By Jen Cutts - Monday, November 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
A principled maveric
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: always pay attention to your constituents. “The least we can do for people who have disagreements with the government is to relay those concerns to Ottawa,” he says. “They want to know that, at the very least, they’re being listened to.”
Perhaps best known for resigning from the Harper cabinet after refusing to support a government motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation, the Tory backbencher remains a hometown hero in Wellington-Halton Hills, the riding in which he grew up, and now represents. This past spring, the self-described “Wellington County boy” took nearly 64 per cent of the vote in his fourth straight electoral win; few of his opponents bothered putting up signs, or showing up for all-candidates’ meetings.
While knocking on doors during the campaign, Chong, the son of a Chinese father and a Dutch mother, says he got an earful about the sorry state of our democratic institutions. That inspired him to renew his crusade for decorum in the House. Last year, Chong tabled a motion seeking improvements to question period-capping answers at 35 seconds, setting schedules that would put the prime minister on the hot seat for 45 minutes every Wednesday, as in the U.K., and allotting days to specific ministries, like Finance Fridays. Chong, who turns 40 this week, is hoping to table the motion, which died on the floor after the election call, as soon as he has the opportunity.
As for his birthday plans, he celebrated early, with his wife Carrie, and three young boys; on the day itself, he’ll be in Ottawa, working for his constituents.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:45 PM - 0 Comments
Call him ‘Mr. Charming’
On a sweltering morning one week ago, the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics convened in Parliament’s West Block to hear the testimony of Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s director of communications. Only the government, in a new test of parliamentary democracy, had decided it would no longer allow its staff to appear at such hearings. And so, in Soudas’s place, the Prime Minister’s Office sent John Baird.
What followed was a great tempest. But while opposition members fumed—”This in my view is a subversion of Canadians,” snapped Liberal MP Wayne Easter—there were caveats for Baird. The Bloc’s Carole Freeman lamented that he was not who the committee had asked for, but welcomed Baird personally: “I’ve got nothing against Mr. Baird attending the committee. I even find it charming.” That adjective was then seconded by the NDP’s Bill Siksay. “I think,” offered Conservative Pierre Poilievre at one point, “we could probably pass a motion to that effect if it were so moved.”
By John Geddes - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:39 PM - 0 Comments
She hit the Hill running, as they say
Like a lot of the MPs elected for the first time last fall, Megan Leslie didn’t have quite as much time as she might have liked to prepare to take her seat in the House. It resumed sitting exactly one month after the Oct. 14 election, an unusually short time for rookies to get set up. “I was a sitting MP without an office,” the Halifax New Democrat says. “Without staff. Without pens.”
Not only was Leslie obliged to plunge into Parliament, Parliament itself was soon plunged into turmoil. Last fall’s crisis—when Prime Minister Stephen Harper narrowly averted being unseated by an Opposition coalition—was a frenetic introduction to life on the Hill.
But those unlikely first weeks didn’t seem to throw Leslie, 35, off balance. In less than six months in the House, she has attracted an unusual amount of notice—enough to win her the best rookie MP title in the Maclean’s poll of her peers. She speaks with a passion on subjects like energy efficiency, and she sees potential to make an impact where others bemoan the ordinary MP’s impotence. “It’s really remarkable to see how much influence you can have if you are prepared, understand the issues well, and are confident,” she says. “I’ve seen MPs walk into committees and say, ‘This is the way we should be going,’ and other MPs—it doesn’t matter which party—say, ‘Yeah, I agree with that.’ ”
By John Geddes - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:38 PM - 0 Comments
One thing is for sure: he can take a punch
Ralph Goodale is not the sort of politician who generates a lot of chatter. He lacks the hint of mystery of, say, Michael Ignatieff, or Stephen Harper’s ideological edge, or Jack Layton’s partisan intensity. By contrast, Goodale has those stolid, dependable qualities we often claim to crave from our politicians, just before turning our gaze back toward more complex and divisive figures.
But Ralph Goodale is the best MP in Canada according to his colleagues, who voted him the honour in an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for Maclean’s, L’actualité and the Dominion Institute. And his story is gripping in its own way—a classic Canadian survival saga. He’s a farm-bred Saskatchewan Liberal, a rare Prairie species that often looks as vulnerable as the swift fox. He suffered humbling setbacks that almost ended his political career in the 1980s, but rode the victories that followed to very near the pinnacle of federal power. Then, after doggedly building and rebuilding a career based on personal credibility, he saw that precious reputation for incorruptibility and competence put to a painful test in last January’s election.
