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Canada's politicians see good side of bad economy

Canada's political leaders are putting a positive spin on the economic downturn as they push the Senate to quickly pass the stimulus bill.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will emerge from the global recession sooner and stronger than other countries.

"Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession. We will make sure its effects here are the least severe and we will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than ever," he said.

The financial turmoil provides an "opportunity to position ourselves so that when the recovery comes, we're among the first to catch the wave," Harper added.

At the same time, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is demanding the Liberal-dominated Senate promptly pass the $31.6 billion (U.S.) stimulus package.

Canada has the "strongest fiscal fundamentals" of the G7 nations, paid down debt in recent years and hasn't created any long-term deficit, he said.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the Senate is "not holding up" anything, adding: "This (Conservative) prime minister cannot live without creating artificial crises."

Union rejects Chrysler contract demands

The Canadian Auto Workers union is "standing firm" in rejecting demands to revise its contract as Chrysler threatens to pull out of Canada if it can't slash labor costs by one-quarter.

Giving in would create an unfair advantage over its competitors and upset the revised pact between GM and the union, said president Ken Lewenza.

Chrysler president Tom LaSorda wants $2.3 billion from the Ontario and Canadian governments and resolution of a tax dispute, or they risk having its plants closed in Canada, putting 10,000 people out of work.

Canadian labor costs are about $20 an hour more than for automakers such as Toyota and Honda, he said.

News in brief

• Vancouver police say feuding drug gangs are responsible for an outbreak of violence that includes 33 shootings in the past two months. The violence has claimed two more victims, raising the death count to 14. Police Chief Jim Chu said the region is in the midst of a gang war blamed for more than 100 shootings in recent years.

• It was a bad decision for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to give away 22 foreign luxury cars — instead of locally built vehicles — at its casinos this month, Deputy Premier George Smitherman said. "It's disappointing, it's disillusioning, it's wrong on all levels and it was a big mistake," he said of the choice of Mercedes-Benz vehicles when thousands of Ontario auto workers are losing their jobs.

Facts and figures

Canada's jobless rate jumped half a point to 7.7 percent as the economy shed 82,600 jobs last month after a loss of 129,000 in January. Employment remained flat in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In the past four months, 160,000 jobs have disappeared in Ontario, mostly in manufacturing, business and construction.

The Canadian dollar advanced to 78.48 U.S. cents while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2743 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 2.5 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with Toronto's composite index at 8,242 points and the TSX Venture index 844 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 18, 20, 23, 24, 48; bonus 30. (March 7) 8, 12, 14, 22, 29, 49; bonus 11. Super 7: (March 6) 5, 12, 16, 20, 25, 39, 45; bonus 43.

Regional briefs

• The death toll is expected to reach 17 after a helicopter went down in the North Atlantic southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland, on Thursday. Sixteen people are missing, one body was pulled from the ocean and one man, Robert Decker, was rescued. The chopper was ferrying workers to the Sea Rose and Hibernia oil platforms. Investigators found what they thought was the wreckage on Saturday.

• The Mounties have apologized to the family of Marie Fortin of Montreal, who froze to death after being lost for several days while skiing near British Columbia's Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac said he is "accountable for this error in judgment" in not starting an official search sooner after "SOS" signs were noticed in the snow. Her husband, Gilles Blackburn, 51, was rescued and suffered frostbite and exposure.

• Quebec entrepreneur Gerald Dominique plans to launch a "death" channel on cable TV. Je me souviens (I Remember) would be a niche, French-language specialty channel highlighting obituaries, prayers, hospitalization notices and messages of thanks. He plans to later expand nationally in a goal to "tell stories" about people's lives.

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

Canada's politicians see good side of bad economy 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 6:42pm]
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