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Hudson’s Bay Co take-private deal to go before OSC hearing


Catalyst Capital Group Inc. achieved a small victory in its campaign to block a takeover of Hudson’s Bay Co. on Wednesday, winning an opportunity to pursue its case in front of the Ontario Securities Commission.

After nearly three hours of arguments, the OSC granted Catalyst standing in the case, deciding it was in the public interest to go ahead with a hearing on Catalyst’s application to stop or delay a $10.30-per-share takeover offer from chairman Richard Baker’s group of shareholders.

In remarks Wednesday, Catalyst cast itself as a deep-pocketed defender of its fellow minority shareholders, railing against what it viewed to be flawed privatization process conducted by a “neutered” special committee of the board of directors.

“For at least six months, the investing public has been kept in the dark,” Catalyst lawyer Adam Chisholm told the OSC’s three-person panel. “Many minority shareholders will not have the sophistication or the resources to bring an application to the commission. I’m thinking about retail investors who own shares of this company.”

Commission vice-chair Grant Vingoe announced his decision in a short statement after the panel deliberated during a 20-minute recess.

The Baker group warned against granting Catalyst standing, arguing it would water down a provision that allows third parties to bring applications before the commission in matters of public interest. Typically, only commission staff bring matters before the commission.

“Staff is the protector of capital markets, not Catalyst,” Baker group lawyer Eliot Kolers told the OSC, pointing to Catalyst’s push to buy up shares after the takeover bid was announced.

“Part of the integrity of the capital markets is not having the commission be used by a self-interested applicant of this nature.”

But commission staff, represented by Charlie Pettypiece, agreed with giving Catalyst standing, arguing that the matter raised “fundamental securities law issues.”

Catalyst, HBC’s largest minority shareholder, has signalled it has enough support to block the deal in a shareholder vote scheduled for Dec. 17. It has also floated its own bid to buy HBC at $11 per share.

On Wednesday, HBC lawyer Seumas Woods questioned the timing of Catalyst’s application, so close to next week’s vote.

“They’ve left it very late in the day,” he said, calling Catalyst’s position “long on rhetoric … short on substance.”

Prominent proxy advisors have also weighed in on the saga, including Glass Lewis & Co., which recommended on Wednesday that shareholders vote in favour the Baker group offer. Institutional Shareholder Services, however, recommended that shareholders vote against the deal in a report on Friday.

Vingoe, the OSC vice-chair, challenged HBC’s criticisms of the last-minute nature of Catalyst’s request for a hearing. HBC complained Catalyst didn’t request a hearing for weeks following HBC’s release of a management circular on the deal. But Vingoe pointed to an HBC news release late on Friday night, which updated HBC’s official account on how the deal came together. The release gave additional information about how the special committee waived a standstill provision to allow shareholder Fabric Luxembourg Holdings S.a.r.l. to join the Baker group’s bid.

By updating its account of the deal, HBC was essentially restating its circular. So while it was released in mid-November, Vingoe said, “it’s only complete very recently.”

The hearing starts on Thursday with Catalyst’s cross-examination of David Leith, chair of the HBC special committee.

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Ankara threatens to close down U.S. Air Force base in Turkey – Defence Blog


A senior Turkish official said that Ankara threatening to close down the U.S. Air Force Incirlik Air Base.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a statement that Ankara may insist that the U.S. leave Incirlik air base if Washington goes ahead with the sanctions it has threatened in response to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 air defense systems.

“We will assess the worst-case scenario and make a decision. If the US imposes sanctions against Turkey, then the issue of the Incirlik and Kurecik bases may be on the agenda,” Cavusoglu said.

Deliveries of the latest Russian-made S-400 air defense systems, which caused a significant rift in relations between Turkey and the United States, began in July. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the S-400 will be fully operational in April 2020.

The vast Incirlik Air Base, located in southern Turkey close to Syria, has been a longstanding symbol of U.S.-Turkish cooperation. At the height of the Cold War, it underscored America’s commitment to its NATO partner against the Soviet Union.

Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present. The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force. Incirlik Air Base has one 3,048 m (10,000 ft)-long runway, located among about 57 hardened aircraft shelters.

