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Bali to host UN meeting on stamping out corruption

The five-day meeting of the Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption will be opened on 28 January by the country’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which is the custodian of the Convention, noted that “since corruption hurts us all, we have a shared responsibility to stop it.”Antonio Maria Costa added that the Bali meeting “provides a chance to replace a culture of corruption with an environment of integrity.” The first and only legally binding anti-corruption treaty, the Convention came into force on 14 December 2005, and thus far has been signed by 140 States and ratified by 107.Among other things, it requires States to prevent corruption, make it a criminal offence, cooperate in stamping it out and return stolen assets.A key item on the meeting’s agenda will be to create a means to review the treaty’s implementation.“The UN anti-corruption Convention provides benchmarks to plug holes in domestic legislation and strengthen national capacity to fight corruption,” Mr. Costa said. “An effective review mechanism will ensure that this powerful piece of international law lives up to its potential.” 16 January 2008Over 1,000 people from more than 100 nations – including Government officials, business leaders, law enforcement personnel, journalists, entertainers and civil society representatives – will convene in Bali, Indonesia, later this month for a United Nations conference on curbing corruption. read more

Chad Central African Republic UN envoy welcomes release of child soldiers

“I have been given assurances that parties involved in conflict have agreed to free children in both countries,” the UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said in a statement today. “The next challenge will be to reintegrate the children with their families and communities,” she added.In Chad the Government has agreed to let UN agencies visit army camps and training centres to verify the releases and identify children, Ms. Coomaraswamy told reporters today in New York, after completing her visit. A Government task force on reintegration of children will also be created. Ms. Coomaraswamy noted, however, that in Chad there have still not been any commitments on child recruitment by non-government armed groups who, she said, “recruit a great many children.”In Chad the UN envoy met with rebel leader Laurent Djim Wei of the Armée Populaire pour la Restauration de la Démocratie (APRD) who agreed to provide a list of all children associated with his group and to release them once the UN presents an action plan for their reintegration.“We’re very happy about this. We don’t know the exact numbers but this should happen in the near future,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said, but added that currently there are not enough resources for the effective reintegration of children into their communities. She said her office and the UN country team in Chad would now try to raise funds for the process.The UN envoy also met with Zacharia Damane, of the Union des Forces Démocratiques pour l’Unité (UFDR), an armed group in the north-east of the country, to monitor compliance with an accord signed a year ago with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government on the release of children. In the northwest of the Central African Republic (CAR) Ms. Coomaraswamy held meetings with internally displaced families.“They do not live in camps. They actually go back to the bush and the living conditions are intolerable,” she said. “They showed us the water they drink which is full of mud… We spoke with the women separately and they told us stories of sexual violence in the bush and they also told us how children were recruited and then re-recruited, if they ran away, by the non-state actors in the region.” She added that UNICEF has begun to set up makeshift schools in the bush so that children can go to classes, but stressed that there were no health centres or health facilities anywhere in the area.However, Ms. Coomaraswamy told reporters that there were some grounds for optimism in the country after efforts by the UN and the international diplomatic community to broker a peace accord. “There is a hope that by the end of this month there will be a major agreement among all the armed actors in CAR and we have been pushing all sides to include a provision for the protection of children in the peace agreement,” she said. 2 June 2008Chad has agreed to release all former child combatants held in detention, while armed rebel groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have also committed to freeing any children in their ranks, a top United Nations envoy announced today after a six day trip to the two countries. read more

