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Deaths make Afghan mission 'agonizing'

By JIM FOX
Published September 10, 2006


Canada's death toll in Afghanistan has jumped by an additional five soldiers as the controversy over the country's involvement in the war escalates.

Even though 32 Canadian soldiers have been killed in the warn-torn country since 2002, the country made a "moral promise" to remain, Liberal leadership contender Michael Ignatieff says.

Calling it "an agonizing mission," Ignatieff said it is necessary to "help Afghans get their country back on its feet."

New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said Canada should withdraw the military and focus instead on reconstruction and negotiating a peaceful settlement.

The Conservative government has extended the military mission to 2009.

The latest deaths include Pvt. Mark Graham, based at Petawawa, Ontario, who was killed when two U.S. warplanes mistakenly strafed Canadian troops.

The U.S. Air Force has withdrawn an A-10 Thunderbolt, the type of plane involved in Graham's death and the wounding of dozens of others, from the Nova Scotia International Air Show in Halifax. It was replaced with a U.S. F-15 Eagle.

Harper wants reform in makeup of the Senate

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has warned Liberal senators not to thwart his government's attempt to reform the upper chamber.

Senators, who are appointed by the government in power, will face "political consequences" Harper said while explaining his plan to limit their terms to eight years.

"We are seeking limited, fixed terms of office, not decades based on the antiquated criteria of age," he said.

At present, senators can serve as long as 45 years before mandatory retirement at 75.

Sen. Jim Munson said Harper is threatening an election showdown over the Liberal-dominated Senate's refusal to quickly rubber-stamp the bills his Conservatives want passed.

News in brief

- The Liberals and New Democrats plan to vote against the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber deal, saying it doesn't protect the interests of Canadian workers. It doesn't appear their opposition will result in the defeat of the minority Conservative government as bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said his party would support the bill to give it enough votes to pass.

- More than 100 police officers from Toronto and area will take part in the Sept. 11 fifth anniversary memorial service on Monday in New York. The Canadian police forces' "never forget" campaign began after the terrorist attacks and officers have attended the memorials annually at their own expense.

Facts and figures

The Bank of Canada decided to keep its key interest rate steady, with predictions of a decrease in the next six months, as the economy cools.

The central bank's interest rate is 4.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

Canada's jobless numbers rose to 6.5 percent in August from 6.4 percent in July, marked by continued losses in the manufacturing sector.

The Canadian dollar is lower at 89.37 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1189 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

Stock markets are lower with the Toronto exchange index at 11,893 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 2,717 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 3, 8, 20, 26, 37, 46; bonus 27. (Sept. 2) 3, 9, 10, 14, 17, 19; bonus 12.

Regional briefs

- The Dalai Lama said he is proud to have been given honorary Canadian citizenship. The leader of the world's Tibetan Buddhists is in Canada for the inauguration of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. Vancouver was chosen as the site because its multiethnic and multiracial population gives it harmony, he said.

- Criticism of the ruling government in New Brunswick over a failed power plant deal for cheap fuel from Venezuela highlighted a televised political leaders' debate in advance of the Sept. 18 provincial election. Premier Bernard Lord is seeking a third term for his Conservative government and is challenged by Liberal leader Shawn Graham and NDP leader Allison Brewer.

- Reinforcements from the United States are helping Canadian firefighters battle the Tatoosh wildfire as it advances in southern British Columbia. U.S. aircraft are using infrared technology to see through smoke at night in Manning Park. The fire started in Washington and spread into Canada. Hundreds of remote homes and vacation properties are being threatened.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.