Ford Finds $4B for Cities

Premier Doug Ford announced that his provincial government will allocated another $4B in funding to Ontario municipalities to help them deal with the Covid crunch on services. The funding, which will come equally from provincial and federal coffers, is to be used support shelters, food banks, public health and about half of the funding will be allocated to public transit systems, which have seen a 90% decrease in fares since the start of the pandemic. 

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Air Canada's Turbulent Takeover

Air Canada's attempted takeover of Transat A.T., the parent company of Air Transat. has once again been delayed. The agreement, valued at $720M, gives each party three delays of the date the deal must close or fall apart. This is the second delay by Transat. Factors in the slow close include awaiting Canadian and European regulators to approve the deal, and the near collapse of the airline industry through the pandemic.

Market Impact:

  • Transat's share price fell another 2% on the news to $5.30, a significant discount to the $18 price tag Air Canada agreed to pay
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Baseball's Bad Start

Positive tests and baseball seem go hand in hand, but unlike PEDs positive tests for Covid-19 could cancel games and perhaps the whole season. MLB's opening day was just last week, at the time of this writing they've already had to cancel two games, a result of 14 Miami Marlins players and staff testing positive for Covid. Sunday night's matchup between the Marlins and Phillies went ahead after 4 Miami players had already tested positive, a decision reportedly made on a text chain.

The Big Picture
The MLB's shortened season was doomed from the start, unlike the NBA and NHL who have adopted a hub city bubble approach to saving their seasons, the Big Leagues have teams travelling from stadium to stadium with limited restrictions on players activities off the field.

I'm not betting on another week before the whole thing is shut down again.
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Canada's Pandemic Warning System Failed

Canada's pandemic warning system, the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), was considered world class. It attracted interest from Google, who tried to buy it from the feds in 2008, and just two years ago the WHO praised the system. A investigation in The Globe reveals how restructuing and bureaucracy left Canadians with our pants around our ankles as Covid-19 took over.

How it (Should) Works:
  • GPHIN was created as an early warning system for disease outbreaks around the world. Decision makers would be armed to make decisions about prepping hospitals, closing borders or cancelling flights.
  • GPHIN is armed with an algorithm that reviews over 7000 data points for unusual patterns. What sticks out is analyzed by humans who issue warnings if needed.
  • The system successfully identified an outbreak of SARS in China in 1998 and Bird Flu in Iran in 2005, both well before either outbreak was officially acknowledged to the world.

Why it Failed:
  • The system, which regular issued a dozen alerts a month sent its last alert in May 2019.
  • The organization was re-organized to prioritize domestic issues over international ones.
  • Layers of bureaucracy were added to prevent warnings from being issued without the approval of high ranking bureaucrats, which would take several days if approved at all.
  • GPHIN did not issue any alerts in the run up or during the Covid-19 outbreak in Canada or abroad, despite their own procedures saying they should.

What Could Have Been:

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Peak Picks

Justice Served? Remember "Chair Girl"? She just got sentenced with a fine and 2 years probation for her little stunt. But Mayor John Tory thinks she should've been locked up.

COVID Costumes: Would you wear a giant bubble to a restaurant to stay safe from COVID? How about a 6 foot wide hoop skirt? Some people apparently would, as they look for creative costumes to keep the virus at bay.

I'll have what he's having: You've heard of boxed wine. Perhaps you've even sampled it. How about boxed negronis? A Brooklyn company is now selling 1.75L boxes so you can have negronis on tap in your house. Unfortunately not yet available in Canada.
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International Students: Looks like international students are out of luck this year: Canada has told most of the 650,000 international students that they will not be able to enter the country in September.

Crypto: Execs from the Toronto cryptocurrency exchange Coinsquare just got slapped with $2 million in fines by the Ontario Securities Commission for artificially inflating trading volumes on its platform.

China/US Conflict: The U.S. has asked to China to close its consulate in Houston. Tensions between the two powers just keep rising.
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Ballin' In The Bubble

Am I dreaming, or is the NBA really back?

Well, sort of. A series of scrimmage games started yesterday, and I have to tell you, seeing live sports again — even in a scrimmage format — is prett-ay, prett-ay nice.

And if basketball isn't your thing, baseball returns tonight with the Yankees taking on the Nationals at 7PM EST.

Plus: hockey is just a week away.

Go inside the bubble: the breakout start of the NBA restart has to be Matisse Thybulle, whose YouTube videos documenting life inside the bubble have earned him almost 300,000 subscribers.
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Busting Tech Trusts

The 90s are back, baby: Microsoft is once again facing antitrust scrutiny from regulators, largely due to a complaint made by Slack with the European Commission.

