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There is a currently a window of opportunity open for Canada to set up shipping of natural gas to Asia, says former federal industry minister Jim Prentice, but it will have to move quickly to stay abreast of U.S. competition.
Prentice, now a vice-president at CIBC, says there is some urgency for Canada to adjust to the new reality of the North American energy market, in which the U.S. is a major producer.
“We’ve gone from being a comfortable natural gas producer to the U.S., to now competing with the U.S.,” he in an interview with CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
“The changes that have driven all this, the technological changes have taken place so quickly, I think it caught people off guard,” he said.
There is now considered to be a glut of natural gas production in North America because of new technology that allows the capture of shale gas.
‘We are going from being a continental energy producer to being a global energy player. And in order to do that we have to secure market access’– Jim Prentice
There are severalproposals for liquefied natural gas terminals to export from British Columbia to markets in China, Japan and India, but nothing is near being realized.
Prentice acknowledged that the projects require multi-billion-dollar financial commitments, but says Canada risks losing out to the U.S., which has moved faster on buiiding natural gas shipping terminals.
“People are only going to launch those kinds of projects if they have the certainty they require and that relates to the royalty regime, that relates to the fiscal regime, that relates to their capacity to export. These are all things we’re good at as Canadians, but we need to make sure we’re focused on it,” he said.
His comments came the same day that Exxon Mobile Corp is predicting worldwide demand for natural gas will jump 65 per cent over the next 25 years.
Exxon issued its annual review of energy supply and demand, a closely watched report that sets the course for production and alerts policymakers to the changes they might have to prepare for.
Exxon, the U.S. largest gas producer, is preparing for surging demand from developing countries, even as developed countries embrace emissions controls and greater energy efficiency.
Natural gas prices fall
Natural gas prices have been falling as the U.S. production of shale gas surges. That has prompted some Canadian energy firms to reduce their exposure to natural gas.
Prentice said Canada has to be prepared to invest in the opportunities for Canadian energy opening up overseas.
“The world is awash in natural gas, what it doesn’t have is an ample supply of stable nation states that can fulfill contracts over a 50 year period – that’s what’s needed,” he said.
“We are going from being a continental energy producer to being a global energy player. And in order to do that we have to secure market access,” he added.
Prentice said he is optimistic that the correct groundwork is being laid to complete projects such as LNG terminals on the West Coast and the Northern Gateway pipeline. He has urged the federal government to continue to engage with First Nations in communities that will be affected by the projects.
The long-term outlook by Exxon predicts that world energy demand will grow 35 per cent by 2040.
“People want a warm home, a refrigerator, a TV, someday a car, and a cellphone,” said William Colton, Exxon’s vice-president for corporate strategic planning.
Among its predictions:
- Oil demand will rise 25 per cent by 2040 as it will remain “the fuel of choice for transportation.”
- Deepwater, oilsands and shale oil production will be necessary to meet demand.
- Demand for coal will rise until 2015, but fall by 2040 as countries abandon coal-fired power.
- Nuclear power will see “solid growth.”
- Supplies of renewable energy will increase nearly 60 per cent by 2040, led by increases in hydro, wind and solar.
Exxon prefaced its long-term outlook report with a call to lift the U.S. ban on exporting domestic crude oil, which dates back to the 1973 oil crisis.
Ken Cohen, Exxon’s vice president of public and government affairs, told the Wall Street Journal the ban no longer makes sense because the U.S. is “dealing with a situation of abundance.”
Canadians’ debt ratio increased last quarter, but so did the value of their assets, so the national net worth increased. (The Associated Press)
The amount that Canadians owe compared to their disposable income rose to an all-time record last quarter, although their net worth also increased.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that the level of household credit market debt to disposable income increased to 163.7 per cent in the third quarter from 163.1 per cent in the second quarter.
That means Canadians owe nearly $1.64 for every $1 in disposable income they earn in a year.
