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SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B

SNC-Lavalin sells 10% stake in 407 toll highway to OMERS pension plan for $3.25B

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. has signed a deal to sell part of its stake in 407 International Inc. to the OMERS pension plan.

Under the agreement, which has certain conditions, SNC is selling a 10.01 per cent stake in the toll highway operator in a transaction worth up to $3.25 billion.

The agreement will see SNC-Lavalin retain a 6.76 per cent stake in the company, which operates a toll highway in southern Ontario.

OMERS will pay $3 billion to SNC on the closing of the deal and an additional $250 million over 10 years, conditional on certain financial targets related to the performance of the toll highway.

The OMERS agreement with SNC is subject to certain rights of 407’s other shareholders, including rights-of-first refusal.

The other owners of the toll highway include a subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A., with a 43.23 per cent stake, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board with a 40 per cent.

SNC says part of the net proceeds from the sale will be used to repay debt.

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Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years

Provincial memo lays out plan to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching positions in 4 years

A provincial memo obtained by CBC Toronto lays out the Ford government’s plans to cut thousands of full-time teaching positions in Ontario beginning this fall. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, the memo says, there will be 1,558 fewer full-time teachers in Ontario. By the 2022-2023 school year, that number will be 3,475 — about three per cent of Ontario’s current teacher workforce. 

The total savings for removing those full-time positions would be $851 million. 

The memo, which was sent by the Ministry of Education to school board administrators, also clarifies that the positions will be shed through attrition — meaning teachers that quit or retire and are not replaced — as well as changing student enrolment numbers and bumped-up class sizes. 

Class sizes going up 

Concerns about teacher job losses have been swirling since March, when the province revealed its education plan, which includes increases to class sizes for intermediate and high school students. 

The average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22.  

The Toronto District School Board had predicted that the larger classes would result in about 1,000 fewer teachers in its schools. 

On Friday, TDSB trustee Robin Pilkey told CBC Toronto by email that the memo doesn’t provide any new information, and that “the number of positions we anticipate being eliminated has not changed.”  

It comes just one day after students across Ontario staged a province-wide protest over the planned changes to the education system. 

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Manitoba will challenge federal carbon tax in court, has 'credible greenhouse gas-reduction plan': premier

Manitoba will challenge federal carbon tax in court, has ‘credible greenhouse gas-reduction plan’: premier

The Manitoba government will go to court over Ottawa’s imposition of a carbon tax.

Premier Brian Pallister revealed Wednesday his government will launch a legal challenge against the federal government, which imposed its new levy as promised on Manitoba, along with three other provinces, Monday.

“We’re going to court, sadly, to challenge the Ottawa carbon tax because Ottawa cannot impose a carbon tax on a province that has a credible greenhouse gas-reduction plan of its own, and we do,” he told reporters.

Manitoba’s climate change plan originally included a carbon tax, which Pallister withdrew in a surprise move last October.

The federal government’s carbon tax came into effect April 1 for four provinces — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick — that didn’t meet Ottawa’s standard for a sufficient carbon pricing system.

The carbon tax is now charged on 21 different fuel inputs in those provinces, including gasoline, at a rate of $20 per tonne of carbon emissions. That will gradually rise to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Pallister said Wednesday his government has a strong legal case against the federal tax, separate from a court challenge already launched by Saskatchewan, and backed by Ontario and New Brunswick, because it originally proposed its own tax.

Manitoba backed away from that plan, which proposed a flat carbon price of $25 per tonne, when the federal Liberal government declared it didn’t go far enough.

The premier also said it wasn’t fair that the federal government had offered exceptions to other provinces, but not Manitoba.

He’s previously said Quebec’s cap-and-trade program is much less stringent than the flat $25-per-tonne price he proposed before he withdrew the Manitoba carbon tax, and has argued Manitoba isn’t given credit for the clean energy it produces.

“I’m the only Conservative premier in the country that took steps to develop a green plan, which actually involves our people here contributing somewhat to a levy.”

The federal Liberal government will begin levying its carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels today in the four provinces that have refused to take part in the pan-Canadian climate framework. 4:35

Pallister said his decision was influenced by discussions with government lawyers, and that Manitoba’s legal argument is more convincing now that the federal backstop is in place.

“There’s no point launching the case unless they were going to intrude on Manitoba’s jurisdiction,” he said of the federal government. “They didn’t do that until this past Monday.”

Manitoba will withdraw the court challenge, which may take two to three years to wind through the legal channels, Pallister said, if the Saskatchewan court challenge succeeds, or if the Trudeau government is defeated in the next federal election. 

“My hope would be it’s resolved by previous court decisions and we don’t need to carry it further,” Pallister said. “I guess I could be accused of trying to save money, yet again.”

If Ottawa’s plan is rejected, Pallister wouldn’t say whether he would implement the carbon tax plan his government originally proposed.

Manitoba has ‘flip-flopped’: environment minister

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is dismayed by Pallister’s thinking.