Slack alleges that Microsoft is illegally bundling its chat product (and Slack competitor) with the rest of its Office programs. Slack argues Microsoft should have to sell its chat product as a standalone and for a "fair price".

If the Commission agrees that Microsoft is using its market power to crush competitors in a way that hurts consumers, that could cause problems for Microsoft.

Why it matters: Tech giants are facing increasing pressure from regulators on a variety of issues, antitrust being one of the biggest.

  • Amazon is being investigated over its treatment of third-party sellers on its platform.
  • Alphabet has been slapped with $9.4B in fines over the past few years by the EU.
  • Now the EU's top antitrust enforcer wants greater powers than fines, including the ability to breakup companies and force them to offer consumers alternatives to their products.
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Europe's Big Deal

EU leaders finally have a deal on COVID economic relief after a marathon negotiating session. Here are the key details:

  • The deal is worth 750 Euros, which is over $1.1 trillion CAD.
  • More than half of that sum will be directed to states with weaker economies (generally those in southern Europe).
  • This marks the biggest effort in Europe to date to deal with COVID reconstruction.

Dissent in the ranks

Not everyone was on board for the relief package, though. Angela Merkel (Germany) and Emmanuel Macron (France) were the chief proponents of the deal, while a group of northern nations — the so-called "frugal five" — including Finland, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, opposed letting the EU borrow to fund the relief programs.

While the package shows the possibility for European cooperation still exists to some extent, the negotiations required to achieve it suggest deep divisions on the continent.

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Snap Back

Shares of Snap (owners of Snapchat) fell steeply after the company reported slowing revenue growth in Q2. While revenue grew by 17% compared to Q2 of 2019, it was a big fall from the 44% growth it enjoyed in Q1.

More bad news for Snap coming out of the report:

  • Net losses for the quarter rose by 28% to $326M
  • Daily users rose by 4%, but the company missed its target by 1 million users
  • Revenue growth is going to have to pick up quite a bit to hit Snap's goal of 32% year over year revenue growth
It's not all doom and gloom, though. Some of the punishment Snap is taking in the markets may be due more to the fact that it's share price has risen by 50% since the start of the year, and is trading at a premium compared to its social media rivals.

One Less Competitor?

Snap may also benefit from growing momentum to ban Tik Tok in the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to ban the app on Federal government phones, citing security risks.

A top Trump White House officials has said it will be "weeks, not months" before broader action is taken against TikTok.

We wonder if a TikTok ban will coincide with the roll out of Facebook's clone, Instagram Reels, in the U.S.?

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  • Before the Tiger King there was the Parrot King. The stakes are just as high but the characters aren't quite as kooky. 
  • Canada's worst mass shooting could have been prevented, the Halifax Examiner takes a deep dive into the RCMP's failure to stop the tragedy. 
  • ʕ•́ᴥ•̀ʔっ(ɔ◔‿◔)ɔ ♥≧◠‿◠≦✌ Copy and Paste, you're welcome
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  • Clothing retailer Mendocino is shuttering all of its 28 GTA stores. The brand which has been around since 1987 will be moving to an e-commerce only model. 
  • BC Premier John Horgan is calling on the federal government to decriminalize all drugs. 
  • Some Covid-19 Survivors are still dealing with the long term effects of the disease.
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LOL, That's The Name

League of Legends is out with new branding for it's e-sports league which sits atop 12 regional groupings. The name? LOL E-Sports. It's easy to LOL at League of Legends for sticking with moniker but it hasn't harmed them so far, they and their parent company Riot Games, are doing pretty well.

What It Means:

  • Regional League of Legends leagues will continue to exist and operate under their own names.
  • LOL will be rolling out three new shows across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, but snubbing Twitch.
  • The new brand is part of LOL's mission to bring e-sports to a billion people, which requires "it starts with building a thriving global esports ecosystem supported by electrifying competition, sustainable growth, cutting-edge tech."
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Fire Sale for Canadian Media

Shareholders of Torstar have approved a takeover bid which will see the publisher of the Toronto Star, a number of regional papers, and other media properties be taken private. The winning bidder, Nordstar Group, is backed by Jordan Bitove, most well known for bringing the Raptors to Toronto, and Paul Rivett. The group upped their bid from an initial $0.63 to $0.74 a share to fend of a rival bid of $0.80 per share. At the meeting no shareholders questioned the wisdom of rejecting the higher bid. The approved deal is valued at $60M.

