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Low loonie shifts travel

Canadian travel to the United States hit a six-year low this winter as a weak loonie and lower airfares prompted more residents to visit other international destinations.

Last year's decrease of Canadian travellers to the U.S. continued in the first three months of 2016 as 4.38 million Canadian residents went across the border for at least one night, down 13 per cent from the same period in 2015 and matching a low set in 2010, according to data from Statistics Canada.

While interest in the U.S. has waned, 3.8 million Canadians travelled to other international destinations, up 6.2 per cent over the previous year and 33 per cent since 2010.

The low value of the loonie has also attracted more visitors to Canada.

After holding steady for several years, American visits to Canada were up almost 20 per cent between January and March, while the number of visitors from other countries was up 10 per cent over 2015 and 26 per cent from 2010.

The strong influx of visitors provided a boon to Canadian hotels, restaurants and car rental companies, said Robert Kokonis, president of airline consulting firm AirTrav Inc.

When the Canadian dollar hovered around parity as late as 2013, U.S. travellers were pretty much no-shows in Canada, he said.

"So we've gotten to the point where we're seeing Americans back in Canada, so that's a nice reciprocal balance to the loss of Canadians not travelling across the border," he said in an interview.

The U.S. tourism sector has responded to the currency softness by offering deals to Canadians, including accepting the loonie at par to the U.S. dollar for some expenses. Border malls are also offering discounts.

"When you have a 75-cent Canadian dollar, a lot of Canadians took a pass in 2015," Kokonis said.

The latest results reflected a continuing trend from 2015.

Nearly 21 million Canadian residents took overnight trips into the United States in 2015. That was down 10 per cent from 2014 and was the lowest number since 2010.

The results exclude the 23.3 million Canadians who crossed the border by car for same-day trips, down 21.6 per cent from nearly 30 million a year earlier.

The Canadian dollar hit its high in 2015 on Jan. 2 at 85.62 cents US, and sunk to 71.41 cents US on Dec. 18.

Canadians travelling to other international destinations in 2015 grew about 10 per cent to reach 11.55 million.

Meanwhile, 12.5 million Americans visited Canada in 2015, the highest level since 2008. An additional 5.3 million residents of other countries also visited the country.

In addition to the impact from currency, Canadian airlines like Air Canada and WestJet, and tour operators like Sunwing, have been boosting their international capacity by adding seats to sun markets, adding additional far-flung destinations and offering new service to London Gatwick.

Venezuela flights suspended

German airline Lufthansa says it is suspending its flights to Caracas, citing the difficult economic situation in Venezuela.

Lufthansa spokesman Andreas Bartels said Sunday that the company is suspending its three weekly Frankfurt-Caracas flights "until further notice" from June 17. He cited Venezuela's economic situation and difficulties in transferring currency.

Venezuela's economy shrank 5.7 per cent last year while shortages of basic goods multiplied.

Currency rationing is increasingly cutting Venezuela's global trade. The government has created what amount to subsidized rates for hard currency and requires companies to get approval for converting local bolivars into dollars.

Taking on Disney

China's largest private property developer, the Wanda Group, opened an entertainment complex on Saturday that it's positioning as a distinctly homegrown rival to Disney and its $5.5 billion Shanghai theme park opening next month.

Wanda executives unveiled their $3 billion "Wanda City" in the southeastern provincial capital of Nanchang to thundering music reminiscent of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme and hailed the centre as a representative of Chinese entertainment culture in the face of encroaching foreign influences.

Wanda's massive site includes an $800 million China-themed park filled with twirling "porcelain teacup" rides and bamboo forests, an indoor shopping mall with cinemas, restaurants, hotels and the world's largest ocean park. Disney is set to open its own resort in Shanghai — the largest Disneyland in the world — in June.

As a leading player in Chinese firms' globalization push, the property group has invested heavily in the film and cinema business and has spoken openly about its nationalistic mission to fend off Disney in the Chinese market and become an entertainment brand recognized around the world.

In remarks at Saturday's opening, Wang Jianlin, Wanda chairman and China's richest man, did not mention Disney by name but said Chinese people "fawned" over Western imports.

"Chinese culture led in the world's for 2,000 years, but since the last 300 years, because of our lagging development and the invasion of foreign cultures, we have more or less lacked confidence in our own culture," Wang said. "We want to be a model for Chinese private enterprise, and we want to establish a global brand for Chinese firms."

