OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian retail sales rose in April on higher gasoline prices and increased demand for home appliances and garden supplies, Statistics Canada said on Thursday in a report that lent support to the Bank of Canada’s recent hawkish monetary policy stance.
The value of retail sales rose 0.8 percent, exceeding forecasts for a 0.2 percent gain and providing a firm start to the second quarter. Stripping out the effects of price changes, April’s sales volumes were less robust, rising just 0.3 percent.
Canada’s economy is on track to grow at an annual rate of near 3 percent in the second quarter, said Brittany Baumann, macro strategist at TD Securities. The economy expanded at a 3.7 percent pace in the first three months of the year.
The report increases the odds the Bank of Canada will raise interest rates at its next meeting in July, though Friday’s inflation report will be key, particularly in regards to the central bank’s measures of core inflation, Baumann said.
“Further deceleration in core inflation is more likely to stay the bank’s hand in July, while some stabilization or uptick, which cannot be excluded at this stage, will put further pressure on the Bank of Canada to act,” she said.
Bank of Canada policymakers took a more hawkish turn last week, setting the stage for rate hikes. The central bank has held its policy rate at 0.50 percent since 2015 when it cut rates twice to offset the impact of cheaper oil, one of Canada’s main exports.
The Canadian dollar gained against the greenback and was trading at C$1.3253 or 74.45 U.S. cents after Thursday’s report. [CAD/]
Sales in the building material, garden equipment and supplies sector rose 3.5 percent, the biggest increase in nearly two years. Increased sales of home appliances and hardware have helped the sector rise for eight months in a row. Continued…
A kill shot against an ISIS terrorist in Iraq in May came from a Canadian sniper’s rifle over two miles away.
Canadian Armed Forces has confirmed an operation in Iraq that required one of its special operations forces to fire a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle from 3,540 meters away. The call was made to attempt a record-breaking shot as a means of avoiding civilian casualties.
“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target at 3,540 meters,” officials told The Globe and Mail in a statement released Wednesday. “For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our coalition partners we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place.”
A military source told the website that the kill shot was independently verified by video and other equipment.
“The shot in question actually disrupted a Daesh [ISIS] attack on Iraqi security forces,” the source said. “Instead of dropping a bomb that could potentially kill civilians in the area, it is a very precise application of force and because it was so far way, the bad guys didn’t have a clue what was happening.”
The source said that such a feat is astonishing because the sniper must factor in the ballistics of the round, wind, gravity and other factors.
“You have to adjust for him firing from a higher location downward and as the round drops you have to account for that,” the source said. “From that distance you actually have to account for the curvature of the Earth.”
The previous record came from British sniper Craig Harrison in 2009, the website reported. He shot a Taliban gunner from 2,475 meters away.
A generation after Canada declared a moratorium on northern cod fishing off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the species is making a comeback. But can the province’s troubled fishery survive to take advantage of cod’s resurgence?
The wharf in Petty Harbour is quiet, and Todd Chafe, a 46-year-old fisherman, is slicing up cod for a nearby family restaurant in a shack near the water.
“Some fellas like to point fingers: ‘Ah, this done it, foreigners done it’,” he says.
Chafe is talking about the collapse of northern cod off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador 25 years ago.
“We all done it, every single person that went fishing done it. Everybody fished for it so everybody had a hand in destroying it.”
On 2 July 1992, after decades of bungled fisheries management, Canada put an end to a cod industry that had supported rural Newfoundlanders for 500 years.
Stocks of the once mighty northern cod had fallen to an estimated 1% of 1980s levels. The government had overestimated how many cod there were and didn’t act when it first became clear the fish were disappearing.
That day, in a St John’s ballroom, federal cabinet minister John Crosbie announced a moratorium on cod fishing. Angry fishermen pounded on the barred doors trying to get in.
Overnight, 38,000 people were put out of work in Newfoundland and Labrador – the single largest layoff in Canada’s history.
Crosbie promised the moratorium would only last about two years. It’s been more than 20.
