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PRINT EDITION
Harris the X-factor for Eskimos in CFL East final in Hamilton
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QB set to lead team at Tim Hortons Field against Ticats, who are 9-0 at home
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By DAN RALPH
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B17

It's hard to forget the last time Trevor Harris faced the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Harris had a CFL playoff-record six touchdown passes in last year's East Division final. Of course, that was while he was a member of the Ottawa Redblacks, which secured a 46-27 victory before dropping a 27-16 decision to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup.

On Sunday, Harris will lead Edmonton into Tim Hortons Field for the East final against a Hamilton squad that posted a CFL-best 15-3 regular-season record. Included were two victories against Edmonton that Harris missed due to injury.

Edmonton is attempting to become the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup.

But to do so, the Eskimos will have to do what no other CFL team has done this season: Win at Tim Hortons Field.

The Ticats are a perfect 9-0 there, including a 42-12 decision over Edmonton on Oct.

4. Quarterback Dane Evans threw for 277 yards and two TDs, but it was Hamilton's defence that stood tall with three interceptions and five sacks.

Both Edmonton and Hamilton were very good this year getting to the quarterback.

The Eskimos finished tied with Saskatchewan for the league lead (56), with Hamilton third (54). Harris stole the show in Edmonton's 37-29 East Division semi-final win over Montreal on Sunday. He completed his first 22 passes - one short of the CFL record held by Hamilton's Jeremiah Masoli - and finished 36-of-39 passing for 421 yards and a TD as the Eskimos had the ball for over 36 minutes.

Montreal converted a Harris interception into a 10-yard TD run from quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., that pulled Montreal to with 34-29 in the fourth. But Josh Johnson's second pick of the game in the fourth set up Sean Whyte's 36-yard field goal to make it 37-29 before his third cemented the Edmonton win.

Hamilton's offence could give Edmonton all it can handle as the unit led the CFL in offensive points scored (28.2 a game), touchdowns (57), net offence (395.8 yards a game), average yards a play (6.84) and passing yards (313.3). The Ticats were also fourth in rushing (100.4 yards a game), impressive considering the abundance of running backs the team used due to injury.

Quarterback Dane Evans was 9-2 replacing Masoli (season-ending knee injury), passing for 3,754 yards and 21 TDs. Brandon Banks (CFL's leading receiver with club-record 112 catches, 1,550 yards, 13 TDs) and Bralon Addison (95 catches, 1,236 yards, seven TDs) anchor Hamilton's receiving corps. But someone worth watching could be veteran Luke Tasker (36 catches, 406 yards), who missed much of the season with injuries but has since returned to the starting lineup. Hamilton's offence line allowed 37 sacks this season (fourth over all) but if there's a concern, the Ticats did throw 24 interceptions - second-most in the CFL.

Harris has no shortage of weapons at his disposal. There's receivers Greg Ellingson (86 catches, 1,170 yards, five TDs) and Ricky Collins (78 catches, 1,103 yards, three TDs) and dual-threat C.J. Gable (1,003 rushing yards, 53 catches for 417 yards). Edmonton's offensive line allowed a CFL-low 25 sacks.

But playing at home would appear to be the equalizer for a Hamilton team that won its final six regular-season games. And in the space of a week Edmonton will have had to travel to Montreal, back to Alberta and then return to Ontario.

Pick: Hamilton WEST DIVISION FINAL Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Saskatchewan Roughriders At Regina, Winnipeg starter Zach Collaros returns to where he began the 2019 season.

Collaros opened under centre for the Riders before suffering a head injury just three plays into their season-opening road loss to Hamilton.

Cody Fajardo took over and promptly led the Riders to a 13-5 record and top spot in the West for the first time since 2009. Saskatchewan dealt Collaros to Toronto on July 31 before the Argos dispatched him to Winnipeg on Oct. 9.

Collaros is 2-0 as Winnipeg's starter, combining with backup Chris Streveler to lead the Bombers past the defending champion Calgary Stampeders 35-14 on Sunday. Collaros was 11-of-21 passing for 193 yards and a TD while Streveler, despite an injured ankle, ran 13 times for a game-high 82 yards and a touchdown.

Winnipeg's rushing prowess isn't anything new. The Bombers averaged a CFLbest 147.9 yards a game as Andrew Harris was the league's top runner (1,380 yards) for a third straight year.

Streveler certainly did his part, rushing for 726 yards and 12 TDs. Trouble was, he threw more interceptions (14) than TDs (eight), the majority coming after replacing incumbent Matt Nichols (season-ending shoulder injury).

Collaros's passing numbers aren't eyepopping (414 yards, three TDs, one interception). But he's completed 33-of-49 attempts (67.3 per cent) and gives Winnipeg an experienced player who's capable of making the crucial downfield completion.

Saskatchewan won the season series 2-1 and Fajadro finished the season as the CFL's passing leader (4,302 yards). However, the West Division's outstanding player nominee missed the Riders' regular-season finale, a 23-13 home win over Edmonton that cemented top spot in the division, with an oblique injury. Fajardo is expected to start Sunday and is coming off a 429-yard, two TD passing performance in his last season, a 27-24 victory over Edmonton on Oct. 26.

Against Winnipeg, Fajardo was 59-of-91 passing (64.8 per cent) for 796 yards with two TDs and three interceptions. But a healthy Fajardo also contributes to Saskatchewan's ground attack with 611 rushing yards (5.7-yard average) and 10 TDs on the ground. Saskatchewan was 8-1 at home while Winnipeg was 3-6 on the road.

Pick: Saskatchewan Last week: 1-1 Overall: 59-24.

Associated Graphic

Edmonton QB Trevor Harris makes the throw against Saskatchewan on Oct. 26. Harris had a CFL playoff-record six touchdown passes in last year's East Division final against Hamilton. Of course, that was while he was a member of the Ottawa Redblacks,who went on to lose to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Nurse knows how much every game counts
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Basketball star didn't think twice about flying 26 hours to help Canada during second round of Tokyo 2020 qualifying
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By LORI EWING
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B17

Every game is important in Canada's quest for an Olympic women's basketball medal in Tokyo.

That's why Canadian star and globetrotter Kia Nurse was nonchalant about flying 26 hours to Edmonton for her team's second round of Olympic qualifying this week. Or about dropping everything once again for the third and final qualifying round in February (location TBD).

"You get on an airplane. That's what they're made for," Nurse laughed.

"Going to the Olympics, every single game that we play, no matter who we're playing against and when we're playing, if we don't get through this [qualifying round], then we don't get a chance at the Olympics right?" the 23-year-old said from Edmonton on Tuesday. "So, it's coming in every single day and making sure and understanding that every single game that we play has its own importance, not only in our development as a team moving forward, but to get ourselves to the Olympics and to the podium."

Canada tips off the tournament ranked an all-time high fourth in the world, and will field one of its strongest teams in history this week. The Canadians play Cuba on Thursday, Puerto Rico on Friday and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, three countries they clobbered in the FIBA AmeriCup in September - without Nurse and Natalie Achonwa, who were wrapping up their WNBA seasons.

Nurse, who was a WNBA allstar in her second season with the New York Liberty, took a brief break to rehabilitate an elbow injury before flying to Canberra, the team she helped to an Australian league title last season.

Nurse was named WNBL player of the week on Tuesday after leading the Capitals to a pair of wins on Thursday and Saturday in Melbourne. She then flew to Edmonton by Sydney and Vancouver.

Bridget Carleton similarly flew halfway around the world to suit up for Canada. The 21-year-old from Chatham, Ont., is playing for the WNBL's Townsville Fire and, like Nurse, had only been down under for about a month before jetting back to North America.

"Jetlag brain is alive and well here in Edmonton," Carleton tweeted on Monday.

A large chunk of WNBA players spend their winters playing abroad. Because they're paid peanuts compared with their NBA counterparts, it's a financial necessity for most.

Carleton had a roller-coaster rookie season in the WNBA. The former Iowa State Cyclones star was drafted 21st by Connecticut then waived in early-July. She signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Lynx in late-August.

So the 6-foot-1 guard is appreciating the Aussie experience.

"Australia has been a great place to develop as a basketball player, it's a good spot for me to be in, I have a good coach who's willing to work with me on things I want to focus on, obviously I'm growing as a person, first time being really far away from my family and what I'm comfortable with in North America," Carleton said. "So yeah, in terms of just developing as a player and person for sure, I think I will be better because of the overseas experience for the national team and hopefully the WNBA." Arriving in Edmonton in waves late last week from posts around the globe, the Canadian women will have had three days to practise before tipping off the tournament.

"What's special about this group is we're all committed to this program, coming back from all over the world to play for Canada ... we all love to be a part of that," Carleton said. "We come from everywhere and then we get to reunite, it's always fun to get on the court with these girls."

Picked from a Canada Basketball pool of the country's top women, the majority have played together at various tournaments for years. So when they are reunited, they can slip almost seamlessly back into the Canadian team chemistry they've developed.

"We get a good understanding of playing with each other as we continue to do that year after year," Nurse said. "So when we come back and get back into the swing of things, it's always really easy and really fun to be back playing with great players."

Canada must finish top two to earn a spot in one of the four global qualifying tournaments in February. The top three in each of those four tournaments earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

The Canadian women were ousted in the quarter-finals of both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The Canadian men missed a chance at qualifying for Tokyo at the World Cup in China in August. They'll play in a last-chance qualifying tournament in June.

Associated Graphic

Kia Nurse, right, is keen to be back with Team Canada for Olympic qualifying: 'When we come back and get back into the swing of things,' she says, 'it's always really easy and really fun to be back playing with great players.'

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Stampeders miss chance to repeat as Grey Cup champs on home turf
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By DONNA SPENCER
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B13

CALGARY -- The Calgary Stampeders' season was short by their own standards.

After playing in five of the past seven Grey Cup games and winning two of them, their exit in the CFL's West Division semi-final Sunday at the hands of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers felt sudden.

Calgary fell short of a club-record eighth straight appearance in the division final.

So any satisfaction that could be drawn from a dozen wins to finish second in the division was overshadowed by the knowledge the team won't be in a position to achieve a rare feat - repeating as Grey Cup champions on their home turf in Calgary on Nov. 24.

"A good year, but not a successful year," head coach Dave Dickenson said Monday. "We're disappointed.

"Feels very abrupt, but it's the reality of sports. Really no excuses. We didn't play a good enough game and we got beat."

Calgary was a victim of its 2018 success, losing big name players on both sides of the ball to CFL free agency and the NFL.

Unlike previous seasons, the Stampeders didn't have the same depth to withstand the loss of players to injury.

Half of Calgary's 12 wins were by five points or less.

"We were really scratching, clawing and fighting for the last six to eight weeks to the point where everything was just so difficult," Dickenson said.

"I do think we ran out of gas.

You could see in their faces they wanted to keep playing, they want to keep going, but everybody, it's been a tough year on us."

An offence that relied heavily on passing was minus star receiver and playoff performer Eric Rogers (high ankle sprain) in a 35-14 loss to the Bombers.

Calgary's offence couldn't match, nor could the defence defend against Winnipeg's rushers, who exploited the absence of Stampeder defensive end and sack leader Cordarro Law (separated shoulder).

How much credit the Bomber defence deserves for halftime adjustments that held Calgary to zero points in the second half, and how much blame quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell should assume for not overcoming that is a matter of debate.

"I think you should take criticism when it comes to performances like that," Mitchell said. "It was literally the worst game of my entire career, statistics-wise.

"Playoffs is where I've always stepped up and become a different player. With success comes failure. It's going to happen.

Hopefully throughout a long career it doesn't happen very often."

Calgary managed to go 4-3 through July and August when Mitchell, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2018, was sidelined with an injured pectoral muscle and Nick Arbuckle was under centre.

But the Stampeders arrived at the Labour Day game in the unusual position of looking up at three teams above them in the division standings.

Defensive back Brandon Smith, who will retire after 12 seasons and three Grey Cup wins with the Stampeders, is of the opinion that Calgary overachieved in 2019.

"We scratched, clawed and fought for every point we gained this year," he said. "The standard we set here is Western Final, Grey Cup calibre teams. It's tough losing in the semis like we did.

"This is kind of an overachieving team because a lot of people didn't think we'd be where we were. We came away with 12 wins, which is huge for a young team like we had.

A silver lining for Calgary is Rogers's injury isn't the knee that had him considering retirement last off-season.

The owner of eight career playoff touchdowns on just 16 catches expects to recover from his ankle sprain in time to get quality prep in for 2020.

Receiver Kamar Jorden played his first game Sunday since a catastrophic knee injury midway through the 2018 season. He says he, too, will be ready to go for 2020.

Cornerback Tre Roberson, the team's interception leader, has another year remaining on his contract.

But Arbuckle will likely pursue a starting job somewhere. Receiver Reggie Begelton, who totalled 1,440 receiving yards and scored 10 touchdowns, may be NFL-bound.

Dickenson said Monday linebacker Dexter McCoil will be released to pursue NFL opportunities.

The coach and several Stampeders said they'll participate in Grey Cup week festivities, but might not be at the game to watch an opposing team run out of their dressing room onto McMahon Stadium turf.

"I'm not going to hide my head for the Grey Cup week," Dickenson said. "I'm not going to be out having tons of fun, but I'm going to be part of the community.

"I'm going to celebrate what I believe is a great sport in the CFL and the Grey Cup. I think our people here in Calgary should as well. We're not in the game. It's disappointing. It sucks. That's pro sports."


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Patriots' Brady says losing to Eagles still bugs him, but provided motivation
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By ROB MAADDI
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B15

PHILADELPHIA -- L osing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl two years ago still bugs Tom Brady, even though the New England Patriots rebounded to win their sixth title last season.

"That's a lot of mental scar tissue from that year," Brady said in his weekly radio appearance on WEEI in Boston. "That was a tough game. In a lot of ways, we learned from that year and we came back stronger the next year. We won the Super Bowl in '18. I think everything is a matter of perspective and when you play in that game and you play great teams, you're not going to win them all.

"This is not the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals. This is all about tough competition against the best teams. They deserved it that year, and now a couple years later we get a chance to play the organization again. We've had a lot [of] changes, they've had a lot of changes. It's totally different circumstances. Huge game for us. Big game for them. The better team is going to win."

The Eagles (5-4) meet the Patriots (8-1) on Sunday for the first time since backup quarterback Nick Foles led Philadelphia to a 41-33 victory on Feb. 4, 2018, to capture the franchise's first championship since 1960.

Foles is in Jacksonville now, so the Patriots will get their first chance to see Carson Wentz. He was recovering from knee surgery and watched Foles's MVP performance against New England from the sideline.

"He can do it all - good arm, athletic, can extend plays, tough kid, can run if he needs to, can make all the throws, get the ball down the field, gets the ball to all his receivers, uses the backs, tight ends and receivers based on who is open, his route progression," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's good at reading defences. They give him a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to change plays or adjust plays. There's some checking going on there and so forth.

So, looks like he's pretty good at everything, a pretty accomplished guy."

HISTORIC COMPARISON With rankings at or near the top of the NFL in several defensive categories, the Patriots have drawn comparisons to the 2000 Ravens' defence.

That Baltimore unit, led by future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, held opponents to a single-season record-low 10.3 points a game.

The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl over the Giants that season.

The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points a game through nine games, while allowing the fewest yards per game (249.3).

They're first in interceptions (19), second in passing yards allowed (150.2) and fourth in sacks (32).

Eagles coach Doug Pederson started at quarterback for the Browns the second time they faced the Ravens that season and suffered cracked ribs in a 44-7 loss. He said he sees parallels between the two defences.

"I think the biggest thing that jumps out to you right now, the glaring thing, is the turnover ratio," Pederson said. "The fact that they've got six defensive scores this season, the interceptions, the fumbles they're causing - it's a brand of defence where they just smother you. They just corral you. They're okay with giving you two, three, four yards, but they're right on top of you."

ROOKIE WATCH Patriots rookie receiver N'Keal Harry is again available to make his NFL debut after being activated off injured reserve before the loss to Baltimore.

Harry, who was sidelined with a preseason ankle injury, has been practising without restriction since being activated.

The 32nd overall pick in the draft became the first receiver selected by the Patriots in the first round since they chose Terry Glenn seventh over all in 1996.

Harry is the first receiver taken in the first round under Belichick.

"We'll activate the players that we feel give us the best chance to compete against the Eagles," Belichick said about whether Harry will play.

Associated Graphic

New England's Tom Brady faces the Philadelphia Eagles during Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis in 2018. 'That was a tough game. In a lot of ways, we learned from that year and we came back stronger,' the QB says of the 41-33 Patriots loss.

PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES


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Dickenson keeps his cool in Roughriders head-coaching hot seat
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By DONNA SPENCER
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Saturday, November 16, 2019 – Page S3

REGINA -- Craig Dickenson thinks his behaviour in a rocky start ultimately gained the trust of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in his first year as their head coach.

The Roughriders went 1-3 out of the gates in 2019.

Week 5 was a bye week. Dickenson did not cut short the players' time off to get in more work.

"We'd told them going into the season we were going to lay out the calendar for them," Dickenson said Friday.

"They were going to get the time off that we told them they were going to get off and they were going to be able to plan. When we stuck to the course ... they came back and realized 'these guys are going to be true to their word and when they tell us something, we can believe it.' " Saskatchewan subsequently went on a six-game winning streak en route to a 13-5 record.

"It's tough when you struggle early because they want to believe you, but they want to see results," Dickenson said.

"Winning a few games after that helped."

The Roughriders topped the CFL's West Division and host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Sunday's division final.

The victor earns a berth in the Grey Cup game in Calgary on Nov. 24.

Dickenson is the West Division's nominee for CFL coach of the year. He's up against the East Division's Orlando Steinhauer of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Steinhauer guided the Ticats to a league-leading 15-3 record. The winner will be announced Nov. 21 in Calgary.

Dickenson worked 24 years, mostly as a special teams co-ordinator on various CFL and NFL staffs, before the 48-yearold from Great Falls, Mont., landed his first head-coaching job with the 'Riders.

Younger brother Dave, 46, has been the head coach of the Calgary Stampeders for four years. Dave won the CFL's coaching award in his first season.

"I think my brother trusts the process," Dave said. "He's very organized. I think he understands how people work.

He's a good communicator and he's got good football players."

To be head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is to be in the hot seat of a demanding CFL market.

"He keeps the mood pretty light and lets guys kind of be themselves," offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte said.

"Guys respect that and appreciate that and want to do their best for a person like that.

"He's just such a personable guy that it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, he's got a way of relating to you."

Dickenson was the Roughriders' special teams coach for three season before his promotion. He continues to oversee special teams in addition to his duties as head coach. So familiarity also gave Dickenson a leg up in getting buy-in from his players.

"We understood where he came from as a person and as a football coach," defensive end Charlston Hughes said.

"We understood his mindset, so it was kind of easy to take him on as a head coach. He was meant to step up and take that role."

Coincidentally, Mike O'Shea was a special teams co-ordinator for the Toronto Argonauts for four seasons before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers named him head coach.

"Everything is geared to the offence so the sexy hire is always the young upand-coming offensive coach," Dickenson said.

"I think it's great we both got opportunities.

The special teams background really trains you into dealing with the whole team.

"It helps you in situations sometimes that may come up in a game that may be specialteams related."

On Friday, the Riders said that quarterback Cody Fajardo will play against Winnipeg.

The league's leading passer with 4,302 yards, Fajardo did not participate in Saskatchewan's regular-season finale because of an oblique muscle injury.

Fajardo began easing back into practice this week. He completed short-yardage passes Friday, but did not throw downfield.

"He'll play," Dickenson said. "I don't know if he'll start but he'll be dressed as one of our three and he'll play. This could be a game you see all three quarterbacks."


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Kane, Lehner lead fast-starting Blackhawks
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By MATTY CARLSON
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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B13

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist, Robin Lehner made 53 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks struck early and then held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Sunday night.

Jonathan Toews, rookie Kirby Dach and Brandon Saad also scored. Alex DeBrincat had three assists and Dylan Strome added two.

William Nylander scored twice for the Maple Leafs, and John Tavares and Andreas Johnsson added power-play goals in the third as Toronto stormed back with 26 shots in the final period. Auston Matthews had four assists for Toronto, which entered on fivegame point streak (3-0-2) and lost in regulation for the first time in two weeks.

Toronto backup Michael Hutchinson stopped 29 shots and remained winless at 0-4-1.

The Maple Leafs took - and the Blackhawks allowed - a seasonhigh 57 shots.

Kane, Chicago's 30-year-old offensive whiz, has four goals in three games and 11 points in his past six.

The Maple Leafs played without star forward Mitch Marner after he suffered a right ankle injury in the second period on Saturday night in a 3-2 home loss in Philadelphia. Marner underwent an MRI exam and will be out of the lineup for a minimum of four weeks. The 22-year-old has four goals and 14 assists through 18 games. He led the Maple Leafs last season with career highs in points (94) and assists (68) and had a career-best 26 goals.

Toronto's troubles in this one were in its own zone, however.

The Blackhawks jumped ahead 3-0 lead on its first six shots and led 4-1 after the first period.

Kane opened the scoring 5:18 in when his centring pass to Dylan Strome deflected in off the stick of Toronto defenceman Cody Ceci.

Dach made it 2-0 at 12:00 when he plowed toward the net and buried a fat rebound from the lower edge of the right circle.

Kane connected again just 10 seconds later for a 3-0 lead. Kane misfired from the left circle, but controlled the puck, cut across the slot and fooled Hutchinson with a backhander.

DEVILS 2, CANUCKS 1

VANCOUVER New Jersey scored goals 22 seconds apart in the first period then used some key stops by goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to defeat Vancouver. Wayne Simmonds, on the power play, and Jesper Bratt scored for the Devils (5-7-4). Blackwood made 30 saves. Brock Boeser, on a power play, scored for the Canucks (96-3), who are winless in their past four games (0-3-1).

JETS 3, STARS 2 (OT)

WINNIPEG Mark Scheifele scored 21 seconds into overtime as the Winnipeg Jets ended the Dallas Stars' winning streak at four games with a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Scheifele got his seventh goal of the season when he went in on a two-on-one with Kyle Connor, but kept the puck himself and beat Anton Khudobin with a low shot. Patrik Laine snapped a 10game scoring drought with a power-play goal and Andrew Copp also scored at even strength for the Jets (10-7-1). Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for Winnipeg, which has points in its past five games (4-0-1).

CLARK SCORES HAT TRICK, CANADA BEATS U.S. TO SWEEP WOMEN'S HOCKEY SERIES

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA. Emily Clark capped a hat trick with a short-handed goal late in the third period, and Canada beat the United States 5-3 on Sunday to sweep the two-game series between women's hockey rivals.

Melodie Daoust and Natalie Spooner also scored for Canada, which won the opener 4-1 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Friday night. Kendall Coyne Schofield, Dani Cameranesi and Kelly Pannek scored third-period goals for the U.S., pulling the Americans within one before Clark sealed it. Canadian goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer made 31 saves. Kaitlin Burt stopped 23 shots for the United States.


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CANADA DROPS TO 1-1 AFTER LOSS TO SOUTH KOREA AT PREMIER 12 OLYMPIC QUALIFIER
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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B16

SEOUL -- SEOUL The Canadian men's baseball team dropped to 1-1 at the Premier 12 Olympic qualifier with a 3-1 loss against host South Korea on Thursday.

Canada, ranked 10th in the world, is now tied for second in Group C with No. 5 Cuba. The third-ranked Koreans lead at 2-0.

Canada plays its final first-round game on Friday (Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET) against No. 7 Australia (0-2).

The top two teams advance to the Super Round in Tokyo.

Korea starting pitcher Kwanghyun Kim allowed just one hit in six innings while striking out seven.

Canada cut Korea's lead to 2-1 in the eighth on an RBI double by Wes Darvill before the hosts added an insurance run in the ninth.

"We faced a very good [pitching] staff over there with Korea, they threw the ball extremely well," Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "I'm proud of our guys, they hung in there to the end.

"But give credit to Korea, they pitched [well] and played good defence."

Canadian starter Rob Zastryzny scattered three hits over 51/3 innings while striking out six.

Chris Leroux replaced him with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth.

"He ran out of gas," Whitt said of his starter. "He probably threw 10 more pitches than we wanted him to and his pitch count was up so I had to remove him from the game."

Leroux got the first batter he faced to pop out before loading the bases on a walk.

Jaehwan Kim then lined a single to right to give Korea a 2-0 lead.

Canada will send right-hander Brock Dykxhoorn to the mound to face Australia.

The Australians have won their past four international meetings against Canada.

Canada will need to finish as the top team from the Americas region - which also includes the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba - to secure an Olympic berth.

Another qualifier, featuring just teams from the Americas, will be played in March for a second spot in the sixteam Olympic tournament in Tokyo next summer.

THE CANADIAN PRESS


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AUSTRALIA BEATS CANADA, OUSTING IT AT PREMIER 12 BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page S2

SEOUL -- SEOUL Logan Wade broke a tie with a two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth and Australia beat Canada's men's baseball team 3-1 on Friday to eliminate the Canadians from the Premier 12 Olympic qualifying tournament.

Canada's hope of earning a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is put on hold until March, when the Americas Olympic Qualifier will take place in Arizona with one spot up for grabs.

"We're very disappointed in the loss," said Canadian manager Ernie Whitt. "Our pitching was outstanding all tournament but you have to score runs to win games and we failed to do that."

Closer Scott Mathieson of Aldergrove, B.C., entered the game in the eighth with two out and runners on first and second before Wade hit ball into the gap in right-centre.

"My only regret is that we walked the leadoff hitter and it seems any time you give up a free pass in these tournament it comes back to haunt you," Whitt said. "We got beat with our best pitchers today but again, you have to score runs to win games."

Starter Brock Dykxhoorn of Goderich, Ont., allowed just a run in the first inning and held Australia to two hits and walk while striking out seven over six innings of work.

Canada, ranked No. 10 in the world, finished round robin with a 1-2 record. The Canadians opened with a win against Cuba before losing to South Korea.

THE CANADIAN PRESS


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On fiscal stabilization, Alberta has a legitimate gripe
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By DAVID PARKINSON
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B2

W ouldn't it be nice, as the Alberta government struggles with a deficit and an impaired oil sector while bristling at being ineligible for federal equalization funds, if the country had a transfer program to help the country's relatively wealthy provinces in times of economic and fiscal shock?

Something that might make equalization less inequitable for a net contributor to the federal system that finds itself in need?

The country does have such a transfer program. Maybe you've never heard of it.

Probably because it doesn't work.

It's called the Fiscal Stabilization Program, and it has been around for more than 50 years, although rarely used. The general idea is this: If a province gets hit by an economic shock that deals a big blow to its finances, it can apply to Ottawa for funds to top up provincial revenues and soften the blow.

The formula for this is a bit complicated (would we expect anything else from a Canadian federal-provincial program?), but basically, if your non-resource revenues fall more than 5 per cent, you are eligible for federal help.

Only it's not much help. Tragicomically little help, in fact.

It wasn't always supposed to be that way. But in 1987 - a time, notably, that the federal government was dealing with some pretty monstrous deficit problems of its own - Ottawa put a cap on payments under the program at $60 a person.

You can guess how $60 a person works in the case of a major shock, such as the one Alberta suffered with the oil collapse of 2014-15. In the 2015-16 budget year, Alberta saw its total government revenues plunge $7-billion. In return, it received $250-million in fiscal stabilization. Drop, meet bucket.

There are a few obvious issues with fiscal stabilization that need addressing. One is the treatment of resource revenues, which, unlike non-resource revenues, need to plunge 50 per cent or more in a single year before they would be taken into account under the program. Another is the program's focus only on revenue declines over a single year; as Alberta's now-fouryear slump reminds us, serious economic shocks take considerably longer to run their course, yet the program offers no continuing support, unless your tanking economy tanks further.

(Unfortunately for Alberta, its economy has. The severe downturn in prices for Alberta crude prompted a second-round slump last year, prompting the province to apply for another $250-million payment.)

But the big, glaring flaw, one that effectively renders the program next to useless, is the $60-a-person cap. It fights a forest fire with a watering can. It stabilizes nothing.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has begun publicly lobbying Ottawa to remove the cap. That alone, if applied to the two claims under the program that Alberta has made since 2016, would mean an additional $1.7-billion into provincial coffers. It doesn't make up for the revenues Alberta has lost, obviously - but it's a meaningful amount that could help smooth the way as the province wrestles its costs under control.

Mr. Kenney has been referring to the Fiscal Stabilization Program as an "equalization rebate." It's not. Alberta does not directly pay into the equalization fund that gets distributed to provinces with weaker revenue bases - that's paid out of Ottawa's general tax revenue. And any province is eligible for fiscal stabilization, not just the "have" provinces, such as Alberta, that don't receive equalization payments.

Still, it's not hard to envision a betterbuilt Fiscal Stabilization Program as a potential support for the country's strongest provinces that, in times of economic and fiscal strain, don't have the safety net of equalization.

In a paper from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy earlier this year, economist Bev Dahlby said the Fiscal Stabilization Program could function as a risk-sharing mechanism between the country and its "rich but risky" regions - economic powerhouses whose downside of their potency is a tendency toward volatility. While Alberta is the obvious case in point, it's notable that many of the provinces with large resource-revenue streams - leaving them more susceptible to fiscal volatility - are also those that do not, typically, receive payments under Ottawa's equalization program.

Dr. Dahlby suggests that fiscal stabilization could be redesigned to provide a form of "insurance" to protect these resourcedependent provinces that the country leans on as net contributors to the federal system. At the same time, that fiscal insurance would provide a greater benefit from the Canadian federation for its richer members.

A repaired Fiscal Stabilization Program could act as, essentially, an equalization equalizer. And a big part of the fix is easy.

Remove the nonsensical cap.


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TSB calls for measures to reduce small commercial plane accidents
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By ERIC ATKINS
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B2

Canada's aviation safety investigator is urging the government and the small-aircraft sector to take steps to reduce the number of crashes and deaths in the air-taxi industry, pointing to unsafe practices that have made travelling in small passenger planes a riskier way to fly.

The Transportation Safety Board on Thursday issued new recommendations to address the poor safety record of small commercial passenger planes and helicopters, including that Transport Canada pass regulations that address "gaps" in the laws that govern the sector. These gaps include: a lack of training to fly in mountains or coastal regions; special credentials for those holding key positions; psychological trauma training for air ambulance pilots; and rest requirements for aircraft mechanics.

The TSB also said plane operators should be required to track and report to Transport Canada the number of hours flown, takeoffs and landings in order to properly gauge any changes in crash or fatality rates.

Although overall aviation safety has improved in the past several years, "the air-taxi sector continues to have more accidents and more fatalities than all other sectors of commercial aviation combined," said Kathy Fox, chairwoman of the TSB, as she presented the results of a five-year study on the safety record of the sector that includes all aircraft, excluding jets, that carry fewer than 10 passengers.

This includes air ambulances, float planes that carry hunters, fishers and commuters, and other small planes that bring people and supplies to remote communities or mining camps.

"Although these vital air links have helped build Canada and sustain its population, airtaxi operations are at higher risk than other sectors of the commercial aviation industry," Ms. Fox said at a news conference in Gatineau on Thursday.

Ms. Fox said this is partly because the airtaxi industry operates in unique and tough environments. The aircraft often fly without schedules into uncontrolled airspace without navigation aids or proper weather information.

"Flights tend to be shorter, resulting in more takeoffs and landings," Ms. Fox said.

Between 2000 and 2018, commercial aircraft with fewer than 10 passengers had 789 crashes that caused 240 deaths, which represents 55 per cent of all commercial air accidents and 62 per cent of the fatalities, the TSB said.

During the same period, airlines had 93 accidents and 15 fatalities. Aircraft conducting aerial work - carrying external loads for construction or site surveillance - accounted for 466 accidents and 98 deaths.

Privately owned aircraft flown for recreation are involved in the most fatalities, accounting for 29 of 36 deaths in 2018 alone.

Pilots involved in 167 of the air-taxi crashes studies by the TSB had an average of 5,000 hours of flight time, signaling that a lack of experience was not a cause of the incidents, the TSB said.

Ms. Fox said there are two reasons so many people die in small commercial-plane crashes: the acceptance of unsafe practices, and inadequate management of operational hazards.

For example, the pilots - often without enough rest - fly with too much weight on board, with minimal reserve fuel in bad weather in decades-old planes that lack proper navigation aids.

"I'm not talking about flagrant rule violations. I'm talking about a gradual drift that occurs over time that occurs with every successful, though not necessarily safe, flight," said the TSB's Glen Whitney, who led the investigation. The danger of these safety lapses are compounded by bad management practices - poor pilot pairings, sending a different pilot when the first refuses to fly, or having no weight scales available.

The TSB is Canada's investigator of accidents in the air, rail, marine and pipeline industries.

It investigates crashes, collisions and other industry occurrences, and issues reports and recommendations to highlight safety and regulatory shortcomings. Federal ministers must respond to the recommendations within 90 days but are not required to take any action, nor are any industry participants.

Alexandre Desjardins, a Transport Canada spokesman, said department officials are reviewing the TSB's report and recommendations, and will respond by the 90-day deadline.

"Transport Canada shares the Board's commitment to advancing the safety of Canada's air transportation system and we will continue to work with them, and our industry partners, to address all identified safety risks," Mr.

Desjardins said."

The TSB has previously issued 22 recommendations that affect safety practices and standards in the air-taxi sector, including the use of shoulder harnesses in seaplanes and ensuring adequate de-icing equipment is where it is needed. All 22, Ms. Fox said, are "outstanding" and unresolved.


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Organigram expects sales to slump on pot oversupply, product returns
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Company's shares slide 20% after it warns about quarterly decline amid mixed results from rivals
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By MARK RENDELL
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B2

Organigram Holdings Inc. sent a shock through the cannabis sector on Monday evening when the company revealed a dramatic revenue miss due to industry oversupply and product returns - two problems that are top of mind for cannabis companies and investors during a critical week of earnings.

Organigram now expects its quarterly sales to decline 34 per cent compared with the previous quarter. The announcement sent the company's share price down 20 per cent on Tuesday.

Producers are now growing more cannabis than is being sold in legal retail stores, and wholesale price compression and product returns are starting to show up in financial statements.

New Brunswick-based Organigram doesn't report its fourth-quarter financial results until Nov. 25, but it is expecting to announce $16.4-million in sales, down from $24.8-million in the preceding quarter. The company said it shipped $20-million worth of product, but expects $3.7million to be returned unsold.

"While we have largely anticipated little to no top-line growth for upcoming Canadian LP [licensed producer] results, the magnitude of the sequential decline is unexpected," wrote Eight Capital analyst Graeme Kreindler in a note on Tuesday.

Organigram blamed its poor quarter on the low number of retail stores in Ontario - only 24 legal stores are open - as well as the increase in supply across the industry. In the lead up to the wave of earnings this week, analysts have been warning that the vaults of provincial wholesalers are filling up with product that retailers don't want and wholesalers are making fewer new purchase orders.

Michael Gorenstein, chief executive of Cronos Group Inc., highlighted the challenges facing the Canadian market on an analyst call on Tuesday morning, after Cronos reported $12.7-million in quarterly sales, up from $10.2-million in the preceding quarter but short of consensus expectations.

"The number of retail stores as well as warehousing and logistics needs are in the process of catching up to meet the demand of consumers. As a result, we're still not able to fully reach the long-term total addressable market represented by this population," Mr. Gorenstein said.

Although Cronos doubled the number of kilograms of cannabis it sold in the quarter, a large portion of those sales were low-priced bulk sales to other producers. Mr. Gorenstein acknowledged that Cronos was "opportunistically" unloading cannabis on the wholesale market, owing to expectations that prices were about to drop sharply.

Tilray Inc., which reported after markets closed on Tuesday, showed relatively strong sales growth, with revenue increasing to US$48.2-million from US$42million the previous quarter.

However, the company reported a net loss of US$35.7-million and an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) loss of US$23.5-million, both worse than analysts had expected.

Cannabis companies are hoping that derivative products, such as cannabis-infused edibles and vaporizers, will help drive sales and widen profit margins when they enter the market later this year. But concerns are emerging that these "Cannabis 2.0" products may take longer than expected to show up on store shelves.

On Tuesday, MediPharm Labs Corp., a cannabis-extraction company based in Barrie, Ont., reported strong revenue growth as well as a $5.4-million profit, something rare in the cannabis industry. Still, the company's stock dropped 12.5 per cent.

In a Tuesday morning analyst call, MediPharm's CEO Pat McCutcheon said that derivative product sales might not have a significant impact on the company's revenue until the second half of 2020.

"Various retail distribution models used by different provinces have resulted in backlogged orders ... [and] we expect the cadence will likely not measure up to initial expectations in the near term," Mr. McCutcheon said.

All eyes are now on Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc., Canada's two largest cannabis growers, which both report earnings on Thursday.

ORGANIGRAM (OGI) CLOSE: $3.57, DOWN 89¢ CRONOS GROUP (CRON) CLOSE: $10.40, DOWN 29¢ TILRAY (TLRY) CLOSE: US$21.57, DOWN 35 US CENTS MEDIPHARM LABS (LABS) CLOSE: $4.42, DOWN 63¢

Associated Graphic

Organigram, whose plants are seen growing in a facility in Moncton on Oct. 12, says it expects to announce $16.4-million in sales in the fourth quarter, down from $24.8-million in the preceding quarter.

JOHN MORRIS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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Brookfield benefits as 'alternatives' gain steam
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Institutional investors are looking at unusual asset classes that the Toronto management company specializes in
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By DAVID MILSTEAD
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B2

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is a global leader in what are called "alternatives," but its CEO Bruce Flatt says that if global trends continue, those assets won't be so alternative anymore - and Brookfield can win big.

Brookfield has hundreds of billions of dollars invested globally in things such as real estate, infrastructure and renewable power. These asset classes are called "alternative" because they're not the simple stocks and bonds that make up so many ordinary portfolios. As institutional investors chase higher returns, they're plowing more money into "alternatives" instead - and one day they may be the majority of global portfolios.

Mr. Flatt says that lower-forlonger interest rates - they're now negative in Japan and Europe - can cause the trend to accelerate. "Should this interest rate environment continue to prevail, and with institutional capital growing. ... We think that institutional investors will continue a push towards 60 per cent alternatives allocation in their portfolios - from a global estimate of 25 per cent today," he said in a letter to shareholders.

Mr. Flatt's comments came as Brookfield released third-quarter results. Shareholders sent the shares to 52-week highs in early trading. Brookfield's Toronto Stock Exchange listed shares hit $77.06 before closing at $76.57.

