Thursday, February 9, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 8 February 2012
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather
Canadian

Canada-China trade accord took 18 years
The conclusion of 18 years of talks with the Chinese for an investment protection deal marks a historic step forward in Canada-China relations, the prime minister said Wednesday. At the end of his first full day in China, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper held up the foreign investment promotion and protection deal as the result of legwork to repair a bruised relationship between the two countries. A foreign investment promotion and protection deal gives foreign investors assurances they'll be treated the same as domestic companies and allows for arbitration at an international tribunal-type body in disputes. It still has to undergo legal review by both countries. The deal was one of several signed on Mr. Harper's first full day of a three-city tour of China, his second visit since being elected prime minister. Mr. Harper sat down with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to talk economics, but at least half the meeting was spent on other topics. Mr. Harper raised concerns about China's decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would have applied greater pressure on Syria in the wake of increased violence in that country. Officials said the prime minister also raised the case of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen serving a life sentence for speaking out on behalf of China's Uighur minority.



Order to spy service arouses ire
Human rights groups and opposition leaders in Canada were in uproar after the nation's public safety minister this week defended the use of information extracted through torture "if Canadian lives are at stake." According a directive obtained by Canadian media through an access to information request, Ottawa ordered its spy service in 2010 not to discard information gleaned from torture abroad, after it had publicly insisted it would not use "tainted" information. Opposition Members of Parliament on Tuesday seized on the policy reversal to suggest that the Conservative government was turning a blind eye to torture. "You are indirectly supporting torture, encouraging torture," said opposition New Democratic Party MP Jack Harris. Amnesty International also condemned the new policy. To this, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded in the House: "Information obtained by torture is always discounted. However, the problem is whether one can safely ignore the information if Canadian lives and property are at stake."


Western Canada's population outstrips that of East
The population in Western Canada has finally surpassed that on the other side of Ontario, a trend that has been decades in the making, but was compounded by the recent recession. The first data from the 2011 census, released Wednesday, showed that there were 33.5 million people living in Canada in May of last year and that for the first time ever, more of them are living west of Ontario than in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. At the national level, there was a 5.9 per cent surge in population from the previous census in 2006, giving Canada the fastest growth pace of all the countries in the G8 grouping. Within the country's borders, however, the pace is far from uniform. Ontario is still an axis with 38.4 per cent of the population. But Ontario's rate of growth continues to slow as immigrants and locals alike set their sights elsewhere. Now, the West claims a 30.7 per cent share of the total, compared to 30.6 per cent in Quebec and the Maritimes.


Cost of public pensions called exaggerated
A new report from Canada's budget watchdog suggests the government may be exaggerating the perils of maintaining public pensions at current levels. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page says Ottawa's long-term
fiscal sustainability is sound even as the number of retired baby boomers explodes. The report finds that even if Old Age Security and other income supports for seniors were somewhat enriched, the government still retains fiscally flexibility. Ottawa has signalled it is preparing to cut back on what it spends on OAS in the future, arguing that the program is becoming unsustainable due to the aging of the population. But Mr. Page says that costs of the programs are projected to peak in about 20 years and then tail off.


Cost of federal pardon jumps
The cost of applying for a criminal pardon will quadrupled on Feb. 23. The federal government says the pardon application fee will jump to $631, up from $150. The increase had already been announced. The government says recent changes making it tougher to get a pardon have also made the program more work-intensive and costly. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says people convicted of criminal offences should pay their own way when applying for a pardon. A pardon doesn't erase a person's criminal record, but can make it easier to get a job, travel and return to society. Critics say the fee hike will only make it harder for convicts trying to turn their lives around.


Driver caused death of Ontario migrants
Police say the driver of a van hit by a truck in Ontario this week caused the crash that killed 10 Peruvian migrant workers and a trucker by failing to stop at a highway intersection. The large truck collided Monday evening with a passenger van carrying 13 people at the intersection of two rural roads near Stratford, a small city of 30,000. Police also say the van driver was not licensed to ferry so many passengers in a vehicle. Hampstead Poultry farm owner Albert Burgers said this week the 10 Peruvians who died in the crash were part of a crew that had just finished work for the day at his farm. Ten of the people in the van and the driver of the truck that broadsided the van were killed.





International

Govt. assault on Syrian city relentless
Syrian forces pressed a relentless assault on the protest city of Homs on Wednesday reportedly killing 50 civilians, hours after President Bashar al-Assad said he was committed to ending the bloodshed. The barrage of gunfire, mortars and shells was launched at dawn and continued all day. State television said a car bomb ripped through the central city, killing and wounding civilians as well as security officers. Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin insisted any outside intervention to stop the violence would have the destructive effect of "a bull in a china shop." But France and Britain dismissed Moscow's efforts to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed in Syria and urged Russia to use its influence with its Middle East ally to stop the violence. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 69 people were killed across the country on Wednesday, including 50 in Homs alone.


Little hope of finding more disaster survivors in Philippines
Philippine officials conceded Wednesday that there was little hope of finding any survivors among 71 people still buried in landslides set off by a powerful earthquake, as jittery residents stayed away from their homes amid a flurry of aftershocks. Soldiers, rescue volunteers and villagers using picks and shovels have not found anyone alive under concrete rubble and tons of rocks and mountain soil since the magnitude-6.9 quake struck two townships in central Negros Oriental province on Monday. So far, 26 bodies have been recovered and identified. Benito Ramos, head of the Office of Civil Defence, accompanied President Benigno Aquino III on a visit to the disaster area, during which Mr. Aquino ordered the immediate construction of detour roads to revive commerce and speed up the delivery of relief supplies. The president criticized shoddy road construction, while Mr. Ramos said bridges that were damaged were not built to sustain such a strong quake.



