The Latest: Man hopes Monsanto verdict boosts other cases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Latest on jury $289 million verdict against Monsanto in a lawsuit accusing its Roundup weed killer contributed to cancer (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

The former school groundskeeper who won a $289 million verdict in a lawsuit alleging Roundup weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer says he hopes the decision is the first of thousands against Monsanto.

Dewayne Johnson said Friday in San Francisco that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit.

He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson spoke briefly in his lawyers’ offices after the verdict was announced Friday. Johnson declined to take questions from reporters.

Monsanto says it’ll appeal. Company spokesman Scott Partridge says Monsanto sympathizes with Johnson but hundreds of scientific studies and government agencies have concluded that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer.


4:45 p.m.

Monsanto Co. says it will appeal a $289 million verdict a San Francisco jury ordered it to pay a former groundskeeper who claimed the company’s weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.

Company spokesman Scott Partridge said Friday that Monsanto sympathizes with Dewayne Johnson and his family. But Partridge said hundreds of scientific studies and government agencies have concluded that its Roundup weed killer doesn’t cause cancer.

The St. Louis-based company is facing about 2,000 similar lawsuits across the country. Dewayne Johnson’s attorney, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., says the San Francisco verdict should bolster the chances of the other lawsuits.


3:40 p.m.

A San Francisco jury has awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who claimed Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.

In its decision Friday, the state court jury found the agribusiness giant failed to adequately warn of the risks of using Roundup.

Dewayne Johnson’s lawyers said he sprayed Roundup and a similar product, Ranger Pro, in large quantities as a pest control manager at a San Francisco Bay Area school district. He developed a rash and was 42 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.

Monsanto’s lawyer, George Lombardi, said non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma takes years to develop, so Johnson’s cancer must have started before he worked for the district.

The company has denied ties between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and cancer.

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Three-year agreement for thousands of B.C. government workers

VICTORIA — Thousands of British Columbia public service workers have ratified a three-year contract agreement giving them an annual 2 per cent wage increase.

The agreement covers workers who provide social, environmental and pubic safety services, as well as Liquor Distribution Branch employees and some of those who work at the BC Pension Corp.

The deal covers 26,500 workers and includes additional funds to help staffing shortages for child-protection workers, deputy sheriffs and corrections officers.

The government says in a news release that the contract also improves hiring and the process of classification so that the public service can respond to urgent government needs like accessible child care and affordable housing.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union says the contract was ratified by 62.7 per cent of those members who voted.

Union president Stephanie Smith says after 16 years of staff cuts and wage restraint, there is a lot of pent-up demand for positive change from the membership.

“We knew that we wouldn’t make up all the lost ground in one round of bargaining, but this agreement will provide a good foundation for us to build on.”

The latest contract means 91,000 public sector employees are covered by tentative or ratified agreements reached under the B.C. government’s sustainable management negotiating mandate.

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Canada’s job surge beats expectations, but there is a catch — actually a few

OTTAWA — A rush of new part-time jobs offset a drop in full-time work last month to help the economy post a net gain of 54,100 positions and drop the unemployment rate to a four-decade low.

The July jobless rate was 5.8 per cent, down from six per cent the previous month, Statistics Canada said Friday in its latest labour force survey.

However, the details of the report revealed weaker data underneath the bigger-picture improvements.

The country gained 82,000 less desirable, part-time positions last month — and it lost 28,000 full-time jobs.

A closer look at the numbers also showed the public sector made the biggest contribution to the July increase with 49,600 new jobs, while the private sector added 5,200 positions.

The agency said average hourly wage growth, which is closely monitored by the Bank of Canada, continued its gradual slide last month to 3.2 per cent after expanding 3.6 per cent in June and 3.9 per cent in May.

The total number of hours worked in July expanded 1.3 per cent, a slightly slower pace than the June reading of 1.4 per cent.

“In the wacky world of Canada’s monthly employment numbers, July came up with another head scratcher, with some big headlines but some disappointments in the fine print,” CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote Friday in a research note to clients.

Shenfeld added that there are “lots of reasons to question just how good the data really are here.”

Still, overall, he said the report contained a “good” set of numbers that will keep markets guessing whether the Bank of Canada will introduce its next interest rate hike in September or October. CIBC predicts the next rate increase will land in October.

Compared with a year earlier, overall employment was up 1.3 per cent following the addition of 245,900 jobs for an increase driven by 210,500 new full-time positions.

By industry, the services sector saw the biggest gains last month with a combined net increase of 90,500 jobs, which was led by 36,500 new positions in education and 30,700 in health care and social assistance.

Overall, the goods-producing sector lost 36,500 jobs in July, with a notable loss of 18,400 positions in manufacturing and a drop of 12,300 in construction.

