Canada column for Sunday, July 31/11
THE CANADIAN REPORT
By Jim Fox
A former Quebec labor leader has taken over temporarily from the ailing Jack Layton who propelled his socialist New Democratic Party to become the opposition in the House of Commons.
A visibly weakened Layton, 61, told a news conference he selected rookie politician Nycole Turmel, 68, to become interim leader as he battles a recurrence of cancer.
It was Layton’s charisma that was credited with giving the New Democrats resounding success in the May federal election, bumping the Liberals out of the opposition role.
Layton said he was taking leave of absence to battle an unspecified form of cancer after earlier undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and hip surgery.
In a raspy voice, Layton said he is “going to focus on treatment and recovery,” but planned to return when Parliament resumes on Sept. 19.
The appointment of Turmel, who previously headed the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was confirmed by the party executive.
“Jack Layton has spent eight years building this New Democrat movement for a better Canada, eight years building a team that is ready to tackle any circumstance with hope and optimism,” she said.
More Canadians are making a run to the United States’ border to vacation and shop as the dollar has climbed in value.
The dollar continues a 10-year surge, hitting $1.06 U.S. earlier in the week, rising from just 65 cents U.S. in 2001.
Statistics Canada said Canadians took 10.65-million trips to the U.S. in the latest figures for March, which amounts to more than three times the number to all other countries combined.
A University of British Columbia study found that a 10-percent appreciation of the Canadian dollar results in a 22-percent increase in trips south.
News in brief:
- The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is warning of a looming pension crisis. There is concern that public sector workers, or 20 percent of the workforce, receive taxpayer-paid benefits that are far richer than those in the private sector. The C.D. Howe Institute said the federal government’s pension shortfall is $208 billion. “We only have a few years to try to get this back on track to ensure the costs of public pensions are more reasonable,” said federation senior vice president Dan Kelly.
- Struggling Canadian technology giant Research In Motion is laying off 2,000 workers, about 11 percent of its workforce, to cut costs and streamline operations. The company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, made the move after a period of product delays, declining market share with increased competition from Google and Apple Inc., and calls for an upper management shakeup.
A higher-valued Canadian dollar, wildfires and maintenance work that cut oil production were blamed for an unexpected drop of 0.3 percent in Canada’s gross domestic product.
The Canadian dollar dropped back on Friday to $1.0469 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback was worth 95.52 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 lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,976 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 1,973 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 3, 15, 23, 41 and 46; bonus 10. (July 23) 3, 5, 11, 23, 33 and 34; bonus 24. Lotto Max: (July 22) 4, 13, 23, 28, 32, 40 and 42; bonus 12.
- The fatal collapse of a stage in 2009 at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta has resulted in three companies facing 33 safety act violations. Donna Moore of Lloydminster was killed when struck by a speaker as the stage buckled during a windstorm and several workers were injured. Named in the action were Premier Global Production Co., 1073732 Alberta Ltd. and Panhandle Productions.
- An all-day and all-night session of Toronto City Council’s executive committee heard from 168 people who appeared to discuss, mostly object, to a growing list of planned spending cuts. Mayor Rob Ford, who was elected on a pledge to reign in city spending, said the 22 1/2-hour meeting was needed to hear the views of taxpayers. “Now we spend more than we can afford,” he said.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com