Five things you need to know before you start your work day on March 8

Good morning, women! It’s your day today. Shari Kulha here wishing everyone a peaceful and productive International Women’s Day. Here’s our story on an Accenture survey of 22,000 men and women that says gender equality is more likely to be found in workplaces that have 40 factors in common. Meanwhile, there’s one workplace that’s in the news day after day:

GRAVOL, ANYONE?

The Trump tariff tumult has produced more roller-coastering than any Six Flags park on a summer Sunday. Having earlier said there would be no country exemptions to his steel and aluminum tariff threats, yesterday Trump (or rather, Sarah Sanders) suggested that might not actually include Canada and Mexico. Exemptions would be on a country-by-country, case-by-case basis, based on “national security” considerations. Last night, there was word that this afternoon’s announcement would say Canada and Mexico would be exempt for 30 days — with a steely American eye kept on the progress of the NAFTA renegotiations, of course.

Bottom line: “We know from experience we need to wait and see what this president is actually going to do,” Prime Minister Trudeau said, just before Sanders’ remarks. “We are going to (do) everything we need to do to protect Canadian workers — and that means waiting to see what the president actually does.”

GRIST DISSED

In an emergency meeting of the House agriculture and agri-food committee yesterday, Jesse Snyder reports, the Opposition put forth a motion to intervene to fix the grain shipment problem. The government, however, prefers to see what the rail companies come up with to relieve and prevent backlogs. Emergency hearings will be held Mar. 19 to discuss the causes of the bottlenecks, with the rail companies and suppliers expected to attend.

Quote: “It just feels like, every time, grain gets left in the dust,” said Daryl Fransoo of the Western Canadian Growers’ Association and owner of a 5,000-acre farm. “Everything else gets prioritized.”

CANS OR CANNABIS?

Legal cannabis could crash the alcohol giants’ party, a Wall Street analyst says. Mark Rendell writes that CFRA’s 2017 research found monthly alcohol sales fell 13 per cent in states with medical marijuana. “Due to shared-usage occasions, we view the legalization of cannabis as a threat to alcohol industry consumption growth,” CFRA analyst Joe Agnese wrote this week. “When I consider the use indications of the alcohol industry — when it’s consumed, who consumes it, the type of environment — alcohol overlaps significantly with cannabis, whereas something like tobacco doesn’t.” 

Quote: “The question is … once there’s clarity around it becoming legalized, how significantly does the alcohol industry get involved with the cannabis industry? Do they participate through M&A or develop their own infused beverages?” 

SLIP SLIDIN’

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr was on the hotseat yesterday at CERAweek over pipeline capacity. With oil export pipelines full, producers are even shipping by rail, and have had to accept discounts as high as $30 per barrel. As Geoffrey Morgan reports from the Houston conference, the mood is far different from last year’s, when new pipeline projects had just been approved. This year, we’ve seen interprovincial tiffs break out, for example, in addition to a move to overhaul the National Energy Board.

Quote: This week the International Energy Agency released its five-year oil outlook and predicted Canadian oil supply growth would be restrained by full export pipelines. “Last year, we were here. We were saying, ‘There’s good news for pipelines,’” IEA senior analyst Toril Bosoni said. “Now one year later we’re saying, ‘It’s not so certain.’”

THAT’S NOT FUNNY!

We wouldn’t want to be alone in the house at night with Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa voice-based digital assistant. It seems to make strange laughing noises at random. Some people have said the laughter happened in response to unrelated commands, while others said it occurred unprompted. Alexa is programmed to laugh if specifically asked to do so. 

Bottom line: “We’re aware of this and are working to fix it,” Amazon said. It didn’t say when the fix would be deployed, but updates can be pushed to the voice service automatically. 

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