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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Harper insists he wasn't aware of payment for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy's challenged expenses



   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 16/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Stephen Harper continues to insist that he was unaware of any arrangements to have suspended Sen. Mike Duffy’s contested expense claims paid.
   Duffy, a former national TV news commentator, is on trial on 31 counts of breach of trust, fraud and bribery.
   Senior officials in Harper’s prime minister’s office were said to be among those who knew in 2013 that Duffy didn’t pay back the $90,000 in disputed housing and travel expense claims.
   Nigel Wright, who was then the prime minister’s chief of staff, wrote a personal check to repay the money for Duffy, who had been appointed to the Senate by Harper.
   The payment was described as a “deliberately deceptive scheme” concocted by the prime minister’s office to quell a political scandal, Duffy’s attorney Don Bayne said.
   Emails showed that Harper was briefed as his staff attempted to manage the scandal.
   On the campaign for the Oct. 19 federal election, Harper said the information he received was that Duffy was going to repay the money and would “explain his own story.”

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   Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre showed his disdain at the Canadian post office’s decision to end door-to-door delivery by blasting apart a group mailbox cement base with a jackhammer.
   “The message we’re sending today is that Canada Post will respect us,” Coderre said in objecting to plans to erect the mailbox at the entrance to a nature park without consulting area homeowners.
   Canada Post issued a statement saying it would work with communities to find mailbox locations that are “safe, accessible and practical.”
   The post office is switching to community mailboxes in an effort to cut costs by $500 million a year as mail volumes plummet.

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   News in brief:
   - Polls show it remains a three-way race as the Canadian election campaign enters its third week. After the first election debate, polls show a drop in New Democratic Party (NDP) support and a slight boost for the Liberals. Forum Research put the socialist NDP at 34 percent support, down five percentage points, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives unchanged at 28 percent and the Liberals up two percent at 27 percent.
   - Toronto has joined Regina and Winnipeg on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s list of troubled markets. The agency said that rapid and overvalued price increases put the cities at high risk of a housing-price correction. The average price of a detached house in Toronto is up 14.2 percent from last year at an average of $1.052 million. Vancouver is rated as low risk even as prices hit an average of $1.1 million for a detached house.

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   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is slightly higher at 76.44 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.3080 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is 0.50 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Markets are lower with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 14,257 points and the TSX Venture index 571 points.
   The average price of gas is higher at a national average of $1.18 a liter or $4.49 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Aug. 12) 20, 24, 27, 28, 38 and 48; bonus 2. (Aug. 8) 21, 26, 30, 31, 32 and 48; bonus 18. Lotto Max: (Aug. 7) 5, 13, 20, 37, 39, 40 and 41; bonus 28.

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   Regional briefs:
   - An aggressive wildfire forced hundreds of people to flee to safety in British Columbia’s Southern Interior. The evacuees included about 200 campers who ran from Kettle River Provincial Park near Rock Creek with no time to collect their belongings including tents and trailers. The British Columbia Wildfire Service was also asking people in 240 homes in the area to leave.
   - There was a lot of alligator and crocodile wrestling going on at a Toronto house where someone’s pet collection got out of hand. Volunteers with the Indian River Reptile Zoo near Peterborough, Ontario removed about 150 pet crocodiles, alligators and caimans, all of them in good health. The owners had asked for help with their horde of reptiles. City officials said they were unaware of the situation and there had been no complaints from neighbors.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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