Justice Department to seek emergency stay to allow immigration action

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department will seek an emergency stay to block a decision by a federal judge and allow eligible immigrants to apply for benefits granted under President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions, the White House said on Friday.

CN Railway will lockout 4,800 workers on Monday if settlement isn’t reached

CALGARY – CN Railway will lock 4,800 workers out on Monday, if their union does not come to a settlement with the company by the end of the weekend.

“The differences separating the company and the union are as clear as they will ever be, and they will not become any clearer over a month-long strike mandate announced [Thursday] by Unifor,” CN president and CEO Claude Mongeau said in a press release Friday announcing the lockout.

One of the key issues dividing CN and Unifor is the union’s insistence that the company contribute cash to its political and community action fund.

Mr. Mongeau said it would not contribute to the fund as “an issue of principle,” but would be willing to co-contribute to charitable causes with the union.

CN said its five-month-long negotiations with Unifor hit an impasse this week, after the union had struck a four-year deal with rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. last weekend to avoid a strike.

Mr. Mongeau said Unifor wanted his company to match CP’s offer, “but that’s not the right deal pattern.”

“CN is highly profitable, even more so than CP Rail, yet somehow it is claiming it cannot meet the pattern agreement that we established at CP,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said in a Thursday press release.

At the same time, Mr. Dias said his union would vote on whether or not to strike next week after what the union called “months of futile negotiations.”

Strike voting would take up to three weeks, but CN has instead threatened to lock all of Unifor’s 4,800 members out on Monday night.

Rather than match the offer made by Calgary-based CP Rail, Mr. Mongeau said CN’s offers to Unifor were in line with what the company has offered to other unions, including the Teamsters.

Unifor is the largest union represented at CN, and their collective agreement with the company expired at the end of 2014.

This week, Mr. Dias said that CN was hoping the federal government would draft back-to-work legislation that would prevent Unifor members from striking.

After Unifor members threatened to strike at CP, Ottawa said it would force the unions members back to work. Mr. Dias said CN would use the same approach, adding, “Companies like CN should not be leaning on government to interfere in collective bargaining.”

Wisconsin Republicans plan to push right-to-work bill next week

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Wisconsin Republicans plan to call an extraordinary session to fast-track a right-to-work bill in the state legislature next week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Friday.

Google wins dismissal of U.S. lawsuit over Android app limits

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Google Inc of harming smartphone buyers by forcing handset makers that use its Android operating system to make the search engine company’s own applications the default option.

U.S. envoy to Africa lakes region stepping down: State Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region, Russ Feingold, will step down next month, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday.

“Minor players” need major chequebooks when the OSC comes knocking

What was he thinking?

After a three-person Ontario Securities Commission panel ruled on an insider trading case last week, Tom Atkinson, the regulator’s enforcement director, was asked for his reaction to the decision that emerged following a hearing based on allegations made against 10 people involving multiple takeovers many years ago. Of the 10, four were found to have transgressed, while five were given a clean slate. The tenth party reached a settlement in 2013. Mark the score: 5-5.

According to reports, Atkinson said the five who didn’t transgress were the “minor players.”

To some, that comment, smacks of bullying or being a sore loser. It also raises two questions:

* were they just minor players because the panel determined they hadn’t breached securities rules; and,

* if they were minor players from the start, then why bother to bring allegations against them? That approach is akin to casting the net wide – just like a fisherman on some remote island – and seeing what turns up.

The OSC said its staff “do not bring these allegations lightly and are guided by the principle of whether there is a reasonable likelihood an order will be made in the public interest.” As for the future, it said the OSC’s decisions “can inform and provide guidance for future staff allegations and Commission decisions.”

But its far and wide approach forces the named minor players to incur substantial legal costs and put their life on hold.

The costs are substantial because they are required to hire lawyers familiar with the regulatory process. Without a lawyer, whose meters are always running, the OSC prosecutors would make mince meat of them. In all, the hearings lasted for 53 days spread over seven months.

And even with a win, the players, both major and minor, don’t get their costs back. (The quid pro quo is that the OSC’s accept the panel’s decision.) Maybe the OSC would have a different approach — one that’s more selective — if it was required to pay the legal bills when it brings a set of allegations against a party and loses. But the OSC seems so hell bent on getting a major insider trading victory that it presses on. Meanwhile, its counterpart south of the border (which has wider powers) is winning such cases on a regular basis.

Jacob Gornitzki was one of the five minor players. Santo Iacono, Josephine Raponi, Giuseppe Fiorini, and John Serpa were the others.

The OSC panel ruled Gornitzki was not guilty of tipping and not guilty of acting contrary to the public interest. Gornitzki was a player in the financial markets for almost three decades – having been one third of the merchant-banking firm Gornitzki Thompson & Little.

