Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd. has agreed to spend nearly $2 billion on its Canadian plants as part of tentative contract deal with Unifor announced Tuesday.
Under the proposed settlement, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said $1.95 billion will be invested in Ford’s Canadian plants, including $1.8 billion toward the production of five electric vehicles in Oakville, Ont., and an engine contract that could yield new jobs in Windsor, Ont.
The 6,300 union workers at Ford will vote on the deal this weekend, Dias said.
Talks between the union and the automaker came to a head on Monday ahead of a bargaining deadline of 11:59 p.m. ET, and talks continued for much of the night before parties settled on a deal around 5 a.m.
Workers had voted to support a strike if a deal could not be reached, with the future of the Oakville plant potentially on the line amid the end of the Ford Edge production.
The plant will now be retooled for electric vehicle production starting in 2024, Dias said, with the fifth and final model of the new deal hitting the assembly line in 2028.
Of the 4,250 Unifor workers at the plant west of Toronto, 3,400 are actively working (and not laid off or on leave.) Dias said he foresees about 3,000 jobs staying in Oakville under the new contract, but said that some of the current workers would be eligible to retire soon either way.
“This is a major commitment from Ford,” Dias said. “This is going to be a key facility, not for the short-term, but for the long-term â€¦ this is a decade-long commitment.”
Dias thanked local and federal politicians for support during the negotiations. When asked about government contribution toward electric vehicle production, Dias declined to confirm earlier news reports on the topic, saying the government will have to announce how much they plan to kick in.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that the province is contributing a “massive amount” to “businesses like (Ford Canada) to bring battery manufacturing” to the province, but has not shared a specific amount, citing ongoing negotiations. John Power, spokesman for federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, also declined to say how much Ottawa could commit, saying only that electric vehicle production would help meet climate goals and create jobs.
“We have been talking for decades about having a national auto strategy in this country, and for some reason, we can never seem to get everybody in the room at the same time,” Dias said.
“Over the last several months, those walls have really been torn down â€¦ I’m really pleased to see that the federal government and provincial government are working hand in hand.”
Dias said that the provincial government’s negotiations encompass the complete, A-to-Z manufacturing of batteries – a process that still requires a major manufacturer. Unifor’s deal with Ford will encompass just the assembly stage of the manufacturing process.
Once agreed to by union members, Ford’s deal on new product lines, shifts, wages, pensions and benefits will set the tone for upcoming talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors.
Dias said Fiat Chrysler will be next in line for negotiations, as the union plans to go toe-to-toe over shift cuts in Windsor and Brampton, Ont. facilities.
Although the last formal labour negotiations took place in 2016, the union has been in active scrimmages with GM since then, after last year’s downsizing at a GM plant in Oshawa, Ont.
In the U.S., GM’s union workers went on strike last year. Going forward, Dias said the Canadian and U.S. unions will negotiate with the Detroit Three on the same schedule, as both groups try to keep jobs from moving south to Mexico.
That means the 2020 deal will be renegotiated in 2023, amid the expiration of major programs in GM’s powertrain operation in St. Catharines, Ont.
Dias said Canadian natural resources, such as lithium, aluminum and cobalt, put the members in a strong position as more companies move toward electric vehicles.
“It’s an opportunity for our young people that work in Oakville, and frankly in Windsor, as well, and throughout the other operations, to sit back and say, `With this announcement I can buy a house, I can plan my future, I can plan a family,”’ Dias said.
“It really is about young people being able to plan 20 years ahead, which will make a significant difference in their life.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2020
U.S. Justice Department files antitrust lawsuit against Google – CBC.ca
The United States Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.
The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “But as the antitrust complaint filed today explains, it has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.
Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states will join the federal government in the lawsuit.
The Trump administration has long had Google in its sights. A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.
Google controls about 90 per cent of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.
The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.
