Thursday, February 25, 2016

Top Canadian general says Canada will play a role in Libya

Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance claims Canada will end up playing a role in Libya where many western nations are worried about the increasing strength of the Islamic State.

Vance said he is not ruling out military action. Vance's statements simply add to those earlier of Minister of Defence Harjit Saijain, who hinted recently that Canada could soon join a coalition of countries who might intervene in Libya. There is already evidence of special forces operating in Libya.
Vance was at a security and defence conference in Ottawa on Friday when he made his claims. He noted the international community is taking a great interest in Libya of late. Vance said:“I don’t know whether we will be involved militarily, but we will certainly be involved somehow Libya sits at a crossroads of some very important and dangerous things that are happening that are affecting Europe, it’s affecting Africa.."When asked about Vance's remarks Defence Minister Saijan said Canada was will studying the matter.
Saijan said:“When we have further discussions, and if there’s a need, and where Canada can bring in a certain capability that can assist part of the coalition, we will consider it at that time. It’s better to get a good understanding of what’s happening and what’s needed and then look at what we as nations are good at, that we can provide and that’s how we’re going to be approaching this.”While the role of Canadians on the ground in Iraq could very well result in their becoming involved in combat, Vance was adamant that their role should be not be described as a combat role. The same type of situation might arise should Canada become involved in Libya in a training role.
Defence Minister Saijan said Canada needs to look at what the potential political solution is. The UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) is still not up and running as it needs a vote of confidence from the internationally recognized House of Representatives. A vote is scheduled this this Tuesday and there are discussions with the Presidency Council of the GNA this weekend. Many countries are waiting for the GNA to be established and then hope that it will request an intervention against the Islamic State by foreign forces. This would provide justification for foreign intervention. As the GNA encounters problems in its formation, some countries are preparing to intervene without being asked to by the GNA.
The United States has recently unilaterally attacked an alleged IS training base in western Libya. However, the attack also killed two Serb diplomats who had been kidnapped and were being held at the site attacked. The U.S. claims the attack was undertaken with the cooperating of Libyan authorities but it must have been Tripoli General National Council authorities rather than the internationally recognized HoR in Tobruk. The GNC praised the attack while the HoR condemned it. In spite of the attack the U.S. appears still to be waiting for the GNA to request aid before any concerted action in Libya.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

OECD lowers growth outlook for Canadian economy

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has predicted a lower growth rate in Canada. From a 2 percent growth rate predicted earlier, the OECD now predicts a rate of only 1.4 percent.

While the decline was the steepest of any in the countries looked at, it was still a better performance than that of France or even Germany. The OECD warned of significant risks to financial stability that extended across borders. It also pushed politicians to remove the burden of producing stimulus from central banks. While Canada's growth is behind that of the U.S. at 2 percent and the UK at 2.1 percent, it is still better than Italy or Japan, or as mentioned, France and Germany. The U.S. and Germany suffered downgrades of one half percentage point each. In 2017 Germany is now expected to grow by 1.7 percent and the US 2.2 percent in 2017. Canada's growth rate in 2015 was just 1.2 percent, so 2016 is still predicted to be slightly better. The CIBC had predicted Canada's growth at 1.3 percent this year close to the OECD estimate.
The Paris-based OECD also cut the rate of global growth from 3.3 percent to 3.0 percent. This will make global growth this year no better than last, which was the slowest in five years. The OECD urged leaders to use all the levers at hand to stimulate economic growth. The group noted that using monetary policy alone as the sole tool for stimulus did not work well: "Monetary policy cannot work alone. A stronger collective policy response is needed to strengthen demand." The group suggested exactly what the Canadian government plans, more investment in infrastucture projects.
The outlook for China's growth was unchanged at 6.5 percent in 2016 and 6.2 percent in 2017. Among emerging economies, Brazil was doing very poorly, with the economy shrinking by 4 percent this year. One bright spot was India where the outlook was raised from 7.3 to 7.4 this year. However, for next year the growth rate was lowered slightly from 7.4 to 7.3, still greater than Chinese growth.
The OECD singled out Canada and other economies reliant upon commodity exports as showing the worst effects from the global economic slowdown that appears to be underway. Catherine Mann,, the OECD chief economist said: "Trade and investment are weak. Sluggish demand is leading to low inflation and inadequate wage and employment growth." Global trade and investment is also weak according to the OECD report.
The low prices of oil and other commodities have hurt the Canadian economy in recent months. Ottawa has responded to the downturn by promising considerable expenditures of new infrastructure projects, a move that will lead to a considerable deficit. Nevertheless, deficit spending is recommended by the OECD and many economists as a way to stimulate the economy. The Bank of Canada forecast is also for 1.4 percent Canadian growth this year but is slightly more optimistic than the OECD with a 2.4 estimate for growth next year.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Many Canadians lack sufficient funds for retirement

A study by the Broadbent Institute shows that only 15 to 20 percent of middle-income Canadians who are retiring without an employer pension plan have saved sufficient funds for their retirement.

