Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


A committee of the Canadian House of Commons has found the Conservative government to be in contempt of Parliament. The finding is based on the Harper government's refusal to fully disclose to Parliament the cost of its tough-on-crime agenda, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets. The report contains no recommendations for sanctions against the government, but it could lead to a non-confidence vote which would topple the government and produce an election in early May. The same committee is separately considering a possible contempt citation against International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda for misleading Parliament. That matter related to the cessation of funding of an NGO, and who ordered it. A report on the Oda case is to be sent to the Commons by Friday. On Tuesday, the government will table its latest budget, and if it fails to receive approval from at least one opposition party, then that, too, would be considered a vote of no confidence, forcing the government's resignation and a general election.


A member of the Canadian Senate - the unelected upper house of the Canadian Parliament - has resigned his seat, ten days after being convicted of fraud and breach of trust. Raymond Lavigne was appointed to the Senate in 2002 after serving three terms in the Commons as a Liberal member of parliament, representing a riding in the Montreal area. Mr. Lavigne, who is 65, was found guilty March 11th of defrauding the government with false expense receipts and of using his public position for personal financial gain. He is to be sentenced in May.



Canadian warplanes took part in the enforcement of the Libyan no-fly zone on Monday. So far their sorties have been limited to escort missions and did not involve any attacks on ground targets. Six CF-18 fighters are currently based in Italy. Defence Minister Peter Mackay, speaking Sunday, said they could engage Libyan forces in air-to-ground combat in order to protect civilians. The naval frigate HMCS Charlottetown is currently in the Mediterranean, near Gibraltar, to assist with the evacuation of civilians. Mr. MacKay left open the possibility that the Charlottetown could join a naval blockade of Libya. He also expressed the hope that the military engagement in the region does not become a protracted, drawn-out affair.


Three weeks of public hearings have begun into a plan to add two new reactors to a nuclear power plant in southern Ontario. A federal environmental assessment of the proposal for the Darlington plant, about 80 kilometres east of Toronto, has been underway since 2006. Several groups want the province to shelve the plans in the wake of the problems in Japan. Similarly, in neighbouring Quebec, a group of scientists, artists and politicians called Monday for the closure of that province's sole nuclear power plant. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is currently wrapping up consultations on the refurbishment of the plant, located near Trois-Rivieres.


Canada's visible minority population - people who identify themselves as other than white - are continuing to struggle in the labour market. A report based on the national census of 2006 found that even in the economic boom years, racialized Canadians, as they are described, had higher unemployment rates and earned less when they were employed. The report, prepared jointly by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Wellesley Institute found that among those who did land jobs, their positions tended to be insecure, temporary and low paying. As a consequence, in 2005, almost 20 per cent of racialized Canadians lived in poverty, compared to 6.4% of white families.


The likelihood of success is low-to-zero, but that is not deterring a group of federal prisoners from trying to form a union. They want a raise in pay. Natalie Dunbar, the criminal lawyer representing the inmates in a British Columbia prison, says they haven't had a raise in 25 years. Prisoners can be paid $5.25 to $6.90 a day - tax-free - if they follow their correctional plans. Each of Canada's approximately 13-thousand federal inmates gets one of these road maps to rehabilitation, which can include work programs, training, and conflict management sessions. But any hopes they might earn more have been dashed by the federal minister of public safety. Vic Toews told the Vancouver Sun newspaper that he will not concede to the requests of prisoner advocates who continue to put the rights of criminals ahead of those they victimized. Meanwhile, the drive by ConFederation Prisoners' Labour Union, Local 001, to recruit the inmates at the BC prison has stalled because the administration has yet to give inmates the access they need to sign up members.


The US says the air strikes by coalition forces have crippled Moammar Gadhafi's military might. General Carter Ham, the US commander leading a multinational coalition against the Libyan leader, said three days of air and missile strikes had set the stage for a broad no-fly zone stretching across most of northern Libya. But Gen. Ham said US and other forces were not providing close air support to opposition groups who hope foreign air attacks will force Gadhafi to end his 41-year rule. In Benghazi, a spokesman for the rebels said they welcomed the international action but said they did not want foreign ground forces to intervene in the war. A senior official on the rebel National Council, based in the eastern port city of Benghazi, also ruled out negotiations with Gadhafi to resolve the uprising against his 41-year authoritarian rule. Their aim, he said, was to capture the capital, Tripoli, and force out Moammar Gadhafi. He said people in Tripoli and other western cities were ready to rise up against Gadhafi. But it was far from clear how strong, well-equipped or coordinated the rebel army is.


Declaring his earlier comments had been misinterpreted, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa reaffirmed his commitment to the UN-mandated action against Libya. With the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at his side, Mr. Mussa told a news conference that the League was committed to UN Security Council Resolution 1973. He said that earlier comments, in which he characterized the coalition's actions as "excessive", had been "misinterpreted". He says they were motivated by concerns about civilians being caught up in the strikes, as Arab governments did not want more deaths in Libya. In their meeting in Cairo, Ban reminded him that the "strong and decisive measures" had only been possible because of the support given by the Arab League for a UN-imposed no-fly zone over Libya. As he left their meeting, Ban tried to venture into Cairo's Tahrir Square to get a taste of Egypt's democratic revolution. Instead, he got a taste of hostility from about 50 followers of the Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. Ban was hustled back into the Arab League headquarters by his security detail.


