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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Political scandals dominate Canadian news

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 3/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Scandal-plagued Canadian politicians are refusing demands that they quit, except in Quebec where voters are about to replace two disgraced Montreal mayors.
   “I have no reason to resign,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said after Police Chief Bill Blair said they have uncovered a video showing him appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
   Police surveillance video also shows Ford in the company of alleged drug dealers and users and discarding two empty liquor bottles and urinating beside his vehicle in a park.
   Blair said there are no “reasonable” grounds to arrest Ford over the video.
   In Ottawa, the Senate still hasn’t decided whether to suspend without pay Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin for inappropriate expense claims.
  The senators, appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have paid back expenses totaling about $278,000.
   In Montreal, polls say Denis Coderre, a former Liberal cabinet minister, will be elected mayor in the municipal election today.
   The two previous mayors quit after over a corruption controversy in the ongoing Quebec construction industry kick-back inquiry.
   London, Ontario’s Mayor Joe Fontana has been ordered to stand trial for fraud.
   He is accused of using taxpayer money to help pay for his son's wedding reception in 2005 when he was a Liberal Member of Parliament.

 (For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more' below)

   There’s been another jump in Internet users across Canada, with many more seniors going online.
   Statistics Canada said 83 percent of Canadians aged 16 or older were Internet users last year, up from 80 percent in 2010.
   The number of seniors using the web grew by 20 percent, with 48 percent of those 65 and older saying they went online last year.
   “Once people start using the Internet, they're not likely to stop using it as they age,” said Statistics Canada spokesman Mark Uhrbach.


   News in brief:
   - Sears is closing five more of its 116 Canadian department stores, including the flagship location at Toronto’s Eaton Center, in order to earn $400 million by selling the leases. About 965 employees will be affected by the closings in February also happening at Sherway Gardens in Toronto, Markville Shopping Center in Markham (suburban Toronto), Masonville Place, London, Ontario and Richmond Center in Richmond, British Columbia.
   - Boosting the amount of government pension income dominated the talks Friday by provincial finance ministers meeting in Toronto. Ontario is pushing for improvements to the federal Canada Pension Plan to secure the future of young workers. Prince Edward Island wants to increase the maximum plan contributions to $4,681 a year from $2,356 and to boost the maximum annual benefit to $23,400 from $12,150.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has advanced to 95.90 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0427 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,329 points and the TSX Venture index 955 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Oct. 30) 4, 9, 24, 41, 47 and 48; bonus 46. (Oct. 26) 3, 5, 16, 20, 27 and 45; bonus 7. Lotto Max: (Oct. 25) 13, 16, 24, 29, 33, 40 and 49; bonus 28.


   Regional briefs:
   - Police have boosted their presence on the campus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after a series of sexual assaults. The Mounties say one man is believed responsible for three attacks in October and similar incidents in April, May and September. All the women were approached while walking alone late at night.
   - Ontario is enacting new rules for wireless contracts to end the “horror stories” consumers report over cellphone bills. Plain language about fees, ending surcharges for cancelling services and getting out of long-term contracts are among the changes to take effect next year. The bill will add all-in pricing and penalties of up to $250,000 for companies convicted of violating the rules.
   - Canada’s iconic Tim Hortons’ coffee and doughnut shops are experimenting with a new blend. Dark roast, the first new coffee since the chain opened in 1964, is being test-marketed at locations in London, Ontario and Columbus, Ohio. It is offered alongside the store's original premium blend.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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