BRIEF-Blackstone and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to acquire Ascend Learning LLC


Ascend Learning, LLC:


* Blackstone and canada pension plan investment board to
acquire ascend learning from providence equity partners and
ontario teachers’ pension plan

* Ascend learning llc – Barclays acted as lead financial
advisor to ascend and providence equity partners on transaction
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Canada announces plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018

OTTAWA — The Canadian government has introduced sweeping legislation designed to permit the recreational use of marijuana throughout the country by July 2018, fulfilling an election promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The bill, inspired in part by the experiences of cannabis regimes in Colorado and Washington state, goes well beyond the U.S. situation, where marijuana remains prohibited at the federal level. In Canada, the federal government will change criminal law nationally and will license growers and set product standards while leaving it up to the provinces to handle distribution and manage retail sale.

Canada will become the first large industrialized nation with a broad system permitting recreational as well as medical use of marijuana. At present, only Uruguay has a national legal regime permitting widespread use of cannabis.

“The law as it stands today has been an abject failure,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, noting that Canadian teens are among the world’s biggest users of cannabis, which they now buy from illicit sources.

Goodale was speaking at a news conference attended by four Liberal Party cabinet ministers, though Trudeau himself stayed away.

Under the proposed new system, individuals will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis for personal use — about one ounce — and can grow up to four plants at home, provided they are not more than one meter high.

The minimum age for recreational use of marijuana has been set at 18, but provinces can decide to set a higher minimum age, as some do in the case of alcohol. And the federal government plans to impose penalties of up to 14 years in prison for selling or giving away marijuana to minors.

The government also proposed new legislation governing impaired driving that would make it illegal to drive within two hours if an illegal level of drugs is found in the blood. Police will be given authority to administer a saliva test for cannabis if a driver shows signs of use, including the smell of cannabis or reddened eyes.

Canada has permitted medical use of cannabis since 2001 and has a thriving industry of licensed marijuana suppliers who have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the recreational market.

Despite introduction of the legislation, there remains a lot to be done before the legal regime comes into place. Goodale, the public safety minister, warned that existing laws banning cannabis will remain in force until the new legislation is passed. “This needs to be an orderly transition,” he said. “This will not be a free-for-all.”

The government also hasn’t said how it will tax the products, and it has delayed regulations on the sale of edible forms of cannabis until a later date.

The legislation would prohibit marketing aimed at young people and would ban the sale of cannabis products in vending machines and self-service displays, but detailed packaging rules will only be decided after several consultations with industry and the public.

The government says advertising will be subject to restrictions similar to those affecting tobacco, but it does appear as if branding will be allowed.

Tourists visiting the country will be allowed to smoke pot at their pleasure but rules banning the import and export of marijuana will remain in force. In other words, people crossing from Washington state, where recreational pot is legal, into British Columbia could still be arrested if marijuana is discovered in their possession.

The provinces also have to figure how they will regulate distribution. Cannabis dispensaries have already opened in many cities across Canada catering to the medical marijuana trade, but pharmacies are also interested in getting part of the business. And in some provinces, the governments are anxious to allow their retail alcohol monopolies to sell cannabis as well.

Bill Blair, a member of parliament and former Toronto police chief who has led the government’s marijuana legalization process, said that the government consulted extensively with officials in Colorado and Washington. “We’ve tried to learn from their experience,” he said, noting that Canada has looked upon this as public health issue rather than a commercial opportunity and an effort to maximize tax revenue.

Although public opinion is generally supportive of cannabis legalization in Canada, some in the medical profession have expressed concern about the dangers posed by setting too low a minimum legal age. The Canadian Psychiatric Association has sought to ban sales to anybody under the age of 21 and limit the potency of products sold to people between 21 and 25.

“There is a strong evidence base showing that early and regular cannabis use can affect cognition, such as memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts and experiences,” said Renuka Prasad, president of the association, who also noted that cannabis use can increase the risk of mental-health issues like depression and psychotic disorders in vulnerable young people.

