The ruling Conservatives have a comfortable lead that could translate into a majority government heading into the homeward stretch of Canada's Oct. 14 general election campaign.
Just before the leaders' televised debates in English and French, an opinion poll gave the Conservatives 37 percent support while the Liberals trailed at 22 percent. The New Democrats followed with 18 percent, the Green Party at 12 and Bloc Quebecois with 9.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal leader Stephane Dion of panicking about the potential impact of the U.S. financial fallout by announcing a new economic plan in the middle of the campaign.
Harper said that his party is the safe choice in troubled times and that Canada's economy will weather any financial storm and avoid a recession.
With $100-billion (U.S.) in value erased from the Toronto Stock Exchange since Monday, Dion said the Liberals would call on financial regulators, economists and provincial premiers to assess the state of the economy and chart the proper course.
"You're going to let everyone sink or swim," socialist New Democratic leader Jack Layton said of Harper while Green leader Elizabeth May attacked the prime minister for not revealing his economic plan.
Bloc Quebecois' independence-seeker Gilles Duceppe accused Harper of "hollow gestures" toward Quebec nationalists.
Do-Not-Call List so popular it overloads
Canadians overloaded a new service aimed at putting annoying telemarketers on permanent hold.
Within 12 hours of the launch of the national Do-Not-Call List, more than 220,000 people had registered on line and over the phone.
Demand was so high that the government agency operating the list had to advise people to try later.
"More than 1-million people tried to access the system by telephone, clearly over any estimation we had done," said Denis Carmel of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.
Once a number is listed, telemarketers are prohibited from calling or could face fines of up to $15,000.
There are some exceptions, such as pollsters, researchers, charities and government agencies.
News in brief
• Applications to buy tickets for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver went on sale Friday. To ensure fair access to tickets and thwart scalpers, the applications will be considered by a committee and decisions made on who will be offered the 1.6-million tickets available to the public.
• The number of deaths from a listeriosis outbreak linked to tainted meat from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto has reached 20. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the latest death occurred in Ontario, where 15 of the deaths have been reported. There have also been deaths in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick. Six other Ontario deaths remain under investigation.
Facts and figures
The Bank of Canada has put an additional $12-billion U.S. into money markets to make sure Canadians have access to loans.
The central bank's move signals that the global financial crisis has started to affect the availability of credit in Canada. The key interest rate is steady at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.
Canada's dollar plunged more than 4 cents U.S. in the past week to 92.52 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returned $1.0809 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.
The Toronto Stock Exchange index gained 84 points to 10,984 points on Friday after a two-year low, falling about 1,700 points in total on Monday and Thursday. The TSX Venture index was lower at 1,328 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 8, 22, 29, 34 and 48; bonus 47. (Sept. 27) 11, 19, 29, 33, 44 and 46; bonus 34. Super 7: (Sept. 26) 10, 15, 16, 25, 29, 41 and 43; bonus 12.
• Residents of resource-rich Alberta are saving about $14 U.S. on their natural gas bills this month through the province's rebate program. The refunds are triggered when prices rise for the heating fuel between October and March. The Natural Gas Rebate Program has provided about $1.8-billion U.S. in assistance since it started in 2003.
• Nurses in New Brunswick have voted by 53 percent to reject a tentative contract agreement reached with the provincial government. The 6,100 members of the New Brunswick Nurses Union are seeking improved working conditions and hours. No strike date has been set.
• Jason Rinaldi, 28, part owner of Hitman Hotrods of Cambridge, Ontario, has shifted gears into a new Corvette after winning the tax-free top prize of $35-million U.S. in the Lotto 6/49 draw. He was about to give up playing the lottery, saying: "It was costing me 20 bucks a week to play; it was a bad habit."
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]