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Canada Political Party Financing

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The financial activities of political parties in Canada were largely unregulated until the Election Expenses Act was passed in 1974. Canada now has an extensive regime regulating federal political party financing; both during and outside of election periods. Such regulation encourages greater transparency of political party activities. It also ensures a fair electoral arena that limits the advantages of those with more money. Political parties and candidates are funded both privately and publicly. Election finance laws govern how parties and candidates are funded; as well as the ways in which they can spend money. (See also Canadian Electoral System.)

Party and Election Finance Laws

Private Funding

Canada’s federal election finance laws put limits on contributions to political parties and candidates. Only individuals — not corporations or trade unions — may donate. Contributions are limited to up to $1,500 a year to each political party and up to $1,500 to all of the registered electoral district associations; as well as contestants seeking the party’s nomination and candidates for each party. In addition, donors may give up to $1,500 to leadership contestants and up to $1,500 to independent candidates. These limits were set in 2015. The amounts increase by $25 each year. Politicians must disclose the names of anyone who donates more than $200.

Public Funding

Canada’s system of party and election finance regulation provides two forms of state funding to political parties and to candidates.

First, political parties and candidates are reimbursed for some of their election expenses. ( See Political Campaigning in Canada.) Political parties that received either two per cent of the national vote or five per cent of the vote in the districts in which they ran candidates get back 50 per cent of the money they spent. Candidates who received at least 10 per cent of the vote receive 15 per cent of the election expenses limit in their district. If the candidate spent at least 30 per cent of the limit during the election, the reimbursement increases to 60 per cent of what the candidate spent.

Second, Canada provides generous tax credits for donations to political parties and candidates. The first $400 of donations receives a 75 per cent tax credit. An amount between $400 and $750 receives a 50 per cent credit. Amounts over $750 receive a 33 per cent credit. An individual’s total tax credit in one year cannot exceed $650.

Spending

Political parties and candidates face limits on the amounts they may spend during an election. Political parties may spend 73.5 cents for every voter in districts where they are running candidates. For their local campaigns, candidates may spend an amount based on the population of the district in which they are running. This is typically between $75,000 and $115,000. If the election campaign is longer than 36 days, as was the case in 2015, the limits for both parties and candidates are increased proportionately.

Groups or individuals other than political parties and candidates — also known as third parties — may spend no more than $150,000 during an election. No more than $3,000 of that may be spent in any one district. Critically, all these limits to spending apply only during the election period; between when the writs of election have been issued (when the election is officially called) and election day.

Provincial and Territorial Regulation

Canadian provinces and territories have introduced their own political finance regulations. These vary by province and territory. All provinces and territories provide tax credits for contributions. They also require disclosure of the identity of donors who give more than a certain amount. Most provinces and territories set limits on the amounts that individuals can donate in any given year. All provinces and territories, except Alberta and Yukon, also put limits on spending during elections. QuebecNova ScotiaManitoba and Alberta have banned corporate and other organizational contributions altogether. In these provinces, only individuals are allowed to give money to political parties.

Historical Background

Canada now has an extensive regime regulating political party and election finance. But this was not always the case. Before 1974, the financial activities of political parties were largely unregulated. From Confederation until about 1897, party funds were used to overcome weak partisanship. At the time, some partisan Members of Parliament did not always follow party lines. As a result, party leaders were directly involved in fundraising and in distributing election funds to ensure the loyalty of their followers. The Liberals and Conservatives also tended to rely on corporate donations. This led to periodic scandals, such as the Pacific Scandal. However, these were not enough to prompt comprehensive regulation of political party finance.

As partisanship crystallized, party leaders tried to distance themselves from the raising of campaign funds. Fundraising specialists gradually assumed this role. Party leaders were freed from direct involvement in this aspect of party politics. (See also Political CorruptionConflict of Interest.)

Regulation: Election Expenses Act (1974)

Canada’s political parties began to run into financial difficulties in the 1960s and early 1970s. At the time, a series of minority governments resulted in more frequent elections. Meanwhile, television advertising and polling became integral parts of campaigns. As a result, political parties faced rising campaign costs. These factors led to the passage of the Election Expenses Act in January 1974. At the heart of the law was a bargain: political parties would receive state money in return for greater regulation of their financial activities.

The Election Expenses Act established most of the principles at the heart of Canada’s regulatory regime. It established a tax credit system for donations and a system of reimbursements for election expenses; as well as the principle of disclosure of election donations over $100. The legislation also placed limits on the amount that candidates and political parties could spend on campaigns.