Earlier this month he told Chinese state television in an interview that Disney's foray into China would crumble under more competitive pricing from his group, and warned that the "the frenzy of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the era of blindly following them has passed."

Wanda's dealmaking has been similarly aggressive as it quickly diversifies away from China's weakening real estate market.

The group purchased U.S.-based AMC Theaters cinema chain in 2012 for $2.5 billion and paid $3.5 billion for Legendary Entertainment — the Hollywood studio behind the Batman franchise — earlier this year as it ramped up its international push.

Seeking to capitalize on China's rising middle class, developers are planning dozens of Chinese theme park, along with projects from U.S. firms like Universal Studios, DreamWorks and Six Flags. But instead of seeking to capture China's top tier cities like Beijing or Shanghai, Wanda has built parks in smaller but still massive cities like Wuhan, where it regularly presents the "The Han Show" — a Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatic performance that's based on the traditional culture of the Han, China's largest ethnic group.

Even so, there were signs of Disney's presence in Wanda City. Tourists who opted against paying 198 yuan (about $30) for the theme park and headed for the shopping mall were greeted by what looked like a woman in a Snow White costume as well as storm troopers, the armoured soldiers from the Star Wars franchise owned by Disney.

A Uniqlo store was fully stocked with Disney merchandise and sold stacks of Mickey Mouse T-shirts for about $12 each.

In response to a question about the presence of Disney characters, Wanda said in a statement that the company "does not control the promotional activities of retailers."


Something to Gawk at

The courtroom fight between former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and news-and-gossip site Gawker is becoming a battleground of sorts for Silicon Valley tycoons as well.

First Look Media, a news organization financed by Pierre Omidyar, philanthropist and the co-founder of eBay, says it is reaching out to other media outlets to file supportive briefs about Gawker. The briefs could be used for the site's appeal of a $140 million invasion-of-privacy verdict Hogan won two months ago because Gawker posted a sex tape of him.

On Wednesday, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed that he has been secretly bankrolling Hogan's case against Gawker. There's no indication that Omidyar might fund Gawker's defence.

"The possibility that Gawker may have to post a bond for $50 million or more just to be able to pursue its right to appeal the jury's verdict raises serious concerns about press freedom," First Look wrote in a statement explaining its move.

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, has been a frequent target of Gawker writers, who have written unflattering pieces about Thiel's political beliefs and utopian goals . One 2007 post outed Thiel as gay. The same Gawker site, Valleywag, ran a number of stories skewering Facebook, which provided a big chunk of Thiel's estimated $2.7 billion fortune.

Omidyar's eBay bought Thiel's startup PayPal in 2002. Omidyar stepped down as eBay chairman last year after PayPal was spun off as a separate company. He and Thiel have conflicting political views — Omidyar is liberal, while Thiel will serve as a delegate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a 2007 video of him having sex with the wife of his best friend, Tampa radio personality Bubba The Love Sponge Clem. Hogan said Clem betrayed him by secretly videotaping him.

Locals to lead rebuild

The Alberta government says Fort McMurray employers have received four out of every five contracts to rebuild the fire-damaged community.

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says of the 532 contracts signed by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, about 80 per cent are with local employers.

Any business that is either locally owned or employs people in the Fort McMurray area is considered a local employer.

Bilous says businesses from outside the region are given contracts only if there are no local businesses to do the work.

He says these are usually for complex projects that require specific expertise not available locally.

The Fort McMurray Construction Association has complained that workers from the community are being overlooked for jobs, such as trucking supplies to the city.

"It's frustrating to see misinformation out there about the great work being done by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo," Bilous said in a news release.

"The contracting for recovery and cleanup is being led from Fort McMurray by residents of Fort McMurray, and they have done an excellent job of ensuring local employers are being used whenever possible."

Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake also said local companies and employees are spearheading recovery efforts.

"Over 80 per cent of the contracts signed so far have been with local employers, and we will be reaching out to many more local businesses in the coming days and weeks," Blake said in a news release.

"I encourage any Wood Buffalo business owner who wants to help to visit www.rmwb.ca and fill out our offer of assistance form."

Baby powder class action

A Canadian class-action lawsuit has been filed against Johnson & Johnson over an alleged link between its baby powder products and ovarian cancer in adult women who used the product for long periods of time.

The suit's plaintiffs include seven women and family members living in Ontario and Quebec, and the estate of a Montreal woman who died of ovarian cancer in March at age 66.

