic. Those less desirable areas are where poorer people live, Greenbaum and other experts said.



The Canadian Press

Trade deal hangs on dairy

Negotiators have taken a big step toward an historic agreement that would knock down trade barriers on four continents while opening important sectors to greater foreign competition.

A Trans-Pacific Partnership deal could be announced Saturday if negotiators clear the final hurdles including the tallest remaining one involving Canada: dairy import limits.

The broad contours of a deal are mostly sketched out. Canadian exporters of beef, pork, canola, grains, machinery, medical devices, minerals, seafood, aeronautics and other products would have greater tariff-free access to 11 countries including Japan, Vietnam, Australia and Peru.

Now those countries are knocking on Canada's door.

They've demanded a greater presence in two areas that have historically supported good-paying jobs: the auto sector, and dairy. A deal on auto parts is mostly done, according to various stakeholder groups watching the negotiations. The final fight turns to Canada's grocery shelves, where importers want more than the meager 10-per-cent space set aside for foreign milk and cheese.

That politically sensitive issue remains one of the few obstacles to completing a pact that would cover 40 per cent of the world's GDP, including some fast-growing economies and additional countries already angling to join.

"I'm pretty optimistic it will come together (this weekend) — 80-20," said Alan Wolff, a former U.S. negotiator who now leads the American National Foreign Trade Council, a commercial association.

"But because it's a negotiation there could always be a holdup."

That's exactly what happened at the last round in Maui. Canadian and Mexican negotiators were blindsided by a Japan-U.S. deal that would have doubled the allowance for cheaper car parts without tariffs from Japanese suppliers in non-TPP countries like China and Thailand.

Those differences appear to have been settled.

The hallway chatter from industry lobbyists at the convention site suggested the percentages for import thresholds might not differ significantly from the Maui offer — with perhaps a five-per-cent change for parts. But it's expected that new exceptions will be built into the agreement for different types of parts, limiting the scope of the change.

Canada's envoy to the talks wouldn't talk percentages. He also said some details still must be worked out. But International Trade Minister Ed Fast confirmed Friday that major moves had been made.

"There's still some work left to be done," said Fast.

"But we're optimistic that issue can be solved and we'll have an outcome that will support our Canadian auto sector and ensure its long-term viability in Canada."

The autoworkers' union fears the loss of middle-class jobs. But some Canadian parts manufacturers are enthusiastic about the opportunity to grow an international presence.

Fast used more guarded language on dairy. Of that, he said: "There's still lots of work to be done."

The Canadian government faces domestic pressure from dairy-producing provinces, who are not at the negotiating table but have provincial representatives in Atlanta pushing against any opening to foreign milk and cheese.

Canada isn't the only country with domestic pressure: the American delegation has received a public letter from influential lawmakers urging it to walk away unless it can secure certain gains for American businesses.

But the biggest U.S. business lobby is urging a deal now.

It says the decade-long TPP project could be destroyed by domestic politics if it doesn't happen immediately, with elections in Canada, then the U.S., Japan and Peru next year and governments under pressure to protect individual sectors.

"If we miss this opportunity I believe we may lose it forever," said Tami Overby, vice-president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"We have the Canadian election. No one knows what that outcome's going to be. We also get closer to the U.S. 2016 (presidential race) — that gets harder. So from my perspective nothing gets better. But the risk increases, and in some cases quite significantly as time goes by."

As if to underscore her point, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair announced Friday that he wouldn't consider himself bound to ratify any deal reached during the election campaign.

Overby encouraged all countries to put some of the proverbial water in their wine.

For Canada, that wine comes with a little more foreign cheese.

She said New Zealand hasn't asked for much. But it helped spearhead the TPP project years ago, with its one major demand being access to dairy markets.

Other Canadian industries are thrilled at the prospect of a deal.

The head of Canada's pro-free-market agriculture group said he expects a nine-per-cent increase in canola exports alone, with big gains for other industries including pork, beef and barley.

