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Found 13 results

  1. Corn-based ethanol: The negatives outweigh the positives JEFFREY SIMPSON From Wednesday's Globe and Mail July 30, 2008 at 7:58 AM EDT Canada's governments have done something really stupid in subsidizing corn-based ethanol, and requiring its increased use, but apparently cannot correct their mistake. As a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, corn-based ethanol is a poor option; as a farm subsidy program, it's also a poor bet. Making matters worse, corn-based ethanol takes corn-for-food out of production, and moves land from other kinds of production into corn, thereby adding to what are already rising food prices. Governments, here and in the U.S., thought they were doing great things for the environment and helping farmers, too. Ethanol policy was, to quote the Harper government, a "win-win." Actually, it was a lose-lose policy for all but corn producers, who, naturally enough, have rallied furiously to protect their good fortune. Many researchers have exposed the follies of subsidizing corn-based ethanol production, the latest being Douglas Auld, in an extremely well-documented paper for the C.D. Howe Institute. Mr. Auld has surveyed the research literature about the putatively beneficial effects of corn-based ethanol on replacing gasoline. The theory is that such ethanol produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline from a vehicle engine. Indeed, it does, but that simple statement ignores what energy is required to produce a litre of ethanol. When the so-called "lifecycle" of ethanol production is counted, Mr. Auld concludes (as have many others) that ethanol doesn't lower GHG outputs. Remember, too, that ethanol delivers less energy per litre than gasoline, so more litres of production are required to move a vehicle a certain distance. Mr. Auld, therefore, correctly concludes, "It is clear from the evidence to date that there is no consensus regarding the efficacy of corn-based ethanol either to reduce GHGs or reduce overall energy demands." But we aren't dealing with "evidence," rather with political optics from governments wanting to look "green" and from a desire to help farmers. And so, the Harper government replaced the previous special tax exemption for ethanol to a producer credit that will cost the country about $1.5-billion. To this sum were added loans, biofuel research grants plus mandatory ethanol content requirements. In other words, the government pushed up the supply of corn-based ethanol through subsidies, then pushed up the demand through regulation. Provinces got in on the act, offering producer credits and mandatory ethanol content requirements. Putting the provincial and federal policies together produced whopping advantages for ethanol of about $400-million a year. For such money, Canadians might expect at least some decline in greenhouse gas emissions. They will be disappointed. There will be few reductions, and Mr. Auld estimates that these might cost $368 a tonne - way, way higher than other per-tonne costs for eliminating carbon dioxide, the main climate-warming gas. By contrast, one part of the Harper government's proposed climate-change policy would see big companies that do not meet their intensity-based reduction targets paying $15 a tonne into a technology fund. World prices for carbon offsetting these days are about $30 a tonne. However, even if this form of ethanol is a climate-change bust, at least it's great for farmers. Not so fast. It's a boon to the corn producers, but to supply all the additional demand for ethanol, up to half the current farmland for corn will be used. As more land is diverted to corn for ethanol, there will be less corn for human and animal consumption. So whereas corn producers will gain, livestock producers will suffer. As their costs rise, so will the price of their products to consumers. It's wrong to blame the rush to ethanol for rising food prices here and abroad. Let's just say the rush contributes to the problem. Mr. Auld estimates that if you take the direct subsidies for ethanol production of $400-million a year, and add the costs of higher food to consumers, the wealth transfer to corn-based farmers could soon be about $800-million. It's the classic case of subsidies distorting markets: One group gains and mobilizes all of its resources to protect its gains, insisting these gains reflect the public good; whereas in reality almost everyone else loses but doesn't complain. So we have a silly policy with hundreds of millions of dollars going down the policy drain, achieving none of the objectives the politicians claimed.
  2. Both governments are currently spending part of my money for stuff that does not interest me as much as say, having put the funds together to have saved the nordiques or expos. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind they spend some of my $$$ for museums, festivals, etc.. because I strongly believe that as a whole, we all win. However, not having the city of Québec on the NHL map is a disgrace and my heart aches every time spring training rolls around. The government should have done something...
