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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Canada's dollar dips as interest and inflation rates remain low

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 27/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian dollar has fallen to below parity with the U.S. currency after the Bank of Canada said super-low interest and inflation rates will continue.
   Canada’s central bank conceded that it misjudged the strength of the economic recovery and reduced its outlook for inflation.
   This caused the dollar to dip to a six-month low near 99 cents US as the trend-setting interest rate is likely to remain unchanged for the rest of this year.
   The central bank rate is one percent where it has been for more than two years.
   “The direction is clear – the timing has shifted,” bank governor Mark Carney said, noting a “less imminent” need to raise rates.
   The bank is “less worried” now about high levels of consumer debt and the housing market while inflation will remain around one percent.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said weaker growth for the global economy is “obviously a concern” and will have an impact on the pace of job creation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More bridges, roads, rail lines blocked by native protesters

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 20/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Native protesters, unhappy after a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have again blocked bridges to the U.S., rail lines and snarled traffic.
   Groups waved banners and pounded drums in the “Idle No More” movement over what they perceive is an erosion of their treaty and environmental land rights.
   The largest mid-week protest involved hundreds at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario that backed up truck traffic headed into Detroit for more than a mile.
   The protest lasted several hours and was similar to others earlier at border crossings elsewhere across Canada.
   Natives again blockaded the Canadian National rail line near Belleville, Ontario that stopped Via Rail passenger and freight trains between Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa.
   The protests also moved to the highway between Calgary and Edmonton while about 100 people sang and played drums in a march in downtown Toronto.
   Five people were arrested after a group disrupted a hearing in Vancouver into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
   Frank Brown of the Heiltsuk First Nation said the pipeline would result in oil tankers passing through his nation’s traditional waters.
   Other road and rail blockades happened near Victoria, Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg, Miramichi, Fredericton and in western Quebec and northern Alberta.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Native protests close borders, rail lines and block entrance to Prime Minister's office

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 13/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   A week of native protests that temporarily closed several Canada-U.S. border crossings and railway lines escalated with a rally on Parliament Hill.
   Hundreds of protesters marched and blocked the entrance to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office before his meeting Friday with First Nations’ leaders.
   The peaceful protest with singing, dancing, banging of drums and waving flags and placards was similar to rallies last weekend.
   Protesters stopped traffic for several hours at border bridges in Cornwall, Sarnia, Fort Erie and Queenston, Ontario as well as Surrey, British Columbia.
   They also blocked a Canadian National rail line in Sarnia and the main line between Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal for several hours near Belleville disrupting 1,000VIA Rail passengers and freight traffic.
   Protesters say government bills will encroach on their historic treaty rights and the environmental protection of native land.
   “We shared our lands all these years and we never got anything from it – all the benefits are going to Canadian citizens,” said Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat Reserve in northern Ontario.
   Her comments followed the release of a federal audit showing a “lack of documentation” for $104 million given to aid the reserve from 2005 to 2011.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nickel could follow penny in revised Canadian coin collection

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 6/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Now that the Royal Canadian Mint will start taking pennies out of circulation next month, the elimination of the nickel could be next.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the penny has become a nuisance and was costing more to produce than it was worth.
   Former Bank of Canada economist Jean-Pierre Aubry said the nickel is also becoming obsolete and should be next in line for retirement.
   Aubry said dumping the nickel should be part of a larger strategy to retool the Canadian currency.
   This could include creating a new coin to replace the five-dollar bill; adding a 20-cent coin and eliminating the quarter; creating a $200 bill; and reducing all coin sizes significantly to ease the burden on pockets.
   David Barnabe of Finance Canada said the government has no plans so far to eliminate the nickel.
   New Zealand eliminated its five-cent coin in 2006 after dumping its penny and two-cent piece and Australia’s government has been considering ending production of its nickel.