The Russian prime minister has likened the UN resolution authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya to a medieval call for crusades. Vladimir Putin, speaking Monday at a Russian ballistic missile factory in Votkinsk, described the resolution as defective and flawed. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, the visiting US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, hailed Russia's refusal to block military action against Libya as evidence of "extraordinary" progress in US-Russia ties. Russia had abstained from the UN Security Council vote. The former US intelligence analyst said military ties between the two countries have made dramatic advances that would have seemed impossible when he joined the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s amid the Cold War.


More problems have surfaced at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan. Workers were evacuated from the complex Monday after smoke billowed from the number-three reactor unit. Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, was quoted as saying the country is making "slow but steady progress" in dealing with an nuclear crisis. His comments came as engineers at the stricken nuclear plant raced to fix the disabled cooling systems and restore power, and as fire trucks continued to spray water to help cool reactor fuel pools. Meanwhile, new questions are being raised about safety at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan's nuclear safety agency says the plant's operator repeatedly failed to make crucial inspections of equipment in the weeks before the disaster. Meantime, the chief government spokesman, Yukio Edano, said Tokyo had ordered the suspension of shipments of milk and certain vegetables including spinach from regions around the plant after abnormal radiation levels were found in the products. Hopes of finding more survivors of the earthquake and tsunami were dim 10 days after the twin disaster struck, despite one astonishing tale of survival with the discovery Sunday of an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson.


A dangerous split has opened in the leadership of Yemen after top generals and two diplomats joined the revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. Saleh is refusing to submit to calls for his resignation and claimed he had the support of the vast majority of people. And as it deployed tanks in the streets of the capital, Sanaa, the country's remaining military command said late Monday that it remained loyal to the regime. Earlier Yemen's ambassadors to Egypt and the Arab League defected to the protest movement. The regime was internationally condemned after more than 50 people were killed on Friday when loyalist gunmen fired on thousands of protesters in Sanaa from rooftops.


Haitians voted on Sunday in a run-off presidential election between Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady and senator, and Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a popular singer who has never held public office. Authorities said two people were killed in election-related violence, but that voting was much calmer than the election's first round in November. That vote was marred by disorganization, voter intimidation and allegations of widespread fraud. Disputed preliminary results in the November vote had government-backed candidate Jude Celestin edging out Mr. Martelly for a spot in the runoff. But Haiti's electoral council reviewed the count under international pressure and eliminated Mr. Celestin from the race. UN monitors said Sunday's turnout looked likely to exceed the numbers in the first round when only 23 percent of 4.7 million eligible Haitians cast ballots. Preliminary results from yesterday's vote are not expected until March 31st.


Thousands of exiled Tibetans in 13 countries have voted for a new political leader who it is hoped will carry forward their struggle for democratic change in China. The vote to replace the Dalai Lama as head of the exiled-Tibetan parliament was held Sunday, 10 days after the 75-year-old Buddhist leader announced his desire to retire. He said he wants to hand political power to an elected leader who could continue the fight after his death. Analysts say while the Dalai Lama will remain the Tibetans' spiritual leader, the decision to relinquish political power before his death will make it harder for China to try to argue that his authority has passed to a reincarnated successor of Beijing's choosing. China rules Tibet and considers the Dalai Lama a separatist bent on fomenting unrest in his homeland, which he fled in 1959.


The TSX Composite closed up 224.07 to 14,013. The TSX Venture was up 41.37 to 2,285. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 178.01 points at 12,036.53. The broader S&P 500 rose 19.18 to 1,298.38, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 48.42 pointsat 2,692.09. The Canadian dollar settled at 102.07 cents US on Monday, up 0.66 of a cent. The U.S. dollar stood at 97.97 cents Cdn, down 0.64 of a cent. Pound sterling closed at C$1.5981, down 0.23 of a cent and US$1.6312, up 0.82 of a cent. The euro was worth C$1.3930, down 0.47 of a cent.

Airline profits

A Conference Board of Canada report predicts Canadian airline profits will decline in 2011,due to higher fuel and labour costs. Pre-tax profits are expected to fall by about one-third to $785 million in 2011, down from $1.2 billion last year. Profits will remain in the $700 million to $800 million range annually for the next three years.


Canadian Milos Raoniccontinues to be a man on the move in the A-T-P. He's jumped another three places in the tour rankings to number 34. The 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ontario, was knocked out in the third round at Indian Wells last week.


Running back Cory Boyd has been rewarded for a spectacular rookie season with a long-term contract from the Toronto Argonauts. He's locked up through the 2013 season. Boyd finished second to Winnipeg's Fred Reid in rushing with over 13-hundred yards last season. He was the first Toronto running back named to the C-F-L all-star team in almost a decade.

National Hockey League

Sunday's results: Montreal defeated Minnesota 8-1 and Anaheim defeated Calgary 5-4 in overtime.

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators are rebuilding around goaltender Craig Anderson. He's signed a four-year contract extension worth 12.75 million dollars. Anderson was acquired in a February trade from Colorado for goaltender Brian Elliott. Since then, G-M Bryan Murray says he's brought stability to the Senators.


Variable cloudiness and 9 in Vancouver. Snowflurries across the Prairies, with minus 3 in Edmonton, minus 2 in Calgary, minus 4 in Saskatoon, minus 1 in Regina and zero in Winnipeg. Central Canada will see some sunshine, with 7 in Toronto, 4 in Ottawa and 3 in Montreal. It's back to snow for the Maritimes, with a high of 2 in Fredericton, Halifax and Charlottetown. St. John's will have variable skies with a high of zero. Sunshine will prevail right across the far north, with a high of zero in Whitehorse, minus 3 in Yellowknife and minus 25 at Iqaluit.