By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, October 3, 2011 - 17 Comments
Obama’s base turns up the heat on the oil sands pipeline
One day in early September, some dozen Democratic activists showed up at the Washington state headquarters of Obama for America, the President’s re-election campaign organization in Seattle. They cornered the state director, Dustin Lambro, and called on the President to block TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring crude oil from the Alberta oil sands through the U.S. Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, potentially doubling exports of oil sands crude to the U.S. “It’s not an issue I know much about,” Lambro said. So the activists gave him an earful.
“We want to get the message to President Obama,” said a bearded man in a baseball cap, “that if you want us to vote for you this time around, this is what you’ve got to do.” Added a woman: “If you want us to work for you, that’s more important. We all worked for you.” Said a grey-haired business owner: “I was a campaign donor for Obama. I raised money for him. I raised a lot of money for him. We can’t afford to have Barack Obama keep compromising on the issues and the values that endeared him to his faithful.” By the end of the encounter, Lambro offered: “I’ll call my boss in Chicago. She’ll relay the message to the senior leadership of the campaign.”
The scene, as captured on a YouTube video, is playing out all over the country as anti-pipeline advocates increasingly turn away from the official State Department-run permit process, and turn up the heat on Barack Obama’s political operation. They have been showing up at his speeches and fundraisers, and greet him with chants of “Yes We Can—Stop the Pipeline.” They bird-dog his top campaign manager, Jim Messina. And as a follow-up to the summer’s civil disobedience that saw some 1,200 activists arrested in front of the White House in August, they are planning demonstrations at Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, and bigger operations at his state headquarters. Environmentalists also plan to remind the President of his environmental campaign promises on Nov. 6, one year before the election, by bringing 10,000 people to Washington to form a human ring around the White House.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 1:23 PM - 4 Comments
Oilsands account for more pollution than all of Canada’s cars
A climate change report prepared by the federal government for the UN deliberately omitted data showing that Canada’s oilsands accounted for a 20 per cent increase in emissions, Postmedia News reports. The 567-page report prepared by Environment Canada for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change left out numbers indicating that greenhouse gas pollution from the oilsands has increased to account for 6.5 per cent of annual emissions, and has surpassed Canada’s auto emissions levels. But the report does shows a six per cent decrease in overall emissions, which it attributes to the economic slowdown and Ontario’s reduction of coal-fired electricity production. Environment Canada produced the missing data at the request Postmedia News, while Mark Johnson, a department spokesman, could not say who’s decision it was to omit the data from the report. “The information is presented in this way to be consistent with UNFCCC reporting,” said Johnson.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 6:00 PM - 5 Comments
Alberta finance minister accuses federal Conservatives of being “hypocrites”
The Alberta government has expressed frustration at Ottawa as it steps up efforts to introduce environmental regulations for the oilsands , and has called the Harper Conservatives “hypocrites.” A 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks a few weeks ago revealed that former environment minister Jim Prentice vowed that the federal government would intervene and regulate the oilsands if the industry and the province failed to address the issue, however U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson believed Ottawa was being “too slow.” Provincial finance minister Lloyd Snelgrove criticized Ottawa for regulating a provincial resource, which would add “multiple layers of government trying to the same thing, [where] nobody wins.” Environment Minister Peter Kent told The Calgary Herald that while the federal government respects the province’s input on oilsands regulation, it has an obligation to take action on environmental regulation of bitumen development. “We value all of the provinces and territories as partners,” said Kent, “but we took to heart a year ago the very strong scientific findings that water monitoring in the Athabasca basin was inadequate.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 7, 2011 at 12:03 PM - 2 Comments
Locals concerned about air quality
An explosion at the Horizon oilsands site in northern Alberta cast black smoke over the region and burned four workers, including two who went to hospital. The explosion happened Thursday afternoon at a site owned by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Nearby residents of the Fort McKay First Nation told CBC News they were worried about what was spilling into the sky over their community as they watched the fire burn Thursday. Testing equipment showed that air quality was “good” as of 6 p.m. MT and Alberta Environment is on site today to assess risks. The fire started in an upgrader that converts bitumen into crude oil.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 3:37 PM - 17 Comments
