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While politicians play politics with Sears pensioners, the Supreme Court appears to be on their side



On Monday in Ottawa, a private member’s bill is expected to be tabled by NDP Hamilton Mountain MP Scott Duvall that will attempt to give corporate employees rock-solid protection for their pension benefits in the event their employer goes bankrupt. The bill, developed in the context of Sears Canada’s collapse with a $270-million pension fund shortfall, is good policy that is doomed to fail.

The bill will go nowhere, but that doesn’t mean Sears pensioners will not get what they are entitled to: full pension coverage. The Supreme Court appears to be on their side.

Duvall’s effort will fail because the dominant Liberal/Conservative power duopoly will continue to waffle and fuddle through a policy change that should be a popular slam-dunk. As Duvall put it, Ottawa should fix bankruptcy laws that favour “big fat corporations and CEOs.”

Classic NDP rhetoric, but on this Duvall, union leaders and retiree advocates are right in principle. As Sears Canada clearly demonstrates, the pension benefits owed to employees of corporations represent savings and wages earned by employees. The value of those benefits should rank above the claims of all other creditors, which means pension plans are entitled to “super priority” over the claims of all other creditors and should get first crack at the assets of a bankrupt company.

The idea of giving pensioners super priority has been killed by a succession of Liberal and Conservative government over decades, all of them claiming that doing so would upset the delicate balance that protects banks and other creditors — including suppliers and their workers — who provide companies with vital credit, products and services that keep corporate Canada alive.

If we give pensioners savings and wages priority, the politicians say, companies will have less credit available to survive and grow. That’s the theory, described by one lawyer as  “the Doomsday argument” that gets recycled every time a new corporate pension crisis develops.

With Sears heading for bankruptcy, the politicians were at it again. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and his parliamentary secretary said the subject is complicated, there’s no easy fix and they have “no plans” to follow the NDP initiative.

Former Conservative industry minister Tony Clement, who rode through the Nortel pension fiasco, said his “heart breaks” for Sears pensioners, but it’s tricky: “The real issue is: How do you make sure that lenders still lend to companies if the workers have higher priority than the lenders might.”

While the politicians dicker and play politics, the good news for Sears pensioners is that their pension payouts are not dependent on Duvall’s bill, which in any case would come too late to change the laws that apply to Sears Canada. Instead, they can look to a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that clearly sides with pensioners in the event of bankruptcy.  Sears employees are entitled to — and should receive — the full value of their pension benefits.

That’s the case being made by Andrew Hatnay of Koskie Minsky, which is acting on behalf of Sears Canada employees.  In arguments before an Ontario Superior Court judge overseeing the Sears Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) process, Hatnay says the laws of Ontario and judicial precedent make it clear that Sears employees are entitled to “first priority recovery for those (pension) amounts ahead of the claims of all other creditors.”

The case looks convincing from the outside.  In 2013, the Supreme Court decision in the 2009 bankruptcy of Indalex, a small aluminum manufacturer, concludes that when a corporate pension plan is wound up, the plan becomes a “deemed trust” priority. As a deemed trust, the employer has a responsibility to fulfil all the pension obligations.

In a majority decision, the Supreme Court, citing Ontario law, upheld the requirement that “employers must make [contributions] to ensure that the pension fund is sufficient to cover liabilities upon windup.”  If the windup “shows an actuarial deficit, the employer must make wind-up deficiency payments.”

In the Indalex case, there was no money left to make the payments.  All of it had gone to repay special creditors, known as debtor in possession (DIP) lenders, that had loaned Indalex money to keep it going through bankruptcy. Under federal law, DIP lenders get priority. There were no remaining assets to repay other creditors, including pensioners.

In the case of Sears Canada, however, loans from two major DIP lenders — $300-million from Wells Fargo and up to $175-million from a group of lenders including KKR Capital — have been or will be fully repaid, leaving hundreds of millions in corporate asset value still undistributed. According to a Sears filing in June, the retailer had total assets worth $1.2-billion.

