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Son: Michigan billionaire philanthropist, shopping mall developer A. Alfred Taubman dies

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - A. Alfred Taubman, the self-made Michigan billionaire whose philanthropy and business success — including weaving the enclosed shopping mall into American culture — was clouded by a criminal conviction late in his career, has died. He was 91.

Taubman, who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, hospitals and museums, died Friday night at his home of a heart attack, according to son Robert S. Taubman, president and CEO of Taubman Centers, Inc.

"This company and all that you stand for were among the greatest joys of his life," Robert S. Taubman wrote in a message to the company's employees. "He was so proud of what this wonderful company he founded 65 years ago has accomplished."

Taubman's business success spanned from real estate and art houses to the hot dog-serving A&W restaurant chain, for which he travelled to Hungary to figure out why the country's sausage was so good. He also became a major backer of stem-cell research.

But it was his rearrangement of how people shop — parking lot in front, several stores in one stop close to home — that left a mark on American culture. Taubman Centers, a subsidiary of his Taubman Co., founded in 1950, currently owns and manages 19 regional shopping centres nationwide.

"Everything that excited me that I got interested in, I did," Taubman told The Associated Press in a 2007 interview.

Born Jan. 31, 1924, in Pontiac, Michigan, to German-Jewish immigrants, Taubman worked as a boy at a department store after school near his family's home, which was among the custom houses and commercial buildings developed in the area by his father.

He was a freshman at the University of Michigan when he left to serve in World War II, around the time he stopped using his first name, Adolph. When he returned to Ann Arbor to study art and architecture, he created small on-campus businesses to cover expenses, then transferred to Lawrence Technological University near Detroit to take night classes while working at an architectural firm as a junior draftsman.

Recognizing the booming post-war growth of the middle class, particularly in the Motor City, he launched his first real estate development company in 1950. His first project was a freestanding bridal shop in Detroit — but he had his eyes on something bigger. He'd noticed shoppers responding to the convenience of "one-stop comparison shopping opportunity," he wrote in his autobiography.

So when a friend suggested a shopping plaza in Flint, Taubman's company did something radical for the time: stores were pushed to the back of the lot and parking spaces were put up front. It was a success, his young company took on larger-scale developments in Michigan, California and elsewhere in the 1950s and early '60s.

Taubman served as chairman of Sotheby's Holdings, Inc., parent company of Sotheby's art auction house, from 1983 to 2000, and was a partner in international real estate firm The Athena Group before he was tangled in a price-fixing scheme. He was convicted in 2001 of conspiring with Anthony Tennant, former chairman of Christie's International, to fix the commissions the auction giants charged. Prosecutors alleged sellers were bilked of as much as $400 million in commissions.

Taubman was fined $7.5 million and spent about a year in a low-security prison in Rochester, Minnesota, but long insisted he was innocent and expressed regret for not testifying in his own defence.

"I had lost a chunk of my life, my good name and around 27 pounds," he recalled in his book, saying he was forced to take the fall for others.

The case cast a shadow over Taubman's accomplishments, but it diminished over the years — and his philanthropy continued unabated. He had pledged $100 million to the University of Michigan's A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute and its stem-cell research by 2011. He also financed public-policy programs at Harvard, Brown University and the University of Michigan, which received several large donations.

Taubman "had one of the biggest hearts in America," former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer told WWJ-AM.

On Wednesday, two days before his death, Taubman smiled and lifted his hat during a groundbreaking in Ann Arbor for a campus building project.

Taubman donated millions and spoke passionately in support of the 2008 ballot initiative in Michigan that eased restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research and enabled his namesake institute to conduct major research for diseases — including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which claimed the life of his good friend, New York Sen. Jacob Javits, in 1986.

After turning over control of Taubman Centers to his two sons, Taubman made sustaining the Detroit Institute of Art a priority. His knowledge of how shoppers negotiated malls was tapped to help reconfigure the flow of the museum, and he helped guide the DIA as president of the Detroit Arts Commission through chronic financial problems.

The Canadian Press


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Philadelphia family wins back seized rare Double Eagle gold coins possibly worth $80 million

PHILADELPHIA - A family was awarded the rights to 10 rare gold coins possibly worth $80 million or more on Friday after a U.S. appeals court overturned a jury verdict.

U.S. Department of the Treasury officials insist the $20 Double Eagles were stolen from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia before the 1933 series was melted down when the country went off the gold standard. They argued that Joan Langbord and her sons cannot lawfully own the coins, which she said she found in a family bank deposit box in 2003.

Langbord's father, jeweler Israel Switt, had dealings with the Mint in the 1930s and was twice investigated over his coin holdings. A jury in 2012 sided with the government.

