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Canadian border workers vote in favour of striking as soon as Aug. 6

CBSA votes to strike

A union representing about 9,000 Canadian Border Service Agency workers says its members have voted in favour of striking, jeopardizing the federal government's reopening plans.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its Customs and Immigration Union says its members may strike as soon asAug. 6, three days before fully vaccinated U.S. citizens will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks.

PSAC-CIU represents 5,500 border services officers, 2,000 headquarters staff and other workers at Canada Post facilities and in inland enforcement jobs.

The members employed by the CBSA and Treasury Board began holding strike votes in June, after they had been without a contract for nearly three years and talks broke off between the two sides in December.

The union and the employers have been unable to agree on better protections for staff that the union argues would bring them in line with other law enforcement personnel across Canada and address a "toxic" workplace culture.

The union warns that the ongoing labour dispute could cause a significant disruption to the flow of goods, services and people entering Canada because traffic at borders may be slowed while mail and the collection of duties will be impacted.

On top of allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to visit Canada starting Aug. 9, the government also plans to open the country's borders to travellers from other countries who are fully vaccinated on Sept. 7.



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Cannabis pre-roll sales soar as Canadians share joints less during pandemic

Puff, puff, don't pass

Canadian cannabis users are doing a lot less puff, puff, pass during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people try to minimize their distance and contact with one another.

The shift away from sharing joints is pushing up pre-roll sales and encouraging companies to rethink product sizes, say members of the cannabis industry.

"We started to notice the shift that was going on back in the winter," says Kelly Olsen, the vice-president of Canopy Growth Corp.'s global flower business.

"Consumers were no longer comfortable with sharing joints anymore... and the weight sizes that were available in the market were not really providing the optimal experience for them.

Research commissioned by the Smiths Falls, Ont. company revealed that the pre-roll joint category grew by 48 per cent across the entire market between January and May 2021.

A report from the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province's pot distributor, shows almost $97 million of pre-rolls were sold between April 2020 and March 2021, up from $42.6 million between April 2019 and March 2020.

Part of that sales increase is attributable to a significant rise in the number of cannabis stores, but Canopy says Canadians who feel that traditional 0.5 gram joints are too big for them to enjoy in one sitting, and who worry about passing germs along with joints, are factors as well.

To address these new demands, Canopy recently started selling some smaller joints in larger packs.

Its Tweed Quickies now come in 10 packs of 0.35 gram joints in the Green Cush and Afghan Kush varietals.

Its Ace Valley Pinners are sold in 8 packs of 0.3 gram joints and available in the Kosher Kush (Indica), OG Melon (Sativa) and Great White Shark varietals.

Redecan and Pure Sunfarms also make 0.3 or 0.35 gram pre-rolls and offer them in packs of at least 10.

Demand for such products is high, says Mimi Lam.

Pre-rolls now make up about 20 per cent of sales at her Superette cannabis stores, up from 10 per cent last year, and 90 per cent of those sales are multi-packs.

She’s noticed consumers are moving away from 0.5 and 1 gram joints and toward those with around 0.35 grams.

“We have heard feedback that people have been less inclined to share joints over COVID or have been consuming alone, which could explain the increased interest in smaller pre-rolls by customers and the influx of new offerings for this category from licensed producers,” Lam says in an email.

Lisa Campbell, chief executive at cannabis marketing company Mercari Agency, says the smaller pre-rolls are often called "dog walker" joints because they cater to people who want to partake in pot but only have roughly the time of a dog walk to smoke it.

Like Lam, she has seen demand for large pre-roll packs soar during the pandemic because people "don't want to share joints, but they want to have joints to share."

She has noticed people now bring their own vape devices and pre-rolls to gatherings. Most also don't want their friends rolling joints for them because sealing the joint often involves a lick.

"That's really gross from the COVID perspective," she says. "They'd rather just have a pack that they can just open and offer their friends to take one."

Canopy says its joints are made with rolling papers that are pre-sealed by an automated machine, so customers needn't worry about who has handled them.

Olsen believes that habit will stick around, even if the pandemic subsides.

"My sense is it's an evolution of a trend," she says. "I think it's here to stay and likely evolve a little bit further because there's been some permanent shift in consumer behaviour."



Recall issued for Frank's RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning over possible Salmonella contamination

Frank's RedHot recall

A voluntary recall has been issued for Frank's RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning over a possible Salmonella contamination.

McCormick & Company, Inc. says the recall covers 153g bottles with a best before date of September 6, 2022.

