Archive for National Post
I was going through the newspapers Friday afternoon and two items grabbed my attention. One was the “Number Cruncher” feature in the Report on Business section of the Globe and Mail and the other was the “Buy and Sell” column in the Financial Post section of the National Post.
Friday’s Number Cruncher included three Canadian stocks that I find interesting –
First National Financial Services, closed Friday at $17.80 and a yield of 7.30% that pays out monthly,
Enbridge Income Fund Holdings, closed Friday at $23.17 and a yield of 5.33% and pays out monthly.
and Alaris Royalty Corp. closed Friday at $23.03 and a yield of 5.47% and once again pays out monthly
Using such rigorous criteria means not many dividend stocks made the list. But we’re left with a handful of names that have a lot of promising growth characteristics, as well as producing some pretty attractive yields.
Mortgage underwriter First National Financial Corp., for instance, yields a handsome 7.5 per cent. And it also scores amongst the highest for relative strength, which is a measure of the relative price performance versus other stocks in the market, explained Validea vice-president Justin Carbonneau. First National’s relative strength of 82 means the stock has outperformed 82 per cent of all other stocks over the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, in the Financial Post, the Buy and Sell column featured Stephen Takacsy of Lester Asset Management. The stock that I was most interested in was Retrocom REIT.
Retrocom REIT (RMM.UN/TSX)
The position: Recent addition.
Why do you like it: Retrocom buys, builds and operates retail properties in secondary markets in Canada, has an attractive dividend yield of 8.3% and its largest shareholder is Mitchell Goldhar, founder of Calloway, with almost 20%.
“This relationship gives Retrocom access to a seasoned management team, and contacts with retailers not normally available to a REIT this size,” Takacsy said.
He noted occupancy has been rising for the past two years and Zellers store closings will allow Retrocom to redevelop and re-lease the space at higher rents to new tenants.
Biggest risk: Retail tenants suffer if cap rates rise and consumer spending slows.
Retrocom closed Friday at $5.54 with a yield of 8.12% and it, of course dear reader has the bonus of paying out monthly.
Another interesting read from Liberal Senator Colin Kenny in Monday’s National Post.
Canada is down to two antique destroyers, 12 middle-aged frigates and one active submarine, with two more promised sometime soon. That’s what is available to defend a nation of slightly less than 10 million square kilometres, largely surrounded by water.
Official navy documents have predicted that even this small fleet will be significantly diminished over the next eight to 10 years — many of the frigates will be unavailable due to refit, and the destroyers will have to be docked as maintenance costs spiral out of control.
Itemizing Canada’s military weaknesses across the board would fill the pages of this newspaper, so allow me to focus on this one issue with regard to the navy: Why spend scarce dollars on ships that won’t even cut through heavy ice when you have a dearth of real icebreakers? Why spend that money on ships that will be slower than fishing boats when what we need are fast ships that can intercept vessels in our southern waters? The government will argue that the Arctic patrol ships can be transferred to our East and West coasts in the winter.
But if they are not designed as minesweepers or even as combat vessels, what would be the point? Why not spend the money on real warships, and give the coast guard real icebreakers?
I am inclined to agree with many of Senator Kenny’s view. I would like to see at least four new powerful and armed icebreakers for the Coast Guard based in Canada’s arctic.
And as for the Navy, my minimum would be – 9 destroyers (some Aegis equipped), 24 frigates, 12 nuclear powered submarines (Astute Class), 4 diesel electric submarines (Likely Type 212/214), 5 modern supply ships, and three or four ships in the style of HMAS Canberra.
and yes, dear reader, wealthy Canada can afford this. We’ve spent too many years riding the coattails of other countries.
And as a bonus, we would have an advanced and thriving shipbuilding industry.
Senator Kenny wrote about new icebreakers, armed and manned by the Coast Guard in April 2011.
If Canada is serious about Arctic sovereignty, we need genuine icebreakers. Our existing fleet is aging and none of the vessels match up to the six icebreakers the Russians employ to enforce sovereignty. The current government plan is to purchase just one new icebreaker. If we’re serious about patrolling, we need three.
The government should forget about the patrol vessels, purchase three robust icebreakers, and man them with the people who have experience plying our coastal waters — the Canadian Coast Guard.
It is time that we armed Canada’s coast guard. Using a vital chunk of the navy’s budget for patrolling the Arctic in ineffective ships is not money well spent — particularly when the navy desperately needs money to replace its outdated destroyers with modern vessels capable of defending themselves (and other Canadian ships) from air attack.
And as Senator Kenny wrote in August of 2008.
The Canadian Navy should be expanded. The Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has recommended that the number of ships it floats should be doubled to keep pace with the responsibilities the Navy will face in a changing world.
