Business Marketing & News From Canada

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Month: April 2019 Page 9 of 12

London Life insurance company to be called Canada Life

London Life insurance company to be called Canada Life

London Life, the iconic insurance company that carried the Forest City’s name for almost 150 years, is getting a rebrand.

The company will join with two other insurance firms under a single banner, Canada Life.

“Our three companies, Great-West Life, Canada Life and London Life are celebrating the next stage of our journey. Welcome, as we unite under a single brand,” said Jeff Macoun, president and COO of Canada Life. 

“The new Canada Life brand combines the strengths of our three companies so we can even better deliver on our purpose — to improve the financial, physical and mental well-being of Canadians.” 

The demise of the London name was announced Wednesday at the historic London Life building on Queens Avenue in downtown London, Ont.

London Life was founded in London in 1874 and currently employs about 3,000 people in the city.

The historical roots of the London Life will always be iconic to the London area– Courtney Hance, The Branding Firm Inc.

It merged with Great-West Life in 1997 and then joined Canada Life in 2003.

“Uniting under one brand will make it easier for us to talk about what makes us different than other companies,” Macoun said. 

“It will help us simplify how we work, how we grow our business, and how we will put the customer at the centre of what we do.”

The company says the change, which requires board, regulatory and policyholder approvals, will further simplify the business.

‘Clear and concise’

Consolidating three brands under one makes a lot of sense, said Courtney Hance, the owner and president of The Branding Firm Inc., a London-based marketing agency. 

“Brand unification is definitely something that allows for clear and concise messaging. It wakes away confusion in the marketplace, to current customers, to future customers, and within the organization,” Hance said. 

London Life will be rebranded as Canada Life in the coming months. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

“The historical roots of the London Life will always be iconic to the London area. I don’t think this changes that. If anything, there’s an interesting story about putting our city on the map, about a brand that was born in our city and has scaled up.” 

The Canada Life rebrand will happen over the next year. Customers will continue to work with the same advisors and group benefits won’t change. 

Canada Life will have more than 10,500 employees across the country and serve 13 million customers. 

             –with files from The Canadian Press

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OPP reviewing allegations of 'illegal and unregistered' lobbying of Premier Doug Ford

OPP reviewing allegations of ‘illegal and unregistered’ lobbying of Premier Doug Ford

Allegations that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is being lobbied in an illegal manner will be reviewed by the Ontario Provincial Police, the force said in a letter to an NDP MPP.

The allegations stem from an open letter penned by longtime MPP Randy Hillier, who was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus last month.

The force’s March 21 letter to NDP MPP Taras Natyshal says its anti-rackets unit will look into alleged “illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisers employed by Premier Doug Ford.”

When Hillier’s letter was initially published on March 18, three days after he was kicked out of the PC caucus, Ford’s office denied any wrongdoing by the premier. 

During question period at the Ontario legislature on Thursday, Ford again said the allegations were untrue.

“There’s no illegal lobbying going on, very simple. No one can influence our team, no one can buy our team,” Ford said.

“Very simply, if you want to talk to the government, call me on my cellphone, we hand [the number] out anyways.”

CBC Toronto is attempting to contact the OPP for more information about where its review stands. 

More to come.

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Satellite images show building of first Saudi nuclear reactor

Satellite images show building of first Saudi nuclear reactor

Saudi Arabia is about a year away from completing the building of its first nuclear reactor, according to Google satellite images identified by a nuclear expert who said Thursday the construction so far appears to be very small in size and intended for research and training purposes.

Still, Robert Kelley said before the kingdom can insert nuclear fuel into the reactor, it would have to abide by an agreement that requires inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kelley, a veteran of the U.S. Department of Energy and a former director of nuclear inspections at the IAEA who is now based in Vienna, was first to identify the images of the reactor site in Riyadh at the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST).

The Associated Press could not immediately reach spokespeople at the Energy Ministry or KACST for comment.

Kelley said it’s been surprising to him “how non-transparent” the kingdom has been in the process of building the reactor and “how they seem very cavalier about modifying their arrangements with the IAEA.”

