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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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More new Canadians get citizenship in 2014 -- more than any year in Canada's history.



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 28/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s diverse multi-cultural mix added a record number of new citizens this year.
   More than 260,000 people became Canadians during 2014 – more than in any year in Canada’s history and more than double the number last year.
   With these new citizens “embracing Canadian values and traditions, we are fulfilling our commitment to reducing backlogs and improving processing times,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
   Recent changes to the Citizenship Act streamlined the application process, he said.
   Since that time, more than 115,000 people have become Canadian citizens, a 90-percent increase from the same period in 2013.
   As well, the citizenship application backlog has been reduced by 17 percent since June to its lowest level in almost three years, Alexander said.

   ---

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Canadian tourists could feel price, crowd impact from U.S. plans for Cuban ties



   ** Merry Christmas **

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 21/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Plans by the United States government to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba could have a major impact for Canadian tourists.
   More than one-million Canadians visit the tropical island nation each year to enjoy a relatively inexpensive getaway but that could change once the U.S. lifts a 53-year-old travel ban for Americans.
   There would be a “tsunami of curiosity tourism” that would likely cause prices to rise substantially, possibly “squeezing Canadian tourists,” said economics Professor Arch Ritter of Carleton University.
   Other experts agree that Cuba will need a massive investment in infrastructure for hotels and cruise-ship docks to accommodate a new influx of tourists.
   In recent years, Canadian tourism companies have assisted many Americans wanting to visit Cuba by booking trips via Canada.
   When President Barack Obama announced the agreement reached with Cuban officials, it was learned that Canada played a central part in hosting the breakthrough diplomatic talks.
   U.S. officials said Canada was “indispensable” in hosting the majority of the secret talks that took place for more than a year.

   ---

Friday, December 19, 2014

Canada wants to "name and shame" price-gouging businesses, manufacturers



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 14/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government wants to “name and shame” businesses and manufacturers who routinely charge higher prices for goods sold in Canada.
   It’s part of the Price Transparency Act but it is not intended to set or regulate prices, said Industry Minister James Moore.
   The act is the result of a Senate investigation into a persistent price gap on items sold in the United States and Canada.
   It found that Canadians pay between 10 and 25 percent more than prices charged in the U.S. for such things as cars, tires, television sets, books, magazines and many other products.
   The act would empower the Competition Commissioner to “do substantive investigations and to expose price gouging against Canadian consumers,” Moore said.
   The Senate’s investigation listed numerous reasons for higher prices including tariffs as well as the “country-pricing” practice of some major companies to charge more to Canadian retailers than those in the U.S. for the same products.
   The legislation should lead to “immediate downward pressure on prices,” Moore said.

   ---

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Plans have Alberta oilsands crude on the move across Canada and the world


   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 7/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Plans are advancing for a $12-billion Energy East pipeline that would carry Alberta oilsands crude to export terminals and refineries in New Brunswick.
   Once it reaches Canada’s east coast, the oil would be shipped to the United States, Europe, China and India by cargo ships.
   It’s one of three major – but controversial – oil pipeline projects involving the export of Canada’s vast supply of crude oil and concerns over environmental impacts.
   The others are the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, still seeking U.S. approval, and the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia ports from Alberta.
   Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has been meeting with provincial premiers seeking their support and approval for the Energy East plan.
   TransCanada wants to use a repurposed gas pipeline to carry crude oil two-thirds of the way across the country and build an extension that would lead to Saint John, New Brunswick.
   Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called it a project “of national importance . . . and a nation-building exercise.”
   The project must also be approved by the National Energy Board.

   ---

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New security including armed guards at Canada's Parliament buildings



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 30/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is losing some of its innocence with new armed security planned for the Parliament buildings after a terrorist gunman’s deadly rampage last month.
   Security is being tightened with the arming of guards, heightened checking of visitors and ending public tours during caucus meetings.
   The changes are “a crucial step towards achieving the improvements required of an open and secure Parliament,” said House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer.
   Armed gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau gained access to Parliament’s Center Block after killing soldier Nathan Cirillo who was standing guard at the nearby National War Memorial.
   Zehaf-Bibeau ran down a hallway shooting a rifle near rooms where Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Members of Parliament were in meetings.
   The gunman was shot and killed near the library by Kevin Vickers, the Commons’ Sergeant-at-Arms.
   Parliamentary security officers who work inside will be trained to carry firearms while armed Mounties continue to secure the grounds.
   The buildings will now be locked after business hours and enhanced security will be given as needed at politicians’ constituency offices.

