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Canada's Conservatives dismiss criticism over claims of abuse of power

Reaction over two parliamentary rulings that criticized the Conservative government for abusing its power is being dismissed as being merely politics.

Commons Speaker Peter Milliken scolded Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government over complaints it lied and kept politically sensitive information confidential.

It's the third time in a year the speaker ruled the Conservatives breached parliamentary privilege over issues including information about detainees in Afghanistan and lack of disclosure on the costs of programs, such as crime legislation and corporate tax cuts.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the rulings clearly show the government "does not respect the democratic principles."

Conservatives suggest the reaction is a "distraction" by the opposition.

"It's all part of the democratic system keeping the government accountable and we accept that," Harper said.

He suggested the critics should instead focus on the big issue — the economic recovery.

Cost of F-35 fighter is concern

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Canadian government has understated the cost of the F-35 stealth fighter deal at $14 billion to $16 billion.

In reality, buying the 65 high-tech fighter jets will cost $22.6 billion over 20 years and with maintenance over another 10 years, it could be $29.3 billion, he said.

Taxpayers haven't been told the whole story, Page suggested, adding that such an expense could result in a significant risk to the federal treasury as not enough money has been set aside for long-term defense.

While declining to "debate" costs, Harper told reporters the package was selected because "it was the only option available" and met Canada's needs.

News in brief

• Just as Canadians were fleeing the country in huge numbers for U.S. sun destinations for the weeklong school break in March, Air Canada instituted fuel surcharges. The airline added an extra $10 each way for economy class seats between Canada and the United Statse on Tuesday. Executive class fliers pay $15 more each way.

• Joining the Maple Leaf and Coat of Arms as Canada's official national symbols is the Maple Leaf Tartan. Heritage Minister James Moore said making the red, green and yellow plaid a formal symbol recognizes the role that Canadians of Scottish descent played in forming the country.

• Canada is spending more on its military than at any time since the end of World War II, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives said. The agency found defense spending should reach $22.3 billion this budget year, a 54 percent increase over the last decade. Much of the increase is due to the Afghanistan conflict, where Canada's military role is to end in July.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar dropped lower on Friday to $1.0267 U.S. in reaction to slower job creation numbers and the impact on exports of the Japanese earthquake.

The U.S. greenback returns 97.40 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Statistics showed 15,100 jobs were created last month, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8 percent.

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 13,692 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,259 points.

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Regional briefs

• An Alberta scientific panel confirmed research findings that oilsands development is releasing contaminants into watersheds. The panel also suggested that monitoring programs aren't trying to determine if the industry is polluting the Athabasca River. Environment Minister Rob Renner said the findings will help the province keep track of industrial impacts on land and water.

• A dog was electrocuted and another narrowly escaped death when a faulty insulator on a Toronto transit streetcar wire energized a sidewalk electrical panel cover. A police officer was also shocked trying to help one of the dogs. In the past two years, there have been several other incidents of dogs being shocked by live metal plates in the city's sidewalks.

• A Nova Scotia government committee is recommending raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour on Oct. 1 from $9.65. The committee also suggests adjusting the minimum wage annually on April 1 based on the consumer price index.

Contact Jim Fox at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canada's Conservatives dismiss criticism over claims of abuse of power 03/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2011 8:58pm]

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