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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Canadian government finances in good shape; not so good for the provinces, territories, cities: watchdog

   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 30/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The government’s cost-cutting measures are paying off federally but provinces, territories and cities are not doing so well, says Canada’s “budget watchdog.”
   Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said the Conservative government’s cutbacks will lead to a sound financial position in the long-term.
   Even though government revenues are projected to slow as expenses rise for such things as health care and public pensions, most of the increased costs have been shifted to the provinces and territories, he said.
   The federal government’s “sustainable fiscal position” results from recent action to limit health funding to the provinces, slashing program expenses and increasing the age of eligibility for the “Old Age Security” pension to 67 from 65 starting in 2023.
   Over the next 20 years, current estimates indicate total government sector debt as a percentage of gross domestic product will fall to 31.9 percent from 53.5 percent, Page said.
   One word of caution in his report was that overall debt for Canada’s three levels of government is similar to the situation in some European countries but remains many years away from becoming critical.


   Liberal Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau will seek the leadership of the federal party with the intention of becoming Canada’s Prime Minister – following in the footsteps of his late father, Pierre Trudeau.
   Montreal’s La Presse newspaper reported Trudeau, 40, will announce his candidacy on Tuesday.
   It said several Liberal sources confirmed his plans for a news conference that day.
   The party will select a new leader in April and Bob Rae, who is serving as interim leader, said he won’t be seeking the job full-time.


   News in brief:
   - Months of work and a cross-country manhunt resulted in Vancouver police arresting a key suspect in last year’s Stanley Cup riot that caused $4 million damage. Jonathan Mahoney, 24, was found in Lanigan, Saskatchewan and arrested for participating in the downtown Vancouver riot, assault and mischief. Inspector Laurence Rankin said the police are seeking an additional 50 people that increases the number of accused rioters to 275.
   - Canadians will still be able to “bring home the bacon” but at a higher price, the Canadian Pork Council says. There’s worldwide concern about a pork shortage due to farmers cutting back herds due to soaring feed prices. Stores won’t run out of pork products but the price would rise dramatically, the council said. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government will consider assistance options for farmers hurt by the situation.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 1.0200 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 98.03 cents Canadian before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is unchanged at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,341 points and the TSX Venture index 1,314 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Sept. 26) 2, 5, 9, 13, 22 and 38; bonus 37. (Sept. 22) 4, 19, 22, 24, 32 and 33; bonus 21. Lotto Max: (Sept. 21) 7, 8, 10, 11, 19, 34 and 45; bonus 44.


   Regional briefs:
   - Ontario homeowners face paying more in taxes after the provincial government’s latest assessment shows property values have risen by an average 18 percent since the last update in 2008. The Municipal Property Assessment Corp. said it will increase the average assessment on which tax bills are based by 4.5 percent in each of the next four years to phase in the higher values.
   - British Columbia dentist Sandy Crocker from Kelowna is scouring Ireland trying to find a woman he briefly met while on vacation last summer. Crocker said he is spreading the word through Irish newspapers and on the web and won’t give up. The woman, who gave him directions to the Cliffs of Moher, is believed to be in her 20s and had red hair and freckles, he said.
   - Police say they have arrested one of their own as the “big cheese” in a “large-scale smuggling scheme” that brought lower-priced cheese into Canada from the U.S. The three men arrested include Constable Scott Heron, 39, of the Niagara Regional Police force. The investigation found that cheese worth about $200,000 was bought in the U.S. and sold in Canada for an estimated profit of $165,000.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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