An Exclusive with U.S. Ambassador Bruce A. Heyman

May 12, 2015 2:07 pm
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The United States Ambassador to Canada, Bruce A. Heyman, arrived in Ottawa last summer and has been one of the most active U.S. ambassadors in decades. In less than a year, Heyman has hosted seven senior United States cabinet members in Canada, including several visits by Secretary of State John Kerry. He also personally invited all U.S. governors to visit Canada. To date, ten have accepted. Heyman has been visiting the provinces and territories and has reached out to all premiers to promote trade and business relations with the United States.

Heyman is well briefed on Canada. His appointment as President Obama’s personal representative to Canada was well received here. He is a 33-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, where he served as a regional managing director of the Midwest private wealth management group, covering 13 states and half of Canada, from 1999 until December of 2013. He recently ensured 84 delegates from Canada attended the Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, which provides insight into how to do business in the United States. The stakes in the Canada-U.S. relationship are high. In 2014, there was $759 billion in trade and $650 billion in bilateral investment between the two countries.

The Ambassador’s April 8, 2015, interview occurred days before Parliament committed to sending Canadian soldiers to an expanded mission in Iraq as well as to sending Canadian soldiers to Ukraine on a training mission. Ambassador Heyman was refreshingly candid and took on all questions about the Canada-U.S. relationship.

OLM: Can you comment on the Government of Canada’s decision to expand the mission in Iraq and Syria?
Ambassador Heyman: The United States could not ask for a better partner in the fight against ISIL. Canada has an important and vital role to play in Iraq and I want to express the appreciation of the United States government for all that Canada has done and continues to do, both militarily and otherwise. There are now 62 other nations involved in efforts to stop ISIL. We realize the ISIL problem will not be resolved through the military alone. We must continue to stop the flow of foreign fighters and address humanitarian relief, and it is also important that we continue to figure out and expose the true nature of ISIL to further delegitimize them.

OLM: Prime Minister Harper has been very firm on Canada’s position on Russian incursions into the Ukraine. Does the United States support this position?
Ambassador Heyman: The United States and Canada stand shoulder-toshoulder with Ukrainians to govern their country free from outside interference. The United States joins Canada and all NATO colleagues in urging Russia to fully comply with the Minsk Agreement.

OLM: What has been the issue that comes up the most since you arrived last summer?
Ambassador Heyman: I’m told almost everywhere I go that people are most concerned about the proper functioning of the U.S.-Canada border. It’s not a new issue, but it is one with which both countries have made great progress. It’s complex because you have to balance security, free trade and travel. We’ve announced  many changes regarding preclearance provisions on land, rail and marine that are having a significant impact. The Beyond the Border program has been very successful. On February 18, 2015, the United States, Canada and the state of Michigan signed an agreement to finance the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC) that will link Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. This was the result of several years of discussions and cooperation between officials and agencies from both countries. So, we have improved technologies and techniques at border crossings and representatives from both countries have worked to ensure we are getting this right.

OLM: What about climate change? Canada and the United States seem to be approaching this differently.
Ambassador Heyman: Climate change is real and the President takes it seriously. We recognize the climate is changing and we must adapt to this change because it affects us all. We have a shared Arctic that is diminishing. When I was in Tuktoyuktuk, locals told me they have seen the change and that things are different. We have to reduce the human impact on the environment. I’m excited that many of our states and Canada’s provinces are working on this problem together. The one thing about climate change is it has no borders.

OLM: Can you comment on Keystone?
Ambassador Heyman: Keystone is still under consideration and it is being reviewed in a comprehensive transparent way by the State Department.
OLM: Many in Canada are under the impression Keystone is dead.
Ambassador Heyman: No, the process is not at a halt and is still under consideration. The State Department is reviewing it and we will see where that review leads.

OLM: Can you comment on the dispute regarding Buy America requirements for steel, iron and manufactured products? As you know, Canadian officials have called the requirement to only use U.S. steel on Canadian soil unacceptable.
Ambassador Heyman: The United States will honour all international agreements and we are continuously working with Canadian officials on trade and other issues. It is important to remember that the United States-Canada relationship is unique in the world. We are linked by culture, values, trade and a comprehensive commitment to shared prosperity. There are always challenges that exist in families and between good friends. There is more that binds our countries than distracts us.

Photo: Paul Couvrette

Crimea Uncensored: A Look from Inside the Peninsula

May 7, 2015 1:01 pm
Swallow's nest castle, decorative castle, located on the Black Sea coast between Yalta and Alupka on the Crimean Peninsula. Photo courtesy: Igor Mazurov, Flickr

Photo courtesy: Igor Mazurov, Flickr

In 2014, on a sunny August day, my spouse and I were on our way to Crimea. We were driving along the shorelines of the Black Sea, curving green hills of the Caucasian Mountains.

I have been following the Crimean crisis from home in Ottawa, watching and reading Western and Russian media. Needless to say, the news coverage was so different—as if it came from two different places. The trip was an exciting opportunity to find out what Crimeans have to say about their “secession” or “annexation.”

After waiving away concerns of our parents—at that time, nobody really knew whether it is safe to travel there—we started on our adventure. Our route would start in Sochi and go through Anapa, Kerch, Simferopol and end in Alupka. Our mode of transportation: rented cars, public transit, a ferry and taxis. Locals would be our travel guides.

Route to Crimea

It’s a long drive from Sochi to Port Kavkaz, but scenic views of cliffs covered with an abundance of flora and open valleys delight the eyes. Small cafes, popping up now and then, spark curiosity. At the port, we waited for three hours to board a ferry to cross to the Crimean Peninsula. While standing in a line, idle travelers spoke about everything except politics. On their minds were touristic thoughts: What to see? Where to eat? What souvenirs to buy?

When we stepped down on the Crimean soil, the sun was setting over the Kerch Strait, which separates the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. As darkness was slowly falling, we met Sergey—the only taxi driver who agreed to drive us through treacherous and unlit roads from Kerch to Alupka.

It was midnight when we have decided to pull over for a late dinner. Loud Russian pop-music was busting from an outdoor restaurant named “U Armena” (Chez Armen), which offered grilled meat. Right at the entrance of the restaurant, the chef Armen was busy preparing kebabs.

“Is the meat good?” we asked him. Armen gave us a serious look and said: “Are you offending me? The meet will be so good: If you don’t like it—you don’t have to pay.”

Later, he served us tender mutton that came with grilled onions and a big bowl of fresh uncut greens and herbs. It would be a crime not to pay for the best kebabs on the Black Sea coast.

On the way to Alupka, Sergey said that now the most important thing for Crimea is to catch up with Russian infrastructure. Over the years of being a part of Ukraine, the peninsula’s economy has barely seen any investments from the Ukrainian government. Despite broken roads, leftover from Soviet-era, we reached Alupka safe and sound.

The next day, another taxi driver, Sasha, drove us to Yalta. The young man said Crimeans build their lives around tourists. When the season ends, the peninsula’s inhabitants switch to their winter mode of life. Sasha works in his garage, where he makes different crafts out of metal for trade and for pleasure. As the weather gets hotter, however, Sasha puts a taxi sign on his mini-van to welcome new tourists, who bring with them new stories and new adventures.

No sense of war

Crimea greeted us with beautiful nature, warm weather and people who were genuinely happy to welcome visitors and tourists. There was no sense of war, or any discontent. There were no “annexed” victims. I met no “occupants,” or even a single armed military man. Secession from Ukraine perceived as a normal process that was long overdue.

People I met spoke of life—not war. On the bus, a babushka (Russian word for a grand-mother) was curious where we came from. She said she hasn’t done much travelling in her life, except for visiting her relatives in Ukraine. The babushka said she is happy to see visitors and tourists.

Crimean Tatars, who, according to Western media, are prosecuted by the Russian government, are living and working—like many other residents— in a thriving tourism industry. I met them on the Ai-Petri Peak of the Crimean Mountains, where Tatars run majority of businesses. They were glad to see and to serve their “guests.”

Crimeans are very proud people. They hold their families, deeds and even their words in high honour. They are ready to die for it. There were no panhandlers. No smiles for tips. Hospitality came from heart.

Crimea, one year later

March 2015 marked one year since Crimea has seceded from Ukraine. On March 6, 2014, 83 per cent of Crimeans cast a ballot in the referendum to secede from Ukraine. Almost 97 per cent expressed their will to join Russia. Western media, nonetheless, is continuing to portray Crimea’s separation as an annexation by Russia. However, the West is now slowly starting to accept the reality.

In February 2015, German Gfk and American Gullup polling firms showed 82 per cent of Crimeans believed the referendum vote was fair and legitimate; 73.9 per cent believed joining Russia would make their life better.

Forbe’s Kenneth Rapoza writes: “At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self-rule. Unless we are all to believe that the locals polled by Gallup and GfK were done so with FSB bogey men standing by with guns in their hands.”

On March 5, 2014, The Washington Post published Henry Kissinger’s opinion piece on the Ukrainian crisis. Kissinger writes that the West should accept that, “to Russia, Ukraine can never be a foreign country.”

Both countries share history and religion, writes Kissinger. The Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, Crimea. Crimea became a part of Ukraine in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, gave it as a gift to Ukraine to commemorate the 300-year celebration of Ukraine being a part of the Tsardom of Russia

Kissinger writes: “Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.”

Crimeans have been saying this from the beginning. Somehow, however, their voices were lost or distorted in the Western media. Only a few journalists traveled to the conflict zone to report, while many others sat in their offices, aggregating the same news of corporate press agencies.