The bottles were shipped to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

No illnesses have been reported, and McCormick says the potential risk was brought to their attention by the FDA during routine testing.

Salmonella poisoning can result in a wide range of symptoms, from short-term fever, headache and nausea to more serious issues including severe arthritis and, in rare cases, even death.



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StatCan data shows youth unemployment rates have risen during pandemic

Youth unemployment up

New data from Statistics Canada shows that while youth unemployment has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding full-time work has been increasingly precarious since the late 1980s.

The federal agency reported on Monday both male and female workers between 15 and 30 were less likely to have a full-time job in 2019 compared with 1989, a period marked by a rise in part-time employment for the age group.

And some 40 years later, the pandemic has caused further upheaval as the percentage of young people not employed or in school rose almost four percentage points from 2019 to 2020.

The overall unemployment rates for youth rose about six percentage points between 2019 and 2020, the agency noted, which is just about double the rate found with other age groups.

Young people who would've entered the job market in 2020 are now doing it this year and could see lower earnings, StatCan projects.

The effect of the pandemic has been particularly notable on young workers, said Arif Jetha, a scientist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, since young people tend to be the first to feel the shocks of economic upheaval.

"Their tenure is shorter, they're newer to organizations, they're also more likely to work precariously and in jobs that might be more affected by fluctuations in our economic landscape," said Jetha in an interview.

Aside from jobs, internships and work placements were cancelled in the early stages of the pandemic, he added, tools young people often use as the starting blocks for their career.

Those not enrolled in full-time study saw their employment rates drop around eight percentage points, while rates for other age groupsdropped only about four percentage points in the same time.

StatCan says pay rates rose for younger employees, but that phenomenon was driven in large part by a reduction in low-paying jobs that were previously held by younger employees.

And young people entering the workforce as the pandemic continues may also prove to be difficult, Jetha added, calling the current job environment an "unpredictable" one for youth.

Jehta also spoke of a "misperception" there tended to be around millennial and Gen Z workers about a desire to have more flexible jobs before the onset of the pandemic. He disagrees, however.

"I think many people desired stability. I think what a lot of young people were increasingly seeing was that these types of jobs, high-quality jobs ... are becoming less and less available," he said, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

"Before the pandemic, there seemed to be this … diminishing quality of work that we were already seeing."



WestJet signs code share agreement with Dutch airline KLM

WestJet, KLM sign deal

WestJet Airlines has expanded an existing code-share agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The Calgary-based airline says it will now be able market flights operated by KLM, which it says means WestJet travellers will be able to easily transfer through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to 18 European cities.

WestJet says the code-share agreement builds on the airline's new non-stop service between Calgary and Amsterdam, operating twice weekly beginning Aug. 5 and increasing to three times weekly on Sept. 9.

The new flights to Amsterdam are part of the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliner program, which started flights to Europe in 2019 with routes to Paris, London and Dublin.

Code-share agreements allow airlines to sell tickets to places they don't fly to on flights operated by a partner airline, and they allow airlines to increase their market presence and make it more convenient for travellers to fly with them.

KLM already had a code-share agreement with WestJet that allowed the Dutch airline to sell tickets on flights operated by WestJet in Canada.



Cruise ships 101: Industry plagued by pandemic outbreaks plots comeback

Cruise ship return roadmap

It was an outbreak that captivated the world.

In early 2020 the gleaming Diamond Princess cruise ship became the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic outside of China.

As the ship was quarantined at a port near Tokyo, hundreds of passengers and crew became infected with COVID-19.

It was not an isolated incident, and Canadian officials soon banned cruise ships amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year and a half later, cruise lines are plotting their comeback, with some companies already setting sail — but a lot has changed.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on the cruise ship industry's return and what Canadians need to know.

The cruise ship industry in Canada:

Canada’s $4-billion cruise ship industry is a key part of the country’s domestic tourism sector. It employs roughly 30,000 people, both directly and indirectly, and brings about two million travellers to Canada a year. In 2019, more than 140 cruise ships stopped at a Canadian port. The Conference Board of Canada said in a 2018 report that about 958,930 Canadians were expected to take a cruise that year, a number that grew an average of 4.2 per cent a year between 2010 and 2017.

When do cruise ships start sailing again?

Transport Canada is set to lift the ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters on Nov. 1. However, cruise ships have already restarted operations in other parts of the world. Norwegian Cruise Line said its Norwegian Jade set sail from Athens, Greece, on Sunday after being docked for 500 days. Nonetheless, the government of Canada continues to recommend avoiding all travel on cruise ships until further notice, due to COVID-19.

