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Newsletter. Issue 2008-25. December 06, 2008

 
 
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Newsline Canada
 

Canada’s Constitutional Crisis
Governor General's decision sets 'very dangerous' precedent: says constitutional expert, Prof. Errol Mendes

From CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/12/04/constitution-expert.html
Thursday, December 4,

Excerpts…
A constitutional expert says he's worried the Governor General's decision to suspend Parliament sets a "very dangerous" precedent that allows future prime ministers to use the same manoeuvre to avert their own government's demise. "This is a major constitutional precedent and that worries me more than anything else," said Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa and editor in chief of the National Journal of Constitutional Law.

"Any time that the prime minister wants to evade the confidence of the House now he can use this precedent to do so," said Mendes, who was appointed to the Privy Council Office by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin in 2005. Around midday Thursday, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean granted a request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to suspend Parliament until late next month, a move aimed at sidestepping a confidence vote set for Monday.

The New Democrats and Liberals had signed a pact to form a coalition supported by the Bloc Québécois, and intended to ask the Governor General allow them to govern after toppling the government. Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended the Conservative leader's move, saying the Governor General was "duty bound" by precedent and parliamentary procedure to accept Harper's prorogation request. He suggested concerns about setting a dangerous precedent were unwarranted.

"This is certainly an unprecedented situation that we saw unfold. I hope that we won't come to the brink of this type of effort to unseat a sitting government going against the democratic wishes of the people of Canada," he told CBC News. While experts say the Governor General has always approved requests from the prime minister to prorogue Parliament, they note that the vice-regal envoy has never encountered a request so soon after an election. The Conservatives were re-elected on Oct. 14. Mendes says Parliament should pass legislation to prevent abuse of the prorogation in the future.

"I think that this is a very dangerous precedent," said Mendes. "It's one, however, that could be curtailed by Parliament itself, passing legislation to prevent future prime ministers from seeking prorogation … [to limit] what a future prime minister can do." Mendes said he wasn't surprised by Jean's choice, considering Harper sent a strong message that he believed the proposed coalition government's plan to bring down the government was endangering democracy and national unity.

That rhetoric will exacerbate tensions across the country, especially in Quebec and in Western Canada, during the two-month period before Parliament resumes on Jan. 26, Mendes said.

Kenya born Professor Errol P. Mendes, is a lawyer, author, professor and adviser to NGOs,. corporations, government and the UN. Click here for Biography

 

Canada's Economy Entering Deep Recession: OECD
http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/081125/business/cbusiness_us_oecd_canada
Tue Nov 25, 5:45 AM


OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada has more room to slash interest rates, the OECD said in a report on Tuesday, forecasting Canada's economy will shrink for three straight quarters as the global crisis bites into domestic spending. The economy is now in a recession, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which predicted gross domestic product would shrink 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter, 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and 0.3 percent in the second quarter, before returning to growth. The economy will contract 0.5 percent in 2009, it estimated.

"Excess capacity and lower commodity prices are alleviating inflation pressures, allowing the Bank of Canada to boost its expansionary stance," it said.

The central bank has cut its key overnight lending rate by 225 basis points since December 2007 and has suggested it will ease rates again on December 9. Domestic demand, until recently the motor of growth in Canada as exports sagged due to the global slowdown, slowed to 2.8 percent growth in the first half of this year. That is almost half the rate of the past few years.

"Indicators point to further weakening in the last half of 2008 as a recession takes hold," it said. As a result, there will be a net loss of jobs in 2009 and the unemployment rate will rise to 7 percent, the highest since February 2005. The OECD sees the jobless rate peaking at 7.5 percent in 2010.

The federal and provincial governments combined will likely post a deficit in 2009 and 2010, it said, but it called the shortfall "a largely cyclical outcome that is not alarming and leaves room to absorb eventualities, but underlines the need to keep a lid on discretionary expenditure increases."
The OECD predicts a deficit in the current account, amounting to 1.7 percent of GDP in 2009 and 1.4 percent in 2010.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson)

 

The Greater Toronto Area is Child Poverty Capital of Ontario
Local Children?s Aid Societies Urge Government to Take Action Now ? Report Released

http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/December2008/02/c5741.html?view=print

Child poverty is racialized. Today the GTA makes up about 80 per cent of Ontario's immigrants and visible minorities. Children of non-European heritage now make up about one half of the area's children, with seven out of ten of those children living in poverty.

TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - A report released today by the Children's Aid Society of Toronto entitled, "Greater Trouble in Greater Toronto, Child Poverty in the GTA" reveals that 50 per cent of Ontario's children in poverty now live in the GTA, up from 44 per cent in 1997. In the City of Toronto, all growth in the number of children living in poverty since 1997 occurred in the inner suburbs, where abysmally high rates of child poverty now surpass those of downtown.

"The time to act is now. More children and families are living in poverty in the GTA than ever before," said David Rivard, Executive Director, Children's Aid Society of Toronto. "It has been nineteen years since Campaign 2000 provided the government with realistic strategies to end child poverty.

At our Agency, almost two thirds of our clients live at or below the poverty line, the children and families of Toronto cannot wait any longer. Mary McConville, the Executive Director of the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto, and I are both committing our Agencies to working with the provincial government to develop initiatives that will help to reduce child poverty. We urge the government to make this a top priority in their poverty reduction strategy," added Rivard.

Lack of affordable housing is one of the most significant barriers to breaking the cycle of poverty. At the CAS of Toronto housing is a factor for one out of every five children coming into care and one out of every ten children is delayed from returning home because of housing problems. Just under one half (46%) of female lead single parent families and recent immigrant families (44%) cannot afford their housing.

"A poverty reduction strategy for Ontario needs to demonstrate a strong commitment to affordable housing. The cost of housing and rising utility costs are the single biggest expense for most low income families. Without access to safe, affordable housing families and children cannot break the cycle of poverty," said Tracey Vaughan, Executive Director, Community Development Council, Durham Region.

"Living in poverty means overwhelming stress. Everyday you worry about money for rent, food and for the basic daily necessities. This robs you of your hope and destroys your self esteem," said Shantel Smith, a former youth in the care of a GTA Children's Aid Society. "As a teenager I could not live at home, I lived with my boyfriend, we were extremely poor. When he became abusive and kicked me out, I had nowhere to go. I ended up living in the homes of several different friends and ran the streets for money. Sadly and unnecessarily, because of poverty, many children potentially face the same hardships that I once experienced," added Smith.

The face of child poverty in the Greater Toronto Area

Most single parent households are lead by mothers. Toronto has the greatest prevalence of children living in single parent households with 29 per cent. 51 per cent of these children live in poverty.

One in five food bank users in the GTA are single parents and for almost half of these parents child care is the reason they cannot work. Quality child care is unavailable throughout the GTA. There are not enough spaces and it is also extremely expensive at $47 per day on average for a toddler. Child poverty is racialized. Today the GTA makes up about 80 per cent of Ontario's immigrants and visible minorities. Children of non-European heritage now make up about one half of the area's children, with seven out of ten of those children living in poverty.

The Children's Aid Societies in the GTA and the Social Planning Network are community partners in Campaign 2000, a non-partisan, cross-Canada network of community, provincial, and national organizations committed to working together to end child and family poverty in Canada.

 

Canadian Government plans immigration reforms to fast-track workers in 38 occupations
http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5j69g3xwUdoNz

TORONTO ? Fast-tracking the immigration process for workers in 38 high-demand occupations will dramatically reduce wait times, the federal government announced Friday amid opposition criticism that the criteria for skilled workers are "absurd."

The Conservative government's vow to reform the immigration system has proved controversial, with some advocacy groups saying the changes would create two classes of immigrant. Under the plan announced Friday, immigration papers for workers in 38 occupations like health, skilled trades, finance and resource extraction would be expedited. Geochemists, speech language pathologists, university professors, plumbers and chefs would also be fast-tracked.

The Tories say the reforms will seriously reduce wait times for the processing of coveted workers to between six and 12 months from the current five to six years. Immigration targets for 2009 - between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents - will be roughly the same as this year. Critics of the plan have said it would leave less-skilled workers permanently stuck at the back of the queue.

New Democrat immigration critic Olivia Chow called the government's classification of high-demand jobs "absurd." "One on the list is financial services," Chow said. "Didn't I just notice that there's a huge number of people being laid off in the financial services?

"Instead of a minister sending a decree from high above and politicizing it all, there should be a department that constantly updates what are the skills that we need in Canada." The reforms offer virtually no changes for permanent workers, she added, but double the number of temporary foreign workers in five years.

Temporary workers drive down wages and don't "establish roots in the community," Chow said. "It's bad for the Canadian economy and it's bad for them, because they cannot bring in their families and often are open to exploitation and abuse."

The Liberals had complained bitterly about legislation that allowed the government to fast-track workers instead of treating everyone on a first-come, first-served basis. Fearing an election, the Liberals allowed the legislation to pass last spring. The Conservatives say their opponents have little right to complain after allowing wait times to balloon for more than a decade. "The Liberal backlog prevented skilled workers from immigrating to Canada, and kept families from being reunited," said a spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"Under the Liberals, the immigration backlog grew from 50,000 to more than 800,000, with wait times longer than five years." Canada will maintain its immigration levels, while places like the United Kingdom and Australia are cutting back, the spokesman said.