It is worthwhile noting that estimated B61 nuclear gravity bombs stored at İncirlik airbase, which is about 100 miles from the Syrian border and which the US air force shares with its Turkish counterpart.

Of the five nuclear weapons storage locations in Europe, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey stores one-third of the weapons in Europe, although there are unconfirmed rumors that the weapons may have been withdrawn.

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Jason Kenney says he’s feeling ‘realistic’ about his ‘very frank conversation’ with Trudeau


The good news for Albertans is that Premier Jason Kenney isn’t feeling pessimistic after his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The bad news is that he’s not exactly feeling optimistic either.

“Realistic,” is how he put it when speaking to reporters after the lengthy chat in the prime minister’s office on Tuesday, which lasted for more than an hour.

Kenney’s demeanour was an obvious contrast to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who came out of his meeting with Trudeau nearly a month ago fuming about how disappointed he was. Kenney, on the other hand, mentioned several times that he appreciates Trudeau’s willingness to listen to his concerns.

“We had a very frank conversation about the ongoing economic crisis in Alberta and the impact that has on the Canadian prosperity and, frankly, the unity of our country as well,” said Kenney. “I appreciate that the prime minster listened and seemed to be responsive on a number of points.”

The Alberta premier had a number of big requests for Trudeau, with the most important being a firm commitment on when the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will be completed. With the Alberta economy still recovering from a deep economic decline, the extra barrels of oil the pipeline will move to the Pacific coast have become the dominant issue in the province.

Kenney had no firm date to announce after the meeting, but Trudeau did note that shovels are already in the ground and construction is underway on the pipeline.

Kenney also wants changes to the federal fiscal stabilization fund, which provides extra money to provinces experiencing a short-term economic decline. He told Trudeau he wants the cap on the program lifted and $2.4 billion worth of retroactive payments to Alberta to make up for being shortchanged during the recent recession.

Kenney has been referring to it as an “equalization rebate” and a way for the federal government to show it appreciates Alberta’s outsized contributions to the federal coffers. Last week, all the provinces agreed to raise the issue with Trudeau.

“We already got unanimity across the country. Miracles will never cease,” said Kenney.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney holds a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Dec. 10, 2019.

Blair Gable/Reuters

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Monday that he is open to listening to the concerns of the provinces on fiscal stabilization when the provincial finance ministers meet on Monday. Kenney said he received “no specific guarantee” on tweaks to the program, other than a willingness to look at it.

A recent surge in Western alienation also dominated the meeting.

Kenney told reporters that he urged Trudeau to take the concerns of Albertans seriously, citing poll numbers showing that a third of the province saying they’d be better off splitting from Canada than staying in the federation.

“The prime minister agrees that we must not ignore those sentiments,” said Kenney, who has repeatedly noted that Albertans feel unappreciated and neglected by the rest of the federation.

Kenney also lobbied for the federal approval of the massive Frontier Mine oil sands project proposed by Teck Resources and suggested that this “simple ratification” would be a litmus test for Albertans wondering if their federal government has got their back.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2019.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

“The next few weeks will be critical in determining the seriousness of this federal government to respond to the deep and legitimate concerns in Western Canada,” said Kenney, saying he needed urgent action from the federal government ahead of the February deadline for approval.

Trudeau told Kenney that he’s aware of the deadline and that the federal government is working on the file with that in mind.

“I am somebody who always tries to be hopeful but that’s hard for a lot of Albertans who have been out of work for four years,” said Kenney.

Also on the list of issues that Kenney brought to Ottawa is a request to rewrite Bill C-69, which modified environmental assessments for large energy projects, and a complete scrapping of the government’s tanker ban law, which effectively bans Canadian oil exports from B.C.’s north coast.

Kenney expressed some optimism on Bill C-69.

“While the prime minster is not going to repeal the bill, as we would prefer, he did agree to work with us on its application, on the regulations and on the project list,” said Kenney. “So on a number of issues he’s indicated an openness and we appreciate that but we will be continuing to push our vital economic interests with vigour.”

