Monthly Archive: April 2017

Regulators Keep Tight Reins on Corporate Behaviour

lores_business_man_building_street_walk_corporate_AMCanadian securities regulators are serious about corporate transparency and the need to maintain investor confidence in capital markets.

To achieve that objective, the regulators follow one set of rules in all provinces and territories and they apply to public companies, income funds, limited partnerships and some other entities. While the guidelines are voluntary – aimed at allowing business to tailor governance to their specific situations — companies that don’t comply with the disclosure rule will be breaking securities law and could face enforcement proceedings, as well as sanctions.

The governance guidelines set out a series of recommended best practices, including:

  • Maintaining a majority of independent directors on the board.
  • Appointing an independent chairman of the board or lead director.
  • Holding regularly scheduled meetings of independent directors without the presence of non-independent directors and management.
  • Adopting a written board mandate.
  • Outlining board responsibilities such as reviewing and showing satisfaction with the integrity of the company’s top officers and their efforts to develop a corporate culture of integrity.
  • Approving strategic plans at least once a year; actively taking part in succession planning; and overseeing internal controls.
  • Developing job descriptions for the board chairman, the chief executive officer and board committees.
  • Providing each new director with a comprehensive orientation, and all directors with continuing education opportunities.
  • Adopting a written code of conduct and ethics that deals with: conflicts of interest; protection of corporate assets; fairness toward shareholders, customers, competitors and employees; confidentiality; legal compliance, and ways to report illegal or unethical behaviour.
  • Appointing a nominating committee and a compensation committee composed entirely of independent directors.
  • Adopting a process for determining the competencies and skills of the board as a whole and applying this to the recruitment of new directors.
  • Assessing on a regular basis the board’s own effectiveness, as well as the contribution of each board committee and individual director.

Under the disclosure rule, companies must file a Corporate Government Disclosure Form with the provincial or territorial securities commission that requires information about each recommended governance practice, including:

  1. Information about the independence of directors and the names of other boards they sit on.
  2. Disclosure of whether the independent directors hold separate meetings and an explanation if they don’t.
  3. Disclosure of whether the board has adopted the recommended governance policy and if not, how their governance practices differ from the recommended standards and why that is appropriate to the company’s circumstances.
  4. Descriptions of the policies in effect and how they achieve the desired governance goals.

Companies are also required to file a copy of their ethics and conduct code (or any change to it) on the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) by the date on which the issuer’s next financial statements must be filed.

Outsourcing: Eight Steps to Help Mitigate Risks

thmb_operations_travel_destination_international_business_amAnticipate Problems With Careful Planning

The outsourcing of business processes has helped numerous companies improve their financial performance, as well as increase customer satisfaction. In extreme circumstances, outsourcing can literally ensure a company’s survival.


However, it can involve a number of risks. In order to determine if outsourcing makes sense for your organization, consider taking the following steps:

1. Identify and document your expectations regarding an outsourcing relationship. For example, by what amount would you like to reduce operating costs? Do outside providers have the expertise or skills that your company does not possess in-house? Is outsourcing consistent with your company’s business model and overall strategy?

2. Prepare a detailed inventory of the processes and procedures that you plan to outsource. While gathering the information, you may identify inefficiencies that need to be addressed before the processes can be outsourced. Alternatively, you may decide that inefficient or ineffective processes would be better outsourced, knowing that they will need to be refined by the provider. In any event, being aware of what you plan to outsource, as well as the state of those processes, is key to a successful outsourcing.

3. Prepare a detailed request for proposal (RFP) that identifies all requirements that need to be met by the provider. This can also serve as the reporting framework once a provider is engaged. In addition to preparing an RFP to be circulated to potential providers, consider documenting the attributes that a “perfect” provider would possess. The profile should include the location, industry experience, type of customers served, level of employee skills and the technology employed.

4. Once a short list of providers has been identified, request references from customers that have worked with the providers for one, three, five and if possible, 10 years. Immediate cost savings from an outsourcing relationship can be straightforward to capture. However, maintaining and improving on those savings over time is considerably harder. Talking with companies that have experience working with the providers can help your company gauge an outsourcing company’s ability to deliver sustained improvements

5. Ensure that the contract with the provider contains sufficient flexibility to respond to changes in the economic environment. Also, incorporate incentives for the provider to improve performance over time. By offering incentives in the contract, you can dramatically increase the chances the provider will meet the expectations. Just as importantly, incentives should reward a balanced approach. For example, invoice processing time should not be rewarded at the expense of accuracy.