Mr. Flatt is not alone in saying this trend will continue in a big way. Mark Wiseman, former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board CEO, told a Toronto audience in October the move was "profound." CPPIB itself has nearly half its $409.5-billion portfolio in private equity - the ownership of private companies, often aided by substantial borrowing - and assets such as real estate, infrastructure and direct ownership of energy generation.

Brookfield, however, is one of the few private-sector players that can play in this sandbox, and pass along gains to public shareholders. Brookfield invests its own money, as well as that of its investment partners, in a wide range of assets. It owns a portion of four related partnerships that trade on U.S. and Canadian exchanges: Brookfield Property Partners, Brookfield Renewable Partners, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners and Brookfield Business Partners.

It closed the quarter Sept. 30 with US$385-billion in assets under management and subsequently added Oaktree Capital Management, pushing the number above US$500-billion.

It also completed its fifth private-equity flagship fund, raising US$9-billion and bringing total fundraising for its current batch of funds to US$50-billion. Mr.

Flatt told shareholders Thursday that with the growth of Brookfield's strategies, plus the addition of Oaktree's debt offerings, the company expects the next round of fundraising for its flagship funds of 2021 and 2022 to be on the order of US$100-billion.

"Where continued largbrookfielde amounts of capital get allocated to alternatives, there are not too many people that have the operating capabilities and the scale that we have to be able to compete," Mr. Flatt said in an investor call Thursday.

"We've spent a long time building up [alternative managers'] skills. And people seem to be willing to compensate us for running essentially an outsourced investment management organization for them in alternatives, because it's tough for most people to do what we do."

Fee-related earnings - the money it takes in for its investment management - were US$1.03-billion in the 12 months ended Sept. 30 and has grown at annual rate of 23 per cent over the past four years. In August, Brookfield projected it will produce more than US$5-billion in cash a year by 2023 - more than double 2019's forecast of US$2.55billion and a fivefold increase from 2015.

Brookfield said its funds from operations in the quarter ended Sept. 30 were US$826-million, or 80 US cents per Brookfield share, down from US$1.09-billion, or US$1.07 a share, in 2018's third quarter. The prior-year period measure was boosted by US$401million in gains on sales of assets, while Brookfield recorded just US$125-million in gains in 2019's third quarter.

BROOKFIELD (BAM.A) CLOSE: $76.57, UP $1.01


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Alberta to remove production caps for newly drilled conventional wells
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By EMMA GRANEY
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page B2

Alberta will allow operators to drill new conventional wells unrestricted by production limits as the government tiptoes toward easing oil curtailment.

Existing producing wells will remain under curtailment, but Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Friday the change would help drive investment and job creation in the oil patch, and economic growth in the province.

The move, effective immediately, targets Alberta's drilling industry, which has seen the province's rig count drop by 33 per cent year-over-year. Government officials expect the bulk of new wells to crop up in the foothills, east central and southeast regions of Alberta.

New wells drilled under the policy change won't come online until late 2020 or early 2021, by which time the government expects additional transport capacity thanks to pipeline optimization programs and additional crude-by-rail contracts.

"We're watching the differential. We wouldn't be doing this if we weren't confident" the differential can handle it, Ms. Savage said at a news conference in Edmonton, adding drilling jobs could essentially start right away under Friday's change.

The drilling sector had been facing its worst winter season in 25 years, said Bob Geddes, president and chief operating officer for Ensign Energy Services Inc.

He said he believes the announcement will help "to save this winter," which is typically the busiest period for Canadian drilling companies.

Mr. Geddes - who heads one of Canada's largest energy-sector service firms - said Friday he had worked with the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, the industry group, and the Alberta government over the past month to push for the policy change.

Ms. Savage didn't know how many wells would be drilled under the eased curtailment policy, but said producers believe they could bring on hundreds of new wells if curtailment is relaxed.

"We'll hold them to their word to bring that activity on and create those wells, because we need them," she said.

Alberta producers have been under curtailment since January, when the former NDP government imposed production limits to drain the glut of oil in storage and help ease a crippling price differential on Canadian crude.

In August, the United Conservative Party government announced curtailment would be extended through 2020, citing swirling uncertainty around when expanded pipelines might come online.

Ms. Savage confessed she's the "the last person in the world" who wants to see Alberta's oil patch hamstrung by curtailment and said her government is doing all it can to prepare an "orderly exit" from production limits.

Those first tentative steps include Friday's change for new wells and the special production allowances announced last month, which will allow producers to increase their output as long as the extra oil is moved by rail.

"Companies are in the process of finalizing their budgets and their investment plans," Ms. Savage said. "What we don't want is the curtailment policy to impact those decisions. We want that investment and those dollars to stay in Alberta to create jobs here."

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., one of Canada's largest producers, has started drilling in Saskatchewan to increase output, saying it makes economic sense to tap wells untouched by curtailment.

This past September, Alberta produced approximately 480,000 barrels a day of conventional oil, of which 90,000 b/d came from curtailed operators. Eligibility for unrestricted drilling under the new rule will be tracked by the date the main drill bit enters the ground.

With a report from Kelly Cryderman.


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Aramco offering flags risks, gives few details on IPO size
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By MAHER CHMAYTELLI
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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B2

DUBAI -- Saudi state oil giant Aramco will sell 0.5 per cent of its shares to individual retail investors and the government will have a lockup period of a year on further share sales after the initial public offering (IPO), its prospectus said on Saturday.

The more-than-600-page prospectus did not include details of how much of the company would be floated in total or of any commitments from anchor investors.

Sources have said the company could sell 1 per cent to 2 per cent on the Saudi stock market in what could be the world's largest listing.

Offering for the shares will begin on Nov. 17, the prospectus said.

Aramco fired the starting gun on the IPO on Nov. 3 after a series of false starts. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to raise billions of dollars to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil by investing in non-energy industries.

Among the risks highlighted in the prospectus were the potential for terrorist attacks and the potential for encountering antitrust legislation, as well as the right of the Saudi government to decide maximum crude output and direct Aramco to undertake projects outside its core business.

Aramco may also change its dividend policy without prior notice to its minority shareholders, it said.

Aramco's oil facilities were targeted on Sept. 14 in unprecedented attacks that temporarily shut down 5.7 million barrels a day (b/ d) of output - more than 5 per cent of global oil supply.

The prospectus said the government will have a "statutory lock-up period" for disposing of any shares after the listing for six months, and a contractual lockup period for 12 months.

Aramco cannot list additional shares for a period of six months after trading starts, and will also be restricted from issuing additional shares for 12 months.

The offering for institutional investors will begin on Nov. 17 and end on Dec. 4, while retail investors will be able to bid for the shares from Nov. 17 to Nov. 28, the prospectus said.

Aramco has been in talks with Gulf and Asian sovereign wealth funds and wealthy Saudi individuals to secure top investors of the IPO, but no anchor investor has yet to formally agree to a deal.

Bankers have told the Saudi government that investors will likely value the company at about US$1.5-trillion, below the US$2-trillion valuation touted by Prince Mohammed when he first floated the idea of an IPO nearly four years ago.

Initial hopes for a 5-per-cent IPO on domestic and international stock exchanges were dashed last year when the process was halted amid debate over where to list Aramco overseas.

Aramco said the timetable was delayed because it began a process to acquire a 70-per-cent stake in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp.

The prospectus said Goldman Sachs was named as stabilizing agent for the deal.

Analysts from banks working on the Riyadh stock market have projected a wide valuation range between US$1.2-trillion and US$2.3-trillion.

At the top valuation of US$2tillion, Aramco could potentially raise US$40-billion, topping the record-breaking US$25-billion raised by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2014.

Associated Graphic

Aramco's oil production and storage operation in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, was one of several facilities targeted in attacks on Sept. 14. Aramco's IPO prospectus says future attacks are possible.

MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS


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Browns hold off Bills to end four-game slump
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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B15

CLEVELAND -- Baker Mayfield threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins with 1:44 left as the Cleveland Browns snapped a four-game losing streak - and took some pressure off first-year coach Freddie Kitchens - with a 19-16 win on Sunday over the Buffalo Bills.

The Browns (3-6) rallied for a win that kept their season from completely collapsing. Cleveland survived more problems in the red zone, but sealed the muchneeded win when Buffalo kicker Stephen Hauschka's 53-yard field-goal attempt was short with 22 seconds left. Earlier, Hauschka missed a 34-yarder. Quarterback Josh Allen had two touchdown runs for the Bills (6-3), who were off to their best start since 1993. Mayfield finally delivered a clutch drive after Allen's one-yard sneak put the Bills ahead 16-12. On second-andgoal, he threaded his TD pass to an open Higgins, who had been suspiciously missing from Cleveland's game plan this season after being one of Mayfield's favourite targets last season. It was Higgins's only catch. Mayfield had his second straight solid game, completing 26 of 38 passes for 238 yards and two TDs. He didn't throw an interception for the second week in a row.

However, Cleveland struggled again to complete drives as the Bills stopped them on 12 plays inside the three-yard line, holding Cleveland to three points. Browns running back Kareem Hunt made his debut for Cleveland and picked up 74 combined yards. The 24-year-old was eligible after completing an eight-game NFL suspension for two violent acts, including shoving and kicking a woman while he played for Kansas City.

TITANS 35, CHIEFS 32 NASHVILLE Ryan Tannehill threw a 23-yard touchdown to Adam Humphries with 23 seconds left, and Tennessee Titans blocked a last-second field goal attempt to beat Kansas City and spoil the return of NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Titans (5-5) only had a chance to take the lead after a bad snap by the Chiefs on Harrison Butker's fifth field goal attempt of the day.

The snap caught holder Dustin Colquitt by surprise, and he threw the ball away in desperation for an intentional grounding call, setting the Titans up at their own 39.

Tannehill scrambled for 18, hit Anthony Firsker for 20 yards and then found Humphries who ran in for the TD. Tannehill also ran for the two-point conversion for a 35-32 lead. The Chiefs (6-4) had a final chance with Mahomes. He drove them down, setting up Butker for another field goal try from 52 yards. Joshua Kalu blocked the kick with his left hand, and the Titans poured onto the field to celebrate.

FALCONS 26, SAINTS 9 NEW ORLEANS Matt Ryan passed for two touchdowns and Atlanta ended its sixgame slide with a victory over the Saints that stopped New Orleans's six-game winning streak. Atlanta's defence stunningly dominated New Orleans' normally stout offensive line. Coming in with an NFL low seven sacks all season, the Falcons sacked Drew Brees six times, with Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley Jr., Adrian Clayborn and De'Vondre Campbell all getting involved. Jarrett finished with a team-high 21/2 sacks. It was the second time this season the Saints were held without a touchdown at home, but the first time with Brees under centre.

New Orleans also failed to score a TD in a 12-10 victory over Dallas in Week 4 with Teddy Bridgewater filling in at quarterback. Ryan, returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him in the game before the Falcons' Week 9 bye, was 20 of 35 for 182 yards.

RAVENS 49, BENGALS 13 CINCINNATI Lamar Jackson threw for three touchdowns in a near-perfect passing performance and added a sensational 47-yard scoring run, Marcus Peters got his third pick-six of the season - this one off rookie Ryan Finley - and Baltimore won its fifth in a row, routing winless Cincinnati. The Ravens (7-2) followed their eye-opening victory over the previously unbeaten Patriots by quickly pulling away from the NFL's last winless team.

It was the Lamar Jackson show from the start - a 49-yard completion on his first throw. His only incompletion in the first half was on a spike. Jackson finished 15 of 17 - a club-record completion percentage - for 223 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, his second of the season. Jackson threw five TD passes and had a perfect rating during a 59-10 opening win over the Dolphins. The AFC North leaders have won five in a row for the first time since 2013.

BEARS 20, LIONS 13 CHICAGO Mitchell Trubisky tied a season high with three touchdown passes, and Chicago withstood a late charge by Detroit with Jeff Driskel filling in for injured quarterback Matthew Stafford, beating the Lions to snap a four-game losing streak. Detroit ruled out the 31-year-old Stafford hours before kickoff because of hip and back injuries, ending his streak of 136 consecutive starts. It was the first time he missed a regular-season game since 2010. Chicago improved to 4-5. Detroit (3-5-1) lost for the fifth time in six games.

BUCCANEERS 30, CARDINALS 27 TAMPA Jameis Winston threw for 358 yards and one touchdown, helping Tampa Bay rally to snap a four-game losing streak with a victory over Arizona. Matt Gay kicked three field goals and Peyton Barber scored on a one-yard run to finish a 92-yard, game-winning drive by Winston.

Barber's TD with less than two minutes left was set up by a booth review that determined Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson committed pass interference against Mike Evans in the end zone, giving Tampa Bay a first down at the Arizona one.

JETS 34, GIANTS 27 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Le'Veon Bell scored a go-ahead one-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter after a 33-yard pass interference penalty on DeAndre Baker, and the Jets rallied and then held on to beat the Giants for Big Apple bragging rights. Sam Darnold threw a touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder and ran for another score, and Jamal Adams scored on a 25-yard fumble return on a strip-sack as the Jets (2-7) bounced back from an embarrassing 28-16 loss last week at previously winless Miami. Daniel Jones threw a career-high four touchdown passes, but couldn't prevent the Giants (2-8) from losing their sixth straight game. It's their first six-game skid since 2014.

DOLPHINS 16, COLTS 12 INDIANAPOLIS Ryan Fitzpatrick scored on an 11-yard run in the first half and the Miami defence made a late stop to preserve a victory over Indianapolis. The Dolphins (2-7) have won two straight after a miserable start and earned their first win at Lucas Oil Stadium since 2013. Indianapolis (5-4) has lost back-to-back regular-season games for the first time since October 2018. With starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett out because of an injured left knee, the Colts offence sputtered. Indy gained just 300 total yards and Brian Hoyer was picked off three times, with Miami scoring 13 points off those turnovers.

STEELERS 17, RAMS 12 PITTSBURGH The Steelers defence spoiled Aaron Donald's homecoming and derailed the Los Angeles Rams' momentum in the process. The Steelers forced four turnovers - including a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick - in an ugly victory that pushed their winning streak to four games and dealt the Rams' chances of chasing down Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West a serious blow.

Associated Graphic

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter at Nissan Stadium on Sunday in Nashville.

BRETT CARLSEN/GETTY IMAGES


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How the Wolfpack landed Williams, the biggest fish in the sea
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By RACHEL BRADY
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page S3

TORONTO -- A ll Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams sat in a Tokyo restaurant in late October on a quiet night during the Rugby World Cup, launching questions across the table at Toronto Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott.

There was a fascinating multimillion-dollar deal taking shape.

Toronto's transatlantic rugby league club was on the brink of signing the world famous New Zealand player - a man who could help kick off its first season in England's top-tier Super League in February with a resounding bang. Those talking about the deal were already equating its magnitude to David Beckham joining Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy.

That two-man dinner meeting included zero talk about money.

The Wolfpack had been having conversations on and off with Williams's agent for two years, and now the deal was actually nearing a reality. The towering Kiwi requested Toronto's coach fly over to meet him in Japan so he could learn everything there was to know about the Wolfpack from the man who leads its players every day.

Williams's New Zealand team had lost a semi-final heartbreaker to England in the World Cup the night before in Yokohama, with McDermott in the crowd.

The 34-year-old Auckland native was mulling his next career move, and this would be an adventure - switching back from rugby union to rugby league, and taking his talents to the Northern Hemisphere.

Williams queried Toronto's veteran English coach on everything from the Wolfpack's defensive and offensive strategies, to their training regimens, philosophies and weekly schedules.

"He was very gracious and humble and apologized for machine-gunning me with questions," McDermott recalled with a laugh. "He wanted to make sure he could blend in with the Wolfpack as fast as possible. Never once did I get any sense that he had his collars up sayin,g 'Hey I'm a big deal here.' " The New Zealander, who measures 6 foot 3 and 238 pounds, has starred at the highest levels in both codes of rugby, professionally and internationally. He earned two rugby-league championships in Australia's National Rugby League. He won World Cups with the All Blacks in 2015 and 2011, along with the bronze medal he was about to earn in Japan. The athletic Williams even boxed professionally seven times, winning all of his heavyweight bouts. He's a devout Muslim, and his profile extends way beyond the sport, as evidenced by his 1.7 million followers across his Twitter and Instagram feeds.

The Wolfpack is an ambitious club born just three years ago. It made its debut in the bottom tier of English rugby league, winning promotion to the second-tier Betfred Championship in Year 1, before winning promotion to the Super League just last month. A talent with a monster brand such as Williams could help the Wolfpack muscle up for Super League competition, and stimulate its brand along with the sport within Toronto's cluttered sports market. Even around the world.

McDermott had just one question for Williams during that dinner.

"I said 'I've got to ask you this Sonny - and I don't intend to offend you - but are you coming for the sexy headlines, the big money and profile that come with this deal, or are you coming to go through those tough moments on the field with your teammates?' " McDermott recalled.

"His answer was outstanding, and I won't tell you exactly what he said, but I'll summarize. He's all about earning the right to play, the respect of his family and of our players. He knows to do that he has to work harder than anyone else."

McDermott, reached in England hours after the Wolfpack officially announced Williams's two-year deal, shared his recollections of that dinner in a phone interview on Thursday. The signing made news worldwide. The Wolfpack won't confirm the terms, but it is reported to be worth some $9-million Canadian in total, with some outlets calling it the richest deal in Super League history. It's a lot of money for a club that is also footing the bill for opposing teams' travel to Canada and is not - at least for its first Super League season - getting a share of broadcasting revenue.

Super League allows for each team to have two franchise players with all but a small chunk of their salaries counted outside the salary cap.

The Wolfpack will introduce Williams in England next week, at a news conference slated for Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC. He will meet his new Wolfpack teammates as the English players start training camp in Manchester. For immigration reasons, most international players do their preseason training outside of Britain, so Williams will train in Australia and report to England in January before Super League matches begin in February.

The Wolfpack has even been approached about a reality series on Netflix, which could begin filming this season.

Williams is a fit and fierce ball carrier with a talent for dishing the ball off to teammates as multiple muscled tacklers hang off him. He began his career in rugby league, but has frequently moved between codes and played the past five seasons in rugby union. McDermott says rugby league is more aerobic and Williams could have 80-90 involvements a game for the Wolfpack, compared with his 20-30 each match in rugby union.

The outspoken coach has witnessed various efforts by Super League to grow its popularity, but he thinks examples of big investments - such as this from Wolfpack majority owner David Argyle - will move the needle more.

"It's going to prove to some other clubs that these big, big deals can be done if you have an owner who is innovative, resourceful and has [the determination] to go out and do it," McDermott said.

With the Wolfpack's first 10 matches scheduled abroad, because of the Canadian winter, Williams isn't likely to set foot in Toronto until the home opener at Lamport Stadium on April 18.

But news of his arrival is already among the biggest topics buzzing throughout Super League.

"It's the biggest news Super League has had in 20 years," said Wolfpack director of rugby Brian Noble. "We moved heaven and earth to get the biggest name in rugby and we've done it. It's really a major signing, and it's a reflection of how well we want to perform in the Super League and what we want to do for the game of rugby league in the Northern hemisphere. He's built like a mountain, and people are going to love watching him."

Bob Hunter, Wolfpack chairman and CEO, was at Super League team meetings in England this week and said the signing was a hot topic.

Many Super League clubs project spikes in ticket sales when Williams and the Wolfpack visit, and are also projecting a jump in the number of British fans who will fly to Toronto for a game.

Hunter said one team reportedly has 1,500 fans committed for an extended weekend trip to Canada.

"The combination of playing in the Super League, and having Sonny Bill Williams changes our sponsorship opportunities dramatically, and the interest in tickets," Hunter said.

Associated Graphic

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, clashing with Welsh players during the Rugby World Cup on Nov. 1, has had huge success in the sport. Now, he's signed with the Wolfpack.

CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES


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Leafs are set to welcome Hyman back, but lose Marner to sprained ankle
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Toronto swaps one winger for another while coach remains mum on lineup ahead of Wednesday's road game against the Islanders
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By JOSHUA CLIPPERTON
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B16

N TORONTO -- As the Maple Leafs sluggishly went about the early part of the NHL schedule, head coach Mike Babcock would often point to the new faces in the lineup and the new systems being implemented as reasons for his team's uninspiring start.

Toronto's head coach also went out of his way to mention the absence of Zach Hyman - the gritty forward tasked with retrieving the puck and making space for star linemates John Tavares and Mitch Marner.

The good news is the Leafs are set to welcome Hyman back from a serious knee injury. The bad news is they're also dealing with the realization that Marner will be out at least four weeks, and quite possibly longer, with a high ankle sprain.

"It would be nice to come back and play with him again and to reunite on that front," Hyman said of Marner on Tuesday before adding with a smile: "He'll be back soon and I guess I'll be up to game speed by then." Marner hobbled off in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers after stepping on an opponent's stick at the start of the second period. He made it to the bench and tried to take part in a power-play shift a few minutes later before heading to the locker room.

The 22-year-old, who said he felt "a snap" in his right ankle, tested the joint again during a television timeout, but was pulled out of the action by the Leafs' medical team. He was in a walking boot Tuesday and hopes to have it off by Friday.

"You're always [disappointed]," said Marner, who will go on long-term injury reserve. "But looking back at the video, seeing the photos, it could have been a lot worse. At that time I was ready to look back and see my ankle twisted the wrong way."

High ankle sprains can be tricky, with the timeline for a return often hard to predict. Marner, whose move to LTIR does help the Leafs' salary cap crunch, missed Sunday's 5-4 loss in Chicago against the Blackhawks and will sit out at least the next 12 games before being re-evaluated.

Marner, Tavares and Hyman combined for 223 points in 201819, and were on the ice for 53 of Toronto's 166 goals at 5 on 5, according to the website naturalstattrick.com. Marner is currently second in scoring on the Leafs with 18 points, seven back of Auston Matthews, but just 10 have come at even strength.

Toronto, which sits 9-6-4 heading into Wednesday's road game against the New York Islanders, went 3-2-2 with Tavares out of the lineup from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 with a broken finger.

"It's unfortunate," Tavares said of Marner's absence. "We want him back as soon as possible, but the circumstances are what they are. That's why you need depth, and we certainly have that.

"It's a great opportunity for many guys."

Kasperi Kapanen should get the first crack alongside Tavares and Hyman, while winger Nic Petan was recalled from the American Hockey League and looks set to slot in on the fourth line.

Babcock, however, wasn't promising anything after Tuesday's practice.

"We've got to figure it out as a coaching staff, and them as players, and figure out who plays with who to help the group be the best it can be," he said. "We'll take a look and try and get the group to be set up the best way it can to have success."

Babcock added it's tough to know what Hyman, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in last spring's playoff loss to the Boston Bruins, will bring in his first game since April.

"He just works ... like a dog," the coach said. "Can he get on the fore-check and get us the puck back like he always does? I don't know the answer for that. How can [he] be on that right-hand faceoff circle on the penalty kill? I don't know that either."

Tavares said the juggling of linemates can be a challenge, especially when replacing a unique talent such as Marner.

"Guys play different ways, have different tendencies," said Toronto's captain, who's ready for another rough reception against his former team on Long Island. "It's trying to just have a feel for that and be predictable for one another, but be unpredictable for the opponent."

What's easy to predict, however, is the effort level Hyman's set to infuse in his return to the lineup.

"I've learned just to do what I do best and no worry about other things," Hyman said. "Hopefully I'll just pick up where I left off."

NOTES Leafs backup goalie Michael Hutchinson cleared waivers Tuesday and will report to the AHL Marlies after falling to 0-4-1 on the season in Sunday's loss to Chicago. Tavares said the players in front of Hutchinson didn't do him any favours. "We have to own that," he said. "We just did not play very well." Toronto recalled Kasimir Kaskisuo to serve as the No. 2 netminder behind Frederik Andersen. The Leafs play host to Boston on Friday before visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday. Kaskisuo, 26, could make his first NHL appearance against the Penguins.

Associated Graphic

The Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman, seen fending off then-Bruin Marcus Johansson in Boston in April, is set to rejoin the team after a serious knee injury.

MADDIE MEYER/GETTY IMAGES


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Women's hockey group shares rendition of Stompin' Tom Connors classic in campaign for pro league
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By DONNA SPENCER
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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B17

W omen striving for the professional hockey league of their dreams want to stay visible during a gap in their Dream Gap Tour.

The Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association tugs on hockey heart strings with Thursday's release of a music video rendition of the Stompin' Tom Connors ballad The Hockey Song.

PWHPA president and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford says the roughly 200 North American and international players in the union want to keep their drive for a sustainable league on the hockey world's radar.

"We want to find ways to keep the conversation going with a content piece like this," Hefford said.

The collapse of the Canadian Women's Hockey League this year after 12 seasons, and the players' refusal to join the U.S.based NWHL because they don't believe it's financially sustainable, gave rise to the PWHPA. Members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams are its public face.

After Dream Gap Tour showcase tournaments in Toronto, Hudson, N.H., and Chicago, and exhibition games in Boston and San Jose, Calif., in September and October, there's a lull in the PWHPA's schedule.

Hefford, from Kingston, said more Dream Gap Tour stops will be announced in the coming days, including Canadian dates.

In the meantime, the music video produced by Budweiser Canada for a socialmedia campaign is a teaser for that announcement.

"This is a big moment for us to be able to release a message like this," Hefford said. "We want that to live in its own space, but very shortly after we'll be announcing some future events."

The video's release also coincides with the Canadian and U.S. national teams squaring off in exhibition games Friday and Sunday at the Pittsburgh Penguins' training facility, as well as Hockey Hall of Fame induction festivities starting next Friday in Toronto.

The content features comedian Gerry Dee, Hockey Night in Canada hosts Ron MacLean, Don Cherry and Tara Slone, broadcaster Bob Cole and former NHL player Georges Laraque among those lending their voices to The Hockey Song, which starts out rollicking but takes a sombre turn.

Canadian players Natalie Spooner, Sarah Nurse, Renata Fast and Shannon Szabados dully recite the lyrics as the lights go out in a hockey arena and a statement is conveyed that "the good old hockey game is only that, when it's good to everyone."

"It's not like this has been an easy year for the majority of our group," Hefford said.

"It's been very difficult, but when you go to bed at night and you know you are living something you believe in and you're passionate about and you know you're going to make things better for someone else, that's a pretty good way to end a day."

In its few months of existence, the PWHPA has gathered economic clout with domestic and international brands such as Budweiser, Adidas, Bauer, Tim Hortons and as well as the support of the NHL Players' Association and Unifor Canada.

"For us, it's more than sponsors that want to put their logos somewhere," Hefford said. "It's who wants to be really engaged and be a part of the solution?" Dunkin' Donuts, interestingly, sponsors both the PWHPA and the NWHL, now in its fifth season.

Budweiser has produced content for the U.S. women's soccer team with similar messages about the value of female sports.

"We saw this opportunity to, beyond just our partnership with the Dream Gap Tour, to drive more awareness for the issue, to help support the women's game in Canada," said Todd Allen, vice-president of marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada.

"We thought what better way than using the iconic hockey song of Stompin' Tom Connors, but delivered in a unique way leveraging iconic Canadian media personalities and hockey players to tell a story of what happened to the Canadian Women's Hockey League folding in 2019, to help shine a spotlight on what the PWHPA is trying to achieve and to bring more awareness to women's hockey in Canada."

Associated Graphic

Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association president Jayna Hefford, seen in Toronto Oct. 23, says things haven't been easy for the majority of her group. 'It's been very difficult, but when you go to bed at night and ... you know you're going to make things better for someone else, that's a pretty good way to end a day.'

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Regular-season dominance doesn't always turn into CFL playoff success
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By DAN RALPH
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Saturday, November 16, 2019 – Page S3

TORONTO -- Mike Kiselak fondly remembers the 1996 and 97 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts.

Both years, Toronto posted 15-3 records - the best regular-season marks in the franchise's illustrious 146year history. Kiselak was named the CFL's top lineman each year, but what really stands out for the all-star centre was the Argos effectively parlaying the immense weight of playoff expectation into Grey Cup championships.

"Those years still would've been nice," Kiselak said. "But winning the Grey Cup is what made them special because as an American player, that's why you come to Canada, to continue the dream of playing football and win a championship.

"I received rings for being named top lineman but I never wear them, they're still in the box. The individual stuff, those are nice accolades but that's not why you're in it. Whenever I go out, I wear the Grey Cup rings."

The Hamilton TigerCats find themselves in a similar situation this year.

They were the CFL's best team during the regular season with a league-best 15-3 mark that also was a single-season franchise record.

The challenge now is duplicating that success in the playoffs as the Ticats attempt to end a dubious 20-year Grey Cup drought.

Hamilton begins its Grey Cup quest Sunday hosting Edmonton in the East Division final. The Ticats will be heavy favourites, considering they're a perfect 9-0 at Tim Hortons Field and swept the season series with the Eskimos, who finished fourth in the West Division with an 8-10 record.

It was a similar scenario for the Argos in 1996 and '97. Their roster included Kiselak, quarterback Doug Flutie, running backs Robert Drummond and Mike (Pinball) Clemons, Canadian linebacker Mike O'Shea and defensive tackle Rob Waldrop.

Kiselak, a former centre, said whatever outside pressure there was on the Argos paled in comparison to the expectations the players and coaches had.

"We had so many great players that everyone knew what the expectation was," he said. "And with our head coach [the late Don Matthews], we had a swagger, but not in an over-confident way.

"I remember in 1996 we got our butts kicked in Vancouver [a 35-11 loss to the BC Lions in the regular season], I got my butt kicked. But we had guys who could accept coaching so when the coaches got on us it didn't bother us. I know for me, whenever a coach got on me all it did was make me stronger and want to play harder and better. That was our mentality, not just to be good but strive to be great."

Kiselak ended his five-year CFL stint in 1998 when he signed with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. Kiselak ended his pro football career in 2001 with the XFL's San Francisco Demons.

These days, Kiselak is involved in the construction business in Dallas. The 52year-old admits he's never thought about what might've been had Toronto lost in either or both Grey Cups.

"I couldn't imagine what it would be like to play in the 20th game of the season and not come away with the win," Kiselak said. "I'm so glad I never had to experience that."

The Eskimos proved in 1989 that regular-season success doesn't always carry over into the playoffs.

Edmonton, under head coach Joe Faragalli, posted a league-best 16-2 record, the most regularseason victories in CFL history. Like Hamilton, the Eskimos were unbeaten at home and led offensively by Tracy Ham, who'd capture league MVP honours after passing for 4,366 yards and becoming the first CFL quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,005 on 25 carries with 10 TDs).

But Edmonton lost 32-21 in the West Division final to the third-place Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-9). The Riders did hand the Eskimos one of their two regular-season losses, but still dropped the season series 2-1 and went into conference final as a double-digit underdog.

Saskatchewan captured the Grey Cup with a wild 43-40 win over Hamilton in Toronto. Even 30 years later, that West Division final loss sill lingers with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who was playing with the Eskimos.

"It never goes away," Ambrosie said.

"That game has lived in my mind now for many, many years."


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English, Czechs, French and Turks clinch Euro 2020 berths
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By DANIELLA MATAR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B14

England qualified in style for the 2020 European Championship, while the Czech Republic, France and Turkey also booked their places on Thursday for next year's tournament.

England needed only a draw to qualify but Harry Kane scored a hat trick in a 7-0 win over Montenegro, while the Czech Republic also advanced from Group A by beating Kosovo 2-1.

Cristiano Ronaldo also scored a hat trick, in Portugal's 6-0 win over Lithuania, to keep the defending champions in contention for one of the top two spots in Group B.

Iceland's earlier draw in Istanbul had already ensured France and Turkey were through from Group H.

All three of Kane's goals came in the first half of England's 1,000th match as the Tottenham forward became the first player to score a hat trick in successive appearances at Wembley - having also scored a treble against Bulgaria in September.

The landmark night was completed by Tammy Abraham's first England goal, six minutes from time. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the opener in the 11th minute and Marcus Rashford also netted in the first half to help England to a 5-0 advantage at halftime.

After a flood of goals in the first half, the Montenegro net was only breached after the break by Aleksandar Sofranac's own-goal and Abraham in the 84th.

England will be back at Wembley at the finals, with three group-stage games at the national stadium, which is one of 12 venues being used by UEFA in 12 cities across Europe.

The semi-finals and final will also be at Wembley in July, 2020.

The Czech Republic needed to win to join England but had a scare when Atdhe Nuhiu headed Kosovo into a surprise lead five minutes after the interval.

But Alex Kral curled in a stunning equalizer in the 71st and Ondrej Celustka scored what was to prove the crucial goal for the Czechs eight minutes later.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, hadn't scored in his past three club matches after playing with a knee injury. But the Juventus forward showed little sign of any problems as he came to his country's aid on Thursday, reaching 98 national goals in the process.

It was the ninth hat trick with Portugal for Ronaldo, and the 55th of his career for club and country. He has 10 goals in seven qualifying matches.

Pizzi Fernandes, Goncalo Paciencia and Bernardo Silva also scored for Portugal, which can qualify with a win in its final Group B match on Sunday at Luxembourg.

The rout against last-place Lithuania gave Portugal 14 points, five fewer than group leader Ukraine - which has already qualified - and one point more than third-place Serbia, which beat Luxembourg 3-2.

Iceland needed to beat Group H leader Turkey to stay in the running for a direct berth in next year's tournament but drew 0-0.

Hordur Magnusson came close for Iceland, eight minutes from time, but his effort from a corner was blocked on the line by Turkish defender Merih Demiral.

The result meant France had already qualified before its 2-1 win over Moldova.

Vadim Rata gave Moldova a surprise lead in the ninth minute but Raphael Varane levelled in the 35th and Olivier Giroud converted a penalty 11 minutes from time.

Also, Albania drew 2-2 at home to Andorra, which hadn't scored an away goal in a competitive match in more than nine years.

Associated Graphic

England's Harry Kane, middle, scores on a leaping header during a 7-0 win over Montenegro at Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday. Kane became the first player to score a hat trick in successive appearances at Wembley, having also scored three goals against Bulgaria in September.

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AP


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Sterling dropped from Euro 2020 qualifier with Montenegro after training ground 'disturbance'
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By SIMON EVANS
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B12

England winger Raheem Sterling has been dropped from the squad to face Montenegro in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley after a "disturbance" at the national team's training camp on Monday, the Football Association said.

"The FA can confirm Raheem Sterling will not be considered for Thursday's EURO 2020 qualifier against Montenegro as a result of a disturbance in a private team area at St. George's Park today," the FA said in a statement.

The Daily Mail reported that Manchester City winger Sterling had clashed with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez after the England team got together at their Burtonon-Trent training centre on Monday - less than 24 hours after City lost 3-1 at Liverpool.

The newspaper reported that "Sterling attempted to grab Gomez by the neck following his arrival in the players' canteen." The pair squared up in the latter stages of Sunday's Premier League clash after Gomez came on as a substitute.

The FA statement, which said Sterling will remain with the squad, did not address the specifics of the dispute or confirm if Gomez was the other party, but England boss Gareth Southgate linked the incident to Sunday's top-of-the-table clash.

"We have taken the decision to not consider Raheem for the match against Montenegro on Thursday," Southgate said.

"One of the great challenges and strengths for us is that we've been able to separate club rivalries from the national team. Unfortunately the emotions of yesterday's game were still raw," he added in the FA statement.

"My feeling is that the right thing for the team is the action we have taken. Now that the decision has been made with the agreement of the entire squad, it's important that we support the players and focus on Thursday night," he added.

Sterling has become a key player for England in the past year after being criticized for his displays at the 2018 World Cup.

Last season he was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers' Association after scoring 25 goals in all competitions, as City won a domestic treble of the Premier League title and the two Cup competitions. For England, Sterling has scored 12 goals in 55 games but has been a regular under Southgate and scored twice in the recent 6-0 win away to Bulgaria.

Associated Graphic

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and Liverpool's Joe Gomez face off during their matchup on Sunday. A newspaper report says that Sterling clashed with Gomez at England's Burton-on-Trent training centre on Monday.

CARL RECINE/ACTION IMAGES VIA REUTERS


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Digital Colony adds to Canadian telecom deals with purchase of Beanfield
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By CHRISTINE DOBBY
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B1

A U.S. investment firm that has been quietly amassing a trove of Canadian fibre and data-centre assets has acquired Toronto-based Beanfield Technologies Inc., a privately owned fibre-optic internet provider, with an investment of more than $130-million.

Colony Capital Inc., a real estate investment firm based in Los Angeles, branched into digital infrastructure over the past year, acquiring Digital Bridge Holdings LLC, with which it raised a US$4-billion fund, Digital Colony Partners. The fund has a mandate to invest in communications assets such as wireless towers, data centres, fibre lines and cellular technology that will be used in next-generation 5G networks.

In its early days, Florida-based Digital Colony has been on a Canadian shopping spree. It closed the deal to buy Beanfield last month, and Colony Capital disclosed it in a quarterly financial filing on Friday.

The transaction came just five months after Digital Colony paid $720-million to buy Cogeco Peer 1, the former enterprise-connectivity division of cable company Cogeco Communications Inc. Beanfield has been building fibre-optic infrastructure in Toronto since the 1990s and now has a total of about 350 kilometres of fibre lines in that city and Montreal, providing more than 700 commercial and residential buildings with telecom services.

In a joint deal with European fund EQT announced in May, Digital Colony also said it will acquire Zayo Group Holdings Inc., a U.S. company that bought Allstream Inc. in 2016 from what was then Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. Digital Colony and EQT plan to take Zayo private in a transaction valued at US$8.4-billion (not including the assumption of $5.9-billion in debt) and hope to close the deal in the first quarter of 2020.

"This is an extremely exciting time for digital infrastructure as technology drives unprecedented changes across the industry and creates attractive opportunities," Steven Sonnenstein, managing director of Digital Colony, said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Tuesday. "As data traffic and storage needs continue to grow, Europe and the Americas are at an inflection point for digital infrastructure. New technologies will only accelerate the demand and costs to deploy."

Mr. Sonnenstein would not comment specifically on other potential Canadian deals, but said, "We remain bullish on the Canadian digital infrastructure market and will continue to seek opportunities to invest in telecommunications infrastructure in the region in a strategic and effective manner."

After inquiries from The Globe, Digital Colony issued a news release on the Beanfield acquisition on Tuesday afternoon.

It did not disclose the financial terms, but the earnings report Colony Capital published last week stated that Digital Colony invested US$100-million in Beanfield (or about $132-million Canadian).

