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Canada's new frigates could take part in ballistic missile defence – if Ottawa says yes – CBC.ca

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Canada’s new frigates are being designed with ballistic missile defence in mind, even though successive federal governments have avoided taking part in the U.S. program.

When they slip into the water some time in the mid-to-late 2020s, the new warships probably won’t have the direct capability to shoot down incoming intercontinental rockets.

But the decisions made in their design allow them to be converted to that role, should the federal government ever change course.

The warships are based upon the British Type 26 layout and are about to hit the drawing board. Their radar has been chosen and selected missile launchers have been configured to make them easy and cost-effective to upgrade.

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald said the Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 radar system to be installed on the new frigates is cutting-edge. It’s also being used on land now by the U.S. and Japan for detecting ballistic missiles.

“It’s a great piece and that is what we were looking for in terms of specification,” McDonald told CBC News in a year-end interview.

An artist’s rendering of the British Type 26 frigate. (BAE Systems Inc./Lockheed Martin Canada)

Selecting the radar system for the new frigates was seen as one of the more important decisions facing naval planners because it has to stay operational and relevant for decades to come — even as new military threats and technologies emerge.

McDonald said positive feedback from elsewhere in the defence industry convinced federal officials that they had made the right choice.

“Even from those that weren’t producing an advanced kind of radar, they said this is the capability you need,” he said.

The whole concept of ballistic missile defence (BMD) remains a politically touchy topic.

BMD — “Star Wars” to its critics — lies at the centre of a policy debate the Liberal government has tried to avoid at all costs. In 2017, Canada chose not to join the BMD program. That reluctance to embrace BMD dates back to the political bruising Paul Martin’s Liberal government suffered in 2004-05, when the administration of then-U.S. president George W. Bush leaned heavily on Ottawa to join the program.

In the years since, both the House of Commons and Senate defence committees have recommended the federal government relent and sign on to BMD — mostly because of the emerging missile threat posed by rogue nations such as North Korea.

Liberals reluctant to talk BMD

The question of whether to join BMD is expected to form part of the deliberations surrounding the renewal of NORAD — an undertaking the Liberal government has acknowledged but not costed out as part of its 2017 defence policy.

Missile defence continues to be a highly fraught concept within the federal government. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made a point of downplaying a CBC News story last summer that revealed how the Canadian and U.S. militaries had laid down markers for what the new NORAD could look like, pending sign-off by both Washington and Ottawa.

Asked about Sajjan’s response, a former senior official in the minister’s office said it raised the spectre of “Star Wars” — not a topic the Liberal government was anxious to discuss ahead of last fall’s election.

The current government may not want to talk about it, but the Canadian navy and other NATO countries are grappling with the technology.

Practice makes perfect

Last spring, a Canadian patrol frigate, operating with 12 other alliance warships, tracked and shot down a supersonic target meant to simulate a ballistic missile. A French frigate also scored a separate hit.

For the last two years, NATO warships have practiced linking up electronically in defensive exercises to shoot down both mock ballistic and cruise missiles. A Canadian frigate in the 2017 iteration of the exercise destroyed a simulated cruise missile.

HMCS St. John’s conducts a replenishment at sea during NATO operation Formidable Shield on May 4, 2019. (Pte. Sarina McNeill/Department of National Defence)

At the recent Halifax Security Forum, there was a lot of talk about the proliferation of missile technology. One defence expert told the forum Canadian military planners have been paying attention to the issue for a long time.

The frigate design is an important example.

“I think what they’ve tried to do is keep the door open by some of the decisions they’ve made, recognizing that missile proliferation is a significant concern,” said Dave Perry, of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “They haven’t shut the door on doing that and I think that is smart.”

Opponents of BMD, meanwhile, have long argued the fixation by the U.S. and NATO on ballistic missile defence is fuelling instability and giving Russia and China reasons to cooperate in air and missile defence.

Speaking before a Commons committee in 2017, Peggy Mason, president of the foreign and defence policy think-tank Rideau Institute, said the United States’s adversaries have concluded that building more offensive systems is cheaper than investing in defensive ones.

“The American BMD system also acts as a catalyst to nuclear weapons modernization, as Russia and China seek not only increased numbers of nuclear weapons but also increased manoeuvrability,” said Mason, Canada’s ambassador for disarmament from 1989 to 1994, testifying on Sept. 14, 2017.

She also warned that “there would be significant financial costs to Canadian participation” in the U.S. BMD program “given American demands” — even prior to Donald Trump’s presidency — “that allies pay their ‘fair share’ of the collective defence burden.”

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Latest worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Russia has tightened curbs in major cities as authorities blame the new Delta variant for spiking cases and deaths, while neighbouring Ukraine has registered its first two cases of the more infectious virus type.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news

EUROPE

* The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the more contagious Delta variant, first identified in India, will represent 90% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the European Union by the end of August.

* Spain has vaccinated half of its 47 million population with at least one dose and nearly 32%, or over 15 million people, have been fully inoculated.

* The share of infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus has doubled in Germany in a week and is likely to gain more traction over other variants.

* Greece will end the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and ease other remaining restrictions.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Japan is suspending approval for companies to inoculate staff amid concerns that an increase in such applications will hamper smooth delivery of vaccines.

* Alcohol, high-fives and talking loudly will be banned for the reduced numbers of Olympic ticket holders allowed into venues.

* Australia’s largest city of Sydney reintroduced “soft touch” curbs to contain a widening outbreak of the Delta variant.