But even if it were to tread water at its current size, the Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard are going to require at least 133 new vessels of a significant size over the next 25 years, as well as refits.
Just to stand still the Navy needs to modernize 12 frigates soon and eventually replace them. It needs four new destroyers, eight arctic/offshore patrol vessels and refits for four submarines.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will require at least 83 ships. These include 9 icebreakers, 15 medium endurance and offshore patrol vessels and 42 Search and Rescue lifeboats.
I support a rail link between Canada and Alaska.
The question is – do we want Alaska to be the outlet for Alberta oil instead of a Canadian port?
– The railway with a single track would cost $8.4-billion and carry 1.5 million barrels per day. A twin-tracked railway would cost $10.4-billion and transport up to five million barrels daily. By contrast, Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat on the B.C. coast would cost $5.5-billion and ship up to 525,000 barrels per day; and the Kinder Morgan proposal to Vancouver would cost $4.1-billion and add 300,000 barrels a day to its existing pipeline.
G7G estimates that oil producers would have to pay a per-barrel cost by rail of $6 and $8. By contrast, Northern Gateway would charge $5 a barrel.
– Shipping oil to Asia is cheaper, and would be two to four days shorter, from Valdez. “People are surprised at that, but if you look at the map, the mileage is dramatically less across the Pacific Ocean from Valdez compared to Kitimat,” Mr. Vickers said. z Once in Valdez, the cost to ship to Asia would be $2 to $3 per barrel; to the U.S. Gulf coast via the Panama Canal $3 to $4 per barrel; to the U.S. west coast $1 to $2 a barrel; and to Europe via the Canal $4 to $6 a barrel. This would differ little from shipments out of Kitimat, except for Asia. If the railway was double-tracked Canadian potash, grains, lumber, metals, minerals and other exports could be taken to port for shipment around the world.
– The rail line could return from Valdez bringing equipment, supplies and water from the coast to the oil patch, at lower costs compared with current modes and distances.
This deal cannot be ignored because it’s the first time a comprehensive agreement with aboriginals has been signed involving a proposed project.
– An easement exists (to build a highway from Fort McMurray to Peace River) covering one-quarter of the route. The Alaskans are already investing in infrastructure for this project in anticipation of its approval.
– The railway could be built in stages, a single then double track, in conjunction with proposed pipelines if they are approved.
– Canadian investors, the State of Alaska, Canadian governments, the oil industry and aboriginal groups could own this dedicated railway, thus allowing the oil to be sold to the highest bidder. Other proposals will make oil producers price captives if there is a single foreign buyer.
The map linked below shows potential routes and is from a Alaska/Yukon study from a few years ago.
Does the American Women’s Soccer team have any sense of shame?
Not being content with “winning” the semi-final game against Canada because of a corrupt referee, the whiny American Divas are now whining that Canada played too rough.
Here is one of the howlers from the press conference.
And one other thing. The Americans aren’t particularly pleased with Canada’s Melissa Tancredi who — they allege — stomped on the head of Carli Lloyd in the second half. Apparently, that’s against the rules in soccer.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw the replay,” said Lloyd. “As it was happening in the game, I just thought someone accidentally stepped on me. When I saw that, I couldn’t believe it. I hope actions are taken.”
Dear reader, I reviewed this segment of the game earlier Wednesday and I just checked it again.
Here are the facts.
There was nothing deliberate about it. The American falls down. Tancredi stumbles over her and not surprisingly because of the proximity, while trying to maintain her balance, there was a brief step on the American.
I have been in one or the other position several times. Yeah, it’s worse being on the bottom.
Over the years, I have often wondered – do Quebec separatists actually believe the stupid and delusional things they say?
Take Pauline Marois, the current PQ leader for example.
In the Wednesday, August 1, 2012 edition of the National Post, Marois sees an independent Quebec raking in the Olympic medals.
PQ leader Pauline Marois got an early jump out of the gate Tuesday, hailing the four bronze medals won by Quebec athletes so far at the London Olympics as proof that an independent Quebec would be a success.
She called the medal haul “another example of how Quebec could certainly shine among the brightest.… As an independent country, we could continue to win our medals, I’m convinced of that.”
When I read this Wednesday morning, I had the following thoughts –
1 – An independent Quebec would immediately lose, at a minimum,
$8 Billion a year. That’s more than a ten per cent budget cut. How much money will flow to athletes in a Quebec financial meltdown?
2 – Would Quebec Athletes who want to compete on the world stage want to stay in a tiny French bubble with very little money?
3 – Or would they be more likely to remain with Canada where money and success are more likely.
