Showing posts from November, 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…