© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2003
The death toll from the mysterious SARS disease has risen to eight in Toronto, prompting visitors to avoid the city and leaving officials scrambling to calm fears.
There are 150 active cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Canada traced to recent travel to Southeast Asia or to a growing cluster of cases radiating from Scarborough Grace Hospital in suburban Toronto.
Dr. Colin D'Cunha, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said the concern is overblown.
Thousands of people have been ordered confined to their homes to keep the disease from spreading and three hospitals at the center of the outbreak are effectively closed. Health officials are turning to the courts to prosecute those disobeying the quarantine.
Concern led the American Association of Cancer Researchers to cancel its conference with 12,000 delegates this weekend in Toronto. The loss to the city is estimated at $20-million.
The World Health Organization is warning against nonessential travel to Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province where the first cases surfaced, but didn't mention Canada.
Saddled with $13-billion in debt, Air Canada has declared bankruptcy. Corporate investors are keeping the planes in the air without a government bailout for now. When the company restructures in the next six months, it's expected to operate with fewer flights on fewer routes.
Quebec Premier Bernard Landry warns that electing a Liberal government in the province on April 14 will result in massive debt. He accused Jean Charest's team of making promises that will cost Quebeckers $9-billion. The Liberals say they'll cut taxes and invest in health and education.
Bombardier Inc. will sell its recreational products division, including the Ski-Doo snowmobile business, as part of a sweeping plan to improve the Montreal company's finances and restore investor confidence. Paul Tellier, Bombardier's new president and chief executive, outlined the plan.
Canada's unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent last month from 7.4 percent a month earlier.
The dollar closed lower Friday at 67.95 cents U.S. while a U.S. dollar returns $1.4716 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada interest rate remains at 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.
Canadian stock exchanges are lower, with the Toronto index at 6,394 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange at 1,056 points.
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Floods in Nova Scotia have destroyed or damaged 47 bridges and 200 roads. Initial damage estimates are $10-million after an intense storm swept through Atlantic Canada. In Newfoundland, torrential rain and flooding washed out bridges and caused mudslides.
Freezing rain and ice pellets falling across Southern Ontario on Friday resulted in closed schools and businesses, and power disruptions. Canada's busiest airport was brought to a virtual halt after Pearson International Airport in Toronto ran out of plane deicing fluid.
Canadians turn their clocks ahead an hour this weekend except in Saskatchewan. But there are signs the only province that still doesn't follow daylight time might be considering a change. Premier Lorne Calvert is thinking about a referendum on the divisive issue in conjunction with a provincial election expected this year.