Crosscountry: Canada at a glance — June/July 2014

SkyPower Global and FAS Energy are teaming up to sign a series of solar energy projects with Nigeria. Plus, a new reality TV show chronicles the life of a psychic Albertan mother, while studies show that playing music is essential to the success of a business and that government policy is responsible for large Canada-US price gaps.

Business

Sunny prospects for SkyPower

Toronto Company SkyPower Global has teamed up with FAS Energy, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian Fawaz Alhokair Group, to sign a series of solar energy projects with Nigeria for a total of US$5 billion. SkyPower FAS Energy will pilot the planning and construction of 3,000 MW over a period of five years. SkyPower, with 135 employees, claims to be the largest developer and owner of solar energy projects in the world. According to chief financial officer Stephen Bordes, it is estimated that more than 30,000 jobs will be created in Nigeria over the life of the new projects.

Television

Meet my mom

After serving up huge quantities of reality TV for several years, TV execs seem to have discovered a need for fantasy to balance the mix — and possibly enhance their ratings. We’ve had everything from vampire sweethearts (The Vampire Diaries) to ordinary people who discover they are superheroes (Heroes). Now get ready for a mother who is psychic.

Mom’s a Medium , which will première June 20th on CMT Canada, centres around Carmel Baird, a mother in rural Alberta with a household full of kids and grandkids, six horses, 10 chickens, six dogs and a multitude of other-worldly souls to keep her busy.

Baird discovered her psychic abilities after receiving persistent messages from people who had crossed over. Now her schedule is packed with private client readings, healing circles and group readings. "[The show] provides viewers with an inside look at Carmel’s intriguing and mysterious ties to the afterlife," says the company. (Maybe Baird can also give us a sense of how well the show will do.)

Economy

Paying the price

Consumers should blame government policy, not retail price gouging, for large Canada-US price gaps, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In Sticker Shock: The Causes of the Canada-US Price Differential , Nicholas Li finds that rising wholesale price gaps over the period from 2004 to 2007 reflect ill-advised Canadian government regulations, such as high tariffs.

Li notes that in 2004, a BC resident shopping in Washington paid similar Canadian dollar prices for the same package of egg noodles sold in Canadian stores by the same retail chain. In 2007, the noodles cost 10% more in Canada.

Li makes three recommendations: reduce existing tariffs and taxes and eliminate supply management, increase retail-level competition, and increase wholesale-level competition.

Music

The sound of business

Can you imagine a pub, a clothing store or a spa without music? Neither can Canadian businesses. They consider music to be increasingly important to their success, according to a survey from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

The survey, which polled 1,079 Canadian business owners, showed that nearly 75% think playing music in their business is important or very important and a third rank music ahead of both decor and scent. "Using [music] in the workplace can create a unique and inviting atmosphere, influence customer behaviour, increase employee morale and, quite simply, make more money for businesses," says Jennifer Brown, vice-president, licensing, at SOCAN.