Region, race, and education play into provincial perceptions of oilsands development
A recent poll by Sigma Analytics shows Saskatchewanians are sharply divided on the question of oilsands development. In the survey conducted for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post, 24.9 per cent of respondents said they “strongly support” oilsands development in the province, while 23 per cent are opposed. What the poll also, and most interestingly, reveals are stark social divisions on the issue, which are drawn along educational, age, ethnicity and regional lines. Saskatchewan residents with a Grade 12 education or less or who are aged between 30-60 are more likely to support development than university graduates or those aged 18-29. Aboriginal people and those living in the northern, more rural regions were more likely to rate the province’s environment as “very poor,” as opposed to non-aboriginals or those living in urban centres who feel it is “very good”. The Sigma Analytics survey follows an announcement from Oilsands Quest Inc. that it is exploring and developing land holdings in the province.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 24, 2010 at 8:06 AM - 90 Comments
Much like “Jurist”, I had to laugh at the headlines conjured up in the wake of the most interesting Wikileaks revelation so far concerning Canada. The Globe, summarizing the leaked minute of a private meeting between former Environment Minister Jim Prentice and U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson, says “[Prentice] threatened to impose new rules on oil sands”. Okayyy, but it’s not really a threat if you make it only in the presence of a third party, is it? We’ve all met fake tough guys who are full of stories about how they really told so-and-so off, but who are really just imagining what they would have said if their spine weren’t made of marmalade. Similarly, the CBC has it “Prentice was ready to curb oilsands”, mysteriously failing to add “…but he didn’t really get around to it, and then one day he just cleaned out his desk and left.”
The actual text of the cable suggests that Prentice’s underlying cynicism did not go unnoticed by its presumptive author—the Ambassador himself. Be honest, now: don’t you cringe a little at this part?
Minister Prentice was clearly making every effort to establish a connection with Ambassador Jacobson, outlining his respect for the Administration and his interest in President Obama’s “back story”, persona, and goals. …Prentice appeared keen to forge a personal relationship with Ambassador Jacobson—to the mutual benefit of both countries.
Obviously the whole point of such face-to-face meetings is to “establish personal connections”, but if your sister came back from a blind date with a report like this you’d say “Gawd, what a schmuck.” Minister Try-Too-Hard got careful about his language, however, when he and the ambassador came to grips with the actual tar-sands issue. At every turn in Jacobson’s account of the conversation, Prentice’s concern is with image, not environmental reality. Just imagine this paragraph without the bits in bold type:
During a discussion of the Ambassador’s travels, Prentice asked for his views on the oil sands. Prentice shared that he was concerned about the media focus on the sands and the possible impact on Canada‘s international reputation. He recalled that he was first concerned about oil sands coverage during a trip to Norway where the public was debating whether or not Norway should be investing public funds (Statoil) in ‘dirty oil’. As Prentice relayed it, the public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada‘s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage. Calling himself “conservationist-minded”, Prentice said he would step in and regulate the sands if Canada’s image in the world gets further tarnished by negative coverage. …Prentice did say that he felt that Government of Canada’s reaction to the dirty oil label was “too slow” and failed to grasp the magnitude of the situation.
As an honest Albertan, I’ll call your attention to two other things about this paragraph:
(1) In an exchange of views on the oil sands, Prentice apparently doesn’t actually say a word about the oil sands—only the international reaction to them.
(2) “Conservationist” is a conscious alternative to “environmentalist”, not a synonym for it. Conservationists are what we had before we had environmentalists. After years of interviewing Alberta politicians and businessmen and hearing them take this line, I understand “conservationism” to denote an emphasis on the value to human beings of wilderness and biodiversity, as opposed to a worldview that says the grizzly’s needs and priorities (and the lichen’s) are indistinguishable from our own. Since this distinction is rarely discussed, it’s an easy means of equivocation: saying you’re “conservationist-minded” can easily mean you wouldn’t personally want a derrick to spoil the view at your A-frame in Kananaskis.
