Thursday, April 26, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 25 April 2012
Canadian International Financial Sports Weather

Opposition warns against Afghanistan extension
The leader of Canada's opposition New Democratic Party says there should be no more extensions to Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan. Tom Mulcair was responding to newspaper reports that the Pentagon has asked Canada to consider leaving a special forces contingent in the country after the NATO withdrawal in 2014. The idea would be to continue training Afghan commandos and to possibly keep up the fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants. A parliamentary motion brought Canada's combat mission in Kandahar to end last summer and the order included special forces operations. A small contingent of elite soldiers are part of the 950 trainers Canada has provided to the continuing NATO training mission in Kabul.

Federal budget prediction corroborated
Canada's budget watchdog says federal spending restraint and cuts will likely lead to balanced budgets but also slower economic growth and 100,000 lost jobs. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's latest economic and fiscal report is surprising in that it agrees with the Harper government that the budget will be balanced in 2015-16, maybe even a year earlier. But it says fiscal soundness carries a heavy price, with Ottawa taking $52 billion out of the economy and the provinces adding another $9 billion of drag. The report says it is taking the government at its word that it will limit spending increases while chopping 19,000 public servants. Mr. Page's report says Ottawa's planned restraint and reductions in program expenses will reduce its share of the economy from 7.3 per cent in 2010-11 to 5.5 per cent in 2016-17. It projects the spending restraints and cutbacks will reduce economic output by 0.3 per cent this year, climbing to 0.88 per cent in 2014. Canada's economy, subsequently, will grow by only 1.6 per cent in 2013.

Central banker says households behaving more responsibly
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney says he is seeing encouraging developments on household debt. He told a House of Commons finance committee Tuesday that the pace of debt accumulation is slowing and that new home buyers appear to be opting in for longer term fixed mortgages. He says household debt accumulation has fallen from about nine or 10 per cent annually to near four per cent. And he says that new home buyers are staying away from more volatile variable mortgages and locking in low rates. This makes them less vulnerable to interest rate hikes. However, Mr. Carney repeated his warning that household debt is the number one domestic risk to the economic recovery.

Decision on NL energy project put off until fall
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale says her government's decision on whether to approve the Muskrat Falls hydro project will likely be made this fall. There had been talk of a rare summer sitting of the legislature to debate and vote on the $6.2-billion megaproject planned in Labrador. It now appears the latest facts and figures on the development won't be ready until mid- to late-summer. Mrs. Dunderdale says the project has been studied for decades, but recently gave in to opposition demands for a special debate and vote on Muskrat Falls. Supporters say plans to bring power from Labrador to Newfoundland and then mainland markets would be cheaper than if the island stays isolated. Critics have raised concerns about cost overruns and whether the power will be too expensive compared to other options.

Quebec student unrest unabated despite 'truce'
Hope that the recent student unrest in Quebec might be subsiding has been stifled by smoke bombs and window-smashing. Talks between the province and student groups hit a snag Wednesday as the government booted one of three main student groups away from the negotiating table, citing the hardline group's proximity to vandalism-plagued protests. The development came after a rowdy protest in Montreal that saw five arrests, an injured police officer and the window of a bank smashed late Tuesday. There more disruptions in the morning. A pair of smoke bombs tossed in the Montreal subway system slowed down service Wednesday, while there were several protests in the city. Those events were taking place despite a so-called "truce" declared by the Quebec government and student leaders. The sides had been meeting in Quebec City, hoping to hammer out some sort of compromise on the contentious issue of tuition hikes. With the student leaders having agreed to stop organizing any disruptive actions during the talks, the latest events prompted questions about whether the leaders actually control the movement they're leading. Education Minister Line Beauchamp said the fact that the protests were announced on the website of the hardline group called C.L.A.S.S.E. made it clear: they were not to be trusted at the negotiating table.

Halifax hospital strike on hold
The head of a union representing 3,600 hospital workers in Halifax says she is postponing a strike deadline until Thursday as negotiations continue. Joan Jessome posted a message on the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union website late Tuesday. Mrs. Jessome says she postponed any work stoppage for the safety of patients and members while the two sides continue to talk. She set a new deadline of 7 a.m. Thursday, adding that she plans to meet with members Wednesday and could avert a strike altogether if the sides come up with a deal acceptable to the workers. The NDP government resisted calls Tuesday to intervene in the dispute, saying bargaining should be allowed to run its course between the union and health board management.


Syrian forces said to continue pounding of Hama
Syrian activists report that security forces fired rockets that ripped through a building in Syria's central city of Hama on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more in a bloody violation of the shaky ceasefire in the country. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Hama district of Mashaa al-Teran had been hit by heavy fire. The grassroots Local Coordination Committee put the death toll from the shelling at 15, with 30 wounded. Hama, a centre of revolt in the year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, is hosting a small team of
United Nations observers, who are preparing the way for a larger UN mission which will arrive to monitor the ceasefire.

