Jun 18, 2013 / 6:48 am
The panel weighing the future of the Northern Gateway pipeline will hear today from industry players who support the project.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) partners in the project, including Cenovus (TSX:CVE) and Suncor Energy, are scheduled to make their final arguments to the federal panel hearing in Terrace.
A BC government lawyer addressed the panel on Monday, saying the project should not be approved as proposed.
"Given the unique challenges of this pipeline, including the real challenges of responding effectively to a spill from either the pipeline or a tanker, Northern Gateway must be able to show that the mitigation it has put forward will be effective," Christopher Jones told the panel.
"The province submits it has not done so."
Outside the hearings, former BC Liberal cabinet minister Geoff Plant, who is leading BC's legal team at the hearings, said the evidence put before the panel doesn't meet the province's standards.
"Northern Gateway is going to have to do something more, something better, somewhere else, to do that," he said.
Plant said the province is asking that the project not receive approval, but it has put forth several conditions should the panel decide to give it a green light.
For its part, a lawyer for the company told the panel it agreed with most of those conditions.
"I do think it's good that there's some congruity on the general conditions. It shows that Northern Gateway is currently trying to raise the bar, and willing to meet a high bar, even though we don't think that they're there yet," Plant said.
Northern Gateway lawyer Richard Neufeld told the panel the project is worth billions of dollars and is in the interest of all Canadians.
As for the province's concerns about the lack of proof that the company's spill response will be all that is promised, he said detailed operational plans are unnecessary and counter-productive at this point in the process.
The pipeline, if approved, wouldn't be operational until 2018, Neufeld told the panel.
Dozens of opponents and supporters of the project are scheduled to appear over the next two weeks.
Jun 17, 2013 / 8:49 pm
TERRACE, B.C. - Canada will be vulnerable to economic disaster should the Northern Gateway pipeline be rejected, the proponent told a federal review panel Monday as the final phase of public hearings got underway.
Richard Neufeld, the lawyer for Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB), said there are billions of dollars at stake in the pipeline that would link the Alberta oil sands with a tanker port on the coast of British Columbia, and the lucrative oil markets of Asia beyond.
"It's going to allow our country to enjoy tremendous economic benefits that would be afforded by this project, while at the same time providing fair and reasonable protections for local and regional interests," he said.
The $6-billion project would allow land-locked Alberta to expand its customer base beyond the United States, where the industry argues it is forced to sell oil for up to $8 less per barrel because it has no competing buyers.
Should the pipeline be rejected, the whole country will face the economic consequences, Neufeld said.
"How about a decision from the U.S. that it will no longer need Canadian oil?" he told the panel.
"Canadians would be facing, we suggest, an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportion."
After more than a year of hearings, dozens of members of the public packed a hotel conference room in Terrace, B.C., to listen to the final arguments under the watchful eyes of private security guards and RCMP.
About 70 protesters gathered outside the hearings in the scenic city 62 kilometres from Kitimat, the home of the proposed Northern Gateway tanker port.
Supporters of the project are hard to find on the streets of Terrace, where last year the city council voted to oppose the pipeline. Nearby Smithers and Prince Rupert have done the same.
The project involves twin 1,200-kilometre pipelines linking the Alberta oil sands to the Kitimat marine terminal.
Christopher Jones, the lawyer for the B.C. government, reiterated the province's objections to the project.
"Northern Gateway has made much in these proceedings of putting in place world-class spill response capability," Jones said, adding that the plans so far have not been tested.
"We don't want to be in a situation where Northern Gateway's plans look good on paper but are not effective under real conditions."
Although the panel reiterated Monday that evidence gathering is now closed, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said last week that negotiations continue on the five conditions set out by the province.
Geoff Plant, the former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister heading the provincial team at the hearings, said Northern Gateway could improve its research and documentation in order to meet those conditions.
"What we are saying is that the evidence here doesn't meet the standard, and Northern Gateway is going to have to do something more, something better, somewhere else, to do that," Plant said.
In a process that has been largely dominated by opponents, some supporters are slated to add their voices to the final arguments, including the Alberta government, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Oil industry players Nexen, Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE), Inpex Canada, Suncor Energy and Total E&P Canada, members of the limited partnership backing the project, are also scheduled to appear this week.
And while First Nations in B.C. have overwhelmingly rejected the pipeline, Chief Herb Arcand, of the Alexander First Nation in Alberta, told the panel that his band has signed an equity agreement with Enbridge.
