Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 24 April 2012
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather

Alberta premier expects continued co-operation with Ottawa
Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she is looking forward to continued co-operation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on matters pertaining to her province. Mrs. Redford, who became premier last fall when she took the Progressive Conservative leadership, won a majority government in the Alberta election Monday night, beating back a challenge from the Wildrose party. She says she spoke to Mr. Harper Tuesday morning. She says it didn't bother her that some members of the federal Conservative caucus had thrown their support behind the rival Wildrose. Mrs. Redford says the campaign is over and there is work to be done on federal-provincial relations. She says she intends to continue pushing with Ottawa the need for a national energy strategy.

No election for Ontario
Ontario's minority Liberal government has easily survived a confidence vote on its budget. This followed a deal with the opposition New Democratic Party to impose a surtax the wealthy. The NDP abstained, and this allowed the Liberals to out vote the Progressive Conservatives 52 to 37 and pass the budget motion. If the two opposition parties had voted against the budget, there would been a second election in less than a year. There was little doubt the budget motion would pass after Premier Dalton McGuinty agreed to the NDP's demand to impose a two percentage point surtax on incomes over $500,000. Mr. McGuinty also said surtax will be scrapped when the budget is balanced in 2017-18.

Canada suspends measures against Myanmar
Canada is suspending its sanctions against Myanmar in recognition of its moves towards democracy. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he has seen encouraging steps in Myanmar after former political prisoner Aung Sang Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in historic elections there earlier this month. Mr. Baird says Canada's sanctions on imports, exports and financial transactions will be suspended, although an embargo will be maintained on sales of arms and military technology. The minister visited Myanmar last month and personally conferred honorary Canadian citizenship on Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate. He also visited Myanmar's new, reform-minded civilian leadership, and though impressed, said at the time he wanted to wait before easing restrictions on the repressive South Asian country. Earlier this week, the European Union suspended some sanctions against Myanmar for a year, but retained an arms embargo.

CSIS warns of terroist 'lone wolves'
The head of Canada's spy service says that Al-Qaeda's new focus on "lone wolf" tactics is making it tough for Western intelligence agencies to prevent terror attacks. Richard Fadden, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, says such operatives are tough to detect because they do not belong to a larger network that might attract attention. Mr. Fadden says al-Qaeda had decided to urge solo campaigns because it was too difficult to launch major operations such as the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Mr. Fadden says one example of a lone wolf was Mohamed Merah. He killed seven people in France last month. Merah died in a gunfight with police. He said he had been inspired by al-Qaeda.

Criminal 'surchargd' doubled
The Canadian government plans to double the victim surcharge levied against criminals. The surcharge goes to help pay for provincial and territorial victims' services. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says he will bring in legislation to set the surcharge at 30 per cent of any fine levied. Where there are no fines, the charge will be $100 for every summary conviction offence, and $200 for an indictable offence. The changes would also eliminate a loophole that allowed the charge to be waived for offenders who could demonstrate undue hardship. The Justice Department says offenders who can't afford to pay the surcharge may be able to participate in a provincial fine option program, where such programs exist.

Ottawa warned of space cuts repercussions
Cuts to the federal space budget have attracted comment at an international conference being hosted in Quebec City. The CEO of a top space company says he thinks the recent 10-per-cent cut may hurt the Canadian Space Agency's ability to compete internationally. Mike Pley, the head of COM DEV International, says the cuts come at a time when the CSA's annual $300 million budget had been steady for many years while other countries ramped up spending. He told a conference organized by the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, attended by 300 people from different countries, that 50 years ago Canada was the third country into space. But Mr. Pley says other countries like China, India and Brazil are preparing to challenge Canada and other traditionally wealthy nations. He warns that it's going to be very difficult to successfully compete with the rest of the world with a CSA budget that is already small and shrinking.

NS braces for hospital strike
The New Democratic Party government of Nova Scotia resisted calls Tuesday to intervene in a labour dispute on the eve of a possible strike by about 3,600 hospital workers in Halifax. The union representing the workers say they could set up picket lines as early as Wednesday morning, a move that would force the cancellation of elective surgeries and outpatient services. Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said she would allow bargaining to run its course as both the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union and health board management tried to resolve the impasse in mediated talks, despite calls from the Progressive Conservatives to step in. Officials at the Capital District Health Authority said operations at Halifax-area hospitals had already "slowed down" Tuesday in anticipation of a possible strike.

NL slips into deficit
Newfoundland and Labrador has slipped into deficit as offshore oil production dips because of maintenance, and payments from the Atlantic Accord dry up. The $7.5-billion budget tabled Tuesday projects a $258-million deficit this fiscal year and a provincial net debt of $8.5 billion by the end of March 2013. The fiscal blueprint also forecasts a deficit in 2013-14 of almost $433 million. Finance Minister Tom Marshall predicts a $44-million surplus the following year as higher offshore royalty rates kick in. He said payments from the Atlantic Still, Marshall said the provincial economy has never been stronger with record levels of investment and the lowest unemployment rate in 36 years at just under 13 per cent.


Syria said in non-compliance
A spokesman for UN mediator for Syria Kofi Annan says that country's government has not made the full military withdrawal it agreed to under a peace plan. The spokesman also cited "credible reports" that said Syrian forces were intimidating and, in some cases, killing people who speak to UN truce mediators in the country. He says satellite imagery showed Syrian forces had not withdrawn all heavy weapons from urban centres and returned to their barracks, as they are required to do under Annan's six-point peace plan. Mr. Annan was due to brief the U.N. Security Council later by video link. Eleven UN observers are deployed in Syria as part of an advance team monitoring compliance with a truce that went into effect on April 12.