Threats to quasiState economy jeopardizes Ivorian stability warn UN experts

In its midterm report to the Security Council, the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire – divided since 2002 between the Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles – noted that quasi-private militias maintain control over natural resources in the north and exact rents from local businesses and the civilian population.The report noted that the north of the country is fractured into a series of politico-military commands which compete, sometimes violently, over natural resources and depend on the availability of foreign and local markets for the export of the resources, as well as relations with foreign suppliers to import fuel, vehicles and weapons.Despite the arms embargo, a provision of the 2007 Ouagadougou Agreement signed by the Government and Forces Nouvelles, the report warned that the factions in the conflict remain heavily armed and ready to resume hostilities should the political situation deteriorate and their economic interests threatened.“It is also imperative to avoid an escalation of verbal confrontation which would only divert attention from the issues that real concern Ivorians,” UNOCI spokesperson Hamadoun Touré told journalists in Abidjan.In response to a question on the call by elements of the Forces Nouvelles for the Prime Minister to resign, Mr. Touré said that it was an internal matter and underscored the importance of the institutional framework established by the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. “We are counting on this system, otherwise we are going to find ourselves in situations which could be beyond our control and take us back.”He noted that there are urgent challenges to overcome in order to organize open, free, fair and democratic elections as soon as possible.After a meeting with the West-African nation’s Prime Minister yesterday, Y. J. Choi, head of UNOCI, told correspondents that there is now peace and stability in the country, with commercial activity in the south, north and west, and the identification and voter registration operation making strides.However, he said, there have been delays in the electoral process, which now lacks a timetable, along with slow implementation of the latest addendums to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, especially with regards to the transfer of authority, the centralization of the treasury and the redeployment of the administration in the north. Earlier, the spokesman had announced that Mr. Choi, who is also the Special Representative of Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, would be presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the country to the Security Council on 28 April. 17 April 2009The fragile political stability in Côte d’Ivoire is at significant risk of collapsing into armed conflict if the economic interests of various factions are threatened in the West African country, according to a group of United Nations experts in a report made public today. read more

Solutions to financial crisis must have input of developing nations – UN

The upcoming high-level General Assembly Economic Crisis Summit, which will be held from 1-3 June in New York, will assess the crisis that has devastated the world economy and search for solutions that take into account the interests of all nations. “What we are trying to accomplish … is to ensure that the full impact of decisions that are made is analysed and understood,” Michael Clark, senior advisor to President Miguel D’Escoto, told a news conference. “So that countries which are most affected but have the least ability to influence the global policies and who also have the least ability to bail themselves out have a voice and a presence in these discussions,” added Mr. Clark.Solutions to tackle the crisis will not be found at the UN and “they won’t literally be in an outcome document or statement or communiqué,” but participants of the conference will have the “ability to have an impact on the global agenda.”Mr. Clark noted that some ideas, such as looking at the role of the international reserve currency in easing the strain on financial markets is now part of government dialogue thanks to a commission of experts convened by the UN and headed by Nobel Laureate for economics Joseph Stiglitz.“So we have an ability to exercise influence that isn’t limited to what is said, written or agreed here,” Mr. Clark said. “That said we’ve been working very hard to produce a statement that has some special characteristics.”The June conference will provide a stronger voice and greater participation for the emerging and developing world in the global decision making process, in particular in fixing the “deeper structural problems in the way we manage the global economy,” including restructuring the Bretton Woods institutions.“We had the emerging and developing world actually lending money to developed countries. We had unsustainable deficits and in some ways unsustainable surpluses accumulating and we need to get to the heart of those issues,” stressed Mr. Clark.“We’re not going to solve all these problems in year or even two but it’s time we took seriously the need to make this effort more inclusive and diverse.” 1 May 2009The global conversation aimed at finding solutions to alleviate the economic and financial turmoil enveloping markets around the world needs to widen participation to include poor and developing nations, a senior advisor to the President of the United Nations General Assembly said today. read more

