Thursday, June 23, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


The opposition Liberal Party wants the federal auditor general to determine whether the taxpayer got any value out of $45 million worth of public works projects spent in the Ontario riding where the G8 summit was held last summer. Member of Parliament John McCallum has written to acting Auditor General John Wiersema asking him to audit the 32 projects executed in Parry Sound-Muskoka riding. The riding is represented in the House of Commons by Treasury President Tony Clement. The public works included gazebos, parks, public toilets and other beautification projects. Many were not near the summit location and were never seen or used by G8 leaders or their entourages. Mr. McCallum writes that it's obvious that the projects had little or nothing to do with Canada's summit objectives. Earlier this month, the auditor general severely criticized the way the "legacy fund" for them was set up. The Conservative Party government asked Parliament to approve $83 million to relieve congestion at the U.S.-Canada border, without saying that $50 million would be spent in Mr. Clement's riding 300 kilometres from the border.


Canada's Parliament is scheduled to recess for the summer on Thursday but debate on a proposed back-to-work bill to end the lockout at Canada Post could delay things. Both the governing Conservatives and the opposition New Democratic Party say they're prepared to sit through the weekend to debate the measure that would send 48,000 postal workers back on the job. The NDP wants to delay passage of the bill to allow the parties to reach a settlement on their own. Conservatives have used their majority strength to cut off discussion on how the debate should be conducted but there are no restrictions on the length of the debate itself. The legislation contains several controversial aspects, including wage rates lower than what the employer had offered the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. And some have suggested that guidelines for the arbitrator favour Canada Post.


The Canadian general commanding NATO's air war against Libya has rejected a call for a ceasefire. Gen. Charles Bouchard says he doesn't want to give forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi time to rearm. The general was reacting to a suggestion by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini that there be a pause to allow access for humanitarian aid. Gen. Bouchard says NATO will continue to facilitate deliveries of food and other supplies. He also says he doesn't think Gadhafi is hiding near any of the military targets that the Western alliance is bombing.


The United Nations has confirmed that Canada has opposed listing asbestos as a hazardous chemical. At a summit in Geneva, Canada's delegation ended days of silence and speculation by opposing the inclusion of asbestos on a UN treaty called the Rotterdam Convention. That would force exporters of the carcinogen to warn recipient countries of any health hazards. Those countries could also then refuse asbestos imports if they didn't think they could handle the product safely. Canada has twice before played a lead role in blocking the inclusion of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention, which operates by consensus. Until today, it appeared Canada's strategy was to abstain while other asbestos-exporting countries blocked the move.


The head of Canada's Green Party, Elizabeth May, says the Conservative Party government is damaging its ability to deal with the issue of climate change by laying off key researchers at Environment Canada. Mrs. May says the contractual researchers warn that work on climate change will be undermined by the cuts. She says 46 contract employees have been given notice, most them employed in the field of climate-change research. Mrs. May is calling on Environment Minister Peter Kent to reverse the layoffs. A spokesman for the minister says no permanent researchers have been let go but that the department's tight budget means that temporary and contract positions will have to be reviewed over the next two years.


Five consecutive days of rain have left 24 Saskatchewan communities under a state of emergency along the Souris River. That's up from four communities on Monday. The Saskatchewan Water Authority announced Wednesday that it has to release more water from dams in the region because the reservoirs are filled to the brim. The flooding has shut down highways, including a large section of the Trans-Canada highway in eastern Saskatchewan.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he gives little credibility to promises of reform by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Ban says he and Mr. al-Assad argued during their last telephone conversation and that he now refuses to take his calls. The secretary general says it would be helpful if the Security Council could take a stand on the Syrian crisis. Russia and China have threatened to veto a resolution proposed by European powers condemning the political crackdown in Syria.


Russia's justice ministry has refused to register a liberal opposition bloc to run in the parliamentary election in December. The ministry says the Party of People's Freedom has violated two articles of electoral law. The party supposedly failed to rotate the members of its governing body and also placed the names of underaged and deceased persons on its membership list. One of the party's leaders, Vladimir Ryzhkov, says it won't appeal the ruling because an appeal would be pointless.


Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko says she has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in connection with her forthcoming trial for alleged abuse of power. The trial starts Friday. Mrs. Timoshenko says she has submitted evidence the the trial is the result of the venal justice system of President Viktor Yanukovych, who she says is trying to ruin a rival. Her lawyer and fellow opposition leader, Sergui Vlasenko, says the former prime minister also claimed violations of the European Human Rights Convention. Mrs. Timoshenko is accused of having signed a highly disadvantageous pricing agreement with Russian gas giant Gazprom.


Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez says she will seek re-election. She also promises to extend the leftist policies that have angered investors despite a long economic boom. Miss Fernandez had been expected to run in the Oct. 23 election although she kept the nation guessing for months. There had been speculation that health concerns or family pressures following her husband's death might induce her to step aside.


Mexican police have captured the suspected leader of La Familia drug cartel, once known as the most notorious gang in the country. José de Jesus Mendez was arrested Tuesday at a highway checkpoint in central Mexico. The government says the Mendez arrest is a major victory and the end of La Familia.


A Chilean judge has ordered experts to determine what killed Nobel literature laureate Pablo Neruda, a poet who died 12 days after the 1973 coup that ousted a socialist government. It has long been believed that Mr. Neruda died of cancer. But officials are now trying to determine if he, in fact, could have been murdered. Justice officials agreed on June 2 to open an investigation into allegations about Mr. Neruda's death on Sept. 23, 1973. He died just days after then-President Salvador Allende was toppled and Gen. Augusto Pinochet took power. The Neruda investigation follows last month's decision by the government to exhume the remains of Allende, hoping finally to determine whether he committed suicide or was murdered during the 1973 coup.


China's official news media report that the authorities have released artist and activist Ai Weiwei on bail after a three months' detention. He is reported to have admitted to tax evasion and promised to pay what he owes. The government had previously claimed that a company linked to Mr. Ai had evaded taxes and destroyed documents. His wife, Lu Qing, has said the company is in fact registered in her name and denied her husband evaded his taxes.


The Greek government has survived a confidence vote in Parliament on its planned austerity package. All 155 lawmakers representing the Socialist Party of President George Papandreou in the 300-seat parliament voted to support the plan. Final approval by Parliament before the end of the month is the condition for a second bailout by the EU and the IMF. The country's creditors are demanding the government carry out $40.2 billion in budget cuts and earn $72 billion by selling public assets. The Greek government is being kept afloat by a $157-billion international bailout last year. Mr. Papandreou says the second bailout will be about that size.


The company that operates the Toronto Stock Exchange says the London Stock Exchange has offered to pay a special cash dividend of $4 to shareholders of TMX Group Inc. when their proposed merger closes. The offer would added $660 million to the existing proposal worth US$3 billion. The sweetened offer would approximate in value a rival bid by a consortium of Canadian banks, pension funds and other financial institutions. The special dividend is meant to encourage stockholders to reject the bid by Maple Group Acquisition Group intended to keep TMX in Canadian hands. TMX directors have rejected the bid on the grounds that it's too risky and entails regulatory hurdles.


Canadian energy firm Encana Corp. says investment talks with its Chinese partner, PetroChina International Investment Co. Ltd., have ended. Both sides failed to agree on how their multibillion-dollar Cutbank Ridge joint venture would operate. In what would have been China's biggest investment in Canada to date, a PetroChina subsidiary was to pay $5.4-billion for a half-share in natural gas rich Encana properties around the northern boundary of the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The two companies signed an agreement a year ago to explore a potential partnership and, in February, announced they'd agreed on a price and basic framework for the deal. Analysts say Encana has been affected by low natural gas prices and the PetroChina deal would have offered a welcome injection of cash.


A shipbuilder in Quebec has criticized a decision by the provincial government to award a contract to build two ferries to two Italian firms. The government awarded the $150-million contract to the Italian firms Fincantieri and DRS Canada. The CEO of Groupe Maritime Verreault, Denise Verreault, says the government has failed to recognize the talent and expertise of Quebecers. The Italian firms have formed a consortium that is trying to buy Davie Yards in Lévis, QC. Mrs. Verreault says a better way for the government to help the bankrupt shipbuilder would be to allow the company to be bought by a Canadian partner.



Wednesday was awards night in Las Vegas for the National Hockey League. Anaheim's Corey Perry, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis are up for the Hart Trophy as the league Most Valuable Player. Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Tim Thomas of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins are nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie.


British Columbia on Wednesday: sun north, mix sun cloud south. High C22 Vancouver. Yukon, Nunavut: rain. Northwest Territories: sun. Whitehorse 20, Yellowknife 23, Iqaluit 3. Alberta, Saskatchewan: sun. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton 25, Regina 23, Winnipeg 17. Ontario: rain. Quebec: sun. Toronto 20, Ottawa 25, Montreal 26. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton 21, Halifax 18, Charlottetown 14, St. John's 12.