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Alberta premier says resource project financing depends on climate progress

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Jason Kenney says access to capital for projects in the oil and gas industry requires action on environmental issues from industry and government, a statement that marks a major shift in tone for the Alberta premier. 

Kenney, who is the leader of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party, made the remarks during a question-and-answer session at the UCP’s annual general meeting on Saturday. 

The question focused on a comment from Erin O’Toole who, shortly after winning the federal Conservative party’s leadership race in August, said a future Conservative government would commit to meeting Canada’s targets for greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement.

A party member asked Kenney if he was aware of that position when he decided to support O’Toole in the leadership race and whether supporting the Paris accord could hurt Alberta’s oil and gas industry. 

After stating former prime minister Stephen Harper supported the Paris accord because it was an “aspirational target,” Kenney said oil and gas companies are telling him that it is getting harder to access funding for projects from lenders without demonstrating a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“I don’t think Erin [O’Toole] is wrong to say that we have to find a way forward for our industry where we don’t stick our head in the ground and pretend that the aspirations behind the Paris thing are not hugely influential in how capital is allocated and how market access decisions are made,” Kenney said. 

‘Walk and chew gum’

Kenney’s statements come as more international banks and funds, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, are stepping away from investments in the Alberta oilsands. French energy giant Total has written off $9.3-billion worth of oilsands assets. 

In July, Kenney said demanded Deutsch Bank provide reasons for its decision to stop funding oilsands and railed about the “misinformed campaign from European financial institutions.”

Jason Kenney was joined by federal Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole for part of the Q&A. (Submitted by United Conservative Party of Alberta)

But world events and Alberta’s ongoing financial woes may have convinced Kenney to try something new. 

Alberta is investing $1.5 billion in equity and $6 billion in loan guarantees in the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to kill if he wins next month’s U.S. election. 

In order to ensure Alberta’s investment pays off, Canada has to show a potential new administration in the United States that the sector is making progress on reducing emissions, he said. 

“We have got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to the energy and environment dynamic,” Kenney said.  “One of the reasons I supported Erin [O’Toole] is that he gets that.”

O’Toole, who joined Kenney for a portion of the session, said that Canadian resource companies are making strides in meeting climate goals. 

“If we ever replace a barrel of Canadian energy from world supply, who’s replacing that?” O’Toole said. 

“They don’t care in other countries about carbon intensity, social governance, Indigenous engagement. So we should be proud of what we do here.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the UCP to move its annual general meeting online this year, with events spread out over this weekend and next.

The party held debates of policy and governance policies on Friday and Saturday.

The one-day session on Oct. 24  will feature speeches from Kenney, O’Toole, CPC leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer.

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Hit by pandemic, India’s circuses forced to walk financial tightrope – india news

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The Great Bombay Circus, one of India’s biggest and oldest, had planned mega celebrations in October to mark its centenary this year. With no shows in the past seven months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it finds itself walking a tightrope for survival instead.

“We are trying hard to save the circus; in fact, not just us, the pandemic has dealt a body blow to most circuses, which were struggling to stay afloat even before the pandemic,” says KM Sanjeev, co-partner, the Great Bombay Circus.

India’s two dozen big and small circuses (once there were over 300) are struggling in the wake of the deadly pathogen, and have so far survived on donations; some, such as Rambo, have even tried to go digital. “Can you imagine what it is like to feed a family of 150 when your income suddenly falls to zero. I had to sell my property to save the circus. When the lockdown was announced, we never thought the crisis would last so long,” says Raju Pehalwan, who owns Asiad Circus, started it in the late 1980s.

In October every year, his circus pitches tents in Delhi, performing in places such as Dwarka, Rohini, Pitampura, Janakpuri. The circus was in Indore when the lockdown happened, and has remained stuck there while many artistes have since left for their native places.

The Great Bombay Circus was to travel to Delhi where it has been regularly performing in places like Peeragarhi, Rajouri Garden and Karkardooma, in December. It was in Mannargudi in Tamil Nadu when the lockdown happened, and has been stuck there since March.

Sanjeev says it takes almost Rs 1 lakh every day to run the circus, including the salaries of artistes, food, ground rent, electricity and water bills. In the initial months of the lockdown, about 200 workers of the circus, including 134 artistes, survived on donations of rice, dal and vegetables from the locals. In late April, the circus ran a campaign on Milaap, a crowd-funding platform, managing to raise over Rs 53 lakh. “It helped us pay a small part of their (artistes) salaries so that they could take care of their families in different parts of the country. The funds also helped us arrange travel expenses of our foreign artists so that they could go home as they were stuck in India since March,” said Sanjeev.

Most circus artistes earn anything between ₹15,000 to ₹20,000 a month, and spend their entire lives at the fair. For instance, Tulsidas Chaudhry, 54, who plays a clown, has been working at the Great Bombay Circus for the past several years.

“My fellow artistes said that I am old and should go home till things get better and circus restarts. People like me who play such characters (clowns) face only contempt beyond the tents of the circus,” says Chaudhry, who was earning about ₹15,000 a month before the lockdown. He returned to his village in Bihar last month. His circus company, he says, has been generous, giving him half the salary all these months. “It is easier to make people cry than laugh and I want to continue to make people laugh till my last breath. I just hope that I am able to return to the ring soon,” said Chaudhry, who speaks Malayalam, Tamil, Assamese, Bengali and Hindi.

“Most old circus artistes can fluently speak many Indian languages.It is because circus has people from all parts of the country, living together like one big family. We are deeply worried about our future in the post-Covid world.”

