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5 people to watch in Business in 2019

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Catherine McKenna, 47, will be ubiquitous in making the case for the carbon pricing that Trudeau has imposed on the entire country, as he long ago vowed to do.

McKenna has the right stuff for the job. Among the most impressive delegates at the landmark Paris climate-change summit in 2015, McKenna helped her boss successfully press for more ambitious CO2 emission targets than the worldwide summit delegates thought possible.

In 2019, McKenna will be her government’s highly visible advocate of a carbon-pricing system that is revenue neutral and, according to the consensus of global climate-change scientists, a precondition to our species’ survival.

As the World Bank points out, more than 70 jurisdictions worldwide have adopted carbon pricing, which reduces health care costs and creates jobs in alternative-energy and other fields.

But McKenna is caught between environmental activists who fault what they believe is a Trudeau government’s mere “gesture politics” in fighting climate change; and excoriation, notably in the four holdout provinces against shifting the costs of pollution from the public to polluters, as guilty of a federal tax grab that will kill jobs. And McKenna is hobbled by an occasional imperious dismissal of extreme views on both sides.

If she can master the diplomatic skills on this issue that cabinet colleague Chrystia Freeland, the foreign minister, has demonstrated on trade disputes, McKenna stands to inherit Freeland’s 2018 status as Trudeau’s “star minister.”

Bruce Linton, founder and co-CEO, Canopy Growth Corp.

Bruce Linton says Canopy Growth must become a “Google-like” company, both dominant and ubiquitous.

As North America’s first publicly traded marijuana firm, Canopy Growth has a head start on other players. But giant pharmaceutical, beverage and tobacco multinationals crave a piece of a global pot market expected to hit $150 billion (U.S) in revenues by the mid-2020s.

Linton is determined to expand Canopy Growth’s geographic footprint beyond the 11 countries in which it operates.

Linton, 52, is also investing across the spectrum of pot-related firms, from marketing and distribution firms to makers of niche products (edibles, nasal sprays, gels, sleep-inducing teas and the like). And Linton is determined to achieve dominance in medicinal marijuana, which boasts a faster growth rate than recreational weed.

Doctors and patients are taking an increasing interest in pot’s potential in non-psychoactive pain relief and treatment of conditions including arthritis and childhood epilepsy.

Pot also holds promise as a safe alternative to the opioids whose improper use is a public-health crisis. In its latest quarter, Canopy Growth generated about 10 per cent of its sales from the roughly 1,000 German pharmacies it supplies.

Canopy’s in-house health divisions are developing cannabis-related treatments for insomnia in people and anxiety in dogs.

Linton’s ambitions are backed by a $3.8-billion (U.S.) investment in Canopy Growth by U.S. liquor firm Constellation Brands Inc., maker of Corona beer. As it happens, Linton is wary of the proliferation of cannabis beverages. “They’re gross,” Linton says of the many foul-tasting beverages in a market niche that awaits better recipes.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council

Donald Tusk has a formidable to-do list in 2019.

Tusk will continue to be the highest-profile exponent of the hardline European Union position on Brexit, a nightmare that could drag on through 2019 as an undecided U.K. flirts with a second EU referendum.

Meanwhile, EU immigration practices seen to be lax have fuelled nativist populism across the continent, and migration reforms are urgently needed.

Germany and France are pressing for overdue financial-markets reforms to prevent a recurrence of the European economic crisis. But among these is a call for pan-EU budgeting that ties bailouts to potentially wrenching austerity and labour-market reforms that already are meeting resistance, conspicuously from Italy’s new populist government.

Real and perceived Russian undermining of EU unity and American belligerence toward an EU it has labelled a “foe” of America have prompted France’s call for all-out war on cyber-attackers and a first-ever European army as a counter-balance to the U.S.

The latter isn’t playing well with postwar anti-militaristic Germans. Meanwhile, populist EU governments in Italy, Hungary and Tusk’s native Poland, in violating cherished EU human-rights principles, are candidates for EU expulsion. And a strategy for bulking up high-tech prowess is needed by an EU losing ground to both Silicon Valley and the Pacific Rim.

Tusk, 61, has been successful in getting the EU’s 28 varied national cultures (save Britain, obviously) united on most crucial issues, notably Brexit. But Tusk’s multitasking skills in constructively guiding so many fiercely debated reforms in 2019 will be stretched to the limit.

Michael Medline, CEO, Empire Co. Ltd.

Canada’s most successful major-company turnaround CEO of 2017 is actually just half-way done with his comeback plan of boosting operational efficiencies at Canada’s no. 2 grocer by about $500 million per year by 2020.

And there’s more.

In the midst of a turnaround of the basic business, Michael Medline, 55, paid a steep $800 million in 2017 for Ontario grocery chain Farm Boy. Because of a Farm Boy business formula in sync with changing consumer preferences, a Farm Boy chain with just 26 stores was able to generate 2017 revenues of about $500 million.

Farm Boy is a Whole Foods without the sticker shock and a Trader Joe’s without the snooty attitude. It boasts above-average profit margins, small-store intimacy, and customer loyalty.

One of Medline’s unspoken priorities this year is to begin transplanting the winning Farm Boy culture on Empire’s other grocery banners — Sobeys, Safeway, IGA and FreshCo.

On still another front, mastering home delivery is a priority for a grocery industry under threat from Walmart and Amazon. Using the GTA as a pilot project, Medline over the next two years will deploy the trailblazing model of the U.K.’s Ocada Group PLC, with which he inked a deal in January 2018, to provide automated fulfilment of home-delivery orders.

Only if the model works in Canada’s biggest city will Medline roll it out across the country.

Empire stock has recovered by 74 per cent during Medline’s two-year tenure. But with 2017 profits 62 per cent below their 2015 peak, Empire still has upside potential if Medline continues to deliver.

Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta

Rachel Notley heads into an Alberta election year with the only Canadian province in economic crisis.

For lack of adequate means to get landlocked Athabasca oil to market, Alberta has been effectively giving away its oil, priced at a mere $18 (U.S.) a barrel in December compared with the $55 (U.S.) benchmark price for lighter oil grades produced elsewhere.

Notley has responded with drastic steps, including an 8.7 per cent cut in Alberta’s 2019 oil production, plans to buy as many as 7,000 rail cars to get Alberta oil to market, and a search for partners to build a refinery enabling Alberta to export more high-value oil.

Fortunately, relief is on the horizon.

As recently as January 2018, a recovery in the world oil price enabled Alberta to restore most of the jobs lost from the epic oil-price collapse earlier in the decade.

A second — milder but damaging — price drop in 2018 was largely caused by the shutdown of U.S. refineries able to process Alberta’s heavy oil. The overhaul of those refineries will be completed this spring.

None of those factors provide the immediate relief Albertans need. But they do give impetus to Notley’s persuasive case, in her ambitious 2016 Alberta Jobs Plan, for diversifying both Alberta, from its reliance on oil, and the oilpatch itself, from its paucity of refining capacity.

Notley’s December call to action — “Let’s start making more of the product that the world needs right here at home” — is likely to be a rallying cry in her 2019 re-election bid.

David Olive is a business columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @TheGrtRecession

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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