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Nancy Pelosi, White House have tentative deal on new NAFTA, insiders say 


The Trump administration and House Democrats have a tentative deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, according to people familiar with negotiations, paving the way for congressional approval as early as this month even as Democrats prepare to impeach the president.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reviewing changes to the agreement that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and his Mexican counterpart Jesus Seade have put on paper over the past week.

The revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement is one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities, and its passage would help the White House make the case that he’s pursuing policy achievements on behalf of the country even while lawmakers debate removing him from office.

At the same time, a deal would show that Democrats can legislate while also investigating the president’s administration.

“I’m hearing a lot of strides have been made over the last 24 hours with unions and with others,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “I’m hearing very good things. I’m hearing from unions and others that it’s looking good, and I hope they put it up to a vote.”

Lighthizer and Seade exchanged proposals on labor inspection rules and tougher steel provisions and finished a compromise package late Friday that they submitted to Pelosi, the people said. A demand from the U.S. regarding steel and aluminum, which people briefed on the talks said came from the United Steelworkers union, threatened to stall the negotiations last week.

In a change of plans Monday, Seade stayed in Mexico rather than returning to Washington to meet with Lighthizer again, according to three people familiar with his plans.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said earlier Monday that he expects a decision from the U.S. on the agreement very soon.

“Now is the time to vote on it,” Lopez Obrador said Monday. “I am optimistic we can reach a deal.”

Seeking Approval

Seade and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard plan to update reporters on advances in the negotiations later on Monday, the ministry said.

While all parties are still reviewing the deal, representatives from the three countries are already discussing where to have a signing ceremony, according to one person familiar with the matter.

U.S. labour groups and House Democrats will need to agree to the final details, in addition to the leaders of the three countries, another person said. If the AFL-CIO, the biggest labour federation in the U.S., is on board with the deal, it could make it easier for the Democratic-led House to expedite the process and vote as soon as next week, according to a different person briefed on the negotiations.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke with Trump before Trumka briefed the labor group’s executive committee meeting at 2 p.m., according to two other people familiar with the matter.

The peso extended a five-day climb after news of a potential deal, rising 0.5 per cent to become the second best-performing currency in emerging markets on the day.

Pelosi last month cautioned that even with a deal, there might not be enough time to vote on the agreement this year, reminding her members that “in a world of instant gratification,” legislating takes time.

There are still a number of procedural hurdles before the agreement can come to the floor for a vote, including committee hearings and review of the implementing bill in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Those steps could be waived to save time, though, and people familiar with the talks said lawmakers are likely to skip some of them.

Political Pressure

Democrats from rural, swing districts are especially eager to get a deal done. Farmers have faced devastating economic losses this year because of the trade war with China, although the president has blamed some of that on the delay in getting the USMCA approved.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent government panel, in an April analysis said USMCA would boost the U.S. economy by 0.35 per cent and lead to 176,000 new jobs in the sixth year after implementation, a small addition to the 132 million people employed full-time in the U.S.

Leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. signed the agreement more than a year ago and the White House and Democrats have spent months locked in tense negotiations over four key areas: environment, labour commitments, drug-patent protections and enforcement mechanisms. In recent weeks, the discussions have focused on the deal’s labour enforcement.

One of the main sticking points was a Democratic proposal to enforce labor rights by allowing products from factories accused of violations to be inspected and blocked at the U.S. border. California Representative Jimmy Gomez, a member of House Democratic negotiating team, said last week that Pelosi and Lighthizer have offered Mexico a compromise on labor enforcement that “respects Mexico’s sovereignty.”

Republicans and the business community increased pressure on Pelosi as they grew concerned that time was running out for a vote in 2019, believing it would be difficult to hold a vote in an election year. Pelosi said she wouldn’t rule out a vote in 2020, although she said her preference would be to get it done sooner.

The president has become increasingly frustrated that his deal has stalled and expressed pessimism about the chances Congress would ever take it up for a vote.

“Hard to believe, but if Nancy Pelosi had put our great Trade Deal with Mexico and Canada, USMCA, up for a vote long ago, our economy would be even better,” Trump said in a tweet on Saturday. “If she doesn’t move quickly, it will collapse!”

Labour Role

Key to reaching a deal has been neutralizing any opposition from the largest U.S. union confederation, the AFL-CIO.

