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Edmonton Oilers add goaltender Jack Campbell, bring back forward Evander Kane

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Edmonton – Evander Kane knows he left money on the table when he re-signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

He’s willing to take the hit if it means chasing hockey’s ultimate prize.

“I want to win and in order to win, you need to have more than one or two players,” Kane said after agreeing to a new deal with the Oilers on Wednesday.

“I think this gives our group the best opportunity to put more pieces in place to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful, ultimately.”

The 30-year-old Vancouver native was set to become a free agent and had been given permission by the Oilers to talk to other clubs. In the end, he opted to sign a four-year contract with Edmonton, a deal that carries an average annual value of US$5.125 million.

“I think with Edmonton, this is the first real chance where I’ve kind of been free to choose where I want to play,” Kane said. “The guys and the team and the organization, it just seems to fit really, really well together.”

Kane’s new deal was just one piece of business on the to-do list of Oilers general manager Ken Holland as the NHL’s free agency period opened Wednesday.

The veteran NHL executive also addressed Edmonton’s need for a netminder, inking former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell, and re-signed stalwart defenceman Brett Kulak.

“I’m excited and feel good about what we’ve done today, but I know that there’s more work that needs to be done here over the next couple of months,” Holland said.

“Certainly, when I came here the nucleus was here. We’re trying to build around the nucleus, trying to get deeper, trying to get more dimensions to our hockey club.”

The Oilers initially signed Kane on Jan. 27 after the San Jose Sharks terminated the remainder of his contract for violating COVID-19 protocols while in the American Hockey League.

Kane is challenging the Sharks’ decision by filing a grievance through the NHL Players’ Association. 

“Obviously I feel my contract was wrongly terminated and I think the facts and the evidence and what’s written in the contract back that up immensely,” he said. “I look forward to continuing that grievance and being successful.”

If an arbitrator rules in Kane’s favour, it could mean his contract with San Jose is reinstated and he goes back to being a member of the Sharks.

“For me, it all comes back to Evander wants to be in Edmonton and he wants to play for the Edmonton Oilers,” Holland said Wednesday. “And I am comfortable that is going to happen.”

Kane made an immediate impact in Edmonton, scoring 22 goals and adding 17 assists through 43 regular-season games.

“He fit in real well,” Holland said. “At the end of the year when we went through our exit interviews with the players — to a man, everybody in that locker room wanted him back.

“We were a much better team with Evander on the team.”

He continued to provide an offensive punch in the playoffs with a team-high 13 goals in 15 games as the Oilers reached the Western Conference final from the first time since 2006.

Another key piece in Edmonton’s playoff run was goalie Mike Smith, who is likely to end up on long-term injured reserve.

“I am not expecting Smitty to play this year,” said Holland. “He has a lot of health issues”

To fill the hole, Edmonton signed Campbell, 30, to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $5 million.

“He looks to be from afar a guy who’s getting better all the time. He’s competitive, he’s accountable,” Holland said. “And I think with Stu Skinner, we’ll have a good tandem.”

Campbell spent the last three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, taking over starting duties last season after the departure of Frederik Andersen for Carolina.

The six-foot-three, 207-pound native of Port Huron, Mich., posted a 31-9-6 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 2021-22 and was named an Atlantic Division all-star.

He was 3-3-1 with a 3.15 GAA and an .897 save percentage as the Maple Leafs were ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs.

Campbell’s future in Toronto was all but ended when the Maple Leafs acquired goaltender Matt Murray from Ottawa on Monday.

Originally selected 11th overall by Dallas in the 2010 NHL entry draft, Campbell has played seven seasons in the league, spending time with the Stars, Leafs and L.A. Kings.

He will be counted on to stabilize Edmonton’s crease after an up-and-down season from veteran Smith and the departure of Mikko Koskinen to HC Lugano in Switzerland.

Campbell will share the net with 23-year-old Skinner, who split last season between Edmonton and the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors.

Holland said it was also important to bring back Kulak, who returns to Edmonton on a four-year contract with an average annual value of $2.75 million.

The 28-year-old was acquired by the Oilers from the Montreal Canadiens at the trade deadline in March and had two goals and six assists in 18 regular-season games with Edmonton.

“I thought he came in and did everything we could have hoped and more,” Holland said, adding that Kulak is hitting his prime, is good defensively and is well-liked in the locker room.

The Edmonton-born rearguard added five assists and had a team-leading plus-7 defensive rating in 16 playoff games.

