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Monday, May 28, 2012

Student unrest grows across Canada; violence continues in Quebec over proposed tuition-fee increases

   Canada column for Sunday, May 27/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The student unrest movement in Quebec – where more than 2,500 people have been arrested in what are now daily and often violent protests – is spreading across Canada.
   Student groups in Ontario and British Columbia are holding protest gatherings while national labor unions are financially supporting the Quebec uproar over planned tuition fee increases by the provincial government.
   Demonstrations in the three-month conflict were capped on Tuesday by a massive gathering estimated at 200,000 students in Montreal where more than 500 arrests were made by riot police.
   The U.S. Consulate in Montreal has advised Americans living there and visitors to be wary of being injured or caught up in the violence where students have been smashing windows, damaging property and fighting with police officers.
   It also threatens to keep visitors away and disrupt Montreal’s summer festival season, particularly the Grand Prix race and jazz festival.
   Protesters have ignored the emergency bill passed by the Quebec Legislature that outlaws unlawful assembly and provides for stiff fines.
   The protests have also spread beyond Montreal and Quebec City to smaller cities across the province.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Runs to the U.S. border to shop costly to Canadian economy

   Canada column for Sunday, May 20/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians making a run to the U.S. border to shop are costing the economy much more than earlier believed, the Bank of Montreal says.
   "There are already more than 50-million visits to the U.S. by Canadian residents annually,” with the number expected to swell with higher duty-free limits starting June. 1, said Doug Porter, the bank’s deputy chief economist.
   "A culmination of factors is likely to unleash a wave of Canadians cross-border shopping this summer in numbers not seen in two decades," he added.
   This is happening even as the bank assessed the gap between Canadian and U.S. prices for consumer goods has narrowed to 14 percent on average from 20 percent a year ago.
   Canadian business owners are not pleased that the government is raising the duty-free limit to $200 from $50 for stays longer than 24 hours and to $800 for visits of two days and more. It has been $400 after two days and $750 for seven days away.
   Generally, most people aren’t charged anything extra on same-day shopping trips for groceries, which are duty free, gasoline or goods amounting to less than $100.
   Since many people don’t report everything they’ve bought, even a “conservative estimate” of five percent more in goods drains an added $20 billion a year from the economy, Porter said.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

U.S. warns about visits to Quebec over student protests

   Canada column for Sunday, May 13/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Continuing violent student protests have prompted the U.S. Consulate to warn Americans about visiting Quebec.
  The advisory from the consulate in Montreal urges U.S. citizens visiting or living in the province to “exercise caution” to avoid injury.
   Over the past three months, students have been protesting a plan by the Quebec government to raise tuition fees from the lowest in Canada at $2,168 a year by $1,625 over five to seven years.
   A proposed deal reached between student leaders and the government last weekend was overwhelmingly rejected by student associations.
   “While the majority of the protests have been peaceful, some participants have incited violence by throwing rocks and engaging in other acts of vandalism,” the advisory said.
   About 170,000 university and community college students are boycotting classes in the protest.
   Police are investigating whether militant students were responsible for setting off smoke bombs in the subway system and disrupting travel for 200,000 people during the morning rush hour on Thursday.
   The consulate said there are “no indications foreigners or U.S. citizens are being threatened or targeted,” but they should “remain alert while on the streets.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Former press baron Conrad Black back in Toronto

   Canada column for Sunday, May 6/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Not exactly a “snowbird,” former media mogul Conrad Black is returning to Canada from time spent in Florida.
   Allowing a “felon” to enter the country after release from prison and renouncing his Canadian citizenship led to an uproar for two days in the House of Commons.
   Black, 67, was released Friday from the Federal Correction Institute in Miami after serving 42 months for fraud and obstructing justice involving his former Hollinger newspaper chain.
   He has been granted a one-year temporary resident permit allowing his return to Canada where he has a home and wife, Barbara Amiel, in Toronto.
   This could lead to extensions of the permit for the Montreal-born Black and even a bid to regain the citizenship he renounced in 2001to become a British Lord.
   New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair said Black is a British citizen now who has been “convicted of serious crimes” and is being given “special treatment” not granted to other felons.
   Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said there was no political interference and the decision to approve Black’s application to return was made independently by the public service office.