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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 24, 2016

Prospects brighten for Canada's Keystone XL pipeline with Trump comments



   (Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings and Happy Festivus!)

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 25/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Oil-rich Canada is expecting a boost in prosperity should U.S. President-elect Donald Trump follow through with his apparent endorsement of the stalled Keystone XL pipeline.
   That’s the controversial multi-billion-dollar proposal by TransCanada to move crude to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries from Alberta’s oil sands.
   After years of delays, debates and protests by environmentalists, President Barack Obama last year rejected the plan, saying the pipeline “would not serve the national interests of the United States.”
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed that he has spoken by phone with Trump about the possibility of reviving the pipeline project.
   “He actually brought up Keystone XL and indicated that he was very supportive of it and hoping that were going to be able to work together,” Trudeau said.
   The project was touted as being the catalyst to create thousands of jobs in Canada and the U.S.
   Trudeau said his Liberal government’s recent approval of two pipeline projects – the Kinder Morgan expansion to British Columbia and Line 3 through Saskatchewan and Manitoba – will create more than 20,000 jobs and expand the markets where Canadian oil will be sold.

   ---

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Trump bump" cited for more interest in Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 18/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   They’re calling it the “Trump bump” that led to a significant increase in Americans seeking refugee status and seeking information about moving to Canada.
   There has also been a huge spike in online traffic from the U.S. of more than 200,000 users that crashed Canada’s citizenship and immigration website prior to the election.
   As well, Canadian job, real estate and even dating sites have had significant jumps.
   Some dating services suggest that perhaps a quicker way to immigrate to Canada is to marry a Canadian.
   It’s not so easy to be approved as a refugee coming from a democratic country such as the U.S.
   Even so, refugee claims from Americans amounted to 170 in the past 11 months compared with 73 a year earlier.
   It’s not unusual with political changes and concerns, said Toronto immigration attorney Mario Bellissimo.
   “I saw some of this when Bush assumed office (in 2000),” he said.

   ---

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Basic income plan under consideration by two provinces



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 11/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two Canadian provinces are developing a plan to provide its poorest residents with a basic income from the government.
   Ontario is looking to launch its program – the first of its kind considered in North America in decades – next spring to provide a guaranteed annual income for people and families in need.
   Now Prince Edward Island’s legislature has unanimously approved developing a similar pilot project with the federal government.
   It was felt that such a plan would help families build their way back while reducing government bureaucracy.
   Ontario named former senator Hugh Segal to study the options in a $25-million test project that could involve paying people $1,320 a month in place of welfare and Ontario Disability Support Program payments.
   The PEI bill, introduced by Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, was supported by the Liberal government and opposition parties.
   “A universal basic income could enable the greatest unleashing of human potential ever seen,” Bevan-Baker said.
   The pilot project would also help determine the costs of a guaranteed income and whether it would deter people from looking for work.

   ---

Friday, December 9, 2016

Prime Minister remarks about Castro called "shameful"



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 4/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments that former Cuban president Fidel Castro was a “legendary revolutionary and orator,” have been widely condemned.
   Trudeau recently returned from a diplomatic visit to Cuba and was commenting on the death of Castro by expressing his “deep sorrow.”
  While being a “controversial figure,” Trudeau said he is remembered as a “larger-than-life leader” who made significant improvements to Cuba’s education and health-care systems.
   He referred to his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as having a close relationship and was “very proud to call him (Castro) a friend.”
   Criticism even came from Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American senator for Florida, who asked on Twitter, “Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada, it is shameful (and) embarrassing.”
   Conservative leadership candidate Lisa Raitt said Trudeau should be ashamed for the remarks that have “placed himself on the wrong side of history – against the millions of Cubans yearning for freedom.”
   The Cuban dictator was a pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral in 2000 along with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

   ---

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Canada's spends to boost economy: Deficit doubles in September



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 27/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s spending deficit under the new Liberal government doubled to $2.4 billion in September from a year earlier.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier backed away from his election campaign vow for a balanced budget by the end of the government’s four-year term.
   Instead, the current budget spending plan is said to help create 100,000 jobs and boost national economic growth.
   Revenues in the month were about $21.7 billion, down from $22 billion, with lower corporate income taxes, non-resident income taxes and excise taxes, and duties, the Finance Department reported.
   Infrastructure and other program spending to stimulate the economy rose to $22.2 billion, up from $21.2 billion a year ago.
   In the first half of the fiscal year, there was a deficit of $7.8 billion compared with a surplus of $1.6 billion in the April-to-September period last year with the previous Conservative government.
   For the current fiscal year, the government has forecast a $25.1-billion deficit.

   ---

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Canada urged to respond "in an intelligent way" to any NAFTA changes by Trump



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 20/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Concerns that a Donald Trump presidency will result in changes or the end of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should prompt Canada to respond in an “intelligent way.”
   Former Cabinet minister Perrin Beatty, now president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, made the comment and said “the world has changed” as a result of Trump’s election victory.
   The president-elect spoke of renegotiating “our horrible trade agreements” with China and NAFTA to get “a much better deal for America.”
   Speaking to the Confederation Club, Beatty said Canada should be prepared to move on its own trade agreements should there be a collapse of U.S. participation in such deals as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
   Steps should include Canada diversifying its trade, maintaining openness to the global economy, and removing barriers to Canadian goods and services, he suggested.
   NAFTA, enacted 22 years ago between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, is the “envy of the world” and Canada should fight for a deal to benefit all.
   “Revisiting the agreement could provide an opportunity to modernize the deal and to present Canadian requests,” Beatty said.

