Friday, March 30, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 29 March 2012
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather

Federal budget cuts lower than feared
A penny-pinching Conservative government is loosening the reins on Canada's business community in a budget it says will position the country for commercial opportunity. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is trimming $5.2 billion in annual federal spending, scrapping the money-losing penny in the process, while raising the age of eligibility for old age security to 67 from 65, starting a decade from now.
The budget's business-friendly measures include streamlining environmental assessments to speed major resource projects into existence; recasting research and development funds; tailoring the labour market to specific job shortages.
There's $500 million in government funding for venture capital, $1.1 billion in directed research and development funding, and $205 million for a one-year extension of a temporary hiring credit for small businesses. Total spending, including debt servicing charges, will rise to $276.1 billion in 2012-13, a marginal increase of 0.11 per cent on the current $272.9-billion envelope. Program spending is projected to rise just 1.9 per cent annually for years.
The federal deficit, which Mr. Flaherty projected just five months ago would come in at $31 billion this year, will actually be $24.9 billion. The budget document is careful to obscure where the greatest pain will come from cuts, while broadly outlining that 19,200 federal jobs are to be cut. The CBC faces a 10 per cent budget cut. National Defence will see its budget fall by more than $1.1 billion by 2014-15, Public Safety will take a $688-million reduction, international assistance falls $377 million annually within three years.

Opposition excoriates budget
The political opposition in Parliament slammed the changes as ideologically driven, bad for the environment and for prized social programs. The leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party says that In the long term the continuation of these Conservative policies will leave the greatest economic, ecological and social debt in our history in the backpacks of future generations. Thoma Mulcair says that will be the result of the choices that the Conservatives have made.
Liberal leader Bob Rae called it a "very mean-minded, small-minded budget."

Environmentalists critical of budget
The news that environmental reviews will be streamlined angered environmentalists, who oppose all-out development of the tar sands on the grounds that extracting crude from the clay-like bitumen is energy-intensive and contributes to climate change. Steven Guilbeault of the green group Equiterre says Canadians should be very worried because the government is doing is putting the interests of big corporations, big oil companies, ahead of the interest ofthe public. He also says Canadians will have very limited ability to question companies on the impacts of these projects on communities and on water reserves.
The Conservatives also say they will eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which provides analysis and policy advice. The government says Canadian prosperity relies in part on development of the Alberta tar sands, which are estimated to contain 170 billion barrels of crude and are the world's third-largest oil resource. The budget document said the sands could contribute $2.3 trillion to Canada's gross domestic product over the next 25 years and support 480,000 jobs per year.

Air Canada hopes others will hire laid off maintenance workers
The head of Air Canada told a parliamentary committee Thursday that he hopes heavy maintenance companies will hire the terminated workers from defunct Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. to meet the airline's aircraft overhaul needs in Canada. Calin Rovinescu says the airline has already had preliminary discussions with several Canadian and foreign maintenance, repair and overhaul companies about opportunities inside the country. The country's largest air carrier says there is a large pool of
skilled talent that could be hired to operate in four centres: Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver.
Twenty-six-hundred workers lost their jobs when Aveos abruptly closed last week. Mr. Rovinescu added that the airline believes it is fully compliant with the Air Canada Participation Act, the legislation introduced when it became a private company, because it operates its own maintenance work in the country and has no plans to reintegrate the employees of its former maintenance division. Aveos became a private company itself in 2007. Aveos employees contend that legislation compels the airline to keep maintenance jobs in Canada. The law doesn't say who has to do the work.

Quebec student protest unabated
Striking Quebec students blocked access to Montreal's largest courthouse Thursday. Student unions also held larger demonstrations Thursday afternoon, when four separate marches were making their way through the downtown core, snarling traffic. The four separate protest crowds were dressed in shades of either
blue, green, yellow or orange, like the lines of Montreal's subway system. The student groups are opposing the Quebec government's plans to raise tuition annually by $325 over the next five years. That amounts to 75 per cent increase, taking provincial tuition rates from $2,168 to $3,793. Recent protests have blocked bridges, government buildings, the office of the Quebec Liberal party and there was even a protest outside Premier Jean Charest's home. The government is refusing to back down from its fee hikes and is urging the students to get back to class, lest they have their semester cancelled.

