Canadian world junior team drops exhibition game to Finland 3-2

VANTAA, Finland – It was an early wakeup call for Canada’s world junior team.

Undisciplined and out of sorts, the Canadians dropped an exhibition game to Finland 3-2 on Thursday. Two of the Finnish goals were scored with a 5-on-3 power play during a game that saw Canada assessed nine minor penalties in total.

“I think the challenge for us obviously is coming together as a team,” said Canadian coach Steve Spott. “It’s our first game. But ultimately I think discipline is the subplot here tonight, where we have to get used to the standard of officiating and deal with our discipline a lot smarter than we did tonight.”

Miro Aaltonen scored the winning goal 7:16 into the third period. Markus Granlund and Ville Jarvelainen had the power-play markers earlier in the game.

Griffin Reinhart and Mark Scheifele replied for Canada with goals 36 seconds apart in the second period while Malcom Subban finished with 19 saves.

Canada was outshot 22-15 overall and Spott expects to see a better offensive effort when his team faces Sweden in another exhibition game on Saturday.

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“I think we’ve got to create more offence, but that comes from staying out of the penalty box,” he said. “That to me is going to be our challenge here. We turned over too many pucks, took penalties and that took away from our 5-on-5 ability to create offence.”

Canada played without forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who served the final game of a four-game suspension for abusing an official in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The team also lost forward Brett Ritchie to an upper-body injury after an awkward collision with an opponent midway through the game. He was held out as a precaution and the injury isn’t considered serious.

After facing Sweden over the weekend, Canada will travel to Ufa, Russia for the world junior hockey championship. It plays its first game there on Dec. 26 against Germany.

“You want to make sure when you hit the 26th that your team is where you need it to be,” said Spott. “It’s a matter of getting better every day and learning what it’s like to play over here and the standard (of officiating) and the type of game that these teams play.”

Commodities price suffer fall but poised for rebound in 2013: Scotiabank report

TORONTO – Commodity prices are poised for a rebound in 2013 following the declines experienced in many of Canada’s resource sectors this year despite a summer rally, according to a new report from Scotiabank.

In a commentary accompanying its Commodity Price Index for November, Scotiabank says prices will get a lift as buyers restock raw materials after liquidating inventories or deferring orders in 2012.

“This is already the case in China, where a pickup in orders from steel producers, after a sharp inventory correction last summer, has boosted spot iron ore and coking coal prices,” writes Scotiabank commodity market specialist Patricia Mohr.

“Lumber and OSB (oriented strand board) are our top investor picks – expected to post a multiple-year recovery through mid-decade,” Mohr added, citing a growing recovery in the U.S. housing market.

Meanwhile, figures in the bank’s latest monthly index painted a less rosy picture for this year. After a late-summer rally, overall prices began slipping in October and fell 2.3 per cent month-over-month in November, Scotiabank said.

Scotiabank says the commodity prices it tracks are down 8.4 per cent overall in the first 11 months of this year, compared with the comparable period of 2011.

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“We are experiencing another bout of concern over the outlook for global growth and the potential fallout from the U.S. fiscal cliff in early 2013, dampening oil and grain prices,” Mohr said.

“That’s only partially offset by news that China’s economy is revving up again, lifting base metal prices, especially copper.”

As a result, Mohr said prices are currently 16 per cent below the near-term peak in April 2011, just prior to the advent of concern over excessive eurozone sovereign debt and the negative impact on global growth.

The oil and gas sub-index has led decline, with the index down 14.4 per cent in November from a year earlier as lower light and heavy crude oil prices in Alberta and considerably softer propane prices in Edmonton and Sarnia, Ont., overpowered a slight gain in Canadian natural gas export prices.

While international oil prices remained strong in 2012, a price discount on Edmonton light crude oil emerged and there was a bigger discount on Western Canadian Select (WCS) heavy oil, largely the result of inadequate export pipeline capacity.

“The cost to the Canadian economy of these wide oil price discounts is enormous,” said Mohr.

She estimates the Canadian heavy crude discount cost about US$9 billion in 2012 compared with West Texas Intermediate,”plus another US$17.7 billion due to the WTI discount off world prices, as measured by Brent (crude).”