Now there is a glimmer of hope. Northern cod stock has reached about 25% of the levels seen in the ’80s.
But there is a fierce debate over what the return of cod fishing should look like in Newfoundland.
Musician Arthur O’Brien entertains the lunchtime crowd at Chafe’s Landing, a popular Petty Harbour restaurant, with songs about Newfoundland and Labrador.
As a child, O’Brien used to be part of the fishing economy.
“Right here you’re sitting off what was once one of the best fisheries in the world,” he says after his set.
O’Brien hails from Bay Bulls, a nearby coastal community. Like many children in fishing villages, O’Brien was a “wharf rat”, making pocket money cutting out and selling cod tongues by the dozen or the pound.
Bay Bulls – a fish processing hub – was one of the hundreds of rural towns whose economic backbone was the inshore fishery.
The inshore fishery is relegated to smaller boats that are essentially small independent businesses, unlike the industrial-sized trawlers that fish further out in the Atlantic.
A lot of things changed after the cod fishery was shut down, the 43-year-old recalls. People left the Atlantic province in droves, losing about 14% of its population.
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“Every Newfoundlander has someone gone away. Everybody,” says O’Brien, who gets a big reaction when he sings about locals leaving to work in the Fort McMurray oil fields in Alberta.
Some 18,800 people from the province went to work in the western province between 1996 and 2006 alone.
Until recently, the decade-long oil boom in both Alberta and in the waters off Newfoundland helped fill the gap left by cod.
But low oil prices have sent unemployment rates in the province ticking upwards and squeezed government revenues.
Crab and shellfish also gave fishermen a reprieve, but now those stocks are also showing signs of stress.
In April, angry fishermen forced their way into the headquarters of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), while others burnt their gear in front of a regional office over cuts to shrimp and crab quotas.
The same month, another fisherman, Richard Gillett, went on a hunger strike outside DFO offices in St John’s, demanding a meeting with the federal fisheries minister.
Then in June, search and rescue workers had to airlift the crew of a fishing vessel to safety after they were caught in thick sea ice. The ice has delayed the snow crab season, another source of income.
Neil Ward’s son was among the men rescued as the vessel sank below the ice.
“For them to be doing this, it shows how desperate people are,” Ward, a store owner in the coastal town of La Scie, Newfoundland, says. “They’re willing to take the risk.”
DFO has begun to loosen the moratorium, if only slightly. In 2017, the agency extended the length of the cod fishing season and doubled the weekly catch limits in most regions under a “stewardship fishery” programme.
Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) President Keith Sullivan calls the current levels set by DFO “really, really conservative”.
FFAW is asking DFO to further expand the cod fishery to make up for the squeeze fishermen are feeling over cuts to crab and shrimp quotas.
Sullivan sees an opportunity to create an international market for Canadian northern cod, and rebuild the fishery infrastructure.
“People understand it’s got to be done sustainably, but they can also see that this is something that’s going to bring value back to communities, hopefully for years to come,” he says.
But Tony Blanchard, the resource management director for DFO in the region, says “caution” is the current approach. The government will start making annual assessments of the stock in 2018.
Ryan Cleary, a former journalist and ex-federal politician, says fishermen are impatient and the industry, beyond cod, is in crisis.
“It’s going to continue to heat up until it boils over,” he says.
Cleary, along with Gillett, is trying to launch a splinter union – the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador – in a bid to take on the FFAW.
He says the independent, small boat operators need their own representation. FFAW says about 4,100 of the 15,000 workers they represent are inshore fishermen.
“The average Newfoundland and Labrador fish harvesters are dying out,” he says.
Many coastal fishermen are now in their 60s, with few young people willing to take a risk in an industry that’s been struggling for decades, or pay the upfront costs of training, licensing and buying a vessel.
Cleary and Gillett also believe the inshore fishery is facing an unprecedented crisis in many ways worse than the cod collapse, with stocks of most commercial species on the decline or delicate in terms of rebuilding.
“It hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse.” says Cleary. “We didn’t learn anything from the moratorium.”