While circus owners such as Pehalwan say the decline of the circus started with a ban on animals in 1998, many believe Indian circus has failed to reinvent itself and the Covid crisis will force them to change. A three-hour show offers the same old fare: gymnastics, juggling, acrobatics and flying trapeze acts unlike their foreign counterparts, which have introduced new technologies, sideshows and new concepts such as theatrical, narrative-driven circus. Most circuses abroad rely on human spectacle than animals.

“Circuses in India have been trying to modernise; they have introduced international artistes and new acts. But running the circus at the current size and scale is not sustainable. Circuses will have to be compact with smaller tents, shorter shows and better infrastructure,” said Vipin Nair, a Supreme Court lawyer, who is a member of and legal advisor to the Delhi- based CFS (Circus Fans association).

Delhi is also home to Indian Circus Federation, whose declining membership —from 25 to five in the past five years — reflects the diminishing fortunes of the circus in India.

“This is a traditional industry. The Indian circus needs to reinvent itself both in terms of the content of the show, infrastructure, and also how it markets itself to the new generation. The Covid-19 pandemic has made them open to change,” said Aditya Shah, whose family has been in the circus management business — providing logistics, advertising and finance, serving some of India biggest circus companies for the past 70 years.

“In fact, we are already working with some circuses to modernise interiors and seating and to help them adopt digital marketing, ” he added.

Rambo Circus has taken a digital to route to remain relevant during the pandemic. In August, it worked with an event management company and a production house to shoot trapeze acts, acrobatic stunts inside the circus, also weaving the story of the life, achievements, struggles of the artistes, who rehearsed for three weeks in to make the performances look spectacular on the screen.

In September, the tickets for the virtual Life Is a Circus were sold on BookMyShow. “We managed to sell about 21,000 tickets. The next digital show is in November, ” said Sujit Dilip, the owner of the circus. “But I know that a live circus is the real thing; digital circus can only be a temporary measure to survive. Most of those who bought tickets were young people who had never been to circus. I am sure our digital shows will eventually help bring new audiences to the circus when we reopen.”

Artistes say digital circus is not what excites them.

“As a performing artist, I love and live for the audience applause. I have a feeling circus will not survive beyond five years. Covid-19 has only hastened its death. But unlike me, who have agriculture land and can farm, most do not have anything to fall back on,” said Raju Barde, a 40-year-old flying trapeze artiste who has been in the circus for the past 25 years.

Biju Pushkaran, 51, a famous circus clown, has similar views. “What excites me are the hugs from children in the audience. They take selfies with me. It is this adulation that kept me going all these years.” In fact, it was his video — an appeal for help recorded in April during the lockdown — that led to the outpouring of support for the circus, helping it get donations of over ₹12 lakh on Ketto, a crowd-funding platform.

“We make the world laugh, today I stand before you crying,” said Pushkaran in his video appeal for help. “Jeena yahan marna yahan.”

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California’s vague new financial regulation law – Whittier Daily News

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Assembly Bill 1864 didn’t get much media or public attention as it zipped through both houses of the Legislature on the last day of the 2020 session.

Superficially, it appeared merely to reconfigure the state’s financial regulatory agencies into a new entity called the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.

However, those in California’s vast financial industry were paying lots of attention because the bill creates an entirely new regulatory regime with broad powers, including fines of up to $1 million a day, to police financial players that hitherto have had little oversight.

The official rationale for the legislation is that President Donald Trump’s administration neutered the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, so the state must step in with an equivalent to guard against predatory financial practices that harm consumers.

The new California Consumer Financial Protection Law gives the reconstituted agency authority to go after “abusive practices” whose definition in the law is fairly vague. Thus, the agency itself will define the term as it also decides which businesses will face its scrutiny.

It appears that the new law will affect firms involved in debt settlement, credit repair, check cashing, rent-to-own contracts, payday lending, student loan servicing and financing for retail sales. However, its primary target seems to be financial services offered by non-banks, particularly what are called “fintech companies” that offer bank-like services via the Internet without maintaining physical offices.

Fintechs, many of them based in the San Francisco Bay Area, have blossomed in recent years as part of the digital economy, competing with traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Their disruptive nature is not unlike the challenge that technology-based ride services such as Uber and Lyft pose to taxicabs and buses.

Late-blooming changes in AB 1864 exempted traditional financial firms that are already regulated, such as banks and credit unions, from the new consumer protection law, leading some analysts to conclude that its unstated aim is to help them stave off competition from new kids on the financial block.

The vagueness of the new law was encapsulated in what Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a signing ceremony. The new law and the new department, he said, will “create conditions for innovation to flourish in a way where we can steward that and we can just work against its excesses. So we support risk-taking, not recklessness.”

Newsom also signed two other financial protection measures, one that requires debt collectors to be licensed beginning in 2022 and the other creating a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights.

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Jack Ma blasts global financial regulators’ curbs on innovation – business news

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Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma criticized global financial regulations for stifling innovation and urged China to seek a system that accommodated development.

“After the Asian financial crisis, the risk control highlighted in the Basel Accords has been” the priority for regulators, Ma said at the Bund Summit in Shanghai on Saturday. Now the world “only focuses on risk control, not on development, and rarely do they consider opportunities for young people and developing countries.”

The Basel Accords, which Ma likened to a club for the elderly, are used to solve problems for financial systems that have been operating for decades, he said. China, however, is still a “youth” and needs more innovation to build an ecosystem for the healthy development of the local industry, according to Ma.

Digital currencies may play an important role in building the type of a financial system that will be needed in the next 30 years, Ma said.

“Digital currency could create value and we should think about how to establish a new type of financial system through digital currency,” said Ma.

Ma’s fintech giant Ant Group Co. plans initial public offerings in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. Ma said that the firm set the price of its Shanghai listing on Friday, without providing details. The deal is one of the most hotly anticipated IPOs in years, on course to make history by surpassing Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion share sale in 2019.

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