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Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Report says Canadian customs agents often overlook charging duties and taxes at the U.S. border



   Canada column for Sunday, March 30/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian retailers are concerned that customs agents routinely waive taxes and duties on goods brought back from the United States.
   A briefing note prepared for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada Border Services Agency officers waive fees when the value of returning goods is “below a certain threshold” not noted in the released document.
   “This threshold was established in consideration of the cost to CBSA of processing a traveler through the collection process,” it said.
   “Collections may also be waived in cases where the volume would result in unacceptable border processing delays, when interdiction activities are under way or for reasons determined by local management.”
   The government document was in response to the Harper government’s concern over the Canada-U.S. price-gap that helps to encourage cross-border shopping
   The Retail Council of Canada has complained the border agency is too lenient with cross-border shoppers, costing the economy millions of dollars in domestic sales.
   More than 55-million trips are made by Canadians to the United States annually with 33- million same-day crossings mainly to shop, with collected taxes and duties of about $150 million.
   Canadians have no duty-free exemption on same-day trips but can bring back up to $200 in goods after 24 hours and $800 after 48 hours away.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Canada's finance minister resigns after presenting almost balanced budget



   Canada column for Sunday, March 23/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Jim Flaherty, who has led Canada through one of its worst economic times as finance minister, has resigned.
   The surprise announcement by Flaherty, 64, comes a month after he presented an anticipated balanced budget for this fiscal year.
   “As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said.
   After eight years in the key position, Flaherty said he is preparing to return to a private-sector job but remains for now as a Member of Parliament for Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario.
   He said the resignation had nothing to do with recent health issues – a rare skin condition treated with medication that led to weight gain and fatigue.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Flaherty has “exemplified the best qualities of those who enter public life: a true commitment to service and a sincere desire to leave the country in better shape than it was when he entered politics.”
   Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was named to succeed Flaherty while Greg Rickford takes over Oliver’s post.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quebec would welcome visitors, use Canadian currency in separation



   Canada column for Sunday, March 16/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians would be welcome to visit an independent Quebec and the province would continue to use Canada’s currency should it someday separate.
   So says Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois, who is seeking a majority government in the April 7 provincial election.
   While not confirming her separatist party will seek a third vote on sovereignty for the mainly French-speaking province, Marois has engaged in “what-if” conversations.
   It would be of benefit to Canada to keep the currency, Marois suggested, as there are “eight million people living here in Quebec and we have an economy that is a rich one.”
   On ways of boosting tourism to an independent Quebec, she said there will be no borders or tolls, without elaborating.
   Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said the “mechanics of a referendum are already underway – it’s all planned,” and such rhetoric only serves to “hurt the province.”
   The Parti Quebecois got a big boost when Quebecor media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau said he would be a candidate in Saint-Jerome.
   Le Journal de Montreal newspaper said Peladeau delivers instant credibility to the pro-independence Parti Quebecois.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quebec election could trigger another independence vote -- or not



   Canada column for Sunday, March 9/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Quebecers might again have an opportunity to vote for the independence from Canada of the mainly French-speaking province.
   Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said an independence referendum is possible should her separatist party form a majority government in the April 7 provincial election.
   In two previous referendums, Quebecers rejected independence in 1980 and narrowly in 1995.
   “There is no promise to hold a referendum and there is no promise not to,” she said.
   Marois was criticized for her go-slow approach and avoiding the sovereignty debate in the 2012 election campaign in which she focused on corruption, language and identity politics.
   “When we decide to hold a referendum, there will be discussions with Quebecers,” Marois said. “Nobody will be taken by surprise.”
   Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said “nobody wants to talk about that (a referendum) right now.”
   Coalition Leader Francois Legault has accused Marois of running her campaign on the Parti Quebecois’ controversial secularism charter instead of the economy.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Toronto's mayor feuds with police chief over surveillance



   Canada column for Sunday, March 2/14

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Arrest me,” embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says in a challenge to Police Chief Bill Blair.
   Ford – who had made international headlines for his admitted “drunken” outbursts and for using crack cocaine – refuses to apologize for a profane rant against Blair, caught on video, in a restaurant last month.
   The latest feud started after the chief said publicly that he was “deeply offended” by Ford’s remarks and actions.
   Ford challenged Blair to disclose the cost of an extensive investigation after a video emerged appearing to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
   “Why won't he come clean and tell the taxpayers how much money has he spent on surveilling me and obviously coming up with nothing – just with me urinating in a parking lot and coming up with an empty vodka bottle?" Ford said.
   The investigation resulted in Ford’s friend Alexander Lisi being arrested for drug offenses and extortion concerned the crack video.
   Former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory, who has entered the race to succeed Ford in October’s election, called the mayor’s comments a “disgrace” and that “Torontonians deserve better.”

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