‘The seasonal bounce in mortgage borrowing in the previous quarter picked up into the fall’– Royal Bank economist Laura Cooper
Policymakers are fixated on the debt ratio in part because it was at above 160 per cent that households in the United States and Britain ran into trouble about five years ago, contributing to defaults and the financial crisis that triggered the 2008-09 recession.
Debt loads can be influenced by seasonal factors, and although the headline figure is higher, the rate of growth in that ratio was the smallest in 12 years.
“Those figures should be encouraging for policymakers and suggest that the Bank of Canada’s belief that imbalances are evolving constructively is right on the mark,” said Benjamin Reitzes, a senior economist with BMO Capital Markets.
Indeed, while they are borrowing more, Canadians are also worth more as their assets increase by a similar amount. The national net worth increased to $7.5 trillion in the third quarter, up 2.1 per cent from the previous quarter.
On a per capita basis, that works out to $212,700 for every Canadian. The previous quarter, that figure was $208,300.
Canadians saw their financial assets go up in value, as well as their non-financial assets (such as houses) do the same. The value of shares and other equities gained 3.7 per cent in the quarter, while the value of household real estate gained 1.5 per cent.
“The pace of debt accumulation picked up slightly in the third quarter as the seasonal bounce in mortgage borrowing in the previous quarter picked up into the fall,” Royal Bank economist Laura Cooper said.
With files from The Canadian Press
National Affairs Specialist
Greg Weston is an investigative reporter and a regular political commentator on CBC Radio and Television. Based in Ottawa, he has afflicted governments of all stripes for over three decades. His investigative work has won awards including the coveted Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. He is also the author of two best-selling books, Reign of Error and The Stopwatch Gang.
The revelation that a little-known Canadian intelligence operation has been electronically spying on trading partners and other nations around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, has critics wondering who’s keeping an eye on our spies.
The answer is a watchdog, mostly muzzled and defanged, whose reports to Parliament are first censored by the intelligence agency he is watching, then cleared by the minister politically responsible for any problems in the first place.
By the time the reports reach the public, they are rarely newsworthy.
The Harper government recently appointed a new oversight commissioner for Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada. But he will be only part-time until next April.
Even then, Senator Hugh Segal, the chief of staff to former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and someone with a long involvement in security intelligence issues, says any notion of effective public oversight of Canada’s electronic spying agency is “more like a prayer” than fact.
The debate over who’s keeping tabs on our spies has heightened in recent days following a CBC News report detailing a top secret document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The document shows that the agency known as CSEC set up covert spying posts around the world at the request of the giant NSA.
Both agencies gather intelligence by intercepting mostly foreign phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a widespread investigation of the NSA after leaked Snowden documents revealed the agency was gathering massive amounts of information on millions of American citizens.
In this country, the Harper government simply keeps pointing to CSEC’s oversight commissioner as proof that Canadians have nothing to worry about.
As Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the Commons this week: “There is a commissioner that looks into CSEC [and] every year for 16 years has confirmed that they’ve acted within lawful activities.”
Well, not exactly.
‘Contrary to law’
Only months ago, the recently retired CSEC commissioner, Justice Robert Decary, stated in his final report that he had uncovered records suggesting some of CSEC’s spying activities “may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to law.”
The retired justice said the CSEC records were so unclear or incomplete that he was unable to determine whether the agency had been operating legally.
Decary’s predecessor, Justice Charles Gonthier, filed the same complaint about incomplete or missing records in his day, which forced him to report in a similar fashion that he could not determine if CSEC had been breaking the law.
Gonthier also alluded to a CSEC operation in 2006 that he suggested may have been illegal.
The head of CSEC at the time, John Adams, recently told CBC News that, as a result of that discovery, “I shut the place down for a while.”
However, intelligence experts have told CBC News that the oversight problems at CSEC are much deeper than poor record-keeping.
They say successive commissioners have simply lacked both the resources and the legal mandate to conduct meaningful oversight.
The current commissioner, Judge Jean-Pierre Plouffe, operates with a staff of 11, about half of whom actually work on investigations, largely to ensure CSEC isn’t abusing its powers by spying on Canadians.
