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Alberta Energy Regulator spent more than $14,000 flying boss to weekly meetings

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The chief executive of Alberta’s oil and gas regulator no longer lives in the province and the organization is spending thousands of dollars to cover frequent flights from his home in B.C. to meetings in Calgary and Edmonton.

Expense reports posted on the Alberta Energy Regulator website show that from last November until the end of October, the organization regularly paid for CEO Jim Ellis to fly from his home in Penticton, B.C. to Alberta.

CBC News counted nearly 50 trips, mostly return airfares between Calgary and Penticton, to transport Ellis for the express purpose of attending AER meetings. 

A tally of those flights shows costs topping $14,600, not including airfare change fees.

The AER board approved the arrangement earlier this year after Ellis moved to Penticton for “personal, family reasons.” 

But a spokeswoman for the NDP government said it was disappointing to learn such expenses had been approved, adding the government has worked to rein in salaries and perks at provincial agencies, boards and commissions.

“We’ll  continue to make sure dollars are well spent at government agencies and will be directing the AER not to allow this arrangement in the future,” Kate Toogood said in an email.

“This arrangement was also independently vetted by the AER’s Finance department.” – Alberta Energy Regulator statement

Ellis, who Albertans learned last week is leaving the position at the end of January after five years with the organization, did not file accommodation expenses while attending the Alberta meetings. 

The provincial government sets the budget for the AER but the industry itself funds the regulator through administrative fees.

In a statement to CBC News, the AER said that Ellis initially paid for weekly travel to Calgary himself, using the cheapest fares available.

“However, frequent changes to his itinerary caused by AER business resulted in increasing change fees,” it said. 

“The AER considered reimbursing Mr. Ellis for these ongoing costs, but concluded that it would be more cost effective to simply coordinate and pay for his travel.

“The AER Board therefore reached an agreement, which came into effect at the beginning of this year, to pay for weekly travel. This arrangement was also independently vetted by the AER’s Finance department.” 

The AER said it does not pay for any other travel or accommodation expenses related to this arrangement.

All of these travel expenses are available on the public record and are clearly documented on the AER website.

The AER has paid for its CEO to travel from his home in Penticton, B.C. to Calgary for meetings, but it says it does not pay for any other travel or accommodation expenses related to the arrangement. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

According to the regulator’s financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2018, Ellis is paid a base salary of $525,000. Total compensation is stated as $728,000, including cash and non-cash benefits.

The next person to hold the job will be paid a maximum base salary of $396,720 due to changes in provincial regulation.

Peter Bowal, an expert on board governance at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, said paying for people to regularly commute from one province to work in another creates both practical and symbolic issues.

“It’s a personal decision where you live and the province you choose is a personal decision,” Bowal said.

“I think if you’ve chosen to take one of the top jobs in the province you have to make a commitment to that province.”

At the federal level, Bowal said people appointed by cabinet to a top, full-time job at an agency are required as a term of that appointment to live within the national capital region or a reasonable commuting distance.

“I think it’s basically understood in the province — if it’s not explicitly stated, it would be probably implied — that one has to live fairly close to where they work, especially top management,” Bowal said.

It was announced last week that Ellis would be leaving his post atop the AER at the end of January.

Prior to his appointment in 2013, he’d held deputy minister positions in the Alberta government, serving in the departments of energy and environment.



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Specialized Crane Installed for “The One” at Bloor and Yonge

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It has been nearly 15 months since Mizrahi Developments broke ground on their highly-anticipated “The One” at Yonge and Bloor in Downtown Toronto. Now, with the excavation wrapping up, a specialized crane to construct the 306-metre ‘supertall’ Foster + Partners and Core Architects-designed tower—possibly the highest capacity crane ever deployed in Toronto has been installed at the site.

The One, Mizrahi Developments, Foster + Partners, Core Architects, TorontoTG2300B crane in action at site of The One, image by Forum contributor Full Metal Junkie

With some overnight road closures to allow a portable crane and flatbed trucks to get close, the Link-Belt TG2300B crane was delivered by New Jersey-based Cornell Crane & Steel, and assembled over the course of the last two weekends. One of Cornell’s TG series, this line of specialized cranes were originally developed for power plant construction, and have since become popular in the construction of major structures ranging from offshore oil platforms to the high-rise construction happening at The One’s site.

The One, Mizrahi Developments, Foster + Partners, Core Architects, TorontoTG2300B crane during installation, image by Forum contributor LNahid2000

The TG2300B’s lifting capacity is 230 tons, though its configuration at The One site allows for loads of 172,200 lbs (86 tons) at a 30-foot radius, and loads of 56,400 lbs (28 tons) at a 120-foot radius. “We chose the TG2300 for its massive lift capacity as we have a number of 45-ton picks throughout this job” Sam Mizrahi, President of Mizrahi Developments, told us. “For reference, we could literally pick up a full concrete truck from the street, lower it to the bottom of the hole, empty the mixer, and lift it back out.”

