Canada has taken the first step toward a trade deal that could send massive amounts of crude oil to China instead of the United States.
As Prime Minster Stephen Harper was holding talks in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Newt Gingrich, Republican presidential candidate, urged Canada not to send its oil to China.
"My message to the people of Canada is don't cut a deal with the Chinese, help is on the way," Gingrich said, condemning the U.S. administration for not approving the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada has said the pipeline project would have created 20,000 construction jobs and shipped about 700,000 barrels of crude a day to Texas refineries from Alberta. The U.S. State Department projects the projects 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs during the two years of construction.
Environmentalists say the oilsands crude is "dirty" and the potential of a pipeline rupture would create an environmental disaster.
Canada is now considering building a pipeline to British Columbia to deliver oil to Asia.
"We'll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the opportunity," Gingrich said, vowing to approve the pipeline immediately if he becomes the next president.
Harper's visit led to a series of agreements expected to lead to free-trade talks with the "potential of greatly expanding Canadian growth and job creation."
Census data show swelling population
Immigration continues to fuel Canada's population growth to 33.5 million people while more people are heading west.
The latest census figures from Statistics Canada show a population gain from 31.6 million people in 2006.
Alberta led the country in population growth, up 10.8 percent, while its two biggest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, had increases of more than 12 percent.
For the first time, there are more people living west of Ontario (30.7 percent) than to the east (30.6 percent).
Ontario remains the most-populous province with 12.9 million people while Quebec has 7.9 million residents and British Columbia has 4.4 million.
News in brief
• The husband, wife and son of an Afghan family are appealing their murder convictions for the deaths of four relatives. Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Yahya and Hamed Shafia were given life sentences for the deaths of their family members — three teenaged sisters and Mohammad's first wife in Kingston, Ontario. The court was told they were upset over the girls defying their culture's rules on dress and socializing. The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issued a moral ruling condemning "honor killings" and violence as being "un-Islamic" among Muslims.
• Quebec Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash has dropped out of the race to become leader of the federal New Democratic party. Saying he was unable to gain enough support, Saganash's departure leaves seven candidates seeking to succeed the late Jack Layton in Toronto on March 24. They are Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Martin Singh and Brian Topp.
Facts and figures
Goodbye record-low mortgage rates as Canada's leading banks blame rising costs for ending a 2.99 percent special for five-year closed mortgages. The new rates are from 4.04 percent.
The Canadian dollar remains above parity at $1.0016 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 99.83 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The key interest rate of the Bank of Canada remains at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,359 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index 1,644 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 22, 23, 26, 40 and 48; bonus 39. (Feb. 4) 8, 10, 12, 22, 26 and 28; bonus 24. Lotto Max: (Feb. 3) 2, 8, 12, 14, 33, 37 and 47; bonus 46.
• Alberta Mounties are searching for man after two officers were shot and wounded at a house in Killam. Sawyer Robison, 27, is being sought in the shooting of Constables Sidney Gaudette and Sheldon Shah. A second unidentified man was found dead at the house where police arrived to search for unlawful weapons.
• Ten migrant farm workers from Peru were killed and three critically injured when their van was crushed by a transport truck near Stratford, Ontario. Police said the driver of the van ran a stop sign after leaving a chicken farm. The truck driver, Christopher Fulton, 38, of London was also killed while on his way home to celebrate his 11th wedding anniversary.
• While most of Canada continues to bask in spring-like weather with little snow, an intense winter storm swept through Newfoundland last weekend. About four inches of snow fell in Gander while blizzards ripped across the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas and much of northeastern Newfoundland.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com.