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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Canadian tourists could feel price, crowd impact from U.S. plans for Cuban ties



   ** Merry Christmas **

   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 21/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Plans by the United States government to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba could have a major impact for Canadian tourists.
   More than one-million Canadians visit the tropical island nation each year to enjoy a relatively inexpensive getaway but that could change once the U.S. lifts a 53-year-old travel ban for Americans.
   There would be a “tsunami of curiosity tourism” that would likely cause prices to rise substantially, possibly “squeezing Canadian tourists,” said economics Professor Arch Ritter of Carleton University.
   Other experts agree that Cuba will need a massive investment in infrastructure for hotels and cruise-ship docks to accommodate a new influx of tourists.
   In recent years, Canadian tourism companies have assisted many Americans wanting to visit Cuba by booking trips via Canada.
   When President Barack Obama announced the agreement reached with Cuban officials, it was learned that Canada played a central part in hosting the breakthrough diplomatic talks.
   U.S. officials said Canada was “indispensable” in hosting the majority of the secret talks that took place for more than a year.

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   Court documents indicate the Ontario Liberal caucus paid $10,000 to have information deleted from computers in the premier’s office in an alleged cover-up.
   The information was contained in an application for a search warrant by the Ontario Provincial Police investigating deleted documents.
   They concerned the Liberal government’s decision to cancel two unpopular Toronto-area gas plants in order to help them win the 2011 election.
   An auditor’s report suggested the move to cancel the plants being built cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion.
   The alleged incident occurred before former Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned and Kathleen Wynne was named to succeed him.

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    News in brief:
   - Quebec-based convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard has reached a $1.7-billion deal to buy The Pantry Inc. with more than 1,500 locations in 13 states. The Pantry, which operates primarily under the Kangaroo Express banner, will increase Couche-Tard’s 1,225 stores in the U.S. southeastern and Gulf Coast regions. In Canada, it operates under the Couche-Tard and Mac’s brands along with Circle K throughout the U.S.
   - Canadians shouldn’t expect any price breaks from domestic airlines even with the 40-percent drop in oil prices. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said the government won’t intervene to have airlines lower fares or – in the case of Air Canada – drop fuel surcharges on international flights.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 86.04 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.162 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 higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,443 points and the TSX Venture index at 672 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline across Canada is down to 99.5 cents (Canadian).
   Lotto 6-49: (Dec. 17) 2, 5, 15, 20, 38 and 39; bonus 35. (Dec. 13) 14, 23, 25, 31, 33 and 38; bonus 5. Lotto Max: (Dec. 12) 2, 14, 30, 34, 38, 47 and 48; bonus 16.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta’s Official Opposition, and eight of her Wildrose colleagues “crossed the floor” of the legislature to join the ruling Conservatives. Smith said she no longer opposes new Premier Jim Prentice who supports her party on issues such as land rights and fiscal conservatism. The switch gives the Conservatives 72 of the 87 members of the legislature.
   - Emma Czornobaj, 26, convicted of causing a fatal traffic accident after stopping her car to help ducklings cross a busy highway, was sentenced to 90 days in jail. A motorcycle crashed into her stopped car in Montreal in 2010 killing Andre Roy, 50, and his daughter Jessie, 16. Czornobaj, who is appealing her conviction, was also prohibited from driving for 10 years.
   - The British Columbia government has approved a mail-in referendum next year on a new mass transit tax. It would be called the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, amounting to 0.5 percent. It would raise $250 million a year to fund part of an $8-billion, 10-year transit improvement plan.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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