Ontario rolls back reforms

Ontario will cap minimum wage at $14 an hour until fall 2020 as part of a rollback of labour reforms introduced by the previous Liberal regime, the Progressive Conservative government announced Tuesday, drawing praise from businesses and criticism from unions and anti-poverty advocates.

The government said new rules — which will link future minimum-wage increases to the inflation rate and reduce the number of personal leave days — will help cut red tape and encourage business investment.

"The previous government brought in a tsunami of new burdens and regulations that have imposed significant unnecessary costs on businesses and stifled economic growth," said Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson as the government detailed its proposed labour legislation.

Ontario's minimum wage increased from $11.60 to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, and was set to rise to $15 an hour next year as a result of the Liberals' labour laws. Under the government's new legislation, it will remain at $14 until October 2020.

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said the government will be using an "economically sound metric" to decide the rate of future increases.

"Ontario workers and businesses deserve a minimum wage determined by economics not politics," she said.

The government's labour bill, if passed, will also cut two paid personal leave days for workers, bringing their total to eight — three for personal illness, two for bereavement leave and three for family responsibilities.

The legislation keeps provisions brought in by the Liberals that granted workers up to 10 days of leave if they or their child experiences domestic or sexual violence. It will also maintain regulations that grant Ontario workers three weeks of paid vacation after five years of service.


West Fraser Timber profit up

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. says its net profit nearly doubled in the third quarter despite lower lumber and panel prices.

The Vancouver-based forest products company says it earned $238 million during the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $120 million a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, adjusted earnings were $275 million or $3.76 per basic share, up from $150 million or $1.93 per share in the prior year.

Revenues were $1.65 billion, up 32 per cent from $1.25 billion.

West Fraser was charged $68 million in countervailing and antidumping lumber duties in the quarter.

The company's shares closed up $4.17 or 6.52 per cent to $68.14 Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Companies in this story: (TSX:WFT)

Yahoo pays $50M for breach

Yahoo has agreed to pay $50 million in damages and provide two years of free credit-monitoring services to 200 million people whose email addresses and other personal information were stolen as part of the biggest security breach in history.

The restitution hinges on federal court approval of a settlement filed late Monday in a 2-year-old lawsuit seeking to hold Yahoo accountable for digital burglaries that occurred in 2013 and 2014, but weren't disclosed until 2016.

It adds to the financial fallout from a security lapse that provided a mortifying end to Yahoo's existence as an independent company and former CEO Marissa Mayer's six-year reign.

Yahoo revealed the problem after it had already negotiated a $4.83 billion deal to sell its digital services to Verizon Communications. It then had to discount that price by $350 million to reflect its tarnished brand and the spectre of other potential costs stemming from the breach.

Verizon will now pay for one half of the settlement cost, with the other half paid by Altaba Inc., a company that was set up to hold Yahoo's investments in Asian companies and other assets after the sale. Altaba already paid a $35 million fine imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for Yahoo's delay in disclosing the breach to investors.

About 3 billion Yahoo accounts were hit by hackers that included some linked to Russia by the FBI . The settlement reached in a San Jose, California, court covers about 1 billion of those accounts held by an estimated 200 million people in the U.S. and Israel from 2012 through 2016.

Claims for a portion of the $50 million fund can be submitted by any eligible Yahoo accountholder who suffered losses resulting from the security breach. The costs can include such things as identity theft, delayed tax refunds or other problems linked to having had personal information pilfered during the Yahoo break-ins.

The fund will compensate Yahoo accountholders at a rate of $25 per hour for time spent dealing with issues triggered by the security breach, according to the preliminary settlement. Those with documented losses can ask for up to 15 hours of lost time, or $375. Those who can't document losses can file claims seeking up to five hours, or $125, for their time spent dealing with the breach.

Yahoo accountholders who paid $20 to $50 annually for a premium email account will be eligible for a 25 per cent refund.

