Canada’s annual inflation falls to 1.1% in February – National

OTTAWA – Consumer prices rose more in February than expected but not enough to keep annual inflation from dipping four-tenths of a point to 1.1 per cent – near the low end of the Bank of Canada’s target range.

Economists had anticipated Statistics Canada’s annual inflation rate would fall because a spike in gasoline prices in February 2013 didn’t happen again this year but the actual decline was less than expected.

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Consumer prices also increased more than anticipated between January and February, pushing up last month’s consumer price index  0.8 per cent as travel tours, hotels, autos and gas were all higher.

Economists had generally estimated the month-month increase would be 0.6 per cent and that the annual inflation rate would fall below 1.0 per cent, the low end of the Bank of Canada’s acceptable range.

“The smaller year-over-year rise in the CPI in February compared with January was mainly attributable to gasoline prices, which fell 1.3 per cent in the 12 months to February, following a 4.6 per cent increase in January, ” Statistics Canada explained.

On a monthly basis, gasoline prices rose 2.3 per cent this February, a smaller increase than in the same month a year ago (8.4 per cent).”

Earlier in the week, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said he would discount this month’s reading because it did not present an accurate picture of inflationary pressures in Canada. He said he believes the trend rate of inflation is about 1.2 per cent, exactly the level for February’s core rate, which excludes volatile items such as energy and some fresh foods.

Poloz has expressed some relief of late that inflation has moved steadily up from single-digit territory, although it still remains well below the two-per-cent level the bank targets. Some analysts believe it could return to the level as early as this summer, however.

On a monthly basis, the big movers were gasoline, travel tours, hotels, women’s clothing and autos. As well, there was a 2.8 per cent increase in cigarettes, some of which may be due to a tax increase handed down in last month’s budget.

On an annual basis, electricity costs rose 4.7 per cent, property taxes 3.2 per cent, rent 1.5 per cent and fresh fruit 7.5 per cent. Food, a major contributor to the index, rose a modest 1.1 per cent, matching the increase in January.

Meanwhile gasoline, women’s clothing, digital computing devices, prescribed medicines and tools and other household equipment all cost less.

Regionally, inflation was strongest at 2.7 per cent in Prince Edward Island and weakest in British Columbia, where prices declined by 0.3 per cent.

©2014The Canadian Press

Top 10 memorable moments from Quebec election campaign

MONTREAL – Quebecers vote in a provincial election Monday and if the party leaders can agree on one thing, it’s that this has been the dirtiest of races.

READ MORE: Live coverage of the 2014 Quebec election

Here are ten key moments from the campaign. Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments below.

The PKP fist pump

When Pierre Karl Peladeau, one of Canada’s most-powerful media barons, was unveiled as a star Parti Quebecois candidate, he thrust his fist into the air and vowed to make Quebec a country.

“My joining the Parti Québécois is an adhesion to my deepest and most cherished values, making Quebec a sovereign nation!’’

The polarizing majority owner of the Quebecor empire had a clapping PQ leader Pauline Marois at his side — an image that has been shown throughout the campaign.

“Le Shove”

On Day 9 of the election campaign, Pauline Marois pushed Pierre Karl Peladeau away from a news conference microphone in an effort to regain control of the message of her unravelling campaign.

It happened only a few days after Peladeau’s introduction and pro-independence proclamation.

Marois cornered on referendum

In the first leaders’ debate, Coalition Leader Francois Legault cornered Marois on the thorny issue of Quebec independence by asking her whether she would hold a referendum in her next mandate. “No, there will be no referendum as long as Quebecers are not ready,” Marois replied.

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, leaves the stage after her post-debate news conference Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Couillard blasted on bilingualism

During the second leaders’ debate, the presumed front-runner Couillard was ganged-up on by his rivals. He madecontroversial remarks about the importance of bilingualism, even for workers on factory floors. His opponents pummeled him with accusations that he is too soft when it comes to protecting the French language.

Watch: Leaders’ debate highlights

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Bernard Drainville brings the Charter of Values back into the spotlight

Two weeks into the campaign and the word “charte” was finally uttered by the Parti Quebecois. Bernard Drainville made sure to draw attention to Bill 60 with his infamous line, “A vote for the PQ is a vote for the charter.” 

In another interesting twist, the PQ did not run a candidate in the riding of Lapinère so Independant MNA and supporter of the charter, Fatima Houda-Pepin had a better chance of winning.

