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Canadian companies may double down on oilsands after Total writes off $9.3B in assets: analysts –



Earlier this week, French energy giant Total announced it would write off $9.3-billion worth of oilsands assets in Alberta and cancel its oil lobby membership in the Calgary-based Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Writedowns would include $7.3-billion related to its ownership in the Fort Hills oilsands mine in northern Alberta, and a 50 per cent stake in the ConocoPhillips-operated Surmont thermal oilsands project.

The moves reflect the Paris-based company’s dissatisfaction with the performance of its assets over the last number of years, said Richard Masson, chair of the World Petroleum Council.

“I think about the Fort Hill project in particular … Total has been very unhappy with that asset’s performance, [among others],” Masson said, citing capital cost overruns and curtailed oil production.

“So I think, as an international major, they look at the world and they say, ‘What things are we going to do to try and align with climate change?’

“The asset they had that wasn’t giving them good performance is the one they were prepared to take a big hit to.”

‘Stranded’ oil reserves

On Wednesday, Total said it was leaving the Canadian oil lobby because of a “misalignment” between the company’s climate ambition statement and CAPP’s public positions, adding that it considered oil reserves with high production costs to be produced more than 20 years in the future to be “stranded.”

While Masson said he didn’t feel that would be a dominant theme in the Canadian oilsands moving forward, Total didn’t represent the first example of an international company shifting focus away from those assets.

In 2017, Royal Dutch Shell struck a $12.74-billion deal with Canadian Natural Resources, stating at the time that the company did not have the scale or capability to remain in the oilsands long-term.

“What’s happening, in my mind, in [both] of those instances, both of those companies are international majors with big retail presences. Shell has gas stations around the world, as does Total,” Masson said.

“They do not want to see boycotts, they do not want to see anything that affects their brand in a negative way.”

Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell, said in 2017 that the oilsands were no longer a strategic fit for his company in the long run. (Sergio Moraes/Reuters)

Kevin Birn, a Calgary-based analyst with IHS Markit, said the oilsands emerged, in part, from a world in which oil was in short supply. Today, he said, the market has changed.

“Companies like Total that are big and integrated will shift their priorities from one resource to another, where they think they have a competitive advantage,” Birn said.

“So you see a number of companies moving their portfolios away from the oilsands, but you also see Canadian companies doubling down on those assets because they feel they have a competitive advantage.”

With the Fort Hill project now a lower value on Total’s books, Masson said he expected that someone would soon try to make a deal to buy those assets.

“It’s easier for Total to say, okay, we’re going to take, I don’t know, 50 or 60 cents on the dollar for what we’ve paid for these things now that they’ve been written down so far,” he said.

“It may be that we see these assets change hands, probably to a Canadian company. And overall, that could be a good thing for Canada.”

Earlier this week, IHS Markit released its latest forecast for oilsands production growth, continuing a decade-long trend of industry experts projecting a less optimistic outlook for the sector.

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Chinese woman illegally crossed Canada-U.S. border with $38K in gold bars: authorities – CTV News



A Chinese woman was arrested after allegedly entering the United States illegally from Canada while carrying more than $38,000 in gold bars, according to border authorities.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement released Thursday that the woman was arrested with 14.25 ounces of gold bars in her possession, valued at over $38,000 (US$28,500). She also had more than $13,500 (US$10,000) in cash.

The 36-year-old woman was apprehended near the town of Amity, Maine on Tuesday, the agency said in the statement.

Officials said the woman admitted to being a Chinese national illegally present in the U.S. The woman told border authorities that she had been legally allowed into Canada as a student and illegally crossed the border to visit a friend in San Francisco, Calif.

Border officials from the Houlton Border Patrol Station determined the spot where the woman illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border by matching footprints with her shoes, according to the statement.

The woman, who has not been identified, was subsequently sent back to Canada following her arrest.

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Canada reports 220 Coronavirus new cases, 6 more deaths



Canada reported 220 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, as well as six more deaths.

Saturday’s numbers bring the country’s total COVID-19 infections and fatalities to 119,187 and 8,976, respectively. As of Aug. 8, a further 103,566 — or 86 per cent — of patients infected with the coronavirus have recovered. Over 5.12 million tests have also been administered across the country.

The new numbers, however, do not reflect all regions across the country as several provinces — including British Columbia, Alberta, P.E.I. and all the territories — do not report new COVID-19 data on the weekends.

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, reported 126 new cases of the virus on Saturday raising its total infections to 60,367. Five more deaths, including one that occurred before July 31, were also announced.

