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Cash-strapped rural Alberta 'can't wring money' from struggling oil and gas firms, premier says – CBC.ca

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Premier Jason Kenney urged rural municipalities to work with the province to help struggling oil and gas companies Tuesday, adding they can’t get “money from a stone.”

He made the comments following a survey that said the oil and gas sector owes $173 million in unpaid taxes to rural municipalities — more than double since a similar report was done last spring.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Kenney said the sector has seen a few bankruptcies in the past year while other companies are barely hanging on.

“You can’t wring money from a stone,” Kenney said, suggesting that could be the case for a number of smaller natural producers who are having trouble right now.

“The best solution, in our view, is to create a future for those companies that are struggling.

Rural Municipalities Alberta (RMA) distributed a survey of its members Monday that showed the amount of unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies had grown by 114 per cent since a similar survey last March.

Years of low oil prices have left many small producers in dire straits but rural communities say those unpaid taxes are leaving significant holes in their budgets.

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta, in 2018. Rural Municipalities Alberta (RMA) distributed a survey of its members Monday that showed the amount of unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies had grown by 114 per cent since a similar survey last March. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The RMA said legislative gaps make it difficult to recover lost taxes from energy companies. When an oil and gas company goes bust, municipalities rank below regulators as creditors, the association said.

Al Kemmere, president of the RMA, told CBC News Tuesday he will meet with the provincial minister of municipal affairs next month to discuss the situation.

Asked about the premier’s comments, Kemmere agreed there needs to be discussion about solutions, but cautioned rural municipalities only have so much flexibility under the Municipal Government Act.

“We are also in a very limited scope of what we can do, too, because [while] other levels of government can … build a deficit into their budget, we cannot,” Kemmere said.

“That limits us again on what we can do and how we can find solutions. We either balance a budget every year or we are in contempt of our own act.”

Kenney said rural municipalities have the legal ability to take action when taxes go unpaid.

But Kemmere maintained they don’t have that authority other than through the civil courts — something he said could be “really messy” and puts risk on taxpayers.

On Tuesday, Kenney was asked how the province would find a balance between the rural municipalities and the industry. He said he didn’t view them as competing priorities but competing realities. 

“On the one part, the municipalities need the revenue and they have every right to assess it and and to seek to collect it — they have the legal right to collect it,” Kenney said. 

“But for companies that are on the verge of bankruptcy, they have no cash and very little in the way of assets. There’s not a lot to go after.

“So I would just say with the municipalities, you know, work with us to try to create the best conditions to turn that economic situation around.

The industry is seeking reforms to how taxes are assessed on oil and gas companies.

Properties are assessed by the provincial government, which evaluates them on replacement cost and not on market value, Ben Brunnen, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said Monday.

What we’re seeing is a need to update the way our assets are valued inside municipalities,” he told CBC News.

“If we do that, we’ll find a way for companies to then … perhaps invest more because the economics are better over the long term and our industry will come out stronger.”

On Monday, Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin said about 40 per cent of unpaid taxes are from severely distressed companies in an industry hard and widely hit by lower resource prices. The rest of the shortfall is from companies that continue to operate but don’t pay.

“My personal opinion is that this is a tax revolt,” McLauchlin told Canadian Press. “They are using this as a lever to decrease their assessment and change those costs.”

A group concerned about the unpaid taxes, the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, is planning a protest outside the McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary on Wednesday.

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Online thieves scam Toronto couple out of more than $1,000 in PC Optimum points hack – CBC.ca

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When Chris Eggers and his wife signed up for an in-store text message promotion at a Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart, they thought they’d collect extra PC Optimum points.

Instead, Eggers alleges, hackers stole them all.

“Every week, [PC Optimum] would text me, ‘See if you’re a winner and click on the link!'” he explained.

“One of the links I clicked, and I still have the text, asked me to enter my PC optimum information.”

So, Eggers, 37, entered the couple’s log-in details.

