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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Canadians could forgo Florida trips over driver's permit law

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 24/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   There are indications many Canadians will forgo their March-break trips to Florida over a contentious new law that requires International Driver’s Permits (IDP).
   Even though Florida authorities say police won’t enforce the law that’s expected to be amended and requires the permits for all foreign drivers, including Canadians, that might not be enough.
   “Until the law is changed, we continue to recommend Canadians traveling to Florida should consider obtaining an IDP,” the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) advises.
   Since the law “remains in effect,” there is “some uncertainty on how insurance companies and Florida car rental agencies will interpret the law,” it said.
   “Was going to go down for a trip next month driving but not now,” someone identified as “Rugby Norm” posted on the Toronto Star website.
   “Plain and simple, Florida obviously doesn't care about Canadians,” he wrote, adding that a trip to the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training is also “off the list of to do now.”
   CAA offices have been packed with people buying the $25 international permits that supplement a provincial driver’s license.
   Florida Tourism officials are concerned over the law’s impact as Canadians are the state’s top international market with 3.1-million visitors in 2010.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Senator expelled, three others under investigation

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 17/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s youngest Senator has been expelled from the upper chamber while three others face an investigation into their residency claims and expenses.
   Patrick Brazeau was removed from the Conservative caucus in the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after being arrested for domestic and sexual assault.
   There was criticism of Harper when he appointed Brazeau to the Senate in 2008 when he was 34 as he wanted to also continue as national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
   Brazeau has also been put on a paid leave of absence by the Senate until the criminal case is resolved but remains an independent member and keeps his annual salary of $132,000. In Canada’s non-elected Senate, members can serve to age 75.
   He has also been under scrutiny recently over allegations he was using an address other than his own in Gatineau, Quebec in order to receive a federal government housing allowance for his service in the Senate.
   As well, an external auditor has been asked to review the residency declarations of Brazeau and three other senators to determine where they actually live and if they qualify for the added benefits.
   The others are former television news journalists Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin as well as former Member of Parliament Mac Harb.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tariffs adding to higher prices Canadians pay for goods

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 10/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Tariffs on imports are cited as one reason Canadians are paying on average 13 percent more for goods than their American neighbors even as the dollar is about equal with the U.S. currency.
   The Senate Finance Committee said while tariffs are just one factor in prices, they are something the government can do something about.
   “Canadians consumers are feeling ripped off,” said Senator Joseph Day, who chaired the eight-month study.
   Tariffs used to protect domestic businesses brought in $3.6 billion in revenue for the government in the last year and are being reviewed, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in calling for the Senate study.
   Price differences drive thousands of Canadians to cross the border to shop for groceries, clothing, buy gas and car parts as well as seek out a larger selection of goods.
   Also an issue is the economy of scale with Canada’s smaller marketplace, vast distances and higher wages and benefits.
   The report noted that a Lexus made in Cambridge, Ontario sells for $44,950 in Canada but only $40,950 in the U.S., including Hawaii. Books are routinely marked up, sometimes by up to 40 percent on some titles.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sears, Best Buy laying off 1,600 workers in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 3/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The evolving retail marketplace with more Canadians shopping online has led to Sears and Best Buy laying off 1,600 workers.
   Sears Canada officials said the loss of 700 workers across the country is an attempt to “right-size” and restructure the business.
   The job cuts, which come just before Target is about to open the first of 135 stores across Canada, will be from its department stores, distribution centers, head office and support areas.
   Electronics retailer Best Buy cited a “transitional plan” to close eight of its Future Shop locations and seven Best Buy big box stores with the loss of 900 jobs, or about five percent of its workforce.
   The stores will be replaced with “small-concept web and mobile locations” over the next two and half years, it said.
   Retail analysts say electronics stores have been hard hit by declining sales and tough competition from online retailers with better prices.
   Sears announced earlier it was closing four of largest stores in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, with those locations being taken over by U.S. retailer Nordstrom entering the Canadian marketplace.