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Federal budget to help families, poor provinces

By JIM FOX
Published March 25, 2007


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Canada's taxpayer-friendly federal budget aims at increasing popularity for the Conservative minority government.

Canadians believe that taxes are "way too high," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in announcing a budget to help "hard-working" families.

There's a new tax benefit to save parents about $310 a year for each child to age 18, while low-income families also receive tax cuts up to $1,000 a year.

Senior couples will be able to split their incomes to reduce the amount of taxes owing.

The budget has $10-billion in new spending, with $1.5-billion more for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promise to assist poorer provinces.

The government will spend $39-billion more over seven years on health care, infrastructure, post-secondary education and research initiatives.

Buyers of new fuel-efficient vehicles will receive rebates up to $2,000 while those buying gas guzzlers will pay up to $4,000 more in taxes.

The government will pay down the national debt of $472-billion by at least $3-billion this year and next while using the interest savings to cut future taxes, Flaherty said.

Suit cites bad pet food

A class action lawsuit has been filed against pet food maker Royal Canin Canada Co. by dog and cat owners claiming some products have caused their pets to become sick or die.

The Ontario Superior Court action alleges that 59 Royal Canin products contain an excessive amount of vitamin D that is harmful to animals.

It seeks compensation including veterinarian fees and the replacement cost of pets that have died.

The action is not related to the massive pet food recall by Menu Foods of the Toronto area after dog and cat deaths.

In brief

- The re-election of the Liberals in Quebec will avert another vote on independence, Premier Jean Charest suggests. He asked for support for his party in Monday's provincial election from sovereigntists not wanting to endure another referendum. The opposition parties are seeking to test the separatist waters again in the largely French-speaking province.

- Few people noticed a 4.5-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Ocean west of Vancouver Island on Thursday night. Its center was 120 miles southwest of Port Hardy at a depth of 6 miles but wasn't strong enough to cause a tsunami and or shake island communities.

- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty defends the absence of tax cuts in his Liberal government's budget, saying it's more important to help low-income families. Qualifying families will receive $250 more in benefits per child starting in July. The minimum wage will rise to $10.25 within three years.

Facts and figures

Higher inflation and possible interest rate increases pushed Canada's dollar up to 86.3 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returns $1.16 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

The annual inflation rate jumped to 2 percent last month from 1.2 percent, largely due to rising home ownership costs and high gasoline prices in Ontario.

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

Stock markets gained, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,184 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 3,129 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 3, 7, 26, 30, 33 and 46; bonus 32. (March 17) 13, 21, 23, 27, 28 and 34; bonus 31.

Regional briefs

- A report into the sinking last March of the Queen of the North ferry will be released on Monday or Tuesday. David Hahn, British Columbia Ferries president, said it would examine how the ferry hit Gil Island but won't categorically establish why.

- The Alberta government is investigating sanitary conditions at St. Joseph's General Hospital in Vegreville. The hospital was ordered to stop admitting patients after an outbreak of the "superbug" methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

- Nova Scotia has another balanced budget with no tax cuts and modest spending increases. Conservative Finance Minister Michael Baker said the Pharmacare program for low-income families and property tax breaks for seniors will be delayed. User fees go up 6.8 percent on April 1 and cigarette taxes are $2 a carton higher.

- Taser, Taz, Tony and Topaz are four of the 10 winning names submitted by children in the "Name the Puppy" contest of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The pups are in training in Innisfail, Alberta, to join officers on patrol.

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

[Last modified March 25, 2007, 01:16:16]


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