The Metal and Mineral sub-index has also lost ground in 2012, down 13.1 per cent year over year despite the fact that most base metal prices held up well.

However, double-digit declines in coking coal, iron ore and steel alloying metals alongside stagnant world steel production and a mid-summer inventory correction in China’s steel industry more than offset the relative strength in some base metals.

On a more positive note, the Forest Products sub-index posted a substantial recovery in 2012, up 12.9 per cent through November.

“After a challenging environment since 2008 linked to a prolonged and sharp downturn in U.S. housing, oriented strand board and lumber producers enjoyed a substantial recovery in earnings in 2012,” the bank said.

Meanwhile, a modest recovery in U.S. housing starts is “hitting a wall of tighter supply, given substantial mill closures since 2006, the equivalent of 140 sawmills across the U.S. and Canada,” it added.

Agriculture was another pocket of strength in 2012, up five per cent year over year.

TransLink awarding $25-million SeaBus contract to Dutch firm angers B.C. labour leaders

TransLink’s decision to build a new $25-million SeaBus with a Dutch shipbuilding company, at the same time as British Columbia is attempting to ramp up the capacity of its own shipbuilding industry for a major federal contract, has rankled provincial labour leaders.

TransLink, on Wednesday, said it received three bids on the proposal to build a replacement for the 36-year-old MV Beaver SeaBus and the Netherlands-based Damen Shipyards Group submitted a bid that was $2 million less than North Vancouver’s Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. A third bidder was disqualified from the process.

“The other (factor) is that (Damen) has a lot of experience building similar kinds of vessels, considerably more than the other bidder,” said Bob Paddon, TransLink’s executive vice-president for strategic planning and public affairs.

However, local labour leaders noted that all three previous SeaBus vessels were built in B.C. – the last, the MV Burrard Pacific Breeze at Victoria Shipyard in 2009. And as a publicly funded organization, TransLink should have used the contract to support the local shipbuilding industry.

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“Local shipyards and local workers have the expertise to deliver this project,” George MacPherson president of the B.C. Shipyard Workers Federation said in a news release.

Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, added that TransLink should have granted the work to the local bidder even if it was more expensive because the spinoff benefits to local industry would outweigh a modest price differential.

Sinclair said the $25-million contract could generate $75 million in indirect spinoffs.

“That the (provincial) government would spend money and time lobbying the federal government to build ships in British Columbia, and then have its own agency turn around and send ships offshore to be built, the irony there is not lost on British Columbians,” he added, and called on Premier Christy Clark to push for a change to TransLink’s decision.

However, Paddon said TransLink didn’t get as many local bids as it hoped for as other potential bidders said they were too busy with the federal contract, which was awarded to Vancouver’s Seaspan in 2011.

And while Damen will do most of the construction work at its Singapore shipyard, most of the design work for a new SeaBus would be done in B.C. and the company has committed to do as much work locally as it can.

“I think we’re getting really good value for taxpayers,” Paddon said.

“Two million dollars can buy you four buses, if that’s where you want to put the money, or into service,” Paddon said.

McGuinty wants ‘locked door’ policy at all elementary schools

TORONTO – Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Thursday there would be a “locked door” policy at all 4,000 elementary schools in Ontario by next September in reaction to last week’s shooting rampage that left 26 dead at a school in Newtown, Connecticut.

“In the aftermath of that tragic event that unfolded in the U.S. I think there’s an important question that we need to ask ourselves: are we taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of our kids at school,” McGuinty said at St. Fidelis Catholic Elementary School in Toronto.

“I think the response to that question requires that we assure parents that all of our elementary schools are locked during the day, that we are controlling access into our elementary schools, so we’re going to put a locked door policy in place.”

The Opposition said all parents would support initiatives to make schools safer for their kids, but questioned the timing of McGuinty’s announcement. The Tories suggested McGuinty was simply trying to change the channel from his government’s ongoing fights with public school teachers over wage freeze legislation, which prompted rotating one-day strikes in elementary schools this month.

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“I think that the timing, obviously, would lead one to believe that this is a cynical move by Mr. McGuinty,” said Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod.

“He used his final pre-Christmas media availability to talk about this when I think the issue that is really pressing on Ontario families’ minds right now is the labour strife in our schools and whether or not extracurriculars are going to go on and whether or not there are going to be strikes in January.”