Trump and his advisers tout USMCA as the best agreement ever negotiated for unions and Democrats, particularly the deal’s labor provisions and stricter auto-content rules that they say would boost U.S. manufacturing.

Trumka urged Democrats in a November meeting not to rush into an agreement without strong enforcement procedures and said they should hold out for more concessions.

The labour leader told The Washington Post on Monday that he is reviewing the deal.

–With assistance from Justin Sink.

Bloomberg.com



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Recent UN vote not a shift in Canada’s ‘steadfast’ support for Israel: Trudeau – National


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a recent vote to support a UN resolution endorsing Palestinian self-determination is not a shift in Canada’s policy against singling out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

Trudeau made the remarks Monday at a menorah lighting on Parliament Hill, where about 100 parliamentarians and members of the Jewish community gathered to mark the upcoming Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.


READ MORE:
Canada’s view on Israeli settlements in West Bank unchanged, despite U.S. policy shift

Trudeau says he met before the event with Jewish community leaders who expressed their concerns about the United Nations vote in late November.

He says he heard similar concerns from other parties and from members of his own caucus.

The resolution was part of a group of motions brought every year at the United Nations which critics say single out Israel for the ongoing conflict with Palestinians.

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Protest turns violent during pro-Israel event at York University


Protest turns violent during pro-Israel event at York University

For more than a decade, Canada has voted against the resolutions but Trudeau says Canada felt it had to change course on that one resolution, in order to emphasize its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



“I hear you,” Trudeau told those gathered around the menorah. “I understand that many of you were alarmed by this decision. The government felt that it was important to reiterate its commitment to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution at a time when its prospects appear increasingly under threat.


READ MORE:
U.S. reverses position on Israeli settlements, angering Palestinians

“But let me be very clear. Our enduring friendship with Israel remains. We will continue to stand strongly against the singling out of Israel at the UN. Canada remains a steadfast supporter of Israel and Canada will always defend Israel’s right to live in security. And we will always, always, speak up against anti-Semitism at home and abroad. You have my word.”

Canada was roundly criticized for the November vote by Israel, the United States and many within Canada, with several critics accusing Canada of voting with the majority in order to secure a UN Security Council seat next year.

Canada returned to its practice of voting against other resolutions critical of Israel in votes taken this month.






U.S. no longer considers Israel settlements illegal


U.S. no longer considers Israel settlements illegal

At the menorah lighting, Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer both denounced recent incidents of anti-Semitism aimed at Jewish students at York University, the University of Toronto and McGill University.

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“They were made to feel uncomfortable because of their identity, because of their support of Israel,” Trudeau said.

“Calling into question Israel’s right to exist or the right of Jewish people to self-determination is promoting anti-Semitism and that’s unacceptable. We will never, ever be silent in the face of such acts. Hatred has no place in Canada and we will continue to condemn it.”




© 2019 The Canadian Press







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Pentagon concerns spike in pro-Russian sentiment among U.S. troops – Defence Blog


The U.S. military officials have concerned the spike in pro-Russian sentiment among the households of military members.

More than 1,000 U.S. adults responded between Oct. 24 and Oct. 30, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points to the second annual national defense survey conducted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. Almost 46% of the households of military members viewed Russia as an ally even considering the increase in tension between the two countries.

The Voice of America has reported that while a majority, 71% of all Americans and 53% of military households, still views Russia as an enemy, the spike in pro-Russian sentiment has defense officials concerned.

“There is an effort, on the part of Russia, to flood the media with disinformation to sow doubt and confusion,” Defense Department spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Carla Gleason told VOA.

“This is not only through discordant and inflammatory dialogue but through false narratives designed to elicit sympathetic views,” she said, adding, “we are actively working to expose and counter Russian disinformation whenever possible.”

The Deutsche Welle reported that in order to manipulate public discussions, especially in times of elections or referendums, information providers controlled by the Kremlin have purposefully disseminated disinformation, extremely hyperpartisan news and populist narratives. This is not an extension of pluralism of opinion through balanced and objective information that is acceptable in the sense of a free public sphere, but rather illegitimate interference.

