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Infant formula crisis another symptom of North American 'managed trade,' experts say

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WASHINGTON — The White House says it is treating the shortage of infant formula as a top priority — a crisis experts say is one more symptom of North America’s new era of “managed trade.”

And there is growing concern that Canada could be side-swiped by the rush to action in the United States. 

Over the weekend, military transports ferried more than 35,000 kilograms of prescription-grade formula into the U.S. from Europe, with more shipments on the way. 

And President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act, a 1950s-era military procurement law, to ensure U.S. manufacturers can get the necessary raw materials to ramp up production. 

The shortage was triggered by the shutdown in February of a key plant in Michigan, but international trade experts say the real issue is that the U.S. industry is controlled by only a handful of major players.

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, says too few U.S. companies wield too much control over the supply chain. 

“Right now, our focus is on getting that formula out to the families that need it,” Deese told CNN on Monday. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is monitoring the situation closely for fear that the U.S. efforts could end up making the shortage in Canada even worse. 

“We need to make sure that we’re looking for solutions here in Canada,” Trudeau said last week. 

Canada’s largest formula manufacturing plant is the Chinese-owned Canada Royal Milk facility in Kingston, Ont., but 100 per cent of its output is exported for domestic sale in China. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

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Alberta

Calgary Stampede receives $10M from federal government to aid recovery from pandemic

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Calgary – The Calgary Stampede has received more than $10 million from the federal government to help it bounce back after last year’s event was scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report to the city this week showed the Stampede had an operating loss of $8.3 million in 2021.

Last year’s Stampede ran at half capacity because of COVID-19 public health measures and was cancelled all-together the year before.

Daniel Vandal, the federal minister for Prairies Economic Development Canada, says the money aims to support a full-scale Stampede to deliver the “authentic western experience” this year.

He says it would also help to reignite Alberta’s visitor economy.

The 2022 Stampede is set to run from July 8 to 17.

“Festivals large and small were hard hit during the pandemic,” Vandal said in a news release. “They are events where families and friends come together and take in the exciting atmosphere.

“The tourism industry is facing a strong comeback providing quality jobs across the country, showcasing stunning landscapes and offering exciting experiences right here in Alberta.”

The federal government also provided about $1.8 million for four other tourism projects in southern Alberta: Charmed Resorts, Cochrane Tourism Association, Heritage Park and Tourism Calgary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

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Alberta

Alberta Utilities Commission approves $31M ATCO fine, says in public interest

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The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved a $31-million fine proposed for ATCO Electric’s attempts to overcharge ratepayers for costs it shouldn’t have incurred.

In April, ATCO Electric agreed to pay the penalty after a commission investigation found it deliberately overpaid a First Nation group for work on a new transmission line.

It said ATCO also failed to disclose the reasons for the overpayment when it applied to be reimbursed by ratepayers for the extra cost.

But in May, the Consumers’ Coalition of Alberta said the proposed settlement doesn’t adequately compensate people in the province for the harm they have suffered.

The commission says in its ruling that after carefully considering the settlement agreement, it is satisfied that accepting it is consistent with the public interest.

The commission also says the agreement would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

“The commission considers that the settlement is fit and reasonable, falling within a range of reasonable outcomes given the circumstances,” reads the ruling released Wednesday.

The settlement came after an investigation into a complaint that ATCO Electric sole-sourced a contract in 2018 for work needed for a transmission line to Jasper, Alta.

The agreement says that was partly because another of Calgary-based ATCO’s subsidiaries had a deal with a First Nation for projects, including for work camps on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

The statement of facts says ATCO Electric feared that if it didn’t grant the Jasper contract to the First Nation, it might back out of its deal with ATCO Structures and Logistics. It’s illegal for a regulated utility to benefit a non-regulated company in this way.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

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