New Canadian Media

by Ng Weng Hoong in Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s recent visit to Malaysia yielded a Facebook photo-op with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and a misreported story that state energy firm Petronas and its five Asian partners would begin construction of their US$36 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in northern BC this September.

In the reporting of de Jong’s press conference, Malaysian news agency Bernama did not make clear that the project must first receive Ottawa’s environmental approval, due sometime between September and December, before the Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest (PNW) LNG – not the British Columbia government – can make its final investment decision.

The BC finance minister’s comment, “may have been taken out of context,” in the Bernama story, said de Jong’s spokesperson, Jamie Edwardson, in an e-mail to New Canadian Media. Edwardson underlined the importance of the environmental assessment process before the project can go ahead.

Where the $7,900 trip delivered immediate value was in giving [Mike] de Jong and his chief of staff a front-row feel of Malaysia’s increasingly turbulent politics and weakening economy.

Where the $7,900 trip delivered immediate value was in giving de Jong and his chief of staff a front-row feel of Malaysia’s increasingly turbulent politics and weakening economy, which analysts say could seriously delay, or even halt, Petronas’s proposed high-cost venture to process and liquefy natural gas in Canada for export to Asia.

De Jong left for Putrajaya on July 25, four days after the British Columbia legislature passed what Premier Christy Clark called a history-making Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project Agreements Act to entice PNW to invest another $30 billion to build a gas processing plant near Prince Rupert – a network of pipelines, support infrastructure and field development work. In order to feed the proposed LNG plant on Lelu Island, Petronas – PNW’s 62 per cent owner – has already invested US$5.9 billion through its 2012 takeover of Calgary-based Progress Energy for its rich gas reserves.

After an eight-day debate, the BC Liberal government passed Bill 30 to give the consortium a 25-year guarantee on costs related to royalty rates, tax credits and carbon emissions.

A difficult decision for Petronas

While the opposition New Democrats, supported by the Green Party and other critics, denounced the new act as a ‘sell-out’, Kong Ho Meng, a senior oil and gas analyst at UOB Kay Hian Securities in Kuala Lumpur, says the terms may not fully reflect investor risk in such a high-risk greenfield project.

“In addition to high tax rates, oil and gas companies face strong environmental and Aboriginal opposition. These hurdles are making it difficult for Petronas to make the final investment decision.” - Kong Ho Meng, senior oil and gas analyst

“The perception in Malaysia is that Canada is expensive for business,” Kong told New Canadian Media. “In addition to high tax rates, oil and gas companies face strong environmental and Aboriginal opposition. These hurdles are making it difficult for Petronas to make the final investment decision.”

Citing ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, Kong explains the oil and gas industry is in retreat now as it faces the prospects of low prices and high operating costs for the next few years. Shell and Chevron have announced large job cuts following a sharp plunge in the latest quarterly profits.

“Today’s oil price downturn could last for several years, and Shell’s planning assumptions reflect today’s market realities. The company has to be resilient in today’s oil price environment,” Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden said last week.

Kong said Petronas faces the same predicament as the majors, but is under greater pressure as a state-owned firm to invest locally and to reduce capital expenditures for projects abroad.

He added that as the unofficial national bank for the commodities-dependent Malaysian economy, Petronas has the additional role of protecting the country’s financial stability. Most Malaysians have painful memories of how speculators destabilized their country by crashing the economy and currency during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98.

History repeating itself

Memories of the crisis have returned to haunt the country in recent months as a major financial scandal involving Prime Minister Najib in an alleged theft of US$700 million of state funds has left his supporters and opponents digging in for a drawn out struggle.

Amid the latest power struggle, the Malaysian ringgit plunged to a 17-year low of 3.85 against the US dollar as investors took money out of the country.

Shortly after meeting the BC finance minister to discuss the LNG project and economic matters, Najib fired Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, along with four cabinet ministers and the attorney general, for trying to investigate the alleged theft.

The bitter fall-out between the two top leaders mirrors the 1998 clash that led then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to order the arrest of his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Malaysia has not recovered from that clash.

Amid the latest power struggle, the Malaysian ringgit plunged to a 17-year low of 3.85 against the US dollar as investors took money out of the country (also referred to as capital flight).

The Islamic State’s entry into Malaysia is a new source of threat to the country’s political stability, as is the rising tension between the country’s Muslim majority and minorities of other religions.

