Category Archives: Political Changes

Ireland settles mefloquine Situation with veteran as Canada prepares to fight Lawsuit

05 Dec 17
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As Canada prepares to fight a lawsuit launched by specialists who say the anti-malarial medication they took on deployment in Somalia caused permanent damage, the Irish government has settled a case with one of its former soldiers that states he, too, is suffering the effects of having consumed mefloquine.

The case brought against the Irish Defence Forces by former army sergeant Anthony Cole finished last week when the Irish government agreed to pay him an undisclosed amount his attorney, Eamon Murray, describes as “substantial.”

Mr. Cole took the anti-malarial medication before and during installation to Chad in 2009. He advised the court that the medication caused nausea, mood swings, depression and migraines.

“The country fought the case robustly, calling my customer a liar and contradicting my customer’s evidence at every possible chance,” Mr. Murray said in a phone interview from his office in Ireland on Monday. “But, in the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case,” he explained, “the nation buckled and settled the case, paid him settlement and paid all his prices.”

In this country, the national government and HoffmanLaRoche, mefloquine’s developer, will be in a courtroom in North Bay, Ont., on Friday to argue that a class-action lawsuit brought by soldiers who participate in the Somalia mission of the early 1990s shouldn’t proceed because an excessive amount of time has passed since the lawsuit was launched in 2001.

The soldiers were forced to take the medication as part of a badly monitored and potentially illegal clinical trial. Ronald Smith, the lead plaintiff in the Canadian case, says the medication left him with a plethora of residual mental-health issues including depression, aggressive behavior, poor concentration, social isolation and suicidal ideas.

Mr. Smith’s lawsuit sat dormant for 17 years as his attorneys debated who would take it to court. It was reactivated as proof around the world started to link mefloquine into the kinds of symptoms experienced by Canadian soldiers in Somalia.

His statement of claim states the military took the soldiers to take the medication, but ignored the principles of this clinical trial, which stated they have to be viewed for adverse reactions and treated for any side effects in a timely fashion, among other things.

This was the crux of the case launched by Mr. Cole in Ireland. Mr. Cole’s suit about the effects of mefloquine and the way it was “administered to him and the way it had been screened and monitored,” Mr. Murray said.

The Irish authorities conceded no accountability but Mr. Murray says future cases must be a lot easier to fight because the testimony is on record. There are approximately 57 other Irish soldiers who’ve also launched suits associated with mefloquine.

Health Canada upgraded the warning labels for the medication in 2016 to highlight that certain side effects may persist for months or years after the medication is stopped, and some can be irreversible in some patients.

The Canadian army conducted a review of the medical literature this year and concluded there isn’t any evidence that the drug causes long-term issues. However, it now says choice drugs are the preferred choices for soldiers who deploy to countries where malaria is a risk.

Remington Nevin, a physician at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, who has studied the drug’s effects for almost a decade, testified on behalf of Mr. Cole and hopes to be called as a witness at the Canadian case, if it goes forward.

“The Canadian government has taken until 2017 to conclude that there were issues with the medication significant enough to justify it being made a drug of last resort,” Dr. Nevin said. “Therefore, if it took the Canadian government until 2017 to recognize this,” he explained, “it isn’t surprising that these issues haven’t made it until today.”

Cathay Wagantall, the Conservative deputy critic for veterans affairs, said she’s disappointed that the government is attempting to block the class-action suit by using the procedural argument that too much time has elapsed.

“This government is apologizing for numerous things and, at precisely the exact same time, won’t apologize for what happened in Somalia or take the measures to reopen the case and examine it honestly,” she explained, “because these veterans understand what they endured and there is evidence out there.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Chrystia Freeland decries plight of four Canadians Detained in China

02 Dec 17
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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes “very, very personally to heart” the plight of Canadians imprisoned in China and she does not understand why Beijing won’t heed Ottawa’s pleas to spare them.

Mr. Trudeau leaves for China on Saturday on a trip expected to include the announcement that Canada will begin formal free-trade talks with the planet’s second-largest market and a growing military power. Beijing has been pressing for the talks, which would make Canada the first Group of Seven nation to agree to negotiate a bilateral deal with the nation.

Ms. Freeland told The Globe and Mail’s editorial board Friday the Prime Minister will raise the case of four Canadians who were arrested in China when he holds talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

“Let me tell you, the Prime Minister takes the consular cases very, very personally to heart,” Ms. Freeland said. “I cite them at every chance. They are quite troubling to me. … It’s dreadful for the Canadians jailed in China and it’s dreadful for their families.”

The four Canadians are Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur dissident, imprisoned since 2006; Falun Gong practitioner Qian Sun, in prison since February; and British Columbia wine merchants John Chang and Allison Lu. The Richmond couple have been arrested since May, 2016, over a customized dispute between shipments of ice wine which Beijing states were undervalued for obligation purposes.

