Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #45 on: 2010-01-13 12:48:51 »
A picture from my archives (cleaning and organizing) taken 3 hours north of Toronto in Haliburtan. Just to point out in spite of the snow and cold, Canada is not quite at the North Pole, in it's entirety.
The diplomat praised for sheltering Americans during the Iranian Revolution tells The Globe he was made 'de facto CIA station chief' in a secret deal between a U.S. president and prime minister Joe Clark
Ken Taylor, the Canadian diplomat celebrated 30 years ago for hiding U.S. embassy personnel during the Iranian revolution, actively spied for the Americans and helped them plan an armed incursion into the country.
Mr. Taylor, ambassador in Iran from 1977 to 1980, became “the de facto CIA station chief” in Tehran after the U.S. embassy was seized by students on Nov. 4, 1979, and 63 Americans, including the four-member Central Intelligence Agency contingent, were taken hostage.
Had his espionage been discovered, Mr. Taylor told The Globe and Mail in an interview this week, “the Iranians wouldn't have tolerated it. And the consequences may have been severe.”
His intelligence-gathering activities were kept secret by agreement between the Canadian and the U.S. governments, although his role in sheltering six Americans and helping to spirit them out of Iran was later made public, winning him and the Canadian government widespread U.S. gratitude.
Trent University historian Robert Wright, author of Our Man in Tehran , a new account of the incident released today, strongly implies that then-prime-minister Joe Clark insisted Mr. Taylor's spying be kept quiet, fearing a negative political fallout if the Canadian public learned that one of its envoys was a U.S. spook.
Mr. Taylor himself said he never expected the story to come out. “It had been under wraps for 30 years, and my assumption was that it would be for another 30 years. I didn't expect to be here to talk about it.”
The phrase “de facto CIA station chief” appears in Prof. Wright's book, the manuscript of which Mr. Taylor saw and approved in advance of publication.
The request that he provide “aggressive intelligence” for the Americans was made personally by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Mr. Clark, likely in a telephone conversation on Nov. 30, 1979, according to Prof. Wright.
Mr. Clark gave his approval, and informed his foreign minister, Flora MacDonald, who passed the request on to Mr. Taylor. He instantly agreed.
“I saw this [the hostage-taking] as something that wasn't right,” Mr. Taylor said. “Anything in a modest way that I could contribute … looking for some sort of solution to this, I was quite prepared to do. I felt strongly about it. And I felt we could get away with it. They weren't going to catch us.”
From that point on, what amounted to the U.S. intelligence operation in Iran was run by Mr. Taylor from the Canadian embassy. The daily information he sent out was seen by only two officials at what was then the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa – Louis Delvoie, director of the intelligence analysis division, and Pat Black, assistant undersecretary for security and intelligence.
They showed the cables to Mr. Clark and Ms. MacDonald before passing them on to the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, Kenneth Curtis, who in turned forwarded them to Washington.
What precisely Mr. Taylor was doing needs careful definition. In reality, he was managing a Canadian, not a U.S., intelligence station, which the Americans – because they had no network of their own after their embassy was seized – wanted to join.
Pat and Ken Taylor. in Tehran, Dec. 31, 1977.
The first CIA agent sent into Iran after the hostage-taking was rejected by Mr. Taylor as unsuitable. He left the country. The second agent sent in, code-named “Bob,” won Mr. Taylor's approval and thereafter operated out of the Canadian embassy.
Mr. Delvoie had the job of insulating Mr. Taylor from interference from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Thus, Mr. Taylor on his own managed Bob, and all of Bob's reports were sent to his Langley spymasters through Mr. Taylor. He was in charge.
The ambassador's chief accomplice was Jim Edward, head of security at the Canadian embassy. He, like Mr. Taylor, was given the choice of whether to spy for the Americans and, like Mr. Taylor, readily accepted.
He became a clandestine operative assigned by the ambassador to snoop for military intelligence while mingling inconspicuously with crowds of Iranians outside the U.S. embassy – an unlikely mission for the fair-haired, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered, six-foot-tall Canadian Forces sergeant.
The two men – at times in collaboration with Bob – assessed potential helicopter landing sites, arranged for trucks to be garaged at a secret location in Tehran and analyzed other logistics in preparation for a commando raid, dubbed Operation Eagle Claw, to free the hostages held at the embassy.
Sgt. Edward's specific job was to report on the number of guards at the embassy, how they were armed and when they changed shifts, ascertain where specifically the hostages were being held and track the daily movement of people and goods in and out of the compound – particularly the inward passage of foodstuffs and outward movement of waste, which allowed Mr. Taylor to calculate the hostages' daily caloric intake and assess their general health.
In conversation with The Globe this week, Mr. Taylor said he felt confident taking on the U.S. intelligence enterprise because Iran at the time was in chaos and the risk was minimal (although Sgt. Edward and his Iranian girlfriend Layla at one point were detained and questioned for five hours by Revolutionary Guards).
Mr. Taylor also said he was sure he could have got the “houseguests” – the six Americans sheltered in his and embassy immigration counsellor John Sheardown's residences – out of Iran without U.S. help, but the Americans didn't want the Canadians to move alone.
What frustrated Mr. Taylor and Ottawa was that the Americans wouldn't stay focused on the houseguests, although there was evidence that The New York Times and Jean Pelletier, Washington correspondent for Montreal's La Presse, had got wind of their presence in Canadian hideouts.
Ms. MacDonald decided to press her U.S. counterpart, secretary of state Cyrus Vance, to do something, providing a fascinating footnote to Canadian political history: the details of why she wasn't in Parliament on Dec. 13, 1979, for the vote that felled Mr. Clark's minority government.
She was in Brussels for a NATO ministers meeting. The meeting ended but Ms. MacDonald took advantage of being in the same city as Mr. Vance to seek a meeting with him. Face to face, she told him the Canadians would put the houseguests “on donkeys and send them across the border” if the Americans didn't move.
She then missed her flight across the Atlantic, and missed the vote.
The CIA working with Mr. Taylor arranged for the houseguests, using Canadian passports, to “exfiltrate” Tehran on a flight to Zurich on Jan. 27, 1980. Mr. Taylor then closed the embassy and left with his staff.
The last of the U.S. embassy hostages were not released until Mr. Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981 – 444 days after the embassy had been overrun.
Prof. Wright started working on a book about the hostage incident at the suggestion of his editor at HarperCollins Canada who noted that the 30th anniversary was approaching.
To his surprise, Mr. Taylor said he was telephoned by a senior spokesman at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Rodney Moore, and asked whether he wanted to participate in the project.
Residents of Harbour Mille, N.L., reported seeing this object fly over their community Monday night. (Courtesy of Darlene Stewart)
The Prime Minister Office says there is no evidence of anyone firing a rocket near Newfoundland's southern coast, despite reports of a flaming unidentified object shooting through the sky in Harbour Mille on Monday.
"There is no indication that there was ever a rocket launch," Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Thursday in an email.