Some independent scientists have been raising alarm bells about any imminent ramp up in the cod fishery.
Memorial University’s Noel Cadigan says cod stocks are still too fragile to allow for more fishing and sees DFO’s decision to expand the season as a mistake.
He worries they are caving to pressure from fishermen who see crab and shrimp stocks failing.
“I don’t think we’re going to do irreparable harm but we certainly are delaying recovery of the stock,” he says.
Cadigan and his colleagues say a better management plan – one that includes a timeline for recovery and defined targets along the way – is necessary.
Back on the Petty Harbour wharf, Tom Best is frustrated and worried about what will happen if the moratorium is lifted.
He says politicians and agency staff, most of whom live thousands of kilometres away in Ottawa, were nowhere to be found in the last 25 years when it came to making tough decisions about the fishery’s future.
“You could have hundreds of communities in this province prospering from the cod fishery if people just used their brains and their heads,” the president of the Petty Harbour Fishermen’s Cooperative says.
“People are geared up to do things that were destructive before the moratorium, and they’re going to go right back to it again.”
If you’ve been chatting about politics on social media recently, there’s a good chance you’ve been part of a conversation that was manipulated by bots, researchers say.
The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has studied such discussions related to nine places – US, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Canada, China, Taiwan, Brazil and Poland – on platforms including Twitter and Facebook.
It claims that in all the elections, political crises and national security-related discussions it looked at, there was not one instance where social media opinion had not been manipulated.
Bots in propaganda
Bots – programs that perform simple, repetitive tasks – are integral to what the OII calls “computational propaganda” – instances of people deliberately distributing misleading information on social media by various means.
Bots can communicate with people – retweeting fake news, for example – but they can also exploit social network algorithms to get a topic to trend.
They can be fully or only partly automated. A single individual can use them to create the illusion of large-scale consensus. They can also be used to stifle critics by mobbing individuals or swamping hashtags.
The methods the OII used for identifying bots in each country study varied.
The institute has, however, been criticised in the past for identifying social media accounts as being “bots” whose owners insisted they were nothing of the kind.
‘Anyone can launch a bot on Twitter’
Bots are built by authoritarian governments, by corporate consultants who hire out their expertise, or by individuals who have the know-how, says the OII.
“Because the Twitter API [application programming interface – the means by which one bit of software can talk to another] is open, anyone can launch a bot on Twitter,” explained director of research for the project, Samuel Woolley.
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While bot and other propagandistic behaviour was specific to the political context of each country, the study also identified several trends.
In every country, it said, civil society groups struggled to protect themselves against misinformation campaigns.
And in authoritarian countries, it added, social media was one of the key ways the authorities had tried to retain control during political crises.
The frontline of disinformation
Computational propaganda has been particularly prevalent in Ukraine, the research suggests.
There had been “significant Russian activity… to manipulate public opinion” the report said, adding that Ukraine had become “the frontline of numerous disinformation campaigns” since 2014.
The typical way this worked, it explained, was that a message would be placed in an online news outlet or blog’s article.
This was possible, it said, “because a large number of Ukrainian online media… publish stories for money”.
These would then be spread on social media via automated accounts and potentially picked up in turn by “opinion leaders”, with large followings of their own.
With enough attention, the message would ultimately be picked up by mainstream media, including TV channels.
The study provides an example related to the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 to illustrate how such campaigns work.
A conspiracy theory claiming that the plane was shot down by a Ukranian fighter jet originated with a tweet from a non-existent Spanish air traffic controller, called Carlos (@spainbuca).
The post was then retweeted by others and was picked up by Russia’s RT television network as well as other Russian news outlets.
Ukraine’s information ministry later revealed the account had been used to retweet pro-Russian messages earlier in the year.
In Russia itself, the OII suggested that about 45% of politics-focused Twitter accounts were highly automated, “essentially reproducing government propaganda”.
‘Tools against democracy’
It remains difficult to quantify the impact such bots have had.
But the OII’s researchers believe that “computational propaganda is now one of the most powerful tools against democracy”.
They have called on social media firms to do more to tackle the issue.
