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Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Canada's businesses get tax break; personal taxpayers pay more for jobless and pension benefits in the New Year

   Canada column published on Sunday, Jan. 1/12

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian businesses are getting a New Year’s bonus from the government while taxpayers will be paying more.
   Corporate tax rates are being lowered to 15 percent from 16.5 percent effective today in a bid to stimulate new investment and create jobs, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.
   The federal government is, however, increasing the amount deducted from personal paychecks for Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan contributions.
   The increases to pay for jobless benefits and pensions result in a combined total of $306 a year more in payroll taxes. Employers will also pay more for their share for their employees.
   In order to head off a depletion of funds in the Employment Insurance program, a government-appointed committee had recommended an even higher rate increase.
   As well, the government is moving ahead with a plan to cut spending by $4 billion over the next several years to tackle the spending deficit now at $31 billion in the current year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Canadian government nixes Kyoto Protocol to avoid penalties

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 18/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s Conservative government has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s binding climate treaty, to avoid paying $14 billion in penalties.
   Environment Minister Peter Kent said the penalties for Canada not achieving its targets would cost thousands of jobs with no impact on emissions or the environment.
   Instead, Canada is looking for a new global deal to force all countries to lower greenhouse-gas emissions.
   The announcement by Kent to invoke Canada’s “legal right” to withdraw came after his return from United Nations climate talks in South Africa.
   The talks resulted in an agreement to establish a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2015.
   Russia and Japan also refused to continue with the protocol while Kent said he expected others to also withdraw.
   Environmental groups and opposition politicians condemned Canada’s action on Kyoto signed in in the late 1990s by a former Liberal government.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beyond the Border to ease crossing into Canada and the U.S.

   Canada column published on Sunday, Dec. 11/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The historic border security and trade agreement for Canada and the United States is intended to ease the movement of people and goods between the two countries.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Beyond the Border measures “represent the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement."
   After their meeting in Washington, President Barack Obama encouraged more Canadians to come to the U.S. as “they spend more money in America than any other visitors.”
   The key goal is to streamline the process of crossing the border through improved screening and security procedures.
   Included will be an entry-exit information-sharing system at land borders to improve the ability to track people who are in Canada illegally or who overstay their visa.
   Critics of the deal suggest Canadians might be giving up too much personal information that will be shared by both countries.
   Some 300,000 people a day cross the border and trade between the two countries amounts to more than $1 billion daily.
   Canadians stayed 47.4-million nights in Florida alone in 2009 and it was suggested they obtain NEXUS passes for “trusted travelers” to ease crossing the border.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Canadians feel safe from crime while government plans to toughen sentences for criminals

   Canada column published on Sunday, Dec. 4/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Most Canadians feel safe from crime even as the government prepares to get tougher with criminals.
   Statistics Canada found 93percent of those surveyed felt satisfied with their personal safety, including walking alone at night and being home alone.
   While crime rates overall have been falling for the past decade, a major concern is a rise in youth crime.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government plans to lengthen prison terms and eliminate the deals for time served awaiting trial.
   Westerners were a little more concerned with safety, with British Columbia residents saying they were 89-percent satisfied while those in Prince Edward Island were rated most satisfied at 97 percent.
   Lowest levels of satisfaction were in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton while the highest were Moncton, New Brunswick, and Kingston, Guelph and Oshawa, Ontario.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

World economic ills aren't discouraging Canadian shoppers for holidays as spending remains strong: survey

   Canada column published on Sunday, Nov. 27/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The world economic upheaval won’t be the Grinch that steals all of Christmas for Canadians as consumer confidence has turned positive.
   Economic uncertainty elsewhere “is not doing any more major damage to confidence” of Canadians, said Norman Baillie-David of TNS Canada.
   The marketing and social research firm’s much-watched confidence index rose last month after six months of declines but it’s “not a good news story, at least yet,” he added.
   While Canadians indicated that many aren’t ready to make major financial outlays right now, such as buying a car or major appliance, Christmas spending won’t be all that stifled.
   The survey found 59 percent plan to spend about the same as before while those who are cutting back the most are 25 percent of those who spend the most – more than $2,000.
   On average, Canadians will spend $776 this year for holiday gifts, down from $812 last year.
   This indicates that Canadians are saying “things are maybe going crazy everywhere else but my own situation right now is still not that bad,” Baillie-David said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Canada offers oil to Asia after U.S. pipeline decision delay

