Canadian Conservatives poised for election losses

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged his Conservative minority government could lose Tuesday's general election, as the mood of the electorate has shifted.

There's a perceived feeling Harper is insensitive to the angst being felt over the financial turmoil spilling into Canada.

Polls show Liberals have advanced to within four points of Conservatives, with many Canadians saying economic uncertainty is affecting their decisions.

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton said it was not inspiring for Harper to suggest that stock-market panic presents "great buying opportunities" for investors or that the troubles stop at the U.S. border.

Harper said Liberals would cause havoc in a troubled economy by raising taxes and running up deficits and interest rates, driving the country into a recession.

Also troubling for Conservatives is a report showing their price tag for the Afghanistan military mission is too low. It's estimated at $15-billion (U.S.) by 2011.

"I know it's a lot of money, but nobody in Canada is going to say you're spending too much on people who are putting their lives on the line," Harper said.

Minister: Canada's banks protected

Canada's tough banking standards have kept financial institutions out of trouble, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.

Banks must follow strict government monitoring of capital and have benefited from a strong housing market and conservative lending practices, he said.

Subprime mortgages for risky borrowers were only a small part of the Canadian mortgage industry and are nonexistent today.

Canadians have to put down at least 5 percent for a mortgage with a payback period of no longer than 35 years.

Flaherty said the government will buy $20.8-billion (U.S.) in residential mortgages to give the commercial banks additional cash to continue making loans.

So far, the government has injected $45-billion into the financial system to counteract the tight credit squeeze that has hurt markets worldwide.

News in brief

• A pilot and a military photographer were killed when their aircraft crashed at Moose Jaw's 15 Wing base in Saskatchewan. It's the home of the Snowbirds, the Canadian military's precision flying team. They were taking pictures of aircraft when the training jet went down. The Snowbirds were to perform this weekend in San Francisco.

• Dr. Henry Morgentaler, abortion-rights advocate, has been awarded the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor for achievement and dedication. He's best known for a fight that ended abortion laws 20 years ago. Others honored included Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court of Canada justice; Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment; and Montreal fashion designer Simon Chang.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar plummeted to 83.16 cents U.S. on Friday, while the U.S. dollar returned $1.2026 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.

The Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate by 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent but, for the first time, commercial banks refused to pass along the full reduction at first. Most later trimmed their rates to between 4.25 and 4.35 percent from 4.75 percent.

Statistics Canada reported strong employment gains in September with 107,000 new jobs, most of them part time.

The Toronto Stock Exchange plunged to an almost four-year low of 8,914 points on Friday, while the TSX Venture index was down at 990 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 13, 19, 32, 40, 45; bonus 28. (Oct. 4) 12, 19, 23, 25, 36, 46; bonus 2. Super 7: (Oct. 3) 3, 7, 9, 16, 35, 41, 44; bonus 46.

Regional briefs

• More sliced meat products with small levels of listeria have been detected at the Toronto Maple Leaf Foods' plant where a bacterial outbreak is blamed in 20 deaths. The plant reopened for test runs after extensive cleaning with none of the products being shipped. Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain said eliminating listeria is "almost impossible" in ready-to-eat foods.

• Joel Ifergan of Montreal is suing Loto-Quebec for $11.2-million (U.S.) after being told his ticket was issued seven seconds past the deadline. He bought two Super 7 tickets: one processed in time and one, which had that week's winning numbers, with the date for the next week's draw.

• McGill University in Montreal was rated 20th among the top 50 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. The University of British Columbia placed 34th and the University of Toronto was 41st. Harvard University was ranked No. 1.

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

Canadian Conservatives poised for election losses 10/11/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:25pm]

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