European and United States forestry sector hit hard by global recession –

The 56-country UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), whose membership includes the United States and Canada, accounts for nearly half of global forests, and the region is also the largest global producer, consumer, exporter and importer of wood and paper products.The new joint report by UNECE and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that consumption, production and trade of forest products reached record highs in 2006, with a slight downturn registered in 2007.That decline accelerated in 2008, marking the sharpest drop since the first oil shock of 1973, and continued into the first half of this year, it said.But the study pointed to marked distinctions between the three UNECE subregions, with consumption marking 3 per cent growth in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).However, with forest products markets primarily driven by housing construction requiring lumber, which tumbled dramatically in North America and Europe, consumption plummeted by nearly 13 per cent and almost 6 per cent, respectively.From a peak of 2.2 million new homes in 2006, new constructions took a nose-dive, falling 25 per cent in 2007, 34 per cent in 2008 and an estimated 50 per cent this year. The UNECE/FAO study said that housing construction was down by 14 per cent last year and the same amount in 2009.Although more houses continue to be built in the CIS, the pace has softened, the agencies said.The fall in demand has pushed the real prices of building materials to their lows since the 1940s, while the paper sector is also falling deeper in to crisis, with production in Europe, North America and the CIS all reporting declines.UNECE and FAO reported that some mills in the region have permanently ceased their operations, while forest owners and managers have cut back on their harvests, resulting in unemployment, as well as less income and tax revenues.On the bright side, the new report noted that the wood energy sector seems to be immune to the current economic downturn, as demand for renewable energy sources, such as wood biomass, continues to steadily climb thanks to government policies towards climate change mitigation and energy security. 4 August 2009The current economic crisis has pushed the European and the United States forestry sector into an even larger slump, according to a new United Nations study. read more

UNs Middle East envoy urges halt to demolitions evictions in East Jerusalem

1 December 2009The top United Nations envoy to the Middle East today reiterated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for an immediate end to demolitions, evictions and the instalment of Israeli settlers in Palestinian neighbourhoods, as he visited the Sheikh Jarrah area in East Jerusalem, outside a house that was occupied by settlers. “Provocative actions such as these create inevitable tensions, undermine trust, often have tragic human consequences and make resuming negotiations and achieving a two-State solution more difficult,” read a statement issued by the spokesperson for the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.Last week senior UN political official Haile Menkerios told the Security Council that Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement activity was one of several key challenges to the peace process. Mr. Ban has issued a series of statements recently calling for a halt to Israeli settlement activity and the demolition of Palestinian homes and evictions in East Jerusalem. In October he stated that Jerusalem must be the capital of two States – Israel and Palestine – with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all, if peace in the Middle East is to be achieved. read more

Burkina Faso UNbacked project boosts education health care for women farmers

6 May 2010A United Nations-backed pilot programme that supplies electric generators to rural women farmers in Burkina Faso, freeing them from lengthy chores so that they can devote more time to education, childcare and health care, is to be adopted on a national scale. “I think this technology makes a huge difference to women’s lives,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark told beneficiaries yesterday in Kienfangué, a town of 2,500 inhabitants near Ouagadougou, the capital of the poor West African country. “Pounding rice by hand is very hard and it takes a long time, but the generator can do it quickly.” The energy and food processing programme, which is turning the women into entrepreneurs while promoting local access to energy, has helped to install 441 diesel-run generators mounted on a chassis to which a variety of processing equipment can be attached, including mills, alternators and battery chargers.“By easing some of the women’s most difficult and time-consuming chores, such as fetching water, grinding and milling, the scheme has helped to free up a daily average of two to four hours for these women, which they have been able to spend on education, childcare, improving their health and generating additional sources of revenue,” UNDP said in a news release issued today.By reducing the time required for processing agricultural outputs, women farmers also have less need for their daughters to help with household tasks, leading to increased school attendance. An evaluation conducted in 14 villages in the Eastern region of Burkina Faso shows that literacy has risen from an average of 29 per cent to 39 per cent after the installation of the generators.Recognizing these results, the Government has already signed on to scale up to national level a programme that is also under way in Mali and Senegal. Six other countries in West Africa – Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Togo – have introduced their own pilot versions of the programme.“Having tools like this right across the villages of Burkina Faso would make a huge difference,” Miss Clark said. “The women are able to get into business activities, they have more time. I understand that more women are learning to read because they have more time. It has many, many benefits.”In Kienfangué, the technology is used by 30 women who have created a cooperative called Association Faso Solidarité. They use the generator to grind cereal, pound rice, and charge dozens of batteries as well as generating electricity for several buildings. They thus have raised additional revenue, most of them by selling increased quantities of rice.“I used to have trouble selling my rice because it would take me a whole day to pound it by hand and the result was of poor quality,” Maminatou Tassembédou said. “A 50-kilogram sack of rice could stay with me for two weeks without being sold and I would only make $1.47 per sack. Now it only takes me 30 minutes to pound the rice and I can sell two sacks in a single day, coming home with $4.90. With this money I can buy millet to eat at home and soap. I can also pay for my children’s schooling and even place some of my money in a savings fund.”Miss Clark, on a four-country visit to Africa which began in Mali earlier this week and will also take her to Tanzania and South Africa, also said she had seen huge progress in combating HIV and AIDS in Burkina Faso, in bringing clean drinking water to people, and in education. read more

