Cracks in opposition cloud bid to oust Harper

Cracks are already forming in a proposed coalition poised to defeat Canada's minority Conservative government, which was granted a seven-week stay of execution.

Governor General Michaelle Jean agreed with a request by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to suspend Parliament until Jan. 26 to work through the crisis.

Harper's legal tactic avoided a no-confidence vote in the Commons on Monday and his government's expected defeat.

The opposition Liberals and New Democrats, supported by the separatist Bloc Quebecois, were going to vote against the government, causing its defeat less than two months after its re-election.

Now some Liberals are retreating from the overthrow scheme and many are openly disillusioned with interim leader Stephane Dion, who would have become the prime minister.

Harper had announced he was going to deny the parties access to millions of dollars usually available to support their operations, causing the uproar. But the opposition said the real reason for the attempt was the lack of an economic stimulus plan.

When the Commons resumes, the government will present a budget to deal with the economic slowdown, Harper said, inviting the opposition to help draft it.

Home prices set to dip

A slumping economy affecting consumer confidence will cause a 5 percent drop in housing prices across Canada by the end of next year, ReMax says. The real estate company said the national average house price, at a record high of $243,000 (U.S.) last year, will drop to about $231,500.

The biggest declines will be in British Columbia, where prices are highest, and in southern Ontario, hit by automotive and manufacturing job losses. Sales dropped 15 percent to 440,000 houses this year and are expected to be flat next year, ReMax says.

News in brief

• Canada's government no longer has a welcome mat out to U.S. war dodgers. Dean Walcott, a former Marine corporal deployed twice to Iraq, was ordered to leave Canada by Jan. 6 or be forcibly removed. He had sought refugee status, saying he was "getting tired of seeing little kids blown up." Walcott was the sixth Iraq war deserter sent back to the United States.

• Carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a plugged ventilation pipe in a wood-burning stove was blamed for the deaths of a father and his two children in Woodstock, Ontario. The only survivor was Laurie Hawkins, 41, a well-known Ontario Provincial Police officer, who was in "grave" condition in a Toronto hospital. Her husband, Richard, 40, daughter, Cassandra, 14, and son, Jordan, 12, were overcome by the odorless toxic gas.

Facts and figures

Lower oil prices and an unsettled government pushed Canada's dollar lower to 77.18 cents U.S. on Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2957 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Job losses of 71,000 in November were the worst single-month drop in a quarter century, pushing Canada's jobless rate to 6.3 percent from 6.2 percent in October.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is unchanged at 2.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 4 percent.

Stock markets were lower through the week, with the Toronto exchange index at 7,815 points, down 1,000 points, while the TSX Venture exchange index was 688 points on Friday.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 8, 12, 22, 36 and 37; bonus 23. (Nov. 29) 9, 12, 16, 26, 30 and 37; bonus 27. Super 7: (Nov. 28) 6, 9, 16, 17, 27, 29 and 38; bonus 12.

Regional briefs

• The Toronto City Council will require grocery stores to charge 5 cents for each plastic bag customers need effective June 1. It's an environmental attempt to have shoppers switch to reusable bags. The council is also banning the sale of water in plastic bottles at city-owned facilities and is telling restaurants and food retailers to switch to reusable takeout containers by the end of 2011.

• Tough economic times are putting the bite on Nova Scotia lobster fishermen. Colin MacDonald of Clearwater Fine Foods said the market won't bear any higher prices with fewer people dining on lobsters. Fishermen say they're getting only $2.50 to $3 (U.S.) a pound for their catches.

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

Cracks in opposition cloud bid to oust Harper 12/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:43am]

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