Argument for reining in Google has gathered force
Most of Google’s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads. Google insists that it holds no special power forcing people to use its free services or preventing them from going elsewhere.
A recent report from a House judiciary subcommittee, following a year-long investigation into Big Tech’s market dominance, concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed — buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.
The argument for reining in Google has gathered force as the company stretched far beyond its 1998 roots as a search engine governed by the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s since grown into a diversified Goliath with online tentacles that scoop up personal data from billions of people via services ranging from search, video and maps to smartphone software. That data helps feed the advertising machine that has turned Google into a behemoth.
The company owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system. Some critics have singled out YouTube and Android as among Google businesses that should be considered for divestiture.
With only two weeks to election day, the Trump Justice Department is taking bold legal action against Google on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement. Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.
The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google’s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago it was investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas will join the lawsuit, according to court records.
Winnipegger with positive COVID-19 test reports six-day lag in contact tracing – CBC.ca
Two Winnipeg men who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 say they’ve lost faith in the province’s ability to do contact tracing properly.
The first, who found out he tested positive last Wednesday, says he still hasn’t been asked to provide his close contacts and hasn’t had any follow up from public health.
“They’re not handling it. There has been no contact tracing,” Aaron Lund, 46, said in an interview over Zoom Monday.
“With this being at the forefront of everything you see in the news these days, I guess maybe I had an expectation that there was more of a priority to it.”
Lund said he’s called Health Links twice, including on Monday, to inform them he hasn’t been asked to provide his contacts.
He said when a public health nurse called him last Wednesday — a day after he got tested — she told him to write down everyone he had been in contact with a week prior and be prepared to share that information in a follow-up call.
Lund said he is still struggling with a cough and has no smell. But his initial symptoms of fatigue, cold sweats and fever are gone. “It’s the weirdest thing,” he said.
Six-day lag for second man
The second man, who got a call on Oct. 13 informing him he had tested positive, said he wasn’t asked to provide contact tracing information until Monday — six days after a doctor told him he had the coronavirus.
“That’s a long time later to be doing contact tracing. I got a phone call last Tuesday and they could have given me my reference number [for the COVID Alert app] and they just didn’t,” said Jordan, a pseudonym for the man who CBC News has agreed not to identify to protect his private health information.
Jordan said he was surprised when a doctor called him on Oct. 13 but didn’t ask him to provide names of people he’d recently been around for contact tracing.
Then his phone rang again on Oct. 18. It was someone calling from a blocked number to tell him he had tested positive — something he already knew.
“It kind of put some fear in me because you kind of lose hope that they know what’s going on, because they had no idea that they had contacted me prior, and that makes me think — what else are they letting slip through the cracks?”
Jordan said the fact the health staffer on the other end of the phone once again didn’t ask for his recent contacts — or provide him with a code to enter in the federal government’s COVID Alert app — added to his fear.
He informed everyone he had been around, but wonders about others he had encounters with getting coffee, for example.
“At first I was relieved I got the phone call because I thought it was going to be a public health nurse that was going to give me more info, and then when I realized it was just kind of a repeat of the first call I felt kind of let down.”
Tracing needs to be quicker: Dr. Roussin
On Monday, while Jordan was speaking with CBC News over Zoom, his phone rang again.
The public health nurse appeared to have little to no information about Jordan’s case and asked if someone had completed a contact tracing investigation. He told her he had already received two calls from public health but no contact tracing was done.
She replied “I apologize for that. We’re trying a new system because we’re backlogged.” The nurse then completed the contact tracing.
Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin told reporters Monday the province isn’t using a new system for contact tracing.
He said there is a strain on contact tracing because of rising numbers in Winnipeg. Roussin said the median time from when someone tests positive for COVID-19 and is phoned for contact tracing is 60 hours.
And while he said he wasn’t aware of Jordan’s case, he said he shouldn’t have had to wait as long as he did.
