NEW DELHI: While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is being tight-lipped about its pick for Speaker of the Lower House, the Lok Sabha Secretariat informed all newly elected MPs that they are to elect the new Speaker by June 19. With no confirmation from BJP, the names of former minister Radha Mohan Singh and Surinderjeet Singh Ahluwalia are being speculated as frontrunners for the post.Former minister Maneka Gandhi, currently the interim Speaker, will be administering the oath to all new MPs of the 17th Lok Sabha, including Congress parliamentary leader Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twistIn 2014 none of the opposition parties put up a candidate against NDA’s Sumitra Mahajan. This year, however, opposition parties are planning to meet before the Parliament begins. One of the opposition leaders said that they generally do not press for any candidate, but it all depends on how the ruling parties take them into confidence. Newly elected members will take oath on June 17 and 18 when the Lok Sabha is convened for this purpose. With President Ramnath Kovind set to address a joint session of Parliament on June 20, the Lower House has to elect a Speaker by then. This session of the parliament will conduct no other business other than administering the oath to new members and the election of the Speaker. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from FranceThe Rajya Sabha’s month-long-session will start on June 17 and continue till July 27 and on July 5, the first woman Finance Minister since Indira Gandhi, Nirmala Sitharaman will present the second NDA Government’s General Budget at 11 am. Before that, she will be presenting the Economic Survey and some other financial documents on July 4. Like last year the Railway Budget will be clubbed with the General Budget this year as well. As per schedule, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will take up the motion of thanks for the President’s speech for at least two days and after the debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will deliver his first formal address in both houses. He is expected to unveil his government’s plan of action. This is the first time BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah will also participate in the debate.
Kolkata: Calcutta University will conduct online entrance examination for post-graduate (PG) admission from this academic year. The move is aimed at transparency, saving time and modernisation.There are 66 post-graduate departments, which will conduct online entrance tests. The varsity will earmark one or two centres in the city where the students will have to come and appear for the examination. “Calcutta University will be the first university in the state to introduce online entrance examination. This is the most modernised approach for holding such examination ,” said Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee, Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University . Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaThe Vice-Chancellor assured of quick publication of results of the entrance test. The entrance test will be MCQ type and of an hour duration. There will be 50 questions. Each right answer will fetch two marks and there will be negative marking of . 5 (half) for each wrong answer. If there is a tie in marks then the student will less negative marks will get the edge. Calcutta University has a total of 147 colleges among which post-graduate courses are offered in 32 colleges Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersThe total number of post-graduate seats in the varsity, including the colleges that offer post-graduate, is 8,695. The seats in Master of Arts (MA) is 4,373, in Master of Science (MSc ) is 3,074 while that in Master of Commerce (M.Com ) is 1,248. The total seats in the varsity is 5520 while that in its affiliated colleges offering PG is 3175. Admission against 60 percent seats are reserved for Calcutta University current year passed out students while admission against 40 percent of total seats are reserved for both CU and non-Calcutta University students on the basis of entrance test marks. “Calcutta University is also planning to hold PG examinations in away centres from the next academic year,” the vice chancellor said. It may be mentioned that according to a recent survey conducted by India Today and Marketing and Research Development Associates Calcutta University has ranked fifth among all Indian universities and the first in Bengal. Calcutta University has been ranked outstanding in parameters like intake quality and governance academic and research excellence, career programme and placement. Calcutta University has filed, granted and published the highest number of patents in the last three years. ” The achievement is due to very high quality research outputs and teaching performance of our internationally famous teachers,” a senior Calcutta University official said.
Kolkata: Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has urged party leaders on Friday to identify those who had been and are still staying in contact with BJP and at the same time, said those who have joined the saffron party will not be allowed to rejoin Trinamool.She told party leaders not to worry and assured that the party will make a comeback in the 2021 Assembly polls. Banerjee met the leaders of Jhargram and Bankura at Trinamool Bhavan on Friday afternoon. Subrata Bakshi, state Trinamool president and Suvendu Adhikari, state Transport minister, also attended the meeting. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellers”Intensify vigil and identify those who are keeping contact with BJP. Also find out those who had supported BJP in the recently concluded general election. Those who have joined BJP will not be allowed to rejoin the party,” she asserted. Banerjee said BJP has distorted her statement on the ‘cut money’ debacle. “BJP has distorted my view on cut money. I did not say it the way it is being circulated by BJP,” she maintained. She reiterated that despite her requests, some leaders did not develop contact with the people and the party had to pay a price for their attitude in the Lok Sabha election. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja”I told you repeatedly to build contact with people. But you did not and the party is paying a price for it,” she said and once again instructed the leaders to intensify their contact with people. She also stated that the leaders should bury their hatchets and work together to make the party regain its position. She urged Arup Chakraborty, Arup Khan and Shampa Daripa of Bankura to increase their contact with people. Rajib Ghosal, Trinamool Youth Congress president of Bankura, has been sidelined and a new president will be elected. She also asked Shyamapada Mukherjee, former minister from Bankura, to keep in touch with Daripa. In Jhargram, she asked Birbaha Soren to get in touch with Uma Soren for the party’s programmes. The Trinamool supremo said in both Jhargram and Bankura, the state government has carried out massive development. Several schemes have been initiated for SC and ST people. “But despite that, we have failed to win the election. We lacked in informing the people about the schemes. The leaders lacked in developing contact with the people as well,” she said. It may be recalled that both in Jhargram and Bankura, Trinamool Congress candidates had lost to their BJP rivals. Trinamool had fielded Subrata Mukherjee in Bankura, who lost by a huge margin. Similarly, Birbaha Soren was defeated by the BJP candidate as well. Banerjee is visibly disturbed over the poll results and held a marathon meeting with the district leaders on Friday, to analyse the poll debacle in Bankura and Jhargram.
