Carillion's collapse leaves Canadian road, hospital, military contracts in question
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- Canada could feel widespread effects as Carillion goes bust
- North Korea keeps on rockin' in the not-so-free world with its Olympics announcements
- Tunisia's winter of discontent as protests spread
Global builder Carillion bankrupt
The collapse of the United Kingdom's second-biggest construction firm seems set to reverberate around the world, including Canada.
Carillion PLC, which was forced into bankruptcy this morning, has 20,000 employees in Britain where it has been busy with more than 450 government contracts, including building hospitals and a high-speed rail line, and managing schools, military housing and prisons.
During a debate in Parliament today, one MP asserted that the now non-functioning company has been providing cleaning, catering and other management services to 50 prisons, 9,000 schools, 200 operating rooms, and hospitals totalling almost 12,000 beds.
The company also has an extensive presence abroad, with 23,000 workers around the globe including 6,000 in Canada.
Carillion Canada is the country's largest road service contractor, responsible for plowing and maintenance along 40,000 kilometres of highways in Ontario and Alberta.
It has been involved in a number of high-profile construction projects, including the ongoing renovations of Toronto's Union Station — although the city parted ways with the company in 2014 over ballooning costs and performance issues.
The company's compulsory liquidation comes after the failure of last-ditch talks for a credit lifeline.
Carillion PLC is carrying more than $2.6 billion in debt, as well as a $1 billion pension deficit. It has been in trouble since the summer when it announced it was losing money. By Friday, its market capitalization had shrunk 93 per cent.
It's not yet clear what effect the death of the parent firm will have on Canadian operations.
There had been complaints about the quality and frequency of the work, especially during the area's frequent snowstorms.
A new firm is supposed to take over the region's road maintenance in September this year.
Keep on rockin' in the not-so-free world
Officials from North and South Korea met today for the second time in a week in an effort to iron out details of the Hermit Kingdom's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The talks were held at Panmunjom, a.k.a. the truce village, in the demilitarized buffer zone between the two nations. They resulted in one concrete development, an announcement that the Samjiyon Orchestra — an unknown musical group, at least in the West — will play at the Games.
Formed in the summer of 2012, with its members reportedly hand picked by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, Moranbong is supposed to be the North's answer to the South's infectious and ultra-popular K-Pop.
Moranbong does perform some non-vocal Western covers, like Paul Anka's My Way. But the majority of its act is composed of gaudy, patriotic numbers like My Country is the Best, and what might best be termed as "message songs," like This Land's Masters Say.
Here's one of Moranbong's biggest hits, With Pride. "We are unique in this world, in our socialist country," go the lyrics. "Let's leave the others behind with pride."
Foreign music is strictly outlawed in North Korea — a ban aided by the fact that less than two per cent of the country has access to the internet, and only one per cent has satellite TV.
But domestically engineered pop is ubiquitous, as this Vice piece notes, with the population in Pyongyang awakened at 6 a.m. each morning by loudspeakers blaring "Where Are You, Dear General?" by the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble.
(Hyon Song-wol was also their lead singer. Here she is performing the hit Excellent Horse-Like Lady.)
Tomorrow, a 13-nation summit begins in Vancouver, where the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and others will try to forge a plan to contain Kim's regime and force it back into the nuclear box.
And if that doesn't work, the Americans are busy making preparations for war, planning for new military exercises, mobilization centres for reserve call-ups, and dusting off contingency plans.
Perhaps revamping Hawaii's civil-defence system is a good place to start.
Tunisia's winter of discontent
Seven years on, Tunisians are wondering what has happened to their revolution.
The protests that led President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country on Jan. 14, 2011, were born of two decades of frustration with a corrupt and repressive regime, and an economy that provided prosperity for only a select few.
Thousands filled the centre of Tunis on Sunday to peacefully celebrate the anniversary of the dictator's departure and press for new reforms. "The government tricked people," activists chanted as they marched.
It was a day after Beji Caid Essebsi, the new president, visited the community to announce $70 million in increased social benefits for the country's poor and middle class — a move he hoped would quell the outrage.
What began early last week as small, local protests against tax and price hikes that took effect on Jan. 1 has quickly ballooned into a national crisis, with running street battles between authorities and the disaffected. Police stations have been attacked and burned, stores looted, and at one point, rioters armed with knives and firebombs even took on a train.
Fixing the issues fuelling the anger won't be easy, however.
The Tunisian dinar has lost more than 60 per cent of its value since 2011, and inflation is running close to 10 per cent. More than 35 per cent of young people are unemployed.
Tourism took a nosedive following the 2015 ISIS-inspired beach attack that killed 38, and hasn't really recovered.
Attempts to attract more foreign aid have largely failed. And last year, there was a sharp increase in the number of Tunisian migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Seven years and six governments later, with little hope in sight, it appears in danger of ending there as well.
Quote of the moment
"I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed."
- U.S. President Donald Trump, responding to the question that has been on many people's minds, as he arrived for dinner at one of his golf clubs last evening.
What The National is reading
- Sri Lanka's president rejects move to let women buy alcohol (BBC)
- Historic flight school could fall victim to pilot shortage (CBC)
- South Africans vandalize H&M stores in protest of 'monkey' shirt (Africanews)
- Young Emmanuel Macron wrote a steamy novel inspired by his wife, claims book (Guardian)
- Reported hijab attack on 11-year-old girl 'did not happen,' say Toronto police (CBC)
- Turkey vows imminent strike on Kurdish enclave in Syria (CBC)
- Marvel draws up Chinese superheroes as it plots push into Asian market (Japan Times)
- Fish collision may have sunk Sydney to Hobart race yacht (Sydney Morning Herald)
Today in history
Jan. 15, 1971: Television's Take 30 asks: What is smut?
Once upon a time, someone called Toronto "the smut capital of Canada" (a person who had apparently never been to Montreal.) Still, dirty books, the men who liked them, and the police morality squad were a combustible mix in the early '70s. And Paul Soles' mustache fits right in.
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