Saturday, December 17, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Minister welcomed after Wheat Board law passes

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was welcomed with cheers on a Saskatchewan farm Friday over the government's new Canadian Wheat Board law. Legislation to take away the wheat board's monopoly received royal assent in Ottawa late Thursday. The law becomes effective Aug. 1 and will allowed western wheat and barley growers to sell their grain on the open market. The legislation also removes directors elected by farmers to the agency's board. There will be a transitional directors' board consisting of the remaining directors, who were appointed by the government.

Govt. to move against deceitful airline advertisements

The Canadian government will bring in regulations requiring Canadian airlines to include all fees and taxes in their advertised prices. But it will be a year or more before the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act take effect. A consumer affairs committee of federal and provincial bureaucrats has acknowledged a growing sense of so-called sticker shock when it comes to airfares. Advertised ticket prices rarely include extra charges, which in some cases can virtually double the posted price of airline tickets. The undisclosed amounts include Nav Canada fees, airport improvement charges, fuel surcharges, insurance and air security charges.

Parents of Canadian jailed in Mexico want action from Ottawa

The parents of a Canadian woman held in Mexico in connection with an alleged plot involving the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi say they're upset with the Canadian government. The Mexican authorities accuse Cynthia Vanier of a plot involving one of his sons. Her parents, John and Betty MacDonald, say the government is not informing them about their daughter's case.

Mr. MacDonald says the case against his daughter is a farce and he wants the Canadian government to put as much pressure as possible on Mexico. Mexican authorities accuse Miss Vanier of masterminding a plot to illegally smuggle the dictator's son Saadi into Mexico.

NB farmer still detained in Lebanon

The lawyer for a New Brunswick farmer held in a Lebanese prison for the last nine months is returning to Canada without his client. Jim Mockler said earlier this week that a request from the federal government would result in the release of Henk Tepper. Mr. Tepper has been in a Beirut prison since March on allegations potatoes he exported to Algeria in 2007 were rotten.

Mr. Mockler, Sen. Pierrette Ringuette and Sen. Mac Harb say a letter from the Canadian government would get Mr. Tepper released. But Diane Ablonczy, Canada's minister of state for foreign affairs, says the Lebanese government has international legal obligations to meet before it will consider releasing the farmer. The two senators have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday in Ottawa.

Ontario opposition demands wage freeze

Ontario's opposition Progressive Conservatives are calling for an immediate wage freeze for doctors, teachers and about one million public sector workers in the province. Opposition Leader Tim Hudak says the decision by Moody's Investor Services to put Ontario on a credit watch is a warning the province could become what he calls "the Greece of Canada." Mr. Hudak says the credit rating agency doesn't believe the Liberal government can curb spending and eliminate a $16-billion deficit by 2017 as scheduled.

Flood costs leave Manitoba budget a mess

Manitoba's deficit is twice what the province projected and is now estimated to be just below $1 billion. Finance Minister Stan Struthers says the new deficit forecast is $989 million, up from $438 million. Mr. Struthers says the province had to spend hundreds of millions in unbudgeted expenses because of this year's severe flooding. He says flood-related costs will likely hit $815 million by the end of this fiscal year. But he also says Manitoba's growth is expected to improve and the New Democratic Party government still plans to balance the books by 2014.

Egyptian police kill two

Medical sources say at least two people were killed in clashes on Friday between demonstrators and troops in the worst violence since the start of Egypt's first free election in six decades. A worker at a makeshift field hospital said a third person had died from gunshot wounds. At least 99 people were injured.

The violence started overnight and continued throughout Friday when military police tried to break up a sit-in by pro-democracy activists in front of the cabinet building. Army troops fired shots late on Friday in an attempt to disperse protesters who had been throwing petrol bombs at a parliament building.

Progress reported at Japanese nuclear disaster site

Japan's prime minister announced Friday that the country's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant has achieved a stable state of "cold shutdown." That's a crucial step toward the eventual lifting of evacuation orders and closing of the plant. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's announcement was intended to reassure the nation that significant progress has been made in the nine months since the March 11 tsunami sent three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into meltdowns in the worst nuclear crisis since Chornobyl in 1986.

Chinese village hero hailed for final time

A man from a southern Chinese fishing village whose death in police custody helped spark a rare revolt was given a hero's farewell Friday as thousands of tearful residents mourned what they called his sacrifice for them. Wukan, a village of 20,000, has for months been the site of protests by locals who say officials sold farmland to developers without their consent.

On a near-daily basis, thousands of villagers gather for rallies, shouting slogans for the return of their land. The gathering took on a more sombre note Friday as about 7,000 people attended a memorial ceremony for local butcher Xue Jinbo, who before his death had been one of the village's representatives in tense negotiations with officials over the land seizure.

