Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 10/13
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
Canada’s political scandal update has three disgraced senators suspended without pay and Toronto’s embattled crack-smoking mayor considering his options.
The Senate voted to suspend for the balance of the term – about two years – Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin for inappropriate expense claims.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed the trio in 2009 and has since had them lose their Conservative party affiliation, said they had to pay a price for their actions.
The three were ordered to repay expenses totaling about $278,000 while a fourth senator, former Liberal Mac Harb, retired and repaid $231,649.
They will not be able to collect their salaries of $135,200 a year but continue to receive extended health benefits during their time-out.
A police investigation continues into possible fraud and breach of trust by the three.
“I think it's an extremely sad day for democracy if we can't expect the rule of law in Canada, then where on earth can we expect it,” Wallin said after being suspended.
In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has apologized as a “drunken mistake,” a profanity-laced video in which he threatened to kill someone a week after admitting to having smoked crack cocaine as purported in an earlier video.
Attorney Dennis Morris said the mounting pressure on Ford to resign has him considering his options including taking time off and going into rehab.
(For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more.")
The Canadian economy grew last month with an additional 13,200 full-time jobs while the pace of housing construction continues its upward momentum.
Statistics Canada reported the modest job growth kept the unemployment rate at a post-recession low of 6.9 percent for the second month.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said there were 17,033 housing starts in October, for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 198,282 units.
That continues a trend that started in July with more housing units being built in Ontario and fewer in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, the Prairies and Quebec.
News in brief:
- The Canadian government wants to give priority for federal jobs to soldiers released from the military for medical reasons. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said the proposed bill will move qualified veterans ahead of government workers displaced or laid off. The Conservative government has been criticized about wounded soldiers being discharged before 10 years of service needed to receive a pension.
- The Quebec government’s controversial “values charter” will be put to a vote soon in the National Assembly and, if defeated, could trigger a provincial election. The proposed bill would order state workers to remove headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans and large crucifixes or be fired. Cabinet minister Bernard Drainville said it will guarantee equality for men and women as well as the religious neutrality of the state.
Facts and figures:
Canada’s dollar is lower at 95.35 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar is worth $1.0487 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 13,380 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 933 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Nov. 6) 21, 26, 32, 34, 36 and 39; bonus 28. (Nov. 2) 9, 12, 13, 26, 35 and 43; bonus 2. Lotto Max: (Nov. 1) 11, 12, 16, 22, 30, 32 and 49; bonus 35.
- Former Liberal cabinet minister Denis Coderre has been elected mayor of Montreal. He received 32 percent of the votes and defeated Melanie Joly, Richard Bergeron and Marcel Cote. Two previous mayors quit over a corruption controversy in the ongoing Quebec construction industry kick-back inquiry.
- The last of Canada’s plastic-like bills were officially put into circulation at ceremonies in Longueuil, Quebec and Vancouver. The $5 polymer bill depicts Canada's contribution to space exploration. The $10 note pays tribute to railway heritage, showing Via Rail’s Canadian passenger train in the Rockies.
- Ferry service between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia were cancelled for two days after the Princess of Acadia ran aground briefly. There were no injuries on the ship that carries up to 650 passengers and 155 vehicles. An initial inspection showed no damage but further inspections and testing equipment caused the cancellations.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com