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Provinces feds to debate proposed changes to everdivisive equalization program

first_imgOTTAWA – A decades-old sore spot in the Canadian federation is days away from another flare-up as the country’s finance ministers prepare to discuss potential tweaks to the formula behind equalization payments.British Columbia Finance Minister Carole James said in an interview that the federal government is proposing a change to include non-residential property values as part of the complex calculation.The adjustment would likely make it more difficult for provinces with property values well above the national average — such as B.C. and Ontario — to qualify as recipients of equalization payments from Ottawa.Equalization is designed to help poorer provincial governments provide public services that are reasonably comparable to those in other provinces. The program is coming due for its twice-a-decade update before the 2019-20 fiscal year — and since it’s a federal program, Ottawa can make unilateral changes.Historically, equalization has been a source of conflict between governments within the federation.Under the current formula, the provinces that received shares of this year’s $18-billion equalization envelope — the so-called “have-not” provinces — included Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Prince Edward Island and Ontario. Quebec easily took in the largest share in 2017-18 at $11 billion.The other provinces — B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador — did not receive anything through the constitutionally guaranteed equalization program.The B.C. government warns that going forward the inclusion of non-residential property values in the formula would make it more difficult for the province to qualify for payments in the event of an economic downturn.The issue is a top concern for James ahead of meetings Sunday and Monday in Ottawa with her federal, provincial and territorial counterparts.“We certainly don’t agree with that direction — we’ve seen no research that has shown that it makes sense to change the weighting in the equalization payments,” James told The Canadian Press.“I’ll certainly be standing up for our province … and telling the federal minister of finance that these aren’t acceptable changes.”James said the update would mean the formula would deem B.C. to have untapped capacity to generate additional property tax revenue. She argued it’s based on the assumption B.C. municipalities could raise tax rates on properties, which have seen their values soar in recent years.To determine whether a province qualifies for an equalization payment, and for how much, the formula measures each province’s ability to raise revenues, or their fiscal capacity.James wants Ottawa to make sure the short- and long-term impacts for all provinces have been explored before it moves forward.With the renewal of the equalization formula scheduled for 2019, this weekend’s meeting will likely be the first of many federal-provincial discussions on the matter.B.C. isn’t the only province with concerns about the proposal.“When it comes to the potential of generating more revenue from the high prices of real estate, which is what British Columbia is arguing, we don’t have the capacity to squeeze out more money from the system,” Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said in an interview.Sousa said his province has lowered its revenue expectations for the real estate sector after the introduction of measures to cool red-hot markets, such as the Toronto region.“So, I agree with British Columbia that we can’t basically assess certain real estate valuations as a means to assess equalization payments,” he said.Ontario has been receiving equalization payments since 2009 as a have-not province. But after improvements to its economy in recent years, the province is expected to return to “have” status some time in the next couple of years.A senior Ontario government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the proposed change could be the difference between whether it collects equalization or not.“Our concern is that if the last years taught us anything, it’s that property values are volatile in both British Columbia and in Ontario,” said the official, who would prefer a phased-in approach.“We would rather have it dealt with in a more tempered way, rather than just jumping right off the cliff on it.”Chloe Luciani-Girouard, a spokeswoman for federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, wrote in an email Thursday that Ottawa will always listen to the concerns of provinces and territories — and will take them “very seriously.”The future of the equalization formula will also be a priority for Newfoundland and Labrador at the meetings.The province’s economy, hit hard in recent years by the commodity slump, still failed to qualify for equalization payments this year and Finance Minister Tom Osborne doesn’t expect it to next year, either.Osborne said in an interview that the current formula only addresses revenue and doesn’t account for the different costs of services between provinces.He says his province, with its small, dispersed population, faces the highest costs of services in Canada — and they’re growing at an “unsustainable” clip.Osborne plans to push his counterparts on the issue in hope of changing the formula so that it reflects both revenue and expenditures.“If anybody can explain to me how we’re a have-province, I’d like to hear it, because we’re certainly not a have-province,” he said.The formula is also based on a three-year moving average of economic growth, so a province’s have- or have-not status can lag economy-altering events.The country’s finance ministers will discuss a range of issues during the meetings — from cannabis taxation, to the three-year review of the Canada Pension Plan, to the state of the global economy. The ministers are also scheduled to meet Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz.Ahead of the meetings, Morneau will distribute updated figures outlining how much the neediest provinces can expect to receive from Ottawa in the next fiscal year, 2018-19.Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitterlast_img read more

PotashCorp Agrium clear US hurdle combined company begins trading Jan 2

first_imgCALGARY – Canada’s two largest fertilizer companies say they have received the final regulatory permission required to complete a merger of equals that was originally announced more than 18 months ago.The combined Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (TSX:POT) and Agrium Inc. (AGU) will be named Nutrien after the deal effectively closes on Jan. 1, subject to customary conditions.Nutrien’s shares are expected to begin trading on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges on Jan. 2 under the symbol NTR. Shares of the two independent companies will be suspended at the same time and delisted.In order to win approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Calgary-based Agrium had proposed selling an Idaho-based phosphate production facility and an Ohio-based nitric acid facility.The FTC announced Wednesday that the commission had accepted the proposed asset sales, subject to public comment until Jan. 29.last_img read more