But CSEC employs over 2,000 people who covertly collect masses of information recently described as more data per day than all the country’s banking transactions combined.
As Segal says, the result is obvious: “When there are thousands of people at CSEC processing millions of messages every day of all kinds, the notion that a group of 11 might be able to provide proper oversight is more like a prayer than any kind of constructive statement of fact.”
Not exactly as written
Of course, even if a commissioner did discover something seriously amiss at the electronic eavesdropping agency, there is a chance Canadians would never know.
Here’s how the system works:
Suppose the commissioner’s oversight sleuths discover that CSEC is illegally intercepting phone calls and hacking into the computers of certain Canadians.
The oversight commissioner is required to report his discovery in a top secret report to the defence minister.
That happens to be the same minister responsible for CSEC, and from whom the agency gets its government direction.
It is also the minister who would be at the centre of any CSEC scandal if news of this breach leaked out.
If the minister refuses to expose his own agency’s wrongdoing, the oversight commissioner can try to use his annual report to Parliament to do that.
But a funny thing happens on the way to Parliament.
First, CSEC gets to censor the entire report. Then it goes back to the same defence minister.
The minister is required to present the sanitized version of the report to Parliament, but has no obligation to mention it is not exactly as originally written.
Former CSEC chief Adams admits the agency is “very, very biased towards the less the public knows the better.”
He points out that in the spying business, opening an agency’s operations to full public scrutiny “would be kind of like unilateral disarmament, because if Canadians know everything CSEC can and can’t do, then everyone else will too.”
But as the leaked Snowden documents continue to force back the curtains at CSEC, Adams says it is time to find a better way to reassure Canadians about what they are doing.
“I think a knowledgeable Canadian is going to be much easier to deal with,” he says.
If the public reaction to the Snowden revelations is any indication, Canadians are all ears.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych “intends to sign” the far-reaching trade and co-operation agreement with the European Union that he rejected only last month, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
- ANALYSIS: Divided Ukraine roiled by protest, love-hate with Russia
- VIDEO: George Clooney supports Ukrainian protesters
- On mobile? Watch here
Ashton said Thursday that after talks with Yanukovych in Kiev it was clear that the short-term economic and financial issues Ukraine faces can be alleviated by signing the association agreement, which will bring in fresh investment from EU nations.
Ashton said that “look, Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement.”
Signing would be an about-face for Yanukovych since his rejection to close the deal last month made it clear he sought closer links with Russia instead. Mass protests in Kiev since have been calling for closer links with the EU.
Canada’s electronic spy agency is defending its espionage activities against countries around the world, including trading partners — often at the request of the U.S. — as necessary to support government decision-making and provide a better understanding of global events.
The statement came in response to questions that CBC News posed to the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the little-known spy service that collects intelligence by intercepting mainly foreign communications and hacking into computer data systems.
CBC News reported Monday that a top secret document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals Canada has set up covert spying posts at the request of the giant U.S. National Security Agency, and is involved in joint espionage operations with the NSA in about 20 countries.
CSEC says it has a “mandate to intercept foreign communications signals to respond to government of Canada priorities.”
The agency says it collects foreign intelligence “to protect Canadians from threats, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
It is not clear in either the leaked Snowden document or CSEC’s response to it, what kind of threats Canada faces that would require it to conduct espionage against 20 countries, including some of its important trading partners.
The secret document reveals that Canada has undertaken spying operations in countries that are “unavailable” to the NSA, as well as setting up listening posts “at the request” of the U.S. agency.
CBC News asked CSEC whether it does whatever the NSA asks it to do.
The agency replied that its activities respond only to the priorities of the Canadian government, “many of which are common to our allies.”
All of this sparked some heated questions for the Harper government in the House of Commons today.
NDP MP Jack Harris demanded to know whether the government would implement some form of parliamentary oversight of the spy service in light of the CBC News report.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, who is responsible for CSEC, pointed out only that the operations of the intelligence service are already reviewed by an oversight commissioner.
