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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Crime rate in Canada dips to four-decade low

   Canada column for Sunday, July 28/13

   By Jim Fox
   Canada’s crime rate has fallen to its lowest level in 41 years with a large drop in murders and violence.
   The figures from the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics also show that Toronto had a seven-percent drop in police-reported crime last year – the lowest rate among municipalities for the sixth year.
   There were almost two-million criminal incidents investigated by the police last year, about 36,000 fewer than the previous year.
   Of that number, 543 homicides were reported across Canada, 55 fewer than in 2011.
   That brought the murder rate down to its lowest level since 1966, the report said.
   Crime rates overall fell in most provinces except New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and the territories.
   The highest police-report crime rates were in Kelowna and Regina while Quebec City followed Toronto with the lowest.
   The statistics listed Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Thunder Bay as the most violent cities.
   Coinciding with the drop in crime were initiatives taken by the federal government to get tough on criminals including the passing last year of an omnibus crime bill with stiffer penalties.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Big retailer merger of Loblaw taking over Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, July 21/13

   (c) By Jim Fox
   Canada’s evolving retail industry – increasingly threatened by U.S. competitors – has led to two of the country’s largest retailers planning to combine their operations.
   Grocery chain Loblaw Companies is buying Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. for $12.4 billion in cash and stock.
   "With today's transformational partnership between Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart, we are changing the retail landscape in Canada," said Galen Weston, executive chair of Loblaw.
   Competition is heating up as new arrival Target expands its store network across Canada and a price-war with established Walmart is expected, both of which sell food and pharmacy items.
   Last month, Atlantic-based grocer Sobeys bought the Canadian Safeway stores for $5.8 billion in a deal that included 199 in-store pharmacies.
   Quebec-based supermarket chain Metro Inc. has expressed an interest in pharmacy retailer Jean Coutu and recently sold its stake in convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard.
   With the latest acquisition, the Shoppers' name and stores will remain as a separate division of Loblaw.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More demands to abolish Canada's non-elected Senate

   Canada column for Sunday, July 14/13

   (c) By Jim Fox
   There’s more support across Canada to abolish the non-elected Senate that’s caught in a negative light over a spending scandal.
   Federal New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair and Saskatchewan's Premier Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party believe the upper body serves no useful purpose and should be abolished.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper had campaigned on reforming the Senate and wanted to find a way to have senators elected by the provinces they represent.
   Senators now are appointed for “life” – until age 75 – by the Governor General on the advice of the prime minister.
   Harper’s Conservatives have so far failed to reform the 105-member Senate that is responsible for considering government bills and giving “royal assent” or final approval.
   Constitutional experts say demands to abolish the Senate are “pointless.”
   That’s because the Constitution requires the approval of at least seven provinces representing 50 percent of the population to make any significant changes – and that’s far from possible at present.
   The Senate’s reputation has been rocked recently over allegations that four senators have made major improper housing or travel expense claims that are now being investigated.


   All but 200 of the 2,000 people forced from their homes when a runaway oil-tanker train derailed, killing up to 50 people, have been able to go home in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
   Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche met with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois to arrange for the distribution of $60 million the provincial government has pledged towards reconstruction and aid to families.
   Police are investigating whether the engineer properly set the brakes when he left the 73-car freight train parked for the night.
   It later hurtled eight miles downhill, derailed and exploded destroying a large part of the downtown and killing 24 people, with about 26 still missing.
   “I feel absolutely awful about this; I'm devastated by what's occurred in this community,” said Ed Burkhardt, head of the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Co., who visited the site.


   News in brief:
   - The heaviest one-day rainfall in Toronto’s history dumped almost five inches last Monday causing havoc with commuters and cut power to 300,000 customers and trapped people in high-rise elevators. Flood waters brought the subway system to a halt and surrounded a GO Transit commuter train. The 1,200 passengers on the two-level train were removed by police over five hours using inflatable boats near the Don River.
   - Three would-be Canadians are complaining to the Ontario Superior Court that they shouldn’t be forced to pledge allegiance to the Queen for citizenship. The three – from Ireland, Israel and Jamaica – oppose the oath on religious or conscientious grounds and suggest that pledging allegiance to Canada should be sufficient.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has advanced by almost two cents to 96.19 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback is valued at $1.0395 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 12,488 points and the TSX Venture index 893 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (July 10) 7, 8, 11, 19, 25 and 46; bonus 17. (July 6) 21, 23, 24, 33, 38 and 44; bonus 45. Lotto Max: (July 5) 5, 12, 15, 39, 44, 46 and 49; bonus 18.


   Regional briefs:
   - British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is once again a member of the legislature after winning a by-election in Westside-Kelowna. After engineering the surprising come-from-behind Liberal win in last May's provincial election, Clark was defeated in her own district of Vancouver-Point Grey. Former Liberal politician Ben Stewart stepped aside to let Clark run.
   - A memorial garden was dedicated in Toronto at the site of one of Canada's worst aviation disasters. It was there Air Canada Flight 621 slammed into the ground with the deaths of 109 passengers and crew on July 5, 1970. The DC-8 was en route to Los Angeles from Montreal when it was attempting to land at Toronto's international airport.
   - Devastating floods that hit Calgary last month have resulted in many animals looking for new homes after some enclosures were destroyed at the Calgary Zoo. The Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, New Brunswick is the new home for two Hyacinth Macaws, the largest parrot species, as well as two giant anteaters.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Two Canadians held in "al-Qaida" type terrorist attack bid in Victoria, B.C.

   Canada column for Sunday, July 7/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   A Canadian man and woman are behind held in jail after an attempted terrorist attack in Victoria that was eerily similar to that in Boston.
  The Mounties said they foiled the attack motivated by an "al-Qaida ideology" that involved three pressure-cooker bombs set to blow up outside the British Columbia legislature during Canada Day celebrations last Monday.
   After arresting John Nuttall, 38, and Amanda Korody, 30, police showed photos of what they said were homemade bombs in pressure cookers similar to those that killed three people and injured more than 260 during the Boston Marathon two months ago.
   "This self-radicalized behavior was intended to cause maximum impact and harm to Canadian citizens at the B.C. legislature on a national holiday," said Assistant Mountie Commissioner Wayne Rideout.
   The Canadian Security Intelligence Service informed the force of the plot five months ago that resulted in the arrests of the two suspects in Abbotsford.
   Investigators said the police ensured the bombs posed no public threat as they contained only “inert” explosives that couldn’t be detonated.
   The pressure cookers had been filled with rusty nails, screws and washers designed to kill and maim bystanders.