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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford loses staff; Ontario Premier raises concerns

   Canada column for Sunday, June 2/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The staff exodus continues from the office of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who denies reports he is a drug user.
   Now, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has waded into the controversy that has made international headlines and is daily fodder for TV talk show hosts.
   “The mayor needs to deal with his personal issues,” Wynne said, adding: “It would be better if he were able to deal with them, confront them and allow the city to move on.”
   Wynne said the provincial government is “monitoring it very carefully,” but said there was “no clear path of action” where it could intervene.
   Ford has said little aside from disputing claims about a purported cell-phone video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.
   Drug dealers offered to turn over the video to the new media, asking $200,000 for it.
   The U.S. website Gawker, said the money has been raised but the video, which Ford said doesn’t exist, can’t be found.
   In another development, two men have been arrested for the murder of one of the alleged drug dealers shown in the video.
   After Ford fired his chief of staff Mark Towhey, five other members of his staff have quit but the mayor said business continues as usual.


   Dr. Arthur Porter, former head of Canada's spy-agency watchdog, has been arrested in Panama in connection with the Quebec corruption scandal.
   Named by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to head the Security Intelligence Review Committee, Porter was also earlier the director general of the McGill University Health Center.
   His arrest is in connection with alleged kickbacks in the construction of a $1.3-billion hospital complex in Montreal.
   Porter, who denies the allegations, said that he and his wife, Pamela, will fight a bid to extradite them to Canada and seek bail.


   News in brief:
   - Canadian abortion crusader Dr. Henry Morgentaler, called a “lifelong champion of women’s rights,” has died in Toronto. He was 90. The tribute by the Quebec government noted the courageous work by Morgentaler who began his abortion-rights movement in Montreal and opened his first clinic there in 1969.
   - Ontario’s Court of Appeal has rejected a bid by 14 foreign tobacco companies to have a $50-billion lawsuit by the Ontario government thrown out of court. The three-judge panel unanimously said there is no legal reason to overturn a lower court ruling that the case should proceed. The provincial government launched the lawsuit in 2009 to try to recoup past and current health-care costs related to smoking.


   Facts and figures:
   Statistics Canada said the country’s economic growth at 2.5 percent in the first quarter was the fastest in more than a year.
   Exports were the largest contributor to growth while domestic demand was the weakest in four years.
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 96.49 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0363 in Canadian funds, 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 higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,642 points and the TSX Venture index at 961 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (May 29) 21, 28, 34, 35, 48 and 49; bonus 18. (May 25) 9, 17, 32, 41, 42 and 44; bonus 3. Lotto Max: (May 24) 9, 19, 21, 24, 39, 43 and 48; bonus 6.


   Regional briefs:
   - It has long been a joke that Florida is Canada’s 11th province but a sitting politician shouldn’t receive his pay for being absent there, a Nova Scotia government committee ruled. It called for docking the salary of Liberal politician Manning MacDonald for the 20 days he was “absent without permission.” It’s not known what will happen now as MacDonald, who represented the riding of Cape Breton South for 20 years, abruptly retired from politics.
   - A Regina man tried to speed up the process of clearing water from his eavestroughs after a major storm by using a blowtorch. Things got out of hand and the result was he set the roof of his condominium on fire. Investigators did not name the man and estimated the damage at $200,000.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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