The couple’s daughter, Amy Chang, wrote to Mr. Trudeau on Monday asking him to postpone formal free-trade talks with Beijing till he obtains her parents’ release. Mr. Chang, a former enthusiastic participant in trade missions to China that has been celebrated in Canada because of his entrepreneurial ability, is in ill health, and it has lost one third of his burden while in prison. Ms. Lu was released from prison in March but was barred from leaving China.

Ms. Freeland said the four Canadians are experiencing a “dreadful” situation in Chinese jails, but she couldn’t explain why China’s rulers turn a deaf ear to Canada’s pleas to spare them.

“I’m not going to speak for anyone else’s government,” the Foreign Minister said.

Ms. Freeland acknowledged that China’s one-party dictatorship and listing of human-rights abuse difficulty many Canadians, but she said Canada still needs to expand trade with the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Though recently concluded government consultations with 600 companies, academics and civil-society groups found considerable skepticism about a free-trade deal with Beijing, Ms. Freeland said Canada can not turn back the clock since China is already the nation’s second-biggest trading partner. “That is the financial reality for Canada and for Canadians,” she said.

While the Foreign Affairs Minister was careful not to upstage the anticipated announcement of formal trade talks in Beijing next week, Ms. Freeland said she was convinced any such discussions wouldn’t overshadow crucial talks on the North American free-trade arrangement.

“Canada has the best trade negotiators on earth. It’s something we’re extremely good at,” she said. “We are extremely capable of conducting several very significant trade negotiations at exactly the exact same time.”

Canada is now in exploratory trade talks with China and Ms. Freeland said if appropriate discussions get the green light, these discussions would be complex and might take years, imagining a European deal took seven years to resolve.

Former Conservative industry minister James Moore last month cautioned against Canada opening talks with China at the moment, predicting such talks with Beijing would “conduct a very large risk” of damaging NAFTA negotiations. Mr. Moore, who’s currently an adviser to Ms. Freeland from the NAFTA talks, said he has warned her that protectionist forces could use the China talks to throw Canada as a conduit for Chinese products entering the United States.

“I think if Canada were to indicate that we were to move forward with a binding free-trade arrangement with China, that would provide President [Donald] Trump with unbelievable rhetorical ammunition against Canada,” Mr. Moore told reporters in late October. He said this could fuel a backlash “could be incredibly toxic to the Canada-U.S. relationshi”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ten Authorities reach deal on Renewable Arctic fishing

01 Dec 17
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The European Union and four other nations which have commercial interests in the Arctic, such as China and Japan, have joined Canada and the four other countries with land stretching into the northern sea in a moratorium which will avoid fishing throughout the surface of the world until science says it could be managed sustainably.

The agreement reached between the 10 authorities in Washington on Thursday caps years of negotiations to protect 2.8 million square kilometres of the Arctic which are anticipated to become available to fishers as climate change causes the sea ice to melt.

The deal will stop commercial fishing in the area for 16 years. It is going to automatically be revived in 2033, and then every five years after that, unless one of those nations objects or fishing quotas and rules governing commercial fisheries are put in place.

“It is heartening to see Arctic and non-Arctic states come together on conservation measures for the future of the Arctic Ocean,” said Herb Nakimayak, vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, who had been a member of the Canadian delegation.

“The agreement explicitly calls out the value of considering Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and the importance of our role in the Arctic,” Mr. Nakimayak stated. “Joining together like this makes for a stronger arrangement and inspires country-states co-ordination and co-operation, which I hope will benefit our Arctic coastal communities.”

Five countries — Canada, the USA, Denmark, Norway and Russia — agreed in 2015 to not drop their nets from the Arctic Ocean before a complete scientific assessment was conducted of the fish stocks and the ways they are harvested without damaging the environment or threatening fish populations.

But that arrangement would have done nothing to prevent ships from China, Japan, South Korea and Iceland from entering the region. Thursday’s deal ensures those nations will also abide by the moratorium.

It covers what is called the “Arctic doughnut hole” — the massive expanse of unregulated international waters around the North Pole. There’s absolutely no commercial fishing in the area yet, but it’s predicted to become feasible in coming years as the ice pack melts. In recent summers, 40 percent of the area is now open water.

Dominic LeBlanc, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said late Thursday afternoon that the moratorium marks “the first time an international agreement of this size was reached prior to any commercial fishing occurs on a region of the high seas.”

America has experienced a similar fishing ban in place covering the northern coast of Alaska because 2009.

In 2012, a group of 2,000 scientists from 67 countries, including 551 scientists in Canada, called for the moratorium on Arctic fishing until more research could be performed and the constraints on a sustainable catch could be set. The actual concern, even at the moment, was that countries like China, which has been looking for a more active part in the Arctic area, would send its own fleets into the Arctic.

Two decades later, Canada followed the U.S. guide and enforced its own moratorium in cooperation with the Inuit of the Western Arctic. Since that time, there’s been a co-ordinated global effort to persuade all the possible Arctic players to agree to maintain their fishing fleets from the area.

