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How dearth of Canadian teams in NHL playoffs will hit local economies

Written By doni icha on Sabtu, 19 April 2014 | 22.40

Bars and restaurants in six of seven Canadian NHL cities are bracing for another spring without a hometown run at the Stanley Cup, but despite their dire financial predictions, some experts insist that local economies – including the service industry – will survive without playoff hockey.

For the first time since 1973, only one Canadian team – the Montreal Canadiens – qualified for the NHL playoffs. That leaves fans in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton to cheer on the Habs as the sole hope to bring the cup north of the border.

A spring without local playoffs for these cities will result in empty tables and lowered bottom lines, say those in the hospitality industry.

Jesse Ritchie

Jesse Ritchie's West End Vancouver pub was a popular spot for Canucks fans during the team's nine-week-long 2011 playoffs. But he has since changed his business model, and says offering customers alternatives to hockey is keeping his business afloat. (CBC)

"You can't recover from it. It's money gone," B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association President Ian Tostenson told CBC News.

"It hurts part time servers. It hurts suppliers. It'll have a real impact."

The BCRFA says it studied consumer spending over previous hockey post-seasons. Its research indicated each Vancouver Canucks playoff game was worth $1 million in business to local restaurants and bars, increasing to $2 million in later rounds.

"It's those four or five weeks that we're really going to miss," Tostenson said.

The immediate effect of a local team missing the playoffs is obvious, particularly for the sports-oriented bars and restaurants that aren't packed to capacity on game nights. The question, though, is whether that revenue is really "gone" or will simply be spread out over a longer period – and a wider array of businesses.

Playoff boom

Bar owner Jesse Ritchie knows firsthand what kind of impact a playoff run can have on a business, and can also speak to the long-term-revenue argument.

His West End Vancouver pub The Score on Davie was a popular spot for Canucks fans during the team's nine-week-long 2011 playoffs campaign that ended with a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup final.

'A lot of staff and guests here are die-hard Canucks fans, but we can't base our projections and a business that employs this many people on a hockey team.'- Jesse Ritchie, Vancouver pub owner

"Every time there was a game we were full hours before puck drop, and people stayed and partied after it was over," he said.

"When we were full for that long, it was a really big deal."

But the Canucks didn't fare so well in the seasons that followed. The team lost in five games in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs. A year later, they were again defeated in the first round, falling in four straight after a lockout shortened-season.

Ritchie says those years were devastating for city sports bars, some of which he estimates can rely on game nights for as much as 70 per cent of their annual revenue.

Those Canucks early exits convinced him that the free-wheeling spending that comes during the playoffs wasn't sustainable.

"By the end of [the post-season] people are burnt out. Nobody can keep up that lifestyle where you get a bunch of drinks four nights a week."

Ritchie changed his business model, even removing sports merchandise and memorabilia from pub walls. He says the big screens stationed over the bar will still show the NHL playoffs this year, but adds that offering customers alternatives to hockey is keeping his pub afloat.

"A lot of staff and guests here are die-hard Canucks fans, but we can't base our projections and a business that employs this many people on a hockey team."

Spending it elsewhere

Economists say while fans may not flood sports bars on a regular night like they would for a game in a playoff series, they'll still open their wallets somewhere and spend on goods and services, meaning that the city's economy as whole is unlikely to suffer.

Round Table drinks for gold-medal game

Although hockey fans tend to pack bars when there's a big game to watch, the money they shell out generally comes out of entertainment spending or local purchases they would have made throughout the year anyway, says Brian Goff, a sports economist at Western Kentucky University. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

"Hockey fans … will spend their money somewhere else," says Brian Goff, a sports economist at Western Kentucky University.

"The spending at the bars for playoff games doesn't tend to be extra on [top of] what they would've done otherwise. If they spend extra at the bar, that comes out of other expenditures," says Goff.

He says it's hard to pinpoint exactly who will benefit from fans' surplus cash if they don't flock to bars to watch a local team play, since spending is typically spread out over different amusement options across the city. But they key is they'll still spend on local attractions.

