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by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Feb 5, 2013 4:43 pm MDT WestJet, Air Canada post record load factor in January; Porter drops AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email MONTREAL – Canada’s two largest airlines reported record monthly load factors in January, demonstrating continued momentum as they start what industry observers expect will be a profitable year.Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) flew with 79.4 per cent of its seats filled across its broad network, up from 79.1 per cent a year ago.The load factor increased on a 0.3 per cent increase in traffic and a 0.1 per cent drop in capacity. The traffic gains were led by a three-per-cent growth on Atlantic routes and 2.1 per cent gain in Canada.Latin America and Caribbean traffic was down nearly 10 per cent on a similar reduction in capacity. Transborder capacity growth outpaced traffic, reducing load factor by 0.8 points to 74.5 per cent.“These results underscore the effectiveness of our disciplined capacity management and award-winning product,” stated Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu.Meanwhile, WestJet Airlines also reported a record monthly load factor as the number of their passengers grew 6.4 per cent to 1.5 million.The Calgary-based airline said Tuesday that its planes flew 80.9 per cent full in the first month of the year, up one percentage point from 79.9 per cent a year ago.“Positive momentum continues into 2013 as January marks our seventh consecutive monthly load factor record,” stated WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky.He added that forward bookings remain strong.Analysts monitor load factor as a measure of how much total fleet capacity is used by an airline to carry passengers.Traffic, or revenue per passenger mile, increased 7.7 per cent in January on a 6.4 per cent increase in capacity or available seat miles.WestJet (TSX:WJA) has expanded its offering this winter to sun destinations by adding service to several destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico from Toronto and Calgary.The airline will report its fourth-quarter and year-end results on Wednesday and is expected to soon announce the schedule for its new regional service, WestJet Encore.Cameron Doerksen of National Bank Financial said WestJet’s traffic results are a clear indication of healthy air travel demand.“We also believe that WestJet’s load factor is benefiting from its charter deal with Thomas Cook,” he wrote in a report, adding that strong bookings suggest continued good traffic numbers in the coming months.Analysts expect WestJet will report 42 cents per share in adjusted profits in the fourth quarter on $856 million of revenues.Meanwhile, Porter Airlines said its load factor decreased 2.1 percentage points to 53.6 per cent in January on a 0.8 per cent increase in traffic and a 4.7 per cent growth in capacity.“These results are good for January, which is typically the slowest period of the entire calendar year,” said president and CEO Robert Deluce.He said Porter’s new leisure package division is only beginning to increase the number of passengers with trips to ski destinations in Vermont and Quebec among the most popular options.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, WestJet’s shares closed up 72 cents or 3.3 per cent to $22.55 while Air Canada’s shares were up two cents to $2.45 in Tuesday trading.
by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 28, 2013 10:18 am MDT Opposition parties doubting testimony at hearing into cancelled gas plants AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email TORONTO – Ontario’s opposition parties expressed frustration and doubt Thursday at testimony from Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff about the cancelled gas plant in Oakville, prompting the government to accuse the Tories of attacking their own witness.As CEO of Infrastructure Ontario, and later the then-premier’s chief of staff, David Livingston was directly involved in talks with TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) about compensation for cancelling the contract for the Oakville project.Livingston told the justice committee he didn’t know TransCanada had rejected an offer of almost $1 billion, and another of $721 million, when he joined the negotiations to look for possible solutions for the government.“I’ve seen that and I’ve heard that, but that’s not obvious to me that that’s what happened,” he told the committee.“Well it’s obvious to us. We have the documents,” fired back Progressive Conservative energy critic Vic Fedeli.Some of tens of thousands of gas plant documents released by the Liberals prove there were offers to TransCanada in the hundreds of millions of dollars, added Fedeli.“The government was a signatory to this agreement and you’re saying as the chief of staff you had no involvement, no knowledge whatsoever of this $991 million deal,” he asked Livingston.“Quite frankly I’m having a hard time with that, I’ve got to be honest. I’m baffled at this. We’ve got the man sitting here in front of us who did the deal.”The New Democrats were equally frustrated when Livingston testified he wasn’t briefed that there would be extra costs for cancelling the Oakville plant above the $40 million the government claims.“Nobody told me,” said Livingston.“There was not a discussion that there was more money involved than the $40 million.”The opposition parties warn the cancellation of the Oakville gas plant could cost Ontario taxpayers over $1 billion.“So the minister of energy and the deputy minister never told you or anyone else in the premier’s office that in fact we’re talking about a lot more than $40 million here,” asked NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns.“Like my colleague, I find that quite extraordinary.”Outside the committee, the opposition parties continued their attack on Livingston.“I don’t find it credible that he knew nothing about this case before he took it on,” said Tabuns.“He’s sent in as the fixer, has no budget ceiling, and also has absolutely no experience in the energy sector and he designs five options where to site energy plants,” said Fedeli.“That is absolutely incredible and, quite frankly, not very credible.”Liberal committee chair Bob Delaney warned the opposition parties they were on shaking ground with their “shameful” attacks on Livingston outside the hearing room.“I think this has been completely reprehensible, a witness called by the Progressive Conservatives turned into an attack on his character,” said Delaney.“Both the PC and NDP have accused a man of not telling the truth under oath, and they produced absolutely nothing to substantiate it.”The Liberals say the Tories should be calling the former deputy minister of energy to testify about the cancelled project because it had the lead role on the gas plants, not Livingston.The committee is holding public hearings into the cancelling of the Oakville gas plant in 2010 and another in Mississauga that was halted in mid-construction by the Liberals during the 2011 election campaign.Auditor General Jim McCarter is also investigating the costs of scrapping the two energy projects, and is expected to release his report on the Mississauga gas plant in about three weeks.