Canada column for Sunday, May 8/16
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
A wildfire of epic proportions has now driven almost all 80,000 residents from the oilfields’ capital of Fort McMurray, Alberta as much of the community has gone up in flames.
Spawned by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire changed course and took aim at the city, causing residents to flee in a mass exodus that included huge convoys by road and some evacuations by air.
Police and the military were escorting a procession of 1,500 vehicles carrying evacuees stranded at oilfield camps north of the city to safer ground.
Heavy smoke was hampering their travel that was continuing this weekend to the Edmonton area, about 270 miles to the south.
“The beast is still up, it’s surrounding the city and we’re here doing our very best for you,” regional fire chief Darby Allen said in assessing the situation.
Thousands of houses and buildings have been destroyed and Premier Rachel Notley said she cannot speculate on when it might be safe for residents to return to the city.
The Red Cross has raised $11 million and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will match the donations to help those displaced.
The Alberta government is also matching donations up to $2 million.
“We will weather this storm together and together we will rebuild,” Trudeau said.
Canada’s Liberal government has launched a formal review of the previous Conservative decision to phase out door-to-door mail delivery.
Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to restore home delivery during last fall’s election campaign and then halted the ongoing transition to community mailboxes.
A four-member independent panel is reviewing the decision made as a cost-cutting move by Canada Post, a government corporation.
The panel is to provide an interim report by the end of the summer and final recommendations by the end of the year about mail delivery and other potential money-making ventures for the post office.
News in brief:
- Canada’s tax collectors are asking the Federal Court to order the Royal Bank to disclose clients mentioned in the “Panama Papers” leak with offshore bank accounts. The bank said it would comply with an order while noting there are legitimate reasons to have an offshore holding company. Reports said the bank and its subsidiaries used a law firm to help set up about 370 companies in offshore havens such as Panama for its clients.
- Canada’s national jobless rate remained unchanged last month at 7.1 percent. Statistics Canada said solid employment gains in the services sector were offset by losses in goods-producing industries, especially manufacturing. Overall, there were 2,100 jobs lost nationally while there were 51,700 manufacturing positions lost between December and April.
Facts and figures:
The Canadian dollar is lower at 77.44 cents while the U.S. dollar returns $1.291 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 lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 13,738 points and the TSX Venture index 666 points.
The average price for gas nationally is lower at $1.011 a liter or $3.84 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
Lotto 6/49: (May 4) 4, 16, 19, 22, 36 and 40; bonus 21. (April 30) 1, 7, 18, 28, 30 and 34; bonus 48. Lotto Max: (April 29) 11, 21, 22, 24, 26, 36 and 43; bonus 10.
- Two medical workers admitted they snooped into the late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s electronic health records and were fined $2,505. Mohammad Rahman and Debbie Davison were the first to be convicted under Ontario’s health privacy law. They worked at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto when the controversial mayor was undergoing cancer treatment.
- George John Dryden, who claimed to be the “love child” of the late Canadian prime minister John George Diefenbaker from Saskatchewan, has died in Toronto. Dryden, 47, who had a terminal disease and died after a suicide attempt, bore an uncanny resemblance to Diefenbaker. Historians say the twice-married Diefenbaker did not have any children although Dryden said a relative told him the family had suspicions about the affair.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com