Once dubbed ‘black diamond,’ coal loses ground in major energy markets

Ontario Province intends to gradually phases out coal-fired power generation, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) said on December 22, 2015.

According to FEPC, as part of that policy, a bill was introduced to the provincial parliament on November 25, 2015, which calls for banning the restart of coal-consuming power plants that had been shut by the end of 2014.

Coal used to be called “black diamond” decades ago in Miike on Kyushu Island, where Japanese are believed to have discovered it in 1469. Coal had turned some colliery owners into billionaires, while it also had been a prime mover that helped the nation to realize its post-war economic miracle.

The annual domestic production, however, declined to 1.3 million metric tons in 2014, a far cry from a record 56.3 million metric tons set in 1940, according to the Japan Coal Energy Center.

The Japanese government’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) regards coal as a major resource for electricity generation, along with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and nuclear power as well as renewable energy, chiefly wind and solar power.

ANRE announced in March 2015 that Japan’s coal-fired power plants have achieved 42% heat or thermal efficiency on average, up from 40% in 1995, adding that Germany and other major economically advanced countries had efficiency of below 40%.

The higher thermal efficiency, the more a power company saves fuel consumption. For Japan’s nuclear reactors, the number is around 30%.

FEPC said in December 2015 that its member companies started up one hydropower plant and one LNG-fired power plant that year. Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc. began commercial operation of a 490-megawatt LNG-fired unit at Sendai City on December 1. This unit is designed to convert more than 60% of heat into electric energy by a combined cycle that consists of a gas turbine and three additional steam turbines run by exhaust gas supplied from the main turbine, the company announced.

For Ontario, which is the king of nuclear power generation in Canada and which has sizable hydropower capacity as well, the anti-coal measure seems to make sense. The provincial government says that its coal policy is equivalent to getting rid of seven million autos on the road, according to FEPC. The policy is also said to constitute the largest single project in North America to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says the Japanese federation.


By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Justin Trudeau under mounting pressure to act as loonie falls

Since the turn of the year, Canadian news media have been playing scary headlines crying about the free fall of the loonie.

These headlines read like these: “As loonie sags, pressure mounts on Ottawa to act” – Toronto Star, Jan. 13, and “Stock markets tumble as loonie falls to new 13-year low.” – CBC News, Jan. 13.

The loonie, as the Canadian dollar is known for the image of the aquatic bird – loon – on the $1 coin, kept falling since the first trading day of the New Year for four straight days, touching the 12-year-low range of $1.41. The following week, Canadian dollar further fell to 69.71 cents on Jan. 13 – the first below-70-cent level in almost 13 years since April 30, 2003. This means one loonie buys 69.71 U.S. cents. (Toronto Star, Jan. 13)

Incidentally, loon, or more precisely Common Loon, has been popularly regarded as Canada’s national bird since its image is one the Canadian $1 coin, but it is not official. And National Bird Project is now underway to elect its official national bird prior to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. Common loon is easily leading other birds in the Web contest.

The continuing tumble in oil prices is the main culprit behind the steady fall in the loonie. Prices for crude oil, Canada’s largest exports that have supported the country’s economy, have been falling amid the worldwide energy price falls since last year, and on Jan. 13, fell to US$30.48 per barrel, the 12-year low. (CBC News, Jan. 13) Oil prices plunged below $30 level to $29 and no end is seen as of this blog’s writing.

Natural resources account for 20% of Canada’s GDP, with crude making half of them, while natural resources account for half of Canada’s total exports revenues. Therefore, needless to say, sharp declines of export prices for natural resources, including oil prices, will have a great negative impact on the Canadian economy. The global stock price collapses, triggered by the Chinese market crash and financial crisis, have also sent Canadian stock markets tumbling, making the matter even worse.

Alarmed by the prospects of further deteriorating economy, Canadian economists are now urging the Liberal government to consider deficits even deeper than those it has promised to further stimulate the slowing economy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already indicated that his government’s first budget beginning in April could feature a deficit that exceeds the C$10-billion-a-year cap the Liberals promised during the fall election campaign, but has declined to speculate how much larger the fiscal deficit might be. (Globe and Mail, Jan. 14)

The chief economist of CIBC World Markets, Canada’s major bank, said the government should be considering a deficit as large as $30 billion, not a meager $10 billion the Liberals have promised. Avery Shenfeld estimates that a $30-billion deficit would add about half a point to economic growth. (Globe and Mail, Jan. 14) If not $30 billion, many other private-sector economists call for deficit spending exceeding well the $10-illion ceiling.

