The Bomber hates the high dollar

Laurent Beaudoin, the CEO of Bombardier Inc., complained yesterday that Canada’s dollar is now too expensive relative to the U.S. dollar and that it is hurting Canadian industry. Mr. Beaudoin called on the federal government, through the Bank of Canada, to do something.

He did not call for a devaluation of the loonie but said government ought to limit its increase.

I asked International Trade Minister David Emerson about Beaudoin’s comments today:

“I think he’s expressing the frustration that many in particularly the manufacturing sector have with their competitive position,” Emerson said on his way out of the weekly Conservative caucus meeting. “But I’m the last person in the world that would advocate political interference with the Bank of Canada.  It’s the Bank of Canada’s mandate and I think they’re doing a pretty good job on balance. 

“We’ve got a very strong economy.  We’re in a strong commodity cycle and many Canadians are actually getting a dividend because their dollar is worth so much more. It does have these implications for manufacturing and we need to think about that and they need to be adjusting but certainly it’s not a matter of, I don’t think, getting politically into pushing the Bank of Canada.”

Updates to "A Reporter's Ottawa"

A Reporter's Ottawa is my map/guide to the nation's capital from the perspective of a working journalist. I posted it this morning and asked for suggestions of other sites. A few came in: One fellow kindly wrote in asking about the Mayflower and about the Tim Horton's on Sparks Street. The Mayflower is in an easy add for it's a place a journalist wants to poke his head into from time to time if only to see who's chatting with how. So that's added. But I'm going to resist adding that Tim Horton's because I never see any political types in there. I'm sure they go there to get a coffee but it is so darn busy that it would be pointless to sit down and try to have a conversation.
By request, someone wanted to know where Rinaldo's was, possibly after reading a reference to it in a piece in the Globe on the weekend by my colleague Jane Taber. That has been added.
Feel free to send along other requests!

RSS feed here for Federal Government Newsroom

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed a new feature today. I've added a new section too the left-hand column. It's an RSS feed of headlines for press releases, announcements, and information distributed by the federal government. I am not the author of the headlines — a federal government PR person writes them — but I am the one making the decision to give up some of my real estate to the federal government newsroom.
You can see all this information in its native format, by the way, at the Government of Canada Newsroom.

A Guide to "A Reporter's Ottawa"

If you're curious about where things are in Ottawa relative to everything else, then you might want to bookmark this handy little guide to “A Reporter's Ottawa” that I put together using It's still a work-in-progress and I'm happy to take suggestions for other points-of-interest you might wish me to “point to” and annnotate. But at least you'll know how far it is from Hy's to the CBC …

Hey — that local media — they're pretty good!

News item:

Harper to avoid national media, claiming bias
…”We'll just take the message out on the road,” the Prime Minister said. “There's lots of media who do want to ask questions and hear what the government is doing for Canadians, or to Canadians. So we'll get our message out however we can.”

The Canadian Newspaper Association last night handed out the National Newspaper Awards or NNAs. This is Canada's equivalent to a Pulitzer Prize — awards which recognize the best newspaper print journalism in the country. Local media — which I'll broadly define, in this case, as any organization which does not maintain its own office on Parliament Hill — picked up a lot of hardware (actually, it's a plaque) as they do every year.
So when the PM takes his “message out on the road”, I suspect he'll get some tough questions from these writers:

  • Steve Buist and Joan Walters of the Hamilton Spectator, winners of an NNA for investigative journalism. (Second year in a row, by the way, that the Spec — a paper I proudly toiled at for two years — has won for investigative journalism.)
  • Gordon Hamilton of the Vancouver Sun, an NNA winner for his coverage of the forestry industry.
  • Colette Derworiz and Suzanne Wilton of the Calgary Herald won an NNA for Politics writing. (My colleagues and Parliamentary Press Gallery members Simon Tuck and Jeff Sallot of the Globe and Mail were runner-ups in this category.)
  • Iain Hunter wins an NNA for the editorials he wrote for the Victoria Times-Colonist.
  • A group of reporters at The Edmonton Journal were best at breaking news.
  • Scott Dunn of the Owen Sound Sun-Times was the top reporter at a smaller-market paper.
  • David Baines of the Vancouver Sun wins (another, I think) NNA as the top business reporter in the country.