Kelley was referring to agreements the kingdom has signed. The kingdom agreed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty three decades ago. In 2005, it signed an agreement with the IAEA known as the “small quantities protocol” that allows countries with negligible nuclear programs to be exempt from regular inspections or nuclear monitoring.

However, once nuclear fuel is brought into the country to operate this small reactor, inspections by the IAEA would be required, Kelley said.

Saudi Prince has not ruled out developing a nuclear weapon

“It’s simply that they’re crossing a threshold in terms of their requirements,” Kelley said, explaining the significance of the construction of the reactor, which is much smaller than the ones the kingdom has said it wants to build for energy purposes.

The type of reactor being built now, according to the satellite images Kelley identified, is used by technicians for learning and training purposes.

“The reactor is at the bottom of an open tank filled with water 10 metres high. It’s very, very small,” Kelley said, adding that the core of the reactor is about the size of a gallon-sized paint can.

He said the Saudi reactor is being built by the Argentinian government-owned company INVAP. Before Argentina brings nuclear fuel to Saudi Arabia for the reactor, the IAEA agreement in place that exempts Saudi Arabia from inspections would need to be rescinded, Kelley said.

“I think it’s a 100 per cent certainty that Argentina is not going to supply uranium fuel to a country that doesn’t have a safeguards agreement in force,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration last week said it approved seven applications for U.S. companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia. Republican and Democratic lawmakers, however, have expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology is transferred without proper safeguards.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also not ruled out developing a nuclear weapon. He told CBS last year, “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

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Helping people the 'nuts and bolts' of politics, outgoing MP says

Helping people the ‘nuts and bolts’ of politics, outgoing MP says

The MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka says he’ll be searching for a new job in the fall after announcing he’s not seeking re-election.

On Tuesday, Tony Clement announced he will not be running in the upcoming federal election.

He was removed from the Conservative caucus in November 2018. Shortly after, Clement revealed he had shared sexually explicit images and video with women.

He also said someone had attempted to bribe one of the women to disclose “intimate and personal information” and that he had been targeted for extortion by someone demanding money to keep the images from being released.

“I’ve got a great deal of remorse over that personal crisis,” he said.

“It gave me the time to reflect, to work on my family life, to work on my personal life and to realize now is the time to start a new career.”

Provincial and federal politics

Clement started his career in politics when he was elected to Queen’s Park in 1995. He held a number of cabinet positions, including minister of municipal affairs and housing. In 1999 under the Harris government, he put forward a bill to amalgamate several communities in Ontario, including the creation of the City of Greater Sudbury.

He was voted into the House of Commons in 2006 and held a number of cabinet positions, including president of the Treasury Board and minister of industry.

In 2009, he suggested the Brazilian-based Vale takeover of a Sudbury mine “saved the community,” from becoming a “valley of death.” He later called his comments “bone-headed.”

A year later, he made headlines after millions were spent in his riding to host the G8 summit. New gazebos, parks and other upgrades were made in his riding.

Clement says looking back, the work he did in his own riding stands out.

“What really meant a lot to me was helping people in my constituency,” he said.

“That to me was the nuts and bolts of politics, it’s helping people. You can do all the other stuff and that’s wonderful but if you’re not helping people, you’re not really doing anything that’s worthwhile.”

What’s next

Now, even though he’s not a member of the Conservative caucus, he says he plans to help the party in the upcoming election.

“I’m proud of Andrew Scheer and I support him,” he said.

“I will continue to support the Conservative movement and support the Conservative Party.”

Clement will stay on as MP for his riding until the election. After that, he says he’ll be looking for a new job.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in small business, starting up companies, so that could be a possibility,” he said.

“I want to do things to help society in another fashion other than being a MP.”

He says he also wants to do more shows with his classic rock cover band, The Dock Spiders.

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Air Canada adjusts schedule and routes due to 737 Max-related jet shortage

Air Canada adjusts schedule and routes due to 737 Max-related jet shortage

Canada’s biggest airline is making adjustments to its flight schedule and temporarily cancelling or delaying some routes as a result of having to ground two dozen of its Boeing planes.

