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Greenhouse gas reduction called threat to oil industry – Politics – CBC News

Greenhouse gas reduction called threat to oil industry – Politics – CBC News.

Greenhouse gas reduction called threat

Greenhouse gas reduction called threat 2:09

Alberta’s proposed oil and gas regulations are too ambitious and will hobble the Canadian industry’s ability to compete, says the industry association in Alberta government documents obtained through provincial freedom of information laws.

The industry group says the proposed regulations won’t buy any goodwill and the government should delay their introduction.

The 200-page trove of memos, correspondence and reports offers a rare glimpse behind boardroom doors at the negotiations between industry and government to craft rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers offers blunt assessments of Alberta’s plan to introduce rules that would demand industry reduce greenhouse gases by 40 per cent per barrel and charge $40 per tonne of CO2 above that level.

David DalyDavid Daly, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ manager of fiscal policy, penned the file titled CAPP Concerns and Questions for Alberta and Consultants. It was made public under Alberta’s freedom of information legislation. (LinkedIn Photo)

Alberta already has a carbon pricing scheme that costs CAPP members about 10 cents per barrel of oil. The new plan could cost industry up to 94 cents per barrel.

“Proposed 40/40 is 9 fold increase over current. Why such a dramatic step?” writes David Daly, CAPP’s manager of fiscal policy. The average price that a barrel of western Canadian bitumen fetched in 2013 was about $75, so the carbon-pricing increase would represent about a one per cent increase in the cost of a barrel oil.

That is just one quote from a file titled, CAPP Concerns and Questions for Alberta and Consultants. It tells the tale of an industry afraid that strong oil and gas regulations will rob it of what little competitive edge it has.

Strikingly candid comments

The candour is striking:

  • “Will higher stringency requirements impact production and revenue? Very likely.”
  • “GHG policies should be done in concert with other jurisdictions. US has no carbon tax. Why be so far out in front of them? What is that based on?”
  • “Will higher stringency requirements [oil and gas regulations] deliver greater GHG reductions? Unlikely. The challenge with the oil sands is that current technology is not yet available for deployment.”

In the end, the industry’s prescription is to delay putting the regulations into effect.

“Major policies like this one should not be fast-tracked. Adequate time is required for study analysis and consultation,” writes Daly.

That suggestion irks environmentalists, who point out that negotiations over oil and gas regulations between industry and the federal and provincial governments have been going on for over two years.

“This is not a case where we need more research. We need more action and that’s what hasn’t been happening,” argued Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank.

The industry defends itself by pointing out that the documents provide just a snapshot in the middle of negotiations and that nothing is final yet.

“What we want to ensure is that we’ve got a competitive industry in Canada that can continue to grow, but also, very importantly, can continue to invest in the technologies that are going to be extremely important in driving down greenhouse gas emissions,” said David Collyer, CAPP’s president, in an interview with CBC News.

In the documents, the CAPP plan calls for a 20 per cent intensity reduction and $20 per tonne of CO2.

That is half of what the Alberta government’s plan is and only marginally stronger than the regulations now — 12 per cent and $15, said Demerse.

But the CAPP document explains the association’s approach.

“Will higher stringency requirements ‘secure’ social license [public support] and forestall negative policy action elsewhere? Unlikely,” writes Daly.

Demerse, on the other hand, believes that weak regulations are just going to make doing business harder for the oil and gas industry.

“The customers of the oilsands are asking very tough questions. Right now, the sector does not have good answers to give. When they continue to ask for what is essentially the weakest possible regulation, I don’t think that is working for their real best interest.”

 

Ontario power rates to rise under new plan – Toronto – CBC News

Ontario power rates to rise under new plan – Toronto – CBC News.

Energy rates to rise

Energy rates to rise 2:36

The Ontario government has unveiled its long-term energy strategy and if you’re paying a power bill, you can expect to pay up to 33 per cent more in coming years.

 

The average monthly bill in Ontario right now is around $125 per month. By 2016, that will jump to $167 a month. Within 20 years, the average bill will rise to $210 per month.

 

One of the factors is the end of the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit, which currently knocks 10 per cent off part of your hydro bill. There are no plans to continue that program beyond 2015.

 

Instead, the Wynne government will introduce programs aimed an encouraging ratepayers to use less power.

Boost in conservation efforts

The government expects Ontarians to boost conservation by 11 per cent over 20 years by making the following changes:

  • A possible rise in the price difference between peak and off-peak hours for power use.
  • A new program to offer loans for renovations that boost energy efficiency, with the cost added to the user’s monthly hydro bill.
  • Changes to allow each ratepayer to view their electricity usage rates compared and contrasted with those of their neighbours.

The Liberals will still proceed with upgrades to nuclear reactors at the Darlington and Bruce generating stations starting in 2016. The government also plans to shut down the Pickering nuclear station by 2020.

 

The government says though rates are going up, they are not as high as predicted in the last energy plan released three years ago.

hi-ns-electricity-metreOntario’s Liberal government rolled out their energy plan Monday, and conceded that electricity bills will be going up. (CBC)

 

The opposition argues this is not good news, saying the reason the province doesn’t need new sources of power is because so many manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ontario.

