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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.


   A British Columbia sled-dog manager who killed more than 50 dogs no longer needed after the 2010 Winter Olympics has avoided a jail term.
   Robert Fawcett, 40, who worked for Howling Dog Tours in Whistler, admitted to killing the dogs after a post-Olympic slump in business.
   "It is beyond comprehension as to how this could have occurred," said Judge Steve Merrick who fined Fawcett $1,725, gave him three years’ probation and 200 hours of community service work.
   While culling the herd is not illegal, Fawcett pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary pain and suffering in the deaths of nine of the dogs whose bodies were among 56 exhumed by investigators.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s budget watchdog is taking the Conservative government to court for its refusal to disclose information about austerity measures. Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page has complained that departments have not been forthcoming regarding budget cuts, staff reductions and impacts on services. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Page should follow his mandate to examine government spending, not restraint measures.
   - This could be the most profitable year in a decade for Canada’s vehicle manufacturers. The Conference Board of Canada estimates the industry will have $1.35 billion in pre-tax profits and “brisk growth” continuing this year and next. An increasing U.S. demand is expected to lead to a “prolonged recovery” in Canadian auto exports.
   - The Salvation Army has fired its executive directors in Toronto and Ottawa after inside thefts. Toronto police are investigating the theft of $2 million in toys, food and donated goods over the past two years. In Ottawa, police are looking into $240,000 missing from the army’s accounts.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has edged higher to $1.0083 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returns 99.17 cents 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 are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,210 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,256 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Nov. 21) 10, 16, 21, 31, 33 and 36; bonus 27. (Nov. 17) 3, 4, 20, 31, 41 and 48; bonus 15. Lotto Max: (Nov. 16) 1, 5, 9, 19, 27, 35 and 48; bonus 30.


   Regional briefs:
   - A public inquiry report into why it took so long for police to arrest Robert Pickton for killing Vancouver sex workers will be released next month. Former judge Wally Oppal said his investigation includes recommendations to better protect vulnerable members of society. Picton was sentenced to life in prison for killing six women and was implicated in the deaths of another 20.
   - This year’s 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup football game (Canada’s Super Bowl) against the Toronto Argonauts in their hometown won’t include the Calgary Stampeders Quick Six mascot horse galloping down the sidelines when the teams scores. That’s due to lack of space and safety concerns. One tradition continued as Stampeder fans marched a horse into the Royal York hotel lobby to recreate a stunt started at the 1948 game.
   - Don’t be talkin’ is an old Newfoundland expression meaning “you don’t say.” It was 30 years ago that the best-selling Dictionary of Newfoundland English was published – helping the rest of Canada figure out just what the islanders were saying. The 770-page book reveals the colorful idioms that developed from its Irish and English heritage.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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