Cogeco Peer 1 (which Digital Colony renamed Aptum Technologies in August) has 3,200 kilometres of fibre in Toronto and Montreal, plus 14 data centres in the United States and Canada.

When Zayo acquired Allstream (the former AT&T Canada), it had about 20,000 km of long-haul fibre connecting major Canadian centres and 10 U.S. network access points, plus about 9,000 km of fibre connecting individual customers in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary.

Beanfield hired Bank Street Group, a Connecticut-based investment firm that advises companies in the communications and technology sector, and has been looking for a buyer since at least the beginning of 2019.

Dan Armstrong, who cofounded Beanfield with Chris Amendola, will remain with the company as chief executive.

In its early days, Beanfield offered fibre-based telecom services to businesses, but over the past decade or so has expanded into the residential market, offering apartment dwellers in new condo developments high-speed internet service. Digital Colony said on Tuesday that Beanfield will continue serving residential clients.

"It will continue to be business as usual at Beanfield," Mr. Sonnenstein said. "We believe the company has a great management team in place." He added that Aptum and Beanfield will operate independently.

Colony Capital is a giant in real estate investing, and made Canadian headlines in 2006, when it jointly paid $3.3-billion for the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts chain through a consortium of investors that included the Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal.

Thomas Barrack Jr., who was chairman of U.S. President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, founded Colony in 1991. He is currently the CEO, but Colony has announced he plans to step down from that role in 2020, although he will remain executive chairman.

With a report from James Bradshaw.

Associated Graphic

Dan Armstrong, seen at Beanfield's Toronto offices in 2016, will remain CEO of the the fibre-optic internet provider in the wake of the company's acquisition by Digital Colony Partners.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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Bankers to see disappointing bonuses after slow year for deals
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By ANDREW WILLIS
  
  

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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B1

Canada's bank-owned investment dealers will cut bonus cheques to employees in the next few weeks.

It's going to be a disappointing experience at most brokerage houses and a wake-up call for Bank of Nova Scotia, where strong credit relationships failed to translate into more lucrative assignments in stock sales and merger advice in the recently concluded fiscal year.

Performance-based pay will take a hit at bank-owned dealers, which ended their fiscal year on Oct. 31, because of falling revenues from equity underwriting and corporate bond sales, two of any investment bank's most lucrative lines of business.

"Even if relative performance remains unchanged or even improves at some banks, slower earnings overall give the dealers the opportunity to cut performance pay," said Ian Russell, chief executive of the Investment Industry Association of Canada.

"There may be some exceptions for the few strong performers. On the other hand, some investment banking teams may be hit hard."

The value of stock sales by Canadian investment banks dropped 15 per cent to $27.8-billion in the 12 months ended Oct. 31, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The new year is off to an inauspicious start, with the cancellation of a much-anticipated IPO from waste disposal company GFL Environmental Inc. that could have raised as much as $2.4-billion. Equity underwriting is a significant source of revenue for dealers, which typically charge companies a 4-per-cent fee to sell stock.

Morgan Stanley sold the most stock for Canadian clients, raising $4.9-billion in just five transactions, including financings for Shopify Inc. and Tim Hortons parent Restaurant Brands International Inc.

Canaccord Genuity Group Inc.

was the busiest shop, leading 53 equity offerings that raised $1.3billion.

Corporate debt underwriting declined by 6 per cent to $57-billion, with RBC Dominion Securities topping The Street's league tables by selling $16-billion of bonds in 88 transactions.

One bright spot for bankers was merger and acquisition activity, where the value of transactions rose 17 per cent to $114-billion. TD Securities was the No. 1 deal maker, in part owing to a strong presence in energy-related M&A, advising on 24 transactions worth $40.1-billion. Private equity activity was also robust and revenue from these capital-hungry clients helps offset the dealer's declining profits from public markets.

"The financing trend had been down for the past couple of years," Mr. Russell said. Domestic investment banking revenue declined by 19 per cent to $1.98-billion through the first eight months of this year, according to IIAC's data. Mr. Russell said: "The dealers have been focused on paring back operating expenses in investment banking for some time, particularly as the nearterm outlook for the business is poor with continued slow economic growth, depressed capital spending and no signs of imminent change in spending in the energy sector."

Equity underwriting and M&A activity was dominated last year by five of the six Canadian bankowned dealers and a handful of independent and foreign firms.

Scotiabank was an outlier, as the one Canadian bank that finished well down the ranks in equity sales and M&A work. Scotiabank has long-established lending relationships across Corporate Canada and ranked fifth in both corporate loans, with roles in 144 issues, and in corporate bond underwriting, with 45 transactions. Credit market transactions typically come with lower profit margins than equity and M&A assignments, and banks attempt to cross-sell their services to maximize the fees they earn from corporate clients.

Scotiabank's debt-based relationships did not translate into more lucrative work on stock sales and takeovers last year. The bank was the No. 9 player in equity underwriting, raising $733-million in 15 deals. The firm ranked seventh in equity underwriting in the previous year. In M&A advisory work, Scotiabank ranked 16th, with a role in 18 transactions. The previous year, the bank ranked fourth in M&A. Scotiabank declined to comment on the results.

Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter is a former investment banker with close ties to corporate clients; he used to run the equity capital markets group that oversees stock sales. Mr. Porter put new executives in charge of Scotiabank's capital markets group this year, appointing Jake Lawrence and James Neate as co-CEOs. The pair spent the year rebuilding their teams, in part by recruiting senior bankers in a number of divisions from rival dealers. Scotiabank's former head of investment banking, Dieter Jentsch, had a background in corporate lending and retired last December.


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Quebec floats $30-million into fledgling blimp maker
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By NICOLAS VAN PRAET
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B1

MONTREAL -- Quebec thinks there's money in blimps.

The province is spending $30-million to back fledgling French blimpmaker Flying Whales, gambling that the deal will give it a toehold in an industry finally poised for commercial acceptance.

Premier François Legault's government said Wednesday that it would make a 20-million ($29-million) equity investment in Suresnes, Francebased Flying Whales, joining an investor group that includes French public investment bank BPI and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, or AVIC, the country's principal manufacturer of warplanes and transport aircraft. France's national forest agency and the Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine are also shareholders.

"There are always risks with any project, but I think this one can be pivotal for Quebec," Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon told reporters.

Mr. Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec government sees the Flying Whales partnership as a way to bolster the aerospace industry, one of the province's economic pillars, at a time that Bombardier Inc. is pulling back from its commercial aviation activities. French giant Airbus SE took over Bombardier's former C Series jet factory in Mirabel, Que., and Japan's Mitsubishi Aircraft announced plans in September for an engineering centre in Boisbriand as Quebec looks to new players to reinforce its status as a global aerospace hub.

But investing in an airship company is no sure bet. Flying Whales has no flying prototype built and no paying customers to speak of.

The company and its competitors also face the lingering skepticism that comes from years of repeated failures by defunct manufacturers such as Cargolifter AG - skepticism that was evident Wednesday as reporters put both the company and the government on the defensive.

"We're still in the midst of development," said Flying Whales managing director Sébastien Bougon. The first airship should be ready in 2022, he said.

"Quebec should invest in projects like this," Mr. Fitzgibbon said. "You've got to control them.

You can't have one a week, but we've concluded that this one [makes sense]. ... At this point, we have enough comfort that there is a potential market."

With the investment, Quebec wins the right to play host to a planned airship manufacturing facility supplying North America, as well as the creation of a Flying Whales local subsidiary that will undertake research and development as of next year, the government said. If all works out as planned, 400 new jobs will be created, Mr. Fitzgibbon said.

Some 82 years after the Hindenburg disaster, Flying Whales is counting on advances in technology and awareness of the need for more environmentally friendly transportation to finally prove that the blimp's revival is nigh.

The company is developing a 154-metre-long, low-emissions airship that will be capable of carrying as much as 60 tonnes of cargo, such as lumber, to and from remote spots such as treecutting operations and mines.

The rigid-structure ship, which has a cruise speed of 100 kilometres an hour and gains lift with pockets of helium, is being marketed as unique because it can hover and doesn't require any ground infrastructure for mooring.

It's not alone, however, in the race to bring a cargo blimp to market. U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin Corp. and several other smaller players are also working on designs and trying to develop business models. Flying Whales has said that the forestry industry alone could justify its investment, but is also eyeing railways and energy companies as potential customers.

The French airship maker's decision to let AVIC in the door as an investor has also raised concerns. The plane maker has been linked in several media reports to China's industrial espionage effort and alleged theft of U.S. companies' intellectual property.

Mr. Bougon played down the worries, saying AVIC is involved only as a shareholder and is not involved in any operations. All the intellectual property being developed in Quebec would be protected because it is controlled by the local subsidiary, which sells to the parent company, he said.


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Hydro One abandons plans to expand beyond Ontario
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Utility says it won't 'actively pursue' outside companies, as profit in third-quarter jumps over 2018 result
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By JEFF GRAY
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page B2

TORONTO -- Ontario's partly privatized power-transmission utility, Hydro One Ltd., has unveiled a new strategy that abandons plans to buy up other utilities across North America and pledges instead to focus on the company's own backyard.

Hydro One's new chief executive, Mark Poweska, outlined an Ontario-focused direction this week, saying the company will not "actively pursue" acquiring companies outside Ontario for the next five years and that its previous efforts had "distracted" Hydro One. "It's time for Hydro One to focus in on the things that matter," he told investment analysts on a conference call. "It's time for us to build on our strengths and seize opportunities right here in Ontario."

Hydro One, which is 49-percent owned by the Ontario government, also said this week that its net income for the third quarter of 2019 was $241-million, up from $194-million in the same quarter in 2018, working out to 40 cents in earnings per share.

The company says the boost comes from increased distribution rates, but also from $11-million in lower "corporate support costs." In an e-mail, a company spokesman credited those savings to "productivity initiatives."

The company says a small portion of the savings came from a reduction in executive pay.

Those salary changes were prompted by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

In last year's election campaign, Mr. Ford labelled then-Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt the "$6-million man," and called for a new CEO with a reduced salary.

The push resulted in Mr.

Schmidt's departure last summer - with $9-million in incentives and stock options upon his retirement - along with the entire Hydro One board. The company was later forced to adopt the Premier's demands on executive pay, capping CEO wages at $1.5million and also reining in cheques for other senior brass.

Other executive departures came after.

Hydro One was partly privatized by the previous provincial Liberal government, with a strategy to grow by acquiring other energy companies. But in January, U.S. regulators rejected Hydro One's $6.7-billion bid to acquire Avista Corp., based in Spokane, Wash., citing Mr. Ford's political interference in the Ontario utility. The aborted deal cost Hydro One $185-million in break fees and commissions.

While Hydro One's stock price has since recovered its value and stabilized at a level well above its price tag at its 2015 initial public offering, financial analysts who follow the company says its shares trade at a discount owing to political risk.

Sydney Stonier, a spokeswoman for Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford, said the government had confidence in Hydro One's new CEO.

"We're confident that Hydro One's new leadership and direction will move Hydro One forward in a way that will help Ontario reduce system costs and bring trust back to our electricity system," she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ford has still failed to deliver on his promise to lower the province's hydro rates.

In its fall economic statement this week, Ontario said it remained committed to cutting bills, and listed its moves to cancel green-energy contracts, slash Hydro One's executive pay and centralize power-conservation efforts. The government said it will spend at least $4-billion this year subsidizing power bills, continuing the previous government's policy.

Energy consultant Tom Adams says Hydro One's new Fordfriendly, stay-at-home strategy makes more sense than trying to grow bigger through international acquisitions, given the company's ownership structure.

"Hydro One is trying to get to be boring again," Mr. Adams said.

"... Utilities are supposed to be boring."

Associated Graphic

In a conference call this week, Hydro One CEO Mark Poweska says that it's time for the utility to 'seize opportunities right here in Ontario.'

TIM FRASER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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Homes are getting more affordable, but it isn't likely to last
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Rising incomes, decline in mortgage rates ease the burden of ownership, report says
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By MATT LUNDY
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B1

Canadian home affordability has steadily improved this year thanks in large part to a decline in mortgage rates and rising incomes, but conditions remain "difficult" in Toronto and Vancouver, National Bank Financial says.

A typical household would need to spend 43 per cent of its pretax income to meet the monthly mortgage payment of a median-priced home, down from nearly 50 per cent in the final quarter of 2018, according to the bank's affordability index. (The calculation assumes a 25-year amortization period and five-year term, and takes 10 major metropolitan areas into account.)

Over all, home affordability has improved for three consecutive quarters, and is now in line with historical averages, National Bank said. However, further improvements look uncertain - and affordability remains stretched in some major markets.

"Surging population growth in Canada's largest metro areas, coupled with levelling mortgage rates, should limit the scope for further improvement in home affordability," economists Matthieu Arseneau and Kyle Dahms said in the report.

Modest strides in affordability have coincided with a pullback in Canada's real estate market. After a variety of new regulations aimed at curbing risky borrowing, home-buying activity hit a rough patch, particularly in frothy markets such as Toronto and Vancouver.

In tandem, mortgage rates fell this year - in some cases, by a percentage point from recent highs. Lower rates have been the biggest contributor to improving affordability, National Bank said.

"Indeed, the free-fall in financing costs over the last nine months was the most substantial since 2012."

That said, the mortgage qualifying rate has hardly budged, said Robert McLister, founder of mortgage comparison site RateSpy.com. The mortgage qualifying rate - which is the most common five-year fixed posted rate at Canada's Big Six banks - is used in stress tests. Home buyers must prove they can afford mortgage payments with a 5.19-percent interest rate, despite some discount rates being half that much.

"What we're seeing now is the Big Six banks hold mortgage qualifying rates high mainly out of their own self-interest," Mr.

McLister said. "If you saw that stress test rate go from 5.19 per cent down to where it should be based on the current levels of bond yields, then you'd see a significant impact on home sales and demand."

Even with affordability improvements, "the situation remains difficult" in the Toronto and Vancouver areas, Mr. Arseneau and Mr. Dahms noted.

In Toronto, a typical monthly mortgage payment ($3,805) would eat up 56 per cent of median household income. In Vancouver, the mortgage payment ($4,491) is equal to 69 per cent of typical household income. Both markets have improved from last year, although affordability remains worse than the long-term average.

Down payments are a particular hurdle. If the typical Toronto household saved 10 per cent of its pretax income, it would take 89 months to save up for the minimum down payment for today's median home price, according to National Bank's calculations. (The median price accounts for all home types, such as detached houses and condos.)

In Vancouver, it would take 311 months. That's because, with the median home price just over $1million, a minimum 20-per-cent down payment is needed. Timelines are even lengthier for detached homes.

At the same time, both markets are gaining momentum, with sales bouncing from depressed levels. In Greater Toronto, the average sale price in October jumped 5.5 per cent from a year earlier to slightly more than $850,000. Although benchmark prices are well below record highs in Metro Vancouver, they remain the steepest in Canada.

Associated Graphic

In Toronto, a typical monthly mortgage payment would eat up 56 per cent of median household income.

AARON VINCENT ELKAIM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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PBO projects larger deficits amid slower economic growth
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By BILL CURRY
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B1

OTTAWA -- A new Parliamentary Budget Office forecast says slower economic growth will mean slightly larger deficits in the coming years - even before the minority Liberal government adds on the billions in new spending promised during the election campaign.

As the head of a minority Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's political survival counts on crafting a plan that delivers on his own promises, while also accommodating at least some priorities from other parties.

That balancing act - which is playing out this week as Mr. Trudeau meets individually with party leaders ahead of the Throne Speech on Dec. 5 - will now be harder as economic factors lead to a deteriorating fiscal forecast.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux released a fiscal baseline projection in June that all parties used as the starting point for their campaign platforms.

Thursday's PBO report said it now projects deficits that are $1.6-billion larger, on average, over the six-year period from 201920 to 2024-25, based on revised growth projections.

The changes to the PBO forecast largely affect the outlying years of the forecast, starting in 2021-22. The deficit for that year has now been revised from $15.4-billion to $19-billion.

The PBO continues to project a deficit of $23.3-billion in 2020-21. That amount translates into a deficit of 1 per cent of GDP, a threshold that many economists say is the limit of what could be considered a small deficit.

The PBO report stresses that Thursday's report does not include any new spending promised during the 2019 election campaign.

The Liberal Party's 2019 platform promised $56.9-billion in new spending and tax cuts over four years, which would be partly offset by $25.4-billion in new revenue through spending reviews and targeted tax increases on high-income earners, such as a new 10-per-cent tax on luxury cars, boats and planes worth more than $100,000.

According to the platform, the Liberals said they would run a $27.4-billion deficit in 2020-21 and that the size of the deficit would decline gradually to $21billion by 2023-24. The Liberal Party promised in 2015 to run short-term deficits and balance the books in time for the next election. That did not happen and the 2019 Liberal platform did not promise a balanced budget.

Instead, the Liberal government has pledged to keep the debt-to-GDP ratio on a declining trend. Thursday's PBO report shows the federal debt-to-GDP declining from 30.8 per cent in 2020-21 to 28.7 per cent in 2024-25, before accounting for new spending.

Craig Alexander, chief economist for Deloitte Canada, said the government will face hard decisions as it increases spending during a period of slower growth.

"The challenge we have in the wake of the latest election is that there's not going to be a lot of additional money in the fiscal coffers to pay for significant new expenditures without the debt-toGDP ratio rising," he said.

Mr. Alexander said that could force the Liberal government to either abandon its debt-to-GDP ratio target or use the target as a rationale for delaying some new spending. He also said that minority parliaments tend to involve deal-making with other parties to get budgets approved by Parliament.

"The minority government situation makes it possible that we could have larger deficits than we would have had under a majority government," he said.

The Liberal government will likely release its own fall fiscal update based on Finance Department projections, although no formal announcement has been made.

Federal ministers have avoided making major announcements ahead of Nov. 20, when Mr. Trudeau has said he will announce who is included in his revised cabinet.


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Canadian Tire to cut costs as retail revenues go flat
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By SUSAN KRASHINSKY ROBERTSON
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B1

Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. is cutting costs with the goal of reaching more than $200-million in annualized savings by 2022.

The retailer will seek to trim expenses across its portfolio of stores, which include Canadian Tire, SportChek, Mark's and now Party City after the closing of that acquisition on Oct. 1.

Canadian Tire Corp. is hoping to eliminate duplicate operations by consolidating distribution centres to make them more efficient. It will also get rid of old infrastructure by updating its warehouse management system.

"We're going to push very hard," chief executive Stephen Wetmore said on a conference call Thursday morning to discuss his company's third-quarter results.

The company announced the plan as it reported a profit of $227.7-million or $3.20 a share, compared with $231.3-million or $3.15 in the same period last year.

Revenue from its retail segment fell by 0.4 per cent, while overall revenue was up slightly to $3.64billion in the three months ending Sept. 28. The company also announced on Thursday that it would raise its quarterly dividend, the eleventh time it has done so in 10 years.

"This is intended to be a transformative effort for CTC, which upon completion should see the company in its entirety run far more efficiently," Bank of Nova Scotia retail analyst Patricia Baker wrote in a research note. "The build of CTC into a one-company organization over the past several years has unearthed an opportunity to seriously eliminate duplicated efforts."

The 97-year-old retailer is working to compete with the growth of e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. SportChek has led the way on e-commerce growth, executives said on the call.

Mark's also lends itself well to e-commerce sales, and online shopping varies for Canadian Tire depending on the product category. The company expects e-commerce growth to continue, but is looking at building scale in order to find opportunities to manage the cost of order fulfillment and shipping.

"Distribution in Canada is expensive," Allan MacDonald, executive vice-president of retail, said on the call. "It's a scale play."

Comparable sales at Canadian Tire stores, which represent the company's biggest store network, rose 2.4 per cent in the quarter.

This measure counts sales at stores open more than a year, removing the effect of store openings and closings on the financial numbers; it also excludes the company's petroleum business and Helly Hansen brand. Comparable sales were up 4.6 per cent at SportChek and 1.2 per cent at Mark's.

With the Party City acquisition now complete, Canadian Tire stores are planning to roll out broader offerings in party supplies, and the company expects a meaningful presence in its stores by this time next year, Canadian Tire Retail president Greg Hicks said on Thursday.

Mr. MacDonald also mentioned that the company is seeing more customers shopping across its different store banners, which he attributed to growing traction of the Triangle loyalty program launched last year.

CANADIAN TIRE (CTC.A) CLOSE: $150.71, UP $6.55


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Where have all the female golf pros gone?
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Canadians Henderson and Sharp will continue to star on the LPGA Tour in 2020, but the supporting cast around them is disappearing
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By JEFF BROOKE
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page S3

TORONTO -- C anada will have just two women playing regularly on the LPGA Tour in 2020, down from five this year, as many of the country's other top pros have stalled or regressed, fallen victim to injury or, in one case, quit the game altogether in a pique of despair.

The smaller contingent for 2020 is not a good sign for Canadian women's golf at the highest level but people in the game are hoping it is more of an aberration than a trend that should be of concern.

"It looks overwhelming but it's just one of those things," said Brittany Marchand, whose sophomore slump this year on the LPGA Tour relegated her to the second-tier Symetra Tour for 2020. "I don't know what the reason really was for everyone to kind of go off the rails at the same time."

Superstar Brooke Henderson and resurgent veteran Alena Sharp have easily kept their fulltime playing cards for 2020. Henderson, 22, has won twice this season and posted 10 other top-10 results, while 38-year-old Sharp sat in a respectable 54th place on the tour's money list heading into this week's Toto Japan Classic, the penultimate event of the 2019 season.

That is Sharp's highest finish since the peak season of her 15year LPGA career, in 2016, when she ended the season in the 41st spot.

With the two of them playing so well and garnering so much attention, especially nine-time LPGA winner Henderson, the casual fan may not notice the struggles on Canada's second rung of talent.

Marchand, Anne-Catherine Tanguay and Jaclyn Lee are among those coming off disappointing seasons.

All LPGA regulars in 2019 and in the prime years of their 20s, they finished outside the top 100 on the money list and lost their full-time cards.

"I think this year was ... a little bit of an outlier," Marchand continued. "I feel like every year with Canadian golf, with women's golf, we've been slowly improving. We've [been] getting more people on tour. There's just been a lot of aspects that just kind of happened all in the same year."

Marchand made two cuts in 17 starts as her efforts to improve her swing and distance backfired.

She had to return to the LPGA's qualifying school last month but didn't advance far enough in the three-stage marathon to win back her card.

Meanwhile, Tanguay and Lee were set back by injuries.

Tanguay, who played regularly on the LPGA Tour in 2016 and 2018 as well, announced recently she's taking next year off to recover from back and other ailments, tend to personal matters and "re-evaluate my priorities."

Tanguay's sabbatical also brings an end to her dream of representing Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Henderson and Sharp, Canada's two highestranked players, now are locks for the two spots available. They also wore the Maple Leaf at the 2016 Games in Rio.

Lee has a shorter (and more certain) recovery target. She shut down her rookie season in the summer with a wrist injury, but has resumed practising lightly and is expected to play in 2020.

As with Marchand, she's destined next year for the Symetra Tour, although she will be able to make five LPGA starts on a medical exemption.

"There are things you can control and things you can't. From our perspective, to lose any player, never mind a bunch of them in one season, is not ideal," said Tristan Mullally, head coach of the Canadian women's national amateur team and the "young pro squad," which comprises a handful of nascent professionals who show the most potential to reach or stay at golf's highest levels.

He pointed out most of the players who've had setbacks grew up together as amateurs and moved into the pro ranks at roughly the same time. "When there's a natural fall-off, it tends to also happen together."

To boost the things it can control, Golf Canada is hiring two assistant coaches for the amateur and young pro squads to fortify player development and better support team members during the playing season, Mullally said.

Statistics provided by the LPGA Tour show there's been an average of about eight Canadians a year with tour "membership" this century, with a high of 13 in 2000 and a low of five in 2015.

While not all members get to play full-time on the tour because of their status (all tours have a pecking order of priority to get into events), the numbers still clearly show a weaker representation.

The ebb in the women's game coincides with a surge on the men's side. Nine Canadians teed it up on the PGA Tour in the 2019 season, believed to be a record for the country, and eight have status for 2020.

Marchand, Tanguay and Lee were among the six women on the young pro squad this year.

As the three dropped off the LPGA Tour, no replacements stepped forward.

Former LPGA player Rebecca Lee-Bentham made a return to competitive golf after a hiatus of more than two years but she didn't win her card at Q school.

She's Symetra bound.

Former amateur star Maddie Szeryk, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen who plays under the Canadian flag, launched her pro career this year and was the country's top performer on the Symetra Tour, reeling off four top-10 finishes and placing 19th on the money list.

Her success earned her a spot in the third stage of Q school, which wrapped up last Saturday in Florida, but she failed to secure one of the 45 LPGA cards for 2020 that were available. She'll have to return to the Symetra next year.

Maude-Aimée LeBlanc was Canada's other Symetra standout in 2019, finishing the season at 30th on the money list. But the veteran, at 30, has decided to pack it in rather than chase the LPGA Tour, where she played for much of this decade before losing her full-time playing privileges in 2018.

"Over time, I realized it wasn't my dream and it didn't make me happy even after good performances," LeBlanc wrote on her Facebook page in announcing her retirement. "I didn't like the person I was on the golf course and I've always wanted to do something more rewarding than hitting a little white ball."

LeBlanc's cri de coeur might symbolize the gloomy mood in some parts of Canadian women's golf these days, but hope always springs eternal heading into an off-season, with a fresh new year ahead.

The upside of players dropping down is that the feeder Symetra Tour will be well stocked next year with pros who've tasted the LPGA (including Marchand, Lee and Lee-Bentham) as well as promising up-and-comers such as Szeryk and rookie pro Selena Costabile. Their goal will be to place in the top 10 on the money list and earn a promotion to the LPGA Tour for 2021.

"It's still right there," Szeryk said of Canada's standing among golf countries. "There's still a lot of Canadians on tour, quite a few on Symetra. So you never know how many will make it to LPGA [after] next year. I think we'll encourage each other."

Associated Graphic

Brooke Henderson hits a shot during the final round of the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA tournament last Sunday. The 22-year-old has won twice this season and posted 10 other top-10 results. However, the number of her fellow Canadians on the LPGA Tour will shrink next year.

PAUL LAKATOS/IMG/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES


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'We can't let this one slip away'
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Ticats veterans reflect on painful past losses, while focusing on an elusive Grey Cup win
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By RACHEL BRADY
  
  

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Saturday, November 16, 2019 – Page S3

HAMILTON -- Simoni Lawrence woke from a late-afternoon nap on Monday and peered outside to see the Hamilton area's first heavy snowfall of the season. The Tiger-Cats star linebacker jumped up excitedly and hustled his dog Willow outdoors to play fetch.

Lawrence recounted the anecdote vividly the next day, during an interview after a Tiger-Cats practice. A jolt of happiness had filled him as he watched the energetic black lab mix he adopted from Thailand scamper with unbridled joy through the cold white powder, delighting in her first experience with snow.

The brisk and idyllic wintry weather also gave Lawrence the invigorating feeling that playoff football was in the air. With their franchise-best 15-3 record, the Ticats topped the CFL's regular-season standing and showed they might be special. The opportunity to prove they had finally arrived, along with the November snow.

After earning a bye through last week's divisional semi-finals, the Tiger-Cats will play host to the Edmonton Eskimos in the East Division final this Sunday, with the winner playing for the Grey Cup next week in Calgary. The Ticats haven't hoisted the Grey Cup since 1999 and they're eager to end the drought.

As Hamilton deals with the early dump of snow, the players can sense the growing excitement in the region before the sold-out game at Tim Hortons Field. Lawrence says he has noticed more fans approaching him in public during this season, such as the boisterous one who hollered out his name in a Shoppers Drug Mart this week and drew in more chatty supporters to gather round.

Lawrence has been a Ticat for seven seasons, including the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, which ended with painful losses in the Grey Cup. His CFL-best 98 tackles this season helped make him the East nominee for CFL defensive player of the year - one of five Hamilton finalists for the seven major awards to be handed out during Grey Cup week. He was also one of the franchise-high 13 Ticats who were chosen as all-stars.

"When you have this kind of talent, belief and leadership on one team, you've just got to take advantage of it," Lawrence said. "I feel like this year is so different. I don't even think about the possibility of losing. I feel like we're going to win everything."

Lawrence often carpools to practice with slotback Brandon Banks - the East nominee for the CFL's most-outstanding-player award after leading the league in receiving yards (1,550) and touchdowns (16). Banks was also with the Ticats during those Cup losses; he had his late-game 90-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified in the 2014 Grey Cup because of a teammate's illegalblocking penalty. Banks and Lawrence are leaders on this team - and not just in the team's lively sideline dancing during practice sessions. During one car ride, the two lighthearted players shared a serious moment.

"It was silent in the car and I just came out of nowhere and said, 'Hey man, we can't let this one slip away,' " Banks recalled.

"I'm not going to lie about it; we've definitely got a different chemistry on this team, like we're tighter knit. We've got a great coach that's leading that way and that mentality is stronger than in previous years."

Banks and Lawrence weren't the only stars this year. Hamilton's Frankie Williams topped the CFL in punt return yards (874), while adding 1,020 kickoff-return yards and two scores. Backup quarterback Dane Evans hardly missed a step filling in for Jeremiah Masoli, when he sustained a season-ending ACL injury. Hamilton's defence allowed the fewest points and touchdowns, along with the lowest opponent-passing efficiency. Orlondo Steinauer matched a CFL record for wins by a first-year CFL head coach, including a 9-0 mark at Tim Hortons Field.

The Hamilton neighbourhood of Stipley, which surrounds the stadium, has black-and-gold Tiger-Cats flags on the houses. In each of the past few years, the team has gone door to door handing out exclusively made Stipley porch flags, strictly for the residents of the nearby streets.

The thriving Ticats have galvanized Hamilton in times of civic hardship.

Recent bad-news stories included the tragic stabbing of 14year-old Hamilton boy Devan Bracci-Selvey outside his high school. Statistics Canada showed Hamilton to have the highest rate of police-reported hate crimes in the country. There were protests at City Hall by members of the yellow-vest movement and far-right groups. Violence erupted at its Pride festival.

Hamilton's recent local sporting successes have provided some civic pride. Tim Hortons Field is preparing to play host to next year's Grey Cup. In its debut season, the city's new pro soccer team - Forge FC - won the inaugural Canadian Premier League championship. McMaster University just surprised previously undefeated Western in the Yates Bowl. But the Ticats - Hamilton's 150-year-old football team - are the most popular team in the city.

The Ticats have asked fans to show up to Sunday's 1 p.m. game dressed head to toe in black, to create a blackout effect inside the stadium. There will be rally-towels and pyrotechnics, music and drums.

"One of the most common calls to our customer-service line this week has been, 'What time do the parking lots open on Sunday?,' " Matt Afinec, Ticats president and COO, said. "That should tell you how fans might be feeling about going to this game. The answer is 7 a.m."

David Cicci will be there bright and early to set up a tailgating spot. He is a member of the wellrecognized black-and-gold kiltand helmet-wearing Ticats fan group, the Box J Boys. He said the peameal and egg sandwiches will be cooked up early, along with coffee and Bailey's, with plenty more food planned for their large group after the game, too.

"You can see the cohesiveness with this team jelling; you can tell there is something special there, that they've bought into Orlondo's system," Cicci said. "We came so close in 2013 and 2014, but I think this is the year for sure."

The Ticats got crushed in last year's East final - 46-27 by the Ottawa Redblacks, led by quarterback Trevor Harris. But Harris, who threw a CFL playoff-record six touchdown passes against the Tabbies in last year's final, is now Edmonton's pivot. Hamilton won its two games against Edmonton this season - both of which Harris missed because of injury.

The Ticats will have to hold off an Edmonton team that is pressing to become the first crossover squad to reach the Grey Cup.

"We know that when we prepare the way we're supposed to, we kick ass," Lawrence said. "Everything aligns perfectly for us this year. Now we've just got to go handle our business."

Associated Graphic

Hamilton's Simoni Lawrence, left, tackles the Stampeders' Ka'Deem Carey during a game in September in Calgary. Lawrence hopes to end the Ticats' Grey Cup drought.

JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Texans-Ravens may be first of many Watson-Jackson duels
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QBs are set to face off in match of division leaders in Baltimore on Sunday
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By SCHUYLER DIXON
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B16

This is the first of what could be many meetings between two dynamic young AFC quarterbacks when Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans visit Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

It might not even be the only one this season.

Watson was the 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft after leading Clemson to a national championship, Jackson the disappointed final choice of the first round a year later out of Louisville.

It took the Texans one game to commit to Watson as the starter when he was a rookie. The Ravens needed a little longer last year to decide Jackson was more than just the heir apparent to Joe Flacco, the 11-year starter who was benched in Week 11.

Watson and Jackson go into their meeting at the helm of division leaders, the Texans (6-3) in front in the AFC South and the Ravens (7-2) atop the AFC North.

If the playoffs started this week, Houston would be a wildcard win away from another trip to Baltimore. The Ravens, who opened as 51/2-point favourites, are going to hang on to that firstround bye at least another week.

Pick: Baltimore, 31-30.

Knockout pool: The AP prognostication crew has been knocked out thanks to New Orleans' loss to Atlanta. If we were still in the game, our pick would be Carolina.

NO. 13 PITTSBURGH (PLUS 3) AT NO. 23 CLEVELAND The Steelers have forced 26 turnovers, second to New England.

The Browns are tied for fifth with the most turnovers. Look for the Pittsburgh defence to continue the team's recovery from a 1-4 start.

Upset special: Pittsburgh, 17-13 NO. 26 DENVER (PLUS 10 1 / 2) AT NO. 7 MINNESOTA The Vikings are coming off perhaps their best win of the season at the Cowboys. But Broncos coach Vic Fangio gave the Minnesota offence fits twice last season as Chicago's defensive co-ordinator. This game may be closer than people think.

Pick: Minnesota, 16-9 NO. 27 ATLANTA (PLUS 6) AT NO. 15 CAROLINA Knowing Cam Newton is now out for at least the rest of the regular season with a foot injury, Kyle Allen threw for a careerhigh 307 yards in the snow in a loss at Green Bay. Two straight division wins is a tall task after the Falcons' shocker over the Saints.

Pick: Carolina, 27-17 NO. 11 BUFFALO (MINUS 6) AT NO. 28 MIAMI Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing his best to keep the Dolphins competitive (two straight wins), and he gets to face one of his seven former teams. He played more games for the Bills than any team. Look for a bounce-back from Buffalo in its playoff pursuit.

Best bet: Buffalo, 28-7 NO. 21 JACKSONVILLE (PLUS 3 1 / 2) AT INDIANAPOLIS Nick Foles will be the starter now that rookie Gardner Minshew has come back to earth a bit. This game has implications in the jumbled AFC wild-card race. If Jacoby Brissett returns from a knee injury, that should be enough for the Colts in a low-scoring game.

Pick: Indianapolis, 14-12 NO. 6 NEW ORLEANS (MINUS 3 1 / 2) AT NO. 25 TAMPA BAY Expect a bounce-back from Drew Brees and the Saints after the loss to the Falcons. A Tampa Bay defence that struggles to defend the pass could be the perfect antidote.

Pick: New Orleans, 31-13 NO. 29 N.Y. JETS (PLUS 1) AT 31 WASHINGTON Will the Jets defence give up four touchdown passes to a rookie quarterback for the second week in a row? Probably not, since Washington didn't go with Dwayne Haskins as early as the Giants turned to Daniel Jones.

Which team will be thinking more about the draft? Let's go with the Jets on that.

Pick: Washington, 21-20 NO. 32 CINCINNATI (PLUS 10) AT NO. 16 OAKLAND The Raiders' last-place schedule delivers again with the winless Bengals. Expect the Raiders to take advantage again to continue an unexpected surge to playoff contention.

Pick: Oakland, 28-14 NO. 2 NEW ENGLAND (MINUS 3 1 / 2) AT NO. 12 PHILADELPHIA The first meeting of these teams since the Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl is also the Patriots' return from their open week after their first loss, to Baltimore. Both teams had two weeks to prepare, just like the last time they played.

Pick: New England, 23-16 NO. 10 DALLAS (OFF) AT NO. 22 DETROIT Ezekiel Elliott faces one of the NFL's worst run defences a week after getting bottled up by the Vikings. The Cowboys need to bounce back against another NFC North opponent, otherwise the outlook gets pretty dim for a team that started the season with high expectations. The Lions might be without Matthew Stafford again.

Pick: Dallas, 30-18 NO. 24 ARIZONA (PLUS 13 1 / 2) AT SAN FRANCISCO This line must be based more on the first three quarters of the first meeting just two weeks ago. That was before Kyler Murray brought the Cardinals back in a 28-25 loss, keyed by an 88-yard touchdown pass. The 49ers should bounce back from their first loss, but not enough to satisfy the oddsmakers.

Pick: San Francisco, 23-19 NO. 19 CHICAGO (PLUS 8 1 / 2) AT NO. 14 L.A. RAMS The Bears beat the Rams when Sean McVay's team was healthy last year in Chicago. So it stands to reason that Chicago can do it again with L.A. lacking rhythm and fighting injuries offensively.

Upset special: Chicago, 20-17 NO. 9 KANSAS CITY (MINUS 4) VS. NO. 20 LA CHARGERS AT MEXICO CITY It's the second game back for Patrick Mahomes coming off his knee injury, and the Chiefs are suddenly threatened by Oakland in the AFC West. This could be the last chance for the Chargers to stay in the division race, but that desperation won't be enough.

Pick: Kansas City, 28-23 2019 RECORD Last Week: 5-8 against spread, 4-9 straight up.

Season Totals: 78-68-1 against spread, 89-57-1 straight up.

Best Bet: 8-2 against spread, 8-2 straight up.

Upset special: 6-4 against spread, 6-4 straight up.

Associated Graphic

Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans jumps over Ronnie Harrison of the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Nov. 3. Watson was the 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft.

JACK THOMAS/GETTY IMAGES


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TFC seeks second scorer after MLS Cup loss
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Team president says coming transfer window is an opportunity to find a player that will complement Altidore
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By NEIL DAVIDSON
THE CANADIAN PRESS
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B12

SEATTLE -- Toronto FC returned home to a snowstorm Monday, another unwelcome dose of reality after a painful 3-1 MLS Cup final defeat in Seattle.

The playing season is over. The planning begins.

