Mumbai: Actor Pooja Hegde says getting shot by Academy Award wining cinematographer Robert Richardson was an iconic moment in her life. Richardson took charge of the camera for some shots of her South Indian project Valmiki when he visited the sets during his trip to India a while back. “I’ve absolutely loved his work and I’m a very big fan. After watching Hugo, I thought, ‘wow what amazing cinematography’. I feel privileged because this is the man who has shot with directors such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, and he was on our set rolling a shot for us. It’s such a privilege,” Pooja said. Also Read – I have personal ambitions now: Priyanka”I think he’s a really fun person. He’s so vocal about his opinions and is really funny. His sense of humour is really great. He is the man who has shot with Margot Robbie and now I’m the next girl in front of his camera! He is the man who has just shot Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and would have been like ‘Leo just move a little right of the camera’ and now he was like, ‘Pooja move little right of the camera’…That’s quite an iconic moment for me,” she added.
The special status of Jammu & Kashmir has been revoked and the state has been bifurcated into two Union Territories. Those are the facts. Much has been discussed and debated over these decisions. But it is time to consider its future implications now. Altering the long-held governance structure was just the beginning of resolving the long-standing Kashmir problem. The real uphill task remains. How do these steps result in the development of Jammu & Kashmir and bring it closer to achieving peace and stability? That is the crux of the matter; the end goal. Also Read – A special kind of bondA key enabler of these outcomes can be the achievement of higher economic growth and development of the region. The integration of Jammu & Kashmir to the Indian mainland brings uniformity to the economic policies of both regions. All laws applicable to other Indian states will now be applicable to it. This puts the region on a level playing field and allows faster percolation of decision-making at the Centre down to the most granular level. Earlier, laws passed by the Indian Parliament had to be separately ratified by the state legislature in Jammu & Kashmir, which caused immense delays in implementation and the region suffered as a result. For instance, a week after other states joined the GST network, the government of Jammu and Kashmir had to pass its own resolution to integrate itself into the national tax framework. And this was a law in which the former state had an interest in the clearing. The gestation periods are much longer for other acts. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the Right to Education Act was still not applicable to Kashmiri students. Such limitations had impeded the decision-making process and prevented effective economic development. Also Read – Insider threat managementThe economic limitations were further exacerbated by Article 35A, which prevented non-residents from buying land in the region and availing facilities provided by the state government. When businesses could not acquire the most basic assets for setting up an enterprise, economic activity was bound to be muted. The very nature of legislation curbed economic development and, thus, eliminated all avenues of growth and prosperity that could have benefitted the Kashmiris themselves. The extent of economic inefficiency that has existed until now with respect to Jammu & Kashmir can be realised from the fact that the region was the largest recipient of central funds until now with little to show for it. An analysis by the Institute for Competitiveness shows that between 2005-06 till 2018-19, Jammu & Kashmir received around 10.5 per cent of the central grants-in-aid, which was the highest among all states. The second-highest share of these central grants was received by the state of Uttar Pradesh at around 9 per cent. That these allocations are grossly disproportionate can be seen in the light of their population shares where Jammu & Kashmir is home to 1 per cent of India’s population while Uttar Pradesh is the country’s most populous state accounting for over 16 per cent of its population. Not only has Jammu & Kashmir been the recipient of the highest share of central grants but is also heavily dependent on them as its own revenue-generating capacity has been fairly limited. In fact, more than half of the state’s revenue, or 53 per cent to be precise, are derived from the central grants-in-aid. If central taxes are taken into consideration, this share shoots above 70 per cent. Thus, its own capacity for generating revenue accounted for less than 30 per cent of its total revenue receipts. This is yet another reflection of the lack of economic exuberance within the region, which has stymied its government’s revenue-generating capacity through both tax and non-tax sources. Moreover, these funds have also not been managed well. Jammu & Kashmir has had a history of improper financial management with the ratio of gross fiscal deficit to the state’s GDP at an average of 5 per cent over the last four years against a national average of 3 per cent for the same period. There have, however, been recent discussions that the former state was already quite advanced on certain social parameters. Life expectancy, for instance, is the third-highest among all Indian states at 73.5. But, if a broader measure is considered like the Human Development Index, the ranking of Jammu & Kashmir has slipped two places from 9 to 11 between 1990 and 2017 with a current score of 0.68 that is quite close to the national average of 0.64. Thus, its performance has not been exceptional even on social outcomes. It must be admitted that there is no surety that after coming under central control Jammu & Kashmir will perform better economically. But the opening up of the local economy to outside actors will be akin to India’s liberalisation moment of 1991 when it opened up its economy and integrated with the outside world. As the legal impediments to the free movement of people and access to assets like land have been removed, the economic focus of the state can now be broadened beyond tourism and agriculture. Industrialisation can slowly expand its prominence in the local economy. Thus, the elimination of the special status and more centrality of governance should beget higher availability of economic opportunities and wider avenues of growth for the people for Kashmir who have been long denied of the same. (Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher at the Institute, has contributed to the article. The views expressed are strictly personal)
