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Russian bomber sighted ahead of Obama's visit to Canada

President Obama, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, waves to a crowd on Parliament Hill in Ottawa during his visit to the Canadian capital on Feb. 19.

Associated Press

President Obama, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, waves to a crowd on Parliament Hill in Ottawa during his visit to the Canadian capital on Feb. 19.

On the eve of President Obama's visit to Canada, fighter jets intercepted a snooping Russian bomber over the arctic and sent it back, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said.

It was a "strong coincidence" for the Russians to deliberately do this ahead of the presidential visit, he added.

Two of Canada's CF-18 fighter planes were dispatched from Cold Lake, Alberta, on Feb. 18 when the North American Aerospace Defense Command detected the long-range bomber, known as a Bear, headed for Canadian airspace.

The Canadian pilots sent a signal for the Russian plane to "back off and stay out of our airspace," said MacKay, while noting the flight's timing was suspect.

The Russians gave no warning prior to the flight, as has been requested by Canada, but the plane didn't enter Canadian airspace, he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said Russian intrusions into Canadian airspace have greatly increased after being suspended following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russian aircraft approaching Canada without any notice of the intent "are viewed very seriously," Emerson said.

Harper to the U.S.: Let's do business

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to New York City on Monday was to capitalize on the goodwill from Obama's visit.

Harper wants to raise awareness that Canada is still here and eager to do business with its U.S. neighbors.

He met U.S. business leaders in Manhattan, talked with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and held media interviews to raise "some base-level awareness about Canada," said Kory Teneycke, communications director.

"There's an appreciation that communicating to the American public right now, and more broadly to an international realm, is good," he added.

Harper is stressing that trade must remain free and open, while moves toward protectionism by the United States could spark a global economic disaster.

News in brief

• There's another crisis for Maple Leaf Foods as it recalls 26,000 packages of wieners mistakenly shipped to stores across Eastern Canada. Some of the Shopsy's Deli Fresh All Beef Frankfurters and Maple Leaf Hot Dogs had tested positive for listeria. The bacteria in sliced meat linked to one of Maple Leaf's Toronto plants caused at least 20 deaths last summer.

• The Canadian government is running a budget surplus, although lower at $400 million, (U.S.) well down from the $6.6 billion surplus it had a year ago. The proposed stimulus budget is expected to put Canada well into the red in the next two years, the first deficits since the 1990s.

• The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. wants additional financial support from the government to prevent staff and program cuts. The public broadcaster already receives about $800 million (U.S.). Meanwhile, CTV Television is closing its stations in Windsor and Wingham, Ontario, because of lower ad revenues and wants to sell CKX-TV in Brandon, Manitoba. Canwest Global Communications is considering closing CHCH TV in Hamilton, Ontario, because of high debt and reduced revenues.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar has taken another dive, settling at 78.68 U.S. cents Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2709 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets are mixed, with Toronto's composite index up at 8,121 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 864 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 5, 11, 26, 31, 36 and 39; bonus 4. (Feb. 21) 11, 20, 33, 34, 37 and 39; bonus 22 (four tickets shared a $40 million jackpot). Super 7: (Feb. 20) 12, 15, 18, 31, 33, 40 and 42; bonus 1.

Regional briefs

• The Mounties say they should have acted sooner after hearing about a SOS marked in the snow on a British Columbia mountain. Gilles Blackburn, 50, of Montreal was finally rescued nine days after skiing out of bounds at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden. By then his wife, Marie-Josee Fortin, 44, had died.

• A planned $400 million (U.S.), 60-story Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel and condominium project for Vancouver has been canceled. Analysts say the city is one of the hardest-hit markets as housing prices have escalated the most. Vancouver remains Canada's least-affordable city with average prices still above $400,000 (U.S.).

• Crosswinds and fresh snow caused the cancellation Feb. 23 of the re-enactment of the first airplane flight in Canada, when the Silver Dart took off from a frozen lake in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 100 years ago. A day earlier, former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason coaxed the spindly aircraft into the air five times. The replica plane is to perform across Canada in the summer.

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

Russian bomber sighted ahead of Obama's visit to Canada 02/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 8:28pm]

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