Saturday, February 4, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Economy stagnates
Statistics Canada reported Friday that employment rose by only 2,300 jobs in January, statistically meaningless and continuing a seven-month stretch of disappointing results. With more people looking for work during the month in Canada, the paltry gain was not sufficient to keep the unemployment rate from rising for the third time in four months to 7.6 per cent, the highest since April. The continued weakness in the Canadian economy and particularly on the jobs front has some economists calling for policy-makers to act to stimulate the economy. The consensus going into Friday's report had been that Canada would see a 25,000 job increase, given that the labour market had been

weak for some time.

'Honour' killer appeals
A father convicted of killing almost half of his family has joined his son in filing an intention to appeal. Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, were convicted Sunday of four counts each of first-degree murder. They were found guilty of killing Shafia's daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and his first wife in a polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52. The judge described the killings as being motivated by the Shafias' "twisted concept of honour." Shafia senior has now filed an inmate notice of appeal, the first step in the process toward filing a full appeal at a later date. His son filed one earlier this week. They both list the same three grounds for appeal: that the judge admitted hearsay from their dead family members, that he admitted evidence from an "honour killings" expert and his instructions to the jury were flawed.

High court rules on corporate secrets
The Supreme Court of Canada has issued a landmark ruling on what constitutes a corporate trade secret under the Access to Information Act.

The 6-3 decision makes its harder for companies that rely on exemptions in the act to block the disclosure of documents that may contain sensitive information that could hurt their business. The high court was ruling on a dispute between Health Canada and the pharmaceutical firm Merck Frosst Canada that dates back more than a decade. It started when an unidentified requester tried to access correspondence between the company and the department on the approval process for an asthma drug. Health Canada and Merck Frosst eventually found themselves before the Federal Court of Appeal, which sided with the government's decision to release some censored documents. The Supreme Court says the company didn't adequately make the case for keeping certain documents secret.

Quebec warns Ottawa on pensions
The premier of the Canadian province of Quebec is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to abuse his majority. Jean Charest says it's a bad idea for the federal government to act unilaterally on pension reform. He says the federal government needs to consult because any changes will have an impact not only on Canadians' daily lives but on provincial budgets. Mr. Harper is planning reforms to the pension system and says details will be released in the federal budget expected at the end of the month or in early March.

Apology offered in fake immigration kerfuffel
Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has apologized after it was learned six federal bureaucrats posed as new Canadians in a citizenship ceremony. The six were asked to pretend they were new Canadians for the citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on the Sun News network when not enough new immigrants showed up for the event. Mr. Kenney insists he had no knowledge of the idea to use the bureaucrats on the show.

Canadian lawmakers display support of threatened seal hunt
A number of Canadian Members of Parliament from all parties wore pins on Thursday depicting a seal. The pins were intended to show support for Canada's much criticized sealing industry. Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield says the industry is important to Canada's northern and eastern regions, calling it both humane and sustainable. In December, the government confirmed that the Russian Federation, the world's largest buyer of Canadian seal products, decided to ban the import of harp seal pelts. Enviromentalists have repeatedly called Canada's annual seal hunt, inhumane.

U.S. claims diplomatic efforts to end Syria crisis approach success
Syrian activists report that deadly clashes erupted between government troops and rebels in suburbs of the Syrian capital and villages in the country's south Friday, causing fighting that killed at least 23 people, including nine soldiers. President Bashar Assad is trying to crush an 11-month-old uprising with a sweeping crackdown that has so far claimed thousands of lives, but neither the government nor the protesters are backing down. The fighting spread to new areas Friday, with army dissidents reportedly seizing a security post in the rural town of Andan in the northwestern Aleppo province. It would be the first time rebels have struck so close to the powerful merchant city of Aleppo. Diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the crisis have gained momentum. In Washington, a senior State Department official said Friday the U.S. is "cautiously optimistic" of strong support for a new UN Security Council resolution condemning the bloodshed in Syria and calling for a political transition in the country.

Egyptian soccer riot triggers more clashes
Rock-throwing protesters fought riot police through clouds of tear gas near Egypt's Interior Ministry on a second day of clashes triggered by the deaths in Port Said of 74 people. Witnesses and the ambulance service say a demonstrator and an army officer were reported dead in Cairo and in the city of Suez two people were killed on Friday as police used live rounds to hold back crowds trying to break into a police station and fought in front of the state security headquarters. Hundreds of protesters blocked roads near state security headquarters in Egypt's second-largest city Alexandria. Most of those killed in the Port Said football stadium on Wednesday night were crushed in a stampede and the government declared three days of mourning. Protesters hold the military-led authorities responsible.

