Senators top Penguins in OT to take Game 1

The Ottawa Senators’ Bobby Ryan scored in the first period of overtime on a nifty, top-corner backhand to give his squad a 2-1 win and a one-game-to-none lead in their third-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

More to come.


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U2 Joshua Tree tour kicks off in Canada

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Irish rock band U2 have opened their Joshua Tree tour in Vancouver, Canada.

The group have embarked on a world tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal album.

They will play every song from the 1987 album, which included hits such as Where the Streets Have No Name and With or Without You.

At the BC Place Stadium on Friday, they opened the set with Sunday Bloody Sunday and closed with a brand new unreleased song – Little Things.

English rock band Mumford & Sons were the supporting act.

The tour will take in more than 30 shows across North America and Europe, including dates in London and at Dublin’s Croke Park, where the band played a triumphant homecoming show on the original Joshua Tree tour.

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The far left and far right converge on transgender rights in Canada: Neil Macdonald

It’s almost a cliché, but nonetheless true: sometimes the left and the right, when they go far enough down their respective rabbit holes, wind up meeting in some strange common burrow and agree, as the wickedly ironic Dr. Frank’N’Furter put it, on the cause, but not the symptom.

It happened in the late ’80s, after the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion laws, but allowed that in the later stages of pregnancy, abortion can be subject to reasonable limits to protect the developed fetus or the woman’s health, and invited Parliament to rewrite the law.

The House of Commons tried; oh, it tried. Lawmakers cannot resist making new laws, otherwise what use are they?

Brian Mulroney, effectively a pro-choice Roman Catholic (against abortion himself but unwilling to criminalize a woman’s decision), wanted a compromise in which militants on both sides of the issue gave some ground.

But it failed, largely because hardline anti-abortion types effectively locked arms with pro-choice absolutists. As a result, Canada is one of the only countries in the world that treats abortion like a tonsillectomy – a medical procedure subject only to normal medical regulation.

The left won, in other words.

The next political issue

It’s now 30 years later. A slew of hot-button issues has been settled in the meantime, mostly to the satisfaction of the political left. Gay marriage is no longer even remarkable. Corporal punishment is now regarded as assault. Religion is confined to places of worship, and mostly kept out of the classroom. Cannabis will soon be legal.

Among the issues that remain, one of the most prominent is transgender rights. Granted, it’s not as seismic as abortion, and it affects far fewer people – I’m not even sure I know a transgender person – but it’s a hot topic.

Risibly, it was a prominent issue in last year’s American presidential election. Republican so-cons cried in alarm about allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, which is the guidance former president Barack Obama gave the nation’s schools.

In the view of social conservatives, that invites sinister, perverted men to simply declare themselves women, then waltz into girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms and satisfy all manner of disgusting urges.

North Bay's all gender washroom

Republican so-cons cried in alarm about allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. (Facebook CBC)

Conservative Republicans began demanding laws obliging people to use the bathroom of the sex marked on their birth certificate.

Happily, though, the attitudes in broader society are moving as quickly on transgender issues as they suddenly did on gay marriage. Businesses began shunning the state of North Carolina for just such a law.

Transgender activists, sensing their time has arrived, have developed a mildly hectoring playbook, as activists tend to do.

Gender, they tell us, is utterly different from sex; the genitalia you’re born with are not reliable indicators.

Anyone, they teach, can identify as any gender, and we must respect that. It seems to be a particularly important issue for millennials; assuming someone’s gender merely because of their sex indicates “cisnormative” thinking, which is retrograde and to be avoided.

Bill C-16

Many transgender individuals demand to be referred to by neologisms like “xe” or the plural-singular “they.” Most people I know arch an eyebrow at some of the activist vocabulary, but basically, like me, don’t really care who’s in the next bathroom stall, or what clothes someone chooses to wear. Live and let live.

So it would seem conservatives are outvoted once again. But wait. Once again, they have found allies on the far left.

