Friday, August 31, 2012

PQ could win a slim majority in Quebec Sept. 4th

A recent article in the Globe and Mail projects a slim majority government for the Parti Quebecois in the upcoming provincial election on September 4.
The latest polls are as follows. CROP poll of August 29: Liberals 26%; Parti Quebecois 32%; CAQ 28%, Quebec Solidaire 9%. FORUM poll August 28: Liberals 28%; PQ 33%; CAQ 27%; Quebec Solidaire 8%. The Liberals do not seem to be making up any ground on the PQ. The CAQ(Coalition Avenir Quebec) may split the vote in several constituencies now held by Liberals and allow the PQ to win.
The Globe and Mail predictions for seats are as follows. The PQ would win 66 seats based on 34.% of the vote. This percentage is a bit higher than in the polls I referenced. Sixty three seats are needed for a majority. The Liberals would win 32 seats with 28.5% of the vote and the CAQ would win 25 seats with 25.8%. Finally Quebec Solidaire would win two seats with 6.7% of the vote. Other parties including the Greens and Option Nationale would not win any seats.
Since the four debates the Liberals have lost more than 4 per cent in the polls and 15 seats. The PQ has been relatively stable but the CAQ is up over 3% in the polls. However Liberals remain ahead in the island of Montreal and this will probably enable them to be the official opposition. The CAQ however now leads in Quebec City with almost 36 per cent of the vote at the same time as the Liberals have dropped 5 points to 28 per cent since August 14. The PQ is doing well outside the two main urban centers of Montreal and Quebec City.
Among the non-francophone population the Liberals are still dominant at 63.7% but even this represents a drop of about 11 points. Although the CAQ has only 16.6% of those voters that is still a gain of 7% within two weeks. More of those voters may move to the CAQ as the only alternative to the PQ and this could spell disaster for the Liberals.
The PQ is already planning strategy and formulating demands it will make on the Harper government. Six years ago Harper's Conservative government passed a motion in the House of Commons recognizing the Quebecois as a nation within Canada. The motion helped the rise of the right wing Action Democratique du Quebec and helped defeat the Parti Quebecois. Now that move will come back to haunt the Conservatives.
The PQ leader Pauline Marois will challenge Harper to hand over control in different areas based upon the principle that Quebec is a nation. If Harper baulks and offer her little or nothing Marois will use this as an argument to try to convince Quebeckers that Quebec independence is the only way forward. Of course first she must win the election and that is far from a sure thing. Even if she does win she may face a minority situation rather than being in the majority.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Harper government reviewing CNOOC takeover bid for Nexen

The Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis has confirmed the review has started of China National Offshore Oil Company's $15.1 billion takeover deal with Calgary-based Nexen Inc.
On Wednesday Paradis said in an e-mail::
"I can now confirm that CNOOC has filed an application for review of its proposed acquisition of Nexen under the Investment Canada Act and I am conducting a review of the proposed investment,"
During the initial period the review will take 45 days but the period can be extended if more time is required. The review must decide if the takeover is of net benefit to Canada. CNOOC has already promised as part of the deal that Calgary would be the headquarters of its North and Central American operations and will keep all of Nexen's employees and management. This along with an attractive price for Nexen shareholders will no doubt help to show a net benefit to Canada. The price offered per share was over 60 per cent higher than the price at which shares were trading the day before the deal.
If the deal is approved this would be the largest ever Chinese foreign acquisition. Foreign takeovers are seldom rejected but during the six years it has been in power two takeovers were rejected the largest being the U.S. 40 billion bid of the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton for Potash Corp. The Saskatchewan government was strongly opposed to the deal.
Some politicians in the U.S.have objected to the Nexen deal including Senator Charles Schumer who wants to hold up the deal to pressure China on trade policies. Nexen holds dozens of U.S. oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact many of Nexen's holdings are outside Canada.
An article by Greg Weston shows that the Conservative government faces growing concerns among some that the large takeover would open the door for a shopping spree for other Canadian energy resources. China has ample funds and a huge appetite for energy resources.
Weston asks how the Conservative can say yes to Nexen and perhaps no to the next deal with the Chinese. Personally I fail to see the problem. Cases are decided on their individual merits. All sorts of U.S. takeovers have been approved but one was disapproved by the Conservative government because it was thought not to be a net benefit of Canada. Decisions are not precedents for future decisions and hence the shopping spree argument is not really cogent.
Weston points out that if the Chinese were allowed to takeover Canadian Oil Sands they would then have majority control of Syncrude which is a consortium that has received billions in Canadian tax dollars and produces about 15 per cent of Canada's total oil consumption. There is something a bit odd about this worry about foreign ownership. If foreign ownership is a worry Canada is a bit late. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that two-thirds of the oil sands are already controlled by foreigners.
Harper has been in China inviting the Chinese to invest some of their ample capital in Canada. They are now doing so and with attractive terms for Nexen a company whose balance sheet was far from attractive and faces many development problems.
Harper wants international investors to see his government as open to business. Polls show that Canadians are uncomfortable with a major Canadian oil company being sold to the Chinese. The Conservative Alberta government however also supports the deal and there has been no significant public outcry against the sale as there was when Potash Corp. in Saskatchewan was threatened with a foreign takeover.
There likely will be more attempts by China to acquire or purchase interests in other Canadian companies. Each move will simply have to pass the test of benefit to Canada. It is quite possible that some future deals will be blocked on the grounds they give too much control of our resources to a foreign country and the deal is not a net benefit to Canada.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

