Posts Tagged "Canada"

New regulations restricting the amount of alcohol allowed in potent, sugary, premixed drinks take effect today across Canada, confirmed the federal health minister’s office in an email to CBC on Thursday. 

Until now, a 568-millilitre can of the drink, which Health Canada refers to as a “flavoured purified alcoholic beverage,” could contain up to 11.9 per cent alcohol, the equivalent of about four standard alcoholic drinks, such as four regular beers or four five-ounce glasses of wine.

Under the new regulations, a drink of the same size can’t contain more than 4.5 per cent alcohol by volume, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s office said in an email.

Earlier this year, a Quebec coroner concluded that consuming several cans of the malt-liquor drink FCKD UP contributed to the death of 14-year-old Quebec high school student Athéna Gervais.

In February 2018, Gervais drowned in a small creek behind her high school in the Montreal suburb of Laval after she reportedly drank several cans of the beverage, which contained 11.9 per cent alcohol, on her lunch break.

Coroner Martin Larocque said Gervais and her friends drank the equivalent of about 12 glasses of wine in under 30 minutes.

Athéna Gervais’s funeral was on March 9, 2018, in Saint-Félicien, Que. (Radio-Canada)

He also said Health Canada needed to do more to prevent teenagers from consuming the drinks, which use bright colours and vibrant ads to attract young consumers.

In the weeks following Gervais’s death, the company that produces FCKD UP, Geloso Group, halted production and removed cans from store shelves in Quebec, the only province where the drink was sold.

In June 2018, the Quebec government also adopted legislation that limits the alcohol content of the sugary drinks sold in convenience and grocery stores to seven per cent.

In December 2018, Health Canada announced it would take steps to reduce the amount of alcohol allowed in premixed purified alcohol beverages, but didn’t say when the restrictions would be enacted.

Four Loko, an American beverage similar to FCKD UP that has 11.9 per cent alcohol in a 568-millilitre can, is still available in The Beer Store across Ontario, according to the drink’s website.

A Health Canada analysis published in December 2018 of the potential impact of new regulations found that although provinces and territories outside Quebec supported the new legislation, “many indicated that they were not aware of these types of products being sold in their jurisdictions.”

The exception appears to be Ontario, according to the document, which reads: “the products … are entering stores in Ontario, where there are no such restrictions,” referring to the Quebec legislation that restricts their alcohol content to seven per cent.

Health Canada faced criticism following Gervais’s death for not enacting regulations sooner.

Here are the new limits to alcohol content, according to container size:

  • 7.2 per cent in a 355-millilitre container
  • 5.4 per cent in a 473-millilitre container
  • 4.5 per cent in a 568-millilitre container
  • 3.6 per cent in a 710-millilitre container

‘Extremely disappointing’

Hubert Sacy, head of Éduc’alcool, a non-profit that promotes moderate alcohol consumption, says Health Canada’s new regulations don’t go far enough. (Radio-Canada)

Hubert Sacy says he’s not satisfied with Health Canada’s new regulations, calling them “extremely disappointing and totally irresponsible.”

As head of Éduc’alcool, a non-profit that promotes moderate alcohol consumption in Quebec, Sacy and his organization have been petitioning the federal government to restrict the alcohol content of flavoured purified alcoholic beverages since they entered the Quebec market, before Gervais’s death.

Éduc’alcool wanted Health Canada to limit the alcohol percentage per container to the equivalent of one standard drink, but Sacy says the new limits represent the equivalent of 1.5 drinks.

“Obviously, they didn’t listen to anything we said,” Stacy told CBC on Thursday.

Stacy had also pushed for a federal ban on the drinks’ labelling and marketing geared to young people.

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Canada plans to build up to 18 new coast guard ships at a cost of $15.7 billion in an effort to renew Canada’s Coast Guard fleet,  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.

Up to 16 of the ships will be constructed in a fleet renewal project anchored in Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards. Two others — Arctic patrol ships that will be modified for the Canadian Coast Guard — will be built at Irving Shipyards in Nova Scotia.

“Canadians deserve better than to have this fleet rust out,” Trudeau said during his visit to Vancouver.   