Womens Resource Society bringing the Vagina Monologues back to Fort St John

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society is going to be bringing the Vagina Monologues back to the Energetic City this weekend for its biggest fundraiser of the year.Organizer Jennifer Pimm with the Society says that this year’s iteration of the event, which is celebrating its 13th straight year, will feature some changes to past years. Pimm explained that this year’s performance will feature male performers to recognize the fact that while women are often thought of as the victims of sexual harassment and abuse, men can and are also victims as well.“With height of the #MeToo campaign and ‘Time’s Up’ movement, we thought, “We have to do something” because this is happening in Fort St. John all the time,” said Pimm. “We wanted to bring awareness to it. That’s another reason that we really wanted to bring men to the show is because men are our allies. We need men to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”The production features 25 performers, and will also feature local music and other spoken word performances. The production is being put on at the North Peace Cultural Centre this Friday. Reserved tickets are $25, while admission at the door is by donation. Doors open at 6:00 p.m., with the show starting at 7:00. For tickets, call the North Peace Cultural Centre at (250) 785-1992.last_img read more

First Nations seeking injunction to stop Site C have first day in

first_imgVANCOUVER, B.C. – A lawyer for First Nations aiming to stop work on the Site C dam says there’s no remedy besides taking the project “out of the ground” in northeastern British Columbia.Reidar Mogerman says the West Moberly First Nations’ way of life has already been disrupted by a reservoir created by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam on the Peace River.The First Nations are seeking an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to stop Site C while BC Hydro and the provincial government claim the project has already cost billions of dollars. Mogerman says the First Nations have put “a ton of resources” into getting displaced caribou back after the animals dispersed following the completion of the W.A.C. Bennett dam in the late 1960s.The First Nations say Site C would flood parts of the of the Peace River Valley, the traditional territory of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, violating constitutionally protected treaty rights.Mogerman says what used to be river a moose would cross is a reservoir an animal would die in and the project must be stopped because it has not gone past the point of no return.Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations says Site C would introduce mercury-laden fish into Moberly Lake and disrupt the longest fresh-water fish migration in North America.“The river had a cultural significance to us because it was a gathering spot,” he said of the Peace River. The NDP had been against the controversial project while in Opposition but said the province risked a credit downgrade and debt-servicing costs of up to $150 million annually if the project that started in 2015 was cancelled.BC Hydro has said the Site C dam would flood 5,500 hectares of land, of which at least 3,800 hectares is agricultural. The project would also flood Indigenous heritage sites.center_img “What we have said right from the beginning is that we’re not opposed to the creation of energy,” Willson said.He said alternative forms of power, including geothermal, solar and wind, have not been adequately explored.“We’re fighting for the survival of who we are as a people and the Peace River Valley is a significant piece of that.”British Columbia’s New Democrat government announced last December that it would back the completion of Site C though it would cost nearly $11 billion, up from an estimated $8.3 billion.last_img read more