Air Canada said Tuesday is has delayed the launch of a number of planned seasonal routes because it doesn’t currently have the jets to service them after 24 of the airline’s Boeing 737 Max jets were banned from operating in Canadian airspace. The move by Canadian officials came last month in the wake of two deadly crashes of the jet in six months. 

The airline says it has managed to move things around enough to make sure that 98 per cent of those flights through to the end of May will be covered in some way, but it had to adjust in a few cases beyond that because of the lack of jets.

“Air Canada assures its customers that we are doing everything possible to mitigate the effects of the 737 Max grounding, and we appreciate our customers’ patience and flexibility as we continue to work on transporting them safely to their destinations,” Air Canada’s chief commercial officer, Lucie Guillemette, said. 

The airline says it has extended leases for aircraft that had been scheduled to be removed from its fleet, and was in the process of adding four Airbus jets acquired from WOW Air even before the Icelandic carrier abruptly closed up shop last month.

It’s not yet known when the jets will be cleared for takeoff, so Air Canada is among the many airlines adjusting flight plans well into the summer.

Here are the changes that Air Canada has made to its schedule up until the end of June:

  • Two daily flights between Toronto and Calgary have been consolidated onto one larger Airbus A330.
  • A new Toronto to Portland, Oregon, service will now start July 1 instead of May 24.
  • A new Vancouver to Boston service will now start June 16 instead of June 1.
  • A new Calgary to Halifax service will now start July 1 instead of May 18.
  • The seasonal Toronto to Shannon, Ireland, route will be delayed until early July.
  • The seasonal Montreal to Bordeaux, France, service will be delayed until early July.
  • Some Toronto to Edmonton flights will now be served by Rouge.
  • Flights from Halifax and St. John’s to London Heathrow are suspended at least until the end of May, but the airline still plans to offer them after that.

“By adjusting our schedule for the month of May, we are providing certainty for our customers so they can continue to book and travel with confidence on Air Canada,” Guillemette said.

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How B.C. brought in Canada's 1st carbon tax and avoided economic disaster

How B.C. brought in Canada’s 1st carbon tax and avoided economic disaster

Eleven years ago, Jock Finlayson and his colleagues at the Business Council of B.C. were mildly alarmed by how quickly Gordon Campbell’s provincial government implemented North America’s first carbon tax.

“We were concerned, to be candid, about what the implications of this would be for our members and for the business community generally,” Finlayson, the council’s chief policy officer told CBC.

Today, after watching the tax in action for more than a decade, he still doesn’t love it, but he’s also seen the advantages of putting a price on pollution.

“I’d say in macro [economic] terms, because of the way the policy was designed, it’s probably been a wash. In other words, I don’t think it’s either helped or hurt overall growth in the provincial economy,” he said.

As the last four provinces to resist carbon pricing are dragged into a new federal tax scheme, the country’s oldest carbon tax might serve as a good example of what to expect.

‘Good for the environment and the economy’

To be clear, not everyone is happy with the tax. The right-leaning Fraser Institute argues it makes B.C. less attractive for investors.

“The end result is less investment, lower rates of job-creation, and fewer opportunities for British Columbians to prosper,” the institute’s Niels Veldhuis and Charles Lammam wrote in a 2017 op-ed opposing increases to the tax.

And Finlayson said he’s still concerned that businesses in industries like pulp and paper, mining and food processing can’t compete with rivals in other provinces because of the high price of energy in B.C.

But the economists who spoke to CBC for this story suggest B.C.’s tax is working as it should. By making pollution more expensive to reflect the environmental costs, the tax appears to have changed the behaviour of British Columbians and led to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, while sectors of B.C. economy that consume a lot of energy have suffered from the higher cost of fuel, others, apparently spurred by corporate tax cuts, are thriving.

“This carbon tax is a model for the world that well-designed carbon pricing can be good for the environment and the economy. In the 11 years since B.C. brought in its carbon tax, it’s outpaced the rest of Canada both on emission reduction and GDP growth,” said Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa.

In 2007, B.C.’s premier at the time, Gordon Campbell (left), signed an agreement with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, pledging to fight global warming. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Looking back, the origin story for B.C.’s carbon tax sounds counterintuitive.

