Odious profits and the Enbridge pipeline

Two obvious but generally unstated details about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline are climate change and that oil and gas companies stand to make mega-profits. An honest appraisal of the project would be something like, “yes, putting in the pipeline will facilitate even more greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta oil sands, but our buddies stand to make bucketloads of […]

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Job Vacancies vs. Unemployment

Progressive economists have advocated expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to boost demand and create jobs, given the high rate of unemployment. By contrast, employers and conservative commentators complain of unfilled vacancies and labour shortages, emphasizing policies to increase labour supply and labour mobility. Today’s new Statistics Canada survey of job vacancies sheds fresh light on this debate. The finding that […]

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Wall of Silence on Canpotex

Saskatchewan’s newspapers reported today that BHP Billiton intends to sell the province’s potash outside of Canpotex, the marketing board that helps to maximize the price for which Saskatchewan potash is exported offshore. BHP executive Tim Cutt stated, “We will not market through Canpotex. We talked to the premier (Brad Wall) about that. He understands that.” Concerns that BHP would undermine […]

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Are Enbridge’s job numbers credible?

Putting aside the impact of the proposed Enbridge pipeline on GHG emissions or spills on land and at sea, the case in favour of the pipeline rests on creating jobs. Personally, I think industry and government use “jobs” as a euphemism for “profits” as that is where the lion’s share of revenues go. But for the moment let’s consider the […]

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Foreign influence in Canada’s oil patch

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s contention that the National Energy Board hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline are loaded down with foreign special interests is exactly right. But it is not the “environmentalists and other radical groups” that are the problem. It’s the oil and gas industry. This Statscan table lays out foreign ownership in Canada’s oil and gas sector. […]

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The Politics of Potash

Advocates of low potash royalties are claiming that New Democrats fared poorly in Saskatchewan’s recent election because they proposed higher potash royalties. Of course, potash companies and their boosters would like the NDP to give up this cause. Doing so would be a political mistake for the party and a disservice to the people of Saskatchewan. Most polling indicates that most Saskatchewan […]

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Unrest in Bill’s Republic of Doyle

PotashCorp CEO Bill Doyle waded into Saskatchewan’s election campaign on Friday with an op-ed in the province’s two largest newspapers. It was accompanied by a paid advertisement from PotashCorp in Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix. The company got some free advertising in Regina’s Leader-Post through Bruce Johnstone’s column, which repeated Doyle’s op-ed. The Saskatchewan Party is parroting the same lines. In response to […]

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Sask Party Shills for PotashCorp

Yesterday’s strong earnings report from the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan confirms what this blog and the NDP have been contending: even modestly increasing Saskatchewan’s extremely low royalties on hugely profitable potash mines could fund substantially better provincial public services. The Saskatchewan Party still refuses to review potash royalties. In a well-timed column, Greg Fingas developed the theme that this gift […]

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What if Potash Tanks?

Regarding the NDP platform’s reliance on additional potash revenue, columnist Murray Mandryk asks, “What if potash tanks as it did in 2009?” Of course, budgets are necessarily based on assumptions about future commodity prices. Saskatchewan Finance estimates that each dollar of change in the price of oil alters provincial revenues by $20 million (page 35). So, if a barrel of […]

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Saskatchewan Platform Comparison

Saskatchewan’s two major parties have unveiled their election platforms. The NDP’s fiscal plan is to collect higher potash royalties and reinvest the proceeds in public priorities like healthcare, education and housing. Columnist Murray Mandryk notes the spectre of Erin Weir. The NDP has expressed a willingness to discuss sharing resource revenues with First Nations. The Sask Party criticizes the NDP […]

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Sask Party Deficit Math

The Saskatchewan NDP is proposing to collect higher potash royalties and save a portion of the proceeds in a new Bright Futures Fund. The NDP has also expressed its willingness to negotiate with First Nations about the possibility of resource revenue sharing. The right-wing Saskatchewan Party strangely claims that the NDP’s plan “would plunge the province back into 1980s-style budget deficits.” […]

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C. D. Howe Shills for Oil Companies

The C. D. Howe Institute is out this morning with a press release entitled, “Raising Oil and Gas Royalties Does Not Benefit Provincial Coffers.” A complete analysis of the accompanying 30-page paper – featuring many graphs, tables and regressions – will take time. But here is my initial take. Background The Institute correctly notes that provincial oil and gas revenues […]

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Decarbonizing homes and the price of gas

Our climate justice framework for BC is to eliminate fossil fuels by 2040. In the household sector, this poses a significant challenge, not so much in terms of technology and knowledge, but because natural gas is much cheaper than electricity per unit of energy. Even though BC has among the lowest prices in North America, and for relatively clean electricity […]

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Is BC about to drop a new carbon bomb?