In Saturday’s Calgary Herald, Licia Corbella has many of the same views as I do.
First of all, some of the Quebec athletes who won those four bronze medals – if not all – expressed how much it means for them to compete for Canada. Their message was clear – they are proud Canadians as well as Quebecers. Marois assumes that all of those carded, internationally ranked Quebec athletes would stay in la belle province. That’s a false assumption. After all, the money sent to carded Canadian athletes by Canadian taxpayers would dry up should Quebec become a separate nation.
Those athletes would then be faced with the dilemma: stay close to home and continue to train in familiar surroundings, but without Canadian sports money, or move to another province and continue to receive that money. Many might decide to move regardless of the money, because they view themselves as Canadians first and Quebecers second.
Marois would argue that her government would continue to fund Quebec’s elite athletes. But what Marois and most other Quebecers – including both sovereigntists and federalists – fail to recognize, is Quebec would be out anywhere from $8 billion to $13 billion annually in lost federal transfers, since Quebec is a net recipient of Confederation, not a net contributor to it in monetary terms.
Marois needs to under-stand that without the rest of Canada, Quebec’s culture of entitlement and welfare state would collapse eventually for lack of money.
In 2009, the last year for which data are available for all provinces, Quebec was a net recipient of $13.641 billion – or $1,743 for every Quebec man, woman and child. By contrast, Alberta, in the same year, was the only net contributor to Confederation, to the tune of $15.993 billion.
I opened up the National Post Tuesday afternoon (June 5, 2012) and the editorial was one of those ‘that’s pretty much my thinking too’.
But here’s the problem: Even though the price tag for the procurement section of the original Canada First strategy was eyepopping, it was still going to be a fairly modest updating and upgrade of our existing military capabilities. If the government cuts that, it will be cutting the Forces.
As originally laid out, the plan called for $45-billion to $50-billion in “investments” to replace “core military capabilities.” These included 15 new frigates and destroyers, 17 new search-and-rescue planes, 65 “next-generation fighters” (later announced to be the F-35), 10-12 new maritime patrol planes and a new fleet of Army vehicles, both to replace vehicles lost or worn out during operations in Afghanistan.
Fifty billion dollars is a lot of money, no doubt. But when you look at what Canada would actually be getting for that price, you see that it is not a huge amount of equipment.
Precisely dear reader. This list is a rather small one.
Successive Liberal Federal governments from Pierre Trudeau on, have done huge damage to Canada’s military. Canada as the world’s Boy Scout, the delusional fantasy that excites left wing fools.
We have written before about how risky it is for the Air Force to consider operating with only 65 fighter jets. The same risks apply to the other equipment. Canada has the world’s longest coastline, so it will be difficult to make do with fewer than 15 warships and 12 patrol planes. This is a huge country, and largely uninhabited, so cutting back on search-andrescue will be tough. The Army can perhaps lower its expectations for how much equipment it needs, and how good that equip-ment will be, but as Afghanistan showed us, the price of cutting Army equipment before a conflict is higher casualties during that conflict (and also, realistically, more money ultimately spent, as better equipment must be bought suddenly and then rushed into service).
None of the items in the original Canada First plan is exactly a frill. It seems impossible to imagine achieving any big savings without impacting any of these core purchases, or reducing some of the other “pillars” of a strong military that the plan identified – personnel, readiness (training and state of equipment repair) and the military’s general infrastructure.
Sadly, it will likely be personnel that will bear the brunt of any cuts. The Canada First strategy had called for a Canadian Forces of 100,000 members, including 30,000 reservists, and these personnel account for 51% of the military’s spending. Eliminating a plane here or a ship there will be small change next to simply limiting the number of men and women in uniform.
Such a move would be shortsighted. It takes years to train a soldier, and as the military found during the war in Afghanistan, for every soldier you send abroad, you need four others at home, either training to go next or recovering from a recent mission. There is a limit to how small the Canadian Forces can be while still having enough trained personnel ready for deployment to handle all of the jobs the government insists the military be able to accomplish. But as the government hunts for savings, it seems inevitable that a smaller military lies in the country’s future.
This is a shame. Canada should have a moderately sized, well-trained and well-equipped military. A country of 34 million need not raise armies fit to conquer the world, but as a major industrial nation and economic power, Canada needs some muscle to back up its words. Let us hope that even as it hunts for savings in its military spending, the government will remember this fact, and cut only where necessary, and only with great care.
Frankly, there shouldn’t be any cuts at all. Canada wastes Billions of dollars every year with “fluff” spending.
Canada could be doing much more in areas such as proper military funding, space exploration and infrastructure renewal.
