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The Canada report

Not involved, or somewhat involved?

By JIM FOX

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003


The fury over Canada's decision to stay out of the Iraq war has taken a turn with an acknowledgement the country is somewhat involved.

For the first time, the government conceded that Canadians on exchange assignments with the U.S. military are aboard American radar planes helping in the war.

The disclosure came a day after U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci bluntly said his country is upset and disappointed that Canada has refused to join the war against Iraq. This has caused a "bump in relations," he said, spawning a further heightening of tensions.

Canada also has three warships in the Persian Gulf escorting U.S. ships to Kuwait along with surveillance planes relaying information to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Some exchange soldiers are also serving with the U.S. and British forces.

The news prompted the socialist New Democratic Party and peace groups to demand that Canada withdraw its troops.

In brief

-- The World Health Organization wants all travelers boarding international flights leaving Toronto to be screened for symptoms of SARS -- severe acute respiratory syndrome. The move is an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly disease that has killed three people in Toronto and left dozens ill.

-- Air Canada has turned down a union request for an independent arbitrator to rule on whether the war in Iraq is sufficient cause to override the contract with flight attendants. The airline plans to cut 3,600 jobs because of the impact of the war and its declining business.

-- Family incomes rose for most people who stopped receiving welfare during the 1990s, Statistics Canada reports. It's the first national study of the economic outcome for people who left welfare rolls, with about six people in 10 seeing their after-tax family income improve substantially.

Facts and figures

The Conference Board of Canada lowered its estimate for economic growth this year to 2.7 percent, down dramatically. Economic weakness in the United States, a major buyer of Canadian goods and services, as well as a stronger Canadian dollar are hurting exports.

The Bank of Canada key interest rate remains at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.

Canada's dollar is higher at 68.15 U.S. cents while a U.S. dollar returns $1.4675 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange at 6,335 points while the Canadian Venture Exchange is 1,042 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 6, 7, 18, 46, 47; bonus 36. (March 22) 5, 24, 31, 37, 38, 47; bonus 10.

Regional briefs

-- Fisheries conservation experts want Canada to create no-seal zones in critical spawning areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protect dwindling cod stocks. The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council said it's time to get tough with the fish-eating gray and harp seals. Options include acoustic devices, physically barring the animals from bays and increased hunting.

-- Heading toward the April 14 election in Quebec, polls show the ruling Parti Quebecois government and the Liberals in a close race. A poll by Leger Marketing gave the Liberals 42 percent and the Parti Quebecois 41 percent, while the Action Democratique du Quebec trailed with 17 percent.

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