New prison opens in Liberia as part of UN efforts to help

28 July 2010The United Nations deputy envoy in Liberia has assured the country of the world body’s continued support for recovery and development in the West African nation, which include a new modern UN-funded prison and a centre where peacekeepers will teach vocational skills to young people. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Deputy Special Representative for the Rule of Law at the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), handed over the maximum security prison in Sanniquellie, the provincial capital of Nimba, to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today. The facility was built by the UN in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice in Sanniquellie at a cost of $350,000 – provided by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which provides assistance to jump-start rebuilding projects in countries emerging from conflict.It has the capacity to hold 72 inmates, with separate facilities for men and women, and electricity, sanitation, kitchen and recreational facilities, as well as a solar-powered water pump and rain-harvest water storage to guarantee a constant supply of water. The Peacebuilding Fund has also sponsored the training of 50 new corrections officers, 20 of whom will be deployed to the new prison. In addition, Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers in Sanniquellie will assist the inmates with farming implements and seedlings to grow vegetables and cassava for their own use.In a report issued in February, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that, more than a decade after its civil war, Liberia is heading towards reconciliation but significant challenges remain in the development of its security and legal institutions, which will impact the future of the UN mission there. Noting the need to ensure that the Liberian National Police are independently operational and that Liberia redoubles its efforts in the area of rule of law, Mr. Ban identified financial resources as a requirement for continued progress in Liberia.The areas that need sustained donor support, he said, include the establishment of an efficient communications system, and the construction of a new Monrovia Central Prison to replace the existing structure, which is “overcrowded and dilapidated.”While in Sanniquellie, Ms. Mensa-Bonsu also took part in the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Bangla-Nimba Capacity Building Centre, where Bangladeshi peacekeepers will train Liberian youth in vocational skills, including information technology, tailoring, health care, carpentry, plumbing and cosmetology. read more

UN human rights chief joins condemnation of deadly West Bank attack

2 September 2010The United Nations human rights chief today added her voice to the chorus of condemnation of the killing of four Israeli citizens in the West Bank this week and urged that the perpetrators be brought to justice. The four civilians, who reportedly included a pregnant woman, were shot dead on Tuesday night as they travelled in a car near the city of Hebron in the occupied Palestinian territory.Another two people were wounded in a separate attack yesterday, and Hamas has reportedly claimed responsibility.Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement deploring the attacks which, “as well as being abhorrent in themselves, also appear to be aimed at undermining the current round of peace talks.”Direct peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – the first such talks between the two sides in nearly two years – began today in Washington D.C.In her statement Ms. Pillay also stressed that the perpetrators of this week’s attacks in the West Bank “can be held accountable under international criminal law.”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry have already issued their own statements expressing condemnation of Tuesday’s attack. read more