The free credit monitoring service from AllClear could end up being the most valuable part of the settlement for most account holders. The lawyers representing the account holders pegged the retail value of AllClear's credit-monitoring service at $14.95 per month, or about $359 for two years — but it's unlikely Yahoo will pay that rate. The settlement didn't disclose how much Yahoo had agreed to pay AllClear for covering affected account holders.

The lawyers for Yahoo's account holders praised the settlement as a positive outcome, given the uncertainty of what might have happened had the case headed to trial.

Estimates of damages caused by security breaches vary widely, with experts asserting the value of personal information held in email accounts can range from $1 to $8 per account. Those figures suggest Yahoo could have faced a bill of more than $1 billion had it lost the case.

But Yahoo had disputed those damages estimates and noted many of its account holders submitted false information about their birth dates, names and other parts of their lives when they set up their email.

The lawyers representing Yahoo account holders have a big incentive to get the settlement approved. Yahoo will pay them up to $37.5 million in fees and expenses if it goes through.

Oath, the Verizon subsidiary that now oversees Yahoo, declined to comment.

A hearing to approve the preliminary settlement is scheduled for Nov. 29 before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. If approved, notices will be emailed to affected accountholders and published in People and National Geographic magazines.


Stocks mostly recover

U.S. stocks were easing back Tuesday from a steep, broad sell-off that knocked more than 500 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average earlier in the day.

Even with the late-afternoon rebound, stocks were on track to extend the market's recent string of losses, including a four-day losing streak for the benchmark S&P 500 index. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower, as investors sought out safer investments.

The latest selling came as investors grew unsettled by slowing economic growth in China and the growing costs of President Donald Trump's aggressive trade policies.

China's economy grew 6.5 per cent from July to September, the slowest pace since early 2009. The world's second-largest economy was cooling even before the outbreak of a tariff war with Washington. That contrasts with the momentum of the U.S. economy. The government is expected to say Friday that the U.S. economy grew by 3.3 per cent in the third quarter, after growing by 4.2 per cent in the second quarter.

The strong U.S. economy has helped power earnings growth for companies in the S&P 500. While those companies are expected to deliver 21.9 per cent earnings growth for the third quarter, investors are concerned about future growth amid rising inflation, interest rates and uncertainty over trade.

"That's the story, it's not the current quarter results, but the commentary going forward, the impact of tariffs and what that means in terms of costs," said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird. "If tariffs didn't come up in earnings calls and commentary, then maybe you could say we were moving away from that, but the opposite is happening."

Caterpillar's stock price tumbled after the heavy equipment manufacturer warned that Trump's taxes on imported steel were driving up production costs. The stock skidded 7.2 per cent to $119.31.

3M Co. fell 3.8 per cent to $193.67 after its earnings missed Wall Street's targets. The industrial manufacturer said it expects raw material prices to continue climbing, and for tariffs to have a roughly $100 million negative impact on the company's sourcing costs next year.

Caterpillar and 3M were, by far, the biggest decliners in the 30-company Dow average.

Losses in banks, energy and technology companies outweighed gains by internet and consumer-goods stocks. A sharp sell-off in Chinese and other global markets set the stage for the turbulent day on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 fell 7 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,748 as of 3:31 p.m. Eastern Time.

The Dow erased much of its early losses. It was down 62 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 25,254. The average was down more than 540 points earlier.

The Nasdaq slid 10 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 7,457. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 4 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,534. The index is now down for the year.

Bond prices rose, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 3.17 per cent from 3.19 per cent late Monday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 3.1 per cent. European markets also closed sharply lower.

Markets have been rattled in recent weeks by increased worries over the impact that rising interest rates, inflation and the escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China may have on Corporate America.

New code of conduct?

A coalition of Canadian public interest and seniors groups is calling for a new government-backed code of conduct for the people and companies that sell telecommunications products to consumers.

The recommendation was made at a second day of public hearings into widespread complaints about common tactics used to sell phone, cable, internet and wireless services.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has been ordered by the government to look into allegations of misleading and aggressive sales practices and report to cabinet by the end of February.

The Fair Communications Sales Coalition told CRTC commissioners on Tuesday that it would eventually like Canada follow Australia's lead in establishing one mandatory, national code of conduct for providing and selling telecom services.

