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Politics

The Western World Is ‘Finished Financially’: CIO

Source: CNBC

The Western world has run out of ideas and is “finished financially” while emerging economies across the world will continue to grow, David Murrin, CIO at Emergent Asset Management told CNBC on the tenth anniversary of coining of the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill.

“I still subscribe and I’ve spoken about it regularly on this show that this is the moment when the Western world realizes it is finished financially and the implications are huge, whereas the emerging BRIC countries are at the beginning of their continuation cycle,” Murrin told CNBC.

Murrin added he believes the power shift from the West to emerging economies beyond Europe and the United States was “unstoppable” and he blamed a lack of ideas from Western leaders on how to stimulate growth together with contracted demographics and rising inflation as catalysts for Western decline.

“We suffer from no growth and we suffer from imported inflation… that means we have negative real growth and societies fracture when you have negative real growth and quite simply our society faces fractures for trying to stick Europe back together again is not going to work with that underlying paradigm, unless you can create five percent growth to overcome that imported inflation,” Murrin explained.

Murrin said that the East was depending less on the West and the rise of a consumer society was the first step in the expansion of an economic empire.

“If you look at the cycle of an empire system from regionalization to expansion to empire, the first phases of that catalyst are when you have a self fuelled consumer society and so actually that process of building your consumer base which is really what’s going on in China, day by day their consumer base increases and the dependence on the West decreases,” he said.

Containing China

Murrin added that while China is by far the biggest emerging economy and would be at the center of a new economic order, other emerging nations were set to join the BRIC countries and new political orders and alliances would come about as a result.

“This isn’t just a BRIC story, this is the end of the Christian Western Empire versus the rise of the whole emerging world led by China as the foremost and most powerful,” Murrin told CNBC.

“I think it’s going to be the whole world trying to contain China’s growth and there’s going to be completely new alliances that take place… between Australia, Japan and India and America and possibly Russia if the foreign policy is expansive enough, there’s going to be a ring of containment trying to hold this bulging entity which is like no other nation we’ve ever seen coherently challenge for control of world commodities and resources,” he added.

Intervention Not the Answer

Finally, Murrin stressed that Europe in particular was set to experience a rapid and deep decline and intervention by the European Union and its financial institutions was not a solution to stimulate growth.

“I think there’s a real reality amongst investors and just taxi drivers, that without growth, the system’s not sustainable, so intervention is just a drug and we all know that the more drugs you put into someone, the more the system becomes immune to their response and so I don’t see this as a solution,” he said.

Pointing to previous economic downturns, Murrin said the West was much less equipped than the emerging world to deal with its current decline.

“In all our examples of disastrous events, Argentina, Russia, the Asian crisis, they’re not good references for us in the West because they take place in countries with good demographics, good commodity stories and essentially underlying tides which lift them away from their problems,” he said.

“We in the West have none of those, we live in a world where resources are increasing in prices, where we’re a consumer society, we’re an old society, we’re not innovative, we’re not expansive, so we don’t have any of those natural lifting qualities to actually pick us out of the mire which is what decline is really about,” he added.


Canada will not renew Kyoto commitment, despite latest Chinese offer

An activist wears a mask depicting the face of Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, during a protest in Durban, South Africa

Source: Canadian Press

Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, despite a tempting climate-change offer from China, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday.

Kent said Canada will not sign on for a second Kyoto phase, even if doing so meant top polluter China would agree to targets to cut its own greenhouse gases.

China has long refused to adopt binding treaty commitments to lower its greenhouse-gas emissions. But this weekend, China’s top negotiator signalled that Beijing would consider a target if the European Union and developed nations — including Canada — first agreed to extend their Kyoto commitments.

China’s olive branch did not sway Kent. When asked if the offer might get Canada to reconsider signing on for a second phase of Kyoto after it expires next year, the minister simply said No.

He said Canada’s “fixation” is on sealing a deal made two years ago at a United Nations climate-change conference in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

“Canada has made clear this year that Canada will not make a commitment to a second Kyoto period,” Kent said.

The NDP’s environment critic, MP Megan Leslie, said China’s move puts Canada in a tough spot.

“The argument that China isn’t doing anything, well, that’s gone,” she said.

“I’m left to ask, ‘What is Canada’s excuse now?'”

Jean Chretien’s Liberal government joined Kyoto in 1998, but took little action to meet Canada’s targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Conservatives also ignored Kyoto after they came to power in 2006. Canada has since set its own target of cutting emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 — the same goal set by the Obama administration in Washington.

