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Ukraine crisis: Petro Poroshenko accuses Russia of 'direct and open aggression'

Written By doni icha on Senin, 01 September 2014 | 21.17

Ukraine's military said on Monday it had pulled its forces back from defending a vital airport in the east against Russian tanks, as President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of "direct and open aggression."

The withdrawal from the civilian airport outside the city of Luhansk was the latest in a string of reverses for Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian separatists who Kyiv says have the direct support of hundreds of Russian troops and armour.

A military statement said Ukrainian paratroopers were engaging a Russian tank battalion near the airport. A while later spokesman Andriy Lysenko said: "In the Luhansk direction, Ukrainian forces have received an order and have pulled back from the airport."

Tipped the balance on the battlefield

Poroshenko, speaking at a military academy in Kyiv, said Russia's direct involvement in Kyiv's war against the separatists in eastern Ukraine had tipped the balance on the battlefield and was the main reason for recent setbacks.

UKRAINE-CRISIS/POROSHENKO

An Ukrainian serviceman walks near an unmarked grave at his position near the eastern Ukrainian town of Luhansk. The withdrawal from the civilian airport outside the city of Luhansk was the latest in a string of reverses for Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian separatists (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

"Direct and open aggression has been launched against Ukraine from a neighbouring state. This has changed the situation in the zone of conflict in a radical way," he said.

There would be changes in the military top brass because of the events of last week, Poroshenko added, referring to the military reverses.

Moscow denies helping the rebels, who have set up "people's republics" in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine and say they want to be part of the "Russian world" rather than a country which seeks integration into mainstream Europe.

Lysenko said Ukrainian forces had destroyed seven Russian tanks near the airport and had identified a major build-up of Russian forces to the north and south of Luhansk, to the rear of Ukrainian lines.

"According to our operational data, there are no fewer than four (Russian) battalion-tactical groups in Ukraine," Lysenko told reporters. Each one comprised 400 men, he said.

Separatists eyeing port city

Separatists, who Kyiv says were backed by a Russian armoured column, took the town of Novoazovsk in the southeast last week and are now threatening the strategic port city of Mariupol 40 kilometres to the west.

Their seizure of part of the coastline provided them with a vantage point from which to shell a coastguard patrol boat in the Sea of Azov on Sunday, sinking it - the first action at sea in the conflict.

Two members of the crew are missing while eight were rescued and are being treated for burns and other injuries.

Lysenko said the cutter was hit by a missile fired from Bezimenne on the coast, starting a fire. The boat went down later, he said.

Concern is mounting in Kyiv over the fate of several hundred Ukrainian troops encircled for days in Ilovaysk, east of the region's biggest town of Donetsk.

Kyiv's military has imposed an information clampdown on what is happening in Ilovaysk until its forces have been successfully withdrawn.

But Anton Gerashchenko, an interior ministry adviser, told Ukraine TV's 112 channel: "The tragedy near Ilovaysk became possible after (Russian President Vladimir) Putin brought regular troops into Ukraine."

"In all there were 500 men deployed in Ilovaysk. The Russians came with superior forces, fresh, healthy and with a full ammunition set," he said.

"Our people surrendered only when they had run out of ammunition, when they no longer had anything to fire with," he said. In the past 24 hours, 69 more pro-government fighters had managed to break out and rejoin Ukrainian forces, adding to a few dozen others over the weekend.

A United Nations human official said last week the death toll in the five-month-old conflict — including civilians, Ukrainian forces and separatists — was nearly 2,600.

This includes around 800 Ukrainian troops. Seven more Ukrainian service personnel were killed in the past 24 hours, Lysenko said.


21.17 | 0 komentar | Read More

Conservative fundraising runs into roadblock in Quebec

The prime minister's Quebec lieutenant, Denis Lebel, has spent the past couple weeks crisscrossing his home province on what the party is billing as his "End of Summer Tour" — a 12-day trek that has taken him from Charlevoix to Mount Royal to Saguenay and finally to a rally in Quebec City on Friday.

Lebel, who is also the federal infrastructure minister, says in a statement posted to the summer tour's official website that his goal is "reach out" to both card-carrying Conservative supporters and Quebecers at large "in order to listen to them."

"Evidently," he adds, "we also want our message to be heard."

If he really wants to dig deep into the details of his party's often fractious relationship with La Belle Province, though, he may want to dive into the data contained in the latest batch of financial reports filed by Quebec Conservative riding associations.

Conservative riding associations

According to the most recent returns, 30 of the 75 Conservative riding associations in Quebec reported no donation revenue at all in 2013.

An additional 20 associations pulled in less than $1,000 total throughout the year.

That number includes Lebel's own riding association of Roberval–Lac-Saint-Jean, which netted just $650 from three contributors.

In Pontiac — the riding held by former Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon from 2006 until 2011, when he was ousted by New Democrat rookie Mathieu Ravignat — contributions to the Conservative riding association somehow managed to work out to –$5,301.03.

(How, precisely, a riding association can fundraise a negative number of dollars is a mystery, as they don't appear to have refunded any contributions, which would normally account for such a result.)

Despite those somewhat sobering numbers, Lebel can take some comfort in his party's fundraising prowess in Montreal's Mount Royal, where the looming retirement of longtime Liberal MP Irwin Cotler in 2015 has emboldened Tory hopes of snagging their first seat in metropolitan Montreal.