He’s the enduring type. Goodale has the frame of a man who’d be handy to have around when you need to move a sofa bed up a flight of stairs. He hits the gym as much as he can, has bench-pressed 180 lb., and reputedly once lifted the end of the Miata he was about to ride in a Regina parade. (He neither confirms nor denies the legend.) Asked about the essence of his appeal, friends often use Goodale’s stocky five-foot-seven-and-a-half build as a metaphor for his character. Stable. Not to be knocked off course. “Some people, you seem to be able to tell their values just to look at them,” says David Herle, another Liberal from Saskatchewan and one-time top adviser to Paul Martin. “Ralph’s one of those people.”
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:14 PM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL wants to see everything put in writing.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL wants to see everything put in writing.
With negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement seemingly at a stalemate, the league met with the NHL Players’ Association on Monday night and requested that the union put all of its desires together into one complete offer.
“It’s our position that we’ve made a couple comprehensive proposals in a row,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We’d like to know where they are on all of the issues. We asked them to think about putting together a comprehensive proposal for us to consider. …
“We’ve never heard a full proposal from them.”
The union’s response should dictate if the sides will formally start negotiating their way through the key issues.
Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, was guarded with his comments coming out of the Monday evening session he initiated. He indicated the league’s request would be taken into consideration and said “it’s more likely than not” the sides will meet again Tuesday.
It was unclear whether he would table a new proposal that covers the split of revenue, player contract rights and how the damage caused by the lockout will be paid for.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Daly. “We asked, I certainly hope it’s something they’ll consider. I think that’s something they’re deliberating on.”
With frustration building and the lockout dragging into its ninth week, the sides have struggled to find a way forward in negotiations. Fehr and commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the possibility of taking a break from talks last week, but Fehr thought it would be best if the sides continued to meet.
However, after requesting Monday’s meeting the union didn’t arrive with a new offer. Instead, Fehr was hoping to engage the league in a discussion on core economics and player contract issues.
“We could have taken a couple weeks off, I suppose,” he said. “It’s hard for me to see how you make an agreement if you aren’t talking and so you talk. Sometimes it doesn’t lead anywhere, perhaps very often it doesn’t lead anywhere, but if you aren’t talking it’s 100 per cent sure it doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Neither side has demonstrated a willingness to start trading concessions at the bargaining table.
While the union maintains the gap on economic issues isn’t very wide, the league isn’t quite so sure. The NHL is asking for a straight 50-50 split of revenues while the NHLPA has proposed seeing the players’ share jump in fixed increments of 1.75 per cent each season starting from the $1.883-billion they took in last year.
That offer didn’t include the mechanism that would be used to account for the reduced revenue generated during a shortened 2012-13 season.
“They are trying to suggest to us that we’re a lot closer than we think we are,” said Daly. “So, if they’re at $1.9-whatever billion, I think we calculated it as 65 per cent of (hockey related revenue) this year. Obviously, that would be a long way from 50 per cent.
“We want to see if they can wrap something up and give it to us.”
The league is also looking for changes to rules governing entry-level deals, contract lengths and arbitration. On Monday night, Fehr presented details of a proposal designed to penalize teams who sign players to front-loaded, long-term contracts in the event they retire early — an area the NHL could have interest in.
With talks resuming for the first time since Nov. 11 and the league expected to cancel more regular-season games this week, there was no shortage of interest in the process.
Eighteen players attended the session, including highly-paid veterans Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Shawn Horcoff. Each of those players has already lost one season of his career to the 2004-05 lockout.
“Players are very interested and we tell anybody that wants to come they can come and I’m glad to have all of them,” said Fehr. “I think it’s a reflection of how interested and involved the players are.”
Members of the union have taken public shots at the NHL’s leadership in recent days. On Monday afternoon, Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg invoked strong language while suggesting Bettman and Daly should be fired during an interview on TSN Radio 1050.
“You’ve got to look for the cancers and you’ve got to cut out the cancers,” said Versteeg. “I think when you look at Bill Daly and Gary Bettman they’ve been looting this game for far too long.”
That came just days after Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ian White told reporters that he thinks Bettman is an “idiot.”
However, Daly doesn’t think those comments are hurting the negotiations.
“I don’t think either Gary or I take those personally,” he said. “(We) understand there’s a lot of frustration in this process. I’m frustrated in terms of being where we are and not playing hockey.
“I think that’s just human nature.”
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 9:33 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Former prime minister Paul Martin predicts the humbled federal Liberal party will…
OTTAWA – Former prime minister Paul Martin predicts the humbled federal Liberal party will re-emerge as a force to contend with by the time of the next election in just three years.
Many Liberals, including some contenders for the party’s leadership, believe it will take at least two elections to dig themselves out of the electoral hole to which they were consigned in 2011, when they were reduced to a third-party rump with just 34 seats.
But Martin is more optimistic, predicting a much faster turn-around.
