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It’s costing the federal government more than $22,000 to dispose of books and research material from Fisheries and Oceans scientific libraries across the country, according to new documents.
The information comes from the office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea. It was prompted by a request from Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay last October, after reports surfaced that seven Fisheries and Oceans libraries were being closed and the materials destroyed.
“These numbers prove it that was a destructive process,” said MacAulay in an interview with CBC News.
Fisheries and Oceans is closing seven of its 11 libraries by 2015. It’s hoping to save more than $443,000 in 2014-15 by consolidating its collections into four remaining libraries.
Shea told CBC News in a statement Jan. 6 that all copyrighted material has been digitized and the rest of the collection will be soon. The government says that putting material online is a more efficient way of handling it.
But documents from her office show there’s no way of really knowing that is happening.
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ systems do not enable us to determine the number of items digitized by location and collection,” says the response by the minister’s office to MacAulay’s inquiry.
The documents also that show the department had to figure out what to do with 242,207 books and research documents from the libraries being closed. It kept 158,140 items and offered the remaining 84,067 to libraries outside the federal government.
Shea’s office told CBC that the books were also “offered to the general public and recycled in a ‘green fashion’ if there were no takers.”
The fate of thousands of books appears to be “unknown,” although the documents’ numbers show 160 items from the Maurice Lamontagne Library in Mont Jolie, Que., were “discarded.” A Radio-Canada story in June about the library showed piles of volumes in dumpsters.
And the numbers prove a lot more material was tossed out. The bill to discard material from four of the seven libraries totals $22,816.76.
MacAulay said there’s no proof it saved any money.
“When these seven libraries were in place there was information that was very important to the fishing industry, and now they’re gone,” he said.
Fisheries and Oceans is just one of the 14 federal departments, including Health Canada and Environment Canada, that have been shutting physical libraries and digitizing or consolidating the material into closed central book vaults.
‘Care and control’
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May thinks that it may illegal.
“These materials are not the property of any government of the day to dispose of casually,” said May in an interview with CBC News. “The government or the department is not allowed to dispose of them willy-nilly.”
May said the handling of library material contravenes sections of the Library and Archives Canada Act. Section 16 of the act says that “all publications that have become surplus to the requirements of any government institution shall be placed in the care and control of the Librarian and Archivist.”
Section 12 points out publications can’t be disposed of without the “written consent of the Librarian or Archivist.”
“The purpose of the act is to stop what has happened here,” said May. “Material of value to Canada has been cast to the four winds and that violates the act.”
May said she talked to Hervé Déry, the interim librarian and archivist of Canada, and it’s clear to her the rules weren’t followed.
But a spokesman from Library and Archives Canada said the act allows for departments to throw out surplus research and books, as long as it’s done properly and valuable material is kept.
“LAC works closely with departments and provides them with guidelines and other resources to ensure that these mandatory processes are understood and followed,” wrote Richard Provencher in a statement.
“LAC has had these discussions with all of the closing departmental libraries that have been mentioned in recent media reports.”
But May isn’t convinced and is considered legal options, including a complaint to the RCMP.
People walk past homes for sale in Oakville, Ont., in this file photo. The IMF says CMHC mortgage insurance exposes the government to financial system risks and might distort the market as a whole in favour of mortgages over more productive uses of capital. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)
Further measures should be considered to encourage appropriate risk retention by private sector and increase the market share of private mortgage insurers.
International Monetary Fund
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The International Monetary Fund says Ottawa should consider phasing out insuring home mortgages through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
The advice is contained in the IMF’s latest economic report card on Canada, which projects modest economic growth of 2.25 percent for the country next year.
Such a recommendation, surprising from an international financial organization, appears to side with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who has recently questioned whether the federal government should be in the business of insuring higher-risk mortgages at all.
Some analysts have credited the system for providing much-needed confidence in Canada’s housing sector during the 2008–09 crisis, which many believe was sparked by a crisis in the U.S. mortgage market.