Lead researcher Prof Philip Howard proposed several steps that could be taken by the tech firms, including:
making the posts they select for news feeds more “random”, so as not to place users in bubbles where they only see likeminded opinions
giving news organisations a trustworthiness score
allowing independent audits of the algorithms they use to decide which posts to promote
Prof Howard cautioned, however, that governments must be careful not to over-regulate the technology for fear of suppressing political conversation on social media altogether.
In response, Twitter reissued a statement saying that third-party research into bots on its platform was “often inaccurate and methodologically flawed”.
It added that it strictly prohibited bots and would “make improvements on a rolling basis to ensure our tech is effective in the face of new challenges”.
A spokeswoman from Facebook was unable to provide comment.
A bar manager in Canada is hoping to nail the culprit who stole a mummified toe used in their signature cocktail.
The Downtown hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, offers a unique drink called the Sourtoe Cocktail. Any drink can be used in the concoction, but the special ingredient is a a shrivelled black human toe.
Those who touch the gnarled digit with their lips as they drink are awarded a certificate.
One customer tried the signature drink on Saturday, swallowing the drink before making off with the toe.
“We are furious,” Terry Lee, the hotel’s Toe Captain, said in a statement.
“This guy asked to do the toe after the 9-11 p.m. Toe Time hours and one of the new staff served it to him. And this is how he pays her back? What a low life.”
The cocktail dates back to 1973 when a toe believed to belong to a prohibition-era rum runner was found in a cabin by boat captain Dick Stevenson, prompting him to start the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club.”
The toe was originally placed in a beer glass full of champagne but these days any drink can be used.
One rule has not changed though. “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow — but the lips have gotta touch the toe”, the Downtown Hotel website states.
The stolen toe was recent donation from a man who had to have it surgically removed. Having been cured in salt for six months, the bar had only just started using it in its cocktail.
“This was our new toe, and it was a really good one,” manager Geri Coulbourne told CBC News. “We just started using it this weekend.”
The hotel has lost toes in the past and in 2013 it increased the fine for swallowing or stealing one to $2,500. The rise was introduced after a tourist swallowed the toe and left the then-$500 fine on the table.
The latest thief faces a fine unless he returns the digit intact. Given the culprit left behind his certificate, they have his name so are hopeful he will toe the line.
Addition follows seven-year collaboration between company and indigenous communities, following what a cartographer called an ‘insulting’ exclusion
Google Maps adds indigenous lands in Canada after long omission
Addition follows seven-year collaboration between company and indigenous communities, following what a cartographer called an ‘insulting’ exclusion
More than 3,000 parcels of land belonging to indigenous peoples in Canada have been added to Google Maps and Google Earth, in an initiative that seeks to remedy what one First Nations cartographer described as a historical exclusion.
The project – which follows similar efforts by Google in the US and Brazil – was the fruit of seven years of collaboration between the company, indigenous communities in Canada and Natural Resources Canada, said the cartographer Steven DeRoy. A member of Manitoba’s Ebb and Flow First Nation, he was among Google’s partners on the initiative.
“It’s important to me because there are so many indigenous groups across the country, and to not see them as an important fabric of a base map, just to not be recognized, it’s insulting,” DeRoy told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Given that maps are a tool of power, the longstanding omission of indigenous lands was particularly significant, said DeRoy. “It’s unfortunate that indigenous people have been excluded from the maps and it’s taken a long time just to have that recognition – just to be showing on the maps.”
The thousands of parcels of land that now show up on Google’s platforms reflect First Nations reserve lands as well as treaty settlement lands.
DeRoy saw Google’s initiative as a vital component of Canada’s efforts towards reconciliation with the more than 1.4 million people who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit.
“Mapping is very important to communities, to be able to demarcate their territories and identify the lands that are important to them,” DeRoy told the Financial Post. “It’s used in negotiations with government, resource companies and others.”
