Business

Top CEOs clash with Ottawa

April 17 2000
Business

Top CEOs clash with Ottawa

April 17 2000

Top CEOs clash with Ottawa

Business Notes

The chief executives of Canadas 150 biggest corporations issued a scathing indictment of Ottawa’s tax policies and spending programs, blaming the government for hindering the country’s competitiveness in the global marketplace and causing a slide in the standard of living. In a statement by the Business Council on National Issues, signed by chairman David O’Brien, boss of Canadian Pacific, and such powerful members as BCE’s Jean Monty, Alcan’s Jacques Bougie and John Cleghorn of the Royal Bank, the CEOs demanded substantial cuts to corporate taxes and taxes on higher income-earners. Ottawa officials bristled at the charges, but Thomas d’Aquino, the business council’s president, had little sympa-

thy. “If people in Ottawa don’t like it,” d’Aquino said, “tough.”

Finance Minister Paul Martin responded by pointing to the government’s plans to slash taxes over five years and put more funds into research and development. Martin argued that business leaders spend too little on R and D, have not fully taken advantage of the Internet, and have criticized their own management techniques for developing rhe new economy.

Merger mania in the oilpatch

Hunt Oil Co. of Dallas ignited consolidation fever in the Alberta oilpatch with its $776-million offer to buy Ulster Petroleums Ltd., a Calgary-based oil and gas producer. Ulster’s stock surged, but the company said it plans to court other suitors because Hunt’s bid is too low. The next day, Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd. offered $1.6 billion in a hostile takeover bid for Ranger Oil Ltd., whose market value is 10 times Petrobank’s. Analysts, however, predicted a bidding war for Ranger. The two firms are both based in Calgary.

Financial Outlook

The economy created another 30.000 jobs in March, with women aged 25 years and up accounting for 21.000 of the new positions. But with

more workers re-entering the labour force, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.8 per cent for the fourth consecutive month.

In recent years, employment opportunities have been growing for all ages, especially for those at the edges of the job market. According to Statistics Canada, employment of people aged 55 years or older increased by 20.6 per cent since January, 1996, due to more job opportunities and to an aging population. For those between 15 and 24, the hiring growth rate has been slower—up 8.8 per cent since January, 1996.

Assembling the genome

Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md., says it has, for the first time anywhere, sequenced the three billion chemical “letters” that make up the DNA of a human. Researchers likened the feat to amassing the pieces of a puzzle without assembling it. The private company hopes to place the DNA fragments in their correct order to map the human genome within three to six weeks.

German disunity

Dresdner Bank AG backed out of its merger with Deutsche Bank AG in a dispute over how to integrate the two operations. Announced in March, the deal was billed as a merger of equals creating Europe’s biggest bank, with $1.8 trillion in assets. Dresdner objected to Deutsche’s attempt to sell Dresdners investment banking arm.

Digital deluge

Hopeful applicants inundated the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission with hundreds of requests for digital TV licences. The CRTC expects to hand out 10 licences by next winter. Programming requests ranged from children’s animation to adult sex education. One million Canadian homes

have digital TV set-top boxes.

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Net gain for pnvacy

Ottawa passed an Internet privacy law that forbids e-businesses from selling information to a third party without a consumer’s explicit consent. Previously, Internet service providers could sell personal information, without a client’s approval, to data collection agencies for marketing. The law takes effect for most on Jan. 1,2001. Healthrelated firms have two years to comply.

Revved up

Canadian car and bus manufacturers had an expansive week. Toyota announced a $650-million plan to build its Lexus RX300 luxury sport-utility in Cambridge, Ont., creating 300 jobs. And Winnipeg-based Motor Coach Industries International finalized a $728-million contract to build up to 1,400 buses for New Jersey Transit, creating 300 jobs for almost four years.