Monthly Archives:February 2016

New-build homeowners told to pay £20k or else wait 2 years to get fibre broadband

24 Feb 16
alibhai
20 comments
  • Homeowner was led to believe Virgin would be installed in his new home
  • A standard BT line was fitted and now working from home is impossible
  • The only way to get fibre is to pay £20,000 or wait two years 
  • Virgin says it made two offers to install fibre to the development

If you buy a new-build home, you would expect it to come with basic utilities such as gas and electricity, running water, and a fast broadband connection, but for one homeowner in Solihull this has not been the case.

Andrew Dickinson, 45, moved to a new-build house in May 2014 with his wife and daughter and was led to believe Virgin fibre broadband would be installed.

He then found out there was only a standard BT line in the home installed by Openreach and to get a fibre connection he could either wait two years or cough up £20,000.

Ever since they moved into the house on the Moat House Fields development, Andrew says internet speeds have been around 4Mbps and this means it’s impossible to work from home and there’s no way to stream anything in high definition.

Andrew Dickinson (pictured with his wife and daughter) can pay £20,000 via his housing estate grouping together to access fibre broadband or wait two years for it

Andrew Dickinson (pictured with his wife and daughter) can pay £20,000 via his housing estate grouping together to access fibre broadband or wait two years for it

The situation was exposed through an investigation by Cable.co.uk on broadband in new build-homes across the country. 

Andrew, a technical consultant for an IT firm, has spoken to Virgin, BT and Persimmon Homes – the housing developer, to try and get an answer.

He was told by Openreach – a subsidiary of BT responsible for broadband cabling – that as Persimmon didn’t install a new cabinet to the estate, the nearest cabinet around 500-700 metres away will never be upgraded to fibre as it’s too small.

The only way to upgrade it was to privately pay £20,000 via the local estate grouping together.

However many of the homes on Andrew’s estate are social housing tenants so he says it’s unlikely they’ll be able to pay the £20,000.

‘No one on the estate can stream HD movies or TV – even streaming standard definition on Netflix or Amazon Prime can result in dropped frames,’ he said.

‘Virgin said that as the developer ignored advances from them, they would have to wait two years before potentially being in a position to install’, he added. 

The housing development isn’t covered by the Government’s fibre roll-out because nearby streets have Virgin Media broadband and the closest cabinet isn’t classed as viable for Openreach to upgrade.

Andrew said: ‘If developers worked with BT/Virgin they could then market their estates as being with fast broadband which would actually help sell houses, and perhaps allow them to sell with premium prices so would pay for itself.

‘It’s just rather frustrating. If I’d known the truth I would never have moved, and paid more for a property in a fast broadband area.’ 

Cable.co.uk says it's heard from hundreds of people in new-build developments with broadband issues

Cable.co.uk says it’s heard from hundreds of people in new-build developments with broadband issues

Andy Peters, managing director at Persimmon Homes South Midlands, said: ‘We can confirm that properties at our Moat House Fields development were sold on the basis that the homes would be fitted with a standard BT line.

‘We endeavour to make sure customers are fully informed when making their house purchase and are naturally disappointed to hear about Mr Dickinson’s concerns.’

However, when we asked Virgin Media to give a response a spokesperson said: ‘We are just as disappointed as Mr Dickinson that we can’t offer him Virgin Media services, especially when he lives so close to homes covered by our fibre network.

‘Virgin Media made two offers to provide 200Mbps broadband to the Moat House Fields development. We made a first offer before construction began, and another when the first residents complained about the lack of superfast broadband to their new homes.

‘Virgin Media is investing £3billion to build faster broadband to more homes in the UK including new build homes. Faster broadband speeds make for happier residents and boost the value of local homes.’

Virgin Media says it made two offers to install fibre broadband into the housing development but instead a standard BT line was fitted 

Virgin Media says it made two offers to install fibre broadband into the housing development but instead a standard BT line was fitted 

This news comes as residents of a new London apartment block, just minutes from the O2 Arena, have also reported not being able to access broadband or a landline

The building in Greenwich was completed last year but some residents have been without any sort of connection since September.

Dan Howdle, editor-in-chief of Cable.co.uk, said neither of these cases are unique.

