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Canadian prime minister doesn't plan higher taxes

Canadians won't pay higher taxes or face cuts in programs to deal with the country's rising debt from fighting the recession, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

The spending of billions on economic stimulus measures is "temporary," and the Conservative government remains on track to balance the budget by 2016 by controlling spending, he said.

Opposition politicians don't believe it. They said a year ago, when the recession began, Harper insisted there wouldn't be a deficit after years of surpluses.

At present, the government predicts a $53.6 billion shortfall this fiscal year and multibillion-dollar deficits continuing until 2015-16.

Economists suggest the only ways to eliminate the deficit are to raise taxes or cut spending, but Harper said this can be done by limiting spending increases as the economy grows.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has warned that tax hikes might be necessary to fight the deficit created by the Conservatives. "But, for us, it's something that we will not consider," Harper said.

Prime minister acts as pianist in chief

Harper doesn't plan to give up his day job even though he has become a musical sensation in the nation's capital.

At a swank gala at the National Arts Center last weekend, he surprised guests by joining the musical entertainment.

Harper tickled the ivories of a Steinway grand piano and sang With a Little Help from My Friends, accompanied by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Calling it "grand fun," New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton said he admired Harper's courage in displaying his amateur musical talent in front of a discerning audience.

Ignatieff called Harper's singing "not all that much better than mine," then criticized the government's record on funding for the arts.

News in brief

• Canada needs to do more to prepare for a potential H1N1 flu pandemic, politicians were told. Groups including the Canadian Medical Association said there needs to be improved communications and more done to protect doctors and nurses treating patients. The flu virus has killed 78 Canadians and made thousands ill since April.

• Canada stands fourth — behind Norway, Australia and Iceland — on the list of countries with the world's highest quality of life. The United Nations Human Development Index took into account life expectancy, literacy, school enrollment and per capita gross domestic product in 182 countries. The United States was 13th, while Niger was in last place.

• Vincent Lacroix, head of the defunct Norbourg Financial Group of Montreal, was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison for bilking clients out of $100 million. Lacroix begged for forgiveness when admitting that he defrauded about 9,200 investors. The Quebec government has said it will distribute about $7 million to investors duped by Lacroix.

Facts and figures

Canada's unemployment rate has fallen for the first time in a year with the September figure at 8.4 percent as the economy created jobs for a second consecutive month.

The Royal Bank has raised its residential mortgage rates by up to 0.35 percent, putting the five-year closed rate at 5.84 percent and the one-year closed rate at 3.8 percent.

The Canadian dollar is higher at 95.82 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback is valued at $1.0436 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's interest rate is unchanged at 0.25 percent and the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock exchanges are higher, with Toronto's composite index at 11,436 points and the TSX Venture index 1,301 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 4, 12, 24, 36, 38; bonus 16. (Oct. 3) 14, 19, 27, 32, 45, 49; bonus 34. Lotto Max: (Oct. 2) 8, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 35; bonus 11.

Regional briefs

• Two men who snuck into the Calgary Zoo after hours to surprise a friend working there were attacked by a Siberian tiger. Police said Trever Wearmouth and Thomas Bryce-Hart, both 27, climbed over a fence topped with barbed wire and entered the tiger compound after a night of drinking. One of the men had severe injuries to his arms, while the other had minor injuries.

• Much of Alberta had its first snowfall of the season on Friday along with freezing rain and unseasonably cold weather. Roads in Calgary and Edmonton were icy, and there were travel advisories for all highways in southern Alberta. Daytime temperatures were expected to stay below 32 degrees through the country's Thanksgiving holiday on Monday.

• Roman Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey, arrested for possessing child pornography, has been allowed by a judge to stay in Ottawa among other priests as he awaits trial. Residents living near a monastery in Rogersville, New Brunswick, where he moved after his arrest, complained about his presence. He resigned as bishop in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, when arrested.

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

Canadian prime minister doesn't plan higher taxes 10/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2009 6:08pm]

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