Welcome

Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tens of thousands of Canadians still in dark and cold after massive ice storm



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 29/13

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A massive ice storm has left about 56,500 homes and businesses in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick still without power after a week.
   Hardest hit was Toronto where hydro crews had reduced the number of properties without electricity in below-freezing temperatures to 32,000 on Friday, down from a peak of more than 300,000 last Sunday.
   At the start of the weekend, there were still about 40,000 customers in Ontario without power, 14,000 in New Brunswick and 2,500 in Quebec.
   The storm coated trees and power lines with a thick layer of heavy ice, bringing them down and cutting off power.
   The massive around-the-clock effort to clear trees and limbs to replace power lines and restore electricity has had utility companies in the three provinces receiving help from outside, including New York state and Michigan.
   Toronto Hydro focused on restoring power to the most people in the shortest amount of time, including two hospitals, and is just now getting to clearing debris and reconnecting individual homes, said chief executive officer Anthony Haines.
   Mayor Rob Ford, who has held daily news conferences since last Sunday and has visited “warming shelters,” said the city is “doing the best we can” at getting all the power restored.
   Authorities were warning against the use of generators and barbecues inside to keep warm as there have been reports of five people killed in Ontario and Quebec from carbon monoxide poisoning.

   ---

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Supreme Court declares Canada's prostitution laws are unconstitutional



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 22/13

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Workers in the “world’s oldest profession” have won an historic victory as the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's prostitution laws.
   The landmark unanimous ruling Friday by the six men and three women judges dealt with prostitution-related prohibitions against brothels, living “off the avails of prostitution” and street soliciting.
   Canada’s social landscape has changed since the laws were last upheld by the court in 1990, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said.
   The issue is “not about whether prostitution should be legal or not,” she added, but whether the laws are constitutional – and the judges concluded they are not.
   It upholds the case of sex-trade workers who are seeking safer working conditions.
   The court has given the Canadian government one year to produce new legislation while the existing laws remain in effect.
   The judges agreed with an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that said outlawing brothels exposes sex workers to added danger by forcing them onto the streets.
   The Supreme Court appeared to acknowledge the case of Robert Pickton convicted of killing prostitutes in British Columbia.
   “A law that prevents street prostitutes from resorting to a safe haven such as grandma's house while a suspected serial killer prowls the streets, is a law that has lost sight of its purpose,” the ruling said.
 (For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more")
   ---

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Door-to-door mail delivery to end in Canadian cities within five years



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 15/13

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The days of door-to-door mail delivery in urban areas across Canada are about to end.
   And, the declining number of people still using the mail will see substantial increases in domestic stamp prices – to 85 cents from 63 cents if bought in a booklet and to $1 individually – starting March 31.
   It’s part of a plan by Canada Post to cut its operating costs by up to $900 million a year based on the reality that fewer people use the service in these days of e-mail, courier deliveries and bills received and paid online.
   As well, the “average Canadian household” now buys fewer than two stamps a month.
   Thirty years ago, the post office began installing group mail boxes in newly built subdivisions and that will be implemented in all city areas over the next five years, said spokesman Jon Hamilton.
   Canada Post said up to 8,000 jobs would be eliminated while nearly 15,000 employees will retire or leave the government agency within that time.
   This will be a hardship for seniors with mobility issues who still want five-day-a-week home delivery of their mail, said Susan Eng of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
   “In cases where there are mobility issues, we will ensure a box can be accessed that isn't too high and we will provide additional keys (for caregivers to pick up the mail),” Hamilton said.

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lottery officials track down $50-million jackpot winner who lost ticket



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 8/13

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   When investigators came knocking at Kathryn Jones’ door in Hamilton, Ontario she at first hesitated at letting them in.
   It turns out they were really from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) trying to find the winner of an unclaimed ticket worth $50 million, tax free.
   And, as luck would have it, Jones, a 55-year-old engineer, was determined to be the winner of the prize paid all at once – even though she lost the ticket that was about to expire and didn’t know it was the winner.
  The investigation that led to Jones resulted from looking into the case of one of 435 people who tried to claim the Lotto Max prize from the Nov. 30, 2012 draw.
   The trail led to Jones based on a surveillance video from a store near her office and credit card records showing she bought a lottery ticket there at the time the winner was sold.
   Had she paid cash for the ticket, she might not have been found, said Mike Hamel of OLG's corporate investigations.
 (For more Canadian news of the week, click "Read more . . .")

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Senate scandal plays role in outcome of Canadian byelections



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 1/13

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Senate expenses scandal is viewed as a major factor in the Liberals emerging as the overall victor in recent federal by-elections and taking a lead in opinion polls.
   Notable in the mid-term elections to fill vacancies in the House of Commons was the increased share of the votes for the Liberals.
   They were expected to win those districts in Toronto and Montreal while the ruling Conservatives won, as expected, in Manitoba’s Brandon-Souris and Provencher but with diminished support.
   “Canadians grow weary of the deceit, the mistrust and the cover-ups of the Conservatives,” a jubilant Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said.
   He was referring to the suspension of three Conservative senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for making inappropriate expense claims amounting to about $278,000.
   Public opinion polls also show growing Liberal support at the expense of the Conservatives and the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP).
   The latest polling averages give the Liberals 35.7-percent support, the Conservatives 28.9 percent and the NDP, 23 percent.

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