After visiting the Crimea and speaking to the residents that are comprised of Russians, Ukrainians and other diverse nations living in peace, calling one another “brothers,” it makes me wonder: How many more conflicts and wars were blown out of proportion, played out as an entertainment on the screens of people who safely live far away?

Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev Wins His Fifth Election

April 30, 2015 11:24 am
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Photo courtesy: Official site of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan

It came as no surprise, Nursultan Nazarbayev has won yet another election in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. The incumbent president knows his country and his people well. President Nazarbayev is an experienced politician. In his campaign, he addressed concerns, criticisms and proposed solutions.

With a voter turnout of 95 per cent, the 74-year-old President Nazarbayev received almost 98 per cent of the vote. This was his fifth election win, which will now extend his 26-year rule in the oil-rich country until 2020.

Two opposing candidates: the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan Turgun Syzdykov and self-nominee, pro-environmentalist Abelgazi Kussainov, shared less than 3 per cent of votes.

So, communism, environmentalism or old regime? There was little to choose from.

I grew up in Kazakhstan and I still visit my family, relatives and friends every year. None of them think red or green. And it can’t be otherwise. Now, people worry about their jobs, how to afford education for their children and about stability in the country.

Kazakhstan faces many internal challenges. As one of the world’s major oil-exporters, the country’s economy is suffering  under the weight of sagging oil prices. Sanctions against its strategic partner Russia, levied over the crisis in Ukraine, hurt Kazakhstan too. The national currency, the tenge, fell against the U.S. dollar. In February 2014 the cost of one U.S. dollar was 155 tenge, and a year later it was 185 tenge, a 16 per cent devaluation.

1There are many external threats too. Kazakhstan is close to troubled zones such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, all of which pose a serious menace of radicalization and terrorism. Muslim families fear their sons will fall victims of ISIL and other Islamists.

Kazakhstan is home to more than one hundred nations and ethnic groups, who represent diverse faiths. Any religious or social unrest can easily disrupt stability, which, in turn, can provoke separatism of territories. Russians who comprise the majority of population on the country’s northern borders may want to seek separation from Kazakhstan. Colour revolutions can also captivate the country.

It’s also important to understand the psychology of people of the post-Soviet country.

The older generation is just lifting the iron curtain. Many still haven’t yet tasted the Western culture forbidden for 70 years. Many haven’t travelled much outside of the former Soviet borders. Middle class and entrepreneurs have just learned to exploit the levers of capitalism.

The young generation, however, can’t get enough of the West. Cinemas are crowded on opening nights of the sequels of Transformers, X-men or Toy Story. Network gaming clubs, which are rampant across the country, offer youth the latest games on PC, Xbox and PS4.

To give an economic boost, President Nazarbayev plans to build at least five manufacturing plants, an oil refinery and a new copper smelter. These construction projects would boost the economy and provide employment for the population. To address corruption and nepotism, Nazarbayev promised changes that will replace the hierarchical form of the government into a horizontal one. Promises of transparency, government accountability came from his lips.

The people of Kazakhstan know well the criticism coming from the international community regarding the country’s human rights record and questions regarding control of freedom of speech and the press. As the international community might question the fairness of elections, Kazakhstanis are confident in their choice because they haven’t seen any credible alternative.

It’s also important to understand people of Kazakhstan support President Nazarbayev. Behind him, rises a newly-built capital—Astana. Nazarbayev has made successful efforts in discarding nuclear weapons, inherited from the former Soviet Union. This earned him international recognition. Most importantly, President Nazarbayev over his years of rule kept his promise. He kept stability, peace and harmony in the country.

By choosing Nazarbayev yet again, the people entrusted him to hand over Kazakhstan as a developed Central-Asian country to the future successor.

What Really Stands Behind Eurasian Economic Union?

April 20, 2015 9:47 am
Russian President Putin, Kazakh President Nazarbayev and Belarus President Lukashenko shake hands during a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union in Astana

Above: From left: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed the Treaty of Eurasian Economic Union in Astana. The treaty came into force January 1, 2015. | Photo courtesy: Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti

Media has paid little attention to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus that came into force in the beginning of January. A few journalists who covered the event portrayed the EEU as a menace to the world security, the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambition to revive the former Soviet Union and the beginning of the new Cold War.

The Eurasian Economic Union presents its emblem

The Eurasian Economic Union presents its emblem

As luring as these nostalgic views can be, they are mere speculations and simply don’t reflect the true motivations behind the Eurasian Union. The establishment of the EEU has long been in the process, and it wasn’t Putin’s idea after all. The idea behind the EEU is a common sense that the European Union and other regional organizations like CARICOM, NAFTA, or ASEAN have followed when they joined together to have their say in the widening global economy.

The roots of the EEU took place in 1994, when the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed creating the Eurasian Economic Union between neighbouring countries during the address at the Moscow State University. According to Nazarbayev’s vision, the economic union will allow free flow of goods, capital, services, manpower, and facilitate foreign investments.

In February 2014, two-decades later, amid the events in Ukraine, Nazarbayev reminded the purpose of the Eurasian Union.

“The Eurasian Economic Union is a common market. It will be a fundamentally new relationship for the 21st century, working on the principles of equality, mutual benefits and interests of all participants,” Nazarbayev said during the meeting with foreign ambassadors and representatives of international organizations.

The Kazakh President has also addressed the concerns regarding the union’s resemblance to the former Soviet Union.

“We hear various expert opinions on the Eurasian Economic Union. I believe everyone should understand that it is not a political organization. Today, it is purely about economic cooperation, which is determined by the needs of our countries,” he said.

The members of the Eurasian Union have put hard work into the project. The Union established the Eurasian Economic Community in 2000, the Customs Union in 2010 and the Common Economic Space in 2011. Last year, the participants signed the EEU Treaty that came into force in the beginning of January. All institutions are meant to develop full economic potential of the member-states and foster partnerships with China, U.S., European Union and Asia-Pacific.

Scope of the Eurasian Economic Union. Photo courtesy: Retrieved from the Library of Eurasian Integration

Scope of the Eurasian Economic Union. Photo courtesy:
Retrieved from the Library of Eurasian Integration

Similarly to the structure of the European Union, the EEU has the executive body – The Eurasian Commission, the judicial body – the Court of the EEU, and the Eurasian Development Bank. National governments are represented by the Eurasian Commission’s Council.

The union’s population concludes over 173 million with a combined GDP of $4 trillion. Three countries represent 20 per cent of world gas reserves and 15 per cent of world oil reserves. The Common Economic Space will allow the EEU residents a free access to healthcare and social assistance. All residents will also have equal access to kindergartens and secondary education; some forms of higher education will also be available free of charge.

It’s not surprising that Kazakhstan initiated, led and actively promoted the creation of the Eurasian Union. The country is home to a quite successful institution that united its highly-diverse population. The Assembly of Nation, established two decades ago, represents a union of a more than 140 nations and ethnicities with 48 different faiths and confessions, speaking 23 languages – all living in peace on vast Kazakh lands.

On the international level, the Kazakh capital Astana offered to host many world talks, including the Normandy Four, the meeting of leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. This June, Kazakhstan is preparing to host the fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The leaders will discuss religious extremism and how to prevent radicalization of youth.

The purpose of the EEU is far from the idea of building a new Soviet Union, it is rather the opposite: to link post-Soviet countries with the world, by fostering economic and cultural cooperation. Perhaps it’s time to stop viewing the world through the prism of old bipolar glasses, and start embracing the Earth’s diversity. The Assembly of Nations of Kazakhstan is a living proof that the United Nations can work, and people can friendly coexist on one planet.

 

Give Pierre a Chance

April 8, 2015 12:14 pm
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With new cabinet responsibilities, Pierre Poilievre has the opportunity to prove his worth

The new minister responsible for the National Capital Commission isn’t without his critics. Pierre Poilievre, who has served as the minister of state for democratic reform since July 2013, has gained what seems like an unending supply of haters in his time in politics, particularly for the rollout of last year’s Bill C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, which many critics considered unconstitutional in its initial form.

The MP for Nepean-Carleton is also known for his ability to stick to scripts in the House of Commons and for enraging the opposition in his responses during daily question period. Some may consider this good strategy—stick to the script and you have a lower chance of tripping over your words or messing up, you’re staying on message—while others, many others, see the rote routine of talking points as a negative thing for Canadian politics and doesn’t allow for MPs to think and speak for themselves.

The National Capital Commission is an institution of the federal government, a Crown corporation, according to its website, works to ensure the Capital Region “is a source of national pride and significance.” The minister responsible for the NCC appoints members of the NCC board of directors and oversees the work of the NCC. Poilievre took over in the role from John Baird, former Ottawa West-Nepean MP and foreign affairs minister, after he announced his resignation on Feb. 3 following the news leak of his pending departure the day before.

Poilievre is a devout, devoted and longstanding Conservative, with a history in Alberta’s Conservatives with the likes of Tom Flanagan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and is seen as a channel for talking points from the Prime Minister’s Office.

But so was the previous minister in charge of the NCC. Both Baird and Poilievre entered politics at young ages. Both had their fans and their critics—Poilievre likely more on the receiving end of criticism these days. Baird was first elected to Mike Harris’ Ontario government in 1995 and served in provincial politics until 2005. He held a number of portfolios while at Queen’s Park and after entering the federal realm, gained that oh so well known attack dog moniker.

