Auditor General releases Spring 2014 Report
Source: Office of the Auditor General of Canada
In his Spring 2014 report tabled today in Parliament, Auditor General Michael Ferguson examines a number of different areas, including public sector pension plans and the expansion of federal correctional facilities, which illustrate how important it is for government to consider both the long and short term perspectives in its planning.
“As some of these audits show, government can become caught in a cycle of reacting to pressures, whether to mitigate capacity concerns in prisons or meet program timelines,” said Mr. Ferguson. “Though government should work to provide Canadians with programs and services in a timely fashion, planning should also look beyond the needs of the day.”
“Better long-term planning is achievable in many of the areas we are reporting on today, and would improve results for Canadians and make better use of taxpayer dollars,” added Mr. Ferguson.
The report also looks at procuring relocation services, outsourcing of building management services, aggressive tax planning, the First Nations Policing Program, selected transfer payment programs administered by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, and the quality control framework supporting selected data products produced by Statistics Canada. Main points of the special examinations of the Laurentian Pilotage Authority and the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, completed since Spring 2013, are also included in the Auditor General’s Spring report.
Family law cases in the civil courts, 2012/2013
Source: Statistics Canada
The civil court system in Canada deals with family law cases as well as a wide variety of other civil issues such as lawsuits and contract disputes. Every year, families make use of the civil court system to resolve issues related to family breakdown, including, divorce, separation, child custody, access and support, and other family issues. Concerned with the burden and costs of family law court cases (on both families and courts), federal, provincial and territorial governments have put in place an increasing number of family justice services to help couples come to agreement without having to go to court, or if need be, to help them through the court process. These include parent information programs and centres, mediation and alternate dispute resolution. In addition, the federal government publishes Child Support tables based on federal and provincial guidelines to help families calculate standard child support amounts. In spite of the increased availability of these services, there is still concern that family law court cases are complex and lengthy and comprise a substantial amount of civil court activity.
Using information from the Statistics Canada Civil Court Survey (CCS), this Juristat article looks in more detail at the activity of different types of family law cases within the civil court system.Note 2 The first part of the report looks at the characteristics of family law cases active in 2012/2013. The second part of the report then examines the court activity (documents filed, hearings and judgments) of different types of family law cases over time, examining the activity of cases initiated in 2008/2009.
It is important to note that court activity will vary for different types of cases. The fact that a case involves many court events or continues to be active may be a function of the type of case (e.g. adoption compared to a complex divorce or separation), the individual family circumstances, or the number of issues that a case needs to address, and not a function of the court process itself.
Telecoms providers take more and give less, hurting small biz
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business
A CFIB survey shows that almost 50% of small business owners are unhappy with the current options provided by telecom providers. From internet to a variety of wireless technologies, businesses expect telecom providers to offer fairly priced options, good customer service, and a variety of service providers to choose from.
CFIB recommends that additional competitive options be made available to SMEs in order to help improve the types of choices available, as well as the quality of customer service offered. This report reveals how small businesses are using Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure, who they are using as service providers, and their overall satisfaction with the industry.
Country Analysis Brief: Mexico
Source: Energy Information Administration
Mexico is one of the 10 largest oil producers in the world, the third-largest in the Americas after the United States and Canada, and an important partner in the U.S. energy trade. However, Mexico’s oil production has steadily decreased since 2005 as a result of natural production declines from Cantarell and other large offshore fields. The rate of total production decline has abated in past several years. In December 2013, in an effort to address the declines of its domestic oil production, the Mexican government enacted constitutional reforms that ended the 75-year monopoly of Petroleós Mexicanos (PEMEX), the state-owned oil company.
Oil is a crucial component of Mexico’s economy. The oil sector generated 13% of the country’s export earnings in 2013, a proportion that has declined over the past decade, according to Mexico’s central bank. More significantly, earnings from the oil industry (including taxes and direct payments from PEMEX) accounted for about 32% of total government revenues in 2013. Declines in oil production have a direct impact on the country’s economic output and on the government’s fiscal health, particularly as refined product consumption and import needs grow.
