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No gas tax relief is on the horizon

By JIM FOX
Published May 20, 2007


Canadians paying record prices for gasoline won't get any tax relief from the federal government or the international oil market.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his Conservative government has no plans to cut gas taxes even though that was promised before it reduced the Goods and Services Tax by 1 percent, to 6 percent.

A sales tax cut put more money in consumers' pockets than "a small cut in the gas tax, " Harper said. The trend is to higher gas prices but the solution is to switch to more environmentally friendly and sustainable fuels, he added.

Opposition politicians want a bill passed to force oil companies to provide 72 hours' notice of pending price hikes along with an explanation.

The average price of regular gasoline in Canada is $4.08 U.S., for a U.S. gallon.

Passport changes

Legislation is to be revised to make obtaining and renewing passports easier, says Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. An additional 500 passport office workers have been hired and about 20, 000 documents are being processed daily, he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins said Canadians should have their passports ready for land border crossings. There are many "mixed messages, " but the law has been passed and passports will be required for land travel starting next year or in early 2009, he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has approved a pilot project using enhanced driver's licenses at border crossings between British Columbia and Washington state. Ontario is developing a new enhanced driver's license this year.

In brief

- The Canadian government says "worthy groups" will receive the money they have requested to hire students this summer. Community groups have complained that they are being denied funding under the new Canada Summer Jobs Program. Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg said he would investigate.

- DaimlerChrysler has confirmed there will be no Canadian job cuts before contract talks in September next year under new owner Cerberus Capital Management.

- Pierre Duchesne, a former secretary-general of Quebec's National Assembly, has been appointed lieutenant governor in the province. The appointment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have Duchesne succeed Lise Thibault in the role as representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Quebec.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar surged Friday to its highest level in 30 years after a strong retail sales report brought speculation the Bank of Canada would raise interest rates later this year.

The currency reached 91.86 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar dropped to $1.0886 Canadian before bank exchange fees. Retail sales jumped 1.9 percent in March to $34-billion.

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

Canadian banks are raising mortgage interest rates by 0.10 percent to 0.25 percent, making a five-year renewable term 6.84 percent.

Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index higher at 14, 109 points while the Canadian Venture Exchange is lower at 3, 262 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 11, 14, 31, 33, 37 and 45; bonus 9. (May 12) 5, 7, 13, 27, 45 and 47; bonus 11.

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