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Canada Report: Prime minister hints at major benefits changes

"Major transformations" are coming, including the possibility of waiting longer to receive retirement benefits, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

These changes to "position Canada for growth over the next generation" will be announced "in the months to come," he told an international economic forum in Switzerland.

There is concern that an aging population risks undermining the country's economic position "well beyond the current economic crises," he said.

Details of such major and controversial plans weren't disclosed, but Harper continues to fuel speculation that the Old Age Security pension eligibility will be moved to 67 from 65.

Making Canadians wait two years longer to receive their "old-age" pension is "completely unacceptable," said New Democratic politician Peter Julian.

"We do not accept the proposition that more Canadian seniors have to live in poverty or that Canadians have to work longer in order to access retirement," he said.

The number of Canadians age 65 and older is expected to double to 9.3 million by 2030 with pension costs rising to $106 billion a year from $36 billion now.

Calgary woman beaten in Mexico

Another Canadian has been attacked while on vacation in Mexico.

Sheila Nabb, 37, of Calgary was found unconscious and badly beaten in the elevator of the Hotel Riu Emerald Bay resort in Mazatlan where she was staying with her husband, Andrew Nabb.

She was flown home Thursday and is awaiting facial reconstructive surgery at a Calgary hospital.

Earlier this month, three Canadians were killed in Mexico: Ximena Osequeda, 39, of Vancouver in Huatulco; Robin Wood, 67, of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, in Melaque; and Salid Abdulacis Sabas, 35, whose hometown wasn't disclosed, in Culiacan.

Canada's government has an advisory warning about travel to Mexico due to violence.

News in brief

• A lawsuit seeking $4 million has been launched by the family and estate of Jessica Lloyd, who was murdered by convicted sex killer Russell Williams. The suit against the former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario also names his estranged wife. He is serving a life sentence for killing Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau and for sexual assaults and break-ins.

• Prosecutors are moving ahead with court cases against eight more people after the Stanley Cup hockey playoff riot last June in the streets of Vancouver. So far, after police released images of the rioters asking for the public's assistance, 38 of 100 have been identified and arrested. Police say they expect to release hundreds more pictures of suspected rioters soon.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar has again reached parity with the U.S. currency, trading at $1.0016 U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns 99.83 cents in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent. Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,466 points and the TSX Venture Exchange index 1,621 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 12, 20, 35, 41 and 49; bonus 36. (Jan. 21) 9, 11, 31, 34, 48 and 49; bonus 41. Lotto Max: (Jan. 20) 9, 15, 21, 23, 41, 43 and 44; bonus 46.

Regional briefs

• The crunch is coming for doctors, nurses, teachers and 1 million public-sector workers in Ontario who have been told to moderate their pay demands. In calling for restraint to deal with a $16 billion budget deficit, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty rejected Conservative party demands for a legislated pay freeze for public-sector workers.

• Appliance maker Mabe Canada will close its Montreal plant in 2014, with the loss of about 700 jobs due to "economic factors." About 90 percent of the company's clothes dryers are sold under brand names such as GE and are exported to the U.S.

• In the third freight-train derailment in Alberta in a week, 17 cars carrying grain plunged off a bridge to a valley floor near Wainwright. The CN Rail train was heading west to Edmonton from Winnipeg. There were no injuries. Earlier, 18 cars went off the tracks near Hay Lakes, and a CN freight derailed near Hinton injuring a crew member.

• A curious cat named Ripples who escaped from his cage caused a four-hour delay for an Air Canada flight in Halifax until he could be removed from a hiding place. Once the cat was found, technicians were called to take apart panels in the cockpit to safely remove Ripples.

Jim Fox can be reached at