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Canada report

Liberals accused of profiting from gas

Published August 21, 2005

As Canadians pay $1 and more for a liter of gasoline ($3.80 Canadian for a U.S. gallon), the federal government is refusing to ease the pain.

A federal excise tax of 2 cents a liter enacted in the mid 1990s to pay off the deficit is still in place even though the debt is gone.

The government also imposes a tax on tax. The 7 percent federal Goods and Services Tax is calculated on the total pump price that includes provincial taxes and the surtax.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper accused the Liberal government of profiting from high gas prices, saying it could reduce the cost by 5 cents a liter by ending double-taxation and the surtax.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said gas prices are changing so quickly that a reduction of taxes probably wouldn't make much of a difference.

"The dilemma is there is not an easy way to make sure if governments were to change their tax structures that it would that actually result in money in the pockets of consumers," he said.

Canada has major oil reserves, notably the Alberta oil sands where senior U.S. officials have toured recently, with enough to supply the country but keeps its price at the world level.

Jean: I'm no separatist

Canada's governor general designate, Michaelle Jean, has broken her silence, saying she's not a Quebec separatist.

As well, the Haitian-born Jean won't have to give up her dual citizenship in France to become governor general, the appointed representative of Elizabeth II in Canada. Questions had been raised about her status because of the French civil code that prohibits citizens from assuming a position in a "foreign" public service. This would not apply in her case, the French Embassy said.

Jean took French citizenship when she married Jean-Daniel Lafond, who was born in France. Both are also Canadian citizens.

The question of their dual nationalities was largely overshadowed by the controversy over allegations they expressed past sympathies for Quebec separatism.

She attempted to end that accusation by issuing a statement saying she and her husband are proud to be Canadian and have never been part of the separatist movement.

News in brief

The Canadian Medical Association is supporting a parallel, private health care system. Critics say this should be a wake-up call to Canadians and politicians to move quickly to protect equal access and "free" Medicare.

The doctors say they are frustrated with long wait times for patients. They endorsed a motion at their annual meeting in Edmonton saying that patients who can't get timely care in the public system should be allowed to use private insurance.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. locked out 5,500 members of the Canadian Media Guild on Monday as they prepared to go on strike. The major issue for the workers, from technicians to on-air personalities, is a concern over the increased use of contract workers they say undermines job security and benefits for everyone.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar has dropped to 82.56 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.2112 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The key interest rate of the Bank of Canada remains at 2.5 percent, while the prime lending rate is 4.25 percent.

Stock markets are lower, with Toronto's composite index at 10,501 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,899 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 7, 24, 27, 28, 41; bonus 37. (Aug. 13) 10, 17, 21, 40, 44, 45; bonus 39.

Regional briefs

They read the riot act to quell a disturbance by inmates at a federal prison in Renous, New Brunswick. Sixty-two inmates at the maximum-security Atlantic Institution refused to go to their cells and started fires. Police and the institution's emergency response team used five rounds of tear gas to restore order.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Canada's claim to a frozen speck of an island in the High Arctic has a firm basis in international law. Canada will outline its historical grounds for ownership of Hans Island at a meeting with Pettigrew's Danish counterpart. The half-mile stretch of wind-swept rock was discovered by the British, ceded to Canada at Confederation in 1867, appears on Canadians maps, and was briefly home to a scientific station in the 1940s, Pettigrew said. Denmark says it owns the island.

The British Columbian government is offering to buy the houses of nine families whose properties remain at risk to a landslide similar to one that killed a woman and forced hundreds from their homes earlier this year. A geotechnical analysis said the houses in North Vancouver are at risk in case of heavy rain. Seven of the families have shown interest in the buyout, estimated at about $6-million.

Jim Fox can be reached at

[Last modified August 21, 2005, 00:51:14]

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