Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Edmonton Freezeway: Designer thinks it will help winter be more bearable

    Edmonton Freezeway, courtesy designer Matthew Gibbs.Edmonton Freezeway, courtesy designer Matthew Gibbs.

    When it comes to winter, Canadians fall roughly into two categories: Those who glory in the cold and snow, who can’t wait to get out on a rink or ski hill, and those who hunker down until spring arrives, except for unavoidable excursions like butt-clenching commutes on icy freeways.

    Matthew Gibbs wants more of us in the first group. He thinks he’s found a way of luring more people outdoors by turning city sidewalks into vast urban skating trails.

    The Edmonton native is the creative force behind an ambitious concept to transform stretches in the Alberta capital’s downtown into what he calls a “freezeway.”

    The idea, he says, would draw people out of their homes, providing physical activity and making Edmonton’s often bleak downtown winterscape into a cultural hub of cafes, restaurants, cultural activities and just plain fun.

    The concept ties in well with Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy, says its co-ordinator, Sue Holdsworth. The strategy aims to turn Edmonton's climactic reality into a

    Read More »from Edmonton Freezeway: Designer thinks it will help winter be more bearable
  • Vet's attack plan an extreme reaction to widespread frustration with Veterans' Affairs

    This Calgary skyscraper was the target of an attack plan designed by Glen Gieschen. (CBC) This Calgary skyscraper was the target of an attack plan designed by Glen Gieschen. (CBC)

    While they don’t condone what Glen Gieschen did, veterans’ advocates say the former soldier’s plan to attack a Veterans Affairs office in Calgary with guns and explosives shows what can happen when veterans try to get help for illnesses that are hard to link to their military service.

    Gieschen was sentenced to four years in prison this week after pleading guilty to several weapons charges last November. He was given 18 months credit for time spent in custody since his arrest in January 2014.

    Apparently he was upset at the way Veterans Affairs was handling his claim that he had developed multiple sclerosis as a result of a flu shot while still in the armed forces.

    Gieschen’s wife called police when she became concerned he was suicidal. He was arrested under Alberta’s Mental Health Act but later charged criminally after police discovered a cache of guns, chemicals to make explosives, body armour and schematics for the federal government building that housed the Veterans Affairs office

    Read More »from Vet's attack plan an extreme reaction to widespread frustration with Veterans' Affairs
  • B.C. nurses vow to take patient violence to court

    Dr. Gary B. Collins, Department Head of Surgery, left and charge nurse Deb Renner Jan. 18, 2012. (AP)Dr. Gary B. Collins, Department Head of Surgery, left and charge nurse Deb Renner Jan. 18, 2012. (AP)

    Violence against nurses and other health-care workers by patients is a serious problem but the B.C. Nurses’ Union, tired of waiting for health officials to deal with it, is taking unilateral steps to protect its members.

    The 42,000-member union announced Tuesday it will pursue legal action on behalf of any nurse who authorizes it, including pressing charges against the attacker.

    The union, which is holding its annual convention in Vancouver this week, says it has also set up a 24-hour toll-free hotline for nurses to report abuse.

    Union president Gayle Duteil told CKNW’s Simi Sara Show that nurses are often expected to shake off the slaps, punches and scratches they get from unruly or mentally disturbed patients.

    "Nurse managers are often, ‘well you just have to get used to it.’ It’s an expectation of the job," she told the radio open-line host.

    Duteil said 55 per cent of workplace violence claims filed with WorkSafe BC involve health-care workers, a figure she believes underestimates

    Read More »from B.C. nurses vow to take patient violence to court
  • Medical pot users make case against large-scale production in court

    Master Grower Ryan Douglas waters marijuana plants in a growing room in Smith's Falls, Ontario. (Reuters)Master Grower Ryan Douglas waters marijuana plants in a growing room in Smith's Falls, Ontario. (Reuters)

    The Conservative government’s effort to rein in the shambolic medicinal marijuana market is facing potential derailment as two high-level court cases seek to reduce Ottawa’s ability to regulate who produces cannabis and in what form.

    A Federal Court hearing is underway in Vancouver on a constitutional challenge to the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), that were supposed to be fully in place last April 1. 

    Instead, a group of medical marijuana users is opposing the rules, which would force them to give up growing their own pot and instead permit them only to buy from large-scale federally licensed commercial growers. 

    They argue they’ll be forced to pay more and have less choice in strains of cannabis. They’ll also be limited to possessing no more than 150 grams of pot, compared with the old rules that allowed a 30-day supply.

    The regulations set out in 2013 replace rules laid out more than a decade ago that gave medical marijuana users the right to grow a limited

    Read More »from Medical pot users make case against large-scale production in court
  • Rural fire fighting needs more support before tragedy strikes another First Nation

    A fire-fighter works to extinguish a fire near the town of Sderot August 20, 2014. (Reuters)A fire-fighter works to extinguish a fire near the town of Sderot August 20, 2014. (Reuters)

    It may never be clear whether two young children who died in a fire on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northwestern Saskatchewan could have been saved if the neighbouring Loon Lake volunteer fire department had shown up when called.

    An investigation by the RCMP and Saskatchewan’s Office of the Fire Commissioner is underway and there will likely be an inquest into how the two-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl died in the house fire early Tuesday morning.

    Fingers were quickly pointed at the volunteer fire crew from the village of Loon Lake, which did not respond because the First Nation reportedly owed the department about $3,400 for previous fire calls.