But a Liberal MP is accusing Ottawa of failing to provide answers on the mysterious sighting, captured in a photograph by Harbour Mille resident Darlene Stewart.
Gerry Byrne, the MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, said Thursday he had received no further information on the missile-like objects seen earlier this week.
"The objective here should be to dispel rumours and conspiracy theories," he said from Corner Brook, N.L.
"It's not making any sense and nobody's providing any real answers, so questions are mounting."
Originally on Wednesday, the RCMP said questions about the alleged missile sightings were being handled by Public Safety Canada, which had no comment other than to refer questions back to the RCMP. Then on Thursday, that federal department referred questions to the PMO.
"The PMO has made a definitive statement, and I will not be adding to it," said Christopher McCluskey of Public Safety Canada in an email to The Canadian Press.
The ongoing confusion arose when Stewart said she was outside taking pictures of the sunset Monday when she saw something fly overhead.
She said she then alerted two neighbours and they saw three similar objects flying through the air.
Stewart's photo shows a long, rocket-like projectile cruising through the sky with a trail of flames and smoke behind it, but it's difficult to tell how big it is and how close it is to shore.
A radio station in St. John's said a French media outlet reported that France had conducted a ballistic missile test in the Atlantic Ocean, but far from the area where something was seen.
No one from the French Embassy in Ottawa was available for comment.
A spokesman for the Canadian Forces said they were aware of the reports and have confirmed there have been no planned missile exercises off the seaboard.
"There's no threat to the security of Canada," Maj. Jason Proulx said from Ottawa.
Byrne said he's concerned for the safety of residents if missile tests are being done and no one is being told about them.
Mark MacK wrote:Posted 2010/01/30 at 2:41 PM ETsure looks like a rocket. That of course is not evidence, for it to be a rocket the PMO would have to state that it is a rocket. But it sure looks like one.
Cragola wrote:Posted 2010/01/30 at 2:40 PM ETSome have commented that France may be involved, and their government actually went so far as to make an offical statement??? So lets look at what they could launch submerged... possible it is a new French M51 SLBM, a 3 stage propulsion, 14 ton, nuclear warhead capable missile currently undergoing testing. The shape, color and conical exhaust plume is plausible for the M51. France launched one back in December from the French coast that landed in the ocean east of North Carolina. But to be Devil's Advocate, #1. The M51 and new French sub "le Terrible" that France has to launch it, was very publicly seen off the coast of France on Jan 27. At it's top crusing speed of 25knots, the sub would arrive in our coastal waters on Jan 30th. 2. Any missile that close and under propulsion would make a hell of a racket that would have alerted more than a few people. 3. Picture was taken over coastal waters, with the humidity in that area, a standard missile of substantial size to be photographed should have left a contrail. Would like to know about size and how far away the missile was when photographed... Just my thoughts, better go back to watching Discovery Channel.
Fred Canadian wrote:Posted 2010/01/30 at 10:03 AM ET The PMO's office took a "conservative shot": it's a new MODEL. See?
Evidently, the rumrunners were cleared out of the way a couple of weeks before because, as dearly as we might love them, they would have been embarrassing in front of the manufacturing elite and the international brass. Even worse, the runners might easily have taken a few turr shots at our new, lightweight, inexpensive-at-50-million-dollar machines rather than just shooting pictures.
Premiere Danny (the King) Williams eventually gave permission for wave-top testing on a proviso that the new mail-order British-Francophone, energy efficient sample taker and personnel rescue pod ... should reflect something cultural about Newfoundland. There you have it. Inspired by the historic, Welsh gauge, trans-island train, it’s the "Newfie Bullet 3001." Sleek, powerful, whisper quiet and energy efficient, using commonly available fuel.
Unfortunately, they hadn't expected the "invisible wake" to light up so brightly from the sunset after it tried some altitude. The unique wide-blade turbine is designed to burn kerosene extremely efficiently, which also happens to make the exhaust invisible during trans-Atlantic flights and helps provide a more comfortable ride. As you can see by the beautiful photos, our new cruise pod maintains a well recognized profile from a distance while impressing enemies with dual speed and depth perceptions. Concave intake shrouds still draw air from the dorsal bow for the turbine engine as well as for a ventral stream altitude control.
The PMO hasn't provided more than one tweet worth of information because busy neo-conservatives don't want to be seen tolerating details about anything, let alone this new international arrangement using populated areas of Newfoundland.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #48 on: 2010-03-06 16:30:47 »
The political vultures are still circling the big "C"s in power on this one. "Damit Jim it's a war we are in, the rules are not the same"
Source: National Post Author: Tom Blackwell Date: Saturday, March 06, 2010
Ottawa asks judge to review release of detainee documents- Critics step up pressure for judicial inquiry
John D. McHugh, AFP Getty Images Files / A veteran diplomat has alleged Canadian forces turned over Afghan prisoners to local jailers despite knowing they would be tortured.
The House of Commons special committee on Afghanistan has been the unlikely setting in recent months for some of the most dramatic political theatre Canada has witnessed in years. A veteran diplomat alleged Canadian soldiers turned over Afghan prisoners to local jailers despite knowing they would be tortured, some of the country's top-ranking generals and bureaucrats vigorously dismissed the charges, and MPs engaged in relentless verbal warfare.
With Parliament back and the detainee issue bubbling to a boil again, however, the affair seems poised to spread beyond the walls of the committee's drab meeting rooms -- and the realm of partisan conflict. The government announced on Friday it was referring the opposition's demand for detainee-related documents to a retired judge for advice.
Opposition and outside critics, in turn, are stepping up pressure for a judicial inquiry, arguing that only an independent, de-politicized figure can get to the bottom of the drawn-out controversy now.
"We've been through everything in an attempt to both have accountability and a remedy, and have faced nothing but obstructions and delays and excuses," said Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada. "It is an issue that is complex, involves extensive amount of evidence, involves to some extent conflicting testimony.... All of that doesn't lend itself well to being sorted out in the hurly-burly of a parliamentary process."
Meanwhile, some critics are also pushing for the government to take more immediate and fundamental action: stopping the continued transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities that is at the core of the affair.
News first broke in 2007 that some of the prisoners seized by Canadian troops, and transferred to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, may have been mistreated or tortured. The issue took on new political urgency last fall, when Richard Colvin, a Canadian diplomat who served 17 months in Afghanistan, told the committee he issued warnings far and wide within government that detainees were being abused.
Senior army officers and Mr. Colvin's superiors in Foreign Affairs have generally denied they knew about likely mistreatment. MPs have demanded full access to emails and other internal documents referred to by Mr. Colvin and other witnesses; they have received only heavily censored versions of some of the records. The Commons voted in December to insist the government hand over the uncensored documents. The Conservatives have steadfastly refused, saying that to do so would compromise military security.