As veteran reporter Don Newman noted in his memoir Welcome to the Broadcast, and columnist Frances Russell pointed out just after Baird’s resignation announcement, Baird was no stranger to channeling talking points from the PMO. Newman described a scene fairly early on in the MP’s career in federal politics in the House of Commons foyer, in which Baird was, “on a repetitive message track obviously worked out with the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Baird did not stay in that role forever, churning out political talking points as other ministers, parliamentary secretaries and backbenchers are to do. Over the course of his time in federal politics, and especially in the role of foreign affairs minister, he made a transition into what many have called a statesman. Some of his work was lauded by opposition benches, while some of it has been decried. But, he was a likable guy on the front benches in the House.

Ottawa is a very politically mixed jurisdiction, with the NDP, the Liberals and Conservatives representing ridings across the National Capital Commission federally and provincially. Factions exist on city council—some are considered progressives, others seen as Liberal supporters and others more along the lines of the Conservatives. In spite of all of this, Baird made the NCC role work. He worked as the minister in charge of the NCC without eruptions of partisan clashes.

And now, with Baird getting out of the political world, Poilievre has been handed much more responsibility. While maintaining his democratic reform portfolio, he’s also the new minister for employment—taking over from Jason Kenney in the cabinet shuffle sparked by Baird’s departure—as well as minister responsible for the NCC. It might be time for Poilievre to learn a thing or two from his Capital Region predecessor.

Waking Up Ottawa with Training, Safety and Survival

March 31, 2015 10:12 am
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The City of Ottawa has picked up on the importance of fire emergency response, as the number of Ottawa residents increases with each passing year. New provisions and incentives, including changes in the administration and execution of emergency fire services, aid in strengthening existing fireserviceability for Ottawa residents.

The goal of Ottawa Fire Services is to save lives and prevent damage to property. Municipal initiatives reveal enhanced training, distribution of fire standards, community engagement campaigns and recruitment are notable areas worthy of investment. The Ontario provincial government has placed an increased emphasis on implementing preventative measures for fire emergency service operations and new objectives have introduced a shift towards health oriented planning.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”

Recent months mark the remodelling of priorities for firefighters in Ottawa. Current projects include mental health first-aid training, performance measurement plans, officer development strategies, revisions of recruitment standards and training and sharing in the expansion of a contemporary fire dynamics curriculum under a $1.2 million dollar grant.

The Ottawa fire department participates in several campaigns such as ‘Wake up’ and ‘Fire Recruitment of Ottawa.’ Fire escape plans, mandatory carbon monoxide alarms, smoke alarm inspections and a new focus on public education are part and parcel to the changes these campaigns have embraced. These efforts also assist in optimizing community awareness and involvement.

On Feb. 25, 2015, Ottawa Fire Services appointed new chief Gerry Pingitore. Pingitore claims he is devoted to recognizing and alleviating both the undue physical and mental health stressors associated with exposure on the job. The Ontario government supports Pingitore in his ambitions and has agreed to extend healthcare coverage for firefighters.

“Ottawa Fire Services protect us when there are fires, but they are also responsible for rescues, medical and hazardous-material emergencies”

Firefighter training was once rooted only in prevention and suppression. Recent initiatives aim to include multiple other community services, such as emergency medical services, hazardous materials response and special rescue.

Immediate goals for fire recruitment in Ottawa suggest ethnic diversity is increasingly a focal point for new hires, the number of female recruits is rising and eminent attention to the psychological and physical health of firefighters in Ottawa is priority for chief Pingitore.

Firefighting recruitment 
for the City of Ottawa is established through a credential process involving specific mandatory pre-qualifications. The total out of pocket cost is approximately $450 for the applicant. The routine includes written examinations, two screening and follow-up interviews, orientation training, practice sessions and a candidate physical ability test (CPAT).

If this sparks your interest, check out ottawa.ca/careers.

Trudeau Needs More “Nate’s”

March 13, 2015 4:03 pm
trudeau-nate

For the Liberals, the Tories and the NDP, the nomination process is a political blood sport and intrigue and backroom manoeuvrings have defined nomination races in all parties since Confederation.

All political parties have nomination issues. In Calgary, a former provincial Conservative minister defeated a sitting MP, Rob Anders, for the nomination in Calgary Signal Hill and will now represent the Conservative party in the riding in the next federal election. Anders was seen as a thorn in the side to the Harper Conservatives and many were happy to see him go. After losing the nomination in his riding, he  ran for the nomination in an adjacent nearby riding and was defeated again. In Calgary Skyview, Buta Singh Rehill and Puma Banwait were challenging the incumbent Conservative MP Devinder Shory for the party nomination, but they were disqualified from running by the Conservative party without explanation. (It is generally frowned upon in all parties to run for the nomination against a sitting MP). Now, Banwait says he is thinking of running as an “independent Conservative” in the upcoming election. Conservative MP turned Liberal nomination seeker Eve Adams jettisoned her political career and credibility recently in a nomination battle in Ontario. Her boyfriend Dimitri Soudas, the former Director of Communications to Prime Minister Harper and the Executive Director of the Conservative Party of Canada, became inappropriately involved in her nomination battle and was removed from his high profile role as a consequence. When Adams was advised by the Conservative leadership that she would not be allowed to run as a Conservative in the upcoming election, she suddenly became a Liberal. She has yet to win a Liberal nomination.

The NDP have their own nomination nightmares. In Ontario in 2013, the NDP provincial council was accused of ignoring serious irregularities at a nomination meeting. Participants at the meeting claimed former controversial Toronto councillor Adam Giambrone had allegedly broken the rules, as several ineligible members were allowed to vote for him when he won the nomination against the local favourite Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra. The party went into quick denial, people quit and Giambrone went on to lose the by-election.

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David Bertschi. Source: Wikipedia

Recently, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have kept busy putting out a series of nomination brush fires. The most egregious case is in the riding of Ottawa-Orleans, where former Liberal leadership candidate David Bertschi was treated horribly by the Liberal Party of Canada. Bertschi is an Ottawa lawyer and former Liberal candidate in the 2011 election in Ottawa-Orleans. He lost the election to Conservative candidate Royal Galipeau by just 6 percentage points.  Like hundreds of other Liberal candidates in that election, he was burdened by the disastrous performance of Michael Ignatieff, which ended with the Liberals having the worst national election defeat since Confederation. Afterwards, Bertschi entered the federal Liberal leadership race and made a respectable run, further raising his profile and winning many admirers in the process. It was assumed by all he would run again for the nomination in Ottawa-Orleans and be the candidate.

However, after winning the leadership race, Justin Trudeau promised “open nomination meetings” for all Liberal ridings. Then, Trudeau got himself into a pickle when he selected former General Andrew Leslie as his defence and security advisor. Leslie, in that role, then announced he would run for the nomination in Ottawa-Orleans, even though he does not live in the riding. Bertchsi, who had been previously “green lit” to run for the nomination in Ottawa Orleans by the Liberal Party, was suddenly told by senior party officials that he could not stand as a candidate for the Liberals. They claimed it was because Bertschi had not paid off all of his leadership debts, but that was poppycock. He had met all the payment terms laid out for him by the green light committee regarding his leadership debt and was ahead of schedule. The problem for the Liberals was that Bertschi was too strong in the riding with local Liberals and had much more support for the nomination than Leslie. Rather than risk the embarrassment of Trudeau’s security and defence advisor losing the nomination to his former leadership opponent, Trudeau’s team simply disqualified him from running. Leslie was acclaimed at the nomination meeting while Bertschi stood on the sideline and watched the charade unfold. In the end it was a bad day for Liberals, messy for Trudeau, Leslie and Bertschi, and only helped Conservative MP Royal Galipeau to solidify his role in the riding where he is still very popular.

The Liberals also had problems in Vancouver South, where Barj Dhahan, the former Liberal Party candidate for the Vancouver South riding in 2011, claimed he was pressured to withdraw from the nomination race because the Liberal Party National Campaign Co-Chairs had a preferred candidate named Harjit Singh Sajjan who they wanted to be acclaimed as the candidate for the riding. They told Dhahan to run elsewhere. Dhahan refused. The process got nasty when claims were made that Sajjan was backed by the World Sikh Organization, which is often described as being associated with extremist and fundamental groups. Dharan did drop out, although on the record, he blamed the mess on the National Co-Chairs, not Trudeau, saying that he believes Trudeau’s commitment to open nominations across the country is “genuine.” When asked, Trudeau told the CBC in British Columbia that, “There is a clear process that people have to go through and Barj made a decision to withdraw from the race.” Dharan’s campaign team alleges that people were so upset with the Liberal party brass over the nomination process, that 4,000 members loyal to Dhahan had torn up their cards. The party says this is untrue.

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Olivia Chow

Liberal nomination troubles were also on full display last year in the high-profile race in Trinity-Spadina in Toronto, the seat of former NDP MP Olivia Chow. Justin Trudeau openly favoured Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan as his candidate. Trudeau and the Liberal Party had banned Christine Innes, the wife of the former Liberal MP, and cabinet minister Tony Ianno from running, suggesting she showed poor conduct in running for the nomination. Innes ran and lost for the party in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. Innes was notified by the Party Co-Chairs that she was being blocked from participating in the nomination race for Trinity-Spadina. Vaughn was acclaimed as the candidate and then won the by-election for the Trudeau Liberals last year. Innes is now suing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and a party official for $1.5 million for defamation over their allegations about the conduct of her nomination campaign.

To Trudeau’s credit, he has won his own nomination and met fierce Bloc Quebecois candidates in Quebec. He has twice defeated strong BQ contenders in a working class neighbourhood in Montreal, including defeating a sitting MP in 2008. He is personally tested and has his own credentials and record of victory to understand what is at stake in these races.

