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SARS emergency in Ontario

With more reported cases of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in the past week, the Ontario government has declared a "health emergency." In response, they have quarantined several households and closed a school and an emergency ward as a precaution.

The unusual measures, which fall under Ontario’s emergency powers legislation, are rarely invoked.

Some 25 Toronto residents have been showing symptoms of SARS, including several health care workers who came in contact with the disease. Nineteen cases are confirmed, and three people have died with the illness. Several more are seriously ill.

Experts are still trying to categorize the disease, and are slowly learning how it incubates and spreads. It is potentially an airborne disease, which makes it especially hard to contain without the unusual measure of quarantining patients and those who came in contact with the disease.

The school closure came after three kindergarten students fell ill with a fever that has yet to be diagnosed. The school is close to the Scarborough Grace Hospital, where the three SARS-related deaths occurred.

The disease likely originated in Asia, probably at meat and poultry factories in Hong Kong. The first reported case in Canada, Sui-chu Kwan, recently travelled to Hong Kong, and died of complications on March 5.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 487 cases of SARS around the globe. Thirty-four people have died in China.

There is just one reported case in British Columbia.

Population continues to climb

The population of the Great White North has risen to 31,499,560 as of Jan. 1, 2003, according to Statistics Canada. That is up 258,713 over the previous year, for a growth rate of 0.8 per cent.

The population of British Columbia rose to 4,155,779.

The report came a few weeks after the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute think tank published a report that, contrary to widely accepted belief, large-scale immigration is not essential to economic growth in Canada, and that the country is not facing a massive skills shortage.

The document, Is There Really a Looming Labour Shortage in Canada?, casts doubt on the effectiveness of Canada’s immigration policy, the highest per capita in the world, in supporting the economy. It also questions whether immigrants benefit from immigration to the extent that the government assumes.

The Fraser Institute believes that the quality of goods and productivity of the workforce will ultimately determine the country’s economic fortunes, not the number of people.

Nanaimo hotel smoking again

There are no employees at the Occidental Hotel in Nanaimo, just business partners pitching in behind the bar, in the kitchen and waiting tables. As a result, these workers do not require the protection of the WCB, and WCB laws that force restaurant and bar owners to provide separately ventilated areas for smokers are null and void – at least for now.

With other local bars complaining, the WCB has pledged to look into closing this loophole.

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