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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sets in motion October election campaign in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 2/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Stephen Harper has -- as expected -- launched an 11-week campaign for the Oct. 19 federal election.
   The Conservative leader asked Governor General David Johnston today for Parliament to be “dissolved” to officially set in place what will be one of Canada’s longest campaigns.
   Observers suggest Harper is anxious to get the election campaign started to head off potential setbacks such as the ongoing expenses’ fraud trail of suspended Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy and the faltering economy.
   “He would think the longer campaign will enable him to get out from under some of the flak that is yet to come,” said former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent.
   Before anything happens, the Conservatives want to sign a massive free-trade deal being negotiated now.
   The Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving 12 countries including Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Japan, would be the biggest trade deal in history.


   Lieutenant-Colonel Mason Stalker, commander of one of Canada’s leading infantry battalions, faces numerous sex-related charges.
   Stalker, of the First Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was arrested for 10 offenses including sexual assault and exploitation, and breach of trust.
   Investigators say the charges concern incidents involving military cadets in Edmonton from 1998 to 2007.
   He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 2007 and 2012 for his deployments in Afghanistan.
   His arrest comes as General Jonathan Vance, Canada’s new Chief of Defense Staff, pledged to eradicate sexual misconduct in the military.


   News in brief:
   - New Democratic icon Olivia Chow wants to return to federal politics for the socialist party in Toronto. Party Leader Tom Mulcair has welcomed Chow to his team for the October election. She is the widow of former New Democratic Leader Jack Layton and quit as a Member of Parliament to make an unsuccessful bid to become Toronto’s mayor last fall.
   - Flora MacDonald, who was a senior cabinet member in two Conservative governments, has died at age 89. She was the Foreign Affairs Minister in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis when Canadian diplomats gave shelter to six Americans who escaped capture when their embassy was overrun by student demonstrators. She served in the House of Commons from 1972 to 1988 for Kingston and the Islands (Ontario).


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is slightly higher at 76.88 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.3006 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 mixed with the Toronto Stock Exchange index up at 14,353 points and the TSX Venture index is lower at 587 points.
   The average price of gas is lower at a national average of $1.158 a liter or $4.40 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (July 29) 1, 8, 29, 31, 35 and 39; bonus 23. (July 25) 16, 28, 41, 43, 47 and 49; bonus 21. Lotto Max: (July 24) 2, 4, 11, 19, 28, 29 and 38; bonus 42.


   Regional briefs:
   - The successful hosting of the recent Pan Am Games in Toronto and the record-breaking performance by Canadian athletes have prompted interest in the city bidding to hold the 2024 Olympic Games. Marcel Aubut, head of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said he will “use the full power of his office” to push for the bid.
   - Calgary-based oilsands company Suncor Energy has cut its planned spending this year by another $400 million in addition to eliminating 1,200 jobs. The move reflects the continued downturn of crude oil prices at around $50 U.S. a barrel – about half of what it was a year ago. In January, Suncor said it would reduce its budget by $1 billion to between $6.2 billion and $6.8 billion.
   - Catherine Finn of Peterborough, Ontario said in her obituary she wants Canadians to “to drive (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper from office, right out of the country and into the deep blue sea if possible.”  Finn, 72, also called on Canadians to help rebuild the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. hit by government funding cutbacks. Son Andrew Finn said mom wanted some “zingers” in her obit.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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