Team president Bill Manning offered up one major target in a question-and-answer session with season ticket-holders on Oct. 19, the eve of Toronto's opening playoff win over D.C. United.

After reeling off the club's depth in midfield, Manning said there was more roster work to be done.

"We still do miss that second goal scorer. And that's something we're going to address in this winter [transfer] window," he said.

"That's why I say we're not complete yet. I do think we still need one more window to further strengthen the team."

Citing the "cruel" penalty shootout loss to the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship final in September, Manning then returned to the issue of finding another scoring option to complement striker Jozy Altidore.

"That's one of the things we're finding, is when the big guy [Altidore] doesn't score, we're in trouble, right," he said.

"We had that combination with Sebastian [Giovinco] and Jozy in the past, so that is something we're going to look at this off-season."

Altidore started the second leg of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field, a 1-0 win that led to a penalty shootout that did not go Toronto's way.

With Altidore sidelined by injury during the first three games of the playoffs, TFC survived by pushing Alejandro Pozuelo farther up front. The Spanish playmaker roved around the field, pulling defenders out of their comfort zone while creating space for others.

Pozuelo enjoys playing the position because of the freedom it affords him, as opposed to being stationed on the wing.

It worked for three games, but not in the final. Pozuelo cut a frustrated figure in Seattle, often dropping back deeper in a bid to get the ball. And he started taking on one, two, three defenders with success - until another stopped him.

Coach Greg Vanney pointed to his team trying to do too much after going behind 1-0 in the 57th minute.

"Too much spinning around in midfield on the ball and not enough ball circulation."

Altidore came on as a substitute Sunday, scoring a consolation goal in stoppage time.

Pozuelo is a special player, but playing him consistently up front is like asking Gordon Ramsay to cook and wait tables. It's too much.

TFC did not have the guns needed in waiting. Patrick Mullins proved to be a hard-nosed reserve forward, but not the alternative sniper needed.

With 57 goals during the regular season, Toronto ranked fifth in the league at 1.68 goals a game.

It had an impressive 16 players score in the league, but Pozuelo (12), Altidore (11), Nick DeLeon (6) and Jonathan Osorio (five) accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the offence.

Scoring by committee is asking a lot when it comes to big games. Witness Sunday.

"By and large, they executed many of their chances and that was the difference," Vanney said of Seattle.

Despite having just 35 per cent of the possession, Seattle managed six shots on target, one more than Toronto.

"It's soccer. You work with what you have and, unfortunately, Jozy got injured just before the playoffs," Vanney said.

"But I thought the rest of the group really stepped up. We looked at different ways to gameplan to try to be dangerous over the course of this playoffs. ... It just meant we evolved. We became something different."

General manager Ali Curtis has more on his to-do list as he looks to put his own stamp on a roster he inherited in January - "with the house on fire" in Vanney's words - given a spate of sudden roster changes.

With Pozuelo and Altidore locked up as designated players, the focus switches to captain Michael Bradley, who currently is the third DP on an expiring contract.

One option is use targeted allocation money (TAM) to re-sign Bradley, opening up a DP spot for a forward - preferably young, but not so young to be a project.

Teams can use TAM to convert a designated player to a non-DP.

The maximum current salary for a TAM player is US$1.5-million - a significant drop from Bradley's US$6.5-million this season (second highest in the league).

The 32-year-old Bradley has always been committed to Toronto, both the team and city. And having already earned US$39million here, he may well be willing to do what's needed to keep the train rolling.

There are other numbers to address.

Toronto spent more than US$2-million this season on five centre backs: Omar Gonzalez (US$1,193,935, although he arrived mid-season), Chris Mavinga (US$663,333), Laurent Ciman (US$435,624), Drew Moor (US$375,000) and Eriq Zavaleta (US$296,962).

And once again, the team finds itself paying its backup goalkeeper more than the starter, with former No. 1 Alex Bono earning US$382,000 to Quentin Westberg's US$115,254.

Fullback Richie Laryea has earned a raise from the league minimum of US$56,250.

Vanney probably merits a raise, too, given the roller-coaster year that started with the departure of GM Tim Bezbatchenko, Giovinco, Victor Vazquez and Gregory van der Wiel. Replacements took time.

"Our group has battled," he said.

"It's been a season, in some ways, that's felt like two or three seasons all in one."

Associated Graphic

Toronto FC players Chris Mavinga, left, and Tsubasa Endoh react to their loss to the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final on Sunday. With 57 goals during the regular season, Toronto ranked fifth in the league at 1.68 goals a game.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/ THE CANADIAN PRESS


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NHL players pay tribute to Cherry, but stop short of defending his diatribe
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By MARTY KLINKENBERG
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B15

TORONTO -- Like many pro hockey players, Tyson Barrie grew up watching Don Cherry ruminate, sometimes on matters he should have left alone, on Hockey Night in Canada. As he sat at his dressing stall on Tuesday, the Maple Leafs defenceman mulled the long-time broadcaster's dismissal by Rogers Sportsnet.

"It is unfortunate to see him go out like this," Barrie said. "Don is a legend, and has been such a big part of hockey.

"In the age we are in, when you say something [publicly], it is out there for the world to see, and that generates a lot of opinions."

On Saturday night, the combative cohost of Coach's Corner singled out Toronto-area immigrants for not wearing poppies during a tribute to war veterans.

"You people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that," the 85-year-old Cherry said while jabbing one finger at the camera.

"These guys pay for the way of life you enjoy. [They] paid the biggest price."

The furor triggered by his comments led Cherry to be fired on Remembrance Day. There is a terrible irony in that, because he has always fiercely supported the military. His eyes often teared up when he talked about his love for soldiers on the air.

Cherry has since described his words as not being racial or bigoted but patriotic and respectful.

His employer, Sportsnet, the NHL and the CBC, for whom he worked across four decades, disagreed.

When asked to apologize by Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley, as his partner on the program Ron MacLean had on Sunday, the pugnacious former National Hockey League coach refused.

That caused him to be dropped from a broadcast he first joined for the 1980 Stanley Cup playoffs.

On the day after, reverberations were felt around the league.

In Montreal, Max Domi expressed admiration for Cherry, who has always operated with controversy in his wake. Over the years, among other things, he sideswiped francophones and blasted European players, called Liberals pinkos and made fun of climate-change believers.

"I love Don Cherry," said Domi, who has known him all of his life.

His dad, Tie, was a bare-knuckles brawler, the hardscrabble type of tough guy Cherry held in the highest esteem. "What he's done for this sport is remarkable. I will always look up to him."

As of Tuesday, nearly 200,000 people had signed a handful of different petitions being circulated that demand Cherry be reinstated. Fans called him a symbol of the working class, and railed at Sportsnet for caving to the politically correct. Others lauded the network for making a decision they say was long overdue. The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council was so overloaded with complaints about his diatribe that it exceeded the organization's capacity to keep track of them.

In a series of television interviews on Tuesday night, Cherry said he would not apologize for what he said, but would choose different words.

On a busy practice day for the Maple Leafs, Cherry's departure garnered as much attention as Mitch Marner's injured ankle, Zach Hyman's imminent return and the arrival of rookie goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo.

Hyman, who underwent knee surgery during the off-season, will rejoin the team when it plays the Islanders in New York on Wednesday night. Kaskisuo was called up from the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies after Michael Hutchinson, the backup to Frederik Andersen, was waived on Monday.

Hyman, 27, recalled how excited he was the first time Cherry ever mentioned his name on television.

"It was awesome," Hyman said at the team's practice rink in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. "He has been around hockey forever, but you can't say stuff today like he did. You've got to be accepting of everyone.

"'Hockey Is For Everyone' is one of our slogans in the NHL, and it's really true. For him to say that sort of stuff is unacceptable."

John Tavares, the Maple Leafs captain, grew up in Toronto and recalls seeing Cherry stand behind the glass when he played in minor hockey tournaments.

"I think it is disappointing on many fronts, the comments, but certainly the way his tenure ended," Tavares said. "There was so many good things that he did through his commitment to the game. I think everybody would wish something like this never happened."

Jason Spezza, who at 36 is the oldest member of the team, finds it sad.

"I'm not one to weigh into it too much, but what makes Canada great is the equality we have and how diverse our culture is," Spezza said. "You don't like anything that is discriminatory and offends anyone, but Don is an icon. You don't like to see things end that way."

Head coach Mike Babcock said he understands why people were offended.

"I know when you are in a situation like I am you have to be mindful of how great the game is and what it is all about," he said. "I am sure it must be tough on him and his family, but having said that, certain things are right."

Back at his dressing stall, Barrie said he believes Cherry's comments may have been misunderstood.

"He is 85 years old," Barrie said.

"I don't think he meant it the way it has been taken. At the end of the day, though, we all are responsible for our actions."

Associated Graphic

Hockey commentator Don Cherry was dropped by Sportsnet on Monday after he refused to apologize for his comments about immigrants and poppies.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS


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Leafs get last laugh in tight match against Golden Knights
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Tavares scores overtime winner in a 2-1 victory for Toronto that was both exhilarating and frustrating
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By MARTY KLINKENBERG
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B17

TORONTO -- Winter's first blush arrived in Toronto on Thursday. Residents woke up to fresh snow. Coats came out of the closet.

Scarves, too. Real hockey weather. Finally.

Perhaps the nip in the air would prompt a spring in the step of the Maple Leafs. Not so much.

As games go, the skirmish at Scotiabank Arena was entertaining and tightly played. With the exception of one pummelling, Toronto has elevated its play against better opponents. But it still struggles to beat them. They won 2-1 in overtime on a goal by John Tavares in a victory that was both exhilarating and frustrating.

The Vegas Golden Knights are nettlesome to everyone. They are fast and relentless. They dig for pucks and rarely lose battles. With them, there is no room for a breather.

They are not an easy mark, but they were also not at their strongest last night.

They came to town bearing a gift. They left Marc-André Fleury, their spectacular goalie, on the bench. It is only the third time he has sat one out this season.

His backup, Malcolm Subban, started instead. He had yet to win a game this year. He is P.K.'s younger brother, and this is their hometown. It was the first time he had played an NHL game in Toronto.

Undoubtedly, he was inspired, but he should have been beatable. It should have been relatively easy. Instead, Malcolm, who entered the night with a 4.32 goalsagainst average, put on a show. He had 37 saves.

Max Pacioretty flipped a puck past Frederik Andersen to break a goalless tie with 15:52 left in the third period. Auston Matthews tied it with a wrist shot four minutes later. He scored on a power play, which has turned into an inexplicable struggle for a team that brims with so much talent.

Matthews's 13th goal of the season came on Toronto's sixth man-advantage of the evening. It was so lousy on the first five chances that boos swelled within the partisan faithful.

The power-play woes are moving into epic territory. The Maple Leafs entered the game 9 for 52. After going 0 for 3 in Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, they were 2 for their last 26. They had scored only twice with one more man on the ice in nine games.

"Any way you look at it, they haven't been good enough," head coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday after practice.

After they flubbed their first two opportunities, their exasperated radio playby-play man Joe Bowen, told listeners: "That is nothing new."

The goalies, Subban especially, were the story of the night. Both were marvellous. Neither deserved to lose. Andersen finished with 37 saves, including three in the last five seconds of regulation. But he has been playing so well that is not a surprise. That Subban had 35 is.

He was up to the task right from the start. He was tested early when Nicolas Hague, the Golden Knights' 6-foot-6 defeceman, was flagged for interference 27 seconds into the game.

With the Maple Leafs on the power play, Subban gloved shots by Auston Matthews and Alexander Kerfoot in rapid succession, and deflected another by Tyson Barrie. A Paul Stastny hooking penalty gave Toronto another man advantage with 6:12 left before intermission. Subban continued to do what he had until that point, stopping two more shots by Matthews and batting away a wrist shot by Mitch Marner.

The Leafs peppered him with 13 shots in the first 20 minutes without success.

This is third season with Vegas after being claimed off waivers from the Boston Bruins. He likely turned in the best performance of his career in his family's back yard.

With the win, Babcock became the eighth coach in NHL history with 700 victories. He is 700-413-163 with 19 ties in 17 seasons for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Detroit Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

We seem to be getting some traction, the guys seem to be getting to know each other better and there seems to be more juice in our room," he said Wednesday. "All of that is positive."

"What's not?

"We are still trying to figure out our group," he said.

"We are still a work in progress to say the least.

"The biggest thing is we have to play harder for longer every night."

They did it long enough to beat the Golden Knights. They are 9-5-3 heading into a game against Philadelphia on Saturday in Toronto. They need a lopsided win.

Associated Graphic

Dmytro Timashov of the Toronto Maple Leafs draws a penalty on Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.

CLAUS ANDERSEN/GETTY IMAGES


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Bombers barrage Stamps to reach West final
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By DONNA SPENCER
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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B13

CALGARY -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers advanced to the CFL's West Division final with a 35-14 win over the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday's semi-final.

The Blue Bombers travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in next Sunday's West final.

The victor there represents the West in the Grey Cup in Calgary on Nov. 24.

Nic Demski, Darvin Adams and Chris Streveler scored touchdowns, and Justin Medlock kicked four field goals for Winnipeg.

Reggie Begelton scored two touchdowns for the host Stampeders, who won last year's Grey Cup, but will not defend their title on home turf this year.

Winnipeg hasn't won the CFL's championship trophy since 1990.

The Blue Bombers (11-7) finished third in the West Division behind the Roughriders (13-5) and Stampeders (12-6).

The Esks take on the Hamilton TigerCats in next Sunday's East final.

Bombers starting quarterback Zach Collaros completed 11 of 21 pass attempts for 193 yards and one touchdown pass.

A Roughrider to start the season, Collaros was traded twice and arrived in Winnipeg on Oct. 9 through the Toronto Argonauts.

Streveler had taken over as Winnipeg's starter when Matt Nichols went down with a shoulder injury in August.

An ankle injury sidelined Streveler in the regular-season finale, but he returned Sunday to lead the Bombers in rushing yards with 82 yards.

Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was without his favourite target - injured receiver Eric Rogers - and struggled completing just 12 of 28 pass attempts for 116 yards. Mitchell was intercepted three times.

Winnipeg faced Calgary in a third straight game Sunday. The Bombers had a bye week after splitting 1-1 with the Stampeders to cap their regular season.

Trailing 14-8 at halftime, the Bombers scored 27 unanswered points in the second half in front of an announced 24,278 at a chilly McMahon Stadium.

Morning snowfall halted and gave way to partly cloudy skies at kickoff with a temperature of minus-14.

Mitchell was intercepted on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter by Nick Taylor and Mercy Maston, respectively.

Calgary turned the ball over on downs with just more than three minutes remaining in the game.

Streveler scored a 24-yard rushing touchdown at 8:35. Medlock's 42-yard field goal at 7:23 hit the right upright, but made it through for the three points.

Collaros and Adams combined on a 71yard touchdown catch and run at 3:18. Medlock booted a 42-yard field goal at 2:29.

Demski's 33-yard rushing touchdown at 10:35 of the third capped a seven-play, 82yard drive. Winnipeg led for the first time in the game - 15-14 - on Medlock's convert.

Jerome Lorenzo's 53-yard punt return had Calgary starting in Winnipeg territory late in the first half. Mitchell and Begelton's combined on a 19-yard catch and run for a 14-5 lead.

But the Bombers trailed by a touchdown at the half after Medlock's 52-yard field goal.

Under pressure in the end zone early in the second quarter, Mitchell was called for intentional grounding when he threw the ball away.

Calgary conceding the two-point safety preceded Medlock's 34-yard field goal for the Bombers to trail 7-5.

Winnipeg's 47-yard pass interference penalty gave the Stampeders the ball at the four-yard line on Calgary's opening drive of the game.

MCMASTER STUNS WESTERN TO WIN YATES CUP AS OUA CHAMPIONS

Matt Krason scored two touchdowns as the McMaster Marauders upset Western 29-15 in London on Saturday to win the Yates Cup and hand the Mustangs their first loss since the 2018 Vanier Cup championship.

Western, the top-seeded team that had gone 8-0 through the Ontario University Athletics regular season, led 10-0 after one quarter before McMaster stormed back.

Saturday's win was McMaster's eighth at the Yates Cup, but the first since 2014.

McMaster will play the Calgary Dinos in the Mitchell Bowl next week, with a chance to move on to the national championship.

The Dinos advanced with a 29-4 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Hardy Cup in Calgary.

Out east, Dale Wright had three rushing touchdowns to lead the Acadia Axemen over the Bishop's Gaiters 31-1 in the Loney Bowl in Wolfville, N.S. Acadia will face the Montreal Carabins in next week's Uteck Bowl.

Associated Graphic

Winnipeg Blue Bomber Janarion Grant evades tackles by Calgary Stampeders during the CFL's West Division semi-final on Sunday. The Bombers won the game 35-14, and will head to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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A look at athletes who went behind the bench after their retirement
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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B14

Coaching is a natural career path for some athletes upon retirement.

The long-standing theory is the best athletes do not make great coaches, but that has not always been the case.

Thierry Henry, who had a brief stint as head coach of Monaco FC, is the latest star athlete to enter the coaching scene with the Montreal Impact hiring the former Arsenal and France great as their bench boss on Thursday.

Here is a look at how some star athletes have done as coaches.

WAYNE GRETZKY To great fanfare, Gretzky took the head coaching job with the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2005.

A part-owner of the team, Gretzky missed the playoffs in all four of his seasons behind the bench.

After an ownership shuffle and with the team in financial trouble, Gretzky stepped down before the 2009-10 campaign.

CAROLINE OUELLETTE A former star forward with the Canadian women's hockey team, Ouellette was head coach of the CWHL's Les Canadiennes de Montréal for most of the 2018-19 season.

Ouellette guided the team to the Clarkson Cup final, where Montreal lost to Calgary.

The league folded in the off-season.

ISIAH THOMAS The former Detroit Pistons point guard took over from fellow former star player Larry Bird as coach of the Indiana Pacers in 2000. The Pacers were .500 or better for three seasons under the ex-Indiana University star, but didn't win a playoff round.

Thomas's next basketball job was as an executive with the New York Knicks, one of the worst franchises in the NBA since the turn of the century.

Thomas replaced Larry Brown as coach in 2006 and missed the playoffs in each of his two seasons.

MICHAEL (PINBALL) CLEMONS Considered one of the best CFL players in history, Clemons became head coach of the struggling Toronto Argonauts midway through the 2000 season after he announced he was transitioning out of a playing role.

Clemons stepped into a front-office role after the 2001 season before returning in 2002 after the firing of Gary Etcheverry.

For each of Clemons's last five seasons as head coach, the Argos never had a losing record. They won the Grey Cup in 2004 with Clemons becoming the first black head coach to win the CFL title.

PATRICK ROY After cutting his coaching teeth with the Quebec Remparts in the junior ranks, the former goaltender got the call to take the reins of the Colorado Avalanche in 2013.

Roy won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach in his first year, but the Avs were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Minnesota.

Roy missed the playoffs the next two years and then stepped down, making it clear he felt his voice wasn't being heard at the organization's top levels.

DIEGO MARADONA The Argentine star, whose playing career was highlighted by a World Cup title in 1986, hasn't stayed in one place very long in his time as a coach. He has coached the Argentina national team (quarter-final appearance at the 2010 World Cup), several clubs in his home country as well as teams in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

MAGIC JOHNSON The Los Angeles Lakers great took over as coach late in the 1993-94 season.

After a quick start, the Lakers finished the year 5-11 under Johnson before he stepped down.

Johnson later made a return as a player for one season before going into executive roles with multiple organizations.

PETE ROSE Baseball's career hit leader became a player/ manager with the Cincinnati Reds after the Montreal Expos traded him back to his long-time home in 1984.

Rose remained manager of the Reds after retiring as a player in 1986. But after he was found to have bet on baseball, Rose was removed from the game late in the 1989 season.

Rose never made the playoffs as a manager.


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Second Cup seeks second life after emerging from crisis
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Canadian coffee chain, which exchanged debt for equity to repair its balance sheet, to change corporate name and seek acquisitions
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By SUSAN KRASHINSKY ROBERTSON
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B1

MISSISSAUGA -- The Second Cup Ltd. is getting a corporate makeover.

The Canadian coffee chain will announce Friday that it is changing its parent company's name to Aegis Brands Inc. as it seeks a fresh start and hopes to make acquisitions to bolster its café business.

Second Cup was in crisis just a few years ago, with some franchisees criticizing management and declaring bankruptcy, a chief executive who characterized the business as "a ship that had lost its way" and a subsequent management shakeup as the chairman acknowledged the company had "not achieved its plans" for recovery.

In his first interview since becoming CEO in May, Steven Pelton enjoyed the luxury of talking about something else, largely owing to a deal that predates him. In August, 2017, the Serruya family of Yogen Fruz fame erased $8-million in Second Cup debt in exchange for a 29-per-cent equity stake in the company.

"The health of Second Cup is good," Mr.

Pelton said during a discussion at the company's offices in Mississauga. "It's got its own niche in the market. Of course, we want to be bigger and we always want to be better."

After the retirement of interim CEO Garry MacDonald, Mr. Pelton was brought on to lead an "ambitious new phase of growth," chairman Michael Bregman said at the time.

But the chain is tiny compared with competitors, with just 252 stores, down from almost 400 at its peak in the 1990s. Its stock trades at about $1.40 a share.

With barely a trickle of cash flow from operations and a market capitalization of less than $30-million, Second Cup is hardly in a position to make any big splashes on the acquisition front.

Although it was a pioneer in Canada's café industry, it has been eclipsed by food-service giants such as McDonald's and Tim Hortons, which combined have more than 20 times the number of locations. Mr. Pelton said the brand's strength is in "specialty coffee," but even in the niche of upscale brews and cozy cafés, it has less than a fifth of the footprint.

"Second Cup is still having some challenges with franchisees, and they just haven't evolved that brand," said Robert Carter, an industry adviser with consultancy Straton Hunter. Canadians consume roughly four billion cups of coffee a year, he said, up from three billion five years ago, and most of that growth is in specialty beverages such as espresso-based and iced drinks.

Second Cup is not attracting young people, who are the biggest consumers in that niche.

"They continue to flounder in a segment that is growing over all."

The company has been closing underperforming locations, which has contributed to continuing declines in systemwide sales.

Revenue in the most recent quarter was $6.5-million, with a net loss of $616,000, down from a net profit of $133,000 in the same period last year. The company had $13.8-million in cash and cash equivalents as of June 29. (It reports third-quarter earnings Friday.)

"We're not concerned with raising the money for the initial acquisitions," Mr. Pelton said. "If we ever have to take on debt, it's going to be at a very responsible rate, a very low multiple of our earnings. We're going to grow as we can. We're not going to get ambitious and get ourselves in trouble. ... We have cash in the bank, so the financing is down the road.

But yes, we have had the conversations."

He said the company will be looking for small businesses in the food-service and beverage sectors that have "grown to the end of their ability or geographic range." Mr. Pelton was formerly the CEO of casual restaurant chain the Landing Group, in which Recipe Unlimited Corp.

(then Cara Operations) acquired a 55-per-cent interest in late 2014, before buying the rest of the company the following June.

"Operators that have two to 20 units - that's where the growth in the market is," Mr. Carter said.

"Small to medium restaurant chains are driving growth. I hear more and more operators saying they are going to create an incubator style to bring in small emerging brands and create a platform for them to grow. ... The [price] of these smaller-unit-size restaurant chains is going to increase. Consolidation is growing dramatically in both the Canadian and U.S. markets."

The company's name change will take effect after the company's next annual general meeting, in May. Aegis Brands will own the Second Cup cafés and intends to add more to its portfolio. Mr.

Pelton will be CEO of Aegis and will remain president of Second Cup.

Second Cup has already looked at other business opportunities beyond coffee. Last year, it announced a joint venture with National Access Cannabis Corp. to open cannabis dispensaries and is in the process of converting two cafés in Alberta to this model.

Associated Graphic

Although it was a pioneer in Canada's café industry, The Second Cup has been fighting a losing war against food-service giants such as McDonald's and Tim Hortons.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Second Cup's recently installed CEO Steve Pelton, seen at his Mississauga office on Wednesday, says 'the health of Second Cup is good.'

GLENN LOWSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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McKinsey & Co. under investigation for work advising bankrupt companies, reports say
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By ROBERT FIFE, STEVEN CHASE
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B1

OTTAWA -- A global consulting company formerly headed by Canada's new ambassador to China is reportedly under criminal investigation into allegations that it concealed conflicts of interest while advising bankrupt companies.

The investigation by U.S. federal prosecutors and a separate one by the U.S. Trustee Program, a unit of the Justice Department that oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases, cover the period when Canada's Beijing envoy, Dominic Barton, was the global managing partner of McKinsey & Co. There is no indication that Mr. Barton himself is under investigation.

Mr. Barton served as CEO of the elite consulting giant for nine years and left the top job in July, 2018, but stayed on as global managing partner emeritus until Sept. 4 this year when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named him as Canada's new ambassador to China.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. prosecutors in New York and sources in the U.S. Justice Department, who said that McKinsey & Co. is the subject of a probe over whether it broke Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules. This includes, according to the New York Times, whether McKinsey "quietly steered valuable assets to itself or favoured its own clients over other creditors." U.S. Justice Department spokesperson Nichole Navas Oxman declined to comment on media reports about a criminal investigation into McKinsey and Co.

The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to say whether she is concerned about this probe.

Court battles over bankruptcy cases have cost McKinsey & Co.

millions of dollars in penalties imposed by the U.S. bankruptcy watchdog including a US$15-million settlement in February over "disclosure deficiencies." Late last year, McKinsey & Co. paid another US$17.5-million in a bankruptcy case involving renewable energy company SunEdison and promised to improve its disclosure protocols.

One of these U.S. court battles could see the Canadian ambassador to China called to testify about his former firm's work on bankruptcy cases.

Jay Alix, the wealthy founder of restructuring giant AlixPartners, has spent the past three years pursuing McKinsey & Co., including Mr. Barton, in courts throughout the United States.

He blames Mr. Barton for failing to take corrective action on bankruptcy files while he was running the company, and his court actions have personally embroiled the former McKinsey head in continuing legal matters.

On Oct. 29, a bankruptcy judge in a Texas coal bankruptcy case gave Mr. Alix the right to demand documents from McKinsey and question its executives under oath.

David Jones, a Houston judge, had told the court in January he "going to need to hear" from Mr. Barton personally rather than through a written deposition. "You get the truth by swearing people in, and put them on the stand, and you subject them to cross examination, and we figure what the truth is," the judge said.

Daniel Lemisch, a lawyer for Mr. Alix, said he believes it's likely the court will subpoena Mr. Barton. The case goes to trial in February, 2020.

"Dominic Barton was the head of McKinsey at the time that the alleged improprieties took place in their disclosures," Mr. Lemisch said.

McKinsey's head office in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Mr. Barton would not be covered by diplomatic immunity in this in case because the investigation covers events in the United States, before he became ambassador to China.

Mr. Alix has provided the courts and media, including The Globe and Mail and New York Times, with transcripts of conversations he had with Mr. Barton over a 14-month period beginning in September, 2014. He alleges that Mr. Barton admitted to breaking bankruptcy laws, promised to get out of the bankruptcy business and later reneged and offered to steer consulting business to AlixPartners - a statement Mr.

Alix saw as an attempted bribe.

Mr. Barton told The New York Times in March that Mr.

Alix misconstrued what he actually meant.

"I was getting so fed up with his repetitive complaints that I said something like, 'Jay, there are plenty of opportunities in the transformation service sector - apart from bankruptcy companies - that AlixPartners should see,' " Mr.

Barton told the Times.

In January of this year, a federal judge in Virginia reopened a bankruptcy case involving coal producer Alpha Natural Resources after learning that McKinsey & Co. had not disclosed, as required by law, that it was among the company's secured creditors through MIO Partners, a US$25-billion investment fund for current and former McKinsey partners. The court heard that the head of McKinsey's bankruptcy practice was also a member of MIO's board.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Tuesday that prosecutors are examining McKinsey's investment unit, MIO Partners. MIO held undisclosed stakes in hedge funds in roughly half of the bankruptcy cases it worked on between 2002 until the end of 2016.


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Continuum pulls IPO, opts for richer, private bid
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After receiving offers for $1-billion worth of shares, the apartment REIT will sell to Starlight for $1.7-billion
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By TIM KILADZE
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page B1

The latest Canadian rental apartment owner to try going public has scrapped its deal despite heavy investor demand, deciding instead to sell to a private buyer at a premium price.

Toronto-based Continuum Residential Real Estate Investment Trust filed the paperwork for an initial public offering in early October, and the deal was set to price this week. However, the company quietly ran a dual-track process for a potential sale while marketing the IPO and ultimately decided to sell to Canada's Starlight Investments.

Continuum hoped to raise around $300-million by selling a roughly 40-per-cent stake and pricing its shares between $15.50 and $16.50. After wrapping up its marketing roadshow, the company received orders for roughly $1-billion worth of shares.

While the demand gave Continuum the potential to price above its marketing range - the hallmark of a highly successful IPO - Starlight Investments offered a price too good to turn down: $20.10 a share, valuing the REIT at $1.7-billion, including debt.

Starlight "gave us an offer that was so superior that we had to say yes," Continuum chief executive Dan Argiros said.

The offer price translates to a 3.5-per-cent capitalization rate for Continuum's portfolio. Cap rates have an inverse relationship to total values - the lower the cap rate, the more expensive the portfolio. Rival publicly traded companies Canadian Apartment Properties REIT and Minto Apartment REIT trade at implied cap rates of 4 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively.

The rich purchase price is more proof that investors are clamouring for rental apartment properties. Historically, REITs were known for paying annual yields around 5 per cent, yet Continuum was set to pay roughly 2 per cent - and the purchase price translates to an even lower rate.

Despite the steep cost, Starlight still sees value. "Portfolios of this nature and composition are few and far between in the Canadian multiresidential sector," CEO Daniel Drimmer said in a statement. Multiresidential is the real estate sector's term for apartments.

Continuum owns 44 apartment buildings, the majority of which are in Toronto and neighbouring Mississauga. Canadian housing developers spent years focused on building single-family homes and condominiums, leading to a shortage of rental apartment buildings.

While more rental buildings are now being constructed, population growth is outstripping the new supply, and Continuum has a 99.7-per-cent occupancy rate across its portfolio.

Because of the tight supply, apartment-building owners have seen rents jump as high as 25 per cent when a tenant turns over.

Although the sale is a win for Continuum and its current private backers, which include CI Investments and 1832 Asset Management LP, Canada's public markets are losing out on another new listing.

Earlier this week, GFL Environmental Inc. scrapped its billiondollar IPO, but for a different reason - weak investor demand. It is a common theme: Public markets around the world have been losing companies to private firms that are flush with cash.

Continuum's CEO said the company was serious about an IPO, but once the deal's early paperwork was filed, he received unsolicited interest from multiple buyers in Canada and abroad.

The IPO's order books were closed Thursday afternoon and the deal was expected to price shortly after. "The Starlight offer came in last minute," Mr. Argiros said.

While he appreciates that an IPO would have been nice for Canadian public investors, it helped that the private buyer is a domestic organization.

"What's exciting is that another Canadian bought this portfolio," he said.

Canadian REITs have been the hottest sector on Bay Street of late, with a rush of financings raising more than $1-billion since the start of September.

REITs have benefited from falling interest rates, which sent bond yields tumbling - making the trusts' distributions that much more compelling. The S&P/TSX Capped REIT Index currently pays an average yield of 4.5 per cent.

Apartment REITs in particular have shined. Minto went public in 2018 in a $200-million deal, and the shares have jumped 57 per cent since, before distributions.

However, it is possible that the sector's heavy investor demand will start to wane.

The prospect of a trade war truce between the United States and China has sent long-term bond yields higher in recent weeks, with the 10-year Government of Canada bond yield jumping to 1.58 per cent from a low of 1.09 per cent in August.

While many of the banks in Continuum's underwriting syndicate did not advise on the sale to Starlight, Continuum said they will all still be paid as if the IPO had been successful. They were set to earn $16.5-million collectively on a $300-million offering.

With a report from Sean Silcoff


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Investors sue Ontario over risky syndicated mortgages
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Class-action lawsuit alleges negligence in allowing the products to be sold by Tier 1 companies
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By GREG MCARTHUR
  
  

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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B1

A group of investors has launched a classaction lawsuit against the Ontario government, alleging that the provincial regulator responsible for licensing mortgage brokers was negligent in allowing the sale of risky syndicated mortgage investment products marketed by the Tier 1 group of companies.

Two investors in products offered by Tier 1, which raised funds for proposed Ontario real estate developments that have since collapsed or been placed in receivership, are acting as the representative plaintiffs in the proposed class action.

Syndicated mortgages are provided by a group of investors, typically to finance early-stage costs for new development projects. Financing raised by Tier 1, which is under the control of a court-appointed trustee, was expected to fund a development group planning to build condominiums, multiunit homes for Alzheimer's patients and student residences.

The popularity of syndicated mortgages surged over the past decade as retail investors hunted for alternatives to low-rate, fixed-income products. But some syndicated mortgages pose risks that many don't understand, and position the investors behind other creditors if the developments fail.

The lawsuit alleges that the Financial Services Commission of Ontario - which was renamed the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario in June - and a number of its senior officials "carried out their duties on behalf of FSCO in a negligent manner."

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney-General said that the government had not yet been served with the statement of claim. "As this matter is subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment," Brian Gray said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Ontario Superior Court in Brampton on Nov. 1, will be a test of Ontario's Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. The new law placed a higher burden on those seeking to sue the government, forcing them to persuade a judge at the outset that the claim has a reasonable chance of success before they are permitted to proceed with the litigation.

Mitchell Wine, one of the lawyers behind the proposed class action, acknowledged in a statement that his clients face obstacles. But he said that his firm, which has acted for many aggrieved investors in an earlier class-action case against Tier 1, as well as claims against Canada's most prolific distributor of syndicated mortgage investment products, Fortress Real Developments Inc., has amassed "sufficient evidence" to pursue the government for damages.

The "regulation was so poorly carried out that the Crown should be held liable for investor losses," Mr. Wine said. "It is difficult to succeed in litigation against the Crown, but we believe there is sufficient evidence against FSCO and its employees to justify the commencement of this action."

The claim states that in 2016, FSCO took action against Tier 1, obtaining a court order that placed a trustee, Grant Thornton Ltd., in control of many its assets.

Since then, Grant Thornton recovered $23.4-million of the $131million raised. However, the claim alleges that before that time, many warnings to FSCO about syndicated mortgages went unheeded, which allowed the products to continue to be sold by both Tier 1 and Fortress.

The claim alleges these warnings came from a wide range of concerned individuals: a government employee in Prince Edward Island, an official with the Canada Revenue Agency, as well as many mortgage brokers.

The claim also alleges Royal Bank of Canada conducted an investigation of Tier 1 in 2014, which prompted the bank to stop doing business with the company. An RBC banker, the claim alleges, brought its concerns to the attention of FSCO in a meeting. The claim does not include any supporting evidence for its assertions about RBC or the other whistleblowers.

The representative plaintiffs, Betty Wei, a 64-year-old humanresources staffer, and her husband, Lawrence Vanderklei, a 61year-old engineer, also allege the Tier 1 marketing information they received listed FSCO licence numbers. The couple "relied upon the fact that the mortgage industry was regulated by the province of Ontario," the lawsuit says.

Bhaktraj Singh, the Tier 1 official alleged in the claim to have "controlled" the company has, in the meantime, struck a settlement as part of a lawsuit initiated against him, documents show.

Mr. Singh was a shareholder in a number of the development companies that relied on Tier 1 mortgages, and which have been placed in receivership. On Nov. 1, the receiver, which launched a claim against Mr. Singh, disclosed in court filings that, after "lengthy investigations and due diligence," it agreed to settle with him for $2.1-million.

A previous report by the receiver stated Mr. Singh, and companies under his control, received $9.4-million in fees and other payments from the corporations. "The receiver is reasonably satisfied that the Singh defendants have disclosed all their assets," the Nov. 1 court filings state.


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Home Capital rebounds from financial crisis with big profits
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By DAVID BERMAN
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B1

Home Capital Group Inc.'s comeback went into high gear as a rebounding housing market and lower funding costs sent its earnings soaring just two years after the company plunged into financial crisis.

The mortgage lender's shares surged more than 14 per cent on Wednesday, their biggest rally in about a year, after quarterly financial results came in well above expectations, leaving analysts wondering whether the Toronto-based company will resume paying a dividend.

The company, which specializes in underwriting mortgages for self-employed business owners and new Canadians who lack a credit history, said profits on a pershare basis surged 63.4 per cent in the third quarter.

So far this year, the stock has rallied 136 per cent. The remarkable gains reflect that the market has become much more comfortable with the company after it flirted with insolvency in 2017, and briefly became a red flag for Canada's housing market among some short sellers.

"Today, we have all the elements in place for sustainable value creation," Yousry Bissada, Home Capital's chief executive, said in a call with analysts, pointing to upbeat economic conditions including low interest rates and strong employment figures.

The company's financial results showed growth in the most important part of its business: Single-family mortgage originations increased 16.8 per cent, year-overyear, reflecting a pick-up in sales in its core Greater Toronto Area market.

At the same time, credit quality was stable and quarterly profit easily surpassed analysts' expectations. Net income for the third quarter ended Sept. 30 was $39million, or 67 cents a share, up from $32.6-million, or 41 cents, in the same period last year.

Ignoring a one-time technology investment, adjusted earnings were 72 cents a share. That was well above the 58 cents that analysts had been expecting, on average.

Demand for non-prime mortgages remains strong, even after regulators recently tightened lending rules to cool overheated housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto.

But Home Capital is also benefiting from lower funding costs.

With bond yields well below their recent multiyear highs in 2018, the company can offer lower yields on its guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) offered at its Oaken Financial channel, boosting its margins on loans.

"We were paying more than 3.3 per cent for new money in December. And we're seeing it around 2.5 per cent now," Brad Kotush, Home Capital's chief financial officer, said in a call with analysts.

The shares closed in Toronto at $33.15, up $4.15 or 14.3 per cent - a near sixfold increase over the stock's low in 2017, just before the company was saved by the deep pockets and wily instincts of Warren Buffett, who bought a significant stake in the company and offered a financial lifeline.

Mr. Buffett sold most of his stake in Home Capital in December, 2018.

The missing element from Home Capital's return to form: a dividend. The company cut its quarterly payout from 26 cents a share to zero in 2017, and hasn't reinstated any payout since then.