That commissioner reports to Nicholson.
I didn’t study business before I became a business reporter. I studied architecture, and of all the knowledge I acquired the most important was that I was not destined to be an architect.
Journalism was a lucky accident, born of necessity, and business journalism even more so. The underdog paper that would hire me in 1994 was the Financial Post and so I dove into the world of business.
From the beginning, I admired the untidy elegance of the way an economy functions. I believed in and even came to revere the importance of markets — that is, well-oiled machines whose only real job is to set prices.
Markets work to ensure that resources are allocated efficiently. Accurate prices are at the heart of that efficiency and the result isn’t some remote or arcane thing, it is prosperity and happiness for humans. Well-priced markets are essential. Fairness is essential.
‘Whenever it is possible to fix a price for personal gain, someone is doing it’
Over time, I watched a number of changes take place aimed at levelling the playing field. From the long ago days when stocks were traded by a group of men who met under a buttonwood tree in lower Manhattan, to a game that is pitched to grandmothers — “Manage your own money! You too can be wealthy!” — the rules have changed.
In the late 1990s, as technology stocks bubbled to a temperature that would burn some investors for a decade or more, rules about fairness of pricing were implemented. The point of the most important such rule, known as Regulation Fair Disclosure, was that insiders — or the “smart money,” as professional money managers are sometimes called — shouldn’t have an unfair edge in the form of access to information. Prices are only perfect if all information is priced in and the more participants there are to that process, the more pristine the outcome. Or so the thinking went.
How naive that view now seems. How innocent. Because for the last two years, as the globe staggered back to its feet in recovery from the body blow delivered by fast moving investment banks that lost sight of basic risk management policies, the number of examples of ways in which the markets are rigged are too numerous to count.
Each one seems more shocking than the last.
Insider trading, as old as the hills, is now a billion-dollar enterprise at certain investment funds and part of the culture of many. Investment banks may be gaming the price of some commodities, with a subsequent cost that reaches every corner of the planet. Currency traders collude with each other to make tiny profit on their trades, writ large over billions of executions.
The system is rigged
Then the most shocking of all, a key international interest rate used to set trillions of dollars of prices, is being manipulated. LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is like the foundation of a house that holds billions of people. If that foundation is askew — as we now know it was — what does that say about huge parts of the markets and those prices we thought were based on real information? A mirage.
For this business journalist, the shock of that was intense. There will always be fraudsters — smooth-talking snake oil pitchmen — and regulators are on the lookout for them. But the evidence is mounting that whenever it is possible to fix a price for personal gain, someone is doing it.
That’s not just a disappointment; it undermines the entire system. Tiny price distortions get magnified across the global economy. We all pay, even if we don’t really know it. Most important, if market participants — from a sophisticated bond trader trying to price a bond based off a benchmark rate, to your grandmother putting her life savings into a stock — don’t believe in its fundamental soundness, don’t believe that prices are as fair as prices can be, the entire thing falls apart.
It happened in Holland in the 17th century, when tulip bulbs became an irrational bubble. It has happened often in fact, in tiny pockets, from land in Florida to London Bridge. The outcome of those incidents is distrust and an unwillingness to invest there again.
So what is the outcome if those kinds of mispricings are everywhere? That’s a thought too stark to contemplate. Better that investors — the “dumb money” that is you and me — sit up and take notice before it’s too late. If indeed it isn’t already.
Canada has set up spying posts and conducted espionage at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, according to top secret documents retrieved by US whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported exclusively by CBC News.
The information is contained in a four-page document marked Top Secret by the NSA and dated April 3, 2013. This makes it one of the freshest documents available in a trove of over 50,000 pages.
CBC has decided not to publish much of the information in the document because the information would be harmful to Canadian national security.
The document, a briefing note prepared for a senior leader at the NSA, describes the nature of the intelligence relationship between the United States’ largest spy agency and its Canadian partner, the Communications Security Establishment Canada.