NB seeks to soften impact of mine closure
The government of Canada's east coast province of New Brunswick says it will help a local committee look for ways to create jobs and minimize the economic impact of the closing of the Brunswick Mine near the city of Bathurst. About 900 people will lose their jobs when the lead, zinc, copper and silver mine closes within the next 12 months. The company, Xstrada Zinc Canada says the mine has exhausted its supply of ore. The Brunswick Mine opened in 1964 and employed more than 2,000 people at its peak,


Arab leaders shun Baghdad summit
Fewer than half the leaders of the Arab world showed up at an Arab summit in Baghdad on Thursday, a snub to the Iraqi government that reflects how sharply the sectarian division between Sunnis and Shi'ites and the rivalry with neighbouring Iran
define the Middle East's politics today. The powerful Sunni monarchs of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, other Gulf nations and Jordan and Morocco were absent. The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, whose attendance was significant because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 and occupied it for nearly seven months before a U.S.-led coalition drove his army out.
One reason for the absences was the Gulf leaders' deep distrust of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, which they believe is a proxy for Iran. Qatar's prime minister said the lower representation was to protest against what he called the Baghdad government's marginalization of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority. Another reason was the bitterness over the main issue hanging over the summit, the conflict in Syria, on which Iraq has taken an ambivalent stand.

France bans Islamic clerics
France barred four Islamic preachers from entering the country on Thursday after banning prominent preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi and another Egyptian cleric who wanted to attend a Muslim conference in Paris. Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and Interior Minister Claude Guéant said in a joint statement the four preachers "call for hate and violence ... and, in the current context, present a strong risk of upsetting public order."
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who ordered a crackdown on radical Islamists after the Toulouse killings by an al-Qaeda-inspired gunman last week, said on Monday that Qaradawi and Mahmoud al-Masri were not welcome in France. The Union of French Islamic Organisations which invited the clerics to an April 6-9 conference, said it was surprised and hurt by the government's "manifest determination to prolong a polemic ... based on total ignorance." Mr. Sarkozy and his UMP party, campaigning hard to win votes from the far-right National Front, have stressed divisive issues such as halal food and Islamic radicalism in their campaign for the two-round presidential election on April 22 and May 6. The UOIF is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Spanish revolt against austerity
Spanish workers staged a general strike on Thursday to protest against labour reforms which the government declared "unstoppable" but many ignored the action, fearing for their jobs in a country with the EU's highest unemployment rate. Factories across the nation were silent and ports closed, while television and transport were disrupted by the strike against the austerity policies of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whom Spaniards elected by a landslide only four months ago.
Police arrested a number of protesters in Madrid, while small-scale violence flared in Barcelona, Spain's second city. Strikers promised a wave of protests to confront Mr. Rajoy's conservative government over reforms making it cheaper for companies to fire staff and dismantling a nationwide system of collective pay bargaining.

Mali coup supporters prevent neighbourly visit
Five African leaders have been prevented from meeting with the new military leadership in Mali. A jetliner carrying the five African heads of state was forced to turn back after a crowd of hundreds of people blocked the main runway at Bamako airport. The crowd apparently had the support of military leaders who staged a coup earlier this month. The presidents of Ivory Coast, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Liberia had hoped to persuade Mali's military leaders to restore President Amadou Toumani Toure to power. The group of African presidents will try flying to Mali again on Friday. The African Union has suspended Mali's membership to protest the coup. Canada has suspended its aid to Mali as well.

Dissidents claims crackdown ahead of Cuba's papal visit
Cuban exile organizations Thursday denounced the roundup of dissidents ahead of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the communist-ruled island, saying at least 250 opponents of the regime were detained. The Florida-based Information and Support Center Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, which claims to coordinate 50 organizations in Cuba and outside the island, said the arrests were aimed at preventing political opponents from seeing or meeting the pope. The exile group said it had compiled "a partial list of 250" who were arrested at their homes to prevent attendance at the pontiff's activities. Amnesty International had previously cited "increased harassment" of human rights activists in Cuba during the papal visit. Benedict did not meet with political opponents during his visit which ended Wednesday. but Vatican officials said that did not mean he was unconcerned.

Chavez returns after latest cancer treatment
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned home from Cuba after a five-day round of radiation therapy and says the cancer treatments are going well. He says the radiation treatments have been administered for five days in a row and that he will now stay in Venezuela until Saturday, when he plans to return to Havana for the next round. He said this week's treatments have been the first of five rounds. The president says the radiation treatments are intended to prevent any new cancer threat after a surgery last month that removed a second tumour from his pelvic region. He had another tumour removed from the same location in an earlier operation in June.


Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday: 12,339.36, down 74.. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.32. Oil: $105.38 - $1.95.

