Friday, March 16, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 15 March 2012
Canadian International Financial Sports

Air Canada back-to-work bill nears passage
The federal back-to-work bill to send two Air Canada labour disputes to binding arbitration passed the Senate on Thursday. The legislation covers about 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and other ground crew at Air Canada and about 3,000 pilots. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had proposed the back-to-work legislation on Monday, saying a work stoppage at the airline would hurt the economy. The legislation could receive royal assent before the end of the week. The pilots' union and the machinists are the last two groups with which Air Canada needs to reach an agreement. Flights at Air Canada were set to stop this week after the airline said it would lock out its pilots and the machinists union said it would strike in the midst of the March Break period.

Canadian lawmakers unite over Syria
Canada marked the first anniversary of the blood-soaked Syrian uprising with Parliament unanimously condemning the regime of President Bashar Assad. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he is pleased by the non-partisan show of support by his fellow MPs, but did not mask his disappointment with the United Nations' inability to stop the bloodshed. The Security Council was stymied in its previous attempt to condemn Syria because of opposition from veto-wielding members, China and Russia. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday raised the estimated death toll from the government's bloody crackdown on protesters to 8,000 people from 7,500. Mr. Baird reiterated Canada's position that "Assad must go," but he did not say how. Last week, the minister announced the closure of the Canadian embassy in Syria, saying the government could no longer guarantee the safety of its diplomats.

Rights lobby wants accused Guatemalan tried in Canada
A human rights group says Canada is still a safer bet when it comes to trying an accused Guatemalan war criminal facing extradition in Calgary. Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa has been ordered extradited to the United States to face immigration charges, but is also wanted by Guatemalan authorities for an alleged massacre of civilians in the village of Dos Erres during that country's civil war. Human rights groups have been lobbying to have Mr. Sosa tried in Canada, fearing justice may not be served in the Central American country. The Canadian Centre of International Justice says that won't change, even with the recent convictions in Guatemala of several other soldiers who were involved in Dos Erres. The Centre says there are concerns that the new Guatemalan government may not be as eager to proceed on the 30-year-old case as its predecessor. Guatemalan authorities allege 251 men, women and children were killed in Dos Erres in 1982.

Top Israeli soldier visits
Israel's Chief of Staff Lieut-Gen. Benny Gantz began a trip to Canada and the United States for talks expected to focus on Iran. Gen. Gantz will conduct several meetings with his counterparts and security, government and military representatives.

Ontario govt. warns of cuts
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Thursday there will be less spending on roads and bridges and increased fees for businesses when Ontario's minority Liberal government tables its budget March 27, There will also be spending cuts across many ministries to make sure Ontario stays on track to eliminate the $16 billion deficit within five years. Premier Dalton McGuinty told rural municipal leaders recently that Ontario cannot afford a promised fund to pay for road and bridge repairs, and the cash-strapped government hopes to save even more by cutting spending on other infrastructure projects in the budget.
Earlier this week the Liberals increased fees between $4 and $10 each for drivers licences, for a driver's exam and for registering a vehicle, along with increases in permit fees for truck and bus operators, trailers, farm, off-road and snow vehicles. The Liberals have a fine line to walk in the budget to protect gains they've made in health care and education while also finding enough savings to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18, or face an expensive credit downgrade. They also have to make sure the budget contains measures that at least two opposition party members will vote for, or Ontario will be plunged into its second election campaign in five months.

B.C. set to legislate on teachers
British Columbia's education minister is inviting the teachers' union to submit names of possible mediators as the legislature prepares to pass back-to-work legislation. The back-to-work bill was expected to be voted into law Thursday, preventing future walkouts, ending limited job action that started last fall and imposing a mediator. Education Minister George Abbott says once the vote is passed, he'll write the union and the employers' association and ask each to suggest their own picks for mediator. Mr. Abbott says in the meantime, he expects the teachers to resume their normal duties, which he says students deserve after months of disruption. The dispute has focused largely on wage demands. The minister has already said he wants the mediator to find an agreement with the government's so-called "net-zero" mandate, which means any wage increases must be offset by other concessions.

