OTTAWA — The federal government has confirmed that it intends to sign the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal at a meeting next week in New Zealand.But when it comes to ratification of the 12-country treaty, the Liberals are still perched squarely atop the fence.“Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door,” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote Monday in an open letter posted on her department’s website.“Signing does not equal ratifying…. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made.”Only a majority vote in the House of Commons would ensure that Canada seals the deal, she added. She has also requested a thorough, transparent study of the agreement by parliamentary committee.In recent weeks, Freeland has conducted public consultations on the wide-ranging accord, which — if ratified — would also set new international rules for sectors beyond trade. Those other areas include intellectual property, which worries some experts.“It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns,” Freeland wrote.“Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”‘Real coup’ for Canadian wineries buried in TPP deal will combat ice wine counterfeits overseas$4.3 billion TPP compensation for Canada’s dairy industry is not a done deal: Trade Minister Chrystia FreelandThe minister has already indicated the massive accord, which includes major economies such as the United States and Japan, cannot be renegotiated.Freeland said each country has up to two years to consider ratification before making a final decision. She pointed out that by signing the deal Canada will keep its status as a potential full partner in the agreement.Trade ministers from the TPP’s partner countries have been invited to sign the deal on Feb. 4 in Auckland.The former Conservative government announced an agreement-in-principle on the pact in October during the federal election campaign.At the time, then-prime minister Stephen Harper hailed the TPP as a deal that would give Canada access to a massive market of nearly 800 million people.Harper warned Canada couldn’t afford to pass up on the agreement, a deal that came under heavy criticism in part because the talks took place in secrecy.The treaty can take effect if it’s ratified by half the participating countries representing 85 per cent of the proposed trade zone’s economy.It remains unclear, however, whether U.S. lawmakers will ratify the accord.On Monday, Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose urged the government to support the TPP to help Canada’s limping economy.“Right now when Western Canada is hurting… the Trans-Pacific Partnership offers huge opportunities, particularly in the business services sector and the agricultural sector,” Ambrose said in Ottawa.In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Freeland recalled hearing people on both sides of the TPP debate express their views during her cross-Canada consultations.For example, she said she heard from groups representing farmers in Alberta and the Port of Vancouver that were very strongly in favour of TPP, a deal that would open up new foreign markets for many Canadian firms.On the other hand, Freeland also heard concerns from Canadian and U.S. academics at a recent event at the University of Toronto. Several trade experts who addressed the conference criticized the TPP’s provisions on intellectual property and warned they would be harmful for Canada.Freeland has said Canada must remain deeply connected to the global economy, particularly since the country boasts just the 11th-biggest economy in the world.“We are strongly in favour of free trade,” she said in the interview. “Having said that, we’re not the government that negotiated the TPP.”
The individual, whose name is being withheld for obvious reasons, is alleged to have obtained a substantial compensation with the new endowment.The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh had earlier given the power of attorney to this individual to handle negotiations with the Saudi government on acquiring a new building in place of the old Ceylon House in central Makkah. Consequently, he retains ownership of the property.“It has traditionally been serving pilgrims with facilities for the Haj medical team, and so we’re keen to see that it’s restored to the community to continue to serve the noble cause,” Mujibur Rahman said.He added that the original building was purchased for SR115,000 by the Colombo-based Sri Lankan Haj Pilgrims Welfare Trust in 1963. “This came after King Saud in 1960 granted permission to construct housing in Makkah for poor pilgrims from Sri Lanka,” he noted. The island’s medical team also utilized it for serving the pilgrims in addition to the poor pilgrims who came from the island, he said.The new building has 63 rooms on four levels and can accommodate 261 pilgrims. It is located near Hariri Mosque in the university area. The new headquarters was endowed to the Sri Lanka Haj Association by the Makkah governorate. The Ceylon House, which was given by the Saudi government in place of its old property which was demolished to make way for the new Makkah expansion project, was meant to serve the interests of Haj and Umrah pilgrims from Sri Lanka. Mujibur Rahman said that he will take up this matter with the Ministry of Muslim Afffairs in Colombo headed by Minister M. H. M. Haleem to initiate action in restoring the endowment to the Sri Lankan community. The parliamentarian was on a visit to Makkah to perform Umrah with his wife and two little sons.“The trustees of the Ceylon House have passed away and the property is now with an individual. We have to take it back (with the help of the heirs of former trustees) and put it under the control of a new group of trustees who should be legally appointed by the Sri Lanka government,” he added. A visiting Sri Lankan legislator told Arab News that “Ceylon House,” which is a property of the island’s Muslims, has to be redeemed from an individual who claims to be its owner and handed to a new group of trustees, who should be appointed by the Colombo government.Mujibur Rahman, a young parliamentarian who was elected to Sri Lanka’s Parliament with a large number of votes from the Colombo Central Electorate, said that it is sad that the previous government has not taken any action on this matter leaving the public trust in the hands of an individual. Arab News has learned that the individual also rents out the building to Pakistani Hajis who come for their annual pilgrimage to the holy city. It is estimated that the seasonal rent would amount to more than SR2 million during the Haj period.Answering another question on Sri Lankan Muslims, Mujibur Rahman said that the present government under President Maithripala Sirisena with Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier is dedicated to serve the Muslims in all parts of the island.The period after President Sirisena came to power on Jan. 8 was a renaissance to the Muslim community in the island. “Earlier under Rajapaksa regime, Muslims were living in a reign of terror. They were not sure how many Muslim places of worship would be destroyed and how many Muslim properties would be damaged,” the parliamentarian said, adding that now there is an air of freedom in the community and they can move freely in all parts of the island without being harassed by racists simply because of their religion.
A MAJOR REVAMP of the Junior Cert programme will see students rewarded for their work outside of exams.Under new guidelines set out by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), students would receive marks for taking part in short courses.The NCCA will develop eight short courses for use on an optional basis from the 2014/15 school year.These courses are: Chinese language and cultureCivic, Social and Political Education (CSPE)Artistic performanceProgramming and codingSocial, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)Caring for AnimalsPEDigital Media Literacy The draft proposals for the CSPE, SPHE, PE and Coding courses have been published by the NCCA, with the end of the CSPE written exam one of the major changes.SPHE students will be asked to show how their learning applies to real-life situations, such as devising media campaigns to promote mental health.CSPE students will no longer sit an exam, but will do two action projects, keeping a diary of their work. The projects can be such things as mock tribunals or organising guest speakers.In coding, students will learn to write and test computer code.Students in PE will be expected to demonstrate performance in physical activities. They will have to understand and be competent in three of: atheltics, aquatics, divide court games like badminton and invasion games like football.They will also have to work together in teams.Teacher training in the short courses is expected to begin soon, but ASTI members have already indicated that they will not comply with it, due to industrial action.Read: Voluntary secondary schools at funding disadvantage – ESRIColumn: Reducing school holidays would help students, parents and the economy