6. Establish a cross-divisional team to consider the risks that can result from engaging an outsourcing firm. Your company’s team could include representatives from operations, legal, accounting, finance, human resources, security, fraud and corporate communications etc. The type of risks that can result from an outsourcing relationship include fraud by the provider’s staff members, interruption in service due to terrorist activity, political instability and corruption in the location, and backlash if jobs are transferred overseas. Depending on the size of the proposed outsourcing relationship, sub-teams may need to be created to address specific issues, for example, the impact of outsourcing on employee morale.

7. Find out what tax implications are involved in the relationship. This could involve the rules for independent contractors, if outsourcing locally, or the tax laws of another country, if you are shipping work overseas. Your tax adviser can help ensure your company is in compliance with applicable laws.

8. Determine the infrastructure needed to support the provider once the outsourcing relationship commences. For example, do you need to assign company personnel to work on-site at the provider’s offices? If not, how often do company personnel need to visit the provider’s operations? How much will it cost to send staff to the provider’s location?

Outsourcing can provide considerable savings. But as you can see, it is not without risk. The steps noted above can help your company navigate the process and deliver sustainable long term savings that directly improve the bottom line.

Ten Home Improvements that Add Value

Before deciding where to spend home improvement dollars, consider talking to real estate professionals who are familiar with your area and have years of experience. They spend their days talking to potential buyers and know what features are likely to result in a “thumbs-up” on a house.


First Impressions Matter

For the best chance of selling your home at the best price, presentation is key:

Basic maintenance - Home value doesn’t increase when you do small repair projects, such as replacing torn screens. But leaving them in place can signal neglect.

Furniture - Before showing the home, move furniture away from the doorways in each room. This gives a more open, larger appearance. Stand in doorways and evaluate the space of the rooms. You may be able to make them look bigger by rearranging furniture.

Clutter - The home should look lived-in but not crowded. Clear away knick-knacks and put surplus furniture in storage. Empty out crammed closets.

Windows - Open curtains so sunshine comes through clean windows, providing a light, airy feeling.

Flowers - Plant bright flowers near the front entrance and the back fence line, especially if they are visible through the home’s windows.

Smell - Air the home out and avoid strong pet odors, fried foods, etc. Ask your real estate pro the best way to create an inviting aroma.

Summer Barbecues on the Deck

Summer means barbecue season and with that comes the urge to kick back and relax outdoors.

Building a backyard deck will increase the resale value of your home by providing an extra “room” outdoors, a perfect place to relax after a cold Canadian winter. Estimated payback: 60 per cent to 90 per cent.

Pool Anyone?

Depending on where you live, a pool may be considered a requirement – or it may turn your home into a hard-to-sell white elephant.

People often disagree on the subject of pools. Some say the cost of a $25,000 pool won’t be recouped while others say it adds value.

There is one point of agreement. A pool can limit the size of your home’s market. Families with small children may view it as a danger, while other buyers may see it as a nice amenity, but not worth the work and extra expense. On the other hand, for many people, a pool conjures up fun images that could be enough to seal the deal.

With so many opinions, it’s no wonder that real estate professionals often advise homeowners that, if they’re going to add a big-ticket item like a pool, they should do it primarily to enhance their own lifestyles rather than to increase value for resale purposes.

Good guideline: Avoid trends that will appear outdated in a couple of years. By doing some fairly simple projects, you open your home to a broader market and hopefully, a quicker sell at the price you want.

Here are ten projects that generally add the biggest per-dollar punch to your home’s value and saleability:

1. Paint - New paint adds a fresh smell and a well-maintained appearance. On the other hand, a home that needs to be painted looks neglected. Estimated payback: As much as 300 per cent.

2. Landscaping - Well-trimmed bushes and a manicured lawn are signs a home has been maintained. These tasks may involve more sweat equity than financial investment. While landscaping, take a look at your mailbox. If it’s rusty and wobbly, replace it. A nice yard adds to the curb appeal that may get drive-by home shoppers out of their cars and through the front door for a better look. Avoid excessive landscaping unless it’s for your own pleasure. Buyers may admire it but few will pay extra thousands of dollars for it, regardless how much you spent on it.

3. Light fixtures - They don’t have to be expensive. But some old light fixtures make rooms look dated.

4. Window coverings - Do they let in the light? You don’t need costly drapes, but worn, outdated, or heavy window coverings are a definite negative. Natural light appeals to most home buyers.