“Definitely that’s not our goal. We need to be contacting people, having them advise us of their contacts, getting contact notification much quicker than that,” Roussin said.
Red Cross to help with contact tracing
Roussin couldn’t say on Monday if the COVID Alert app, which went live in Manitoba on Oct. 1, has been successfully used or not in the province by someone who’s tested positive.
The public health nurse on the phone told Jordan because he’s been in isolation for 10 days, he no longer needs to quarantine despite the fact he still doesn’t have his sense of smell or taste back.
Even though Jordan’s been cleared to end his self-isolation, he doesn’t plan to leave his house anytime soon and isn’t sure when he’ll return to work.
“There’s a big stigma with this. Everybody knows through my work that I’ve got COVID because a lot of things got shut down, and people had to stay home while they got tested and everything like that, and they know where it came from and it’s going to be hard for them to accept me back into those places.”
Manitoba’s Opposition NDP is calling for the hiring of more contact tracers.
The party said in a statement Monday it has freedom of information documents that show during August, four health authorities outside Winnipeg employed 140 public health workers to do COVID-19 contact tracing.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in a statement the province has been increasing COVID testing capacity and has selected the Red Cross to provide additional contact tracing services.
“While the opposition continues to stoke fear, our government will continue to focus on protecting Manitobans.”
This story was possible in part thanks to Manitobans who filled out CBC’s survey about people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. In it, we asked Manitobans to share how their diagnosis impacted their life.
Energy sector wins temporary tax reprieves as Alberta government tries to spur drilling – CBC.ca
The provincial government announced a series of measures Monday aimed at helping the beleaguered oil and gas industry, including a three-year property tax exemption for companies drilling new wells and building new pipelines.
The province is also eliminating its tax on well drilling equipment, lowering the tax assessments for less productive oil and gas wells, and extending a recently introduced 35 per cent assessment reduction on shallow gas wells for three years, Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard announced.
“Alberta needs to be as competitive as possible to attract investment into our communities,” she said in a release.
“We know our municipal partners are committed to do their part to create jobs and support Albertans through this challenging economic time. We are working to secure a brighter future for our province by supporting both industry and communities.”
The measures reflect an effort on the part of the province to achieve what the head of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, Al Kemmere, called a fair balance between supporting the energy sector and keeping rural counties fiscally viable.
“RMA looks forward to working with the Government of Alberta and industry in the coming years to ensure that rural municipalities can address their viability and continue to do their part to support industry competitiveness in a way that reflects a strong partnership,” he said.
Earlier this year, the province laid out four possible new taxation models aimed at providing relief to Alberta’s struggling oil and gas companies by reforming the assessment process for their wells and other operations.
But the RMA reacted with alarm and said 69 counties and municipal districts could have lost up to 40 per cent of their tax base under such plans.
Allard, newly installed as minister of municipal affairs in a summer cabinet shuffle, said last week that she had put the brakes on its proposed revamp of the way oil and gas operations are assessed for taxation. And she said consultations will continue.
“I feel with our decision today, we have balanced the needs of both municipalities and the oil and gas industry,” Allard said as she announced the changes in a virtual news conference.
“We tailored this solution based on what we heard.”
The province says it will continue its work with municipalities and industry groups to determine how best to update the assessment model for the longer term, after these three-year measures have concluded.
Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), applauded the interim measures.
“The Alberta government’s action to incent new drilling and provide relief to mature wells is a crucial step to help restore investor confidence and preserve and create jobs for Albertans,” he said in a release.
“Rural Alberta is key to the success of the oil and gas industry and we are committed to continuing to work with the municipalities and the province on this issue going forward to rebuild our energy industry and bring prosperity back to Alberta.”
Kemmere said there are still important issues that need to be addressed.
“One of the biggest challenges with this whole process is the unpaid taxes,” he said, noting that municipalities were out $81 milliion two years ago and $173 million last year.
“If we don’t fix that in the near future, all these modifications are going to be for naught.”
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