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Feds eye special skills-training savings account as part of budget: source

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government’s fourth budget will include measures to help Canadians cover their bills if they choose to head back to school to boost their skills or change careers, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Thursday.

In what will be Morneau’s last fiscal blueprint before this fall’s federal election, the Liberals plan to create a skills-training savings account for adults that’s modelled on one in Singapore, a government source, who was not authorized to speak publicly because the plan is not yet released, told The Canadian Press.

The Singaporean program, launched in 2016, provides every eligible resident over age 25 a $500 credit to use for government-backed training courses. Workers over 40 can receive a subsidy of up to 90 per cent for approved courses.

The program sounds similar to a registered education savings plan (RESP) for mid-career adults, but the government has been warned that people who make less money might not save as officials hope, replicating problems the government has tried to overcome in the RESP program.

At a morning event where Morneau picked up his shoes for Tuesday’s budget — the same ones he wore in 2016, but with some repair work from an female-owned shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market district — the finance minister talked about how the government is looking for ways to provide workers dedicated time off for skills training and means to cover their expenses while they’re out of the workforce.

Morneau’s council of economic advisers recommended such a program in its final report in late 2017. The group called for the creation of a “Canada Lifelong Learning Fund,” to provide incentives for workers and companies to invest in skills development, as part of $15 billion in spending.

“When you think about going from one career to another career, it’s difficult and that’s something that we’re thinking about in our budget this year,” Morneau said during the event, where he took questions from a gathering of children. “That’s what we’re going to be thinking about — how we help Canadians to take time off, how do we ensure that they can continue to live their life while they’re taking time off and how do they pay for their training.”

Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada, welcomed the idea of personal learning accounts.

“All in all, I think what we’re seeing is a new conversation about skills and talent that looks not only at young people, but people throughout their careers,” said Davidson, whose organization represents 96 Canadian universities. “It looks at not only reskilling people once the market has disrupted them out of a job, but looking at upskilling that people can do while they’re employed. So, those kinds of directions are very, very welcome.”

Since Morneau’s first budget three years ago, the unemployment rate has fallen close to a four-decade low and job creation has outpaced expectations. As well, education levels in Canada are among the highest in the world.

But the economy is showing signs of cooling.

Top government officials worked for years on ways to help Canadians prepare for a world with fewer lifelong careers and more short-term jobs, a hallmark of the “gig” economy.

Federal officials quietly crafted a strategy, titled “Preparing Canadians for the Future,” that contains “bold ideas” so public policy doesn’t fall behind the curve, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The documents say the strategy takes aim at policies and programs to “reflect a diverse labour force,” and looks at ways to close wage gaps and protect the mental well-being of workers, including “the right to disconnect from employer-provided technology.”

The ideas made their way into a government consultation in the fall, and now the federal labour minister has appointed an expert panel to give Ottawa a clearer picture on what precisely policymakers should do.

The right to disconnect from work during off hours is among the issues the panel will examine. Also in the panel’s mandate is whether to raise the federal minimum wage — which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly played down — as well as creating portable benefit plans for workers who don’t have workplace benefits.

And Labour Minister Patty Hajdu has also asked the panel to look at ways to provide gig-economy workers a mechanism to negotiate wages, or centrally bargain in a way similar to the way unions collectively bargain with employers.

Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, helped advise Singapore’s government on its skills plan a couple of years ago. She wants to see Canada follow suit.

“What I’m hoping now is the government is prepared to act and that the government is prepared to act in a bold way,” Amyot said. 

“We do not have a choice — all our jobs will change.”

Jordan Press and Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


Ag Business

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

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Canada, USA, Mexico flags

We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk.  Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture. 

What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.

Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.

More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers

One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.

The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.

In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.

Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology

Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.

Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.

Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.

As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.

Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards

A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.

Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.

Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.

A Promising Future

It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.

 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

Extreme Weather Patterns Causing State of Agricultural Emergency in Canada

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Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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january, 2020

mon06jan(jan 6)8:00 amfri31(jan 31)12:00 amJanuary is Alzheimer's Awareness Month8:00 am - 12:00 am (31) Event Organized By: K. Jobs

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thu23jan(jan 23)6:00 pmsat25(jan 25)11:00 pmRed Deer Justice Film Festival6:00 pm - 11:00 pm (25) welikoklad event centre, 4922 49 St, Red Deer, AB T4N 1V3

fri24jan1:30 pm3:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-InMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

mon27jan11:15 am1:15 pmLuncheon With Arlene Dickinson11:15 am - 1:15 pm Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, 3310 50 Avenue

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