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The group, now at the age of 55 to 64, will face a huge drop in their standard of living once they retire. Many will be below the poverty line. The study used figures from Statistics Canada to reach their conclusion. Almost half of Canadians, 47 percent have no employer pensions. The situation will become worse as even less younger Canadians have employer pensions. Author of the report, Richard Shillington, says that the number of seniors who are living at the poverty level will increase over the next decades.
The median value of retirement assets of those Canadians age 55 to 64 was just $3,000. Those retiring without an employee pension will get the Canada Pension Plan(CPP) and Old Age Supplement(OAS), if they qualify for the latter. The total yearly compensation will be on average $15,9770 for individuals and $25,746 for couples. To reach a better standard of living, pensioners are expected to top up their pensions with their own savings. Less than half of those in the 55 to 64 age groups have enough savings to top up their pensions for more than a year. Less than 20 percent could top off their pensions for more than five years.
Shillington claims that seniors living in poverty have risen from 3.9 percent in 1995 to 11.1 percent now. A full 30 percent of women living alone as seniors are in poverty. The total number of seniors in poverty Shillington estimates at 719,000, with 469,000 being single individuals.
Rick Smith, who is executive director of the Broadbent Institute, said: "Even if you assume a decreased need or if you liquidate your home equity, the news is still very grim. We're looking at a situation in our country — 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line — where millions of Canadians have very little disposable income and that's not good for the economy."Smith said that the Liberal federal government needed to move quickly to reform the CPP. He said that governments and others had been arguing that Registered Retirement Savings Plans(RRSP) and Tax Free Savings Accounts could be a replacement for workplace pensions. While they do help some people who have the money to save, they do not replace pension funds. Shillington wrote in his report:"These findings raise serious questions about the policy needs for future pensionless cohorts, such as the adequacy of benefits from Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and the Quebec and Canada pension plans."The Broadbent Institute was created by former NDP member and leader Ed Broadbent. The instituted studies Canadian public policy with a view to making Canada a more equitable society.
During the 2015 election campaign the Liberals promised that they would improve the Canada Pension Plan. Just before Xmas, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and provincial counterparts met to talk on possible reform but all that was agreed was to discuss the issue later. While the group hope to meet again before the end of 2016, with so many diverse provinces it may be difficult to reach a consensus agreement. In a pre-budget submission the Canadian Association of Retired Persons(CARP) said that it backed a modest increase in the CPP but did not specify a number. They also requested a supplementary Universal Pension Plan(UPP) that would cover the more than 25 percent of pre-retirement income that the CPP is designed to replace. The CARP has been pushing for this mandatory UPP for almost 8 years.
Some opponents of increasing the CPP argue that an increase in CPP premiums would kill jobs. For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business argues that an increase in premiums would cost the Canadian economy about 110,000 jobs by 2020. Any hike would act as an employer payroll tax and depress workers' wages.
Canadian debt loads are increasing especially for seniors according to Equifax. One significant reason why seniors do not have sufficient funds for retirement is that many company plans are not defined-benefit pensions but defined-contribution plans which end up delivering a lower benefit.
There are several proposals to beef up the Canadian Pension Plan including one from the Canadian Labour Congress:Labour groups say the proposal would see the doubling of the CPP income replacement rate to 50 per cent and push the maximum CPP benefit to $24,000 per year and the average benefits to $12,600 per year. For 2016, the maximum CPP benefit will be about $13,000 for the year, and the average payment works out to just over $7,550 annually.
The issue of adequacy of income for retirement is also bedeviled by widely differing views as to what amount of income is required. Nevertheless, increasing debt loads, and decreased saving point to a situation where many seniors will face a considerable decline in their income after their retirement.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ford CEO will raise risks of TPP with Canadian government officials

