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Ian Mulgrew: ICBC changes put rights of injured at grave risk, lawyers warn – Vancouver Sun

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“The Law Society is going to have a careful look at what is being contemplated.”


John Rice, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.


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B.C. lawyers erupted in dismay at the announcement Thursday that the NDP minority government was restricting access to the courts, curtailing the right to sue, and imposing a no-fault-style auto insurance.

“After 30 years, ICBC is now going to pivot to this new model? I think that’s naive in the least,” said John Rice, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., which represents most of the province’s personal injury bar.

“It’s pretty stunning and disappointing. What this legislation is going to do is take away the right of British Columbians to go to court and get a fair settlement. The government wants to focus on getting legal costs and lawyers out of the system, but what it’s really about is protecting ICBC and protecting ICBC management.”

The new system will reward bad drivers and unduly burden the most vulnerable, Rice added.

Calling them “generational changes,” Attorney-General David Eby threw in the towel on fixing the management of the financially troubled Crown corporation and decided to dramatically switch insurance models.

The so-called no-fault scheme essentially offers quicker car repair and health-cost recovery without lengthy legal battles so the insurer can offer lower rates.

The NDP promised to say “no” to no-fault during the last election campaign, but Eby said ICBC is hemorrhaging too much cash to live up to that vow — more than $1 billion a year — and rates have gone up 50 per cent in the last decade.

“The sad reality is this represents the over-whelming burden of legal costs and dramatically inflating court awards on our insurance system,” the attorney-general said.

The proposed changes reintroduce limits on expert reports and will place caps on compensation for disbursements in litigation in the transition period.

They also contemplate a significant alteration in how disputes between accident victims and ICBC over compensation entitlements will be addressed by increasing the role of the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

“The Law Society is going to have a careful look at what is being contemplated,” said President Craig Ferris.

“We are particularly concerned about the potential impacts on those individuals who, due to unforeseen events, are injured and have a right to ensure that their compensation is fairly determined.”

The Canadian Bar Association-B.C. branch denounced the moves. It opposes no-fault insurance on the grounds it restricts the rights of injured victims to have their claims assessed based on their specific circumstances.

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“Our system of justice is built on fairness and the acceptance of responsibility for our actions,” said Ken Armstrong, the Canadian Bar Association-B.C. branch president. “An innocent victim of an accident has a right to expect that the person at fault for the accident take responsibility for it. In a no-fault insurance plan, no one but the victims and their families bears the consequences of that accident.”

He said no-fault significantly reduced access to justice by making it harder for people to receive legal advice and representation to deal with the same insurer that the government admits needs a new Fairness Office.

“The ‘dumpster fire’ is a manufactured crisis — up until 2015, ICBC was the Crown jewel of public auto, it was generating a profit,” Rice complained.

“Really what their proposal is here is to make a much, much bigger fire in a much bigger and more powerful ICBC.”

He sneered at Eby’s proposed better benefits.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be attractive to people with brain injuries and serious injuries when they are told under this new legislation their claims are worth absolutely nothing from the perspective of compensating them for their pain and suffering. … Instead of getting lump-sum damages to go to the doctor they want or the physiotherapist they want, they’re going to get stuck with a WorkSafe-type scheme where they have to deal with the (Civil Resolution Tribunal), ICBC or some ombudsman indefinitely.”

Since becoming minister in July 2017, Eby has launched a full-out assault on personal injury lawyers.

Eby said getting “the legal costs out of the system” will allow ICBC to increase benefits 24 times.

He argued that ICBC had reduced losses and road collisions but rate increases were still inevitable and people were angry their rates were still going up.

Lawyers were to blame for the Crown corporation’s financial “dumpster fire,” Eby insisted, although he acknowledged the insurance giant that dominates the legal industry was not blameless.

“Their strategy of the last two years has failed,” Rice exploded. “This entire package was introduced by ambush. With no notice. The government campaigned on a promise of no, no-fault. They don’t have a mandate for this.”

Eby estimated some $400 million could be saved by changing the court rules around expert reports alone.

Yet he failed miserably in the last year to get judges and lawyers onside — losing in court and being publicly rebuked.

Under the new model, Eby said the injured will get the care they need without having to hire a lawyer, and out-of-control, sky-high legal costs will be eliminated.

The injured won’t, as they do now, have to lawyer up and sue to get the care they deserve, Eby noted as he unveiled his bumper-sticker program, “Affordable Rates, Enhanced Care.”

Motorists can expect a 20-per-cent decrease in rates next year, seemingly $400 annually on average, he added, and lawyers will lose the 25 to 33 per cent rake on settlements they get from contingency fees — some $500 million a year.

“What this means is people hurt, with brain injuries, children with spinal cord injuries, orthopedic fractures, amputations, burns, they get nothing for their pain and suffering,” Rice explained.

