Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Manitoba top province to invest in oil and gas, Alberta dead last

Oil industry executives now see Manitoba as the best jurisdiction in Canada to invest in, while Alberta fell to 92nd out of 143 international jurisdictions, according to the Fraser Institute's Global Petroleum Survey 2009:

Manitoba has dethroned both Saskatchewan and Alberta as the most attractive Canadian province or territory for oil and gas investment, according to an international survey of petroleum executives and managers released today by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

Saskatchewan, which was the top province in 2008, drops to the number two spot in Canada. But investors are most critical of Alberta, ranking the province as the least attractive among Canada provinces ranked for oil and gas investment. Aside from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta now also trails Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.…

"The survey results clearly show the industry's dissatisfaction with the Alberta government's misguided policies. Punitive royalty rates, a lack of consultation, and a growing anti-energy bias are common complaints about the Stelmach government," said Gerry Angevine, Fraser Institute senior economist and coordinator of the annual petroleum survey.…

Manitoba, the highest ranked province in 2009, is 21st internationally. Saskatchewan fell from 10th (of 81) in 2008 to 38th (of 143) worldwide. Nova Scotia ranked 54th, Ontario ranked 60th, Quebec 68th, British Columbia 71st, Newfoundland and Labrador 82nd, and Alberta 92nd.

Alberta's poor showing puts the province behind China, the Philippines, and Brazil as an attractive place to invest in upstream oil and gas development.

That's right, thanks to Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's policy of taxing oil companies until every last Albertan is out of work, they would rather drill for oil in Ontario than Alberta.

Luckily, Wildrose Alliance leadership hopeful Danielle Smith has made reforming Alberta's royalty regime one of her top policy priorities. Let's hope Alberta will one day be seen as a great place to invest in oil and gas once more.

Posted by Jesse Kline on July 18, 2009 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stockwell Day returns from Panama high on trade

Since I wrote about the departure of International Trade Minister Stockwell Day to Panama for the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas ministerial meeting, I thought I should report also on his return, just in case anyone is looking for closure here.

Day yesterday concluded a two-day visit to Panama City during which he met with his counterparts from the Central and South American countries that are part of this trade association. There's not much to report here accept the strong and welcomed statement from Day that Canada is open for business:

“In this period of global economic uncertainty, it is important to keep markets open, resist protectionist pressures, engage trading partners and provide opportunities for Canadian businesses to prosper both at home and in international markets,” said Day. “Canada recognizes Panama’s importance as a dynamic, open economy and as a gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. The meetings I had here allowed me to reinforce Canada’s commitment to build stronger commercial relations in the region.”

The partner countries in the Pathways to Prosperity trade association agreed to a plan of action to be undertaken by all participating countries to advance the common objectives of trade and investment liberalization, development, rule of law and democracy.

No word yet on whether or not President-elect Obama will end the embargo against Cuba.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 11, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, December 08, 2008

Will President-elect Obama end the embargo against Cuba? Stockwell Day pushes trade in Central and South America

"We support the complete removal of all trade and travel restrictions on Cuba," a dozen such business associations, including the politically potent Business Roundtable, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Retail Federation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote, in a letter addressed to Obama Thursday.

Trade is the Trojan Horse of liberty. Once it passes through the protectionist gates of fortress economies, it quietly sneaks about destroying statism and poverty. Trade also creates the conditions for peace as nations learn to cooperate for mutual advantage and reject the winner-takes-all approach of war and mercantilism. 19th century French classical liberal theorist Frederick Bastiat wrote “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”

So I welcome news from antiwar.com that Washington's nearly 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba is coming under pressure from business leaders. Under President Bush, the Cuban embargo was relaxed somewhat to allow cell phones and computers to be sold to the communist country. The question now is whether President-elect Obama is ready to take these trade reforms all the way -- and whether International Trade Minister Stockwell Day can be a positive force for this trade liberalization.

Stockwell Day will travel to Panama today to attend the first ministerial meeting of the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative taking place from December 9-10.

The Pathways initiative was formally launched September 24 in New York to encourage trade liberalization between the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru.

While open trade with Cuba is likely not on the agenda with the Bush administration at the table, I hope delegates begin this discussion informally as they enjoy the hospitality of Panama City, an international centre for banking and commerce and a shining example in Central America of the wealth-creating power of trade and economic liberty.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 8, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ted Rogers dies at 75

The Globe and Mail is reporting that legendary Canadian entrepreneur Ted Rogers died today at 75. Rogers was the founder of Rogers Communications Inc.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 2, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sell your house, buy a tractor and start farming: advice from Jim Rogers as Canadian farm incomes show growth

Jim_rogersStatsCan reported today that net farm income was $2.2 billion in 2007, up from $1.2 billion in 2006 as higher grain prices more than offset operating cost increases from last year's high energy prices.

