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Economic stimulus truce averts no-confidence vote

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, center, reached a compromise that preserves the Conservative minority government, for now.

Associated Press

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, center, reached a compromise that preserves the Conservative minority government, for now.

Canadians won't have to endure a snap federal election this summer after a truce of sorts was reached by the Liberals with the shaky minority Conservative government.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff agreed that his party wouldn't topple the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a nonconfidence vote over the economic stimulus plan.

A political showdown in advance of the three-month summer recess between Ignatieff and Harper was resolved — for now — with an agreement to create a panel to look at changes to employment insurance policies.

Ignatieff wants to ensure that more people who are losing their jobs can collect jobless benefits. He also questioned the progress and impact of the government's massive stimulus funding.

As part of the deal to avoid government defeat, Harper agreed to produce another economic progress report in late September.

The New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois parties, seeking the downfall of Harper's government, needed the support of the Liberals in order to get enough votes to trigger another election.

"I think it's always preferable that parties work together in these difficult times and that's what Canadians want," Harper said.

Ignatieff said it is his role to ensure the minority government remains accountable to the voters and the country.

Nortel's $40 million bonuses face scrutiny

The Canadian government refused a request for financial aid last winter that could have helped Nortel Networks Corp. avoid bankruptcy, chief executive Mike Zafirovski told a parliamentary committee.

The company, based in Toronto, was Canada's most valuable business during the high-tech boom early in the decade.

The government is looking into Zafirovski's decision to pay $40 million (U.S.) in bonuses for executives just weeks after refusing severance pay for thousands of employees.

News in brief

• Canada's 120th soldier to die in the conflict in Afghanistan was Cpl. Martin Dube, 35, who was killed while trying to defuse a roadside bomb. An Afghan police officer was also killed and an interpreter injured. A week earlier, Pvt. Alexandre Peloquin, 20, died after stepping on an explosive device.

• Toronto is preparing for a possible strike by civic workers on Monday that would curtail garbage collection and close day care centers, summer camps and swimming pools and limit other services. The workers say the major issues are demands from the city for numerous concessions for the next contract.

Facts and figures

A surprising drop in retail sales last month reversed all of the gains from the first three months of the year. Sales dipped 0.8 percent in April led by weakened demand for cars and furniture.

Canada's dollar was lower on Friday at 88.23 cents U.S. while the U.S. currency advanced to $1.1335 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets were lower Friday, with Toronto's composite index at 10,189 points while the TSX Venture index was 1,120 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 5, 8, 15, 19 and 40; bonus 22. (June 13) 1, 15, 20, 30, 41 and 48; bonus 10. Super 7: (June 12) 12, 13, 15, 18, 27, 30 and 40; bonus 43.

Regional briefs

• Ninety firefighters from Ontario and New Brunswick have arrived to help battle wildfires in Alberta. About 800 firefighters are battling the province's 57 blazes, including nine that remain out of control in the areas of Fort McMurray, Slave Lake and Whitecourt. In British Columbia, a wildfire along the shores of Stave Lake in Mission is quickly spreading and was believed started by lightning.

• The deaths of two people in Quebec and two in Manitoba have raised the death toll from the H1N1 swine flu in Canada to 12. Nationally the number of confirmed flu cases is 4,905. Officials said most of the cases are mild and don't require hospital treatment.

• U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson spoke to students at Cole Harbour District High School in Nova Scotia, urging them to "have pride in themselves" and telling them they are "agents of change." He said his goal is to speak to young people "about maximizing opportunity and to not self-destruct and not self-degrade." He later visited the Black Cultural Center in Dartmouth and spoke at a banquet for the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council.

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

Economic stimulus truce averts no-confidence vote 06/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 20, 2009 2:02pm]
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