Bury the mandir-masjid hatchet

first_imgThere stood once a Mandir. There stood once a Masjid. Today, neither is there a Mandir nor is there a Masjid. Now, tell what should be there, Mandir or Masjid? One set wants Mandir. The other set says Masjid. The question repeats itself, again and again. Without fail. In private. In public. In court. In Parliament. In cabinet meetings. In newspapers. In television studios. In tea stalls. In drawing rooms. Now, tell what should be there, Mandir or Masjid? Also Read – A special kind of bondLitigation. Strife. Death. Destruction. Still, the question is asked: Now, tell what should be there, Mandir or Masjid? The Supreme Court appointed panel’s brief is to mediate an answer to the question. Not that mediation hasn’t been tried before. Three or maybe four times. Every time a failure. The top court believes one more try will not hurt anybody. Not everybody’s convinced. But everybody’s going along because it’s the honourable Supreme Court’s decision and the honourable Supreme Court cannot be wrong, ever. The best thing is for the honourable Supreme Court itself to make the decision to the all-important question that repeats itself. But, then, it runs the risk of being reduced to dishonourable by a section. Unthinkable! Also Read – Insider threat managementThe problem is the honourable Supreme Court does not want to find itself in such a dishonourable situation. That being said, the issue has been hanging fire for so long, only a dishonourable (to one party to the dispute) decision can bust the Catch 22. It appears the honourable Supreme Court isn’t anywhere in that dishonourable class. So, the three-member panel to mediate a dishonourable compromise (dishonourable to one party) of sorts. Let’s call the spade a spade. Not beat around the bush. Stop being politically correct. Not act shy, coy! One of the parties to the dispute will have to back off and accept a dishonourable exit. Will it happen? Already, dishonourable voices are being raised. If somebody doesn’t like the presence of one particular individual in the panel, somebody else is insisting the mediators shouldn’t miss that there’s one irrefutable parameter paramount to the dispute. That a Mandir existed at the spot and ‘Mandir Wahin Banayenge’. The guy who’s talking of the irrefutable parameter is Hindu. The chap who doesn’t like one particular panel member is Muslim. This second gentleman is a barrister of law and the other one is a pretender in law, an economist never economical with words. Both have inserted themselves into the dispute and are capable of raising hell if one of them doesn’t fancy the final decision. Mediation is not their cup of joy. They share qualities: Intransigent. Stubborn. Obdurate. Unbending. Obstinate. Inveterate. Rigid. Unbending. The Mandir-Masjid issue is essentially a title dispute into which archaeologists dug deep and found more than dirt. But the intransigence and unyielding obduracy is so deep, even proof of existence did not make a difference. A high court took the bull by the horns to try and break the conundrum, but then there was the remedy – the honourable Supreme Court. Ha! The honourable Supreme Court is playing safe. It doesn’t want blood on its hands. It is refusing to do its duty. Lay it out in black & white. The chap with the irrefutable parameter and the guy who doesn’t like one of the mediators because he has a couple of Hindu prefixes to his name, both should be made to pipe down, forced to make dishonourable exits, put on their compromising hats. But then, there is the article Freedom of Expression. So, the top court’s hands are tied. How about posting a posse outside both these gentlemen’s pads? To keep an eye on them and, at the same time, provide them protection! They cannot raise Cain over that, can they? The point is, now that it’s been ruled that mediation will act icebreaker, perceived hell-raisers, like the two gentlemen, should be taken care of, gently reminded that they will be held to account for making irresponsible statements with the entitlement of Freedom of Expression. The top court cannot leave everything to the government and vice versa. A show of spines is in order. The icing on the cake is if the mediators succeed and both parties agree to one party making a dishonourable exit for the honourable apex court to make a decision that will be honoured, then this stubborn issue of incalculable obduracy, unpersuadable tenacity, will be settled once and for all and no political party will be able to use it for electoral advantage. The discomfort is already there for all to see on the faces of spokespersons of this and that party. It’s time nobody asks ever again the question: “Now, tell what should be there, Mandir or Masjid?” (The views are strictly personal)last_img read more

2 killed in Chinese naval plane crash

first_imgBeijing: Two Chinese navy pilots were killed Tuesday when their plane crashed during a training mission in the southern island province of Hainan, the military said. The crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province. There were no casualties on the ground and an investigation is underway to ascertain cause of the accident, the navy said in a statement. The Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 “Flying Leopard”, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. Also Read – Imran Khan arrives in China, to meet Prez Xi JinpingThe JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years, it said. China’s worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country. Military commentators have previously said that China’s drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots. To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilots, the report said.last_img read more

