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Court grants Sears Canada approval to begin liquidation sales Friday

LINDA NGUYEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 19th, 2017

A Sears Canada outlet is seen in Saint-Eustache, Que., on June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Liquidation sales at dozens of Sears Canada locations slated for closure could begin as early as this week after an Ontario court signed off on the plan Tuesday.

The sales can start Friday and run no later than Oct. 12 with the deep discounts happening only at the 59 department and Sears Home stores that have been slated for closure.

Sears lawyer Jeremy Dacks told the hearing to approve plan that it was “crucial” the retailer be permitted to begin sales of its merchandise, furniture, fixtures and equipment as soon as possible so it could “maximize” benefits for its stakeholders.

“It gives us certainty of recovery,” Dacks said in court.

The nearly 300-page motion was unopposed by the litany of lawyers involved in the proceedings, including those representing the company, the landlords, the monitor and current and ex-employees.

The majority of the sales will be overseen by a third-party liquidator with current employees being asked to stay on the job until the sales are complete and the locations are shut down.

Stores will be able to advertise the sales with signs that say “Everything On Sale,” “Everything Must Go,” and “Store Closing” or similar wording. However, the signs cannot say “Bankruptcy,” “Liquidation” or “Going out of Business,” according to the motion.

Sears Canada has been operating under court protection from creditors since June 22 when it announced its plan to shutter 59 stores and cut approximately 2,900 jobs.

Last week, Ontario Superior Court Judge Glenn Hainey gave the company the green light to begin the process of putting itself up for sale. He also gave the retailer approval to pay $9.2 million in retention bonuses to executives and other key employees.

The payout was part of a compromise with retired employees that will see Sears Canada continue making some benefit and pension payments to retirees until Sept. 30.

Founded in 1952, Sears Canada operates 239 locations, including department stores, Hometown stores, Home Stores, distribution centres and warehouses. It also owns 16 franchises under the Corbeil banner, a specialty major appliances chain. It said it hopes to exit court protection as soon as possible this year.

Related stories:

Shock and disbelief at retention bonuses for key Sears Canada employees

Sears Canada gets court approval to begin soliciting bids for its sale

Sears Canada’s employees want court to protect their health benefits

Tory tells Wynne he wants more say in marijuana legalization

CHRISTINE CHUBB | posted Wednesday, Jul 19th, 2017

FILE – Canadian cannabis producers say they are ramping up their operations to keep up with growing demand for medical marijuana and in anticipation of legislation that would allow for recreational use of the drug. Cannabis plants intended for the medical marijuana market grow at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., in an April 14, 2016, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward, File
When it comes to selling legalized marijuana, Mayor John Tory says he wants to have a say in the matter.

Tory has penned a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne expressing concerns over how the province will manage the sale of marijuana once it has been given the green light.

Wynne has long supported the idea of putting the sale of marijuana into the hands of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. She argues that  the LCBO has the experience and expertise to sell marijuana in a responsible way.

In his letter, Tory asked the premier to collaborate with cities and towns across Ontario, including Toronto, on retail regulations.

“For my own part as Mayor of Toronto, I have made it clear that while I support the legalization of marijuana, I do not think the people of Toronto would support the future widespread location of outlets for the sale of marijuana in residential neighbourhoods or in certain retailing areas,” Tory wrote.

The mayor also noted his concerns over how retail distribution would fit within the community.

“Not only do I have significant concerns about how any retail distribution will fit within our communities but I am also certain that a big part of the enforcement of these regulations will be on the shoulders of municipalities whether through licensing, zoning by-law enforcement or municipal policing.”

Tory said he also believes Toronto should have a say in the rules around smoking marijuana in public, how close retail marijuana sale should be from schools and community centres, safety regulations around growing the product, public education and law enforcement.

“As you know, local government plays an important role in every one of these areas so it is vital we be consulted before important provincial decisions are made.”

Last year, a Nanos poll conducted for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents LCBO workers, found that 40 per cent of Ontarians ranked the LCBO as the top spot for selling marijuana.

OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas agreed with the findings and believes recreational marijuana should be sold at the LCBO.

“The LCBO already sells a drug called alcohol, alcohol is a drug, and that was the deal with society way, way back when prohibition ended, was to sell it in a controlled way. So we just think it’s logical and safe for everybody to apply that logic to marijuana and sell it through the LCBO,” he said.

The federal government announced earlier this year that marijuana would be legalized across the country next summer.

With files from The Canadian Press

Trump had another conversation with Putin at G20


U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summi in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump had another, previously undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Germany this month.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer and National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke at a dinner for world leaders and their spouses at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

The conversation came hours after Trump and Putin’s first official face-to-face meeting on July 7, which was originally scheduled to last just half an hour but stretched on for more than two. The two world leaders were also captured on video shaking hands and exchanging a few words after they arrived at the G20 summit of industrialized and developing nations earlier that day.

Anton would not specify the duration of the conversation. But he said the discussion was casual and should not be characterized as a “meeting” or even a less formal, but official, “pull aside.”

“A conversation over dessert should not be characterized as a meeting,” he said.

The dinner, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was open only to world leaders and their spouses, as well as one translator per couple, according to a senior White House official who described the event on condition of anonymity despite the president’s criticism of unnamed sources.

The official stressed that Trump spoke with many leaders over the course of the dinner and said he spoke briefly with Putin, who was seated next to first lady Melania Trump, as the event was concluding. Trump spoke with Putin using Russia’s translator, since the American translator did not speak Russian.

But Ian Bremmer, who said he spoke with two people who attended the dinner, said that Trump and Putin spoke for nearly an hour while sitting among the other world leaders and their spouses at the dinner. Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and the president of the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm.

Attendees described the meeting as startling, said Bremmer, who was told Trump was very animated as he spoke with Putin, often using his hands to gesture.

Trump defended the dinner in a pair of angry tweets late Tuesday that noted the dinner had been on his public schedule.

“Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’ All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” he wrote.

A few minutes later he added: “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”

Trump and Putin’s relationship has been under scrutiny since the election campaign, when Trump repeatedly praised Putin as a strong leader and publicly encouraged him to hack then-rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump aides have since said he was joking.

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election in order to help Trump. Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on their findings and dismissed investigations into potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow as a “witch hunt.”

Related stories:

Video: Trump, Putin hold first face-to-face meeting

It’s official: Trump campaign wanted campaign help from Putin government

Following the money: Trump-Russia probes turn into hunt for finance criminality

New security measures in effect for U.S.-bound flights

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jul 19th, 2017

A CATSA employee performs security checks of passengers and their carry-on luggage at a security screening area at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Feb. 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New “enhanced security measures” go into effect Wednesday for U.S.-bound flights out of Canada and more than 100 other countries.

The new measures include extra screening for electronic devices and tighter security protocols in passenger areas and around aircraft.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials say they are expanding security screenings because it is seeing a “spider web of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.”

Officials say they will be expanding the use of canine screening and adding more pre-clearance locations at around 280 airports affected by the new measures.

All commercial flights to the U.S. will be subject to the new measures, impacting an average of 325,000 passengers on a daily basis.

WestJet and Air Canada are advising passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their U.S. departure to make sure they are screened with plenty of time. Travellers should also remove personal electronic devices from the case before entering security lines.

Toronto Man Arrested for Punching Pennsylvania State Trooper

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 18th, 2017

A Toronto man has been arrested in western Pennsylvania after allegedly punching a state trooper.

A Pittsburgh-based paper reports that 31-year-old Patrick Conrad Rokowski had been intentionally bumping into patrons and flipping tables at a service centre off the Pennsylvania turnpike on Wednesday morning when he was confronted by police.

It was at that point that the state troopers say Rokowski shoved, punched and gouged the eyes of a 46-year-old officer, leaving him with minor injuries.

Rokowski was taken into custody and now faces charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Air Canada plane bursts tire on take-off at Gatwick

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 18th, 2017

Flights out of Gatwick Airport were briefly put on hold on Monday morning after an Air Canada plane burst a tire on take-off.