The punch line of the Wikileak arrives when Prentice disavows any actual intention to act on planned tar sands expansion: “In response to the Ambassador’s inquiry about a possible moratorium on further expansion in the oil sands, Prentice didn’t think it was necessary at this time and felt growth to [3-4 million barrels a day] was sustainable.” And there’s a little dénouement when Prentice again summarizes his goals—as the Environment Minister of the Dominion, mind you—solely in terms of image: “At the end of the day, Prentice wants Canada to be billed as the most environmentally-conscious energy superpower.” One wonders at the need for “billed as” to be present in that sentence.
I’m being unkind to Prentice; I don’t know that I would behave any differently in his place, and I’m certainly, as a matter of core philosophy, on the “conservationist” side of the conservationist/environmentalist divide. Moreover, he’s right that government was somewhat slow to react to the publicity crisis, though I don’t see why that should be blamed on the federal government rather than Alberta, since Alberta’s so belligerent about its responsibility for and ownership of its oil.
But Prentice has long been regarded, in the downtown-Toronto conventional wisdom, as a lone Nice Moderate who struggled to fit in with a pack of faith-crazed ideologues. Maybe people should consider the possibility that he really was, after all, a foam-jowled Calgary wolf—one who just happened to be particularly expert at wearing sheep’s clothing. The rap on this federal government, the common theme of the attacks on it, is that it doesn’t respect evidence in decision-making. Those who still see Prentice as a potential alternative leader will, I think, be precisely those who overlook his obsessive concern with “labels” and “standing” and “reputation”. Does he sound, in the cable, like a data-driven Environment Minister? Does it sound like he was much concerned with what the oil sands are doing—or not doing—to the watershed, the wildlife, the people downstream, and the climate?
I ask because if Canadian oil sands policy is going to be determined exclusively by the squealings of people who have seen ugly photographs of them but don’t otherwise know anything about them…well, the sands and the people who make a living from them are going to lose that fight. If your position is “Shut ‘em down”, then an emotional, esthetics-based debate is easy for you to win. There is a policy case, weak or strong, to be made on behalf of the tar sands; it would be a lot harder to argue that they make the world prettier or the landscape pleasanter or the animals happier.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 17, 2010 at 3:04 PM - 64 Comments
Hundreds of deformed animals found in Alberta rivers kept secret
The Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), the organization in charge of monitoring waterways running through Alberta oil sands developments, has found hundreds of examples of deformed fish, but has failed to notify the public or the government. A report by the RAMP says 915 fish with deformities, growths or other abnormalities have been found in the Athabasca river since 1987, a number greater then what the organization has indicated in its annual reports to the Alberta government. The organization has been widely criticized for being overly secretive and for selectively releasing information. “That is the problem. To get the actual data, you need the raw data,” not just annual reports, said Kevin Timoney, an Alberta ecologist and oil sands researcher. “They release just enough so they can say that they did, but they don’t give you enough to see what’s really going on.” The RAMP is currently under three reviews, one of which was ordered by former environment minister Jim Prentice after he was shown photos of mutated fish.
By Andrew Coyne - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 2:35 PM - 0 Comments
The “revelation” (shock! horror!) that the NRA has been offering advice to Canadian groups opposed to the long gun registry — cough, for a decade — has the Liberals watering at the mouth quivering with indignation. Why, Liberal House leader David McGuinty was so furious at this foreign intervention that he was forced to call a press conference:
McGuinty says the U.S. gun lobby has no business being involved at all in a Canadian debate.
”We are here to say that the National Rifle Association and its members and its leadership should butt out of Canada’s gun registry debate,” he said.
He said the Harper government shouldn’t be paying any attention to an American voice.
”This is a government that is choosing to listen to a powerful foreign influence over our own police, our victims’ groups, our medical experts, in fact the majority of Canadians when it comes to gun control.”
Well, bang on. The last thing we need are powerful Americans coming up here and telling us how we should … What’s that? Oh. Never mind:
Nancy Pelosi’s office insists that the most powerful woman in American politics is not out to target the “dirty oil” from Alberta’s oilsands, but green groups and the opposition Liberals in Ottawa wish she would.