“I think the Liberal party is going to be in very, very good shape come the next election,” Martin said Monday night outside a Liberal tribute to senior party statesman and former cabinet minister Herb Gray.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve got both the (Conservative) government and the (NDP) Opposition (that) are at the polar extremes of the right and the left. That’s not where Canadians are.
“Canadians understand that government has to play a positive role and that it has to be fiscally responsible and they’ve left the door wide open for the Liberals and that’s exactly where the Liberals feel most comfortable.”
That applies equally in Quebec, where voters flocked to the NDP in 2011, Martin added.
“I think Quebecers have indicated that they’re capable of turning on a dime … Quebecers are not extremists.”
Martin said the current leadership race is “creating a lot of momentum” and interest in the party.
The tribute for Gray, who served almost 40 years as an MP for Windsor until his retirement in 2002, was as much a showcase for those seeking to lead the party in future as it was a celebration of one of the key players from the party’s glorious past.
Most of the declared contenders, and a number of soon-to-be candidates, used the occasion to circulate among the several hundred Liberal movers and shakers who attended the tribute.
Montreal MP Justin Trudeau, eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, and the presumptive front-runner, was surrounded by Liberals seeking to shake his hand or have their pictures taken with him, while his rivals generally chatted with one or two Liberals at a time.
The most serious challenger to Justin Trudeau so far is Martha Hall Findlay, a former Toronto MP who ran last in the 2006 leadership contest. She officially took the plunge last week and was pressing the flesh at the Gray tribute Monday.
Long shot contenders David Bertschi, an Ottawa lawyer, and retired Canadian Forces Lt.-Col. Karen McCrimmon were also in attendance, as were several other putative dark horse candidates who intend to take the plunge soon despite Trudeau’s head start and evident popularity.
“There’s going to be some unconventional candidates. I’m one of them,” said Toronto lawyer George Takach, who intends to formally launch his campaign on Nov. 29 with a focus on technology and the economy.
“I’m delighted that Justin’s in it, don’t get me wrong. He’s going to bring all sorts of energy and new people into the party. But so will I.”
Vancouver MP Joyce Murray, who intends to pitch her experience as a former British Columbia cabinet minister and small businesswoman when she launches her campaign early next week, said she “completely disagrees” with those who think Trudeau has already sewn up the race.
“I’ve worked with Justin and it’s great that he’s in the race. I’m so happy at the attention that it’s attracting,” she said.
“At the same time, people will … also be looking, not just for a buzz because a buzz is temporary, they’ll be looking for who can really lead the kind of transformation that we need in our party.”
Montreal MP Marc Garneau, Canada’s first astronaut, was also in attendance but would not tip his hand as to when he expects to announce whether he’s going to join the race.
Earlier Monday, Ottawa MP David McGuinty announced that he — like his brother, retiring Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty — has decided to take a pass.
David McGuinty told The Canadian Press he’s concluded he can best serve the party in other ways.
“I’ve reflected long and hard on what is the best way for me to help rebuild the party, what is the best way for me to help hold down the fort, do what I call a lot of the ground work, a lot of the nuts and bolts work,” he said in an interview.
“And I think I am best placed at this time to do what I’m doing, which is to really build the party from the ground up, riding by riding, issue by issue, in the committees, on the floor of the House of Commons.
“I just think there’s so much heavy lifting to be done that, from my perspective, this is for me the best way to serve.”
McGuinty said his decision has nothing to do with the widespread perception that Trudeau has already locked up the contest, which only officially began last week and culminates April 14.
“I don’t place a lot of stock in prohibitive favourites,” he said, pointing out that his brother Dalton vaulted from fourth place to win the Ontario Liberal leadership in 1996.
The premier announced last month that he will retire as soon as a successor is chosen in January. Under pressure from a well-organized draft campaign, he briefly toyed with the notion of running for the federal leadership but eventually ruled that out.
In addition to the McGuinty brothers, a number of other prospective heavyweight contenders have chosen to sit out the contest, including Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, former deputy prime minister John Manley, New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc and Halifax MP Geoff Regan.
Among the others who’ve declared their candidacies are Toronto lawyer and policy consultant Deborah Coyne, mother of Trudeau’s half sister, Vancouver prosecutor Alex Burton, and David Merner, former president of the party’s British Columbia wing.
However, Trudeau is the only candidate so far to officially register with the party, which includes paying the first $25,000 instalment of a $75,000 entry fee.
By Jana Juginovic - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:51 PM - 0 Comments
‘I’m never going to be the president,’ says a man some think will be president
America’s newest political rock star dismissed “what ifs” during a visit to the London School of Economics on Monday.
“I’m never going to be the president or the vice-president,” Julian Castro told a largely fawning audience.