   ---

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Moving to Canada website crashes after Trump win



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 13/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   There’s been some unprecedented interest by Americans in moving to Canada since Donald Trump became the U.S. President-elect.
   For some time, numerous celebrities and people have expressed an interest in getting to know Canada better.
   It hasn’t been this way since the era of the Vietnam War when thousands of draft dodgers and resisters fled to their northern neighbor’s country.
  The Canadian immigration website crashed on U.S. election night and until 8:30 a.m. the next day when it couldn’t handle a huge surge in traffic from Americans looking for advice on how to move north.
   There were more than 200,000 users accessing the website, five times higher than usual, said department spokesperson Sonia Lesage.
   Upsetting to some U.S. residents are comments by Trump about deportations of illegal immigrants and reopening international trade agreements.
   Moving company HireAHelper, operating in Lakeland, Florida and other U.S. cities, is advertising “free help loading the truck” for people relocating to Canada and has a guide on how to make the move. hireahelper.com
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated Trump on his victory and said “we offer our hand in partnership with our neighbors as friends and allies as they move forward.”

   ---

Monday, November 7, 2016

Former "confidant" of PM fined for illegal lobbying



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 6/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A “confidant” of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been fined $50,000 for illegal lobbying.
   Ontario Court Judge Catherine Kehoe said the fine for Bruce Carson is a necessary deterrent.
   He was convicted on three counts for his work on the national energy strategy while a director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment and later vice-chair of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.
   Court was told he was under a five-year prohibition from lobbying public office holders since he had worked in the Prime Minister’s Office until February 2009.
   He had been paid about $600,000 for lobbying work from 2009 to 2011 and the judge ruled he had contact with officials of numerous government offices.
   “It is necessary to impose a significant fine to deter Mr. Carson and others who would engage in lobbying and ignore the law, which goes to the heart of the integrity of government and public trust of government,” the judge said.
   Carson was found not guilty last year of influence-peddling for attempting to have government officials buy water filtration systems from a company that employed his former escort girlfriend.

   ---

Sunday, October 30, 2016

No plans yet to eliminate Canada's 5-cent coin


   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 30/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

  First it was the $1 bill and then the $2 note switching to coins in Canada, followed by the elimination of the penny.
   So, could the nickel be facing retirement next?
   Not so fast, the government insists as an internal analysis on the pros and cons of keeping the nickel says it will stay for now.
   There are “no plans to discontinue the nickel,” said David Barnabe of the finance department, even though New Zealand and South Africa have eliminated the coins over the past decade.
   Even as the purchasing power of the nickel “has eroded over time (down 40 percent over 25 years) relative both to prices and incomes,” the analysis found it is still cost effective to mint them.
   “As there are virtually no goods or services that can be purchased for a nickel, or several multiples thereof, the coin is generally used only to make change as part of larger transactions,” the study reported.
   The nickel entered circulation in 1858 while the penny was dropped in 2013, leaving businesses to round up to the nearest nickel amount.
   Some Canadian bankers suggest the nickel won’t be around five years from now.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gloomy economic outlook: Bank of Canada confirms



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 23/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank has presented a gloomier picture of the country’s economic growth.
   The Bank of Canada downgraded economic predictions noting an expected drop in housing sales due to new government rules and a lingering decline in exports.
   Bank governor Stephen Poloz said the economy also continues to struggle from the plunge in oil prices that began two years ago.
   The economy isn’t expected to return to full capacity until mid-2018 instead of the late 2017 time frame it had expected a few months ago, he said.
   The Gross Domestic Product is expected to expand by 1.1 percent this year, down from the July projection of 1.3 percent, with growth of 2 percent next year, down from 2.2 percent.
   Bank members considered lowering the trendsetting key interest rate of 0.5 percent where it has been since July 2015 but has again kept it there for now.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver his fall economic update to the House of Commons on Nov. 1.
   There are indications it will include ways the Liberal government can stimulate the stalled economy.

   ---

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Canadians don't like Trump's remarks about their health care program



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 16/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are taking issue with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for referring to their health-care system as being “catastrophic.”
   Canada’s “mostly free” publicly funded doctor and hospital services can’t cope with demand, resulting in people going to the U.S. for treatment, Trump said.
   The Fraser Institute said 45,619 people sought non-emergency medical procedures outside of Canada last year largely because of long wait times at home.
   The number is about 1 percent of the patients of physicians who responded to a survey, the report said.
   Data from doctors gives a “general estimation” of the number of “medical tourists,” said Bacchus Barua of the Vancouver-based institute.
   The numbers are then applied to the total number of medical procedures carried out in Canada, as recorded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, he added.
   Some critics are skeptical of the institute’s methodology.
   Even so, Ron Labonte, a health-sciences professor, said the number of people leaving for hospital care is very small.

   ---

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mortgage finance rules could force some Canadians into less expensive houses



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 9/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   First-time home buyers might have to settle for less expensive houses than previously with a tightening of Canadian mortgage lending rules.
   The federal government is moving to protect buyers from getting too deeply into debt should interest rates begin rising.
   New rules to take effect on Oct. 17 will limit the amount home buyers can borrow so they can keep up with their payments at higher rates.
   A “stress test” will be used for all buyers putting down less than 20 percent of the cost of the house – a condition that previously applied only to those opting for variable or fixed rate mortgages with renewable terms of less than five years.
   It’s aimed at ensuring buyers can make their mortgage payments and cover other costs related to home ownership.
   This happens at a time when single detached houses in Vancouver sell for an average of $1.5 million and $1 million in Toronto.

