Canadian Report | New Democrats surging into national race

The New Democrats, Canada’s socialist political party, won the west in Alberta’s recent provincial election and could be poised to do well nationally in October.

Five polls suggest that a tight, three-way race has developed nationally while a poll finds the New Democrats are dominating in mainly French-speaking Quebec.

Pollsters suggest it’s a little early to define the possible outcome of the October federal election as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives seek to remain the majority government.

Unsettling for Harper and the Liberals is the New Democrats’ stunning victory resulting in Rachel Notley becoming premier and ending 44 years of Conservative rule in Alberta’s provincial election.

This has boosted prospects of New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Tom Mulcair in recent opinion polls.

“For those in denial about the rise of the NDP, we would suggest that they consider abandoning that skepticism,” said pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research.

The Alberta election victory “created goodwill for the party,” said Nik Nanos of Nanos Research, and Canadians who would consider voting NDP is at a 12-month high, tied with the Liberals.

Peter MacKay, a loyalist of the modern Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper, is leaving politics.

The surprise announcement by the man who was voted “sexiest male MP (Member of Parliament) in the House of Commons” for six years by the Hill Times newspaper, said he won't seek re-election in his Nova Scotia district.

He has held numerous cabinet posts in 18 years as a politician including minister of foreign affairs, national defense, justice minister and attorney general.

MacKay, who will be 50 in September, will become a father for the second time about then with his wife Nazanin Afshin-Jam and hasn’t mentioned any plans for life after politics.

News in brief

▪ Concern over a toxin produced by staphylococcus bacteria has led to a massive recall of Presidents Choice hummus and dip products by Loblaw Companies. The recall began with PC Moroccan-Style Hummus and was soon expanded to include more than a dozen varieties removed from store shelves. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there have been illnesses associated with the recalled products.

▪ The federal government will remove the Goods and Services Tax of 13 percent on feminine hygiene products effective July 1. A New Democratic Party motion to drop the tax was unanimously approved after women in the ruling Conservative party said they’d boycott the vote if their party didn't approve. Opponents have long said the tax is discriminatory as it is only paid by women for an essential product.

Facts and figures

Canada’s dollar is lower at 80.11 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2482 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.

Markets are lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 14,994 points and the TSX Venture index at 687 points.

The average price of gasoline across Canada is higher at an average of $1.16 a liter or $4.42 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (June 3) 26, 28, 33, 35, 37 and 46; bonus 47. (May 30) 4, 9, 17, 27, 36 and 49; bonus 21. Lotto Max: (May 29) 1, 30, 38, 39, 44, 45 and 47; bonus 43.

Regional briefs

▪ A police dog called Caber helped a 10-year-old British Columbia girl testify in court about being sexually assaulted. It’s the first case there where a dog has assisted a child. The yellow Labrador retriever lay at the girl’s feet inside the witness box as she spoke from behind a screen in Surrey provincial court. The dog soothed the girl so she could provide a full account of the incident, said Crown attorney Winston Sayson.

▪ Nova Scotia has become the first province to ban flavored tobacco products that has led to a legal challenge from tobacco companies. The ban includes menthol cigarettes and is said to be important in protecting the health of young people. The Atlantic province was also the first province to ban the sale of cigarettes in vending machines and to outlaw smoking in cars with children.

Contact JIM FOX at