Manulife tries thriller factor in ads to woo mortgage business

A man emerges from the darkness in an abandoned warehouse and somehow knows your name. A disembodied voice hijacks your car’s audio system in an underground parking garage, assuring you, “We’re the good guys.”

Neither of these would seem to be the ideal environment to deliver a sales pitch. But these unsettling characters do just that in the latest ad campaign from Manulife Financial Corp.

The series of online videos are designed to appeal to younger consumers, using the look and tone of movie trailers for such conspiracy-tinged blockbusters as Inception and The Matrix.

“It’s a Netflix-era campaign,” said Leisha Roche, vice-president of brand and marketing for Manulife’s Canadian division. “In the past, we’ve been more product-focused in our marketing. This is a bit different.”

Just a bit. The videos are creepy, suggesting the main characters have been lulled into a kind of sleep by a world designed to make the little guy fail. The man in the warehouse demonstrates this with Inception-like spinning tops, and when a crowd of shadowy figures appears in the doorway, he vanishes. The voice in the car screens a sinister drive-in movie on the garage wall in order to instruct the protagonists (a 40-ish couple) on the exploitative nature of mortgage contracts. The product the ads are pushing, Manulife One, is represented by a glowing green box hidden in the glove compartment.

“They’re in the Netflix world with all these thriller-type shows. That’s a medium that engages and attracts that consumer,” Ms. Roche said, adding that the target is people 35 to 45 who may be re-examining their mortgages.

With $22.4-billion in assets, Manulife Bank – which offers the product – is a small part of the more than $977-billion that its parent company oversees. But the business is an important part of Manulife’s Canadian growth strategy, and its earnings declined last year.

Which is why the bank is trying to boost sales of Manulife One as competitive pressure rises in the heated mortgage market.

As the bank’s most heavily promoted product, Manulife One bundles a customer’s mortgage, savings and other investments into a single chequing account. Manulife’s sales pitch is that, by offsetting debt with savings, customers can pay less interest over time. The ads also tout flexible terms for paying down that debt.

But the bank has been struggling to gain market share against other Canadian mortgage providers, including the big banks, which benefit from their far-reaching branch networks and more frequent interactions with clients.

The campaign includes a sinister banker character, who peers out the window of an office tower and growls, “Imagine all of them down there planning their own lives without the structure of a traditional mortgage. They don’t know it, but they need me.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Ms. Roche points to upstart rivals in the finance space such as Tangerine and Wealthsimple, which have only increased the competitive pressure.

Many of the big banks have increasingly focused on selling mortgages through their own proprietary channels, which saves them from having to pay commissions to third-party brokers and allows them to cross-sell other products. Manulife Bank has been taking the opposite approach, entering the broker channel in 2016 and hiring experienced mortgage brokers away from National Bank to improve its sales practices last month. It is also casting a wider net to attract new customers that might not be eligible for Manulife One.

While going up against larger rivals, Manulife Bank struggles with brand clarity as a company mainly known for insurance and wealth management .

“When you ask anybody on the street, they’d tell you that we’re an insurance company. … What many consumers don’t know is that we have a significant investment business,” Ms. Roche said. “When you’re going against the big players in that space, you have to get noticed.”

With files from Jacqueline Nelson



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Chevron exploring sale of Canada oil sands stake worth about $2.5 billion: sources

By John Tilak and David French



TORONTO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote), the second-largest U.S.-based oil producer, is exploring the sale of its 20 percent stake in Canada’s Athabasca Oil Sands project, which could fetch about $2.5 billion, according to people familiar with the situation.



The company has discussed with investment banks the prospect of selling the stake in the western Canadian oil sands project, a source said.



The possible sale comes after Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote) last month agreed to sell most of its Canadian oil sands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO: Quote) for $8.5 billion.



Chevron does not find the oil sands business appealing in the current environment, as low oil prices make it more challenging for global producers to generate profits, the people said, declining to be named as the matter is confidential.