Dianne Craig, the Chief Executive Officer of Ford Canada says that when she meets government officials later this month, she will raise the risks posed to the Canadian automotive sector by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Craig said she will also discuss the need to increase subsidies in order to attract more investment in the Canadian auto sector. Ontario has been losing jobs in the sector to Mexico and the southern United States where labor costs are lower.
Ray Tanguay, an automotive adviser to both the federal and Ontario government said that the federal innovation fund should be restructured. While the fund is intended to offer incentives for investment in the sector, Tanguay would like the money to be given out in the form of grants. He did not call for more money to be in the fund, saying that it was up to federal and Ontario officials to determine the economic benefits to be gained from providing more incentives.
Speaking at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, Craig said: “Right now, the way the loans are treated by the Canadian government, they’re not competitive, because in other jurisdictions, they’re not taxable.” Craig also said that although she supports free trade, the TPP was structured in an unfair way. The deal will hurt Canadian manufacturing and in particular the auto sector.
Last October, Unifor, the union representing Canadian workers at the largest three auto makers, claimed the deal will lose us an estimated 20,000 jobs due to the elimination of tariffs and the reduction of content rules for both vehicles and auto parts.Over the next five years the 6.1 percent tariff on imported passenger vehicles will be eliminated, a move that will lower the cost of Japanese vehicles for Canadian consumers. The deal requires that 45 percent of imported vehicles must have content from TPP countries while 40 to 45 percent is required for auto parts. Under NAFTA rules the content requirement are much higher at 62.5 percent on vehicles and 60 percent on parts. Jim Stanford, an economist for Unifor, said that Canadian parts makers would be encouraged to move their facilities to TPP member states where labor is cheaper. Stanford said:“There’s no possible way to paint this deal as benefitting the auto industry. There’s no possible way to say that new exports to Japan and Malaysia and Vietnam will somehow offset both the inflow of imports from those places, and more importantly, the potential relocation of a big chunk of our supply chain.”Not everyone was so negative about the implications of the deal.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Associatiion said that his area that employs about 81,000 people is about evenly split between companies that benefit from the deal and those that must struggle to adapt. Volpe said: " On one hand, prospects to supply vehicle assembly in foreign markets will open for large Canadian suppliers with multinational footprints and access to mobile capital.On the other hand, small and medium-sized suppliers to Canada’s vehicle assembly supply chain will face new competitive pressure from large, multinational firms from TPP countries and further abroad.”
The text of the TPP was finally released just a day after Trudeau took over as prime minister. Harper refused to release the text before the election. Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturer's Association, which employs more than 20,000 Canadians, said that he was unhappy that the United States will agree to eliminate the tariff on Japanese vehicles over a period of up to 30 years while Canada does the same thing in just five years. While the deal gives Canada access to more foreign markets including Japan, it also benefits low-wage suppliers of auto parts in many Asian countries. The content terms were even skimpier than Harper had said. Engine parts and truck frames and metal roof panels require only TPP content of 35 percent. Volpe noted that 26 Canadian parts companies make stamped metal components and another 18 make engine parts. They were flagged by his group to be protected but were obviously not.
The new Liberal government is making no promises about renegotiating the TPP. Eleven other countries are involved in the deal. Instead, the International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland suggests that Canadians should review the accord and send their feedback. The TPP is 6,000 pages long.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Canada could intervene in Libya

While the Trudeau government has decided to withdraw from the bombing mission against the Islamic State in Iraq, it is now considering involvement in the plans for foreign military intervention in Libya.

