Saturday, February 25, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Canadian govt. sticks to new plane model
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay is reaffirming Canada's plan to buy a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets. He made the pledge before an audience of hundreds, including many defence industry executives, at a major military conference in Ottawa. The minister also says the government won't pay a penny more than budgeted for the fleet of 65 stealth fighter jets. Controversy has surrounded the F-35 procurement bcause the plane's manufacturer, the U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. defence department, are moving to restructure the program for a third time. The government insists it will pay US$75 million for each aircraft, but critics say the true cost could be more than double that.

Central banker gives warning on interest rates
Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney is defending the way the central bank sets interest rates. He suggested Friday that monetary policy can be used to address concerns about people taking on too much debt if it threatens the economy.

In a speech in New York, Carney said low interest rates over a prolonged period of time can cloud financial judgment and prompt companies and people to borrow too much for too long. However, he says the central bank's framework allows for flexibility to address those concerns, While the first line of defence is regulation and supervision, Mr. Carney says monetary policy can also be used to address imbalances that may have economy-wide implications. The Bank of Canada chief noted that Canadian banks are reinforcing their balance sheets to meet the Basel III requirements ahead of schedule and the federal government has tightened home mortgage financing rules to help prevent consumers from borrowing more than they can handle. However, the Bank of Canada warned earlier this week that Canadians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a housing correction.

Ottawa hails U.S. decision on Lakes
Canada on Friday welcomed New York state's reversal on proposed ballast water rules aimed at preventing foreign species from invading the Great Lakes, restrictions Ottawa said would have hampered trade. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced it will not implement the new regulations, which would have impacted shipping in the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway and affected billions of dollars in commerce.

Instead, New York says the state would adhere to U.S. federal laws. A spokesman for Transport Minister Pierre Poilièvre said Canada applauds New York State for withdrawing its unattainable ballast water requirements and agrees that uniform standards are the best way to protect the marine environment. Ballast water is known to pick up plants and animals. The unloading of unmanaged ballast water in Great Lakes ports has led to invasive species being introduced in the past into waters that Canada shares with the United States. But Canada has said adequate measures have been taken to minimize this risk, noting that there have been no new species attributed to ballast water reported in the Great Lakes since 2006.

Natives dismayed by pipeline finding
First Nations along British Columbia's North and Central Coast say it's unthinkable that Transport Canada has approved the use of oil supertankers in B.C.'s treacherous inlets and marine passages. Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt says the department ruling ignores safety issues such as poor weather, human error, and the narrowness of the waterways themselves. Transport Canada filed its report on Thursday to the regulatory panel weighing Enbridge Inc.'s $5.5-billion proposal to ship Alberta crude to the West Coast through a Northern Gateway pipeline and export the oil to Asian markets on supertankers loaded in Kitimat. The report does not identify any regulatory concerns and says residual risks are present in any project.

More charged in NHL riot
The Crown has approved charges against five more people in the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, bringing to 57 the total number of suspects now facing charges. The latest group includes four men and a woman ranging in age from 19 to 26, all of them from outside Vancouver, and all of them charged with participating in a riot and mischief. The Crown is working through a list of 125 people investigators have recommended charges against, and the police have said they expect to recommend more charges as they identify protesters from photos and video taken during the violence. Stores were looted and cars set ablaze after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins last June 15.

Halifax transit strike drags on
Any hopes of a resolution to the three-week-old transit strike in Halifax were dashed Friday after the union voted to reject the city's latest contract offer. Amalgamated Transit Union president Ken Wilson said 78 per cent of the 650 union members who voted had rejected the offer. He said the union executive left it to the membership to decide on the proposal made after a closed-door session of city council on Thursday. Mr. Wilson said the union was "insulted" that council had bypassed the union's bargaining team with an offer that still included the contentious issue of shift scheduling or rostering. He said the bus drivers and ferry operators were offered a nine per cent pay raise over a five-year contract, with a one-time $1,500 payment in the first year.

UN peacekeeping mission for Syria proposed
In a move aimed at jolting Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies into accepting demands for a democratic transition, more than 60 nations asked the United Nations on Friday to begin planning a civilian peacekeeping mission that would deploy after the Damascus regime halts a brutal crackdown on the opposition. Still unwilling to commit itself to military intervention to end the bloodshed, the grouping offered nothing other than the threat of increasing isolation and sanctions to compel compliance from Assad, who has ignored similar demands. Assad allies Russia and China, which have blocked previous UN action on Syria and are eager to head off any repeat of the foreign intervention that happened in Libya, gave no sign they would agree to peacekeepers. In Tunisia, the Friends of Syria, meeting for the first time as a unified bloc, called on Assad to immediately end the violence and to allow humanitarian aid into areas hit by his regime's crackdown. The grouping pledged to boost relief shipments and set up supply depots along Syria's borders, but it was unclear how it would be distributed without government approval.