"We're extremely optimistic for our sector," said Brian Innes of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, and vice-president of the Canola Council.

"We face significant trade barriers, this is the most ambitious deal in decades, and it could have a major impact on our ability to export."

The Canadian Press

Telus upgrading fibre

Loading a high-definition movie online can take about eight minutes using your current Telus (TSX:T) Internet, but that time will soon drop to six seconds when the company installs a new fibre-optic network across Vancouver.

The communications giant announced the five-year plan for the upgrade to infrastructure on Friday, an enhancement Telus executives say will bring faster downloads, seamless video streaming and the ability for consumers and businesses alike to use new technologies.

"We are connecting our city to the fastest and most reliable Internet services available anywhere," said Telus President and CEO Darren Entwistle.

"Once complete, our fibre build will have an unprecedented impact on our city, transforming the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialize and the way that we raise our families in a digital world."

Some of the copper cables that currently provide Internet to homes and businesses in Vancouver have been in use for 30 years, said Tony Geheran, president of broadband networks for Telus.

"Now, with the demands of high speed Internet and bandwidth, we've really reached the edge of what you can pass over copper," he explained.

The new fibre-optic network will provide home Internet speeds of 150 megabits per second.

An average customer uses between six and 15 megabits now, but in a highly connected world, people are getting less tolerant of slow connections, Geheran said.

"People can see their own usage in the home, the amount of devices they have is going to necessitate greater and faster speeds."

Telus already has fibre-optic networks in 22 B.C. communities, including Port Coquitlam, Oliver and Salmon Arm.

The infrastructure is also being installed in Edmonton, and several other communities across Alberta and Quebec.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said during the announcement that she's looking forward to getting fibre-optic Internet at her home.

"I may even be able to work at home without worries about security," she joked.

"And I may be able to get the Whitecaps highlights a little quicker than I do now," she said referring to Vancouver's soccer club.

The investment shows that the company has confidence in the province's economic future, and the network will have a huge impact on small businesses, Clark added.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he's thrilled about the investment and believes it will be a big boost for the city's economy.

"For our startups and tech companies, it's a huge new platform to enable their work to accelerate and allow them to succeed rapidly on the world stage," he said.

Kitsilano and Shaughnessy will be the first neighbourhoods to have the fibre-optic network installed, and are expected to come online in March 2016.

The Canadian Press

VW to offer incentives

Volkswagen Canada is offering incentives to attract customers and offset lost sales since its parent company admitted last month that it cheated on government emission tests on diesel-engine models.

Until Nov. 2, Volkswagen says it is offering a choice of lower finance rates, lower lease rates and cash incentives on select vehicles.

"The incentives were implemented to support our customers and dealers during the period in which our TDI diesel sales remain suspended pending resolution of the recent EPA Notice (from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)," VW Canada's spokesman said in an email.

The TDI diesel engines were available on a variety of Volkswagen models that accounted for nearly 22 per cent of VW Canada's sales before Sept. 22, when the company told dealers to stop selling the models in question.

"That figure is now lower, as all sales since have been of gasoline powered cars," Volkswagen Canada said Friday.

Overall company sales were 5,128 in September, down 19.6 per cent from 6,381 in the same month a year ago down almost 25 per cent from the 6,826 vehicles it sold in August.

As of Oct. 1, VW Canada's choice of incentives include finance interest rates as low as zero per cent for up to 84 months, depending on the model.

Alternatively, customers can opt for lease rates as low as 0.9 per cent for up to 48 months, depending on the model, or up to $6,000 cash back. On top of those options, VW is offering up to an additional $1,500 in bonus cash.

The company declined to comment on a memo that was sent to its dealers. According to the Globe and Mail, the memo by Volkswagen Canada president Maria Stenstrom said: “The scale of these programs is unprecedented for Volkswagen in Canada, but necessary and appropriate given the circumstances.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed last month that stealth software made VW's 2009-2015 model cars powered by 2.0-litre diesel engines run cleaner during emissions tests than in actual driving. The fallout from that revelation has included investigations in other countries, class-action law suits against the company and a drop in VW's stock price.

