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Parties demand stimulus package

The absence of a "stimulus" package to counter a slowing economy has Canada's three opposition parties threatening to overthrow the Conservative minority government, re-elected only last month.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to cut government spending and sell some federal assets to keep the budget from going deep into a deficit.

"Bring it on" was Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's reaction to threats to take down the government.

Without a compromise when the bill is debated on Monday, it could result in an election within months or the opposition attempting to form a coalition to govern.

A major irritant is a surprise proposal to deny the other parties access to $22-million (U.S.) in public subsidies to support their operations as a way of cutting back spending.

"If the vote is about this plan, no Liberal can support this plan," said leader Stephane Dion. "We're asking the prime minister to reconsider it, because obviously Canadians don't want an election."

Flaherty's economic update confirmed a "technical recession" for Canada and the first government budget deficit in 13 years.

Being considered is a multibillion-dollar fiscal package with major infrastructure spending and possible help for the auto sector in the next federal budget expected in late January.

Support for NAFTA

It is important the North American Free Trade Agreement stay intact once the new Democratic administration takes power in the United States, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Canada says.

Even as President-elect Obama mused about reopening NAFTA during the presidential primaries, it was likely just "campaign rhetoric," David Wilkins said in Calgary.

Once the Obama administration "gets all the facts and figures, it will understand that NAFTA is simply too beneficial to Canadians and Americans to try to unilaterally renegotiate our withdrawal and will continue to support it very strongly," he said.

A staunch supporter of President Bush, Wilkins, who is returning to South Carolina, has been ambassador to Canada since 2005.

News in brief

• One Canadian was killed and six are missing in India where terrorists staged deadly attacks, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said. The identity of the victim was not yet released. Two other Canadians were wounded, one of them actor Michael Rudder of Montreal.

• The decline in the auto industry has led Magna International to close two of its Toronto-area plants, with the loss of 850 jobs, by next June. Canada's largest auto-parts company will shut its Decoma Exterion division in Newmarket and Aurora. Chrysler Canada's Brampton plant employing 2,750 workers is closing for the next week or two for "inventory adjustments" along with a two-week Christmas closing.

• Canadian courts have approved the settlement of lawsuits filed against Toronto-based Menu Foods Income Fund over tainted pet food. The $24-million (U.S.) settlement is to resolve some 100 class-action lawsuits in the United States and Canada over food tainted with melamine that killed or sickened their pets.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar gained over the past week to 80.65 cents U.S. on Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.24 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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 higher Friday, with the Toronto exchange index at 8,848 points and the TSX Venture exchange index 752 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 11, 33, 34, 42, 43 and 48; bonus 7. (Nov. 22) 9, 21, 28, 37, 44 and 49; bonus 19. Super 7: (Nov. 21) 1, 15, 27, 38, 40, 43 and 44; bonus 3.

Regional briefs

• The collapse of the floor of a parking garage in Montreal's Saint-Laurent suburb killed a man in his car, crushed vehicles and forced 500 people to leave the apartment complex above. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the giant slab to fall.

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

Parties demand stimulus package 11/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:33am]
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