Archive | October, 2013

Movements and the Media: A Critical Analysis of Representation

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

By Fatima Islam

Toronto

Today, Canada has the highest level of concentration of media ownership among major capitalist countries in the world. Research shows that a total of eight media corporations, supported by the state, control over 84% of Canadian media, posing a serious threat to democracy as concentration of ownership can lead to over-representation of certain political viewpoints in the media.

Now, such over-representation was clearly evident during the Quebec Student Movement, where the mainstream media shamelessly spearheaded Charest’s repression throughout the movement, and led a campaign from day one of the strike to label the students as selfish brats seeking mayhem over a normal increase in tuition fees. This campaign was so severe in its bias against the movement that it evolved into a full-scale corporate propaganda hurling insults and degradations on students. It effectively portrayed students as violent and destructive and made it far easier for authorities to implement aggressive measures that would never have been tolerated without the media’s support. This is in sharp contrast to the international media, as exemplified by The Guardian in the UK and Al Jazeera English, both of which provided much better, unbiased reportage from the very beginning of the movement.

Coverage of the Ontario Teachers’ Strike by the Canadian media has also been largely negative. An example is 680 News, a radio channel that spread outright misinformation and portrayed student walkouts in Ontario as being against both the government and teachers, when in reality, it was a move by students to show support for their teachers’ plight. Nevertheless, students were portrayed as being held hostage by greedy teachers and the government, with the move aimed at turning public sector service recipients against public sector service providers. An example is the 2008 lockout of education workers by York University, which ended with back-to-work legislation.

It is our generation that will be most affected by these anti-democratic legislations. We are beginning to witness the dismantling of unions and the strengthening of government involvement. While our generation will be most impacted by the dismantling of unions – both private and public – our generation will also have the most influence on the future of unions and collective bargaining in Ontario. This is not merely a marginalized public fight, but a fight that will influence working and living conditions for generations to come. This, my friends, is everybody’s fight!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of South Asian Generation Next.

 

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Priyanka Chopra becomes the first Indian face of International brand Guess

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

New  Delhi:  Priyanka  Chopra  is  going  places.  The former  Miss  world,  who  ventured  into  acting  in Bollywood  almost  a  decade  back  has  bagged  an endorsement deal with  an  international brand. The  actress singer has been signed by international clothing brand ‘Guess’ for it’s Holiday 2013 campaign.

The 33-year-old actress has already gone international with music as her platform, but now she has gone a step further by becoming the first Indian ‘Guess’ girl.

“I`m so proud to be the next #GuessGirl.It`s a legacy of beauty for 30 years..Thank u @bryanadams and @GUeSS for making this such a fab shoot,” Priyanka Chopra tweeted.

PeeCee has got the opportunity to work with singer-photogra- pher Bryan Adams for this campaign. Needless to say, Priyanka has pulled it off really well. She looks drop dead gorgeous in the photoshoot.

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Saif Ali Khan’s bonding with Katrina and Kareena

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

Heard Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif, who were shooting in Beirut recently, bonded on the sets. Their common topic of conversation was the Kapoor khandaan. Saif is married to Kareena Kapoor and Katrina is dating Ranbir Kapoor, so most conversations revolved around the family. When Kareena joined them, guess what happened? More Kapoor talk followed.

To follo Saif, visit www.follo.co.in/saif on your mobile

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Government Scientists Feel Muzzled: ‘The Big Chill’ Survey

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

A large survey of science professionals in the federal public service has found that almost 25 per cent of respondents say they have been directly asked to exclude or alter information for “non-scientific reasons.”

Some 71 per cent of those surveyed said political interference is compromising policy development based on scientific evidence, and almost half of those who took part said they were aware of cases in which their department or agency suppressed information.

The study, entitled “The Big Chill,” was commissioned by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and paints a disturbing picture of government scientists who feel they are being muzzled.

More than 4,000 federal scientists — out of more than 15,000 who were invited —responded to the union-commissioned, online survey handled by the polling firm Environics.

“A chill has settled on federal government science that is even greater than that suggested by the cases so far reported by the media,” Gary Corbett, the president of PIPSC, said Monday.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is already conducting a study of how communications policy changes under the Harper government have clamped down on the sharing of government science with the public.

