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Diplomat backs Gore as a 'friend of Canada'

By JIM FOX

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2000


The election of Al Gore over George W. Bush would be best for Canada, in the opinion of Raymond Chretien, Canadian ambassador to the United States.

The unprecedented endorsement came in a televised speech to federal officials as Chretien said: "We know Vice President Gore. He knows us. He's a friend of Canada."

Chretien should be reprimanded for his undiplomatic remarks, said Conservative Leader Joe Clark, who suggested that won't happen because the ambassador is Prime Minister Jean Chretien's nephew.

Bush "doesn't know us as much," Raymond Chretien said, adding the GOP candidate "would probably emphasize broad defense-security issues that might be a bit more difficult for us."

He recalled when a reporter on the comedy TV show This Hour Has 22 Minutes told Bush he had the support of the Canadian prime minister, "Jean Poutine." Bush replied: "Well, I appreciate his strong statement," not knowing the name was wrong.

(Poutine is french fries covered with gravy and cheese curds, popular in Quebec.)

As well, Gore is "still grateful for Canada."

Gore took his son, Albert, to Toronto General Hospital for surgery to restore movement to his right arm after a car crash in Baltimore in 1989.

Gore's election "probably would make life easier for us on broad environmental issues," the ambassador said, but "we will deal with whoever gets elected."

For Walkerton, pure water will take several weeks

It will take another six to eight weeks to restore pure municipal water in Walkerton, Ontario, where 11 deaths are attributed to a bacterial outbreak.

Under pressure, Ontario Premier Mike Harris, whose Conservatives are being blamed for cutbacks and inadequate water testing, called a full inquiry into the E. coli crisis in the town of 5,000 people.

Harris said human error, not provincial funding cuts, are to blame.

So far, seven deaths have been linked directly to contaminated water while another four deaths are suspected after 1,000 people became ill.

Local and government officials were criticized for not acting immediately on test results showing problems with the supply.

Once people started getting sick, Dr. Murray McQuigge, medical officer of health, conducted his own tests and issued a boil-water order.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar jumped more than 1 cent to 67.66 cents U.S. Friday as fears abated that the Bank of Canada would be unable to keep pace with the U.S. interest rate policy. The U.S. dollar was worth $1.4779 Canadian.

Mortgage rates dropped by about a third of a percent as inflation fears eased and the cost of borrowing dropped in the bond market.

The key interest rate remains at 6 percent while the prime lending rate is 7.5 percent.

Canadian stock markets were higher, with the Toronto Stock Exchange 300 Index at 9,747 points Friday and the Canadian Venture Exchange at 3,363 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 5, 11, 25, 32 and 34; bonus number 39. (May 27) 11, 14, 18, 27, 30 and 42; bonus 22.

Regional briefs

School students in Ontario will have to sing O Canada to "instill pride and respect" but the provincial government has backed away from ordering the daily recitation of a citizenship pledge.

The pledge, with a reference to Queen Elizabeth II, will instead be optional under a new code of conduct for students.

The Liberals would have won the last British Columbia election had voters known the socialist New Democratic Party's budget wouldn't be balanced, polling expert Julie Winram told a B.C. Supreme Court trial.

A citizens' group claims the party lied to voters and therefore won the election by fraud.

Arbitrator Bruce Outhouse ruled Friday the Canadian government must offer early retirement packages to all Cape Breton coal miners with at least 25 years' service, regardless of age. When the government decided to close its Nova Scotia mines this year it planned to give packages to miners 50 and older.

The ruling involves 246 miners and will cost $40-million.

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