The U.S. House Speaker met Thursday morning with representatives from the Pembina Institute and Environment Defence, two groups highly critical of oilsands production.
“As the main customer of tarsands oil, the U.S. has a leadership role to play where our governments at home are failing,” said Environmental Defence executive director Rick Smith…
Liberal environment critic David McGuinty praised Pelosi and the Obama administration for trying to force change in Canada.
“A customer has come calling and said we’d like to see an improvement in the product we buy,” McGuinty told an Ottawa news conference.
That Harper government: they just won’t listen to powerful foreign influences.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 3:30 PM - 36 Comments
Having stuck up for Syncrude in the early stages of the blind, agonizing struggle over the Case of the Bitumen-Bathed Birds, I ought to express my disapproval of the high-pitched political threats made yesterday by the consortium’s lawyer, Robert White. White told the press that “If… Syncrude is guilty of this crime, the government is complicit and the industry is doomed… If by having a tailings pond we’re guilty of this charge, we have to stop having tailings ponds.”
When some business holds itself hostage, and argues that it must either be allowed to continue perpetrating illegal behaviour or it will vanish from existence, it’s a near-certain sign that its other legal and moral defences aren’t getting the job done. In this case the behaviour is only arguably illegal—that remains to be decided—but White isn’t arguing that it was, in fact, legal. His argument is that, no matter what the judge or any fair-minded observer might find, the consequences of a guilty verdict are simply intolerable. He has departed from making a defence under the law, and chosen to attack the power of the court to decide what the law is.
This would be understandable if the law, in this case, were unreasonable, dangerously subjective, or tyrannical. Speaking as someone who would be as happy as a cat in a yarn factory if the regulatory apparatus of state were reduced to 1% of its current size, I don’t see that this is so. Reasonable efforts to protect migratory birds, as the judge rightly reminded White this morning, are among the conditions of Syncrude’s license to create gigantic tailings ponds. The key issue in the trial is whether the efforts Syncrude did make were, in fact, reasonable. “Provincial law does not require that Syncrude performs the impossible,” observed Judge Tjosvold; he might have added that if Syncrude’s activity is inherently incompatible with provincial law, then either legislators must change the law or Syncrude must stop. That’s what the word “law” means, yes?
By Colby Cosh - Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:15 PM - 111 Comments
The delightful thing about the Canada West Foundation’s new report on the national importance of Western Canada’s oil and gas sector is that it is less necessary than ever. The CWF was put together at a time when the West was politically and economically vulnerable; now, as the above chart from “Look Before You Leap” shows, it speaks for the largest of Canada’s regional economies—one that is underwriting frontline public services in the East and providing a disproportionate share of Confederation’s economic growth and federal revenue, not to mention a certain amount of pure remittance funding. (Are there any data at all on interprovincial remittances? Surely this is an underexamined aspect of our economy.)
And I think all this is now generally understood; indeed, not only understood, but felt in a way it might not have been in the 1990s. The last couple of years have witnessed a particularly concerted effort to publicize the ugliness of the Athabasca tar sands. NGOs, artists, and progressives have been willing to judge by what they see (and smell) and believe whatever tall stories they’re told. But in the polite liberal mainstream, the reaction to all this agitation has been sincere and curious and careful. One senses that people are aware of the uneasy truth of which the CWF is trying to remind them. Hey, the Syncrude site may look like hell on earth, but it’s helping to keep the lights on in my kids’ school and the MRI machine thrumming at the local hospital.
This new awareness of interregional interdependence looks inevitable in retrospect, a plain matter of irresistible economic currents. CWF CEO Roger Gibbins and his co-author Robert Roach have a table in the report showing that net interprovincial migration to B.C. and Alberta from 1972-2007 comes to just over a million souls. The emphasis there is on the word “net”: that’s a count of the people who came and stayed, and doesn’t include those who retired back to Magog or Glace Bay, or those who put in just a few years in the oilpatch and took their human and financial capital back east with them. Economic imbalance has made us more familiar with one another. If you wanted to learn about life in Fort McMurray from second-hand accounts, you’d probably be better off going to Newfoundland than downtown Calgary.
