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Showing posts from 2014

Canada opposes UN bill opposing glorification of Nazism

Last Friday, Canada along with the U.S. opposed a resolution that was meant to combat glorification of Nazism. The only other country to vote against the resolution was Ukraine.


The resolution was put forward by Russia and a number of other countries. The entire resolution can be viewed here. Part of the resolution claims to be for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” There were 55 abstentions including many EU countries. This Lithuanian source explains some of the reasoning behind some of the abstentions. There were 115 countries in favor of the resolution including India, Iran, but also Israel.
 While the Russian motion was no doubt in part motivated by its claims that far-right neo-Nazi groups were powerful actors in the new Ukrainian government, it is surprising to me that the US and Canada voted against the bill. It seem…

Burnaby BC and environmental activists fight to protect Burnaby Mountain

Both the city of Burnaby BC just outside of Vancouver along with environmental activists are joining battle against Kinder Morgan



Kinder Morgan intends to expand the Trans Mountain bitumen export pipeline so as to triple its capacity. This would require adding many storage tanks to their present storage facility at Burnaby Mountain. However, another factor that concerns environmentalists is that it would increase oil tanker traffic through the Burrard Inlet by four to six times what it is now, increasing the likelihood of a disastrous oil spill. A National Energy Board (NEB) decision granted Kinder Morgan access to the Burnaby Mountain municipal conservation area. The city plans to appeal the ruling. The city has tried to block the company from doing survey work in the Burnaby Mountain conservancy for the route preferred by the company for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The Energy Board ruling claims that the geotechnical work in the area is necessary to prov…

Former Conservative staff member Michael Sona jailed for role in robocalls scandal

Michael Sona, a former member of the Federal Conservative Party staff has been sentenced to nine months in jail for his role in the 2011 Federal Election robocalls scandal.


Sona set a record of sorts by becoming the first and only person, so far, to be sentenced to jail for violations of the Canada Elections Act. The robocalls were designed to misdirect potential opposition voters so that they would not vote on the morning of the 2011 federal vote. Most robocalls are perfectly legal and can be used in political campaigns as well as public information campaigns. The Crown prosecutor had asked for a sentence of at least 18 months. Justice Gary Hearn also gave Sona twelve months on probation. Norm Boxall, Sona's lawyer, had suggested a suspended or conditional sentence but Justice Hearn termed that "entirely inappropriate".
On the morning of May 2, 2011, thousands of automated phone calls went out to some voters in and around Guelph giving incorrect information…

Humboldt, Saskatchewan woman ends up with $950,000 bill after premature birth in Hawaii

A Saskatchewan woman, Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, went on a holiday to Hawaii in October 2013 while she was pregnant. She ended up giving birth nine weeks prematurely in Hawaii.



She gave birth on December 10th by emergency C-section. She and her baby daughter remained in hospital for two whole months. Huculak-Kimmel thought that her Blue Cross travel insurance would pay her bill but Blue Cross refused to provide any payments on the grounds that she had a pre-existing condition — a high risk pregnancy — and also her insurance ran out during the period when she was in the hospital. A Blue Cross worker wrote to the family: "We are unable to provide coverage for any medical expenses incurred for Ms. Huculak's baby" and "please note that Ms. Huculak's travel policy expired on Nov. 9, 2013." Huculak-Kummel had met with her own doctor who approved the trip, and also Blue Cross before she went on the trip. She said: "Blue Cross said that because …

Manitoba NDP leader Sellinger faces leadership race next March

On Saturday, the ruling provincial Manitoba New Democratic Party held an emergency executive meeting in Winnipeg to discuss dissent within the party with criticism being directed at Premier Greg Selinger by a number of cabinet ministers.



The meeting lasted a full four hours beginning at 10 AM in the morning. Selinger was able to convince the executive that the solution to the crisis was to hold a leadership convention at the party's annual convention March 6, 2015. Selinger was smiling when he emerged from the long meeting and said: “I’m happy that we’ve found a democratic way to make decisions. That’s always been the tradition of our party." Selinger would not comment when asked by a reporter whether some executive members wanted to hold an earlier leadership race claiming that those were "internal discussions".
 Party president, Ellen Offert, said that a committee will soon be set up that will formulate the ground rules for the leadership race. The rule…

Canada to be a hub for trading Chinese currency

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper returned to Canada after a successful trade mission to China. While Harper did raise human rights and religious freedom issues this did not prevent negotiation of trade deals.





