Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Alberta politician leaves Canada's Conservative Party

There are more concerns for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives as an Alberta member of the caucus has quit to become an independent.

Edmonton politician Brent Rathgeber said he left the Conservative Party because its ideals have been sacrificed to political expediency.

Rathgeber said a major concern was being told what to do, say and how to vote "like a trained seal."

"It's difficult as a lawyer and as a member of Parliament to find my role to be subservient to unelected masters half my age at the Prime Minister's Office," he said.

The office is embroiled in a controversy over Harper's now-former chief of staff Nigel Wright's secret check for $90,172 given to Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy to repay "improper" expense claims.

Two other former Conservative senators are also being investigated over expenses.

Harper said he did not know of the payment to Duffy, which Rathgeber said is not surprising, as "a lot of stuff goes on in the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) that the prime minister doesn't know about."

Low interest rate policy to continue

Canada will continue with its low interest rate policy, says Stephen Poloz, who has taken over as governor of the central bank.

There are risks to keeping rates low for a long period and a tendency to trigger excessive borrowing, but the Bank of Canada must consider the impact higher rates would have on the fragile economy, he said.

The bank's next announcement on interest rates, now at 1 percent, will be on July 17.

Poloz succeeded Mark Carney, who takes over as head of the Bank of England next month.

In business

• Things aren't so sweet in candy land as Canada's Competition Bureau is alleging there has been price fixing of chocolate prices. The bureau said it will move ahead with criminal charges against Nestle Canada, Mars Canada and ITWAL Ltd., a network of independent wholesale distributors, as well as some company officers. The allegations date to 2007 and earlier.

• Now that the Canadian government has blocked a $380 million deal for Telus Corp. to buy Mobilicity, Wind Mobile wants to create a fourth national wireless competitor. The government ruled that the Telus deal would limit competition in the cellphone industry and that it will continue to prohibit spectrum transfers — radio waves over which wireless networks operate. Wind Mobile has reopened talks to buy Mobilicity to create a "next-generation network."

Facts and figures

The Canadian economy added 95,000 jobs last month, the largest monthly gain in more than a decade, which dropped the jobless rate by one-tenth of a point to 7.1 percent.

Canada's dollar has advanced to 97.83 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0221 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,377 points and the TSX Venture index at 947 points.

Lotto 6-49: (June 5) 5, 15, 19, 31, 42 and 47; bonus 20. (June 1) 2, 7, 24, 37, 38 and 40; bonus 9. Lotto Max: (May 31) 5, 7, 10, 15, 22, 45 and 47; bonus 23.

Regional briefs

• Ontario Conservatives are asking the police to investigate the destruction of government documents by senior members of former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty's office. Ontario's privacy commissioner said the chiefs of staff in McGuinty's office and the Ministry of Energy broke the law by deleting emails about two canceled gas plants. It was a bid to have Liberals elected in those areas but cost taxpayers about $585 million, an investigation determined.

• A by-election will be held in a bid for British Columbia Premier Christy Clark to be returned to the Legislature. While her Liberals won the May vote, Clark was defeated in her Vancouver district and seeks to return in the vote in Westside-Kelowna. Former Cabinet minister Ben Stewart said he would step aside so that Clark could run. No date has been set.

• Alberta Premier Alison Redford stepped up efforts to promote a proposal to ship oil to the East Coast in a speech to the New Brunswick legislature. There has been increased interest in moving Alberta crude east, largely by converting an existing natural gas pipeline, as environmental opposition has dogged proposals for the Northern Gateway pipeline to British Columbia and Keystone XL to Texas refineries.

Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]

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