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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Possible breakthrough in NAFTA talks makes Canadian prime minister "cautiously optimistic"

   Canada column for Sunday, April 8/18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “cautiously optimistic” of a breakthrough in free trade talks with the U.S. and Mexico.
   Speaking in Quebec City, Trudeau said negotiations for a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement are making “good progress” in spite of challenges.
   “I believe we’re in a moment where we’re moving forward in a significant way,” Trudeau said, even as U.S. President Donald Trump has been dampening expectations for a breakthrough in the coming week.
   While Trump predicted the three countries would have something to announce “fairly soon,” he added: “We get it done right or we’ll terminate (NAFTA).”
   The talks are now involving higher-level players as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met Friday in Washington with U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo.
   There’s speculation there could be an announcement when Trudeau, Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto meet in Peru at the Summit of the Americas, April 13 and 14.


    CTV Toronto news anchor and reporter Paul Bliss, who left his job over sexual misconduct allegations last month, is suing the alleged woman victim, Bridget Brown of Calgary.
   His suit, also names his former employer and four unidentified CTV journalists and seeks $7.5 million in damages for defamation.
   Another high-profile resignation was that of former Ontario Conservative leader Patrick Brown over sexual allegations against him.
   He is suing CTV and television network owner Bell Media for libel over its reporting of the alleged incidents.


   News in brief:
   - The Canadian Press news service reports that AggregateIQ Data Services Ltd., said to be involved in the alleged unauthorized use of Facebook information, received $100,000 in federal funding. The money from the National Research Council was to develop data-driven tools for political campaigns. The Victoria company is under investigation for its link with Cambridge Analytica in accessing the personal information of Facebook users worldwide.
   - Canada’s economy was boosted by 32,300 net new jobs last month, keeping the country’s unemployment rate at a record low of 5.8 percent for a second month. Economists suggested the rate shouldn’t impact the decision of the central bank on April 18 on interest rates.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has climbed to 78.23 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.278 in Canadian funds before exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is unchanged at 1.25 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3.45 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 15,207 points while the TSX Venture index is 769 points.
   The average price for gas in Canada is up slightly at $1.264 a liter or $4.80 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (April 4) 6, 8, 9, 13, 34 and 40; bonus 4. (March 31) 3, 7, 22, 26, 43 and 47; bonus 48. Lotto Max: (March 30) 1, 12, 18, 19, 21, 24 and 41; bonus 15.


   Regional briefs:
   - Tragedy struck the Humboldt Broncos hockey team when a semi-truck slammed into the team bus Friday killing 15 and injuring 14 passengers northeast of Saskatoon. The dead included head coach and general manager Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and player Adam Herold. The team was headed to a playoff game with the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The crash happened on Highway 35, north of Tisdale, with further details not available on Saturday afternoon. Thirty-two years ago four players with the Swift Current (Saskatchewan) Broncos were killed in a bus crash.
   - An Ekos Research survey finds the Conservatives in Ontario led by Doug Ford are drawing strong support from a demographic that “mirrors the populist constituency that propelled Donald Trump to victory in the United States.”  As the June 7 provincial election nears, polls show the Conservatives with 42.1 percent support, the governing Liberals having 27.2 percent, socialist New Democrats at 23.4 percent and the Green Party, 5.7 percent.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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