"Whether entertaining themselves by going to eat, going to a movie or something else … people tend to spend dollars that they have earmarked [for entertainment]," says Goff.

A different kind of customer

In Vancouver, Ritchie says he's drawing in those kinds of customers. He adds that Canucks-less spring nights allow him to appeal to non-hockey fans who might otherwise have stayed home and away from a pub packed with rowdy hockey fans.

"People are going to spend their money, they're just not spending it all on playoffs. A lot of people don't care and just want to go somewhere and have a quiet beer."

Ritchie says his business actually improved last year overall despite only four Canucks playoff games, and he is anticipating a similar outcome this year.

"Our revenue was higher last year when the Canucks got knocked out than in previous years," he said.

The fickle on and off-field realities of professional sports are something Tostenson and others in the industry who cater to sports fans are coming to terms with.

The springtime options for Canadian sports bars are slim outside of the playoffs, with largely mid-afternoon soccer matches, the less-loved NBA playoffs and early-season baseball games on offer.

So, bars across Canada await a more reliable business-maker as hockey fades away along with the winter weather.

"We'll forget about hockey," says Tostenson. "The sun will come out. We'll fill patios and we'll go back to doing business that way."


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Telus tries to buy Mobilicity again

2 previous deals rejected by Industry Canada

The Canadian Press Posted: Apr 18, 2014 8:51 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 18, 2014 4:42 PM ET

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Apr 19, 2014 12:00 AM ET Apr 19, 2014 12:00 AM ET Apr 19, 2014 12:00 AM ET Apr 19, 2014 12:00 AM ET Apr 19, 2014 12:00 AM ET

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Maple Leaf shutters Hamilton wiener production plant

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has closed its wiener production plant in Hamilton as part of a broader plan to move the operations to a bigger plant in the same city.

The meat products maker said Friday that about 26 employees would lose their jobs, while the remaining 187 staff are being moved to the company's single-largest production facility, also in Hamilton.

The changes come as Maple Leaf continues a seven-year restructuring plan to improve the profits of the overall business, which is primarily focused on meat products.

It plans to close four other meat plants by the end of the year.

The company says once the plans are finished, it will operate 13 meat plants instead of 22, and two distribution centres instead of 19.

"We are in the final phase of completing a transformation of our prepared meats network," said president and CEO Michael McCain.

"This year, the focus is on shifting production to these new facilities, closing legacy plants and realizing related cost and productivity gains."

Other changes have been made in recent years, including the closure of two Maple Leaf bakeries in the Greater Toronto Area, with the operations also being consolidated in Hamilton.

In February, the company agreed to sell its 90 per cent stake in Canada Bread to Grupo Bimbo, a Mexican company that is offering about $1.83 billion to buy out Maple Leaf and minority shareholders.

Maple Leaf also sold its Rothsay rendering business, which had operations in several provinces, to Texas-based Darling International, and found buyers in Ontario for its commercial turkey farms, hatchery operation and breeding farms.

The company has about 18,000 employees across North America, the United Kingdom, and Asia. Maple Leaf sells products under its banner name, well as popular brands like Dempsters, Villaggio and Tenderflake.


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Share a juicer, your dog or a room in your home? How the sharing economy took off

The "light-bulb moment" that sparked Dayna Boyer's entry into the sharing economy came when she wanted a juicer.

She loves cooking, but as someone who has lived much of her adult life in small apartments and condos, she's never had an overabundance of space for specialty kitchen appliances. Nor had she the finances to buy the pricier ones.

The World this Weekend

Thousands of people list their apartments or homes for short-term rentals on Airbnb. And in New York, it's especially popular. But while renters and travellers love the service, many people do not, and they're all trying to figure out how to navigate the law. Hear Colleen Ross's report on Airbnb on The World This Weekend on Sunday, April 20 at 6 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One or on Sirius at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.