The Kyoto accord requires countries to make even deeper cuts to their greenhouse-gas emissions, but the Tories say reductions of that magnitude would hurt the economy.

The United States, one of the world’s biggest polluters, has not ratified Kyoto and the Conservatives argue that any agreement that does not include such a big emitter is meaningless.

Canada is among those pushing for a single agreement to replace Kyoto that would include all countries.

Environmentalists have strongly condemned Canada for its position on climate change and its approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our loss of credibility on these issues didn’t happen overnight,” Queen’s University biology professor John Smol said in a statement.

“It’s partly the result of ongoing neglect of environmental science at the federal level, but it also stems from a long history of broken promises, both to Canadians and to our global peers.”

Meanwhile, Kent also announced Canada will spend a total of $1.2 billion as part of an international “fast-start” plan to help poor countries with their climate change efforts.

Some $400 million covered the period from 2010 to 2012, and another $600 million announced Monday will cover the period from 2011 to 2013.


Despite Quebec’s demands, Ottawa vows to destroy gun-registry data

Written By: Rhéal Séguin

Source: The Globe and Mail

 

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to abolish the long-gun registry, the data should be preserved and transferred to Quebec to allow the province to build its own system, Premier Jean Charest says.

“The registry exists. It is there – and those who work with the police tell us that the registry is useful,” Mr. Charest said in the National Assembly. “It is only common sense that the data be preserved and that [Ottawa] work with us to transfer the data.”

For the fifth time in as many years, the Quebec National Assembly on Thursday voted unanimously to condemn abolishing the long-gun registry and voice its opposition to Ottawa’s decision to destroy the database.

In a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Quebec called the legislation unacceptable, arguing that it goes against the objective of reducing criminal activities in the province.

“Quebeckers contributed to setting up the arms registry with their tax dollars,” the Quebec government stated in the letter to Mr. Toews. “We ask that your government amend the bill to withdraw provisions relating to the destruction of the data and undertake discussions as soon as possible to transfer information in the gun registry regarding Quebec citizens.”

The Harper government showed no sign of backtracking and moved to shut down debate on the bill Thursday, the fifth time in 35 days it has moved for closure or time allocation on controversial pieces of legislation.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said his government will move to destroy all the data compiled and gave no indication his government would bow to Quebec’s demands.

“We will not do indirectly what we said we do directly,” Mr. Paradis said in a Radio-Canada interview in defending the need to abolish the registry and destroy the data.

Mr. Paradis says his government has full authority to implement the provisions of the bill, including destroying the data. There is nothing Quebec can do to stop it, he added.

Mr. Charest refused to say what he plans to do when pressured by the opposition to explain his next steps.

The Quebec government, he said, is examining all possible avenues to prevent Ottawa from destroying the data, including legal action.

The province’s Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Yvon Vallières, didn’t rule out asking the court for an injunction to protect the information from being destroyed. He believes that Quebec can make a legal case to support its demands.

The killing of 14 women at the Montreal’s École Polytechnique by Marc Lepine in 1989 sparked an outcry of anger over violence against women and launched a public debate over gun control, which led to the creation of the gun registry. That debate still remains fresh in the minds of many Quebeckers who continue to support tough control legislation and the need to maintain a gun registry.

Action démocratique du Québec party house leader Sylvie Roy, said the federal government’s behaviour was clearly “arrogant,” while Québec Solidaire member Amir Khadir noted that if Quebec was an independent country, “we wouldn’t find ourselves in this type of situation today.”


Quebec and Ontario refuse to pay costs of federal crime bill

Written By: Jennifer Ditchburn

Source: The Globe and Mail

 

Both Ontario and Quebec are balking at paying the costs associated with the federal government’s new crime bill, joining other provincial and opposition politicians worried about the tab for expanding the prison system.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday it’s incumbent on Ottawa to foot the bill for measures that were entirely its own idea.

 

“It’s easy for the federal government to pass new laws dealing with crime,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters in Ottawa.

“But if there are new costs associated with those laws that have to be borne by taxpayers in the province of Ontario, then I expect that the feds will pick up that tab.”

Mr. McGuinty’s comments came just hours after Quebec’s Justice Minister made a passionate appeal for a “time-out” on Bill C-10 at a Commons committee. Jean-Marc Fournier told MPs that the bill would actually lead to more recidivism because it did not focus enough on the rehabilitation and reintegration of criminals.

He estimated that the proposed legislation, which includes more mandatory minimum sentences, would cost Quebec hundreds of millions for new prisons and operational costs.