A move to put pensioners at the front of the line started in 2014, when Kolskie Minsky asked the company and the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) to initiate a windup of the pension plan and convert it into a deemed trust priority. As a deemed trust, the company would be required to pay about $160-million of the $270-million funding shortfall, with the balance covered by the Ontario Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund.

Somewhat surprisingly, Ontario’s financial regulator (FSCO) has so far failed to act on behalf of pensioners. Maybe that will change now.

Beyond Sears, Ottawa’s politicians should rethink their long-standing acceptance of the doomsday scenarios put forward by industry, financial companies and bureaucrats. Sears pensioners might be safe, but employees of other companies on the brink of financial crisis might not be.

Contrary to the views of politicians in Ottawa, pensioners should be given super priority. Lenders and other corporate service providers are sophisticated operators who can make decisions and choices about whether to do business with a company. Corporate finances can or should be structured to accommodate pension liabilities. Employees with pension plans are in no position to make such choices.

Pensioners and employees, moreover, are not lenders to the corporation. It’s their earned money. The priority should be to pay pensioners in full.

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Beauty Week is back at Hudson’s Bay in Toronto and it’s time to get glam



Beauty enthusiasts rejoice! Beauty Week at Hudson’s Bay is back in Toronto for another year. It’s time to stock up on all of your fall essentials and, maybe discover some new ones. 

From Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 27, you can expect a truly elevated beauty experience in-store with incredible special offers, limited-time gifts, and exciting activations. 

If you’re a diehard beauty lover, you’ll already know that Hudson’s Bay is the place to shop thanks to its extensive range of over 195 skin and makeup brands from both luxury labels and masstige brands — including Tata Harper, Estée Lauder, YSL, Nars Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, and so much more.

Throughout The Bay’s Beauty Week, visitors can take in some at-counter activations and interactive expert-led tutorials, where there will be chances to get makeup touch-ups from top-tier brands, try a spritz of the most alluring fragrances, and sample tons of new products.

This year’s Beauty Week highlight is the ‘Best in Beauty’ tote, a meticulously-curated selection of 30 deluxe samples from an array of top-tier brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Shiseido spanning skincare, fragrance, and makeup — all in a super sleek bag.

The tote, which is valued at over $300, is retailing for just $39 and is a fantastic way to explore new products (without breaking the bank). However, there is a limited quantity, so if you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need to be fast.

Wondering exactly what Beauty Week’s free gifts with purchases entail? If you spend over $95 at Lancôme, you will receive a six-piece set valued at $130. Or, you can get an Estée Lauder gift valued at $170 with purchases over $80. (And that’s just to name a few.)

If you’re a Hudson’s Bay Rewards member, you’ll also get $20 in Hudson’s Bay rewards when you spend over $100 on beauty.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are hiring for several non-combat military jobs



The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have several non-combat jobs, some of which do not require a college degree or past work experience.

Life in the forces has several benefits, such as paid education plans (college, university and graduate-level programs), 20 paid vacation days, health and dental coverage for you and your family, maternity and paternal leave, and pension plans. You can learn more about the benefits in detail here.

And to make it easier to gauge if you qualify, the listings also include related civilian jobs to see if it’s your ideal role.

Financial services administrator

Related civilian jobs: Financial records entry clerk, financial manager, accounting technician, bookkeeper, budget officer, cashier clerk, business planner technician, and verification manager.

Description: You’ll help budget resources for all military activities besides providing financial assistance.

Education: You need to have completed Grade 10.

Duties: As a financial services administrator, you’ll be responsible for bookkeeping and managing budgets. You’ll also provide support in accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Work environment: Those in this role work at CAF bases, on ships or overseas. You might also be expected to help special operation units, recruiting offices, schools, and medical organizations.

Postal clerk

Related civilian jobs: Mail clerk, mail sorter.

Description: You’ll provide postal services to members and their families at bases and establishments.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: As the postal clerk, you’ll handle mail duties.

