By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
What started as a protest over provincial tuition hikes became political game changer.
MONTREAL — It simmered as a provincial dispute over tuition-fee hikes before exploding into a massive movement that grabbed the world’s attention.
Not only did Quebec’s boisterous, and sometimes violent, student unrest of 2012 lead to the cancellation of the tuition increases, it also ignited a wider social-justice movement.
The historic uprising dubbed the Maple Spring eventually faded away as the seasons changed, along with the government — but was this a harbinger of the political awakening of a new generation?
One of the most-prominent figures of the movement believes the students’ success has forever marked a crop of Canadian youth.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, December 31, 2012 at 1:07 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ending the year by listing his government’s…
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ending the year by listing his government’s achievements in 2012, but the Opposition is pointing to several low-lights.
In a statement, Harper says Canada will enter 2013 with some of the strongest economic growth among the Group of Seven richest nations.
And he says the world has taken note, with Forbes magazine ranking Canada No. 1 in its annual review of the best countries for business.
The Opposition New Democrats, however, are pointing to what they see as the Conservative government’s worst moments.
One of them, they say, was Harper’s decision to allow the $15-billion takeover of oil giant Nexen by a Chinese state-owned company.
The NDP says that decision was the worst Tory low-light from 2012.
But the prime minister says his government helped Canadians by aggressively pursuing trade and investment agreements and streamlining the review process for major economic projects.
Critics have called that code for gutting environmental protections.
By Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press - Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 8:32 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Whether as a rising star on the world stage or a central…
OTTAWA – Whether as a rising star on the world stage or a central banker under scrutiny amid suggestions of political impropriety at home, it was hard to ignore Mark Carney in 2012.
Canada’s omnipresent Bank of Canada governor was constantly making headlines.
If he wasn’t hectoring households for not saving enough, he was blasting business leaders for saving too much, or weighing in on the contentious issue of whether Canada’s economy was showing symptoms of Dutch disease.
As well, he continued to press global financial institutions to reform in the wake of the carnage they caused in triggering the crisis of 2008, warning that as head of the Swiss-based Financial Stability Board he intends to use all his powers to make sure they do.
By Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press - Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – You could call it a case of empathy gone viral.
TORONTO – You could call it a case of empathy gone viral.
When a Toronto man stumbled upon a YouTube video of a 68-year-old bus monitor in New York State being bullied to tears by a group of middle schoolers, he felt compelled to act, triggering an online fundraising campaign which surpassed his expectations and raised thousands.
Now, all Max Sidorov wants is for the outpouring of goodwill to continue in some way.
“When it happened, I was just like, how can I make something even bigger come about, something even more positive,” he says.
In September, the 26-year-old was able to present a cheque for just over $700,000 to Karen Klein, after donations flooded in from around the world to send the grandmother of eight on a vacation.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 7:26 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Business speak isn’t always serious. Here’s a look at 12 of the top business quotes of 2012:
“It is like negotiating with the monkey with the organ grinder standing behind you with the sword of Damocles over your head.” — Capt. Paul Strachan, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association in March on how the government undermines the collective bargaining process when it intervenes.
By John Cotter, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 8:14 AM - 0 Comments
Canada’s food safety rules good, but experts say they must be followed, enforced
Veteran cattleman George Graham has a common-sense solution for how to prevent a repeat of an E. coli outbreak and extensive product recall in the fall that made 18 people sick, threw thousands out of work and smeared the Canadian beef brand.
Officials who regulate and work in the industry must simply do their jobs properly.
“We have an extremely good product and we have a very good food-safety program compared to other places around the world,” Graham said from his feedlot in southern Alberta where his family has raised cattle since 1918.
“We just need to be more vigilant that the job is getting done.”
The manure hit the fan in early September when U.S. food inspectors found E. coli bacteria in a shipment of beef from the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta.
The U.S. quickly closed its border to beef from the plant, which slaughters up to 40 per cent of Canada’s cattle. Canadian officials then shut the plant down and sent 2,200 workers home.
In the weeks that followed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency pulled back more than 2,000 products across the country involving millions of kilograms of beef — the largest meat recall in Canada’s history.
American food safety regulators announced a similar recall by XL Foods of its products in more than 30 states.
In the end, there were 18 confirmed cases of people getting sick in Canada from a specific and potentially deadly strain of E. coli linked to the XL Foods beef.
Canadian producers lost money as cattle prices fell and ranchers had to pay more to ship their cattle to other plants.
Millions of kilograms of beef from prime Canadian cattle was dumped in landfills or rendered into non-food products.