NL power project gets federal, provincial green light
The proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador has passed federal and provincial environmental assessments, a step towards proceeding with the $6.2-billion development. In their formal responses to a joint panel report on the project, the federal and provincial governments reiterated their past assertions that Muskrat Falls is justified on both economic and environmental grounds. Ottawa and the province say they will now proceed to issue the required federal authorizations for the project while trying to finalize a promised federal loan guarantee. Released last August, the joint panel report concluded that Nalcor Energy, the province's Crown utility company, had not proven the need for the project. The panel also said Muskrat Falls would likely have several "significant adverse" effects on fish, wetland and terrestrial habitats, as well as the Red Wine Mountain caribou herd.
The governments say they will implement measures to address some of those concerns. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, who has also supported the development of Muskrat Falls, welcomed Thursday's announcement. Nalcor Energy would spend $2.9 billion to build a power generating facility at Muskrat Falls capable of producing 824 megawatts of electricity. A transmission link from Labrador to Newfoundland would cost $2.1 billion, $600 million of which would be provided by Nova Scotia-based private utility Emera.


Syrians in show of loyalty to dictator
Thousands of Syrians rallied Thursday in Damascus in a display of loyalty to President Bashar Assad, waving flags under a slate grey sky to protest the anniversary of a rebellion that the government says is driven by terrorists, gangsters and extremists. Outside the Syrian capital, however, tanks and snipers besieged opposition areas, including the southern city of Daraa where the uprising began a year ago, touched off by the arrest of a group of youths who scrawled anti-regime graffiti on a wall.
One year into the Syrian revolt, the fight to oust Assad is cascading toward civil war with more than 8,000 killed and no end in sight to the bloodshed.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian chief says a Syrian government-led mission will visit Homs, Hama, Dara'a and other cities at the centre of the country's uprising starting this weekend, accompanied by UN and Organization of Islamic Co-operation staff who will assess humanitarian needs. As intense fighting continues, Valerie Amos again appealed to the Syrian government to provide unhindered access for humanitarian organizations so they can identify urgent needs and provide emergency care "in a neutral and impartial manner." Mrs. Amos says this weekend's mission will also visit Tartous, Lattakia, Aleppo, Dayr Az Zor and rural Damascus. She said the UN and OIC technical staff will gather information on the humanitarian situation.

Syrian refugees stream in Turkey
Turkey said Thursday it is considering the establishment of a "buffer zone" along its border with Syria after more than 1,000 Syrians crossed into Turkish territory in the latest influx of refugees escaping attacks by security forces in their homeland. Interior Minister Besir Atalay did not say how such a safe zone would operate and where it would be located, but his remarks reflected the escalating humanitarian crisis along the border, where at least 14,700 Syrians have crossed into Turkey since last summer.
More than 1,000 have fled to Turkey in the last 24 hours, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said, as Syrian forces targeted opposition groups in the province of Idlib. Ahmet Lutfi Akar, the head of Turkey's Red Crescent organization, said he expects the number of refugees crossing the 900-kilometre border with Syria to increase in the coming weeks. Mr. Akar said Turkey is currently able to accommodate up to 60,000 refugees but may consider calling for international assistance in the event of a mass influx that would raise numbers beyond that.

Afghan leader wants NATO restrictions
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for NATO troops to leave Afghan villages and confine themselves to major bases after the slaughter of 16 civilians by an American soldier, underscoring fury over the massacre and clouding U.S. exit plans. Mr. Karzai, in a statement after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul, said as a consequence of the weekend massacre, "international security forces have to be taken out of Afghan village outposts and return to (larger) bases". The soldier accused of carrying out the shooting was attached to a small special forces compound similar to others around the country which underpin NATO's anti-insurgent strategy ahead of a 2014 deadline for Western combat forces to pull out.

Soccer fans charged in deadly Egyptian riot
Egypt's top prosecutor on Thursday charged 75 people in connection with a deadly soccer riot last month in the Mediterranean city of Port Said in which authorities said fans were thrown to their death off the stadium walls and others killed by explosives as they tried to flee. Scores of fans face murder charges and nine police officers were accused of complicity in murder, in the Feb. 1 riot that left at
least 74 people dead. It was the world's worst soccer-related disaster in 15 years. The riot began minutes after the final whistle in a league game between Cairo club al-Ahly and al-Masry of Port Said. The home side won 3-1 but its fans set upon the rival supporters in a killing frenzy that witnesses said lasted 30 minutes. Many witnesses claimed that policemen present did nothing to stop the bloodshed.