The company told the panel that, if approved, operations would commence in 2018 â€” two years after the initial estimated start date.
As the clock winds down on the joint federal review process of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, John Carruthers, president of Northern Gateway Pipelines, said he believes the project will go ahead.
"Yes, the project should proceed, and that doesn't stop the dialogue," he said outside the hearing room.
"We'll continue to have dialogue with those who support the project, with those who oppose the project. There are still issues people have and we'll still try and address those, but in terms of the big questions, it's urgently needed and it can be built and operated safely."
Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, disagreed. The coalition of aboriginal groups rejoined the review process it left earlier this year in order to appeal to the panel to reject the pipeline.
"As far as we're concerned, the Northern Gateway pipeline is not in the public interest and should be rejected," he told the panel.
"How can it be in the public interest to approve a project that is opposed by all coastal First Nations?"
The panel's report to the federal government is due by the end of the year.
Jun 17, 2013 / 7:16 pm
NEW YORK, N.Y. - A former intern has filed a class-action lawsuit against Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records over his unpaid internship.
The suit was filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Plaintiff Justin Henry says he was never paid for the office work he performed from October 2007 through May 2008 but should have been under state labour law.
The suit alleges there was no academic or vocational training as part of the internship, and that employees would have needed to be hired to do the work if Henry wasn't doing it for free.
Atlantic is part of Warner Music Group. Warner declined to comment on pending litigation.
Similar lawsuits over unpaid internships have been filed in other industries like magazine publishing.
Jun 17, 2013 / 1:07 pm
LE BOURGET, France - Airbus and Boeing both won pledges for big purchases of long-haul, wide-body jets Monday, as the Paris Air Show got off to a robust if rainy start.
The global aviation event at Le Bourget airfield north of Paris is once again showcasing the rivalry between U.S.-based Boeing and French-based Airbus. After several years of success for their smaller models, the world's leading plane makers are hoping this year generates orders for the bigger, more expensive long-haul jets.
Boeing announced a promise to by 10 of its 787 jets from GECAS, the aircraft leasing arm of General Electric. Those would be worth more than $2.4 billion at list prices, though customers often negotiate deep discounts. GECAS is ordering the new version of the 787, dubbed the Dreamliner, the 787-10X.
Qatar Airways also put in orders for Boeing's other long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 777.
Meanwhile, Airbus announced a potential order Monday for its superjumbo 800-passenger A380 jets, which has seen disappointing sales in a time of economic slowdown. Doric Lease Corp., signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 20 A380s. That deal, if confirmed, would be worth $8 billion at list prices.
Airbus is also hoping to attract attention to its new wide-body A350 aircraft, which had its maiden flight in France last Friday and can carry up to 440 passengers. The A350 is Airbus' best chance to catch up with Boeing's 787 and 777 - which carry up to 300 and 365 passengers respectively - in the race to sell planes used on long-haul flights.
Fernando Alonso, head of Airbus' flight test division, said Monday that the A350 first flight went exactly as the simulator had predicted, and just like Airbus planes currently in operation. That's a selling point for airlines reluctant to take the time or expense to retrain pilots.
At a time when fuel costs are a major concern for airlines, many have wondered if the A350, which makes extensive use of fuel-friendly lightweight carbon fiber, would give Airbus a jump on Boeing. But Ray Conner, chief executive of Boeing's civilian aircraft division, claimed Monday that its upcoming revamped 777 isn't that much heavier and that has other advantages.
"We'll be able to carry the same number of passengers, but we'll be able to fly a lot farther" because of a wing re-design and improved engines, he told reporters. "The A350-1000 will be a generation behind on engine technology."
Smaller planes dominated the last air show in Paris and also had a good showing Monday morning. Lufthansa confirmed its March deal for 100 planes in the smaller Airbus A320 family, Airbus said in a statement. And International Lease Finance Corporation made a firm order for 50 short-haul A320neo jets. At list prices, those deals together would be worth about $15 billion. Los Angeles-based ILFC is Airbus' biggest customer.
Jun 17, 2013 / 1:04 pm
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Netflix is going to start running original television series from Dreamworks Animation.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Netflix Inc. says the multi-year agreement is its biggest deal ever for original first-run content and includes more than 300 hours of new programming. It expands on an existing relationship between the companies.
For Dreamworks, the transaction announced Monday is part of a major initiative to expand its television production and distribution worldwide.