The Progressive Conservatives said the Liberal power strategy will fail to bring back lost jobs and will drive companies out of the province.

 

 

“This is a government that’s actually doubled hydro rates and chased 300,000 manufacturing jobs out of the province,” said PC Leader Tim Hudak.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ontario families and businesses pay the highest electricity rates in Canada because of the Liberal government’s policies.

“This doesn’t look like a plan for affordable power,” Horwath told the legislature. “It looks like a desperate government trying to hold on to political power.”

With files from CBC’s Genevieve Tomney, The Canadian Press

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NSA document raises questions about Canada in G8 spying – Politics – CBC News

NSA document raises questions about Canada in G8 spying – Politics – CBC News.

CBC News has released a top-secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden showing the Canadian government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.

 

The four-page National Security Agency document was posted online at CBC.ca early Monday.

 

The document is one of thousands that Snowden entrusted to U.S. freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald, who co-authored the story reported exclusively by CBC News on Nov. 27.

 

Since then, CBC has offered the U.S. government an opportunity to retrieve and review the document from its files, and to comment on any information in the document it believes should not be released.

 

David Walmsley, CBC’s director of news content, says the public broadcaster “believes in transparency to support its journalism.”

 

Late Sunday, the NSA requested only that CBC News black out any information that could identify NSA and other U.S. government employees to protect their personal safety.

 

The network agreed with the request, and certain segments of the documents appearing online have been blacked out.

 

The U.S. State Department initially issued a statement in reaction to the original CBC story about the NSA’s spying at the G20 summit, pointing out U.S. President Barack Obama has already ordered a broad review of U.S. intelligence activities in the wake of Snowden’s earlier revelations.

 

But on Friday, a State Department official said there would be no comment on the publication of the actual secret document: “Thank you for the offer, but we cannot discuss allegedly classified materials.”

 

Later Friday evening, the White House requested an opportunity to review the document. An official sent CBC an email Sunday morning, saying: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”

Questions remain

 

Wesley Wark, one of Canada’s leading experts on national security and intelligence, reviewed the document and says it still leaves a lot of questions.

 

The biggest, he says, is Canada’s role in the NSA’s surveillance operations at the G8 and G20.

 

The document says only that the NSA’s surveillance plans were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner” — the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

 

Both agencies gather intelligence by intercepting phone calls and data, and by hacking into computer systems.

 

But Wark says it is not clear from the document what the NSA was “co-ordinating” with Canada before and during the Toronto summit.

 

“This may be commonplace and relatively banal or it may be very troubling,” Wark said in an interview. “But until we have more of this story, I don’t think we know where it goes.”

 

Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have refused to provide any details of security and intelligence operations during the summits.

 

“I don’t think we can accept at face value the assurances of the government about the legal mandate of CSEC,” Wark says. “Nor can we simply assume that something illegal happened here. We just don’t know enough from my perspective.”

 

While much of the U.S. intelligence gathering during the summit was related to security, the document also talks about snooping operations in support of policymakers.

 

“They would want to be collecting intelligence on the sort of personalities of key international leaders — often you get some very interesting information from these kinds of summit meetings, where they are close in with conversations and chit-chats among delegates in not always secure circumstances,” Wark says.

 

“They would want some political intelligence whatever (way) they could acquire it, and some economic intelligence.

 

“So there might be a whole range of things, and the document itself refers to various tasks that exist for the NSA [at the G20] in terms of that policy support.”

 

Keystone XL pipeline threatened by U.S. oil boom – Business – CBC News

Keystone XL pipeline threatened by U.S. oil boom – Business – CBC News.

The Keystone XL pipeline would ship Canadian oilsands oil across 1,800 kilometres to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. (Eric Hylden/Associated Press)

A sudden surge in U.S. oil output could derail plans to build the massive Keystone XL pipeline to ship Canadian oil from Alberta to refineries on the American Gulf Coast, Canada’s U.S. ambassador was warned in internal emails.

In a series of emails unearthed by an access to information request from energy think tank Pembina Institute and provided to CBC News, Canadian energy counsellor Paul Connors warned ambassador Gary Doer in the summer that America’s current oil boom could alter the viability of cross-border pipeline plans.

Many options

Keystone XL is a proposed 1,900-kilometre pipeline being pitched by Calgary-based TransCanada that aims to bring Canadian oilsands oil from Hardisty, Alta., south through five U.S. states to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The plan is an ambitious one, coming with a price tag of more than $7 billion, and has faced numerous regulatory hurdles over several years while various governments and companies try to negotiate the final details.

Broadly, Canada lacks the refining capacity to adequately process the billions of barrels of oil that are contained in the Athabasca oilsands. America, meanwhile, has more than enough refineries operating at less than full capacity, so the plan has been pitched as an economic bonanza for both sides.

‘Our customers remain extremely supportive of Keystone XL.’– TransCanada statement

But recent events may have changed those economics somewhat. A series of oil discoveries in the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permianbasins scattered across the continental U.S. have increased America’s possible oil output to a far higher level than previously believed.

