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Stimulus credited for saving Canadians' holiday

If it was the Grinch of a recession that stole Christmas, then Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney credits economic stimulus spending and his interest rate cuts for saving it.

Without this early and important action, "we'd still be in recession, unemployment would be unquestionably higher and we would all have a much less merry holiday season," he said.

The stimulus measures can't "save every Christmas," so it has to be used appropriately and will still play a key role in 2010, Carney said.

Domestic demand is increasing and the economy is "picking up some momentum" heading into the new year.

With the U.S. recovery the slowest since the Great Depression, Canada will try to spur growth by relying more on domestic spending and trade with other countries, Carney said.

TD Bank economist Don Drummond said the current recession in Canada was markedly less severe than the U.S. downturn, with its housing meltdown. It was also shorter and shallower than those of the 1980s and 1990s.

Ottawa, Whistler lead in snow accumulation

It's been a white Christmas for most of Canada, with just a quarter of the country remaining green.

Environment Canada's David Phillips said of the major cities, Ottawa has the most snow with about a foot on the ground.

The "whitest" place is Whistler, British Columbia, where the ski resort has 8 feet.

Northern and central British Columbia, all of the Prairies, north, central and eastern Ontario, all of Quebec, New Brunswick, most of Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon had a white Christmas.

The "greenest" places are Vancouver Island and southern British Columbia, southern Ontario, including Toronto, and St. John's, Newfoundland. There's a small amount of snow in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

News in brief

• For the second consecutive year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was named Newsmaker of the Year in a survey of news organizations by the Canadian Press. Harper used a steep recession to his political advantage and emerged stronger than ever in his four years in office, the news wire service said. He edged out Jim Balsillie, billionaire CEO of Research in Motion, who was unsuccessful in trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move the hockey team to Ontario.

• Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty now says he will consider selling cherished government assets: Ontario Power Generation, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Selling all or part of the assets is under review as a way to fight the deficit due to the recession, he said.

Facts and figures

Canada's inflation rate increased to 1 percent in November for the second consecutive month, giving another signal the economy is improving.

The Canadian dollar is higher at 95.39 cents U.S., while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0484 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 0.25 percent, while the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets advanced with Toronto's composite index at 11,706 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,450 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 5, 9, 11, 22, 38; bonus 27. (Dec. 19) 12, 15, 19, 41, 42, 49; bonus 48. Lotto Max: (Dec. 18) 8, 10, 15, 17, 33, 34, 35; bonus 13.

Regional briefs

• The days of Alberta attracting job-seekers from across Canada are over for now. For the first time since 1994, the number of people who have moved away from Alberta is higher than those arriving, Statistics Canada said. At the height of the energy boom, the western province was attracting about 50,000 new residents a year in search of jobs.

• A Quebec couple made "a deliberate choice" to ski out of bounds at a British Columbia ski resort last February and cannot blame the police or others for what happened, court documents say. The Mounties, rescuers and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort officials said Gilles Blackburn, 51, who survived after becoming lost for days, and his wife, Marie-Josee Fortin, 44, who froze to death, went out of bounds unprepared. Blackburn is suing for negligence.

• The Manitoba government expects a budget deficit about seven times higher than predicted. The projection of a $572 million shortfall this fiscal year would be the largest in history as the province decided not to cut services even with the economic downturn.

• Savvy Christmas shoppers enjoyed the catch of the day for lobster, but it has been a tough season for Atlantic Canada's fisher­men. Mr. Seafood, a business in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is selling live lobsters for just $5.70 a pound. Fishermen are only netting about $4.25 a pound as sales have declined internationally because of the recession.

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

Stimulus credited for saving Canadians' holiday 12/26/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 26, 2009 7:37pm]
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