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California introduces new laws for online privacy, gig economy – CBC.ca

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California’s long tradition of advancing nation-leading legislation continues into the new year, with laws reining in the gig economy, boosting online privacy and discouraging shootings by police, among other potential trend-setters.

The laws have sent businesses including Uber, Lyft and Google scrambling, not to mention U.S. President Donald Trump.

The state dominated by Democrats has delighted in tweaking the Republican president on immigration and other issues, though legislation requiring Trump to reveal his tax returns backfired when the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled it unconstitutional.

Some of the higher-profile new laws taking effect Jan. 1 include:

Online privacy

The nation’s most sweeping data privacy law takes effect with the new year. The law passed in 2018 requires companies to tell consumers what data they collect about them, why it was collected and who sees it. Consumers can refuse to let companies sell that data, and companies are barred from selling data from children younger than 16 without consent.

San Francisco real estate developer Alastair Mactaggart, seen in Oakland, Calif., Dec. 20, used a ballot initiative — a provision that allows private citizens to propose legislation — to establish stricter laws protecting online privacy. (Ben Margot/The Associated Press)

Facebook and other technology and internet giants have been heavily criticized for sharing, selling or targeting personal information that customers thought was private. The San Francisco developer who pushed for the law, Alastair Mactaggart, is now advancing a 2020 ballot measure to protect the law by creating a new state agency to enforce the privacy protections and requiring greater protections for users under age 16 to opt in.

Gig economy

California is making it harder for many industries to treat workers like contractors instead of employees who are entitled to minimum wage and other benefits such as workers’ compensation. The legislature carved out certain exemptions after the state Supreme Court ruled in favour of workers at the delivery company Dynamex in 2018.

The California Trucking Association and two associations representing freelance journalists and photographers have already sued on behalf of their members. The ride-sharing company Uber has said it will defend its current model from legal challenges. And Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have said they’ll spend $30 million US to overturn the law at the ballot box in 2020 if they don’t win concessions from lawmakers.

In this March 22, 2018, file photo, Anita Ross holds a photo of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who was fatally shot by Sacramento police, as she and other protesters block the entrance to Sacramento City Hall. The shooting death of Clark helped spur the passage of two laws giving California one of the nation’s most comprehensive approaches to deter shootings by police. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press)

Police shootings

Two new laws together give California one of the U.S.’s most comprehensive approaches to deterring shootings by police. One changes the legal standard for when police can use deadly force, while the companion law increases officers’ training on how to handle confrontations.

California’s old standard was based on the doctrine of “reasonable fear,” meaning officers were unlikely to face charges for even questionable uses of lethal force if prosecutors or jurors believed they had a reason to fear for their safety. The new law allows police to use deadly force only when “necessary” to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders. But it doesn’t define necessary.

In this image taken from a video provided by SNJToday.com, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson gets his hair cut courtside minutes before his match in New Jersey this week after a referee told Johnson he would forfeit his bout if he didn’t have his dreadlocks cut off. Johnson went on to win the match, and the incident helped inspire a new law against hair discrimination. (Michael Frankel/Associated Press)

Hair discrimination

California becomes the first state to bar workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks. The new law says hairstyles are associated with race and therefore protected against discrimination.

Federal courts have historically ruled that, unlike characteristics such as race, hair can be changed, so there are no grounds for discrimination complaints based on hairstyle. The California law says “race” also includes “traits historically associated with race.”

The issue came to wide public attention a year ago when Andrew Johnson, a black high school wrestler in New Jersey, was told by a referee that he had to cut off his dreadlocks if he wanted to compete.

Vaccinations

State public health officials have new tools to crack down on doctors who write fraudulent medical exemptions for schoolchildren’s vaccinations, after the most emotionally charged legislative debate of the year repeatedly drew hundreds of supporters and opponents to the Capitol.

Officials can investigate doctors who grant more than five medical exemptions in a year and schools with vaccination rates under 95 per cent, the threshold that experts say means a population is resistant to a disease like measles.

It includes a phase-out period for existing medical exemptions similar to one allowed when California eliminated personal belief vaccine exemptions in 2015. For instance, a kindergartner with an exemption can retain it through sixth grade, while a seventh-grader can be exempted through high school.

