Canada in Brief Feb. 17 – 23

By Matthew Simon
Matthew Simon
Matthew Simon
February 18, 2010 Updated: February 18, 2010

‘Buy American’ agreement ratified by Canada

Canada ratified a deal with the United States this week on its protectionist “Buy American” rules, which allows Canadian products to be used in a number of local stimulus-funded projects in the U.S.

“Today marks an important day in Canada-U.S. trade,” Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said on Tuesday. “The agreement is now in effect.”

The Buy American policy was introduced in the U.S. last year following the economic crisis, removing Canada from local and state projects being funded with economic stimulus cash.

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal welcomed the news of ratification, stating that the agreement will give Canadian business the chance to take part in infrastructure projects in 37 of the 50 American states.

“Over a year ago, when the major economic crisis revived the threat of protectionism, the Board of Trade, like many partners, decided to mobilize its allies-at home and in the United States-to reiterate the importance of free trade,” said the President and CEO of the Board of Trade, Michel Leblanc.

“We kept up the pressure on elected officials in both countries and, finally, our combined efforts yielded success.”

Ontario Police gather evidence from homes of accused Colonel

Ontario Provincial Police have been collecting evidence from the homes of Colonel Russell Williams in Ottawa and Tweed and will continue to over the coming days.

Williams turned himself in to Ottawa police last week and is now facing charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of two women, and the sexual assault of two other women last fall.

Police said earlier this week that they had matched one of the Colonel’s boots from a print at a murder scene.

The news of Williams’ alleged crimes has shocked the Canadian public, military, and those that worked closely with the commander. Greg McQuaid, a retired major, told Maclean’s, “I just can’t believe he did it… I’m hoping he didn’t, to tell you the truth.”

The colonel, 46, was the former commander of CFB Trenton, had a distinguished 23-year military career, and was at one time responsible for flying jets for heads of state, including the Prime Minster.

Williams reportedly stored keepsakes of his crimes, including photographs of and clothing from the victims. He is expected to make an appearance in court via video conference on Feb. 18.

Ottawa makes changes to mortgage rules

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty introduced new measures Tuesday to prevent instability in Canada’s housing market.

“A key lesson of the global financial crisis is that early policy action can help prevent negative trends from developing," said Flaherty in a statement.

Among the new provisions, all borrowers must meet the standards for a five-year fixed rate mortgage even if they choose a mortgage with a lower interest rate and shorter term. This step is meant to prevent homeowners from taking on too much debt, and prevent the difficulties that might be caused were interest rates to increase.

The current interest rate is at an all-time-low of 0.25 per cent, but is expected to increase this summer.

Prospective homeowners will also be required to make a minimum down payment of 20 per cent for government-backed mortgage insurance on non-owner-occupied properties.

“There's no clear evidence of a housing bubble, but we're taking proactive, prudent and cautious steps today to help prevent one,” Flaherty said.
The provisions come into effect on April 19, 2010.

Compiled by Matthew Simon, Epoch Times Staff