Increasing numbers of Canadians are heading south in search of "bargain-priced" property in light of Canada's higher-valued dollar and lower U.S. housing prices.
While tourism to Canada by Americans is down because of the dollar, high gas prices and passport confusion at the border, Canadians are cashing in on their increased spending power.
The tide turned earlier this year when Canada's dollar became equal and then exceeded the value of its U.S. counterpart, settling now around 94 cents U.S.
The dollar plunged to a record low at 62 U.S. cents in 2002, making the U.S. greenback worth almost $1.62 Canadian.
Now with things almost equal and the U.S. housing situation, that piece of paradise in the sunny south is a great deal, said Tannis Dawson of the Investors Group in Winnipeg.
The U.S. National Association of Realtors said 11 percent of all foreign home buyers last year were Canadian.
Florida has the highest foreign ownership where Canadians made up 9 percent of buyers in 2007, up from 7.1 percent in 2005.
Canadians have found that prices of vacation properties in such places as Muskoka in Ontario, Canmore in Alberta, and the mountains near Gatineau, Quebec, have escalated greatly, making the U.S. market a real deal, Dawson said.
Harper talks election
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is again threatening to "dissolve" Parliament and call a federal election in the fall.
His comments are boosted by a poll suggesting Canadians prefer his Conservatives over the Liberals when it comes to leadership and most major issues.
While still lacking in a majority of popular support, the survey said 43 percent believe the Conservatives with Harper leading are best for the country. Only 22 percent opted for the Liberals, led by Stephane Dion.
While touring Atlantic Canada, Harper complained about the dysfunctional state of Parliament and said he would "make a judgment in the next little while" on whether to keep the minority government alive much longer.
News in brief
• Politicians say the Sunrise Propane company that blew up last weekend won't be able to reopen in the residential area of west Toronto. A massive explosion and fireball forced 12,000 people from their homes and led to the death of district fire Chief Bob Leek and Sunrise employee Parmindar Saini. Dozens of houses were left uninhabitable or destroyed by the blast when propane tanks, asbestos and other contaminants fell from the sky.
• Quebec provincial police are investigating last weekend's fatal shooting by police of Fredy Villanueva, 18. The death sparked a riot in Montreal's north end with stores looted and cars set on fire. Two officers said they were threatened by a group of youths as they tried to arrest Fredy's brother, Dany, 20.
• Canada is giving $31-million ($29.2-million U.S.) in disaster aid for earthquake victims in China. International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda says Canada has matched private donations to help the victims of the May quake and will match more than $11.6-million ($10.9-million U.S.) for people affected by the cyclone in Myanmar.
Facts and figures
Lower oil and commodity prices prompted a further sell off on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index fell 250 points to 13,101 points while the TSX Venture Exchange index was lower at 1,967 points.
Canada's dollar advanced to 94.28 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0607 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.
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• The wealth that Newfoundland and Labrador draws from offshore oil reserves would disappear if the Liberals were elected and imposed their planned carbon tax, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper warns. The Atlantic province balanced its books and started retiring debt with the oil-based revenues. Even so, Premier Danny Williams remains unhappy with Harper's handling of offshore oil revenue sharing.
• Bruce Carson, one of the prime minister's senior advisers, has been named first executive director of an Alberta-based research and teaching center. The Canada School of Energy and Environment, one of the country's Centers of Research Excellence and Commercialization, is a collaboration involving the universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge.
• Doug Bergmann, 29, of Edmonton, says he's on his way to the Olympics after making a splash as Canada's cannonball champion. He made four impressive leaps at the championships while wearing bright, skin-tight outfits including bumblebee and can-can dancer costumes.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected].