Special forces troops are on standby to help evacuate Canada’s embassy in Kabul, a defence source tells CBC News.
The highly-trained soldiers are expected to work alongside allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are sending thousands of troops to the Afghan capital to aid in the partial evacuation of their embassies as security throughout the war-torn country rapidly deteriorates.
In what can only be described as a major military and psychological victory, on Thursday the Taliban captured both Kandahar and Herat — Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities.
The confidential source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that at the moment the government has no intention of deploying a large conventional force, as both the Americans and British plan to do. (The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops, the British 600.)
There has been extensive discussion between the Canadian military and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) — which is responsible for the Middle East — about providing logistical and transport assistance to Canada, should it be required, said the source — who is not being identified by CBC News because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
The decision to shut down the Canadian embassy or reduce its operations lies with the federal government.
WATCH | Kandahar was hub of Canada’s combat mission:
Ciara Trudeau, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, would not confirm the embassy is in the process of being shut down, but did say that the federal government is closely monitoring the situation and that Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau is “in close coordination with our allies” and the country’s ambassador in Afghanistan.
“The security of the Canadian Embassy and the safety of our personnel in Kabul is our top priority. For security reasons we do not comment on specific operational matters of our missions abroad,” said Trudeau in an email late Thursday night.
Separately, the U.S. State Department confirmed Garneau spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Washington’s plan to reduce the size of the U.S. civilian contingent in Afghanistan.
The ‘security situation is deteriorating’ — Sajjan
Earlier Thursday, before the news out of Afghanistan, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan acknowledged that Kandahar — the city Canadians fought and died to protect for five years — could fall.
“We’re monitoring the situation extremely closely,” Sajjan said during a media availability in South Vancouver. “In fact, I have daily briefings on this, and I had one this morning.
“All I can say is right now, yes, the security situation is deteriorating. We do have contingency plans in place to make sure that our personnel are safe.”
Sajjan would not elaborate on those plans.
Addressing one portion of his remarks to members of the military and to the families of the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Sajjan said their sacrifices and contributions to Canada were “extraordinary.”
He even tried to suggest those sacrifices will endure, noting that the Taliban committed many heinous acts in Kandahar before they were driven from power in 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion and that Canada helped to transform the city in the years afterward.
“The stadium in Kandahar City that was used for atrocities, it was again used for people to play soccer. Girls were able to go to school …” he said.
“There’s a generation of Afghans who have benefited from the tremendous sacrifice that have been made by Canadians and our allies. And I want to say this — no one can erase that now.”
Taliban reportedly hunting down those who worked for western forces
Sajjan acknowledged, however, that Canada can’t “choose a destiny” for Afghanistan. He said that Canada will continue to support the Afghan people.
In areas conquered by the Taliban recently, humanitarian groups — notably Human Rights Watch — have reported militants executing prisoners and hunting down people who worked for western forces and civilian agencies.
Canada has been working to bring some of those Afghan workers to Canada under a special immigration program. A first government flight carrying dozens of Afghans who assisted the Canadian military during the war in Afghanistan arrived in Toronto.
More are expected to arrive in coming weeks.
Tonight a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC News that the agency is processing applications as quickly as possible. It is also adapting the program to help workers who have had to leave Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and volatile,” Nancy Caron said in an email. “Given this situation, we are adapting our processes to accommodate those who may now find themselves outside Afghanistan.”
Individuals who want to come to Canada may now apply for the program from anywhere, provided applicants or their eligible family members were in Afghanistan on or after July 22, 2021, according to Caron.
Quoting an anonymous Afghan official, the Associated Press reported that Kandahar had fallen after weeks of heavy street-to-street fighting.
The news agency said the provincial governor and other officials managed to flee the city by air on Thursday.
The capture of both Kandahar and Herat brings to 12 the number of provincial capitals which have fallen to the Taliban offensive in recent days.
Earlier this week, the city of Ghazni was also overrun. It is on the main highway between Kandahar and the capital and its demise means the hardline Islamist movement is tightening its grip on Kabul.
Taiwan blasts China for Pacific trade pact threats
China is an “arch-criminal” intent on bullying Taiwan and has no right to oppose or comment on its bid to join a pan-Pacific trade pact, Taiwan’s government said in an escalating war of words over Taipei and Beijing’s decision to apply.
Chinese-claimed Taiwan said on Wednesday it had formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), less than a week after China submitted its application.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it opposed Taiwan “entering into any official treaty or organization”, and on Thursday Taiwan said China sent 24 military aircraft into the island’s air defence zone, part of what Taipei says is an almost daily pattern of harassment.
In a statement late on Thursday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said China had “no right to speak” about Taiwan’s bid.
“The Chinese government only wants to bully Taiwan in the international community, and is the arch-criminal in increased hostility across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
China is not a member of the CPTPP and its trade system has been widely questioned globally for not meeting the high standards of the bloc, the ministry added.
China sent its air force to menace Taiwan shortly after the application announcement, it said.
“This pattern of behaviour could only come from China,” it said.
In a statement also issued late Thursday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said China’s entry into the CPTPP would benefit the post-pandemic global economic recovery.
China opposes Taiwan using trade to push its “international space” or engage in independent activities, it added.
“We hope relevant countries appropriately handle Taiwan-related matters and not give convenience or provide a platform for Taiwan independence activities,” it said.