Russian opposition calls for more protests

Russia's opposition parties have called for weekend rallies to protest election fraud following Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's rejection of protesters' demands for a rerun of a disputed parliamentary poll. Several parties and groups hope for a repeat of last weekend's mass gatherings in Moscow and other cities during which tens of thousands of people vented their anger against results of the parliamentary poll on Dec. 4 they say were marred by ballot stuffing and other irregularities.

The Moscow protest was the largest in Russia's post-Soviet history, signalling that Putin's comeback to the presidential job he held from 2000 to 2008 will not be as easy as had been expected only two weeks ago. On Thursday, Mr. Putin insisted that the vote results reflected the people's will and dismissed the protesters as Western stooges.

Norwegian police absolved of failures during mass murder

A police committee on Friday cleared Norwegian officers of major failures for their response to the massacre of 77 people this summer, but families of the victims called the inquiry too weak. Police have been criticized for a series of mishaps that slowed them down as they tried to reach the island where right-wing killer Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered dozens of youths. Olav Soenderland, the head of the committee that evaluated police action during the terror attacks, defended their response, saying they acted as quickly as possible. It took 90 minutes for police to reach the island.

Officers struggled after a boat broke down because it was overloaded and all police helicopter pilots were on vacation at the same time. Survivors have said they struggled to get through to police emergency lines shortly after Breivik began his shooting spree on the island because operators rejected calls because they were focused on the bombing in downtown Oslo at around the same time.

Sri Lankan government absolves itself of blame

A government-appointed commission concluded Sri Lanka's military did not intentionally target civilians at the end of the country's civil war and that ethnic rebels routinely violated international humanitarian law. The conclusions from the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, which was presented to Parliament on Friday, contradict an extensive UN report that accused the government of deliberately shelling civilian areas and possibly killing tens of thousands of people in the final months of the conflict. Human rights groups and the U.N. experts panel have called for an international war crimes probe, arguing that the government could not be expected to conduct a credible investigation of its own behaviour during the conflict, which ended in May 2009.

GM in massive investment in Ontario

General Motors will invest $68 million at its plant in Oshawa, ON, to build the new version of its Chevy Impala sedan, a move that will save 350 jobs as the automaker streamlines its Canadian operations. The new new vehicle will be done at a so-called flex assembly line in the industrial city east of Toronto. The plant employs more than 4,400 people and has undergone many changes this past year, recently launching the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Camaro Convertible and Chevrolet Equinox.

The announcement follows a decision by GM earlier this year to build the new Cadillac XTS at the Oshawa plant. That decision created or saved 400 jobs.

Investors turn thumbs down on RIM

Investors reacted badly on Friday, as Research In Motion its shares were down 12 per cent after announcing disappointing financial results and a delay in the rollout of new BlackBerrys aimed at the U.S. market. Shares in the Waterloo, ON., company were down $1.90 to $13.90 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The BlackBerry maker's market share in the lucrative American smartphone market is about 10 per cent this year, down from 15 per cent in 2010, and RIM has said it will focus on winning over more customers south of the border. RIM has announced it will not roll out its new generation of BlackBerrys until late 2012 due to a delay in getting a chipset that will give the smartphones longer battery life.


TSX on Friday: 11,635 + 131. Dollar: US.96. Euro: $1.35. Oil: $93.93 + .06.

Obama associate backs Canadian pipeline project

U.S. President Barack Obama's former national security adviser went to bat for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, saying the project "serves the national security interests of the United States" and should be approved. The support came from Gen. Jim Jones, who left the administration in 2010 in a conference call hosted by the American Petroleum Institute, a major pipeline proponent.

Gen. Jones says the $7 billion pipeline will help end American dependence on oil from often hostile OPEC regimes in addition to creating thousands of jobs in the U.S. The show of support came as Keystone remained in the spotlight on Capitol Hill, with Republicans in the House of Representatives insisting that their payroll tax cut bill will include a measure aimed at forcing approval of the pipeline within 60 days, well before next year's presidential election.



Former National Hockey League player and coach Mike Milbury is facing charges of assaulting and threatening a 12-year-old peewee hockey player. Police say Milbury was serving as an assistant coach on his son's team when he allegedly attacked a player on the opposing team during a Dec. 9 game at a Boston-area rink.


British Columbia on Friday: snow north, rain south, high C6 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse -7, Yellowknife -13, Iqaluit -19. Alberta: mix sun cloud. Saskatchewan: snow north, mix sun cloud south. Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Edmonton 0, Regina -7, Winnipeg -10. Ontario: mix sun cloud. Quebec: rain. Toronto, Montreal -3, Ottawa 2. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton, Charlottetown 7, Halifax 8, St. John's 5.