Increased fear of a spill

Environmental groups say increased crude tanker traffic as a result of the proposed Energy East pipeline would raise the risk of a large bitumen spill and jeopardize the environment and marine life between New Brunswick and the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"Energy East represents a set of extraordinary threats to the U.S. East Coast," said Anthony Swift of the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defence Council. "It would be irresponsible for regulators to turn a blind eye to what could happen with Energy East's oil once it's loaded onto tankers bound for the Gulf Coast."

The report, prepared by the NRDC in partnership with groups such as Greenpeace, Sierra Club and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says the pipeline project across Canada would result in a 300 to 500 per cent increase in tankers delivering western crude to refineries in the southern United States.

That raises the prospect of a spill of diluted bitumen from the oil sands, a potential disaster that Swift said neither Canada or the United States is prepared to deal with, citing a study by the National Academy of Sciences.

"Diluted bitumen from tar sands has unique properties that create impacts that current spill response techniques and technologies are simply not equipped to address. In fact we don't have the equipment or know-how to prevent, contain or clean up tar sands crude spills in our rivers, much less open oceans and coasts," he said.

Matthew Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said it's believed that in the event of a large spill, tar balls would sink to the bottom and also be suspended in the water column, eluding the conventional booms used to contain oil spills.

The proposed $15.7 billion pipeline would move 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan through Quebec and into New Brunswick to supply Eastern Canada refineries and for overseas shipping.

In a statement, TransCanada Corp. officials say they are a pipeline transporter and don't own or operate ships, but they note that there are comprehensive rules around marine tanker activity and are working with various groups to ensure safe operation of the proposed export terminal.

"Safety remains our top priority," the statement reads. "The Canaport Marine Terminal will have a number of preventive safety measures beyond the International Maritime Organization's requirements for crude tankers."

The statement indicates the safety measures will include the mandatory use of certified pilots for the Port of Saint John, the use of tug boats to facilitate berthing and departure manoeuvres, advanced navigational and docking technologies, and a "revised traffic separation scheme to ensure safety."

The NRDC has launched a petition calling on the Obama administration to enact a moratorium on tankers carrying oil sands bitumen in U.S. waters — on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

It says allowing a steady flow of tankers taking oil south from New Brunswick is the creation of an aquatic pipeline.

"In essence, the pipeline would start on land and continue onto the sea. This would allow the Alberta tar sands industry to reach American refineries without laying pipe on U.S. soil, providing an alternative to the rejected Keystone XL pipeline," the report says.

The National Energy Board has announced that consultations with communities along the pipeline route will begin in August and its final report should be completed by March 2018. Ottawa will also be presented with Quebec's ruling on the pipeline, which is expected in June 2018.

But Abbott says the NEB's work needs to extend beyond the physical end of the pipeline in Saint John. He said it must also look at the impact on the environment and marine life in the Bay of Fundy and beyond.

"When you add increased risk of oil spills and when you add marine noise which has been shown to be very damaging to marine animals, especially whales, it can reduce their ability to communicate with each other and it can cause stress. When you add all these stressors to a system that is already experiencing stress we just don't know what the tipping point is going to be," Abbott said.

He said the jobs created by the pipeline don't outweigh the thousands of jobs around the Bay of Fundy that rely on the lobster fishery and tourism that could be at risk in the event of a spill.

Still, TransCanada is defending its project to get the oil to New Brunswick.

"Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil we need in our daily lives and TransCanada is an industry leader in testing, developing and deploying technologies for leak protection, pipeline construction and integrity management," it said in its statement.

Items fetch high prices

The interior of a restaurant that for 57 years hosted power lunches for a must see crowd of business executives and celebrities including Henry Kissinger and Tom Wolfe was auctioned off Tuesday.

Items from The Four Seasons sold for well over their pre-sale estimates in Tuesday's all-day auction.

Silver flatware, glasses and serving pieces were among the 900 lots being sold. A number of identical Eero Saarinen tulip collection tables from the bar of the restaurant's Grill Room, estimated to sell for $5,000 to $7,000, fetched prices ranging from $22,000 to $36,000.

Two leather-tufted ottomans by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that had graced the entrance lobby sold for $18,000.

The elegant modernist restaurant was designed by architect Philip Johnson. Furniture by Johnson included a curved banquette and table set, which sold for $50,000. An exotic John Swing lounge sofa made of welded coins and stainless steel fetched $90,000.

Bidders also competed for several signs saying "The Four Seasons," with one going for $65,000.