Number of Internet users to surpass 2 billion by end of year

The number of people with Internet access at home has increased from 1.4 billion in 2009 to almost 1.6 billion in 2010, with 65 per cent of these in developed countries and only 13.5 per cent in developing countries, where access in schools, at work and public locations is critical, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said, releasing the new data on the eve of World Statistics Day.By the end the year, 71 per cent of the population in developed countries will be online, compared to 21 per cent in developing countries. Regional differences are significant: 65 per cent of Europeans are on the Internet, compared to only 9.6 per cent of Africans.With the rapidly increasing high-bandwidth content and applications on the Internet, there is a growing demand for higher-speed broadband connections as a catalyst for growth.ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré has called broadband “the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology,” generating jobs, driving growth and productivity, and underpinning long-term economic competitiveness. Over the past year, there has been strong growth in fixed broadband subscriptions and by the end of 2010, fixed broadband penetration will reach 8 per cent globally, but levels in developing countries remain low at 4.4 subscriptions per 100 people compared to 24.6 in developed countries.While high-speed Internet is still out of reach for many people in poorer countries, mobile telephony is becoming ubiquitous, with access to networks now available to over 90 per cent of the global population. Data indicate that among the estimated 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2010, 3.8 billion will be in the developing world.“Mobile phone penetration in developing countries now stands at 68 per cent, higher than any other technology before,” ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Sami Al Basheer said. “These countries have been innovative in adapting mobile technology to their particular needs and will be able to draw even greater benefits from broadband once adequate and affordable access is available.” Overall, the price of services is falling, but high-speed Internet access remains prohibitively expensive, especially in low-income developing countries. In 2009, an entry-level fixed (wired) broadband connection cost on average 190 PPP$ (Purchasing power parity in dollars) per month in developing countries, compared to only 28 PPP$ in developed countries.Mobile cellular services are much more affordable, with an average monthly cost of 15 PPP$ in developing countries compared to around 18 PPP$ in developed countries. The relative price for ICT services, especially broadband, is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. 19 October 2010The number of Internet users worldwide has doubled in the past five years and will surpass the 2 billion mark in 2010, with the majority of the 226 million new users this year coming from developing countries, the United Nations telecommunication agency reported today. read more

UN official deplores NATO attack on Libyan television station

8 August 2011The head of the United Nations agency entrusted with safeguarding press freedom today deplored a recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) attack on Libyan State broadcasting facilities last month which killed three media workers and injured 21 people. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement, citing a Security Council resolution from 2006 that condemns acts of violence against journalists and media personnel in conflict situations. “The NATO strike is also contrary to the principles of the Geneva Conventions that establish the civilian status of journalists in times of war even when they engage in propaganda,” she added. “Silencing the media is never a solution. Fostering independent and pluralistic media is the only way to enable people to form their own opinion.”NATO issued a statement saying that the strike was conducted in accordance with Security Council resolution 1973 adopted in March, which authorizes the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya, where the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has conducted a military offensive against citizens seeking both greater freedoms and his removal from power. read more

Turkish dish and Korean tightrope walking join UN intangible heritage list

28 November 2011Three elements from the Republic of Korea (ROK), one from Spain and one from Turkey were added today to the United Nations-backed list of the world’s outstanding examples of intangible heritage. The latest additions bring to 19 the total of newly inscribed items this year, which are determined by a 24-member intergovernmental committee meeting in Bali, Indonesia.The items from the ROK include traditional tightrope walking known as Jultagi, which is accompanied by music and dialogue between the tightrope walker and a clown; the traditional martial art of Taekkyeon, which promotes community integration and public health; and the process of weaving of Mosi, which involves the harvesting, boiling and bleaching of ramie plants to create yarn from their fibre, which is then turned into dress suits and military uniforms.The festivity of ‘la Mare de Déu de la Salut’ (Our Lady of Health), celebrated each year on 7 and 8 September in Algemesí, Spain, was also added. During the festivities, almost 1,400 people participate in theatre, music, and dance numbers which have been passed down by the townspeople from generation to generation and are performed in historical areas of the city. Another addition was Keskek, the traditional Turkish ceremonial wheat and meat dish prepared for several ceremonies such as weddings, circumcisions, and religious holidays. Women and men prepare the dish together in huge cauldrons and the preparation method has been transmitted by master cooks to apprentices for many years.The committee, created under a convention that was adopted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2003, will wrap up its considerations tomorrow. read more

