This round of tech layoffs came with vexing hits to company culture

Tech leaders have been trying to assure everyone that we aren’t heading for another year of mass layoffs, but the more troubling trend might be how companies are conducting themselves.

Driving the news: So far in January, 58 tech companies have laid off nearly 8,000 employees. That continued this week on Google’s advertising sales and YouTube teams, while Amazon’s Buy with Prime became the latest unit at the company to face cuts.

Could ocean waves power a province?

Ah, the sea. It’s brought life and death to many a sailor, and it might now do the same to a renewable energy concept. 

Driving the news: For years, various companies have tried to prove that harnessing tidal power from the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia is a viable source of renewable energy. Most have failed, and now, the whole idea of creating energy via big salty waves is on the brink. 

Vision Pro ushers in a new era for Apple

Looking to revive the buzz of the early iPhone days, Apple’s hoping its new US$3,499 mixed reality headset will do the trick. 

Driving the news: Apple’s long-awaited Vision Pro headset is now available for pre-order in the U.S., marking the tech giant's entry into its first new product category in nearly a decade.

What is the future of Rexall?

Need a topic for small talk with your pharmacist when they’re refilling your prescription? This story has you covered.

Driving the news: If you’re in the market for ~400 pretty successful Canadian pharmacies, U.S. medical distribution giant McKesson has put up the ‘for sale’ sign on its pharmacy chain Rexall, aka, that place you pop into when there isn’t a Shoppers nearby. 

Sandwich wars head north of the border

In a move that sounds like the plot of a Martin Scorsese mafia movie, U.S. sandwich chains Jersey Mike’s and Jimmy John’s are gearing up for a turf war north of the border.

What happened: The chains are joining the growing list of fast food brands looking to take a chunk out of the lucrative Canadian sandwich market.

OMERS wants a life without LifeLabs

One of the biggest pension funds in Canada is looking to make some blood money… and by that we mean they’re looking to sell the place where you probably get your bloodwork done.

Driving the news: OMERS has been peddling LifeLabs — Canada’s largest private medical lab company — since last year, per The Globe and Mail.

The bell tolls for CEBA repayments

If your usually chipper barista seems a little on edge, it might be because today is a very stressful day for many small businesses across the country.

Driving the news: Today is the last day for businesses and nonprofits to repay their Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans — interest-free government loans — and still receive partial loan forgiveness, valued at up to a third of the loan, and avoid interest. 

Using AI and quantum computing to invent new batteries

Vehicle and device batteries are driving huge demand for lithium. Since it is a non-renewable resource, scientists are looking for ways to replace or use less lithium, but with so many combinations of materials, it can be hard to know what’s worth exploring.

Feds list over 100 foreign institutions deemed security risks for tech research

Canadian researchers in some of the most innovative fields are going to face greater government scrutiny over who they work with.

What happened: The federal government released a list of over 100 schools and research organizations from China, Russia, and Iran that it says pose a risk to national security. It also defined 11 “sensitive” research areas representing leading-edge and disruptive technologies that may also interest those “seeking to misappropriate Canada’s technological advantages.”

What I learned building an app for the ChatGPT Store

It can be hard to grasp how the ChatGPT store and app builder work unless you’ve gone hands-on with them. So I did. 

Canada’s sugar industry gets a sweetener

An up-and-coming company’s Canadian expansion is giving ‘Big Sugar’ a run for its money. 

What happened: Florida-based sugar producer Sucro will invest $135 million to build what could be Canada’s biggest sugar refinery, according to The Globe and Mail. The upstart aims to take on the country’s sugar duopoly, as demand for the sweet stuff grows. 

Are work wellness programs doing anything?

Warning: If you are an HR manager implementing wellness initiatives at your workplace, this story contains content that you may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

Driving the news: A new study on the effectiveness of work wellness programs came away with a shocking conclusion: All those apps, courses, and puppy yoga classes aren’t doing anything to improve workers’ mental health. 

Burger King gobbles up franchises

Restaurant Brands International (RBI) — a very fake-sounding Toronto-based company that is the very real owner of Tim Hortons and Burger King — just ordered 1,000 juicy franchises. 

What happened: RBI agreed to pay US$1 billion for Carrols Restaurant Group, the largest U.S. franchisee of Burger Kings.

Paging Dr. Chatbot

Meet AMIE, the AI chatbot that did a better job diagnosing certain illnesses than human doctors… all while being comparatively nicer to its patients.  

Driving the news: The chatbot — powered by a large language model from Google — and 20 doctors each conducted 149 assessments of actors trained to portray medical symptoms. AMIE’s diagnoses were just as accurate or more accurate in the six specialties evaluated. 

Alberta dips its toes into nuclear

New year, new power source: Alberta is now dabbling in nuclear power. 

What happened: In a deal that could produce Alberta’s first nuclear power reactor, power producer Capital Power is partnering with Ontario Power Generation to explore building small nuclear reactors (SMRs) in the western province, according to The Globe and Mail

Can broke universities afford the humanities?

Add ‘school potentially going bankrupt’ to the list of reasons we’re happy we’re not in college anymore, alongside gruelling mid-terms and questionable dining hall food. 

Driving the news: Queen’s University’s provost (basically its CEO) warned that the prestigious institution faces a $48 million deficit this year and could go out of business if it doesn’t straighten up, balance the books, and slash outstanding expenses. 

Olympic beer sponsor bets big on non-alcoholic trend

The world’s biggest brewer is hoping that their newest sponsorship deal will capture sports fans who may be considering extending their Dry January’s.

What happened: Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev has signed a deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to become the first-ever global beer sponsor for the next three Olympic games, a platform the company will use to pump the tires on a non-alcoholic beer.  

Feds considering cap on international students

The federal government will look at capping the number of international students admitted to Canada in the coming months, Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters, saying the system “has gotten out of control.” 

Why it matters: The number of people coming to study in Canada from abroad has surged, climbing to around 900,000 last year, and worsening a housing shortage that’s driven rents up by 22% over the past two years.

Daniel Foch on Canada’s housing market

 On this week’s episode of Free Lunch by The Peak, we sat down with Daniel Foch, co-host of the Canadian Real Estate Investor podcast, to talk about the future of the housing market.