“This precautionary actions recognizes the speed of change in the Arctic because of climate change in addition to the convention of Arctic co-operation across international boundaries,” stated Scott Highleyman, vice-president of conservation policy and programs in Ocean Conservancy who was part of the U.S. delegation negotiating the agreement.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Few residential-school survivors succeed with Complete income-loss claims

30 Nov 17
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The settlement agreement signed a decade ago with the survivors of Indian residential schools provided compensation to former students who lost jobs because of the trauma they endured as children. But fewer than 20 individuals have successfully claimed that cash.

As the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) made to compensate individuals who survived physical, sexual or psychological abuse in the schools winds down, some people question whether individuals who had been scarred by their experiences in the church-run associations are treated fairly.

Former pupils making an income-loss claim under the IAP were encouraged to choose one of two tracks. The consequential loss of chance (CLO) track required no supporting documents to establish injuries. The actual revenue loss (AIL) track entailed more invasive questioning and a greater burden of proof that a survivor’s inability to retain employment could be attributed to abuse in the schools.

A thriving AIL claim could add up to $250,000 to the basic compensation payout, which averaged $91,713.

Amounts given this week to The Globe and Mail from the adjudication secretariat of the IAP show only 18 of the more than 38,000 people who say they were mistreated at the colleges have successfully maintained for real revenue loss.

Most survivors went directly to attorneys to make their claims, but some used form-filling firms which were started to help survivors with the reparation procedure. A Winnipeg man whose family ran this type of company states the amount of successful AIL asserts was so small because it was easier for attorneys and more economical for the government when Australians didn’t press for the larger sum.

“The lawyers were the ones who benefited over the survivors” by opting to get a faster but smaller claim, William Aitken said.

In addition, he says the IAP secretariat told his company it was submitting a lot of claims for loss of revenue.

Phil Fontaine, the former leader of the Assembly of First Nations who had been instrumental in obtaining the settlement agreement, stated he doesn’t understand why obstacles were put in the way of survivors who wanted to claim for lost income.

“It is pretty obvious that this was one of the results of abuse and we expected that there are a substantial number of those applying under the IAP” for real revenue loss, Mr. Fontaine said in an interview.

David Paterson, a Vancouver lawyer who sat on the subcommittee of the IAP oversight committee that decided what was intended from the income-loss supply of this settlement agreement, stated “the adjudicators have interpreted that provision very, very narrowly.”

Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary who helped draft the settlement, and it has worked for survivors making claims, said applying to the AIL track “was quite a steep hill to climb.”

The survivors would need to show that a connection between their inability to hold a job and the misuse was likely, not just plausible, and the adjudicators could use the same standards of evidence for a court of law, Prof. Mahoney said. The claimants also would need to demonstrate a resurfacing of the injury disrupted a proven pattern of earnings.

Given that the income of residential-school survivors will not be high, “your real loss of earnings, if you could go through all those hoops, may not be enough to justify all of the effort that it is going to take and the delay that is likely to lead to them getting their reward,” Prof. Mahoney said.

Mr. Aitken said many survivors were convinced not to apply for reduction of revenue.

The form-filling firm he ran with his father, Allan, helped survivors file their reimbursement claims and subsequently passed the claims on to attorneys for the adjudication procedure.

Whenever a college survivor said they lost income because of injury, the Aitkens filed a claim for real revenue loss. They would compile the files required and allow the adjudicators determine whether the claims were fair.

But officials in the IAP secretariat “really lined up a telephone call [in July, 2009,] together with my dad and one of the attorneys that we were working with in the time and they said it was about the number of claims that we were filing with real revenue reduction,” Mr. Aitken said. “And they efficiently requested us to stop and change it over to lack of chance. They said it would slow down the process.”

Shortly after that conversation, the attorneys working with the Aitkens switched their promises from real revenue loss to loss of chance, Mr. Aitken said. The files provided by the IAP reveal that 48 of the 91 claims for AIL in 2009 were removed and one was successful.

Dan Shapiro, the chief adjudicator of the IAP, chose not to be interviewed for this story, but issued a statement saying his secretariat hasn’t discouraged claims for real revenue loss. Rather, he explained, the secretariat has provided advice to claimants to make sure that, if they go that route, they are aided by experienced personal-injury attorneys and understand the legal and psychological risks.

Mr. Aitken said he considers attorneys or AIP adjudicators persuaded many survivors to not document, or to leave, claims for real revenue loss and take less reimbursement than they deserved. The mindset of the IAP and the authorities toward the claims, Mr. Aitken said, was, “Let us bang out these like widgets and use a short-form choice.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ottawa not to blame for newspaper closings: Joly

29 Nov 17
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One day after Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced a deal to exchange 41 newspapers – closing the majority of them and wiping out 291 full-time and part-time jobs – federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly shot back at suggestions that the closings were due to the government’s decision not to offer additional funding for news outlets as part of its new cultural policy.

