Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

PM attends security conference in Seoul
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in Seoul, South Korea, He joined about 60 other world leaders for a summit on nuclear security. They are expected to focus not only on questions of weapons proliferation but also on the need to better oversee the peaceful use of atomic energy. Mr. Harper arrived from Japan where he discussed improving trade relations with his hosts. He ended his visit to Japan by visiting a small town hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeastern part of the country last March. Mr. Harper saw for himself the devastation that lingers a year after the disaster and called it overwhelming. Canada sent relief supplies in the aftermath of the tragedy and Mr. Harper says Canada stands ready to provide more help. Prime Minister Harper began his three-country Asian visit last week with a trip to Thailand, followed by Japan and South Korea.

Canadian Commons gets new opposition leader
Canada's House of Commons has welcomed a new leader of the Official Opposition on Monday, The leader of the New Democratic Party, Thomas Mulcair, will take his seat opposite the seat that Prime Minister Stephen Harper normally occupies. Mr. Mulcair won his party's leadership over the weekend in Toronto. Mr. Mulcair says he wants to bring some discipline to the ranks of the Official Opposition party. And he says the governing Conservative Party runs a government that's tough and well-structured and says the NDP must do the same. Heritage Minister James Moore described Mulcair as a hard-left socialist.

Ontario court rules on prostitution
The Appeals Court in the Canadian province of Ontario has ruled that a ban on brothels puts prostitutes in danger and is therefore unconstitutional. The court says prostitutes should be allowed to work safely indoors. However, the court has given the government one year to rewrite the law if it chooses to. At the same time, the Appeal Court says concerns about the nuisance created by street prostitution is real. So it has upheld the ban on soliciting for the purposes of selling sex. And when it comes to living on the avails of prostitution, the court says the law can be reworded to specifically exclude the exploitation of prostitutes.

Alberta premier launches election
Alberta Premier Alison Redford, seeking her first public mandate as premier, is sending voters to the polls April 23. Mrs. Redford's Progressive Conservatives are seeking a 12th consecutive majority dating back to 1971, but the election campaign promises to be a bitter fight. The Wildrose party under leader Danielle Smith has grown in popularity in recent years by staking claim to the traditional Conservative themes of balanced budgets and landowner rights. The opposition party accuses the Conservatives of having become profligate spenders, running up billions of dollars in budget deficits in recent years. Mrs. Redford's party has struggled in recent weeks with allegations of influence-peddling by the government's Asia trade representative and

the revelation that politicians have been paid for years to work on a committee that doesn't meet.

Ottawa awaits answer on drug offer
The Canadian government is still waiting for a response from the provinces over its offer to help ease the ongoing drug shortage. The Public Health Agency of Canada has told provinces it's willing to use its emergency stockpile of medications to ease shortages created by quality-control problems at Sandoz Canada, a pharmaceutical company. Sandoz supplies most injectable medications in the country, such as painkillers, anti-nausea drugs and antibiotics. So far, no provinces have taken the agency up on the offer.

Amgry Quebec students adopt new strategy
Quebec student protesters now plan to kick the Liberal Party government of Premier Jean Charest Liberals where it hurts: in swing ridings and with big donors to the party. Students angry with the province's tuition hikes are going to work against the Liberals in 10 ridings the party barely won in the last election. An election could happen anytime between this spring and late 2013. The protest groups also plan to contact the largest donors to the party and urge them to side with the students. The Charest government is nearly doubling tuition fees over five years, to $3,800 per year, to bring them closer to the national average. The government points out Quebec fees will still be among the lowest in the country. But students say the increase is happening

too fast and will discourage people from pursuing a higher education.

:Pontiff arrives in Cuba
Pope Benedict XVI has touched down in Cuba 14 years after John Paul II's historic visit, on a mission to renew the faith in Latin America's least Catholic country. Cuban President Raul Castro greeted Benedict at the airport, just days after Benedict declared the island's Marxist system outdated. The pontiff will rally tens of thousands of believers later Monday at a huge outdoor Mass in this colonial city's main square. Workers there have put up a large, blue-and-white stage crowned by graceful arches in the shape of a papal miter. Fewer than 10 per cent of Cubans are practicing Catholics.

Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday: 12,572 + 76. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.32. Oil: $107.07 + .20.

Syrian forces pound Homs
Syrian troops shelled rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs on Monday, the latest barrage in a bombardment that has lasted

several days and appeared to be the groundwork for an assault to push the fighters out of the country's third largest city. Also Monday, Turkey closed its embassy in Damascus and recalled its ambassador as relations between the former allies continue to

deteriorate. The Turkish embassy closure comes amid rising diplomatic pressure on :President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara, once close to Damascus, is now one of Syria's most vocal critics. The embassy is being closed because of the poor security

situation in Syria, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry regulations. Other countries including the U.S., France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have also closed embassies. This and other forms of diplomatic pressure have left Damascus isolated, but have so far failed to stop the year-old Syria crisis, in which more than 8,000 people have been killed, according to the UN.