The U.S. now has so much recoverable oil that it’s now expected to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer at some point in the next 10 to 20 years.

Refineries are configured to process different types of crude — heavy crude goes to heavy refineries, light crude to light ones. Currently, heavy oilsands oil from Alberta goes to heavy oil refineries predominantly on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“The significant increase in U.S. domestic production in recent years is light sweet crude which has lower [greenhouse gases] than heavy crude,” Connors wrote in an email to Doer in June.

The best way for America to profit from its current oil boom could be to export its new sources of light crude, because that’s what’s most in demand internationally and that’s what fetches the higher prices.

“However, if reducing U.S. [greenhouse gas] emissions is the goal, the U.S. could decline to export its light sweet crude surplus [and] domestic light sweet crude would begin to [replace] heavy oil imports.”

Environmental concerns

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that his government would only approve the Keystone XL project if it would not materially alter America’s greenhouse gas emissions. So a suddenly plentiful energy alternative with a smaller environmental footprint could change the lay of the land.

For its part, TransCanada says it remains fully committed to the plan — as are its customers.

“TransCanada does not build pipeline projects and then hope we can fill them. Our Keystone XL customers have signed 20-year, binding commercial agreements because they needed to connect oil supplies in Canada and the U.S. to refineries,” the company said in an email to CBC News.

“Our customers remain extremely supportive of Keystone XL, and the markets understand that you need to have the right infrastructure in place to move product at the right time.”

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver agrees with that statement, telling CBC News that even with the conventional oil boom, “the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the U.S. will need to import 7.4 million barrels of oil per day in 2035.”

“Therefore, Keystone XL will displace an unstable source of heavy oil from Venezuela, with the same or higher greenhouse gas emissions, with a friendly, stable and reliable source of Canadian oil,” Oliver’s statement reads.

Indeed, if the project doesn’t go ahead, the U.S. State Department acknowledges that alternative modes of oil transport (such as rail) that emit as much as eight per cent more greenhouse gases will likely deliver the oil that Keystone XL would have.

Ottawa backs plan

 

“Our government supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it would enhance national security, create tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in economic activity in both Canada and the U.S.,” the spokesperson said.

Still, any indication that the Americans have less of an appetite for Keystone could be bad economic news for Canada, which mainly produces heavy oil, almost all of which currently goes to the U.S.

If America chooses to use more of its own lighter oil domestically and needs less heavy Canadian oil, there is little Canadian oil producers could do in the short term to maintain a market for their product.

Canadian oil, known as Western Canada Select, already trades at a discount of about $30 compared to the American benchmark, West Texas Intermediate or WTI, mainly because it’s heavier and therefore more expensive to refine, which limits the number of refineries willing to take it.

“While this is economically sub-optimal for the heavy oil refineries, it would make the mix of U.S. crude oil lighter and less [greenhouse gas] intensive,” Connors wrote.

 

 

 

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Goldman Sachs says loonie will fall in 2014 – Business – CBC News

Goldman Sachs says loonie will fall in 2014 – Business – CBC News.

(Fred Greenslade/Reuters)

One of the world’s most influential investment banks says betting that the loonie is going to fall is one of its best investment tips for 2014.

After trading in a fairly narrow band between 95 cents and $1.05 US for the past three years, the bank says it expects the loonie to lose some of its value next year, because of a number of factors.

Canada has had a current account deficit — the balance of payments between Canada and the rest of the world for all goods, services, investments, imports and exports — for the last five years.

‘We see good reasons for gradual [loonie] weakness’– Goldman Sachs

Goldman says all else being equal, that should lead to any currency losing some of its value. But that hasn’t happened with the loonie due to a variety of other factors that the bank says are about to end.

A strong banking sector was able to attract foreign investment, enough to offset a 30 per cent decline in manufacturing since the recession. But our much lauded financial sector isn’t attracting as much foreign investment as it once did, Goldman notes.

Over the past few quarters, capital inflows have slowed rapidly, pushing the [balance of payments] into deficit of about one per cent of GDP currently,” Goldman says.

Foreign holdings

The loonie was also seeing some time in the sun as a reserve currency, which means other foreign governments were stockpiling it, and increasing its value. That trend is also slowing, Goldman says.

Another thing working against the loonie is that instead of a rate hike next year (which would push the loonie higher) economists are now saying it’s not impossible that we see a cut, as inflation remains low.

“Our baseline is for the [Bank of Canada] to be on hold, but since the money market curve is pricing a small chance of hikes through end-2014, we see risks here also skewed to the downside,” Goldman Sachs said.

The bank also says the housing market is likely to drag the loonie lower. “With house prices already very elevated … it is likely that private consumption will no longer be the kind of positive impulse to the economy that it was in the past,” the bank said.

“All told, there are a number of reasons why the Canadian dollar has scope to weaken,” the report reads. “Combining all these factors, we see good reasons for gradual [loonie] weakness to persist for idiosyncratic reasons [and] a steady drift weaker and gradual underperformance relative to other major currencies, in particular the U.S. dollar.”

