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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quebec would welcome visitors, use Canadian currency in separation

   Canada column for Sunday, March 16/14

   (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.


   The harsh winter that continues giving is leading to much-higher heating costs in central Canada.
   Enbridge is seeking approval for a nearly 40-percent hike in the natural gas rates it charges – up an average of $400, plus tax, for a “typical” $1,000 annual bill.
   If approved by the Ontario Energy Board, the rate increase would take effect April 1.
   Union Gas is seeking an increase on average of about $200 annually in Ontario and other gas utilities are expected to seek approval for higher prices.
   Homeowners heating with propane in eastern Ontario and western Quebec had prices nearly double this year.


    News in brief:
   - After a loss of the lives of 158 soldiers, a diplomat, journalist and two civilian contractors, Canada has officially ended its 12-year military tour of duty in Afghanistan. Canadian commandos hunting al-Qaida were the first troops dispatched, followed by 40,000 more. Canada’s new focus is to help rebuild the nation’s economy, especially in resources.
   - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just back from signing a free-trade deal in South Korea, said a strike by truck drivers at container terminals in the Vancouver region is a threat to Canada’s economy. Hundreds of unionized truckers parked their rigs to back demands for higher pay and were joined by about 1,000 non-unionized truckers who left their jobs last month. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark called on Harper to move quickly to end the strike but he said it was a provincial government matter.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 90.11 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1096 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 mixed, with the Toronto exchange index lower at 14,222 points and the TSX Venture index up at 1,034 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline across Canada is down at $1.3212 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (March 12) 6, 12, 14, 17, 30 and 49; bonus 16. (March 8) 11, 16, 18, 33, 34 and 35; bonus 28. Lotto Max: (March 7) 1, 6, 7, 16, 22, 31 and 33; bonus 25.


   Regional briefs:
   - Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she has repaid $45,000 for her trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The controversy over what opposition politicians said was an excessive amount, resulted in “revelations” of abuses of the use of government airplanes. Redford also repaid $3,100 for using the planes to fly her daughter’s friends, including home from a vacation in Palm Springs.
   - Saying that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is “no role model for my granddaughters,” veteran left-wing politician Olivia Chow entered the race for mayor. Chow, the widow of the late New Democrat leader Jack Layton, has quit her job as a Toronto Member of Parliament to run in the Oct. 27 election.
   - The Canadian Coast Guard said ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canada are the worst in decades. Icebreakers are confronting 10 percent more ice than the 30-year average and the guard is asking merchant ship captains to plan their voyages well in advance.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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