However, the appeals court returned the coins to the Langbords because U.S. officials had not responded within a 90-day limit to the family's seized-property claim, filed in about 2004.

Family lawyer Barry Berke said: "Congress clearly intended for there to be limits on the government's ability to seek forfeiture of citizens' property, and today's ruling reaffirms that those limits are real and won't be excused when the government violates them."

Langbord, who's in her mid-80s, worked in her father's store on Jeweler's Row for most of her life. Her sons, entertainment lawyer Roy Langbord, of New York City, and David Langbord, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, joined her in the legal fight.

They do not plan to comment on the ruling and have not decided whether the coins will be sold, Berke said.

Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens designed the Double Eagle with a flying eagle on one side and a figure representing liberty on the other.

One Double Eagle, once owned by King Farouk of Egypt, sold in 2002 for $7.6 million, then a record for a coin. Its later owner, a London coin dealer once jailed by the U.S. over it, split the proceeds with the U.S. in a deal brokered by Berke.

The Langbords offered the government a similar split but were rebuffed.

The family had taken the coins to the Secret Service in Philadelphia to have them examined, Berke said.

"They authenticated the coins and said, 'Thank you very much. We will now be keeping them,'" he said.

The Mint struck nearly a half-million of the Double Eagles in Philadelphia in 1933 but never released them. They were melted into gold bars after President Franklin D. Roosevelt abandoned the gold standard.

While prosecutors argued to jurors in 2011 that Switt must have stolen the coins with help from a Mint insider, Berke said he could have traded his scrap gold for them.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it was reviewing its options after Friday's ruling. A Treasury spokeswoman had no comment.

Switt admitted to the Secret Service in 1944 that he had possessed and sold a set of nine other Double Eagles, which were recovered and destroyed. The surviving Farouk coin is believed to have been a 10th coin from that batch.

The Mint sent a pair of 1933 Double Eagles to the Smithsonian Institution for its U.S. coin collection.

The Canadian Press


U.S. Congress opens up free-trade debate, and Canada's paying attention

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Congress has opened a critical chapter in negotiations toward a massive, 12-country free-trade deal and the Canadian government is closely following developments.

The government says it's watching the debate over a so-called fast track bill that would allow negotiations to move forward toward a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

"We are currently analyzing the contents of the bill and are following the process closely," Max Moncaster, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast, said Friday.

"Canada would welcome a U.S. political outcome that allows TPP negotiations to move towards a balanced agreement that will benefit all member states."

The Canadian government has repeatedly suggested that it won't make final concessions on the most contentious issues without a fast-track bill passing Congress.

Since the U.S. Constitution gives lawmakers authority over foreign treaties, individual members could pick apart a deal and fill it with amendments unless they vote to give the president negotiating power.

The Canadians' reluctance to complete negotiations has prompted some U.S. lawmakers and members of the administration to muse about dumping Canada from the deal.

When asked last fall about U.S. frustrations with the Canadian side playing hardball, Ottawa's ambassador to Washington was less than apologetic: "Good. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I consider that a compliment," Gary Doer said in an interview.

"We're not going to be in a situation where you negotiate an agreement and everyone on (Capitol) Hill can amend it."

He said a top Canadian priority was getting a procurement agreement at the sub-national level, so that states would have less power to insist on Buy America provisions in infrastructure projects.

The Americans, meanwhile, want Canada to reduce protectionism over dairy and poultry imports, while increasing protections for intellectual property — notably for pharmaceuticals.

The fast-track bill introduced in Congress refers to both those U.S. priorities. If it passes, it would open the door to a single up-or-down vote in Congress on any future deal. Lawmakers, however, could vote to overturn fast track if they deem that the president strayed from the negotiating positions spelled out in the bill.

The legislation says any deal should insist on intellectual-property rules similar to those found in U.S. law. On agriculture, it urges the administration to consider whether countries are maintaining export subsidies or other programs that distort the market.

The bill will prompt a fierce battle on Capitol Hill.

It'll be a strange one.

In this case, President Barack Obama will be aligned with his Republican foes against the more left-leaning members of his own Democratic party — because progressives fear that the agreement will just bleed more middle-class jobs to Asia, and drive down the wages of American workers.

Even the business-friendly Democrat touted as the party's future leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has suggested he'll probably vote against it because it hurts middle-class economics.

Obama called those fears understandable — but wrong. He said Friday that the deal will enshrine better labour, trade and environmental standards in existing commercial relationships.

He used the example of Japan — which is involved in the negotiations.

