Thursday, June 30, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


The Canadian government has sold the commercial division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to the country's biggest engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., for $15 million. The division is the manufacturer of the Candu nuclear reactor. The government will retain the right to royalties from future reactor sales and refurbishing of existing nuclear plants. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says the transaction will place Candu in competent hands to be serviced and deployed in Canada and elsewhere. SNC-Lavalin will create a new division called Candu Energy that will employ about 1,200 AECL employees, less than one-quarter of its workforce.


The union representing Canada Post workers says it will mount a legal challenge to the federal law passed last weekend ending a lockout. A spokesman for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Montreal says the union will seek legal recourse to try to have the law overturned. The spokesman says the union doesn't plan to defy the law. Postal service resumed on Monday. The union is angry that the government imposed lower salaries than the employer's last offer. The union says it is also considering lodging a complaint with the federal Human Rights Commission. The grounds would be that new employers would be victims of discrimination because they wouldn't have the same pension benefits as older ones. The union began a series of one-day rotating strikes on June 3, and Canada Post responded with a lockout on June 14.


Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has accused the Canadian Wheat Board of weakening Canada's share of world markets for wheat, durum and barley. The Conservative Party government intends to abolish the Board's monopoly over the sale of Western wheat and barley. Mr. Ritz said in a speech to a farmers' lobby that although Canada remains the world's top exporter of those products, the country is falling behind because of the current grain-marketing system. The minister says that with a reduced market share, the Board has less influence in world markets. He acknowledges that although farmers' switch from planting oilseeds instead of wheat is a global trend, it has been more marked in Canada than elsewhere. The Board claims its monopoly enables it to get the best prices for Western farmers. But Mr. Ritz accuses it of considering Canadian farmers not smart enough to market their own grain.


The inflation rate in Canada continues to rise. It inched up by half-a-point last month and now stands at 3.7 per cent, the highest it has been in eight years. The price of gasoline and the rising cost of food were responsible for the jump. Inflation was higher in eight of 10 provinces, with Nova Scotia recording the greatest annual increase. Analysts predict the inflation rise won't force the Bank of Canada into raising interest rates at the next setting in July.


Research shows Canada has fallen below the global average when it comes to creating environmentally protected areas. A study by Global Forest Watch says Canada has placed about 8.5 per cent of its land mass under permanent conservation protection, while the worldwide average is 12.9 per cent. The Northwest Territories are the most heavily conserved jurisdiction in Canada, with nearly one-quarter of its land base under protection. Only four per cent of the three Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are legally protected.


The Supreme Court of Canada will rule on Thursday whether it will hear an appeal by the first man convicted under the country's anti-terror laws. Momin Khawaja wants the court to rule that the Criminal Code's definition of "terrorist activity" is unconstitutional. Khawaja was convicted of five terrorism charges and sentenced in 2008 to 10-and-a-half years in prison. Two years later, Court of Appeal for Ontario increased his sentence to life with no chance of parole for 10 years. Khawaja was convicted of involvement in a plot to plant fertilizer bombs in the UK. He was working at the time of the plot in Ottawa for the foreign affairs department as a software engineer. He became the first person to be found guilty under the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act.


Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has approved federal funding for clinical trials of a controversial treatment for multiple sclerosis. The minister says that a scientific working group has agreed unanimously that trials for "liberation therapy" should go ahead. The trials will address a theory that the disease is caused by narrowed neck veins and that the use of balloon angioplasty can help symptoms. Some recent clinical studies have cast doubt on the supposition that narrowed neck veins cause MS. Many Canadians afflicted with the disease have sought the treatment abroad. It isn't offered in Canada.


Health officials in Western Canada warn that unprecedented flooding in areas of the Prairie provinces has created an optimal habitat for mosquitoes, including those likely to carry the West Nile virus. The officials says the flooding has left many areas of southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba with the shallow, standing water that mosquitoes like. The sources say it will be difficult to treat all of the areas before mosquito season. Only five confirmed cases of West Nile were reported in 2010.