But the group says it may be more practical to start by adding oversight of sales practices to the responsibilities of the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, a private-sector body that works with the CRTC.

The industry-funded CCTS is limited currently to resolving customer complaints about wireless and television service contracts but it doesn't have a mandate to deal with how the services were sold to consumers.

Luxury home sales drop

Luxury home sales in two of Canada's most expensive markets are down from a year, as the high-end real estate market feels the effect of foreign buyers taxes.

In an annual report, realty brokerage Re/Max says sales of single-detached homes priced from $1 million to $2 million fell 35 per cent from a year ago in both Toronto and Vancouver.

Single-detached homes in the $2-million-to-$3-million range were down 50 per cent in Toronto and 22 per cent in Vancouver.

Homes that were sold for more than $3 million dropped 44 per cent in Toronto and 45 per cent in Vancouver.

Ontario and B.C. have introduced foreign buyers taxes, while B.C. has also increased property transfer taxes and school taxes on homes over $3 million.

Although luxury home sales are weakening, sales in the low-end of the luxury condo market in the cities saw increases driven mainly by millennials who are using their inheritances and baby boomers looking to downsize, the report said.

Condo sales in the $1-million-to-$2-million range were up two per cent year over year in Toronto and six per cent in Vancouver. Calgary saw their condo sales in this price range jump by three per cent, while Victoria sales climbed 19 per cent.

The most expensive condominium sold in Toronto in 2018 so far was priced at $11.5 million, topping the $8 million that was paid for the most expensive condo sold in 2017. The priciest condo sold in Vancouver so far this year was $11.7 million, up 34 per cent from the top price of $8.7 million paid last year.

Elton Ash, executive vice-president of RE/MAX of Western Canada, said the tax on foreign buyers has impacted overseas activity, opening more opportunities for local buyers to enter the luxury market.

"As a result, local buyers are driving demand for luxury condos going into 2019, which is welcome news for developers in major city centres looking to build more properties," Ash said.

Global markets tumble

U.S. stocks slumped broadly in early trading Tuesday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 500 points and extending the market's recent string of losses.

The latest wave of selling came as investors grew increasingly unsettled by the prospects for China's economy and the cost of President Donald Trump's aggressive trade policies.

China reported on Friday that its economy grew 6.5 per cent from July to September from a year earlier, the slowest pace since early 2009. The world's second-largest economy was cooling even before the outbreak of a tariff war with Washington.

Technology companies, banks and industrial stocks led the market slide on Wall Street, which followed a steep sell-off in Chinese and other global markets.

The S&P 500 was down 54 points, or 2 per cent, to 2,700 as of 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The index is on course for its worst month in more than three years. The Dow lost 507 points, or 2 per cent, to 24,809.

The Nasdaq slid 184 points, or 2.5 per cent, to 7,285. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 30 points, or 2 per cent, to 1,509. The index is now down for the year.

Bond prices rose, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 3.13 per cent from 3.19 per cent late Monday.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange's volatility index, known as the VIX, or fear index, was up 23 per cent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 3.1 per cent and European markets traded lower.

Markets have been rattled in recent weeks by increased worries over the impact that rising interest rates, inflation and the escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China may have for corporate profits.

Trump has imposed tariffs on about $250 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing has retaliated by targeting $110 billion in American products. Trump has threatened to tax another $267 billion in Chinese products — a move that would cover virtually everything China ships to America.

The two countries are locked in a dispute over U.S. allegations that China steals U.S. technology and forces U.S. companies to share trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Shares of Caterpillar tumbled after the heavy equipment manufacturer warned Tuesday that Trump's taxes on imported steel were driving up production costs. The stock plunged 9.4 per cent to $116.56.

Technology companies and banks also took heavy losses. Corning slid 5.9 per cent to $29, while Citigroup fell 3.5 per cent to $64.24.

Truck maker Paccar tumbled 7.7 per cent to $55.85, while engine manufacturer Cummins sank 5.8 per cent to $131.79.