Ontario announced 70 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, raising its total confirmed cases to 39,967. Saturday marks the sixth day the province has seen daily case counts below the 100 mark. One more death linked to the coronavirus was also reported by the province on Aug. 8, raising its death toll to 2,784.

Manitoba recorded an additional 16 lab-confirmed or “probable” cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. The new numbers were not reflected in Global News’ tally as only lab-confirmed cases are counted. Saturday’s reporting brings the province’s total lab-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 507.

Saskatchewan announced an additional 24 cases of the virus, raising its provincial total to 1,433. No new deaths were reported by the province, with its COVID-19 death toll standing at 20. A further 1,245 patients have also recovered from the virus in Saskatchewan.

No new cases were announced by Nova Scotia on Saturday, with the province only having two active cases of the virus.

New Brunswick also reported zero new cases on Saturday, with the province only grappling with six active cases. The Maritime region has seen a total of 176 cases and two deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador also recorded zero new cases of the virus on Saturday during its daily briefing. The province has seen 267 cases and three deaths from the virus and currently has one active case.


In a statement Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that an average of 48,360 people were tested daily over the past week, with one per cent testing positive. According to Tam, there has been an approximate average of 400 new cases reported daily across the country.

Tam’s statement also highlighted her previous remarks on the upcoming school season in September.

“Across the country, jurisdictions are announcing plans for reopening schools, which take into account the local context and epidemiology of COVID-19,” read her statement.


“Now that our collective efforts have flattened the curve and brought COVID-19 spread under manageable control, with increased capacity and public health measures in place to keep it that way, we must now establish a careful balance to keep the infection rate low, while minimizing unintended health and social consequences.”

Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 19.4 million people, according to a running tally kept by John Hopkins University. Over 723,000 people have died from COVID-19 as well.

The United States, Brazil, India and Russia continue to be among the countries with the highest amount of coronavirus cases in the world.

Source: – Global News

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Family of Ontario man who died of COVID-19 in U.S. custody are angry with Canadian Embassy –



The family of an Ontario man who died from COVID-19 while in U.S. custody awaiting deportation to Canada is blaming the Canadian Embassy for not doing enough to bring him home. 

“They did not do their job. They did not protect my uncle, who was a free Canadian citizen,” said Jessica Marostega, the man’s niece.

Her uncle, James Hill, died this week after contracting COVID-19 while at a detention facility run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was scheduled to fly to Toronto on July 9 after being held at the facility in Farmville, Va., since April. A judge ordered his deportation in May.

But his departure for Canada was delayed due to “medical reasons.” 

“My cousin got an email from the Canadian Embassy saying that his travel had been postponed due to medical reasons, and that’s all they would tell us at that time,” Marostega said. It was later confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Formerly a practising doctor in Louisiana, Hill had been serving more than 14 years in prison for health-care fraud and distributing a controlled substance before being transferred to the detention centre.

He was 72 and considered at high risk when he was transferred to Farmville. After contracting the coronavirus, Hill was taken to a local hospital, where he died about a month later. Almost every single detainee at the detention facility has contracted COVID-19.  

“It was devastating,” Marostega said. “Fourteen years waiting, we find out he is finally going to be released.” 

James Hill’s family and friends donated items to help him settle back in after returning to Ontario from prison in the U.S. Marostega, his niece, says the family now has to return the items. (Ellen Mauro/CBC)

She said the family was told in April it would take only a few weeks before Hill could come home. But his return was pushed back to the beginning of July.

“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” she said. “We blame the Canadian [Embassy] for that when they could have asked, ‘Why is he not coming home earlier?’ I think [they] should have advocated for that a little more for him. To me, that’s their job.” 

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada offered “sincere condolences to the family,” but it did not respond to the family’s criticism.

“To be honest, all the emails that my family sent that got responses back, they were all very blanket responses — somebody else was looking into it…. And in terms of the embassy, I felt like they just passed a message back and forth but there was no saying to ICE this wasn’t OK,” Marostega said.

“Our family offered to pay for transportation, medical check, everything — and it was all brushed under the table.”

WATCH | Family speaks out after Canadian man dies of COVID-19 is ICE custody:

James Hill died of COVID-19 while in the custody of U.S. immigration enforcement while awaiting deportation to Canada. 2:11

Marostega also reached out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to her local MP but said the responses were inadequate.

Now, she and her family are left to clean up the room they had set up for her uncle’s arrival and return items that were donated from relatives.

While she knows Hill won’t be coming home, she said she hopes a situation like this won’t happen to someone else. 

“I can’t bring my uncle home, but if I can bring somebody else’s home, right?”

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