By JIM FOX
© St. Petersburg Times,
Parliament seeks pay raises
Canada's Parliamentarians are about to give themselves a significant raise -- including a 40 percent pay boost for Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Members of Parliament are moving to pass a pay package recommended by an independent commission before the Commons adjourns in mid June.
The legislation would increase Parliament members' annual salaries to $131,000 (Canadian), Cabinet ministers to $194,000 and Chretien to $262,000.
The governing Liberals are in favor of the increase, which some said would put them equal to middle managers of corporations and union leaders.
Most Conservative and Canadian Alliance members agree that a 20 percent raise isn't out of line, but say it should be implemented only after the next election. The socialist New Democrats say 10 percent would be preferable.
The comments prompted Chretien to demand that only politicians who vote for the pay raise be eligible to collect it.
Wet weather slows forest fire
Rain and snow have slowed a massive forest fire that has destroyed one northern Alberta community and threatened several others.
The fire has been raging 120 miles north of Edmonton for more than a week, destroying nine houses in Chisholm and threatening the communities of Smith and Hondo.
Firefighters say the blaze will only need dry weather and a gust of wind to turn destructive again.
Alberta had one of the driest winters in 100 years and has 31 more forest fires, including four that are burning out of control.
Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest says he has no plans to return to federal politics. Recent polls suggested his Quebec Liberals were tied with independence-minded Premier Bernard Landry's Parti Quebecois in popular support but that they trail badly in the crucial rural areas. An election could be held as soon as this fall.
Ken Kalopsis, president of the Canadian Alliance, warns that an "extreme religious-right" faction could swamp the party's political policy platform. The group is composed of fervent supporters of troubled leader Stockwell Day who vow they will help him survive a leadership review. Deep divisions over his leadership, which resulted in the suspension of eight dissident members and one party governor, have raised fears of Day again trying to shore up support among the most socially conservative members.
Canadian business software developer Cognos Inc. is cutting 300 jobs, amounting to 10 percent of its staff. The move was blamed on an expected $4-million (U.S.) first-quarter loss after sales fell because of the economic downturn.
Facts and figures
The Canadian economy grew strongly in the first quarter at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, Statistics Canada reported. Analysts say it's too early to celebrate a return to buoyant times as the U.S. slowdown will continue to be felt over the next few quarters.
The Bank of Canada lowered its key interest rate by one-quarter of a percent to 4.75 percent. The prime lending rate dropped to 6.25 percent.
Canada's dollar was higher at 65.17 U.S. cents Friday. The U.S greenback was $1.5344 Canadian before bank exchange fees.
Stocks markets were mixed: The Toronto Stock Exchange 300 Index was down at 8,149 points, and the Canadian Venture Exchange index was up at 3,337 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 9, 11, 12, 22, 37 and 48; bonus 8. (May 26) 2, 19, 25, 30, 41 and 45; bonus 21.
A Vancouver man who posted some results of last fall's Canadian election on his Web site before voting ended faces an Elections Act charge. Paul Bryan, 30, said he wants the courts to decide whether the act was constitutional. "We live in the information age. . . . We have to take that into consideration when we craft our laws," he said.
Unionized workers seeking higher pay set up a blockade at the SeaFreez Foods fish plant in Canso, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday. The members of the Canadian Auto Workers union, without a contract since Dec. 31, want management to agree to dates for talks with a conciliator.
Denis Whitaker -- an athlete, horseman, businessman, historian and one of Canada's most-decorated World War II heroes -- died Wednesday in Toronto. He was 86.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111