This helped to ease the financial woes of Canada’s political parties. But the Election Expenses Act also changed the financial basis of Canadian parties. The tax credit system created an incentive for individuals to donate to parties. More importantly, it also created an incentive for political parties to solicit individual donations. As such, the new system reduced the reliance of parties on corporate donations.

Third-Party Spending

In the three decades following the passage of the Election Expenses ActParliament made only minor changes to the regulation of political parties and candidates. Most of the significant debate had to do with the regulation of third-party spending; that is, money spent during elections by groups other than political parties and candidates. In 1983, Parliament banned third-party advertising during elections. However, the National Citizens Coalition successfully challenged the law as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1984. In 2000, Parliament passed the current limits on spending by third parties. The Supreme Court upheld these limits in 2004.

Political Party Allowances

The most significant change to Canada’s election finance regime came in 2004. Starting that year, corporations and trade unions could no longer donate to political parties. Instead, they could donate only small amounts to candidates. The law also placed a $5,000 limit on the amount that individuals could donate. In return for eliminating a significant source of party funding, Parliament enriched the tax credits and the reimbursements. Most significantly, the legislation established a quarterly allowance; it paid qualifying political parties $1.75 per vote per year for every vote they received in the previous election. The 2004 changes also extended the reach of finance regulation to things that had previously been seen as internal party matters. These include nomination and leadership contests.

These changes had a significant effect on the competitive balance between political parties. The Conservative Party flourished because of its success in raising money from individual donors. The Bloc Québécois did well because of the quarterly allowance. The legislation also contributed to the rise of the Green Party of Canada. The New Democratic Party (NDP) was reasonably successful under the new rules. The Liberals fared the worst; partly because of the party’s reliance on corporate donations. This was an ironic outcome for the creators of the law.

2008 Coalition Crisis

When the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they made minor changes to the 2004 regime. Corporate and union donations to candidates were eliminated. The maximum individual donation was lowered to $1,000. After the 2008 election, the Conservatives introduced legislation to remove the quarterly allowance. This sparked the 2008 coalition crisis. The opposition parties united to try to replace the minority Conservative government with a Liberal– NDP coalition backed by the Bloc Québécois. The government relented. However, after winning a majority government in 2011, it passed legislation phasing out the quarterly allowance. It officially ended in spring 2015.

The passage of the Fair Elections Act in 2014 saw minor changes to Canada’s party finance laws. These included an increase in the amount that individuals could donate to political parties and candidates (a $1,500 limit set in 2015 and increased by $25 each year); as well as increases to the spending limits.

Controversy

Because money is such an important resource in elections, party finance laws are often controversial. One of the enduring issues is the appropriate balance between public and private funding of parties; as well as the appropriate way to provide public funding. Proponents of public funding argue that it promotes transparency and reduces the potential for corruption. Opponents claim that public funding might insulate political parties from party members and voters who signal their discontent by withholding donations. The quarterly allowance was particularly controversial in this respect. For example, the Bloc Québécois got around 90 per cent of its income from public sources while the quarterly allowance was in effect.

The tax credit system, on the other hand, provides public funding to parties. But it also encourages them to connect with individual donors. It is much less transparent, however, than the other forms of public funding.

Another continuing source of controversy is the limits placed on third parties. Canada’s election finance regime recognizes political parties and candidates as the primary political actors in elections. It also places more stringent limits on the activities of advocacy groups and others who seek to intervene during elections. This limits the range of viewpoints expressed during elections. It also prevents parties from working around spending limits by having advocacy groups advertise on their behalf. (This scenario is common in the United States.)

A more recent concern has to do with the interaction of fixed election dates with spending limits. Election spending limits only come into effect when the election is called and only cover the official campaign. It typically lasts 36 days. With fixed election dates, however, parties, candidates and third parties all know when the election will be; they can therefore advertise significantly before the election is called. This renders the spending limits much less effective.

Significance

At the heart of the above controversies, and the regulation of political party financing itself, is a tension between the liberal democratic principles of freedom and equality. On the one hand, liberal democracies recognize the freedom of citizens to use their resources — including money — to achieve their political objectives. On the other hand, such freedom can compromise the fundamental political equality of citizens by giving those with access to greater financial opportunities greater influence over the electoral process. It is this tricky balance that Canada’s regulation of political party finance attempts to strike.