The IMF concedes that the current system has its advantages for stability. But it says it also exposes the government, or taxpayers, to financial system risks and might distort the market as a whole in favour of mortgages over more productive uses of capital.
“We think banks lend too much to mortgages and too little to small and medium enterprises,” Roberto Cardarelli, the IMF mission chief for Canada, told reporters in a briefing in Toronto.
“We suspect the fact that banks may benefit from government-backed insurance on mortgages … it sort of makes it easier for banks to do mortgages than other kinds of lending which, presumably, we think, is going to be more useful for the real economy.”
CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal says he believes the advice may be appropriate for the U.S., particularly prior to the crisis, but not necessarily for Canada, where the mortgage securitization market is a relatively small slice of the financial pie. CMHC can carry a maximum of $600 billion mortgage loan insurance on its books.
“In this case size matters,” he said. “It is true when securitization dominates the market it is not a very healthy thing, but when it is part of a normally functioning market, it actually helps the economy” by contributing to low borrowing rates and liquidity.
The Washington-based financial institution said further measures should be considered to “encourage appropriate risk retention by private sector and increase the market share of private mortgage insurers.”
It cautioned, however, that if any structural changes are made, they should be gradual to avoid unintended consequences.
The IMF report, released Wednesday, forecasts that Canada’s economy as a whole will start benefiting next year from a pickup in the U.S. economy, leading to greater demand for Canadian exports and renewed business investment.
In essence, the scenario is identical to the one predicted by the Bank of Canada, which also sees growth rising from the current 1.6 percent level to 2.3 next year.
A slightly more positive estimate was issued Wednesday by the Ottawa-based Conference Board of Canada, which is projecting Canadian real GDP will grow 1.8 percent in 2013, 2.4 percent in 2014, and 2.6 percent in 2015—assuming strong growth in the United States.
The Bank of Canada forecast holds that the risks are balanced—meaning there is as much chance the projected growth rate will be higher as lower.
But the IMF warns, however, that the risks to its outlook are primarily on the downside. The main reason, it says, is that it might be wrong about the U.S. economy rebounding in 2014.
“Renewed political standoff (in the United States) over spending appropriations and the debt ceiling and a faster-than-expected increase in long-term rates in the context of exit from quantitative easing could negatively affect the U.S. recovery and hence demand for Canadian exports,” the IMF said.
“Protracted weakness in the euro area economic recovery and lower-than-anticipated growth in emerging markets would also hurt the prospects for Canada’s exports, including through lower commodity prices,” it added.
On the domestic front, the IMF said the long period of low productivity growth and strong Canadian dollar may have left a deeper dent in Canada’s export potential, especially in the traditional manufacturing base, limiting the economy’s ability to benefit from the projected strengthening in external demand.
Cardarelli stressed the importance of investing in the energy sector, an industry that he said would have a significant impact on the organization’s economic forecasts in the future.
“We really feel that the system is stressed in terms of the transportation capacity—the ability of moving these resources out of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan,” he said at a news conference in Toronto.
Among other things, the IMF recommends that Canada’s central bank hold off raising interest rates until there are firmer signs of a sustained transition from household spending to exports and investment, something bank governor Stephen Poloz has signalled he intends to do.
And it warns the federal government that it need not be so fixated on balancing the federal budget in 2015 if there is no meaningful pickup in economic activity.
That is likely to fall on deaf ears, however. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this week he is confident he will eliminate the deficit in 2015 and bring in surpluses after that.
With files from The Canadian Press
The Canadian government has spent $13.2 billion more than it has taken in so far this year, a slightly larger deficit than the one for the same period in 2012.
The Department of Finance said Monday the federal deficit was $13.2 billion for the fiscal year up to October. That’s ahead of the $11.9 billion during the same period in 2012.
But that data is skewed by two major one-time events that impacted Ottawa’s finances: The Alberta floods of last summer, and the government’s sale of $700 million worth of GM shares in September.
Excluding the two events, the annual deficit would have been slightly smaller, at $11.1 billion.
