Given a slowing world economy, Finance Minister Paul Martin has been sending warning signals to Canadians not to expect any new spending initiatives when he delivers the federal budget in early December. There are always, of course, exceptions. Last week, Martin said he was prepared to invest “whatever it takes” to insure the smooth flow of goods across the Canada-U.S. border. The cross-border trade of more than $1 billion a day is vital to both economies. But customs and security checks at border points have long been a sore point for Canadian manufacturers and exporters, and the problem has been exacerbated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. No details were immediately available, but there’s speculation Ottawa will spend $500 million over several years on infrastructure such as highways and
bridges at border points, and electronic and other technology to improve customs processing.
Martin made his comments after meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was in Ottawa for a gathering of the G-20 group of industrialized and developing countries-one of three major international financial meetings to be held simultaneously in Ottawa.
The G-20 moved from India amid the escalating war in the region, while the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings were shifted from Washington after Sept. 11.
As has become common at such gatherings, thousands of protesters turned up. They contend, among other things, that such global financial bodies do nothing to help the world’s poorest.
The race is on
Pitching himself as a moderate candidate, former Ontario finance minister Ernie Eves, 55, kicked off the race to replace Premier Mike Harris. Eves, who joined a Toronto investment bank last February after 20 years in office, including six in cabinet, had earlier ruled out a return to politics. In declaring his candidacy, he called himself a fiscal conservative who also has a social conscience-despite the fact he oversaw some of the largest cuts to several social services in the province's history. Health MinisterTony Clement, 40, also said he
would run in the Conservative leadership convention slated for March 23. Clement, a staunch neoconservative who last year helped found the Canadian Alliance, wants to keep the party headed in the farright direction of the Common Sense Revolution.
Deporting a Nazi
The federal government wants to strip an elderly Vancouver resident of his Canadian citizenship because he lied about his Nazi past, then deport him to Italy. Lawyers for the Canadian government claim Michael Seifert, 77, was “personally involved in the beatings, torture and the killing of prisoners" at a prison camp in northern Italy during the Second World War. He was convicted in absentia in 2000 in an Italian military court of murdering 11 people. The Canadian Jewish Congress questioned why the government took more than a year to begin deportation proceedings.
“Time is of the essence when dealing with Second World War criminals,” said Eric Rice, the congress’s director of government relations.
Not guilty, now
After having twice pleaded guilty to charges that she plotted to bomb two police cruisers in 1975, Sara Jane Olson reversed her stance and issued a signed declaration proclaiming her innocence. Olson, 54, -who when arrested in June,
1999, was living a middle-class life as an actress and mother of three in a quiet Minnesota suburb-is alleged to be a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in 1974. Olson’s lawyers said she initially pleaded guilty because she felt a fair trial was impossible in the post-Sept. 11 climate. But Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler let her guilty plea stand.
She will be sentenced on Dec. 7.
Fearing Wiebo’s return
Convicted oilpatch bomber Wiebo Ludwig walked out the front door of Alberta’s Grande Cache Institution after serving almost 19 months of a 28-month sentence. His arrest had followed at least 160 acts of van-
dalism at oil and gas facilities in northwestern Alberta in the late
1990s. Ludwig's family welcomed him warmly. But many of his neighbours in Trickle Creek felt uneasy about possible violence in the community, which is still coming to terms with the unresolved murder of 16-year-old Karman Willis, who was shot while trespassing on Ludwig’s property in June, 1999. A defiant statement Ludwig issued upon
his release did little to calm their fears: ‘This ordeal has not succeeded in destroying us or silencing us, but has rather strengthened our unity and resolve."
Ban scope limited
Declaring Canada ‘‘is not a police state,” the Supreme Court unanimously rejected two publication bans that suppressed details of police sting operations. The court made its rulings in connection with separate cases in Manitoba and British Columbia in which the police had wanted to prevent the media from publishing details of tactics used to entice confessions from
murder suspects. Both cases ended in acquittals. The court said only the identities of the police officers involved are barred from publication for one year. While defence lawyers embraced the court’s decisions, police worried that such bans could hamper them in doing their job.