PC sales slump

Two of the big names in personal computers Hewlett-Packard and Dell report disappointing sales as new products compete with laptops and desktops.
Not so long ago if you went on line it was through a laptop or desktop personal computer usually. Now people are going on line using smartphones, tablets, and other platforms.
HP(Hewlett-Packard) in the most recent quarter had its worst result since the company was created 73 year ago. Dell also suffered a bad quarter as personal computer sales declined.
No doubt the slowdown in the global economy accounts for some of the decline. Many people may be waiting for Windows 8 to be launched before they buy a new machine. But sales of personal computers have been declining for the past five years.
More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets for on line work. However as Wired points out the situation may not be so much of a slump in performance but a wholesale change in the market with desktops and laptops never regaining their dominance. Sales may never recover since people will be replacing their laptops and desktops by other devices.
Windows 8 may be a great operating system but it will probably only marginally improve sales results. Emerging markets too may help sales but this might very well be offset by even greater declines in sales in mature markets. A research firm IDC forecasts a meager growth rate of less than one per cent in the global PC market for 2012.
In my own case I fear that I will not be helping much to rescue PC manufacturers. My main computer is a 2005 Seanix that uses Windows XP and my backup is another refurbished Seanix of around the same vintage. The company went bankrupt about five years ago. My wife does have a Compaq laptop a few years old running Windows 7 but since we just replaced the hard drive we do not intend to replace the machine. The only bright spot is that a laptop that my step-daughter was using broke down and is not worth fixing. But then she may just use her smart phone or Blackberry tablet.
I will not be buying a smart phone either. My Motorola dumb cell phone has not been activated for several years and should be donated to a technology museum anyway according to my wife. I have always wanted to travel to Finland to compete in the cell phone throwing competition.

Conservative government allows use and sharing of information gained through torture