Still, she had her eye on a juicer. Anyone she talked to told her the same thing, though: "You'd use it for a month and then it would sit in your cupboard collecting dust, taking up space and you'd never use it again."

Then the light bulb went off. Maybe there would be virtue in offering a service where people could borrow or share for a time — for a modest annual fee — kitchen appliances they might not have the space to store, the money to buy or the need to possess full-time on their own.

"Finances and space don't need to be barriers to healthy cooking," says Boyer, founder of the Kitchen Library, which opened its doors in east-end Toronto last fall and now has about 50 appliances on its roster.

In launching the Kitchen Library, Boyer became a participant in what has become the sharing economy, a worldwide phenomenon that has turned the age-old practice of sharing into an internet-fuelled economic juggernaut worth many billions.

"Anything connected to the sharing economy is very exciting," says Boyer. "It's such a growing industry."

Share a pooch

From car and bike sharing services that now dot some of the world's larger cities to the high-profile Airbnb that helps travellers find overnight rooms in homes worldwide, the sharing economy has become an economic entity the Economist magazine and others have noted could be worth $25 billion or more.

One study out of the U.K. puts the estimated annual value of the global sharing economy at more than $533 billion, and 1.3 per cent of that county's GDP.

Some sharing services are decidedly personal, such as the ones that give pet-starved people, who may not want the full-time responsibilities of walking a dog, the chance to spend some quality time with a cheerful pooch.

Other initiatives are more institutional, like perhaps helping municipal governments or downsizing corporations find ways to share underused assets such as space. Still others give people a chance to share skills or outsource errands.

"There isn't a single sector that hasn't been affected by this," April Rinne, chief strategy officer of the consultancy the Collaborative Lab in San Francisco, said in an interview on CBC's Metro Morning earlier this year.

In Vancouver, the three-year-old Tool Library has grown to include more than 800 members who have access to more than 1,000 tools.

"I think people really got behind the idea that they didn't need to own the tool, they needed access to it," says co-founder Chris Diplock, who has led research into the sharing economy in Vancouver.

Blame the internet

Recently, however, there has been some debate over whether the sharing economy is a good thing, whether sharing goods and services is a practical, money-saving venture, or merely a way to exploit those who need to rent some of their belongings out of economic need, particularly since the economic downturn in 2008.

But whatever its merits, there's no doubt the rise of the modern sharing economy is a result of an evolution in the way people communicate.

"To the extent we have things that are valuable to other people, then digital technology is going to make it easier to share things," says Avi Goldfarb, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's  Rotman School of Management.

"This idea goes back a long way in terms of the internet. Now, we think about the sharing economy as being about hotels and car services and that kind of thing. But if you think about the early days of eBay, in many ways it was the same idea, which was that people had junk in their basements and they went to eBay to sell it to other people who might have found value in that junk."

Sharing economy

Lorraine Rorke Bader arranges fresh flowers in a room at her home before an overnight guest arrives in San Francisco, where legislation would make it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on sites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements. (Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press)

​Goldfarb doesn't subscribe to the theory that the sharing economy could be fuelled significantly by the most recent economic downturn and people turning to sharing because they have more limited financial resources.

"We've had recessions before and we didn't suddenly have people renting out rooms in their apartments as hotel rooms," he says.

"What's really changed is technology makes it much easier for these people to find each other."

For Boyer, social media and online conversation have been a "cost-effective way of reaching out and letting people know what we're doing."

And that's not just offering people the chance to borrow a dehydrator, canner or — when the weather gets warmer — an ice cream maker.

The Kitchen Library, which shares space with the similarly spirited Toronto Tool Library, has been offering sessions for people on topics such as pasta making.

"Workshops have actually been more popular than I originally thought," says Boyer.

"I thought what I was just offering was a lending library of appliances. But it's actually turned into a big opportunity to build a community around food and food education."

Lawmakers taking notice

But as easy as it has become to find someone online who has something you might want to share or rent, there are limitations on just how far the sharing economy goes, particularly when it comes to new regulations on transactions that have, until now, largely flown under the legal radar.