Of course they have.

As Canada’s new law on transgender rights — Bill C-16, which seeks to shield “gender expression” and “gender identity” from discrimination or hatred — makes its way through Parliament, some feminist activists are warning that it goes too far.

Hilla Kerner, of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, basically told a Senate committee this week that transgender women really aren’t women, and threaten the existence of exclusively “female-born” spaces, such as rape crisis centres.

The Senate is considering whether or not to pass a transgender rights bill6:36

Women who are not born with vaginas, she said, do not have to suffer the second-class existence of “female-born” women. Instead, they could theoretically choose to be a man if they like, which makes them much more privileged.

Those who are not “female-born,” she added, cannot “know the embarrassment of having our clothes stained with blood from our period, the anxiety of facing an unwanted pregnancy and the fear of being raped, and we know the comfort of grouping with other women.”

Meghan Murphy, a founder of the website Feminist Current, seconded Kerner’s remarks, criticizing the proposed law because “it treats gender as a personal choice.”

Well. Republicans Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump together couldn’t have expressed that thought more perfectly.

What Kerner and her fellow travelers are arguing is precisely the same brutish, paranoid thinking put forward by those on the Christian conservative right.

Somehow, they see transgender people, who are in fact mercilessly bullied while growing up and are often grappling with despair and confusion about how they fit in, as threats.

They are not threats. They are the threatened, for heaven’s sake. And my guess is they absolutely understand the fear of being raped.

They should expect women like Kerner and Murphy to lend then a hand, not pile on.

When I saw the story about the Senate testimony this week, I sent it to a sharp young gay acquaintance I’m rather close to, inviting comment.

The reply was a link to something called the Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term TERF.

A TERF is, apparently, a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” someone belonging to “that group of feminists that claims that trans women aren’t really women, as biological determinism is only a fallacy when it’s used against them, not when they use it against others.”

Well. I’m not keen on these endless neologistic acronyms, but just so.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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Dear Bernie Sanders: Canada is not the United States’ drugstore

Leona Aglukkaq was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 2008 representing the riding of Nunavut. She served as Canada’s minister of health from 2008 until 2013.

Canada has long been a stalwart friend and neighbor to the United States. But there’s one thing Canada must not become: America’s pharmacy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has proposed a bill to let Americans import prescription medicines from Canada. He hopes to this will give Americans access to lower Canadian prices. It’s not just Democrats who like the idea; several prominent Republicans voted in favor of similar legislation that was defeated in January.

As someone who spent several years as Canada’s health minister, I know that allowing Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada could have terrible consequences for the citizens of both countries.

Under Sanders’s plan, Canada would simply serve as an intermediate transshipment point for unapproved drugs heading to the United States. Canadian authorities do not inspect every shipment of products headed for the U.S. marketplace to ensure that packages don’t contain adulterated, counterfeit or illegal drugs. Canada does not have the resources to undertake such comprehensive searches, and the Canadian and U.S. governments are not currently set up to  facilitate such a program. Canada’s health-inspection regime is designed to ensure the safety of medications for Canadians, not for other countries.

Absent a major policy shift here in Canada, if bulk Canada-U.S. drug shipments were to become a reality, Americans could receive uncertified, uninspected, third-party drugs. Canada inspects drugs for its own citizens; Canadian authorities wouldn’t have the ability or resources to inspect medicines destined for the United States.

What’s more, there’s an opioid epidemic in the United States, and the situation isn’t much better in Canada; British Columbia recently declared a public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis. Because Canada isn’t inspecting all trans-shipped goods bound for the United States, there are dire concerns that international opioid smugglers could disguise their narcotics as prescription drug packages. The amount of fentanyl, much of it from China, reaching Canadian ports has skyrocketed recently. Canadian officials have seized fentanyl packages fraudulently labeled as containing zero grams of the deadly synthetic opioid. This is but one example of a problem that could be exacerbated by Sanders’s proposed legislation.

