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Contract between Saudi Arabia and Canada ‘frustrating’

With the revelation of the killing of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi Arabia’s consulate, Turkey, there is increasing pressure for Canada to cancel its contract for sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while Canada has condemned the killing of the journalist and is not afraid to freeze permits on arms exports, the contracts that bind them to supply LAVs to Saudi Arabia are very difficult to break.

Speaking to Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday, Trudeau explained that the way the previous Conservative government negotiated the contract made it very frustratingly difficult to suspend and prevented disclosure of conditions.

“The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract,” Trudeau said. “We are looking at a number of things, but it is a difficult contract.

“I actually can’t go into it, because part of the deal on this contract is not talking about this contract, and it’s one of the binds that we are left in because of the way that the contract was negotiated.”

Germany  has already stopping its arms sales in light of the incident and other countries, and  are working to figure out what kind of diplomatic and economic pressure could be applied to Saudi Arabia to make it clear that the apparent murder of the once Saudi royal family insider within the walls of the Saudi embassy in Turkey is unacceptable.

The world has of course noticed that Canada, which has had a very serious rift with the kingdom, beginning earlier this year, when the government publicly criticized the arrests of women’s rights activities, is still sanctioning the military deal.

While Trudeau said the government was not afraid to suspend military export permits like they had in the past, he explained that this contract could have more of a back lash on Canada and they were doing their due diligence with looking into the matter.

“I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion dollar bill because we’re trying to move forward on doing the right thing. So we are navigating this very carefully and that’s pretty much all I can say on that.” said Trudeau.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has made it very clear that Canada condemns the killing of the journalist and that the Saudis’ “explanations” of the killing of Khashoggi “lack consistency and credibility.”

She has also agreed with the federal government’s call for a thorough investigation in collaboration with Turkish officials, demanding a full and transparent investigation.

“We are gravely concerned by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” she said. “We do not find the explanations that have been offered to date to be credible or consistent. That is a serious problem for Canada.” She said.

However, while the Opposition is calling for government to invoke the new Magnitsky law  which gives the government the authority to freeze Canadian assets of foreign individuals who have violated human rights, to sanction those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, there is as yet no concrete word on whether that is the course Canada will take.

 

Corruption to be purged from Barbados

The Government of Barbados is on a mission to ‘purge’ the country from the ‘stain of corruption’ in all instances that it may be occurring.

Attorney General Dale Marshall, joined the Prime Minister, Mia Mottley on Sunday as she addressed the from her official residence, Ilaro Court and explained that while the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was in opposition, they were not totally aware of the levels of corruption in the island by the then ruling Government.

He explained that it was only now that they were in power that they had made various ‘startling’ discoveries and were meticulously gathering information to clean up the messes made.

“It was difficult for us to make a clear assessment being in opposition at that time… We’ve gone through file after file and have found a number of startling things.” He said.

This address to the nation of Barbados was not the first time that the now ruling party had leveled accusations towards the now out of power Democratic Labour Party (DLP) who lost the 2018 May elections by a landslide.

Read about why Barbados must vet foreign institutions more deeply here

In fact Marshall, had revealed that just three months after going into office, they had uncovered several instances of corrupt practices on a seeming daily basis, including those made by the Central Government, by state-owned enterprises, by Ministers and that all of the decisions pointed towards personal gain being a motive.

The Attorney General (AG) told reporters at that time that government would be reviewing the books of two statutory corporations who he believed played in creating the ‘stain of corruption’ within the island, but that the process would be slow and ‘painstaking’ since they were looking over a decade of government and political activity.

On Sunday the AG highlighted a case where a million dollar invoice was settled in one day, which fell on the eve of the general election and asserted that the previous administration had lost many millions of dollars because of corruption.

“In many instances, contracts were awarded without any tender… There was another glaring set of circumstances and it related to the matter of exorbitant professional fees and legal fees which could not be justified by any reasonable measure…” He said.

