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Canada plans legislation to end pay-to-pay billing fees

Written By doni icha on Senin, 01 September 2014 | 22.40

The federal government plans to introduce legislation that would halt the practice of charging fees for paper bills, an issue highlighted by the CRTC's criticism of Canadian telecom companies' pay-to-pay practices.

Wireless Industry 20140205

Industry Minister James Moore says the federal government is planning legislation that would end pay-to-pay billing fees - which are charged to customers who receive bills in the mail. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Industry Minister James Moore said Friday that the government legislation will put an end to what he calls the unfair pay-to-pay fees.

Moore said Canadians expect lower prices and better service from telecom service providers. The government has twice promised to end pay-to-pay policies: In its October 2013 throne speech and in the 2014 budget.

Moore's announcement came a day after after executives from nearly a dozen major telecom companies — including Bell, Rogers and Telus — met with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Gatineau, Que.

The companies vowed to exempt some customers from pay-to-pay fees: 

  • Seniors.
  • Individuals with disabilities.
  • Military veterans.
  • Customers with no internet connections.

In a statement released after the meeting, regulators said the exemptions don't go far enough.

CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said "many Canadians who will not benefit from the exemptions will be disappointed with the outcome so far."

Blais also praised the four companies — Cogeco Cable, MTS AllstreamSaskTel and Shaw Communications — that have opted not to charge for paper fees, saying "Canadians should keep this in mind when they select service providers."

According to a study released this week by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Canadians pay over $500 million a year in paper billing fees.

The advocacy group says low-income Canadians and seniors shoulder the heaviest burden, as they are less likely to have access to the internet. An estimated 15 per cent of Canadians do not have internet access at home. 


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Why passengers are unlikely to win damages due to unruly fliers

Airline passengers who have their travel plans interrupted when unruly passengers force a plane to turn around or be diverted are likely to have a difficult time collecting damages for the disruption.

Those aboard Wednesday's Cuba-bound Sunwing flight that was forced to turn back to Toronto because of the alleged misbehaviour of two female passengers, reportedly received a $75 voucher from Sunwing for future trips and a $15 meal voucher at Pearson. 

The flight took off for a second time from Toronto around 11 p.m. Wednesday with a new flight crew.

But those who feel they deserve more compensation for having their vacation plans derailed, even temporarily, are probably out of luck.

Sunwing suspects

Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby, Ont., left, and Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan, Ont., appeared in court Thursday. They are charged with smoking on board an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft, mischief endangering life, mischief over $5,000 and uttering threats. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

Under Flights Rights Canada,  a six-point code of conduct that was created for Canada's airlines and voluntarily adopted by the major Canadian air carriers, nothing  "would make the airline responsible for acts of nature or the acts of third parties, according to the government website.

"Airlines are legally obligated to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety and cannot be encouraged to fly when it is not safe to do so."

In the case of this week's Sunwing flight, the pilot of the 737 aircraft described the two female passengers as disruptive "in a serious manner," and reported to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) while the plane was in U.S. airspace that the aircraft was "under threat."

NORAD scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets based out of Bagotville, Que., to escort Flight 656 back to Toronto. The women are facing a series of charges, including endangering the safety of an aircraft, smoking on an aircraft and uttering threats.

A passenger could try to seek further compensation from the airline, claiming that they believed the pilot overreacted. But John McKenna, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, said "they wouldn't get very far."

"The pilot is captain on board," said McKenna. "He does what he deems necessary. No pilot likes to turn a plane around. It's his prerogative or her prerogative to do so if he or she thinks the safety of the passengers is at risk."

"But some people will try anything to get compensation."

Passengers could always try to launch civil legal action against those responsible for diverting the flight, but if the delay resulted in missing a day or a couple days of vacation, the time and effort in court would likely surpass any compensation they may receive.

However, trying to recoup expenses caused by the diversion may be worth it for the airline. Meaning, in this case, Sunwing could take action against the two accused. 

Indeed, the airline is currently seeking legal action against two members of a Cape Breton family accused of smoking on a flight to the Dominican Republic last year. Sunwing is suing the two, claiming their actions forced the plane to be diverted to Bermuda. The airline is suing for the damages and expenses incurred for having to divert, which include airport fees and landing fees.

In the current Sunwing case, the airline could sue or seek restitution as did Air Canada in a case against a Calgary man last year. The man's unruly behaviour forced a London-to-Calgary flight to land in Edmonton. He was given a one-year probation term, was fined $4,000 and was ordered to pay $15,200 in restitution to Air Canada.