Google said on Wednesday that the seeds of the project were sown after it began to lead mapping workshops in 2014 with indigenous communities across Canada, The company was asked why indigenous lands didn’t appear on their maps, Tara Rush, a Google employee from Akwesasne territory, wrote in a blogpost. “So we set out to make that happen,” she wrote.
The results of their efforts to date were launched Wednesday, which was National Aboriginal Day in Canada. “This marks an essential step in accurately reflecting Canada to Canadians and to the world,” wrote Rush.
The initiative continues, with communities and individuals invited to reach out to the company with feedback on changes and additions. “The goal is to enhance cultural preservation, digital awareness and land management,” noted Rush.
HongKong’s CK Infrastructure (1038.HK) (CKI) is vying with Canadian investors to buy German metering and energy management group Ista, which could be worth more than 4.5 billion euros ($5 billion), sources close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
CKI, part of ports-to-telecoms conglomerate CK Hutchison (0001.HK) which is chaired by tycoon Li Ka-shing, put in a non-binding bid for private equity-owned Ista earlier this month, they said.
It is competing with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which already owns a minority stake in Ista and has tied up with Blackstone (BX.N) to make a bid for the full company, they added.
Altogether, a handful of bids came in – including one from Brookfield and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – with final offers due around July 10, the sources said.
Canada’s Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and Kuwait’s Wren House Infrastructure had also expressed interest, but it remained unclear whether they placed offers.
Buyout group CVC, which bought Ista in 2013 at a valuation of 3.1 billion euros, is hoping to fetch a price tag of up to 5 billion euros or 12 times Ista’s expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 420 million euros, the sources said.
First-round bids came in closer to 10.5 to 11 times core earnings.
Ista, which provides energy and water metering, posted EBITDA of 370 million euros in 2016, on sales of 850 million.
CVC and the bidders declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.
European bankers are working on debt financings in excess of 7 times Ista’s EBITDA. Some bankers are working on leverage levels as high as 8.5 times, banking sources said.
CVC’s advisor Goldman Sachs is offering a staple of around 5.8 times, significantly lower than European banks, in a bid to comply with the U.S. leveraged lending guidelines.
Hoping to attract sponsors, the staple is a hybrid and has infrastructure-style features, including full dividend capacity from closing, to enable dividend payments, the sources said.
($1 = 0.8977 euros)
(Additional reporting by Claire Rucking in London and Matt Scuffham in Toronto; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A new left-leaning government has yet to take office in the Canadian province of British Columbia after a drawn-out vote recount, but speculation is mounting there may soon be a new election.
With a fragile one-seat lead, the government set to be formed by a New Democrat-Green alliance could be sunk by a single lawmaker missing a crucial confidence vote due to unforeseen events.
The political limbo has created uncertainty for business in Canada’s third-most-populous province, notably for oil and gas projects such as Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which the New Democrats (NDP) and Greens oppose.
“People are starting to clue in to the fact that this is quite likely an unworkable legislature,” said Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.
The requirement for a neutral parliamentary speaker, who is likely to come from the alliance, could also endanger the fledgling government as it would reduce its seat count to a 43-43 tie with the Liberals.
Premier Christy Clark, whose Liberal Party lost its majority in a knife-edge election on May 9, has recalled the province’s legislature for this Thursday. Her government is expected to be defeated next Thursday in a no-confidence vote.
“It will be very tough to make (the government) last four years just from the serious probability of random events. All it takes is one by-election, one death in office,” said Richard Johnston, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.
The Greens, with three seats, agreed last month to back the NDP government on all confidence measures, ousting the Liberals, who have governed British Columbia for 16 years. The provincial Liberals are unrelated to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party of the same name. Continued…
OTTAWA (Reuters) – If the Bank of Canada caught markets by surprise last week in laying the groundwork for interest rate hikes, it may have been because traders missed – or ignored – signals the central bank was already sending.
Hawkish comments from the bank’s two top policymakers last week sent the Canadian dollar up 1.7 percent over two days, its best two-day run in a year, as markets recalibrated the risk that rate increases could be coming sooner than had been expected. The Canadian dollar has since declined slightly though it is still stronger than it was before a speech by a senior Bank of Canada official last Monday.