Unemployment: Claims and Puzzles

first_imgThe issue of employment creation has been a challenging task for all the governments at the Centre. Recently some researchers and newspapers have highlighted very high unemployment rate (UR) in 2017-18 in the country, based on an unpublished periodic labour force survey (PLFS) report. In India, the main sources of data on employment are NSSO, Economic Census, Registrar General of India and Labour Bureau. NSSO is considered as the main source of employment and unemployment situation as it provides quinquennial household surveys. For the first time, NSSO has conducted a PLFS for 2017-18 on a quarterly and annual basis. Apart from these sources, CMIE has also started conducting household surveys on EUS since January 2016. Because of the first high-frequency data on EUS, it has also been reported in newspapers very frequently. The recent CMIE figure shows that UR in India increased to 7.2 per cent in February 2019, highest since September 2016. Mahesh Vyas, chief of CMIE in his interview to Livemint on 8 March said: “7.2 per cent unemployment rate is a disturbing figure and it shows a situation of discouraged unemployment in the economy”. However, on analysing this data, one will come to know that the latest figure reported in the newspaper and claims made by Mahesh Vyas are partly incorrect and they require closer observation of such data set. Also Read – A special kind of bondIn this context, it would be appropriate to first understand the difference in the definition of unemployment used in CMIE data and NSSO. CMIE collects following information to capture unemployment- i) a person is willing to work but may not have a job; ii) a person is available for a job but not actively seeking a job; iii) a person is not willing for work and also not looking for a job. However, the UR given in CMIE unemployment reports presents the first criteria to capture the unemployment rates. In contrast, NSSO uses two major approaches to capture unemployment figures: Usual status approach (US) and the current weekly approach (CWS). The US approach includes both, those who are unemployed and actively looking for a job and those who are unemployed and not actively looking for a job. The CWS approach includes only those who are unemployed and actively looking for a job. From the above differences in the definition of the two data sources, it is evident that UR reported in CMIE report is not directly comparable to NSSO’s UR figures. Also Read – Insider threat managementRegarding unemployment data at all India level, it shows that between January and September 2016, the overall UR was more than 8 per cent but thereafter, it declined consistently and reached the lowest point of 3.9 per cent in July 2017. It slowly started rising in subsequent months and crossed the 6 per cent figure in August 2018. This trend continued and UR reached to a level of 7.2 per cent in February 2019. However, it is evident that despite a consistent increment in the UR, it is still lower than the UR in the first 6-7 months in 2016. As compared to rural areas, the unemployment rates were always higher in urban areas. In 2016, the gap between the UR of rural and urban areas was high which has narrowed down after July 2017. The quarterly URs show a similar trend of high unemployment rates in the initial months of 2016 and then continuous decline up to May-August, 2017. It started increasing in the subsequent quarters but still seen to be low as compared to the first two quarters of 2016. Here, significant changes have been noticed in female unemployment rates. It was very high in the first two quarters of 2016 and then declined sharply in the subsequent quarters up to May-August, 2017. Thereafter, female unemployment rates increased in each subsequent period. In the entire period, the male unemployment rate was not more than 6 per cent. Unemployment rates across the educational groups: Unemployment rates are relatively very high in the last two categories of 10th to 12th passed person and for those who have educational attainment above undergraduate level. The first category shows the labour forces that have no education at all. In this category, UR was comparatively very high in the first quarter of 2016. In the third quarter of 2016, UR was 1.90, which increased to 2.33 per cent in the subsequent quarter but declined in the next quarter. In fact, comparison of September-December 2016 and September-December 2017 indicates that UR in these periods increased marginally by 0.40 per cent. Overall, there has been very small fluctuation in UR figures after the second quarter of 2016 in this category. In the next education category also unemployment rates fluctuate between 2.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent and UR declined from 2.1 per cent in September-December 2016 to 1.6 per cent in January-April 2017 and 1.0 per cent in September-December 2017. Overall, UR, according to CMIE data shows a general trend of decline in UR in post-October 2016 up to July 2017. The rise in UR started after this or from the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2017, which is still continuing, but not at the rate as it was in the initial months of 2016. Usually, it is expected that UR declines when labour force participation increases, which is not happening according to CMIE data set. If both LFPR and UR are declining, then it is assumed that the further decline in UR will come only slowly and the expectation is that with the improvement in labour market, many participants who have left the market will return and contribute to the pool of unemployed. Again this situation does not exist because LFPR, according to CMIE is continuously declining in both post demonetisation and GST regime. An ILO (2016) study outlines four key drivers of the decline in FLFPR: First, increase in enrolment in secondary schooling; second, rising household income that pulled women out of the low paid informal jobs; lack on employment opportunities for women and fourth, mismeasurement of women’s participation in the labour force. In my view on the basis of above monthly and quarterly unemployment data of CMIE, it cannot be argued that what factors exactly lead to a decline in UR in post-October 2016 and what led to an increase in UR after 2017. Recently NIPFP has published a report on PMAY (U) and it has shown that this program has made a significant impact on employment generation. The report shows that between June 2015 and January 2019, a total of 18.92 lakh direct and 45.57 indirect lakh indirect jobs have been created in the country. The CII projection based on its survey has shown that every year in India around 13 to 14 million jobs have been added by the MSME sector in India in the last four years. Therefore, a strong argument of discouraged employment situation is incorrect and seems to be motivated one. Providing sufficient and gainful employment is, of course, an issue but the current government cannot be solely held responsible for this situation. (The author is an Assistant professor at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

‘Was tough to revisit my dark chapters’

first_imgMumbai: Actor Sunny Leone, who is gearing up for the final season of the web series ‘Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone’, says she often broke into tears while filming it as she had to go down the memory lane and revisit some dark chapters of her life. “It was certainly not easy for me to revisit some of the chapter of my life that are dark, that I wanted to believe were a nightmare that which would get over soon. When my mother passed away, my father was diagnosed with cancer and within some time, he also passed away. I got married, got an invitation for an Indian TV show…there was too much happening very fast,” Sunny said. Also Read – I have personal ambitions now: Priyanka”Some of the situations were hurtful and I never ever wanted to visit those memories ever again. During the shooting, I broke down so badly. Seeing me breaking down like that, (my husband) Daniel Weber felt terrible and helpless because he cannot fix anything of those chapters of my life. Losing my parents was terrible.” Sunny forayed into Indian showbiz with television show ‘Bigg Boss’. Sunny also appeared in films like Jism 2, Ek Paheli Leela, Raees and One Night Stand. “I think now I know the world of Bollywood a little better. The first few films in my initial years were like being in a Bollywood boot camp.” Asked about the most difficult thing that she has faced in India, Sunny pointed out that it’s the hierarchy in the society. She is working hard to strike a balance between personal and professional life.last_img read more