Bengaluru: India’s Chandrayaan-2 satellite is set to move towards the moon after leaving the earth’s orbit, with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) planning to carry out a crucial manoeuvre early on Wednesday. The Bengaluru-headquartered space agency has said it will carry out the manoeuvre called Trans Lunar Insertion (TLI) between 03:00 and 04:00 hrs (IST). The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is expected to reach the moon’s orbit on August 20 and land on the lunar surface on September 7, according to the ISRO. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM'”At around 3.30 am on August 14, we are going to have a manoeuvre called trans-lunar injection. By this manoeuvre, the Chandrayaan-2 will leave the earth and move towards the moon. On August 20, we will be reaching the moon,” ISRO Chairman K Sivan said on Monday. Stating that Chandrayaan-2 will be around the moon on August 20, he said, “Subsequently, we have planned to have a series of manoeuvres around the moon and finally, on September 7, we will be landing on the moon near its south pole.” The ISRO has so far performed five earth-bound orbit raising manoeuvres. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThe fifth earth-bound orbit raising manoeuvre for Chandryaan-2 was performed successfully on August 6 using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of 1,041 seconds, following which the ISRO had said all the spacecraft parameters were normal. India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, GSLV MkIII-M1, successfully launched the 3,840-kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into the earth’s orbit on July 22. A series of orbit manoeuvres was carried out using Chandrayaan-2’s onboard propulsion system to raise the spacecraft orbit in steps and then place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory to enable the spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of the moon. After leaving the earth’s orbit and on entering the moon’s sphere of influence, the onboard propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired to slow down the spacecraft, which will enable it to be captured into a preliminary orbit around the moon, the ISRO said. Later, through a set of manoeuvres, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularised at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface. Subsequently, the lander will separate from the orbiter and enter into a 100kmx30km orbit around the moon, and then, it will perform a series of “complex braking” manoeuvres to soft land in the south polar region of the moon on September 7. Chandrayaan-2 is the country’s second mission to the moon. It comprises a fully indigenous orbiter, a lander (Vikram) and a rover (Pragyan). The rover (Pragyan) is housed inside the lander (Vikram). Following the landing, the rover will roll out from the lander and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of one lunar day, which is equal to 14 earth days. The mission life of the lander is also one lunar day. The orbiter will continue its mission for a year.
New Delhi: The Delhi government had nothing to do with the demolition of the Guru Ravidas temple in Tughlaqabad, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Wednesday, after BSP supremo Mayawati alleged that the incident was a result of a collusion between the Centre and the AAP dispensation. Responding to Mayawati’s post on Twitter, in which she also alleged that the incident reflected a “casteist mentality”, Kejriwal said he felt sad that she held the AAP dispensation “guilty” along with the BJP-led central government in connection with the incident. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murder “Mayawati ji, we all are deeply anguished. We strongly oppose it. I feel sad that you consider us guilty along with the Centre. In Delhi, land comes under the central government. We have nothing to do with the demolition of this temple,” he tweeted in Hindi. Earlier in the day, the BSP president alleged that the demolition of the Ravidas temple in the national capital’s Tughlaqabad area was a result of a collusion between the Centre and the Delhi government, and it reflected a “casteist mentality”. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchings She also demanded that the temple be reconstructed. On Tuesday, Union Housing and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that the Centre is determined to find a solution and possibly identify an alternative site to “relocate” the temple. “We, along with Vice Chairman of DDA, are determined to find a solution and possibly identify an alternative site where the temple can be relocated. “We have also suggested to the affected parties to appeal to Hon’ble Court to issue necessary directions in this regard,” Puri had tweeted on Tuesday. The demolition took place on Saturday and it was done by agencies concerned, in the presence of police personnel, a senior police official had said on Monday. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had said that did not use the word temple, and said the “structure was removed as per the orders of the Supreme Court”. “The standing permanent structure was dismantled peacefully without any resistance or use of force in the presence of Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti members,” the DDA had said.
New Delhi: The ambitious ‘e-assessment’ scheme, also called the faceless or nameless assessment, for income-tax payers has been notified by the Central government.The notification gazette was published by the Union Finance Ministry on Thursday. The scheme envisages the creation of a national e-assessment centre. The centre will serve notices to the assessees specifying the issues for selection of their case for assessment, and after a response is received from them within 15 days, the centre will allocate the case to an assessing officer using an automated system, it said. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsFinance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said the scheme would be rolled out from October 8, which is also ‘Vijayadashami’. “A person shall not be required to appear either personally or through an authorised representative in connection with any proceedings under this scheme (e-assessment) before the income-tax authority at the National e-assessment Centre or Regional e-assessment Centre or any unit set up under this scheme,” the notification said. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayIn case assessees or their authorised representatives want a personal hearing to make their submissions or present their case before the income-tax authority, they will be allowed to do so “in any unit”, and such hearings shall be conducted exclusively through video links or any other such facility, it said. The new e-assessment regime will be voluntary, and the taxpayers can take a call on whether to conduct their dealings over the e-system or through the existing procedure of manual submission of documents by visiting the tax office. With PTI inputs
New Delhi: Aditi Rao Hydari, who was a classical dancer before she became an actor with Tamil film Sringaram (2007), says she still feels a strong connection with Bharatanatyam. “I was five when I started learning Bharatanatyam. It was my choice to dance, also because I was surrounded by the classical arts. I was lucky that I got a teacher like Leela Samson. Although I was in boarding school and my mother was very insistent that I finish my education, I performed a lot before I became an actor,” said Aditi, who was recently in New Delhi for a fashion show. Also Read – I have personal ambitions now: PriyankaAccording to the actor, “Any art form, beyond its own learning bring along a whole new world view and a new way of being. One of the major things that I learnt and one that still stays with me, is that we’re all unique. And it is better to work on improving yourself rather than compare yourself with others.” Does she still get time to rehearse? “Hardly. I learnt from such an amazing teacher, I feel I would be doing a disservice to the art form if I don’t practice and I just step on to the stage. I’m happy being in front of the camera, because I do it everyday. It’s like riyaaz,” the actor said. Also Read – Salman Khan remembers actor Vinod KhannaBut “once a dancer always a dancer”, she said and added: “I dance whenever I get the chance, I go to Akka (Samson) in Chennai whenever I can, and I rehearse with the gang that is rehearsing.” Aditi also learnt music from her mother Vidya Rao, an acclaimed classical singer. “As performers people admire you and say good things about you. It’s a lot of things that come together to make that for you. The only thing that you can do is work hard and be sincere to what you do,” she said.
