Canada briefs – June 20

U.S. troops have officially relieved Canadian soldiers in the former Taliban stronghold of Zangabad.

Americans relieve Canadians in Afghanistan

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan — U.S. troops have officially relieved Canadian soldiers in the former Taliban stronghold of Zangabad.

The main forward operating base and the surrounding combat outposts in the area were quietly handed over to the incoming units of the 3rd Battalion, 21st U.S. Infantry Regiment, based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Zangabad, a tightly woven knot of villages southwest of Kandahar city, was an insurgent haven for years until a NATO offensive overran the place last fall.

Alpha Company 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment, which has occupied the area and built a road through there, pulled back to Kandahar Airfield as a first step on the long journey home.

It joins other Canadian units that have been streaming into NATO’s principal base over the last week to meet the July Parliamentary deadline for ceasing combat operations.

The commander of the American unit replacing the Canadians, Lt.-Col. Steve Miller, said the Van Doos kept up the tempo of patrols right to the end.

He says most other soldiers might have coasted to the finish line.

Canada spent $1M to lobby carbon capture

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Canada has spent $1 million on a travelling salesman peddling an unproven technology that has been a darling of the Conservatives.

The documents show the federal government hired a special adviser on climate change and energy to lobby key players in the United States over energy and environmental issues.

The job description includes promoting carbon capture and storage, a made-in-Canada but still unproven technique for pumping greenhouse gas deep underground.

The government created the job in 2009 and documents show the budget for the extra lobbying was more than $1 million over two years.

The need for the job arose from the so-called Clean Energy Dialogue that Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced two years ago with Barack Obama during the U.S. president’s maiden trip to Ottawa.

Conservative cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats are working with their American counterparts on a host of environmental and energy issues — including carbon capture and storage.

Census of Agriculture may get boost

OTTAWA — In the Conservative government, some censuses are axed while others are carefully safeguarded.

The mandatory long-form census met its fate last summer because it was deemed too intrusive.

But the mandatory Census of Agriculture was not only not touched, it might be expanded.

The government is considering allowing Statistics Canada automatic access to private income tax returns in order to make filling out the agricultural questionnaire more efficient in 2016.

All farming households began receiving the 2011 Census of Agriculture along with the short census of population this May.

Statistics Canada says many farmers find filling out the parts on business expenses and sales to be a burden and have pushed for the link to their Canada Revenue Agency files.

Commissioner concerned about smartphones

TORONTO — Ontario’s privacy watchdog is warning about the unintended consequences of having smart phones and other wireless devices automatically collect data on our whereabouts.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian issued a report calling for privacy to be designed into Wi-Fi systems to prevent the collection and storage of personal data.

Cavoukian says information, including geographic locations where you visit, shop, eat and bank, is being collected and compiled into profiles of individuals, and sold to third parties.

She says a big part of the problem is lack of transparency and notice to customers that this is possible, and indeed happening right now.

Cavoukian warns the dangers of automatically collecting data from mobile devices will only increase as the technology evolves and could turn people into “unknowing informants” about their friends. She says companies should offer users an ability to opt out of the tracking and data collection from their mobile devices.

The commissioner’s report follows news about Apple’s iPhone 4 tracking and storing phone location data on the user’s home computer, without the user’s knowledge.