    Volunteer fire chief Larry Heon has said his trucks would have needed 20 minutes or more to reach the reserve, likely not in time to save the children, who were carried out of the house by a reserve resident said to be their father. The fact the fire crew didn’t go has left members of the First Nation bitter.

    The deadly incident

    Read More »from Rural fire fighting needs more support before tragedy strikes another First Nation
  • Why regulating the 'sharing economy' should matter to you

    You may not have heard the term “sharing economy” but there’s a very good chance you’ve been part of it.

    Maybe you’ve grabbed a ride through Uber, booked a place to stay using Airbnb while traveling, bought or sold something on eBay or Craigslist or maybe invested in someone’s project via Kickstarter. Perhaps you’re actually the one behind the wheel of an Uber car or renting out the spare room in your home to visitors.

    Sharing-economy business platforms are cutting a swath through the traditional way of buying and selling goods and services, yet a new report says governments seem to have no idea how to regulate them in a way that protects the public and workers while not hobbling innovative — and clearly popular — new business models.


    Related Stories:

    Taxi app Uber’s Canadian growth causing battles with cities, cab companies

    Kickstarter suspends Canadians’ Blood Sport, a gaming system that draws real blood

    Craigslist luxury rental scam leaves Vancouver tenants on the sidewalk


    The

    Read More »from Why regulating the 'sharing economy' should matter to you
  • Officials walk fine line between fear of terrorism and intolerance in Quebec

    People wear religious head gear during a gathering in Montreal, Sunday, January 12, 2014. (CP)People wear religious head gear during a gathering in Montreal, Sunday, January 12, 2014. (CP)

    Fear of Islamist terrorism seems to be feeding into the fermenting debate over diversity and accommodation in Quebec, especially of its Muslim minority.

    Concern about the spread of radicalism was ostensibly behind a spate of decisions by local government related to Muslim activities.

    Montreal officials announced last month they would be blocking efforts by controversial cleric Hamza Chaoui to set up an Islamic centre on the east side of the city.

    The Moroccan-born Chaoui first preached at Laval University, leading services reportedly attended by Chiheb Esseghaier, one of the accused now on trial for allegedly plotting to bomb a VIA Rail train. Chaoui also preached at the mosque in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu attended by Muslim convert Martin Couture-Rouleau, who ran over and killed a Canadian soldier last October before being shot by police.

    According to The Canadian Press, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre described Chaoui, who reportedly has declared democracy incompatible with Islam, as an

    Read More »from Officials walk fine line between fear of terrorism and intolerance in Quebec
  • Understanding the cost of the True North

    Israel Mablick, an Inuk father of five who can't afford food to feed his family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickIsrael Mablick, an Inuk father of five who can't afford food to feed his family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
    Canada nurtures its image as the True North. It’s right there in the national anthem. But most of us who live within 200 miles of the U.S. border have no idea of what living the slogan actually means and what it costs.

    For real northerners, it means fighting to maintain services and infrastructure southerners take for granted: water, sewer, power and food supplies.

    Take Pond Inlet, for instance. The Nunavut community of about 1,500 on northern Baffin Island was down to one working sewage-collection truck last week.

    That is a crisis in a town that has lost its only mechanic, where a full septic tank means a home’s water system automatically shuts off, making the house essentially uninhabitable. And in a high-Arctic winter, it also means some of the underground tanks were freezing because their internal heating systems weren’t working.

    The territorial government flew in a mechanic last Wednesday and by Friday one of the three broken-down sewage trucks was back on the road after its

    Read More »from Understanding the cost of the True North
  • Should Ottawa be taxing women's periods?

    As the Conservative government rejigs its 2015/16 budget, delayed until April to deal with the impact of falling oil prices on tax revenue, a group of women is reviving an effort to exempt feminine hygiene products from GST, a move that could cost Ottawa millions.

    Proponents say it’s unjust and discriminatory to class tampons, sanitary napkins and other products women use during their menstrual periods as luxury items for taxation purposes.

    “It’s a product that women and girls use, and there’s not a whole lot of choice, and it should not be taxed, particularly when you look at the fact that items like incontinence products are not taxed,” says Ontario New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen, whose private member’s bill C-282 on the issue was first introduced in 2011.


    Related Stories:

    Federal budget to be delayed until April in light of low oil prices: Oliver

    Four great things Jim Flaherty did for Canada

    When politicians focus on the ‘middle class’ who are they talking to?


    The proposal has

    Read More »from Should Ottawa be taxing women's periods?
  • Is publicly shaming shoplifters a real deterrent?

    (Photo via Thinkstock)(Photo via Thinkstock)

    They call it shrinkage in the retail sales business. The rest of us call it shoplifting.

    It’s costly and aggravating for many merchants who know dealing with shoplifting complaints is pretty low on the police’s list of priorities.

    Toronto grocery store owner David Chen created legal tremors when he and some employees chased down a repeat shoplifter and trussed him up. But when the cops finally arrived, Chen was charged, too, with assault.

    The case got international attention and ultimately ended with Chen being acquitted, and the Conservative government amending legislation to strengthen citizen’s arrest rules.

    Now a convenience store chain in Hamilton, Ont., has raised eyebrows by posting photos of alleged shoplifters on its front windows.

    The suspected thieves, supposedly caught by store surveillance cameras, presumably have

    Read More »from Is publicly shaming shoplifters a real deterrent?

Pagination

(1,682 Stories)