OTTAWA – A former pilot is asking the Canadian Human Rights Commission to resurrect her “lifelong dream” to fly for a major airline — an ambition she abandoned five years ago after she was allegedly discriminated against by an Air Canada colleague because she’s a woman.Jane Clegg fought back tears and paused several times Monday during her testimony at a human rights tribunal as she described the 2009 incident that eventually led her to quit the airline in April 2013.Clegg, who wants the commission to order her reinstatement, was working as a second officer when she said she got into a heated argument with the captain of a flight bound for Fort Lauderdale after she raised concerns that the plane didn’t have enough fuel.“I believed the incident was motivated by gender discrimination,” Clegg told the tribunal as she described being replaced on the flight for refusing to sign the flight plan over concerns about safety.When she was later assigned to work on another flight with the same pilot, and raised concerns about it, she was effectively suspended without pay under what’s known as the airline’s “bidding around” system.Air Canada, she said, defended the male pilot.“It felt like open season on female pilots,” said Clegg. “This truly was the beginning of the end of my career.”Commission lawyer Daniel Poulin told the hearing the bidding around system “puts the onus on the victim” in cases where first officers want to avoid flying with another pilot accused of wrongdoing.Poulin said a settlement was reached Friday with Air Canada over concerns the commission raised about the system. However, details of that settlement were not expected to be revealed until the tribunal releases a decision on Clegg’s case. That could take up to a year.Clegg emphasized in her testimony that she believes Air Canada is a good, safe airline.Judy Cameron, the first female pilot hired by the carrier in 1978, said she saw no signs of a systemic gender bias at Air Canada in her 37-year career, which ended with her retirement in May 2015.“It wasn’t perfect, some things could be improved, but I never felt out of place, unwelcome, from the get go,” Cameron said in an interview.“The guys treated me like their daughter,” said Cameron, adding that she was hesitant to speak over concerns that her comments might be seen as disparaging a fellow female pilot who faced different work experiences.But Clegg said hers was not an isolated case.Wondering whether she was alone in her complaint, the one-time Canadian Forces VIP squadron pilot compiled a survey about gender discrimination and distributed it to other female pilots.“I wanted to determine if this was something isolated or if this was something that my female pilot colleagues had also encountered,” she said.“Eighty per cent of the female pilots who had reported (back to me) had experienced incidents of harassment.”Many of the respondents altered their work schedules to avoid the perpetrators of harassment and most said they didn’t have confidence that their complaints would be properly addressed, Clegg said — evidence, she argued, that Air Canada needs to improve its gender harassment policy.But Clegg never linked the issues she was having with one of its male captains to gender bias until the airline found out about a scheduling conflict between the two nearly three years later, a lawyer for Air Canada told the tribunal.“Air Canada never had a chance to address the complaint under its discrimination policies because no formal — or informal — complaint was ever filed,” said Karen Sargeant.Clegg also wouldn’t co-operate when Air Canada did launch an investigation, Sargeant added.In arguing against an order of reinstatement, Sargeant said Clegg’s actions in quitting her job were over the top, considering the allegations.“Resignation was a disproportionate response,” she said.Of the more than 3,500 pilots employed by Air Canada, 210 — less than six per cent — are women, a percentage the airline described as typical of the industry worldwide.The hearing is expected to last several weeks.— Follow @tpedwell on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect number of female pilots at Air Canada
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists his government is going to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built, but still has nothing to say about how, even as Kinder Morgan’s deadline clock ticks ever closer to the end.The pipeline deadline is just one of two big dates coming for the Trudeau government this week, which could turn out to be one of the most important of his first mandate as prime minister, especially if he wants a second one.Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline to decide if it has enough certainty to proceed is now just 72 hours away and while Trudeau says financial discussions continue, he also says there is nothing yet to say publicly.The government has said it is willing to cover the costs of budget overruns on the pipeline caused by political interference from British Columbia, but the company has not yet indicated if that will be enough to convince it to put shovels in the ground.The government is also lobbying hard in the United States this week since President Donald Trump only exempted Canada and Mexico from steel import tariffs until Friday.Losing either of these issues would be big problems for Trudeau’s government as it starts to move into election-year planning to seek a second mandate.