5. Floors - Attractive flooring adds a lift and can be fairly inexpensive. If carpet is a neutral color and in good condition, it may only need professional cleaning. If not, replace it, stick to mid-grade, neutral tones that will go with all color schemes.

Nice-looking hardwood floors can be a major drawing card. If yours appear worn, it would be a smart use of your home improvement dollars to have them refurbished.

6. Central air conditioning - Depending on the area, this can be a feature that many buyers expect.

7. Updated kitchen - The kitchen is generally a major selling point, but it is expensive to totally redo it. Although prices can quickly change, the cost of a completely remodeled kitchen can range from $20,000 and $30,000, and even higher if you plan to install a showcase kitchen. That’s not bad if you’re doing the work for your own benefit and will enjoy it for a few years.

An alternative is do spot remodeling jobs that can be accomplished for less money. Consider a new sink and fixtures, counter tops, cabinet fronts, lighting, a paint job, and even drawer and cabinet pulls can add up to a nice kitchen face lift. If the appliances look old and used — or if they do not match — consider replacing them. Estimated payback on a complete remodel can range from 68 per cent to 120 per cent.

8. Bathroom - You can also do spot remodeling jobs on the bathroom with new, expensive looking, fixtures, a new vanity and an interesting mirror. Make sure vanity mirrors are at an accessible height for every member of the family. As with a kitchen, soft lighting and warm colours can go a long way in increasing home value. Add vases and plans as design elements. Estimated payback: 65 per cent to 120 per cent.

9. Energy features - If your home is older, energy loss may be a concern for would-be buyers. In that case, improved insulation for windows, doors, and storm doors can be smart upgrades. Given the nature of Canadian winters, consider installing thermal windows which help trap heat inside, keeping the home warm and reducing heating bills.

Prices change, but thermal windows range from about $20 to about $50 a square foot. Estimated payback: 50 per cent to 90 per cent. Some retrofits, like better insulation and high-efficiency furnaces, pay for themselves relatively quickly. Others, like solar panels, heat recovery ventilators, and tankless water heaters, may take years to pay for themselves. Payback: Highly variable.

10. Room addition - An added room may increase the value of your home, but may not pay for itself. Before building an extra bathroom or adding a family room, talk to a real estate professional to see what is selling in your neighborhood. If your home has two bathrooms, for example, but recent sales have been mostly three bathroom homes, it might be a worthwhile project. Otherwise, save you money. General estimated payback: 50 per cent to 83 per cent, depending on the addition.

These are just some considerations when improving your home for resale purposes. Getting top dollar for your home generally requires some work and cash. But with a little planning and some advice from real estate professionals, you can help make sure the dollars spent on improvements will come back in the sales price.

Hiring? These Steps Can Help Your Business Find the Best

041317_Thinkstock_522131574_lores_kwBusinesses are in a hiring mood.

The Bank of Canada says it’s detecting early signs of a “modest” pickup in corporate investment as domestic demand gains strength. The rise in demand follows overall subdued activity over the past two years, the central bank said in its recent Spring Business Outlook Survey.

As a result, the bank noted: “Hiring intentions remain positive overall.”

Separately, Statistics Canada said the labour force added 19,400 jobs in March from February. The number of full-time jobs rose by 18,400 in March while part-time jobs rose by 1,000. Compared to the same month a year ago, jobs rose 1.5%, mostly in full-time work.

In the first quarter of 2017, employment gains totaled 83,000, notably higher than the 36,000 jobs added in the year-earlier quarter.

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased by 276,000 (+1.5%), mostly in full-time work. Over the same period, the total number of hours worked rose 0.7%.

Challenging Process

Although businesses may generally expect to fill vacancies quickly, hiring the right people for the job can be challenging. So here’s a broad overview of hiring tips to consider if your company is in the market.

Don’t assume the best applicants will be the best employees. Everyone involved in the hiring process should be aware that the best applicant and the best employee aren’t always the same. Applicants are simply looking for a job while great employees want a career. Sometimes, candidates who perform best in an interview aren’t able to get the job done in the best way.

Match candidates to the job. Know the essential tasks needed to successfully perform a job. That should become the blueprint for the selection process. You should know the critical tasks a candidate needs to perform effectively. Finding the perfect fit is crucial to your business’s success.

Moreover, you need to find a person who fits well with your company’s personality, or culture. If your business environment is loose-knit and informal, you may not want to hire a person who enjoys working in the formal environment of a stiff-upper-lip publicly traded concern. On the other hand, if you want to hire people to push your business to the next level, you may not want to waste your time interviewing candidates who have spent their careers at mom-and-pop shops.

