Canada slid to its lowest level in at least a decade on a global index of corruption, driven down by the SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. scandal, a new report shows.
The country was ranked 12th of 180 countries on Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, an annual worldwide list from least corrupt country to worst issued Thursday. Canada ranked ninth in 2018 and sixth in 2010.
While Canada had the best score in the Americas – 77 out of 100 —, the country has slipped four points since last year and 12 points since 2010, the data shows.
“A former executive of construction company SNC-Lavalin was convicted in December over bribes the company paid in Libya,” Transparency International said in the report. “Our research shows that enforcement of foreign bribery laws among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ) countries is shockingly low,” it said, referring to a group of 36 countries sometimes called the rich nations club.
Denmark and New Zealand co-led the index, emerging as the world’s least corrupt states with scores of 87, while Somalia had the worst score at nine, followed by war-torn nations South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The U.S. ranked 23rd and the U.K. tied with Canada, Australia and Austria.
The corruption index is among a handful of indicators — such as the Washington, D.C.-based World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking that measures red tape in countries, and the United Nations’ Human Development Index that assesses lifespan, education and income — that give snapshots of a country’s performance. They can help influence foreign policy and even debt ratings.
The report didn’t specifically mention the political realm of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized by Parliament’s Ethics Commissioner for improperly influencing then-Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the bribery case facing the Montreal-based company. Wilson-Raybould later resigned from her posts and Trudeau expelled her from the Liberal party caucus.
“The controversy surrounding the attorney general, the governing party and the allegations of influence — another word for influence is corruption — that has to play into the index, and it should,” Len Brooks, associate professor of business ethics at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said by phone.
Trudeau said he wanted SNC-Lavalin to face a deferred prosecution agreement — essentially a fine negotiated with a judge instead of a criminal trial — because it would help save jobs that might be put at risk from lost contracts after a criminal conviction. A bribery conviction could ban a company from federal contracts for a decade under government law and also risk contracts linked to the World Bank.
Last month, the Court of Quebec ordered SNC-Lavalin to pay a $280-million fine over five years, with three years of probation, in what appeared to be a break for the company. The RCMP had charged the builder with fraud and bribing Libyan officials in Moammar Gadhafi’s regime with $48 million from 2001 to 2011 to secure contracts.
Brooks said Canada still has work to do on corruption issues, such as stamping out the paying-for-access to politicians, a trend that Transparency International cited as affecting many countries along with concerns over conflicts of interest, preferential treatment, electoral integrity, lobbying activities and civil liberties.
“The work around pipelines and Indigenous groups — there’s all kinds of stuff that comes up there,” said Brooks, who noted Canada’s score would barely earn a B+ at Rotman. “Certainly arguments can be made that we’re not recognizing certain groups of people as best we should.”
Dilly Hussain, the deputy editor of Muslim news website 5 Pillars, was the first speaker of MRU’s weeklong series.
Hussain said he has seen a rise in Islamophobia in Europe and the United States, and hopes more people start having tough conversations about religious differences.
“If there is a growing sentiment among non-Muslims in the Western world that Muslims believe in x, y and z or they find certain rituals or beliefs problematic or in contradiction with secular liberal values, then we need to have that conversation,” said Hussain.
A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle caught fire in Poland Saturday afternoon.
The incident according to an eyewitness happened near Gorzekaly village in northern Poland on 18 January.
As firefighters arrived, they found a Stryker armored vehicle involved in flames, according to Orzysz 998 volunteer fire brigade. Four fire brigades took part in the firefighting operation: WSP Bemowo Piskie, OSP Drygały, OSP Orzysz, JRG Pisz.
No one was injured in the fire. Two Soldiers were in the vehicle at the time the fire began and reported hearing a loud noise before smoke began seeping into the back of the cab.
The eight-wheeled Stryker combat vehicle is the U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team primary combat and combat support platform. Significantly lighter and more transportable than existing tanks and armored vehicles, the Stryker fulfills an immediate requirement to provide Combatant Commanders with a strategically deployable (C-17/C-5) and operationally deployable (C-130) brigade capable of rapid movement anywhere on the globe in a combat ready configuration.
The Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) combines the capacity for rapid deployment with survivability and tactical mobility. The Stryker vehicle enables the team to manoeuvre in close and urban terrain, provide protection in open terrain and transport infantry quickly to critical battlefield positions.