After earlier allowing spy agencies to use and share information obtained by torture, the Canada government has now extended the same powers to the national police force(RCMP) and federal border agents.
The Conservative government has been quietly without any notice to the public been changing the rules with respect to information that may have been tainted by torture. The Canadian Press managed to obtain documents from Sept. 9 2011 through the Access to Information Act. The documents are directives to the RCMP and the Border Services Agency. Up until now the documents have remained classified even though this is an important change in policy and one would think should have been discussed in parliament.
CBC asked the officer of the Public Safety Minister's Office about the story from the Canadian Press. CBC asked if the government would use information obtained by torture. A spokesperson for Vic Toews the minister said:. "The minister's directive is clear, the primary responsibility of Canadian security agencies is to protect Canadian life and property..At all times we abide by Canadian law." This is typical evasion but to protect Canadian life and property information which could have been obtained by torture could be used.
These new directives are almost identical to directives issued in the summer of 2011 to apply to the CSIS(Canadian Security Intelligence Service). At the time those directives were criticized by human rights advocates and also opposition MP's as a violation of Canada's obligation to prevent torture internationally.
The U.S. is well known for its former rendition policy that sent terror suspects to countries such as Syria for interrogation and where they were often tortured. The Maher Arar case is a famous instance although the U.S. claims it was not a rendition but a deportation since Arar was a dual citizen of Syria and Canada. Later when supporters of Arar were trying to have him returned to Canada classified material was leaked to a reporter.
Arar's case reached new heights of controversy after reporter Juliet O'Neill wrote an article in the Ottawa Citizen on November 8, 2003, containing information leaked to her from an unknown security source, possibly within the RCMP. The secret documents provided by her source suggested Arar was a trained member of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell.
Someone obviously knows how to use information obtained by torture. An extensive government inquiry found Arar had no links to terrorism. Arar reached a settlement with the government for over ten million dollars. Arar was deported to Syria partly on the basis of raw intelligence data much of it erroneous which the U.S concluded showed he was probably an Al Qaeda operative. One of the recommendations of the Arar Inquiry was that information never be provided to a foreign country where there is a risk that the person might be tortured. However, the U.S. already shared the same view when it deported Arar to Syria. Alberto Gonzales the U.S. attorney general at the time of the Arar deportation noted that Syria had given assurances that Arar would not be tortured. Assad was in power in Syria at that time.
Some of the information used against Arar had been obtained through torture of another terror suspect again in Syria. Canada used what I call opportunistic rendition. Instead of using the U.S. technique Canada waited until a suspect visited a country such as Syria or Egypt and then the person would be arrested. Three Canadian citizens were subject to this practice and ended up in jails in Syria and Egypt. There was a much less extensive and very restrictive inquiry into these cases by Judge Frank Iacobucci. Much of the inquiry was not open even to the lawyers for the three. The inquiry concluded:
Canadian officials had a hand in the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin in Syria through the sharing of information with foreign intelligence and police agencies.
Canadian officials even helped out by providing questions to Syrian military intelligence. False confessions by El Maati were used to obtain warrants in Canada. This is the way that Canada used information obtained by torture. The three have so far not been able to receive any compensation for their ordeal.
Now the same intelligence agencies and police are given explicit permission to use such information if it is thought necessary for the security of Canadians. The UN Committee on Torture has been critical of the Canadian record. Alex Neve the general secretary of Amnesty International has summed up the main problems as follows:
.Canada risks complicity in torture by allowing deportation to torture, denying fair process in security-certificate cases, giving the nod to prisoner transfers in war zones when there is an obvious risk of torture and, under proposed legislation currently before Parliament, restricting appeal rights for refugee claimants who fear torture in their home countries. There is clearly complicity in the ministerial direction to CSIS allowing intelligence information to be shared with other countries even when that might cause torture, and in authorizing the use of intelligence information that was likely obtained through torture in other countries.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

CAQ second to PQ in Quebec election polls. Liberals in third!

As voting day nears in the Quebec provincial election, the Liberal Party led by Quebec Premier Jean Charest is running in third place in an August 24th poll. The separatist Parti Quebecois remains in first place.
Voters in Quebec go the polls September 4 to elect a new provincial government. An August 24th poll by Leger Marketing showed the Parti Quebecois (PQ) leading with 33 per cent of the vote. The newer party the CAQ(Coalition Avenir Quebec) has overtaken the ruling Liberal Party with 28% and the Liberals were third with 27%. The trend seems to be favoring the CAQ as both Liberal and the PQ seem to be losing votes to the CAQ.
The CAQ party leader Francois Legault is playing down the whole idea of a referendum on Quebec independence. Legault claims he is a nationalist rather than a sovereigntist or federalist meaning that he neither supports independence for Quebec nor does he support a federalist government. The first is the position of the PQ and the second of the ruling Liberal Party. Only 45% of Quebecers in an Angus Reid poll believe Legault would oppose sovereignty. Legault was a minister in a former PQ government before leaving the party.
Charest continually warns voters that to vote for CAQ is the same as voting PQ. Legault has said he would vote "no" if there is a third referendum. Legault promises to keep the issue on the backburner for a decade if his party wins the election. Legault promises that if elected:
“I will defend neither sovereignty nor Canadian unity.”
While a somewhat negative promise no doubt it is meant to distinguish his position from that of the Liberals and the PQ. Legault's tactics seem to be working. The CAQ has attracted up to a quarter of those who voted Liberal last election and even 15% from the PQ. The PQ is holding on to more of their voters than the Liberals.
Legault did well in a debate with the other two leaders according to many. He also echoed Obama's successful slogan "Yes, we can." by insisting "We can do it." Legault is critical of the power of Quebec unions. He is likely to capture right wing votes even among anglophones.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jean Charest fights back in Quebec election debates