Kulak was selected by the Flames in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and has 64 points (15 goals, 49 assists) in 334 career NHL games with Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton.

The Oilers also signed forward Greg McKegg and goaltender Calvin Pickard to two-year, two-way contracts with an average annual value of $762,500.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.

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Alberta

‘Made-in-Canada system’ keeps egg supply stable. But is it also keeping prices high?

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Canada’s egg industry appears to be quietly sidestepping widespread shortages and wildly spiking prices affecting other countries, and some say supply management is to thank. 

The system, which controls the supply, import and farm price of eggs, poultry and dairy, is often criticized as benefitting Canadian farmers at the expense of consumers. Critics blame supply management whenever prices of eggs and milk in Canada surpass those south of the border.

But as disease, climate change and geopolitical unrest threaten global food supplies, supporters say the upside of supply management is increasingly apparent. 

“We have a made-in-Canada system that has never been more critical to food security in Canada,” said University of Waterloo history professor Bruce Muirhead, a former research chair for Egg Farmers of Canada. 

“It’s keeping family farms alive and eggs on store shelves at a time when we’re seeing shortages around the world.”

Canada isn’t immune to the conditions affecting egg prices and supply in other countries. 

Avian influenza, or bird flu, labour shortages, supply chain issues and soaring feed, fuel and packaging costs have all affected egg production and processing costs in Canada over the past year. 

Statistics Canada said egg prices climbed 16.5 per cent year over year in December, making a dozen eggs that cost about $3.25 last year now $3.75.

While it’s a significant increase, it’s a fraction of the spiralling costs recorded in other countries. 

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said egg prices were up 59.9 per cent in December compared with a year earlier. 

In states like Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida, the cost of a carton of eggs exceeded US$6 a dozen or about $8 Canadian in recent weeks. Stores in some regions have even rationed eggs to avoid empty shelves amid supply chain issues and possible shortages. 

The situation in the U.S. has prompted accusations of alleged price collusion among the nation’s top egg producers, while some news reports have suggested shoppers are travelling to border towns in Mexico or Canada to buy more affordable eggs.

In the United Kingdom, major supermarkets Tesco, Asda and Lidl have also set limits on how many eggs customers can buy, while some egg farmers say they can no longer break even. Egg prices in December were up 28.9 per cent year over year, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported.  

New Zealand is also experiencing a nationwide egg shortage, leaving some store shelves bare and even prompting some consumers to rush out to buy their own backyard chickens. Statistics New Zealand said in an email the country’s egg prices increased 28.8 per cent in December 2022 compared with December 2021.

But critics say prices in Canada haven’t soared as drastically as in other countries for the simple reason that prices were already high to begin with. 

“When prices are already among the highest in the world, it’s no surprise that our prices didn’t spike quite as much,” said Krystle Wittevrongel, a senior policy analyst with the Montreal Economic Institute. 

“It’s easy to maintain more price stability when we have huge, excessively high prices to begin with.” 

Provincial egg marketing boards have indicated that prices in Canada are starting to come down. 

Egg Farmers of Ontario, for example, dropped the price farmers receive for a dozen eggs by 14 cents as of Jan. 29. It’s unclear whether processors and retailers will pass along those savings to consumers, though egg prices in some stores appear to have lowered by a few cents in recent days. 

While egg marketing boards set farm prices, processors set the wholesale price of eggs and grocers set the retail price consumers pay.

“We don’t set the retail price at all,” Egg Farmers of Canada CEO Tim Lambert said. “We get paid based on our costs of production. We’re seeing grain prices ease up right now, and so our barn gate price is decreasing.”

Meanwhile, egg supply in Canada has remained steady even as shortages continue to plague other countries. 

“We have definitely faced challenges,” Lambert said. “But our system has been really robust at keeping eggs on the shelves. If there are shortages, they’re local and temporary.”

One of the strengths of Canada’s egg industry is the greater number of smaller farms across the country, he said. 

The average egg farm in Canada has about 25,000 laying hens. In contrast, the average farm in the U.S. has about two million birds, Lambert said. 

“It’s a highly concentrated big business in the U.S.,” Lambert said. 

Cal-Maine Foods, the largest producer and distributor of shell eggs in the U.S., is traded on the Nasdaq with a total flock of about 42 million layers. Its share price has soared 45 per cent over the past year. 

Experts say the challenge with a highly consolidated industry is that disease outbreak can have a larger effect on supply. For example, if the country’s laying hens are concentrated into a handful of larger barns — rather than a larger number of smaller barns — the impact of having to euthanize a flock during a bird flu outbreak is also bigger. 

