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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Higher gas taxes, free college tuition in Ontario budget



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 28/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Ontario residents will pay more to fill up their gas tanks, heat their homes, smoke and drink wine while most students will be able to go to college free.
   The measures are in the Liberal government’s budget that will push gasoline prices up by about 4.3 cents a liter (16 cents a U.S. gallon) on Jan. 1 and natural gas bills by $5 a month in a “cap-and-trade” plan.
   The program is described as a “government-mandated, market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.”
   The budget, projecting a $5.7 billion deficit, will provide free tuition to university and college students whose families have incomes of $50,000 or less. Those with up to $83,000 will receive “non-repayable grants.”
   There’s a $3 increase in taxes for a carton of 200 cigarettes and a higher mark up in wine prices.
   Hospitals will receive $345 million in additional funding and low-income seniors will be eligible for less expensive prescription drugs.

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   A fierce winter storm that dumped freezing rain and snow driven by strong winds caused widespread power outages across southern Quebec, eastern Ontario and southern New Brunswick on Thursday.
   There were more than 250,000 power cuts, with some customers in Quebec not having their service restored until this weekend.
   The good news was for students in Quebec who had a “snow day” ahead of the coming week’s March break.

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   News in brief:
   - “I’m tortured by the grief I've caused," Marco Muzzo, 29, said before being remanded in custody to March 29 for sentencing in a drunk driving crash that killed three children and their grandfather in Vaughan, Ontario last September. “You killed all my babies (and father),” grieving mother Jennifer Neville-Lake told Muzzo in court. Muzzo, from a billionaire contracting family and had just returned from his stag party weekend in Miami, pleaded guilty to drunk driving and faces 8 to 12 years in prison.
   - Canadian airlines are assessing the potential impact of opening up U.S. travel to Cuba. This could result in many people heading to U.S. airport s for cheaper fares. Cuba has long been a popular destination for Canadians, nearing 1 million visits a year. The U.S. and Cuba have agreed to resume commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, with up to 110 daily flights.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is higher at 73.96 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.352 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 12,851 points and the TSX Venture index 536 points.
   The average price of gas has risen to 87.2 cents a liter nationally or $3.31 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Feb. 24) 14, 18, 35, 38, 41 and 43; bonus 15. (Feb. 20) 4, 8, 10, 30, 33 and 39; bonus 25. Lotto Max: (Feb. 19) 2, 11, 20, 22, 33, 40 and 43; bonus 4.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Fourteen confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The Public Health Agency said all are travel related and no mosquitoes that transmit the virus are found in Canada. Pregnant women are being cautioned about travel to southern climates where the virus is prevalent as it can cause birth defects.
   - Don Getty, a former Conservative premier and football star for the Edmonton Eskimos, has died at the age of 82. He served as Alberta’s 11th premier from 1985 to 1992. Getty died in an Edmonton nursing home of heart failure and is survived by his wife Margaret and four sons.
   - Halifax is going to be a busy port for cruise ships this year as 135 are expected with about 250,000 passengers. The Halifax Port Authority said the season begins on April 30 and will include a Sept. 1 visit by Anthem of the Seas that will be the largest ship to visit with 4,900 passengers.

   -30-

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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