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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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Processing of Syrian refugees to enter Canada continues



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 27/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government will meet its commitment to process 10,000 Syrian refugees for entry to Canada but they won’t all be here by year’s end.
   Immigration Minister John McCallum said he now can’t guarantee the Liberal government will be able to meet its goal of bringing in that number by Dec. 31.
   They will be “verified” by that date but not all will have arrived, he said, as the government remains committed to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of February.
   Among the factors making the earlier goal unrealistic in such a short period since the government was elected in October are circumstances including poor flying weather.
   McCallum told reporters that hundreds of Canadian government representatives are working all out to process the refugees coming from Lebanon and Jordan.
   As of Dec. 21, almost 2,000 refugees have arrived and flights are continuing through the holidays, he said.
   To assist with cities and organizations helping to resettle the newcomers, McCallum announced the federal government would allocate another $15 million.

   ---

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Canadian dollar value at 11-year low



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 20/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar is worth less, plunging below 72 cents U.S., at an 11-year low.
   Factors causing the drop to 71.68 cents include slumping oil and commodity prices and a higher U.S. dollar due to a slight increase in interest rates there.
   That means it costs almost $1.40 Canadian for a U.S. dollar, plus bank and credit-card exchange fees.
   Economists expect the weaker dollar to continue, hitting 70 cents before rising slowly through the end of next year.
   This is making it more costly for “snowbirds” and vacationers from Canada who pay in U.S. dollars.
   So far, however, it hasn’t deterred many from their winter haunts in Florida, California, South Carolina, Arizona and other sunny spots.
   Florida attracts about 4.2-million Canadian vacationers annually and tourism officials say there’s only a slight drop this year.
   The lower dollar is also leading to higher food costs with fresh vegetables, especially lettuce and tomatoes from the U.S., rising by 10.9 percent.

   ---

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prime minister welcomes first Syrian refugee arrivals



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 13/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “You are home – welcome home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in greeting the first planeload of Syrian refugees to Canada.
   Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as the first military flight of 163 Syrians arrived from Beirut.
   The new Liberal government said it will resettle 25,000 refugees escaping Syria’s civil war by the end of February.
   Upon arrival, they were given winter clothing and housed in an airport hotel before being transported this weekend to sponsored housing in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
   During processing in Toronto and Montreal, the new arrivals are being given Social Insurance Numbers so they can work, government health-insurance cards for “free” medical care and become permanent residents.
   First to be greeted was Kevork Jamkossian, his wife Georgina Zires and 16-month-old daughter, Madeleine, clutching a teddy bear given to her by Wynne.
   “We suffered a lot but now we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise,” he said.

   ---

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Canadian government suggests number of Syrian refugees resettled could double



   Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 6/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   As Canada prepares to welcome the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees, the government suggests that number could double over the next year.
   “The number of refugees is likely to be in the order of 35,000 to 50,000” by the end of next year, Immigration Minister John McCallum said.
   The first “mass flight” of up to 300 refugees from Turkey and Jordan is expected to arrive by chartered aircraft on Thursday.
   The new Liberal government made a commitment to resettle 25,000 refugees, along with those privately sponsored by churches and families, by the end of February.
   Those coming to Canada are undergoing security, immigration and health checks.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and McCallum are urging Canadians to support the effort and help the refugees settle in.
   “There is a possibility of a social backlash against refugees if Canadians see them as being pampered,” McCallum said.
   Similar to Canada’s earliest settlers, many Syrian refugees will be arriving in the winter, said Governor-General David Johnston.
   “A warm Canadian welcome in a cold Canadian winter – what could be more fitting?” he added.

   ---

Monday, November 30, 2015

Drowned Syrian boy's family to be resettled in Canada's refugee aid



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 29/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The family of a Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach will be “fast-tracked” among the 25,000 refugees being resettled in Canada.
   Relatives confirmed the family of Alan Kurdi, 3, who drowned when a boat packed with refugees sank, has been accepted by Canada.
   The country will admit 10,000 refugees by year’s end, with the remaining 15,000 by Feb. 28 under a revised commitment to ensure proper security and health screening.
   The first group making the trip will be made up largely of privately sponsored refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.
   Immigration Minister John McCallum said priority will be given for government-sponsored newcomers to families, women at risk, members of sexual minorities and single men identified as gay, bisexual or transgender or part of a family.
   They will arrive in Toronto or Montreal and be resettled in 36 cities across Canada.
   So far this year 3,100 Syrian refugees have arrived under previous government commitments.
   Canada is also giving $100 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, making almost $1 billion the government has spent in response to the Syrian crisis.