Netflix has been adding original programming to its roster of movies, and debuted the original series "House of Cards" on Feb. 1. It has also increased its focus on children's programming in a move seen as taking a different tack than traditional premium pay TV channels such as HBO, Starz and Showtime, whose original shows are tailored more to adults.
In December Netflix announced it will offer Disney movies, starting with films released in 2016. It declined to make a similar deal for the rights to Sony movies starting in 2016, which was kept by Starz.
The new Dreamworks shows will be inspired by characters from its hit franchises like "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" and upcoming feature films as well as the Classic Media library that Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc. bought last year. The television shows will be commercial free.
The first series is expected to begin airing in 2014 and will be shown in the 40 countries in which Netflix operates.
In February the companies announced their first ever Netflix original series for kids based on the film "Turbo" that is coming out in movie theatres next month. The original series, called "Turbo F.A.S.T.," will be shown starting in December.
Next year Netflix customers in the U.S. and Latin America will also have access to some of Dreamworks' newest films, including "The Croods" and "Turbo."
Netflix shares rose $12.29, or 5.7 per cent, to $226.28 in morning trading. Dreamworks shares rose $1.69, or 7.4 per cent, to $24.50.
Jun 17, 2013 / 7:57 am
The Toronto stock market was higher Monday on optimism that the Federal Reserve won't move quickly to ease economic stimulus measures persuaded buyers to nibble at stocks beaten down in a series of declines.
The S&P/TSX composite index was 87.03 points higher to 12,274.39.
The Canadian dollar rose 0.05 of a cent to 98.39 cents US amid rising crude prices.
U.S. indexes were also well into positive territory as traders hope a two-day Fed meeting on interest rates which starts Tuesday will provide some clarity on central bank intentions.
The Dow Jones industrials jumped 164.83 points to 15,235.01, the Nasdaq climbed 40.34 points to 3,463.9 and the S&P 500 was ahead 16.46 points to 1,643.19.
Markets have been volatile since late May when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke first mentioned that the central bank would consider cutting back on its US$85 billion of bond purchases each month if economic data â€” particularly job growth â€” improved.
But the stimulus measures, known as quantitative easing, have been popular as they have kept interest and bond yields low and kept a rally going on stock markets practically non-stop since late last year.
Speculation on the Fed tapering its bond purchases has depressed equity markets and markets in Toronto and New York retreated more than one per cent last week. At the same time, bond yields have been rising, pushing mortgage rates higher.
Jun 17, 2013 / 6:17 am
Quebec's construction sites will be idle on Monday because of a general strike called by unions.
Negotiations broke down Saturday and the strike began at midnight.
The unions represent more than 175,000 residential, industrial and commercial construction workers.
Workers insist a main problem for them was an attempt by the Quebec construction association to change the amount of overtime they would get for extra hours worked.
The union also says they were being asked to agree to a 14-hour day and six-day work week at regular wages.
One group representing home builders had complained the unions bargained in bad faith and never intended to reach a deal.
"The offers we have received from them show a complete lack of respect for workers, they don't reflect the quality of our industry, the quality of our workers," Ouellet told a news conference. "We find this dishonest."
The strike follows accusations from both the construction union and the builders' associations of bargaining in bad faith.
Lyne Marcoux, the chief negotiator for the provincial construction association, said Saturday that the union was negotiating through the media and intended to send workers into the streets.
Eric Cherbaka, director general of Quebec's residential homebuilders' association, also criticized the union's attitude.
"The union alliance leaves the table and once again prefers to use pressure tactics at the expense of negotiating," he said in a statement on Saturday after talks broke down.
The construction association repeated its criticisms as it reacted to the strike announcement on Sunday. It insisted in a statement that it had continually showed respect during bargaining and had attempted to improve working conditions.
Jun 14, 2013 / 8:02 am
The Toronto stock market was lower Friday as traders looked ahead to next week's U.S. Federal Reserve meeting and hope that the central bank will provide clues as to whether it plans to ease off on some of its economic stimulus.
The S&P/TSX composite index declined 34.11 points to 12,243.02.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.03 of a cent to 98.4 cents US amid a disappointing update on Canadian manufacturing.
Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 2.4 per cent in April to $48.2 billion.
It's the fourth decline in five months and the largest monthly percentage drop since August 2009.
The agency says lower sales in the petroleum and coal product and primary metal industries were largely responsible for the decline.
U.S. indexes were little changed amid signs of a weakening American manufacturing sector and consumer sentiment.