Aside from the fear of counterfeit products being transshipped through Canada to the United States, proponents of importation proposals have overlooked the dangers associated with criminal organizations posing as legitimate online pharmacies. One such victim was Ali Schroer, a family therapist from Denver, who opposes Sanders’s bill after falling victim to counterfeit anti-allergy pills she bought from a Canadian online pharmacy. The drug gave her severe migraines and stomach problems.

Schroer points out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that 85 percent of the drugs sold by supposedly Canadian pharmacies come from 27 countries other than Canada. Some online pharmacies that advertise as being Canadian in fact are not, and there’s no real way for consumers to know. The difficulty in dealing with online pharmacies has confronted us for years and is only becoming more challenging as e-commerce becomes a larger part of our economy.

And that’s not all. Canada’s pharmaceutical industry is already strained trying to serve the relatively small Canadian market, never mind serving more than 300 million American consumers. As the former minister of health for Canada for almost five years, as well as a former minister of health in the Nunavut territorial government before entering federal politics, I am greatly concerned that excess demand from American consumers would siphon off Canada’s domestic supply of essential drugs, particularly for Canadians in remote communities in the north.

Canada’s federal health department has introduced regulations requiring drugmakers to report on drug shortages and launched a website called Drug Shortages Canada. These regulations were initiated in response to our own domestic supply challenges to ensure the health and safety of Canadians in terms of their access to important medications. If overnight the Canadian system was stretched to supply the U.S. market, the shortages in Canada could skyrocket.

There will clearly be more demand in the years to come for innovative prescription drugs that prolong life, ease suffering and cure disease as the populations of Canada and the United States age. Consequently, there are opportunities for Canada and the United States to cooperate to bring new drugs to market faster, share data and outcomes, and invest in research, development and innovation on both sides of the border. That’s what American legislators should be focusing on — not bulk-buying Canadian medicines.

Sanders’s bill threatens Americans’ health and Canada-U.S. relations at a time when there are already trade tensions. Worse, it would reduce the supply of safe and affordable drugs for the Canadian marketplace. American legislators must find another way to address drug prices.

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Pat Yan came to L.A. and built a meat empire. Now he’s ready to take his business back to China

Pat Yan is the owner and founder of Commerce-based AA Meat Products Inc., a meat supplier to some of Southern California’s most popular grocery chains, including Ralphs, Vons and 99 Ranch Market.

An immigrant from China who landed in Los Angeles with just $5 and a plastic bag filled with clothes, Yan now oversees a company with 1,200 employees, facilities in North America and Asia and more than $1 billion in annual revenue selling American meat.

And, after a Trump administration announcement Thursday that a ban on U.S. beef sales in China will be lifted, his business stands to gain even more. Yan built a meat-processing facility in China two years ago in anticipation of the rule change.


Fleeing poverty

Yan, 46, was born and raised in Kaiping, a rural city in China’s southern Guangdong province. The region is famous for its diaspora, much of whom formed American cities’ first Chinatowns. Yan dropped out of high school to sell rice grown by his parents. There was little hope of escaping a life of poverty for his family. Yan’s older sister was first to leave, ending up in Canada under refugee status. At age 18, Yan tried to do the same, arriving in Los Angeles.

Rising in the U.S.

After three months in a refugee camp, Yan found work apprenticing at a Taiwanese bakery in El Monte where he worked long hours making cakes. “I did five years of training in one year,” said Yan, who became lifelong friends with one of his co-workers at the bakery — a friend he’d eventually make chief financial officer of AA Meat Products. After learning the baking business, a cousin on the East Coast persuaded Yan to move to New York’s Chinatown. There, Yan soon found enough friends and investors to help him open his own bakeries. “I dreamed about being a business owner,” Yan said. “It’s what motivated me.”