The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was seen as an important economic counterweight to China’s growing influence.
But the TPP was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States.
The grouping, which was renamed the CPTPP, links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Canada's costly election: Could $600M have been spent elsewhere? – CTV News
With an estimated record-setting price tag of $610 million, the 2021 election is the most expensive in Canadian history — at a cost of about $100 million more than the 2019 election.
After all of that spending resulted in little change politically, many are asking whether it was worth the money and where else those hundreds of millions of dollars could have been directed.
Indigenous organizations have criticized the election as being “unnecessary,” suggesting the money could have been better spent on clean drinking water initiatives, reconciliation projects, and mental health initiatives.
Child-care advocates have similarly suggested that the funds could have been used to propel the Liberals’ $10-a-day child-care promise. And many Canadians have spoken out, wishing the money had instead been spent on pandemic recovery.
Experts say that it’s not quite that clear-cut, as governments don’t have a set amount of money in their pot each year – and some say you can’t put a price on democracy, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Ian Lee, associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says it’s important to first understand that government budgets don’t operate like your run-of-the-mill household budget.
“Governments don’t have a ‘fixed, rigidly financed, precise’ amount of money in their pot each year. They roughly know revenues come in and expenditures go out. Sometimes they’re a little short and they just have a deficit, and then they print the money because that’s what governments do,” Lee told CTVNews.ca by phone Thursday.
“Budgeting, unlike for the average consumer, is not a zero-sum game – consumers, if they don’t have the money for something, you’re just out of luck. You don’t buy it. Governments don’t face that dilemma, especially the federal government.”
In other words, just because a certain amount of money million was spent on the election, that doesn’t mean there is the same amount less to spend on something else.
But as for the principle of calling a pricey election during the fourth wave of a pandemic, experts are split.
“For me – it is true that anytime the government spends money it could be spent elsewhere and the point of elections is to judge the government on how they spent money and the decisions they made,” Michael Johns, visiting professor in the Department of Politics at York University, told CTVNews.ca by email Thursday.
“There are far too many examples of things that could be funded and are not and other things that are spent that are problems.”
But Johns says he is uncomfortable with the idea that spending money on an election should be considered an issue, suggesting that those upset with the timing of the election should have reflected such in their ballot.
“There would have been an election a year ago if the opposition had been successful in voting out the government on a matter of confidence; there would have been one in probably a year if it had not been triggered now due to the nature of minority governments,” he explained
“Either way the act of voting and having our preferences registered matters and costs money. People could judge the government on its timing and vote accordingly but we should be very careful when we start making decisions about holding elections based on their cost.”
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a non-profit citizen group advocating democratic reform, has a different view, saying the money spent on the election could have been spent on “anything else.”
“The prime minister decided to hold an election even though 327 MPs voted against holding the election at the end of May,” Conacher told CTVNews.ca by phone Thursday.
“And he knew in calling an election that Elections Canada would have a right to spend any money it needed to run it, which ended up being more than usual because of the costs of, for example, buying one pencil for everybody.”
As for what that money could have been spent on instead, Conacher says the government should make those decisions based on what the large majority of the country needs – like health-care solutions during a pandemic.
“In terms of where the $600 million could be spent, there’s many areas where the health of Canadians is at risk or where Canadians want money spent – pharmacare, child care – the polls show the large majority want those in place,” he said.
Lee disagrees that it has to be one or the other, saying that “you cannot make the argument that because they spend $600 million on the election, that therefore some other spending item will be cut by $600 million.”
Billionaire countries: Canada jumps up the list – CTV News
Canada added seven billionaires in 2020, increasing its total to 53, tied for 12th-most in the world, up from 14th the previous year, according to a new global report.
The combined wealth of Canadian billionaires also tops US$100 billion, an increase of 4.5 per cent from last year.
In its latest billionaire census, Wealth-X, an ultra-high net worth (UHNW) data company, stated the number of billionaires in the world surpassed 3,000 (up to 3,204) for the first time in 2020, after an additional 670 individuals entered the billionaire class. The combined wealth of this group is now approximately US$10 trillion.
The share of wealth held by billionaires among the UHNW class, which is defined as those with a net worth of US$30 million or more, has also increased to 28 per cent, despite billionaires making up just one per cent of the UHNW population.
Seven of the top 15 billionaires in the world made their fortunes in the technology sector.
These are the top five billionaires by net worth as listed by Wealth-X:
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon, US$201.2 billion
- Elon Musk, Tesla, US$181.1 billion
- Bernard Arnault, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, US$154.4 billion
- Bill Gates, Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, US$142.4 billion
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, US$137.4 billion, Facebook
Here’s a breakdown of the top 15 countries ranked by billionaire population and their combined wealth.
- U.S., 927, US$3.709 trillion
- China, 410, US$1.303 trillion
- Germany, 174, US$515 billion
- Russia, 120, US$397 billion
- U.K., 119, US$225 billion
- Hong Kong, 111, US$282 billion
- Switzerland, 107, US$318 billion
- India, 104, US$316 billion
- Saudia Arabia, 64, US$144 billion
- France, 64, US$238 billion
- Italy, 60, US$169 billion
- Brazil, 53, US$151 billion
- Canada 53, US$100 billion
- United Arab Emirates, 50, US$151 billion
- Singapore, 50, US$86 billion
Wealth-X lists Hong Kong as a semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China.
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