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Ethical oil, seal meat and cheap-chic clothing are up for sale

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed a new environment minister who is borrowing lines from a controversial book. He has also rolled out a national televised ad campaign that has Canadians wondering if we’re on the brink of a real election, or just a make-believe one. The country is gaining Target and finally selling seal meat, but is that enough to get us over the recent banning of a beloved Dire Straits tune?

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed a new environment minister, Peter Kent, who has signaled a new strategy on the controversial Alberta oil sands in his first week on the job. Both Kent and Harper have repeatedly used the term “ethical oil” in recent interviews, taking a page - or a whole book, really - from conservative commentator Ezra Levant, who published a book called “Ethical Oil” last year. The term seeks to rebrand Canadian oil as an ethical alternative to the oil in countries such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, which have comparatively poorer records on human rights.   

While insisting they it doesn’t want and won’t trigger an election, the Conservative Party rolled out a national televised ad campaign in English and French. They say this is a defensive move because the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, has been electioneering this month, traveling to 20 ridings across the country that the Liberals would like to win in a future election.  It seems there is always cause to believe an election might be just around the corner. The current reason is because a new budget is expected in February or March. An election could be triggered should it fail to gain support in the House of Commons. Parliament reconvenes on Jan. 31.

The Tamil Tigers may be using Canada as their base-in-exile, security intelligence officers are warning. More than 550 Sri Lankan migrants arrived in two cargo ships on the west coast in 2009 and 2010. The majority of them have been released by Canadian authorities. Now senior government officials believe two more shiploads may arrive in the next couple of weeks, including 50 former rebel leaders and fighters.

Canada’s freedom-of-information regime ranks last among five democratic countries, a new study revealed. The study compared citizens’ ability to access government records in Canada, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, which placed first. Canada’s regime was found to suffer from lengthy delays and extensive censorship.

The City of Toronto mourned a police officer killed in the line of duty when he tried to stop a man driving a stolen snowplow. The suspect has been charged with first-degree murder. Sgt. Ryan Russell’s funeral was attended by 13,000 mourners. It is believed to be the largest police funeral ever held in the city.


America’s favourite cheap-chic line, Target, will be opening up to 150 Canadian stores by 2014. Target spent more than $1.8 billion to acquire 220 stores from struggling Canadian department chain Zellers. Target’s next step is to evaluate the 220 stores to see which it wants to keep, build its Canadian managerial team….and deal with a $250 million trademark suit launched against it by Fairweather, on the grounds that it owns the right to use that name in Canada.

Canadian-American neighborliness is also on the fritz when it comes to lumber. The Obama administration opened an aggressive new legal front on the ongoing softwood lumber dispute that alleges British Columbia sold substandard timber to lumber companies. Canadian authorities continue to insist no rules have been broken, but if an arbitrator disagrees, Canada could end up owing a half-billion dollars in trade penalties to its largest trading partner.

Canada’s unpopular sealing industry has found a new market in China. The EU has banned the products, but Chinese consumers will be able to buy seal meat and oil from Canada, and the deal could pave the way for other products, such as pelts. China is Canada’s third largest market for seafood exports.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney forecasted growth of 2.4 percent for 2011. This is up from what the central bank predicted in October – 2.3 percent – but only modestly. Carney said the strength of the Canadian dollar and the country’s poor productivity performance are holding it back from greater growth.


Hardcore hockey fans and bandwagon jumpers alike had their hearts broken when the Canadian team gave up a 3-0 lead to lose to the Russians in the world junior championship gold medal game. Political pundits could only speculate that the prime minister was equally devastated, when the live feed from his living room failed to resurface on TSN after the Russian goals.

There was also devastation in the retro music world. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council announced a ban on the Dire Straits classic “Money for Nothing” after a private citizen complained about the song’s use of the word “faggot.” The devastation quickly transformed into a backlash, with some radio stations defying the order and playing the 25-year-old song. In a quirky twist, public broadcaster CBC Radio can still play the song because the CBSC only governs private stations.