Amethi: Union minister and local MP Smriti Irani on Monday spoke over phone to the kin of a retired Army captain who was beaten to death by unidentified assailants here, and assured all possible help to the bereaved family.BJP’s Amethi district chief Durgesh Tripathi visited retired Captain Amanullah’s home on the directions of Irani, and facilitated the conversation between the bereaved family members and the union minister. “The MP assured every possible help to the members of the family. The police have also been instructed nab the culprits at the earliest,” he said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Additional superintendent of police Daya Ram Monday told PTI, “It is not a case of mob lynching. Some people have been detained for questioning.” The 64-year-old retired Army captain Amanullah and his wife were attacked by a group of unidentified people with sticks who barged into their house on Saturday night in Godiyan ka Purva village. Amanullah died on the spot. Amanuallah’s wife told police that some people were trying to steal from a shop adjoining their house and when her husband objected and warned the perpetrators that he will inform police, they entered the house and beat him up. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KCongress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday night hit out at the BJP government in the state alleging that it was not able to curb rising crimes. “The law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh is not in the control of the state government. While crimes are on the rise, the state government is busy covering them up,” she tweeted in Hindi. “This is an incident in my home Amethi. Will the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh find a solution to this problem or will it continue to sleep and cover up,” the Congress leader said. The Amethi Lok Sabha constituency was a pocket borough of the Congress party for many years. However, in the 2019 general election, BJP leader Smriti Irani defeated Priyanka Gandhi’s brother and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by a considerable margin.
Mumbai: Four opposition Congress-NCP legislators in Maharashtra resigned from the State Assembly on Tuesday, amid talk of their joining the ruling BJP.The Sharad Pawar-led NCP, which recently saw many regional satraps leave the 20-year-old party, bore the maximum brunt of the latest move as three of the four MLAs belonged to it. Navi Mumbai NCP leader Ganesh Naik’s son Sandeep, Satara MLA Shivendrasinh Bhosale, NCP leader Madhukar Pichad’s son Vaibhav Pichad and Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar submitted their resignations separately to Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagade at the Vidhan Bhawan here. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’They are likely to join the BJP on Wednesday along with former NCP state women’s wing chief Chitra Wagh, who quit the party last week. In June, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, then Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, quit the Congress and was inducted into the BJP and made a cabinet minister. The NCP received a jolt last week when its Mumbai unit chief Sachin Ahir joined the ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena. Vaibhav Pichad, who represents Akole in Ahmednagar district and whose father Madhukar Pichad was former NCP minister, had stated last week that he was joining the BJP. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KKolambkar, a seven-term lawmaker from Mumbai who represents Wadala seat in the city at present, was originally with the Shiv Sena before joining the Congress. Reacting to the Tuesday’s development, the NCP accused the BJP of “threatening and luring” the lawmakers to make them switch loyalties in the run-up to the Assembly polls which are due in September-October. Sandeep Naik, who represents Airoli, saud that his supporters wanted him to join the BJP “for Navi Mumbai’s development”. Navi Mumbai is considered a model city and it needs a strong backing like that from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for further development, he said. “Fadnavis has taken the entire state on the path of development,” he said. He denied that opposition MLAs were being threatened and pressurised to quit their parties. Asked if his father and former state minister Ganesh Naik and brother, Sanjeev Naik, former Thane MP, too will follow the suit and join the BJP, Sandeep Naik said he would not speak on their behalf. The Naik family holds considerable clout in Navi Mumbai, a satellite city of Mumbai. “My father gave me the freedom to take the decision on my own,” Sandeep added. He said he would speak to each of the 52 Navi Mumbai corporators who support his family to find out if they too wished to join the BJP. Bhosale, who belongs to the royal house of Chhatrapati Shivaji and whose cousin Udayanraje is NCP MP from Satara, said, “I am more interested in protecting the interest of my assembly constituency.” NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that opposition MLAs are “either being lured or threatened to make them join the ruling party.” NCP general secretary Jitendra Awhad said the Naik family wanted to leave the party in 2014 itself, when the party lost power in Maharashtra. Ganesh Naik was “systematically wiping out” the NCP from the Thane-Navi Mumbai region, he alleged. “Unfortunately, my party did not listen to me when I spoke up about this then. Ganesh Naik encouraged dynastic rule. But we will expand the base of our party now and begin the work from Navi Mumbai itself,” Awhad added.