Volkswagen Canada announced on Sept. 22 that its dealers had been instructed to suspend the sale and delivery of any new Golf, Golf Sportwagon, Jetta, Beetle or Passat models with 2.0 TDI engines until further notice. The order also applied to certain previously owned models from the 2009 model year or later, if equipped with the same engine.

The Canadian Press

What's new in tech

Parents of small kids are getting more love from music services.

Amazon noticed kids content on its Prime Music streaming plan was a big hit — no surprise, really, given the popularity of its Amazon Mom program for discounts on diapers, wipes and other items. So Inc. secured original children's music from The Pop Ups and Lisa Loeb for free streaming to give Prime members another reason to keep their $99-a-year membership.

Meanwhile, a rival service, Rhapsody, is rewarding premium, $10-a-month subscribers with a feature that lets children take control of music when mommy or daddy passes over a mobile phone. Curated playlists keep content safe, and big colorful designs make navigating easy. You won't need to remember another password to leave the kids' zone: There's an unlock puzzle designed to fool a 10-year-old.

Another life hack: bookmarked songs are automatically downloaded. That's great for junior, who might be using a hand-me-down device that no longer has a cellular plan.


Facebook is trying to jazz up users' profiles.

The world's largest social network is testing new profile videos that can be created from phones and would replace a still profile photo. The seven-second, looping videos play automatically when you look at someone's profile page. The videos can include sound, but that will play only if you click on the video.

For now, only some iPhone users in California and the U.K. can make them. Any Facebook user can see them. Facebook Inc. doesn't have a specific date for when it will expand the feature.


Samsung began selling its new smartwatch Friday in the U.S.

Retailers carrying the Gear S2 include Best Buy and Macy's. The starting price is $300. The South Korean company announced the Gear S2 in August, but gave no details on prices then.

The S2 has a circular frame that can be rotated to scroll through notifications and apps. Past models required swiping, similar to phones, which could tire out fingers given how little fits on each screen. The watch itself is also smaller — roughly the size of the larger version of Apple Watch. For the first time, Samsung's smartwatch will work with any Android phone, not just Samsung's, though all features might not work.

What's not known yet is how good the apps will be. This has been one of the weak points for Samsung's smartwatch, given that many app developers have focused instead on the Apple Watch and the variety of models running Google's Android Wear. The S2 runs the little-known Tizen system. Samsung has said it expects about 1,000 apps at launch, but rival watches have many times that.

Apple Watch, meanwhile, will come to Target. The retailer says some models and bands will be offered online starting Oct. 18. All stores will get them by Oct. 25.

Besides Apple's own stores, the watch is available at Best Buy, Sprint and T-Mobile stores, along with specialty department stores and boutiques, mostly outside the U.S. Apple Watch starts at $349.


Apple CEO Tim Cook is getting an award from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

Last October, Cook came out as the first openly gay chief executive of a Fortune 1,000 company. In December, HRC announced that Cook had donated a "substantial" amount to help fund a gay rights initiative in his native Alabama and two other Southern states. The specific amount wasn't disclosed.

HRC's Visibility Award is to be presented to Cook on Saturday.

"Through his example and Apple's commitment to equality, LGBT young people, in particular, can look to Tim Cook's incredible career and know that there is nothing holding them back," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "They can dream as big as their minds allow them to, even if they want to be the CEO of one of the world's largest companies."


If you want an unlimited data plan from Sprint, sign up soon: The monthly price is going up by $10, to $70.

The new price takes effect Oct. 16. Those who sign up before then can keep the lower price.

Sprint and T-Mobile are the only two national carriers still offering unlimited plans. Verizon and AT&T discontinued them years ago, though customers who already had one could keep it.

