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Canada’s main opposition party switches climate change policy, backs carbon pricing

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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada‘s opposition Conservative Party on Thursday dropped its resistance to carbon pricing and adopted the fee on emissions and fuels as part of its own climate plan, a move that could put it at odds with some of its staunchest supporters.

Climate change has proved a thorny issue for the Conservative Party under leader Erin O’Toole. Most Conservative delegates voted against recognizing climate change as a real threat at a policy convention last month.

“We will scrap (Liberal Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax on working Canadians,” O’Toole said at that convention, noting however that the party “fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax.”

O’Toole said his own plan was better than the Liberal one. Carbon pricing imposes fees on the use of carbon-based fuels such as oil either through charges for emissions or by adding to the price of gasoline and other fuels.

Trudeau’s national carbon price is due to ramp up to C$170 a ton by 2030, though 90% is returned to Canadian taxpayers through rebates. The Conservatives would cap prices at C$50 a ton for taxpayers, who would pay the levy into a government savings account and be able to use the money to make “green” purchases like bicycles.

A number of provinces – including the energy heartland and Conservative Party bastion of Alberta – oppose carbon pricing, and challenged the government’s scheme in the Supreme Court. Last month, the court upheld Trudeau’s plan.

“Any new climate plan…must minimize the costs on Albertans and on our trade-exposed industries while at the same time, continuing to responsibly reduce emissions from Alberta,” Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon said.

O’Toole said a Conservative government would meet Canada‘s international pledge to cut emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, and match greenhouse gas reductions promised in the Liberal climate plan.

“It’s outrageous that O’Toole is now planning to hammer Canadians with higher fuel bills through his very own carbon tax,” said Franco Terrazzano, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Alberta director.

Many Liberal insiders expect Trudeau to seek an election later this year. Trudeau’s Liberals lead O’Toole’s Conservatives 37% to 29%, according an Abacus Data poll published on Thursday.

 

(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, editing by Steve Scherer, Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman)

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Citi promotes Gutiérrez-Orrantia to head EMEA banking

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Citigroup has promoted Ignacio Gutiérrez-Orrantia, one of its most senior bankers in Madrid, to lead its banking, capital markets and advisory (BCMA) franchise for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a memo seen by Reuters shows.

Gutiérrez-Orrantia, 49, has been at Citi for 17 years and will replace Philip Drury, who is moving to San Francisco to lead the bank’s global technology and communications advisory unit.

Gutiérrez-Orrantia will join Citi’s EMEA operating committee and BCMA senior leadership committees globally while also becoming the senior manager responsible for BCMA for the bank’s UK legal entities.

The Bilbao native most recently led BCMA for Iberia, the Netherlands, the Nordic region and Switzerland and was also BCMA chairman for continental Europe.

In his new role he will report to Citi’s co-heads of investment banking, Manolo Falco and Tyler Dickson, as well as EMEA CEO David Livingstone.

 

(Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; editing by Jason Neely)

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Calgary Stampede to proceed with limited events

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The Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival that is also Canada‘s biggest and booziest party, will go ahead this year after being pulled in 2020 due to the pandemic, though it will not look and feel the same, an event organizer told CBC Radio.

“It won’t be your typical Stampede … it’s not the experience that you had in years past,” Kristina Barnes, communications manager with the Calgary Stampede, told a CBC Radio programme on Friday.

She said organizers were still deciding whether to include rodeo or the grandstand show in this year’s version.

Known as “the greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Stampede draws tourists from around the world for its rodeo and chuckwagon races, but much of the action happens away from official venues at parties hosted by oil and gas companies.

“The Safest and Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is what we’re going to call it this year,” Barnes said, adding the organizers are working directly with Alberta Health to ensure Stampede experiences stay “within the guidelines” that may be in effect in July.

The event is scheduled to take place between July 9-18, according to the Calgary Stampede website.

Last month, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters the Calgary Stampede can probably go ahead this year as Alberta’s coronavirus vaccination campaign accelerates.

Barnes and the office of the Alberta premier were not available for immediate comment.

The cancellation of the event last year was a crushing disappointment for Canada‘s oil capital.

The news comes as Alberta has been dealing with a punishing third wave of the pandemic, with the province having among the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 cases in the country. Data released on Friday showed the province had 1,433 new cases, compared with the seven-day average of 1,644.

 

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chris Reese)

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U.S. trade chief pressured to lift duties on Canadian lumber

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 As U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai prepares to meet her Canadian and Mexican counterparts on Monday to review progress in the new North American trade agreement, she is under pressure from home builders and lawmakers to cut U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber.

Shortages of softwood lumber amid soaring U.S. housing demand and mill production curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused prices to triple in the past year, adding $36,000 to the average cost of a new single-family home, according to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Republican lawmakers have taken up the builders’ cause, asking Tai during hearings in Congress last week to eliminate the 9% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Senator John Thune told Tai that high lumber costs were “having a tremendous impact on the ground” in his home state of South Dakota and putting homes out of reach for some working families.

The Trump administration initially imposed 20% duties in 2018 after the collapse of talks on a new quota arrangement, but reduced the level in December 2020.

“The Biden administration must address these unprecedented lumber and steel costs and broader supply-chain woes or risk undermining the economic recovery,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Without tariff relief and other measures, vital construction projects will fall behind schedule or be canceled.”

On Friday, White House economic adviser Cecilia Rouse said the Biden administration was weighing concerns about commodity shortages and inflation as it reviews trade policy.

The tariffs are allowed under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which permits duties to combat price dumping and unfair subsidies.

The U.S. Commerce Department has ruled that lumber from most Canadian provinces is unfairly subsidized because it is largely grown on public lands with cheap harvesting fees set by Ottawa. U.S. timber is mainly harvested from privately-owned land.

Tai said she would bring up the lumber issue with Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng at the first meeting of the USMCA Free Trade Council, a minister-level body that oversees the trade deal.

WILLING PARTNER

But Tai told U.S. senators that despite higher prices, the fundamental dispute remains and there have been no talks on a new lumber quota arrangement.

“In order to have an agreement and in order to have a negotiation, you need to have a partner. And thus far, the Canadians have not expressed interest in engaging,” Tai said.

Youmy Han, a spokeswoman for Canada‘s trade ministry, said the U.S. duties were “unjustified,” and that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Our government believes a negotiated agreement is possible and in the best interests of both countries,” Han said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

But builders are growing frustrated with a lack of high-level engagement with high-level Biden administration officials on the issue as they watch lumber prices rise.

“They are clearly still gathering facts, which is even more frustrating given that this issue has been going on since before the election, before the inaugural,” said James Tobin, a vice president and top lobbyist at the NAHB.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder and Jarrett Renshaw in Washington and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)

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