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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


   (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.


   Ontario led the provinces in job creation last month with 40,000 new positions while the unemployment level nationally was steady at 7.4 percent.
  The economy created a net 28,000 jobs nationally in June while the number of people entering the workforce increased.
   Most of the new jobs were part-time positions but the net number was almost three times what economics had forecast.
   There was a drop of 44,000 self-employed jobs and 19,000 fewer positions in the professional, scientific and technical services sector.
   The big gains were in transportation and warehousing, up 15,000 jobs.
   Alberta and Nova Scotia all had employment gains, while Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador had losses.


   News in brief:
   - Yee haw, the royals Prince William and Kate dressed in white Stetson hats and western wear wound up their nine-day Canadian tour by kicking off the Calgary Stampede on Friday. The crowd greeting the couple at the rodeo parade was estimated at 425,000 people. They then visited the Calgary Zoo before leaving for Los Angeles.
   - Economists are suggesting that Canada’s robust housing industry -- with prices at post-recession highs -- could be close to a peak and testing the limits of affordability. A Royal LePage survey said the national average price of a detached bungalow is up 7.5 percent over a year ago at $356,625. A standard two-story home rose 6.1 percent to $390,163 and a standard condominium is up 3.5 percent to $238,064.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is slightly higher at $1.0410 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 96.07 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
   Canadian stock markets have moved higher with the Toronto exchange index at 13,366 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,982 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 14, 25, 31, 36, 44 and 47; bonus 37. (July 2) 2, 16, 30, 41, 44 and 48; bonus 21. Lotto Max: (July 1) 15, 18, 20, 28, 29, 40 and 47; bonus 38.


   Regional briefs:
   - Repeated flooding of the Souris River in Manitoba is being called a once-in-a-350-year event with damage and compensation claims to top $500 million. After swamping Minot, N.D., the river crested in the Manitoba towns of Melita, Wawanesa and Souris. Premier Greg Selinger expects the federal government to offer aid and help with measures to counter future flooding and lower the levels of Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.
   - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford decided to spend his Canada Day weekend at the cottage with family instead of parading in Canada’s largest gay rights parade. The gay community, which attracted one-million people to its parade last Sunday, considers it a snub for the mayor’s refusal to take part as other mayors have done.
   - Pollux, a nine-year-old black Labrador dog from Montreal, is returning home after a 2,700-mile journey across Canada. Isabelle Robitaille said her dog disappeared from their yard last June and she has no idea how she made it to Kamloops, British Columbia. The SPCA checked the dog’s microchip to trace the owner and arranged to have her flown home to Quebec.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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