Author Archives: Osumashi

Freeland Denies Being Pressured Into Making Last-Minute USMCA Deal

Sure, Chrystia. Sure:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says that anyone who thinks the new trilateral North American trade agreement limits Canada’s trade sovereignty is misguided.

Freeland told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio’s The House, that the section of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that lays out the rules for making pacts with “non-market” countries won’t limit Canada’s attempts to diversify its markets.

“It’s the one element of the modernized NAFTA that has not been fully understood by Canadians,” she said Thursday.

“There is nothing new in this clause and in the new agreement that restricts Canadian sovereignty in any way.”

Section 32.10 of the deal’s text states that a USMCA country must give three months’ notice to the other two parties before negotiating a free trade agreement with any country considered to be “non-market” — and therefore ineligible — by one of the USMCA partners.

Many have taken this to be a direct reference to China, as the U.S. has been engaged in a tariff battle with Beijing for months. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products have been affected, drawing retaliation from China.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken aim at the dumping of foreign steel and aluminum by China. He also imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union back in May, using a little-known U.S. law to declare those metals imports a threat to “national security.”

China has been critical of the new trilateral deal, saying the U.S. is trying to undermine its trade with Canada and Mexico.

 

In other news:

Canada’s embrace of American-style protectionist measures to prop up domestic steelmakers is set to increase costs for consumers and secondary manufacturers — assuming they can even find steel to buy amid current shortages.

It’s also offending key trading partners.

As of next Thursday, a 25 per cent surtax will be applied to all foreign imports of seven specific kinds of steel once they exceed historical average volumes. It’s an emergency tool the federal government’s never used before. Many manufacturers would love to stop it from being used now.

“It is going to kill businesses,” said trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak. Her firm, LexSage, represents clients trying to persuade the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to reverse Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s decision at hearings scheduled for January.

“Exactly what we said shouldn’t be done to us, we’ve done to other countries. And, quite frankly, to our own businesses.”

Canada already has 78 different trade remedies (duties) in place for countries like China who’ve been caught dumping steel. This new surtax is part of a push to curb global overproduction and keep cheap steel from sneaking into North American supply chains.

But in the process, Canada’s surtax also hits fairly-traded steel from countries Canada normally counts as allies, including Japan and the European Union.

Companies already finding it hard to source quality, affordable steel are about to see more of their best options taxed.

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Column: “Electoral reform is finally coming to Canada and not a moment too soon”

Monday may in time come to be seen as the day electoral reform came to Canada. A year from now the country that, alone among those still using “first past the post” system of casting and counting votes, does so at every level of government, could have very different systems in place in several jurisdictions, municipal and provincial.

Starting Monday, and continuing until Nov. 30, British Columbians will be asked to vote by mail in a double-barreled referendum on electoral reform. The first question asks whether they wish to replace first past the post with a system of proportional system; the second, which of three “pro rep” systems they prefer.

Unlike the province’s two previous referendums on the subject, the threshold for reform is just 50 per cent: there will be no repeat of the 2005 debacle, when reform was supported by 58 per cent of the voters, including a majority in all but two of the province’s 79 ridings, and yet still somehow failed to pass the convoluted double-super-majority bar the province’s Liberal government had devised.

But B.C. is only part of the story. Monday is also the day voters go to the polls in 444 municipal elections across Ontario, the first since provincial legislation allowing municipalities to change from first past the post, where voters mark an x beside the candidate of their choice, to ranked ballots, familiar from party leadership races, where voters mark their ballots 1, 2, 3…

Of course the differences do not end there: where under first past the post the winner is the candidate with the most votes, no matter how few, under ranked ballots the second (and lower) choices of the last-place candidates after each round of counting are added to the tallies of the remaining contenders until one candidate has more than 50 per cent.

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It’s Just Money

The Economist this week warns policy makers to “start preparing for the next recession” while they still can. The release of the government of Canada’s annual financial report for the 2017-18 fiscal year, however suggests the Trudeau Liberals have no notion of foregoing that most enjoyable of all entitlements: spending other people’s money.

The annual budget is an aspirational document, revealing what the government would like to do. But the annual report is a look in the rearview mirror at what it did in the year ending March 31, 2018.