The tax, first set at $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, was brought in by a B.C. Liberal government — the equivalent of a conservative administration in most parts of the country.

But that was July 2008, before the true onset of the global financial crisis. Al Gore’s climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was still fuelling a wave of concern about greenhouse gas emissions.

“It was a very popular tax. I think it caught both the NDP and the Greens provincially off guard,” said pollster Mario Canseco, president of Vancouver’s Research Co.

The NDP launched an “axe the tax” campaign, arguing it would kill jobs, and leader Carole James promised she’d dump it if she were elected premier in the 2008 election.

She wasn’t, and the Liberals helped ease British Columbians into the idea of a carbon tax by making it revenue neutral. Taxpayers received rebates, and the province lowered corporate and personal income taxes.

NDP embrace the tax

Since then, the provincial NDP has come around on the tax. When the party came into power two years ago, James was named finance minister, and she’s overseen a thaw of the carbon tax rate, which had been frozen since 2012.

As of April 1, B.C.’s rate is $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, which translates to 8.89 cents per litre of gasoline. It’s set to top out at $50 a tonne in 2021.

In the meantime, numerous researchers have tried to determine the impact of the tax. According to a 2015 paper, B.C.’s emissions had dropped by between five and 15 per cent since the tax was implemented, and it had a “negligible impact” on the overall economy.

Elgie, of the University of Ottawa, was part of a wide-ranging 2013 study that showed a 19 per cent drop in B.C.’s per capita fuel consumption in the first four years of the tax, while the province’s economy slightly outperformed the rest of the country.

“The other side of the carbon price is that it creates an incentive for innovation,” Elgie said. “B.C. has now become a leader in clean technology.”

He pointed to Squamish’s Carbon Engineering, which has developed technology that it says can suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into fuel.

Sumeet Gulati, a professor in food and resource economics at the University of British Columbia, has studied the impact of the carbon tax on consumer choices — particularly, the choices of drivers.

B.C.’s carbon tax currently amounts to 8.89 cents per litre of gas. (Dave Will/CBC)

A 2016 research paper he co-wrote suggests the carbon tax has pushed B.C. drivers to choose cars that are more fuel efficient.

“If we didn’t have it … we’d be at least emitting on average seven per cent more per person in B.C. in terms of carbon emissions while driving, and cars would be about four per cent less fuel efficient,” Gulati told CBC.

Room for improvement

In recent years, the province has abandoned the idea of keeping the tax revenue neutral, and is now using some of the proceeds to encourage development of green technologies.

The folks at the Fraser Institute say that’s a mistake.

“Firms in British Columbia now not only face the highest carbon tax in North America, but they no longer enjoy any of the offsetting benefits that briefly existed as a result of lower [corporate income tax] rates,” the authors of a January report wrote.

Gulati also believes a return to revenue neutrality is essential.

“It’s important to make it politically resilient, despite who comes into power,” he said.

On the other hand, he’d like to see the rate keep rising, up to $75 or even $100 per tonne of emissions.

As for Finlayson at the Business Council of B.C., he’d like to see more support for businesses that have been hurt by the tax, including exporters, manufacturers and pulp and paper mills.

He’d also like to see a true Canada-wide carbon pricing scheme that would put businesses on an even playing field while tackling emissions.

“It’s unfortunate that the whole national climate change policy framework is in disarray at the moment because of all the opposition that we’re seeing from some provinces and some political parties,” he said.

“If we’re going to deal with this climate change issue and do so through a sensible carbon pricing regime, the logic is very powerful to try and do that in a coordinated, pan-Canadian way.”

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Trudeau defends his feminist credentials as 2 expelled women MPs insist they acted on principle

Trudeau defends his feminist credentials as 2 expelled women MPs insist they acted on principle

Justin Trudeau is defending his feminist credentials as the two women he ejected from the Liberal caucus say they have no regrets about standing up to the prime minister on principle.

Trudeau announced late Tuesday he had ejected Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from caucus, saying that trust had been broken with the former top cabinet ministers.

Facing accusations today of hypocrisy regarding his equality agenda, Trudeau pointed to the important work of key female ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould.

“We have an extraordinary range of extremely strong women in our caucus and cabinet who continue to work on good things for Canadians,” he said.