These novel disinformation campaigns exploit the increased information overload experienced by people in the digital world. They flood the information space with a multitude of lies, half-truths or absurd news.

A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the Russian propaganda uses every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to users’ interests to influence they.

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Trump says Kim Jong Un risks losing ‘everything’ after North Korea claims major test


WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing “everything” if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a “successful test of great significance.”

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

“He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November,” he said.

North Korea’s state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that it had carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

The reported test comes ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization. Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump said on Twitter.

The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” but did not specify what was tested.

This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.

Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.

“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

“This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”

Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.

On Saturday North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.

“The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Asked in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview if North Korea might be preparing to resume nuclear tests, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that “would be a mistake on the part of North Korea.”

Pyongyang’s last nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful, took place in September 2017.


In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore. – The United States said September 11, 2019 it was encouraged by North Korea’s stated willingness to resume negotiations but criticized its latest firing of projectiles as counterproductive.

SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

“It doesn’t end well for them if they do.. If North Korea takes a different path than the one it’s promised… we’ve got plenty of tools in the toolkit,” O’Brien said on Sunday.

Recent days have also seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.

In 2017, Trump and Kim famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim “Rocket Man” and North Korea calling Trump, now 73, a “dotard.”

On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea. Pyongyang, in response, said any repeat of such language would represent “the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”

The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline.

North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of Kim taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.

Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities.

While North Korea has not specified what its “new path” could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.

Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.

“North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about,” he said.

Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with Kim that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae.

Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.

However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site.

“Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a ‘denuclearization step,’” Narang said. “So this is a first step at ‘renuclearizing.’ Reversible steps are being…reversed.”





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Stephen Poloz to step down: How Canada’s top banker went from folksy obscurity to steady hand


OTTAWA — Outgoing governor Stephen Poloz once joked that, after being chosen to succeed Mark Carney as head of the Bank of Canada in 2013, he was received much like the guy who replaced Wayne Gretzky. That is to say: nobody actually remembers the guy who replaced The Great One.

Poloz was plucked from relative obscurity as head of Export Development Canada and, despite being on the shortlist of successors, was considerably less well-known compared to the high-profile Carney, who had engineered Canada’s response to the deepest recession in decades and made Time magazine’s 100 “most influential” list.

“I run into people in the street and they ask me, ‘how’s Mark?’” Poloz said in an April 2019 interview with Maclean’s. “And I’m like, ‘great… and I’m doing okay too.’”

But Poloz, who announced on Friday he would be stepping down from the role, has nonetheless made a name for himself over the last six years — even if he hasn’t reached rock-star status.

He became known for his honest communication style, delivered with a trademark folksiness and a penchant for metaphors (he once used a “spaghetti-sauce model” to describe monetary tapering after the recession of 2007-08, and compared exchange rate fluctuations to walking a dog on a leash).

He made a point of accounting for the pulse of the “real economy,” focusing on business investment and the sentiments of CEOs more than his predecessors. Most of all, he kept inflation largely within the bank’s target, even amid trade threats from U.S. President Donald Trump and a Canadian economy that, after years of tepid growth, suddenly caught fire in 2017.

It wasn’t always a smooth ride. He started his term amid some concerns that his connection to the EDC and exporters would make him partial to a lower Canadian dollar. Others were rankled by his communications style, which sometimes veered from the Bank of Canada’s official script. He gradually overcame those frustrations.

“I think he’s gained more respect over time in this role,” said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian rates strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

Poloz took over from Carney at a time when the country was climbing out of the deepest recession in decades. A prolonged period of low interest rates had pushed household debts to among the highest of any developed nation, leaving the governor tightly wedged between mediocre economic growth and fast-expanding consumer credit.

I think he’s gained more respect over time in this role

Mark Chandler, head of Canadian rates strategy at RBC Capital Markets

His first major test came when oil prices suddenly collapsed in mid-2014, sending the wider economy into a tailspin. Poloz shocked the market with a sudden rate cut in early 2015, followed by a second cut months later, reducing the overnight rate to 0.5 per cent. The move both solidified what proved to be a prescient move by Poloz, while also laying bare the limits of monetary policy in the current economy.

