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Ottawa prepares to host Obama

As Canada rolls out the welcome mat for President Obama for his first "official" trip to a foreign country, former President George W. Bush is making plans to travel north, too.

Police in Ottawa anticipate huge crowds for Obama's visit on Thursday but expect a warmer reception than that given to Bush when he visited the capital in 2004 and 5,000 protesters gathered.

Bush will be in Calgary on March 17 for his first speaking engagement since leaving office.

The private event, called "A Conversation with George W. Bush," will give the audience of 1,500 people an opportunity to hear about his life and times as president, said Christian Darby­shire, one of the organizers.

Few details are known about the plans for Obama's visit other than he is expected to arrive in the morning for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and leave in the afternoon.

Mountie Superintendent Charles Bordeleau said Obama is a "very popular president" and expects a large crowd "trying to catch a glimpse of the president or the motorcade."

Countdown to the Winter Olympics starts

The one-year countdown to the 2010 Winter Games in British Columbia was marked by celebrations across the country.

The bells chimed on Parliament Hill as a burst of blue light illuminated the Peace Tower with the games logo.

Taking part in the cross-country celebrations were Harper, Governor General Michaelle Jean and numerous athletes.

The Olympic torch was unveiled in Whistler, where the Nordic, alpine and sliding events take place.

News in brief

• Canada is going to accept 3,900 refugees from Iraq, of which 2,500 will be privately sponsored, while it considers limits on other immigrants because of the faltering economy. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he doesn't want people coming to Canada to face unemployment. He also plans to take measures to protect temporary foreign workers from being exploited while in the country.

• Poor service is paying off for Montreal commuters who are getting a 50 percent break in the price of a monthly transit pass for March. That's because of numerous commuter train delays and cancellations on the Deux-Montagnes and Dorion-Rigaud routes. There will be a further price cut of 25 percent for users on the Deux-Montagnes route in April and May as repairs are made.

• Toronto police have arrested Oliver Killeen, 71, for bigamy involving as many as 19 brides. After being sentenced to a three-year prison term in England in 2004 for bigamy, Killeen returned to Canada. He has married "a number of women" in Ontario, the United States and Britain but never has obtained a legal divorce from any of them, police said.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is higher at 80.72 U.S. cents while the U.S. greenback returns $1.2389 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 are mixed, with the Toronto composite index lower at 8,705 points and the TSX Venture exchange index higher at 916 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 6, 17, 19, 41, 42; bonus 31. (Feb. 7) 14, 20, 24, 30, 34, 37; bonus 31. Super 7: (Feb. 6) 1, 2, 8, 20, 33, 35, 42; bonus 15.

Regional briefs

• British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell plans to dedicate more police and prosecutors to target organized crime after shootings in the past week left five people dead. The incidents have occurred in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Langley.

• Calgary transit users overwhelmingly say security measures need to be increased on the system. A study calls for hiring more peace officers, installing additional security cameras and upgrading many of the platforms.

• Ontario's second "final" contract offer has been accepted by elementary schoolteachers who were threatening to go on strike. The teachers will receive a pay raise of 10.4 percent over four years in a deal that costs the government about $560 million. The agreement also dropped a contentious proposal to more than double supervision time.

• Additional public-private partnerships are being considered in Atlantic Canada to build and maintain highways and travel links. This includes a proposal for the Route 1 Gateway project to build and reconstruct a 70-mile, four-lane highway between St. Stephen and Saint John, New Brunswick. Also being examined is ferry service to the Fundy Isles.

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

Ottawa prepares to host Obama 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 5:06pm]
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