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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bombardier wins Mumbai rail deal

Bombardier Inc. BBD.B-T says its rail division has won a $214-million order from Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp., a joint venture between India’s national government and the state of Maharashtra.

The order, announced Monday from Berlin by the Montreal-based company’s Transportation division, is for Bombardier Mitrac propulsion and control equipment to be produced in India.

Bridges, swimming pools, unicorns - just think what the viaducts could be

“We propose to flood False Creek back to its 1898 boundary. An archipelago of over 800 fixed and floating islands and a flexible network of 1,500 bridges occupy the flood zone. Islands and bridges re-assemble in multiple ways creating a flexible, open ended, self-governing spatial and programmatic system.”

Monday, 28 November 2011

Currency firm tests system for return of Greek drachma

Icap, the world’s largest electronic trading platform for foreign currency, said Sunday it had been preparing for the possible break-up of the euro.

The region’s debt crisis has mounted in recent weeks, leading to concerns about the exit of some troubled peripheral countries or even the ultimate dissolution of the common currency.

Icap is testing its EBS platform to trade the Greek drachma against both the euro and the U.S. dollar. This follows discussions with clients -- largely dealer banks -- and third parties such as CLS, a settlement system for currency trades, about the need to be prepared for “any number of possible outcomes”, said Ed Brown, executive vice-president of business development and research at Icap Electronic Broking.

“There has been enough discussion about a break-up of the euro that we are knocking the dust off the pre-euro [currencies] and making sure everything works,” Mr Brown said. “Some of these currencies have not traded in a decade.”

CLS declined to comment.

The tests, which began a few months ago, involve only the mechanics of trading currencies on Icap’s platform and do not include valuations or dummy trades on EBS involving the banks themselves. Icap also stressed that its preparations were not a prediction, but a safeguard against system problems providing further market disruption if a country does break from the euro.

Icap has only tested the drachma against the euro and US dollar and no other legacy eurozone currencies, but said its system was standardised enough that testing one of the legacy euro currencies would make it easier to roll out others.

Last week was a punishing one for the eurozone in the financial markets, which has prompted dialogue in the financial community, not just about how to prepare investment portfolios for a break-up scenario but also for so-called “back office” considerations such as computer systems and standardised documents, said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

“It took years of planning for the introduction of the euro,” said Mr Chandler. “At that time, for several years, there was convergence not just of currencies, but of interest rates. Now we would have divergence.”

According to a survey of just under a thousand Barclays Capital clients conducted in November, almost 50 per cent of respondents expected at least one country to leave the euro area in 2012, with 35 per cent of investors expecting the break-up to be limited to Greece and one in 20 expecting all five peripheral economies to exit next year.

Fat personal debts, euro woe threaten Canada, OECD says

The outlook for Canada's economy has dimmed considerably, but the country will still outpace most of its G7 counterparts for the next two years, according to a new OECD forecast.

Over all, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development projected today that growth in the economies of the group will slow to 1.6 per cent next year, then rebound to 2.3 per cent a year later. It also projected the jobless rate among those nations to remain at 8 per cent over the two-year period.

But all of this assumes that policy makers take "sufficient action to avoid disorderly sovereign defaults, a sharp credit contract, systemic bank failures and excessive fiscal tightening." That last point certainly would not apply to several of the euro nations that are now in the eye of the storm.

Canada's economy will just about keep pace with that of the United States in 2012 and 2013, the group said, and together will lead growth among the G7.

The OECD projected Canada will see growth of 1.9 per cent next year and 2.5 per cent in 2013, almost at the pace of 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent forecast for the U.S. Japan, whose economy is seen contracting this year, will see growth of 2 per cent next and 1.6 per cent in 2013.

The new forecast calls for growth of 0.6 per cent and 1.9 per cent in Germany, 0.3 per cent and 1.4 per cent in France, and 0.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent in Britain. Italy's economy is forecast to contract by 0.5 per cent in 2012, before recovering to growth of 0.5 per cent a year later.

"The outlook for the Canadian economy has weakened significantly, mainly because of a deteriorating external environment," the OECD forecast said.

"Heightened risks from renewed financial market turmoil linked to the European sovereign debt crisis and high levels of household indebtedness are eroding consumer confidence. While business investment continues to expand robustly, weaker prospects for the global economy and persistent strength of the exchange rate are projected to restrain export performance, tempering the speed of economic growth. Underlying inflation will remain subdued due to continued significant economic slack."

Markets rally
Global markets are rallying this morning, but much of the optimism appears based on rumour and speculation related to the euro debt crisis.

"We are seeing an unusually strong start to the week by recent standards for shares in London," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

"Once again it is expectations surrounding Europe driving the rally, although weekend reports that the IMF are discussing a bailout for Italy have been strongly denied by the organization," he said in a research note.

"However, there is still speculation that politicians have a newfound sense of urgency and are stepping up attempts to stem the crisis. Unsurprisingly there is a wave of relief flowing through the financial sector with banks the biggest gainers on the day so far. It will take a few more days of positive moves to convince traders that this rally actually has some solid foundations and is not just a dead cat bounce built on rumour and hope."

Tokyo's Nikkei climbed 1.6 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 2 per cent. In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 2.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent by about 7:15 a.m. ET.

Dow Jones industrial average YM-FT and S&P 500 ES-FT futures also climbed.

For some observers, there could actually be something behind what's driving the markets today, notably some movement toward easing the euro crisis. Having said that, markets have seen this time and time again over the past two years.

"Another day, another positive start to the trading day," said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"Yes, I know, I know. We’ve been down this road before," Ms. Lee said in a report.

"The day starts tentatively higher, then bam! Everything gets tossed out the window shortly after. However, today, there may be something more to this rally. Reuters reported over the weekend that France and Germany are working on a much faster way towards euro zone integration, and instead of involving all 27 EU countries, will start off with a core group of around eight to 10. There is a goal to release details of such a plan by the Dec. 9 EU summit in Brussels, which is the last one for 2011."

Europe under pressure
The euro zone remains under intense pressure again today, amid reports that are all over the map as to what measures its leaders could take.

Borrowing costs are still high, and Moody's Investor Service today issued a warning on the credit ratings of all euro countries.

