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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oil price financial crisis worsens for Alberta



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 15/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (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   Edmonton has now withdrawn its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games after the province said it can no longer afford its $1-billion share of the cost.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.

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   The Supreme Court of Canada’s historic ruling striking down the ban on doctor-assisted deaths for mentally competent but suffering and “irremediable” patients puts the onus now on the federal government.
   The judgment gave Parliament one year to draft a bill recognizing the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.
   It doesn’t limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.
   Justice Minister Peter MacKay called it a “sensitive issue . . . with deeply held beliefs on both sides.”

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   News in brief:
   - Toronto-area Member of Parliament Eve Adams has quit the Conservative party to join the Liberals. She plans to seek the nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence, hoping to take on Finance Minister Joe Oliver in the federal election scheduled for October.
   - Jason Kenney has been named Minister of Defense in a cabinet shuffle. He succeeds Rob Nicholson who took over foreign affairs after the resignation of John Baird. Kenney's former job as Minister of Employment and Social Development went to Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
   - As Target winds down its business in Canada, Wal-Mart Canada announced plans to spend $230 million to expand seven stores and open two new ones this year. It will also convert 20 locations to supercentres with groceries and increase its Canadian store count to 396.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is higher at 80.32 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2448 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.
   Stock markets are higher with the Toronto exchange index at 15,310 points and the TSX Venture index 694 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline in Canada is up at 99.82 cents or $3.79 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Feb. 11) 1, 13, 24, 29, 43 and 49; bonus 8. (Feb. 7) 14, 16, 24, 41, 42 and 48; bonus 34. Lotto Max: (Feb. 6) 1, 5, 7, 13, 14, 33 and 46; bonus 47.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Measles cases across Canada include 10 people in Quebec traced to an outbreak at Disneyland in California. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that infection has led to 114 cases in seven states. There are eight cases reported in Ontario and one in Manitoba.
   - The body of a Royal Canadian Air Force search-and-rescue member who was swept off a cliff in Alberta has been found. Sergeant Mark Salesse, 41, of Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, was training in ice climbing when an avalanche was triggered in Banff National Park.
   - Officials of the Tim Hortons coffee shop chain have apologized after the owner of a Robson Street location in Vancouver dumped a bucket of water, soaking a homeless man and his dog sleeping outside. The actions were “regretful” and came “in a moment of frustration,” the company said. The unnamed owner was told to apologize to the man and make a “meaningful” donation to a homeless shelter.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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