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Harper won't sack loose-lipped official

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected calls for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz over indiscreet comments about the listeria outbreak that has killed 17 people.

Ritz apologized to Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter for his remarks during a conference call about the crisis caused by tainted processed meat.

While speaking with scientists, government workers and political staff, Ritz expressed concern about political fallout during the election campaign from the deaths and illness traced to products from Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto.

After being briefed, Ritz quipped: "This is like a death by a thousand cuts — or should I say cold cuts?"

When informed of a death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said: "Please tell me it's (Member of Parliament) Wayne Easter."

Liberal leader Stephane Dion and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton called on Harper to dismiss Ritz from the Cabinet and as a candidate in the Oct. 14 general election.

The plant where listeria bacteria was found embedded inside slicing equipment has reopened after a thorough cleaning and inspection.

"We have learned from this tragic experience, and we can and will do more," Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain said.

Parties vie to make election promises

Promises, promises in the Canadian election campaign include billions in spending for seniors and child day care spaces.

New Democrats leader Jack Layton said the party would establish a national home care program to help keep seniors out of nursing homes.

His government would provide money to allow 100,000 more seniors to be cared for in their homes instead of institutions, along with a national child care program to create 220,000 day care spaces for children.

Harper said his Conservative government would provide tax relief to seniors by raising the nontaxable income level by $1,000. This would save up to about $150 a year.

Stephane Dion said his Liberals would spend $66-billion over 10 years on public transit, high-speed rail, wastewater treatment and recreation facilities.

News in brief

• Economists predict aftershocks of the volatility in global financial markets could hit Canada with tighter credit conditions, reduced business investment, diminished consumer confidence and job losses. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Canada "is being affected" but is weathering the storm better than others.

• Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines are dropping their fuel surcharges to reflect lower oil prices. As well, Air Canada is eliminating a fee on second checked bags.

• Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is calling for an outright ban on handguns even as city politicians say Toronto is a safe city despite almost daily murders recently. A series of shootings around schools in the past week has left parents and students unnerved. On Tuesday alone, three young men were killed — two from gunshot wounds and one who was stabbed — pushing the number of murders this year to 51.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar regained from a two-year low on Friday to reach 95.86 cents U.S., up two cents for the week, while the U.S. dollar returned $1.0432 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.

Canadian stock markets benefited from the U.S. intervention in the financial markets, as the battered Toronto composite index soared more than 500 points Friday to 12,752 points. The TSX Venture index gained to 1,515 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 9, 17, 23, 27, 32; bonus 22. (Sept. 13) 5, 18, 20, 26, 37, 39; bonus 14. Super 7: (Sept. 12) 9, 13, 21, 22, 28, 44, 45; bonus 10.

Regional briefs

• There is public outrage in British Columbia after a man was arrested for shooting a puppy belonging to a young cancer victim. Cody Wellard, 31, of Victoria, will appear in court next month for killing the four-month-old puppy belonging to Max Rose, 12, of Quadra Island. The Jack Russell terrier pup ran out of the yard as two hunters walked by and was shot.

• Ron Lancaster, legendary Canadian Football League player, coach and executive has died at 69 of cancer. A Pennsylvania native, he was a star quarterback with Ottawa and Saskatchewan and coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

• Daniel Wolfe, 32, one of Canada's most wanted men who escaped with five others from a Regina prison, was recaptured in Winnipeg. The arrest of Wolfe leaves only Ryan John Agecoutay, 25, still at large.

• The minority Conservative government in Nova Scotia was given a lifeline from the Liberals to pass the province's budget. Liberal leader Stephen Neil said Premier Rodney MacDonald's fiscal bill is balanced enough to support instead of defeating the government and causing an election.

Jim Fox can be reached at

Harper won't sack loose-lipped official 09/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 5:32pm]
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