Legault was spurred to investigate the issue by a lengthy report from the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch, which included a score of anecdotes from six different government departments or agencies.

Fully 90 per cent of respondents, however, said they don’t feel they’re allowed to speak freely about their work in the media, and 86 per cent believe they would face retaliation if they went public with information about harm to public health, safety or the environment.

Just 21 per cent of respondents said Environment Canada uses the best climate change evidence available to make policy, while only 29 per cent agreed Natural Resources Canada does so.

Anecdotally, respondents said the muzzling of science has become worse or was never as bad before the Conservatives came to power. But that’s really not the issue, said Bleyer.

The Canadian Press 

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Technology helps social housing provider save money and be “green”

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

From the start, Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace has made its choices with an eye to being “green”. Now those decisions are paying off.

Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace, a non-profit housing provider in North York, was recognized for its pursuit of environmental excellence by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA).

The ONPHA Going Green Award, one of ONPHA’s annual awards, recognizes a non-profit housing provider that is taking innovative steps to reduce its environmental impact.

“Investments in green technology not only better our environment,” says Sharad Kerur, ONPHA’s Executive Director. “They also help organizations to lower their operating costs – it’s a win-win for all of us.”

Inspired by the work of others, namely Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada, the corporation has maintained a commitment to environmental excellence since the non-profit housing project was conceived in the early 1990′s. From simple design decisions, like ample daylight in apartments and common areas, to the latest technologies, the staff and board of Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace have systematically pursued opportunities to best current environmental standards.

The organization has also made it easy for residents to “go green”. Screens in the lobby show the difference that conservation measures are having on the amount of energy being produced by solar PV and saved through solar air heating and water heating, and a special arrangement with Rogers Cable Television brings that information into residents’ homes. “Involving our residents helps us to fulfill our commitment to environmental sustainability and gives us the opportunity to educate the community and raise awareness,” says Karim Ahmad Tahir, Property Manager at Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace, “It’s an important part of our success.

“This is our 20th anniversary and we’re thrilled to be recognized with this award,” says Tahir.

“Environmental sustainability has been an important part of our organization from the beginning and it’s a tradition of which we’re extremely proud.”

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THIS THRONE SPEECH WON’T CHANGE ANY CHANNELS

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

Ralph Goodale

Deputy Leader, Liberal Party of Canada

Probably the biggest news was NOT Stephen Harper’s 7,000-word Speech from the Throne which turned into an incoherent hodge-podge of disparate bits-and-pieces, rambling on for more than an hour with no compelling sense of purpose or vision.

Pity the Governor-General for having to suffer through it!

No, the big news was that Mr. Harper is skipping town, again missing his duty to answer to Canadians in the Daily Question Period in the House of Commons.

After the $90,000 Wright-Duffy scandal engulfed his office in a police investigation last spring, Mr. Harper has been mostly absent from Parliament. He attended only five Question Periods in the five week before the House adjourned in June for its regular summer break. Then with sittings due to resume in September (after a three-month recess), he again resorted to “prorogation” to avoid accountability for another four-and-a-half weeks.

Finally, re-opening of Parliament was supposed to signal the end of his stonewalling. But it just continued the circus.

Nothing in the Throne Speech answers a single question about the Harper government’s ethical failings. There is no sign of contrition. No acknowledgement of responsibility. No transparency. No accountability. And adding insult to injury, Mr. Harper now slips out of town.

Such behavior just compounds everyone’s suspicions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper’s droning Throne Speech also failed to address his government’s most persistent problem (apart from ethics), and that is their dismal record on economic growth. No Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett has done worse.

At the same time, Mr. Harper talks about imposing “balanced budget legislation”, which several provinces have already tried with no sign of success. But worse still is the hypocrisy.

Mr. Harper is the one who squandered a decade of balanced budgets. He is the one who blew $13-billion in annual surpluses. He is the one who eliminated all fiscal shock-absorbers from federal budget-making. He is the one who overspent by three-times the rate of inflation and put the country into a structural deficit BEFORE the recession arrived in late 2008.