Iran says it will retaliate against sanctions
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warns Iran will retaliate over Western-backed oil sanctions and any threat of attack. He made the comment Friday after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he feared a possible Israeli strike as early as April against Iranian targets. Khamenei's statement is the first direct response to tighter sanctions imposed by the West in recent weeks to force Iran to abandon a nuclear program. The West says Iran is using the program to secretly build atomic weapons, a claim Tehran denies.

Sudan warns of war with new neighbour
Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Friday tensions with South Sudan over

oil transit payments could lead to war. He told state television: "There is a possibility". He said Sudan wanted peace but added: "We will go to war if we are forced to go to war." Sudan is locked in a row with South Sudan over sharing oil

revenues after the South took away three-quarters of the oil production when it became independent in July under a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war. The landlocked new African nation needs to export its crude

through a Sudanese port and pipelines but both sides have failed to reach a deal, prompting Khartoum to seize some southern oil as compensation for what it calls unpaid fees.

Somalia food crisis abates, remains severe
The United Nations said Friday that Somalia's famine is over, but the world body's Food and Agricultural Organization warned that continued assistance is needed to stop the region from slipping back. The world body moved the crisis from the top step of a five-point scale based on the death rate to the fourth step, formally reducing it from a "famine" to a "humanitarian emergency". However, the UN says that 2.3 million people remain still need assistance. That represents 31 per cent of the country's population.

Spain imposes real estate rules
Spain's new conservative government on Friday imposed sweeping new rules it hopes will flush out bad property loans and foreclosed property from the financial system, restore confidence in banks and set the ailing economy back on track toward recovery. The regulations approved by Economy Minister Luis de Guindos and the rest of cabinet require banks to set aside an estimated 65 billion more in provisions to cover toxic real estate assets by the end of the year. Those unable to do so can present merger plans by the end of May and get government assistance from an existing bailout fund. To avoid being forced to raise so much money for the real estate provisions, banks will face enormous pressure to sell assets like land and foreclosed or unsold homes at lower market prices. Spain rode an unprecedented building boom from the 1990s until the financial crisis hit in 2008, but the real estate bubble that burst left it with an unemployment rate of 22.8 per cent, the highest among the 17 nations using the euro.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday: 12,577 + 24. Canadian dollar: US100. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $97.74 + $1.38.

Machinery maker in Ontario to close
The Ontario government has confirmed that American-based heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. will close its

Electro-Motive plant in London, ON. Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid says he has heard

Caterpillar will close the locomotive plant in London, where 450 workers were locked out Jan. 1. Just two days ago, Premier Dalton McGuinty criticized Caterpillar, although not by name, during a speech in London, saying the company was not living up to Ontarians expectations. Electro-Motive had demanded pay cuts of up to 50 per cent when it

locked out the employees, who are represented by The Canadian Auto Workers union.

Biggest oilsands project to get bigger
Imperial Oil Ltd. is going ahead with a $2-billion expansion to its Cold Lake oilsands operation in northeastern Alberta, part of a plan to double overall production by the end of the decade. The project, called Nabiye, will add 40,000 barrels per day of bitumen production when it starts up by end of 2014, a 25 per cent boost. The energy producer, refiner and retailer is in the midst of a 10-year plan to double output to 600,000 barrels per day by 2020. Cold Lake produced a record average of 160,000 barrels of bitumen per day in 2011 during the fourth quarter, and added $70 million to Imperial's profit during that three-month period, helping drive a 26 per cent jump in quarterly profits. Cold Lake is the largest thermal oilsands development in the world.

Ottawa, Alberta agree on oilsands monitor
A new plan to monitor the environmental effects of the oilsands will watch for more contaminants, in more places, more often. Details were revealed Friday by federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and his provincial counterpart Diana McQueen. The long-awaited plan from the federal and Alberta governments will be run by bureaucrats instead of an independent agency. Scientists who studied the old system proposed an arm's-length commission that would report directly to the environment minister. Increased monitoring is to begin as early as the spring.

The plan is considered crucial to answering critics who charge that the multibillion-dollar industry is being allowed to expand far in advance of government's ability to regulate it.

British Columbia on Saturday: mix sun cloud. high C7 Vancouver. Yukon: snow. Northwest Territories, Nunavut: mix sun cloud. Whitehorse -4, Yellowknife -5, Iqaluit -20. Prairies: sun. Edmonton, Winnipeg 1, Regina 0. Ontario: snow north, mix sun cloud south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 1, Ottawa, Montreal -6. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia: mix sun cloud. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland: snow. Fredericton -6, Halifax -5, Charlottetown -11, St. John's -3.