   ---

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Canadian oil could be headed south via railway tankers if pipeline rejected



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 23/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   More Canadian oil will flow through the United States regardless of whether the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline is ever built, says TransCanada’s CEO.
   Russ Girling’s comments followed the U.S. Senate defeating by one vote efforts to move ahead with the $8-billion project.
   The expansion of TransCanada’s U.S. pipeline network would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day to the Gulf Coast from the Alberta oil sands and the Bakken region in the U.S. northwest.
   Regardless of the fate of the XL pipeline, TransCanada continues “active negotiations” about shipping crude oil by rail, Girling said.
   Pipelines are the safest and most efficient mode of transport but rail transport is flexible and much quicker to implement without “the same regulatory hurdles as building pipe does,” he added.
   Regulatory and environmental concerns have delayed for six years the Keystone XL project that would cut across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

   ---

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Budget surplus expected lower with tax cuts, benefits for families in Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 16/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Income tax cuts and higher child benefits for Canadian families will result in a smaller federal budget surplus next year than was previously predicted.
   Instead of a projected $6.4-billion surplus, the Conservative government now estimates it will be $1.9 billion.
   Finance Minister Joe Oliver said it is important the government is “providing families this financial relief” as costs continue to rise.
   He now expects a $2.9-billion shortfall this fiscal year but surpluses will then follow for at least five consecutive years.
   Heading into a federal election next year, the government will implement a promised income-splitting plan for families.
   This will allow parents to split up to $50,000 of income to reduce the household’s income tax bill by a maximum of $2,000 a year.
   There will also be an expanded benefit of $160 a month per child through five years of age, up from $100, and a new $60-a-month payment for children from six to 17, starting next year.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also hinted the government will increase the annual limit on tax-free savings accounts to $10,000 from $5,500.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bank governor says young people should volunteer to gain work experience



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 9/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank governor suggests that young people still living with their parents should get out and work for free to boost their job skills.
   Stephen Poloz of the Bank of Canada said young grads struggling to find work should acquire experience through unpaid internships or volunteering until the job market improves.
   A government report shows 200,000 young Canadians are out of work, underemployed or back in school trying to improve their job prospects.
   Poloz told a House of Commons committee that job growth has failed to keep up with the improving economy.
   “Our belief is, though, that over the next two years we will manage to close up that gap,” he said.
   Another concern is that recent graduates who have not been able to find work will have to compete for employment against new grads arriving after them.
   “I bet almost everyone in this room knows at least one family with adult children living in the basement,” Poloz said. “I'm pretty sure these kids have not taken early retirement.”

   ---

New Toronto mayor plans to unite city, restore reputation



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 2/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Toronto’s Mayor-elect John Tory said he wants to unite the city and restore its reputation after the turbulence of the Rob Ford years.
   “Torontonians want to see an end to the division that has paralyzed city hall for the past four years,” Tory said after he defeated Ford’s brother Doug in the municipal election.
   Rob Ford, who gained international notoriety after admitting to using crack cocaine and entering rehab for his addiction problems, dropped out of the mayoralty race after being diagnosed with cancer in September.
   His brother took his place on the ballot as Rob Ford ran for a council seat instead and was elected.
   The Ford bothers said they still have a presence at city hall and will prepare for a comeback in the next election while fighting for the “taxpayers.”
   Tory, 60, a business executive, broadcaster and fiscal conservative, said that along with reinstating stability at city hall, he wants to address the city’s infrastructure and public transit challenges.

   ---

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Terror rampages have changed life for Canadians



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 26/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Life as Canadians have known it has changed after a terrorist’s rampage in the nation’s capital and two soldiers being run down by a car in Quebec.
   Canada has prided itself as a haven of civility with its government buildings quite freely open along with easy access to politicians.
   Giving Prime Minister Stephen Harper around-the-clock Mountie protection and a major review of security on Parliament Hill are among the first measures.
   This follows a rampage Wednesday by Michael Zehaf Bibeau, 32, who killed a soldier at the National War Memorial and then ran through the halls of the Parliament building shooting a rifle, wounding three people.
   Harper has drawn a link between the gunman’s actions and international terrorism.
   “We live in a dangerous world – we will be prudent, we will not run scared,” he said.
   It is believed that Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers, 58, a former Mountie, shot and killed Bibeau.
   Martin Couture-Rouleau, called a radicalized Muslim, ran down two Canadian soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., on Monday killing one of them, before being killed by police.
   Politicians, police forces and intelligence officials are assessing security around the Parliament, at Armed Forces bases and across the country.

   ---

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fight against Ebola stepped up by Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 19/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is stepping up its measures in the fight against the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada has committed $35 million and is planning additional aid as the United Nations calls for more international help.
   So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has sent two mobile labs to Sierra Leone where Ebola has killed 4,500 people along with $2.5 million in personal protective equipment.
   One of the lab teams is working with Medecins Sans Frontieres to provide rapid diagnosis while the other is helping to improve infection prevention and control procedures.
   Canada has also offered to donate experimental vaccine, currently undergoing clinical trials, to the World Health Organization.
   Health Minister Rona Ambrose has assured front-line health workers in Canada that experts and epidemiologists are ready to provide immediate support, expertise, rapid diagnoses and emergency supplies if a threat emerges.
   Anyone arriving in Canada from an affected West African country is now being referred to a quarantine officer for a mandatory health assessment, she said.

