Wednesday, December 21, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Premiers not unanimous on new federal health-care spending


Several of Canada's provincial finance ministers admit say they are upset over a meeting on Monday with their federal counterpart, Jim Flaherty. They say they're shocked that Mr. Flaherty announced the federal government's new funding formula for health-care transfer payments without any negotiations with the provinces. Mr. Flaherty said the funding increase will remain at six per cent a year for six years. But after that, the annual boost will be tied to the rate of economic growth and inflation.

Manitoba's Finance Minister Stan Struthers expected such an important matter would have been discussed among other ministers and not unilaterally announced by Mr. Flaherty at the meeting in Victoria, BC, on Monday.

Japan plane decision could work to Canada's advantage


Japan's announcement on Tuesday that it will acquire 42 U.S.-made F-35 stealth bombers could have implications for Canada. That country plans to buy a dozen of the aircraft manufactured by defence giant Lockheed Martin. The decision has been a subject of debate in the House of Commons because of the $75-billion pricetag. The minister in charge of military procurement, Julian Fantino, says Japan's decision bolsters the government's arguments in favour of the F-35, proving its contention that the F-35 is the best aircraft available to replace aging fleets.

Lockheed Martin itself says the Japanese decision will lower the cost of the aircraft.

Enbridge pipeline project gets failing note


A report commissioned by one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline questions the economic case behind the project, which would connect oilsands crude to Asian markets via Canada's West Coast. The report by the ForestEthics lobby says there's ample pipeline capacity to handle oilsands production growth of 50 to 100 per cent over 2010 levels by 2025.

It says Northern Gateway's backer, Enbridge Inc, is basing its assumptions for the $6.5-billion project on an "unreasonable" oilsands production growth rate, a more than tripling in output by 2035 over 2010 levels. The report also says there's enough U.S. demand for Canadian energy exports, and that Canada ought to keep some of the resource for itself instead of sending the raw product overseas. Last week, researchers with the University of Calgary released a study with a much different point of view, that expanding pipeline capacity to international markets should be a national priority and that lack of such access puts Canadian producers at a big disadvantage.

UN chides Canada over crisis in Ontario native village


A United Nations official is taking the Canadian government to task over its treatment of the Attawapiskat First Nation and aboriginal communities in general. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, issued a statement after native leaders asked him to look into living conditions in the James Bay community and elsewhere. Mr. Anaya says he has communicated his concerns to federal authorities and wants to see how they plan to address poor conditions in Attawapiskat and other reserves. He says he has been told Ottawa is systematically underfunding reserves. He wants to hear the government's side of the story and says he will monitor policies very closely.

The Attawapiskat First Nation declared an emergency in October because 25 families were living in housing too flimsy to face the harsh winter.

Russia to restrict imported seal pelts


The Canadian government has confirmed that Russia is planning to impose restrictions on the importation of harp seal pelts in the next two weeks. The government's says Russia has proposed to trade restrictions on raw and tanned harp seal pelts as of Jan. 1. It goes on to say the government is assessing what those restrictions will mean for the sealing industry. The International Fund for Animal Welfare said Monday they had obtained a document from the World Trade Organization showing Russia has banned the importing of all harp seal pelts.

The statement from the government does not say whether there will be an outright ban on pelts.

Disgraced bishop to be sentenced


A disgraced Roman Catholic bishop will be sentenced Jan. 4 on one count of importing child pornography. Raymond Lahey has been in a sentencing hearing today and Monday after pleading guilty to the charge in May. He voluntarily went to jail to begin serving time even before his formal sentencing. A second charge of simple possession remains against Lahey, but it is expected to be withdrawn as part of the plea deal when he is formally sentenced. Lahey was arrested at Ottawa airport in September 2009 after customs authorities found hundreds of pornographic photos of young boys on his laptop.


Egypt's army, protesters in conflict for fifth day


Clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters demanding an end to military rule entered a fifth day Tuesday. Riot police used rocks, batons and live ammunition to disperse protesters in Cairo in violence that has left at least 12 people dead since Friday. The clashes have heaped pressure on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The Council, which took power when a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, denies it ordered the use of force against protesters. Footage on social networking sites showed army troops beating protesters, sometimes leaving them motionless on the ground.

Arab observers will head to Syria


The head of the Arab League said on Tuesday that monitors could be in Syria before the end of the month to assess whether Damascus is implementing an Arab plan to end a bloody crackdown on protests after weeks of stalling. Arab states have pushed Damascus to let in a team of about 150 observers to witness what is happening. The mission is the first of its kind for an organization characterized until recently by uncritical support for its member states' mostly autocratic rulers.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad agreed at the start of November to a plan demanding an end to fighting, the withdrawal of troops from residential areas, the release of prisoners and the start of a dialogue with the opposition. But for six weeks it baulked at letting in monitors to assess implementation while the death toll climbed. It finally signed a protocol on monitors, which is renewable after a month, on Monday.

