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Ottawa on track to invest less on new military kit than promised for second year



For the second year in a row, the federal government is expected to spend billions of dollars less on new military equipment than promised because of a combination of good and bad news: cost savings on some projects and delays in others.

The Trudeau government in 2016 released a new defence policy that included dramatic increases in spending on new aircraft, ships, armoured vehicles and other military equipment over the next 20 years.

The investments are vital to replacing the Canadian Forces’ fighter jets, ships and various other types of aging equipment with state-of-the-art kit.

Yet while new budget documents filed in the House of Commons show the Department of National Defence has so far been given authority to spend $4 billion this fiscal year, the policy had predicted total spending of $6.5 billion.

The department does have until March 31 — when the federal government’s fiscal year ends — to make up the $2.5-billion difference, but its top civilian official, deputy minister Jody Thomas, admitted Thursday that a large shortfall is likely.

Part of the reason is that the department expects to save about $700 million on various projects that ended up costing less than planned, Thomas told The Canadian Press following a committee appearance on Parliament Hill.

« We’ve delivered things more efficiently than was anticipated and so we don’t need the money, » she said. « And we can apply it to projects, either new projects or projects that have a cost overrun. »

But delays moving some projects through the military procurement system have also caused their fair share of problems, Thomas said, and the department is expecting to have to put off $1 billion to $1.3 billion in purchases it had planned to make this year.

« We’d like to (spend) $6 billion every year. Can I guarantee to you that we’re going to do that? No, there’s slowdowns in projects, there’s slowdowns with suppliers, there’s changes in scope. Things change, » she said.

« I’m hoping to get it below $1 billion. I’m not committing to getting it to below $1 billion. … We’re driving projects to get it as low as possible and spend funds efficiently and effectively. We’re not wasting money. »

‘It’s not good to have delays​’

The government spent $2.3 billion less than planned last year. That was also largely because of delays in projects such as the government’s multibillion-dollar plan to buy new warships, though also because some things ended up costing less than expected.

The government does deserve credit for having increased investments in equipment to levels not seen since the height of the war in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

« And if they can actually move as much as the deputy (minister) was saying, and they only leave $1 billion on the table, that will be the best year in the last several decades, » said Perry, who has previously warned that delays in the procurement system could derail the defence policy.

« But there are a bunch of impacts from not being able to spend money on schedule. One is you don’t have the actual gear to do what you want. And project budgets lose purchasing power when money is not spent on schedule. So it’s not good to have delays. »

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Canada’s wholesale and manufacturing sales fell slightly in November: StatsCan




The Canadian economy showed signs of weakness in November as both wholesale and manufacturing sales fell.

Statistics Canada said Tuesday wholesale trade fell one per cent in November to $63.0 billion, more than offsetting the 0.7 per cent increase in October.

Meanwhile, manufacturing sales fell 1.4 per cent to $57.3 billion in November, the second consecutive monthly decrease.

Economists had expected no change in wholesale sales and a drop of 0.9 per cent in manufacturing sales, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

TD Bank economist Omar Abdelrahman said the data confirms the moderating growth narrative.

‘Temporary shocks’

« Sub-par manufacturing performance is still expected in the near-term, as Alberta’s production curtailment plan starts to reflect in manufacturing sales volumes, » Abdelrahman wrote in a note to clients.

« It is important, however, to note that these are temporary shocks. As these shocks fade, manufacturing sales should receive support from strong economic performance south of the border, a weaker loonie, and expectations of increases in investment spending in the face of elevated capacity constraints. »

Fabricator Mike Caldarino uses a grinder on a steel stairs being manufactured at George Third & Son Steel Fabricators and Erectors, in Burnaby, B.C., on March 29, 2018. Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 1.4% to $57.3 billion in November, the second consecutive monthly decrease. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Royal Bank senior economist Nathan Janzen noted that labour markets still look solid and, notwithstanding recent market volatility, the U.S. industrial sector is continuing to expand.

« We still expect a ‘data-dependent’ Bank of Canada will ultimately view more gradual rate hikes as appropriate this year — but very likely not until confirmation emerges that the expected slow patch over the next couple of quarters is temporary, » Janzen wrote.

Petroleum, coal down 13.8%

Manufacturing sales were down in 13 of 21 industries, representing 45.3 per cent of total manufacturing sales. In volume terms, manufacturing sales fell 0.9 per cent.

The petroleum and coal product industry fell 13.8 per cent due to lower prices for petroleum and coal products as well as maintenance and turnaround work at some refineries and lower production at other refineries.

Partially offsetting the decline was a 1.3 per cent increase in the transportation equipment industry and a 1.5 per cent increase in the food industry.

Meanwhile, wholesale sales were down in five of seven subsectors. In volume terms, wholesale sales fell 1.2 per cent.

The machinery, equipment and supplies subsector fell 2.3 per cent, while sales in the building material and supplies subsector dropped 1.9 per cent.

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Roma, The Favourite lead the Oscar noms with 10 nods each, several Canadians nominated for awards




Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite led all films with 10 nominations each to the 91st Academy Awards, while Netflix and Marvel each scored their first best picture nomination.