From cake to meat

Through the same cousin, Yan developed contacts with wholesalers in the meat supply business in New York’s Chinatown. Serving mostly Chinese stores, he began distributing popular meats such as chicken feet and a breed of chicken called Silkie, known for its white, puffy plumage and prized for soup. When meat prices would soar, Yan didn’t always pass the added costs on to his customers. Instead, he decided it was worth shouldering some of the costs if it meant gaining customer loyalty. The meat business is “dominated by big players,” Yan said. “I knew the way to be successful was to gain people’s trust and offer better service.”

Yan also knew there was a much bigger and younger market to tap on the West Coast. So he moved back to L.A. and founded AA Meat Products in 1995 in Maywood before opening a bigger plant in Commerce. There are now also facilities in Vernon. “The idea in the beginning was to call it Asian American Meats,” said Yan, whose English remains a work in progress. “But it was so long and so tough to spell, I just called it AA.” The move back West paid off as Yan’s reputation grew and he scored business with Unified Grocers, one of the nation’s largest grocery suppliers, and Sysco, the country’s largest food service industry supplier. Yan’s company sells meats including beef, pork, chicken and lamb — as well as a variety of cuts, including steaks, tripe and tongue.

Trade deal feeds China taste for beef, won’t close the U.S. trade deficit »

I dreamed about being a business owner. It’s what motivated me.

— Pat Yan, owner and founder of AA Meat Products

Global business

In addition to four facilities in Southern California, Yan has plants in New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. The latter is located in his native Guangdong province. Yan secured the 100-acre campus two years ago, confident China would eventually lift its 14-year ban on U.S. beef. Yan was rewarded Thursday when the Trump administration announced it had struck a deal with Beijing to lift the ban in exchange for allowing cooked Chinese poultry to enter the U.S. “Right now, people in China have so much money that they’re eating richer food and drinking more wine,” Yan said. “They will want American beef.”

Learning a lesson

Yan says he’s a conservative businessman, even more so now after taking heavy personal losses during the financial crisis in bank stocks. At the time, the experience was so upsetting that his family did everything they could to shield him from TV and newspapers lest he read more bad economic news. “I learned to really look more carefully into any investments and not rely on experts. You have to do your own due diligence,” said Yan, who lives with his wife and four daughters in San Marino.

Education

Deprived of higher education himself, Yan has directed his philanthropy at underprivileged students in China’s poorer provinces. Starting three years ago, he launched a foundation that has sent about 30 students from far-flung regions of China to Peking University. Yan pays for tuition and housing for high-achieving students who would ordinarily never consider one of China’s most prestigious schools. Yan has plans to expand the foundation to other countries and universities and is in talks with UCLA. Yan also purchased a nonprofit, K-8 private school in Temecula last year and renamed it Oakhill Academy. The school will be run by the Yan Family Foundation and offer scholarships to students in the Temecula Valley.

Pat Yan at AA Meat Products in Vernon.
Pat Yan at AA Meat Products in Vernon. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Frugal and sentimental

His humble beginnings made Yan loath to waste money. Despite owning a $1-billion business, he only recently agreed to start flying business class during his biannual visits to China. When he’s there, he almost never ventures beyond his office and his hotel. Yan still works long hours, as he has since his days at the Chinatown bakery. “He works so hard, we don’t get family time like most other families do,” said Yan’s wife, Kitty Jiang, who also manages the family business. And he still bakes cakes — he considers it relaxing.

So that he never forgets how far he’s come, Yan makes a point of visiting his Maywood offices every Sunday after lunch. He’s often the only person there when he visits, but he still allots himself an hour to sit and reflect. “I’m so emotionally attached to the place,” he said.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

Canadian miners among suitors for BHP’s Chile copper mine-sources

By John Tilak and Clara Denina
| TORONTO/LONDON

Canada’s Teck Resources, Lundin Mining and HudBay Minerals are among a number of suitors that have submitted bids for BHP Billiton’s Cerro Colorado copper mine in Chile, people familiar with the matter said.