Pakistan lethaln for reporters


Pakistan has remained the deadliest country for journalists for the second year in a row. The Committee to Protect Journalists says in its year-end report that seven journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2011. A total of 43 died around the world. The New York-based group says the number of deaths while covering dangerous assignments reached the highest level on record. Libya and Iraq each had five deaths, and three journalists were killed in Mexico.

Japan picks military fighter


Japan selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter on Tuesday to replace aging jets in its air force and bolster its defence capability amid regional uncertainty. The announcement came amid fresh concerns about regional stability following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The impoverished North is known to be pursuing nuclear weapons, and neighbours worry about the potential fallout from political manoeuvring there. Japan is buying 42 of the aircraft under a multiyear deal. The Defence Ministry is requesting a budget of $706.9 million for the first four fighters next fiscal year, which starts in April.

South Sudanese rebel reported killed


South Sudan's military forces have killed the country's highest-profile rebel leader, a man who posed a significant security threat to peace inside the world's newest country. Rebel leader George Athor was a former lieutenant general in South Sudan's military during the 1983-2005 civil war with Sudan. But Athor launched a rebellion after losing an April 2010 election for governor of Jonglei state, a vote he maintained was rigged.

Troops loyal to Athor fought repeatedly with South Sudanese forces over the last year, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

Russia rig disaster victims still missing


Russian rescue teams say they have found four lifeboats and an inflatable life raft in the freezing watera near where an oil rig capsized off Russia's eastern coast. But they say all of the boats were empty. The search continues for at least 39 people still missing more than two days after the rig sank in the Sea of Okhotsk. Of the 67 men aboard the rig, 14 were rescued immediately. The emergencies ministry says 11 bodies have been recovered. The Kolskaya floating platform was being towed in a storm when it was hit by a strong wave.

Sweden marks hero's centenary


Sweden will commemorate the centenary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg in 2012 with a series of postage stamps and a touring exhibition about the World War II hero credited with rescuing tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Organizers launched a photo exhibition about Wallenberg in Stockholm on Tuesday, and two new stamps that will go on sale in May. The exhibition will tour Hungary, Germany, Russia, Israel, the United States and Canada next year.

As Sweden's envoy in the Hungarian capital of Budapest from July 1944, Wallenberg saved 20,000 Jews by giving them Swedish travel documents, or moving them to safe houses. However, he disappeared after being arrested by the Soviet army in Budapest in January 1945 and his fate has since remained one of the great mysteries of WWII.


High court to rule on securities regulation


Canada's top court says it will rule on the issue of a national securities regulator on Thursday. The Supreme Court of Canada says it will issue a decision the constitutionality of the controversial federal initiative Thursday morning. The matter was placed before the top court in the spring after Quebec and Alberta launched separate court challenges, arguing Ottawa's effort to create a national body to regulate securities trading stepped on exclusive provincial jurisdiction. The federal government believes a national regulator is needed to reduce costs and effectively police markets.

Steelmaker gets takeover offer


Steel pipe and tubing maker Lakeside Steel Inc. says it has received a $77.5-million takeover bid from an unnamed buyer. The Welland, ON-based company says it has a non-binding letter of intent from the prospective buyer, but the deal won't be finalized until the unnamed company finishes its due diligence on Lakeside, which has to be completed by Jan. 9. Lakeside makes pipes and tubing used in the oil and gas industry. It has factories in Welland, Texas and Alabama.


Sports


FOOTBALL

City council in Regina has voted in favour of working with a private-sector partner to build, finance and maintain a new football stadium in the city's downtown. The stadium is part of a proposed $1-billion redevelopment that would also include housing, retail and commercial projects. Construction could start in 2013, with the completion date set for 2016.

SOCCER

Veterans Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc will lead Canada's women's soccer team at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. Canadian coach John Herdman named a 20-player roster that includes 14 members of the team that won gold at the Pan American Games in October. Sinclair, Canada's captain fromBurnaby, BC, scored to lift Canada into overtime versus Brazil at the Pan Am Games. LeBlanc, a goalkeeper from Maple Ridge, BC, then stopped two penalty shots to secure the victory.


Weather


British Columbia on Wednesday: sun, high C5 Vancouver. Yukon, Nunavut: snow. Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Whitehorse 0, Yellowknife -19, Iqaluit -10. Alberta: sun. Saskatchewan, Manitoba: snow. Edmonton, Winnipeg -1, Regina -4. Ontario: rain south, mix sun cloud north. Quebec: freezing rain. Toronto 6, Ottawa -1, Montreal 1. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island: rain. Fredericton, St. John's 0, Halifax 4, Charlottetown 1.