My own hope is that ultimately we’ll reach a point at which the oilpatch is no longer seen as having a status morally distinct from that of other businesses. I’m referring to what I think of as the “Beverly Hillbillies” concept. Remember the theme song? One day ol’ Buddy Ebsen was shootin’ at some food, and up from the ground came a-bubblin’ crude. People still think of oil and gas jobs and revenues as essentially unearned in a way that their own paycheque is not, and their leaders are perpetually tempted to make policy on that basis. This surely accounts for at least some of the contrast between our extreme concern over the environmental “impact” or “footprint” of oil and gas extraction, and our relatively blithe acceptance of the impact of manufacturing Camaros.
We shouldn’t let Ebsenism influence whatever judgments we make about regulation of the petroleum business. The oilpatch isn’t distinguishable from other kinds of mining or manufacture, or even service businesses, in the degree to which it involves risk, innovation, or scientific sophistication. This is particularly true of the oil sands, and still more true of the technical layers of the industry—the servicing and construction and supply businesses (and, yes, the environmental monitoring and remediation businesses too)—that surround and sustain the core enterprises of exploration and extraction. It would be nice if when the patch was mentioned, people thought not just of Imperial and Shell but Safety Boss and Packers Plus.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 7:44 PM - 91 Comments
Thoughts on the two leaders’ press conference:
1) They’ll get along fine. They’re similar in some ways: roughly the same age, both policy wonks, both pretty no-nonsense. I got the sense they respected each other. But they’re also different, especially … culturally. Obama’s a member, not so much of the upper class, as the inner: he’s comfortable with the Harvard/New York Times set, people who consider themselves the elite, never mind what anyone else calls them. That’s especially the case in Canada, given the Liberals’ long dominance here — hence the obvious sympatico between Obama and Ignatieff. Harper’s emphatically not of that crowd: as a Conservative, he’s one of the “outs,” at least in his own mind and certainly in his rhetoric.
2) But good relations can’t paper over policy differences, particularly on
a) Afghanistan. As evidence, Obama’s intervention to the effect that he did not “press” Harper to extend Canada’s troop commitment. If he truly didn’t want something from us, he wouldn’t make such a show of saying that he didn’t. Harper, for his part, ducked the question when it was put to him.
b) NAFTA and Buy America. They really weren’t on the same page here. And Obama has constituencies to deliver for.
3) Thought Harper was very strong on Canada being just as vigilant against terrorist attacks as the US. It’s true that at one point we were appallingly lax (no pun intended) on this, but that hasn’t been true for some years, and Americans, especially the American right, needed to hear it from him.
4) Not sure what this Clean Energy Dialogue means, but it’s wholly in keeping with everything we’ve heard from Harper to date: emphasis on technological solutions, carbon sequestration etc. I actually think the two leaders are quite close on this one. Obama is not going to impose a carbon tax, and US public opinion will not stand for any international agreement on global warming that does not include China and India. Which has been Harper’s position: a “Son of Kyoto” that was less stringent, but broader in application, than Kyoto. Remember that it wasn’t Bush who vetoed Kyoto. It was the US Senate. 95-0.
5) That said, Harper certainly didn’t take long to throw Bush under the bus. To listen to him today, you’d think that his government had been champing at the bit to tackle global warming, but was held back by those laggards to the south: “Canada has had great difficulty developing an effective regulatory regime alone … It’s very hard to have a tough regulatory system here when we are competing with an unregulated economy south of the border…. I’m quite optimistic that we now have a partner on the North American continent that will provide leadership to the world on the climate change issue and I think that’s an important development…”
By selley - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 1:45 PM - 12 Comments
Must-reads: …John Ivison on abandoning Senate reform; Don Martin on embracing deficits; Jonathan Kay
The federal miscellany
Deficits, unelected senators, anti-Semites, etc.