For the fiscal year as a whole, Ottawa has taken in $144.9 billion and spent $158.2 billion so far. On a monthly basis, October’s deficit was $2.5 billion, the same as the one from the same month last year.
“The Government remains on track to balance the budget in 2015,” the department said in a release.
A year ago today flash mob round dances took place across the country, and thousands of people danced and marched from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill, in Ottawa.
“It was an impressively massive show of cultural and solidarity” said CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice, “and although I was covering it for CBC, I found it impossible not to be moved.”
While some have wondered whether Idle No More is still a growing movement, the flashmob Round Dances taking place across the country this weekend are in indication that there is still a lot of momentum.
So far this weekend flash mob round dances have taken place in Winnipeg, Toronto, Sudbury, Saskatoon, and Lethbridge. There are plans in place for Fredricton, Surrey, and Montreal. And there is a ‘treaty information check stop in Delaronde, SK.
Flash mob round dances in 9 cities this weekend
While some have wondered whether Idle No More is still a vibrant movement, the flash mob round dances taking place across the country this weekend are an indication that there is still a lot of momentum.
A year ago today Idle No More flash mobs took place across the country.
Here are some snapshots of round dances happening across the country this weekend.
This one is a re-share of Aaron Pierre’s Instagram photo at Winnipeg’s Friday flash mob:
To change it up, Idle No More in Treaty 6 Territory held an treaty information check-stop by Delaronde Lake in memory of those who lost their lives defending the land.
By Louise Egan
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s annual inflation rate crept up to 0.9 percent in November from 0.7 percent in October but it remained below the central bank’s target range, ensuring that chronically weak inflation will stay on policymakers’ radar as a top concern.
The Canadian dollar weakened to a 3-1/2-year low against the U.S. dollar after the Statistics Canada inflation report, which confirmed analysts’ expectations that steep discounting by retailers around “Black Friday” would prevent inflation from gaining much momentum in the near term.
A separate report from Statscan on retail sales in October showed unexpected weakness in the sector as purchases of cars declined.
The consumer price index was flat month on month, with the annual CPI rate pushed higher mainly by shelter and food costs, while prices fell for health and personal care as well as for clothing and footwear.
But the annual core CPI, closely watched by the Bank of Canada because it excludes volatile items such as gasoline and food, slipped 0.1 percentage point in the month for an annual rate of 1.1 percent.
Both the total and core inflation rates were slightly below market expectations of 1.0 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
“From a policy perspective, (it) helps fuel the growing narrative that the Bank of Canada is becoming increasingly more dovish,” said Mazen Issa, a strategist at TD Securities.
“Certainly the risk that the bank adopts an explicit easing bias in January continues to grow and this report lends further credence to that view,” he said.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told Reuters this week the bank’s stance on monetary policy is neutral, but he acknowledged it is “having trouble explaining” why inflation is so weak, as well as being puzzled by poor exports and business investment in the context of an improving U.S. economy.
The bank first explicitly stated an increased concern about low inflation in its October 23 interest rate decision, when it shifted into a neutral after 18 months of leaning towards rate hikes.
This month, it warned that heightened competition in the retail sector appeared more persistent than anticipated.
More retailers in Canada, including Target Corp (TGT.N: Quote) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote), have been running Black Friday sales in November even though Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, as they try to keep customers from crossing the border for better deals.
In the United States, this shopping season is expected to be the most competitive since the financial crisis of 2008, with retailers discounting heavily to woo cautious shoppers.
Inflation has been below the Bank of Canada’s 2 percent target for 19 months. For seven of the past 13 months it has been below the 1 to 3 percent range the bank tolerates.
The latest figures suggest inflation will be below the Bank of Canada’s latest estimate of 1.3 percent average CPI in the fourth quarter. The bank will update its forecasts on January 22.
“I do think the real story here is on core inflation, the fact that we’re now just about scraping the very low end of the comfort zone for the Bank of Canada, and I do think it’s largely due to the heavy duty discounting we’re seeing among a number of retailers,” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.
“So it’s a fairly big miss by the bank on core inflation.”
