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B.C. forest industry facing unprecedented struggle

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VICTORIA —
The crisis facing B.C. forest industry is intensifying as markets decline, mills shut and a strike involving 3,000 forestry workers enters its seventh month.

The multiple threats are deeper than the global meltdown of 2008 and may rival the damage wrought by B.C.’s 1980s recession, setting off massive industry restructuring, says an insider who is hearing from many people on the brink of financial collapse.

“There’s a whole bunch of things swirling around that’s causing a whole world of hurt for people working in this industry,” said David Elstone, executive director for the B.C. Truck Loggers Association.

“Many people are saying this is worse than 2008. Back in 2008, the industry was in rough shape but so was the rest of the world in tough shape with the global financial crisis.”

Other factors hitting B.C.’s forest industry now include low timber prices, less demand from Asian markets, U.S. tariffs, high cost structures, government fees or stumpage rates, timber supply shortages, mill closures in B.C.’s Interior and the strike on Vancouver Island, he said.

“Time will hopefully end the strike,” said Elstone. “Time will hopefully help us recover markets.”

Late last year, Finance Ministry budget numbers revealed forest revenues were down 11 per cent and projected harvest volumes of 46 million cubic metres were the lowest in years.

Among the mill closures was Mosaic Forest Management on Vancouver Island, which announced an early winter shutdown of timber harvesting operations, putting 2,000 people out of work indefinitely.

About 175 workers at a mill owned by Tolko Industries in Kelowna lost their jobs with the operation’s permanent closure on Jan. 8. Last year Canfor’s permanent closure of its mill in Vavenby, north of Kamloops, resulted in the loss of 172 jobs in the community of about 700 people.

Elstone said he heard from many forest industry contractors at the recent Truck Loggers Association annual convention who are struggling to make ends meet, especially from those on Vancouver Island where the strike has hit hard.

“It goes well beyond the 3,000 workers being affected,” he said. “My membership, the contractors, employ the majority of the workers. It goes to the tire shops, the dealerships, the grocery stores.”

Premier John Horgan spoke at the convention Thursday, saying the government will make $5 million available for loans to help contractors in danger of losing their equipment due to the strike.

He said he was aware many of the contractors have not been able to work since last July when the strike between Western Forest Products and members of the Steelworkers union started.

Horgan mentioned the challenges facing B.C.’s forest industry, including U.S. duties on B.C. softwood exports, mill closures in the Interior, two consecutive wildfire seasons and ongoing structural changes in the industry. But he said the strike remains deeply concerning.

“The elephant in the room is abundantly clear to everyone here,” said Horgan. “A labour disruption of seven months is unprecedented in B.C. history. If you haven’t made a dollar since July, there’s not much I can say to you that’s going to give you comfort other than we are indeed in this together.”

Horgan said he has contacted both the company and the union and firmly suggested they negotiate a settlement. He said he expected some movement next week but did not elaborate.

The company said in a statement Friday it is waiting for contact from the mediators in the dispute.

“Western is doing everything we can to reach a mutually beneficial settlement with the USW,” said the statement. “We continue to take our lead from mediators, Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers, and we are awaiting word on next steps.”

Elstone said the Truck Loggers Association appreciated Horgan’s appearance at the convention.

“By being there he did demonstrate he is concerned himself,” said Elstone. “He did say what’s been going on with the length of the strike is unacceptable. I will give the premier credit for showing some strong emotion and trying to reach out and show some empathy for people who are suffering right now with their livelihoods in question with the strike and the forest industry crisis in general.”

Opposition Liberals forestry critic John Rustad also attended the convention and said the premier’s speech did not provide much relief to contractors facing financial hard times.

“They’re frustrated. They’re angry,” he said. “They want to be working and they aren’t working. They’re financially stressed. It was probably the most sombre truck loggers convention I’ve attended in all the years I’ve been going to them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2019.

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'It starts with regret': TMX says it needs to regain trust after outage – BNNBloomberg.ca

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The interim head of TMX Group Ltd. said the company needs to start rebuilding investors’ faith in its trading platforms.

“It starts with regret,” said John McKenzie, interim TMX chief executive officer, in an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Friday. McKenzie spoke a day after a technical outage took the Toronto Stock Exchange, TSX Venture and Alpha out of commission for over two hours

“We’re actually quite sorry that we made that challenging for our clients to execute yesterday because that’s our number one objective. We start today with rebuilding trust and credibility, and we’ll do that in the way we operate the market every single day. But that starts right now.”

The TSX Alpha was halted at 1:51 p.m. ET on Thursday, while the TSX and Venture exchanges were halted three minutes later. The outage continued throughout the rest of the trading day.

“The simplest way to describe it is; if you think about the activity in the marketplace that we saw yesterday leading to almost-unprecedented levels of order entry coming into our system,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said the TMX system saw approximately 190 million buy, sell, and cancel orders on Thursday, compared to an average daily total of 90 million.

