Three more are lost in world's conflicts

Published July 30, 2006

The Canadian death toll continues rising in the world's war-torn regions, with a peacekeeper killed in Lebanon and two more soldiers dead in Afghanistan.

Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener of Kingston, Ontario, was killed after Israeli missiles struck the U.N. post in Lebanon where he was an observer.

The missiles flattened the building during an attack on Khiam. Three other soldiers - from Austria, China and Finland - were killed.

The number of Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2002 has risen to 19.

The latest casualties are Cpl. Francisco Gomez, 44, of Edmonton and Cpl. Jason Warren, 29, of Montreal, whose grandfather is retired Brig. Gen. D. J. Gagnon.

Eight other soldiers were injured when a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives beside their armored vehicle in a military convoy.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon is in its final phase with about 1,700 people being moved from Beirut on four ships headed for Turkey and Cyprus.

So far, 11,500 Canadians, among about 40,000 in the country, have decided to leave.

Sharing the wealth

The leaders of Canada's 10 provinces want a better deal of sharing the wealth - with or without Alberta's oil bonanza.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to fix the provincial fiscal imbalance.

Many premiers want increased aid to the poorer provinces in an $11-billion equalization program. It's to ensure each province can provide a comparable level of government services.

Prince Edward Island Premier Pat Binns said he wants natural resource revenue included in equalization calculations to determine a province's wealth.

Instead of changing equalization, Alberta and Ontario want the government to simply increase federal payments for health and postsecondary education.

News in brief

- Ontario Superior Court Judge Bruce Durno has ruled in favor of keeping a publication ban on evidence for 17 people accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Toronto and Ottawa. He said the ban ensures their right to a fair trial. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Associated Press and the New York Times want the ban lifted to satisfy the public's right to hear the allegations and know why some suspects have been freed on bail.

- The shine is fading on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new Conservative government. A Decima poll shows the Conservatives have lost support in Ontario and Quebec - key provinces if Harper's minority government is to remain in power. Nationally, Conservative support is at 36 percent. The Liberals have 30 percent, and the New Democrats have 17 percent.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar gained by more than a half cent on Friday to 88.44 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returned $1.1307 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is unchanged at 4.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

Stock markets advanced on news Inco Ltd. has abandoned a takeover bid for rival miner Falconbridge Ltd. and Shell Canada will expand its Athabasca oil sands project in Alberta. The Toronto exchange index was 11,832 points while the Canadian Venture Exchange was 2,580 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 3, 7, 15, 38, 43 and 47; bonus 32. (July 22) 2, 6, 9, 20, 43 and 44; bonus 46.

Regional briefs

- Don Rogers, pilot for the first international airmail flight, has died at age 89. Rogers was the chief test pilot at Avro Canada in Toronto. He was greeted 56 years ago with a ticker tape parade through Manhattan after the flight.

- Nova Scotia Liberals want the province to scrap its new gasoline price regulation system. Interim Liberal leader Michel Samson says the province should return to a competitive market for fuel pricing. The current price is $1.222 Canadian a liter for regular gas in Halifax while in neighboring New Brunswick, the regulated price is $1.1707 a liter.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com