He said: ‘New homes are often chosen as a means to avoid a lot of the problems inherent in older housing. And yet, home builders are selling homes without access to fit-for-purpose broadband, and they are not warning their buyers.

‘We’ve heard from hundreds of people from dozens of new developments up and down the UK over the last 12 months, and the story is always the same.

‘With no obligation under law for either the home builder or the network providers to ensure fast broadband is live on arrival, nor any obligation under law to inform potential buyers that they may face years of inadequate connectivity, buyers are left either to live with inadequate connectivity indefinitely or face the extortionate expense of literally buying their own fibre cabinet.’ 

A spokesperson from Openreach said: ‘We were contacted by residents at the Moat House Fields development because no companies have plans to connect them with fibre broadband.

‘We understand their frustration, so we’ve been talking to them about a potential co-funded solution.

‘Just last week, Openreach announced a new partnership with developers which aims to deliver fibre to every new housing development in the UK.’ 

The Government has recently signed a deal to offer fibre to developers for free or as a co-funded scheme

The Government has recently signed a deal to offer fibre to developers for free or as a co-funded scheme

The recent announcement from the Government has set out new measures to improve the connectivity in new-build homes.

It confirmed a new deal with Openreach and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) to improve super-fast broadband for those in new builds.

This will see fibre broadband offered to developers of new-builds either free of charge or as part of a co-funded initiative between Openreach and the developer.

But Howdle said the announcement still leaves the choice of whether a home has fibre or not up to the house builder – not the owner.

Therefore it ‘allows home builders to continue to do exactly what they have been doing: To sell homes with little or no broadband connectivity and without forewarning their buyers,’ he says.

‘As such, it is unlikely to appease the many thousands of families forced to choose between living with little or no connectivity, or selling up and moving on.’ 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

More than 6m households switched energy provider in 2015

24 Feb 16
alibhai
10 comments

More British consumers are shopping around for their energy, with over 6 million switches made in 2015, according to figures from the industry regulator.

Ofgem said that 6.1 million domestic energy supply accounts were switched to different suppliers in 2015, a 15 per cent increase on 2014.

The energy regulator has been advising consumers to shop around for a better deal on their energy bills through its ‘Be an Energy Shopper’ campaign,

Ofgem believes many consumers could save around £200 by switching suppliers, and thinks those who haven’t switched for a while or never switched, could save considerably more.

Lower costs: Prices for British Gas’s standard gas tariff will fall by 5.1 per cent from March 16, which will see gas bills drop by around £31 for its 6.8 million customers

Lower costs: Prices for British Gas’s standard gas tariff will fall by 5.1 per cent from March 16, which will see gas bills drop by around £31 for its 6.8 million customers

Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem senior partner said: ‘It’s encouraging to see switching levels at their highest level for four years.

‘With more than 30 suppliers active in the energy market and hundreds of pounds of savings to be made, it’s a great opportunity to shop around.’

She added: ‘Whether customer service, price or both is what’s most important to you, remember you always have a choice. If your energy company isn’t up to scratch, vote with your feet and walk away.’

Juliet Davenport, founder and Chief Executive of independent energy supplier Good Energy said: ‘The independent suppliers tend to focus on high quality service and fairer pricing because they have to work harder to win customers from the bigger firms.

‘These new figures show that loyal consumers are ditching those big, old-fashioned utilities which have been taking them for granted for far too long.’

Ofgem last year referred the energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority for a full inquiry after scores of customers and consumer groups accused the energy providers of overcharging customers.

Weak market: Wholesale energy prices have fallen by a third in the past year-and-a-half as oversupply and reduced global demand have had an impact on oil and gas prices

Weak market: Wholesale energy prices have fallen by a third in the past year-and-a-half as oversupply and reduced global demand have had an impact on oil and gas prices

In the initial findings of the investigation released last summer, it was revealed that UK energy suppliers are overcharging consumers by around £1.2billion every year.

The final results from the investigation are expected later in the spring.

Rising prices are one of the main reasons the CMA is reviewing the energy market but over the past month the ‘Big Six’ providers have all cut the cost of gas bills to reflect a prolonged period of falling wholesale energy prices.

Centrica-owned British Gas and France’s EDF were the last two firms to make the move on February 11.