The restaurant, whose regulars also included Nora Ephron, was housed in the Seagram Building on Manhattan's Park Avenue. It served its last meal on July 16. A new Four Seasons will open nearby.

Sears president leaving job

Sears Canada has announced Carrie Kirkman is leaving her role as president of the retailer, less than a year after starting the position.

Kirkman's exit is one of several at the company's executive level in recent years.

Ronald Boire stepped down as president-CEO in August 2015, following the departures of Douglas Campbell in September 2014 and Calvin McDonald in September 2013.

Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Power says Kirkman is now transitioning to an advisory role at the company, with a continued focus on strategic brand partner development.

He says her last day as president and chief merchant will occur shortly after July 30.

Prior to beginning at Sears, Kirkman was interim president of shoe retailer Nine West Canada between August and November 2015 and was president of Jones Apparel Group from October 2010 until April 2015.


WestJet profit tumbles

WestJet Airlines says its second quarter profit is down 40 per cent from last year but revenue held steady.

The Calgary-based airline reports $36.7 million in net income, or 30 cents per share, from the months of April through June.

That's down from the second quarter of 2015, when net income was $61.6 million or 49 cents per share.

Overall revenue for the April to June period edged up to $949.3 million from $942.0 million last year.

The number of passengers flown by WestJet was up seven per cent.

But the revenue per mile flown was down, and WestJet's operating margin dropped to 6.5 per cent from 10.7 per cent.

WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky said he's pleased by the "positive momentum" shown by the business despite the economic weakness of its home province, Alberta.

No crude in old rail cars

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is confirming older DOT-111 rail tanker cars will not be able to transport crude oil as of Nov. 1.

The cars are the same model that was involved in the deadly Lac-Megantic tragedy in which 47 people died three years ago.

The ban kicks in on Nov. 1, six months earlier than planned for "non-jacketed" cars — those without a layer of thermal protection — and 16 months earlier than cars with jackets.

Garneau made the official announcement in Montreal today, a few days after telling The Canadian Press about the news in an interview.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway freight train pulling 72 crude-oil laden DOT-111s derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and flattening downtown Lac-Megantic.

WestJet adding flights

WestJet (TSE:WJA) has announced it will add dozens of new flights to its domestic and international networks as part of its 2016-2017 winter schedule.

Scheduled to start in late October, highlights from the airline's new flight roster include additional domestic routes from Toronto to Vancouver, Ottawa and Moncton, N.B.

New international destinations departing from Toronto include Myrtle Beach, S.C., Kingston, Jamaica, as well as cities in Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and St. Martin.

Out west, the company will add 41 new weekly domestic and international flights from Vancouver to Kelowna and Prince George, B.C., Toronto, Los Angeles, Honolulu and the Mexican cities of Cancun and Cabo San Lucas.

There will also be a new non-stop weekly service between Regina and Orlando, Fla.

Service from Halifax will increase with seven additional weekly flights to Sydney, N.S.

Artisanal doughnuts a hit

When Rosanne Tripathy and her sister opened their specialty doughnut shop in Calgary more than five years ago, there weren't many fried-dough slingers selling upscale confections with new-fangled flavours like creme brulee or s'mores.

"The market was void of anything similar," said Tripathy, co-founder of Jelly Modern Doughnuts.

Since then, the company's opened a second Calgary shop and operates a food truck, as well as two Toronto outlets — with eyes on Vancouver, Edmonton and Saskatoon for possible future expansion.

But what Tripathy claims on her site is "the country's original gourmet doughnut bakery cafe" is now just one among myriad artisanal shops serving up the tasty pastries to Canadians in what has recently become an increasingly crowded field.

Last year, Canadians ate more than 521 million doughnuts, according to NPD Group Inc., a market information and advisory service that collects data daily from a panel of 130,000 Canadians on their restaurant eating habits.

That's 10 per cent more than the previous year, said Robert Carter, the company's executive director of food service.

Most of the growth comes from the country's market leader in doughnuts, Tim Hortons, he said. But Carter suspects smaller players, like Jelly Modern Doughnuts, have also likely experienced double-digit growth.

He chalks up part of the food item's rising popularity to something fairly counter-intuitive: a widening consumer interest in healthy eating. As people are increasingly drawn to eating higher-quality foods with greater health benefits, he said, they're allowing themselves more leeway for quality sinful snacks, including the doughnut.

