Thursday, May 26, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


The Canadian military says Canadian warplanes have dropped 240 laser-guided bombs on targets in Libya since NATO's campaign there began on March 31. Each bomb weighs 227 kilograms. Canadian pilots have flown 324 attack missions. Those missions are Canada's chief contribution to the campaign. Military officials wouldn't discuss at a weekly briefing in the capital how much the smart bombs cost or how much the entire mission has cost so far.


Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to Europe Wednesday to attend the Group of *Eight summit in Normandy, France. The eight leaders are expected to discuss a variety of issues during their two-day meeting, including the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Harper will raise the issue of religious rights and freedoms in the region. The plight of member nation Japan, still suffering from the March earthquake and tsunami, will also be discussed. After the summit, Mr. Harper will travel to Greece for bilateral meetings and a visit to the site of a World War Two massacre.


Canada has announced immediate economic sanctions against Syria in response to that country's violent suppression of anti-government protesters. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls the Syrian régime's actions a grave breach of international law. The sanctions ban trade between Canada and Syria. The measures are largely symbolic since Canada exports only about $60 million worth of goods a year to Syria and receives less than one-tenth of that in imports. The United States and European Union have already imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


The Conservative government of Canada is going to phase out per-vote subsidies for federal political parties. A bill to do so will be contained in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's new budget on June 6. The last time the Conservatives tried to kill the subsidies, the three opposition parties in the House of Commons objected violently, forcing the then-minority government to prorogue Parliament to stave off defeat. However, the Conservatives won a majority in the May 2 election, now preventing the opposition from blocking the move. It will hurt the opposition more than the Conservatives, who have long been more successful at fundraising. Mr. Flaherty says the new budget will contain many of the features of the one he presented on March 22 but was never passed by Parliament. That budget provided for improved benefits for the poorest seniors, tax credits for family caregivers and student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who relocate to rural areas.


Speaking on another topic, Mr. Flaherty says he wants and open and "merit-based" process to choose a new head of the International Monetary Fund. The minister declined to say which of the two candidates who have announced he prefers. They are French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and the head of Mexico's central bank, Agustin Carstens. Mr. Flaherty says he has worked with both and that both are high qualified. The IMF's 24-member executive board is expected to decide on a new leader by the end of June.


Canada's opposition Liberal Party has chosen former Ontario Premier Bob Rae as its interim leader. The much reduced Liberal caucus picked Mr. Rae to start the task of rebuilding the party after its devastating loss in the May 2 election. Mr. Rae was unsuccessfully opposed by Montreal Member of Parliament and former astronaut Marc Garneau. Former leader Michael Ignatieff resigned on the day after the election. The party board of directors hopes to postpone a vote for a permanent leader for 18 to 22 months.


Canadian soldiers who have been helping contain rising floodwaters in a region of the province of Quebec will not participate in the cleanup operation after the waters recede. The federal government has refused a request to have the Canadian Forces help deal with the aftermath. The Quebec government has released a letter it received from federal Public Works Minister Vic Toews in which he says cleaning up the flooding near the city of Montreal is not the military's role. The letter notes that repair work would place the military in competition with the private sector.


Eight in 10 Canadians have access to the Internet. A report by Statistics Canada says 81 per cent of urban households have such access, compared with 71 per cent in rural areas. Rates of access were highest in British Columbia at 84 per cent. StatsCan also investigated Internet use on the basis of income. The agency found that 97 per cent of households with incomes of at least $87,000 had Internet. The figure drops to 54 per cent in the lowest income group of $30,000 or less.


Manitoba has signed the most profitable power export deal in the province's history. Manitoba Power has agreed on a $4-billion accord with the U.S. state of Minnesota to store the state's wind power and to export its electricity starting between 2020 and 2035. The province will import wind energy from the state and store it for resale when Minnesota's demand for energy grows. The exports of 250 megawatts a year will start after a new hydro dam is built in northern Manitoba. The deal is Manitoba Power's biggest since a deal with Wisconsin to sell 100 megawatts yearly from 2021 to 2027. Manitoba exports about 40 per cent of the electricity it produces and the new deal will boost that by another 20 per cent. Premier Greg Selinger says the Minnesota deal will keep Manitoba's electricity prices down and create jobs in northern Manitoba when construction of the dam begins.


The government of the west coast province of British Columbia will cut its harmonized sales tax by two percentage points, in an effort to win a referendum on whether to keep the controversial levy. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon says that if voters approve the retention of the tax, it will become 10 per cent, down from 12 per cent. The reduction will be made to the provincial half of the tax. However, the minister warns that the government remains committed to balancing its budget by 2013-2014 and that every percentage point of reduction costs the government $850 million. He says this means the sum must be found elsewhere and therefore a corporate tax cut scheduled for Jan. 1, 2012, will be cancelled, and a small business tax cut set for April 1, 2012, postponed.