“I’m going to tell you, red light, we’re not going to pay them, is that clear enough? We won’t pay them,” Mr. Fournier said. “If the federal government is convinced that it is an efficient law in terms of public safety, so then free up the budgets to help the provinces, especially those who say it won’t be case.”

Neither Mr. McGuinty nor Mr. Fournier explained how their provinces would force Ottawa to foot the bill. Courts in those provinces would be obliged to obey changes to the Criminal Code.

Fournier noted that Quebec has the lowest crime rates in the country and a criminal justice system that has been studied by other countries. He said measures in C-10 on youth crime had the overall effect of treating more young offenders as adults, something Quebec is completely opposed to.

“Focusing all the energy on imprisonment can only be a short-term, superficial, soft-on-crime solution,” Mr. Fournier said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has estimated the cost of the omnibus bill, with its nine distinct areas, would cost $78.5-million over five years, but hasn’t estimated how much the provinces will have to foot. Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, who is coming up with his own estimate this month, has said the government’s figure included no methodology or supporting information.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the provinces have been well aware of the direction the government was taking, as many of the measures have been in the federal legislative pipeline for some time.

He suggested that they would be able to absorb the costs associated with the bill with the funds they get from the Canada Social Transfer.

“I note, in the last budget, an over $2.4 billion increase here and I know this will be very helpful to the provinces who have for the most part the responsibility of the administration of justice,” Mr. Nicholson said Tuesday in Montreal.

“I’m, of course, a supporter of the increases that I’ve seen over the years of transfers to the provinces. And I think that’s important.”

There have been some murmurs of concern from other provinces as well since the bill was introduced in late September.

The Nunavut government has been told to expect a 15 per cent rise in the inmate population, even as the territory’s one jail is already housing double the number of prisoners it was designed to take.

Janet Slaughter, deputy minister of justice, said the territory still has no facility for counselling and addictions – the driving force behind much of the criminal activity in Nunavut.

In British Columbia, the opposition NDP has said it’s opposed to the federal bill and have raised concerns about downloaded costs on the province.

B.C. Attorney-General Shirley Bond has said her staff is studying the bill’s impact.


Alberta enacts toughest distracted driving law in North America

Source: Daily Brew

Written By: John Size

The Alberta version of a distracted driver law may come long after provinces like Ontario, but it’s probably the toughest in Canada and perhaps North America.

The law, Bill 16, comes into effect tomorrow (Sept. 1) and sets out a $172 fine for texting or talking on a mobile device while driving to programming GPS devices or watching DVDs – all the usual suspects.

It sounds reasonable at the outset and the government defends it. After all, there’ s no demerit points unlike Saskatchewan where a conviction will cost you four.

“I am confident this new law, which is practical and enforceable, will help to keep Albertans safer,” said Minister of Transportation Luke Ouellette in a CBC article.

But Bill 16 seems to be the most comprehensive law in North America.

The law also bans eating, teeth brushing, shaving, hair combing, writing, sketching or applying makeup – all activities one would consider a distraction. But reading email in parking lots or calling home while parked in a drive-through would still constitute distracted driving in Alberta, and would even apply to bike couriers.

National Post blogger Jesse Kline doesn’t agree with Alberta’s late ride to the distracted driver saloon, arguing science deflates the theory bans on cellphone use decrease crashes.

“It doesn’t matter that the law won’t actually make the roads safer. Governments don’t need a problem to exist, in order to try and fix it.”

Kline’s point is simple. Between 2005 and 2009, cellphones in Alberta homes increased by 31 per cent, following a 170 per cent increase between 1997 and 2005, based on Statistics Canada data.

But between 2005 and 2009, the number of casualties caused by traffic collisions decreased by 22 per cent, meaning there’s no connection between cellphone use and crashes.

He also notes a 2010 study in the U.S. found no decrease in insurance claims following implementation of distracted driving laws in states like California and New York.

Opponents also argue cellphone bans are hard to enforce because it’s difficult for police to determine what was actually going on in a moving vehicle.

Kline suggests, “In Alberta, such questions may be a moot point, because the law is broad enough to encompass all forms of distracted driving, even when someone is not technically driving.”

Even well-known Calgary Herald columnist Robert Remington weighed into the debate with a little sarcasm in his blog by posting a variety of videos of things Alberta drivers won’t be able to do behind the wheel after Thursday.

Remington aptly notes in his selection playing the ukulele, guitar, or the saxophone will likely net you a charge under the new law and higher insurance premiums.


