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When 'like' doesn't cut it

Sometimes "Like" just doesn't cut it. So how about Love or Angry? Haha or Sad? Or just Yay or Wow?

Facebook is going "Inside Out" on the Like button, adding a range of new emotional reactions to the iconic thumbs-up icon it launched in 2009.

You won't see the new emoji right away unless you live in Ireland or Spain, the two locations the Menlo Park, California-based social network chose to begin testing them on Friday.

But Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, says in a post that the company plans to use the feedback from the test run to make improvements, with the hope of launching the buttons globally "soon."

Many Facebook users have been clamouring for the company to add a "Dislike" button for years, arguing that hitting the "Like" button in many instances — such as in reaction to a tragic news event — can seem a bit shallow, or even inappropriate.

At the same time, typing out a thoughtful comment on a phone isn't always easy.

Cox says the company studied Facebook comments to see what reactions were most universally expressed through Facebook and based the new buttons on that.

"As you can see, it's not a 'dislike' button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," Cox's post reads.

In order to see the buttons — which are available in the iPhone, Android and desktop versions of Facebook used in Ireland and Spain — users can either long-press or hover over the "Like" button. The buttons will then appear for users to scroll through and select.

Counters underneath a post will track how many of each reaction the post has received, similar to how likes are tracked now.

The Canadian Press

Layoff surprise at Cenovus

Employees at Calgary-based energy company Cenovus found themselves barred from the building unexpectedly this week when their access cards wouldn't work.

They were also blocked from using company (TSX:CVE) cellphones and computer systems.

What they didn't know was that they were being laid off.

Company officials say the IT department removed several workers from the database before they had been told they were losing their jobs.

The energy company began laying off 540 employees last week.

The layoffs are expected to continue to the end of the year.

Cenovus spokesman Brett Harris admits the layoffs did not go as planned.

“We made a mistake. It’s the last thing we wanted to happen.”

The Canadian Press

Netflix raises price again

Netflix is betting that most consumers are willing to pay an extra $1 a month to binge on "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black."

The popular streaming service has implemented another price hike for new customers, its second in about a year and a half.

Canadians looking to sign up for Netflix's standard plan will now pay $9.99 a month.

The basic plan, which does not offer high definition video quality and only permits one stream at a time, remains at $7.99 a month.

The premium plan, which offers up to four simultaneous streams with the same login and ultra high definition 4K content, also holds steady at $11.99 monthly.

Netflix last raised the price for its standard service in May 2014, when it asked for $1 more while also launching the basic tier. At the time, Netflix said existing customers wouldn't see a bill increase for two years.

On Thursday, Netflix said standard-plan customers not already grandfathered into a lower price will continue to pay $8.99 until October 2016.

The company would not say whether the standard plan is Netflix's most popular in Canada.

"To continue adding more TV shows and movies including many Netflix original titles, we are modestly raising the price for some new members in the U.S., Canada and Latin America," the company said in a statement.

In a telephone poll of 4,002 anglophone Canadians conducted for the Media Technology Monitor last fall, 39 per cent said they had access to a Netflix subscription, up from 26 per cent in 2013.

MTM also found that 82 per cent of Netflix subscribers said they used the streaming service every week.

The results are considered accurate within 1.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The Canadian Press


CP to drop Megantic appeal

Canadian Pacific Railway is willing to drop its appeal of the $450-million settlement fund for victims of the Lac-Megantic tragedy if it is granted certain legal protections, lawyers said Tuesday.

Lawyers for Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd., the now-defunct company responsible for the derailment that killed 47 people on July 6, 2013, tabled a motion earlier this week to change conditions of the fund.

If a judge accepts the modified conditions, Canadian Pacific will withdraw all its objections to the fund in Canada and in the United States.

That would allow victims of the disaster to start receiving their portion of the $450-million payout before the end of the year, said Andrew Adessky, the court-appointed monitor for MMA's bankruptcy proceedings.

While a judge is scheduled to hear the motion Thursday morning in Granby, 80 kilometres east of Montreal, the proceedings could be postponed.

Jeff Orenstein, the attorney representing the victims, said the lawyer for the city of Lac-Megantic has officially asked for the hearing to be put off in order for him to have more time to review the motion's wording.

Orenstein said he also might need more time.

"We just got (the motion) and we are studying it," he said.

Orenstein also cited the motion as saying CP has expressed a willingness to drop its appeal.

CP has been the only company accused in the derailment to not participate in the settlement fund and over the summer it filed motions to appeal a judge's decision approving the money for victims and creditors.

All the companies that offered money were to be released from legal liability for the derailment.

CP objected to the fund because it said it wasn't responsible for the disaster and it wouldn't be able to properly defend itself if it was taken to court by any of the firms released from legal liability or by other victims and creditors.

MMA's new motion seeks to clarify CP's legal obligations if the Canadian company is taken to court, loses, and is ordered to pay money for the derailment.

The motion "clarifies their rights, should someone pursue legal action and succeed in obtaining a judgment against them," Adessky said.

"This kind of clarifies certain (monetary) reductions that they are entitled to by virtue of how the (settlement) plan functions."

CP spokesman Martin Cej said in an email that the railroad "has always supported the immediate payment of compensation to victims by those responsible for the incident."

"And although CP was not at fault in the derailment ... the company has been working with the trustee on a solution that protects CP's interests while allowing compensation to be paid to the victims as soon as possible," he said.

On July 6, 2013, an unmanned train owned by MMA roared into Lac-Megantic and derailed, with its cargo exploding and decimating part of the downtown core.

The Canadian Press

Spending, not oil, to blame

A new report from the Fraser Institute claims plunging oil prices are not the main culprit behind Alberta's budget woes.

Rather, the right-leaning think-tank says it's a decade of program spending growth that's to blame.

It says that between the 2004-2005 and 2014-2015 fiscal years, provincial program spending ballooned by 98.3 per cent.

But if spending has simply kept pace with inflation plus population growth, Alberta would be looking at a $4.4-billion surplus, it says.

Instead, the province is on track to post a record deficit of at least $5.9-billion when it announces its budget on Oct. 27.

The institute says Alberta's new left-wing NDP government doesn't deserve much of the blame, since the bulk of the spending growth accumulated under successive Progressive Conservative premiers.

"While Alberta's new provincial government is not at fault for most of the problems documented in this paper, it is nonetheless responsible for solving them," the report said.

"It is therefore concerning that the new government has already taken actions that will see spending increase further and thereby increase the already daunting projected budget deficit it inherited."

Meanwhile, the report said that even if the province had increased spending in tandem with the rate of economic growth over the decade, Alberta would have posted a $1.9-billion surplus.

And its faults the province for failing to balance its books in recent years when oil prices were around US$90 a barrel — roughly twice the current price level.

"Successive Alberta governments failed to restrain spending growth during the good times and now that the boom has ended the province is mired in red ink," said report co-author Charles Lammam.

The Canadian Press

GM recalls 32,000 SUVs

General Motors is telling owners of some SUVs not to use their windshield wipers because an electrical short could cause the motor to catch fire.

The company is recalling nearly 32,000 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia SUVs from the 2016 model to fix the problem.

Only 6,400 were sold, and the rest are being held at dealerships until they are repaired. Most are in North America.

GM says if weather stops owners from taking their SUVs to dealers, it will pick up the vehicles for service. It also will arrange rental cars if parts aren't available.

Dealers will replace faulty wiper motor covers that allow some electrical terminals to come in contact with each other.

The problem was discovered when a motor overheated at the factory.

The Canadian Press

Fiat Chrysler avoids strike

Fiat Chrysler has avoided an expensive strike at its U.S. plants after reaching a tentative labour agreement with the United Auto Workers union.

UAW announced the agreement just after 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, which was the deadline the union had set to reach a new deal or possibly go on strike.

The Italian-American automaker confirmed it had reached a new tentative agreement with the union but said in a statement that the company cannot discuss the specifics because the deal is subject to member ratification. A spokeswoman declined further comment.

UAW, which represents around 40,000 FCA factory workers at 23 U.S. plants, said in a post on its website that its bargaining committee had "secured significant gains."

Local union leaders will vote on the proposed deal Friday at a meeting in Detroit. If the leaders approve the tentative agreement, UAW will release details and the ratification process will begin, a UAW spokesman said.

This is the second tentative agreement FCA and the union have reached. Last week, UAW members overwhelmingly rejected a previous proposal, saying it didn't go far enough in restoring benefits workers lost in previous contracts. Union workers made concessions in recent years to help struggling automakers return to health. But now that the companies are making money, members want a bigger share.

The deal rejected last week included pay raises, the potential for increased profit sharing and a $3,000 signing bonus. But members are seeking an end to the current two-tier pay structure, more specific guarantees of new vehicles for U.S. factories and a return of cost-of-living pay raises.

UAW's four-year contracts with FCA, Ford and General Motors expired on Sept. 14, but workers remained on the job under a contract extension. The union said in September it had chosen FCA as its target company in the negotiations; usually the first deal reached serves as a basic template for the other two companies.

When they kicked off contract talks in July, both UAW President Dennis Williams and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said they would consider it a personal failure if they can't reach an agreement and workers strike.

FCA workers haven't gone on strike since 2007, and such a move would have been expensive for the company. A weeklong strike could have cost as much as $1.7 billion in revenue and $35 million in net income, according to Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research.

The Canadian Press

TSX posts 4 day advance

The Toronto stock market posted its fourth consecutive big advance Wednesday amid continuing strength in the resource sectors.

At midafternoon, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 215.97 points at 13,863.23 on top of a cumulative advance of more than 400 points or some three per cent over the previous three trading days.

The heavily weighted energy sector was again among the leading advancers, up 2.97 per cent as the November contract for benchmark crude oil edged up six cents to US$48.59 a barrel.

The commodity has staged a strong comeback after slipping below US$45 a barrel last week. Elsewhere on commodity markets, November natural gas gained two cents to US$2.49 per thousand cubic feet, while December gold gained 2.90 to $1,149.30 an ounce and December copper added a penny to US$2.37 a pound.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 89.46 points to 16,879.65 after having been up more than 170 points in early trading. Meanwhile, the broader S&P 500 index gained 14.32 points to 1,994.24 and Nasdaq rose 36.76 points to 4,785.12.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.04 of a U.S. cent at 76.72 cents US.

In corporate news, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. announced it was adopting a poison pill defence plan in the face of a hostile takeover offer from oilsands giant Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU).

The new shareholder rights plan could be triggered if anyone buys 20 per cent or more of COS (TSX:COS) outstanding shares. At that point other shareholders would be able to buy stock at a discount, making the acquisition less attractive to the hostile bidder.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, COS shares were up 23 cents or 2.48 per cent at $9.51, while Suncor traded 46 cents higher at $35.33.

The Canadian Press

$470M for housing at dam

Atco Ltd.'s (TSX:ACO.X) structure and logistics division has won a $470-million contract with B.C. Hydro to build accommodation for workers at the Site C hydroelectric project.

The eight-year contract includes the design, manufacture, installation and operation of a 630,000-square-foot lodge that can accommodate 1,600 construction workers.

Atco Two Rivers Lodging Group, the subsidiary of Atco Structures & Logistics that is responsible for the work, started construction in June under a preliminary agreement.

The company expects to create 360 engineering, construction and administrative jobs for the housing project near Fort St. John, B.C., which should be completed by mid-2016.

The Site C hydro project in northeastern B.C.'s Peace Region is expected to cost $8.8 billion and will have 1,100 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to power about 450,000 homes.

Some environmental groups, First Nations, and farmers have opposed the project because of the 5,550 hectares of land that will be flooded by the dam's reservoir.

The Canadian Press

Big bucks in beer merger

Any talk of a union between Budweiser and Miller — in fact, any talk of the creation of beer behemoth reaching all parts of the globe for that matter — should be put off for now as the owners of two of the world's most famous beers continue to haggle over the terms of a merger.

Earlier Wednesday, Budweiser's Belgian-Brazilian owner Anheuser-Busch InBev sweetened its offer for SABMiller to more than 68 billion pounds ($104 billion) but the reply remained as bitter as the rejection of the two previous proposals.

It's just not enough.

"AB InBev is very substantially undervaluing SABMiller," said SABMiller chairman Jan du Plessis.

There was no outright rejection that a merger is possible so it remains possible that AB InBev could find a more genial response if it raises its offer further.

Were an agreement to eventually emerge, the combined company would have 31 per cent of the global beer market, dwarfing the next biggest player, Heineken, which has 9 per cent of the market. As well as bringing together the classic U.S. favourites, the merger would also see AB InBev's Stella Artois and SABMiller's Grolsch in the same stable.

And it would allow AB InBev to venture out more into the African and Australian markets where its might is yet to be felt like it is in Europe, North Africa and Asia.

In the event of a deal, the sheer size of the combined company is expected to push regulators to require the sale of some brands to ensure fair competition. That could include Miller in the United States.

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the combined company "would build the first truly global beer company."

Earlier, AB InBev increased its cash offer to 42.15 pounds ($64.35) per share. SABMiller quickly shot down the proposal, noting that it was only 15 pence higher than an informal 42-pound offer rejected by the board on Monday.

"AB InBev needs SABMiller but has made opportunistic and highly conditional proposals, elements of which have been deliberately designed to be unattractive to many of our shareholders," du Plessis, said in a statement.

The hustle to find the right price could still be some time off.

"The dance could continue for a while yet," said analyst Phil Carroll of Shore Capital.

He insisted though that SABMiller should take the bait at some stage.

"We believe this represents a good deal for SAB shareholders and ultimately we expect a deal to be agreed," he said.

Beer makers are being pushed into consolidation by eroding market share and competition, particularly from trendy craft beers.

SABMiller sold 324 million hectolitres (8.56 billion gallons) of lager, soft drinks and other alcoholic beverages in the year ended March 31. AB InBev sold 459 million hectolitres.

The Canadian Press

From farm to tray table

JetBlue Airways is trying to bring a little bit of country to the city — opening its own "farm" at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The 24,000 square-foot space — less than half the size of a football field — outside JFK's Terminal 5 is meant to educate travellers more than actually feed them. Although eventually JetBlue would like to serve items grown there in terminal restaurants and even make some blue potato Terra Chips that are served on flights.

One day, if the airport allows it, there might even be animals, such as bees and butterflies.

The goal is to try and teach people about farming and to improve the appearance of the terminal's exterior.

"We know people like green space. It's what they have at home. Why not put that at an airport if that's what they love and want?" says Sophia Leonora Mendelsohn, the New York-based airline's head of sustainability. "Your flying experience starts on the ground."

Building a farm at an airport is not simple: It took JetBlue three years to get approval.

Airports are concerned about anything that would attract wildlife, especially birds. That means no growing tomatoes, corn, berries, seeds or sunflowers in its new garden. (The airline originally wanted to grow wheat and use it to make its own JetBlue JFK beer.)

So instead, JetBlue is focusing on potatoes, chives, basil, carrots and other plants deemed safe.

The airline expects to grow 1,000 potato plants, yielding more than 1,000 pounds of spuds every four to six months, along with an additional 1,100 plants such as mint, arugula, beets, garlic, onions and spinach.

The project is in partnership with GrowNYC, a non-profit environmental group that focuses on improving New York City block by block. Students will be brought in from local schools to learn about gardening.

Some of the herbs and produce will be used by restaurants in JetBlue's terminal, others will be donated to local food banks.

All of the plants are grown in plastic milk crates that are bolted together and then tied to hooks in the cement floor. The structure is designed to withstand 160 mph hurricane-force winds, another requirement of the airport's operator, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

For its first few months, the farm will be closed to the public. Then in the spring, pending approval from various regulators, JetBlue hopes to have educational programs for local students. Eventually, the airline envisions allowing some of its fliers to sign up in advance for visits.

One of JetBlue's sponsors in the project is Hain Celestial, which makes Terra Chips and other natural food brands including Arrowhead Mills, Earth's Best, Health Valley and Walnut Acres.

Jared Simon, senior director of marketing for the company, says right now they are growing Adirondack blue potatoes at JFK to raise awareness of farming.

"Most people have probably not been to a potato farm," Simon said. "It's really about the education. There's such a desire from consumers to connect what they are eating with where it is from."

Eventually, the potatoes might be used to make the blue chips served on JetBlue flights, but not until the company figures out if the crop has the right amount of starch, sugar and moisture.

Terra Blues can be found on all JetBlue flights and have been the official snack of JetBlue Airways Corp. since the airline launched in February 2000. Last year, the airline handed out more than 5.7 million one-ounce bags of the chips.

It takes one to three potatoes to make each bag. There's no way this tiny airport farm will ever supply enough potatoes. Maybe, if lucky, it will yield enough for less than 1 per cent of demand. The majority will continue to come from a farm in Van Buren, Maine.

The Canadian Press

VW recall set for new year

Volkswagen plans to launch in January a recall of vehicles with software at the centre of the emissions-rigging scandal and aims to fix them all by the end of next year, the company's new chief executive says.

Volkswagen has said up to 11 million vehicles worldwide across several of its brands contain the diesel engine with the software used to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. CEO Matthias Mueller told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "It will hopefully be fewer, but in any case still far too many."

Asked when the recall will begin, Mueller said in an interview published Wednesday that "care goes before speed."

"If everything goes as planned, we can start the recall in January," he said. "All the cars should be in order by the end of 2016."

Mueller said the company will have to fix the EA 189 diesel engine "in combination with various transmissions and country-specific designs. So we don't need three solutions, but thousands."

A software update will suffice to fix the problem in most cases, but some vehicles could need new injectors and catalyzers, Mueller was quoted as saying. He said the automaker may need to set up temporary specialist workshops to deal with the more complex cases.

Mueller said that "according to current information, a few developers interfered in the engine management." He said he doesn't think the management board made the decision to use the manipulated software.

Volkswagen said after news of the scandal emerged last month that it had suspended some employees, but didn't give details. Mueller said that four have been suspended so far — among them three senior managers who at various times were responsible for engine development at Volkswagen. He didn't identify them.

He added, without elaborating, that others have already retired.

Volkswagen so far has set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the cost of recalls and other efforts to win back customers' trust. Asked if that will be enough, Mueller didn't say yes or no.

"We are cautious businesspeople," he replied. "Every day brings us more clarity. Of course we will do everything so that our customers are satisfied."

Volkswagen can expect to face fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which could in theory amount to as much as $18 billion.

Mueller said he had seen that figure only in the press. "We will have to pay a fine," he was quoted as saying. "But bear in mind that there were no dead with us; our cars were and are safe."

Volkswagen made a "serious mistake," he added. "We must answer for that."

Asked if he would travel to America and apologize publicly, Mueller replied: "of course I am prepared in principle to do that." But, he added, "I have my hands full here in Wolfsburg at the moment."

Mueller told employees at the company's Wolfsburg headquarters Tuesday that Volkswagen will have to review its investment plans.

He said in Wednesday's interview, when asked if VW will give up its luxury Phaeton sedan and its Bugatti brand, that the company will "have to look at the value contributed by every model and every individual brand."

"That goes for Bugatti, too," he said.

The Canadian Press

Helping cut lengthy lineups

Lengthy lineups are often considered one of the greatest challenges facing the fast food industry, but a growing number of companies are getting savvy with smartphone apps designed to keep impatient customers satisfied.

Next week, Starbucks Canada will launch an update to its popular payment app that will allow people to jump the queue by placing orders before they even step inside one of its cafes.

By design, the new service is intended to reduce the amount of time spent standing around waiting for a cashier, and hopefully shorten the length of lineups during peak hours.

It's one of the latest developments from retailers looking to appease the grab-and-go culture, where customers don't necessarily want the traditional in-store experience or feel the daily grind is putting a squeeze on their schedules.

"The lineup for some can be an incredible deterrent in the morning," said Jessica Mills, director of brand and digital operations for Starbucks Canada.

"There's this interesting paradox that's going on. People want speed and convenience ... and then there are moments when people just want to slow down and take a few moments for themselves."

With the app, Starbucks hopes to give its customers the option to choose a more rushed service or stand in line and socialize, she said.

Starbucks' new Mobile Order & Pay option rolls out across the 300 stores owned by the company in the Toronto area on Oct. 13. The feature will only be available to customers with Apple's iPhone at first, though an Android version is coming.

The service will expand to other Canadian cities next year, but no timeline has been finalized.

Already, already 18 per cent of sales at Starbucks' Canadian cafes are completed using its existing mobile payment app, which incorporates the company's loyalty program.

Ordering food and drinks through a smartphone isn't exactly a fresh idea, despite the recent surge in popularity.

Starbucks began testing the concept in the U.S. market last year as a growing number of food services companies looked to stand out from competitors by acknowledging that customers don't like to wait around for their meals.

Other American retailers like Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle Mexican Grill were also early adopters.

Introducing smartphone payments has taken longer in Canada, even though studies have shown we're quick to adopt new technologies like Facebook.

Pizza delivery chains like Pizza Pizza and Domino's Pizza were some of the first innovators with apps that gave Canadian customers the option to create their pizza before selecting either delivery or pick-up service.

Introducing these new technologies could pose risks for retailers, suggested Ela Veresiu, an assistant professor of marketing at York University's Schulich School of Business.

"One short-term risk is that non-technologically savvy consumers will experience feelings of frustration for having to wait in line and seeing others getting served first," she said.

"A second, longer-term risk associated with this strategy is that once all competitors in the marketplace introduce this line-hopping app, how will the company and brand differentiate itself and maintain a loyal customer base?"

Instead of diving into the world of apps, some companies have chosen a different route in the Canadian market.

Despite testing mobile ordering in some U.S. cities, McDonald's Canada recently announced it would focus on a self-serve system kiosk within its stores which let customers line up and customize their burgers.

Walmart Canada is another retailer focused on helping customers avoid lineups. The company launched a webstore feature that lets customers order online and then pick up their items at designated lockers inside the store.

App-based delivery services like Ubereats and Hurrier courier have found another route around lineups by offering to pick up meals and deliver them right to your home or office.

The Canadian Press

$1B pledge to auto industry

Experts say Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's $1-billion pledge Tuesday to help the auto sector is a crucial step after his government exposed the industry to foreign competition by joining a huge Pacific Rim trade deal.

Harper announced that a re-elected Conservative government would provide a $1-billion package over a decade by extending the government's Automotive Innovation Fund.

The Conservatives agreed to phase out its 6.1 per cent tariff on imported vehicles over five years this week when it signed the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The move has attracted mixed reviews in Canada — some say it could help the industry while critics warn it will kill thousands of auto-sector jobs.

Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association president Flavio Volpe says Harper's election pledge is a significant amount of money that sends a positive signal the Tories are committed to the auto industry.

Auto industry consultant Dennis DesRosiers says such an investment wouldn't be considered huge in the always-costly car business — but it would help keep the Canadian industry afloat.

The autoworkers' union Unifor says Harper's big-ticket promise essentially acknowledges the freshly signed trade pact will hurt the sector.

The union has warned the Canadian auto industry could shed as many as 20,000 jobs as a result of tariff reductions in the massive trade deal.

The Canadian Press

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