The Anglo-Australian miner expects the asset to fetch as much as $800 million, the people said, declining to be named as the process is private.

BHP said on Wednesday that it has started a sales process to potentially divest Cerro Colorado, without naming the potential buyers.

Teck, Lundin and HudBay declined to comment.

Sources have previously said Chile’s Empresas Copec SA, a conglomerate looking to diversify into copper, was also interested. Cerro Colorado is located in the Tarapacá region, the extreme north of Chile’s copper belt, and yielded 77,000 tonnes of copper in fiscal 2016. BHP’s flagship mine Escondida, which also is in Chile, yields more than 10 times that amount annually.

BHP has earmarked large long-life copper mining as a key growth sector in years to come as expansion work in its iron ore mining business in Australia slows down. The move by BHP, the world’s largest miner, is part of a wave of asset divestitures the company has been undertaking. Last month, the company put its Fayetteville shale gas assets in the United States back on the block. Last year, BHP agreed to sell its coal assets in Indonesia to partner Adaro Energy.

Earlier this year, U.S. activist investor Elliott Management launched a push for a range of changes, including a spinoff of U.S. oil assets and an overhaul of its corporate structure. BHP has rejected those recommendations..

While the sales process for Cerro Colorado is quite robust, there is no certainty it will result in a transaction, the people said.

A final deal could still take some months, the mine’s union said on April 27 after BHP updated union leaders on the proposed sale ahead of planned visits to the deposit by potential buyers. The Cerro Colorado mine has government approval to operate until 2023 but that could be extended.

(Reporting John Tilak in Toronto, Nicole Mordant in Vancouver and Clara Denina in London; Additional reporting by James Regan in Sydney, Barbara Lewis in London and Susan Taylor in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Chizu Nomiyama)

Canada Assets Drop on Bank Downgrade Yet No Crisis in Sight (1)

(Bloomberg) — Moody’s downgrade of Canada’s biggest banks beat down assets in a market already rattled by woes of mortgage lender Home Capital Group Inc. Yet analysts say this isn’t evidence of an impending crisis.

“The weatherman just warned us about a storm that already came and went,” said Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank. “You can get cooling markets without it being terribly negative for the financial system, given how profoundly different our financial system and mortgage market are in Canada compared to other countries that had those troubles.”

Investors are concerned that Home Capital’s troubles can lead to broader financial contagion, tipping Canada’s economy into the kind of crisis it averted in 2008. Take a closer look, though, and underlying indicators are reassuring.

Currency

Canada’s dollar has fallen 1.7 percent since the regulator on April 19 accused Home Capital of misleading investors, taking the drop for the year to 2 percent, the biggest among Group-of-10 countries. Then there’s also worry about a protectionist U.S. under President Donald Trump and a drop in crude oil prices. Yet the premium that you pay for purchasing three-month options to buy the U.S. dollar, otherwise known as risk-reversals, has been gradually falling this month, suggesting there’s less scope for further weakness in the loonie.

Bank Bonds

Canadian banks’ local-currency bonds fell after Moody’s Investors Service lowered their credit ratings by one level citing soaring household debt and runaway house prices. Yet five-year credit-default swaps on the U.S. dollar bonds of Toronto-Dominion Bank — Canada’s largest lender by assets — were at a record-low, signaling little concern about the bank’s ability to pay off its debt.

Stocks

Bank stocks continued their decline on Friday, falling 0.5 percent compared with a 0.1 percent decline in the broader S&P/TSX gauge. Yet the bank gauge is nowhere near its lows. “As Shakespeare said, it’s much ado about nothing — or very little,” said Ian Lee, an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business at Ottawa’s Carleton University. “We ended up with a few very, very large and very safe banks.”

What is more, short-sellers reduced their bets against top Canadian banks on Thursday, according to Markit data compiled by Bloomberg.

(Updates markets throughout.)

