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Lululemon, MEC, Arc’teryx and Moosehead Breweries join Facebook ad boycott

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Canadian companies are joining a growing list of top international brands vowing not to advertise on Facebook Inc. in July because of the company’s refusal to deal with the spread of hateful content on its platform.

Vancouver athletic wear companies Lululemon Athletica Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc’teryx and New Brunswick-based Moosehead Breweries are pulling their paid ads from Facebook and joining a boycott that has already been supported by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Honda America, Patagonia and more.

Champions of the #StopHateForProfit boycott — led by civil rights and advocacy groups including the Anti-Defamation League and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — say Facebook has not done enough to keep racist, false and dangerous content or white supremacists off its platform.

They are also disappointed that the company has allowed users to call for violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in the wake of the deaths of several Black Americans.

MEC’s boycott came into effect on June 25, when it pulled its organic content and paid ads from Facebook and Instagram until the end of July.

The company said it wants to raise “awareness of the harmful, racist content and misinformation that is shared on these social platforms.”

“We ask that Facebook strengthen their content-moderation policies and enforce them consistently,” MEC said in a statement emailed to The Canadian Press.

Lululemon, meanwhile, tweeted its support for #StopHateForProfit on Saturday, saying “We believe we all have a responsibility to create a truly inclusive society and are actively engaging with Facebook to seek meaningful change.”

In its tweets supporting the boycott, Arc’teryx said Facebook profits “will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and violence.”

Moosehead, which is behind the Moosehead Lager, Cracked Canoe, Alpine Lager and Hop City brands, joined the pledge on Monday afternoon and said it will stop advertising on both Facebook and Instagram.

“As a brewer, we talk a lot about the Canadian values that define us: boldness, independence, strength of character, but also openness, inclusivity and warmth,” Trevor Grant, Moosehead’s vice president of marketing and sales, said in a statement. “More needs to be done to protect those values on the world’s biggest social platforms, and to end hate speech online, and we stand in support of this much-needed change.”

Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif. and also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement that it invests billions of dollars each year to keep its community safe and continuously works with outside experts to review and update its policies.

The company said it has opened itself up to a civil rights audit and banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram.

“The investments we have made in artificial intelligence mean that we find nearly 90 per cent of Hate Speech we action before users report it to us, while a recent European report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube,” the company said in an email.

“We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, Global Alliance for Responsible Media, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”

Their boycott is significant because ad revenues generated almost US$69.66 billion for Facebook last year and is the company’s biggest money maker, according to research firm Statista.

Content moderation concerns have long dogged the company, which has often landed in regulators’ cross hairs as it struggles to balance freedom of speech with its responsibility to keep Facebook users safe.

While Facebook is a valuable tool for companies searching for eyeballs and customers willing to dip into their wallets, the boycott hurts the social media company more than the brands edging away from it, said Joanne McNeish, an associate professor of marketing at Ryerson University.

Many brands are not as reliant on Facebook as they once were because they have realized Instagram is more valuable for attracting younger customers and because Facebook has lost some of its more targeted advertising abilities after the data of up to 50 million Facebook users was misused by analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

“Advertisers have various platforms that they have available, depending on the target group the company is looking for,” said McNeish. “They’re only boycotting Facebook, and that’s a very traditional way of doing a boycott in that you attack the market leader.”

After brands like Verizon, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss and Co. and Mozilla pulled their ads from the platform, Facebook’s stock slid by 8.3 per cent to US$216.08 on Friday, its biggest drop in three months.

The stock rebounded somewhat on Monday afternoon after dropping further in morning trading, gaining US$3.17 to US$219.25.

The fall erased $56 billion from Facebook’s market value and $7.2 billion from founder Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index now estimates he’s worth $82.3 billion and is the fourth richest person after Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and LVMH Moet Hennessy titan Bernard Arnault.

McNeish doesn’t think the losses will weigh on Facebook or Zuckerberg much.

“Mark Zuckerberg has a long tradition of not really caring what people think,” she said.

“He’s a huge organization, he can take quite a big hit on this and still be profitable and still continue to operate.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2020.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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Popular West Island pub asks recent patrons to monitor health after employee tests positive for COVID-19 – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
A popular pub in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is the latest in the greater Montreal area to go on hiatus after a COVID-19 case that could have exposed patrons to the virus.

Annies Sur Le Lac has temporarily closed so that its staff – about 20 people – can get tested for COVID-19 after a member of management tested positive.

The pub’s manager, Kevin O’Connel, told CTV News the measure wasn’t required by public health but was taken out of an abundance of caution. 

“This is all new to us,” he said.

He also wanted to publicize the situation so that anyone who visited the bar on Friday, Saturday or Sunday can be aware, monitor their health and go get their own tests if needed.

Employees wear personal protective equipment and practice proper hygiene, O’Connel said. The person who tested positive also didn’t interact directly with customers.

Still, that person had been at the pub over the weekend, and was in contact with other staff, so they aren’t taking any chances, he said. 

Annie’s reopened on June 22 with health protocols in place, O’Connel said. More than two dozen tables were removed from the outdoor terrace to allow two metres of distance between patrons. They made it easier for people to wash their hands and put protective equipment on staff.