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How much influence should politicians have over police? – CBC.ca

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Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.

According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.

The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.

But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?

CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.

Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?

The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.

But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.

“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.

For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.

“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.

What does the law say?

While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.

But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.

“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.

While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.

“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.

“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”

Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadian law is very vague when it comes to inappropriate government direction of law enforcement. (Oliver Salathiel)

In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”

Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.

“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said. 

Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership. 

He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.

He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.

But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.

During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.

Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.

Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.

 “I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”

What happens when politicians try to be police?

Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.

“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.

She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.

Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson attempted to negotiate with Freedom Convoy protestors during the occupation of Ottawa earlier this year. Western University professor Laura Suey says the incident is a good example of why it’s a bad idea for politicians to take over law enforcement’s responsibilities. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.

“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”

Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.

In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.

“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.

Is there a better way?

If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.

Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.

“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.

A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.

Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.

“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.

Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.

“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said. 

Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.

He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.

“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”

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Politicians should admit their dumb mistakes | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

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I can finally admit it: during my 20 years as a political staffer and elected politician I was involved in many political coverups.

Don’t get too excited, they weren’t the type of coverups that you see in movies or read about in political thrillers — no Canadian versions of Watergate, Irangate or any other gate.

No, over the years I have had to cover up the fact that politics is made up of human beings who make dumb mistakes. You see, those who work in politics and government are no different from the rest of the world. They send emails to the wrong people, miss important meetings because they forgot to write down the room number, and give the wrong drafts of speeches, briefing notes and other important documents to their bosses.

Spend a day in government and you will realize that it is nothing short of organized chaos — much more like Veep than House of Cards.

Unfortunately, as far as the public is concerned, the truth often doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine a politician admitting that the origin of their current quandary is that they couldn’t open a password protected document on their iPad or that they didn’t pay attention at a briefing because they had just learned that their son failed his math test?

Hence the coverup. People would be shocked to know how much time in government is spent trying to come up with any excuse except for the fact that mistakes happen.

I thought of this phenomenon recently when I read all the reporting about a Canadian official attending a national day event at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the media and opposition firestorm that followed.

With tensions running high between Canada and Russia, the presence of the official was probably not the wisest move, and it is legitimate to ask whether the Minister approved her attendance. I had to chuckle when sources came forward to tell the Globe and Mail that Departmental officials had checked with the Minister of Foreign Affair’s office, but her staff had been too busy to read the email because they were all involved in supporting the minister at an international conference.

Too busy to read an email?

It may sound like a dumb excuse, but I defy anyone to tell me that they have never been too busy to check their emails or phone messages or the ton of paper piling up in their in-basket.

It’s called being human. Even important people get overwhelmed, tired, and fed up with a constant barrage of information and requests. Even those at the top may find juggling all the demands on their time too much.

Yes, the stakes can be high in government and there needs to be extra checks in place. But in this case, we are talking about a reception. Although embarrassing, I don’t think any of our allies believe that Canada is growing soft on Russia or doesn’t take the war in Ukraine seriously.

The public seems unable to make up their minds. On the one hand they are contemptuous of politicians while on the other hand they seem unwilling to tolerate anything less than perfection from them and their officials.

Maybe if politicians were more willing to admit their dumb mistakes and the public showed a bit more understanding, less time would be spent trying to cover up the fact that governments are run by human beings.

John Milloy, a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, is the director of the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College

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Abortion ruling pushes businesses to confront divisive politics – PBS NewsHour

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The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics.

Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The Walt Disney Company, which said it will reimburse employees who must travel out of state to get an abortion.

Facebook parent Meta, American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs also said they would cover employee travel costs while others like Apple, Starbucks, Lyft and Yelp reiterated previous announcements taking similar action. Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia went so far as to post on LinkedIn Friday that it would provide “training and bail for those who peacefully protest for reproductive justice” and time off to vote.

But of the dozens of big businesses that The Associated Press reached out to Friday, many like McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Tyson and Marriott did not respond. Arkansas-based Walmart — the nation’s largest employer with a good portion of its stores in states that will immediately trigger abortion bans following the Friday’s Supreme Court ruling — also kept quiet.

Meanwhile, the Business Roundtable, an organization that represents some of the nation’s most powerful companies, said it “does not have a position on the merits of the case.”

