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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter is far from typical across Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 5/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Winter, are we there yet?” is being asked by many Canadians this year.
   Dire predictions by Environment Canada of a “typical” winter with a lingering deep freeze and the Weather Network's expectation of temperature swings and fierce storms so far haven’t happened.
   Even Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, the weather-prognosticating groundhogs, didn't see their shadows with the folklore meaning there will be an early spring.
   An exception has been a week-long freeze in the Prairies last month where overall it’s been 10 to 14 degrees F above normal this winter.
   Much of Southern Ontario remains green with showers replacing snow storms and temperatures about 7 degrees above normal.
   Meteorologists say an "arctic oscillation" has kept the jet stream relatively stationary and blocked frigid temperatures from moving south.
   The government weather office says about 80 percent of the country will continue with above-normal temperatures this month.
   “We're almost ready to send out a search party to look for winter," said senior climatologist David Phillips.


      A Mexican man has been arrested in the beating of Sheila Nabb, 37, of Calgary at the Hotel Riu Emerald Bay resort in Mazatlan.
   Jose Ramon Acosta Quintero, 28, was charged with attempted murder after prosecutors said a hotel security camera showed him leaving an elevator where Nabb was found.
   Nabb was flown home by a private air ambulance and has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery to her face.
   “Sheila’s injuries were very serious and she has a long recovery ahead,” her husband Andrew Nabb said.
   Last month, three Canadians were killed in Mexico and Canada’s government has warned about travel there due to violence.


   News in brief:
   - The uproar continues over possibly making Canadians wait until 67 to receive the “Old-Age Security” pension. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty confirmed the government will cut costs of public pensions in next month’s federal budget. The program pays an average $500 a month at age 65 and is in addition to Canada Pension Plan payments based on lifetime income and contributions.
   - Three members of an Afghan family were sentenced to life imprisonment, with no chance for parole for 25 years, for an “honor killing.” A jury found Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, guilty of murdering their family members in a car submerged in a Kingston, Ontario canal. They said the sisters defied their culture’s rules on dress, dating and socializing. Killed were Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's first wife in a polygamous marriage.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar continues stronger at $1.0055 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 99.45 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The economy created only 2,300 jobs last month, pushing Canada’s jobless rate up 0.1 percent to 7.6 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 higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,585 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index 1,670 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 7, 9, 18, 23 and 38; bonus 14. (Jan. 28) 5, 6, 17, 39, 44 and 48; bonus 29. Lotto Max: (Jan. 27) 8, 24, 28, 34, 37, 43 and 45; bonus 21.


   Regional briefs:
   - About 96,000 people who use the city's buses and ferries daily have to find another way to get around in Halifax. The 750 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union rejected the Halifax Regional Municipality's contract offer and went on strike.
   - The provincial government will consider building a casino at Toronto’s Ontario Place amusement park as one of the options to redevelop the site. The iconic giant white ball beside Lake Ontario housing the Cinesphere will be removed and the park shut due to reduced attendance and mounting costs. A panel led by former Conservative leader John Tory will consider the options.
   - Animal-rights crusader Bob Barker said he is “disgusted” his old TV show the Price is Right gave away a trip to the Calgary Stampede. Barker said he has read that is has "a notorious reputation for animal cruelty." Diane Colley-Urquhart, a city councilor, said Barker refused an invitation to see the century-old summer tradition, saying he doesn't attend rodeos or bullfights.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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