Toronto law firms Rochon Genova LLP and Will Davidson LLP are handling the class-action against the Canadian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

The suit alleges Johnson & Johnson was "negligent in the development, testing, design, manufacturing, licensing, distribution, marketing and sale of Johnson's Baby Powder."

The accusations in the class-action statement of claim have not been proven in court. Johnson & Johnson Canada said that it sympathized with the women and their families, but defended its baby powder.

"The talc in our baby powder has a long history of safe and gentle use," the company said in an emailed statement.

"After 30 years of studies by medical experts around the world, science, research and clinical evidence continues to support the safety of cosmetic talc .... We continue to believe in the safety of Johson's baby powder containing talc."

Johnson & Johnson also faces litigation in the United States.

The class-action suit follows a jury decision in Missouri that awarded US$72 million to the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson feminine hygiene products for years that contained its talcum powder.

Earlier this month, Johnson & Johnson was ordered by another U.S. jury to pay US$55 million in damages to a woman who claimed her ovarian cancer was caused by long-term use of Johnson's baby powder.

The Canadian plaintiffs allege that Johnson's baby powder "is defective and inherently dangerous in that it causes, materially contributes to, and materially increases the risks of ovarian cancer in females who apply it (or who have it applied) to their perineal area."

The class-action suit also alleges that Johnson & Johnson knew about the dangers of its baby powder but "failed to disclose these defects and the resulting risks to the health and life of the plaintiffs" and failed to recall the product in Canada.

The lawsuit says requests for monetary compensation will come later.

12M recalls over air bags

Eight automakers are recalling more than 12 million vehicles in the U.S. to replace potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators.

Documents detailing recalls by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Ferrari and Mitsubishi were posted Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

They're part of a massive expansion of Takata air bag recalls announced earlier this month. Seventeen automakers are adding 35 million-to-40 million inflators to what already was the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

In addition, the Japanese transport ministry on Friday announced 7 million additional recalls related to the Takata inflators. Those recalls cover all front air bags that do not have a chemical drying agent.

Friday's U.S. recalls include passenger air bags in older models in areas along the Gulf Coast with high heat and humidity. But other areas of the country are also affected depending on the age of vehicles.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn faster than designed. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion, spewing hot shrapnel into vehicles.

The inflators are responsible for 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide. Two additional deaths are under investigation in Malaysia and may have been caused by the inflators.

The recalls are among the first to be unveiled by automakers since Takata agreed to the recall expansion, and more recalls will be announced in the coming week. The recalls are being phased in by the government due to a lack of available replacement parts. Models that are from 2011 or older in high heat and humidity areas will get first priority, followed by 2008 and older models in Southern-tier states, then 2004 and older models in the rest of the country.

Research has shown that it takes at least six years for the ammonium nitrate to deteriorate. That's the reason older models are getting priority.

Honda had the biggest recall total on Friday with more than 4.5 million inflators, while Fiat Chrysler reported 4.3 million. The Honda total even includes about 2,700 Gold Wing motorcycles with optional front air bags.

Honda says the latest recall covers only about 2.2 million additional Honda and Acura vehicles. The other 2.3 million vehicles were recalled previously for other Takata air bag problems. Honda expects the recalls to start in late summer for automobiles and in late fall for the motorcycles.

Fiat Chrysler said it's not aware of any crashes or injuries involving its vehicles that are part of the recall.

The latest recalls cover mainly front passenger air bag inflators without the chemical drying agent. The jury is still out on whether Takata will have to recall millions more inflators with the drying agent. Takata has to prove to the government that those are safe by the end of 2019, or they will be recalled.

Since the recalled models vary by state and age, officials say that the best way to see if your car is affected is to go to https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ or manufacturer websites and key in the vehicle identification number. That number can be found on the driver's side of the dashboard near the windshield or on your state vehicle registration. It may take several weeks for all of the newly recalled vehicles to be entered into the databases.

Here are the models covered by the recalls announced on Friday:

HONDA: Certain 2003-2006 Acura MDX, 2005-2011 Acura RL, 2009-2011 Acura TSX, 2010-2011 Acura ZDX, 2008-2011 Honda Accord, 2010-2011 Honda Accord Crosstour, 2006-2011 Honda Civic, 2005-2011 Honda CR-V, 2003-2011 Honda Element, 2010-2011 Honda FCX Clarity, 2007-2011 Honda Fit, 2010-2011 Honda Insight, 2002-2004 Honda Odyssey, 2003-2011 Honda Pilot, 2006-2011 Honda Ridgeline, certain 2006-2010 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles.

