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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beyond the Border to ease crossing into Canada and the U.S.

   Canada column published on Sunday, Dec. 11/11


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The historic border security and trade agreement for Canada and the United States is intended to ease the movement of people and goods between the two countries.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Beyond the Border measures “represent the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement."
   After their meeting in Washington, President Barack Obama encouraged more Canadians to come to the U.S. as “they spend more money in America than any other visitors.”
   The key goal is to streamline the process of crossing the border through improved screening and security procedures.
   Included will be an entry-exit information-sharing system at land borders to improve the ability to track people who are in Canada illegally or who overstay their visa.
   Critics of the deal suggest Canadians might be giving up too much personal information that will be shared by both countries.
   Some 300,000 people a day cross the border and trade between the two countries amounts to more than $1 billion daily.
   Canadians stayed 47.4-million nights in Florida alone in 2009 and it was suggested they obtain NEXUS passes for “trusted travelers” to ease crossing the border.


   A bill to get tougher on criminals that was passed by Canada’s Parliament needs to be balanced by crime-prevention efforts, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said.
   Among the provisions are increased penalties for sexual offences against children and stopping the use of home detention instead of jail for violent criminals.
   The Canadian Bar Association said the changes, still to be approved by the Senate, are a waste of money and will result in overcrowded prisons and court backlogs.


   News in brief:
   - Top socialist concerns including the environment, economy and small business support were outlined by the nine candidates seeking the leadership of the New Democratic Party. They were taking part in the first of six all-candidate debates to select the successor to the late Jack Layton as head of Canada’s official opposition in the Commons. In the race are Niki Ashton, Robert Chisholm, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Thomas Mulcair, Peggy Nash, Romeo Saganash, Martin Singh and Brian Topp.
   - Two drunken executives who caused an Air Canada flight to be diverted to Vancouver while north of Alaska have been fired by their employer Research In Motion. The BlackBerry maker said they have been let go for “unprofessional behavior.” George Campbell, 45, and Paul Wilson, 38, were ordered by a court to pay the airline about $72,000 in restitution. The 312 passengers had to be booked into hotels and the flight resumed the next day.


   Facts and figures:
   The Bank of Canada has again left its key interest rate at 1 percent where analysts think it might remain for another year. The prime lending rate remains at 3 percent.
   The Canadian dollar is higher at 98.98 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0103 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,984 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,537 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 6, 8, 24, 27, 31 and 41; bonus 48. (Dec. 3) 8, 24, 34, 38, 41 and 42; bonus 22. Lotto Max: (Dec. 2) 23, 29, 33, 34, 39, 44 and 48; bonus 32.


   Regional briefs:
   - Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter had some sobering thoughts when he reported provincial residents pay “more than necessary” for liquor, wine and beer. That’s because of the government-owned monopoly that needs to modernize its pricing practices, he said. McCarter also said Ontarians are paying too much for auto insurance and the green energy initiatives of the government.
   - A standoff with police left two Mounties shot and wounded near Breton, Alberta. The officers had “non-life-threatening” injuries while a man barricaded in a house with a woman was also shot and wounded.
   - Santa Claus is getting snowed under with mail at Canada’s North Pole. The Canadian post office expects to handle 1.25-million letters from children around the world this year. Some 9,000 “elves” are helping to respond to each one of the letters. The address is: Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada HOH OHO (ho, ho, ho). Santa is also handling e-mails now at: www.canadapost.ca


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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