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Provinces get $1B to help industry, say it isn't enough

By JIM FOX, Times Correspondent
Published January 13, 2008

[AP photo]
A passenger is transported to a hospital after an Air Canada jet made an emergency landing in Calgary on Thursday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper served up a $1-billion appetizer to aid struggling industries but it only whet the appetites of the leaders of Canada's provinces.

Announced before a dinner meeting with the provincial premiers, the federal government's new "national community development trust fund" will help "one-industry towns facing major downturns, communities plagued by chronic high unemployment or regions hit by layoffs across a range of sectors," Harper said.

Even though it was $1-billion, the money was looked on as mere crumbs to counter the devastation from layoffs in traditional industries such as manufacturing, fishing and forestry.

Particularly hard hit is manufacturing-intensive Ontario where Premier Dalton McGuinty said the money is helpful, but "in the grand scheme of things, it is not commensurate with the level of need and sense of urgency."

Ontario has already put up $3-billion to support the auto industry that employs 1-million people, which is half of Canada's manufacturing jobs.

Premiers have complained that Harper's government has not done enough to help export-driven businesses hit hard by the impact of the strong Canadian dollar, soaring fuel prices and slumping sales to the United States.

This isn't the time for the federal government to use its $10-billion budget surplus solely to pay down the national debt, McGuinty said.

A gain expected, but 19,000 jobs lost

The first real sign that all is not well with the Canadian economy came Friday with word of 19,000 net job losses in December.

It's the biggest monthly loss since May 2003, although the unemployment rate held steady at 5.9 percent

Manufacturing and private sector jobs were hardest hit, Statistics Canada reported.

The job statistics countered forecasts by economists who expected a gain of 15,000 positions, prompting Eric Lascelles of TD Securities to call the numbers "pretty astonishing."

Job growth last year as a whole amounted to 370,000 positions, or 2.2 percent, the 15th straight year of employment gains.

News in brief

-Terror gripped passengers aboard an Air Canada Airbus 319 as it plunged and pitched repeatedly in the skies on Thursday. There were 88 people on the Victoria-to-Toronto flight. Eight passengers and two crew members were treated at Calgary hospitals after an emergency landing. Although the airline has said nothing officially while the incident is being investigated, passengers said the pilot referred to a computer failure or malfunction.

-The Canadian military is welcoming news that the United States is preparing to send at least 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan in the spring. Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defense staff, said this will bolster NATO's mission in Afghanistan where two more Canadian soldiers died in the past week.

Facts and figures

Reaction to the news of job losses nationally sent Canada's dollar down by 1.5 cents U.S. on Friday to 98.14 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returned $1.0190 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.

There's speculation the Bank of Canada will lower its key interest rate by one-quarter of a percent this month from 4.25 percent. The prime lending remains at 6 percent.

Canadian stock markets were lower, with the Toronto Exchange index at 13,655 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 2,782 points on Friday.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 5, 22, 25, 30, 45, 46; bonus 41. (Jan. 5) 3, 22, 25, 36, 39, 40; bonus 41. Super 7: (Jan. 4) 8, 18, 21, 25, 26, 27, 45; bonus 7.

Regional briefs

-The Newfoundland and Labrador government is upset that Loyola Sullivan, federal fisheries ambassador, acknowledges animal rights groups have made strides in their battle against the commercial seal hunt. Provincial Fisheries Minister Tom Rideout said his government has successfully promoted the industry, which made about $33-million from last year's hunt.

-Violence in Toronto's public schools has become so serious and widespread there needs to be fresh thinking and a revamped approach on how to protect students, said Julian Falconer. He is chairman of the School Community Safety Advisory Panel that was set up after the May shooting death of Jordan Manners, 15, at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute.

-A fake hanging done as an amateur video stunt went wrong for two young men in Burnaby, British Columbia. The two thought they had taken proper safety precautions as the "victim" wore a harness when he was hung from a tree, police said. Something went wrong and the man was left hanging until he became unconscious and required hospital treatment.

Jim Fox can be reached at

[Last modified January 13, 2008, 01:18:42]

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