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Minister's relationship haunts Harper in Europe

Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to reject demands for a public inquiry into a potential security breach that led to the forced resignation of Cabinet minister Maxime Bernier.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is instead conducting its own internal investigation into Bernier, who left confidential NATO documents at a former girlfriend's house.

Bernier's relationship with Julie Couillard, who has ties to biker gangs and a former husband who was murdered, has dogged the deposed Foreign Affairs minister.

Opposition politicians want an inquiry to determine whether Bernier's relationship and mishandling of documents compromised national security.

Embarrassing headlines awaited Harper at every stop during his European tour, making a mockery of Canada's reputation, the opposition charged in the House of Commons.

"This being Canada, good old-fashioned sex scandals don't come along that often, so we've got to make the most of it," said Margaret Wente, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Native artwork stolen from B.C. museum

Interpol has been called in by the Mounties after the heist of valuable native artwork from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Fifteen pieces by the late Bill Reid, an influential Haida artist, were taken along with three pieces of Mexican jewelry.

Police said someone broke into the cliff-top museum and bypassed the security system.

A $50,000 reward is being offered for the return of the art that is worth about $2-million.

Names in the news:

• Luc Bourdon, 21, a rookie Vancouver Canucks defenseman, was killed in a motorcycle crash near his hometown of Shippagan, New Brunswick. Bourdon earlier helped Canada win two gold medals at the world junior hockey championship.

• Nadia Lefebvre, 32, is returning home to Quebec after being released by kidnappers in Haiti. Lefebvre, an intern with the medical aid organization Doctors of the World, was kidnapped and held for ransom in Port-au-Prince soon after she arrived in the country.

• Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says more is needed than a cell phone ban for drivers as modern electronic gadgetry is driving motorists to distraction. His government is considering new safety laws to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road. This follows several recent fatal crashes that happened as drivers were talking on their phones.

Facts and figures

News that Canada's economy shrank by 0.1 percent in the first three months of this year pushed the value of the dollar lower by one cent U.S. on Friday.

It was the first quarterly decline in real gross domestic product in almost five years and was blamed by Statistics Canada on "widespread cutbacks in manufacturing, most notably in motor vehicles."

The dollar returned 1.0067 U.S. on Friday while the U.S. greenback was higher at 99.33 cents Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported a $1.11-billion loss in the second quarter of this year blamed on fallout from the U.S. subprime crisis.

The Bank of Canada interest rate is steady at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.

Canadian stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto Exchange index higher at 14,687 on Friday. The TSX Venture Exchange was lower at 2,643 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 4, 22, 23, 26, 28; bonus 8. (May 24) 3, 16, 22, 39, 42, 49; bonus 28. Super 7: (May 23) 6, 14, 15, 27, 29, 34, 39; bonus 25.

Regional briefs:

• The premiers of four Western Canadian provinces are taking their message about "the new West" to the United States. The leaders from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia will be promoting their region in key cities including Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

• A raging forest fire has forced the 150 residents from their homes in Sherridon, Manitoba. A 5,000-acre fire, believed started by sparks from a train, was bearing down on the town. Only weeks after the snow melted in northern areas, the province has had 152 fires.

• Fire has destroyed the Canfor North Central Plywoods plant in Prince George, British Columbia. The blaze started in a veneer dryer and spread across the roof at the plant where 250 people are employed. No one was injured.

• Wal-Mart Canada plans to open or expand 25 to 27 stores over the next eight months. Half of the projects will be new stores, most of them supercenters, creating an additional 6,000 retail jobs and 5,000 construction jobs. The company has 300 stores in Canada, with 32 supercenters in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, and employs 80,000 people.

Jim Fox can be reached at

Minister's relationship haunts Harper in Europe 05/31/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 9:16am]
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