The Dow Jones industrials rose 10.56 points to 15,186.64 as May industrial production was flat. Economists had expected a 0.3 per cent increase after production fell by 0.5 per cent in April.
And the University of Michigan's consumer confidence index came in at 82.7, well below expectations that it would remain at a five year high of 84.5.
The Nasdaq was down 1.95 points to 3,443.41 and the S&P 500 index edged up 1.37 points to 1,637.73.
Concerns about Fed intentions have weighed on markets since late last month. That's when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said that the Fed might pull back on its US$85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, if economic data improves, especially hiring.
The QE program has underpinned a strong rally on U.S. markets.
The Fed holds its next regularly scheduled meeting on interest rates next Tuesday and Wednesday and wraps up with a news conference by Bernanke.
Jun 13, 2013 / 6:50 pm
Law enforcement officials nationwide are demanding the creation of a "kill switch" that would render smartphones inoperable after they are stolen, New York's top prosecutor said Thursday in a clear warning to the world's smartphone manufacturers.
Citing statistics showing that 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve the theft of a mobile phone, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the formation of a coalition of law enforcement agencies devoted to stamping out what he called an "epidemic" of smartphone robberies.
"All too often, these robberies turn violent," said Schneiderman, who was joined at a news conference by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. "There are assaults. There are murders."
The coalition, called the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative, includes prosecutors, police, political officials and consumer advocates from more than a dozen states. It will pressure smartphone companies and their shareholders to help dry up the secondary market in stolen phones.
The announcement came on the same day Gascon and Schneiderman were scheduled to co-host a "Smartphone Summit" with representatives from major smartphone makers Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
"We're prepared to deepen our inquiry if that is appropriate," Schneiderman said, though he would not elaborate on how far his office might go to ensure that manufacturers comply with the coalition's demands.
He likened the functionality of a "kill switch" to the ability for consumers to cancel a stolen credit card.
The general public should not be forced to pay more for smartphones that have a "kill switch," Schneiderman said.
After the summit, Schneiderman and Gascon released a statement saying they "asked the companies to commit to develop effective solutions to this national crime wave and install them on all new products within one year."
Apple said at a developers' conference this week that such a feature would be part of its iOS7 software to be released in the fall. Gascon and Schneiderman said in a statement they were appreciative of the gesture but would reserve judgment until they could "understand its actual functionality."
"Apple has been very vague as to what the system will do," Gascon said at the news conference earlier Thursday. "We've been led to believe that it is not a 'kill switch.'"
Gascon was particularly critical of Apple, saying that he had met with the company in January but was rebuffed by executives.
"The industry has a moral and social obligation to fix this problem," Gascon said.
To drive home their point about the danger of violent smartphone thefts, authorities introduced relatives of 23-year-old Megan Boken, who was shot and killed in St. Louis in 2012 by an assailant who was trying to steal her iPhone.
Boken was chatting with her mother on the phone at the time, said her father, Paul Boken.
"All of a sudden, the phone went blank," he told reporters. "Megan never picked the phone up again."
In New York, police have coined the term "Apple-picking" to describe thefts of the popular iPhone and other mobile products, like iPads. Phone thefts comprise 40 per cent of all robberies in New York City, authorities say.
Jun 13, 2013 / 7:52 am
Shares of Empire Co. (TSX:EMP.A) and Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) were up sharply in early trading following news that Empire's Sobeys grocery chain will buy more than 200 Safeway stores in western Canada for $5.8 billion cash.
Safeway shares were up about 15 per cent in the first minutes of trading at the New York Stock Exchange and Empire, based in Stellarton, N.S., advanced about 11 per cent from Wednesday's close before the announcement.
Sobeys is already the second-largest grocery retailer in Canada after Loblaw Co. (TSX:L) and will solidify that position by adding 213 Safeway stores from Thunder Bay, Ont. to British Columia.
Sobeys currently owns or franchises more than 1,300 stores cross Canada under such banners as Sobeys, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo and Thrifty Foods.I
It has not yet decided if it will keep the Safeway name.
Empire shares jumped $7.79 or 11.52 per cent to $75.40 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange while Safeway shares were up $3.72 at US$26.92 in New York.
Jun 13, 2013 / 6:50 am
Wanted: A jester. Wallflowers need not apply.
It's no joke. An Austrian hotel is advertising for a modern-day court fool, who is communicative, extroverted, musical, creative and imaginative.
Applicants are asked to bring, and play, their musical instrument during the job interview. Also welcome: creative costumes. The successful candidate will earn 1,400 euros, around $1,900, a month.