NAFTA at 20: Overview and Trade Effects (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force on January 1, 1994. The agreement was signed by President George H.W. Bush on December 17, 1992, and approved by Congress on November 20, 1993. The NAFTA Implementation Act was signed into law by President William J. Clinton on December 8, 1993 (P.L. 103-182). The overall economic impact of NAFTA is difficult to measure since trade and investment trends are influenced by numerous other economic variables, such as economic growth, inflation, and currency fluctuations. The agreement may have accelerated the trade liberalization that was already taking place, but many of these changes may have taken place with or without an agreement. Nevertheless, NAFTA is significant because it was the most comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated at the time and contained several groundbreaking provisions. A legacy of the agreement is that it has served as a template or model for the new generation of FTAs that the United States later negotiated and it also served as a template for certain provisions in multilateral trade negotiations as part of the Uruguay Round.
Ratifying and Implementing Trade and Investment Treaties in Canada
Source: Parliamentary Library of Canada
Under Canada’s constitutional system, the conduct of foreign affairs is a royal prerogative power of the federal Crown.
Consequently, the Executive Branch has the exclusive power to negotiate and conclude international treaties. Parliament has the exclusive power to enact legislation to implement those treaties.
As Canada continues to enter into such treaties, a number of important questions arise:
- What is the interaction between Canadian and international law in the treaty-making and implementation processes, particularly in relation to trade and investment?
- What measures must the Executive and Legislative branches take so that these treaties can come into force?
- What formal role do the provinces and territories play in the negotiation, ratification and implementation of trade and investment treaties?
Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution
The Arctic is changing and increasingly drawing the world’s interest, with the potential for vast reserves of offshore oil and gas constituting arguably the most attractive, yet challenging prospect in the region.
As the U.S. prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this policy brief is designed to inform the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government of the current state of oil and gas governance in the Arctic, and to address the following questions:
- How can the U.S. elevate the Arctic region as a priority national interest?
- How can the U.S. lead in strengthening offshore oil and gas governance in the Arctic?
Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.
Current Issues in Mental Health in Canada
Source: Library of Parliament
Mental health problems and mental illness exact a huge human, social and economic toll.
In Canada, roughly one in every five people will experience a mental illness in his or her lifetime. Individuals with mental health problems or mental illness may suffer from such consequences as stigmatization, discrimination, lost income, homelessness and substance abuse, among others. Left untreated, some mental health disorders may even lead to suicide.
The Library of Parliament recently published a series of papers on mental health in Canada and the involvement of the federal government in this area; this HillNote introduces the series and highlights some of the issues addressed in the papers.
Police resources in Canada, 2013
Source: Statistics Canada
In a period of fiscal pressures coupled with growing policing responsibilities, discussions regarding the economics of policing are taking place. Contributing to these discussions are police services, the public sector, academics, the private sector, as well as the general public. The discussions seek to identify the nature of and reasons for police expenditures, as well as ways to reduce costs while continuing to meet police responsibilities regarding public safety (Public Safety Canada 2013).
Using data from the Police Administration Survey (see the “Survey descriptions” section for details), this Juristat article will focus on the most recent findings regarding the rate of police strength and police expenditures. The Police Administration Survey captures police-reported data on the number of police officers in Canada by rank and sex, as well as civilian employees, based on a snapshot date (which is May 15, 2013 for the most recent data). Data on hiring, departures, and eligibility to retire in this report are based on either the 2012 calendar year or the 2012/2013 fiscal year, depending on the police service.
Information from this survey is provided for Canada, the provinces and territories and census metropolitan areas (CMAs). In addition, this article provides information on workplace mobility within police services, including the hiring of and departures by police, and eligibility to retire. Finally, it summarizes data on the characteristics of police officers, including gender, age group, and Aboriginal and visible minority status. To provide a more complete picture of the state of policing in Canada, the following contextual information are included: policing responsibilities and strategies within the economics of policing discussions; international data on police personnel and gender from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and wage information from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS).
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a national strategy document for the Arctic region. On January 30, 2014, the Obama Administration released an implementation plan for this strategy.
Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.
