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Rising deficit leads to call to fire finance minister

The Canadian government has been accused of "incompetence on a historic scale" for allowing the country's deficit to balloon to $45 billion (U.S.) to fight the economic downturn.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff made the accusation in demanding that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty be fired over news of a huge jump in the debt.

After projecting years of continued surpluses last November, Flaherty in January said stimulus measures would cost $30.6 billion. Now, he said that number has jumped by another $14.4 billion.

"On the most pressing issue facing the nation — this recession — the minister of finance has failed," Ignatieff said.

"His projections are out the window again, leaving Canadians with the largest deficit in history — and no economic stimulus to show for it," he added.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to fire Flaherty saying the Conservative government has taken the correct course of action.

Economic conditions have deteriorated around the world and Canada's deficits are far below those of other countries, Harper said.

GG's participation in skinning ritual shocks

Many Canadians were shocked to see Governor General Michaelle Jean participating in a gory Inuit seal-skinning ritual.

Appointed by the government as Queen Elizabeth's representative in Canada, Jean said she was sharing in the culture of her hosts at a community festival at Rankin Inlet in Nunavut on the west coast of Hudson Bay.

When presented with a seal carcass, Jean helped cut through the flesh, swallowed a piece of its heart and wiped her blood-spattered fingers clean with tissue.

Animal rights critics called her action "offensive," "bizarre" and "desperate," but Prime Minister Harper applauded her gesture.

News in brief

• There was a surge in Canadians collecting unemployment benefits in March — a jump of 10.6 percent to 681,400 claimants. Even so, that represents only 47 percent of those unemployed as the rest aren't eligible for benefits. Statistics Canada said 321,000 jobs have been lost since October.

• The Bronfman family wants to recover the pair of Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup rings and $1 million in other valuables stolen last year from their Toronto mansion. The family has created a Web site (www.bronfmanjewellery.com) and hired a private investigator to try to find the items and is offering a "substantial" reward. The hockey rings are from the 1970s when brothers Peter and Edward Bronfman owned the NHL team.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is heading again toward parity with the U.S. currency, up 7 cents in the past month. The dollar was 91.52 cents U.S. Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0952 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets were higher, with Toronto's composite index at 10,415 points Friday while the TSX Venture index was 1,119 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 4, 24, 26, 29 and 49; bonus 13. (May 23) 7, 8, 15, 24, 27 and 32; bonus 34. Super 7: (May 22) 1, 12, 17, 19, 25, 31 and 38; bonus 41.

Regional briefs

• While they made infrequent visits to Canada when in office, it seems former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton just can't get enough of the north these days. Both were in Toronto on Friday speaking to 6,000 people at a "Power Within" event about global and domestic challenges. Bush made his first speech after leaving office in Calgary in March and Clinton is in Canada numerous times a year, including a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John's, Newfoundland on Thursday.

• May 28 marked the 75th anniversary of the birth of the Dionne quintuplets in Callander, Ontario. Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne Dionne were born to an impoverished couple and spent the first nine years of their lives on public display in a specially built hospital called "Quintland." In 1998, the surviving sisters (now just Annette and Cecile) received a $4 million settlement from the Ontario government for the public "mistreatment."

• Ivan Szoke of Creston, British Columbia, became an "accidental" multimillionaire, but only for a day. When the truck driver checked his bank account, he found it to be almost $8 million. It was "tempting" to take the money and run, but he reported the unexpected windfall to a bank teller and had to persuade her to look into it. The error was corrected and all Szoke has left of the millionaire status is a framed copy of his bank statement.

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

Rising deficit leads to call to fire finance minister 05/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 3:05pm]
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