Canadians have also scaled back on eating out, especially for full-course meals like dinner, Carter added. Instead, they're choosing to spend their restaurant dollars on breakfast and snacks, he said, meaning more of their money is going toward sweet treats and baked goods.

Yet another boost for the doughnut is our love affair with caffeine. Canadians drink more than three billion cups of java a year, Carter said — and that's not including home-brewed beans.

"Obviously, the best compliment to that is a baked good," he said, adding that a strong coffee program is key to not losing market share to other eateries that serve both indulgences.

Susan Hamer, who opened SuzyQ Doughnuts in Ottawa back in February 2012, agrees that it's a perfect match.

Serving up coffee with a doughnut, she said, is part of the country's culture — although her shop offers a unique twist on the classic pairing by selling a Finnish-inspired doughnut. The hand-rolled and hand-cut goodies come in an irregular shape, with lots of cardamom spice and intensely flavoured glazes.

That's a smart move, according to Carter. Canadians — especially millennials, who are considered flightier than their generational predecessors when it comes to brand loyalty — are drawn to innovative products, he said, and successful doughnut bakers have managed to create interesting flavour concoctions.

That's why Vanessa Baudanza, co-founder of The Rolling Pin in Toronto, said she wasn't worried about opening her speciality store in June 2014 as she felt confident customers would travel from all corners of the city to taste her unique products.

The upscale shop is best known for its small syringes filled with flavours like caramel or espresso that top some of its doughnuts, letting customers inject the rich fillings themselves.

Baudanza continues to dream up creations like the Cadbury-Creme-Egg-stuffed doughnut (served only around Easter time) and a carnival-inspired version topped with deep-fried mini Mars bars.

"Nothing's more classic than a doughnut," said Baudanza. "So if you can spruce it up and jazz it up and make it really unique and wonderful, then — of course — everyone's going to want to come and grab one."

Keeping up the pace of innovation will be key to these stores' survival and keeping millennials coming through their doors, Carter said.

"For these smaller players in particular, they'll just need to have a constant message of innovation and excitement to attract the largest restaurant consumer in the Canadian market place right now."

isoHunt legal fight over

Music Canada says a settlement has ended a near decade-old legal fight with a now-defunct search engine, which was once one of the most popular websites for downloading songs and movies.

Gary Fung, founder of isoHunt Web Technologies, filed a petition with the British Columbia Supreme Court in 2008 seeking to have his BitTorrent search website declared legal under the federal Copyright Act.

That kicked off several back-and-forth legal skirmishes between Fung and Music Canada, including a lawsuit from two dozen Canadian and international music companies that alleged isoHunt and Fung committed copyright infringement.

Music Canada, a trade group that represents record companies including Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music, says under the agreement, isoHunt and Fung are liable for C$65 million in damages and punitive damages.

The settlement comes after Fung agreed in 2013 to shut down Vancouver-based isoHunt and was deemed liable by a U.S. court for US$110 million.

Starbucks relaxes code

Got purple hair? Starbucks wants to hire you.

The world's largest coffee chain is loosening its employee dress code to allow workers to don brightly-dyed hair and coloured, patterned clothing.

Starbucks says employees now have more fashion choices to wear underneath the company's signature green apron — within reason.

The revamped company attire rules now includes gray, navy, dark denim and brown tops along with shirts with small stripes, tone-on-tone plaids and tight patterns. Employees can also wear pants, shorts, skirts or dresses in grey, navy, brown, khaki and black, as well as dark-washed blue jeans.

Along with vibrant-coloured hair, staffers are likewise permitted to put on knitted beanies, fedoras and other suitable hats in brown, grey or black. Scarves, neckties and colourful socks have also been given the OK.

The coffee company says the move is an opportunity for their employees to display their individuality while at work.

"The green apron remains core and common and is our brand," said Sara Presutto, vice-president of partner resources at Starbucks Canada.

"But what we want is for our partners to have more individuality behind the apron so we're broadening how they can express themselves."

The previous dress code required workers to wear solid-black or white shirts, khaki or solid-black bottoms, shorts or skirts. Only hats with a Starbucks logo were allowed.

The change is immediately in effect on Monday at all locations in the U.S. and at its 1,300 locations in Canada — the latter of which employs approximately 20,000 workers.

Presutto said Starbucks employees can also have up to two piercings per ear and a small nose stud. Other jewelry will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis due to food-safety requirements.

Although the rules have been scaled back, Presutto noted that customers shouldn't expect their local barista to soon be wearing ripped jeans, dirty clothes or mid-riff tops.