Few in the crowd seemed inclined to believe him. To judge by his delivery, he does not believe it himself.
The San Antonio mayor spoke about U.S. leadership in the 21st century — a prophetic subject for someone who has been touted as next Texas governor, U.S. Senator or the first Latino democratic presidential candidate.
Castro spoke candidly about potential Latino Republican rivals. “Of course it will help (Republicans) to have Marco Rubio: he relates well to the Latino experience and he has a bright future and I wish him well.” But Castro stressed it will take more than a face to win the Latino vote. “If Marco Rubio were running against Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush would win.”
If Castro ends up throwing his hat in the Texas governor or senator’s race, he could face Jeb Bush’s son, George P. Bush, (grandson of George Bush Sr., nephew of George W). The younger Bush, whose mother is Mexican, recently filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission, a stepping stone to seeking state office.
The Latino vote represents 12 per cent of the U.S. electorate. (President Obama won an overwhelming 71 per cent of that vote.) After losses in the last presidential, senatorial and house elections, Castro says Republicans must change their tone on immigration, healthcare and other issues sensitive to Latino voters. He says he’s convinced the growth of the Hispanic community will eventually turn Texas, one of the reddest of the red states, into a Democrat state.
Castro earned a starring role at this year’s Democratic convention by harnessing the power of that voting block. He recently secured a book deal to tell his family’s success story. It’s an inspiring narrative: his grandmother was a maid and cook, and his single mother put he and his twin brother through Stanford and Harvard. It’s a story similar to another racial ceiling breaker, President Barak Obama.
Castro passed his first test on the international stage, avoiding the Olympic pitfall Mitt Romney fell into when he criticized the security preparations for the London Games. In fact, the ever-smiling politician gave a nod to Romney’s visit as he opened with a bow to the organizers of the London Games for “doing a great job.”
By Dale Smith - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:27 PM - 0 Comments
Talking to Alison Redford, Jim Prentice and Peter MacKay about the issues of the day
Message of the day
“Canada needs a second customer for its energy exports.”
Questions not answered
- Seeing as once again, MacKay didn’t answer, are any other replacement options for the CF-18s being considered?
Power & Politics started off with a report from Terry Milewski giving a summary of the PostMedia story on the internal Elections Canada emails that show they were concerned about illicit robocalling during the final days of the last election. Solomon then spoke to an MP panel of Shelly Glover, Charlie Angus and Scott Andrews. Glover said that voter suppression is despicable, and insisted that her riding was targeted by anti-Conservative voter suppression that she reported but wasn’t being brought up now. Angus said he wasn’t surprised that the Conservatives were playing the victim card, but the pattern of phone calls were traced back to Conservative headquarters. Andrews said these revelations broaden the need for an inquiry but the Conservatives aren’t willing to cooperate – before Glover and Angus got into a slap-and-hairpull fight (well, not literally anyway).
By The Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:14 PM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Moody’s Investors Service on Monday downgraded France, stripping it of…
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Moody’s Investors Service on Monday downgraded France, stripping it of its prized AAA credit rating due to concerns over its prospects for economic growth and its exposure to Europe’s financial crisis.
Moody’s lowered France’s rating one notch to Aa1. It kept the rating’s outlook at negative, meaning it could face future downgrades.
The ratings agency said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict how resilient France will be to future euro-area shocks.
But the agency noted that the country’s rating remains high compared with many other European countries. It cited for this France’s diversified economy and “a strong commitment to structural reforms and fiscal consolidation.”
The downgrade will heighten fears that Europe’s debt crisis is spreading from the so-called peripheral nations like Greece, Portugal and Ireland to the core of the euro region. Standard & Poor’s, a rival rating agency, lowered its rating on France’s debt one notch from AAA to AA+ in January, citing the deepening political, financial and monetary problems within the eurozone.
Pierre Moscovici, the French finance minister, blamed the downgrade on the policies of previous governments that had failed to restore the competitiveness of the nation’s economy.
“French debt still remains among the most liquid and safest of the eurozone,” said Moscovici, a member of the ruling Socialist government. “The French economy is large and diversified and the government has shown proof of its serious plan to implement structural reforms and restore public finances.”
The yield on the French 10-year government bond fell 1 basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 1.96 per cent on Monday. That’s 60 basis points more than equivalent German government bonds, suggesting that investors see them as riskier.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:12 PM - 0 Comments
EDMONTON – Documents show the sister of Alberta Premier Alison Redford used her position…
EDMONTON – Documents show the sister of Alberta Premier Alison Redford used her position as a health board executive to attend and hold Progressive Conservative party events on the taxpayers’ dime.
There was money for liquor, travel, hotels, flowers and bug repellent.
Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith, while releasing the documents Monday, said a bigger investigation is needed since Lynn Redford and those who signed off on those expenses remain executives with Alberta’s health superboard.
“We’ve got the same people in positions today who exercised this lack of judgment, and they need to be called to account,” Smith told a news conference at the legislature.
Smith said the case bridges the two scandals of health officials abusing their expense accounts — such as former Edmonton health region chief financial officer Allaudin Merali — with public institutions delivering government grant and operating money to the PC party.
“This connects with the broader story of repeated instances of illegal activity in giving donations to a partisan political party from taxpayer dollars,” said Smith. “We want to know how widespread that problem is.”
Premier Redford, appearing on CTV’s political program “Power Play,” pointed out that the accusations go back to a time when Ralph Klein was premier and she wasn’t even an elected MLA yet.
She suggested the criticism consists of a few “excited allegations” that will be clarified in the next few days.
“I have confidence in my sister,” she said.
The Wildrose and the NDP kept up the attack during question period, which prompted a sharp reply from deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk.
“While the government has been focusing on delivering good health care in this province, while this government has been focusing on working with agriculture during a time of disaster (meat recall crisis) not too long ago, these bottom feeders have only been pouring through receipts and hoping to find something scandalous,” Lukaszuk told the house as shouts erupted on both sides.
The Wildrose party obtained the documents under freedom of information rules. The papers pertain to Lynn Redford’s spending while she was government relations adviser to the now-defunct Calgary Health Region from 2005 to 2008.
The Calgary region and all other regions were folded into one giant superboard in 2009. Lynn Redford is currently the vice-president in charge of special projects for the Alberta Health Services, or AHS, superboard.
The documents show $3,448 worth of party spending by her. Public institutions are forbidden from spending money on partisan political activities.
The expenses included $220 for two nights in a hotel for a Tory convention in 2005.
There was $894 in mileage and parking to attend PC fundraisers, barbecues and a golf tournament.
In 2007, Lynn Redford claimed more than $500 to put on a barbecue for Tory MLAs, including almost $400 for liquor, other drinks and bug repellent. She also billed taxpayers for $141 to sign up and attend the Alberta Liberal party general meeting in 2005.
Another $135 was spent sending flowers to MLAs and ministers.
NDP Leader Brian Mason noted that Premier Redford became justice minister in 2008 and may have had access to this information. If so, he said, the public needs to know why she didn’t act on it.
“We need to know from the premier what she knew and when she knew it,” said Mason.
“This goes to the very heart of the confidence that Albertans can have in her leadership.”
The documents show that some expenses were approved by Patti Grier, now chief of staff and corporate secretary for AHS. The superboard works under the umbrella of the Alberta Health Department, carrying out day-to-day operations.
AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson, in a written release, said Lynn Redford was filing expenses when rules were fuzzy.
“The policies and practices of the former health regions were not well defined and were open to interpretation,” said Williamson. “Ms. (Lynn) Redford and the Calgary Health Region were meeting the expectations and norms at that time.
“That is not the case at AHS. The policies and practices have been clarified and formalized in written policy.”
Health Minister Fred Horne echoed those remarks.
“I’m not going to make any comment on past health regions,” Horne said Monday.
“We have very strict policy today in Alberta Health Services with respect to these sort of donations that complies with provincial law.
“I’m very, very comfortable that today this sort of situation is not going to be a concern.”
The Merali case is one of many money controversies that have buffeted the PCs.
Merali agreed to step down as chief financial officer on Aug. 1 just hours before a television story aired detailing his lavish spending while chief financial officer for the now-defunct Edmonton-area health region. Merali ran up $346,000 on expensive meals, butlers and to have his Mercedes-Benz fixed.
Soon after, the boss who approved those expenses, Sheila Weatherill, resigned her position on the AHS board.
Chief electoral officer Brian Fjeldheim has been investigating multiple allegations of illegal donations to the Tories from schools, universities, colleges and municipalities.
Fjeldheim is also investigating reports the Tories accepted a $430,000 election campaign contribution from billionaire Daryl Katz this spring. Katz is looking for public money for a new rink for his Edmonton Oilers hockey team.
PC party officials deny the allegations and say no individual donor exceeded the $30,000 maximum.
Premier Redford has promised to make results of the Katz investigation public, as Fjeldheim says he does not have legal authority to make the findings public on his own.
By Anne Kingston - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:12 PM - 0 Comments
In what seems like day 45 of the still-unidentified Petraeus “scandal,” a pall of…
In what seems like day 45 of the still-unidentified Petraeus “scandal,” a pall of regret descends: Paula Broadwell’s here, David Petreaus’s here. Meanwhile, Petraeus has retained a DC lawyer known for negotiating big-buck political book deals to help navigate his exit from government–and whatever else.
