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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.


   The Mercer Quality of Living Survey has again named Vancouver the top Canadian city and fifth overall in the world.
   The latest listing by the global consulting company keeps Vienna, Zurich, Auckland and Munich as the top four places for the best quality of life.
   Canada’s capital, Ottawa, ranked 14th, with Toronto 15th, Montreal, 23rd and Calgary at 32nd.
   “Canadian cities tend to do well because it measures things like political, social environments, economic environment, medical and health,” said Luc Lalonde of Mercer Canada.
   Honolulu at 28 is the top U.S. city, followed by San Francisco (29), Boston (35), Chicago (42), Washington, DC (43) and New York (44). Baghdad, Iraq was last at 221.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s jobless rate dropped by 0.2 percent to 7.2 percent as the economy created 59,300 new jobs last month, Statistics Canada said. Employment gains were in accommodation and food services, retail and wholesale trade, and professional, scientific and technical jobs while manufacturing lost 20,000 workers.
   - Politician Justin Trudeau, who is seeking to lead the federal Liberal party, said he has no plans to raise the five-percent federal Goods and Services Tax. As well, Trudeau said it is his goal to find a way to reduce gun crime without reviving the long-gun registry.
   - A military jury in Calgary has found Major Darryl Watts not guilty of manslaughter in an Afghanistan training accident that killed one soldier and injured four others. He was convicted, however, of causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty in the death of Corporal Josh Baker during a training exercise. Watts will be sentenced next month.


   Facts and figures:
   Good employment news on Friday lifted Canada’s dollar to $1.0103 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returned 98.97 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada has again left its key interest rate at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,168 points and the TSX Venture index 1,182 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Dec. 5) 4, 26, 34, 38, 41 and 46; bonus 44. (Dec. 1) 7, 22, 28, 32, 34 and 38; bonus 20. Lotto Max: (Nov. 30) 3, 10, 13, 23, 31, 41 and 45; bonus 33.


   Regional briefs:
   - Another Montreal-area mayor has resigned after being arrested for alleged involvement in construction industry kickbacks. Richard Marcotte, 65, of Mascouche was arrested for fraud, conspiracy, bribery and embezzlement. Denying any wrongdoing, Gerald Tremblay quit as mayor of Montreal and Gilles Vaillancourt left his job as mayor of Laval last month.
   - A bid by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to force bankrupt newsprint company AbitibiBowater Inc. to pay for an environmental cleanup has been denied by the Supreme Court of Canada . The government wanted the company to clean up five contaminated sites at an estimated cost of $50 million to $100 million.
   - There were no murders last year in Prince George, a British Columbia community of 75,000 people, yet national newsmagazine Maclean’s lists it as the most dangerous city in Canada for the third consecutive year. Mayor Shari Green and Mountie Superintendent Eric Stubbs are puzzled by the ranking that followed a drop in serious crime last year. The rankings and methodology will be published later this month.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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