“I believe it is at that point that my identity was compromised,” he told CBC Toronto.

All the text messages came from the same number. But only one, he says, asked him to enter his account information.

Eggers signed up for an in-store contest at the end of August at a Toronto’s Shoppers Drug Mart that would send him text messages like these. (Chris Eggers)

A few days later, the couple was alerted that all their points had been cashed in.

“My wife got emails saying that our PC Optimum points were being redeemed at Vaughan Mills Mall, 600,000 of them,” Eggers explained.

“And so, of course, we panic, you know, try to open the app and change everything, but at that point it was all gone.”

Hackers redeemed more than $1,100 worth of points

Emails the couple supplied to CBC Toronto show a total of $1,149.99 worth of merchandise was redeemed at the Shoppers Drug Mart located in the Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre in Vaughan, Ont. north of Toronto.

Eggers notified Loblaw Companies Ltd., the corporation that operates the PC Optimum program, and has since filed a report with York Regional Police.

Eggers’s wife received a series of email alerts from PC Optimum congratulating them for redeeming points, as scammers used their account to redeem over $1,100 worth of merchandise. The couple desperately tried to change their passwords, but weren’t fast enough and all their points were stolen. (Chris Eggers)

Scammers have targeted the reward system before.

Two years ago, CBC News interviewed eight people across Canada who said they’d each had more than 100,000 points stolen from their accounts after Loblaw merged its two rewards programs — PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum — to form PC Optimum on Feb. 1, 2018.

The reported thefts are just one more problem plaguing Loblaw, which was already dealing with technical glitches involving PC Optimum, and fallout from a bread price-fixing scandal, including the related controversy over asking some people to send their ID to collect a $25 gift card as compensation for the overpriced bread.

No connection to text promotion, Loblaw says

When the company replied to Eggers days later, he was told his email had been compromised and there was no connection to the in-store text promotion.

That’s something Eggers still has trouble accepting.

“I don’t believe that because if somebody was going to compromise my email, then they would have gone after my banking,” he said.

The PC Optimum card replaced the PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum loyalty rewards cards following the 2014 merger of Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart. Technical issues, including the loss of points and an inability to register, have plagued the new Optimum card since its launch on Feb. 1, 2018. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“It’s quite a leap to think that when you get into somebody’s email that they have a Shoppers Optimum and that’s … the cherry they want to pick.”

In a statement to CBC News, Loblaw says the company reviewed screen shots of Eggers’s contest text messages and related links and has “not found any site/page that asked for PC Optimum account information.”

“The links provided simply show a promotional code,” the statement reads

Loblaw apologizes for ‘the inconvenience this has caused’

However, the retailer does acknowledge recent “smishing campaigns” — text messages asking for information, claiming to be from PC Optimum in recent months. 

“We’re still reviewing to see if that could be the case in this instance,” the company said, adding their investigation is ongoing.

“We are committed to understanding the scenario and how we can best help our customers moving forward.”

Loblaws says representatives have worked with Eggers and his wife to restore their points and secure their account.

The company also says it apologizes for “the inconvenience this has caused [for the couple] and the delay in resolving it.”

Eggers says he’s happy to have their points back but worries others could have also been hacked.

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Video: Woman refuses to wear mask, asked to leave Kelowna LUSH – News 1130

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KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — A tense exchange filmed at a Kelowna mall shows a woman arguing with staff at a LUSH Cosmetics store after they told her she had to leave because she wasn’t wearing a mask.

The confrontation in Orchard Park Shopping Centre was filmed and posted to social media by the woman and comes at a time when B.C.’s COVID-19 numbers are still high.

The woman refused to wear a mask when she entered the store, then said staff and security were breaching her human rights by not allowing her to browse.

The woman can be heard in the video speaking to a masked security guard.

“Explain to me how my human rights, with my medical condition, I cannot walk through a store when it’s totally fine for me to walk through a store.”