Instead, Home Capital has been rewarding investors with aggressive share buybacks, which reduces the number of outstanding shares and raises earnings on a per-share basis.

Over the past 12 months, the company has bought back $394million worth of shares at a weighted average price of $17.19.

That's a 40-per-cent discount to book value per share in the third quarter, and suggests that the company is buying its shares at a bargain price. On Wednesday, it announced its intention to buy back another $150-million worth of shares in the first quarter of 2020.

But after Wednesday's rally, the stock is now trading above book value for the first time in about three years, which suggests that the stock isn't the bargain it once was. It also raises the question of whether the company will turn to dividends as an alternative way to return capital to shareholders.

"We continually review that with our board every quarter," Mr. Kotush responded when asked about the dividend by an analyst from RBC Dominion Securities.

Mr. Kotush added that the next update on its dividend policy would follow the company's fourth-quarter results, which are expected in February.

Despite the vague response from the CFO, some analysts expect that a dividend is coming: "While we are surprised that Home Capital did not reinstate its dividend, we continue to believe that it will do so in 2020," Andrew Hood, an analyst at M Partners, said in a note.

HOME CAPITAL GROUP (HCG) CLOSE: $33.15, UP $4.15


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Open Text makes $800-million deal to boost software growth
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Canadian tech giant buys U.S. cloud company Carbonite to expand cybersecurity footprint
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By JOSH O'KANE
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B1

Open Text Corp. plans to buy U.S. security software company Carbonite Inc.for US$800-million, boosting the services it can sell to larger companies while gaining a greater foothold among smaller businesses.

Open Text has beco me one of Canada's largest software companies with a market cap of $15.2-billion through frequent acquisitions, focusing largely on business-to-business software that can be offered through the cloud.

Its suite of services for enterprises includes customer-management software, process automation and cybersecurity.

The latter is Carbonite's focus. The company, named after the fictional impenetrable substance used to trap the character Han Solo in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, purports to make its clients' data similarly impenetrable with secure backups. By acquiring it, Open Text, based in Waterloo, Ont., gains access to Carbonite's 300,000 small and medium-sized business (SMB) clients and eight million professional users.

"It opens up the potential for Open Text to build a meaningful SMB revenue stream," Richard Tse of National Bank Financial said in a research note.

The deal will see Open Text buy Bostonbased Carbonite for US$23 a share, a 25-per-cent premium over Friday's closing price on the Nasdaq. But that price is more than 20 per cent lower than Carbonite was trading for last February before it purchased Colorado cybersecurity company Webroot Inc., a US$619-million deal that caused analysts to raise concerns about Carbonite's debt load.

Including the debt and other items, Open Text's offer values Carbonite at more than US$1.4-billion. It said it would make the purchase with cash and its line of credit and expects the deal to close in 90 days.

"We think that is a great route to market," Open Text chief executive officer Mark Barrenechea said in an interview. Buying Carbonite would also further bolster its security offerings for businesses' "endpoints" - connected devices ranging from mobile devices to connected sensors in industrial machines, he said.

Open Text announced the purchase before markets opened Monday. Its Toronto-listed shares closed up 2.4 per cent, at $56.27. Carbonite's Nasdaq-listed shares shot up 24.6 per cent and closed just below the takeover price of $22.96.

Analyst Gabriel Leung of Beacon Securities Ltd. said it is a good acquisition for Open Text, highlighting the recurring revenues it would bring.

Scotia Capital analyst Paul Steep, meanwhile, raised his target price for Open Text's Nasdaq-listed shares to US$46, from US$43. Carbonite could push Open Text's cloud-service gross margins higher, Mr. Steep said. And while this marks Open Text's largest cloud-focused acquisition to date, he believes more could come soon, seeing "a growing universe of potential acquisitions to help accelerate cloud growth."

Despite its continued growth by acquisition, some investors have become frustrated in recent months with Open Text's slower organic growth. When the company reported negligible organic revenue in the quarter ending in June of this year and said its fourth-quarter 2019 organic revenue would be in the low single digits, its shares fell 9 per cent.

Mr. Barrenechea said the Carbonite purchase fits into Open Text's "total growth strategy," which includes boosting revenues not just through acquisitions but organically. Within Open Text, he estimated Carbonite's potential organic revenue growth would be in the low single digits.

Open Text's largest acquisition came in 2016, when it bought Dell Technologies Inc.'s enterprise content division for US$1.62-billion. The company has since kept up its M&A strategy with smaller buys. In October, 2018, it announced it would buy the Atlanta-area datamanagement company Liaison Technologies Inc. for US$310-million. And in February, it revealed that it would spend US$75-million on the Colorado legal-tech company Catalyst Repository Systems Inc.

Open Text said in its most recent quarterly report that it had US$1-billion cash and a US$750million line of credit for acquisitions. Mr. Barrenechea said that despite the US$1.42-billion value of the Carbonite purchase, he would not rule out further near-term acquisitions.

OPEN TEXT (OTEX) CLOSE: $56.27, UP $1.30

Associated Graphic

Buses that were attacked near Fada N'gourma, Burkina Faso, are seen in this still from a Nov. 8 video. Montreal-based miner Semafo has lost about one-third of its market capitalization since an attack on its Boungou mine in the country on Nov. 6.

REUTERS


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South Africa's state airline grounds itself as debt crisis worsens
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By GEOFFREY YORK
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B1

South Africa's state-owned airline is cancelling almost all of its flights over the next two days as it battles with unions over planned job cuts that are part of a government effort to slash its spiralling debt.

The airline, South African Airways, is losing about US$35-million a month and has warned that its survival could be jeopardized if the unions go ahead with their threat to launch "the mother of all strikes." The unions confirmed on Thursday that about 3,000 workers will go on strike starting 4 a.m. local time on Friday.

The response to the cuts is the first major test of the South African government's attempts to decrease costs at its hugely indebted state-owned enterprises - including its electricity monopoly, which has imposed frequent power blackouts on the country as it struggles with finances.

In anticipation of the strike, SAA announced it is suspending nearly all of its domestic and international flights on Friday and Saturday. It said the strike "will result in a set of circumstances from which there may well be no recovery."

The airline, one of the biggest in Africa with close to seven million passengers annually, announced a restructuring plan this week that could require the layoff of nearly one-fifth of its 5,150 workers. Despite a US$360million bailout by the government this year, the airline still has massive debts and is technically insolvent.

The government announced last month that it aims to cut US$10-billion from its spending to reduce its soaring debt, but it gave no details. Two of the three major credit rating agencies have already downgraded South Africa's debt to junk status, and the third agency, Moody's, warned last month that it could do the same. Moody's said the government lacks a "credible strategy" for cutting its debt, despite its promises.

Last year, the government tried to impose a wage freeze at its electricity monopoly, Eskom, but it quickly abandoned the plan after workers launched an illegal strike, accompanied by road blockades and the sabotage of equipment, which triggered a wave of power blackouts across the country.

While the unions have fought against wage freezes or layoffs at the state companies, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has called for restructuring that could include the partial privatization of SAA and the unbundling of Eskom's main entities to promote competition.

British billionaire Richard Branson said last week that his Virgin Atlantic airline might be interested in buying an equity stake in SAA if the government approached it.

Mr. Mboweni said last month that the bailouts to the airline were "subsidizing the middle class and wealthy, flying around the country and other parts of the world, rather than ordinary workers who sit in old trains from the townships every day, often getting stuck."

Analysts have predicted that the planned strike at SAA could be the final nail in the airline's coffin. The airline says a strike would cost it more than US$3-million a day, at a time when the government is increasingly reluctant to provide further bailouts for the airline, which says it needs more than US$13-million in working capital this month if it hopes to keep operating.

The unions, representing the majority of the airline's workers, have been unsympathetic to the airline's warning that a strike could endanger its survival. The unions are seeking job guarantees and an 8-per-cent wage increase, while the airline is offering 5.9 per cent.

Union leader Irvin Jim of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said the strike would be indefinite. "If they think we are playing, they have got it coming," he said.

A last-ditch negotiating session was held on Thursday afternoon, but there was no breakthrough.

The airline's acting chief executive, Zuks Ramasia, said the restructuring and layoffs were crucial to SAA's future.

"We urgently need to address the ongoing loss-making position that has subsisted over the past years," she said on Monday. "It is a matter of great regret that we will part ways with some loyal colleagues."


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Young gunslingers face off in Baltimore
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Texans QB Watson and Ravens pivot Jackson have quickly become two of the NFL's best
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By DAVE CAMPBELL
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Saturday, November 16, 2019 – Page S2

Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.

This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.

Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theatre, but what's more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.

When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in The Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offence from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.

Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft and Jackson was selected 32nd overall in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they're both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.

Watson has totalled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Though they're mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn't mean they'll be trying to outdo the other. There's an opposing defence to manoeuvre against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it's their turn.

"I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar's got going on," Watson said this week.

Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the fullfledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL's highlight film for 2019.

"I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend," Watson said. "All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy I've always encouraged. He's doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn't do and even more so. His career is very, very bright."

Green Bay (8-2), Seattle (8-2), Tennessee (5-5) and the New York Giants (2-8) have their bye this week.

ATLANTA (2-7) AT CAROLINA (5-4) Christian McCaffrey has carried Carolina all season, not only on the ground but through the air.

With four catches against Atlanta on Sunday, he would pass LaDainian Tomlinson for the most by a running back in his first three years in the NFL. The Panthers must face their nemesis Matt Ryan, who is 6-1 in his past seven starts against the NFC South rival.

Ryan and the Falcons showed some fight last week with one of the most surprising outcomes in the league this season, a 26-9 victory over New Orleans that snapped a six-game losing streak for the Falcons.

BUFFALO (6-3) AT MIAMI (2-7) So much for that assumption the Dolphins were tanking this season to get the top draft pick.

They've suddenly won two straight games.

"We've got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool," defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.

Miami totalled 381 yards against Buffalo in the previous meeting, the most allowed by the Bills this year. Despite losses in two of their past three games, with a win they would post their best 10-game mark since 1999.

The combined record of the opponents in Buffalo's six victories is 12-44.

DALLAS (5-4) AT DETROIT (3-5-1) Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has 4,836 rushing yards to lead the league. If he can reach 164 rushing yards against Detroit, he'll be the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards in 50 career games, joining Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Elliott and the Cowboys, however, had their ground attack humbled last week in a loss to Minnesota.

He had only 47 rushing yards, the fewest of his career with 20 or more carries. The success of quarterback Dak Prescott against the Vikings helped the Cowboys stay in the league lead in total yards.

The Lions squandered lastminute leads over Kansas City and Green Bay, dropping both games to begin a tailspin accelerated last week by the surprise absence of quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. With five losses in their past six games and the likelihood of Stafford sitting out again on Sunday, the Lions are in a tough spot. Their defence has forced only one turnover over the last four games.

DENVER (3-6) AT MINNESOTA (7-3) The Vikings, coming off a critical victory at Dallas fuelled again by the dual productivity of running back Dalvin Cook, have a prime opportunity to match their win total from last year against the struggling Broncos before taking their bye week. They're 4-0 at home this year and 22-7 at U.S.

Bank Stadium in the regular season and the playoffs. Minnesota's pass rush and crowd noise has proven time and again to be a daunting combination for opponents, particularly with inexperienced quarterbacks such as Denver fill-in Brandon Allen.

Allen performed admirably in his first start for Joe Flacco, when the Broncos last played before their bye and beat Cleveland, passing for two touchdowns without a turnover. Though Denver has dropped from 10th in the league last season in sacks for every pass attempt to 22nd place this year, with Bradley Chubb on injured reserve like Flacco, the Broncos still have a capable defence that could create challenges for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Denver has allowed an average of 18.9 points a game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.

JACKSONVILLE (4-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (5-4) After breaking his collarbone in the season opener, Nick Foles will finally take over again at quarterback for a Jaguars team that could use a spark after a 23-point loss in London to Houston prior to the bye week. Not only does Foles conveniently return in a division game that's a must to win if Jacksonville is to have a chance to remain in contention, but he will do so with his former offensive co-ordinator on the other side.

Colts coach Frank Reich was one of his mentors in Philadelphia, when Foles took over two seasons ago and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Reich's current team has lost two straight games since quarterback Jacoby Brissett hurt his knee.

He's expected to reclaim his starting spot on Sunday.

NEW ORLEANS (7-2) AT TAMPA BAY (3-6) Despite their humbling defeat at home against Atlanta last week, the Saints still have a comfortable lead in the NFC South. Wide receiver Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 86 receptions and 1,027 yards, joining Randy Moss, A.J.

Green and Mike Evans as the only players in history to begin a career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Thomas had 13 catches for 152 yards against the Falcons.

The Buccaneers could be just as vulnerable, with a league-worst defence that's allowing an average 31 points per game. No team has allowed more passing yards, either, and Tampa Bay just cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

NEW YORK JETS (2-7) AT WASHINGTON (1-8) Here's a sign of progress for the Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold, in last week's win over the Giants, was not picked off for the first time since the season opener. Darnold threw nine interceptions over his other four starts this year.

Washington has lost three straight games, after the only win came against another struggling team in Miami. Washington hasn't scored a touchdown during the losing streak, either. They have just 45 points over their past six games.

ARIZONA (3-6-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (8-1) There are no undefeated teams left in the standings after the 49ers squandered several opportunities last week against Seattle and lost in overtime amid a growing list of injuries on their offence.

Fortunately for them, they'll host a Cardinals team on a three-game losing streak.

Arizona is second-to-last in the league in scoring and total defence, with at least 21 points allowed in all 10 games.

CINCINNATI (0-9) AT OAKLAND (5-4) There is one winless team remaining, with a reeling Bengals squad under rookie coach Zac Taylor having turned to rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback. One more loss would match the franchise record for the worst start to a season, established in 1993.

The Raiders have rather quietly worked their way into contention in the AFC, seeking to move two games above the .500 mark for the first time since they started 2-0 in 2017. The Raiders have a leagueleading 13 touchdowns by rookies this year, led by running back Josh Jacobs.

NEW ENGLAND (8-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (5-4) Two of the past five times these teams faced each other came in the Super Bowl, with the memory of Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis still fresh for both sides. That's when the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left, recovered a fumble by Tom Brady with a sack on the next possession for the Patriots and posted a 41-33 victory that ended with a disconsolate Brady sitting down on the U.S.

Bank Stadium turf after a desperation incompletion on the final play.

Brady said he's still carrying "a lot of mental scar tissue" from that game, even though the Patriots rebounded to become the most recent NFL champions a year ago. They had their bye week to recuperate from their only loss this season, to the Ravens and they'll send a smothering defence with several all-time records in range out to try to make the afternoon rough for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points and 249.3 yards a game. Wentz, who was injured prior to the 2017 playoffs and watched Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl win, has helped the Eagles tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East with two consecutive victories.

CHICAGO (4-5) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-4) The Bears broke a four-game losing streak last week by beating Detroit behind three touchdown passes thrown by Mitch Trubisky that gave an ailing offence some life. There are still many issues to be ironed out for a team facing as daunting of a second-half schedule as any in the league, but the defence that fuelled a 15-6 victory over the Rams near the end of last season by holding them without a touchdown for the first time in 30 games under coach Sean McVay remains a strength.

The Rams, fortunately, can stop other teams, too, because their once-potent attack has been stymied often this year. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Bears and Rams have seven defensive touchdowns apiece, tied for second in the NFL behind Baltimore. The Rams have limited their past four opponents to a total of 57 points, as the defence produced nine points all by itself last week in a loss to Pittsburgh.

KANSAS CITY (6-4) VS.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6) AT MEXICO CITY This AFC West matchup moves to Mexico City for an international Monday night affair at Azteca Stadium, where heavy rain and heavy use last year left the grass unfit for NFL competition and forced a Chiefs-Rams game to be relocated to Los Angeles. The Chargers still have hope of climbing back into the chase for the division title, sitting two games behind the first-place Chiefs with the Raiders in between.

The Chiefs had quarterback Patrick Mahomes back from a knee injury last week, though they didn't welcome him back with a win despite holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards, the most through 25 starts in NFL history.

Associated Graphic

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson runs with the ball during a game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday in Cincinnati. Jackson has led the Ravens to a 7-2 record, which includes a win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.

BRYAN WOOLSTON/GETTY IMAGES


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Leonard's 'load management' a hard sell in L.A.
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By CATHAL KELLY
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page S2

TORONTO -- A fter his year-long sabbatical in foreign parts, America has noticed that Kawhi Leonard has changed. And America doesn't like it.

Leonard ditched Canada for his hometown, Los Angeles, over the summer. The separation was about as amicable as these things get.

There was no public cursing as he went out the door. No one in the Raptors organization is slagging him behind his back, but there is some ruefulness about the process. Though Leonard went through the proper motions, Toronto never had a shot. The organization didn't see that until it was already over.

No one wants to see Leonard fail, exactly. But it would be nice if it were proved he'd have been better off here.

On that score - and it is still very early days - things are looking good (i.e. bad).

Leonard returned to the United States newly minted as the NBA's ideal winner.

He'd taken a team from Canada, for God's sake, and turned it into a champion. He'd done it largely by himself.

What people hadn't taken into consideration was how he'd done it.

Leonard was a part-time employee during the 2018-19 regular season. He took a quarter of his games off, most with no explanation.

The Raptors created the term "load management" to excuse these vacation days. The NBA responded with a "Yeah, yeah, whatever. We told you only to use this number if it's an emergency."

Leonard's absence was permitted because no one in the NBA knows or cares what is happening up here. For years, the Raptors might as well have been playing on the moon.

They had next-to-no national TV commitments in the United States. No Christmas Day games. No prime-time tipoffs in the postseason. They were functionally invisible back at NBA HQ.

If Leonard wanted to spend the whole season poolside in Boca Raton, the only people who would notice were Raptors fans. And Raptors fans weren't bothered.

They wanted Leonard fit for the playoffs.

How he managed it was his business.

Even the media refused to pick up the story.

That situation has changed. Somewhere between his "fun guy" intro and his T-1000 routine in the playoffs, Leonard has become the most fascinating man in the league. He was always good, but is now recognized as basketball's most reliable closer. He's leap-frogged the Jameses, Currys and Durants in the U.S. imagination.

In an age of carefully curated public personalities, Leonard's lack of one seems revolutionary. He's become the Thomas Pynchon of pro sports. Completely inscrutable, but everyone wants to pretend they understand him.

Leonard presumed he could move to the U.S.'s second-biggest media market, take a wing-dinger of a contract, create an outrageous amount of tumult around the manner of his arrival (Batman with his hand-picked Robin, Paul George) and then just continue on as he had. Apparently not.

Acquiring Leonard turned the L.A. Clippers into must-see TV. The team will appear in two, and sometimes three, nationally televised games each week. The next one happens Monday, against the visiting Raptors. Leonard gets the main Christmas Day time slot - 8 p.m. ET against the Lakers.

In moving to L.A., Leonard took a squadron of camp aides with him. They oversee his physical well-being. He is more of a subcontractor of the Clippers than an employee. As such, he sets his own hours.

He has continued his Toronto practice of skipping a game when the team plays on consecutive nights. On Wednesday, he took a pass on a fairly big occasion - Clippers versus Bucks (i.e. Kawhi versus Giannis).

Everyone freaked out. The U.S. press piled in as though he'd missed work because he was hungover. It became a great big story.

Even the most pragmatic members of the broadcast media were outraged. No wonder. If the stars don't care about the regular season, then why should the fans?

That is not a good precedent for the TV business.

The Clippers tried the same load-management line the Raptors had sneaked by easily. It no longer works. The league fined the team US$50,000 for sitting a healthy star.

The money doesn't matter. Leonard makes nearly 10 times that amount per outing, whether he plays. But the signal it sends does. Load management is no longer kosher.

By that point, the Clippers had figured out an important life lesson - that it isn't what you tell people, it's how you tell them. "Load management" became "managing a knee injury." The two things are the same (if there's no injury load to manage, there'd be no need to manage it). But one sounds better. The NBA agreed.

It's working for now. It may not work for long.

You can see other teams and coaches losing their patience. The Clippers play a back-to-back next week - at Houston and New Orleans. The Houston game is nationally televised. It would be very like Leonard to skip that one, just to make a point. We'll see how that goes over.

After the New York Knicks' R.J. Barrett played 41 minutes the other night, his coach was asked to justify the expenditure of energy. He was not best pleased.

"We gotta get off this load-management crap," David Fizdale said. "The kid's 19 years old. Drop it."

Which guarantees no one will drop it.

You can see the NBA's double-bind here. The league is paid a lot of money by broadcasters. Broadcasters who expect to be broadcasting the biggest stars from the biggest teams on a nightly basis. Leonard is now the biggest in both regards. What if the rest of the talent starts getting notions?

Teams expect the rules will be enforced evenly. No one cared what Leonard did in Toronto. But now that everyone's attention has been focused on him, it looks as though he's getting special treatment.

Thus far, Leonard's said nothing and felt no need to do so. The man is a stump - immovable. The last time a team tried to force him to do something, he essentially quit. If the NBA gets on top of him here, things could get unpredictable in a hurry.

One thing we do know about Leonard is that he doesn't like fuss. He wants to be left alone to do his work. He had that freedom in Toronto. Now, in L.A., not so much.

You can never know what's going through Leonard's mind. But one does wonder if he's beginning to consider whether getting exactly what you want is all it's cracked up to be.

Associated Graphic

The Clippers' Kawhi Leonard reaches for the ball during a game against Portland on Thursday in

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


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Ujiri is the most indispensable Raptor, and MLSE should pony up to keep him
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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B15

TORONTO -- Masai Ujiri's name has become a kind of magic spell in the NBA.

Is your team terrible and terribly run? Have you stitched yourself up for years by trading away all your picks?

Are you lost and alone in the standings?

Then ... Masai Ujiri.

Certain owners think that if they say it loudly enough to the right people, Ujiri will appear in their midst and solve all their problems.

The latest has him (once again) taking a boatload of money from Knicks owner James Dolan and moving to New York.

Dolan has had a thing for the Toronto Raptors president ever since he called off the Kyle Lowry trade (helping Ujiri) and called on the Andrea Bargnani trade (really helping Ujiri).

Dolan thinks Ujiri tricked him. He didn't. Dolan tricked Dolan. Dolan chooses not to see it that way. Which is part of the reason his team is such a mess.

During this first bout of media footsie, Ujiri never got an actual offer. He had no interest in the job and told people that. Dolan didn't want to be embarrassed with a "No," so he called off his bird dogs.

This year, the Knicks are horrendous again. They have nothing good to tell their customers. So what do they tell them? Masai Ujiri.

The usual practice when these rumours kick up is to text Ujiri and get his pro forma denial.

"You going to the Knicks?" "I'm going to [the Raptors' farm team] 905," Ujiri replied on Monday night.

You could practically hear him sighing through the phone.

Ujiri is going to the New York Knicks like I am going to the Pyongyang Gazette. Because there are some people no one wants to work for, regardless of how good the pay is.

There is a world in which this would be flattering and fun. That the guy running your team is considered so brilliant that just saying his name aloud conjures up visions of a winner.

Except that these phoney flirtations can have irritating consequences.

The last big rumour of this sort landed at almost the very minute the Raptors won the NBA championship back in June. The speculative deal was unique - the Washington Wizards were apparently prepared to give Ujiri huge money, full control and an ownership stake in the team.

That last bit is the one that caused problems.

Though the report was refuted almost immediately, it had already caught hold of the NBA's imagination. Ujiri was so good, Washington owner Ted Leonsis was prepared to make him a partner. No amount of saying it wasn't so would stop people from talking about it.

It caused problems with Kawhi Leonard's camp just as Ujiri was about to begin negotiating with them. Was Ujiri coming or going? Was he getting a piece of the Wizards? Was that a thing now?

It caused problems with the NBA, which was alarmed to hear its franchises might be carved up like Christmas hams in order to lure talent. A move in that direction would render the salary cap meaningless, and encourage the worst instincts of very rich people with very poor impulse control.

Ujiri didn't want to go to Washington. He didn't get an offer from Washington. But because Washington planted a rumour, Ujiri had to deal with the fallout from it.

There is one way to put a pin in these stories. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment should make Ujiri the Raptors president for life.

It's not often done in modern sport, but there have been seminal figures at ambitious clubs who transcend board interviews and end-of-season appraisals.

Sir Alex Ferguson had that sort of job when he managed Manchester United. The Scottish manager agreed to a deal whereby he would always be the highest-paid employee of the club. If a player got a raise above that amount, Ferguson's salary automatically increased.

"It was simple. We just agreed that no player should be paid more money than me," Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. "We agreed in less time than it takes to read the previous sentence."

Ferguson was that extreme rarity - a non-player more important than the people who played. He was a winner. He just had that magic. He made the people around him winners, too.

When he retired from United, the team fell apart. He'd been holding it together by force of personality.

I would suggest that in Toronto, Ujiri has cast that same sort of spell. He is the most indispensable Raptor.

Ujiri is nearing the end of his second contract in Toronto, signed shortly after his initial burst of success.

In the normal run of things, this would involve a bit of haggling. There's no question MLSE wants to keep him, but there are targets to set and comparisons to make before paperwork can be shuffled.

I would suggest it not make them.

It is an easy thing for MLSE to make Ujiri the highest paid executive in the NBA. The Wizards were apparently willing to give him US$10-million a year. That's a decent starting point.

Ten million may sound like a lot to you, and it is. It's a ridiculous amount of money. But the Raptors are already paying US$10-million to Norman Powell.

And that is a lot more ridiculous.

Tell Ujiri that he has the job for as long as he wants it. No contract years or set amounts. No paper. Just a handshake on a forever job in which he is perpetually guaranteed to be the highest-paid executive in the NBA.

If New York blows someone's doors off with a US$15-million offer, the Toronto boss gets a dollar more.

Ujiri has proven he's worth it.

MLSE can afford it. The coaches, players and fans would be unanimously for it. And it puts to bed this carousel of 'Desperate Owner Invokes Ujiri's Name' bulletins.

All it will cost is money. And money is the one thing every NBA team has in abundance.

What every team is constantly searching for is magic. Imagine securing some of that commodity forever?

Associated Graphic

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri speaks to the media during a news conference in Toronto in June.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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How far is too far for Don Cherry?
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By SIMON HOUPT
  
  

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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B12

TORONTO -- On Sunday morning, as his network reeled from the latest ugly comments made by his marquee star Don Cherry, Bart Yabsley, the president of Sportsnet, scrambled onto Twitter to deliver his very best impersonation of the British actor Claude Rains.

In the classic Second World War drama Casablanca, of course, Rains plays Louis Renault, a Vichy police captain who, under pressure from his Nazi overlords, shuts down the nightclub belonging to Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!" Renault tells Rick. A café employee runs up and hands him a wad of cash.

"Your winnings, sir," the employee says. "Oh, thank you very much!" Renault replies.

On Saturday night, as part of his annual Remembrance Day tribute to Canada's veterans on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry ranted angrily that, in Mississauga, where he lives, and downtown Toronto "nobody wears the poppy." Jabbing his index finger repeatedly toward the camera, he said: "You people love - they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that.

These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."

In his statement posted on Sunday to the Twitter account of Sportsnet PR, Yabsley seemed as stunned as Capt. Renault: "Don's discriminatory comments are offensive and they do not represent our values and what we stand for as a network. We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks."

Is it possible that Yabsley, who was appointed Sportsnet president only last March, hadn't been read in on the Cherry file? Or that he'd always found something else to do on Saturday nights during the past 39 years, and somehow had just never caught Cherry on Coach's Corner?

Because how else could he be shocked! shocked! to find that Cherry might say something hateful? Cherry's offensiveness - and not just in his wardrobe choices - is the primary pillar of his brand.

In 1998, during CBC's coverage of the men's Olympic goldmedal hockey game in Nagano, Japan, Cherry referred to Quebec nationalists as "a bunch of whiners," and complained that the freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard, of GrandÎle, Que., who had said he regretted carrying the Canadian flag in the opening ceremonies because it had affected his performance in the moguls competition, was "a French guy, some skier nobody knows about." (Brassard had won the Olympic gold medal in the previous Winter Olympics.) Jim Byrd, who was then CBC's vice-president of English television, told the media that Cherry was a commentator, "hired to express his opinions, which are invariably strong ones and not necessarily those of the CBC."

Five years later, as the U.S.-led Iraq War broke out, Cherry castigated the Canadian government for refusing to send troops to the region. CBC executives reportedly gave him a mild warning to avoid talk of politics. For decades, he has railed against Europeans supposedly displacing Canadian hockey players in North American leagues: the sports equivalent of the xenophobic "white replacement" paranoia now sweeping across Europe and the United States.

Cherry's apologies have been rare and usually made only under extreme pressure - sometimes of the legal variety. On the opening night of the 2011-12 season, Cherry laced into three former NHL enforcers, calling them "pukes" and "hypocrites" for suggesting the league's fighting culture - of which Cherry is the greatest cheerleader - had caused the substance-abuse problems of fellow tough guys. It took more than a week, and the threat of a lawsuit from the three former players, before Cherry apologized.

On Sunday night, almost 24 hours after his "you people" comments, nobody had yet heard from Cherry. But his sidekick, Ron MacLean, who had sat in silence during Cherry's rant and then concluded the segment with an oddly robotic thumbs-up, offered an earnest apology that included references to Canada's Indigenous peoples.

Opening the broadcast of Rogers Hometown Hockey, of which he is the host, MacLean told viewers that Cherry's remarks "were hurtful, discriminatory [and] flat-out wrong."

"We know diversity is the strength of the country. We see it in the travels with our show, and with Hockey Night in Canada.

So - I owe you an apology, too," he said. "I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond. Kathryn Teneese of Ktunaxa First Nation once said, in any wrongdoing, the real key is recognition and acknowledgment. I wanted to let you know that first - and then you work on the relationship, so that it isn't divisive, so that something can be a unifying event. Idle No More was a great lesson to all of us. Last night was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize, and I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night."

The air is thick these days with angst over what's known as cancel culture: the fear that someone might say one errant thing and be sentenced by social media to permanent exile.

But Cherry's comments about immigrants on Saturday night are just the latest and most nakedly xenophobic incident in a long career of bigotry.

For Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, the decision on what to do with him will likely come down to a matrix of ratings versus outrage: As long as the former stays above the latter, he's safe. And here in Canada, we don't have a history of boycotting advertisers, so Labatt, whose Budweiser brand is the name sponsor of Coach's Corner, may not say anything publicly. (Mind you, I tried getting hold of a Labatt spokesperson on Sunday and was met with radio silence, so the brewer is probably at least weighing its options.)

Still, you have to wonder: If these latest comments by Cherry aren't going to prompt his bosses to cut him loose, what would?

Associated Graphic

Over his career, Don Cherry has rarely apologized for his comments, and has usually only done so under extreme pressure.

DARREN CALABRESE/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Equestrian team could lose millions in funding if Olympic invite rescinded
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By ANDREW WILLIS
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B15

TORONTO -- Canada's equestrian team stands to lose millions of dollars in financing if a failed drug test from show jumper Nicole Walker costs her four-member squad its spot at this summer's Tokyo Olympics.

Canada's jumping team, past winners of five Olympic medals, qualified for the 2020 Games by finishing fourth at last summer's Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The team is expected to lose that invitation if Panam Sports, organizer of the Lima Games, upholds the 26year-old Walker's positive test for a banned substance, cocaine. Pan Am rules state that a doping violation by any member of a group such as Canada's equestrians leads to a disqualification of the results obtained by the entire team.

The governing bodies for equestrian sports released the test result on Tuesday and said they were provisionally suspending Walker from all competitions. Walker is appealing the test results. The leader of Canada's jumping team in Lima, Mark Laskin, said Walker's positive test may have come from drinking coca tea, a legal and widely available pick-me-up beverage in Peru. In a news release on Tuesday, Walker said: "I was shocked and devastated to hear about these results. I do not use illicit drugs, ever."

Walker, 26, is the daughter of Belinda Stronach and her former husband, Don Walker, the chief executive of auto-parts maker Magna International Inc.

Stronach runs a global horse-racing business. Walker's grandfather, Frank Stronach, is a prominent racehorse owner and Magna's billionaire founder.

Missing out on a trip to the Tokyo Games would eliminate support for the jumping team from government-backed groups that support Olympic contenders, including Own The Podium, the organization that delivers federal government money to athletes, and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

Over the past three years, Own The Podium gave $985,000 to Canada's equestrian team to help it prepare for Tokyo. Decisions on financing are made annually, and meant to sustain the team over the four-year cycle of the Games.

In the past, Own The Podium varied the amount of money it put into the equestrian program, reflecting its expectations of the team's potential. The crew that competed in the London Games in 2008 received $4.3-million, while the equestrian team that went to Rio de Janeiro four years later got $1.2-million. Every four years, Own The Podium gives a total of approximately $120-million to all Summer Olympic contenders, and another $25-million to participants in the Winter Games.

"Own the Podium's Summer technical team, along with our partners, are currently in the midst of our annual reviews with all Summer Olympic and Paralympic sports," spokesperson Chris Dornan said in an e-mail.

"During these reviews we will evaluate the sports' high-performance programs and the status of their athletes with evidence of medal potential for Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024."

The COC supports riders by giving money to Equestrian Canada, the sport's national governing body. COC spokesperson Photi Sotiropoulos said on Wednesday that the group will take guidance from Own The Podium on future financing for the jumping team.

"Direct funding to Equestrian Canada is based on performance and potential podium success recommendations we receive from Own The Podium. At this time it is premature to be re-evaluating those funds," Sotiropoulos said in an e-mail.

He said: "We respect Equestrian Canada's and the athlete's rights to pursue any steps in defence of this matter and the outcome of any due process, and we will continue to monitor this case as it develops."

There were three other athletes on the Canadian Pan Am jumping team: Erynn Ballard from Ontario, Alberta-based Lisa Carlsen and Mario Deslauriers from Quebec.

Regulators at the international governing body of equestrian sports (known by its French acronym FEI) in Switzerland and Ottawa-based Equestrian Canada said on Tuesday that Walker turned in a positive result for Benzoylecgonine, a chemical that remains after the body metabolizes cocaine, in a test administered at the Pan Am Games on Aug. 7, after the final of the team-jumping competition.

Equestrian Canada said Tuesday in a news release that it is "firmly committed to clean sport.

We also believe in standing behind our athletes, and fully support Nicole during this challenging situation. Equestrian Canada will be working closely with Nicole and her legal team as appropriate next steps are determined."

Walker has already requested a hearing on her drug test before the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission and hired Torontobased lawyer Tim Danson, who previously represented rider Eric Lamaze, a three-time Olympic medalist. Lamaze was unable to participate in the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics after testing positive for cocaine.

"It is too premature to comment on the merits of Nikki's case at this time," Danson said in a news release. "What I am confident in saying at this early stage is that Nikki does not use substances prohibited by WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency]. She is incredibly careful and vigilant in this regard."

Positive drug tests from coca tea are a well-documented issue for athletes. In 2005, the Jockey Club in Britain commissioned a study of the beverage after several jockeys tested positive for cocaine and claimed it was a result of drinking coca tea. The British racing group found a single cup of coca tea can translate into a positive test for cocaine for 24 hours or more. In writing up the Jockey Club's study, the British Journal of Sport Medicine said: "Although the teabag packaging reports benefits such as increased energy and improved digestion, most people who sample the product report little subjective effect at all."

In the United States, a number of government employees, including police officers, blamed coca tea consumption during vacations in South America for subsequent positive drug tests at work. Some were fired, while others had the explanation accepted by employers and kept their jobs.

Associated Graphic

Nicole Walker, seen at an event in Calgary in June, has requested a hearing on her failed drug test before the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission and has hired a lawyer.

JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Stampeders must clear an extra hurdle in push to defend their Grey Cup title
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By DAN RALPH
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Monday, November 4, 2019 – Page B10

The road to a fourth straight Grey Cup title will be a little longer than usual for Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders.

Calgary (12-6) plays host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-7) in the West Division semi-final Sunday at McMahon Stadium. The Stampeders reached the previous three Grey Cup finals - winning last year - with a victory in the conference final after finishing first in the standings. But Calgary was second this year behind the Saskatchewan Roughriders (13-5), who clinched the top spot for the first time since 2009 with a 23-13 home win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday. Now, the Stampeders will have to win an extra playoff game to make a fourth consecutive Grey Cup appearance.

"We're a team that fights," Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson said. "We can't blow anybody out, we're not good enough, but I just feel like our team wins.

"Let's be honest here ... at the beginning of the year, I don't think anyone would suggest the Calgary Stampeders, with all the changes we had, would have 12 wins. I'm proud of that."

However, Winnipeg won the season series 2-1. The Bombers captured the past meeting 29-28 on Oct. 25 in dramatic fashion, outscoring the Stampeders 10-0 in the fourth quarter to erase a 28-19 deficit.

And Winnipeg did it with welltravelled veteran Zach Collaros under centre. Collaros began the season with Saskatchewan, but gave way to backup Cody Fajardo after suffering a concussion early in the Riders' season-opening loss in Hamilton.

Saskatchewan lost that game 23-17, but caught fire under Fajardo, who recently signed a contract extension with the Riders.

Last week, he was named their outstanding player award nominee.

In July, Saskatchewan dealt Collaros to Toronto, which sent the veteran to Winnipeg on Oct.

9. Collaros started the Bombers' regular-season finale with Chris Streveler (ankle) ailing.

Collaros's numbers weren't spectacular - 22-of-28 for 221 yards with two TDs and an interception - but the eight-year veteran showed glimpses of his 2015 form with Hamilton, when he was regarded as the favourite for the CFL's outstanding player award before suffering a seasonending knee surgery.

Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea hasn't formally announced his playoff starter, but the expectation is Collaros will get the nod.

Home field is definitely a big deal in this game, considering the Stampeders were 7-2 at McMahon, including a 37-33 home win over the Bombers on Oct. 19. Winnipeg was a stellar 8-1 at IG Field - and 2-0 there against the Stamps - but 3-6 on the road.

Mitchell has a career 11-3 regular-season record against Winnipeg, and the Stampeders boast a 68-34 mark against the Bombers at McMahon. He's also 5-1 as a playoff starter.

Winnipeg's strength is its CFLbest ground attack (147.9 yards a game), which was anchored by league rushing leader Andrew Harris (1,380 yards, 6.1-yard average, four TDs). Streveler certainly added to that (726 yards, 5.7-yard average, 12 TDs).

But in Collaros, the Bombers have a veteran quarterback who has not only won in the CFL - 35-32 career record as a starter - but can make the big throw downfield. The biggest concern with the 31-year-old American is his health, as since 2015, he's battled numerous injuries, including concussions.