“By renewing the Coast Guard fleet, we’re making sure our coast guard has the ships they need to carry out their important work for the entire country in the years to come,” he said in a statement.

Trudeau also announced the government is launching a competitive process for the design of a new class of smaller ships. The mid-shore multi-mission ship will work with the large fleet in shallow areas and perform some science activities. 

A plan to refit and extend the life of existing vessels at shipyards across the country will cost up to $2 billion.

Aside from the shipbuilding plan, the federal government is providing an additional $351.3 million to enhance capacity of the coast guard, strengthen management and oversight and promote a greener way of doing business. 

According to a government statement, the $15.7 billion figure is an “early estimate” of the cost for construction, support, infrastructure, project management and cost overruns, or contingency funding. The costs of each ship will be announced, the government said, after contract negotiations have been completed. 

CCGS Captain Molly Kool is presented to the media after undergoing refit and conversion work at the Davie shipyard in December 2018 in Lévis, Que. Much of the Canadian Coast Guard’s aging fleet has exceeded expected lifespans. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

According to a statement, the government also intends to launch a competitive process to add a third Canadian shipyard as a partner under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

“The National Shipbuilding Strategy is the right approach to ensure our Coast Guard, Navy, and marine activities are supported by modern vessels,” Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough said in a statement. 

The 16 multi-purpose vessels will be used for light icebreaking, environmental response and search and rescue while the two new Arctic and offshore patrol ships will perform duties further offshore.  

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The number of mortgage loans in Canada grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter as housing activity cooled, according to a new report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but the value of all mortgages is still rising.

There were 223,000 new mortgage loans in the last three months of 2018, which is 4.8 per cent lower than the same period a year ago, the CMHC said.

“While indebtedness of Canadian households remains elevated, growth in the volume of mortgage activity slowed in the last quarter of 2018, partly reflecting lower housing market activity,” said Geneviève Lapointe, senior market analyst at CHMC in the report.

“Despite high debt levels, delinquency rates remain low and the number of highly indebted and more vulnerable consumers has decreased.”

Borrowers with a low credit score accounted for less than one per cent of new mortgage loans, the CMHC said.

But, even as the number of loans fell, the average value of all mortgages in Canada reached $209,570 in the fourth quarter, which is more than three percent higher than a year ago.

The CMHC said the national trends mirror what happened in Toronto and Vancouver — the country’s largest and most expensive housing markets.

While the number of transactions for home sales fell last year on higher borrowing costs, slower economic growth and recent mortgage regulations, the average house price in Canada is still “historically elevated,” the CMHC said.

“This explains, in part, why the average balance of new loans remains higher than in the overall mortgage market.”

Mortgages accounted for about two-thirds of all debt held by Canadians, according to the government agency.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned policymakers in Canada not to ease mortgage stress test rules introduced last year, because household debt remains high.

Mortgage holders take on more debt

Added to that, the CMHC said household debt rose faster than income last year — leading the debt-to-income ratio to hit a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter. 

A big driver of this was Canadians with mortgages taking on more debt, the CMHC said.

“Their average outstanding balance in credit cards and lines of credit grew at a faster pace than in 2017, except for HELOCs (home equity line of credit) and auto loans, which increased at a slightly slower pace,” the report said.

“These trends were also observed among consumers without a mortgage.”

Canadians with a mortgage had an average balance of $9,054 in other debt, which rose 3.6 per cent from the same period in 2017. The average balance of debt for those without a mortgage was at $7,460, which was up five per cent from a year ago.

“Consumers kept increasing their other debt burden, and therefore, [increasing] their vulnerability to a shock in the longer run,” the report said. 

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Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 1.1 per cent to $51.3 billion in March boosted by higher sales at gas stations and sellers of building materials, garden equipment and supplies.

Economists had expected an increase of 1.0 per cent for the month, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Sales were higher in seven of 11 subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada.

Sales at gasoline stations gained six per cent in March due in large part to higher prices at the pump, while sales at gasoline stations in volume terms were relatively unchanged from February.

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers increased sales 4.3 per cent in March.