"The last time I checked, if you drive around Washington, there are a whole bunch of Japanese cars. You go to Tokyo and count how many Chryslers and GM and Ford cars there are," Obama said.

"So the current situation is not working for us. And I don't know why it is that folks would be opposed to us opening up the Japanese market more for U.S. autos or U.S. beef. It doesn't make any sense."

The Canadian Press


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Valeant senior executives scored US$123 million compensation in 2014

MONTREAL - The top five executives at Valeant Pharmaceuticals shared nearly US$123 million in compensation last year, up from US$23.8 million in 2013.

Chairman and CEO Michael Pearson, who owns three per cent of the company with some 10 million shares, took the lowest compensation at US$10.28 million, while executive vice-president Ari Kellen topped the list at US$50.6 million, according to the company's proxy circular.

Valeant (TSX:VRX) had a busy year — failing in its hostile bid for botox maker Allergan but completing the US$11-billion purchase of Salix Pharmaceuticals, the largest transaction in the company's history.

The Quebec-based company, which reports in U.S. dollars, earned US$913.5 million or $2.67 per share last year, up from a loss of $866.1 million or $2.70 per share in 2013. Adjusted profits were $2.85 billion or $8.34 per share. Revenues increased 43 per cent to $8.26 billion.

Chief financial officer Howard Schiller collected US$27.1 million, head of corporate and business development Robert Chai-Onn at $23.9 million and European general manager Pavel Mirovsky at $10.9 million.

Pearson received US$1.9 million in salary, $8 million in cash incentives and $368,235 in other compensation. That compared with a salary of $1.75 million, $4.8 million incentives and $458,203 other amounts for a total of $7 million in 2013. Starting in 2015 he will receive no base salary.

In his first year with the Valeant, Kellen's total pay package included US$43.1 million worth of stock awards, $5 million bonus for restructuring Bausch + Lomb, $1.8 million in incentives, $752,885 salary and $2,521 in other compensation.

Valeant's shares closed Friday at US$205.32 on the New York Stock Exchange and at C$251.15 in Toronto.

The Canadian Press


Mylan skeptical of rumoured bid from Teva, doubts regulators would approve; both stocks climb

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Generic drugmaker Mylan, citing media speculation that Teva Pharmaceutical may be eyeing it as a takeover target, says it doubts that regulators would approve such a deal and is committed to its current strategy as a stand-alone company.

In a news release Friday, Mylan said that it hasn't received an offer and described the idea that Teva might want to buy it as a rumour.

The Dutch company said anti-trust regulators probably wouldn't approve a deal between Mylan and Teva because their businesses overlap in major ways. It said it would thoroughly examine an offer if it received one.

Teva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shares of Mylan NV rose $2.98, or 4.5 per cent, to $69.82. Earlier they spiked up as much as 8.7 per cent. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. shares gained $1.42, or 2.2 per cent, to $64.91.

Earlier this month Mylan offered to buy generic drug and ingredients maker Perrigo for about $29 billion, or $205 per share. Perrigo, which is based in Ireland, said it would review Mylan's offer. Mylan says the companies would have had $15.3 billion in combined revenue in 2015.

Teva has about $20 billion in annual revenue, and its executives have spoken recently about their interest in making new acquisitions and consolidating some of the largest companies in the generic drug industry.

"We are ready to take on a transaction," said Sigurdur Olafsson, the head of Teva's generics business, at a health care conference in March.

In a research note written earlier this month, Barclays analyst Douglas Tsao said Teva believes that some of the largest generic drug companies should combine their businesses because they could save a lot of money by merging their manufacturing operations. He said an acquisition of Mylan would "re-establish Teva as the dominant market leader."

Teva gets almost half its revenue from generic drugs. It also makes treatments for central nervous system disorders, respiratory illnesses, and cancer as well as over-the-counter medicines. Its biggest-selling product is the multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. In March it agreed to buy Auspex Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is developing central nervous system disorder treatments, for $3.2 billion.

Mylan shares are up 17 per cent since April 7, the day before it went public with its offer for Perrigo, and are near an all-time high.

The Canadian Press


North American markets close lower over worrisome news from overseas

TORONTO - U.S. stock markets closed sharply lower Friday, with the Dow plunging nearly 300 points, while north of the border stronger gold prices helped the Toronto stock market keep losses in check.

The S&P/TSX composite closed down 26.22 points at 15,360.55, adding to a 64-point decline Thursday. The loonie also pulled back after a six-day run-up, down 0.32 of a U.S. cent at 81.78 cents.

South of the border, anxieties over possible Greek insolvency and regulatory changes in China pushed markets lower.

