Mar
12

Monsanto disputes Schmeiser’s account

Monsanto Canada will never go after farmers who have their fields accidentally contaminated with the company’s Roundup Ready Canola, a company spokeswoman says. “It is and always has been Monsanto’s belief that (Percy) Schmeiser knowingly and deliberately misappropriated its Roundup Ready technology,” said Trish Jordan, the company’s public affairs officer. Schmeiser, a farmer from Bruno, Sask., told a Red Deer audience this week that the agri-chemical giant is suing him because his field was accidentally contaminated with Roundup Ready Canola seeds. He claimed the seeds blew out of a passing truck. Schmeiser also told the Advocate the contamination was found to be from zero to eight per cent, depending on the field. But in fact, Federal Court records show canola samples gathered from Schmeiser’s fields were found to be up to 98 per cent resistant to the chemical herbicide Roundup. Testing on 27 samples was done by scientists at the University of Saskatchewan, at Monsanto’s request, and University of Manitoba at Schmeiser’s request.…

Mar
12

Enbridge expects stable gas prices

TORONTO (CP) — Enbridge Inc., which operates Canada’s largest oil pipeline and the largest natural gas utility in Ontario, expects stable gas prices this year but wants to charge more for distributing gas. Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel said Friday that natural gas prices should be ‘‘fairly stable’’ this year, barring major weather swings. Although there aren’t a lot of new gas projects coming online, the amount of gas in storage after a warm winter is ‘‘the counterbalancing factor that keeps natural gas in that $3 US (per thousand cubic feet) range that it’s operating in right now,’’ Daniel said. In early 2001, gas prices spiked at about $10 US, which led to big increases in gas bills. Enbridge, which operates Consumers Gas, sells natural gas to its 1.5 million Ontario consumers at cost, and earns its money by charging for distribution. While gas prices may stay stable, Enbridge is asking the Ontario Energy Board to let it boost the percentage it can earn from transporting gas to consumers’ homes.…

Mar
12

Gas bills set to rise again

CALGARY (CP) — Homeowners in Ontario and Alberta will be seeing higher gas bills thanks to rate increases approved by provincial regulators Friday — a trend occurring throughout Canada as consumers pay for the cold winter and low storage supplies. The Ontario Energy Board gave its approval for Enbridge, Canada’s largest natural gas distributor, to raise its natural gas price by 25 per cent. The Calgary-based company (TSX:ENB) said the increase in its gas supply charge will amount to about $164 a year on a typical household’s bill. ‘‘Increased demand due to the cold weather across North America and less drilling activity have contributed to an increase in natural gas prices,’’ Enbridge Gas Distribution president Jim Schultz said in a release. ‘‘Although prices have increased, natural gas continues to be less expensive than other options for home and water heating.’’ Enbridge said that during the past five years, natural gas has been on average about 46 per cent cheaper than electricity and 20 per cent less expensive than oil for home and water heating.…

Mar
12

Aviation shares face turbulence

TORONTO (CP) — A massive restructuring at American Airlines, a bankruptcy filing by US Airways and a poor forecast for North American airline traffic this fall are taking their toll on several aviation companies and airlines in Canada. Shares in airline product and service suppliers such as Bombardier and CAE Inc. took a nosedive Tuesday, while carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet were also unable to escape the market turbulence. In CAE’s case, ‘‘all the signals that are coming out of the U.S. indicate that some airline traffic may not pick up, and as a result, training for pilots may be reduced,’’ said Jacques Kavafian, director of research at Octagon Capital in Toronto. CAE, which makes flight simulators and trains commercial airline pilots, paid dearly Tuesday for what’s happening south of the border. Its stock (TSX:CAE) dropped 15.1 per cent, or $1.07, to close at a new 52-week low of $6.02 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.…

Mar
12

Reprieve for Wheat Pool

REGINA (CP) — Bondholders gave the go-ahead to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool’s modified restructuring plan Tuesday, securing the immediate future of Canada’s second-largest grain-handling company. The development means the Pool — Saskatchewan’s largest single corporate employer — can stay in business and avoid the threat of imminent bankruptcy. ‘‘We are absolutely pleased with the result,’’ said company CEO Mayo Schmidt. ‘‘Certainly we look forward to getting back to running the business as opposed to working on financials and negotiation. ‘‘I’m personally quite excited and I know the employees are absolutely thrilled.’’ Two group of bondholders voted on the proposal Tuesday. The first group of 2004 bondholders voted 85 per cent in favour of the plan, while 89 per cent of the 2007 bondholders endorsed the move. Cliff Reid, a bondholder, said he voted in favour of the plan. ‘‘It’s a big load for them to carry but they seem to have a plan so lets give them a run at it,’’ he said.…

