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Watchdog group decries $500 billion national debt in Canada

A name for baby: Ngozi holds her baby, Nassir, after Nassir’s father, Charles, picked the boy’s name on Tuesday at the Toronto Zoo. The zoo set up piles of fruit at stations with five name choices for the baby gorilla. The name was determined by the fruit pile the dad ate from first.

Associated Press

A name for baby: Ngozi holds her baby, Nassir, after Nassir’s father, Charles, picked the boy’s name on Tuesday at the Toronto Zoo. The zoo set up piles of fruit at stations with five name choices for the baby gorilla. The name was determined by the fruit pile the dad ate from first.

Canada's debt is spinning out of control, exceeding a half-trillion dollars, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says.

The group watches the debt spin wildly on its Web clock (www.debtclock.ca) and predicts it will roll over $500 billion today.

Not including provincial or municipal borrowing, this debt amounts to about $15,000 for every person, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said there are no plans for immediate spending cuts.

Instead, the government will return to balancing the books and paying down the debt once the country heads out of the recession.

"We've heard enough of stimulus plans and we need now to have some deficit-reduction plans," said federation director Kevin Gaudet.

This fiscal "abuse" is putting a heavy burden on taxpayers, requiring current and future generations to pay it off, he added.

As part of the stimulus spending, the government will run deficits for several years to get through the worst of the downturn, Flaherty said.

"We've paid off over $40 billion worth of debt in the first three years of this government, so we know how to do it," he said.

Disney-style tickets smooth flu shot lines

Canadians are being urged to be vigilant even though health authorities say cases of H1N1 flu have peaked.

With signs the virus has stopped its rapid advance, there is plenty of vaccine available to give flu shots to anyone wanting one.

At the height of the panic, clinics were inundated with people waiting for hours for shots, offered initially only to those at "high risk."

A method to eliminate the inconvenience of waiting for hours in the cold was devised thanks to a ticketing system used at Walt Disney World.

Denis Beaudoin of Quebec's Gatineau Health and Social Services Center recalled the theme park's Fastpass system that gives attraction tickets indicating a time to return.

He implemented that in Gatineau and it was expanded across the province with similar timed tickets and wristbands given out nationally.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has recorded 161 deaths attributed to the virus, with 61 in Ontario, 35 in Quebec and 23 in British Columbia.

News in brief

• Canada's rich are getting richer, despite the recession, according to Canadian Business magazine. It said the Thomson family, which controls the Thomson Reuters media group, tops the list at $21 billion. Next are mining executive John Irving and James Arthur of Irving Oil with $7 billion; Galen Weston, of the Loblaw supermarket chain, $6.2 billion; James Pattison, of the Jim Pattison Group, $5 billion; and the Rogers family, Rogers Cable, $4.5 billion.

• Tim Hortons — Canada's iconic coffee-and-doughnut chain which has a location at Fort Knox and one on the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan — will be closing tomorrow on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. An agreement couldn't be reached over rent demands for a new lease with the property owner, the National Capital Commission, said David Morelli of Hortons.

Facts and figures

Canadian banks have cut their fixed-rate home mortgage rates by up to 0.25 percentage points. The Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal are offering "special" five-year closed rates of 4.29 percent.

The Canadian dollar is lower at 93.62 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0681 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets continue higher, with Toronto's composite index at 11,600 points and the TSX Venture index 1,400 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 4, 13, 24, 30, 42; bonus 9. (Nov. 14) 1, 9, 19, 25, 31, 41; bonus 42. Lotto Max: (Nov. 13) 8, 18, 27, 28, 38, 41, 48; bonus 36.

Regional briefs

• Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn will review the province's much-criticized H1N1 vaccination program. He will look at concerns that include a shortage of vaccine that closed clinics and decisions about who could receive the shots initially.

• A major earthquake in the Pacific Ocean off the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands shook British Columbia's north coast early Tuesday. The 6.5-magnitude quake was felt from Terrace to Kitimat and as far south as Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island. There were no reports of serious damage or injuries.

• Atlantic Canada's lobster industry could get a jolt with a British inventor's device that's said to be a more humane way of killing the crustaceans. Entrepreneur Simon Buckhaven said his CrustaStun system zaps lobsters and crabs instantly with electricity as an alternative to boiling them alive.

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

Watchdog group decries $500 billion national debt in Canada 11/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 6:18pm]

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