Florida, the virtual 11th province

Published February 18, 2007

Does Canada really want to make Florida its 11th province?

Canadians were wondering that after reading and hearing ads lately about a petition drive to acquire the Sunshine State as a warm-weather province.

Just because there's a land mass between Canada and Florida shouldn't matter as that didn't stop the United States from making Alaska, adjoining Canada, a state, the ads say.

With a tongue-in-cheek tone and message, it turns out to be a Florida government tourism initiative to promote the state that's one of the most popular for Canadian snowbirds and visitors.

Thousands of people have been going to the Web site - www.florida11.com/florida11 - to sign the petition, said Henny Groenendijk, Visit Florida's public relations manager for Canada.

It's a "humor-based effort" that combines newspaper and radio ads and the site where Canadians can endorse a virtual petition and enter a contest for a Florida vacation get-away, she said.

Florida hosted 2.03-million Canadians in 2005, an increase of 6.4 percent over 2004.

Preliminary figures show visits to Florida by Canadians grew another 2.7 percent last year.

A winter holiday

A national holiday in the winter would be a perfect way to help Canadians through the February blahs, New Democrat member of Parliament Peggy Nash said.

She plans to initiate a private member's bill in the House of Commons calling on politicians to declare Flag Day, Feb. 15, a federal holiday.

After New Year's, Canadians have no official holiday until Good Friday, which this year is April 6.

Canadians need a break in the middle of winter, and Flag Day would be a great way to have this while showing pride in the country and the flag, Nash said.

News in brief:

-The United States sent eastern Canada some snow in return for cold temperatures as life was disrupted by a midweek blizzard. It affected a wide area of southern Ontario with 20 inches of snow around Hamilton before heading east to Quebec and the Maritime provinces with high winds, snow and freezing rain. Toronto had about 8 inches of snow; only 4 inches had fallen all winter, the lowest in 60 years.

-DaimlerChrysler is eliminating 2,000 jobs in Canada, most of them in Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit. Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, called it "an absolute disaster" and urged governments to assist the industry. Other job losses include Toronto-based Nortel Networks Corp. cutting 2,900 jobs worldwide in a "business transformation plan."

-Recent deaths include Percy Saltzman, one of Canada's first TV weathermen, at age 91 in Toronto. His high-energy broadcasts and trademark flipping of the chalk after drawing weather patterns on a blackboard map began with CBC-TV in 1952, launching a 30-year career.

Facts and figures:

The Canadian dollar continues its upward swing, reaching 86.08 cents U.S. Friday. The U.S. dollar rose to $1.1617 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 4.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index reaching a record 13,297 points on Friday while the Canadian Venture Exchange was 3,072 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 10, 24, 35, 40, 41 and 45; bonus 39. (Feb. 10) 8, 13, 23, 37, 41 and 42; bonus 26.

Regional briefs:

-There is a lower risk of a major earthquake now off Canada's west coast, seismologists say. That's because a series of subterranean tremors that began Jan. 26 on Vancouver Island ended a week earlier than usual. This means less risk for now of a major rupture in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which is a long, sloping fault stretching from northern California to the west coast of Canada.

-Calgary pawnbroker Aly Saad Marsy was fined $7,500 for charging up to 207,000 percent interest on loans. The court was told that a couple living on a disability pension pawned their jewelry when the husband was being treated for cancer. They were charged $6,000 in interest over six months on the $2,000 loan.

-A ballot-counting error took away a by-election win for Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams' Conservatives. Original results showed Darryl Kelly had won by 12 votes in Humber Valley. The recount instead gave the win to Liberal candidate Dwight Ball by 18 votes to fill a vacancy in the provincial Legislature.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.