Ms. Joly told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday that the two companies had made “cynical business decisions” to blame others for their financial problems, and continued to present the Canada Periodical Fund, which provides $75-million a year to magazines and non-daily newspapers, as an adequate vehicle to promote community media organizations. She has promised to modernize the program without providing clear details on her government’s intentions.

“There are many media companies that have been able to make a smooth transition and have been able to innovate and to be profitable,” she said. “It’s up to these [two] companies to explain what they will do to develop their new business model. … It’s not up to the government to explain the business decisions that were made by these companies.”

The closings are a sweeping change to regional news coverage mostly in Ontario, leaving three cities suddenly without a daily newspaper and many more markets with far fewer weekly community papers. The papers slated for closing have a combined total circulation of nearly three million, accounting for both paid and free papers, according to data from News Media Canada. But they are also part of a larger consolidation in ownership of local news media.

“We are trying to pick some areas where we can sustain and stabilize ourselves,” Postmedia president and chief operating officer Andrew MacLeod said. “The [alternative] is, you are spread too far and too thin.”

Since 2008, 234 local news outlets have closed including those announced on Monday, according to April Lindgren, a journalism professor at Ryerson University who runs the Local News Research Project. Of those, roughly 70 per cent were community papers that published less than five times per week, in at least 150 communities across the country.

The squeeze on the market is caused by advertising spending that has been sucked away from print ads and into the digital realm. The majority of that new digital spending is going to Google and Facebook, meaning that even media outlets making the transition to digital readership are struggling to make up the difference. The strategy at play when many of these local news closings take place is to reduce competition among struggling outlets, to theoretically corner more of the readers in a given region and offer a more attractive product to advertisers.

That strategy is evident in the Postmedia and Torstar deal. The Ottawa region is losing nine free weekly papers covering areas such as Nepean and Barrhaven, Kanata and Stittsville. Without that competition, Postmedia is hoping to be able to draw those readers – and the advertising revenues that follow them – to the Ottawa Citizen or the Ottawa Sun. Torstar is closing a number of free weeklies that could benefit papers owned by its Metroland Media subsidiary in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil and Collingwood. Metroland’s free weekly Niagara This Week no longer competes with similar products in Fort Erie, Pelham, Thorold and Port Colborne. Its free dailies also could benefit if readers of the now-defunct 24 Hours in Toronto and Vancouver migrate to the Metro papers in those markets.

Under Canadian law, companies are not allowed to engage in anti-competitive behaviour, which would include agreements not to compete in a certain market or to restrict supply of a product. The closings were not part of any discussions related to the newspaper swap, Postmedia’s Mr. MacLeod said. “We didn’t know what their plans were, and they didn’t know the same for us,” he said.

Some of the closings eliminate news outlets without a close equivalent: Smaller communities Cobourg and Orillia have free weeklies but are each left without a daily newspaper. The Orillia Packet & Times had been published since 1870, daily since 1953. The closest daily newspaper for both communities is The Peterborough Examiner. Barrie – a census metropolitan area with a population of nearly 200,000 – lost its daily paper, which was founded in 1864. Readers there could turn to the Toronto Star for a daily paper, without the same local coverage.

“This is a newspaper that was 153 years old. There is other [news] coverage, but the loss of fact-checked, daily coverage is a big loss to the community,” Barrie mayor Jeff Lehman said.

The city is still served by online news startup Village Media, the weekly Barrie Advance and local radio stations, he added, but said he is concerned about diminished resources. “The really in-depth investigative journalism that goes on at a community level, looking into the stories behind the stories and surfacing issues … was championed and regularly upheld by the [Barrie] Examiner.”

The closing of community newspapers continued to reverberate in the halls of Parliament Hill on Tuesday, as many MPs expressed their concerns over the state of local news in their ridings.

“If we needed to hear alarm bells to wake up to the crisis in the media industry, we heard them yesterday,” NDP MP Pierre Nantel said in the House on Tuesday.

In a struggling media industry, many local news outlets face years of staffing cuts, operating on a shoestring by the time they shut their doors for good.

“But even though many of these publications have been reduced to shadows of their former selves, they are still often the largest or the only newsroom in those communities,” Prof. Lindgren said. “… Even with diminished newsrooms, newspapers cover stories that nobody else covers.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Green party’s Hannah Bell wins provincial by-election in P.E.I.

28 Nov 17
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Voters in Prince Edward Island delivered Another member of the Green party to the legislature on Monday night.

Hannah Bell captured 35.3 percent of the vote at the Charlottetown-Parkdale by-election, according to unofficial results from Elections PEI.

Liberal Bob Doiron took second place with 28.5 percent, Melissa Hilton of the PC Party came in third with 26.9 percent of the vote and New Democrat Mike Redmond seized 9.3 percent.

Bell — the executive director of the PEI Business Women’s Association — joins Peter Bevan-Baker as the next Green party member at the PEI legislature.

The provincial party leader was chosen in May 2015

The by-election was called to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of former education minister Doug Currie in October. The Liberal MLA left politics to research other professional opportunities.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Three mull bids to Operate against Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

27 Nov 17
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Three people are possibly in the race to become the mayoral candidate for the party that hopes to knock off Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver celebration next year.