It makes clear for the first time the intricate and intimate relationship between Canadian and American spy agencies that was formed in a secret agreement more than six decades ago.
The document goes further to show that a number of Americans are working at CSEC and Canadians are working at the NSA’s top-secret facility in Maryland.
In the document, the NSA depicts CSEC as a sophisticated, capable and highly respected intelligence partner involved in all manner of joint spy missions.
Ex-TSB director on CN 3:45
- 44 train derailments on main tracks not reported by CN
- Whistleblower lawsuit says CN is cooking its books
- Find runaway trains near your community
- Rail safety: Train operators breaking more rules in recent years
- Runaway train incidents ‘shocking,’ Olivia Chow says
- Runaway trains almost triple reported rate, CBC finds
A continuing CBC News investigation into rail safety has found that Canada’s largest freight carrier CN Rail did not report to authorities more than 1,800 derailments, including 44 on key rail arteries.
This came to light in 2005 when the Transportation Safety Board’s director of rail investigations says he became suspicious of a dramatic difference between CN’s accident numbers compared to other operators.
“All of a sudden there became a wide discrepancy in the [derailment] numbers [compared with CN’s competitors],” recalls Ian Naish, who left the TSB in 2009. “You say ‘Well, OK, what’s going on here?’ ”
The safety watchdog agency took an unprecedented step and issued a statutory summons in June, 2006 to CN Rail requiring it to turn over its complete safety records. The TSB found a total of 1,843 unreported derailments, including 44 main-track derailments, over a six-year period.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman told CBC News that the company’s failure stemmed from a disagreement over the types of minor accidents it must self-report to the TSB.
“At no time did CN attempt to hide or under-report accidents,” Hallman said. “Following a series of discussions, CN and the TSB reached agreement on an interpretation for reportable equipment and track damage.”
An ‘artificial’ increase: CN
The first TSB discussions on CN’s reporting took place in September 2005. Naish told CBC News he “was not happy at all with someone from industry telling me what should be reported and what should not be reported.”
The TSB sent a strongly worded letter in April, 2006, laying out the importance of including all CN accident occurrences in the national rail safety database for trend analysis to prevent major accidents.
“We need to have insights into circumstances where something has gone wrong, even if there has been no substantial damage, injury or loss of life, so that trends can be detected and appropriate safety action considered,” wrote TSB’s David Kinsman on April 20, 2006.
Ed Harris, CN’s executive vice-president of operation, responded by saying the TSB’s reporting criteria was subjective — it didn’t demand all derailments be reported, only those that “sustain damage that affects safe operation.” He encouraged the TSB to begin work revising its reporting regulations.
CN insisted it reported its derailments and collisions the same way since the early 1990s, and to re-report subject to TSB demands would lead to an increase in their accident numbers.
“This would put us in a position of having to defend to the media and public, an artificial increase in reportable accidents solely based on a perceived need and interpretation change by the TSB,” added Harris.
- MAP | 44 train derailments on main tracks not reported by CN
- Read CN’s response & TSB’s response at the bottom of this article
The summons, issued a month later, elicited numbers that even surprised Naish, who feels that all of them should have been reported in the first place.
While many of the unreported accidents were inside rail yards and were minor, some involved damaged rail cars, locomotives and track, including a 2005 derailment of a car on a main track near Fort Langley, B.C. that broke 11 rails and a damaged a switch. In 2002, seven cars derailed at a Toronto-area CN yard destroying a rail switch and damaging 110 metres of rail.
‘Numbers matter’: Chow
The TSB entered the new CN data into its internal database but never publicly revealed, nor sanctioned CN, for its years of under-reporting.
CN also came under scrutiny in the U.S. for its compliance with regulators.
In 2009, a Federal Railroad Administration inspector named Timothy McQuaid noticed an increase in mechanically-caused derailments by CN trains. He sent a team to examine cars after CN’s carmen had done their inspections, and his team found a consistent failure by CN to correctly identify and repair defects.