   ---

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Canada pledges fighter jets to Middle East battle



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 12/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian fighter jets and surveillance planes are being prepared to head into battle against Middle East militants to assist with a U.S.-led coalition.
   Canada’s move – approved by the Conservative majority in the Commons – was praised by former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton who spoke to a gathering of 1,200 people in the capital, Ottawa.
   “I think military action is critical – in fact, I would say essential,” she said.
    To assist with the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Canada is pledging to commit the planes and support personnel initially for up to six months.
   The involvement by Canada faced opposition from the New Democrats and the Liberals.
   “Across the world, it isn't just Conservatives – it’s Liberals and social democrats that have understood that this is a threat that needs to be countered and needs to be countered in many ways, including militarily,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

   ---

Monday, October 6, 2014

Canada's politicians to vote on joining Middle East combat mission



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 5/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Liberal Party is opposing Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bid to join the combat mission in the Middle East.
   Harper’s proposal for a six-month air combat mission to fight Islamic jihadists is partly in response to a request by U.S. President Barack Obama for Canada to join the effort.
   In an usual move, Harper is putting the issue to a vote by members of the House of Commons on Monday.
   Insurgents known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria intend to “launch a terrorist jihad not merely against the region, but on a global basis,” Harper said.
   “Indeed, it has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians, urging supporters to attack 'disbelieving Canadians in any manner,'” he added.
   The plan calls for no Canadian ground troops but Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the party “cannot and will not support” going to war.
   Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party said he wants more information while he believes humanitarian aid and diplomatic measures should come before a military assault.

   ---

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Netflix refuses Canadian broadcast regulator's information demand



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 28/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Executive of Netflix, the U.S.-based online-video service, have refused to turn over corporate information to Canada’s broadcast regulator.
   As well, domestic satellite and cable companies are asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) not to leave them at a competitive disadvantage with services such as Netflix charging just $8.99 a month.
   The CRTC is taking a comprehensive review of how Canadian consumers should receive their TV programming and how they’ll pay for it in the future.
   Media giants Bell and Rogers say there needs to be regulatory reforms encouraging the production of more high-quality Canadian content.
   An issue is forcing TV service providers to offer their customers television channels on a pick-and-pay basis instead of the expense of current bundles that include channels not as popular or lucrative.
   The CRTC is also asking Canadians to consider whether it should cap the cost of basic service at between $20 and $30 a month.
   Netflix and other video services have rejected proposals that would regulate them and force them to pay to prop up Canadian TV production.

   ---

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Suspended Sentor Mike Duffy wants speedy fraud trial; plans to "tell all"



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 21/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Disgraced Senator Mike Duffy said he plans to tell all at his upcoming fraud trial that could include calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper to testify.
   Still unknown is whether Harper knew about a secret $90,000 payment made by his former chief of staff Nigel Wright to cover Duffy’s contested expenses.
   The Mounties arrested Duffy, 68, who had been suspended from the Senate, on 31 counts including fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
    His lawyer, Donald Bayne, will ask a judge to waive a preliminary hearing and proceed straight to trial.
   “This will be his first opportunity for a complete airing of all the evidence before an impartial tribunal and his opportunity to clear his name to show that he’s guilty of no wrongdoing,” Bayne said.
   Mentioning the former TV news broadcaster’s poor health after two heart surgeries, Bayne said he wants an early trial – before the federal election in October of next year.

   ---

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bank more upbeat about Canadian economic recovery; interest rates unchanged


   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 7/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank expressed a slightly more upbeat view of the economy as it kept interest rates steady.
   As the key interest rate stayed at 1 percent – where it has been for 4 years – the Bank of Canada suggested the target date for the economy to return to full capacity is still within the next two years.
   “Overall, the risks to the outlook for inflation remain roughly balanced, while the risks associated with household (debt) imbalances have not diminished,” the bank said.
   The economy is performing largely as expected, inflation continues around two percent and activity in the housing market is stronger, the bank report said.
   It noted the United States economy continues regaining strength with stronger business investment while Europe’s recovery seems to be “faltering.”
   The bank said “an increasing number” of export sectors appear to be “turning the corner” toward recovery.
   “This pickup will need to be sustained before it will translate into higher business investment and hiring (in Canada),” it added.
   The next announcement on interest rates will be Oct. 22 when the bank will give an update on its monetary policy.

