Monday, October 16

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News In Brief

Highlights from the news file for Monday, Oct. 16

AMID BACKLASH, LIBERALS TRIM SMALL-BIZ TAX: The Trudeau government took the first of several steps Monday to stanch the bleeding from a self-inflicted political wound, resurrecting a campaign promise to cut taxes for small businesses outraged by its controversial tax-reform proposals. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to gradually trim the small-business tax rate to nine per cent by 2019, down from its current level of 10.5 per cent, and also to make further changes to the plan that triggered the angry backlash from entrepreneurs in the first place. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, shop owners, farmers, premiers and even some Liberal backbenchers have denounced the tax proposals, contending they’d hurt the very middle class Trudeau claims to be trying to help. In hope of calming critics, Trudeau also announced Monday he will abandon at least one of the tax-reform elements: changing the lifetime capital gains rule, which is an adjustment intended to avoid negative impacts on the intergenerational transfer of family businesses, like farms.

PHARMACISTS WANT EXPANDED ROLE IN OPIOID CRISIS: The head of the BC Pharmacy Association says chronic opioid users in rural and remote communities should have access to supervised injectable treatment that is already available in the Vancouver area. Geraldine Vance says the overdose epidemic demands immediate involvement by community pharmacists and up to 20 pilot projects should be started in under-served parts of British Columbia. Vance says there’s already a pilot study in Vancouver to expand on injectable treatment provided at the city’s Crosstown clinic, where patients receive hydromorphone and pharmaceutical-grade heroin. She says that service needs to be expanded to areas where overdose deaths have increased dramatically, and pharmacists could help play a vital role in dispensing the drug and monitoring patients. Vance says her association has been in discussions with the BC Centre on Substance Use and the BC Centre for Disease Control since the spring about how pharmacists could be involved.

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FAMILY OF INDIGENOUS GIRL FROZEN TO DEATH TESTIFIES: Family members of a 16-year-old Indigenous girl who was found frozen to death behind an auto body shop in Winnipeg say they do not want her death to be in vain. Relatives of Nicole Daniels were the first to testify as the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women opened four days of hearings in the Manitoba capital. Daniels was found face down in the snow in April 2009, the morning after, her family says, she had gone out with a middle-aged man she had met on a telephone chat line. An autopsy showed she had a high level of alcohol in her system and died from hypothermia. The police ruled out foul play. Her aunt, Joan Winning, says the teen’s clothes were undone, and that — along with other factors — leaves the family convinced that she was murdered. Nicole’s cousin, Isabel Daniels, told the hearing society sees Indigenous women as disposable and that has to change.

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LOBLAW TO LAY OFF 500 PEOPLE FROM OFFICE JOBS: Loblaw Companies Ltd. says it is laying off 500 workers from its office operations. President Sarah Davis wrote in a memo to employees that some of the employees were informed Monday and many of the positions will be eliminated immediately. She said the business faces growing pressures from both new costs and competition, and remains committed to reducing costs and running efficiently. Davis said Loblaw is making major investments in omni-channel, financial services and other growing areas and expects to create hundreds of near-term jobs. Spokesman Kevin Groh said the job cuts will come from its offices around the country, including Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax and Montreal. He said Loblaw employs about 200,000 people across Canada.

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U.S. SEEKS END TO SUPPLY MANAGEMENT AS NAFTA TALKS CONTINUE: The United States has requested a complete end to Canada’s supply management system for dairy, poultry, eggs and turkey within a decade. Two sources tell The Canadian Press the request came last night at the NAFTA talks. One says the request came with an initial phase-in period of five per cent more market access per year. Both say the goal would be to end all quotas and tariffs within 10 years. They say the Canadian government is calling the idea a non-starter. The federal Liberal government has promised to maintain the protected system for supply-managed products like dairy, arguing that the U.S. maintains numerous support programs to support its own farmers. The nearly completed NAFTA round in Washington has featured a series of aggressive demands from the U.S. that have prompted fears about whether a deal is possible. The U.S. has made tough requests on auto parts, dispute-resolution mechanisms, Buy American rules, and on a so-called sunset clause that could result in NAFTA ending within five years.

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HALF A MILLION STUDENTS AFFECTED BY ONTARIO COLLEGE STRIKE: Classes were cancelled for about half a million students in Ontario on Monday as faculty at the province’s colleges went on strike. The labour dispute involving more than 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians began late Sunday after the two sides couldn’t resolve their differences by a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Monday. Both sides say there are currently no talks scheduled to end the dispute that involves Ontario’s 24 colleges. The Ontario Public Services Employees Union says it is up to the College Employer Council, which bargains for the colleges, to re-start talks. The union presented a proposal Saturday night that called for the number of full-time faculty to match the number of faculty members on contract but the colleges say it would add more than $250 million costs each year. More than 45,000 people have signed a petition calling for a tuition reimbursement for each day lost to a strike. Matthews would not comment on that idea or the possibility of eventual back-to-work legislation, saying she wouldn’t discuss hypotheticals.

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Ontario Auto IndustryGM WORKERS AT CAMI APPROVE DEAL: Workers at General Motors’ CAMI plant are ending their four-week strike after accepting a new contract Monday that includes higher compensation, financial penalties against GM for future layoffs and the preservation of production shifts. The contract proposal was hammered out last week and Unifor, which represents 2,500 of the 2,800 workers affected at the plant in Ingersoll, Ont., had recommended the deal be accepted. The union said almost 86 per cent of production workers and 79 per cent of tradesworkers approved the contract. About 2,400 workers voted. The automaker threatened last week to shift more production to Mexico if a settlement wasn’t reached swiftly and the two sides agreed to a deal on Friday. Workers will receive two per cent wage increases in the first and fourth year of the deal, a $6,000 signing bonus and annual payments of $2,000 each Christmas. The automaker will also be forced to pay $300 million for any future job cuts. About 400 workers are currently on layoff. Retirement packages will be offered to entice about 100 workers to leave their positions for laid-off colleagues.

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The Canadian Press