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Monday, February 9, 2015

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister quits Cabinet and politics



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 8/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   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.

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   The rampage by a gunman in the halls of the House of Commons last fall is leading to a change in security procedures.
   The government will give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police control of security inside the Parliament Buildings, ending a century-old tradition of an independent security team.
   Aided by in-house officers, former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, now the Ambassador to Ireland, shot and killed the gunman who had earlier killed a soldier at the war memorial.
   A review found the need for a unified security detail whereas the Mounties worked outside only.

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   News in brief:
   - Bargain hunters didn’t seem too impressed as the liquidation of merchandise began at Target’s 133 Canadian stores. Toronto shoppers said that while signs promised discounts of up to 30 percent, most prices were cut by much less than that. After mounting losses in the billions of dollars since arriving in Canada two years ago, Target decided to leave ending the jobs of 17,000 workers.
   - U.S. President Barack Obama’s continued blocking of approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is “illogical,” said Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, whose company plans the $8-billion project. The pipeline, opposed by environmentalists, would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day to refineries on the Gulf Coast from Alberta’s oilsands and the U.S. Bakken region. It is the “cheapest and safest way” to move the oil instead of shipping by rail, he said.
   - Canada’s groundhogs have mixed feelings about the long, cold winter. Ontario’s Wiarton Willie didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day, predicting an early spring. Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam did and forecast six more weeks of winter. Sam lives next door to New Brunswick where Saint John had its third storm in less than a week, leaving behind four feet of snow.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is higher at 79.90 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2514 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.
   Stock markets are higher with the Toronto exchange index at 15,121 points and the TSX Venture index 690 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline in Canada is higher at 98.34 cents or $3.73 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Feb. 4) 6, 8, 10, 22, 30 and 43; bonus 23. (Jan. 31) 9, 13, 18, 20, 24 and 36; bonus 5. Lotto Max: (Jan. 30) 10, 15, 21, 28, 32, 36 and 37; bonus 9.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Police have arrested Jean-Claude Savoie whose python killed two boys in New Brunswick in 2013. Mountie Corporal Chantal Farrah said the investigation is ongoing into the deaths of Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah, 4, in Campbellton. An African rock python escaped from its enclosure in Savoie’s apartment and asphyxiated the boys who were there for a sleepover.
   - The British Columbia government has been warned by the Mounties that cutting the force’s budget would hamper its ability to investigate missing and murdered women along the so-called Highway of Tears. Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens said investigators have already been cut from the task force looking for a serial killer believed operating along Highway 16.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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