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Following a meeting Monday with Queen Elizabeth II, it’s clear that Prince Harry and Meghan are coming to Canada for “a period of transition.”
What’s not clear is whether the couple intend to continue to divide their time between the two countries after everything has been arranged; whether they will eventually settle permanently in Canada; or, whether they have their sights set on another country, perhaps the United States, where Meghan is reportedly still a citizen. If they did choose to make Canada their permanent, primary home, would they get any special treatment in regards to Canada’s immigration system?
As the grandson of Canada’s monarch and sixth in line to the throne, one might expect Prince Harry to have some special status in this country. But the Duke of Sussex enjoys no such privilege, nor do any of the Queen’s descendants. Even the Queen does not hold Canadian citizenship, although she could reside in Canada for as long as she wants.
“She has a different kind of status but it’s not citizenship. It’s a state authority,” said Carleton University Professor Philippe Lagassé, an expert on the Westminster system. “She’s the personification of the state, so she doesn’t need a passport to enter. She would have all legal rights because everything done by governance is done in her name.”
This special status, however, only applies to the Queen because Canadian law only recognizes the ruling British monarch.
“It’s a very simple rule — whoever’s their monarch is our monarch,” Lagassé said. “We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status. We don’t even have laws that recognize Royals as being Canadian Royals.”
Canada will not automatically grant the royal couple citizenship, and would need to apply to become permanent residents through the normal immigration process, Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for the immigration minister, told the CBC in a statement. The minister’s office did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment before deadline.
That means Prince Harry will be entering Canada as any other British citizen would, and all British citizens can stay in Canada for up to six months without a visa. It’s the same for U.S. citizens. So Harry and Meghan’s short-term plan could simply be to travel back and forth between Canada and the U.K. at least twice a year — although that would put Meghan’s application for British citizenship at risk.
If the couple wants Canada to be their economic base, visitor visas won’t help them with their long-term goal of becoming financially independent as neither of them would be permitted to work in the country, said Harjit Grewal, an immigration consultant with Sterling Immigration who works in Vancouver and London.
However, it’s entirely possible that Meghan is already a permanent resident in Canada, Grewal said. While she was filming the TV show Suits, Meghan lived in Toronto for nine months of the year for seven years, until she moved to the U.K. to live with Harry in November 2017.
If, during that time, she got a self-employed visa, aimed at people who work in cultural activities or athletics, then she would have been granted permanent residency. That would mean that Meghan is still eligible to live and work — in any field — in Canada, and that she could sponsor Harry and their son Archie.
The couple could also qualify for a business visa, if they chose to invest some of their vast wealth in Canada, Grewal said. He also pointed out that, if Meghan and Harry successfully monetize the Sussex brand, Canada could be eager to fast-track their applications and welcome them as taxpaying citizens.
We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status
Another option is the federal skilled worker (express entry) program, but the couple might not fare too well under that points-based system since Prince Harry doesn’t have a university degree and they are both over 30, Grewal said. Prince Harry is 35 and Meghan is 38.
While the couple have no legal status, in the eyes of many Canadians, there is a cultural connection to the country as members of the Royal family, Lagassé said, but that doesn’t change the law.
“To what extent do you bend the law to accommodate people of fairly significant means?” Lagassé said. “It becomes a political question, not a legal one at that point.”
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It is 4 p.m., precisely a week before Christmas at a Hudson’s Bay store at the corner of Yonge and Bloor in downtown Toronto. The area is one of the city’s biggest shopping destinations during the busiest season of the year. But the Bay is dreary.
Most of the fluorescent lights are burnt out in the men’s fragrances department. A level up, in women’s wear, the mannequins outnumber the humans. Dozens more lights are out, others are flickering and one is buzzing, while the ceiling panels are stained black by either dust or smoke, it’s difficult to tell.
The carpet, too, has curious stains. A splotch beside a rack of Adrianna Papell dresses looks like a lady dancing. And the renovation work on the hotel next door groans through the floor, thudding, thrashing, scratching.
This is the Bay on the edge of the so-called Mink Mile, a magnet for the city’s fanciest shoppers. This is also a little piece of what two warring factions of investors, bankers and Bay Street lawyers have been fighting for months to control.
