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Rich get welfare, legislator laments

While Canada's government looks for ways to cut spending, hundreds of millionaires manage to collect social benefits including unemployment insurance payments.

George Baker, a Newfoundland member of the Liberal government, said a study of Revenue Canada figures shows many millionaires are legally "ripping off the system."

With the help of clever accountants, 500 people earning more than $1-million (Canadian) a year together collect $2.1-million in old-age pensions. Others receive child-care and education tax breaks designed for low-income earners, and even jobless benefits.

"Our government must have the political courage to stop the handouts to wealthy Canadians and require them to contribute in a proportionately fair manner," Baker said.

As well, many people with large incomes have arranged their financial accounts to show little or no net income to avoid taxes, added Baker, who wants income tax reforms to be part of revamped social programs.

Quebec worries

Prime Minister Jean Chretien is backtracking on a comment that Canada will have trouble surviving if Quebec separates. The remark during a Vancouver TV interview was a major departure because Chretien has refused to speculate on what will happen if French Quebeckers vote to leave Canada.

Chretien also said Canada might split in two, and expressed concern that some regions or provinces might be "swallowed" by the United States.

A day later Chretien said separation "would not be good for Canada," adding that he thinks Quebeckers will reject independence in a vote expected next year.

In his new book, A Nation Too Good To Lose, former Prime Minister Joe Clark also warned that Canada could break up without Quebec.

Mulroney's money

Aides to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney dismiss as lies claims in the book, On The Take, about the life and times of the former Conservative leader.

Stevie Cameron says in her book that Mulroney was able to live lavishly because of large financial support from friends, his party and taxpayers. She said businessmen collected $4-million (Canadian) to help ease Mulroney back into private life after he left politics last year.

Mulroney is a partner in a Montreal law firm, serves on three corporate boards and is a consultant to two large multinational companies.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar ended the week at 74.01 U.S. cents while the U.S. dollar was $1.3511 Canadian (exclusive of bank exchange fees).

Interest rates remained steady, with the prime lending and lowest variable mortgage rate at 7 percent.

Canadian stock markets were lower, as Toronto's composite index closed at 4,288 points Friday.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 18, 19, 20, 23, 30 and 42; bonus 28. (Oct. 22) 6, 9, 14, 29, 38 and 46; bonus 5.

In brief

The British Columbia Lottery Corp. has suspended its Sports Action game, saying criminals might be using it to launder money. Betting was stopped after a huge jump in sales and after "a number of people of dubious background" were winning, police said.

Brothers Mickey and Angus McArthur of Kingston, who await trial after a wild bank robbery shootout in Port Perry, Ontario, maintain they were framed by police. Three police, a bank manager and bystander were shot and wounded in the robbery.

A "Big Brother" photo-computer is coming to border crossing points so Canada Customs can target potential smugglers and illegal immigrants. The system scans approaching license plate numbers and displays a list of criminal offenses against the owner.

"Very warm summers. You learn to enjoy winters. A bus stop every block or two. Coffee breaks every workday." Such is life in Canada, according to the government's Newcomer's Guide to Canada. The book is being revised because of errors.