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Calgary Real Estate, Wills and Estates, and Business Law Blog

Confusion arises over employer rules about cannabis use at work

Cannabis legalization is almost here. Employers are busily preparing rules to regulate cannabis use in their workplaces. Police and other employers whose duties affect public safety are finding it particularly difficult to draft policies for cannabis use that satisfy their employees and their obligations to the public.

Both Air Canada and Calgary-based WestJet Airlines now ban cannabis use for people whose jobs affect customer safety — even when they are off-duty. Alcohol use is only restricted for certain employees for 12 hours before they go on duty.

Can employers fire employees for alcohol or drug addiction?

Employers may get frustrated when they learn an employee has an alcohol or drug addiction that adversely affects their work. But Alberta’s human rights legislation prevents employers from just firing the employee.

An employee who has an actual dependency on alcohol or drugs has a disability under Alberta human rights law. Recreational users don’t have this disability. The employer should have the employee assessed right away to see if they are genuinely disabled. If so, the employer must make reasonable accommodations for the employee. The employer doesn’t have to do this only if doing so:

Homebuyers’ heartfelt letters persuade homeowners to sell

In an era of high demand and higher bids for homes, buyers who write warm personal letters to sellers often win the bidding war and buy the house they want. This is a growing trend that some realtors say ‘must’ be part of an offer if a buyer wants to have any hope of purchasing the property.

Many sellers seriously consider any personal letters they receive with offers when deciding to whom to sell their house. Most sellers care who buys their house and are happier to sell to someone who can clearly say why they love and want to buy the property. The letters have the greatest influence on sellers who have lived in their home for a long time and want to be sure the buyers will take care of it.

Beware of capital gains tax when buying a non-resident’s property

Buying a house is very expensive. Paying capital gains tax to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is the last thing a purchaser wants to do. But this happens when purchasers buy property that is owned by a non-resident of Canada without working with a lawyer experienced in these types of transactions.

Under Canadian tax law, a non-resident who sells property they own here still pays capital gains tax on any gain they make from the sale.

Human rights concerns lead to no random testing for bus drivers

The forthcoming legalization of cannabis across Canada has raised many questions amongst employers and employees alike. One of the most fierce debates has been over human rights concerns with regard to random testing for the substance. People driving or operating heavy machinery, such as oil workers and bus drivers in Alberta, have been a particular source of debate.

Many people who take public transportation in the city have wondered whether drivers for Calgary Transit and Southland Transportation would be under increased scrutiny once cannabis is legalized next month. Following an extensive review of workplace policies across Calgary, it has been announced that no changes will be made to the protocol for substance testing of bus drivers. The decision is based on the finding that current protocol is adequate and that drivers are already tested for substances as needed.

Farmers, labour advocates call for business law changes

Labour shortages are a constant concern for farms across the country, with many farmers seeking temporary foreign workers to fill in the gaps. Twenty groups representing various Alberta farmers have recently begun lobbying for a review of the business law related to this important issue. The agricultural industry says 2014 changes to the law, designed to remove loopholes and prevent abuses, are making it difficult to bring in the workers they need.

One of the concerns voiced by the advocacy groups is processing times for applications to bring over foreign workers under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program. According to a spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, processing time often takes between five and six months. This wait, along with the administrative burden, has prevented some farmers from taking advantage of the program.

It's possible to leave money to care for pets in wills

Many people are familiar with leaving assets to children in a will, but what about pets? Interestingly, passing "inheritances" onto furry friends is not as unusual in wills as some might think. Considerations for Alberta estates involving pets may include naming a guardian for their animals, as well as leaving some funds to cover living expenses while they are with the new owner.

Those who can afford to do so should consider the cost of food, vet bills and other expenses for the pet should they pass away first. In some cases, they may also want to compensate the friend or family member who will adopt the pet after they pass away with a daily amount or lump sum for their efforts. Often those who have a higher net worth will leave even more to pets. As an extreme example, the five dogs owned by Oprah Winfrey have a $30-million trust fund.

How to prepare to execute estates for an incapacitated relative

Being named as an executor can be overwhelming and many people have questions about what their duties entail. Executors often take some steps before the person who named them passes away in order to ease the challenging tasks ahead. Alberta executors responsible for estates belonging to individuals who are seriously ill or aging and may be close to death should be particularly mindful of these preparation steps.

If the papers regarding an estate are not particularly well organized, steps should be taken to make sure they are in proper order. Making contact with the person's primary bank is a good first step. If the estate planner is too ill to do this, the power of attorney will need to be involved in this. 

Civil litigation underway in case of girl injured by dentist

When a medical professional is accused of negligence, professional associations are often on hand to deliberate on consequences. These tribunals will sometimes investigate incidents and hand down fines, as well as limiting a person from practicing his or her profession in the future. In addition, criminal charges and civil litigation may be filed. Recently, the Alberta Dental Association and College handed down a fine of $330,000, the highest amount it has ever fined a member of its association.

The settlement was in response to a 4-year-old patient who suffered permanent brain damage due to a dental procedure. The patient was under anesthesia when, under the care of a nurse, she stopped breathing. Reportedly she was deprived of oxygen for up to seven minutes and was soon put on life support at a nearby hospital.

New business law illegalizes ticket scalping "bots"

Technology companies often raise new questions for regulators, especially if they present a tool where no laws seem to exist. Lack of regulation has been an ongoing controversy when it comes to bots that act as online ticket "scalpers," which are programmed to buy up tickets to popular events and sell them at inflated prices. Lawmakers in Alberta have passed a new business law to put a stop to these often contested programs.

The new law is in response to complaints from the public. According to the Alberta government, many people told their representatives not attend popular shows and sports events due to tickets being snatched up by these automated programs. While ticket reselling will still be legal in the province, resellers will need to take steps to avoid selling any ticket purchased by a bot.

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