Mr. Harper is the one who has delivered six consecutive deficit budgets and is adding $169-billion to Canada’s federal debt while, at the same time, increasing the net tax burden on Canadians in each of the last four years.

As they pay only the most meager of lip-service to the needs of so many middle-class Canadians whose real incomes are stagnant and vulnerable, the Harper Conservatives are in no position to offer any lectures on fiscal responsibility or good management.

Their record is one of disappointment and mediocrity.

Ralph Goodale is Deputy Leader of Liberal Party of Canada and Former Finance Minister of Canada.

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Toronto Housing Market 25 year Appreciation only 3.4% per year!

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

By Lachman Balani

Mississauga

No cause for alarm! Toronto real estate market still on strong legs!

Over the last few months many reports have come out corroborating the stability of the housing market in Toronto and Canada wide. Some even point out that the plunge of 21% in housing starts in August that negated the effects of the huge jump in starts in July only further cements that future supply will be contained as the trend in the value of building permits has become relatively flat since the beginning of 2013.

Sales in August and September have been hectic with this year’s sales up 21% and 30% respectively each month over last year. Prices average higher than last year. There has been no crash as forecast strongly by Capital Economics and a few others. The Toronto real estate market overall is hale and hearty.

The government’s tightening of the mortgage rules last July would not toll the death knell for the Toronto real estate market nor will the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) recent announcement that it will limit insurance of home mortgages. TD economist Diana Petramala, who specializes in the housing market, estimated rates could rise anywhere from 20 to 65 basis points, or the equivalent of 0.2% to 0.65% due to this announcement.

She noted that historically, this is a minor increase.

“Affordability will still remain in the housing market,” she said.

Which means more people will buy and there will be no crash in the immediate future.

The housing market will not crash in Toronto based on price, affordability and very cheap mortgage rates. But as CIBC chief economist points out in the face of increased mortgage rates: “Overall, the days of very cheap mortgages are going to be replaced by cheap mortgages.” In other words mortgage rates are still cheap by historical standards and so people will continue to buy.

However, let us look at the Toronto housing market from another price metric angle. 25 years ago (the amortization period of a mortgage at that time) the average home price in Toronto was $230,000(see table below from Toronto Real Estate Board) and today it is hovering about $530,000 (from news reports). This means the average home price has only appreciated about 3.4% per year, which by any standard is not excessive and there is no reason for a downward spiral given this scenario.

Let us examine it further. A couple who bought a home 25 years ago at $230,000 and paid 25% down (what was needed in those days for a conventional mortgage) took out a mortgage for $172,500 and gave $57,500 as down payment. Even though the rates were very high then, let us say that over the course of time they paid an average of 5% (very conservative estimate) on their mortgage leading to them paying a total of $358,500 ($230,000 plus interest of $128,500) for their home. Using a very linear calculation, as most people do, the couple says “Hey my home cost me $358,500 and now it is $530,000 – that means an increase of 1.60% per year- like that’s below inflation- so why is anybody saying the Toronto real estate market is overpriced. It’s under priced! What about a return on our investment of say even a puny 3%? Nothing?! And what if we include kitchen upgrades, roof repairs, window replacements, several coats of paint every 6-7 years, redoing basement? Overpriced our home?!?! Heck no, it’s highly underpriced!!!”

As seen in the above simple example- most home owners do not think their homes have increased that much in value as they should have. Their homes have increased in value by less than the inflation rate and there has been no real return on investment- in fact it is a negative return on investment!.

Thus the housing market will still keep marching on.

Table below taken from Toronto Real Estate Board website:

http://www.torontorealestateboard.com/market_news/market_watch/historic_stats/pdf/TREB_historic_statistics.pdf

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Five surprising jobs that pay six-figure salaries

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

Nicole Wray

Teachers

Though not all hit the $100,000 mark, teachers in Ontario have an average salary of $83,500, which puts them on par with the average lawyer in Ontario, according to Macleans Magazine who counted 88 teachers in Hamilton alone who make more than $100,000. Though good earning potential and work-life balance make teaching a good career option, an abundance of teachers make this a career choice with low employment prospects.