As happened during the last two major financial crises in 1998 and 2008, Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves quickly fell below the psychological US$100 billion level.

“Capital flight is a huge concern now,” said Kong. This could influence Petronas’s decision on the PNW project, as the investment will require a massive outflow of funds from Malaysia just when the ringgit needs to be defended.

Diminished prospects for BC LNG projects

If the LNG markets remain depressed, Kong said Petronas may have to shelve its Canadian venture to focus on its natural gas projects in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak and an oil refinery-petrochemical complex in Johor state.

“We see the project as challenged given the economics and current oversupply in the LNG market, which may last for several years given the amount of new supply either recently built or currently under construction.” - Andrew Grant, Carbon Tracker Initiative

On the Canadian front, BC’s proposed 20 LNG projects, including PNW, have diminished prospects as a result of the prolonged weakness in oil and gas prices, and the increase in supplies from other parts of the world, according to three separate studies by the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), the International Energy Agency and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

CTI’s analyst, Andrew Grant, said he believes Petronas wants to press ahead with the PNW project, but faces increasing financial and economic constraints.

“We see the project as challenged given the economics and current oversupply in the LNG market, which may last for several years given the amount of new supply either recently built or currently under construction,” Grant told New Canadian Media.

According to CTI’s financial modeling, the PNW project will not be needed in the 2015-35 period, undermining BC’s hopes for building a future LNG economy.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy
Friday, 31 July 2015 08:47

Newcomers Scarce at National Campsites

by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver

With over 45 national parks and park reserves, as well as attendance levels of 13.5 million people in the last year, it’s safe to say that Canadians love the outdoors. But not all Canadians it seems.

Visitor surveys show that new Canadians, from varied cultural backgrounds, are barely present in national parks. The numbers aren’t any better when it comes to the quintessential outdoor activity, camping.

“I just find the whole idea behind staying in a damp place, in a scrounged up way in a tent, very unappealing,” says 25-year-old Abeer Yusuf.

“Having the right gear and equipment are all things that require a fair amount of money in both Malaysia and India – so I wouldn’t assume that most people ... pursue such interests just on the side.”

Yusuf is Indian by birth, but spent most of her life in Malaysia. Two years ago she relocated to study at the University of British Columbia, but has never been camping, even though the province she calls home has 830 provincial parks and 340 campgrounds.

“Having the right gear and equipment are all things that require a fair amount of money in both Malaysia and India – so I wouldn’t assume that most people that are from Malaysia and India pursue such interests just on the side,” Yusuf explains.

Tanya De Leon is also not a fan of camping, but she thinks it’s mostly the lack of running water and the hassle of packing. The 25-year-old was born in the Philippines and came to Canada when she was three years old. She has been camping a total of three or four times in all the years she’s lived in B.C. But unlike Yusuf, De Leon’s parents took her camping when she was younger.

“My parents didn’t enjoy it either, maybe that’s why I don’t enjoy it,” she says. “Camping isn’t something people do in the Philippines, that could have something to do with it.”

Learning the basics of camping

A 2011 Ontario Parks campground survey found that people born in India made up less than one per cent of campers even though 2.6 per cent of Ontario residents were born there.

Similarly, people born in China and Hong Kong constituted more than three per cent of the province’s population, but less than one per cent of campground users.

This is an issue for Parks Canada, especially since visible minorities make up 20 per cent of Canada’s population and by 2030, one in three Canadian workers will have been born in another country. This is why Ontario Parks came up with the Learn to Camp program in 2011, which intended to teach first-time campers the basics.

But in B.C, where the population of visible minorities continues to increase, no such program exists. According to a BC Parks representative, the province lacks funding for this type of program and there are no future plans to create one, even though inexperienced campers like De Leon say that they would find it helpful.

The federal government does have a similar program that extends to B.C.

Through a partnership with the Mountain Equipment Co-op, Parks Canada offers learn-to camp events in every province except for Prince Edward Island, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Events are only held in the summer from late June to mid-September. 

But unlike Ontario’s program, the federal government’s equivalent is not aimed specifically at newcomers.

“You’ll be surprised, a lot of Canadians call us, not that many immigrants,” says Rachel Azzi, a Parks Canada representative. “Most of the people who call [were born in Canada] who have never been camping.”