Supporters of a rent control initiative calling for more rent control march on the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on April 24, 2018. A new law to take effect in 2020 will bar landlords from raising yearly rent prices by more than five per cent plus the cost of inflation. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press)

Rent control

Landlords will be barred from raising yearly rent prices by more than five per cent plus the cost of inflation under a new law that drew supporters who said they can no longer afford the state’s soaring housing costs. Landlords also won’t be allowed to evict someone without a reason or refuse to rent to someone solely because they have a federal Section 8 housing voucher.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called it the “strongest package in America,” though the restriction follows Oregon’s slightly higher statewide rent cap. A previous law still bans local governments from adopting their own rent control policies, though opponents want to overturn that restriction with a 2020 ballot measure.

Child sex assault

California is joining several other states in giving adults who were sexually assaulted as children more time to sue, a measure expected to trigger multitudes of new lawsuits against the Catholic church, Boy Scouts of America and other organizations.

The law gives victims of childhood sex abuse until age 40 to sue, up from the current age of 26. It alternately gives adults five years to sue after discovering they suffered psychological or other damages from a sexual assault, whichever is later. And it gives victims three years to file past claims that missed earlier deadlines.

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Calgary's post-pandemic economy poised for 6.9% expansion in 2021, report says – CBC.ca

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Calgary’s economy is going to start roaring back to life next year, but not before the city posts a dismal 10.1 per cent GDP contraction for 2020 as the pandemic and the energy sector slump continue to take their toll, according to a report released Tuesday. 

The Conference Board of Canada’s forecast for Calgary’s economy says that after being put through the wringer in 2020, the city’s fortunes will start to turn around in the new year.

“As the pandemic eases and oil prices slowly begin to strengthen, our call is for the Calgary economy to expand by 6.9 per cent in 2021,” the report said.

Calgary’s labour market already shed 44,000 jobs from the second quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. 

Another 90,900 jobs were lost in the second quarter of this year, and the board predicts employment will fall by a record 8.0 per cent overall in 2020.

The report predicts Calgary’s unemployment rate will remain high for many more months, averaging 11.3 per cent this year and 10.4 per cent next year.

“Calgary won’t recover its lost jobs until the end of 2022, partly because the oil and gas sector will recover only slowly,” the report said.

Some sectors of the economy are expected to recover faster than others.

The board says Calgary’s badly bruised retail sector — which saw sales drop by 5.1 per cent in 2020 — will bounce back and grow 9.7 per cent in 2021.

But the arts and entertainment industry, which declined 26.2 per cent, and the accommodation and food industry, which fell by 36.9 per cent, might not fully rebound until 2022, the report says.

Speaking Tuesday at the annual outlook conference hosted by Calgary Economic Development, ATB Financial chief economist Todd Hirsch said it’s expected that unemployment in Alberta will drop only slightly to 11 per cent next year and remain in the double digits for some time yet.

The Conference Board of Canada says Calgary’s employment rate and GDP will recover slowly but surely over the next two years. (Conference Board of Canada)

“It’s going to take a lot of growth, maybe a few years of growth, to absorb all of that excess labour and make sure everyone finds jobs. So it’s going to take us a while and we don’t think we’re going to be back into single digits probably until 2022 or even later,” he said.

“To get back to 2014 levels, we estimate that’s not going to happen until probably 2024. So it’s sort of a lost decade of growth for this province.”

Calgary Economic Development is banking on the technology sector to help turn around the city’s fortunes.

CEO Mary Moran says companies are already realizing what Calgary has to offer, pointing to how several tech firms have moved into empty office space downtown.

“You have seen the real estate industry adjust to … shorter-term leases, different floor plates, different amenities that they’re offering. And those ones that have made that adjustment are the ones where the tech companies are migrating to.”

Moran says her organization’s goal is to double the number of tech companies in Calgary by the end of this decade.

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Result of 2020 U.S. election has implications for Canadian economy – insauga.com

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Coverage of the U.S. election has split Canadians into three main camps: those who are relieved they live north of the border, those who don’t care, and those who are nervous either outcome with have consequences for us, the neighbour to the north.

A recent report from RSM Canada indicates the election outcome, combined with Canada’s reliance on the U.S. economy, might alter Canada’s recovery and longer-term outlook.

Based on the findings, Canada-China trade has been trending down since the beginning of the U.S.-China Trade War in 2018, while total trade between Canada and the United States increased during this period.

