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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

   (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.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Housing and travel expenses on trial for Senator Mike Duffy

   Canada column for Sunday, April 12/15

   (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.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Investigators probing added Senate expense claims

   Canada column for Sunday, April 5/15

   (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.