New Delhi: It was a partly cloudy Tuesday morning in the city, with the minimum temperature settling at 25.6 degrees Celsius, one notch below the season’s average. According to the MeT Department, the humidity level recorded at 8.30 am was 85 per cent. The weatherman has predicted light rains in some areas of the city later in the day. “The skies will turn cloudy in the afternoon and the maximum temperature is expected to settle at 35 degrees Celsius,” he said. On Monday, the minimum temperature settled at 23.6 degrees Celsius while the maximum was 34.4 degrees Celsius.
New Delhi: Ahead of his visit to France, the UAE and Bahrain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the engagements will strengthen India’s relations with time-tested friends and help explore new areas of cooperation.Modi will visit the three countries from August 22 to 26. He will reach France on Thursday.In his departure statement, the prime minister said his visit to France reflects the strong strategic partnership which the two countries deeply value and share. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsFrom August 22-23, he will have bilateral meetings in France, including a summit interaction with President Emmanuel Macron and a meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.Modi will also interact with the Indian community and dedicate a memorial to the Indian victims of the two Air India crashes in France in the 1950s and 1960s.Later, from August 25-26, he will participate in the G7 Summit meetings as Biarritz Partner at the invitation of President Macron in the sessions on Environment, Climate, Oceans and on Digital Transformation. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from Thursday”India and France have excellent bilateral ties, which are reinforced by a shared vision to cooperate for further enhancing peace and prosperity for our two countries and the world at large,” the prime minister said.He said the strong strategic and economic partnership is complemented by a shared perspective on major global concerns such as terrorism and climate change.”I am confident that this visit will further promote our long-standing and valued friendship with France for mutual prosperity, peace and progress,” Modi said. During the visit to the United Arab Emirates from August 23-24, the prime minister said he looks forward to discuss with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest.Modi said he also looks forward to jointly release the stamp to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi along with the Crown Prince.”It will be an honour to receive the ‘Order of Zayed’, the highest civilian decoration conferred by the UAE government, during this visit. I will also formally launch RuPay card to expand the network of cashless transactions abroad,” the prime minister said in the statement.Frequent high-level interactions between India and the UAE testify to our vibrant relations, he said.The UAE is the third-largest trade partner and fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India, he said.”The qualitative enhancement of these ties is among one of our foremost foreign policy achievements. The visit would further strengthen our multifaceted bilateral ties with the UAE,” Modi said.The prime minister will be in Bahrain from August 24-25. This will be the first ever prime ministerial visit from India to the Kingdom.”I look forward to discussing with Prime Minister Prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa the ways to further boost our bilateral relations and share views on regional and international issues of mutual interest,” Modi said.The prime minister would also be meeting King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other leaders.”I would also take the opportunity to interact with the Indian diaspora. I will be blessed to be present at the formal beginning of the re-development of the temple of Shreenathji – the oldest in the Gulf region in the wake of the auspicious festival of Janmashtami. I am confident that this visit would further deepen our relationship across the sectors,” Modi said.
New Delhi: The ED said on Tuesday that it has attached assets, including three luxury apartments, worth Rs 92 crore of a Kolkata-based firm in connection with its probe into the alleged bank fraud and money laundering by the company. The agency said a provisional order for attachment of the properties of the company, SPS Steel Rolling Mills Ltd, has been issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The company was known for producing ‘Elegant Steel’ brand and its control was taken over by another Kolkata-based firm in April after the alleged bank default was detected some years ago. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja “The attached assets consist of shares of an entity owning a 5-star hotel, three luxurious apartments, office building and 0.33 acres of land,” the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in a statement. It filed a criminal case in the alleged bank fraud based on a CBI FIR against the company, the beneficial owner of the company, Bipin Kumar Vohra, and others for “defrauding a consortium of eight banks led by the Allahabad Bank in Kolkata for an amount of around Rs 550 crore”. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway Investigation revealed that the bank loan amount was “fraudulently siphoned” through formation of shell companies. “The accused also diverted the loan amount in their various other existing business activities like running five-star hotels, security agencies and also for re-payment of earlier debts,” the ED said. The provisionally attached assets were found to be the “proceeds of crime” and hence, were attached, it added. Following continuous defaults, the SPS Steel Rolling Mills was referred to the NCLT about 22 months ago.