   Canada column published on Sunday, Nov. 20/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Canada is looking to sell its oil and natural gas in Asia after the U.S. administration delayed a decision on a controversial $7-billion pipeline project.
   Approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline to transport Canadian crude to refineries in Texas from Alberta’s oilsands was a “no brainer,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said earlier.
   He even predicted it would be approved by the end of the year and construction would begin soon afterwards.
   After all, it would have created thousands of jobs in the U.S. and provided a major source of oil to its neighbor and largest trading partner to help ease dependence on crude from non-friendly Middle East nations, he reasoned.
   Harper expressed Canada’s disappointment in a meeting last week in Hawaii with President Barack Obama after the U.S. State Department asked for a different route through Nebraska and a further environmental assessment.
   “This highlights why Canada must increase its efforts to make sure it can supply its energy outside of the United States and into Asia in particular," Harper said.
   Chinese President Hu Jintao said he approves of Canada’s bid to reach out and invited Harper to visit to discuss a potential deal.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy groups to be told to move on

   Canada column published on Sunday, Nov. 13/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   They’ve made their point and now it’s time to move on, Occupy groups camped out in parks and public areas across Canada are being told.
   After weeks of protests against “corporate greed and economic inequity,” tensions are growing and police are being asked to take action.
   There are mounting concerns over safety, highlighted by the drug overdose death of a 23-year-old woman in a tent at the Vancouver protest and open fires.
   With colder weather arriving, protesters are erecting more permanent shelters and using campfires to stay warm in violation of city laws.
   Montreal officials refused to allow protesters to build makeshift wooden cabins but they say they’ll do it anyway.
   Toronto residents have “had enough” of the protesters camping in a downtown park and it’s time for them to go, Mayor Rob Ford said.
   Eviction notices are planned against the squatters in Victoria, Calgary, Regina and Edmonton while police removed the tents in London, Ontario and Halifax protesters left on their own.
   After a scuffle with firefighters over “ceremonial” fires set by a native group, Vancouver protesters were told by the police to pack up but they are asking the British Columbia Supreme Court to allow them to stay.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Canadians might always pay more than Americans: study

   Canada column published on Sunday, Nov. 6/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians have always paid more than Americans for most goods and services and the price “wedge” between the two countries might always be there.
   Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney made that prediction, saying even with efforts to create a uniform North American market with identical tariffs and regulations won’t fully close the gap.
   While the Canadian dollar has been worth more than the U.S. currency for most of this year, shoppers paid an average of 11 percent more than Americans for the same goods in September, he said.
   Testifying before a Senate committee looking into the price gap, Carney said the difference is down from 18 percent in April.

Canadian government aims to shoot down long-gun registry

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 30/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government is taking aim at the “costly and ineffective” long-gun registry.
   “We don’t want laws that target law-abiding citizens, hunters and sports shooters,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said while announcing a bill to abolish the list.
   The Conservative government has never been in favor of the registry of owners of rifles and shotguns started by a previous Liberal government and plans to destroy the seven-million files.
   With more than $1 billion spent to establish and maintain the registry, the government believes it has done little to fight crime and the money would have been better used to hire more police officers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Canadian economic recovery slow but steady; quality of life not keeping pace

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 23/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada remains on track to avoid a double-dip recession but quality of life isn’t keeping up with the pace of economic growth, two studies have found.
   The Conference Board of Canada, an independent research organization, said while averting another recession, economic recovery will be slow but steady.
   The real gross domestic product will be a slim 2.1 percent this year and grow to 2.4 percent next year, putting the recovery on a stronger footing than most other developed countries.
   Major concerns are a “sluggish outlook for the United States” that’s not good news for trading partner Canada and an uncertain debt situation in Europe, board director Pedro Antunes said.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Police concerned over possible violence in economic protests

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 16/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Police in Toronto and Vancouver are concerned over a possible repeat of violence and vandalism as economic activists have expanded their protests to Canadian financial districts.
   There was extensive vandalism in G20 summit protests in Toronto last year and in Vancouver in June during the final game of the National Hockey League playoffs.
   The latest protests across Canada are part of the global initiative spawned by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
   Demonstrators were gathering outside the Toronto Stock Exchange and Bank of Canada offices this weekend and plan to remain there for an indefinite period.
   Organizers called for an “entirely non-violent” protest against corporate greed and the growing gulf between the rich and the poor.
   The Occupy Toronto group said it stands “in unity with the rest of the world to seek and work towards drastic changes to economic systems that are destroying our economy, social fiber and environment.”
   Other protests are taking place in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and other Canadian cities.

