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Monday, December 31, 2012

Canadians share a "bright hope" with others, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says

   Happy New(s) Year

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 30/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians can view their country as “an island of stability and a bright hope for people the world over.”
   So said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Christmas/New Year’s message after referring to the “global economic uncertainty all around us.”
   Heading into 2013, Harper said his Conservative government “will continue to focus on growth, jobs and prosperity for all Canadians.”
   He continued: “But for now, let us be mindful of those who are less fortunate, be grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform, and let us give thanks for Canada, the best country in the world.”
   In a year-end interview with Global TV, Harper said Canada will no longer “passively” accept immigrants as it reforms the immigration system to ensure newcomers meet the criteria to fill growing labor shortages.
   “The country faces shortages now that will only worsen as the aging population retires,” he said.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Canadian links to Connecticut school shooting ramage

   Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Season’s Greetings

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 23/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two of the 26 people killed in the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting had links to Canada.
   Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, lived most of her young life in Winnipeg while the father of teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30, was born in Quebec.
   “The thoughts and prayers of Canadians are with the students and families affected by this senseless violence,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
   A candlelight vigil was held outside of the University of Winnipeg to honor Ana who moved to Connecticut last summer.
   “As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise,” said her father, jazz musician Jimmy Greene.
   He left his job at the Manitoba university to return to his home state to teach at Western Connecticut State University.
   Rousseau’s relatives in Quebec were grieving while denouncing U.S. gun laws.
   “It's revolting how easy it is to obtain firearms – that's what's so infuriating,” said victim's uncle, Francois Rousseau.
   Her father, Gilles Rousseau, said he was advised not to view his daughter’s body and was told the gunshots were so powerful they blasted through a wall and into her car outside.
   The incident has prompted a review of security at Canadian schools, with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty saying his government will spend $10 million to equip schools to begin a “locked-door” policy by next September.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Labor unrest by teachers, border guards in Ontario; Canada immigration changes on refugee claims

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 16/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Labor strife in Ontario has school teachers staging one-day strikes and border guards protesting at two of Canada’s busiest crossings.
   Parents are scrambling to arrange care for their children as elementary teachers hold day-long walkouts across the province over a bill that imposes a contract with no pay increase for two years and outlaws strikes.
   Premier Dalton McGuinty said the disruptions by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario were “regrettable” but the government won’t intervene unless the strikes last longer than a day.
   “This strike action is about the government’s unprecedented interference in the right to collectively bargain – a legal right provided for all people under Ontario law,” said federation president Sam Hammond.
   As well, high school teachers have withdrawn from all non-classroom work, including extracurricular sports and events such as holiday concerts.
   This action has prompted thousands of students to walk out of class to protest, with most backing their teachers.
   A walkout by some Customs and Immigration Union officers in a dispute over an order they wear name badges stalled traffic on Tuesday at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit and the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan.
   Union officials said displaying their names could lead to “unnecessary” safety risks by criminals who could find them.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Canada reviews plan to buy costly F-35 fighter jets; demands that Defense Minister resign

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 9/12


   By Jim Fox

   A case of sticker shock could ground the Canadian government’s controversial plan to spend $25 billion to buy and maintain sophisticated F-35 fighter jets.
   Opposition politicians are demanding that Defense Minister Peter MacKay resign over skyrocketing costs for the jets and for not letting taxpayers know the real price tag to buy and operate the planes.
   The Royal Canadian Air Force wants to replace its CF-18 Hornets with 65 of the single-engine, radar-evading Lockheed Martin fighter jets.
   Auditor General Michael Ferguson, in a scathing report last April, concluded the jets could cost $10 billion more than the defense department has publicly acknowledged due to cost overruns and production delays.
   The government in the coming week is expected to release the results of a study into the costs, with news reports suggesting the price tag will soar to $40 billion.
   As well, a study is underway to compare the F-35 with other fighter jets including Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet and the EADS Eurofighter.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Canadian politicans beset with conflicts, scandals, resignations

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 2/12


   By Jim Fox

   Conflicts and scandals are taking their toll on Canadian politicians with the court-ordered removal of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and demands that Alberta Premier Alison Redford resign.
   Parti Quebecois politician Daniel Breton has left the Quebec cabinet for alleged “ethical transgressions” and two Quebec mayors quit earlier in a corruption inquiry.
   Ford is blaming a “left-wing conspiracy” as he appeals a ruling by Superior Court Judge Charles Hackland that ousted him as mayor for violating conflict of interest rules.
   The issue involves Ford taking part in a council vote over repayment of $3,150 in donations he solicited on city letterhead for his private football foundation for disadvantaged youths.
   Other mayors in the spotlight are Montreal’s Gerald Tremblay and Gilles Vaillancourt of Laval who resigned during an ongoing inquiry into construction industry kickbacks.
   London, Ontario Mayor Joe Fontana, a former Liberal Member of Parliament, is being investigated for misusing public funds to pay for his son's wedding. He is resisting calls for him to resign in the meantime.
   Opposition parties in the Alberta Legislature are calling on Redford to step down for an alleged conflict of interest.
   Redford denies claims she was involved in a decision to give a multi-billion-dollar tobacco litigation contract to her ex-husband's law firm.