Canadians are spending $300 million for a federal election on May 2 that again might change nothing.
With the governing Conservatives firming up their numbers in public opinion polls, the only question might be whether they will finally be able to form a majority government to forestall another election for four or five years.
This is the fourth election in seven years as minority Conservative governments keep getting voted out of office by the other parties.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's platform of restraint and lower taxes to eliminate the federal deficit appears to be working, as a Nanos Research poll after the televised leadership debates firmed his Conservatives at 38.7 percent. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is again struggling, with the polls giving his party 28.8 percent.
Judged the best in the debate, which excluded Green Leader Elizabeth May but included Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, was socialist New Democratic Leader Jack Layton.
New Democratic support has grown to 18.6 percent, while the Bloc has 9 percent and the Green Party, 3.7 percent.
Shoppers finding bargains in U.S.
The United States remains the land of opportunity for Canadian shoppers who are heading over the border in larger numbers with Canada's dollar worth $1.04 U.S.
As shoppers already know, Canadians pay more — about 20 percent — than Americans do for many goods.
Despite the higher dollar that should have cut costs for Canadians, the gap in prices has grown to 20 percent from 7 percent in 2009, a Bank of Montreal report said.
The cost of a sample of goods "has bolted higher again in Canada relative to the U.S.," said economist Doug Porter.
Examples include magazines that are 20 percent higher in Canada, Blu-ray movies up to 28 percent more and a pair of running shoes up to 48 percent more.
The bank expects Canada's dollar to remain higher based on higher oil and commodity prices through next year and beyond.
News in brief
• The fallout from the G-20 summit of world leaders in Toronto continues as the Canadian government pays millions of dollars in claims for business losses. The Blue Jays of the American League are seeking almost $500,000 in compensation for canceling games; the Toronto Jazz Festival, $235,155; the National Ballet of Canada, $355,265; Porter Airlines, $1.1 million for disrupting downtown flights. The Zanzibar Tavern featuring "exotic dancers" wants $10,832, as fewer people turned up to watch.
• Canada's "do-not-call list" initiated in 2008 appears to be working. A Harris/Decima study finds that more than half of the people surveyed are getting noticeably fewer calls from telemarketers. Another 24 percent report less-frequent calls, 5 percent say they are getting no calls, and 15 percent say they have had more than before. Advocates want tougher financial penalties for offenders and ways to deal with calls placed from outside Canada.
Facts and figures
The Canadian dollar is lower at $1.0413 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. greenback returns 96.03 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada decided to leave its key interest rate unchanged at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Canadian stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,815 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,292 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 8, 15, 20, 26 and 45; bonus 12. (April 9) 17, 23, 24, 40, 45 and 48; bonus 18. Lotto Max: (April 8) 13, 18, 25, 41, 44, 48 and 49; bonus 1.
• Calgary and Southern Alberta residents were surprised with up to 6 inches of snow in an early spring blizzard. Police in Calgary reported 75 collisions on slippery roads, while a Sunwest Aviation cargo jet slipped off an airport runway. The highest snow accumulation was about 8 inches in Fort Saskatchewan.
• They mostly loved him in Toronto as actor Charlie Sheen brought his "Torpedo of Truth" tour to Massey Hall for two sold-out performances. Unlike other places where he was booed off the stage, Sheen, fired from the TV show Two and a Half Men, was joined by comedian Russell Peters and went into the audience to take questions. Sheen said his problems with Warner Bros. were caused by executives telling lies about him. His other Canadian stop is in Vancouver on May 2.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com.