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UK politics transformed, but Bank of England to stay on hold –



By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – The election triumph of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cleared up Britain’s political outlook, but the Bank of England won’t be rushing to respond to the end of the deadlock.

The BoE will keep interest rates on hold this week, according to all 69 economists polled by Reuters.

Where there are differences, however, is over whether the British central bank’s next move will be to cut rates, following recent moves to ease policy by the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve, or to raise them in 2020.

Britain’s economy flat-lined before the high-stakes election on Dec. 12, which added to the longstanding uncertainty about Brexit and the drag from a slowing global economy.

Little wonder, then, that in November two of the BoE’s nine interest rate-setters cast the first votes for a cut in borrowing costs since shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But since then, Johnson’s new majority in parliament has eliminated doubts about whether Brexit will happen on Jan. 31, and buried the prospect of a sharp leftward shift in politics under a Labour Party-led government.

There are also signs that the U.S.-China trade war is easing, raising the prospect of a more benign economy for whoever takes over as BoE governor from Mark Carney, who is due to stand down at the end of next month.

Samuel Tombs, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, thinks Britain’s quarterly economic growth rate will double to 0.4% in the first half of 2020 as companies and consumers catch up with spending they had been putting off.

Britain’s government also plans to increase its spending.

That would create a brief window for the BoE to raise its benchmark rate from its current level of 0.75%, close to its lows for most of the 10 years since the global financial crisis, Tombs said.

“The MPC will be keen to act quickly before Brexit risks emerge again to hike and to build scope to ease again whenever the next downturn hits,” he said in a note to clients.

Johnson promised voters that he would not extend the Brexit transition period that is due to end on Dec. 31, 2020.

But many trade experts question whether a free trade deal with the European Union can be struck by then, raising the prospect of trade barriers in just over a year’s time.

While sterling and British shares soared after Thursday’s election, the prospect of renewed Brexit tensions has remained in focus for investors in British government bonds, with gilt prices implying a 40% chance of a rate cut by the end of 2020.

Ruth Gregory, an economist at Capital Economics, said the message from this week’s BoE meeting might sound similarly cautious, with Britain’s inflation rate below the BoE’s target and the jobs market faltering.

She said MPC members Michael Saunders and Jonathan Haskel could well vote for a rate cut again “and the latest data may have been sufficiently weak for at least one more dovish MPC member — possibly Gertjan Vlieghe — to join them.”

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Historic U.S. inauguration of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris




Almost nine months after it closed its doors permanently, Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo still has six inhabitants waiting to go to their new homes. All that remains of the once-bustling zoo are two lions, two tigers and two snakes. All six have found new homes, but the hold-up is with the four big cats, explains zookeeper Erin Brown, who has been overseeing the relocation of the zoo’s animals. Because they’re going to the United States, there’s a complicated permit process that often takes six to 12 months, explained Brown. Essentially, the zoo has to prove that the big cats were legally obtained, and that their transfer follows all of the guidelines laid out under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Brown said all of the permits required on the Canadian side of the border have been obtained. The hold-up is in the U.S. She said the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest south of the border may also have contributed to the delay. “It could be making policies move a little more slowly,” she said. When the zoo announced it would close for good last May, there were 80 animals — from 35 different species — living at the zoo, and all had to find new homes, said executive director Martha McDevitt. She said staff spent a lot of time checking out prospective new homes to make sure the animals would be safe and well cared for. “It was a big task,” said McDevitt. The zoo had a number of farm-type animals, like miniature donkeys, goats and pigs that went to hobby farms, mostly in New Brunswick. The more exotic animals required a bit more work and they’re now spread out at facilities from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. “The big cats were the hardest to find homes for,” Brown said. The first step was to notify Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, an accreditation and advocacy group better known as CAZA. But there weren’t any facilities in Canada willing or able to take the big cats. Brown said they eventually started reaching out to sanctuaries, although that wasn’t her first choice for the felines. That’s when they heard from Popcorn Park in New Jersey, which is part zoo, part sanctuary. The facility has agreed to take the lions and has lined up a new home for the tigers, since it already has a number of tigers. So, until the proper permits are ready to go, the four big cats will remain in Saint John. For McDevitt, they’re the hardest animals to say goodbye to. “You can’t help but create these special bonds with these animals, especially specific ones,” she said outside the tiger enclosure Tuesday morning. “For me personally, it’s the big cats, the tigers. When I was a little… child, I wanted to be a tiger when I grew up. “That’s impossible, I found out. So being able to work with them has been an absolute dream come true.” McDevitt has been with the zoo since 2016 and the lions arrived shortly after she did. The tigers have been at the Cherry Brook Zoo since the summer of 2017. All four were hand-raised at an Ontario zoo before it closed in 2016. “So seeing them leave — and especially them going across the border — is really hard because I may not ever see them again. So that’s been hard,” said McDevitt. And because they were hand-raised, Brown said the big cats actually like people. “They love interacting with visitors,” she said. It was a factor zoo staff considered when they looked at facilities willing to take them. “We had several facilities that offered space as a sanctuary situation, but we chose Popcorn Park because they’re going to be in a zoo situation. A lot of these sanctuaries are really more suited to cats that don’t like people.” She said cats that come from abusive or neglectful situations prefer to live a quiet life with as little human interaction as possible. “But our cats love human interaction. They love seeing visitors. So choosing Popcorn Park was on purpose so that they could have that interaction with visitors.” Once all the permits are in place, Popcorn Park will send its own relocation team to fetch the felines. They’ll have specialized equipment and people, including a veterinarian. They have specialized cages with wheels that will be rolled right up to the door of their enclosure, and with a little food inside the crate as an added incentive, they cats should go in and be ready to be loaded into a specialized trailer for the ride to New Jersey. In the meantime, thanks to monthly donors who continue to contribute to the zoo — and the occasional one-time donation — life goes on for the big cats. With fewer animals to tend to, staff members have a bit more time to hand-feed and train the cats. With her bucket of cut-up deer meat, zookeeper Megan Gorey puts the lions, Aslan and Frieda — littermates who were born in 2014 — through a series of behaviours that she doesn’t like to call tricks. The cats sit and lie down, and offer the correct paw on the fence as instructed. They also stand on their hind legs on command — all for a treat, of course. Gorey also demonstrates how she can draw blood and give injections with Luna, a five-year-old tiger who’s been at the zoo since 2017. From the safety of the other side of the fence, Gorey tells Luna to lie down along the fence and as someone else feeds her meat treats, she barely reacts when the needle is used. Long goodbye Brown said she initially worried that a long delay before some of the animals left would be a painful way to say goodbye, but she’s actually grateful for it now. She said each animal was able to get fussed over and given extra attention before they departed for their new homes. And with the four cats being among the last to go, it gave staff extra time with the zoo’s most popular inhabitants — who just happen to be the biggest eaters as well. McDevitt said it costs a couple hundred dollars per cat per month — and that’s even with the donations of roadkill from the Department of Natural Resources. One such donation just happened to arrive Tuesday morning and zookeepers were preparing to hoist entire deer legs up on poles in the cat enclosures to allow them to hunt and earn their meal. Once the big cats leave the Cherry Brook Zoo, the snakes will go as well, said Brown. The snakes will go home with one of the zookeepers, but as long as the zoo remains open for the lions and tigers, the snakes will stay as well.