Not surprising, it was also one of the stops on the minister's summer-ending tour.

Mount Royal Tories top Liberals in donations

In 2013, the Mount Royal Conservative Association raised $19,205 raised from 74 contributors.

To put that in perspective, over the same time period, the local Liberal association mustered up just $3,972 in donations from 59 supporters.

The biggest single haul for Quebec Tories, however, was in Minister of State for Small Business Maxime Bernier's home riding of Beauce, where 236 donors kicked in $45,905 to fill up the local coffers.

Overall, Quebec Conservative riding associations raised $177,733 in 2013.

That works out to three per cent of the Canada-wide grand total of $3,705,750.57.

New Democrat riding associations, meanwhile, raked in a comparatively whopping $348,592.87 in Quebec — just under 30 per cent of the party's Canada-wide total of $1,253,820.47.

Just five Quebec NDP riding associations reported no revenue at all, and 11 brought in less than $1,000.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's riding of Outremont pulled in the single highest total —  $22,325 — and the most extensive donor list was reported by Notre-Dame-de-Grace, which garnered the support of 551 contributors.

As for the Liberals, despite the end-of-May deadline, 13 of the party's Quebec riding associations haven't yet filed the required paperwork for last year — including Papineau, home of Justin Trudeau.

Liberals lag behind NDP

The available numbers, however, suggests that, as of last December, the determinedly upward trend the party has been enjoying in the polls wasn't causing a similar boost in fundraising numbers, at least at the local level.

In total, Quebec Liberal riding associations raised $246,945.89 in 2013, which is just over 10 percent of the cross-Canada total.

Of the 62 that have filed returns with Elections Canada, 10 reported receiving no contributions at all, and another 20 took in less than $1,000.  

The biggest windfall landed in Saint Leonard–Saint Michel, which reported $39,227 in contributions, with BrossardLa Prairie fielding the highest number of individual contributors at 264.

The Liberals can, at least, console themselves with the fact that they aren't the Bloc Québécois, whose riding associations raised just $117,216 in 2013.

That puts the once Quebec-dominant Bloc just slightly behind the Conservatives, and in last place, although that number could change, as there are more than 20 associations that haven't yet filed their 2013 reports.  

Of the Bloc riding associations that have submitted their numbers, Bas-RichelieuNicoletBecancour is currently in the lead, with a final tally of $36,205 from 386 donors.

Seventeen associations reported no contributions at all, and 11 took in less than $1,000.

(Methodological note: As only 21 Green Party riding associations have filed reports for 2013, those numbers have been left out of this analysis.)


21.17 | 0 komentar | Read More

Health Canada pulling last of citronella-based bug sprays

Health Canada is pulling the last of citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." The essential oil has been used as an insect repellent in Canada for decades.

The move has left scientists who advised Health Canada on the issue befuddled by the ban. So are many consumers who prefer natural bug sprays over ones with synthetic chemicals like DEET.

'It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand'- Sam Kacew, Toxicologist

"It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand," says toxicologist Sam Kacew.

Insect repellents are considered pesticides so they must meet strict safety standards. In 2004, Health Canada proposed phasing out citronella-based bug sprays because of new questions about its safety.

Small manufacturers who couldn't afford to submit detailed safety data saw their lines discontinued at the end of 2012. Those who submitted what data they could and tried to challenge the ban are now to see their products phased out at the end of this year.

In 2005, Kacew sat on an independent scientific panel to review Health Canada's position. He says the panel believed the study that led the government to question citronella's safety was flawed, in part because it examined what happened when rodents ingested the oil. "Humans are not going to drink citronella," he says.

The department told CBC that "the panel supported Health Canada's approach," but Kacew refutes that. He says the team of scientists concluded that citronella was safe as long as it didn't contain methyl eugenol, an impurity that could be a potential carcinogen. "In general, most of these citronella oils that were available for us to examine did not contain impurities, and they were regarded by us to be basically safe," he says.

Companies pay the price

Montreal company, Druide, has been selling government-approved citronella sprays and lotions since 1995.

"Where I am very sad is, in the end, [Health Canada] doesn't have anything against citronella, except questions about it," says Druide's owner, Alain Renaud.

Citronella-bug-spray

Health Canada is ordering all citronella-based bug sprays off the shelves by the end of December because of "the absence of adequate safety data." (CBC)

He says he spent five years proving to Health Canada that his repellent didn't contain methyl eugenol.

But Renaud says that as soon as he won that battle the government "came back and said we still have questions and we need a complete toxicological report on many generations of animals."

That may be a standard approach, but Renaud eventually gave up his fight because his company doesn't believe in animal testing, and didn't have the estimated $1 million needed to fund a large-scale scientific study.

Druide's citronella-based bug spray was a bestseller for the company, which manufactures organic personal care products.

Renaud says he's had to lay off five employees because of the ban and has lost up to a million dollars spent on marketing his product and providing research for Health Canada. "At the end of maybe, five, 10 years of fighting, [Heath Canada] gets all our energy," he says.

DEET passed Health Canada's scrutiny because the manufacturers provided the required safety data. But citronella — an extract from lemon grass —  has never been patented, which makes it an unattractive investment for costly studies.

"If the market was such that this product was generating millions of dollars, then the industry would have done something re-active to try and get [citronella] back on the market," said Kacew.

That's the problem with other essential oils as well. They may be effective as bug repellents, but no one has yet funded the studies to prove they're safe.