As party leader, even in an open nomination process, Trudeau can use moral suasion and other tactics to ensure some of his preferred candidates are selected. The Liberals have a history of their Leaders picking “star candidates.” McKenzie King, Trudeau, Turner, Trudeau, Martin, Dion and Ignatieff all had their preferred choices. The idea is that “star candidates,” like the Leslie’s and Sajjans, are the people who are going to help Trudeau propel the party in to government in the election. However, there is a double-edged sword effect to “star candidates,” as they do not always go over well with local riding associations. It was particularly vexing in the Bertschi case because after his solid performance in the Liberal leadership race, he was a star candidate in his own right. It is a difficult road for any party leader to navigate.

The Liberals have never been a grassroots or open nomination type of party. Where Trudeau may have erred is in committing himself so forcefully and publicly to the principle of an open nomination process, while letting the shenanigans of the past continue behind the scenes. Trudeau must attract youthful and talented candidates to run, while at the same time not offending the older generation of party members who are still capable of making great contributions and have something to offer.

Nathaniel (Nate) Erskine-Smith

Trudeau and the Liberal Party can run into challenges, even when they successfully attract the best and brightest of the younger generation to run for the party in the open nomination process. Take the case of Nathaniel (Nate) Erskine-Smith, a formidable candidate if there ever was one for a new generation of Liberals.

Born and raised in Toronto’s Beaches-East York, Erskine-Smith is the son of two well respected local teachers. He studied politics (BA) and law (JD) at Queen’s University, where he won a number of academic and public speaking awards. He went on to obtain his Master of Law (BCL), with distinction, from Oxford, where he studied political philosophy and constitutional law. He is married and is a commercial litigation lawyer who has fought public interest matters before the Divisional Court and the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. He is charismatic, authentic, principled, polite, savvy and smart. In short, he is the dream candidate for the Liberals and the kind of person that Justin Trudeau is counting on to bring in a new generation of Liberal voters.

He kicked off his nomination campaign in November 2013 and worked hard for 13 months with a committed and enthusiastic campaign team. Erskine-Smith and his supporters sat around hundreds of kitchen tables, knocked on thousands of doors and made over 10,000 phone calls. He handily won the nomination in December 2014, after signing up 800 new memberships and earning the support of many existing Liberal members. Three of the four other nomination contestants have since pledged their support to his federal election campaign in 2015. The fourth candidate has not done so and is appealing what was a clear win for Erskine-Smith.

Source: Wikipedia

Maria Minna. Source: Wikipedia

Maria Minna, the former Liberal MP from the riding from 1993-2011 was the key backer to the candidate who is holding out and is now appealing the result. It is quite obvious the appeal is a hollow attempt by Minna to try to exert some hold or sway over the riding, rather than gracefully exiting the stage for the next generation. This is the rub and reality of many Liberal nominations for Justin Trudeau. Even when a formidable and top notch candidate like Erskine-Smith fairly and squarely wins a nomination, an old party stalwart like Minna can make things difficult. The appeal process has the very unfortunate effect of holding back the Erskine-Smith campaign team’s ability to move to election preparedness and focus on fighting the Conservatives and NDP in the riding.

So, in some ways, Trudeau is damned if he does get involved and damned if he doesn’t get involved in nomination meetings. Nate Erskine-Smith is a walking version of the new Liberalism Justin Trudeau keeps talking about. He is a star candidate precisely because he wasn’t acclaimed or named to the role. He did it the old fashioned way: smarts and hard work. He is someone to watch in the Liberal party and in Canadian politics. Trudeau would do well to get more “Nates” as quickly as he can.

More Than a Boring Government Town

March 9, 2015 3:02 pm
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Let’s face it; Ottawa doesn’t have the best reputation for its fun factor. But one company is trying to change that!

Invest Ottawa is challenging the Capital’s dull name with the Why Ottawa project. The project argues Ottawa is not only the best city in Canada, but the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

The investment agency has come up with more than 65 incredible reasons why Ottawa is a prime location for top talent to work, play and grow.

Here are just a few points:

  • Ottawa sees 2084 hours of sunshine a year making it the sunniest city in Ontario.
  • It has the country’s most educated workforce.
  • The combined area of Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver can all fit inside Ottawa.
  • Ottawa was voted the most sustainable city in Canada.
  • Ottawa was rated second for quality of living for large cities in North America and placed 14th in the world.
  • The city has the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America.
  • Ottawa is the least expensive Canadian city to live in.
  • There are four post-secondary institutions that collect about 120,000 students annually.
  • It is a very bilingual city with 44 per cent of the population speaking both English and French.

The Why Ottawa story aims to empower business leaders and ambassadors across the city to deliver the same key messages about Ottawa’s value to international partners and clients.

“It took us almost two years to gather all this data in one spot so that every person in Ottawa can tell our great story and so we are all singing from the same song sheet,” explains Bruce Lazenby, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa.

Also participating in the evolution of the Why Ottawa message is Mayor Jim Watson, who is co-chair of Invest Ottawa’s Board of Directors. He has delivered the information on numerous occasions even while overseas in China.

“This presentation clearly explains why Ottawa is the best place in the country for people to work, play and grow and why we are the perfect home to start and grow a business,” says Mayor Watson.

Business leaders and key stakeholders are invited to use the presentation when selling their expertise abroad. It is available for download here. The project is also accessible on YouTube, click here to take a look.

Canada Eyes Kazakhstan as a Top Priority Market

January 30, 2015 9:37 am
Flags

On December 16, folk festivals, parades, displays of traditional food and fireworks took over many cities across Kazakhstan. Cheering crowds flooded main streets to celebrate the country’s 23rd birthday.

In connection with Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, prominent Canadian politicians and members of the business community shared their experiences of working with the Central Asian country. In recent years, Canada and Kazakhstan have been actively cooperating in many branches of economy, security and health care.

Stephen Millar, a former Ambassador of Canada to Kazakhstan from 2009 to 2014, says Kazakhstan and Canada have common factors that provide opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.

“I want to stress how similar we are: We are both bilingual, multicultural societies. We are northern countries. We know what winter is, we know how to grow crops in conditions of harsh winter climates,” Millar says.

2.Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Kazakhstan is Canada’s primary market in Eurasia.

Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Kazakhstan is Canada’s primary market in Eurasia.

Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, says Canada has already laid a strong platform for the bilateral relations growing each year.

“Our Global Markets Action Plan identifies Kazakhstan as a primary emerging market—there are opportunities for Canadian businesses,” Obhrai says, referring to the new trade plan released last November by Ed Fast, the Minister of Trade and Development of Canada.

Today, Kazakhstan is Canada’s number one trading partner in the post-Soviet region and in Eastern Europe. In the past two years, trade between the two countries has clinched $6 billion. Canada is also among the top ten largest trade and investment partners of Kazakhstan.

Cameco, Bombardier and Peace Country Petroleum are among some Canadian companies running their operations in Kazakhstan. There is a major cooperation in agriculture, mining, oil and gas industries. Recently, Kazakhstan bought 10 Q400 NextGen aircrafts from Bombardier worth $225 million. This partnership will also establish ADC—a new domestic airline in Kazakhstan.

Last November, during the visit of Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird in Astana, the top two uranium producing countries signed the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The agreement will enable both countries to export and import controlled nuclear materials, equipment and technology under oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Eva Slawecki, director of project development at Canadian Society for International Health, finds many opportunities for cooperation in the health sector too. Both countries provide their population with universal health care. Both countries share common challenges.

“We can learn a lot from each other,” Slawecki says. “We have a lot of similarities in terms of our countries geographies and growth of populations, and I think it’s a valuable experience that we can share.”

Slawecki says there is a lot of work needing to be done, but over the years of independence, Kazakhstan has come a long way.

“People in Kazakhstan are very professional and very interesting to work with. It’s good to see that there is such a desire to learn from Canada, to learn the best practices in health.”

In a multiethnic country, there is also a great demand for manufacturing resources. Canada Pork International Agency has already taken care of this opportunity. The company provides Kazakhstan with resources for meat manufacturing.

Jacques Pomerleau, president of Canada Pork International, says the agency struck an agreement with Kazakhstan Meat and Dairy Union three years ago.

“We need to revive it. In light of sanctions by Russia, we want to develop a full class relationship with Kazakhstan, and not going through Russia or any other country,” he says.

In the future, Pomerleau says the agency intends to develop a much closer relationship with Kazakh consumers by customizing products to closely meet their needs and requirements.

3.Canadian political scientist Piotr Dutkiewicz says Canada and Kazakhstan are ready to expand cooperation into science and culture.

Canadian political scientist Piotr Dutkiewicz says Canada and Kazakhstan are ready to expand cooperation into science and culture.

Kazakhstan is a good partner for Canada because the country enjoys economic and social stability, says Piotr Dutkiewicz, a professor of political science at Carleton University. Yet, he says, it’s time to extend cooperation of the two countries beyond economy.

“Judging by the economic facts – these relations are pretty strong,” Dutkiewicz says. “On the other hand, we don’t have too much of the scientific research and cultural exchange—that’s what is missing in our relations.”

Dutkiewicz says Canada should open a visa section in its embassy in Astana to increase scientific and cultural exchange.

“What is now slightly problematic is that going to Kazakhstan—we can get visas in Ottawa, but Kazakhs, who are going to visit Canada—they have to make their visas in Moscow, Russia,” Dutkiewicz says.

It’s clear there is much to celebrate in Kazakhstan and Canada relations. Both countries are similar in many ways, allowing them to perform well on the economic stage. It’s also clear both partners are ready to leave their comfort zone and undertake other stages of cooperation.

In light of the upcoming Expo-2017 in Astana, Canadian companies, start-ups and travellers should take note. There are still many more unexplored opportunities in this distant yet akin central Asian country.

