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Stelco may have to lay off 1,500

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Canadian steel giant Stelco Inc. might have to lay off as many as 1,500 workers after getting bankruptcy protection from creditors in a bid to restructure.

"The company faces very serious problems, ranging from high cost structure to a rapidly deteriorating cash position," said Stelco CEO Courtney Pratt.

Stelco has 8,400 workers at its two main steel-making divisions, including 6,200 in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ontario. It lost $168-million in the first nine months of last year and has $545-million in long-term debt.

Much of Canada's steel sector is mired in red ink and bankruptcy restructuring because of weak markets, a flood of cheap imports, high costs for energy and scrap steel.

Stelco joins Slater Steel of Mississauga, Ontario, and Montreal-based Ivaco Corp. in bankruptcy protection. Rival Algoma Steel of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, restructured twice in the past decade under federal bankruptcy laws but continues to lose money.

Other well-known Canadian companies _ including Air Canada, lumber producer Doman Industries and Montreal clothing retailer Boutiques San Francisco _ are using the federal restructuring law. This is to reduce staff, dispose of assets or restructure debts to become leaner, profitable firms.

Martin to give provinces $2-billion for health care

Prime Minister Paul Martin has agreed to give $2-billion in new health care cash to Canada's provinces.

He stopped short, however, of a deal to ensure future funding increases.

After meeting with the provincial premiers, Martin said they would talk again in the summer about how to guarantee the sustainability of health care funding.

The premiers said they want a long-term commitment so they don't have to beg for cash each year. They estimate the federal government covers no more than 17 percent of health costs.

Names in the news

+ Cpl. Jamie Murphy, 26, is the third Canadian soldier to be killed on humanitarian duty in Afghanistan. Murphy of Conception Harbour, Newfoundland, was 10 days from ending a six-month tour of duty. A suicide bomber jumped onto his jeep and detonated two bombs. Sgt. Robert Alan Short, 42, and Cpl. Robbie Beerenfenger, 29, were killed last fall after their jeep struck an explosive device.

+ David Collenette, a longtime Liberal member of Parliament and solid supporter of retired Prime Minister Jean Chretien, is quitting politics to pursue private interests. Collenette, 57, was not included in Prime Minister Paul Martin's Cabinet after Chretien left office in December.

+ Premier Joe Handley, leader of the Northwest Territories, wants provincehood within three years. He said northerners are getting tired of watching profits leave their booming region and want the increased control over development that would come with being a province.

Facts and figures

Canada's economy is poised for slow growth, economists say after Statistics Canada reported no growth in November.

The dollar was lower at 75.53 cents U.S. Friday while the U.S. greenback returned $1.3239 Canadian before bank exchange fees.

The key interest rate of the Bank of Canada remains unchanged at 2.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.25 percent.

Canadian stock markets were lower, with Toronto's composite index at 8,510 and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,783 points on Friday.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 14, 20, 23, 25 and 45; bonus 12. (Jan. 24) 3, 8, 17, 20, 26 and 47; bonus 38.

Regional briefs

+ More than 60 firefighters battled a stubborn blaze in bitter minus 25 F temperatures for several hours at the Lilydale Foods poultry processing plant in Edmonton. Two firefighters were treated for frostbite. It was the third major fire in a week in the city. The others destroyed a 75-unit condominium complex and a supermarket in the Chinatown district.

+ A British Columbia coroner's report recommends against taking school students to avalanche-prone areas of Glacier National Park. Dr. John Latimer was reporting on an inquiry into the deaths of seven high school students in a snow slide near Revelstoke a year ago. He also called on Parks Canada officials to rate and post warning risks on trails.

+ New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord says insurance companies have not done enough to make automobile coverage affordable for the province's drivers. In his state-of-the-province address, Lord said he would initiate measures to lower rates and make sure insurance is affordable and accessible.

+ Almost a dozen new temperature records were set in Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Thursday, as it got colder in some places than it has been in 70 years. The deep chill is expected to last about a week, until Arctic air drifts toward Ontario. Environment Canada said the tiny mining town of Key Lake, Saskatchewan, was the coldest place in the world on Wednesday and Thursday, recording temperatures of minus 52.3 on Wednesday and minus 52.6 Thursday.

_ Information from the Toronto Globe and Mail was used in this report.