New data also shows this positive income trend should hold in 2008. Market receipts from the sale of crops and livestock totalled $30.5 billion between January and September, up 13.6% from the first nine months of 2007.

This news is no surprise to legendary global investor and commodities bull Jim Rogers. Rogers is extremely optimistic on the future of western Canadian agriculture. In an Agcapita press release announcing Rogers as an advisor to the Calgary-based agriculture investment fund, Rogers is quoted as saying to an audience of Toronto fund managers and investment bankers:

“Sell your houses, move to Saskatchewan, buy a tractor and some farmland, and start farming.” 

In a column published in the Western Standard on the important role of rural Canadians in environmental stewardship and the green economy, Preston Manning wrote:

“The time has come to rediscover and redefine those Canadians who occupy rural Canada and to value and compensate them accordingly....”

It looks like the market is beginning to reward the honest labour of rural Canadians without the interference of government.

(Disclosure: Agcapita investment director Stephen Johnston is my brother. He has an interest in the Western Standard, and I have an interest in Agcapita.)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 24, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, July 21, 2008

Free trade is working for Alberta, but most Canadians are not happy with NAFTA

An Angus Reid poll released today shows that “only one-in-fourteen Canadians believe their country has been the main beneficiary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and a majority of respondents are calling for the renegotiation of the commerce pact.”

Here are the key findings:

• 46% think the U.S. has benefited more from NAFTA than the other North American countries; Mexico at 30%, Canada at 7%
• 52% want to renegotiate NAFTA, 18% are happy with status quo, 11% want Canada to leave NAFTA
• 50% think NAFTA has not benefited Canadian workers at all
• More than half see at least moderate benefits for Canadian employers, Canadian manufacturers and the Canadian economy in general

The results broke down somewhat predictably according to party lines: “Conservative Party voters are more likely to want to stay in NAFTA without making any amendments to the accord (40%) than Liberal Party voters (22%), New Democratic Party voters (12%), Bloc Québécois voters (19%), and Green Party voters (26%).” (It is interesting that Green Party voters are more pro-NAFTA than the Liberals.)

Respondents from Alberta are the most likely (12%) to believe that Canada has benefited the most from NAFTA, and they have good reason to feel this way.

A report called Alberta’s Export Experience Under Free Trade Agreements: 1988-2007 released on July 18th shows that “more than one-third of Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product is derived directly from international exports.” The report measures Alberta’s export performance since 1988, the year before the first free trade agreement came into force, and things look good.

According to the report, “Alberta’s exports to partnering countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Israel and Costa Rica have increased in total by 683 per cent since 1989 when Canada’s first free trade agreement became effective. Alberta’s exports to non-partnering countries grew by 166 per cent during the same period.”

Here are some additional highlights:

• Alberta’s total merchandise export value has increased by 525 per cent since 1988, the year before the inception of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
• Alberta’s share of total Canadian exports has nearly doubled from 9.6 per cent in 1988 to 18.4 per cent in 2007.
• Energy continues to be Alberta’s principal export, accounting for 68 per cent of Alberta’s total exports in 2007 compared to 64 per cent in 1993.
• Machinery has become the second most important export for Alberta. Since 1993, growth in Alberta’s machinery exports has increased by 636 per cent.
• Since the inception of the NAFTA, there has been tremendous growth in Alberta’s value-added exports. Examples include organic chemicals, plastics, machinery and precision instruments.

Free trade is normally an issue that unites libertarians and conservatives. Free trade agreements, however, are a different matter. Critics say free trade agreements do nothing to remove barriers to trade and instead limit national sovereignty with new international rules governing labour and the environment, for examples.

At the recent Freedom Fair in Edmonton, Prof. Paul Geddes asked the question: “Have libertarians abandoned free trade?”

I think it is a question worth asking again.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on July 21, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ric Dolphin Writes Again

Although loath to use another of those horrible words  concocted by the geeks  who, sadly, have inherited the world, there seems to be no avoiding it. I now have a "blog" which I shall endeavor to update at least every Monday and which you are invited to visit at, ricdolphin.com
Be aware that, unlike when I wrote for Western Standard magazine, I am not being  censored for language. I am also not specifically writing about politics, although the subject may be broached on occasion.  Be assured, however, that I shall never  use "blog" as  a verb.