Add it all up and the bank suggests the loonie could fall by as much as seven per cent. The loonie was trading hands at 94.38 cents US on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Jim Love, Canadian Mint chairman, helped run offshore ‘tax-avoidance scheme’ for clients – Politics – CBC News

Jim Love, Canadian Mint chairman, helped run offshore ‘tax-avoidance scheme’ for clients – Politics – CBC News.

For years, the fortune of a former prime minister was quietly mired in a hefty court battle pitting members of a prominent Canadian family against a big bank, Bay Street law firms and each other, CBC News has learned.

 

The fight over the financial legacy of Arthur Meighen, who served as prime minister in 1920-21 and 1926, grew to embroil 15 parties, two dozen lawyers and thousands of pages of records.

 

There were claims that a plaintiff attacked his own father in a bathroom, and legal bills in the millions of dollars.

 

 

As the spat unfurled, it roped in entities as diverse as Canada Trust, the former law firm Ogilvy Renault, offshore companies in the Caribbean and a senator.

 

But despite the big names and historic appeal, from its start in 2008 until it was discreetly settled three years later, the entire legal saga was kept out of the public eye — until now.

‘Significant manipulations’ alleged

One of the principal players in the drama was Toronto tax lawyer James Barton Love, whose connections in Ottawa have seen him appointed in recent years as chair of the Royal Canadian Mint and a consultant to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Former prime minister Arthur MeighenArthur Meighen left millions of dollars to his descendants. (City of Toronto archives)

Well before that, though, Love befriended and became an adviser to several members of the Meighen family, including patriarch Donald Wright, a composer, philanthropist and Order of Canada recipient.

“I knew of his great friendship with my cousin Patrick Wright, who died prematurely, and of the great esteem with which he was held by my uncle Donald Wright,” said Arthur Meighen’s grandson Michael Meighen, who was still a Conservative senator while the lawsuit was unfolding.

Wright consulted Love on investments, hired his law firm for legal work and made him a director of a number of holding companies within the $20-million-plus heritage known as the Arthur Meighen Trust, court documents show.

 

 

Short-lived PM

Arthur Meighen, born in Ontario in 1874 and initially trained as a mathematician, took up law in Manitoba in the early 1900s and was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1908. He went on to serve in Prime Minister Robert Borden’s wartime cabinet, and then became prime minister himself when Borden retired in 1920.

Meighen lost the 1921 election to Mackenzie King’s Liberals but won a minority in the 1925 vote, though King would stay in power for eight more months with the backing of a third party. The King-Byng affair in June 1926 brought Meighen back to power, but for less than three months before he lost another election.

Meighen resigned as Tory leader and went on to serve in the Senate, and then briefly as party leader again from 1941 to 1942. Following the Second World War, he amassed his wealth from investment funds he had set up.

 

But some of Meighen’s heirs — Wright’s granddaughters Tara and Alyssa — would eventually claim Love abused his powers, alleging he worked with Wright to retool the Meighen Trust, effectively cut them off from their inheritance, and depleted the family’s money through administrative and legal fees.

 

“It is clear from my grandfather’s records that Love was the chief architect of all of the significant manipulations of the trust from the 1980s onwards,” Alyssa Wright says in a sworn statement filed in court.

 

Alyssa Wright and her sister stood to inherit about $3 million each when they turned 35. But as that day came and went for each of them, they claimed, neither Love nor Legacy Private Trust (LPT), the trust company he runs that had a role managing the Meighen fortune, was forthcoming about the money or how it was kept.

 

“My requests for information from Love and LPT have been met with significant delays and claims from Love that he is too busy to answer my questions, or alarmingly, that he does not consider that he owes any duty to me to provide the requested information,” Tarah Wright said in an affidavit as part of the lawsuit.

 

Around that time, Love had been appointed to the board of the Mint and then to a panel advising the federal finance minister on tax issues. “Part of the difficulty with scheduling a time when we might get together,” he wrote to Tarah Wright, “relates to my very busy travel schedule.”

 

The Wright sisters weren’t satisfied and sued — for $15 million — alleging Love and Canada Trust, which had also had a hand in managing the Meighen millions, breached their fiduciary duties and acted negligently. None of the allegations was ever tested in court, and Love and Canada Trust emphatically denied any wrongdoing.

 

Offshore tax shelter

 

Among the lawsuit’s grievances: that Love and Canada Trust had participated in moving $8 million of their great-grandfather’s legacy into offshore havens to try to avoid Canadian tax. The Wrights said they “lost capital and income” as a result, but were also exposed to “taxes, interest and penalties” due to the transaction.

 

In court records, Love acknowledges he played a role in the offshore arrangement, but says that it was limited, and that ultimately the Meighen family enjoyed “significant savings of Canadian tax.”

 

Just as scathing is the Wrights’ allegation that Love drained a chunk of their family’s wealth through the fees his trust company and law firm charged to the Arthur Meighen Trust and to their grandfather’s estate.

 

Donald J.A. WrightComposer and philanthropist Donald Wright, who received the Order of Canada in 2001, was the former PM’s son-in-law and co-managed the Arthur Meighen Trust for many years. (CBC)

Records filed in court show Legacy Private Trust, Love and his law firm have made at least $1 million from their roles advising the Meighen family and administering its money.