IOC sets up trading desk at Delhi office to buy crude on real-time basis

first_imgNew Delhi: India’s top refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has set up a trading desk at its office here to buy crude oil from international market on a real-time basis, helping it cut import price by locking in best price and quality, its Director (Finance) A K Sharma said. IOC, which buys 30 per cent (15 million tonne) of its oil requirement from spot or current market, had set up a trading office in Singapore in 2017 but has now developed in-house software and trading team to buy crude oil on a real-time basis. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalIt made the first purchase through the desk on March 25 when it bought one million barrel of Nigeria’s Agbami crude, he said. While private sector firms like Reliance Industries have had a local trading desk for buying of crude and exporting fuel it produces, IOC would be the first state-owned refiner to set up such a desk. Sharma said the Singapore desk was used to buy crude oil on a short-tender basis where the purchase was decided in two-hour time after receipt of offers from an international seller. This is compared to 10 hours taken to decide on purchase in traditional tenders. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostBut with a trading desk at its office in the national capital, IOC is deciding on purchases on a real-time basis, he said. “This helps us get the best price and most suitable, value giving crude,” he said. In traditional tenders as well as short tenders floated through the Singapore office, IOC would seek quotations from international sellers for a particular grade and quantity of crude oil. It would decide on the price based on the lowest bid rate with no scope of any negotiations on the offer. However, with the trading desk now, it on a real-time basis negotiates with crude traders, often pitching price of one with another to get the best rate. “We have set up a compliance process,” he said. “We have established an in-house process where four traders, without interacting with one another, lock in best available price. A supervisor, who does not have the benefit of the identity of the seller, then instructs for further negotiations on an offer based on offers from other sellers. The traders then negotiate with the seller to bring down the price.” IOC plans to transfer the trading desk once it stabilises in Singapore to do the real-time purchase of quantities of crude oil it buys from the spot market. Also, it could trade on fuel its refineries would export, he said. The company buys about 70 per cent of its crude needs from oil companies such as Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia and SOMO of Iraq on annual term contracts. The rest is bought from the spot market through tenders. Sharma said ultimately most of the spot purchases would be done through the trading desk. He, however, did not give a timeframe for moving to that. Currently, one cargo of 1 million barrels are bought through trading desks at Singapore or at New Delhi. Sharma said IOCL Singapore Pvt Ltd – the company’s Singapore subsidiary – will ultimately handle the trading desk. IOCL Singapore has two officers as compared to four traders plus supervisor and compliance officer at the trading desk in the national capital, he said adding the company will gradually increase its workforce in line with transactions. Singapore is the trading hub for the world’s biggest consumer region and an office there will help it have better access to information and speedier decision making. Before 2017, public sector oil companies would often lose out on opportunities to buy cheaper crude from the international spot markets as their sourcing policies required them to float a tender and obtain approvals from the oil ministry before they could place an order. The process used to take up to two months. While these companies had board approvals to set up offices abroad, they could not go ahead due to policy constraints and concerns over transparency in the public procurement policy. The trading desk is part of progression IOC has seen in crude procurement policy since 2016 when the government gave flexibility to state refiners to devise their own crude import policies. Prior to that, IOC used to take 26 hours to decide on a tender for import of crude oil from spot or current market. In April 2016, after the Cabinet gave state-owned oil refiners freedom to devise their own crude import policies, the time has been shrunk to 12 hours. Time for deciding on tenders for export of petroleum products or fuel was cut to just 9 hours from the previous 35 hours. “Earlier, we had a three-member committee comprising two company executives and one senior official of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to decide on awarding tenders for import of crude oil from the spot market. Now we have an internal committee which can take decisions quickly,” he said.last_img read more

Maha: Cong leader whose son joined BJP quits as Oppn leader

first_imgMumbai: Senior Maharashtra Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, whose son joined the BJP last month, has resigned as the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, the party said Thursday.Party chief Rahul Gandhi has accepted the resignation of the Congress leader, state Congress president Ashok Chavan told reporters in Ahmednagar district. Vikhe Patil had sent his resignation letter to the top party leadership, offering to quit the post of LoP, after his son Sujay Vikhe Patil left Congress and joined the BJP. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM'”Vikhe Patil had offered to resign from the post and had also sent a letter to the Congress president. This letter of resignation has been accepted by the Congress president,” Chavan said. The development comes a day before Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar Friday. Chavan was in Shirdi Thursday ahead of Gandhi’s rally at Sangamner in the Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency. Vikhe Patil was accused of giving tacit support to his son Sujay, who was the BJP contestant from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat and was blamed for working behind the scenes in his campaign. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KParty sources said he was in touch with the supporters of his father late Balasaheb Vikhe Patil in Rahuri, Parner and other areas in Ahmednagar district, and exhorted them to support Sujay. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who has been a traditional opponent of the Vikhe Patils, had made the Ahmednagar contest a prestige battle. Pawar had refused to vacate the constituency, which is with the NCP as per the seat-sharing deal with the Congress, for Sujay who eventually joined the BJP and contested the seat.last_img read more