New Delhi: The AAP government has told the Delhi High Court that it has come up with a draft policy for setting up rooms for feeding and changing diapers of infants in public places and the process of placing the document in public domain for suggestions is underway. The court was informed that the Delhi government’s Department of Women and Child Development (WCD) has drafted the policy which has been circulated to all landowning departments and other public-dealing departments in July for inviting comments. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderThe court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed on behalf of a mother and her newborn seeking breastfeeding facilities in public places away from “censuring and dishonourable looks”. The Delhi government, in an affidavit filed in response to the petition, said, the Department of Urban Development (UD) has asked the WCD department to frame a state policy on ‘setting up of feeding room for the purpose of baby care room or nursing station or changing soggy diapers or feeding of infant in public places’. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings”Accordingly, on behalf of department of UD, the department of WCD has drafted a state policy by the name ‘setting up of feeding room for the purpose of baby care room or nursing station or changing soggy diapers or feeding of infant in public places’,” it said. The affidavit said that as soon as comments and suggestions are received from all stakeholders and public spirited persons, the same will be examined in consultation with the urban development department and other landowning agencies. “Suggestions/comments which are in public interest will be incorporated in the draft policy, thereafter, the same will be issued after seeking approval of government,” it said. The affidavit, filed before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar, said the final policy will be sent to all stakeholders and landowning departments for its implementation and timelines will be sought so that the implementation can be monitored. The Delhi government said it is exploring the possibility of incorporating such rooms in future building plans and amendments to building bye-laws to implement the policy. Several consultations have been held with the civic bodies, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the departments of women and child development, and urban development. The plea, filed through advocate Animesh Rastogi, contends that not providing such facilities amounts to “hampering” women’s right to privacy. The high court had earlier sought the stand of the Centre, the Delhi government and civic authorities here on the plea for providing facilities to mothers to breastfeed in public places, observing that such spaces were being provided all over the world.It had said the matter needs to be examined by all landowning agencies and civic bodies and issued notice to the municipal bodies and DDA, apart from the Centre and the Delhi government. It had noted there were no facilities to breastfeed even in airports here.
FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s premier says his government will introduce a carbon pricing model that helps combat climate change while respecting his province’s economic realities.“We will establish a carbon price that minimizes the impact on consumers, calls on large industry to reduce emissions or pay its fair share, and establishes a climate fund with dedicated investments to combat the effects of climate change,” Brian Gallant said Tuesday.He made the comments as Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau delivered his government’s throne speech, opening a new session of the provincial legislature.Despite the commitment to move forward on carbon pricing during the current session, the government still hasn’t chosen a model to use.“We’re going to ensure we take the time necessary and we make the decision based on all of the evidence before us and all of the other different models and approaches that have been used to come up with a system that will work here in New Brunswick to combat climate change, all the while making sure economic growth is at the forefront of our efforts,” Gallant told reporters.Green Leader David Coon said the government should be having a public discussion on climate change and carbon pricing, rather than just unveiling a chosen model.“We should have had a public debate about it by now because there are so many ways to do carbon pricing wrong that hurts people and business and other ways to do it right. They’re not willing to engage in that public discussion. That’s frustrating and dangerous,” he said.Coon said it should be easy to regulate carbon emissions because there are only two large industries that emit carbon in any amount — power plants owned by NB Power, and an Irving Oil refinery.Meanwhile Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said carbon pricing can be avoided. Higgs said he would impose emission limits as a means of combating climate change, and any violators would face hefty fines.“I would argue that if I’m meeting the standards of environmental targets then there isn’t any grounds for the federal government just to say tax the people more anyway,” he said.In neighbouring Nova Scotia, the provincial government introduced legislation last month.Nova Scotia officials said the goal would be to set declining greenhouse gas caps each year until 2022 that would correspond to projected emissions levels resulting from the federal government setting a carbon price that will rise to $50 a tonne by 2022.That price will be set at $10 a tonne beginning next year.On Monday, the British Columbia government announced plans to introduce climate legislation next spring that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below 2007 levels over the next 13 years.B.C. is set to increase its carbon tax by $5 per tonne next April, raising the tax to $35 per tonne.Earlier this month, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said it appears the federal government has the right to force a carbon tax on the provinces, but there may be some wiggle room when it comes to the exact amount, especially if emission reduction targets are being met.Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said he will fight the tax proposal, possibly through a lawsuit.New Brunswick’s throne speech Tuesday offered an outline of what else to expect from the Liberal government during the final year of their mandate.In the speech, Vienneau said the government plans to help grow the economy by further reducing the small business tax rate and launching a new strategy aimed at maintaining and growing New Brunswick’s population.The speech also said the government plans to spend more on educational infrastructure, introduce legislation to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana, and help seniors stay in their own homes longer.The speech makes no mention of a recent property assessment scandal that saw some assessments double, but Gallant said he’s waiting for the auditor general to complete her review of the system before making any changes.
FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick government is setting 19 as the minimum legal age for cannabis use.Health Minister Benoit Bourque said Wednesday it’s the right age to make an informed decision, and matches the province’s minimum age for alcohol use.He said other provinces are also aligning ages on marijuana and alcohol use.Public Safety Minister Denis Landry says setting the age at 19 will help to achieve the goal of keeping marijuana out of the hands of criminals and youth.The federal government plans to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018.In September, Ontario announced it plans to set the minimum age at 19 and sell cannabis through government-run outlets.Last month, Alberta proposed to make 18 the minimum age to use marijuana, with no decision yet on whether to sell cannabis through government-run stores or through private operators.The Nova Scotia government is seeking feedback on a legal age of 19 for marijuana use, with sales through a Crown corporation like the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.Last week, the New Brunswick government announced that a subsidiary of NB Liquor will operate retail stores and online sales of recreational cannabis.Shoppers will have their identification checked at the door and all products will be kept under glass.A tender was recently issued for 20 retail locations in 15 communities across the province.