A Canadian has been elected President of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. David Grimes has been an assistant deputy minister and head of Environment Canada's meteorology service since 2006. The role gives him responsibility for shaping the agenda for research and services related to weather, climate and water worldwide. The term runs four years and begins June 6.


The UN reports that tens of thousands of people have fled Sudan's central Abyei region. The UN also says armed groups presumed to be northern militias are moving further south. The world body says as many as 40,000 Abyei residents have had to flee south. North Sudan sent tanks into Abyei on Saturday. The oil-rich region is disputed between north and south Sudan. The South is expected to declare independence in seven weeks. Observers says a conflict over Abyei could mean a return of civil war between the north and south.


French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has announced her candidacy to lead the International Monetary Fund. Her candidacy has the unanimous support of the EU. She would replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He resigned last week after being charged in New York with attempted rape. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have criticized the EU for insisting that the new IMF head be a European, a tradition that dates back to its founding after World War Two. The BRICS grouping issued a joint statement saying the choice should be based on competence not nationality.


Tribesmen loyal to a powerful opposition chief, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, have seized public buildings in the capital Sana'a, including the state news agency Saba. The tribesmen have also occupied the national airline Yemenia building and have tried to enter the interior ministry headquarters. Clashes between security forces and followers of the powerful Hashid tribal federation, headed by al-Ahmar, broke out in Sana'a on Monday after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign a deal with the opposition that would see him leave office within 30 days.


Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas says that without a renewal of peace talks, the Palestinians will seek United Nations recognition. Mr. Abbas says his first choice is negotiations but that if there is no progress before September, he will then ask the UN to intervene. He made the comment a day after a major speech to the U.S. Congress by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that did not mention any new incentive to restart peace talks. During the speech, Mr. Netanyahu again refused a two-state solution with the Palestinians based upon Israel's 1967 borders. He said Israel would be generous in any peace settlement with the Palestinians but ruled out the 1967 borders and any division of Jerusalem. The prime minister excluded as well a resumption of peace talks as long as the new alliance between the Fatah movement of President Abbas and Hamas continues.


Brazil's lower house has passed legislation to loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon forest. Environmentalists warn the changes will lead to increased deforestation, while farmers say it will let them to produce to their full capacity. The measure that passed Tuesday night now goes to the Senate. The bill would let farmers and ranchers with small holdings work land closer to river banks and to use hilltops. However, the legislation drops a proposal to free small farms from any preservation limits at all.


A leading international art fair, ART HK, is to display a provocative work by detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong. It's seen as a show of solidarity with the outspoken dissident amid a crackdown by the Chinese government. The organizers of the fair say they share the concerns of the international community over Mr. Ai's fate. The United States and European Union have called for Mr. Ai's release, but Beijing has refused. The artist was taken into custody in Beijing last month during the government's biggest crackdown on dissidents and activists in years, with authorities later saying he was suspected of fraud. The Hong Kong fair, which begins Thursday, is to display Mr. Ai's 2007 sculpture Marble Arm, which depicts an outstretched arm and hand with its middle finger raised.


Russia has denounced the latest bombing of Libya by NATO. The foreign ministry says the bombings violate the UN Security Council resolutions which authorize NATO to protect civilians. NATO warplanes bombed the residential compound of Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi. The ministry says the air strikes aren't stopping the violence between the parties to the Libyan conflict and are only creating more suffering among civilians.


Tim Horton's has announced it has replaced its president and CEO. Don Schroeder had worked for Canada's biggest restaurant chain for two decades and had served as president and CEO since 2008. The company's executive chairman Paul House will assume those roles on an interim basis. The development comes two weeks after the company's first-quarter results came in three cents below analyst expectations. In recent months, Tim Horton's attempt to expand in the U.S. has foundered, the chain announcing late last year it would close 54 locations in New England that were losing money. Tim Horton's is the four-biggest restaurant chain in North America with more than 3,700 restaurants.


Shareholders of TMX, the firm that operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, and of the London Stock Exchange will vote on their proposed merger on June 30. On Friday, TMX rejected a $3.6-billion bid by The Maple Group Acquisition Corp., a consortium of Canadian banks and pension funds. The bid was aimed at keeping Canadian ownership of TMX. The latter rejected the bid last Friday, saying it suffered from too many uncertainties, including regulatory and debt risks. The merger will be subject to review by several Canadian regulators, including a review by Industry Canada under the Investment Canada Act. The proposed deal must be shown to be of net benefit to Canada.


TSX on Wednesday: 13,751 + 56. Dollar: US$1.02. Euro: $1.37. Oil: $101.31 + $1.72.



British Columbia on Thursday: rain, high C14 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: mix sun cloud snow. Whitehorse 21, Yellowknife 17, Iqaluit 2. Alberta, Saskatchewan: rain. Manitoba: sun. Edmonton, Winnipeg 16, Regina 17. Ontario: rain south, sun north. Quebec: rain. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal 24. New Brunswick: sun. Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Prince Edward Island: cloud. Fredericton 22, Halifax 14, Charlottetown 18, St. John's 15.