Source: – Yahoo News Canada

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Omdahl: Politics: When enough Is enough – INFORUM



North Dakota Republicans own the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch of state government, lock, stock and barrel. But having absolute power at the state level is not enough politics for some who now want to open up county, city, township, school board and other local offices to partisan elections by starting with an innocent marking on the ballot of party preference.

A strong two-party system is necessary for a democracy to function. There are policy issues streaming from voter ideologies that must be resolved. Local governments make secondary decisions, most of which are tightly controlled by state legislation. In reality, local governments are administrative units of the state government.

One advocate of partisan elections pointed to all the money local governments spend. He apparently wants to apply a more conservative financial system to local government. Apparently, he hasn’t been around enough to know that local finances involve mostly “sunk” costs or state regulations that permit local governments limited financial flexibility.

Other than creating political opportunities for the two parties, what are the benefits of a partisan system at the local level? A more conservative spending ideology?

Local governments in North Dakota are pretty clean. Our governments are small; almost everyone in the county knows what is going on in the courthouse, including the unofficial as well as the official. About the only transgressions committed in local government are long coffee breaks.

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For sure, partisan elections will not make local governments more effective, more efficient or any more honest.

In fact, they will do just the opposite.

Local offices will be flooded with junior politicians who will see public office not as an opportunity to serve the public so much as a stepping stone to some higher partisan office.

Partisan ballots will generate new levels of conflict in local governments as parties fight for offices or as party loyalists fight each other to gain a rung in the political ladder. Everyone will spend more time campaigning and less time serving the public.

With politically-minded partisans running local government, how often will political considerations be uppermost when choices have to be made and priorities established? Will politics decide on highways? On arrests? On human services?

Partisan ballots will eliminate at least half of the county officials. Even if they are Republicans, the partisan atmosphere day-in and day-out does not fit their idea of public service. In some local governments, ambitious partisans will run against incumbents regardless of party.

Many local officials do not have competition because the public is satisfied with their service. Partisan elections will create competition where competition isn’t necessary and it will force any officeholders to raise new money for races they never had in nonpartisan offices. There will be new personal costs to serving the people. That will discourage present officeholders.

With the rancor permeating both parties at present, this is hardly the time to bring that sort of partisan disease into local governments that have been performing so well. When it comes to partisan politics, at some point we must say that enough is enough. Enough.

Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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Group forms to support women in politics in Grey-Bruce



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The organization hopes to see at least one woman elected to each of Grey-Bruce’s 17 municipal councils in 2022. During the last municipal elections in 2018, every municipality except South Bruce had at least one woman elected. But women still only make up 28 per cent of the municipal politicians in the two counties while accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total population.

Merton said there is definitely an opportunity for improvement.

“If our focus is to increase the number of women to better represent our population then we have some work to do,” she said. “In different municipalities there are different percentages.

“We have some work to do for sure, to move towards that gender parity, and then to sustain it.”

Merton said the goal of the group is to not just get women to run and get elected, but to keep them involved in politics.

“There is a need to continue to have forward momentum to have more women to run for council, be successful and then once you are there continue to do well and thrive,” she said.

“Ultimately our goal is for women who have been elected to a first term to consider a second and third term and then to consider running for a position more than a councillor, to run as deputy-mayor or mayor.”

Along with encouraging more women to get involved in municipal politics locally, electHER also plans to provide the support and guidance to candidates through training, networking and mentorship programs leading up to the next municipal election in the fall of 2022. The first training session is slated for mid-March.

Source:- Owen Sound Sun Times

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