   ---

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trudeau home break-in intruder not arrested: a drunken mistake, police say



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 31/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   An intruder who broke into Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s Ottawa home while his family was asleep won’t face criminal charges.
   Police have determined the 19-year-old man entered the wrong house while intoxicated.
   The man went to the police after seeing video surveillance of him in Trudeau’s Rockcliffe Park neighborhood, police Staff Sergeant Kal Ghadban said.
   The intruder placed several kitchen knives on the floor pointing to a note he wrote telling them to lock their doors.
   “In his mind, he was leaving a note of apology and remorse,” Ghadban said.
   The unidentified man who has no criminal record was “formally cautioned” by police.
   The incident led to a review of security for Canada’s political leaders.
   Security protection is given to the prime minister and governor general but not to other party leaders, except during election campaigns.

   ---

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Security for Canada's political leaders under review



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 24/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Security for Canada’s political leaders is being reviewed after a break-in at the Ottawa home of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
   At the time, Trudeau was in Winnipeg and his wife and their three children were asleep upstairs at home.
   The Mounties are conducting a “risk assessment” to determine whether Trudeau needs a security detail as a result of the incident.
   The intruder left a threatening letter atop several large kitchen knives and other items taken outside advising them to consider locking their doors.
   “Honestly, we're a little bit shaken,” Trudeau said of the incident, calling it a “wake-up call for us or at least a highlighting of some of the real challenges that we face.”
   Security protection is given only to the prime minister and governor general and not to any of the other federal party leaders, except during election campaigns.
   Party leaders, cabinet ministers, members of Parliament and federal justices can be provided with police security if the public safety minister determines there is a danger.
   Former prime ministers are not given security protection as incidents involving federal politicians are rare in Canada.

   ---

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stats Canada recounts and finds 42,000 jobs created last month



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 17/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The numbers just didn’t add up in the recent Statistics Canada jobs report and that resulted in a temporary halt in processing new employment insurance claims.
   The government agency scrambled to fix the mistake in its July Labor Force Survey issued on Aug. 8 that said only 200 jobs were created last month.
   In fact, the corrected numbers released on Friday showed the economy actually gained almost 42,000 jobs in July, not the 60,000 losses originally reported.
   Statistics Canada said the problem was due to a human error in updating the computer programs used for its survey.
   The Conservative government had put all new Employment Insurance claims on hold until the agency fixed the problem.
   That’s because the monthly jobs’ numbers determine regional unemployment rates that impact the number of weeks an unemployed person needs to have worked in order to qualify for benefits.
   There was no change in Canada’s jobless rate of 7.0 percent in July, down a tenth of a point from the previous month.

   ---

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ontario wants to bring wounded children to Canada for hospital care



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 10/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Ontario has offered to provide free hospital treatment in Canada to children injured in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting as a humanitarian gesture.
   Five hospitals, including Toronto’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children, have agreed to treat the children, with some medical staff members offering to work at no charge.
   “It’s one of those rare instances where we can make a modest but important difference,” said Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, one of the founders of the group War Child Canada.
   Ontario would take the most serious cases from both Gaza and Israel if the children cannot receive treatment at home and would be able to make the journey to Canada.
   Details about arranging transportation for the children and one or more of their family members and entry into Canada are being sorted out while Israeli and Palestinian authorities have indicated they’re willing to co-operate.
   The idea began with a plea from Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in the 2009 Gaza conflict. He is now a professor at the University of Toronto.

   ---

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Canada's leader continues with tough stance against world terrorism



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 3/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues with his hard line against terrorists even as the United States and United Nations condemned the violence in the Middle East.
   “Obviously no one likes to see the suffering and loss of life that has occurred,” Harper said, referring to the deaths in Gaza in fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.
   Harper believes Israel is justified in its actions and said Canada would do the same to fight back against terrorism.
   “We hold the terrorist organization Hamas responsible for this – they have initiated and continue this conflict and continue to seek the destruction of the state of Israel,” he said.
   As well, Russia was involved in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with the loss of 298 lives, Harper said.
    “There is zero doubt that those people who are responsible for violence and destabilization in Ukraine are acting as agents of the government of Russia.”
   Harper also blamed China for a recent cyberattack on the National Research Council of Canada’s computers that was denied by the Chinese government.

   ---

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Freedom '58' for most Canadians



   Canada column for Sunday, July 27/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are working towards being mortgage-free by age 58, a national survey has found.
   The poll conducted for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce by Angus Reid put the age one year later than in a similar survey a year ago.
   Across the country, there are some variations as homeowners in British Columbia – with the highest real estate prices in Canada – expecting to pay off their mortgages at age 66.
   Neighboring Albertans said they should be mortgage-free at 55 while it is 56 in Quebec, 57 in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and 58 years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
   Helping become debt free were 55 percent saying they are taking advantage of low interest rates to pay down their mortgages quicker.
   The bank said small efforts can add up to big savings such as making payments more often, increasing the amount paid and lump-sum payments.