Somaliland is the northern part of the failed country of Somalia and includes the port of Berbera. During the 1970′s the Soviet Union made use of Berbera as a naval base.
It’s an area of the world that has long intrigued me.
Lawrence Solomon of the National Post has started a series on Somalia and Somaliland.
Part one came on May 19th, 2012.
Rather than maintaining the pretence that Somalia rates status as a sovereign country — it is in fact comprised of several autonomous regions — the Somali people would be best served by reverting to the only system in the region’s recent history that saw relative peace and prosperity — when order was imposed by colonial powers acting under the authority of the United Nations.
The post-Second World War protectorate of British Somaliland and the trust territory of Italian Somaliland fared relatively well until in 1960 these areas merged to become a greater Somali Republic. Had these Western powers continued to rule and to develop the Somali territories, untold suffering would have been averted and Somalis would have been better prepared for ultimate self-rule, as occurred especially with former British colonies that enjoyed longer colonial rule, such as India, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Today’s status quo — a U.S.-imposed government sustained by foreign troops bolstered by commando EU raids on pirates — is no way to run a country. Neither is it an option for the West to wash its hands of the anarchy. Into the vacuum that its departure would create could come Russia or China, countries with a poor history of governance. Better for the UN to step into this breach — this is one of the purposes for which it was formed — and when it next becomes time to relinquish rule in the Somali territories, their peoples through referendums should have viable options to live apart, in small states based on their autonomous regions, and not just in a greater Somalia that history shows has not been all that great.
Part two is in this Saturday’s paper, May 26th, 2012.
It’s the only African country that doesn’t rely on foreign aid from the world’s rich governments. It’s a Muslim country in Africa that has had a functioning democracy for two decades. It’s an oasis of relative peace in one of the most vicious regions of the world, with a growing free-market economy, low inflation and a currency that has been appreciating against the U.S. dollar.
This anomaly of a country, Somaliland, is unrecognized by any other country in the world, even though the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa touts it as a “success story” and the World Bank itself doesn’t formally recognize it. Somaliland’s story is all the more astonishing given that it is officially part of Somalia, a failed state best known for its piracy at sea and al-Shabaab terrorists on land, and given that it declared independence in 1991 after surviving a brutal repression by Somalia’s Marxist dictator that dispersed much of its population to the U.K., Canada and other safe havens.
I would like Canada to recognize Somaliland as an independent country.
The new polymer Fifty dollar bill made its debut today. The twenty is due later this year.
First, Sir Robert Borden got a little tougher. This week, Mackenzie King gets a little thinner. Next, Macdonald will get a little shinier, Laurier, a little more slippery and even the Queen will be graced with a nice polymer sheen.
All of which will be almost impossible to counterfeit, according to the Bank of Canada.
The transition from paper to plastic currency continues with the introduction of the redesigned $50 bill on Monday, featuring the same security enhancements as the polymer $100 bill already in circulation.
Here’s a link to an nice image gallery of the new and past bills.
Here’s a video from the Bank of Canada on the news bills.
Seriously now dear reader, who doesn’t like Kraft Dinner?
From Friday’s National Post, the FP Marketing section delves into the love Canadians have for KD.
It’s understandable that Canadians might display an attachment to homegrown brands like Tim Hortons and Swiss Chalet, but their love of Kraft Dinner can’t be boiled down to corporate genealogy.
The boxed noodles-and-cheese dinner, renamed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the U.S. not long after its debut in 1937, has always retained the original name in Canada as well as a cult-like following.
While the people at Kraft Canada do not spend a lot of time analyzing why we Canadians eat much more KD per capita than our U.S. counterparts do, they clearly embrace our sentimental attachment to the bright orange food as a decisive marketing opportunity.
When any brand has a different name and brand presence between countries, it ensures that its Canadian marketing and advertising platform is almost certainly a made-in-Canada effort, unlike products with the same name where the ads can be adapted from other markets such as the U.S.
“We do a lot of research, and one thing we know is that the Canadian consumer has a vested interest in this brand,” says Jordan Fietje, senior brand manager for Kraft Dinner at Toronto-based Kraft Canada.
“They have a real sense of ownership over it. They are the ones that called it KD — We didn’t coin that term. We picked it up from consumers.” The advertising tag line for the last 10 years, “Gotta Be KD,” came from a consumer during a cross-country promotional tour with a branded KD car.
While the “10 to one rule” — the principle that the U.S. will sell 10 times the amount of many of the same products sold in Canada, based on relative population size — is generally very applicable in many categories, Mr. Fietje said, “they only sell six times as much Kraft Dinner. That is a significant difference.”
The brand is marketed differently in Canada, he said, because a broader range of people eat it, crossing all ages and demographic groups.