Ontario Cannabis Store increases number of licensed suppliers to 32

TORONTO — Ontario has signed supply agreements with six more licensed cannabis producers, bringing the total to 32, along with 10 accessories suppliers.

The deals were announced Wednesday by the Ontario Cannabis Store, which will be selling pot online starting on Oct. 17 when recreational marijuana use is legalized.

It is also establishing a wholesale distribution network to supply cannabis to legal private stores once legislative requirements are put in place.

The agreements to date are with licensed producers such as Canopy Growth Corp., Aurora Cannabis and Aphria Inc. as well as smaller players including Starseed Medicinal Inc. and Solace Health Inc.

The OCS says it will continue to work with partners to ensure the province has sufficient supply and a broad selection of cannabis products to meet the needs of Ontario consumers.

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Vancouver’s short-term rental listings drop by half after new rules introduced

VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver says the number of short-term rentals listed online has dropped by almost half since new rules came into effect requiring operators to have a business licence.

There are 3,742 active Vancouver listings on sites like Airbnb, compared with about 6,600 in April, when the regulations were introduced, the city said Wednesday.

Kaye Krishna, the city’s general manager of development, buildings and licensing, called the early results of the efforts to regulate short-term rentals “very promising.”

“As we move forward with continued public education and increased enforcement we expect to see the short-term rental market stabilize,” Krishna said in a statement.

As of Sept. 1, operators must have a business licence, which costs $49 annually, and must include the licence number in their listing. Operators can only advertise their main residence and must have permission from their landlord or condo board, or they could face fines of up to $1,000 a day on each platform where the rental is advertised.

The city says it has one of the highest initial compliance rates by any major city globally, with 2,640 short-term licences issued, representing about 70 per cent of existing listings.

When the new rules were announced earlier this year, Mayor Gregor Robertson said they were intended to protect and free up rental housing in response to a critically low vacancy rate.

Most of the listings taken off the market were the result of an agreement the city signed with Airbnb. The online platform has deactivated 2,482 Vancouver listings that did not include a business licences.

The agreement also means long-term rental operators can no longer accept rentals of less than 30 days. In addition to the unlicensed listings removed by Airbnb, more than 660 listing were removed or converted to long-term rentals by individuals in response to the new rules, the city said.

Expedia, which is the second-largest platform in Vancouver, has also agreed to add a field where business licence numbers can be added to their online listings on VRBO.

After introducing new rules in April, the city allowed a registration window for operators to comply through Aug. 31, and also began enforcement for unsafe dwellings and commercial operations that would clearly not meet the new regulations.

It has investigated more than 2,650 listings and says that since Sept. 1, 294 new addresses have been flagged for non-compliance and are subject to enforcement.

“The short-term rental program will continue to strengthen as the city expands its data sources and ongoing dialogue with multiple partners,” the city said in a statement.

Residents are encouraged to continue to report suspected illegal short-term rentals.

Jens von Bergmann, principal at MountainMath Software and Analytics, said Airbnb’s agreement to share data with the city such as the address and business licence for a listing represents a new model for Canada.

But there are still some operators bending the rules on the platform, based his own analysis of the data, von Bergmann said.

In one case, a business licence has been used for multiple properties, he said. In another, an operator appears to falsely present their listing as a hotel or other commercial enterprise that would be exempt from this type of business licence.

But Bergmann said he sees the city’s initial results as positive.

“It looks encouraging. I think the real test is, will those listings that are right now clearly non-compliant disappear?”

“The other test will be how many fines are actually levied.”

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NAFTA talks with U.S. �constructive,’ Freeland says as pressure mounts from Trump, Congress

Canada’s foreign minister said ongoing trade talks with the U.S. remain “constructive” and that both sides are expected to offer new ideas when they reconvene later on Wednesday.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s lead NAFTA minister, met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington after a series of back-to-back meetings last week failed to yield an agreement. The U.S. has said Canada can still join a preliminary pact it struck with Mexico to replace NAFTA, before the agreement is signed in late-November.

Officials held discussions on Wednesday over “a number of issues” and now the negotiating teams will meet individually and “come back with fresh ideas later this afternoon,” Freeland told reporters outside Lighthizer’s offices in Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to exclude Canada from a new NAFTA and proceed with Mexico only, despite pushback from members of Congress and powerful business groups. Those constituents have also expressed concern that Trump will intensify a trade war with Beijing this week by announcing tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese goods.