In an interview with Chris Hall on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.(CBC) radio program The House, Defence Minister, Harjit Saijan, hinted that Canada could soon join a coalition of countries who would intervene in Libya saying:
 "I had a good meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defence from Italy, [on military intervention in Libya]. Italy is willing to take the lead on this; once we have a good understanding of the political situation, that will allow us to figure out what we need to do. Before we can actually say 'Yes we're interested,' 'Yes we can do this,' we're doing what all responsible coalition partners should do, assess the political and security situation, and then decide if we have the right capabilities to assist in this mission.We will be part of that conversation."
Saijan said that any military action in Libya would be based upon lessons learned from Canada's experience in Afghanistan. I should think that the lesson learned from Afghanistan would be that military intervention results in continued warfare with no lasting solution even after more than a decade of US-led intervention. Saijan noted that there needed to be a political structure in place, so that when there are military gains the political structures will safeguard peace and quiet tensions. The UN, with the support of the international community, is trying to impose such a structure through the Government of National Accord(GNA) which it brokered. But the GNA was never approved by either parliament of the two rival Libyan governments. The internationally-recognized government is in Tobruk in the east, the House of Representatives(HoR), while the rival General National Congress(GNC) is in the west in Tripoli. The Libya Political Agreement(LPA) the basis for the GNA has also not be approved by either parliament. However the HoR must give a vote of confidence in the GNA before its term can begin its term.
After meeting several times and failing to reach a quorum, the HoR did meet and vote on the GNA but rejected it as having too many ministries. A deadline of ten days was given to present a new list but that deadline was missed. A new deadline set for tomorrow February 14th. If the list is presented to the HoR by then they could vote on it as early as this Monday. Even if the vote of confidence passes, there is no guarantee that the GNA will be able to move into Tripoli and gain control of the Central Bank, and National Oil Company without armed resistance from GNC-associated militia. The GNA itself is split between opponents of the HoR commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, and opponents mostly members from the GNC who signed on to the LPA in Skhirat on December 17th. The likelihood of a strong political structure to bolster Libya after a military defeat of the Islamic State seems unlikely. The intervention is more likely to produce even further civil discord as many will reject the intervention. It is not even certain that the GNA will even ask for such intervention.
The Italian defence minister, Roberta Pinotti, said that coalition partners at a recent Paris meeting totally agreed that the GNA government should ask the West to aid them fight the Islamic State "to avoid fuelling "jihadist propaganda" of yet another "Western invasion". In this case the propaganda appears to be close to the truth. She also noted that the US has expressed a greater concern over the Islamic State in Libya. Indeed, the US is planning a third front in Libya against the Islamic State. Already there is foreign military intervention in Libya by special forces from several countries. The UK is flying sorties
Many media outlets are criticizing the Trudeau decision to withdraw from the bombing mission against IS in Iraq. However, the US has supported Canada's new role. Actually, the Liberals will have a more extensive and expensive campaign than the Conservatives, and now it seems may expand their mission against IS to Libya. No wonder the US is not complaining. Not all the media are criticizing the Liberals for withdrawing from the bombing. Thomas Walkom, in the Star sees the Trudeau move as expanding Canada's role: Sly Justin Trudeau. Critics are still attacking the prime minister for pulling back from the war against Islamic State militants. What they haven’t noticed is that his Liberal government has, in fact, expanded Canada’s role in this conflict.The new operation will spend more money, $1.6 billion over three years. Canada will send 180 more soldiers to the area. The number of special forces to train the Kurds will rise from 69 to 200, Now Saijan is suggesting Canada might be involved in a Libyan campaign against the Islamic State as well.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Liberals to honor Conservatives $15 billion armored vehicle deal with Saudis

In 2014 the Conservative government of Stephen Harper inked a huge $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal was controversial because of the wretched human rights record of the Saudis.

