Potash, oil revenue down, but Saskatchewan still in black

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Potash, oil revenue down, but Saskatchewan still in black

The Saskatchewan government is taking in less money from potash and oil than it budgeted for, but says it’s still on track for a balanced budget.

According to the mid-year financial update released Tuesday by Finance Minister Ken Krawetz, income from resources is down by hundreds of millions of dollars, but money from taxes is up.

The result is that by the end of the fiscal year, there should be a $12.4 million surplus for the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and a surplus of $22.5 million for the Summary Financial Statements, up $7.7 million from budget.

That means Saskatchewan is on track to be the only province in Canada to finish the fiscal year in the black.

Potash revenue is down $239.8 million compared to what was budgeted in the spring, while oil revenue is down $164.6 million compared to the budget.

Offsetting that is higher-than-expected revenue from personal income tax and other taxes. Overall expenses are also higher than was budgeted — up about $31.6 million to $11.23 billion.

The government says that partly reflects the costs associated with major flooding in recent years.

Much of the increased spending has been offset by lower debt servicing costs and what the government calls “expense management”.

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Carney appointment provides fresh fodder for UK press!

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Britain on Tuesday was still digesting the fact that for the first time in its 318-year history, the Bank of England would be lead by a foreigner — and the man for the job came from Canada, a former colony.

Britain’s Finance Minister George Osborne stunned analysts and journalists alike on Monday by announcing that Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney would head the Bank of England starting in July.

The Times of London was so confident the English central bank’s deputy governor Paul Tucker would be promoted to the top that it wrote an editorial on Monday praising him as the best man for the job.

“Well, oops,” the newspaper wrote in Tuesday’s lead editorial, saying Carney was in fact the best choice. “To be fair, we did not know he was a candidate.”

Most had taken Carney at his word when he told the BBC months ago that he had ruled himself out for the job. All except Osborne.

The Financial Times editorial cartoon depicted Carney in a parachute emblazoned with a red maple leaf landing at the Bank of England as startled staff looked up from their computer screens. Workers were still absorbing the news in the City of London, the square-mile financial district simply known as “the City” that is home to one of the world’s most important financial centres.

“Why do we have a Canadian? Weird,” a man in the street told Sky News.

“I think it would be better if we had a British guy,” a female City worker told the broadcaster.

The Times ran a photo spread with the headline “From wilderness to the City jungle.” The largest photo showed Carney on a dogsled at the 2010 G7 finance ministers meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Another showed him in goalie pads and his Oxford hockey team uniform. And one showed the sun setting over a crystal clear lake with the caption: “the pristine Ottawa landscape he is leaving.”

Carney crashed into the news pages and dragging Canada with him.

The Guardian’s editorial began by repeating an old Fleet Street joke that “any story with ‘Canada’ in the first line is guaranteed not to get read,” but adding Carney’s appointment has proved an exception.

The Sun declared choosing a Canadian was “a devastating judgment on the City.”

The Times ran a list of other high achievers from Canada along with Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Leonard Cohen and Margaret Atwood it also included James Gosling, father of Java programming language, John Peters Humphrey, author of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and James Till and Ernest McCulloch, the scientists who demonstrated stem cells’ existence.

To help establish Carney as the Patrick Roy of central banking, The Times led off a profile of Carney with his perfect record as a goalie for the Harvard Crimsons, for whom he stopped every shot he faced. It failed to mention, however, that he was the back-up goalie and his five saves were in the only game he played.

What was indisputable, The Financial Times wrote, was that Carney was the only central banker to emerge from the financial crisis with his reputation stronger than before.

“It is extraordinary and admirable — that a country should choose to give its most important official position to a foreigner such a Mr. Carney … yet it is also both a surprise and a gamble,” Martin Wolf, the Financial Times’ chief economics commentator wrote.

It was a surprise, he said, because Carney “did not apply for the job. It is a gamble because a foreign national will be assuming a job that is inescapably political and, in the current difficult economic and financial circumstances of the UK, even more political than usual.”

The job that Carney has accepted is much bigger than the role he has played in Ottawa because starting next year he will be tasked with supervising Britain’s banks.

“What’s exciting about Mark Carney is not so much that he is a Canadian or that he is a surprise, but that he’s got an almost unique depth of experience in capital markets for a central banker,” Rachel Lomax, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, told BBC Radio.

Although he may not have as wide a range of options as he did in Ottawa, his 13 years with Goldman Sachs in London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto gives him credibility when dealing with financial markets, she said. “It would also affect the way he deals with players in financial markets,” Lomax said. “He won’t be over-awed by them but he will understand where they’re coming from. “

Although, Carney has said he will apply to become a British national when he takes the job, BBC business editor Robert Peston pointed out how unprecedented it would be for someone from Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories to be representing Britain in negotiations with other European central bankers.

“In the eyes of the rest of the world, this is quite a bold move, I can’t think of another developed economy that would appoint a foreigner to run their central bank,” Peston said.

“There will be some out there who will say the Bank of England must be in real trouble if they had to appoint a foreigner to run it. Now managing that when you’re having tough negotiations with the French, the Germans on the future of regulation,” Peston said, “that might be tricky.”

