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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gas prices soar, more Canadians plan "staycations"

   Canada column for Sunday, April 8/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are planning more “staycations” as gasoline prices have surged and are poised to climb even higher.
   Staying-near-home vacations are among ways Canadians are suggesting to conserve fuel after prices jumped about 16 cents a gallon at midweek.
   The hike pushed the price of a regular gas to a national average of $1.355 a liter ($5.15 a U.S. gallon).
   Industry watchers are predicting record-high prices – as much as $1.50 a liter ($5.70 a gallon) – by summer even though crude oil is less expensive this year.
   Prices reached a high of $1.479 a liter ($5.62 a gallon) in Montreal; $1.44 ($5.47) in Halifax; $1.40 ($5.32) in Toronto; $1.364 ($5.18) in Vancouver; and the lowest at $1.129 ($4.29) in Edmonton, in Alberta oil country.
   Reasons for the jump at the pump include switching refineries to summer gas, the changeover from producing home-heating oil, refinery capacity and shutdowns, and tensions in the Middle East oil-producing countries.
   As Canada is a major oil exporter, higher prices are of some benefit but not for those who drive.
   “Rising prices concern everyone,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, adding: “The price of oil is a global one – it's not a national price.”


   The Canadian government has finally achieved its goal of killing off the controversial long-gun registry.
   “Law-abiding Canadians are finally free at last,” New Brunswick politician John Williamson said when the bill was approved by the Senate.
   The Conservative government had long opposed as too expensive and ineffective a previous Liberal government move that registered Canadians lawfully owing weapons.
   The Quebec Liberal government has asked the Superior Court to allow the province to keep the information to set up its own registry.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s Defense Department will cut 1,100 jobs and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is laying off 650 people to meet the government’s budget cutbacks. Major trimming is also taking place at regional economic development agencies and the National Film Board. Spending is being cut by $5.2 billion over three years with the total loss of 19,200 jobs.
   - Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, says he isn’t interested in seeking the leadership of the party. He re-ignited speculation about a leadership bid after recent high-profile comments and a charity boxing match he won against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau. Bob Rae is currently interim leader of the Liberals.
   - Canada needs to do more to ensure safety in the airline industry, Auditor General Michael Ferguson said. He found that Transport Canada completed just 67 percent of planned inspections of airline carriers, airports and maintenance companies and was slow to implement measures to address concerns about the state of runways, pilot fatigue, collisions and aircraft wiring.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is worth $1.0027 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 99.72 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 lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,103 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index at 1,481 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (April 4) 18, 23, 25, 26, 45 and 48; bonus 16. (March 31) 33, 35, 36, 39, 48 and 49; bonus 42. Lotto Max: (March 30) 3, 11, 12, 19, 35, 45 and 47; bonus 13.


   Regional briefs:
   - Ontario’s government is being sued over its moratorium on offshore wind farms to cut budget costs. SouthPoint Wind is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for dropping a wind power project along Lake Erie. There’s also a $300-million suit against the government for cancelling a controversial natural-gas plant near Toronto before last fall’s provincial election.
   - Polls show Danielle Smith and her right-wing Wildrose Party are poised to win the April 23 election in Alberta. The party’s support at 41 percent has surged ahead of the previous Conservative government of Alison Redford at 34 percent. The New Democrats received 12 percent in the Leger Marketing poll while the Liberals had 10 percent and the Alberta Party two percent.
   - Jenna Talackova, a Vancouver “transgendered” woman, can compete after all for the title of Miss Universe Canada. Pageant organizers recanted after protests for barring her from the May 19 beauty contest when she admitted being born a male.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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