"It the regulators don't decide to stop it, then it's going to continue to grow," says Goldfarb.

Last year, for example, two Quebec homeowners were ticketed for renting out rooms to tourists without a permit.

"It's a worrying trend….We should be thinking about protecting the hotel industry and preventing tax evasion," Quebec's tourism minister at the time said. "But, at the same time, we have to realize that people want to travel in different ways."

This week, San Francisco lawmakers served notice that they are considering making it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on websites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements.

toronto tool library workshop

People stop by the Danforth Avenue location of the Toronto Tool Library on April 12, 2014, to check out a session held by Repair Cafe Toronto. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

On its website, Airbnb warns hosts to be aware of the laws in their city, noting that some restrict people's ability to host paying guests for short periods.

While Airbnb has been at the forefront of the sharing economy, Boyer wants to look beyond such services and sees great potential for its growth.

"I like to think that we're right at the beginning of something in Toronto and that we can look past the Zipcar and the Airbnb and think about all of the other things that lie dormant in our places and our homes that we don't necessarily need to own and start thinking about how we can share those things so that we're building more of a community," says Boyer.

"I really love that idea."

(Thousands of people list their apartments or homes for short-term rentals on Airbnb. And in New York, it's especially popular. But while renters and travellers love the service, many people do not, and they're all trying to figure out how to navigate the law. Hear Colleen Ross's report on Airbnb on The World This Weekend on Sunday, April 20 at 6 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One or on Sirius at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.)


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Ralph Nader slams GM's stance on 'hypothetical casualties'

This is already shaping up to be a record-breaking year for automobile recalls. In the first third of 2014, car companies have admitted to serious safety concerns affecting as many as 11 million vehicles that rolled off their assembly lines.

The defects have included accelerator pedals that may malfunction; power steering that may fail; and ignition switches that could slip out of the "run" position.

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who sparked a revolution in the auto industry almost five decades ago, has lost none of his anger about companies that put "cost culture" ahead of "safety culture."

The Sunday Edition

On CBC radio's The Sunday Edition on April 20, 2014, starting at 9 a.m.:

  • Michael Enright on hockey violence.
  • The moderator of the United Church of Canada Gary Paterson brings us a poem by E. E. Cummings.
  • Maryam Sahar Naqibullah was a translator for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan; now she's at Carleton University.
  • The urban myth of Kitty Genovese.
  • Tributes to Jesse Winchester and Sue Townsend.

"If you dig deep into the bureaucracy of General Motors, you will see that, the last time I checked, there were 18 levels from the factory floor to the CEO," he said in an interview with Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition.

"That's 18 levels of potential passing the buck, evasion, covering up, minimizing, et cetera," he said.

"The incentive at each one of these levels is to keep costs down. You get promoted at companies like General Motors by shaving a few cents off a tire. You get promoted by controlling costs. You don't get promoted by controlling what they consider to be hypothetical casualties."

Nader was commenting on the testimony given earlier this month by Mary Barra, the newly appointed CEO of General Motors. Barra told a Congressional subcommittee she had no knowledge of an ignition flaw in the Chevrolet Cobalt that has been linked to the deaths of at least 13 people, a defect that would have cost about 57 cents per vehicle to repair.

No incentive to report problems

Nader's ground-breaking 1965 polemic, Unsafe at Any Speed, exposed the fact that car makers were happy to spend money on vehicle aesthetics but reluctant to invest in features that would make cars safer, both for drivers and pedestrians.

Thanks to Nader, cars are much safer now – with seat belts, emission controls, improved brakes, tires and crash-worthiness – but their electronics also make them more complex, leading to a greater potential for defects.

'I've suggested to Mary Barra and GM that they institute an independent ombudsman inside GM that reports directly to the CEO, that is under no control of the rest of the hierarchy, to which engineers and inspectors can bring their concerns, and immediately report defects so they can be corrected.'- Ralph Nader

Nader says engineers and inspectors on the shop floor have no incentive to report problems that may stop an assembly line.