Marois’s tax-cut Hail Mary

With the PQ struggling in the opinion polls, Marois made a sudden and surprising promise of future income-tax cuts, just days before the end of the campaign.

Asked why she has waited until Day 30 of the campaign to mention the commitment, Marois replied: “Not a lot of people asked me (about tax cuts).”

A protester holds a sihn reading “We know where to Cut” with a photo of Quebec Premier Pauline Marois during a against anti-austerity measures Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The CAQ gains momentum

Francois Legault’s campaign strategy remained constant throughout the election. He tried to stay focused on the economy and repeated that his party offers an alternative to those wary of another referendum under the PQ and the “worn-out” Liberals. As the latest polls suggest, he did gain popularity among Quebecers.

 “It’s better to have an accountant, an entrepreneur, a manager, rather than a social worker or a doctor.”

UPAC PQ Flip-Flop

In a sit-down interview with Global’s Jamie Orchard, PQ candidate Jean-Francois Lisee was adamant the PQ was never visited by UPAC, but the next day, PQ leader Pauline Marois said he simply didn’t know that corruption investigators had visited party offices.

PQ worried Ontario students would steal election

The Parti Quebecois Minister of Justice, Bernard St-Arnaud, along with former student leader Leo Bureau-Blouin demanded that Quebec’s chief electoral officer monitor the alleged wave of out-of-province student voters trying to register to vote.

“Will the Quebec election be stolen by people from Ontario? By people from the rest of Canada?” 

Frequently anglophones and members of immigrant communities, university students in Montreal have since reported issues when trying to register for the vote.

Watch: Quebec’s election threatened by out-of-province voters

Charter chat with Janette

Quebec celebrity Janette Bertrand, an outspoken defender of the Parti Quebecois’ secular charter, raised eyebrows when she tried to stir up support for the proposal at a public event.

To illustrate her point, the 89-year-old former actress told a bizarre, hypothetical story of men who were upset by the sight of women in the water at a swimming pool.

Prominent PQ candidate Jean-Francois Lisee later distanced himself from Bertrand’s comments.

“My reaction was that this was not the best quote of the campaign, this was not the best argument for the charter,” Lisee said.

“But the woman is 89, so I’m going to cut her some slack.”

What have we missed? What were your favourite election campaign moments? Let us know in the comments below.

-With Files from the Canadian Press

©2014The Canadian Press

Manitoba Museum’s new exhibit aims to solve Lake Winnipeg’s woes – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba Museum has launched a $1-million exhibit highlighting the continuing problems of Lake Winnipeg.

The health of Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest lake in the world, has been deteriorating for decades.

Part of the problem is the shallowness of the lake, but the bigger issue is the amount of land that drains into the lake.

Lake Winnipeg was listed as the most threatened lake in the world in 2013 by the Global Nature Fund, based on the increase in algal blooms that cover the water with a thick, greenish slime.

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The museum’s interactive permanent exhibit centres around a computer simulation of the watershed and allows visitors to make decisions that affect the health of the lake.

The catch is everyone is working as a unit, so if your neighbour makes poor choices, it affects the overall health of the lake, just as it would in real life.

“Every decision has a cost, both in terms of economic impacts but also in the social capital of the province,” said Scott Young, the Manitoba Museum’s manager of science communications and visitor experience. “Does the algae bloom get smaller or bigger, based on your decision? Saving the lake is a balancing act.”

Visitors can visit the live aquarium/terrarium that highlights some of the wildlife that live in the lake, a water table that explores the issues of water flow and flooding, and a number of historical images and videos to round out the learning experience.

The exhibit is slated to open on World Water Day, Saturday, March 22.

©2014Shaw Media

Bustle’s fall 2014 collection inspired by longshoremen

TORONTO – Bustle offered a tip of the cap to docker style in its upscale yet cosy range of separates for fall and winter.

“Last season, we were kind of inspired by the florals and we were in Mexico, and we kind of wanted to do something a little more rugged and a little darker – but still Bustle,” said creative director Shawn Hewson standing alongside his wife and label co-founder Ruth Promislow.

“We found these great quilting fabrics, and it took us in the direction of the Scandinavian longshoremen.”

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The soft, richly textured fabric served as a centrepiece in the line, with jackets and drawstring pants among the garments in the range fashioned from the material. The collection unveiled Thursday at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week also included dual-toned turtlenecks, denim jackets, shawl collar cardigans and slim-fitting cargo pants, each showcasing the label’s interpretation of casual seaport style.

