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Why I don’t want to pay for Will and Kate Middleton’s honeymoon

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For most governments, the honeymoon is over Prince William and Kate Middleton are a striking couple. And I have no doubt they will capture the hearts of Canadians when they make their first overseas trip as newlyweds in a few months. But I don't want to pay for the Canadian honeymoon, even if the government invited them.

As The Globe and Mail's Steven Chase reports today, Ottawa, the provinces and the territories will foot the bill for the future king and his bride. No cost estimates were released yesterday when the visit was announced, but estimates for a 2009 trip by Prince Charles and Camilla put the cost at $2.6-million.

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Obviously the cost of the trip will be a pittance in this era of multibillion-dollar deficits. But here's the question: If the British understand what a gesture means in this post-recession period, why doesn't Stephen Harper?

Last summer, when Prince Charles released his annual accounts, the royal family made a big deal of the fact that he cut his expenses in large part because Canada funded his trip. Costs for his official receptions and entertainment fell to £2.5-million in the fiscal year ended March 31 from £5.3-million a year earlier.

The prince's principal private secretary, Michael Peat, went so far as to point out to reporters that the trip to Canada "didn't fall as a cost to British public funds." Mr. Peat got it: "We are always keeping an eye on the economic climate. We do live in the real world - for the most part anyhow."

Why did Mr. Peat feel the need to stress that? Because Britain, like most of the developed world, is struggling with high debts and high unemployment, and is forcing its people to swallow some harsh measures. It just wouldn't seem right to live like a king when the peasants are suffering.

Well, here's a reminder for our prime minister: Unemployment is 7.8 per cent, among young people a stunning 14 per cent. And just today, Statistics Canada reported that 659,700 people are collecting regular jobless insurance benefits.

Stimulus programs are ending, and Canadians are being urged by their finance minister and central bank chief to stop borrowing so much money. And God knows what Jim Flaherty will unveil in his March budget.

Just to present all sides here, I'll note that one reader from one of Canada's tourist regions pointed out what a boon the visit would be.

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Again, whatever the honeymoon costs will of course be small. And showing the newlyweds the sights will be a nice gesture. But what the government doesn't seem to get is the value of a similar gesture to its own people. One wonders how far the same amount of money would go at one of Canada's food banks, or how many unemployed young people could be employed. I will grudgingly toast the cute royal couple, but I'd much prefer that the drink was on them.

CRTC on loud ads Canada's broadcast regulator is looking at the issue of loud TV commercials.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said today it launched a public consultation process on the issue to examine whether there are technical or regulatory measures to make sure TV ads aren't deemed louder than the regular programming.

"Loud ads on television can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable program and are a source of significant annoyance for Canadians," said CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein. "Viewers should not have to adjust the volume at every commercial break, and we will work with the broadcasting industry to find an acceptable solution."

Mr. von Finckenstein, of course, already has his hands full with the government undermining its decisions.

Conservative MP Nina Grewal has already introduced a private member's bill that would require broadcasters to ensure the ads they air match the decibels of the shows they accompany, Globe and Mail media writer Susan Krashinsky reported earlier this week.

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Middle East clashes drive oil prices Escalating protests in the Middle East pushed up oil prices prices today, fuelling fears of a disruption in crude supplies.

Driving concerns are clashes in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, and questions raised by Israel about Iran possibly sending warships through the Suez Canal.

The rise in crude prices also helped push up the Canadian dollar , though the loonie later dipped back to close unchanged.

While U.S. oil futures climbed, Brent crude slipped, but there's a lot of uncertainty in global markets.

"Brent crude prices had slipped back from just below the $105 level this morning as fears about increasing tensions due to Iranian warships entering the Suez Canal receded after Iran allegedly cancelled its plans," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"However mixed messages about the Iranians' probable intentions have kept prices choppy on fears in some quarters that the Iranians may look to pick a fight to distract from the unrest currently unfolding on their own streets." he said. "This uncertainty will certainly limit any downside in the oil price due to fears about the effects this increased unrest in the region could have on supply chains."

Barrick's Midas touch Barrick Gold Corp. today posted a record fourth-quarter profit of $896-million (U.S.) or 90 cents a share on the back of higher gold and copper prices, up sharply from $215-million or 22 cents a year earlier.

Revenue climbed to $2.95-billion from $2.36-billion, the world's biggest gold producer said today.

Chief executive officer Aaron Regent said he was pleased with the company's overall performance last year.

