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The Canada report: Greens will have a voice in debate

Political wrangling almost barred the Green Party from an upcoming televised leadership debate as Canadians prepare to elect a new government on Oct. 14.

Green leader Elizabeth May said public protests helped her gain a spot on the national stage despite attempts by the ruling Conservatives and New Democratic Party to shut her out.

TV debate officials said Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton threatened to boycott the event if May took part.

Having May appear would be comparable to two Liberals on the platform since she favors the election of Liberal leader Stephane Dion, they said.

This was a "good day" for women and democracy, said Dion, who had objected to May's exclusion.

The Greens were excluded in the 2006 election because they were not represented in the House of Commons, but now Blair Wilson, an independent member of Parliament, has joined the party.

Harper's campaign gaffes, so far, include suspending communications director Ryan Sparrow for belittling the views of the father of a killed soldier and pulling an offensive ad showing a bird defecating on Dion.

Dion removed a Quebec candidate for his publicized views 18 years ago about a native uprising.

A new poll said Harper could realize a majority government with support at 41 percent, ahead of the Liberals at 26 percent.

Gasoline prices rise

Motorists are incensed that Canada, a rich oil-producing nation, hiked gas prices by 12.9 cents a liter (about 47 cents U.S. a gallon) on Friday.

Gas-price watcher Dan McTeague, a Liberal member of Parliament, warned of the price hike over concerns about Hurricane Ike's impact on Texas refineries.

Even though Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, it is part of an "integrated" North American market setting prices at the world level, analysts said.

Gas prices jumped to $1.40 a liter ($5.48 U.S. a gallon) in Vancouver; $1.37 ($5.20) in Toronto and Montreal, and $1.33 ($5.06) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"We are prepared to take steps (about soaring gas prices)," Harper said while campaigning for re-election, but he didn't elaborate.

News in brief

• About 1,000 Canadian military personnel who took part in Cold War nuclear weapon tests in the United States and South Pacific between 1946 and 1963 are to receive compensation. The veterans or their families will receive $24,000 ($22,440 U.S.) for their dangerous assignments, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said. Also to be compensated are 200 personnel who decontaminated an Ontario nuclear plant in the 1950s after two reactor accidents.

• Another Canadian soldier has died in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, the 97th victim of the mission. Sgt. Scott Shipway, an infantryman from Shilo, Manitoba, was less than a week away from the end of his tour of duty. He previously served in Kosovo, Bosnia and Cyprus. This was his second tour in Afghanistan.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar slipped to a 13-month low of 93.69 cents U.S., but regained Friday to 94.26 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returns $1.0609 Canadian, before bank exchanges 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 were mixed Friday with Toronto's composite index up, at 12,667 points, and the TSX Venture index down to 1,585 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 15, 25, 31, 38 and 49; bonus 48. (Sept. 6) 2, 5, 9, 17, 32 and 35; bonus 36. Super 7: (Sept. 5) 2, 6, 9, 19, 20, 32 and 42; bonus 7.

Regional briefs

• The death toll from listeria bacteria in tainted meat products has risen to 16, with five additional cases under investigation. Fourteen deaths linked to processed meat from a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods plant were in Ontario and there was one each in British Columbia and Alberta. So far, 43 listeriosis cases are linked to the outbreak the company believes was caused when meat became contaminated by accumulated bacteria inside slicers.

• Atlantic Canada got drenched last weekend from the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna. New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy cities received 5.5 inches of rain as the Saint John Fire Department pumped muddy water out of 100 basements. There was also flooding in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and across Nova Scotia, where 2 inches of rain fell.

• A fire that destroyed an apartment block in Regina, Saskatchewan, leaving 20 families homeless, was sparked by a cigarette. Fire officials said a man refilling a butane lighter while smoking caused the fire, which resulted in up to $4 million in damage.

Jim Fox can be reached at canada report@hotmail.com.

The Canada report: Greens will have a voice in debate 09/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:53pm]

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