The California-based company is close to making a decision, taking into account factors such as price, the sources added.



Canadian Natural is seen as a logical buyer as it will be the majority owner and operator of the Athabasca Oil Sands project once the Shell deal closes, the people said.



A Chevron spokesman and a Canadian Natural spokeswoman declined to comment.



The move comes as international players are pulling back from the Canadian energy market, particularly the capital intensive oil sands. A range of factors are contributing to investor apathy toward Canada, including weak oil prices, the higher cost of Canadian operations compared with cheap U.S. shale plays and limited export pipeline capacity out of western Canada.
  Continued…


Canada’s Morneau to meet Ontario finance minister April 18


Canada’s Finance Minister Bill
Morneau will meet with his Ontario counterpart next week to
discuss affordability issues in the Toronto housing market, a
spokesman said on Thursday.


Morneau will meet Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa on
April 18. The acceleration in home prices in Toronto has
prompted some economists to worry the real estate market in
Canada’s largest city is in a bubble.
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins)

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Chevron exploring sale of Canadian oil sands stake: sources

By John Tilak and David French



TORONTO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote), the second-largest U.S.-based oil producer, is exploring the sale of its 20 percent stake in Canada’s Athabasca Oil Sands project, which could fetch about $2.5 billion, according to people familiar with the situation.



The company has discussed with investment banks the prospect of selling the stake in the western Canadian oil sands project, a source said.



The possible sale comes after Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote) last month agreed to sell most of its Canadian oil sands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO: Quote) for $8.5 billion.



Chevron does not find the oil sands business appealing in the current environment, as low oil prices make it more challenging for global producers to generate profits, the people said, declining to be named as the matter is confidential.



The California-based company is close to making a decision, taking into account factors such as price, the sources added.



Canadian Natural is seen as a logical buyer as it will be the majority owner and operator of the Athabasca Oil Sands project once the Shell deal closes, the people said.



A Chevron spokesman and a Canadian Natural spokeswoman declined to comment.



The move comes as international players are pulling back from the Canadian energy market, particularly the capital intensive oil sands. A range of factors are contributing to investor apathy toward Canada, including weak oil prices, the higher cost of Canadian operations compared with cheap U.S. shale plays and limited export pipeline capacity out of western Canada.
  Continued…


U.S. trade protectionism the biggest threat to Canadian economy: Poloz

The spectre of U.S. trade protectionism is “the number one threat” to Canada’s economic well-being over the next several years, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told a Senate committee in Ottawa on Thursday.

In response to a question at a hearing of the standing Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce, Mr. Poloz said the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Trump administration’s trade policies is a major impediment to Canadian businesses investment, which has already been a weak point in Canada’s economic recovery. He said the U.S. trade outcome, while still impossible to predict, “will certainly be negative” for the Canadian economy, “and could even be a major shock.”



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‘Not good news’: Bank of Canada warns of economic threat from U.S. trade protectionism

OTTAWA — Changes to U.S. trade policy and protectionist measures under U.S. President Donald Trump will certainly be negative for Canada and could be a major shock, Bank of Canada officials said on Thursday, warning of a hit to already sluggish productivity.

Governor Stephen Poloz and Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins took turns warning a Senate committee of the possible impact of as-yet unknown changes to U.S. trade policy, saying it is the greatest risk to Canada’s economic outlook.

“The threat of U.S. protectionism, that’s something that is very, very significant for Canada and … it’s very difficult to analyze it in advance because it could take so many different forms. It certainly will be negative and it could even be a major shock,” Poloz told the committee.

Poloz and Wilkins were in a second day of testimony after releasing the bank’s closely watched monetary policy report on Wednesday, which bumped up growth forecasts but argued it was too early to conclude Canada’s economy was on a sustainable growth path.

The Bank of Canada held interest rates steady on Wednesday, keeping them near historic lows amid uncertainty over the economic outlook.

