Stories

Investigative

‘We’re in a David-and-Goliath situation.’ Small Ontario town taking on Nestle to save its water

20200114_195206For the Toronto Star‘s Tainted Water project, a nation-wide investigation into growing scarcity of safe drinking water, I reported an investigative feature on global beverage behemoth Nestlé S.A.’s operations in tiny towns in Ontario where communities fear that they won’t have enough water for their rapidly growing populations.

To learn about the publicly-traded company’s Canadian operations, known as Nestlé Waters Canada, I spent a year reviewing stacks of water monitoring reports, combing through years of town council meeting records, pouring over hundreds of pages of hydrogeology studies, and interviewing dozens of local residents, politicians, scientists and industry experts. The investigation, in collaboration with Toronto Star investigative reporter Rob Cribb, was published on the front page of the print issue.

News & Features

The Globe and Mail

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Trouble brewing: Is Canada’s craft-beer industry headed for a spill?

20200125_104529“In an ice-fishing hut on Gull Lake, Alta., in 2014, Graeme Bredo, a pharmacy student, turned to his brother Charlie and asked if he wanted to start a craft brewery. The provincial government had recently removed limits that required brewers to produce 500,000 litres (or more than one million pints) per year to sell commercially. Beer aficionados Charlie and Graeme thought the easing of regulations created the perfect opportunity to join a skyrocketing industry.

Troubled Monk Brewery poured its first suds in 2015, making it Red Deer, Alta.’s second craft brewery. The city of 100,000 people now has five. “The industry has grown so quickly,” says Charlie Bredo, who previously ran an electricity retailing company. “It just exploded.”

The craft brewing industry has been on a decade-long tear, with an ever-accelerating pace of expansion. Bredo’s home province added 42 breweries between 2018 and 2019 alone – a 60-per-cent jump. Nationwide, the number more than doubled in the last five years to 972 breweries in 2019, up from 383 in 2015, according to IBIS World, a market research firm. Another 200 breweries are expected to open over the next year, according to the Canadian Craft Brewers Association. This wild success has bred anxiety.”

Small landlords scrambling to accommodate rent reductions while making mortgage payments amid COVID-19

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“When businesses began temporarily closing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several tenants in David Cinelli’s two rental properties lost income.

The Toronto-based realtor and landlord reached out to his tenants, offering rent deferrals or partial payments to those who were struggling financially. And although Mr. Cinelli says he can sustain a rent reduction in the short term, he needs that money to pay the mortgages on his properties.”

Ottawa-backed Carrot Rewards app shutting down after failing to find a buyer

carrot“An app backed by the federal government aimed at improving Canadians’ health and wellness by rewarding users with loyalty points is shutting down after its funding ran dry and it failed to find a buyer, its chief executive officer said.

Carrot Rewards, whose more than one million users tracked their daily steps and took quizzes on diet, fitness and personal finance to earn rewards points for programs such as Cineplex’s Scene, Aeroplan, Petro-Points and More Rewards, will shut down Wednesday evening.”

Global vehicle production tumbling amid slumping auto sales, and Canada is leading the pack

global auto“Canadian vehicle manufacturing is tumbling amid a prolonged slump in sales, with production in the first half of the year dropping below one million units for the first time in a decade.

Automakers in Canada are taking the biggest hit in North America, with production falling 7.8 per cent, to 985,501 vehicles, in the first half of 2019, compared with 1.07 million in the first half of 2018, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants data in a BMO Nesbitt Burns report. The drop is double the decline in the United States, which fell at 3.9 per cent to 5.4 million from 5.6 million. Mexico saw a modest rise of 0.8 per cent, to 1.98 million from 1.96 million.”

Plastics alternative startup Ecopackers raises $4.3 million

ecopackers“Entrepreneur Nuha Siddiqui pitched her compostable replacement to plastics to her first venture capital investor in 2018 while snacking on a bowl of packing peanuts – foam nuggets used in packaging to prevent damage.

“When people didn’t believe that it was 100 per cent compostable, I would eat the product,” Ms. Siddiqui said. “People were shocked and concerned.””