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Health Canada pulling last of citronella-based bug sprays

Health Canada is pulling the last of citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." The essential oil has been used as an insect repellent in Canada for decades.

The move has left scientists who advised Health Canada on the issue befuddled by the ban. So are many consumers who prefer natural bug sprays over ones with synthetic chemicals like DEET.

'It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand'- Sam Kacew, Toxicologist

"It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand," says toxicologist Sam Kacew.

Insect repellents are considered pesticides so they must meet strict safety standards. In 2004, Health Canada proposed phasing out citronella-based bug sprays because of new questions about its safety.

Small manufacturers who couldn't afford to submit detailed safety data saw their lines discontinued at the end of 2012. Those who submitted what data they could and tried to challenge the ban are now to see their products phased out at the end of this year.

In 2005, Kacew sat on an independent scientific panel to review Health Canada's position. He says the panel believed the study that led the government to question citronella's safety was flawed, in part because it examined what happened when rodents ingested the oil. "Humans are not going to drink citronella," he says.

The department told CBC that "the panel supported Health Canada's approach," but Kacew refutes that. He says the team of scientists concluded that citronella was safe as long as it didn't contain methyl eugenol, an impurity that could be a potential carcinogen. "In general, most of these citronella oils that were available for us to examine did not contain impurities, and they were regarded by us to be basically safe," he says.

Companies pay the price

Montreal company, Druide, has been selling government-approved citronella sprays and lotions since 1995.

"Where I am very sad is, in the end, [Health Canada] doesn't have anything against citronella, except questions about it," says Druide's owner, Alain Renaud.

Citronella-bug-spray

Health Canada is ordering all citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." (CBC)

He says he spent five years proving to Health Canada that his repellent didn't contain methyl eugenol.

But Renaud says that as soon as he won that battle the government "came back and said we still have questions and we need a complete toxicological report on many generations of animals."

That may be a standard approach, but Renaud eventually gave up his fight because his company doesn't believe in animal testing, and didn't have the estimated $1 million needed to fund a large-scale scientific study.

Druide's citronella-based bug spray was a bestseller for the company, which manufactures organic personal care products.

Renaud says he's had to lay off five employees because of the ban and has lost up to a million dollars spent on marketing his product and providing research for Health Canada. "At the end of maybe, five, 10 years of fighting, [Heath Canada] gets all our energy," he says.

DEET passed Health Canada's scrutiny because the manufacturers provided the required safety data. But citronella — an extract from lemon grass —  has never been patented, which makes it an unattractive investment for costly studies.

"If the market was such that this product was generating millions of dollars, then the industry would have done something re-active to try and get [citronella] back on the market," said Kacew.

That's the problem with other essential oils as well. They may be effective as bug repellents, but no one has yet funded the studies to prove they're safe.

DIY bug spray

Tracey TieF made and sold a natural bug spray with essential oils including lavender and rosemary for seven years before Health Canada shut her down recently.

The problem was that she hadn't registered her product and done any safety studies.

"I can't afford to run my own trial," says the certified health practitioner. "I feel afraid and I feel sick about it, actually, because for me, this is a passion."

TieF now puts that passion into teaching others how to make natural bug sprays. In a tiny room at Karma Co-op in Toronto, she passes out bottles, essential oils and recipes. "I'll teach people until [Health Canada] stops me," she vows.

Aimee Alabaster says she joined the class because she wants a natural bug spray for her children. "Everything out there for the most part contains DEET, and I don't want to put DEET on my kids."

Research has suggested DEET could be harmful to the central nervous system. But Health Canada states on its website that "registered insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed."

Come 2015, citronella bug sprays won't be entirely out of reach, you will just have to cross the border. The product will still be available in the U.S.


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Tim Hortons hitched, Shomi born, Twitch adopted and NHL expecting: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP

The biggest news of the week came right at the beginning, with reports that Burger King and Tim Hortons were working out a deal. A day later, they made it official.

The two chains will unite under a new holding company based in Canada. Both of the brands will continue to operate the same way, so you won't have to order your double double with a Whopper.

Tim Hortons' interest in the deal? A chance to significantly expand south of the border, an elusive goal that they haven't been able to achieve after years of trying. A goal that won't come at the expense of the company's Canadian presence.

"We're going to keep all of the fantastic things we've done in Canada, we're going to build on that. But this brand deserves to go around the world", said Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira in an interview on The Exchange with Amanda Lang.