Mar
12

TransCanada joins nuclear field

CALGARY (CP) — Canada’s largest natural gas shipper, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., made a major move into nuclear power Monday, expanding the electricity business it has grown in recent years by buying and building gas-fired power plants across North America. In a high-profile move, the big Calgary energy company made its first foray into the nuclear field Monday by becoming a key partner in Ontario’s Bruce Power complex on the eastern shores of Lake Huron. Chief executive Hal Kvisle insisted the company’s nearly one-third ownership in Bruce, which will cost about $376 million, is keeping with TransCanada’s strategy of smart acquisitions in markets it knows well. ‘‘We always look to the underlying supply fundamentals and to our competitive position in the market,’’ Kvisle told a news conference in Calgary. ‘‘And it’s on that basis that we then go forward and kick the tires if you will on individual opportunities.’’ TransCanada completed a successful turnaround of its sagging fortunes recently by retreating from a variety of international ventures and selling billions of dollars worth of non-core assets.…

Mar
12

Entrepreneur recycles hotel soap

The little bars of soap left behind by guests at the Red Deer Lodge will be turned into laundry detergent. Entrepreneur Bob Larson estimates Red Deer hotels use 18,000 kilograms of soap bars a year. Most are thrown away after a couple of uses in the sink and shower. In a unique recycling project, Larson will collect the soaps from the Red Deer Lodge and turn them into Buffalo Soap, laundry detergent for sale in B.C. The program was started by Larson’s friend Roger Sevigny in Victoria and Vancouver in 2000. It began last year in Alberta. So far, hotels in Banff, Jasper and Edmonton have signed up. “The hotel industry in Alberta is throwing out 180,000 kilograms of soap a year and we can do something with it,” said Larson, Alberta president of H.I. Landfill Diversion Inc. Recycling is fairly simple. Containers for the soap are attached to the carts wheeled room to room by housekeeping staff.…

Mar
12

Wheat ruling against Canada

OTTAWA (CP) — A grim summer for western farmers got worse Friday when Canada lost a major trade ruling on wheat exports to the United States. The U.S. Commerce Department ruled that Canadian durum wheat and hard red spring wheat shipments are subsidized and being dumped in the United States. Mad cow disease, drought and grasshoppers have ravaged Prairie beef and grain producers, and the last thing they needed was a thumbs-down at the trade table, said Neal Hardy, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. ‘‘We just come through drought. We just come through grasshoppers. We’ve come through BSE (mad cow disease) in our cattle industry and now a tariff added on,’’ he said. ‘‘Tie them all together and that’s one more impact that we don’t need out there as farmers in Canada.’’ Duties of 14.16 per cent should be imposed on Canadian hard red grain wheat and 13.55 per cent on Canadian durum wheat, the ruling said.…

Mar
12

Royal Bank receives settlement for soured Enron transaction

TORONTO (CP) — Royal Bank says it will receive $195 million US plus interest in a settlement agreement related to a soured transaction with Enron Corp., the bankrupt Houston energy company at the centre of a major accounting scandal. The settlement also involves the Enron creditors’ committee and Rabobank, a Dutch bank in a legal battle with Royal, which is Canada’s largest financial institution. A Royal Bank spokesman said Tuesday the $195 million US the bank will receive from the settlement will reduce the amount it is owed by the Dutch bank, but in the meantime their respective lawsuits will proceed. The settlement involves proceeds from the sale of 11.5 million shares of stock in EOG Resources in the so-called Cerberus transaction that closed in November 2000. Royal maintains that Rabobank assumed the credit risk of the Cerberus transaction through an agreement between them in January 2001, and that the Dutch bank was required to pay Royal $517 million US in June 2002.…

Mar
12

Higher interest rates on the way

OTTAWA (CP) — The Bank of Canada raised interest rates Tuesday and warned of still higher rates to come. As it lifted its key overnight rate by a quarter-point to 2.50 per cent, the central bank said strong economic growth means it will have to raise rates even more. Analysts say that means as many as four more interest rate hikes likely lie ahead, although opinion is divided over just how much the rate might rise. Tuesday’s increase in borrowing costs — which big chartered banks quickly matched by raising their prime rate to 4.25 per cent — was expected by the markets. That meant the dollar, which shrugged off political turmoil over the ouster of Paul Martin as finance minister Sunday, showed little reaction to the widening spread between Canadian and U.S. rates. The loonie opened Tuesday at 65.53 cents US, up 0.06 of a cent from its close Monday.…

