Exceptions sought to passport rules for land, sea

By JIM FOX, Times Correspondent
Published September 2, 2007

Canada wants the U.S. government to allow seniors and registered aboriginals with Indian status to cross land and sea border points without passports.

In the government's official response to U.S. border-crossing initiatives, Canada said an alternative plan is also needed for emergency workers and medical evacuation cases.

The United States will require passports beginning next summer for anyone entering the country by vehicle or boat. They are needed now for air travel.

That deadline needs to be extended to cut confusion and reduce damage to trade and tourism, as the change will cause a scramble, Canada says.

There are 160-million cross-border visits and $710-billion U.S. in two-way trade between the countries each year.

Land and sea border crossings account for more than 85 percent of all visits while fewer than 60 percent of those traveling now have passports.

Canada also says there needs to be an explicit agreement that high-technology driver's licenses may be used in place of passports.

Also being considered is a passport card similar to one the United States is planning that would cost less but carry proof of identity and citizenship.

GM to lay off 1,200

The loss of 1,200 jobs at the General Motors of Canada truck plant in Oshawa is another blow to Ontario's battered manufacturing sector.

Jobs are under siege from a rising Canadian dollar, the slumping U.S. housing market and a credit crunch that has made it harder to finance vehicle purchases.

GM said it will eliminate a shift producing the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups at the plant, where thousands of jobs were cut earlier.

The move is expected to affect thousands of other workers in industries supplying GM, including steel, auto parts, tires, aluminum and plastic.

In brief

-There is now the question of compensation for Steven Truscott, finally acquitted of the 1959 rape and murder of schoolgirl Lynne Harper in Ontario. Truscott spent 10 years on death row from the time he was a teenager. The Ontario Court of Appeal found him to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice but said it could not declare him innocent based on the evidence.

-A Canadian soldier died of a gunshot wound in Afghanistan and officials say they have not ruled out suicide, homicide or accident. Maj. Raymond Ruckpaul, 42, was found shot in his room at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul. He is the 70th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.

-Pat Binns, former Conservative premier of Prince Edward Island who was defeated by the Liberals in the May provincial election, has been named Canadian ambassador to Ireland. He takes over from Christopher Westdal, a career diplomat and former ambassador to Russia.

-Three Greenpeace activists were arrested for mischief after they boarded an ore carrier hauling coal across Lake Erie to a power plant in Ontario. They were trying to delay the delivery of 30,000 tons of coal to the Nanticoke power plant to draw attention to global warming.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is lower at 94.77 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0552 in Canadian funds.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is unchanged at 4.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 6.25 percent.

Stock markets were higher Friday, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,596 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,616 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 21, 22, 24, 30 and 31; bonus 29 (Aug. 25) 9, 19, 31, 35, 39 and 42; bonus 1.

Regional briefs

-Reports suggesting a crime wave is gripping Halifax aren't true, according to police officials. They say violent crimes have decreased while criminal activity among young people is up only marginally. This follows a Canadian Center for Justice Statistics report showing Halifax and Nova Scotia with the fifth-highest rate of violent crime in Canada last year.

-Cases of West Nile virus are escalating in Manitoba. This summer, 355 people have tested positive for the disease, carried by infected mosquitoes. The virus causes flulike symptoms but in rare cases can result in a neurological disorder and possible death.

-Retired Alberta Premier Ralph Klein was late for his own hanging. Saying his flight was delayed, Klein arrived at a reception to unveil his official portrait that will hang in the Legislature. The portrait by Edmonton artist Xin Yu Zheng depicts a smiling, relaxed Klein in suit and tie, sitting on a window sill in his office.

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