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Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

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

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (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.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Teacher revolt in Ontario over pay freeze by government



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 23/12

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Tough measures by the Ontario government to deal with a soaring budget deficit have led to a revolt by many school teachers whose pay has been frozen.
   Now, the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty plans to take similar action for the highest-paid public service workers.
   "These measures are necessary to help us meet our fiscal targets and we're asking everyone to do their share," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said.
   The enactment of the “Putting Students First” bill, which is being challenged in court by teachers’ unions, has frozen their pay for two years, halved their paid sick days to 10 a year and banned strikes and lockouts.
   In response, the unions called on their 136,000 members to refuse to take part in any extracurricular activities, including the coaching of sports.
   The top salary of a fully experienced Ontario teacher is about $95,000 a year for 195 in-class days.
   The government said the pay cap is needed to maintain full-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes, and trim the $15-billion deficit.
   A proposed bill to limit wages of public workers would also include those employed by government-funded agencies, boards, commissions, hospitals, universities and colleges.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cheats being stripped of Canadian citizenship



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 16/12

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The federal government is stripping the Canadian citizenship of thousands of people who have cheated the system.
    “Canadian citizenship is not for sale,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, vowing to continue the Conservative government’s crackdown against cheats.
   Canada is revoking the status of 3,139 people for abusing the system in order to receive citizenship, he said.
   As well, thousands more are being investigated on suspicions of fraudulently obtaining or maintaining their permanent residence for citizenship purposes.
   In all, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is looking at the cases of about 11,000 people have been potentially implicated in lying to apply for citizenship or resident status.
   It’s a process that takes several years, Kenney said as critics suggest his comments are upsetting to the majority of law-abiding immigrants.
   Canada has removed or denied admittance to more than 600 former permanent residents linked to fraud and denied about 500 citizenship applications for not meeting residence requirements.
   “We will continue to take strong measures to combat the industry of crooked immigration agents here and abroad who seek to devalue Canadian citizenship by creating fake proof of residency and committing other forms of fraud,” Kenney said.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Independence for Quebec, French language rights could be issues after Parti Quebecois elected


   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 9/12

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada could again face the eventual possibility of Quebec seeking independence after the election of a separatist-minded government in the province.
   Premier-elect Pauline Marois, who survived a potential attempt on her life during her victory speech, will form a minority government with the narrow victory Tuesday of her Parti Quebecois.
   A man burst through the back door of a Montreal nightclub as Marois was speaking and shot two people – a stage technician who was killed and a club worker who was wounded.
   The man also set a fire inside the club packed with revelers celebrating the victory that ousted Premier Jean Charest and his Liberals from office.
   When taken away by police, who said they haven’t established a motive, the man shouted "the English have awoken."
   Richard Bain, 62, a fishing-camp owner from Mont-Tremblant, was arrested for first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and arson.
   Marois, who wants more powers for Quebec, is expected to implement increased measures to protect and enhance the Francophone culture and French language.
   Charest, 54, a career politician for 28 years and premier for nine, was defeated by voters in his home riding and said he is quitting politics.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

B.C. sled dog tour manager admits killing 56 dogs not needed after Winter Olympics


   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 2/12

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   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The former manager of a British Columbia sled-dog tour company admitted to brutally killing 56 of the animals no longer needed after the 2010 Winter Olympics.
   Robert Fawcett pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in the culling of the dogs from the pack owned by Howling Dog Tours in Whistler.
   He will be sentenced Nov. 22 after the court considers a psychiatric assessment.
   The incident became known last year after Fawcett filed a claim to receive worker’s compensation for “post-traumatic stress disorder” over stress from killing the animals.
   The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals exhumed the remains of the dogs from a mass grave as part of the investigation.
   Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA said the maximum penalty Fawcett faces is five years in jail, a fine of up to $75,000 and a possible lifetime ban on owning animals.
   Animal rights advocates gathered outside the courtroom in North Vancouver urging that he receive the maximum penalty.
   “We want to have a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves,” said pet owner Ingrid Katzberg.