The nominees for best picture are: A Star Is Born, Roma, Green Book, The Favourite, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice.

With Roma, Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought. Marvel, too, joined the club with Black Panther, the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture.

Pixar production Bao by Toronto-raised Domee Shi picked up a nomination for best animated short, as did Animal Behaviour by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden. The live action short film category has two finalists from Montreal — Jeremy Comte for Fauve and Marianne Farley for Marguerite. Other Canadians up for the golden statuette this year include sound mixer Paul Massey for Bohemian Rhapsody and set decorator Gordon Sim for Mary Poppins Returns. Shi is the first female director to helm a Pixar short film.

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The nominees for best actor are Cooper, Christian Bale (Vice), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Viggo Mortensen (Green Book).

Up for best actress are Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

The nominees for best supporting actress are Amy Adams (Vice), Marina De Tavira (Roma), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite). Tavira was something a surprise, while Claire Foy of First Man was left out.

Up for best supporting actor are: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Sam Rockwell (Vice). Notably snubbed was Timothy Chalamet (Beautiful Boy).

The lead-up to Tuesday’s nominations was rocky for both the film academy and some of the contending movies. Shortly after being announced as host, Kevin Hart was forced to withdraw over years-old homophobic tweets that the comedian eventually apologized for. That has left the Oscars, one month before the Feb. 24 ceremony, without an emcee, and likely to stay that way.

Some film contenders, like Peter Farrelly’s Green Book and the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, have suffered waves upon waves of backlash, even as their awards tallies have mounted. On Saturday, Green Book won the top award from the Producers Guild, an honour that has been a reliable Oscar barometer. In the 10 years since the Oscars expanded its best-picture ballot, the PGA winner has gone on to win best picture eight times.

The season’s steadiest contender — Cooper’s A Star Is Born — looked potentially unbeatable until it got beat. Despite an enviable string of awards and more than $400 million in worldwide box office, Cooper’s lauded remake was almost totally ignored at the Golden Globes. Still, A Star Is Born was the sole film to land top nominations from virtually every guild group.

The academy is reportedly planning to go host-less following Hart’s exit, something it has tried only once before in an infamous 1989 telecast that featured a lengthy musical number with Rob Lowe and Snow White.

The Oscars last year hit a new ratings low, declining 20 per cent and averaging 26.5 million viewers. Though ratings for award shows have generally been dropping, the downturn prompted the academy to revamp this year’s telecast. Though initial plans for a new popular film category were scuttled, the academy is planning to present some awards off-air and keep the broadcast to three hours.

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Peterborough’s new council makes no move to scrap PDI sale to Hydro One – Peterborough




Although several councillors campaigned on a promise saying they would scrap the sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc., to Hydro One, it appears that fight is over.

After Monday night’s general committee meeting saw a report and update on the state of the sale, not one councillor or the mayor pushed for a motion to kill the deal.

Peterborough council to get update regarding PDI sale to Hydro One

“I didn’t vote, for example in favour of the site plans for the casino, but it’s there now and we make the best of it,” said Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, who previously voted against the sale of the PDI, the city-owned electrical distribution arm of Peterborough Utilities.

“I spoke out against the deal when it was happening but you have to recognize that sometimes things don’t always go your way and you still have to make the best of the situation and use those funds in the best possible way for the community.”

Council and city staff met for an hour-long closed-door meeting prior to Monday night’s general committee session and when all sides emerged there was no talk to about the cost or possible litigation that might come from backing away from the sale.

It was back in December, at the first council meeting following the election, where Ashburnham councillor Keith Riel made a motion to request a report from staff to update council on where the deal stood between the city and Hydro One and what the cost would be to scrap the deal if council decided to do so.

But Riel said nothing during Monday night’s meeting about PDI, this despite Peterborough Utilities president and CEO John Stephenson being in attendance and taking some questions.

PDI sold to Hydro One for $105 million

Councillor Stephen Wright, who campaigned against the sale, and councillor Gary Baldwin were the only ones to publicly ask Stephenson about the sale.

“The report that we are seeing here in public really only advocates for the sale of PDI,” said Baldwin. “But are there any benefits to keeping PDI?”

“There are pros and cons to keeping it as we examined it and there are pros and cons to the path we are proposing,” said Stephenson, who also told council the dividends or profits PDI was paying back to the city were shrinking.

Five years ago Stephenson said the chunk of profits coming back to the city was around $1.1 million, whereas today the profits have shrunk to somewhere around $700,000 and he says the electrical supply business is a changing landscape.

Sale of Peterborough Distribution Inc. to Hydro One resumes as both sides agree to further discussions

According to city CAO Sandra Clancy’s report, the city and Peterborough Utilities’ board have sunk more than $3.4 million into negotiating the sale of PDI to Hydro One and all the sides are working together to get the sale completed.

At this point, the application for sale is before the Ontario Energy Board who have last say of approval and it’s expected a decision by the OEB will come sometime early in the fall of 2019.

Hydro One has agreed to buy PDI from the city for $105 million, and once the city pays off the debt it owes, it’s expected the sale will net close $55 million, which the city plans to invest.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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