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Economy

Digital citizen rights need to have teeth for Canada to succeed in data-driven economy – The Globe and Mail

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Alex Benay, Partner, Digital and Government Solutions, KPMG in Canada

Over the past decade, the world has steadily been shifting from a resource-based economy to a data-driven one. This transition is having major effects on countries all over the world.

In many jurisdictions, the digital economy represents a massive growth opportunity. But at the same time, the common thinking is that it also poses significant risks to citizens – commercialization of private data, cyberbreaches, identity theft and inequality owing to the lack of connectivity in many regions. It seems that for every digital economy opportunity, there is a digital risk to a citizen.

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Based on the online rhetoric, it appears as though one needs to choose between the two – growth or rights.

But there should be no tension between the concepts of expanding our digital economy while simultaneously creating new digital citizen rights. But for this to be true in Canada, we need action from both the private and public sector. Otherwise, the world is changing at such a rapid pace that we are at risk of being left behind as both a country and as digital citizens.

So what are basic digital rights? For starters, they are laws not policy instruments. Digital rights need to have teeth – they cannot be mere strategy documents.

First, in order to participate in the digital economy, citizens need connectivity as a basic human right. Connectivity would provide all Canadians access to digital services and the ability to participate in the new data-driven economy.

With connectivity as a basic human right in Canada, there would be no reason why one cannot have a tech unicorn in a Canadian region outside of the traditional major city centres. Hyperconnectivity would permit all ideas and all citizens to contribute to Canada’s innovation economy.

Second, citizens must retain ownership of their data in this digital economy. Citizens should not be commercialized by any platform without their consent – full stop. Otherwise, Canadians will not be able to reap the benefits of the data driven economy because they lack the control over their biggest asset – their own personal data. If we are to ever reach this goal of ownership of one’s own data, it is now time to update, and in some cases, rewrite our laws to reflect the new digital reality.

Privacy laws, for example, are not equipped to deal with digital-aged constructs, many of which were written in the industrial age. Instead of modern privacy laws that enable secure data sharing across sectors, or trusted digital wallets that would permit control of one’s online activities, we have policies and procedures based on fax machine transmissions. This prohibits secure data sharing while ensuring data multiplication and a slower economy. It means our businesses cannot build the right infrastructure required to support privacy in a digital age because our laws impede the innovation.

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A critical example in the context of this new digital economy will be the openness of those holding our data. Traditionally, we see intellectual property and openness as opposing factors. Yet, we cannot operate in a digital economy without providing openness of digital rights and economic opportunity. Too often we see companies use intellectual property as a blocker for releasing their algorithms to the public. But protecting citizen rights in the digital age and economic growth are not necessarily at odds. As the data economy grows, the companies who operate with a higher degree of openness will likely profit more.

So where does this leave us?

We need our governments to double their current efforts to address the hard items getting in the way of both digital prosperity and the rights of Canadians. Laws must be changed, regulations adjusted and policies must reflect the new digital economy – and at a much faster pace.

We must also invest one dollar in digital infrastructure for every dollar we invest in roads and bridges to ensure Canada can compete in this data-driven economy.

Looking ahead, sectors must begin to work better together in order to increase the speed of the economy in order to remain internationally competitive.

Canada should provide a model to the world highlighting that human rights are now also digital rights, and that this new reality does not need to compete with advancing economic interests.

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The country that sets the stage for digital economic growth while protecting citizen rights will win the race.

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Economy

Canadian retail sales slide in April, May as COVID-19 shutdown bites

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december retail sales

Canadian retail sales plunged in April and May, as shops and other businesses were shuttered amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Statistics Canada data showed on Wednesday.

Retail trade fell 5.7% in April, the sharpest decline in a year, missing analyst forecasts of a 5.0% drop. In a preliminary estimate, Statscan said May retail sales likely fell by 3.2% as store closures dragged on.

“April showers brought no May flowers for Canadian retailers this year,” Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note.

Statscan said that 5.0% of retailers were closed at some point in April. The average length of the closure was one day, it said, citing respondent feedback.

Sales decreased in nine of the 11 subsectors, while core sales, which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicles, were down 7.6% in April.

Clothing and accessory store sales fell 28.6%, with sales at building material and garden equipment stores falling for the first time in nine months, by 10.4%.

“These results continue to suggest that the Bank of Canada is too optimistic on the growth outlook for the second quarter, even if there is a solid rebound occurring now in June,” Mendes said.

The central bank said in April that it expects Canada’s economy to grow 6.5% in 2021 and signaled interest rates could begin to rise in the second half of 2022.

The Canadian dollar held on to earlier gains after the data, trading up 0.3% at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, editing by Alexander Smith)

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Economy

Canadian dollar notches a 6-day high

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Canadian dollar

The Canadian dollar strengthened for a third day against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, as oil prices rose and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured markets that the central bank is not rushing to hike rates.

Markets were rattled last week when the Fed shifted to more hawkish guidance. But Powell on Tuesday said the economic recovery required more time before any tapering of stimulus and higher borrowing costs are appropriate, helping Wall Street recoup last week’s decline.

Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil, so its economy is highly geared to the economic cycle.

Brent crude rose above $75 a barrel, reaching its highest since late 2018, after an industry report on U.S. crude inventories reinforced views of a tightening market as travel picks up in Europe and North America.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2271 to the greenback, or 81.49 U.S. cents, after touching its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2265.

The currency also gained ground on Monday and Tuesday, clawing back some of its decline from last week.

Canadian retail sales fell by 5.7% in April from March as provincial governments put in place restrictions to tackle a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada said. A flash estimate showed sales down 3.2% in May.

Still, the Bank of Canada expects consumer spending to lead a strong rebound in the domestic economy as vaccinations climb and containment measures ease.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a steeper curve, with the 10-year up nearly 1 basis point at 1.416%. Last Friday, it touched a 3-1/2-month low at 1.364%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Economy

Toronto Stock Exchange higher at open as energy stocks gain

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Toronto Stock Exchange edged higher at open on Wednesday as heavyweight energy stocks advanced, while data showing a plunge in domestic retail sales in April and May capped the gains.

* At 9:30 a.m. ET (13:30 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 16.77 points, or 0.08%, at 20,217.42.

(Reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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