   ---

Monday, November 23, 2015

Canada prepares to welcome 25,000 refugees



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 22/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The first wave of Syrian refugees is about to arrive in Canada among 25,000 people the new Liberal government pledges in a “rapid resettlement” by year’s end.
   Armed Forces’ bases and some decommissioned hospitals are among the facilities being readied to provide housing and other immediate needs for the migrants.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t formally indicated any specifics to meet the Dec. 31 resettlement commitment for the group made up mostly of government-assisted refugees and some privately sponsored ones.
   A government document suggests the plan will cost the government $1.2 billion over the next six years, with $876.7 million needed through the next year.
   Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the resettlement can be done without compromising safety to Canadians as stringent background checks will be conducted.
   He called it a “humanitarian” mission that will “rescue people who are in terrible conditions and fleeing from the scourge.”
   After a series of anti-Muslim incidents across Canada, a coalition of anti-racism groups is concerned the migrants will become terrorist “scapegoats,” said Mohamed Boudjenane of the Canadian Arab Federation.
   Ontario, which is expected to receive most of the newcomers, has a committee planning for the provision of housing, education, health services and language and employment training.

   ---

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Canadian government speeds up efforts to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 15/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The new Liberal government is advancing its commitment to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of the year.
   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also told Defense Minister Harjitt Sajjan to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria, as promised in the election campaign.
   The selection of refugees is underway with a focus on choosing people who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
   United Nations staff members are working with Canadian officials to assess the cases.
   Furio De Angelis, Canadian representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said it is “an extraordinary effort but not everyone is eligible.”
   Priority is being given to people in immediate physical danger, survivors of violence or torture, medical needs or a woman, child or adolescent at risk.
   In “mandate letters” to his cabinet members, Trudeau referred to “refocusing Canada’s efforts” to training local forces and humanitarian support and away from combat.
   There is a “need to revitalize, focus and support peacekeeping operations around the world," he said.

    ---

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Openness is hallmark of new Canadian Liberal goverment, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 8/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   With much pomp and ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office with his Liberal party, promising “openness and transparency” will be a hallmark of his government.
   Trudeau, 43, opened the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa and invited the public to observe the procession at the swearing-in.
   Ending almost 10 years of Conservative rule under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Liberal era includes a smaller 30-member cabinet, down nine members, with an equal number of men and women.
   Commenting on the diversity of its members, Trudeau said he put together a cabinet “that looks like Canada.”
   Eighteen of the government officials are rookies including Toronto businessman Bill Morneau who became finance minister.
   “The swearing-in event was designed to convey openness, optimism and inclusion – a stark contrast to nearly a decade of what the Liberals call the one-man, secretive rule and politics of division of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives,” the Canadian Press newswire reported.
   The Conservatives have chosen veteran politician Rona Ambrose as interim leader, replacing Harper who remains a Member of Parliament for Calgary.

    ---

Monday, November 2, 2015

Justin Trudeau to be sworn in as Canada's next Prime Minister



   Canada column for Sunday, Nov. 1/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Stephen Harper’s almost 10-year reign as Canada’s prime minister will end on Wednesday when Justin Trudeau is sworn in after his Liberal party’s decisive election victory.
   Harper will leave office just before the swearing-in of the Liberal government but will remain a Member of Parliament for Calgary.
   Prime Minister-designate Trudeau is expected to recall Parliament next month to begin fulfilling his election promises, starting with a tax break for the “middle class.”
   Other pledges are withdrawing fighter jets from combat overseas, quickly resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees, amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, raising taxes on high-income earners and creating a national inquiry into missing and murdered women.
   The election win has prompted Canada Post to immediately halt the further installation of community mailboxes in a program that was to end home delivery to save money.
   Trudeau said he would keep door-to-door mail delivery and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers wants his government to reverse cuts to postal services that have been made so far.

    ---

Friday, October 30, 2015

Liberals plan to act on pledges are decisive election win



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 25/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian fighter jets will be called home, taxes for the rich will rise, marijuana is to be legalized and Syrian refugees will be welcomed en masse as promised under the new government of Liberal Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau.
   The son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau showed the Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he was – despite their attack ads – indeed “ready for the job.”
   Electors made a decisive choice, giving the 43-year-old Trudeau a sweeping majority government after only four years ago it ended in third place in the federal election.
   They sent the younger Trudeau back to 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister’s residence, where he grew up and made it the first father-son dynasty in Canada’s history.
   Standings in the House of Commons after the vote are Liberals 184 seats, Conservatives, 99, the New Democrats, 44, Bloc Quebecois, 10, and Greens, 1.
   The vote ended almost 10 years of Conservative rule under Harper who was seen as controlling and not people-friendly – the opposite of Trudeau.
   “Canadians have spoken: You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful,” he said.
   After the defeat, Harper resigned as Conservative leader but remains for now an elected Member of Parliament in Calgary.