Rob Nicholson, the Justice Minister, said yesterday he was asking Frank Iacobucci, a retired Supreme Court judge, to review the documents and advise him on which parts should be divulged. "This will ensure that parliamentarians will have as full and complete access to government information as is necessary," Mr. Nicholson said in a statement. "There are matters which governments must keep confidential in order to protect the public interest, even in the freest and most open of societies."
Critics dismissed the action, however, as a stalling tactic that will do little to illuminate the detainee situation. Despite the voluminous airing of the issue, much still needs to be settled, they say, beginning with whose version of events is correct: Mr. Colvin's or the generals'.
Exploring the issue in depth is also crucial to ensure that similar problems do not arise in any future foreign operations involving Canadian soldiers, say MPs and human-rights activitsts.
"We are going to be in another mission like this," said Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic. "These are very complex missions, and we need to make sure we improve oversight. That seems to be lost in all this." Yet with the government continuing to withhold documents, there may be little more the Commons committee itself can accomplish on that front, said Bryon Wilfert, the Liberal vice-chairman of the panel. An independent inquiry, with powers to subpoena documents and witnesses, is the most appropriate forum in which to unearth what remains to be known about the situation, he said.
Pamela Stephens, a spokeswoman for Mr. Nicholson, said she could not comment directly on the call for an inquiry, saying the Iacobucci review is the government's response at this point. "All the opposition has ever talked about is the documents," she said. "Now that we've put in place a mechanism to address their concerns, they're changing their story."
The opposition has been calling for an inquiry for months, however, with the Commons passing a motion in December to that effect. Mr. Neve said there is evidence that abuse of detainees is still happening in Afghan prisons. He and Mr. Dewar both said that the U.K. has stopped handing over detainees to the intelligence agency, and urged that Canada follow suit.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #49 on: 2010-05-09 23:47:26 »
You would think the porn industry would have enough clout to torpedo this kind of silliness.
Source: CBC Author: Peter Nowak Date: Thursday, May 6, 2010
CRTC approves usage-based internet billing
The CRTC has approved Bell Canada's request to bill internet customers, both retail and wholesale, based on how much they download each month.
The plan, known as usage-based billing, will apply to people who buy their internet connection from Bell, or from smaller service providers that rent lines from the company, such as Teksavvy or Acanac.
The regulator attached a key caveat to the approval, however, in that Bell must apply usage-based billing to all of its retail customers before it can implement the scheme with its wholesale internet service providers.
Bell will therefore need to move any customers it has on unlimited downloading services onto new usage-based plans before it can apply the same scheme on a wholesale basis.
Internet downloads: How do you want to be billed?
Smaller ISPs had opposed the plan, which the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission provisionally approved in August last year, on the grounds that it will make them indistinguishable from Bell.
Companies such as Teksavvy typically offer plans with hundreds of gigabytes of usage, whereas Bell's most popular services limit users to 50 or 75 GB.
Bell has argued that it needs to implement usage-based billing to curtail the congestion caused on its network by heavy downloaders.
Plan will use flat fees
Under the plan, Bell will charge wholesale ISPs a flat fee for connecting to its network, and for a set monthly usage limit per customer. Beyond that set limit, users will be charged per gigabyte, depending on the speed of their connections.
Customers using the fastest connections of five-megabits per second, for example, will have a monthly allotment of 60 gigabytes, beyond which Bell will charge $1.12 per GB to a maximum of $22.50.
If a customer uses more than 300 GB a month, Bell will also be able to implement an additional charge of 75 cents per gigabyte.
The CRTC is also requiring Bell to make any "usage insurance plans," which give its own retail customers extra monthly usage for a small fee, available to wholesale ISPs.
Small ISPs took the CRTC's approval of Bell's plan as an inevitability, but weren't pleased with some of the details.
"The rates are absolutely atrocious. How the hell are we doing above one dollar for extra usage?" said Rocky Gaudrault, president of Chatham, Ont.-based Teksavvy. "It's in the thousands of multiples beyond what the costs are."
Gaudrault said Bell also continues to have an advantage over smaller ISPs in that it is able to offer superior speeds. The CRTC issued an order in December 2008 that gave wholesale ISPs access to the faster networks of phone companies such as Bell and Telus, but the federal government last year ordered the regulator to reconsider the decision.
The CRTC has until September to report back on the so-called matching speeds ruling, but in the meantime smaller ISPs can only sell connections up to five-megabits. Bell is currently selling connections of up to 25 megabits per second.
A spokesperson for Bell said the company is studying the usage-based billing decision and declined to comment further.
CRTC commissioner Candice Molnar attached a dissenting opinion to the ruling. She said the requirement on Bell to move all of its customers off unlimited downloading plans was unnecessary because a vast majority are already on usage-based services.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #50 on: 2010-05-13 11:02:17 »
Interesting that the whole sale give away of all our natural resources to anyone with cash is a good thing.
Canada's resilient economy The Goldilocks recovery
Source: The Economist Author: OTTAWA | From The Economist print edition Date: May 6th 2010
Strict financial regulation and a new commodity boom have turned “boring” Canada into an economic star
THEIR economy is so intertwined with their neighbour’s that when the United States plunged into recession, Canadians assumed they would be dragged along for the ride. Newspapers took to illustrating their economic stories with pictures of Depression-era bread lines. Yet whereas the United States has still not officially declared its recession over, Canada is nine months into recovery from its mildest and shortest downturn in recent history. Unemployment has been falling since last August, and proportionately fewer jobs were lost than south of the border.
Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, attributes Canada’s strong performance to its “boring” financial system. Prodded by tight regulation, the banks were much more conservative in their lending than their American counterparts. Those that did dabble in subprime loans were able to withdraw quickly. This prudence kept a lid on house prices while those in America were soaring, but it paid off when the bust hit. The volume and value of home sales in Canada are now at record highs. In some areas the market looks downright frothy: a modest house in Ottawa listed at C$439,000 ($435,000) recently sold for $600,000. “A lot of homes are selling in one day, and often for over the asking price,” says David Cullwick, a local estate agent. Rising prices have bolstered the construction industry and sellers of furniture and building materials.
True to form, the authorities are moving to halt the party. During the recession the Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate (to 0.25%), injected extra liquidity and bought up mortgage-backed securities. At its April policy meeting the bank withdrew its pledge not to raise rates. Analysts expect an increase in June. The government has ended tax credits for first-time house buyers and for renovations, which were granted in 2008 to stimulate demand.
For the other component of the country’s resilience—resurgent appetites for its exports of oil, gas, and minerals—Canadians have to thank policymakers in Beijing more than those in Ottawa. At their low point, prices for Canada’s commodity exports were still 50% higher than in previous recessions. Since then, they have rallied strongly. The impact is illustrated by the fortunes of Teck Resources, a Vancouver-based mining firm. It staggered into the recession loaded with a $9.8 billion debt taken on to buy the assets of a coal-mining company. For a while its survival was in doubt. Last month Teck not only announced that it had repaid the debt but also that it would pay a dividend.
