Conservatives are considering overthrowing the minority Liberal government to take advantage of Canadians' disgust over abuses unveiled in the sponsorship inquiry.
Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin counters that should the Conservatives force an election, they would be accomplices of the separatist Bloc Quebecois in trying to break up Canada and possibly the Medicare system.
Testimony at the inquiry indicated millions of dollars were secretly siphoned off to Quebec Liberals and supporters from the fund intended to promote national unity.
When the federal auditor general's report last year indicated $100-million had been inappropriately spent, voters last June knocked the Liberals down to minority government status.
Flu pandemic prevented
Canadian authorities are credited with helping to avert a possible influenza pandemic.
Health workers discovered that labs around the world were sent unlabeled samples of a flu virus considered a major threat, the World Health Organization said.
More than 5,000 laboratories in 18 countries were told to destroy the samples of H2N2, improperly distributed for study by the College of American Pathologists.
News in brief
The Canadian government has reached its first agreement under the "new deal for cities" with $636-million for British Columbia. The five-year plan will result in $5-billion in federal gasoline taxes being given back to the provinces. Canada is forgiving debts of $52-million (Canadian) owed by the impoverished countries Zambia, Honduras and Rwanda. Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said those countries put too many resources into debt payments when they desperately need money for social and economic programs. Queen Elizabeth II will cut back on her travels after a nine-day trip to Canada next month, British newspapers report. Buckingham Palace said the queen, who turns 79 this month, and Prince Philip, 83, are in good health.
Facts and figures
The Canadian dollar is on a downward slide again, reaching 80.25 U.S. cents Friday, while the U.S. dollar rose to $1.2461 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada decided to leave its key interest rate steady at 2.5 percent, while the prime lending rate remains at 4.25 percent.
Stock markets are sharply lower, with Toronto's composite index 9,311 points Friday and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,729 points.
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has been assured there is no threat with the launch of a U.S. Air Force satellite. As a result, the energy industry abandoned plans to evacuate three offshore oil rigs before the launch in the coming week of a Titan IV rocket. Oil-rich Alberta is making a record increase in education spending. Finance Minister Shirley McClellan unveiled the "investment budget" in light of a $1.5-billion surplus. Colleges and technical institutes will receive $1.6-billion while there is extra money for schools, health and police. A 5 percent property tax cut and exemption for seniors' health-care premiums also are planned.