"Then you've got all these negative headlines about ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Russia, Iran," said Craig Jerusalim, portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management. "It's all spooking the market a little bit."

The Dow was down 279.47 points at 17,826.30, the Nasdaq fell 75.98 points to 4,931.81 and the S&P 500 lost 23.81 points to 2,081.18.

"With the U.S. market being down so much, I think it just highlights the importance of gold to the Canadian markets," Jerusalim said.

Trading was also disrupted Friday by an outage of Bloomberg's financial terminals, which traders rely on in order to analyze securities.

Meanwhile, despite dipping slightly Friday, the price of oil has experienced a bit of a bounce recently, from a range in the low US$40-a-barrel range to the mid-50s.

"Short term, what you're seeing is the refinery turnaround season or shoulder season is coming to an end as we enter into the stronger demand driving season in North America," Jerusalim said.

"That's helped the oil commodity price, along with all the major capex cuts we've seen from the producers as well as the rig count dropping. Finally what we're starting to see is some month-over-month supply drops, or production drops, in North America, which I think is supporting the oil price partially."

Quarterly earnings from CN Rail (TSX:CNR), which come out on Monday, could provide some clues into the strength of the North American economy, Jerusalim said.

"Its competitive advantage is a network that criss-crosses Canada from east to west and the U.S. from north to south, and no one has that strong a rail network in North America. So it'll be a real bellwether to see how strong this economy really is."

Rogers is also set to report earnings on Monday. Results from the two companies combined are likely to have an impact on the TSX, Jerusalim said.

"We've seen revenue expectations come down, but earnings have been holding in due to cost-cutting. I'm going to be looking for signs of weakness, both top line and bottom line, for indications of which way the stock market is going to move."

On the commodity markets, the May crude contract lost 97 cents to US$55.74 a barrel, while June gold advanced $5.10 to US$1,203.10 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $2.77.

The Canadian Press


Ottawa on track to balance books one year ahead of schedule: budget watchdog

OTTAWA - The federal budget watchdog is projecting the government will post a $3.4-billion surplus in 2014-15 — which would balance the books a year ahead of schedule.

The parliamentary budget office's assessment contrasts with the government's projection in its November fiscal update, which predicted a $2.9-billion shortfall in 2014-15.

The analysis comes as the government prepares to release its election year fiscal plan next Tuesday.

The budget office also says Ottawa is on track to post surpluses this year and next year, but predicts it then will start running small deficits.

It says the shortfalls will be a result of lower employment insurance premium rates starting in 2017.

The budget office points out that the predicted deficits are relatively small, and would have negligible effects on public debt and the wider economy. It also says the government could erase those shortfalls through minor tax tweaks or spending restraint.

The predictions are based on a "status quo forecast," which shows the government's fiscal footing before factoring in the impact of any fresh announcements that could be included in Tuesday's budget.

The budget office says the government will run $1.3-billion surpluses in 2015-16 and in 2016-17 before posting a $2.1-billion deficit in 2017-18. The outlook also projects budgetary deficits of $2.9 billion in 2018-19 and $900 million in 2019-20.

Last month, the government's fiscal monitor showed Ottawa posted a $1.3-billion surplus over the first 10 months of the 2014-15 fiscal year, suggesting it could balance the books earlier than expected.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver has repeatedly pledged to balance the books in his upcoming 2015-16 spending plan.

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Note to readers: FIXES typo in para 1

The Canadian Press


Lower gasoline prices hold back inflation for March as CPI rises 1.2 per cent

OTTAWA - Higher prices for everything from food to electricity last month were offset in part by cheaper gasoline as the inflation rate ticked higher in March.

Nonetheless, TD Bank economist Leslie Preston said the increase in inflation was unlikely to spur a change in course by Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz amid concerns about the strength of the economy.

"We have this heating up that we've seen over the past year in a lot of core inflation categories, but it is not expected to continue going forward," said Preston, who added that TD expects the Bank of Canada to keep its key rate on hold this year.

Statistics Canada said Friday the consumer price index for March was up 1.2 per cent from a year ago. That compared with a year-over-year gain of 1.0 per cent in February.

Economists had estimated the inflation rate would remain at 1.0 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters.

Excluding gasoline, the consumer price index was up 2.2 per cent compared with a year ago, matching the increase in February, while the Bank of Canada's core index, which excludes the most volatile components, was up 2.4 per cent. Economists had expected an increase of 2.1 per cent in the core rate.

The central bank aims to keep the core rate close to 2.0 per cent.

Preston pointed out that the inflation report looks at what prices have done over the past 12 months, while Poloz needs to be looking ahead.