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern to marry long-time partner

first_imgWellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her long-term partner Clarke Gayford have become engaged to be married, her office said Friday. A spokesman for Ardern and Gayford said the couple, who have a baby daughter Neve, agreed to tie the knot over the Easter break. He could not reveal whether a date for the prime ministerial nuptials had been set or who had proposed to whom. “I can’t say anything about it other than they are engaged and it happened over Easter,” the spokesman told AFP. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportArdern, 38, had Neve last June, becoming only the second prime minister in the world to give birth while in office and later taking the infant onto the floor of the UN Assembly in New York. Since the birth, Gayford, a television fishing show host, has taken on the role of stay-at-home dad. The engagement comes after a trying time for Ardern, who has been widely praised for her response to the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings that claimed the lives of 51 Muslim worshippers. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protestsArdern said in an interview last year that she would not propose to Gayford, even though she regards herself as a feminist. “I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonise about that question himself,” she told the BBC. News of the engagement broke after journalists noticed Ardern was wearing a diamond ring while carrying out her duties on Friday. However, there have been at least two false alarms in the past when Ardern has been spotted sporting bling on her ring finger. On both occasions she quashed the speculation, saying she had to constantly swap her rings between fingers on her left hand due to eczema.last_img read more

Intimate proposal: New Zealand PM, partner, cops… and a dog

first_imgWellington: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday joked that her partner’s marriage proposal was an intimate moment with just the two of them, a police protection officer, a couple of locals and a dog that tried to eat chocolate her partner had brought with him. Ardern was speaking publicly for the first time about her engagement to her longtime partner Clarke Gayford over the Easter break in the town of Mahia. She said she taken by surprise by Gayford’s question and the couple has yet to make any wedding plans. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportReporters on Friday noticed Ardern wearing a ring on her middle finger, a variation from the traditional ring finger, and her office later confirmed the couple was engaged. Ardern said the ring belonged to Gayford’s grandmother. “So I have not been trying to hide our news from anyone,” she said. “It simply doesn’t fit on the right finger, so that’s why it’s sitting in the middle.” Ardern and Gayford have a 10-month-old daughter, Neve. Ardern became just the second elected world leader in modern history to give birth while holding office last June. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protestsArdern said Gayford had proposed to her atop a hill with a “beautiful” outlook in the coastal township. She said the proposal was so low key that the police officer from the Diplomatic Protection Service (DPS) assigned to her had no idea what was going on. “It was Clarke, myself, a member of the DPS, so very intimate,” she joked. “A couple of locals from Mahia, and a dog which then tried to eat the chocolate that Clarke bought me at the same time. So it was very romantic.” Speaking at a news conference in Wellington, Ardern declined to answer some questions about the proposal or show off her ring. “This is a very public job and I’m quite happy to put quite a bit of ourselves out there,” she said. “But there are some things I wouldn’t mind keeping to ourselves.” Gayford is Neve’s primary caregiver and a presenter on a TV fishing show. The 38-year-old Ardern was widely praised for the compassion and leadership she showed after a gunman killed 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15. Ardern has since helped introduce new gun restrictions in New Zealand and spoken out about the way the gunman was able to use social media to promote his views. Time magazine last month included Ardern on its list of the 100 most influential people in 2019.last_img read more

Will train counting agents to spot EVM tinkering: Opposition

first_imgNew Delhi: Opposition parties have started a coordinated training programme for their counting agents all over the country to prevent any alleged EVM manipulation by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the course of counting of votes on May 23.The last phase of the Lok Sabha election will take place on May 19. For the proposed exercise, 21 opposition parties have already deferred their conclave before the counting of votes on 23rd May. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange frameworkEarlier, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had proposed a conclave for opposition parties before the counting of votes. However, his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP Supremo Mayawati requested the Telugu Desam Party chief to defer the meeting for the time being. In view of the unfolding political scenario, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata also called for a strict vigil during the time of counting of votes. “Don’t be complacent with the overwhelming response of the people against NDA,” she stated. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygenThe opposition also feels that this time counting may take longer time than usual as was witnessed during the counting of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly elections. Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha have prepared a list of queries for all the counting agents to understand the technicalities of the counting process through EVM and to match with VVPAT wherever possible. The leaders are in touch with all the state leaders who are given sole charge for overseeing the counting process. They have prepared a checklist for verifying the correct process of counting of votes. These checklists are sent to the state headquarters and state leaders will hold a training programme for the counting agents two days before the counting. In the six phases of polling, there were reports of EVM glitches from many states. In some cases, defective EVMs were replaced but not all of them were VVPAT-linked. In some booths in Uttar Pradesh, VVPAT machines were not even seen. Last month, the Supreme Court had increased VVPAT verification to five random Electronic Voting Machines in each Assembly segment/constituency. In case of general elections, VVPAT slips of five EVMs in each Assembly segment of a Parliamentary Constituency would be subject to physical counting. In state assembly elections, the VVPAT verification would extend to five random EVMs in each Assembly constituency. The 21 opposition parties wanted that at least 25 per cent VVPATs should be counted which was rejected by the Supreme Court. The opposition parties are planning to train their counting agents. Whenever irregularities are noticed they should immediately lodge a formal protest with the Returning Officer and inform party managers immediately. Congress party has prepared a special cell with some technologists who will monitor the counting process from the “war room” of the party.last_img read more