The New Democrats said the locked door policy was a good first step but said safety was more than just about locking school doors.

“It’s about providing adequate supervision, access to mental health services and strong links to communities,” said NDP education critic Peter Tabuns.

“Unfortunately under the McGuinty government, funding for safe school programs and community linkages were cut in the last budget.”

Only about 850 elementary schools in the province took advantage of a government program to install video cameras outside school doors, but that was meant for buildings where the entrance was not in clear view of the office. It’s time to expand that program to all elementary schools, at a cost of about $10 million, said McGuinty.

“Now we can’t, and neither would we attempt to turn our elementary schools into fortresses,” he said.

“We’re not going to brick up these windows, but I believe there is a reasonable expectation on the part of parents that when their kids go to school in Ontario, that we will have a locked door policy in place.”

Veteran Conservative Frank Klees said he couldn’t understand why McGuinty didn’t also address the unsafe conditions for kids in high schools, where teachers working to rule aren’t taking attendance, and in some elementary schools where buildings were kept open during the rotating one-day strikes but students were not supervised.

“How can we tell parents that the schools are not assuming responsibility for student safety? It seems bizarre to me,” Klees said in an interview.

“If you’re not taking attendance, how can you tell where the students are?”

Twenty Grade One students and six adults were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last Friday by a young man who fatally shot himself when police arrived at the scene.

Every Ontario school board is required to have a local police-school board protocol, which requires they have a lockdown plan in place that is practised at least twice a year. The government has arranged for professional development and training for school and board staff and local police services to implement the protocol at both the elementary and secondary levels.
 

Argentina’s government launches process to break up major media company Grupo Clarin

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina’s government told the country’s largest media conglomerate on Monday that it has begun a process to break up the company and auction off its media licenses.

Grupo Clarin is one of the government’s leading critics and has battled with President Cristina Fernandez for years. Fernandez argues that it is a corporate monopoly and has funded a booming network of pro-government newspapers and stations to challenge Clarin’s dominance.

Martin Sabbatella, the head of the government media regulation body, said in Monday that the government will make the conglomerate and other companies comply with the law, which bars any company from owning too many different media properties.

It comes after a lower court judge ruled Friday that a three-year-old law against media monopolies is constitutional.

“We notified them of the start of the transfer of licenses because the law is constitutional,” Sabbatella said at an impromptu press conference outside of Grupo Clarin’s headquarters in Buenos Aires.

The process, which will end up with transfer of licenses, will last about 100 days. During this time, the media empire must take care of all its current holdings and keep all jobs, Sabbatella said.

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Grupo Clarin said in a emailed statement that the government’s action is illegal and tramples on past rulings that favoured the media group.

“It’s totally inadmissible and illegal because it openly violates several legal rulings,” Clarin said.

Clarin has said the judge’s declaration lifting all injunctions in the case violates court procedures. The media group says a higher court had stayed the divestment requirement until the justice system rules definitively on challenges to the law.

The 2009 law was tweaked in Congress to specifically target Clarin, the only company that runs afoul of all its major anti-monopoly clauses. The law could require Clarin to sell off broadcast licenses as well as its majority stake in Cablevision, the cable TV network that has become the company’s cash cow.

Clarin says the government cannot take away its licenses because the group lodged an appeal to Friday’s ruling before Sabbatella’s visit on Monday. A lower court has three days to look at it, and if it is rejected, Clarin can go before an appeals court.

The media group has been at odds with the government since it criticized President Cristina Fernandez’s handling of a tax on the key agricultural industry and a massive farmers strike in 2008.

Since then, critics of Fernandez’s government say she’s been out to break up the media empire.

The government has sent tax agents to raid the offices of Argentina’s biggest-circulation daily and suggested that the owner of Clarin could have adopted her children from babies stolen during the military regime.

It has also tried to gain control of Argentina’s only newsprint maker and encouraged the national soccer association to break its contract with a cable TV channel owned by Clarin.

Clarin says the government it out to stifle the press, while Fernandez’s administration argues that the broadcast overhaul will grant more air space to community and church groups.

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Associated Press Writer Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile contributed to this report.