Belgium, which was downgraded on Friday, paid a high yield of almost 5.7 per cent at a €2-billion auction of 10-year paper, while Italy saw yields on 20-year bonds climb to 7.3 per cent. But that offering was shy of what it had planned to sell.

"Rising yields in Germany (where the two-year has risen from 0.295 per cent on Nov. 15 to 0.46 per cent today, while the 10-year has risen from 1.74 per cent to 2.31 per cent ...) suggests that the market is suddenly pricing in the risk that Europe poses to Germany," said senior currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Scotia Capital.

"Essentially that any ‘solution’ to the crisis lies with a cost to Germany, likely through either closer fiscal ties (which would entail a German-led funding of the more debt-laden countries) or an EMU breakup (which includes the loss of trade ties, uncertainty and an acceleration in the weakening of the European economy)."

Cameco gives up on Hathor
Canada's Cameco Corp. CCO-T has given up its quest for Hathor Exploration Ltd. HAT-T, alowing mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. to win the spoils of a bidding fight.

“After careful consideration we cannot justify increasing the price beyond our current offer and accordingly, we will let our offer lapse,” said Cameco's chief executive officer Tim Gitzel. “Cameco has remained disciplined through the bid process to ensure that we make the best decisions for our company and its shareholders.”

Rio Tinto upped its friendly bid for Hathor to $4.70 a share earlier this month, topping Cameco's $4.50-a-share bid. The Rio Tinto bid values Hathor at about $654-million, The Globe and Mail's Brenda Bouw writes.

Cameco is the world's biggest uranium producer, and Mr. Gitzel said the decision to bow out of the fight for Hathor won't hurt his plan to double annual production to 40 million pounds by 2018.

“Our plan involves existing assets in our development pipeline and we remain on track to meet our objectives," he said in a statement. "We will continue to explore other growth opportunities, but only where there is a clear benefit to our shareholders."

What to watch for this week
We'll get a sense of the state of the Canadian recovery when Statistics Canada reports Wednesday on how the economy performed in the third quarter and then releases its key jobs reading for November on Friday.

Economists expect to see that the economy rebounded in the third quarter, by about 3 per cent annualized, after stalling in the second. Still, the outlook is dimmer.

"Looking forward, economic momentum is likely to cool as headwinds facing Canadian households grow stronger," said economist Diana Petramala of Toronto-Dominion Bank. "An unsatisfactory pace of job growth - zero net gains in employment since July - in combination with poor consumer confidence and ongoing losses in equity markets are expected to slow the pace of spending growth over the next few quarters."

The employment report, in turn, isn't expected to be as bad as the one for October, when the country lost 54,000 jobs. But the jobless rate isn't expected to come down either.

Economists expect to see job creation of anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000, with the unemployment rate remaining at 7.3 per cent or perhaps ticking up to 7.4 per cent.

"With external uncertainties cited as the main reasons for a more constrained business outlook (as cited in the Bank of Canada’s Business Outlook Survey) the pace of domestic hiring could continue to suffer from dampened expectations for U.S. demand, and the slings and arrows of an escalating euro zone crisis," said Emanuella Enenajor of CIBC World Markets.

Markets will be far more focused on the U.S. jobs report, also on Friday, given the crisis in the U.S. labour market after the recession that threw millions out of work. But there, economists expect to see that about 100,000 jobs or more were gained in November, with, as Sal Guatieri of BMO Nesbitt Burns put it, "companies likely inspired by the recent modest upturn in consumer spending." The unemployment rate is projected to remain around 9 per cent.

There are some key earnings this week, as well, as the major banks begin reporting fourth-quarter results. Among them are Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Royal Bank of Canada. Bombardier Inc. also reports results.

"We forecast provisions for credit losses to remain stable with risks increasing, while we expect capital markets to remain depressed in the immediate period, with risks tilted to the downside," said UBS Securities Canada.

Cameco backs away from bid for Hathor

Cameco Corp. CCO-T is giving up the fight for Hathor Exploration Ltd. HAT-T, saying it won't trump a friendly deal struck by its larger rival, Rio Tinto PLC RIO-N.

“After careful consideration we cannot justify increasing the price beyond our current offer and accordingly, we will let our offer lapse,” Tim Gitzel, Cameco's chief executive officer said in a statement on Monday.

POLL-U.S. light crude seen cruising above $100 by 2013

LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - U.S. crude is set to move above $100 (U.S.) a barrel by 2013 as the world’s largest oil consumer steps up efforts to rein in its inland oil glut, which has made its oil much cheaper than other benchmark grades over the past year, according to a Reuters poll.

The poll of 32 analysts also forecast U.S. light crude oil , also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), would in 2012 average $96.50 a barrel from a $92.00 forecast last month.

In the mid term, U.S. crude will still remain at a discount to rival benchmark Brent, especially if the European Union slaps sanctions on Iranian oil, in a move that will tighten European oil markets.

The average of 36 analysts forecasting Brent crude futures for next year expect the European benchmark to stand at $107.00 per barrel, up from their October forecast of $106.80.

An increase in U.S. light crude futures will help reduce the spread or gap between both benchmarks next year, after several banks moved to cut their spread estimates when plans were unveiled in mid-November to revert the flow of the Seaway Pipeline so the glut of crude in landlocked Cushing can flow to the Texas coast.

The Brent-WTI spread , which had hit a record $28.10 a barrel in mid-October, tightened sharply to settle at $9.89 a barrel after news on Nov. 17 of plans to revert the flow.

Although the spread is expected to tighten in the longer term, analysts including those at investment bank Goldman Sachs said the differential was likely to widen in the near-term after the rapid unwinding in recent weeks.

“As long as crude still needs to flow from Cushing to the Gulf Coast via barges, rail or even truck, some discount will still be necessary to encourage this flow of oil,” the head of commodities research at Natixis Nic Brown said.

“As such, WTI prices can remain below Brent until pipelines have fully adjusted, albeit at a gradually decreasing discount.”

Renewed tensions with Iran after the imposition of fresh sanctions against the OPEC producer over its nuclear programme, together with France’s retracted statement about an import ban could also counteract the tightening effect of the Seaway pipeline, Commerzbank analysts warned.

“This could drive prices upwards because competition for non-Iranian oil would increase accordingly,” they wrote in a note.