US blacklists Algerian jihadists, Nusra leader

first_imgWASHINGTON – The United States on Wednesday blacklisted a shadowy Al-Qaeda breakaway faction behind the bloody siege of an Algerian gas plant, and the leader of a Palestinian group fighting for Islamists in Syria.The Signatories in Blood, an armed unit founded by the one-eyed Mokhtar Belmokhtar last year when he split from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.The group, also known as the al-Mulathamun Battalion, “claimed responsibility for the January 2013 attack against a gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria,” the department said in a statement, adding that three Americans were among the 38 civilians killed in the siege. In a separate move, the head of the Palestinian wing of the Syria-based Al-Nusra Front, Usamah Amin al-Shihabi, was also blacklisted as a “global terrorist.”Wednesday’s designations bar US citizens and companies from having any dealings with either the Algerian group or al-Shihabi.last_img read more

Jesse Jackson in Southern Morocco

Dakhla, Morocco – Widely circulating in Morocco via YouTube at the moment is the following video of American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition, taken earlier today in Dakhla, the capital of Morocco’s southernmost province. He is dancing to a local love song — the entrancing rhythm unique to the people of the Saharan desert; its lyrics in the distinctively lean, local Arabic dialect known as “Hassani.”Why is he having such a good time?The setting is the thirtieth anniversary conference of the Crans Montana Forum, a Swiss NGO devoted to conflict resolution, which enjoys the backing of leading global statesmen, from senior U.N. officials and Mikhail Gorbachev to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The group convened in Dakhla, in partnership with the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and under the patronage of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, to signal its support for “South-South cooperation” and the development of Africa. More than 800 people representing 112 countries participated: senior government officials, representatives of global and regional bodies, and leaders of the private sector, to grow their networks and plan new ventures on the continent — from charitable works and human development to trade and investment. It seemed fitting to convene in Dakhla, according to a statement by the group: “Even though remote, Dakhla enjoys an exceptional strategic position, and offers an extraordinary model of economic and social development, being the hub of an entire, major region of Africa.” From Jackson’s standpoint, both the gathering and the location embodied the values that underpin his life’s work: tolerance and understanding among races, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths; equal opportunity for the underprivileged; and the development and empowerment of Africa and its peoples. “Like Al-Quds [the Arabic name for Jerusalem], Morocco is a crossroads of monotheistic religions,” he said. Hailing the “leading role of the Kingdom in the areas of economic development, promotion and promotion of human rights, particularly those of African immigrants, and the fight against corruption,” he dubbed the kingdom a “stable country in a changing world.”King Mohammed VI, for his part, conveyed support for the summit in the broader context of his concerns and hopes for the future of Africa. In a speech before the group, he noted the heightened security threats from terror groups and militias, as well as the painful legacy of imperialism which some African nations are still struggling to overcome. In addition to the dangers of religious extremism, transnational criminal organizations traffic in people, drugs, and weapons. But it’s also a continent brimming with opportunity, with a population expected to reach 2 billion by the year 2050. The King called for “harness[ing]- this tremendous demographic asset properly — particularly African youth — in order to consolidate the continent’s standing in the global economy.” Part of what Morocco can do to help achieve these goal, he said, was foster multilateral partnerships with countries below the Sahara and Morocco’s European, North American, and Asian partners. As a geographical “crossroads,” southern Morocco in particular can bring together the kingdom’s extensive human network on the continent and goodwill in the globe’s most affluent economies, to deliver aid, expertise, and investment. But “such cooperation must be rooted in mutual esteem, be based on balanced approaches, and show that the interests of the various partners concerned are duly taken into account.”Reverend Jesse Jackson, a global leader and a force for good in his own rite, has a special role to play in supporting this endeavor. He can encourage more Americans to explore the exceptional opportunities Africa offers, as well as help the continent meet its most pressing needs. And as a veteran of the struggle for civil rights in his country, he can proffer advice on how to advance other just struggles — and heal age-old rifts — all along the Sahara.From Dakhla in the south to Casablanca to Tangier, while Jackson is dancing, Moroccans are cheering. read more

Morocco Dispatches Medicines, Medical Equipment to Help Guinea Conakry Fight Ebola