The expulsions came just before 338 young women took seats in the House of Commons today for the Daughters of the Vote, an event that draws female delegates from every federal riding in Canada to represent their communities and visions for Canada. Some of those delegates, expressing support for Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, turned their backs on Trudeau in silent protest as he addressed the chamber.

PM Justin Trudeau say that he hopes that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wasn’t disparaging the women who remain in the Liberal caucus during Question period. 1:43

The prime minister announced that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were out of caucus during a national Liberal caucus meeting Tuesday night, which was open to the media and televised. He said trust with the two MPs had been broken and called it “unconscionable” that Wilson-Raybould would tape a conversation with Michael Wernick, the clerk of the Privy Council.

Speaking out today for the first time since her expulsion, Wilson-Raybould said “trust is a two-way street.”

“I think it is unconscionable to tread over the independence of the prosecutor. It is unconscionable not to uphold the rule of law,” she said in a scrum with reporters alongside Philpott.

“I have always maintained that stance. I think it is very alarming that people are focusing on the actual recording of a tape as opposed to the contents of the tape.”

A 17-minute audio clip of a Dec. 19 conversation between Wilson-Raybould and Wernick was released Friday as part of a submission to the Commons justice committee. In that call, Wernick told Wilson-Raybould that Trudeau wanted a remediation agreement for SNC-Lavalin “one way or another,” and said the PM was “firm” on the issue.

Jody Wilson-Raybould says she recorded the call with Michael Wernick because she knew something dangerous and wrong was happening, and that her job was at risk. 1:04

Asked about it the House of Commons today, Trudeau said he was never briefed on the call and wishes now that he had spoken directly to Wilson-Raybould.

Wilson-Raybould has said she took the extraordinary step of recording the call because she was at home in her Vancouver condo without a staffer to take notes, and she expected the call would be inappropriate. 

“I was protecting myself,” she said today. “I knew that something very dangerous and wrong was going to happen, and that my job was at risk.”

Philpott called it “very unfortunate” that the situation has come to this, but said she always acted out of principle and the best interests of Canadians.

“After the story became known in the public and it was clear that there had been attempts to persuade the former attorney general to intervene in a criminal trial, and the communications of the government were to deny that took place, I could not come out here in good conscience and deny it,” she said. “Because I believed what the former attorney general said.”

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott said they will take time to reflect and consult with family and constituents before deciding on their next steps.

Jane Philpott says that to say it’s good enough to not break the law is a very low bar, and wasn’t good enough for her. 0:45

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused Trudeau of framing the issue as one of caucus factions, when it’s really about silencing whistleblowers.

“This is about two strong individuals who saw something that was wrong and decided to stand up to it,” he said during question period today. “Why does speaking truth to power disqualify you from sitting as a Liberal?”

Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt said Trudeau was punishing the two women for speaking up about something they believed was wrong.

“They stood up, they told their truth, and I guess the message from the Liberal Party of Canada is, if you go offside on our political aspirations, we’re going to destroy you,” she said.

Minister of Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef says the Liberal caucus lost trust in Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. 8:56

A place in the party

“And that’s what we saw yesterday. Two political careers destroyed by the prime minister himself, because he didn’t like the fact that they spoke up to him.”

Liberals on the Commons justice committee used their majority to suspend hearings into the SNC-Lavalin matter. Then, Liberals on the Commons ethics committee used their majority to defeat a Conservative motion for the committee to conduct its own probe, arguing that the justice committee was still doing work on the topic.

Several Liberal MPs defended Trudeau today, insisting women have a voice and a place in the Liberal Party.

“We have a strong prime minister that is a feminist, we have a feminist agenda. Our record speaks for itself,” said Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly.

“As to my two colleagues, I would argue that loyalty and feminism are two different things. There’s no male or female definition of loyalty. You either have team spirit and you want to work on a team, or you don’t.”

Bruce Spence, Amanda Alvaro, Tim Powers, Kathleen Monk and Chris Hall discuss Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott’s reaction to being expelled from the Liberal caucus. 8:55

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Study finds cats distinguish their own names from other sounds

Study finds cats distinguish their own names from other sounds

A new study suggests household cats can respond to the sound of their own names.

