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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, 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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Sunday, February 21, 2016

All refugees to receive Canadian health care benefits



   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.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Canada to withdraw from Middle East combat



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 14/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – in the week when he marked 100 days in the job – has acted on a pledge to end Canada’s combat role in the Middle East.
   As well, he plans to increase federal spending to help the economy and will create thousands of summer jobs for students – many of whom backed his Liberal party as first-time voters.
   With polls saying most Canadians disagree with Trudeau’s military plan, the government will withdraw Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by Feb. 22.
   Canada will instead increase its military efforts with more special forces deployed to train Iraqi soldiers for the next two years, Trudeau said.
   Air strikes can achieve short-term military and territorial gains, he said, adding “they do not on their own achieve long-term stability for local communities.”
   On the economy, Trudeau said the setbacks of low oil prices can be offset with increased spending on growth-generating projects such as the infrastructure.
   He also announced funding to create 34,000 additional summer jobs for students, who are “not just leaders of tomorrow, but leaders today.”

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

$1 billion in aid set for oil-battered Alberta from the Canadian government



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 7/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Liberal government is offering $1 billion in aid to Alberta as the province faces “rapid change and significant shock” from falling oil prices, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
   “Alberta and Albertans have contributed tremendously to Canada’s growth – particularly over the past 10 years – and our economy right across the country has benefitted,” he added.
   “Now, Alberta is facing challenging times and quite frankly, Canadians help other Canadians when they’re facing tough times,” Trudeau while meeting with Premier Rachel Notley in Edmonton.
   The prime minister has committed to “fast track” $700 million in previously announced infrastructure money to create jobs.
   As well, the government will provide up to $250 million in fiscal stabilization funds in a program that help provinces experiencing major revenue declines.
   Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the March 29 budget will include investments in Canada’s economy that will help other provinces hit by the oil-price slump such as Saskatchewan and Newfoundland/Labrador.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Zika virus travel warning for Canadians



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 31/16

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians seeking a break from a cold winter are being advised by health authorities to “consider” postponing travel to hot climates where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is circulating.
   As well, the agency responsible for most of Canada’s blood supply will turn away donors who have traveled to countries where Zika is rampant.
   That now takes in more than 20 countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico.
   Most people infected with the virus experience no symptoms, or at the most short-lived fever, malaise, skin rash, joint pain and red eyes.
   The big worry is for pregnant women and those who plan to become pregnant as it can cause children to be born with microcephaly, a condition that causes small heads and underdeveloped brains.
   “It is recommended that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health-care provider to assess their risk,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
   While the chance of Zika virus getting into the blood supply is remote, it is spreading in areas where Canadians are potentially going to be traveling, said Dr. Dana Devine of Canadian Blood Services.
   Most Canadian airlines are allowing passengers to change or cancel bookings to affected destinations.

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