She said the same standard of professionalism will still apply.

This is the second time Starbucks has revised its dress-code policy since it came to Canada in 1987.

In 2014, it allowed workers to display tasteful tattoos that did not contain vulgar language or messages that were not on the face or neck, and permitted untucked shirts, shorts and skirts.

Starbucks isn't the only company to revise its dress-code guidelines to reflect the changing times.

In March, Earls restaurant chain amended its dress code, permitting servers to wear pants instead of skirts. Its previous policy allowed female workers to wear black pants only "on request."

In 2014, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employees in the U.S. allowed khaki and black denim pants instead of black dress pants, with warehouse and garden centre workers given the green light to wear T-shirts and blue jeans.

Farewell to VCRs

Japanese electronics maker Funai Electric Co. says it's yanking the plug on the world's last video cassette recorder.

A company spokesman, who requested anonymity citing company practice, confirmed Monday that production will end sometime this month, although he would not give a date.

He said the company would like to continue production to meet customer requests, but can't because key component makers are pulling out due to shrinking demand for VCRs.

Many families and libraries have content stored in the VHS format and want to convert the tapes to DVD or other digital disks.

They can do so using VHS/DVD converters, known as "combos" in Japan. Funai will be rolling out such products later this month, the spokesman said.

Funai's VCR factory, which is in China, is off-limits to media coverage for security reasons because other products are made at the same plant, he said.

Funai began making videotape players in 1983, and videotape recorders in 1985. The company says they were among its all-time hit products.

Last year, Funai made 750,000 VHS machines that played or recorded cassette tapes. In 2000, it made 15 million, 70 per cent for the U.S. market, according to the company, based in Osaka, central Japan.

Other products have also grown outdated with the advance of digital and other technology. That includes film cameras and floppy disks once used to store computer content, which were displaced by smaller memory devices with larger capacity and by cloud storage.

Owners of VCRs are not as emotionally attached to their machines as are owners of Sony Corp.'s discontinued robotic dog Aibo, or the Boombox, the portable cassette player, with its deeply resonating speakers and cool designs, said Nobuyuki Norimatsu, nicknamed "Aibo doctor," of A-Fun, a company of engineers who do repairs for discontinued electronics goods.

Still, many VCR owners want to dub their videos on their own, rather than sending them to outside companies, because the content is so personal, he said.

"To give up on keeping such records is like denying the history of humankind," said Norimatsu. "Production ending is going to present problems for some people."

Panasonic Corp. withdrew from making VCRs several years ago, making Funai the only manufacturer.

Funai will continue selling VCRs through its subsidiary until inventory runs out and will provide maintenance services as long as it can, the company spokesman said.

Videotapes can still be converted using VHS-DVD recorder-players made by other, mostly Chinese, companies. Secondhand products abound in Tokyo's electronics district as well. But a time may come when all such options also disappear.

But many are shrugging off the VCR's disappearance as inevitable.

"I think only hard-core fans of old machines are going to be using VCRs," said Isao Tokuhashi, author of "My Eyes Tokyo," a book about newsmakers in Japan.

Like most people, Tokuhashi invested hours 10 years ago to transfer video he wanted to keep to DVD, and these days stores video in his iPhone and computer. He no longer owns a TV and hasn't recorded any shows recently, he added. "None of my friends still has one," Tokuhashi said of the VCR.

Yahoo sold for $4.83B

Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83 billion, marking the end of an era for a company that once defined the internet.

It is the second time in as many years that Verizon has snapped up the remnants of a fallen internet star as it broadens its digital reach. The nation's largest wireless carrier paid $4.4 billion for AOL last year.

Yahoo will be rolled into Verizon's AOL operations and CEO Marissa Meyers could be working again with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who worked with Mayer at Google for years and tried unsuccessfully to convince her to combine the two companies when they both remained independent.

Though many expected the sale of Yahoo to spell the end of Mayer's reign, a Tumblr post from Mayer moments after the deal was announced read, "For me personally, I'm planning to stay. I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It's important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter.

Yahoo Inc., Sunnyvale, California, is parting with its email service and still-popular websites devoted to news, finance and sports in addition to its advertising tools under pressure from shareholders fed up with a steep downturn in the company's revenue during the past eight years.

The slump has been deepening even though advertisers have been pouring more money into what is now a $160 billion market for digital advertising, according to research firm eMarketer.

