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Sunday, November 30, 2014

New security including armed guards at Canada's Parliament buildings

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 30/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is losing some of its innocence with new armed security planned for the Parliament buildings after a terrorist gunman’s deadly rampage last month.
   Security is being tightened with the arming of guards, heightened checking of visitors and ending public tours during caucus meetings.
   The changes are “a crucial step towards achieving the improvements required of an open and secure Parliament,” said House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer.
   Armed gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau gained access to Parliament’s Center Block after killing soldier Nathan Cirillo who was standing guard at the nearby National War Memorial.
   Zehaf-Bibeau ran down a hallway shooting a rifle near rooms where Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Members of Parliament were in meetings.
   The gunman was shot and killed near the library by Kevin Vickers, the Commons’ Sergeant-at-Arms.
   Parliamentary security officers who work inside will be trained to carry firearms while armed Mounties continue to secure the grounds.
   The buildings will now be locked after business hours and enhanced security will be given as needed at politicians’ constituency offices.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Canadian oil could be headed south via railway tankers if pipeline rejected

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 23/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   More Canadian oil will flow through the United States regardless of whether the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline is ever built, says TransCanada’s CEO.
   Russ Girling’s comments followed the U.S. Senate defeating by one vote efforts to move ahead with the $8-billion project.
   The expansion of TransCanada’s U.S. pipeline network would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day to the Gulf Coast from the Alberta oil sands and the Bakken region in the U.S. northwest.
   Regardless of the fate of the XL pipeline, TransCanada continues “active negotiations” about shipping crude oil by rail, Girling said.
   Pipelines are the safest and most efficient mode of transport but rail transport is flexible and much quicker to implement without “the same regulatory hurdles as building pipe does,” he added.
   Regulatory and environmental concerns have delayed for six years the Keystone XL project that would cut across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Budget surplus expected lower with tax cuts, benefits for families in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 16/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Income tax cuts and higher child benefits for Canadian families will result in a smaller federal budget surplus next year than was previously predicted.
   Instead of a projected $6.4-billion surplus, the Conservative government now estimates it will be $1.9 billion.
   Finance Minister Joe Oliver said it is important the government is “providing families this financial relief” as costs continue to rise.
   He now expects a $2.9-billion shortfall this fiscal year but surpluses will then follow for at least five consecutive years.
   Heading into a federal election next year, the government will implement a promised income-splitting plan for families.
   This will allow parents to split up to $50,000 of income to reduce the household’s income tax bill by a maximum of $2,000 a year.
   There will also be an expanded benefit of $160 a month per child through five years of age, up from $100, and a new $60-a-month payment for children from six to 17, starting next year.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also hinted the government will increase the annual limit on tax-free savings accounts to $10,000 from $5,500.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bank governor says young people should volunteer to gain work experience

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 9/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank governor suggests that young people still living with their parents should get out and work for free to boost their job skills.
   Stephen Poloz of the Bank of Canada said young grads struggling to find work should acquire experience through unpaid internships or volunteering until the job market improves.
   A government report shows 200,000 young Canadians are out of work, underemployed or back in school trying to improve their job prospects.
   Poloz told a House of Commons committee that job growth has failed to keep up with the improving economy.
   “Our belief is, though, that over the next two years we will manage to close up that gap,” he said.
   Another concern is that recent graduates who have not been able to find work will have to compete for employment against new grads arriving after them.
   “I bet almost everyone in this room knows at least one family with adult children living in the basement,” Poloz said. “I'm pretty sure these kids have not taken early retirement.”


New Toronto mayor plans to unite city, restore reputation

   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 2/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Toronto’s Mayor-elect John Tory said he wants to unite the city and restore its reputation after the turbulence of the Rob Ford years.
   “Torontonians want to see an end to the division that has paralyzed city hall for the past four years,” Tory said after he defeated Ford’s brother Doug in the municipal election.
   Rob Ford, who gained international notoriety after admitting to using crack cocaine and entering rehab for his addiction problems, dropped out of the mayoralty race after being diagnosed with cancer in September.
   His brother took his place on the ballot as Rob Ford ran for a council seat instead and was elected.
   The Ford bothers said they still have a presence at city hall and will prepare for a comeback in the next election while fighting for the “taxpayers.”
   Tory, 60, a business executive, broadcaster and fiscal conservative, said that along with reinstating stability at city hall, he wants to address the city’s infrastructure and public transit challenges.