–With assistance from Josh Wingrove Greg Quinn Robert Fullem and Aoyon Ashraf

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

CANADA STOCKS-Weakness in oil prices weighs on TSX futures

June futures on the S&P TSX index were down 0.08
percent at 7:20 a.m. ET.

Canada’s main stock index fell on Thursday, as a Moody’s
downgrade of Canadian banks struck financials, and
frequent-flyer points operator Aimia Inc plunged on
news its program would be dropped by the country’s largest
airline.

No major economic releases are scheduled in Canada.

Dow Jones Industrial Average e-mini futures were
down 0.1 percent at 7:20 a.m. ET, while S&P 500 e-mini futures
were down 0.17 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures
were down 0.07 percent.

(Morning News Call newsletter here
; The Day Ahead newsletter here)

TOP STORIES

Canada’s biggest non-bank lender Home Capital Group Inc
disclosed data on Friday that showed the rate of
withdrawals by depositors slowed for a second day in a row.

Amaya Inc,, the owner of online gambling
sites PokerStars and Full Tilt, reported an 18.5 percent
increase in quarterly profit, as it attracted more customers.

Enbridge Inc,, North America’s largest
energy infrastructure company, said on Thursday it may acquire
more assets and forecast a rise in adjusted earnings this year
following its purchase of Spectra Energy Corp.

ANALYST RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Aimia Inc: CIBC cuts target price to C$3.25 from
C$8

Linamar Corp: CIBC raises target price to C$69 from
C$65

Westport Fuel Systems: Cowen and Company raises
target to C$1.50 from C$1.25

COMMODITIES AT 7:20 a.m. ET

Gold futures: $1228.5; +0.35 percent

US crude: $47.75; -0.17 percent

Brent crude: $50.74; -0.06 percent

LME 3-month copper: $5548; +0.09 percent

U.S. ECONOMIC DATA DUE ON FRIDAY

08:30 Core CPI mm, SA for Apr: Expected 0.2 pct; Prior -0.1
pct

08:30 Core CPI yy, NSA for Apr: Expected 2.0 pct; Prior 2.0
pct

08:30 CPI Index, NSA for Apr: Expected 244.60; Prior 243.8

08:30 Core CPI Index, SA for Apr: Prior 250.99

08:30 CPI mm, SA for Apr: Expected 0.2 pct; Prior -0.3 pct

08:30 CPI yy, NSA for Apr: Expected 2.3 pct; Prior 2.4 pct

08:30 Real weekly earnings mm for Apr: Prior 0.5 pct

08:30 Retail sales ex-autos mm for Apr: Expected 0.5 pct;
Prior 0.0 pct

08:30 Retail sales mm for Apr: Expected 0.6 pct; Prior -0.2
pct

08:30 Retail ex gas/autos for Apr: Prior 0.1 pct

08:30 Retail control for Apr: Expected 0.4 pct; Prior 0.6
pct

10:00 Business inventories mm for Mar: Expected 0.1 pct;
Prior 0.3 pct

10:00 Retail Inventory Ex Auto (R) for Mar: Prior 0.2

10:00 U Mich Sentiment Preliminary for May: Expected 97;
Prior 97

10:00 U Mich Conditions Preliminary for May: Expected 112.7;
Prior 112.7

10:00 U Mich Expectations Preliminary for May: Expected 87;
Prior 87

10:00 U Mich 1 year inflation preliminary for May: Prior 2.5
pct

10:00 U Mich 5-year inflation preliminary for May: Prior 2.4
pct

10:30 ECRI Weekly Index: Prior 144.4

10:30 ECRI weekly annualized: Prior 5.4 pct

11:00 Cleveland fed CPI for Apr: Prior 0.2 pct

FOR CANADIAN MARKETS NEWS, CLICK ON CODES:

TSX market report

Canadian dollar and bonds report

Reuters global stocks poll for Canada

Canadian markets directory
($1= C$1.37)
(Reportin by Nikhil Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb
Chakrabarty)

Canadian leaders vow to support Trump’s move to renegotiate NAFTA

“Bring it on,” Canadian leaders suggest as U.S. President Donald Trump moves to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada will be “good, collaborative constructive partners who effectively stand up for the national interest.”