The government is reportedly looking at speeding up or fast-tracking infrastructure projects and enacting measures to spur energy-efficiency retrofits of buildings and homes to kick-start the Canadian economy, beset by collapsing oil prices and the tumbling Canadian dollar. During the campaign, the Liberals promised to spend $60 billion over the next decade on infrastructure, allowing mild deficit, to bolster the slumping economy, but only $17.4 billion was earmarked for the next four years – the first term.

Leaders in the government believe that front-loading the planned short-term infrastructure spending – public work projects that can pump cash into the economy over short terms and create jobs across the country – is the needed quick method, rather than the longer-term approaches to enhance productivity and promote innovation. Particularly, speeding up infrastructure spending on transit and social housing, as well as energy-saving retrofitting of large commercial buildings are among the priority ideas being considered by the government, according to Globe and Mail (Jan. 14).

On Jan. 18, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities came to the aid, a sort of, for the Liberal government with a timely survey report that found a third of Canada’s municipal infrastructure is at risk of “rapid deterioration,” including some 40% of transit infrastructure that needs repair. The report said that much of Canada’s municipal infrastructure – municipal roads and bridges, public transit, buildings, among others – “is at a critical juncture.” (Toronto Star, Jan. 18)

The budget prepared by the Conservative government for the current fiscal year last April assumed the economy would grow 2% in 2015 and 2.2% in 2016. The Liberal government revised the forecast downward, after hearings on private-sector economics conducted in October, to 1.2% for 2015 and 2% for 2016. Those economists are now expecting economic growth to further decline.

Canada’s media and industries seem to be playing up more about negative impacts of the looney’s declines, less talking about positive sides for the country’s manufacturing and export sectors, centering in Ontario. A further depreciation of the loonie would make Canada more competitive against lower-cost producers such as Mexico in competition for winning larger export shares and attracting more foreign investment. Toronto Star (Jan. 13) pointed out, however, “It’s unclear whether the loonier will be able to stimulate the export sector as it has in the past. There has been a fundamental shift in the dynamics of that crucial industry due to the closure of 10,000 export-oriented businesses in the past decade alone.”

The Japanese yen has fallen 20% against the U.S. dollar during the three years under “Abenomics,” bringing huge positive effects to the slumping Japanese manufacturing and export sectors. It may be easy to imagine how big benefits the cheap loonie would bring to Canada’s manufacturing and export sectors. But it is yet to be seen if the cheap dollar will work as it should.

Prime Minister Trudeau left for Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19 to meet world political, business and opinion leaders at the annual high-profile World Economic Forum meeting – amid expectations and pressure to act on the troubled Canadian economy.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, TOCS Senior Consultant

Bombardier plane arrives at Okinawa; Mitsubishi delays delivery start

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft (BCA), headquartered in Toronto, Canada, made two announcements on December 31, 2015.

The first news release stated that BCA delivered to Ryukyu Air Commuter Co. (RAC) that day “the very first Q400 cargo-combi aircraft,” one of five ordered by the Naha-based carrier, which is the launch customer for the new variant of the Q400 series. This “modern, 21st-century turboprop” offers up to 4,082 kilograms of cargo capacity, up to 32 cubic meters cargo volume, while it can accommodate 50 passengers, according to BCA. The company said it has recorded firm orders for a total of 547 Q400 aircraft.

The second press release on the New Year’s Eve revealed that Bombardier is making inroads into the Chinese market, where an indigenous commercial aircraft company delivered its first ARJ21 plane in November 2015. China Express Airlines has placed a firm order for 10 CRJ900 regional jets, increasing to 38 the total orders for this model, BCA announced. A significant feature of the CRJ900 is a 5.5% fuel consumption reduction compared to earlier models, the plane maker said.

BCA, however, has clinched fewer than 250 of its “much-delayed C Series planes, The Economist (November 7, 2015) said, adding that it emerged that “Bombardier had tried unsuccessfully to sell a stake in the C Series project o Airbus. On October 29th Bombardier announced that the provincial government of Quebec…would pay $1 billion for a stake of 49.5% in the plane, whose development has so far cost $5.4 billion.”