DIY bug spray

Tracey TieF made and sold a natural bug spray with essential oils including lavender and rosemary for seven years before Health Canada shut her down recently.

The problem was that she hadn't registered her product and done any safety studies.

"I can't afford to run my own trial," says the certified health practitioner. "I feel afraid and I feel sick about it, actually, because for me, this is a passion."

TieF now puts that passion into teaching others how to make natural bug sprays. In a tiny room at Karma Co-op in Toronto, she passes out bottles, essential oils and recipes. "I'll teach people until [Health Canada] stops me," she vows.

Aimee Alabaster says she joined the class because she wants a natural bug spray for her children. "Everything out there for the most part contains DEET, and I don't want to put DEET on my kids."

Research has suggested DEET could be harmful to the central nervous system. But Health Canada states on its website that "registered insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed."

Come 2015, citronella bug sprays won't be entirely out of reach, you will just have to cross the border. The product will still be available in the U.S.


21.17 | 0 komentar | Read More

NATO pushes for bigger crisis response brigade as Canada mulls opportunity

Canada will send troops, jets and warships to participate in a massive NATO training exercise next year in a deployment that could be the first step towards deeper involvement in the alliance's long-term strategy to counter a resurgent Russia.

The units will participate in a test of the military alliance's crisis response brigade, The Canadian Press has learned.

The exercise, known as Trident Juncture 2015, will be held in Italy, Spain and Portugal over several months and built around a scenario where NATO responds to an attack against a member country.

"We are planning to commit tactical forces, maritime, air and land to the live (fire) exercise," Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, the country's joint operations commander, told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

It is a significant decision because NATO is pushing behind the scenes to significantly expand the size of its rapid reaction force. The alliance already announced last week it plans to base soldiers in eastern Europe to reassure jittery allies.

The crisis response unit — currently comprised of 13,000 high-readiness troops, a headquarters and reserve formations — operates on a rotational basis with different nations committing forces for up to a year at a time.

Next year's participation in the exercise does not commit Canada to become part of that rotation, but it could set the stage.

"Those are strategic and political decisions," said Beare. "I can't answer the question specifically, but I can tell you we are acting in a way that, if we do, we'll be really, really good at it."

Taking part in the exercise would help the military reacquaint itself with how NATO does business on its home turf, a familiarity that has been lost since the last Canadian Cold War garrison was withdrawn from Europe in the 1990s.

Base in Poland hosted NATO training

What is unclear heading into this week's NATO summit in Wales is whether the Harper government is prepared to foot the bill to be a regular member of the quick reaction force, which U.S. officials have suggested could see its leading elements based in central Poland around a base that hosted NATO training this summer.

Two rotations of Canadian troops, roughly the size of a 150-man company, have taken part in those recent exercises.

Being part of the rapid reaction force carries with it a whole different set of expectations — most notably being prepared to start shooting if a NATO member is attacked.

The detachment is a relatively new construct within the alliance and something defence ministers only began to seriously wrap their heads around in February 2013 as plans were being drawn up for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Some members have refused risky missions

Steve Saideman, an expert on NATO, is skeptical about how the force would work given previous missions where countries have insisted on maintaining control over their own troops, and imposed restrictions on what they could do.

That was the experience both in Libya, where some countries refused to conduct risky air-to-ground attacks, and in Afghanistan, which saw a handful of countries like Canada, the U.S., Britain, France, the Netherlands and Denmark do most of the fighting.

"I have a hard time imaging a rapid reaction force being rapid," said Saideman, who is chair of the Paterson School of International Affairs at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"I don't feel confident they'll be able to overcome the problems that have existed and have been baked into NATO."

Article 5 of the NATO charter — the alliance's all-for-one and one-for-all provision — has a little recognized opt-out clause, Saideman noted.

Questions over long-term commitment

He's also not convinced the Harper government is willing to commit the cash necessary for a long-term commitment now that it has extricated itself from Afghanistan. The Conservatives plan a balanced budget for next year's election, and surely hope to spend aggressively on voter-friendly measures, he added.

"It costs money to put troops out there for a period of time," Saideman said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance will press ahead with the force and it will be a major topic for leaders at this week's summit.

"We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe," he said in Brussels.

"We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness."


21.17 | 0 komentar | Read More

Canadians expose foreign worker 'mess' in oilsands

Canadian tradesmen from a huge oilsands construction project are waving a red flag about safety hazards and near misses, which they blame on the use of foreign workers who aren't qualified and can't speak English.

"When you bring in a bunch of workers who are unqualified to do this job it's only a matter of time before you kill someone," said Les Jennings, who was an ironworker supervisor at the Husky Sunrise plant until a few weeks ago, when he quit in frustration.

"People are angry and upset," said journeyman ironworker Johnny Demosten, who is still working at the site. He said many of the foreign workers don't know crane hand signals and other safety precautions.

"If they are journeymen, they are supposed to know the signals. It's pretty dangerous."

There are 344 foreigners — skilled tradespeople and others — currently working on site for the Italian-based company Saipem, under contract to build the multi-billion dollar plant 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

The project is over budget and behind its original schedule.

Hazards cited by inspector

"The errors on that site are repetitive and consistent. Mistakes made over and over," said Ryan Slade, a journeyman electrician contracted by Husky last year, as an on-site quality control inspector.

"You used to feel like you were part of something. Now, you feel you are part of the mess."