 

Some of that came from two side trusts set up for Alyssa and Tarah Wright. Each account had just over $70,000 in it in the early 1990s, the court records show, but by the time they were wound up in 2008, Love’s law firm had absorbed nearly $57,500 of that in fees.

 

An accountant’s report submitted to court shows that, starting in about 2002, the law firm would bill on average hundreds of dollars a month to each trust — far more than the trusts were making in investment income.

 

Alyssa Wright said in a sworn statement that she “asked Love directly” how so much of the funds could have been eaten up by expenses, but “Love was unable to provide an answer.”

 

Love countered in an affidavit that the fee arrangements were agreed to by the women’s aunt, who was overseeing the money and who “approved each account …. and signed each trust cheque in payment of the accounts.”

 

The aunt, for her part, said that she naively signed the fee agreements “without having any idea what usual fees” are.

 

And she, too, worried about the amounts of Meighen family money that were going to administrative and legal fees, particularly in the case of the offshore transaction.

 

“Trusts and corporations offshore over which I have no control … have been depleted by poor investments, fees, disbursements and claims for compensation which are outrageous,” the aunt, Priscilla Wright, affirmed.

 

Love, however, said the fees his company was charging were “considerably lower than what other trust companies would charge and recognizes the longstanding relationship between Legacy and the Wright family,” according to an email he wrote that was filed in court.

 

$8.9M settlement

 

The lawsuit also recounts a meeting in mid-January 2006 between Love and Alyssa Wright, just days before the Conservatives would triumph in that year’s federal election.

 

Wright said she asked about bringing her share of the offshore Meighen money back to Canada. Love, who would later be appointed as an adviser to Finance Minister Flaherty on international taxation, “gave me a vague answer to the effect that this would depend on the results of the upcoming Canadian election [and] anticipated changes to the tax laws,” Wright’s sworn statement says.

 

The lawsuit was finally settled in 2011, with Canada Trust, Love, his current and former law firms and his trust company on the hook for a total of $8.9 million, though none of them admitted any fault.

 

It’s not clear how much of that, if anything, each defendant had to pay, or whether their insurers are footing the bill. Besides Michael Meighen, none of the parties would talk due to their promise of confidentiality.

 

One thing that is clear, though, is that Love and the Meighen estate are parting ways. The settlement calls for him and his firms to relinquish their positions within the array of Meighen family companies, foundations and investments.

 

Canadian banks to be compelled to share clients’ info with U.S. – Politics – CBC News

Canadian banks to be compelled to share clients’ info with U.S. – Politics – CBC News.

Starting next summer, Canadian banks will have to provide more identifying information about clients to the Canada Revenue Agency, as part of a Canada-U.S. agreement to help the Internal Revenue Service trace taxable income by American citizens abroad.Starting next summer, Canadian banks will have to provide more identifying information about clients to the Canada Revenue Agency, as part of a Canada-U.S. agreement to help the Internal Revenue Service trace taxable income by American citizens abroad. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Photo of James Fitz-Morris

James Fitz-Morris
Parliament Hill

James Fitz-Morris has been reporting from Parliament Hill for more than a decade and joined the CBC’s parliamentary bureau in 2006, covering finance and foreign affairs among his beats. Fluent in English and French, he has also worked in Beirut and is still grappling with Arabic.

Starting next July, Canadian banks will be required to ask anyone opening a new account if they are now, or ever have been, an American “person.”

It comes at the behest of the U.S. government and its efforts to “smoke out” tax dodgers.

The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 and comes into force July 1, 2014.

The law forces all banks and other financial institutions outside the U.S. to search for customers who have certain “indicia.” Those are markers that show the person may be a U.S. citizen or a former permanent resident who, under U.S. law, must file income tax returns to Uncle Sam no matter where they reside in the world.

The only other country with similar tax rules for expats is Eritrea.

When announcing the law, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “if financial institutions won’t cooperate with us, we will assume they are sheltering money in tax-havens and act accordingly.”

The threat is a withholding tax of 30 per cent levied on every transaction a non-compliant bank has coming from, or even passing through, the U.S.

“Bottom line is: there is absolutely no way that a large, modern financial institution like a Canadian bank or a large credit union could escape FATCA,” says Marion Wrobel, vice-president of policy and operations at the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA).

Wrobel says his organization has been fighting FATCA since it was announced, calling it the “extra-territorial” application of American law.

“The only reason the Americans can do it is because it is a large economy, financial markets are integrated globally,” Wrobel adds, “and it is virtually impossible for a large institution like a Canadian bank, an insurance company, a securities dealer, a large credit union to avoid being caught up in a FATCA net.”

Starting July 1, 2014, banks will be required to scour the records of all of their customers with more than $50,000 in an account.

They will be looking indicators such as: place of birth, alternate addresses and phone numbers, and past residency in the United Sates. Every file with at least one indicia marker will be flagged as a “U.S. Reportable Account.”

At the same time, anyone wanting to open a new account will be asked directly if they are a “U.S. person” as defined by the IRS. Anyone who answers affirmatively will be flagged.