The company that once boasted of being the largest Canadian-owned beef plant turned over management of the Brooks plant to JBS USA, an affiliate of Brazil-based JBS SA, which has an option to buy the facility and other XL Foods holdings.
Professor Rick Holley, a University of Manitoba food safety expert, said there is no excuse for the sanitation problems that led to the closure of the Brooks plant.
He said Canada is respected around the world for its progressive food safety rules. The problem, he suggested, is that those rules are not as vigorously enforced as they should be.
How could 40 inspectors and six veterinarians at the XL plant somehow miss the problems?
“We see too much pressure being put on inspection staff to complete reports,” said Holley, who added that some inspectors need more training to effectively do their jobs.
“They just have to get better at the proactive end of things, a lot better.”
The responsibility for food safety also rests with company owners. Holley said managers and supervisors must set clear operating standards for hygiene and strictly enforce them.
Part of that responsibility is to ensure that workers, who are often immigrants who speak English as a second language, are fully trained to understand what is expected of them.
Workers must also feel comfortable about being able to speak up if they have concerns.
Holley said food safety in meat plants is everyone’s concern, but ultimately it is the federal food inspection staff that set the tone.
“There is a constant requirement for regulatory oversight, but that regulatory oversight must be viewed by the plant’s managers and staff as competent,” he said.
“When the activity doesn’t appear to be competent, then you end up with people taking shortcuts, and outcomes such as we have seen at XL Foods.”
How much damage did the recall and E. coli outbreak cause Canada’s beef industry, which is centred in Alberta, but includes cattle producers in every province? No one is quite sure.
Most of the beef that Canadians eat — almost 80 per cent — comes from cattle that are Canadian-born, bred and processed. Canada produces twice the amount of beef that it consumes. The rest is exported, mainly to the United States.
The slogan of the industry’s marketing arm, Canada Beef Inc., is “Quality That Inspires Confidence.”
Ron Glaser, a Canada Beef vice-president, said it appears that most consumers haven’t stopped eating beef. But shoppers are asking more questions about the beef they are buying.
“They want to know what plant it is from,” he said from Calgary. “They are going to want to know, basically, is it safe?”
To reassure consumers, the industry is developing an information campaign that it is expected to roll out in the new year, Glaser said.
It is likely to include information on how producers take care in raising cattle and an assurance that Canada has an extremely safe food system.
The XL Foods fiasco will be cast as an exception, not the rule.
“It is unfortunate that there are occasionally problems like this,” Glaser said. “It is unfortunate that this will potentially tarnish a broader industry.”
On Oct. 29, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency cleared the Brooks plant to resume slaughtering cattle and packaging beef. Products have since been allowed to be shipped again to retailers. XL Foods has also been given permission to resume exports to the United States.
Despite a seeming return to normalcy, some ranchers warn it will take time for the industry to recover.
“Are we making ends meet? Just barely, as we are still playing catch-up for the years that we did not get a decent price for our calves during the BSE years and we had to use all our resources to keep ranching,” said Eileen Juhasz, who has 150 head on her ranch south of Lethbridge.
The CFIA has said there was no single factor that caused the E. coli outbreak in Brooks. Problems included deficiencies in bacteria control, sanitation and record-keeping.
The federal government has promised a complete review of what happened and to make its final report public, including possible recommendations to improve food safety.
“Certainly we take this to heart and don’t want to see these kind of issues happen, but we’ll never apologize for the size and the scope of the recall. If that’s what’s required, that’s what we’ll do,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told The Canadian Press.
The federal government is also putting its faith in JBS USA, the company that’s now managing the Brooks plant.
“JBS is a tremendous corporate partner,” Ritz said. “They brought an era of food culture to that plant that we haven’t seen for quite some time so we look forward to them and moving on to the future.”
Cattleman George Graham is also bullish on JBS and hopes the international food giant will buy the XL Foods plant.
He said business at his South Slope Feeders feedlot outside of Brooks is picking up. He recalled how the industry bounced back from the financial upheaval caused by the mad cow disease scare a decade ago.
“We have seen a lot of hurdles thrown at us the last 10 years and we’ve managed to survive some pretty big ones,” he said. “I don’t think this is going to be any different.”
— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 8:47 PM - 0 Comments
Booming economy makes land of living skies a place to set down roots
REGINA – The smell of smoked meat wafts through Jack Keaton’s BBQ & Grill.
For diners in the northwest Regina restaurant, it’s mouthwatering. For chef and owner Brett Huber, it’s a dream come full circle.
“When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was get out of here, but now that I’m back it’s like this is where I want to be,” he said.