Prices for British Gas’s standard gas tariff will fall by 5.1 per cent from March 16, which will see gas bills drop by around £31 for its 6.8 million customers.

Meanwhile EDF cut its gas prices by 5 per cent from March 24 which will also slice around £31 off the average bill for 900,000 of its customers.

However the gas price cuts – all around the 5 per cent mark – are well below the reductions seen in wholesale prices, which have fallen by a third in the past year-and-a-half as oversupply and reduced global demand have had an impact on oil and gas prices.

And there has also been criticism of the industry for failing to cut electricity tariffs, despite falling wholesale costs there too.

The timing of the cuts to bills, which come into force when the winter’s coldest weather is over, has also been slated.

The recent price falls in the energy market, from both the Big Six suppliers and from smaller providers, mean that some households can now save hundreds of pounds by switching suppliers.

But consumers should be sure to check any exit fees attached to fixed-rate tariff deals if they do decide to switch.

COULD YOU SAVE MONEY BY SWITCHING? 

Energy tariff prices are in a constant merry-go-round with suppliers battling to pinch customers – you – from each other.

Shrewd consumers can take advantage of this by doing exactly that – reviewing deals every six months to a year to ensure they are on THE cheapest deal. Even moving every other year will save you significant amounts.

If you are one of the millions of people who have NEVER switched (i.e. stuck with your original supplier), then you will DEFINITELY save a big chunk of cash, possibly as much as £300 a year.

Remember, suppliers offer their cheapest rates via online tariffs so if you’re ready to switch, it will certainly pay to do so.

Don’t forget, prices are different all over the country and the cheapest supplier for you will depend where you live.

You only need to be interested in the tariff that is going to be cheapest where you live, so do your own comparison to find the best price.

 

 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

The secret way to get discount codes when shopping online: Can you nab a voucher through online chat?

24 Feb 16
alibhai
4 comments
  • Two out of 10 retailers we tested provided codes through online chat
  • Marks & Spencer gave 20 per cent off, while Schuh offered a 10 per cent code 
  • Other retailers told shoppers were to find discount codes or other ways to get money off

If you ever spot a window offering live chat on a retailer’s website, don’t dismiss it. It could be the key to a hidden deal or discount.

A growing number of online shops are handing out discount codes to shoppers who have the audacity to ask for them.

But does it always work and what kind of discounts are being handed out? This is Money decided to investigate.

We carried out a snapshot survey using ten popular online retailers who have live chat functions on their websites to see if it’s possible to get a discount, just by asking.

Haggling online: Some retailers will share discount codes with those who ask using their chat function

Haggling online: Some retailers will share discount codes with those who ask using their chat function

Out of the ten retailers only provided a discount code via the online chat function. Marks & Spencer gave a code for 20 per cent off while Schuh provided a 10 per cent discount code as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.

Other retailers – House of Fraser, Asos and Origins – directed us to a discount page with codes that already existed.

While Dyson informed the shopper that if they purchased through a customer service line they would get a £10 discount and free tool kit worth £44.

Consumer website MoneySavingExpert.com was tipped off about the secret way to nab extra discounts via a reader who managed to haggle £20 off via a chat box on the Nike website. 

Jenny Keefe, from MoneySavingExpert.com, said: ‘While buying online is usually cheaper, the one advantage with buying in-store usually is you can haggle. Yet now even there the web’s catching up. If you get a window offering a live chat, don’t dismiss it – it can be used to reduce the price. 

Instant code: The live chat function on Schuh's website also came up trumps with a 10 per cent code to use online and Dyson recommended calling the helpline to get access to hidden discounts.

Instant code: The live chat function on Schuh's website also came up trumps with a 10 per cent code to use online and Dyson recommended calling the helpline to get access to hidden discounts.

Instant code: The live chat function on Schuh’s website also came up trumps with a 10 per cent code to use online and Dyson recommended calling the helpline to get access to hidden discounts. 

‘Ask few questions about an item to let them know you’re seriously considering it. Then politely say it’s a little out of your price range – are there are any special offers going? 

‘If you’ve a discount code that isn’t working, we’ve heard of retailers dishing out new ones via live chat too.’

