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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.


   Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is back in the news in a negative way after a video emerged of him in a rambling, profane rant in a restaurant last Monday night.
   Ford, who admitted he had been drinking “on his own time,” was shown criticizing Police Chief Bill Blair in a largely incoherent rant using Jamaican swear words.
   The mayor said in November he had quit drinking after admitting to smoking crack cocaine in one of his “drunken stupors.”
   After the revelations and refusing to resign, city council stripped Ford of most of his powers and staff.


   News in brief:
   - The death toll of five is expected to climb as 30 people are missing after Residence du Havre, a seniors’ home in the eastern Quebec town of L'Isle-Verte, burned to the ground. Investigators said the home only had a partial sprinkler system. The building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived early Friday and they were hampered by severe cold weather and ice.
   - On his first visit to Jordan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed another $100 million to help the country deal with an influx of Syrian refugees. Canada earlier committed $110 million and $47.7 million for security-related assistance. While in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Harper for cutting diplomatic ties with Iran.
   - First it was home telephones to go in favor of cellphones, now a survey says one Canadian in seven plans to drop cable or satellite TV service in the next year. The Media Technology Monitor survey found they will opt for free over-the-air signals, web-based feeds or cheaper alternatives such at Netflix.


   Facts and figures:
   News of the low Canadian inflation rate in December of 1.2 percent helped support the dollar as it rose to 90.29 cents U.S. on Friday. The U.S. dollar returned $1.1075 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   Even with the recent fall of the dollar, the currency remains strong, the Bank of Canada said as it kept its key interest rate at 1 percent. The prime-lending rate remains at 3 percent.
   Stock markets were lower on Friday, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,730 points and the TSX Venture index 966 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Jan. 22) 4, 16, 18, 25, 36 and 40; bonus 11. (Jan. 18) 2, 15, 33, 36, 42 and 49; bonus 13. Lotto Max: (Jan. 17) 4, 9, 18, 32, 35, 38 and 40; bonus 12.


   Regional briefs:
   - Kathy Dunderdale, who was widely criticized about her leadership, is resigning as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as leader of the Conservative party. Two members of her caucus defected to the Opposition Liberals and she was especially criticized over rolling power outages that left 190,000 customers without electricity earlier this month. Finance Minister Tom Marshall has been named interim premier.
   - Brutally cold weather has returned to eastern Canada with wind chill warnings and record-breaking temperatures, all blamed on a “polar vortex.” Temperatures of below 0F at night and in the single digits by day were widespread in Ontario and Quebec with blowing snow. A storm dumped up to 20 inches of snow across the Maritimes while out west, Vancouver and Calgary were 48F on Friday and Winnipeg was 30F.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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