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Monday, March 28, 2011

Canadian election set for May 2; fifth in 10 years

   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.

    A parliamentary committee had earlier urged the passing of a motion to find the Conservatives in contempt for their secrecy in not fully disclosing information about the costs of crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and the price for new fighter jets.
   As the campaigning begins, the Conservatives hold a commanding lead with 43 percent in popular support that could translate into a majority government. If so, there would be no threat of an opposition overthrow and a traditional four years of five years in office.
   An Ipsos Reid poll found the Liberals at 24 percent support, New Democrats, 16 percent, Quebec's independence-seeking Bloc Quebecois, 10 percent and the Green Party, 6 percent.
   The date of the vote was set Saturday after Governor-General David Johnston officially "dissolved" the current Parliament.
   Harper then criticized the opposition parties again for forcing an election that isn't necessary and against the wishes of Canadians at a time of economic recovery.


   The Canadian and Quebec governments have agreed on a plan to develop the massive undersea "Old Harry" oilfield in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence.
   Located north of the Magdalen Islands, the oilfield is said to be twice the size of the Hibernia field and could amount to two billion barrels of oil valued at up to $9 billion.
   Hibernia is in the North Atlantic Ocean off St. John's, Newfoundland and has the world's largest oil platform.
   Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources, said Quebec would receive all of the oil and gas revenues on its side of the maritime boundary between Quebec and Newfoundland/Labrador.
   A long-standing dispute between the two provinces over who owns how much of the oil field will be now subject to arbitration.


   News in brief:
   - The Japan earthquake and tsunami have led to production cutbacks at Toyota's three auto manufacturing facilities in Canada. Overtime has been cut at the plants to preserve parts, most of which come from Japanese suppliers. Any further supply disruptions will lead to consideration of further production reductions at the plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ontario, a spokesman said.
   - Rogers Communications has been ordered to pay $275,000 in penalties for using automated calling devices to tell its mobile customers to buy more minutes to avoid a service interruption. Canada's telecom regulator said Rogers didn't have the approval of customers to notify them and this amounted to unwanted calls. While not admitting to any wrongdoing, Rogers said it would stop the practice unless prior consent is given.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar has advanced to $1.0251 U.S. while the U.S. greenback is worth 97.55 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
   Canadian stock markets are running higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,111 points while the TSX Venture Exchange is 2,313 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 5, 10, 11, 21, 24 and 43; bonus 32. (March 19) 7, 25, 28, 31, 36 and 45; bonus 49. Lotto Max: (March 18) 2, 5, 10, 21, 25, 35 and 49; bonus 40.


   Regional briefs:
   - Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta had population gains above the national average last year as the number of people in Canada climbed to an estimated 34,378,400 as of Jan. 1. Statistics Canada said the population grew by 1.1 percent last year, down from the 1.2-percent growth in 2009.
   - British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, who took office earlier this month after the resignation of Gordon Campbell, has set June 24 as the date for a referendum on last year's implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax. Anger over combining the provincial and federal taxes and expanding it to additional items led to Campbell's resignation. The vote was earlier planned for September into whether to scrap the combined tax and return to the previous system.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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