Demanding a nation
About 2,000 Palestinians, marching in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s neverimplemented Nov. 15,1988, declaration of Palestinian independence, demanded he proclaim statehood immediately. The United States, which is trying to re-establish a
peace process, opposes such a unilateral step, and Israel has warned it would stop all peace talks. In a broadcast speech, Arafat said he wants peace with Israel, but the Jewish state must withdraw from the entire West Bank of the Jordan River, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem-
conditions Israel has repeatedly rejected.The latest Palestinian uprising, which broke out on Sept. 28, 2000, has left nearly 1,000 dead.
Baby gang raped
The alleged gang rape of a ninemonth-old baby in Louisvaleweg township in Northern Cape Province, South Africa, has shocked the entire country. Six men between 24 and 66 years old have been charged in connection with the incident, which allegedly took place when the girl’s 16-year-old mother went to buy food and left her in someone else’s care. The baby is in serious condition in a hospital and receiving treatment for possible exposure to HIV.The crime has focused attention on the bizarre myth in parts of rural Africa that sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.
WTO on a roll
Meeting virtually demonstrator-free in Doha, Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula, the 142 members of the World Trade Organization agreed to launch a new round of talks to liberalize global commerce. The negotiations, covering issues from agriculture to investment, are set to begin in January and end by 2005. Canada claimed a major victory for the rest of the world when the European Union finally agreed to wording that will allow negotiations to phase out agricultural subsidies. AIDS activists were pleased about new rules making distribution of generic versions of patented drugs easier in developing countries. And China at last joined the club.
Gushing with oil
World oil prices dropped after members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were unable to agree on production cuts. OPEC feared non-members-especially Russia-would continue production at current levels, despite lowered demand due to the world economic downturn. The price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell to $18.03 (U.S.), well below OPEC’s desired minimum of $24.
Down at the ranch debating missiles
During a reception at George W.
Bush’s Texas ranch, they dined on mesquite-smoked beef and pecan pie, listened to country-andwestern music and accepted congratulations after agreeing to do away with nearly 4,000 long-range nuclear weapons. But Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin went further, bringing their countries closer together in a number of critical areas. Among other things, the U.S. could remove Russia from a list of countries that requires annual congressional approval for regular trading status. “Usually you only invite a good friend to your home,” said Bush, after taking Putin on a tour of his 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch in a white pickup truck. “And that is clearly the case here.” Putin then raised his own glass. “It is hugely symbolic to me that it is the home of the president of the United States.”
Bush and Putin, however, failed to reach agreement on U.S. plans to deploy a missile defence shield. Russia believes such a plan will reignite the arms race. And before dropping his objections to the shield, Putin wants Bush to sign an extensive new nuclear-arms treaty limiting the two country’s nuclear arsenals. Bush, fearing constraints on deployment of the system, does not want to link missile defence to a new arms-control pact. But the President is expected to visit Moscow in the spring, allowing further time to negotiate.
Even without an agreement on the missile defence question, Bush said warming Russian-U.S. relations, improved by Moscow’s decision to support the U.S. following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, have helped create an environment that will allow the United States to reduce its supply of long-range nuclear
warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200, down from about 7,000. Russia, with an estimated 6,000 warheads that it can no longer afford, has promised cuts as well. But Putin had hoped a new arms treaty would have allowed him
to make deeper cuts.
Both leaders also vowed to strengthen their co-operation to safeguard biological and nuclear weapons-and prevent terrorist access to weapons of mass destruction. As part ofthat effort,
Russia will work closer with NATOan alliance founded to defend against the old Soviet Union. While it won’t formally join the alliance, Russia will be brought in to formulate common policies on terrorism and weapons proliferation.
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