Canadian exporters have shuddered at the prospect of a border adjustment tax targeting Canadian goods destined for the U.S. market, and Canada’s Liberal government is lobbying to protect trade relationships that have developed under the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to fix NAFTA to protect U.S. jobs.

Asked what impact a 10 per cent border adjustment tax would have on Canada’s economy, Wilkins said it could be a “major” negative hit.

“It would not be good news for the United States or for us … there will be an impact on demand but also an impact on supply and on Canada’s growth potential that would be fairly significant,” Wilkins said.

“You can expect supply chains that will be much less productive, so there could be a shock to our productivity rate, which is already not very high,” she added.

Still, Wilkins said the potential impact need not be entirely negative, if Canadian business and manufacturers adjust by diversifying beyond the United States.

“They might find other markets, they might find other value chains elsewhere in the world that don’t involve the United States,” Wilkins said. “I can tell you there are base cases that could be very negative for Canada.”

© Thomson Reuters 2017

Succeeding in The Age of Trump Requires Canada To Adjust Trade and Economic Priorities

Ottawa, April 13, 2017-The election of Donald Trump has changed the international policy environment, posing a challenge for Canadian policy-makers and business leaders. Canada needs to refocus its international trade and economic priorities in the age of Trump and a protectionist U.S. government mindset, in order to continue supporting strong and sustained Canadian wealth creation and growth, according to a new report from The Conference Board of Canada’s Global Commerce Centre.

‘Canadian trade with the U.S. has flat-lined over the past decade, and a protectionist Trump agenda gives us a good reason to reconsider what is next for Canada in terms of international trade, investment, and immigration,’ said Glen Hodgson, Senior Fellow, The Conference Board of Canada. ‘While the Trump economic agenda keeps changing and is still being fully defined, it is bound to be challenging and Canada needs an activist policy response.’

  • A protectionist Trump administration is accelerating the emergence of a new trade and economic era for Canada.
  • Canada could position itself as an open, integrating hub for global trade and investment, and embrace the opportunity to modernize the North America Free Trade Agreement.
  • Canada could also pursue new bilateral and regional free trade deals with a number of priority countries.

The report, Succeeding in the Age of Trump: Refocusing Canada’s International Trade and Economic Priorities, examines how the country might refocus its international trade and economic priorities and suggests that Canada should position itself as an open, integrating hub for global trade and investment.

Canada could be a preferred investment destination and trade enabler for global firms, offering tariff-free market access to both the U.S. and the EU. Asian businesses, in particular, could be attracted to invest more in Canada to gain duty-free access to both of these markets. However, Canada would need to do more to increase its attractiveness to foreign investors, such as streamlining the investment review process; clarifying what constitutes a net benefit to Canada, and aligning the investment attraction efforts of different levels of government.

Canada should also embrace the opportunity to modernize North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), seeking to preserve the gains made under the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and NAFTA and then advance its own agenda. Canada’s priorities for an updated version of NAFTA could include reduction of non-tariff barriers; free trade in services; more common regulatory standards, or mutual recognition of different approaches with the same intent; and designation as a preferred energy supplier within an integrated North American energy market.

With Canadian exports, imports and investment flows slowly diversifying away from the U.S., Canada should continue to pursue free trade deals with other regions, notably Pacific Rim nations and fast-growing Asia. Canada could pursue new bilateral and regional deals with a number of priority countries. A TPP without the U.S. is one option, and Canada should be part of any exploratory discussions. Negotiations have begun with India, and other leading candidates might include Japan, Mexico (if NAFTA fails), the United Kingdom once Brexit is fully completed, and China under the right conditions. Trade development could be enhanced with countries where bilateral free trade deals are in place, led by South Korea.

The report is published under The Conference Board of Canada’s Global Commerce Centre. The Centre provides evidence-based tools to help companies and governments respond successfully to the trends reshaping the global business environment.

CBoC – The Conference Board of Canada published this content on 13 April 2017 and is solely responsible for the information contained herein.
Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 14 April 2017 00:48:06 UTC.