Make people accountable for their hires. Your company’s human resources staff and hiring managers should be made personally accountable for their choices. Consider tracking their success and failure rates. Help those with high failure rates to improve or, if necessary, remove them from the hiring process.

Be Contemporary

Join the 21st Century. Social networking is almost de rigueur for recruiting job candidates. In fact, Facebook recently introduced job postings for businesses in the United States and Canada on its social networking website. Employers will be able to post job vacancies on their pages and allow users to apply through Facebook. LinkedIn is also very popular.

Show what you can offer. When you look to hire someone, don’t just focus on what the candidate has to offer. Think about what your company can offer the candidate. By setting the right tone and making your company a place for employee growth and satisfaction, your company will become an attractive place to work.

Vet prospects. Check out candidates before they come in for interviews. Some employers will do the interview process out of order, checking an applicant’s references and credentials after the interview. Don’t waste time. Vetting candidates ahead of time can speed up the process.

Keep communicating. Assume that other companies are also after the strongest candidates. If you draw out the hiring process — taking too long to make your decision— a competitor could snatch up the candidate. Don’t keep people hanging. Make sure to follow-up and give feedback, letting candidates know when you’ll be making a decision. By keeping the lines of communication open, the best candidates might be willing to let you know if they have a counteroffer.

Reinvent Your Hiring Process

Traditional interviewing techniques are often a waste of time, according to some experts. Many books and websites provide typical questions and tell applicants the answers that employers want to hear. Meet with candidates who are fully prepared to demonstrate how they would do the jobs. This process has three steps:

1. Prepare the candidates. Invite prospects to come in and show you how they would tackle jobs. Give them a list of the challenges they may face and encourage them to learn all they can about your business or organization. Be ready to present solutions and strategies.

2. Prepare yourself. Structure a day’s work with real tasks for the candidate you think you want to hire. Pick a few tasks to describe that are a major part of the job and that will make a difference to your business.

3. Get a demonstration. Let a candidates demonstrate in his or her own way that they can do the job. Can they ride a fast learning curve? Assess their ability and potential to do the work. Then, tap the top performers.

Look Ahead

It’s a good idea to anticipate future hiring needs well before there’s a critical demand. Develop a pipeline of talented employees. If you know a senior employee leaving soon, start the hiring process now and let the senior person do the training.

This hands-on approach may not work for every job or every company. But in many cases you may find it’s worth a try. Discuss the techniques with your human resources department and managers and enlist their help to help find the prospects most likely to succeed in your business environment.

Consider Headhunters

And don’t forget the possibility of turning to outside pros. Depending on the position you’re filling, it might be worthwhile to look into specialized headhunters. They can speed up the hiring process, find good job candidates, and weed out the less desirable ones, saving you a lot of time sifting through resumes. Also, reach out to your industry peers and mentors for help finding appropriate applicants. And check out the going salary rate for the position so you don’t lowball the best job applicants.

Answers to Help Clarify the End of the Savings Bond Program

Budget 2017 announced the end of the Canada Savings Bond (CSB) Program.

As of November 2017, Canada Savings Bonds and Canada Premium Bonds (CPBs) will no longer be available for purchase either through a financial institution, investment firm, over the phone, online or through a payroll savings plan (if your employer offers one).

The government doesn’t plan to send any notice of this change to bond owners.However, maturity notices will continue to be sent that will inform bond owners of the end of the program. In the meantime, here’s a list of answers from the government to the top questions people are asking:

Q.Is my money safe?

A. Yes. The government states the “bonds (including principal and interest) you hold are safe, guaranteed, and will be honoured.”

Q.Should I redeem my bonds now?

A.There’s no need to redeem them immediately. All unmatured bonds, regardless of where you obtained them, will continue to earn interest until the time of redemption or maturity, whichever comes first. Bonds that have matured no longer earn interest and can be redeemed at most financial institutions across Canada.

As each bond series matures, the principal and interest for the series will automatically be paid out to you (the registered owner) by cheque or direct deposit, according to your account information. A letter will be sent to notify you of the maturing bond series before the payment.

You may, of course, redeem your funds at any date before maturity by going to CSB Online Services here or through the automated telephone service.

Q.Will I still receive interest payments at my anniversary date, if I normally received them before the announcement?

A.Yes. You’ll continue to receive them by cheque or direct deposit until the bond matures or is redeemed.

Q.Can I still enroll in direct deposit to receive my interest payments?