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers decreased 0.7 per cent in March as sales at new car dealers fell. Excluding the auto sector, overall retail sales were up 1.7 per cent for the month.

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A Canadian non-profit that advocates for an open and affordable internet wants Ottawa to make electronic devices like smartphones easier to fix. 

Less than two months ago, OpenMedia started a petition calling on the federal government to put in place “right to repair” legislation. It’s garnered more than 11,000 signatures and raised thousands of dollars. 

“[Electronics are] treated as disposable,” said executive director Laura Tribe. “There’s nothing that will increase your cell phone bill than dropping and shattering your screen.”

Tribe says government legislation would force electronics giants to give consumers and small businesses the tools to repair those shattered screens, and other problems with brand-name gadgets, by forcing companies to make manuals, software and parts available at a “reasonable and non-discriminatory price.” 

Currently, many devices can only be repaired by the manufacturer or not at all, she says. 

“We’re really making sure people have the power to really own their devices.” 

Ontario’s ‘right to repair’ bill 

Earlier in May, the Ontario government voted down a private member’s bill aimed at making tech repairs easier introduced by Liberal MPP Michael Coteau at second reading. 

Days before the vote, Coteau said in the Legislature, “[The current approach] forces people, too often, to simply throw away a product rather than repairing that product and supporting a local business that does that.” 

Liberal MPP Michael Coteau tabled a private member’s bill that was voted down in early May. (CBC)

When asked by Coteau if he would support the bill, Minister of Government and Consumer Services Bill Walker said the law would ultimately “limit consumer choice” by making electronics harder to access as businesses could choose not to bring new products to market in the province. 

“It would worsen Ontario’s business climate, driving away innovation and jobs,” he said, adding the bill would affect the intellectual property of the companies. 

Coteau is confident the bill will come up again in the legislature even if he’s the one who revives it.

“We need to have some say and some control in the world around us when it comes to digital devices,” he told CBC News. 

‘Terrible for the environment’

Greenpeace points to another concern, arguing a law would be environmentally friendly.

“It reduces the amount of waste, particularly electronic waste,” said Keith Stewart, the environmental groups’s energy analyst. 

Stewart used his washing machine at home as an example. He paid for a repair person who told him the device was done. His son, however, quickly found a solution to the problem by looking up a video online. 

“The government claims to be for the little guy,” he said. “This is how you can concretely help the little guy.”

The federal Office of Consumer Affairs told CBC News it “supports consumer interest research and undertakes analysis on marketplace issues to inform and support public policy development.”

However, it pointed out that the “right to repair” falls under provincial jurisdiction. 

OpenMedia says it hopes the federal government will step in once it presents the petition. 

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Canada is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to phasing out the use of coal power, according to a global report, that shows the country substantially reduced its energy supply from coal over a five-year period.

Canada — along with European countries France, Italy and the U.K.— lead the group of G20 countries when it comes to plans compatible with the Paris Agreement to phase out coal by 2030, said Climate Transparency in a recent report. The agency is a group of 14 global environmental groups that tracks climate action among the G20.

“In 2018, the federal government of Canada amended its regulations to accelerate a coal phase-out by 2030 for the whole country,” the report said. “This followed the Canadian government’s leadership in establishing the Powering Past Coal Alliance in November 2017, together with the U.K. government.”

The report is referring to the announcement made by the federal government in last year to speed up the transition from traditional coal power to clean energy in an effort to reduce carbon pollution by 16 million tonnes in 2030.

The report also showed that Canada reduced its absolute energy supply from coal by 13 per cent in the five-year period between 2012 and 2017. That follows bigger reductions by the U.K., Italy, France, the European Union and the U.S. in the G20. Nine countries in the group, mainly in Asia, actually saw their energy supply from coal increase in the same time. 

Overall, absolute energy supply from coal in the G20 only fell by 0.9 per cent over the five years.

“In Canada, a planned phase-out of coal-fired power plants, particularly in the state of Ontario, has led to decreasing coal consumption,” the report said. “The new government absorbed the cost of the phase-out and combined it with an overall reform of the electricity sector and with promoting renewable energy.”

