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November 18, 2004

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Favouring currency union
National Post, Nov. 10

The downside of Canada's surging dollar is putting a controversial C.D. Howe Institute report back in the spotlight. A paper, authored by SFU economist Richard Harris and Queen's University professor Thomas Courchene, grabbed headlines in 1999. The duo argued that Canada's increasing economic integration with the United States made a common North American currency a practical solution to the economic uncertainties caused by Canada's floating exchange rate. When Canada's currency is undervalued against the U.S. dollar it discourages productivity improvements and drives investment to the U.S. When the currency is overvalued, as it is now, it can lead to downsizing of industries and off-shoring as costs rise. With the Canadian dollar at an all time high in decades compared to the U.S. buck, businesses and financiers are revisiting this theory. Harris and Courchene say a North American currency union would allow Canadian finance and central bank officials a degree of independence and control over monetary policy.

Science backs up police
New Westminster Record, Nov. 10

Science is backing up New Westminster police assurances that variations on a mass email warning women to beware of perfume bearing robbers in parking lots is a hoax. One of the latest urban myths cruising the internet is the tale of would-be robbers posing as perfume sales people using ether disguised as perfume to knock out unsuspecting women. The women take a sniff, enticed by the prospect of getting a good deal on the alluring stuff. SFU chemistry professor Peter Wilson says, “There are a lot of things that could knock someone out far more efficiently than ether. It is an anesthetic, but not a very strong one. You'd need a lung-full to be knocked out.”

Bush likely to do a political about face
Vancouver Sun, Nov. 5

The internationally held fear that the re-election of George Bush as the president of the United States will result in even more right-wing government in the world's most powerful nation is unfounded. That is the opinion of SFU political science professor Alex Moens, who has written extensively about Bush's presidency. Moens predicts Bush and his Republican colleagues in Congress and the Senate will feel pressure to follow former U.S. president Ronald Reagan's lead. In his second term, Reagan moved a long way toward the centre. Bush, Moens says, will likely do the same in an attempt to consolidate the social policy gains he made in his first term . “He will capitalize on the values he has achieved, and become more accommodationist at home and abroad,” foresees Moens.

The profit value of marijuana
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 4

SFU economics professor Stephen Easton believes politicians are making the same mistake today they did in the Roaring Twenties by trying to maintain prohibition of marijuana. Easton has researched the booming growth of the marijuana industry for the Fraser Institute think-tank, and his report is frequently used to argue for the legalization of pot. In his report, Easton says it is time to legalize marijuana and tax it: “Alcohol prohibition in the U.S. expanded organized crime in North America. Removing alcohol prohibition generated many problems, but none like those afflicting society in the days of Al Capone and his ilk. Removing the prohibition of marijuana production would permit society to replace today's give of revenue to organized crime with (at the very least) an additional source of revenue for government coffers.”

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