A.Yes. You can enroll in direct deposit to receive interest payments for your regular interest CSB or CPB by completing and sending the Change of Address and Direct Deposit form here. If you don’t have a direct deposit account set up, the Savings Bond Program will send a cheque to the address it has on file.

Q.Can I change the ownership of a bond?

A.A change of ownership can only be done in the event of a separation or divorce.

Q.May I change the name on my bond?

A.Yes. If you’re the registered owner of the bond, you may change the name on your bond due to marriage, adoption, divorce, annulment, separation in marriage or legal name change. If the bond has matured, the government will issue a payment under the new name instead of replacing the bond.

Q.May I still exchange my bond (that is, from compound to regular interest, from regular to compound interest or for other denominations)?

A.Yes. If you’re the registered owner and the bond hasn’t matured, it can be exchanged if you follow the procedures associated with your bond.

Q.What if one of my bonds is lost, stolen or destroyed? Can I still report it and have it reissued?

A.Yes. An unmatured bond can be reissued. If the bond has matured, the bond program will issue a payment instead of replacing the bond.

Q.Can I reinvest my CSBs in CPBs?


Q.Where should I invest my money now that the bonds will no longer be sold?

A.Consult with your financial advisor for guidance on alternative investment options.

Q. Are there any changes for customers who hold a Canada Registered Savings Plan (RSP) or a Canada Retirement Income Fund (RIF)?

No.At this time, there are no changes for RSP and RIF plan holders. If and when a change should occur, it will be communicated to them.

Q.Will contributions to my CSB Payroll Savings Plan continue with my employer or will they stop immediately?

A.Your contributions will continue to be deducted from your pay until 31 October 2017 unless you or your employer’s Campaign Director decides otherwise. If you contribute through pre-authorized debit (PAD), those contributions also will continue to be deducted from your bank account until 31 October 2017 — unless you decide otherwise.

You’ll continue to have access to your funds until the entire bond series has matured, at which point they’ll be automatically paid out to you.

Q.What if I want to stop or change my Payroll Savings Plan contributions?

A.To stop or change your contributions before 31 October 2017, contact your Campaign Director or Payroll Administrator. To stop contributions through PAD, contact CSB Program customer service at 1 877 899-3599.

Q.If I redeem all my funds now, does that mean that my account will automatically be closed?

A.Your account will be closed only when your contributions have stopped and all the funds in your plan have been redeemed or paid out at maturity. If contributions are being deducted from your pay, they’ll continue to be deposited into your plan until 31 October 2017 unless you ask your Campaign Director to stop them.

Q.Will I still have access to CSB Online Services?

A.Yes, even after all your funds have been redeemed or paid out.

Q.I’m currently on maternity leave. What does this announcement mean to me?

A.If you currently contribute to your plan while on leave, your contributions will continue to be deducted from your pay until 31 October 2017 unless you or your Campaign Director decides otherwise. If you’re returning to work before then and would like to resume your contributions, contact your Campaign Director upon your return to work to find out if resumptions are permitted.

Q.Do I have to do anything now if I’m on leave?

A.No. If contributions are currently being made through deductions from your pay or through PAD, they’ll continue to go towards your plan until 31 October 2017, unless you decide otherwise.

Q.Will I still be able to purchase CPBs through financial institutions or investment dealers?


What Does the Change Mean for

According to the government, CSBs that are purchased through your Payroll Savings Program will no longer be available as of November 2017. This means that there will be no sales campaigns in October and new enrollments are no longer be available.

All automatic payroll deductions will continue to be deducted from your employees’ pay and deposited into their CSB Payroll Savings Plans until the program ends. You must stop all deductions in your payroll system as of 1 November 2017. Continue to send all regular scheduled payroll contribution files to the Bank of Canada through the normal procedure.

The CSB Program encourages you to communicate the announcement to your employees. You can use the information contained in the sample employee communication template here to let them know about the change.

If employees want to change or stop their contributions before the program ends, the decision is at the discretion of your Campaign
Director or Payroll Administrator. Any change to contribution amounts must be reflected in your organization’s payroll system and the payroll contribution file sent to the Bank of Canada.

At any time, your organization can stop participating in the Payroll Savings Program, but you should let your employees know before stopping payroll deductions.

The government won’t send employers a list of all the CSB Payroll Savings Program participants in their organizations. This is due to
privacy issues.