Wrobel says refusing to answer the question could also land any Canadian in trouble.

“If you refuse to answer it you could be considered recalcitrant and your information could be reported.”

So far the banks’ protests have changed little. The best they have been able to do is take some of the heat off themselves directly. Canada is close to negotiating an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the U.S. to implement FATCA.

Once in place, the bank would no longer be required to send private customer information directly to a foreign government agency. Instead, Canadian banks will flag their customers to the Canada Revenue Agency, and — under the terms of the agreement — the CRA will be the one that automatically transmits all the information to the IRS.

‘Infringement of liberty and privacy’

To enact the IGA, the Canadian government would almost certainly need to introduce a new law or amend existing ones to allow financial institutions to breach the privacy of Canadian citizens and residents.

It’s not clear how that can be done without running afoul of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Constitutional lawyer and expert Peter Hogg wrote to the Finance Department to express his concerns about the proposed deal.

In a copy of the letter released under Access to Information, he says: “To impose on financial institutions the duty to report to CRA (en route to the IRS) the names, addresses, place of birth and date of birth and details of the bank accounts of account-holders identified only by their place of birth in or citizenship of the United States, and all under the implicit threat of taxes, penalties or prosecutions by the IRS, seems to me to be a clear case of discrimination in contravention of [Section] 15 [of the Charter].”

He goes on to say: “There is no mechanism in the Model IGA whereby individuals who are suspected to be U.S. citizens would even know that their personal information was provided, “ Hogg’s letter argues, “thus there may be no opportunity to provide additional information or take other steps in order to prevent the transmission of this information from Canada.”

At best, Hogg believes, it is an infringement “of liberty and privacy,” but possibly also violations of at least three sections of the Charter.

The plan has critics around the world.

“I don’t think it’s pejorative to use the term ‘fishing expedition,’ that term has been used by the U.S. government already and people talking about FATCA — that’s exactly what this is,” says Allison Christians, the Stikeman Chair of Tax Law at McGill University.

She points out Canada and the U.S. already have a tax treaty that’s been in place for almost 20 years, which allows the IRS to obtain information on specific individuals from the CRA automatically.

“But FATCA wants more,” Christians adds. “They want not just the ones we have already identified; they want to, in the words of a former treasury secretary, ‘smoke out’ the Americans who are hiding.”

And this is where many experts believe FATCA might not just be unconstitutional, but also misguided.

“It’s not risk-based, it’s not targeting known tax havens. It’s looking at places like Canada, you know — Americans do not come to Canada for the low taxes,” says Wrobel.

Perhaps to add insult to injury, the individual Canadian financial institutions being deputized by the IRS to sniff out wayward U.S. taxpayers need to cover the cost of the added scrutiny, monitoring, and reporting themselves.

The CBA estimates it will likely cost the big banks $100 million each to comply with FATCA.

 

 

Canadian oil production to rise 75% by 2035, NEB says – Business – CBC News

Canadian oil production to rise 75% by 2035, NEB says – Business – CBC News.

Demand forecast to increase by 28 per cent over the same period

CBC News Posted: Nov 22, 2013 1:04 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 22, 2013 2:41 PM ET

Thermal operations superintendent Ginette MacIsaac poses in handout photo from Shell Canada in Peace River, Alta. A National Energy Board report says Canadian oil production will increase 75 per cent by 2035.Thermal operations superintendent Ginette MacIsaac poses in handout photo from Shell Canada in Peace River, Alta. A National Energy Board report says Canadian oil production will increase 75 per cent by 2035. (Phillip Chin/Canadian Press)

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Canadian oil production will increase by 75 per cent and gas production by 25 per cent by 2035, according to a report by the National Energy Board.

Its energy supply and demand projections report, released Friday, projects Canadian crude oil production of 5.8 million barrels a day by 2035.

The report predicts a steep rise in production of crude from oilsands and from shale, areas that are currently drawing millions in investment by companies such as Encana, Suncor and Royal Dutch Shell.

The figures from the federal regulatory agency come out the same day a poll shows Canadians are coming around to the federal government’s position that oil and gas are the key drivers to the economy.

The NEB says Canadian demand for oil and gas will increase by 28 per cent in the same period, with fossil fuels remaining the primary source of energy for transportation and home heating.

Emissions standards for automobiles should slow consumer need for fossil fuels, the report said.  At the same time, there will be improved energy efficiency across nearly all sectors, allowing the economy to grow more quickly than energy demand.

“By 2035, the energy used per unit of economic output is projected to be 20 per cent lower than in 2012, due to improvements in energy efficiency,” the report said.

 

Power generation will shift away from coal toward gas and renewables at the same time.

But the slow growth of Canadian demand amid rising supply will force the industry to develop export markets.

And that will increase pressure for pipeline development and improved rail development, especially to the U.S. market and the West Coast. The NEB argues infrastructure is a bottleneck to developing export markets.

“Growth in export markets and the infrastructure to access them are key uncertainties in this report’s projections,” the NEB said in its report.

According to the Oil & Gas Journal, Canada ranks third globally in terms of proven oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canada has an estimated 171 billion bbls, 98 per cent of it in oilsands.