FIAT CHRYSLER: Certain 2007-2009 Chrysler Aspen SUVs, 2005-2012 Chrysler 300, 2008-2012 Dodge Challenger, 2006-2012 Dodge Charger, 2005-2011 Dodge Dakota pickups, 2004-2009 Dodge Durango SUVs, 2005-2008 Dodge Magnum wagons, 2004-2008 Ram 1500 pickups, 2005-2009 Ram 2500 pickups, 2006-2009 Ram 3500 pickups, 2007-2010 Ram/Ram 3500 cab chassis, 2008-2010 Ram/Ram 4500/5500 cab chassis, 2007-2012 Jeep Wrangler SUVs, 2006-2009 Mitsubishi Raider pickups, 2008-2009 Sterling/Bullet 4500/5500 cab chassis.

TOYOTA: Certain 2008-2011 Scion xB and Lexus IS F, 2009-2011 Toyota Corolla and Matrix, 2006-2011 Toyota Yaris, Lexus IS250 and Lexus IS350, 2010-2011 Toyota 4Runner, Lexus IS250C, Lexus IS350C and Lexus GX460, 2011 Sienna, 2007-2011 Lexus ES350, and 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibes designed for General Motors by Toyota.

MAZDA: Certain 2009-2011 Mazda6, 2007-2011 CX-7 and CX-9, 2004-2011 RX-8, 2004-2006 MPV, 2003-2008 Mazda6, 2006-2007 Mazdaspeed6

SUBARU: Certain 2003-2004 Legacy and Outback, 2006 Saab 9-2x made by Subaru, and 2003-2006 Baja pickups. Also certain 2009-2011 Legacy, Outback and Forester; 2006-2011 Impreza and Tribeca.

NISSAN: Certain 2005-2008 Infiniti FX35 and FX45, 2003-2004 Infiniti I30 and I35, 2006-2010 Infiniti M35 and M45, and 2007-2011 Nissan Versa.

FERRARI: Certain 2009-2011 Ferrari California and 2010-2011 458 Italia.

MITSUBISHI: Certain 2006-2007 Lancer and Lancer Evolution cars.

Abe claims G7 success

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed success Friday in winning support for his approach to fighting off a possible economic crisis from fellow leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations, despite mounting evidence the formula is failing to yield promised results in Japan.

In meetings at an isolated seaside resort renowned for its crayfish and pearls, Abe appealed for more action to stave off a downturn, insisting that an earlier lack of urgency contributed to the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Wrapping up the gathering with a sweeping declaration and several additional "action plans," the leaders acknowledged increasing risks for the global economic outlook, including terrorism, legions of displaced people, and conflicts that "pose a serious threat to the existing rule-based international order."

But they said their countries had strengthened policies to avoid relapsing into crisis.

Attention swiftly shifted from the G-7 finale as Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama travelled to Hiroshima, where Obama became the first sitting American president to visit the city devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945 in the closing days of World War II.

Abe said the commitment by the leaders to "use all policy tools — monetary, fiscal and structural" was an endorsement of his own "Abenomics" three-pronged strategy for reviving Japan's sluggish growth.

"We agreed to mobilize all our resources and launch three 'arrows' of monetary, fiscal and structural reform measures," Abe said. "We will be launching Abenomics to the world."

"In order to avoid risks of the world economy falling into crisis, Japan will also do its utmost to co-operate and take leadership, mobilizing all possible resources, and boost the engine of Abenomics," he said.

More than three years after Abe took office vowing to "Bring Japan Back!" from more than two decades of economic doldrums, his formula has yet to deliver the desired results: rising wages, business investment and a sustained recovery that places the world's third-largest economy into a "virtuous cycle."

After a slight uptick in growth earlier this year, economists say conditions in Japan have deteriorated, partly due to the slowdown in China and other emerging economies.

But backing from his G-7 counterparts may give Abe a boost as his ruling Liberal Democratic Party heads into a July parliamentary election. It also could embolden him to put off an unpopular increase in the national sales tax, to 10 per cent from 8 per cent.

"Abenomics is not a failure at all," Abe told reporters, declaring he would "rev up the engine of Abenomics to the highest level possible."

While they did not formally concur with Abe that the world is poised on the brink of crisis, the G-7 leaders did claim a special responsibility for beefing up their own economic policies.

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, also said the world was "no longer in a 2008 moment."

"We are out of the crisis but we are suffering the legacy of the crisis," Lagarde said, pointing to bad loans on the books of companies and banks as one of the biggest causes of concern.