Posted by Ric Dolphin on July 9, 2008 in Aboriginal Issues, American History, Books, Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Current Affairs, Film, Humour, International Affairs, International Politics, Media, Military, Municipal Politics, Religion, Science, Television, Trade, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Western Standard, WS Radio, WStv | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Communist killer export

Remember the Communist export scare?  Well, it's back, and then some; blood thinner exported from Communist China caused "hundreds of serious adverse reactions and scores of deaths among patients."

UPDATE: I explore this a little further here.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on April 22, 2008 in International Affairs, Trade | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A better way to support Israel

Forget Israel Bonds and foreign aid. Now you can support Israel directly by supporting its nation’s wealth creators -- and hopefully make some money doing it.

State of Israel Bonds are popular among the Diaspora looking to support their homeland by lending money to the government of Israel. But when you buy an Israel Bond, you are burdening an Israeli taxpayer with the obligation to repay this money with interest at some fixed date. With every Israel Bond there’s an indentured Israeli citizen.

And foreign aid? Foreign aid to Israel burdens taxpayers at home. It has been said that foreign aid takes money from poor people in rich countries and gives it to rich people in poor countries. (Does Israel even qualify as a poor country?)  I don't know if that statement is true, but one thing is certain: aid between nations does not increase the wealth or freedom among nations. Economist Walter Block goes further and writes that foreign aid to Israel weakens its economy and handcuffs its foreign policy.

Aid doesn’t strengthen a nation, but trade does. So here’s a better way to support Israel. Yesterday a new ETF was launched. iShares MSCI Israel is geared for investors who want to invest directly and exclusively in Israel.  The EFT will give investors exposure to Israeli companies traded primarily on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange -- and it will provide exposure to the Shekel, which might be valuable given the recent decline of the US dollar.

This may be the best way to support Israel. I don’t know whether or not it’s a good investment, but there will be a moral rate of return for those who want to help build a Jewish homeland around its remarkable entrepreneurial class.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on April 1, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Friday, March 28, 2008

Business getting costly in the West

The international tax and auditing firm KPMG has released its 2008 Competitive Alternatives report which compares business costs in 136 cities in 10 countries. Mexico was included for the first time this year and took the top spot from Australia for cost effectiveness since the last report in 2006, while Canada remained in second. However, whereas in 2006 it was 5.5% cheaper to do business in Canada than the US, this time around that advantage has decreased to 0.6%. "With the Canadian dollar at par, Canada is challenged to maintain the competitive edge it once held," said Mark MacDonald, Global Director, Competitive Alternatives, KPMG. "Canada has to present a clear value proposition to businesses in other areas. One example of this is the federal government's recent cuts to corporate income tax rates, which are among the lowest for a wide range of operations among countries surveyed."

For businesses operating in Canada, the other big change was the rising business costs in BC and Alberta due largely to the continued western economic boom. In 2006 the most costly Canadian cities surveyed were Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa; for 2008 Vancouver held on to the bottom position, but Calgary and Chilliwack, BC moved into the next two spots with Toronto following in fourth.

"What stands out in the 2008 survey is how strong Canada ranks globally in terms of the non-cost factors that were considered," said Glenn Mair, MMK Consulting, one of the study authors. Canada had top scores for business-friendly environmental regulation, educational outcomes, and housing affordability and ranked second for environmental performance, total employment levels, least trade restrictiveness, and energy self-sufficiency.

You can access more analysis and download the full report at www.competitivealternatives.com. For a summary of the cost-competitiveness rankings for the 10 countries included and between 17 Canadian cities, look below the fold.

Cost-Competitiveness: 2008 and 2006 Rankings by Country

COUNTRY                   RANK       2008         2006      Change in
                                 COST INDEX   COST INDEX   Cost Index
Mexico                      1        79.5
Canada                      2        99.4         94.5        -4.9
United States               3       100.0        100.0
Australia                   4       100.2         92.3        -7.9
France                      5       103.6         95.6        -8.0
United Kingdom              6       107.1         98.1        -9.0
Netherlands                 7       107.3         95.7       -11.6
Italy                       8       107.9         97.8       -10.1
Japan                       9       114.3        106.9        -7.4
Germany                    10       116.8        107.4        -9.4
Business costs are expressed as an index, with the United States being
assigned the baseline index of 100.0
Source: KPMG's 2008 Competitive Alternatives Study

