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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Canada seeks Asian Pacific markets for oil, energy resources

   Canada column for Sunday, March 25/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s government continues its quest to boost prosperity by selling some of its vast energy resources to Asian Pacific countries after feeling snubbed by the United States.
   In Thailand, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an agreement for talks toward a free-trade deal.
   This is his second visit and sales pitch to Asia after the U.S. government shelved a decision on allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver Canadian crude oil to Texas refineries.
   "Our government believes it's essential that we be able to sell our energy products outside of North America to countries other than the United States," Harper said.
   After the Keystone decision delay, Canada now wants to proceed with the Northern Gateway pipeline to move Alberta crude one province west to British Columbia ports to supply oil-thirsty Asian countries.
   Harper visited China in February and on this trip will also visit Japan and South Korea to talk trade.


   An arbitrator ordered Air Canada ground crews to end their illegal wildcat strikes on Friday in Toronto and Montreal or face fines or arrest.
   About 100 flights were cancelled when 150 workers left their jobs initially at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday night.
   The walkout was prompted after three workers were suspended for mocking Labor Minister Lisa Raitt.
   The government earlier ordered mediation in contract disputes with the pilots and ground workers, including machinists and baggage handlers, while outlawing lockouts or strikes.
   Last weekend there were also disruptions when some pilots booked off sick.


   News in brief:
   - “Tax us: Canada’s worth it,” more than 50 doctors are urging. A group known as Doctors for Fair Taxation wants higher taxes for those earning more than $100,000 a year. The group suggests surtaxes ranging from one percent to six percent on top of income tax rates. It is estimated this would add $3.5 billion a year in federal taxes and $1.7 billion more in Ontario provincial taxes.
   - Three companies have been fined a total of $2.03 million for fixing gasoline prices in Kingston and Brockville, Ontario in 2007 to charge consumers more. The Competition Bureau said Pioneer Energy, Canadian Tire Corp. and Mr. Gas admitted to price-fixing. Investigators said their workers phoned each other to agree on the price they would charge.
   - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ordered a massive recall of 135 brands of frozen beef products due to possible E.coli contamination. The products, mainly frozen beef burgers, from New Food Classics of Saskatoon are identified by establishment number 761 produced between last July 1 and Feb. 15. One person became ill in Alberta, prompting the action. Product names are at www.inspection.gc.ca


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar dipped briefly below parity with the U.S. currency as the inflation rate rose to 2.6 percent due to higher gasoline, food and electricity prices.
   The dollar regained Friday to $1.0012 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback was worth 99.87 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,436 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index 1,549 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 23, 27, 32, 37, 38 and 45; bonus 35. (March 17) 1, 2, 9, 15, 17 and 37; bonus 30. Lotto Max: (March 16) 5, 7, 18, 24, 28, 41 and 49; bonus 26.


   Regional briefs:
   - Students went on a drunken rampage in London, Ontario on St. Patrick’s Day, causing $100,000 damage in a residential area. Eight Fanshawe College students arrested so far have been suspended. About 50 police officers were forced to retreat when a mob of about 1,000 people set a TV news truck on fire and pelted them with beer and liquor bottles, rocks and fence posts.
   - British Columbia teachers plan a legal challenge to the provincial government’s back-to-work bill outlawing a strike in their contract dispute. Teachers’ federation members will vote next month on an “action plan” to oppose the bill. “Our members are angry and think this bill is disrespectful to the profession of teaching,” federation president Susan Lambert said.
   - Katie Aring, 32, of Salt Lake City, who won a helicopter-ski trip to British Columbia, was among two people killed in an avalanche south of Nelson. The other victim was Ryan Keene, 31, of London, England. Near Wainwright, Alberta, three people, including a pregnant woman, were killed when their snowmobiles plunged off a cliff and onto a highway. Names of the victims weren’t immediately released.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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