Quebec’s Proposed Health Reform Ignores Best Evidence

January 28, 2015 11:30 am
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Mega-mergers in healthcare don’t save money or improve health outcomes

Quebec’s Bill 10’s objectives are the improvement to the access and quality of health and social services in the province, while diminishing bureaucracy and increasing efficiency. To accomplish these objectives, the proposed law merges all public health and social service institutions in a given region into an integrated center of health and social services (CISSS). The Montreal region, due to its size, will be divided into five new distinct regions.

As professors in the Department of Health Administration in the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, we are in agreement with these objectives; however, we seriously question the ability of this reform to achieve them. Scientific evidence has shown mergers of institutions in the healthcare sector do not generate economies of scale nor do they reduce bureaucracy—and have had little or no effect on the integration of services or an increase in accessibility. The centralization resulting from this reform will not allow for the stated objectives to be achieved and will likely have important negative consequences.

Mergers and their cost: Bigger is not better nor less expensive
The debate surrounding the optimal size of a healthcare institution has been going on for decades. This debate reached a crescendo during the 1980s in the United States and Great Britain. Experience shows there are no cost savings in increasing the size of an acute care hospital over 200 beds. Hospitals with over 600 beds cost more to run than those hospitals of smaller size. Evidence also indicates that not only are costs not reduced with bigger institutions, but there are unexpected and negative effects on the offering of services, most notably in the delays in the development and improvement of those services. There was even a national conference held in 2001 in the U.S. on the theme of “The Failure of Mergers.”

Many studies, both in England and the U.S., as well as Quebec, have looked to explain the impact of integration on health and social institutions and their missions. These studies show very positive effects on the integration of care but that they were achieved through contractual agreements between autonomous organizations and not through mergers. Contracts between autonomous institutions to share the provision of services by implementing corridors of care achieve much better results than do mergers.

Less bureaucracy: Not true
We could ask: are there too many bureaucrats? The question is complex and difficult to answer without objective data. Instead one can observe the evolution of administrative expenses as a portion of government expenses in health and social services in Quebec in the past and compare them to like expenses in other provinces.

In Quebec, according to the data from the Canadian Institute on Health Information (CIHI), the portion of administrative expenses in healthcare spending has decreased since 1975 from a four per cent rate in the seventies to 1.3 per cent into 2011, and then started slowly increasing to 1.6 per cent in 2014. General administrative expenses in other provinces have followed the same tendency. From 2.6 per cent in 1975, they were reduced to 1.1 per cent in 2014. In fact, these expenses were more significant in Quebec than Canada between 1975 and 2004 and very comparable from 2005 onward.

General administrative expenses in Quebec were similar to other Canadian provinces after the Couillard reform when the role of regional agencies was reinforced. However, between 2011 and 2014, the portion of general administrative expenses in Quebec’s healthcare system did not follow any development in regionalization. In this context, it is difficult to associate regionalization with an increase or a reduction in administrative expenses. It is also difficult to imagine how the abolition of regional agencies would lead to a reduction in these expenses.

Centralization is not a guarantee of efficiency in our public healthcare system
Scientific data show clearly that a decentralized system is closer to the centers of decision- making and allow for health and social services to be better adapted to populations needs, especially those of the underprivileged or those living in rural or outlying communities. Contrary to industry, which seeks the production of uniform and standardized services at the best price, health systems need to be able to adjust services to the needs of the populations being served.

The disappearance of local institutions risks standardizing services throughout a regional territory, hence diminishing access to more marginal populations while increasing the inequalities of health. The creation of regional mega structures will result in an important loss of linguistic, cultural and community identity. Those institutions serving their community for many years and are essential for their role in maintaining community ties and supporting community development will be lost.

Scientific evidence does not support the presumption of Bill 10 that there will be a reduction in bureaucracy with the centralization of decision-making. National and international experience has shown time and time again that the proposed reform will not have the desired effects and, in fact, will make healthcare delivery more complex. We should learn from these experiences instead of increasing the centralization of decision-making in our healthcare system.

Unfortunately we have the peculiar trait of trying the same solutions over and over again even when they have been already shown not to work.

Beland_FrancoisBy Paul Lamarche, Réjean Hébert et François Béland

The following professors in the Department of Health Administration in the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal have signed this letter:

Nicole Leduc, Régis Blais, François Champagne, François-Pierre Dussault, Lambert Farand, Marie-Josée Fleury, Mireille Goetghebeur, Mira Johri, Lise Lamothe, Nicole Leduc, David Levine,  Michèle Pelletier, Louise Rousseau, Claude Sicotte, José Carlos Suarez Herrera.

Three Things We Can Do to End Poverty in Canada

January 16, 2015 9:50 am
Homeless

Poverty degrades our economy, changes the nature of our cities and the cohesion of our society

“Time to end poverty in Canada” has been the message from the Salvation Army coming across our TV screens this holiday season. A great idea from an organization that fights poverty every day in our country—but is it realistic?

Yes, it is.

Poverty doesn’t just cost the poor their dignity and a reasonable standard of living, it costs us all.  A study guided by noted economists for the Ontario Association of Food Banks found that poverty costs the government about $30 billion a year, much of which was health care expenditures because being poor frequently means poor health.

Consider also the homeless. Numerous studies have found that it costs three to four times more to leave someone on the street (in and out of shelters, hospitals, jails) than to give them a home with support services.

And that doesn’t include the millions spent on provincial welfare systems which entrap people with thousands of bureaucratic rules. To which the late Senator David Croll once said, “We spend billions every year on a social welfare system that merely treats the symptoms of poverty but leaves the disease itself untouched.”

It is astounding that here in this rich country that one in seven lives in poverty according to Statistic Canada. For these fellow citizens every day is a battle. Just struggling to get by, these families can’t even dream about getting ahead.   

What is also disturbing is that over a million are children even though 25 years ago the House of Commons said it was going to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

And then there is the wide gap in wealth and income levels that has come about in the last 30 years now posing a threat to our social fabric. Cities once dominated by middle income neighbourhoods are giving way to greater polarization between high and low income communities. More and more are living pay cheque to pay cheque (if they have a job) with heavy debts. As the TD Bank states in the title of a recent report, it is time to recognize “The Case for Leaning Against Income Inequality in Canada.”

Let’s be clear: poverty and inequality are not obscure issues that only concern economists or policy wonks. It’s degrading our economy, changing the nature of our cities, creating unequal health outcomes and impacting the cohesion of our society.

So, what do we do about all of this?  Here are three ways we can end poverty:

  1. Education is a great enabler and leveller in any society. While Canada overall does fairly well in post secondary education statistics, there are pockets of the population that need attention. For example, the aboriginal high school dropout rate is four times higher than the national average. Improving literacy rates, early childhood learning and skills development to reflect the ever changing job market are all good investments that will pay long term dividends.

And let’s make sure kids don’t go to school hungry. They can’t learn on an empty stomach.

  1. We need to explore a basic income plan for Canadians. It would start moving people off the costly social welfare systems to an income tax managed formula. It wouldn’t provide for the ‘good life’ but it would ensure that no one in this country goes without the basic needs of nourishing food, warm clothing and decent shelter. We put such a plan in place for senior citizens back in the 1970s and it brought most of them out of poverty. Also, at that time, an experiment in Manitoba called ‘Mincome’ demonstrated a reduction in health care costs and higher school graduation rates.

While there will be transitional costs, overall we don’t need to spend more money, we need to invest smarter, more efficiently and effectively.

  1. It is time to get serious about tax reform. The last major federal overhaul arose from the Carter Commission in the 1970s. Federal corporate taxes, which stood at 29 per cent in 2000, have been reduced to a current level of 15 per cent without a discernable effect on the rate of employment. Let’s improve the fairness and progressivity of our tax system, tackle tax havens and loopholes and establish a carbon tax.

Yes, it is time to end poverty and reduce inequality in this rich country we are blessed to live in. It’s time to improve equality of opportunity and a better sharing of our prosperity.

By Art Eggleton

ArtEgiltonArt Eggleton is a former Toronto mayor, Member of Parliament, and is currently a Canadian Senator.

Oil: A High-Stakes Game of Chance

January 15, 2015 11:30 am
Oil Pump Jacks

Popular wisdom has it that the only certainty in life is death and taxes. Until a few short months ago, most economists, politicians, political pundits and journalists would have added to that short list a perpetual increase in the price of oil. But, in today’s interconnected world, much can happen to a global commodity like oil within the period of a few months.

A generally lethargic global economy, a hedged bet by OPEC (the intergovernmental Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) as well as an upswing in production of unconventional oil in America’s shale oil fields have all contributed to a significant oversupply of crude in the global market, resulting in a substantial decrease in the price of the world economy’s hydrocarbon lifeblood. The consequence: global oil prices have fallen by upwards of 50 per cent.

Rapidly descending oil prices have undoubtedly been a boon for motorists and should also serve as a form of stimulus for the global economy that is still recovering from the financial downturn that began in 2008. At the most basic level of pocketbook analysis, lower crude oil prices encourage greater consumption and therefore help to stimulate the global economy. Lower prices put extra income in consumers’ pockets, income that can be spent on purchases and services which might not otherwise be consumed. But the current sliding oil prices are also a boon for oil-dependent industries. For instance, lower prices increase the sales of automobiles although, to the dismay of many environmentalists, they typically spur the sale of less fuel-frugal vehicles. Lower oil prices reduce the operating costs of airlines and other transportation-centric industries, in a perfect world, should translate into lower consumer prices for the products being transported. However, as we all know, does not always happen.

TrafficOther beneficiaries of today’s lower oil prices are the countries requiring imported oil to subsist. Unfortunately countries, like the consumers who inhabit them, are more likely to spend rather than save the extra money that, in the past, would have been earmarked to cover transportation costs. To claim otherwise would be mere wishful thinking.

But, if the current slackening of global oil prices constitute a boon for individual consumers and oil importing countries, they are a bane for oil producing and exporting countries. Since Canada is a net energy exporter, this means that the slump in oil prices will directly affect the Canadian economy. While Canada’s oilsands will undoubtedly be negatively impacted by the sudden sharp decrease in the global price of oil, the jury still remains out on how adverse that impact will be. A continuing slide in prices could render numerous projected oilsands extraction projects economically untenable, thereby reducing the amount of capital investment in Canada’s energy sector. Furthermore, on a broader level, the decline in oil prices could increase Canada’s trade deficit and substantially reduce previously predicted budget surpluses based on a higher international price of oil. And here is where both OPEC and the American shale oil industries come back into the picture.

Typically, when global oil prices slide, OPEC makes the conscious decision to bolster the price by reducing the amount of crude that its members pump into the world’s oil market. Because of OPEC’s dominant position in the area of oil production, this has the effect of controlling fluctuations and ultimately stabilizing the global market price of oil. However, in an unforeseen turn of events, OPEC has not indicated that it will pursue its usual price-bolstering strategy. Instead, its member states will refrain from curtailing oil production in an effort to prop up the sliding price of oil. It appears OPEC will not put the brakes on the global slide in the price of crude.

Many economists are speculating that this uncharacteristic action is aimed at undercutting the United States’ burgeoning shale oil industry. In other words, the hand that OPEC appears to be playing is to let the global price slip below a point where most of America’s lucrative (and rapidly expanding) shale oil projects cannot break even with the cost of exploration, extraction, transportation, and refining. If the global price of oil is below the American shale oil industry’s break-even price, investment in American shale oil will dry up. Existing firms will have to take on more debt to cover their costs when the commodity itself is worth less with each passing day.

The trump card OPEC seems to be counting on is this: the lower global oil price could limit future investment in America’s shale oil deposits thereby making that industry uneconomic. Prodigal investors and consumers would go back to OPEC’s own traditional light sweet crude. But why take the risk?

With the advent of recent advancements in extraction engineering procedures, America’s oil production has risen to approximately 9 million barrels per day. That tally is uncomfortably close to Saudi Arabia’s—OPEC’s most lucrative and productive member—daily output. In fact, there is now only about a million barrels separating the American daily output from that of Saudi Arabia. The American oil industry is nipping at the heels of the longstanding reigning champion in oil production and that reigning champion is taking evasive action to curtail the growth of its new and vigorous competitor. Before OPEC and the American oil industry finally turn over their cards (and the price of oil eventually stabilizes), Canada’s oil industry could become collateral damage in what increasingly appears to be a high-stakes game of chance. But no matter what the outcome, until then, consumers will smile all the way to the pump.

Preventing Radicalization: Two-Decade Social Experiment

December 17, 2014 4:00 pm
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The Assembly of Nations unites all 140 nationalities living in Kazakhstan to promote cooperation and to give them political voice. Nine representatives of the Assembly are elected to the legislative chamber of the Parliament.

On Wednesday, October 22, Ottawa woke-up to the sounds of shooting coming from Parliament Hill, the heart of the nation’s capital. Once peaceful and tranquil, Ottawa stood vulnerable and insecure.

This attack in Ottawa, and an earlier one in Montreal, has prompted Members of Parliament to consider additional protective measures. The government is planning to give more power to the police to deal with suspects and to expand surveillance operations. Some experts, however, question the proposed actions. They say safety measures should not only protect, but prevent attacks in first place.

The government proposed tough measures for Canada and expects government accountability, says Fen Hampson, the director of Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“It’s an issue in a democratic society, where you have civil liberties, freedom of speech – it’s very difficult having these kind of calls,” Hampson says. “The question is should the police have power to not only conduct surveillance operations, but to detain individuals, and if necessary arrest them on the grounds of suspicious activities.”

Having more police and more surveillance won’t guarantee full security as long as the society stays disengaged in government’s strategy, says another expert Michael Kempa, professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa. Kempa says Ottawa needs preventive social measures too. So far, Canadians—especially new immigrants—are left out in the government strategy, he says.

“We think that if we get the surveillance right, and the law right, that everything will be safe—this is, to an extent, true. But without right economical and political structures that encourage people to fully participate in Canadian society, we will never achieve full safety,” Kempa says.

So, what kind of social measures can be taken to prevent future attacks?

For security and protection, Canada has looked at measures taken in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Yet, for prevention, perhaps Canada should look farther to the East. There, in Central Asia, Canada would find Kazakhstan—the country facing the same very question since gaining independence from the USSR in 1991.

Representatives of different nationalities pose in front of the Pyramid of Peace in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Pyramid, constructed in 2006, represents country's spirit of tolerance and peace.

Representatives of different nationalities pose in front of the Pyramid of Peace in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Pyramid, constructed in 2006, represents country’s spirit of tolerance and peace.

Kazakhstan seems so distant and so different from Canada, yet, there is so much in common between the two countries. Like Canada, the ninth biggest country in the world, Kazakhstan’s vast steppes are sparsely populated with just over 17 million people.

Like Canadians, Kazakhstanis are diverse and multiethnic: 140 ethnic groups, representing over 40 religious communities live together. Armenians, Germans, Koreans, Poles, Turks and many other nationalities call Kazakhstan home.

Both countries opened their arms to welcome new people on their lands. Canada has gained its diverse population from immigration and Kazakhstan from the Soviet Union’s resettling policies. Many ethnic groups came to Kazakhstan to cultivate wheat and other cereal grains. Later, Kazakhstan’s land, rich of coal, gas and oil, attracted many Europeans.

Unlike Canada, Kazakhstan faced a more treacherous path to unity in the country. When the country gained independence, it had no budget to keep people happy and positive. Ethnic groups had no interest to stay united. The land bore a sleeping bomb that could tear the country apart with any slight discontent or protest. The newly independent country had no choice but to rely on preventive measures. Without realization, the country has engaged in a successful social experiment that still keeps the nation in peace.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms kept Quebec from separating from Canada. The Charter has guaranteed the rights and freedoms for all Canadians, and made English and French official languages. Kazakhstan has entrenched equal rights and freedoms for all citizens without any discrimination in its Constitution. Kazakh and Russian were proclaimed as two official languages of Kazakhstan.

To knit all distinctive ethnic groups into one social fabric, President Nursultan Nazarbayev established the Assembly of Nations. The institute unites all ethnic groups and gives them legislative powers. Nine representatives of the Assembly are elected to the legislative chamber of the Parliament. The members oversee all laws, making sure they do not violate any rights or freedoms of any ethnic group.

Today, like the rest of the world, Kazakhstan faces threats of radicalization by ISIS and other extremist groups. Even though threats are mild and don’t hold serious grounds, Kazakhstan is taking special measures, says Serik Belgibay. Belgibay is a Kazakhstani political scientist and the director of RealPolitik—a non-profit aiming to present an objective research and analysis of the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

Belgibay says all traditional religions enjoy full freedoms and are accepted with high tolerance in Kazakh society. There are some untraditional streams of religions too, and a few who hold radical views.

In general, both the society and the state have a cautious attitude towards them [untraditional religions]. But most powerful oversight goes against radical faiths with radical tendencies,” Belgibay says.

Kazakhstan, like the rest of the world, is also trying to prevent ISIL from getting to young minds through social media. For this purpose, Belgibay says the government has launched e-Islam, an online portal providing educational resources on traditional Islam for teachers and followers. Some universities also provide free-courses on Islam studies.

Protection measures also play a part, says Belgibay.  All religious movements have to undergo mandatory registration. Unregistered movements face fines. Groups with radical inclinations are closely watched by the police and can be banned.

Over these 20 years of keeping different nationalities together, Kazakhstan has learned a few lessons to share with Canada and with the rest of the world. Belgibay says a country should be careful not apply too much force and pressure to any religious groups. It will just give them a motivation to use their religion as a tool for violence. It’s better to keep an ongoing social dialogue on how to live together in peace and in harmony.

Next year, Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, will host its fifth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The leaders will get together to discuss how to prevent radicalization of young people. In previous years, the leaders discussed how to fight religious extremism at home and abroad, the role of women in religion and multiculturalism.

As Canada is getting ready to give more powers to the police, to expand surveillance operation and to beef up security around the public institutions, it should take time to answer one question: Will these measures help Canada to prevent future attacks?

Perhaps it’s also a good time to think about preventive measures.  In that case, why not look at Kazakhstan’s measures, at how the country is managing to keep peace, tolerance and mutual understanding with such a diverse population.

U.S. and China: Capping Economic and Environmental Controversy

December 2, 2014 2:55 pm
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The United States and China, which are liable for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas-emissions, have agreed to get a handle on pollution. But concerns of potential business restrictions, tax increases, job cuts and inefficiency in planning have created political controversy.

The arguments focus on longevity, healthcare costs and sustaining global natural and renewable resources versus the sensibility of the agreement and the impact on the economy.

A meeting in November between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi not only landmarked a breakthrough in the U.S.-China rapport, but has finalized an agreement of goals to initiate and lead global followers. The objective is to surface a multi-national treaty at The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, in 2015.

Finalizing two days of meetings between Obama and Xi on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, was a public announcement of the emissions agreement from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

£¨Ê±Õþ£©Ï°½üƽͬÃÀ¹ú×Üͳ°Â°ÍÂíÔÚÖÐÄϺ£¾ÙÐлáÎî“If China and the United States can work together, the world benefits,” Obama affirms.

China and the United States maintain the world’s largest economies, and trump all others’ per category on the GDP. Currently in China, a new coal plant develops every 8-10 days. The cost of mortality in China, from air pollution is 10 per cent of the GDP. Pursuing change will aid to reform public health overall.

An academic journal, Global Commission on The Economy and Climate published in the report, ‘Better Growth, Better Climate,’ suggests there is a need to strengthen resilience to climate change and build a relationship between economic growth and positive climate action.

The United States promises decreases in greenhouse-gas emissions by twice the existing target–26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. The intent is to reach 17 per cent below 2005 emissions levels by 2020. And the U.S. has made a national commitment to decrease emissions by March 2015.

According to the Office Of The Press Secretary of the White House, China agrees to increase non-fossil fuel share of energy production to 20 per cent by 2030. China also promises to target a cap on carbon emissions, which have been rising steadily. The aim is to begin reducing emissions by the year 2030.

The necessary changes will begin in 2016, adhering to Goal 13 ‘urgent action to combat climate change’ of the United Nations sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In China, five provinces and eight cities will cap-and-trade pilot programs.

Shanghai, Guangdong and Beijing have set regional caps and are introducing pilot projects for trading rights and o cut emissions by 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The agreement comprises of goals to boost trade in energy efficient technology and outlines municipal level frameworks for low-carbon economic growth. It will introduce new pilot projects in China to study various renewable energy sources, and also increase funding for US-China clean energy research center—a research initiative developed by Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009.

There is no current evidence as to whether other countries will support the agreement. However, more than 190 countries will be involved in negotiations. The goal is to decrease carbon emissions and fossil fuels and increase the use of non-fossil fuels, bearing less detriment to the environment. Non-fossil fuels are most commonly renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and energy generated through wind or water. They will not deplete the world’s current supply of oil, coal and natural gas.

Market investments are grounded in U.S.-China relations. This agreement could potentially have a big social, economic and environmental global impact.

The agreement could potentially take a huge hit on the Canadian economy. A hotly debated issue; the oil sands and the expansion of pipelines, such as Keystone XL, predict greenhouse gas-emissions will triple if the plans for pipelines are approved. This will leave the Canadian government in a struggle between needs for economic prosperity and environmental initiatives.

Proponents of the agreement support Obama in full force, claiming beliefs that Obama has authority to target new goals without further Congress approval.uschina1

Republicans argue China will fail in action and implemented rules by the Environment Protection Agency will detriment the American economy. Concerns are grounded in unanswered questions about the economy. What are the costs to the taxpayers? How will costs be fairly distributed between Nations?

Capping greenhouse gas and coal emissions inevitably results in higher energy costs. The Republicans question whether increased costs will force companies to relocate, invariably cutting jobs in North America.

A concern is whether the economic benefits of this new China-U.S. rapport outweigh the North American costs to residents and businesses.

The fight against climate change will not occur overnight.

It is a process of great importance for Obama—a central issue he hopes to harmonize during his remaining years in office. He hopes to accomplish this through regulations on power plants and vehicles to cut emissions, increased international relations, examination and new treaties surrounding critical global issues.

IS it safe to assume this agreement and initiated process of change will remain enforced once Obama leaves office? The answer is unknown.

Obama insists global threats cannot be conquered alone and combined efforts are imperative for change.

Successful leaders have the courage to take action.

But it appears only time will reveal the success of our leaders and the actions we will take.

 

Youth on the Streets: Anything but Hopeless

November 18, 2014 1:01 pm
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Kevin Belisle begs for money and attention.

He sits on Bank Street, holding a carton that reads, “Extremely hungry. Please help.” In his backpack: high school equivalency, a criminal record and a dirty jacket.

Homeless Kevin Belisle, 23, asks the government for a job, so he doesn’t have to beg for food.

Homeless Kevin Belisle, 23, asks the government for a job, so he doesn’t have to beg for food.

Belisle, 23, doesn’t have a permanent address or a job. For a living, he paints walls, does yard work and helps people with moving. When he doesn’t have a job, he begs for money on the streets. At night, he couch-surfs at one of his friends.

Belisle is not the only one with such living arrangements in the nation’s capital. There are many more stretched hands with youthful eyes, looking up–still full of hope and full of life.

The question is, how many of them are there?

The research by the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat (HPS) estimates between 150 and 300 thousand individuals experience homelessness in Canada every year. Nearly every fourth homeless person is a youth under the age of 25.

Last year, roughly 1400 youth stayed in Ottawa’s shelters. This number, however, is not a true reflection of youth homelessness, says Mike Bulthius, the executive director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa (ATEH).

Bulthius says there are many more youth without stable housing. They are not visible, because they, like Belisle, can wander from relatives to friends without reporting their homelessness. He says research indicates the population of homeless youth is at least double of the known.

The causes of youth homelessness are similar to that of adults, Bulthius says. The difference is that youth come from somebody’s care: whether it’s a family, a community or the government.

“Breakdown of the family is the key. A lot of them are living in family situations that are not positive for them,” Bulthius says. “Whether it’s a history of abuse or rejection by a family–a number of youth come from foster care and group homes.”

Every fourth homeless person in Canada is a youth under 25-years old.

Every fourth homeless person in Canada is a youth under 25-years old.

Belisle says, this is what happened to him.

His parents divorced when he was six-years-old. He bounced between different foster families, group homes and shelters. Sometimes, he spent weekends with his father, where he says he felt unwelcomed by his stepmother.

When he turned 16, Belisle decided to live on his own. He worked at different minimum wage jobs, but he could never afford his own place.

Lack of affordable housing is another issue that weighs on youth homelessness, says Stacey Lauridsen, the director of Community Services at the Youth Services Bureau (YSB). Today, in Ottawa, there is a shortage of safe affordable housing in general, especially for youth, he says.

“If you are an at-risk youth trying to find affordable private market housing, you are facing stigma, marginalization, along with the need for specific supports–it’s just not there,” Lauridsen says.

Michel Overlette, 25, who panhandles on Bank Street, knows what barely affordable housing is.

In fact, he says, he is on the verge of becoming homeless. Overlette says he lives in a house on Preston Street. He shares the rent with his girlfriend and his friend.

“We try our best to make ends meet, but sometimes it’s hard,” Overlette says.

4 Michel OverletteHis income comes from construction jobs, he says. But, there are days when he doesn’t have any job. The rent comes up, unpaid bills pile up on the table, and the refrigerator gives a hollow sound. Overlette says he has nothing to do but to panhandle.

“It’s not that I can’t spend money properly, it’s because they [employers] don’t give me enough work to pay rent. They just make you have enough to live–that’s what it is,” he says.

Over the last few years, Ottawa has made positive steps towards supporting homeless youth.

In 2013, the City of Ottawa passed a 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan. According to the plan, the city promises to build 130 new units and renovate 200 homes for low income and homeless people by the end of 2015.

YSB has a youth drop-in center; runs a youth-health clinic, has a range of mental health and employment services and provides special programs for specific youth populations such as at-risk young women, Aboriginal youth, LGBTQ youth and new immigrants.

Two years ago, YSB partnered with Canadian Mental Health Association to introduce an Intensive Case Management (ICM)–a program that works with youth experiencing serious mental issues. The program allocates case managers to help youth find housing, education and other support programs.

“While the programs we offer have proved to be effective, they currently can’t be expanded without additional funds,” says Lauridsen.

Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa! Spend the night with community on November 21 to raise funds for homeless youth programs.

Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa! Spend the night with community on November 21 to raise funds for homeless youth programs.

As a nonprofit and a charity, YSB depends on government, corporate funds and public donations. Right now, the organization’s ICM program is funded for just four intensive case managers, who are working with over 40 youth with severe mental illnesses.

To end youth homelessness, Lauridsen says, Ottawa must develop a strategy including government, communities and youth.

“We need youth voice in what works to resolve homelessness. To understand youth, we need to listen to them and ensure they have their say in the process and strategies that affect them,” he says.

If anyone wants to listen, Belisle is ready to give his voice. He says there is only one feeling homeless people experience on the streets: I can’t do anything.

“Because no one is going to listen, no one really wants to listen,” Belisle says.

When asked what he would say, Belisle simply replies: “Give me a job.”

Homeless youth may not have great expectations, but they still have hopes.

Belisle dreams about writing a book about creation of a new world. He says, this world will be the world of opportunities and challenges that people can overcome by always choosing to do something right.

In his world, he says, people will all live together.

Overlette is also drawing his future plans.

He says, he would like to start a construction company to help people with painting, redecorating and building. Then maybe, he says, his dream will come true.

“My dream is to own a house, so I can live amongst everybody else,” Overlette says. “I am only 25, and I know, there is more to future than it is now.”

Belisle agrees. “You can never have too many dreams.”

On November 21, join the community in Sleep Out for Youth Ottawa event to raise funds to take youth off the streets.

Why does Canada’s Innovation Government Funding Support not Working?

November 14, 2014 12:00 pm
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In spite of significant tax incentives from many levels of government, Canada continues to lag its Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) peer countries in innovation performance. The Conference Board of Canada report concludes the following:

  • Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries.
  • Countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs.
  • So far, there are no conclusive answers or solutions to Canada’s poor innovation ranking.

Canadian companies are rarely at the leading edge of new technology and often find themselves behind the productivity growth achieved by global industry leaders. Canada has lost its global technology leader Nortel, and once the global dominant RIM/Blackberry is struggling to survive. Nor does it appear that any other Canadian companies are prepared to step up on the world stage.