   ---

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Suspended senator faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery



   Canada column for Sunday, July 20/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Suspended Senator Mike Duffy is facing 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with the so-called “expenses scandal.”
   The former television news broadcaster was appointed to Canada’s upper chamber by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009.
   His arrest involves claims for housing expenses, travel costs not associated with the Senate business and fraudulent contracts, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said.
   The investigation concerns more than $200,000 in expenses claimed by Duffy, 68, he added.
   Duffy was suspended from the Senate last November along with Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin over expense claims.
   Former Senator Mac Harb resigned last August after paying back $231,000 for ineligible housing and travel expenses.
   Police earlier proceeded with fraud and breach-of-trust charges against Brazeau and Harb while they continue to investigate Wallin’s expenses.

   ---

Friday, July 18, 2014

Maritime provinces cleaning up after remnants of Hurricane Arthur



   Canada column for Sunday, July 13/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Power is gradually being restored across Canada’s Maritime provinces after a hit last weekend by the remnants of Hurricane Arthur.
   The storm cut electricity to more than 250,000 residences and businesses, with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia receiving the most damage.
   There are more than 1,000 power workers repairing blown-down lines and cutting away broken trees and limbs brought down by the storm.
   In New Brunswick, the hardest-hit areas were around Fredericton and in the southwestern part of the province, with thousands of felled trees and downed power poles.
   About 80 percent of the service has been restored with work continuing over the weekend, said Meghan Gerrish of New Brunswick Power.
   The provincial government opened 33 reception centers assist those without electricity as the Emergency Measure's office said Arthur was so powerful it pulled down trees that would have withstood a typical storm.
   Bob Hanf, president of Nova Scotia Power, said damage was as severe as that done by Hurricane Juan in 2003.

   ---

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Traveling Canadians to be monitored more by the authorities



   Canada column for Sunday, June 29/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The cross-border travels of Canadians will come under additional scrutiny beginning Monday.
   It’s part of an expanded security plan by the Canada Border Services Agency to include information-sharing on all travelers.
   The tracking system involves exchanging entry information collected at the Canada-U.S. land borders so that data on entry to one country would serve as a record of exit from the other.
   This will allow the Canadian government to use the data for such things as catching unemployment insurance cheats to ensuring people ineligible to stay in Canada have left the country.
   Canada also wants to begin collecting information on people leaving by air, which is already done by the United States, by requiring airlines to submit passenger manifest data for outbound international flights.
   The first two phases of the program were limited to foreign nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the U.S., but not citizens of either country.
   The entry-exit initiative is a key element of the perimeter security deal intended to help ease the passage of travelers and cargo across the Canada-U.S. border while bolstering continental security.

   ---

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ontario's Liberals re-elected to form a majority government



   Canada column for Sunday, June 15/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Ontario Liberal government – despite a recent history of scandals including one that is said to have cost taxpayers $1 billion – has decisively won re-election.
    Voters gave the government of Premier Kathleen Wynne another chance, endorsing her spending plans as opposed to the Conservatives’ get-tough austerity proposals.
   Wynne, the province’s first lesbian premier, was able to put behind her the setbacks of her controversy-plagued predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, since she was appointed his successor last year.
   The unexpected majority win gave the Liberals their fourth straight mandate after a campaign that had the Conservatives and New Democrats accusing the government of corruption and incompetence.
   Labor unions turned against the Conservatives after leader Tim Hudak vowed to eliminate 100,000 government jobs and impose wage freezes to reduce the deficit.
   Hudak resigned as leader when his Conservatives only had 27 members elected while the Liberals had 59 and the New Democrats 21.
   Wynne had to defend the Liberals for the cancelation of two gas plants under construction at an estimated cost to the public of $1.1 billion in order to win the last election.

   ---

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gun-rights obsessed man arrested for killing three Mounties in Moncton, N.B.



   Canada column for Sunday, June 8/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A young man said to be obsessed with gun rights, global conflicts and anger for the police was arrested for killing three Mounties and wounding two others in Moncton.
   Justin Bourque, 24, was captured by heavily armed police in the backyard of a home in the New Brunswick city of 70,000 residents.
   It ended a 30-hour manhunt by 300 officers for the man described by friends as an intelligent, laid back, home-schooled guitar enthusiast.
   The officers were shot Wednesday night as they answered a call about a man dressed in army fatigues walking along a street carrying two high-powered rifles.
   He fled into the woods and eluded capture as the police asked residents to stay in their homes while schools and businesses were closed for the day.
   Bourque was unarmed when he surrendered saying, “I’m done,” but weapons were found nearby.
   The slain officers were Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, Douglas Larche, 40, and David Ross, 33. Wounded were Constables Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois.