Activists plan to expand occupations to Canadian cities

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 9/11
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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
  (c) By Jim Fox

   Activists are planning to occupy financial districts in major Canadian cities over fears of another recession.
   A group known as Occupy Toronto Market Exchange said the protests against “financial greed” will begin Oct. 15.
   They would be similar to protests by activists camped out on Wall Street in New York City.
   So far, the group has organized a gathering in downtown Toronto next weekend, with a protest march on Oct. 17 when the stock exchange opens.
   The group’s website also suggests plans to occupy the stock exchange offices as well as those of the central Bank of Canada.
   “We will not be leaving the TSX (stock exchange) -- not after 7 days, not after 30 days,” an organizer said.
   The group is also planning occupations in cities including Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Don't fence me in, some Canadian politicians tell the United States

   Canada column published on Sunday, Oct. 2/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Will the proverb “good fences make good neighbors” hold true if Canada is someday fenced off from the United States?
   That’s what Canadian politicians and others are wondering after a leaked report said an option to boost security along the 3,976-mile land border with Canada is to build a fence.
   Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador in Washington, said despite the report there is “no indication” it will happen.
   The draft document for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency suggests using “fencing and other barriers” to manage “trouble spots where passage of cross-border violators is difficult to control.”
   Other options are increased use of radar, sensors, cameras, drones and vehicle scanners along with improved or expanded facilities at ports of entry.
   The Canada Border Services Agency said the fence option hasn’t been part of discussions on ways to improve border management.
   “It is in the interests of both Canada and the United States to ensure that the border remains open, efficient and secure,” it said in a statement.
   A fence along the world’s longest undefended border is “stupid,” said New Democratic politician Joe Comartin.
   “The American people don’t see us as a threat,” he said.

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   A report says climate change will cost Canada about $5 billion a year by 2020 and up to as much as $43 billion by the 2050s.
   The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy said that increasing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide will “exert a growing economic impact.”
   The study looked at impacts of warmer weather that would affect the timber industry with more pests and forest fires, flooding with changes in sea levels and human health.
   Roundtable president David McLaughlin said the conclusion is the longer the effects of climate change are ignored, the costlier they become.
   Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government plans to “meet our target of reducing greenhouse gases by 17 percent from the 2005 base level by 2020.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Canada warns of worldwide economic meltdown unless tough action is taken in Europe

   Canada column published Sunday, Sept. 25/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s finance minister has issued a stern economic warning to the world as Canadian stock markets plunged and the dollar dropped below parity with the U.S. greenback.
   Jim Flaherty said another financial meltdown similar to what happened in 2008 will happen if action isn’t taken to deal with the world debt crisis, particularly in Europe.
   Uncontrolled government debt could sink the economies of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal and “there’s been a lack of political decisiveness in Europe,” he said.
   The Canadian government vows to eliminate its deficit by 2014 and cut $4 billion in annual spending through program reductions and efficiencies.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other world leaders have called for strong action at Cannes G20 summit in November to boost economic stability and growth.
   Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said growing debt problems in Europe and the United States are “entering a dangerous phase.”
   After a major selloff on the Toronto Stock Exchange and lower oil prices, Canada’s dollar dropped three cents to 97 cent U.S., its lowest level in almost a year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Democrats pull together as Canada's Parliament resumes

   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 18/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   When Canada’s Parliament resumes on Monday, it will be without a familiar face as the New Democrats attempt to pull together after the death of their leader.
   Politician Olivia Chow, widow of the socialist party’s leader Jack Layton who died last month of cancer at age 61, emotionally urged members to stay united.
   “We have a lot of work to do to carry on his torch,” Chow told the party caucus.
   “I’m so glad there are over 100 of us to take on that work because we know that we are united and strong in the values of the New Democratic Party of Canada that Jack embodied throughout his life,” she added.
   Layton had his greatest election victory last May when he led the party to number two in the standings, electing 102 members, and making the New Democrats the official opposition in the House of Commons.
   The party’s challenge is to be effective without being divided or distracted by the process of selecting a new leader next March.
   Interim leader Nycole Turmel said Layton’s legacy is his political team that “can’t wait to get back to Parliament and take on (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Many Canadians feel they are forced to work longer before "Freedom 55" retirement years

   Canada column published on Sunday, Sept. 11/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Goodbye “Freedom 55” as more cash-strapped Canadians are forced to work longer before retiring.
   Freedom 55 was a Canadian financial corporation’s advertising slogan, referring to being able to retire at age 55 – before recessionary and taxation impacts of recent years.
   Now, more than two-thirds of Canadians say they have set back their retirement plans because they can’t save enough to quit working, a survey by the Canadian Payroll Association has found.
   The survey said 57 percent of Canadians live from paycheck to paycheck and about half save less than 5 percent of their annual net pay for retirement, not the 10 percent recommended by planners.
   It is “particularly troubling” that 74 percent of workers say they have been able to save less than a quarter of their retirement savings goal, said Dianne Winsor, association chair.
   Even with Canada’s socialized “free” medical care, financial planners recommend keeping at least three months of expenses, such as for rent, mortgage, bills and groceries, available as an emergency fund.

Canadian politicians feeling confident of U.S. approval for Keystone oil pipeline

   Canada column published on Sunday, Sept. 4/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government is confident the U.S. administration will approve a $7-billion pipeline to supply Texas refineries with crude oil from Canada.
   "I think that we can look forward to eventual approval by the American government," Environment Minister Peter Kent said of the controversial 1,700-mile pipeline.
   While acknowledging concerns of environmental protesters – with hundreds of them arrested outside the White House – Kent said he supports TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.
   An Obama administration report concluded the pipeline, which would supply about 500,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta’s tar sands, is unlikely to cause significant environmental concerns. It would double the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada.
   A final decision is expected by the end of the year and the pipeline could be in operation in 2013.
   "The fundamental issue is energy security,” said TransCanada president Russ Girling.
   This will allow the U.S. to “secure access to a stable and reliable supply of oil from Canada where we protect human rights and the environment.”
   The alternative is to “import more higher-priced oil from nations who do not share America's interests or values,” he added.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Future of the Canada's New Democratic Party after death of leader, Jack Layton

   Canadian news roundup column published on Sunday, August 28, 2011


   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Continued massive support for Canada’s New Democrats is in question as members of the socialist party struggle to cope with the death of their leader.
   A state funeral was held Saturday for Jack Layton who lost his battle against cancer at age 61.
   It was only last May when the populist leader was credited with leading his party to its greatest election victory ever and became the official opposition in the House of Commons.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an exception to honor Layton with a full state funeral, normally reserved only for heads of state.
   There has been a national outpouring of grief and condolences for Layton as thousands paid their respects at his flag-draped coffin on Parliament Hill and Toronto City Hall before the service at Roy Thomson Hall.
   In a letter written just before his death, Layton urged people fighting cancer not to give up hope as well as those wanting to create a better society in Canada.
   The letter, released by his widow Olivia Chow, urged the party to choose his successor early next year with Nycole Turmel of Quebec continuing as interim leader.
   “Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government,” Layton wrote.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Steady as she goes for Canada's economic recovery

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 21/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is keeping a “steady-as-she-goes” course against world financial headwinds that could blow it adrift in paying off the federal deficit within three years.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave that assessment to the House of Commons finance committee while reiterating Canada isn’t immune to global economic problems.
   Even with the economy still growing, there is much concern about the financial well-being of the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, and Europe.
   "The current problem is largely a lack of confidence in governments to move forward with concrete plans to deal with their deficits," he said.
    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney told the committee with the world “awash with debt,” it will take years to repair the balance sheets of banks, households and countries.
   "The considerable headwinds are now blowing hard," Carney said, adding the central bank has “a wide range of tools and policy options” to deal with the crisis.
   The assessment along with news that Canada’s consumer price index fell to 2.7 percent last month increased the expectation the bank won’t soon be increasing interest rates.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