The energy industry is coming back to life, with new investments planned for in Alberta’s oil sands. Last month Sinopec, a Chinese oil company, announced it would pay $4.65 billion for a 9% stake in Syncrude Canada, the largest operator in the sands. Such investments are controversial because of their environmental impact. But they are welcome in Alberta, where the government posted an unprecedented budget deficit last year.
“Our regional economies are so diverse that there is always something leaning against the wind,” says Philip Cross, the chief economist at the government statistics agency. But the combination of commodity revenues and investors seeking safety in Canadian assets has caused the currency to take off. After falling as low as 77 American cents during the recession, the Canadian dollar has now returned to rough parity with the greenback.
That is a tribute to the country’s success. But the central bank warns that a strong loonie, as the currency is known, will slow the recovery. It would be particularly harmful to manufacturing exporters, who were battered by the recession (car production fell by 31% in 2009). That might lead to further specialisation in natural resources. For now, concern about the loonie is muted, because most companies adapted to a stronger exchange rate during its previous run-up in 2007. Many of those that did not went bust. But if the currency continues to rise, the squeals will surely grow.
The government of Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, might have expected to receive more praise for the economy’s robust performance. If it has not, that may be partly because it insisted that the recession was imported from the outside world. Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate Mr Harper. The Bank of Canada can share some of the credit too. But Britons might note that Mr Harper has managed to govern for four years without a parliamentary majority, and that this has not prevented Canada from sailing through the recession.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #51 on: 2010-05-13 13:20:17 »
This is all so sad to see a few power hungry self lubricating tyrants destroy a Country at the expense of education and health care for everyone else. Especially when the language of choice for the Americas is so clearly emerging as Spanish/Portuguese.
PS: "We shall beat each other to death; the spoils will be for the taking" or "Vamos a golpearse entre sí hasta la muerte; el botín será para la toma."
It's up to Tory Senate to save Canada from bilingual court
Finally, a legitimate call to arms for the Conservative-dominated Senate.
The final front in the fight against imposing bilingualism on future Supreme Court appointments opens in the Red Chamber Tuesday, the last parliamentary pit stop before a misguided and nationally-divisive private member's bill is passed into law. For Conservatives giddily gloating at how numerical control over the Senate will soon fast-track their law-and-order agenda forward, even while violent crime in Canada is declining, the bilingualism bill is the litmus test of their new-found power's true-blue value.
Conservatives and a few common sense independents must unite to kill the bill.
New Democrat MP Yvon Godin's legislation is but a sentence fragment long. It adds a subsection that only qualified candidates "who understand French and English without the assistance of an interpreter" may be appointed to the Supreme Court. That's mighty hard to get lost in translation, but Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff shrugs it off as merely requiring candidates to "learn a little French".
Excusez-moi? Knowing enough French to grasp the subtle tongue twists of the most complicated legal arguments in Canadian history without the aid of a translator is impossible after only a couple weeks of intensive training.
This bill's new prerequisite would demand an extremely advanced level of fluency for a qualified candidate to be considered, creating a chasm separating the best unilingual brains from a top bilingual bench.
Why the Liberals bedfellowed with the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats to pass the bill was strange. Decent and credible private member's bills have a tough time surviving even the first stage of Commons debate, never mind this bill limping into the Senate on such shaky legal and political footing.
For a party whose bilingualism godfather (MP Justin Trudeau's dad) didn't force Supreme Court justices to be bilingual, presumably to avoid a two-tiered, anti-West selection process, this is hardly a vote-getter and could detonate at the ballot box if the Liberals assist its assent into law.
That's why eyes will be on Conservative Senator Claude Carignan when he leads off the debate by listing procedural and historic arguments (all in French) against a bill which, if enshrined, could end up as an constitutional argument before, of all people, the Supreme Court.
Government Leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton reports being besieged by "hundreds" of emails and calls opposing the bill. Her communications aide says only three Francophone organizations (and no individuals) have written to support the bill.
Yet Sen. LeBreton is understandably coy about predicting the outcome of a process that will drag on until June, if not into the fall. While the Conservatives may order their stable of senators to line up against the bill, they still might not have the numbers to scuttle it.
One of their own, Quebec Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, says he endorses the legislation and some of the independents are waffling. Alberta independent Elaine McCoy, thankfully, came out swinging against it.
But as a legal argument, the bill's an open and shut case of common sense gone AWOL.
"The stakes are so high in some cases you just want the best people you can get," sums up retired Supreme Court justice John Major, a unilingual Calgarian arguing for the Canadian majority position. "It's the same as surgery. I want the best doctor, I don't want the linguist."
With so many more bilingual judges in Quebec and a dearth of them west of Ontario, the selection process will undoubtedly tilt to eastern regions of greater linguistic duality and impose a severe limit on western options.
Hogwash, sniffs Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser, who promptly self-neutered his own argument by pointing to Alberta's Beverly McLachlin as proof that legal brilliance from hinterland can reach the Supreme level. Trouble is, Justice McLachlin only learned French AFTER she was elevated to the big bench where she now serves as Chief Justice. She would not have made the cut if this bill was in force at her appointment.
Bilingualism if possible, but not necessarily bilingualism should be the prime ministerial rule when considering Supreme Court appointments.
To add a language scout to the nomination process would limit future membership in Canada's judicial dream team to the shallow end of the talent pool.
Sadly, it now falls on a much-maligned Senate to engage enough sober second thinkers to save the Commons from its own legal mistake.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #52 on: 2010-05-19 12:54:13 »
The 'Believers' are getting restless in the Colonies again .... <snip> self-proclaimed “anarchists.”<snip> ... it seems so sad when you have to proclaim yourself ...
Firebomb in Ottawa
Source: CBC Author: Siri Agrell Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 10:06 AM
Early Tuesday morning, a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood was set on fire by a group of self-proclaimed “anarchists.” According to the Canadian Press, three to four males were seen running from the scene and leaving the area in an SUV shortly before the fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. A video was posted on the website ottawa.indymedia.org along with a message stating that the bank was targeted because of its sponsorship of the Vancouver Olympics, which were held “on stolen indigenous land.” “The games in Vancouver are now over, but resistance continues. An RBC branch can be found in every corner of Kanada,” read the post, signed by FFFC - Ottawa. “On June 25-27 2010, the G8/G20 ‘leaders’ and bankers are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto to make decisions that will further their policies of exploitation of people and the environment. We will be there.” District Chief Jim Bloom told the CBC that the fire, which caused $300,000 in damange, was started in the bank's ATM area. Don’t you need a bank card to access that area? I guess the anarchists need an establishment bank account to pay for their SUV’s gas.
Source: The Star Author: Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau chief Date: Wed May 19 2010
OTTAWA – The firebombing of an Ottawa bank has stoked fears of violence at the upcoming Toronto summit of G20 leaders but police officials are vowing they’ll be ready.
Still, bank officials say they’re looking at stepping up security and may even shut down branches in Toronto’s downtown core if rowdy protesters pose a risk to staff and customers.
