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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Canadians could forgo Florida trips over driver's permit law

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 24/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   There are indications many Canadians will forgo their March-break trips to Florida over a contentious new law that requires International Driver’s Permits (IDP).
   Even though Florida authorities say police won’t enforce the law that’s expected to be amended and requires the permits for all foreign drivers, including Canadians, that might not be enough.
   “Until the law is changed, we continue to recommend Canadians traveling to Florida should consider obtaining an IDP,” the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) advises.
   Since the law “remains in effect,” there is “some uncertainty on how insurance companies and Florida car rental agencies will interpret the law,” it said.
   “Was going to go down for a trip next month driving but not now,” someone identified as “Rugby Norm” posted on the Toronto Star website.
   “Plain and simple, Florida obviously doesn't care about Canadians,” he wrote, adding that a trip to the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training is also “off the list of to do now.”
   CAA offices have been packed with people buying the $25 international permits that supplement a provincial driver’s license.
   Florida Tourism officials are concerned over the law’s impact as Canadians are the state’s top international market with 3.1-million visitors in 2010.


   Canadian Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay has apologized to rival Justin Trudeau for suggesting he’s a wealthy elitist out of touch with the middle class.
   At a leadership debate, she questioning whether Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has any real understanding of the problems facing average Canadians.
   She was booed after which Trudeau said his privileged background isn’t an issue, what matters is his commitment to public service.
   The next Liberal leader will be chosen on April 14.


   News in brief:
   - The number of Canadians making overnight trips to the United States hit a record high in December at nearly 2 million. As well, same-day car trips topped 2.7 million after Canada revised higher its duty-free limits for cross-border shoppers. In December, travel to Canada from the U.S. rose to 1.7 million trips.
   - Three people died in a house fire in Victoria, British Columbia after a party. The victims were Emily Morin, 20, Mark Mitchell, 26, and Georgina Klap, 22. Firefighters said partygoers had put out a fire in a couch on the porch earlier in the evening and it's possible it re-ignited.
   - Former Cabinet minister Eugene Whelan, known for his trademark green Stetson and gruff language, has died at the age of 88. He served as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Essex-Windsor in Ontario from 1962 until 1984 and was agriculture minister for 12 years.


   Facts and figures:
   Lower gasoline prices helped drive Canada’s inflation rate to its lowest level in three years in January at 0.5 percent, causing the dollar to fall to 97.54 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returns $1.0251 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,701 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,141 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Feb. 20) 23, 31, 41, 45, 46 and 49; bonus 3. (Feb. 16) 3, 5, 13, 33, 34 and 44; bonus 8. Lotto Max: (Feb. 15) 14, 23, 24, 25, 28, 41 and 45; bonus 37.


   Regional briefs:
   - Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is threatening to force an election by not supporting the minority Liberal government’s budget. Premier Kathleen Wynne is continuing the legacy of Dalton McGuinty, who quit as premier in mid-term, Hudak said.
   - Canada’s Defense Department is prepared to assist in the recovery of a capsized boat that could contain the bodies of five fishermen off the Nova Scotia coast. The Miss Ally flipped over in rough seas last weekend.
   - A prominent professor at the University of Calgary has died of swine flu. Family members confirmed that Margo Husby-Scheelar, 64, died from H1N1. She was with the university’s Department of Communication and Culture.
   - The Quebec government said its language watchdog was a little too aggressive in pursuing a Montreal restaurant for excessive use of Italian on its menu. Acting on a complaint, owners of the Italian restaurant Buonanotte were told to switch words such as pasta, calamari and bottiglia to French.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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