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Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Canadian budget surprises or tax hikes: Flaherty

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 25/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians need not be concerned about any tax increases or “risky new spending schemes” in the next federal budget.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made the comments, saying the Conservative government is moving toward its goal to balance the budget by 2015.
   Budget consultations with provincial leaders are to begin in the coming days as the latest figures show a deficit of $26 billion.
   That’s an increase of $5 billion from a forecast last March and is blamed on global economic weakness that has cut into commodity prices and tax revenues.
   Both Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper insist the government can still balance the budget in the next two years.
   The government is trying to strike a balance between reducing spending, maintaining an “appropriate tax base” and including measures to stimulate economic growth, Flaherty said.
   There will be no reductions in federal payments for education and health care while spending for such things as programs for seniors, people with disabilities and children will remain untouched, he added.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Fiscal cliff" looms for Canada if U.S. topples over

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 18/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians could follow the United States in a plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff in January, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney warns.
   Extending U.S. tax cuts and spending beyond the end of this year is the “most imminent threat” facing Canada’s economy, the head of the central bank said.
   There’s concern by economists that without political cooperation in the U.S. on a new budget arrangement about $600 billion in tax cuts and spending will end abruptly.
   This could rob the U.S. economy of about four percentage points in growth and push the country into a recession that the Canadian economy would be sure to follow, said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
   Carney and Flaherty have pledged to take action to support the Canadian economy if a shock from the U.S. or Europe again threatens to plunge the country into a recession.
   How U.S. policy-makers deal with the threat highlighted concerns among the world’s economic leaders attending the G20 meeting last weekend in Mexico, Flaherty said.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

U.S. election pleasing to most Canadians; Obama victory, oil and bridge to Michigan

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 11/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians could be shipping their oil to the U.S. after all and will find it easier to cross the border after the re-election victory of President Barack Obama and a vote in Michigan.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said while sharing “one of the closest and most extensive relationships in the world," he wants Canada and the U.S. to “continue finding ways to increase trade and investment flows.”
   Some Canadian politicians were quietly pulling for Republican challenger Mitt Romney based on his commitment to approve the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to ship Alberta oil to Texas.
   Although Obama deferred a decision on the pipeline until after the election, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said he expects the project will go ahead because it’s in the “national interest” of the U.S.
   Harper said he was “very pleased” that voters in Michigan supported a Canadian-financed $1-billion project to build a second bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
   Canada and the U.S. have the world's largest trading partnership with some $2 billion in goods and 400,000 people crossing between the two countries every day.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two deaths, power cut to 150,000 in storm aftermath

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 4/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two people were killed and thousands left in the dark as the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy sideswiped Ontario and Quebec.
   A worker was killed when repairing a downed power line in Sarnia, Ontario while a Toronto woman died after being struck in the head by a Staples sign the wind had blown apart.
   Trees were toppled and power lines came down as wind gusts reached 60 mph, leaving 150,000 people without power, including 55,000 in Toronto.
   As the storm blew out, there were pounding waves along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and into Atlantic Canada.
   Hundreds of utility workers from Hydro One in Ontario are in New York and New Jersey helping to restore power and clean up.
   As well, workers from Toronto Hydro and the Toronto Transit Commission have offered to help make repairs with New York’s power and subways.
   “In the aftermath of the ice storm (in 1998), it was great to see our American cousins up there with their trucks, their workers, their equipment, doing what they could to help us,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
   Hydro One workers also helped restore power after hurricanes in Florida in 2004 and 2005.