Layton’s economic influence gone, but NDP policies resilient

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Written By: Tom Fennell

Canadians haven’t put a lot of faith in NDP economic policies over the years, but Jack Layton’s death has robbed Canada of a countervailing voice at time when the economy is slumping and right-leaning politicians in Canada, the U.S. and Europe increasingly have the field to themselves.

In Europe, the social safety net is being shredded as governments try to rein in soaring debt levels.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have even mused about adopting balanced budget amendments, which drastically reduce the role of government in the economy.

Even U.S. President Barack Obama has been unable to resist the right-flowing tide, and was bullied by the radical Tea Party into accepting its view of the world, where taxes are never raised but services are cut until the country’s books are balanced.

Now that same debate — albeit at much more muted level — is set to begin in Ottawa in a few weeks without Jack Layton there to at least question the Harper government on a number of economic questions. And he is probably the only member of the NDP party with the credibility to do so.

Harper’s economic agenda is anchored to a promise to balance the federal budget in four to five years. To do so will require the government to cut the federal payroll and lay off thousands of workers.

While polls show most Canadians support a balanced budget, Harper’s initiative comes at a time when the economy is contracting in Canada and worldwide. Global equity markets have been pricing in a major economic decline and the odds are now even the U.S. will fall into a double-dip recession.

Should Harper slow his deficit-cutting until there is a clear reading on the economy?

It’s a question that Layton would have certainly raised on the floor of the House of Commons. And given the bleak economic backdrop, many Canadians would have probably paid close attention to the answer.

It was Layton after all who played a large part in convincing the federal government to adopt an economic stimulus program at the onset of the 2009 recession. And it’s his counter arguments that will be missed in the debate if the economy grinds to a halt again.

It’s not just the deficit-fighting equation. With Layton’s death many of Harper’s corporate constituents will find little real opposition to a number of Conservative fiscal policies.
For example, while the measures were already passed, Layton got great mileage pointing out corporations in Canada were among the lowest-taxed in the world.

And without Layton there to raise the issue, will anyone pay attention as corporate taxes are cut further?

The development of the oil sands is another issue where his voice will be missed. Whether you agree with him or not, there is no doubt he would have drawn attention to the fact a growing number of Americans are opposed to building a pipeline from northern Alberta to Texas.

And it’s probably worth listening to their opinion — something you won’t hear from the Tories.

The same can be said for controversial issues surrounding carbon cap and trade. While supported by three provinces, the Harper Conservatives have all but abandoned it. And without Layton there to raise the issue, it’s doubtful Canadians will hear much about it, or any other global-warming issue, in any meaningful way over the next four years.

You could see the effect Layton’s absence had this summer on these large economic and environmental policy issues, particularly during Harper’s recent free trade junket through South and Central America.

Other than a few questions about human rights in countries like Colombia, there was no debate at home that might have shined a light on what sectors and workers would be affected in this country.

And whether you agree with free trade or not, the silence around the government’s recent free-trade initiatives seemed to rob the whole process of legitimacy.

Of course there are a host of smaller economic issues that Layton often addressed. One of his favourites, and in many ways the most important, was the flat-lining of middle-class incomes and seniors’ poverty.

Both of these issues will grow in importance if the economy rolls over into recession. And without Layton’s credibility on those issues, the Harper government is all but free to ignore them.

Still, Layton’s voice won’t be silenced entirely on economic and financial matters, and will live on in the culture of the NDP.

Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, points out the NDP unlike other parties, views the “leader as a spokesman for the party.”

Wiseman is not being disparaging, he’s simply pointing out the NDP, unlike the Conservatives and Liberals, only promote policies that have been signed off on at its annual policy conventions.

For example, when the Liberals slashed the deficit under Finance Minister Paul Martin, or when the Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney entered into a free-trade deal with the U.S., neither initiative was sanctioned by the broader party membership.

So in that sense, Wiseman says the issues Layton pursued will also be championed by his successor.

“The NDP will be exactly the same,” says Wiseman. “And I don’t see any sign that the party for any ideological reason will change.”

And that is something Jack Layton would endorse.


Top Layton adviser emerging front-runner to succeed fallen NDP leader

Brian Topp, president of the New Democratic Party of Canada, speaks to reporters before the NDP caucus meeting Wednesday morning, July 27, 2011 in Ottawa.

Source: The Canadian Press

Written By: Joan Bryden

One of Jack Layton’s closest advisers is emerging as a surprise front-runner to pick up the torch from the fallen NDP leader.

Insiders say party president Brian Topp is receiving a lot of encouragement from influential quarters to join the impending race to succeed Layton, who died on Monday.

