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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big shakeup looms for Canada's "old-age" pensions

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 29/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Major transformations” are coming, including the possibility of waiting longer to receive retirement benefits, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
   These changes to “position Canada for growth over the next generation” will be announced “in the months to come,” he told an international economic forum in Switzerland.
   There is concern that an aging population risks undermining the country’s economic position “well beyond the current economic crises,” he said.
   Details of such major and controversial plans weren’t disclosed but Harper continues to fuel speculation that the Old Age Security pension eligibility will be moved to 67 from 65.
   Making Canadians wait two years longer to receive their “old-age” pension is “completely unacceptable,” said New Democratic politician Peter Julian.
   “We do not accept the proposition that more Canadian seniors have to live in poverty or that Canadians have to work longer in order to access retirement,” he said.
   The number of Canadians aged 65 and older is expected to double to 9.3 million by 2030 with pension costs rising to $106 billion a year from $36 billion now.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Keystone XL oil pipeline to the U.S. might not be dead - yet

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 22/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Reports of the death of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to supply Alberta crude oil to Texas refineries appear to be greatly exaggerated.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his “profound disappointment” to President Barack Obama for rejecting TransCanada’s proposed $7-billion pipeline.
   Obama was up against a political deadline for approving the project vigorously opposed by environmentalists and wanted more time for further reviews of the plans.
   In a phone call to Harper, Obama said TransCanada can submit an amended plan to reroute the pipeline around an environmentally sensitive aquifer in Nebraska.
   “This outcome is one of the scenarios we anticipated,” CEO Russ Girling said, adding that TransCanada would reapply for a presidential permit.
   Keystone is “in the best interests of both countries,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said.
   The controversy shows the need for Canada to diversify its energy markets, which it is attempting to do with China, he added.
   Proponents say the Keystone project would have created thousands of jobs in both countries and supplied energy to the U.S. from a trusted source.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Canada looks to China to sell oil, natural gas as U.S. stalls decision on Keystone XL pipeline

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 15/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is now looking to Asian countries to market its abundance of oil, natural gas and minerals as plans to build the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have stalled with the U.S. administration.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to China next month to discuss selling Canada’s bounty to the rapidly growing nation.
   The preferred initial plan was to build the $7-billion Keystone pipeline to deliver Alberta’s oilsands crude to refineries in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico.
   Harper reasoned that the U.S. government would prefer to deal with a friendly neighbor to help meet its energy needs while creating thousands of jobs.
   With widespread opposition by U.S. environmentalists, the Obama administration has delayed its decision on whether to approve the project proposed by energy giant TransCanada Pipelines.
   The new plan would market to China and Asian countries through the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport Alberta’s oil and natural gas to British Columbia for shipment by tankers.
   Environmentalists’ concerns about the Gateway project, proposed by Enbridge, are being reviewed at National Energy Board hearings underway in Kitimat, British Columbia.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More Canadians from British Columbia murdered in Mexico; Canada warns of travel to the country

   Canada column published on Sunday, Jan. 8/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two British Columbia residents have been murdered in Mexico as the Canadian government continues to urge caution about travel to the country.
   The bodies of Carmen Ximena Osegueda Magana, 39, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, and her Mexican boyfriend, Alejandro Honorio Santamaria, 38, were found partly buried at a beach in Huatulco.
   Police said they had been stabbed and their bodies set on fire, likely after being robbed.
   The Mexican-born Ximena Osegueda, as she was known in Canada, was in the country conducting research.
   Robin Wood, 67, a retired mechanic from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, was killed last week by robbers in a home invasion at Melaque.
   Canada’s Foreign Affairs department said 112 Canadians were killed in accidents, murders, drownings or suicides in Mexico from 2006 to 2010.
   Travel warnings suggest Canadians should “exercise a high degree of caution due to a deteriorating security situation in many parts” of Mexico.
   It warns to “avoid non-essential travel” to the border areas between Mexico and the U.S. “due to continuously high levels of violence linked to organized crime.”
   Concerns about Mexico, though, didn’t defer Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay from marrying Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a human rights activist, over the holidays at a resort there.