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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bid to reform or abolish Canada's Senate gains support from western provinces

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 17/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government’s bid to reform – or even abolish – the non-elected Senate is being supported by two western provinces.
   Alberta and Saskatchewan have agreed at a hearing before the Supreme Court with the federal government’s position that senators should be elected.
   Both provinces also support that outright abolition of the scandal-plagued upper chamber would require the approval of seven provinces with 50 percent of the population.
   And, Saskatchewan agrees the federal government could unilaterally impose a term limit of least 10 years instead of senators serving now until age 75.
   The historic ruling into how much or little approval by the provincial governments is needed to make changes is expected to take up to a year.
   There are concerns by the provinces that the prime minister would not be bound to appoint the winners of Senate elections and that views of smaller provinces would be overlooked in considering abolition.
   The Conservative government has been embarrassed lately with the suspension without pay of three former Conservative senators who were told to repay “improper” expenses totaling about $278,000. A fourth Liberal senator retired and repaid $231,649.
(For more news of the week, click Read more . . .)

   The Ontario government will consider assisting Toronto’s city council if it can't function because of the scandal involving Mayor Rob Ford.
   Premier Kathleen Wynne said the revelations about Ford’s admissions that he's smoked crack cocaine and drove while drunk are “truly disturbing.”
   Council overwhelmingly approved a motion Friday to strip Ford of his powers after he refused to take a leave of absence or quit.
   With more police surveillance records being released, Ford threatened to sue former staff members for saying he was intoxicated at work, drank while driving and associated with suspected prostitutes.
   Ford has also apologized for using vulgar language in a TV interview and said he is getting health-care help with his problems.


   News in brief:
   - A worldwide child-porn ring, alleged to be headquartered in Toronto, has been broken up with the arrests of 348 people, 108 from Canada. Those arrested include school teachers, doctors, nurses, pastors and foster parents, said police inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins. The success of the investigation has been “extraordinary,” she said, adding that at least 386 children have been rescued from sexual exploitation.
   - Police have visited Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office investigating the destruction of documents involving the canceled gas plant controversy. Wynne said her Liberals will “co-operate completely" with the investigation. Opposition politicians accuse the Liberals of destroying emails to hide the estimated $1.1 billion cost of stopping construction of two unpopular gas plants to help win the last provincial election.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has advanced to 95.64 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar is worth $1.0454 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 mixed, with the Toronto exchange index higher at 13,478 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 931 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Nov. 13) 3, 8, 15, 17, 29 and 33; bonus 10. (Nov. 9) 4, 8, 30, 43, 46 and 48; bonus 44. Lotto Max: (Nov. 8) 7, 8, 10, 15, 24, 26 and 41; bonus 12.


   Regional briefs:
   - Heinz Canada will close its century-old ketchup-making plant in Leamington, Ontario with the loss of 740 jobs within eight months. The company is “consolidating manufacturing across North America,” Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said. The company is also closing facilities in Florence, S.C. and Pocatello, Idaho, affecting 610 jobs.
   - Quebec's Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for former Quebec doctor Guy Turcotte accused of murdering his five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. The court ruled that legal errors were committed when he was found not criminally responsible due to his mental condition. The court was told Turcotte stabbed his children as his marriage was falling apart in February 2009.
   - Dennis Oland, 45, has been arrested for the murder of his father, Richard, who was 69 and an Atlantic Canada business leader. The elder Oland was found beaten in his St. John, New Brunswick office in 2011. He was a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries and worked in the trucking and shipbuilding businesses.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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