    ---

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Promises, promises to parents from Canada's politicians



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 11/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s political leaders have been kissing babies and making election promises to their parents to lengthen maternity and parental leaves for up to 18 months.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are matching the Liberal party pledge to extend benefits from the current one-year program.
   With the federal election looming on Oct. 19 and the Conservatives and Liberals in a see-saw battle for first place in the polls, Harper took aim at young families.
   He said the Conservatives would extend benefits to 1½ years and continue to protect parents’ jobs while they’re away.
   For parents wanting to return to work sooner or are self-employed, the government would consider programs allowing them to combine work and time off for child care without their payments being reduced, he said.
   “We want to support new parents by giving them as much choice and flexibility as possible in achieving the balance and making the career and financial decisions that are right for your family,” Harper said.
   Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s plan unveiled in August is similar but would allow periods of work and time off during the 18 months of paid employment insurance benefits.

    ---

Justin Trudeau to become Canada's next prime minister



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 18/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   Liberal leader Justin Trudeau won a majority government in the federal election on Oct. 19, 2015, defeating Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. Election standings gave the Liberals 184 seats in the House of Commons while the Conservatives elected 99, the New Democrats, 44, Bloc Quebecois, 10, and Greens, 1.

   ---
   Canada’s Liberal party under leader Justin Trudeau now has the momentum to win Monday’s federal election.
   A “dump Harper” campaign has been sweeping the country as the Liberals and socialist New Democrats urge voters to do whatever it takes to put Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives out of office.
   Conservative attack ads have hammered Trudeau, 43, the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as being “just not ready” for the job.
   Opposition parties, including the Greens and Bloc Quebecois, are calling on electors to vote for anyone but the Conservatives, suggesting change is long overdue after 10 years in office.
   Polls show a surge of last-minute support for the Liberals that could threaten the chances of the Conservatives winning a majority.
   Should they fall short of a majority, it’s possible the Liberals and New Democrats could join to form a coalition government.
   Minister of National Defense Jason Kenney drew a link between the Toronto Blue Jays capturing the American League Division Series and his Conservative team.
   “The blue team came from behind and won three straight and they won the series just like our blue team is going to win on Oct. 19,” he said.

    ---

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Conservatives lead in polls heading toward Oct. 19 election



   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 4/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s ruling Conservative government has a “clear lead” in public support in advance of the federal election on Oct. 19.
   Support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives jumped to 34 percent in a Forum Research poll.
   Should the results hold up, the Conservatives would form a majority government with 151 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons.
   The socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) would form the opposition as before with 104 seats, the Liberals would have 76 members, Bloc Quebecois six and the Green Party, one.
   The poll put NDP support at 28 percent and the Liberals with 27 percent while the Bloc and Green are tied at 5 percent, and the remaining 1 percent is for “other” candidates.
   “Canadians know that this election presents a serious choice between experience and dangerous risk,” said Conservative spokesman Stephen Lecce.
   “It’s a choice between our Conservative low-tax, balanced budget plan and the Liberals’ dangerous approach that will raise taxes on all workers, cancel benefits to families and put our country into permanent deficits,” he said.

    ---

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Liberals would ease restrictions for Mexicans to come to Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 27/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Saying that Canadians are “a generous and compassionate people,” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wants to make it easier for Mexicans to come to Canada.
   Campaigning for the Oct. 19 federal election, Trudeau said his government would remove visa requirements for Mexican citizens and undo strict regulations put in place by the Conservative government.
   The visa requirement and tougher refugee status conditions were imposed since 2009 to deal with a big jump in the numbers of Mexican asylum seekers.
   The government said it was acting because many refugee applications were bogus with those fleeing Mexico for economic reasons rather than for security.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has soured Canada’s relationship with Mexico, Trudeau said vowing to “do right by our continental neighbor.”
   Claims of bogus refuges are an example of the government “continually stoking fear and anger among Canadians,” he added.
   “We need to ensure that Canada is a country that is accepting refugees who are fleeing persecution from all sorts of places around the world for all sorts of different reasons,” Trudeau said.

    ---

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Conservatives retake the lead in public-opinion polls before the October election



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 20/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Brushing off criticism that the Conservative government hasn’t done enough to resettle Syrian refugees, the ruling party is back on top in public opinion polls for the Oct. 19 election.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives regained the lead with 32 per-cent support in a Forum Research poll.
   The party lagged behind – dropping to as low as third place – in recent weeks but Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said the Conservatives likely got a boost with news that Canada has a $1.9-billion budget surplus this year.
   Second was the socialist New Democratic Party with 30 per cent followed by the Liberals at 28, Green, 6, and Bloc Quebecois, 4 percent.
   Forum pollsters asked Canadians if the Conservatives are doing enough to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis and offering resettlement assistance.
   Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they were while 36 percent believe more should be done.
   At a leaders’ debate in Calgary about the economy, Harper said “staying the course” with tax cuts and balanced budgets is the safe road to prosperity.
   Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called for more spending as an “investment in the future” while the New Democrat’s Tom Mulcair said he would invest in social programs and raise corporate income taxes.