A new poll shows that although two-thirds of those asked think the British monarchy will get a popularity boost from the visit of Prince William and his bride, the others want to cut ties with the institution. Sixty-per cent of respondents in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec felt that way. The survey was conducted by the Angus Reid pollster. The prince and his wife arrive in Canada on Thursday. They'll visit Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Calgary.


The Greek parliament has approved the first of two austerity bills needed for approval of an international loan to prevent Greece from defaulting on its national debt. The vote to approve almost $40 billion of tax hikes, spending cuts and privatizations passed by 155-138. Lawmakers will vote on a second bill to implement the first on Thursday. Both bills needed approval for the EU and the International Monetary Fund to release a 12-million euro down payment on a second bailout for Greece. While the legislators were voting, thousands of protesters against the austerity demonstrators outside the legislature in central Athens. Police fired tear gas and fought with masked demonstrators who set fire to the finance ministry.


At least 21 people were killed by Taliban militants in an attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul late Tuesday. Officials say all of the nine militants involved were killed during the night-time raid on the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel, frequented by Westerners and Afghan officials. The state-owned hotel was hosting delegates attending an Afghan security conference and a large wedding party when the insurgents struck. Among those staying at the hotel were provincial government officials who were in Kabul for a conference on the handover of power from foreign to Afghan security forces. The process starts next month. Some 10,000 US troops are due to leave the country this year, ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations at the end of 2014. Security in Kabul is already under the control of Afghan forces.


The French government says it has been arming Libyan rebels who've been battling forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. It's the first time a NATO member country has admitted arming the rebels. A three-month-old NATO bombing campaign has so far failed to dislodge the Libyan leader. NATO is operating under a U.N. Security Council resolution which authorized force to protect Libyan civilians. The rebels' advances have been slow, but they claim to have made considerable progress in the last week, advancing from mountains southwest of Tripoli to 80 kilometres outside of the city.


Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei's design company will challenge the $1.85-million tax bill delivered by government officials shortly after Mr. Ai was released from nearly three months in detention. A lawyer for the company says an appeal was filed with the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau by Ai's wife, Lu Qing. She is the legal representative of his design company Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. The appeal demands proof of the alleged tax evasion and a review of the case. Mr. Ai's family previously denied he evaded any taxes and activists say the accusations were a pretext for detaining him.


The Philippines says it will grant more permits to private firms to search for oil and natural gas in the South China Sea. A total of 15 exploration contracts will be offered. The move is expected to anger China which claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. Earlier this month, Philippine President Benigno Aquino called for U.S. help in containing China's ambitions in the area, saying his country was too weak to stand up to Beijing alone. The plea was issued after his government accused China of inciting at least seven recent incidents in the disputed waters. China and the Philippines have claims over the Spratly Archipelago, a resources-rich South China Sea chain. The Spratlys are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.


Venezuela has postponed a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders that was to have taken place on July 5-6 because of President Hugo Chavez' health. The foreign ministry says Venezuela will consult with the other countries to reschedule the event later in the year. The development came after state TV showed footage of Mr. Chavez chatting with former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Mr. Chavez has been mostly out of sight since the Venezuelan government announced on June 10 that he had undergone pelvic surgery in Cuba. The length of his convalescence there has raised questions about the true state of his health.


The company that controls the Toronto Stock Exchange says it has dropped a proposed merger between it and the London Stock Exchange. TMX Group says the proposed transaction had the support of a majority of stockholders but not the required two-thirds. TSE and LSE shareholders were to have voted on the merger on Thursday. TMX says it will have to pay a $10-million termination penalty to the LSE. TMX CEO Tom Kloet says it will now review a hostile takeover by by Maple Group Acquisition Corp. The consortium of 13 Canadian big banks and other financial institutions wants to keep the TSE in Canadian hands.


British Columbia on Thursday: rain, high C17 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut: rain. Whitehorse 15, Yellowknife 16, Iqaluit 10. Prairies: rain. Edmonton 18, Regina 22, Winnipeg 29. Ontario: sun south, rain north. Quebec: cloud. Toronto 26, Ottawa 25, Montreal 21. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton 23. Halifax 18, Charlottetown 22, St. John's 14.