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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two held for alleged Halifax massacre facing additional charges

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 22/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Two people arrested for allegedly planning a “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” at a Halifax shopping mall are facing additional charges.
   Mounties say that Randall Shepherd, 20, of Halifax and Lindsay Souvannarath, 23, of Geneva, Ill., were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder.
   At a court appearance when they were remanded in custody to March 6, additional counts were added for conspiracy to commit arson, illegal possession of weapons and making a threat through social media.
   It is believed the accused were planning to open fire on people at the Halifax Shopping Center on Feb. 14 and then kill themselves, police said.
   Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said the two had extensive plans and the means to carry them out.
   The investigation suggests those plans, which were thwarted in time after someone calling in a tip to the police, involved James Gamble, 19, who was found dead in his Halifax home.
   A social networking website believed linked to Gamble showed photos of weapons, Nazi symbols and images relating to the Columbine High School shooting.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oil price financial crisis worsens for Alberta

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 15/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Alberta, Canada’s oil-rich province, is reeling over a drastic drop in crude prices that will lead to “deep” cuts in spending and jobs.
   Finance Minister Robin Campbell said upcoming budget cuts will be “wide and deep.”
   Edmonton has now withdrawn its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games after the province said it can no longer afford its $1-billion share of the cost.
   Premier Jim Prentice said the slide in oil prices over the last six months has resulted in a $7-billion loss to the provincial treasury.
   “We will make the tough decisions we have to in reducing government spending,” he said, adding that doing nothing would add $20 billion in debt over the next three years.
   Budget cuts are estimated at nine percent along with a five-percent cut in government department spending in the next year, Campbell said.
   Core services such as health care, education and seniors and children’s programs would continue while another option is to increase the 10-percent personal income flat tax.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister quits Cabinet and politics

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 8/15

   By Jim Fox

   Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird – a key member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government – has abruptly resigned.
   Saying the “time has come for me to start a new chapter in my life,” Baird’s decision to leave comes at a critical time in an election year.
   Baird said he will also leave his job as Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Nepean in the coming weeks and not seek reelection.
   A well-known voice for Canada on the world stage, Baird will be succeeded in the interim by Trade Minister Ed Fast.
   In a written statement, Harper said he accepted Baird's resignation “with great regret and affection.”
   Baird, 45, said his decision to leave public life after 20 years to work in the private sector was partly spurred by life choices he made after the unexpected death last year of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a long-time friend.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Falling Canadian dollar adding costs to U.S. winter stays, world travel

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 1/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Snowbirds” are being hit hard by the slumping Canadian dollar that is making winter stays in the United States and travel abroad more costly.
   With the dollar slipping below 80 cents U.S., it means the greenback is worth $1.26 in Canadian funds – or about $1.30 with bank and credit card exchange fees.
   The dollar is closely tied to Canada’s resource industries, particularly oil that has fallen to about $45 U.S. a barrel, and a drop in economic activity.
   The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce predicts Canada’s central bank will cut its trend-setting interest rate by another quarter percentage point in the next few months, with the dollar bottoming out at 77 cents U.S.
   The central bank unexpectedly dropped its interest rate to 0.75 percent to stabilize the economy as businesses drastically cut back on exploration and jobs in the Alberta oil patch.
   A lower dollar, however, aids Canadian businesses whose products are less expensive on the world market as well as tourism to Canada.