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Crossing U.S.-Canada border after June 1? Carry your papers

As efforts are being made to ease congestion at the Canada-U.S. border, Canadians are prepared for a change requiring passports or secure documents at land and water crossings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Since about 75 percent of adult Canadians currently have passports, Harper said he doesn't expect the June 1 deadline would be changed.

The United States will require passports or "other acceptable documents denoting citizenship and identity" as part of its border security strategy.

Tighter security since 2001 has caused slowdowns and congestion at many border points — an issue that Harper tried repeatedly to address with the previous U.S. administration.

Now, Canadian Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has received a commitment to examine the issue during a meeting with Janet Napolitano, U.S. Homeland Security secretary.

Van Loan wants a pilot project to allow commercial vehicles hauling goods to the United States to clear Customs before arriving at the border, similar to what air passengers do at some Canadian airports.

Two-way trade in goods and services between Canada and the United States in 2007 exceeded $465 billion (U.S.), with a truck crossing the border every two seconds.

Bush is welcomed

Aside from some protesters throwing shoes at his poster, former President George W. Bush received a warm welcome in Calgary for his first public speech since leaving office.

He told 1,500 people who paid $325 each that he had made mistakes during his two terms but always held onto his principles.

The two-hour event was closed to the press but those who attended said his remarks and compliments about Canada as a neighbor were well received.

Next up is former U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will speak May 13 at a $400-a-plate fundraiser for the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

News in brief

• Canadian Broadcasting Corporation workers are angered that executives will still receive yearly bonuses as they're bracing for layoffs. CBC president Hubert Lacroix said bonuses would be halved and executive salaries frozen, saving about $1.6 million in the next two years. The public broadcaster is considering laying off up to 1,200 of its 5,500 employees and cutting salaries because of lower revenues.

• Barbados police have offered a $5,000 reward to find the person responsible for the death of a vacationing Ottawa woman. Terry Schwarzfeld, 60, president of the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, was attacked and mugged last month while walking along an isolated stretch of Long Beach. Her daughter-in-law, Luana Cotsman, of Guelph, was also attacked but recovered.

• Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz won't be speaking at a convention of firearms enthusiasts in suburban Toronto. The Canadian Shooting Sports Association will raffle a semi-automatic handgun at the event, and Breitkreuz was removed from the speaker's list to avert further controversy, officials said.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar made some strong gains, rising to 80.61 U.S. cents Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.2405 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Retail sales were up 1.9 percent in January after falling 5.2 percent in December, and the annual inflation rate rose slightly last month to 1.4 percent.

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

Stock markets are higher with Toronto's composite index at 8,535 points and the TSX Venture index at 895 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 11, 27, 29, 33, 34 and 44; bonus 36. (March 14) 4, 11, 13, 16, 41 and 45; bonus 35. Super 7: (March 13) 6, 15, 18, 24, 35, 36 and 46; bonus 17.

Regional briefs

• Investigators say a helicopter ferrying workers to Atlantic Canada oil platforms slammed nose-down into the North Atlantic. The crash killed 17 on board. There was one survivor, Newfoundlander Robert Decker, 27. The Transportation Safety Board is examining the battered fuselage and the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the Sikorsky S-92A.

• As residents of south Vancouver gathered at a town hall meeting to discuss escalating drug and gang violence, police responded to reports of shots fired in the Yaletown area. Metro Vancouver has now had 16 shooting deaths in two months.

• The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is being sued for $37 million by a Wasaga Beach man who believes he was a big winner. Lottery officials said the two-cent Buccaneer slot machine that Pawel Kusznirewicz was playing at Georgian Downs malfunctioned when it told him he won $34.5 million. The top win on that machine was set at $7,350.

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

Crossing U.S.-Canada border after June 1? Carry your papers 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 6:16pm]

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