Bustle dialled back on the use of ultra-bright hues, featuring a more muted palette encompassing black, grey and green.

No flashy patterns either, sticking largely to tried-and-true mainstays like plaid, with the print showcased on shirts, coats, pants and the inner lining of jackets.

“It’s always been a thing of ours to mix and match the patterns and textures,” said Hewson backstage following the show.

Models walk the runway in the Bustle show, part of Toronto Fashion Week in Toronto on Thursday March 20, 2014.


“In this case, we didn’t have a ton of variety in terms of the colours and the prints; so we were all about texture, mixing the textures and making sure those kind of made for interesting outfits.”

In past seasons, Bustle has been among the select few menswear designers showing at Fashion Week. But their ranks are swelling, with Christopher Bates, Klaxon Howl, Thomas Balint and Hussein Dhalla of HD Homme among the labels also showing collections during the week.

Promislow called the surge in menswear representation on the runway “fantastic.”

“I think just more and more men are paying attention to how they look,” she said.

“Men’s fashion is becoming something that people are paying attention to in the fashion world, and men on the street are thinking about what they wear and what’s going on in fashion.”

“I think having that many menswear labels here at World MasterCard Fashion Week this season is a sign that guys are starting to embrace their esthetic even more,” Hewson added.

A model walks the runway in the Bustle show, part of Toronto Fashion Week in Toronto on Thursday March 20, 2014.


©2014The Canadian Press

Harper adds sanctions; Putin signs bills completing Crimea annexation

ABOVE: (Mar. 21, 2014) As Vladimir Putin signs the law that completes the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine’s new government signed a trade deal with the European Union. Mike Armstrong has the details from Kyiv.


Harper imposes additional sanctions against Russian officials, bankRussia agrees to sending of international monitors to UkraineRussian President Vladimir Putin signs bills completing annexation of CrimeaPutin says no need for further retaliation against U.S.Stephen Harper becomes first G7 leader to visit Ukraine since Russia moved to annex CrimeaNo need for further retaliation against U.S.Ukraine signs deal to align itself with Europe

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin has signed bills making Crimea part of Russia, completing the annexation from Ukraine.

Putin hailed the incorporation of Crimea into Russia as a “remarkable event” before he signed the bills into law in the Kremlin on Friday.

Russia rushed the annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula after Sunday’s hastily called referendum, in which its residents overwhelmingly backed breaking off from Ukraine and joining Russia. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote, held two weeks after Russian troops had taken over Crimea.

The U.S. and the European Union have responded by slapping sanctions on Russia.

Putin: no need for further retaliation against U.S.

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There is no need for Russia to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said Friday as Russia’s upper house of parliament endorsed the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Moscow made its first retaliatory shot on Thursday by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing co-operation in areas such as Afghanistan.

MORE: Why Moldova, Estonia may feel uneasy about Russia’s actions

Moscow appears to hope to limit the damage from the latest U.S. and EU sanctions and avoid further Western blows.

Russia agrees to accept having international monitors sent to Ukraine

Russia has accepted sending an international monitoring team to Ukraine, following more than a week of stonewalling the push by all other members of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to send such a mission.

The OSCE said the 200-strong team will gather information and report on the security situation “throughout the country.” It didn’t specify whether that included Crimea, which Russia has annexed, but the agreement could signal a slight de-escalation of tensions.

PM Harper makes additional sanctions during historic stop in Ukraine

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Ukraine Friday, to meet with that country’s prime minister and show support for Ukraine as it deals with a Russian incursion in the Crimean peninsula.

Harper imposed economic sanctions and travel bans Friday against 14 additional Russian officials and issued an economic sanction against Bank Rossiya, a financial institution that serves as the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.

Harper is the first leader of a G7 country to visit the eastern European nation since pro-Western demonstrators drove out its government last month.

Ukraine signs deal to align itself with Europe

Ukraine’s prime minister has pulled his nation closer into Europe’s orbit by signing a political association agreement with the EU at a summit of the bloc’s leaders.

Friday’s agreement between Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the EU leaders was part of the pact that former President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of last November in favour of a $15 billion bailout from Russia.

That decision sparked the protests that ultimately led to his downfall and flight last month, setting off one of Europe’s worst political crises since the Cold War.

©2014The Canadian Press