“I think it’s really ironic,” she said from Ottawa.

“The day after we release a climate report for Canada by our scientists that said that Canada’s warming is double the world average that we have the premier of Manitoba deciding to take us to court, to spend taxpayer money fighting climate action as opposed to fighting climate change,” McKenna said.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna condemned the Manitoba government for choosing to fight Ottawa in court over the carbon tax, just one day after a report found that Ottawa was warming at twice the world’s average. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“Manitoba had an opportunity to have a plan and, unfortunately, they flip-flopped so many times.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew pointed out the province received a legal opinion two years ago that said the federal government has the right to impose a carbon tax.

He said this lawsuit, which he described as “frivolous,” won’t change that. 

“We can debate the merits of the carbon pricing measure, but I can tell you one thing for sure: taking the federal government to court on this is just going to waste taxpayer money and it’s going to do absolutely nothing to fight climate change here.” 

The legal opinion said the province could legally snub the federal carbon tax scheme if it demonstrated that its plan was equally effective at cutting emissions. 

The government would be better off returning to the negotiating table with the federal government, argued Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.

“To go against the advice of a very well-respected law prof who you’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to give you advice on this matter doesn’t make any sense to me.”

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Developer tables plan for Parkdale apartments once managed by notorious landlord

Developer tables plan for Parkdale apartments once managed by notorious landlord

A local developer is hoping to transform a series of properties across from Stadium LRT, once owned by an infamous Edmonton landlord, into a six-storey apartment building.

The proposed site is largely a mix of boarded-up homes and vacant lands. The properties have been the subject of public health complaints and safety concerns from neighbours in the past.

Parkdale residents had their first look at the proposed apartment building on Thursday at a public consultation organized by the city. The developer, Gina Xiu Ling Cai, is asking the city to rezone eight lots on 86th Street from low-rise to medium-rise to accommodate plans for a 50-unit building, with commercial space fronting onto the busy arterial roadway.

The boarded-up property on 86th Street, which was previously connected to an infamous Edmonton landlord, is now part of a proposed site for a mid-rise apartment building. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

“She’s trying to bring vibrancy back to the community. She’s trying to rebuild something that has a very negative outlook,” said Kaylyn Stark, a planner with Invistec Consulting, which is working with Cai on the rezoning application.

In an interview with CBC News, Stark helped translate for Cai, who speaks limited English.

Properties once connected to infamous Edmonton landlord

Cai said about she purchased some of the lots on the proposed site from Abdullah Shah, also known as Carmen Prevez, about a year ago. 

Shah, an infamous Edmonton landlord, has a lengthy criminal record from cocaine trafficking to organizing a $30 million fraud scheme. He is currently in custody on charges of conspiracy and aggravated assault for allegedly paying people to attack a man.

Local residents have also accused Shah of being an absentee landlord and ignoring complaints against tenants in his buildings.

AHS ordered Shah to vacate one of the buildings in 2015 after an inspection found sewer backup in the basement, water damage and a shower nozzle held together with tape.

Mustafa Aral said his house backs onto the site of a proposed 50-unit apartment building. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

Cai said she was aware of the previous concerns with the properties. She said she did not know Shah or have any connections to him.

Mustafa Aral, whose house backs onto the proposed site, said he’s shared security footage taken from around his home to police in relation to armed robbery and drug trafficking incidents.

“I’m actually very excited that something new is happening in my neighbourhood, and finally we’re done with those problem houses,” he said.

The property owner displayed renderings of the proposed apartment building at a public consultation meeting on Thursday at the Parkdale-Cromdale Community League. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

AHS ordered Cai, the new owner, to make repairs on the only property on the site with a tenant last month after an AHS inspection found the stove was broken, heater vents were missing from the attic and the kitchen cupboards had fallen into disrepair.

Aral said Cai had managed the property “terribly” and was concerned similar issues might carry over into a prospective apartment building.

Cai said she was working with the tenant to find new housing as the rezoning application moves ahead. She said tenants in the three other properties on the proposed site had been evicted.

‘Parkdale is in transition’

Jim Gendron, the chair of the neighbourhood development committee with the Cromdale-Parkdale community league, said the housing stock in the area is nearing the end of its life. He said the idea of an apartment building within walking distance of an LRT station was an excellent idea for the community.

“Parkdale is in transition, Cromdale is in transition. And so far, what we’re starting to see with this kind development is positive opportunities that transition,” he said.

Jim Gendron, chair of the community league’s neighbourhood development committee, said the proposed apartment buildings were an excellent idea. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

The developer said the price and target demographic of the proposed apartment building hasn’t been decided, but it would be market housing.

“There’s no way to bring people into the community with vacant lots and boarded up houses. We’re creating the opportunity for new people to come to the community and build on a mature neighbourhood,” said Stark, the planner with the consulting company.

The rezoning application still needs to go before council. Cai said she is hoping the application will get approved by June and construction can start in the fall, or next spring by the latest.

