Thursday, March 15, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Air Canada union resents federal intervention
The union representing mechanics and other workers at Air Canada said Tuesday that the federal government's decision to impose arbitration on its talks with

the airline eroded labour rights. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers executive Dave Ritchie said the bill would "poison labour relations across Canada." Under the "final offer selection" arbitration process, the union and airline will both put forward their best offer and an arbitrator will select one. After passing the House of Commons overnight Tuesday, the bill now goes to the Senate, where the Conservatives are expected to use their majority for speedy passage. 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 after the latter said it would strike in the midst of the key March Break period.

NDP leadership candidate backs rival
Martin Singh has made it official: if he can't be the next federal New Democratic Party leader, he wants the job to go to front-runner Thomas Mulcair. The Nova Scotia pharmacist, a long shot candidate who's likely to be bumped off the ballot early, announced Wednesday he's urging his supporters to make Mulcair their second choice. Mulcair campaign director Raoul Gebert hailed the announcement, which follows endorsements from two former candidates, Romeo Saganash and Robert Chisholm. Rival contender Peggy Nash openly questioned Wednesday whether Mr. Singh was acting on Mr. Mulcair's behalf recently in mounting attacks against herself and former party President Brian Topp.

Brisk growth forecast for Canadian North
There is a hot spot in Canada's lacklustre economy, the North. The Conference Board of Canada says a global commodities boom is igniting a fire under Canada's three northern territories, forecasting they will be growth leaders over the next two years. Real gross domestic product will collectively top seven per cent in both 2012 and 2013, more than three times the national average. Even resource-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan won't be approaching growth in percentage terms in the territories over the next couple of years. Although the forecast is only for two years, the think-tank says the territories, with a population of only about 112,000, are entering a prolonged period of expansion with several mining projects coming on stream.

Territory joins call for national energy policy
Nunavut's premier is joining her Alberta counterpart in calling for a national energy policy. In a speech to a Calgary energy conference, Eva Aariak threw her support behind Premier Alison Redford's call for federal co-ordination of developing energy supplies. Mrs. Aariak says any national policy would have to ensure provincial control, which provinces take for granted but which still doesn't exist in most of the North. She says Nunavut has vast natural gas reserves and alternative energy sources such as wind and tides. But she points out too many northern communities depend on expensive and polluting diesel generating plants for power. Mrs. Aariak says it will take a national effort to change that, and to allow the North to start exporting energy south.

Halifax commuters to get a free ride
Residents of the east coast Canadian city of Halifax, NS, will be allowed to ride for free on public transit. The decision comes as public transit workers return to work after a strike of almost six weeks. The bus drivers, ferry crews and maintenance workers have approved a new five-year contract. The city is trying to compensate residents by announcing that public transit will be free for the rest of the month. The city's ferries are expected to be running by Thursday, with buses back on the roads by Friday.


Russia continues to arm Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Russia is providing Syria with weapons to fend off external threats but has no intention to use military force to protect Syrian President Bashar Assad. Mr. Lavrov says that Russia isn't supplying any arms that could be used against protesters, and issued a moderate criticism of Mr. Assad for being slow to conduct vital reforms. Moscow has protected Syria, its key ally since the Soviet times, from UN sanctions over the régime's bloody suppression of a year-long uprising, in which the UN says over 7,500 have been killed. It also backs Mr. Assad's claim that the uprising is a foreign conspiracy, saying that weapons and militants had flown into Syria from abroad.

Iranian leader summoned to legislature
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was summoned to parliament on Wednesday for an unprecedented grilling by lawmakers who accused him of economic mismanagement and making "illegal" appointments. Less than two weeks after a drubbing in parliamentary elections, Mr. Ahmadinejad became the first president in the Islamic Republic's history to be called before the legislature, which has the power to impeach him if unsatisfied with his answers. Traditionalist factions who express complete loyalty to Iran's most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been trying to summon the president for months over what they say are repeated challenges to the supreme leader's authority.

Emboldened by their success over Ahmadinejad supporters at parliamentary elections this month, they finally had the chance to interrogate him about the near-stagnant, high-inflation economy and concerns over his allegiance to Khamenei. Belying his weakened standing, Mr. Ahmadinejad responded in a confident and, at times, flippant tone. He played down the historic significance of the summons, saying it was parliament's right and not out of the ordinary.

U.S. course steady for Afghanistan pullout
U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday said there were no plans for "sudden" changes to the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and confirmed NATO forces will switch to a support role next year. Despite a number of bloody incidents involving U.S. troops in recent weeks, Mr. Obama says the United States will be sticking with a timetable already agreed with its NATO partners. The president made the statement at joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr. Obama said in their talks the two leaders had "reaffirmed the transition plan" which sets out "shifting to a support role in 2013 in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility in 2014."

World criminal court finally convicts
The International Criminal Court on Wednesday convicted Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga of war crimes in its first verdict since it started work almost a decade ago. Lubanga, 51, who was arrested six years ago, was found guilty by the court, set up to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, of abducting children as young as 11 and forcing them to fight and commit atrocities in a bloody war in a gold-rich region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Hague-based judgment was hailed by the UN, as well as world powers such as the United States which called it an "historic moment". Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford read the court's first verdict, finding Lubanga guilty of "conscription and enlisting children under the age of 15 and used them to participate in hostilities" in fighting that lasted from 1998 to 2003. Prosecutors earlier told the court that militia under Lubanga's control had abducted children as young as 11 from homes, schools and football fields to serve as soldiers, and that young girls were used as sex slaves.

Death toll up in Bangladesh ferry disaster
Recovery workers were trying to raise the wreckage of a ferry that capsized on a river in Bangladesh while carrying about 200 people, hoping Wednesday's efforts would reveal the fate of dozens of passengers still missing. The death toll rose to 110. The ferry collided with a cargo boat and capsized in the darkness of Tuesday morning, sending hundreds of people into the Meghna River, just south of the capital, Dhaka. About 35 survivors were plucked from the water, while local media reported that another 40 managed to swim to shore. The death toll climbed to 110 by late Wednesday afternoon after villagers and rescuers found more bodies inside the ferry and floating in nearby waters.

Venezuelan opposition leader criticical of Chavez' Cuban treatments
Venezuela's opposition candidate sharply criticized socialist President Hugo Chavez for having cancer treatment in Cuba rather than trusting doctors at home, saying it sends a terrible message to ordinary Venezuelans. Henrique Capriles has generally avoided joining the fevered speculation over the president's condition, preferring simply to wish him a speedy recovery in time for the Oct. 7 election that is shaping up to be Chavez's closest fight of his 13-year rule. Yet in some of his strongest comments to date, the Democratic Unity opposition coalition's candidate has said that Mr. Chavez' decision to have surgery in Cuba, twice in mid-2011 and again last month, and to govern from Havana during his convalescence was wrong.

Belgian leader speechless after bus tragedy
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said Wednesday there were "no words" to describe the pain that relatives of victims of a fatal bus crash in southern Switzerland must be feeling. Twenty-eight people were killed when the coach bringing them back to Belgium from a skiing holiday hit a concrete wall late Tuesday in the motorway tunnel near the town of Sierre. Among the fatalities were 22 children, while many others were critically injured.

Kenyan nurses to end strike
Tens of thousands of Kenyan nurses agreed Wednesday to end a two-week strike after talks with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who revoked their mass dismissal during the standoff. The nurses stopped work on March 1 to protest the government's failure to raise wages as agreed last year, when they also demanded improved services in Kenya's mostly ill-equipped public hospitals. The strike has crippled hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated, while others languishing in wards unattended. The government last week announced that the 25,000 striking nurses had been sacked.


Ottawa moves to boost smaller telecoms
The Canadian government has lifted foreign-investment limits on small telecom firms to level the playing field ahead of the coming wireless spectrum auction. Industry Minister Christian Paradis says the new measures will allow new wireless carriers into the market and foster greater competition in the telecom industry. The government will also apply measures in the spectrum auction to ensure rural Canadians get the same service as people who live in bigger towns and cities. Antenna tower sharing and roaming policies will also be changed. A certain portion of the spectrum will also be set aside for

public-safety services such as firefighters and police.

Sun to launch new newspapers
Sun Media Corp. said Wednesday it plans to launch four new community newspapers in Ottawa, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, ON., by the end of the month. The new weekly papers will reach more than 400,000 homes in Ontario. Sun Media is a subsidiary of Quebecor Media , Canada's largest newspaper publisher. The company has 36 paid-circulation daily newspapers and six free daily newspapers as well as almost 200 community newspapers,

shopping guides and other specialty publications, Sun Media also provides commercial printing and related services as well as distribution for newspapers, flyers and magazines.

Markets


Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday: 12,378 - 160. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.29. Oil: $105.61 - $1.10.


Weather
British Columbia on Thursday: rain, high C10 Vancouver. Yukon: mix sun cloud snow. Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse -2, Yellowknife -3, Iqaluit -1. Alberta, Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Saskatchewan: sun. Edmonton 9, Regina 13, Winnipeg 14. Ontario: rain south, mix sun cloud north. Quebec: rain. Toronto 21, Ottawa 18, Montreal 9. Maritimes: snow. Newfoundland and Labrador: mix sun cloud. Fredericton 2, Halifax 1, Charlottetown 2, St. John's -1.