According to an FRA press release announcing an award McQuaid would win for his work on this file, CN dismissed the findings as “minor.”
However, McQuad did an extensive audit to prove the scope of CN’s non-compliance, which eventually led CN to acknowledge “the seriousness of its shortcomings,” said the FRA at its award ceremony. In 2010 the FRA imposed a two-year compliance agreement on CN to improve mechanical inspections, by adequately trained and resourced personnel, with a focus on safety.
Auditors at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) also called upon the railway to explain irregularities in the number of reported track delays and road blockages in the Chicago area. CN identified 14 delays, but auditors found more than 1,400 in a two-month period in 2010.
CN said it was due to different reporting interpretations. The STB decided to keep close tabs on CN for five years, and because of continued concerns with CN’s reporting, added a year.
“If there’s no consequence from hiding the truth, why wouldn’t companies continue to hide?” Olivia Chow, federal NDP transport critic told CBC News after reviewing CN’s records.
“I think we need to know, from 2007 on, to now, are there other accidents, especially derailments that Canadians need to know about,” Chow said questioning the continuing drop in all kinds of derailments in the TSB’s current data, which relies on ‘self-reporting’ by rail companies.
Naish, who now works as a consultant, believes that CN’s system of bonuses and rewards could influence the reporting of lower accident rates.
“I think the rewards system is ‘the less accidents you report, the better’,” said Naish, but that’s “not the way it should be in an optimal safety culture.”
Amin Mawani, an associate professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, reviewed public documents detailing CN’s bonus structure.
“Senior management has clear incentives to reduce actual safety violations,” said Mawani. “In the short run, there may be some incentive to under-report safety violations with the hope that such problems can be fixed before customers and shareholders find out.”
CN, however, said its bonus system “rewards the right behaviours.”
“CN believes remuneration should take into account the achievements of safety-related objectives, so long as it is coupled with a system that protects data integrity,” wrote Hallman in an email.
Though the TSB said the company is now compliant, Naish questions whether CN today is properly reporting all accidents.
TSB spokeswoman Rox-Anne D’Aoust said the agency takes reporting requirements and the need for accurate data seriously.
D’Aoust said they will review “occurrence trends from month to month and a statistical comparison of CN data with previous years and across the industry.”
“In light of the recent public and media questions, we will take a closer look at the data to determine if there is anything unusual and whether any followup is necessary,” said D’Aoust.
Today is the deadline for Canada to file scientific evidence to justify its claim to Arctic resources beyond its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The federal government is being cagey about the submission that it is supposed to file within 10 years of signing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty setting out maritime rules.
“It’s being a really closely held secret. The big thing that everyone is wondering about is how far up the Lomonosov Ridge we’re [Canada] actually going to go,” says University of Calgary professor and Arctic expert Rob Huebert.
The Lomonosov Ridge is an undersea mountain range that runs between Ellesmere Island, Canada’s most northern land mass, and the east Siberian coast in Russia.
The science package that Canada will file with the UN is essentially a series of undersea co-ordinates that map what the government claims is this country’s extended continental shelf. Under Article 76 of the UN maritime treaty, any coastal country can claim rights to the seabed and sub-seabed up to 150 nautical miles beyond its exclusive economic zone.
In one exception, a country can claim beyond 150 nautical miles if there is a ridge that juts out from its extended continental shelf.
Canada could potentially have conflicting claims with Denmark on its border with Greenland and with the U.S. in the Beaufort Sea. But the contentious overlap might be with Russia on the Lomonosov Ridge.
Russia presented its claim to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2001. That claim ran along the Lomonosov Ridge right up to the North Pole. If Canada has a claim to the Lomonosov Ridge, it could reach 200 nautical miles beyond the pole. That is the halfway point between Canada and Russia.
The UN commission just judges the science and doesn’t have the power to resolve competing claims. Those have to be resolved state-to-state.