    ---

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Refugee father of drowned Syrian boy blames Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 13/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The father of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach said he blames Canada for the tragedy that also killed his wife and another son.
   Abdullah Kurdi’s comment comes as Canadian premiers, mayors, church groups and citizens put pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to welcome more Syrian refugees to Canada.
   Kurdi said he does not understand why Canada rejected his application for asylum but Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials said they received no such notice on his behalf.
   His sister, Tima, of Coquitlam, British Columbia, said she submitted an application for his brother Mohammed and planned to later apply to sponsor Abdullah’s family as well.
   Mohammed Kurdi’s application was said to be incomplete and he is now in Germany with his family.
   Tima said she sent money to Abdullah to pay smugglers for the deadly ride to Greece from Turkey in a boat that capsized.
   At an election campaign stop, Harper said he will unveil plans “in the very near future” to expedite the process for refugee resettlement.
   “Let me assure you that the position of this government is we have been the world leader in refugee resettlement and we intend to do that in a responsible and affordable way for Canadians,” he said.

    ---

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Refugee crisis tops concerns in Canadian election campaign



   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 6/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The image of a drowned three-year-old boy on a Turkish beach derailed the Canadian election campaign as attempts failed to bring his Syrian refugee family to Canada.
   The boy was the nephew of Tima Kurdi of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia who was trying to sponsor the family.
   Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his five-year-old brother and mother in an unsuccessful attempt to reach Europe on a smuggler’s boat, while the father, Abdullah, survived.
   Tima wanted to bring another brother, Mohammed, to Canada first and then Abdullah and his family.
   The government said it did not receive a refugee application for Abdullah but did get an incomplete one for Mohammed that didn’t meet the requirements for proof of refugee status.
   Member of Parliament Fin Donnelly said he delivered a letter in March to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander about the family’s reunification bid.
   The news led to Alexander being pulled off the election campaign to return to Ottawa to address the crisis.
   Stephen Harper, seeking re-election as prime minister, tearfully expressed his feelings while underscoring the need to continue the military fight against the Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq.

    ---

Monday, August 31, 2015

Additional security officers working for Stephen Harper's campaign stops



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 30/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Conservative leader Stephen Harper, seeking to be returned as the prime minister in the Oct. 19 federal election, had beefed up his security detail.
   Along with the Mounties who are assigned for his personal protection, the Conservatives are also using former members of the Canadian military to act as security during campaign stops.
   Security expert Chris Mathers, a former undercover Mountie, said the private security officers are likely there to deal with “uninvited guests” and to keep the peace at events.
   Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke said “we don’t talk about it” when asked about the additional security contingent.
   “The whole point about having security at these things to is try to avoid somebody else who has their own agenda ... destabilizing the agenda that you have,” said Alex Marland, a political science professor at Memorial University.
   This happened on Thursday when a man was escorted out of the room when he tried to join journalists asking Harper a question in suburban Toronto.
   The Mounties are providing security for New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau but they have not hired additional security.

    ---

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ashley Madison hotbed uncovered in Ottawa



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 23/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s capital, Ottawa, appears to be the hotbed in the country for members of the Ashley Madison cheating website.
   The distinction of being the infidelity capital of Canada with 189,000 users, or nearly one in five people living there, was determined through analysis of leaked data.
   The Canadian Press newswire search found some of the Toronto-based company’s users made credit-card transactions from computers attached to the Department of National Defense and the House of Commons.
   It reported that one Member of Parliament was registered by name and hundreds associated with the Canadian Armed Forces, other departments and agencies, including justice, public works, the Canada Revenue Agency and the Mounties.
   The website’s slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair” and is marketed to facilitate extramarital affairs.
   Avid Life Media, the parent company of AshleyMadison.com, is facing a Canadian class action lawsuit for a breach of sensitive user information.
   The suit, launched by an Ottawa widower alleges, the privacy of thousands of Canadians was compromised with the leak of personal information.
   Hackers released the full names, street addresses and partial credit card numbers of 1.2 million customers who had paid for the dating service.
   The news media so far in Canada has not been publishing any of the names.

    ---

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Harper insists he wasn't aware of payment for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy's challenged expenses



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 16/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Stephen Harper continues to insist that he was unaware of any arrangements to have suspended Sen. Mike Duffy’s contested expense claims paid.
   Duffy, a former national TV news commentator, is on trial on 31 counts of breach of trust, fraud and bribery.
   Senior officials in Harper’s prime minister’s office were said to be among those who knew in 2013 that Duffy didn’t pay back the $90,000 in disputed housing and travel expense claims.
   Nigel Wright, who was then the prime minister’s chief of staff, wrote a personal check to repay the money for Duffy, who had been appointed to the Senate by Harper.
   The payment was described as a “deliberately deceptive scheme” concocted by the prime minister’s office to quell a political scandal, Duffy’s attorney Don Bayne said.
   Emails showed that Harper was briefed as his staff attempted to manage the scandal.
   On the campaign for the Oct. 19 federal election, Harper said the information he received was that Duffy was going to repay the money and would “explain his own story.”