Canada has more energy than it needs

“Canada has vast energy resources – more than enough to meet Canada’s growing energy demand,” said Gaétan Caron, chair of the NEB, adding that oil and gas are a “key driver of the economy.”

The NEB says the “most likely” price for West Texas Intermediate crude will be about $110 US a barrel, about $15 more than it is now. However its report does not predict new policies or political developments that could sway oil prices or affect demand.

The report comes the same day environmental groups are warning that firms investing in the oilsands are running out of room to store the contaminated water that is a byproduct processing crude.

Several firms have obtained permission from provincial authorities to flood abandoned tar sand mines with a mix of tailings and fresh water, but the impact of these toxic lakes on the environment is unknown, the Pembina Institute says.

 

Canada’s greenhouse gas stance slammed as COP 19 seeks solutions – Technology & Science – CBC News

Canada’s greenhouse gas stance slammed as COP 19 seeks solutions – Technology & Science – CBC News.

The annual United Nations climate conference, known as the 19th Conference of the Parties or COP 19, is underway in Warsaw with considerably less fanfare than years past. Expectations for this one are even lower than usual, after the disappointments and plodding progress of the last few conferences.

 

World leaders are backing away from the 2015 target for a global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, and the news for people concerned about climate change has not been encouraging.

It’s a situation former Irish president Mary Robinson finds profoundly worrying. She now runs the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, and she has a blunt and rather inconvenient message for global leaders and fossil fuel-producing countries like Canada: If you’re serious about preventing the worst of climate change, you have to leave that bitumen, oil and gas in the ground.

Last year marked another record year for global greenhouse gas emissions. And a recent report from the UK found fossil fuel subsidies around the world added up to about $500 billion in 2011 – on the order of five times the amount of subsidies doled out to renewable energy.

The prospect of keeping the global rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius looks highly unlikely if current trends persist. And Canada, for its part, is not on track to meet its own commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

Robinson’s message about reducing oil and gas production is one that would seem to be a tough sell in a country whose economic strategy is largely built around fossil fuel exports.

‘Moving to a low-carbon economy would be very good for Canadians’ futures, and for everyone’s future. And as well as that, we don’t have a choice. We’re running out of time.’– Mary Robinson, former Irish president

 

“We need two messages,” Robinson told The Sunday Edition’s Michael Enright. “Moving to a low-carbon economy would be very good for Canadians’ futures, and for everyone’s future. And as well as that, we don’t have a choice. We’re running out of time.

 

“How can Canadians not see that their grandchildren will share the world with nine billion other people (by 2050)? And I have no certainty at all that it will be a livable world.”

Robinson adds that she fears it will be, “a world of catastrophes over and over again. The 200 million people who may be climate-displaced – where are they going to go? There will be no country that will be immune to this. If [the planet] becomes too dangerous, it will be too dangerous for Canadians, for the children and grandchildren of those alive today.”

Robinson served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002, and she approaches climate change as a human rights and justice issue.

She argues that in the developing world, climate change impinges on the most fundamental human rights to food, water and life itself.

Mary RobinsonFormer President of Ireland and one-time United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson was presented the International Freedom Award in Memphis on Nov. 6. (Mike Brown/AP)

“Canada is one of the countries that has benefited from fossil fuel growth and has a responsibility to give leadership. And the whole of Africa is responsible for about the same level of emissions, but African countries are suffering hugely in their food security and long periods of drought and flooding. There is an injustice in how climate is impacting them.

 

“Canada has been a country proud of its development record. It gives a lot of development aid. Well, all that development aid will be wiped out by terrible climate impacts.”

 

Robinson plans to be a vocal presence in Warsaw. She has no great hopes for a breakthrough on a global climate pact by the time the conference closes next Friday, but she remains optimistic that the global community will respond to the challenge before it’s too late.

 

“We’re not, I think, a stupid race. I know that political timescales can be very short. But I believe that these next two years – 2014, we have to change course, and 2015, when we need sustainable development goals and a robust, fair climate agreement – we can still do it.

 

“We need a forward-looking leadership, and that won’t come from Canadian politicians unless it comes from the Canadian people.”

 

[Listen to Michael Enright’s full conversation with Mary Robinson on The Sunday Edition this weekend, just after the 9 am news, or on theSunday Edition website.] 

 

Mysterious military exercise leads to gruff encounter – Politics – CBC News

Mysterious military exercise leads to gruff encounter – Politics – CBC News.

Members of Canadian Forces Special Operations JTF2 unit storm a ship during an exercise called Operation Nanook off the shores of Churchill, Man. A man with a camera who stumbled on a military special forces exercise in a small Cape Breton town had his patriotism gruffly questioned by an undercover soldier. Members of Canadian Forces Special Operations JTF2 unit storm a ship during an exercise called Operation Nanook off the shores of Churchill, Man. A man with a camera who stumbled on a military special forces exercise in a small Cape Breton town had his patriotism gruffly questioned by an undercover soldier. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A man with a camera who stumbled on a military special forces exercise in a small Cape Breton town had his patriotism gruffly questioned by an undercover soldier, and was quizzed about whether he belonged to an anti-government movement.