Most of the money has been flowing to internet search leader Google and internet social networking leader Facebook, two companies that eclipsed Yahoo during its slide from an online sensation, once valued at $130 billion, to a dysfunctional also ran.

The transaction does not include Yahoo's cash, shares in Alibaba Group Holdings, its shares in Yahoo Japan, its non-core patents.

After the sale is completed, Yahoo Inc. will become a holding company for its two stakes in China's e-commerce leader, Alibaba Group, and Yahoo Japan. Those investments, made more than a decade ago, have been the most valuable pieces of Yahoo throughout Mayer's tenure.

Yahoo will change its name at closing and become a publicly traded investment company.

Yahoo has hired a succession of CEOs to engineer a comeback, but finally gave up after the high hopes that accompanied Mayer's hiring fizzled out.

The sale potentially could result in thousands of layoffs. Mayer has already jettisoned 1,900 Yahoo workers since last September.

As people began to flock to the internet with the advent of graphical web browsers in the 1990s, Yahoo was king. After co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo began building a web directory as Stanford University computer graduate students in 1994, Yahoo quickly established itself as the online hub for tens of millions of people. It also proved internet companies could be profitable as other dot-com startups burned through millions of dollars.

But Yahoo strayed from internet search in an attempt to build a multimedia business, opening the door for Google become a powerhouse. It didn't recognize the importance of social networking and was slow to make the leap into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Instead, Yahoo tried to buy Google and Facebook in those companies' formative years, but it was rebuffed and then dwarfed by them.

Despite Yahoo's decline, its operations are attractive to Verizon as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to capitalize on the growing number of people living their digital lives on smartphones. Verizon already profits from the data plans that connect those devices to the internet; with AOL and Yahoo's services, Verizon is now looking to control more of the advertising on phones, rather than surrendering control to Google and Facebook.

If Verizon fully owned Yahoo right now, it would generate about $3.6 billion in U.S. ad revenue this year to eclipse Microsoft for third place in the market, based on eMarketer's estimates. It would still be far behind in ad revenue, compared with Google's projected $27 billion, and Facebook's projected $10 billion.

AOL is best known for the dial-up internet it popularized in the '90s and owns popular media sites like Huffington Post and TechCrunch, but Verizon primarily wanted its ad technology.

While Verizon also wants Yahoo's ad services, it is also prizes the hordes that still regularly visit to pick up their email, check the weather and catch up on current events, celebrity gossip and the stock market.

Yahoo says it has more than 1 billion users, though Outsell analyst Randy Giusto believes only about 200 million are habitual visitors.

"It's the eyeballs that generate the advertising, you have to get to that viewership to get the advertisers to advertise, and that's the model that we have to follow," said Verizon CFO Francis Shammo at an investment conference in May in response to a question about Yahoo's appeal.

Given Verizon already owns AOL, Giusto says Verizon is probably the best fit for Yahoo instead of the other suitors, which also included private equity firms that specialize in buying distressed companies and trying to rehabilitate them.

The deal is expected to close in 2017's first quarter. It still needs approval from Yahoo shareholders.

Yahoo's stock rose slightly in premarket trading, while shares of Verizon dipped slightly.

Business this week

Five things to watch this week in Canadian business:

U.S. politics: The Democratic National Convention begins in Philadelphia on Monday. Republican nominee Donald Trump has promised he will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which has yet to take affect. What Hillary Clinton has to say about the trade deals will be closely watched this week by Canadians. Clinton has been highly critical of the TPP.

Real estate: The British Columbia legislature will reconvene Monday for a special summer session to debate a proposal that would allow Vancouver to implement a tax on vacant homes in a bid to calm the city's scorching market. There are concerns that people are buying homes and leaving them empty in a city where housing can be scarce. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is also releasing its latest quarterly housing market assessment on Wednesday evaluating market conditions in select cities.

The bottom line: Earnings season gets into full swing this week with a number of companies reporting from various industries. They include Canadian National Railway, WestJet, Barrick Gold, Loblaw, TransCanada, Enbridge and Torstar.

It's the economy, stupid: That widely watched gauge of the country's economy — the GDP — comes out Friday for May, the same month that saw massive wildfires erupt in Fort McMurray, Alta. The disaster, which forced oilsands operations to shut down and curbed crude production, has dimmed growth prospects for the second quarter.

BlackBerry: The smartphone company is holding an event Tuesday to show how the company wants to change the way people and organizations think about mobile security and privacy.

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