Late Friday, Hudson’s Bay Co.’s chairman Richard Baker and his group of shareholders announced they were raising their bid for the department store chain by $75 million, to $11 a share or $1.18 billion in total. That increase was enough for the takeover bid’s loudest opponent and HBC’s largest minority shareholder, Catalyst Capital Group Inc., which pledged to support the deal when it’s put to a vote.
And with that, the takeover battle for Canada’s oldest company — older than the country by 197 years — appears close to a conclusion, but amid all the talk around the fate of the historic Canadian retailer, a nagging question remains: Is the Bay actually worth saving?
Industry observers say it would take some combination of closing certain stores, shrinking others and making drastic improvements to the in-store experience — meaning improved service, cleaner stores and a better mix of brands — to make the Bay relevant again.
But even then, it might be too late.
“Do I think in its current state it can survive? No,” said Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT who has spent decades developing shopping centres.
If you want to know why the Bay, unchanged, will die, Waks invites you to walk into one of the stores and look around.
“You look at the floors and you look at the ceilings and you look at the fixtures,” he said. “To find somebody to help you is extremely rare.”
Do I think in its current state it can survive? No
Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT
Up till now, HBC has been frank about its survival prospects if shareholders reject Baker’s offer. Left on the public market, the argument goes, HBC would struggle to find support for the expensive, time-consuming work of overhauling the business, repurposing real estate and improving its e-commerce efforts.
Since Baker first announced the takeover bid this summer, Catalyst has been the main shareholder standing in his way. Arguing that Baker was undervaluing the company, Catalyst launched a competing bid of its own.
Baker and Catalyst then traded barbs in a seemingly endless stream of press releases until, last month, Catalyst succeeded in delaying a vote on the bid altogether by complaining to the Ontario Securities Commission.
Baker’s new offer rescues what looked like a doomed deal since Catalyst, with a 17-per-cent stake, boasted enough allies to derail the old bid in a shareholder vote, which required support from a majority of minority shareholders.
For months, Baker’s group refused to budge, insisting $10.30 was their “best and final offer” and declining to entertain outside bids. But Friday’s revised bid — the third in a series of Baker group offers, starting at $9.45 in June — matched what Catalyst was itself willing to pay for HBC.
At $11 per share, Catalyst’s 32.3 million shares are worth $22.6 million more than they were at $10.30 per share. With Catalyst now onside, Baker’s group of shareholders — a handful of international investors, including the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Boston-based Abrams Capital Management LP — have surpassed a major hurdle.
A special committee of HBC’s board of directors have endorsed Baker’s offer as the best, most plausible way forward. But there are still some barriers to the deal. In light of the new offer, the committee is seeking an updated valuation and fairness opinion on the company. HBC is allowed to terminate Baker’s $11-per-share deal if it’s below the new fairness opinion’s formal valuation range. The deal also needs to pass a shareholder vote.
But HBC’s challenges do not end if and when the deal closes.
“The retail environment is deteriorating,” special committee chair David Leith told shareholders in a November letter.
In the year and a half since Helena Foulkes took over as chief executive, HBC has rid itself of underperforming assets so it can focus on its core businesses — the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue — while closing Home Outfitters and selling off Lord and Taylor, as well as the Gilt e-commerce business and HBC’s European operations.
But still, it wasn’t enough to stop HBC’s stock from tanking, Leith said in December. Over five years, the price fell about 64 per cent, to around $6 in June, before Baker’s take-private bid was announced. In a call with investors in December, Foulkes acknowledged the Bay’s biggest issues: hard-to-find staff and hard-to-navigate stores.
“We’re fixing the fundamentals of the store environment,” she said.
Foulkes is also in the middle of cutting down the Bay’s mix of brands, culling 600 older, more conservative ones, and replacing them with 75 designer labels. For those new brands, the Bay is focusing on getting them from places such as South Korea and Scandinavia, instead of the traditional fashion markets of London, Paris and Milan.
But fixing the business will take cutting more than brands, said Kathleen Wong, a retail analyst at Veritas Investment Research.
“It’s tough,” she said last month. “There are way too many stores.”
For years, Wong said, HBC seemed intent on expanding, adding new banners and pushing into new markets while its flagship brand, the Bay, floundered. The Bay currently has 89 department stores across Canada, but reducing that footprint is complicated.
“When you look at it, it’s a bit late now,” she said. “If HBC wants to get out now, who’s going to buy the real estate?”