Work environment: Besides a postal office, you may work on a ship or a mobile postal van. You might be expected to serve with Royal Canadian Navy, the Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada and abroad.

Dental technician

Related civilian jobs: Dental assistant, dental hygienist.

Description: You’ll be helping dental officers provide dental services to CAF members, their families, and dependents.

Education: Level II dental assisting diploma from an accredited college or a National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate.

Duties: Those in this role will be responsible for various responsibilities, including disinfection and sterilization of dental equipment, applying rubber dams, placing cavity liners, and controlling bleeding. In addition, you’ll assist in laboratory procedures like creating casts, custom trays, and mouthguards.

Work environment: This role will require you to work in a military dental clinic, a Mobile Dental Clinic, an Air Transportable Dental System, or onboard a ship. You might be expected to work on a base in Canada or other operations in other parts of the world.

Human resources administrator

Related civilian jobs: Records administrator, data entry supervisor, receptionist, office manager, executive assistant, payroll clerk, and information management technician.

Description: Provide administrative and general human resources support.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: In addition to human resources administration and services, you’ll be handling pay and allowances, managing automated pay systems, and maintaining personnel records.

Work environment: HR administrators work at all CAF bases in Canada. They also work on ships and overseas to support the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, or Royal Canadian Air Force operations.

Medical assistant

Related civilian jobs: Emergency medical responder, ambulance and first aid attendant, registered nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and hospital orderly.

Description: Successful candidates will help treat the sick and injured in CAF units. You’ll be assisting and supporting nursing and medical officers.

Education: Minimum of Grade 11 biology, Grade 10 physics or chemistry, and Grade 10 math.

Duties: You’ll provide initial care and essential life support treatments in trauma cases. You’ll help with health assessments (hearing and vision tests, perform basic lab procedures, etc.) and initiate and manage medical records and reports. You’ll also be expected to provide support and first aid during training exercises.

Work environment: Medical assistants may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army as part of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. Those in this role are exposed to the same risks as the forces they support.

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Porter’s new loyalty program promises to match Air Canada’s Aeroplan status



Porter Airlines is once again stirring the pot among Canadian airline rivals, now going after Air Canada’s Aeroplan members by offering to match their loyalty status to an equivalent of their own.

The beloved airline, which recently ranked as having the best cabin service in North America, challenged the competition for the second time this year, after previously deploying a similar tactic against WestJet in the spring. 

Earlier in April, Porter presented customers with a limited-time offer to match the loyalty status of WestJet’s patrons with VIPorter levels.

Now, they’re offering Aeroplan members to seamlessly transition to an equivalent VIPorter Avid Traveller status based on their existing membership tier.

Members can then take advantage of an array of travel perks that come with flying Porter, including seat selection, baggage, and flight changes.

For those currently holding an Aeroplan membership, there are two ways to acquire the Avid Traveller status for the rest of 2023:

Status-Based Match:
  • Aeroplan 25K members = VIPorter Venture
  • Aeroplan 35K members = VIPorter Ascent
  • Aeroplan 50K, 75K, and Super Elite = VIPorter First
Flight Segments-Based Match:
  • 5 flight segments = VIPorter Passport
  • 8 segments = VIPorter Venture
  • 17 segments = VIPorter Ascent
  • 28 or more segments = VIPorter First

Members will have to first submit their applications on Porter’s website. Registration will remain open until September 6, 2023.

In order to maintain their membership level through 2024, customers will have until the end of 2023 to reach the following reduced qualifying spend (QS) targets:

  • Passport = $500 in QS
  • Venture = $750 in QS
  • Ascent = $1500 in QS
  • First = $2500 in QS

Over the past year, Porter has launched an aggressive expansion strategy, including everything from introducing longer flights on newly-purchased jet planes flying out of Toronto Pearson, free WiFi, and a new all-inclusive economy experience.

With Canadians losing both Swoop and Sunwing as WestJet incorporates both into their mainline business, Porter’s direct competition is welcome to keep prices competitive.

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