All this comes after the group that claimed responsibility for setting a Royal Bank of Canada branch aflame Tuesday said they’ll be taking their protest to the G8 and G20 gatherings next month.
The attack on the bank branch in the upscale Glebe neighbourhood was captured on video, which was later posted on the web along with a message that takes aim at the Royal Bank of Canada.
A group calling itself FFFC faults RBC for sponsoring the Vancouver Olympics on “stolen indigenous land” and for being a “major financier” of Alberta’s tar sands, which it calls one of the most “destructive” industrial projects in the world.
“The games in Vancouver are now over, but resistance continues. An RBC branch can be found in every corner of Kanada,” reads the message from the group.
“The G8/G20 ‘leaders’ and bankers are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto to make decisions that will further their policies of exploitation of people and the environment. We will be there,” the message reads.
Ottawa Constable Jean-Paul Vincelette confirmed the bank attack was arson but declined to say anything about the video or the claim of responsibility.
“We’re not confirming anything in regards to what’s been broadcast. It’s part of the evidence and it’s going to be looked at,” he said in an interview.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Royal Bank said it is “doing everything to help police” catch those responsible.
“We are not going to comment on the group that has claimed responsibility or respond to the inflammatory statements of those who use violence to communicate their views,” the bank statement said, adding “we are very proud of our reputation.”
The Ottawa incident, which caused an estimated $300,000 in damage, has raised concerns that the towering bank headquarters in downtown Toronto could be a ripe target for protesters who gather for the G20 summit June 26-27.
Meaghan Gray of the Toronto Police Services said officials are hoping that protesters make their point “peacefully and responsibly.
“That being said, from a security perspective we’re obviously planning for any eventuality and any action on the part of protesters will be met with a measured response from police,” said Gray, who works with the force’s G20 planning team.
While she declined to comment on this week’s incident, she did say the G20 security team does “ongoing threat assessments.”
“Security plans for the G20 are taking into consideration any eventuality or any possible action and we’ll be prepared to respond,” Gray said.
Meanwhile, the banks have spent the last few months making their own contingency plans in preparation for being in the crosshairs of protesters.
“We’ve seen at previous G8/G20 summit protests, the vast majority of people are peaceful but there’s always a small minority that can turn violent and sometimes unfortunately the target has been either the financial services sector or just large businesses in general,” said Maura Drew-Lytle, of the Canadian Bankers Association.
She said bank officials have been meeting with the police and landlords of the downtown buildings to map out security strategies. Those include having bank staff work from home or other branches during the summit, increasing security and even closing down.
“There’s a possibility they’ll close branches at the last minute if there are security concerns. Certainly protecting any bank staff and customers is of primary importance,” she said in an interview.
Thousands of francophones across Canada are believed to have lied about their ability to speak English in a seemingly co-ordinated attempt to manipulate the 2006 Census in order to guarantee federal funding of programs for francophones.
Statistics Canada has taken the unusual step of posting a warning on its website to caution users that the data on bilingualism rates for francophones outside Quebec may not be reliable. The suspected cause is an anonymous French-language e-mail that circulated across Canada prior to the census encouraging francophones to say they could not speak English even if they could. It said doing so would ensure the federal government would not cut services to francophones.
The resulting statistics showed for the first time ever an inexplicable decrease in the number of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English, reversing a long trend of increasing rates.
The number of bilingual francophones in Ontario, for example, has been on the rise by between one and three per cent in every census since 1991. However, in 2006 the number unexpectedly fell to 88.4 per cent from 89.4 per cent.
Jean Pierre Corbeil, a chief specialist in the language statistics section, said they have studied the trend reversal and the e-mail appears to be the only factor that may have produced this aberration.
"How can you explain people living in a minority situation, even in really strong minority situations, that they would become less bilingual? This is almost impossible," said Corbeil.
Even if the number of bilingual francophones had risen by only one per cent, confirming the longstanding trend, the number of Franco-
Ontarians who may have lied in the census would be about 10,000.
It wasn't just Ontario bucking the trend. Fewer francophones said they could speak English in 2006 in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The percentage of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English dropped 2.5 percentage points to 83.6 in 2006. The rate of bilingualism for francophones also dropped in Quebec.
The Statistics Act says anyone who lies when participating in a Statistics Canada survey is liable for a $500 fine, but Marc Hamel, manager of the 2011 census, said efforts are never made to track the liars down.
"We rely on Canadians to provide accurate information, but we have no means of verifying," said Hamel.
Hamel said when his organization heard about the e-mail in 2006, Statistics Canada officials publicly reminded people to answer the census truthfully. He said the source of the e-mail was never investigated.
This is not the first time a concerted effort has affected official government statistics. For example, in the early 1990s, Corbeil said, a media organization led a campaign to convince Canadians to declare their ethnic origin as Canadian rather than Polish-Canadian or German-Canadian. Corbeil said the campaign was so successful that researchers stopped using data on ethnic origin because it became too unreliable.
The unreliability of data concerning bilingual francophones in Ontario comes on the heels of a controversial decision last year by Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario's minister responsible for francophone affairs, to change the provincial definition. Previously, a francophone was someone whose mother tongue was French. Now, it can be anyone whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, but who at least understands French. Statistics Canada says this will artificially increase the number of French speakers in the province, likely by about 50,000, and include some people who may not be able to speak French.
Ontario has the largest population of francophones outside Quebec -- 500,000 -- but they comprise less than five per cent of all Ontarians and the number has been steadily declining for many years. Just over half of them say French is the language they use at home.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #54 on: 2010-06-14 00:14:08 »
Oh yes, enjoy your stay in Toronto. Many have already decided to bug out for the duration. Given the billions being spent you'd think that the G20 could settle on some resort island, setup the security once and always meet there. And then there is poor little Huntsville with the G8 crew.
Just dumb founded
The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the LHIN and may not reflect the views, policies and opinions of the Ontario Medical Association unless otherwise noted. The Ontario Medical Association often assists the LHINs with their distribution of communications but is not responsible for the contents unless the communications are jointly prepared. The OMA does not warrant the completeness or accuracy of the information contained in a LHIN communication unless jointly prepared.
As you may already know, the G20 Summit will be held in Toronto from June 26 – 27, 2010.
This event will bring a large influx of people into the region and may create pressure on local infrastructure and resources from June 18 to 28. Mass gatherings such as this one have an impact on demand for health services, and high-security and high-profile nature of the G20 is expected to have an additional impact on access to local health services in the city.
Below are the key points to note. If you would like a more detailed briefing note on this information, please click on the following link
· Events that may occur during the Summit could also create additional demand for emergency, acute care and primary care services to treat a range of potential injuries and illness of both residents and visitors.
· In the event of natural disasters such as heat waves or flooding, mass gatherings may lead to confrontations among protesters and between protesters and police/security officials, and potentially, to acts of intentional harm.
· Mass gatherings can create circumstances conducive to the transmission of infectious diseases. In particular, international mass gatherings can carry the potential for imported illnesses not generally seen in the host region.
