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Canada report

New Conservative ambassador plans for fresh U.S. ties

By JIM FOX
Published February 19, 2006


Canada's new man in Washington is former Cabinet minister Michael Wilson, who intends to repair fractured relations between the two countries.

Wilson, 68, who said last year that Canada should have supported the U.S. military effort in Iraq, was named Canadian ambassador to the United States by the new Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Explaining that the personal support he voiced for the Iraq war isn't official government policy, Wilson said his top priority is the ongoing trade dispute over softwood lumber.

He replaces Frank McKenna, former Liberal premier of New Brunswick, and expressed a hope the Conservative government will result in a fresh start in cross-border relations.

The relationship between the two countries "has been better in the past," Wilson said, adding: "I don't know how rocky it is today but, clearly, it can be improved."

Wilson held the trade, industry and finance portfolios during nine years in former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government.

Harper named career diplomat John McNee the ambassador to the United Nations, replacing former Liberal Cabinet minister Allan Rock.

Winter finally whips up

The long stretch of somewhat balmy weather - in Canadian terms - has ended with a return, or start, of winter.

Much of the country was plunged into the fury of blizzards, freezing rain, ice pellets, heavy rain - even thunderstorms - with high winds and freezing temperatures.

"It is wild out there - there's a lot of misery on the weather map," said David Phillips of Environment Canada.

Icy roads and snow-blown whiteouts led to an 80-vehicle crash on Highway 417, east of Ottawa, killing four people on Friday. One person was killed in a 60-vehicle pileup east of Montreal.

Winnipeg had overnight temperatures around minus 40 F while Calgary was around minus 20 and Toronto and Montreal were about 15 after being in the 40s the day before.

About 100,000 houses in Quebec were without power and the chilling winds up to 60 mph headed into Atlantic Canada.

Out west, Victoria had a wind warning Friday and the Vancouver area had below-freezing temperatures.

News in brief

Canada will take part in a three-week mission with the U.S. Navy to test combat capabilities involving antisubmarine and electronic warfare, and boarding operations. Canadian warships, fighter jets, a submarine and land forces will join exercises off Nova Scotia, Norfolk, Va., and Boston.

Canadian Cpl. Jeffrey Bailey, of Edmonton, seriously injured in a suicide bomb attack last month in Afghanistan, is now expected to survive. He has head injuries, burns and broken ribs. Two others were hurt in the attack that killed Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry. Master Cpl. Paul Franklin of Halifax lost a second leg at the knee, while Pvt. William Salikin of Grand Forks, B.C., is improving.

A poll shows the Conservatives would have another minority government if Canadians had a chance to vote again in the Jan. 23 federal election. It found 35 percent would vote for Conservatives, down from 36 percent, while Liberals had 25 percent, down 5 percent, and 24 percent backed New Democrats, up 6.5 percent.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar was higher on Friday at 86.86 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returned $1.1512 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada key interest rate is steady at 3.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 5.25 percent.

Stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto composite index up to 11,774 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange down at 2,506 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 12, 13, 15, 32, 40, 43; bonus 47. (Feb. 11) 5, 21, 29, 30, 36, 45; bonus 49.

Regional briefs

The week before Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm retires, his Conservative government is under suspicion over two loans. One led to the resignation of Economic Development Minister Ernie Fage, whose department gave a $250,000 loan to a potato farm that leases land from him. Hamm, who will be succeeded by Rodney MacDonald this week, said there was no conflict in a $350,000 loan to a friend who operates the Magic Valley amusement park.

Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris denied any link involving the fatal shooting by police of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995. Harris told an inquiry he did not make an obscene slur or instruct police to get tough and end the standoff by natives who took over government land they considered an ancient burial ground.

Quebec plans a limited role for private health care to ensure faster access to hip and knee replacement, and cataract surgery. Premier Jean Charest said hospitals would be allowed to subcontract private clinics for those types of surgery. He called it a "new era" for health care.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:10:11]


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