According to the Conference Board Report, countries that are more innovative are passing Canada on measures such as income per capita, productivity, and the quality of social programs. Innovation is critical to environmental protection, a high-performing education system, a well-functioning system of health promotion and health care, and an inclusive society. Without innovation, all these systems stagnate and Canada’s performance deteriorates relatively to that of its peers. Innovation is essential to a high-performing economy.

So why are there no conclusive answers to Canada’s poor innovation performance?

Canada has a good technical infrastructure with universities, engineering schools, teaching hospitals, technical institutes, an excellent quality of life and advanced knowledge workers. So why does the country fail to take the steps that other countries take to commercialize its research as a source of competitive advantage?

According to the Conference Board, there are three explanations for the poor innovation performance:

  1. Poor public policies, such as taxation, R&D tax credits, and regulations
  2. A general lack of sufficient risk capital, scientists, engineers, or qualified business managers to support the innovation process
  3. The countries’ poor entrepreneurial behaviour, such as management reluctance to take risks or to build globally competitive large corporations because of the Canadian oligopoly market structural issues

As a result, Canada has largely become an innovation laggard country of comfortable oligopolies and ‘pick and shovel” resource companies.

Canadian Companies Lack Innovation Strategies

Canada must overcome its endemic poor entrepreneurial behavior, and encourage its companies to become global leaders, otherwise public innovation grant and tax policies, and creating sufficient pools of risk capital will continue to remain ineffective to improving the economy.

Few Canadian businesses take a systematic approach to innovation. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the available evidence indicates that the most successful companies approach innovation in a holistic and systematic way. They develop an innovation strategy that fully integrates with their business mission and goals, and aligns with their organizational culture and organizational systems.

Innovation becomes inherent in everyone’s job description. Google, Apple, 3M, Nike, Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, to name a few are global leaders because they have an innovation strategy.

Innovation is much more than what comes out of the company’s R&D process. Innovation can occur in a company’s business model, in its value proposition, how it sells its products, and to whom it sells its products. Companies like Dell, SW Airlines and Virgin, became market leaders through business strategy innovation. Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook created new industries by technological and business model innovation.

For any organization, innovation represents not only the opportunity to grow and survive, but also an opportunity to influence the direction of the industry. According to management consultant Peter Drucker, “Innovation is the effort to create purposeful focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.” That statement very accurately positions innovation as the agent for change and a crucial tool for every Canadian CEO. However, many Canadian CEO’s believe their strategic innovation investments are failing, because many companies fail to implement a formal innovation strategy and process.

Innovation, like many business functions, is a management process that requires an innovation strategy with specific tools, rules, and discipline. Execution is simple once it is clear how the pieces fit together. An innovation strategy is an integrated framework, formal processes and tools that all managers can use to create top- and bottom-line growth from innovation. It is simply the use of standard management tools (such as strategy, organizational design and structure, management systems, performance evaluation, people, and rewards) to dramatically increase the payoffs from innovation investments. How a company innovates is what it will ultimately innovate.

Developing a business environment that supports and promotes innovation often requires extensive changes in organizational culture and systems, which can be difficult to achieve, not to mention disruptive, costly, and time-consuming. Though the potential long-term benefits are considerable, many Canadian firms often focus on short-term gains, and cost reductions and are unwilling to invest time and resources into organizational transformation efforts. The high risks of failure associated with major organizational change projects is also a Canadian deterrent.

Overcoming Canadian Corporate Entrepreneurial Resistance by Changing Government Tax Incentives Requirements

Canada’s low levels of innovation call into question the effectiveness of Canada’s generous innovation tax incentives. There are a numerous tax incentive programs in Canada among the various levels of government.

The flagship, federal Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program is the largest and most popular program in the country, and like the other programs, is flawed. The SR&ED program, administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) encourages businesses of all sizes, to conduct Research and Development (R&D) that will lead to new, improved, or technologically advanced products, processes, devices, and materials. Canada has one of the most generous tax incentive R&D programs among OECD countries. Each year the SR&ED program provides approximately $4 billion in investment tax credits to over 18,000 claimants.

What Determines an Eligible SR&ED Project?

According to CRA qualification criteria, a Canadian-controlled private corporation can earn an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 35 percent up to the first $3 million of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada, and 20 percent on any excess amount. Other Canadian corporations, proprietorships, partnerships, and trusts can earn an ITC of 20 percent of qualified expenditures for SR&ED carried out in Canada.

To qualify for the SR&ED program, work must advance the understanding of scientific relations or technologies, address scientific or technological uncertainty, and incorporate a systematic investigation by qualified personnel. The CRA list work that qualifies for SR&ED tax credits as including experimental development, applied research, basic research and support work.

Interestingly, there are no requirements for a company to demonstrate that they have a successful record of accomplishment of innovations, or a formal innovation strategy, linking to the business strategy.

Applying for a SR&ED grant or tax credit requires a complicated amount of paperwork to satisfy the funding conditions and technical requirements. This has spawned a lucrative third party consulting industry where specialized financial technicians adept at filling out the qualification forms, act on behalf of clients to secure the maximum tax grants and credits. KPMG estimates this to be in the order of $137 million or 3.7 per cent of the total 2011 expenditure of $3.6 billion. The same report also suggests that some firms charge clients as much as a 30 per cent contingency fee to complete SR&ED documentation.

The SR&ED and other government tax grant and credit programs are not working for Canada, given our 13th country placing on the OECD list of 16 peer countries. Many ask if this is innovation, or corporate welfare that reduces operating and capital expense costs!

So what can the Canadian Governments do to increase the effectiveness of the many tax grants and credit programs available to Canadian companies?

The CRA and other government agencies add to the existing program requirements to qualify for SR&ED and other government tax incentives, provisions to ensure that qualifying Canadian businesses demonstrate that they have an existing innovation strategy linking to its business strategy. This includes parameters such as organizational design, management systems, performance evaluation metrics, people, human resource policies, and incentives resulting in successful innovations. In addition, qualifying businesses need to demonstrate a record of successful innovations ensuring that these programs reward success. Most international businesses that are successful at innovation have an innovation strategy that fully integrates with their business mission and goals, and aligns their organizational culture and systems.

By Ronald J. Pickett

About the Author

Ronald J. Pickett resides in Newmarket, Ontario. He is President of RDM Management Group, specializing in innovation, business, and technology strategy consulting. Ron has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, a Master’s Degree in Innovation Leadership from the University of Fredericton, and publicly speaks on and teaches innovation leadership strategy to Laurentian University Students at Georgian College.

How U.S. Midterm Elections might affect Online Gambling Regulations in the U.S.A.

November 13, 2014 2:48 pm
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Last week the U.S.A. saw the holding of midterm elections for represented positions in the United States Senate.

The Republican Party had a considerable win and was able to pick up many seats in these elections, and in turn ensured they now command the majority of the voting power in the any issue before the U.S. Senate.

The outcome from these elections will have a significant impact on U.S. policy making and implementation for at least the next two years, both domestically and internationally.

One area that will be looked at in the coming term is the issue of online gambling regulation, throughout the states of the U.S.A..

Following we take a look at four U.S. states where online gambling regulation is of note; the results that occurred within them, and the possible implications for online gambling in each of them.

Florida

The result in Florida is of some concern, as Republican and current Governor Rick Scott was  re-elected. Governor Scott is known to be a supporter of land-based casino identity Sheldon Adelson, who has previously campaigned against online gambling; presumably to protect his own significant land based gambling interests.

Hopes in the iGaming community were high for Florida, which was seen by many as a good candidate to adopt online regulated gambling in the near future. Governor Scott’s re-election might put those hopes on hold for now, but in the grand scheme of things, all is not considered lost.

Illinois

Its goodbye Democrat Pat Quinn and hello Republican Bruce Rauner in the state of Illinois, as a changing of the guard takes place.

Quinn was known to be staunchly anti-land based casino, so his exit won’t cause too many tears in the gambling community. The incoming Governor Bruce Rauner has previously expressed his dislike for gambling (a hardly unique position for an un-elected politician to hold); though he has said he might be ok with land based casinos if the community is already on-board with the idea.

If the commonly held belief that land-based gambling supports the cause of online gambling regulation holds true, than it could be considered that Illinois’ overall position has shifted for the better which will benefit slots such as Jack and the Beanstalk, general casino sites, as well as sportsbook and poker rooms.

Massachusetts

It could be observed that there were both wins and losses coming out of the Massachusetts vote.

On the positive side, voters rejected an attempt to retract a law from 2011, which allows for the licensing and construction of three land based casinos in the state, and this might indicate an overall approval for gambling related activities by the public, though the creation of jobs and projected annual revenue from these casinos should not be discounted either.

On the negative side, the election of Deb Goldberg as the new Massachusetts treasurer could be of concern, as she has voiced anti-online gambling opinions in the past, and was supporting the repeal of the previously passed laws from 2011.

Just how things will progress in Massachusetts remains to be seen. The new land-based casinos revenue will almost certainly be welcomed by the politicians of the state, and perhaps this can be extended to an online platform within time.

Pennsylvania

Tom Wolf of the Democrat Party took the top prize in Pennsylvania in the voting held there.

While he has espoused anti-online gambling rhetoric in the past, things are always different and easier when you are not sitting in the hot seat.

With a bag full of election promises to fulfil, Governor Wolf will no doubt be raiding the coffers for every penny possible, and the lure of gambling gold might be enough for him to soften his previously held position.

 

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