Gas prices set to spike up to three cents a litre overnight

A gas price watcher is warning that pump prices will rise significantly overnight Tuesday, up to 3 cents a litre in parts of the country.Dan McTeague’s website Tomorrow’s Gas Prices Today notes the rise would come ahead of the busy long weekend in both Canada and the U.S.He predicts one of the biggest jumps in prices will come to Kamloops B.C., where he expects prices to rise 3 cents a litre.Prices in other Western Canadian cities were expected to see smaller increases but McTeague says gas prices in cities in that region already carry a premium of 10 cents a litre.His website predicts an overnight hike of 2.8 cents a litre in Toronto and a similar jump in surrounding areas.It also projects a two cent a litre spike in Montreal, a jump of 2.7 cents in Ottawa and one cent in Calgary.Oil prices have fallen dramatically this year and now hover under $80 a barrel. However, analysts note that prices at the pump don’t necessarily move in tandem with the global market for crude. read more

Bombardier chief Beaudoins salary cut by 27

MONTREAL — Bombardier’s chief executive took a 27% pay cut last year, the transportation giant said Friday.Pierre Beaudoin’s total compensation in U.S. dollars was worth nearly US$6-million, compared with $8.2-million in 2011, according to a regulatory filing ahead of the company’s annual meeting next month.The company founder’s grandson earned $1.4-million in base salary in 2012, compared with $1.29-million a year earlier.The 2011 number was for 11 months because the company changed its fiscal year-end to Dec. 31.In 2012, Beaudoin also received $2.45-million in share-based awards, $1.2-million in options, $761,100 in incentives and a $22,000 pension value.A year earlier, he received $3.3 million in share-based awards, $1.5-million in options, $1.57-million in incentives and $362,400 in pension value.The total compensation for Bombardier’s top five executives fell 19% to $17.9-million.Railway division president Andre Navarri was second highest at $3.9-million, down from $4.7-million in 2011.Aerospace president Guy Hachey followed at $3.8-million, compared with $4.4-million a year earlier.Chief financial officer Pierre Alary’s compensation decreased to $2.3-million from $2.8-million in 2011.The other named executive was senior vice-president Richard Bradeen who earned $1.8-million in 2012.Bombardier’s profits plummeted 29.8% to $588-million on $16.8 billion of revenues last year.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Bombardier’s shares closed unchanged at C$3.93 in Friday trading.The Canadian Press read more

Open Canada to more foreign airline service to boost consumer choice group

OTTAWA — Canada’s airline industry should be opened up to allow more competition from foreign airlines, a consumer group said Wednesday.[np_storybar title=”Why Canadian airports are so expensive and inefficient” link=””%5DGovernment taxes and fees have long carried the blame for the noncompetitive nature of Canadian airports and for the bleed of nearly 5 million passengers a year in search of cheaper flights south of the border. But not everyone agrees taxes and fees are the primary source of what ails the air travel industry in Canada.Continue reading.[/np_storybar]The Consumers’ Association of Canada says Canada’s current policy protects the dominant domestic airlines and limits consumer choice.Association president Bruce Cran says it will use recent polling data to support its call for the federal government to bring about change in Canada’s aviation industry.The telephone survey of about 1,000 people in late January and early February found a large majority of responses were in favour of more foreign competition.Consumers want choice and competition for their travel dollarAmong other things, the Harris/Decima survey found 61% of respondents agreed that foreign airlines should be allowed to compete with Canadian carriers.The survey also found 77% agreed that foreign airlines would give consumers more travel options and 69% agreed they’d lead to lower costs.“Consumers want choice and competition for their travel dollar,” Cran said in a statement Wednesday.“The CAC will use this public opinion data to renew our call for Canada to adopt a dramatically different approach to international aviation,” he added.“It is time to open Canada’s skies and welcome foreign carriers into this market to compete for the business of Canadian travellers.”The survey of 1,015 people in Canada was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4.Canadian Press read more

