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Fire recovery effort in the works

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a helicopter tour Friday to see wildfire devastation around Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a helicopter tour Friday to see wildfire devastation around Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Published May 13, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged support in the rebuilding effort for those affected in wildfire-devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The massive wildfire, nicknamed "the beast," roared into the oil-producing city, destroying neighborhoods and forcing 94,000 people to flee.

It burned through 2,400 houses and businesses; the deaths of two people in a car that crashed as they fled the city were blamed on the wildfire.

The Liberal government has formed a special cabinet committee to coordinate Fort McMurray aid and reconstruction efforts, Trudeau said during a visit Friday.

As well, the government is "fast tracking" claims for unemployment insurance by displaced workers.

The Alberta government is giving residents and families immediate emergency financial support, and the Red Cross has started distributing the $87 million donated so far and matched by the government.

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said it isn't yet known when people can return as workers are restoring power, inspecting properties and working to repair the hospital.

The fire, which now covers about 10,000 square miles, has moved away from the city and is expected to burn in forested areas for several more weeks.

Trudeau's busy wife asks for second aide

Canada's "first lady" Sophie Gregoire, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, says she is "overwhelmed" managing her official duties and is asking for help.

The couple is seeking to hire a second assistant to help manage the many requests for her to make public appearances, while caring for their three young children.

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc said it's the tradition for the prime minister's wife to receive such support as she is asked to attend "an enormous number" of events.

Opposition politicians weren't impressed as Conservative Candice Bergen said that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, managed with just one aide.

"Harpers paid for babysitters, not taxpayers, and they didn't inherit millions — nor did Laureen whinge about it," said Conservative Jason Kenney.

News in brief

• The Canadian government has approved the sale of Rona Inc., based in Quebec, to U.S. home improvement retailer Lowe's Companies Inc. Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said he believes the sale will benefit Canadian product suppliers. Lowe's, which has 42 stores in Canada, will acquire Rona's 496 stores for $3.2 billion and plans to keep the headquarters in Boucherville, a Montreal suburb.

• Rain and cooler weather are helping firefighters control two wildfires on the Manitoba-Ontario boundary near Caddy and Beresford lakes. People were told to leave Wallace Lake and the Beresford cottage subdivision in Nopiming Provincial Park as the fires advanced. A cabin was destroyed at North Cross Lake and the historic train station at Winnitoba was lost.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is slightly lower at 77.37 cents while the U.S. dollar returns $1.292 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 2.7 percent.

Markets are higher, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 13,791 points and the TSX Venture index 677 points.

The average price for gas nationally has risen to $1.025 a liter or $3.89 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (May 11) 4, 23, 25, 36, 47 and 48; bonus 3. (May 7) 6, 8, 25, 31, 32 and 33; bonus 1. Lotto Max: (May 6) 1, 8, 10, 24, 26, 37 and 45; bonus 47.

Regional briefs

• Atlantic Canada cities are looking for ways to fight aggressive panhandling before the busy summer tourist season. Charlottetown City Council has amended its nuisance bylaw to stop panhandlers from blocking pedestrians. Halifax is reviewing its laws as panhandling isn't an illegal act. Some Fredericton and Charlottetown businesses are trying to help the homeless by asking for donations to soup kitchens, food banks and the Salvation Army.

• An Ontario woman needs to update her GPS after following directions that took her for a plunge in Little Tub Harbour on Lake Huron. Police said the 23-year-old Kitchener woman had been following the instructions on a foggy night. She was able to get out of the car and swim in frigid water to shore without injury.

Contact Jim Fox at canadareport@hotmail.com.

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