  3. Conference Board of Canada Report Calls for City Investments Invest in major cities now or pay price, report warns Environment, global competitiveness, arts and culture at risk, board advises Toronto Star 6 February 2007 Failing to boost Canada's cities will damage the environment, cost billions of dollars in productivity and perhaps even kill Canadian arts and culture as we know them, a new report says. A long-awaited study by the Conference Board of Canada released today says Canadian cities have been forgotten for too long and that failing to inject needed capital will hurt the entire country. "The distinctive needs of Canada's six big cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton) are being ignored. Chronically short of resources and poorly equipped with governance powers, our big cities are struggling to fulfill their potential as engines of national prosperity. Citizens and leaders alike must recognize that big cities are intrinsically different from smaller cities and towns in both their higher economic potential and their greater needs." Canada has slipped to 12th from third in the world in comparative economic performance in just two years, the board said, and the only way to fix that is to make up for decades of neglect in Canadian cities by making investments now. "Neither our cities nor our economy will be globally competitive" if that investment doesn't take place, the report states in the kind of language that big business and the federal Tories might relate to. "We are also unlikely to sustain the arts and culture that are so important to Canadian identity." The report said 80 per cent of Canadians live in urban areas. But Canada is still using government structures and ideas brought in when most Canadians awoke to the sound of mooing cows or chirping birds and not garbage trucks and car alarms. "We still think of ourselves as a rural nation, and we have to start internalizing the fact that we're urban," Conference Board president and CEO Anne Golden told the Star's editorial board yesterday. While some of the themes aren't new, the fact that the report comes from such a highly respected body - the Conference Board of Canada is a non-profit and non-partisan group - lends further weight to the arguments of those pushing for a new deal for Canadian cities. "Big city mayors are right when they say there's all this talk about fiscal imbalance vertically between the federal government or horizontally among the provinces, but the real fiscal imbalance is at the city level, the municipal level," Golden said. "It's a combination of rising needs and expectations and shrinking resources. It's impossible to ... really compete with the cities in the world that are competing with us, from Tokyo to Glasgow to New York to London, unless we put our own house in order." The report says Ottawa and provincial governments should "work to end the municipal fiscal imbalance for major cities, potentially through such means as granting access to a growth tax, increasing transfers and reassuming responsibility for previously off-loaded services." It also argues that provinces have to give cities wider taxation powers and that cities have to find cost savings and better use the tools they already have. The Conference Board report, titled "Mission Possible: Successful Canadian Cities," found that investing in nine key cities would be a "win-win" proposition for all residents of the country. "New research by The Conference Board of Canada shows that economic growth in each of the nine Canadian 'hub' cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton) generates an even faster rate of economic growth in other communities in their province or region," the report states. "Increasing resources allocated to major cities would have a substantial impact on accelerating national economic growth." "We're not saying invest all money in our major cities," said Golden, who's slated to speak to the Toronto Board of Trade today and will appear with Toronto Mayor David Miller on Friday at an Ottawa gathering of Canada's big city mayors. "We're arguing for strategic investment." The board said a 2004 report found that Toronto was the only Canadian city to make a list of so-called "well-rounded global cities," and it said it will take willpower and co-ordination to boost Canadian cities up the rankings. "At the very least," the report said, "Canadian public policy should focus on ensuring that Toronto has the resources to maintain its singular status among global cities." While the report pushes for major investment in big cities, it also argues that governments must continue to help smaller cities. Among the recommendations: Governments work together to intensify urban growth and cut down on damaging suburban sprawl. The federal and provincial governments prepare a national urban transportation strategy. Federal and provincial governments increase their investments in affordable housing in major cities. Federal and provincial governments "design new approaches to municipal funding to permit the strategic allocation of funds in line with the distinct needs and potential of major cities." The board states that municipalities are hampered because senior levels of government have shifted responsibilities to local governments and that cities don't have access to taxes that grow when the economy grows. In 1993, federal and provincial transfer payments to local governments accounted for 25 per cent of municipal revenues. By 2004, the board said, that had dropped to just 16 per cent. The authors note that citizens expect their municipalities to provide parks, police, garbage collection and snow removal. But cities today also have to manage high-cost security concerns to prevent terrorism and handle a growing array of environmental problems related to energy use, waste management and urban transportation, the board said. Thirty one U.S. states have a local sales tax, the report said, while 3,800 local governments in the U.S. have local income taxes. But Canadian cities rely almost entirely on property taxes.
