Saturday, April 28, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Ottawa launches PR campaign for free trade with Europe
The Canadian government has launched a campaign to promote in the provinces an eventual free-trade accord with the European Union. Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast describes the initiative as the most ambitious in Canadian history. The minister says it could be even more important that the North American Free Trade Accord. Eighteen federal ministers and Members of Parliament are involved in the PR campaign. The issue of Canada's farm management programs remains unsolved. Mr. Fast says joint research by the Canadian government and the EU prove that an accord could lead to a 20-per cent increase in bilateral trade.

Tibetan leader expresses gratitude

The Dalai Lama has thanked the world for its support of Tibetan Buddhists under siege, as the Canadian government pledged Canada's support to the cause. His voice resonating through Ottawa's historic, high-ceilinged conference centre, the orange-robbed Tibetan holy leader said his "ancient nation, with ancient culture, is in danger of dying." The Dalai Lama was addressing the 6th World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet. The gathering included parliamentarians from around the world, including Members of Parliament s from Canada's three main federal parties. They were discussing the dire and deteriorating situation of the Tibetans, who have witnessed the self immolation of more than three dozen monks over the last year to protest China's oppression. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney reiterated his government's past support for the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Laureate on whom Canada conferred honorary citizenship in 2006. Mr. Kenney spoke of Canada's commitment to open an office of religious freedom within the Foreign Affairs Department, as well as a 2008 statement from Canada calling on China to respect protests and enter into meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to peacefully resolve the Tibet issue.

PM to vote against abortion change
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he will vote against a motion that opposition Members of Parliament say could be the first step towards re-criminalizing abortion. The motion, tabled by a Member of Parliament representing Mr. Harper's Conservative Party, calls for a study to determine if life begins before birth. MPs' spent part of Thursday debating the motion by Stephen Woodworth. It will be up for a vote in June or September. Abortion was made legal in Canada in a 1988 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Quebec moves to end student turmoil
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has made an offer to soften the blow of planned tuition hikes. The premier says he's willing to phase in the $1,625 increase over seven years instead of five. His government also wants to index increases to the rate of inflation, while enriching the loans-and-bursaries program. As for the tuition freeze being demanded at increasingly unruly demonstrations, Charest says he will not bend. And in a message aimed at the broader public, the premier and education minister repeatedly mentioned respect for taxpayers and cast the student cause as much ado over 50 cents per day. There is speculation that if the current unrest continues, Mr. Charest could call an election and campaign on the issue. He will begin the fifth year of his mandate in late 2012.

Hospital strike averted in NS
A tentative deal aimed at averting a strike by some 3,600 hospital workers in the Halifax area was ratified by the union membership Friday. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says 90 per cent of the membership who voted approved the deal. Under the deal, a board of arbitration will have to come up with pay increases that range between 6.5 per cent and nine per cent over three years. The contract says a final decision should be made by June 15. Deputy Premier Frank Corbett said he was relieved that the union accepted the deal. He says the government was ready to consider some form of

back-to-work legislation had the deal been rejected.

Alleged Nazi living in Quebec
A man alleged to be one of the world's most-wanted Nazi war criminals is living a quiet life in a rural region of the Canadian province of Quebec. Ninety-one-year-old Vladimir Katriuk keeps bees and sells honey in Ormstown, QC. He's now listed as number four on a list of the world's 10 most wanted suspected Nazis. The list is compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It says it has new evidence linking Mr. Katriuk to a village massacre in Eastern Europe in 1943.

Egyptians protest against return of old guard
Hundreds of Egyptian Islamists protested in Cairo on Friday against what they said was a bid to bring back deposed President Hosni Mubarak's old guard after his last prime minister was allowed to stand in the presidential election. Suspicions over the army's intentions were fuelled in the past week when Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, was first thrown out of the race and then reinstated hours before the final list was declared. Thousands turned out in Egypt's second city of Alexandria and hundreds in other cities for the Islamist-led protest. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamist group that

already dominates parliament, called for the demonstration to prevent a delay in handing over power. The generals who have ruled Egypt since Mubarak's overthrow have pledged to hand over power by July 1.

Gaza faction wants more Israeli hostages
Islamic leaders in the Gaza Strip called on Friday for militants to kidnap Israelis and use them as bargaining chips to secure the freedom of thousands of Palestinians prisoners held in Israeli jails. Human rights groups say up to 2,000 prisoners have joined a hunger strike to protest against jail conditions. Thousands of Palestinians staged a rally in the Gaza Strip to support their cause. Israel last year freed some 1,000 Palestinians in return for the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier seized in 2006 and held by the Islamist group Hamas in secret captivity for five years.

