Business stories that made the news in 2018
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
No matter where you sit on the good year/good riddance spectrum for 2018, there’s no arguing that it was a busy year for business news stories.
Happenings south of the border kept more than one business journalist employed, while the legalization of cannabis here in Canada kept the buzz going (sorry) on topics ranging from “green” investments to workplace rules around cannabis.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the stories that made headlines (and, sometimes, headaches) in 2018.
Trade issues remained a constant throughout the year. In May, the U.S. announced an end to exemptions for Canada and other trading partners and, in particular, implemented a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel and a 10 per cent on Canadian aluminum sold to the U.S. On July 1, Canada instituted retaliatory tariffs on certain goods coming from the U.S., affecting more than $16 billion worth of U.S. goods.
As businesses and their customers bore the brunt of the actions, the hope was that a truce could be called by the time the two countries would sign the new NAFTA agreement, now United States-Mexico-Canada agreement USMCA). Alas, the new agreement was signed in December and still awaiting approval), but the agreement did not include a resolution to the tariff situation.
Trump promised to get rid of NAFTA during his presidential campaign, and after what seemed was gearing up to be endless (and fruitless) negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, a replacement deal was reached in November, representing $1.2 trillion in trade. The USMCA includes changes for automakers, labour and environmental standards, intellectual property protections, and some digital trade provisions.
The deal has yet to be approved, and won’t go to Congress till the new year, when the Democrats take over the House. Of course, the Democrats have a few objections to the new agreement, so…
While Facebook may have been one of the most famous examples (in spring we learned that the data company Cambridge Analytica had gathered information from 50 million Facebook users illegitimately; then used that data to target voters during the 2016 Trump campaign and the UK’s Brexit Leave campaign), hacking, security breaches and misuses of private information is becoming all too common.
In October, Statistics Canada released a report that showed that just over one-fifth (21 per cent) of 10,000 Canadian firms surveyed said they were affected by a cyber security incident. On average, the companies said the incident created 23 hours of downtime for their companies’ operations. Worse, it put countless customers at risk. Maybe even worse: only 13 per cent of the companies surveyed said they had a written policy in place to manage or report cyber security incidents. (Although larger businesses were more aggressive in cyber security.)
If that’s not bad enough, Canadian cyber security analyst David Senf wrote in a LinkedIn post that he believes the report “and dramatically underestimates breaches.”
So, yes, it’s probably worse.
The good news, though, is that Canadians now have a new legal means to alleviate some of the stress 2018 may have brought. As of October 17, you can now sit back in the comfort of your own home and chill…with a little legal weed.
The federal government set some minimum rules for the legalization of cannabis, but provinces set their own rules regarding retail sales and public consumption. What still remains fuzzy is the police’s ability to test for impairment by cannabis, and what rules workplaces should create for their employees who use the drug. Another issue for entrepreneurs who decided to get into the cannabis retail game was the immediate lack of product available to sell to an apparently cannabis hungry country.
The good news? Presumably, those who sell Doritos are doing just fine.
Here’s hoping 2019 will be a more-than-fine year for you and your business!