Belgium to mourn crash victims
Belgium says it will hold a national day of mourning on Friday for 22 school children and six adults killed in a bus crash in Switzerland, as the first of the survivors made their way home. Of the 52 passengers on the bus, which was carrying school groups from the Belgian towns of Heverlee and Lommel home from a ski trip when it crashed on Tuesday night, only 24 survived. Some were still in critical condition on Thursday. The bodies of the passengers killed in the crash, most of whom were about 12 years old, were all taken to the Swiss town of Sion, near the site of the accident, to be identified. Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was among the ministers, parliamentarians and visiting school children who signed a book of condolence at the Belgian federal parliament on Thursday.

World criminal court wants stiff sentence after first conviction
The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said Thursday he wanted a tough sentence for a Congolese warlord convicted of using child soldiers, and vowed to go after his main accomplice. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would ask for "close to the maximum sentence" for Thomas Lubanga, who was convicted of war crimes on Wednesday in the court's first ever verdict since it was set up 10 years ago. He also vowed to step up moves to bring Lubanga's co-accused, the fugitive warlord Bosco Ntaganda, to justice. Prosecutors planned to meet Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to ask for the fugitive's arrest. Rights groups say Mr. Ntaganda is currently in Goma, eastern DR Congo, where according to Human Rights Watch he is serving as a general in the Congolese army.

Morocco to debate controversial rape law

Morocco's government has bowed to public pressure to change its rape laws after a teenaged rape victim committed suicide. The victim, Amina al-filali, killed herself to avoid marrying her rapist. Under Moroccan law, rapists are allowed to marry their victims to spare the victim's family the shame of a female relative who had sex outside marriage. The victim's funeral took place on Sunday in the northern town of Larache. On Thursday, 300 protesters organized by Morocco's Democratic League for Women's Rights demonstrated at the local court that approved the marriage. Communication Minister and government spokesman Mustafa el-Khalfi said that the rape law is an issue that cannot be ignored. He said that the government plans harsher sentences against rapists and would launch a debate to reform
the law.


Fertilizer firm sets ground rules for takeover
Grain handler Viterra Inc. has established the rules to review any potential takeover offers, but warned Thursday it can not guarantee what price it will fetch, or that there will be any deal at all. The company acknowledges reports speculating on a potential bid. The website also said that U.S. companies Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge Ltd., as well as Hong Kong-based Noble Group Ltd., are interested. " Switzerland's Glencore and U.S. agribusiness Cargill have also come up as potential bidders. Market regulators requested trading in Viterra's shares be halted early Thursday. Once trading resumed at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the stock shot up about 10 per cent to more than $16, making the company worth close to $6 billion. The stock had traded for about $11 last week before Viterra revealed the takeover interest last Friday. The potential bids come as the company is poised to benefit from the end of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on the marketing of wheat and barley in Western Canada.

Quebec approves TMX takeover
The Quebec securities regulator says it intends to approve a takeover offer for the company that operates the Toronto Stock Exchange by the Maple Group Acquisition Corp. consortium of financial institutions. The Autorité des marchés financiers says it believes that Maple will maintain the integrity and efficiency of the financial markets as well as the continuity of derivatives operations in Quebec. The TMX Group runs the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture exchange as well as energy trading and other businesses. The takeover offer values the company at about $3.8 billion. The deal still requires approval by the Ontario Securities Commission and the Competition Bureau. Maple Group Acquisition includes 13 Canadian financial institutions and pension funds.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday: 12,456 + 78. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.29. Oil: $105.34 - .09.


Canadian media firm Quebecor Inc. says it's ready and able to move ahead with plans that would bring a National Hockey League team
to Quebec City. The Montreal-based company slipped comments into its quarterly earnings report, showing that it will turn more attention to pursuing a National Hockey League team this year. A statement from president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said
Quebecor now has "all the tools it needs to pursue its goals" of managing an arena and bringing an NHL team to the city. Also Thursday, Quebecor reported that profits grew 83 per cent in the fourth quarter led by strength in its telecommunications division.
Canada earned an eight-wicket victory over Hong Kong in the Twenty20 World Cup cricket qualifier in Dubai. The victory improved sixth-seeded Canada's record to 2-and-1 in Group A. The 16-country tournament will send two sides to the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, which begins in September.

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