But she said, "Many countries can do quite a lot and some more than they are currently doing."

The G-7 summit brought together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Leaders of major international organizations and a select group of developing countries attended "outreach" sessions held after the G-7 summit meetings ended.

The group's discussions addressed a wide range of issues, including terrorism and other risks to peace and global growth, the massive flows of refugees and migrants to Europe to escape conflict and poverty at home, global threats to public health, cybercrime, corruption and efforts to help girls and women.

The leaders also expressed unease over territorial tensions in the East and South China seas. The declaration does not specifically mention China and its expansion into disputed areas, but calls for respect for freedom of navigation and overflights and for resolving conflicts peacefully through law.

But the main focus was on economic challenges.

In their statement, the leaders denounced protectionism and trade barriers and noted the negative impact of overcapacity in some industries. One of the biggest headaches, Abe said, was a glut in China's steel industry.

"It's a root cause distorting the market, and unless it's fundamentally resolved, the problem persists," he said.

The group said Britain's possible exit from the European Union, depending on the outcome of a June 23 vote, is one of many potential shocks for the global economy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said staying in the EU is "all about Britain's national interest."

"The EU makes us better off. Better off in terms of jobs, better off in terms of growth. Better off in terms of investment by other countries into our economy that creates the growth and the jobs and the livelihoods that we need," Cameron said.

Loblaw getting out of gas

Loblaw Co. says it's taking steps to sell its network of 212 gasoline-filling stations.

The statement from Loblaw head office in Brampton, Ont., says the gas bars continue to deliver strong, stable cash flows.

The company owns gas bars operated under the Real Canadian Superstore brand in Kelowna and Vernon.

But Loblaw says it believes the right strategic partner would "elevate" the fuel business.

The company says it will "engage potential buyers," but didn't provide an estimated pricetag or other details of its plan.

G7 leaders pledge action

The leaders of the Group of Seven rich economies pledged Friday to "collectively tackle" major risks to global growth, including direct political threats to the international order from terrorist attacks, violent extremism and refugee flows.

Meeting at a seaside resort with expansive views of a scenic bay and emerald-green islands, G-7 leaders wrapped up their annual summit Friday in central Japan claiming a "special responsibility" for leading international efforts to cope with those challenges. They also committed to a co-operative approach in beefing up policies to stimulate and sustain growth of their sluggish economies.

"Weak demand and unaddressed structural problems are the key factors weighing on actual and potential growth," they said in a declaration. "We have strengthened the resilience of our economies in order to avoid falling into another crisis and to this end commit to reinforce our efforts to address the current economic by taking all appropriate policy responses in a timely manner."

"We remain committed to ensuring that growth is inclusive and job-rich, benefiting all segments of our societies," it said.

The wording of the leaders' declaration glosses over differences on the issue of fiscal stimulus by saying each will take into account "country-specific circumstances" in committing to stronger policies to support their economies. Germany, in particular, has balked at committing to expansionary fiscal policy.

In a nod to such concerns, the communique includes a reference to the need to ensure debt is "on a sustainable path."

While Japan is moving toward more public spending, and the likely postponement of a sales tax increase next year, to revive faltering growth, its own gross public debt is more than twice the size of its economy.

The G-7 host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appealed to his fellow leaders to act to avert another global crisis, comparing the current global economic situation to conditions just before the 2008 financial crisis.

Vigilance is crucial for averting a relapse, he said: "We learned a lesson that we failed to respond properly because we did not have a firm recognition of the risks."

President Barack Obama backed Abe's call, saying it was crucial not just to put people back to work but also raise wages and maintain the momentum of the recovery.

"We've all got a lot of work to do and we agreed to continue to focus on making sure that each country, based on its particular needs and capacities, is taking steps to accelerate growth," Obama said.

G-7 countries denounced protectionism and trade barriers. They also noted the negative impact from overcapacity in some industries and government subsidies and other incentives that tend to make such problems worse.

The annual summit brings together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. It is taking place amid extraordinarily tight security around the remote summit venue, with uniformed police standing guard at close intervals on both sides of roads and randomly in forests, rice fields, soccer fields and other locations.

During talks on the sideline of the summit, the U.S., EU and Japan reiterated their determination to reach agreement on various trade agreements meant to expand mutual market access.

In their declaration, the summit leaders cited a possible departure of Britain from the European Union, depending on the outcome of a June 23 vote, as one of many potential shocks for the global economy.