“That led to some challenges in the system that we are still working through, in terms of diagnosing what they mean for the long-term, but (we) went straight to the fix last night so we could make sure we were steady, reliable and up to open the market this morning, and you could have confidence in what we’re doing today.”

The S&P/TSX composite index opened sharply lower, down 452.20 points, or 2.70 percent, at 16,265.31 at 9:35 a.m. Friday morning.     

McKenzie is the acting CEO of the TMX Group, having taken over the mantle from Lou Eccleston in January. He said that while the decision about whether “interim” is removed from his title rests with TMX’s board of directors, he remains focused on the here and now.

“For me right now, the focus is on execution,” McKenzie said. “It’s not focused on the next role, it’s a focus on executing the strategy and making sure we’re delivering for clients through the interim period.”

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Two Calgary officers tested Clearview AI facial-recognition software – Calgary Herald

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Keith Raderschadt from NEC Corporation of America gives a detailed explanation and demonstration of the new facial recognition software being implemented by the Calgary Police Service at their CPS Headquarters, Westwinds Campus Media Centre in Calgary, Alta. on Sunday November 2, 2014. Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency


Darren Makowichuk / Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/ Q

The Calgary Police Service has confirmed two of its officers tested controversial facial-recognition software made by Clearview AI.

While the police service doesn’t use Clearview AI in any capacity, it said two of its members had tested the technology to see if it was worthwhile for potential investigative use.

“Neither officer used the software in any active investigations and both ceased use following the testing,” said a police representative. “Both have been told to delete any active user accounts.”

Calgary police said one of the officers currently works with the service and the other is seconded to another agency. 

Last month, it was revealed some Canadian law enforcement agencies were using Clearview AI software. The program uses billions of open-sourced images from popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which can then be used by authorities to identify perpetrators and victims of crime.

On Wednesday, Clearview AI revealed its client list had been hacked. It came to light that more than 2,200 law enforcement agencies, companies and individuals are using the software, including Toronto Police Service and divisions of the RCMP.

Both the Calgary Police Service and the Edmonton Police Service had denied use of the software earlier this month, but both have since come forward with reports that several of their officers had tested the Clearview AI software.

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Staff Sgt. Gordon MacDonald, of the Calgary police criminal identification section, said the service wouldn’t be interested in software that uses open-source images due to ethical concerns.

“As an organization, we wouldn’t be interested in it no matter the benefits it purports to bring,” said MacDonald.

“It’s just so fundamentally and ethically unsafe to start using that as a means to obtain some form of identification. It’s far better to go through our own photographs that we’ve obtained and can verify who these people are.”

Bonita Croft, chair of the Calgary police commission, said the Calgary Police Service has clear policies that guide the use of information technology and monitors to ensure compliance with those policies and privacy laws.

“We understand that CPS is evaluating the situation to determine whether the privacy commissioner needs to be notified,” said Croft. “The guidance of the privacy commissioner has been instrumental in how the CPS uses tools like body-worn cameras and facial recognition technology.”

In Edmonton, Clearview AI facial-recognition programs were used without approval at least twice by that city’s police service, which triggered an investigation by Alberta’s privacy commissioner, Jill Clayton.

She said in a statement that the situation serves as a “wake-up call to law enforcement in Alberta that building trust is critical to advancing the use of new technologies for data-driven policing.”

Three officers used the technology in Edmonton, according to Supt. Warren Driechel. All members have been directed not to use Clearview AI software moving forward.

Calgary police were the first Canadian police force to use facial recognition technology. Since 2014, the service has used biometric software created by the NEC Corp. of America.

Using the technology, police compare photos and videos, such as CCTV images of persons of interest, with their mug shot database of more than 350,000 images taken under the Identification of Criminals Act.

With files from Postmedia Edmonton

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @alanna_smithh

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Apple Disables Clearview AI's Developer Account After Violating Enterprise Certificate Rules – MacRumors

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Apple has disabled the developer account of New York City-based facial recognition startup Clearview AI and provided the company with 14 days to respond for violating the rules of its enterprise program, according to BuzzFeed News.

As part of the program, Apple issues enterprise certificates to large organizations to deploy select apps to their employees for internal use only, but the report claims that Clearview AI was distributing its facial recognition app to more than 2,200 public and private entities, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, Macy’s, Walmart, and the NBA. This scheme allowed customers to download the app outside of the App Store by installing the certificate on their device.


Clearview AI’s website says that it “searches the open web” for “publicly available images,” helping law enforcement agencies to “identify perpetrators and victims of crimes” and to “exonerate the innocent.”

Earlier this week, Clearview AI revealed that an intruder “gained unauthorized access” to its list of clients, according to The Daily Beast. The New York Times profiled the controversial company last month, claiming it has “a database of more than three billion images” scraped from platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Apple took similar action against Facebook and Google last year after each company was found to be using enterprise certificates to distribute consumer-facing apps, but the certificates were later restored, presumably after Facebook and Google agreed to use them strictly for internal-use apps only as required.

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