U.S. giant affects economic outlook for Canada


   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 14/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Economists say Canada will be unable to escape the shadow of its massive trading partner and neighbor to the south in any world economic upheaval.
   In a “misery-loves-company” scenario, BMO Financial Group has positioned Canada squarely behind the United States by cutting its North American economic growth forecasts for the second time in two weeks.
   “We do not believe there will be another recession in the U.S. economy,” BMO chief economist Sherry Cooper said.
   She suggested that economic growth will be 1.7 percent, down from 2.5 percent projected earlier for this year.
   With the U.S. being Canada’s biggest trading partner, this country’s Gross Domestic Product will now only top out at 2.4 percent, due to a robust first quarter.
   Canada’s jobless rate will rise to 7.3 percent but fall back to 7 percent by the end of next year compared with about 9 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, in the U.S., BMO said.
   The decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to leave interest rates low, along with the world economic situation, appears likely to force the Bank of Canada to do the same for now.
   The bank had indicated earlier that interest rates would likely start increasing in the fall.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Canada Report: Economy spooks stock markets, dollar

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 7/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada has been caught up in concerns over the world’s economic prospects as stock markets had their biggest one-day decline in two years and the dollar plunged.
   The Toronto Stock Exchange composite index lost 436 points on Thursday and more than 200 points on Friday blamed by economists on nagging doubts over the economic realities in the United States, Canada’s biggest trading partner.
   The drop on Canada’s major exchange put the index eight-percent lower than where it was at the start of the year.
   As Canada is an oil exporting nation, the drop of more than $5 a barrel cut the Canadian dollar’s value by almost two cents to about $1.02 U.S., down from more than $1.06 a week earlier.
   Economic data showing weaker U.S. manufacturing levels, lower consumer spending and slower job growth “suggests there is now the risk of a serious economic slowdown,” said Sid Mokhtari of CIBC World Markets.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rookie Member of Parliament and former labor leader takes over as interim head of the federal New Democrats

   Canada column for Sunday, July 31/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   A former Quebec labor leader has taken over temporarily from the ailing Jack Layton who propelled his socialist New Democratic Party to become the opposition in the House of Commons.
   A visibly weakened Layton, 61, told a news conference he selected rookie politician Nycole Turmel, 68, to become interim leader as he battles a recurrence of cancer.
   It was Layton’s charisma that was credited with giving the New Democrats resounding success in the May federal election, bumping the Liberals out of the opposition role.
   Layton said he was taking leave of absence to battle an unspecified form of cancer after earlier undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and hip surgery.
  In a raspy voice, Layton said he is “going to focus on treatment and recovery,” but planned to return when Parliament resumes on Sept. 19.
   The appointment of Turmel, who previously headed the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was confirmed by the party executive.
   “Jack Layton has spent eight years building this New Democrat movement for a better Canada, eight years building a team that is ready to tackle any circumstance with hope and optimism,” she said.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crime talks a min-holiday across Canada, statistics show

   Canada column for Sunday, July 24/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Criminal activity across Canada has fallen to its lowest level in 38 years with the fewest murders since 1966.
   Statistics Canada reported the rate continued a 20-year decline last year even as the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for the passing of bills to get tougher on criminals.
   The severity of criminal acts dropped six percent last year with fewer homicides, attempted murders, serious assaults and robberies.
   There were 554 reported murders last year, 56 less than a year earlier, while attempted murders totaled 693, down from 801 and the lowest in 30 years.

Travel tips on crossing the Canadian border upon returning from vacation this summer

(News Release - CBSA)

 Montreal, Quebec, July 19, 2011 – The summer holiday season is upon us, and many Canadians will likely be travelling abroad over the coming weeks. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is making every effort to minimize border wait times during this peak period; travellers can facilitate their re-entry into Canada by keeping the following five tips in mind. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Smuggling ship believed headed to Canada intercepted

   Canada column for Sunday, July 17/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A human smuggling ship intercepted by authorities was believed to be another one “destined for Canada” with illegal immigrants.
   Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney gave the assessment as he reinforced the need to pass a proposed bill with tougher anti-smuggling laws.
   “That would send a clear signal to those that want to treat Canada like a doormat that they should no longer target Canada for the odious business of human smuggling,” he said.
   The latest incident involved the MV Alicia with about 90 Sri Lankan Tamils that was intercepted by Indonesian authorities.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canada ends combat role, switches to peacekeeping, training of police and military in Afghanistan