“A far-reaching delivery boycott of Iranian oil could thus again widen the price difference between Brent and WTI... The consequences of an oil embargo against Iran could be partially compensated for by Libya’s return to oil production.”

A fine balance

Despite the upward revisions for WTI prices, analysts have warned that market conditions remain turbulent, and the threat of supply disruptions could be offset by increased output from oil producing countries feeling the heat from social protests in the Arab world, and as the outlook for oil demand remains mixed.

“We expect crude oil prices to soften on cooling oil demand as economic activity in the OECD stalls,” Petromatrix’s Olivier Jakob said.

“Nevertheless, still tight supply will limit the downside to oil prices, as key Middle Eastern producers ramp-up public spending amidst ongoing political tensions in the region.”

Tempered factory output growth data from China, which shows a slight fall to 12-13 per cent in 2012 due to weakening global demand, is also a concern for oil markets.

“Oil prices - especially Brent- still don’t reflect the cooling down of the global economy,” LLBWs’ Frank Schallenberger said. “With oil inventories (e.g. in the U.S.) still at a relatively high level, Chinese imports being moderate in the last few months and Libyan production growing faster than estimated, Brent still seems to be too expensive.”

While analysts agreed the economic outlook for Europe and the U.S. and the geopolitical situation in the Middle East remain uncertain, they are split on their effects on prices.

On the cautious side, Credit Agricole’s Christophe Barret said while the market was expected to remain tight in the near future, waning demand for heating oil after the winter amid the fragile outlook of the economy could put a lid on prices.

Others believe that dwindling stock levels and robust growth could nevertheless propel prices to unsustainable levels that would temper growth.

“At this stage, $100 a barrel oil looks likely through much of 2012 for both benchmarks, driven by robust growth in the big developing economies and still weak stock levels. This could put a dampener on growth in the big developed economies,” ANZ’s economist Michael Creed said.

Others including BNP Paribas’ head of commodity market strategy Harry Tchilinguirian believe that still-low interest rates and the possibility of more U.S. monetary policy easing could remain supportive for risk assets like oil.

Fundamentals such as resilient global growth demand, particularly in emerging markets, demand for heating oil from winter and declining inventories of crude and oil products could all lend support, he said. (Editing by James Jukwey)

Despite Nickelback’s ‘Burn it to the Ground’ set, Vancouver well-behaved for Grey Cup finals

It is not a stretch to suggest that Vancouver residents had about as much at stake as the B.C. Lions heading into the Grey Cup, as the rest of the country wondered how rowdy fans would react in the streets after the championship game.

The city’s reputation had been badly smeared in June by the repugnant behaviour of drunken hooligans who vandalized the downtown core after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Café Régalade’s rich French cuisine warms you against the dreary winter

When the weather turns cold and dreary, no cuisine shakes the dampness from the bones better than French country cooking.

Although plenty of local bistros do an excellent job of executing the classics, none offer soul food as rich and hearty as West Vancouver’s La Régalade. And now that the Rayé family has opened another restaurant – Café Régalade in Kitsilano – we don’t have to cross the bridge to scarf it.

Confusion on the Hill over new breast screening guidelines

When Kellie Leitch was 18, her mother died of breast cancer. As devastating at that was, she says she was “lucky enough” to have a father who talked to her and her sister about the importance of examining their breasts and screening.

“This, as you can imagine, is a tough conversation for a single dad with two daughters under the age of 20,” recalls the 41-year-old rookie MP for Simcoe-Grey.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Out There: Peak of Christmas

Step out of the rainy drear and into a winter wonderland at Grouse Mountain’s Peak of Christmas, where you can ice skate on an 8,000 square-foot outdoor rink, meet real reindeer, take in festive music by carolers and choirs, and wander through the SOS Children’s Village Parade of Trees before taking a mountaintop sleigh ride through in the snowy woods.

Right here: the celebrated art of Takao Tanabe

European Union Film Festival

Europe has far more to offer than financial crises, so catch 24 top films from 24 countries – including award-winners, festival favourites, Oscar submissions and 20 Vancouver premieres – as chosen by film aficionados in each nation, at the European Union Film Festival (at Pacific Cinémathèque until Dec. 8,

Hot Ticket: Grey Cup Festival

Didn’t land tickets to the big game this weekend?

There’s plenty of action happening out of bounds, including the Scotiabank Football Experience, where you can throw like a pro, make a field goal, meet favourite CFL players, then dream big as you have your photo taken with the Grey Cup.

Or head for Jack Poole Plaza, where you can work on your CFL cheers, get pumped up with live music by Dal Richards, the Langley Ukulele Ensemble and the Knots, then fuel up at a Vancouver Fire Fighters BBQ.

Jets, Bills fight for their playoff lives

A sense of urgency is driving the struggling Buffalo Bills and New York Jets these days.

Mounting losses. Injuries. Fading playoff chances.

They’ve all combined to turn a pair of promising teams that once appeared poised to dethrone the New England Patriots in the AFC East into scuffling squads desperate for a victory.

‘Dream Team’ quip continues to haunt Eagles

Given how it worked out for the Miami Heat, who stumbled in the NBA Finals after lofty projections of not just one ... not just two ... not just three ... but many NBA titles, perhaps Vince Young was a bit premature in his preseason proclamation about the Philadelphia Eagles.

Because of the awesome assemblage of talent on both sides of the ball, Young, who was brought aboard this season as a backup to Michael Vick, believed the Eagles were the NFL’s version of “The Dream Team.”

“I didn’t think anything of it when I first heard it,” said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in a teleconference Wednesday with the New England media.

“I just thought it was Vince talking about how he felt and how he was excited and how it was like a dream come true, something like that.

“You learn very quickly how things can get spun. I mean, I think we all got a lesson in that after that statement he made.”

Young’s remark took on a life of its own. As was the case with Messrs. James, Wade, and Bosh in Miami, the Eagles were perceived to be an arrogant bunch of young turks who felt they were entitled to reach the Super Bowl.

“We knew that expectations were going to be great and it was going to be assumed that we would be undefeated, but we knew there was going to be some work to be done,” said Asomugha, one of two Pro Bowl cornerbacks (along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) the Eagles added in a splashy free-agent haul.

“Everybody was new, everybody was learning, coaches included. We just needed to be real with ourselves, and I think it becomes a bigger issue when you think about what the expectations have been, and rightfully so.