Close to 17 per cent of companies on the broad S&P 500 index have reported earnings for the third quarter, and over half of them did better than expected.

In Europe, the focus was on Italy's dispute with the European Union over its plan to ramp up public spending. The plan expands its targeted deficit to 2.4 per cent of GDP next year, three times more than promised by the previous government.

The European Union is worried that this would prevent Italy from lowering its debt, which is second only to Greece among its members.

International credit rating agency Moody's has downgraded Italy's credit ratings in response.

Germany's DAX slid 2 per cent and France's CAC 40 was 1.4 per cent lower. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.9 per cent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index gave up 2.7 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea tumbled 2.6 per cent. Australia's S&P-ASX 200 dipped 1.1 per cent.

iPhone XR coming soon

Apple offers you a simple trade-off with its new iPhone XR, the middlebrow cousin to the top-of-the-line iPhone XS.

On one hand, the XR lacks the high-resolution screen and dual-lens camera found on the XS. On the other, you'd save at least $250 and still get most of the other cutting-edge features found on the more expensive model.

Based on several days of testing, it looks like Apple made the right cost-cutting trade-offs with the XR, which starts selling Friday for about $750. The standard XS starts at about $1,000; its supersized cousin, the XS Max, goes for $100 more.

The XR falls between the XS and the Max in size. Its screen is about 7 per cent larger than the XS and 12 per cent smaller than the Max. But the XR is closer in width to larger Phones such as the Max and older Plus models, so anyone upgrading from an iPhone 7 or 8 will have to get used to a new grip.

As with the XS, the XR's display extends close to the phone's edges, translating to 45 per cent more screen space than the iPhone 8 and 6 per cent more than the 8 Plus. The XR and the XS both use facial recognition to unlock the phone, and both have a notch at the top for sensors, similar to shades on a car's windshield. The notch will take getting used to.

Speaker quality on the XR and the XS were comparable, and the mics on all new models offer stereo recording for the first time.

The phone displays, however, are different, and those disparities can make a difference. The screens on both XS models have better contrast and more vibrant colours than the standard LCD screen on the XR. Autumn leaves in the cartoon "The Secret Lives of Pets" stand out more, while greater hints of orange appeared in a space drama's rocket exhaust flames. Whites are whiter, making the screen appear brighter even though it's not.

The XR screen also falls short of full high definition, unlike the XS displays, although it can display video at 720p quality. Apple says that with LCD screens, higher resolution drains the battery faster, a trade-off that's minimal with the XS because its screen doesn't need a backlight.

That said, the differences are often hard to spot, even with the phones side by side. Where quality really matters, you'll probably want a bigger screen such as a tablet or a TV anyway.

Although the Max has the largest battery in an iPhone, the XR was typically on par with or exceeded the Max in battery performance when viewing video, at least at lower or medium brightness. In any case, either phone should give you enough battery life for routine use.

Cameras improve with each generation, and the new iPhones are no different. For many shots, the new iPhones blend four exposures rather than two, allowing for better lighting balance and more detail. In some shots taken in suboptimal conditions — against direct sunlight — the XR still showed trees in dimly lit areas, while last year's iPhone X produced pitch back. The new cameras also have better focus and low-light capabilities.

What's missing in the XR is a second rear lens for double the magnification. Instead, the XR uses software zoom, which reduces quality. Of course, the standard iPhone 7 and 8 didn't have a second lens either, although their Plus models did, as did the iPhone X. Both XS models also have two lenses. Despite lacking a second lens, the XR lets you blur backgrounds in some shots, a feature many phones are now getting. The XR does this with software, though it works only with people in the foreground, while the XS can do statues and monuments.

Wow, Iceland for $129

Vancouverites looking for low-cost flights to Iceland will soon have a new option when discount airline Wow Air adds a route out of the West Coast.

The announcement, which stacks more competition onto a crowded market, means passengers can soon fly out of Vancouver International Airport to Reykjavik, the island nation's capital, six days a week.

The airline says one-way fares start at $129 for flights beginning in June, and are available for purchase as of today.