With 11 weeks to go until civic-election day in a year that promises to bring enormous changes to local politics, the city’s newest councillor, Hector Bremner, the mayoral candidate in the previous election, Kirk LaPointe, and former Conservative MP Wai Young have said they’re exploring the possibility of running for the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral slot.

The party set Feb. 21 as its nomination date for the mayor’s place this week.

“I am determining now what I could supply the city,” stated Mr. LaPointe, a media executive who recently moved to Vancouver from home at the University of British Columbia, a place that sparked some criticism last time he wanted to become mayor of a town he did not even reside in.

Ms. Young explained that she’s had “lots of people approach me to run and it is certainly something I am contemplating.” And Mr. Bremner, who was recently chosen as the city’s 11th councillor at a by-election, stated that “lots of people are asking me to look at it and … as we get closer, I will be making some decisions.”

All three spoke about needing to give voters a choice besides Vision, which they said had failed voters on issues from housing to basic city services to traffic congestion.

George Affleck, a twice-elected councillor who had indicated many times before that he would run to become the mayoral candidate, declared this week he’s leaving politics after this term.

Candidates have until Jan. 22 to sign up new members, although Mr. Bremner, the vice-president of a public-relations business and a former B.C. Liberal political aide, is now in a strong position after having recruited almost 1,000 new members throughout the by-election campaign.

Mr. Robertson and his party are viewed as vulnerable to conquer after being in power for nearly ten years. The Vision offender came in fifth at the October by-election, behind Mr. Bremner and three candidates supported by other progressive parties.

Vision Vancouver, which has raised so much money during its time in office it had been able to employ full-time employees yearlong, which is uncommon for civic celebration, recently laid off two of its three party employees.

At the same time, one of its popular councillors with a strong following among young, environmentally minded people, Andrea Reimer, announced last month that she will not be running again.

Vision Vancouver co-chair Maria Dobrinskaya stated it is not clear yet who may be running.

“We all know we must have a leadership review for our incumbents at all levels,” stated Ms. Dobrinskaya. “That will give us clarity about the amount of spots. But right now, we are waiting for everyone to get through plenty of heavy policy in the autumn.”

She said the party’s staff layoffs are a “restructuring” which is part of “attempting to build in flexibility.”

All of the parties are scrambling to work out how to comply with new campaign-financing rules the state put into effect Oct. 30. That bans corporate and union contributions and limits individual contributions to $1,200.

The new rules will have the maximum impact on the two large parties, Vision and the NPA, which had raised around $2-million apiece during the official campaign period from the 2014 election.

The NPA rushed for individuals to contribute before the deadline for its annual fundraising gala that took place Nov. 22. It had four corporate sponsors listed for this, two of them connected with Beedie Living, the firm that’s been generating controversy for many years with its plans to construct a condominium project in Chinatown.

The rules will restrict the effect of former donors such as Rocky Mountaineer owner Peter Armstrong and programmer Rob Macdonald, who had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations in previous elections to the NPA. They’ll also hobble Vision, which got a significant percentage of its campaign money from people in construction and development.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Patrick Brown Promises to cut taxes, hydro rates in Ontario PC campaign Claims

26 Nov 17
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Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives would decrease income taxes and ship the state back into deficit if they form the government after next June’s election, and would take over and enlarge Toronto’s subway system, pioneer Patrick Brown claimed as he unveiled his electoral routine.

The 78-page program, dubbed the People’s Guarantee, comprises 147 guarantees and is Mr. Brown’s strategy to conquer Premier Kathleen Wynne next summer and finish 14 years of Liberal government in Ontario. If it wins, the opposition party would maintain the majority of Ms. Wynne’s marquee initiatives intact, such as tuition rebates and expanded drug coverage, but would finish the state’s climate change program and dismantle the cap-and-trade system.

Unveiled on Saturday in a speech to 1,500 delegates at a party conference near Toronto’s primary airport, the election strategy comprises fives promises that Mr. Brown stated he would send by 2022 or not run for another term. Those promises include a tax reduction for Ontarians earning less than $86,000, an enlarged refund for child-care expenses, a 12 percent decrease in residential hydro bills, more money for mental health, and a more powerful accountability act.

“Beneath Kathleen Wynne, you work hard, you pay more and you get less. Under our stage, you may spend less and get more,” Mr. Brown said in a half-hour address. In a statement published with his address, Mr. Brown said there’s “nothing wrong with Ontario that can not be fixed by a change in government.”

The platform would see Ontario return to a deficit in 2018 with a $2.8-billion shortfall, before posting surpluses in future years. The document includes no mention of doubt over the future of the North American free-trade arrangement and worries of economic disruption if discussions to renegotiate the trade deal were to fall. The most recent financial projections from Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa promised balanced budgets through to 2020.

