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New Democratic leader in Canada laid to rest

Continued massive support for Canada's New Democrats is in question as members of the socialist party struggle to cope with the death of their leader.

A state funeral was held Saturday for Jack Layton, who lost his battle against cancer at age 61.

It was only last May when the populist leader was credited with leading his party to its greatest election victory ever and making the New Democrats the official opposition in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an exception to honor Layton with a full state funeral, which is normally reserved for heads of state and a few others.

There was a national outpouring of grief and condolences for Layton as thousands paid their respects at his flag-draped coffin on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at Toronto City Hall before the service at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

In a letter written just before his death, Layton urged those wanting to create a better society in Canada as well as people fighting cancer not to give up hope.

The letter, released by his wife, Olivia Chow, urged the party to choose his successor early next year with Nycole Turmel of Quebec continuing as interim leader.

"Let's demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government," Layton wrote.

Sales tax combination didn't create harmony

British Columbia residents have voted 54.7 percent in favor of dumping the Harmonized Sales Tax.

An antitax petition led to the vote that will force the province to bring back the provincial sales tax and repay the federal government incentive money for combining the provincial and federal sales taxes.

British Columbia adopted the harmonized tax of 12 percent in July 2010, which remains in place in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The combined tax was vastly expanded to many items and services, including new houses, home-heating fuel, utility bills and even haircuts that were previously exempt from provincial taxes.

Defeat of the tax could cause a $3 billion hit on the budget, said Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

News in brief

• Atlantic Canada is bracing for the expected onslaught of Hurricane Irene by late today and Monday. Heavy rain and high winds are expected in the Maritime provinces and into eastern Quebec even though the Canadian Hurricane Centre said Irene's strength will diminish as it moves north along the U.S. East Coast. Storm surges are predicted along the Bay of Fundy where unusually high tides are expected by Monday as the moon moves into a new phase.

• The Royal Bank has raised its variable mortgage rates without waiting for the central bank to move first. Citing higher "funding costs" and low interest rates, Canada's largest bank increased its five-year variable closed residential mortgages by 0.20 percentage points to prime at 3 percent.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is higher at $1.0186 U.S., while the U.S. greenback returns 98.17 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto Stock Exchange up at 12,327 points and the TSX Venture Exchange down at 1,752 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 12, 15, 18, 29, 33 and 46; bonus 48. (Aug. 20) 6, 11, 18, 20, 21 and 34; bonus 47. Lotto Max: (Aug. 19) 4, 14, 24, 41, 43, 46 and 49; bonus 1.

Regional briefs

• Disaster relief of $5 million is being given by the Ontario government to Goderich, a town on Lake Huron devastated by a tornado. "We will recover," said Mayor Deb Shewfelt. The storm killed a man working at the Sifto Salt mine and injured 37 other people.

• Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, retired archbishop of Toronto, died after a lengthy illness at age 81. He served as the city's ninth archbishop from 1990 to 2006. He was a priest for 56 years and bishop for 35.

• Dany Lariviere, mayor of St-Theodore-d'Acton, Quebec, has taken back the big rock he gave his ex-wife. A 22-ton boulder adorned with a pink bow and spray-painted with the words "Happy Birthday" appeared in front of Isabelle Prevost's house. She always wanted a big rock, Lariviere said, after removing the gift when police became involved.

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

New Democratic leader in Canada laid to rest 08/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 1:32pm]

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