The One, Mizrahi Developments, Foster + Partners, Core Architects, TorontoAerial view of the TG2300B crane at site of The One, image by Forum contributor Benito

This specific model of tower crane has never been used before in Toronto, and has seen use in high-profile builds such as One World Trade and the Hearst Tower in New York City. A similar yet smaller model TG-1900 was used in the construction of the Bay Adelaide Centre’s west tower in Downtown Toronto. 

The One, Mizrahi Developments, Foster + Partners, Core Architects, TorontoTG2300B crane’s cab, image by Forum contributor skycandy

When The One is complete, the 85-storey tower will boast flagship retail, restaurants, a hotel, and luxury condo suites, with four four-storey penthouses up top.

Additional information and numerous renderings can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.


To request more info directly from The One click here



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Canopy Growth shares stumble 8% after company posts quarterly loss

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Shares of Canopy Growth Corp., slipped as the cannabis producer reported a wider loss of $330.6 million in its latest quarter, missing analyst estimates, as operating costs surged ahead of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada.

Revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30 totalled $23.3 million, up from $17.6 million a year ago but down sequentially from $25.9 million in the previous quarter.

The slowdown in quarterly revenues stemmed from “hiccups” in shipping medical cannabis to Germany and medical patients being distracted by Canada’s impending legalization of recreational pot on Oct. 17, said Canopy’s co-chief executive Bruce Linton. He also said that there was little revenue during the quarter from the Canadian adult use market, only shipments “stress testing” the system with provinces and territories.

“I would attribute half of the decline to not-normal-course Germany, and a little bit of a pause with the medical people … It is the first time in our history that I’m aware of that we actually had a slowdown, but it was more of a distraction than a pattern,” Linton told analysts on a conference call Wednesday.

Canopy’s loss during the second quarter of its 2019 financial year amounted to $1.52 per share compared with a loss of $1.6 million or a penny per share a year ago. Analysts had expected a loss of 12 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The Smiths Falls, Ont.-based marijuana company’s shares in Toronto were down as much as eight per cent on Wednesday to $46.47 from its closing price of $50.89 on Tuesday. Shares were down nearly six per cent on the Nasdaq to $36.26 US.

Staff work in a marijuana grow room that can be viewed through a visitors’ centre at the Tweed facility Aug. 23. The losses are tied in part to ramped up spending ahead of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The pot producer’s operating expenses soared to $180.6 million during the quarter, nearly six times the $27.7 million it spent during the three months ended Sept. 30, 2017. Elevated spending went toward sales and marketing ahead of the legalization of adult use pot last month, totalling $39 million, up from $7.6 million one year earlier.

The quarter included $700,000 in revenue from what Canopy said were test shipments to test supply chain systems ahead of the launch of recreational marijuana on Oct. 17.

During the quarter, the company sold 2,197 kilograms and kilogram equivalents at an average sale price of $9.87 per gram, up from 2,020 kilograms and kilogram equivalents at an average price of $7.99 a year ago.

Canopy says it had 84,400 active registered medical marijuana patients, up from 63,000 a year ago.



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Bombardier CEO defends layoffs, insists they are necessary

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The head of Bombardier Inc. is defending his move to lay off 5,000 workers — 3,000 of them in Canada — citing efficiency while leaving the door open to more job cuts down the line.

“Yes, it is tough. And yes, many people do not like this. But the fact is we want to go and be a world-class organization, and we want to be at benchmark everywhere when it comes to revenue per employees,” chief executive Alain Bellemare told an investor conference in Toronto on Tuesday.

“We are going to keep leaning out this business.”

The comments were the first he’s spoken of the layoffs — or potential cuts ahead — since the multinational announced major restructuring in its aerospace division last Thursday.

Bellemare did not specify where or when the positions would be cut, though Bombardier has said 2,500 workers in Quebec and 500 in Ontario will lose their jobs as part of his five-year plan to rein in costs, focus on rail and business jets and reduce the net long-term debt of $9 billion US.

The restructuring, announced alongside Bombardier’s third-quarter earnings, is slated for completion within 18 months and for savings of $250 million annually.

The announcement comes after mass layoffs over the past three years, with about 14,500 positions cut around the world in the aerospace and railway divisions.

Union and opposition leaders decried the layoffs announced last week, with some demanding that executives renounce their salary bonuses.

Bellemare didn’t attend special meeting

Quebec Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon called a special meeting of industry and union representatives in Montreal Monday to discuss the layoffs and find a path back to employment for affected workers.

Bellemare did not attend, dispatching a pair of Bombardier executives in his stead.

Despite agreeing to sell the Q-400 turboprops to Longview Aviation Capital for about $300 million US, Bellemare said he wants to keep making the airline’s CRJ regional jets to build up backlog, but will reassess later on.

“The answer today is we want to keep this line going,” he said. “We might look at partnering, if it makes sense.”

David Chartrand, Quebec co-ordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said CRJ production relies on numerous Bombardier workers as well as subcontractors.

“This would have a significant impact on other employers,” he said, when asked about the effect of a shutdown or sell off.

“I think there is a lot of time to look at what can be done for this program before we face the facts and an announcement is made.”

Bombardier shares closed on Tuesday at a new 52-week low of $2.25, down 25 cents or 10 per cent.



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