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. announced on December 24, 2015 that it is now scheduled to deliver its first Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) in mid-2018 instead of first quarter of 2017. The announcement followed the first three successful test flights in November 2015.

Delay is nothing unusual in the aircraft industry. The initial MRJ delivery would take place about 30 months after the test flights, compared to 18 months for the E190 from Brazil’s Embraer, 23 months for Bombardier’s CRJ900 and 84 months for China’s ARJ21 model.

Back to the Q400 delivery to Ryukyu Air Commuter. RAC was founded in 1985, with Japan Transocean Air Co. (a subsidiary of Japan Airlines) putting up 74.5% of capital and Okinawa prefectural government 5.1%.

RAC President Takashi Irei said that “[W]e are very excited to be the launch operator for the Q400 cargo-combi…[which] offers the ideal platform for the evolution of our service.”


By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Can CBC overcome a crisis in 2016?

For CBC, Canada’s 80-year-old public broadcaster, 2015 was an Annus Horribilis.

Steep cuts in annual funding by the former Conservative Harper government, forcing the Canadian Broadcast Corporation to slash news broadcasts, reduce sports and documentary divisions and sack hundreds of its workforce. And a series of scandals involving anchors and hosts of popular TV programs, with public confidence in the corporation collapsing, and viewership falling which has sent commercial revenues into free fall.

The Toronto Star declared, “The greatest of our national cultural institutions is dying.” (Nov. 19, 2015) “CBC in crisis” has been talked about for years, but the situations look worse than it has appeared.

But, with the turn of the year, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government sets in full motion, finally, a ray of hope may be found in 2016 for the CBC’s resurrection.

In fact, as the Canadian Press article carried by the Huffington Post Canada reported under the headline, “CBC’s 2016 outlook will be better thanks to Liberal government,” said: “With a more CBC-friendly Liberal government now holding the purse strings, could things finally be looking up for the beleaguered public broadcaster? Many observers seem to think so.” (Dec. 7)

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to restore $150 million in annual funding that was cut from CBC/Radio Canada during the Conservative Harper years.

Still, some observers and experts warn that it is yet to be known whether the new government wants to save the CBC, or whether it decides that the CBC is worth being rescued and actually deliver the promise to restore the slashed funding. (Toronto Star, Nov. 19) And even if the funding is to be restored, some pro-CBC people argue that $150 million may not be enough.

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has told the Canadian Press that a severe fiscal climate could force the Liberal government to reassess whether it can afford to spend more on the broadcaster. “I’m not sure that most people would argue that spending another $150 million on the CBC is more important than many of the other priorities that the Liberals have identified. I don’t know that the CBC is at the top of the list.” (Huffington Post, Dec. 7)

Meanwhile, among those who agree that restoring the slashed funding to save the CBC from the crisis would be necessary, not a few people argue that it is more important to agree how the increased funding should be used and what the CBC should do with the additional funding.

Linden MacIntyre, former “Fifth Estate” host who retired from the CBC in 2014 amid a round of cuts, points out that as a result of repeated workforce cuts – as well as budget cuts and slashed programs – morale fell to all-time low among those who remained on the payroll, including experienced and young bright journalists. (Huffington Post, Dec. 7)

Annual funding reduction plans introduced as part of the Harper government’s expenditure cut measures forced the CBC into budget cuts, and drastic workforce cuts were implemented three times so far – in 2009, 2012 and 2014-15. During these years, CBC workforce has been cut by as much as 25%, according to media reports.

CBC has some 7,000 employees and annual revenues of about C$1.8 billion, with 64% of them coming from the government’s funding, and the rest from advertisements and fees. But amid intensifying competition with commercial broadcasters, ratings are falling and advertisement revenues are slowing. It lost the long-held National Hockey League rights from the 2014 season, meaning a loss of huge advertisement revenues in the year and thereafter. The CBC announced in 2014 its decision to withdraw from the pro-sports areas where broadcast rights have been skyrocketing in recent years, and to concentrate on big amateur sports events, like the Olympic Games.