While the results will come as no surprise to most cat owners, Japanese scientists said Thursday that they’ve provided the first experimental evidence that cats can distinguish between words that people say.

So you’re kind of like dogs, whose communication with people has been studied a lot more, and who’ve been shown to recognize hundreds of words if they’re highly trained.

Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there’s no evidence cats actually attach meaning to our words, not even their own names. Instead, they’ve learned that when they hear their names they often get rewards like food or play, or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they hear their names a lot. So the sound of it becomes special, even if they don’t really understand it refers to their identity.

Cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they’re learning from it.– Monique Udell, animal behaviour scientist, Oregon State

Saito and colleagues describe the results of their research in the journal Scientific Reports. In four experiments with 16 to 34 animals, each cat heard a recording of its owner’s voice, or another person’s voice, that slowly recited a list of four nouns or other cat’s names, followed by the cat’s own name.

Many cats initially reacted — such as by moving their heads, ears or tails — but gradually lost interest as the words were read. The crucial question was whether they’d respond more to their name.

Sure enough, on average, these cats perked up when they heard their own name.

Kristyn Vitale, who studies cat behavior and the cat-human bond at Oregon State University in Corvallis but didn’t participate in the new work, said the results “make complete sense to me.”

Vitale, who said she has trained cats to respond to verbal commands, agreed that the new results don’t mean that cats assign a sense of self to their names. It’s more like being trained to recognize a sound, she said.

Monique Udell, who also studies animal behavior at Oregon State, said the study shows “cats are paying attention to you, what you say and what you do, and they’re learning from it.”

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OPINION | Five things to think about before you vote

OPINION | Five things to think about before you vote

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one opinion. Under the heading Opinion, we are carrying a range of different points of view on the issues facing Albertans during the current election. You can find them on our Alberta Votes 2019 page.

The Alberta election has passed its halfway point, the major parties have released their policy platforms, and later today the leaders will engage each other in a debate.

At the same time, and more significantly for many, the lawn signs decorating major thoroughfares have notified the casual observer of Alberta politics that an election is indeed underway. Many voters are now becoming engaged.

I would like to examine what every voter should contemplate before deciding who to support on April 16.

Five questions

Let’s start with five questions voters should ask themselves before they vote.

1. What issue or issues are the most important to me? The economy, health care, education or the environment? Or is my ballot box question something different such as infrastructure? The justice system? Agriculture? Or support for the arts?

2.  How do, or could, I weigh my issues and the party platforms against issues surrounding ethics and integrity? How important is it to me that I be comfortable with the party leader (in addition to, or as opposed to, party platforms)?

3. How much significance (if any) do I put on the qualifications of my local candidates versus allegiance to party or leader?

4. Would I, after serious contemplation and based on my own values and conscious, consider voting for a party unlikely to win the election or a fringe party unlikely to win even a single seat? Or would that be considered a principled but wasted vote?

5. Where do I gather the information I need to discern how I will vote? And have I gathered sufficient information?

Each voter will answer the questions differently and rank priorities separately. Once voters have determined their priorities, they will be better equipped to determine how the various platforms and leadership aspirants correspond to those priorities.

There are no right answers.

Deciding how to vote is much more art than science, so let’s look a bit deeper.

What issues are important to me?

Every voter will place different weight on different issues and will have different priorities.

The economy and job creation will be top of mind for many. For others, it will be the state of the province’s finances and the deficit. Older voters might be concerned about health care, voters with young children about the state of public education. Millennial voters are increasingly concerned about the environment.

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Other voters will place emphasis on an issue or topic specific to them; if they were a victim of crime, they might be concerned about the justice system. If they are an artist, support for their craft might be top of mind.

Research is the key to finding out where the parties stand on matters of importance.

The challenge is when the voter is concerned with multiple issues where different parties offer reasonable solutions to each of them. The voter must prioritize.

How important is leadership?

As most Albertans do not belong to any political party, many will determine their vote based on their assessment of the various leaders.  

It is mentally easier to ask oneself which leader do I trust to tackle my specific issue or issues, than to develop a complicated matrix comparing various policy platforms.

