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Defense minister refuses to resign

By JIM FOX
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

Canadian Defense Minister Art Eggleton refuses to resign as a Commons committee investigates whether he showed contempt for Parliament over the war on terrorism.

Government House leader Ralph Goodale said the committee will review whether Eggleton deliberately misled the Commons about his knowledge of Canadian soldiers capturing prisoners in Afghanistan.

Politicians were debating whether prisoners should be handed over to U.S. authorities, who have refused to give prisoner-of-war status to captives.

Eggleton said he learned Jan. 25 that Canadian soldiers had captured fighters in Afghanistan and turned them over to U.S. forces. The next day he recanted, saying he had actually heard about the captures during a phone briefing Jan. 21. He said he didn't tell Prime Minister Jean Chretien or the Cabinet for a week while waiting for more details.

Eggleton denied any intent to mislead the Commons, but opposition politicians want him to resign.

Brian Pallister of the Canadian Alliance suggested Eggleton and Chretien hid the truth in order to avert an uproar among Liberals.

Fierce winter storm

Snowplows and salters hit the streets of Toronto on Thursday for the first time this season.

The unseasonable springlike weather gave way to a fierce winter storm that moved into Southern Ontario from the U.S. Midwest.

Several inches of snow fell during the storm, which also brought freezing rain, ice pellets and high winds.

Three people were killed in weather-related accidents including Sourindra Dutta, a University of Windsor engineering professor, who was crushed by a falling tree.

The lack of snow has saved Toronto at least $5-million in its winter maintenance budget.

News in brief

Politicians paid tribute Thursday to Preston Manning, who left Parliament after transforming Canada's political landscape by launching the right-wing Reform Party. The Alberta-based movement tapped into western anger and alienation and became the official opposition. It was the forerunner of today's Canadian Alliance party, which chose Stockwell Day as its leader. Manning will divide time between business, consulting and communications.

A settlement in the Canada-U.S. lumber trade dispute will be impossible unless "hard-line interests" stop believing they can overhaul the way Canada's forests are managed, International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew said. In a speech in Montreal, he accused Americans of stalling on talks to settle the fight over duties imposed on Canadian softwood lumber. The United States claims it is unfairly subsidized.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar rose to 63 U.S. cents after Chretien made positive comments about the economy in a speech in New York. The dollar fell back Friday to 62.90 cents, while the U.S. dollar returned $1.5898 Canadian before bank exchange fees.

Canada's economy grew for a second consecutive month in November but on an annual basis shrank by 0.3 percent. November's 0.2 percent increase followed October's 0.3 percent jump.

The Bank of Canada interest rate remains 2 percent. The prime lending rate is 3.75 percent.

Stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto Exchange 300 index at 7,656 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange at 1,126 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 4, 6, 11, 37 and 47; bonus 22. (Jan. 26) 3, 27, 31, 34, 35 and 40; bonus 22.

Regional briefs

Quebec Premier Bernard Landry has shuffled his Cabinet to form a new team he hopes will help the Parti Quebecois win a third consecutive mandate. He has until November 2003 to set the date for the next election within the maximum five-year limit. The independence-minded government trails the Liberals in recent opinion polls.

Newfoundland's government says it won't pay back $27-million in overpayments from the federal government. It was also learned that $3.3-billion in extra federal money was sent to Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba since 1993.

A widespread strike by schoolteachers is expected to begin Monday across Alberta. Unless there is an agreement with the provincial government, more than 13,000 teachers could leave their jobs and affect classes for 217,000 students.

The British Columbia government appears ready to begin closing hospitals to cut spending. Health Minister Colin Hansen said residents shouldn't be concerned as medical advances have reduced the need for many hospital beds.

Nova Scotia and the British Virgin Islands have signed an agreement to cooperate in the fishing industry, with plans to promote links in boat building, maritime training and resource conservation.

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