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MP Joyce Murray joins Liberal leadership race

Vancouver MP Joyce Murray is joining the federal Liberal leadership contest with a daring call for co-operation with other progressive parties in the next election to ensure defeat of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

Murray says she believes Liberals, New Democrats and Greens should have the option of conducting run-off nominations to choose a single candidate in tightly contested ridings where a united progressive front would guarantee defeat of the ruling Tories.

She is the first contender to broach the controversial idea, which is consistent with her broader pitch that she is a collaborative politician who brings unique perspectives and attributes to the race.

“One of the things that I bring is just the full spectrum of the Canadian experience,” the 58-year-old told The Canadian Press in an interview shortly before officially announcing her leadership campaign on Monday.

“I’m an immigrant (from South Africa), a woman, a mother who went back to school while building a business … and then I pull that together in a way that is typical of women, which is working with people, collaborating, co-operating, finding a way forward and then delivering.”

Murray noted she is also the only contender so far with any decision-making experience in government, having served as a cabinet minister in British Columbia.

She said her background leaves her uniquely positioned to balance environmental sustainability and economic growth. She’s a former environment minister, but also a successful businesswoman, who co-founded with her husband a reforestation company that now employs 600 full-time and 600 part-time employees in five countries and which planted its one billionth tree last year.

Murray said her company has done business for 35 years in Alberta, where the Liberal brand is almost non-existent and took another hit last week with anti-Alberta comments from Ottawa MP David McGuinty and leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau. She declined to wade into that furor, other than to note that she brings “a western perspective” to the race.

Still, Murray is decidedly to the left of most other leadership contenders, who’ve been positioning themselves as business-friendly, “blue” Liberals.

She’s an unapologetic advocate of legal marijuana and an ardent environmentalist who favours a carbon tax, although she’s open to suggestions of better ways to put a price on carbon.

But her proposal for co-operation with other parties is bound to be the most controversial.

Murray sees the idea as a way to get rid of the Tories and start serious reform of the first-past-the-post electoral system to ensure future elections more accurately reflect each party’s popular vote.

“Our electoral system is not very representative,” Murray said, pointing out that a party can win a majority of seats in the House of Commons with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote.

Worse, she said, the current system “rewards demonizing other parties, it rewards dirty tricks in elections, it rewards toxic, polarized, divisive behaviour in Parliament and it’s turning Canadians off.

“If our electoral system is broken, we need to have a conversation about what’s more suitable for Canada. But clearly, we are never going to have that conversation with Stephen Harper in the driver’s seat.”

To make sure Harper is ejected from that seat, she said riding associations need to be able to co-operate with rivals.

“There are some ridings where the vast majority of voters would like to have a progressive voice,” she said. “So, if a riding is willing to have a run-off (nomination) so that the progressive voice has a chance of becoming elected, then that’s something that I think is a good idea.”

Murray wouldn’t impose the idea; she’d ask Liberals to endorse it at their next convention, then leave it to local riding associations to decide whether to use it or not. It would be a one-time tactic only for the 2015 election.

She stressed she is not proposing a merger with the NDP or any other party.

Still, Murray’s openness to co-operation with other parties is risky. It’s bound to spark a backlash from some Liberals who believe it’s a defeatist admission that the party can’t beat the Tories on its own.

But it could also help set her apart from the pack chasing presumed front-runner Trudeau, who is widely thought to have a huge head start in the race.

Even if Liberals were to embrace the idea, however, there’s no guarantee the NDP and Greens would be willing to go along. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has adamantly ruled out any co-operation with Liberals, although Green Leader Elizabeth May has been more open to the notion.

Murray joins a crowded field of contenders, including Trudeau, former Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay, Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne, Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi, Vancouver prosecutor Alex Burton and David Merner, former president of the party’s B.C. wing.

Montreal MP Marc Garneau, is set to join the contest on Wednesday, while Toronto lawyer George Takach is to follow on Thursday. Ontario government economist Jonathan Mousley is still hoping to enter if he can raise the stiff, $75,000 entry fee.

So far, only Trudeau and Coyne have officially registered as candidates, filed the required nomination papers and paid the first of three $25,000 instalments on the entry fee.

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Giants TE Martellus Bennett

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Giants TE Martellus Bennett uses ‘Spidey-senses’ to save fan who fell from stands at MetLife Stadium

New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett was credited with three catches for 44 yards in his team’s 38-10 rout of the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football.” However, it was a fourth catch Bennett made after the game, for a grand total of 15 feet, that made him a real hero.

After the game, Bennett was interacting with fans near the field entrance to the Giants’ locker room when a middle-aged man fell from a railing several feet above the field where the fans generally interact with the players after games.

“I was doing what I usually do, moseying to the locker room and meandering around,” Bennett said. “Naturally, I just wanted to step back, but I did the righteous thing and I stepped up. I caught him, I saved his life, I tapped into my inner superhero, which I do have.”

“Spidey-senses,” to be specific.

“I’m usually a ninja, but my Spidey-senses told me he was going to take a fall, so I saved his life,” Bennett modestly recalled. “He owes me his first-born or something. Actually I don’t want that. Maybe a sandwich or something.”