Meanwhile, predictable partisan bickering continues over the differing versions of the Benghazi attack.
And we’re well into tedious “lessons learned”: Slate.com believes the takeaway is that human beings are morons when using technology, specifically email which apparently we use “constantly–and, all too often, unthinkingly.” In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik weighs in , coining ”50 Shades of Khaki” as he cleverly links the Petraeus affair with Philip Roth’s under-the-radar retirement from writing last week.
But, wait! Didn’t Paula Broadwell’s indiscrete dad tell New York Daily News that whatever it is we’re watching is a “a smokescreen” veiling a bigger story? “This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out,” he said. “There is a lot more that is going to come out…You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.” Maybe he was just angling for a book deal too.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:10 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The high-flying Canadian loonie may soon be joining the elite club of…
OTTAWA – The high-flying Canadian loonie may soon be joining the elite club of global reserve currencies.
The International Monetary Fund signalled in a new report it is considering asking foreign countries to report their holdings of Canadian and Australian dollars separately, which would technically make them global reserve currencies.
It would be the first addition to the list of five reserve currencies — the U.S. greenback, the Japanese yen, the euro, the British sterling and Swiss franc — since 1999.
Previously the two were lumped together in the “other currencies” category.
The notice was contained in an appendix of the new IMF report, which took note that at least two other countries held the Canadian and Australian dollars in their foreign reserves.
Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter called the addition a “seal of approval” for Canada, but could carry some repercussions, both negative and positive.
“This more or less would make it official that Canada and Australia are seen as relatively safe harbours and places that countries feel comfortable keeping their foreign exchange (reserves) in,” he said.
“I would suspect it could put even more upward pressure on the loonie, at least over the next year or two,” he added.
The value of the loonie has flirted with par for the past year as investors increasingly view Canada’s economy as a relatively safe harbour.
The loonie again traded above parity in markets Monday, a level that many exporters complain makes them uncompetitive in the global marketplace. The rise of the loonie in the past decade has also been blamed for the continued deterioration of Canada’s manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec.
A higher value for the loonie, however, is a positive for Canadian tourists, businesses that import machinery and equipment, and helps inflation in check.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 7:31 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – An Ontario lawyer is now the proud owner of a toilet from…
TORONTO – An Ontario lawyer is now the proud owner of a toilet from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ former dressing room.
Jim Vigmond, of Barrie, Ont., bought the unusual item for $5,300 at auction after the piece he really wanted — the 1967 Stanley Cup banner — got too expensive.
The toilet was offered up along with more than 100 items from Maple Leaf Gardens, which was home to the NHL team until 1999.
Fifty-five-year-old Vigmond says his friends were skeptical about the purchase.
But the long-time Leafs fan says the item was just too good to pass up.
Vigmond says he was actually willing to spend up to $10,000 on the throne.
“They thought I had money to burn, and surely there was something that I could have better spent my money on,” he said.
“They’ve got a point. But … it’s a part of an icon. I just thought … what a rare piece and just think of all of the people that have spent time contemplating in that dressing room what lies ahead of them.”
Vigmond plans on putting the toilet in his sports memorabilia room, where he wants to sit on it, light up a Cuban cigar, open a bottle of 30-year-old single malt, and hopefully, watch a Leafs game sometime soon.
By macleans.ca - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 7:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal Party of Canada celebrated past and future on Monday night at the Chateau Laurier
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. With the benefit of a few days hindsight, Thomas Mulcair stood to review the week just passed.
One day last week, the NDP leader recalled, the Finance Minister had said a balanced budget would be delayed. But a few days later, Mr. Mulcair noted, the Prime Minister had said the budget would be balanced by 2015.
“So who is right?” he begged, holding out his hands and turning his palms upward.
This business of projecting the government’s future budgetary balance became officially silly somewhere between October 14, 2008 and October 17, 2008. And in that regard, Mr. Mulcair’s question is moot. Who is right? Conceivably, eventually, the Conservatives will be. It simply stands to reason that if you keep making predictions, you will eventually get at least one of them right.
Alas, promising that “the budget will be balanced at some point probably” does not project the sort of certainty we demand in our political leaders. And so here stood Tony Clement to convey the latest version of the official reassurances. Continue…
By John Geddes - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:33 PM - 0 Comments
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq might have a point when she argues that banning a generic version of OxyContin, as some provincial governments have urged her to do, would amount to unfairly taking aim at a “tempting political target,” while in the process ignoring proper procedure for approval of prescription drugs.
But if Aglukkaq is right that new versions of highly addictive controlled-release oxycodone should be allowed for the sake of patients who would benefit, she leaves open a bigger question: Why has Conservative policy stubbornly insisted on pretending that prescription drug abuse is an issue separate from the abuse of illegal drugs?