Police officers

Over 3,000 Toronto Police officers earn more than $100,000 a year according to the Sunshine List1. Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police2 can also earn up to $80,000 after just three years of service, with the opportunity to jump above the $100,000 mark with ranks such as Staff Sergeant and Inspector. If you want to work in a mobile office, this is a career choice with great benefits and above-average earning potential.

Firefighters

Though the base salary for a firefighter in Canada isn’t likely to reach $100,000 (according to Service Canada the average income of a firefighter in Canada is $65,000), unusual working hours contribute to overtime earnings that can bump firefighters into the $100,000 club. For example, 54 firefighters in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, make more than $100,000.Service Canada says that job prospects are good for this career that offers excellent benefits, varied work hours and good salary potential for people wanting to work in a physically demanding career.

Nurses

Followed by professors, the most common job on the Sunshine List are nurses, with nearly 2,000 making more than $100,000 per year in Ontario. According to the Canadian Nurses Association the salary of RNs range from$40,000 to $80,000 (with room for overtime), making this a well-paying career option for people who like to think on their feet.

Paramedic

If you thrive in a stressful and fast-paced working environment, becoming a paramedic is a well-paying career option that keeps you on your toes. Alberta Health Services says paramedics earn $32.59 to $42.90 per hour (about $65,000 to $85,000 per year). Paramedics are also one of the three essential services (along with firefighters and police officers) that made it onto Ontario’s Sunshine List with the highest wage earners bringing in over $100,000 including overtime pay.

Though high-paying careers are often tied to corporate cubicles and a nine-to-five schedule, Ontario’s Sunshine List proves that Canadians wanting to work on their feet can find jobs with above-average earning potential.

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Temporary Foreign Workers Program Should Be Capped: IRPP

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

Canada should place a limit on the number of temporary foreign workers it allows into the country, before the program grows too large and threatens Canadians’ livelihoods, says a new report from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

The report, written by Carleton University labour economics professor Christopher Worswick, finds “the growth in the number of temporary foreign workers numbers is a cause for concern. Its timing, which coincides with a period of weakness in the Canadian economy, is especially troubling.”

Canada’s temporary foreign workers (TFW) program became a hot-button issue this year when it emerged that laid-off information technology workers at RBC were asked to the train temporary foreign workers hired to replace them.

The controversy set off a debate about the value of the TFW program, with some labour groups calling for an elimination of the program. Business groups argue they need the program to fill jobs Canadians won’t do.

The IRPP report says a TFW program of some sort is indeed useful, because in some sectors of the economy, employers would have to raise wages by an enormous amount to attract workers, or shut down altogether, without some access to foreign labour.

But a cap on the total number of foreign workers in Canada would help to ensure employers are using the program where labour shortages actually exist, and not simply to drive down wages, the report said.

Worswick is not the only one concerned by the rapid rise in the number of TFWs in Canada in recent years. A report from the Conference Board of Canada found the number of TFWs has more than doubled — to some 360,000 today — in the past seven years. Worswick’s own research pegs the number of TFWs at 213,000 as of last year, but his numbers also show a near-doubling since 2005.

“There are ongoing concerns that temporary foreign workers may take jobs from young Canadians entering the labour market and lower-skilled Canadians,” the report says.

Following the RBC controversy, the Harper government tightened rules on employers using TFWs. It eliminated the “15 per cent rule” that allowed employers to pay TFWs 15 per cent below the median wage for the job in question, provided they had been paying Canadian employees that rate as well.

The government also eliminated a “fast-track” TFW program, instituted a fee for companies applying for a TFW permit, and strengthened the government’s ability to revoke TFW permits if the program is abused. However, Employment Minister Jason Kenney has suggested the fast-track program could return, though only for high-paying, high-skilled jobs.

The changes have angered some industry groups. They “will make it even more difficult for small businesses to fill their labour needs,” the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said.

“The practical impact on small businesses, especially those in rural areas, will be massive. … This knee-jerk reaction to add more restrictions and red tape to the program could do serious harm to Canada’s small businesses, our economy and our communities,” CFIB said.

The IRPP report praised the Harper government’s changes, calling them steps in the right direction, but added that policymakers should be looking at further reforms.

Chief among them is a cap on the total number of TFWs admitted into Canada, the report said.

