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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

   (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.


   Fallout from a spending scandal has led Alberta Premier Alison Redford to resign effective today (Sunday).
   There has been continued unrest in her Conservative party over what was called lavish spending and her leadership style.
   She recently repaid $45,000 for a trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral and was accused of using government planes for a vacation and flying her daughter and her friends around.
   Len Webber quit the Conservative caucus recently to become an Independent member, saying that Redford wasn’t a “nice lady.”
   In resigning, Redford acknowledged “party and caucus infighting,” adding: “I've given my heart and soul to this province, every minute for the last two and a half years.”


    News in brief:
   - Prime Minister Harper’s appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada has been rejected. The high court ruled that the semi-retired Federal Court of Appeal judge doesn’t meet the requirements for the jurists appointed from Quebec. It also ruled that Parliament cannot unilaterally change the composition of the court.
   - BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, has reached an agreement to sell most of its Canadian real estate holdings as it cuts spending further and continues to eliminate jobs. The smartphone company is selling more than three million square feet of space and vacant land and will lease back a portion of the properties. It laid off another 120 workers in Waterloo and 90 in Ottawa in the past week.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 89.16 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1214 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,351 points and the TSX Venture index 1,036 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline across Canada is down at $1.3199 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (March 19) 13, 24, 28, 34, 45 and 49; bonus 21. (March 15) 2, 7, 11, 16, 47 and 48; bonus 20. Lotto Max: (March 14) 3, 4, 5, 7, 31, 33 and 40; bonus 49.


   Regional briefs:
   - A poll shows Quebec Liberals with a five-point lead over the independence-seeking Parti Quebecois for the April 7 provincial election. The CTV News/Ipsos Reid poll also found Quebeckers rejecting independence, with just 27 percent in favor of sovereignty. The Liberals were supported by 37 percent of voters while the Parti Quebecois had 32 percent, the Coalition Avenir Quebec at 16 and Quebec Solidaire 10 percent.
   - Premier Brad Wall says the Saskatchewan government is considering banning Russian vodka in its liquor stores over actions in Ukraine. Wall said there are also trade issues to be considered since manufacturers in the province sell rail equipment in Russia. About 13 percent of Saskatchewan’s population has Ukrainian roots.
   - Spring weather can’t come soon enough for Janice Gould and Rick Cooper whose house in Port au Choix, Newfoundland has been repeatedly buried by snow. Only the peak of the roof has been visible after numerous storms. After tunneling in and out of the house, the couple is looking for some “government help” to remove the snow.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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