Down in the polls, Quebec Premier Jean Charest came out swinging in the leaders' debate last night. He claimed that the PQ (Parti Quebecois) main objective was to separate from Canada,. He also pointed out that a past PQ government was corrupt.
Charest took an aggressive stance against his opponents. A skilled debater, Charest tried to neutralize constant attacks upon his own government for corruption by pointing out that in 2006 a report found that the PQ had acted illegally in its financing activities. Charest's Liberal government is plagued by corruption charges especially in the Quebec construction industry. Charest also pressed hard on the sovereignty issue trying to portray the PQ and leader Pauline Marois as wanting to hold a referendum on sovereignty as quickly as she can. The PQ is leading at present in the polls.
Ironically Marois tried to steer clear of the sovereignty issue. She was criticized not just by Charest but by another separatist party the left-leaning Quebec Francoise David:
“What I can’t understand is why you can’t clearly commit to a public consultation to define how you plan on achieving sovereignty,."
Marois no doubt realizes that there is more concern with jobs and the economy of Quebec among voters than independence for the province. She is not anxious to hold a referendum that she could very well lose.
While Jean Charest predicted he would be the target of all the opposition parties he shared that status with the Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The PQ leader in particular promised that she would stand up for Quebec against the federal government and gain more power for Quebec. Marois chastised both the leader of the CAQ and Charest
:“I won’t get on my knees like Mr. Charest has done and abandon the fight against Ottawa as [Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François] Legault has done..I will fight for the interests of Quebec.”
The PQ promises that it will seek transfer of more powers from the federal government to the province if elected. The party wants power to regulate immigration as well as unemployment insurance. If the federal government refuses to transfer the powers the PQ will use this as an argument that Quebec should become independent.
Charest faces not just his usual rival the PQ this election but also the Coalition Avenir Quebec a party that trails the Liberals only slightly in the polls. The party is led by a former PQ cabinet minister Francois Legault. The party is regarded by many as an alternative to the two old line parties who many see as corrupt. The Liberals appear to be losing votes to the party among non-francophone voters. This could create problems for Charest and help the PQ win. However Legault lacks charisma and some thought he would not do too well in the debates.
Legault however seemed to hold his own in the debate. He made cogent points against Charest's economic record pointing out that during Charest's tenure Quebec disposable income per person went from fourth place to ninth place with only the tiny province of Prince Edward Island being lower. Charest has been touting his economic record as a reason to re-elect him. Charest in the exchange was able to catch Legault off guard when he asked if Quebeckers were richer today than when Legault's former party was in power. Legault admitted that they were. Even though this is hardly relevant since Legault is not part of the PQ now it no doubt may have helped Charest fend off the attack.
Almost twenty per cent of voters are undecided. Three parties remain relatively close in the polls although the PQ has a definite lead. There will be three more debates with one on one debates with leaders. Quebec Solidaire with just one seat in the legislature will not be in those debates.

Read more:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quebec election debate tonight August 19

The Quebec provincial election is set for September 4. With the campaign now half way through there is to be a key debate between leaders tonight (Aug 19) The ruling Liberal Party lead by premier Jean Charest is trailing in the polls.
The CBC(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) will carry the debate from 8 PM to 10 PM eastern time. The debate will also be available on line at The debate will be in French with English translation.
At dissolution of the provincial legislature on August 1st the ruling Quebec Liberals had 64 seats, the Parti Quebecois 47, the Coaltion Avenir Quebec 9 and Quebec Solidair 1. Recent polls show the Liberals trailing the PQ(Parti Quebecois)
An August 16 poll by Leger Marketing show the Liberals with 28%, the PQ with 33% and the up and coming CAQ(Coalition Avenir Quebec) with 27%. Quebec Solidaire has 6%. A bid by another party Option Nationale to take part in the debates failed as a court did not support their injunction to force the stations involved to include their leader.
Jean Charest of the Liberals claims he will be the target of the opposition groups:
"I will be the target. There's no doubt about that...You know that. I know that. I have have been the target for the last four years, frankly, and that's what this debate will be about, so we'll just have to deal with it."
Although the general public supported Charest's raising of tuition fees that caused lengthy strikes and demonstrations by Quebec students many opposed the bill that imposed strict conditions on demonstrations and heavy penalties for breaking them. However, much criticism of Charest claims widespread corruption in the government especially in relation to the construction industry.
Charest in the past has triumphed in some debates. In 2003 after a debate with PQ leader Bernard Landry his poll numbers rose and he managed election in spite of predictions he would lose.
Francois Legault leader of the CAQ has less experience than the other two main party leaders will face a stiff test of his political skills. He is not known for his oratory and sometimes has had to take back statements he has made. However the party is doing well in the polls just behind the ruling Liberals. Quebec Solidaire a leftist party will have a chance to raise its profile.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Canada retains top credit rating

Moody's Investors Service has renewed the triple-A rating for Canada. A review by the company found that Canada's economic performance and financial situation was sufficiently strong to retain the high rating.