"We may have seen a pickup in core (inflation), but the economic reality that the Bank of Canada's dealing with is that Canada's economy likely slowed to around one per cent growth in the first half of this year" she said.

"That's quite slow growth, so we're likely to see a lot of price pressures in the Canadian economy cool over the coming months."

The Bank of Canada maintained its key interest rate at 0.75 per cent this week as it lowered its growth economic forecast in its latest monetary policy report.

The central bank now expects real GDP to grow by 1.9 per cent this year, a downgrade from its 2.1 per cent projection in January. The report also called for core inflation for the first quarter to come in at 2.1 per cent.

"Core inflation could ease slightly as slack opens up in the economy this year, but not enough to give a clarion call for another rate cut," CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in a report.

"Today's data reinforce our forecast that the Bank of Canada will be on hold in 2015."

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the Canadian consumer price index was up 0.4 per cent in March, following a 0.2 per cent increase in February. The seasonally adjusted core index was up 0.4 per cent on a monthly basis for March, following a gain of 0.1 per cent in February.

Prices were up in seven of the eight components tracked, led by higher prices for food.

Shoppers paid 3.8 per cent more for food in March compared with a year ago, boosted by a 4.2 per cent price increase in food sold in stores and a 2.8 per cent increase in restaurant meals.

Shelter costs rose 1.4 per cent, boosted by homeowner's home and mortgage index, which was up 9.1 per cent. Rent, property taxes and electricity costs were all also higher.

The transportation group, however, which includes gasoline, dropped 3.9 per cent.

Gasoline prices for March were down 19.2 per cent compared with a year ago, however the drop was smaller than the 21.8 per cent year-over-year drop in February.

Prices were higher in eight provinces, as Ontario posted the biggest increase of 1.6 per cent. Prices were lower in Prince Edward Island and Alberta as they slid back 0.8 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada also reported Friday that retail sales posted a gain of 1.7 per cent in February to total $42.2 billion following two consecutive monthly declines.

Economists had expected a gain of 0.5 per cent for the month, according to Thomson Reuters.

Retail sales posted gains in all 11 subsectors, led by general merchandise stores which climbed 5.6 per cent for the month.

Retail sales were up in seven provinces, led by British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia slipped lower.

The Canadian Press


Next week's federal budget expected to court support from older Canadians

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is expected to court the support of older Canadians in next week's federal budget with a number of measures aimed at demonstrating that they're making seniors a priority.

A number of long-sought changes are believed to be in play, including changes to the rules that require retirees to start withdrawing cash from their registered income funds by a certain age, The Canadian Press has learned.

Groups have been calling on Ottawa to tweak or eliminate the rigid rules around registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs, in part because Canadians now live much longer than they did when the program was instituted in 1992.

Under the law, people must draw down minimum amounts from their RRIFs annually by the age of 71. The minimum payments increase incrementally until they hit 20 per cent when the person reaches 94.

The goal of the rules is two-fold: deliver a dependable annual source of income to retirees and ensure the government starts recouping revenue on tax-deferred savings from RRSPs.

Today's retirees, however, are hitting that age and realizing the rules limit their ability to manage their retirement nest egg, said Susan Eng, the vice-president of advocacy for CARP, a prominent seniors group that has been lobbying the government to eliminate the rules altogether.

The rules force people to withdraw money out of their tax-deferred savings plans — and pay taxes on it — when they might be better off continuing to invest those funds for later needs, Eng said.

Changing the rules would not cost the government, she added.

"The tax man is going to get those taxes eventually, it's just that maybe not as fast as the tax man wants it," Eng said.

Eng, who was expecting the government to at least tinker with RRIFs in the budget, said CARP would also welcome smaller tweaks to the rules if the government decides not to ditch them outright.

She said moving up the starting withdrawal age to 75 from 71 or reducing withdrawal rates would be a good step — as would a combination of both.

A June 2014 report by the C.D. Howe Institute think-tank reached similar conclusions on raising the withdrawal age and decreasing minimum payments.

Times have changed since Ottawa implemented the rules in 1992, a period when the federal government was "deficit-ridden and hungry for cash," the report noted.

"Now it is close to surplus, and the timing of receipt of those taxes matters less to the government," the paper said, referring to the government's promise to balance the books — one it is widely expected to honour on Tuesday.

The report also noted that when the rules were first created, 71-year-old men were expected to live another 11.2 years while women of the same age another 14.6 years. By 2014, the average 71-year-old man was expected live an additional 14.4 years and the average woman another 16.9 years.

Sources did not provide details on whether the government would eliminate RRIFs or simply adjust them. But the changes demonstrate how keen the Conservatives are to court seniors, well known to be enthusiastic voters.