MacIntyre argues that the CBC should return to top-rate investigative journalism, as in good old days its in-depth pieces on “The Journal” were routinely run on PBS and the BBC. “CBC has just dismantled what was … one of the best documentary units in the world. It’s gone now.” He says he is keen to see CBC become famous again for the right reasons. “I want to go back to a time when the CBC was famous for its programs.” (Huffington Post, Dec. 7)

Richard Stursberg, former assistant deputy minister of communication, who has held top posts at several television-related organizations, says in his article in the Toronto Star (Nov. 19), “The bigger issue is whether the new government wants to save the CBC. This is not a question of money. It is more fundamentally a question of what the CBC should be.”

So saying, he is making some worthwhile proposals that the CBC and the Ottawa government should consider seriously. First of all, he argues, CBC and the government should adopt a similar agreement between them to what the British Broadcasting Corporation has with the British government – the Royal Charters and Agreements. They define what is expected of the corporation and decide how much money the BBC should receive over the period of the contract, usually lasting 10 years. It is important that the Canadian version of the Royal Charters should define the role of the CBC and what the public broadcaster should aim to be, Stursberg says.

He sees that despite, or because of, the emergence of enormous digital media companies, the role of the CBC is more important today to ensure commitment to providing the “Canadian contents” – which private and digital media pay little attention for the pursuance of commercial profits. He also argues that the CBC should have no ads as today Canadians will not watch television shows with ads to prevent it from falling into competition with commercial media for ratings that would bring about deterioration of programs quality.

It’s interesting to watch if the CBC will come to its turning point in 2016, 80th year since its founding in 1936, and whether the Trudeau government will come to the aid of Canada’s greatest national cultural institution.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, TOCS senior consultant

Canada moves ahead of Japan in finding nuclear fuel repository site

Selecting a site for a repository of “used” nuclear fuel, that is, highly radioactive nuclear waste generated after reprocessing “spent” fuel, is a formidable task for any government to grapple with. Even the US government has yet to resolve its repository site issue after a lost decade over a candidate site of Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

However, the Finnish government became the world’s first to issue a license for such a project on November 12, 2015. The government granted a construction license to waste management specialist Posiva for a used nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and final disposal facility at Olkiluoto Island.

Posiva has eclipsed Canadian efforts toward finding such a site, but World Nuclear News (November 3, 2015) reported that the country’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has completed the first phase of a preliminary assessment (“desktop studies”) for Central Huron in Ontario Province.

Surprisingly for Japanese, 21 communities, most of them in Ontario, where many of Canada’s nuclear power plants are located, asked for NWMO to conduct a two-phase preliminary assessment. Not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) mentality appears to be absent in those municipalities. Eleven of them were selected for further phase 2 studies that include field work, WNN said.

Japan’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NUMO) was approved by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and founded in October 2000 for the same purpose. In its 15-year history, NUMO found only one community, town of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, that was interested in accepting feasibility studies. That was in January 2007. In April the mayor was not reelected.

METI’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) made it clear earlier in 2015 that it will shift the approach in favor of its and NUMO’s search for a site on their own without relying on good will from a willing local government.

An underground repository is typically 300 meters below ground.

ANRE’s plans call for conducting a general survey for seismic and other historical data for two years.

In his book titled Why Reprocessing?, Aiji Yamato (a former official at then-Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp.) says: “Japan is different from Scandinavia or Canada.” However, an eight-year research program prior to the NUMO creation concluded that Japan has “abundant area whose geologic strata would be stable over the next 100,000 years,” Yamato wrote.

ANRE plans to perform a geological survey for the next four years or so with a local government’s approval, which would be followed by 14 years of detailed research.

So, Japan appears to be some 18 years behind Canada after NUMO’s lost 15 years.


By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

University of Tsukuba launches specialist world ranking program

Ranking appears to be a booming enterprise or game. Fortune 500 is among those that are best known among businesspeople in many countries. This classic survey, of course, lists the most successful financial results of the world’s 500 top companies. You may wonder who the richest people are. Subscribe to Forbes, another American magazine which somehow finds those people out and publishes detailed data.

In addition to those and other well-known surveys, a cosmetics company conducts a survey to show which prefecture in Japan produces women with the most beautiful skins. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that it is northern Akita prefecture, Pola says the winners are the women in Shimane.

