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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.


   The Canadian government is monitoring any impacts on the economy by the big drop in oil prices but has factored that into its fiscal forecasts, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said.
   As a major oil-producing nation, the forecasts already factored in a belief that prices “would stay at the low level,” he added.
   A world oil glut has dropped prices to less than $70 a barrel, a 4½-year low.
   The Conservative government has predicted that Canada will post a budget surplus of $1.9 billion next year, about $4.5 billion short of earlier projections due to plans for expanded income-tax cuts and benefits for families with children.


    News in brief:
   - Fired Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio host Jian Ghomeshi, 47, has been arrested on four counts of sexual assault and one involving choking. Nine women and a man said they were assaulted or harassed by Ghomeshi. The police investigation began when three women made formal complaints. He has since dropped a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC over his dismissal.
   - Montreal-based retailer Reitmans said it will close 107 Smart Set clothing stores over the next 18 months to “refocus its sales and merchandising efforts.” Another 76 of the stores will be converted to other Reitmans’ brands. Tough competition, including an influx of U.S.-based stores, also led to women’s retailer Jacob closing 92 stores.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has dropped to 87.53 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1423 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 lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,816 points and the TSX Venture index 743 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline is lower at $1.1248 (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (Nov. 26) 5, 10, 11, 12, 32 and 33; bonus 39. (Nov. 22) 5, 7, 20, 24, 37 and 49; bonus 32. Lotto Max: (Nov. 21) 6, 18, 19, 26, 37, 39 and 47; bonus 21.


   Regional briefs:
   - Vancouver is ranked the worst city in Canada for highway gridlock, according to a study by TomTom, a GPS products company. The study found the average commuter in Vancouver experienced 87 hours of delay time a year, based on a 30-minute daily commute. The next most-congested cities were Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Quebec City and Edmonton.
   - The Transportation Safety Board is calling for flammable liquids to be shipped in new, stronger railway tanker cars. It called the abundance of older tank cars the greatest risk to transportation in Canada. The board noted the disaster last year in Lac-Megantic, Quebec when 47 people were killed by the crash of a runaway oil tanker train.
   - Last year’s challenging winter in many parts of Canada could be “more or less repeated” this coming season, said chief meteorologist Chris Scott of the Weather Network. The pattern of warmer-than-normal conditions is expected in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, near normal in Alberta and the Atlantic provinces, and colder through Saskatchewan to New Brunswick. “Seasonally average” snowfalls are expected.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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