Flight RV1925, headed to Toronto, was scheduled to leave Gatwick at 12:50 (BST).

Gatwick Airport confirmed that a tire had burst, and that the runway would be closed for inspection, delaying other flights.

One passenger tweeted about the incident, commending Air Canada staff for keeping everyone calm during the incident.

Rescue crews were sent to the scene to help the passengers off the plane. No injuries have been reported.

In a statement, Air Canada said it was working to provide hotel rooms for the passengers, who will now be departing from Gatwick on Tuesday.

“Air Canada Rouge flight 1925 Gatwick-Toronto a Boeing 767 with 282 passengers on board landed safely back at Gatwick,” the airline’s statement reads.

“As per standard operation procedures and as a precautionary measure the crew requested emergency services presence after a tire blew upon take off. We apologize for the inconvenience and are currently working to provide hotels rooms to our passengers and get then on their way as quickly as possible tomorrow.”

Gatwick 1

Gatwick 3

Several flights were diverted from Gatwick while ground crews removed the plane from the runway and towed it back to the airport.

Arrivals and departures were forced to use the back-up runway, causing delays and cancellations.


First Canada Food Guide overhaul in a decade sees shift away from meat and dairy

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 18th, 2017

For the first time in a decade, Canada’s Food Guide is getting an overhaul – and it could alter what our children eat at school and daycare, how they learn about food and, ultimately, how grocery stores stock their shelves.

The initial draft of the new guide places an emphasis on plant-based foods while downplaying the previous stature given to meat and dairy products.

“So far the guiding principles of the new draft are looking excellent to me,” said Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietician. “There’s lots more emphasis on plant-based foods, less emphasis on eating processed foods.”

Rosenbloom recently penned an article titled “8 reasons why the new Canada’s Food Guide is awesome” for Today’s Parent. She likes what she’s seeing in the ongoing consultation process as the new guide is pieced together.

“One of the things we’re seeing is a grouping of foods that are rich in protein all grouped together. So instead of a meat and alternatives group and a milk and alternatives group, we see them all grouped together as protein.”

But not everyone agrees with the proposed removal of “milk and alternatives” as one of the four main groups. The Dairy Farmers of Canada have participated in the consultation process. The group claims Health Canada is ignoring important scientific evidence.

“Milk products are under-consumed in Canada by the majority of Canadians,” said Isabelle Neiderer, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“They contribute important nutrients for bone health but also for the prevention of several diseases. There should be an emphasis on the need to consume adequate amounts of milk in the Canadian diet.”

Rosenbloom believes the new Food Guide won’t entirely downplay the role milk can play in a balance diet. “It’s not that they’re removing dairy foods at all. There’s still going to be an emphasis on milk, cheese and yogurt, but it won’t be its own food group maybe. We don’t know for sure.”

Rosenbloom says Canadian grocery store shelves are already well-stocked with calcium and Vitamin-D enriched milk-based alternatives – many of them made from soy, almonds and coconuts. But Neiderer insists milk belongs in a category of its own.

“Milk products are great sources of high quality protein but they also contribute 15 other essential nutrients in the diet, many of which are not provided by other protein-rich foods. Lumping all these protein foods together in the same group I believe as a dietician is a disservice to Canadians because it will not help them consume a balanced diet that contains all the essential nutrients that they need, especially bone health nutrients.”

The draft guide also indicates a shift away from animal-based foods by placing an emphasis on lentils and other sources of protein. The public consultation process began last fall and will close July 25. The new Food Guide materials will be published next year. Rosenbloom predicts the new guidelines will have a direct effect on the meals served in institutional settings – including hospitals, care centres and schools.

“One of the benefits for children will be learning a better food guide when they’re in school. Daycare menus and school cafeteria menus are based on the old food guide and that allows for some processed foods and some foods that are not really that healthy. So every cafeteria menu won’t be burgers and chicken fingers; it might be black bean burritos and lentil soup.”