   ---

Sunday, August 9, 2015

No clear upsets, wins in first Canadian election campaign debate



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 9/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Political observers suggest there were no clear winners or losers in the first televised leaders’ debate of the federal election campaign.
   As expected, Stephen Harper last Sunday asked Governor General David Johnston to “dissolve” Parliament to begin an 11-week campaign up to the Oct. 19 election.
   Technically, under the Parliamentary system, Harper is no longer the prime minister and is referred to as the leader of the Conservative party.
   “Honestly, Mr. Harper, we cannot afford another four years of you,” socialist New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair said in attacking the Conservative economic record.
   He said that Harper denied in the 2008 election campaign that the country was in a recession and the party has “added $150 billion to Canada’s debt in the last 10 years.”
   During the debate, Harper made the concession that Canada is now in a mild recession due to the slump in oil prices.
   Liberal leader Justin Trudeau tried to put aside Conservative advertising claims that he is “not ready” for the job of prime minister.
   “What I learned from my father (the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau) is that to lead this country, you need to love this country,” he said.
   Green party leader Elizabeth May highlighted her views on protecting the environment and national security.

   ---

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sets in motion October election campaign in Canada



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 2/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Stephen Harper has -- as expected -- launched an 11-week campaign for the Oct. 19 federal election.
   The Conservative leader asked Governor General David Johnston today for Parliament to be “dissolved” to officially set in place what will be one of Canada’s longest campaigns.
   Observers suggest Harper is anxious to get the election campaign started to head off potential setbacks such as the ongoing expenses’ fraud trail of suspended Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy and the faltering economy.
   “He would think the longer campaign will enable him to get out from under some of the flak that is yet to come,” said former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent.
   Before anything happens, the Conservatives want to sign a massive free-trade deal being negotiated now.
   The Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving 12 countries including Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Japan, would be the biggest trade deal in history.

   ---

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Environmentalists' concern rising after major pipeline rupture in Alberta



   Canada column for Sunday, July 26/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   There is growing concern in Canada’s oil patch about the safety of pipelines after a major rupture in northern Alberta.
   A Nexen Energy pipeline leaked 13.1-million gallons of emulsion -- a mixture of bitumen, water and sand -- near Fort McMurray.
   Nexen senior vice president Ron Bailey said it is believed the leak occurred between June 29 and July 15 when a contractor discovered it near the Long Lake oil sands facility.
   Greenpeace Canada environmentalist Mike Hudema said for the leak to go undetected for up to two weeks and discovered by chance is cause for alarm.
   The pipeline was installed only last year and a warning system didn't detect the leak.
   “It’s disheartening to see the site and it’s disappointing that this has happened,” said Nexen Energy CEO Fang Zhi.
   “Our focus as of now is ensuring the safety of our workers on the site, minimizing whatever impact on the environment and on the wildlife, as well as understanding the root causes of this incident through investigations,” he added.
   “Warning bells should be going off for Canada’s premiers right now about the dangers they are bringing to their communities if new pipelines are built, because that’s what they’re calling for with the Canadian Energy Strategy,” Hudema said.

   ---

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Canada's dollar dips to six-year low as Bank of Canada cuts interest rate



   Canada column for Sunday, July 19/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The value of the Canadian dollar has plunged to its lowest level in six years as the Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate to 0.50 percent to stimulate the economy.
   While not calling the financial situation in Canada a recession, bank governor Stephen Poloz revised the outlook for the economy due to the impact of lower oil prices and slumping exports in the second quarter.
   “I’m not going to engage in a debate about what we call this,” Poloz said. “There's no doubt we have worked our way through a mild contraction.”
   It’s the second time this year the central bank has cut its trend-setting rate aimed at giving consumers and businesses lower rates to spur spending and exports of Canadian products.
   The 0.25 percent cut resulted in an immediate drop in the dollar’s value to below 77 cents U.S. on Friday – the lowest since the recession of 2009.
   The lower outlook for economic growth is partly due to oil producers making big cutbacks in investment as prices have dropped.
   With the U.S. economy “gathering more momentum” and lower interest rates, Canada’s economy should grow now through the end of the year, Poloz said.

