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U.S. protectionist policies chafe Canadian businesses

Even as Canadian companies win an exemption from Buy America protectionist measures, business associations say the fight isn't over.

Critics say the deal is "too little, too late" since only 37 of the 50 states say they will open their markets to Canadian business and much of the economic stimulus money has been spent.

Canada and the United States are the world's largest trading partners and both governments must "continue discussions to negotiate a broader procurement agreement" to strengthen the economic relationship, said Jayson Myers of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Buy America provisions effectively shut Canadian companies out of $280 billion in municipal and state procurement opportunities.

Unlike other countries, the United States has "agreed to look at what else can be done" for Canada to ease protection measures, said Shirley-Ann George of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said the best way to create and keep jobs is "by opening economic opportunities," and U.S. suppliers will now have the same guaranteed access to business in Canada.

Parliament may skip two weeklong breaks

In what many consider to be a public relations move to make up for extending the parliamentary work break, the Conservative government wants to cancel two spring breaks.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament until March 3 instead of resuming work on Jan. 25 has many Canadians suggesting it was to give politicians a two-month break.

Harper said the extra time was needed to prepare government bills and the budget as well as dealing with the economic recovery.

The government now wants to continue in session two extra weeks by canceling the usual weeklong breaks in March and April, with the consent of the three opposition parties.

"The two break weeks need to be canceled so we can work hard," said Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis.

News in brief

• Quebec is investigating a fraud that cost the health care system $500,000 through the improper use of personal health cards by 1,700 immigrants. It was reported that more than two-thirds of cases involved people of Lebanese descent who were able to fake their presence in Quebec with the help of an immigration official. They were able to obtain free health care even though they don't live in the province, officials found.

• Canada's celebrated groundhog suggested that Canadians had better keep the snow shovel, toque and hot chocolate handy after seeing his shadow. Ontario's Wiarton Willie delivered his forecast on Groundhog Day, calling for six more weeks of winter to a mix of cheers and groans. However, six more weeks of winter would, in effect, mean an early spring around mid-March for most of Canada and that won't happen, said meteorologist Geoff Coulson.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar continued its slide to 93.09 cents U.S. Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0743 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.25 percent and the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets are again lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,061 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 1,433 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 9, 24, 29, 35, 37 and 40; bonus 21. (Jan. 30) 2, 31, 32, 34, 40 and 49; bonus 5. Lotto Max: (Jan. 29) 16, 17, 22, 24, 40, 41 and 47; bonus 45.

Regional briefs

• While much of Canada, especially southern Ontario, has had little snow this season, the East Coast is again getting dumped on. Blizzards through the day on Friday dropped about 16 inches of snow with high winds in eastern Newfoundland. This caused most flights at St. John's International Airport to be canceled and near-zero visibility on the highways.

• Corus Entertainment has pulled the plug on two of its Montreal AM radio stations, AM Info690 and AM 940, saying they were "not profitable or viable" in the current economic climate. The closings leave Corus with just one AM station in Quebec, CKAC Sports, also in Montreal.

• The hundreds of people who booked accommodations during the Vancouver Winter Olympics on the Norwegian Star cruise ship are looking for other places to stay now that the deal has sunk. Newwest Special Projects of Edmonton canceled the agreement to charter the ship and dock it in Vancouver, citing a "lack of bookings" and rising costs.

Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]

U.S. protectionist policies chafe Canadian businesses 02/06/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:08pm]
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