One major problem is that the properties were built for department stores and, lately, department stores have not been strong tenants. In more suburban areas, the Bay tends to be an anchor tenant in shopping malls, and locked into hefty long-term leases. Again, it’s tough to move a footprint of that size.
“It’s not like you can just whip out a pad of paper and decide you’re going to move out of some of these locations,” said Michael LeBlanc, a former executive at HBC in the early 2000s who now runs M.E. LeBlanc & Co., a retail consultancy. “They’re decades-long leases and who’s gonna buy them?”
The other issue with maintaining such a vast cluster of sprawling department stores is that it takes a lot of money to run. You need the staff and the budget to, say, replace each light bulb when it goes out. If you don’t, the whole brand reputation suffers.
“If you’ve got a big fleet like that, and you want them all to maintain the brand standard, it takes a lot of investment,” LeBlanc said. “Maybe you don’t need them to be as big as they are.”
But shrinking stores causes a similar problem: “Who gets the rest?” he asked, pointing out that it takes time and investment to redevelop parts of stores for new tenants.
But regardless of the size, the stores just need to look and operate better, said Waks, the retail real estate developer, who now runs Trinity Development Group Inc.
“If you don’t put the capital in real estate,” he said, “you do not get the productivity.”
The best example of that, Waks said, is the Bay at Yonge and Bloor. It’s in a prime shopping location and yet it doesn’t appear to have been upgraded in years.
Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?
“Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?” he said, also pointing out that a flagging department store is at risk of losing the best brands.
In a neighbourhood such as the Mink Mile, brands have other options. The luxury department store Holt Renfrew is down the street. And major brands such as Chanel and Versace have their own stores in nearby Yorkville.
“They don’t want to downplay their brand,” Waks said. “You have to show them that you’ve got the customer base and the sales and the ability to move their wares.”
If not, the brand pulls out, giving customers one less reason to shop in the store. As fewer customers come, more brands stay away, sending the store spiralling further and further, until it looks something like the Bay on Bloor: dowdy, dirty and empty.
Former England and Real Madrid manager Fabio Capello thinks Gareth Bale has become ‘distracted’ in Spain amid rumours linking him with a return to England.
Bale has been at the Bernabeu since 2013 yet has often received a rough ride from supporters despite helping the club with four Champions League titles and a La Liga during his time in the Spanish capital.
Some have questioned his commitment to Madrid, and he attracted criticism while on international duty for posing with a flag that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail , Capello- who had two separate spells as Madrid manager- said he was not convinced Bale still enjoys football as much as he once did.
“Bale is a potentially fantastic player,” Capello said. “My impression that football is no longer a priority in life. Bale seems to be a distracted player- I like him a lot, he’s strong and fast, perfect for modern football.
“If you want to be a champion today, though, you have to be 100 percent attentive and focused only on your sporting life.”
Some Madrid fans have blamed Bale for their side’s poor performances in recent years, but Capello believes the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus has been the key factor in their decline.
“Cristiano is fundamental for every team (he plays in),” Capello continued.
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” Real Madrid suffered from his farewell and while (Karim) Benzema took his place, they lost a mental and technical leader.”
There is speculation that Bale could rejoin his former club Tottenham , with their manager Jose Mourinho said to be keen to link up with the player.
Madrid are currently level on points with bitter rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga, although they are in second place on goal difference. They next face a Supercopa semi-final against Valencia on Wednesday.
Seven months after reaching initial operational capability (IOC), U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) achieved full operational capability (FOC) Dec. 31, 2019.
Since its reestablishment in August 2018, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, C2F commander, has led the resurgence of the Navy’s newest numbered Fleet, amidst a return to great power competition as outlined in the National Defense Strategy.
“Within an increasingly complex global security environment, our allies and competitors alike are well aware that many of the world’s most active shipping lanes lie within the North Atlantic,” said Lewis. “Combined with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this competitive space will only grow, and 2nd Fleet’s devotion to the development and employment of capable forces will ensure that our nation is both present and ready to fight in the region if and when called upon.”
C2F, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., exercises operational authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and the North Atlantic.
The achievement of FOC signifies C2F has reached sufficient capacity to sustain command and control over assigned forces using the operational functions and processes of the Maritime Operations Center and Maritime Headquarters, in accordance with Navy Doctrine.