When will Canadian ports begin to see cruise ships?

Although the ban will lift in November, Canadian ports aren’t expecting to see cruise ships until 2022. That’s because the cruise season for Canadian ports, including Victoria, B.C., Saint John, N.B. and Sydney, N.S., typically ends in October. Still, lifting the ban in November allows port cities to book ahead for next year. Port of Halifax spokesman Lane Farguson said the port has already secured 159 tentative bookings for cruise ships visits for 2022. Meanwhile, Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher said while the port does not have any bookings for 2021, it now has about 100 cruise ships booked for 2022.

Do cruise ship passengers need to be full vaccinated?

It depends. Most cruise lines are currently requiring all passengers to be vaccinated, with some exceptions. Norwegian Cruise Lines says all guests and crew are required to be 100 per cent fully vaccinated. All guests are also required to take a COVID-19 antigen test prior to boarding. It says these rules allow passengers to cruise mask-free, depending on local government regulations. Other cruise lines do not require COVID-19 tests for those who are fully vaccinated, but require tests for unvaccinated passengers, such as children.

Are mix-and-match vaccines allowed?

Vaccine policies from cruise lines including Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises either don’t accept any mixing of vaccines at all or don’t accept the mixing of a viral vector vaccine with an mRNA vaccine, such as AstraZeneca with Moderna or Pfizer.

Norwegian Cruise Lines, for example, says a mixed vaccination protocol will not be accepted for ships embarking or disembarking at U.S. ports. But ships departing from a non-U.S. port will accept mixed vaccines, including combinations of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna. Other cruise lines say mixed vaccines that are the same type, for example both mRNA, are accepted, but a mix of one mRNA and one viral vector vaccine are not.



Case involving former CannTrust leaders remanded until Sept. 20

CannTrust case remanded

Three former executives of CannTrust Holdings Inc. accused of securities charges related to an unlicensed growing scandal had their case remanded by an Ontario court until September.

During a virtual court session Monday, justice of the peaceWarren Ralphagreed to remand the case involving the cannabis company's former chief executive Peter Aceto, former vice-chairman Mark Litwin, and former chairman Eric Paul to Sept. 20.

Aceto, Paul and Litwin, who each face charges of fraud, making false or misleading statements and authorizing, permitting or acquiescing in the commission of an offence, were scheduled to have a first appearance at the Old City Hall court on Monday.

Litwin and Paul are also facing insider trading charges and Litwin and Aceto are charged with making a false prospectus and false preliminary prospectus.

The quasi-criminal charges were announced in June by the Ontario Securities Commission, roughly three years after CannTrust was found to be growing thousands of kilograms of cannabis in unlicensed rooms.

The OSC and Royal Canadian Mounted Police have claimed the accused did not disclose to investors that about 50 per cent of the growing space at CannTrust's Pelham, Ont. facility was not licensed by Health Canada and that they allegedly used corporate disclosures to assert that they were compliant with regulatory approvals.

They also allege that Litwin and Aceto signed off on prospectuses used to raise money in the U.S., which stated that CannTrust was fully licensed and compliant with regulatory requirements, and that Litwin and Paul traded shares of CannTrust while in possession of material, undisclosed information regarding the unlicensed growing.

Aceto was terminated for cause by CannTrust's board in July 2019, Paul resigned in response to a demand from the company's board at the same time and Litwin resigned in March 2021.

Dihim Emami, counsel for the Ontario Securities Commission, told the court Monday that a remand was being sought following discussions between himself and the accused's' lawyers.

"We have received initial disclosure in this matter and received it in a more accessible format just this past Friday," said Gerald Chan, a lawyer representing Paul.

"It's fairly voluminous and so we are going to need some time to digest what's been provided and for this reason, agreed with our friends to put this over to Sept. 20."

Anyone convicted of an Ontario Securities Act violation can be sentenced to up to five years in jail, issued a fine of up to $5 million, or both.

Chan previously told The Canadian Press in an email that “the evidence will show (Paul) did nothing wrong," while Aceto's lawyer Frank Addario has said his client is looking forward to a hearing "where the evidence will show that he acted with integrity at all times."

Litwin's lawyer Scott Fenton has said his client will "vigorously dispute" the charges because he "knows that at all times he fully complied with his legal obligations, including those under the Securities Act."



