News

Why CRTC's New Wireless Contract Rules Actually Give Us Less Freedom

huffingtonpost.ca - 1 hour 48 min ago
Do Canadians pay too much for wireless telephone service? As my colleagues have recently pointed out, Canadian prices are higher than some, but lower than others. And in many countries with lower prices, investment in the latest technologies has lagged, whereas Canadians enjoy some of the fastest, most advanced wireless services.

But one lower-cost option that Canadians used to have was taken off the table by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) exactly a year ago, when the new Wireless Code came into force: the much maligned three-year plan.

Prior to last December, you could choose to purchase a new cellphone at a subsidized price in exchange for committing to a 36-month deal. Essentially, this meant you were spreading the true cost of the phone over three years. Alternatively, you could choose to pay a little more up front and sign a 24-month contract. Or again, you could pay full price for your phone and not be tied by any contract whatsoever.

By decree of the telecom regulatory body, the first option is no longer available. That is to say, a company can still offer three-year deals if it wants to, but they are no longer permitted to enforce those deals with cancellation fees. They would be three-year deals in name only, therefore no company offers them, and consumers have fewer options than they did before.

One result of this regulatory change: higher up-front prices for your new phone. It can also mean higher monthly fees. Indeed, the latest report from Wall Communications, released this summer, found that the monthly charge for basic plans has jumped from $31 to $36 since last year. The report attributes this hike to the regulatory reduction of maximum contract lengths.

What justified this costly, heavy-handed government intervention? CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said at the time that the agency wanted to ensure "that people didn't feel entrapped in their contracts" and added that it was all about "freeing up Canadians to choose to either stay with their current carrier, under renegotiated terms, or go to a competitor."

But contracts are voluntary. Generally, no one forces you to sign one -- and if someone does, the contract is null and void. If you don't want to feel "entrapped" by a contract, then don't sign one, because the whole point of a contract is to bind two parties, allowing voluntary exchanges that are more complex than a simple and straightforward purchase of groceries.

Similarly, talk of "freeing up" Canadians is misleading doublespeak. We were perfectly free to sign or not to sign three-year deals before. We were free to sign shorter deals with those carriers that were willing to offer them, or to pay for our phones outright and sign no deals. Making you "free" to change carriers more readily by removing your option to commit for more than 24 months actually makes you less free.

The CRTC apparently heard a lot of complaints from people who felt they were being "held hostage" by the 36-month contracts they had signed and who considered such long commitments "ridiculous." I wonder how many people wish they had spoken up about how much they appreciated the benefits of such contracts --especially now that those deals, and their attractive pricing, are a thing of the past.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST
Categories: News

Why Canada Shouldn't Open Up Its Dairy Market To New Zealand

huffingtonpost.ca - 1 hour 48 min ago
New Zealand's high commissioner to Canada, Simon Tucker, was quoted recently as saying that he has been talking to Canadian dairy farmers, "and you do find a lot of them privately will talk that they recognize that change is necessary and inevitable." The change that he implies Canadian dairy farmers want is a fundamental shift in this country's system of supply management that would open up Canada's dairy markets to NZ milk.

However, his musing obscures more than it illuminates. True, Canadian farmers recognize the need to constantly innovate and experiment and improve their product, but they do not clamor for a wholesale reworking of the Canadian production model. Indeed, 100 percent of Canadian dairy farmers are solidly behind it.

So why has Mr. Tucker embarked on this campaign, where his thoughts have been featured in a number of Canadian media? Largely because the Trans Pacific Partnership talks have indirectly raised their ugly head again. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stopped-off in New Zealand on his way to the G20 talks in Brisbane, Australia where his ideological soul mate, John Key, is keen for Canada to do away with dairy supply management. And both are invested in the TPP.

NZ has been described as the "Saudi Arabia of milk," a reference to its position as the world's leading dairy exporter. On the other hand, Canada operates under supply management, matching domestic demand with domestic supply through the application of quotas. About six percent of our dairy market is open to imports that are kept out beyond that point by high tariffs. The New Zealanders obviously want to change that for their own purposes. Probably more so than ever now that international dairy prices have collapsed and NZ banks and dairy farms are extremely anxious about the future.

But should Canada be complicit in destroying supply management that also exists for eggs, chicken and turkey, and that has benefited Canadian consumers and farmers in affected sectors alike? From my research, it makes so much sense to keep it.