   ---

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Canada's economy slows during harsh winter



   Canada column for Sunday, June 1/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Bullish predictions about Canada’s economic recovery were dimmed somewhat after a tough winter that slowed spending.
   The economy surprised the experts as it dipped to 1.2-percent growth in the first three months of the year, the slowest pace since the fourth quarter of 2012.
   The output slowed in numerous key sectors and was partially blamed on the harsh winter weather – a similar situation as in the United States where the economy contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter.
   Economists had predicted Canada’s growth at 1.8 percent while the Bank of Canada had expected 1.5 percent.
   Central bank governor Stephen Poloz had called on business owners to make new investments and improve productivity to push the economy into the next phase of the recovery.
  Instead, investment in machinery and equipment fell by 1.5 percent, spending on computers was down 4.1 percent and exports fell 0.8 percent.
   The report is expected to be another factor for the bank to keep the key interest rate and borrowing costs low.

   ---

Sunday, May 25, 2014

TransCanada plans to ship oil by rail to the U.S. until pipeline is approved



   Canada column for Sunday, May 25/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   TransCanada Corp. is determined to get its crude oil to the U.S. – even by rail for now – after another regulatory delay of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.
   Company president Russ Girling expressed his frustration to policy-makers in New York and Washington after learning that the ongoing Nebraska court dispute over the pipeline route has caused the presidential approval process to be delayed indefinitely.
   TransCanada will take interim measures to ship its oil “between now and when we can build a pipeline,” he said.
   His main message in the U.S. was that TransCanada will proceed with shipping oil by rail instead of by pipeline to refineries in the southern United States.
   The company already has oil-storage facilities in Hardisty, Alberta and Cushing, Okla., and is considering building new storage space in Steele City, Neb.
   It’s not a cleaner or safer option but would move the oil to XL’s already completed southern portion, Girling said.
   The initial objective is to ship up to half of the 830,000 barrels a day the pipeline is designed to carry.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Three ex-railway workers arrested in Quebec oil-tank train disaster



   Canada column for Sunday, May 18/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Three former employees of the insolvent Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway have been arrested on 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death after last summer’s deadly derailment in Quebec.
   The arrests concern an oil-tanker train derailment that killed 47 people and destroyed downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
   Engineer Thomas Harding, Jean Demaitre, manager of train operations, and Richard Labrie, railway traffic controller, were released from custody on $15,000 bail each.
   The unattended train parked for the night rolled back into the town with 60 tank cars derailing and several exploding.
    It had been carrying millions of gallons of crude oil en route to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick from the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota.
   Central Maine and Quebec Railway, the company buying the assets of the insolvent railway, is planning to resume the shipment of nonhazardous goods soon, said John Giles, president and CEO.
   The company wants to ship oil after track safety improvements are made, he added.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Pro-choice candidates are only welcome to run for federal Liberals in Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, May 11/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Anyone who isn’t pro-choice is not welcome to run for the federal Liberal party in the 2015 election, says leader Justin Trudeau.
   The bombshell announcement to bar candidates who don’t support a woman's right to choose to have an abortion could dash the comeback hopes of several previously defeated Liberals.
   The only exception is for incumbent Members of Parliament even those sharing the belief that abortion is morally wrong.
   Trudeau, who said the party has been pro-choice since 2012, does not believe a government should regulate what happens with a woman and her body.
   “I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills,” Trudeau said.
   Canada’s Supreme Court struck down the country’s abortion law as unconstitutional in 1988.
   Two topless women disrupted an anti-abortion rally Thursday by thousands of people on Parliament Hill when they rushed the stage shouting “my body, my rules.”
   In another controversial stand, Trudeau earlier called for the decriminalization of marijuana.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

European leaders eye Canada's oil and gas reserves as U.S. pipeline plan approval stalls



   Canada column for Sunday, April 27/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Tapping into Canada’s vast oil and gas reserves has become an attractive proposition for European leaders as a decision on a proposed pipeline to ship crude to U.S. refineries remains stalled.
   Marcin Bosacki, Poland's ambassador to Canada, said his country is in favor of importing Canadian oil and gas, given the turmoil with the Russian invasion of Crimea.
   “We are absolutely in favor of increasing the abilities of western Canada oil and gas to be exported to Europe,” he told Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird who is visiting the country.
   Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said the European Union should become less dependent on Russian energy sources.
   “The crisis in Eastern Europe underlines the importance of moving ahead responsibly on the export of our oil and natural gas,” Baird’s press secretary Adam Hodge said.
   “Canada is one of the only countries with substantial energy reserves that offers an open and transparent market and the backing of a stable democracy that respects the rule of law,” he said.
   Meanwhile, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the U.S. administration’s further indefinite delay of the proposed $5.4-billion oil pipeline to tap into Canada’s crude oil hurts employment and energy security on both sides of the border.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Further interest-rate cuts possible: Bank of Canada governor says



