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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.


   A study shows residents of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick receive better value from their public health-care systems than other Canadians.
   The Fraser Institute, a public policy think-tank, compared the per-capita cost of health care to the availability and quality of medical goods and services.
   Providing the least value for money spent were Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, the report said.
   “This study allows policy-makers and taxpayers to judge whether they receive good value for their health-care dollars,” said Nadeem Esmail, a Fraser Institute director.


   News in brief:
   - The federal government has lost a computer external hard drive containing the personal information of 583,000 people who received student loans between 2000 and 2006. The drive, missing from the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada office in Gatineau, Quebec, has names, birth dates, Social Insurance Numbers, addresses and student loan balances. The department also lost a USB key containing personal data on 5,000 Canadians in December.
   - When Claude Benoit leaves her job as head of the Old Port of Montreal Corp. on Feb. 28, the position will be abolished by the federal government. Benoit was at the center of an expenses’ scandal in what were called inappropriate and questionable spending. The government-run Canada Lands Co. will take over the Old Port, a popular tourist area.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is down slightly at $1.0149 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returns 98.53 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 12,652 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 1,230 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Jan. 16) 14, 21, 27, 34, 37 and 38; bonus 10. (Jan. 12) 6, 16, 29, 30, 33 and 36; bonus 15. Lotto Max: (Jan. 11) 2, 25, 26, 37, 39, 48 and 49; bonus 40.


   Regional briefs:
   - Ontario could soon have its first woman premier. Heading into next weekend’s Ontario Liberal leadership election, Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne are the frontrunners to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty who has resigned mid-term. Trailing in the race are Gerard Kennedy, Harinder Takhar, Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins.
   - British Columbia has suspended the operations of the bus company involved in the crash that killed nine people and injured dozens in Oregon last month. Mi Joo Tour & Travel of Port Coquitlam failed to comply with laws governing driver’s hours and pre-trip inspections, the Transportation Ministry said. A company lawyer said icy roads, not driver fatigue, caused the crash of the bus returning to British Columbia from Las Vegas.
   - Officials of the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College say it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more to operate largely for electricity and heating when the harmonized sales tax begins in April. The PEI government made a concession by reducing the tax that will combine the provincial sales and federal goods and services taxes to 14 percent from 15.5 percent now with both individual taxes.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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