When asked to provide a medical note, the woman said she didn’t need to and instead said she could show her “puffer,” before saying that was none of the security guard’s business.

While there isn’t a provincial mandate on masks, they are encouraged to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But it is a policy for the store and has been since mid-July.

A spokesperson for LUSH tells NEWS 1130 they support how the staff handled the situation calmly and compassionately, and remain committed to ensuring the policy is followed.

“The health and safety of our staff and community remains top priority as we continue to navigate these challenging times together.”

The camera later pans over slightly to show three staff members, also wearing masks, and the woman accuses them of harassment.

“All I’m doing is looking in LUSH,” she says.

Staff suggest the woman instead shop online, but she refuses, saying “I want to browse here in the store.”

After multiple requests, the security guard says they might have to call the police if the woman doesn’t leave. He reminds her it is private property and she had been told to go.

Once the woman is given the number for the head office, she turns to leave.

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Woman refuses to wear mask at LUSH, films altercation

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[embedded content]

A Lake Country woman claims she was the victim of “commie intimidation” after she was asked to leave Kelowna’s LUSH Cosmetics Thursday for refusing to wear a mask.

In a video that is not publicly available on her Facebook page, Susan Roth Drazdoff Faechner is seen arguing with a security guard and three female employees after she was refused service and told to leave LUSH for refusing to wear a face covering – which is company policy.

In the video, she describes the employees’ conduct as “commie intimidation.”

“I have the right to say no to a mask,” Faechner told Castanet. “I went in for an anniversary present for my husband. I picked up one thing I was going to buy. I turned around, I was ready to go, and security is there asking for my medical information.”

In the video, the security guard asks Faechner for a medical note after she tells him she can’t wear a mask due to her medical condition. When Faechner declines, the security guard explains that it’s store policy for customers to wear a face covering while inside. When Faechner argues the store is “public property to walk on,” the security guard says it is, in fact, private property.

“I know the law, and I know my constitutional human rights,” she says to the security guard.

“I felt like I was under, I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it was like great grievous bodily mental harm,” Faechner told Castanet. “Not that they were going to beat me up, but it was causing me extreme stress. When they came up to me it was like holy cow, I’m under attack and I’m all alone.

“This is like communism like, ‘you get out otherwise we call the police.’ Thats intimidation.”

Faechner says after the video ended she left peacefully as she didn’t want to escalate the situation further.

LUSH Kelowna manager Spence Dagneau says the incident with Faechner was one of the first times a customer has gotten upset about the mask policy.

“[The staff members] were pretty shaken up for the rest of the day but we have a really small, tight-knit group here and they’re all feeling pretty confident again today so its nice to see,” Dagneau said.

All LUSH stores across North America mandated face coverings on July 18, 2020.

“Shoppers who wish to enter a store but do not have their own face covering will be provided with one, or can choose contactless ordering instead by remaining outside the store while staff assist,” the LUSH website states. “The change comes following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, along with our ongoing commitment to the safety of our customers, staff and overall community.”

Other retailers like Walmart and Real Canadian Superstore have also chosen to mandate the use of masks inside their stores.

But, echoing sentiments from a vocal minority in the community, Faechner says the mask rules infringe on her human rights.

“Masks are a freedom of choice,” she says. “Wear it, or don’t. Know your information, know what you’re talking about. You shouldn’t blindly wear a mask because some organization is telling you to do it.”

Faechner says after the incident she went to a different store in the shopping centre and was given service without a mask. She says she’ll no longer be shopping at LUSH stores.

“I call myself a Christ crusader and people with faith, they don’t just outright lie because they have a creator that they have to answer to at some point,” she says. “I’m not going to outright lie, I just think something’s happened to humans where we’ve just lost our sense of humanity.”

Faechner acknowledges the COVID-19 virus exists, but doesn’t trust the numbers of cases and deaths published by the government. To date, 223 British Columbians have died from COVID-19.

Source: – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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