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Why the power to keep Teck in Canadian hands rests with the federal government

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Teck’s Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake, B.C.Handout

Teck Resources Ltd. TECK-B-T had hoped its plan to split in two would be a bulwark against a takeover by a foreign competitor. With that hope dashed, the power to keep Teck Canadian may rest with Ottawa.

Glencore PLC, GLNCY the Switzerland-based mining company and commodities trader, served notice this week that it intends to keep pursuing Teck, after the Canadian miner scrapped its plan to spin off its coal assets hours before shareholders were set to vote on the proposal.

Glencore has said that if Teck won’t negotiate a friendly deal it will take its offer, valued at US$23-billion, directly to the Vancouver-based company’s shareholders. From the standpoint of many investors, the question would be which option offers the best value.

But for the federal government, any deal with a foreign buyer would strike at the heart of its ambitions to position Canada as a major player in the race to transition to a low-carbon economy. The Liberals have pounced on the critical minerals that Teck strips from the earth – copper and zinc among them – as key to the future of the national economy. This week, they made it clear they would prefer that a Canada-based industry leader control those reserves at home, rather than an acquirer with an overseas head office.

“The government has been following developments closely and is in contact with the company and the B.C. provincial government,” Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokesperson for Deputy Premier Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement. “We need companies like Teck here in Canada – companies with a strong commitment to Canada.”

The comments followed a letter the government sent to the Vancouver Board of Trade, in which Ms. Freeland and her cabinet colleagues François-Philippe Champagne and Jonathan Wilkinson hinted strongly that they are counting on an independent Teck to play a major role in the country’s green transition. The minerals Teck produces are used to manufacture electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.

“This is all the more important today as we confront unprecedented geopolitical, economic, and environmental changes,” they wrote.

On Thursday, Ms. Freeland met with mining industry officials to get their views ahead of the first meeting of the Energy Transformation Task Force, a Canada-U.S. initiative aimed partly at building up the critical minerals supply chain between the two countries. The United States, bolstered by US$369-billion in green incentives in its Inflation Reduction Act, is both a partner and a competitor in the energy transition effort.

Ottawa is betting big. This month, it made a splash with billions of dollars in taxpayer support for a Volkswagen AG battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont. That is just one part of a larger strategy to establish a made-in-Canada supply chain for all things EV – critical minerals, auto parts, assembly, and the software and artificial intelligence to run it all. But Canada is not the only country trying to establish a foothold in what is seen as the industry of the future.

How much power does the government have to keep Teck out of foreign hands? A takeover by Glencore would go under the feds’ microscope as part of what is called a “net-benefit review.” In these reviews, the government assesses the impact of foreign investments on economic activity in Canada, including employment, production and capital levels.

With the government deeming copper and other metals critical to the future of the Canadian economy, Glencore or any foreign miner bidding for Teck would also be scrutinized through the lens of national security.

The government has plenty of latitude to block or place conditions on deals within the provisions of the Investment Canada Act, according to Bryce Tingle, the N. Murray Edwards Chair in business law at the University of Calgary. “I’m unaware of any time when its judgment of that act has been successfully challenged, and the act itself is worded broadly enough to give the government a great deal of discretion,” Prof. Tingle said.

Norman B. Keevil, Teck’s chair emeritus, also has veto power over any deal, as holder of a controlling position in the company’s supervoting A shares. He has said he’s not interested in selling the company to Glencore, but he has also said he would not exercise his veto power if the board, management and a majority of B shareholders wanted it. That would put the government in a key role.

In 2010, prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives blocked BHP Billiton’s $38.6-billion hostile bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. After a net-benefit review, the government said a takeover by the Australian company would not have beneficial effects on Canada’s ability to compete in world markets, improve productivity or bolster its overall economic activity. The Saskatchewan government also opposed the deal, saying the fertilizer product amounted to a strategic interest.

“Maybe it was national security, but it also felt a lot like keeping a very important domestically owned company here in Canada,” Prof. Tingle said.

Teck’s now-scrapped plan to spin off its steelmaking coal assets was initially conceived in hopes of winning back some climate-change-conscious investors that had soured on the company, because of the assets’ high carbon emissions. Later, after Glencore entered the picture, the proposed split became a way of fending off the takeover bid. But too many shareholders balked at the arrangement, in which 90 per cent of the spinoff’s cash flows would have been sent back to Teck for an estimated 11 years.

Glencore had said its offer was contingent on Teck abandoning the spinoff. Under its plans, it and Teck’s coal assets would be merged. With Teck’s split off the table, Glencore is proceeding with its pitch.

Steven Tian, a corporate governance scholar at Yale University, said Glencore’s current and past ties to authoritarian regimes, including those in Russia, Kazakhstan, Qatar and the Democratic Republic of Congo, would be heavily scrutinized on national security grounds both in Canada and by the Biden administration, which would be consulted as part of a review.