· Protests – (both lawful and unlawful). The designated site for lawful protests is Queen’s Park North, which may impede access to hospitals and other services located along and around University Avenue. Other protests will occur around the city and are expected to start as early as June 18. There is a considerable risk of use of tear gas, pepper spray and other related substances. Mass gatherings with significant protest activity increase the chances of minor to moderate illness and injuries.
PHYSICIAN PLANNING TO ADDRESS POTENTIAL THREATS & RISKS
Physicians’ with downtown offices may want to consider the following for the Summit week (June18-28):
· Planning for increased demand from visitors e.g. walk-in clinics:
o Heat-related illness/dehydration, Sunburn, Gastro-intestinal illness, Allergic reactions, Lost/forgotten medications o Potential for imported illness (e.g. influenza outside of influenza season) o Increase in number of persons without OHIP coverage seeking primary care o Increase in visits from residents and visitors who may have been injured or fallen ill during Summit activities, particularly throughout June 25-27
· Planning to limit impact of transportation issues – arrival of staff/access to/for patients (consider alternative dates to book patients) · Ensuring sufficient supplies in your office before the week of June 21st, as it may become more difficult to receive shipments as the Summit approaches. · Planning for potential disruption to critical infrastructure (i.e. phone system, network, etc.) · Walk in clinics, particularly those open during the Summit weekend (June 25-27), should use signage and other communications channels to advise patients and local residents about: o difficulties reaching the clinic during the week of the Summit, particularly from June 25-27 o long waits o alternative clinics should they need medical attention during the Summit
TRAFFIC & PUBLIC TRANSIT
· The greatest risk during the Summit is heavy traffic congestions and protests that may disrupt and delay access to health care services located in and around the downtown core. It is expected to take more time for people to get to work and for patients to access health care services.
· On Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27, 2010, restrictions are expected to increase throughout the day and significant traffic disruption is anticipated. In addition, the York, Bay, Yonge Streets exit on the eastbound Gardiner Expressway will be closed on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26, 2010. The York Street ramp onto the westbound Gardiner Expressway will be closed on Sunday, June 27, 2010.
· While public transit will continue during the event, restrictions and temporary stoppage of Go Trains, Go buses, and TTC will happen throughout the event
Traffic Control Zone: There will be a security perimeter surrounding the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This is shown by blue and green lines on the map below. This perimeter is not a fence; it is the point at which vehicular traffic will engage with a Toronto Police Service officer.
Roadways within King Street, Yonge Street, Queens Quay and Spadina Avenue - will experience closures or restrictions.
Registration and ‘Express Pass’ cards: Torontonians who live and work within the area around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre have been offered a Registration Card in order to facilitate quick passage through the security checkpoints that will be part of the Toronto Police Service security perimeter.
Security Fencing: There will be fencing used to in the main security perimeter - represented by the orange line on the map below. The fence will be erected in the weeks leading up to the Summit. The Toronto Police Service hopes that members of the public will be able to move freely throughout the fenced perimeter until the evening of Friday, June 25, 2010.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #55 on: 2010-06-21 20:13:17 »
This is going to haunt the federal government for awhile, especially if there turns out to be problems during the conferences.
Canadian summitry A loonie boondoggle Ostentation in a time of austerity
Source: The Economist Author: Print edition Date: Jun 17th 2010 | ottawa
FOR all his gifts as a political tactician, Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, may have miscalculated how much Canadians want to pay to host the G8 and G20 summits from June 25th to 27th. As the government struggles to close a large budget deficit, it is spending C$1.2 billion ($1.2 billion) to host the world’s leaders—60% more than Japan, the previous record holder, coughed up for the G8 gathering in Okinawa in 2000.
Mr Harper points out that Canada is holding back-to-back summits—doubling the cost, he says. The government also notes that it can hardly be blamed for providing airtight security. It has built a steel fence around the woodland cottage resort at Muskoka that will receive the G8, and deployed special forces on overtime to lurk in the water and surrounding forest.
But critics counter that Mr Harper could have saved money by inviting the G20 to Muskoka as well, rather than receiving them separately in Toronto, 200 km (125 miles) to the south. Moreover, they note that much of the budget has gone on items of dubious utility and taste. The prime minister has become the butt of jokes for commissioning an artificial lake, complete with mock canoes and recordings of the call of the loon, for the G20 summit’s media centre—which sits just yards from the real Lake Ontario. In Muskoka taxpayers are on the hook for a refurbished steamboat that won’t even float until the summit is over, and new outdoor toilets 20km from the meeting site. So much for small government.
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #56 on: 2010-07-12 12:51:51 »
Some days I just do not understand the people and the news and what constitutes the facts. High lighted in red below is the real story the was glanced over. The Cell Phone Network in Southern Ontario was not functioning at all in many areas for 3 hours and with limited access for many everywhere else. This effected all Cell Phone Providers. After talking with the service technicians at my cell phone provider it was clear the problem was that the network was saturated and couldn't handle the traffic. The Earth Quake this was a minor event at best. NOT a national emergency ! YET the Cell phone network failed. I repeat IT FAILED !!!!!! If this had been a real emergency the Cell Phone network would not have been available, NO PHONES. Yet no one is discussing this huge security and health and safety issue !
It seems the Canadian News media are truly 'Hosers' and incompetent.
UPDATE: Earthquake rattles Ottawa The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting the epicentre of Wednesday's earthquake is in Quebec at coordinates 45.866°N, 75.457°W. Google Earth
Source: Orleans Star Author: Patricia Lonergan Date: June 23rd, 2010
An afternoon earthquake that sent office workers outside and left some residents without power has been downgraded to magnitude 5.0.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the earthquake near Val-des-Bois, Que., at 1:41 p.m. Wednesday, June 23 measured 5.0 on the Richter scale instead of the 5.5 initially reported by the organization. That figure has been confirmed by Earthquakes Canada, a division of Natural Resources Canada. The earthquake’s epicenter, in western Quebec, is about 38 kilometres north of Cumberland, Ontario. It was measured at a depth of about 18 kilometres.
Twitter users indicate the tremor was felt in Toronto, Montreal and perhaps even as far away as Ohio.
Locally there are reports of power outages. In the downtown area many office buildings have been evacuated. Cell phone users are also having trouble making calls.
There is no word on damages or injuries.
The USGS reports that people in the large western Quebec seismic zone, where the quake too place, have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from larger ones for three centuries. The two largest damaging earthquakes occurred in 1935 (magnitude 6.1) at the northwestern end of the seismic zone, and in 1732 (magnitude 6.2) 450 kilometres away at the southeastern end of the zone.
Earthquakes cause damage in the zone about once a decade. Smaller earthquakes are felt three or four times a year.
Emergency officials are now assessing the damage after a magnitude 5.0 earthquake rocked Eastern Ontario and surrounding areas around 1:41 p.m. on Wednesday, and urging residents to check their own homes for any problems.