   Canada column for Sunday, July 10/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s journey into combat instead of peacekeeping that cost the lives of 157 soldiers, a diplomat and a journalist has ended in Afghanistan.
   The pullout of troops as ordered by the Canadian government formally took place when the Royal 22nd Regiment handed over its battlefield at Ma’sum Ghar to U.S. command.
   Lieutenant-Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis said the base, a crusted, petrified volcanic mountain, became a symbol of the Canadian struggle in the past five and a half years and is where many deaths occurred.
   Canada’s Conservative government announced an end to the combat role but said 950 soldiers and support staff will remain to train Afghan police and army troops in Kandahar until 2014.
   “Everywhere in battle where Canadian soldiers have sacrificed their lives, we have examples of similar places in a number of our conflicts,” St-Louis said.
   “Ma’sum Ghar is not Passchendaele, Dieppe, Ortona, Monte Casino, Juno Beach -- or even Kapyong from the Korean War,” he added.
   The pullout was also uncharacteristic. This is the first time in history the Canadian military has left a battlefield while a war still rages.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canadian postal workers' union challenging back-to-work bill

   Canada column for Sunday, July 3/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Now that Canadians are receiving their mail again, the union representing Canada’s postal workers has launched a legal challenge of the bill that forced them back to work.
   The bill ending the strike/lockout of the 48,000 postal workers included a smaller raise in pay than what they had been last offered by Canada Post.
   The Conservative government was finally able to pass the bill after a 58-hour filibuster by the socialist New Democratic Party.
   On the non-monetary terms, it requires a mediator to choose either the demands of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers or the last offer of the post office.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canada's dollar bills going synthetic; government acting to end postal strike/lockout

   Canada column for Sunday, June 26/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s colorful folding currency is going polymer.
   The switch to “plastic-like” dollar bills starts with $100 notes in November, 50s by next March and 20s, 10s and 5s by the end of 2013. (Canada replaced its $1 and $2 bills with coins earlier.)
   The new notes probably won’t light cigars as easily as the paper ones, are more durable and laundry-friendly, and paying with plastic will take on a whole new meaning.
   The Bank of Canada expects the new smooth-feeling bills will last 2 1/2 times longer than the current paper and cotton notes.
   It should also thwart counterfeiters, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said, adding “there’s simply no other currency” like these synthetic bills.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Government plans to end postal strike; Air Canada strike resolved

   Canada column for Sunday, June 19/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government plans to legislate an end to the postal workers strike/lockout within days in one of two high-profile labor disputes.
   The other was a short-lived strike by Air Canada’s 3,800 sales and service agents and 600 call center workers who reached a tentative agreement with a nine-percent pay raise over four years.
   Labor Minister Lisa Raitt had threatened back-to-work legislation before the Air Canada strike ended on Friday in its third day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Canada postal service cutting back on staff hours, switching to three-day delivery as rotating strikes continue

   Canada column for Sunday, June 12/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada Post is cutting staff hours and restricting mail deliveries in urban centers to three days a week as postal workers continue their rotating strikes.
   Due to the job action by 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, mail volume has been cut in half, said Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton.
   “We need to take action now to avoid significant losses that would harm our financial self-sustainability,” he added.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Postal strike means brisk business for couriers, problems for businesses as rotating walkouts begin

   Canada column for Sunday, June 5/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Courier companies have called in extra staff while businesses fear the worst as Canada’s postal workers are on strike.
   So far, the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers are holding rotating strikes, which started with Winnipeg on Friday and Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday, as they remain far apart on terms for a new contract.
   A continuing or national strike could cause “significant” harm to the cash flow of small businesses, said Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wildfires burn through northern Alberta, cut oil production

   Canada column for Sunday, May 22/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Raging wildfires have consumed much of the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake and cut off more than 100,000 barrels a day of oil production.
   It’s estimated about half of the town of 7,000 people has been destroyed as more than 80 wildfires are still burning and about 20 remain out of control across the province.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Harper's Conservatives getting down to business with majority