The Canadian Press

Wal-Mart cuts 450 HQ jobs

Wal-Mart laid off 450 workers at its headquarters Friday as the world's largest retailer attempts to become more nimble so that it can better compete with the likes of

There are more than 18,000 people who work at the headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, a close knit community in Northwest Arkansas. The cuts were across all areas, from finance to global e-commerce. The company says that the employees were spoken with individually early on Friday.

The layoffs follow months of rumours about them and they arrived less than two months after Wal-Mart trimmed its annual earnings outlook as profits fell. That is partly because of hefty investments Wal-Mart has made in e-commerce as well as higher wages for hourly workers.

A previous round of layoffs in Bentonville was announced in 2010 when 300 jobs were eliminated, but the latest marks the largest cuts since 2009, when the discounter laid off 800 employees as the U.S. emerged from recession.

While it is the behemoth of retail, Wal-Mart is attempting to make changes that will allow it to "move with speed and purpose," according to a memo sent by Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon to employees on Friday.

Wal-Mart is facing intense competition on all fronts, ranging from and dollar stores to the traditional grocery store chains that it has tried to challenge.

It is also trying to keep pace with the rapidly changing behaviour of shoppers who are jumping back and forth between their smartphones and store aisles when shopping.

Wal-Mart's U.S. business is undergoing a major overhaul in response. It's trying to improve pricing and selection as well as beefing up customer service. It's also expanding the number of centres dedicated to fulfilling e-commerce orders and it announced this week that it would accelerate the expansion of its grocery deliveries.

"Our customers are changing. Retail is changing and we must change," McMillon wrote in the memo obtained by The Associated Press. "We need to become a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand."

Even with the economy in recovery mode, retailers are getting leaner and more agile with competition only growing fiercer. Target laid off 1,700 employees this year, largely at its headquarters in Minneapolis. Whole Foods Market announced this week that it would cut 1,500 jobs over the next eight weeks so that it can keep its prices competitive.

"This is an important time in our history— requiring all of us to think critically about our business and not be afraid to challenge the status quo," McMillon said in his memo.

And there are constant reminders that the global economy is still struggling, and that has not gone unfelt in the U.S.

September jobs figures released Friday showed U.S. employers cutting back sharply on hiring in September.

Among the hardest hit by the recession were lower income families, which makes up a huge slice of Wal-Mart's customer base.

Wal-Mart is offering laid off employees 60 days of pay with benefits, and employees will get severance equivalent to two weeks pay for every year of service. It also will offer them job search assistance.

The Canadian Press

Two LNG projects get nod

Steelhead LNG says its export licences have been approved — just weeks after the company and a First Nation announced a proposed liquefied natural gas project north of Victoria.

Steelhead says the National Energy Board has approved a 25-year licence for the annual export of up to six million tonnes of LNG from a proposed floating liquefaction and export terminal in Saanich Inlet.

The Vancouver-based company says the board has approved four other 25-year licences to export LNG from a project that is still in the exploration stage with a First Nation southwest of Port Alberni.

Steelhead CEO Nigel Kuzemko says there is still a great deal of work to ensure community, government and regulatory support and approval for both projects.

Malahat First Nation CEO Lawrence Lewis says the agreement with Steelhead to develop the floating LNG plant near Victoria is a chance to protect aboriginal rights while practising environmental stewardship.

The Sarita Bay LNG project is still in the feasibility stage but Steelhead says the Huu-ay-aht First Nation voted last year in favour of continuing to explore its development on its Vancouver Island lands.

The Canadian Press

East vs. West on TPP

From the Liberal governments of eastern Canada, it's consternation. From a western Conservative premier, however, the prospect of Canada reaching a historic trade deal elicits celebration.

A political and regional split over the Trans-Pacific Partnership appeared Thursday at the Atlanta conference centre that's hosting the 12-country negotiations.

