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U.S. sees chance Quebec will split

The possibility of mainly Francophone Quebec separating from English-speaking Canada is being taken seriously in the United States, Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard says.

The opposition leader in Canada's House of Commons took his independence message to Washington and found a shift in U.S. opinion.

Now, instead of questioning why the separatist movement exists, Americans are more interested in the consequences of an independent Quebec, he says.

Bouchard met with two former national security advisers, members of Congress and a State Department official, but hasn't sought a meeting with President Clinton. In New York, he spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Throughout the years of Quebec's threats of independence, U.S. administrations have indicated they would prefer Canada to remain united. The United States will, however, "respect the democratic will expressed by the people of Quebec," Bouchard says.

Young and lost

The lingering recession has had such a devastating impact on the job prospects of young Canadians that it might have created a lost generation, researchers and economists say.

An examination by Statistics Canada found that unprecedented numbers of Canadians aged 15 to 24 are out of the work force.

Proportionately, more people in that age group lost their jobs than older people, and it will take them years longer to find employment.

In 1989, before the recession hit, 62.3 percent of young Canadians had jobs; 49.8 percent did last November.

The statistics support former Prime Minister Kim Campbell's statement that many young Canadians might not find jobs through the end of this century.

GST will go

GST _ the much-hated initials for Goods and Services Tax _ might be replaced, perhaps with something like NST _ New Sales Tax.

Finance Minister Paul Martin says the Liberal government will keep its promise to eliminate the 7

percent federal tax, which is collected on top of provincial sales taxes.

"It's going to be replaced," he said after a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

The government will start work this summer on its options.

Facts and figures

Canada's prime lending rate remains at 5.5 percent. There's speculation mortgage rates _ the lowest of which are at the same level _ could fall slightly.

The Canadian dollar is worth less _ 73.68 U.S. cents; a U.S. dollar, $1.3572 Canadian.

Stock markets moved higher; Toronto's composite index is 4,398 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 5, 10, 14, 35, 43 and 47; bonus 26. (Feb. 27) 1, 11, 26, 28, 30 and 31; bonus 10.

Names in the news

British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt says his government might call a vote on allowing casinos. VLC Properties wants to build a $750-million (Canadian) waterfront hotel with Las Vegas-style casino in Victoria.

Karlee Kosolofski, 2, of Roulau, Saskatchewan is alive and getting better after being all but frozen to death. She was locked out of her house for six hours in 10-below-zero weather. A medical team at Regina's Plains Hospital slowly thawed her body and blood, managing to save her life. But she could lose a leg.

Canadian media magnate Conrad Black and his company, Hollinger Inc., have made a $180-million (U.S.) deal to buy the Chicago Sun-Times.

A beaming Myriam Bedard was given a hero's welcome in Montreal as she returned to Canada from the Winter Olympics with two gold medals for biathlon events.

Quebec Sen. Marcel Prud'homme has sparked a ruckus because he wants the Queen Elizabeth's head removed _ from Canada's $2 and $20 bills. The bills should have former Canadian prime ministers, he says.

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