This year is complicated by a restatement of the public finances going back years to factor in an accounting change. (The Auditor General ordered the restatement, related to discounted and unfunded pension obligations, and it adds an additional $20 billion to the federal debt, which now stands at $671 billion.) But the story is relatively simple — 2017-18 was a bumper year for government revenues, which rose by $20 billion, or 6.9 per cent, from the previous year.

Personal income tax increases accounted for half of that flood of new money coming into the coffers, around half of which was related to economic growth and the other half to the unwinding of tax planning that had suppressed revenues in 2016-17 (when the Liberals announced they were going to raise the top rate of income tax to 33 per cent in late 2015, there was a rush of filing by high-income earners to declare income at the lower rate).

Yet, rather than reduce the deficit and pay down debt in preparation for the next recession, creeping toward them as inevitably as mortality, the Liberals spent the lot. In 2017-18 expenses amounted to $332.6 billion — breaching the $300-billion mark for the second time — up $20.1 billion, or 6.4 per cent from 2016-17.

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Moon’s Censorial Party Hopes to Gain a Propaganda Boon With Potential Papal Visit

It would be hilarious if Pope Francis surprises them with a Pope John Paul II surprise:

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Friday expressed hope that Pope Francis’ potential visit to North Korea will help speed up denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The pope effectively accepted an invitation to visit North Korea on Thursday when President Moon Jae-in relayed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s verbal invitation. Pope Francis said if the North sends an official invitation, he will “certainly” respond to it.

“The pope’s possible visit to North Korea indicates the international community’s support for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Hong Young-pyo, the DP’s floor leader, said at a meeting with senior party members.

“If realized, his trip will be momentum to induce the North toward the path to denuclearization,” he said. “We need a flexible approach to elicit (Pyongyang’s) denuclearization.”

The North’s leader expressed his willingness to invite the pope to his country during his third and latest summit with Moon in Pyongyang last month, according to Moon’s office.

No pope has ever visited North Korea.

 

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Whiner Complains About Law That Seizes Iranian Assets

Poor babies:

The real reason the Liberal government hasn’t been able to re-establish relations with Iran is due to its adherence to a “stupid” Canadian law allowing the seizure of Iranian assets, says Canada’s recently expelled ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Dennis Horak, who was expelled from Saudi Arabia in August after its rulers were incensed by a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, offered that blunt assessment as he shed new light on another controversial moment in Canada’s Middle East relations.

Six years ago, the previous Conservative government abruptly severed its diplomatic relations with Iran, shuttering its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada.

The current Liberal government campaigned in 2015 on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran but it has been unable to deliver on that foreign policy promise because Iran appears unwilling to re-engage.

Horak, who retired recently, said one obstacle is standing in the way: the passage in 2012 of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terrorism to sue countries that are listed as supporters of terrorism.

Among other things, the law paved the way for last year’s Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the seizure of US$1.7 billion in private Iranian assets by a group of American plaintiffs whose loved ones were killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by the Iranian regime.

“It was a stupid law. And it’s still a stupid law,” Horak told a meeting of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa this week.

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The New “Tobacco” Monopoly

We knew this was coming:

Under the federal government’s Bill C-45, provinces and territories were responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold. But where indigenous communities – which fall under the federal Indian Act – fit into this picture is still unclear, given questions about jurisdiction and self-governance.

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott told the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples earlier this month that the government is working on addressing concerns regarding jurisdictional issues.

“I know that indigenous communities, organizations and businesses have spoken up about jurisdictional concerns but specifically the exercise of First Nation bylaw-making powers in relation to the legalization and regulation of cannabis,” Philpott told the committee.

“Our government recognizes and respects the jurisdiction of indigenous governments. We will continue to work with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities to address and accommodate jurisdictional issues in an appropriate way moving forward.”

In Ontario, the only legal option to purchase cannabis until April will be through the province-run online store. Under the province’s proposed legislation, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will grant licenses to private retailers ahead of an April 1 launch.

Under the same proposed legislation, First Nations can opt out of that private retail model through a band council resolution. Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, said in an emailed statement that any store located within a First Nations reserve would require approval by the communities’ Chief and Council via band resolution before the AGCO issues a license.

 

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Article: “Feds dead set against ‘ridiculous’ quotas to replace steel, aluminum tariffs”

Good luck with that, Justin:

Canada is not about to agree to quotas or other limits on its exports in order to get the United States to lift punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum, says a source close to the ongoing talks to resolve the lingering tit-for-tat trade standoff.