If you don't ask, you don't get: Marks & Spencer is one of the retailers to give out a discount via live chat.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get: Marks & Spencer is one of the retailers to give out a discount via live chat.

How does live chat work? 

Live chat gives retailers an almost instant connection to shoppers.

The facility is usually supplied by a third party and is often seen as a supplementary customer service channel by retailers who mainly use email, phone or social media to communicate with shoppers. 

While more shops are adding the service to their website the numbers are still low.

The facility is still not that popular with retailers:  In 2014, Idealo found that only 18 per cent of online shops in the UK have a live chat function.

The facility is still not that popular with retailers:  In 2014, Idealo found that only 18 per cent of online shops in the UK have a live chat function.

In early 2014, Idealo.co.uk compared the top 50 shops in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland. It found that just 18 per cent of online shops had a live chat function.

Katy Smith, consumer affairs editor of product comparison website Idealo.co.uk, said that offering discounts via a live chat function is mutually beneficial for the consumer and retailer.

She said: ‘It’s a really good way of chatting with customers and it’s cheaper for the shop than a call centre. For the consumer it’s a more seamless process – they don’t have to call up or send an email and they are already on the website. 

‘A live chat function can offer an almost instant connection – a bit like you would have in a shop on the high street.

She also said that the discounts may already exist or there could be a limit to the number of codes they can give out.

No dice: Ikea also refused to give a discount code to our shopper. 

No dice: Ikea also refused to give a discount code to our shopper. 

She added: ‘Increasingly we are seeing online shops displaying their own codes in banner on the website homepage.

‘If it’s a popular time of year – like Christmas or Mother’s Day – there might already be a code. It could be that they are giving out codes that already exist.

‘The customer service agent may also have a quota of codes that they can give per day – it’s worth trying it as early in the day as possible.’

Discount granted: M&S even offered advice on the item and if there was a more suitable version in stock, plus a juicy 20 per cent discount. 

Discount granted: M&S even offered advice on the item and if there was a more suitable version in stock, plus a juicy 20 per cent discount. 

Which retailers give discounts? 

During our research only two retailers gave discount codes via the online chat function. Marks and Spencer offered product advice as well as giving a 20 per cent ‘friends and family’ code.

Computer says no: Our shopper had no luck with Argos.

Computer says no: Our shopper had no luck with Argos.

While Schuh provided a 10 per cent discount as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.

According to MoneySavingExpert Nike, Dell and Dyson were some of the best brands for discounts – but in our research they all turned us down when we asked for a discount code.

Dyson did offer a £10 discount and a free tool kit worth £44 if you purchased via its helpline, but we didn’t test this to see if it worked out.

While Nike, Dell, Argos and Ikea all helped our shopper with their online enquiry they didn’t have discount codes to share.

The House of Fraser customer service agent said that the best way to get a discount was via its Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Online fashion retailer Asos and skincare brand Origins both directed us to a discount page.

In conclusion, the process is a bit a hit and miss. 

Anecdotally forum users on the MoneySavingExpert website have said that Nike is one of the best retailers for discounts but we were turned down on the day.

The process of getting through to the online chat can take some time too, so this isn’t a good idea for anyone who is in a hurry. 

However, if you’re shopping online and a box pops up then it’s well worth asking for a discount. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Canadian facing fraud allegations serving sentence in China in another case

23 Feb 16
alibhai
2 comments



A Canadian at the centre of international fraud allegations involving the National Cancer Centre in the former Soviet republic of Georgia is serving a prison sentence in China on a fraud conviction in another case.

The British Columbia Securities Commission unveiled a case against Winter Huang in late January, accusing him of fraud in relation to two failed projects in Georgia and China. But Chinese media reports indicate Mr. Huang was arrested more than three years ago for a different fraud in China, where he confessed to scamming millions of dollars worth of loans from Chinese banks.

On Sept. 9, 2012, according to Chinese media accounts, police at the Beijing airport arrested Mr. Huang after years of investigation into allegations he committed bank-loan fraud worth 58-million yuan, worth roughly $9.5-million in 1996.

Chinese authorities alleged he faked land permits, a seal and signature used to obtain loans, inflated the value of oil tank cars used as collateral for other borrowing and failed to repay money to a series of lenders.