The Toronto Star’s James Travers fingers the “brainy, focused and tough” Kevin Lynch, clerk of the Privy Council, as a good candidate to replace Michael Wilson as ambassador to Washington. But he notes there are “flies in this ointment.” One fly: “renewing the civil service, the Sisyphean task that drew Lynch home [from a position at the IMF], remains a work in progress.” (Indeed, being a Sisyphean task, it could hardly be anything but “in progress.” But we really must stop parsing Travers’ metaphors so closely; it leads only to heartache.) Two flies: Lynch led the “usefully inconclusive investigation” into the NAFTA disasta, which is ostensibly why Wilson has to leave in the first place. And three flies: successor boulder-pushers at the PCO “are in short, surprisingly reluctant, supply.”
The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson + fisheries quotas = barnburner! We kid. It’s a very sober and actually fairly interesting look at the benefits of switching from the “common property resource fishery” model—in which “the government establishes an elaborate system of allocations to fishermen and companies, all under the watchful (?) eye of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans”—to one in which “fishermen, communities, co-operatives or companies” are directly given “ownership rights to certain amounts of fish.” It’s better suited to sustainable fishing, we learn, because it takes politics largely out of the equation in establishing quotas. As it stands, “since people speak, and fish are silent, the minister usually heeds people/constituents and opens fisheries that should remain closed or raises allocations that should remain low.”
By selley - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 2:27 PM - 13 Comments
Must-reads: …Dan Gardner on the McMurtry/Curling report; Colby Cosh on bailing out the oil
A long, bumpy ride
And so dawns the new age of economic consensus…
“Maybe I should simply be happy no one’s yet suggesting we rekindle inflation and see if it helps,” a predictably outraged John Robson writes in the Ottawa Citizen. “But I’m not.” Indeed, he’s borderline apoplectic at the speed and obtuseness with which governments abandon solid economic principles—balanced budgets, not “picking winners and losers” in the corporate world, etc.—when the economy goes south. In fact, he observes, most people pushing for some kind of Detroit Three bailout on the basis that allowing them to fail would be untenable have abandoned even the “pretence that GM, Ford and Chrysler are winners,” and yet they still want to throw good billions after bad. But alas, Robson laments, we are at these people’s mercy. Just stay the hell away from the stock market until it’s over, he advises.
Colby Cosh returns to the pages of the National Post in fine form, observing that lots of potential jobs are being lost in the Alberta oil patch thanks to “purely temporary business-cycle conditions,” and yet Tony Clement’s nowhere to be seen with a bailout proposal. What gives? Partly, Cosh argues, it’s the old political truth that the visible (i.e., existing jobs at crap Detroit-based automakers) trumps the invisible (i.e., potential jobs at viable but not-yet-built oilsands facilities) no matter how illogically. And partly, he suggests, it’s because Ontarians’ “understanding of the world remains heavily influenced by the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbilies.”
By selley - Monday, November 17, 2008 at 1:25 PM - 15 Comments
Must-reads: Rosie DiManno on race statistics; Lawrence Martin on finding a new Speaker; Doug Saunders on waiting for a European Obama; Greg Weston on Jim Prentice’s new job; Jeffrey Simpson on bailing out the Detroit Three; David Frum on the GOP’s bleak future; Don Martin on Elizabeth May.
Change we don’t believe in
Sure, the Liberal party will soon “change.” But neither it nor Canada, the pundits lament, will Change.
Ignatieff vs. Rae vs. LeBlanc is precisely the leadership race the Liberals needed, L. Ian MacDonald opines in the Montreal Gazette. For one thing, he says, “it will keep costs down at a time when the party is broke.” But more to the point, it means “amateur hour is over.” The only two legitimate candidates understand their goal is to “unite the party, fill its campaign coffers, and win the next election,” and nothing else. No young people; no new ideas; no funny business.
The Gazette‘s Don Macpherson also handicaps the race for the leadership, suggesting—weirdly, in our view—that “because of the unfortunate timing of the current leadership race, Ignatieff starts off his second run risking unfavourable comparison with the charismatic [Barack] Obama.” This is particularly true in Quebec, he argues, where election fatigue has set in and there’s nothing remotely novel about Charest vs. Marois vs. Dumont. Fair enough, but who’s Ignatieff up against? Rae and LeBlanc, and then Harper? Which of those three juggernauts is going to out-Obama Iggy?
