Friday, February 24, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Canadian oil industry welcomes EU decision
Canada's energy Industry is welcoming a move by the European Union to delay a decision that would have labelled fuel derived from the oilsands as worse for climate change than conventional crude. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary says the proposed rule would have penalized oilsands-derived fuel and not other sources with similar greenhouse gas emissions. The group says industry wants to see all fuel sources compete on a level playing field. adds the industry will continue to oppose the measure as it goes before the Council of Europe, which is expected to rule on it in June. Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is also welcoming the results of the EU vote. Environmental groups are pledging to keep up their fight for the plan and blame the vote's outcome on heavy lobbying by the Canadian government and oil companies.

Canada gives emergency relief to Sahel
Canada is giving $41 million to help stop a famine in West Africa. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says the impending food security and nutrition crisis in the Sahel is a great concern. Mrs. Oda says Canada will continue to monitor the developing situation closely. She says as well that

the people in the Sahel region are in need of help to face their "unimaginable reality." The Sahel's western span has been ravaged by a severe drought that threatens to dwarf last year's famine in East Africa. The United Nations and other major international bodies are warning of a famine that could affect 23 million people across Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania unless a major global rescue effort is mounted. The world's aid agencies are still reeling from last year's full-blown famine further east in the Horn of Africa that killed tens of thousands and affected almost 10 billion in four countries, including Ethiopia and Somalia.

Montana governor backs Canadian pipeline
The governor of the U.S. state of Montana's governor says the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta's oilsands to the Gulf Coast will eventually be built

and he blames the delay on "jackasses" in Washington who have only recently discovered the issue. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, said in an

told The Canadian Press It's going to get built. The pipeline, which would extend the reach of an existing oil line that delivers crude to the U.S. Midwest, has become a major political flashpoint as U.S. President Barack Obama seeks re-election. Backers of the TransCanada project say it would create thousands of jobs and supplant crude imports from unfriendly countries. But it has also come under fire from critics who worry the pipeline would increase U.S. dependence on "dirty" oilsands crude and cause ecological harm to the American heartland in the event of a spill. In November, a decision on the project by the U.S. State Department was delayed until early 2013, after presidential elections, to work out a new route through Nebraska. Then the Obama administration rejected a permit because Republican efforts to force a decision within 60 days did not allow enough time to study the new route. Gov. Schweitzer said Keystone runs through Montana more than it does any other state and would be a boon for oil producers.

Ottawa tries to stem northern dropout rate
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has landed in a sunny but frigid Iqaluit to deliver $27 million for adult basic education in the North, in an attempt to help high-school dropouts qualify for productive jobs. Speaking at the Nunavut Arctic College, Harper announced that the money will be spread over five years, and shared by three colleges, one in each of the territories. Mr. Harper is a frequent flyer to the North, but this is only his second trip during the dead of winter. He has spoken frequently about the need to improve education among aboriginal peoples so that they can find jobs and become more prosperous and independent. But he has yet to substantially increase funding, despite a year of high-profile talks and research to put together a better plan.

Sentencing of abusive hockey coach set for March
It will be late next month before convicted Canadian sex offender Graham James is punished for his latest convictions. A judge in the province of Manitoba judge told the former junior hockey coach at his sentencing hearing Wednesday in the city of Winnipeg that she will reserve decision until March 20. James was convicted in December for repeated sexual assaults on two former players, Theo Fleury and Fleury's cousin, Todd Holt. In his victim-impact statement, Mr. Fleury estimated that James assaulted him at least 150 times. Mr. Fleury also played many seasons in the National Hockey League.

Researchers see continuing prosperity for Western Canada
A Conference Board report says Canada's booming Western provinces have been unfazed by an economic slowdown hitting the rest of the country. The think tank's most recent provincial outlook predicts the demographic and economic clout of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. will continue to grow. It says those provinces are a magnet for new Canadians, lured west by job prospects in the resources industries, as indicated in the recent Census data. The Conference Board suggests strong commodity prices will continue to boost the Western economies over the next two years. It also projects that economic growth in those provinces will be a full percentage point stronger than in the rest of the country this year and next. The Canadian economy is forecast to post real gross domestic product growth of 2.1 per cent in 2012.

Finance Minister seeks to allay budget anxieties
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the upcoming federal budget won't be an austerity-driven document. The minister says he'll focus on moderate measures to curb government spending, and encourages the provinces to follow suit in their budgets. Mr. Flaherty's comments in Toronto seemingly contradict previous signals that he's preparing to deliver a painful, cost-slashing budget next month. Government departments and agencies have been ordered to cut spending by up to 10 per cent, for savings of up to $8 billion annually.

Dozens killed in Iraq
A rapid series of attacks spread over a wide swath of Iraqi territory killed at least 50 people on Thursday, targeting mostly security forces in what appeared to be another strike by al-Qaida militants bent on destabilizing the country.

The apparently co-ordinated bombings and shootings unfolded over four hours in the capital Baghdad, where most of the deaths occurred, and 11 other cities. At least 225 people were wounded.

It was the latest of a series of large-scale attacks that insurgents have launched every few weeks since the last U.S. troops left Iraq in mid-December at the end of a nearly 10-year war.

Russia, China adamant against Syria intervention
Russia's foreign ministry says Moscow and Beijing remain opposed to any foreign interference in Syria, as Russia worked to shore up international support for its position ahead of a major international conference. Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions backing Arab League plans aimed at ending the conflict in Syria and condemning President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on opponents. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's office said he called his Chinese counterpart on Thursday and they "reaffirmed the joint position of Russia and China." Officials from the United States, Europe and Arab nations were meeting in London on Thursday to craft details of an ultimatum to Assad demanding that he agree to a cease-fire and allow humanitarian aid into areas hardest hit by the crackdown. The ultimatum was to be presented at a major international

conference Friday in Tunisia on the Syrian conflict.

Putin remembers Napoleon
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin evoked Russia's historic 1812 victory over Napoleon Bonaparte on Thursday in a patriotic speech to tens of thousands of people intended to show he has real support and counter opposition

protests ahead of presidential elections. Addressing his supporters in a Moscow sports stadium, the prime minister recalled some of Russia's finest military victories and promised to win another key battle: "the battle for Russia's future." Speaking just over a week before a presidential election he is expected to win, Mr. Putin called on people "not to betray the motherland" and repeated his by now familiar promise of pledging to protect Russia from foreign interference.

Somalia to get more international aid
International powers pledged Thursday to boost aid for Somalia to tackle Islamist militancy, piracy and political instability, warning that failure to help now could hurt the rest of the world. In a final communiqué, 55 countries and organizations gathered in London said they would act to punish anyone trying to prevent a peace process under which the fragile transitional government will hand over power in August. But even as the leaders discussed the Horn of Africa nation's attempts to end two decades of chaos, Somalia's Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab insurgents vowed to "wage war" against any international peace initiative. UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those attending the talks in London, along with Somalia's president and prime minister, the Arab League and the African Union. Canada was represented by Foreign Minister John Baird.

EU set to move against Iranian  banks
A senior EU official says the bloc is preparing regulations that will shut out Iran's banks from a major financial clearinghouse used by virtually every country in the world. The official said Tuesday the regulations are being worked on, but should be adopted "rather quickly." The move is part of an unprecedented escalation of economic pressure by the United States and the EU meant to halt Iran's suspected drive for nuclear weapons. An EU embargo on Iranian oil will take effect this summer. The Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication said last week it would comply with EU instructions to cut off the Iranian banks.

U.S. soldier charged in leaks case

WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning was formally charged on Thursday ahead of a court-martial that could see the U.S. soldier sentenced to life in prison. Manning was charged with 22 counts, the most serious of which is "aiding the enemy," for allegedly turning over a trove of classified US documents to WikiLeaks in one of the most serious intelligence breaches in U.S. history. The 24-year-old Manning is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he was serving in Iraq. The leak of the military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables sparked a firestorm by disclosing the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior US officials. WikiLeaks supporters view the site as a whistleblower that exposed U.S. wrongdoing and see Manning as a political prisoner.

Venezuelan president won't name interim leader
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez isn't naming a fill-in as he prepares to head to Cuba for surgery to remove a potentially cancerous tumour. The nation's congress on Thursday unanimously approved permission for Chavez to leave,a formality required by the nation's constitution. Pro-Chavez lawmakers scoffed at opposition suggestions

that Mr. Chavez might need the vice-president to temporarily assume office. Vice-President Elias Jaua says the president is fully capable of continuing his duties. Mr. Chavez is expected to travel to Cuba on Friday or Saturday.

Laid off Caterpillar workers get good severance deal
Unionized workers at Electro-Motive Canada have overwhelmingly ratified a closeout deal that gives them richer-than-required severance, bonuses and allows for the orderly shutdown of the U.S. company's locomotive plant in London, ON. About 500 workers at the plant voted 95 per cent Thursday in favour of the deal, negotiated by the Canadian Auto Workers union earlier this week. Heavy equipment giant Caterpillar Inc. and shut down the plant three weeks ago after a month-long lockout over a wage dispute with workers.

The closeout deal provides three weeks pay for each year unionized workers have been on the job, a measure well beyond current provincial labour standards. The agreement also pays workers ratification bonuses of $1,500 each and limited company-paid health care benefits, while Caterpillar will complete funding the employees' pension trust.

Transport dept. approves northern pipeline project

A review by Transport Canada into the Northern Gateway project says huge oil tankers can safely travel in and out of the port of Kitimat, BC. The department has filed its report to the regulatory panel weighing Enbridge Inc.'s controversial project, which would connect Alberta crude to Asian markets via a shipping terminal at Kitimat. It says there will always be residual risk in any project, but it hasn't found any regulatory concerns with Northern Gateway. The report says the proposed shipping routes are appropriate for the very large oil tankers that would travel in and out of the

terminal, although there are some narrow parts where caution is needed for two-way traffic. And it says there may be an increased threat to marine mammals, such as whales, along the shipping route, and encourages Enbridge to take steps to minimize any potential harm. Northern Gateway has attracted fierce opposition from First Nations, environmental and other groups who fear an oil spill could cause grave ecological harm.

Unionized Air Canada workers vote against contract deal
Canada's biggest airline is running into labour difficulties with its largest union. Air Canada's 8,600 maintenance workers, baggage handlers and ground crews have rejected a tentative contract signed earlier this month. Almost two-thirdsof the workers who cast ballots voted against the agreement. Although the workers have given their union a 78-per cent strike mandate, Air Canada says there is enough time to avoid a disruption of services.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,731 + 30. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.32. Oil: $108.15 + $1.87.

In the National Hockey League, the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night were trying to do what no other team has been able to in the last 23 trips to Joe Louis Arena -- beat the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings host the Canucks riding their league-record 23-game home win streak.