Safety First or Risk a Court Appearance

Get All TheFacts to Help Avoid Criminal Charges

The Criminal Code of Canada,as well as provincial laws, makes employers and their representatives criminally liable for neglect for certain safety and health violations.
The federal law covers all organizations, from corporations to partnerships, and their representatives, which includes directors, partners, employees, members, agents and senior officers.


Provincial occupational health and safety legislation imposes significant penalties on individuals and organizations convicted of negligence related to workplace safety.

For example, under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, individuals convicted of an offence may be fined up to $25,000.00 and/or face up to twelve months’ imprisonment on each count. Organizations may be fined as much as $500,000.00 on each count. Fines of more than $1,000.00 are also subject to the 25 per cent Victim Fine Surcharge.

Of course organizations cannot be sent to prison, so the federalCriminal Codeincreases the maximum fine for a summary conviction, a less serious offence, from $25,000.00 to $100,000.00. There is currently no set limit on fines for indictble or more serious offences. Individuals who are convicted of indictable offences under theCriminal Codecould face lengthy terms of imprisonment – up to life imprisonment where an individual is convicted of criminal negligence causing death. In addition to fines, theCriminal Codeallows probation conditions for organizations, such as restitution to a person for any loss or damage suffered, and requires the organization to provide information to the general public about the offence, including the sentence and any measures taken to reduce the likelihood of committing further offences.
TheCriminal Codeprovisions do not override existing federal, provincial or territorial occupational health and safety statutes and regulations. In the event of a conviction, however, the law does require the courts to look at any penalties imposed by other jurisdictions in determining a sentence.

Under theCriminal Code, individuals and organizations are liable for criminal prosecution if they do anything -or
fail to do anything
– that it is within their duties and responsibilities in a way that shows “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others.”
In other words, individuals who direct or manage the work of others must take every reasonable precaution to protect those employees from workplace danger, or be open to criminal prosecution.

For example, a factory employee who turned off three separate safety systems could be prosecuted for causing death by criminal negligence if employees were killed as a result of an accident that the safety systems would have prevented.

On the other hand, if three employees each turned off one of the safety systems, each thinking that it was not a problem because the other two systems would still be in place, they would probably not be subject to criminal prosecution because each one alone might not have shown reckless disregard for the lives of other employees.

Nevertheless, although the individual employees might escape prosecution, the employer may not because, in effect, it was the organization, through those three employees, that turned off the three systems.

To show intent, the law requires that the senior officer or officers responsible must have departed markedly from the expected standard of care. The organization might be convicted if, for example, the director of safety systems failed to give a negligent
employee basic training necessary to perform the job.

While accidents are inevitable in any business, to help protect your organization and its representatives from prosecution it’s essential to keep accurate records and investigate each injury. Proper attention to these details will uncover information you can use to make your workplace safer in the future.

Accidents seldom have a single cause. Use careful thought and sound judgment when investigating. And get all the details. Here are the elements of a successful inquiry:

1. Speed.

Question the injured employee and all witnesses as soon as possible. Ask witnesses to draw sketches if they can’t adequately describe the scene. Keep asking questions. Don’t settle for simple responses such as “employee negligence caused it” or “it was faulty equipment.”

2. Objectivity.

Trynot to ask “Why?” It’s better to ask “What?” because it is more objective and doesn’t imply fault. For example, “What were you doing at the time of the accident?” rather than “Why did this happen?” Or “What caused the equipment to fail?” rather than “Why did your equipment fail?”

3. Records.

Make sure you keep all records required under federal and provincial laws and regulations.

4. Staff.

Involveother employees in the inquiry. It makes them feel like they’re a part of the effort to make your workplace safe. Conduct confidential interviews and take suggestions seriously. Use employee awareness, acceptance and participation to your advantage. Your ultimate goal is to eliminate accidents, not employees.

After you compile the details and witnesses statements, use them. Compare the findings with other accidents. Look for patterns such as:

Environment: Are the accidents occurring in the same department?

Type of Job: Do the accidents happen with a certain type of job?

Time: Are the accidents occurring at a certain time?

Type of Injury: Do the accidents involve the same type of injury?

Equipment: Is it always an equipment failure or is the equipment mishandled?

Staff: Is the same employee having the accidents or are different employees involved? If accidents are random, are the employees getting proper training?