Huber was born and raised in Regina. He moved to Vancouver when he was 24 for culinary school and worked around British Columbia, as well as in England.
But home was calling.
“I wanted to start a family and I wanted to basically start a restaurant.”
Huber and wife, Kristi, moved to Regina in 2007 — about the time Saskatchewan became the “it” province, the place to be in Canada.
People from every part of the country were flocking in. Statistics Canada figures showed at the time that Saskatchewan’s population growth in 2007-08 was the strongest since the early 1970s. For the first time, the province led the pack when it came to interprovincial migration.
Employment was strong and a booming economy — bolstered by potash, oil and gas — made Saskatchewan a rags-to-riches story.
“Unknown to me, the boom was happening while I was away. Immediately once I got back to Regina I realized there was a much different feel here in the province,” recalled Huber.
“It was an exciting time to be in Regina and Saskatchewan, for that matter.”
In 2008, it appeared the boom might be over. The recession dragged down economies around the globe.
Premier Brad Wall warned in March 2010 that Saskatchewan — the province that initially defied the economic downturn — would have to make tough decisions to balance its upcoming budget. The government was facing a challenge because of plummeting revenue from potash, a pink mineral used in fertilizer.
Resource prices are still soft and are affecting Saskatchewan’s bottom line. A budget update released in November noted a drop of more than $400 million in potash and oil revenue. However, the government is forecasting a small surplus and Wall is quick to note that Saskatchewan was the only province to present a balanced budget this year.
The premier said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press that the recession forced the government to be more cautious with spending.
But he said there’s evidence that the land of living skies is still where people want to set down roots.
Census data released last February by Statistics Canada shows the population in the metropolitan area of Regina increased by eight per cent since the last census in 2006. Saskatoon, the largest city in the province, increased in numbers by 11.4 per cent.
“We can look at the number of people that continue to move here. We have 80,000 people over the last five years and we sort of pushed over some important records on population growth this year,” said Wall.
“We see investment. We see companies like Mosaic declaring their Canadian headquarters and moving 80 to 100 jobs here to the capital city.
“So you don’t have to take the government’s word for it. We’re still the ‘it’ province because people are voting with their feet and companies are voting with their investment.”
Mosaic, one of the world’s leaders in potash crop nutrients, is to be the lead tenant in a new office tower that opened in Regina on Dec. 7. It’s the first new office tower in the capital in 20 years.
While there might be more office space, housing has been a problem since Saskatchewan’s economy took off.
Prices have soared since 2007 and rental units are in demand as more people move to the province. Regina, at one per cent, has the lowest vacancy rate of all major centres in Canada.
For the first time, a homeless shelter has been established in the city of Estevan, a hub of oil and gas activity in southeast Saskatchewan near the U.S. border.
Brenna Lea Nickel, a minister with St. Paul’s United Church, said jobs are a big draw.
“What we’re seeing is that folks are coming from all over the country and in some cases even from the United States. They seem to get the word that, OK ,there’s lots of jobs to be had in Estevan, but they’re not getting the word that there isn’t any short-term or affordable housing,” said Nickel.
“I shouldn’t say not that there isn’t, but it can’t keep up with the growing population.”
Brenna said the Salvation Army estimates as many as 15 people are sleeping in their cars each night and as many as 40 people could be sleeping outside or couch surfing.
“Most of these people are coming from a home in some way and are hoping to make a better start here and just don’t realize until they get here that it’ll be so hard to find some place to stay.”
Despite the housing challenges, reports suggest that Saskatchewan is on solid footing.
The Conference Board of Canada said in its provincial outlook for autumn 2012 that the western provinces remain in the best position to ride out the current global economic weakness.
It also said that for the most part, western Canadian provinces have been relatively shielded from the fiscal and economic troubles lingering in external markets. The economies of Saskatchewan and Alberta in particular have performed strongly, and their near-term prospects are more favourable than those for the rest of the country.
“There’s opportunity here and there might not be that opportunity elsewhere,” said Wall.
“There’s a quality of life here so if people come check out the province, they’ll know that there’s an excellent education system and in health care, we’re trying to make the improvements we need so that people aren’t on wait lists as long as they used to be.
“I think it’s the whole package,” Wall added.
Huber said the opportunity to open Jack Keaton’s, which is named for his two eldest children, a year ago was both “scary” and “exhilarating.”
Huber believes moving back and starting the restaurant were good decisions.
“People are optimistic about what the future holds here” he said.
“Years ago, it was quite the opposite. It was people were just depressed and, you know, ‘Nothing ever changes here.’ This was the last place in the world to get any great news.
“It’s very evident now that people are moving to the province instead of moving away.”