Ql-Qaeda claims Iraq attacks
Al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility for Thursday's series of bombing attacks across Iraq that killed more than 50 people and wounded at least 220. The attacks are prompting doubts about Iraq's ability to provide security more than two months after the last American soldiers left the war-torn country.

Greece starts bond swap
Greece formally launched a bond swap offer to private holders of its bonds on Friday, setting in motion the largest-ever sovereign debt restructuring in the hope of getting its disastrous finances back on track. The swap is part of a second, 130-billion-euro rescue package to claw Greece back from the brink of a default that had threatened to send shockwaves through the world financial system and punish other weak euro zone members. The complex deal was finalized this week after months of tortuous negotiations between Greece and its bondholders that were complicated by European partners driving a hard bargain, hedge funds holding out for a default and pressure on public creditors like the European Central bank to chip in. The swap, in which investors will trade bonds for lower-value debt securities, aims to slice 100 billion euros off Greece's over 350-billion euro debt load.

Serbia, Kosovo in accord
Serbia and its one-time province of Kosovo reached agreement Friday on two key issues that will significantly enhance Serbia's chances of becoming an official candidate for EU membership next week. The agreements allow Kosovo to represent itself in international conferences and spell out the technical details of how Serbia and Kosovo will manage their joint borders and border crossings. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule welcomed the agreements as "a major step forward." The EU wanted Belgrade to make new progress in the talks with Kosovo before backing its bid to join the bloc. EU foreign ministers will meet next week to consider whether Serbia has fulfilled conditions required to be a candidate for membership.

Stricken Venezuelan leader says goodbye
Rallying supporters with folk tunes and jokes, President Hugo Chavez bade an emotional farewell while supporters prayed for him around Venezuela ahead of Friday's planned departure for cancer surgery in Cuba. The announcement he needs another operation for a likely malignant lesion gave the lie to Mr. Chavez' previous claims of full recovery and threw the South American OPEC member's Oct. 7 presidential election into uncertainty. The president says he may need radiotherapy treatment after the operation scheduled for early next week in Havana, where he first had surgery for a cancerous pelvic tumor last year, raising the prospect of another lengthy convalescence.

IRA admits, apologizes for boy's death years ago
The outlawed Irish Republican Army apologized Friday for its 1973 killing of a 9-year-old Northern Ireland boy who stumbled across an IRA bomb while playing in his backyard. The declaration was a major shift, since for decades the group had blamed the boy's death on the British Army, but his father said Friday it was not enough. The IRA made its admission and apology for killing Gordon Gallagher after the dead boy's parents called publicly for Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness, the former IRA commander in Londonderry, to tell them who planted a bomb in their children's play area and why. The IRA has issued similar admissions and apologies over the past 15 years for killings that it long denied committing and sometimes falsely attributed to the British Army.

Wheat Board directors lose in court
A Manitoba court cleared away some of the uncertainty surrounding Western Canada's move to an open grain market on Friday, rejecting a request to suspend a federal law that ends the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing monopoly. The court case, one of several challenges to Ottawa's decision to scrap the Wheat Board's monopoly, was launched by eight former directors of the CWB who wanted farmers to decide whether to keep the monopoly. The directors' case, which was heard before the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, had left the grain industry uncertain about the scheduled end of the monopoly in August and whether they should sign contracts with producers. The judge dismissed the directors' motion and said there would be no injunction to suspend the new law.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,726 - 6. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.34. Oil: $109.65 + $1.82.

British Columbia on Saturday: snow north, rain south, high C6 Celsius Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: sun. Whitehorse -10, Yellowknife -19, Iqaluit -22. Alberta, Saskatchewan: snow. Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Edmonton -7, Regina -8, Winnipeg -10. Ontario: snow south, mix sun cloud north. Quebec: snow. Toronto 0, Ottawa -5, Montreal 1. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundlnd and Labrador: snow. Nova Scotia: rain. Fredericton 0, Halifax 5, Charlottetown 4, St. John's 0.