Trump wants new NAFTA deal to cut trade deficit with Mexico

JOSH BOAK, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 18th, 2017

The flags of the United States, Canada and Mexico fly in the breeze at the Louis Armstrong International Airport (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni)
President Donald Trump vowed Monday to boost U.S. manufacturing by cutting the $64-billion trade deficit with Mexico as he showcased products made in all 50 states – everything from a fire truck to a baseball bat.

“No longer are we going to allow other countries to break the rules, to steal our jobs and drain our wealth,” Trump said at a White House event that spilled from the East Room to the South Lawn.

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, the U.S. trade representative released an 18-page report about its goals for updating the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In addition to reducing the trade deficit, the administration wants to insert a chapter on the digital economy into the deal. It also wants to strengthen labour and environmental obligations, as well as amending the rules of origin so that more of the products traded come from the United States and North America.

Facing an investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia and a tax and health care agenda struggling to make headway as quickly as promised, Trump is turning his focus to trade this week. Administration officials are to meet Wednesday with economic officials from China, a nation the president has accused of dumping steel on the global market to hurt U.S. steelmakers. The White House emphasis on trade follows a string of other recent theme weeks on energy, job-training and infrastructure that mostly failed to draw much attention away from the Russia inquiry.

The president took his time checking out products from all over the country: Trump donned a cowboy hat from Texas. He swung a baseball bat from Louisiana. And he even climbed into the cab of a Wisconsin-built fire truck and pretended to be a firefighter, saying, “Where’s the fire? Where’s the fire? Put it out fast!”

The new NAFTA objectives, a requirement to begin talks on updating the agreement in the next 30 days, contain the first specifics for a Trump administration that has made bold promises on trade. Trump has pledged to recover factory jobs and boost wages by crafting new trade deals. Supporters note that NAFTA enabled companies to charge cheaper prices for products that range from cars to vacuum cleaners, helping many U.S. consumers.

The president said he only seeks a level playing field for U.S. companies and workers, but “if the playing field was slanted a little bit toward us, I would accept that, also.”

But the president has a conflicted relationship with global trade. His namesake clothing business depended on the work of low-wage workers living overseas, as does the fashion line of his daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump.

As of now, Ivanka Trump’s firm continues to have its products made overseas. Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement Monday that the president’s daughter “has resigned from the company, does not control its operations, and has been advised that she cannot ask the government to act in an issue involving the brand in any way, constraining her ability to intervene personally.”

Related stories:

‘This will not be a short negotiation’: U.S. releases list of demands for NAFTA

Canada dives deep into data to make case to U.S. on NAFTA, says Freeland

Public consultations intensify as launch of NAFTA renegotiations looms

Trump has blasted trade deficits as hampering the economy by sending money abroad. But the trade deficit has actually improved from $762 billion in 2006 to $505 billion last year, a change brought about largely because U.S. consumers cut back spending during the Great Recession. His administration already is pursuing multiple trade cases on individual products and is weighing whether to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign steel in hopes of curbing production in China, even though that country represents a fraction of U.S. steel imports.

The Mexican government said in a statement that the administration’s NAFTA objectives will give greater clarity to the negotiations.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, said, “NAFTA supports millions of middle class jobs” across North America and Canada welcomes the opportunity to add “progressive, free and fair approaches” to the pact.

Despite the report, it’s still not clear exactly how Trump will renegotiate NAFTA to reduce the trade deficit, said Phil Levy, a senior fellow for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a business professor at Northwestern University.

“There’s no detail,” Levy said. “There’s nothing in there where you could say, this is how we get rid of the trade deficit.”

When NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the United States ran a small trade surplus in goods with Mexico and a slight deficit with Canada. But the size of the deficits steadily began to increase afterward.

By last year, the United States ran a $64-billion trade deficit with Mexico and a nearly $11-billion gap with Canada. Neither trade deficit is near its peak level. The trade deficit with Canada hit a high in 2008, while the trade gap with Mexico nearly reached $75 billion in 2007.

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