HALIFAX – In the first full weekend of campaigning, Nova Scotia’s New Democrats took aim at the Liberal government’s rocky track record with teachers.NDP leader Gary Burrill pledged to revoke a controversial bill that imposed a contract on the province’s 9,300 public school teachers and reopen negotiations with the union.“Bill 75 is such an anti-democratic piece of legislation that it’s not a bit of an exaggeration to say that it’s immoral,” he told reporters Saturday after a lively campaign rally at the NDP headquarters in Halifax. “People have to have the right to free and fair collective bargaining.”Burrill, a United Church minister running in Halifax Chebucto, also promised to introduce class-size caps for all grades at a cost of $9.3 million a year if elected May 30.In addition, he said an NDP government would hire more classroom support workers like psychologists and speech pathologists.Burrill said the “small army of educational specialists” would cost $7 million a year.The NDP campaign commitment on education comes after the province’s Liberals outlined plans this week to launch a pre-primary pilot program for about 750 four-year-olds across the province.Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the program would be rolled out this fall in 30 locations, mostly in existing schools, with 25 children and two early childhood educators per class.While Burrill acknowledged the importance of early childhood education, he said it’s “darn funny” the Liberals came forward with a commitment to primary education at the end of their term.Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative leader pledged to double the province’s rural road maintenance budget to $32 million, up from $16 million.Jamie Baillie said the budget was slashed under the former NDP government and only marginally improved under the Liberals.“Since the Liberals formed government, they have nickel-and-dimed rural communities,” Baillie said in a statement before touring rural roads in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. “Failing to invest more in the (Rural Impact Mitigation) budget means more dangerous roads, more money spent on vehicle repairs and rural areas falling into disrepair.”He called a new gravel road program proposed by the Liberals “too little too late.”The Tory investment in rural and secondary roads would go towards shoulder and ditch upkeep, guardrail improvements, pavement patching, gravel patching and grading, brush cutting and ditch draining, Baillie said.The Liberal party campaign started off at the Masstown Market on Saturday and made stops at campaign headquarters in Debert, Springhill, Amherst.The Liberals promised to cut red tape for small business by reducing regulatory costs by $25 million by the end of 2018.“Over the past several years, the difficult work we have taken on to reduce red tape has produced real dividends for small business – and the Nova Scotians who work in that sector,” McNeil said in a statement.He also committed to hiking the income ceiling for small businesses to $500,000 from $350,000.The Grits finished off the day with a tour of craft brewers and food truck operators in Truro.
TORONTO – Geoffrey Bercarich has been making “ghost bikes” for fallen cyclists for more than a decade, but he’s never made one this small.At his Toronto home, he stands beside a child’s bike — gleaming white from a fresh paint job — that is dedicated to Xavier Morgan, a five-year-old who crashed his bike on a city trail and fell onto a nearby six-lane roadway where he was killed by a car last week.“This is definitely the youngest child I’ve ever had to put a memorial up for,” Bercarich says, his voice trailing off. “I don’t want this to ever happen again. And this memorial is definitely not good enough, but it’s my way to show that every life is sacred.”Ghost bikes — reminders of the risks cyclists face — have cropped up around the country and across the world. In Toronto, Bercarich, along with the group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists, has been building and maintaining them for years.On Saturday morning, Bercarich will be among a large group of cyclists expected to ride en masse, slowly, but surely, to the spot where Xavier died on Toronto’s Lake Shore Boulevard.Bercarich will bring his latest ghost bike with him, lock it to a nearby post and give the keys to Xavier’s aunt and uncle who are expected to be there, he says. The family can take the bike down if the memorial proves too painful.Since the boy’s death, Bercarich and other cyclists have called for a barrier to be put in place on the portion of the Martin Goodman Trail where Xavier fell onto the busy road. On Friday afternoon, city staff announced plans to erect fencing along that section of the trail.Xavier is so far the only cyclist to die this year in Toronto. Last year, one person died. There were four deaths in 2015, three in 2014 and four in 2013, according to Toronto police.Bercarich, 33, says he gets a call every time a cyclist is killed in the city.The latest case was no different. A friend called, sobbing, he says, repeating the words “tragedy” over and over before hanging up.“Then I got word that it was a five-year-old cyclist that went down,” he says. “Then I heard the five-year-old cyclist went to the same school I went to. Then I heard it was on the same trail that I learned to ride a bike on. And it hit really close to home — my home.”So Bercarich — who fixes bikes in his spare time and gives them away for free to those in need — got to work.He knew exactly which bike, among the dozens he has at his home, to paint for Xavier. It was his friend’s first bike, one she learned to ride on. She donated it to him a while ago and wanted something special done with it.It took him about two hours, using three cans of spray paint, to finish Xavier’s bike. First he laid on two coats of flat white paint.“The final coat is gloss, the overcoat, which creates a reflective surface so cars, when they fly by it, they’ll be able to see it better,” he says.After Xavier died, Toronto Mayor John Tory demanded a review of the safety of the city’s bike trails.“It is past time for us to have a hard look at safety on these trails,” he said.Bercarich, however, has little time for politicians’ words. He’s been hearing the same thing for years, he says.Between Jan. 1 and May 18, there have been 174 collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles, according to Toronto police data. There were 206 such incidents over the same time period last year. And those numbers don’t include doorings, cyclist versus cyclist, or cyclist versus pedestrian crashes.Bercarich says he wants Xavier’s family to know the little boy will be thought of for a very long time to come.“There are a lot of people who will not rest until some sort of consequences have been made because of his death,” he says. “We’re going to push really hard for a long time so his death doesn’t go unmarked by city councillors and planners.”