Meanwhile in the East Division, both the Montreal Alouettes (10-8) and Edmonton (8-10) have known for some time they'd meet in the conference semi-final. They split their season series 1-1, each winning at home.

It was a resounding regular season for Montreal under interim first-year head coach Khari Jones. He assumed the head job just before the start of the 2019 campaign after Mike Sherman was fired and handled headcoaching and offensive co-ordinator duties.

Montreal will play host to its first home playoff game since 2014 and has a record 26-9 postseason mark in La Belle Province.

This will be the fourth time Edmonton has crossed over into the East Division playoffs, but the first since 2016.

The Eskimos have a 20-30 record as a road playoff team. They played Montreal once before in the postseason, with the Alouettes winning 36-26 in the 2008 East final.

West Division teams are 4-7 as the East crossover squad.

Edmonton opened the season with a 32-25 victory against Montreal on June 14. Starter Trevor Harris had a stellar Eskimos debut, completing 32-of-41 passes for 447 yards with three TDs, with Ricky Collins registering nine catches for 175 yards.

Running back C.J. Gable ran for 154 yards on 20 carries.

Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

has been instrumental in Montreal reaching the CFL playoffs after a four-year drought. The 26year-old native of Pasadena, Calif., opened the season as Antonio Pipkin's backup and was pressed into duty after Pipkin was injured.

Adams Jr. will be making his first playoff start Sunday.

On July 20, Adams Jr. threw for 191 yards and a TD while rushing for 44 yards on seven carries in leading Montreal to a 20-10 home victory over Edmonton.

That time around, Montreal's defence held Harris to 271 passing yards (29-of-43 attempts) and intercepted him twice. Gable ran for just 33 yards on eight carries.


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Wolfpack lands big star in Williams
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Toronto signs star to two-year deal worth $9-million as it prepares to enter Super League
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By NEIL DAVIDSON
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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B16

The Toronto Wolfpack proved doubters wrong by managing to establish a toehold for a littleknown sport in North America.

Now the transatlantic rugby league team is opening the vault in the hope that All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams will put it on the worldwide map as the Wolfpack prepare for their step up into England's top-tier Super League come February.

The Wolfpack confirmed Thursday that the 34-year-old Williams, a star in both of rugby's codes, has signed a two-year contract.

The deal is worth a total of $9million, with Williams getting an ownership stake, according to a source granted confidentiality because they were not in a position to publicly divulge the information.

"Having someone of his talent join the Wolfpack will greatly raise the profile of the club, and also help move the game forward globally," Bob Hunter, the Wolfpack chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby's LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined L.A. Galaxy."

The Wolfpack may not be finished yet.

England's Daily Telegraph reports Toronto is also interested in Manu Tuilagi, a Mack Truck of a centre who currently plays for Leicester and England.

Williams has won championships in both rugby union and league and has real star power in the sport around the globe.

Williams has competed at three Rugby World Cups - winning two - and was part of the New Zealand rugby sevens team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, partly rupturing an Achilles tendon in the All Blacks' first match.

"Toronto Wolfpack is a club that represents Toronto which is a very multicultural city," Williams said in a club statement.

"The club has big ambitions and big goals.

"I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals.

"On the field I'd like to bring high-quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team.

Off the field I'd like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed. Super League will be a new challenge and one I'm looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I'm ready to embrace."

Williams, whose résumé also includes an unbeaten stint as a heavyweight pro boxer, is fresh off the All Blacks' third-place finish at the World Cup in Japan.

He has won two rugby-league championships in Australia's NRL.

At 6 foot 3 and some 238 pounds, Williams is a powerful runner who has an uncanny ability to offload the ball to a teammate even when getting gangtackled. He can also be a bruising defender.

"We have signed one of the highest-profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level," Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott said.

"The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great rugby league player who has the hunger to be successful in Super League much as he was in the [Australia's] NRL and rugby union."

Like Major League Soccer, English rugby league has a salary cap with a partial exemption for marquee players.

In rugby league, the salary cap was £2-million ($3.38-million) in 2019.

Teams can have two marquee players with each of their salary cap hits restricted to £150,000.

Toronto's marquee players in 2019 were Australian forward Darcy Lussick and Samoan international back Ricky Leutele.

Williams made his All Blacks debut in November 2010 against England and has won 58 caps (including 16 off the bench).

His record in the famed black jersey is 52-5-1 with the only losses coming against South Africa (in 2011), Australia (2015 and '17), the British and Irish Lions (2017) and England (at the recent World Cup).

Ten of his 65 career points came at the World Cup against Canada. with a try in New Zealand's 79-15 win in 2011 and another in the 63-0 victory in Oita on Oct. 2 The Wolfpack started life in the third tier of English rugby league in 2017, winning promotion to the second-tier Betfred Championship in its first season. It won promotion to the Super League in October with a 24-6 win over Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound Game.

Associated Graphic

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams makes a break during a World Cup match against Wales at Tokyo Stadium on Nov. 1. Williams has won championships in both rugby union and league.

DAN MULLAN/GETTY IMAGES


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French icon Henry to be next Impact head coach
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Multiculturalism of Montreal is part of the draw for one of the best strikers in soccer history
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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B14

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Impact named French soccer legend Thierry Henry as head coach of the Major League Soccer team on Thursday, signing the former striker to a two-year contract with an option for the 2022 season.

Henry will be formally introduced on Monday and will be at the helm of the team as of midJanuary, when training camp begins, the Impact said in a news release.

"His name was part of a list of potential candidates as soon as we started to look for a head coach," Impact president and CEO Kevin Gilmore said. "When [sports director] Olivier Renard was hired, he realized [Henry] was candidate No. 1. From there, the negotiations began. They were neither very difficult nor very long."

Henry, 42, is considered one of the best strikers in soccer history. He represented France at the World Cup on four occasions, winning the tournament in his first appearance in 1998. He also won the Euro in 2000 and remains the country's career leading scorer with 51 goals in 123 games.

A FIFA world-player-of-theyear finalist in 2003 and 2004, he reached the top of Arsenal's scoring chart with 228 goals in all competitions. He won two Premier League championships, three FA Cups and played in a UEFA Champions League final with the team.

At FC Barcelona, Henry won La Liga in 2009 and 2010. He also helped the team win UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey and FIFA Club World Cup titles.

He spent four-plus seasons in MLS with the New York Red Bulls, scoring 51 goals and adding 42 assists in 122 games.

He won the Supporters' Shield in 2013 and was a four-time MLS all-star.

"It's an honour to coach the Montreal Impact and return to MLS," Henry said. "It's a league I know well, in which I had some very nice moments.

"To be in Quebec, in Montreal, which has an enormous multicultural heritage, it's extraordinary. I've always kept an eye on the club and now I'm here."

Henry retired in December, 2014, and became an academy coach at Arsenal two months later.

He was named an assistant with the Belgian national team in 2016 and helped guide the squad to a third-place finish at last year's World Cup.

Most recently, he served as head coach with AS Monaco in Ligue 1. He had a record of 4-11-5 before being fired.

"We are extremely happy with the arrival of Thierry Henry," Renard said.

"Young and dynamic, he's very familiar with MLS and meets the qualities we were looking for in our search.

"This nomination, two months before the start of camp in January, will give us a chance to build our squad with the man who will lead it."

Henry succeeds Wilmer Cabrera in the position. The Impact announced last month that Cabrera's contract had expired and would not be extended.

Cabrera had replaced the fired Rémi Garde in August and was named interim coach. Montreal missed the playoffs for the third year in a row with a 12-17-5 record.

The Impact had been criticized for investing too much money on Garde, a former French international and manager of Premier League side Aston Villa, and his staff. Gilmore said those criticisms don't apply to Henry.

"Without revealing the terms, I can say it's in line with what is done in the MLS," the Impact president said.

When asked if Henry's MLS experience influenced the decision to hire the Frenchman, Gilmore said: "I think that's more of a question for Olivier Renard, but I think that was part of the qualities we were looking for."

The Impact did win the Canadian Championship this year, beating Toronto FC, and will be in the CONCACAF Champions League next year.

Associated Graphic

Thierry Henry, shown on the sidelines when he was AS Monaco's coach last December, will be officially introduced as the Montreal Impact's new head coach on Monday.

VALERY HACHE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES


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Chiefs clinch 11th-hour win over Vikings
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Kansas City comes out on top against Minnesota thanks to late-game field goals
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By DAVE SKRETTA
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
  
  

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Monday, November 4, 2019 – Page B11

KANSAS CITY -- Harrison Butker watched his 44yard field goal split the uprights, the clocks inside Arrowhead Stadium reading zero, and the Chiefs kicker turned and sprinted the other way in celebration.

The first person to join him?

Patrick Mahomes.

The reigning league MVP, who missed his second straight game while recovering from a dislocated kneecap, looked just fine as he joined Butker and the rest of his Kansas City teammates in a midfield mob after their heart-stopping 26-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

"I was sprinting down, maybe just from my soccer background growing up - that's what you do when you score," said Butker, who thought the winner may have been tipped. "When I was going I saw Patrick, and I wanted to embrace him and I'm like, 'Nah, he can't get hurt.' " Matt Moore started in Mahomes's place and threw for 275 yards and a touchdown, and he made the crucial plays when they mattered. He hit favourite target Tyreek Hill to convert a key third down and set up Butker's career best-tying 54-yard field goal to knot the game, then found Hill again a couple minutes later to make the winner a little more manageable.

"I thought, Matt, that was a gutsy performance by him," said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team snapped a three-game skid at Arrowhead Stadium. "He took a couple of licks there, and he got back up and finished. But just him calming the storm I thought was good."

Hill finished with six catches for 140 yards for the Chiefs (6-3), including a spectacular TD grab, while Damien Williams ran for 125 yards - most of it on a 91-yard touchdown run.

Kirk Cousins threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings (6-3), although he struggled to deal with the Chiefs' blitzes late in the game. Dalvin Cook was held to 71 yards rushing while top wide receiver Stefon Diggs had a single catch for four yards.

The Chiefs largely controlled the first half, building a 10-7 lead with the ball in the closing minutes. But they proceeded to go three-and-out, the Vikings marched downfield for a tying field goal, then got the ball back when Mecole Hardman fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half.

Suddenly, it was the Vikings who had taken control. They needed just five plays to punch it into the end zone, despite a holding penalty setting them back.

Amir Abdullah finished it with a 17-yard catch in which nobody was within 10 yards of him.

Hardman hurt the Chiefs again by failing to call a fair catch on a punt downed at their three. But that flub was rendered irrelevant when Williams took a handoff, found a gaping hole on the left side of the line and made the only safety in front of him miss on a 91yard touchdown run.

"We misfitted a little bit," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "We had a pressure coming off the outside, we got a little wide and then we missed tackles."

Minnesota answered in the seesaw affair.

Leaning heavily on Cook, the league's leading rusher, the Vikings marched 75 yards without facing third down until the final play. That's when Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph from three yards out for the score, taking advantage of a Kansas City defence with just 10 players on the field.

After trading punts, the Chiefs put together another drive. Moore hit Hill to convert a key third down, and Butker matched his career long with a 54-yard field goal with 2 minutes 30 seconds to go.

It was a monumental kick - and he had another coming a couple minutes later.

Associated Graphic

Chiefs quarterback Matt Moore throws a pass against the Minnesota Vikings in Kansas City on Sunday. Moore threw for 275 yards and landed a touchdown in the game.

JAMIE SQUIRE/ GETTY IMAGES

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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Alberta exit from CPP could cost more than Kenney says, experts warn
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By PATRICK BRETHOUR, DAVID PARKINSON
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B1

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney contends that withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan would return billions of dollars a year to the province, but experts question how large the savings would be from going it alone.

They warn that exiting the national plan could be complicated and costly, and that having a separate provincial plan could discourage workers in other parts of Canada from coming to Alberta, threatening the labour mobility that has helped fuel the energy sector's growth.

Mr. Kenney is pushing the idea of an Alberta pension plan as part of his United Conservative Party government's strategy of seeking more autonomy in light of what it views as hostility from Ottawa and the rest of the country toward the energy industry. The Premier says that with its own pension plan, Alberta could dramatically slash premiums, returning billions to the province's workers and businesses while maintaining national-level benefits.

The core of what Mr. Kenney calls a "compelling case" for an independent Alberta pension plan is the fact that the province's work force is younger than those of other provinces, which means Albertans currently pay more into the CPP and draw fewer benefits compared with the national average. According to Statistics Canada, the median age of Alberta's population is 37.1 years, nearly four years below the national median. Its population aged 65 and older represents 13 per cent of the total population, compared with 18 per cent for the rest of the country.

"Because we are by far the youngest population in the country, we make a net contribution of approximately $3-billion [annually] to the CPP, meaning we are paying higher premiums than we otherwise would," Mr. Kenney said in a speech on Saturday.

Alberta's younger population means a provincial plan would require lower contributions from workers and employers, said Fred Vettese, former chief actuary for pensions company Morneau Shepell.

"They do benefit from exiting the [Canada Pension] Plan," he said. "It actually makes some sense."

Fraser Institute economist Jason Clemens - co-author of a study earlier this year laying out the case for an Alberta pension plan - said in an interview that a worker and their employer could see their combined annual contributions fall by as much as $2,183. But in the rest of Canada (excluding Quebec, which has had its own pension plan for more than five decades), combined contributions could rise by as much $367 a year to make up for the loss of Alberta's relatively young contributor base. The Fraser Institute's calculations assume that obligations to pay existing pensions would offset any CPP assets Alberta would take when it departed.

Mr. Kenney has asserted that Alberta would exit the CPP with $40-billion. That represents the value of Albertans' share of assets inside the CPP as of a 2015 actuarial valuation, according to Harrison Fleming, Mr. Kenney's deputy press secretary. That leaves open the question of whether Alberta and Ottawa would split the financial obligation to pay the existing pensions and what share each would have. Mr. Fleming said that would be determined through negotiations.

The path to an Alberta pension plan may not be easy.

Experts say Alberta's share of the existing CPP could be calculated any number of ways, and would be subject to negotiations with Ottawa and the other provinces.

"All of that's left to be determined," said Wilfrid Laurier University professor Tammy Schirle, who says Alberta may be overestimating the benefits of setting up its own plan.

She said individuals' contributions are aligned with the payments they will receive. So, equating what retirees receive today with contributions from those currently in the work force is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

She added that the volatility of the energy sector would tend to reduce any projected savings in contributions.

Alex Laurin, director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto, agreed that contribution rates could be lower under an Alberta pension plan, but the rest of Canada would not likely face significant increases in CPP contributions.

Under the Canada Pension Plan Act, any province needs to give three years' notice before leaving, and prove that its pension plan would provide comparable benefits.

The process has never been tested; Quebec is the only province outside the CPP, but it opted out at the plan's inception in 1965.

Alberta would need to negotiate the terms of the exit, a process that would be fraught with uncertainties.

"There would be a number of details that would need to be sorted through, including the calculation and transfer of existing pension liabilities and the calculation and transfer of any pension assets relating to those liabilities," the federal Department of Finance said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. The department said any agreement would also need to ensure the portability of benefits to and from other parts of the country, to encourage labour mobility.

Experts expressed concern that a separate Alberta pension may complicate and potentially discourage the movement of workers - a key element of the province's boom years. Alberta would need to negotiate with Ottawa and with Quebec to ensure that an Alberta pension could move with a worker to other parts of the country, and vice versa.

Mr. Kenney said the Alberta Investment Management Corp., which manages $110billion in public sector pension funds, would be in charge of an Alberta pension plan's portfolio. But the province would still need to set up infrastructure to administer it.

When Ontario proposed launching its own plan in 2014, the province spent about $70-million just to develop it and set up an administrative structure. It abandoned the plan in 2016, after the federal government announced an expansion of the CPP.

Alex Mazer of retirement plan provider Common Wealth, who advised the Ontario government on its plan, said the cost would have been much higher had the government proceeded. He noted that Ontario set aside $400-million in credit for the project. He said Alberta would face "hundreds of millions of dollars" in additional costs to set up a plan.

Fifteen years ago, Alberta rejected a proposal to have its own pension plan. But the political climate has shifted to the province's disadvantage, according to the Premier's Office, making it necessary for the government to appoint a panel to conduct a new examination. Mr. Kenney has promised that any move to leave the CPP would have to be approved in a referendum.

On Tuesday, the Premier noted that a provincial pension plan and other proposals the panel will examine are powers that Quebec has "enjoyed for decades."

"I think Albertans deserve at least a good a deal as Quebec has," Mr. Kenney said. "We'll see what Albertans think about that."


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Semafo suspends operations at Burkina Faso mine after deadly attack
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By NICOLAS VAN PRAET, GEOFFREY YORK, NIALL MCGEE
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B1

MONTREAL, JOHANNESBURG, TORONTO -- Montreal-based gold miner Semafo Inc.

has halted operations at its Boungou gold mine in eastern Burkina Faso as the fallout widens from one of the worst-ever terrorist attacks on employees of a Canadian company.

Semafo said on Thursday it was suspending work at its flagship mine in the West African country, a day after insurgents ambushed a convoy carrying its employees to the mine site.

Burkina Faso's President, Roch Marc Kaboré, said 38 people were killed, increasing the previous day's tally.

More than 60 others were injured, and dozens are still believed to be unaccounted for after the raid, which occurred on a road 40 kilometres from the mine site.

"This is the deadliest incident targeting the mining industry, or any private businesses, in the Sahel since the 2013 In Amenas hostage crisis," Vincent Rouget, an analyst at Control Risks Group, told Reuters.

Sahel is the name for a region of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal eastward to Sudan that has a large concentration of mining operations.

Extremist groups, mostly Islamist insurgents, also proliferate in the area.

Even in a country gripped by escalating violence, the attack has provoked deep shock and anger.

The strike highlights the increasing security threat for citizens and companies in Burkina Faso, which has been plunged into crisis amid an escalating wave of violent attacks by militants in recent months.

It is also raising new security concerns at Canadian mines and other mining operations across West Africa.

In a televised speech to the country on Thursday, Mr. Kaboré declared three days of official mourning for Semafo workers killed in the ambush. The President called on the country to provide "defence volunteers" to help battle the terrorists.

"These despicable acts, from another age, are aimed at sowing psychosis in our people and destabilizing our democracy," Mr.

Kaboré said in his speech. The country's ruling party, the People's Movement for Progress, called on the government to declare a state of emergency.

Semafo said it is suspending operations at its Boungou gold mine out of respect for the victims and "to ensure the highest levels of operational safety." It employs about 1,200 people at the mine, according to its website. About 100 of those are expatriates, including Quebeckers.

"We are devastated by this unprecedented attack. Our sincerest sympathies go out to the families and colleagues of the victims," Semafo chief executive officer Benoit Desormeaux said in a statement.

"Our priority is their safety, security and well-being. Given the scale of the attack, it will take some time to properly deal with it and we will do our utmost to support all those affected."

Security experts and people familiar with the company said the move to suspend work amounted to an admission that Semafo can't operate the mine securely.

Employees travelling to the mine site in the future will question whether they are also in danger, and many supplies to Boungou also have to come in over the road where the attack occurred, they said.

"You never want to halt a project if you can," said Charles Dumbrille, chief risk officer at consultancy IN-D-TEL International Inc. "But your main priority is to protect your people and assets."

Semafo shares fell 5 per cent in Toronto trading after an 11per-cent decline on Wednesday.

Many other Canadian gold producers active in the country also declined, although a sell-off in bullion for the day was also a factor. Prices for Iamgold Corp. fell nearly 7 per cent, Teranga Gold Corp. fell 5 per cent and B2Gold Corp. fell 5 per cent.

Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp. employs 75 local people at two exploration projects in Burkina Faso, about 200 kilometres away from where the Semafo incident occurred.

"We haven't had any problems. None of the mines in that region have. That doesn't mean you don't prepare for any eventuality," said Clive Johnson, B2Gold's chief executive.

B2 also operates a large mine in neighbouring Mali, which employs 2,000 people.

"We will be discussing our security practices in Mali and Burkina Faso," Mr. Johnson said, adding the company feels its people are secure.

Toronto-based Iamgold operates the Essakane mine in northeastern Burkina Faso, some 300 kilometres away from where Wednesday's attack occurred, according to the company.

In a regulatory disclosure earlier this year, Iamgold noted that terrorist activity has increased worldwide.

Essakane is a "visible and valuable target to a terrorist organization due to the presence of a high number of expatriates," the company wrote in the document.

The five-bus convoy was under military escort, Semafo said, and was carrying company employees, contractors and suppliers. Local media reports, citing security sources, said the military vehicle leading the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device.

After the explosion, gunmen opened fire, targeting not only the military escort but also people in the buses, the reports said.

There had been at least two previous attacks on the road where Wednesday's ambush occurred, including one last December in which four police officers and another person were killed.

After separate attacks in August, 2018, Semafo said it would take additional steps to ensure the security of its staff. It said all expatriate employees travelling between Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou and Boungou mine would be transported by helicopter while a military force on the ground would protect its local employees on roads.

"It's disconcerting to see that the company sent hundreds of local workers on buses with an escort that seems fairly limited," said Louis Audet Gosselin, a specialist on Burkino Faso with Montreal's CÉGEP ÉdouardMontpetit.

"The optics are catastrophic."

Semafo, a mid-sized gold producer with a market capitalization of about $1.1-billion, operates two gold mines in Burkina Faso: Boungou and Mana.

The company did not make anyone available on Thursday to answer questions.


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Ontario renewed funding push for Ring of Fire roads as viability of venture questioned
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By NIALL MCGEE, JEFF GRAY
  
  

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Monday, November 4, 2019 – Page B1

The Ontario government appealed to Ottawa this summer to split a $1.6-billion construction bill for roads into the Ring of Fire region, despite mounting evidence the minerals project in the province's North isn't economically viable.

Documents reviewed by The Globe and Mail show that Greg Rickford, Ontario's Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, sent an e-mail in July to a number of federal ministers asking for Ottawa to kick in as much as $779-million to roughly match Ontario's contribution.

As part of his business case for investing in the Ring of Fire, Mr. Rickford referenced a number of often-cited huge financial projections about the project that have no supporting evidence.

Last month, a Globe investigation uncovered serious cracks in the investment case for any branch of the government to invest in the Ring of Fire, an area that contains an undeveloped nickel and chromite discovery in a giant swamp in Northern Ontario about 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

"The combined gross value of known nickel and chromite deposits has been estimated at over $60-billion," wrote Mr.

Rickford in the e-mail that went to federal ministers responsible for infrastructure, environment and Indigenous services.

James Franklin, a well-known geologist who came up with the $60-billion estimate in 2013 in reference to the value of minerals in the ground at the site, has backed away from the figure. He told The Globe it was no more than an educated guess, didn't account for mineral extraction costs and should not be used by Ontario to pitch the project.

In a September interview, Mr.

Rickford said some of the estimates around the Ring of Fire's potential "have been too big for anybody to believe." But his recent correspondence with Ottawa also contains statements that appear to hype the project.

The Ring of Fire, he wrote, has the potential to be "one of the most significant mineral developments in Ontario in over a century," represents "an unparalleled opportunity" for Canada's mining sector, and is a project that could support mining in the region "for upward of 200 years."

When asked both about the $60-billion valuation and the pronouncements about the Ring's prospects, Sydney Stonier, a spokesperson for Mr. Rickford, wrote in an e-mail that "mining opportunities in the Ring of Fire region represent unprecedented opportunities of national significance."

Discovered in 2007 and 2008, the Ring of Fire contains mostly early-stage deposits of chromite - a mineral used in the production of stainless steel. The area also contains small amounts of nickel, platinum and palladium. While it was once the epicentre of a prospecting rush, the Ring's fortunes have faded in the past five years.

The investment case has become increasingly shaky in the face of multibillion-dollar cost hurdles, a worldwide supply glut in the chromite market and environmental concerns from First Nations in Ontario.

The engineering challenge alone to build access roads and bridges connecting the swampy, boggy region of Ontario to the provincial highway network, some 300 kilometres south, is considered immense.

In his e-mail to federal ministers, Mr. Rickford said the latest cost projections on roads are based on a "preliminary estimate," prepared by engineering consultants Hatch Ltd. and Morrison Hershfield. Their work builds on a previous early-stage study done by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., formerly Cliffs Natural Resources, a senior mining company that gave up on the Ring about five years ago.

While Ontario has been a longterm champion of the Ring of Fire, the federal government has so far refused to kick in major funds.

After winning election in 2015, Justin Trudeau's Liberal government slashed its internal valuation on the project to as little as $31-billion, documents obtained by The Globe under a Freedom of Information request showed in 2016. The Trudeau government eventually scratched out that revised estimate, but the new figure was redacted in the documents.

Mr. Franklin, former chief scientist for the Geological Survey of Canada, recently told The Globe that the investment case around the Ring is unknown.

He was so annoyed that the Ontario government was endlessly recycling his back-of-the-envelope $60-billion figure that he contacted the government a few years ago and pleaded with it to stop using the calculation, "because we all know the unreliability of my number."

But politicians of all stripes have repeatedly noted the $60billion estimate to push the investment case for investing taxpayer money into infrastructure for the project. Former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne used it in a letter in 2013 to then-prime minister Stephen Harper, asking the federal government to split the $2.25-billion cost of roads and industrial infrastructure. When she renewed her plea in 2016 to Mr. Trudeau's government, she repeated the figure once more.

U.S.-based Cleveland-Cliffs invested more than $500-million between 2009 and 2014 into the region and made a big push to build a giant chromite mine.

But facing escalating costs, crumbling commodity prices and environmental opposition from First Nations, Cliffs walked away.

When it exited in 2014, the company sold its assets to a tiny junior exploration company, Noront Resources Ltd., at a 95-percent discount. Five years on, Noront's own future appears bleak.

While it has four chromite projects in various stages of early development, it isn't in a position to move forward on any of them.

Even Noront's most promising asset, a small nickel project called Eagle's Nest, is at least five years away from being a mine. As of the end of June, Toronto-based Noront was holding $4.1-million in cash compared with US$47.8-million in debt.


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Sabia's critics wanted him to fail. He did the opposite
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By KONRAD YAKABUSKI
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B1

Michael Sabia could hardly pick a better moment to step down as head of Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, having guided the giant provincial pension-fund manager out of the mess it was in when he arrived nearly 11 years ago and leaving before the next recession plunges it back into the dumps.

Yet, this is not how he wanted his tenure to end. His departure a year before his current four-year term was to expire in early 2021 will mean Mr. Sabia will not be around to oversee the completion of the project he has relished most as the Caisse's chief executive: the $6.3-billion Réseau express métropolitain light-rail transit network that has come to symbolize Montreal's economic rebirth.

Quebec Premier François Legault, however, has never been a big fan of Mr. Sabia. If Mr. Sabia is leaving early, it is because the Premier has decided he should. Mr.

Legault favours a more interventionist Caisse, one that sees its role as a backer of Québécois entrepreneurs and a rampart against foreign takeovers.

"I think Michael would have liked to cut the ribbon on the REM," said former Caisse executive Michel Nadeau, now executive manager of the Montrealbased Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations.

"But I think Mr. Legault and [Quebec Finance Minister] Éric Girard decided to cut his mandate short because they have a candidate in mind and the candidate does not want to wait."

As leader of then-opposition Coalition Avenir Québec in 2016, Mr. Legault was highly critical of the sale of Quebec-based Rona Inc. to U.S.-based Lowe's Cos.

Inc., a transaction only made possible by the Caisse's decision to tender its 17-per-cent stake in the homegrown home-improvement chain.

"What we want [for Quebec] is an economy of owners, not an economy of branches," Mr. Legault said at the time. "Do you think the new shareholders, the new managers, who are Americans, are going to use Quebec lawyers and accountants?" As the Parti Québécois finance critic in 2009, Mr. Legault opposed Mr. Sabia's nomination, accusing then-premier Jean Charest of interfering in the selection process the Caisse's board had set up to select a permanent successor to Henri-Paul Rousseau, who had left under a cloud in 2008. As Premier, however, Mr.

Legault appears to be preparing to impose his own preference on the Caisse board.

That might not be a problem if the Premier's preferred candidate is Sophie Brochu, considered a star in Quebec business circles, who recently stepped down as CEO of the province's main natural-gas distributor Énergir Inc. Ms. Brochu was groomed to take the helm at Énergir's predecessor company, Gaz Métro Inc., by none other than Robert Tessier, who now chairs the Caisse's board. Ms.

Brochu, who would be the first woman to lead the Caisse, has been rumoured to have an inside track on the job.

Whoever succeeds Mr. Sabia, she or he will be expected by Mr.

Legault to take a more visible role in establishing the Caisse as a strategic tool of economic development in the province.

While the Caisse has been active under Mr. Sabia in promoting emerging technology companies in Quebec, and went out on a limb in backing a controversial cement factory on the Gaspé Peninsula favoured by politicians, it has not been seen as the champion of a homegrown business class that it once was.

Mr. Legault, who was an executive at Air Transat during the old-style Caisse's heydays in the early 1980s, is nostalgic for that era. At the end of 2018, only 14 per cent of the Caisse's $309-billion in assets under management were invested in private-sector businesses in Quebec.

The Caisse's recent moves with respect to SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., in which the pensionfund manager holds a 20-percent stake, has also left its political overlords questioning Mr. Sabia's strategy with regards to the troubled engineering giant.

While Caisse insiders insist Mr.

Sabia has not explicitly endorsed SNC-Lavalin's decision to stop bidding on lump-sum turnkey infrastructure projects, the pension-fund manager has appeared to back moves by SNC-Lavalin's management to reduce the company's risk profile. That could imply shrinking the company substantially.

Still, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances of his departure, Mr. Sabia can leave the Caisse with a sense of mission accomplished. He showed serious guts in taking the job in 2009, overcoming opposition led by nationalist politicians and commentators upset that an anglophone who had overseen a shift in BCE Inc.'s de facto head office operations to Toronto from Montreal had been chosen to take the reins at an institution created in the 1960s in part to enable francophone Quebeckers to wrest control of their economy from an English-speaking elite.

Mr. Sabia's detractors were gunning for him to fail. Not only did he disappoint them, he took the Caisse to new heights unimaginable in 2009. And he leaves the Caisse in arguably the best shape it has ever been in. That has to feel good.


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Brookfield turns focus to Canada, plans acquisitions in major cities
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By RACHELLE YOUNGLAI
  
  

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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B1

Brookfield Property Partners LP is putting renewed focus on its roots in Canada after spending years building a huge portfolio of foreign real estate holdings, saying it is now seeking investments in Canadian hotels, apartments, offices and large-scale development projects.

The Toronto-based company has appointed Ashley Lawrence to lead that effort, which will see Brookfield join a crowded field of deep-pocketed investors all chasing similar assets in the country's booming regions of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa.

"My mandate was to grow and to expand, especially in sectors that we are not in," said Mr. Lawrence, a 43-year-old Canadian who returned to Toronto in June, 2018, to fill a new position as regional head of Canada after managing Brookfield's retail property division in New York for two years. "We have certain things we are looking for. Not every deal has them. In order to find them, you have to evaluate a lot of deals in the market," he said.

Brookfield has about US$194billion in assets under management around the world. Its Canadian assets total US$9-billion - 4.6 per cent of its portfolio - consisting mostly of two dozen offices in Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto.

They include First Canadian Place, a 72-storey tower in Toronto's financial district and the tallest office building in the country. Mr. Lawrence wants to add to that, and the company is currently constructing a third tower to its Bay-Adelaide office complex in downtown Toronto.

In comparison, Brookfield has US$137-billion in assets under management in the United States, US$31-billion in Europe and the Middle East, US$14-billion in the Asia-Pacific region and US$3-billion in Brazil, according to its most recent investor presentation. That includes a significant collection of malls and rental apartments throughout the U.S., part of the Canary Wharf business hub in London and a sizable office and residential development in Dubai.

"As we have grown globally, we have gone into a lot of sectors that we are not in in Canada," Mr. Lawrence said.

Brookfield had always planned to increase its Canadian footprint, according to the company, but did not find the right openings. Since he has taken the new job, Mr. Lawrence has doubled the size of the Canadian investment team to cover more ground and find exclusive deals. "In order to do that you have to spend a lot of time out in the market, talking to people, making relationships," he said. "It takes time and effort."

But as Brookfield seeks to move into other property types, especially in rental housing, it will be competing with pension funds, real estate investment trusts, as well as local and global developers for a piece of the action. A flurry of multiresidential development is taking place in Toronto and Vancouver and their nearby suburbs, owing to a housing shortage and soaring home prices. However, Mr. Lawrence believes Brookfield will make a big mark in the country's urban centres.

"It takes a long time to get these developments out. These are not coming in the next 24 months. This is 10 [to] 15-year horizons," he said. "We are relatively patient in terms of finding the right opportunity."

With corporate headquarters moving to downtown Toronto along with the growth of tech companies, the city's commercial property market has been on fire for nearly a decade.

That has driven up land prices and spurred interest in large patches of land such as Bombardier's airport property, which was sold to a Canadian pension fund in 2018 for just over $800-million.

Recently, Brookfield was a contender for East Harbour, 38 acres of mostly vacant land east of Toronto's financial core, according to a source, who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But it lost to Cadillac Fairview, which plans to build 10 million square feet of office space.

Mr. Lawrence would not comment directly on Brookfield's interest in East Harbour but said: "Any large parcel of land that comes up, we would be interested. We are a long-term believer in the city of Toronto and its growth."

Mr. Lawrence said there there isn't a specific amount of capital dedicated to Canadian acquisitions. But given Canada's smaller commercial property market, he said Brookfield is willing to do deals in the US$30-million to US$40-million range. On the flip side, Mr. Lawrence suggested there are no limits.

Brookfield Property can use its own capital, as well as financing from parent company Brookfield Asset Management's third global real estate fund, which raised US$15-billion earlier this year. "We like to put out larger amounts of capital," he said. "That being said, we do like building businesses where the initial amount of capital may not be as sizable. But over time, as you build out that business, as you add assets, they get to that scale that makes sense to us or strategically."


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Raptors president urges investment in sport to boost African economies
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By GEOFFREY YORK
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B1

JOHANNESBURG -- Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has some blunt messages for African leaders: build more arenas, stop shuffling their agriculture ministers into the sports minister's job and fight harder against corruption.

If they take those steps, he says, Africa could experience a sports boom that would galvanize its economies. A new African basketball league, scheduled to begin in March with the NBA's support, is just the latest in a renaissance that he envisions as someday including new soccer leagues, too.

"Sports is the next big thing in Africa, and I think investors here need to pay close attention to sports," Mr. Ujiri told an African investment conference in Johannesburg in Monday.

"The talent is like gold and diamonds on the continent," said Mr. Ujiri, who grew up in Nigeria and returns to Africa every summer to train young basketball players.

"We need to invest in sports. This should be the biggest ecosystem, creating jobs and helping our youth."

Mr. Ujiri brought the NBA championship Larry O'Brien Trophy onto the stage at the Africa Investment Forum for hundreds of business leaders to admire - and urged them to invest in the new 12-team Basketball Africa League, whose teams are now being chosen in qualifying tournaments.

The league will be "spectacular," he said.

"With all the talent we have on this continent, we should have everything they have in the NBA and [English soccer's] Premiership," the Raptors president said.

He is aiming for 10 new basketball arenas to be built across Africa over the next year. A new 10,000-seat arena in Rwanda and a 15,000-seat arena in Senegal were both completed within the past year.

But for this expansion to work, African politicians must take sports seriously, he said.

"I challenge the presidents to build arenas, support sports and please: no cabinet reshuffles where you take the agriculture minister and put him in sports when he doesn't know anything about sports," Mr. Ujiri said, provoking laughter from the audience.

"If you bring in somebody who doesn't know anything about sports, it's hurting the youth of Africa. Bring in a sports expert to be the sports minister. Please, please, I'm begging all the presidents, please put experts in sports."

In an interview later, he also insisted that Africans need to stop "dancing around" the subject of official corruption.

"We have to call it out, exactly how it is, and the good people have to come to the front," he said.

"We have to face it fair and square. If not, those few people will continue to dominate us, and we don't want that."

In a 2016 documentary film about his Giants of Africa training camps for young basketball players, Mr. Ujiri is shown in a profanity-laced outburst about "ego and bribery" in Nigeria. He was angered by local officials who had locked the doors and refused to allow his young players into a gym that had already been rented for them.

"Change this country," he tells the young Nigerian players in the documentary. "You have to grow up and be better. Make a difference in this country. You have to be honest, and you have to do good to people."

It's a message that he believes he can bring to young Africans through his long-running Giants of Africa program, which ran training camps in six African countries last summer - including Somalia and South Sudan for the first time, in defiance of armed conflicts in both countries.

"In Giants of Africa, we teach them about honesty, we teach them about respect, about respect for women, about being on time," Mr. Ujiri told The Globe and Mail.

"Otherwise, they'll see all the little bad things that happen around them and they'll develop those stupid habits."

Over the past decade, the NBA has invested heavily in Africa, with a full-time headquarters in Johannesburg, a training academy in Senegal, an NBA Africa account on Twitter, and a new YouTube channel that highlights the performances of African players in the NBA. It has won strong support from former U.S. president Barack Obama, who will have a "big part" in the new African basketball league, Mr. Ujiri said.

All of this could be a major benefit for African economies as new arenas are built, he said. "Retail, restaurants, playgrounds - there are so many different things you can put around these spaces. It creates jobs and an atmosphere.

And huge branding opportunities."

He noted that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with a median age of barely 19. Its youthfulness can create a greater potential market for sports than other regions of the world might have, he said.

"I want to have Raptors fans here, I want to build a fan base here for our club, but for the future here you want to build a fan base for [African] club sides too. There is a young population and a love for sports."


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Dear Western Canada, the rest of the country knows economic pain
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By DAVID PARKINSON
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page B1

B rad Wall thinks people in the rest of Canada are having a hard time understanding the anger building in the Prairies. He wants to explain it in terms that they can understand.

"Some of our fellow citizens seem surprised and even critical of Westerners who are expressing frustration," the former Saskatchewan premier said on Twitter. "Imagine if an industry key to central Canada lost 100,000 jobs with more under threat - and federal policies actually made it worse."

I guess Mr. Wall - along with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and other outspoken Prairie leaders - were too busy feeling indignant to notice.

It already happened.

In 2006, Ontario had more than one million manufacturing jobs. By the middle of 2009, it had about 750,000. Those jobs never came back; employment in the sector has hovered around that level ever since. One-quarter of the province's long-standing economic lifeblood looks to be permanently gone.