What is the reality if we were to open our markets to NZ dairy? First and foremost, that country has no, or very little, product to sell us. Far from being the Saudi Arabia of milk, NZ supplies are almost totally tied up by one country -- China. Wellington has had a free trade agreement with the People's Republic since October 2008, which focuses almost exclusively on dairy.

In this condition of nothing to sell, I would guess that the NZers would want to take over Canadian dairy farms, should supply management be sacrificed, and make them into something that resembles their own; 1,000+ cow agri-business operations are not unusual. As NZ's Timaru Herald has pointed out, "Concerns have been raised that New Zealand's farms are increasingly being snapped up by corporate ventures and syndicates." That development would completely reorder for the worse the Canadian countryside, create significant pollution problems and destroy town life in the many small communities that now depend on dairy farmers.

Further, this would be a one-way street. There is virtually no way for Canada to increase its trade with NZ, with which we already are in deficit. As well, the amounts are so tiny as to be risible -- NZ's imports from us are only 0.1 percent of total Canadian exports, while New Zealand exports to Canada are a miniscule 0.08 percent of the Canadian total.

There is also no way we can export dairy to that country -- despite the rhetoric, the NZ system is completely closed to outside competition. Fonterra, the mega-billions dairy cooperative owned by NZ farmers that controls about 92 percent of all milk produced in that country, would not allow it. In order to produce for Fonterra, a farmer must own shares in Fonterra. It bears a passing resemblance to supply management in that the domestic market is reserved for domestic producers. Very sensible for NZers!

Finally, under the NZ system, milk prices are much higher than they are in Canada. They pay more than C$6 for the equivalent of 4 litres of milk. At my local supermarket, I pay C$3.99 and have for months. In the recent past a commission was struck by the NZ parliament to investigate the high price of dairy products. Do we want that in Canada? I don't think so.

Supply management in all its incarnations, eggs, dairy, chicken and turkey, has served Canadian consumers and this country's agricultural sector well over the years. We would do ourselves a huge disservice if we were to sacrifice it on the altar of dubious claims.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Categories: News

How Big Startups Are Trying to Maintain Their Competitive Edge

huffingtonpost.ca - 1 hour 48 min ago
Google.

Facebook.

From humble beginnings, these former startups are now multi-billion dollar corporations that dominate their respective fields. As these startups grow and mature, their general dynamic changes. They become less nimble and, due to their growing size, are increasingly required to deal with ancillary players and issues such as regulators and established players. A natural presumption is that as these startups become behemoths, they will eventually adopt traditional corporate behaviours and processes to either maintain their dominant roles or manage these ancillary players or issues. However, the tech industry seems not to have read the playbook since tech players are taking a different tactic.

The tech industry has long viewed itself as independent from ancillary players and issues. Even since its nascent beginnings it has always followed its own path. Whether it is the borderless and global Internet or the laid back workplace culture of most startups, the tech industry has always done things differently.

Traditional industries and players have generally looked on with a range of mixed perspectives. Some have looked on in amusement as they considered tech a passing fad, while others looked on with fear and loathing since these startups have taken market share and disrupted established patterns and norms. In the end, traditional industries and players still rely on conservative economic forces to reinforce and continue their dominance.

In the past, traditional industries and players have relied on upstarts to acquire a number of "corporate" habits in order to slow down their innovation and drive, enabling a more level playing field. These "corporate" habits include:

(1) Building Fiefdoms: As startups grow in size, particularly in relation to personnel, managing every single detail becomes problematic. Whereas it is easy to manage a small team of close knit founders, managing and maintaining a cohesive culture in a large organization proves extremely difficult. Indeed, due to the lack of attention that can be dedicated to a large growing startup, there is an increasing probability that personal fiefdoms start developing whether intentionally or unintentionally. These fiefdoms, if not corrected, distract a startup from focusing on further growth and cause founders having to fight fires both internally and externally thus slowing growth and impeding progress.

(2) Increasing Risk Adversity: Startups, particularly ones that create their markets, eventually become cautious as they want to retain their dominant position. This slows innovation and eventually turns the startup into a large corporate entity, thus continuing the cycle of creative destruction.

(3) Increasingly Divergent Priorities: Startups are notoriously good at staying focused. The requirement to bootstrap a startup from nothing hones the strategic direction and operations down to its core elements. As a startup gains traction, size, funding and publicity, other non-core elements start coming into play, particularly if one becomes a household name such as Google. Proper management of non-core issues such as diversity, international trade and public perception become critical factors for high growth and high profile startups. If not managed properly, these can distract the startups from their path to success.