In accordance with the Tories, part of the deficit during their first year in government would come from a costly transition from the state’s existing cap-and-trade program to another carbon tax that Mr. Brown would present.

The party’s platform would provide some tax relief for Ontarians. A cut to the lowest income tax bracket, representing an income of around $42,960, would see the present tax rate of 5.05 percent fall to about 4.5 percent. The following tax bracket, which the party says represents the “middle course” earning $42,960 to $85,923, would see a cut from the current rate of 9.15 percent to 7.1 percent. Once phased in by 2022, the tax cuts will cost the provincial treasury about $3.2-billion annually.

The party promised no significant spending cuts over its first four years in power, but stated that it would find $2.8-billion in annual savings by 2022.

A proposal to take over Toronto’s subway system was among the biggest promises in the record. While Toronto’s transit service could be left with buses and streetcar routes, the provincial government would take over the city’s subway infrastructure and spend $5-billion expanding subway lines. Toronto would continue to amass subway fares, according to the celebration.

Pointing to stagnating incomes and the higher cost of living in Ontario over the last ten years, Mr. Brown promised he would leave Ontarians with more cash in their pockets if his party wins. “Job number one for a PC government is to make life more affordable for you,” he told the audience at a campaign-style event. This weekend’s convention is Mr. Brown’s final key party gathering ahead of the next election.

The program would also introduce a new tax credit for child care, offering a family with a child under the age of six earning less than $35,000 annually a refund of around $6,750. The party also promised to invest $1.9-billion within the next ten years on mental healthcare.

Mr. Brown, 39, is a lawyer by training and had served in the national parliament as an MP from Barrie for almost a decade. He’s been the provincial party’s chief since September, 2015, and has yet to lead the Tories to a general election.

Steven Del Duca, the state’s Transportation Minister, was in the conference on Saturday as a Liberal agent and ignored Mr. Brown’s plan as a “say anything” platform. “We all know that if it seems too good to be true, then it is not accurate,” he said in a statement. “Anytime a Conservative says they could lower taxes without making cuts they end up cutting services.”

There was no mention in the stage about the impending legalization of cannabis. The program’s section on property claims no changes to the state’s tax on overseas property buyers or rent controls, although party officials said those two programs could be changed if the state’s property market went into sharp decline.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Deadly mine Attack highlights accusations NAFTA Utilized to exploit Mexican workers

25 Nov 17
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This was a little after 10 p.m. Saturday when a convoy of pickup trucks carrying balaclava-clad guys rolled up into a roadblock near Torex Gold’s mine in Mexico’s Guerrero state. As a part of a wildcat strike, workers at the Canadian-owned surgery had cut its water source and were barricading a dirt road leading to the wells.

The attackers opened fire with assault rifles and shotguns, miners told The Globe and Mail in interviews in the scene, chased the protesters to the surrounding scrubland and beat them up. After the shooting stopped, two men lay dead: Brothers Victor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Pena. Locals said the pair had worked delivering diesel to the mine and were manning the blockade that night.

What exactly led to the violence is an issue of dispute. The protesters blame their trade union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico (CTM), which they accuse of being too near Torex and handling the business behind their backs. Some miners have been trying to leave the CTM to combine a more independent marriage, Los Mineros. State authorities, meanwhile, assert the carnage was really a struggle between two rival militias that had nothing to do with the attack.

Since the bloody episode unfolded in the rugged mountains near a village called Atzcala, negotiators from Canada, the USA and Mexico were gathered in a luxury resort 240 kilometres to the north in Mexico City, trying to hash out an overhaul of this North American free-trade agreement.

Canadian negotiators have required the pact’s labour standards be toughened, which makes it easier for Mexican workers to join unions of their choice and doing away with so-called “employer security contracts” — prices negotiated between unions and corporations without the participation of employees which are a frequent occurrence at CTM-represented offices in Mexico.

Whatever the truth of the Sahuanitla brothers’ deaths, the timing shone a spotlight on accusations that Canadian and American businesses are using the trade pact, along with lax Mexican labor standards, to exploit the citizens of the southern neighbour.

Standing at the blockade at dusk three days after the killings — the areas where the guys fell marked by a pylon and a vehicle tire, each adorned with candles — Torex employees and other locals rhymed off a list of complaints. They accused the company of underpaying them, thwarting their attempts to join an independent union, reneging on pledges to improve the neighborhood rather than compensating the village for much of the water that the mine was using.

“They promised work for everybody, the streets would be paved, that households would have adequate housing,” said Hedilberto Peralta Fabian, who identified himself as an area commissario, approximately equal to a city councillor. “Nothing.”

Toronto-based Torex Gold and the Guerrero attorney-general’s office claimed there was no link between the killings and the labour dispute. The business described the attack as an “illegal blockade” by 15 percent of workers who had closed down the operation since Nov. 3.

“We can only imagine how painful this process has been around for the families of those men, besides having their deaths utilized for political grandstanding,” Gabriela Sanchez, the business’s vice-president of investor relations, wrote in an email.

Ms. Sanchez said the men killed weren’t directly employed by the business, but that one ran a company that allowed equipment to a mine builder. She said Torex was paying the Mexican federal authorities for the use of water in the mine and isn’t in arrears. Ms. Sanchez said her firm is an “attractive regional employer,” whose cover is great by Mexican standards.

She said the company had built new homes for 170 households in the region, paved some streets, refurbished a gym and a school, and that over half of the mine’s workforce is composed of locals.

“Our salaries are above average for the mining industry in Mexico, our workers have great benefits and we’re heavily engaged in the economic growth and advancement of the communities we work with,” she wrote. “We listen to our communities and consider their requests for additional aid. Unfortunately, we’re not always able to deliver the extra infrastructure and services they request.”

The leader of this Guerrero branch of the CTM didn’t respond to a request for comment. Someone who answered the phone at the union’s Mexico City headquarters said nobody was able to reply The Globe’s questions.

Roberto Alvarez Heredia, a state government spokesman, said the Sahuanitlas were murdered in a struggle between two armed groups that acted as local police forces. “When both groups which were carrying firearms fulfilled, a dispute arose, which resulted in the murder of two individuals,” he wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.

Miners at the website, however, insisted that they were unarmed when the attack occurred. They rejected any suggestion that the violence was different from the dispute with Torex. When told that the company was saying the attack was unconnected to the attack, they broke into a chorus of “No.”

“We all know what happened,” Oscar Garrido Ontiveros said. “We don’t need to take it any more. Two people got killed and that is enough.”

Torex’s Atzcala-area projects, including one working mine and others under development, are the major industry in this rural area. Bulls wander down the country roads, which, like the stone in the surrounding mountains, are a champagne gold color, emitting a pale dust that coats the thick green underbrush.

Daniel Garrido said he did not even know he had been a part of CTM for a couple of decades, so divorced is the marriage from its members. “They are not doing anything for us. It is the opposite. If we bring in a different marriage, they wish to fire us. We’ve received a great deal of threats.”

Several protesters revealed The Globe their pay stubs, with internet pay ranging from 978 to 3,102 pesos a week — approximately $67 to $212. Local officials said the company is two years behind paying its water bill.

Kimberly Nolan Garcia, a labor expert at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, said the dispute at Torex Gold’s mine is common in Mexico. The CTM, which is near the country’s governing party, is accused of signing security arrangements with firms and intimidating members that wish to join rival unions.

“It is an issue in Mexico where a marriage is going to be assigned to a mill without consulting with the employees,” Prof. Nolan Garcia said in an interview. “These type of sweetheart deals are endemic to the Mexican labour-relations system.”

Ms. Sanchez, the Torex vice-president, supported her firm “engaged CTM” before hiring employees. But she pledged Torex would accept another union if the employees chose one.

The leader of Canada’s biggest private-sector marriage, Jerry Dias, said Canada won’t agree to a revamped NAFTA unless it contains stronger protections for workers’ rights. The Unifor president, who had been in Mexico City advising the Canadian negotiating team, visited the Torex site to deliver this message to the miners.

“We have proposed to remove the CTM in Mexico, remove protection arrangements and to have free marriages,” he told a crowd of employees at the website of the shooting, to shouts of “gracias!” and applause. “We are here in order to be certain your struggle is our struggle and we fight this together.”

Whether the proposals will come to whatever remains an open question. The mood this week in the Camino Real Polanco resort — where negotiators indulged in designer cocktails and wagyu beef — was decidedly downbeat as talks deadlocked over President Donald Trump’s attempts to bring in new protectionist measures to favour U.S. corporations over international competitors.

In Atazcala, the protesters said they were tired of waiting for things to get better.

“We are living like this,” one girl, who said she works as a cleaner for Torex, gestured toward a corrugated metal shack in the village. “Meanwhile, they get wealthy.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Gaps grow in background checks for Parliament Hill security Personnel

24 Nov 17
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A vast majority of the security personnel on Parliament Hill, a number of whom are armed, haven’t had comprehensive background checks and routinely have access to sensitive data despite a lack of official clearance, federal officials say.

The situation applies to two groups of non-police officers employed by the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS): protective officers who carry firearms and operate largely within ancestral buildings, and detection experts who screen visitors and vehicles before they enter protected areas on the Hill.

The PPS was made in 2015 to beef up security in the Parliamentary precinct eight months after a gunman killed a soldier and stormed Centre Block. It combined the former Senate and House of Commons Protection Services and the RCMP’s Parliament Hill Security Unit together with the RCMP in charge of the operation. However, government officials say the majority of the non-RCMP employees in the PPS haven’t had screening equal to that of the RCMP officers.

The RCMP, with intelligence-sharing agreements around the world, regularly shares findings about possible dangers throughout the PPS. By way of instance, the RCMP provides intelligence to non-police officers which comes in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), though the recipients lack the essential security clearance.