By selley - Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: Kevin Libin and …Barbara Yaffe on Alberta’s image problems; Konrad Yakabuski on nuclear
Politicians in peril
From saving the planet to rebranding a licence plate, Canada’s elected officials are making summer difficult for themselves.
Can Stéphane Dion sell Canada on his Green Shift by summer’s end? The question is crucial, says the Toronto Star‘s James Travers, because a fall election would expose him to a leadership review at the party convention in December, where only a “winning campaign” would be likely to save his hide. So even if Dion quite reasonably decides he needs more time, he’ll be besieged by people inside and outside the party accusing him of stalling simply in order to avoid that review. Travers knows what you’re thinking: “Regardless of when the election is, he will eventually face a leadership review,” so why worry? Because delaying until 2009 might buy Dion an extra two-and-a-half years of leadership (and sideways glances from Michael Ignatieff), that’s why.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer is concerned that BC Premier Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax (by virtue of being far more “ambitious” than those of neighbouring jurisdictions), and the accompanying cap-and-trade system (by virtue of uncertainty, since it isn’t designed yet), are threatening the “commitments to growth and investment that got him where he is today.” The resource sector is particularly imperiled, he argues, since its “prices are set by international commodity markets,” making it unable to pass the tax burden on to consumers.
By Jason Kirby - Friday, June 27, 2008 at 12:08 PM - 4 Comments
In the money: …Suncor CEO Rick George puts the rhetorical boots to Barack Obama
In the money: Suncor CEO Rick George puts the rhetorical boots to Barack Obama in today’s Globe. The presidential candidate has proposed restricting imports of “dirty” oil. George says go ahead. “These guys will say a lot of things, but then when they get into office, it’ll end up they’ll do something else,” Mr. George said. “The pragmatic thing is, if they don’t buy crude from Canada, where are they going to buy it?”
Trading down: Who knew General Motors, along with building trucks nobody wants, also builds time machines. The General’s shares have fallen to levels not seen in 34 years, or 53 years (depending on who’s counting). Incidentally GM’s woes have had an interesting side effect. Based on market capitalization Magna International, the Aurora, Ont-based auto parts supplier, at $7.12 billion, is now a bigger company than GM, at $6.47 billion. Of course, since GM is one of Magna’s largest customers, that doesn’t bode well.
Number cruncher: Sure, $140 a barrel oil gets all the attention, but another commodity is breaking records, and the consequences are even more dire. Because of flooding in the U.S. corn futures hit an all-time high of $7.99 a bushel. The price of corn has more than doubled in the last year. Bad news for families around the world. Follow this link for a chart showing corn prices since 2000. For no other reason than pure curiosity I plotted corn against the S&P 500. Stunning.
Ticker tape: Mark Mcqueen of Toronto investment firm Wellington Financial thinks Royal Bank and Scotiabank should team up to buy mega Wall-Street bank Citigroup, once the largest company in the world… With prices for everything from gasoline to lipstick going through the roof, bet you didn’t know inflation in Canada only “accelerated slightly” last year, but that’s the way it was according to StatsCan
By Jason Kirby - Friday, May 30, 2008 at 4:28 PM - 0 Comments
Who does more for Canada? Ontario, the traditional economic engine of the country, or…
Who does more for Canada? Ontario, the traditional economic engine of the country, or Alberta, the energy dynamo credited with keeping Canada out of the current economic dog house? Both, if you listen to the finance ministers for the two provinces.
Yesterday Alberta’s Iris Evans was in Toronto making her pitch for why Canadians should feel all warm and cuddly towards Oilberta. “When Alberta gains $634 billion a year from GDP of these oilsands,” she told the Economic Club of Toronto, “Ontario gains $110 billion a year.” All told, she said, Ontario and the federal government receive half the taxes collected from the oilsands.
Not one to have his province’s financial fortitude questioned, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan issued a statement today just to remind everyone who wears the pants around here.