• Adventure of the Seas cruise ship; image via Royal Caribbean promo video

    UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Jan 1, 2014:  A second Canadian man has reportedly gone missing from a cruise ship in the Caribbean, just five days after 26-year-old Tien Phuoc Nguyen jumped overboard off the coast of Puerto Rico and one day after the U.S. Coast Guard called of its search.

    The Canadian Press reports that a 65-year-old Canadian man has gone missing from Independence of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship on a six-day cruise near the Cayman Islands. The unidentified man's disappearance was reported by his wife Tuesday morning. A search is ongoing.

    *****

    On Monday, the search for a Canadian man who jumped from another Royal Caribbean cruise ship was called off, days after passengers watched Tien Phuoc Nguyen leap from the side of the ship and fall into rough waters off the coast of Puerto Rico.

    The United States Coast Guard called of its search for Nguyen on Tuesday three days after first launching its hunt for the man lost at sea.

    "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of

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  • For residents of Toronto who lost power during a recent powerful ice storm – some for as long as nine days – replacing spoiled food may be top of mind.

    But the problems go deeper than that and more than a week after the weather first wreaked havoc across Central and Eastern Canada, much of the province's recovery efforts remain clouded and uncertain.

    "This was an unprecedented storm for this region in Ontario. We haven't felt anything like it in this region in the past," Premier Kathleen Wynne told a Monday press conference. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we did everything we could to respond in a timely way to help people and restore their power.

    "But there are always lessons that can be learned."

    On Monday, Wynne announced the launch of a gift card program to replace food that spoiled during the massive power outages that followed a December 22 ice storm. The announcement means more than $200,000 in funding from the province and private companies will be made available to

    Read More »from Replacing spoiled food one small step in Ontario ice storm recovery
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period on December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

    It hasn't been a banner year for the governing Conservative Party of Canada. The reasons are myriad and well-known at this point – starting with a man named Justin Trudeau and a re-awakened Liberal opposition, then moving to a variety of infighting and, of course, the Senate scandal.

    And so, it is no surprise that 2013 would come to a close with polls suggesting those troubled waters could mean rough sailing ahead for Stephen Harper and his ilk.

    Two separate polls suggest confidence is waning in the Conservative government, with unhappiness in Prime Minister Stephen Harper playing a key role. A Nanos Research poll found that 55 per cent of respondents believe Harper's Conservatives did a poor job in 2013 – a significant increase from 33 per cent last year and 25 per cent in 2011.

    [ Related: Harper on CPP: it's about individual responsibility ]

    Meantime, an Ipsos Reid poll released Monday found that fewer Canadians believe the Conservative majority government is "working well." The poll

    Read More »from Conservative government lost ground, voter confidence in 2013: polls
  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark BlinchIn a climate where the term "government transparency" seems to be an oxymoron, people are entitled to be cynical about so-called "sunshine lists" that disclose salaries and benefits of higher-paid civil servants.

    Alberta this week joined British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia in setting up a public service compensation disclosure policy. It will cover not just pay and benefits but also severance packages after a controversy over payouts for departing members of Pemier Alison Redford's staff.

    The Calgary Herald reported more than $2.1 million in severance had been paid to senior staffers in the premier's office over a three-year period. The government fought attempts to obtain information about former chief of staff Stephen Carter's package but he confirmed he received $130,000 after leaving his job in 2012, the Herald said.

    "Building off our creation of Canada’s most transparent expense disclosure policy, this compensation disclosure is another significant step

    Read More »from Alberta’s sunshine list to disclose high-level public-sector salaries
  • They haven't weighed in yet but you can be sure the Conservatives will want to take credit at some point for the decline in last year's homicide rate.

    Statistics Canada's just-released numbers for 2012 show the 543 homicides reported to police is down 55 from 2011, giving Canada the lowest homicide rate since 1966.

    The StatsCan table shows killings have dropped steadily from 611 in 2008 to 554 in 2010 before spiking to 598 in 2011.

