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Southwestern Ontario loses all Via service amid anti-pipeline blockades – The London Free Press



Thousands of London-area students and other travellers will have to regroup after Via Rail suspended national service Thursday in the fallout of anti-pipeline protests disrupting rail freight and passenger service across the country.

London’s Via Rail station, the nation’s fourth-busiest, is all but deserted Thursday, Feb. 13, as the passenger rail provider suspended service nationwide in the face of pipeline protesters’ rail blockades. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

Thousands of London-area students and other travellers will have to regroup after Via Rail suspended national service Thursday in the fallout of anti-pipeline protests disrupting rail freight and passenger service across the country.

London is a hub on Via’s heavily travelled southern Ontario corridor, and the fourth-busiest railway station in the country, with especially heavy traffic from many of the 50,000 post-secondary students in the city.

Via is also a preferred way to get to Toronto for many business and leisure travellers from the region.

The suspension of Via service comes just days before a key travel period for many students, the start of their February break at Western University when many head for homes elsewhere, especially in the Toronto area.

Across Canada, escalating protests over a natural-gas pipeline project in British Columbia have caused havoc for the national rail carriers, CN Rail, on whose lines Via Rail runs in Southwestern Ontario, and CP Rail.

The protests — blockades and other disruptions — are showing solidarity with hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in their traditional territories.

Via already had cancelled all service this week as of Thursday on its Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes, bringing the number of trains cancelled this week to nearby 160, not counting those cancelled Friday.

At Via’s London station Thursday afternoon, the disruption drew mixed reactions from passengers.

“For now, I am stranded. I don’t know what to do,” said Jamal Usamont, an Oakville resident.

“It’s kind of messed up,” said Londoner Keith Martin, on his way to visit family in Guelph for a birthday party.

“It’s not good, not good.”

Urwath Qu, a project manager for Gateway Entertainment and Casinos Ltd., was headed home to Toronto. His scheduled train 78 was the only one still running after Thursday’s announcement.

“It will be fine. I can make other arrangements (if needed),” he said.

Via’s Southwestern Ontario corridor extends from Windsor to Chatham, London, Woodstock and Brantford, with some service to and from Sarnia.

With files by Heather Rivers, The London Free Press

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Police deliver injunction to demonstrators blocking rail tracks in Saint-Lambert – CTV News



Police have served protesters blocking rail tracks south of Montreal, in St-Lambert, with an injunction demanding they dismantle their barricades.

CN police just before 7 p.m. on Thursday approached the barricades with a box full of paper, delivering copies of the injunction to the protesters. Officers said they would give the protesters time to read it. It was unclear as of Thursday evening if police would move in against them.

Longueuil Police had tweeted just before 7 p.m., warning motorists to stay away from the area to allow the demonstrators to leave. 

The protesters, however, showed no signs of leaving.

Canadian National earlier had obtained the injunction to end the blockade of its railway line in Saint-Lambert that had snarled commuter rail traffic to Mont-St-Hilaire and Via Rail service to Quebec City.

Quebec Premier François Legault had said that the barricade would be dismantled by municipal police on the South Shore when the injunction was issued. Longueuil police had asked for the Surete du Quebec’s assistance to remove the barricades, should officers attempt to intervene.

Early Thursday afternoon the protesters were reluctant to speak to the media, though some locals had engaged with them. “I support you, but it’s enough,” St-Lambert resident David Skitt told the protesters, urging them to get off the tracks. After his conversation, where he expressed his frustration with their methods, he shook hands with one of the demonstrators and left.

Temperatures overnight Thursday were predicted to dip as low as -16 C with a windchill of -22 C, according to Environment Canada. The demonstrators had lit a fire inside of a tent and asked their supporters for wood, supplies and blankets.

The blockade of the railway line by supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs has delayed the planned resumption of Via Rail service between Montreal and Quebec City. Service on the busy corridor was set to resume Thursday, but Via Rail announced that the resumption has been postponed until at least the end of the day Friday. The new blockade gave Via Rail “no other option” to push back the resumption of service, the company said in a statement.

Service between Montreal and Ottawa is scheduled to resume Saturday. Service on the complete Windsor-Quebec City corridor is currently expected to resume Sunday.

On Wednesday, Via Rail announced that it was temporarily laying off some 1,000 employees due to the impact of blockades across the country.

Blockades of railway lines across the country have caused widespread passenger and cargo train delays and cancellations.

The blockades are being set up in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en First Nation of northern British Columbia, who are opposing the construction of a new pipeline through their territory.

– With reporting by The Canadian Press.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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Asian shares perk up as investors look beyond Apple virus warning – Aljazeera.com



Asian shares and United States stock futures edged up cautiously on Wednesday, as investors tried to shake off worries about the coronavirus epidemic and look beyond the short-term hit to corporate earnings.

Chinese blue chip shares erased early declines to trade 0.52 percent higher. Australian shares were up 0.29 percent, while Japan‘s Nikkei stock index rose 0.81 percent.


MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan spent much of the morning session bouncing between gains and losses, losing 1.08 percent by midday.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is still struggling to get its manufacturing sector back online after imposing severe travel restrictions to contain a virus that emerged in the central Chinese province of Hubei late last year.

On Tuesday, Apple Inc announced that it was unlikely to meet its sales guidance because of the virus outbreak, spooking investors and denting stock prices.

But investors are optimistic that officials will roll out more stimulus to support the world’s second-largest economy.

“Apple’s announcement was a bit of a shock, but … what’s more important is that central banks are going to provide quite a bit of stimulus,” Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader told Al Jazeera.

