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U.S. tourists likely to stay home due to passport rule

Tourist-related businesses expect a quieter summer, especially along the Canada-U.S. border with the new passport rule.

Stricter U.S. regulations came into effect Monday, requiring everyone entering the United States to carry a passport — including returning Americans.

Some U.S. tourists interviewed in Niagara Falls, Ontario, said they would likely not be returning soon, as they don't have a passport and wouldn't pay to get one.

A survey showed that while about 60 percent of Canadians have passports, only 20 percent of Americans do.

The new rules are part of the tighter security measures under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative started by former President George W. Bush's administration in 2005.

However, when asked about it during a speaking engagement in Toronto last week, Bush said: "I thought we were making good progress on using a driver's license to cross the border. What happened to the easy-pass card?"

Former President Bill Clinton, appearing with Bush, said it could mean "far fewer Americans" would visit Canada, which would be "bad for the economy and our relationship."

The four other acceptable border crossing cards, including Nexus and enhanced driver's licenses, aren't widely available.

Party leader visits U.S. to discuss health care

The virtues and myths of Canada's socialized health care system were outlined in U.S. visits during the past week by the leader of the New Democratic Party.

Jack Layton met with White House officials and members of Congress to bolster President Barack Obama's intentions to reform health care.

Layton said he wants to "destroy" the myths of right-wing health-care privatizers who say Canadians are suffering from long waiting lists.

"Actually the Canadian system produces better health outcomes, reaches everybody and is less expensive to operate than the U.S. system," Layton said.

Similar to Canada's system, the principles motivating the Obama administration are "universality, access and ensuring that health care is available to everybody," he added.

Layton also called on Canada and the United States to work together to reduce the high price of prescription drugs.

News in brief

• Magna International, with headquarters in Aurora near Toronto, has a deal to become a majority owner of General Motors' Opel division in Europe. The world's third-largest independent maker of auto parts has formed a consortium with major partner Sberbank of Russia. Under the deal, GM would retain a 35 percent share and 10 percent would be owned by Opel employees.

• The people of the arctic want to share their food with the rest of Canada and the world. That's because of the publicity after Governor General Michaelle Jean helped skin a seal and ate a raw slice of heart. A Montreal restaurant reports that requests for seal meat appetizers have doubled. Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak wants southerners to add "country food" to their diets, including seal, arctic char, caribou and musk ox.

Facts and figures

Canada's economy lost 41,800 jobs in May, most of them in the manufacturing heartland of Ontario. This pushed the jobless rate nationally to an 11-year high of 8.4 percent, up from 8 percent in April.

The Canadian dollar edged lower on Friday to 89.73 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback was worth $1.1145 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

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

Stock markets turned higher on Friday, with Toronto's composite index at 10,537 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,133 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 5, 6, 14, 30, 38 and 39; bonus 34. (May 30) 1, 7, 19, 21, 39 and 45; bonus 42. Super 7: (May 29) 12, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 and 44; bonus 22.

Regional briefs

• It could be a dry summer for drinkers in Ontario. Workers at the province's liquor stores have set a strike deadline of June 24. At issue for the 6,000 workers at the Liquor Control Board are cuts in full-time positions for casual employees, hours of work, wages and benefits.

• Premier Rodney MacDonald's Conservatives are facing a tough challenge in seeking re-election Tuesday in Nova Scotia. Polls show the socialist New Democratic Party leading with 37 percent of voters, followed by the Liberals with 31 percent and the Conservatives with 28 percent. The Green Party had 3 percent.

• Four Vancouver neighborhoods will be "car free" on Sundays through the summer. The City Council approved a "summer spaces" pilot program to close 28 streets to cars. It includes Commercial Drive, Mount Pleasant, Gastown and Collingwood. Open-air markets and other pedestrian attractions are planned.

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

U.S. tourists likely to stay home due to passport rule 06/06/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 6:55pm]
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