Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pledges 25billion for fund to help keep companies

TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to create a $2.5-billion fund aimed at keeping businesses in Ontario.Details are scant, but officials say companies would be able to apply for government grants.They say the applicants would have to meet certain criteria to receive the money, details of which will be in Thursday’s budget.Wynne says she believes in “working actively to help create the conditions for companies to succeed.”She says her government will also create what the Liberals are calling the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.The minority Liberals need at least one opposition party to support their budget to avoid an election. read more


Googles Play Music streaming subscription service expands to Canada to cost 999

TORONTO — Google is stepping into the streaming music game in Canada with the launch of Google Play Music.The all-access subscription service, which was released Monday, is the latest in a growing line of subscription and free services that could be a game changer in how people listen to music.Google says Play Music will cost $9.99 per month, after an introductory price, and offer on-demand music on mobile phones, tablets and personal computers.Users will have access to 25 million songs, which the company says is several million more tracks than its U.S users can access.The presence of legal on-demand streaming music in Canada has been limited until recently.Last month, Shaw Communications partnered with digital service Rdio to help expand its presence, while free streaming music service Songza opened an office in Toronto last year. read more


Rebound in crude prices helps loonie break through 70 cents US

TORONTO — Strengthening oil prices helped the commodity-sensitive loonie punch through the 70-cent U.S. mark, closing at 70.03 cents U.S.That’s an increase of 1.02 cents from Wednesday’s close.The Canadian dollar hasn’t closed above 70 cents U.S. in more than a week.Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, says the loonie received a “double boost” from the rebound in crude prices and the Bank of Canada’s decision Wednesday to hold its benchmark interest rate steady.Global markets lick wounds after torrid two days that wiped trillions of dollars off stocksHow the weak loonie is boosting Canadian resort real estate sales among U.S. buyersThe Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index climbed 192.75 points to 12,035.86 as the March contract for benchmark crude oil rose $1.18 to US$29.53 a barrel.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 115.94 points to 15,882.68, while the broader S&P 500 added 9.66 points to 1,868.99 and the Nasdaq inched 0.37 of a point higher to 4,472.06.Elsewhere in commodities, the February contract for natural gas climbed two cents to US$2.14 per mmBtu, while February gold fell $8.00 to US$1,098.20 an ounce and March copper rose four cents to US$2.00 a pound. read more


Competition Bureau investigates allegations of bread price fixing

TORONTO — An investigation by the Competition Bureau into allegations of price fixing of packaged bread products comes as demand for the pantry staple faces pressure from health-conscious consumers and heightened competition from discount retailers.John Williams, a partner at retail consulting company J.C. Williams Group, called the probe “shocking” given that Canada’s major retailers are governed by very-well defined codes of ethics.He also noted that the bread industry has been in “turmoil” as consumers look for healthier or artisan versions of the food staple, while increased competition from discount retailers also puts pressure on prices.“It now has almost become a fashion item… Huge aisles of white bread are slowly shrinking,” Williams said.The Competition Bureau said Tuesday that the Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa granted search warrants “based on evidence that there are reasonable grounds to believe that certain individuals and companies have engaged in activities contrary to the Competition Act.”Bureau spokeswoman Marie-France Faucher said it was conducting the searches and gathering evidence to determine the facts, but that there has been no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time and no charges have been laid.Faucher added that she could not reveal more details as the bureau is required to conduct investigations confidentially.Shares of Canada’s major grocers were little changed on Wednesday, a day after several confirmed they were aware of and co-operating with the probe.Loblaw Companies Ltd. and George Weston Ltd. released a joint statement late Tuesday confirming they were aware of and co-operating fully with an industry-wide investigation, but declined to comment further. Metro Inc. also put out a statement saying the investigation concerns certain suppliers and Canadian retailers, and that it was fully co-operating.Canada Bread said in a statement “it has been informed it is included in an industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau into pricing conduct dating back to 2001. The company is co-operating fully.”A spokesman for Walmart Canada said Wednesday that it is providing “full co-operation” to the bureau and it “takes its legal obligations very seriously.”Canada’s Competition Act prohibits agreements that “prevent or unduly lessen competition or to unreasonably enhance the price of a product,” according to the bureau.That could include agreements between competitors to fix prices, or to restrict production of a product by setting quotas or other means would be considered cartel activities. Penalties for price fixing could include fines of up to $10 million, imprisonment to a maximum term of five years, or both.However, the bureau says price-fixing conspiracies are, by their nature, difficult to detect and prove.“Suspicions and evidence of identical prices are not enough to prove a criminal offence,” the bureau says on its website.The Competition Bureau has in recent years examined price-fixing or deceptive pricing of a variety of products, including e-books, mattresses and chocolate. read more


Australia files WTO complaint against Canada over wine sales rules

TORONTO — Australia has filed a complaint about Canada’s rules around wine sales with the World Trade Organization.The complaint filed Friday argues that Canada’s distribution, licensing and sales measures discriminate against imported wine.It targets product mark-ups, market access and listing policies used in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.‘Canada has just detonated a bomb’: Trade relations with U.S. plummet after WTO complaintCanadians want to be freed from provincial alcohol monopolies: pollThe complaint acts as a request for a consultation between the two countries in an effort to avoid litigation.If the matter is not resolved in 60 days, a panel can be brought in to adjudicate the case.The complaint comes two years after Australia pressed Canada to lower trade barriers on the wine industry like it had done for the European Union. read more


MS will not give MR polls nominations

President Maithripala Sirisena has reportedly refused to give nominations to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Parliament elections.According to reports, the President has said that Rajapaksa will however be able to enter Parliament on the National List of the United People’s Freedom Alliance. Meanwhile Mahinda Rajapaksa is to brief the media on Wednesday about his plans for the Parliament elections. (Colombo Gazette)


Government committed to post conflict reconciliation process

The Government is committed to the post conflict reconciliation process, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Sweden Damayanthie Rajapakse said.She said this while participating at a ceremony held at the Sri Lankan Embassy premises in Sweden to mark the 68th Independence Day of Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministry said today. She also expressed the desire to strengthen relations between Sri Lanka and Sweden.Religious observances were conducted at the ceremony by the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian clergy bestowing blessings upon Sri Lanka for the country’s prosperity and good governance. Ambassador Mrs. Damayanthie Rajapakse hoisted the National Flag and delivered a speech at the ceremony elaborating on the Government’s commitment to embark on the post conflict reconciliation process and for economic development. A large gathering of Diplomatic community and Senior Officials representing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden attended the event. A group of Sri Lankan children and adults residing in Stockholm adorned this event with the rendition of patriotic songs and presentation of Sri Lankan dance forms captivating the audience.At both the events, two minutes silence was observed in honour of National Heroes and the National Anthem of Sri Lanka was sung in Sinhala and Tamil. (Colombo Gazette) read more


Sri Lanka to strengthen cooperation with EU bank

“New support from the European Investment Bank will help unlock essential new investment to improve sanitation in Colombo. I look forward to strengthening cooperation between the EIB and Sri Lanka in the years to come,” Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said following his meeting in Brussels with senior European Investment Bank officials responsible for lending in South Asia. The existing water supply and sewage network in Colombo was built a hundred years ago and is not adequate for the city’s needs. Once complete the upgraded water network will enable clean water to be supplied 24 hours a day and seven days a week, compared to the currently heavily restricted service.The new water investment programme will include provision of a new sewage network in currently un-served areas of Kirillopone. Under the initiative a new wastewater treatment facility will also be built to reduce pollution at the Wellawata sea outfall.“It is encouraging to see others joining in this effort to improve Colombo city dwellers’ quality of life which will cater to the increasing demand in the city for improved water and wastewater services,” said Sri Widowati, Country Director, Sri Lanka Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank. “This loan is a further example of the European Union’s support for Sri Lanka’s long-term development. Studies show that modern sanitation is one of the most important factors in people’s health and well-being. In addition, water supplies in many developing countries are under growing pressure from urbanisation and climate change, which puts a premium on the efficient use of those resources. We are pleased to provide assistance to help address these challenges and improve access to water and sanitation for the people of Colombo.” highlighted Tung-Laï Margue, European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.The 25 year long-term was formally agreed at a signature ceremony in Brussels by Ravi Karunanayake, M.P., Minister of Finance and Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka and Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for lending operations in South Asia. The new loan represented the EIB’s fifth sovereign loan in the country. Sri Lanka is to strengthen cooperation with the  European Investment Bank, the bank said in a statement today.The European Investment Bank is to provide EUR 50 million to support improvement and expansion of sewage networks across the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. The new loan will help Colombo Municipal Council to achieve its goal of providing full sanitation coverage to benefit people living and working in the greater Colombo area. The new EIB loan is European Investment Bank’s first ever support for water investment in Sri Lanka and the first loan for public sector investment agreed with the new post civil-war government. The European Investment Bank has supported investment in Sri Lanka since 2002 including backing climate related investment, private companies and post-tsunami recovery.The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank and one of the largest lenders for water investment worldwide. Over the last decade the European Investment Bank has provided more than EUR 37 billion for water related investment in 67 countries around the world. (Colombo Gazette) The new European Investment Bank loan to the Government of Sri Lanka will be used to finance investment works being undertaken by the Colombo Municipal Council. The Asian Development Bank will also support the water investment project and this new initiative marks the first time that the European Investment Bank has financed a project alongside another International Financial Institution in Sri Lanka. “Increased access to sanitation to be achieved by this project will improve the lives of thousands of people living in Colombo and contribute to achievement of sustainable development goals in Sri Lanka. The European Investment Bank is pleased to be working closely with partners in Sri Lanka to ensure an environmentally sustainable future for the country’s capital and is grateful for the excellent cooperation with the Asian Development Bank in our first joint support in the country. The fruitful discussions with Ministers Karunanayake and Samarawickrama have outlined how the EIB’s global experience can support new investment to improve lives and enhance opportunities in Sri Lanka.” said Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President. read more