Under interrogation by Chinese police, Mr. Huang confessed to the allegations, the Chinese reports said, leading to the arrest of three other people for embezzlement of public funds and illegal issuance of loans.

Mr. Huang and a company he founded, Pegasus Pharmaceuticals Inc., are facing accusations in Canada of fraudulently raising $64-million (U.S.) from investors, including $26.5-million that was supposed to be spent on projects in China and Georgia. In a case unveiled Jan. 28, the B.C. securities regulator alleges less than $3-million of the money raised was spent on actual work on the two projects.

Asked about Mr. Huang, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada confirmed that “we are aware of a Canadian citizen being detained in China” and that “Canadian officials in Beijing are in contact with the individual and providing consular assistance.” He declined to provide further details, citing the Privacy Act.

Chinese authorities did not return phone calls requesting comment.

The Chinese accounts do not contain details of Mr. Huang’s sentencing, although the country’s courts boast a 99.9-per-cent conviction rate. And it appears he remains in prison as Feb. 23 approaches, the date set by the BCSC for a hearing on his case.

BCSC spokesman Richard Gilhooley said the commission is not able to comment on whether staff know Mr. Huang is in jail. But he said the regulator frequently conducts hearings “in absentia” when someone cannot attend in person.

“In situations where respondents want to attend but are unable to do so, we make every effort to accommodate them by other means via teleconference, phone, et cetera,” he said. “Also, to ensure fairness, hearing panels have discretion over whether or not to adjourn cases where a respondent is unable to attend.”

Mr. Huang’s arrest was reported by numerous Chinese news organizations, some of them fawning accounts of Song Lei, the officer who brought him in after extensive detective work that saw him travel 30,000 kilometres to track down witnesses and information. Song Lei confirmed that Mr. Huang remains in jail but declined further comment.

Mr. Huang’s Chinese given name translates directly to “winter,” and his downfall lay partly in also using Winter as his English name, which allowed Chinese authorities to more easily find him.

He initially protested his 2012 arrest, arguing he was a Canadian citizen and saying he was innocent. He eventually admitted to what police accused him of doing, the Chinese reports said.

Mr. Huang founded Pegasus in 1997 to research and test plant-based botanical treatments for cancer, but later raised millions from investors to finance ambitious projects to build a new National Cancer Centre in Georgia and a pharmaceutical manufacturing “biopark” in the Chinese port city of Dalian.

In Georgia, Pegasus purchased the country’s National Cancer Centre with a promise to invest $20-million to modernize it to Western standards. Pegasus launched into a renovation that left much of the once-functioning building shut down and filled with rubble. The work was never completed, and only a portion of the building is in use today.

In Dalian, the BCSC alleges Pegasus spent only $560,000 of the $11.1-million it raised from investors to build a biopark project, while $10.6-million was instead used to make payments to earlier investors, pay commissions to sales agents and for operating costs at Pegasus unrelated to Dalian.

The municipal government in Dalian provided Pegasus with more than one million square metres of land for the project, which was to include production facilities and housing.

In October, 2012, the BCSC issued a warning, alerting investors not to invest in Pegasus because it was selling securities without issuing a prospectus or being registered with the commission, and was promising returns as high as 100 per cent annually. The regulator unveiled fraud allegations against Mr. Huang in January, more than three years after its original warning.

Mr. Gilhooley said it took the BCSC a long time to complete its investigation because of the size of the alleged fraud and the volume of materials. He said it was also difficult to locate investors because the “vast majority” of victims do not speak English as a first language, and said the “international nature” of the case made it time consuming to get documents from other countries.

ALSO ON THE GLOBE AND MAIL



Martin Shkreli arrested on fraud charges
(AP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Gowlings merges with U.K.-based firm

23 Feb 16
alibhai
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Gowlings, one of Canada’s leading law firms, has teamed with U.K.-based Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. to create a new international law firm.

The firm says Monday’s launch of Gowling WLG, which is home to more than 1,400 legal professionals in 18 cities around the globe, marks a historic occasion in Canadian legal and business circles.

Typically, Canadian law firms have been absorbed by their larger international counterparts.