Any day now the BC government should be releasing the latest greenhouse gas data for the province, and we will see if any progress is being made towards a legislated 33% reduction in emissions by 2020 (relative to 2007 levels; data will be for 2009 and we know that emissions rose in 2008). Below the radar, however, and not counted […]

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What Newfoundland & Labrador Can Teach the Rest of Canada About 21st Century Globalization

A shorter version of this analysis appears at the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab. See article and comments here. Last fall Premier Danny Williams wondered what could drive anyone to let hundreds of millions of dollars slip through their fingers. Last week he got his answer. The Roil report on the 18-month strike at Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in northern […]

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A billion dollars of bogus carbon credits

A story in today’s Vancouver Sun is disturbing, arguing that BC could make $1 billion from selling carbon offsets once the Western Climate Initiative gets underway. The projects are mostly in forest management and conservation, meaning less cutting and more sequestration of carbon in the forests themselves. The conservation part is undoubtedly a good thing — we need to manage […]

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Fulton and Rasmussen on Potash

I do not think anyone can disagree with the conclusion of Murray Fulton and Ken Rasmussen that Saskatchewan should “proceed with a thoughtful and deliberate process that ensures that the province is the long-term beneficiary of this asset.” The provincial opposition is advocating a royalty review process to achieve that goal. The government and potash companies claim that the appropriate […]

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Potash Royalties: Lessons from Def Leppard

Advocates of low potash royalties have floated some pretty bizarre arguments. Last week, the Saskatchewan Party put out a news release emphasizing that local farmers use some 0.6% of provincial potash output, as though this tiny sliver of domestic consumption somehow complicates the province’s interest in maximizing revenue as a potash producer. Equally strange are claims that Alberta’s oil and […]

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PotashCorp’s Fuzzy Math

In a couple of recent posts, I threw down the gauntlet for PotashCorp to disclose how much corporate income tax and Crown royalties it paid to the Government of Saskatchewan. As Bruce Johnstone reports, it has finally done so: While PotashCorp paid $77 million in resource surcharges in 2010, it also paid $82 million in corporate income taxes and $70 […]

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PotashCorp Responds

Today’s Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post cover my recent analysis of PotashCorp’s annual report. I suggested that the company may be paying less corporate income tax to Saskatchewan than to Trinidad. PotashCorp could clear things up anytime by simply disclosing the amount of corporate tax it paid to the Saskatchewan government. Rather than doing so, its spokesman argues that the […]

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Conservatives for Higher Potash Royalties

Growing up in Saskatchewan, I never imagined myself blogging in praise of Rick Swenson. First, blogs did not exist then. Second, I generally disagreed with Swenson, a former cabinet minister in Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservative government. Swenson is back as leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, whose caucus quit to join with right-wing Liberals and federal Reformers to create the […]

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PotashCorp, US Regulators and Bruce Johnstone

Multinational corporations generally provide more detail to the US Security and Exchange Commission than in their Canadian annual reports. Thank goodness for American disclosure requirements. Along with its 2010 Annual Report, PotashCorp released its Annual Report on Form 10-K (a Security and Exchange Commission filing) on Friday afternoon. The following section is on pages 14 and 15: Royalties and Certain […]

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PotashCorp’s Annual Report: The Fine Print

The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan posted its 2010 annual report yesterday. It’s always worth taking a closer look at documents released on a Friday afternoon. Those interested in public revenues should see pages 109, 110 and 111. Note 19’s breakdown of “Provincial Mining and Other Taxes” confirms something that I had suspected. PotashCorp paid zero Potash Production Tax in 2010. […]

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The Great Saskatchewan Potash Debate

The comment pages of Saskatchewan’s newspapers have been abuzz with debate about potash royalties since my latest op-ed on the subject appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix a couple of weeks ago. Two days later, political columnist Murray Mandryk made the case that the province should demand higher royalties rather than just accepting a few more jobs and charitable donations from the Potash […]

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Raise Potash Royalties

This blog has long been critiquing Saskatchewan’s inadequate potash royalties. But every time I check the numbers, I am again shocked by how low they have fallen. In 2010, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan paid just a nickel in provincial royalties for every dollar of gross margin it made on potash. I have the following op-ed in today’s Saskatoon StarPhoenix: […]

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Is Oil Driving Our Economy?

It is, according to a major story by Barrie McKenna in today’s ROB. The story is full of telling anecdotes which ring more or less true. But I doubt that higher oil prices are, on net, a plus for the total Canadian economy in terms of either GDP or employment. True, high and rising oil prices will (often with a […]

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Potash Royalties and Mine Expansions

Saskatchewan’s NDP opposition recently called for higher potash royalties, a position long advocated by this blog. Not surprisingly, the Saskatchewan Party government and the potash companies have objected. The argument from Premier Brad Wall and PotashCorp CEO Bill Doyle seems to be that mine expansions are occurring in Saskatchewan only because of royalty concessions granted by the previous NDP government. […]

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Another pipe dream

The Weyburn, Saskatchewan carbon capture and storage (CCS) project has sprung big leaks, and with it the argument that CCS can make dirty fossil fuels clean. The core idea behind CCS is taking CO2 emissions and piping them back underground where they are supposed to stay, forever. In the case of Weyburn, the CO2 comes from a coal plant across […]

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