Canada's opposition party on watch for opportunities

A reinvigorated Liberal Party is uniting under new leader Michael Ignatieff, who is considering strategies to defeat the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Facing a coalition of opposition parties planning to bring down the government in a "nonconfidence vote" last Monday, Harper instead suspended the sitting of the House of Commons until Jan. 26.

In the meantime, Harper said his Conservatives would work on an economic strategy to appease the opposition and present it Jan. 27 as a budget statement.

Unpopular Liberal leader Stephane Dion stepped aside rather than wait for a May leadership convention to allow Ignatieff to take over now.

Ignatieff said that he is prepared to work with the government to draft an economic blueprint but that it would be up to Harper to show he has changed from his "spiteful, divisive and polarizing" attitude.

The government has "offered no hope, no solutions, no plan for our country," Ignatieff said.

The defeat of the government would mean either a coalition government of the opposition parties would take over or another federal election would be held — even though the last vote was only two months ago.

Harper considers 'stacking' Senate

Harper is moving to "stack" the nonelected Senate with 18 of his supporters.

The Conservative appointments would be one of the largest blocks of patronage rewards by the ruling government in years.

It would also be a sharp reversal for Harper who has called for Senate reform, saying the Upper Chamber is undemocratic and unaccountable while senators should be elected for fixed terms.

Even with the appointees, the Liberals will have the majority with 58 senators compared with 20 Conservatives.

In addition, three senators are Progressive Conservatives, four are independents, one represents the Independent New Democratic Party, one is "nonaligned" and there are 18 vacancies.

News in brief

• A recession has officially arrived, says the Bank of Canada. The country's central bank slashed its trendsetting interest rate to 1.5 percent, the lowest level in 50 years. Many economists forecast economic growth at or below zero for next year with job losses topping 100,000 and an unemployment rate of more than 7 percent.

• The $27.8-billion U.S. leveraged buyout of BCE Inc., Canada's largest telecommunications company, has collapsed amid economic turmoil. Buyers said a key condition of the deal was not met in what would have been the world's largest leveraged buyout.

• Students took cover in classrooms for several hours at a Montreal university after hearing what they believed were gunshots. Police found only exploded firecrackers in an elevator at the University of Quebec along with a bag with two knives and unused .22-caliber bullets. The incident sparked memories of the rampage at Montreal's Polytechnical School in December 1989, when a gunman killed 14 women.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar had edged up in value, reaching 80.75 cents U.S. Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2385 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada dropped its key interest rate by 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent while commercial banks lowered their prime lending rates by 0.50 percent to 3.5 percent.

The Toronto Stock Exchange advanced over the past week with the composite index reaching 8,231 points on Friday while the TSX Venture exchange index was lower at 507 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 6, 12, 18, 27, 42, 43; bonus 7. (Dec. 6) 4, 8, 29, 37, 40, 48; bonus 45. Super 7: (Dec. 5) 8, 9, 14, 16, 18, 29, 42; bonus 35.

Regional briefs

• British Columbia remains financially sound as the Dominion Bond Rating Service reconfirmed high credit ratings. It noted good finances, a conservative budget, solid economic conditions and the second-lowest debt burden in Canada. Business and consumer confidence remains strong and the province has a below-average reliance on the U.S. export market to provide some protection.

• Eight members of the Tingley family in New Brunswick have been arrested on drug trafficking and weapons counts. The Mounties conducted a yearlong organized crime investigation in several compounds in the rural area of Salisbury, Staff Sgt. Robert Power said.

• Bus driver Rick Bazinet of London, Ontario, said he was tempted to keep a money bag containing $65,000 (U.S.) in $20 bills he found at a coffee shop, but he didn't regret turning it over. It turned out the bag was left behind by a Brinks armored truck guard who had filled an ATM. There was no word on any reward for Bazinet, but the Brinks' driver who returned to retrieve the bag offered to buy the coffee.

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

Canada's opposition party on watch for opportunities 12/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:56am]

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