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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Traveling Canadians to be monitored more by the authorities

   Canada column for Sunday, June 29/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   The cross-border travels of Canadians will come under additional scrutiny beginning Monday.
   It’s part of an expanded security plan by the Canada Border Services Agency to include information-sharing on all travelers.
   The tracking system involves exchanging entry information collected at the Canada-U.S. land borders so that data on entry to one country would serve as a record of exit from the other.
   This will allow the Canadian government to use the data for such things as catching unemployment insurance cheats to ensuring people ineligible to stay in Canada have left the country.
   Canada also wants to begin collecting information on people leaving by air, which is already done by the United States, by requiring airlines to submit passenger manifest data for outbound international flights.
   The first two phases of the program were limited to foreign nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the U.S., but not citizens of either country.
   The entry-exit initiative is a key element of the perimeter security deal intended to help ease the passage of travelers and cargo across the Canada-U.S. border while bolstering continental security.


   Canada’s telecommunications agency is looking into new ways to detect and track rogue telemarketers who operate outside of Canada.
   Jean-Pierre Blais, head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, said its international partners are working to monitor communications flows to find unscrupulous telemarketers.
   “We get the complaints of people who get harassed by, frankly, rude telemarketers, illegal telemarketers – often from off-shore – that are trying to sell poor-quality goods and services,” he said.
   There are 12 million phone numbers registered on the national do-not-call list and the agency has imposed $4 million in fines since the telemarketing registry was created six years ago.


    News in brief:
   - The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is cutting up to 1,500 jobs, about one-quarter of its workforce, over the next five years to counter a $130-million budget shortfall. The money problems include federal funding cuts, reduced advertising revenues and the loss of hockey rights to Rogers Media. Immediate plans are to cut back evening newscasts and in-house productions to shift the focus to digital and mobile services from radio and television.
   - Intense price competition in the grocery industry, largely from U.S.-based retailers such as Walmart and Target, has prompted Sobeys to close about 50 of its “underperforming” stores. Empire Co., the Nova Scotia parent company, will also close some of the Safeway Canada stores it acquired last year and convert other locations to lower-priced Food Basics outlets. Empire currently has about 1,500 stores nationally.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is higher at 93.77 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0663 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 unchanged at 3 percent.
   Stock markets are slightly lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 15,043 points and the TSX Venture index 1,019 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline in Canada is down at $1.3725 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (June 25) 1, 10, 24, 28, 39 and 45; bonus 43. (June 21) 13, 20, 26, 27, 31 and 39; bonus 12. Lotto Max: (June 20) 12, 17, 32, 36, 43, 44 and 49; bonus 4.


   Regional briefs:
   - A Supreme Court of Canada ruling recognizing a First Nation’s title to a tract of land in British Columbia could help solve unresolved land claims. The historic decision is expected to have implications for controversial energy projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
   - Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, has been named Ontario lieutenant-governor. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Queen Elizabeth II’s next representative in the province. She succeeds David Onley, who held the position for seven years.
   - The Alberta government is still dealing with more than 5,000 financial claims after devastating floods in 30 communities a year ago. Municipal Affairs Minister Greg Weadick said the extent of the damage, insurance issues, flood-mitigation plans and appeals have slowed the process. Of the 10,486 claims, payments covering about half so far total $75 million.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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