There were duelling letters released: one from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall that was very supportive of the TPP, and one from the Ontario government sounding the alarm bell.

Cabinet ministers from Liberal governments in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were in Atlanta to press federal negotiators against opening the dairy sector to foreign competition.

The Harper government will have to manage the political reaction in some of those places should it reach a deal less than three weeks before election day, during a hard-fought campaign.

Quebec's economic development minister says it's not his government's style to tell people how they should vote federally, and he can't see it interfering in the federal election as a result of TPP.

But Jacques Daoust is among those eastern-province ministers in Atlanta pushing against any relaxation of dairy protections.

"I don't know too many jurisdictions in the world that don't assist their agriculture sector — because the first responsibility of a government is to feed its population," Daoust said in an interview.

"To say, 'No, we're feeding our people from another jurisdiction' — that would be a little surprising."

Ontario's Liberal government has been more vocal against the federal Tories in the campaign. It's now released a letter where two of its ministers expressed alarm over the potential impact of TPP. Brad Duguid and Jeff Leal said the province was "extremely concerned" by signals being sent about the auto industry.

Across the continent and on the other end of the political spectrum, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall released an enthusiastic note about the potential deal.

"Saskatchewan strongly supports Canada's participation," Wall wrote in a Facebook post.

"The proposed TPP represents unprecedented market access for our exports in a region that holds current and great potential demand for products that Saskatchewan offers at a world leading scale."

Among the biggest winners of the deal would be the cattle and canola industries, which stand to make big gains in exports should the anticipated reduction in Japanese tariffs materialize.

The federal government has also pointed to the potential positives in other parts of the country — such as robotics, aeronautics and a pork industry that touts 92,000 direct and indirect jobs and is heavily concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.

But the politicians in that region are talking about dairy farmers and auto workers.

Dairy's supply-managed system is heavily shielded from foreign competition. The system provides stability for Canadian farmers, but reduces selection and raises prices at the grocery store.

Canadian producers have a lock on 90 per cent of the domestic milk-and-cheese market. The rest comes from abroad, with the recent Canada-EU deal setting aside four per cent for European goods. Sources say the U.S. pushed for 10 per cent additional access, which the Canadian government refused.

The dairy advocates' position is that no new products be allowed in. It's New Brunswick's position too, although that province's agriculture minister predicted that won't happen.

"I think what's going to happen is they intend to make some sort of concessions," Rick Doucet said.

"That's up to them."

The feds have promised to maintain the supply-management system but aren't ruling out more imports. That was underscored this week when the outgoing agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, hinted at possible compensation for farmers.

Even that compensation suggestion prompted provincial angst.

Daoust said compensation would be an admission of failure at the negotiating table. "I don't want compensation — I want protection," he said. Doucet put it another way: "Farmers want to work. They want to make a living. They don't want to receive a welfare check."

The lead Canadian minister at the negotiations has met with the provincial ministers. They described a polite tone in their chats with International Trade Minister Ed Fast. They said he solicited their recommendations.

"They're supportive," Doucet said of the federal side.

But said the provinces left without hard insights into bargaining developments. The talks have been extended another day into Friday, with some countries predicting a deal could get done in Atlanta.

It would have to be ratified in national parliaments later, including Canada's after the election.

The Canadian Press

'Quit blaming oilpatch'

The mayor of Alberta's oilpatch capital says she wishes Edmonton's mayor and police chief would stop blaming her area for the city's rising crime rates.

Melissa Blake, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, says she’s disappointed with Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht and Mayor Don Iveson and would welcome their apology for comments they made this week.

Knecht said he will be asking city council for 80 more officers, saying a spike in crime could be linked to a downturn in the oilpatch.

He said a lot of people are coming back to Edmonton from Fort McMurray and Cold Lake and are sitting around in Edmonton waiting for the price of oil to go back up so they can go back to work.

Ivenson said the downtown in the economy means Edmonton ends up policing "northern Alberta's problem children."