Now based in London, Gornitzki said this week that, “for me the situation started out more than three years ago where I thought I was helping the OSC. But it turned into a nightmare — both professionally and personally — and tarnished a good name that had been built up over many years. And for what? Something, which in my opinion, there was little — if any — grounds on which to allege wrongdoing. In a system that’s supposed to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’, it seems it’s the other way around.”


Ottawa’s tax measure ‘moves the needle’ for B.C.’s LNG, but doubts persist

TORONTO — The federal government has sweetened the deal for would-be natural gas exporters with new tax measures, but the industry is still fretting about feasibility of West Coast projects amid a deteriorating LNG price environment.

Under the new rules announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday, companies building new LNG export terminals will be able to deduct capital costs at a faster rate, allowing them to defer tax payments and recoup investment more quickly.

“Our intention all along was to put the finishing touches on what the government can do to provide certainty for investment and, ultimately the development of a couple of projects, and moving them across the starting line,” Greg Rickford, federal Minister of Natural Resources said in an interview in Toronto Friday.

Last year, the B.C. government revised its LNG tax rate proposal to 3.5% — half of what it had originally proposed — in a bid to secure at least three of the 19 LNG consortiums proposing projects on the West Coast to proceed with their developments.

AltaCorp. Capital’s estimates show that $1 billion spent on LNG equipment would translate into $30 million in tax savings.

While welcoming the decision, Michael Culbert, president of Pacific NorthWest LNG project said Friday these are not “tax breaks” and the industry would still be paying the same amount — just over a different time period.

David Keane, President of the BC LNG Alliance, which represents the interest of the industry, said Ottawa’s tax overture “moves the needle” that could result in at least one positive final investment decision this year. “But it’s also important to point out that in addition to the LNG tax in British Columbia, our industry is going to end up paying carbon taxes; they are also going to buy carbon offsets — which is something that does not occur in any other jurisdiction — and pay PST, GST, municipal taxes, payroll taxes, royalties and corporate income taxes.”

Despite the industry’s efforts to downplay the benefits, the tax measures do improve the feasibility of projects.

“Anything that brings forward more cash flow upfront is important particularly in this environment,” said Ron Loborec, partner, national energy and resources leader at Deloitte Canada. “Capital is getting more expensive in the wake of low oil prices, and these companies also have oil projects. They are rationing their capital and making decisions on projects that improve the cash flow upfront.”

While the industry has successfully secured a range of benefits from the B.C. and federal governments, there is still no certainty whether the West Coast greenfield industry will take off.

Pacific NorthWest LNG, a joint venture between Malaysia’s Petronas Bhd. and its Asian partners, deferred a final decision on the project last year and Mr. Culbert would not confirm a new timeline for a final decision.

“As we move towards a final investment decision what we are trying to do is nail down financial items and ultimately refine the economics, albeit at a very challenging time,” Mr. Culbert said, adding that the company is still waiting on various regulatory decisions.

Barry Munro, oil and gas leader at Ernst & Young says while the B.C. industry continues to face competitive challenges, the tax measure helps level the playing field against competing jurisdictions.

“The U.S. and Australia in particular both had more favourable accelerated cost recovery for tax purposes than did Canada,” Mr. Munro said. “And due to the capital-intensive nature of the LNG industry, this was a significant disadvantage in attracting investment to Canada compared with the United States and Australia.”

Royal Dutch Shell Plc.’s decision to cancel its Arrow project in Australia and Perth-based Woodside Petroleum Ltd.’s acquisition of Apache Corp.’s assets in one of B.C.’s major LNG proposals suggest the tide may be turning for the province.

“These are big companies that are saying they are moving capital away from Australia and moving it in favour of Canada,” Mr. Loborec said. “And they have done it right in the middle of a low oil price environment.”

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the International Energy Agency’s forecast  underscores the heavy competition for LNG development “and notes the relatively high production cost of Canadian natural gas that’s needed to supply proposed LNG facilities.”

“This makes the federal government’s announcement all the more important for our industry and creates opportunities to access new markets for Canadian resources,” CAPP president and chief executive officer Tim McMillan said in a statement.

But the government’s tax incentives may be offset by weakening Asian liquefied natural gas prices.

“We expect most already-approved LNG projects, including those in Australia and the U.S., will go ahead, but others planned may not materialize,” Dmitry Marinchenko, associate director at Fitch Ratings said in a note.

Japan’s LNG import price averaged USD14.3 per million British thermal units (Btu), 15% lower compared to the same period last year. Fitch expects Japan’s LNG import price to fall below USD10 per mBtu, which is lower than break-even prices of most LNG plants.

The silver lining is that the commodity downturn could help cut labour and project costs as inflation subsides, Mr. Culbert said.

“The unknown for all of us is exactly how long the oil price is going to stay where it is and ultimately when it levels out  — and at what level, Mr. Culbert said. “We always believed that being a first mover in LNG would give us benefits in contracts and labours associated with that. I think the first mover advantage now is probably doubled up.”

