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Canadian oil consumption plan differs from U.S.

Canada wants to impose tougher standards on vehicle emissions and industries instead of following U.S. plans aimed at reducing oil consumption, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Canada wants to impose tougher standards on vehicle emissions and industries instead of following U.S. plans aimed at reducing oil consumption, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Legislation to protect the environment won't be at the expense of the economy or jeopardize jobs, he added.

"Canada is an emerging world energy superpower - we have an abundance of all forms of energy," he said.

The country is a leading exporter of energy to the U.S., and the Bush administration has sought to increase oil imports because it views Canada as a reliable and secure source of energy.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove have urged Harper not to impose rules that would harm the thriving auto industry in trying to solve greenhouse gas emission challenges.

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They pointed out the auto industry is participating in a voluntary emission reduction plan that continues for three more years.

Under consideration are federal tax breaks for consumers who buy hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, similar to incentives offered by Ontario and British Columbia.

Dion seeks hearings

Parliamentary hearings should be held into Canada's continued involvement in the war in Afghanistan, says Stephane Dion, the new Liberal leader.

Unlike demands by the New Democratic Party, Dion said he doesn't believe Canadian troops should be withdrawn "with dishonor."

It is important that the mission, for which the government has extended its commitment to 2009, should be improved by putting more emphasis on diplomacy and development, Dion said.

News in brief

-- Along with a formal apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Maher Arar has been given $10.5 million in compensation after being wrongly deported and tortured in a Syrian jail. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was sent to Syria by U.S. authorities in New York in 2002 on the basis of unsubstantiated terrorist information from Canada's Mounties. He was exonerated after a two-year public inquiry headed by Judge Dennis O'Connor.

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-- Polls show the governing Conservatives are only marginally ahead of the Liberals one year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's election victory.

Pollsters suggest Canadians are moving away from supporting the socialist New Democrats to the benefit of the Liberals. The environmentalist Green Party also has been making some gains in the polls.

-- New Democrat leader Jack Layton says charging fees to use automatic teller machines at banks for account withdrawals, deposits and transfers is a rip-off that should be outlawed. Layton said the $19 billion profit financial institutions made last year should be enough to waive ATM convenience fees. Bankers say Layton's comments are little more than a display of ignorant rhetoric.

Facts and figures

-- Rising oil and commodity prices stopped a further slide in the value of the Canadian dollar as it regained to 84.77 cents on Friday. A U.S. dollar returns $1.1796 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

-- The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 4.25 percent, while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

-- Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,987 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 2,893 points.

-- Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 6, 11, 20, 26, 34 and 35; bonus 2. (Jan. 20) 24, 40, 45, 47, 48 and 49; bonus 7.

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Regional brief

-- Gruesome details of the murders of Vancouver, B.C., prostitutes were heard as the trial opened for accused serial killer Robert Picton. He faces 26 charges of first-degree murder, but this trial, expected to last up to a year, is dealing with six of the slayings. Pickton said he had nothing to do with any of the murders, even though some of the missing women's remains were found at his pig farm.

-- Schools, businesses and government buildings were closed, and even the mail didn't get through after a fierce storm in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The storm with high winds, rain and snow blew into the province and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, causing whiteout conditions that made roads impassable and grounded flights.

-- Montreal's acclaimed $98 million Grande Bibliotheque, Quebec's main library and archive, is falling apart a piece at a time. Opened with great fanfare in 2005, exterior glass panels have begun crashing to the ground. An investigation showed about one-third of the 6,200 panels don't meet tempered-glass standards. For public safety, authorities plan to erect a perimeter of gardens, trees and awnings.

Fox is a Canadian journalist who writes this weekly roundup. He can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com .

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