Robert Westbrook said he was also threatened with arrest and he worried the undercover soldier would lash out and strike him.

“He takes a few steps back and clenches his fist and jaw angrily,” Westbrook wrote in an account he posted online. ” I truly think for a moment that he’s going to take a swing at me.”

Westbrook, 46, lives in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., on Cape Breton Island. The town of 3,366 is the last place Westbrook says he’d expect to run into undercover Canadian special forces troops participating in an exercise.

But that’s what happened the night of Oct. 25, when Westbrook was confronted by two soldiers dressed in civilian clothes who demanded to know who he was and why he had a camera.

The military has refused an interview on the incident, and only responded to CBC News queries about the incident after several calls and emails and six days of waiting.

Official stone-walling notwithstanding, CBC News has come to learn the exercise included members of Canadian Special Operations Force Command, or CANSOFCOM, as it’s called, and likely included members of the special operations and counterterrorism unit Joint Task Force II.

‘Quite strange’

JTF2 is a highly-secretive unit, and its activities are most often kept under wraps by the government.

Their work has included hunting Taliban leaders and bomb makers in Afghanistan, as well providing military close protection to high-ranking government officials in war zones overseas, including the prime minister.

The unit’s soldiers make up a so-called force of last resort in Canada if ever the country is threatened by violent extremist attack or terrorism.

Although the Port Hawkesbury exercise featured Canadian special operations soldiers, it’s believed the two soldiers who confronted Westbrook were not elite assaulters, but supporting troops.

One soldier identified himself as a military policeman, although he was not clothed in the standard military police black uniform or cherry red beret. The other soldier called himself “Adam,” and said he was running security for the military “training evolution” that was taking place at that abandoned call centre, just two blocks from Westbrook’s house.

Westbrook told CBC News he went down to check out the unusual activity at the abandoned call centre.

“There was quite a bit of activity. So, we thought this was quite strange,” he said.

No sign of military exercise

The call centre was a town landmark that once employed as many as 300 locals, but it has been closed for a couple of years.

Now the only activity in the almost 10,000-square-metre office block was a small military recruiting office. But that couldn’t account for the 50 or 60 civilian cars and trucks Westbrook said he saw that night.

Westbrook is a freelance photographer, and started taking pictures.

After a few minutes, Westbrook says the first soldier drove up and identified himself as military policeman.

“It puzzled me to no end because … there was no evidence of any military involvement, there were no signs stating that, no announcement to the public that there was going to be an exercise here. There was no one in uniform, and no military vehicles at all.”

Westbrook says he told the officer that he was just there to take some pictures.

‘Asked if I was a patriot’

About seven minutes later, Westbrook says, a soldier called “Adam” burst onto the scene demanding to know who Westbrook was and why he was taking pictures.

Westbrook says he was on public property throughout the encounter and wasn’t breaking any laws.

He recorded the conversation on his iPod.

Westbrook says he told “Adam” he was a freelance photographer.

“He immediately got more aggressive and asked if I was patriotic, which I thought was quite a strange question, and I didn’t really answer that because I didn’t think it was relevant, and I said so.”

According to the recording, “Adam” then dropped the name of the local RCMP detachment commander, Sgt. Shelby Miller, who he said was a “good friend,” with whom he was in “direct contact.”

“So, I don’t want to call Shelby Miller and have him come down here and deal with this,” “Adam” said.

Westbrook said he viewed this exchange as a threat of arrest. It got his back up and, as a result, Westbrook says he dug in his heels.

“I was quite insulted by that because I wasn’t breaking the law and I was fully aware that I wasn’t breaking the law. At that point [“Adam”] got quite visibly upset. I thought he might actually punch me.”

Westbrook edited down a seven-minute version of his audio recording and posted it on YouTube. It’s been viewed nearly 7,000 times.

The recording shows “Adam” returning to that question about Westbrook’s patriotism.

“Clearly, you’re not patriotic, ” he said, before turning to a new tack:  “Are you here as some sort of anti-government movement?” he said.

“Adam” eventually walked away, and so did Westbrook.

‘Committed to positive community relations’

Westbrook says politically he’s “middle of the road,” and at least as patriotic as the next person.

“If by patriotism you define that as love of one’s country, yeah, I would say I am patriotic. I love Canada. That is why I chose to become a citizen here.”

Westbrook was an American who married a Canadian woman and became a citizen in August.

But the encounter with soldiers of his new country’s army left him shaking his head about the professionalism of those who planned the secret exercise.

“It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense that they would be interested in that level of secrecy and yet expect no reaction when they locate themselves in a call centre that has been a major employer over the past decade in the area and expect people to not ask questions.”

Miller, the RCMP detachment commander, says he was aware the military exercise was taking place, but that he’s not friends with “Adam.”

“Never met the man,” Miller said.

In the end, defence officials provided a brief written statement.

“The Military Police are firmly committed to positive community relations,” the statement said.

“Additional training will now be afforded to unit members involved to better prepare them for situations of this nature.”

 

 

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