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Monday, March 3, 2014

Toronto's mayor feuds with police chief over surveillance

   Canada column for Sunday, March 2/14

   (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.”


   Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has apologized to Ukrainian officials for a flippant joke.
   Trudeau said he told Paul Grod, head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, he was sorry for the remark about the threat Russia poses to the country.
   The Conservatives and New Democrats harshly criticized Trudeau for a “joke” linking the events in war-torn Ukraine to Russia’s Olympic hockey defeat.
   He suggested that Russia, upset over being eliminated from the medal round, might retaliate by getting involved in Ukraine.


    News in brief:
   - Pop-up snow squalls led to one death and multiple-vehicle crashes across southern Ontario on Thursday. Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Peter Leon said a “wall of snow” caught many drivers off guard. There was a 96 pileup of cars and trucks that closed Highway 400 near Barrie for most of the day and several injuries. One person was killed in two 30-vehicle crashes on Highway 402 near London.
   - Revenues dropped but profits rose after major restructuring at Sears Canada while Target finds it tough going in Canada. Sears reported a $373.7-million net profit for the latest quarter, up from $39.9 million a year ago, while revenue fell by $129 million to $1.17 billion. Target, still coping with pricing concerns and product shortages at its 124 new Canadian stores, had sales of $623 million and a loss of $329 million in the quarter.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar advanced to 90.46 cents U.S. on Friday while the U.S. dollar returned $1.1053 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 remains at 3 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,267 points and the TSX Venture index 1,021 points.
   The average price of a liter of gas across Canada is up at $1.3116 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (Feb. 26) 24, 25, 26, 30, 34 and 39; bonus 3. (Feb. 22) 9, 13, 19, 22, 33 and 34; bonus 20. Lotto Max: (Feb. 21) 1, 10, 16, 23, 29, 35 and 39; bonus 46.


   Regional briefs:
   - The Royal Bank of Canada says the ability of Canadians to keep up with housing costs could be hampered should mortgage rates rise this year. The bank estimates maintaining a detached bungalow takes up 43.1 percent of the average household income, and 48.7 percent for a two-story house. A bungalow in Vancouver, however, costs 81.6 percent, followed by Toronto at 55.6 percent, Montreal, 38.8, Ottawa, 36.7, Calgary, 33.8 and Edmonton 33.3 percent.
   - A Canadian company will acquire the tomato processing plant Heinz is closing in Leamington, Ontario. Highbury Canco said it will employ 250 of the 800 workers losing their jobs with the Heinz move in June. Highbury will continue to manufacture some Heinz products and provide distribution and logistics services.
   - The Quebec “language police” are demanding that Eva Cooper, who owns Delilah's (in the Parc) women's boutique in Chelsea near Ottawa, add French to her Facebook page. Acting on a complaint, the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise said she is violating a section of the province’s charter that makes French the official language. Cooper said she has a right to express herself in whatever language she wants on social media.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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