OTTAWA – “The Liberals are buying rusted-out fighter jets from Australia even though the defence minister actually said that they would never buy used planes. We know that these 80s-era (planes) are rusted out because a 2012 Australian report said corrosion was so bad that the number of active flying days had to be cut. This is not a bucket of bolts, Mr. Speaker. This is a bucket of rusted-out bolts, Mr. Speaker. Why are they going back on their word?” — Conservative MP Tony Clement, Dec. 12.—Another chapter was added this week to the interminable saga to replace Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets when the Liberal government officially abandoned plans to buy 18 Super Hornets from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, which is in the midst of a bitter trade dispute with Montreal-based Bombardier.Canada will instead purchase 18 used F-18s — similar to the CF-18s the Royal Canadian Air Force is using now, and just as old — as an interim measure to deal with what the Liberals call a critical shortage of jets until they can replace the whole fleet.The Conservatives have been crowing about the second-hand, 30-year-old planes — Ontario MP Tony Clement calls them a “bucket of bolts,” and a rusty one at that.Allowing some room for rhetorical flourish, particularly during the proverbial cut and thrust of question period, are the jets indeed as old, corroded and useless as Clement suggests?Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).This one earns a rating of “a little baloney.” Here’s why.THE FACTSClement based his assertion on a 2012 report from the Australian National Audit Office, which examined the impact of prolonging the use of the jets beyond 2020, in order to better align with the expected delivery date of the new F-35 stealth fighters produced by U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.That report pointed out the planes were showing signs of fatigue ahead of schedule, becoming more costly to repair and, yes, getting rusty.“Corrosion is also a significant threat to the continued airworthiness of aged aircraft, over and above the limitations imposed by airframe hours and fatigue,” said the report.The auditor general noted this was not yet affecting the ability to fly, but could put the goal of making it to 2020 at risk.The report also said airframe corrosion was being discovered more often and fixing it was getting more expensive. It also, as Clement emphasized, more than doubled the time the fleet was unavailable to fly.Not all hope was lost, the report concluded — but it would be expensive.“As long as corrosion is effectively managed by Defence so that it does not affect structural integrity, corrosion will remain a matter of budgeting and management rather than a threat to capability.”THE EXPERTSIt turns out military planes are not the only things that begin to show their age.Last year, Australia announced its defence scientists had found a new way to evaluate military aircraft fatigue of military aircraft, said Australian defence expert Peter Layton.That new algorithm, which the Australian Department of Defence described as thoroughly peer-reviewed and tested, showed the situation to be less dire — welcome news to the government, which like Canada had been dealing with its share of delays and controversies surrounding its purchase of F-35s.“They found a new way of measuring fatigue and realized in fact it wasn’t as bad as they thought,” said Layton, a visiting fellow with the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, near Brisbane, Australia.“Clearly, it is true that the jets are not as bad as the auditor’s report said they were,” he said. “That is sort of old news that has been overtaken by events.”There are other factors to consider.Cmdr. Brad Vizard, the defence attache to the Australian High Commission in Ottawa, said the fighter jets have had some major upgrades.“There have been significant investments in the development of structural modifications that have extended the life of the fleet, which has kept them operational and kept them in operations,” said Vizard, noting the Royal Australian Air Force plans to keep flying its remaining planes until 2022.Since the Australian jets are so similar to the CF-18s, the Royal Canadian Air Force could improve them even more. That’s the plan, said Daniel Le Bouthillier, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence.“Canada has invested in the development of additional structural modifications that Australia did not,” Le Bouthillier wrote in an email. “These modifications are currently being applied to Canadian aircraft, but could also be applied to Australian aircraft acquired by Canada, thereby allowing a further life extension.”Le Bouthillier, who said the Canadian government is aware of the 2012 report, noted the Australians have since brought in measures to mitigate the rust — and besides, the Canadian climate has not caused the same issues with rust.Andre Deschamps, a retired lieutenant-general with the Royal Canadian Air Force, said that even if the Australian fighter jets are nearing the end of their lives, they will not be needed for all that long.“A thousand hours should do us,” he said.Tom Lawson, a former chief of defence staff, said it would not be fair to dismiss the usefulness of the Australian planes the way Clement has been doing, given they are still operational.But he also does not entirely blame him.“Certainly there is some point to Clement’s comments in that there fully was an expectation by the government that we were going to get a new interim aircraft en route to a brand new replacement at some point,” said Lawson.Still, he said it would be hard to argue against buying planes so compatible with the current CF-18s as a stopgap.“It’s expensive, and a much better way is to just go to competition really fast and save your money, but this is a viable way forward.”THE VERDICTClement said he was not persuaded by the new math — although, he joked, relieved to learn The Canadian Press wasn’t taking him too literally.“I think I’ll trust the Australian auditor general over the Australian government,” he said. “Maybe they are 100-per-cent spin-free in government in Australia, but I certainly doubt it.”Still, when one takes both the upgrades and the new algorithm into account, it might be a bit of a stretch to call them a bucket of bolts.As Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, said Tuesday, the planes are not only ready to fly — they are already flying.“Make no mistake, these aircraft will work fine and those aircraft are very much needed,” he said.For this reason, Clement’s statement contains “a little baloney.”METHODOLOGYThe Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:No baloney — the statement is completely accurate.A little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required.Some baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing.A lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth.Full of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurate.SOURCES:— https://www.anao.gov.au/sites/g/files/net616/f/201213%20Audit%20Report%20No%205.pdf— https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/news/2016/03/24/maths-extending-lives-our-f/18-hornets— With files from Lee Berthiaume— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter
OTTAWA – Federal officials have rejected requests from more than 1,500 organizations for funding through the government’s premier summer jobs program, a 12-fold increase since the Liberals added new funding criteria that have drawn the ire of faith-based groups.The government says rejections are up year-over-year to 1,561 this year compared with 126 in 2017.The rejections could be for multiple reasons, such as not meeting funding requirements, missing details on forms or objecting to the wording of a new declaration that the jobs to be funded, as well as the main activities of groups themselves, respect reproductive rights.Overall, figures provided by the government show officials are combing through 41,031 eligible applications, a small decline from the 41,716 last year that funded about 69,000 jobs — which the government used during debate Monday as a sign that all was fine with the program, despite concerns from the Opposition Conservatives.The additional wording on this year’s application was in response to concerns Labour Minister Patty Hajdu heard last year that funding through the popular jobs program had gone towards paying for students to protest outside abortion clinics or create and distribute graphic anti-abortion pamphlets, or to groups that refused to hire LGBTQ staff.Hajdu has said the declaration was the result of a review of how money was handed out in previous year and documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the access to information law shed some light on the process.The briefing note to Hajdu, which was focused on revised timelines for the summer jobs program, noted that the stipulation was to ensure money went to “projects and organizations with mandates that are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and court decisions.” She had to approve the final wording before MPs received annual packages to help promote the politically popular jobs program in which local MPs decide who gets funding.The wording of the declaration, officials wrote, “is intended to assist employers in deciding whether to apply for funding.” The department planned to “rely on applicants to validate their eligibility” for funding under the new criteria by checking off a box on the application form.Officials, however, have had to look closer at thousands of groups to ensure that they have been honest on their forms.Hajdu’s department also found 10 pages of documents related to a legal review of the addition to the declaration, but officials said none of it can be made public because it is subject to solicitor-client privilege.Many faith-based groups have crossed out the wording on the form they found problematic, didn’t check the box confirming their agreement to the stipulations, or have attached a letter objecting to the requirements and asking for a change in language.Program officials have deemed these applications as incomplete, because they do not agree to the eligibility requirements.The Tories pressed the Liberals to back down on the declaration. Conservative critic Karen Vecchio said about 15 groups in her riding didn’t apply for funding because the wording conflicted with their personal beliefs. She said the Liberals were helping for-profit businesses at the expense of faith-based groups that “provide housing and child care.”Hajdu tried to paint the Tories as being anti-abortion, arguing the previous Conservative government funded anti-abortion groups and groups that discriminate against the LGBTQ community.“Young people are counting on us to stand up for their rights to deliver this program in a way that is fair and equitable and respects all Canadians and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” Hajdu said.— Follow @jpress on Twitter.
OTTAWA – The Russian Embassy is firing back at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for criticizing President Vladimir Putin at a news conference this week.But a leading expert on Russia and the Arctic is dismissing the dust-up as the result of a mistaken prime minister, and a junior Russian diplomat with an itchy Twitter finger.Trudeau said on Wednesday during a Toronto press conference that Putin needs to start playing a more positive role in the world on a variety of fronts, from Ukraine, to Syria, to the Arctic, as well as answering for Russia’s role in the nerve gas attack in Britain two weeks ago.The embassy tweeted its response on Thursday, accusing Trudeau of using confrontational and unproductive rhetoric.Trudeau also said on Wednesday that Canada needs to be vigilant about protecting the integrity of its electoral systems from foreign interference. However, the Russian Embassy tweet did not mention election meddling.Trudeau’s remarks came after several recent warnings about possible Russian interference in the 2019 federal election, including from eastern European diplomats in Ottawa, as well as top NATO researcher.Trudeau listed some positive behaviour he said he’d like to see from Putin.“Whether it’s pulling back of his engagement in the Donbass or leaving Crimea,” the prime minister said, “whether it’s taking responsibility for . . . the important questions that the U.K. has asked after the terrible poisoning incident a few weeks ago in Salisbury, whether it’s questions around NATO, questions around Syria, questions around the Arctic.”The House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion this week that blames Russia for what it calls a despicable nerve gas attack in Britain against former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury. The British government says they were poisoned with a Russian nerve agent.Trudeau’s final example of the Arctic drew the ire of the Russian Embassy in its tweet. The Arctic is one area where the two countries have tried to co-operate through the Arctic Council and bilaterally.“We regret PM Trudeau’s confrontational rhetoric at yesterday’s Toronto press-conference prompted by UK slanderous Russophobic hysteria,” said Thursday’s tweet.“This language of ultimatums is totally unacceptable & counterproductive, especially for bilateral dialogue on important issues, like the Arctic.”Trudeau’s office did not reply to a request for comment on why he included a reference to the Arctic in his remarks, or whether Canada’s Arctic policy had taken a negative turn with Russia.But his office reiterated his criticism of Putin, including his call for Russia to co-operate with the never gas attack investigation.“As our government said in the past, Russia must respect the rules-based international order,” said spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon.“We will continue to maintain pressure, including through economic sanctions, until Russia meets its obligations under international law.”Michael Byers, an expert on the Arctic, dismissed the affair as an inconsequential chain of events.“The prime minister made a tiny mistake and a junior diplomat picked up on it. End of story,” said Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.Byers said he has travelled to Moscow and met with Russian foreign ministry officials as part of his work on Arctic foreign policy.“The Arctic is one of just a couple of places where Russian-Western co-operation remains good.”Byers also said no weight should be given to the fact the statement was made on a Twitter account linked to the Russian Embassy.He said the account is run by a press secretary “who is a very active tweeter — you might even call him a troll.”Byers said he has blocked the account on Twitter.“Yes, he is an employee of the Russian foreign ministry, but he is a long way from the centre.”Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously said that former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter died in the poison attack.