�Very Clear’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking Tuesday, singled out two issues as important for his country — maintaining some form of anti-dumping dispute panel and an exemption to protect cultural industries.

“We’ve been very clear that there are a number of things that we absolutely must see,” Trudeau said. “No NAFTA is better than a bad NAFTA deal for Canadians.”

Freeland, speaking on Wednesday, echoed Trudeau’s views and added that Canada’s “goal is to protect the national interest and Canadian identity.”

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, speaks to members of the media outside the U.S. Trade Representative office in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.

Though the U.S. president often threatens to withdraw from NAFTA, the latest pledges are piling up pressure on negotiators who are trying to wrap up more than a year of talks and strike a deal that could be signed before Dec. 1.

The White House on Friday gave Congress a required 90-day notification that it would be signing a revised version of NAFTA with Mexico and would include Canada only “if it is willing.” Under congressional rules for passing trade pacts, the administration must publicly release text of the agreement 60 days before any signing, meaning wrapping up the U.S.-Canada negotiations this month could put everything back on track.

Congressional Permission

But Trump seems unconcerned about the timeframe. “There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” he wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere.”

The president’s comments came a day after Democrat Ron Wyden, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee that oversees trade, criticized the administration for excluding Canada from its Nafta deal.

“You can’t fix NAFTA without fixing issues with Canada,” Wyden said in a separate statement Tuesday, adding that Congress has “authority over trade — the president cannot pull America out of NAFTA without Congress’s permission.”

Sticking Points

Sticking points in NAFTA talk include America’s demand for access to Canada’s highly protected dairy sector, as well as the Trudeau administration’s push to preserve a dispute-resolution mechanism that the White House wants to dismantle. Canada also wants to maintain exemptions for the cultural sector, with Trudeau saying on Tuesday that the exemption “must stand” because, for instance, he wouldn’t want to see Canadian television networks swallowed up.

“It would be a giving up of our sovereignty and our identity, and that is something we simply will not accept,” he said of the cultural exemption. On the dispute panels, he called it a matter of fairness. “We need a dispute resolution mechanism,” he said, adding: “We will hold firm on that.”

If neither side budges, it’s unclear whether Trump can withdraw from NAFTA without congressional approval, though the president has said he can do so unilaterally. Under terms of the original pact, any leader can pull their nation out after giving six months’ written notice.

Congress could help determine who has leverage in this week’s bilateral talks. If lawmakers stay mum on the threat of excluding Canada from NAFTA, Trudeau could feel pressure to make concessions. But if American lawmakers insist that Trump include his northern neighbour, U.S. negotiators may feel the need to make a deal with Ottawa.

While Canada is clearly under pressure from Trump, “it’s not clear sailing on his part either,” Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian diplomat and now a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, told BNN Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.

–With assistance from Shawn Donnan and Erik Wasson.


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The Latest: Lawyer questions drug company motive with grant

The Latest on Purdue Pharma’s funding to help develop a lower-price overdose antidote (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

A lawyer for local governments suing the opioid industry is questioning the motives of a major prescription painkiller producer making a grant to develop a lower-price overdose antidote.

Paul Hanly says Purdue Pharma’s $3.4 million is “a strategic move” for the benefit of a judge who is overseeing more than 1,000 lawsuits against the drug industry. At the same time, he said, it is beneficial to have a lower-cost version of naloxone (nuh-LAHX’-ohn) nasal spray available.

The company that makes OxyContin announced the grant Wednesday to Harm Reduction Therapeutics, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit. Purdue says it’s advancing public safety.

The antidote is widely used but can be expensive for governments fighting the effects of a nationwide opioid overdose crisis.


12:15 p.m.

A company whose prescription opioid marketing practices are being blamed for sparking a nationwide overdose and addiction crisis says it’s helping fund an effort to make a lower-cost overdose antidote.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced on Wednesday that it’s making a $3.4 million grant to Harm Reduction Therapeutics, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit, to help develop a low-cost naloxone (nuh-LAHX’-ohn) nasal spray.

First responders, drug users and others have taken to carrying naloxone to reverse overdoses. But the price of the drug has been a problem for state and local governments.

Harm Reduction Therapeutics says it is trying to get its version to the market within two years.

The announcement from Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue days after the number of lawsuits against the drug industry under one federal judge’s watch topped 1,000.

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Bezos, wife donate $10 million to veterans political group

SEATTLE — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos have made their largest political donation to date, giving $10 million to a nonpartisan political-action committee devoted to helping military veterans running for Congress.