China says Port City project in the best interest of Sri Lanka

Sun said the development within Sri Lanka’s biggest commercial city, which will be built on 269 hectares of reclaimed land, would accommodate 200,000 residents and consists of apartments, hotels, offices, shopping malls, exhibition centres, as well as provide 80,000 new jobs. It is expected to be completed by 2030. China says the Port City project is in the best interest of Sri Lanka. China is building a new city along Colombo’s coastline that will become the city’s central business district by 2030, creating 80,000 jobs for Sri Lankans, under the mainland’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.“Sri Lanka is in urgent need of a high-end platform to attract financial institutions, multinational companies, shoppers, tourists as well as provide jobs for well-educated locals as a part of its post-war reconstruction. The Port City project is planned in the best interest of Sri Lanka,” said Sun Ziyu, vice president of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Sun said the reclamation work had helped transform the area’s coastline which was previously hit by strong winds blowing towards the Indian Ocean that made it less livable.“[This has] also improved coastal protection, and is a boon to the environment,” he said. With an initial investment of US$1.4 billion, Colombo Port City is China’s biggest project in Sri Lanka, a key node along the Maritime Silk Road of the Belt and Road plan. China’s “Belt and Road” plan comprises a belt of overland corridors and sea routes connecting Asia, Africa and Europe through building infrastructure and boosting financial and trade ties for over 60 countries that lie along the routes.In 2016 alone, Chinese firms signed new construction projects worth a total contractual value of US$126 billion. CCCC accounted for one-tenth, or US$12.6 billion of the projects. (Colombo Gazette) read more


NP Governor says he was misquoted on Bachelet comments

Dr. Suren Raghavan said that he has the utmost respect for the High Commissioner and her work. “I am deeply disappointed by the spin that has been put on my discussion with the Sri Lankan Government delegation,” she said, noting that other news outlets in Sri Lanka were also continuing to significantly misrepresent the Human Rights Council process in Geneva.The High Commissioner said she and her Office remained committed to assisting the Government and people of Sri Lanka to implement the Human Rights Council’s resolutions 30/1 (2015) and 34/1 (2017). And last week the Human Rights Council in another resolution (40/1) gave the Government two more years to deliver fully on the set of commitments it originally accepted four years ago. (Colombo Gazette) Monday’s article in a local newspaper cited a member of the Government delegation, Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan, claiming the High Commissioner “admitted that certain facts incorporated in the UNHRC report against Sri Lanka could not be condoned whatsoever.” It also said he claimed she had advised two of her senior officials who attended the meeting “to be more responsible and cautious hereafter.”“Neither of these claims are true,” Bachelet said. “Either the newspaper misunderstood the Governor, or the Governor misunderstood – or misquoted – me.” The High Commissioner said she stands fully behind the report and the oral statement she made when presenting it to the Human Rights Council, and that she believes it fairly and objectively reflects the situation in Sri Lanka. Bachelet said this week that a newspaper article quoting a senior Sri Lankan official “seriously misrepresents” her discussion of the recent UN Human Rights Office report on Sri Lanka with a Government delegation attending the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 20. Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan says he was misquoted by some local newspapers on comments he made with regards to the meeting between the Sri Lankan Government delegation and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet in Geneva last week.The Governor said that his comments made to the media had been particularly misquoted by some English newspapers resulting in the High Commissioner’s office issuing a clarification. read more


Four suspects deported from Dubai released

Four suspects who were arrested in Dubai and deported were released after being questioned by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).The four were among several Sri Lankans arrested at a hotel in Dubai with notorious underworld leader Makandure Madush. They were deported to Sri Lanka and were detained at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday with actor Ryan Van Rooyen.