O’Connel says he called public health authorities at Info-Santé and was told the bar isn’t under any obligation to close, but they decided to “pull the plug” anyway. 

They’ll reopen once all the staff have been tested—15 to 20 people—and the entire establishment can be sanitized. A cleaning company is coming in on Friday to do the deep clean.

None of the other staff is showing symptoms. If all the test results come back this week, it’s possible the bar will reopen this weekend.

In the meantime, the bar has posted a sign on the door that explains the closure.

After a much bigger outbreak in Montérégie, which involved a bar in the South Shore, Quebec released new rules today for bars. They include cutting off alcohol sales at midnight, limiting capacity to 50 per cent and banning dancing.

O’Connel said his bar had reopened for the spring and summer season for a single day in March when the pandemic forced it to shut. Now, after reopening for just two weeks, he says he’s very disappointed about all the stops and starts but wants to put safety first.

He went for his own test this morning in Mercier, he said.

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Annual pace of housing starts in Canada increased in June: CMHC – BNNBloomberg.ca

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OTTAWA – Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual pace of housing starts rose in June as starts of multi-family projects rose, offsetting a decline in single-detached homes.

The federal housing agency says the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts came in at 211,681 units in June, up from 195,453 in May.

Economists on average had expected an annual pace of 198,000 starts, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

The result came as urban starts of apartments, condos and other types of multiple-unit housing projects rose 13.0 per cent to 154,602 units in June, while urban starts of single-detached homes fell 4.5 per cent to 42,073.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15,006 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts rose to 199,655 in June, up from 197,063 in May.

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Extend wage subsidy program, not individual response benefits – The Globe and Mail

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Part of a cheque for the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a taxable award from the Canadian government, is photographed in Toronto, on April 16, 2020.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp contraction to economic activity in Canada. The halt to non-essential activity and physical-distancing measures imposed over March and April were required to slow the spread of the virus, avoid a health care crisis and mitigate the impact on the health of Canadians.

But these measures have left the economy and the labour market operating far below normal levels. Policy makers and business leaders must now deal with a problem they have never faced – how to restore the economy while holding the number of COVID-19 cases at bay.

The normal stabilizers that exist in our economy were not built to withstand its unprecedented seizure. This extraordinary situation called for an equally unparalleled government response.

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The two most important features of the federal government’s support response are the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). The CERB transfers $2,000 a month directly to individuals and applies to anyone who has lost their employment due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The CEWS is a subsidy to employers that covers 75 per cent of employees’ wages, topped at $847 per employee, provided the company experienced a substantial drop in revenues.

Roughly three million Canadians lost employment in March and April, and millions more worked only reduced hours. According to the federal government, over less than a three-month period from mid-March to June 4, $43.51-billion was paid out from the CERB. The program has been widely praised for its efficiency in getting income quickly to individuals who need it to cover expenses during the crisis.

In May, Canada entered a recovery phase and national employment increased by 296,000. While this is only a tenth of what has been lost, all provincial and territorial economies are indeed in the process of slowly reopening for business.

But for the recovery to become firmly entrenched, companies will need access to workers as capacity ramps up. The CERB as a disincentive for workers to re-enter the labour force is a real risk. Currently, at $2,000 a month, the CERB is equivalent to an average hourly wage of just less than $15 for an average 33-hour work week – well above the minimum wage in most Canadian jurisdictions.

The resulting incentive for workers, particularly those in lower-wage occupations, is to not return to work as the market opens. Keep in mind that less than six months ago, the Canadian economy registered more than 560,000 unfilled positions, or 3.3 per cent of total labour demand.

Accommodations and food services, as well as retail trade, are two sectors that pay lower wages and have been severely affected by the pandemic. In fact, they accounted for more than a quarter of these job vacancies. Employers of all types are already anecdotally facing labour shortages in a period of record levels of unemployment.

Additionally, the effects of operating a business while the novel coronavirus remains a risk is a costly challenge. New health and safety regulations means that many businesses will have to operate well below capacity while those same regulations are more labour intensive. The result is lower revenues and higher costs – a situation that will endure until a treatment or vaccine is found and distributed, possibly taking up to a year or more. In the interim, what support measures can best help lay a path to full recovery?

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The CEWS is key to helping business deal with the high costs of running a business while COVID-19 is still a threat. The program has received little uptake so far because businesses are just starting to reopen and because companies have been struggling to interpret whether they qualify.

The federal government initially slated $74-billion for the CEWS but that amount was reduced to $45-billion, despite the program’s extension into August. Yet use of the program will grow, and additional support will be necessary. The CEWS should be extended well beyond August, especially for those industries where a return to normal is much further down the road. Moreover, qualification rules, especially for companies with foreign affiliate sales, need to be clarified.

Shifting funding away from the CERB and into the CEWS would be a good strategy to help lift consumer and business confidence and accelerate the recovery. It will give Canadians an incentive to return to work, and employers the certainty that assistance is available to them until the economy returns to normal.

The CEWS is key to helping many businesses operate and hire in a high-cost environment. And hiring will boost household confidence and spending – creating a virtuous cycle in redressing the economy. Going forward, policy measures must now focus on encouraging businesses to open. We need to move workers off the CERB and back into employment.

Pedro Antunes is the chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada.

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