OSB mill back in action

Norbord Inc. says its oriented strand board mill in 100 Mile House resumed production over the weekend.

The company says work restarted after an evacuation order for 100 Mile House and nearby communities was lifted.

Norbord temporarily suspended production on July 10 due to the wildfires burning in the region.

The company says the curtailment is not expected to materially impact its third-quarter results.


Strike averted at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto and its unionized workers at the company's aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C., say they have reached a tentative contract to narrowly avert a strike.

The two sides say the pact was reached overnight, just as the previous five-year agreement expired.

Details won't be released until members of Unifor Local 2301 hold ratification votes later this week, but the union's bargaining committee is recommending acceptance.

Nine hundred workers at the huge smelter voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action earlier this month.

At the time, the union called on Rio Tinto to remove concession demands and deal with key issues including wages, pension, benefits and contract language.

Rio Tinto general manager Gareth Manderson says the proposed agreement is fair, equitable and will help ensure that employees, the company and the community all benefit from a competitive, sustainable business in northern B.C. 

Canada to top the G7

The International Monetary Fund expects Canada to lead the G7 for economic growth this year.

The IMF raised its outlook for Canada as part of its latest world economic outlook update.

It now expects the Canadian economy to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2017, up from its April projection of 1.9 per cent.

The IMF says it revised its 2017 outlook for Canada following strong growth in the first quarter and indications of "resilient second-quarter activity."

However, it trimmed its outlook for Canada for 2018 to 1.9 per cent compared with its earlier forecast for 2.0 per cent.

The IMF says global economic growth is expected to be 3.5 per cent this year and 3.6 per cent in 2018, unchanged from the April forecast.


Optimism on Eurozone

The International Monetary Fund is more optimistic about the economy of the 19-country eurozone after a run of elections saw populist politicians defeated.

In an update to its April projections published Monday, the IMF revised up its growth forecasts for many eurozone countries, including the big four of Germany, France, Italy and Spain, after stronger than anticipated first quarter figures.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, is projected to grow by 1.8 per cent, up 0.2 percentage point on the previous estimate, while France is forecast to expand 1.5 per cent, up 0.1 percentage point. Projections for Italy and Spain have been revised higher by a substantial 0.5 percentage point. The two are now expected to grow by 1.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively. All four are also expected to grow by more than anticipated in 2018.

Overall, the IMF expects the eurozone to expand by 1.9 per cent this year, 0.2 percentage point more than its previous projection. That's just shy of the IMF's 2.1 per cent forecast for the U.S. but slightly ahead of Britain's, whose projected growth rate was revised down by 0.3 percentage point to 1.7 per cent following a weak first quarter that raised concerns about the country's economy ahead of its exit from the European Union.

The IMF's slew of upgrades comes amid rising confidence in the eurozone's outlook following a series of elections that saw populist politicians defeated, most notably in France, where Emmanuel Macron defeated the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in May's presidential election.

Sears in online trouble

Sears Canada is facing a social media campaign calling for a boycott after the company said it planned on paying millions in bonuses to keep executives on board during restructuring, despite not offering severance to laid-off workers.

The retailer's Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people vowing not to shop at Sears, and the hashtag #BoycottSearsCanada has been gaining traction on Twitter.

Sears Canada, which is operating under court protection from creditors, began liquidation sales on Friday at 59 department and Sears Home stores slated for closure.

The company has said it plans to cut approximately 2,900 jobs, without severance, while paying $9.2 million in retention bonuses to key staff.

Several people participating in the boycott say they're not spending their hard-earned dollars at a store they say rewards mismanagement at the expense of front-line retail workers.

A retail analyst says that the boycott could impact people still working at the stores, but it may not make a difference if the retailer goes out of business.

Sears Canada declined to comment on the matter.

Turner VW joins the club

Kelowna's Turner Volkswagen has joined an exclusive club, after being recognized as one of the best Volkswagen dealerships in the country.

The dealership was recently named to the 2017 Wolfsburg Crest Club, an honour that was only given to 12 VW dealerships in Canada this year.

“Obviously, we were absolutely thrilled about it. It’s a very prestigious award,” said Aaron Fanslau, the general manager.

When a Volkswagen dealership makes it into the Wolfsburg Crest Club, it’s because they’ve met Volkswagen’s highest standards in service and sales.

The dealership must meet “exemplary benchmarks” in customer satisfaction, vehicle sales, parts sales and service excellence.

“Everybody from the general manager through to every single position in the dealership really has to achieve at a high level to win this award,” Fanslau explained.

“I think it’s a culture. We’re a family owned and operated store (and) everyone really had to be bought into what we’re doing,” he said.

“You’re going to make mistakes – we make mistakes – but when that happens, first of all, if there’s a customer involved, you make it right, and second of all, it’s about learning from it.”

“You have to have good processes in place, but primarily it’s about caring for the customer,” he said.

Marketing marijuana

Sixteen of Canada's licensed marijuana producers have enlisted the help of Advertising Standards Canada to develop guidelines on how the drug should be branded and promoted before its recreational use becomes legal next year.

The marijuana sector has been lobbying Ottawa for the right to brand their products, arguing that not being able to promote in stores or on packaging will prevent them from being able to effectively compete with the black market.

Last year, a federal task force issued a report recommending that cannabis products require plain packaging that would allow only certain kinds of information to be listed, such as company name, strain and price. It said advertising restrictions should be similar to those placed on the tobacco industry.

Health advocates have argued that such restrictions are necessary to ensure that users are aware of health risks associated with the substance. They also claim that allowing marijuana companies to market their products could lead to widespread use of the drug, similar to what happened with alcohol and tobacco in the past.