Visa officers abroad will receive instructions to fast-track specific workers. Opponents of the legislation, however, drew parallels between the current reforms and an effort by the Conservative government of the 1950s to favour skilled workers over poorer ones. The move created a rift between the Conservatives and some ethnic communities, and the Diefenbaker government eventually backed away from its reforms.

A list of the occupations Ottawa has deemed high-demand and will fast-track through the immigration process:

  • Financial managers

  • Computer and information systems managers

  • Managers in health care

  • Restaurant and food service managers

  • Accommodation service managers

  • Construction managers

  • Financial auditors and accountants

  • Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists

  • Mining engineers

  • Geological engineers

  • Petroleum engineers

  • Specialist physicians

  • General practitioners and family physicians

  • Audiologists and speech language pathologists

  • Occupational therapists

  • Physiotherapists

  • Head nurses and supervisors

  • Registered nurses

  • Medical radiation technologists

  • Licensed practical nurses

  • University professors

  • College and other vocational instructors

  • Chefs

  • Cooks

  • Contractors and supervisors, pipefitting trades

  • Contractors and supervisors, carpentry trades

  • Contractors and supervisors, heavy construction equipment crews

  • Electricians (except industrial and power system)

  • Industrial electricians

  • Plumbers

  • Steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers

  • Welders and related machine operators

  • Heavy-Duty equipment mechanics

  • Crane operators

  • Drillers and Blasters: surface mining, quarrying and construction

  • Supervisors, mining and quarrying

  • Supervisors, oil and gas drilling and service

  • Supervisors, petroleum, gas and chemical processing and utilities

 

Toronto's Mosaic, A Reality Check
November 26, 2008
Noor Javed Staff Reporter


Excerpts from: http://www.cbc.ca/toronto/features/diversity/leadership.html
& 'Diversity deficit' lingers at top http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/543369

Toronto may be the most diverse city in the world, but boardrooms across the city are not following suit. Instead, there is a "striking" lack of inclusiveness at the top of public, private and non-profit organizations across the city, according to a report to be released today.

"The Value of Diverse Leadership" was commissioned by the Toronto City Summit Alliance and the Maytree Foundation to make a business case for the importance of making diversity a priority at the board level.

The findings of the report, many of which have been known for years, serve as the impetus for the DiverseCity initiative, a plan for increasing diversity in leadership roles.

"There is a diversity deficit in the leadership landscape of the GTA," said Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation. "Whether you look at Bay St., or public service, who sits at board tables, or who is elected to run the city, there is a deficit in each one of these places."

One glaring example she cites is city council. In a city where almost 50 per cent of the population is a visible minority, only 4 of 44 city councillors are members of a visible minority.

"That's unbelievable," she said. But it's not unchangeable. Over time, the demographics at the top will naturally change to reflect the community, says Omidvar. But the DiverseCity project is hoping to accelerate the change by creating networks, and offering mentoring and training opportunities.

Some Statistics

  • 16.2% - Visible minorities in Canada

  • 5.2% - Visible minorities in senior management positions in large companies

  • 1.6% - Visible minorities in executive management positions in public sector

  • 8% - Visible minorities in House of Commons in 2006 (24 of 308)

  • 46% - Visible minorities in Toronto

  • 9% - Visible minorities on city council (4 of 44)

 

Canada's Unemployment Rate To Rise Dramatically
Written by The Weekly Voice
Thursday, 27 November 2008
http://www.weeklyvoice.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view


The slowdown is just beginning and Canada will not be immune from its terrible fallout. A recent finding by OECD, a group of 30 industrial countries, says that current meltdown could increase jobless numbers in OECD countries by eight million people. Canada will likely enter a recession and the country's unemployment will rise to 7.5 per cent.

The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development outlook said Tuesday the world is entering the worst economic downturn in decades.

"We project that 21 out of 30 member economies of the OECD will go through a protracted recession of a magnitude which has not been seen since the early 1980s," said Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, the OECD chief economist.

Among some of the OECD forecasts:

¥ U.S. output will decline through the first half of 2009, but will pick up gradually as the effects of the credit crisis wane. But the recovery will be "languid" because consumption will be held back by losses in households' wealth.

¥ European economic activity will also fall over the next six months but gradually recover.
¥ Japan's output will stagnate over the second half of 2009.

¥ Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom will also suffer severe effects from the economic downturn.

The report says Canada's economy will shrink in the fourth quarter by 1.6 per cent and in the first and second quarters of 2009 by 1.4 per cent first and 0.3 per cent respectively, meaning the country will be in recession. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of gross domestic product contraction. While real GDP growth is not expected to return until the second half of 2009, the outlook predicts real GDP growth in Canada with be down by 0.485 per cent for that year. But real GDP will climb in 2010 by 2.131 per cent. The outlook also predicted that Canada's jobless rate will climb to seven per cent in 2009 and 7.5 per cent in 2010. The rate currently stands at 6.2 per cent.

According to the report, 1,281,312 Canadians would be unemployed in 2009, increasing to 1,377,528 in 2010.

 

Canada's automakers to lose $1.7 billion in 2008

OTTAWA, Nov. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's auto manufacturing sector is expected lose money for the third consecutive year in 2008, with losses ballooning to $1.7 billion this year, according to the Conference Board's Canadian Industrial Outlook: Canada's Motor Vehicle Manufacturing Industry. "Canadian auto manufacturers remain caught in a maelstrom of cyclical and structural industry changes, a trend that is unlikely to improve until at least 2010," said Sabrina Browarski, Economist.

Despite aggressive price cuts and sales incentives, anemic sales figures highlight the difficulties faced by automakers in sustaining consumer demand. New vehicles sales in the U.S. are expected to fall to their lowest level since 1992 in 2009. Even the recent decline in the Canadian dollar will provide little help to exports.

In line with weaker demand from U.S. consumers, new vehicle production is forecast to decline by 15.3 per cent this year. With another decline expected in 2009, production will fall to an eight year low.

Canadian motor vehicle manufacturers will continue to lose well over $1 billion in 2009. U.S. consumer sentiment and economic conditions are expected to improve in 2010, leading to a rebound in the Canadian industry's financial results.

 

National Intelligence Council report: Sun setting on the American century
From The Times
November 21, 2008
Tim Reid in Washington


The report said that global warming will aggravate the scarcity of water, food and energy resources

Excerpts:

The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant global power, according to a frighteningly bleak assessment by the US intelligence community.

?The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,? said the report by the National Intelligence Council, a body of analysts from across the US intelligence community.

The analysts said that the report had been prepared in time for Barack Obama?s entry into the Oval office on January 20, where he will be faced with some of the greatest challenges of any newly elected US president.

?The likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used will increase with expanded access to technology and a widening range of options for limited strikes,? the 121-page assessment said.

The analysts draw attention to an already escalating nuclear arms race in the Middle East and anticipate that a growing number of rogue states will be prepared to share their destructive technology with terror groups. ?Over the next 15-20 years reactions to the decisions Iran makes about its nuclear programme could cause a number of regional states to intensify these efforts and consider actively pursuing nuclear weapons,? the report Global Trends 2025 said. ?This will add a new and more dangerous dimension to what is likely to be increasing competition for influence within the region,? it said.

The spread of nuclear capabilities will raise questions about the ability of weak states to safeguard them, it added. ?If the number of nuclear-capable states increases, so will the number of countries potentially willing to provide nuclear assistance to other countries or to terrorists.?

The report said that global warming will aggravate the scarcity of water, food and energy resources. Citing a British study, it said that climate change could force up to 200 million people to migrate to more temperate zones. ?Widening gaps in birth rates and wealth-to-poverty ratios, and the impact of climate change, could further exacerbate tensions,? it said.

?The international system will be almost unrecognisable by 2025, owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalising economy, a transfer of wealth from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors. Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor, the United States? relative strength ? even in the military realm ? will decline and US leverage will become more strained.?

Global power will be multipolar with the rise of India and China, and the Korean peninsula will be unified in some form. Turning to the current financial situation, the analysts say that the financial crisis on Wall Street is the beginning of a global economic rebalancing. The US dollar?s role as the major world currency will weaken to the point where it becomes a ?first among equals?.

?Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, investments and technological innovation, but we cannot rule out a 19th-century-like scenario of arms races, territorial expansion and military rivalries.? The report, based on a global survey of experts and trends, was more pessimistic about America?s global status than previous outlooks prepared every four years. It said that outcomes will depend in part on the actions of political leaders. ?The next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks,? it said.

The analysts also give warning that the kind of organised crime plaguing Russia could eventually take over the government of an Eastern or Central European country, and that countries in Africa and South Asia may find themselves ungoverned, as states wither away under pressure from security threats and diminishing resources. The US intelligence community expects that terrorism would survive until 2025, but in slightly different form, suggesting that Al Qaeda?s ?terrorist wave? might be breaking up. ?Al Qaeda?s inability to attract broad-based support might cause it to decay sooner than people think,? it said. On a positive note it added that an alternative to oil might be in place by 2025.


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