A Linguistic Perspective

If your company employs immigrants or others who speak different languages, it’s possible that some accidents happen because of a communication failure. If you suspect a language problem, ask the following:

  • Did the accident involve an immigrant or other employee whose first language
    isn’t English?
  • Was language a possible barrier?
  • What is the primary language of the worker who was injured or died? How well
    did he or she speak English?You may find that you need to provide additional training to overcome language barriers at your company. Review accidents regularly.Once you determine any patterns, take steps to correct them. Prevention efforts can save your company substantial amounts in fines, insurance premiums and other injury-related costs. For every $1 invested in safety and health programs, some contractors can save as much as $4 to $6 in costs related to workplace injuries and illnesses. Not to mention the savings in potential fines if your organization is taken to court and convicted.

Be Quick and Effective

The Supreme Court of Canada clearly ruled: An employer who responds quickly and effectively to (a harassment) complaint by instituting a scheme to remedy and prevent recurrence will not be liable to the same extent, if at all, as an employer who fails to adopt such steps”(Robichaudv. The Queen).

And the Canadian Human Rights Act specifically states harassment shall not be considered to be an act.

Making Amends

The Canadian Human Rights Commission provides the following remedies for victims of harassment, depending on the severity and what he or she lost because of it:

  • An oral or written apology from the harasser and the company.
  • Lost wages or a job or promotion that was denied.
  • Compensation for lost employment benefits, such as sick leave and compensation for hurt feelings.
  • Commitment that the employee will not be transferred, or will have a transfer reversed, unless the employee chooses to move.
  • No record of the complaint, investigation or decision will go in the employee’s personnel file and any unfavourable work review or comments that were placed in the file because of the harassment will be removed.

committed by an employer if it is established that the employer did not consent to the commission of the act and exercised all due diligence to prevent the act from being committed and, subsequently, to mitigate or avoid its consequences.”

In other words, if an employee complains about harassment, take action right away by getting statements, conducting an investigation and imposing appropriate remedies. By doing so, you will be able to demonstrate due diligence.

It’s critical to be impartial and sensitive to both the employee making the complaint and the accused harasser. That gives you a better chance of resolving the situation and avoiding court action. It’s a good idea to get professional help with your company’s investigative procedures, but here are some common steps that can help lead to a successful and effective resolution:

1.Name an investigator.

The person should be properly trained, objective and familiar with federal and provincial human rights law. You should provide sufficient resources for the investigation and relieve the investigator of any other duties that may impede the process. Consider whether the investigator should have a particular background given the nature of the charges.

2. Meet with the victim.

Be neutral and supportive. Make the employee comfortable. Explain the role of the investigator, the steps of the process and how long it is likely to take. Assure the person everything is confidential and that there will be no retaliation. Do not discuss disciplinary consequences for the accused. Identify any evidence and potential witnesses.

3. Write an incident report.

Following the initial meeting, the investigator should compile a report stating the charges and review the report with the victim to ensure accuracy. The report defines the focus of the investigation.

4. Plan the strategy.

Using the incident report, determine questions to be asked to support or refute the charges, who will be interviewed, and what evidence is required.

5. Meet with the accused.

Again, be fair and impartial or run the risk of tainting the investigation. The accused must be told who is making the charge and be given the opportunity to answer each allegation. Unless a collective bargaining agreement requires, the accused isn’t entitled to legal representation.

6. Interview witnesses.

This should be done as soon as possible after the alleged incident and all answers should be written and confirmed with the witness. Avoid telephone interviews. Consider factors such as whether witnesses directly saw or heard the incident, have a motive for lying, and whether witness accounts are corroborated.

7. Write a final report.

This provides the basis for resolution and shows your company pursued due diligence to resolve the situation. The report should be given only to the person who will make the ultimate decision in the case. It should state whether there is sufficient evidence of harassment, list possible resolutions, and recommend a course of action.

(For more information, click here to read our previous article, “Keeping the Workplace Free of Harassment.”)

Budget 2017: Long On Individual Taxes, Short On Business Changes

Canada is 150 years old.Canada Savings Bonds are 71 years old. One of these won’t survive the year.(For full details see our;next article “Answers to Help Clarify the End of the Savings Bond Program”.)

Part of Budget 2017 kills off a staple of some grandparents’ birthday giving: it’s eliminating the Canada Savings Bond program, which was introduced in 1946.

At their height, Canada Savings Bonds accounted for 45% of the total marketable debt outstanding. Now, outstanding bonds make up less than 1% of total federal market debt at $5 billion.

“This decline in the program’s popularity can be attributed to the proliferation of higher-yielding alternative retail investment instruments, such as government of Canada-insured retail products,” states Chapter 4 of the budget documents entitled Tax Fairness for the Middle Class.