Casablanca – Moroccan carrier RAM airlifted, on Wednesday, a royal donation made up of 15 tons of medicines and medical equipment to Guinea Conakry to help it fight Ebola epidemic.The health ministry said, in a statement to MAP, that this humanitarian aid is part of Morocco’s support for international efforts aimed at containing the virus, and of the reinforcement of solidarity and cooperation ties between Morocco and African countries in general, and Morocco and Guinea Conakry in particular.In a statement to the press at the Mohammed V airport, Abderrahim Karib, official in charge of medicines and pharmaceutical products supply at the health ministry, said that this royal donation, made up of 15 tons of medicines, medical products and biomedical equipment, is meant to assist the country in which new Ebola cases were detected. This donation will contribute to the improvement of health services in Guinea Conakry and will bring a major support to help fight the Ebola epidemic, he added. read more

Morocco Ranks World’s Fourth Destination for Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Rabat – Le Parisien has ranked Morocco one of its top ten destinations for responsible and sustainable tourism, in a report released Monday.Morocco was ranked fourth in Le Parisien’s list of top ten destinations for responsible tourism, after Madagascar in third, Brazil in second, and Costa Rica ranked first.The French newspaper said that Morocco’s Atlas Mountains offer a responsible tourism par excellence. “This piece of land is interesting, since allows visitors discover the rich culture of Morocco and its arts of life, such as the music of Gnawa, and the cosmetics workshops in the Ourika Valley,” wrote Le Parisien.The French newspaper said that travelling over the landscape in this fashion, just as the local people do, provides tourists with a rewarding way to gain insight into the ancient cultures and untamed landscapes of this magical land.Le Parisien also urged tourists to go on excursions on camels to the Moroccan desert to meet local people and discover the area’s extraordinary biodiversity.As for housing, Le Parisien assures tourists it is easy find sustainable accommodation, (such as guest houses, eco-lodges, etc.) thanks to the several ecotourism solutions that have been implemented in Morocco.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

4,000 Rescues Made On Moroccan Beaches Over Two months

Rabat –  Lifeguards across Morocco were prompted to intervene more than 4000 times over two months, announced Morocco’s fire department on Thursday.A statement by the Moroccan fire department said lifeguards made as many as 4,692 rescues of swimmers between June 1st and July 15th.  The statement went on to add that in addition to leading awareness campaigns for bathers, the fire department mobilized over 2,000 seasonal lifeguards across the Moroccan coastal cities. According to the same source, all the lifeguards are trained to perform water-rescue operations on beaches.Despite its ongoing efforts to guarantee the safety of bathers across the 200 estimated beaches across Morocco, the Fire Department said swimmers are also responsible for their own lives and should take the necessary precautions for their safety.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

Colombian Parliament Adopts Resolution to Support Morocco’s Territorial Integrity

Rabat – The two chambers of the Colombian parliament expressed full support for Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara through a resolution, denouncing the serious violations of human rights against Sahrawi in the Tindouf camps, in Algeria.The resolution quoted by Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) said that the MPs of the Colombian parliament “reiterate” full support “for the efforts made by the kingdom of Morocco since 2007 in favor of a just, lastting and mutually acceptable political solution to the regional dispute over the Sahara, on the basis of the Moroccan initiative for the negotiation of a status of autonomy of the Sahara region.”Like the international community, the resolution described Morocco’s autonomy initiative as “pre-eminent-serious, credible and realistic.” Read Also: Ambassador to Morocco: Russia Remains Friendly with Parties to Western SaharaThe resolution recalled that the UN and the Security Council resolutions have long described Morocco’s autonomy plan as a credible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.The resolution added that “only a political and negotiable solution to the issue of the Sahara preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the kingdom of Morocco is able to promote peace and stability in the Maghreb and Sahel region.”The MPs also expressed “great concerns” about the “serious violations” of human rights by the Polisario Front, including the “restriction on freedom of movement, expression, and demonstration” in the Tindouf camps.MPs, who voted for the resolution also called for “the census of the populations of these camps in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2414 of 27 April 2018 and the 1951 Geneva Convention and the relevant conclusions of the UNHCR Executive Committee.”MPs and senators from major political parties signed the resolution, including the ruling  Democratic Center (party).Other parties whose members signed the resolution are the Radical Change Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the National Unity Part, the MIRA Party and the Green Alliance Party.The resolution also commended Morocco’s efforts to ensure development and better human rights in the country. read more

Statistics Canada reports wholesale sales up 0.6 per cent in January

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says wholesale sales climbed 0.6 per cent to $63.5 billion in January to mark a second consecutive monthly gain.Economists had expected an increase of 0.5 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.Wholesale sales rose in five of the seven subsectors tracked by Statistics Canada, led by the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector and the personal and household goods subsector.Sales in the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector rose 1.9 per cent to $13.3 billion, while the personal and household goods subsector rose 2.5 per cent to $8.9 billion.The motor vehicle and parts subsector saw the largest decline in dollar terms in January as it fell 2.1 per cent to $10.6 billion.Wholesale sales in volume terms increased 0.7 per cent in January.The Canadian Press read more