Hotel director Melanie Franke says those interested should not think they're on a fool's errand in applying. She says the idea is to treat guests like royalty, noting that "jesters were a luxury that royal families indulged themselves in."
The hotel in Austria's Styria province was designed by famed Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Franke says the jester concept fits its hotel's colorful appearance.
Jun 13, 2013 / 6:48 am
A German official says the country plans to create an 8 billion euro ($10.6 billion) emergency fund to pay for damage caused by recent flooding.
Thuringia state Governor Christine Lieberknecht gave the figure Thursday after a meeting of the leaders of Germany's 16 states and the country's finance minister, news agency dpa reported. She said financing details have yet to be finalized.
The Elbe, the Danube and other rivers overflowed their banks following persistent heavy rain, causing extensive damage over the past two weeks in southern and northeastern Germany. The water is now slowly receding.
Fitch Ratings earlier this week estimated that the cost of damage in Germany would total about 12 billion euros. The Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary also have been hit by floods.
Jun 12, 2013 / 7:42 pm
The mayor of Fort McMurray says workers and volunteers are sandbagging the city's Heritage Park and working on dyking to protect the local high school and college.
Melissa Blake says while the public is being urged to stay away from riverbanks and streams, there is no direct threat to public safety and attention is being turned to the protection of property.
Heritage Park is operated by the Fort McMurray Historical Society and contains 17 historic buildings, including a trapper's cabin, a Catholic mission and an Anglican church.
A state of emergency and a boil-water order for the area were declared Tuesday due to flooding of the Hangingstone River and concern over the Clearwater River and its tributaries.
About 150 people have been moved from a city trailer park and residents in 275 homes are on evacuation alert.
Brad Grainger with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says workers are trying to fix a main gas line that ruptured when water eroded the ground covering it.
He says the community is at "the mercy of Mother Nature," since more rain is forecast for the rest of the week.
Mounties say they are going door-to-door in the trailer park to make sure that people comply with the mandatory evacuation order.
"Areas that have been identified as evacuation zones, especially those classified as mandatory, are not safe at this time," RCMP said in a news release.
"Anyone who remains in those areas will likely find themselves with minimal resources, if any, including a lack of power and running water, as well as the likelihood that RCMP and other emergency services will not be in a position to respond to calls in a timely manner."
So far, the flooding has had little impact on oilsands operations in the Fort McMurray, Alta., region.
Jun 12, 2013 / 11:40 am
NEW YORK, N.Y. - ESPN will stop broadcasting in 3-D by the end of the year, the network said Wednesday, dealing a major blow to a technology that was launched with great fanfare but has been limping along for years.
The sports network said there were too few viewers to make 3-D broadcasts worth it. It didn't say exactly how many viewers had, but the number was "extremely limited and not growing."
Last year, only 2 per cent of TVs in the U.S. were able to show 3-D programming, according to the most recent data from research firm IHS Screen Digest.
ESPN 3D launched in 2010 as one of nine 3-D channels that followed on the release of James Cameron's "Avatar." TV makers rushed to introduce 3-D sets as well. ESPN said then that it expected a "3-D tsunami" in the industry.
But few consumers proved willing to pay the extra $200 or so for a 3-D-capable set. The sets also required viewers to wear glasses, and many people felt the 3-D effect didn't add that much to the viewing experience.
Optometrists say as many as one in four viewers have problems watching 3-D movies and TV, either because the technology causes tiresome eyestrain or because they have problems perceiving depth.
TV makers have turned their focus to increasing the resolution of their sets to the "Ultra HDTV" level and getting broadcasters to take advantage of that.
ESPN said it would be ready to provide the broadcasts again "if or when 3D does take off."
ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
Jun 12, 2013 / 11:36 am
LONDON, UK - Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday in London at a meeting with oil, gas and mining executives.
"In advance of the G8 summit, I'm pleased to announce that Canada will establish new, mandatory reporting standards for payments made to foreign and domestic governments by Canadian extractive companies," Harper said.
"With 70 per cent of the world's mining companies listed in Canada, and 70 per cent of the world's free-enterprise oil located in Canada, our participation will help transform the way industry reports payments worldwide."
Leaders of the world's eight richest countries pledged after their 2011 meeting in Deauville, France, to consider new rules that would allow for greater scrutiny of companies' payments to governments. Critics say such measures are badly needed to expose corruption in countries with an abundance of natural resource riches.