Harper and the "local media"

I am a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I got that membership when CTV brought me to Ottawa in January, 2005 to join its bureau there.
For most of my career, though, I worked for what the Prime Minister and his communication advisers would likely characterize as local media. I never got a journalism degree but learned the craft on the job at the Orangeville Banner, the Orillia Packet & Times, the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, and the Hamilton Spectator.
I'd say those papers are pretty typical of the range of local print media in the country. The Banner is a twice-a-week paper serving a smaller rural town that, when I was there, was struggling to deal with the pressures of rapid growth due to it being a 30-minute drive from the populous Ontario metropoli of Brampton and Mississauga. At the other end, the Hamilton Spectator is, depending on how and when you count, one of the ten largest daily newspapers in the country and has the resources and aspirations to do Really Important Journalism. (Let me stray for a minute to congratulate my former colleagues there: The Spec picked up a National Newspaper Award last night for investigative journalism. One of the writers to share the prize was none other than Steve Buist. Who's that? Why he just happened to be the sports editor when I first volunteered at the University of Guelph's student paper The Ontarion and handed me the assignment — covering a U of G hockey game — that gave me my first-ever byline in any paper anywhere. So — way to go Steve!)
But it was at the Orillia Packet & Times — in my first week on the job — that I first met members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and a Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was coming to town to visit Orillia and Midland with no other purpose than to raise the flag for his friend Doug Lewis, the local MP and Solicitor General in his cabinet.
My city editor Randy Richmond told me to track the PM on his day in Simcoe County and report back.
I headed out to meet the PM's tour and was informed that the PMO was giving us 'local media reporters' time to ask Mulroney some questions and that this trip to Simcoe County was “really not for the national press corps.” So, the first thing I did, of course, was seek out Hugh Winsor, Jason Moscovitz and Tim Harper — all of whom were travelling that day with Mulroney and covering the trip for, respectively, The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, and the Toronto Star. I asked them what sort of questions Mulroney would not want to answer and I vowed to be the one to ask exactly those kind of questions. I was going to show the PMO that, even with one week on the job as a daily newspaper reporter, I wasn't any pushover.
I don't know if the question I asked was, in fact, one that really got to the PM but I do recall that the story I did was probably not “the message” story that the PM wanted us to do. I think Randy and I may have decided to do a piece on the national press corps covering the PM, what it was like covering Mulroney, and so on.
Brian Mulroney would soon give way to Kim Campbell who also came to Orillia during her only election campaign. She, too, did the same thing — her staff stipulated that only local media would meet her at the Sundial Inn on Highway 11 for a Q&A. As I did with Mulroney, I canvassed the national press corps travelling with her to see what they would ask.
You might say — well, wouldn't your readers be interested in Mulroney's or Campbell's thoughts on some local issues? Yes — they would be. But they are also just as interested in the PM's opinions on the same 'national' issues that voters and readers in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver are interested in. And, besides, you've always got your local MP to talk about local issues.
So, if the current PMO wants to go around the Parliamentary Press Gallery and straight to the local media, I say, good luck and have fun! The PM will get different questions than the Ottawa press corps would put to him but I suspect the reporters who cover the PM's visit to their town will, like I was, be keen to prove their worth as serious journalists who believe that the mission of their craft is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Just what I was waiting for — WTO Podcasts!

Oh, heart be still — speeches by World Trade Organization are now being podcast. How long have I waited to rollerblade while listening on my iPod-like device to Pascal Lamy muse about sustainable development!

Seriously though — good on the WTO to do start up this service, which was announced today. You never know what sort of content is going to find a home and I’m sure there’s plenty of policy wonks here in Ottawa that will find they’d rather listen to Lamy — he’s the WTO’s director-general and a pretty smart guy — talk about sustainable development while on the morning commute than two sports talk radio jocks moaning about the Ottawa Senators.

I know political junkies who have actually subscribed to the podcasts the Conservative Party distributes (no, not me — never me, dear reader) so they can listen to the Prime Minister speeches. His speech to the House of Commons introducting the Australian Prime Minister is the most recently added podcast.

Bank hikes rates but will now sit tight for a while

The Bank of Canada today raised its trend-setting overnight interest rate to 4.25 per cent from 4 per cent.

Merrill Lynch was among the nine of the 13 Bay Street brokers who correctly predicted the rate hike. Merrill’s chief Canadian strategist David Wolf now predicts the overnight rate should stay at 4.25 per cent at least through to the end of the year.

“Our interpretation of the statement is that the Bank is comfortable to sit with rates steady so long as there is no material shift in the economic environment relative to the Bank's own “base case” forecast.  With core inflation remaining tame, and with our own expectations for it to remain so, we don't anticipate a major deviation (to the upside or down) to knock Canada substantially off course from projections, and so view the Bank's action and accompanying statement as reasonable,” Wolf wrote in a note to clients.



Iran to colour code religionists? UPDATED

I’m waiting for the most well-connected Iranian I know personally to blog about the remarkable report — apparently unverified — that the Iranian Parliament is considering a law which would require non-Muslims — i.e. Jews and Christians — to wear a coloured label on their clothing. Until Hoder chimes in, (Hoder has, in fact chimed in with a great post), I have some back-and-forth between reporters and Sean McCormack, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department. Prime Minister Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke about this today during a scrum with reporters (a scrum, I might add, in which journalists decided who gets to ask the questions — but I digresss). The reports from Iran were also a subject of a inquiry at Question Period in the House of Commons today. And Antonia Zerbisias, the Toronto Star's media columnist has an extensive post on this, noting that the Iranian embassy in Ottawa denies this story. Zerbisias also puts together some theories on how this became fodder for official comment by the U.S. State Dept., the Prime Minister, and the House of Commons. First: here’s McCormack and an unknown reporter

QUESTION: On Iran, are you aware or is the Department aware of published reports stating that the Iranian parliament this week passed a measure that would require non-Muslims to wear badges that identify them as such?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen the news reports. These have, I think, recycled over time. There is — as I understand it, there is a — some law currently in the parliament, the exact nature of which is unclear, so I'm not going to try to delve into giving a definitive comment or a detailed comment about something about which I don't have all the facts.

That said, if you did have such an occurrence, whether it was in Iran or elsewhere, it would certainly be despicable.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up for a second on it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said that it's been something that, to your understanding, has been recycled over time. How long has the Department been following it or did you just become aware of these reports today for the first time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen various news — similar news reports and I can't give you the exact dates, you know months ago, and they seem to be coming up again, based on the progression of — well, I guess, for lack of a better term — law through the Iranian parliament. The exact nature of that law is a little bit unclear and the exact motivations behind that are a little unclear. So I can't offer, like I said, a detailed comment about it.

QUESTION: Two more questions, if I might. What is the — what kinds of means does the Department have at its disposal for verifying the passage of laws in the Iranian parliament?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly we have access to open source material and we also talk frequently with other countries who have diplomatic representation in Iran.

QUESTION: And is there an effort underway right now to ascertain more about this?


QUESTION: And why would it be despicable, if it were true?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it has clear echoes, James, of Germany in the -– under Hitler, so I think that that's pretty clear. But again, you know, I don't want to delve too deeply into that because we don't have the facts.


And now to the House of Commons, were this issue also came up:

Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadians were shocked and appalled to hear reports today that indicate Iran is about to pass a law requiring non-Muslims to wear coloured badges identifying their religious beliefs. Jews would have to sew yellow strips of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges. This kind of state-run bigotry is both disgusting and frightening to Canadians and all citizens of the world who believe in tolerance and religious freedom. What steps is the government taking to protest the actions of this rogue state?

Mr. Jason Kenney (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is obviously deeply concerned about these reports. We have been unable at this point to independently verify the reports. Our officials are working diligently in Iran to establish independent verification of these deeply troubling reports. Should these reports turn out to be true, and we all hope they are not, this government will condemn, in the strongest terms possible, this kind of revisiting of the darkest period of the last century. If this turns out to be true, it is something that the entire civilized world must condemn.

Briefing Books: Finance

For fiscal 2007, the Department of Finance will seek Parliament’s approval to spend $73.7–billion. (p455).

Here are the big ticket items in that request:

  • Interest and service costs related to the public debt plus funding for Canada Investment and Savings will be $34.4–billion.*
  • Health Canada transfer costs $20.1–billion
  • Fiscal Equalization costs $11.3–billion.
  • Canada Social Transfer – $8.5–billion

The actual operating costs of the department will likely come in somewhere around $93–million.

[This is a note from a briefing book]