“Instead, in exchange for sacrificing that, not being made whole, they get to deal with ICBC in what they call a ‘care model.’ They’ll have to deal with ICBC indefinitely, to trust in them to provide the care that ICBC deems is necessary. The only real beneficiary of this policy is ICBC. The government suggests this most recent initiative will be constitutional, we’ll have to look at the legislation.”

imulgrew@postmedia.com

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Commercial fishers and wild salmon advocates cheer large returns to B.C. waters

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VICTORIA — The summer of 2022 is shaping up to be a bumper season for both pink and sockeye salmon in British Columbia rivers, with one veteran Indigenous fisherman reporting the biggest catches of sockeye in decades.

Mitch Dudoward has worked in the salmon industry for more than 40 years, and says fishing on the Skeena River in northwest B.C. has never been better.

“This is the best season I can recall in my lifetime with the numbers we are catching,” said Dudoward, who recently completely a big sockeye haul aboard his gillnetter Irenda.

Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the Indigenous-led First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, meanwhile said that thousands of pink salmon are in Central Coast rivers after years of minimal returns.

The strong run comes two years after the closure of two open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the area.

“We had targeted those farms,” said Chamberlin, whose group wants open-net farms removed from B.C.’s waters. “We got them removed and two years later we went from 200 fish in the river to where we have several thousand to date. In our mind and knowledge that is a really clear indicator.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokeswoman Lara Sloan said departmental observations indicated big returns of sockeye to the Skeena River.

“Test fisheries currently indicate that Skeena sockeye returns are tracking at the upper end of the forecast, with an in-season estimate of approximately four million sockeye,” said Sloan in a statement. “Sockeye populations returning to a number of areas in British Columbia, Washington and Alaska are returning better than forecast in 2022.”

The five-year average return of sockeye to the Skeena is 1.4 million and the 10-year average is 1.7 million, Sloan said.

Dudoward said the Skeena sockeye season ended this week, but it could have gone on longer.

“We should be fishing until the end of August when the sockeye stop running,” he said. “There’s plenty of them to take.”

But Sloan said the Fisheries Department was being careful about salmon stocks.

“For 2022, the department is taking a more precautionary approach toward managing impacts of commercial fisheries on stocks of conservation concern including smaller wild sockeye populations, chum and steelhead returning to the Skeena River,” she said.

The Fisheries Department also expects a large sockeye run to the Fraser River this summer, but returns of chinook, coho and chum to northern and Central Coast rivers and streams are expected to be low.

“The forecast range for Fraser River sockeye in 2022 is 2.3 million to 41.7 million, with a median forecast of 9.7 million,” said Sloan. “The median forecast means there is a 50 per cent chance returns will come in below that level.”

That is well above the estimated 2.5 million sockeye returns in 2021, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada data.

The strong returns come amid debate over the future of open-net salmon farming in B.C. waters.

In 2018, the B.C. government, First Nations and the salmon farming industry reached an agreement to phase out 17 open-net farms in the Broughton Archipelago between 2019 and 2023.

The agreement was negotiated to establish a farm-free migration corridor to help reduce harm to wild salmon.

In June, federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray said the government will consult with First Nations communities and salmon farm operators in the Discovery Islands, near Campbell River on Vancouver Island, about the future of open-net farming in the area.

A final decision on the future of the farms is expected in January 2023, the minister said.

“That is such a key migratory route of all Fraser River salmon, in particular coho and chinook,” Chamberlin said. “If we are going to see Fraser runs return, we need to see removal of impediments.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Montreal-based WSP Global to buy U.K. environmental consulting company in third takeover in just three months – The Globe and Mail

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Canadian engineering giant WSP Global Inc. WSP-T is buying British environmental consulting firm RPS Group Plc in a deal worth almost a billion dollars, its third major takeover in just three months.

Montreal-based WSP said it struck a deal Monday to acquire RPS for £2.06 per share in cash for a total enterprise value of £625-million, or $975-million. It is paying 15 times RPS’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the 12 months ended June 30.

“RPS is of utmost value to WSP for its sustainability focus, global presence, expertise and talent,” WSP chief executive Alexandre L’Heureux told analysts on a conference call after markets closed. The takeover of RPS’s 5,000 employees brings additional scale to WSP and advances its efforts to expand its front-end consulting work, he said.

Demand for environmental engineering and consulting services is growing as private-sector companies and governments seek advice on things ranging from climate-change risks to waste management. WSP is beefing up its capabilities in the space as part of a wider growth effort.

This is the company’s third major takeover in as many months. In June, it said it had struck a definitive agreement to acquire a business known as Environment & Infrastructure (E&I) from Aberdeen, Scotland-based Wood for US$1.8-billion, adding another 6,000 employees to its payroll. Earlier this month, WSP said it would buy Capita Plc’s Capita REI and GL Hearn businesses in the U.K. for £60-million in a smaller deal that adds skill in real estate planning.