A way to ‘integrate into Canadian culture’

According to a report published by Parks Canada, the number of visitors in Canada’s national parks and marine conservation areas increased from 12.5 million in 2010-2011 to 13.5 million in 2014-2015. But newcomers are still underrepresented in most surveys, so the question remains, why?

Paola Cernicchiaro, 30, says she thinks people aren’t comfortable with the risk involved.

“I think some people dislike discomfort, like going outside and not having a toilet, or being in nature and totally exposed,” she explains. “And some people like it, they like stepping out of their comfort zone to enjoy a beautiful sunset or do some exploring.”

Originally from Orizaba, Mexico, Cernicchiaro moved to Vancouver in 2007 and says she goes camping at least once a year. What she likes the most is spending quality time with the people she’s camping with.

“People don’t necessarily like camping in Mexico, but I go camping with my family every year during spring break,” she shares. “My grandma started that tradition, so my mom has been camping since she was a kid and I’ve been camping since I was a kid.”

“I think camping is important for immigrants who want to integrate into Canadian culture because it’s a great place to do it.”

Twenty-two-year-old Marguerite Royer also used to camp as a kid. Originally from France, Royer moved to Quebec when she was five. She has lived in B.C. for a year and a half.

She recently returned home from a camping trip on B.C.'s Hornby Island.

“I used to do a lot of camping as a kid because my parents loved outdoor activities,” she explains.

What Royer enjoys most about camping is building fires (something she was banned from doing this last trip because of the drought in B.C.), sleeping in the woods, outdoor activities and getting a break from technology. She dislikes when it rains and everything gets humid and cold.

“I think camping is important for immigrants who want to integrate into Canadian culture because it’s a great place to do it,” adds Royer. “It’s something great that we have here.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories

SUPPORTERS of Conservative MP Wai Young on Tuesday night welcomed the victory of Amandeep Nijjar as the NDP candidate for the riding as they had feared the splitting of Chinese-Canadian votes if Caroline Wang had won instead. With South Asian candidate Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan representing the Liberals, Young’s supporters, including a group of […]

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Published in Politics

THIS summer Lower Mainland universities are hosting some of the brightest undergraduate students in the world.  Here for 12 weeks on Mitacs Globalink internships, 34 of India’s smartest, young talent are assisting professors at the three Simon Fraser University campuses and the University of British Columbia, to solve complex challenges found in their various research […]

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Published in Education

Canadian Jewish leaders are urging their community to be vigilant after a security scare at a Thornhill shul last week and the release of court...

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Published in National

The announcement was made at the Indo-Canadian owned Sunrise Kitchens Ltd., a successful small business that has been in operation [...]

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Published in National

IMAGINE a city with better transit, more green spaces, and more diversity in housing types. This is the City of Surrey as envisioned by the first students of UBC’s master in urban design (MUD) program at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA). SALA professor Patrick Condon and adjunct professor Scot Hein led […]

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Published in Education

by Roshini Nair (@Roshini_C_Nair) in Vancouver, British Columbia

It’s just after midnight in Delhi, India when I reach Orijit Sen, a renowned graphic novelist and artist. As part of the annual Indian Summer Festival, Vancouverites can see his artwork in an unexpected location: wrapped around a city bus.

“I’m interested in bringing the mobile public art which we have in India and placing that in Vancouver,” he says, adding that the presence of the colourfully decorated bus on city streets reflects the, “multicultural, cosmopolitan nature of Vancouver.”

The bus is covered in graphics inspired by the South Asian tradition of truck art. Sen explains that in India and Pakistan, trucks are usually privately owned or operated by small entrepreneurs. Drivers end up spending many months of the year traveling in their trucks. “[The] sense of decorating it, making it beautiful and looking after it comes from the personal connection to the truck,” he says.

For the transit bus artwork, Sen drew inspiration from his visit to Vancouver last year. For example, the graphic of an auto rickshaw driver on the bus was inspired by walking in Vancouver late at night wishing, “there was an auto rickshaw that I could just hail on the street and it would take me home … which is something I’m so used to doing in Delhi.”

