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Friday, April 29, 2016

Duffy found not guilty; Niagara Falls turns purple

   Canada column for Sunday, April 24/16

Niagara Falls turned purple to honor the Queen and Prince. (Parks Canada photo)
   By Jim Fox

   Mike Duffy is back at work as a senator after a three-year expulsion now that he was cleared of 31 charges of defrauding the Canadian government.
   Judge Charles Vaillancourt, in a four-hour verdict, had harsh words for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office and its conduct over the expenses scandal involving Duffy, 69.
   The ruling after a 62-day trial took issue with the prosecution’s contention that the former TV broadcaster had deliberately defrauded taxpayers by submitting claims for disputed housing, office and travel expenses.
   Vaillancourt was extremely critical that Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave Duffy $90,000 to repay his living expenses to try to defuse the controversy.
   “The political, covert, relentless, unfolding of events is mind boggling and shocking,” Vaillancourt said, acquitting Duffy of all counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
   Lawyer Donald Bayne said that Duffy has been subjected to “more public humiliation than probably any Canadian in history.”
   Senator Patrick Brazeau faces a fraud and breach of trust trial this year while senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses continue to be examined by the police. Seven other senators are being asked to repay a total of $528,000 in disputed expenses.


   Canada’s Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario turned a regal purple Thursday night to honor Queen Elizabeth on her 90th birthday – and, perhaps to pay tribute to Prince.
   Many people said it also honored the “Purple Rain” singer who died at his home in Minnesota at age 57.
   Toronto played a big part in the life of Prince as in the early-to-mid 2000s, he lived in the city's Bridle Path neighborhood.
   At the time, he was married to Manuela Testolini, who was born in Toronto.
   Prince performed two of his last sold-out shows at Toronto’s Sony Center last month.


   News in brief:
   - Canada’s new Liberal government plans to present a bill next spring to legalize marijuana use. Health Minister Jane Philpott said legalization “ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals.” She did not reveal details but added that “we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety.
   - Low energy prices are keeping a lid on Canada’s inflation rate that dropped to 1.3 percent last month from 1.4 in February. Statistics Canada said prices for gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil dropped 13.6 percent, 17.4 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively. As well, retail sales rose 0.4 per cent in February to $44.2 billion with gains highlighted by car, truck and parts products.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is higher at 78.89 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar is worth $1.2675 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 13,887 points and the TSX Venture index 658 points.
   The average price for gas nationally is lower at 99.9 cents a liter or $3.79 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (April 20) 1, 2, 7, 9, 18 and 27; bonus 5. (April 16) 9, 12, 21, 37, 38 and 43; bonus 31. Lotto Max: (April 15) 1, 9, 17, 19, 25, 27 and 38; bonus 44.


   Regional briefs:
   - Western Canadian ski resort operators had a banner year while hills in Ontario and Quebec around Toronto and Montreal wondered what happened to the winter. Resorts near Quebec City, Saguenay and Eastern Quebec did alright with ample snow. Sun Peaks Resort and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia set records with a large amount of snow and a 75-cent Canadian dollar attracting more Americans north.
   - The City of Toronto has reversed an order that a homeowner tear down a $30,000 treehouse he built for his sons in his backyard. John Alpeza now has to apply for a height variance to bring his boat-shaped treehouse into compliance with city regulations. A complaint by a neighbor led the city to investigate the treehouse that’s 15-feet high, one foot over regulations.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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