During the campaign ahead of the October 2015 federal election that brought Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party to power, the Liberals promised to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty that is designed to regulate the international arms trade to promote international peace, reduce human suffering, and promote transparency. However, not long after winning power the Liberals said that the arms deal with the Saudis would be exempt from the deal.
After the recent execution of 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric, in Saudi Arabia, Stephane Dion, the Canadian foreign minister said:"We have said during the campaign — the prime minister has been very clear — that we will not cancel this contract or contracts that have been done under the previous government in general. We'll review the process by which these contracts are assessed in the future. But what is done is done and the contract is not something that we'll revisit."
Dion also said the contract was just part of the world in which we are and that many Canadian allies exported arms to the Saudis. He also said the government did not receive a mandate from the people to stop the sale of the weapons. Many critics of the contract claim the party is jeopardizing its principles by going ahead with the deal and it also violates its own export guidelines.
Law professor Daniel Turp of the University of Montreal and a dozen of his students have filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government in the Quebec Superior Court. The suit seeks to block shipments of the combat vehicles. The suit could force Liberals to explain how they are able to justify the sale. The group will also file a similar action in the Federal Court with three weeks.
The combat vehicles are to be produced by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, the U.S. aerospace and defense firm. The lawsuit refers not only to the Liberal election promise but also to defense export guidelines already put in place in 1986, by a Conservative government, that says: "Canada closely controls the export of military goods and technology to countries…whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population."In an open letter Turp and the students note Saudi Arabia has committed and continues to commit serious human rights violations against their citizens and that the light armored vehicles could be used against their own population. The suit argues that the government is violating its own existing export rules and that the permits for export should be rescinded.
Amnesty International notes in regard to Saudi Arabia:It is beyond dispute that there are longstanding and extensive human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.Those violations arise across the full range of rights enshrined in international law, including torture and ill-treatment, women’s equality, unjust and secretive executions, religious freedom, freedom of expression, the rights of human rights defenders, press freedom, fair trials and arbitrary detention.In addition Amnesty notes that their research shows that Saudi forces operating in Yemen have committed war crimes. Some of the weapons used have been identified as coming from the UK and the US. The UK International Development Select Committee called for Prime Minister David Cameron to halt the sale of arms to the Saudi-led coalition targeting civilian areas in Yemen and engaging in indiscriminate bombing in Yemen.
The Globe and Mail points out that some of the light-armored vehicles will actually be fitted with medium or high-calibre weapons by a European subcontractor including a powerful cannon to shoot anti-tank missiles. The vehicles will go to the Saudi National Guard. The Canadian government has described the vehicles as amounting to "jeeps." A Belgian Contractor, CMI, has a sub-contract that will amount to $4.9 billion and last 15 years.
The Saudi contract is estimated to employ about 3,000 Canadians, mostly at a London, Ontario, General Dynamics plant for 14 years. The company advertises the vehicles it is selling to the Saudis with a Canadian focus:General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) advertises its fighting vehicle as a classic piece of Canadiana. In marketing materials, it showcases the combat machine, equipped with a machine gun, alongside photos of poutine, a Mountie, a hockey game and a moose. The advertising tagline reads: “This is Canadian.”
The Liberal government has acted exactly as the Harper Conservatives in refusing to explain how the contract can be justified under existing arms-control rules. Dion's Foreign Affairs Department refuses to make public its analysis on the grounds that it could injure the "commercial confidentiality of the deal." Well-known Liberal Lloyd Axworthy has said that the Liberals should review the deal saying:“Everybody says it’s for jobs, but I think if you start counting up the price you pay in terms of instability and repression and forceful maintenance of order, you may be paying a high price.I think the Saudis have really, in the last couple of years, really become a problem country. The degree of oppression against women and dissidents in Saudi Arabia is becoming almost epidemic.”Axworthy also claimed that the Saudis help support and export Islamic fundamentalism. Under the terms of the contract details of the deal must be kept secret.
Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, an antiwar group based in Waterloo Ontario summed up his view on the issue: “Of course, job creation is a legitimate pursuit for any government. But there are lines that Canada should not cross in the pursuit of profit – and sustaining one of the worst human-rights violators in the world should clearly be one of them.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blackberry laying off workers in Ontario and Florida

Blackberry is laying off an unspecified but "small number" of employees both in Waterloo, Ontario, and at Sunrise Florida. The creator of the Blackberry Messenger, Gary Klassen, has left the company, according to reports.

The Florida newspaper SunSentinel reports Blackberry notified the state that it would be laying off 75 employees between February 5 and February 26. However Blackberry refused to confirm these numbers to the CBC after phone and email requests. A statement from Blackberry reads:
"As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce. This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted in Waterloo and Sunrise, FL. It also means that BlackBerry is actively recruiting in those areas of our business that will drive growth. For those employees that have recently left the company, we know that they have worked hard on behalf of our company and we are grateful for their commitment and contributions."The cuts are part of CEO John Chen's plan to improve the company's performance. Blackberry denied rumours that about 35 percent of its work force would be cut.
Blackberry would not confirm that Klassen was among those cut from the Waterloo Ontario facility. However, his wife Jenn posted a photo of her and her husband on her Facebook acoount that read: "My husband has walked out of BlackBerry for the last time!" Klassen was director of architecture and innovation. Another senior executive, QNX boss, Dan Dodge also recently left the company.
Richard Tse, an analyst for Cormark Security, said: “The reality is they are really trying to make a pivot to a software business, so everything they are doing is laser-focused on that. There may be people from the legacy business who are not attuned to that.” Given the modest size of the layoffs Tse did not think that Blackberry was giving up on the handset business as yet. Chen has been making a number of acquisitions that have expanded its ability to offer software for mobile devices. In the third quarter of last year, Blackberry sold just 700,000 handsets compared to selling more than 12 million at its peak of production. Chen said: “My first goal is to get devices to break even. I have been very vocal: If I cannot get there, I will not keep taking my investors through that.” In the past Blackberry employed almost 11,000 people in the Waterloo area but in 2014 there were about 2,700.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Revenue Canada can kill you by mistake

Alyanna Lapuz, 21 from Winnipeg on January 7th this year received a letter from the Canadian Revenue Agency(CRA) addressed to the "Estate of the Late Alyanna Lapuz".

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A document Lapuz showed the CBC indicates she died according to public records on September 15, 2015. We all know that according to the old saying nothing is certain but death and taxes. The original quote is from Benjamin Franklin but a similar sentiment occurs earlier by Daniel Defoe in 1726. However, there is obviously a different relationship that can occur between death and taxes. At least in the case of the Canadian Revenue Agency, the tax collector can kill you, and although you are actually still alive, you are dead as far as the CRA is concerned. The CRA may also inform other government agencies that you are dead as well so you could have welfare or unemployment insurance cut off, be unable to use your Social Insurance Number (SIN), or have scholarship payments cease.
You might think that cases such as that of Lapuz are rare. Far from it. Between 2007 and 2013 a total of 5,489 Canadians have been wrongly entered as dead in the CRA records. The situation was so common that the Taxpayer's Ombudsman actually issued a report on the problem and issued eight recommendations to help fix it. These included recommendations to make CRA forms for reporting deaths clearer and also following up on people who report deaths in order "to substantiate the date of death."
You might wonder how CRA could wrongfully declare a person dead so often. Sometimes the error arose in another agency, such as vital statistics offices which just passed on the incorrect information to the CRA, which in turn will pass it on to others. At other times, it is the taxpayer's themselves who put incorrect information on tax files. Sometimes, the fault lies within the CRA as incorrect information is entered there. At times employees sometimes use two screens at once with files of two different taxpayers and they enter the deceased code on the wrong file.
In the Lapuz case, the error was internal and involved two employees, according to a CRA Calgary manager who phoned her to apologize and tell her that everything was fixed. Lapuz said she was excited and felt good. She would now again get her student loan. However she noted that it took only a few seconds to kill her but over three weeks to revive her. For some reason, Lapuz's "death" appears to have happened just after she changed her GST refund from checks to direct deposit.
It took many calls and visits to the agency to get the error corrected. She became increasingly frustrated. She was slated to start a dental hygienist program in Toronto in April but her student loan application was not being processed because her Social Insurance number was not valid, since she was officially dead.
The CRA told CBC that the rate of "killings" has decreased since 2013. A CRA statement said: "When CRA becomes aware of an error, we do inform our partners. The CRA responds quickly to take corrective measures when an error is reported. In fact, the CRA aims to rectify the situation within 24 hours."Yet it took CRA over three weeks to have Lapuz' death reversed. Bob Campbell of the Union of Taxation Employees said some errors of this sort will inevitably happen but also points out that over the last four years over 6,000 jobs have been cut from the CRA leaving less people to do more work. The cuts in staffing means that there are fewer staff to do deal with issues such as that of Lapuz.
While being declared dead by the Canadian Revenue Agency is not as certain as death and taxes, it remains an unpleasant possibility. The agency claims to have accepted all eight recommendations of the Ombudsman's report but it could be that they lack the staff to implement them all.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Canada's top civil servant calls student protesters Brownshirts

Michael Wernick, newly appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as Clerk of the Privy Council, Canada's top civil service position is already in hot water for statements he made about protesting students.

