Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 21/16
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
The Canadian government is restoring health care benefits to refugees, including no-cost hospital and medical treatment, examinations and vaccinations, by April 1.
The Liberals are reversing a controversial policy by the previous Conservative government that withdrew the benefits to deter “bogus” refugees and save $20 million.
Immigration Minister John McCallum said “all refugee claimants and refugees will now be covered” as the system became “virtually unmanageable.”
There were concerns as health benefits are being provided to the 25,000 Syrian refugees being resettled in Canada since December.
The Federal Court also ruled the changes were unconstitutional and ordered the government to reinstate the benefits.
At a cost of $11.5 million annually, the government will also provide additional coverage to refugees coming to Canada including examinations, vaccinations, treatment of disease outbreaks and medical support during travel.
Refugees needing prescription drugs, vision and urgent dental care will have coverage similar to what Canadians on social assistance receive.
Canada, which is pulling its fighter jets out of the bombing mission in Iraq and Syria effective Monday, is deploying a navy warship to the Aegean Sea.
The frigate HMCS Fredericton will join a NATO task force to combat the deadly smuggling of migrants between the Turkish mainland and Greek islands.
Along with a German and Turkish warship, Canadian sailors will conduct reconnaissance and surveillance to help deal with the migrant crisis.
The International Organization for Migration said 409 people have died this year trying to cross the sea to Europe.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the bombing mission is being replaced with 830 personnel training local security forces and helping to rebuild the region.
News in brief:
- Bombardier of Montreal is cutting 7,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its workforce worldwide, even as it received an order from Air Canada for 45 of its new CSeries jets. Most of the job losses, including 2,000 contractors, will be in Canada and Europe. There will be 2,430 layoffs in the aerospace division and 400 jobs in railway manufacturing in Canada.
- Higher prices for imported goods such as fruit and vegetables helped push up inflation to 2 percent last month, the highest since November 2014. Statistics Canada said the lower value of the Canadian dollar contributed to higher costs for imported products. The dollar’s decline is blamed on the steep drop in oil and commodity prices. Fruit cost 18.2 percent more last month and vegetables were up 12.9 percent.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar has advanced to 72.59 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.377 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
Markets are higher, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 12,825 points and the TSX Venture index 529 points.
The average price of gas has risen to 87.0 cents a liter nationally or $3.30 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
Lotto 6/49: (Feb. 17) 7, 21, 28, 32, 38 and 42; bonus 5. (Feb. 13) 2, 9, 25, 27, 31 and 42; bonus 18. Lotto Max: (Feb. 12) 19, 20, 26, 31, 34, 39 and 48; bonus 18.
- Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, was buried by almost two feet of snow on Tuesday, setting a record held since 16 inches of snow fell in one day in 1947. The final tally was 20 inches (51 centimeters), causing massive traffic problems and airport delays.
- The British Columbia government has its fourth consecutive balanced budget, with a surplus of $264 million. Changes include exempting the payment of property transfer taxes on newly built houses and condominiums costing up to $750,000 to save buyers $13,000.
- Up in smoke is what a hospital charity lottery found and withdrew a $1.3-million house in Kleinburg, north of Toronto, as its grand prize. The Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Foundation discovered it backs onto a property where the owner legally grows medical marijuana. This has resulted in “an intrusive odor in the neighborhood” and the prize will be replaced with the cash instead, the foundation said.
Jim Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org