The government-run University of Tsukuba has joined in the booming ranking business. It published on October 30, 2015 results of a new initiative titled The World University Comparisons in Sport Sciences, Physical Education and Kinesiology 2015.

This survey Tsukuba is not exactly the type of ranking with which you are familiar but merely lists the top universities, none of which is from the US.

Schools were assessed in three specific categories — teaching capability (35% of the total), research capability (50%) and competitive sports practice (15%) — before an overall evaluation.

The teaching capability category named four best schools: Loughborough University (the UK), the National Taiwan Normal University, the University of Porto (Portugal) and Tsukuba. The research capability section listed Loughborough and the University of Calgary (Canada). Five top universities were mentioned in the sports practice category: Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand), Calgary, Porto, Tsukuba and Waseda University (Japan).

In implementing this survey, Tsukuba’s undergraduate School of Health and Physical Education had access to Thomson Reuters Web of Science for academic research publications and impacts as well as the company’s academic reputation survey data.

The researchers employed 35 indicators. Two of those indicators were the numbers of medals awarded in the Olympic Games and in world championships/world cups.

Tsukuba admitted that 19 universities out of a total 98 returned filled-in questionnaire form in January-June of 2015.

The 19 schools included four in North America (Texas State University, the University of Minnesota, McGill University, Calgary), seven in Europe (the University of Physical Education of Hungary, Lithuanian Sports University, Loughborough, Porto, the University of Lisbon, the University of Bologna, the University of Europea, Lisbon), five from Asia (Seoul National University, National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Tsukuba, Waseda, the National Taiwan Normal University,), and three from Oceania (the University of Sydney, Victoria University and Auckland).

Among those schools, the best three were found to be Loughborough, Calgary and Tsukuba.


By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Syrian refugees are coming to Canada by Christmas

The first batch of Syrian refugees under the new Liberal government is beginning to land on Canada this week at the earliest and by Christmas time at the latest, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to bring all 25,000 refugees from Syria by the end of this year had to be moved back to next year.

The world is watching whether this ambitious experiment in receiving thousands of Syrian refugees over a short period will succeed and whether this “Canadian model” is worth emulating. Especially diplomats of France and other European countries being flooded by Syrian and other Middle Eastern and African refugees as well as the United States are all keeping close watch.

There were criticisms of the campaign pledge made by Liberal Party leader Trudeau to bring to Canada 25,000 Syrian refugees by this year’s end as being too hasty to make right preparations and do screenings to receive so many refugees in less than two months after the new government’s inauguration. The government is now trying to expedite the process while it postponed the deadline to 2016, without changing the number of refugees to be invited.

According to changes announced on November 24, 15,000 of the pledged 25,000 government-sponsored refugees will arrive in Canada by the end of February, instead of the end of this month, along with 10,000 refugees sponsored by private groups – non-governmental organizations and individuals, including some of Syrian-Canadian communities and relatives. The other 10,000 will be received in Canada by the end of 2016.

The biggest reason for the delay needed was security – although the postponement gave the breathing space to domestic organizations, including the Red Cross in Canada, to make preparations to receive the refugees, such as housing. Because Prime Minister Trudeau stood firm and said there is no change to his Syrian refugee promise, even after it was learned that one of the suspects in the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people was a Syrian refugee who had sneaked in France, the Ottawa government can never be too sure about their countermeasures to prevent potential terrorists from slipping in the refugees to enter Canada.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) is speeding up to prepare a list of 11,000 refugees who meet the Canadian criteria out of the 633,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, and Canadian officials will screen them on the basis of the UNHCR list of applicants. The Canadian security officials then interview the each of the applicants on the shortened list to make sure they are free of terrorist/security problems as well as contagious diseases. In Turkey, the Canadian officials are doing same screenings on the basis of the list prepared by the Turkish government. The new Canadian government has sent 500 officials to Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon since its inauguration in early November to speed up the screening.

In the screening, priority is being given to families with children, and especially those needing medical treatment, women who have suffered sexual attacks or other women at risk, and people in the so-called LGBT sexual minority, UNHCR prioritize. There are objections to this priority order among Canadians, and the Globe and Mail said in its editorial (Nov. 24), “Some of those additional refugees (arriving in Canada next year or later) should be single, heterosexual men …. The government should let it be known that, in the long run, all are welcome here.”