For the Timmies faithful who are worried the chain will change under new ownership, Tim's took out a two-page ad in major Canadian newspapers assuring them their double-doubles will stay the same.

Competing with Netflix

Rogers and Shaw are teaming up to launch a Netflix-like streaming site in Canada. It's called Shomi, and the two telecom giants are bringing it to Canadians in November.

The service will offer 340 TV series and 1,200 movies, with 30 per cent Canadian content, and cost $8.99 per month, similar to the cost of a Netflix subscription.

At launch, the service will only be available to Shaw and Rogers TV and internet subscribers for what's being called a 'beta period' of six months to one year, at which point non-subscribers will be able to get their hands on it.

They'll have their work cut out for them in competing with Netflix, as one-third of English-speaking Canadians already subscribe to the U.S. company's service.

Betting on video game streaming

It's not just Rogers and Shaw looking to capitalize on people's desire for streaming content. Amazon is spending $970 million to buy Twitch, a site where users watch live streaming video of other people playing video games.

Why would the online retailer bet nearly $1 billion that users want to watch people play games, rather than be playing themselves? Because it works.

The site accounts for more than 43 per cent of all U.S. live streaming traffic, according to analysis by online video analytics site Qwilt. On an average night, Twitch has a viewing audience roughly the same size as popular U.S. cable channels like Comedy Central and MTV.

Games are also growing quickly as a spectator sport, with international competitions attracting millions of viewers — all through Twitch.

NHL expansion rumours

From digital sports to a more traditional kind, hockey fans in Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec and Toronto were given reason to get their hopes up as reports circulate that new NHL teams might be coming to town as part of a big expansion push.

It's been 14 years since the league added teams in Minnesota and Columbus, and the addition of four new teams could put as much as $1.4 billion dollars into the owners' pockets through expansion fees.

The NHL is staying quiet, and likely wouldn't say anything until a final announcement is made. But Glen Hodgson, Chief Economist of the Conference Board of Canada and author of Power Play: The Business Economics of Pro Sports says there are several markets that could handle an expansion team, including Toronto.

In an interview with The Exchange, Hodgson said "there's no doubt that Toronto is a big enough market right now to have two even three NHL teams. and the market's going to grow over the next 20 years".

Those were some of the most-read stories on our website this week. Be sure and check back often for more news, and remember to follow us on Twitter here.


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Vanadium battery technology could transform power grids

New York has a reputation as the city that never sleeps. But it does use much less electricity after dark — and its utilities charge a lower price for power then.

On top of a Manhattan skyscraper is a car-sized battery that charges itself at night, when most of the building is empty and electricity costs less. When office workers arrive the next morning — and the electricity price rises — the battery discharges to power the building.

The mega-battery was produced by American Vanadium (don't let the name fool you, it's actually Canadian, run out of Vancouver). And its technology has the potential to transform electrical grids, along with our ability to make use of green energy such as wind and solar power.

The metal vanadium is element 23 on the periodic table, between titanium and chromium.

American Vanadium owns the world's largest known deposit of vanadium, at a mine in Nevada.

Bill Radvak, the company's president and CEO,is looking for ways to exploit the resource.

Vanadium has long been used to strengthen steel — just a tiny amount can make steel 10 times stronger, allowing thinner beams to be used to building construction.

But recently, there has been lots of interest in using it to make batteries.

Vanadium is a unique battery material because it's the only element that can be used on both sides (positive and negative) of the same battery, Radvak said.

When there are different elements on the two sides of the battery, as in a lithium battery, the electrodes degrade with every charge, he added.

"But when you actually have the same element on both sides, the battery lasts essentially forever."

According to Radvak, vanadium batteries can be used for more than just saving money on bills by buying and storing electricity when it's cheap for use when electricity is more expensive. 

"It's part of the way of changing the way energy is distributed."

Consider that grids are built for the the highest demand days — often in the summer when air conditioners are at full blast. In Canada, there are usually only a handful of maximum load days on the calendar. Still, electrical utilities must have distribution lines to carry that load year-round.

If vanadium batteries could provide the boost on days when it's needed, utilities wouldn't need as much carrying capacity. They could invest less in distribution systems without risking a brownout.

The United States, particularly in the desert south, has embraced vast solar fields and wind farms. But you can't control when it's windy — and sometimes you need power more at night than when the sun is out.

