Health officials are responding to another community outbreak of COVID-19 in British Columbia, this time at a Tim Hortons in the Southern Interior.
Interior Health announced Friday there has been a “cluster of cases” associated with the franchise location on River Ranch Road in Merritt.
“The owner has voluntarily closed the restaurant and we appreciate Tim Hortons’ efforts and co-operation in managing this situation,” the health authority told CTV News in an email.
It’s unclear how many cases have resulted from the outbreak, but officials stressed that there has been no COVID-19 exposure involving customers.
“The business has appropriate precautions in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission to the public,” Interior Health said. “All confirmed cases are isolating and contact investigation is underway. There is no risk to the general public.”
Health officials also announced another 155 cases of COVID-19 in the province on Friday, as well as one more death from the disease.
B.C.’s total number of cases has now increased by more than 100 cases for 15 days in a row.
Google accused of abusing market power in landmark US case
The U.S. Justice Department sued Alphabet Inc.’s Google, accusing it of abusing its monopoly in search in the most significant antitrust action against an American company in more than two decades, with more action by states likely to follow.
Google, which controls about 90 per cent of the online search market in the U.S., is the “unchallenged gateway” to the internet and engaged in a variety of anticompetitive practices to maintain and extend its monopoly, the government said in a complaint filed Tuesday in Washington. The company has used exclusive deals costing billions of dollars to dominate search and lock out competition from rivals, the U.S. said.
“No one can feasibly challenge Google’s dominance in search and search advertising,” Attorney General William Barr said. “If we let Google continue its anticompetitive ways, we will lose the next wave of innovators and Americans may never get to benefit from the ‘next Google.’”
The complaint is the first phase of what’s shaping up as a multi-pronged attack against Google. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is preparing a complaint against the company over its conduct in the digital-advertising market, where it controls much of the technology used by advertisers and publishers to buy and sell display ads across the web. A separate group of states, including Colorado and Iowa, is investigating Google’s search practices and said their probe will conclude in the coming weeks.
Investors brushed off the complaint, which has been expected for weeks. Alphabet shares rose 2.6 per cent to US$1,569.73 at 3:02 p.m. in New York trading. Mark Shmulik, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told investors that the firm sees “limited risk” to Google from the suit.
Google’s search business generates most of the company’s revenue and has funded its expansion into email, online video, smartphone software, maps, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles and display advertising. The search engine influences the fates of thousands of businesses online, which depend on Google to get in front of users.
Google called the government’s case “deeply flawed” and said it would actually hurt consumers because it would “artificially prop up” lower-quality search options and raise phone prices.
“People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” Google Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker said in a blog post in response to the complaint.
Walker likened Google’s distribution agreements with phone makers and wireless carriers to the way a cereal brand would pay a supermarket to stock its products on a shelf at eye level. Other search engines are able to compete with Google for those deals, he said. Users can also easily switch to other search engines on desktops and phones, Walker wrote.
“This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM,” he said. “Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds—faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.”
Google began dominating online search 20 years ago with an algorithm that delivered better results than those of its rivals. Since then it has also relied on its own products, like its Android mobile operating system, and exclusive agreements with device makers and mobile carriers to be the default search option for millions of users. That’s given it an insurmountable advantage over rivals, according to the government.
The exclusive agreements with phone makers like Apple Inc. and wireless carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. deny rivals the scale and distribution they need to compete against Google in search, the U.S. said. Google monetizes its dominance in search by selling advertising, which it uses to pay for the exclusive deals. Those payments create a strong disincentive for distributors to switch to another service, according to the complaint.
“Through these exclusionary payoffs, and the other anticompetitive conduct described below, Google has created continuous and self-reinforcing monopolies in multiple markets,” the U.S. said.
In a briefing with reporters, Justice Department officials declined to discuss what specific remedies the government would seek. It would be up to a federal court judge to decide what remedy to impose, including whether to order a breakup of Google’s businesses.
“At a minimum this would require stopping that conduct, but additional relief may be necessary,” said Alex Okuliar, the department’s deputy for civil antitrust.
The Justice Department’s case, which Texas and 10 other states joined, is the first to emerge from an investigation of some of the largest technology companies initiated by Barr 15 months ago. It’s the most significant antitrust lawsuit since the U.S. filed a case against Microsoft Corp. in 1998 and marks a seismic shift away from the government’s mostly laissez-faire approach toward America’s tech giants.
While it’s not illegal to be a monopoly under U.S. law, it’s a violation for a dominant company to engage in exclusionary conduct to protect or strengthen its market power.
Barr had championed the Google case by giving it a high priority and assigning his No. 2 to oversee it. Yet as his department filed the long-awaited lawsuit in federal court, Barr was off preparing to speak on law and order in Marco Island, Florida. Barr has taken a low profile since President Donald Trump, starting about two weeks ago, began pushing him to prosecute his political enemies. On Tuesday, Trump demanded that Barr investigate Hunter Biden.