Other countries, such as the United States and Hong Kong, already have similar measures in place.
Canada is a major player in the extractive industry, with hundreds of companies operating thousands of projects around the world.
Half of the mining that takes place around the world is done by Canadian companies. Sixty per cent of all the world's mining and exploration companies and 35 per cent of all oil and gas companies are listed on Canadian exchanges.
Anthony Hodge, head of the International Council on Mining and Metals, an industry group that represents some of the biggest mining companies, said the rules are needed both inside and outside Canada.
"This is not limited to out of Canada. There are issues inside Canada that are a real concern on this," Hodge said.
"But the issue is when you find yourself in a culture different than a Canadian culture where that kind of activity may be more common practice. And that's tough to deal (with) when you're a Canadian company trying to understand that culture and trying to bring to the table a less corrupt approach to doing business."
Oxfam Canada welcomed Harper's announcement, saying such transparency is vital if citizens in developing countries are to hold their governments accountable for investing resources revenues to fight poverty.
"We are very pleased that Prime Minister Harper has committed Canada to require extractive companies to report on their payments to governments," Mark Fried, the aid agency's policy director, said in a statement.
"We urge the federal government to work quickly with the provinces to ensure that the information is readily available to citizens in Africa, Latin America and Asia."
While there are already some standards and mechanisms in place for companies, these new rules would be enforceable by law.
"Now, obviously, this regime has been subject and will be subject going forward to additional consultations within Canada, but this is a direction we're determined to pursue because this information is essential for citizens to hold their governments accountable," Harper said.
"We'll obviously be working closely with the partners in the developing world."
The federal government will now consult with the provinces and territories, First Nations and aboriginal groups, industry and civil society organizations as it sets up its reporting regime. A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition his name not be used, said he expects it will take about two years to hold consultations and develop a framework for the new reporting regime.
Details such as how the reporting regime would be policed, and by whom, along with potential penalties for any companies that do not report their payments to other countries, need to be ironed out. It's possible provincial securities regulators could play a role, the official said.
The government is also trying to avoid burdening companies with too much extra paperwork, he added.
Transparency is at the top of the agenda at the coming G8 summit in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to leave the lakeside Lough Erne resort with an agreement on tougher transparency measures in hand.
"As you know, my trip here and around Europe this week is in advance of the G8 meetings next week. Prime Minister Cameron, as we know, has identified a number of priorities for the G8 this year, and one of those is transparency in the extractive sector, specifically in the mining and energy sectors," Harper said.
"This has long been a priority for Canada. We put great emphasis in Canada on corporate social responsibility, and through our various foreign-aid programs, we have assisted transparency in the extractive sector around the world."
But Cameron is reportedly encountering some resistance to a proposal that would force companies to reveal who actually owns them. Some might consider it somewhat embarrassing to the British prime minister, who is chairman of the G8 summit, if he fails to seal a deal on ownership-disclosure rules.
Beyond talks about the economy and financial issues, the G8 is also expected to focus on international security, particularly the Syrian conflict, Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs and anti-terrorism measures in Africa's Sahel region.
The G8 summit comes as Canada and the European Union are trying to conclude lengthy negotiations on a free trade agreement. The Prime Minister's Office has sought to play down any expectations a deal will be announced while Harper is in Europe this week, saying an agreement at this juncture is unlikely.
Harper himself said Wednesday he doesn't want to put a deadline on the talks.
"Obviously, these have been long discussions. They're continuing. We have been making a lot of progress, and they are the biggest trade negotiations Canada has ever had in its history," the prime minister said.
"That said, we are not going to set a timeline or a fixed date on which we're going to have an agreement, because it is essential that we be driven by the contents of the discussions.
"We will not arrive at an accord until such time as we think we have the best accord we can get for the Canadian people. And that will be what drives us, the contents, not some artificial timeline."
Canada is under pressure to conclude a deal before the European Union turns its attention to free trade negotiations with the United States this summer.
Among the issues believed to be on the negotiating table are financial services, Canadian beef exports, country-of-origin rules for vehicles, procurement limits for provinces and municipalities and drug patent protection.
Meanwhile, sources tell The Canadian Press the Conservative government has agreed to smooth the way for more takeovers of Canadian companies by European firms in one of several concessions during free trade talks.
Canada has also agreed to open up parts of its hydro-electric sector to a limited amount of foreign investment, say sources in Canada with intimate knowledge of the talks.
