Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 15/12
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(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.
The Canadian government is considering spending cuts in public-sector pensions along with reducing department budgets.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said pension reform and other benefits for government workers are being reviewed in preparing the federal budget.
As well, the budgets of some departments could be cut by more than 10 percent, he said during cross-country pre-budget consultations.
Economic stimulus initiatives have ended as this is “not the time for dangerous and risky new spending schemes that will increase deficits and raise taxes,” Flaherty said.
News in brief:
- Not wanting to spend a king’s ransom, the Canadian government has cut back on the cost to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne. Diamond Jubilee spending has been trimmed by $1.3 million to $7.5 million, official documents show. Celebrations are to begin across Canada next month although the Queen has not announced plans to visit but Prince Charles and Camilla will tour the county.
- Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, 29, is in a coma with head injuries in a Salt Lake City hospital after falling while training. Burke, who lobbied to get her sport into the Winter Olympics, was training in Utah for the Winter X Games. Her fall was on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce of Vermont was critically injured in 2009.
- The Superior Court is allowing a lawsuit by the Ontario government to proceed against tobacco companies. The government wants to recoup $50 billion in health-care costs from 14 Canadian, U.S. and British-based tobacco companies. The suit claims the companies knew about the addictiveness of cigarettes and their health issues and misrepresenting the risks.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar is higher at 98.11 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0193 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are higher with the Toronto exchange index at 12,240 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index is 1,534 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 9, 10, 11, 18, 39 and 45; bonus 23. (Jan. 7) 6, 8, 11, 25, 28 and 45; bonus 7. Lotto Max: (Jan. 6) 1, 2, 8, 13, 22, 45 and 46; bonus 48.
- Seven Conservatives have been named to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This boosted the government party’s commanding majority in the non-elected Senate to 61 members, 20 more than the Liberals. Appointees are Ottawa Police Chief Vern White, Betty Unger of Alberta, Norman Doyle of Newfoundland and Labrador, JoAnne Buth of Manitoba, Ghislain Maltais of Quebec, Dr. Asha Seth of Ontario and Jean-Guy Dagenais of Quebec.
- Ontario’s cash-strapped Liberal government has quietly scrapped $42 million in university research grants. That happened days before it enacted an election promise -- a 30-percent tuition rebate for undergraduate university and college students. Citing “current fiscal challenges,” the province killed key parts of the Ontario Research Fund aimed at “supporting scientific excellence to boost economic growth.”
Jim Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org