“It was clear to us that this was all part and parcel of a whole attitude where Government was there not to benefit large numbers of Barbadians, but a chosen few.” He continued.

In light of this, Marshall said that there was a variety of efforts being utilized to address this issue, including allowing people to provide whistle blowing information, where they can come forward, speak to the authorities and even admit their ‘ part in the misdeeds and hopefully be able to purge themselves from the stain of corruption.”

Prime Minister Mia Motley reinforced her administration’s position on the issue by also urging Barbadians to play their part in ridding the island of the corruption cancer.

“We will need to be disciplined, we will need to engage in sacrifice… because corruption is a cancer that literally takes away money and resources, that takes away from spend on those people who actually need it.” She said.

A whole new digital money world for Barbados

A new digital currency pilot project may just be the thing to stop the potential standoff between Bitt -a financial technology (fintech) company in Barbados and some of the commercial banks, while allowing Barbados to move further onto the world’s digital money stage.

For years tension has run deeply between the commercial banks and newer fintech company,  Bitt, where banks have faced the ongoing dilemma of whether to collaborate with this company, or to develop their own in house, money transfer systems.

As pointed out by Bitt CEO Senator Rawdon Adams, the company has had to deal with  commercial banks in Barbados being ‘obstructive and anticompetitive’ while conversely they were developing more partnerships in the rest of the Eastern Caribbean than in Barbados -the country that ‘arguably needs fintech the most’.

At this year’s Bitt  annual blockchain conference, held at the Hilton Resort, Adams, spoke about the reluctance of some of the local commercial banks to embrace Bitt’s proposal to partner with them in introducing blockchain and distributed ledger technology to facilitate secure peer-to-peer transactions in moving money between clients.

In a call for Barbados to not be “stuck” in time, Barbados’ first female Prime Minster, Mia Amor Mottley, has stepped into the fray and announced her plans to launch a mMoney pilot programme. This pilot will be between Bitt, the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Service Commission (FSC) that facilitates electronic and digital payments for those on the island.

Mottley spoke at the annual conference which was held under the theme Central Bank Meets Blockchain: From the Ground Up, saying there was  a need for Barbados and Barbadians to bring an end to ‘this unfortunate debate and tension between those who want to hold onto a status quo and those who want to move forward’.

“Our people want digital money and …want the ease and security of electronic payments, and as a result, what must happen is face to face discussions with urgency…such that we can launch the Barbados mMoney Pilot,” she told those who had gathered for the conference.

Mottley also soothed the concerns of the commercial bankers about the new programme, after one of the bankers referred to the mMoney wallet as a ‘potential danger to the financial system’ claiming that she would be leading the program herself and that the legitimate concerns of this new payment method from all sides would be addressed as they were not going to launch this pilot project recklessly.

Mottley explained that Barbados would not be held to their old ways of banking due to the fear of the unknown, rather they would be looking to improve development because Barbados would not be left behind as the wider world continued to evolve.

News on when the planned mobile wallet pilot project would be  officially launched has yet to be presented, however Mottley assured that Barbados would remain in agreement with anti-money laundering laws and customer fairness guidelines.

‘It’s what ladies do’, New Zealand PM mic-drop

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday she was pregnant!

She made the announcement on live television while being grilled by reporters about her intention to remain in her position. One reporter even asked how she managed to set up a government while experiencing morning sickness. Ardern’s response? “It’s what ladies do.”

Insert mic-drop here.

Ardern’s husband will be acting as a stay at home dad after the birth of her first child. She went on to tell the press that women get pregnant while they are working all the time, and this is no different. Her off-the-shoulder behaviour towards this news is refreshing. The questions from the reporters — not so much?

A woman’s capability to do her job has nothing to do with whether or not she is pregnant, or a mother.  To ask the question makes that correlation. In a Facebook post, Ardern makes it clear she knows more questions about her pregnancy will be coming.

Instead of asking how she is going to run a government or country, why not simply just offer your congratulations!