Canadian dollar shoots higher on back of Keystone pipeline optimism

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar charged ahead Monday amid optimism that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will get U.S. approval.The loonie rose 0.58 of a cent to 90.36 cents US since the pipeline would boost shipments from the oil sands and give a lift to the Canadian economy.The U.S. State Department said Friday that the proposed TransCanada pipeline would produce less greenhouse gas emissions compared with transporting oil to the Gulf of Mexico by rail.It also said the industry is driven by too many factors to pin everything on a single pipeline — an apparent rejection of the argument by environmental groups that stopping Keystone XL would thwart the oil sands.“This is likely to sway Secretary of State Kerry to provide a favourable recommendation to President Obama on the construction of the pipeline, which will provide added capacity for Canadian oil to flow into the U.S.,” observed Camilla Sutton, chief FX strategist for Scotiabank.There was also a positive outlook on the Canadian economy from the International Monetary Fund.The IMF expects the Canadian economy will grow 2.2% this year, which is up from an estimated 1.7% in 2013.Meanwhile, emerging market worries also weighed on financial markets as data showing a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing added to concerns about countries such as Turkey, South Africa and India, all of which had to hike rates last week to support their currencies.These countries and others have been hit by an outflow of investor funds as the U.S. Federal Reserve cuts back on its massive monthly bond purchases, a move that kept long-term rates low and resulted in a flow of cheap money into those markets.But the primary worry is that weaker growth in those countries could drag down developed markets.China’s official purchasing managers’ index showed the manufacturing sector continuing to expand during January but at a slower pace, coming in at 51.5, down from 52.5 in December. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.Other data showed a larger than expected dip in the pace of growth in the American manufacturing sector. The Institute for Supply Management said its January manufacturing index dropped to 51.3 during January, down from 56.5 in December.In Canada, Royal Bank’s purchasing managers index also pointed to a weak start to 2014 for the Canadian manufacturing sector. The January index came in at 51.7, down from 53.5 in December.Traders also looked to the release Friday of the December employment report for Canada.Statistics Canada was expected to report the economy created about 15,000 jobs after 44,000 positions were erased in December.Commodity prices were unaffected by the Chinese data as HSBC’s manufacturing report from last week had already braced investors for another indication of a slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.March crude in New York dipped dropped 91 cents to US$96.58.March copper was down a cent to US$3.19 after falling about 2.25% last week while risk averse investors pushed April gold up $24 to US$1,263.80 an ounce. read more

TSX higher amid dismal economic data from the eurozone

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was modestly higher Thursday amid dismal economic data from Europe.The S&P/TSX composite index advanced 32.42 points to 15,295.15.The Canadian dollar was up 0.12 of a cent to 91.72 cents US, a day ahead of the release of revised employment data for July. Statistics Canada said earlier this week it had discovered an error in the jobs data that was originally released last Friday.U.S. indexes registered small gains as Wal-Mart cut its annual profit forecast with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 11.78 points to 16,663.58, the Nasdaq was 4.45 points ahead to 4,438.57 and the S&P 500 index climbed 2.96 points to 1,949.68.Wal-Mart also reported net income of $4.09 billion, or $1.26 per share, compared with $4.07 billion, or $1.24 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Ex-items, earnings were $1.21 per share, which met analysts’ expectations. Revenue rose roughly 3% to $119.34 billion, a shade ahead of expectations for $119.06 billion and its shares rose a penny to $74.04.There was grim news from the eurozone as Germany’s economy, the region’s biggest, shrank by a quarterly rate of 0.2%, held back by weaker investment by business and by fears over the crisis in Ukraine.“The decline was more than expected and casts a shadow over the ’strongman’ of the region,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Jennifer Lee.“And, it certainly doesn’t help that businesses are increasingly nervous over the rocky relations with Russia, and the sanctions imposed,” Lee said.France, the region’s second largest economy, showed zero growth for the second straight quarter. Third-ranked Italy shrank.Ukraine fears have only grown since the end of the quarter on June 30, particularly after a Malaysian airliner was shot down in mid-July by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian separatists, according to the U.S. and Ukraine.Meanwhile, a large Russian aid convoy resumed its journey toward Ukraine Thursday, taking a road leading directly toward a border crossing controlled by pro-Russian rebels.Moscow has insisted it co-ordinated the dispatch of the goods with the international Red Cross. But the Red Cross is unable to confirm where the convoy is headed.On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of possibly planning a “direct invasion of Ukrainian territory under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid.”Tech stocks led TSX advancers.The energy sector rose 0.2%, while September crude in New York declined 51 cents to US$97.08 a barrel.The gold and base metal sectors were both flat with September copper down a cent at US$3.10 a pound, while December gold was $1.30 lower to US$1,313.20 an ounce.In other earnings news, Iamgold Corp. has reported a US$16-million net loss and $8.8 million in adjusted earnings for the second quarter. The adjusted earnings, reported in U.S. currency, amounted to two cents per share, a penny below analyst estimates. Its shares rose 16 cents to $4.36.Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. is in discussions about making its experimental Ebola drug available to infected patients, but says there is no guarantee the treatment can be used to help quell the outbreak in West Africa. The Vancouver-based company also said Wednesday that its net loss in the second quarter was $6.1 million, or 28 cents per share, widening from $3 million, or 21 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier and its shares fell $1.20 or 5.89% to $19.18. read more