  4. Méga article très intéressant du magazine The Economist Lien The world economy A glimmer of hope? Apr 23rd 2009 From The Economist print edition The worst thing for the world economy would be to assume the worst is over THE rays are diffuse, but the specks of light are unmistakable. Share prices are up sharply. Even after slipping early this week, two-thirds of the 42 stockmarkets that The Economist tracks have risen in the past six weeks by more than 20%. Different economic indicators from different parts of the world have brightened. China’s economy is picking up. The slump in global manufacturing seems to be easing. Property markets in America and Britain are showing signs of life, as mortgage rates fall and homes become more affordable. Confidence is growing. A widely tracked index of investor sentiment in Germany has turned positive for the first time in almost two years. All this is welcome—not least because the slump has been made so much worse by panic and despair. When the financial system was on the brink of collapse in September, investors shunned all but the safest assets, consumers stopped spending and firms shut down. That plunge into the depths could be succeeded by a virtuous cycle, where the wheels of finance turn again, cheerier consumers open their wallets and ambitious firms turn from hoarding cash to pursuing profits. But, welcome as it is, optimism contains two traps, one obvious, the other more subtle. The obvious trap is that confidence proves misplaced—that the glimmers of hope are misinterpreted as the beginnings of a strong recovery when all they really show is that the rate of decline is slowing. The subtler trap, particularly for politicians, is that confidence and better news create ruinous complacency. Optimism is one thing, but hubris that the world economy is returning to normal could hinder recovery and block policies to protect against a further plunge into the depths. Luminous indicators Begin with those glimmers. It is easy to read too much into the gain in share prices. Stockmarkets usually rally before economies improve, because investors spy the promise of fatter profits before the statisticians document a turnaround. But plenty of rallies fizzle into nothing. Between 1929 and 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared by more than 20% four times, only to fall back below its previous lows. Today’s crisis has seen five separate rallies in which share prices rose more than 10% only to subside again. The economic statistics are hard to interpret, too. The past six months have seen several slumps, each with a different trajectory. The plunge in manufacturing is in part the result of a huge global inventory adjustment. With unsold goods piling up and finance hard to come by, firms around the world have slashed production even faster than demand has fallen. Once firms have run down their stocks they will start making things again and the manufacturing recession will be past its worst. Even if that moment is at hand, two other slumps are likely to poison the economy for much longer. The most important is the banking crisis and the purge of debt in the bubble economies, especially America and Britain. Demand has plummeted as tighter credit and sinking asset prices have exposed consumers’ excessive borrowing and scared them into saving more. History suggests that such balance-sheet recessions are long and that the recoveries which eventually follow them are feeble. The second slump is in the emerging world, where many economies have been hit by the sudden fall in private cross-border capital flows. Emerging economies, which imported capital worth 5% of their GDP in 2007, now face a world where cautious investors keep their money at home. According to the IMF, banks, firms and governments in the emerging world have some $1.8 trillion-worth of borrowing to roll over this year, much of that in central and eastern Europe. Even if emerging markets escape a full-blown debt crisis, investors’ confidence is unlikely to recover for years. These crises sent the world economy into a decline that, on several measures, has been steeper than the onset of the Depression. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook expects global output to shrink by 1.3% this year, its first fall in 60 years. But the collapse has been countered by the most ambitious policy response in history. Central banks have pumped out trillions of dollars of liquidity and, in rising numbers, have resorted to an increasingly exotic arsenal of “unconventional” firepower to ease credit markets and loosen monetary conditions even as policy rates approach zero. Governments have battled to prop up their banks, committing trillions of dollars in the process. The IMF has new money. Every big rich country has bolstered demand with fiscal stimulus (and so have many emerging ones). The rich world’s budget deficits will, on average, reach almost 9% of GDP, six times higher than before the crisis hit. The Depression showed how damaging it can be if governments don’t step in when the rest of the economy seizes up. Yet action on the current scale has never been tried before and nobody knows when it will have an effect—let alone how much difference it will make. Whatever the impact, it would be a mistake to confuse the twitches of an economy on life-support with a lasting recovery. A real recovery depends on government demand being supplanted by sustainable sources of private spending. And here the news is almost uniformly grim. Searching for new demand Take the country many are pinning their hopes on: America. The adjustment in the housing market began earlier there than anywhere else. Prices peaked almost three years ago, and are now down by 30%. Manufacturing production has been falling at an annualised rate of more than 20% for the past three months. And the government’s offsetting policy offensive has been the rich world’s boldest. As the inventory adjustment ends and the stimuli kick in, America’s slump is sure to ease. Cushioned by the government, the economy may even begin to grow again before too long. But it is hard to see the ingredients for a recovery that is robust enough to stop unemployment rising. Weakness abroad will crimp exports. America’s banks are propped up with public capital, but their balance-sheets are clogged with toxic assets. Consumer spending and firms’ investment will be dragged lower by the need to pay back debt and restore savings. This will be a long slog. Private-sector leverage, which rose by 70% of GDP between 2000 and 2008, has barely begun to unwind. At 4%, the household savings rate has jumped sharply from its low of near zero, but it is still far below its post-war average of 7%. Higher unemployment and rising bankruptcies could easily cause a vicious new downward lurch. In Britain, given the size of its finance industry, housing boom and consumer debt, the balance-sheet adjustment will, if anything, be greater. The weaker pound will buoy exports, but fragile public finances suggest that Britain has much less scope to use government spending to cushion the private sector than America does—as this week’s flawed budget made painfully clear (see article). The outlook should in theory be brighter for Germany and Japan. Both have seen output slump faster than in other rich countries because of the collapse in trade and manufacturing, but neither has the huge private borrowing of the sort that haunts the Anglo-Saxon world. Once inventories have adjusted, recovery should come quickly. In practice, though, that seems unlikely, especially in Germany. As the output slump sends Germany’s jobless rate towards double-digits, it is hard to see consumers going on a spending spree. Nor has the government shown much appetite for boosting demand. Germany’s fiscal stimulus, although large by European standards, falls well short of what it could afford. Worse, the country’s banks are still in trouble. Germans did not behave recklessly, but their banks did—along with many others in continental Europe. New figures from the IMF suggest that European banks face some $1.1 trillion in losses, hardly any of which have yet been recognised (see article). This week’s German plan to set up several bad banks was no more than a down payment on the restructuring ahead. Japan has acted more boldly. Its latest package of tax cuts and government spending, unveiled in early April, will provide the biggest fiscal boost, relative to GDP, of any rich country this year. Its economy is likely to perk up, temporarily at least. But its public-debt stock is approaching 200% of GDP, so Japan has scant room for more fiscal stimulus. With export markets weak, demand will soon need to be privately generated at home. But the past two decades offer little evidence that Japan can make that shift. For the time being, the brightest light glows in China, where a huge inventory adjustment has exaggerated the impact of falling foreign demand, and where the government has the cash and determination to prop up domestic spending. China’s