As travel soars, Ottawa urged to revisit airport privatization

airport“The global airline industry’s long boom has continued in 2019, bringing ever-larger numbers of people through Canada’s busiest air travel hub.

From January through July, 29.4 million passengers went through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, a 2.6-per-cent jump from the same period in 2018. A series of strong years has allowed the group that operates Pearson, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, to pare down its debt. It might also open the runway for the federal government to look again at selling off the airport after this fall’s election.”

Toronto Star

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Toronto’s bars, restaurants and shops struggle to survive as virus woes hit

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“Nicole Babin closed her three vintage clothing stores on Sunday night, joining the cavalcade of small businesses temporarily shutting down operations across Toronto in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The owner of Common Sort Clothing Corporation said that, without an online sales platform, she could continue to operate the business under severe revenue constraints for about two months. After that, Babin will be faced with the difficult decision of shuttering her stores for good.”

Munk Debates blames ‘technical error’ for wrong results in Bannon-Frum faceoff

Steve Bannon was originally announced as the winner, but the correction shows that the debate was a draw.

Activists march to remember Ontario’s opioid victims, ask province to lift freeze on safe injection sites

Two missing men, one death — and a bizarre mystery

Officials are preparing to exhume a buried body as they investigate a mistaken identity case that may explain musician Scott Cushnie’s disappearance.

Mississauga could build 174,000 homes by moving into the ‘missing middle’: Ryerson report

Bloomberg News

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No Conference Call Means More Mystery for Top Canadian Stock

Constellation“Want to know what one of Canada’s top-performing companies is up to? You’ll have to go to Constellation Software Inc.’s (CSU.TO) website and submit a question online.

That’s about the only option investors have to hear management thoughts on strategy until the firm’s next annual meeting in 2019. The Toronto-based Constellation has canceled quarterly earnings calls, further drawing a curtain around one of the most opaque companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index.”

Tech Hub Seeks More Space as Startup Fever Grips Toronto

Mars“Just a few years ago Canada’s biggest science and technology incubator had to be bailed out by the Ontario government. Now it has so many companies clamoring for space that it’s looking for a second office, people familiar with the matter say.

MaRS Discovery District, which houses companies such as Airbnb Inc. and Merck & Co. along with hundreds of entrepreneurs racing to commercialize science, is scouting for more space in Toronto’s east end, said the people who asked not to be identified as the negotiations are private.”

Tech Stocks Are Killing It in Canada

Tech stocks“Canadian technology stocks are trading near a decade-high as they ride booming U.S. demand for everything from e-commerce to office software and stay far from the global trade fray.

The S&P/TSX Composite’s technology index has gained about 23 per cent this year, trouncing the 6.1-per-cent rise of its nearest competitor, industrials. Tech now sports a four-per-cent weighting in the benchmark equity index, the highest since 4.2 per cent in 2009 when BlackBerry Ltd. (BB.TO) ruled the smartphone market.”

CBC News

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Google Canada rejects allegations it’s mismanaging user data

Former RIM CEO urges government to regulate tech giants without compromising innovation

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 10.05.25 AM“The former head of Research in Motion warned government officials today of the risks of failing to regulate tech giants, while Google Canada’s head of public policy rejected allegations the company is failing to transparently and securely manage data.

“It’s a complex issue because this is the biggest force in the history of capitalism, where six companies come from nowhere to be the most valuable companies in the world in a very short period of time,” Jim Balsillie, chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators and former RIM co-CEO, told the House of Commons ethics committee investigating the Facebook data scandal.”

Committee chair calls on firms to freeze data linked to Facebook privacy scandal

Digital security firm UpGuard urges federal government to prevent data destruction

Trudeau rips ‘hateful rhetoric’ following report of death threats against Premier Notley

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna calls on social media to fight online harassment

Bloc rebels announce new party name and abandon the separatist program

Quebec MP Rheal Fortin says the new ‘Quebec Debout’ will represent the province’s interests

Torontoist

Toronto is playing catch-up to prepare for electric vehicles

Council approves six new electric vehicle charging stations in pilot project, but still lags behind other cities.

Medium Magazine

The Underground

Medium Magazine uncovers UTM’s legendary tunnel