AMERICAS

* A Brazilian Senate committee has formally approved a request to call representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify in an ongoing probe into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

* Canada will further relax border restrictions in the weeks to come as long as the science supports such a move, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

* Federal authorities have seized at U.S. airports unauthorised versions of remdesivir destined for distribution in Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported. [nL2N2O51U0]

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* South Africa’s health regulator said it had received documentation for China’s Sinopharm vaccine and will evaluate the data to assess the efficacy of the shot.

* Israel empowered health officials to quarantine anyone deemed to have been exposed to the especially infectious Delta variant.

* Bahrain will extend by three months a government support program for businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults are likely linked to vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots, a group of doctors advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

* Vaccines made by AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variants. [nL3N2O43IN]

* The University of Oxford said it was testing anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Wall Street and global equity markets were broadly higher on Wednesday after reassurances from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank is not rushing to hike interest rates, while European stocks remained under pressure. [MKTS/GLOB]

* A period of high inflation in the United States may last longer than anticipated but should still ease over time as the economy settles back to normal, two U.S. Federal Reserve officials said.

* Euro zone business growth accelerated at its fastest pace in 15 years in June as the easing of lockdown measures unleashed pent-up demand and drove a boom in the dominant services sector but also led to soaring price pressures.

(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Juliette Portala; Edited by Arun Koyyur)

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Canada’s M&A boom fuels hiring spree, higher pay

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Record-breaking dealmaking in Canada is encouraging investment banks to beef up staffing, but the increased demand for bankers is forcing some to pay up in unique ways to attract new hires.

Canadian mergers and acquisitions (M&A) year to date surged to a record $206.5 billion and IPOs hit an all-time high of $5.6 billion, according to Refinitiv, after the pandemic crushed dealmaking in the first three quarters of 2020.

HSBC, JPMorgan Chase & Co and National Bank of Canada are expanding their M&A teams.

“It continues to be an active market with lots of active discussions with clients going on as well, and so that has absolutely spurred on a need to fortify the ranks within the teams,” said Scott Lampard, head of global banking for HSBC Bank Canada.

HSBC plans to boost overall investment banking headcount by 20%-25%, mainly at the analyst level to support pitching and executing deals, Lampard said.

PENT-UP DEMAND

With the pace of transaction expected to continue at pace, banks are paying more to hire and retain existing teams, offering a range of new services, like sending in a consultant to create the ideal home office, recruiters say.

“We’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years and we’ve never seen a market like this,” said Bill Vlaad, CEO at recruitment firm Vlaad and Company. “Everybody is scrambling,”

“Many of the banks have increased base salaries quite dramatically, mostly in 2021,” he said, adding salaries had increased 20%-40% across M&A roles.

“Now if you want to attract, you have to put something else on the table.”

To poach talent, banks are adding signing bonuses, extra vacation days, healthcare increases, special programs for mental wellness and home office perks, all tailored to individual requests, Vlaad said.

TD Securities, Barclays, CIBC World Markets are the top M&A advisers year to date. All three declined to comment on hiring plans.

Of the top deals announced this year, Rogers Communications Inc’s C$20 billion ($16.2 billion) bid for Shaw Communications Inc and Canadian National’s bid $33.6 billion offer for Kansas City Southern are the two biggest.

Despite the pandemic, five of the top six Canadian banks paid an average of C$3.1 billion ($2.50 billion) in total bonuses last year, up from C$2.9 billion ($2.34 billion) in 2019, an analysis of filings by Reuters showed.

Headcount at National Bank Finance will be up by four or five people in M&A versus the same time last year, David Savard, head of M&A at the bank, told Reuters.

That put the team at 28 for the large-cap M&A team and 10 for the mid-market team, he said, adding both areas were “booming”.

“There seems to be some pent-up demand for entrepreneurial-led companies and private companies doing M&A coming out of COVID,” he said.

David Rawlings, CEO for JPMorgan Canada, agreed headcount would be likely higher in the near future.

“We think activity will continue to be strong and are currently looking to selectively hire with a particular focus on senior diverse candidates,” said Rawlings.

($1 = 1.2453 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)

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French court overturns ruling saying sale of cannabidiol is illegal

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France’s highest appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling that stores in the country can’t legally sell cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotic compound related to cannabis that is being researched for a variety of medical applications.

Based on the free trade of goods within the European Union, the Cour de cassation ruled that judges could not find the sale of CBD in France illegal if it had been legally produced in a member state of the bloc.

The Court of Justice of the EU ruled last year that no national law can prohibit the sale of CBD legally produced in a member state, the French court also said.

“Without considering whether the substances seized had not been legally produced in another member state of the European Union, the court failed to provide a basis for its decision,” it said, referring to a ruling of a lower appeals court.

The Cour de cassation did not rule whether selling CBD in France was legal or not, and ordered a lower court to rule again on a case involving the owner of a shop selling CBD.

“We are happy”, CBD shop owner Mathieu Bensa, who was not involved in the case, told Reuters after the ruling.

“We did not understand why France was the last country in the European Union that had not given access to the sale of hemp plants”, he said.

Derived mainly from the hemp plant, CBD is increasingly used as a relaxant.

Cannabis stocks have attracted growing interest on world stock markets, particularly on the Toronto stock exchange after Canada became one of the first major economies to legalise the recreational use of marijuana.

Cannabis use is outlawed in France but the country has one of Europe’s highest consumption rates.

(Reporting by Matthieu Protard, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Ardee Napolitano; Editing by Mark Potter)

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