   ---

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Canada's Liberals spending their way to economic growth: Finance minister says



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 2/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Spending by the Liberal government elected last October has hit an “unprecedented rate,” a report by the “budget watchdog” says.
   Jean-Denis Frechette, parliamentary budget officer, found that expenditures were nearly $3.4 billion, or 5.7 percent, higher in the first quarter of the fiscal year compared with a year earlier and the biggest increase in six years.
   His report notes the cash included an additional $1.22 billion for infrastructure-related spending along with some leftover commitments made by the previous Conservative government.
   First-quarter spending was $62.9 billion and also included more than $1 billion extra for higher child-benefit payments to families.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau said this has led to economic growth as the government promised to spend to stimulate the economy after a Conservative decade of low growth.
   “We will continue to make those investments,” he said.
   Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said 729 projects have been approved for funding and more than 60 percent of them are underway.

   ---

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cyberattack concerns caused Canadian officials to react, plan



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 25/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The threat of a major cyberattack on the electrical grid and telecommunications systems in Canada has government officials planning with critical infrastructure operators.
   An internal document said “insiders” could unleash devastating viruses and cripple systems.
   This has officials consulting with operators of electrical grids, transportation hubs and other key infrastructure facilities.
   The briefing notes for Public Safety Canada, obtained by the Canadian Press newswire under the Access to Information Act, said the “insider threat is difficult to detect and can cause real damage.”
   Rogue employees, state-sponsored hackers, sophisticated criminals, “cause-motivated hacktivists” and people out to make mischief online all pose a threat, the document warns.
   No special hacking skills are required to wreak digital havoc, just a portable memory key loaded with a malicious code, it said.
   The document was prepared for Monik Beauregard, a senior assistant deputy minister at Public Safety Canada, who chaired a panel on Friday at an intelligence conference on the global implications of the challenges to cybersecurity.

   ---

Friday, September 23, 2016

Give the integration of foreigners into Canadian society some time, prime minister says



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 18/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The integration of foreigners, including Muslims, into Canadian society is nothing new and will take some time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.
   Since last November, Canada has “resettled” 30,647 Syrian refugees and more continue to arrive.
   Trudeau told a conference in Montreal, hosted by the “progressive think-tank” Canada 2020, that being fearful of immigrants is “nothing new” here or around the world.
   There were similar circumstances when the Italians and Greeks settled in Montreal in the 1950s and they faced “tremendous” discrimination and distrust, Trudeau said.
   Canadians shouldn’t be “overly impatient” with integrating newcomers as the “first generation is always going to have challenges,” Trudeau said.
   In a panel discussion, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Canada is a “beacon of how a civilized G7 country should treat those who are vulnerable and need help.”
   He praised Trudeau for his “progressive” politics and said his election last October inspired him.

   ---

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Emergency repairs ordered for Ambassador Bridge on Canada-U.S. border



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 11/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The crumbling infrastructure of the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-U.S. border has prompted the Canadian government to order emergency repairs.
   Documents show Transport Canada has had concerns about the structural integrity of the privately owned bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario and Detroit– the busiest border crossing in North America – for some time.
   Transport Minister Marc Garneau has called on the bridge company owned by Manuel Moroun of Grosse Pointe, Mich. to do everything possible to speed up repairs.
   An engineering firm two years ago inspected the 86-year-old suspension bridge over the Detroit River and recommended the Canadian side be thoroughly rehabilitated or replaced.
   “The safety of the Ambassador Bridge is of critical importance,” Garneau said, adding: “Should action not be taken in a timely manner, I will not hesitate to take additional safety measures.”
   The 1,850-foot bridge carries about 10,000 trucks and 4,000 automobiles a day between the two countries.
   Politicians from both countries turned down Moroun’s proposal to build a second span on the bridge and will instead construct a new nearby structure to be called the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

   ---

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Tentative pact averts Canadian postal strike



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 4/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A two-year tentative agreement that averts the threat of a nationwide postal strike does little but put off the inevitable, businesses leaders warn.
   Canada Post and its 51,000 workers have agreed to a “peace treaty” that ends nine months of negotiations and assures businesses that the mail will go through – for now.
   The government agency said the demands of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were too rich at a time of reduced mail volumes, pension shortfalls and an estimated $8 billion solvency deficit.
   As well, the post office will have to confront lost business and a government review of its operations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said.
   The deal, while putting off some of the major issues for two years, “will be a relief for a lot of small business owners,” said federation president Dan Kelly.
   The threat of a strike forced them to look at alternatives in advance, he added.
   A special mediator appointed by the government helped both sides reach the agreement that calls for an independent body to study the major issue of pay equity between city and rural letter carriers.

   ---

Monday, August 29, 2016

Stephen Harper, Canada's former leader, has left politics for good



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 28/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, defeated in last October’s election, has resigned after two decades in politics.
   Harper quit as aMember of Parliament for Calgary in a statement and on video on Friday.
   After his election defeat to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, Harper left his position as Conservative party leader but remained in Parliament.
   He led the Conservatives to a minority government, becoming prime minister in the 2006 election and again in 2008 before winning his first majority in 2011.
   “On seven occasions, I have been deeply humbled by your trust and support, time and again,” Harper said of his election victories.
   As he leaves politics for a career as an international issues consultant, Harper said among his “proudest accomplishments” were guiding the economy through the 2008 recession and the tough-on-crime agenda.
   Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose also noted his foreign policy, including support for Israel and opposition to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

   ---

Monday, August 22, 2016

Canada reviews security measures after attach thwarted



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 21/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government is looking at toughening national security measures after police narrowly thwarted a terrorist attack.
   Of concern are peace bonds such as the one issued to Aaron Driver, 24, who was on his way to launch a bomb attack when Mountie sharpshooters shot and killed him in a taxi outside his home in Strathroy, Ontario.
   Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said there are “limitations” and the government is looking at having terrorist sympathizers undergo mandatory de-radicalization counseling.
   The government is also spending $35 million to establish a center for countering violent extremism.
   Driver was under a court-ordered bond with strict conditions to limit his movements, travel, internet communications and cell phone use after his arrest last year.
   Even so, he was able to acquire bomb-making materials, make a “martyrdom video” and set out to blow up a device to cause mass casualties in an unnamed urban area.
   His plans were foiled when the FBI advised the Mounties about the video and they were able to identify and confront him as he left the house.

   ---

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Police thwart an attempted terrorist attack in Ontario



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 14/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   FBI and Canadian police worked together in a “race against time” to thwart a terrorist attack just before it was about to happen.
   It all started with an early-morning tip from the FBI about a potential suicide bomber planning an attack somewhere in Canada.
   The end came three hours later when police identified the suspect and nabbed him in a taxi leaving his home in small-town Strathroy, Ontario, west of Toronto.
   In the ensuing scuffle, a bomb was detonated in the taxi, injuring the driver, and the assailant – Aaron Driver, 24, a known terrorist sympathizer – was dead.
   The police were acting on a tip of a “martyrdom video,” showing a black-hooded and masked man warning that he was planning to detonate an explosive device in an urban center during the morning or afternoon rush hour, said Mountie deputy commissioner Mike Cabana.
   The angry video threat included a Muslim prayer in Arabic and warning of immediate retaliation for Canada’s participation in the “war on Islam.”
   The challenge for the authorities was to try to identify the man in the video and find him quickly, which they did, Cabana said.
   Driver had been under a court order not to associate with any terrorist organizations and other restrictions after his arrest last year when he praised Islamist terrorist activities and the 2014 attack on Canada’s Parliament.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fewer Canadian women working outside the home, government report shows



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 7/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Fewer Canadian women with children are in the workforce as compared with those in many other countries, a government study shows.
   Women’s groups, including the Facebook site TorontoMummies, call it a “crisis” as mothers cope with raising children and finding available and affordable daycare that can cost $1,000 and more a month in Toronto.
   The rate of women between 25 and 54 with children younger than 15 working was 75 percent, based on 2013 statistics, said an internal federal government analysis obtained by the Canadian Press news service.
   This places Canada ninth among member countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
   The document was prepared after last fall’s election when the now-governing Liberal party said it would draft a national framework on early learning and child care.
   The study said the job participation rate for women with young children involved factors such as education, family income and taxes, job availability, child benefits and the availability of affordable child care.

   ---

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pipeline safety, environmental concerns after major Canadian spill



   Canada column for Sunday, July 31/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The safety of oil pipelines remains a major concern after a major spill in Saskatchewan.
   Cities and towns along the North Saskatchewan River were looking for other sources of drinking water after a Husky Energy pipeline spilled up to 66,000 gallons of oil into the river.
   This happened just as public hearings are to begin on Aug. 8 on the proposed Energy East Pipeline.
   “All of these incidents shake public confidence,” Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, which wants to build the pipeline, said in an interview with the Canadian Press news service.
   “There's no question that things like that cause people concern – and rightfully so,” he added.
   TransCanada is also behind the Keystone XL pipeline that would have moved Alberta oil sands product across the U.S. but was rejected by President Barack Obama.
    Energy East would be a $15.7 billion pipeline to ship 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan through Quebec and into New Brunswick.
   It would supply Eastern Canadian refineries and provide oil for shipment overseas but is facing significant opposition from environmentalists.

   ---

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

U.S. "war dodgers" want right to remain in Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, July 24/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   U.S. soldiers who fled to Canada rather than fight the war in Iraq are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let them remain in the country.
   Marine Corporal Dean Walcott, who has lived in Ontario since 2006, said he is “shocked and dismayed” court cases are still pending.
   Jeremy Brockway, another Marine, came to Canada in 2007 with severe post-traumatic stress syndrome to “save his life,” wife Ashlea said.
   Trudeau earlier expressed support for the two dozen or so remaining war dodgers and said the government was looking into the issue.
   His father, the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, gave sanctuary to about 100,000 U.S. deserters and draft dodgers in the 1960s.
   War resister Rodney Watson, who has a Canadian-born son, has spent almost seven years in a church sanctuary in Vancouver to avoid deportation.
   Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign said U.S. soldiers who sought refuge in Canada should be welcome to stay.

   ---

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Senate expenses scandal winding down with charges withdrawn



   Canada column for Sunday, July 17/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The highly publicized Senate expenses scandal resulting in criminal charges against several Canadian senators has come sputtering to an end with the last fraud case dropped.
   “It’s official, I’m back in the Senate,” said an elated Sen. Patrick Brazeau.
   He had just learned that prosecutors were withdrawing fraud and breach of trust charges concerning his expense claims.
   Assistant Crown Attorney Suzanne Schriek told Judge Robert Maranger the prosecution believes there was no longer any “reasonable prospect of conviction” after the acquittal of Sen. Mike Duffy in April on similar charges.
   “Having seen the ‘proof’ against me, what a waste of time and taxpayer’s money – perhaps that’s the real scandal,” Brazeau said.
   The Senate ordered Brazeau to repay $55,000 in housing expenses and continues to pursue others for amounts it believes were inappropriately claimed.
   After Duffy’s high-profile, 62-day trial in which he was acquitted of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, the Senate dropped charges against retired Sen. Mac Harb.
   Police then decided not to proceed with any charges against Sen. Pamela Wallin whose expense claims were under review.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Unite-the-right movement launched in Alberta by Jason Kenney



   Canada column for Sunday, July 10/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Federal Member of Parliament Jason Kenney is calling on former prime minister Stephen Harper to help him “unite-the-right” in Alberta.
   The Calgary politician has decided against making a bid to succeed Harper as Conservative leader to instead seek to become leader of the party in the western province.
   He plans to resign from his federal position on Oct. 1 when the Alberta leadership race begins.
   An endorsement from Harper would be “more than welcome” to unite Alberta’s right-wing parties – the Conservatives and Wildrose.
   This would be an attempt to defeat the ruling socialist New Democrats led by Premier Rachel Notley in the 2019 election.
   A merged “free-enterprise party” would bring back the “Alberta Advantage” slogan of the long-gone days of balanced budgets and huge oil and gas revenue surpluses that are under attack by the New Democrats’ policies, Kenney said.
   Other measures would include scrapping the planned carbon tax and review the government’s moves to cancel the flat income tax system and raise corporate taxes.

   ---

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Love-in for Trudeau and Obama at the "Three Amigos" gathering in Ottawa



   Canada column for Sunday, July 3/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   U.S. President Barach Obama heaped praise on Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while calling for more defense spending as the “three amigos” met in Ottawa.
   “If I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada. NATO needs more Canada. We need you,” Obama said in an address to Parliament.
   His rousing speech was greeted by Canadian politicians chanting “four more years” to the outgoing U.S. president, knowing it isn’t a possibility unlike Canada.
   The heartfelt comments came before Canada Day on Friday that marked the country’s 149th birthday as Trudeau hosted Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
   “The enduring partnership between Canada and the United States is as strong as it has ever been and we are more closely aligned than ever before,” Obama said.
   Trudeau, who was elected prime minister last October, has brought “new energy and hope” to the cross-border relationship, he added.
   Obama then bluntly called on Canada and other NATO allies to contribute their “full share to our common security” in military spending and action.
   The three North American leaders pledged to enhance deeper continental integration in trade and find new initiatives on battling climate change and cleaner energy sources.

   ---

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Economic losses surpass $1 billion from Alberta wildfire



   Canada column for Sunday, June 26/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   The economic toll from the massive wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta could cost the oil sands industry more than $1.4 billion.
   While the losses continue to add up, local councilors have unpopularly voted themselves big pay increases to cover their increased workload due to last month’s fire.
   The Athabasca oil sands’ community’s 80,000 residents were forced to leave and 2,400 houses and businesses were destroyed.
   The oil industry estimated a loss of 30 million barrels and it is taking longer than expected to restart operations because of damage and clogged pipelines.
   Suncor Energy could end up losing $1 billion over lost production, an Edmonton refinery outage that led to gasoline shortages in Western Canada and restarting costs, analysts said.
   Paul Cheng of Barclays said about half of the 1 million barrels a day of interrupted production has been restored.
   Councilors from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, voted 7-4 to pay Mayor Melissa Blake and three of its members $150,000 a year to work full time on a recovery committee.
   The seven other part-time councilors’ pay will increase to $75,000 a year from $36,000.

   ---

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Walmart Canada and Visa in a battle over fees; will drop card



   Canada column for Sunday, June 19/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Walmart Canada has taken its battle with Visa over what it calls high credit card fees directly to its customers.
   The U.S.-based retail giant said that due to “unacceptably high fees” it will stop accepting Visa cards beginning July 18 in Thunder Bay, Ontario and expand the ban to its more than 400 Canadian stores.
   Walmart said it is trying to trim the more than $100 million in fees it pays annually for accepting credit cards.
   Visa stepped up the feud with newspaper ads accusing Walmart of using consumers as pawns.
   “Walmart is unfairly dragging millions of Canadian consumers into the middle of a business disagreement that can and should be resolved between our companies,” it said.
   Visa said it offered Walmart one of the lowest rates of any merchant in Canada but that hasn’t been enough.
   Fees charged to businesses – generally between 1.5 percent and 4 percent – have long been an issue and the Retail Council of Canada is calling on the federal government to legislate lower rates.
   Walmart has its own branded MasterCard but has not said whether this might be part of the issue.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

House price acceleration a concern in Toronto, Vancouver



   Canada column for Sunday, June 12/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Soaring double-digit house price increases in Vancouver and Toronto are putting many buyers out of the market and are being called “unsustainable.”
   Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz expressed concern for the economy as the average price for single-family houses in the two cities is more than $1 million.
   Fueled by foreign buyers seeking safe havens for their wealth, the climbing real estate prices have outpaced local economic fundamentals such as job creation, immigration and income growth, the central bank governor warned.
   There is growing evidence prices are reacting to “self-reinforcing” expectations among prospective buyers and lenders that property values will keep rising, Poloz said.
   In reality, there is the “possibility” that prices could decline in these circumstances, he said while releasing an assessment on the state of Canada’s financial stability.
   Evidence “continues to accumulate” of a coming market correction but the possibility of it triggering a severe recession remains low, Poloz said.
   Year-over-year house prices have risen 30 percent in the greater Vancouver area while Toronto prices are up 15 percent in the past six months as household debit is increasing, the bank said.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Alberta wildfire evacuees start to retun to their homes



   Canada column for Sunday, June 5/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The first group of emotionally drained residents returned to see what’s left of their homes after the devastating wildfires in Alberta.
   But, many people who lost their homes to the fires might never return to Fort McMurray after 2,400 houses and businesses were destroyed – about 10 percent of the city.
   Last month’s wildfires abruptly changed direction and made a direct hit on the city in the heart of Alberta’s oil-producing region.
   Authorities are planning the return to the city in stages as more than 80,000 people had to flee when the flames and smoke approached.
   The return started last Wednesday for people who lived in areas that were mostly spared by the fires.
   “These are the points of light in the midst of some very, very hard days,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.
   She welcomed home the first group returning and thanked the crews who worked to get the city running again.
   The Canadian Red Cross has begun allocating the $125 million raised so far to assist with the recovery efforts – money that is to be matched by the federal government and partially by Alberta.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Canada's economic growth hampered by oil prices, fires in Alberta



   Canada column for Sunday, May 29/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The oil price shock has been compounded by this month’s devastating Alberta wildfires to hurt Canada’s economic growth.
   The Bank of Canada said the fires that destroyed sections of Fort McMurray, forcing about 80,000 to flee and with the loss of 2,400 houses and businesses, are exacting a toll on the economy.
   In the oil-rich province, the flames forced several oilsands operations to close and sent workers fleeing.
   The central bank said the impact of the fires will cut 1.25 percent off Gross Domestic Product growth in the second quarter.
   Even so, the bank kept its key interest rate steady at 0.5 percent, expecting better days ahead.
   In its assessment, the bank said Canada’s economy is expected to rebound in the third quarter as oil production resumes along with rebuilding after the fires.
   The economy continues making a “structural adjustment” to lower world oil prices, the bank noted.
   Retail sales figures for March along with manufacturing and wholesale numbers were lower.
   Statistics Canada said the annual pace of inflation rose to 1.7 percent last month, up from 1.3 percent in March.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Senators cleared in long-running Canadian Senate expenses scandal



   Canada column for Sunday, May 22/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The long-standing Senate expenses scandal is winding down with a former senator being cleared of fraud and breach of trust while a second senator won’t be arrested.
   Charges were dropped against Mac Harb, who retired three years ago, over housing expenses that were called inappropriate.
   Mounties decided that criminal charges were not warranted after a “thorough investigation” of Sen. Pamela Wallin’s travel claims, said assistant commissioner Gilles Michaud.
   “It has been a very long three years and I’m glad this nightmare is over,” Wallin said.
   She repaid $150,000 in expenses, blaming a “lynch mob” mentality in the Senate, and will consult with her lawyer about possible legal action.
   Prosecutors said Harb will not face a criminal trial because there isn’t a reasonable expectation of a conviction.
   He repaid $231,000 in housing expenses that were under investigation.
   This follows Sen. Mike Duffy being cleared of 31 charges of defrauding the Canadian government last month during a 62-day trial.
   Only one case remains, with Patrick Brazeau facing fraud and breach of trust charges.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Canadian government to aid in rebuilding fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta



   Canada column for Sunday, May 15/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged support in the rebuilding effort for those affected in wildfire-devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta.
   The massive wildfire, nicknamed “the beast,” roared into the oil-producing city, destroying neighborhoods and forcing 94,000 people to flee on short notice.
   It burned through 2,400 houses and businesses and the deaths of two people in a car crash as they fled the city were blamed on the wildfire.
   The Liberal government has formed a special cabinet committee to co-ordinate Fort McMurray aid and reconstruction efforts, Trudeau said during a visit on Friday.
   As well, the government is “fast tracking” claims for unemployment insurance by displaced workers.
   The Alberta government is giving residents and families immediate emergency financial support and the Red Cross has started distributing the $87 million donated so far and matched by the government.
   Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said it isn’t yet known when people can return as workers are restoring power, inspecting properties and working to repair the hospital.
   The fire, which now covers about 10,000 square miles, has moved away from the city and is expected to burn in forested areas for several more weeks.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wildfire "beast" drives thousands from Alberta city



   Canada column for Sunday, May 8/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A wildfire of epic proportions has now driven almost all 80,000 residents from the oilfields’ capital of Fort McMurray, Alberta as much of the community has gone up in flames.
   Spawned by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire changed course and took aim at the city, causing residents to flee in a mass exodus that included huge convoys by road and some evacuations by air.
   Police and the military were escorting a procession of 1,500 vehicles carrying evacuees stranded at oilfield camps north of the city to safer ground.
   Heavy smoke was hampering their travel that was continuing this weekend to the Edmonton area, about 270 miles to the south.
   “The beast is still up, it’s surrounding the city and we’re here doing our very best for you,” regional fire chief Darby Allen said in assessing the situation.
    Thousands of houses and buildings have been destroyed and Premier Rachel Notley said she cannot speculate on when it might be safe for residents to return to the city.
   The Red Cross has raised $11 million and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will match the donations to help those displaced.
   The Alberta government is also matching donations up to $2 million.
   “We will weather this storm together and together we will rebuild,” Trudeau said.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Canadian oil and gas industry still facing "dire times"



