Hot and hungry: Canada could be a food superpower

Forget the tar sands, says economist Jeff Rubin. Global warming means a longer growing season and new crops for Canada’s Praries. Plus, heat waves and water shortages are battering traditional food suppliers.

Rubin sees Canada’s future in two commodities the country can exploit as the planet warms: water and food. Exporting water is a touchy subject and the source of endless controversy, but Rubin says Canada can export a “value-added” form of water that’s far less touchy: Food, which, after all, requires water to grow…

“Maybe Harper is in denial about climate change, but [these companies are] in the Prairies explaining to farmers how to grow [US] corn,” Rubin says.

He says it won’t even take that much to become a food superpower — “climate change will do the heavily lifting.” He suggests Canada could go from being a top-ten global food producer to a top-three food producer in the coming years.

“Maybe Harper is in denial about climate change, but [these companies are] in the Prairies explaining to farmers how to grow corn,” Rubin says.

He says it won’t even take that much to become a food superpower — “climate change will do the heavily lifting.” He suggests Canada could go from being a top-ten global food producer to a top-three food producer in the coming years.

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Canadian farming in a changing climate

Unusually wet 2014 in Canada; an unusually dry year in India. Lentils impacted:

A year after record deluges damaged the lentil crops in Canada, vegetarians across India are getting sticker shock for legumes they eat at almost every meal.

Stockpiles in Canada, the world’s biggest exporter, are down by half from a year earlier, government data show. At the same time, shipments to India, the top buyer, are headed to an all-time high after a dry spell reduced its domestic output. That’s boosted prices for all kinds of similar crops, including chickpeas and dried beans.

“We’re going to be sold out this year,” with supply remaining tight at least until the Canadian harvest starts in August, said Murad Al-Katib, chief executive officer of Regina, Saskatchewan-based AGT Food & Ingredients Inc., the largest processor and exporter of dried peas and lentils.

Like HSBC or JP Morgan, Canada’s oil and gas companies are too big to prosecute

Mike de Souza:

The federal government has given warning letters to several oil, gas and pipeline companies across the country instead of trying to prosecute them for alleged transgressions that include polluting air and water, inadequate emergency planning and sloppy record-keeping. […]

The violations are punishable by fines of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, said the warning letters.

A manager from Environment Canada’s enforcement branch made this astonishing excuse: “Our goal isn’t to prosecute for the sake of prosecuting (or) make the numbers look good in that sense… Our goal is to bring people into compliance as quickly as possible.”

That’s bullshit. Wouldn’t actually prosecuting companies and employees for violating Canada’s environmental laws more quickly bring people into compliance?

Compare this to other recent “too big to prosecute” stories in the financial sector.

Warmer temperatures threaten the health and infrastructure of Canadians

Updated Environment Canada data shows that in the past 65 years, Canada’s national average winter temperature is 3.2 degrees warmer.

From the Globe and Mail:

This reaffirms what many suspected. Canada is getting hotter faster than ever before and at a faster rate than almost any other country. Rain, snow, sleet and hail storms are becoming more erratic. What were once considered exceptional weather patterns – the kind researchers reject to avoid skewing their data – are becoming common.

“We’ve had an awful lot of those ‘exceptionals,’” said Robert Tremblay, research director at the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “What used to be happening every 50 years is now happening every five, seven years. … There’s obviously a sense of urgency.”

Canada’s infrastructure wasn’t built for this kind of climate. And much of the burden falls on municipal governments, with road, sewer and transit systems that can barely cope with existing weather conditions, let alone future vagaries.

Criminal enterprises a good investment, say analysts

Don’t let charges of fraud, corruption and global criminal conspiracy stop you from investing in the gangsters at SNC-Lavalin! Buy SNC-Lavalin, says a report covered in the Financial Post:

It’s only a matter of time before SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. faces criminal charges under Canada’s corruption laws, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity says, arguing the engineering giant has sufficient cash on hand to handle any subsequent penalty and lawsuit damages, and that risk-tolerant investors should buy in because its business fundamentals remain strong.

It appears that record cash-on-hand from corrupt public contracts and radically slashed corporate tax rates means organized criminality barely impacts a firm’s position.

The HSBC drug cartel and terrorism banking settlement or Wall Street’s Mafia-style bid-rigging scams point to a new organized crime wave working at the intersection of the public, private, and criminal economy. Not only do we need to make criminal firms a bad investment, more executives need to be charged and jailed.

Support job creation through carbon tax investments, not pipelines

From Marc Lee’s testimony to the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project:

Spending $5 billion on public transit, building retrofits, renewable energy and so forth would generate between 3 to 36 times more jobs than investing in the pipeline. A modest carbon tax of $10 a tonne applied nationally would generate $5 billion per year, every year, that could facilitate such investments.

Of course, the petrocrats pushing dangerous pipeline projects are just pretending to care about job creation to win public support. The projects we really need to start working on offer useful employment, reduce our climate change and energy risk, and improve the quality of our communities.

Save Canada’s freshwater: Trade beef for beans

Hans Schrier, professor emeritus at UBC’s faculty of land and food systems interviewed by the Georgia Straight:

[One of Canada’s] most appealing exports, beef… should be a nonstarter in a world where 70 percent of all freshwater resources are already used for food production.

“Beef is attractive from an economic point of view.…[But water use for] beef is at least double to 10 times as high as for any other crop”…

Peas and beans, Schreier said, would be good candidates for future farming initiatives in this country. “Just avoid water-intensive crops.”

I enjoy eating pulses like chickpeas, lentils and beans. They are delicious, nutritious and their production and export as a low-impact, renewable commodity will help safely steady Canada’s economy.

Pulses are already a significant part of Canada’s economy. According to Agriculture Canada: “Canada is considered the world’s top producer of dry peas, the second largest producer of lentils, and one of the top ten producers of chickpeas and dry beans.”