“A lot of arts festivals or ideas festivals might only take up one discipline like the performing arts or literature or theatre, but we are arguing for a festival that nourishes the mind, the taste buds, [and] the senses in every possible way.” - Sirish Rao

It’s this sense of colliding worlds that lies at the heart of the annual Indian Summer Festival, which takes place in Vancouver from July 9 to 18 this year. Sirish Rao, founder of Indian Summer, says the festival is not just about crossing geographic boundaries, but entire disciplines.

“A lot of arts festivals or ideas festivals might only take up one discipline like the performing arts or literature or theatre, but we are arguing for a festival that nourishes the mind, the taste buds, [and] the senses in every possible way.”

A multidisciplinary approach

One of the more ambitious and whimsical events this year is a collision between the arts and science called “Genes and Jazz”. Featuring geneticist and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus and the Jacob Varmus Quintet (Jacob is Harold's son), the performance will meld the mutations in cellular structures with improvised jazz chords.

This programming is supported by the festival’s partnership with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Rao’s other role as an adjunct professor there.

“Stories from the Cab” presents the voices of taxi drivers, who work in one of the most racialized industries in Canada. It’s an event that challenges perceptions of place and immigration, and distinguishes the festival from other summer fare.

Vancouver blogger Salina Siu volunteered at a literary event for the festival as part of her coursework at SFU. Siu says she loved the opportunity of “being behind the scenes” and “working directly with the authors.”

This year, there’s a double-header literary event: “The Ever After” and “In the Driver’s Seat: Stories from the Cab”.

The first is a look at the loss and mourning that is rooted in the Air India bombing 30 years ago. At the time, the tragedy was considered India’s, even though most of the victims were Canadians of Indian origin. 

“Stories from the Cab” presents the voices of taxi drivers, who work in one of the most racialized industries in Canada. It’s an event that challenges perceptions of place and immigration, and distinguishes the festival from other summer fare. 

‘Engaging with contemporary ideas’

“Whereas a lot of cultural festivals, especially in the diaspora, tend to be nostalgic,” explains Rao, “we’re more interested in the contemporary. So it’s not about recreating a past, it’s about engaging with contemporary ideas.”

“Sometimes food is the first and easiest way to step across an unknown shore, and you might take the next step with music, and then you might come and hear someone speak. We see it as a long conversation.” - Sirish Rao

He points to a talk with prominent Iranian-American religious scholar Reza Aslan as an example of how the festival features high-profile guest speakers beyond the traditional borders of South Asia. Aslan’s sold out lecture on July 16 will tackle subjects like ISIS, identity and how faith is affected by geography.

Amongst the ideas, however, there is still space for raucous celebration: Vancouver celebrity chef Vikram Vij catered the opening gala on July 9, and the closing party “Taj Mahal Foxtrot” on July 18 will feature the finest of the 1930s Bombay jazz scene and a touch of vintage Bollywood. It’s why first-time festivalgoer Panzy Sandhu is going. 

She’s excited for the “arts, music, and different cuisine” after hearing about the festival from friends. This is what Rao hopes for: “Sometimes food is the first and easiest way to step across an unknown shore, and you might take the next step with music, and then you might come and hear someone speak. We see it as a long conversation.”

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

 

Published in Arts & Culture

by Carlos Tello (@SegunDoviaje) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Juliana Forero still remembers the exact place, time and date when she learned about Paola Murillo’s dream of connecting Vancouver’s Latin community with the rest of the city. It was at a Tim Hortons coffee shop, an hour before midnight, on December 13, 2008.

That night, Murillo told Forero that she wanted to create a Latin plaza in Vancouver – a place where Latinos could showcase their culture, do business with other Vancouverites and network.

“We talked about it all night,” says Forero. “And we started working on it the following day.”

In Latin America, plazas are places where people spend their free time. Kids play with each other, and adults relax, get some fresh air and engage in conversations. Due to their nature, plazas also attract countless artists and vendors. It is not uncommon to see music players, painters and itinerant sellers. Murillo’s aim was to recreate that atmosphere in Vancouver.

“Carnaval del Sol is a space that allows us to help artists, vendors and entrepreneurs get themselves known. It also allows us Latinos to be seen, to show that we exist.” - Paola Murillo

Latincouver, a non-profit dedicated to bring together Latin Americans living in Vancouver with other groups, was the result of Forero’s and Murillo’s late-night conversation. By hosting social and cultural events, as well as business networking activities, Latincouver has become a bridge that unites Latinos and non-Latinos.

