From the prices over this side of the pond I notice the Acer's usually have the same price as the HP's, but usually outfitted with a better video card, more RAM and HD space.
Looks like in conversion to CDN, you have about 998 to spend, with that in mind I looked at our best online store in Canada, NCIX.com: NCIX.com - Buy Acer AS7730-6717 Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 4GB 320GB 17IN WXGA DVDRW LAN Vista Home Premium Notebook - LX.AS30X.011 In Canada.
4GB ram and 17 inch display, 2.16ghz dual core2, pretty nice for 969$ and in your price range.
Another model is: NCIX.com - Buy Acer AS6935-6683 Core 2 Duo T6400 4GB 500GB 16IN WXGA DVDRW Vista Premium Notebook - LX.ATN0X.047 In Canada.
Bigger HD, a couple extra bucks more then 998$ but still, up to you if its worth the extra HD. NCIX.com - Buy Acer Aspire AS5735-6999 Core 2 Duo T6400 4GB 500GB 15.6IN WXGA DVDRW LAN Vista Premium Notebook - LX.AU50X.261 In Canada.
This one is nice, but only a 15.6 display, however its 879$.
Some good choices for your "small" budget, I wish I had that much to blow on a nice new laptop, I'm thinking of a netbook personally, just for surfing and playing sins of a solar empire.