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Minister rejects idea of security perimeter

Canada is rejecting calls for a North American security perimeter while moving ahead with harmonized security at ports.

Immigration Minister Denis Coderre rejected calls for the perimeter aimed at ensuring the free flow of people, goods and services across the Canada-U.S. border.

"The United States is our friend, not our boss," Coderre said.

The province of Ontario wants the Canadian government to standardize customs and immigration procedures with those of the United States. Premier Ernie Eves said a security perimeter would create "a zone of comfort for our American friends."

While saying he recognizes the importance of tighter security, Coderre said having Washington dictate Canadian immigration and customs policies isn't the answer.

Heightened border security after the Sept. 11 attacks led to long tie-ups at border crossings while recent tightened measures are again slowing things down.

Meanwhile, port officials in Halifax and Montreal are developing a system to track goods from overseas factories through Canadian ports to their final destinations in the United States. This would check for contraband goods, stowaways and possible radioactive "dirty bombs."

In brief

+ Bombardier Inc. will lay off 3,000 more workers at aerospace plants in Canada and Northern Ireland. About 1,800 workers in Montreal and Toronto will be affected. The cuts represent 10 percent of the work force and follow 5,000 layoffs since Sept. 11, 2001, due to a drop in business.

+ Air Canada is boosting its domestic fuel surcharge by $20 in response to soaring prices. The surcharge rises to $50 effective Monday on return flights of more than 300 miles. For shorter distances, the surcharge remains $30.

+ Sherritt International will spend $110-million to develop its oil and gas holdings in Cuba this year. The Toronto company, which supplies electricity in Cuba, is also involved in nickel mining, hotels and tourism, soybean processing and wireless phone service in the Caribbean country.

+ The federal and British Columbia governments will upgrade roads in Vancouver and the scenic but narrow and winding Kicking Horse Pass section of the Trans-Canada Highway. Twinning the two branches of the Trans-Canada in Saskatchewan will be completed along with work on Highway 39, the main road to the United States.

Facts and figures

Canada's central bank raised its key interest rate by 0.25 percent to 3 percent, the first increase since last summer, in a bid to cool inflationary pressures. Commercial banks then raised the prime lending rate by a similar amount to 4.75 percent.

Good employment news Friday pushed the dollar to 68.24 U.S. cents, the highest since July 2000. The U.S. dollar returns $1.4654 Canadian, before bank exchange fees. Statistics Canada reported that 55,000 jobs were created last month as the jobless rate remained at 7.4 percent.

Canadian stock exchanges were lower, with the Toronto index at 6,359 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,086 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 6, 8, 19, 27, 45, 46; bonus 34. (March 1) 5, 17, 22, 34, 40, 47; bonus 45.