stimulus is already bearing fruit. Loans are soaring and infrastructure investment is growing smartly. The IMF’s latest forecast, that China’s economy will grow by 6.5% this year, may prove conservative. Yet even China has its difficulties. Perhaps three-quarters of the growth will come from government demand, particularly infrastructure spending. Not much to glow about Add all this up and the case for optimism fades quickly. The worst is over only in the narrowest sense that the pace of global decline has peaked. Thanks to massive—and unsustainable—fiscal and monetary transfusions, output will eventually stabilise. But in many ways, darker days lie ahead. Despite the scale of the slump, no conventional recovery is in sight. Growth, when it comes, will be too feeble to stop unemployment rising and idle capacity swelling. And for years most of the world’s economies will depend on their governments. Consider what that means. Much of the rich world will see jobless rates that reach double-digits, and then stay there. Deflation—a devastating disease in debt-laden economies—could set in as record economic slack pushes down prices and wages, particularly since headline inflation has already plunged thanks to sinking fuel costs. Public debt will soar because of weak growth, prolonged stimulus spending and the growing costs of cleaning up the financial mess. The OECD’s member countries began the crisis with debt stocks, on average, at 75% of GDP; by 2010 they will reach 100%. One analysis suggests persistent weakness could push the biggest economies’ debt ratios to 140% by 2014. Continuing joblessness, years of weak investment and higher public-debt burdens, in turn, will dent economies’ underlying potential. Although there is no sign that the world economy will return to its trend rate of growth any time soon, it is already clear that this speed limit will be lower than before the crisis hit. Start preparing for the next decade Welcome to an era of diminished expectations and continuing dangers; a world where policymakers must steer between the imminent threat of deflation while countering investors’ (reasonable) fears that swelling public debts and massive monetary easing could eventually lead to high inflation; an uncharted world where government borrowing reaches a scale not seen since the second world war, when capital controls ensured that savings stayed at home. How to cope with these dangers? Certainly not by clutching at scraps of better news. That risks leading to less action right now. Warding off deflation, for instance, will demand more unconventional steps from more central banks for longer than many now seem to foresee. Laggards, such as the European Central Bank, do themselves and the world no favours by holding back. Nor should governments immediately seek to take back the fiscal stimulus. Prolonged economic weakness does far greater damage to public finances than temporary fiscal activism. Remember how Japan snuffed out its recovery in the 1990s by rushing to raise taxes. Japan also put off bank reform. Countries facing big balance-sheet adjustments should heed that lesson and nudge reform along, in particular by doing more to clean up and restructure the banks. Countries with surpluses must encourage private spending at home more vigorously. China’s leaders are still doing too little to boost private citizens’ income and their spending by fostering reforms, from widening health-care coverage to forcing state-owned firms to pay higher dividends. At the same time policymakers must give themselves room to change course in the future. Central banks need to lay out the rules that will govern their exit from exotic forms of policy easing (see article). That may require new tools: the Federal Reserve would gain from being able to issue bonds that could mop up liquidity. All governments, especially those with the ropiest public finances, should think boldly about how to lower their debt ratios in the medium term—in ways that do not choke off nascent private demand. Rather than pushing up tax rates, they should think about raising retirement ages, reining in health costs and broadening the tax base. This weekend many of the world’s finance ministers and central bankers will meet in Washington, DC, for the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank. Amid rising confidence, they will be tempted to pat themselves on the back. There is no time for that. The worst global slump since the Depression is far from finished. There is work to do.