This indicates, based on the current administration’s inability to cap the domestic spread of the virus, a Donald Trump re-election could present economic risks to Canada, due to our dependence on them.

However, Trump’s protectionist tendencies suggest Canada may see further headwinds with its largest trading partner, should he be re-elected.

Additionally, Joe Biden’s proposed ‘Made in America’ tax incentive, which offers tax credits for companies in the U.S. that expand employment and salaries domestically, could potentially discourage future Canadian market expansion.

Further, Biden’s willingness to adopt Trump’s tough stance on China if elected suggests Canada will likely continue to be negatively affected by U.S.-China trade relations.

Moreover, Canadian oil pricing will be hit hard if Biden follows through on his campaign promise to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline–a critical venture for Western Canada oil producers that would provide direct access to the Gulf Coast refineries and world markets.

“Despite a rocky relationship between Canada and the current U.S. administration in recent years, it’s clear that a victory for either Trump or Biden would pose risks to Canada’s economy,” Alex Kotsopoulos, vice president of projects and economics with RSM Canada, said in a news release.

“The issue is that Canada has become increasingly dependent on its neighbour south of the border, and when you combine this with the strong ‘America First’ policies of both presidential candidates, Canada will feel the brunt of those decisions. Therefore, it’ll be important for the Canadian government to proactively engage with the new administration to shore up trade and supply chains, which will be vital in Canada’s own recovery,” he continued.

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Ottawa's economy to shrink 5.7% in 2020 before rebounding next year: Conference Board – Ottawa Business Journal

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Even the insulating effect of the federal government won’t be enough to prevent Ottawa-Gatineau’s economic output from contracting for the first time in nearly a quarter-century in 2020 as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with key sectors, a leading think-tank says.

The National Capital Region’s GDP is expected to shrink by nearly six per cent this year, the Conference Board of Canada predicts in its latest economic outlook released this week. To put that number in context, the city’s economy has grown by an average of 2.7 per cent annually over the last five years.

“Ottawa-Gatineau’s position as the nation’s capital and home to the federal government often insulates the city from big swings in economic growth,” said the organization, which forecast back in May that the region’s economy would contract by 2.4 per cent in 2020. “However, the city will not escape the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It would be the first time Ottawa-Gatineau’s GDP has contracted since 1996, but the think-tank says the capital region is still in better economic shape than most other Canadian centres. 

The Conference Board forecast says Canada’s overall GDP will shrink by 6.6 per cent in 2020 as households tighten their pursestrings and many sectors struggle to recover from a devastating spring and summer. The organization paints an even grimmer long-term picture for industries such as air transportation, accommodations and food and beverage services, declaring they “might never fully return to normal.”

The organization says public administration is the only sector of the local economy that’s expected to grow in 2020. Not surprisingly, the accommodation and food services industry – which has been largely shuttered for much of the pandemic as part of public health efforts to contain the virus – is expected to take the biggest hit, with the Conference Board’s forecast calling for the sector to decline by a whopping 35.6 per cent.

Other sectors facing big declines include retail, which is expected to shrink 6.4 per cent ​– only the third time in the last two decades its output has fallen year-over-year.

Still, the think-tank says it expects both the local and national economies to bounce back in a big way in 2021, with Ottawa-Gatineau’s GDP expected to grow by 5.2 per cent and the national GDP forecast to rise by 5.6 per cent. 

The Conference Board is predicting Ottawa-Gatineau to continue on a growth path in the years ahead, albeit at a slower rate, forecasting GDP increases of 3.6 per cent in 2022 followed by consecutive 1.3 per cent bumps in 2023 and 2024.

The organization made several other economic forecasts, including:

  • Ottawa-Gatineau’s unemployment rate – which peaked at 9.5 per cent in June – will finish at 7.4 per cent for the year, compared with a mark of 4.8 per cent in 2019. Employment in accommodation services will feel the biggest impact, plummeting 34 per cent from last year;
  • Housing starts – which reached a 35-year high of 11,200 units in 2019 – will fall to 10,700 units this year before dipping below 10,000 in 2021 and the next few years ahead;
  • The region’s population will grow 1.5 per cent in 2020, its smallest annual increase in the last five years;
  • Ottawa-Gatineau’s per capita household income will rise 3.8 per cent this year, while per capita disposable income is forecast to grow 5.8 per cent.

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