"That's why I've suggested to Mary Barra and GM that they institute an independent ombudsman inside GM that reports directly to the CEO, that is under no control of the rest of the hierarchy, to which engineers and inspectors can bring their concerns, and immediately report defects so they can be corrected," said Nader.

One of the outcomes of Unsafe at Any Speed was that it prompted the U.S. Congress to pass the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Decades later, Nader says regulatory agencies in the government have lost much of their effectiveness due to a phenomenon called "regulatory capture."

"Gradually the corporate lobbyists for the auto industry just swarm around these agencies, they go there every day, they threaten lawsuits... and after a number of years, these agencies give up," Nader said.

GM Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra gave assurances to U.S. lawmakers that GM cars affected by recalls for defective Ignition switches, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, are safe to use while owners wait for the replacement part. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

"They're harassed by Congress, their budgets are cut and their leadership is compromised by design," he said. "As the years pass, the corporate lobbyists for the auto companies have their hooks deeper into key members of Congress, who keep budgets down."

Nader points out that a growing number of officials, engineers and lawyers from the auto safety agency are leaving government and working for the auto companies.

Despite the weakening of the regulators, Nader said the recent grilling of General Motors may lead to positive change.

"We're dealing here with a company that's been shaken from its new CEO Mary Barra all the way down to the shop floors, and the reverberations are going to all companies, like Toyota and VW [Volkswagen], all over the world," said Nader.

"So they're going to have every incentive now – because of possible jail time – to straighten out their quality control and to develop a different kind of cost benefit between how many dollars they save on the one hand and how many lives they cost on the other."

Nader is lobbying the U.S. Congress and President Obama to strengthen auto safety laws and expand the budgets of government regulators, "so out of this may come a stronger regulatory agency, more independent and more willing to put the federal cop on the auto-defect beat."

[Listen to the full interview with Ralph Nader in the audio player at the top-left of this page, or on CBC radio's The Sunday Edition starting at 9 a.m. April 20.]


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Mobilicity agrees to be sold to Telus

Written By doni icha on Jumat, 18 April 2014 | 22.40

hi-852-mobilicity-logo-30151-a-02

Mobilicity has been under creditor protection since September 2013.

Mobilicity says it has agreed to be purchased by Telus Corp. (TSX:T) for $350 million.

Mobilicity says the proposed sale is subject to approval by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Competition Bureau, Industry Canada, and Mobilicity's debtholders.

Telus has twice tried to buy struggling Mobilicity, but both times the deal was rejected by Industry Canada.

This time, however, Mobilicity says it believes the deal will satisfy the federal agency's criteria and will not affect competition in the Canadian wireless sector.

The company also says the "vast majority" of its 165,000 active subscribers would be able to seamlessly migrate onto Telus' network after the transition.

hi-telus-mobilicity-3178653

Telus has twice tried to buy struggling Mobilicity, but both times the deal was rejected by Industry Canada. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Mobilicity also says it there are "no foreseen changes to employee staffing levels" under the proposed transaction.

"The transaction is a good outcome from Mobilicity's restructuring efforts and extensive sales process," said William Aziz, Mobilicity's chief restructuring officer.

"I am confident the transaction will serve the best interests of Mobilicity's customers and employees."

Mobilicity has been operating under creditor protection since September 2013.

The company has been seeking a buy and had contacted 25 organizations about submitting bids. Five bids were received by the Dec. 16, 2013 extended deadline and only the Telus bid was deemed acceptable.


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BP worker settles charges of insider trading during Gulf cleanup

A former BP employee who was a coordinator during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has agreed to settle federal charges of using confidential information on the seriousness of the spill to profit illegally from trading in BP stock.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement of civil insider-trading charges with Keith Seilhan, saying he agreed to pay $224,118. Seilhan neither admitted nor denied the SEC's allegations but agreed to refrain from future violations of securities laws.

