Canadian snowbirds could be able to spend more time, up to eight months from six months now annually, in the sunny south if a provision in the U.S. Senate's bipartisan immigration reform becomes law.
Bill sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York also wants to make it easier for Canadians owning at least $500,000 in U.S. property to live year-round in America with a nonimmigrant retiree visa.
The proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act said the changes would encourage Canadian tourism and increase economic growth.
With the hundreds of thousands of Canadians spending extended periods in Florida, Arizona, California and Texas every year, it would be a boon to those economies.
The Canadian Snowbirds Association, with 700,000 members, has been lobbying for the changes as the maximum limit for stays now without a visa is 180 days in a 12-month period, said president Bob Slack.
Canadians who return home after six months away are unable to take further trips across the border in that one-year period.
Reversal on temporary workers program
The Canadian government is reversing controversial changes it made last year to the temporary foreign workers program.
The changes follow a public outcry when it was learned the Royal Bank was going to replace laid off information technology employees with lower-paid workers from India.
Employers will no longer have flexibility to set the wages for foreign labor and the government will curtail a program that allowed some companies to fast-track workers from outside Canada.
Last year, 213,516 people entered Canada under the temporary foreign worker program, more than triple that of a decade ago.
News in brief
• Proposed new border fees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are "another protectionist measure," said International Trade Minister Ed Fast. The fees would recover money spent for inspection programs. A better way to drive economic growth would be to free-up trade, not create "new barriers at the border," he said.
• In a move that Vice Admiral Paul Maddison said is important for naval heritage, the Royal Canadian Navy is getting a new ensign. The white flag with the Canadian Maple Leaf flag in the top corner and a blue navy badge in the outer half will fly from the mast of warships at sea. The regular Maple Leaf flag will switch from the ship's bow when it is tied up at a dock or buoy.
Facts and figures
The Canadian dollar is higher at 99.18 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0082 in Canadian funds, 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 higher Friday, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,474 points and the TSX Venture index 966 points.
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• The minority Liberal Ontario government included demands of the socialist New Democrats in its budget to prevent being voted out of office. They include a 15 percent average cut in vehicle insurance rates and delaying or eliminating some corporate tax breaks. Should the New Democrats and Conservatives vote against the budget bill, the government would fall and an election would be required.
• An increase in the number of drunken passengers has led taxi drivers in Woodstock, Ontario to propose a $120 fee for anyone who vomits or leaves bodily fluids in cabs. In lobbying City Council to add the charge, drivers said it's a bio hazard and the affected cabs must be taken off the road and professionally cleaned.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]