"We met our operating targets with higher production at lower costs than the previous year," he said. "This allowed us to fully benefit from the increase in the gold price, which resulted in significant expansion of our margins and record earnings and cash flow."

Food, energy drive U.S. consumer prices Energy and food costs are pushing up consumer prices in the United States, and even so-called core prices are on the rise, putting inflation even more on the radar.

Consumer prices rise 0.4 per cent in January from December, the U.S. Labor Department said today, with the annual inflation rate at 1.6 per cent. Core prices, which exclude volatile items such as food and energy, climbed 0.2 per cent, the fastest since October, 2009, with the annual rate at 1 per cent, the fastest in almost a year.

"The risks of disinflation have all but vanished, as stronger economic growth is starting to life core inflation," said economist Alistair Bentley of Toronto-Dominion Bank. "... The move from slowing inflation to rising inflation creates new challenges for the Fed."

As Globe and Mail Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael reports today, the public calm at the U.S. central bank masks a heated debate over inflation among its policy-setting members.

Don't be fooled by any chatter over the difference between headline and core rates. While the core rate guides the Federal Reserve in terms of underlying inflation trends, Americans still have to eat, heat their homes and drive.

Home prices to match inflation Canadian house prices will move in line with inflation for the next two years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says in its first-quarter market outlook.

The report is the third from a major market forecaster in the last week, Globe and Mail real estate writer Steve Ladurantaye reports today. The Canadian Real Estate Association and Royal Bank of Canada also predicted small gains through 2011 and 2012.

Household debt on rise Canadian average household debt has hit the six-figure mark for the first time, according to a report rby the Vanier Institute of the Family.

The average household debt figure at the end of 2010 was $100,879, with the debt-to-income ratio at a record 150 per cent, the report says. That means for every $1,000 Canadian families earn after tax, they now owe $1,500, The Globe and Mail's Dianne Nice reports.

Mortgages account for two-thirds of that debt at $63,000 per household. The other third is made up of personal loans and credit card debt.

Globalive to appeal Globalive Wireless says it will appeal the Federal Court ruling that overturned the cabinet approval allowing the company to launch Wind Mobile. It will also seek an extension of the 45-day stay granted by the court, Globe and Mail telecom writer Iain Marlow reports today.

On Feb. 4, the Federal Court said the federal cabinet erred in law when it issued a cabinet decision in December 2009 that overturned an earlier CRTC finding that Globalive's Egyptian financing threw the company afoul of Canada's strict foreign ownership rules.

On Tuesday, Industry Minister Tony Clement said the federal government would appeal the ruling.

Cyber attack won't affect budget Treasury Board President Stockwell Day says the cyber attack on Canadian government servers was significant because foreign hackers are after secret financial information.

Mr. Day's comments today are the first public confirmation by a cabinet minister of the large-scale attack, which has disrupted several departments, including Finance and Treasury Board, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry and Colin Freeze report.

He said it won't affect the timing of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget.

Seriously, folks? Las Vegas Sands Corp. said today it wants to create a "mini-Las Vegas" in Spain, a casino resort that could be established in Barcelona or Madrid.

"We are very seriously considering this, we're very actively pursuing this," chief executive officer Sheldon Adelson told reporters today in Singapore, according to The Associated Press. "There's no reason why we can't do it."

Actually, there is a reason: Spain's economy is a nightmare. The country's jobless rate is 20 per cent - that's one in five people unemployed - its cajas, or savings banks, are a mess, and there's a reason Spain is the 'S' in PIGS, the debt-burdened countries at the heart of Europe's debt crisis.

And just today, a Spanish bond auction fell short of the mark, and yields rose.

So you've got to wonder how well a $20-billion (U.S.), 20,000-room resort might go over. Of course, Mr. Adelson said the project could create 180,000 jobs, which would be welcome. And, who knows? Maybe the government could get on a winning streak.

Boyd Erman's Morning Meeting The gap between the share prices of London Stock Exchange Group PLC and TMX Group Inc. suggests that investors believe there's a pretty good chance that the deal to merge the two won't be consummated, Streetwise columnist Boyd Erman reports today.

In Personal Finance today Debt-to-income ratio measuring household debt against income has reached a record 150%, a new Vanier Institute study says.

Paying yourself enough salary to maximize RRSP contribution room? There's a less-taxing way, Tax Matters columnist Tim Cestnick writes.

Do you know what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen? Here are some steps to take now to make sure you don't become a victim of identity theft.

From today's Report on Business

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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