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Celebrating 10 of the finest management moments of the year

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From Rogers’ network outage to Loblaw’s No Name price freeze, here are our picks for the most noteworthy corporate happenings this year

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Outage outrage

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We love to hate our telecoms and Rogers Communications Inc. provided plenty of fodder in July when a 19-hour network outage forced more than a quarter of the population off the internet and wireless. Debit and credit machines failed to work, emergency calls went nowhere and the Weeknd was forced to cancel a concert in Toronto due to the lack of connectivity. Telus Corp. took advantage of the opportunity to tweet, “Outages aren’t appealing. Switch to Telus.” Rogers eventually filed a 39-page reply to questions from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission about the outage, but CEO Tony Staffieri in an open letter blamed it on “a network system failure following a maintenance update in our core network.” He said Rogers would learn from its mistake, but just one thing: its wireless network in April 2021 similarly crashed, with the company at the time blaming a software update. Good thing it learned its lesson back then.

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Food fight

Galen Weston’s public declaration in October that Loblaw Cos. Inc. would freeze prices on its 1,500-strong No Name product lineup was met with an odd mixture of praise and scorn. The former because food prices have been soaring by double digits this year; the latter because competitor Metro Inc. quickly revealed that all the big grocers freeze prices on all products — store brands and national brands — at this time of year. “It is an industry practice to have a price freeze from Nov. 1 to Feb. 5 for all private-label and national-brand grocery products and this will be the case in all of Metro banners (in Ontario, Metro, Food Basics Ltd., Marché Adonis),” Metro stated. Loblaw tried to make the case that wasn’t true, but to no avail.

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Beware of the pod, people

Coffee pods are a brewing business, but there have long been questions about the extra waste they create, so it’s a market ripe for a recyclable version, something Keurig Canada Inc. in 2019 claimed it had developed. Just one problem: the fancy K-Cup pods were still not recyclable in most parts of Canada despite Keurig advertising them as such. After following up on complaints, the Competition Bureau in January fined the company $3 million and made it give $800,000 to a Canadian charitable organization focused on environmental causes. To add insult to injury, Keurig had to pay an additional $85,000 for the costs associated with the bureau’s investigation, change its recyclable claims and publish its mistakes on its website and social media, as well as on national and local news outlets.

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The art of delay

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) now requires airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger’s choice, when there is a flight cancellation or lengthy delay for any reason outside of the airline’s control or unrelated to safety issues. The new rules close a regulatory loophole in the agency’s 2019 rules that stated ticket holders were entitled to $900 to $2,400 in compensation for flight delays within an airline’s control. But both Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. have denied ticket holders compensation for delayed or cancelled flights because they claim staffing shortages are a safety issue. The CTA has disputed that as a valid reason. The CTA received a total of 28,673 complaints for the year up to March 31, 2022, including 12,158 new complaints and 16,515 carried over from the previous fiscal year. Of the total, about half involved flight disruptions, while ticketing and reservations complaints also numbered in the thousands.

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A weighty matter

Weight-loss schemes are always popular, especially since many of us have been sitting on our duff for the better part of three years, but they’re often too good to be true as consumers of WeightOFF Max!, Forskolin+ and Forskolin Nx might have discovered. The Competition Bureau in April ruled that NuvoCare Health Sciences Inc. and founder Ryan Foley “made marketing claims that gave the false or misleading impression that their products have been proven to cause weight loss.” In the settlement, they agreed to pay $100,000 in total penalties, change or remove all weight-loss claims about their products and agreed not to do it again. Turns out, there’s just no substitute for hard work.

Hello dad … I’m in jail

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You’ve no doubt worked some voluntary overtime during your career, but probably not because you were threatened with jail time if you didn’t. Scaffolding company AlumaSafway did just that, sending a memo to workers at a Suncor Inc. site demanding they accept “voluntary” overtime shifts or face termination, a hiring ban, legal action and possible fines or jail time. But the company had the Alberta Labour Relations Board on its side: “The board finds the employees’ concerted refusal to accept overtime shifts for the purpose of compelling the employer to agree to terms and conditions of employment, which constitutes a refusal to work, to be an illegal strike,” it ruled after workers refused to take on overtime despite it being a condition in their union agreement.

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Finance, schminance

We’re cheating a bit here because the Ontario Securities Commission issued a press release on Dec. 30, 2021, to say that cryptocurrency exchange Binance was not authorized to “offer trading in derivatives or securities to persons or companies located in the province,” but the is-it-or-isn’t-it debate lingered on into 2022. That’s partly because Binance on Dec. 29, 2021, notified users it was allowed to continue operations in Ontario despite earlier saying it would withdraw from the province because it wasn’t. It all led to the OSC publishing a pledge in March by Binance Holdings Ltd. and Binance Canada Capital Markets Inc. to cease opening new accounts and trading in existing ones. The OSC later permanently banned Mek Global Ltd., incorporated in the Republic of Seychelles, and PhoenixFin Pte Ltd., incorporated in Singapore (collectively, KuCoin) for operating an unregistered crypto asset trading platform. It’s not called crypto for nothing.

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Grey matter

Certain companies and industries have image issues, including, it seems, Bell Media Inc., which decided not to renew Lisa LaFlamme’s contract in August despite her being an incredibly popular anchor with more than one million nightly viewers and a 35-year career with CTV News. Change happens, but the timing was a bit suspicious given that vice-president of news Michael Melling had allegedly questioned the 58-year-old anchor’s decision to let her hair go grey, prompting suggestions that ageism and sexism were the cause behind her departure. Parent company BCE Inc. later issued a memo to employees denying anything along those lines was behind the decision, adding that Melling had gone on leave. No word on how many grey hairs he has now.

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The fine print

Various surveys indicate a waning trust in the media, perhaps because a lot of the things we read in the “media” aren’t by accredited news organizations at all, but thinly disguised propaganda or promotional material. Take Bearing Resources Ltd. (now known as Bearing Lithium Corp.), a penny stock miner that in 2017 hired Stock Social Inc. to, among other things, write an advertorial for newswires and websites, and push promotional posts from 19 social media influencers on platforms including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, investFeed and iHub. All of which is fine except nothing indicated that Bearing had paid for the promotion, thereby violating the British Columbia Securities Commission’s act. As a result, the commission in August ordered the company and its former CEO Jeremy Arthur William Poirier to pay a combined $35,000 in fines.

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Tag ’em and bag ’em

Karolina Zikova of Chilliwack, B.C., in May was surfing Amazon.ca for a bathing suit for her eight-year-old niece when she came across a third-party seller ad for a “girl’s sporty swimsuit” showing a young girl wearing a white bathing suit. OK so far, but there was a message on the suit: “I love c–k.” Amazon Canada removed the offending items after being informed about it, but Zikova then came across a children’s hoodie displaying the same explicit slogan, this time modelled by a young boy. It was not initially removed by Amazon after being notified so she went public with her complaint. And then she found even more children’s items bearing the same slogan. Amazon eventually removed the offending items and told the CBC that its technology and dedicated staff constantly scan all products listed for sale and immediately remove ones that violate its policies. Except, of course, when it doesn’t. FPM

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