Crosscountry: Canada at a glance — May 2016

Services offered for free on the web may run counter to Canadian privacy laws, a new study warns. Plus, foreign money is flooding the Canadian real estate market.


Marketers’ nirvana

Services that are offered for free on the web can come at the cost of personal information, and some might even run counter to Canadian privacy laws, says Les Affaires, based on a study by Option Consommateurs. If you subscribe to a free email service, for example, the provider can use algorithms to snoop around your mailbox. Geo-targeting through mobile devices allows companies to pinpoint their offers according to your location in a store.

There is very little protection against these practices, and the cost of simply tuning out is prohibitive. Option Consommateurs recommends subscribing only to services that truly respect privacy, such as DuckDuckGo, and reporting abusive practices to government agencies such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. If you have the time, that is.


Saving energy

H2O electrolysing device 

An international research team led by Ted Sargent, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, has designed the world’s most efficient catalyst to store energy produced by alternative technologies. The results are published in Science.

Typically, energy produced on solar or wind farms is stored using batteries, but they are expensive. “That’s why discovering a more efficient and highly scalable means of storing energy generated by renewables is one of the grand challenges in this field,” says Sargent.

A great alternative would be to store this energy in the form of hydrogen, but that would also be expensive and inefficient. The cost lies in the catalyst that triggers the separation of oxygen from hydrogen. The international team literally designed a catalyst made of tungsten, iron and cobalt, which are much less expensive than current catalysts based on precious metals.


Investment influx 

Foreign money flooded the Canadian commercial real estate market in 2015, reports Business in Vancouver, citing a report by Colliers International. And the trend is likely to continue this year.

The All Signs Point North study reveals that, in the second half of 2015, foreign investment shot up to $1.4 billion, a substantial increase over the $574 million invested in the second half of 2014. Almost half the influx came from US buyers, followed by 42% from Chinese investors.

Colliers says the low loonie is attracting new money from foreign buyers who are “looking to enter the Canadian market while there is a cost advantage.”


Oil screen

Alberta Pembinas Terminal

Canadian oil dealmakers just had their best quarter in 20 years, with investors snapping up $8 billion in share offerings. But this doesn’t mean the oil sector’s troubles are over — far from it, says the Calgary Herald.

The lion’s share of the financing went to a top-tier group of dividend-paying infrastructure companies. TransCanada Corp., Enbridge Inc. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. raked in 85% of total equity raised. Meanwhile, more than 150 companies in the exploration, production and services sector still remain hungry for financing.