The Moody's report noted:
"Although the recession caused a reversal of the improvement in the debt ratios, they did not deteriorate as much as in most other Aaa-rated countries, are now on an improving trend, and remain compatible with the country's Aaa rating."
Before the recession began, the federal government actually had been running budget surpluses for a number of years. With the recession, however, the Harper Conservative government spent on infrastructure and other projects meant to stimulate the economy. These expenditures and falling tax revenues because of the recession led to rising debt.
Many countries have had their credit ratings downgraded, particularly in Europe, and Canada remains among the few with triple-A ratings. Economist Dana Peterson and strategist Brett Rose claim that Canada has both political and fiscal stability and predict that rating agencies "will likely retain Canada's triple-A status in both the near and long term." Citigroup also had favorable predictions for Canada, noting that Canada was well ahead of schedule to cut the Canadian deficit by half by next year. The group said:

"Much of the savings are anticipated to come from restrained government program spending as well as moderately improved Canadian economic prospects...These actions may place additional drag on real output this year, but should be favourable for the Canadian economy over the longer term."
Credit ratings are one of the factors that determine the prices of bonds and also interest rates. High ratings are needed for certain funds such as pension plans. Often the ratings are used by politicians to show how well they are doing or by the opposition to show how badly a government is doing!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Enbridge yet to include scathing report on oil spill as evidence in Northern Gateway hearings

A scathing report by the U.S. National Transportation Board into the 2010 Enbridge oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan has not been included as evidence in the company's assessment of the risks associated with the pipeline.

In an interview with CBC Radio B.C. economist Robyn Allan claimed that even though the negative report was published back in July Enbridge the company seeking approval for the Northern Gateway project has not tabled any information about the spill. The Northern Gateway project is to build a pipeline that would carry oil from the oil sands of Alberta to a port in northern BC. The oil would then be shipped to Asian markets. Allan argues that by excluding the Kalamazoo spill in its risk assessment Enbridge's calculations underestimate the risks posed by the pipeline. Allan said:
"So far, it's as if Kalamazoo never happened."

The Kalamazoo spill leaked an estimated 877,000 gallons (3.3 million liters) of oil into the Kalamazoo river in July 2010. The NTSB said that there was a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge. The company failed to realize the pipeline was leaking and continued pumping oil for some time. The cleanup costs are estimated to run at about 800 million U.S. Joe Oliver the Canadian Natural Resources minister said that it was an issue that should be learned from.
 Oliver said:There obviously also has to be a management culture of safety and it has to permeate the organization...We feel that the company [Enbridge] has to focus on some of these management issues and the NEB which has direct oversight responsibility is very much attuned to that and is going to pursue it in an objective, independent, and scientific way. "

When however Oliver was asked if the U.S. report should be tabled as evidence before the group looking into hearings on the project Oliver refused to confirm that the report would be put forth as evidence. He said:
"I don't want to in any way get into the specifics of what the panel is looking at. First of all, it's inappropriate and it's also a slippery slope. I think it's up to the NEB, to the chair who oversees it, and to the panel to make these decisions."Given the importance and relevance of the report one would think that it would definitely be included. You would think that the government might at least suggest that. However, this is the Harper government and it is most anxious to have the project approved.

Stephen Harper the prime minister earlier claimed that the pipeline was in the national interest. Oliver himself however said that he had not ever said the pipeline should go through. But Oliver then went on to praise all the economic benefits of the pipeline although he insisted that safety came first. Oliver went on:"
On the assumption that the project is safe for Canadians, safe for the environment, we think it's very important to proceed because there are enormous economic benefits for the country from coast to coast to coast,"
Enbridge has been running a number of ads touting the positive safety records of oil pipelines. Enbridge took out full page ads in major newspapers in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario.
Enbridge noted the company's 99.999% safety record and stressed its commitments to preventing any oil spills.
Allan the economist said that Enbridge should table the findings of the NTSB report rather than carrying out a public relations campaign with expensive ads. Allan remarks.
"You'd think that for a company that continuously claims to meet or exceed standards of practice or legislation that the polite and responsible thing to do would be to table all of the NTSB findings... that they would actually take action and make sure all of that documentation was on the table instead of spending time writing ads."No doubt Enbridge sees the situation as a battle for public opinion and is simply using money to paint a positive picture of its safety record rather than publicizing a report that makes them look foolish as well as showing little concern about safety.
I have included a TV ad by Enbridge that stresses the value of the pipeline. There is a spoof of the ad here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Canadian military to spend a billion on armed drones