“In Canada, production is pretty well distributed across the across the country,” said Université Laval professor Maurice Doyon, an Egg Industry Economic Research Chair. “Just mathematically the risk is lower, because we don’t have that huge concentration.”

In the United States, about 44.5 million laying hens were affected by avian influenza, representing about 14 per cent of production, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada spokesperson Samantha Seary said. 

In Canada, about 1.6 million laying hens were affected by bird flu, or about six per cent of Canadian production, she said. 

Canada’s egg industry is also better positioned to withstand other issues from supply chain problems to climate change, Doyon said. 

“Supply management ensures a healthy enough margin that farmers in Canada can take care of the health of the hens and the environment because they have the means to do it,” he said. 

Still, while supply management may create a sustainable egg industry, critics say it comes at too high a cost.

They say the advantages don’t outweigh the downsides of higher prices for consumers over the long run. 

“Canada’s stuck on this protectionist, archaic system that benefits a small group of entrenched interests,” Wittevrongel said. “It seems like we’re in a better position now when in reality our prices are so much higher at any other time of year.”

But lots of items are more expensive in Canada than in the United States — and the overwhelming majority are not supply managed, Doyon said.

“Let’s look at bread or a can of soup or even a new car. These are more expensive in Canada than in the United States, but they’re not under supply management,” he said. 

Even among supply managed goods within Canada, items like eggs, milk and butter are generally much cheaper in bigger cities like Toronto than in other regions such as the Maritimes, Doyon said. 

For example, a dozen Sobeys Compliments white large eggs cost $3.75 in Toronto, according to the chain’s Voilà online grocery website. The exact same container of eggs in Halifax costs $4.85.

The price difference between Toronto and Halifax underscores the regional differences that exist even within the same country under the same system. 

“I’m not saying that supply management has no impact. But you just cannot attribute the entire difference in price between say Canada and the United States to supply management.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘Risky gamble:’ NDP urges Alberta government to end fixation with pulling out of CPP

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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s government needs to end its fixation with pulling the province out of the Canada Pension Plan.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says her party would not pursue an Alberta Pension Plan, which the United Conservative government has been studying for almost three years without resolution.

Notley says the idea does not make economic sense and is opposed by a majority of Albertans, adding the government needs to release its long-promised report into the pros and cons of Alberta going it alone on pensions.

“We are very concerned that this UCP government is sitting on a self-interested report that they are hiding from Albertans because they don’t want this to be an election issue, but they still plan to go ahead with it should they get elected,” Notley told reporters Thursday.

“If this UCP government is continuing to toy with this risky gamble to undermine the security of Albertans’ pensions, then they have an obligation to come clean on that.”

Alberta voters head to the polls May 29.

Smith’s office said work continues on a third-party analysis of an Alberta pension plan.

“While the initial analysis looks favourable, the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada recently tabled updated asset figures for the CPP, and the third-party expert authoring the report requires additional time to update its findings,” spokeswoman Becca Polak said in a statement.

“When the expert informs us the final report is ready, it will be released publicly thereafter.”

Polak stressed the report would only be the first step and Albertans would have the final say.

“The government of Alberta will not replace the CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan unless Albertans first vote to do so in a provincewide referendum,” she said. “It’s Albertans’ pension — it must be Albertans’ choice.”

The report stems from a May 2020 Fair Deal panel report urging Alberta explore the idea as a way to help assert itself more within Confederation.

The panel reported that given Alberta’s young population, a separate pension plan could be a multibillion-dollar net benefit. The panel recommended the idea be explored even though 42 per cent of the respondents in its survey thought it was a good idea.

In response, then-premier Jason Kenney ordered a review into the feasibility of such a plan. In March 2021, Kenney said work on the report was almost done and his government was just weeks away from announcing next steps.

Smith, taking over from Kenney in October, asked Toews to continue with the pension report. In December she said she hoped a referendum might be possible with the May election, but has since said that likely won’t happen.

She has said Albertans are over-contributers to CPP and need to explore an alternative that could leave more money in the hands of Alberta seniors.

The Alberta pension plan is among a suite of measures being explored by Smith’s government as a way to carve out more independence for Alberta within Confederation.

The province is also researching its own provincial police force to replace the RCMP and tax revenue collecting agency.

In December, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce conducted a survey that suggested a majority of business owners believe leaving CPP for an Alberta plan would disadvantage them over the next three to five years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023

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