   Canada column for Sunday, May 1/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada, the largest supplier of oil to the United States, still faces grim predictions for a financial comeback in its hard-hit oil and gas sector.
   “These are dire times for the Canadian oilfield service, supply and manufacturing sector, with no indicators for positive change in the near future,” said Mark Salkeld, ceo of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.
   Due to low crude oil prices, the association predicts drilling activity will be 36-percent lower than what it anticipated six months ago.
   The Conference Board of Canada said the country’s oil and gas industry should remain in the red for a second year but pre-tax losses shouldn’t be as severe with a return to profitability next year.
   The board predicts oil producers will collectively lose more than $3 billion this year compared with a record $7 billion loss last year.
   As well, the economic think tank said the natural gas extraction industry should lose $1 billion this year, down from $1.1-billion in 2015.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Duffy found not guilty; Niagara Falls turns purple



   Canada column for Sunday, April 24/16

Niagara Falls turned purple to honor the Queen and Prince. (Parks Canada photo)
   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Mike Duffy is back at work as a senator after a three-year expulsion now that he was cleared of 31 charges of defrauding the Canadian government.
   Judge Charles Vaillancourt, in a four-hour verdict, had harsh words for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office and its conduct over the expenses scandal involving Duffy, 69.
   The ruling after a 62-day trial took issue with the prosecution’s contention that the former TV broadcaster had deliberately defrauded taxpayers by submitting claims for disputed housing, office and travel expenses.
   Vaillancourt was extremely critical that Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave Duffy $90,000 to repay his living expenses to try to defuse the controversy.
   “The political, covert, relentless, unfolding of events is mind boggling and shocking,” Vaillancourt said, acquitting Duffy of all counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
   Lawyer Donald Bayne said that Duffy has been subjected to “more public humiliation than probably any Canadian in history.”
   Senator Patrick Brazeau faces a fraud and breach of trust trial this year while senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses continue to be examined by the police. Seven other senators are being asked to repay a total of $528,000 in disputed expenses.

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   Canada’s Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario turned a regal purple Thursday night to honor Queen Elizabeth on her 90th birthday – and, perhaps to pay tribute to Prince.
   Many people said it also honored the “Purple Rain” singer who died at his home in Minnesota at age 57.
   Toronto played a big part in the life of Prince as in the early-to-mid 2000s, he lived in the city's Bridle Path neighborhood.
   At the time, he was married to Manuela Testolini, who was born in Toronto.
   Prince performed two of his last sold-out shows at Toronto’s Sony Center last month.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Government spending plans aiding Canadian economy



   Canada column for Sunday, April 17/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Liberal government’s spending plans are already proving to be a boost for the Canadian economy.
   The Bank of Canada kept its trend-setting interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent while predicting economic growth as shown by the gross domestic product to rise by 1.7 percent this year, up 0.3 percent from an earlier prediction.
   The central bank noted this was due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government deciding to invest $25 billion in additional spending over the next two years for such things as infrastructure projects.
   The spending was included in the recent federal budget that projected a deficit of $110 billion over five years while the previous Conservative government was reducing spending to avoid going into the red.
   “The mix of policies that we have today is a more favorable one for economic growth than what we had before," bank Governor Stephen Poloz said.
   Spending by the government is helping to counter lower oil prices affecting the Canadian economy’s commodity-abundant provinces.
   The dollar dropped from a seven-month high topping 78 cents U.S. with news of the key interest rate remaining steady and lower oil and gold prices.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Canadian dollar, stocks soar after higher oil prices, job creation numbers



   Canada column for Sunday, April 10/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Strong employment numbers and higher oil prices are giving Canada’s dollar and stock markets a boost.
   The dollar rose above 77 cents US, up more than one cent on Friday, as Statistics Canada reported 40,600 jobs were created last month.
   The job numbers showed the largest one-month increase in employment in six months.
   As the price of crude oil strengthened to almost $40, so did Canada’s fortunes as an oil-rich nation.
   Last month’s job advances were significant as 35,300 were for full-time work and pushed the unemployment rate down 0.2 percent to 7.1 percent from a month earlier.
   While Alberta’s unemployment rate fell to 7.1 percent in March from 7.9 percent, there were more people out of work in Calgary and Edmonton.
   Over the past year, Canada has added 129,600 net new jobs, an increase of 0.7 percent.
   Meanwhile, the pace of housing starts in Canada slowed in March due to drops in multi-unit construction.
   Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the seasonally adjusted annual rate was 204,251 units, down from 219,077 in February.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Many Americans say they would move to Canada if Trump wins: Vox.com survey



