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Canada stalled as blockades shut down rail networks and the movement of goods and people

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EDMONTON AND TORONTO — As protests that have stalled railway traffic across parts of Canada drag towards a week, CN Rail announced it would be shutting down “significant” portions of its rail network, raising questions about the stability of Canada’s transport system and concerns about the enforcement of court orders putting an end to the protests.

In a Tuesday statement, the rail shipper, which operates some 30,000 kilometres of rail across Canada and the U.S., said a variety of shipments — food, construction materials, lumber, aluminum, coal and propane — have been affected by the rail blockades just east of Belleville, Ont., and in New Hazelton, B.C.

Near Belleville, members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory have parked a large dump truck with a plough along the tracks. The protests have stopped Via Rail passenger trains as well as CN trains, cutting off routes between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston.

Protestors delayed the start of the spring session of the B.C. legislature by physically blocking access to the B.C. Legislature building in Victoria on Tuesday.

The protests, which began on Thursday, are in solidarity with the five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who opposed a pipeline project that partially crosses their traditional territory in the B.C. interior.

In an emailed statement, CN warned that the blockades could have a spillover effect to ports in Halifax, Montreal and Prince Rupert, as blockades in Ontario and British Columbia have cut off main CN lines.


OPP Sgt. Diana Hampson of the liaison team, middle, speaks with members of the Mohawk Territory in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. The members have blocked the CN/VIA train tracks for six days in support of Wet’suwet’en’s blockade of natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

Lars Hagberg /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner,” the statement said.

But, in statements to the Post, neither the Montreal Port Authority nor the Halifax Port Authority seemed overly concerned at the moment.

“So far, we have had little major impact on the movement of goods, as we are served by two other major networks: CP and trucking,” said an emailed statement from Mélanie Nadeau, director of communications at the Montreal port.

Of course, that could change. Lane Ferguson, a spokesperson with the Halifax Port Authority, said it was “too early” to say what “the specific impact” of the protests could be. He suggested there could be problems if the storage yards in Halifax fill up or if products can’t be transported out by rail. If those things occur, international importers might avoid the port altogether.

“A partial or complete port shutdown would be devastating to the reputation of the Port of Halifax as an efficient and reliable international gateway,” Ferguson wrote in an email. “It would also impact confidence in the stability and reliability of the Canadian supply chain.”

Brad Cicero, a spokesperson for Porter Airlines, a short-haul carrier, said it has seen an uptick in passengers along its Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor that’s more than would normally be expected this time of year.


Local residents Angela Lammes (left) and Annette McIntosh show their support for the First Nations anti-pipeline protestors at a rail crossing at Wyman Rd., south of Old Highway 2, east of Belleville, Ont. on Tuesday February 11, 2020.

Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

Key to the affair is whether or not police enforce court injunctions to clear out the protesters in Belleville, Ont. and New Hazelton, B.C. As yet, that has not happened, although police in other parts of the country — including those blocking Vancouver and Delta ports and the Wet’suwet’en protesters in interior B.C. — have made arrests.

The RCMP began moving into Wet’suwet’en territory and arresting land defenders last Thursday.

On Tuesday, Marc Garneau, the Liberal transport minister, called the blockades “illegal” but said the federal government would not do anything. It’s up to the provinces, Garneau said, to enforce the court orders.

“The government of Canada is seized of the issue. We’d like to resolve it as quickly as possible, but it’s a complex issue. Hopefully we’ll resolve it as quickly as possible,” Garneau told reporters.

Previous instances where Indigenous protesters have blocked rail lines have led to crises in the rule of law. In December, 2012, an Ontario judge issued a court order that First Nations protesters blocking a CN spur line in Sarnia, Ont., be cleared out.

Police did nothing until January 2013.

“We seem to be drifting into dangerous waters in the life of the public affairs of this province when courts cannot predict, with any practical degree of certainty, whether police agencies will assist in enforcing court injunctions against demonstrators,” wrote David Brown, who now sits on the Ontario Court of Appeal.


A large protest took over Dundas Street as it left Wellington on the way to the RCMP offices on Talbot Street in London, Ont. They were protesting in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who are blockading the Coastal GasLink pipeline in BC Photograph taken on Tuesday February 11, 2020.

Mike Hensen/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

On Tuesday, Bill Dickson, a spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police, said “the situation is unchanged” and that police were aware there was an injunction, and they’d read it to protesters. He declined to speculate on what else police might do.

“The hope for the resolution is that through dialogue and through discussion, the individuals will back away from the rail line and allow the trains to move again,” Dickson said.

Jason Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, expressed his concerns on Twitter: “It’s about time that our authorities demonstrated that Canada is a country that respects the rule of law. Allowing mob rule to override the express democratic wishes of First Nations is unacceptable, and it has to end,” he wrote on Tuesday

A November 2019 rail strike could provide some insight into what effect the rail stoppage could have on the economy, said Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO. How long the delays go on, Porter explained, would determine just what the economic consequences might be.

“That strike lasted just over a week and was national, and clipped GDP by less than 0.1 percent that month,” Porter said in an email.

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TD Bank CFO Ahmed to head securities unit, move seen as CEO succession play

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TD Bank Group on Thursday named Chief Financial Officer Riaz Ahmed chief executive of its securities unit and head of wholesale banking, a move some investors interpreted as a sign he will succeed CEO Bharat Masrani.

For Ahmed, 58, the change marks a return to his TD roots. He began his career at the bank in 1996 as an investment banker in the securities division, following which he served as its CFO and chief administrative officer. He has been part of TD Bank‘s executive team for nine years, and CFO for over five.