And, yes, one could argue that government policy consciously allowed it to leave. The North American free-trade agreement, and the country's embracing of global trade liberalization generally, opened the door to the migration of manufacturing jobs away from relatively high-cost Canada to lower-cost markets such as Mexico and China. The hardships of the Great Recession cemented that migration.

Whether you support the benefits of free trade, it has been an undeniable consequence.

This happened at a time when Alberta, because of sustained strong oil prices, escaped the recession with barely a scratch and flat-out boomed thereafter. Its economy grew by more than 30 per cent from 2009 to 2014, its employment by 13 per cent, its per capita provincial government-program spending by more than 20 per cent.

And that's not the only tale of a region's main industry being gutted - sometimes abetted, if not outright triggered, by government policy - while the country's Western oil and gas regions basked in prosperity.

In 1992, Ottawa imposed a moratorium on cod fishing off the Atlantic coast, citing the near-extinction of several species owing to overfishing. That ban, which continues to this day, effectively permanently shut down Newfoundland and Labrador's cod fishery, the mainstay of the provincial economy for nearly 500 years. Overnight, the moratorium wiped out more than 35,000 jobs - roughly 15 per cent of the province's labour force - most of them in hundreds of small fishing communities where there was essentially no other industry.

In the six years after the imposition of the cod moratorium, the Newfoundland and Labrador economy grew by a total of 2.8 per cent; it was in recession in two of those years. In the same period, Alberta's booming economy grew nearly 30 per cent; it added 200,000 jobs.

In 1995, British Columbia (that other part of Western Canada that Alberta and Saskatchewan seem to have forgotten about in all their alienation talk) had more than 100,000 people directly employed by its forest-products industry, the historic bedrock of the provincial economy.

Two decades later, employment had shrunk to half that. Towns all over the tree-rich province, from Port Alberni to Chetwynd, endured the devastation of mill closings. This long, painful downturn came during the same 20 years that employment in Alberta's oil-and-gas-extraction industry more than doubled, to 110,000.

Perhaps the people in all these other parts of Canada don't understand the hostility that some of the loudest voices coming from the Prairies are directing at the rest of the country - the angry accusations of ungratefulness, greed and betrayal. Maybe they are perplexed by the paranoia that has some Albertans accusing the federal government of actively seeking to destroy Canada's richest province and the Prime Minister of harbouring a hatred inherited from his father that has put "Ruin Alberta" at the top of his secret to-do list. Maybe they can't comprehend how so many people can talk openly about dismantling 152 years of common nationhood over a pipeline.

Those things you can try to explain. I'm really struggling with them, and I was raised in Alberta during Pierre Trudeau's despised National Energy Program.

But don't tell the rest of Canada that it doesn't understand the pain of seeing an industry that was its economic bedrock crumble beneath it. Don't try to explain to people in places such as Oshawa, Ont., where the auto assembly plant is closing, or Shawinigan, Que., where the paper mill was shuttered, or Bonavista, N.L., where the cod disappeared and took a quarter of the town with it, what it's like to have your livelihood threatened by the unstoppable march of change. They know.

You didn't invent hardship.

Your preaching is a slap in the face to all your fellow Canadians who suffered while you thrived.

It's that slap that they're really having trouble understanding.


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CPPIB unloads stake in TMX Group, ending leadership role
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By DAVID MILSTEAD
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B1

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the largest shareholder of TMX Group Inc., has sold its entire 9.3-per-cent stake in the owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

CPPIB grossed $465-million on a $271million investment. But the sale represents more than just a big investment win: It's the end of CPPIB's role as part of a consortium of big Canadian players who in 2011 stepped in and kept the TSX in Canadian hands. CPPIB and several big pension plans and financial companies formed "the Maple Group" that year to outbid the London Stock Exchange for TMX Group.

"CPPIB has been a long-term investor in the company and this stake sale reflects ordinary-course portfolio management," CPPIB said in a statement announcing the pension plan's results.

CPPIB said the sale of its stock in TMX Group occurred in open-market sales and was "completed" in the third quarter.

TMX Group shares are up nearly 60 per cent this year, putting the stock among the top 10 per cent of performers in the S&P/TSX Composite.

The shares hit a 52-week high of $120.48 on Sept. 6; the stock gained more than a third in a little more than two months this summer, allowing CPPIB to sell into a rising market. The company said a week ago that it was boosting its dividend by 6 per cent on the strength of its earnings.

In an e-mailed statement, TMX Group chief executive Lou Eccleston declined to comment specifically on the CPPIB sale, but said that since Maple Group shareholders became free to sell their shares, "TMX Group's shareholder base has become increasingly globally diversified, in step with the progress we have made in executing our growth strategy." (In order to continue nominating members of the board, a Maple shareholder was required to maintain a 5-per-cent shareholding. But in September, 2018, the shareholders no longer had the right to nominate board members.)

At net proceeds of $465-million, CPPIB realized less than $90 a share for its stake of 5,234,000 shares of TMX Group. With a total of slightly more than 11 million TMX Group shares traded in the entire third quarter, CPPIB likely began selling its stock prior to the quarter's start. Securities filings at the time of the TMX Group deal showed four major pension plans - CPPIB, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Alberta Investment Management Corp. and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board - were the largest owners of Maple Group, with each owning 12 per cent. A number of banks, insurers and investment funds owned the remainder.

CPPIB's exit makes FMR LLC, the manager of Fidelity mutual funds, TMX Group's largest shareholder, with 6.85 per cent of the company, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec still had 2,845,267 TMX Group shares at the end of 2018, according to S&P.

In the spring of 2011, TMX Group reached a deal to sell itself to the London Stock Exchange, saying Toronto would rise in importance as a global financial centre by aligning itself with an international partner. But the Maple Group coalition said its "made-inCanada" proposal would keep more control of the stock exchange in domestic hands.

After TMX Group rebuffed Maple Group, the latter took its offer directly to TMX Group shareholders, and ultimately won. It triumphed over concerns that Canadian competition would be lessened because some of the Canadian banks who were part of the Maple Group also owned the TMX's top competitor at the time, Alpha Group.

CPPIB's TMX sale was included in a list of notable transactions in its results for the quarter ended Sept. 30. CPPIB posted a 2.3-percent return, helping it maintain double-digit long-term returns and add nearly $10-billion to its total assets, which were $409.5billion at quarter's end.

CPPIB is the investment manager for the Canada Pension Plan, which was founded in 1966 as the primary retirement-security program for working Canadians. The government created CPPIB in 1997 to professionally manage the plan's money.


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The rise and fall of Alberto Salazar and the 'power' of his Nike Oregon Project
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By PAUL WALDIE
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page S1

W hen Alberto Salazar launched the Nike Oregon Project in 2001 he had one simple goal: to do whatever it took to break the African stranglehold on distance running.

"It's like in war," Salazar once said of his approach to coaching.

"The soldier has to learn how to fight and do everything - be physically fit, be a one-man army. But then you try and equip him with every bit of top science - everything you can - to keep him alive. That's what we do."

Salazar had spent a lifetime trying to beat the Africans - through punishing workouts as a top American marathoner in the 1980s and bizarre experiments later as a coach of some of the world's best runners. His will to win was so strong that he once collapsed at the end of a race and was given last rites.

His big breakthrough came at the 2012 Olympics in London when two Nike Oregon Project runners, Mo Farah of Britain and Galen Rupp of the United States, took gold and silver, respectively, in the 10,000 metres. That ended years of dominance by Africans who had won all but one medal in the event since 1988. Soon athletes from all over, including Canada's Cam Levins, were flocking to the NOP's complex in Portland, Ore., to learn Salazar's secrets.

The glory didn't last long. Salazar's unorthodox training methods eventually caught up with him and on Sept. 30 the U.S.

Anti-Doping Agency slapped him and the NOP's medical adviser, Houston endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown, with a four-year ban after an arbitration panel found they had committed several doping violations. The USADA investigation had taken six years and it uncovered a host of dubious activities at the NOP, including widespread misuse of prescription drugs, a strange experiment involving testosterone and improper injections of a substance that eased muscle fatigue.

Salazar and Brown had "demonstrated that winning was more important than the health and well-being of the athletes they were sworn to protect," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said.

The sanctions have rippled across the sports world. Nike closed the NOP last month and the company's chief executive, Mark Parker, stepped down to become executive chairman. The head of UK Athletics has been fired and the organization is probing its ties to Salazar.

This week, the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that it has launched an inquiry into the NOP and it's considering retesting some of the stored blood and urine samples of the club's runners.

The case has cast a dark shadow over the Oregon Project's athletes, even though none has tested positive for banned drugs or been accused of wrongdoing by the USADA. "There is no allegation against me. I've not done anything wrong," Farah told reporters last month. Levins, who spent three years at the NOP and left in 2017, was unavailable for comment but he has said that he was injured for most of his time with Salazar. "I have the utmost faith in Alberto and my former teammates that they're clean and have high morals," he told reporters in 2017.

Salazar said he was shocked by USADA's findings and plans to file an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. "I have always ensured the [world anti-doping code] is strictly followed. The Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping," he said in a statement. His supporters note that the sanctions pertain to relatively minor violations of procedure and don't involve any direct doping of athletes. Nike, too, is standing by Salazar and has insisted that Parker's resignation as CEO had nothing to do with the NOP case. The company added that it will "continue to support Alberto in his appeal, as a four-year suspension for someone who acted in good faith is wrong."

Salazar has been a divisive figure in track circles for years and the sanctions have been largely welcomed as a longoverdue punishment for someone who constantly bent the rules. "Salazar had become the apotheosis of a certain approach to sport, which is that what you should be doing is right up to the edge of the rules," said Alex Hutchinson, a Canadian journalist and former athlete who writes about the science of endurance and fitness, including for The Globe and Mail. "And that led him to do a lot of grey-area stuff, which is the kind of stuff that makes me and many, many other people uncomfortable."

He added that Salazar had also become a target for many people because of his association with Nike. "Salazar has come to stand in for a company that a lot of people feel is a bully and a force not necessarily for good," Hutchinson said.

Documents filed as part of the USADA action paint a picture of a driven coach whose win-at-all-costs mentality led him astray. The three-member panel of arbitrators said Salazar was not motivated by bad intentions and they marvelled at how meticulous he was at checking the rules with anti-doping officials, although he often looked for a way around them. They concluded that his desire to provide the best training possible "clouded his judgment in some instances, when his usual focus on the rules appears to have lapsed."

Salazar had always been someone who sought every possible advantage. He was among the first American athletes to train at high altitude in the 1970s and he later built a contraption he could use at home in Massachusetts to mimic the same scarcity of oxygen. He tried lotions used for racehorses to reduce muscle inflammation and he has acknowledged using testosterone briefly in 1991 when he was trying to revive his running career.

His innovations proved successful up to a point. He won the New York City Marathon three times in the 1980s. But he also suffered years of injuries, illness and a deep depression that led him to contemplate suicide. "I pushed myself as far as my body could go," he said in a lengthy article in 2015 when some allegations about the NOP first surfaced. "In fact, I trained and ran so hard it nearly killed me and I still suffer today the negative physical effects of my excessive training."

Through it all, Salazar has enjoyed the unwavering backing of Nike. The shoe giant sponsored him as an athlete and gave him a marketing job when his career finally ended in 1996. The company even put his name on a building at the company's headquarters in Eugene, Ore., in-between one named after golfer Tiger Woods and another one for basketball great Michael Jordan. When Salazar hatched the plan for the Oregon Project in 2001, after lamenting about the sorry state of U.S. distance running to a Nike executive, the company jumped in with millions of dollars. It also hired Salazar's two sons, Alex and Tony, to work at the NOP.

With Nike's deep pockets at the ready, Salazar was free to pursue his wildest ideas. He built an altitude house at the Nike complex in Portland and installed underwater treadmills, laser-therapy machines and supercold cryosaunas to help runners recover faster. With the help of the doctor, Brown, he put several athletes on massive doses of vitamin D, Testo Boost and thyroid medication in a vain attempt to increase their testosterone levels.

For many athletes, life at the NOP was a dream. They had access to Nike's vast resources, including research labs, state-ofthe-art equipment, a team of masseurs and financing for trips around the world to compete and train. Brown flew on the company's jet to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and several athletes were paid US$200,000 a year or more by Nike plus bonuses. Many excelled, especially Farah, who went from a decent runner to a fourtime Olympic and six-time world champion. Levins, too, set the Canadian record for 10,000 metres in 2015 while training under Salazar.

The NOP quickly became known in track circles for its vast resources and stunning workload. It wasn't uncommon for NOP runners to do a workout after races while rivals looked on in amazement. "We thought, on the one side maybe these guys are getting those results because they're working really hard," recalled Canadian distance runner Reid Coolsaet. "And on the other hand, maybe they were able to work that hard because they were able to recover better than a normal human being."

The NOP group largely kept to themselves, following strict orders from Salazar not to discuss their training regime. Salazar worried constantly about competitors spiking water bottles or rubbing testosterone gel on the back of an NOP athlete so they would test positive. He ordered NOP runners to lock up their bottles and never high-five or touch anyone after a race. Salazar's fear was so strong that when Rupp mentioned that someone had slapped him on the back after a race, the coach immediately organized an experiment with his sons to see if a casual slap of testosterone gel could lead to a positive test.

It took several applications before Salazar was finally convinced that it couldn't.

Not everyone inside the NOP felt comfortable with Salazar's methods. Panic spread among some members of the group in 2012 after health officials issued a warning that the overuse of a nasal spray containing calcitonin, which is used to strengthen bones, could increase the risk of cancer. Many NOP athletes, including U.S. marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein, had been using the spray regularly on Salazar's advice that it would fend off stress fractures. "Is this some kind of joke?" Ritzenhein said in an e-mail to an NOP assistant coach after he ordered the runners to stop using the spray because of the cancer risk.

"I have been taking this for the last four years!" Another NOP runner, American Olympian Kara Goucher, became so concerned about the overuse of prescription drugs she reported it to the USADA and testified against Salazar during the arbitration hearing. "I was a part of a culture that was so manipulative and so controlling and so wrong," she told reporters last month. "Your entire life is dependent on the power of this brand."

For other NOP athletes the limit had come in 2011 when Salazar became obsessed with an energy drink from Britain called NutraMet, which claimed it could boost performance by 10 per cent. The key ingredient was L-carnitine, a natural substance found in many foods that can slow the depletion of glycogen in muscles, a key energy source, by increasing the amount of fat that's burned. Salazar called it the "greatest legal sports supplement ever" and he t bought up the company's initial supply. He also lobbied Nike executives to acquire NutraMet so that no other athletes could have access to it.

When he discovered that it would take six months of drinking NutraMet to show results, Salazar arranged for assistant coach Steve Magness to take the supplement intravenously to see if there would be an immediate impact. Magness agreed and his running improved instantly. Salazar was so excited he e-mailed the results to Parker and Lance Armstrong, the Nikesponsored cyclist who would later be banned for life for doping. "Lance, call me asap! We have tested it and it's amazing! You are the only athlete I'm going to tell the actual numbers to other than Galen Rupp. It's too incredible. All completely legal and natural," Salazar wrote. He soon had six NOP athletes, including Rupp, taking NutraMet intravenously. Later he would say the drink provided little benefit.

Magness and others worried about the legality of what they were doing. While Lcarnitine isn't banned by the USADA, it can only be administered in maximum doses of 50 millilitres every six hours. Magness had received one litre and he told the USADA that he believed the athletes had also received doses above the threshold.

During the arbitration hearing Salazar insisted that he followed the doping rules when giving the supplement to the athletes. But the panel found that Salazar and Brown had tampered with records and disguised how much the runners had received.

It's unclear when Salazar's appeal will be heard or if there will be any further fallout from the USADA's revelations or the WADA investigation. But some athletes, such as Coolsaet, aren't sure that this will be the end of the 61-year-old Salazar.

"I really don't know," Coolsaet said. He paused and added: "I hope it would be the end of his coaching career but I wouldn't be surprised if he came back."

Associated Graphic

Nike Oregon Project runners Mo Farah of Britain and Galen Rupp of the U.S. win gold and silver, respectively, in the 10,000 metres at the 2012 Olympics in London. It marked a breakthrough for coach Alberto Salazar, as African athletes had won all but one medal in the event since 1988. 'I've not done anything wrong,' Farah told reporters last month, as Nike closed the NOP.

OLIVIER MORIN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES


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Behind the scenes at Coach's Corner, a culture of extreme deference to its stars
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By SIMON HOUPT
  
  

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Saturday, November 16, 2019 – Page S1

TORONTO -- Last Saturday night, when Don Cherry began driving his Coach's Corner jalopy off the road with his incendiary remarks about "you people [who] come here," there were no guardrails to save him any more.

They had all fallen away, ground down and discarded over the years under what people who were previously involved in the production of Hockey Night in Canada described to The Globe and Mail this week as a culture of extreme and sometimes fearful deference toward Cherry and his friend and co-host Ron MacLean.

Gone was the seven-second delay between Cherry talking and the moment that his comments would go live to air, an electronic escape hatch that had been created in the spring of 2003 after he made controversial comments about the Iraq War. His trusted sidekick MacLean, who had McGyvered him out of numerous scrapes over the previous 33 years, could no longer be counted on, acknowledging on Sunday night that he "didn't catch" the ugly comments. And it appears that none of the Hockey Night in Canada control room and production crew who had access to MacLean, through an earpiece, raised an alarm and rushed to give him guidance on how to save Cherry.

Some people who spoke with The Globe this week drew parallels with the enabling environment at CBC that was described in an April, 2015, report, by a company hired in the wake of the firing of broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi to audit the workplace of the public broadcaster, as a toxic "host culture."

The lax culture, which grew over the more than three decades when Coach's Corner was under the editorial control of CBC and which continued after the rights to the show were taken over by Rogers Media for the 2014-15 hockey season, helped create a set of circumstances that made it almost impossible for anyone to hold the two stars to account, which ultimately proved fatal.

One person who was recently involved with the production, echoing a number of others who spoke with The Globe, said there was a lack of accountability and a large amount of fear among the staff toward the duo known as "Ron and Don."

The Globe granted confidentiality to the sources for this story because they were not authorized to speak on the subject.

That sense of fear and entitlement hadn't always existed.

When Cherry began his Coach's Corner segments during the 1980 playoffs, he offered tightly scripted advice to amateur players on how to improve their game play.

For almost 20 years, producers regularly reined him in when he wandered.

During that era, CBC showed little inclination to indulge the whims of its hockey broadcasters: In March, 1987, after the network chose to switch to a news broadcast at the end of a Toronto Maple Leafs game instead of joining a Montreal Canadiens game that was still in progress, Dave Hodge was fired for expressing frustration on air with "who's responsible for the way we do things here."

He was replaced the following week by MacLean.

Even through much of its second decade, producers would oversee and approve the content of Coach's Corner. But that control began to flag, even as Cherry's propensity for making inappropriate comments attracted more attention. One person familiar with the production environment at CBC suggested a culture of "hero worship" began to form around the two stars, as they began to make unusual demands that would benefit their segment, sometimes at the cost of the larger broadcast.

According to another person familiar with the production during the time it was under the control of CBC, Cherry would watch the first period of games for slick goals or other highlight-reel plays, and, if he spotted a particularly good camera angle, he would instruct his producer to inform the control room to not use the angle in an in-game replay, so that it would be fresh for the viewers of Coach's Corner.

That same individual also noted that, when Cherry and MacLean would travel during the NHL playoffs, they would often stay at hotels that were different from the Hockey Night production crew, underlining their special status.

A spokesperson for CBC said he could not directly address any of the allegations of the culture of deference. "Any decisions that were made regarding Don Cherry, while CBC held the national broadcast rights for NHL hockey, were made in the moment on a case-by-case basis," Chuck Thompson said. "But because none of the individuals involved in any of the decisions that were taken are with the CBC anymore, it would be unfair of us to speculate on what they were thinking, or speak on their behalf." Asked about a culture of entitlement that enabled Cherry and MacLean and left them without a safety net, Sportsnet spokesperson Andrew Garas said, "We're focused on looking ahead."

Last Saturday, Sportsnet producers knew in broad strokes what Cherry was going to say. In fact, an executive who had overseen previous broadcasts, and other production-crew members who spoke to The Globe, noted that Cherry has chastised people for not wearing poppies during the Coach's Corner segments before Remembrance Day in previous years. The bulk of his comments during last Saturday's broadcast therefore would not have caused alarm and - given the frenetic environment of a live-TV production - may not have even been noticed by the crew.

Coach's Corner is - or was - produced live, airing only in the East, during the first part of the Hockey Night double-header broadcasts. If there were three games in progress in the East, as there was last Saturday night - the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators were all seen in their home markets - the segment would air live during the first intermission of the first game that wrapped up its first period.

Then, as the other games individually entered their first intermissions, the segment would begin airing, on a time delay that could be anywhere from a splitsecond to many minutes. But it would not be produced all over again for another game in the East, no matter how delayed that game might be in concluding its first period.

Even if Cherry's comments had been noticed, there may not have been much that could have been done in the moment. The sevensecond delay had been removed in 2007, because it had little practical use except in cases where someone might use a readily identifiable racial epithet that needed to be deleted in a splitsecond.

The Hockey Night production crew is not equipped with crisismanagement experts who might have prodded MacLean to jump in on a comment Cherry had made: their expertise is in keeping the broadcast moving and reacting to a limited set of possible scenarios.

Late on Friday, Rogers said it was still working on what exactly the first intermission of the first Don Cherry-less Hockey Night in Canada in almost 40 years would look like when it unfolds Saturday night. Ron MacLean will be on air and a segment will spotlight the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. One former producer who was involved in discussions about Rogers's postCherry plans suggested that the broadcast would probably air a soft feature in the former Coach's Corner spot for the next number of months, similar to the ones that currently air before the games and then possibly launch a new marquee segment during the playoffs. Sportsnet may also wait until next fall to launch anything new.

But, while former hockey executive Brian Burke was hired to be a Sportsnet commentator as part of succession planning, Rogers may be so snakebit by the events of the past week that it could go in an entirely different direction.

Besides, that spot may now be a poisoned chalice. As Scott Moore, the former president of Sportsnet, told the New York Times two years ago, when asked about who might succeed Cherry: "You don't want to be the guy who replaces Walter Cronkite.

You want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaces Walter Cronkite."

Associated Graphic

Hockey commentators Ron MacLean, centre left, and Don Cherry, centre, are seen preparing to broadcast their Coach's Corner segment at Toronto's Air Canada Centre in 2005.

DONALD WEBER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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Babcock keeps asking Leafs fans for time to build, but the buzzer will soon go off
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By CATHAL KELLY
CATHAL KELLY
  
  

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Monday, November 4, 2019 – Page B10

TORONTO -- November seems like an odd month to begin lowering expectations, but that's where the Toronto Maple Leafs are at now.

The most optimistic season in recent history is quickly being recast in another rebuilding year. The catalyst for this change was Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin rolled through town last week and laid two beatings on Toronto.

The first was a tongue lashing: "It's up to them how they want to do it. If they want to play for themselves or if they want to win the Stanley Cup, they have to play differently."

The second was an on-ice demonstration of what "differently" looks like.

Ovechkin had four points in one of those turning-a-good-win-into-a-silly-loss games the Leafs are specializing in this season. But where you could really see this idea take off was once Mike Babcock got hold of it. Most coaches would have brushed Ovechkin back. Instead, the Leafs' coach endorsed Ovechkin's criticisms: "Things like that always sting way more when it's right."

After the loss, Babcock had developed his talking points. He said a bunch of things about growing up and figuring out what you want.

But the core takeaway was this bit: "Everybody in Toronto is in a rush all the time. I get it. But that's not pro sport. You gotta keep building and building and steady on the rudder, keep going through things."

In other words, slow your roll, dummies. Nobody said this was going to happen this year. Or next year. Or 10 years from now. The important thing is keeping that rudder steady and sailing smoothly into the Sea of Mediocrity the Leafs have been trawling for decades now.

You have to hand it to pro sports teams.

They have revolutionized their tactics over the past generation. And we're not talking about the odd-man rush.

This used to be a zero-sum endeavour and a total free-for-all. The only correct answer to "How's this year going to go?" was "We think we can win it all." Since people are writing these things down and keeping track of them, that can be deleterious to your career once you have not, in fact, won it all. It prompts uncomfortable questions about your professional competence.

But gradually, gradually, team executives and coaches realized there are other ways to answer that question.

"It might be all right" won't get you anywhere. It makes you look like a waffler.

But "We're not winning this year" is reassuringly certain. It fends off "Gotcha!"

stories at season's end. And if you do by some miracle win, you look like you've underpromised and overdelivered.

So you're getting a feeling about where Babcock is headed here.

The Leafs are staffed like a winner. They had better be. There's no easy way to change the team for the foreseeable future.

Babcock is paid like a winner. He is still the top earner in his position by a wide margin.

The town is primed for a winner. A couple of 100-point finishes over the past two years created that not-exactly delusional expectation.

But the team would like to continue talking like a loser. Whenever things go wrong, Babcock points over at the locker room and seems to say, "Well, what do you expect?" A fifth of the way into the campaign, the Leafs sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.

The power play is a rolling series of brownouts. Their defence acts like a charity that's giving away goals for the holidays.

On Saturday night, they should have pounded the Flyers flat. Instead, they let it get to an endless shootout. Toronto won, but not easily. That's become the theme of the season - nothing is easy.

It's early, but it's not that early. The most serious problems are foundational rather than cosmetic. And now the coach is off in the corner sighing about Toronto's unreasonable expectations.

Unreasonable expectations are why Babcock came to Toronto. He could've made just as much money in Buffalo or Carolina and been able to relax. But if he wants to work his way into a Hockey Night in Canada montage 20 years from now, the Leafs are his best chance to do it. That means accepting the expectations.

The Oilers have accepted them this year.

Because there's no next year for that team.

If an Edmonton executive came out now and tried a line about "building and building," the fanbase would burn the building to the ground.

The Oilers have a generational player in his prime. Their mulligans are up. Accepting that fact has, thus far, had a salutary effect on Edmonton's results.

The Leafs should be acting as though they are in the same boat. This is Auston Matthews's fourth year in the league. John Tavares is 29. Tyson Barrie is a rental. Frederik Andersen will soon be in line for a raise the Leafs can't afford to pay. The team hasn't won a playoff round in 15 years.

The Leafs' window isn't opening. They have one leg through it. Taking a step back now won't work.

They still have months to work out the kinks. Whatever their problems, the Leafs aren't a bad team. They're an underperforming one.

Underperforming teams don't need less pressure. They need more. They need their minds concentrated. That's hard to do when the coach is providing them with excuses. It's also hard not to notice that all of Babcock's wisdom tends to service his (and every other coach's) main goal - staying employed.

You know, he'd really love to win now, but, hey, kids these days. What are you gonna do? You have to hope for the best.

Adversity is a wonderful teacher. Yadda yadda yadda.

Most of this slipped by in Toronto this week. Babcock's comments were reported without a sneer. No one is coming for him yet. Give it a bit.

Ovechkin was right. The Leafs need to play differently. And while they're on the topic of change, they might want to start talking differently as well. Toronto doesn't have the luxury of building any more. It's time to start moving in, or some people will soon be moving out.

FLAMES' LUCIC GETS TWO-GAME SUSPENSION FOR ROUGHING NEW YORK Calgary Flames forward Milan Lucic has been suspended for two games without pay for roughing Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kole Sherwood during a game Saturday. The league announced Lucic's punishment Sunday. The incident happened in the second period of Calgary's eventual 3-0 win. Lucic punched Sherwood behind the Flames net, knocking him to the ice, after Sherwood had poked at Calgary goaltender David Rittich's pads and received a slashing minor.

Lucic was assessed two minor penalties for roughing. Sherwood left the game after the incident, but later returned.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Tuesday, November 05, 2019
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Don Cherry fired from Hockey Night in Canada for poppy rant
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By MARTY KLINKENBERG
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B11

TORONTO -- Don Cherry has been dismissed from his long-time position on Hockey Night in Canada as a result of contentious remarks he made last Saturday during his Coach's Corner segment.

The opinionated 85-year-old former National Hockey League coach, who has been part of the Hockey Night broadcast team since the Stanley Cup playoffs of 1980, singled out Toronto-area immigrants for not wearing poppies during a tribute to Canada's war veterans.

"You people love ... our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that," Cherry said. "These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."

Around 3 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley issued a statement via Twitter, announcing the broadcaster had cut its ties with Cherry.

"Sports brings people together - it unites us, not divides us," the statement said.

"Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday night's broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.

"Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank [him] for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada."

The NHL, which on Sunday labelled his comments as "offensive and contrary to the values we believe in," said Cherry's ouster from Sportsnet was well deserved.

"While we recognize Don Cherry's four decades of service broadcasting NHL games, today's decision was a justifiable response to his comments on Saturday night," the league said in a statement.

"The opinions he expressed are in direct conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that we embrace as pillars of our sport."

Late Monday, Cherry refused to apologize for what he said, saying he could have kept his job as co-host of Coach's Corner if he'd agreed to become "a tame robot who nobody would recognize."

He added that he wasn't directing his comments to minorities, and that what he said applies to English, Scottish or Irish immigrants or any newcomer.

In recent years, Canadian NHL teams have hosted swearing-in ceremonies for new citizens. Games are broadcast all over the world through international partners. In Canada, they are telecast in Punjabi and Spanish.

Cherry's comments rankled at least one of Hockey Night In Canada's major sponsors.

Todd Allen, the vice-president of marketing for Labatt Breweries, issued a statement on Monday.

Labatt's Budweiser brand is the name sponsor of Coach's Corner.

"The comments made Saturday on Coach's Corner were clearly inappropriate and divisive, and in no way reflect Budweiser's views," Allen said in a statement. "As a sponsor of the broadcast, we immediately expressed our concerns and respect the decision which was made by Sportsnet today."

An attempt to reach Cherry by phone failed.

The native of Kingston played hockey as a defenceman in the minor leagues for nearly two decades, but is better known for serving as the head coach of the Boston Bruins. He took them to the playoffs in each of the five seasons from 1974 to 1979 before serving as head coach for one year with the Colorado Rockies.

His notoriety and popularity took off as a commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Company on Hockey Night in Canada. He was especially famous for wearing flamboyant suits, supporting the military and speaking so bluntly that it would cause him to become ensnared in controversy.

In 1998, during CBC's coverage of the men's Olympic gold-medal hockey game in Nagano, Japan, Cherry referred to Quebec nationalists as "a bunch of whiners." Five years later, as the U.S.-led Iraq War broke out, Cherry lashed out at the Canadian government for not sending troops to the region. In recent years, he argued that female reporters should not be given access to the locker rooms of professional male athletes, criticized NFL players for kneeling before games to protest civil-rights violations and ridiculed those who believe in climate change.

Network bosses stood by him on each of those occasions, but apparently decided they could not this time.

The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council was so inundated with complaints from viewers on Monday that it posted a message on its website saying it could not accept any more. Even the Royal Canadian Legion bashed him on Twitter.

Cherry's forced departure is a headache for Rogers, which assumed control of Hockey Night in Canada from the CBC in 2014. Rogers is paying the NHL $5.2-billion for rights to its games through 2026 in an agreement that also allows Hockey Night in Canada to be shown every Saturday on Sportsnet and CBC.

Ron MacLean, his co-host on Coach's Corner, offered an apology on Sunday night at the beginning of his Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast. MacLean acknowledged he should have intervened when Cherry made the remarks.

"Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong," MacLean said. "We know diversity is the strength of the country. We see it in the travels with our show, and with Hockey Night in Canada.

"So, I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond. [It] was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night."

Bo Horvat, the Vancouver Canucks captain, said that he agreed with the decision to fire Cherry.

"He's been in the game for a long time but at the same time, hockey is supposed to bring people together and there's no place for stuff like that," Horvat told Postmedia on Monday.

"I think it's the right decision. It's upsetting hearing things like that being said."

Before Cherry's dismissal on Monday, as people across Canada attended ceremonies commemorating Remembrance Day, a debate raged over Cherry's diatribe.

Many found his rant to be cringeworthy and xenophobic. But some defended Cherry.

Still more simply dismissed him as no longer being relevant.Still more simply dismissed him as no longer being relevant.

#FireDonCherry, #DonCherryIsRight and #BoycottSportsnet all trended on social media.

Rogers has not said if Cherry will be replaced or if its long-standing format will remain unchanged on Saturday nights.

With reports from Simon Houpt and The Canadian Press

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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Anthopoulos comments reveal the house of cards that is MLB free agency
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By CATHAL KELLY
  
  

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Friday, November 8, 2019 – Page B15

TORONTO -- In the mid-1980s, the people who controlled Major League Baseball decided to blow it up and start over.

Fresh off his success staging the Los Angeles Olympics, Peter Ueberroth had taken over as commissioner. Ueberroth, a committed frugalitarian, thought the economics of baseball were broken. He urged team owners to spend less and to do so in concert. Which they did, so enthusiastically that the freeagent market collapsed for several years.

Former Blue Jay Jack Morris, one of the great pitchers of his era, had the misfortune to be looking for work during that period. Only his own team made him an offer. Montreal Expos legend Andre Dawson found himself in the same bind. In order to get a job, he had to take a pay cut.

This is the dictionary definition of collusion. The courts agreed, eventually awarding the players and their union US$280million in damages.

Ueberroth walked the plank, but the distrust between employers and employees festered.

That led directly to the lost season of 1994. It took the sport most of a decade to get back on its feet.

Memories are short, but not in baseball. Baseball people still talk about Babe Ruth like they saw him play.

That is the background against which we might view an innocuous recent statement by Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

The former Blue Jays boss was always a muser - every one of his comments went on at some length, without ever saying much. It's one of his skills. But this week, speaking about Atlanta's plans for the off-season, he wandered too far afield.

"We've had time to connect with 27 of the clubs - obviously the Astros and the [Nationals] being in the World Series, they were tied up - but we had a chance to get a sense of what the other clubs are going to look to do in free agency, who might be available in trades."

That whole thing is commonplace except for two words - "free agency."

The MLB Players Association flipped its lid. Anthopoulos's comments "call into question the integrity of the entire freeagent system," it said in a statement.

MLB is mounting an investigation. In an attempt to defuse that before it gets a head of steam, Anthopoulos walked the whole thing back.

"I misspoke and apologize for any confusion," he said in another statement.

Misspeaking is a real problem these days, mostly because people don't understand how it works. It's actually simple.

For example, if I tell you I haven't paid my taxes in 10 years, that is speaking.

But if it turns out you are working undercover for the Canada Revenue Agency and taping our conversation, that is misspeaking.

Back when MLB's Collusion Wars were going on, then-Houston Astros owner John McMullen shrugged off the accusations thusly: "Macy's doesn't tell Gimbels what they're doing."

That's a half-clever dodge.

Macy's and Gimbels are department stores. Department stores don't engage in revenue sharing. They don't do TV deals together. They don't have a monopoly on the department-store business.

And they don't have a work force whose only option is working for Macy's or Gimbels.

If Gimbels has a few bad years, it can expect to go bankrupt (which it did). The last time the Miami Marlins had a good year, Facebook didn't exist. And the Marlins' value rose this year.

Baseball clubs only appear to be in competition. That is the great illusion of the sport. It is cloaked in the ethos of the playground - that you will try your best, I will do likewise and the best kid will win.

Except there are no shareholders on the playground. Nobody on the playground is thinking about how you beating me affects next year's dividend.

Macy's and Gimbels were competitors. MLB clubs are partners.

One team might win this year, or next year, or never. That doesn't really matter. But in order to thrive long term, all must prosper. That's an absolute.

People choose to pretend this isn't the case.

That the Yankees and Red Sox will do anything to kill each other, despite the fact their financial interests are intertwined.

The NBA, NHL and NFL combat this problem of optics with a salary cap. Everyone has a certain amount of money to spend, so they spend it.

In this environment, widespread collusion doesn't work.

Theoretically.

This doesn't stop teams from monkeying with the free-agent process, or submarining each other when it comes to acquiring this or that player. But that's fun stuff. Fans love the intrigue, and players like that it tends to drive salaries up (if only for a few).

Baseball doesn't have this advantage. That's its own fault - owners and players alike. The failure to adopt a salary cap creates a boom-bust cycle.

For a few years, teams spend like drunken sailors in order to win. In the last boom, teams gambled huge sums on players in their early-to-mid-30s. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those bets did not pay off.

Eventually, everyone re-realizes that baseball doesn't work like other businesses - there is no need to spend money in order to make it. Then the market collapses.

That's how you arrive at the current lack of demand for free agents. I wouldn't call it collusion, exactly. I'd call it faddism. Once someone stumbles on a "new" way of doing things, everyone else rushes to copy them.

Today's fad is the tank. The resultant cost savings are a side effect. Things will turn the other way eventually. The only consistent thing is the wrangling over the spoils.

Everyone involved in MLB ought to think hard about how deeply they want their customers considering this. Yes, the players are getting jobbed right now. Ten years ago, it was owners. That wheel keeps turning.

But all these parties are in collusion. Owners prop up other owners. Executives hire one another back and forth. Players exert enormous pressure on each other to continue inflating salaries.

Greed is stacked upon greed, everyone assuming the pie they're fighting over will expand endlessly.

On the one hand, that's how a modern sports league operates.

On the other, it's the same principle for a house of cards.

Associated Graphic

Montreal Expos legend Andre Dawson found himself forced to take a pay cut in order to get a job after former MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth urged team owners to spend less.

RICK STEWART/GETTY IMAGES


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With Cherry's Fox News appearance, a national reckoning descends into farce
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By CATHAL KELLY
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B15

It's difficult to say who was more confused by Don Cherry's Tuesday appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight - Don Cherry or Tucker Carlson.

The Fox News host didn't seem to know who Cherry was (or that Canada had fought in both World Wars). Cherry seemed to have little understanding of why he was there.

Carlson wanted to talk about "fascists" and dog charities. Cherry wanted to talk about Bobby Orr and someone named Liz.

About a minute into the interview, Carlson started to get a look. This was not turning into the U.S.-style screed he'd hoped for. In his crotchety way, Cherry was almost apologizing.

With the crutch of hockey talk taken away, Cherry made even less sense than usual.

"We're all immigrants and the whole deal and but I knew and nothing happened that night and nobody said anything that night and they ran it that night and they ran it later and the whole deal.

And the funny thing is I never heard a thing that night. I heard it the next day at the, uh, the silent majority, as you know, is always silent."