   Canada column for Sunday, April 3/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians might want to prepare to welcome millions of fleeing Americans should polls be correct that Donald Trump might win the presidency.
   A survey conducted by Vox.com of 2,000 registered voters showed 28 percent claimed they’d likely “consider moving to another country, such as Canada” with a Trump victory.
   And, they wouldn’t be hampered by a large wall at the border between the U.S. and Canada.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said claims of Americans wanting to move to Canada occur after every U.S. election.
   It happened, however, when George W. Bush was elected in 2004, with immigration to Canada doubling by 34,000 Americans in a decade.
   With Trump’s campaign promises and popularity, searches online about “how to move to Canada” have surged, according to Simon Rogers of Google.
   The Canadian technology industry that has long lost talented workers to the U.S. is fighting back seeking Silicon Valley, California talent over concerns about Trump.
   Sortable, a Kitchener, Ontario tech company, has been running Facebook ads featuring a photo of Trump with the tag line: “Thinking of moving to Canada? Sortable is hiring.”  http://sortable.com/careers-at-sortable/
   Cape Breton, Nova Scotia radio host Rob Calabrese has set up a website called “CapeBretonIfDonaldTrumpWins,” offering to provide a new home for anyone seeking refuge.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Canada's Liberals on spending spree to boost economy



   Canada column for Sunday, March 27/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s new Liberal government intends to spend its way to greater prosperity as it projects a $29.4 billion budget deficit for the coming year.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that Canadians not worry as his government intends to again balance the budget “in the coming five years.”
   During last fall’s election campaign, the Liberals pledged to invest in infrastructure and put more money into people’s pockets to grow the economy – “and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said.
   The spending plans are contained in the government’s first budget and ended almost a decade of fiscal restraint under the Conservatives.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau said it will create 100,000 jobs and boost economic growth nationally.
   It provides $6.6 billion over two years for infrastructure projects and $13 billion to help aboriginal communities that includes water and wastewater systems and education on reserves.
   There’s $10 billion more over two years for new payments to families with children and $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors and restoring the Old Age Security pension eligibility age to 65 from 67.
   The government will also spend $2 billion over three years on infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, and $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Retirement age for pensions being reset at 65 by Liberal government



   Canada column for Sunday, March 20/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s “official” retirement age when people can begin receiving the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will be restored to 65, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
   As promised in the election campaign last fall, the new Liberal government will undo the previous Conservative government decision to move the eligibility age to 67.
   It is an important step, Trudeau said, in “how we care for our most vulnerable in society.”
   The previous government said it would raise the eligibility age for the OAS by two years beginning in 2023 in order to protect the sustainability of the plan.
   Trudeau said he believes “a little bit of sophistication” along with the trend to people working longer before taking the pension at a higher amount will make better sense.
   In a meeting at Bloomberg News in New York, Trudeau also said he is focused on an infrastructure spending program over 10 years that will lead to economic benefits for the country.
   Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor and company founder, welcomed Trudeau whom he called “Canada’s New Hope” in an opinion column.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Canada-U.S. friendship revived under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau



   Canada column for Sunday, March 13/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Wasn’t that a party, eh?
   The first families of Canada and the United States appeared to be best friends forever as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was honored at a state dinner in Washington.
   While the best of neighbors, the relationship between the countries is again warming with Liberal Trudeau’s election in October.
   It was the first official visit for a Canadian prime minister in 19 years, the last being when Jean and Aline Chretien were the guests of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
   “We have a common outlook on the world,” Obama said of Trudeau, who in turn called him “a deep thinker with a big heart but also a big brain.”
   The first ladies hit it off, too, with Michelle Obama introducing Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau as her “soulmate.”
   As well as the glitzy dinner with numerous Canadian-born celebrities and high-powered political and business leaders, Trudeau got down to business during his three-day visit.
   They agreed on Obama’s desire to advance initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and finding new sources of non-carbon based energy that aligns with Canada’s foreign policy.
   The two countries will also implement added border security measures including pre-clearance for low-risk travelers and sharing information on people entering and leaving each country.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Go ahead, eat your "ugly" veggies!



   Canada column for Sunday, March 6/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Ugly” food can be a good thing, especially for shoppers seeking bargains as prices soar due to the weakened value of the Canadian dollar.
   Weston’s Loblaw chain is expanding its “Naturally Imperfect” foods nationally after offering the “ugly” line of apples and potatoes in Ontario and Quebec.
   After the successful test, the company is adding “unsightly” peppers, onions and mushrooms costing 30 percent less than their good-looking counterparts.
   “Canadians are really looking for some options . . . and having greater accessibility to that healthy eating product of value,” said Dan Branson, Loblaw’s senior director of produce.
   With the Canadian dollar slumping to 75 cents U.S. and factors such as the California drought, imported fresh fruit and vegetables have jumped 12.9 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively.
   The less-than-perfect selections are now in Loblaw’s Real Canadian Superstore, Your Independent Grocer and most No Frills stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
   Real Canadian Superstores and Your Independent Grocer locations in the Atlantic provinces and the Yukon have also joined the program.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Higher gas taxes, free college tuition in Ontario budget



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 28/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Ontario residents will pay more to fill up their gas tanks, heat their homes, smoke and drink wine while most students will be able to go to college free.
   The measures are in the Liberal government’s budget that will push gasoline prices up by about 4.3 cents a liter (16 cents a U.S. gallon) on Jan. 1 and natural gas bills by $5 a month in a “cap-and-trade” plan.
   The program is described as a “government-mandated, market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.”
   The budget, projecting a $5.7 billion deficit, will provide free tuition to university and college students whose families have incomes of $50,000 or less. Those with up to $83,000 will receive “non-repayable grants.”
   There’s a $3 increase in taxes for a carton of 200 cigarettes and a higher mark up in wine prices.
   Hospitals will receive $345 million in additional funding and low-income seniors will be eligible for less expensive prescription drugs.

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