Arab leaders won't demand end to Syrian leader
Iraq's top diplomat said Monday that Arab leaders meeting in Baghdad this week will not demand the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and that opposition forces to his regime need to agree on a single strategy for ending the crisis. On the eve of an Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also said that leaders will likely agree on a "doable" solution to end the yearlong bloody conflict in Syria. He said it will be in line with earlier League proposals for Mr. Assad

to peacefully transfer power to his vice-president until new, open elections can be held. The League also has called for an immediate cease-fire from both sides and humanitarian assistance to be allowed into the combat zones. Syria has denounced the Arab League's criticism of the crackdown, saying those who oppose Mr. Assad are doing the bidding of the West. Mr. Zebari also admonished Syrian opposition groups to come together with a unified plan for peace.

Obama delays missile decision until after vote
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday told President Dmitry Medvedev that he had little flexibility to address Russia's objections to a US missile defence shield before his November re-election bid. Mr. Obama was picked up on an open microphone privately explaining his position to Mr. Medvedev during their meeting on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in Seoul. The U.S. leader told Mr. Medvedev, in their last meeting before Vladimir Putin is inaugurated president in May, that on all issues, but particularly missile defence it was important for Russia to give him "space." The Russian President Medvedev replied that he understood. The exchange appeared to indicate that Mr. Obama believes he has little leverage to conclude deeply divisive foreign policy election issues in a campaign year, and also that he is confident he will win re-election.

Myanmar leader calls for free  vote
Myanmar's president urged the country to respect "the decision of the people" in key by-elections, ahead of a poll expected to sweep Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament. Thein Sein, a former general who has introduced wide-ranging reforms since taking power a year ago, said the authorities were trying to ensure "free and fair" elections in the country formerly known as Burma. Myanmar's April 1 by-elections are seen as a key test of the regime's commitment to burgeoning reforms, which have included welcoming Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy back into mainstream politics. The Nobel laureate was forced to call off further campaign travel on Sunday after falling ill during the latest leg of her gruelling schedule of election rallies around the country. The polls mark the first time that Suu Kyi is standing for election in a country that has been dominated by the military for decades.

Opposition in Senegal rejoices
Thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Dakar early Monday after Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade admitted defeat in his bid for a third term. With early results from Sunday's second-round run-off giving his rival Macky Sall a commanding lead, Mr. Wade chose to phone Mr. Sall to congratulate him the same evening rather than wait for the definitive results. Even before the outgoing president conceded defeat, thousands of people spilled onto the streets, chanting, dancing and sounding car horns.

Engineering firm loses top exec
Engineering giant SNC-Lavalin's chief executive officer Pierre Duhaime has resigned after an internal investigation revealed he approved US$56 million of questionable payments, breaching the company's code of ethics. The Montreal-based firm said Monday that an independent probe into certain payments the company made was the result of "management override, flawed design or ineffective enforcement of controls" in relation to hiring agents for two of its projects. SNC said the company's CFO and chairman refused to approve the payments, but Mr. Duhaime stepped in to allow the payments to be made. The company did not disclose which projects were involved in the investigation though it did say that it doesn't believe the payments in question are related to its operations in Libya. Last month, the company's board launched an investigation over the circumstances surrounding $35 million in payments, which had previously been thought to relate to its involvement in Libya. The ties sparked criticism that it was excessively cosy with the former Gadhafi regime. Mr. Duhaime helped to build up SNC's mining business during his 23

years with the company.

Financial titans in joint enterprise
Two of Canada's biggest names in business in the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are joining forces to create a private equity firm that will invest in medium-sized Canadian ventures. Two members of the Sobey family, Donald Sobey and his son Rob Sobey, will be investors and on the board. They are best known as leaders of the Nova Scotia-based grocery and property investment empire. They are going to be joined on the board by Scott McCain, the eldest son of the late Wallace McCain, the co-founder of the New Brunswick-based frozen food giant.

Aveos operations continue in El Salvador
The parent of an aircraft maintenance company spun off by Air Canada is expanding in El Salvador even as its Canadian arm liquidates its assets after terminating more than 2,600 employees. Aveos, which shut its doors in Canada last week, has

corporate ties with El Salvador's Aeroman and with Aero Technical Support & Services Holdings, a closely held company in Luxembourg, owning both of them. In a letter to its roughly 1,800 workers in the tiny Central American country, Aeroman said Aveos' financial plight in Canada would have no effect on their jobs in El Salvador. Aveos filed for creditor protection in Canada on Monday, but neither Aveos nor its lawyers in Canada have so far said what impact, if any, this would have on the El Salvador operations.

Both Air Canada and Aveos, once the airline's own in-house maintenance unit, have faced harsh criticism after mass layoffs in Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and other Canadian cities. Aveos blames Air Canada for its financial failure, claiming

that the country's largest carrier breached its contracts by deferring or reducing maintenance work it normally performs. Air

Canada has denied it.


The Canadian men's soccer team was back in action Monday night in Nashville with match against the Cubans. A win and Canada advances to the semifinals of an Olympic men's soccer qualifying tournament. The Canadians would then be just one win away from reaching the Olympics for the first time since 1984.

British Columbia on Tuesday: rain south, mix sun cloud north, high C11 Vancouver. Yukon: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories, Nunavut: sun. Whitehorse 3. Yellowknife -3, Iqaluit -19. Alberta: mix sun cloud north, rain south. Saskatchewan: snow north, rain south. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton 8, Regina -1, Winnipeg 11. Ontario: rain north, sun south. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal 5. New Brunswick: mix sun cloud. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island: snow. Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Fredericton 0, Halifax -2, Charlottetown -3, St. John's 4.