  5. (Courtesy of CBC News) You can read rest of the article by clicking on the link
  6. Quebec leads Canadian economic rebound: Charest By Mike De Souza, Canwest News ServiceAugust 14, 2009 CHELSEA, Que. —Quebec Premier Jean Charest, said Friday the Quebec economy is in better shape than the rest of the country because its infrastructure spending is flowing while deficits are lower than other jurisdictions. The Quebec economy is in better shape than the rest of the country because its infrastructure spending is flowing while deficits are lower than other jurisdictions, including the federal government, Premier Jean Charest said here Friday. Charest made the comments standing next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they announced a new phase in a construction project extending a highway leading north from Ottawa through the Outaouais region in Quebec. "It is true that Canada's economy has done better than the vast majority of countries in the world and within Canada, Quebec's economy has done better than the average economies in Canada," said Charest. "The size of our deficit is smaller than the size of the federal government's deficit or the deficit in Ontario." Federal opposition parties have criticized the Harper government's infrastructure stimulus plan, arguing that money is not flowing out the door fast enough for projects to begin construction. Charest said that billions of dollars are already flowing into the Quebec economy from infrastructure and energy investments totalling more than $40 billion over the next five years. "We had growth in 2008 and yes we'll have a slowdown, and yes we've lost jobs but overall, Quebec's economy has done better," said Charest. "Why? because we invested in infrastructure and energy and because we have a long-term vision." He noted that even the Obama administration's $800-billion stimulus plan has not yet had an impact. "Not a lot of money in the United States has yet reached the point where the investment is happening," said Charest. "In fact, very little of that money has gone out the door." Harper said that there is still work to be done to ensure that Canada breaks out of the recession rapidly and moves into a strong position. "Canada has not gotten out of this global recession," said Harper. "We must continue our efforts and persevere. Now is not the time for political instability. It is the time to continue to focus on our economy." © Copyright © Canwest News Service
  7. With a goal to make John Abbott College a leader in health-related fields, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony took place Tuesday for the CEGEP's new science and technology building. The new five-storey, $30-million project will house facilities to train nurses, ambulance technicians and pharmaceutical technicians. "This will train students in English in areas where we have a shortage of qualified workers," said Education Minister Line Beauchamps. To be completed in 2012, the building, equipped with geothermic heating, will benefit from $8 million in financing from federal and provincial governments. http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100831/mtl_JAC_100831/20100831?hub=Montreal
  8. Mayor wants answers on city issues The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has written a letter to Jean Charest to find out where the Liberal leader stands on issues that are important to Montreal. Tremblay said he would like Charest to outline his government's plan for the city. He said improving the economy of Montreal will yield economic spinoffs in the rest of the province as well. In the letter, dated Nov. 12, Tremblay said he is anxious to hear Charest's proposals on how to "give Montreal the tools to properly assume its role as the economic motor of the province." Tremblay outlined several key areas his administration is working on that need government support: - A 20-year $8.1-billion transportation plan, which outlines major projects to renovate roads, improve public transit, and add bicycle paths. He said Charest needs to commit major public funds to help this project along. - Tremblay said the province must work to accelerate several infrastructure projects that have been stalled for many years, including the modernization of Notre Dame St. in Montreal's east end, the English and French superhospitals, and the revitalization of the harbourfront, which includes moving the Bonaventure Expressway away from the shoreline. - Tremblay also asked Charest to invest in urban renewal projects and to commit money for new social housing units. - He asked the province to help finance a new waste management plan, and to invest in the city's universities, research centres and museums. Tremblay also said Charest needs to work with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to free up Montreal's share of an $8.8 billion infrastructure program pledged in the federal government's 2007 budget. The funds have not yet been passed on to Canadian cities because of a complex application process for project approval and other delays in negotiations between the federal and provincial governments. Tremblay said it's imperative Montreal get access to that money now, to offset the effects of an economic downturn. He added Quebec also needs to change some of the rules governing cities to to give them access to new sources of revenue. Tremblay has been asking for a share of the Quebec sales tax or the ability to implement an entertainment tax on the island of Montreal. His administration has also mulled the idea of imposing tolls to drivers coming onto the island of Montreal. The city would need the permission of the Quebec government before imposing a new tax.
