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Legislation seeks to change terms, selection of Canada's Senate

The overhaul of Canada's appointed Senate into an elected body is moving a step closer.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has introduced a bill that would have the provinces hold elections to select nominees to the upper chamber.

The nominees would be recommended for Senate appointment, a method pioneered by the Alberta government. So far, Harper has named two "elected" Alberta senators.

Senate appointments now usually reflect the party of the government in power. The planned legislation would set a nonrenewable eight-year term for senators, not until age 75 as is the case now.

Concerns that constitutional issues could defeat the bill led the government to decide not to force provinces to hold elections or require the prime minister to endorse their nominees.

The New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois parties say the Senate need not be reformed, but abolished.

The function of the Senate has been to provide a "sober second thought" before giving "final assent" to legislation.

Minister to visit Haiti, review aid procedures

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is going to Haiti this week to review the progress of aid in areas where Canadian Forces were deployed after January's devastating earthquake.

Canada recently decided to pay for construction of a hospital in Gonaives and equipment and training for the National Police Academy. An additional $400 million in aid was promised last month for other projects.

Cannon will meet with Haitian leaders and also visit a prison in Croix-des-Bouquets built with Canadian money. He will go to Jacmel and Leogane, where the military was deployed after the quake.

News in brief

• GM Canada will secure up to 400 jobs by spending $235 million to upgrade its powertrain plant in St. Catharines, Ontario. The company said the plant will build the next generation of more fuel-efficient V-8 engines. Earlier, GM said it will recall more than 700 laid-off Ontario workers at its assembly plant in Oshawa and the CAMI plant in Ingersoll that produce Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain vehicles.

• Cash-strapped Michigan is being offered a $550 million loan from the Canadian government to help build a second international bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit. Infrastructure and Transportation Minister John Baird said the $5 billion in construction costs would be repaid fully by tolls collected. He called it the "most important infrastructure project" now in Canada that will ease the flow of goods and people at one of the busiest border crossings.

Facts and figures

The Canadian economy grew by 0.3 percent in February, the sixth consecutive monthly increase, largely because of increased manufacturing and the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The dollar backed away from parity with the U.S. greenback and was worth 98.40 cents U.S. on Friday. The U.S. dollar returned $1.0163 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The prime lending rate remains at 2.25 percent as the Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.25 percent.

Stock markets advanced, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,282 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,672 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 6, 24, 27, 34, 36 and 42; bonus 18. (April 24) 3, 10, 14, 36, 38 and 40; bonus 23. Lotto Max: (April 23) 8, 11, 16, 21, 24, 28 and 41; bonus 37.

Regional briefs

• Ontario pharmacists remain angered over revisions that Quebec is considering implementing. The Ontario government is eliminating "professional allowances," or money paid by generic pharmaceutical companies to drug stores to stock their products. It is aimed at slashing the price of generic drugs by half and saving millions for the province's drug plan bill. Store chains say the changes could cost them millions in lost revenue and force pharmacists to scale back on free services they offer and the training of students.

• Calgary was hammered by up to 10 inches of snow and high winds — cutting power to 43,000 households and causing transportation chaos — after temperatures of around 70 a week ago. Power was also off in Citadel, Hidden Valley and Evanston. Up to 16 inches of snow fell along the southern foothills and in the Lethbridge and Cardston areas.

• The discovery of a car by scuba divers at the bottom of Skaha Lake has solved the 38-year-old mystery of a missing Penticton, British Columbia, woman. The coroner's office identified the human remains in the car as being those of the 20-year-old woman, who disappeared in 1972. The car crashed off Highway 97 at the edge of a cliff near a scenic outlook. The woman's name was not being released by police "in respect to the family."

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

Legislation seeks to change terms, selection of Canada's Senate 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 8:32pm]

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