By Julia Belluz - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
This is the final part of a series of articles adapted from the 2012 Hancock Lecture, “Who Live and Who Dies, Will Social Media Decide?” delivered at the University of Toronto by Julia Belluz. Read parts one, two, and three.
In many ways, social media is already determining who lives and who dies. Arijit Guha might have been another statistic demonstrating the brutality of the U.S. health system without his serendipitous Twitter exchange. For better or worse, YouTube videos have prompted MS sufferers’ to travel the world for Liberation Therapy or parents to shield their kids from vaccines. Facebook campaigns are driving the research agenda around organ donation, and social reporting may change the trajectory of the next pandemic.
So the question becomes: How can we emphasize the upsides of this intersection of social media and health, and minimize the harms? As I reflected on this problem, I realized it’s not a new one at all. We’re talking about credibility—who or what to trust, what evidence will shape us, our society. This is an age-old question, but maybe it’s more urgent with the volume of info we are dealing with now, and the speed at which it reaches us.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins rose before Question Period this afternoon with the following.
Mr. Speaker, from a young age we learn that there are consequences for our actions. But the Leader of the Opposition and his party fail to recognize the consequences of their $21 billion carbon tax scheme. Just listen to what economist Jack Mintz has to say: “I find it very irritating that parties might propose carbon policies without being honest with respect to their consequences for consumer prices or jobs. The NDP platform last election was a case in point.” This is exactly what our government has been communicating to Canadians, a point that the NDP would rather Canadians not know.
If that quote of Mr. Mintz seems familiar somehow, it might be because those exact same words appeared here 17 days ago. Except that in that case those two sentences were followed by a third sentence (emphasis mine).
Finally, I find it very irritating that parties might propose carbon policies without being honest with respect to their consequences for consumer prices or jobs. The NDP platform last election was a case in point. But so are current regulations and feed-in tariffs that are less optimally structured and have consequences that should be understood by voters.
It is probably also necessary to note that Mr. Mintz believes a carbon tax is the best policy in this regard.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 4:09 PM - 0 Comments
Jesse Brown explains how the Republicans became the party of the youth … for a day
For fewer than 24 hours last weekend, the GOP had a strategy, a point and a future. The Republican Study Committee (the conservative caucus of House Republicans) released a blazingly truthful report on copyright reform, boldly challenging main tenets of received and erroneous wisdom about intellectual property.
The report, titled “Three Myths About Copyright Law” focused on copyright’s original intention- to benefit the public, not to compensate creators. It went on to detail the dangers of excessive copyright—that copyright is not an instrument of free markets, but is in fact government interference in the market, an enforced regulatory scheme that creates monopolies and which can “distort” and even “destroy” entire markets. The report was not a screed against copyright itself, but a wake-up call on just how far the concept has strayed from its original aims, and included some good ideas about how copyright might be reformed. The report called for an expansion of “Fair Use” exceptions to copyright, punishment for false claims of infringement, and limitations on the terms of copyright protection (works originally protected for 14 years are now routinely locked up for more than a century) .
Soon after the report’s release, the copyfighting masses were shocked to attention. Online hubs like Reddit, Techdirt, and BoingBoing- never known for their conservative sympathies- published favourable posts and were soon hosting vibrant conversations among young techies bewildered by their own head-nodding with Republican positions. Remember, more than 5 million people signed various petitions against the copyright maximizing SOPA bill. Among these were people now re-thinking the GOP.
Then, just as word was spreading, the report was pulled from the Republican Study Committee’s website. A retraction/apology appeared in its place, written by Paul S. Teller, Executive Director of the RSC. Teller wrote that the report was published “without adequate review” and had “failed to meet that standard.”
Mike Masnick at Techdirt was quick to point out how silly this claim was. Reports are not published on the RSC’s site by accident. What happened, says Masnick was obvious: upon reading the report, entertainment industry lobbyists did a collective spit-take, picked up their phones, applied pressure to “friendly” Republican legislators, who in turn put the screws to the RSC.
The Republican moment of clarity, one which would have given them a powerful wedge issue with young voters while buttressing their own core economic values, will be remembered as a weekend mishap.
The original report, wiped from GOP sites, can still be read at Archive.org
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown
By macleans.ca - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:34 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – The lawyer for a businessman suing Toronto’s mayor for defamation is suggesting…
TORONTO – The lawyer for a businessman suing Toronto’s mayor for defamation is suggesting in court that Rob Ford alleged corruption to help himself get elected.
Restaurant owner George Foulidis alleges in a $6-million lawsuit that Ford defamed him when the mayor suggested a leasing deal between Foulidis’s company Tuggs Inc. and the city was corrupt.