Topp is one of the key architects of Layton’s success and was among the last of Layton’s tight-knit inner circle to speak with him before his death.

Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, Layton’s deputy leader, is widely considered the only other prospective candidate to have a serious shot at taking Layton’s place.

Signs of leadership jockeying emerged Tuesday even as plans were drawn up for Layton’s body to lie in state on Parliament Hill and Toronto’s City Hall before a state funeral in Toronto on Saturday.

His closed casket will rest for visitation in the foyer outside the House of Commons, where the NDP leader used to joust daily with reporters.

The lying-in-state will be open to the public Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET. He will receive a 15-gun salute as he leaves Parliament Hill for the last time.

Layton’s casket will then rest “in repose” at Toronto’s City Hall all day Friday and Saturday morning before a state funeral at Roy Thomson Hall that afternoon.

The state funeral, normally accorded only to current and former prime ministers, current cabinet ministers and governors general, was offered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of respect for Layton’s stature.

Topp, meanwhile, declined to comment on his possible leadership aspirations.

“We lost Jack yesterday and his funeral is on Saturday,” the fluently bilingual Topp said in an interview. “It’s not appropriate to talk about his successor this week.”

Mulcair could not be reached for comment.

Layton himself broached the leadership issue in a death-bed letter to Canadians, released just hours after his death from cancer. Topp, along with Layton’s wife, MP Olivia Chow, and his chief of staff, Anne McGrath, helped Layton craft the letter Saturday, just over a day before the leader passed away.

In it, Layton urged the party to choose a replacement as soon as possible in the new year, giving his successor almost four years before the next election to put his or her stamp on the party.

The party’s federal council is expected to meet the first week of September to set the leadership process in motion. A leadership vote is likely in mid-January.

Given the short time frame, it’s not surprising that New Democrats are already buzzing about potential contenders, despite their grief over Layton’s untimely death.

Names of other prospective candidates are floating around, including former Manitoba premier Gary Doer, former Nova Scotia NDP leader and newly elected MP Robert Chisholm, and veteran MPs Libby Davies and Paul Dewar.

However, insiders say most of those would be handicapped by their lack of fluent French. Fluency in both official languages is widely accepted as a precondition for any leader, particularly since Layton’s historic success in Quebec in the May 2 election. The party swept 59 of the province’s 75 seats.

The fact more than half the NDP’s 103 seats are from Quebec gives Mulcair a leg up entering a leadership race. Until the election, the one-time provincial Liberal cabinet minister was the NDP’s lone standard-bearer in the province. He is credited with laying much of the groundwork for the party’s breakthrough on May 2.

However, Mulcair is a mercurial, abrasive figure, who may find it hard to emulate Layton’s folksy charm. Moreover, the party’s leadership process could work against him.

Under the NDP’s constitution, every member of the party will be able to vote for a new leader. The results are not weighted to give equal clout to ridings or regions.

Provinces where the party’s membership is highest — British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — will have the biggest say in determining who succeeds Layton. Quebec, at the moment, has the fewest members and, therefore, the least influence.

Members of affiliated trade unions are also entitled to vote for the new leader, accounting for about 25 per cent of the ballots.

Topp has deep roots in the New Democratic Party, particularly in member-rich Ontario and the West, and in the labour movement.

Born and raised in Quebec, he is currently executive director of ACTRA Toronto. He’s worked for the party for decades, serving as deputy chief of staff to former Saskatchewan NDP premier Roy Romanow during the 1990s. He co-ordinated the federal NDP’s campaign war room in the 1997 and 2004 elections, and was national campaign director in 2006 and 2008.

He has been asked to direct the British Columbia provincial campaign, expected this fall.

Insiders won’t say whether Layton personally encouraged Topp to consider running to succeed him. But in June, when Topp was acclaimed party president, Layton pronounced it “a great day for our party” and its ambitious goal of actually winning power in the next election.

“Brian Topp is one of the most principled and hard-working people I know. He’s been an integral part of our team for years and is just the person we need to bring us to the next level,” Layton said at the time.

Interim leader Nycole Turmel acknowledged Tuesday that the party “can’t replace Jack Layton” whom she termed “a great leader.” But she insisted the NDP’s success in the last election was not just due to Layton’s personal appeal but also due to the vision he represented — and that’s something that will outlive the leader.

“Jack was the image, we all know that,” Turmel said.

“But we believe, all of us, why we ran with Jack Layton is because we believe in what he was representing. So we’ll carry on and defend that.”