Some analysts said the bank began moving away from its dovish stance with policy statements in April and May that forecast the closing of the output gap would happen sooner and described recent economic data as “encouraging.”
Governor Stephen Poloz in April characterized the bank’s stance as “decidedly neutral.” That represented a significant shift in tone that markets did not fully grasp, which may have frustrated the central bank, said Frances Donald, senior economist at Manulife Asset Management.
“The Bank of Canada may be trying to correct the long impression of them as ongoingly dovish as opposed to shifting to a new tone,” Donald said of policymakers’ recent remarks.
The apparent gap in understanding between the central bank and markets illustrates the balancing act policymakers face in preparing the market for eventual tightening without boxing themselves into a corner as the economy faces a number of risks that could postpone a hike, particularly uncertain U.S. trade policy.
In a speech last Monday, Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Wilkins said the bank will assess whether the rate cuts it put in place in 2015 during the oil price shock are still needed. That was followed the next day by Poloz saying those cuts have largely done their work.
A spokeswoman for the Bank of Canada said the bank could not comment further. Continued…
Yiddish O Canada in celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday.
(photo credit:YOU TUBE)
Has anybody ever translated the Canadian national anthem into Yiddish? That simple question from a New York Times reporter last month led – just a few weeks later – to a gathering of 150 people in song in Toronto.
And the entire event will be aired on Canadian TV next week, in a show titled The Making of Yiddish O Canada.
Hindy Nosek-Abelson, a Yiddish translator living in Toronto, was overjoyed when the request to translate the anthem came to her simultaneously from different people. When she couldn’t find any versions online, she set out to complete the task herself.
[embedded content] “‘O Canada’ was done for a different reason than any of the other translations I’ve done,” Nosek-Abelson told The Jerusalem Post in a recent phone interview. “First of all, I thought it was a nice thing to do to put Yiddish on the map,” she said. “But also, because my father would have loved to have sung it in Yiddish.”
Nosek-Abelson’s parents, both Holocaust survivors, came to Canada to rebuild their lives after the war. She herself was born in a DP camp, and considers Yiddish her mother tongue.
“My father just thought that his country was gan eden [paradise]… I kind of did it with him whispering in my ear,” she said.
And once she completed the translation of the relatively short anthem, Nosek-Abelson knew she needed to hear it performed.
“Because Yiddish is conceived of as a dead language or a dying language, I want it to be sung by a bunch of people – old and young,” she said.
Through a series of connections, they set a date to perform the song at Moses Znaimer’s ZoomerMedia TV studio.
“We basically wanted people who could carry a tune,” said Nosek-Abelson. “All kinds of people showed up; we had to close it off at 150 because there was only so much room in the studio.”
Indeed those of all ages and backgrounds turned out for the event on June 6, including some local luminaries.
Actress Marilyn Lightstone, soul singer Deniece Williams and classical guitarist Liona Boyd were some of the many who came to raise their voices in song – and Yiddish.
Of course, many – if not most – of those in attendance didn’t speak the mame loshn.
“We sent out the words in transliteration as well as a recording of me speaking the words,” said Nosek-Abelson.
“We had quite a few takes…, but I’m amazed that it worked out as well and as quickly as it did.”
The event was so unique, that Znaimer chose to turn it into a show on his VisionTV network. The special will air this Monday at 9:30 p.m.
local time, featuring not just the song but all that went into creating the event.
“I’m a little bit surprised but I’m not completely surprised by the response,” said Nosek-Abelson, of the You- Tube video that has already reached almost 30,000 views. “Because there’s such an emotional attachment to Yiddish, even by people who don’t speak it well.”
She said that the translation – and indeed all translations of the anthem, which number over a dozen – speaks to the nature and spirit of Canada.
“The unique thing is that Canada, much more so than the United States, doesn’t get the resistance to having the national anthem sung in a different language,” she said. “For them it’s a compliment, it shows respect by all these different cultures – that come here from all over the world – that they sing ‘O Canada’ in their own language.”
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