The Trudeau government has branded the resettlement of thousands of Syrian refugees as a “national project that will involve all Canadians” and is hoping that it will ease the four-year-old “refugee crisis” unfolding in the Middle East and in Europe as a result of chaos in Syria and that a success of the undertaking will encourage other countries to take more refugees as Canada does.

The government will defray all costs for bringing the refugees, not only government-assisted refugees, but those privately sponsored by NGOs and individuals, by commercial airlines, and also cover the costs for resettling the 25,000 government-sponsored refugees, including housing and income assistance. The total amount will come to between 564 million and 678 million Canadian dollars over six years, with most of them concentrating in the first two years.

To me, it is moving to know that NGOs and individual Canadians, including people in the Syrian Canadian communities and refugees’ relatives, are willing to cover the costs to hold refugees – some C$12,600 for one refugee and C$27,000 for a family of four for the first year only. And according to the Canadian government, there are thousands of more applications coming from NGOs and individuals to receive refugees following the government’s announcement of the project – a national display of generosity, responsibility and humanitarian solidarity.

Those who passed the screening will be admitted immediately into Canada as permanent residents.

As refugee arrivals are being expected by Christmas, at the earliest, provincial premiers and mayors are asking the federal government to ensure that Syrian refugees will settle initially all over the country, instead of congregating in Canada’s biggest cities. There are growing concerns that a large majority of the government-sponsored refugees will be drawn to cities such as Montreal and Toronto, where thousands of privately sponsored refugees are heading in coming weeks to join large, existing communities of Syrian Canadians. (Globe and Mail, Nov. 30)

Around 60% of Canada’s Syrians live in Quebec, centering in Montreal, as many as 50,000 people, by the estimates of members of the community. First migrants arrived in the province in the late 1800s from what was then the Ottoman Empire. Canada’s most geographically concentrated Syrian neighborhood is in Mississauga, which makes part of Greater Toronto.

So Atlantic provinces and cities are asking for more evenly distribution of Syrian refugees so as to cope with their demographic and economic problems – declining population and workforce as well consumers. Harifax Mayor Mike Savage has said to the Canadian national daily (Nov. 30), “It ties in with the needs of Nova Scotia for immigrants to come to the province, so we think there can be not only a humanitarian and compassionate side to this, but also be very good for our economy.” It is also moving to hear that those provinces and smaller cities want to play some roles in receiving Syrian refugees, as those big cities do.

Canada has already admitted 102 Syrian refugees – outside the 25,000 Syrian refugee project – since the start of the new government on November 4. The country has received more than 3,000 Syrian refugees since 2013.

The number of Syrian refugees Canada is admitting in coming months is already exceeding the figures Prime Minister Trudeau has promised by 10,000 – 25,000 government-sponsored refugees and 10,000 privately sponsored refugees by the end of 2016, but according to Immigration Minister John McCallum, 15,000 countries are arriving in Canada by the end of next year, making the total figures 50,000. This would be the largest since 1979-1980 when 60,000 Indochinese “boat people” found a new home in Canada. (Globe and Mail, Dec. 1). In 2014, Canada took more than 12,000 refugees.

The federal government is cautiously moving to promote the “national project” not to raise antipathy and grudges on the part of ordinary Canadian citizens, especially those in welfare, by pushing the refugee resettlement program too hastily or giving the impression that refugees are treated too generously – which could threaten sense of national unity and solidarity. So far the project is receiving a wide support by Canadians.


By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, TOCS senior consultant

LNG shipments from British Columbia to Japan approaching

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Japan’s second-largest oil refiner, is likely to begin importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the country in 2018, an official of the government-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) said in an open seminar in Tokyo on November 19.

Takashi Yamada, general manager of JOGMEC’s Vancouver office, said that there are about 20 LNG projects in Canada’s West Coast, adding that the country’s natural gas reserves amount to an estimated 600 trillion cubic feet.

Idemitsu has a one-third stake in the Douglas Channel LNG Consortium. Other members are Calgary, Alberta-based AltaGas Ltd., EDF Trading Ltd. (a subsidiary of Electricite de France) and Belgium-based LNG shipper EXMAR NV.