Most homes are built to sustain moderate earthquake damage, but those in houses that are approaching or older than 100 years old should pay special attention to the foundations, brickwork and other areas of the house, officials said.
Sirens filled the ByWard Market and other areas of Ottawa in the minutes after the powerful quake, although there were no reports of widespread, major damage.
"We had alarm bells, some small fires because people evacuated leaving pots on stoves, some very minor structural damage in some cases," said John de Hooge, head of Ottawa's emergency services.
Biggest in 100 years
The quake, the most powerful to hit the region in a century, swayed buildings and pushed pictures off the wall across the area. The epicentre was in Val-des-Bois, Que., about 54 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, with the worst damage coming in Gracefield, Que.
There is a state of emergency declared in that town, which is an hour and a half northeast of Ottawa. Damage included a fallen steeple from a church, and severe damage to several buildings -- including its city hall.
In Ottawa, as residents reported animals acting strangely in the moments before the quake, bricks fell off chimneys and foundations were cracked. However, most of the damage was minor.
"(People) should check their buildings for any signs of either damage, cracks and so on and so forth and any smells of natural gas," said emergency official John Ash. "If they find those kinds of things ... call the appropriate authorities."
Aftershocks have already hit Ottawa, but at magnitude 2.0 or 3.0 were too low to be felt by most people. In Ottawa, the area averages around 100 to 150 quakes a year but we only feel about 10 of them, said geologist Stephen Halchuk, who is with Environment Canada.
Evacuations take place
Gridlock ensued in downtown Ottawa as thousands of public servants were released from their jobs and jammed on to the Queensway and other major arteries to head to the suburbs.
"Probably the biggest I've ever seen in Ottawa," said one bystander to CTV Ottawa. "Pretty frightening."
Cell phone networks were jammed for at least half an hour following the quake as residents tried to get in touch with loved ones. Thousands turned to Twitter instead to spread the message about what happened.
Algonquin College kept buildings closed until 5 p.m. One person tweeted that the Blossom Park high school graduation was briefly interrupted by the tremors.
"The Roger Guindon building of uOttawa was evacuated after the earthquake, we're back now thankfully," added Jason Anthony Tetro, on Twitter.
Tremors in Ottawa lasted at least 12 seconds. Power was also knocked out in many areas of the city temporarily, although all was restored within an hour and a half of the quake.
Area hospitals indicated surgeries were proceeding as usual. One doctor who works at CHEO, Eric Benchimol, told CTV Ottawa by Twitter that no evacuations took place and work was continuing on patients.
Rail transportation affected
In Ottawa, a Parliament Hill live news conference stopped as reporters quickly left the room, visibly shaking the camera.
CTV News was doing an interview with Environment Minister Jim Prentice when, as Prentice described, "suddenly my chair was moving."
"So it was pretty significant, it was quite a shake. Fortunately I was at the end of the interview and we all vacated the building," Prentice added.
The O-Train was temporarily pulled off the tracks as staff checked for damage, and VIA Rail trains were delayed moving through the busy Montreal to Toronto corridor.
Tremors were felt as far north as North Bay, as far east as the Quebec/New Brunswick border, as far south as Boston and as far west as Windsor.
"We've experienced one of the largest earthquakes in the history of the City of Ottawa," said Mayor Larry O'Brien. "But it looks like we have gone through it mostly unscathed. Scary incident for all us."
With reports from CTV Ottawa's Paul Brent, Kate Eggins and Norman Fetterley, and files from CTV.ca
Devon Energy Corp. (DVN-N63.680.180.28%) has shut down seven wells at its Jackfish oil sands site after a failure at one of the wellheads sent a plume of bitumen-laced, high-temperature steam into the air for nearly 36 hours last weekend.
The leak began Saturday afternoon and was stopped Sunday at midnight.
“It’s what we would call a steam release leak and it did have bitumen in it,” spokeswoman Nadine Barber said. “That bitumen took the form of a mist or a spray.”
The company said it did not know the cause of the leak, nor how much petroleum was spilled, although it said bitumen coating the ground near the leak has made it difficult to work in the area.
Jackfish produces 35,000 barrels per day. Devon said several thousand barrels a day of production have been halted, and it’s unclear when that will resume. It could take two to three weeks to clean up the spill, Ms. Barber said.
“No employees, no contractors, no community members were injured as a result,” Ms. Barber said. “There is no immediate threat to anyone in the area, including the community, and no evacuation required.”
Still, environmental groups say the oil could have made its way into Sunday Creek, which flows into a network of major rivers in north-eastern Alberta.
Jackfish is located roughly 170 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, and 15 kilometres from the town of Conklin.
Devon employs what’s known as steam-assisted gravity drainage, or SAGD, at its Jackfish site. Using that process, high-pressure steam is injected into the ground using a horizontal well; that steam then heats the bitumen, melting it out of the sand and causing it to flow into a second horizontal well that brings it to surface.
The leak happened in what industry calls the “producer well,” which extracts the bitumen.
The company uses what it calls a “pad” to drill multiple wells. The leaking well was on a pad with seven wells in total; all have been shut down for now.
Both Alberta Environment and Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board are investigating the leak.
SAGD projects use intense pressure and temperature, and this is not the first SAGD accident in the oil sands. In 2006, a well at Total E&P Canada Ltd.’s Joslyn site blew through the earth above it, sending rock flying hundreds of metres into the air. A regulatory report found that the company used greater pressure at the site than it was allowed to.
The industry has held up SAGD -- and other methods that don’t involve mining -- as the future of the oil sands, 80 per cent of which will be extracted without mines. SAGD is also often seen as a more environmentally palatable approach, since it doesn’t scar the landscape the way open-pit mines do.
However, accidents at SAGD sites have caused some to question how much better that technology is.
“This blowout, along with Total's fiasco, suggests major risks with in-situ development,” said Andrew Nikiforuk, an author who wrote “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.”
Mike Hudema, a Greenpeace campaigner in Alberta, said the spill should be seen as a warning sign.
“Accidents like this are bound to happen which further contaminate our landscapes, further poison the environment and also potentially affect surrounding communities as well.”
Re:Canada Shoots itself in the Head : A Nation Going Down in Flames
« Reply #58 on: 2010-07-13 14:58:28 »
Clearly timing is everything especially when the tax payer helps fund the bill for getting it ready to show. Or did the G8 go 'Pete Townsend' on the place ?
G8 summit site Deerhurst up for sale
Source: Globe and Mail Author: Steve Ladurantaye Real Estate Reporter Date: Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2010 6:12AM EDT
The Muskoka region’s Deerhurst Resort is up for sale just weeks after playing host to the Group of Eight summit, as its U.S. owners try to take advantage of the resort’s sudden high profile and the perceived safety of the Canadian real estate market.
The deal’s ramifications extend far beyond Ontario cottage country. The recession has been brutal on resorts across North America, so much so that industry insiders have no idea how much the 114-year-old property may fetch on the open market.
