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COVID-19: Saskatoon restaurant owner hopes businesses can rebuild as province works on plan to lift restrictions

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SASKATOON —
A Saskatoon restaurant owner says it’s encouraging that the government of Saskatchewan is already looking at plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions.

“We didn’t expect to be able to hear words like ‘reopening’ this early on. I think most of us were thinking June or July was becoming a reality, and maybe it still is, we don’t really know,” said Brad Hamm, co-owner of Taste Restaurant Group.

On Monday, the province announced work is beginning on a plan to slowly lift restrictions and reopen businesses.

Hamm said his restaurants Una pizza + wine, Picaro Cocktails & Tacos, Bar Gusto Italian Kitchen and Cohen’s Beer Republic have been hit hard by the pandemic, like most other businesses.

He said he’s thankful the government is taking the lead on developing a plan.

“We’re hoping that the plan can be implemented in such a way that it’s staged, everybody stays safe, and we can gradually build our businesses up again,” Hamm said.

Premier Scott Moe said the restrictions will be lifted “cautiously, methodically and gradually.”

No timeline has given for when these changes will be implemented.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, NDP leader Ryan Meili said it’s important to be cautious.

“It would be premature to start telling people that it was time to stop physical distancing. That could reverse those gains if we acted too quickly, if we’re over-confident.”

Moe said his government could have a “Reopen Saskatchewan” plan ready as early as next week.

However, he and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab are urging continued vigilance.

“Even the socialization that happens at work is a high risk of transmission, so minimizing that even at work, that physical distancing has to maintain, not sharing food items or multiple touch surfaces, attention to hygiene and disinfection of multi-touch surfaces,” Shahab said.

While work may look different, Hamm said he’s looking forward to getting back.

“We’re ready, we’re excited to get back at it, to open our doors again. But we fully understand that things are not going to just go back to the way they were right away. We understand that there’s going to be gradual build, there’s going to be some phasing in.”

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200 Quebec fitness businesses says they will reopen despite COVID-19 restrictions

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MONTREAL – A coalition of about 200 Quebec gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners say they intend to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.

The businesses are calling on Quebec Premier Francois Legault to lift COVID-19 restrictions that forced fitness facilities to close this month.

In a statement, they say their facilities contribute to the overall physical and mental health of the population and they were not the source of COVID-19 outbreaks.

They say the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they’ve made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.

The owners say they intend to reopen across the province but will back down if health authorities can demonstrate by Thursday that their operations have led to outbreaks.

On Oct. 8, Quebec introduced new public health measures for regions under the province’s highest COVID-19 alert level, shuttering gyms, putting limits on team sports and making masks mandatory for high school students.

Last week, Legault hinted that some red zone restrictions would remain in place even as the initial 28-day lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City come to an end on Wednesday.

Legault, Health Minister Christian Dube and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, are to hold a news conference this afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.



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AIG settles lawsuit for more than CA$500 million

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AIG settles lawsuit for more than CA$500 million

American International Group (AIG) has settled a tax shelter lawsuit, related to seven cross-border transactions made during the mid-1990s – transactions designed to generate bogus foreign tax credits, a US attorney said.

According to the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, AIG has agreed to pay a 10% penalty and disallow more than $400 million (around CA$526 million) in foreign tax credits.

The settlement ends a US investigation into the tax shelters; prosecutors said those shelters allowed AIG to create phony foreign tax credits and reduce its taxes in the US. In 2009, AIG filed a suit seeking a refund based on claimed credits for 1997. But the federal government determined that the transactions “lacked any meaningful economic substance” or legitimate business purpose.

“AIG created an elaborate series of sham transactions that were designed to do nothing — and in fact did nothing — other than generate hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten tax benefits for AIG,” said US attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss.

Bloomberg reported that the settlement deal was approved last Thursday by US District Judge Louis Stanton.

“After already reaching and disclosing our January 2018 agreement in principle regarding these transactions that date to the 1990s, we are pleased to put this longstanding matter behind us,” an AIG spokesperson said in an email statement.

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Business reports that can change the world in the fight against climate change

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The FSB, at the request of the G20, created the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures to create a framework of recommendations. In 2017 the TCFD published a guide whose purpose was to ensure that disclosures are consistent, reliable, and clear. Thus, businesses will be ready to face new challenges as they emerge while providing the necessary information to allow investors to assess the company’s climate performance.

This task force is led by Michael Bloomberg (former Mayor of New York) and includes prominent figures such as Mary Schapiro, head of the Secretariat, or Christian Thimann, former co-chair of UNEP FI. These recommendations are backed by governments, investors and financial leaders and were recently translated into Spanish to foster broader adoption across the Spanish-speaking business community.

TCFD reports must comply with the following points:

  • They must be adoptable by all organizations, financial and non-financial.
  • They must be included in financial filings, turning the annual report into an integrated report.
  • The report should be designed to solicit decision-useful, forward-looking information on financial impacts.

The TCFD established that reports should be structured around four core elements: These must be related to governance, strategy, risk management, and metrics and targets.

Regarding governance, it noted that reports should clearly state the position of the board and the organization’s management in the assessment of climate-related risks and threats. The entire organization must be aligned in this regard.

As for the strategy, reports should disclose the current and potential impact of risks and opportunities on business and financial planning. In addition, they should also define the company’s resilience, i.e. its ability to overcome the climate-related challenges.

Regarding risk management, the recommendations emphasize that reports should identify, assess and manage climate-related risks. Finally, the recommendations establish the need to report on the metrics and data analyzed and used to reach the above conclusions.

Another key aspect that the Task Force singled out is that reports should collect and disclose the risks and opportunities facing the organization, as well as their estimated financial impact. those related to the transition to a low emission and energy sustainable economy; and those risks related to the physical impacts of climate change.

BBVA and the TFCD recommendations

As one of the early-adopters of the sustainable strategies promoted by the United Nations, BBVA observes the recommendations set forth in 2017 by the TCFD both in its decision making processes and the disclosure of their impact in its annual reports. In 2018, it described all the actions and financial impact related to climate change in its annual report, under the heading ‘Sustainable Finance’, which also included the organization’s Global Eco-efficiency Plan. This action plan is included in BBVA’s Pledge 2025.

Likewise, the bank was recognized as Best Sustainable Bank in Spain 2020 by Capital Finance International, print journal news and online resource reporting on international business, economics, and finance. In reaching its verdict, the jury cited the initiatives adopted by the bank around this matter, which includes the fight against climate change. For 2025, the goal is to mobilize €100 billion. As of June 30, 2020, the bank had already reached 40 percent of this overall target.

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