Why You Shouldn’t Skip This Important Audit

Last fall at the UN’s “Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action,” more than 150 governments, businesses, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, and Indigenous Peoples endorsed a declaration to help safeguard the world’s forests and tackle climate change in signing The New York Declaration on Forests.

Achieving the shared goal of ending global forest loss will not be possible without the commitment of business, a force that often has greater agility than government to mobilize resources quickly and implement the steps required to tackle urgent deforestation and climate change issues.

Many companies in Canada are just now waking up to the reality that their business’ customers and consumers generally are demanding increased supply chain transparency, and that sustainability isn’t just a buzz-word, but a concept of good environmental stewardship that’s here to stay.

For those who are getting on board with this important and modern day business practice, a supply chain audit may be among the first fundamental steps required by a company to play a meaningful role in effecting global change. Only once there is a full understanding of the company’s environmental impact, such as the implementation of Asia Pulp & Paper’s Forest Conservation Policy, can a business begin to make the important decisions needed to affect a substantial positive impact.

The thought of auditing your company’s supply chain can be daunting and overwhelming. Several questions come to mind: How much will it cost to audit our supply chain? We don’t have an infrastructure in place to implement this audit, so where do we begin? Will auditing the supply chain reveal issues that will prove costly and damaging to our brand? Is it best to leave as-is until an issue manifests?

If the last question sounds familiar then it’s definitely time to reevaluate your approach. Although investment and infrastructure are needed to audit suppliers, the fact is that delaying the process of auditing your supply chain to ensure that your business is at the very least compliant with environmental and social standards can prove to be more costly than proactive engagement with…? Stakeholders? Those on the ground? Activists? Worse, not taking proactive measures may have a long-term negative effect on your customer base and reputation.

The time is now to make a positive impact – be it socially or environmentally – and it’s never been more cost-effective for companies to ensure their supply chain meets the requirements of customers, regulators, NGOs and international governmental bodies like the United Nations.

Here are three important points that should be taken into consideration when taking that important next step:

1. Misconception: Initiating a supply chain audit is prohibitively expensive and time consuming

When Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) request a compliance and risk management audit, they invariably are hit with this question: “How much will this cost?” Part of the reason why CPOs and others are reluctant to engage in auditing their global supply chain is because of the misconception that it will cost too much and be far too time consuming. While some investment is needed to initiate the process, the investment is worthwhile in the long run considering the massive damage that could result if environmental or other harmful infractions are present within the supply chain.

The good news is that there is an existing infrastructure in place to help reduce costs, time and other resources. For instance, when my company Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) decided to initiate a comprehensive audit of its supply chain it engaged a third party, The Forest Trust (TFT), to help carry out this review.

2. The costs of inaction are far greater and potentially damaging

There are a multitude of examples demonstrating that the costs of inaction on supply chain improvements have wide-reaching and lasting financial and reputational consequences. For instance, a great example of a company that proactively sought to ensure the integrity of its supply chain is Sobeys. To help establish the baseline of their suppliers’ sustainability practices, including social compliance, sustainable packaging, and reducing energy and water use, Sobeys commissioned a sample survey of their private label suppliers and worked with students in the Masters of Environmental Studies program at the University of Western Ontario to….do what exactly? Elaborate for a sentence here to drive the point home.

Sobeys highlights that “…the quantitative and qualitative insights gathered from the survey were instrumental in helping us engage and direct our suppliers toward greater sustainability. Examples of our actions include hosting a National Sustainable Seafood Summit meeting for over 150 of our suppliers to help educate them on sustainability issues, our activation plan and their role, participating in the pilot of the Global Packaging Project to better understand our suppliers’ awareness of packaging sustainability issues, and providing selected suppliers with a sustainability packaging tool to help them with improved decisions on a package-by-package basis.”

3. Gain a competitive advantage by being proactive

Companies are now able to leverage the various constituencies (e.g., NGO partners, audit tools, private consultancies) to take advantage of best practice audit processes and bolster the efficiency and competitiveness of their global supply chains. For instance, for companies launching large-scale CSR initiatives, engaging third parties allows them to reinforce CSR claims and can also help detect any risks in the supply chain, or breaches from suppliers that may not have previously been recognized.

Along these lines, a number of global brands have recently declared significant zero deforestation policies throughout their supply chains, ranging from Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, to Cargill and Mars. They correctly understood the financial, reputational, and environmental benefits of proactively launching these sustainability initiatives, which promote greater internal and external transparency into their supply chains.

While auditing your global supply chain may at first glance appear to be a costly, time consuming and seemingly insurmountable process, an existing infrastructure of widely available tools and resources affords companies the opportunity to do this audit efficiently and effectively. Ultimately, the benefits of acting now and making the necessary investment will pay long-term dividends for the future reputation and performance of your company.