Canadian negotiators have also agreed to a provision to raise the threshold for reviewing foreign acquisitions from Europe to $1.5 billion, sources say. All acquisitions under that value would not be subject to a government assessment about whether they create a net benefit for Canada.
Jun 12, 2013 / 11:33 am
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was lower Wednesday afternoon, adding to a sharp loss in the previous session amid worries that central banks may withdraw efforts to help the global economic recovery.
The S&P/TSX composite index declined 75.79 points to 12,147.78 on top of a 159-point slide on Tuesday.
The Canadian dollar lost early momentum to move down 0.12 of a cent to 98.03 cents US.
U.S. indexes erased early gains. The Dow shed an early triple-digit advance to move down 70.42 points to 15,051.6, the Nasdaq dropped 21.45 points to 3,415.5 and the S&P 500 index declined 7.53 points to 1,618.6.
The TSX tumbled Tuesday after Japan's central bank failed to deliver expected measures to ease bond market volatility. Instead, the bank only upgraded its economic outlook.
There has also been concern about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will ease its monetary stimulus. The Fed has been buying bonds to push down market interest rates, which has helped fuel a strong rally on U.S. markets since late last year.
Speculation that the Fed will begin to wind down its quantitative easing program has also had the effect of pushing U.S. Treasury yields sharply higher, which in turn has had a negative effect on TSX defensive sectors as well such as real estate, utilities, telecom and pipeline stocks.
The telecom sector led TSX decliners on Wednesday, down 1.8 per cent and BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) fell $1.04 to $44.06
Utilities also pressured the Toronto market, down 1.44 per cent as Algonquin Power & Utilities (TSX:AQN) shed 20 cents to $7.29.
Commodity prices were higher but the energy sector lost one per cent even as the July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 69 cents to US$96.07 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) gave back 50 cents to C$29.03
July copper was up three cents to US$3.23 per pound after worries about Chinese growth helped send the metal down 17 cents over the previous four sessions. Uncertainty about China's recovery has weighed on markets following weekend data showing exports, retail sales and other indicators weaker than expected.
"They're trying to move more to sustainable development, not at all costs," observed Wes Mills, chief investment officer at Scotia Asset Management PM Advisor Services.
The TSX base metals sector slipped 0.84 per cent and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 74 cents to C$24.02.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE:CLF) said it was calling a temporary halt to its environmental assessment activities for a major chromite mine in the Ring of Fire region in remote northern Ontario. The company says the suspension is due to delays related to the environmental process, land surface rights and negotiations with the Ontario government about building infrastructure in the fly-in-only region. Its shares were two cents lower at US$17.48.
The gold sector was the leading advancer, up 1.25 per cent as August bullion on the Nymex gained $15 to US$1,392 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) improved by 24 cents to C$20.23.
The rally on U.S. markets has bypassed the TSX, which has been depressed by a mining sector weighed down by falling commodity prices amid a weak global economic recovery. Gold miners have also been a major weight as lower inflation concerns have depressed gold stocks and bullion prices.
Energy stocks have suffered because of demand concerns and worries about the future of major pipeline projects such as Keystone XL, which would move greater amounts of oilsands crude to American markets.
"Until we get word on Keystone and some of these bottlenecks, Canada will suffer on that side," Mills said.
"Really, if you look at the earnings growth by sector, energy and materials earnings growth is negative and thatâ€™s the whole story."
The TSX is down around 250 points year to date and has finished lower in seven of the past eight sessions.
In corporate news, Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) lost $80.7 million in the latest quarter including discontinued operations, down from $129.7 million in the first quarter of 2012. Revenue rose by 4.2 per cent to $884 million. Hudson's Bay stores in Canada had a 7.6 per cent same-store sales growth, offset by a 1.4 per cent decline at Lord & Taylor stores in the United States and its shares gained four cents to $16.20.
Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL) says the addition of 85 stores over the past year and strong growth at established locations helped push up revenue by 12 per cent to $448 million in the latest quarter. The Montreal-based discount chain also reported profit of $45.6 million or 62 cents per share, which missed estimates of 67 cents and its shares fell $2.56 to $70.02.
Jun 11, 2013 / 9:55 pm
BEIJING, China - Asian stocks fell Wednesday amid concern about a lack of new Japanese moves to calm bond markets and uncertainty about the outlook for U.S. monetary policy.
Oil prices fell to below $95 per barrel amid concern central bankers around the world might ease off measures to boost the global economy.