When PPS was created, the RCMP started to employ its own screening to each the members of the new service. About 100 of those non-RCMP security employees received it. It features fingerprint tests, financial queries, a loyalty evaluation by Canada’s spy agency and, sometimes, in-person interviews. Clearances are periodically reviewed.

However, both unions representing officers who had worked for the House of Commons and Senate objected to the change, and it was stopped prior to all workers had gone through the screening, PPS spokeswoman Melissa Rusk said. It had been replaced by a procedure referred to as a site-access check.

As it stands, 56 percent of the non-RCMP employees were working on the Hill before 2015 and don’t have any PPS security clearance, Ms. Rusk said. They were assessed before their hiring, but they weren’t all carrying firearms at the time and the clearances weren’t reviewed.

The remaining 44 percent of the non-police PPS employees either have the RCMP clearance or, more commonly, the site-access check.

Developed by Senate administrators, this procedure goes through databases, including a check for criminal records, but it’s not as comprehensive as an investigation which includes fingerprint checks. Additionally, it stops short of complete monetary checks that could reveal vulnerability to blackmail, or extended family checks which could expose different dangers, sources said.

Ms. Rusk said a new security standard, which is more demanding than the site-access test and “will apply to all PPS workers,” should be prepared to be implemented by next year.

But a labor dispute over contract bargaining between the PPS and the three unions that represent its workers could stall the efforts. The dispute has been heating up lately. The PPS has disciplined staff for sporting lime-green ball caps to draw attention to the difficulties.

Roch Lapensée, whose union represents former House workers, said his members were vetted and deemed to be trusted at the time of the hiring. He said the PPS hasn’t consulted him about the new security screening, and criticized the RCMP for attempting to impose its own standards on his or her members.

“We’ve been here for over a hundred years. We don’t have to have the RCMP culture imposed upon us, we do not desire it,” said Mr. Lapensée, who’s the president of the Security Services Employees Association.

RCMP officers and security personnel from the House of Commons gunned down Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on Oct. 22, 2014, after he murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo in the War Memorial and stormed through Parliament’s Centre Block.

The incident exposed security gaps in the symbolic heart of Canadian democracy, and tensions between the groups providing that security. A review of this event by the Ontario Provincial Police concluded that “the approach to the safety and protection of Parliament Hill is highly insufficient”

Sources said the RCMP is concerned it can’t act on a number of the recommendations made following the terrorist attack, including improving security clearances to stop “cyber dangers.”

Until the Introduction of the PPS in 2015, the RCMP patrolled the grounds of Parliament Hill, while the House and Senate security staff worked the inside the buildings.

Now, the RCMP is gradually replacing Mounties on the Hill in outside places with PPS protective officers.

In the coming months, a number of those RCMP-branded cars on the Hill is going to be replaced by six new vehicles in the colors of the PPS. Eight PPS officers have received extensive training and began working alongside Mounties in recent weeks on cellular response teams intended to be in the forefront in critical incidents.

Additionally, the Mounties who screened all vehicles entering Parliament Hill because the terrorist attack have been substituted by non-RCMP detection experts. The RCMP will also begin to place more more PPS officers in “static places” — on the streets on Parliament Hill and in front of buildings.

Officially, the changes would be to make the best use of PPS’s $65-million yearly budget. In salary, overhead and training, it’s projected that filling security positions with RCMP officers costs about twice as much as using non-RCMP protective officers.

“We continue to appear at the efficacy of our security position and the optimisation of our tools,” Assistant Commissioner Mike Duheme, commanding officer of the RCMP’s National Division, said in an interview. “This funding comes from taxpayers, and it is my responsibility to always be reviewing practices, look at who’s doing what, to maximize our resources and to constantly be on the watch for efficiencies.”

The changes are considered a first step toward addressing concerns over the RCMP obtaining the total responsibility for safety on the Hill. Several parliamentarians dislike the fact the RCMP, which reports to the executive branch of government instead of the legislative branch, is officially in charge of safety in the nation’s legislative chambers.

“It is wholly unacceptable that the Prime Minister controls the firearms which are in Parliament,” NDP MP David Christopherson said during a recent committee hearing.

Additionally, connections are still tense between the 3 groups which were merged to form PPS, such as complaints over the quality of every group’s equipment, vehicles and rest areas.

The Security Services Employees Association complains that its members that carry firearms still lack the name “peace officer,” which would grant them additional powers of arrest and detention akin to their RCMP coworkers.

“The complete transition can’t happen until the protective officers possess the very same rights and authorities as RCMP officers,” Mr. Lapensée stated. “We’ve been requesting the status of peace officer for more than 20 years.”

Mr. Lapensée contended that the transition from the RCMP officers to PPS employees is too slow and doesn’t go far enough. The new PPS vehicles won’t have police lights and can’t be driven faster than normal speed limits, even in emergencies.

Mr. Lapensée stated the speakers of the House and the Senate would have to approve new funding to accelerate the transition, with increased budgets for training and new equipment.

“We’d like things to move more quickly, but that would take more money,” he said.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail