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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Three ex-railway workers arrested in Quebec oil-tank train disaster

   Canada column for Sunday, May 18/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Three former employees of the insolvent Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway have been arrested on 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death after last summer’s deadly derailment in Quebec.
   The arrests concern an oil-tanker train derailment that killed 47 people and destroyed downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
   Engineer Thomas Harding, Jean Demaitre, manager of train operations, and Richard Labrie, railway traffic controller, were released from custody on $15,000 bail each.
   The unattended train parked for the night rolled back into the town with 60 tank cars derailing and several exploding.
    It had been carrying millions of gallons of crude oil en route to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick from the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota.
   Central Maine and Quebec Railway, the company buying the assets of the insolvent railway, is planning to resume the shipment of nonhazardous goods soon, said John Giles, president and CEO.
   The company wants to ship oil after track safety improvements are made, he added.


   Canada’s oil-rich provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland – are world leaders in economic performance, according to a report by the Conference Board.
   The board said the three oil-producing provinces received A-plus scores for such things as per-capita income, economic growth, unemployment and productivity.
   In the economic report card of 16 of the world’s richest countries, Canada was in fifth place overall, up from sixth last year, and behind Australia, Ireland, the United States and Norway.
   Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said the country’s oil riches are a “gift” that all Canadians can share.


    News in brief:
  - Employment Minister Jason Kenney has called on fast-food restaurant operators to pay their employees a better wage and to hire more Canadians. His comments come during a review of the country’s temporary foreign worker program. The government is considering charging higher fees to companies hiring foreign help and not allowing the workers in areas of high unemployment.
   - Thomas Cardinal Collins, Toronto's Roman Catholic archbishop, has called on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to reconsider his abortion position that the party is strictly “pro-choice” and to allow candidates to be faithful to their conscience. Trudeau has said all Liberal candidates in the 2015 election must pledge to vote in favor of a woman's right to choose in any matter that comes up in Parliament.

   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has advanced to 92.06 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0862 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 lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,508 points and the TSX Venture index at 975 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline in Canada is lower at $1.3449 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (May 14) 2, 25, 27, 28, 31 and 47; bonus 20.  (May 10) 16, 23, 33, 36, 48 and 49; bonus 37. Lotto Max: (May 9) 5, 7, 29, 35, 39, 41 and 49; bonus 14.


   Regional briefs:
   - British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has made an apology to Chinese-Canadians that she said is more than 140 years overdue. The apology, endorsed by all parties in the legislature, concerns British Columbia and federal government policies that targeted immigrants from 1872 to 1947. Of note was the “head tax” charged in the late 1800s to discourage Chinese immigration.
   - Ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine resumed Friday after being discontinued in 2009. The Nova Star ferry travels between Yarmouth and Portland on daily round-trip crossings and carries 1,215 people, vehicles and pets. The cruises of seven or 11 hours offer cabins, dining, a casino, spa and live entertainment.
   - Toronto mayoral candidate Karen Stintz didn’t “mince words” when talking about her rival, the embattled admitted crack cocaine user Mayor Rob Ford. After offering some praise for Ford’s fiscal accomplishments, she told a group of business women that the mayor is “misogynistic, bigoted and homophobic.” Ford had been videotaped making vulgar remarks about Stintz and is on a leave of absence for treatment of substance abuse problems.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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