Both Yamada and the Calgary Herald newspaper (January 28, 2015) reported that the consortium expects to make a final investment decision (FID) in fourth quarter of 2015. That would pave the way to first exports in 2018 from the consortium’s offshore barge-based (floating) liquefaction plant, which EXMAR will construct in Douglas Channel, near Kitimat. The plant’s initial capacity would be rated at 550,000 metric tons a year, the newspaper said.

Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement welcomed Japanese investment in LNG projects in his nation, Yamada said.

Trudeau and his cabinet were in office for just two days when President Barack Obama rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. That project would duplicate the existing Keystone Phase I pipeline with a shorter 1,899-kilometer route to link Hardisty, Alberta and Steele, Nebraska for exporting heavy oil from tar sands.

Trudeau “will have to come up with a new way of exporting oil without breaking his promise to be a much greener prime minister than his Conservative predecessor,” The Economist said (November 14, 2015).

The British “newspaper” also said; “Mr Obama did the new prime minister a favor by quashing Keystone XL so early in his term, relieving him of any blame for the decision. The rejection will also help Mr Trudeau to persuade provincial premiers that Canada needs a national plan to cut carbon emission if it is not to face discrimination from importers.”

LNG produces a smaller amount of carbon dioxide than oil when it is burned.

An advantage of Canadian LNG for Japan includes a short transportation period: about eight days compared with 18 days that are required to carry crude oil from the Middle East, Yamada pointed out.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

Justin Trudeau debuts as Canada’s prime minister at G20, APEC

With the advent of Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, Canada has come back to the world scene.

In less than two weeks after he and his Cabinet were sworn in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Nov. 4, he made his debut as Canada’s prime minister at the G20 summit at Antalya, Turkey (Nov.15-16) and then at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, the Philippines (Nov. 18-19) – with modest success.

Several Canadian media even gave high grades to his diplomatic debut. Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson said in his article on Nov. 21: “Justin Trudeau … in one short week has transformed the way Canada is seen by the world.”

At these summits, handsome-looking Trudeau – at 43, second youngest Canadian prime minister, and the son of the very popular former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau – was the center of attention. He was also getting good reviews from foreign leaders, according to one pundit. (Reuters, Nov. 20)

All foreign leaders at these summits knew that Trudeau’s center-left Liberals won last month’s federal election promising Canada would play a bigger global role than it had done under the inward-looking Conservatives of Stephen Harper.

Fellow leaders at the summits were intrigued by how Trudeau had won such a big landslide victory by talking of “sunny ways” and respect rather than bashing his opponents. (Reuters, Nov. 20) These leaders are after all politicians, who are interested in how to win elections more than any other topic.

Trudeau was so popular that he was mobbed by local journalists covering the summits and staffers at the conferences when he tried to walk out of the conference building. While many of them were trying to take his photos for their media or selfies for themselves, and women staffers trying to touch him, the crowd quickly swelled to more than 100 people so that Trudeau had to be guided off the summit place by body guards. Inside, he was also busy posing for selfies with business executives and even some foreign leaders. The Ottawa Sun (Nov. 19) and some other Canadian media reported the phenomenon, by calling Trudeau, with some sarcastic tone, “Prime Minister Selfie.”

He was even chosen by local social media netizens as the “APEChottie” – eclipsing U.S. President Obama, who had been a sort of regular on the top of the “APEChottie” ranking as the “coolest leader on earth.” Obama came in as the third on the ranking while Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto ranked second. The Philippine Daily Inquirer featured big photos of Trudeau and Nieto at the top of the front page and a story headlined, “Girls have only eyes for Trudeau, Nieto.” (Nov. 18)

When debuting on the world stage, “there doesn’t have to be a lot of substance. He just has to get through (the summit and bilateral meetings) and create good impressions along the way,” said Toronto-based pollster John Wright. (Reuters, Nov. 20)

Especially, his first meeting with President Obama was a big success. Thanks partly to Obama’s kind words and consideration, the bilateral summit was held in a very warm friendly atmosphere. After the 20 minutes of private talks, closeted with their advisers, journalists were invited to isten to their warm banter, shared smiles and handshakes – all meant to signal the reset of relations between Washington and Ottawa, which had been chilled to the worst level under Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government. (Toronto Star, Nov. 19)

In the meeting, held on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Manila, President Obama was quoted by many Canadian papers as telling Trudeau, “We’ve seen the incredible excitement that Justin generated with his campaign in Canada. I’m confident that he’s going to be able to provide a great boost of energy and reform to the Canadian political landscape.”

