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.
At issue is the government's secrecy in not fully disclosing information about the costs of its crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and costs of buying fighter jets, which it says impeded the work of the House of Commons.
House Speaker Peter Milliken said the government has breached parliamentary privilege over those issues and noted that International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda misled politicians over an altered grant document.
Four Conservative party officials, two of them Senators, are accused of violating election spending laws and a former aide to Harper is being investigated for alleged influence peddling.
The opposition could try to topple the government with a non-confidence vote after the budget is presented on Tuesday.
The Canadian government, so far, is not offering to help fly home its citizens who say they are stranded in Japan after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power emergency.
At this time, the government has arranged only for bus transportation to move Canadians out of the area around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Several countries are flying their citizens home but Canada hasn't followed as commercial flights are available, a Foreign Affairs government official said.
There are about 11,000 Canadians in Japan, with about 200 in the area of the affected nuclear power facilities.
News in brief:
- Seal-hunt protester Emily McCoy of New York City has been banned from entering Canada for two years after throwing a cream pie in the face of Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in Burlington, Ontario in January. In court, McCoy said she hadn't considered the consequences when she "assaulted an elected government official." As part of her probation instead of jail time, McCoy is prohibited from continuing to protest Canada's seal hunt.
- Canada is giving $11 million to Egypt to help with democratic opportunities for young people. This includes helping young people find jobs and start tourism and manufacturing businesses along with training to become journalists. The government is also contributing $700,000 for a UN electoral support program and for "democratic transitioning" in neighboring Tunisia.
The Canadian dollar is lower at $1.0148 U.S. in reaction to world events while the U.S. greenback gained Friday to 98.54 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The consumer price index rose by 2.2 percent last month but the important core inflation numbers -- excluding gasoline and volatile commodities -- was lower at 0.9 percent.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 13,789 points while the TSX Venture Exchange is lower at 2,243 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 3, 15, 19, 36 and 37; bonus 2. (March 12) 6, 9, 17, 23, 26 and 36; bonus 42. Lotto Max: (March 11) 2, 3, 4, 20, 22, 40 and 43; bonus 9.
- Quebec will require pension plans for workers who currently aren't in private plans as it prepares for a flood of baby-boomer retirees. It would be the first such program in Canada and requires all businesses to offer plans to workers. Also in the budget are higher grants to universities and an increase in tuition fees of $325 a year for four years for students.
- Two volunteer firefighters were killed battling an afternoon fire in a dollar store in Listowel, Ontario. Raymond Walter, 30, and Kenneth Rea, 56, were killed when the roof collapsed as they were searching for anyone still inside the building.
- There were no injuries or damage in a minor 4.3 magnitude earthquake east of Hawkesbury, Ontario, between Ottawa and Montreal. The quake, however, did manage to knock out of service for several hours the federal government website that keeps Canadians informed about earthquakes.
Jim Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org