A tale of two Mexicos: Growth and prosperity in a two-speed economy
Source: McKinsey & Company
In the 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, Mexico has become a global manufacturing leader and a prime destination for investors and multinationals around the world. Yet the country’s economic growth continues to disappoint, and the rise in living standards has stalled. The root cause is a chronic productivity problem that stems from the economy’s two-speed nature. A modern, fast-growing Mexico, with globally competitive multinationals and cutting-edge manufacturing plants, exists amid a far larger group of traditional Mexican enterprises that do not contribute to growth. These two Mexicos are moving in opposite directions. The largest companies are raising productivity by an impressive 5.8 percent a year, while the productivity of small, slow-growing enterprises is falling by 6.5 percent a year. And with employment growing faster in the traditional Mexico, more labor is shifting to low-productivity work.
Health care wait times cost Canadians more than $1 billion in lost productivity
Source: Fraser Institute
Canadians lost a combined $1.1 billion, or an average of $1,202 per patient, as a result of lengthy waits for medically necessary health care in 2013, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
The study, The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care, calculates the average value of time lost during the work week for each of the estimated 928,120 patients waiting for surgery in Canada last year.
When calculations include hours outside the work week—evenings and weekends, excluding eight hours of sleep per night—the estimated cost of waiting jumps from $1.1 billion to $3.4 billion, or an average of $3,681 per patient.
Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate
Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies
The unsustainable federal budget outlook will inevitably push entitlement reform to the forefront of the national policy debate. As America’s leaders consider reform options, they will have much to learn from the experience of other developed countries, several of which have recently enacted far-reaching overhauls of their state pension systems that greatly reduce the long-term fiscal burden of their aging populations. Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate places America’s aging challenge in international perspective, examines the most promising reform initiatives in nine other developed countries, and draws practical lessons for U.S. policymakers.
Current Issues in Mental Health in Canada: Homelessness and Access to Housing
Source: Library of Parliament
The relationship between mental health problems and homelessness and access to housing is complex. Individuals with mental health problems or mental illnesses are predisposed to experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness, and poor mental health can be caused, triggered or aggravated by homelessness or housing that does not meet a certain standard of adequacy, affordability and suitability.
In Canada, access to housing for people with mental health problems has evolved over time; from poorhouses and prisons in the 1800s, to psychiatric hospitals by the 1900s, to a process of deinstitutionalization beginning in the 1960s. Since the 1990s, those working in the Canadian mental health care system and advocates in the mental health field have displayed a greater awareness of the critical relationship between mental health and housing, in particular the role housing plays in recovery and well-being.
Because many mental illnesses are undiagnosed, particularly in the homeless population, in this publication the term mental health problem will encompass both poor mental health – such as feelings of loneliness, worthlessness and hopelessness – and mental illnesses – such as schizophrenia or depression.
The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia
This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.
CRS — Keystone XL: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessments in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)
Keystone XL: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessments in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
On June 25, 2013, President Obama announced a national “Climate Action Plan” to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG), as well as to encourage adaptation to climate change. During his speech, the President made reference to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project—a pipeline that would transport crude oil derived from Canadian oil sands deposits in Alberta to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. He stated that an evaluation of the proposed pipeline’s impacts on climate change would be “critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
Canadian Oil Sands: Life-Cycle Assessments of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Ressearch Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Recent congressional interest in U.S. energy policy has focused in part on ways through which the United States could secure more economical and reliable petroleum resources both domestically and internationally. Many forecasters identify petroleum products refined from Canadian oil sands as one possible solution. Increased production from Canadian oil sands, however, is not without controversy, as many have expressed concern over the potential environmental impacts. These impacts include emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) during resource extraction and processing. A number of key studies in recent literature have expressed findings that GHG emissions per unit of energy produced from Canadian oil sands crudes are higher than those of other crudes imported, refined, and consumed in the United States. The studies identify two main reasons for the difference: (1) oil sands are heavier and more viscous than lighter crude oil types on average, and thus require more energy- and resource-intensive activities to extract; and (2) oil sands are chemically deficient in hydrogen, and have a higher carbon, sulfur, and heavy metal content than lighter crude oil types on average, and thus require more processing to yield consumable fuels by U.S. standards.