Carlson tried to goad Cherry into some fresh outrage. Cherry was either disinclined or couldn't pick up his drift.

The segment would have gone smoother if Carlson had interviewed Ron MacLean, who in turn could have translated the questions into Ontarian and put them to Cherry.

Instead, the two men talked by, over and around each other. It was a nice metaphor for current crossborder understanding.

By the end, Cherry's routine had so flustered Carlson that he signed off with this incongruous sentence pairing: "Google Don Cherry. He's a famous man."

So now we know: 72 hours or so - that's how long it takes a national reckoning to descend into farce.

Three days is also enough time to sort the winners from the losers in this thing. There are no winners.

Rogers Sportsnet loses. They're now stuck with a $5-billion hockey package they can't afford and no one to provide the face of it.

Cherry didn't just take himself down. He turned Hockey Night in Canada into the newest salient of the culture wars. Good luck to whomever has to replace him. It won't save them. They are doomed. But good luck anyway.

MacLean loses. It's possible he wasn't even listening to Cherry as he wandered into a field of rhetorical bear traps. I mean, after 30odd years of that blather, would you? But that thumbs-up at the end has brought MacLean low.

He'll spend the rest of his career being asked about it.

Hockey loses. The one thing the NHL would like to avoid in this country is a deep consideration of what hockey means.

Hockey would like to mean Jean Béliveau, frozen ponds on a Saturday afternoon and Paul Henderson's goal. But all those things are from a long time ago. What does present-day hockey mean in modern Canada? That discussion starts by asking everyone in the room to stand up and split off into their tribes.

If America has blue states and red states, Canada has hockey communities and non-hockey communities. Hockey has very little to do with it, but it's a convenient conceptual divider.

The communities were in a state of détente until Cherry's forced ouster. That acted like a rocket launched over the border from downtown Toronto into Anywheresville, Alta.

If I roll up to you in an airport departure lounge this morning and say, "Don Cherry, eh?", within 30 seconds I will be able to take a good guess at who you vote for, what kind of work you do and whether you live in a hockey or non-hockey region.

Dignity loses. There were a halfdozen turnings in this story that might have made it a hopeful, redemptive or maybe just useful one.

If MacLean had confronted Cherry in the moment; if all the organs of hockey, instead of rushing to cover their own hindquarters with vague statements about diversity, had brought the weight of the game down on their errant bannerman; if Cherry had said on Canadian TV what he seemed to be trying to say on the U.S. version of Soviet Central Television.

For a few moments, it seemed as though this could lead to a productive discussion about what it means to be Canadian. How ought we define that? Ought we define it at all? Given recent events, the question feels urgent. Four stray words from Cherry - "you people ... come here" - had given it focus.

What do you feel about that and why? How does it inform your relationship with your neighbours? Do you wish you knew your neighbours better? Not the ones who live directly beside you or think exactly like you, but all of them.

You probably do - and just as probably don't know how to do it.

Whether we like it (and I believe the overwhelming majority of Canadians do), we're all in this together. Cherry had given us a reason to talk about what that looks like, what it means and how we might make it better.

But that opportunity burned off quickly. Everyone ran to line up with their side and start chucking rocks. A little scroll through any random Facebook comments section on the matter is a vertical toboggan ride into intellectual hell.

My two key takeaways: The allcaps button ought to be banned from future keyboards, and if you are going to e-mail people and profanely berate them, you probably ought not do it from your work account.

Then Cherry pops up on Fox, making us all look like idiots, and you think: This cannot possibly get any stupider.

But it can. It always can.

Most of all, Canada loses. This country will be fine one way or the other. It's too big an endeavour and too good an idea to fail.

But every once in a while, it's useful to step back and really think about the big, fundamental questions. Without meaning to do so, Cherry gave us that chance.

We were too busy yelling at each other to take it.

Associated Graphic

People rally in support of Don Cherry near Rogers' head office in Toronto on Wednesday. Stuck with a $5-billion hockey package it can't afford and no one to provide the face of it, Rogers is one of the many losers in the Cherry debacle, Cathal Kelly writes.

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Losing with valour
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Despite a crushing loss to the Seattle Sounders and an embarrassing flub by Justin Morrow, Toronto FC is leaving the MLS Cup final with its head held high and a stellar playoff run under its belt
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By CATHAL KELLY
  
  

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Monday, November 11, 2019 – Page B12

TORONTO -- However bad you feel right now, take comfort in this: You are not Justin Morrow.

Morrow has been a low-profile constant for Toronto FC during the Major League Soccer team's renaissance. There was a moment in the city when this team was, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, its only hope. Morrow wasn't a bold-face part of that, but he is important. An under-the-radar guy. A critical piece. He's had two really big individual moments with the team, which on Sunday lost the MLS Cup final 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders.

Morrow's first big moment cost Toronto FC a championship in 2016. After a grinding final against Seattle, one in which Toronto had been far the better team, he hoofed a penalty kick against the underside of the crossbar.

And that was it.

Toronto won the title the next year. Indirectly, that victory presaged the Raptors NBA championship run and the Maple Leafs' return to relevance. It proved Toronto could win things, that that was allowed. It was a seminal moment.

On Sunday, after a few years of keeping his head down and plugging away, Morrow resurfaced in the national highlight reels.

This final was much like the one three years ago. Toronto was by far the better side. Seattle wasn't just ineffective, it was disengaged. It was as though the players had pooled their money on a prop bet that the game would end without a goal after regulation.

In the 57th minute, against the run of play, Seattle accidentally found itself in the Toronto end.

Kelvin Leerdam took a speculative shot that was going well wide. Morrow had already made one mistake - failing to move up with his line of defenders and thereby playing Leerdam onside.

Then he made a far worse one - extending his front leg as the ball approached him. The shot caromed off his knee and into the Toronto goal.

And that was it again.

The game didn't flip, so much as somersault. For the remaining half-hour, Seattle battered Toronto. The Sounders scored two more goals. The game ended 3-1.

Thirty minutes. That's how long you can leave a dream postseason run on the counter before it goes bad.

It is hard to remember now, but there was a time when this city could claim to be the only one that cared about Major League Soccer.

Not care as in "know a soccer team exists somewhere in this municipality". But care care.

Show up win or lose. Force people who do not like soccer to reckon with soccer.

Toronto created the blueprint - build a stadium downtown, make the game an outsider obsession, treat the team seriously.

That blueprint has been replicated in Seattle, Portland, Atlanta and other places. Even ones that didn't care until quite recently.

It will be replicated again in the five new franchises that join the league in the next few years.

MLS cities that put soccer at the centre of their sports culture are now the rule rather than the exception.

If MLS can be considered a success, two things made that possible - David Beckham and Toronto FC.

They had deservedly been to the top and, as always happens, gravity was carrying them back to the middle.

Two unremarkable regular seasons followed the championship one. The fervency of the climb was wearing off. People still cared, but a bit less. The other teams in Toronto had got better. The team's pillar, captain Michael Bradley, was nearing the end of his road.

Toronto FC was returning to its natural place - fourth or fifth in the civic pecking order. A good team, but not a great team. Just barely a postseason team.

Then, out of the nowhere, this month-long gallop through the playoffs. It would have been unlikely under any circumstances, but it was close to miraculous considering that the only guy on the team who can make his own luck near goal, Jozy Altidore, was out injured. Every one of the three wins en route to the final was a scrambling, last-minute affair.

Toronto FC was notching another first in recent Toronto sports history - a team that really shouldn't win, but does so anyway. But that's the thing about luck - it turns on you.

The first 60 minutes of Sunday's final may have been Toronto's best combined effort of the year. Until they weren't.

Morrow just happened to be the guy in luck's way when it swung. Let's hope fate is done with him now. Nobody deserves this much attention.

At the end, as Seattle celebrated, the camera cruelly focused in on Morrow. He looked beyond despair.

It's been reported that Bradley has a clause in his contract that would have re-upped him for another year at US$6.5-million had Toronto won this game. He wouldn't talk about it, but he certainly played like it.

In the aftermath, he looked the least disconsolate of all. Instead, he seemed defiantly upbeat. He made a great point of saluting Toronto's travelling support in the audience.

If this was it for Bradley in Toronto, it's a good way to go out - refusing to be bowed. There may never have been a pro athlete in Toronto who so embodied the value of treating every game as though it were his last. He was the heart of it all.

So it's hard to feel bad about the way it turned out. Toronto FC was born in disappointment. For a long time, losing was the team's identity. Now the team has learned to lose with something like valour. There's no shame in that. Quite the opposite.

After a defeat like Sunday's, you begin your Intro to Philosophy 101 section of the sports curriculum.

Is it better to lose when you are expected to do so, or do so right at the end after you've raised expectations?

It's always the latter. Because the goal of sports may be winning, but the point of it is in creating expectations.

Associated Graphic

Kelvin Leerdam of the Sounders celebrates after scoring a goal during the MLS Cup final on Sunday, while TFC's Chris Mavinga shows dismay.

ABBIE PARR/GETTY IMAGES

The Seattle Sounders celebrate their 3-1 victory over Toronto FC at the MLS Cup final at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. TFC's month-long gallop through the playoffs ground to a halt a half-hour from the end of the game.

ABBIE PARR/GETTY IMAGES


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A quarter of the season in, highly touted Maple Leafs look bewildered
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By MARTY KLINKENBERG
  
  

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Friday, November 15, 2019 – Page B13

TORONTO -- The Maple Leafs did not practise on Thursday. Instead, a team meeting was held to assess where they stand after 20 games. It is considered the first measuring stick of the season for NHL teams.

Until then, it is too early to panic for anyone that is struggling. After 20 games, however, trends begin to become more apparent.

The loss on Wednesday in Long Island was the third in a row for Toronto (9-7-4). The Maple Leafs will need a victory over the Bruins at Scotiabank Arena on Friday, no easy task, to prevent a further slide.

It's not what the Leafs - or anybody else for that matter - expected. Last year, they never lost more than three in a row. From early on, this was being proclaimed as their year.

If the playoffs had started on Thursday, they would have held down the final wildcard in the Eastern Conference. But that doesn't quite paint an accurate picture. A handful of teams that have played fewer games were breathing down their neck. Those in arrears are well positioned to gain ground in the standings if Toronto continues to sputter.

At this point, players seem a little bewildered and confused.

They have spoken ad nauseam about paying better attention to details, starting better, improving the power play and penalty kill, and it is yet to happen.

Mike Babcock addressed them in the dressing room at their practice facility.

To perhaps give the message a little more significance, Kyle Dubas, the general manager, was also in the building. For certain, it was not an impassioned plea as much as it was a reminder of what needs to occur to turn things around. Again.

"We had to spend time on our first 20 games and what we liked and what we didn't like and identify areas to improve and how to improve them," said Babcock, the head coach. "There are a lot of areas where we need to take a step."

The night before, after the loss to the Islanders, he acknowledged being unhappy with the results through 20 games.

"When you evaluate what we've done, we don't like it as a group," Babcock said. "We got ourselves in the spot we're in, we've got to grind our way out of it."

It is never so easy.

Toronto fell behind 2-0 on Wednesday. It is the 15th time it has given up the first goal. It failed to score - actually, even get a shot off - on two power plays. It allowed two goals while trying to kill off penalties. None of this is new.

"We seem to clean up one thing, and then we kind of lack in another department," Auston Matthews said. "We are going through adversity. We just have to lean on each other."

There was talk among the players about regaining their swagger.

"There is still time [for that]," Morgan Rielly said. "It is still early."

So far, other than on a few scattered moments, there hasn't been reason for them to preen like a bunch of peacocks. They have played well only in fits and starts. If they lose to the Bruins, who are experiencing a little turbulence of their own, it will be a low point in a season in which a lot of high points were anticipated.

Like every other team that is underachieving, the Maple Leafs are using St. Louis as a reason for optimism.

The Blues won the Stanley Cup last spring despite having the worst record in the NHL on Jan. 3.

When they did it, they were the first team to go from worst to first at such a late date.

Toronto is not the worst by far, but certainly not the best. Its schedule has not been easy, but 12 of the first 20 games were at home.

A six-game trip commences on Saturday, with the first stop in Pittsburgh. Injuries are no excuse - Mitch Marner is out for a long stretch for the Maple Leafs, but so is Sidney Crosby for the Penguins.

The Maple Leafs still have not won behind a backup goalie. Michael Hutchinson was waived this week and has been replaced by a rookie.

Kasimir Kaskisuo is expected to make his first NHL start in place of Frederik Andersen on Saturday.

There have been a few pleasant surprises - such as the Russian rookie, Ilya Mikheyev, and Alexander Kerfoot. Tyson Barrie, the player Toronto acquired from Colorado along with Kerfoot, has been a disappointment. An offensive defenceman, Barrie has yet to score a goal.

"We have learned that we are still learning," Barrie said Thursday. "We had a lot of expectations and I don't think anybody would have been surprised if we got out on an unbelievable start. But that hasn't been the case. We are trying to find our way a little bit.

"We have all the talent in the world here. We just have to use it."

The next milestone for NHL teams is U.S.

Thanksgiving (Nov.

28 this year). Standard thinking is that teams in a playoff position at that juncture will usually make it.

For those that aren't, it is more likely a frustrating four months.

Associated Graphic

Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen makes a save in a 5-4 loss Wednesday in Uniondale, N.Y. Andersen's new backup, Kasimir Kaskisuo, is slated to make his first NHL start on Saturday.

BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES


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Oil drillers sound alarm as demand hits 'all-time lows'
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Association predicts number of working rigs will drop in 2020 as companies look to U.S.
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By EMMA GRANEY, KELLY CRYDERMAN
  
  

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Thursday, November 14, 2019 – Page B1

CALGARY -- Canada's oil drillers say demand for their services is at historic lows as companies send equipment and people abroad, mainly to the U.S.

Pointing to the foreign capital flight from Canada over the past several years, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors says while the number of new wells drilled in 2020 will remain flat, the number of rigs in Western Canada will drop to 497 from 545.

"The exodus is happening, and it's happening at an alarming rate," the industry group's president Mark Scholz said Wednesday in Calgary after releasing the CAODC forecast.

Investment brokerage Peters & Co.

Ltd. says Western Canada's rig count is touching on 30-year lows. Drilling work is seasonal, but the CAODC said the total number of jobs will be down almost 40 per cent between 2018 and next year. Precision Drilling Corp.'s Kevin Neveu, who heads the country's largest contract drilling company, said the oil field-service sector in Canada is facing "all-time lows in demand for our services."

Energy-service companies are the workhorses of the energy industry: They are the contractors who do the actual drilling, fracking and other jobs for the oil companies that call the shots. They are the first to feel the pinch when capital is cut. The health of oil field-service companies is an indicator of the overall state of the energy sector, and in the past year, Canadian oil field-services stocks have plummeted an average of 28 per cent, according to RBC Dominion Securities.

After an oil-price drop that hit in 2014, the past five years have been bleak for the country's energy sector.

Canadian companies have also long said they are facing a host of special challenges, including a lack of pipeline capacity to ship to global markets beyond the United States. The drillers' industry association on Wednesday pointed to political decisions as playing a key role in the industry's decline.

The CAODC wants the federal government to accept Alberta's rejigged carbon tax on large emitters as robust enough to meet national standards, and to guarantee the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. It has called on Ottawa to repeal laws it labels "punitive" - including one that bans oil tankers from docking, loading or unloading oil on British Columbia's northern coast.

It is also asking for Ottawa to drop or amend its Bill C-69 legislation, which overhauled environmental evaluations for energy projects, and which both friends and foes of the oil and gas industry say is likely to stop the construction of any new oil pipelines in the years ahead.

Finally, it wants Ottawa to prioritize the responsible development and export of Canadian oil and gas as an effective means of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Bob Geddes, president and chief operating officer for Ensign Energy Services Inc., said his company runs 300 rigs globally, but only does 17 per cent of its business in Canada. He said each rig is like a mini-manufacturing plant and is responsible for about 150 direct and non-direct jobs. When the rigs move to other countries, so do the jobs.

"We've got a federal government in Ottawa that wants to marginalize the oil and gas business for political gains," Mr. Geddes said. If Ottawa was really serious about the issue of climate change, it would be shipping liquefied natural gas to Asia to displace coal-fired power plants, he added.

Drillers are seizing on small pieces of good news for their sector, such as the Alberta government's announcement earlier this month that new conventional oil wells won't be hamstrung by the production limits - or curtailments - put in place in January due to a lack of pipeline capacity out of the province.

The CAODC 2020 forecast didn't include potential gains from the policy change, but Mr. Scholz called it a positive step toward growth.

Premier Jason Kenney told CAODC members Wednesday he wants to see the end of curtailment over the next year. Until then, the industry will likely retain uncertainties about the impact of the program and the lack of pipeline access.

Companies have had to adjust to a new reality quickly. Two years ago, half of Precision's work was still in Canada, Mr. Neveu said. Now, 70 per cent of its business is outside Canada and all of the company's officers are based in Houston to be close to capital and customers.

Its headquarters will remain in Calgary, Mr. Neveu added, but that could change if there is another meaningful shift in the company's fortunes - such as Canadian investors deciding to pull out of the service sector.

"You know, it's really hard to operate a business from the location where there are no customers and where there is no business. While Calgary isn't zero on that front, it's much lower than the U.S."

AKITA Drilling Ltd. chief executive Karl Ruud said the Calgary-based company didn't do any business in the U.S. three years ago. Now, the 40-rig operation does 80 per cent of its work in the U.S. "Everyone that is in the industry has had to lay off multitudes of people" in Canada, Mr. Ruud said.

If there is a faint silver lining to the slowdown of activity in the Western provinces, it's that Canadian companies have seized a much larger U.S. market share in recent years. Precision, Mr. Neveu said, has more than 8 per cent of the total American drilling market - an all-time high for the company. Canadian drillers as a whole now make up 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the U.S.

market, he said.

Mr. Neveu says this could be owing in part to operating efficiencies Canadian companies have mastered by having to operate in short windows due to Canada's cold climate.

"There aren't many industries where Canadian companies have a meaningful position in the U.S." he added.

But the American revenues do not make up for the downward trend in Canadian activity, Mr. Ruud said. And U.S. activity is looking more sluggish, with industry forecasts predicting the shale-oil sector is set for slower growth in 2020.

Mr. Ruud said the rise of environmental activism and concern about climate change has resulted in industry disruption, and some investors are avoiding oil and gas-related stocks. But he believes that, sooner or later, if there is not enough oil activity, gasoline prices will go up.

"When you have to pay $5 a litre for fuel, you might think twice."

Associated Graphic

A drilling rig is packed up after the contractor, Horizon Drilling, completed its work on an oil well near Calgary on Wednesday.

TODD KOROL/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, seen at a Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors event in Calgary on Wednesday, told members of the group that he wants to see an end to provincial oil-production curtailments over the next year.

JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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Sabia to step down as CEO of Caisse
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After nearly 11 years, pension fund boss to leave in February to head Munk School
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By NICOLAS VAN PRAET, SEAN SILCOFF
  
  

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – Page B1

MONTREAL OTTAWA -- Michael Sabia is stepping down from his post as chief executive officer of Canadian pension fund giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec after a decade at the helm, leaving an institution once marred by crisis on stable footing but with several looming challenges.

The former BCE Inc. head said Tuesday he will be the longestserving Caisse CEO when he leaves the job in February to lead the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Mr. Sabia said the time is right to depart because the Caisse's portfolios are proving resilient amid global market swings while the pension fund's global footprint is well-advanced. Two thirds of its assets are invested outside Canada.

He denied he was at odds with Premier François Legault's government and said he is leaving on his own terms. The Munk opportunity was some time in the making, he said, adding the university was willing to wait until he felt comfortable leaving the Caisse.

"This is a team sport, this isn't about me. [We've] built an organization that is positioned well in the world, that is performing on a very solid basis," Mr. Sabia said.

"There's always things to do but generally I think things are in very good shape here. And so it's time to get on with [this new opportunity]. ... At some point you say to yourself, you've got to be disciplined, time to move on." Mr. Sabia, 66, has led the Caisse through four changes in Quebec government, navigating the politically sensitive waters by defending the Caisse's decision-making independence while boosting investments in local companies and real estate. He has always insisted that the best way to stoke Quebec's corporate champions is by making them world beaters.

He will leave the job roughly a year ahead of the formal expiry of his mandate in March, 2021. He had said in recent months that he would not remain as Caisse CEO past that time, even if asked to stay.

"In doing this, he stays master of his own destiny," said Louis Hébert, a management specialist at business school HEC Montréal.

"He came in when there was lots of turbulence and questions being asked of the Caisse. He's stabilized the situation and put in place processes" to withstand downturns, he said.

Mr. Sabia joined the Caisse at a low point in its history in March, 2009, and his appointment was not without controversy at the time. He was an outsider - a St.

Catharines, Ont.-born anglophone and a former senior federal civil servant who had previously served as CEO of BCE Inc., the parent of Bell Canada.

His predecessor Henri-Paul Rousseau, a banker, had been recruited to clean up the institution, which manages money on behalf of Quebec public pension and insurance funds, after it posted poor results coming out of the dot-com meltdown. Mr. Rousseau departed in May, 2008, and replacement Richard Guay lasted just a few months.

That year, the Caisse booked a $40-billion loss as it sustained heavy losses in the value of its investments in stocks, real estate and private equity after markets crashed globally that fall.

Once in the door, Mr. Sabia moved swiftly to restructure the management team, book heavy writedowns in the company's real estate business and reorient its investment strategy by focusing on assets anchored in the real economy. By the end of 2011, the Caisse's assets under management were finally back to where they'd been four years earlier, at $159-billion.

He has since delivered steady if unexceptional returns, averaging 9.9 per cent annually in the past decade and more than doubling the Caisse's asset base to $326.7billion as of June 30.

While the Caisse under Mr. Sabia has become a far more global investor - just 36 per cent of its assets are now in Canada, from more than 50 per cent - it has also worked to live up to part of its founding mandate to support the Quebec economy.

The Caisse led efforts to build and operate a new light rail system in Montreal and has made high-profile investments in the province's technology sector, including leading a $200-million financing of artificial intelligence startup Element AI. It has also financed expansion efforts of local champions including CGI Group and Laurentian Bank.

There are several unresolved challenges for the pension fund, including what to do about its sizable investment in beaten-down engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. But progress on those challenges is being made, Mr. Sabia said. "I don't see in any of those files flashing red lights or solid red lights."

Quebec's political leaders were effusive in their praise for Mr. Sabia and what he's been able to accomplish at the Caisse. Mr. Legault singled out his "exceptional track record." Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said his rigorous management pushed the pension fund manager "to another level."

The Caisse's board has begun the selection process for the next CEO and has hired an international consultancy to help in the search. The Caisse board recommends a candidate to the government for approval.

Speculation about who would take over from Mr. Sabia is already well under way in Quebec's corporate and political corridors of power. External candidates whose names have been linked to the job include National Bank of Canada CEO Louis Vachon and Sophie Brochu, who is leaving her job as CEO of energy firm Energir at the end of the year. She would be the first female CEO to lead the Caisse were she to be selected.

"The government is always in a hurry to name people. They undoubtedly have a candidate in mind," said Michel Nadeau of Montreal's Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations, himself a former Caisse senior executive.

Influential in government and business, Mr. Sabia, although not an academic, is a respected leader and an ideal candidate for a school that seeks to make an impact beyond academia. University of Toronto president Meric Gertler said one of the tasks entrusted to Mr. Sabia will be to look into whether the Munk School should become a separate faculty unto itself.

"We were looking for somebody who could act as a bridge between the great academic work being done inside the university and the school of global affairs and public policy and the realm of application," Mr. Gertler said. "Michael brings tremendous credibility in both of those worlds."

With a report from Joe Friesen.

Associated Graphic

Michael Sabia's departure as chief executive of Quebec's pension fund comes a year before his four-year term was to expire in early 2021.

GRAHAM HUGHES/THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES


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When a small business gets taxed like a condo tower
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By PATRICK BRETHOUR
  
  

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Page B1

A ftershocks from the housing boom are sweeping over small businesses in the urban cores of Vancouver and Toronto as soaring land values drive up assessments and, in turn, trigger annual increases in property taxes running into tens of thousands of dollars.

Those higher taxes are a significant hit on the bottom line of retail businesses operating on slender profit margins. For some, it means the prospect of closing. The years-long rise in prices for residential real estate is at the heart of the problem.

Land values soared, not just for housing, but for commercial properties as well. Higher home prices also led municipalities to take steps to expand the supply of housing, including changes to zoning that allow residential uses in formerly commercial areas.

Together, those two factors set the stage for steep and sudden increases in official estimates of the "highest and best use" of a property, and in tax bills.

Assessors use the principle of highest and best use - the building and improvements of a property that create the highest value - based on a number of considerations, including market demand and legally permitted uses.

The key point is this: The highest and best use may not be the building that currently exists.

In areas with rapid growth, such as the urban cores of Toronto and Vancouver, the highest and best use could be a condo tower or townhouse development, which means the owners of such properties face much higher assessments and a much higher tax bill.

Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood is full of one- and twostorey retail storefronts that give the neighbourhood a throwback appeal, making it home to precisely the sort of businesses that are most vulnerable. Sabrina Faas, owner of Bayswater Tea Co.

in Kitsilano, says the annual tax bill for her three-person business has climbed by nearly $10,000 since 2016, one more financial burden to shoulder. In essence, her 1,265-square-foot shop is being taxed as if it had a residential building atop it. Or as, Ms. Fass puts it: "I'm paying for air."

Ms. Faas estimates she would need to increase her revenue by more than $25,000 to cover that additional cost. But she has limited room to raise prices, so most of the higher tax bill will come out of her bottom line.

Five kilometres to the east, The Beaumont Studios faces even starker consequences.

Founder and executive director Jude Kusnierz says her not-forprofit business renting space to artists may have to start winding down. The tax bill skyrocketed to $110,000 in 2019 from $46,000 four years ago; the studio's financial plan forecasts another $18,000 increase in 2020. Ms.

Kusnierz says she hopes Vancouver city council will deliver some tax relief, but without it, the business that expanded over 15 years and grew into a second building will have to close.

The softening of the B.C. real estate market in the past two years temporarily reduced the upward movement of assessments in Vancouver, says Paul Sullivan, senior partner at the real estate consulting firm Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan and Associates Ltd. But he says land values would have to plummet drastically for the tax increases to roll back.

And now, the real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver have rebounded, meaning the upward pressure on assessments will resume.

In Toronto, veteran restaurateur Frédéric Geisweiller has run headlong into the tax distortions the highest and best use principle can wreak. Mr. Geisweiller, one of three owners of Le Sélect Bistro in the city's downtown, has watched condos sprout up near the restaurant and its property tax bills skyrocket.

When the bistro moved to Wellington Street 12 years ago, the property taxes were just $31,276.

By 2016, that had risen to $60,131. But over the next three years, the bill nearly doubled to $116,000 - and that was after City of Toronto put a cap in place in 2018. Without it, the bistro would have had to pay $150,028 in 2019.

Mr. Geisweiller says he welcomes the city's efforts at tax relief, but they aren't nearly enough. In the low-margin restaurant business, Le Sélect Bistro would need $1.1-million in additional sales to offset even its reduced tax bill.

Toronto's 10-per-cent cap on yearly increases just delays the day of reckoning, he says. The bistro's property-tax bills, already unaffordable, will continue to rise.

"There is no end in sight," Mr.

Geisweiller says.

Without tax relief, he says, Le Sélect Bistro will have to close after more than four decades in business, putting its 80 employees out of work.

Brian Kelcey, vice-president of policy and public affairs for the Toronto Regional Board of Trade, says he believes hundreds of Toronto businesses face the same magnitude of tax increases as Le Sélect Bistro. Lawvin Hadisi, press secretary for Toronto Mayor John Tory, said the surge in property taxes is "solely and directly" attributable to increases in assessments by Ontario's Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. MPAC says it calculates assessments based on permitted uses and on land-use policy set by the province and municipalities.

The problem is even more widespread in Vancouver, with more than 4,000 commercial properties facing tax increases of at least 10 per cent in 2019, with some seeing bills triple, says Aaron Aerts of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

In British Columbia and Ontario, business groups are pressing their provincial governments to give municipalities the fiscal flexibility to deliver long-lasting tax relief. In Toronto, Mr. Kelcey, councillor Joe Cressy and others are asking the Progressive Conservative government to allow the city to exempt properties from a highest-and-best-use assessment unless the owner has an approved development permit - a clear indication a new structure is planned.

In B.C., a coalition that includes the CFIB, Vancouver and other municipalities is pushing the New Democratic government to pass legislation that would allow local governments to establish a new class of property taxes to shield small businesses from the impact of rising land values.

Both provincial governments have promised to study the issue. In its economic update this week, Ontario said it will seek input on measures to "enhance the accuracy and stability of property assessments."

In the meantime, small businesses across Toronto and Vancouver will have another year of punishingly big tax bills.

Associated Graphic

Sabrina Faas, owner of Bayswater Tea Co. in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood, is seen in front of her store on Friday. Ms. Faas says the annual tax bill for her three-person business has climbed by nearly $10,000 since 2016.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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Semafo criticized over lax security as mine shuts indefinitely
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By NICOLAS VAN PRAET, GEOFFREY YORK
  
  

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 – Page B1

MONTREAL, JOHANNESBURG -- Montreal gold miner Semafo Inc. is coming under criticism for ineffective security measures in Burkina Faso after one of the worst terrorist attacks on employees of a Canadian company.

"We have concerns about just how safe" the situation was for Semafo's workers and business partners, said Odette Napina, project leader at Organisation pour le Renforcement des Capacités de Développement, an independent group that monitors the social and economic impact of the mining industry in Burkina Faso.

Assailants ambushed a convoy of five buses carrying Semafo employees, contractors and suppliers under military escort last Wednesday in one of the deadliest insurgent attacks in the West African country in recent years. No one has claimed responsibility for the incident.

The company on Monday finally provided a clearer picture of the human toll from the raid.

A total of 241 people were attacked and current estimates peg the number of people dead at 39, Semafo said in a statement.

Another 60 are injured, 141 people are accounted for but unharmed and one person remains missing, the company said.

"Myself and most of our senior management team are in-country ensuring all those affected are getting the support they require," Semafo chief executive Benoit Desormeaux said in the statement. "Our priority continues to be their safety, security and well being."

In addition to the impact on people, the "unprecedented scale and nature of the attack" has made basic administration and logistics for the company very difficult, Semafo said. The company said operations at the Boungou mine will remain suspended while it tries to analyze how will be able to operate in a safe manner in the country.

Semafo shares plunged nearly 17 per cent Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, closing at $2.63. The company has lost roughly onethird of its market capitalization since the Nov.

6 attack.

The mining company faces crucial questions in the days ahead, chiefly how much is it willing to spend to increase security beyond what it has already done? And can the government of Burkina Faso, which owns 10 per cent of the Boungou project, do any more? After two separate attacks in August, 2018, Semafo announced new security protocols to ensure the safety of its staff. It said all expatriate employees travelling between Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou and the Boungou mine would henceforth be transported by helicopter. It also said a ground military force had been deployed on the route.

"These measures, combined with a heightened escort presence, will ensure transportation of national employees to and from the mine to their villages," Semafo said at the time.

The risk of travel on the road appears to have been underestimated. Local media reports, citing security sources, said the military vehicle leading the convoy last week was struck by an improvised explosive device. After the explosion, gunmen opened fire, targeting not only the military escort but also people in the buses, the reports said.

The attack occurred on a dirt road about 40 kilometres from Semafo's Boungou mine site in Burkina Faso's Est region. That section of road lies in a forested area that extends more than 50 kilometres and has no phone service, Ms. Napina said. There had been at least two previous attacks on the same road, including one last December in which four police officers and another person were killed.

"I think Semafo was aware" of the risk, Ms.

Napina said via e-mail. "Why, despite the danger, were these buses put in a convoy with weak security? I'm telling myself it was for reasons of economy. An escort costs money and they were looking to minimize costs."

Ryan Cummings, director of the Africa-focused political and security risk management consultancy Signal Risk, said the decision by Semafo last year to begin transporting its expatriate workers by helicopters was a sign that the company was aware of the threat to its bus convoys.

"Using a military convoy to transport the local staffers placed these personnel under a disproportionate threat of being targeted by extremists who perceive military personnel as their primary target," Mr. Cummings told The Globe and Mail on Monday. "This is not the first time that mining personnel have been targeted by armed violence while commuting to and from mining facilities in the region."

A Canadian delegation, including Ambassador Carol McQueen and Mr. Desormeaux, met with Burkina Faso Prime Minister Christophe Dabiré on Monday to express their condolences to the people of that country. Relatives of those who were killed and those who survived expressed anger over the weekend at what they said was a lack of support from Semafo.

The mining firm has declined to answer questions submitted by The Globe and Mail, including why it believed it could safeguard its road convoys despite evidence to the contrary. "Please give us time to grieve," Ruth Hanna, Semafo's investor relations analyst, responded when contacted Friday.

"We're very careful in what we say," Semafo chairman John LeBoutillier said in a brief exchange Monday. "We don't have all the information. This isn't like we're in Sept-Iles or Abitibi ... We're proceeding with the utmost prudence."

Burkina Faso has been plunged into crisis by an escalating wave of attacks that have killed more than 500 people and displaced nearly 500,000 since 2016. Dozens of attacks have occurred on industrial targets, including mining operations.

A homegrown insurgency has spread over parts of the country, amplified by violence perpetrated by Islamist militants crossing porous borders from neighbouring Mali and Niger.

Nearly a third of the country has become too dangerous for aid workers to enter because of frequent fighting and attacks.

France last week announced the launch of a new military operation in Burkina Faso, to be undertaken jointly with local soldiers in the border zone between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. It wasn't immediately clear whether France was offering additional troops or if its existing troops already present in Western Africa would be moved.

"If the situation continues, it will be very hard for us," Benjamin Compaore, a relative of an injured miner, told the Al Jazeera network.

"We really live in fear."

SEMAFO (SMF) CLOSE: $2.63, DOWN 53¢


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Supreme Court to hear Uber worker's challenge on arbitration
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By CHRISTINE DOBBY
  
  

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Monday, November 4, 2019 – Page B1

CORPORATE LAW REPORTER The Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear a case that will shape whether workers and customers of Uber Technologies Inc. and other large technology companies can file class-action lawsuits or must take disputes to private arbitrators.

Uber includes clauses in its standard driver agreement that require workers to use private arbitration rather than the public court system, which means the cases remain confidential and can only be pursued individually. It's a risk-management tactic to give the multinational company predictability in the management of its contracts with millions of drivers.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear the case of David Heller, an UberEats driver from Ontario, in an appeal that has broad implications for Canada's arbitration community as well as the treatment of workers in the gig economy. There are major legal issues at play, including the circumstances under which a court should rule on the validity of an arbitration agreement as well as the test for determining whether a contract is so unfair that it should be set aside.

Mr. Heller filed a proposed class action against Uber in 2017, seeking a declaration from the courts that Ontario drivers who have used the Uber app to deliver food or provide transportation to customers are employees of Uber, not independent contractors.

Uber asked a judge to stop the case based on the arbitration clause and won a stay of proceedings. But the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed that decision, stating that it is up to a court, not an arbitrator, to determine the validity of an arbitration agreement and then ruling the clause is so unfair (or unconscionable) that it should be set aside. The Supreme Court granted Uber leave to appeal in May.

The case has attracted 17 interveners - a large number for a case that does not involve constitutional issues - with a range of arbitration organizations and business groups lining up on the side of Uber. Consumer-protection, social-justice and workers' rights groups have aligned with Mr.

Heller, and the ministry of the attorney-general for Ontario also made submissions on points in support of the driver's position.

"There is a policy tension between freedom of contract and the company's need for certainty, predictability and reasonable risk management on one hand, and on the other hand, consumer protection, true consent to the agreement, and customers' or users' access to justice in the courts," says Andrew Little, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP. He represents ADR Chambers, which is intervening only on the issue of the test for when a court should rule on the validity of an arbitration clause.

He said standard-form contracts are common, and often necessary, for companies managing mass-customer relationships or online sales and services, because the contract terms cannot realistically be negotiated individually.

"These [arbitration] clauses have been used in the past as a shield," said Marina Pavlovic, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who is representing the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic in the appeal.

"It really amplifies that David versus Goliath dynamic, because in a lot of these cases the power is in numbers and the only meaningful way to pursue a challenge is through class action."

In Mr. Heller's contract with Uber, an arbitration clause requires drivers to take unresolved complaints about the company to an arbitrator in Amsterdam.

The up-front costs of filing an arbitration claim are US$14,500 and an earlier court ruling states Mr. Heller earns between $20,800 and $31,200 a year driving for Uber.

"The unconscionability test is a stringent one. It's an exceptional remedy, but I would say this is one of the cases where it applies," said Michael Wright, a lawyer representing Mr. Heller.

He says he believes the agreement is unfair and that the Supreme Court should uphold the Court of Appeal decision to set it aside.

Lawyers representing Uber declined to comment in advance of the Supreme Court hearing this week.

Even among proponents of arbitration, there is debate over the practice of forcing workers into private dispute resolution in cases such as this.

"This type of arbitration clause gives arbitration a bad name with the general public. It makes it look like arbitration is some kind of gimmick that large companies can use to deprive individuals and small businesses of access to justice. That is not what arbitration is about," says William Horton, a Toronto-based arbitrator of domestic and international business disputes.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Economic Institute, a free-market think tank, states in a court filing that "much of the sharing economy depends on standardized terms and conditions," and it could be "stifled" if the Supreme Court lowers the threshold for finding that a contract term is unconscionable. If those agreements are undermined, the MEI says, it could put Canadian companies at a competitive disadvantage and limit opportunities for under- or unemployed Canadians to earn income.

If the Supreme Court rules against Uber on the arbitration issue and sends the issue back to the lower court, Mr. Heller and the rest of the proposed class of claimants would still have to persuade a trial judge to certify their class action. Only then would the focus turn to the employment status of the drivers.

"The big lingering question that will not be answered [by the Supreme Court] is whether Uber drivers are 'employees' under the Ontario Employment Standards Act," said David Doorey, professor of work law at York University. If the drivers are deemed to be employees, they can seek wage and other protections under the legislation.

"Uber could lose at the Supreme Court and still ultimately win if the drivers are later found to be independent contractors."

Prof. Doorey said the current case is "part one of a potentially revolutionary development in how Canadian law deals with gig workers."


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Veterans need more than two minutes of silence from Corporate Canada
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By RITA TRICHUR