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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper buys time for stimulus plan

Canadians won't have to endure a snap federal election or threatened coalition government now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have a new lease on life.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said his party will endorse the federal budget instead of trying to overthrow the minority government, for now.

"The job of a responsible opposition is to hold them to their word, to force them to deliver and, if they don't deliver, to replace them," Ignatieff said.

The threat of being ousted by the coalition of opposition parties forced Harper to include $32.5 billion in the budget to stimulate the economy, he said.

There's still a need to ensure the stimulus is working, so the Liberals are "putting this government on probation" by requiring detailed progress reports starting next month.

The budget has billions of dollars for infrastructure projects and social housing, improvements to employment insurance, income-tax cuts and tax credits for home renovations.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government "regrets" the budget will cause the first deficit in years but it "will be temporary."

News in brief

• Canada will contribute $8.1 million toward efforts by the United States to detect and secure dangerous nuclear and radiological materials in Russia and Ukraine.

• West coast cities in Canada are among the world's most expensive for houses, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey finds. Vancouver, with an average house price of $455,000, was fourth after Australia's Gold Coast, Honolulu and Australia's Sunshine Coast. Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick, have Canada's most affordable houses.

Facts and figures

The dollar and stock markets are being affected over concerns about the impact to Canadian industries of "buy America" restrictions in the U.S. economic stimulus package.

Canada's dollar was lower at 81.09 U.S. cents, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2333 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada interest rate is steady at 1 percent and the prime lending rate is 3 percent. The Toronto composite index was lower Friday at 8,752 points and the TSX Venture exchange index was 887 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 6, 20, 22, 24, 46; bonus 36. (Jan. 24) 9, 13, 20, 29, 45, 46; bonus 5. Super 7: (Jan. 23) 3, 4, 17, 22, 28, 34, 37; bonus 21.

Regional briefs

• Quebec Premier Jean Charest said he is prepared to propose a budget shortfall if it means preserving jobs. Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand has warned the province has to be on the "defensive" trying to persuade multinational companies to keep operating in Quebec.

• Two British Columbia police officers were arrested for the attack and robbery of a newspaper delivery man outside a Vancouver hotel. Off-duty constables Jeffrey Klassen and Griffen Gillan face charges.

• The Ontario government passed back-to-work legislation to force an end to a 85-day strike by teachers at Toronto's York University. The dispute affected 50,000 students. In Ottawa, a deal was reached to end a 52-day strike by transit workers.

• Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams wants a one-year moratorium on equalization changes in the federal budget as they would cost the Atlantic provinces billions of dollars in revenue. The payments have been made to provinces needing financial assistance.

• A "baker's dozen" of Tim Hortons' doughnut-shop servers in St. Catharines, Ontario, hopes to score tips of $25,000 from Lotto 6/49 winner Jorma Hogbacka. While picking up a check for $12 million, Hogbacka said he would give the generous tips to his five favorite Hortons' employees. More than five have come forward to seek him out. Hogbacka held one of three winning tickets from last weekend's draw.

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

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper buys time for stimulus plan 01/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 3:31am]
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