Investors were disappointed after Japan's central bank failed to deliver expected measures Tuesday to ease bond market volatility. Instead, the bank only upgraded its economic outlook.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225, the regional heavyweight, shed 1.8 per cent to 13,077.83, extending declines after spiking up nearly 5 per cent Monday after the prime minister promised new tax cuts. Markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for a holiday.
Seoul's Kospi shed 0.3 per cent to 1,914.86 while Sydney's ASX S&P 200 fell 0.9 per cent to 4,712.70. Singapore's FTSE Straits Times index lost 0.3 per cent to 3,160.28 and New Zealand was down 0.3 per cent at 4,448.97.
"Riots in Istanbul, central banks raising stop signs, bond yields on the rise and equity markets skidding; brace yourselves, we are in for a very rough ride over the coming weeks," Evan Lucas, market strategist for IG in Melbourne, said in an email commentary.
Uncertainty about China's recovery has weighed on markets following weekend data showing exports, retail sales and other indicators weaker than expected.
Trading this week has been lacklustre following a volatile period that saw many major markets come off multiyear or even record highs.
Major indices in the United States, Britain, France and Germany all fell Monday.
Investors also closely watching the United States and whether the Federal Reserve eases its monetary stimulus. The Fed has been buying bonds to push down market interest rates.
Speculation that the Fed might wind down its stimulus had depressed stock prices but concern eased after last week's U.S. jobs data suggested a recovery might not be strong enough yet.
The euro has gained on easing expectations of tighter U.S. monetary policy despite uncertainty about the outlook for the 17 countries that use the common European currency. But on Wednesday, the euro slipped to $1.3309 from $1.3311 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 96.49 yen from 96.22 yen.
Benchmark crude for July delivery declined 64 cents to $94.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract fell 39 cents to settle at $95.38.
Jun 11, 2013 / 9:03 pm
VICTORIA - Global energy corporations are "dead serious" about investing in British Columbia's potential as a world supplier of liquefied natural gas, said provincial Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman after a $16 billion announcement on Tuesday.
Malaysian national oil company Petronas said the investment would go towards a natural pipeline, LNG plants and an export terminal near Prince Rupert, on B.C.'s northern coast.
"Petronas has been very interested in LNG for B.C. for some time," said Coleman, who was just appointed B.C.'s minister responsible for natural gas in Premier Christy Clark's new cabinet last week. "What they've said is $11 billion for the plants, $5 billion for the pipeline. Basically, it's an announcement that says we're closer and moving along faster than you might have thought we were."
Arif Mahmood, Petronas' vice-president of corporate planning, said between $9 billion and $11 billion will be spent to construct two LNG plants.
A 750 kilometre-long pipeline, to be built by TransCanada Corp., would supply gas to the plants, he said Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press.
The Pacific Northwest LNG project would liquefy and export natural gas produced in northeastern B.C. by Progress Energy Canada.
LNG is produced when the gas is super-cooled to produce a liquid, making it easier to export to overseas customers.
Petronas bought Calgary-based Progress last year in a $6-billion friendly deal. The two companies had been previously working together on the same projects.
In January, Calgary-based TransCanada said it would design, build, own and operate the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project for Progress Energy.
Coleman said the proposed Petronas project will undergo a provincial environmental assessment process that will take at least a year to complete.
He said it appears the Petronas project will be powered by natural gas, permitted under B.C.'s Clean Energy Act.
Environmental organizations say using natural gas to power LNG plants increases harmful greenhouse gas emissions and virtually ensures B.C. will not meet its legislated target of cutting GHG emissions by one-third by 2020.
Coleman said the Petronas project is one of four major LNG proposals worth billions that are under consideration in northwest B.C.
"The four are at different stages, but some of them are at significant decision points over the next few months," said Coleman.
Shell and Chevron are seriously considering LNG facilities for Kitimat, while British Gas and Petronas are looking at the Prince Rupert area.
"Shell's been here for a while, so has Chevron with Apache and so has British Gas," Coleman said. "I don't think it's a pipe dream. I actually believe this is very real. My conversations with the companies, both in The Hague with Shell, British Gas in England, and these other groups, their senior people, they're dead serious about B.C. natural gas."
Clark's jobs plan has forecast one pipeline and LNG terminal in operation by 2015 and three others up and running by 2020.
The provincial government says LNG represents a potential trillion-dollar economic opportunity that could create thousands of jobs and result in revenue that could eliminate the provincial debt within 15 years.
B.C.'s debt is currently at more than $62 billion and forecast to increase.
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