One of the more important deals makes Canada a hub for trading in Chinese currency the yuan, or renminbi (RMB). This should encourage more trade between Canada and China as it will make speed of transactions quicker and decrease costs. It will also be a boost to Canada's financial sector based in Toronto. China is already the world's second largest economy and is one of the fastest growing as well. The new deal will also allow Canadians to open bank accounts that contain renminbi. Canadian investors will be able to buy up to 50 billion in renminbi, about $9.2 billion, in Chinese stocks and bonds. BNN calculates 50 billion RMB at $8.2 billion US so the other calculation is probably in Canadian dollars. I checked out the figures on a converter and…

Scotiabank cuts 1,500 jobs while profits almost 2 billion

Scotiabank is cutting 1,000 jobs in Canada and another 500 in branches outside of Canada. The cuts are happening in a year when the bank has made well over $1 billion in profit.

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So far this year Scotiabank has been doing very well: Like Canada's other major banks, Scotiabank has been extremely profitable — with a total $5.57 billion of net profit in the first three quarters of 2014."Today's announcement is a result of making some difficult but necessary decisions to support our long-term goals," said Brian Porter, Scotiabank's president and chief executive officer. The figure of $5.57 billion actually is total revenue according to the Wikipedia entry on Scotiabank, and net profits were $1.8 billion, but this is still a substantial profit. Given that the bank is at present making huge profits with the number of employees that it has it would seem that there is no necessity to cut jobs and certainly not that many. However, the bank's rol…

Former head of BC Hydro Marc Eliesen withdraws from Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings

Marc Eliesen, who was formerly head of British Columbia Hydro, pulled out of federal government hearings on a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that would run parallel to its existing pipeline linking Alberta and Vancouver, BC.



Kinder Morgan has headquarters in Houston, Texas and is the fourth largest energy company in North America. In 2013 Kinder Morgan filed an application before the Canadian National Energy Board(NEB) to build a second pipeline parallel to the Trans Mountain line it already owns. This new pipeline would boost the amount of oil the company could ship to Vancouver to 850,000 barrels from 300,000 barrels per day. Cost of construction is estimated at $5.4 billion.
 The new line would allow much larger volumes of tar sands oil to be shipped to the US and Asia. In a letter sent to the National Energy Board Eliesen claimed that the federal hearing process on the project was "a farce". Among other failings Eliesen noted that oral cross examina…

MP Dean del Mastro found guilty of overspending in 2008 federal campaign

Judge Lisa Cameron found Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro from Peterborough Ont. guilty of overspending in the 2008 federal election and falsifying a document to cover this up.



Del Mastro now could lose his seat in the House of Commons, and face a sentence of up to three years in jail, and also $6,000 in fines. However, Del Mastro is considering an appeal of the decision. Prosecutors claimed that Del Mastro had ordered $21,000 in services from Holinshed a now-defunct company. However, his campaign realized that claiming the whole amount would put it over the spending limit and so claimed only $1,575 was spent. Del Mastro however claims that the $21,000 he paid from his personal account was for separate services from Frank Hall, Holinshed's owner, that he had never actually delivered.
The judge countered Del Mastro's claim. She said that the timing of the contract and the language it contained showed that it "is plainly a contract for election services". S…

Manitoba NDP premier faces internal political crisis

The last four elections, fifteen years, Manitoba has elected the New Democrats to rule the province. Even though during the last election Greg Selinger the leader of the party and premier won a resounding majority he is facing internal criticism.



Several senior cabinet ministers in Sellinger's government publicly spoke out about public dissatisfaction with the premier's performance. Five ministers and one former minister spoke out on Monday and Tuesday of this week: "..Justice Minister Andrew Swan, Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald, Health Minister Erin Selby, Local Government Minister Stan Struthers, Finance Minister Jennifer Howard and former labour minister Becky Barrett — suggested that Selinger should consider his future and come to a decision that is in the best interests of the government and the province. " Selinger did not take the hint and announce his resignation or even a leadership review. He announced he intends to lead the ND…

Justin Trudeau's position on Iraq and public opinion polls

Both Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who is leading in recent federal polls and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party(NDP) voted against the bombing mission of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Iraq.


Two recent polls indicate that a majority of Canadians support Canada's Iraq mission and also Stephen Harper's judgment on the matter. Yet, as an article by Eric Grenier indicates, the results do not clearly show that Trudeau's position on Iraq has had any negative effect on support for the Liberal party.
An EKOS research survey shows that 58 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat support Canada's Iraq mission while only 39 per cent are opposed. As usual with such results the polls actually show that most Canadians 58 per cent favor a "non-military response such as aid and assistance to refugees" a position supported by both opposition parties. 21 per cent favored limiting the response to airstrikes where another 23 per cent wanted a "…