C2F will primarily focus on forward operations and the employment of combat ready naval forces in the Atlantic and Arctic, and to a smaller extent, on force generation and the final training and certification of forces preparing for operations around the globe.
“Our involvement in force generation is limited to the integrated phase – the final stages of the training cycle when our ships are operating at the high-end in aggregate,” said Lewis. “This is an important distinction from the previous 2nd Fleet that disestablished in 2011 in that it aligns us with all other OCONUS numbered Fleets.”
In June, C2F led exercise Baltic Operations on behalf of Naval Forces Europe, marking it the first time the Fleet operated in the European theater since its reestablishment, leveraging increased lethality, interoperability and integrated warfighting capability with regional allies and partners.
Building its expeditionary capability, C2F established a Maritime Operations Center (MOC) this past September in Keflavik, Iceland. This forward operating MOC, made up of approximately 30 members of C2F staff, possessed the ability to command and control forces, provide basic indicators and warnings for situational awareness, and issue orders while maintaining reach-back capability to C2F headquarters.
Additionally, C2F has a trans-Atlantic outlook and understanding that it is intrinsically linked with allies and partners – both up towards the Arctic as well as across the Atlantic.
“We tirelessly work with our partner and NATO alliances to strengthen our deterrence and defense efforts throughout the Atlantic to improve upon our readiness and responsiveness,” said Lewis. “This critical relationship will continue to grow throughout the future, as we work together to ensure there is no seam in the Atlantic for our adversaries to exploit.”
By focusing on strengthening our partnerships with our Allies in the Atlantic and high-end training and employment of assigned assets, the new C2F is now fully postured to support the employment of forces, whether that is on the western or eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean, or further north into the Arctic Ocean.
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Tucked away among the colourful pages that detail Sith troopers, Resistance supporters and moons in a galaxy far, far away is a short paragraph, not even 100 words long, telling the story of a Jedi Master and historian named Ri-Lee Howell who collected “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.”
But read between the lines of that blurb in the new book, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary,” and the words whisper the story of Riley Howell, the 21-year-old college student who died in April after tackling a gunman who opened fire on his classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Howell was hailed as a hero in the aftermath of the shooting, and he received military awards for his brave final moments.
Now, he is memorialized in the “Star Wars” canon.
The Jedi Master title appears to be an appropriate tribute for Howell, whose friends and family described him as a franchise fanatic and scholar.
“So so SO much excitement to have my sweet Ri immortalized forever in the Star Wars universe that he loves so much,” Lauren Westmoreland, Howell’s girlfriend, wrote on Instagram.
The post accompanied a photo of Howell as a child posing with a lightsaber, a picture of the book excerpt featuring him, and a screenshot of his entry in Wookieepedia, the “Star Wars” wiki.
Howell’s mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, told The Charlotte Observer that she liked “the way they actually left his last name.”
“I think he would really be appreciative of that,” she said. “Because, you know, they could have just said Ri-Lee — Jedi Ri-Lee — and we’d be guessing the whole time about whether or not” it was really her son.
They put his last name in there just to really honour him
“But they put his last name in there just to really honour him,” she said, adding that she cried when she heard the news.
Howell’s father, Thomas Howell, said the family received a letter from Lucasfilm at the end of May telling them that Riley’s name would be reimagined in a book later in the “Star Wars” realm.
The company, unbeknown to the family, had been contacted by someone who heard about Howell’s story and passion for “Star Wars,” asking if anything could be done to honor him, he said.
He said he forgot about it until the book was published and someone pointed out the Ri-Lee Howell entry to Westmoreland.
“Lucasfilms didn’t have to do any of this,” Thomas Howell said. “It’s a huge, wonderful gesture on their part.”
Released on Dec. 20, the new book dovetails the latest franchise film, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which hit movie theatres that same day.
Riley Howell’s family went on opening night to see the new movie, The Observer reported. They took Howell’s ashes with them and left an open seat, the newspaper said.
Credited with saving many lives, Howell was shot at least three times as he body-slammed the gunman, giving others time to escape, and ending the deadly rampage.
The April 30 shooting left four students wounded and another student, 19-year-old Ellis Reed Parlier, dead.
In September, the gunman, Trystan Andrew Terrell, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, according to The Associated Press.
He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Howell and Parlier, The Observer reported.