Husky Sunrise

The Husky Sunrise site is 60 km north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (CBC)

He said he reported numerous serious concerns about safety and poor workmanship, until, he said, managers told him to stop.

"I keep repeating, 'You are having the same problems over and over' and they said, 'Look, we already know this — don't report it anymore,'" said Slade.

"We will always be vigilant in our safety objectives, and we continue to see steady improvement in results due to stronger alignment amongst all companies on site," Husky spokesperson Mel Duvall said in an email to Go Public.  

"We work closely with site contractors on safety, including initiatives for workers to give direct feedback." 

"Those [Canadian] guys who do stay up there they are going to save Husky's butt — I guarantee it," said Slade. "They are going to save someone's life by catching poor workmanship before it kills someone."

Blow torch scare

For example, Demosten said, he and other workers were horrified when a foreign worker took a blow torch to a propane tank to defrost it. Others intervened to prevent an explosion.

"That would probably have killed him and hurt people around him. That's the kind of things these people are doing," said Demosten.

Temporary Foreign Workers in Oil Patch, Johnny Demosten, Leslie Jennings

Johnny Demosten and Leslie Jennings, journeyman ironworkers in the oilsands, go public about temporary foreign workers hired by Saipem Canada to work at the Husky Sunrise site. (CBC)

The tradesmen also claim several Canadians with better qualifications have been passed over for jobs, while foreign workers from Europe continued to show up.

 "We had probably 60 ironworkers come to take the jobs from Canadians," said Jennings.

Saipem said it can't comment on some of the Canadian workers' allegations without evidence, but, overall, it called the claims "misleading".

It points out, 85 per cent of its workers on site are Canadian. It also said its safety record is as good or better than industry standard.

Company refutes claims

"We continue to make safety a priority at the Sunrise site, with continued focus on safety awareness and training of all our workers," said Saipem spokesperson Erika Mandraffino, in an email from Italy.

"We strongly refute any and all claims of any correlation between any alleged safety violations and any group of workers that we have at the project site."

Submit your story ideas:

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories they want to make public.

Submit your story ideas to Kathy Tomlinson at Go Public

Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter

Many of the foreigners did arrive without Canadian-standard trade certification, however. Under government rules, they have a year before they must take their test.

"These workers, in my opinion — because I worked with them side by side — they are not at the same level as a Canadian journeyman. Not even close," said Jennings.

He said he assigned some of them to shovel snow, while earning the ironworker rate of $44 an hour.

"Probably 75 per cent of [foreign] ironworkers on site were only at the level of a labourer."

Jennings is angry with Saipem, because it used his name and red seal certification number on paperwork approving 15 foreigners to take their certification test, after he said he made it clear they weren't qualified.

"When I found out about that I called the industrial training centre and I had [the test approvals] cancelled," said Jennings.

A company HR person texted Jennings at the time, saying, "It was a mistake… I am not trying to get you to approve guys you are not comfortable with."

Foreign workers fail tests

Even when they take the test, he said, most fail but are not sent home. They get another shot at a later date, prolonging their time on the job.

"They should be made to write that test the first week they get here to prove they know the material — then if they don't know it they should go home."

Foreign workers at Husky Sunrise

Foreign workers are shown in this still image from video taken by a worker at the Husky Sunrise plant near Fort McMurray.

The union for both the domestic and foreign tradespeople confirmed several foreign workers failed and are getting a second chance.

"If they are failing the test because they can't read it, then that's a concern about their language and what it can mean for safety," said Izzy Huygen, Alberta representative for the Christian Labour Association of Canada.

When more new workers arrived from Portugal in June, Jennings reacted by emailing Saipem several resumes of qualified Canadian journeymen looking for work.

A human resources manager emailed back, saying, "We are not looking for ironworkers as of now."  Then, in July, another crew from Poland showed up, according to several sources.

"Those ironworkers are still on site. They should have been turned around sent back home and replaced with Canadians," said Jennings.

Qualified Canadians available

Jason Mitchell's resume was one of those Jennings submitted. He said Saipem actually offered him work at the time. He quit his other job as a result, but has heard nothing since.

"I was told I was hired and good to go… I never heard any more. Now I am unemployed," said Mitchell.

Saipem logo

344 foreigners are working on-site in Alberta for Italian-based Saipem, which is under contract to build the multi-billion dollar Husky Sunrise plant. (Saipem)

As a test, Demosten recently posted a fake job ad on the web, mirroring Saipem's requirements, to show how many Canadians could have been hired.

His inbox was flooded with 115 applications — most from qualified people — within 14 hours.

One was followed by another email from the applicant's wife, pleading, "Please tell me if he is being considered."

"I felt real bad when I saw that," said Demosten. "More than likely he's sitting at home not working, while there is a foreign worker working."

The federal government rejected several Saipen applications to bring in foreign workers over the last year, because it didn't believe the company couldn't find Canadians for the jobs.

"Employment and Social Development Canada has refused this employer's last nine Labour Market Opinions because the employer was unable to demonstrate that a labour shortage existed or that the employer had made sufficient efforts to hire Canadians," said spokesperson Nick Koolsbergen.

Company gets around gov't refusals

Saipem found other avenues, however. It said some of its current workers came in under a little-known visa option called an "intra company transfer."

The union said the rest came through a pilot project allowing specific trades work in Alberta without federal approval. That program has just been cancelled.