But Gowlings says the deal announced Monday marks the first time that a Canadian law firm has co-led an international law firm combination.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

CSA report shows fines more than doubled in 2015

23 Feb 16
alibhai
2 comments



Canada’s securities commissions imposed $250-million in fines and compensation orders against wrongdoers last year, more than doubling the previous year’s total as regulators moved more aggressively to try to deter criminals and assist fraud victims.

The Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella group for Canada’s provincial securities commissions, will release its for 2015 on Tuesday, showing that fines and penalties imposed across the country last year totalled $138-million, up from $58-million in 2014. Orders for restitution and “disgorgement” of ill-gotten gains totalled a further $112-million, an increase from just $66-million in 2014.

The $250-million total for 2015 is more than double the $124-million in fines and restitution imposed in 2014, and reflects a desire to send a strong signal of deterrence, said CSA chairman Louis Morisset, who is also chief executive officer of Quebec’s securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers.

“The severity of sanctions is important to ensure people who have in mind to not respect the rules will understand there’s a high price to pay for that,” Mr. Morisset said in an interview.

While penalties may act as a deterrent, they do not provide a major revenue source to regulators. Securities commissions will not collect most of the $250-million ordered last year because many people who commit frauds and other crimes never pay the fines. The collection rate on monetary sanctions ordered by the Ontario Securities Commission, for example, has ranged between 3 per cent and 14 per cent in recent years, with almost all the money collected coming from settlement deals rather than contested cases.

Mr. Morisset said regulators are having greater success prosecuting cases in court, where jail terms can be imposed as a way of ensuring there are stronger penalties for those who are not deterred by regulatory sanctions and do not pay fines.

Fifteen people received jail terms under provincial securities act violations in 2015, compared with five people in 2014, while a further four people received jail terms for Criminal Code violations, which provide for longer sentences.

Another six people were charged under the Criminal Code in 2015 but their cases have not concluded yet.

“Clearly, with fraud, market manipulation or illegal distributions, where people end up losing everything, we believe we need to try to obtain jail terms, and more and more we are getting there,” Mr. Morisset said.

He said judges are getting more experienced at handling securities-related cases, which is helping build up case law in the area, making it easier to win jail terms.

“There is more and more comfort by judges in understanding the severity of wrongdoers, the impact they have on people,” he said. “In Canada, I think the view has been for a long time that financial crimes basically were not as serious as other crimes, and I think more and more the courts have realized the seriousness of all of this, and they’ve basically decided to impose jail terms.”

Regulators have also had more success obtaining court orders to freeze financial assets during an investigation if they suspect crimes are occurring. Freeze orders can ensure victims’ assets are retained in bank or brokerage accounts and cannot be removed or shifted offshore while an investigation is completed.

Securities commissions got 52 freeze orders in 2015, up from 35 in 2014. The freeze orders last year involved assets held by 64 individuals and 58 companies.

“If we believe there is money to be salvaged for investors, we’re trying to do it, and we succeed more and more,” Mr. Morisset said. “The difficulty is that often, unfortunately, the money is not there any more.”

Regulators announced charges or allegations in 108 new cases last year, compared with 105 in 2014 and 112 in 2013. The most common type of case involved illegal distributions of securities, followed by fraud, market manipulation and misconduct by industry registrants.

Securities commissions concluded 145 cases in 2015, an increase from 105 in 2014 and 133 in 2013. The number of cases concluded tends to vary widely each year, depending upon when cases that were launched in earlier years reach a resolution. Cases are counted as concluded when proceedings finish against one person, even if others named in the same matter still have continuing proceedings.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Leading Ukrainian politician warns Canada not to resume ties with Russia

23 Feb 16
alibhai
9 comments



A leading Ukrainian politician is warning Canada against resuming regular diplomatic relations with Russia, arguing efforts to re-engage Moscow, as the Trudeau government plans, have failed elsewhere.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government says it wants to start talking to Russia again – on topics of shared concern such the Arctic. The former Harper government suspended all but low-level diplomatic contacts after Moscow seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Russia is still backing pro-Moscow militants in eastern Ukraine who continue to destabilize the region despite a shaky ceasefire.

Andriy Parubiy, deputy speaker for Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, or parliament, is visiting Ottawa this week to meet with members of Parliament and senators and bolster Canadian support for Ukraine.

He said the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has distracted many governments including Canada.