The leaders also expressed concern over territorial tensions in the East and South China seas. The declaration does not mention China and its expansion into disputed areas specifically, but calls for respecting freedom of navigation and of overflight and for resolving conflicts peacefully through law.

The summit declaration also highlighted joint efforts on corruption, cybercrimes, terrorism, global health and migration — which has become a huge headache especially for European nations — as other top priorities.

It said a global response was needed to cope with the surge in refugees, migrants and other displaced people to its highest level since World War II and committed to increasing assistance to meet their immediate and long-term needs.

But there were no specific, concrete offers of extra help.

Expanding their discussions to issues of "inclusive" growth, the group met Friday with leaders of seven developing countries. The "outreach" session invited leaders from some of Asia's poorest countries, such as Laos and Papua New Guinea, and also some of its most dynamic emerging economies, like Vietnam and Indonesia. The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, was representing the African union, and top international leaders such as Christine Lagarde of the IMF also attended.

On Friday afternoon, Obama plans to visit the peace park in Hiroshima, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945 in the closing days of the Second World War.

Transat laying off 78

Transat A.T. is eliminating 78 jobs as it closes its Toronto call centre and reorganizes its some of its tour activities in a bid to improve profitability.

The Montreal-based company, which operates Air Transat, said 66 positions will be eliminated when the Toronto call centre closes Sept. 12.

Meanwhile, Transat will no longer sell cruises except as part of a package with return flights and transfers.

As a result, it will convert 63 positions at its cruise call centre in Montreal to respond to calls about packages from consumers, travel agents and businesses.

Transat is also ending its Discoveries Collection tours in South America, Asia and Africa as it launches a new guided tour program in Europe and sun destinations for 2017.

The change will result in the elimination of 12 non-unionized sales and marketing positions in Montreal.

"From now on, the company will focus on destinations served by Air Transat flights," said spokeswoman Debbie Cabana.

Transat recently announced that Germany's TUI AG had made a firm offer to purchase its Transat France and Tourgreece tour businesses, worth about $80.3 million.

Transat A.T. operates an integrated travel business that includes flights on its Air Transat airline and vacation packages in North America, Europe and other areas.

Emission offsets to be costly

It will cost millions of dollars more to build the Trans Mountain expansion because of an unprecedented requirement to offset greenhouse gas emissions from pipeline construction, the project's proponent says.

But Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said Thursday he has no objections to the unexpected provision because it gives the company a chance to reduce its environmental footprint.

"It was new to us, we hadn't seen that in draft form (but) we welcome it," Anderson said in one of his first interviews since the $6.8-billion project was given the National Energy Board's conditional blessing last week.

"It will add cost. Those offsets will cost something. I don't know what that will be yet."

As part of its conditional approval, the federal regulator said Kinder Morgan would have to account for the greenhouse gas emissions that would arise from building the expanded pipeline and present a plan on how it would bring the net impact of those emissions to nil. That would have to be done within four months of the expanded pipeline beginning operations.

Alan Ross, a partner with Calgary law firm Bordon Ladner Gervais who specializes in energy regulation, said the new NEB provisions could be included in other future pipeline decisions where appropriate.

"If it remains unchallenged on appeal or if the federal government ultimately approves this decision with that requirement in it, then it may well be something that the National Energy Board looks to do in future," he said.

Anderson said Kinder Morgan estimates that one million tonnes of emissions would come from building the project. The company is working on an offset plan that could include planting trees to capture carbon and buying emission credits from other parties, he said.

In its application to the NEB, Kinder Morgan said about 90 per cent of its construction emissions would be generated from land-clearing operations and the burning of waste vegetation.

The NEB's recommendation has been forwarded to Ottawa, where cabinet is expected to make a final decision in December. Its decision will also be influenced by a newly required assessment of upstream greenhouse gases emitted as oil is produced before it gets to the pipeline.

The cabinet is also to consider a report expected in November from a three-member panel assigned to solicit feedback from communities and indigenous groups near the pipeline route.

Anderson said the project must still win a provincial environmental certificate in B.C., where it faces fierce environmental and municipal opposition.

The Trans Mountain expansion between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., would nearly triple the existing crude oil pipeline's capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 bpd. Most of its capacity is committed to producers who have signed 15- and 20-year contracts to gain access to tidewater and the world oil market.

Anderson said Kinder Morgan is getting to work on satisfying roughly half of the 157 NEB conditions that must be in place before construction can begin.

He said the company will hire more staff over the coming months as it gears up for an expected in-service date of December 2019.

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