The Times is On It!
Meanwhile, America's paper of record is keeping a close eye on the ownership of Canadian media. The New York Times recently investigated the slash and burn approach the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management took to Postmedia as a warning of what might happen now that the same fund has purchased the McClatchy chain of papers.

The Big Picture
The Canadian media landscape is looking bleak, we've seen consolidation over from coast to coast over the last decade leading to local newsrooms shuttering and layoffs at the big papers. The take private of Torstar should allow it's new owners to find efficiencies before going public once again. 

Need any more reasons to subscribe to The Peak? 

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Dude Where's My Contract Tracing App

As re-opening continues across the country and cases rise in concert, people are asking where is the contract tracing app that we were promised months ago? Premier Ford's response "possibly..Friday." The Premier blames the federal government for dragging their feet on approving the rollout, perhaps over privacy concerns that stirring up trouble in other countries.

Tracing Mistakes

A number of European nations who have built their tracing apps using Google's platform are now pushing back on the tech giant for tracking users' locations after indicating they wouldn't do that.

South Korea's tracing app apparently had "major security flaws" which would have allowed hackers to view and expose the identities and locations of those in quarantine. Hackers could have manipulated the data to show that a person was breaking quarantine or that they were still in quarantine in reality they weren't, two scenarios with dangerous consequences. The issue has now been resolved, but South Korea is though of as a leader in digital public health, if they're making mistakes it's bound to happen here.

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WE Scream for Scandal

The Kielburgers and Trudeaus are as tight as a King West sidewalk on a pandemic summer day. Each day it seems like another stumble or back room deal is slipping out of each of the leaky organizations, here's the latest:

  • The Feds suggested the grants be used to pay students less than minimum wage. The government scheme intended to pay student recipients about $10 and hour, well below the $15 minimum wage by blending volunteer and work hours. An approach legal experts and students are rejecting as poorly though out.
  • The minister responsible for the grant program met with WE days before the program was announced, muddying the waters around claims of this being a bureaucratic decision.
  • The Kielburgers are being dubbed 'The Property Brothers' as it was revealed their organizations control a $50M property portfolio in downtown Toronto.
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Peak Picks

  • If you've ever wanted a cake that looks exactly like a pickle, or maybe a Croc, I have good news for you: it's apparently a thing, and it's called "still-life cakes".
  • White Castle is testing out a burger flipping robot called Flippy. The bot costs $30,000 up front plus monthly payments of $1,500.
  • We may be nearing Peak Hot Dog. A researcher analyzed years of historical hot dog-eating data and found the theoretical limit of hot dog consumption by a human is 84 in 10 minutes. The world record currently stands at 75.
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  • You can now trade cryptocurrency on WealthSimple. I have some DogeCoin from 2017 I need to unload — any takers?
  • Elon Musk's satellite internet company, StarLink, is now asking for Canadians to give their address to participate in a private beta this summer.
  • Ten thousand day traders every hour are buying Tesla shares, which are up 56% over the past 10 days. Are these aspiring Buffets accurately valuing an innovative disruptor or chasing a hot trend and praying they don't get stuck holding the bag? I leave that to your judgement, reader.
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A Nice Place In The Country

Here's a question I've asked myself lately: if everyone's working from homes and all the restaurants/bars are closed and there's no live music or events... what's the point of living in a city, again?

Apparently others are asking the same question, as this story about a migration of people to Ontario's Prince Edward County shows.

Average home prices in the County, which has beaches, wineries, and good restaurants, are up 14% from last year as people from Toronto — a few hours by car — snap up properties. `

Anecdotes don't equal trends... yet. But the data to suggest that a mass exodus of city dwellers is underway just doesn't exist. People seem to be staying put for now.
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Peak Population

A new study published in The Lancet predicts that global population will peak at 9.7B by 2064 before falling to 8.8B by 2100. It says that by 2100 India will be the largest population (1.09B) followed by Nigeria (791M), China (732M), the US (336M), and Pakistan (248M).

  • Populations of 23 countries (including Japan, Thailand, and Italy) will fall by 50%.
  • The U.S. economy will become smaller than China's by 2035, but could once again become the largest by 2098.
  • If immigration levels are maintained, Canada's population will grow to 44 million by century's end.
Takeaways: If you believe this study, the only place that's going to grow in the next 80 years is Africa. It projects countries like Nigeria, Madagascar, and Burkina Faso to see enormous population booms.
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