   ---

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trudeau and Liberal popularity slipping to third in public opinion polls



   Canada column for Sunday, July 12/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   After a “honeymoon” period of popularity when Justin Trudeau took over the leadership of Canada’s Liberal party in 2013, support for him and the party is waning.
   The 43-year-old had much name recognition being the eldest son of the late flamboyant Pierre Trudeau, Liberal prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984.
   Public opinion polls place the Liberals in third place behind the socialist New Democratic Party and the ruling Conservatives who are tied for the lead.
   A Forum Research poll of 1,200 Canadian voters gave the two leading parties support at 32 percent each and 26 percent for the Liberals.
   Over the past year, the Forum polls have gone from giving Trudeau and the Liberals a comfortable lead to a tie and now third place in advance of the Oct. 19 election.
   When asked about leadership quality, respondents to the recent poll said New Democratic leader Tom Mulcair would make the best prime minister at 27 percent, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper received 25 percent and Trudeau had 23 percent.
   EKOS pollsters said Mulcair is “picking up all the marbles as Trudeau fades.”
   The polling company said the results “seem to suggest that the Liberals’ numbers are suffering from a lack of clarity in the party plans for the country and its citizens.”

   ---

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Canada's not heading for a recession: Finance Minister Joe Oliver says



   Canada column for Sunday, July 5/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government begs to differ with a Bank of America economist’s suggestion that the country is in recession and faces a plunging dollar.
   Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the economy will avoid a recession even as the Gross Domestic Product has declined from January through April.
   Instead, Canada expects “solid growth” after a weak first quarter, he said. 
   U.S. economist Emanuella Enenajor said the recession has begun with a shrinking number of Canadian factories and the impact of the falling price of oil, a major Canadian commodity.
   She expects the Bank of Canada to cut interest rates again, possibly at its next setting on July 15, to avert any slowdown.
   Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce economist Andrew Grantham said technically the country can be considered in a recession now but Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter calls it a “sluggish economy, not one in recession.”
   Enenajor predicts the Canadian dollar will fall to below 77 cents U.S. this year after dipping below 80 cents now.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Canadians and Americans buying up properties in both countries



   Canada column for Sunday, June 28/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   As the value of the Canadian dollar rises and falls, real estate investors from Canada and the United States are expanding their horizons.
   Now that the Canadian dollar has settled around 80 cents U.S., more Americans are looking north to buy vacation and recreational properties.
   Re/Max agent Priscilla Sookarow recently closed a deal with a Texas family for a $3-million vacation property in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
   A big lure, along with the natural beauty of the area and Canada’s natural air-conditioning in the summertime, is the U.S. dollar being worth about $1.23 in Canadian funds.
   Other hot areas are British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, Atlantic Canada and Muskoka and Niagara lakefront in Ontario.
   It mirrors Canadians buying up houses and vacation properties in Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Hawaii from 2007 to 2011 as prices bottomed out.
   Now, many Canadians are cashing in those properties as prices have recovered and the U.S. dollar has strengthened.

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Celebrate Canada Day across America‏

Get ready to celebrate Canada's birthday with "Canada Day Across America"!

Let's ensure that the many friends of Canada across the United States are included in the festivities. Starting this week, we are featuring an interactive map of Canada Day gatherings throughout the U.S. on our special CDAA site

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cyberattack on Canadian government websites claimed by Anonymous



   Canada column for Sunday, June 21/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said no personal information was compromised by a cyberattack on several government websites.
   The Anonymous hacker group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Canadian computer servers to protest against the approval of an anti-terrorism bill.
   In a YouTube video, Anonymous said it “launched an attack against the Canadian Senate and Government of Canada websites in protest against the recent passing of bill C-51.”
   Among the sites disabled were the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Shared Services (the super IT department), Justice, Public Works and Government Services.
   Last year, the National Research Council site was hacked with the government blaming a “Chinese state-sponsored actor,” with Beijing denying involvement.
   Incidents against Finance Department and Treasury Board computer systems in 2010 were linked to efforts likely originating in China to gather information on the potential takeover of a Canadian potash company.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Russians shadow Canadian warship and prime minister



   Canada column for Sunday, June 14/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two Russian military ships shadowed a Canadian warship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper aboard in the Baltic Sea.
   The incident occurred as Harper and his wife, Laureen, spent 20 hours on HMCS Fredericton, a Canadian frigate that’s part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission.
   The exercise is to reassure Eastern Europe alliance members that they will be protected should Russian aggression in Ukraine spread.
   Canadian Defense Minister Jason Kenney pointed to the two Russian vessels in the distance that changed course as the Fredericton did.
   It’s not unusual for the Russians to monitor NATO exercises from a distance and they “kept a respectful distance and weren’t acting in a threatening way,” Kenney said.
   They came within seven nautical miles of the Canadian vessel and earlier a Russian helicopter flew along the port side of the ship.
   Harper told crew members that he is concerned about Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
   “Mr. Putin’s recklessness threatens global stability, regional stability and has spread fear among our Eastern allies,” he said.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Democrats poised to do well in federal election in Canada: pollsters



