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Canada passes tougher anti-terrorism bill after bomb plot arrest

The Canadian government has passed a tougher anti-terrorism bill just after police arrested two men for plotting to blow up a New York-Toronto passenger train.

Civil rights advocates oppose the bill that gives authorities more powers to detain and question suspected terrorists and prohibit them from leaving Canada to commit terrorism crimes.

The Mounties arrested Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, in what they said was a terrorist plot guided by al-Qaida in Iran.

A yearlong investigation alleged the two were conspiring to derail a passenger train that sources said was the Amtrak-Via Rail Canada Maple Leaf train over the Niagara Gorge bridge in Niagara Falls.

New York congressman Peter King said that Canada-U.S. counterterrorism partners prevented a "major terrorist plot, which was intended to cause significant loss of human life, including New Yorkers."

Immigration documents show Canada wanted to deport Jaser in 2004 for criminal offenses but didn't because he was a "stateless" Palestinian.

When both were remanded in custody for a bail hearing next month, Esseghaier, a Tunisian, told the judge he doesn't recognize Canadian laws because they are "not a holy book."

Taxpayer money to fund attack ad mailing

The Conservative government plans to use taxpayers' money to pay for mailing attack ads against new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there is nothing wrong with the move as it is part of allowed partisan messages sent to the public.

As soon as Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was named leader on April 14, Conservatives began televised and newspaper attack ads suggesting he is too "inexperienced" for the job.

"Canadians are sick and tired" of this kind of mudslinging that "distorts the facts, tells lies and attacks," Trudeau said.

News in brief

• The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said a proposal to charge travelers a fee to cross land borders into the United States would be "bad for individuals and for the economy." The new tax, contained in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's proposed 2014 budget, is said to help offset increased security costs. The 70,000-member Canadian Snowbird Association said the government should instead be looking at ways to "reduce obstacles at the border that hinder trade and tourism."

• The Ontario government wants to join other provinces in protecting consumers from cellphone bill shock. Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said a proposed bill would require plain-language contracts that clearly outline terms and limit cancellation charges to $50. Federal regulators say there are thousands of complaints from cellphone users who say they're being held hostage by three-year contracts.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar has advanced to 98.32 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0170 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets were higher on Friday with the Toronto exchange index at 12,206 points and the TSX Venture index at 960 points.

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Regional briefs

• Rock band Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee is calling on the Alberta government to cancel chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede. On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Lee said horses are injured or killed in the races every year, referring to it as a "bloody spectacle." Canadian-born celebrity Pamela Anderson, who was once married to Lee, also opposed the races last year.

• The wit of singing legend Rita MacNeil, who died of complications from surgery at age 68, came through at her funeral in Big Pond, Nova Scotia. As to her wishes, she was cremated, with her ashes placed in a teapot from her tea room. After the service, several hundred people gathered at the town fire hall for a big party with a "cash bar" to celebrate her life.

• Toronto police are looking for a thief with expensive taste. The man slipped out of a downtown liquor store's vintage section with a rare bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich Single Malt scotch. He paid for a less-expensive bottle of wine and also left with the scotch in a glass case that is — or was — worth $26,000.

Jim Fox can be reached at