   Canada column for Sunday, May 8/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Savoring the majority mandate he fought hard to win from voters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to get down to business.
   After his Conservatives scored a decisive victory in the federal election, Harper is able to go about relatively unimpeded in implementing his agenda.
   The first order of business after selecting his new cabinet will be to implement the budget the opposition parties rejected and defeated the minority government.
   This means the country can “turn the page on the uncertainties and (four) repeat elections of the past seven years,” Harper said.
   Voters rewarded the Conservatives - who are credited with pulling the country out of the recession better than other nations – with Harper’s first majority government with 167 elected and a stable government for the next four years.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Socialist surge continues in advance of Canadian federal election

   Canada column for Sunday, May 1/11
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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The socialist surge continues to gain momentum as the New Democrats are closing in on the governing Conservatives as Canadians elect a new government on Monday.
   The personable Jack Layton and his New Democratic Party are resonating with Canadians unhappy with the country’s traditional parties – the right-wing Conservatives led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the third-place, left-leaning Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Higher interest rates could follow big jump in inflation in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, April 24/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Canadians could soon be facing higher interest rates after a sharp increase in the inflation rate propelled by higher gasoline and food prices.
   A spike in the rate last month to 3.3 percent was the biggest single-month inflationary increase since September 2008 and was a setback as Canada had been beating global trends, economists said.
   The Bank of Canada prefers to keep inflation around two percent with anything higher leading to the prospect of raising the key interest rate to cool off the economy.
   The good news in the latest numbers was that "core" inflation was 1.7 percent higher as it excludes volatile items including gasoline but was still almost twice the 0.9 percent rate in February.
   Canada's central bank had predicted inflation would reach 3 percent this spring and then back off.
   The April inflation figures will be known before the central bankers consider an interest-rate increase at its next meeting on May 31.
   The bank "won't be comfortable keeping rates on hold beyond the next meeting if this (higher inflation) is not a fluke," said economist Douglas Porter of BMO Capital Markets.
   There are predictions the key rate will rise to 3.5 percent by next year, up from 1 percent now.

Expensive election may see no change in Canada's government

   Canada column for Sunday, April 17/11

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are spending $300 million for a federal election on May 2 that might again change nothing.
   With the governing Conservatives firming up their numbers in public opinion polls, the only question might be whether they will finally be able to form a majority government to forestall another election for four or five years.
   This is the fourth election in seven years as minority Conservative governments keep getting voted out of office by the other parties.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper's platform of restraint and lower taxes to eliminate the federal deficit appears to be working as a Nanos Research poll after the televised leadership debates firmed his Conservatives at 38.7 percent.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Canada's Conservatives campaign on deficit reduction

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Restraint and lower taxes to eliminate the federal deficit a year earlier than forecast are hallmarks of the campaign by the Conservatives seeking re-election on May 2.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government is intent on reducing spending by $11 billion through to 2014-2015 to wipe out the deficit.
   That would then allow the government to pay for programs to reduce taxes for families and businesses.
   Such aggressive spending cuts would require finding federal programs that could be eliminated and not replacing government workers who leave their jobs.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Canadian political leaders debate about debates

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Debates over debates are overshadowing promises, promises as Canada's political leaders campaign for the May 2 federal election.
   Upset at being shut out of the televised leaders' debates, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is asking the court to force broadcasters to let her in.
   And, it now appears there won't be a one-on-one showdown between the two frontrunners -- Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Canadian election set for May 2; fifth in 10 years

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Vote-weary Canadians will be going to the polls on May 2 for the fifth time in 10 years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government was ousted in a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons.
   Unhappy over the federal budget announced on Tuesday and allegations the Conservatives have been in contempt of Parliament, the opposition parties joined to overthrow the government and force an election.
   In Canada's parliamentary system, an election must be held if the elected politicians succeed in outvoting the ruling government on a major bill or for non-confidence.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Canadians could be headed to the polls in May

   THE CANADIAN REPORT

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians could be electing a new government as early as May as opposition parties portray the minority government as unethical and undemocratic.
   It could be that the opposition has finally found an issue to overthrow the government: the possibility that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives might be in contempt of Parliament.
   Led by the Liberals, opposition politicians are attacking the government for its autocratic actions and ethics, while a parliamentary committee is urging the passing of a motion to find the Conservatives in contempt.