The demise of the bonds is just one of the headline takeaways from Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s second federal budget. Among other highlights:

  • Employment insurance premiums increase,
  • Taxes on alcohol and tobacco products rise,
  • Public transit tax credit eliminated, and
  • “Catalyst Initiative” to finance late-stage venture capital.

Here are details of major parts of the latest federal budget.

Business Tax Changes

Review of small-business tax benefits. The government is taking aim at tax-planning strategies common to private small business corporations, often owned by the wealthy, including:

  • Income “sprinkling” among family members through capital gains and dividends,
  • Holding a passive investment portfolio inside a private corporation, and
  • Converting salary or dividends into capital gains.

Professional practice “work in progress.” The budget eliminates the billed-basis tax accounting for accountants, dentists, lawyers, medical doctors, veterinarians and chiropractors. This tax deferral let taxpayers recognize income when the work was billed. It ends for taxation years starting on or after March 22, 2017 (Budget Day).

Employment Insurance (EI). Premiums will rise 3% — or 5 cents to $1.68 for every $100 of insurable earnings. This is the maximum allowable increase under the Employment Insurance Act that governs EI.

Discovery wells. The budget changes the treatment of the costs of drilling an oil or gas well —or other expenses related to the well — that results in the discovery of a petroleum or natural gas reserve. After 2018, these expenses will have to be treated as Canadia Development Expenses (eligible for a deduction on a 30% declining balance basis).

Mineral exploration tax credit. The eligibility for the 15% mining exploration tax credit has been extended for an additional year. It applies to flow-through share agreements entered into on or before March 31, 2018.

Personal Tax Changes

Public transit credit. Since 2006, Canadians have been able to claim a 15% nonrefundable tax credit on the cost of monthly or annual public transit passes. No more. The government says “available evidence suggests that this credit has been ineffective in encouraging the use of public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Alcohol and cigarettes. The excise duty rate on cigarettes is increasing to $21.56 for every 200 cigarettes. The excise rate on alcohol is rising 2% and will be adjusted for inflation every April 1 starting in 2018.

Uber and ride sharing services. The definition of a taxi business is being amended to include commercial ride-sharing services facilitated by Internet applications, such as Uber and Lyft. As of July 1, 2017, rides by those services will be subject to an HST/GST charge.

Tuition tax credit. This tax break is being extended to fees charged for occupational skills courses that are not at a post-secondary level. Students must be least 16 years old before the end of the tax year. The credit is available starting with courses taken in 2017.

Caregiver credit. The current caregiver, infirm dependant and family caregiver tax credits are being combined into a 15% Canada Caregiver Credit. Taxpayers can claim up to $6,883 for the care of an infirm dependant relative and up to $2,150 for a spouse, common-law partner, an infirm dependant for whom an eligible dependant credit is claimed and a sick child under the age of 18. The credit starts to be phased out (dollar for dollar) when the dependant’s income is over $16,163 net income.

EI caregiving benefit. Eligible caregivers will be able to claim up to 15 weeks of EI benefits while they’re away from work to support or care for a critically ill or injured family member. Currently, this benefit is available only if a family member is dying.

Veterans’ education. A new program will provide as much as $40,000 of education or training benefits to veterans with six years of eligible service. Those with 12 years of service would be entitled to up to $80,000 in benefits. The program will begin in April 2018 for veterans honourably released on or after April 1, 2006.

Home relocation loans. The budget eliminates the deduction from taxable income of the portion of employer loans used to relocate more than 40 kilometres for your job. The change will be effective starting in the 2018 tax year.

Tighter rules on investment products. Anti-avoidance rules will be extended to Registered Education Savings Plans and Registered Disability Savings Plans. They include:

  • Advantage rules aimed at preventing shifting returns into registered plans from taxable investments,
  • Prohibited investment rules aimed at ensuring taxpayers hold only arm’s length investments in their registered plans, and
  • Non-qualified investment rules intended to restrict the classes of investments that can be held within registered plans.

These rules already apply to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Retirement Income Funds, and Tax-Free Savings Accounts.

Fertility treatments. Beginning with the 2017 tax year, you can claim the cost of such treatments as in vitro fertilization. You can also make a request to claim the expenses over the preceding 10 years.

Parental leave. Canadian mothers and fathers will be able to take an extended 18-month parental leave. However, EI benefits cover 55% of a salary over 12 months and that amount will have to cover those 18-month leave. Expectant mothers can claim maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, an increase from eight weeks.

In addition to what is listed above, the Budget includes many other changes that may affect your income or business tax returns. Consult with your tax advisor.