Eight students were protesting during a board meeting that dealt with an increase in tuition fees. The students used megaphones to read statements making it difficult or impossible for some of the board members to follow what was going on. Nevertheless a vote was taken on the Task Force report that the board was considering.
A number of board members were angry at the process and wrote to the Board: Given that the 30 March 2015 open session of the Board was never adjourned and the Task Force report never debated nor properly voted upon, we are requesting that the Board reconvene for a special session for de novo discussions of the Task Force report. All Board members, including students, have the opportunity to speak as they see fit, possibly on behalf of their constituents, while the Board should enforce the ban on outside speech by visitors
Wernick, who is chair of the Governance Committee as well as a member of the board of Carleton University, replied with an email that compared the students with Brownshirts and Maoists:With all respect you really are missing the point here.The physical disruption and attempt to suppress the functioning of the lawful governance of the university by shouting down speakers and breaking up the meeting is the point. It has no place in a lawful democratic society – it is the tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists. It has no place in a university – it is the antithesis of free speech and open debate. What I would like to hear from the administration is what sanctions will be brought upon the disruptors and how it proposes to protect the peaceful lawful governance of the Board from being intimidated.
Certainly the protest was disruptive and is not really an issue of free speech. It is the type of disruptive civil disobedience quite common in protests in many countries including the U.S. civil rights movement, which often involved actions that broke segregation laws. Environmental and aboriginal groups often use disruptive tactics as well. It is a way of generating publicity for a cause, as many times it can eventually end up in contests with security officials and arrests. There is no evidence of any violence or threats of violence involved in this process as can be seen on the appended video. I cannot fathom why the board did not just call campus security and take a break until the protesters were removed. Eventually, the board did meet again and pass the Task Force report after discussion and hearing the different points of view as was suggested in the earlier letter to the Board.
The Carleton University Graduate Students Association explained the references to Brownshirts and Maoists:“Brownshirts” were the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party know as the Sturmabteilung or SA. The Brownshirts have have also been referred to as the Assault Division and the Storm Detachment. Unlike Brownshirts, Maoists are followers of the political theory of Maoism and may or may not advocate for violence.Aside from not at all addressing the concerns of the eight board members who wanted a new meeting, the terminology used by Wehrer is surely extravagant and even insulting to the students and a bit surprising perhaps in doing a bit of red-baiting as well. The normal response one would think would be to retreat a bit and admit he had gone a bit too far. Quite the opposite has happened in Wernick's case. He told the Carleton University student newspaper: "I have said everything I need to say in the email, which has been posted ... My position's quite clear."
Dr. Root Gorelick a professor of Biology, and elected to be the faculty representative on the Board, wrote on his blog that the students had engaged in "peaceful free speech and civil disobedience." He was critical of what he called over-the-top characterization of the students:"The protesters certainly did not act like the paramilitary contingent of Hitler’s Nazi Party, as suggested by Michael Wernick's brownshirt hyperbole. Michael Wernick and several of his supporters on the Board claim that they were concerned for their own physical safety, which is absurd. There were no threats of violence. As far as I can tell, there were no reports filed with Carleton's safety office about threats to personal safety arising from the student protest."
Last month, Gorelick faced demands for the university administration that he sign a confidentiality agreement and his blog posts were pointed out as being problematic. Wernick defended the administration's demands, saying "personal blogs that attack fellow Governors and university staff and dissent on matters the Board has decided are simply not consistent with the role of a governor." The administration action was condemned by the 68,000 Canadian Association of University Teachers(CAUT), who threatened to censure Carleton over its board's "lack of openness and transparency."
The Junction, a publication produced by Carleton journalism students, reports campus security has started to introduce "tightened screening for student journalists" at board meetings. This included compiling photos of student journalists from their social media profiles.
Last June, Carleton's Board of Governors tabled a motion that sought to remove student union representatives from the Board altogether. The Board Governance Committee, chaired by Wernick argues that student heads were in an irreconcilable conflict of interests since their duty to students would compromise their duty to the board. I always thought that students should be represented in a body whose decisions had considerable interest on their welfare as students. Students are important stakeholders in their own university education. You could argue that faculty representatives ought to be excluded as well since they represented faculty interests. Perhaps important local business people ought to be excluded too! Brandon University where I taught for years had 4 student representatives, 2 appointed by the government and 2 from the student union. We also had 2 faculty representatives elected by Senate, and an alumni representative from the alumni association. These groups are all significant stakeholders and if the university is to have a degree of democratic governance surely a variety of stakeholders should be on the Board of Governors.
I would be more concerned with Wernick's attitude to university governance and dissent than his particular description of a few disruptive protesters. How is it this fellow was overlooked by Harper? In the appended video Trudeau shows exactly the same arrogance as Harper by completely avoiding any discussion of the point made by Mulcair. As the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wernick's duty will be to provide professional non-partisan advice to Justin Trudeau on all policy and operational issues affecting the government. In response to Mulcair, Trudeau said that he is "very pleased to have Michael Wernick as the new Clerk of the Privy Council." Trudeau completely ignores the question. He acts exactly as Harper often did to questions but has a nicer hairdo and is younger.