Libya to explain how Gadhafi son to be tried
The Libyan transitional government will outline to ICC judges in the Hague on Monday how it intends to try Moammar Gahdafi's son Saif al-Islam. If the court concludes that Libya cannot or will not try him, and is not co-operating with its own case, it can refer Tripoli to the UN Security Council. Pressure is mounting on Tripoli to hand Saif al-Islam to the ICC as human rights groups question whether its justice system can meet the standards of international law. Libya has filed several appeals, requesting more time to make the case that it can try Saif-al Islam itself. Five months after he was captured far away in the Sahara

desert dressed as a Bedouin tribesman, Saif al-Islam remains in the mountain town of Zintan in the hands of militia fighters who captured him. But the ad hoc nature of his detention and the national authorities' failure to take custody of him highlight just how little control the interim government, already busy managing the tough post-war transition to democracy, has over the country.

Bombs injure dozens in Ukrainian city
Four bombs exploded in a city in eastern Ukraine on Friday, wounding 27 people, including nine children, in what authorities described as an "act of terrorism. President Viktor Yanukovich said the blasts in Dnipropetrovsk, six weeks before Ukraine plays host to the European soccer championship, represented "a challenge ... to the whole country." Police said the bombs had been left in rubbish bins at various points in the city. Authorities offered no immediate explanation of any motive or say who they thought could be responsible.

Blind Chinese activist on the lam
A blind legal activist and one of China's most prominent human rights advocates has escaped home detention in the country's east, activists said on Friday, but confusion over his whereabouts has worried supporters. Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught legal advocate in ailing health who campaigned against forced abortions, had been restricted to his village home in Linyi in Shandong province since September 2010 when he was released from jail. His confinement under guard with his family caused protests by Chinese sympathisers and criticism from foreign governments and activist groups. Mr. Chen's fate has become a test of wills, pitting a crackdown on dissent against rights activists who have rallied around his cause and that of artist Ai Weiwei.

Argentina closer to energy nationalization
Argentina stepped toward nationalizing its biggest oil company on Thursday when the government's expropriation bill sailed through the Senate and then a lower house committee, setting the stage for final legislative approval next week. The expropriation of YPF from majority holder Repsol has widened the breach between Argentina and trade partners critical of President Cristina Fernandez's nationalist policies, including import controls that have hurt confidence in Latin America's No. 3 economy. Once the bill passes, making the takeover permanent, attention will turn to the compensation Argentina will pay Spain's Repsol for its stake. Officials have already said it will be far lower than the $9.3 billion the company has sought. The government justifies the expropriation by saying YPF was under-investing and under-producing in Argentina, a charge that Repsol dismisses.

Air Canada resume contract talks with mechanics
Air Canada says it's set to resume negotiations with the union that represents its 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents. The 10 days of scheduled talks with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will be conducted with the help of an arbitrator. It is an approach that Air Canada's pilots union has also adopted. The Machinists were prevented from going on strike last month, and Air Canada was prevented from locking out the pilots, when federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt sent the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The federal government later passed back-to-work legislation that sent the company and the two unions to binding arbitration.

CP shareholder squabble continues
The chairman of Canadian Pacific Ltd. is publicly demanding a retraction and apology from Bill Ackman, the New York-based fund manager who is leading a shareholder revolt against CP's current leadership. But Mr. Ackman didn't appear to be in an apologizing mood Friday. John Cleghorn, chairman of CP's board of directors, said Friday that Mr. Ackman has had ample time to admit he was wrong to question the company's integrity in interviews given Monday. Mr. Cleghorn demands in a public letter a retraction and apology to the company, its shareholders, employees and board of directors. Mr. Ackman, for his part, stood his ground, saying the case for change at Canadian Pacific is "overwhelming based on the company's own reported numbers over the past six years." It's the latest in an increasingly heated string of exchanges between Mr. Ackman and Canadian Pacific's current directors and management, who are resisting calls to replace CP chief executive Fred Green.

The Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,238 + 92. Canadian dollar: US$1.01. Euro: $1.29. Oil: $104.71 + .16.


Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin have been named finalists for the Hart Trophy. It goes to the player picked as most valuable to his team. Stamkos had a league-high 60 goals this season while Lundqvist registered a career-high 39 wins this season. Malkin was the N-H-L's scoring leader with 109 points, including a career-best 50 goals.


Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic is through to the semifinals at the Barcelona Open. The Thornhill, ON, native dispatched world number four Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6 in the clay-court event. The six-foot-five Canadian has now beaten six top-10 players in his career, with Murray his biggest victim to date.

British Columbia on Saturday: rain, high C13 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: snow. Whitehorse 9, Yellowknife 5, Iqaluit -4. Alberta: mix suncloud. Saskatchewan: mix sun cloud. Manitoba: sun. Edmonton 12, Regina 6, Winnipeg 7. Ontario, Quebec: sun. Toronto 7, Ottawa, Montreal 8. New Brunswick: mix sun cloud. Nova Scotia: snow. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Fredericton 5, Halifax 4, Charlottetown 5, St. John's 10.