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Exteriors of the Telus Tower located at 25 York At. in downtown Toronto, photographed January 24 2011. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Exteriors of the Telus Tower located at 25 York At. in downtown Toronto, photographed January 24 2011. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

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Clothing and accessories shops were also among the winner, led by shoe stores with a gain of 4.2 per cent. Sales among building material and garden equipment slipped more than 5 per cent, but the weather wasn't as nice in January as it is now. Grocery stores also slipped, as did electronics and appliance outlets.

"In spite of the broad-based weakness, volumes were up 0.3 per cent, although much of that comes from the autos sector where a low markup usually translates into a weak positive impact on GDP," CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor said of the overall report.

"Taking together the month’s soft factory, wholesaling and retail print, we expect January to post a decline in activity - suggesting a soft start to the first quarter of the year."

EI benefits rise The number of Canadians collecting regular jobless benefits is climbing again, notably in the province of Quebec.

The number of people receiving regular benefits under Canada's Employment Insurance program rose in January by 2.3 per cent, or 12,400, to 561,100, Statistics Canada said today.

That brings the overall level back to about the levels in mid-2011.

Claims rose in eight provinces, the agency said, with the heftiest rise in Quebec.

Initial and renewal claims climbed by 1.6 per cent, led by a 4.4-per-cent increase in Quebec. That was followed by Ontario, at 3.9 per cent, and New Brunswick, at 2.8 per cent. Again illustrating Canada's regional divisions, claims fell in the western provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba, and the eastern province of Nova Scotia.

In the United States, signs continue to point toward a labour market on the mend, though with a long way to go.

Claims for initial jobless benefits fell last week by 5,000, the lowest in four years.

Tax us more, doctors say A group of doctors is taking a page from Warren Buffett's tax-the-rich call, urging the Canadian and Ontario governments to tax higher-income earners more. I hate extra taxes, but I like their argument and applaud their efforts. (For full disclosure, I realized after I first wrote about this that one of the doctors involved is my physician.)

Doctors for Fair Taxation is calling for additional taxes on people earning more than $100,000. You'd be hit with an additional 1 per cent if you earn between $100,000 and $170,000, 2 per cent if you earn up to $640,000, and 3 per cent for up to $1.85-million. Above that it would be 6 per cent.

"We feel that this is a moral argument," Dr. Michael Rachlis, who founded the group that so far boasts more than 50 physicians, told The Canadian Press.

"We cannot talk about throwing people out of work and cutting needed programs for people," said Dr. Rachlis, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

"If the situation is that dire that governments are really feeling that that should be done, it seems to me that the only way to think of that is to tax higher-income earners who've seen their taxes fall a lot."

The group projects that the Canadian government could take in some $3.5-billion from the plan, and the province of Ontario $1.7-billion.

"Our group considers higher taxes a small price to pay for a more civilized Canada," Dr. Rachlis said.

Their tag line is: "Doctors to governments: Tax us. Canada is worth it!"

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