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Canada's New Democrats gain on Conservatives

The socialist surge continues to gain momentum with the New Democrats closing in on the governing Conservatives as Canadians prepare to elect a new government on Monday.

The personable Jack Layton and his New Democratic Party are resonating with Canadians unhappy with the country's traditional parties — the right-wing Conservatives led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the third-place, left-leaning Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff.

Polls suggest Harper won't get the majority government he has been seeking in four federal elections in the past seven years, and there's the possibility that Layton might even wind up heading a coalition government as prime minister.

Layton's support is concerning business owners, investors and economists over his take-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor approach coupled with higher corporate taxes. He wants to increase spending on health care and social services with a goal of "eliminating poverty."

Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Douglas Porter has advised clients to "hang on to your hats!"

Both of Canada's national newspapers have endorsed a majority Conservative government.

"Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let's call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs," the Globe and Mail said in an editorial.

The National Post said the Conservatives are a clear choice in uncertain economic times.

Insight into Harper's wife via WikiLeaks

The U.S. Embassy in Canada has called Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, "extroverted and friendly" while noting she is a "self-confessed 'mouthy one' with strong opinions on a wide variety of issues."

This assessment reported by Sun Media comes from a message sent to the White House last year by Terry Breese, then second-in-command at the embassy in Ottawa.

The detailed biographical summary was leaked by the Wiki­Leaks website and said that many people believe her to be "more at ease in front of cameras and strangers than her husband."

Other details in the message were that Mrs. Harper, who enjoys riding her motorcycle around Ottawa, was divorced from a New Zealand man in 1988 and met Harper at a Reform Party meeting in 1991.

News in brief

• Canadians are about to count themselves in the latest census that will lack the previous long-form questionnaire. The federal government decided to end the longer form, feeling that it was too intrusive. There will be the mandatory eight-question document for 15 million households along with 4.5 millon "national household surveys" that replace the long forms.

• Flooding in Manitoba is of "biblical proportions," U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson said after an aerial tour of the swollen Red River with Premier Greg Selinger. Jacobson also viewed flooding in neighboring North Dakota. Investments in flood protection and the floodway have paid off, as the channel has diverted water away from homes in Winnipeg, Selinger said.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar continues higher at $1.0584 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. greenback returns 94.49 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Canadian stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,944 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 2,252 at points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 8, 31, 42, 44 and 48; bonus 33. (April 23) 1, 8, 18, 27, 35 and 45; bonus 47. Lotto Max: (April 22) 7, 19, 34, 35, 38, 42 and 46; bonus 11.

Regional briefs

• Newlyweds Prince William and Catherine Middleton will be getting personal wedding gifts of hiking gear from Prime Minister Stephen and Laureen Harper. It is expected the royal couple will use the gifts when they visit Canada, June 30 to July 8, on their first royal tour outside the United Kingdom. They will be in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ottawa.

• There were at least one death, widespread power outages and sunken boats in Lake Ontario as a violent wind storm ripped through the southern part of Ontario. A Grimsby man in his 70s was killed when struck by a garage door that was torn off its hinges. An Ottawa-area woman had two broken legs after a tree fell on her. Winds reached about 60 mph in the storm.

• Nova Scotia wants to double the number of immigrants entering the province each year. Premier Darrell Dexter said the new target is 7,200 new immigrants by 2020. "Welcome Home to Nova Scotia" is seeking to attract more skilled immigrants and to help counter declining population trends.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canada's New Democrats gain on Conservatives 04/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 30, 2011 7:45pm]
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