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The Rogers-Shaw deal will make the Liberals nervous in an election year



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, March 12, 2021.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The first order of business is to stall. The next thing the Liberals have to figure out is how bad a political beating they will take if they approve the Rogers-Shaw deal. Or even if they just leave it hanging in the air during an election campaign.

Ordinarily, this kind of transaction – Rogers Communications Inc.’s $20.4-billion bid for rival Shaw Communications Inc. – would raise a few weak questions from government, slow-but-certain reviews and, eventually, public acquiescence.

But this deal, at this time, is a political problem for the governing Liberals.

This time, it is connected to the public’s sensitivity to the high costs of cellphone service, a Liberal campaign promise that hasn’t gone very far, and an expected federal election this year.

It’s worth remembering that in the 2019 election campaign, the Liberals promised to lower Canadians’ mobile-phone bills by 25 per cent – but only as a defence against the NDP, which was promising heavier regulation, including price caps, to make wireless plans more affordable.

That’s a pretty good indicator of the politics. Nearly everyone gets a mobile-phone bill, nearly everyone gets annoyed by it, and a lot of folks want government to do something about it. Some want the government to regulate prices, and those who don’t want Ottawa to foster competition.

The Liberals’ 2019 promise to lower Canadians’ wireless phone bills by 25 per cent within two years comes due this fall. But they haven’t done much other than redefining the way it is measured, to allow it to claim progress – by focusing on certain low-data phone plans offered by the telephone companies’ discount brands.

Now, the proposed Rogers-Shaw transaction would see one of the Big Three wireless companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – buy out the fourth. For years, Liberal and Conservative governments have pursued the strategy of encouraging a fourth company that would force the Big Three to compete and lower prices. But Shaw is just the latest challenger to be bought out.

That makes approving the deal politically tricky for the Liberals. They are already taking a beating on all sides.

The NDP wants the Liberals to kill the transaction, arguing it would allow an oligopoly to consolidate and further “gouge” consumers. “I think people are going to start asking some hard questions,” New Democrat MP Brian Masse said in an interview.

Conservative industry critic Pierre Poilievre called for parliamentary hearings on the deal, saying his party would put the interests of consumers and workers ahead of the “corporate interests” of a “protected, regulated oligopoly.”

Cutting to the chase, Mr. Poilievre said his party won’t accept a reduction in the number of national players to three from four: Either the deal must be rejected, or conditions must be attached to the approval that would allow a fourth player to emerge. That second option would happen only if Rogers is forced to forgo some of Shaw’s assets, like wireless-spectrum licences, or some of its own.

So what do the Liberals do now? Stall. Killing a $20-billion transaction in a slow economy would be a big call. But it’s also risky to approve this one in a likely election year.

The government got a heads-up about the deal only Sunday night, according to John Power, a spokesman for Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

The Liberals are already noting that Rogers’ acquisition of Shaw has to be approved by the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The government will spin that it will judge the deal on affordability, competition and innovation. The companies will argue the expanded entity will be able to invest in 5G and will expand broadband networks. Maybe, given the glacial pace of CRTC reviews, the Liberals could hide behind pending reviews through a 2021 election. But maybe not.

If there is an election in June or October, you can expect the NDP to attack the Liberals on failing to act on wireless phone bills, and for failing to stop a few big rich companies from gaining a tighter stranglehold on the market. And the Liberals and NDP often fish in the same pool of voters. You can bet there are already Liberals in Ottawa who think there is more political upside in killing the deal than approving it.

Certainly, Canadian politicians know it’s not a vote-winning strategy to run as the friend of the phone company.


Source:- The Globe and Mail

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U.S. FAA seeks new minimum rest periods for flight attendants between shifts



The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require flight attendants receive at least 10 hours of rest time between shifts after Congress had directed the action in 2018, according to a document released on Thursday.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, had previously estimated the rule would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants its members employ, resulting from things like unpaid idle time away from home and schedule disruptions.

Aviation unions told the FAA the majority of U.S. flight attendants typically do receive 10 hours of rest from airlines but urged the rule’s quick adoption for safety and security reasons.

Under existing rules, flight attendants get at least 9 hours of rest time but it can be as little as 8 hours in certain circumstances.

“Flight attendants serve hundreds of millions of passengers on close to 10 million flights annually in the United States,” the FAA said, adding that they “perform safety and security functions while on duty in addition to serving customers.”

It cited reports about the “potential for fatigue to be associated with poor performance of safety and security related tasks,” including in 2017, when a flight attendant reported almost causing the gate agent to deploy an emergency exit slide, which was attributed to fatigue and other issues.

The FAA estimated the regulation could prompt the industry to hire another 1,042 flight attendants and cost $118 million annually. If hiring assumptions were cut in half, it said, that would cut estimated costs by over 30%.

After the FAA published an advance notice of the planned rules in 2019, Delta announce it would mandate the 10-hour rest requirement by February 2020.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is testifying at a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” to delay the FAA adopting the flight attendant rest rule and mandating secondary flight deck barriers to better protect the cockpits on all newly manufactured airliners.

Attorneys at the FAA “need a little poke” to move faster on rules when ordered by Congress, DeFazio said on Thursday at the hearing. “Do not screw around with it for three years… you just do it.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, said the rule was critical.

“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short night, and combative conditions on planes,” she said. “Congress mandated 10 hours irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule on a process to kill it.”

During the pandemic, flight attendants have dealt with records numbers of disruptive, occasionally violent passenger incidents, with the FAA citing 4,837 unruly passenger reports, including 3,511 for refusing to wear a mask since Jan. 1.

