Thursday, December 15, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal

Wheat Board seeks injunction to preserve monopoly

The Canadian Wheat Board wants a court injunction against the federal government's plan to reform the agency. Board Chairman Allen Oberg says the board will ask Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench to declare Ottawa's move invalid and to stop any changes until the case is heard. The government has tabled a bill to strip the wheat board of its monopoly on western wheat and barley sales. Last week, Federal Court of Canada ruled the bill was illegal because the law governing the wheat board requires a referendum among farmers before major changes are made. The government is appealing the ruling.

Federal, provincial ministers discussing lintractable health costs

Canada's top finance ministers will try at a meeting next week to come to grips with the thorny problem of how to limit the rising costs of the country's universal public health-care system, as the population ages. Since 2004, the federal government has been increasing by 6 percent a year the amount of money it provides them to help pay for the system. It has committed itself to keep on doing so through 2016. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper sounded a warning on Nov. 25 that both levels of government recognize that the cost of the health-care system cannot continue to rise more quickly than revenues. Federal and provincial finance ministers will meet in Victoria, BC, next Monday to debate the problem.

Federal minister, embattled native chief meet

Third-party management imposed by Ottawa will be at the top of the agenda Thursday morning in Thunder Bay when federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan meets with the chief of the troubled Attawapiskat reserve. Chief Theresa Spence says the band will not co-operate with an overseer appointed by Ottawa to control her band's finances as the community struggles to deal with a housing and poverty crisis. The minister has said he won't back down from third-party management.

Other native leaders whose bands are under third-party control say conflict is the norm in such a situation because the problems on troubled reserves are longstanding and complex. The leaders also say the third-party system is not set up to deal with the underlying problems. Mr. Duncan and Chief Spence are meeting Thursday morning in Thunder Bay, ON, about 600 kilometres southwest of Attawapiskat.

Number of federal candidates to rise by 30

Canada's next federal election will have candidates running for office in 30 more constituencies than the last general vote this past May. The governing Conservative Party has used its majority in the House of Commons to pass a bill to add 30 seats to give fairer representation of the fastest growing provinces. That would mean 338 seats would be up for election in 2015, with the province of Ontario getting 15 more and British Columbia and Alberta each getting another six. Three more seats would go to Quebec.

Prince returns to Canada to mark jubilee

Canada will receive a royal visit next year when Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 60th year on the British throne. Her son Prince Charles and wife Camilla will represent the Queen during a visit to Canada. Their itinerary will be announced next month. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will limit their jubilee year trips to the United Kingdom. Canada will also contribute to four days of celebration in London to mark the Queen's jubilee.

Free-trade talks with India on again

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast has announced the start on Wednesday of a third round of free trade negotiations with India. Mr. Fast is attending a World Trade Organization conference. in Geneva. The minister says the negotiations started in November 2010 and are to conclude in 2013, Canadian officials said a deal could result in a tripling of bilateral trade to $15 billion annually by 2015 in sectors ranging from agriculture, resources and chemicals, services, transport equipment, machinery and equipment. Over the last five years, Canada has concluded new trade agreements with nine countries and is holding ongoing negotiations with close to 50 others.

Questions linger about NB nuclear spill

A conservation group is calling on officials to release more information about a spill of radioactive water at Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power plant. David Coon, policy director at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, says there are too many unanswered questions about Tuesday's spill at the Point Lepreau nuclear facility.

Earlier in the day, provincial Energy Minister Craig Leonard provided the legislature with an update on the incident, saying four to six litres of radioactive heavy water was spilled. Mr. Leonard said the spill was cleaned up by staff and there are no health or environmental concerns. But Mr. says Coon the public needs to know more about what happened. The Crown utility company NB Powersays the spill happened due to a leak.

Germany harps on budget discipline

Germany's chancellor and central banker urged Europe to stick to stricter budget discipline and forget about one-time solutions after financial markets judged that another EU summit had failed to resolve the euro zone's debt crisis. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann, speaking separately, rebuffed pressure for the European Central Bank to intervene decisively to stop the crisis from escalating.

Mrs. Merkel told parliament on Wednesday it would take years, not weeks, to overcome the debt problems but Europe would emerge stronger with patience and endurance. Mr. Weidmann, an influential voice in the ECB, made clear his opposition to increasing purchases of troubled euro zone states' debt. Meanwhile, Italy's borrowing costs rose to a record on Wednesday as neither last week's European summit nor tough new austerity measures by the government of Mario Monti succeeded in restoring market confidence.