The Google cases by the Justice Department and the state attorneys general could be followed by a Federal Trade Commission case later this year against Facebook Inc. joined by state attorneys general. In Congress, Representative David Cicilline intends to push legislation to curb the dominance of tech giants following findings of an investigation that Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com Inc. abused their power as gatekeepers in the digital economy.
Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who led the House’s investigation of competition in big tech, called the action “long overdue.”
The combined challenges could upend how the companies do business. If the government prevails, one or more of the tech goliaths could even be broken up — reminiscent of the way the antitrust crusades of the early 20th century led to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911.
Trump has repeatedly railed against U.S. tech firms, exposing the Justice Department to criticism that the case against Google is politically motivated. Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday the White House has been “consulting” with the Justice Department about the Google case.
It will likely be more than a year before the lawsuit goes to trial — if it’s not settled first. That could mean a Joe Biden administration will be responsible for continuing the case if the former vice president defeats Trump in November. While Biden has yet to detail his thinking on antitrust, his campaign is talking to proponents of more aggressive enforcement than existed under former President Barack Obama. Many Democratic lawmakers are also concerned about the need for stepped-up antitrust enforcement of large technology companies.
Google is expected to put up a fight and will be able to spare no expense with its defense. Its parent, Alphabet, is one of the world’s wealthiest companies with a market value of about US$1 trillion and projected 2020 sales of US$142 billion.
In hearings and court filings, the company has said it faces robust rivals in all its markets. It has argued that competition has helped lower the cost of online ads in recent years, and it has highlighted the money it makes for publishers and small businesses.
The House antitrust report found that Google has been able to build barriers to competition by becoming the default search engine on desktop and mobile internet browsers. In desktop browsers, Google search has default placement on Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox, amounting to 87 per cent of the market, according to the report.
In mobile, Google search controls essentially the entire market because it’s the default search on its Android operating system and Apple’s iOS operating system. It pays Apple roughly US$8 billion a year for the privilege, according to estimates by analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. And that’s not the only such agreement. Google also has deals with Mozilla’s Firefox as well as phone makers including Samsung Electronics Co.
While Europe has aggressively targeted the U.S.’s tech champions, particularly Google, for anticompetitive behavior, American enforcers have largely given them free rein. The FTC closed a previous Google inquiry in 2013 after two years without taking action. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have completed hundreds of acquisitions over the last decade, none of which have been blocked by merger cops.
The case against Microsoft, which accused the software giant of illegally monopolizing the market for computer operating systems, was brought under former president Bill Clinton and nearly led to the company’s breakup.
A federal district court judge ruled that Microsoft should be split up for having tied its internet browser to its Windows operating system — strangling competitors. But an appeals court reversed that ruling and the Justice Department settled the case under the George W. Bush administration.
Still, legal experts have said that by pinning Microsoft down for several years with the investigation and ensuing litigation, the U.S. made it possible for a new crop of tech companies like Google to emerge and thrive.
There are parallels between today’s widespread anti-big-tech sentiment and the Progressive Era push that lead to the breakup of Standard Oil. Oil was to the industrial base of the economy in the early 20th century, what data is to the 21st century economy.
The John D. Rockefeller empire began as a small refinery, but grew through acquisitions to control 90 per cent of U.S. oil production, refining and transportation. Along the way, Rockefeller amassed huge amounts of economic power, as did steel and railroad magnates. That also led to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and ultimately Standard Oil’s dissolution.
Google, likewise, began as a small search engine and grew quickly through acquisitions such as YouTube in 2006 and the DoubleClick digital advertising company in 2007 to control vast swaths of the digital advertising ecosystem. Google also stockpiled immense troves of data — decades’ worth of consumer and business buying preferences and surfing habits — deepening its economic grip and making it harder for new entrants to challenge it.
Source: – BNN
Ontario extends COVID-19 orders for another 30 days amid second wave – CTV Toronto
Ontario has extended a number of COVID-19 orders until mid-November as the province grapples with the second wave of the disease.
In a news release issued late Tuesday morning, the Progressive Conservative government said that the extension will apply to all orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) except those that deal with hydro prices and access to electronic personal health information.
Orders under the ROA include the province’s ability to implement rules on public gatherings, business closures and managing outbreaks in hospitals or long-term care homes.
The extension of these orders does not change the length Toronto, Peel Region, Ottawa and York Region will be forced to remain in a modified Stage 2.
“With the cold and flu season upon us and the continuing high number of COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the province, it’s critical we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Ontarians,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement.
“We have renewed the majority of orders to ensure we have the tools in place to address any urgent public health situations and support the continued delivery of critical services.”
The orders will remain in effect until Nov. 21.
There are two orders that will not be extended or amended. The first has to do with the regulation of hydro prices, which is set to change back to time-of-use pricing in November.