French candidate would turn against austerity
France's Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that leaders across Europe were awaiting his election to back away from German-inspired austerity, and he welcomed a call by ECB President Mario Draghi for a growth pact. Mr. Hollande says a budget discipline treaty signed by 25 EU leaders in March would plunge Europe into a deep recession. The favourite said that if he wins a May 6 runoff against President Nicolas Sarkozy he would set out his ideas for reforming the pact in a letter to European leaders the very next day. The conservative Mr. Sarkozy has been German Chancellor Angela Merkel's main partner in managing the euro zone debt crisis that erupted in late 2009, jointly crafting the fiscal compact that Mr. Hollande has vowed to renegotiate. The Socialist candidate leads the incumbent by around 10 points in opinion polls, but a record showing by the far-right National Front anti-immigration crusader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's first round has forced both finalists to make a pitch for her voters.

West Africa to send more troops to Guinea Bissau
West African regional bloc ECOWAS plans to send more than 600 troops to Guinea-Bissau in coming days with orders to protect people and institutions after a military coup there earlier this month. The move could trigger renewed conflict in the impoverished coastal nation after the ruling military junta, which took power in an overnight coup on April 12, said it would treat any deployment of foreign troops as occupiers. The former Portuguese colony has had several army uprisings since independence in 1974, but this latest has been a setback to Western and regional efforts to reform the military and combat drug cartels using the small west African country as a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe. The ECOWAS source said a 638-strong regional force, which will include troops from Nigeria along with Ivory Coast, Senegal and Burkina Faso, would be deployed in Guinea-Bissau in the "next few days".

Ukrainian rights watchdog wants inquiry into jailed opposition leader
Ukraine's top human rights official called for an investigation on Wednesday into allegations that Yulia Tymoshenko was beaten by prison guards, saying the former prime minister's treatment could amount to torture. Mrs. Tymoshenko's allegations that she was punched in the stomach and dragged from her bed were denied by prison authorities. But the accusation caused further concern in Western capitals over a case that has strained relations between Ukraine and the European Union. The 51-year-old has been on a hunger strike since Friday, when she said she was assaulted during a forced move to a hospital, and prison authorities warned her on Wednesday that she could be force-fed. Mrs. Tymoshenko, the main political rival of President Viktor Yanukovich, was jailed last October. She is serving a seven-year-prison term in the city of Kharkiv following an abuse-of-office conviction.

Senior Kenyan judges found corrupt
A panel trying to clean up Kenya's judiciary said on Wednesday Four senior Kenyan judges allowed corruption and inefficiency that helped fuel lethal post-election violence by people who had lost faith in the legal system. The Court of Appeal judges, including its most senior member, have a week to appeal the ruling after which they are likely to be fired, in a major overhaul of the east African country's tarnished courts. Five other judges were cleared. The chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, Sharad Rao, said the ethnic violence that followed disputed elections in 2007 might have been avoided if Kenya had had a credible legal mechanism for settling disputes. The election unrest damaged Kenya's reputation as a beacon of peace and stability in the region and the International Criminal Court has accused four prominent Kenyans, including former Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, of masterminding the violence that killed more than 1,200 people. All have said they are innocent.

Murdoch rejects behind-the-scenes accusation
Rupert Murdoch rejected accusations on Wednesday that he used his media empire to play puppet master to a succession of British prime ministers, electrifying a media inquiry that has shaken the government. The appearance before a judge by the world's most powerful media mogul was a defining moment in a scandal that has laid bare collusion between ministers, police and Murdoch's News Corp., reigniting long-held concerns over the close ties between big money, the media and power in Britain. Unlike an appearance before parliament last year when Murdoch appeared at times painfully slow to answer questions, the 81-year-old remained calm and considered throughout. Prime Minister David Cameron reluctantly ordered the inquiry last July as a phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid spiralled out of control, forcing him to side against the media empire that helped propel him into power a year earlier.


Air Canada former parent accused of betrayal
Air Canada's former parent company was accused Wednesday of betraying workers by distributing millions of dollars among its shareholders as it winds down operations. Hundreds of protesters blocked a downtown Montreal street where shareholders at ACE Aviation's annual meeting approved the plan to dissolve the holding company after less than 10 years of operation. While Air Canada struggles under the weight of more than $4.3 billion of debt and hefty pension obligations, ACE shareholders will split the spoils of selling its various divisions. ACE confirmed that shareholders approved the wind-up of the company and plans to distribute between $250 million and $300 million in the coming weeks. The protesters, many of them aerospace workers of insolvent aircraft maintenance company Aveos who just recently lost their jobs. They accused the Harper Conservatives of being in a conspiracy with Air Canada by not enforcing a law critics say requires heavy maintenance work to be done in Canada.

The Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday: 12,111 + 131. Canadian dollar: US$1.01. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $103.47 + .36.


Canada's roster is nearly set for world hockey championship. Chicago Blackhawks teammates Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp have both committed themselves to the team for next month's tournament. Just one spot at forward and another at defence need to be filled.


British Columbia on Thursday: rain, high C13 Vancouver. Yukon, Nunavut: snow. Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Whitehorse 6, Yellowknife 3, Iqaluit -1. Alberta, Saskatchewan: rain. Manitoba: sun. Edmonton 12, Regina, Winnipeg 9. Ontario: rain south, mix sun cloud north. Quebec: rain. Toronto 14, Ottawa 10, Montreal 12. Maritimes: mix sun cloud. Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Fredericton 13, Halifax 12, Charlottetown 14, St. John's 11.

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