Egypt votes again

Egyptians turned out in large numbers Wednesday for a second round of parliamentary elections, with Islamists looking to boost their already overwhelming lead and liberal voters concerned the outcome will push the country in a more religious direction. Two Islamist blocs won close to 70 per cent of seats in the first round on Nov. 28-29.

The secular and liberal forces that largely drove Egypt's uprising were trounced, failing to turn their achievement into a victory at the polls. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most organized and well-known party. is the big winner in the first round with about 47 per cent of contested seats. The election is the first since Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster and is the freest in Egypt's modern history.

Syrian bloodbath continues

Activists in Syria say violence across the country killed at least 25 people Wednesday, including eight soldiers who were gunned down by army defectors in a retaliatory ambush after government troops destroyed a civilian car. It was the second day in a row in which an attack by President Bashar Assad's forces on civilians appears to have brought a quick and deadly act of revenge by anti-regime fighters. The attack came hours after troops fired upon a civilian car travelling through the village of Khattab in the countryside of the central province of Hama, killing all five passengers.

One activist told the Associated Press that gunmen then ambushed a convoy of four military jeeps passing through the nearby village of al-Asharna on the northern outskirts of the city of Hama, spraying it with bullets. The gunmen are believed to be military defectors seeking revenge for the attack targeting the car.

Pakistani president to return after medical treatment

A Pakistani government spokesman says Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been discharged from a hospital in Dubai and will stay in his house in the Gulf state before returning home. The official says Mr. Zardari was released late Wednesday and will fly back to Pakistan. Mr. Zardari's illness and his sudden trip abroad have triggered rumours that he could be set to resign, or even be ousted in a military coup.

Former Ivorian leader's lawyers plead lack of resources

Ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's lawyers Wednesday told the international war crimes court they did not have the means to be "effective" because they lacked legal aid and resources. The former west African strongman's lawyers were back for a status hearing before the International Criminal Court, where Mr. Gbagbo faces four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and inhuman acts.

The 66-year-old Mr. Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be brought before the court and made a first appearance last week following his transfer to The Hague on Nov. 30 from northern Ivory Coast, where he had been held under house arrest since April.

Israel backtracks in Jerusalem

Israeli police say a footbridge to a disputed Jerusalem holy site has been reopened, reducing the risk of a potential outbreak of unrest. The walkway's closure earlier this week was to have been a prelude to its demolition. Jerusalem municipal authorities say it was a fire hazard and structurally unsound. Israeli police says municipal authorities reopened the footbridge Wednesday. The municipality said in a statement Tuesday that the government had called off the demolition plans and will be shoring up the bridge instead.

Arab activists honoured

The European Parliament honoured five Arab Spring activists with its Sakharov human rights prize Wednesday, including the Tunisian who sparked region-wide uprisings by setting himself on fire. Just two of the winners, who share a 50,000 euro prize, were in the parliament for the presentation ceremony. Tunisian fruitseller Mohamed Bouazizi won the award posthumously for freedom of thought, while two Syrians, lawyer Razan Zeitouneh and cartoonist Ali Farzat, were prevented from attending. The other winners were Egypt's Asmaa Mahfouz and Libyan dissident Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi.

Mr. Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate, set himself on fire on Dec. 17 to protest abuses under the 23-year Tunisian regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. He died two weeks later.

WestJet makes new Asian arrangement

WestJet Airlines Ltd. has signed an interline deal with Japan Airlines that will make it easier for passengers to connect between the two airlines. The Calgary-based carrier says the code-share agreement starts on Thursday. Travelers will be able to link from Japan Airlines flights landing in Vancouver which well then connect to WestJet flights destined for Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Code-share agreements allow both airlines to sell seats on each other's planes using the same two-digit code. Customers of either airline are able to travel over connecting flights on one ticket, get boarding passes for all flight legs at check-in and tag bags through to their final destination.


TSX on Wednesday: 11,543 - 217. Dollar: US.96. Euro: $1.34. Oil: $95.02 - $5.12.



The dream season continues for Dwayne De Rosario. The 33-year-old from Toronto has been named Canadian men's soccer player of the year for the fourth time. De Rosario earned Major League Soccer's most valuable player honours last month and he also won the Golden Boot as the league's leading scorer.


British Columbia on Thursday: rain south, snow north, high C7 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse -1, Yellowknife -17, Iqaluit -14. Alberta: snow south, mix sun cloud north. Saskatchewan: snow. Manitoba: cloud. Edmonton -6, Regina -7, Winnipeg -9. Ontario: rain south, snow north. Quebec: rain. Toronto 12, Ottawa, Montreal 9. Maritimes: rain. Newfoundland and Labrador: mix sun cloud. Fredericton 3, Halifax 4, Charlottetown 2, St. John's -2.