Egypt's former PM disqualified
The body overseeing Egypt's presidential election disqualified former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq as a candidate on Tuesday after the ruling military council approved a law banning Hosni Mubarak's top officials from the race. The new law denies political rights to anyone who served as president, vice president or prime minister in the decade prior to Mubarak's removal from power on Feb. 11, 2011. It also applies to anyone who served in top posts in the ruling party.

Clashes continue in Bahrein
Witnesses say police in Bahrain have used tear gas and water cannon in Manama to disperse hundreds of protesters calling for the release of a jailed hunger striker. The protesters clashed with police Tuesday as they attempted to march toward Pearl Square, the focal point of an uprising against the monarchy in its early weeks last year. The square is now heavily guarded and ringed by razor wire. As they marched, the protesters called for hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to be set free. The activist's family say his health is seriously declining nearly 11 weeks into his protest, but authorities say he faces no immediate medical risks. Al-Khawaja was jailed during a crackdown on a Shiite-led uprising against the ruling Sunni dynasty.

South Sudan accuses neighbour of launching war
South Sudan accused Sudan on Tuesday of mounting bombing raids on the newly independent country's oil-producing border region and President Salva Kiir says the latest hostilities amounted to a declaration of a war by his northern neighbour. Weeks of cross-border fighting between the former civil war foes have threatened to escalate into a full blown conflict in a region that sits on one of the most significant oil reserves in Africa. Although both Sudan, ruled by President Omar al-Bashir since 1989, and South Sudan, which became independent last July under a peace deal with Khartoum, can ill-afford a protracted war, both countries have fuelled tensions with bellicose rhetoric. The raids came a day after the SPLA said Sudan bombed a market near the oil town of Bentiu, capital of Unity state, and killed two civilians, an attack they said amounted to a declaration of war.

Ukraine opposition leader on hunger strike
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko alleged on Tuesday that guards at the prison where she is being held severely beat her and said she has begun a hunger strike. Prosecutors denied the charge, saying that prison guards had taken Mrs. Tymoshenko to a nearby hospital for treatment of an existing medical problem against her will, but that she was not beaten. Mrs. Tymoshenko, the country's top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abusing her powers during negotiations about gas supplies with Russia. The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze co-operation with Ukraine. She , denies the charges, saying they are part of a campaign by her longtime foe, President Viktor Yanukovych, to bar her from politics. Mr. Yanukovych, who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential race, has denied involvement in the Tymoshenko case and says the investigations against her are part of an anti-corruption effort.

U.S. files first accusations in Gulf disaster
The U.S. Justice Department says the first criminal charges in the Deepwater Horizon disaster have been filed against a former BP engineer who allegedly destroyed evidence. Kurt Mix, of Katy, TX, was arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence. He faces two counts of obstruction of justice. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, killing 11 men and spewing 200 million gallons of oil. The Justice Department says the 50-year-old Mix is accused of deleting a string of 200 text messages with a BP supervisor in October 2010 that involved internal BP information about how efforts to cap the well were failing. BP declined to comment on the government's case against Mr. Mix. The London-based oil company said it will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice probe.


Retailers blame suppliers for U.S.-Canada price gap
Canada's retailers are blaming their suppliers for the large gap that still exists between their prices and identical goods for sale south of the border, despite the nearly equal value of the two dollars. Diane Brisebois of the Retail Council of Canada says the merchants she represents are being unfairly singled out for having higher prices than their American counterparts. She says because Canada's population is so small in comparison, large multi-national vendors can enforce a special Canadian price for brand name products and it can be from 35 per cent to 40 per cent higher than in the U.S. She says there are other reasons for the discrepancy, which some studies show average over 20 per cent. Mrs. Brisebois was testifying at a Senate committee looking into the issue. She told the Senators they should look at the companies that supply Canadian retailers, but noted they had not as yet been called before the committee.

The Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday: 11,980 - 9. Canadian dollar: US$1.01. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $103.47 + .36.

Mediation starts to distribute remaining Nortel assets
Mediation over the distribution of almost $9 billion in assets belonging to bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp. began Tuesday in one of the most complicated proceedings of its kind. The effort at settling the myriad creditor claims from Canada, the U.S. and around the world kicked off with Ontario's top judge warning of the pitfalls of failure. If the parties resort to litigation, Chief Justice Warren Winkler told a room full of high-priced bankruptcy lawyers, it would deplete much of the money now available to creditors, who include pensioners of the once high-flying high-tech company. The bankruptcy proceedings over Nortel's business lines and intellectual property involve companies in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica.



The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going retro for the coming season. The Canadian Football League club is changing its helmet logo back to a simple 'W'. Gone is the lightning bolt and football that have adorned the club's helmets since 1995.


British Columbia on Wednesday: mix sun cloud north, rain south, high C13 Vancouver. Yukon : rain. Northwest Territories: sun. Nunavut: snow. Wkitehorse 5. Yellowknife -4, Iqaluit -5. Alberta: rain north, mix sun cloud south. Saskatchewan: rain. Manitoba: rain. Edmonton, Winnipeg 14, Regina 17. Ontario: mix sun cloud south, rain north. Quebec: rain. Toronto 14, Ottawa 7, Montreal 8. Atlantic Canada: rain. Fredericton 13, Halifax 11, Charlottetown 10, St. John's 13.

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