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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Steady as she goes for Canada's economic recovery

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 21/11


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is keeping a “steady-as-she-goes” course against world financial headwinds that could blow it adrift in paying off the federal deficit within three years.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave that assessment to the House of Commons finance committee while reiterating Canada isn’t immune to global economic problems.
   Even with the economy still growing, there is much concern about the financial well-being of the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, and Europe.
   "The current problem is largely a lack of confidence in governments to move forward with concrete plans to deal with their deficits," he said.
    Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney told the committee with the world “awash with debt,” it will take years to repair the balance sheets of banks, households and countries.
   "The considerable headwinds are now blowing hard," Carney said, adding the central bank has “a wide range of tools and policy options” to deal with the crisis.
   The assessment along with news that Canada’s consumer price index fell to 2.7 percent last month increased the expectation the bank won’t soon be increasing interest rates.


   Veterans have won the war to return the “proper” names to Canada’s air force and navy.
   Defense Minister Peter MacKay said they will again be known as the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force while the army will be called the Canadian Army, as before.
   MacKay said giving back the “royal” designation to the navy and air force is a move to right the “historic wrong” when the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau merged the divisions under one banner called the Canadian Forces in 1968.
   Veterans groups had lobbied the government for five years calling for a return to the traditional names.


   News in brief:
   - With a concern that fewer Canadians are getting out to vote, Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, is asking for approval to test on-line voting. He wants the Internet voting test in a by-election (to fill a vacancy in the Commons) before the next federal vote expected in October 2015. Canadians are demanding more ease and flexibility when it comes to voting, Mayrand said. He also wants to expand other on-line services including voter registration.
   - William Elliott, the controversial commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has been hired by Interpol as a special representative to the United Nations. He will be handling issues including terrorism, organized crime and global police cooperation. Elliott was criticized publicly by senior officers for his brash management style and had stormy four-year tenure with the Mounties.
   - Mr. Submarine, the Toronto-based sub sandwich pioneer in battle with Subway, has been bought for $23 million by fast food entrepreneur Stanley Ma’s MTY Foods Group of Montreal. “Mr. Sub,” founded 43 years ago, has 335 units and annual sales of more than $100 million.


   Facts and figures:
   It was another tough week for the Toronto Stock Exchange, including a 560-point drop on Thursday and Friday.
   The composite index dipped to 12,026 points while the TSX Venture Exchange was down at 1,763 points.
   Canada’s dollar gained to $1.0106 U.S. while the U.S. greenback was worth 98.96 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.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 18, 23, 24, 27 and 32; bonus 26. (Aug. 13) 28, 35, 42, 45, 46 and 49; bonus 27. Lotto Max: (Aug. 12) 4, 15, 21, 30, 33, 35 and 47; bonus 28.


   Regional briefs:
   - Toronto has surpassed New York in the UBS Research list of most expensive cities worldwide. Partly due to Canada’s higher-valued dollar, Toronto was ninth, ahead of New York, Paris and London while Montreal was 17th out of 73 urban centers. Oslo, Zurich and Geneva came out on top while least expensive were Mumbai, Manila and Delhi.
   - Jaeger Mah, 29, is spending 80 days living at Vancouver International Airport, not waiting for a flight, but as an “official storyteller.” He won a contest to prepare daily video blogs about the lives of people who work and travel through the airport. Mah won’t exactly be roughing it as he will live at the airport’s upscale Fairmont hotel and has been given video equipment and $15,000 in pay.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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