Ontario phased out coal power generation by 2014 by shutting all 6,400 MW of coal-fired plants.

The report added that most G20 countries are currently still building, or plan to build more coal power plants.

“G20 governments continue to provide at least US$39 billion of government support per year for the production of coal, including coal-fired power,” the report said.

‘Low’ rating for renewable energy

While Canada ranks high when it comes to phasing out coal, it lags other G20 countries when it comes to replacing that power with renewable energy.

Canada was ranked in the “low” category, along with Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the U.S., when it came to targets and adequate policy for renewable energy.

“Canada has a high share of hydropower in its electricity mix, but has not set itself a 100 per cent renewable target, and the share of other renewable sources is still very low,” the report said. “Responsibility for renewable support schemes lies at the provincial level.”

Renewable energy accounted for just over 17 per cent of Canada’s total energy supply, according to government data from 2016.

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The International Monetary Fund says household debt in Canada is still too high to pursue policy changes to encourage more activity in housing markets.

The organization’s report comes on the heels of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s pledge last week to rework the Liberal’s mortgage stress test to make home-buying more affordable for Canadians.

The IMF, however, says it would be “ill-advised” to stimulate activity in the sector, suggesting Canada aim instead for a gradual slowdown in overheated real estate markets to reduce risk to the economy.

The report by the organization’s staff following an official visit to Canada calls for policy priorities that focus on ensuring a sound financial system, enhanced cooperation between federal and provincial governments and structural reforms that target productivity growth.

The tightened mortgage rules, brought in by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, mandated would-be borrowers undergo a stress test to determine whether they could still make payments if faced with higher interest rates or less income.

In a report last month that calls for a rethinking of the mortgage stress test, CIBC economist Benjamin Tal estimated the measure accounted for more than half of a $25-billion or eight per cent drop in new mortgages started last year.

“The government is under pressure to ease macroprudential policy or introduce new initiatives that buttress housing activity,” said the IMF in its report.

“This would be ill-advised, as household debt remains high and a gradual slowdown in the housing market is desirable to reduce vulnerabilities.”

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The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has signed a deal to invest roughly $200 million in specialty food company Premium Brands Holdings Corp.

Premium Brands intends to use the cash to repay debt, finance organic and acquisition growth opportunities and for general corporate purposes.

Under the agreement, CPPIB will pay $76.02 per share for 2,631,000 shares in the company.

The shares represent approximately a 7.1 per cent stake in the Richmond, B.C.–based company.

Concurrent with the deal, Premium Brands said it has also signed agreements with certain shareholders to raise an additional $60 million through the sale a total of 788,000 shares at $76.02 per share.

Shares in the company closed at $78.08 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.

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Prince Edward Islanders spend less money on alcoholic beverages than anyone in Canada, according to a recent report by Statistics Canada.

The report found Islanders spend $614.70 per capita on liquor. The national average was $756.90.

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador spent the most. At $1,029.20, it was the only province spending more than $1,000 per capita.

Islanders were spending far less on wine than the national average.

While spending was about 90 per cent of the national average for spirits and beer, it was only 63 per cent of the national average for wine.

More P.E.I. news

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Canada and the U.S. are close to reaching a deal to remove steel and aluminum tariffs, CBC News has learned.

High-level discussions to hammer out any final details are happening now, and the deal could be announced as early as Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. 

While nothing is finalized, the source said momentum is heading in the right direction and called today a moment to mark.

However, they cautioned that the devil will be in the details.

Almost a year ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped tariffs of 25 per cent on imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, citing national security interests.

Canada retaliated with its own tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, but also imposed a 10 per cent tariff on multiple consumer items, targeting products such as Kentucky bourbon from states represented by U.S. politicians who might push back against the tariffs.

The tariffs have disrupted supply chains and added extra costs for consumers and businesses across a wide range of industries on both sides of the border.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to sit down with her American counterpart and held a series of  meetings with members of Congress.

Her trip followed on the heels of two phone conversations Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had with U.S. President Donald Trump within the past week, where he asked for an end to U.S. steel tariffs and additional diplomatic assistance in Canada’s ongoing dispute with China.

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