Eng said her group has hammered home that idea repeatedly in its meetings with government officials.

"Our point has always been: 'Look, these are your voters, your most avid and politically engaged voters,'" she said. "'So, now, you really want to ignore the pleas of this group?'"

Finance Minister Joe Oliver recently hinted that the party's long-held promise to double the contribution limit on tax-free savings accounts to $11,000 could also be a showcase item in the budget.

Increasing TFSA limits would also be popular with seniors, particularly those who can no longer contribute to RRSPs or those who lost big during the recession, Eng said.

She added that the budget could include something for families that care for a loved one with dementia, a subject she said the government has talked about frequently.

In its 2013 throne speech, the government pledged to "renew investments in health research to tackle the growing onset of dementia, and related illnesses."

The chief executive of the Alzheimer Society of Canada credits the government for making commitments in last year's budget to support dementia research and for caregivers of those who suffer from a disease that primarily affects older people.

This year, the group has asked the government to provide $150 million over five years to create a national dementia strategy, a project Mimi Lowi-Young says received support from provincial health ministers last fall.

Lowi-Young said the group worked closely with the health minister, finance minister and the Prime Minister's Office in putting forward its request.

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The Canadian Press


Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Some of the most active companies traded Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (15,360.55, down 26.22 points):

Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (TSX:PRE). Oil and gas. Up eight cents, or 2.13 per cent, to $3.84 on 7.7 million shares.

North American Palladium Ltd. (TSX:PDL). Miner. Down 1.5 cents, or 21.43 per cent, to 5.5 cents on 7.2 million shares.

Legacy Oil + Gas Inc. (TSX:LEG). Oil and gas. Down four cents, or 1.54 per cent, to $2.56 on 6.2 million shares.

MBAC Fertilizer Corp. (TSX:MBC). Fertilizer producer. Down one cent, or 9.09 per cent, to 10 cents on 5.2 million shares.

Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Oil and gas. Down five cents, or 0.22 per cent, to $23.07 on 5.1 million shares.

Eastmain Resources Inc. (TSX:ER). Miner. Up 6.5 cents, or 18.06 per cent, to 42.5 cents on 3.9 million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B). Telecom, media. Down 49 cents, or 1.17 per cent, to $41.54 on 2.2 million shares. The company announced president Keith Pelley is stepping down this summer to become the new commissioner and CEO of the European Tour golf circuit. A former CTV and TSN executive, Pelley has been in the job since 2010 and was one of the key players in Rogers' 12-year, $5.2-billion acquisition of the NHL TV rights for Canada.

The Canadian Press


Volkswagen board leaders back CEO Winterkorn, propose contract extension after power struggle

BERLIN - Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn will remain in his job and can look forward to having his contract extended, the leadership of the board said Friday, after a comment by chairman Ferdinand Piech raised widespread doubts about his future.

A turbulent week for Europe's biggest automaker started when Piech, who has long been the company's key powerbroker, was quoted last Friday as telling Der Spiegel magazine he was "at a distance from Winterkorn."

That surprised observers and prompted fevered speculation about the position of Winterkorn, 67, Volkswagen's CEO since 2007. Winterkorn's contract runs until the end of next year.

Winterkorn "is the best possible" chief executive for Volkswagen, Friday's statement from the six-strong executive committee of Volkswagen's 20-member supervisory board said. Piech is part of the committee.

It added that the body "places great importance on the fact" that Winterkorn "will pursue his role ... with the same vigour and success as before, and that he has the full support of the committee in doing so."

The committee will propose extending Winterkorn's contract at a board meeting next February, it said, without specifying how long the extension may be.

The 78-year-old Piech, himself a former CEO, didn't specify last week what his issue with Winterkorn was, though experts have pointed to concerns about profitability at the core Volkswagen brand and a disappointing market share in the U.S. as possible factors.

Winterkorn has received backing from the head of Volkswagen's influential employee council, while the governor of Lower Saxony state, a minority shareholder, criticized the public discussion about the company's leadership. Union and employee representatives make up half of major German companies' supervisory boards.

The Piech and Porsche families together control a majority of shares in Volkswagen. Board member Wolfgang Porsche said in a statement Sunday that Piech's comment about Winterkorn represents "his private opinion" and wasn't cleared with his family.

Volkswagen shares initially rose on Friday's news but closed 1.1 per cent lower at 235 euros ($251.66). Frankfurt's DAX index of blue chip stocks was 2.6 per cent lower overall.

