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In some places in Canada, the winter may have been too warm

Canada has had its warmest and driest winter in 63 years, but climatologists say this could lead to a difficult summer.

Environment Canada said December through February was 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, while amounts of snow and rain were 22 percent lower.

Senior climatologist David Phillips said this could lead to summer problems including droughts affecting farmers, more forest fires, rampant insect infestations, and more pests and viruses.

Pine beetles that have devastated British Columbian forests, mosquitoes and grasshoppers have likely survived the unseasonably mild winter and could emerge in full force soon.

"One of the best things about our winters in Canada is that it gets cold and kills all of those things that bother us," Phillips said.

Winters are getting warmer, and this year's weather can be explained by the El Niño wind and ocean currents in the Pacific.

"Canadian winters are not what they used to be," he said.

'Break' that politician got raises eyebrows

Opposition politicians and the public want to know why Rahim Jaffer, a former Edmonton Conservative member of Parliament, was able to avoid conviction for driving while impaired, speeding and possessing cocaine.

"I'm sure you can recognize a break when you see one," Ontario Court Judge Doug Maund told Jaffer after prosecutors withdrew the charges and allowed him to plead guilty to careless driving, with a $500 fine.

He was stopped by police for driving almost 25 mph over the speed limit in a residential area north of Toronto.

The appearance of preferential treatment is being linked to that shown to his wife, Cabinet Minister Helena Guergis, who apologized for yelling and swearing at airline and security employees after arriving late and delaying a flight at Charlottetown airport.

Guergis said her conduct, which included trying to force her way through a security barrier and complaining about being "stuck in this hell hole," was inappropriate.

Prince Edward Island Liberal Wayne Easter said Guergis should be removed from the Cabinet, but the Conservative government said her "sincere apology" was enough.

News in brief

O Canada will remain unaltered after an uproar over the government's suggestion to make the national anthem more "gender neutral." The government planned to consider changing "in all thy sons command" to the original 1908 wording, "thou dost in us command." The prime minister's office said it would scrap the idea after "overwhelming" opposition.

• A 70-year-old former Ontario politician, wounded in a gunfight after killing an Ontario Provincial Police officer, has died. Fred Preston, a former official of Joly Township, was shot several times by police after he shot Constable Vu Pham following a traffic stop on a rural road near Seaforth. Relatives said Preston was distraught over the breakup of his 52-year marriage.

Facts and figures

Canada's economy continued its recovery last month, adding 60,000 full-time jobs and dropping the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, the lowest since last April. Since July, 159,000 new jobs have been created across Canada.

The numbers helped push the Canadian dollar to its highest level against the U.S. currency since July 2008. It was worth 98.43 cents U.S. on Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0160 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

There's no change in the key Bank of Canada interest rate at 0.25 percent, while the prime lending rate is steady at 2.25 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,996 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,566 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 8, 12, 28, 30, 38, 48; bonus 2. (March 6) 7, 9, 14, 24, 25, 44; bonus 28. Lotto Max: (March 5) 5, 8, 18, 22, 32, 39, 45; bonus 19.

Regional briefs

• Siemens AG will close its gas turbine plant in Hamilton, Ontario, and move it to Charlotte, N.C., resulting in the loss of 550 jobs. Production will be phased out by July 2011 at the Canadian plant, while North Carolina will become the new "global hub" for its gas and steam turbines and generators.

• Atlantic Canada seafood processors have additional worries as the Canadian dollar rises in value. "There is no margin here to run our business anymore," said Derek Butler of the Association of Seafood Processors in St. John's. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Canada's seafood exports last year were $3.64 billion, down from $3.88 billion a year earlier.

• Calgary police are investigating multiple incidents of pins being placed in food items at a grocery store. Employees at the Oakridge Calgary Co-op store found clothing pins in packaged flatbread and deli cheese items. It's the third time recently that food tampering has been found at the store, which has increased its security measures.

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

In some places in Canada, the winter may have been too warm 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 7:12pm]

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