The North Carolina-based committee With Honor confirmed the donation, which was first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal. With Honor said it has raised $20 million toward its $30 million goal to support veteran candidates of both parties.

Bezos has previously made contributions to Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and to Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. He has also contributed to Washington state campaign efforts to support gay marriage and charter schools and to defeat a measure that would have imposed a state income tax on high earners.

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Phone ban at school: French children forced to hang up

PARIS — French children who are going back to school Monday after summer vacation will have to do so without their mobile phones.

The government passed a law banning phone use in all primary and middle schools for the entire day, including during breaks –with exceptions in cases of emergency and for disabled children.

Pupils are requested to shut down their mobiles or put them in a locker.

High schools can also voluntarily implement the measure. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said it aims to help children focus on lessons, better socialize and reduce social media use. The ban is also designed to fight online bullying, and prevent thefts and violence in school.

The law allows teachers to confiscate phones until the end of the day in cases of non-compliance.

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Trump sees mixing trade, foreign policy as good politics

WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump pulled the plug on an upcoming trip to North Korea by his secretary of state, he pointed a finger of blame at China and the global superpower’s trade practices.

In his recent trade breakthrough with Mexico, Trump praised the country’s outgoing president for his help on border security and agriculture.

Both developments offered fresh evidence of how Trump has made trade policy the connective tissue that ties together different elements of his “America First” foreign policy and syncs up them with his political strategy for the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s 2016 triumph was paved in part by his support among blue-collar voters in Midwestern manufacturing states that narrowly supported him over Democrat Hillary Clinton, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

His aggressive trade tactics, epitomized by tariffs and standoffs with longtime economic partners and allies, are aimed at reversing what he has long viewed as unfair trade deals while maintaining support among largely white, working-class voters who have been hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“Trump understands that economic policy is foreign policy and vice versa,” said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser and visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “The most important element of foreign policy is to not just keep the world safe but to also promote America’s economic interest. That’s what Trump does — this is America First.”

It’s also good politics, in Trump’s view.

“It’s a populist position. But it’s also a popular position with a lot of Americans,” Moore said.

As he puts a high premium on trade gains, Trump is intertwining the issue with a host of top foreign policy concerns.

Trump, asked by reporters last week about North Korea living up to its commitments to denuclearize, said “part of the North Korean problem is caused by our trade disputes with China,” pointing to the U.S. trade imbalance with China.

“We have to straighten out our trade relationship because too much money is being lost by us,” Trump said. “And as you know, China is the route to North Korea.”

Trade has been a common refrain at the president’s rallies, where he has vowed to pursue “fair and reciprocal trade.”

“We don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” Trump said during a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, in June.

Trump’s second year as president has been marked by a number of trade disputes with traditional U.S. allies and global rivals alike, an approach cemented by his tweet that “trade wars are good.”

He imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in March, prompting retaliation from the European Union and other American allies. Later in the month, Trump announced tariffs on China to combat what he called the theft of U.S. technology from a wide range of goods and services.

China struck back with its own sanctions on a variety of U.S. products, including Midwest farm-produced soybeans in a way to hit hard against the president’s base of voters. The two sides have clashed during the spring and summer, raising the stakes in their trade fight.

In late July, Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reached a temporary deal at the White House to avert tariffs on automobile imports and a ramping up of their trade dispute — although the threat still remains.

After a breakthrough with Mexico, Trump’s team has been engaged in talks with Canada aimed at creating a new version of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

While previous administrations have often used a carrot-and-stick approach to trade as a way to forge agreements, before Trump’s arrival trade agendas had emphasized multi-lateral and bilateral deals aimed at maintaining U.S. leadership around the world, promoting American values and improving human rights.

This administration, by contrast, “is leveraging foreign policy tools to achieve its trade goals,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Critics say Trump’s insistence on trade concessions could hamper his ability to move forward in other areas.

On North Korea, for example, Trump has sought to turn his meeting with Kim Jong Un into a vivid example of how his unconventional style can bring longstanding U.S. adversaries to the bargaining table.

But by raising China’s trade practices as essential to any progress to ensuring North Korea gets rid of its nuclear weapons, Trump runs the risk of getting bogged down in both areas — and having little to show for it.

Mixing foreign policy and trade policy introduces so many variables it’s “virtually impossible to close on a precise policy decision,” said Daniel Ujczo, a trade attorney with Dickinson Wright PLLC in Columbus, Ohio. “You’re constantly chasing after the next issue as opposed to having a very targeted approach to the objective.”


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