Once a boutique engineering company, WSP has ballooned in recent years to become a major player in global design consultancy and project management, with a current market capitalization topping $18-billion. Mr. L’Heureux wants to expand the company further. He outlined a three-year strategic plan this March that aims to boost net revenues 30 per cent to well over $10-billion a year and increase adjusted net earnings per share by 50 per cent by 2024.

WSP said it secured a new bank credit facility worth £600-million (about $935-million), including commitments for the full amount of the RPS purchase price, in order to meet British takeover regulations. But it intends to use the proceeds from share sales to fund the takeover.

The company said it will sell $400-million worth of equity in a bought deal with a syndicate of underwriters led by CIBC Capital Markets, National Bank Financial and RBC Capital Markets. It will raise another $400-million in a private placement with three existing WSP shareholders: Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Canadian pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

London Stock Exchange-listed RPS generates about two-thirds of its revenue from environmental work and water services and has longstanding relationships with major water utilities in the U.K. and Ireland, Mr. L’Heureux said. It has also developed a deep expertise in oceanic science, which it uses to support offshore wind energy players, he added.

RPS’s board intends to recommend the deal, WSP said. The Canadian company said it has the backing of directors and other shareholders holding about 18 per cent of RPS stock.

WSP is one of the most active companies in Canadian infrastructure megaprojects – involved in the development of 18 of the 20 biggest projects currently under way, according to trade publication ReNew Canada. This latest takeover would bring its total employee count to 70,000 and boost revenue to $10-billion a year on a pro-forma basis.

The engineering firm’s recent contracts illustrate the kind of work it is now bidding on as it tries to reshape itself as one of the world’s top companies with environmental expertise. In Canada, it won a mandate from pension fund PSP Investments to conduct a detailed climate analysis of more than three million hectares of farmland and timberland in its Global Natural Resources Portfolio.

In the United States, WSP was awarded a contract for engineering, procurement and construction management for the underground storage of the Aces Delta project, the largest green hydrogen production and storage facility ever built. WSP says the facility will help decarbonize the Western U.S. power grid by providing seasonal clean energy storage capabilities.

WSP shares rose 0.8 per cent in Monday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, closing at $157.58. The stock is down 16 per cent since hitting an all-time high of $187.94 last November.

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Fairfax offering to buy chain that owns Swiss Chalet, Harvey's and The Keg for $1.2B – CBC News

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Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. has proposed taking Recipe Unlimited Corp. private in the latest phase for the almost 140-year-old restaurant company.

The deal announced by Recipe Unlimited Tuesday puts a $1.2 billion value on Canada’s oldest and largest full-service restaurant chain, which counts Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and The Keg among its roughly two-dozen brands.

Fairfax is already the controlling shareholder of Recipe Unlimited, owning 38.5 per cent of the equity interest as of the end of last year for about 61 per cent of the voting rights.

The other major shareholder is Cara Holdings Ltd., the holding company of the Phelan family, which would continue as an investor in the company once it goes private.

Recipe Unlimited first went public in 1968, then known as CARA for the first two letters of Canadian Railway, which links back to the company’s original founding in 1883 as the Canada Railway News Co. that catered to railway travellers.

Cara Holdings Ltd. took the company private again in 2004 and in 2013 Fairfax made a deal to bring several restaurants including East Side Mario’s and Casey’s into the company’s portfolio before the company relisted publicly in 2015.

The deal announced Tuesday would see a group of Fairfax affiliates acquire all outstanding shares, except for some shares held by Cara Holdings, at $20.73 in cash.

The offer price represents a 53.4 per cent premium to Recipe Unlimited’s closing price on Aug. 8, according to a company statement. Recipe, however, was trading at about $21 a share as recently as last November before it started declining along with the wider market, and traded above $36 a share in its first year of returning to the market in 2015.

The deal requires the approval of most of the minority shareholders and Recipe Unlimited says its board intends to recommend that shareholders vote in favour of the proposed transaction at a special meeting of shareholders to be held on the matter.

The deal comes only a few days after Fairfax said it and partners were also taking private U.K.-based Atlas Corp., which owns the Seaspan shipping company and APR Energy.

The Atlas deal has Fairfax and partners buying shares at $14.45, which represents a 32.1 per cent premium over the 30 day average closing price on the New York Stock Exchange, but is in line with where the company was trading in late March.

Recipe shares have been under pressure during the pandemic as it had been forced to close in-restaurant dining at many locations.

The company has seen sales rebound lately as restrictions ease, reporting last week that its system sales were up 55 per cent to $873 million. Recipe Unlimited had 1,223 restaurants at the end of the quarter, down from 1,330 last year.

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