   Canada column for Sunday, April 20/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Bank of Canada’s governor said a further interest-rate reduction is possible as he pared back the country’s first-quarter economic growth estimate.
   “We are neutral – that means a rate cut cannot be taken off the table at this stage,” Stephen Poloz said.
   His comments came as the central bank kept its trendsetting interest rate at 1 percent, where it has been since September 2010.
   Economic growth will slip to 1.5 percent, down one percent, for the first quarter largely because severe winter weather kept shoppers home. Full-year economic growth was revised to 2.3 percent, down 0.2 percent.
   The somewhat negative comments caused the dollar to fall, giving another boost to the economy by making Canadian goods less expensive in the U.S. and abroad.
   Exports could be harmed, however, due to the Russian situation with Ukraine, Poloz said.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Tributes on the death of Jim Flaherty, former finance minister



   Canada column for Sunday, April 13/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Tributes are pouring in from around the world after the sudden death of former Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty.
   Flaherty, who was 64, died at his Ottawa condominium Thursday of a heart attack just three weeks after he resigned from his cabinet position.
   Known for his “Irish wit” and friendliness, he continued as a Member of Parliament while preparing to take some time off and find a job outside of government.
   His family had urged him to take a break from his hectic lifestyle and to help restore his health.
   Flaherty had been battling a painful skin condition, bullous pemphigoid that required him to take a steroid medication resulting in weight gain and fatigue.
   Credited with leading Canada relatively unscathed through one of its worst economic times, he had set the stage for a return of a budget surplus in the next year.
   He was married to Christine Elliott, deputy leader of the Ontario Conservatives, and they have triplet sons John, Galen and Quinn.
   The G20 finance ministers and central bankers noted his “refreshing honesty and good humor.”
   “His hard work and leadership were instrumental in helping to shape the recovery and in charting Canada’s path back to surplus,” the group said in a statement.
   Calling it a “very sad day,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the death is “an unexpected and terrible shock.”

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Letter mailing cost soars as post office says it's a "case of necessity"



   Canada column for Sunday, April 6/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The cost of mailing a letter within Canada has jumped by 35 percent – to 85 cents from 63 cents.
   The new rate is part of a “tiered-pricing structure” implemented by Canada Post, with a single stamp costing $1, or 85 cents if bought in booklets of 10.
   Mailing a letter to the United States from Canada now costs $1.20, up from $1.10, and internationally it is $2.50, up from $1.85.
   Canada Post said the higher prices “better reflect the cost of serving various customer segments as bulk mailers and businesses pay less.
   Calling it a “difficult decision, but also a case of necessity,” Canada Post said it has a mandate to “fund its operations with revenues from the sales of its products and services.”
   It’s part of an “overall plan to save postal services” and includes ending door-to-door delivery to urban addresses within five years, as announced earlier.
   Mail will be delivered to neighborhood group boxes for pickup with many now in new subdivisions.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Report says Canadian customs agents often overlook charging duties and taxes at the U.S. border



   Canada column for Sunday, March 30/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian retailers are concerned that customs agents routinely waive taxes and duties on goods brought back from the United States.
   A briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada Border Services Agency officers waive fees when the value of returning goods is “below a certain threshold” not noted in the released document.
   “This threshold was established in consideration of the cost to CBSA of processing a traveler through the collection process,” it said.
   “Collections may also be waived in cases where the volume would result in unacceptable border processing delays, when interdiction activities are under way or for reasons determined by local management.”
   The government document was in response to the Harper government’s concern over the Canada-U.S. price-gap that helps to encourage cross-border shopping
   The Retail Council of Canada has complained the border agency is too lenient with cross-border shoppers, costing the economy millions of dollars in domestic sales.
   More than 55-million trips are made by Canadians to the United States annually with 33- million same-day crossings mainly to shop, with collected taxes and duties of about $150 million.
   Canadians have no duty-free exemption on same-day trips but can bring back up to $200 in goods after 24 hours and $800 after 48 hours away.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Canada's finance minister resigns after presenting almost balanced budget



   Canada column for Sunday, March 23/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Jim Flaherty, who has led Canada through one of its worst economic times as finance minister, has resigned.
   The surprise announcement by Flaherty, 64, comes a month after he presented an anticipated balanced budget for this fiscal year.
   “As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said.
   After eight years in the key position, Flaherty said he is preparing to return to a private-sector job but remains for now as a Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario.
   He said the resignation had nothing to do with recent health issues – a rare skin condition treated with medication that led to weight gain and fatigue.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Flaherty has “exemplified the best qualities of those who enter public life: a true commitment to service and a sincere desire to leave the country in better shape than it was when he entered politics.”
   Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was named to succeed Flaherty while Greg Rickford takes over Oliver’s post.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quebec would welcome visitors, use Canadian currency in separation