Where the two sides ultimately end up remains to be seen, but the Canadian source — speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive negotiations — described the idea of a quota system as a non-starter and a concession that Canada is not prepared to make.

“They’re trying to get us to agree to a quota system, which we’re not going to do, because it’s ridiculous,” said the source.

 

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Just In: An Explosion in Pennsylvania Kills Three People

The Latest on a car explosion in Pennsylvania that killed at least 3 people (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

A coroner says three males are dead after a car explosion in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said at a news conference Sunday that authorities are working to identify the victims.

Authorities say the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is taking the lead on the investigation. The FBI and local authorities are assisting.

Officials say they are seeking tips from the public to solve the crime.

Authorities say the blast happened on a city street around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. They had earlier confirmed at least one fatality.

More to come.

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Suspect In Mississauga Restaurant Bombing May Be Female

To wit:

Two unidentified men walked into a restaurant on Thursday in the Canadian city of Mississauga and set off a bomb, wounding more than a dozen people, local police said. …

Police posted a photograph on Twitter showing two people with dark zip-up hoodies walking into an establishment. One appeared to be carrying an object.

Peel Police said one suspect was in his mid-20s, stocky, and wore dark blue jeans and a dark zip-up hoody pulled over his head, with black cloth covering his face. The second was thin, and wore faded blue jeans, a gray t-shirt and a dark zip-up hoody over his head, also with his face covered.

 

But now:

One of two suspects wanted in connection with an explosion that injured 15 people at a restaurant west of Toronto may be a woman, contrary to earlier reports, police said Tuesday.

Investigators originally said both suspects seen on video entering the Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., last week were men, but new video evidence and witness input suggests at least one of the suspects could be female, said Peel regional police Supt. Rob Ryan.

Police have finished processing the scene of the blast and are now analysing a collection of evidence that includes fingerprints, DNA, surveillance video, interviews with people present at the restaurant that night and remnants of the explosive device itself, Ryan said.

“Investigators spent hundreds of hours over the weekend combing the scene for every fine detail that might help them to understand what happened that night,” he said.

“What led the two suspects to detonate this device is still not clear,” he added. “We do not have clear motive and no one has claimed responsibility.”

 

Also:

Opening night of the Stratford Festival’s 2018 season has been cancelled – and the 1826-seat Festival Theatre was evacuated just half an hour before a full-house performance of The Tempest was set to begin because of a bomb threat against the theatre.

Ann Swerdfager, publicity director at the festival, said on Monday that police had asked for the building to be evacuated.

In a news release, Ms. Swerdfager said the festival cancelled the opening performance of The Tempest “on the advice of police” owing to a bomb threat.

The Stratford Police Service wrote on Twitter that it received a call at 6:45 p.m. on Monday that said explosives had been placed “at the Stratford Festival.” The Festival Theatre and the Avon Theatre were evacuated.

At a 9:15 p.m. news conference at The Bruce Hotel, Sam Theocharis, acting deputy chief of the Stratford Police Service, said 15 officers were searching festival properties and grounds and would continue to do so into Monday night.

Aritstic director Antoni Cimolino said Stratford performances would go ahead as scheduled on Tuesday – including the opening night of The Music Man at the Festival Theatre. “We’re going to make sure our patrons are safe,” he said, saying there would be bag checks at the door for audience members and suggesting it was likely extra security would be hired until the nature and seriousness of the threat had been fully investigated.

 

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And Now, A Happy Story

 

So moving:

Mohammad Alaa Jaleel who founded Il Gattaro d’Aleppo (The Cat Man of Aleppo), provides a refuge for cats that have been left behind because of war in Syria.

He came across a street dog named Amira, and began to care for her the best he could. When they discovered that she was pregnant, Alaa gave up his room so she could have a comfortable place to rest.

Since they have 80 feline residents, to keep every animal comfortable, Alaa built a little house for the dog next to the sanctuary.

A couple weeks ago, Amira went into labor, but sadly, all three puppies were stillborn. It left her broken hearted. “We were sad and shocked… We gave her a stuffed teddy bear and tried to cuddle with her because she was very sad,” Alessandra Abidin, volunteer of the rescue group, told Love Meow.

That’s when Junior, a kitten they took in from the streets, noticed the teddy bear, and decided to approach it and the dog.

She slowly walked up to Amira and eventually made her way to her paws. Then she proceeded to rub her face on her. It was then things began to change.

A few days later, Amira was no longer holding her teddy bear.

Instead, she was playing with a tiny kitten on her back and tending to her like a mother would her puppies.

 

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Horvath Will NOT Have Alcohol Sold in Corner-stores

And that is why she will lose votes:

The current system of restricted retail beer and wine sales in Ontario works well and is socially responsible, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Saturday.

Campaigning in Thunder Bay, Ont., Horwath said there’s no need to allow convenience stores to carry the products — a perennially favoured if never-implemented idea that once helped propel the Liberals to office in the mid-1980s.

“I’m going to be straight up about it: I don’t think we need to have beer and wine in the corner stores,” Horwath said. “I don’t think this is a broken system in Ontario. I don’t necessarily think that we need to mess with it. It’s working fine for people.”

The prospect of liberalized sales surfaced during the June 7 campaign when Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said he would allow corner-store sales of beer and wine if he’s elected premier.

 

Granted, alcohol being sold to children is a great concern but it is also a red herring.

Teen-agers are experimenting with synthetic drugs and are using prescription drugs they’ve taken from relatives. Are parents stepping in to stop this?

An LCBO (an approved alcohol purveyor) was once caught selling alcohol to a minor wearing a burqa. Is that “socially responsible”?

I find it absurd that the same party that approves of so-called safe injection sites and a sex ed program designed by a convicted child pornographer now decries the sale of alcohol anywhere but province-approved establishments “for the good of the children”.

A post-modern West that holds self-indulgence in any respect as the highest societal good has much bigger problems than where alcohol can be sold. If people raised their children well and didn’t drink and drive, where alcohol can be sold wouldn’t be a problem.

 

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South Korea and the US to Still Work Closely After Kim Walks From the Summit

Back to square one:

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump held discussions on Sunday to ensure that the North Korea-U.S. summit remains on track after North Korea threatened to pull out of the high-level talks.

Moon and Trump spoke over the phone for about 20 minutes, and exchanged their views on North Korea’s recent reactions, South Korea’s presidential office said without elaborating.

“The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea- U.S. summit set on June 12, including the upcoming South Korea-U.S. summit,” the presidential official said.

Moon and Trump are set to meet on Tuesday in Washington before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Trump on June 12 in Singapore.

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Maduro Set For Victory Election

Gee, what a surprise:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was seeking a six-year term on Sunday in an apparently poorly attended vote condemned by foes as the “coronation” of a dictator and likely to bring fresh foreign sanctions.

With the mainstream opposition boycotting the election, two of his most popular rivals barred from standing and state institutions in loyalists’ hands, the 55-year-old former bus driver is expected to win despite his unpopularity.

That could trigger oil sanctions from Washington, and more censure from the European Union and Latin America.

The self-described “son” of Hugo Chavez says he is battling an “imperialist” plot to crush socialism and take over the OPEC member’s oil wealth. But opponents say the leftist leader has destroyed Venezuela’s once-wealthy economy and ruthlessly crushed dissent.

Maduro’s main challenger is former state governor Henri Falcon, who predicts an upset due to widespread fury among Venezuela’s 30 million people at the economic meltdown.

Most analysts believe, however, that Falcon has only a slim chance given abstention, the vote-winning power of state handouts, and Maduro’s allies on the election board. Results are expected by late evening.

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Japanese Least Offended by Eurovision Winner’s “Cultural Appropriation”

Yep:

Once again, Japan comes out as the least offended when someone seemingly appropriates their culture.

The 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps the world’s largest example of humanity’s peculiar obsession with making music a competitive sport, came to a close last week. In the end it was Israeli singer Netta (Netta Barzilai) who took top honors with her song “Toy.”

Seems to me if she really wanted to co-opt Japanese culture, Netta ought to get 47 more singers and then set up a convoluted hierarchy based on sales of singles, all operating under a rigid behavioral policy similar to that of a 19th century schoolmarm.

But I could be wrong, so let’s go to the netizens of Japan for judgement.

“The millions of Japanese people with dyed hair must be laughing at this.”
“Westerners care too much about silly things.”
“Culture is meant to be stolen. If it’s not worth stealing, then it isn’t culture.”
“If people keep claiming ‘cultural appropriation’ then people will not touch our culture. Then, people will not understand our culture and it will be easier to become our enemy.”

 

Wasn’t this sort of thing fresh and original when Bjork did it? :

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