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Canadians hail Obama, new relations with U.S.

Canadians are noticing a dramatic "climate" change in Washington that's again warming the official relationship with the United States.

It was somewhat unprecedented for a U.S. president to visit Canada and express his love for the country and its people.

"I love this country," the charismatic President Obama said during a visit Thursday to Ottawa.

"I think we could not have a better friend and ally, so I am going to do everything I can to make sure our relationship is strengthened," he said, flashing a bright smile at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It's a new era in cross-border politics after a chilly relationship with the Bush administration.

In the "getting-to-know-you" visit, the two leaders agreed to work together on issues such as clean energy and free trade, while not shutting Canada out through "buy American" provisions, the war in Afghanistan and security concerns.

An enthusiastic crowd of several thousand people greeted Obama on Parliament Hill as he moved forward to give them a hearty smile and wave.

For lunch, Obama was served some "Canadian" fare highlighted by Arctic char and bison — but no back bacon.

Obama said he is familiar with the country as his brother-in-law's family lives in Burlington, Ontario, and two key members of his staff "hail from Canada."

Foods and drinks with Obama theme

BeaverTails and "Obama-themed" food and drinks were on the menu as Ottawa welcomed the president to Canada's capital.

Before leaving, Obama asked to go to the Byward Market to sample an "Obama BeaverTail," a hot pastry treat served with cinnamon and sugar and a splash of maple syrup.

Elsewhere, a nonalcoholic Obama Hawaiian Punch was offered by the Holiday Inn Ottawa Airport, while "Claudio the Soup Guy" at Muffins Plus continues to sell out of President Obama Chili Soup.

Graffiti's Italian Eatery at the Holiday Inn in nearby Kanata featured a Chicago-style omelet, Barack burger, Inaugural Dinner Washington-style and the Obamartini.

News in brief

• Vancouver is Canada's gang capital, Federal Solicitor General Peter Van Loan said after 12 shootings in 16 days, including the slaying of Nicole Alemy, 23, as she drove with her 4-year-old son. Most are linked to the drug trade. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants a regional police force and more resources to tackle the problem.

• Oil-rich Alberta is now in a recession with a projection of 15,000 jobs lost this year. Falling prices have affected revenues, and the province expects a $1 billion (U.S.) deficit — the first red ink in 15 years. The province is spending billions of dollars on building projects to create jobs.

• Ontario wants to cut the time patients spend in hospital emergency rooms by setting targets. Health Minister David Caplan said the plan sets a cap of eight hours for patients with complex conditions and four hours for those with minor problems. The current average wait for a hospital bed is 13.5 hours and 4.6 hours, respectively.

Facts and figures

Lower oil prices pushed Canada's dollar down to 79.77 U.S. cents Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2536 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 were again lower, with Toronto's composite index at 7,725 points and the TSX Venture index at 898 points.

Canada's annual inflation rate dropped to 1.1 percent in January from 1.2 percent the previous month, largely because of falling gasoline prices.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 11, 17, 34, 37, 41 and 49; bonus 5. (Feb. 14) 16, 25, 29, 37, 45 and 49; bonus 20. Super 7: (Feb. 13) 5, 8, 11, 20, 30, 33 and 45; bonus 26.

Regional briefs

• British Columbia is issuing high-tech driver's licenses to help prevent identity theft and fraud. Security features include facial recognition technology, holographic overlays and laser engraving. The province also has birth certificates with 20 security features.

• The funeral of Mountie Constable Jason Porter, 31, and his two children from Saint John, New Brunswick, was attended by more than 100 police officers. Porter and children Hannah, 5, and Jack, 2, were killed when their car collided with a bus on an icy highway near Oromocto.

• Lionel Adams, 59, of Calgary credits an unusual "cat" scan for discovering his cancer. He said his cat, Tiger, alerted him to a mass in his lung by constantly pawing at his side. Doctors found and removed a large tumor. Studies have shown dogs and cats are capable of sniffing out cancer and predicting types of seizures in their owners.

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

Canadians hail Obama, new relations with U.S. 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 6:32pm]
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