The World this Week to December 15th, 2017
Liberals increase pot-tax share for provinces
The Canadian Finance Ministers, both federal and provincial, met in Ottawa on Monday to discuss the deal on a tax-sharing plan for legalized marijuana. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced an improved the tax-sharing plan in favour of the provinces – it was the federal government’s bid to get a firm deal with the provincial and territorial counterparts. Morneau offered to increase the provincial cut to at least 70 cents on the dollar, a sizable increase from the 50-50 framework he announced earlier this month.
Provincial ministers had been insisting on a greater share, since the provinces and municipalities will shoulder the majority of costs for police enforcement, health care and education programs once marijuana becomes legal in July.
U.S. trade agency rules against Canada in lumber dispute
The United States has determined that it will maintain tariffs on certain Canadian lumber imports after its own trade commission found U.S. industry was "materially harmed" by the goods. The unanimous decision comes after the U.S. Commerce Department failed to reach an agreement in the long-running trade dispute last month.
The tariffs affect Canadian softwood imports valued at almost $5.7bn (C$7.3bn) in 2016.
Canada has appealed to international panels in the dispute.It is challenging the findings at the World Trade Organization and via the dispute mechanism of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The tariffs, outlined by the Commerce Department in November, would add duties that range from about 10-24%, depending on the company, which is lower than an earlier proposal.
Canada has said the tariffs were determined using flawed methodology.
The ruling comes during a growing number of trade disputes between the U.S. and Canada and is likely to complicate already tense negotiations over NAFTA.
Federal Byelections Held
Voters in four ridings spread across the country went to the polls Monday in federal byelections.
Justin Trudeau's Liberals scored another byelection upset Monday, gaining the British Columbia riding of South Surrey-White Rock previously held by the Conservatives.It's the first time in 70 years that a Liberal has represented any portion of the riding, the boundaries of which have changed a number of times.
For Andrew Scheer, the outcome marks the second byelection loss since he became Conservative leader in May.
In the other three federal byelections, the Liberals retained safe seats in Newfoundland and Labrador and Toronto, while the Conservatives held onto one of their own safe seats in Saskatchewan (Battlefords-Lloydminster). In good news for the Conservatives, in all three of those ridings, the Conservative share of the vote increased by anywhere from two to 13 points over 2015, while the Liberal share declined.
There was no consolation for newly-appointed NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. His party's share of the vote declined in all four ridings.
Climate Change Conference
On December 12th, the anniversary of the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, world leaders and representatives met again in the French capital of Paris with the goal of fast forwarding action on climate change.
The One Planet Summit is bringing together the President of France, the President of the World Bank Group, and the UN Secretary-General, among many other leaders and it aims to spur new announcements of pro-active projects and substantial financial commitments to combat climate change.
One hundred and seventy countries have already ratified the Paris Agreement, which came into force in less than a year—a modern record for such a global treaty.
This summit follows just weeks after the 23rd annual Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention, held in Bonn, Germany.
US President Trump’s rejection of the Paris pact negatively impacted the talks in Germany. Trump was not invited to the latest talks, although Washington will be represented – but by an embassy official.
Rich nations attending the summit have pledged to muster $100 billion in climate finance for developing nations per year from 2020. These nations are being led by France’s President Macron who has earmarked 30 million euros ($35 million) for his "Make our Planet Great Again" initiative -- a play on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan.
Macron made the offer after Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a "hoax", announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris pact. The U.S. is the only country to reject the agreement.
-Ottawa is increasing its roster of Indigenous language interpreters in the House of Commons. An extra interpretation booth has already been added to the new Commons chamber in the West Block, planned to open next fall. From there, specialists will be able to interpret Indigenous languages like Cree and Ojibway, as well as other languages, in real time.
- Firefighters continue to struggle to contain huge wildfires and keep flames from descending mountains into coastal neighbourhoods after a destructive Southern California wildfire exploded in size, becoming the fifth largest in that state’s history. Tens of thousands remained under evacuation orders Monday as the fire continued to burn through dry and parched areas of the state.
- President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered Russian forces in Syria to start withdrawing, claiming that after a two-year military campaign, Russia and Syria had achieved their mission of destroying ISIS. Putin made the announcement during a surprise visit to Syria, where he held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and addressed Russian military service personnel.
Putin has hosted Assad twice in the past six years, but it was Putin's first trip to Syria. It was also the first visit by a foreign head of state to war-torn Syria since the civil war began in 2011.
- Given impetus by U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid the first visit to the European Union headquarters by an Israeli prime minister in 22 years on Monday, He went to seek similar endorsement from the 28-nation bloc. The answer, though, was no.
The bloc’s members are not unified in their attitudes toward Israel, but the EU’s official position is that it supports the “international consensus” from which Trump departed last week when he announced a reversal of decades of U.S. diplomacy.
- Among the many things and changes that the North American Free Trade Agreement has brought to Mexico is a diet more like that of its northern neighbor, the United States, complete with junk food, soda, meat and, with that diet, an epidemic of diet-related illnesses. The phenomenon is not limited to Mexico. Free trade has become a major contributor to the spread of low-nutrient, highly processed foods from the West to developing countries worldwide.
- Canadian donors have donated $12.5 million to help Rohingya people escaping violence in Myanmar. This brings Canada's total aid to address the humanitarian crisis to $50 million.
More than 625,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. The majority of refugees are women and children.
Words of the Year
The term “fake news” has been named Collins' Word of the Year 2017.Usage of the term - which has often been used by U.S. President Trump - has risen by 365% since 2016.
It is defined as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”, “fake news” will now be added to the next print edition of Collins Dictionary.
Lexicographers (the people who compile dictionaries) found other politically relevant words had been significant over the last 12 months, including “antifa”, an abbreviation of “anti-fascist”, and “echo chamber”, which refers to those who share their opinions in environments, especially social media, where the only people who hear or read their views will be of a similar disposition.
In the year of the #MeToo movement, Merriam-Webster dictionary's word of the year for 2017 is 'feminism.'Merriam-Webster said 'feminism' was the most-looked-up word in its online dictionary, with the term generating 70% more searches than last year.Those spikes in interest were tied to several major events dealing with women's issues this year.
Dictionary.com's choice for its Word of the Year is "complicit.” The site defines the word as "choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act" and "having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing." See Donald Trump.
It says online searches for the word spiked three times this year.
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