Harper upbeat in new year message

Canadians can view their country as "an island of stability and a bright hope for people the world over."

So said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Christmas/New Year's message after referring to the "global economic uncertainty all around us."

Heading into 2013, Harper said his Conservative government "will continue to focus on growth, jobs and prosperity for all Canadians."

"But for now, let us be mindful of those who are less fortunate, be grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform, and let us give thanks for Canada, the best country in the world," he said.

In a year-end interview with Global TV, Harper said Canada will no longer "passively" accept immigrants as it reforms the immigration system to ensure newcomers meet the criteria to fill growing labor shortages.

"The country faces shortages now that will only worsen as the aging population retires," he said.

Wrecks pile up after first major snowstorm

Police said drivers not adapting to poor weather conditions caused havoc on the highways in Ontario and Quebec after the first major snowstorm of the season.

In London, there were more than 270 collisions reported after a storm that dumped from 4 to 12 inches of snow across Ontario on Thursday morning.

The storm moving north from the United States caused the cancellation or delay of more than 400 flights at Toronto's Pearson International Airport that received about six inches of snow.

Snow covered parts of eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, including a record 20 inches recorded in Montreal, as the storm moved east.

Snow accumulations reached up to 16 inches in New Brunswick, while snow was mixed with rain across parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

News in brief

• Ontario elementary school teachers who have been holding one-day strikes to protest a bill that freezes their wages for two years and cuts benefits should remember "how good" the governing Liberals have been to them over the years, said Premier Dalton McGuinty. The province has hired 14,000 more teachers to reduce class sizes and increased pay to "about $75,000" for a "first-time teacher" in the past eight years, he said.

• Three workers clearing snow and ice from rail switches were injured when struck by a freight train in northeast Edmonton. Two of the CN Rail contract workers remain in the hospital with serious injuries while the other worker was released. Police said they were using snow blowers and wearing ear protection, so they did not hear the approaching train's whistle.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar was lower on Friday at $1.0043 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. dollar returned 99.56 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent, while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 12,331 points and the TSX Venture index higher at 1,196 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Dec. 26) 3, 5, 26, 27, 37 and 39; bonus 21. (Dec. 22) 8, 10, 14, 16, 18 and 35; bonus 43. Lotto Max: (Dec. 21) 7, 8, 17, 18, 20, 40 and 41; bonus 33.

Regional briefs

• The deacon at a suburban Montreal church has been arrested for producing, possessing and distributing child pornography. William Kokesch, 65, of St. Edmund of Canterbury Parish in Beaconsfield, was released on $10,000 bail. Police said they seized more than 2,000 computer image files and messages.

• Nelson and Rossland in the mountainous region of the Kootenays in British Columbia have been named the best ski towns in North America. Powder magazine asked readers to vote for the best areas out of 32 locations. They included third-place Bozeman, Mont., and British Columbia's Whistler and Revelstoke.

• Topping the list for the "most-ridiculous" 911 call the Chatham, Ontario, police force received in the past year was about a toothbrush. A 20-year-old man wanted police to come to his house because his father was trying to force him to brush his teeth against his will. Other silly calls were about suspicious-looking squirrels and complaints about inaccurate weather reports.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Harper upbeat in new year message 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 10:46pm]

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