“We try to keep it in perspective between what those expectations have been and what the reality of the situation is.”

Here’s the reality: Time is running out on “The Dream Team.”

With six games remaining in the season, the Eagles (4-6) are struggling to reach the .500 mark. They lost four in a row after a season-opening 31-13 romp at St. Louis. Five of their six losses have come by a touchdown or less.

If this continues, the only way the Eagles will make it to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl is by purchasing a group travel package. Tickets and accommodations included.

After snapping a two-game skid with an impressive 17-10 road victory against the NFC East rival Giants last Sunday night, the Eagles will be fighting for their postseason lives when they host the Patriots Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It seems like every week in the National Football League is a do-or-die game,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. who has drawn his share of criticism for his team’s underachieving record. “So that’s kind of how you approach it, I think, from a coaching standpoint.”

Reid brushed off any questions about his evaluation of the season to date.

“You know what? I don’t get into all that,” he said. “I think, as coaches, you’re problem solvers. You get in and you try to figure it out and make sure you put the guys in the right position and coach your guys up – that’s kind of what you do. There’s no time to look back or look forward.

You get so entrenched in the moment and making sure you get that right.”

With Vick forced to sit out last week with a rib injury – he also missed practice Wednesday – Young got his first start for the Eagles.

Young completed 23 of 36 attempts for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns but threw three interceptions. He directed an 18-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with an 8-yard toss to Riley Cooper for the go-ahead score with 2:50 to go.

“Probably the main thing I would tell you is that Vince came here under a bit of scrutiny,” Reid said, referring to Young’s clashes with Titans coach Jeff Fisher. “I’m also good friends with Jeff Fisher, so I understand the situation that took place there. ... “He came here with a little bit of a cloud over his head, but he’s done nothing but work hard, study. He’s doing it the right way. He and Michael have developed a very close relationship.I think Michael’s example has been very good for Vince. I think Vince’s attitude has just been unbelievable.”

While Young certainly meant to convey a message of hope, the hard-edged Philadelphia fans have thrown his “Dream Team” label back at him and his teammates.

“Yeah, people are always trying to bring it up or always trying to say something that has the word ‘dream’ in it or something like that,” Asomugha said. “You always have to watch what you’re saying, because even if you say, ‘It’s been our dream to be in this situation,’ then someone’s going to run with that.”

“That’s been the annoying thing. You just want to be able to speak freely, but as Vince was trying to do, you see how that can be taken the wrong way and put on the shoulders of everybody.”

Friday, 25 November 2011

Waterfront Toronto open to fast-tracking Port Lands development

It may not lead to Ferris wheels or mega-malls, but the man overseeing development on the Port Lands says he is open to new ideas for fast-tracking development on the derelict stretch of eastern waterfront.

John Campbell, head of Waterfront Toronto, said the agency and the city are working together to generate fresh ideas for the entire 1,000-acre site that stretches from the inner harbour to Leslie Street south of Lakeshore Boulevard. That could include a departure from the existing plan for a mixed use residential neighbourhood, he said, and a move to more commercial development or even a “tourist destination.”

Maple Leafs unearth Silver bullet for defence

It often isn’t easy being the rookie on an NHL team. But if all the ribbing and practical jokes from the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs are getting to Jake Gardiner, he isn’t letting on.

Only 21 and in his first full pro season, Gardiner wasn’t expected to make the team out of training camp in September. Since then, however, he’s been climbing the depth chart seemingly every week, pushing himself ahead of some of the Leafs’ more experienced defencemen.

ANALYSIS | Government jets fly empty at high cost

Canadian taxpayers are doling out millions of dollars a year for a fleet of sleek government executive jets that spend most of the time either flying empty or parked on the tarmac.

Detailed federal flight logs obtained by CBC News show that each of Transport Canada's nine Citation passenger jets spent an average of just over 300 hours in the air all of last year — less than six hours a week.

More than 70 per cent of that time, the seven-passenger luxury planes flew empty.

That means, on average, each of the roughly $5-million jets is actually transporting passengers for only about 90 hours a year, or under two per cent of their possible annual flying time.

Transport Canada pilots apparently have so little demand for their services that they frequently burn up jet fuel flying the planes empty just to maintain the minimum flight-time requirements of their aviation licences.

Transport Canada owns nine Citation passenger jets similar to this one, but flight logs obtained by CBC News found that they spend nearly all their time on the ground or flying without passengers. Cessna Aircraft Company

Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation says the government should junk the jets and force its officials to fly on commercial airlines like most people.

"Keeping a few jets for VIP occasions makes sense, but most of these fleets should be mothballed," Fildebrandt said in an interview with CBC News.

"It is the symbolism of it: If the government is going to be cutting back and there is going to be pain for some people, they should at least take away some of the more extreme perks at the top."

In a prepared statement, Transport Canada said the planes often appear to be flying empty because "the pilots are also inspectors."

"This is why the aircraft may not have passengers on an inspection since the inspectors flying the aircraft will also be carrying out the inspection."

A spokesman for Transport Canada says inspectors are rarely involved in crash investigations or other emergencies.

That raises the question: If the inspectors are not in a rush, why are they not travelling to their work on commercial aircraft at a fraction of the cost of flying around on empty government executive jets?

Transport Canada figures suggest the jets cost about $1,900 for every hour they are flown, although private operators peg the price at upwards of $3,000 an hour.

Either way, a simple round-trip on a Citation from Ottawa to Hamilton, for example, costs taxpayers at least $3,500, a lot more than any commercial air service.

Transport Canada claims its fleet of jets "is mainly used to move inspectors to sites not easily or readily available via commercial means, to conduct inspections."

But the official flight logs for the Citations show a majority of their flights are to the country's metropolitan airports in not-so-remote places such as Ottawa and Montreal.

The logs indicate the government jets have also flown to a number of U.S. cities including Atlantic City, Miami, Denver and New Orleans.

Transport's veritable ghost-fleet of Citations should not be confused with the six Challenger jets operated by National Defence, and have been the target of much controversy.

Those DND jets are used to ferry around the prime minister, other members of cabinet, the Governor General and a lot of military brass who would apparently rather not have to fly commercial.

Like the Transport Canada passenger jets, the DND Challengers are mostly under-utilized, decorating their hangars more than they are flying government poobahs anywhere.

In total, Transport Canada has 27 aircraft — the Citation jets, nine turbo-prop propeller airplanes, six helicopters and three short-take-off planes.

Among the nine Citation jets, six are based in Edmonton, Hamilton and Montreal, while the other three are in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Moncton.

The flight logs show that during the relatively minimal time the jet fleet was carrying anyone last year, the passengers were mostly senior bureaucrats, and occasionally federal cabinet ministers.

CBC News asked Transport Canada to explain how a fleet of jets that spends about 95 per cent of its time parked or flying empty is a prudent use of taxpayers' money.

In a prepared statement, the department stated: "Aircraft must have regular maintenance in order to be operating properly. That is the law."

The department also said inspectors fly the jets to maintain "their aviation qualifications and competency."

In fact, the department says, that's about all they do with the jets in Ottawa.

"This is the reason why we eliminated most inspectors flying in Ottawa and have sold a number of aircraft."

Federal cabinet ministers and their staff have occasionally used the expensive planes.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, for instance, caused a stink last year when he cost taxpayers at least $3,800 for a Citation to fly him from Ottawa to London, Ont., for a political event.

The plane flew back to Ottawa empty.

Flight logs show that, last year, Flaherty also flew three times on Transport Canada's fleet of nine turbo-prop planes the department operates for the benefit of its own staff and occasionally political VIPs.

Other members of the Harper government who have used the jets have been mostly ministers of transport, such as John Baird, Lawrence Cannon and Chuck Strahl.

It remains a matter of contention exactly how much all this high flying on a wing and a taxpayer is costing.

Documents obtained from Transport Canada under access to information laws show the Citations last year cost taxpayers about $5.3 million.

But that figure does not include a number of expenses such as training, aircraft and administration facilities, security and equipment.

In its written response to CBC News, the department claims: "There is no extra cost associated with the training of inspectors as the simulators are part of the department's capital budget, and the inspectors are hired and paid for by Transport Canada."

The federal auditor general's office has yet to turn its sights on Transport Canada's fleets of aircraft.

But in 2008, then auditor general Sheila Fraser found National Defence was wildly understating the real costs of its Challenger passenger jets by about 300 per cent .

As for Transport Canada's fleets of turbo-prop aircraft and helicopters, no one seems able to say how much those cost.

CBC News requested the information using criteria established by the auditor general to establish the true costs of DND's Challenger jets.

Transport Canada replied that CBC would have to pay for more than 30 hours of departmental staff research to ascertain those details.

The CBC declined.

A spokesman for Transport Canada says the department put 15 of its aircraft up for sale in 2009, and has sold eight of them.

So far, however, the department is keeping all of its luxury jets.

Cougar chopper crash survivor criticizes Ottawa

Robert Decker leaving the inquiry into offshore helicopter safety in St. John's in Nov. 2009. CBCThe sole survivor of a helicopter crash that killed 17 people says top federal officials haven't acted quickly enough to improve helicopter safety following the tragedy east of St. John's almost three years ago.

Robert Decker, 30, has only spoken publicly once before – at an inquiry into offshore helicopter safety months after the crash on March 12, 2009.

In an exclusive interview with CBC Radio’s, The Current, he said he’ll never forget the day he struggled out of the sinking helicopter and then waited an hour in the freezing ocean to be rescued.

“It was a horrible thing to have to go through and you can only imagine how horrible it is for the families [who lost loved ones] and have to think about that day for the rest of their lives,” said Decker, who was hospitalized with broken bones and damaged lungs for days after the crash.

Wants answers

Decker was a weather observer on the Hibernia oil production platform hundreds of kilometres east of St. John's. He no longer works offshore but he’s speaking out now because he wants Transport Canada to get to the bottom of some lingering questions.

“No one has explained why the helicopter was ever certified to fly in the first place and I think that someone still has to answer that question,” he said.

"We are looking for answers from the government to let us know why the helicopter was certified to fly? …and why after an incident that happened in Australia in July of 2008 that nothing was done to correct the problem."

Australian incident

Decker was referring to an emergency landing made by a Sikorsky S92-A helicopter near Broome, Australia. That incident involved the same type of helicopter that crashed near Newfoundland.

In both cases the helicopters ran into trouble after their main gearboxes lost oil pressure.

Companys using Sikorsky S92A helicopters have already been ordered to replace titanium studs that sheared off in the Cougar helicopter that crashed near Newfoundland. (Courtesy: The Transportation Safety Board)In Australia, the helicopter landed safely seven minutes after the problem was identified.

In Newfoundland, the helicopter crashed into the ocean 11 minutes after it began losing oil pressure.

A letter to the federal government co-signed by Decker says "Transport Canada should never have certified as airworthy a helicopter that could not fly for at least 30 minutes after the complete loss of main gearbox oil."

"We're looking for the answer to the question why was this helicopter ever certified in the first place and then, why after this incident happened in Australia in July 2008, nothing was done," he told CBC.

Letters unanswered

Decker and the families have written letters to former Transport Canada minister Chuck Strahl and current minister Denis Lebel.

"There was no response to the first letter so we followed up with a second letter in June and still there was no response. So we followed up with a third letter in November and finally there was a response…but essentially there were still no answers to the questions that we were concerned about,” said Decker.

'It’s shocking that it has taken so long to get a response'—Robert Decker

In his response Lebel said Transport Canada has initiated a comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations to determine if other specific regulations are needed and said that he’ll be in a position to provide a response very soon.

“It’s shocking that it has taken so long to get a response and the response doesn’t answer any of the concerns we have,” said Decker.

Replace Sikorskys

He believes the S92-As that continue to fly oil industry workers offshore from St. John's should be replaced.

'There are safer helicopters that would be better suited for the job'— Robert Decker

"People are still flying on the S92 helicopter. It still doesn’t meet the 30-minute, run-dry time so essentially, I don’t know if we are any further ahead,” he said. "There are so many helicopters. It's essentially a standard that they all meet the 30-minute, run-dry time. So there are safer helicopters that would be better suited for the job.”

In the interview Decker recorded with CBC Tuesday, he answered questions carefully and frequently turned off his microphone to speak the lawyer he brought with him.

Decker was careful to keep his emotions in check but he did reveal that the crash still haunts him.

“There's not a day that goes by that I don't see a helicopter fly overhead and I think 'Oh God there are still people going out there everyday'. This is their work. This is their life,” he said.

Deleting gun data breaks law, info czar says

The federal information watchdog says a government move to destroy gun-registry records sets a bad precedent.Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, seen here in May, told a Commons committee Tuesday that destroying the data in the federal long-gun registry would set a bad precedent for the destruction of government records. Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Suzanne Legault told a Commons committee Tuesday that a federal bill to scrap the long-gun registry -- and delete millions of records -- violates the letter and spirit of the Library and Archives of Canada Act.

"It does raise major concerns in terms of transparency and accountability in general," Legault said.

"As information commissioner, I have serious concerns about the impact this bill will have on government information management."

Legault is an ombudsman for users of the Access to Information Act, the law that allows requesters to seek copies of federal government files. Many of those records are held by Library and Archives Canada, responsible for preserving federal documents for future generations.

The national archivist is best placed to oversee the maintenance of federal records, she said.

The federal bill introduced last month would halt registration of long guns and permanently delete more than seven million files on gun ownership. It would override provisions of the Library and Archives of Canada Act and the Privacy Act to allow for destruction of the records.

The Tories argue the registration of long guns is wasteful and unnecessary, although they support the licensing of gun owners and the registration of prohibited and restricted weapons like handguns.

The Association of Canadian Archivists recently wrote to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, arguing that destroying records for "political expediency" and ignoring existing legislation "sets a very dangerous precedent for future legislation and record-keeping practices."

Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz said Tuesday it would be irresponsible to turn the gun-registry data over the archives due to numerous inaccuracies in the files.

"Archivists want accurate information," he said during the committee hearing. "They wouldn't want to collect a lot of garbage."

Quebec wants to use the long-gun data to create its own registry.

But the Conservative government is refusing to share the records.

Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has said there is nothing in federal privacy legislation that would prevent the government from sharing the long-gun data with the provinces.

At committee Tuesday, Stoddart urged caution in destroying the data, pointing to regulations that require institutions to keep records for at least two years. The rules ensure information is available for use in court proceedings, to cite one example, she said.

Kenneth Epps of Project Ploughshares testified that elimination of the long-gun registry "will create a significant hole" in Canada's record-keeping, preventing it from meeting commitments under international agreements aimed at curbing illicit firearms sales.

The Conservative government says there is no evidence the registry has saved a single life.

Lyda Fuller of YWCA Yellowknife insisted the long-gun data has been of great value to police responding to domestic disputes, as it tells them what guns might be inside a home.

"The RCMP use this for every single domestic call they get," she said. "They need those records."

Critics say gang members and other outlaws don't register their guns -- meaning their firearms won't be listed in the registry anyway.

Other witnesses appearing Tuesday, including shooter Linda Thom, an Olympic gold medallist, said the gun registry effectively treats responsible firearms owners as criminals.

Earthquake risk still threatens hundreds of B.C. schools

When a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck deep off the west coast of Vancouver Island in September, it didn’t cause any damage hundreds of kilometres away at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Secondary School.

But student Michael Jaworski says the news did send ripples through the building, rattling the nerves of many of the 1,400 students.

“It’s scary to think what would happen in this school in an earthquake,” Jaworski says as he stands beneath the portraits of the class of 1926 in the third-floor hallway.

While the old, thick masonry walls may look solid, experts say they could easily crumble, even in a moderate seismic event, and that’s a lesson not lost on the students.

“There are different student rumours, like the staircases are first to go, or you’ll only survive if you are on the third floor,” Jaworski says as he looks around the halls.

Student Chris Jaworski says news of a recent earthquake rattled some students and fuelled concerns about the safety of their own school. CBC

Principal Chris Atkinson chuckles nervously when he hears students’ concerns. But while they may be more myth than truth, the overall concerns are real, he says.

The school has regular drills to train students to get under their desks until the shaking stops, but Atkinson admits if the big one hits when classes are in session, the results could be tragic.

“There is clay tile in the wall. It will not hold up at all. Getting under a desk might not be enough,” he says with understated seriousness in his voice.

The 85-year-old Kitsilano Secondary School is one of more than 50 schools in Vancouver alone that would be expected to sustain severe structural damage in the event of even a moderate quake.

In 2005, a provincial report identified 750 schools across B.C. in need of seismic upgrades to survive a quake, prompting the government to pledge $1.5 billion to fix the problems.Since then, it’s spent about half a billion dollars upgrading 132 schools, but that still leaves more than 500 at risk.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus knows the concerns well. She first learned about the risk from a television commercial produced by students in 2001 that showed a girl writing her will before heading off to school.

“It was quite edgy, and obviously effective,” she says.

With her own children just entering school, Bacchus joined a lobby group to pressure the government for seismic upgrades.

Now about a decade later and with her children close to graduating, Bacchus finds herself still lobbying the government as the head of the school board.

“Vancouver alone will probably end up costing in the neighbourhood of over $1 billion,” she says, referring to the estimate contained in a recent consultants’ report commissioned by the school board.

Bacchus says shoddy construction in many older schools is partly responsible for the risk.

"When I first got involved I didn’t realize ... how poorly constructed these buildings are…. Some of them, not much more than gravity is holding them together.

“It doesn’t have to be a big one. Even a moderate earthquake could be enough to bring some of these down,” she says.

She recounts one recent school demolition where workers uncovered sloppy masonry work hidden inside walls, hollow pillars and beams, floors not structurally attached to walls and unsecured equipment in the ceilings.

It will take five years to renovate Kitsilano Secondary School, but the community is glad the heritage exterior will be preserved in the process. CBC

“It took just one hard bump to the corner and that thing went down,” she says.

Experts warn that in the event of a collapse, other dangers will emerge, including exits jamming shut or collapsing, suffocation from dust and a toxic legacy from lead paint, asbestos and other materials.

“Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon and they rarely kill people — but bad buildings do,” Bacchus says.

While Bacchus would like to move quickly to upgrade the schools, in her 10 years lobbying for seismic upgrades, she's learned it's much more complicated than she ever anticipated.

Many residents place great value on the heritage architecture and old brick and masonry exteriors of the schools. That’s led to battles over the fate of some of them, and fears that bulldozing the iconic buildings will leave a hole in the communities.

At Kitsilano Secondary School, the community’s concerns led to a three-year consultation process before the school board decided to save the exterior walls and build an entirely new building behind the facade.

At an estimated $60 million, the project is the most expensive in the seismic upgrade program.

But architect and Heritage Vancouver spokesman Andre Lessard still calls it “an unfortunate compromise” that will gut the heritage-listed 1927 Tudor Revival style building.

“We were hoping more could be saved. A building is a three-dimensional object and it should be retained.”

Lessard says the unique features of many older schools, such as their wide hallways, high ceilings and windows that open, will be lost forever when they are replaced.

While he acknowledges the school board has made a significant effort to retain some heritage schools and values, he still believes more could be done to protect them.

But Atkinson says for parents and students, the No. 1 concern was the disruption the rebuilding would involve, and the desire to avoid holding classes in portables while a new building was raised.

So instead of using portables during construction, the five-year project will break the school into thirds, and students will move between sections as work is done in other areas.

Kitsilano Secondary School principal Chris Atkinson, holding plans for the redesign of the school, stands next to one of the exterior walls that will be saved. CBC

And while there will be serious disruptions to students, Atkinson sees the project as a great opportunity to wipe the slate clean behind the exterior walls and build what he calls a 21st century learning environment.

“There is no compromise on the learning environment. The outside wall stays and everything else goes,” he says, pointing to drawings in his office that detail open spaces, skylights and multiuse classrooms.

But that still leaves several hundred B.C. schools awaiting upgrades to make them safe.

Education Minister George Abbott says the government is moving as quickly as possible.

“This is not something you could immediately undertake — projects in 700 schools. We have assigned a very high priority to this, which is why we have undertaken 135 seismic upgrades to date.”

And despite some estimates that Vancouver's upgrades alone could cost $1 billion, Abbott says he still believes the whole process of upgrading the more than 500 remaining schools can be completed for the original estimate of $1.5 billion.

Abbott points to new research underway in B.C. based on recent quakes in New Zealand and Chile that he hopes may cut the costs of seismic upgrades.

That's a real possibility, according to Peter Mitchell, a professional engineer helping to develop new standards for seismic upgrades for the province.

Mitchell says a new way of analyzing the way buildings shake is allowing engineers to strategically target key structural elements of buildings, allowing for more cost-effective upgrades in the future.

But regardless of the final price, the school upgrade project will be one of the most expensive infrastructure programs in B.C.

Bacchus acknowledges progress is being made, but maintains the government needs to pick up the pace and set some firmer timelines if it wants to come close to its own 2020 deadline for completing the upgrades.

“The cost of not doing this could be staggering,” she says. “Let’s just get it done. The alternative is not acceptable.”

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Farm support mired in paperwork, auditor says

Farm support programs continue to have problems, according to the Auditor General. CBC

Government aid to farmers continues to be bogged down in paperwork, according to a new report from the federal Auditor General.

"We found that it could take up to two years for a producer to receive a payment, subsequent to an income loss," the report, released Tuesday, said.

The auditor general looked at several farm assistance programs, including the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS), which was in operation from 2004 to 2007 and AgriStability and AgriInvest. The auditor said that progress had been made on some issues, but added that many "long-standing concerns remain."

Among them, the auditor flagged:

Unclear program objectives.Lack of timely access to program funding.Program complexity.

One recurring problem area, according to the auditor, is the amount of time it takes government officials to review the paperwork farmers supply, when they apply for assistance.

The government rarely meets its own targets for processing applications, which is 75 percent of applications completed within 75 days of a completed application's arrival.

"The department has yet to meet its time standard," the auditor found.

As well, according to the auditor, government officials have been selective when it comes reporting on their performance.

"We noted that the department publicly reports only on applications processed in determining its success in meeting the service standard," the auditor said. "If it included the backlog of applications that have not yet been processed, its monthly success rate would drop."

The auditor provided a stark example of how officials manipulate their performance reports.

"In January 2011, 23 percent of processed applications for the 2009 program year met the 75-day standard. However, when unprocessed applications already beyond the 75-day standard were included, only 11 percent met the 75-day service standard."

In response to the auditor's findings, the department said it was planning to make improvements on how it reports, by April of 2013.

G20 accused plead guilty

Six people accused of orchestrating the turmoil during last year's G20 summit in Toronto have pleaded guilty, part of a deal that has seen charges against 11 others withdrawn.

The pleas were widely anticipated and sources close to the case told CBC News about the deal in advance of Tuesday's hearing.

Alex Hundert and Amanda Hiscocks have pleaded guilty to counselling mischief and counselling to obstruct police, while four others — Leah Henderson, Peter Hopperton, Erik Lankin, and Adam Lewis — pleaded guilty to one count each of counselling mischief.

Although there was no word yet on sentences, sources close to the case told CBC News the prosecution and defence were expected to agree on recommendations of six months for some to 20 months for others.

“Counselling mischief” essentially refers to exhorting others to commit vandalism or to otherwise interfere with the “use, enjoyment or operation of property.”

The 17 accused are the remaining part of an original group of 21 activists who the Crown alleged conspired to create unrest during the June 26-27, 2010, summit of world leaders in Toronto. Three people already had their charges dropped last year, while another, Montrealer Jaggi Singh, pleaded guilty in April to counselling mischief.

More than 1,100 people were rounded up that weekend — the largest peacetime mass arrest in Canadian history — as police cracked down on demonstrations that saw incidents of smashed store windows and torched police cruisers.

What the Crown called the "G20 conspiracy group" of defendants comprised community organizers and activists including the six who pleaded guilty Tuesday and those who saw their charges dropped, including Joanna Adamiak, Patrick Cadorette, Syed Hussan, Julia Kerr, Meghan Lankin, Terrance Luscombe, Monica Peters, David Prychitka, Paul Sauder, Sterling Stutz and William Vandreil.

Sources said the 17 co-accused opted for the plea deal because the drawn-out court proceedings against them have been a strain on the groups supporting them, and because the deal minimizes the number of people going to jail while allowing most of the defendants to get back to their community work.

They also felt their bail conditions, which prevented them from associating with each other and limited their mobility and, in some cases, computer use, made their community organizing difficult, the sources said.

The 17 defendants themselves would not comment on their case because of a group media embargo.

The lead prosecutor on the file, Crown attorney Jason Miller, said Monday that he, too, could not comment on the case or any possible plea deal.

A Toronto activist who has put together fundraisers for the defendants and is friends with a number of them alleged the prosecution against them was part of a broader effort to try to "isolate and intimidate" community organizers.

"A lot of people see that so much of this is just a giant circus, and just a whole charade to occupy organizers and activists, to intimidate organizers and activists, and say that if you do organize, that if this is what you do, you are going to be facing months of strict bail conditions, court and whatnot," Maryam Adrangi said.

The prosecution of the 17 was at the preliminary hearing stage, in which the Crown lays out the essential elements of its case and a provincial court judge decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed to a full trial. That phase was scheduled to end Friday but was suspended in mid-October as plea-bargain negotiations took place.

A full jury trial wasn’t expected in the case until as late as 2013.

It was unclear what the outcome might have been. While big conspiracy cases can be unwieldy for the prosecution, the large number of defendants and the fact they didn’t all know each other or ever meet together wouldn’t have necessarily hindered the Crown’s case, a legal expert said.

“It's easier the bigger the case. The broader the allegation, the tougher it is for any individual to wriggle out,” said veteran Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who briefly represented one of the 17 defendants in court on a technical matter. “They get tarred by one brush, and the individual details get left out. It's easier to prosecute a large conspiracy.”

Ruby said the Crown only has to show that one of the accused knew another, who knew another, and so on. That’s why the state likes to resort to conspiracy charges against protesters, he said.

“The police always like these demonstration cases,” he said. “These are common. They do it all the time. Individual persons tend to get coloured by the evidence against all the others.”

Now that charges against the 17 defendants have been formally resolved, a publication ban on evidence from the preliminary hearing will be lifted. It is anticipated that will shed light on the Canada-wide, 18-month-long undercover police operation against various community groups in the lead-up to the G20.

Documents obtained by researchers under access-to-information legislation show that, as part of G20 security preparations, police spied on a diverse range of advocacy and political organizations. Targets included Greenpeace, the immigration advocacy group No One Is Illegal and independent journalists.

G20 case reveals 'largest ever' police spy operation

Police organizations across the country co-operated to spy on community organizations and activists in what the RCMP called one of the largest domestic intelligence operations in Canadian history, documents reveal.

Information about the extensive police surveillance in advance of last year's G8 and G20 meetings in southern Ontario comes from evidence presented in the case of 17 people accused of orchestrating street turmoil during the summits.

The court case ended Tuesday before it went to trial. Six of the defendants pleaded guilty to counselling mischief and two of those to an additional count of counselling to obstruct police, while 11 people had their criminal charges dropped.

Testimony previously under a publication ban describes how two undercover police officers — one male, one female — spent 18 months infiltrating southern Ontario community groups ahead of the June 26-27, 2010, gathering of world leaders.

They were part of a much larger so-called joint intelligence group (JIG) operation that the RCMP, in its internal post-summit review, called "likely the largest JIG ever assembled in Canada."

The Crown built its case against the 17 around the work of the two officers, Ontario Provincial Police members Bindo Showan and Brenda Carey. It was a massive case: 59 criminal charges in all, more than 70,000 pages of Crown evidence disclosed to the defence, and months of scheduled testimony.

Earlier this fall, Showan told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally.

Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!” The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white.

When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to "kill white people."

"Deliberately or accidentally, the undercover officers misinterpreted hyperbolic jokes as literal statements of belief," said Kalin Stacey, a community organizer, friend and supporter of the defendants. "This undercover case highlights the incentive for undercovers to ensure that charges are laid."

The two undercover officers at the core of the Crown's case were just a small part of a Canada-wide operation to spy on activist groups in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the G20 summit in Toronto and the G8 meeting in Huntsville, Ont.

RCMP records obtained under freedom of information legislation reveal that at least 12 undercover officers infiltrated groups. Organizations in Vancouver, the southern Ontario cities of Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal were scrutinized.

In all, the RCMP-led joint intelligence group — a conglomeration of federal, provincial and municipal police tasked with G8/G20 reconnaissance — employed more than 500 people at its peak, the records show. The group ran undercover operations, recruited confidential informants and liaised with domestic and foreign governments, law enforcement agencies and even corporations.

The JIG's targets included activists protesting the Olympics, the migrant-justice group No One Is Illegal, Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance and Greenpeace.

"The 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville ... will likely be subject to actions taken by criminal extremists motivated by a variety of radical ideologies," reads a JIG report from June 2009, before the G20 summit was scheduled, that sets out the intelligence group's mission. "These ideologies may include variants of anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, nihilism, socialism and/or communism.

'We're always concerned about public safety. That's our number 1 concern.'—Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, OPP spokesperson

"The important commonality is that these ideologies ... place these individuals and/or organizations at odds with the status quo and the current distribution of power in society."

The surveillance was widespread. Campers at Rattlesnake Provincial Park west of Toronto were monitored, while another document indicates that police had a process in place "to obtain information on registered campers" who stayed at Algonquin Provincial Park and Arrowhead Provinical Park, both of which are within driving distance of Hunstville.

And RCMP records suggest that the reconnaissance continues. Report logs indicate at least 29 incidents of police surveillance between the end of the G20 summit and April 2011 — more than nine months after world leaders departed Toronto.

The same document indicates that the RCMP-led intelligence team made a series of presentations to private-sector corporations, including one to "energy sector stakeholders" in November 2011.

Other corporations that received intelligence from police included Canada’s major banks, telecom firms, airlines, downtown property companies and other businesses seen to be vulnerable to the effects of summit protests.

Spokesperson Sgt. Pierre Chamberland acknowledged the OPP had undercover officers involved in the G20 but declined to speak about specifics, saying the force can’t comment on operational matters.

But he said generally, undercover agents are constrained in what they can say and do by strict policies.

"So it's not a matter of like you would see on television where they can do or say whatever they want. They’re not authorized to break the law unless they have special permissions," he said.

Chamberland affirmed that the main motivation for using undercover officers is, like most police work, to protect the public.

"We're always concerned about public safety. That's our number 1 concern," he said.

Stacey sees it differently, arguing that undercover agents create a chill effect on activism.

"The practice of infiltration and undercover policing of political protest is legally about making a case for conviction, but politically about creating a culture of fear about dissent."

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