The Canadian military intends to spend about one billion dollars on armed drones. The military claims that the drones will enable Canadian Forces to fill critical deficiencies and are needed in the Arctic.

Even during Canadian participation in the war in Libya senior Canadian defence officials were itching to use the occasion to spend up to 600 million on armed drones to use in the conflict according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. The war ended but not the desire to obtain armed drones. Now the military-industrial complex is at it again.
Even though the Conservative Harper government is all for reducing our budget deficit as quickly as possible that can be done by cutting social programs. What is crucial is to have armed drones that can be used to defend the Canadian Arctic. No doubt they can also help out in U.S. or NATO adventures around the globe. The Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces General Walter Natyncyk is closely linked to the U.S. military and was a high official in the Iraq war even though Canada was supposedly not involved. Canada even awarded him a medal for service in a war in which we refused to take part. According to Wikipedia:

""Natynczyk attended the U.S. Army War College, and was subsequently appointed Deputy Commanding General, III Corps and Fort Hood.  In January 2004, he deployed with III Corps to Baghdad, Iraq, serving first as the Deputy Director of Strategy, Policy and Plans, and subsequently as the Deputy Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps (Iraq) during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Natynczyk led the Corps' 35,000 soldiers, consisting of 10 separate brigades, stationed throughout the Iraq Theatre of Operations... He was later awarded the Meritorious Service Cross specifically for his combat efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom January 2004 to January 2005.""

The Harper Conservative government already approved last month that a request be sent out to various aerospace firms to ascertain what is available. Companies must provide relevant information by Sept. 28.
The Canadian Forces had already been using unarmed surveillance drones in Afghanistan but have long been wanting to move on to the purchase of armed drones. Back in 2007 the Ottawa Citizen had reported that the Defence Department requested approval to buy Predator drones for the Afghan mission. The purchase was never made however as there were concerns that there would be no competitive bidding. No doubt there might have been some concern for the political fallout as well.
   Instead the Canadians leased Israeli-built unarmed Heron drones from MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of B.C. U.S. firms are already aware that the Canadian military is anxious to purchase drones, no doubt with government support. Northrop Grumman made a pitch to the Conservative government at a trade show in May this year to sell the military a fleet of Global Hawk drones. These drones could patrol the Arctic. However the Hawks are not armed and are useful only for surveillance. The military wants drones that can pack a punch or as they put it should be able to carry precision-guided munitions: The military claims::"This capability will allow the CF (Canadian Forces) to fill critical deficiencies”.Apparently lack of armed drones are critical deficiencies in our defense budget and no doubt this is a much higher funding priority than critical deficiencies in our health care system such as long waiting times

Saturday, August 4, 2012

NWT Premier Bob McLeod proposes oil pipeline to Beaufort Sea from Alberta

Bob McLeod who is premier of Canada's Northwest Territories argues that the province of Alberta should consider promoting a pipeline north through the territories to the Beaufort Sea. The pipeline would move oil north from the Alberta Tar Sands and then it could be shipped through the Beaufort Sea and Bering Strait to Asian markets.

There is already a proposed pipeliine through British Columbia to a Pacific port in British Columbia that would then ship oil by tanker to Asian markets. However that pipeline called the Northern Gateway faces strong opposition from environmentalists and aboriginal people who occupy land along the proposed route.'The premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has also demanded that certain conditions be met before her government would approve the project.

McCleod hoped that the Northwest Territories would benefit from a proposed McKenzie Valley pipeline that would carry natural gas from the Beaufort Sea into Alberta where it would join with an existing natural gas line. However that project has been beset by difficulties. Several investors recently pulled out of the project and it is now on hold. The proposed oil pipeline would compensate for the failure of this project to go ahead.