The FAA proposes to make the new flight attendant rest rules final 30 days after it publishes its final rules.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely and Bill Berkrot)

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Bitcoin price hits all-time high, one day after U.S. ETF debut – Global News



Bitcoin surpassed its all-time record high on Wednesday, one day after the first U.S. bitcoin futures-based exchange-traded fund (ETF) made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

The world’s leading cryptocurrency was up 3.30 per cent, trading at US$66,364.72, after reaching a record of US$67,016.50, topping the US$64,895.22 hit on April 14 this year.

Read more:
Bitcoin price nears all-time high as U.S. ETF makes trading debut

Tuesday was the first day of trading for the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF — a development market participants say is likely to drive investment into the digital asset.

The ETF closed up 2.59 per cent at US$41.94 from its opening price of US$40.88 on Tuesday and continued its ascent on Wednesday, last up 3.76 per cent at US$43.52.

The Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, expected to debut on the Nasdaq Wednesday, appeared to be delayed after its prospectus was amended in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A person familiar with the matter said the Nasdaq expects the ETF to launch on Thursday, but that has not been confirmed yet.

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Trading appeared to be dominated by smaller investors and high-frequency trading firms, analysts said, noting the absence of large block trades indicated that institutions were likely staying on the sidelines.

James Quinn, managing partner at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency private wealth manager, said the launch of the new product was “meaningful” for bitcoin.

Theoretically, any licensed brokerage firm in the United States which wants to take on this ETF can do so as easily as any other ETF, which “should make it available to a lot of folks,” said Quinn.

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While the ETF is based on bitcoin futures, Quinn said the trades and hedges underpinning the ETF means activity will flow into the spot market and the bitcoin price.

Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck is also among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.

Ether, the world’s No. 2 cryptocurrency, was up 3.63 per cent on the day at US$4,018.75, after hitting a high of US$4,080, nearing its record high of US$4,380 reached on May 12.

© 2021 Reuters

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Failure to attract capital for energy transition puts jobs at risk: report – The Globe and Mail



A Shell employee walks past the company’s new Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., on Oct. 7, 2021. As many as 800,000 Canadian jobs are dependent on sectors vulnerable to disruption in a low-carbon transition.


Hundreds of thousands of jobs could be at risk if Canada fails to attract sufficient private capital to transform its industries for life in a low-carbon global economy, a study by a federally supported climate think tank says.

As many as 800,000 jobs are dependent on sectors vulnerable to disruption in such a transition, including oil and gas, mining, heavy industry and auto manufacturing, according to the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Those industries account for almost 70 per cent of Canada’s exports and generated more than $300-billion in export revenue and investment in 2019.

Effective policy and regulations, targeted public spending and corporate disclosure of climate risks will be key to attracting private capital and keeping the country competitive in the coming decades, the institute said.

“Canada is at a pivotal moment, when global markets are changing and governments and businesses face a choice of whether to take action to transform the economy to succeed in new market realities or watch our competitive position in the world erode,” said Rachel Samson, the organization’s clean growth research director and lead author of the report.

It is being released a little more than a week before a UN conference in Glasgow to discuss strengthening national commitments to reduce emissions. The financial sector will play a major role in the talks.

Canada needs a new playbook on climate

Governments and businesses will have to invest as much as $2-trillion to retool Canada’s economy to get emissions to net zero by 2050, according to a report by RBC Economics released Wednesday. The money will be required for a range of things, including modernizing and greening the power grid to allow the mass adoption of electric vehicles and retrofitting buildings to make them energy-efficient.

Ms. Samson said it would be wrong to consider the required spending as costs that would just disappear into the financial system; instead, it is an investment in cleaner economic growth. “So, in terms of thinking about the price tag, I think we have to think about the overall impact on the well-being of Canadians,” she said.

The researchers designed the study, called “Sink or Swim,” as a stress test for the economy as climate considerations take on a greater role and investors seek assets they deem sustainable. This is where competitiveness is key, they said.

Investors around the world will redirect trillions of dollars away from high-carbon sectors as countries try to meet net-zero targets. That will shift trade patterns, transform demand and put businesses that are slow to adapt in jeopardy, the study said.

Every Canadian province and territory has workers in sectors that are vulnerable to disruption in the transition to clean energy, the study said. Alberta, with its large oil and gas and energy service sectors, has the highest proportion of such workers, at 9.1 per cent of the work force, followed by the Northwest Territories at 7 per cent, Saskatchewan at 6 per cent and Newfoundland and Labrador at 5.8 per cent.

The institute argues that climate strategies have to encompass more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A coal mine with low emissions, for example, will still face financial issues as power generators and steelmakers move away from coal-fired facilities in response to pressure from their own governments or investors. One solution for such a business would be to switch to the minerals required for renewable energy sources or EV batteries, it said.

The report said establishing ambitious national climate targets would mean a far smaller hit to gross domestic product by 2050 than acting slowly or maintaining the status quo. With aggressive action, the economy would experience a small increase to GDP from the transition by 2050 and a loss of about 2 per cent from physical climate risk, whereas maintaining the status quo would cut GDP by almost 5 per cent and provide no uplift from the transition, it said.

Ms. Samson said mustering the political will to set policies for getting to net zero is less of a stumbling block than it was in previous years.

“It’s not only about political will anymore. Markets are developing momentum of their own,” she said. “Investors are now actively seeking ways to reduce their carbon-related risks, and unions as well have shifted toward advocating for companies to take greater action to improve their transition readiness. They see it as the way to have a future that has secure jobs.”

Jeffrey Jones writes about sustainable finance and the ESG sector for The Globe and Mail. E-mail him at

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