   Canada column for Sunday, March 16/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians would be welcome to visit an independent Quebec and the province would continue to use Canada’s currency should it someday separate.
   So says Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, who is seeking a majority government in the April 7 provincial election.
   While not confirming her separatist party will seek a third vote on sovereignty for the mainly French-speaking province, Marois has engaged in “what-if” conversations.
   It would be of benefit to Canada to keep the currency, Marois suggested, as there are “eight million people living here in Quebec and we have an economy that is a rich one.”
   On ways of boosting tourism to an independent Quebec, she said there will be no borders or tolls, without elaborating.
   Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said the “mechanics of a referendum are already underway – it’s all planned,” and such rhetoric only serves to “hurt the province.”
   The Parti Quebecois got a big boost when Quebecor media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau said he would be a candidate in Saint-Jerome.
   Le Journal de Montreal newspaper said Peladeau delivers instant credibility to the pro-independence Parti Quebecois.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quebec election could trigger another independence vote -- or not



   Canada column for Sunday, March 9/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Quebecers might again have an opportunity to vote for the independence from Canada of the mainly French-speaking province.
   Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said an independence referendum is possible should her separatist party form a majority government in the April 7 provincial election.
   In two previous referendums, Quebecers rejected independence in 1980 and narrowly in 1995.
   “There is no promise to hold a referendum and there is no promise not to,” she said.
   Marois was criticized for her go-slow approach and avoiding the sovereignty debate in the 2012 election campaign in which she focused on corruption, language and identity politics.
   “When we decide to hold a referendum, there will be discussions with Quebecers,” Marois said. “Nobody will be taken by surprise.”
   Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said “nobody wants to talk about that (a referendum) right now.”
   Coalition Leader Francois Legault has accused Marois of running her campaign on the Parti Quebecois’ controversial secularism charter instead of the economy.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Toronto's mayor feuds with police chief over surveillance



   Canada column for Sunday, March 2/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Arrest me,” embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says in a challenge to Police Chief Bill Blair.
   Ford – who had made international headlines for his admitted “drunken” outbursts and for using crack cocaine – refuses to apologize for a profane rant against Blair, caught on video, in a restaurant last month.
   The latest feud started after the chief said publicly that he was “deeply offended” by Ford’s remarks and actions.
   Ford challenged Blair to disclose the cost of an extensive investigation after a video emerged appearing to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
   “Why won't he come clean and tell the taxpayers how much money has he spent on surveilling me and obviously coming up with nothing – just with me urinating in a parking lot and coming up with an empty vodka bottle?" Ford said.
   The investigation resulted in Ford’s friend Alexander Lisi being arrested for drug offenses and extortion concerned the crack video.
   Former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory, who has entered the race to succeed Ford in October’s election, called the mayor’s comments a “disgrace” and that “Torontonians deserve better.”

   ---

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Postal delivery to the door to end for 100,000 addresses across Canada this year



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 23/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Door-to-door mail delivery will end this year in 11 cities including neighborhoods in Oakville, Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax and Repentigny, Quebec.
   Canada Post announced the centers where people will have their mail delivered instead to community boxes this fall in a cost-cutting move.
   It’s the first phase of the postal service’s five-year changeover and will affect about 100,000 addresses.
   Canada Post said the changes are necessary with costs rising and mail volumes dropping and since just one-third of Canadian are still getting five-day-a-week home delivery.
   The initial neighborhoods affected are in areas that have nearby community mail boxes and the infrastructure is already in place, the post office said.
   In the larger cities, mail will continue to be delivered to businesses while in smaller cities, most households and a larger number of businesses will switch to group boxes.
   Also affected by the change this year will be Fort McMurray, Alberta; Kanata, Ontario; Bois-des-Filion, Charlemagne, Lorraine and Rosemere, all in Quebec.

   ---

   Prime Minister Stephen Harper still doesn’t have an answer from U.S. President Barack Obama whether he will approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
   When asked about the fate of the project to ship Canadian oilsands crude to the U.S. by pipeline, Obama instead called on Harper to work with him to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
   “I said previously that how Keystone impacted greenhouse gas emissions would affect our decision,” Obama said at the “Three Amigos” summit in Mexico.
   There is a “shared concern” about climate change, Harper said, noting a recent U.S. State Department report gave the Alberta oilsands a good grade on environmental impact.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Canadian government to tackle "cross-border" price discrimination



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 16/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Conservative government plans to crack down on “unjustified cross-border (Canada-U.S.) price discrimination” that results in Canadians paying more for goods.
   The federal budget outlined legislation to end “country pricing” where multinational companies set higher prices for goods in Canada than those charged in the United States.
   Canadians have grown accustomed to paying higher prices for everything from books, clothing and appliances to tires and auto parts.
   Legislation will address the price gap and empower the country's competition commissioner to enforce the new rules, said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
   The government has been under pressure from consumers to do something about the long-standing price discrimination.
   “There are some companies that look at Canada as a small market, relatively well off, with a large middle class and willing to pay a little more," he said.
   A Senate finance committee report said there are several “complex factors” behind the price differences.
   These include higher transportation costs across the vast country, the need for English and French wording on items, more onerous packaging requirements, provincial regulatory requirements, a smaller consumer market and tariffs.

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