The Canadian dollar weakened after the report to C$1.0700 to the greenback, or 93.46 U.S. cents, from Thursday’s close of C$1.0666, or 93.76 U.S. cents.
RETAIL VOLUMES TO FUEL GROWTH
Retail sales unexpectedly fell by 0.1 percent in October from September as a downturn at car dealerships offset upbeat supermarket sales. Market analysts had forecast a 0.2 percent increase in monthly sales.
The weak reading followed three straight months of gains as four of the 11 retail subsectors declined.
However, in volume terms, retail sales grew 0.2 percent in October.
The data, combined with strong readings in manufacturing and wholesale trade in October, suggest the economy will grow at a healthy clip in the fourth quarter, although below the 2.7 percent annualized growth seen in the third.
Overall sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 1.9 percent. New car sales slid 1.6 percent after a 4.6 percent surge in the previous month. Gasoline station sales fell 1.6 percent.
On the other hand, food and beverage stores registered a 1.7 percent jump in sales.
Total sales excluding the auto sector grew 0.4 percent.
An environmental group says more needs to be done to prevent an iconic Canadian animal from going extinct.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is releasing a report today, co-authored by the David Suzuki Foundation, on the status of woodland caribou.
CBC News obtained an embargoed copy of the report, “Population Critical: How are the caribou faring?”
It comes one year after the federal government issued a recovery strategy to prevent the woodland caribou from becoming extinct.
The caribou are listed as a threatened species at risk, largely because industrial development is destroying their habitat in the boreal forest.
Ottawa’s recovery strategy gave provinces and territories three years to come up with a plan to stop the decline of caribou herds in their jurisdictions.
The CPAWS report looks at what progress has been made in the past 12 months.
‘Caribou aren’t protected’
CPAWS national executive director Éric Hébert-Daly says there has been a lot of discussion, but little else.
“The truth is while we wait and while we plan and we do all that work, the caribou aren’t protected,” he told CBC News.
CPAWS gave three provinces and territories a medium grade for showing some signs of progress.
The rest got a low mark for doing little if anything to stop industrial development.
Hébert-Daly hopes that will change in the next 12 months.
“There isn’t really a jurisdiction yet that has really shone in terms of being able to lead the way, and so we’re looking for that in the next year,” Hébert-Daly said.
Some provinces declined to comment yesterday, saying they wanted more time to read the report.
A spokesman for Environment Canada said the department will keep working “with all jurisdictions” on recovery actions for the caribou.
“The Government of Canada has already acted to protect critical habitat in Wood Buffalo National Park (N.W.T./Alberta) and Prince Alberta National Park (Sask.),” Mark Johnson said in an email to CBC News.
National Affairs Specialist
Greg Weston is an investigative reporter and a regular political commentator on CBC Radio and Television. Based in Ottawa, he has afflicted governments of all stripes for over three decades. His investigative work has won awards including the coveted Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. He is also the author of two best-selling books, Reign of Error and The Stopwatch Gang.
The revelation that a little-known Canadian intelligence operation has been electronically spying on trading partners and other nations around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, has critics wondering who’s keeping an eye on our spies.
The answer is a watchdog, mostly muzzled and defanged, whose reports to Parliament are first censored by the intelligence agency he is watching, then cleared by the minister politically responsible for any problems in the first place.
By the time the reports reach the public, they are rarely newsworthy.
The Harper government recently appointed a new oversight commissioner for Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada. But he will be only part-time until next April.
Even then, Senator Hugh Segal, the chief of staff to former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and someone with a long involvement in security intelligence issues, says any notion of effective public oversight of Canada’s electronic spying agency is “more like a prayer” than fact.
The debate over who’s keeping tabs on our spies has heightened in recent days following a CBC News report detailing a top secret document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The document shows that the agency known as CSEC set up covert spying posts around the world at the request of the giant NSA.
Both agencies gather intelligence by intercepting mostly foreign phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a widespread investigation of the NSA after leaked Snowden documents revealed the agency was gathering massive amounts of information on millions of American citizens.
