PARIS: Tens of thousands of “yellow vest” protesters marched across France on Saturday, three months since the movement began, and in a week that has seen growing international concern at police treatment of the protesters.
Demonstrating for the 14th consecutive weekend, 41,500 people turned out across the country, according to the interior ministry, well down on the 282,000 peak during the protests’ early weeks. A ministry statement said 5,000 people protested in Paris but march organizers put the numbers far higher. “We are 15,000, that means the movement is increasing,” Jerome Rodrigues, one of the movement’s better-known figures, told AFP at the Paris march. Rodrigues, along with three other people, is suing the police after being struck in the eye by a projectile he says was fired from a police Defensive Ball Launcher (LBD).
On Thursday, deputies in the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the disproportionate use of force against protesters, after a debate about the use of the controversial weapon by French police. The same day, a group of UN experts condemned what they said was the disproportionate use of force by police in response to violent demonstrators. During Saturday’s protest, a group on the fringe of the Paris march shouted anti-semitic insults at a leading French intellectual, according to videos on social networks. The abuse, directed at philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, 69, led to an outcry with French President Emmanuel Macron condemning the incident. Macron called it “the absolute negation of what we are and what makes us a great nation. We will not tolerate it”. Video footage from a freelance journalist showed police taking action to protect Finkielkraut.
The philosopher told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche that he would have feared for his safety had the police not intervened, while adding that not all of the demonstrators had been hostile. During the course of the protests, people marched down the Champs-Elysees and crossed the river Seine to Paris’s up-market Left Bank district, shouting anti-police slogans. Marion, a nurse marching in Paris, told Media that Macron’s “great national debate” – a series of town hall meetings launched in January to try to address the grievances of the yellow vest movement – was nothing but a distraction.”We don’t believe in it, we won’t take part in it,” she said. But a poll of 1,001 people published by Elabe on Wednesday suggested for the first time that most people (56 percent) would like the protests to end, even if a majority (58 percent) still support what the movement stands for.
Trudeau’s Tory rival pledges balanced budget in 5 years
OTTAWA: Canada’s Conservative leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main rival in upcoming elections pledged Friday to balance the government’s budget within five years, backtracking on a previous target.
An average of several recent polls gives the Tories a six percentage point lead over the Liberals ahead of the October ballot.
Andrew Scheer previously vowed that balancing the budget could be done within two years, but now claims “Trudeau has made an even bigger mess of the budget than I thought possible.
“And he has made the job of cleaning it up that much more difficult,” he said in a speech to the Canadian Club in Vancouver.
Canada’s economy surged after the Liberals took office in 2015 and unleashed a massive stimulus. But growth is forecast to slow this year.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his March budget pointed to 900,000 new jobs created since 2015 and the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years.
The government’s fiscal deficit, however, is projected to balloon to Can$19.8 billion (US$14.7 billion) — after Trudeau abandoned his 2015 pledge to run a few small deficits and return to balance this year.
Still, Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is lower than its G7 counterparts and is expected to fall over the coming years from the current 30.7 percent.
Scheer said, “even the most optimistic projections don’t have the Liberals balancing the budget for 20 more years.”
“But if Canadians elect a Conservative government this fall, we will balance the budget in about a quarter of that time,” he said.
Canada unveils air passenger bill of rights
OTTAWA: Airline passengers in Canada will soon be eligible for significant compensation for delayed flights or lost baggage under regulations announced Friday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
The measures follow a rising number of complaints about being stuck on the tarmac for hours, musical instruments being broken in transit and lost baggage.
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive,” Garneau said.
“These new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Starting July 15, airlines will be required to disembark passengers after three hours on the tarmac if there is no prospect of taking off soon.
They would also need to compensate passengers bumped from overbooked flights up to Can$2,400 (US$1,800) and up to Can$2,100 for lost luggage.
As of December 15, additional measures will require airlines to pay passengers up to Can$1,000 for flight delays and cancellations, provide food, drink and accommodations, and rebook them on new flights — using competing airlines if necessary.
They would also have to seat children near a parent at no extra charge and develop new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The latter was in response to travelling musicians complaining on social media about broken guitars and other instruments during flights.
The rules apply to flights to, from and within Canada.
According to Canada’s government statistics agency, there are an average of 5.5 million take-offs and landings at Canada’s 91 airports each year.
Due to its vast geography, air transportation is crucial for connecting parts of the country. A flight from easternmost to westernmost Canada takes about eight hours.
Trade worries encourage bears in Tokyo bourse
TOKYO: Stocks here opened lower today on worries over the US-China trade war as bellicose rhetoric persisted between Washington and Beijing, pushing the safe-haven yen higher against the dollar.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.94 percent, or 199.04 points, to 20,952.10 in early trade, while the broader Topix Index was down 0.86 percent or 13.26 points at 1,527.32.
The US market “dropped sharply as worries intensified over the US-China trade war after China’s commerce ministry spokesperson said the US should correct its actions if it hopes to continue trade negotiations,” Toshiyuki Kanayama, senior market analyst at Monex, said in a commentary.
The Tokyo market “is seen falling significantly at the beginning following falls in the US and a higher yen,” he said.
On Thursday, China warned the United States that it must show “sincerity” if trade talks are to continue between the world’s top two economies.
“If the US wants to continue to talk, it should show sincerity and correct its mistaken actions. Only on the basis of equality and respect can the negotiations have the chance of continuing,” commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a press briefing.
The trade dispute has snowballed into a tech war, with the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei at the epicenter of a battle for supremacy in technologies that could shape the future of the world economy, such as next-generation 5G networks in which the Chinese firm is a global leader.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump for the first time linked a dispute over Huawei, which he views as a threat to American security, with a deal to resolve the US-China trade war.