RIM pillar disappears
The man who was chief spokesman for Research in Motion for many years, Jim Balsillie, is retiring from the BlackBerry maker as it struggles to find its way.
Canada's premier technology company says it had a loss in its latest quarter and won't be providing an estimate of what its future quarterly revenue or earnings will look like. Thorsten Heins, who replaced Mr. Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as chief executive in January, says RIM faces significant challenges. It had a loss of US$125 million or 24 cents per share in the fourth quarter, as it took a $355-million writedown of intangible assets known as goodwill. The loss compared with a profit of $934 million or $1.78 per diluted share a year ago. Revenue fell to $4.2 billion, down from $5.6 billion. During the quarter, RIM shipped approximately 11.1 million BlackBerry smartphones and over 500,000 PlayBook tablets.

Storied Quebec hotel to get facelift
Quebec City's famed Chateau Frontenac hotel is undergoing a $66 million facelift. Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate subsidiary of the Caisse de
depot et placement du Quebec, said Thursday it will revitalize the landmark's 618 guest rooms, main lobby and distinctive features. Ivanhoe CEO Daniel Fournier said the transformation will position the unique hotel to among the most exclusive "high-end destinations" in the world. Opened in 1893 for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the hotel is named for a 17th-century governor of New France. It became a national historic site of Canada in 1980. Quebec City Mayor Regis Lebeaume said transformation will blow fresh air into the hotel perched atop a hill in the Old Capital overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

SK to ascertain effect of proposed grainhandling takeover
The Saskatchewan government wants to know how a proposed takeover of grain handler Viterra by a Swiss company will affect the province. The government is reviewing the $6.1-billion deal that would see Viterra acquired by Glencore International, although much of the business would remain in Canadian hands. Premier Brad Wall says the review will look at employment, the impact on competition and the effect on the province's economy and revenues. The government is to get the report from Informa Economics Inc. by May 7 and make it public a few days later.
Glencore has offered $16.25 a share for Viterra. Calgary-based Agrium Inc. and privately held Richardson International, based in Winnipeg, would in turn buy the majority of Viterra's
Canadian assets for a combined $2.6 billion in cash. The federal Competition Bureau will do its own review but it's unclear how long that will take.

Wheat Board enters market economy
The Canadian Wheat Board has outlined its plan for a western wheat and barley market it no longer monopolizes. The board will offer both pool and cash contracts for the crop year that starts Aug. 1. It will sign agreements with grain-handling companies that are sometimes its competition and will continue to cut jobs as it deals with a newly open market. For more than six decades, western wheat and barley farmers were forced to sell through the wheat board. The federal government passed a law late last year to open the market to competition as of this summer. The move split the farming community. Some believe prices will drop as producers compete against each other for sales. Others believe they can get high prices on the open market and deserve the right to try. Eight former directors of the wheat board, who were elected by farmers, tried unsuccessfully to have a court overturn the federal law.

TD draws bead on NYC
The head of Toronto Dominion Bank says he has his sights set on TD becoming one of the three largest banks in New York, one of the world's most renowned financial centres. Ed Clark told shareholders at the bank's annual meeting that TD plans to be New York City's third largest retail bank in four years. The Toronto-based bank plans to open more than 50 new branches and create hundreds of jobs in the financial capital of North America. And while Mr. Clark says the bank is proud of its hometown's reputation on the world stage, conquering New York represents a special point of pride. He spoke to shareholders from New York at a joint annual meeting also held in Toronto. TD is currently the fifth largest retail bank in New York City, with $11.6 billion in deposits.


Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada reclaimed their ice dancing title at the world figure skating championships here on Thursday.
The 2010 winners took their second world gold ahead of reigning champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States after the free dance final.
France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat won bronze.
In the National Basketball Association, Andrea Bargnani joined Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson as the only players to score 6,000 points in a Raptors uniform, tossing in 26 points in Toronto's 105-96 victory over Denver.
Toronto FC and Santos Laguna exchanged first-half goals in a 1-1 tie to open their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal. The second leg goes next Wednesday in Mexico.


British Columbia on Friday: rain, high C9 Vancouver. Yukon, Nunavut: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories: cloud. Whitehorse 6, Yellowknife 4, Iqaluit -16. Alberta: rain south, mix sun cloud north. Saskatchewan: rain. Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Edmonton 11, Regina 17, Winnipeg 13. Ontario: snow. Quebec: sun. Toronto 4, Ottawa, Montreal 5. Maritimes: mix sun cloud. Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton 6, Halifax 5, Charlottetown, St. John's 2.

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