It is hoped Canada will be able to “conclude negotiations quickly,” as well as meet soon with Trump “trade czar” Robert Lighthizer, she said.

The U.S. plans to file the required 90-day notice with Congress to renegotiate the pact and start talks with Canada and Mexico later this year.

The President has said the U.S. is at a big disadvantage with the current NAFTA deal and wants “massive” changes in areas including automobiles, dairy, lumber, pharmaceuticals and the dispute-resolution system.

Canada and the U.S. already are working on finding ways to eliminate excessive regulations on products crossing the border between the world’s two largest trading partners.

–––

Concerns over growing consumer and business debt along with skyrocketing housing prices have prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade Canada’s six largest banks.

The change cut TD Bank’s long-term rating to Aa2, while the other banks fell to A1.

The concerns leave consumers and banks “more vulnerable to downside risks facing the Canadian economy than in the past,” said David Beattie, Moody’s senior vice-president.

On a positive note, the debt rating agency said the banks “maintain strong buffers in terms of capital and liquidity.”

There is heightened scrutiny after alternative mortgage lender Home Capital obtained an emergency $2-billion line of credit when customers began withdrawing deposits from their high-interest savings accounts.

News in brief

▪ Pierre Beaudoin, a member of the Quebec family behind the Bombardier transportation empire, has resigned as executive chairman of the board of directors. The financially struggling Montreal-based company has come under intense criticism from shareholders over what they called an excessive compensation package for six Bombardier executives. Leadership has shifted to Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer.

▪ Air Canada swill start its own loyalty rewards program in 2020 and end its association with Aeroplan. Once the switch is made, flyers can redeem the new points for Air Canada and Star Alliance flights. They are expected to be able to use up their Aeroplan points, too, up to and after June 2020.

Facts and figures

Canada’s dollar is lower at 72.92 cents U.S. as the U.S. dollar rose to $1.371 Canadian, before exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.

Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 15,543 points while the TSX Venture index is up at 789 points.

The average price for gas in Canada is lower at $1.089 a liter or $4.13 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (May 10) 6, 7, 8, 21, 27 and 38; bonus 23. (May 6) 6, 7, 9, 11, 34 and 38; bonus 8. Lotto Max: (May 5) 11, 14, 20, 22, 26, 35 and 43; bonus 33.

Regional briefs

▪ Massive flooding in Quebec has rivers and lakes between Gatineau and Montreal at 50-year peaks. More than 3,000 people were forced from their homes, with hundreds more in Ontario communities along the Ottawa River. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged the government’s help with up to 90 percent of the costs of the cleanup and recovery paid by the Disaster Financial Assistance program.

▪ There are new flood risks in British Columbia from rising rivers and creeks. Emergency officials are telling residents to brace for imminent flooding in Central Okanagan. There is also a longer-term threat near the shores of Okanagan Lake.

▪ It was more than just “peanuts” when DHX Media of Halifax paid $345-million US to take control of Charlie Brown and Strawberry Shortcake enterprises. The children’s entertainment company already has Teletubbies, Inspector Gadget and Caillou brands. Now DHX has an 80 percent controlling interest in Peanuts, approved by creator Charles Schulz’s widow, Jean Schulz, and 100 percent of Strawberry Shortcake from Iconix Brand Group Inc.

Is the Canada Infrastructure Bank actually a bank? Don’t bank on it

The new Canada Infrastructure Bank is going to be a lot of things, but the one thing it won’t actually be is a bank.  

This is more than a persnickety point of legal semantics. With the government last week taking some steps to move the CIB off the drawing board and into reality, there’s a greater need to understand just what the so-called bank will do.