In this country, the Harper government simply keeps pointing to CSEC’s oversight commissioner as proof that Canadians have nothing to worry about.
As Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the Commons this week: “There is a commissioner that looks into CSEC [and] every year for 16 years has confirmed that they’ve acted within lawful activities.”
Well, not exactly.
‘Contrary to law’
Only months ago, the recently retired CSEC commissioner, Justice Robert Decary, stated in his final report that he had uncovered records suggesting some of CSEC’s spying activities “may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to law.”
The retired justice said the CSEC records were so unclear or incomplete that he was unable to determine whether the agency had been operating legally.
Decary’s predecessor, Justice Charles Gonthier, filed the same complaint about incomplete or missing records in his day, which forced him to report in a similar fashion that he could not determine if CSEC had been breaking the law.
Gonthier also alluded to a CSEC operation in 2006 that he suggested may have been illegal.
The head of CSEC at the time, John Adams, recently told CBC News that, as a result of that discovery, “I shut the place down for a while.”
However, intelligence experts have told CBC News that the oversight problems at CSEC are much deeper than poor record-keeping.
They say successive commissioners have simply lacked both the resources and the legal mandate to conduct meaningful oversight.
The current commissioner, Judge Jean-Pierre Plouffe, operates with a staff of 11, about half of whom actually work on investigations, largely to ensure CSEC isn’t abusing its powers by spying on Canadians.
But CSEC employs over 2,000 people who covertly collect masses of information recently described as more data per day than all the country’s banking transactions combined.
As Segal says, the result is obvious: “When there are thousands of people at CSEC processing millions of messages every day of all kinds, the notion that a group of 11 might be able to provide proper oversight is more like a prayer than any kind of constructive statement of fact.”
Not exactly as written
Of course, even if a commissioner did discover something seriously amiss at the electronic eavesdropping agency, there is a chance Canadians would never know.
Here’s how the system works:
Suppose the commissioner’s oversight sleuths discover that CSEC is illegally intercepting phone calls and hacking into the computers of certain Canadians.
The oversight commissioner is required to report his discovery in a top secret report to the defence minister.
That happens to be the same minister responsible for CSEC, and from whom the agency gets its government direction.
It is also the minister who would be at the centre of any CSEC scandal if news of this breach leaked out.
If the minister refuses to expose his own agency’s wrongdoing, the oversight commissioner can try to use his annual report to Parliament to do that.
But a funny thing happens on the way to Parliament.
First, CSEC gets to censor the entire report. Then it goes back to the same defence minister.
The minister is required to present the sanitized version of the report to Parliament, but has no obligation to mention it is not exactly as originally written.
Former CSEC chief Adams admits the agency is “very, very biased towards the less the public knows the better.”
He points out that in the spying business, opening an agency’s operations to full public scrutiny “would be kind of like unilateral disarmament, because if Canadians know everything CSEC can and can’t do, then everyone else will too.”
But as the leaked Snowden documents continue to force back the curtains at CSEC, Adams says it is time to find a better way to reassure Canadians about what they are doing.
“I think a knowledgeable Canadian is going to be much easier to deal with,” he says.
If the public reaction to the Snowden revelations is any indication, Canadians are all ears.
Shell Canada’s Jackpine oilsands mine expansion plan has received the go-ahead from Ottawa, despite the environment minister’s view that it’s “likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
In a statement late Friday, environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq concluded that the effects from the 100,000-barrel-per-day expansion are “justified in the circumstances.”
The nearby Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has said the project will violate several federal laws covering fisheries and species at risk, as well as treaty rights.
They said they had received so little information on how Shell plans to live up to conditions imposed on it by a federal-provincial panel that they asked Ottawa for a 90-day delay on the decision – originally expected Nov. 6 – to work some of those issues through.
They were granted a 35-day delay, but Friday’s decision didn’t even wait until that period was up.
Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, was outraged that the federal decision came as the government was still supposed to be in talks with the band about how the project’s effects were to be mitigated.