So how do you store the power generated for when you need it? Vanadium can hold large amounts for long periods, without decaying the battery itself. This idea alone has utilities worldwide fascinated by the possibilities.

But it's not yet the great solution. That Nevada mine is not yet being exploited on a mass commercial level. Likewise, the technology is not fully proven. It has only been used on a small scale and more research and development work to be done before it can reach the point of mass commercialization. But if it works and is cost effective, vanadium could have a transformative effect on power generation, storage and consumption.


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Why passengers are unlikely to win damages due to unruly fliers

Written By doni icha on Minggu, 31 Agustus 2014 | 22.39

Airline passengers who have their travel plans interrupted when unruly passengers force a plane to turn around or be diverted are likely to have a difficult time collecting damages for the disruption.

Those aboard Wednesday's Cuba-bound Sunwing flight that was forced to turn back to Toronto because of the alleged misbehaviour of two female passengers, reportedly received a $75 voucher from Sunwing for future trips and a $15 meal voucher at Pearson. 

The flight took off for a second time from Toronto around 11 p.m. Wednesday with a new flight crew.

But those who feel they deserve more compensation for having their vacation plans derailed, even temporarily, are probably out of luck.

Sunwing suspects

Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby, Ont., left, and Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan, Ont., appeared in court Thursday. They are charged with smoking on board an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft, mischief endangering life, mischief over $5,000 and uttering threats. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

Under Flights Rights Canada,  a six-point code of conduct that was created for Canada's airlines and voluntarily adopted by the major Canadian air carriers, nothing  "would make the airline responsible for acts of nature or the acts of third parties, according to the government website.

"Airlines are legally obligated to maintain the highest standards of aviation safety and cannot be encouraged to fly when it is not safe to do so."

In the case of this week's Sunwing flight, the pilot of the 737 aircraft described the two female passengers as disruptive "in a serious manner," and reported to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) while the plane was in U.S. airspace that the aircraft was "under threat."

NORAD scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets based out of Bagotville, Que., to escort Flight 656 back to Toronto. The women are facing a series of charges, including endangering the safety of an aircraft, smoking on an aircraft and uttering threats.

A passenger could try to seek further compensation from the airline, claiming that they believed the pilot overreacted. But John McKenna, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, said "they wouldn't get very far."

"The pilot is captain on board," said McKenna. "He does what he deems necessary. No pilot likes to turn a plane around. It's his prerogative or her prerogative to do so if he or she thinks the safety of the passengers is at risk."

"But some people will try anything to get compensation."

Passengers could always try to launch civil legal action against those responsible for diverting the flight, but if the delay resulted in missing a day or a couple days of vacation, the time and effort in court would likely surpass any compensation they may receive.

However, trying to recoup expenses caused by the diversion may be worth it for the airline. Meaning, in this case, Sunwing could take action against the two accused. 

Indeed, the airline is currently seeking legal action against two members of a Cape Breton family accused of smoking on a flight to the Dominican Republic last year. Sunwing is suing the two, claiming their actions forced the plane to be diverted to Bermuda. The airline is suing for the damages and expenses incurred for having to divert, which include airport fees and landing fees.

In the current Sunwing case, the airline could sue or seek restitution as did Air Canada in a case against a Calgary man last year. The man's unruly behaviour forced a London-to-Calgary flight to land in Edmonton. He was given a one-year probation term, was fined $4,000 and was ordered to pay $15,200 in restitution to Air Canada.


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Canada plans legislation to end pay-to-pay billing fees

The federal government plans to introduce legislation that would halt the practice of charging fees for paper bills, an issue highlighted by the CRTC's criticism of Canadian telecom companies' pay-to-pay practices.

Wireless Industry 20140205

Industry Minister James Moore says the federal government is planning legislation that would end pay-to-pay billing fees - which are charged to customers who receive bills in the mail. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Industry Minister James Moore said Friday that the government legislation will put an end to what he calls the unfair pay-to-pay fees.

Moore said Canadians expect lower prices and better service from telecom service providers. The government has twice promised to end pay-to-pay policies: In its October 2013 throne speech and in the 2014 budget.

Moore's announcement came a day after after executives from nearly a dozen major telecom companies — including Bell, Rogers and Telus — met with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Gatineau, Que.

The companies vowed to exempt some customers from pay-to-pay fees: 

  • Seniors.
  • Individuals with disabilities.
  • Military veterans.
  • Customers with no internet connections.

In a statement released after the meeting, regulators said the exemptions don't go far enough.

CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said "many Canadians who will not benefit from the exemptions will be disappointed with the outcome so far."

Blais also praised the four companies — Cogeco Cable, MTS AllstreamSaskTel and Shaw Communications — that have opted not to charge for paper fees, saying "Canadians should keep this in mind when they select service providers."

According to a study released this week by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Canadians pay over $500 million a year in paper billing fees.

The advocacy group says low-income Canadians and seniors shoulder the heaviest burden, as they are less likely to have access to the internet. An estimated 15 per cent of Canadians do not have internet access at home. 


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Tesla Motors inks deal to build 400 charging stations in China

Tesla Motors Co. and a state-owned Chinese phone carrier announced plans Friday to build 400 charging stations for electric cars in a new bid to promote popular adoption of the technology in China.

Plans call for China Unicom Ltd. to provide space for construction and basic services in 120 cities while Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, operates the stations. The two companies also will build 20 "supercharger stations" in 20 cities to offer high-speed charging.

Promoters of electric cars see China as a promising market due to Beijing's support for the technology and eagerness to reduce smog. But the lack of charging infrastructure in this vast country is seen as a major hurdle to winning general acceptance.

Tesla delivered its first U.S.-manufactured electric sedans to Chinese customers in April and CEO Elon Musk said then the company planned to invest several hundred million dollars to build a charging network in China.

Prior to Friday's announcement, Tesla had 200 charging points in China.

"This cooperation will accelerate the Tesla charging network nationwide," said a company spokeswoman, Peggy Yang, in an email.

Another automaker, Germany's BMW AG, announced plans in May to set up 50 charging stations in partnership with State Grid, China's biggest state-owned utility, and a real estate developer.

Chinese leaders want to develop an electric car industry and called in 2009 for annual sales of 500,000 electric cars by 2015 but have scaled back those plans. The country has about 78,000 electric vehicles on the road, mostly public buses and taxies.

Industry growth has been slow partly due to rules that limit market access unless foreign manufacturers share technology with Chinese partners that might become rivals.

In July, the government announced buyers of electric cars will be exempt from a 10 percent sales tax on automobiles.


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Tim Hortons hitched, Shomi born, Twitch adopted and NHL expecting: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP

The biggest news of the week came right at the beginning, with reports that Burger King and Tim Hortons were working out a deal. A day later, they made it official.

The two chains will unite under a new holding company based in Canada. Both of the brands will continue to operate the same way, so you won't have to order your double double with a Whopper.

Tim Hortons' interest in the deal? A chance to significantly expand south of the border, an elusive goal that they haven't been able to achieve after years of trying. A goal that won't come at the expense of the company's Canadian presence.

"We're going to keep all of the fantastic things we've done in Canada, we're going to build on that. But this brand deserves to go around the world", said Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira in an interview on The Exchange with Amanda Lang.

For the Timmies faithful who are worried the chain will change under new ownership, Tim's took out a two-page ad in major Canadian newspapers assuring them their double-doubles will stay the same.

Competing with Netflix

Rogers and Shaw are teaming up to launch a Netflix-like streaming site in Canada. It's called Shomi, and the two telecom giants are bringing it to Canadians in November.

The service will offer 340 TV series and 1,200 movies, with 30 per cent Canadian content, and cost $8.99 per month, similar to the cost of a Netflix subscription.

At launch, the service will only be available to Shaw and Rogers TV and internet subscribers for what's being called a 'beta period' of six months to one year, at which point non-subscribers will be able to get their hands on it.

They'll have their work cut out for them in competing with Netflix, as one-third of English-speaking Canadians already subscribe to the U.S. company's service.

Betting on video game streaming

It's not just Rogers and Shaw looking to capitalize on people's desire for streaming content. Amazon is spending $970 million to buy Twitch, a site where users watch live streaming video of other people playing video games.

Why would the online retailer bet nearly $1 billion that users want to watch people play games, rather than be playing themselves? Because it works.

The site accounts for more than 43 per cent of all U.S. live streaming traffic, according to analysis by online video analytics site Qwilt. On an average night, Twitch has a viewing audience roughly the same size as popular U.S. cable channels like Comedy Central and MTV.

Games are also growing quickly as a spectator sport, with international competitions attracting millions of viewers — all through Twitch.

NHL expansion rumours

From digital sports to a more traditional kind, hockey fans in Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec and Toronto were given reason to get their hopes up as reports circulate that new NHL teams might be coming to town as part of a big expansion push.