Tonight’s leadership debate will be critically important in cementing a voter’s impression of those auditioning to be premier.

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Candidates will be judged on the quality of their statements and answers, their poise, style, perceived ethics and integrity and their confidence. Again, most viewers will not carry a score card. Their analysis is much less objective. Who do I like? Who do I trust? Who do I think would make the best occupant of the premier’s office?

It is often more of a feeling or an impression than a scientific evaluation.  

But always keep in mind who you are electing; you are not electing a premier. You are electing a local representative to represent you, whose leader you probably favour to become premier.  

Leaders dominate our politics at all levels. Your impression of the leaders will likely dominate your voting calculation.

Local candidates? 

Most voters will tend to make a decision based on some combination of the party and the leader.

Many will not support a candidate whose party or leader they do not support. Even a so-called superstar candidate will do poorly in the absence of a popular party brand to run under. Independent candidates seldom win.

The exception is if the voter has a personal connection to a local candidate — work related, social or familial. A popular local candidate can make the difference in a close contest.

Undoubtedly, it is more difficult to learn about your local candidate than it is to get information about the parties and their leaders. But learning at least something about a local candidate will assist you in determining your vote.

Attend a local candidates’ forum or engage the candidate when door-knocking.

Strategic voting?

Strategic voting is becoming increasingly popular — where a voter will cast a ballot not for the voter’s first choice but for a party that is seen to be competitive.

Only one candidate will be elected, and for many people voting for a fringe candidate is seen as wasting their franchise. They are frequently correct, as in the first-past-the-post system, it is really only the votes for the top two candidates that determine the outcome.

However, many voters will not appreciate that the candidate or party of their choosing is not competitive in a particular riding. To that voter, they are simply voting for their chosen candidate without any reference to polls or strategic manoeuvring.

There is value in understanding that the path to power is sometimes an indirect one. We are choosing who will govern us.

Who we don’t want is as relevant as who we do want.

There is an abundance of candidate and party information available — pamphlets, advertisements, websites. The trick is to discern the credible from the not so credible.  

Social media is rapid and current but not always accurate. The mainstream media’s electoral coverage is probably the most objective and unbiased.

Only the voter knows when she has gathered sufficient information to make an informed choice. However, we should always question our sources: is it accurate? Is it unbiased?

Considering alternate viewpoints is critical in obtaining a broad perspective and will result in a more informed choice.

Before the vote

These are critically important questions, but there are no right or wrong answers. There are as many answers and outcomes as there are voters. Choose yours.

Gather sufficient information on the issue or issues most important to you, to assess which leader of which party you most trust to tackle those issues. If you are on the fence, consider the strengths and weaknesses of the respective local candidates. If you are uncomfortable with the so-called contenders, consider making a principled vote for a less competitive party or candidate, or strategically vote for a party in contention to prevent another party from succeeding.

Voting is a profound act of citizenship and should be rooted in personal contemplation on the part of the individual. It is critical to democracy. You only get one vote; make it count.

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Crude-by-rail rises in March as storage remains high despite Alberta curtailments

Crude-by-rail rises in March as storage remains high despite Alberta curtailments

Genscape says crude-by-rail shipments from Western Canada staged a minor recovery in March after falling in February to their lowest level in nine months, but oil storage levels remain stubbornly high.

The U.S. company, which monitors western Canadian rail terminals handling about 80 per cent of typical volumes, reports average rail loadings in March were 150,000 barrels per day.

That’s up about 6,000 bpd from an average of 144,000 bpd in February, but still down from the 281,000 bpd it recorded in January.

Genscape senior oil analyst Mike Walls says the recovery came as Imperial Oil Ltd. restarted rail shipments from its Edmonton-area terminal after largely shutting them down in February, blaming market reaction to Alberta’s oil production curtailment program.

Walls says Genscape estimates the amount of oil in storage as of March 29 was 35 million barrels, about the same as in early December when the Alberta government announced its curtailment program designed to free up export pipeline space and reduce stored barrels.

The March number is about two million barrels lower than peak levels just before the cutbacks officially began in January, he said, and higher than the 33.4 million barrels stored at the end of March 2017.

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