Ford told a Toronto newspaper in the middle of his 2010 mayoral campaign that a sole-sourced, untendered, 20-year contract the city gave Tuggs for a restaurant on public land “stinks to high heaven.”
Foulidis’s lawyer, Brian Shiller, is telling court in his closing arguments that Ford jumped on brewing controversy around the Tuggs deal to illustrate his main campaign plank — stopping the so-called gravy train at city hall.
Shiller says Ford didn’t have any concrete evidence of corruption by Foulidis, city councillors or city staff, rather it was about “seeking votes and winning elections.”
The mayor is arguing that he was talking about the company, not Foulidis himself, and that companies can’t be defamed.
By Mike Blanchfield - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada is a weak player in the “global energy game” and needs…
OTTAWA – Canada is a weak player in the “global energy game” and needs to improve its performance by selling more oil to China and Asia, warns one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most trusted former cabinet ministers.
“For Canada, that is obviously where the future has to be,” said Jim Prentice, a senior banking executive who used to hold the industry and environment portfolios in the Conservative government.
By Julian Beltrame - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:31 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Ontario’s fragile economy is hanging in against a double-barrel dose of austerity from the federal and provincial governments and may be poised for a modest rebound, the Conference Board said Monday.
OTTAWA – Ontario’s fragile economy is hanging in against a double-barrel dose of austerity from the federal and provincial governments and may be poised for a modest rebound, the Conference Board said Monday.
The Ottawa-based think-tank’s provincial outlook has the resource-rich western provinces, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan, continuing to lead the country in growth this year and through 2014.
By The Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:29 PM - 0 Comments
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Twinkies will live to see another day.
Hostess Brands Inc….
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Twinkies will live to see another day.
Hostess Brands Inc. and its second largest union agreed on Monday to try to resolve their differences after a bankruptcy court judge noted that the parties hadn’t gone through the critical step of private mediation. That means the maker of the spongy cake with the mysterious cream filling won’t go out of business yet.
The news comes after the maker of Ho Ho’s, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread last week moved to liquidate and sell off its assets in bankruptcy court. Hostess cited a crippling strike started on Nov. 9 by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which represents about 30 per cent of Hostess workers.
“Many people, myself included, have serious questions as to the logic behind this strike,” said Judge Robert Drain, who heard the case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York in White Plains, N.Y. “Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case.”
The mediation talks are set to take place Tuesday, with the liquidation hearing set to resume on Wednesday if an agreement isn’t reached. Jeff Freund, an attorney for the bakers union, said any guess as to how the talks will go would be “purely speculative.”
In an interview following the hearing, Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said that there is enormous financial pressure to come to an agreement with the union by the end of the day Tuesday.
He noted that it’s costing Hostess about $1 million a day in payroll costs alone to stay alive, with the money mostly going toward management to unwind the company. About 18,000 workers were sent home Friday after the company shuttered its 33 plants, meaning no sales are being generated.
“We didn’t think we had a runway, but the judge just created a 24-hour runway,” said Rayburn, who added that even if a contract agreement is reached, it’s unclear whether all Hostess plants will get up and running again.
Hostess, weighed down by debt, management turmoil, rising labour costs and the changing tastes of Americans, decided on Friday that it no longer could make it through a conventional Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring. Instead, the company, which is based in Irving, Texas, asked the court for permission to sell its assets and wind down its business.
The company, which is in its second bankruptcy in less than a decade, had said that it was saddled with costs related to its unionized workforce. It brought on Rayburn as a restructuring expert in part to renegotiate its contract with labour unions.
Hostess, which had been contributing $100 million a year in pension costs for workers, offered workers a new contract that would’ve slashed that to $25 million a year, in addition to wage cuts and a 17 per cent reduction in health benefits. The baker’s union rejected the offer and decided to strike.
By that time, Hostess had reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which urged the bakers union to hold a secret ballot on whether to continue striking. Although many workers in the bakers union decided to cross picket lines this week, Hostess said it wasn’t enough to keep operations at normal levels.
Rayburn said that Hostess was already operating on razor thin margins and that the strike was the final blow. The bakers union said the company’s demise was the result of mismanagement, not the strike. It pointed to the steep raises executives were given last year as the company was spiraling down toward bankruptcy.
The company’s announcement last week that it would move to liquidate prompted people across the country to rush to stores and stock up on their favourite Hostess treats. Many businesses reported selling out of Twinkies within hours and the spongy cakes turned up for sale online for hundreds of dollars.
Even if Hostess goes out of business, its popular brands will likely find a second life after being snapped up by buyers. The company says several potential buyers have expressed interest in the brands. Although Hostess’ sales have been declining in recent years, the company still does about $2.5 billion in business each year. Twinkies along brought in $68 million so far this year.
Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi