Wednesday, April 11, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Steps taken to get skilled newcomers into country

A new immigration program is being created to get skilled trades workers into Canada faster. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the new program for workers in fields such as construction and manufacturing should be set up later this year. He says those who work in the trades only make up a small percentage of immigrants coming to Canada under the current skilled workers program and that's not meeting the needs of industry. Mr. Kenney says criteria required to enter Canada under the existing program put trades people at a disadvantage because the rules are geared toward professionals. The changes are part of a broader set of immigration reforms laid out in last month's federal budget.

Canadians realize danger of household debt
A new survey shows more Canadians acknowledge they may be reaching the upper limits on borrowing, even though they believe they are safe for now. The annual survey conducted by the Leger Marketing polling firm found that almost two-thirds of respondents believed their current debt levels were about right. But a similar number, 63 per cent, said they wanted to decrease their debt levels over the next year. In a recent interview, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney warned precisely of such a dynamic, where households count on home values and low interest rates to rationalize their debt loads. Citing a household debt to income ratio of over 150 per cent, Mr. Carney noted that Canadians have never been more in debt. He warned that if house prices fall, Canadians could find themselves in a situation where their net assets decline as interest rates and hence their mortgage payments rise.

Second sub returns to duty
One of Canada's four troubled submarines is scheduled to return to the water this week for the first time since 2007. Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the Defence Department hopes to have HMCS Windsor in the water on Wednesday in Halifax. MacKay says Windsor is the second submarine to begin sea trials this year after an extensive refit program. Initially scheduled to be completed by 2009, Windsor's refit has taken almost five years. The submarine has been at sea for only 332 days since arriving in Nova Scotia in October 2001. HMCS Victoria, based on the West Coast, was the first submarine to complete the refit and it successfully test-fired torpedoes last month.

Ontario govt. rejects NDP shopping list
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is pouring cold water on a list of demands made by Ontario's New Democrats in exchange for supporting the Liberal government's budget. Mr. McGuinty says he's pleased the NDP are offering ideas to improve the budget instead of taking the same stand as the Progressive Conservatives, who vow to vote against it. However, the premier says he wishes the New Democrats had put forward some ideas that actually helped the cash-strapped government save money. The premier says it's easy to find ways to spend more but not as easy to find ways of reducing government spending. Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid compared the NDP's list of demands to a spending spree and said the Liberals' top priority is eliminating the $15.2 billion deficit by 2017-18.

NDP mounts PR campaign for Mulcair
Canada's official Opposition New Democratic Party has launched an advertisement campaign that focuses on its new leader Thomas Mulcair. He is being introduced to Canadians as someone who will fight for ordinary families, much as his predecessor, Jack Layton, did. In a new English television ad presented Tuesday, the emphasis is on continuity, not change. During the seven-month leadership contest to choose Mr. Layton's successor, Mr. Mulcair was portrayed by his rivals as someone who would change the social democratic party by turning it into a weak imitation of the Liberal party. Mr. Mulcair was chosen leader at a party convention last month in Toronto. He replaces Mr. Layton, who died of cancer last August.

Syria fighting rages despite ceasefire accord
Syrian activists report that Syrian troops shelled and raided opposition strongholds nationwide on Tuesday, prompting an urgent appeal by international envoy Kofi Annan to the Syrian regime to halt violence and give his truce plan a chance. The Syrian opposition as well as the U.S. and its allies have been deeply skeptical that the regime would comply with the ceasefire because it has violated previous agreements and stepped up attacks in recent weeks. The main Syrian opposition group estimated that some 1,000 people have been killed in regime attacks in the week leading up to Tuesday's withdrawal deadline. According to activists, Tuesday's fighting claimed the lives of at least 29 civilians and 11 regime soldiers. Syria's foreign minister claimed that regime forces have begun withdrawing from some areas in compliance with Mr. Annan's plan, which requires Syrian forces to pull back from towns and villages on Tuesday and both sides to cease all hostilities by 6 am Thursday.

Greeks to vote
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will meet President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday to ask for a snap election to be called on May 6. The election will be the first since the debt crisis exploded at the end of 2009, dragging the country into its worst

economic recession since World War Two, pushing unemployment to record highs and shaking the euro. The conservative New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK, which back the interim government of technocrat Papademos, have suffered in opinion polls for supporting the bailout plan and may not gather enough votes to govern. Polls show small parties opposing the steep wage and pension cuts imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for aid are gaining ground. That may stop the main parties from even forming a coalition government together.

Death toll rises in Nigeria bombing
Officials at a local hospital in Nigeria say another three people have died from the injuries they suffered in an Easter suicide car bombing, raising the death toll in the attack to at least 41 people. Officials at Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital in Kaduna said three patients who were admitted after the bombing died on Monday. State officials previously said at least 38 people died in the explosion

at a busy crossroads in Kaduna, a city on the dividing line between Nigeria's largely Christian south and Muslim north. No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, though suspicion has fallen on a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria known as Boko Haram.

Dispute emerges about Norwegian mass killer's sanity
The right-wing extremist who confessed to killing 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage in Norway is not criminally insane, a psychiatric assessment found Tuesday, contradicting an earlier examination. The new conclusion comes just six days before Anders Behring Breivik is scheduled to go on trial on terror charges for the massacre on July 22, and could prompt prosecutors to seek a prison sentence instead of compulsory commitment to psychiatric care. It conflicts with an earlier assessment, which found Breivik psychotic both during and after the attacks, and diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. The court will take both psychiatric assessments into account during the trial, which starts Monday and is scheduled to last 10 weeks.

Sick passenger forces Balmoral to turn around
A cruise ship retracing the Titanic's fateful voyage 100 years ago was forced to turn back towards Ireland on Tuesday after a passenger developed heart problems. The Balmoral is carrying 1,309 passengers, about the same number as were on the Titanic. Among them are relatives of those who lost their lives, relatives of survivors and historians. The Titanic Memorial Cruise had departed from Southampton, England, on Sunday to follow the doomed ship's route to New York. The passengers had intended to hold a memorial service at the spot where it sank on the night of April 14-15. The Balmoral had left the port of Cobh in Ireland late on Monday night and was sailing through heavy weather when Captain Robert Bamberg announced on Tuesday afternoon it would have to turn back to return within helicopter range of Ireland to allow the sick passenger to be evacuated.

Bolivian road project in deeper jeopardy
Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Tuesday he was rescinding the contract awarded to Brazil's OAS to build a road through the Amazon forest, casting further doubt on a project that unleashed fierce anti-government protests last year. Mr. Morales partially halted work on the most controversial stretch of the road in September, seeking to ease tensions over the $420 million project that sparked strong opposition from within the president's indigenous support base. The president told a news conference said the company had suspended work "without justification or authorization." Mr. Morales says the decision would affect the two stretches of road at either end of the route. The contract for the middle section - which passes through

the Isiboro Secure indigenous territory and national park lapsed last year after work was halted there. He did not say whether OAS would be compensated or how the road's construction might continue. BNDES, Brazil's state development bank, was due to fund about 80 percent of the troubled project, which has been at the center of Bolivian politics for nearly a year. Mr. Morales has put the road scheme at the heart of his drive to boost infrastructure investment in the impoverished nation. But mass protests against road-building in the park area have complicated his development push.

CPR earnings up sharply
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. says it expects to report 80 to 83 cents per share of earnings in the just-ended first quarter of 2012, about four times more than a year ago and above current analyst estimates. The Calgary-based railway provided the advanced look at its financial report as its board and management try to fend off efforts to replace CP chief executive Fred Green with Canadian National's former CEO, Hunter Harrison. Its complete financial report is scheduled to be released April 20.

Aveos workers get back pay
A Quebec judge has ruled employees of insolvent aircraft maintenance company Aveos Fleet Performance will share $5.8 million in back pay, or up to $2,000 each. The court approved the payment by April 21, along with $450,000 in employer payroll contributions. The payment constitutes the "full and final payment due and payable" to more than 2,600 employees who were terminated when the Montreal-based company closed and moved to liquidate its Canadian operations. The April 5 court order says no further priority claims can be asserted against Aveos under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Aveos was formed after Air Canada spun off its technical services division in 2007. It announced plans to liquidate its assets, citing a decline in business from its largest customer. The airline's CEO told a Parliamentary committee the heavy maintenance company failed because it was unable to attract customers beyond Air Canada to diversify its revenue.


The number one overall pick in this year's National Hockey League draft was decided Tuesday night when the lottery took place at TSN's studio in Toronto. The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the draft lottery with the best odds of landing the top selection at 48.2 per cent. Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and the New York Islanders are also in the mix.