“They just kept us in the loop and strung us along and played games with us,” he said. “To them it’s all a game.”
- Northern Alberta band challenges Jackpine oilsands proposal
- Jackpine review panel won’t rule on First Nations challenge
- Court rules against aboriginal groups on Jackpine decision
- Supreme Court refuses First Nation’s appeal over oilsands expansion
Although all 88 conditions the review panel placed on the project are now legally binding, Adam said neither the government nor the company has explained how those conditions will be met.
Adam said the government’s move to go ahead despite the serious environmental consequences of the project leave the band little choice.
“This government has to realize we’ll be holding them accountable,” he said. “We’ll be looking at legal action and we’ll pursue this through legal action.”
Greenpeace speaks out against expansion
Greenpeace Canada issued a statement accusing the Harper government of putting the short term interests of oil companies ahead of environmental protection and First Nations treaty rights.
“Canada would be much better off diversifying its economy, investing inrenewables, green jobs and projects that get us out of this madness not deeper into it,” the statement said.
“How many more extreme weather events will it take till our Prime Minister realizes this is one problem he can’t mine his way out of?”
The Jackpine expansion would allow Shell to increase its bitumen output by 50 per cent to 300,000 barrels a day.
“We’re reviewing the recommendations and proposed conditions attached to the approval,” said Shell spokesman David Williams.
Williams added Shell must consult with the minority partners in the project – Chevron and Marathon – before making a formal decision to proceed.
Review panel suggests compensation for ‘irreversible damage’
A review panel concluded last July that the project was in the public interest but warned that it would result in severe and irreversible damage so great that new protected areas should be created to compensate.
The review concluded that the project would mean the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, which could harm migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife and wipe out traditional plants used for generations.
It also said Shell’s plans for mitigation are unproven and warned that some impacts would probably approach levels that the environment couldn’t support.
Shell has said Alberta’s new management plan for the oilsands area will provide more concrete data to assess and mitigate environmental impacts.
The company has purchased about 730 hectares of former cattle pasture in northwestern Alberta to help compensate for the 8,500 hectares of wetland that would be forever lost.
Over the weekend thousands of Canadians united in over 130 communities from coast to coast to coast to demand a safer climate and a cleaner energy future.
Saturday’s national day of action to defend our climate and our communities from tar sands and pipelines was a powerful day for me. I work in Ottawa, and it can be tough to be at the heart of politics that are driving the problems rather than the solutions.
The truth is, I needed Saturday. I needed to be reassured that Canadians are ready to stand up for what they believe in, and that this movement is growing. We are up against some of the wealthiest companies in the world, companies that depend on pollution for profit. And in Canada, we are facing governments that are doing everything they can to ensure nothing gets in the way of the oil industry.
Over the years, the environmental movement has written hundreds and hundreds of reports and had thousands of meetings with decision makers, and while these things remain important, what we really need is people power. We need decision-makers to realize that Canadians want climate change to be taken seriously for a clean energy future.
After all, this is about a safe climate now for people around the world, and a safe climate tomorrow for our children. Every parent wants the best for their children, and that is not what we are offering to give them right now. If we allow business as usual, we will be handing over a planet rife with disasters far worse than the tragedy we are already seeing today in the Philippines, the U.S. Midwest, and even our own backyards.
Former Irish Prime Minister and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said over the weekend amidst the ongoing United Nations climate talks in Poland that, “[W]e need a forward-looking leadership, and that won’t come from Canadian politicians unless it comes from the Canadian people.” And being here in Ottawa, I can assure you that she is absolutely right. We need to demand the future we want and we need to do it loudly, often and clearly. We need more days like Saturday.
Saturday gives me the confidence to walk into a meeting and assure people that building fossil fuel infrastructure like new pipelines will never be easy again. That Canadians care more than ever about the environment, our shared climate and a clean energy economy. And that this movement is growing.
We will keep coming together, in bigger and bigger numbers until these demonstrations become celebrations of the clean and safe energy future that we deserve.