To be sure, a lot of private sector observers generally welcome the institution, which the federal government says will help bring private sector and pension fund capital into major infrastructure projects. It’s just that some think calling it a bank is confusing.

“Just by description, I don’t even know that it’s a bank. I don’t think it’s going to be collecting deposits or providing deposit insurance,” said Lou Serafini, president and chief executive of Fengate Capital Management Ltd. “I actually think it should consider a new name. It seems like we’re stuck on the name as opposed to what this agency or crown corporation is supposed to execute on.”

The federal government has made two important moves to put the planned bank into action. The first was last week’s announcement that CIB’s headquarters will be in Toronto, the country’s financial capital. The second was last week’s launch of the search for the CIB’s initial chairman, board and chief executive.

The outcome of that talent hunt will address a key question over the CIB’s future role. The federal government says the CIB will be a crown corporation that operates at “arm’s-length” from the government. But with $35 billion of federal government capital going into the institution, you can imagine that some might question how long the government’s arms are going to be.

Mark Romoff, president and chief executive of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, said private investors will use the composition of the CIB’s first board and senior management ranks as a means to gauge how independent the bank will be from the government.

“First and foremost, the recruitment of a first-class chair, board directors, and CEO will be very important elements in all of this,” Romoff said.

“I think what you’ll find is that as the bank is up and running and projects begin to get dealt with, the government will step back and give the chair and the CEO the runway they need to ensure that their projects are considered for the right reason. So I’m optimistic that it will be successful.”

The government’s legislation, when passed into law, will create a crown corporation called the Canada Infrastructure Bank or CIB. The corporation’s statutory mission is to help bring private sector and pension fund investment into Canadian infrastructure projects that are backed by multiple levels of government, including the feds.

The legislation says the bank will invest in infrastructure projects using “innovative” financial tools. The CIB will also accept proposals for new projects from developers. It will collect and share data on projects that should help investors make better decisions on future projects. And it will serve as a “centre of expertise” for governments and investors seeking advice on projects.

Projects must meet at least three criteria to involve the CIB, according to the legislation. Projects must be located “in Canada or partly in Canada.” The “partly” contemplates something like a bridge or border crossing. Projects must be “in the public interest,” perhaps because they foster economic growth or contribute to the sustainability of infrastructure.

A third criteria is a little more concrete and a lot more controversial: the projects must be revenue-generating. This narrows the focus to projects that are commercially viable enough to attract capital from private sector investors and pension funds. Yet that likely means things like road tolls and other user fees that Canadians aren’t used to and might not like.

“They’re going to be looking much more toward user-fee supported infrastructure,” said Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto. “When you think about Canadian infrastructure, and particularly municipal infrastructure, many of the facilities that we rely and depend on don’t generate user fees that can cover their full operating costs, let alone their capital and construction costs.”

Siemiatycki said the CIB should be a “centre of excellence” that can evaluate big, multi-billion dollar projects of national significance. It would give private sector investors the confidence they need to see that Canada properly coordinates projects among various levels of government, and backs the projects that make the most financial sense for private sector investors and pension funds. He thinks the CIB should be called something like the Canadian Infrastructure Investment Agency.

“The issue is how you evaluate projects, and pick which ones are the priorities, and which ones are going to be the most successful and deliver the best value. I think that is a technical job that requires specific expertise,” Siemiatycki said.

So why is the government calling the CIB a bank? In short, because it can.

Canada’s Bank Act says businesses can’t use the word “bank” in their names unless they’re licensed by the federal government or have special permission from both Canada’s banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, and the Minister of Finance.

Yet there is one notable exception. The federal government, or more specifically, the crown, has the right to set up companies and call them banks. That’s what’s happening with the CIB.

“It is a specific offence under the Bank Act for anyone who is not a bank to use the words “bank”, “banker” or “banking” to indicate or describe a business in Canada, unless you are the Crown,” said Stephen Clark, chair of the financial institutions practice at national business law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.   

Financial Post
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