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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cabinet minister resigns amidst spending scandal

   Canada column for Sunday, July 8/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The resignation of federal politician Bev Oda in a spending scandal has led to an unexpected Cabinet shuffle.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper replaced the embattled Oda, Canada’s first Japanese-Canadian Member of Parliament, with Julian Fantino in her former post as International Cooperation Minister.
   Fantino, now a politician and former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, is succeeded as Associate Minister of National Defense by Bernard Valcourt, who also continues as Minister of State for Atlantic Canada and La Francophonie.
   “These changes to the ministry ensure continuity as we focus on creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” Harper said in a statement.
   Oda’s resignation followed intense pressure from politicians and the public for her to quit after information was revealed about “excessive” spending.
   Harper praised Oda’s accomplishments while she said it was a “privilege to have served” in her Toronto-area Durham district. She did not say why she was resigning.
   Oda billed the government for swanky hotel accommodations in London, hired a luxury car and driver at $1,000 a day and even charged a $16 glass of orange juice. Reports said she also modified expense statements from earlier trips.


   Canada’s 145th birthday was marked last Sunday by thousands of people dressed in red and white on Parliament Hill.
   Governor General David Johnston, Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative in Canada, and his wife, Sharon, rode in an open horse-drawn carriage accompanied by Mounties on horseback and dressed in red serge.
   There was a 21-gun salute and fly pasts by two CF-18 fighter jets and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds’ aerobatic team to launch the day-long party.
   Canadians can be “proud of a strong and growing economy” and a caring and compassionate society, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the crowd.


   News in brief
   - The Canadian government is cutting access to health care by immigrants seeking asylum in Canada to save money. Those seeking admission to Canada from yet-to-be defined “safe countries,” likely to include Mexico, Hungary and Czech Republic, as well as refugee claimants awaiting appeals and deportation, would be denied free health care that now also includes hospital, medical, dental and vision needs.
   - About 200 workers from Ontario and 50 from Quebec are helping utility companies in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. restore power. Storms left about three-million people without power in a record-breaking heat wave. The workers said they were thanked and warmly welcomed to the U.S. as they crossed the border to help out.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar was lower Friday at 98.02 cents in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returned $1.0201 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.
   Stock markets have advanced, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,661 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,206 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (July 4) 15, 20, 22, 25, 27 and 41; bonus 28. (June 30) 12, 22, 31, 32, 35 and 47; bonus 4. Lotto Max: (June 29) 10, 14, 20, 28, 35, 40 and 42; bonus 44.


   Regional briefs:
   - A human head found in a park lake in Montreal has been identified as that of Jun Lin, a university student from China. Earlier his torso was found in a suitcase and other body parts were mailed to offices of political parties in Ottawa and to two schools in Vancouver. Porn movie actor Luka Rocco Magnotta was arrested for murder in the case.
   - Police in Ontario have begun a criminal investigation into the collapse of part of a roof killing two women June 23 at Algo Center Mall in Elliot Lake. Shopper Doloris Perizzolo, 74, and lottery ticket agent Lucie Aylwin, 37, were killed. Police, the coroner’s office and building inspectors are investigating aspects of the building’s stability and physical condition before the collapse.
   - British Columbia place names have been given to seven African penguins now residing at the Vancouver Aquarium. Enjoying their new home are Hope, Nelson, Tofino, Lillooet, Steveston, Sechelt and Salt Spring. In a month-long contest, the aquarium received more than 600 suggestions for names.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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