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Record claims could affect MPI rates in 2015

THE good news: Manitoba Public Insurance reported a net income of $64.5 million for the nine months ending Nov. 30 -- representing an increase of about $50 million over the same period last year.

The bad news: The "volatile" current environment of record claims being made in December and January might impact MPI rates beginning in 2015.

"It might be blue skies now in the third quarter," said MPI spokesman Brian Smiley, "but in the fourth quarter, there's storm clouds."

In December, collision and injury claims were up 17 per cent from the same month last year. There have already been more than 16,000 collision claims in January.

"It would be premature to predict any rate increase for 2015," Smiley noted. "But right now it's pretty volatile."

The MPI rate increase of 0.9 per cent for 2014-15 takes effect March 1. Any impact of the current collision rates wouldn't be factored into MPI's rate application until 2015-16.


Job growth slumping

MANITOBA had the dubious distinction of being the only province to see a decline in its help-wanted index in the final month of 2013, indicating there will be limited employment growth in the early part of 2014.

The Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday Manitoba's index fell 2.4 points in December, while all the other provinces saw increases ranging from 0.9 points in Newfoundland and Labrador to 27.9 points in Saskatchewan.

The board's help-wanted index is based on the seasonally adjusted number of new, unduplicated jobs posted online during the month across 79 Canadian job-posting websites.

The Ottawa-based think-tank noted Manitoba's index declined in seven of the 12 months in 2013.

"As the index suggested it would do, employment growth in the province has been limited over the past year," it added.


Sears lays off 624 workers

TORONTO -- Sears Canada Inc. has announced a round of layoffs for the second time this month, eliminating 624 workers.

The struggling company said Wednesday the cuts, which were effective immediately, will help improve communication and encourage more consistency within its operations.

Most of the reductions will be in middle management at Sears department stores, affecting an average of five employees per location, Sears Canada said in a news release.

The company also said it will rework its regional and head office structure to reflect the latest changes and to align it with the smaller business.

A company spokeswoman in Toronto confirmed all four Sears department stores in Winnipeg were affected. However, she couldn't say how many layoffs there were at each store, or what the total count was for Winnipeg.

The spokeswoman said the company average was five employees per store.

She said the Sears Home store on Ellice Avenue did not appear to be affected by Wednesday's cutbacks.

Two weeks ago Sears Canada said about 1,600 positions would be affected as it moved ahead with plans to shutter its three Canadian call centres and reduce staff at its warehouses.


City mail delivery last to go

OTTAWA -- Densely populated urban centres in the country's largest cities will be the last to lose their door-to-door delivery service, Canada Post said Wednesday.

The postal service said older neighbourhoods and smaller lots in urban cores present different challenges for locating community mailboxes than suburban areas. Canada Post says it will leave the majority of those areas until the final stage of its plan to phase out door-to-door mail delivery.

The postal service also said it is working to address the needs of seniors and disabled Canadians.

"Canada Post is developing alternative approaches for people with significant mobility challenges, who lack viable alternatives and upon whom delivery to a community mailbox would impose an unacceptable hardship," it said.

The post office was widely criticized when it announced late last year its plan to phase out home delivery. Under the plan, mail for those who currently receive door-to-door service will be delivered to neighbourhood "superboxes."


Target opening new stores

TORONTO -- Target plans on opening nine more stores in Canada this year.

The U.S.-based retailer said Wednesday it will open two locations in Mississauga, Ont., and one store each in Toronto, Ottawa and Barrie, Ont.

Stores will also be added in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Victoria and Candiac, Que.

Five of the locations will be in former Zellers locations, while the others will be newly constructed stores. One of the newly constructed stores, at the old Winnipeg Stadium site, is slated to open this fall. By the end of the year, Target said it will have a total of 133 locations in Canada.


-- staff / The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2014 B10

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