“He was a creature of his time,” Chandler said. “It’s something you can give him credit for — he acted quite quickly, and at a time when others maybe hadn’t recognized the impact of the oil shock.”

Poloz was born in Oshawa, Ont., and completed his economics degree at Queen’s University in Kingston. He received a master’s degree in economics in 1979 and a PhD in economics in 1982, both from the University of Western Ontario. He first joined the Bank of Canada in 1981, where he rose up through the ranks over a 14-year period.

Christopher Ragan, former special advisor to Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, said it was immediately evident to him that Poloz was on the fast track for the governor position when he first met him in the early 90s.

Poloz was heading the bank’s then-research arm at the time. The other potential successor Ragan had identified was Tiff Macklem, who would later become senior deputy governor at the bank.

“They just had the complete package of things that you want,” Ragan said. “They had the analytical power, they had the administrative savvy, they had the communication chops. It was clear as day to me.”

Macklem was seen by many analysts as a natural successor to Carney, a long-time Bank of Canada employee who seemed groomed for the job. The decision by then-finance minister Jim Flaherty to appoint Poloz was met with confusion by some.

In a 2013 interview with the Globe and Mail, former European Central Bank economist Thorsten Koeppl said there was “a lot of head scratching going on” after the appointment. Macklem stepped down from the bank shortly after the appointment, four years before the end of his term.


Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz (centre) with Mark Carney (left), and the late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Ottawa May 2, 2013. Andre Forget/QMI Agency

But Poloz gradually won the confidence of Bay Steet, in part through a communication style that, unlike his predecessor, would readily convey the unknowns and uncertainties in the bank’s economic models.

“It’s part of his ‘aw-shucks, we-don’t-know-everything-that-the-previous-guy-knew’ communication style,” Ragan said. “He probably trades on that a little bit, and that’s okay.”

“He would say, ‘there are things the bank doesn’t know, things that I as a governor don’t know, things that the economics profession doesn’t know.’ And I think that’s extremely healthy.”

Another of his trademarks was a stand against debt. Poloz was uncommonly outspoken about rising consumer debt levels across Canada, and often expressed his worries over a heated housing market.

“That’s something that’s reasonably different than what other governors have done in the past,” said Jean-François Perrault, chief economist at Scotiabank.

“Unfortunately, that also muddles a little bit the approach to monetary policy,” he added.

Some analysts have disagreed with Poloz’s decision to continue holding rates, especially in recent months when trade rifts between the U.S. and China kicked off a wave of cuts at central banks around the globe.

“Over the last few weeks one could make a very good case that there was a need for lower interest rates in Canada to guard against risks,” Perrault said.

Scotiabank had predicted the bank would cut rates in October or December.

The wisdom of Poloz’s move remains to be seen, particularly with Canada’s current interest rate of 1.75 per cent being the highest among advanced economies.

Meanwhile, consumer debts have continued to rise. Canada’s household debt in 2018 averaged 181 per cent of total income, well higher than the United States (109 per cent), Germany (95 per cent), and others, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

That could be among his more unfortunate legacies at the bank, RBC’s Chandler said. Concerns about household debts had already begun to surface when Poloz took over from his predecessor, when the Canadian economy was taking its long, slow climb back to health.

“Seven and a half years later, debt levels are even higher,” Chandler said. “So if that legacy was a question mark for Carney, it’s even more so under Poloz.”

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Uber sexual assault report prompts concerns over ridesharing in B.C. But are taxis any safer?


In the wake of damning data from Uber that found more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported inside U.S. rides last year, B.C. is asking how safe ridesharing will be when it eventually arrives on the province’s roads.

But a lack of similar data regarding sexual assaults in taxis across B.C. makes it difficult to draw comparisons.

In its safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its U.S. services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4 per cent — were riders. It’s difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data.


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Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

That appears to be the case in B.C. as well. The RCMP and other police agencies said they didn’t have that data on hand, adding it’s “not something that can be easily teased out.”

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Although Vancouver police said they have received “a number of complaints” over the last two years, a spokesperson said it’s “not an epidemic by any means”, considering the number of rides that take place.