“All of these governments are going to have a lot of questions about selling off one of the last and largest freestanding, independent copper miners in North America to a foreign company that frankly has a lot of ties to authoritarian dictators,” Mr. Tian said.

Around 15 per cent of Glencore’s current profits in its metals division come from the DRC and Kazakhstan.

Glencore’s less-than-stellar record operating abroad would likely also attract scrutiny on national security grounds. Last year, Glencore pleaded guilty to bribery and market manipulation in the U.S., and paid more than US$1-billion in penalties.

“Glencore paid more in fines last year than Teck made in profits,” Mr. Tian said. “That is astounding to me.”

British Columbia Premier David Eby has also raised the issue of Glencore’s fines, while lauding Teck’s record on environmental and Indigenous issues.

But Jack Mintz, President’s Fellow of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and a corporate director, said the government’s clout could be limited in this case. Glencore can argue it has well-established operations in Canada, including copper, nickel and zinc mining and processing, agricultural facilities and consulting. It employs 9,000 full-time staff and contractors in the country.

Putting restrictions on foreign companies would not help in the quest to develop critical minerals, he said.

“Why does Canadian ownership of Teck matter for the development of critical minerals here? We already have many mining operations that are foreign controlled, and they are already in the most significant critical minerals, which are zinc and nickel.”

With a report from Niall McGee

Editor’s note: This story was edited to remove reference to Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine.

 

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Half of Ontarians support union’s goals in ongoing LCBO strike: poll

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Fewer than one-third of Ontarians say they want the provincial government to intervene to end the 12-day strike at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, while about half are supportive of the striking union’s demands.

That’s according to a new Leger poll that asked if the government should use binding arbitration or legislation to ensure LCBO stores open as soon as possible.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondents supported such a move, while 44 per cent opposed it. The poll also asked if respondents support the union’s stated goals, including wage increases and more permanent positions. Just under half, 49 per cent, answered in the affirmative, while 25 per cent said they were not supportive.

Awareness of the strike in Ontario is high, according to the poll, with 89 per cent saying they knew about it, though only 15 per cent reported being personally affected. The Leger poll of 601 residents, conducted last weekend, can’t be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered truly random samples.

Approximately 10,000 workers at the LCBO walked off the job on July 5 after negotiations broke down.

The union representing the workers said the sides were headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has said the main issue is the province’s alcohol expansion plans that would see ready-to-drink cocktails sold outside LCBO stores — a move it maintains poses an existential threat to the LCBO and could lead to major job losses.

Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit, has said the plan would “mean thousands of lost jobs, fewer hours for the 70 per cent of LCBO retail workers who are casual and struggling to make ends meet, and hundreds of millions in dollars of lost public revenues drained from health care, education and infrastructure.”

The LCBO, a Crown corporation, nets the province $2.5 billion a year.

On Monday, the Ontario government sped up its expansion plan. The 450 stores across Ontario already licensed to sell beer, wine and ciders will be able to start ordering coolers and seltzers on Thursday and sell them as soon as they arrive.

The province has said it does not want to privatize the LCBO, and that the expansion is about giving people more choice and more convenience to buy alcohol.

Stephanie Ross, an associate professor in the school of labour studies at McMaster University, said Premier Doug Ford doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to labour, given the high-profile disputes in recent years with health-care and education workers. And he’s faced accusations of making policy moves that benefit friends in the private sector, a criticism that’s been levied against him in the LCBO dispute.

“There is a base of support for the union’s message here, both in terms of the working conditions that they’re trying to fight to improve, and in terms of the role that the LCBO plays in funding public services in the province,” she said.

But the public may not be as sympathetic to LCBO workers as it has been to some others, like in the Metro grocery workers’ strike last year, she said — a relatively straightforward fight by low-paid workers struggling to afford food against the industry being partially blamed for food prices.

“And so in the depths of a kind of historic cost-of-living crisis, I think it was easier to feel sympathy for such workers in terms of really having to fight to make up lost ground.”

That means the LCBO union has its work cut out to try and convince the public of its cause, said Ross, especially when consumers are already divided on the liquor privatization issue in the first place. She thinks the union is doing a good job, however, of arguing the case for the LCBO as a public asset that helps fund important public services.

Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said it’s clear both the union and the Ford government “are working hard to win over the public to their respective positions.”

The union has a “potentially powerful strategy” to gain public support, but it’s not a surefire one, he said in an email.

This strategy “requires people to connect the dots between the privatization of the LCBO and the loss of a critical revenue stream that contributes billions to public services like health care and education.”

Meanwhile, the government’s strategy has been to try and leverage consumer frustration over the strike in order to drive more support for increased privatization, said Savage.

“It’s a high-risk strategy because a heavy-handed approach can sometimes backfire and garner greater sympathy for the workers and their cause.”

In the Leger poll, 32 per cent of respondents said they looked for alternative locations to buy alcohol due to the strike, and while 15 per cent said they were concerned the strike could cause them to spend more money on alcohol.

Savage said while many consumers are likely inconvenienced, he also thinks most Ontarians are suspicious of the premier’s intentions when it comes to the LCBO: “It’s a classic case of private profits over the public good.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2024.

 

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Being Angry at Employers for Looking out for Their Interests Won’t Land You a Job

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The current job market is a stark reminder of a fundamental truth: The employee-employer relationship is inherently asymmetrical. This asymmetry is the default of the employer taking on the risk of investing capital while employees only invest their time. Employers have the upper hand, and the right to work ultimately depends on their decisions, as evidenced by layoffs.

 

Employees don’t own their jobs; their employers do.

 

In the face of rejection after rejection, job seekers become frustrated and angry, blaming employers for being unreasonable, greedy, or only looking out for their interest, as if their employers are in the business of hiring people. This mindset is counterproductive and will only hinder your ability to land a job.

 

I don’t think job seekers are angry with employers. I think they’re angry because they were in demand, and now they’re not. Recently, the tech industry has had more than its share of layoffs. Most likely, until now, those laid off had only experienced being highly sought after. A shift of this kind requires humility, which is lacking amid all the anger directed at employers.

 

When making a hiring decision, the employer rightfully prioritizes its interests over those of the job seeker. Employers seek candidates who can deliver value and contribute to their organization’s success. In contrast, job seekers look for roles that fit their skills, experience, and career goals. Employers looking after their interests aren’t wrong or nefarious; it’s simply smart business.

 

Employers’ self-interests are not your enemies. Instead, use them to your advantage by identifying them and positioning yourself as the solution. Demonstrating how you’ll support the employer’s interests will turn you from a generic candidate into an asset.

Three strategies can be used to align your self-interests—presumably landing a job—with those of an employer (Envision, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”):

 

Understand the employer’s priorities, the obvious being to generate profit.

 

Job seekers tend to focus solely on the job description and the required qualifications and overlook the company’s overall goal(s). Knowing (read: researching) the company’s goals will enable you to explain how your skills and experience can support their goals.

 

Suppose you’re applying for a marketing coordinator role at a rapidly growing tech startup. The job posting lists key responsibilities, including managing the company’s social media accounts, creating content, and planning events. However, after studying the company holistically, you find, like most companies, it prioritizes gaining new customers.

 

With this knowledge, you can position yourself as a candidate who can help drive that growth by emphasizing, using quantifying numbers (e.g., In eight months, increased Instagram followers from 1,200 to 32,000.) in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter and during your interview, your experience developing high-performing social media campaigns attracting new leads for previous employers. You could mention your innovative ideas for using user-generated content to raise brand awareness or partnering with industry influencers. The key is to show that you possess the required functional skills and understand the company’s overall goals and how you can help achieve them.

 

Explain how you’ll make your ‘to-be’ boss’s life easier.

 

Your ‘to-be’ boss is juggling a million competing priorities, budget constraints, and pressure from their boss to optimize their team’s productivity.

 

Position yourself as the candidate who’ll simplify your ‘to-be’ boss’s life, and you’ll differentiate yourself from other candidates. During the interview, make it a point to understand the specific pain points and challenges your ‘to-be’ boss is facing—I outright ask, “What keeps you up at night?”—and then present yourself as a solution.

 

Perhaps the department has a retention problem. You could tell a STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) story, demonstrating your ability to build strong cross-functional relationships and create a positive work culture that boosts employee engagement and loyalty.

 

Educating your prospective boss that by hiring you, they’ll have one less headache is a hard-to-ignore value proposition.

 

Show how their success is equal to yours.

 

Hiring boils down to finding candidates who can drive measurable business results. Don’t rely solely on your skills and experience. Outline how you can deliver tangible benefits to the employer. Quantify the value you’ve brought to previous employers.

 

If you’re applying for a sales role, share data on the year-over-year revenue growth, client retention rates, and customer satisfaction scores you achieved in your previous positions. Quantify the value you brought to the organization, then explain how you can replicate or exceed that level of performance in the new role.

 

Say you’re interviewing for an IT support position. In addition to highlighting your technical expertise, again using a STAR story, highlight your expertise in streamlining processes, reducing downtime, and providing exceptional customer service. Tie those accomplishments back to the employer’s need to maximize productivity and minimize disruptions.

 

The key is to make a compelling case that the employer also succeeds when you succeed.

 

It’s understandable to feel frustrated by rejection, but the most successful candidates recognize that employers have legitimate business priorities. Identifying an employer’s interests and showing how you can support them will improve your chances of landing a job. Stop expecting an employer to save you. Save an employer.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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