However, Cameron Bishop, director of government affairs at Privateer Holdings — the owner of Nanaimo, B.C.-based producer Tilray — says that isn't the industry's intention.

"We have to be able to differentiate ourselves from individual illegal marketers who are out there right now, that are branded to the hilt in these illegal dispensaries and aren't going to abide by federal rules," he said.

Cam Battley, executive vice-president of Aurora Cannabis, says Canada already has a comprehensive regime of advertising guidelines and restrictions for beer, wine and liquor that could be applied to marijuana.

Audi recalls widen

German automaker Audi says it will fit up to 850,000 diesel cars with new software to improve their emissions performance, following a similar move by rival Daimler as the auto industry tries to get ahead of public controversy over the technology.

Audi, the luxury brand of the Volkswagen Group, announced the voluntary retrofitting program on Friday. The company said in a statement that it "aims to maintain the future viability of diesel engines" and believes the program "will counteract possible bans on vehicles with diesel engines."

The free program, which will apply to Europe and other markets outside the U.S. and Canada, applies to cars with six-cylinder and eight-cylinder diesel engines. The service action also applies to Porsche and Volkswagen models with the same types of engines.

On Tuesday, Daimler said it will voluntarily recall three million Mercedes-Benz cars with diesel engines in Europe to improve their emissions performance.

Diesels have been under a cloud since Volkswagen admitted equipping vehicles with software that manipulates the level of emissions. In the U.S., the software turned on emissions controls during lab tests and illegally turned them off when the cars were on the road, to improve performance.

Gas prices down, food up

The annual pace of inflation slowed once again last month as lower gasoline and electricity prices helped offset higher costs in most other categories, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Overall, the agency's latest inflation report found that prices were one per cent higher in June compared to a year earlier. The June number followed inflation readings of 1.3 per cent in May and 1.6 per cent in April.

Last month's inflation figure matched expectations from a consensus of economists that had predicted a reading of one per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Statistics Canada said lower gasoline prices last month were a primary contributor behind inflation's deceleration as pump prices contracted 1.4 per cent compared to a year earlier.

Electricity prices dropped 5.3 per cent over the same period, while other energy costs rose, including 10 per cent growth in natural gas and a 7.8 per cent increase in the price of fuel oil and other fuels.

Upward pressure on prices also came from a 7.1 per cent rise in traveller accommodation, seven per cent for travel tours and 2.5 per cent for restaurants.

Food prices were up 0.6 per cent in June — the first increase after eight consecutive months of contractions, the report said.

In B.C., inflation dipped to 1.7 per cent, down from 1.9 per cent a month earlier.

Sears liquidation sales begin

Liquidation sales at 54 Sears Canada Inc. locations began Friday, a process the company hopes will help it emerge from creditor protection later this year.

The process includes 20 full-line, 15 Sears Home, 10 Outlet and nine Hometown locations in every province except Prince Edward Island.

The sales are being run by a joint venture group including Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group.

The group says fixtures, furnishings and equipment in the closing stores are up for sale in addition to the merchandise.

Sears Canada, which is operating under court protection from creditors, says discounts range between 20 to 50 per cent off.

The retailer has announced plans to close 59 locations in all and cut about 2,900 jobs as part of its restructuring plan.

Who has say on pipeline?

A Federal Court of Appeal judge has ruled the National Energy Board must reconsider whether a proposed TransCanada Corp. natural gas pipeline in B.C. falls under provincial or federal jurisdiction.

"The board did not ask itself whether an arguable case for federal jurisdiction had been made out," wrote judge Donald J. Rennie in his judgement Wednesday in response to a proceeding launched by Michael Sawyer, who received funding support from the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

Sawyer argued the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project, a roughly 900-kilometre proposed pipeline from Hudson's Hope, B.C., to a facility on the province's Lelu Island, required federal and not provincial approvals.

The province has already green lighted the pipeline project, but it is waiting to receive a final commitment from Pacific NorthWest LNG, which will build an operate the Lelu Island facility, before starting construction.

Pacific NorthWest, whose majority owner is Malaysia-based Petronas, says on its website that it is conducting an internal review of the project and will then table it to the project's shareholders for a final investment decision.

In September 2016, the federal government approved Pacific NorthWest's $11-billion facility, part of the total $36-billion pipeline project.

Hidden city flight hack

When Kevin, a Toronto-based entrepreneur, travels to San Francisco for work, he often books a flight to Santa Ana, Calif., instead. Then he disembarks the plane during the stopover in San Francisco and skips the last leg of the flight to southern California.

Kevin — who didn't want his last name used to avoid any repercussions from airlines — says the travel hack, often referred to as hidden city ticketing, has saved him thousands of dollars over the past two years.

He says he has found flights to Santa Ana that stop in San Francisco for as little as US$190, compared with US$450 for a regular flight to his destination.

"It is somewhat infuriating that if an airline can get you from point A to point B for hundreds of dollars less, it does seem unfair," Kevin says.

Hidden city ticketing is not new, but its popularity has grown thanks to some travel websites that make it easier to find these sorts of flights.

But while the savings may be appealing, experts caution that the practice can be risky.

First off, the plane could be rerouted and not stop at the desired destination, leaving you scrambling to arrange another flight or mode of transportation.

Passengers using hidden city ticketing are also limited to carry-on luggage, as any checked bags will end up at the final destination.

The Canadian Transportation Agency says the federal government does not have a stance on hidden city ticketing as the matter is addressed in most airlines' contracts with their passengers.

Air Canada says its terms and conditions require all segments of a trip to be flown as booked.

WestJet says it has no policy regarding hidden city ticketing because it is very rarely used on its flights.

"Due to how we price our fares, hidden city ticketing would be a very rare occurrence on WestJet as it would usually cost less to fly to A to B than from A, B, to C," spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said in an email.

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