Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Canada's falling mortgage rates rescinded after official complains

Some people call it meddling, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that pressuring banks not to engage in a mortgage-rate war is in the best interest of Canadians.

Flaherty personally called Bank of Montreal executives to complain when its five-year mortgage rate was reduced to 2.99 percent this month.

Members of his staff then contacted Manulife Financial the next day to express displeasure after dropping its five-year rate to 2.98 percent.

There is a concern with current historically low rates "whether people can afford their mortgages when interest rates go up," Flaherty said.

Manulife quickly complied and put its rate back up to 3.09 percent, while Bank of Montreal's rate was restored to 3.09 percent.

Small Business Minister Maxime Bernier opposed Flaherty's action, saying he wouldn't dictate the rates the private sector should offer.

"It's supply and demand that decides the prices," he said.

"We want to ensure that mortgages remain affordable and stable and that the market stays stable and affordable in the long run for Canadian families," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

10-year plan tackles prescription abuse

A new national strategy is in place to help combat prescription drug abuse in Canada.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said it is a "very complex process," as she gave details of a 10-year plan to revamp laws so doctors and pharmacists can no longer prescribe painkillers indiscriminately.

It will also ensure that drug addicts are able to get appropriate and timely help, she said.

The government believes it is a growing problem as a survey found that 8.2 percent of young smokers in Grades 6 to 12 reported using prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the previous year to get high.

News in brief

• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said that potentially deadly E. coli bacteria detected at a Cargill meat processing plant in Alberta did not leave the facility. The bacteria was discovered in routine tests at the High River plant. Mike Martin of Cargil said this shows improved safety measures that followed last year's massive beef recall at the Alberta XL Foods plant are working.

• Manitoba provincial government's flood-watch forecast expects a "moderate to major risk" this spring. The risks have increased along the Red, Souris, Pembina, Saskatchewan, Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine rivers due to a recent heavy snowfall and above-average snowpack with a high water content. Communities in Southern Manitoba have started sandbagging and buying flood-prevention implements.

• Richard Kachkar, 46, who ran down and killed a Toronto police officer with a stolen snowplow was found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. A jury returned the verdict into the death last year of Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35. Kachkar will remain confined to a mental health facility for an indeterminate period.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar has advanced to 98.25 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback is valued at $1.0177 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,749 points and the TSX Venture index 1,099 points.

Lotto 6-49: (March 27) 2, 8, 11, 26, 27 and 33; bonus 17. (March 23) 1, 2, 7, 10, 33 and 38; bonus 13. Lotto Max: (March 22) 7, 12, 16, 19, 21, 24 and 47; bonus 34.

Regional briefs

• Five more people were fined in Superior Court this month for conspiring to fix the price of gasoline across Quebec. A Competition Bureau investigation has so far led to fines totaling $3 million and jail terms of 54 months. To date, 39 people and 15 companies have been charged.

• British Columbia Auditor General John Doyle said the province's carbon offset program is a fraud. The government said it spent $6 million on projects to offset air pollution that would have been done anyway, so they shouldn't be claimed as achieving carbon neutrality, he said. Program officials said Doyle ignored the evidence and lacks the expertise to examine the system.

• Despite saying it wouldn't raise taxes, New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said there was no other option to battling the deficit. Personal income and corporate tax rates will rise in the $8.5 billion spending plan along with higher tobacco taxes. The government decided, however, not to increase sales taxes.

Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]

Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

TAMPA — Private developers would bear much of the cost of a new Rays stadium in Ybor City under a plan Hillsborough County officials are putting together. Developers would benefit by cashing in on commercial, retail and other construction arou...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Corps of Engineers not in a hurry to hand over wetlands permitting to Florida

Corps of Engineers not in a hurry to hand over wetlands permitting to Florida

Despite the dire warnings of environmental advocates, the Legislature last month passed a bill to allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to take over issue federal wetlands destruction permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago

Updated: 16 minutes ago
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick will be affected by how many...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Goodman: In America, truth is missing in action

Goodman: In America, truth is missing in action

It’s "Mueller Time," as the nation grows ever closer to a confrontation with the truth.Was collusion with the Russians an illusion? If not, who was involved, what was done, and when? Did it impact the 2016 campaign, the fate of Hillary Clinton and no...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, 7:10 p.m.

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Tonight's Rays lineup against the Twins. Brad Miller back in the lineup following his DL stint (left groin strain). First pitch at 7:10 p.m.LF Denard SpanDH C.J. CronRF Carlos Gomez1B Brad Miller3B Daniel Robertson2B Joey WendleC Wilson RamosCF Malle...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Updated: 1 hour ago