Walmart Canada introduces five cent charge for plastic bags

TORONTO — Walmart Canada will begin to charge customers for plastic bags as part of its strategy for cutting the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills.Beginning on Feb. 9, customers will be charged five cents each for plastic bags, with reusable bags available for a discounted rate of 25 cents each.The company — headquartered in Mississauga, west of Toronto — said that the introduction of a small fee in other countries has helped Walmart to reduce the number of plastic bags by more than half.Wal-Mart Mart Stores Inc pulls plug on smallest store format, shuts 269 stores around the worldCanadian Tire Ltd suing Wal-Mart Canada Corp for allegedly copying clip-on Christmas lightsWalmart says some of the proceeds from the new charge will go toward supporting recycling initiatives for grocery bags and other thin plastic objects.The company said it’s also going to improve in-store recycling and collection programs and work with suppliers to find ways of removing plastic from its packaging.Walmart Canada has 397 stores and serves more than 1.2 million customers per day. read more

Elite Airways launches new PortlandtoHalifax route two direct flights a week

HALIFAX — After a bumpy start, Elite Airways’ inaugural non-stop flight from Portland, Maine, to Halifax is set to touch down Thursday.The launch of the new route, aimed at business and leisure travellers, was delayed two weeks due to a glitch with a computer reservation system.Elite Airways spokeswoman Rebecca Ayers says the debut flight is expected to take off from the Portland International Jetport at 1:15 p.m. and land at Halifax Stanfield International Airport at 3:30 p.m., local time.She says the twice weekly, 75-minute flights on Thursdays and Sundays will be aboard a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 jet and cost US$99 one-way.Ayers says the ticket price is all-in, with no extra fees for flight changes, a first checked bag or onboard snacks and beverages.Although Elite Airways launched as a charter service, and specializes in private charters for sports teams and other businesses, the Portland-to-Halifax route is a scheduled commercial service that will be offered year-round, if there is sufficient demand. read more

Markets update at midmorning

On the markets at midmorning (ET):The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 36.22 points to 15,425.82, after 90 minutes of trading.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 13.23 points to 22,399.36. The S&P 500 index was down 4.62 points to 2,503.62 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 32.34 points to 6,423.70.The Canadian dollar was trading at 81.07 cents US, down from Wednesday’s average price of 81.48 cents US.The November crude contract was down three cents to US$50.66 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was down 11 cents to US$2.98 per mmBTU.The December gold contract was down $24.10 to US$1,292.30 an ounce and the December copper contract was down three cents to US$2.94 a pound. read more