Then President Obama invited Trudeau and his wife to visit the White House and the visit is expected to be arranged sometime in early next year.

Obama disclosed to reporters about his “advice” to Prime Minister Trudeau: “The first call I made to him, I said, ‘Justin, congratulations. You and your family look great. I know Canadians are incredibly inspired by your message of hope and change. I just want to point out that I had no grey hair when I was in your shoes seven years ago, and so if you don’t want to [go] grey like me, you need to start dyeing it soon.” Both Obama and Trudeau are liberals and chemistry works well, maybe.

But chemistry is not everything to make diplomacy work well. Nevertheless, the two leaders put aside the two main difficult questions souring their relations – the Keystone XL pipeline, the construction of which Obama has rejected to approve, and Trudeau’s campaign promise to pull Canadian fighter jets from the bombing of Islamic State – Obama an Trudeau discussed the issues they are interested in – cooperating on the climate change issue ahead of COP 21 beginning in Paris on Nov. 30 and receiving more Syrian refugees as asylums.

It is important to note, in terms of establishing good relations with allies, other leaders appear to have accepted Trudeau’s election campaign commitment to withdraw from the air campaign against the Islamic State – at least so far, despite the fact that 130 people were killed in the Paris terrorist attacks. Neither Obama nor any other world leaders directly asked him to reverse that decision, according to government sources. (Instead, Trudeau proposes Canada will step up training of the Iraqi soldiers to fight better the terrorists.)

After the Commonwealth meeting in Malta on this weekend, Prime Minister Trudeau will then be headed for Paris for COP 21 meeting with a large Canadian delegation made up of provincial premiers and even opposition party leaders to present whatever the country should and can do for the global climate change and show a united Canada to the world. The real test may come soon.

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

Minority groups and their minor languages in Canada and Japan

You may assume that the Inuit and Ainu languages of Canada and Japan share the same or similar features because those peoples have long lived in cold regions and lived on marine animals or salmon.

You are partly right. However, when it comes to details, there are important differences, which you can confirm with an article in The Economist newspaper (November 7, 2015 issue) and Japanese encyclopedias.

The most important feature of the Ainu language will be that it is a spoken language. Prominent scholars, including the British missionary John Batchelor (1854-1944), Kyosuke Kindaichi (1882-1971) and Mashiho Chiri (an Ainu, 1909-1961), extracted and wrote down, in the process of their research, the people’s orally inherited folk stories.

“Today Canada’s 59,500 Inuit have nine different writing systems, which makes it hard for them to communicate with each other and to keep their language alive,” said The Economist.

It added, “Sounds denoted by one combination of letters in one region are expressed by a different assortment in another. ‘You’ can now be rendered as ‘ibbit,’ ‘ivvit’ and ‘illit.’”

“With no agreed-upon way of writing the language, documents composed by Canadian Inuit officials have to repeat the same text multiple times,” according to The Economist.

That sounds like a unique issue even in a country where both English and French are the official languages.

Inuit teenagers tend to “text each other in English,” The Economist reported, adding: “This is slowly killing the language. The percentage of Inuit able to carry on a conversation in Inukitut [the Inuit language] dropped to 63% in 2011…”

The nine writing systems or nine dialects appear to reflect the fact that the Inuit live in isolated communities in the vast Arctic region. By comparison, the Ainu, whose population decreased to 18,805 by 1854, lived mostly in Hokkaido, a relatively small island.

The word order of the spoken Ainu language is similar to that of Japanese. Both are so-called SOV (subject-object-verb) word order: “I you like” instead of “I like you.” The Ainu has a simple phoneme inventory: five vowels like Japanese, and only 12 consonants.

Assimilation, or what the Japanese call “mixed marriages” between Ainu and Japanese, may lead to the eventual disappearance of the minor language. Those marriages increased to 43% and the mixed population to 88% by the 1960s.

You are right to think loss of a language is loss of cultural diversity.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

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