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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Canada prepares to extend and expand fight



   Canada column for Sunday, March 29/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians “cannot stand on the sidelines” in the war against the Islamic State in Syria, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
   It’s not appropriate to do nothing while fighters commit “atrocities in the Middle East and promote terrorism in Canada and against our allies,” he told the House of Commons.
   In presenting a motion to “extend and expand Canada’s military mission,” Harper said the country must continue with its allies to fight Islamic jihadism that “threatens national and global security.”
   The initial goal was modified as Harper said the plan now is based on a belief that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has lost control of the country, allowing extremists to pose a clear threat to the international community.
   If approved by Parliament, in which Harper’s Conservatives have a majority, the new plan would expand airstrikes into Syria and extend the mission by a year.
   New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau both oppose the terms of Canada’s involvement in the war.

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   The Canadian Broadcast Corp. is cutting 244 jobs in part of a strategy to eliminate up to 1,500 jobs across the country.
   The government-funded broadcaster facing budget constraints is trimming back local news services in the latest move that affects English and French-language stations.
   No stations would close and local radio programming is being maintained but evening newscasts would be shortened as well as on Radio One morning shows beginning in the fall, said Jennifer McGuire, editor-in-chief.
   The cutbacks would reduce operating costs by $15 million while still employing 1,100 people in 29 stations nationally and CBC’s service in the North.

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   News in brief:
   - Air Canada is changing its policy on the number of people required in the cockpit of its airplanes after the Germanwings crash in France. Being implemented “without delay” is a requirement to have two people there at all times. French investigators believe the co-pilot deliberately crashed the German airliner in the French Alps after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.
   - Canada’s broadcast regulator will allow subscribers to buy a basic $25-a-month cable TV or satellite package along with individual pick-and-pay options. Canadians have long complained about having to subscribe to dozens of channels they don’t want in order to get a few they do watch. The least expensive option now is about $41. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is giving the industry until December 2016 to implement the new rules.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has slipped to 79.38 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2596 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 mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 14,825 points and the TSX Venture index up at 679 points.
   The average price of gasoline in Canada is lower at $1.0486 a liter or $3.96 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (March 25) 6, 14, 16, 29, 38 and 46; bonus 5. (March 21) 8, 22, 29, 32, 33 and 35; bonus 2. Lotto Max: (March 20) 7, 10, 16, 35, 36, 42 and 45; bonus 24.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Student protesters have clashed with police twice in the past week in downtown Montreal to denounce the Quebec government’s austerity policies. Several thousand people marched, with four arrests for assault and six police cruisers were vandalized. Student groups say budget cuts will harm education and increase tuition fees.
   - Alberta – Canada’s oil-rich province reeling under low crude prices – will implement a health-care fee. Premier Jim Prentice said the province’s budget balances saving, spending and raising money to use energy royalties against the debt by 2019. The collapse in oil prices will short the treasury by $7 billion this year, he said.
   - The long, cold winter will delay the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Great Lakes with Montreal and the Atlantic Ocean, by a week until next Thursday. The melting of the thick ice has slowed with recent colder weather, delaying the shipping season. The weather also resulted in disrupting ferry service between Quebec and Newfoundland as well as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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