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Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

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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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Big boost for Canadian dollar over U.S. interest rate statement



   Canada column for Sunday, March 22/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar got a big lift from signals the U.S. Federal Reserve isn’t in a hurry to increase interest rates.
   The announcement caused the U.S. dollar to weaken and boosted Canada’s currency to almost 80 cents U.S. after dipping to the 77-cent range, a six-year low.
   Also battering the dollar – that makes it more expensive for “snowbirds” and travel to the U.S. – are slumping oil prices as Canada is a major crude producer and exporter.
   Just in time for the spring house-buying season, the Bank of Montreal has cut its five-year, fixed-mortgage rate to 2.79 percent from 2.99 per cent.
   It’s the lowest-ever rate by one of the big banks but there are concerns about Canadians added to their growing debt load and overheated housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver.
   The average price of a detached house has risen to $1 million in Toronto while it’s $825,000 in Vancouver.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Canada intends to deport Pakistani man labelled a would-be terrorist without a trial



   Canada column for Sunday, March 15/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government is moving to deport without a trial a Pakistani man accused of planning to bomb the U.S. Consulate and targets in the financial district of Toronto.
   Canada Border Services officers arrested Jahanzeb Malik, 33, saying he is an Islamic State sympathizer who planned to build remote-control bombs.
   Malik came to Canada in 2004 as a student and became a permanent resident in 2009.
   The Toronto flooring contractor is being held pending a hearing on Monday on whether he should be deported.
   Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said only that Malik was “willing to commit a terrorist attack on Canadian soil.”
   Authorities haven’t said why they are seeking deportation instead of a trial, which his lawyer Anser Farooq called “absurd.”
   “He’s getting a one-way ticket out of Canada, that's what's going to happen,” he said.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Interest rates steady -- for now



   Canada column for Sunday, March 8/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Predictions of another cut in Canada’s already low key interest rate hasn’t happened but some economists think it will next month.
   The Bank of Canada decided to hold the line on its trendsetting interest rate at 0.75 percent, citing improved economic conditions.
   Bank governor Stephen Poloz surprised the markets last month by dropping the rate by 0.25 percent from 1 percent where it had been for four years.
   As an oil-producing nation, that cut was “necessary as insurance” as much lower crude prices could be negative for the economy, he said.
   This gave the bank time to assess the impact of oil’s decline, while financial conditions have “eased materially” since then partly in response to the rate cut, Poloz added.
   There has since been stronger performance in non-energy exports and investment, with core inflation near its 2 percent target.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Canada-U.S. relations cooling off after pipeline decision



   Canada column for Sunday, March 1/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Just like the weather, the relationship between Canada and the United States is “as cool as I can remember.”
   Allan Gotlieb, Canada’s elder statesmen of former ambassadors to the U.S., gave that assessment after President Barack Obama vetoed legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
   Gotlieb, 86, was ambassador in Washington from 1981 to 1989 and even with cross-border differences, U.S. presidents paid special attention to Canada-U.S. issues, he said.
   Unlike other presidents, Obama has only made one bilateral visit to Canada – the largest trading partner with the U.S. – in his first month in office, he added.
   The Keystone pipeline project, which would carry 800,000 barrels of Alberta crude oil a day to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, has been “handled with considerable insensitivity,” Gotlieb said.
   It could be that Obama “sees his legacy, maybe, as standing up to big oil and Canada's interests are secondary,” he added.
   “We're still partners – and like every partnership, there are challenges – and yes, there are opportunities,” Bruce Heyman, U.S. ambassador to Canada, said in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

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