Saturday, May 26, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Ottawa continues to reduce deficit

The Canadian government's books took a large $9-billion hit in March but the $23.5 billion deficit it expects for the just-ended budget year appears to be below its previous estimates. The month included two large spending items that were out of the ordinary, a $2.2-billion payment to compensate Quebec for adopting the harmonized sales tax and a $1.8-billion increase for workforce adjustment costs, related to public service cutbacks announced in the March budget. The Department of Finance cautioned that the deficit report issued Friday is preliminary and that a final number won't be known until the fall.

However as things stand now, the deficit for the year is nearly $13 billion smaller than predicted for 2011-12 when the budget was announced last June and slightly better than in the most recent revised estimate, showing Ottawa continues to make progress towards balancing its budget.

Opinion divided on NDP leader's comments on oilsands
A new poll suggests Canadians are roughly split over New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair's contention that the Alberta oilsands raise the value of the Canadian dollar, which in turn hurts the economy in other parts of the country. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests slightly more Canadians disagree than agree with Mulcair --45 per cent compared to 41 per cent -- although opinions varied across the country. Most people polled in oil-rich Alberta and the rest of the Prairies disagreed with the NDP leader, while those in Quebec and British Columbia were most likely to agree with him. The poll indicates most people don't share Mr. Mulcair's sentiments in Ontario, the country's manufacturing heartland. A study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute says Ontario enjoys the lion's share of oilsands benefits outside Alberta.

Quebec students seek to nullify emergency law
The protest movement against the Charest government is switching the legal arena. Lawyers for student federations and other groups appeared in a Montreal courtroom on Friday to file legal motions against Bill 78, the law aimed at cracking down on student protests. Bill 78 lays out strict regulations governing demonstrations of more than 50 people, including having to give eight hours' notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they are being held. The student groups claim the law is unconstitutional and a violation of basic rights. The first of the two motions is expected to be heard next Wednesday and is aimed at obtaining a temporary suspension of the law. The aim of the second procedure is to have the entire law struck down.

Ontario students inspired by Quebec counterparts

Ontario students and unions say they're preparing to join their Quebec counterparts in protesting tuition hikes. They say they're not advocating violence, but warn there's unrest brewing among students who are frustrated with paying sky-high fees for their education. Students in Quebec have been striking for more than a 100 days to oppose a proposed 75 per cent tuition hike, which has sparked violent clashes and mass arrests by police. Students in British Columbia are also showing solidarity with those in Quebec by condemning a special law that puts restrictions on the tuition protests that have rocked Quebec for months. Premier Dalton McGuinty says his government has helped Ontario students, who pay some of the highest tuition fees in Canada, by giving them a 30 per cent rebate. But the students say the rebate only affects one-third of students and the government hiked tuition rates shortly after it took effect.

Ontario budget remains unpassed
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says he's not interested in tax changes before the budget is passed. The New Democrats want to break out the tax changes that are part of the budget to ensure they're implemented in time. But Mr. Duncan says Ontario's credit rating and plan to abolish the deficit will be in jeopardy unless the entire budget bill passes before the legislature breaks for the summer. The changes include cancelling a July 1 corporate tax cut and hiking taxes for the wealthy, which the New Democrats bargained for in exchange for their support of the budget. The minister says they're reneging on that agreement by refusing to pass the massive 350-page bill. But the NDP says it never agreed to pass the entire bill without scrutiny by the public. The minority Liberals need the NDP's support to pass the budget.

Forest fire threatens northern Ontario town
A state of emergency is in effect in a town in northeastern Ontario, where a forest fire is coming within 30 kilometres of Timmins. The town's forty thousand residents are advised to keep their doors and windows closed because of thick smoke. The fire covers 250 square kilometres. Winds are fanning the flames. Some 180 residents of the Mattagami First Nation south of the city have been evacuated to Kapuskasing. More than 40 wildfires are burning in northern Ontario.

Egyptian Islamist candidate advances
The Muslim Brotherhood said on Friday its candidate in Egypt's first free presidential vote would fight a run-off next month with ex-air force chief Ahmed Shafiq. He is the last prime minister of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak. This week's first-round vote has polarised Egyptians between those determined to avoid handing the presidency back to a man from Mubarak's era and those fearing an Islamist monopoly of ruling institutions. The run-off will be held on June 16 and 17.