While many of the larger startups have adopted some of these negative corporate habits as they have grown, the current generation of startups is attempting to break out of the mode of corporate ossification and adopt a pattern of continuous startup innovation and growth.

Behemoth startups such as Google are attempting to bring innovation in-house through a number of different paths, including:

(1) Retaining Founding Staff: One of the biggest problems that startups have is the inability to retain founding staff as they grow. Due to a combination of successful IPO exit and perhaps a psychological feeling of being stifled by the increasingly large and bureaucratic nature of the growing startup, founding staff usually find themselves looking for greener pastures, whether it is starting up a new startup or pursuing other professional or personal interests.

To lose such talent and knowledge is difficult for a company of any size. As such, startups like Google have attempted to retain that talent by offering opportunities for the founding members to explore their interests while still either directly or indirectly remaining with the company.

(2) Building New Ventures: Besides retaining founding staff, startups are attempting to maintain their competitive edge by fostering ventures that not only maintain their competitive innovative edge but also expands the possibilities for future revenue and market growth opportunities. One only has to look at Google and see the numerous avenues that could potentially prove profitable in the future. From the Android mobile operating system to the Google autonomous test bed vehicle, Google is attempting to maintain its competitive edge by investing in new ventures that could not only grow its existing business but also provide additional revenue streams that were not convinced when it first started.

(3) Bringing Venture Capital In-House: One could argue that bringing venture capital in-house has already been attempted by large organizations as an attempt to reinvigorate a moribund corporate culture, but the startup attempt is a little different from the norm. Startups, while co-opting the traditional in-house venture capital model, have also integrated into a cohesive ecosystem to encourage and maintain innovation within the organization. By funding both external and internal ideas (new ventures) and personnel (founding staff), in-house venture capital builds on the other initiatives that startups are utilizing to keep innovation alive in-house while preventing corporate ossification from setting in.

The rules are changing in today's globalized, hyper-competitive economy and startups are attempting to keep up by maintaining their innovative edge. No longer can any established or traditional company afford to enter a period of ossification. Indeed, ossification in today's economy means death rather than stability. As such, startups are attempting to solve the age old ossification issue by adopting new techniques to maintain their competitive nimbleness in the face of constant innovation and competition.
Categories: News

Airbus could shed full Dassault stake by end of 2015: sources

Reuters - 1 hour 57 min ago
PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus Group and Dassault Aviation aim to oversee the complete sale of Airbus's 4.8 billion-euro stake in the French planemaker by the end of next year, two people familiar with the matter said.
Categories: News

Shopping On Thanksgiving? Some Retailers Stay Open, Hoping To Capture Holiday Sales

Forbes - 2 hours 2 min ago
Are you going shopping or staying home this Thanksgiving? Some folks love to head to the shops on Thanksgiving while others eschew the holiday for Black Friday sales instead. As Black Friday shopping increasingly heads online, all sales are not created equal.
Categories: News

EU Poised to Approve Lower-Cost Rockets

The Wall Street Journal - 2 hours 12 min ago
European politicians are poised to approve a new generation of lower-cost rockets, partly in response to competition from U.S. launch providers, government and aerospace-industry officials on both sides of the Atlantic say.
Categories: News

France, Germany Seek New Internet Powers

The Wall Street Journal - 2 hours 14 min ago
French and German officials called on EU officials to take a fresh look at the competitive and tax behaviors of big U.S. Internet companies in a push for greater regulation.
Categories: News

Honda says defective Takata air bags in 2002 used different design

Reuters - 2 hours 18 min ago
DETROIT (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co said it was aware of a ruptured Takata air bag inflator in a car that was covered by a 2002 recall but the inflator design was different from one that ruptured in a 2004 accident.
Categories: News

Brent Slides As OPEC Decides Against Production Cut

Forbes - 2 hours 18 min ago
Despite heavy bearish sentiments in the global oil market, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC) decided against cutting its production quota of 30 million barrels per day (bpd).
Categories: News

Pierre Karl Peladeau To Run For Parti Quebecois Leader

huffingtonpost.ca - 2 hours 23 min ago
MONTREAL - Media magnate Pierre Karl Peladeau has thrown his hat in the Parti Quebecois leadership race.The PQ member of the legislature made the announcement in Montreal today.The controlling shareholder of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) is considered the front-runner in the race to succeed Pauline Marois.The leader will be chosen next May.More Coming
Categories: News

