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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Canada's Conservative government presses the reset key by taking a break

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 25/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s government is taking a time-out as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to lead his Conservative party into the next election.
   Harper said his decision to prorogue, or suspend, the current session of Parliament until mid-October is to prepare a new economy-focused agenda.
   The action effectively ended the parliamentary session and killed legislative bills not yet enacted to await a new direction for governing.
   By pressing the reset button, Harper is buying time to deal with stalled political support after a recent shuffling of Cabinet positions and to prepare for his fifth election campaign as leader.
   In the election, expected in 2015, Harper will face a reinvigorated opposition with new leaders – Justin Trudeau for the Liberals and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party.
   The break also comes when the government deals with the Senate expense-claim scandal.
   Former Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin, now an Independent and Harper appointee, has been told to pay back $138,970 for ineligible travel expense claims.
   The Mounties are investigating Wallin’s claims and those of senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb.
   (For more news of the week from Canada, click "Read more")


   A Toronto police officer is free on $510,000 bail charged with second-degree murder in the death of an 18-year-old youth.
   Constable James Forcillo, 30, is to return to court on Sept. 30 in the shooting of Sammy Yatim on a streetcar.
   The Special Investigations Unit said Yatim was shot “multiple times” and later Tasered.
   Police were called after a young man exposed himself and threatened people with a knife.
   Among the investigations underway is a review by retired judge Dennis O'Connor of police procedures in dealing with force and emotionally disturbed people.


   News in brief:
   - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he has no regrets for having occasionally smoked marijuana including while he was a Member of Parliament. “No, it wasn't a mistake . . . I tried it,” Trudeau said. The Conservative government said Trudeau’s support for legalizing and regulating marijuana shows he isn’t fit to be the prime minister.
   - Neighbors are rallying behind the Ontario family of an autistic teenager who received a hateful letter saying he should be euthanized or move away. Someone sent the unsigned letter to Brenda Millson, the grandmother of Max, 13, who often visits her home in Newcastle. The note referred to Max’s “noise polluting whaling” that is scaring “normal” children. Police are investigating but said while the disturbing letter was “hateful,” it isn’t a hate crime.
   - About 100 people reported symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, including five admitted to hospitals, after visiting the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. A common link is they ate the popular treat, a cronut burger – a hamburger patty served between two donuts. Epic Burger and Waffles outlets have voluntarily closed while health officials trace the source.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is down almost 2 cents at 95.07 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar is valued at $1.0517 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 advanced slightly, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,758 points and the TSX Venture index 941 points on Friday.
   Lotto 6-49: (Aug. 21) 4, 12, 28, 31, 39 and 46; bonus 42. (Aug. 17) 1, 6, 13, 29, 37 and 39; bonus 17. Lotto Max: (Aug. 16) 2, 6, 20, 22, 30, 34 and 49; bonus 45.


   Regional briefs:
   - The Supreme Court has refused to consider the appeal of Guillaume Boutin of Montreal who was banned for life by Air Canada for threatening airline employees after he missed a flight. He was also seeking $30,000 in compensation for “moral damages and trouble and inconvenience” and a letter of apology regarding the flight from Cancun.
Boutin admitted he was upset and did complain “forcefully.”
   - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford went up against his childhood hero, wrestler Hulk Hogan, and won in a friendly arm-wrestling match. Although he seemed to be struggling before suddenly defeating the 14-time world wrestling champion, Ford celebrated the victory at the Fan Expo Canada event.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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