Across the provinces, Ontario gained 60,600 jobs — all in part-time work — and the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 5.4 per cent for its lowest reading since July 2000.

Employment also rose in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, while Saskatchewan and Manitoba lost jobs last month.

More women between the ages of 25 and 54 years old were working in July as the category saw a gain of 30,300 jobs.

The youth unemployment rate — representing workers aged 15 to 24 years old — fell to 11.1 per cent, down from 11.7 per cent in June. The report said the main cause of the drop was due to the fact fewer young people were looking for work.

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Ryanair pilots strike in Germany, 4 other countries

BERLIN — Ryanair pilots in several European countries staged a strike over work conditions on Friday that prompted the budget carrier to cancel 400 flights.

Walkouts called by German and Belgian unions accounted for many of the cancellations, with strikes also called in Sweden and Ireland.

The airline said that over 2,000 flights, or 85 per cent of its schedule, would operate as normal and that the majority of passengers affected have been re-booked on other Ryanair services.

German pilot representatives had said this week they were joining the strike action with a 24-hour walkout, ending at 2.59 a.m. Saturday, because they want pay and work conditions comparable to those at Ryanair’s competitors.

The company has pointed to recent pay increases and invitations to meet for negotiations. Ryanair urged the unions “to continue negotiations instead of calling any more unjustified strikes.”

Ryanair built its low-cost business model without unions, but said last year it would recognize them. Labor representatives are seeking collective-bargaining agreements in the different countries.

The airline has already been hit with strikes by flight attendants in Spain, Portugal and Belgium. Irish pilots have held four strike days.

In the Netherlands, the carrier was using non-striking pilots to keep its service running for passengers. In a tweet Thursday night, the company said that “there will be no cancellations” as a result of the Dutch union’s strike.

Ryanair launched unsuccessful legal action in a Dutch court to prevent the strike in the Netherlands.

In Sweden, some 40 Ryanair pilots walked out to demand a collective labour agreement.

Martin Lindgren, head of the Swedish Air Line Pilots Association, said that “a strike is necessary to show the airline that it no longer can avoid treating its employees in a dignified manner.”

At Ryanair’s main Belgian hub, the Charleroi airport south of Brussels, a few dozen striking pilots gathered in the main terminal behind a banner marked “Ryanair on strike, Ryanair must change.”

The Belgian Cockpit Association’s Alain Vanalderweireldt said the strike in Belgium “is the conclusion of six months of discussions between Ryanair and the union representatives that has led to nowhere concretely.”

While the union wants to apply Belgian labour laws to employees, Ryanair is still applying Irish laws, he said.

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Paying able-bodied people not to work isn’t an act of compassion — it’s an act of surrender

The Ford government’s cancellation of Ontario’s basic income (BI) pilot project has generated considerable media and political attention. Editorial pages and social media have been marked by lamentations about “evidence-based policy” and accusations about the government’s supposed lack of compassion.

Both claims are unjustified. Not only was the pilot itself flawed, the basic idea of generous, unconditional and universal cash transfer wrongly sees joblessness as merely a material problem. The government is thus correct to scrap the initiative and instead focus on reforming the province’s income-support system to better enable and support paid work.

It’s worth unpacking both critiques — the government’s purported rejection of evidence and lack of compassion — to understand their inherent weaknesses and the case for welfare reform with a pro-work bias.

Start with the claims about the role for evidence. BI’s proponents’ own argument that there’s no “perfect study” is hardly a ringing endorsement, and obvious problems with this “experiment’s” design and implementation seriously erode its usefulness as a “test of concept.”

Even though a basic income is to replace the existing panoply of income-support programs and social benefits, participants in the pilot continued to be eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit, geared-to-income housing, child-care subsidies, and so on. The layering of programming is contrary to most conceptions of a basic income program and would necessarily skew the results. Testing whether recipients like more generous welfare benefits is different than understanding the costs and benefits of shifting to a single, unconditional cash transfer.

There were also challenges with identifying eligible participants and simulating realistic conditions. Randomized mailouts frequently went to people who were ineligible. A 40-page application form became an obstacle for some prospective participants. And that benefits increased without a corresponding rise in taxes in the affected communities means the experiment failed to reflect the true costs associated with fully implementing a universal BI estimated at $17 billion by the province.

The idea that the rest of the world was waiting with bated breath for the results of this experiment is also rather fanciful. What some people elsewhere were really hoping for was that this experiment would return a more BI-favourable answer than the other experiments that have been tried, most recently in Finland. The fact is that no government that has experimented with BI has decided to pursue it. That, too, is evidence.

But the critics’ overstated claims about the purported utility of the pilot’s evidence is small beer compared to the hyperbole about the government’s “narrow-mindedness” and lack of compassion.