Wow Air will now be battling bigger rival Icelandair for B.C. passengers, and is part of a broader trend of upstart budget carriers in Canada, including WestJet's Swoop — the ultra-low-cost airline launched four months ago — and Air Canada's Rouge.

The airline, which already operates out of Toronto and Montreal, recently announced it will end service to three cities in the U.S. Midwest: Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis.

Wow Air says Reykjavik will also serve as a stopover for Canadian passengers en route to and from New Delhi, Tel Aviv and various European cities.

Netflix to borrow $2B

Netflix plans to borrow another $2 billion to help pay for the exclusive series and movies that its management credits for helping its video streaming service reel in millions of new subscribers during the past five years.

The additional debt load announced Monday isn't a surprise. Netflix needs more cash because it has been spending more money than its business generates since its expansion into original programming with the 2013 release of "House of Cards."

Netflix expects to burn through $3 billion this year. The $2 billion that Netflix plans to raise in a bond offering will be lopped onto it existing debt of $11.8 billion. That includes another $1.9 billion debt offering that Netflix completed earlier this year.

The borrowing binge appears to be paying off. Netflix has gained nearly 100 million subscribers since September 2013, including 7 million in the past quarter. The company recently predicted it will add another 9.4 million subscribers by the end of this year.

The Los Gatos, California, company believes all its spending on award-winning programming will help it build an insurmountable lead in video streaming as other major entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. join the fray with a current crop of competitors that include Amazon, Hulu and HBO.

Investors have been betting heavily on Netflix to win. The company's stock is worth seven times more than it was five years ago, to give Netflix a market value of about $146 billion. The shares climbed $3 to $335.67 in Monday's midday trading.

Imperial restarts pipeline

The restart of crude oil production at Imperial Oil Ltd.'s Norman Wells oilfield after a two-year shutdown means both economic optimism and cleaner air for the 800 or so residents of the remote Northwest Territories town.

"Obviously, a producing plant is going to require people and that creates employment, creates activity in our community," interim town manager Darren Flynn said.

"So we're absolutely delighted that they're back on line."

Imperial announced Monday that an employee-contractor workforce of about 100 had restored oil operations, adding it plans to gradually increase output to about 10,000 barrels per day, about the same level it was at before being shut down in December 2016.

Production was halted after slope stability concerns at the Mackenzie River crossing near Fort Simpson led to Enbridge Inc. suspending its 870-kilometre Line 21 pipeline that extends from Norman Wells into northern Alberta.

After receiving regulatory approval, replacement work on a two-kilometre section of the pipeline began in May and was completed in September.

Imperial began shipping oil from storage on the line last month.

The resumption of production means Imperial will resume supplying Northwest Territories Power Corp. with surplus electricity from its power plant, it said. The plant is fuelled by natural gas produced with the oil from its wells.

The electricity is expected to allow the power company to withdraw diesel-fuelled generators it employed to bolster power capacity while the oilfield was off line, Flynn said.

"They (diesel generators) make quite a bit of noise and, of course, you get the exhaust that comes off of it," he said.

"It's my understanding that (Imperial) is burning off natural gas in order to produce their's, so that definitely is a cleaner way to generate electricity than using diesel."

Imperial had identified its Norman Wells oilfield as a non-core asset and was trying to sell it prior to the shutdown. In an email, spokeswoman Lisa Schmidt said it is still considered to be on the market.

Small business hurt by strike

A small business group is calling for a quick end to rotating walkouts by Canada Post employees and warns a prolonged strike could bite into profits ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is also urging Canada Post to rein in spending to reduce costs.

Walkouts by employees with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers began today in Victoria, Edmonton, Windsor, Ont. and Halifax.

The union, representing 50,000 postal employees, has been bargaining separate contacts for rural and urban carriers over the past 10 months.

A Canada Post spokesman says business will proceed as usual at other locations but mail and parcels will not be picked up or delivered where walkouts are taking place.

Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says she is monitoring the situation and encourages both sides to continue negotiations until a settlement is reached.

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