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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cross-border battle escalating over Canadian shoppers in Bellingham, Washington

   Canada column for Sunday, Aug. 19/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   A cross-border battle has broken out as many residents of Bellingham, Wash. are fed up with hordes of shoppers invading from Canada.
   Thousands of people have supported a Facebook page urging the Costco store in Bellingham, 30 miles south of British Columbia, to ban Canadian shoppers during specific American-only hours.
   “Bellingham Costco needs a special time just for Americans," residents say.
   Spurred by lower prices and taxes, Canadians are scooping up the bargains – in particular a gallon of milk at half the price, cheese and gasoline selling for one-third less.
   Numerous Canadians interviewed said they buy 15 to 20 gallons of milk at a time and fill up their cars and cans with gas before returning home.
   Bellingham relies on its Canadian visitors and shoppers, said Chamber of Commerce president Ken Oplinger.
   “In the last two years, our sales tax generation has doubled or tripled the pace in the rest of the state and its almost entirely because of the Canadians coming south,” he said.
   Just down the road in Burlington, Wash., Mayor Steve Sexton says Canadians and their money are welcome there.
   “We appreciate you and look forward to serving you,” he said on the Facebook page called “Burlington Washington Welcomes Our Canadian Friends and Neighbors.”


   The Bank of Canada had an image of a person on its new $100 bank notes redrawn to be more Caucasian after focus groups raised questions about the ethnicity of an Asian-looking woman.
   The original image for the back of the plastic-like bills showed a woman scientist peering into a microscope.
   Eight groups of people reviewing the designs had “concerns” the researcher appears to be Asian, said a report obtained under the Access to Information Act.
   “Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown,” the report said.


   News in brief:
   - Tough contract talks are expected as the Canadian Auto Workers union wants to regain some ground after making concessions when the big U.S. automakers were struggling. Investing in technology would increase productivity, improve profits and make workers’ jobs more secure, said union president Ken Lewenza. The union represents about 8,000 Canadian workers at General Motors as well as Chrysler and 4,500 workers at Ford.
   - Women Mounties have won a battle over what to wear. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police bosses faced allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment before approving a request to allow women to wear pants and boots with their formal uniforms. An unnamed female officer filed a grievance almost 10 years ago after her request to wear boots and pants instead of a skirt and black leather pumps was denied.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s annual inflation rate fell in July as consumer prices rose 1.3 percent from a year earlier, while June’s rate was up 1.5 percent.
   Canada’s dollar has advanced to $1.0111 U.S. while the greenback is worth 98.89 cents in Canadian funds.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is unchanged at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,077 points and the TSX Venture index 1,227 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Aug. 15) 1, 6, 12, 19, 24 and 31; bonus 5. (Aug. 11) 17, 20, 22, 35, 38 and 48; bonus 36. Lotto Max: (Aug. 10) 2, 15, 18, 19, 22, 27 and 49; bonus 40.


   Regional briefs:
   - Support is dwindling for continuing tuition-fee protests in Quebec by students at junior colleges who have voted to end their six-month strike. University students have yet to vote. Many students had their spring session interrupted by the strikes that the provincial government has now outlawed as the Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest seeks re-election on Sept. 4.
   - An international livability survey says Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary are among the top-five livable cities in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit survey said the Canadian cities follow Melbourne, Australia and Vienna, Austria. Rankings for 140 cities were scored on stability (level of crime), health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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