   Canada column for Sunday, June 7/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The New Democrats, Canada’s socialist political party, won the west in Alberta’s recent provincial election and could be poised to do well nationally in October.
   Five polls suggest that a tight, three-way race has developed nationally while a poll finds the New Democrats are dominating in mainly French-speaking Quebec.
   Pollsters suggest it’s a little early to define the possible outcome of the October federal election as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives seek to remain the majority government.
   Unsettling for Harper and the Liberals is the New Democrats stunning victory resulting in Rachel Notley becoming premier and ending 44 years of Conservative rule in Alberta’s provincial election.
   This has boosted prospects of New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Tom Mulcair in recent opinion polls.
   “For those in denial about the rise of the NDP, we would suggest that they consider abandoning that skepticism,” said pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research.
   The Alberta election victory “created goodwill for the party,” said Nik Nanos of Nanos Research, and Canadians who would consider voting NDP is at a 12-month high, tied with the Liberals.

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Key interest rate in Canada steady while economic risks remain



   Canada column for Sunday, May 31/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s central bank has kept its key interest rate steady at 0.75 percent even as it says risks to the country's financial stability remain elevated.
   Much of Canada’s fortunes – or lack thereof – is tied to the United States’ economy.
   Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said it is “slightly puzzling” that the U.S. is experiencing a weaker-than-expected economic rebound.
   He expressed optimism it would start accelerating in the second half of this year and that could provide a major boost for Canada’s exports.
   The bank surprised economists in January when it dropped the key rate to 0.75 percent from 1 percent due to the “unambiguously negative” impacts of plunging oil prices.
   The rate remained steady now as the bank said inflation is in line with projections even with the impact of oil.
   A watch will be kept on the potential economic implications for Canada if the dollar remains higher than in recent months due to a lower U.S. dollar and slightly rising crude prices.
   The bank’s next interest rate announcement will be made on July 15.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dismal economic predictions for Canada's 'oil patch' cities



   Canada column for Sunday, May 24/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   More doom and gloom predictions for Canada’s “oil patch” suggest there could be up to 185,000 job losses this year.
   A report by Enform’s labor market division said the potential losses would amount to a 25-percent drop in the number of jobs due to budget cuts in the oil and gas industry.
   Hardest hit would be resource-rich Alberta where the oil-price collapse darkens the economic fortunes in Calgary and Edmonton.
   The Conference Board of Canada forecasts the two biggest cities will fall into recession this year.
   “The energy sectors in both cities will decline, but other sectors will also feel the pinch from lower oil prices including construction, transportation, warehousing and wholesale and retail trade,” the board said.
   It predicted that benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil will average $56 U.S. a barrel this year and $69 in 2016 – down from $102 a year ago.
   Enform’s report said the industry is expected to spend $94 billion this year, down from $125 billion last year.
   The study said engineering construction firms are most vulnerable followed by exploration and development drilling.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Soccer fan loses his $106,000 job for harassing taunts at reporter



   Canada column for Sunday, May 17/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   A soccer fan who thought it was fun to shout sexually explicit taunts at a female TV reporter doing a broadcast has lost his $106,000 a year job.
    CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt said she is “fed up” with men coming up to her microphone and verbally harassing her.
   It happened again at a Toronto FC soccer match, so Hunt challenged a group of men about why they would do such a thing.
   They all laughed and repeated the obscenities that were filmed by the TV crew.
   Several of the men were identified after the TV station showed the video and posted it on social media.
   This led to a man identified as Shawn Simoes being fired by Hydro One for violating the company’s code of conduct.
   Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment said it will ban all harassers from its facilities for a year and provide more security for reporters.
   A similar “vulgar stunt,” now called a trend across North America, was caught on camera by CityNews in Calgary and led to an arrest.
   Reporter Meghan Grant was conducting an interview when someone in a passing truck shouted obscenities at her.
   They got the license number and police followed up, resulting in a $402 fine for the stunt.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Socialist government in Alberta could shake up oil policies, pipeline plans



   Canada column for Sunday, May 10/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   By Jim Fox

   The election of a socialist government in Alberta could lead to big changes in Canada’s oil patch and the future of oil pipeline projects.
   Rachel Notley will take over as Premier with her New Democratic Party after a decisive victory that ended 44 years of pro big oil and right-wing Conservative rule.
   Unlike previous Alberta premiers, Notley said she will let the political events in the United States take their course without her government’s lobbying for construction of the long-stalled $8-billion Keystone XL project.
   Instead of sending Alberta oilsands crude and thousands of jobs to Texas refineries with the building of the Keystone XL, Notley said she’d prefer to have the oil processed instead in Canada.
   On the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to ship oil to British Columbia seaports for export, Notley said it’s so contentious with environmentalists and native opposition that she won’t spend much time worrying about it.
   Projects such as Energy East to ship oil from Alberta through existing pipelines and an extension to the east coast “might” be supported, she said.
   Notley’s election could give President Barack Obama pause to reject Keystone XL, said Nebraska pipeline-fighter Jane Kleeb.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cost-cutting impairs highway snow clearing: Ontario auditor general