Proposed highrise for Vancouver's West End would include two-storey waterfall

A downtown waterfall

A new project in Vancouver's West End would feature a two-storey waterfall.

The 33-storey development proposed for 1698 West Georgia St. is awaiting public comments. The 100-metre proposal would bring more than 125 residential units to the Coal Harbour area.

The proposed building would include features alluding to the local landscape, including a two-storey waterfall and walls covered in plants.

"The design of 1698 W. Georgia took its inspirations from the surrounding mountains such as Crown Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Grouse Mountain," writes architect James von Klemperer in a report to the city. "The stepped massing of the tower top has taken its shape from the formation of mountain top cliffs, and the interlocking low volumes at the podium depict boulders and mounds at the foothills."

Terraces designed into the facade would provide space for plants and trees to grow at varying heights of the building.

The property was rezoned for the project back in April. It's currently in the development application phase, which requires a public comment period. That ends July 30 and the Development Permit Board will announce a decision in October.



MDA gets $35.3 million contract from Canadian Space Agency for Canadarm 3 components

$35.3M Canadarm contract

The Canadian Space Agency has awarded a contract worth $35.3 million to MDA Ltd. to design a key component of Canadarm 3.

The funds will be used to design Gateway External Robotics Interfaces or grapple fixtures for Canadarm 3, which is Canada's contribution to the United States-led Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the moon.

The contract is a follow-on to the first phase of interface work awarded in August 2019. A construction phase will likely be awarded in about a year.

The first elements of Gateway will launch in 2024, with Canadarm 3 scheduled to launch two years later.

The contract is the third awarded to MDA for the multi-phase Canadarm 3 program valued at more than $1 billion.

Canadarm flew on 90 space shuttle missions after debuting in 1981. Canadarm 2 has been operating on the International Space Station for more than 20 years.



Pembina to pocket $350 million after terminating acquisition of Inter Pipeline

Pembina to pocket $350M

Pembina Pipeline Corp. will pocket a $350-million break fee after terminating its acquisition of Inter Pipeline Ltd.

The move comes after Inter Pipeline's board advised that it would no longer recommend shareholders support the deal after rival Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP upped its hostile takeover bid for the Calgary-based Inter Pipeline.

Pembina CEO Mick Dilger said he was disappointed with the outcome.

"The industrial logic of a combined Pembina and Inter Pipeline remains unparalleled and the value creation between certain of our assets is impossible to replicate by any other entity," he said Monday in a news release.

Inter Pipeline had resisted Brookfield's bid after signing a friendly all-stock deal to be bought by Pembina. That agreement would have seen its shareholders receive half a Pembina share for each Inter Pipeline share they hold.

Prominent shareholder advisory firm ISS recommended that Inter Pipeline investors reject the company's proposed sale to Pembina and instead support the takeover by Brookfield after Inter Pipeline's largest shareholder upped its offer to $16 billion, including debt.

Dilger said the company will continue to seek opportunities for growth through "focused acquisitions."

"Pembina remains optimistic about its future, including the profitability of our existing business given foreseeable sector tailwinds, as well as with tremendous flexibility to pursue an ever increasing and more diverse set of opportunities for growth, some of which we were able to highlight and advance during this process."

Inter Pipeline said it is open to working with Brookfield to reach a "mutually agreeable transaction."

The change in tone comes nearly two months after Inter Pipeline entered into a friendly $8.3 billion all-share deal with Pembina equal to $19.45 per share in response to the hostile offer from Brookfield that Inter Pipeline said undervalued its business.

Brookfield subsequently raised its cash and share takeover offer to $19.75 per share, up from its earlier proposal valued at $16.50 per share. It later revised the offer by giving shareholders the option to receive their entire payment in cash, instead of a mix of cash and shares, if they desire.

Brookfield extended its offer to Aug. 6 after the Alberta Securities Commission ruled in favour of Inter Pipeline and Pembina in a decision that was critical of the tactics used by Brookfield Infrastructure in the takeover fight.

The securities regulator upheld a $350-million break fee that Brookfield had sought to have cancelled.

It said Brookfield Infrastructure used "abusive'' tactics in its attempt to buy Inter Pipeline and ordered the company to provide additional disclosure related to total return swaps it holds that give it economic exposure to Inter Pipeline's shares.

The regulator also raised the minimum tender conditions of the Brookfield Infrastructure offer to 55 per cent from a simple majority of the shares tendered by shareholders other than Brookfield and those acting in concert with it.