University of Ottawa Russia specialist Ivan Katchanovski doesn’t expect there will be a conflict, even if the Canadian and Russian claims overlap.
“There is potential for significant dispute, but don’t expect this is going to lead to a major confrontation or cold war,” Katchanovski told CBC News.
He argued that such a confrontation would make Russian President Vladimir Putin look weak.
“Putin wants to collaborate with Western powers. He does not want to be treated as a secondary power. He wants to be considered to be equal,” Katchanovski explained. “Any confrontation would be detrimental to the Russian image abroad.”
As for the Danes and Americans, Canada worked closely with both of them on mapping the sea floor. Denmark submitted its claim to the commission in November.
U.S. hasn’t signed treaty
The U.S. situation is a little more complicated. It has yet to ratify the maritime treaty, so it doesn’t have the right to submit a scientific claim to the UN commission.
That hasn’t stopped the Americans from working with Canada, though.
“We get along pretty well with the Canadians, and with respect to the surveying of the extended continental shelf, the two countries found that they could co-operate, and that would be a win-win that would save the taxpayers money,” said John P. Bellinger III, an international law expert and former adviser to the last Bush administration on the treaty.
Bellinger said the U.S. would accept Canada’s submission to the UN commission even if there was overlap, “provided that it does not prejudice the U.S. claim.”
Bellinger did offer one caveat to the government in Ottawa.
“If Canada tries to take the North Pole just before Christmas, I think the United States would be very opposed to that.”
Shanghai authorities ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction Friday as China’s financial hub suffered one its worst bouts of air pollution, bringing visibility down to a few dozen metres, delaying flights and obscuring the city’s spectacular skyline.
The financial district was shrouded in a yellow haze, and noticeably fewer people walked the city’s streets. Vehicle traffic also was thinner, as authorities pulled 30 per cent of government vehicles from the roads. They also banned fireworks and public sporting events.
“I feel like I’m living in clouds of smog,” said Zheng Qiaoyun, a local resident who kept her six-month-old son at home. “I have a headache, I’m coughing, and it’s hard to breathe on my way to my office.”
‘Today, Shanghai air really has a layered taste. At first, it tastes slightly astringent with some smokiness. Upon full contact with your palate, the aftertaste has some earthy bitterness…’– Alan Yu, chef
Shanghai’s concentration of tiny, harmful PM 2.5 particles reached 602.5 micrograms per cubic metre Friday afternoon, an extremely hazardous level that was the highest since the city began recording such data last December. That compares with the World Health Organization’s safety guideline of 25 micrograms.
The dirty air that has gripped Shanghai and its neighbouring provinces for days is attributed to coal burning, car exhaust, factory pollution and weather patterns, and is a stark reminder that pollution is a serious challenge in China. Beijing, the capital, has seen extremely heavy smog several times over the past year. In the far northeastern city of Harbin, some monitoring sites reported PM 2.5 rates up to 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in October, when the winter heating season kicked off.
Pollution levels unusual for Shanghai
As a coastal city, Shanghai usually has mild to modest air pollution, but recent weather patterns have left the city’s air stagnant. On China’s social media, netizens swapped jokes over the rivalry between Shanghai and Beijing, saying the financial hub was catching up with the capital in air pollution.
Alan Yu, a chef in Shanghai, satirized the air on his microblog as though he were sampling a new vintage of wine.
“Today, Shanghai air really has a layered taste. At first, it tastes slightly astringent with some smokiness. Upon full contact with your palate, the aftertaste has some earthy bitterness, and upon careful distinguishing you can even feel some dust-like particulate matter,” Yu wrote.
The environmental group Greenpeace said slow-moving and low-hanging air masses had carried factory emissions from Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong provinces to Shanghai. But it said the root problem lies with the excessive industrial emissions in the region, including Zhejiang province to the south.
“Both Jiangsu and Zhejiang should act as soon as possible to set goals to reduce their coal consumption so that the Yantze River Delta will again be green with fresh air,” Huang Wei, a Greenpeace project manager, said in a statement.