The fan might be a bit short on sandwich money — after Bennett saved his bacon, the man was accosted by Jersey state troopers and taken away to face undisclosed charges. So, bail cash could be a pressing concern.

“That sucks,” Bennett said.

What also sucked for Bennett was the helmet-to-helmet hit put upon his person by Packers safety Jerron McMillian in the fourth quarter.

“I just got the wind knocked out of me. It [ticked] me off, so I wanted to kick his [butt],” Bennett told Jenny Vrentas of NJ.com. “I was mad. I tried to go after him, but they wouldn’t let me. … I didn’t see him; he came out of nowhere. But it’s part of the game. If he gets fined, I just wish that money would go to my Wells Fargo account, which they should start doing. They do give it to charity, which is fine.”

Fortunately, a concussion test proved that Bennett was fine.

“I passed it with flying colors, like I do all tests. Like Doogie Howser.”

And that was a fortunate occurrence, as Bennett had more important work to perform after the game.

“I just did what any superhero would do: Saved his life,” Bennett said of the postgame rescue. “I’m like Scott Summers. You know who Scott Summers is? Cyclops off X-Men.”

Bennett tripped over a cameraman when he saved the fan, but there were no injuries.

“I felt like Prince, because everybody was like, ‘You OK? You OK?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ They were helping me up.”

As well they should. That’s what people do for superheroes. And Doogie Howser.

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Alberta, Quebec to study rerouting Canadian crude eastward

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) – Alberta, Canada’s oil-producing heartland, and Quebec’s separatist government will study the benefits of shipping the western province’s crude to refineries in Quebec, a shift that could help cut the industry’s dependence on the U.S. market.

The development is a shift from previous comments by Quebec officials that had cast doubt on the energy industry’s quickly evolving plans to get oil sands-derived crude to Eastern Canadian refineries, which now handle mostly imported oil that arrives at a much higher price.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford and her Quebec counterpart, Pauline Marois, agreed on Thursday to set up a working party to look at the issue ahead of a Marois visit to Alberta next year.

“It’s exactly the evaluation we will do, to see if it’s advantageous for both sides to have Albertan oil refined in Quebec,” Marois said on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a meeting of Canada’s provincial premiers.

Redford, along with New Brunswick Premier David Alward, want to send Albertan crude to the Irving Oil Ltd refinery at Saint John, New Brunswick, which would mean using pipelines through Quebec. The refinery, Canada’s largest, has capacity of 300,000 barrels a day (bpd).

With Albertan crude production expanding rapidly, Redford has actively pushed for a national energy strategy to get Alberta oil to market through pipelines or other means.

Neighboring British Columbia has resisted a plan by Enbridge Inc for the C$6 billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway pipe to the Pacific Coast, for export to Asia, and U.S. President Barack Obama has, temporarily at least, blocked TransCanada Corp’s $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline to Texas refineries.

Greg Selinger, premier of the Prairie province of Manitoba, through which some crude already flows, praised the idea as a way to build energy security in Canada.

“Providing energy into the Atlantic and Eastern provinces I think would be very positive for the country, both from a private investment point of view in the East, but also to provide further market opportunities for Canadian producers in the West,” he told reporters on Friday in Halifax.

“So I think it’s a good story for all of us if we do it properly.”

CHEAP IN WEST, PRICEY IN EAST

Current pipelines routes oil from landlocked Alberta south rather than east. Eastern Canadian refineries pay prices tied to more expensive North Sea Brent, while Albertan producers, reliant on the U.S. market, sell their crude at a deep discount.

Redford said changing the routing for the oil might allow Quebec to get cheaper oil than its current imports.

Marois’ newly elected separatist and left-leaning government had initially signaled resistance to the idea of taking oil from the Alberta tar sands. But Marois pointed out the potential employment benefits and noted Quebec’s petrochemical industry.

“If we continue down this path, it’s important that each side comes out a winner,” she said.

Quebec is home to two big refineries, Suncor Energy Inc’s plant in Montreal and Valero Energy Corp’s facility in Quebec City, with capacities of 130,000 bpd and 265,000 bpd respectively.

Enbridge Inc plans to file an application with Canada’s National Energy Board later this year for a project that would reverse the flow direction of its Line 9 so crude could flow to Montreal from Sarnia, Ontario, north of Detroit.

Enbridge would also increase the capacity of the pipeline to 300,000 bpd from 240,000, using what is known as a drag reducing agent, where a polymer is injected into the crude to cut friction.

That would mean the company would require little new construction on the pipeline, which was built during the energy crises of the 1970s. Originally, it shipped Western Canadian crude to Quebec.

The direction of flow was changed in the 1990s, allowing imported crude to flow to several refineries in southern Ontario and the U.S. Midwest. The premium price of such oil has rendered that uneconomic and the line has been idle.

TransCanada Corp has also proposed shipping Western Canadian crude to Quebec and beyond by converting one of the pipelines on its cross-Canada natural gas mainline to oil transport.

Last month, Chief Executive Russ Girling said the company would decide next year whether to go ahead with a project to carry up to one million barrels a day.

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