MONTREAL – The millions of black-and-orange butterflies that have carpeted flower beds across the Montreal area in recent days are waiting for winds to carry them south to warmer weather, according to an expert at the Montreal Insectarium.Southern Quebec has become host to an “unprecedented” number of painted lady butterflies in the last ten days, said Max Larrivee, the museum’s head of research and collections.“It’s extremely unusual,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “This is the largest on record — no doubt.”He said it’s unclear precisely why the region has witnessed so many butterflies at once.One factor that can explain the increase, Larrivee said, is that the butterflies arrived early this year and therefore benefited from an extra reproduction cycle.Their large numbers, he continued, allowed the insects to cover a bigger territory than they normally would.“In the spring they came really early and in really high numbers in April, which allowed them to take advantage of a much larger territory to reproduce, but also to reproduce one more time than they normally do,” Larrivee said.And while they usually fly up to 500 metres in the air, he said they’ve been forced closer to the ground by winds coming from the south.Most of the painted ladies will probably leave Quebec to continue their southwest migration towards Texas and Mexico within a week or so, or whenever the winds shift, Larrivee said.People often confuse the painted ladies with the monarch butterfly, which has similar colouring but is larger and has no brown on its wings or body.And unlike monarchs, which feed only on milkweed, painted ladies can eat a variety of plants, which gives them a more expansive breeding ground.Christian Schmidt, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, said large numbers of painted lady butterflies have also been spotted in other provinces including Alberta, B.C. and Nova Scotia.“It’s pretty much right across the country, although maybe not with the numbers you’re seeing in southern Quebec,” he said in a phone interview.He too, said the exact reason for the population boom remains a mystery.Possible factors include climate shifts and rainy spring weather leading to lush vegetation growth, he said.“It’s tough to say exactly what conditions are favourable to the population buildup,” Schmidt said. “It’s probably a combination of things.”While the painted lady butterflies have had “a phenomenal year,” Larrivee said the same isn’t true of most other local species, which suffered during a cold, wet spring.“Overall some butterflies are faring well, some are faring poorly,” he said. “The general consensus overall is that there are less butterflies than there used to be pretty much everywhere on the landscape.”Larrivee said he and other scientists are hoping to solve the mystery of the butterflies’ shifting migration habits with the help of the public.He’s asking people to log into the website www.e-butterfly.org to document their pictures and observations of the insects.
WASHINGTON D.C., – Stephen Harper broke his public silence on current events by offering a gloomy assessment on the state of international trade, describing anti-trade sentiment in the U.S. as a long-term problem that predates the Trump administration, that lacks an easy fix, and could well result in the end of NAFTA.Harper stepped into the role of political analyst during a panel discussion in Washington with a coincidence of timing that bordered on the surreal Wednesday. At the very same moment, Harper’s successor, Justin Trudeau, happened to be a few blocks away at the White House, discussing the North American Free Trade Agreement with U.S. President Donald Trump himself.Powerful anti-trade forces that extend beyond Trump’s presidency are at play in American society and aren’t going away any time soon, said the former Conservative leader, who’s an ardent free trader.Harper illustrated that with a story about being told by the Bush administration when he took office in 2006 that NAFTA would never have won a vote in the U.S. Congress at that time. He then described how Barack Obama campaigned against the deal. Now he says trade will remain controversial, whether or not Trump cancels NAFTA.He said he is advising companies to start planning for the possibility of life without NAFTA.“I believe that it is conceivable. I believe Donald Trump would be willing to take the economic and political risk of that under certain circumstances,” Harper said in a panel at the Dentons law firm.“I would not want to simply bet that this is just all going to work out. What’s driving this are some very powerful political currents that, frankly, nobody — including Mr. Trump — has really figured out how to address, and they’re going to keep coming at us.”Trudeau, for his part, sounded Wednesday like he was fearing a similar conclusion: “We are ready for anything and we will continue to work diligently,” the current prime minister told reporters, after meeting Trump.Harper said he doesn’t believe a simple fix to NAFTA, with a few tweaks, will satisfy Trump. He called the president unpredictable, but said one thing is predictable — the political need for Trump to point to significant changes, given that he’s repeatedly blasted NAFTA as a horrific deal: “I just don’t know how you get from here to there,” Harper said.He said he understands anti-trade frustration.Harper described his own annoyance at spending his 50th birthday signing a bailout package for General Motors Canada, only to see the auto giant later move jobs out of the country.“I’m not your average assembly-line worker, but even I was irritated by that.”And while he proudly touts the fact that he signed trade agreements with dozens of countries, he not only sympathizes with people who feel they’ve been left behind by the modern economy — he agrees with them.Harper said frustrated Americans can’t blame Canada for this problem, or even Mexico, or possibly even trade deals in general — but he said there’s little doubt jobs have moved away, especially to China.“I’ve looked at the data,” Harper said.“These people do not (just) perceive they have been left behind. They actually have been left behind… It’s a reality.”He said he wanted to avoid opining too much on current politics, so he declined to discuss possible solutions to these problems. He also declined an interview request later. He offered one piece of advice, albeit in vague terms: He urged other parties to try seeing the issue through the U.S. government’s eyes, and finding solutions it can sell.Another panellist was slightly more optimistic.Newt Gingrich — a fixture of American politics and friend of the president — suggested Trump doesn’t really want to end NAFTA. He said he thinks a deal can eventually be reached, after long and difficult negotiations.“My hunch is in the end we will get to a reformed NAFTA. We will not get to the end of NAFTA,” said the former House speaker and Trump campaign surrogate.