China's minimum wage to rise.
China's government promised Wednesday to raise minimum wages by 13 per cent a year through 2015 and to launch measures to generate 45 million new jobs. Communist leaders face pressure to spread China's prosperity more widely and narrow a yawning gap between a wealthy elite and the poor majority. Beijing froze wage rates to help companies stay afloat after the 2008 global crisis but has boosted minimum pay in many areas over the past two years following worker protests. Wednesday's Cabinet announcement promised tax breaks and loans for small employers and for jobless workers who want to start their own businesses.


EU critical of Romania, Belgium
The European Union criticized Romania and Bulgaria on Wednesday for being too slow to reform their judicial systems or to combat corruption and organized crime. The move casts doubt on the two Balkan nations joining the borderless Schengen zone anytime soon. The Netherlands said despite some progress in the two nations, they need to do more. In July, the Dutch plan to reassess the position that keeps the two nations out of the visa-free travel zone. The European Commission said in two reports Wednesday that Romania and Bulgaria are still lagging in expectations five years after they joined the 27-nation EU. The Netherlands has led opposition to the two Balkan nations joining Europe's borderless free-travel zone, arguing that would open the 25-nation zone to an increase in organized crime and corruption.


Supporters of overthrown Maldives president rally
Supporters of the Maldives former president rioted through the streets and seized some police stations Wednesday to demand his reinstatement as the country's new leader appealed for an end to the political turmoil roiling this Indian Ocean nation. Allies said former leader Mohamed Nasheed and other top party officials were beaten by police in the street chaos. The nation's first democratically elected president, Mr. Nasheed resigned Tuesday after police joined months of street protests against his rule and soldiers defected. Late Wednesday evening, Nasheed supporters seized some small police stations but larger ones stayed under official control. Mr. Nasheed said Wednesday he was forced to resign at gunpoint and promised to fight to return to office.



Russia discovers lake in Antarctic
After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have reached a gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years. Finally touching the surface of Lake Vostok, the largest of nearly 400 subglacial lakes in Antarctica, is a major discovery avidly anticipated by scientists around the world. The Russian team hit the lake Sunday at the depth of 3,769 metres, 1,300 kilometressoutheast of the South Pole in the central part of the continent.





Financial

Markets
Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday: 12,521 + 9. Canadian dollar: US1.01. Euro: $1.32. Oil: $99.15 + .74.


Takeover bid lowers TMX profit


TMX Group Inc. says its profits dropped 21 per cent in the fourth quarter as the operator of Canada's largest stock exchange booked lower revenue from issuer services and cash markets trading. The firm said its net income fell to $52.7 million, or 70 cents per common share, during the fourth quarter of 2011, a decrease from $67 million, or 90 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier. TMX Group's higher expenses included $5.7 million in pre-tax
costs related to the proposed Maple Group acquisition. Maple Group, a consortium of 13 financial institutions looking to take control of the owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange, said last week it was extending its takeover offer by about a month to Feb. 29. The group says it will continue to extend the deadline until it receives a verdict from provincial and federal regulators, which are reviewing how the deal to amalgamate trading and clearing platforms
would affect Canada's capital markets.



WestJet starts local carrier
WestJet says it will launch a regional carrier to give it a presence in smaller markets where competitor Air Canada
is currently the lone operator. The airline said its employees voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strategy. WestJet's fleet currently comprises one type of aircraft, Boeing 737s, that can carry between 119 and 166 passengers. Those planes are too big to economically shuttle passengers between small destinations like Lethbridge, AB., or Hamilton, ON. The regional carrier, which would operate separately from the main airline, would use 70-seat aircraft like Bombardier's Q400s.



Airlines amend advertising policy
Two of Canada's biggest airlines are launching new all-inclusive pricing that makes it easier to determine how much you are actually paying to fly. Both Air Canada and Porter unveiled plans to make advertised prices look more like final cost of a ticket by combining the extra charges that have been left out in the past. The new pricing structure will factor in all of the fees, surcharges and taxes, that customers wind up paying, which in some cases can virtually double the posted price of airline tickets. Air Canada has already introduced the "all-in" pricing approach, while Porter said it would begin to advertise the total cost of a flight on Friday. The changes come ahead of laws requiring more honest airfare ads expected later this year.





Sports

Sports
SKIING
Benjamin Thomsen of Invermere, BC, was third in the opening World Cup training session on the 2014 Sochi Olympics downhill course. Hannes Reichelt of Austria was the first-place finisher. The Canadian ended up about two-thirds of a second behind.




Weather

Weather
British Columbia on Thursday: rain, high C9 Vancouver. Yukon: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories, Nunavut: sun. Whitehorse -6, Yellowknife -19, Iqaluit -27. Alberta: snow south, mix sun cloud north. Saskatchewan, Manitoba; mix sun cloud. Edmonton, Regina -11, Winnipeg -9. Ontario: snow north, sun south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 4, Ottawa 0, Montreal -1. New Brunswick: sun. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton 0, Halifax, St. John's 1, Charlottetown -1.




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