Citizenship and Immigration responded to Go Public's story by indicating the province is responsible for safety and worker qualifications.

Alberta's minister of jobs, skills, training and labour said cases like this need investigation but foreign workers are still needed in the oilsands.

"We shouldn't penalize a whole industry, a whole economy, a whole region because there are some unfortunate circumstances. What we need to do is to get better at investigating those complaints and providing remedy to them," said Kyle Fawcett.

When CBC News asked the federal minister responsible if visas may be revoked in this case and he indicated it's possible.

"We've done it… We have sent people home when their presence here as temporary foreign workers was based on misrepresentation," said Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

Saipem foreign languages sign

Signs with phrases in foreign languages are up at the Husky Sunrise worksite to help workers communicate with each other.

"We are saying to all employers you will only have access to this program if there's not a qualified Canadian to do the job."

The union said, because of a grievance it filed, the latest crew of new arrivals was pared back from 70 to 20 workers.

"These are widespread concerns," said Nuygen from CLAC. "Safety is definitely one of the top two issues. The other is temporary foreign workers getting jobs ahead of Canadians."

Demosten said foreign workers are still being promoted, however, to higher paying, non-union foreman jobs over him and other certified Canadians.

"People who don't speak English are our bosses. They are telling us what to do and they don't have any idea what to do."

As a result of Go Public's story, the Alberta Federation of Labour is asking the federal auditor general to investigate the use of foreign workers by Saipem at the Husky Sunrise site.


Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories they want to make public.

Submit your story ideas to Kathy Tomlinson at Go Public

Follow @CBCGoPublic on Twitter


21.17 | 0 komentar | Read More

NATO chief needs resources to respond to recent 'wake-up call'

Written By doni icha on Minggu, 31 Agustus 2014 | 21.16

NATO's outgoing secretary general is repeating his call for member countries like Canada to boost their defence spending in response to the "wake-up call" of recent crises like the one unfolding in Ukraine.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will preside over his final NATO heads of government summit Sept. 4-5 in Wales, said that after 25 years of "relatively calm weather" the alliance now needs to reinforce its collective defence and adapt to what he calls "a profound climate change."

"We have lived in a relatively quiet security environment, but the crisis in Ukraine as well as what we're now seeing in Syria and Iraq [and] North Africa is a wake-up call," he told host Evan Solomon.

"You can compare it with insurance. NATO is... security insurance. And for an insurance you pay a premium," he said.

"Now the premium has gone up because of this unstable security environment and that's why we need more defence investments in the coming years."

Only four countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, meet NATO's defence spending target of two per cent of a member country's gross domestic product (GDP.) Canada is among those that lag behind, spending 1.3 per cent of its GDP.

Canada cut defence spending, including scaling back costly military procurement programs, as part of government-wide efforts to balance the federal budget starting next year.

Meeting NATO's target could translate into billions of dollars of new spending for Canada over the next decade.

Rasmussen's funding appeal is not new. In 2012, in the aftermath of the economic crisis that saw European countries in particular trim their defence budgets, he warned that a sharp decline in the non-U.S. share of NATO's defence spending was "unsustainable" and "undermined the alliance principle of solidarity."

Blocking efforts

Rasmussen told The House he was hopeful that leaders at next week's summit would reach a "common commitment" to gradually increasing defence investments.

Late Thursday, Reuters reported that Canada is among the countries blocking efforts toward that goal. 

"We are open to increasing defence spending, but to specific ends," a Canadian source told Reuters. "The response to [the crisis in Ukraine] is not a 10-year commitment ... it's not more press releases, it's taking action, and I think in that regard Canada is actually pulling its weight."

In an email to CBC News on Friday, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said the government would not comment on "anonymous rumours."

Germany also opposes the two per cent target and says it should not be seen as a sign of loyalty to the alliance.

"Despite all the talk among the Europeans about joint procurement, common defence strategy ... they've been singing from that songsheet since the end of the Cold War and have done precious little about it," says Fen Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

"Its key members, and that includes Germany which has been cutting defence spending, are not prepared to put their shoulders to the tiller or the yoke to beef up defence spending in the face of what clearly is... a growing threat from Russia,"  Hampson says.

No 'military options' in Ukraine

Recent events in Ukraine have renewed the alliance's focus on its original Cold War foe. Strengthening co-operation between NATO and Ukraine is on the agenda at next week's summit, but that doesn't mean NATO's ready to join a shooting war.

"We are not considering military options," Rasmussen said. "If Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine I have no doubt the international community would have to respond firmly through deeper, broader and tougher economic sanctions that would isolate Russia further."

U.S. President Barack Obama also ruled out a military move against Russia during a news conference on Thursday.

But on Friday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said his cabinet would "bring before parliament a law to scrap the non-aligned status of the Ukrainian state and establish a course towards membership of NATO."

Full membership would trigger an automatic military response from NATO for future Russian incursions across the Ukrainian border. Ukraine is scheduled to have parliamentary elections in late October, so it's unclear whether such a law will pass before then.

While not joining the fight now, NATO is helping to reform and modernize the Ukrainian armed forces, Rasmussen said.

Canada has been involved in training Ukrainian military and civilian personnel through its military training co-operation program and has provided $5 million in "non-lethal security assistance."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to join NATO leaders in Wales, although the escalation of the conflict caused him to cancel other travel plans earlier this week.

Will NATO 'strengthen its resolve'?

When asked by a reporter Thursday whether the situation in Ukraine is now a war, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird took great pains to stop just short, calling it "a very active intervention" and then "a very active invasion."

"To do this a week before NATO leaders meet in Wales is a significant provocation and completely unacceptable," Baird said. "This will undoubtedly strengthen the resolve of all NATO leaders ahead of their meeting."

'People will have to look at what measures they think are required from the civilized world.'- John Baird

"Some would say NATO's original rationale has come back: it's to deal with Russia, resurgent Russia," Hampson says. "But even there, the response is weak. And not characterized by great alliance unity."

"NATO's actually facing a crisis in terms of what continue to be fairly profound divisions in the alliance," Hampson added, pointing out that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated she won't support further sanctions and would like to see the Ukrainians negotiate rather than fight with the Russians.

Russia Putin Aug. 29/14

Russian President Vladimir Putin told students at a youth camp Friday that the Russian and Ukrainian peoples are practically one people. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Presidential Press Service/The Associated Press)

Baird told reporters Thursday that Merkel "has gotten progressively stronger and tougher" in her remarks over time and that first the downing of MH-17 and then this week's invasion mean "people will have to look at what measures they think are required from the civilized world."

"No one country can provide the response that we need," Baird said, "it's only by acting collectively."

On Thursday, Obama spoke with Merkel, who has been a key broker between the West and Russia, and they agreed Russia must face consequences for its actions.

Beyond Ukraine: who's next?

"I'm concerned that this goes beyond Ukraine," Rasmussen told The House.

"This is very much about establishing or re-establishing a zone of Russian influence in their near neighbourhood and that's why Russia has an interest in frozen and protracted conflicts not only in Ukraine but also in Transnistria in Moldova and also in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and they hope through these protracted conflicts to prevent these countries from seeking integration with NATO and the European Union."

'The Europeans are quite prepared to throw Ukraine overboard.'- Fen Hampson

Hampson thinks NATO is constrained by the fact that many alliance members are economically dependent on Russia.

"The Europeans I think are quite prepared to throw Ukraine overboard," he says. "That is a prescription for instability, conflict and usually disaster, and that's what happened prior to both the First and Second World War."

"The smaller countries — the Swedens, the Polands, of Europe who feel very exposed — they kind of wonder who's next," Hampson says.

"We have already taken immediate steps to enhance our collective defence through more air policing, deployment of naval vessels to the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, more military exercises on the ground," Rasmussen said.

Canadian fighter jets are currently in Lithuania as part of stepped-up patrols on Russia's doorstep.

"I don't think the Kremlin is ignoring what NATO is doing. Actually I think the best protection a nation can get is membership of NATO because the Russians know that it would be to cross a red line if they were to attack a NATO ally," Rasmussen told The House

MOBILE USERS: Listen to Rasmussen's interview with Evan Solomon for The House here

The House airs Saturday at 9:00 a.m. on CBC Radio One and Sirius FM Satellite Radio channel 169.


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Anti-radicalization program being developed by RCMP

The RCMP is developing a program to stop Canadians from becoming radicalized by violent ideologies, a new report reveals.

As of early 2014, about 130 people with Canadian connections were believed to be in countries such as Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan participating in terrorism-related activities, the Public Safety Canada report said.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

The RCMP, which falls under Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, is developing a program to stop Canadians from becoming radicalized by violent ideologies, a new report reveals. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Another 80 have returned to Canada, according to the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada.

The RCMP is putting in place the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program to stop Canadians at risk of being radicalized. The police force says it aims to have the program in place by year's end.

It's not entirely clear how the program will work.

In an email, the RCMP says it will work with families of "vulnerable individuals" who are experiencing behavioural changes. It also says the program "will include educating Canadians on the role of law enforcement and the responsibilities that they, in turn, have in safeguarding Canada."

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney says radicalized Canadians represent a "small number of individuals" who are "putting lives at risk and tarnishing Canada's reputation."

He cites the example of Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej of London, Ont., who were killed while staging a bloody attack on an Algerian gas refinery in 2013.

The government points to its 2012 counter-terrorism strategy as a means of dealing with potential threats. The strategy aims to prevent, detect, deny and respond to terrorism.

It also cites a law passed in 2013 that made it illegal to leave or attempt to leave the country to commit certain terrorism-related offences. The legislation was criticized by some because it also allows preventative detention of some suspects.

The Public Safety Canada report says there is also concern about what happens when so-called "extremist travellers" leave the countries in which they are fighting.

"Some extremist travellers returning to the West may pose a threat. The much greater number of experienced extremist travellers returning to the Middle East, Africa and Asia magnifies the threat to those regions," it said.​

As to why there have not been more arrests of Canadians who have returned from fighting overseas, a spokesman from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said in an email to CBC News the agency is aware of such cases and that investigations are under way.
 

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Ukraine crisis: EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

Despite tough rhetoric decrying Russia's increasing military involvement in Ukraine, European Union leaders on Sunday stopped short of imposing new sanctions against Moscow right away.

Instead, the 28-nation bloc's heads of state and government tasked their executive body to "urgently" prepare tougher economic sanctions that could be adopted within a week, according to EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy.

The decision on new sanctions will depend on the evolution of the situation on the ground but "everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly," he added. The EU leaders call on Russia to "immediately withdraw all its military assets and forces from Ukraine," they said in a joint statement.