The Passenger Transportation Board, which is tasked with dealing with driver complaints, also said it doesn’t track those specific incidents.






Fraser Valley temple president charged with sexual assault


Fraser Valley temple president charged with sexual assault

Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said the province demands “the highest level” of criminal background checks for taxi drivers, and is assuring the province the same standard will be set for ridesharing drivers.

“We have a very strict policy with taxis where we do follow up if there are assaults,” she said. “We obviously want people to be safe however they’re travelling, whatever form of transportation they’re using.

“There are, sadly, always going to be incidents and I think this is extremely concerning that there are. We do everything we can to make sure that those people who are driving a vehicle to earn an income are assessed, are checked … to ensure people who are driving are as safe as we can attest.”



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Uber weighs next steps after report showed more than 3,000 sex assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

In its report, Uber noted that drivers and riders were both attacked and that some assaults occurred between riders. It added its data was based solely on reports from riders and drivers — meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.

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In B.C., at least two taxi drivers have been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger while on the job this year, including a July case in Kelowna and another in North Vancouver this past March.

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, said sexual violence is bound to happen when vulnerable people, particularly women, find themselves in a confined space.






Uber safety report reveals nearly 6K cases of alleged sexual assault


Uber safety report reveals nearly 6K cases of alleged sexual assault

“We know that many women are experiencing sexual violence in taxi cabs, including women that are vulnerable such as Indigenous women, women with disabilities,” she said. “It is a big concern.”

MacDougall also took issue with Uber noting the number of sexual assaults in 2018 pales in comparison to the 1.3 billion rides across the U.S. that year. In her view, just one case is too many.

“We shouldn’t be in a situation where a woman needs a ride to work or home from work, or from a night out, and is at risk of sexual violence,” she said.

“We expect ridesharing companies will take this very seriously and will take action and to prevent it.”


READ MORE:
North Shore Taxi driver charged for allegedly sexually assaulting passenger in cab in West Vancouver

No one from the Vancouver Taxi Association or the city’s taxi companies responded to requests for comment.

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In the past, the association has taken issue with ridesharing drivers not being required to mount cameras inside their vehicles like taxis do. MacDougall said that’s also not the point.

“It maybe provides some deterrent, maybe some evidence, but we also know that cameras can be disabled,” she said.

“The point is, rather, that the company is taking very careful action in their recruitment and monitoring of those in the ridesharing program, and that they take swift and serious action any time there is an allegation or evidence of sexual violence.”

Lyft said last year it would also release a safety report. A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that it “remained committed” to releasing a report, but did not say when.

—With files from the Associated Press




© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.







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Vermont Air National Guard receives next three F-35 Lightning II aircraft – Defence Blog


The Vermont Air National Guard, the air force militia of the State of Vermont, has received the next three F-35 Lightning II aircraft, which landed at the Vermont Air National Guard just after 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Dec., 5, 2019.

These aircraft are part of the 20 total aircraft assigned to the Vermont Air National Guard, with the full complement arriving by summer 2020.

The aircraft departed Thursday morning from Fort Worth, Texas, and were flown by Vermont Air National Guard pilots assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron.

“Today’s arrival is part of our scheduled plan to receive all the aircraft through 2020,” said Col. Adam Rice, vice commander, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard. “I’m very proud that our team is ready and our pilots were able to fly these Vermont aircraft home.”

The Vermont Air National Guard is the first Air National Guard to receive the F-35 Lightning II.

The first F-35s assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing arrived at the Vermont Air National Guard Base on September 19th.

“Each aircraft arrival is another step towards finalizing the fielding process at the Vermont Air National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont Adjutant General. “Our Airmen have performed remarkably to get to this point and I am, as always, impressed with their dedication towards their mission.”

On 19 October, the 158th Fighter Wing (158 FW), a unit of the Vermont Air National Guard, hosted a welcome ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft to the wing, South Burlington Air National Guard Base, Vt., Oct. 19, 2019.

As the first fighter wing to receive the F-35 Lighting II, Guard officials say Vermont is paving the way for stronger partnerships between the Air Force and the Air National Guard, ultimately better protecting the United States from adversaries.

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