“Cross-training in the capital markets role … increases the likelihood of (Ahmed) succeeding Masrani when he retires, but I doubt it would be soon, as that would create unnecessary turnover atop TD Securities,” said Brian Madden, portfolio manager at Goodreid Investment Counsel.

“Maybe Masrani announces his retirement next year (or the following) and leaves early in 2023” or 2024.

Masrani’s compensation arrangements anticipated his retirement in 2020, TD said in its 2019 shareholders meeting proxy circular. But he was granted stock options worth C$1.9 million ($1.5 million), vesting in five years, on the condition that he remain available to serve as CEO throughout that period.

Ahmed replaces Bob Dorrance, who will retire on Sept. 1 after about 16 years at the bank, Canada’s second-biggest lender by market value said in a statement.

When asked about TD’s succession plans, a spokesperson said: “Today we are celebrating Bob Dorrance’s incredible career and accomplishments, and the appointment of top executives to critical, leadership roles.”

At a time when diversity, particularly in executive and board ranks, has come under increased scrutiny, Ahmed’s appointment as CEO would mean TD, the only one of Canada’s six biggest lenders to have a non-Caucasian at its helm, would retain that aspect.

Ahmed’s appointment comes after TD’s wholesale banking unit recorded an 8% revenue decline in the second quarter from a year ago, contributing to the bank’s overall underperformance versus some rivals.

Kelvin Tran, currently executive vice president for enterprise finance, will replace Ahmed as finance chief.

Dorrance, who has headed TD Securities since 2005, will stay on as chairman of TD Securities and serve as special adviser to Masrani.

TD shares were flat at C$87.12 on Thursday afternoon, compared with a 0.2% gain in the Toronto stock index. The shares are up 21% this year, versus a 15% gain in the benchmark.

($1 = 1.2303 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in BengaluruEditing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis)

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AIB agrees to life and pensions joint-venture with Canada Life

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Allied Irish Banks on Wednesday said it would form a joint venture with Canada life as it seeks to plug gaps in its life, savings and wealth products.

The joint venture will be equally owned by Canada Life, a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc.

“The move to create this joint venture is aligned with AIB’s stated ambition to complete its customerproduct suite and diversify income,” AIB said in a statement.

“Through this strategic initiative AIB intends to offer customers a range of life protection, pensions, savings and investment options enhanced by integrated digital solutions withcontinued access to our qualified financial advisors.”

The Irish lender highlighted Canada Life’s “deep experience” of the Irish bancassurance market through Irish Life Assurance, which is also a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.

AIB currently operates under a tied agency distribution agreement with Irish Life, and will enter into a new distribution agreement with the new joint venture company.

Chief Executive Colin Hunt highlighted the need to plug gaps in AIB’s life, savings and wealth products when he set out the bank’s medium-term targets last December.

AIB expects its equity investment in the joint venture will be around 90 million euros ($107.51 million), equating to around 10bps of CET1.($1 = 0.8372 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Fahy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Interac: Canada’s Latest Payment Solution Phenomenon

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Few can argue that digital payment methods aren’t central to modern-day society. In recent times, increasing numbers of payment solutions have come to the forefront, offering consumers more choice regarding their transaction preferences. Canada, in particular, has embraced a wide-ranging selection of secure, forward-thinking options. Of those available throughout the country, Interac has piqued the interests of local consumers the most. So, let’s look at why this payment solution is an especially popular option throughout Canada. 

Usable Across Various Markets 

It speaks volumes about Interac’s versatility in that it’s usable across a variety of different industries. Since being founded in 1984, the Canadian interbank network has become integral to numerous markets, including local air travel. Air Canada, which has been operating since 1937, has expanded their accepted payment methods, and now passengers can pay for their flights using Interac. According to the airline’s official website, the Interac Online service lets consumers pay for their tickets via the internet directly from their bank account. 

Not only that, but Interac is also available at Walmart. In November 2020, the two organizations partnered together to expand in-store and online payment options. Walmart has adapted well to the digital trend, with American Banker reporting that they’ve opened Interac Flash sale points throughout their stores. 


Source: Unsplash

Aside from the above, Interac has also taken the digital world by storm. Following its rapid rise to prominence, the solution has also altered the online casino industry, with platforms like Genesis Casino now accepting the transaction type. The provider, which features Interac Canadian casino options, uses the popular payment method to enhance transaction speeds of deposits and withdrawals, as well as security. Players can use Interac Online and Interac e-Transfer to make deposits or withdrawals from their desktops or mobiles as the platform is fully optimized. 

A Reflection of Modern-Day Society 

In recent times, Interac recorded a 55 percent increase in transactions between April and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, as per BNN Bloomberg. These figures somewhat reflect the current state of e-Commerce and modern consumerism. Following the rise of Interac and other payment methods, it’s now less troublesome for consumers to complete in-store and online purchases. 


Source: PxHere

There’s an ever-growing perception that land-based businesses need to adapt within the digital era and accept forward-thinking payment methods. According to Cision, Interac is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy, and a year-on-year increase in Interac Debit payments of 333 percent reflects that. Not only that, but Interac e-Transfer payments are growing at 52 percent each year. This Interac-oriented trend appears unlikely to fade over the coming years, with the network being selected as the country’s provider for a new real-time payment system, as per Lexology. 

Consumer Habits are Changing 

There can be no doubt that consumerism has changed drastically over the past decade. The popularity of Interac suggests that a cashless future may be on the horizon, with increasing numbers of shoppers enjoying the security of online payment methods. While it’s currently unclear if that will happen, Interac appears to be prevalent for the long run.

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