    StatsCan puts the 2012 homicide rate at 1.56 per 100,000 population, down 10 per cent from the previous year, The Canadian Press reported.

    Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Ontario saw slight increases in homicide totals but Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan saw sharp drops.

    [ Related: Homicide rates down across Canada in 2012: StatsCan report ]

    In terms of rates, Nunavut was highest overall at 14.84, while Manitoba's rate was highest among the provinces at 4.10. P.E.I. saw no homicides at all last year, while the other Atlantic provinces had the lowest rates in

    Read More »from Should the Conservatives take credit for the falling homicide rate?
  • Alright, Government of Canada. We get it: You really, really want Santa to be Canadian.

    In a publicity event surely dreamed up by an excitable pre-teen, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has issued a Canadian passport to Santa and Mrs. Claus.

    The pair was the 2,999,999th and 3,000,000th people to receive an ePassport – an electronic chip-encoded passport upgrade introduced last year.

    "Santa and Mrs. Claus live in North Pole, Canada, with their many helpers. Like so many Canadian citizens who enjoy extensive travel around the world, the Claus’ were thrilled to receive their ePassports — which are among the world’s most accepted and secure travel documents," an announcement reads.

    A quote attributed to Santa states, "After a long and joyous night of delivering Christmas gifts, Mrs. Claus and I are looking forward to our hassle-free vacation in Florida! Ho! Ho! Ho!"

    [ More Brew: Let’s get serious about the ‘Santa Claus is Canadian’ debate ]

    So, yeah, this is a ridiculous bid to

    Read More »from Groan: Santa Claus gets a Canadian passport in lame PR stunt
  • (Cartoon by Wes Tyrell)The suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson over anti-gay comments he made in a recent interview has spurred seemingly as much protest as the comments themselves, leaving an allegedly reasonable society to question the role a reality television show can and should have in important issues of debate.

    Robertson, whose family created a duck-calling device and now stars in a reality show airing on A&E that celebrates their rural, self-described “redneck” lives, camouflage pants and long beards, was suspended from the show earlier this week.

    During an interview with GQ, Robertson said homosexuality was sinful and stated:

    Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive

    Read More »from Why are we listening to what a ‘Duck Dynasty’ reality TV star has to say about homosexuality?
  •   

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford walks by a statue of Santa as he leaves City Hall last Friday.

    Some marketing genius came up with a seemingly perfect way to shame embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford during the holiday season and it ended the way we all should have expected it would: A Rob Ford supporter told Santa Claus to F-off.

    A delivery person clad in a Santa suit was jeered and shouted at by a gathering of Ford supporters when he arrived at City Hall on Friday to deliver coal to the reputedly naughty Ford.

    Local marketing agency Bob's Your Uncle created the website RobFordCoal.com, which promised to "deliver a big pile of coal to City Hall for the naughtiest boy on Santa's list."

    “We created it because, I think like many citizens of Toronto, we’re somewhat appalled at our current situation,” CEO Bob Froese told Metro Toronto regarding the mayor and the sleigh-load of scandal and controversy he has brought to the city.

    [ More Brew: Rob Ford's Christmas gift advice: ‘Women love money’ ]

    The site was also collecting money for needy children during the Christmas season, but the big

    Read More »from Not only in Philadelphia: Rob Ford supporters heckle Santa Claus
  • Three laws governing prostitution in Canada were struck down by the Supreme Court on Friday, in a unanimous decision that found them to be unconstitutionally broad.

    The Supreme Court of Canada voted 9-0 to throw out laws that make it illegal to keep a brothel, to live off the avails of prostitution and to solicit prostitution on the street.

    Minister of Justice Peter MacKay responded to the Supreme Court ruling, stating he was concerned by the ruling and was considering how to respond.

    "We are reviewing the decision and are exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable persons," MacKay said in a statement.

    "We are committed to the safety of all Canadians and the well-being of our communities. A number of other Criminal Code provisions remain in place to protect those engaged in prostitution and other vulnerable persons, and to address the negative

    Read More »from Supreme Court strikes down anti-prostitution laws

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