   Canada column for Sunday, May 3/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Ontario government is so intent on cutting costs for highway snow clearing that it left roads in an unsafe condition for drivers, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said.
   In a scathing report, she said the Liberal government even gave contracts to private companies that didn’t have the equipment to clear highways of snow.
   The cutbacks over the last five years were at a cost that included “greater delays in clearing highways so that they were safe to drive during and after a storm," Lysyk said.
   Before contract changes were made in 2009, most highways were cleared within about 2.1 hours after a storm but that climbed to 4.7 hours by 2013-14, her report said.
   She found that contract changes put more emphasis on the lowest bidder and less on a company’s ability to actually do the job.
   As well, contractors started using less salt, sand and anti-icing liquids on highways that they patrolled less often than before, Lysyk said.
   “Let me assure all of you, we will take action and we will get it right,” Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said of the report.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ontario to get tough with tobacco smugglers, tax evaders



   Canada column for Sunday, April 26/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Ontario government is turning over a new leaf and getting tough with contraband tobacco dealers who account for 40 percent of the cigarettes consumed in the province.
   Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the illegal cigarette market amounts to $500 million annually and is a big part of the underground economy costing the provincial government $15 billion a year in lost tax revenues.
   In his budget, Sousa said new measures in the past two years have recouped about $600 million in lost revenue from tax evaders.
   Along with getting tough with those in the illegal cigarette market, the government will go after corporate tax avoiders and cash, tax-free deals by roofers and auto body shops, he said.
   Contraband smokes are sold on native reserves, in bars and out of car trunks for a fraction of the $85 average retail price for a carton of 200 cigarettes.
   The government is also requiring that tobacco farms and everyone who handles the product must be registered.
   Authorities say much of the contraband cigarettes have come from unlicensed manufacturing plants in New York State supplemented by the growth of Ontario farms selling tobacco to underground manufacturers.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Higher oil prices help push up value of Canadian dollar



   Canada column for Sunday, April 19/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar has jumped by three cents U.S. as the economy reacts to higher crude oil prices.
   As a major oil-producing nation, Canada’s dollar topped 82 cents U.S. as worldwide oil prices moved higher after OPEC predicted the boom in U.S. crude production is on the wane.
   The International Energy Agency forecast a slowdown later this year as oil reached $57 a barrel.
   Lower oil prices have led to reduced production in Canada and the U.S. Energy Information Administration said fewer rigs will be in operation there next month.
   Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate unexpectedly rose to 1.2 percent last month with higher food prices and a moderating decline in gasoline prices.
   Economists suggest inflation’s increase from 1.0 percent is unlikely to cause the central bank to make any change in the key bank interest rate for perhaps the rest of the year.
   The Bank of Canada decided on Wednesday not to change rates after a surprise 0.25-percent drop to 0.75 percent in January.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Housing and travel expenses on trial for Senator Mike Duffy



   Canada column for Sunday, April 12/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   When is a house not a home for Canadian senators, the fraud, bribery and breach of trust trial for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy has to determine.
   At issue for Duffy and some other senators is their expense claims for having a primary residence outside of the Ottawa area in Canada’s Capital Region and travel costs.
   Duffy, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said his main residence is a house in Prince Edward Island.
   That was despite spending most of his time living in suburban Ottawa and for which he received a housing allowance of about $82,000, the trial was told.
   An observer in the courtroom is suspended Sen. Patrick Brazeau who also faces trial related to his living and travel expenses.
   Brazeau said his principal residence is in Maniwaki, Quebec but police allege he actually lives in Gatineau across the Ottawa River from the Parliament.
   Investigators continue to review the expense records of suspended Sen. Pamela Wallin along with claims of more than 100 current and former senators.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Investigators probing added Senate expense claims



   Canada column for Sunday, April 5/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Senate expenses scandal has expanded to include more than 100 current and former senators whose claims are being investigated.
   This comes as the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy for fraud, bribery and breach of trust is to begin on Tuesday.
   As well, investigators allege that suspended Senator Pamela Wallin submitted 150 "suspicious" expense claims while on personal business.
   A former consul general in New York City and prominent broadcaster, Wallin has paid back $154,191, but faces no criminal charges at present.
   The expense claims of the senators, including one for more than $100,000, are being examined to see if they should have been reimbursed for flights, meals and other perks charged to Senate business.
   Arrested earlier and facing trial for fraudulent expense claims along with Duffy, also a former national TV news broadcaster, are suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau and retired senator Mac Harb.
   Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the Senate scandal puts into question the judgment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy.

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