China, U.S. feud over solar imports deepens
China has filed new charges against U.S. trade practices with the World Trade Organization. China is challenging the legality of U.S. tariffs on 22 Chinese goods, including steel and solar panels. The United States argues that tariffs are needed because China's government subsidizes the exported goods. This week, the U.S. government increased tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels by 31 per cent, saying that the panels were being sold at ridiculously low prices. But China says that the United States is using tariffs improperly to protect American companies from competition. China also accuses the United States of offering improper subsidies for six renewable energy projects, which would violate free-trade rules. China says that the tariffs affect Chinese exports worth more than $7 . The United States is studying China's complaint and will respond in accordance with WTO rules.

U.S. soldier convicted of terrorism
A jury on Thursday convicted a U.S. soldier of attempting to build a bomb and use it to blow up a restaurant near the Fort Hood Army post in Texas to get revenge for the suffering of fellow Muslims in the Middle East at the hands of the military. Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo, 22, was arrested last July after a tip from a gun store owner who became alarmed by Abdo's attempts to purchase smokeless gunpowder and weapons. Abdo traveled from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to the army post in Fort Hood. Abdo had been granted conscientious objector status for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars because of his Muslim faith.

Scottish independence supporters launch campaign
Supporters of independence for Scotland launched a campaign on Friday which they hope will lead to the demise of a 305-year-old union with England and the breakup of Britain. The campaign hopes to tap into a blend of historical rivalry, different political tastes, and a perception that the British parliament in London does not safeguard Scotland's interests to win a referendum in 2014 which would pave the way for full independence two years later. If successful, the drive could create serious problems for Britain, which comprises England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. Britain's current government, a coalition between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party, is opposed to Scottish independence as is the opposition Labour party.

New French leader makes surprise Afghanistan visit
French President Francois Hollande made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Friday to visit some of the French troops he wants to pull out later this year and meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Hollande, making a whirl of foreign trips since his May 15 inauguration, is accelerating the withdrawal of the roughly 3,400 French troops still stationed in Afghanistan to the end of this year, two years ahead of the NATO timetable. The French president's new withdrawal timetable is at odds with NATO partners adhering to a plan to hand over command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013 and withdraw most of the 130,000 foreign troops there by the end of 2014.

Ukraine's parliament obstructed after donnybrook
One day after a fierce brawl broke out in Ukraine's parliament, opposition lawmakers have prevented Friday's session from starting. They blocked the parliamentary speaker's podium. The brawl on Thursday concerned a new bill that proposes to make Russian an official language in eastern Ukraine, where Russian is widely in use. Lawmakers fought each other and threw punches. One person was treated in hospital for a head injury. Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn says that the brawl has destroyed the legislative process. He called for new elections. Elections are already scheduled in October.

The Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 11,566.07, + 1. Canadian dollar: US97 US, down .28. Euro: $1.28. Oil: $90.86 +.20.


The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, says that he'd welcome a bid from Quebec City to host the Olympic Games. Mr. Rogge is in Quebec City for a two-day meeting of the IOC executive board. Quebec City has not officially indicated any intention to host the Games. Three Canadian cities have held Olympic Games---Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Mr. Rogge also said that the Olympic governing body is still hoping that Saudi Arabia will send female athletes to the London Games this summer. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the only countries that have never included women on their Olympic teams. Qatar and Brunei plan to send female athletes to London. Mr. Rogge says that talks are underway with Saudi Arabia to find a solution.


The Montreal Canadiens have hired veteran National Hockey League executive Rick Dudley as the new assistant general manager. Dudley has served as general manager with several NHL clubs and was a director of player personnel with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.

Here is Canada's weather for Saturday, May 26th. British Columbia will be sunny. The high temperature in Vancouver, 20 degrees Celsius and Victoria, 21. The Yukon: cloudy. Whitehorse, 13. Northwest Territories: cloudy. Yellowknife, 20. Nunavut: flurries. Iqaluit, minus 1. Alberta: sunny. Edmonton, 19. Saskatchewan: cloudy. Regina, 12. Manitoba: sunny periods. Winnipeg, 15. Ontario: sunny. Toronto, 25, Ottawa, 28. Quebec: sunny. Montreal, 25. New Brunswick: cloudy. Fredericton, 25. Nova Scotia: cloudy. Halifax, 20. Prince Edward Island: cloudy. Charlottetown, 20. Newfoundland and Labrador: partly sunny. St. John's, 18. Happy Valley-Goose Bay, 21