The agency says Seilhan was a crisis manager in BP's incident command center in Houma, Louisiana, and coordinated the initial cleanup operations after the spill that occurred April 20, 2010.

The SEC says he received private company information on the magnitude of the disaster, such as estimates of oil flow.

The explosion on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon four years ago killed 11 workers about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast and set off the nation's worst offshore oil disaster.

Seilhan, 47, who lives in Tomball, Texas, was a 20-year employee of the British oil company. He left BP in January 2011.

Seilhan settled the case because he "wants to avoid further distraction and protracted litigation," his attorney, Mary McNamara, said in a statement. "Mr. Seilhan is widely respected for his work helping to lead the cleanup and containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010."

Under terms of the settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge in Louisiana, Seilhan agreed to pay a $105,409 penalty and an additional $105,409 in restitution plus $13,300 in interest.

The SEC alleged in a civil lawsuit that while he had the confidential information, Seilhan sold his family's entire $1 million portfolio of BP stock on April 29 and 30 in 2010. He made profits and avoided losses totaling about $100,000 as BP stock dropped, the SEC said.

"Corporate insiders must not misuse the material, nonpublic information they receive while responding to unique or disastrous corporate events, even where they stand to suffer losses as a consequence of those events," Daniel Hawke, head of the SEC enforcement division's market abuse unit, said in a statement.

BP shares, which closed at $60.48 on April 20, the day of the explosion, plummeted as low as $27.02 over the following weeks. They closed at $38.92 on July 15, the day BP announced it had successfully capped the well and oil was no longer leaking into the Gulf.

The SEC said Seilhan also traded BP stock on July 21, 2010.

By April 29, BP had estimated in filings to the SEC that the oil was flowing at up to 5,000 barrels a day. That estimate was far less than the actual rate, which was later estimated at 52,700 to 62,200 barrels a day, according to the SEC. The agency alleged that Seilhan had information indicating that the size of the spill and BP's potential losses and liability were likely to be much larger than what the company had publicly reported.

BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in 2012 in a settlement with the Justice Department and to plead guilty to felony counts related to the deaths of the 11 workers and company executives' statements to Congress. In addition, BP estimates that since May 2010, it has paid out some $11 billion so far in claims to individuals and businesses over economic losses and damages.


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TSX closes at highest level since 2008

The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index closed at its highest level in more than five years on Thursday, pushed higher by stronger prices for commodities Canada has a lot of like oil and natural gas.

In the last trading session before the Easter holiday, the S&P/TSX Composite Index closed at 14,500.39, up more than 50 points on the day.

That's a 52-week high, but it's also the highest the index has been since the summer of 2008, before the global recession had fully hit. The TSX's all-time high of 15,073 was hit in June of 2008, almost six years ago.

There didn't appear to be any main catalyst for the optimism Thursday, as the only major data point that emerged during the day was a solid if unspectacular 1.5 per cent showing for the inflation rate. That's higher than February's level, but still well within the acceptable range.

The loonie gained about a tenth of a cent to flirt with the 91-cent US level. The oil sector was higher as the price of oil gained 38 cents to $104.14 US a barrel in New York. Natural gas was also up more than 20 cents to $4.73.

New York stocks were also a little higher as investors digested largely positive earnings from corporate heavyweights like Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Google, Yahoo, IBM and Pepsi.

The Dow Jones industrials were 14.13 points higher at 16,438.98, the Nasdaq gained 18.98 points to 4,105.2 and the S&P 500 index was up 5.45 points to 1,867.76.

"The concerns remain whether or not growth stocks, particularly the hyper-growth stocks, continue to be a victim of the growth to value rotation," said Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

One reason for nervousness heading into the weekend was the Ukraine crisis.

Stocks rose to the best levels of the session Thursday after the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement on immediate steps to ease the crisis in Ukraine. The agreement requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions.

