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Canada's politicians can't agree on how to hold a debate

Debates over debates are overshadowing promises as Canada's political leaders campaign for the May 2 federal election.

Upset at being shut out of the televised leaders' debates, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is asking the court to force broadcasters to let her in.

And, it also appears that there won't be a one-on-one showdown between the two front-runners, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

May is fighting the decision by broadcasters and the four federal parties to exclude her from the debates to be held in English on April 12 and in French on April 14.

The decision was based on the Greens not having any elected members of Parliament.

May, whose party received more than a million votes in the last election, said it is "antidemocratic" to exclude her and is an attempt to silence the views of the Green Party.

Critics suggest the debates, which also include New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, should leave out Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe because he represents a regional party with a mandate for Quebec independence.

The broadcasters also decided against a separate Harper-Ignatieff debate, leaving the two leaders to suggest that each other was to blame.

"You can't trust this man," Ignatieff said of Harper, while the prime minister said the Liberal leader opted instead for an all-party debate with "his coalition partners" that scuttled the two-man showdown in front of the nation's voters.

Leaders rank low on 'favorability' index

"They don't impress me much" is the opinion of Canadians about their political leaders.

An Abacus National Data Poll ranking the politicians on a "favorability" index placed Ignatieff last at 24 percent.

Harper had a 34 percent ranking, while on top was Layton with 38 percent.

What Abacus CEO David Coletto found in reviewing the results was that most Canadians have a definite opinion about Harper, with two in three having a "very unfavorable impression."

News in brief

• A Quebec-based soldier is the latest Canadian to die from an improvised explosive device in the Afghanistan conflict. Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, 24, of Canadian Forces Base Valcartier was on foot patrol with Afghan forces southwest of Kandahar city. He was the 155th Canadian soldier to die in the mission since 2002.

• Canada's economic recovery started off at a strong pace this year as manufacturers expanded production the most in eight years. Along with manufacturing, there were higher numbers for trucking, railway, transportation, warehousing, building materials and automobiles.

• Tough competition and "unmanageable" debt are cited for the planned sale by Priszm Income Fund of 231 of its KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut franchises across Canada. The Ontario Superior Court has granted court protection to Priszm in the sale to Soul Restaurants based in the United Kingdom.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is at a three-year high, boosted by rising oil prices, at $1.0372 U.S. The U.S. greenback returns 96.41 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Canadian stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 14,173 points and the TSX Venture Exchange down at 2,293 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 8, 15, 17, 29, 36 and 44; bonus 16. (March 26) 4, 6, 21, 22, 42 and 43; bonus 12. Lotto Max: (March 25) 1, 4, 22, 25, 26, 36 and 46; bonus 5.

Regional briefs

• Honda has reduced production to a half-shift at one of its Ontario plants because of a shortage of parts after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Many of the parts used in the assembly of Japanese vehicles in North America come from the quake zone. Toyota earlier eliminated overtime at its three Ontario auto manufacturing facilities to preserve parts.

• Neil Reimer, the first leader of the Alberta New Democrats, has died at age 88. He led the socialist party in the early 1960s, was a union organizer and was the father of former Edmonton Mayor Jan Reimer.

• A five-week lockout at the Moosehead Brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick, has ended after workers ratified a new contract. The deal provides raises of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent over seven years, a retirement savings plan and an extension of health benefits to retired workers. Both sides claimed success.

Jim Fox can be reached at

Canada's politicians can't agree on how to hold a debate 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 6:47pm]
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