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.
The Conservative platform calls for about $6.6 billion in spending, with about $4.7 billion to compensate Quebec for harmonizing its provincial sales tax with the federal tax and allowing couples to split their income for tax savings.
Among the controversial items are reintroducing criminal justice bills that were earlier defeated by Parliament, reforming the Senate and ending voting subsidies for political parties.
The Liberals, who trail the Conservatives in public opinion polls, are planning corporate tax cuts and investing money in programs to assist families, students and seniors.
The decision on whether to allow the Green Party's Elizabeth May to join the televised political leadership debates is going down to the wire.
The Federal Court of Appeal will review May's case on Tuesday the day of the English election debate (the French debate is on Thursday).
May appealed to the court after a consortium of TV broadcasters decided to exclude her since her party is not represented in the House of Commons even though Green candidates received more than one-million votes in the last election.
The debate will feature Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, New Democratic Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
May's bid to debate is supported by a majority of Canadians in polls along with former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Joe Clark.
As well, 28,000 people have signed a petition to try to get May on the podium.
News in brief:
- Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has invited U.S. President Barack Obama to tour his province's oilsands that have the largest recoverable reserves outside of Saudi Arabia. His comments follow Obama's suggestion the oilsand resource is potentially "destructive."
A recent study of the issue recommended that approval for new projects and water licenses should be suspended until updated environmental monitoring procedures are in place. Canada remains the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. at 1.9 million barrels daily.
- The Canadian economy had a surge in full-time employment last month although there was an overall loss of 1,500 jobs from the workforce. The jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 7.8 percent as fewer Canadians were actively looking for work. There were 90,600 full-time jobs added while 92,100 part-time jobs lost during the month.
The Canadian dollar is soaring at $1.0455 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 95.65 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 higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,216 points while the TSX Venture Exchange is 2,392 points.
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- There's more bad news about the declining health of former flamboyant Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. The former broadcaster and mayor of Calgary is suffering from a progressive form of dementia and is barely able to speak. Klein quit after 14 years as premier in 2006 after a weak vote of confidence by his party.
- The Jay Leno show could be the next stop for a Levis, Quebec high school administrator who was outed as a porn star. Samantha Ardente, who is invited to appear with Leno, is contesting her dismissal from the school job after a student uncovered her secret life and posted photos on the web. She was fired after the school board said her actions were "inappropriate, unacceptable and incompatible" with her day job.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com