It calls for the disarming of all illegally armed groups and for control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists to be turned back to authorities. The tentative agreement puts on hold additional economic sanctions the West had prepared to impose on Russia if the talks proved fruitless.


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Share a juicer, your dog or a room in your home? How the sharing economy took off

The "light-bulb moment" that sparked Dayna Boyer's entry into the sharing economy came when she wanted a juicer.

She loves cooking, but as someone who has lived much of her adult life in small apartments and condos, she's never had an overabundance of space for specialty kitchen appliances. Nor had she the finances to buy the pricier ones.

The World this Weekend

Thousands of people list their apartments or homes for short-term rentals on Airbnb. And in New York, it's especially popular. But while renters and travellers love the service, many people do not, and they're all trying to figure out how to navigate the law. Hear Colleen Ross's report on Airbnb on The World This Weekend on Sunday, April 20 at 6 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One or on Sirius at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.

Still, she had her eye on a juicer. Anyone she talked to told her the same thing, though: "You'd use it for a month and then it would sit in your cupboard collecting dust, taking up space and you'd never use it again."

Then the light bulb went off. Maybe there would be virtue in offering a service where people could borrow or share for a time — for a modest annual fee — kitchen appliances they might not have the space to store, the money to buy or the need to possess full-time on their own.

"Finances and space don't need to be barriers to healthy cooking," says Boyer, founder of the Kitchen Library, which opened its doors in east-end Toronto last fall and now has about 50 appliances on its roster.

In launching the Kitchen Library, Boyer became a participant in what has become the sharing economy, a worldwide phenomenon that has turned the age-old practice of sharing into an internet-fuelled economic juggernaut worth many billions.

"Anything connected to the sharing economy is very exciting," says Boyer. "It's such a growing industry."

Share a pooch

From car and bike sharing services that now dot some of the world's larger cities to the high-profile Airbnb that helps travellers find overnight rooms in homes worldwide, the sharing economy has become an economic entity the Economist magazine and others have noted could be worth $25 billion or more.

One study out of the U.K. puts the estimated annual value of the global sharing economy at more than $533 billion, and 1.3 per cent of that county's GDP.

Some sharing services are decidedly personal, such as the ones that give pet-starved people, who may not want the full-time responsibilities of walking a dog, the chance to spend some quality time with a cheerful pooch.

Other initiatives are more institutional, like perhaps helping municipal governments or downsizing corporations find ways to share underused assets such as space. Still others give people a chance to share skills or outsource errands.

"There isn't a single sector that hasn't been affected by this," April Rinne, chief strategy officer of the consultancy the Collaborative Lab in San Francisco, said in an interview on CBC's Metro Morning earlier this year.

In Vancouver, the three-year-old Tool Library has grown to include more than 800 members who have access to more than 1,000 tools.

"I think people really got behind the idea that they didn't need to own the tool, they needed access to it," says co-founder Chris Diplock, who has led research into the sharing economy in Vancouver.

Blame the internet

Recently, however, there has been some debate over whether the sharing economy is a good thing, whether sharing goods and services is a practical, money-saving venture, or merely a way to exploit those who need to rent some of their belongings out of economic need, particularly since the economic downturn in 2008.

But whatever its merits, there's no doubt the rise of the modern sharing economy is a result of an evolution in the way people communicate.

"To the extent we have things that are valuable to other people, then digital technology is going to make it easier to share things," says Avi Goldfarb, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's  Rotman School of Management.

"This idea goes back a long way in terms of the internet. Now, we think about the sharing economy as being about hotels and car services and that kind of thing. But if you think about the early days of eBay, in many ways it was the same idea, which was that people had junk in their basements and they went to eBay to sell it to other people who might have found value in that junk."

Sharing economy

Lorraine Rorke Bader arranges fresh flowers in a room at her home before an overnight guest arrives in San Francisco, where legislation would make it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on sites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements. (Paul Chinn/San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press)

​Goldfarb doesn't subscribe to the theory that the sharing economy could be fuelled significantly by the most recent economic downturn and people turning to sharing because they have more limited financial resources.