Also Friday, Volkswagen said it delivered 2.49 million vehicles worldwide in the first quarter, 1.8 per cent more than a year earlier. Sales in Europe rose 4.1 per cent and deliveries in China were up 2 per cent, but U.S. sales declined 1.4 per cent.

The Canadian Press


'Star Wars: Battlefront' video game unleashed at fan convention

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Force isn't merely awakening on the big screen. It's also returning to the video game realm.

"Star Wars: Battlefront" publisher Electronic Arts and Swedish developer DICE showcased their next-generation rendition of the "Star Wars" multiplayer shooter Friday at Star Wars Celebration, the annual fan extravaganza celebrating the sci-fi franchise.

The new iteration of "Battlefront" takes place amid the conflicts of the original film trilogy and is scheduled for release Nov. 17 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PCs.

"Battlefront" will focus on frenzied shoot-outs between up to 40 players portraying Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire forces. In a demonstration of the game's multiplayer mode, a team of jetpack-equipped rebels were shown carving their way through the woodsy Endor while Stormtroopers charged at them on foot, on speeders and within walkers, including a hulking AT-AT war machine.

Other locales teased in game footage included the snowy Hoth, sandy Tatooine and gooey Sullust, a lava-spewing planet referenced in 1983's "Return of the Jedi," as well as many "Star Wars" games and novels, but rarely ever seen. "Battlefront" won't solely be centred on expendable ground troops. The game will reward sharpshooters with the ability to embody such iconic characters as bounty hunter Boba Fett and Sith baddie Darth Vader on the battlefield.

"You can storm in as the Dark Lord himself," said "Battlefront" design director Niklas Fegraeus. "You can wield a lightsaber. You can Force choke the rebel scum, which is fun. Basically, you are the boss of the battle. This means that you, as Vader, can lead your team to victory — if you play well."

The action will also take to the skies with players engaging in dogfights with TIE Fighters, X-wings and the Millennium Falcon, though the developers were coy about how battles would alternate between ground and air combat.

"We wanted it to feel authentic to this universe," said "Battlefront" executive producer Patrick Bach. "You can get into these vehicles, from speeder bikes to X-wings, TIE fighters, AT-STs, AT-ATs. There's a wide range of vehicles that we wanted to realize. The difficulty with a game is that they need to be balanced with the troops on the ground."

"Battlefront" will also include a free downloadable level available two weeks before "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens in theatres Dec. 18. It's set on Jakku, the battle-scarred desert planet glimpsed in "Force Awakens" teasers. The expansion, dubbed "Battle of Jakku," will explore the moment following "Return of the Jedi" when the New Republic confronted Imperial holdouts on the previously unseen Outer Rim enclave.

"You never get to see it in the new movie, so it was this brilliant opportunity to recreate the Battle of Jakku, which you only see the remnants of in the movie," said Bach. "In the game, you actually get to play the Battle of Jakku. It's the same place from the new movie but 30 years earlier."

The original "Battlefront" was released in 2005 by publisher LucasArts and developer Pandemic Studios. It dispensed with traditional "Star Wars" storytelling in favour of shoot-'em-up action.

The forthcoming "Battlefront," which was first teased at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2013, marks the first title in a 10-year deal between the Walt Disney Co. and Electronic Arts Inc. to create new "Star Wars" games.

"We didn't want this to be a normal licensing relationship," said LucasArts digital business vice-president Ada Duan at Celebration. "We didn't want them to just make movie games. We wanted a deep partnership to create brand-new experiences."

___

Online:

http://starwars.ea.com/battlefront

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.

The Canadian Press


As Verizon FiOS introduces more choice for TV customers, a look at options for Internet video

How other providers stack up against Verizon's new FiOS Custom TV

AMAZON

Monthly price: $8.25 (only through $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription)

Live offering: None

On demand: Apart from original shows such as "Transparent," offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies. Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.

Restrictions: Not available directly on Apple TV. Prime requires one-year commitment.

___

CBS ALL-ACCESS

Monthly price: $6.

Live offering: Local stations in 14 markets (including suburbs) with CBS-owned stations.

On demand: Day-after access to shows on mobile devices (on traditional computers, it's free without a subscription). Full seasons for many shows, not just past five episodes. Past seasons for a handful of shows, including "The Good Wife," ''Survivor," ''The Amazing Race" and "60 Minutes."

Restrictions: No apps for streaming TV devices. Some sports blackouts.

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DISH'S SLING TV

Monthly price: Starts at $20.

Live offering: About 20 channels, including ESPN, ABC Family, AMC and Food Network. No broadcast channels like CBS or NBC. Add-on packages for sports, movies, kids, lifestyles and world news available for $5 each, and HBO for $15.