There have been no direct talks between the government of Alberta and the Northwest Territories on a possible oil pipeline to the north. However Cal Dallas the minister of internatioanl and governmental affairs for Alberta told the CBC that he would be more than pleased to talk to Premier McCleod to explore potential projects. Dallas thought that McCleod's remarks could very well encourage the private sector to study the viabillity of other pipeline projects of the sort McCleod suggests.

The Arctic environment might be devastated by any oil spills especially any spill in the icy waters of the Beaufort Sea. Environmentalists and aboriginal groups would probably object to a northern route just as vehemently as they do to the Northern Gateway Project. For more see this article.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Loonie reaches parity with U.S. dollar

The Canadian dollar, nicknamed the Loonie, managed to reach parity with the U.S. dollar today. The outlook for exports has improved with high job creation numbers in the U.S. Ironically if the dollar goes too high exports could suffer since the high dollar makes Canadian goods more expensive for U.S. buyers.

The value of the Canadian dollar rose for a fourth week. Stocks and crude oil also rose.Futures traders have now reversed bets and are betting that the Canadian dollar will rise more against the U.S. dollar.

Adam Button an analysts from Montreal said:“It’s nice to see the Canadian dollar break through parity, but you have to be a little bit disappointed with the follow through,” “There seems to be plenty of eager corporate sellers of the Canadian dollar around parity.”

The loonie is up by .2 per cent this week alone. A Canadian dollar buys just a little over one U.S. dollar.Greg Anderson at Citigroup Inc.advised investors to buy Canadian and Australian dollars against the Euro which is declining against both currencies.

Generally an improvement in the U.S. economy will help Canada since we export so many raw materials to the U.S. Almost three quarters of all Canadian exports are to the U.S. Canada also is the biggest supplier of crude oil to the U.S. If the U.S. economy declines so will demand for Canadian exports.For more see this article.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quebec to hold election on September 4th

Premier of Quebec Jean Charest has triggered an election on September 4 after a meeting this morning with his cabinet. Charest's Liberal government has slumped in polls as investigations continue into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Quebec premier Jean Charest is the longest-serving premier of any province. However, he is facing a fierce battle this time around. Not only are there damaging corruption investigations ongoing but many citizens are upset by the harsh conditions imposed on demonstrators by Bill 78. The bill created even more demonstrations by students and others.

 The main opposition is the Parti Quebecois (PQ) led by Pauline Marois. The party is for the independence of Quebec as Wikipedia notes:. The Parti Québécois (PQ) is a centre-left provincial political party that advocates national sovereignty for the province of Quebec and secession from Canada. The Party traditionally has support from the labour movement. Marois has been party leader since 2007. At a news conference this morning Marois set out her separatist views: "We prefer that Quebec be a normal country. We choose freedom," . "In the coming weeks, it will be our turn to choose. It is not Canada's duty to pick our government for us, it's our turn to decide by voting." The Parti Quebecois also faces opposition from The Coalition Avenir Quebec formed early this year. The new party has merged with the existing Action Democratique du Quebec. Polls show that the party is trailing the two main parties. There are other parties as well in the contest.

Charest has been in power since 2003 and is attempting to win a fourth term. While not endorsing any party student leaders will campaign against Charest and the Liberals. Student organizations hope to see the government replaced. Polls show the Liberals and Parti Quebecois neck in neck with about 32 per cent support each while the Coalition Avenir Quebec is in third place with 20 per cent.

 An important issue in the election will be the tuition hikes that brought long and sustained protests against the government. While the majority of citizens actually supported a hike there was strong reaction against the harsh terms of Bill 81 that severely restricted protests with stiff fines for violation of the regulations. Luc Turgeon a professor at the University of Ottawa said:"This election is about the future of the province,"...."What has transpired in Quebec in the last few months is a bit of a social crisis." Many of the student organizations were concerned with more than just tuition. They were concerned about job prospects and the future of the province. Their concerns brought them support from some labor unions. Turgeon said there would be a debate about austerity programs and cuts to entitlements versus other strategies to cut the huge deficit the province faces.

The Charest government also faces corruption charges. Key Liberal politicians appear linked to questionable deals with the construction industry. The election will occur before an inquiry into corruption will resume later in September.

Charest will attempt to portray the Parti Quebecois as wishing to immediately have a referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Polls shows that as of now of those who have made up their mind 62 per cent would vote against separation. No doubt jobs and the economy loom larger in the minds of many voters. Even if elected the Parti Quebecois is likely to put off any referendum until polls are more in their favor. The campaign promises to be quite heated with no clear winner at the start of campaigning. For more see this article.