Hamilton Watch Plays Pivotal Role In Oscar Contender 'Interstellar'

Forbes - 2 hours 32 min ago
A wristwatch by Hamilton plays a pivotal role in the Hollywood blockbuster 'Interstellar' starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain.
Categories: News

OPEC keeps oil output on hold despite low prices

philly.com - 2 hours 35 min ago
VIENNA (AP) - OPEC oil ministers decided Thursday to keep their production target at 30 million barrels a day, despite an oversupply of crude and plunging prices.
Categories: News

WTO clinches first global trade deal in its history

Reuters - 2 hours 37 min ago
GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization adopted the first worldwide trade reform in its history on Thursday, after years of stalemate, months of deadlock and a final day's delay following an eleventh-hour objection.
Categories: News

Brazil's Rousseff names banker, former treasury secretary as finance minister

Fox Business - 2 hours 45 min ago
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff named a former treasury secretary with a reputation as a fiscal conservative as finance minister, her office said Thursday, in a move that's widely seen as charting a new course for Brazil's flagging economy and soothe jittery financial markets.
Categories: News

Netflix original series surge in popularity

philly.com - 2 hours 45 min ago
The number of the streamer's U.S. subs who have watched Netflix originals like "Orange Is the New Black" rose markedly over the six-month span between Q1 and Q3 this year, according to a new study by research and consulting firm Centris Marketing Science.
Categories: News

Canada's Job Growth At Zero, Says Latest Contradictory StatsCan Survey

huffingtonpost.ca - 2 hours 59 min ago
According to StatsCan’s labour force survey, Canada created more than 117,000 jobs in the past two months, finally overcoming a long period of lacklustre job growth.

Or did it?

Another StatsCan survey — payroll employment, earnings and hours, released Thursday — shows Canada created zero net new jobs in September. In fact, it lost 600 jobs that month.

For that month, the labour force survey — which comes out six weeks earlier — had shown an increase of 74,000 jobs.

Sadly, this sort of contradictory data on the labour market is nothing new. StatsCan’s numbers are from a survey, and that means they have margins of error. In the case of the labour force survey, that margin of error is 55,000 jobs in any given month.

For that reason, many economists say it's better to look at long-term trends than monthly numbers. StatsCan's new survey shows a somewhat healthier picture on that front. Canada created 144,000 jobs in the 12 months to September, an increase of 0.9 per cent, maybe just a little short of what the country needs to create to keep up with population growth.

The report also showed some strong wage gains over the past year, with Canadians taking home weekly earnings of $942 on average, up 3.4 per cent from a year earlier.

Some industries had it better than others, with wages in utilities leading the way, up a stunning 12.7 per cent. That was followed by mining and oil and gas jobs, where wages were up 9.2 per cent. But workers in education and arts and entertainment have seen their wages shrink, on average, over the past year.

Manufacturing posted a surprising 5.4-per-cent increase in wages. Guess that falling loonie really is helping out...

Here are Canada’s wage gains and losses by sector, for the year ending in September.


Categories: News

National Toy Hall of Fame inductees over the years

Fox Business - 2 hours 59 min ago
The inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame: ___ 2014: Little green army men Bubbles Rubik's Cube ___ 2013: Rubber duck Chess ___ 2012: Dominoes Star Wars action figures ___ 2011: Blanket Dollhouse Hot Wheels ___ 2010: Playing cards The Game of Life ___ 2009: Ball Big Wheel Nintendo Game Boy ___ 2008: Baby doll Skateboard Stick ___ 2007: Atari 2600 game system Kite Raggedy Andy ___ 2006: Easy-Bake Oven Lionel trains ___ 2005: Candy Land Cardboard box Jack-in-the-box ___ 2004: G.I.
Categories: News

Meet Joe Veix, Creator of the Darren Wilson New York Times Parody

Forbes - 2 hours 59 min ago
After a grand jury failed this week to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, many took to social media to express their frustration and outrage. There, a satirical rendering of a New York Times front page provided some comic relief and quickly went viral. The parody, which displays a top headline reading “Everything's F**cking Awful,” made the rounds on Twitter, Facebook and countless blogs largely without attribution to its creator, San Francisco-based comedy writer Joe Veix. We tracked him down to talk about the meme and how he felt about its runaway popularity.
Categories: News

Pages