“We know there’s going to be a slide in earnings, we know those ramifications,” he said, adding that these were expected short-term outcomes, but earnings could recover in the medium to long term. “Central banks will buttress short-term downside with a lot of liquidity.”

The People’s Bank of China cut the interest rate on its medium-term lending facility on Monday, which is expected to pave the way for a reduction in the country’s benchmark loan prime rate on Thursday, as policymakers try to ease the financial strains caused by the virus.

“Part of the thinking that is supporting markets is the actions that China takes to support its economy,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney told Reuters. “Any investor concern around impact on demand globally from the virus will be offset by expectations that global central banks will ride to the rescue.”

US stock futures rose 0.18 percent in Asia on Wednesday but the Treasury curve remained inverted as yields on three-month bills traded above those on 10-year notes, in a sign that some investors remain cautious about the outlook.

A yield curve inverts when short-term yields trade above long-term yields, and is often considered a sign of recession in the next year or two.

In the currency market, the euro languished at a three-year low versus the US dollar as disappointing data from Germany, Europe‘s largest economy, has stoked fears that the eurozone is more vulnerable to external shocks than previously thought.

The euro was quoted at $1.0804, still close to its lowest since April 2017.

Mainland China had 1,749 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Wednesday, down from 1,886 cases a day earlier and the lowest since January 29.

The death toll in China has topped more than 2,000 from the flu-like illness which has already spread to 24 other countries.

In China’s onshore market, the yuan briefly fell to a two-week low of 7.0136 per US dollar as traders continued to ponder the economic impact of the virus and the chance for more monetary easing.

The price of US crude oil rose 0.21 percent to $52.16 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 0.12 percent to $57.87 per barrel as a reduction in supply from Libya offset concerns about weaker Chinese demand for commodities.

Expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers including Russia will cut output further should lend support to prices.

The group, known as OPEC+, will meet in Vienna on March 6.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Caisse fails to beat investment benchmark as real estate posts negative return – The Globe and Mail



A person walks into the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec building in Montreal on Feb. 7, 2020.

Christinne Muschi/Christinne Muschi/The Globe and

Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real-estate arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, will likely sell a third of its 25 shopping centres after its 2019 returns dragged down the entire fund.

The Caisse failed to beat its investment benchmark in 2019 as Ivanhoé Cambridge recorded a negative 2.7-per-cent return. The Caisse said its real-estate portfolio was “notably affected by the weak performance” of its Canadian shopping centres.

Nathalie Palladitcheff, president and chief executive officer of Ivanhoé Cambridge, said Thursday at a news conference that while “there are 25 shopping centres and there will be 25 solutions,” she added that “of the 25, at least a third need to be sold eventually, because the possibility of transformation in relation to the capital that needs to be invested does not correspond to our priorities at Ivanhoé Cambridge.” (Her remarks were made in French and translated by the Caisse.)

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Ivanhoé Cambridge made attempts to sell portions of its Canadian shopping-centre portfolio starting in 2018, but ultimately made no major deal. Early in 2018, the company took its Calgary Market Mall off the market. Last year, it was seeking to sell a 50-per-cent non-managing interest in two top-performing malls, Vaughan Mills north of Toronto and Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, Ont., as well as up to 100 per cent in eight other shopping centres from Victoria to Quebec City. The Globe and Mail reported in August, 2019, that it had halted the sale because it couldn’t get the price it wanted.

The Caisse also said declining residential real-estate rents in New York City played a lesser role in its real-estate performance. Its real-estate benchmark returned 1.4 per cent.

The Caisse says Ivanhoé Cambridge will accelerate a move from more traditional assets and into “tomorrow’s sectors,” driven by trends in urbanization, socio-demographic changes and new technologies.

Overall, the Quebec pension plan said it produced a 10.4-per-cent return in 2019, increasing its assets by $31.1-billion to $340-billion. A benchmark portfolio the Caisse uses to evaluate its performance, however, returned 11.9 per cent.

Charles Émond, the new president and chief executive officer of the Caisse, called global markets “highly euphoric” and said “we succeeded here. The portfolio, overall, performed exactly the way we thought it would perform in this type of environment.” Mr. Émond, a former Bank of Nova Scotia investment banker, replaced Michael Sabia as Caisse CEO earlier this month.

While the pension manager’s infrastructure portfolio returned 7.1 per cent, it was below its benchmark index’s return of 17.7 per cent. While the Caisse’s infrastructure portfolio is primarily private assets, the benchmark index includes more than 200 publicly traded stocks, which the Caisse said “benefited greatly from surging stock markets.”

All told, the Caisse’s “real assets” class, which contains real estate and infrastructure and makes up about one-fifth of the portfolio, returned 1.0 per cent, compared with a benchmark of 7.2 per cent.

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Caisse’s equity portfolio, which represents about half of its assets, also missed the mark, returning 15.3 per cent compared with a 16.3-per-cent benchmark. The fixed-income portfolio was the only winner, posting an 8.9-per-cent return, beating its 8.0-per-cent benchmark.

The fund closed the year with $340-billion in net assets, with $47.6-billion invested in 750 companies in Quebec’s private sector. Total Quebec-based assets were $66.7-billion at year-end.

The Caisse’s annualized return over five and 10 years was 8.1 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively. Over those periods, it said it generated $11-billion and $18-billion in value-added compared to its benchmark portfolio.

Mr. Émond says the pension fund manager expects the next decade “to be more challenging than the past one, during which all investors benefited from the longest bull market in history.”

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