“Regarding the new reset policy of Canada towards Russia, we would like to tell Canadians how dangerous Russia for global security,” Mr. Parubiy said in an interview.

“Several years ago we saw the reset attempts of [the] Obama [administration] and we saw how it failed.”

He argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin will take advantage of warming relations.

“Putin understands only the language of force in international relations,” the deputy speaker said.

“The diplomacy of the Western countries – he perceives [this] as a sign of weakness… you will lose time and you will be back where you started from.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last month welcomed the shift in policy by the Trudeau government and took a swipe at Ukrainian Canadian lobby groups, saying the defeated Conservative administration before them was “Russophobic” and had “blindly” followed “the demands of rabid representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.”

Mr. Parubiy said he is working to create a inter-Parliamentary Ukraine-Canada friendship group of MPs and Senators and hopes to bring Canadian Parliamentarians to the Ukraine for a visit soon.

He said many people around the world are under the mistaken impression that the crisis in Ukraine is over.

The ceasefire between Kiev and pro-Moscow forces in the eastern Donbass region has left the conflict unresolved. More than 9,100 people have died in the fighting here since April 2014, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Canada has lent Ukraine $400-million to help rebuild and donated non-lethal military aid.

Canadian soldiers are training Ukrainian troops in western Ukraine and the two countries are preparing to finalize a Canada-Ukraine trade deal.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Premiers want all national aboriginal groups at first ministers’ talks: Selinger

23 Feb 16
alibhai
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure from the premiers to ensure that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Native Women’s Association of Canada are included in discussions next week ahead of the first ministers’ meeting in Vancouver.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the premiers had a brief discussion and believe all five national aboriginal organizations should attend.

Selinger’s comments come after the two excluded groups sent a strongly worded letter of complaint to the premiers.

“We’ve had that tradition in the past when they meet with the Council of the Federation,” Selinger said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“We meet with all five organizations and we’re supportive of continuing that practice.”

The premiers don’t see any reason why the groups cannot attend, Selinger added.

“There is some good leadership there,” he said. “We just want them to be heard and part of the process.”

The letter to the premiers, obtained by The Canadian Press, expresses surprise and “great disappointment” at the lack of an invitation from Trudeau.

It also calls on the premiers to hold Trudeau accountable to his promise of inclusion.

“At a meeting held on Dec. 16, 2015, the prime minister reiterated the federal government’s commitment to include all five (national aboriginal organizations) in high-level discussions pertaining to indigenous issues,” it reads.

“It is extremely important that all indigenous voices are heard and not just a select few.”

Dwight Dorey, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents about 1.1 million indigenous people living off-reserve, said Tuesday the government’s decision does not make sense to him.

“In talking to some of the premiers, they’re … shocked at it,” Dorey said.

“It is clearly discrimination. It goes totally against the commitment that the prime minister made.”

Dorey said he’s seeking the support of the premiers in the hope it will convince Trudeau to invite both the congress and the women’s association.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau would meet the premiers, the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Metis National Council ahead of the first ministers meeting “in the context of a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.”

The meetings do not in any way preclude ongoing discussions with all five national aboriginal organizations, as committed to by the prime minister late last year, the statement said.

“The government of Canada has committed to working and meeting regularly with the national aboriginal organizations and will continue to engage in robust bilateral discussions with all five … on issues of importance to their members,” said spokesperson Andree-Lyne Halle.

Halle did not explain why the congress and the association were excluded.

NDP indigenous affairs critic Charlie Angus said he is still trying to figure out what the government is trying to accomplish by leaving out the two groups.

“Mr. Trudeau said he was going to end Stephen Harper’s standard operating practice of picking winners and losers and creating confrontation by excluding people he didn’t want to hear from,” Angus said.

“The message they’re sending is, ‘There are going to be winners and losers with this new government’.”

With files from Chinta Puxley

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Liberals to repeal citizenship law Bill C-24: immigration minister

23 Feb 16
alibhai
10 comments



Immigration Minister John McCallum says the government will announce significant changes to the Citizenship Act in the coming days.

Mr. McCallum said Tuesday that the Liberals will soon follow through on their election pledge to repeal the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-24, which gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Asked when the changes will be unveiled, Mr. McCallum told The Globe and Mail to expect an announcement “in coming days, but not very many days.”

