May election rumored as polls favor Conservatives
By JIM FOX
Published April 15, 2007
Election speculation fever is gripping Parliament Hill in Canada.
Will he or won't he issue an election call? That is the question asked of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his minority Conservative government elected 16 months ago.
Political observers say it's an opportune time for Harper to try for a majority in the House of Commons.
Polls show increased support for the Conservatives, and there is some disarray in the Liberal party since Stephane Dion took over as leader last December.
Some Conservatives say the rumored May 28 election date might not happen as Harper could be more interested in testing his party's strength in three Quebec by-elections to fill vacancies in the Commons.
Meanwhile, Belinda Stronach's three-year fling with federal politics is ending as the auto parts heir said she won't seek re-election. The onetime Conservative who switched to the Liberals before the last election is rejoining her father Frank Stronach's multibillion-dollar empire, Magna International Inc., as executive vice chairwoman. Magna is bidding a reported $4.7-billion to take over Chrysler.
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It's been a grim week for Canadian soldiers with eight killed and several wounded by two roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander in Kandahar, said the bombings were an "act of desperation" by a failed insurgency.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper resolved to keep up the fight in Afghanistan while taking part in a service Tuesday at the restored memorial in France that honors the 3,598 soldiers who died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge during World War I. At the ceremony, Queen Elizabeth II offered "eternal remembrance" to all Canadians who have served in the cause of freedom, including those killed in Afghanistan.
- Canada's port security was tested as investigators checked out reports that 200 stowaways and contraband were on a container ship that arrived in Halifax. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says nothing out of the ordinary was found after the ship's containers were unloaded and searched. The scope of the operation proves Canada is serious about maintaining security, he said.
- Rogers Communications Inc. is offering $137.5-million for several TV channels, including the A Channel group. CTVglobemedia Inc. wants to divest A Channel in its $1.7-billion acquisition of CHUM Ltd. Federal broadcast regulators must approve the deal.
- Labor Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is urging Canadian National Railways and its striking workers to resume bargaining to avoid long-term economic disruptions. A tentative agreement for a one-year contract with a 3 percent raise and $1,000 signing bonus was rejected by 2,800 conductors and yard workers.
Facts and figures
Positive forecasts for employment and economic growth are propelling the Canadian dollar and stock exchanges.
The dollar climbed above 88 cents U.S. before settling Friday at 87.95 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar is worth $1.1370 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 4.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.
The Toronto Stock Exchange index reached a record high of 13,565 points while the Canadian Venture Exchange was higher at 3,301 points.
Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 6, 10, 21, 24, 38 and 48; bonus 26. (April 7) 10, 12, 23, 26, 35 and 37; bonus 47.
- A Transport Quebec inspector said he didn't order Highway 19 in Laval, Quebec, closed just before an overpass collapsed killing five people last September. Jules Bonin told an inquiry he "never thought it was going to fall" even though chunks of concrete had separated from the bridge.
- Mayor Scott Young of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, said he is leaving his job to seek treatment for alcoholism. Young, who won landslide victories in 2002 and 2005, spent Easter weekend in jail for allegedly breaking into his ex-girlfriend's house and assaulting her and a companion.
- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty agrees that trucks should be limited to a top speed of 65 mph to help reduce greenhouse gases, save fuel and for safety. The Ontario Trucking Association wants the government to require that all trucks have computer chips limiting speeds to just about above the posted 60-mph limit (100 kilometers an hour) to allow them to pass slower drivers.
- Drivers in New Brunswick will see more frequent price changes for gasoline. The provincial government is amending legislation to allow regulated prices to be set weekly instead of every two weeks. This will help both consumers and retailers, Energy Minister Jack Keir said.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com.
[Last modified April 15, 2007, 00:24:27]
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