The metrics used to value these properties – average rental rates and comparable sales – are thin because there have been so few properties sold in the past four years. That means all eyes are on Huntsville, Ont., because a successful sale could set the tone for future transactions.
“All we know is values are way down from a few years ago,” said Queen’s University Professor John Andrew, who specializes in commercial real estate. “We have no idea if values are down 15 per cent or 50 per cent, so this process is quite important to the broader industry.”
Real estate consultant Colliers International said in its annual review that the number of hotel sales – including resorts – fell by 20 per cent in 2009. Sales volume dropped 61 per cent to $414-million, as buyers exited the market in anticipation of more hard times for the tourist-dependent sector.
There were a slew of distressed sales among smaller players that couldn’t pay their bills. Industry giant Intrawest ULC, meanwhile, struggled under the weight of its debt and had to refinance in the middle of the Winter Olympics to hold onto its prized Whistler-Blackcomb resort in British Columbia.
“If you look through the deals over the years, you don’t see these types of properties sell very often,” said Colliers executive managing director Alam Pirani. “The last significant transaction was in 2006 when the Fairmont portfolio was sold, so it’s hard to gauge values.”
Deerhurst was founded in 1896 and run by the Waterhouse family until 1990, when it was sold to Apotex Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Barry Sherman, who had hoped to develop a casino on its grounds.
It was bought in 1998 by Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLP, a Hartford Conn.-based fund, for an estimated $21-million. Cornerstone has since spent an estimated $60-million on renovations.
Deerhurst now has space for 1,000 guests in 400 rooms and suites, two golf courses, conference facilities, seven restaurants, a spa and salon, and 3,000-foot airstrip.
The owners said the decision to sell was made because of an improving commercial real estate market, not because of financial distress. An asking price wasn’t disclosed.
“We’ve seen a pickup in transaction volumes across North America,” said Bill Stone, executive vice-president of CB Richard Ellis Hotels, which is handling the sale. “It was quite quiet for a long time, and there really hasn’t been anything like it on the market.”
The official sales material will be distributed to potential buyers Tuesday. Targets primarily include pension funds and private equity firms looking for longer-term investments, although CBRE plans to target some high-net worth individuals as well.
“We will give these groups indications of what we’re looking for, but there is no formal listing price,” Mr. Stone said. “We are looking for offers.”
While the G8 Summit was a welcome shot of global publicity, Deerhurst spokeswoman Anne White said the resort didn’t receive funding to spruce up the resort for the world’s most powerful dignitaries and their staff.
“The majority of the on-site government budget was event-based and temporary,” she said, adding an undisclosed amount of government money was spent “to ensure all 10 leaders’ suites were identical and to reconfigure a ballroom half-wall slightly to allow for the division of the space.”
Still, the spending associated with hosting the government summit pumped at least $50-million into infrastructure projects in the area to prepare for the world leaders’ visit. The improvements included the repaving of Deerhurst Road, improvement of the region’s power grid and enhanced cellphone coverage.
“This offering will have international appeal. It represents a unique opportunity to own a highly recognizable asset, in a beautiful part of the country,” Mr. Stone said.
Still, location may not be enough to convince buyers to step into the world of resort ownership at a time when valuations are hazy.
In January, the 221-room Rosseau resort was placed on the auction block after lenders pulled their funding on the $170-million project. Located west of Deerhurst, the sale was cancelled in April, leaving the fully developed property in the hands of its creditors.
“The Deerhurst sale could help set the value for all of these other types of resorts,” Mr. Andrew said. “If it doesn’t go through or flounders, it would be a sign things will take a while longer to sort out.
The Deerhurst story
1896: Opened by British entrepreneur Charles Waterhouse on a four-acre plot. The resort has 18 bedrooms, a dining room, a smoking lounge, and a verandah. Guests arrive by steamboat.
1972: First set of significant renovations enable resort to open year-round.
1980s: Period of dramatic expansion adds a convention centre and a golf course. Deerhurst launches nightly Vegas-style shows. Timmins, Ont.’s own Shania Twain performs on stage for three years. The singer later auditions for her first record contract at the resort.
1990: Bill Waterhouse, grandson of founder Charles, sells Deerhurst to Apotex chairman Barry Sherman.
1998: Acquired by Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers.
2000: $25-million expansion adds a new hotel wing, conference centre, lobby, restaurant and indoor pool.
June, 2010: Hosts the Group of Eight summit. Federal money is used to repave Deerhurst Road, improve the region’s power grid, and enhance cellphone coverage.
Size: 780 acres, including a private airstrip, two 18-hole golf courses, and paintball-game terrain.
Accommodations: 400 guest rooms with 1,000-guest capacity. Lodging ranges from hotel rooms to three-bedroom condo-style units with full kitchens and fireplaces.
Conferences: 45,000 square feet of indoor venues host about 40,000 delegates each year.
Deb Reynolds stood in her shuttered grocery store, surrounded by boxes filled with cheeses, jam, pickles, beef and baked goods, watching in shock as her staff loaded the crates from her west Vancouver shop into a truck two weeks ago. She was disposing of $20,000 worth of food, after a surprise visit from two inspectors with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on June 17 when she says they deemed a third of her store's stock unsellable because the labels weren't printed with French translations or were missing nutrition tables. Ms. Reynolds says the two inspectors removed 108 items from her shelves at Home Grow-In Grocer, a 14-month-old shop that carries only food grown or produced in B.C., including by micro-farmers in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan/Similkameen Valley. "They were there for six hours," she said. "They were picking up every jar, every bottle, every package, taking pictures of the labels, writing notes." They handed her seven pages of infractions, she says, all relating to labels missing bilingual information or nutrition tables. The inspectors flagged 11 suppliers in the small shop, which Ms. Reynolds says sells 300 dozen eggs a week. One dairy supplier, for example, was pulled because their labels read "feta" or "Monterey Jack" but not "cheese." But Keith Campbell, supervisor of food investigations for the CFIA, says the inspectors seized only one product, worth $100 and not $20,000, a yogurt made from a dairy supplier that consistently hasn't been complying with the rules. "There were approximately 21 containers of yogurt with no net quantity, no best-before date," he said. "In addition to the yogurt, the inspectors who were there noted some other products that were not in compliance, but they didn't detain them and didn't restrict the retailer from selling them." Some of the other products included items without bilingual labels, he said, as well as bread being sold with no label at all. Mr. Campbell acknowledged, however, that Ms. Reynolds' store was used as a way to get compliance from the dairy supplier. The inspectors were simply looking for a place carrying food from that supplier, which he declined to name, and found her store on the Internet. Rather than throw the noncompliant food away, Ms. Reynolds said she was able to return some of the food to her suppliers, but donated most of it to a local transition house. "To me it was a waste of taxpayers' money and time to go through my individual little suppliers," she said. "I'm just somebody who is trying to support the local B.C. economy." The CFIA requires suppliers to label products in both English and French, save for a few exceptions including food produced locally. If less than 10% of the residents in the area speak one of the official languages, that language doesn't need to be printed on food labels. email@example.com