Mar
12

Air Canada ‘author of its own misfortune’

OTTAWA — Air Canada has largely been the author of its own misfortune, clinging to a flawed business plan that relies largely on slashing labour costs instead of truly restructuring, angry MPs said Thursday. That suggests the insolvent carrier’s decision Tuesday to file for bankruptcy protection may not be its final crisis, MPs suggested during emergency hearings by the Commons transport committee. Meanwhile, large back payments to its pension plan still hangs over the company, although the federal financial services regulator denied claims by Air Canada that a pension shortfall helped push the carrier into seeking bankruptcy protection. But a key problem is Air Canada’s effort to be all things to all people — from a discount carrier to a high-end international airline — in an effort to crush the competition, suggested several Opposition and Liberal MPs. They accused Air Canada of sticking to that flawed plan even in restructuring. Instead, it’s slashing wages and lobbying for cuts to taxes and fees rather than looking for a new business model.…

Mar
12

New CEO for Shell

CALGARY (CP) — Shell Canada chief executive Tim Faithfull is retiring in July, to be replaced by Linda Cook, the first female to head a major integrated oil company in Canada. Until the 1980s women were barred from membership in the Petroleum Club, a key dining and meeting venue for the Alberta oilpatch, but ‘‘the whole industry has gone through a transformation in that time,’’ Murray Sigler, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said after Cook’s appointment was announced Friday. ‘‘Ten to 20 years ago it may have been a big deal,’’ he said. ‘‘She won’t have any trouble,’’ said Frank Atkins, a University of Calgary economics professor who specializes in oil and gas. ‘‘Her problems will not be that she’s female,’’ Atkins added. ‘‘Her problems will be that she’s in a damn tough industry and people will be asking, ‘What are you going to do with your Canadian operations?’’’ Currently CEO of Royal Dutch/Shell’s global gas and power business in London, Cook doesn’t lack experience at the top.…

Mar
12

Oilsands execs call for Kyoto compromise

EDMONTON (CP) — A Canadian compromise on greenhouse gas reductions is needed to save some oilsands projects, oil company executives told a conference Thursday. ‘‘There are enough cooks in the kitchen that I’m sure we’ll find a solution,’’ said Mike Ashar, Suncor Energy’s executive vice-president of oilsands. But, Ashar warned, ‘‘if, at the end of the day, the entire problem is on the back of the oilsands industry, that is not sustainable.’’ Executives from nine companies outlined their oilsands plans before 185 financial experts, academics, engineers and government officials in a one-day conference organized by the Edmonton Society of Financial Analysts. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has an $8-billion project before provincial regulators. It would include a mine and upgrader. Engineering studies are continuing without delay, said CNRL vice-president Real Doucet. ‘‘The big question for us is not whether the project is going to go,’’ he said. ‘‘The big question is whether (the upgrader) is going to be built in Fort McMurray or the U.S.’’ The United States has said it will not ratify the Kyoto accord, which calls on signatories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels.…

Mar
12

Computer recycling program starts in Rimbey

More computers than paper are expected to be dropped off today at the Rimbey Paper Recycling Depot. The town is the first in Alberta to hold a municipal “e-waste” round-up of old computers, televisions, and other electronics. Free drop-offs are being encouraged at the paper depot from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mayor Dale Barr said his town is taking the lead in electronics recycling to show the provincial government that this kind of effort is needed throughout Alberta. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in Canada, said Barr, who fears landfills will quickly fill up with old computer monitors and obsolete VCRs. Besides causing congestion, Barr worries about dangerous chemicals from electronics leaching into soil and ground water. Almost two kilograms of lead and some phosphorus are contained in the average computer monitor, and large television screens hold more. Barr notes 500 million computers are expected to be disposed of in North America over the next five years.…

Mar
12

Bigger’ trend boosts house prices

A national trend towards bigger and better houses is boosting average home prices in Red Deer. A Century 21 Canada National Housing Market Outlook based on national Multiple Listing Service statistics shows average house prices in 21 communities across Canada have climbed 16 per cent to $163,682 in October from $141,438 in October 1999. Margaret Anderson, with Red Deer’s Century 21 Lesand Advantage, said locally the average house price climbed to $180,994 from $149,684 over three years — a 20.9 per cent increase. Anderson said that doesn’t mean every home in Red Deer is worth nearly 21 per cent more than it was three years ago. A typical home has risen in value about three per cent a year. What the statistics show is an increase in the number of higher-end homes sold in Red Deer. “It’s especially visible when you drive through the new subdivisions,” she said. For instance, six homes were sold locally worth $200,000 to $300,000 in October 1999.…