"We've had recessions before and we didn't suddenly have people renting out rooms in their apartments as hotel rooms," he says.

"What's really changed is technology makes it much easier for these people to find each other."

For Boyer, social media and online conversation have been a "cost-effective way of reaching out and letting people know what we're doing."

And that's not just offering people the chance to borrow a dehydrator, canner or — when the weather gets warmer — an ice cream maker.

The Kitchen Library, which shares space with the similarly spirited Toronto Tool Library, has been offering sessions for people on topics such as pasta making.

"Workshops have actually been more popular than I originally thought," says Boyer.

"I thought what I was just offering was a lending library of appliances. But it's actually turned into a big opportunity to build a community around food and food education."

Lawmakers taking notice

But as easy as it has become to find someone online who has something you might want to share or rent, there are limitations on just how far the sharing economy goes, particularly when it comes to new regulations on transactions that have, until now, largely flown under the legal radar.

"It the regulators don't decide to stop it, then it's going to continue to grow," says Goldfarb.

Last year, for example, two Quebec homeowners were ticketed for renting out rooms to tourists without a permit.

"It's a worrying trend….We should be thinking about protecting the hotel industry and preventing tax evasion," Quebec's tourism minister at the time said. "But, at the same time, we have to realize that people want to travel in different ways."

This week, San Francisco lawmakers served notice that they are considering making it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on websites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements.

toronto tool library workshop

People stop by the Danforth Avenue location of the Toronto Tool Library on April 12, 2014, to check out a session held by Repair Cafe Toronto. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

On its website, Airbnb warns hosts to be aware of the laws in their city, noting that some restrict people's ability to host paying guests for short periods.

While Airbnb has been at the forefront of the sharing economy, Boyer wants to look beyond such services and sees great potential for its growth.

"I like to think that we're right at the beginning of something in Toronto and that we can look past the Zipcar and the Airbnb and think about all of the other things that lie dormant in our places and our homes that we don't necessarily need to own and start thinking about how we can share those things so that we're building more of a community," says Boyer.

"I really love that idea."

(Thousands of people list their apartments or homes for short-term rentals on Airbnb. And in New York, it's especially popular. But while renters and travellers love the service, many people do not, and they're all trying to figure out how to navigate the law. Hear Colleen Ross's report on Airbnb on The World This Weekend on Sunday, April 20 at 6 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One or on Sirius at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.)


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Maple Leaf shutters Hamilton wiener production plant

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has closed its wiener production plant in Hamilton as part of a broader plan to move the operations to a bigger plant in the same city.

The meat products maker said Friday that about 26 employees would lose their jobs, while the remaining 187 staff are being moved to the company's single-largest production facility, also in Hamilton.

The changes come as Maple Leaf continues a seven-year restructuring plan to improve the profits of the overall business, which is primarily focused on meat products.

It plans to close four other meat plants by the end of the year.

The company says once the plans are finished, it will operate 13 meat plants instead of 22, and two distribution centres instead of 19.

"We are in the final phase of completing a transformation of our prepared meats network," said president and CEO Michael McCain.

"This year, the focus is on shifting production to these new facilities, closing legacy plants and realizing related cost and productivity gains."

Other changes have been made in recent years, including the closure of two Maple Leaf bakeries in the Greater Toronto Area, with the operations also being consolidated in Hamilton.

In February, the company agreed to sell its 90 per cent stake in Canada Bread to Grupo Bimbo, a Mexican company that is offering about $1.83 billion to buy out Maple Leaf and minority shareholders.

Maple Leaf also sold its Rothsay rendering business, which had operations in several provinces, to Texas-based Darling International, and found buyers in Ontario for its commercial turkey farms, hatchery operation and breeding farms.

The company has about 18,000 employees across North America, the United Kingdom, and Asia. Maple Leaf sells products under its banner name, well as popular brands like Dempsters, Villaggio and Tenderflake.


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