NATO said this week that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine. Russia denies that. NATO also says Russia has amassed some 20,000 troops just across Ukraine's eastern border, which could rapidly carry out a full-scale invasion.

Ukraine

A pro-Russian rebel watches as Ukrainian troops are evacuated from a rebel-held town in eastern Ukraine on Saturday. (Sergei Grits/The Associated Press)

The fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to UN figures.

The U.S. and the EU have so far imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several companies as well as the country's financial and arms industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new sanctions would target the same sectors as previous punitive measures, which also included an export ban for some high technology and oil exploration equipment.

"If Russia continues to escalate the crisis it will come with a high cost," said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "It's time for everyone to get down to the business of peace-making. It is not too late, but time is quickly running out," he said.

Several European leaders had called for additional sanctions at the outset of the meeting in Brussels, but the fear of an economic backlash apparently prevailed and led the bloc to grant Russia another chance at avoiding tougher action. New sanctions would have required unanimity among the leaders.

Russia is the EU's No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers. The EU, in turn, is Russia's biggest commercial partner, making any sanctions more biting than similar measures adopted by the U.S.

'Very close' to war, Ukraine PM says

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed the leaders at the beginning of their talks, said a strong response was needed to the "military aggression and terror" facing his country. Efforts to halt the violence in eastern Ukraine were "very close to a point of no return" and failing to de-escalate the situation could lead to a "full-scale war," he warned.

"Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters in English. "There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole ... of Europe."

Ukraine crisis Petro Poroshenko

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko met with EU leaders Saturday to ask for harsher sanctions against Russia and a tougher response to the alleged Russian troops operating in the east of Ukraine. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)

Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. Government forces were also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.

The statements by Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, indicate that Ukrainian forces face increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.

The office of the Donetsk mayor reported in a statement that at least two people died in an artillery attack on one of Donetsk's neighbourhoods. Shelling was reported elsewhere in the city, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

European leaders also issued dire warnings, reflecting their concern over the most recent military escalation with the opening of a new front by the Russian-backed rebels in southeastern Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia's meddling in Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the EU, amounts to a direct confrontation that requires stronger sanctions.

"Russia is practically in the war against Europe," she said in English.

Grybauskaite said the EU should impose a full arms embargo, including the cancelling of already agreed contracts, but France has so far staunchly opposed that proposal because it has a $1.6 billion contract to build Mistral helicopter carriers for Russia.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also warned that Europe shouldn't be complacent about Russian troops on Ukrainian soil.

"Countries in Europe shouldn't have to think long before realizing just how unacceptable that is," he said. "We know that from our history. So consequences must follow."

Moscow prepares to send humanitarian aid

Moscow, meanwhile, is preparing to send a second convoy of humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow has already received Kyiv's preliminary approval and insisted that it would send aid in co-ordination with the Red Cross. Lavrov wouldn't say when the aid is likely to be sent, but said it could happen next week.

Russian state Rossiya 24 on Saturday showed trucks from the previous convoy at the border being loaded with humanitarian aid that was brought to the area by train. It was unclear when the new convoy could start moving.

Barroso said that the EU — a bloc encompassing 500 million people and stretching from Lisbon to the border with Ukraine — stands ready to grant Kyiv further humanitarian aid and financial assistance if needed. The bloc will also organize a donors' conference to help rebuild the country's east at the end of the year, he added.


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Conservative fundraising runs into roadblock in Quebec

The prime minister's Quebec lieutenant, Denis Lebel, has spent the past couple weeks crisscrossing his home province on what the party is billing as his "End of Summer Tour" — a 12-day trek that has taken him from Charlevoix to Mount Royal to Saguenay and finally to a rally in Quebec City on Friday.

Lebel, who is also the federal infrastructure minister, says in a statement posted to the summer tour's official website that his goal is "reach out" to both card-carrying Conservative supporters and Quebecers at large "in order to listen to them."

"Evidently," he adds, "we also want our message to be heard."

If he really wants to dig deep into the details of his party's often fractious relationship with La Belle Province, though, he may want to dive into the data contained in the latest batch of financial reports filed by Quebec Conservative riding associations.

Conservative riding associations

According to the most recent returns, 30 of the 75 Conservative riding associations in Quebec reported no donation revenue at all in 2013.

An additional 20 associations pulled in less than $1,000 total throughout the year.

That number includes Lebel's own riding association of Roberval–Lac-Saint-Jean, which netted just $650 from three contributors.

In Pontiac — the riding held by former Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon from 2006 until 2011, when he was ousted by New Democrat rookie Mathieu Ravignat — contributions to the Conservative riding association somehow managed to work out to –$5,301.03.

(How, precisely, a riding association can fundraise a negative number of dollars is a mystery, as they don't appear to have refunded any contributions, which would normally account for such a result.)

Despite those somewhat sobering numbers, Lebel can take some comfort in his party's fundraising prowess in Montreal's Mount Royal, where the looming retirement of longtime Liberal MP Irwin Cotler in 2015 has emboldened Tory hopes of snagging their first seat in metropolitan Montreal.

Not surprising, it was also one of the stops on the minister's summer-ending tour.

Mount Royal Tories top Liberals in donations

In 2013, the Mount Royal Conservative Association raised $19,205 raised from 74 contributors.

To put that in perspective, over the same time period, the local Liberal association mustered up just $3,972 in donations from 59 supporters.