OTTAWA – Conservatives are forcing MPs to stay up all night voting continuously on more than 250 motions — a filibuster launched in retaliation for the Liberals voting down a Tory motion to call Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser to testify at a House of Commons committee about the prime minister’s disastrous trip to India.Conservatives predicted the non-stop voting on all the motions, which started around dinner time Thursday, would take about 40 hours.The filibuster will result in a hefty overtime bill for the Commons, since its services must be available whenever the chamber is sitting.Those services include security, cafeteria, shuttle buses, messengers, translation, transcription, printing, maintenance and tech support.After about three hours of voting, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant asked that the Commons mobilize additional staff so that the young pages in the chamber would not be “run off their feet all night.”Back in 2011, when the NDP conducted a 58-hour filibuster against the then Conservative government, Tory MP Candice Bergen — now the party’s House leader — pegged the cost of keeping the Commons running at $50,000 an hour, although her own government disputed that figure.Whatever the overtime costs for Commons employees, they don’t include the cost of rearranging travel plans. Many MPs, particularly from far-flung parts of the country, normally return to their ridings on Thursday nights. Cabinet ministers also tend to fan out across the country on Fridays to make announcements or attend events.Transport Minister Marc Garneau had to cancel his plans to travel Friday to Lac Megantic, Que. — site of the 2013 rail disaster that levelled half the downtown area — where he was scheduled to discuss rail safety with the Quebec Federation of Municipalities.Conservatives maintained the disruption was warranted, given the government’s refusal to let the prime minister’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, testify at the national security committee about the briefing he gave journalists during Trudeau’s India trip.“We need the same rights that journalists had, and if he doesn’t give it to us through this vote tonight, we are going to show that Parliament is going to sit until they do the right thing,” Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said earlier Thursday.Jean suggested to reporters covering Trudeau’s trouble-plagued trip last month that rogue factions in the Indian government had sabotaged the prime minister’s visit.That included the embarrassing revelation that Jaspar Atwal — a one-time Canadian Sikh separatist extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian minister during a visit to Vancouver Island in 1986 — had been invited to two events with the prime minister during his India sojourn. The revelation came just as Trudeau was attempting to convince Indian officials that his government supports a united India and does not countenance violent extremism.In a media briefing arranged by the Prime Minister’s Office, Jean suggested Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government who want to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India.Trudeau has since defended Jean, saying he’s a professional, non-partisan, veteran public servant who only says what he knows to be true.But the Conservatives maintain Jean was used by the PMO to deflect attention from a public relations disaster.“When the prime minister uses a senior and respected civil servant as a human shield to get out of a bad political scandal, that’s terrible,” said O’Toole.He questioned how one could argue that Indian factions could have been responsible when a Liberal backbencher, Randeep Sarai, has taken responsibility for getting Atwal on the guest lists and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called the incident an “honest mistake.”“Both of these scenarios can’t be true and the fact they brought up the India conspiracy theory also is a blight on a good relationship with an important country,” O’Toole said.The Conservative motions are all related to budgetary matters, which are considered matters of confidence. The government must, therefore, ensure enough of its MPs are present at all times to avoid losing any of the votes — which would be deemed a loss of confidence and trigger an election.