Comparison of Cost Indices Among Major Canadian Cities

CITY                             COST INDEX   COST INDEX   COST INDEX
                                    2008         2006       CHANGE
Sherbrooke, QC                       92.8         90.1        +2.7
Moncton, NB                          94.9         91.1        +3.8
Fredericton, NB                      95.3         91.5        +3.8
Charlottetown, PEI                   95.8         91.7        +4.1
Quebec City, QC                      96.3         92.6        +3.7
Halifax, NS                          96.6         92.2        +4.4
Saskatoon, SK                        96.7         92.8        +3.9
Winnipeg, MB                         97.7         94.1        +3.6
Waterloo Region, ON                  98.2         94.3        +3.9
Montreal, QC                         98.5         94.3        +4.2
St. John's, NL                       99.5         94.3        +5.2
Edmonton, AB                         99.9         93.3        +6.6
Ottawa, ON                           99.9         95.1        +4.8
Toronto, ON                         101.5         96.5        +5.0
Chilliwack, BC                      101.6         94.0        +7.6
Calgary, AB                         102.0         94.7        +7.3
Vancouver, BC                       104.2         96.9        +7.3
Business costs are expressed as an index, with the United States being
assigned the baseline index of 100.0
Source: KPMG's 2008 Competitive Alternatives Study

Posted by Kalim Kassam on March 28, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saint Samuel of Kingfisher

Saintsamuel_2 At a time when pretty much everything written in Canadian media about Wal-Mart is reflexively anti-corporatist, it was truly refreshing to read Fazil Mihlar's piece in the Vancouver Sun calling for Wal-Mart to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and be beatified by the Vatican. Though it was surely written tongue-in-cheek, and the second proposal is admittedly quite silly, men like Sam Walton  should be seriously considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, he's far more deserving than Al Gore or the IPCC.  Mihlar's article is no shameful apologetic for a necessary evil but a brazen defence of the uplifting effect that Wal-Mart  has for people around the world. To those who say that Canada doesn't need more Wal-Marts, Mihlar answers that consumer demand determines their necessity, not the edict of some community activist, newpaper columnist, bureaucrat, or politician. His argument in brief:


- Provides employment to 1.9 million people; the best defence against poverty is a job.

- Creates thousands of job opportunities for people in developing countries like China and India; this keeps hunger at bay in many households.

- Doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year in dividends that help fund the retirement of millions of people; the company had sales in excess of $348 billion and a net profit of $11.3 billion in 2007.

- Sells food, clothing and other necessities to Canadians, Americans and others at prices that are 15 to 25 per cent below what other supermarkets charge; this helps millions of low-income families stretch their dollars.

- Pushes the inflation rate down and helps keep interest rates low; this comes in handy for millions of families when borrowing to buy a house or household appliances."

While all of this is true, and Wal-Mart is undoubtedly one of the best beneficiaries of poor and middle class Americans, there are some real problems with the way Wal-Mart conducts its business. I'm not talking about their unwillingness to provide all employees complete health-insurance, their unfriendliness to unions, or their "preying upon" the "defenseless poor," the two practices I'm concerned about are these:

Wal-Mart has a nasty habit of aggressively lobbying for minimum wage increases at the federal and state level. Minimum wage laws are perhaps the biggest source of unemployment amongst those who need work the most, those with few skills, little education, and no options. The main reason behind their support of minimum wage increases is that Wal-Mart, due to its better efficiency, can successfully cut costs to be able to afford wages above the minimum and still make a profit; its smaller competitors often cannot. I'm all for  free-competition but this tactic of getting the government involved in bullying its competitors out of business is not acceptable and is not free-enterprise.

Secondly, if this  2004 report is to be believed, Wal-Mart is a queen amongst corporate welfare queens, with over $1 billion in direct and indirect subsidies to the company taken from the pockets of taxpayers. The losses are not only for the taxpayer, but retailers who don't get such extensive government support operate at a disadvantage. This isn't free-enterprise either.

On balance, Wal-Mart is a shining example of  the ability of enterprise to lift multitudes out of poverty and improve the lives of millions, I just wish they would stop sullying the good name of capitalism by bringing further government intervention into what should be the purely private realm of business where the rules of voluntary contract, free association, and private property rule the day.

Hat tip: Steven Horwitz & Brad Spangler

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 12, 2008 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is Canada’s Economy a Model for America?