The idea that those favouring sending no-strings-attached cheques to low-income citizens are somehow more compassionate than those who want to incorporate them into mainstream economic life is simply wrong. Paying able-bodied people not to work isn’t an act of compassion. It’s an act of surrender. It’s about managing a liability rather than seeing people as assets to be developed, as U.S. economist Arthur Brooks has put it.

Paid work doesn’t just provide significant economic and social benefits — including lower incidences of poverty, greater financial security, better health outcomes, and so on. It also contributes to improved personal well-being because of the socialization, personal empowerment, and the sense of dignity that comes with work and caring for oneself and his or her family. An unconditional cheque from the government is no substitute for feeling needed.

This is why the government is right to put paid work at the centre of its opportunity agenda. What must such an agenda entail? We have limited space here but would highlight two key components.

The first is maximizing economic growth. This may seem self-evident, but governments regularly make choices (such as deficit spending) that erode long-run growth in exchange for some short-term objective. Long-term growth is the essential ingredient for higher business investment, job creation, and ultimately living standards for all citizens. Government’s principal focus, therefore, must be on growing the economic pie rather than merely slicing it up in the form of redistribution. A pro-growth strategy would involve sustainable public finances, competitive taxation, predictable and limited regulations (including land-use regulations), strong intellectual property rights, high-quality infrastructure and better education and training.

The second is to reform income-support programs to better support paid work. Experimenting with wage subsidies, work-sharing, and more market-responsive job training is a first step. Smoothing out high clawback rates (what economists call marginal effective rates) for income-support recipients is another. Governments ought to apply a “job lens” to different policy choices to better understand if they’re enabling or obstructing people from getting into paid work. The former should be single-mindedly pursued, and the latter should be discarded.

Refusing to accept that some people are “surplus to requirement” and should be warehoused on benefits is the easy half of the compassionate choice on welfare policy. The other half is getting real people into real jobs. It’s on that measure that the Ford government should be judged.

Brian Lee Crowley is the managing director and Sean Speer is a Munk senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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Five things you should know before starting your day on Aug. 10

A pleasant summer morning to you! Shari Kulha bringing you a snippet of world-changing Canadian history. It started in 1874 in Brantford, Ont., when Alexander Graham Bell worked out the technical principles of telephony. In September 1875, he wrote draft specifications for a patent for the telephone (now said to be the most valuable patent ever). During the next summer, Bell made several very local calls with the help of jerry-rigged wiring. And on Aug 10, 1876, he received the first-ever long-distance call, from 13km away in Paris, Ont. On the other end was his father, but Bell couldn’t reply verbally, as it was only a one-way contraption at the time, so he telegraphed back on a separate line that his invention was a success. He was not yet 30 years old. And age is a perfect segue to my first story selection of the day:


Millennials are old news — now it’s Gen Z’s turn to kill industries. The millennials’ murderous whims took out malls, print magazines, cash and, soon, even American football. But the GenZs? They’re true digital natives who report being online “almost constantly,” influence their family’s spending, and are showing a shift toward extrinsic values — money, fame and riches — rather than to intrinsic values of relationships and community feeling. Businesses are scrambling to understand their desires.


Saudi Arabia says its quarrel with Canada will not stop oil shipments. Its energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, calmed feathers yesterday by saying that oil sales are not affected by politics as there is a “firm and longstanding policy that is not influenced by political circumstances.” The ruffling began suddenly on Monday when Saudi Arabia’s assertive 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took offence at Canada’s offence at the kingdom’s treatment of political activists.


Ontario’s basic income plan was the welfare state on steroids — but it didn’t have to be, this opinion piece says. While the Liberal scheme was a disaster, many basic income supporters have the right goal: replacing bureaucracy, lowering welfare costs for taxpayers and freeing people to earn independence and reclaim control over their own lives. There was nothing new in the proposal other than giving more money to more people, and it would not replace a single program, bureaucrat or strand of red tape.


How much money will you need after you retire? Likely less than you think. One study found that even people who started retirement with less than $200,000 had 75% of their cash assets 18 years later. You start retirement with the “go-go” years, where spending is higher to fulfil bucket-list items. Then, “slow-go” years are just that — less travel, less spending. And then, the “no-go” years, where you think you’ll save money by staying put, but in reality, spending is generally high.


Tesla stock plunged yesterday, wiping out all the gains it reaped on Wednesday from Elon Musk’s tweet about taking the company private. Doubts mounted about Musk’s ability to do that, sending the stock tumbling 4.3 per cent. As he owns 20% of Tesla, he’d need 80% to be financed, to the tune of about US$70 billion. No one has come forward to say that yes, indeed, they were game for such a gamble. The SEC is investigating what was said and how factual it was.

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