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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

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