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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Canada's dollar lagging below 90 cents U.S.

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 26/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s slumping dollar – dipping to a six-year low of 89.5 U.S. cents – is making it more expensive to travel to warm-weather destinations.
   Several travel tour operators are immediately implementing a “currency surcharge” on vacation packages.
   Air Canada Vacations and Transat A.T. will add a $35 fee Monday to offset the decline of the dollar to destinations including Florida, California, the Caribbean and Mexico.
   Sunwing’s similar surcharge takes effect Thursday on flights and package vacations.
   The intent of the surcharge is to recover some of the added costs for fuel and hotels charged in U.S. dollars.
   Transat chief executive Jean-Marc Eustache said he didn’t expect the small amount would deter travel to sunny destinations.
   Sunwing passengers who booked before the surcharge begins are not affected while WestJet Vacations said it wasn’t planning to add a surcharge at all.
   Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said it’s not all bad news as a weaker currency spurs economic growth by boosting exports to help eliminate the government’s spending deficit.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Petition calls on Canada Post not to end door-to-door mail delivery

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 19/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   A petition calling on Canada Post to reconsider its plan to end door-to-door mail delivery in urban centers has so far received about 130,000 signatures.
   Susan Dixon of Cambridge, Ontario started the online petition (www.change.org) saying that it will create a hardship for many people including those with limited mobility and the elderly.
  She has two sons, one with cerebral palsy who uses a walker or wheelchair to get around.
   “Canada Post’s decision would mean having to bundle them up and struggle through the snow with a wheelchair just to get our mail,” she said.
   In a cost-cutting move, the postal service plans to phase out delivery to the door in cities and towns and switch to group mail boxes that are now in use in many newer subdivisions.
   The post office projects an annual loss of $1 billion a year by 2020 if it continues without changes that include an increase in the price of stamps.
   “We know we need to be sensitive and understanding in our approach to changes . . . but the status quo is not going to change,” said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Toronto mayor's popularity soars; would defeat all challengers, poll says

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 12/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Celebrated Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s popularity has spiked in opinion polls after his tireless response to the ice-storm crisis.
   Forty-seven percent of Torontonians surveyed by Forum Research Inc. approve of Ford’s work as mayor, up from 42 percent in December.
   Even more telling is that 41 percent said they will vote to re-elect him as mayor in October, easily defeating all of the expected opponents for the job.
   The massive ice storm that left more than 300,000 customers without power, some for up to eight days over the holidays, saw Ford on the front lines daily.
   “People saw him taking charge and will remember it,” said Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff.
   Ford was stripped of most of his powers by city council after he admitted to buying and smoking crack cocaine.
   Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who was put in charge, had to apologize after it was reported that he left the city at the height of the crisis to spend Christmas in Florida with relatives.
   The city is asking for provincial and federal government disaster assistance as costs from the storm and cleanup are estimated at $106 million.


   Canada’s dollar is under pressure against a stronger U.S. currency that could result in a higher price to get away or shop in the U.S.
   Economists suggest the dollar could drop to 90 cents U.S. after being equal to the U.S. currency last year.
   The dollar dropped below 92 cents U.S. Friday after jobless numbers rose and the trade deficit worsened slightly.
   With it costing about $1.12 Canadian with bank fees for each U.S. greenback, there has been little or no effect on trips to the sunny south, said David McCaig, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.
   “It's cold enough in Canada that everyone wants to get away,” he added, noting: “Most Canadians feel they have the right to have a holiday and they're going to take it.”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ice-storm cleanup in Toronto could cost $75 million; food cards given to the needy who lost power

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 5/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The cost of the ice-storm cleanup in Toronto could reach $75 million after 300,000 customers lost power – some up to nine days.
   City officials estimated that amount for work that could take eight weeks to remove the thousands of trees and limbs that fell during the storm.
   Hundreds of people lined up to get grocery gift cards of $100 for a family and $50 for a single person.
   The cards were provided by the Ontario government and retailers to help low-income residents replace food spoiled during the power outage.
   Electricity was restored to all by mid-week just before much of Eastern Canada went into another deep freeze with Arctic air plunging temperatures to below 0F.
   The same storm that hit the northeastern U.S. hard brought blizzards to Nova Scotia and severe wind chill temperatures across Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
   There was up to eight inches of snow in southern Ontario’s Niagara region and combined with the freezing temperatures led to numerous multi-vehicle crashes.
   The Prairies also set cold records, with temperatures around -20F in Regina and Winnipeg, while out west Calgary and Vancouver had above-freezing temperatures.