Brookfield again raised its offer in mid-July to $20 in cash or 0.25 of a Brookfield Infrastructure share for each Inter Pipeline share, with a cap on the number of shares that are available.

Brookfield says assuming shareholders select the higher value Brookfield Infrastructure share option resulting in 68 per cent cash and 32 per cent share proration, the offer is valued at $21.23.



Hemp having a moment as farmers try to grow niche crop into $1-billion industry

Hemp hot in Canada

CALGARY - Not that long ago, Rod Lanier could count on an annual spring visit from the police.

The southern Alberta farmer has been growing hemp for 12 years, and in the early days, the distinctive odour that wafts from his fields when the crop is in flower would invariably catch the attention of area residents.

"For years each spring, the police would have to come out to ask, 'Mr. Lanier, is that hemp or is that marijuana?' " Lanier recalls. "And I would answer, 'if it was marijuana, would I grow a mile by a mile field of it, right beside the highway?'' "

Today, Lanier is far less likely to get a knock on his door just because the wind is blowing a certain way. Once considered a bit of an oddity, Lanier is now one of about a dozen farmers in the Lethbridge area growing industrial hemp — and the sight and smell of the distinctive, jagged-leafed plant are far less likely to attract unwelcome attention.

In fact, hemp, which is part of the cannabis family but contains no THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), is enjoying a bit of a moment. Across the Prairie provinces, new businesses are popping up to process and market different parts of the plant.

Hemp farming is still a fledgling industry, but some proponents believe it has the potential to move from a niche crop to a staple of Canadian agriculture.

"How do we turn hemp into the next canola? How do we turn hemp into a 500,000 acre crop in the next 10 years?" says Andrew Potter, chief executive and president of Blue Sky Hemp Ventures.

"I believe it’s very, very doable.”

According to Health Canada, which licenses and regulates the industrial hemp industry in this country, there were about 22,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of hemp seeded in Canada in 2020, up from just 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) in 1998. Alberta leads the way in hemp production, followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Blue Sky, which was founded in 2017, believes the key to expanding the hemp industry is "whole plant utilization." The company already has a CBD extraction facility near Saskatoon and another facility in central Saskatchewan is capable of processing 5,500 tonnes of hemp seed annually into food products like protein powder and hemp seed oil.

Blue Sky is also on the verge of announcing its plans for a large-scale "decortication" facility, which Potter says will process the hemp plant's tough stems and stalks into fibre products. Hemp fibre can be used to make everything from building products and insulation to textiles.

Dan Madlung, president and chief executive of BioComposites Group, which runs a hemp fibre processing plant near Drayton Valley in central Alberta, says developing this third plank of the hemp industry is crucial. In the past, most Canadian farmers growing hemp for seed have had no buyer for the stems and stalks, and have had to let that part of the plant go to waste.

"We have what it takes right now to develop a new industry," Madlung said. "But there's tons of interest across North America . . . others may beat us to the punch."

There are still many challenges that must be overcome before hemp farming becomes truly mainstream. While farmers no longer have to undergo a criminal records check to grow industrial hemp (it was required before cannabis was legalized), they still face other regulatory requirements such as Health Canada licensing.

Canadian hemp exports exceeded $110-million in 2019, and Manny Deol, executive director of the non-profit Alberta Hemp Alliance, believes this country could have a $1-billion industry by 2030, if it does everything right. He says investors appear to think so too, given the number of new processing facilities recently constructed or proposed.

"There is a buzz about hemp right now," Deol says. "I think farmers and other business people are looking for any diversification opportunities, so they're watching this crop."

 



Rio Tinto smelter workers go on strike in Kitimat, B.C.

Rio Tinto strike in Kitimat

Approximately 900 Rio Tinto workers at the company's aluminum smelting facilities in Kitimat, B.C. have gone on strike.

The walkout began today at one minute after midnight. Unifor Local 2301, which represents the workers, had issued a 72-hour strike notice after nearly seven weeks of negotiations.

Jerry Dias, Unifor's National President, says the strike comes down to what he calls "Rio Tinto's greed and lack of respect" for the union members working at the Kitimat smelting facilities.

The union says it has proposed the first changes to workers' retirement income and benefit levels in more than a decade, including moving younger workers to defined benefit from defined contribution pension plans.

It also says negotiations have focused on a backlog of more than 300 grievances resulting from the company's use of contractors and its refusal to hire full-time workers.

Bargaining had continued up until the strike deadline, and the company had earlier said that it was "committed to working with the union to reach a mutually beneficial outcome."

 



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