MONTREAL – Canadian makers and users of aluminum and steel say they are disappointed but not surprised by the Trump administration’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum produced north of the border.United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says exemptions for Canada, Mexico and Europe from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum will expire as of midnight, as scheduled.The head of the Aluminum Association of Canada says the 10 per cent tariffs to be imposed Friday on his industry will cause the most harm to Americans who will face higher prices for goods made from the metals, but could also damage smaller Canadian suppliers.Jean Simard says Americans will continue to pay a premium to purchase aluminum in addition to the new tariff as suppliers are likely to pass the price increase on to consumers.He says the tariff designed to protect the U.S. industry is the wrong tool directed at the wrong place.The United States used 5.5 million tonnes of aluminum last year, largely imported from Canada, but only produced about 700,000 tonnes domestically.The U.S. Beer Institute says its members, which includes Denver and Montreal-based Molson Coors Brewing Co., are united against the tariffs on imported aluminum.Institute CEO Jim McGreevy called the tariffs a new tax on the U.S. beer industry.He said the tariffs will in the long run increase the cost of global beer production but have a disproportionate impact on American brewers and jobs.Molson Coors analyst Brittany Weissman of Edward Jones says brewers will try to pass along the higher costs to consumers but the industry’s current demand challenges may make that difficult.She says most companies have some breathing room because of hedging contracts that protect them from wild price swings.But aluminum prices have already risen as buyers have hoarded the material.Molson Coors chairman Pete Coors says the company purchases 500 million pounds of aluminum annually. It makes up two-thirds of their U.S. packaging costs about 60 per cent in Canada.Companies in this story: (TSX:TPX.B)
Amnesty International says the global community should form a united front with Canada and speak out to protect two recently arrested women, including the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.Genevieve Paul, the director of Amnesty’s francophone branch, points out that pressure is put on the Saudi government when news of such arrests becomes public.“I don’t think it will worsen the situation because very often when we make evident unjust imprisonments, like the case of Samar Badawi, that increases their protection and increases pressure on the government,” she said in an interview Monday.Amnesty International has said Badawi’s sister was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.Paul pointed to the case of Raif Badawi as an example of how putting international pressure on the Saudis can have an impact.“He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison, he received 50 lashes in 2015 and he could receive others, but he hasn’t,” she said.“We do believe that this is because of continuous pressure and visibility on Raif’s case so we’re really hoping that more states speak out on Samar Badawi and all other activists.”Paul stressed the situation is worse when the government does what it wants in secret and is not singled out for alleged human rights violations.“Clearly the aggressive reaction of the Saudi government shows that it’s been disturbed,” she added.Saudi Arabia said Sunday it was ordering Canada’s ambassador to leave the country and freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada in a spat over human rights.Paul said the Saudi government knows there are serious human rights violations in the country.“It shows the real colours of the regime, and the international community should toughen its tone against the Saudi government,” she said.The Amnesty spokeswoman noted a ban on women drivers was lifted in June, but that a number of activists who campaigned for the right to drive were arrested and face up to 20 years in prison.“That’s proof there’s double talk, it’s proof that there is no real reform in the country,” she said. “On the contrary, the repression has intensified.”She reiterated that Ottawa should suspend the sale of armoured vehicles to the Saudis, claiming that Amnesty still has strong reasons to believe they are being used in Yemen to commit serious human rights violations.“We’ve been saying that without a serious human rights evaluation, we should not be transferring any military aid, any arms to Saudi Arabia,” Paul said.Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife, who lives in Quebec with her three children, said Monday she was surprised when she heard about the two new arrests.Haidar and her children became Canadian citizens this past Canada Day.
TORONTO — A Toronto doctor says Ontario’s medical regulator has decided not to investigate dozens of complaints made about her push for stricter gun laws.Dr. Najma Ahmed says the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told her of its decision yesterday.Ahmed is a founding member of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a group calling for a national ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.Another group, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, had urged its supporters to file official complaints to the college about Ahmed’s advocacy work.The coalition argues doctors are not experts on firearms policy and should not be taking political positions.Those who filed complaints have 30 days to appeal the college’s decision.In a statement today, the doctors’ group said it is pleased by the college’s decision not to pursue the more than 70 complaints made about Ahmed.“Dr. Ahmed wishes to sincerely thank Canadians for the hundreds of letters, emails, calls, and demonstrations of support and solidarity she has received in recent days,” it said. “The (college) decision is affirmation that advocacy for public health is an integral responsibility of physicians.”The college said it could not confirm the details of its decision given the appeal period. Its registrar, Nancy Whitmore, has previously said the complaints process is generally intended to focus on clinical care or professional behaviour rather than political issues.The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press MARKHAM, Ont. — A lot of questions remain to be answered today after four bodies were found inside a home in Markham, Ont., just north of Toronto.York Regional Police said officers discovered the bodies Sunday afternoon while responding to a 911 call about possible injuries at the home.They said the officers were met at the door by a 20-year-old man who was later taken into custody, but there was still word as of Sunday night whether he’d been charged with anything.And no information was immediately released about the identities of the deceased, their ages, genders, relationship to each other, or how they died.A command post was being set up in the neighbourhood as investigators, including a forensic identification unit and the coroner, continued to comb through the house for evidence.Police also made a point of trying to reassure shocked neighbours that they would get to the bottom of the incident.“I want to reassure everybody that this is a safe community and that we’re doing everything we can so whoever is responsible for this incident is taken before our courts,” Const. Andy Pattenden told reporters and community members gathered behind yellow police tape.Pattenden said he didn’t have any information about whether there could be other suspects, but asked anyone who may have seen or heard anything of note to come forward.“All the resources we have at York Regional Police will be involved in this investigation,” he said.
OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.The Canadian Press