 

Canadian government spends $5.6 million on skating rink

As part of Canada 150, the Canadian government decided to spend $5.6 million on a skating rink on Parliament Hill.

The rink is being built in partnership with the Ottawa Senators and the Ottawa International Hockey Festival. It will be open until February 28th (although it was originally supposed to close on Jan. 1, 2018.).

While the building of any public space is a good thing, the rink comes with a long set of rules. No hockey sticks, food or drink, and no cell phones. You also aren’t allowed on the ice if you don’t have skates — sorry parents! There are also a ton of warnings sprawled out around the rink, such as “may be slippery”, just in case you forget it’s ice you are skating on. Disclaimers renouncing the government’s responsibility for injury are also placed prominently in the area.

People wishing to skate on the new rink must register at least 48 hours beforehand for one of the 40-minute skating sessions available.  You also need to arrive between 40 and 60 minutes before your session time. Tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. With all the rules, it will be interesting to see how many people actually use — or are permitted to use — the rink.

Now, I’m all for building new skating rinks, but it seems a bit redundant to put a new, expensive rink a few blocks from the world’s biggest skating rink, the Ottawa Canal. The Canal is a fan-favourite spot to skate, with food vendors (like Beavertails!) and hot chocolate vendors selling their products directly on the ice. It’s an extremely picturesque skate, and instead of going round-and-round in a circle, you actually get to see the city. Given the choice, I would absolutely chose to skate on the Canal rather than a small rink in front of Parliament.

What do you think? Would you use the rink?

Toronto to get a high-tech waterfront neighbourhood

Toronto has grown so much over the last 10 years. All it takes is a quick scan of the city skyline to see the massive influx of construction across the downtown core. The city is definitely still under development and because of this there is an increased cost of living and looming growth challenges.

Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto and the Canadian federal government, announced the development of an innovative city hub in Toronto, coined Quayside. The announcement was made on Tuesday at Corus Quay to a crowd that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

There will be 800 acres of land available for revitalization in the eastern waterfront area. This hub will be the first high-tech neighbourhood in the city, and a model of a city that reflects the future.

Quayside will be a neighbourhood that combines people, culture, environment, and technology to help people thrive. Sidewalk Labs, since their launch in 2015, expressed their desire to create a modern community hub in an international city. The aim is to use technology as a tool to address urban living challenges, resulting in a more comfortable space for residents in the city. The ‘smart’ neighbourhood will have an impact on the future of Toronto as it will generate global interest and improve economic growth and development.

“We looked all over the world for the perfect place to bring this vision to life, and we found it here in Toronto.” Said Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of  Sidewalk Labs to a packed audience.

One of the most important aspects that Quayside will provide is an increase in jobs, as well as an increase in tech talent. Creative and innovative minds will have an opportunity to work and even live in a community that matches their skills. In getting this project underway, Sidewalk Labs also reached out to many residents across the GTA to get input and feedback on the community development idea. Now that Quayside will be a reality, starting Nov. 1 , Sidewalk Labs will spend approximately $50 million to have a yearlong discussion, consisting of public meetings, with residents, universities, and the government on how the project should unfold.

 

Sidewalk Labs also says they hope to have a blueprint on what the proposed neighbourhood would look like by the end of the year. Google Canada will also shift its headquarters to this waterfront neighbourhood. This kind of high- tech community will attract innovation and design concepts that should set Toronto apart from other cities in the world.

The Quayside is expected to be a community focused on the overall goal of people thriving. A place to feel comfortable  and grow. While all the specifics of the development remain unclear at this time, Sidewalk Labs gave a few examples of what people can expect, such as smart robots that clean the streets or self- driving transit, which is already being tested in other parts of the world.

How excited are you to see this unfold in our city? Comment below

 

Canada missing data for inclusion in ONE analysis on girls education

For the last five years, Oct. 11 has marked International Day of the Girl, where people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of education and human rights, especially when it comes to the empowerment of young girls. This mission, led by the United Nations, aims to bring global attention and action to girls that are in crisis around the world, including access to safety, education, and a healthy life. This year, the theme will be to help girls before, during, and after a crisis.

In honour of International Day of the Girl, ONE campaign released their second annual report on the ‘toughest places in the world for a girl to get an education.’ ONE is an organization that spans worldwide and is focused on issues like justice and equality, especially in African Nations. The report is based on a data taken from the 193 countries in the United Nations. Education is one of the most important factor affecting the prosperous growth of women. Eleven factors were taken into consideration.

However, out of 193 member countries, only 122 countries had enough data to be included in the report.  The top 10 worst countries for girls to get an education are mostly located in sub-saharan Africa and the order is as follows: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso, Liberia and Ethiopia.

Canada, France, and Germany were included in the list of 71 countries that did not meet the mark for proper data analysis. Canada only met four data points:

  • Girls’ upper-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ lower-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ upper-secondary completion rate
  • Girls’ government expenditure on education (as a per cent of total government expenditure)

All the data was collected from the UNESCO database. Some of the factors Canada was missing include girls’ youth literacy rate, mean years of school, primary teachers trained to teach, lower-secondary out-of-school rate and primary out-of-school rate. Canada is positioned as a country that supports girls education and development. However, there is lots of data missing to gather a full understanding of where girls stand in these developed countries. Canada is all about promoting feminism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leading the way as a self–proclaimed feminist. Canada also featured two cities, Toronto and Vancouver, on the top ten cities for female entrepreneurs, but the data collected by ONE shows a lot of information missing about our own educational system.

ONE’s report hopes to highlight key issues that need improvement in order for girls to thrive. Their report indicated that the toughest places for girls to get access to proper education are amongst the poorest in the world, and are often marked as fragile states. Girls can face social, economic, and cultural barriers all when trying to access and stay in school. However, the report can conclude that just because a country is poor doesn’t mean that girls cannot get access to proper education . For instance, Burundi has the worlds lowest income, but ranks better than 18 other wealthier countries in terms of girls education. While all the countries on the ‘tough list’ deal with different issues, ranging from childhood marriage to poor literacy, the key issues are transparency and funding.

President and CEO of the ONE campaign, Gayle Smith said that “over 130 million girls are still out of school— that is over 130 million potential engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and politicians whose leadership the world is missing out on. It’s a global crisis that perpetuates poverty.”

In February 2018, Smith hopes there will be a Global Partnership for Education that supports education in developing countries. Various world leaders will be invited to fund this development and make a commitment to this cause.

Prime Minister Trudeau is, however, expected to make a few appearance in Washington D.C on Oct. 10 where he will attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and Gala as well as participate in the Women One Roundtable discussion on Oct 11. It is hopeful that in the near future, more developed countries can make all issues of girls’ education more transparent because empowered girls make for powerful women.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Canada ranks number one for civil service gender equality

By Leanne Benn

The Global Government Forum, an organization that measures standards for gender- equality worldwide, ranks Canada as number one out of any G20 country. This ranking places Canada at the top of the civil service sector for having women in leadership positions.

According to the Women Leaders Index, released in September 2017, 46.4 per cent of senior civil servants in Canada are women. There is a 3.3 percentage point difference between Canada and Australia and the gap has been slowly closing over the past few years.

The data was gathered over three years from 2013 to 2016 and measured gender equality in leadership roles in G20 and EU countries. The goal of this forum is to highlight the countries that are leading the way for gender equal roles in federal or national governments, therefore encouraging other countries to do the same.

This is the first year the data has included research from countries outside the G20 with the inclusion of European Union countries. The data collected from the EU shows that these countries are more advanced in terms of gender equality than those included in the G20. Among 28 EU nations the average is 40 per cent high-ranking women.

This data analysis covers a broader base and as a result new fields of analysis were included this year. In addition to civil service leadership and women elected into political office, the forum examined women on private sector boards. It should be noted that in these sub-sector datas collections, Canada ranked low for women in private sector boards.

The discussion of gender inequality for high ranking positions has been long analyzed and female talent should be promoted within government structures. Canada’s most senior civil servant as of January 2016 was Janice Charette. Charette, in response to the index, said public service should represent the population in order to show they are doing the best job possible. The polices and the practices of high ranking countries can have an internal impact on HR management, staff development, recruitment, and the promotion of women.

“If you look at all the research on this, the value proposition for gender equality and diversity in leadership positions, whether in the public sector or the private sector, is very clear,” she said in the report. “And I would say that in the public sector it’s even more important, because if we are to have credible public service structures and institutions that are able to give good, thoughtful, strategic advice to governments, they have to understand and represent the population they are there to serve. That’s absolutely critical.”

However, there must be a political appetite in order to change the public leadership roles for women. For instance, both Canada and France have a cabinet that includes 50 per cent women. A strong political role is required for gender diversity and this is the only way conditions may improve.

How do you feel about Canada’s ranking and what are your thought on gender equality on a global level?

Minister Murray resigns as Minister of Environment

On July 31, the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, has announced his resignation. Chris Ballard, former Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, will replace him in the cabinet.

Peter Milczyn, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, will be given the position of Minister of Housing.

Murray has dedicated most of his life to public service. His extensive political career began in Winnipeg, where he acted as city councillor before becoming Mayor in 1998. After moving to Toronto in 2010, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Since then, he has held the position of Minister of Research and Innovation, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure, and finally Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Unlike some politicians, Murray is genuinely passionate about the environment, working tirelessly to ensure the policies enacted by the provincial government followed sustainable practices. He is most known for his instrumental role in the creation and adoption of the cap-and-trade regulations that passed through the legislature in mid-May as well as Ontario’s Climate Chance Action Plan.

Murray announced his resignation Monday morning, saying that he will step down from cabinet immediately, but will remain an MPP until Sept 1.

“As part of the Ontario Liberal Government, I have had the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I have always tried to bring a fresh and creative approach to public policy and government, making decisions that keep those that matter the most in mind.”

“I ultimately have made the difficult decision, with the support of my partner Rick, to transition from this chapter on to the next chapter of tirelessly working to mobilize to fight climate change at the national level.”

On Sept. 5, Murray will join the Pembina Institute as Executive Director. The Pembina Institute is a 30-year-old Canadian think tank that advocates for clean energy solutions and the overall reduction of fossil fuels.

“Glen is a renowned thought leader on social and environmental issues, with an impressive track record of policy leadership throughout his tenure in elected office,” said David Runnalls, president of the Pembina Institute. “On behalf of the board of directors, I am thrilled that Glen is joining our talented team and know he will propel the Pembina Institute to new heights as we work to solve today’s greatest energy challenges.”

It is unclear at this moment if this change will result in new priorities for the Liberal government, and if Ontario’s climate change plan will still be considered among them.

Ontario implements new condo board laws

The Ontario government will implement new condo laws in the fall that is said to “ better protect condo owners and residents by increasing consumer protections in Ontario’s condo communities.”

The media has reported on a number of issues involving condo boards, including conflicts of interest and possible corruption. These new laws will provide more education to those that sit on these boards and ensure more transparency as to the process.

One of the biggest changes will be to improve corporation governance and introduce disclosure requirements for directors. This means that all condo directors must indicate whether or not they occupy units in the condo or if they have interests in contracts involving the corporations. Condo directors will also be given mandatory training to improve management and operations.

New voting and quorum rules will be implemented to make it easier for owners to participate. The board must also update the condo corporation regularly to help improve communications.

To aide in this transition, the government will be creating two new administrative authorities — the Condominium Authority of Ontario and the Condominium, which will educate and promote awareness of condo owner rights, and the Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which will help regulate and licence managers and providers.

“Creating new consumer protections will help to build more sustainable condo communities so residents moving into condos today and in the future will be able to look forward to healthy condo communities and peace of mind in the place they call home,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, in a statement.

These new rules will be implemented on Sept. 1 and phased in throughout the year.