The average residential customer using 700 kWh per month is expected to see their bills increase by about $2.24. Customers will also have the choice to change to a “tiered” system for more stagnant rates.
An order that allows health officials to collect electronic personal health information will also expire as of Oct. 22.
In the news release, the government also said that regulations have been amended for both Stage 2 and Stage 3 regions to allow in-person teaching and instruction for fire departments, which are “critical for public safety.”
An order for regions under the modified Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan was also amended to allow dance classes to operate, permitting they follow specified criteria.
“This change to the regulation recognizes that dance styles such as ballet, hip hop, and ballroom, can still be taught and practiced safely when certain public health measures are followed, similar to other permitted activities, such as cheerleading and gymnastics,” the province said.
The ROA was implemented in July and makes changes to about 20 COVID-19 related pieces of legislation.
Under the ROA, COVID-19 related orders put in place during the pandemic can be amended but no new emergency orders can be created.
The orders must be extended every 30 days in order to remain in effect.
Kuwait-born CEO breaks glass ceiling to lift ailing Laurentian Bank – BNN
Rania Llewellyn broke the glass ceiling as the first woman to lead one of Canada’s eight largest banks. Her challenge at Laurentian Bank of Canada is to revive a lender that may need capital and has struggled for years to find growth.
Llewellyn, who was named Laurentian’s chief executive officer Tuesday, comes with an unusual biography for a Canadian bank chief. Born in Kuwait, she moved to Canada as a teenager from Egypt, where her father is from, and earned a master’s degree in business administration from St. Mary’s University, a small public college in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
She joined Bank of Nova Scotia as a part-time teller and began a 26-year climb that included a stint as CEO of Roynat Capital, a unit of the bank that finances medium-sized businesses. Before jumping to Laurentian, she’d been promoted to executive vice president in charge of Scotiabank’s global payments strategy.
Canadian banks rarely hire external candidates for the top job. Montreal-based Laurentian has unique problems, though. Llewellyn, 44, will need to shore up the bank’s capital position, which is the weaker than that of the country’s largest banks, while trying to undo the damage from the company’s prior missteps, including a problem with mortgage fraud.
The bank’s results have trailed analysts’ estimates in eight of the past 11 quarters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Among the major moves she may make include raising new equity and divesting non-core assets like the Northpoint commercial-finance business, according to analysts. No matter what she does, it will require bold action to revive Laurentian’s shares, which have dropped 49 per cent over the past five years, compared to a 12 per cent gain for the S&P/TSX Commercial Banks Index.
“An external hire brings more potential for change, which is good,” Gabriel Dechaine, an analyst at National Bank of Canada, said in a note. “A new CEO will have more flexibility to take dramatic action to put the bank on more solid footing during the current downturn and into the future.”
Laurentian shares rose as much as 1.2 per cent after Llewellyn’s hiring was announced and closed up 0.2 per cent to CUS$26.36 in Toronto. The stock had fallen 41 per cent this year through Monday.
“Rania Llewellyn is the right leader to usher in a new era at Laurentian Bank. She has a proven track record as an energetic, strategic thinker focused on customer experience and tangible results,” Michelle Savoy, the Laurentian director who led the search committee, said in a statement.
Llewellyn fills the gap left by Francois Desjardins, who stepped down in June after a five-year tenure that included an incomplete transformation plan and other woes. In 2017, the bank found customer misrepresentations on some mortgages that it sold to another firm. Laurentian said it would buy back CUS$180 million (US$137 million) in mortgages sold to the firm.
Laurentian also took a hit in May, when it slashed its dividend 40 per cent, the first payout cut by a large Canadian lender in almost three decades, and posted fiscal second-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates because of higher provisions for loan losses.
While the bank increased a key measure of its capital known as common equity tier 1 to 9.4 per cent at the end of its third quarter, that level is still “far from ‘fortress-like,’” National Bank’s Dechaine said, adding that the situation makes an equity raise possible.
The hiring of Llewellyn, who will also join Laurentian’s board, comes a little more than a month after Jane Fraser was named CEO of Citigroup Inc., which will make her the first female head of a big Wall Street bank.
While women have held some high-profile positions in Canada’s banking industry, Llewellyn will be the first female CEO of a major domestic bank. London-based HSBC Holdings Plc’s Canadian operations are run by Linda Seymour. She succeeded Sandra Stuart, who ran the operation for five years until her retirement. And Gillian Riley serves as CEO of Tangerine, Scotiabank’s online division.
Llewellyn’s appointment also is notable because Canadian banks typically choose CEOs from inside their firms.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce entertained the idea of external candidates in its CEO search in 2014 before choosing internal candidate Victor Dodig. The last time Royal Bank of Canada went outside the firm for a top executive was in 1908.
Llewellyn also isn’t a native French speaker — a disadvantage for the head of a firm headquartered in Montreal — but has committed to learning the language, according to a note from RBC analyst Darko Mihelic.
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