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Murder aside, folks in B.C., Alberta better off than the rest of Canada: OECD

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

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Go west, young man?
The folks in British Columbia and Alberta are generally living better than the rest of us, except when it comes to murder.

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The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has just launched a regional version of its well-being measurement, which shows, in general, that life in the West and on the Prairies is generally better.

The OECD provides comparisons on education, employment, income, death, life, the environment and access to broadband.

The findings are too many to mention here, but B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba come out on top in several areas, though education and life expectancy are fairly consistent across the country.

(Given that I'm in Ontario, I get to live to 81.8 years, which means I've still got a ways to go, but I'm seriously considering moving to British Columbia, where life expectancy is the highest, so I can squeeze out an extra half-year. Then again, Prince Edward Island has the lowest murder rate in Canada, so I might head there instead. Where I'm definitely not going is Manitoba, which has the highest murder rate of the provinces, though not as high as the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.)

Given the tremendous amount of data provided by the OECD, it's difficult to list all of the 2013 findings here.

But just for the sake of comparison:

B.C. leads the country on education, which looks at the percentage of the labour force with at least high school. Indeed, B.C. is in the top 11 per cent of regions across the OECD countries.

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Alberta leads Canada on the jobs front, with an employment rate of 77.9 per cent that also puts the oil-rich province in the top 10 per cent of all OECD areas. Saskatchewan, though, has the lowest jobless rate.

Alberta also leads in terms of household disposable income per capita among the provinces, though is in third place when Yukon and NWT are added in. B.C. is next.

(Just to put B.C. and Alberta in their place, their murder rates, at 1.8 per 100,000 people in the former and 2.4 in the latter, are higher than anywhere east of Manitoba, with the exception of Nova Scotia.)

U.S. performance worse
The U.S. economy, it turns out, had a worse first-quarter performance than anyone thought.

Shockingly so, our Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael reports.

Initially believed to have contracted at an annual pace of 1 per cent in the first three months of the year, the U.S. Commerce Department today revised that to a stunning 2.9 per cent, the worst showing since the ugly days of early 2009.

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While economists had expected a hefty revision, notably given the weather, they had projected it would be in the area of 2 per cent, so the 2.9 per cent was a shocker.

The Commerce Department report showed the pace of consumer spending well down from the initial reading, and a hefty drawdown in inventories.

While the GDP report was horrible, to put it bluntly, what matters most at this point is where the U.S. economy is headed. And on that front, economists generally expect something much better.

"The awful start to the year had us cut our 2014 growth forecasts for the U.S. to just 1.8 per cent," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank.

"That being said, considering the temporary factors that were at play in Q1 (bad weather and destocking), there is reason to be optimistic for the rest of the year," he added.

"The private sector is bouncing back, based on data so far in Q2 … We expect Q2 U.S. GDP growth of roughly 4 per cent annualized."

Court rules against Aereo
In a decision that may shape television's business model in an age of new technologies, the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a crushing blow to the American online streaming service Aereo Inc., ruling 6-3 that the company violates copyright laws, The Globe and Mail's James Bradshaw reports.

Aereo, which launched in early 2012, uses thousands of dime-sized antennas to pull in free over-the-air broadcast signals and lets subscribers pay as little as $8 a month to stream those channels live on their computers, tablets, mobile phones and devices such as Apple TV or Roku. Users can save programs to a cloud-based digital video recorder.

The ruling is a triumph for conventional television broadcasters, but the case also attracted attention from an array of concerned Canadian organizations that jointly filed an amicus brief against Aereo. Groups including the Canadian Media Production Association, the lobby group Music Canada, and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) argued Aereo was exploiting a loophole in U.S. copyright law to avoid compensating content creators.

Don't call us, we'll call you
Canada's telecommunications regulator is making its "Do Not Call" list permanent.

When the list first was unveiled, there was a sunset provision, meaning Canadians would have to re-register their phone numbers to stop those pesky telemarketing calls.

But, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said today, registrations will be permanent.

There are now more than 12 million numbers registered, and, the CRTC said, 1,200 are added daily, on average.

Since the scheme was launched in 2008, almost $4-million in penalties have been imposed.

Methanex idles operation
Methanex Corp.'s majority owned methanol production facility in Egypt is being idled temporarily due to continuing constraints in the supply of natural gas, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

Vancouver-based Methanex said today its joint venture operation, Egyptian Methanex Methanol Co. SAE – or EMethanex – has been idled and gas deliveries will likely not be resumed until the end of July because of the priority allocation of the supply to meet peak summer electricity demand.

The facility had been temporarily idled on June 12 and it was anticipated that operations would resume soon after. But higher seasonal electricy demand has put the kibosh on that plan, said the company.

"Methanex is working with its gas supplier and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of the shutdown," it said.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More


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