“I don’t think there’s an appetite for blowing it all up, other than the president’s occasional tweets… I think it”ll be a brawl (though).” He suggested the deal might get a new name: “It will probably be something like the Modernized Dramatically Improved 21st Century Trumpized NAFTA.”Gingrich prefaced his remarks by saying the president is unpredictable, so nobody knows for sure.Harper, meanwhile, also offered opinions on two other international relationships. He said Canada could easily strike a trade agreement with a pro-Brexit British government. He also said that if NAFTA collapses, the Chinese will be ready and willing to make a deal with Canada.His sense of pessimism was underscored later at the same event. Trump’s commerce secretary Wilbur Ross addressed the same panel, and said the president is prepared to maintain NAFTA, split it into two bilateral deals, or walk away.He brushed off questions about protectionist U.S. proposals. For instance, the U.S. has proposed Buy American rules that would restrict public contracts to a dollar-for-dollar basis with other countries, which is stricter than what non-NAFTA countries enjoy.Ross said the neighbouring countries should be happy. The U.S. is offering a one-for-one arrangement, when the ratio of its market to Canada’s is 10 to 1, Ross said: “It’s very fair.” He also insisted against some evidence that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada.Harper smiled and took notes during Ross’s presentation.
MONTREAL – They were once a fixture at the local convenience store and ended up tucked into the pockets of Montreal Canadiens’ fans seeking to keep tabs on their favourite team.But modernity has claimed the once-popular pocket calendar, as the hockey club this year became the last Canadian team to do away with the schedule.The chief sponsor behind the calendar — Molson Coors Brewing Co. — says technology and environmental considerations have rendered the calendar obsolete.“It’s not about the cost, it’s really an environmental question because in 2018, everyone has the calendar on their smartphone, on their computer,” Molson Coors spokesman Francois Lefebvre said.Lefebvre said technology has led to a drop in interest in the tiny calendars that listed every Habs game.“We preferred to invest in other strategic areas when it came to the Canadiens,” Lefebvre said.The calendar remained popular despite its simplicity: Molson printed and distributed 1.1 million last season and had 250,000 returned, meaning 850,000 were snapped up.Lefebvre said the Canadiens were the last of the Canadian NHL teams to do away with their pocket calendar.Molson used to produce similar schedules for the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.Paul Wilson, the Canadiens’ vice-president communications, said he endorsed the decision to scrap the calendar, albeit with a heavy heart.“I used to pick one up when I’d buy gas. We all kept a little calendar in our pockets, and it was super useful,” Wilson told The Canadian Press.“But we’re in a world where if we want to be environmentally responsible, we’ve got to make decisions like this.”Wilson said the team’s plan is to become paperless.In 2017, the Canadiens added a surcharge for ticket holders wanting paper tickets, upsetting some fans.Other subtle changes have begun in the press box, where the team is cutting down on what Wilson calls the “mind-blowing” amount of paper documents given to journalists over the course of the season — even though the information is all available online.
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she’s disappointed with Ottawa’s lukewarm response to the province’s plan to ease oil bottlenecks by buying more rail cars.She says it’s simplistic to dismiss buying rail cars by saying they probably wouldn’t arrive until a pipeline expansion were already under construction.Alberta oil is currently selling at a discount of about $45 a barrel because of an oil glut due to a lack of pipeline capacity.Notley has proposed Ottawa invest in moving oil to market on rail cars in the meantime and as a hedge against future shipping problems.Notley says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spent the day in Calgary on Thursday, left Alberta with a better idea of how crucial the issue is than when he arrived.She’s also thanking people who she says helped her make her point when they shut down part of a downtown Calgary street for a rally during Trudeau’s visit.Alberta could go ahead with the rail car purchase with or without the federal government, she said Friday after an announcement in Edmonton.“The government of Alberta will do what it needs to do, whether we do it by ourselves or with support from Ottawa,” she said. “It might be reasonable for them to come to the table.”Notley is planning a trip to Ottawa and Toronto next week for meetings and speeches to try to keep the oil bottleneck on the federal government’s front-burner. She has said the price gap between Canadian and U.S. crude is costing the country’s economy $80 million a day.Trudeau said in Calgary that the federal government is doing what it can to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built, which would triple the line’s capacity to carry oil to tankers on the west coast.The federal government bought Trans Mountain and its expansion project for $4.5 billion last summer only to have the Federal Court of Appeal strike down its approval. The court cited inadequate Indigenous consultation and failure to consider impacts on the marine environment.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — An expert panel studying the best way to implement a national pharmacare plan has released its interim report with three main recommendations.The report is seen as a way to set the foundations for the federal government’s plan to bring in pharmacare for all Canadians.“Must complete the dream of Medicare by finally finding its missing piece, and that missing piece is pharmacare,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas, noting the government will consider the recommendations made.Health Minister @GinettePT says people shouldn’t have to choose between their prescription medications and their food. Says the feds are looking to move forward on pharmacare, something she says is the missing piece to healthcare in Canada. #cdnpoli— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) March 6, 2019The report comes with three main recommendations, which are being described as the building blocks to a national pharmacare program.Doctor Eric Hoskins, who is leading the expert panel, says the main recommendation is to create a national drug agency.“It would negotiate with manufacturers and carryout health technology assessments of prescription drugs.”The report also recommends developing a national list of drugs so coverage is the same across the country and to gather better data on prescription medicationsFinance Minister Bill Morneau would not say if any of these items will be in his upcoming spring budget, but a pharmacare plan is expected to be a main pledge from the liberals in the fall election.Both Morneau and the health minister deny the announcement is being used as a distraction to the SNC-Lavalin testimony in Ottawa, saying they set this date to release the report weeks ago. The Canadian Institute for Health Information says drugs are the fastest-growing component in health spending but unlike hospital care and doctors’ visits, most people’s medication needs aren’t covered by public health insurance.An analysis by the parliamentary budget officer estimated a broad coverage regime would cost $20 billion a year.The second report from the panel is expected later this spring.
OTTAWA — “(Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) thinks today’s budget will distract Canadians from all of this. He is using the budget — a critical element of any government’s agenda — as nothing more than a political prop in an unprecedented cover-up.” — Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, March 19—Andrew Scheer and his Conservative caucus members have been scathing in their attacks on this week’s decision by the Liberal-dominated House of Commons justice committee to abruptly end its examination of the SNC-Lavalin affair.In addition to calling it a cover-up and a snub to all Canadians, the leader of the official Opposition called it an attempt by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to undermine the role of Parliament.The committee’s decision came on the same day as the federal budget was being tabled. So Scheer wove that into his broader criticism of the government, describing the budget as a “political prop” by a prime minister determined to divert the public’s attention from the scandal engulfing his government.That raises a question that cuts to the core of this week’s two big national political stories, the budget and the everlasting SNC-Lavalin saga: can the regularly scheduled tabling of a federal budget be described as a political prop?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).Scheer’s remark earns a rating of “a lot of baloney” — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth.THE FACTSThe SNC-Lavalin controversy slammed like a runaway train into Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s delivery of Tuesday’s budget, the government’s final spending blueprint before a federal election scheduled for this fall.While the budget lockup was underway several blocks east of Parliament Hill, the Liberal majority on the House of Commons justice committee voted to end its five-week inquiry into the controversy, enraging Conservatives and New Democrats alike.By the time Morneau reached the Commons to deliver his 4 p.m. budget speech, he faced some serious Conservative roadblocks. The Conservatives forced a vote on a motion to allow MPs on the fisheries committee to travel. Several Tory MPs voted both for and against.They then stood — one at a time — to apologize for voting twice. But they each also managed to also denounce the Liberals’ earlier decision, which prevented former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould from reappearing before the justice committee. Chants of “Let her speak” filled the chamber, while more points of privilege and points of order ate up the clock.Morneau’s speech was delayed an hour, and when he finally rose to speak, he was drowned out by opposition MPs. Eventually, the Conservatives walked out of the Commons, with Scheer calling the committee’s decision “an assault on democracy.”Morneau’s budget aimed billions in new spending at a variety of areas — from pharmacare to retraining workers to helping first-time homebuyers. It was a deficit-friendly, pre-election platform that contrasted with the Conservative mantra of balanced books. Morneau decided the government would use up a big windfall, and run near-term deficits of almost $20 billion. He offered no timeline for bringing the budget back to balance, and made no apologies.The budget document credited a stronger economy for an extra $27.8 billion in revenue over the next six years, compared with the numbers in the government’s fall update. The new budget will spend about $22.8 billion of that additional cash, and the government said it has earmarked another $4 billion in spending since the fall update.Morneau called this “investments to grow our economy for the long term — while we bring the books back towards balance.”Trudeau, meanwhile, accused the Conservatives of using the SNC-Lavalin affair to avoid talking about their own “failed” approach to the economy. “The Conservatives still don’t want to talk about jobs, about growth, about investing in Canadians because they’re realizing they have no plan,” he said.WHAT THE EXPERTS SAYFinancial experts say that while budgets can certainly be used by governments to make political gains, they are an annual ritual of government that are scheduled to take place on dates that are set weeks in advance. “The content of the budget is the real issue, and here the claim the budget was used as a prop is weak,” said Brett House, the deputy chief economist at Scotiabank. “Though the revenue windfall was spent, and we would have preferred to see it saved, the amount was not large and wasn’t devoted to a big signature project or program.”Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, agrees there is no single big initiative in the budget to draw attention away from other issues such as SNC-Lavalin.“Budgets are not mandatory but it is a long-standing tradition and a best practice to table a fiscal plan before the start of the fiscal year,” said Page, the president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.“This budget does not look like a prop.”Doug Porter, the chief economist of BMO Financial Group, says there is little doubt the government would like to shift the focus to other matters, including the economy and fiscal policy.“But, it’s also fair to say that, as the quote suggests, a budget is ‘a critical element of any government’s agenda,’” he said.Porter said the convention has generally become to unveil a new budget in February or March before the start of the new fiscal year on April 1.“It’s a convention that is followed by all 10 provinces as well.”THE VERDICTThe government usually releases a budget at this time of year. Though a lot is riding on the pre-election blueprint the Liberals tabled Tuesday, and Trudeau wasted no time in using it to attack the Conservative record, it didn’t feature a showcase signature initiative aimed at changing the political channel.For those reasons, Scheer’s assertion that the Liberals were using the budget as a political prop contains “a lot of 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 accurateA little baloney — the statement is mostly accurate but more information is requiredSome baloney — the statement is partly accurate but important details are missingA lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truthFull of baloney — the statement is completely inaccurateMike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
QUEBEC – Premier Francois Legault is congratulating Jason Kenney on his electoral victory in Alberta while reminding the incoming premier that Quebec’s position on oil pipelines hasn’t changed.Legault says all parties in Quebec’s legislature oppose any new oil pipelines.He says there is no social acceptability in the province for a new pipeline carrying oil from Western Canada through Quebec.READ MORE: Oil and gas sector applauds new Alberta Premier’s pro-business pledgesThe premier says the province already receives more than half its oil from Western Canada and is open to a proposed natural gas pipeline coming from Alberta.Kenney told supporters Tuesday night after his United Conservatives won a majority government that Alberta’s economy is desperate for a pipeline that can carry oil to international markets.READ MORE: Jason Kenney’s Alberta: Open war for businessSpeaking in French, Kenney said his province needs pipelines for the prosperity of all Canadians.
HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.“What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.“People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.“For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.— Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
SAGUENAY, Que. — Police are investigating after three children aged 14, 11 and four were left alone in a home for more than two days in Saguenay, some 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.The children were taken from the home Sunday night and are under the care of youth protection services.Saguenay police say they’ve been unable to locate the parents, but are confident they’ll be able to speak with the 35-year-old mother later today.A woman called police Sunday night to express concern about the children, and arriving officers called social services after noticing clear signs of negligence, according to Bruno Cormier of the Saguenay police.The children told police their parents had left Friday afternoon and promised to be home Sunday, but later called to say they wouldn’t be home until Monday.Both police and the regional youth protection agency are investigating the situation.The Canadian Press
GoBowling.com is teaming with one of the biggest NFL legends of all time to host the 9th Annual NFL Foundation Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers.Emceed by celebrated Super Bowl champion and football star, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, the tournament aims to increase awareness and bring in donations for the NFL Foundation.“I’m so proud to once again team up with GoBowling.com to host this great event that combines two of America’s favorite pastimes, bowling and football, all to benefit a terrific cause. The Classic has become an annual tradition and its continued success speaks to both the enduring popularity and the fundraising power of bowling,” said Jones. “With more than 69 million people taking to the lanes every year, bowling is our nation’s number one participatory sport and an activity that can be enjoyed by people of any age, any background and from all walks of life.”The NFL Foundation Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic brings together fans and NFL heroes alike for an exciting day of bowling. Bowlers will be teamed up with current and former NFL stars, Pro Football Hall-of-Famers and wounded warriors from joint base McGuire Air Force, Fort Dix Army and Lakehurst Naval Air in New Jersey, who will serve as rotating celebrity captains throughout the event. Fans will get an opportunity to bowl and engage with the honorary legends on an up-close and personal level.“There’s no other event like the Classic, a day where fans get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with NFL legends in a fun and relaxed setting, and knock down some pins all for a great cause,” said Frank DeSocio, president of Strike Ten Entertainment (STE). STE is the centralized sponsor-activation arm for bowling and the creator of GoBowling.com, the top online destination for bowling fans.Added DeSocio, “This will be a special year for the Classic as we host the game with one of the NFL’s ‘biggest’ legends of all time in the Big Apple. We’re also pleased to welcome a number of past and present NFL stars who will take part in the tournament.”Prominent NFL stars and Pro Football Hall of Fame members confirmed to participate in the Classic include: OJ Anderson, John Baker, Erich Barnes, Lem Barney, Hank Bauer, Scott Brunner, Jarrod Bunch, Greg Buttle, Chris Calloway, Harry Carson, Parnell Dickinson, Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, Nesby Glasgow, Rodney Hampton, Thomas Henderson, Ted Hendricks, Paul Hornung, Lamonte Hunley, Ricky Hunley, Brian Kelly, Jerry Kramer, Sean Landeta, Tom Mack, Curtis McGriff, Erik McMillan, Chuck Mercein, Michael Merriweather, Tom Nowatzke, Bart Oates, Brig Owens, Joe Pisarcik, Gary Reasons, Steve Reece, Willie Roaf, Pete Shaw, Mike Sherrard, Jim Taylor, Sandra Taylor, DeeDee Trotter, Justin Tucker, Everson Walls, Chris Ward, Ickey Woods and Garo Yepremian.The event will begin at 10:30 am EST on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers in New York City.GoBowling.com encourages interested parties to sign up in teams of four for a total donation of $3,000 or for $750 per bowler. Guests of bowlers may also attend the event for a charge of $250 per person. Each bowler will receive a limited edition commemorative Super Bowl XLVIII bowling ball, pin and bowling shirt as well as a buffet meal and soft drinks. All proceeds will benefit the NFL Foundation, a non-profit organization. Interested parties should contact Tournament Director Nick Nicolosi at 201-489-0049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Source:PR Newswire