Canada column for Sunday, March 5/17
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
There’s some relief in Alberta’s oil patch over reports the proposed Keystone XL pipeline might be exempt from using only U.S.-made steel.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order clearing the way for the multi-billion-dollar project subject to state and regulatory approvals, after it was earlier rejected by then President Barack Obama.
At that time, Trump directed there be only U.S. steel used on all new infrastructure projects.
The news outlet Politico reported that Keystone XL by TransCanada Corp. of Calgary would qualify for an exemption since it doesn’t meet the definition of a new pipeline project.
The line, which would carry 830,000 barrels a day of Alberta oilsands bitumen to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, is still being hotly contested by environmentalists.
A statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said the exemption, “if confirmed,” would be a welcome recognition that the steel industries in both countries are heavily integrated and support jobs on both sides of the border.
Mayor John Tory said he's "very concerned" about soaring house prices as the average for a Toronto detached home reached $1.57 million (Canadian), an increase of 29.8 percent from a year ago.
The average overall selling price for all types of homes was up 19.2 percent at $859,186 – blamed or credited on a shortage of houses for sale, strong immigration arrivals and low interest rates.
There are concerns that policy-makers need to intervene, as they did in Vancouver with measures including a tax on foreign buyers.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said there was a 41.9-percent drop in houses sold last month compared with a year earlier.
Metro Vancouver’s “composite benchmark price” was $906,700, 14 percent higher than six months ago.
News in brief:
- Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, is in Emerson, Manitoba this weekend assessing the situation where would-be asylum seekers have been crossing illegally into Canada from the U.S. Security officials said about 435 refugees have walked across the border into Manitoba, Quebec and British Columbia this year. Affected communities are seeking more support from the government to help cope with the influx.
- Ontarians are finally getting some relief with their soaring electricity bills. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced an average 17-percent cut in rates in May along with the current eight-percent tax rollback. There will be further savings for rural and low-income customers in the province where bills have doubled in the past decade.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar has fallen two cents in the past week to 74.58 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.34 Canadian, before exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 15,574 points while the TSX Venture index is 808 points.
The average price for gas in Canada is higher at $1.067 a liter or $4.05 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
Lotto 6/49: (March 1) 6, 14, 17, 18, 31 and 43; bonus 38. (Feb. 25) 21, 23, 31, 33, 38 and 42; bonus 22. Lotto Max: (Feb. 24) 1, 17, 19, 23, 28, 29 and 47; bonus 10.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with health-care workers in Vancouver on Friday to review the illicit drug overdose crisis that led to almost 1,000 deaths in British Columbia, largely from fentanyl, last year. He recently announced $10 million of federal funds for the province to improve its response to the crisis. As for marijuana, Trudeau said legislation to legalize it will be discussed soon and the law would regulate the sale to protect young people and take money away from criminal gangs.
- Craig Whittle of St. John’s, Newfoundland isn’t just lucky, he knows his NBA teams. Whittle won $188,000 last week that was the highest-ever payout for Pro-Line in Atlantic Canada and has now won another $13,000 on his basketball picks. Calling himself “Newfoundland’s worst goalie,” he’s the province’s best Pro-Liner who also won $12,000 in 2016.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com