The biggest single haul for Quebec Tories, however, was in Minister of State for Small Business Maxime Bernier's home riding of Beauce, where 236 donors kicked in $45,905 to fill up the local coffers.

Overall, Quebec Conservative riding associations raised $177,733 in 2013.

That works out to three per cent of the Canada-wide grand total of $3,705,750.57.

New Democrat riding associations, meanwhile, raked in a comparatively whopping $348,592.87 in Quebec — just under 30 per cent of the party's Canada-wide total of $1,253,820.47.

Just five Quebec NDP riding associations reported no revenue at all, and 11 brought in less than $1,000.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's riding of Outremont pulled in the single highest total —  $22,325 — and the most extensive donor list was reported by Notre-Dame-de-Grace, which garnered the support of 551 contributors.

As for the Liberals, despite the end-of-May deadline, 13 of the party's Quebec riding associations haven't yet filed the required paperwork for last year — including Papineau, home of Justin Trudeau.

Liberals lag behind NDP

The available numbers, however, suggests that, as of last December, the determinedly upward trend the party has been enjoying in the polls wasn't causing a similar boost in fundraising numbers, at least at the local level.

In total, Quebec Liberal riding associations raised $246,945.89 in 2013, which is just over 10 percent of the cross-Canada total.

Of the 62 that have filed returns with Elections Canada, 10 reported receiving no contributions at all, and another 20 took in less than $1,000.  

The biggest windfall landed in Saint Leonard–Saint Michel, which reported $39,227 in contributions, with BrossardLa Prairie fielding the highest number of individual contributors at 264.

The Liberals can, at least, console themselves with the fact that they aren't the Bloc Québécois, whose riding associations raised just $117,216 in 2013.

That puts the once Quebec-dominant Bloc just slightly behind the Conservatives, and in last place, although that number could change, as there are more than 20 associations that haven't yet filed their 2013 reports.  

Of the Bloc riding associations that have submitted their numbers, Bas-RichelieuNicoletBecancour is currently in the lead, with a final tally of $36,205 from 386 donors.

Seventeen associations reported no contributions at all, and 11 took in less than $1,000.

(Methodological note: As only 21 Green Party riding associations have filed reports for 2013, those numbers have been left out of this analysis.)


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NATO pushes for bigger crisis response brigade as Canada mulls opportunity

Canada will send troops, jets and warships to participate in a massive NATO training exercise next year in a deployment that could be the first step towards deeper involvement in the alliance's long-term strategy to counter a resurgent Russia.

The units will participate in a test of the military alliance's crisis response brigade, The Canadian Press has learned.

The exercise, known as Trident Juncture 2015, will be held in Italy, Spain and Portugal over several months and built around a scenario where NATO responds to an attack against a member country.

"We are planning to commit tactical forces, maritime, air and land to the live (fire) exercise," Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, the country's joint operations commander, told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

It is a significant decision because NATO is pushing behind the scenes to significantly expand the size of its rapid reaction force. The alliance already announced last week it plans to base soldiers in eastern Europe to reassure jittery allies.

The crisis response unit — currently compromised of 13,000 high-readiness troops, a headquarters and reserve formations — operates on a rotational basis with different nations committing forces for up to a year at a time.

Next year's participation in the exercise does not commit Canada to become part of that rotation, but it could set the stage.

"Those are strategic and political decisions," said Beare. "I can't answer the question specifically, but I can tell you we are acting in a way that, if we do, we'll be really, really good at it."

Taking part in the exercise would help the military reacquaint itself with how NATO does business on its home turf, a familiarity that has been lost since the last Canadian Cold War garrison was withdrawn from Europe in the 1990s.

Base in Poland hosted NATO training

What is unclear heading into this week's NATO summit in Wales is whether the Harper government is prepared to foot the bill to be a regular member of the quick reaction force, which U.S. officials have suggested could see its leading elements based in central Poland around a base that hosted NATO training this summer.

Two rotations of Canadian troops, roughly the size of a 150-man company, have taken part in those recent exercises.

Being part of the rapid reaction force carries with it a whole different set of expectations — most notably being prepared to start shooting if a NATO member is attacked.

The detachment is a relatively new construct within the alliance and something defence ministers only began to seriously wrap their heads around in February 2013 as plans were being drawn up for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Some members have refused risky missions

Steve Saideman, an expert on NATO, is skeptical about how the force would work given previous missions where countries have insisted on maintaining control over their own troops, and imposed restrictions on what they could do.

That was the experience both in Libya, where some countries refused to conduct risky air-to-ground attacks, and in Afghanistan, which saw a handful of countries like Canada, the U.S., Britain, France, the Netherlands and Denmark do most of the fighting.

"I have a hard time imaging a rapid reaction force being rapid," said Saideman, who is chair of the Paterson School of International Affairs at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"I don't feel confident they'll be able to overcome the problems that have existed and have been baked into NATO."

Article 5 of the NATO charter — the alliance's all-for-one and one-for-all provision — has a little recognized opt-out clause, Saideman noted.

Questions over long-term commitment

He's also not convinced the Harper government is willing to commit the cash necessary for a long-term commitment now that it has extricated itself from Afghanistan. The Conservatives plan a balanced budget for next year's election, and surely hope to spend aggressively on voter-friendly measures, he added.

"It costs money to put troops out there for a period of time," Saideman said.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance will press ahead with the force and it will be a major topic for leaders at this week's summit.

"We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe," he said in Brussels.

"We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness."


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