It's been 14 years since the league added teams in Minnesota and Columbus, and the addition of four new teams could put as much as $1.4 billion dollars into the owners' pockets through expansion fees.

The NHL is staying quiet, and likely wouldn't say anything until a final announcement is made. But Glen Hodgson, Chief Economist of the Conference Board of Canada and author of Power Play: The Business Economics of Pro Sports says there are several markets that could handle an expansion team, including Toronto.

In an interview with The Exchange, Hodgson said "there's no doubt that Toronto is a big enough market right now to have two even three NHL teams. and the market's going to grow over the next 20 years".

Those were some of the most-read stories on our website this week. Be sure and check back often for more news, and remember to follow us on Twitter here.


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Health Canada pulling last of citronella-based bug sprays

Health Canada is pulling the last of citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." The essential oil has been used as an insect repellent in Canada for decades.

The move has left scientists who advised Health Canada on the issue befuddled by the ban. So are many consumers who prefer natural bug sprays over ones with synthetic chemicals like DEET.

'It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand'- Sam Kacew, Toxicologist

"It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand," says toxicologist Sam Kacew.

Insect repellents are considered pesticides so they must meet strict safety standards. In 2004, Health Canada proposed phasing out citronella-based bug sprays because of new questions about its safety.

Small manufacturers who couldn't afford to submit detailed safety data saw their lines discontinued at the end of 2012. Those who submitted what data they could and tried to challenge the ban are now to see their products phased out at the end of this year.

In 2005, Kacew sat on an independent scientific panel to review Health Canada's position. He says the panel believed the study that led the government to question citronella's safety was flawed, in part because it examined what happened when rodents ingested the oil. "Humans are not going to drink citronella," he says.

The department told CBC that "the panel supported Health Canada's approach," but Kacew refutes that. He says the team of scientists concluded that citronella was safe as long as it didn't contain methyl eugenol, an impurity that could be a potential carcinogen. "In general, most of these citronella oils that were available for us to examine did not contain impurities, and they were regarded by us to be basically safe," he says.

Companies pay the price

Montreal company, Druide, has been selling government-approved citronella sprays and lotions since 1995.

"Where I am very sad is, in the end, [Health Canada] doesn't have anything against citronella, except questions about it," says Druide's owner, Alain Renaud.

Citronella-bug-spray

Health Canada is ordering all citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." (CBC)

He says he spent five years proving to Health Canada that his repellent didn't contain methyl eugenol.

But Renaud says that as soon as he won that battle the government "came back and said we still have questions and we need a complete toxicological report on many generations of animals."

That may be a standard approach, but Renaud eventually gave up his fight because his company doesn't believe in animal testing, and didn't have the estimated $1 million needed to fund a large-scale scientific study.

Druide's citronella-based bug spray was a bestseller for the company, which manufactures organic personal care products.

Renaud says he's had to lay off five employees because of the ban and has lost up to a million dollars spent on marketing his product and providing research for Health Canada. "At the end of maybe, five, 10 years of fighting, [Heath Canada] gets all our energy," he says.

DEET passed Health Canada's scrutiny because the manufacturers provided the required safety data. But citronella — an extract from lemon grass —  has never been patented, which makes it an unattractive investment for costly studies.

"If the market was such that this product was generating millions of dollars, then the industry would have done something re-active to try and get [citronella] back on the market," said Kacew.

That's the problem with other essential oils as well. They may be effective as bug repellents, but no one has yet funded the studies to prove they're safe.

DIY bug spray

Tracey TieF made and sold a natural bug spray with essential oils including lavender and rosemary for seven years before Health Canada shut her down recently.

The problem was that she hadn't registered her product and done any safety studies.

"I can't afford to run my own trial," says the certified health practitioner. "I feel afraid and I feel sick about it, actually, because for me, this is a passion."

TieF now puts that passion into teaching others how to make natural bug sprays. In a tiny room at Karma Co-op in Toronto, she passes out bottles, essential oils and recipes. "I'll teach people until [Health Canada] stops me," she vows.

Aimee Alabaster says she joined the class because she wants a natural bug spray for her children. "Everything out there for the most part contains DEET, and I don't want to put DEET on my kids."

Research has suggested DEET could be harmful to the central nervous system. But Health Canada states on its website that "registered insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed."

Come 2015, citronella bug sprays won't be entirely out of reach, you will just have to cross the border. The product will still be available in the U.S.


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