  9. Alcan buyout called "economic suicide" for Canada Lynn Moore, CanWest News Service Published: Saturday, July 14, 2007 MONTREAL -- The proposed acquisition of Alcan Inc. by the London- and Melbourne, Australia-based Rio Tinto Group is a symptom of "economic suicide" underway in this country, Montreal billionaire and shareholder activist Stephen Jarislowsky said Friday. Others use less dramatic language as they engage in the hollowing-out-of-corporate-Canada debate but admit to growing concern over deals such as Rio Tinto's friendly $38.1-billion US bid for Alcan. The Montreal-based aluminum producer is the 10th company on the TSX 60 to be taken over, or poised to be taken over, by a foreign company in the past three years, Jarislowsky noted. Foreign takeovers are fuelling the Canadian dollar, which is "going through the roof" and contributing to the woes of Canada's exporting and manufacturing companies, he said. "I think the Canadian government is wrong to let any of the 60 biggest companies get taken over by foreigners," said the founder and chairman of Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., which manages $60 billion in assets. The Conservative government's appointment of a panel to asses Canada's competition policy and foreign investment is akin to closing the barn door after the best horses have run away, Jarislowsky said. "Only the stupid horses are left," along with banks and companies that, for regulatory reasons, can't leave, he said. Ken Wong, an associate professor at Queen's University's business school, said there are few takers for unprofitable, poorly-run businesses, so it's not surprising the best companies are being bought. But while businesses are looking out for their own interests, someone should be considering the national good, particularly when resources or resource-dependent companies are concerned, he said. "I would be looking for certain signs that tell me that the merger or acquisition will be good for the country, not just the company" or shareholders, Wong said. Ottawa should ensure the long-term stewardship of resources is factored into the equation so that lost resources can be tabulated in much the same way lost jobs have been, he said. The Rio Tinto offer, unveiled Thursday, would see Rio Tinto Alcan with a head office in Montreal but its chief executive officer would report to Rio Tinto's CEO. Rio Tinto currently has its key aluminum and aluminum-related assets and offices in Australia. Rio Tinto Alcan would be "the new hub" of Rio's aluminum business, although investment in Australia "would not be diminished," Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese said at Thursday's press conference in Montreal. There would be some ebb and flow of employees between Montreal and Brisbane, Australia, but the employment levels in Montreal would remain as high, if not higher, he added. Descriptions like that make Concordia University finance professor Lawrence Kryzanowski uneasy because they remind him of what was said as Montreal head offices moved west when the separatist movement was gaining strength in Quebec. "It is clear when a company moves a head office; less clear is when a company moves key functions out," he said. "Smart companies will do that over time." The Royal Bank of Canada, for example, contends that it maintains a head office in Montreal but its corporate headquarters is in Toronto. "You can say you still have the head office here in Montreal but (what matters) is where the head office work is carried out. I would expect of lot of that to happen" with Rio Tinto Alcan, Kryzanowski said. Alcan "probably arranged the best deal for shareholders ... and Montreal," given the circumstances, Kryzanowski, an Alcan shareholder, said. The Rio Tinto Alcan office in Montreal "will be a divisional office at best," Jarislowsky said. One thing that helped tie Alcan to Canada were agreements between it and the governments of B.C. and Quebec that were linked to long-term, low-cost energy supplies for the aluminum producer, Kryzanowski said. "If it wasn't for the agreements they had in both Quebec and B.C., I think the head office would probably move," he said. The Quebec deal, signed last December just before Alcan announced a $1.8-billion US investment in the Saguaenay, requires that Alcan maintain in Quebec "substantive operational, financial and strategic activities and headquarters ... at levels which are substantially similar to those of Alcan" at the signing of the agreement. Now it's up to Quebec and other interested parties to "be vigilant" and ensure that the deal is honoured, Kryzanowski said. Quebec will have to decide how best to measure Rio Tinto Alcan's presence in Quebec, based on what it most values, be it payroll numbers, new products development or research-and-development money spent, Wong said. Montreal Gazette [email protected]