One of Latincouver’s main events is the Carnaval del Sol, where the dream of the Latin plaza comes to life. The Carnaval is a massive, two-day annual event that allows visitors to experience Latin culture, arts, food and music. Last year’s event attracted 100,000 Vancouverites.

“Carnaval del Sol is a space that allows us to help artists, vendors and entrepreneurs get themselves known,” Murillo explains. “It also allows us Latinos to be seen, to show that we exist.”

This year, the carnival will be held on July 11 and 12 at Concord Pacific Place in downtown Vancouver. It will feature artistic performances, sports tournaments, children’s activities and more than 70 food vendors. 

Building the dream

Murillo left Colombia when she was 16 years old. Fascinated with culture since early childhood, she wanted to find a multicultural city she could call home.

After spending four years in Paris, 10 in Kentucky and five months in Montreal, Murillo arrived in Vancouver and realized it was the place she had been looking for all those years.

“I always used to say that I wanted to live in a city where people spoke tons of different languages,” she says. “But not even in my wildest dreams I could envision a place as multicultural as Vancouver.”

After settling in the city, she started working in human resources. That led her to learn how hard it could be for Latin immigrants to re-attain their professional status after arriving in Vancouver.

“Often, when I recommended a Latin candidate, people would tell me: ‘This person doesn’t speak English,’ or: ‘This person is working as a waiter, he’s not a professional,’” Murillo recalls. “It was really hard to validate their credentials.”

According to Murillo, something else working against Latinos living in Vancouver was the absence of a strong, integrated Latin community.

“I would go to consulates and wait hours to get an appointment. Sometimes when people saw me they would say: ‘there goes another crazy person trying to rally people together.’” - Paola Murillo

Dwelling on these issues, she came up with the idea of the Latin plaza – a place where Latinos could get together, showcase their culture and professional capabilities, and present themselves to the city.

Murillo acknowledges that not everyone agrees with her approach of bringing all Latin Vancouverites together in one big group, but she believes that the bigger the community, the more powerful it can be.

After creating Latincouver, Murillo started knocking on doors looking for people willing to help her accomplish her dream.

“I would go to consulates and wait hours to get an appointment,” she remembers. “Sometimes when people saw me they would say: ‘there goes another crazy person trying to rally people together.’”

The first Carnaval del Sol was held at the Hellenic Community Centre in 2009. It attracted about 500 people. The attendance pales in comparison with the 100,000 visitors the carnival attracts nowadays, but Murillo saw it as the confirmation that the countless hours she and a group of volunteers invested organizing the event had paid off.

“I believe that attracting those 500 visitors was probably harder than bringing the 100,000 that now come to Carnaval del Sol,” she says.

More than just a carnival

Last year, the British Columbia provincial government proclaimed June 28 to July 6 as Latin American Week to, “acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions Latin Americans have made to British Columbia and Canada.”

“I believe that by doing these events we are creating spaces where we can integrate not only Latinos, but everyone living in Vancouver.” - Juliana Forero

This year, Latincouver’s celebration of Latin American Week kicked off with a parade on Canada Day, and continued with a Latin arts exhibition, a Latin film night and an outdoor sports event. Celebrations continued this week with the second edition of Tastes of Latin America and the Inspirational Latin Awards, a gala event that recognized distinguished members of the Latin American community for their contributions to B.C.’s economy and cultural development.

Forero is the producer of Latincouver’s events during Latin American Week. It is a demanding job, requiring her to commit up to 20 hours a day. It is exhausting, she admits, but the idea of preserving her culture in a foreign country keeps her motivated.

“I do this because I feel committed with the community,” she says. “I believe that by doing these events we are creating spaces where we can integrate not only Latinos, but everyone living in Vancouver.”

Through her work, Forero sees firsthand how these events bring people together. The volunteers she leads, many of whom had to leave their families behind when they emigrated, generate strong bonds with each other while working to produce the Latin American Week celebrations.

“Leaving home is hard,” says Forero, who is originally from Colombia. “The volunteers, they find a family here.”

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

 

Published in Arts & Culture

THE Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games brought more than just athletes to B.C. It also left the province with a bad case of the measles. In research outlined on Tuesday in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, scientists at the University of British Columbia and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control used genetic sequencing to trace the […]

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Published in Health

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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