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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Canada pledges fighter jets to Middle East battle

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 12/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian fighter jets and surveillance planes are being prepared to head into battle against Middle East militants to assist with a U.S.-led coalition.
   Canada’s move – approved by the Conservative majority in the Commons – was praised by former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton who spoke to a gathering of 1,200 people in the capital, Ottawa.
   “I think military action is critical – in fact, I would say essential,” she said.
    To assist with the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Canada is pledging to commit the planes and support personnel initially for up to six months.
   The involvement by Canada faced opposition from the New Democrats and the Liberals.
   “Across the world, it isn't just Conservatives – it’s Liberals and social democrats that have understood that this is a threat that needs to be countered and needs to be countered in many ways, including militarily,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.


   Tanker cars that derailed and caught fire near Clair, Saskatchewan are the same old type being replaced as those in the Lac Megantic disaster last year.
   Twenty-six cars on the CN freight derailed and two of them carried petroleum distillate and caught fire. There were no injuries.
   In Quebec, the deaths of 47 people in a runaway oil-tanker train explosion could have been avoided, a coroner has ruled.
   Dr. Martin Clavet recommended that the federal government review its regulations about train brakes and ensure those carrying dangerous materials have proper supervision.
   The unattended train parked on a steep grade rolled into the town, crashed and burned.
   Engineer Tom Harding and two managers with the now-defunct Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.


    News in brief:
   - Canada is preparing to send up to 100,000 doses of experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization for possible use in Africa. The donated vaccine was developed by scientists with the Public Health Agency of Canada. Clinical tests are to start on the vaccine, called VSV-EBOV. As well, 28 Canadians doctors have volunteered so far to go to Africa to help.
   - Canadian Tire, one of Canada’s oldest retailers founded in the 1920s, is shifting gears to attract younger shoppers. Incoming chief executive Michael Medline said it will focus on targeting 30-to 49-year-old shoppers in chasing a “generational shift.” The company has 1,700 automotive retail and gasoline outlets, Mark’s clothing chain and sports stores including SportChek.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s jobless rate at 6.8 percent is the lowest in nearly six years after the creation of 74,100 net new jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada.
   The dollar is higher at 89.33 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1194 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is unchanged at 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,371 points and the TSX Venture index 829 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline is lower at $1.2547 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (Oct. 8) 9, 12, 15, 17, 42 and 49; bonus 34. (Oct. 4) 8, 13, 27, 35, 45 and 49; bonus 9. Lotto Max: (Oct. 3) 7, 15, 24, 25, 27, 43 and 47; bonus 22.


   Regional briefs:
   - Canada is increasing its screening at six airports in an effort to try to prevent an Ebola importation, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said. Additional steps include “taking targeted temperature screens” even though there are no direct flights to Canada from the affected West African countries. Quarantine officers are being stationed at airports in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa and Calgary.
   - Mountie Corporal Ron Francis, known for smoking medical marijuana while in uniform, has died. The 21-year veteran had been on medical leave from the force’s division in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was found dead at his home on the Kingsclear First Nation reserve. The cause of death was not disclosed.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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