Gunman attacks parliament wounds guard

Ottawa - Although details are still sketchy an armed man emerged near the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill. He then shot four times wounding a guard. He then apparently was able to enter the parliament buildings. The shooter is still said to be on the loose although one MP Bernard Trottier had tweeted that the gunman was shot and killed inside the Centre Block. The area has been sealed off by police and the guard who was shot has been taken to hospital. Police locked down parliament. Tactical Ottawa police arrived pointed guns at journalists and ordered them to the ground. Reporters were in lockdown in the foyer at the front of the House of Commons.
Stephen Harper, the prime minister, is reported safe and has left the parliament buildings. One Calgary MP Michelle Rempel tweeted to her mother that she was safe but that there were shots outside the caucus room. One body was reported visible from the Library of Parliament that is about in the middle of the Cen…

Harper government to give more powers to CSIS spy agency

The Canadian Conservative government of Stephen Harper has announced that it will increase the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service(CSIS) the main spy agency in Canada.



The Minister of Public Safety Stephen Blaney said the legislation would give the CSIS more power to investigate terrorist threats outside Canada — and also to protect the identity of informants working for CSIS. Blaney referred to the advance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as showing the need to increase the powers of CSIS:"The events in recent months in Iraq and Syria have shown us that we cannot become complacent in the face of terrorism. Now more than ever, a motivated individual or a group of extremists with access to technology can do significant harm to Canada from thousands of miles away." Blaney claimed that the new legislation will allow CSIS to track and investigate potential terrorists when they travel outside Canada which could ultimately lead to prosecut…

Canadian studies show neonicotinoids a danger to birds and bees

New research into the longer-term effects of neonicotinoids show that the effects of these most common insecticides are raising serious questions about their use.



Nigel Raine of the University of Guelph, an expert in pollinator conservation found that neonicotinoids affect the ability of bees to find and collect food. The neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that is they adversely affect the functioning of the nervous system. Nicotine was long known to be effective as an insecticide but it is also harmful to mammals. Neonicotinoids were developed so as to avoid harmful effects on mammals. By 2008 neonicotinoids made up 24 percent of the global pesticide market. In seed treatment neonicotinoids constituted 80 per cent of the market.
 However, recent studies have raised serious question about the effects of the insecticides on bee populations and also on birds. Some bird species that depend upon insects for food are suffering in areas that make extensive use of these effectiv…

Canada will join the US-led coalition to attack the Islamic State in Iraq

Canada will join in the coalition led by the US to combat the Islamic State. The mission will involve air combat but no ground troops and will be only in Iraq not Syria and initially will be for six months.



A motion was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons today, October 3, and the text can be found here. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the contribution will include an air-to-air refueling plane, two surveillance aircraft, and also Canada is offering up to six CF-18 fighter jets. Canada will provide pilots and support personnel. For now, Harper said that Canada would attack the Islamic State only where it had the clear support of the country being bombed. This would not include Syria but Harper said also that he might expand the airstrikes if the situation changes. Canada is already providing humanitarian aid to Iraq as well as weapons for the Kurdish peshmerga.
 Canada's Conservative government had already authorized the deployment of up to 69 mi…

Fracking an issue as Liberals win majority in New Brunswick election

Brian Gallant, the leader of the New Brunswick Liberal party, won a majority in the eastern province triumphing over the incumbent Progressive Conservatives of David Alward.





During the count, the lead changed several times but in the end the Liberals held 27 seats with only 21 for the Progressive Conservatives(PC) with the Green Party winning one seat. Detailed results for each constituency can be found here.The vote was marred by problems with voting machines: Before the results were declared, however, the tabulations of ballots were suspended late Monday for almost two hours due to concerns about technical issues with memory cards and discrepancies with the vote-counting machines. The issue led the Tories to call for the ballots to be counted by hand, but the Liberals demanded that Elections New Brunswick be left alone to determine the result. Because of the ballot-counting problems the PC leader had not conceded defeat.
There were eight female members elected in the …

John Tory well ahead in Toronto mayoralty race but Rob Ford is second

John Tory, a former leader of the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario, is far in the lead for mayor of the city of Toronto. However scandal-ridden Rob Ford the present mayor is in second, and Olivia Chow of the New Democratic Party is in third.


The latest Forum Research Poll has Tory with 40 percent support, to 28 percent for Ford and just 21 percent for Olivia Chow. Chow has seen her support dwindle in Scarborough in the east end of Toronto from 31 percent in July to nine percent at present lower than the approximately 13 per cent for Ford. The CEO of Forum Research Lorne Bozinoff said of Olivia Chow: “Her support really has been declining over the last two months, and she’s hit a new low now … she’s one of the candidates that wants to replace the Scarborough subway with an LRT, and that’s really costing her support. Not surprisingly, almost all the Chow vote would go to John Tory. None of it really would go to Rob Ford." Chow also is in favor of improvin…