Blake calls their comments "unjust."

"To say the stuff that happens in Fort McMurray causes impacts here in Edmonton directly is just not right," she says. "When it comes to crime rates in 2015, overall our crime is down.

"It seems like we're an easy target but I'm here to say we're not that easy to blame. Prove it."

The Canadian Press

High speed grows business

A local animation studio has been able to expand, thanks to the City of Kelowna embracing the growth of its tech sector, according to the company’s CEO.

Bardel Animation is a Vancouver-based animation studio that opened up a Kelowna office three years ago, out of the offices of RackForce Networks Inc.

A grand opening of its new offices Thursday, celebrated its growth from the four-person operation it started out as to 53 employees today.

The company has animated many shows and movies, including Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Dreamworks movie Puss in Boots. All Hail King Julien, a Netflix show Bardel animated, won an Emmy last year for best animated series.

The City of Kelowna has fibre optics connecting government buildings, and recently allowed private companies to tap into the system.

Due to the nature of its work, Bardel requires fast connectivity to its Vancouver offices and had previously been limited to just doing animation work, due to a lack of high-speed connectivity. The new link allowed it to hook into the RackForce-owned fibre that connects Vancouver to Kelowna.

Delna Bhesania, CEO of Bardel, said because of the new speed, it will also be doing lighting, rendering, storyboarding and design in the new Kelowna studio.

“They take up the biggest amounts of data moving through the pipeline,” Bhesania said.

Because of this, the company is looking to expand further and recruit new talent.

“This space holds 110 people, and we plan on, six months to a year, doubling our size,” Bhesania said.

“Kelowna needs to really increase the number of education programs, especially in animation,” she said.

Brian Abrey, infrastructure systems manager at the City of Kelowna, said the company will pay a lease to use the network.

“We have a revenue coming into the city that we didn’t have before, so that’s always great for the tax payer,” said Abrey.

In addition, allowing private companies to join the network should attract new businesses to Kelowna.

“That economic development spin off is in the millions and millions of dollars, so that’s where the real benefit comes in,” Abrey said.

Kelowna’s mayor agrees.

“We believe it’s a very important part in attracting tech business to Kelowna, and it’s something we fully embrace,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “We’re one of only a few cities that have even done this so we think it’ll give us a leg up when it comes to attracting technology-based industry to our city.”

National Bank cutting jobs

The National Bank of Canada is eliminating "several hundred" jobs as part of a restructuring resulting from the economic slowdown.

In an internal memo to employees, CEO Louis Vachon also attributed the decision to "increasingly fierce competition."

The Montreal-based bank did not give a specific figure for the number of job cuts, but said they would mainly affect its Quebec operations.

Vachon said the bank (TSX:NA) will try to minimize the impact on its 17,298 employees through various steps, including retirements and the elimination of vacant positions.

It expects to record an $85-million charge ($64 million after taxes) in the fourth quarter. The restructuring is expected to generate $35 million in pre-tax savings, mainly in 2016.

National, Canada's sixth largest bank, has reported that profits grew three per cent to $453 million in the third quarter on $1.51 billion of revenues.

The Canadian Press

Elevator factory going down

The elevator division of ThyssenKrupp is closing its Toronto manufacturing operations, with the loss of about 165 jobs.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas said Thursday that the phased closure of the Northern Elevator plant in Toronto will be completed by the summer of 2016 as it consolidates manufacturing at its facility in Middleton, Tenn.

The elevator company will continue to employ more than 1,600 people elsewhere in Canada, while 2,750 people work for other ThyssenKrupp companies in this country.

"This was not an easy decision and comes after an extensive review of our business," Rich Hussey, president and CEO of ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas, said in a release announcing the closure.

"By consolidating manufacturing operations, we can more efficiently provide high-quality products and customer service while expanding our engineering focus."

It said customers have asked us better technical support and field operations assistance in the region and that by restructuring "we can meet their needs."

The Canadian Press

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