Mark Steyn's recent column: Is Canada’s Economy a Model for America?

read the rest here

Posted by Winston on January 8, 2008 in Canadian Politics, Current Affairs, Trade | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Harvest Moon

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker: New York Local--Eating the fruits of the five boroughs

The above article is from the New Yorker's Food Issue (Sept. 3), an annual publication event always worth the price of admission (Bill Buford's "The Pasta Station," Sept. 6, 2004, is one of the best articles I've ever read). The Gopnik piece is on localism;

The point of localism is to encourage sustainable agriculture by eating things that nearby friends and farmers grow or raise and that don’t have to be shipped halfway around the world, guzzling fossil fuel, to get to your table. The rules generally involve eating within a radius of a hundred or sometimes three hundred miles. . .

People who practice this are called "locavores." Here's a website, locavore.com and an article on the lefty Common Dreams site reprinted from Seattle Times: "Time to Become a Locavore." Localism came up in a casual conversation I had recently with an MP's executive assistant while I was writing about tainted food products from China. The EA suggested localism might be an answer to my panic after I told him how I had rummaged through my cupboards, reading labels, and chucking everything marked Product of China. (I typically overreact to food scares since I am by nature an inattentive and careless shopper. Reading the labels on things I had been eating for years was something of a revelation. I nearly wept as I threw out the tinned smoked oysters.)

Localism is not new. It might be new to some urbanites, but it's been going on in the countryside for pretty much . . . well, it's always been going on more or less informally and without strict distance limits. Go with what you know; if you know the producer is a decent person, chances are you're going to get something decent.

I'm not a big follower of fads, but on first blush localism looked like one I could adopt. I like the idea of food self-sufficiency. My town, my city, my province, my country should be able to support its own table. Why do I think that? I'm not sure. Perhaps it’s an attitude I inherited from my depression-era, "scarcity is just around the corner" parents. Anyway, for me now, in this place, being something of a "locavore" is a no-brainer. I live in British Columbia's lushly irrigated Okanagan Valley. My morning bike ride takes me past large commercial gardens and orchards, the latter at this time of the year bursting with apples and nectarines, etc. Local food is everywhere. It's tough to avoid buying local.

Growing up in suburban Edmonton, I recall my mother--a farmer's daughter--directing our bi-annual family treks to a Hutterite colony near Bruderheim where we loaded up the car with freshly slaughtered chickens and dirt-covered root vegetables. "What are we going to do with all those carrots?" mother would say on the drive home, and dad's answer was invariably a blank stare. Then there was sausage from Mundare, cheese from Bashaw, Taber corn. Locavore events dotted my early life, and I'm sure I'm not unique in this. But the more I think about it, though, the more I realize these dots were exclamation points, highlights. The main hunting-and-gathering place was still the supermarket. Why? Distribution. Everything in one place brought there as efficiently as possible because business is not in the business of being inefficient. You can spend a lot of time and energy, as the Gopnik article demonstrates, gathering up enough local food to live on, especially when you are feeding a family of six as my parent did.

In the Gopnik article, I'm still puzzling over these two paragraphs;

It is even perilously easy to construct a Veblenian explanation for the vogue for localism. Where a century ago all upwardly mobile people knew enough, and had enough resources, to get their hands on the most unseasonable foods from the most distant places, in order to distinguish themselves from the peasant past and the laboring masses, their descendants now distinguish themselves by hustling after a peasant diet.

This may be so; but the fact that one can explain everything in social life as a series of status exchanges does not mean that social life is only a series of status exchanges. It was cool to be a liberal in 1963, but that did not make liberal attitudes to race foolish. All human values get expressed as social rituals; we place bets on which of the rituals are worth serving.

The first of these 'graphs is a fairly straight-forward observation; society's betters are trying to find a way to remain better, or at least different. But that second paragraph, where the betters become bettors, I just can't figure out. First of all, I'm not sure "one can explain everything in social life as a series of status exchanges." The writer goes from status changes, to coolness, to race, to foolishness, to gambling, to social rituals, to worthiness, and seems to disappear up his own butt much like a Lewis Lapham editorial in a 1990s issue of Harper's. ". . . we place bets on which of the rituals are worth serving." There's a leap of faith here, but it's not clear where it lands. And I can't shake the niggling notion that maybe this localism with food might just a nicey-nice way for urban trendoids to redirect and repress their xenophobic anxieties; "I don't trust those foreigners--excuse me, I mean 'forces of globalization'--with my food, but let's hitch this bandwagon to the fresh pony of climate change ("guzzling fossil fuel") and liven the ride." Maybe after a few more cups of coffee I'll figure it out. You can bet I won't be giving up my ritual of morning coffee, and I know for a fact the coffee ain't grown within 300 miles of this place.

Posted by Kevin Steel on September 12, 2007 in Trade | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack