Thursday, November 29, 2012

Federal food inspectors told to ignore contamination on carcaases not bound for Japan

According to documents obtained by CTV News, Canadian meat inspectors were told to "ignore" contamination on carcasses for domestic consumption but to inspect meat bound for Japan extra carefully.
According to memos sent to inspectors at XL Foods, the plant subject recently to Canada's largest ever beef recall, federal meat inspectors were told to give extra scrutiny for visible and intestinal contamination of the carcasses if the meat was bound for Japan but the contamination could be ignored for meat bound for Canadian consumers.
A memo issued on Sept. 12, 2008 reads:
“Our number 1 priority is to ensure this standard is met with Japan eligible carcasses.When stationed at this position, ensure that non Japan eligible carcasses are not inspected for spinal cord/dura-mater, OCD [other carcass defects] and minor ingesta (Ignore them).”
The memo was sent again to inspectors in 20010 and 2011.
The memo said that contaminants would be detected later in the process. However, the inspector's union told CTV that the position referred to in the memo is at the end of the inspection line.
In early November, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency again cited XL Foods for failing to sufficiently clean meat-cutting areas. The firm also allowed condensation to form on pipes in the tripe room and did not have a high enough temperature of water in a sanitizer. There was also no sanitizer solution at all in mats used to clean employees' boots. A government bulletin said:
“The CFIA instructed plant management to take immediate action to address these concerns. In addition, the CFIA requested the company submit corrective action plans outlining how they will address these issues in the longer term and mitigate future risks.”
The CFIA reports that XL has already corrected immediate problems. A corrective action plan submitted by the company is under review. Now for the rest of the story, which seems not even a subject of debate.
XL Foods reached a deal with JBS in October. The Brazilian-controlled company is the world's largest animal protein processor. JBS will operate the feedlots and processing plants of XL Foods with an option to buy. Bill Rupp, president of JBS's U.S. division said:
“We know full well the commitment it takes to manage world-class operations that produce safe and nutritious products. We believe our experienced team will provide an invaluable asset in the management of XL Lakeside and we look forward to to exploring our options to purchase XL assets in the near future.”
The deal gives JBS an exclusive option to buy the Brooks operations, and packing facilities in Calgary, Omaha, Nebraska and Nampa, Idaho for $100 million. JBS said that under no conditions would JBS assume any XL Foods' debt or liabilities.
Commenting on the decision Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said:“While this is a private business decision, Canadian consumers can be assured the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will enforce the same rigorous food safety standards at the Lakeside facility regardless of the management." Officials of Nilsson Bros Inc., who own XL Foods, could not be reached for comment.
The president of the union local that represents most plant employees welcomed the announcement. He said.
“I’m not normally in favour of foreign control and ownership, but the Nilsson brothers were in over their heads.They can go back to running their ranches now and leave the operation of this plant to someone who knows what they’re doing.”
However, JBS USA has had its own problems with e coli recalls:
On June 24, 2009 the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that JBS Swift Beef Company, a Greeley, Colo. establishment, recalled approximately 41,280 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. By June 30, the recall had risen to over 421,000 pounds
As seen on the video, Bill Rupp of JSB USA thinks that the role of inspection falls on the company not on the government. Gerry Ritz along with the union boss are all relieved that the new boss has such a positive view of food safety, in spite of the fact that this same company has itself been charged in the U.S. and has already had to rectify conditions in the plant it is now running.
Notice that it is U.S. cattlemen who oppose the purchase. Conservative politicians in Alberta, the union head, the minister of agriculture, all applaud the sale.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vito Rizzuto, Mafia don, called to testify at Charbonneau corruption inquiry in Montreal

A reputed Mafia don, Vito Rizzuto, has been summoned to appear before the Charbonneau Commission that is investigating corruption in Quebec.
Quebec police were able to serve Rizzuto a subpoena on November 19th in Montreal. Rizzuto seems to have been in hiding since he returned to Canada in October after being released from prison in the U.S. Many believe that Rizzuto is head of the Sicilian Mafia in Canada. Sgt. Claude Dennis of the Quebec provincial police only confirmed that Rizzuto was met and the subpoena served.
Rizzuto was known once as Montreal's Teflon Don because of his ability to avoid prosecution. His name has come up several times during discussion of corruption in Quebec's construction industry. Earlier testimony described how construction officials would collude to decide who would win which public contracts and at what price. The Rizzuto family would receive a 2.5 per cent cut of the contracts.
Lino Zambito, a former vice-president of a construction firm, gave testimony that Rizzuto once mediated a conflict between Tony Accurso, a construction magnate, and Transport Quebec. RCMP videos, presented before the commission, show executives handing over stacks of money to Rizzuto's father.
During the period Vito was in jail in the U.S. serving an 8 year sentence for his role in killing three Mafia lieutenants in New York, the family suffered setbacks in Montreal Many of his friends and family disappeared .His son Nick Rizzuto Jr. was gunned down on a Montreal street in 2009. His father, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., was shot in his home by a sniper the next year Many of his associates are behind bars.
It remains to be seen how cooperative Rizzuto will be. In 1974 the Cotroni-Violi family that the Rizzutos supplanted, were uncooperative in an earlier inquiry into Quebec corruption and organized crime. Then boss, Paolo Violi, told the inquiry: "I don't refuse to testify. I have a lot of respect for the court but I don't have anything to say." The court was not impressed and he was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt of court.
Several Quebec politicians have already resigned due to testimony at the investigations including the mayor of Montreal as reported earlier in the Digital Journal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prime Minister Harper visits the Philippines

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Manila on Friday. He will meet with President Benigno Aquino on Saturday for trade and security talks
Stephen Harper is the first Canadian Prime minister to visit the Philippines in 15 years. He arrived after a six day tour of India. Two-way trade between Canada and the Philippines is just $1.5 billion annually Increasing bilateral trade will be high on the agenda of talks between Harper and the Philippine president.
A special characteristic of the Philippine economy is the revenue received from Filipinos working overseas. The sum last year was more than $20 billion. Filipinos in Canada are a considerable part of those who help their families back in the Philippines.
The Philippines is now the largest source of immigrants to Canada. Tagalog, which along with English is a national language of the Philippines, is the fastest growing language in Canada. Many Filipinos come to Canada to fill low-skilled jobs, often through the temporary foreign worker program. In some cases there have been complaints about abuse by employers. Labour standards are also sometimes said to be ignored. There needs to be more monitoring of the system to assist workers with their rights.
Ethel Tungohan who co-edited a book on Filipinos in Canada said
:"What's missing from the narrative and what's missing from discussions taking place with respect to the relationship between the Philippines and Canada has are clear guidelines and clear parameters for how exactly the labour rights or the human rights of these migrant workers are being protected. That's something a lot of community members would like to hear. Their employers are aware that they really want to stay in Canada and stay working in Canada and they use that as their trump card to ensure that their employees are kept compliant."
A federal online list of abusive employees has not a single person or company name, even though the list was established in 2011. Everything must be excellent!
There are problems on both sides with respect to the caregiver program.. A recent change that requires family to pay up front for the health and transportation costs for incoming caregivers may have contributed to a steep decline in applications for the program from over 20,000 in 2008 to just under 9,000 in 2011. Manuela Hersh of the Association of Nanny Agencies Canada says that many parents do not want to take on this degree of liability when some of the caregivers have no incentive to stay once the family has paid their way here. As Hersh put it:.
"There's still caregivers that are not protected and in bad situations. Then you have the families who complain because now they might be out all this money and have no nanny in place. It's a mess."
I personally know of several Filipinas involved in the program where things have worked out well for the most part.The First Ontario Alliance of Caregivers Canada claims that the Harper government should reduce the processing time for permanent residency status. This move would allow for quicker family reunification.
Chris Thornley, the Canadian ambassador to the Philippines says that Canada is viewed positively as a work destination by the government. Thornley said:
"They're a hard-working people, they don't bring their politics with them, there's no language adjustment issue for them culturally, so I hear this a lot from Filipinos when they go to Canada, how quickly they integrate and what strong citizens they become. So perhaps they're not noticed to the same extent as some of the larger migrant communities that we have in Canada."
However, as Tungohan says, being below the radar often means that Filipinos who need help with labor standards or even having degrees recognized can be a problem:
"Filipinos in Canada are invisible when it comes to policy-making. When it comes to considering the specific needs of the community, Filipinos in Canada are usually lumped in with different types of Asian communities."
Protesters picketed the Canadian Embassy on Friday. Environmental activists were protesting the environmental records of Canadian mining corporations in the Philippines, including a huge spill of 3 to 4 million tons of tailings into the Boac River by a company partly-owned by Placer Dome.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Defeat of Proposition 6 in Michigan will clear way for new Detroit, Windsor bridge

Proposal 6 would have required Michigan residents to vote on any new international crossing to be built between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The measure was defeated by more than 60%.
Proposal 6 was supported by billionaire Matty Moroun who owns the sole existing bridge, the Ambassador Bridge. The existing bridge is already 83 years old. Moroun spent more than $30 million on advertising to promote voter support for the proposal. If the proposal had passed the requirement for a referendum on any new crossing would become part of the state constitution.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was pleased with the results. From India, where he is on a trade mission, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the decision:
"We're very pleased to see the support of the people of Michigan for the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which is very important to the economies of both our countries. I look forward, in particular, to working with [President Barack Obama] on the Beyond the Border initiative, which is obviously very important for the opportunities for Canadians and Americans going forward."
The Canadian minister of transport, Denis Lebel, also applauded the defeat of the proposition: Denis Lebel, minister of transport, infrastructure and communities, also praised the result:
"The defeat of Proposition 6 clears the way for the construction of the new bridge across the Detroit River. This is good news for travellers, workers and industry on both sides of the border, who will benefit from the new publicly owned bridge.The new bridge will attract new investments and business opportunities to boost our local and national economies, and will result in much needed jobs for Ontario and Michigan communities.The new crossing will also increase border capacity to handle future trade and travel growth, and will be built with the security of both our countries in mind."
deal for a new bridge was negotiated back in June of this year. Canada will foot the bill for Michigan's $550 million share of the new one billion dollar publicly owned bridge.
The People Should Decide Group has insisted that Michigan taxpayers will end up paying something for a new bridge. No doubt they will have to pay something for facilities at the end of the bridge where vehicles depart and enter the U.S. Moroun will probably continue to fight against construction of the new bridge in the courts. No doubt competition will force him to lower tolls and with a bridge that is over 80 years old he will also face steep costs of repair to keep the bridge safe.
The bridge is probably a marvelous cash cow for Moroun. In 2010, almost 29,000 trucks crossed the bridge each day. More than 25% of U.S. Canada trade passes over the bridge. Chrysler builds minivans in Windsor Ontario. The company moves thousands of cars and truck across the border and every day has more than 1,600 customs entries. The New Democratic Party MP for Windsor West Brian Masse said that Moroun could spend $30 million to promote opposition to the new bridge showed that he kept tolls too high. Masse said:
"The actual government on the Canadian side needs to actually start regulating their toll rates because we have the highest toll rates in Ontario for a bridge that has the highest volumes. I can't understand why we continue to allow that situation to exist when it's clear that volume should actually dictate price, and we should actually be reducing the rates."
The Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, has spoken out against Proposition 6. Doer said:
"Two bridges are better than one, for two-way trade, for security, for reliability. When you look at the proposal that the prime minister and the governor of Michigan came forward with, it cuts out a lot of traffic lights in Windsor. So that's good for the environment and for traffic on our side of the border.And it's got the support of all the Great Lakes states and provinces."
Both Chambers of Commerce and also some unions support a new bridge. Both groups hope the bridge will help promote trade and new jobs.Windsor Ontario has the highest unemployment rate in Canada.
Sandy Baruah, who is the CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce said that the result sends a clear message from the citizens of Michigan.
"Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge Company ran an entire campaign and spent $31-plus million saying 'the People Should Decide.' Now, it'll be up to them to determine if they're going to honour that word — the people have clearly decided that they reject that proposal and that they want this bridge."
Perhaps, it is time for Moroun to retire with his billions. However, no doubt he will have a few more years without competition.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Harper has his own two Canadian armoured vehicles in India visit

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, shipped two armoured cars to India for the use of himself and his entourage, including an armoured Cadillac.
While visiting the city of Agra, Harper was driven around in a black Sport Utility Vehicle with Ontario licence plates. No doubt this would be a novelty in India! When he arrived in New Delhi, he was transferred to a black armoured Cadillac sedan.
When reporters asked about the reason for shipping these armoured vehicles to India for the visit, the Prime Minister's Office referred them to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Spokesperson, Cpl. Lucy Shorey responded with a statement:
"The deployment of RCMP resources are dictated by operational requirements, including public and officer safety considerations, and a threat assessment of the events/environments.For security reasons, details on the security plans will not be discussed."
The prime minister has also used his own vehicles in visits to Haiti and Afghanistan. However, in a recent trip to Kinshasa in the Congo he was seen being driven around in a Toyota Forerunner that did not seem to be from Canada. Ordinarily, on his Indian visit, he would be driven around in a Hindustan Motors Ambassador. Probably the government provided transportation would be free, but traveling in imported armoured cars no doubt will cost the Canadian taxpayer a pretty penny.
Perhaps Harper is trying to keep up with the U.S. president. Barack Obama flies in his own armoured vehicles when he goes on foreign trips. He used them even when he visited Canada back in 2009.
Andrew MacDougall, spokesperson for the prime minister, said that the total price for these security measures will be disclosed once it is known. He said:
"I don't have the costs in front of me. We won't know that for a while."
Security for Harper was tightened even during trick or treating . Children had to pass through metal detectors and leave their plastic swords etc. at the checkpoint at the end of the drive before getting their goodies at the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.
While in India, Harper at a business round-table in New Delhi, touted 14 new trade and investment agreements which he claimed "demonstrate the increasing depth of the Canada-India relationship." International Trade Minister Ed Fast said that $2.5 billion in new business deals with India are planned although some are still in the form of memoranda of understanding. Harper has been trying to diversity Canadian exports so as to take advantage of developing Asian markets. He has also encouraged Asian capital to invest in Canada.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conservative Intergovernmental Affairs Minister has election finance problems

Records obtained by the CBC(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) suggest that Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Panashue received an illegal corporate donation.
There was a single cheque issued by Pennecon Ltd. a St. John's Newfoundland construction company for $5,500 dollars. Corporate donations are illegal in Canada. However, a separate receipt was issued for each of six board members of the company. These receipts ranged from $550 to the maximum personal contribution of $1,100. These personal donations are eligible for a tax refund and are quite legal.
Records obtained by CBC News appear to indicate the campaign of federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue deposited a single cheque from Pennecon but wrote separate receipts to the board members for the donation. In the minister's election file there is a single line for the deposit by Pennecon of $5,000 and no separate board member donations are listed.
The individual receipts were all mailed to Pennecon and only one receipt listed a different mailing addres.. A spokesperson said that it is up to a client whether they want to lsit cheques separately or as a single item on a deposit slip.
The company said that it was conducting an internal review and cooperating with Elections Canada in its investigation. The company issued a statement which said:
"In recent days questions have arisen concerning contributions made by some Pennecon Limited executives to the 2011 federal campaign of Mr. Peter Penashue. Pennecon has been in contact with Elections Canada to offer its full co-operation in responding to any questions that the office may have.Pennecon and its executives place a high priority on ethical and transparent practices. It is assessing the current situation and conducting an internal review."
spokesperson for Penashue. Cory Hann, said:
"The minister was very clear during his campaign that no corporate donations would be accepted, and that donations to his campaign were to be personal donations made by individuals."
Documents in Penashue's Elections Canada file show his 2011 campaign would have spent over $24,000 in flights but he was able to make a deal with an airline in his riding that wrote off most of that amount. If he had paid market prices he would have overspent by over twenty per cent of what is allowed.
Penashue brokered a deal with Innu Mikun airlines and Provincial Airlines to provide both Penashue and his family for unlimited air transportation during the election period for a lump sum payment of $7,000. Any deduction from fair market value for transportation must be counted as a campaign contribution. Penashue was already $4,000 over his spending limits even after the airline deal. Penashure won his riding by only 79 votes.
Penashue also had close financial ties with an Innu development company, the Innu Development Limited Partnership. The company loaned Penashue $25,000 for campaign expenses after several checks issued by his campaign officials had bounced. The CEO of the development company at the time was Paul Rich, Penashue's brother-in-law. Innu Mikun airlines is co-owned by the Innu Development Limited Partnership. No doubt all these generous gestures during the campaign will need to be returned now that Penashue is a federal minister.