READ MORE: The ‘air is thick with disbelief and grief’ at a Louisiana clinic as abortion ends

A lot is at stake for companies, many of which have publicly pledged to promote women’s equality and advancement in the workplace. For those in states with restrictive abortion laws, they could now face big challenges in attracting college-educated workers who can easily move around.

Luis von Ahn, the CEO of the language app Duolingo, sent a tweet Friday aimed at lawmakers in Pennsylvania, where the company is headquartered: “If PA makes abortion illegal, we won’t be able to attract talent and we’ll have to grow our offices elsewhere.”

The ruling and the coming patchwork of abortion bans also threatens the technology boom in places like Austin, Texas as companies like Dell — which was already becoming more flexible to remote work because of the tight labor market — struggle to recruit newly minted tech graduates to their corporate hubs, said Steven Pedigo, a professor who studies economic development at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Rather than stay in Austin, do you go to New York or Seattle or the Bay Area? I think that’s a real possibility,” Pedigo said. “It becomes much more challenging, particularly when you’re looking at a young, progressive workforce, which is what technology workers tend to be.”

Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and head of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, said in a statement that nearly a quarter of organizations in a recent poll agreed that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will enhance their ability to compete for talent.

“But how these policies interact with state laws is unclear, and employers should be aware of the legal risks involved,” she said.

Dickens noted that companies that use third-party administrator to process claims on their behalf — typically big employers — are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act rather than state law. But companies that have to buy their own health insurance for their employees — typically small businesses — are subject to state regulations and have less flexibility in designing benefits.

READ MORE: Missouri’s last abortion clinic finds itself in center of Roe fallout

Offering to cover travel expenses could also make companies a target for anti-abortion lawmakers. In March, Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup, saying he would propose legislation barring localities in the state from doing business with any company that provides travel benefits for employees seeking abortions.

In his concurring opinion released Friday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested it would be unconstitutional for a state to bar residents from traveling to another state to get an abortion.

“In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel,” Kavanaugh wrote.

[embedded content]

But a corporation’s right to fund what would be an illegal act in another state is still questionable, argues Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas.

“That’s not an interstate commerce question, per se,” she said. “So you’d need the right plaintiff.”

Meanwhile, tech companies are facing tough questions about what they’ll do if some of their millions of customers in the U.S. are prosecuted for having an abortion. Services like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft routinely hand over digital data sought by law enforcement agencies pursuing criminal investigations. That’s raised concerns from privacy advocates about enforcers of abortion laws tapping into period apps, phone location data and other sensitive online health information.

A letter Friday from four Democrats in Congress called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the phone-tracking practices of Google and Apple, warning that location identifiers used for advertising could fall into the hands of prosecutors or bounty hunters looking “to hunt down women who have obtained or are seeking an abortion.”

The Supreme Court ruling comes at a time when companies have become increasingly reliant on women to fill jobs, and especially as they face a nationwide labor shortage. Women now account for nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce, up dramatically from 37.5% in 1970 — three years before the Supreme Court ruled abortions to be legal in Roe vs. Wade — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Denied access to abortion could hit low-income workers the hardest because they’re typically in jobs with fewer protections and that are also demanding, from loading groceries onto store shelves to working as a health aide.

“As a direct result of this ruling, more women will be forced to choose between paying their rent or traveling long distances to receive safe abortion care,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million janitors, health care workers and teachers in the U.S. “Working women are already struggling in poverty-wage jobs without paid leave and many are also shouldering the caregiving responsibilities for their families, typically unpaid.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants told The Associated Press that the ruling was “devastating.”

“It cuts to the core of all the work that our union has done for 75 years,” she said. “This decision is not about whether or not someone supports abortion. That’s the distraction … This is about whether or not we respect the rights of women to determine their own future.”

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said the handful of companies are taking a stand on the court’s ruling because their customers and employees are expecting them to speak out.

“We’re in this moment in time where we’re expecting corporate leaders to also be leaders in the political sphere,” he said. “A lot of employees expect to work in companies that not only pay them well, but whose values are aligned with theirs.”

But the vast majority of executives will likely avoid the thorny topic and focus on things like inflation or supply chain disruptions, he said.
That, too, comes with risks.

“They can either support travel for out-of-state care and risk lawsuits and the ire of local politicians, or they can not include this coverage and risk the ire of employees,” Schweitzer said.
___
AP business writers Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island; Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit; Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco; David Koenig in Dallas and Ken Sweet in New York contributed to the story.

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