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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cross-border shoppers benefit; pension age to rise in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, April 1/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   U.S. businesses stand to cash in from the Canadian government budget that will also make everyone wait longer for retirement benefits.
   Cross-border shoppers as of June 1 can bring back $200 in goods duty-free after being away for 24 hours, up from $50, and $800 after 48 hours, up from $400.
   To cope with the huge number of “baby boomers” retiring, the government will raise the age to receive the “old-age pension,” now at a maximum $6,481 a year, to 67 from 65 starting 11 years from now.
   Other highlights of the budget include a 10-percent funding cut, or $115 million, starting in 2014, for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and a reduction of $1.1 billion in the $20-billion defense budget by 2014-2015.
   The government will eliminate 19,200 public-service jobs and reduce spending on programs by $5.2 billion a year.
   The good news was that the current annual deficit was reduced to $24.9 billion from a projected $31 billion, with the budget’s goal to eliminate it completely by 2015-16.


   A penny saved doesn’t amount to much these days as the government will end production of the lowly coin.
   The federal budget said the Royal Canadian Mint will strike the last of the coins this fall to save money as it costs 1.6 cents each, or $11 million a year, to produce them.
   “It’s nothing but a nuisance for business,” said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
   Pennies will still be legal tender but will vanish from circulation with the intent to have businesses round prices with taxes to the nearest nickel.
   The best fate for those pennies collected in jars, boxes and bags is to donate them to charity, Flaherty said.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s esteemed Royal Canadian Mounted Police force faces the wrath of about 150 current and former female members who allege widespread sexual harassment. A proposed class-action lawsuit is being reviewed by the British Columbia Supreme Court on behalf of Janet Merlo. She was a constable for 19 years and said she was subjected to sexual discrimination, bullying and harassment.
   - Toyota is adding 400 people to its workforce in Woodstock, Ontario as it boosts North American production of its RAV4. It will invest $80 million to expand production to 200,000 vehicles from 150,000. Cutting 300 jobs across Canada is Rogers Communications, with revenues of $12.4 billion last year. Cuts are at divisions including cable, telecom, Internet services, TV, radio stations and magazines.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s economy had a 0.1-percent gain in the gross domestic product in January with strength in utilities and manufacturing, particularly auto production.
   The dollar traded on Friday at $1.0011 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback was worth 99.88 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.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 12,410 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index up at 1,559 points.
   Lotto 6-49: 5, 10, 12, 18, 25 and 45; bonus 15. (March 24) 11, 20, 23, 28, 40 and 45; bonus 14. Lotto Max: (March 23) 6, 18, 21, 23, 24, 32 and 48; bonus 47.


   Regional briefs:
   - Street protests in Montreal by students upset over plans to raise university tuition rates led to a demonstration outside the home of Premier Jean Charest. About 150 protesters staged a mock hanging and burned an effigy of the premier. In the downtown, about 200 students blocked access to the main courthouse and offices and vandalized police cars. Tuition fees are to rise by $325 a year over five years from the lowest in Canada at $2,168 a year.
   - The British Columbia government plans to ban children and teens from using tanning equipment for fear of cancer risks. The proposed ban for those younger than 18 is similar to ones in Nova Scotia and Victoria. The government is also considering requiring training and licensing of tanning salon operators and cancer-warning signs.
   - Wealthier Ontario seniors will have to pay more for prescription drugs as a result of the provincial budget. The government, battling a $15.3-billion spending deficit, will have seniors with incomes exceeding $100,000 a year pay higher deductibles. It also imposes a two-year wage freeze for public-sector workers including teachers, doctors and politicians. Welfare benefits are being frozen and driver’s licenses and vehicle registration fees will increase.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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