Mar
12

Mutual fund fees high, but performance low

TORONTO (CP) — Canadian mutual fund investors have been paying steadily rising fees while receiving steadily dwindling satisfaction, according to a pointed analysis by Morningstar Canada. Seventy-eight per cent of the funds surveyed by the performance-tracking company raised their management expense ratios between 1998 and the end of 2002, while only 12 per cent reduced their MERs. The Morningstar study, released Tuesday, observes that Canadians paid more than $10 billion in fund management fees last year, and it indicates that, in general, the higher the MER, the lower the investment return. The average MER among non-segregated mutual funds as of April 30 was 2.44 per cent, up from 2.03 per cent at the end of 1998, the survey found. For segregated funds with insurance features the average MER was 2.90 per cent, up from 2.32 per cent. For all funds, the average expense ratio, covering the costs of paying portfolio managers, administering a fund and conducting marketing and other activities, stood at a record high 2.62 per cent in April, up from 2.02 per cent in 1995, according to Morningstar.…

Mar
12

Cancer vaccine study to go on

EDMONTON (CP) — Biotech company Biomira will press ahead with research into cancer vaccines, the company’s chief executive told shareholders Thursday despite disappointing results in a trial of Theratope for women with metastatic breast cancer. ‘‘No question Biomira has suffered a body blow. But we’re only injured. We’re not dead,’’ company president Alex McPherson told 85 investors gathered at the Sheraton-Grande Hotel. Shares in the company plunged June 17 after it announced that Theratope trials had failed to significantly slow the progression of the disease and improve survival rates. Metastatic cancers start in one area of the body and then spread to others. The company had hoped to file for regulatory approval for the drug on the basis of the trial. Biomira had cut its workforce to pare costs and slowed development of other drugs to focus on Theratope. ‘‘You’ve seen your wealth eroded and your dreams and those of our patients have been wounded,’’ McPherson told investors.…

Mar
12

Rumours fuel rush at gas pumps

Rumours of a gas price hike fueled a rush to fill up at local service stations Friday. Long lineups were reported at a number of stations around Red Deer and Real Canadian Superstore faced long lineups throughout the day. Stations held steady at 78.5 cents a litre with the exception of Riverside Exxon Car Wash, 4937 54th Ave., which put its price up to 93.3 Friday morning. In the Superstore gas bar lineup some motorists admitted being spooked by the prospect of 90 cents plus for a litre. “That’s mainly why I’m here,” said Jim Gough, of the price rumours. “The price is outrageous. I’m talking price gouging. I’m talking nationalization of oil companies.” Gough even raised the spectre of a national energy program as a possible way to keep prices down. Nicole Olsen usually fuels up Friday but made sure when she heard of the possible price hikes. “I would rather pay less than more,” she said with a chuckle.…

Mar
12

Meeting on private land oil, gas wells

Growing resistance to having oil wells or gas lines on private property has prompted a public meeting in Rocky Mountain House. What happens when property owners object to resource activities on their land is the focus of a grassroots information session Monday at the Rocky Community Centre. Co-organizer Rick Anderson said there’s a need for a meeting because many area residents are wary about the effects of oil and gas production. Health and pollution concerns are becoming more prevalent. As well, Anderson said farmers often worry oilfield activities will fragment their land, making crop harvesting cumbersome and obstructing cattle movement between grazing fields. Since oilfield activity can be noisy, livestock farmers are also commonly concerned it will unsettle their cows, said Anderson. In almost all cases, outright refusing to give an oilfield company land access isn’t feasible. While landowners maintain surface rights to their land in Alberta, the province owns mineral rights.…

Mar
12

Computer recycling jobs for Rimbey

A computer and telecommunications recycling facility in Rimbey is expected to create at least 100 jobs within the next two years. Maxus Technology Inc. of Calgary will open the facility in the old parks and recreation building in August or September. Clayton Miller, spokesman for Maxus, said the facility will employ about 100 staff and process more than 2.2 million kgs. of electronic waste annually when it’s fully operational in one or two years. Rimbey’s central location and the price of the building made it a very attractive location for the operation, he said. The company has been advertising to fill supervisory positions. One of the company’s long-term goals is to expand the facility to 40,000 square feet from 23,000 square feet, added Miller. Miller said there is a growing demand for businesses that recycle computers, which are considered hazardous waste. For example, there is about 1.7 kg of lead in the glass of a computer monitor.…