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Canada struggles to play nice

Canada stumbled on the international stage when it lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and was ordered to leave its military base in the United Arab Emirates. But ever-friendly, we're offering an olive branch in the form of a new BlackBerry model, a parody of Justin Bieber's autobiography and an all-hockey musical.

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Canada wasn’t the most popular kid on the international playground this month, illustrated most prominently by the United Nations' firm rejection of its bid for a Security Council seat. Canada has served on the council six times, and never before lost a bid for a seat. Critics blamed the loss on the Conservative government’s unpopular foreign policy.

But when the vote came down, not all eyes were on the horseshoe. Jim Flaherty, the federal finance minister, delivered an economic update the same day. He reported a $55.6-billion deficit — the highest in Canadian history — but was optimistic the country would boast a small budget surplus within five years. Flaherty’s last-minute announcement of the economic update led some analysts to speculate his speech had been timed as a distraction from the U.N.’s humbling decision.

A second international snub came from the United Arab Emirates, which announced it would force Canada to vacate Camp Mirage, the Dubai base considered strategically important for the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. Canada’s ejection came after the two countries failed to agree on the UAE’s demands for greater access to Canadian landing space for its two national airlines. Canadian forces have until Nov. 5 to vacate the base.

Although Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada and the UAE maintain excellent relations, the skies looked less than friendly the week after the dispute, when the UAE closed its airspace to a plane flying top Canadian government and military officials, including Defense Minister Peter MacKay, who had to be re-routed out of Afghanistan as a result.  

At home, Canadians sat uncomfortably through the week-long trial of Col. Russell Williams. The former army commander was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to the murders of two women. The graphic details that emerged from the trial over Twitter have sparked a debate over media policy on tweeting potentially disturbing material.

A second guilty plea came in a separate case from a surprising source: Omar Khadr, the Canadian “child soldier” who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since he was 16. Khadr reversed seven years of denial and entered a guilty plea to charges of war crimes, murder, terrorism and killing civilians. He is expected to apply to serve his sentence in Canada.

Canadian voters took to the polls in the provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba for municipal elections this month. Notably, the city of Calgary in Alberta elected Canada’s first Muslim mayor.  

Money:

BHP’s $38.6 billion bid for Potash Corp. was denounced by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who will send his ministers of energy and resources to Ottawa to persuade the prime minister to reject the offer, which is valid until Nov. 18. There’s more than money at stake for the Conservative government — they currently hold 13 of Saskatchewan’s 14 seats, and don’t want to lose them.  

BHP isn’t the only company unpopular in Canada lately. After a year of massive recalls, Toyota sales in the country have dropped 14 percent, the steepest year-to-year drop since 1993. 

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney has indicated he may change the country’s inflation targets for the first time in 20 years. Canada has aimed for a 2 percent inflation rate since 1991, but Carney revealed that in recent years, the bank has begun studying price-level targeting as an alternative.

Cable giant Shaw Communications announced its operations will change hands, although not surnames, with younger brother Brad Shaw taking over from Jim Shaw who will step down as chief executive officer early next year. The younger Shaw will lead the company’s ambitious expansion into broadcasting and wireless. 

Less-than-brotherly relations were evident between Research in Motion’s Jim Balsillie and Apple’s Steve Jobs, who traded jabs at each other’s products this month. Less than four weeks after announcing the development of the PlayBook, RIM quietly unveiled its new BlackBerry Bold 9780, which will feature a new operating system.

Elsewhere:

Hockey season is in full swing, and just in case the live games aren’t giving Canadians enough of our national pastime, an all-hockey musical called Score has opened in Toronto, starring Olivia Newton-John. But hockey history purists will be miffed by a gaffe in one song, which pays tribute to Bobby Orr facing off against the Soviets in 1972 — which he never did, owing to an injury.

Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber’s photograph-heavy “First Step 2 Forever” autobiography reached teen girls everywhere this month. Another Canadian icon, 80-year-old Gordon Pinset, went viral with a dramatic reading of key excerpts from Bieber’s book.  

And in testament to the Power of Love (and modern technology), 42-year-old Quebecois songbird Celine Dion gave birth to fraternal twin boys in a Florida hospital.

http://www.globalpost.com/passport/canada/101028/canada-struggles-play-nice