During last year’s election campaign, the Liberal platform committed to “repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 that create second-class citizens and the elements that make it more difficult for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens.”

Mr. McCallum said the government’s announcement will make it impossible to revoke citizenship.

“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” Mr. McCallum said, repeating a line used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a heated election debate last September. “We would not revoke people’s citizenship. … That will certainly be a part of it [the announcement],” the Immigration Minister added.

Mr. McCallum said the government will also remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24.

“We believe that it’s better to make it easier rather than harder for people to become citizens.”

However, he did not say which specific barriers would be addressed.

One major point of contention in Bill C-24 was a provision stiffening language requirements for newcomers. Before the changes, those between the ages of 18 and 54 were required to meet language requirements in English or French and pass a Canadian knowledge test, for which they were allowed to seek the help of an interpreter. When the bill became law, the age range expanded to 14 to 64, and interpreters were no longer allowed to help.

The law also imposed a $300 application fee for adult citizenship applicants, up from $100, and made would-be Canadians wait longer to apply for citizenship.

Mr. McCallum told reporters Tuesday that the government will table its annual immigration report before March 9.

The report was supposed to be tabled by Nov. 1, but the fall election delayed its release. Since the House of Commons was not sitting on Nov. 1, the law requires the government to table the report within 30 sitting days of Parliament returning.

Mr. McCallum said the report will outline targets for all classes of immigrants, including Syrian refugees. While the minister has previously said the government hopes to settle a total of 35,000 to 50,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, he said the exact number – “in that ballpark” – will be outlined in the immigration report. He added that the government is on track to reach its promise of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

Furio De Angelis, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to Canada, said the government’s continued commitment to resettle Syrian refugees throughout 2016 is “very important,” especially ahead of a key UN conference on legal resettlement pathways for Syrian refugees, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in March.

“I’m sure that Canada will present its own model of legal pathways [at the conference]. It will be a role model and we hope that this will create similar programs in other countries,” Mr. De Angelis said in an interview with The Globe.

While Mr. De Angelis said domestic targets are “crucial,” he said it’s also important to not get bogged down in the numbers.

“When we are talking about needs in the humanitarian operations context … developments of targets sort of diminish because the needs are so large.”

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Elderly hit hardest by spiralling phone line costs as telecoms companies use the cash to fund cheap broadband deals

18 Feb 16
alibhai
5 comments
  • Older customers falling foul of ‘increasingly complex’ prices
  • Line rental costs soar while the price of broadband bundles has fallen 
  • Gap between cheap deals for new customers and price paid by loyal customers grows 

Exploited: Call Telephone firms are hitting older customers with hikes to the cost of their phone lines

Exploited: Call Telephone firms are hitting older customers with hikes to the cost of their phone lines

Telephone companies are exploiting elderly people by hiking the cost of their phone lines — and using the cash to fund cheap broadband deals.

Older customers also fall foul of ‘increasingly complex’ prices and are more likely than younger homeowners to end up locked into poor-value contracts, the telecoms watchdog has warned.

One in ten households has a landline but no internet, the vast majority of whom are pensioners.

They lose out because line rental costs are soaring and the cheaper broadband offers are no use to them, according to a new report by Ofcom. 

Between December 2010 and 2015, BT raised its line rental prices by 23 per cent, Sky by 44 per cent, Virgin by 34 per cent and TalkTalk by 33 per cent, its research found.

By contrast, the cost of broadband bundles has dropped from £105 per month on average to £94 between 2014 and 2015. And if customers fail to switch every year they end up on the most expensive tariffs.

There is a growing gap between promotional discounts for new customers and the prices loyal customers pay. Typically, if you don’t shop around you will pay 20 per cent more.

Ofcom says customers are often put off switching because it is hard to compare so many deals. The watchdog says older people are most likely to stick with their existing provider.

The Advertising Standards Authority recently announced plans to force companies to include the cost of line rental — which you must pay for if you use the internet — in the advertised price.

Four in five people can’t work out the true cost of the deals, the ASA says.

The price of a telecoms bundle with a discount is higher over time than a standard bundle, the research found

The price of a telecoms bundle with a discount is higher over time than a standard bundle, the research found

 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online