On demand: No recording of channels, though some offer older episodes, including HBO. Access to WatchESPN on-demand app, with others coming.

Restrictions: Can watch only one stream at a time, so members of households will need multiple subscriptions, although HBO content can be streamed on 3 devices at a time. DVR controls, such as pause and rewind, aren't available for many channels. NFL blackouts on mobile devices.

___

HBO NOW

Monthly price: About $15

Live offering: New episodes are available through apps about the same time they are shown on TV.

On demand: Current and past seasons of most HBO shows, including "Games of Thrones," ''Girls" and "The Sopranos." Hundreds of movies, including those from Universal, Fox, Warner Bros. and Summit.

Restrictions: Can subscribe only through a partner. Apple has exclusive deal among non-traditional distributors and requires Apple TV, an iPhone or iPad to sign up (you can then watch through a browser on other devices). Cablevision is the only pay-TV provider so far to offer HBO Now.

___

HULU

Monthly price: $8 for Plus, though many shows are free on Windows and Mac computers.

Live offering: None

On demand: Next-day access to shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and CW, along with some cable channels. Some movies and original shows.

Restrictions: Fox and CW shows restricted to pay-TV subscribers for first week. ABC requires pay-TV or Hulu Plus subscription during that time. Plus also needed for viewing on mobile and streaming TV devices.

___

ITUNES

Monthly price: None

Live offering: None, except for special events such as iTunes music festival.

On demand: Next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.

Restrictions: No Android devices. Apple TV is only streaming device supported.

___

MLB.TV

Monthly price: $20 (or $110 for full season)

Live offering: All Major League Baseball games, subject to hometown blackouts.

On demand: All games.

Restrictions: Lots of blackouts. Extra $5 a month or $20 for season to watch on mobile and streaming TV devices. Separate package available for minor-league games.

___

NETFLIX

Monthly price: Starts at $8.99

Live offering: None

On demand: Apart from original shows such as "House of Cards," offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies.

Restrictions: Ultra high-definition (4k) streaming for $3 more, standard-definition only for $1 less.

___

NICKELODEON'S NOGGIN

Monthly price: $6

Live offering: None

On demand: Games and activities created for service alongside archives of shows no longer on any of Nickelodeon's TV channels. Aimed at preschoolers.

Restrictions: Available on Apple mobile devices only at first.

___

SONY'S PLAYSTATION VUE

Monthly price: Starts at $50.

Live offering: Base plan with CBS, NBC and Fox broadcast channels and cable schannels from AMC, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps, Turner and Viacom. Additional sports and other channels for $10 or $20 more. More than 50 channels in basic; more than 85 in all. Main omissions: CW network and Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC.

On demand: Recording capabilities with unlimited storage, though shows expire after 28 days. Many shows over the past three days are automatically available. Access to some channels' on-demand apps.

Restrictions: Available in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia only; suburbs excluded. Up to three simultaneous streams in a home, but each must have a separate PlayStation 3 or 4, and only one can be PS4. An iPad app is coming for out-of-home viewing, but a PlayStation is still required for set-up.

___

The Canadian Press


Rogers Media president Keith Pelley stepping down from post this summer

TORONTO - Rogers Media president Keith Pelley is stepping down this summer to become the new commissioner and CEO of the European Tour golf circuit.

Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) said Friday the exact date of his departure will be announced later.

A former CTV and TSN executive, Pelley has been in the job since 2010.

He was one of the key players in Rogers' 12-year, $5.2-billion acquisition of the NHL TV rights.

Pelley also launched the shomi streaming service, the Next Issue Canada magazine app and Sportsnet magazine.

"Keith has done a tremendous job for the company over the past five years and I'm delighted for him and his family," said Guy Laurence, president and chief executive officer of Rogers. "He's been a key player on the NHL file and has done a terrific job of reinventing the way Canadians experience the NHL. Under his leadership, Sportsnet is on the cusp of becoming the No. 1 sports media brand in Canada."

Pelley, 51, says joining the European Tour is a "dream job that only comes up once in a lifetime."

"It was a very difficult decision," said Pelley. "I know I'll never be a professional golfer, so this is the next best thing."

He replaces George O'Grady, who is taking a new position within the European Tour.

"Keith’s proven track record, extensive experience and outstanding leadership skills in both sport and media will be invaluable as we continue to further develop our strategy," said Tour chairman David Williams. "Throughout the interview process, it was clear that Keith has an unwavering passion for golf as well as a strong grasp of the challenges and opportunities facing not only The European Tour, but the wider game of golf as a whole."

Rogers says it will begin a search for Pelley's successor.

The Canadian Press




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