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Navy deep-sixed Conservative plan to name naval vessels after War of 1812 battles

Navy deep-sixed Conservative plan to name naval vessels after War of 1812 battles

What’s in a name? When Shakespeare asked, he was talking about romance and roses. Apparently, the question applies to naval ships as well.

A series of internal briefing notes show the Canadian navy pushed back hard against the former Conservative government’s plan to name the long-delayed, yet-to-be-delivered supply ships after War of 1812 battles.

In the fall of 2017, the Liberal government quietly announced that the new joint support ships would be named HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver — a nod, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said at the time, to the recently-retired naval replenishment vessels that had refuelled and resupplied Canadian warships at sea for four decades.

Back in 2013, the government of then-prime minister Stephen Harper announced that the new ships would be named after key battles of the 1812 to 1814 conflict between the United States and Great Britain — specifically, the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Battle of the Chateauguay, both British victories.

Internal documents show those names were dropped not because of political pressure, but due to objections from naval brass.

The navy was very upset that they would start naming warships after army victories– Naval historian Marc Milner

“Although themes drawn from the War of 1812 were deemed viable, the naming of warships after historically significant land battles has not proven to resonate well with Canadians and is not consistent with Royal Canadian Navy practice,” the country’s top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, told Sajjan on Aug. 26, 2016.

Vance may have been putting it diplomatically. Naval historian Marc Milner said he heard the criticism from within the military almost immediately after the new ship names were announced.

“The navy was very upset that they would start naming warships after army victories,” said the University of New Brunswick academic, wondering aloud whether the army would start naming its bases after famous admirals.

The problem was simple. The Conservatives wanted to honour the legacy of the War of 1812, a key moment in Canada’s evolution from a collection of colonies to a modern nation. But very few of the naval battles between 1812 and 1814 directly involved combatants from the colonies that would someday become Canada.

Harper’s government poured a lot of time and money into celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, spending roughly $28 million on public celebrations, statues and commemorations.

“At the time, it was felt that a ‘battles’ theme would facilitate this broader linkage” to the country’s military history, said one internal memo.

‘An affront’

But the names chosen for the ships — HMCS Queenston and HMCS Chateauguay — were not popular with the navy, according to multiple defence insiders who noted few combat sailors wanted replenishment ships with names that sound like “wineries.”

“There’s all kinds of good reasons for naming them after naval battles that we were involved in,” said Milner. “But to name them after early 19th century land victories in Upper and Lower Canada was just, I think, an affront to the Navy’s sense of who they were and who they wanted to be.”

Capt. James Salt, the director of major naval Crown projects at the Department of National Defence, said a lot of lessons were learned during the naming exercise — something that doesn’t happen all that often.

In the past, Canada has named warships — such as the new Halifax-class frigates — after rivers and major cities.

It rarely names ships after battles or individuals. The exceptions, Salt said, are the upcoming Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which will be known collectively as the Harry DeWolf-class after a famous Second World War commander, who was later promoted to admiral.

The navy has been very careful to choose names that resonate with the public, he added.

In the 1990s, as the frigates were launched out of the country’s shipyard, the idea of naming them after major cities was seen as a way to connect ordinary Canadians with the work of the navy.

And in case anyone thinks this is a debate solely for sailors, academic and history geeks, Salt said Sajjan’s office is already being hit with notes from the general public suggesting names for replacement frigates — which have yet to be designed and are not due to hit the water until the mid-2020s at the earliest.

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Hydro One to pay American energy company $103M US after failed merger plan

Hydro One to pay American energy company $103M US after failed merger plan

Hydro One and Avista Corp. say they have agreed to cancel their merger after regulators in Washington state and Idaho shot down the deal. 

The energy companies say that after weighing their chances of  getting those decisions reversed, both their boards of directors decided it was best to call off the plan.

They say under the terms of the merger agreement, Hydro One must now pay Avista US $103 million in termination fees.

Earlier this month, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission denied a request from both companies to  reconsider its rejection of the Ontario utility’s planned takeover of the American company.

Ontario electricity customers won’t foot bill, minister says

The request was issued after regulators found that the $6.7-billion planned merger would not sufficiently safeguard Avista customers from the whims of the Ontario government, which is Hydro One’s largest shareholder.

The regulator has pointed to Premier Doug Ford’s efforts to force former Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt to retire —which was followed by the resignation of the utility’s entire board — as a sign that the province was willing to put political interests above those of shareholders.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission also denied the proposed takeover, finding that the companies had failed to demonstrate that the transaction met the public interest.

The merger required approvals from state regulatory commissions in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska to go through, but only the latter two have approved it. Oregon’s public utility commission opted last week to put its decision on hold.

Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said the Progressive Conservative government accepts the decision made by the two utilities, and will continue to focus on bringing down hydro rates for Ontarians.

“Any costs incurred as a result of today’s decision will not be paid by Ontario electricity customers,” Rickford said in a

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