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Canada report

Martin gives hints election is coming

Published March 21, 2004

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is showing all the signs that he plans to lead the Liberals into spring elections.

He continues to tour the country, making election-style speech-es, and told his caucus that the party will deliver a message of hope.

The message will be in contrast with doom-and-gloom statements from opposition parties, he suggested.

Even though support for the scandal-plagued party has slumped over $100-million in misspent federal money, provincial organizer Karl Littler said polls suggest Martin remains popular.

So far, Martin hasn't given any indication when he will set the election date.

Many Liberals would like him to wait until the fall to let some of the fallout from the sponsorship scandal die down. Several polls have suggested the party would be hard pressed to win another majority government.

Aid for schooner lost

The government is trying to find out what happened to a federal sponsorship grant that was supposed to aid the famed Bluenose II schooner but apparently never arrived.

"We're tracing funds that may have gone adrift, and we will be getting them back," said Public Works Minister Stephen Owen.

At issue is a $2.3-million check that was directed to the Bluenose through Lafleur Communications, a Montreal ad agency that played a key role in the now-disgraced sponsorship program.

The trust that oversees the schooner - a major tourist attraction in Nova Scotia - says it received only $359,000.

News in brief

Environmentalists say the government should follow the lead of several American states and legislate higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars rather than leave it to automakers. Without mandatory standards, Canada will fail to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, the Sierra Club of Canada says.

The federal government has won the right to appeal a British Columbia court ruling that struck down a ban on reporting election results from eastern Canada before polls had closed in the West. The ruling means the Appeal Court will revisit the issue.

Thousands of Canadians involved in the hunt for terrorists and spies will be forbidden from ever discussing sensitive aspects of their work under a new federal secrecy law. The government expects from 5,000 to 6,000 current and former security and intelligence officials to be designated as persons "permanently bound to secrecy."

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is valued at 74.74 U.S. cents while the U.S. dollar returns $1.3380 Canadian, before bank exchange fees. The key interest rate of the Bank of Canada is unchanged at 2.5 percent, while the prime lending rate is 4.25 percent. Canadian stock exchanges are higher, with the Toronto index at 8,601 points. Lottery numbers: Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 23, 25, 33, 34 and 41; bonus 3. (March 13) 9, 27, 32, 38, 39 and 49; bonus 46.

Regional briefs

The federal and Ontario governments have announced a $300-million plan to improve the flow of traffic over the Canada-United States border. The money will go toward revamping the Canadian-U.S. tunnel plaza at Windsor-Detroit and help to implement NEXUS, a special electronic-card program already in place at the Niagara Falls border crossing that enables speedier access for frequent cross-border travelers.

Last year's unusually cold winter and spring will result in lower production of Ontario's top wines this year and more wines blended with grapes from outside the province, the Wine Council of Ontario says. The province's wine regions produce 90 percent of the grapes used in Canadian wine.

[Last modified March 21, 2004, 01:35:34]

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