A poll taken late last year, before the RBC controversy, found Canadians are largely cool to the TFW program, with 68 per cent either “opposed” or “somewhat opposed” to the program.

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Internal Challenges for Sharif Government

Posted on 24 October 2013 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

Lahore

 The May 2013 general elections in Pakistan were contested mainly on the issues of improving governance, eliminating corruption, ensuring transparency in management of public affairs and addressing the problems of the common people. The PMLN government at the federal level and the Tehrik-i-Insaf-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa showed much enthusiasm in creating effective transparent and people-friendly governments.

 It soon became clear to both parties that all elections slogans could not be materialized because most problems are related to the structure of government and the procedures that the government used for formulation and implementation of policies. It also became clear that all problems could not be attributed to inefficiency and corruption on the part of the previous rulers. Several deep rooted factors hindered the new federal government’s efforts to improve governance and ensure better life to common people.

 Similarly, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government realized that governing a province was more difficult than accusing the past rulers of mismanagement and corruption. The new rulers adopted a relatively simplistic life style and became more accessible to people but this did not contribute much to solving the problems of the common people.

 Both parties (PMLN and PTI) thought that they maintained a soft approach towards Islamic militancy and, therefore, the Taliban and other militant Islamic groups would be willing to work with them. This hope dashed to ground within a week of assumption of power by new governments. The Taliban and other militant groups resorted to violence and suicide attacks at a faster pace in June-July. Peshawar became their main target. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly lost three members to terrorism. All of them had joined the PTI. One of them was law minister in the provincial cabinet.

 The federal government and other political parties agreed on September 9 to hold unconditional talks with the Taliban. It increased its conditions over time and it became clear that these talks may not take place despite the best effort by the federal government.

 It is not surprising that the federal government is slowly reviewing its policy towards Islamic militancy, although it has kept the option of talks open.

 In addition to this, Balochistan continues to experience violence which is partly Islamic-sectarian and partly ethnic-separatist. The new Balochistan government is endeavoring to hold dialogue with the separatist Baloch leaders and paying more attention to addressing economic problems.

 The federal government and the Sindh provincial government joined together to fight violence, extortion and other criminal activity in Karachi. The law and order situation has somewhat improved in Karachi but the challenge continues to be formidable.

 Unless the federal government and the four provincial governments are able to control terrorism and violence and other criminal activity, peace and stability cannot be ensured. The future of democracy will be uncertain if the current trends of violence and terrorism are not brought under control.

  The second major challenge for the PMLN government is the economy which is under severe strains. The federal government has been able to obtain loans from the IMF and some other international financial institutions. It also gets economic support from the U.S. However, investment, especially foreign direct investment, is on the decline. The economic growth rate is far below the level that could be viewed as satisfactory. Unless terrorism is brought under control there are limited chances of recovery of the economy. Another factor that undermines the economy is the energy crisis. Electricity and gas shortages have crippled industry and other economic activity.

 The federal government has improved the supply of electricity but the shortage is still acute. New electricity generation projects have been launched but these will take 2 to 3 years to mature. This single factor has caused more losses to economic activity at all levels and increased the problems of individuals.

 The third major challenge is the fast decline of foreign exchange reserves which happens to be around ten billion dollars. If you exclude the foreign exchange accounts of citizens maintained in Pakistan, the state’s own foreign exchange reserves are little over 5 billion dollars. The decline is partly due to non-recovery of the economy and partly due to the repayment of loans to the IMF and others. Pakistan’s currency has declined in value over the last six month. In the open market one dollar touched the price of Rs. 110 earlier this month. Now the open market rate is over Rs. 106 to a dollar. This makes imports expensive but gives an advantage to those business circles that are in the export business.

 The fourth major challenge pertains to rapid increase in the prices of essential commodities that every family needs to run its household. Pakistan is not a country with food shortages. But food prices are going up at such a pace that a large number of families would find it hard to buy food. They would thus go hungry even if ample food is available in Pakistan.

 The political future of the present ruling parties in Pakistan depends to a great extent on addressing these domestic issues. A failure to address these problems will also undermine the capacity of Pakistani state to cope with external challenges. Pakistan should assign the highest priority to solving its internal problems.

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