Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Winning the lottery can be more frightening than exciting for Canadians

    A woman holds a ticket purchased for the U.S.  Powerball lottery on February 9, 2015. (Reuters)A woman holds a ticket purchased for the U.S. Powerball lottery on February 9, 2015. (Reuters)

    If you play the lottery regularly, you probably love that interval between the time you buy the ticket and when the numbers are drawn.

    You get to dream a little about what you’ll do with all those millions if you win. You conjure fantasies about quitting your job, lying on a beach, paying cash for your dream house and studding the driveway with toys or playing lady bountiful to your family. That’s what the lottery ads suggest, anyway.

    The dream almost always evaporates after you check your numbers. But for the rare few, that moment makes the dream real. And that can be a daunting prospect.

    Suddenly, you’re confronted with the challenge of actually making decisions about the equivalent of several lifetimes’ earnings for the average person. No one could blame you for being intimidated.

    In B.C., for instance, someone came forward Monday to claim a $50-million Lotto Max price just days before the March 14, 2014, ticket was set to expire.

    It’s the longest anyone has ever waited to bring

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  • Weekend deaths in Quebec cast light on snowmobile safety

    Speed a factor in Etobicoke woman's snowmobile death: policeSpeed a factor in Etobicoke woman's snowmobile death: police
    A spate of snowmobile deaths in Quebec last weekend is once again calling into question the safety of one of Canada’s most popular winter pastimes.

    Three people died, bringing to 27 the number of people who’ve died aboard snowmobiles in Quebec so far this season. It equals the figure for the 2012-13 season and one below the fatality total for 2010-11, according to figures compiled by the Fédération des Clubs de Motoneigistes du Québec.

    Eleven of this year’s deaths happened off Quebec’s 32,000 kilometres of maintained trails and three involved alcohol, according to the federation’s figures.

    Dozens of people die in snowmobile accidents in Canada every year, though precise figures are hard to come by because provinces usually lump them in with other types off off-road accidents, such as all-terrain vehicle rollovers.

    But data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information suggests snowmobiling trails only skiing and snowboarding in winter activities that result in trips to the

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  • TSN Twitter flap highlights the liability users have for what they tweet

    Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf poses during a shoot for a television network Sept. 18, 2014. (CP)Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf poses during a shoot for a television network Sept. 18, 2014. (CP)

    Canadians this week got a short, sharp object lesson in the pitfalls of unfiltered social media courtesy of some Toronto Maple Leafs and a Canadian-born Hollywood starlet.

    Most of us by now understand the perils of posting potentially embarrassing things about ourselves or hurtful things about others on Twitter, Facebook or on other social platforms, even if some people do it anyway.

    But the legal consequences of saying something nasty came home to Leafs fan Anthony Adragna.

    While watching the TSN sports channel’s NHL trade deadline coverage on Monday, Adragna tweeted what he apparently considered a droll remark about the personal relationships of Leafs’ captain Dion Pheneuf, his wife actress Elisha Cuthbert and forward Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul.

    The tweet ended up as part of the Twitter feed TSN was scrolling across the screen during its program.

    Lupul didn’t take long to respond to the nasty piece of gossip:

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  • Right to die legal debate takes another turn in B.C.

    Margot Bentley (CBC)Margot Bentley (CBC)
    The lawyer for a family that claims their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother is being fed against her will in a nursing home says there are grounds to take a B.C. Court of Appeal decision on the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Vancouver lawyer Kieran Bridge says 83-year-old Margo Bentley, who lives in an Abbotsford, B.C., care home, left written instructions that if she became terminally incapacitated she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means, including receiving “nourishment or liquids.”

    Bentley is in the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease first diagnosed in 1999. She does not recognize anyone, is unresponsive and requires someone to perform all basic needs.

    As a retired nurse who used to take care of dementia patients, Bentley anticipated this, said Bridge. She told her family verbally and in writing she did not want to be kept alive.

    But her caregivers have been feeding her with a spoon, which her husband and daughter, her legal guardians, argued first in B.C. Supreme

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  • Norwegian author's fat comment hits Canadians' self-esteem

    (Photo: Thinkstock)(Photo: Thinkstock)

    You’ve probably never heard of Karl Ove Knausgaard, unless you happened on the flap he caused in the last few days by trashing the eating habits of Newfoundlanders in a New York Times Magazine article.

    Knausgaard is a Norwegian author best known for a six-part, 3,500-page memoir entitled Min Kamp (My Struggle), which should not be connected in any way with an identically titled book by a certain political leader in Germany in the 1920s.

    Social media is still rippling with reaction to Knausgaard’s observation that almost everyone he encountered in a restaurant in St. Anthony, N.L., during a trip to visit abandoned Viking settlements at L’Anse aux Meadows was fat, and apparently proud of it.

    “Everyone in the place, except the waiter, was fat, some of them so fat that I kept having to look at them,” Knausgaard said, recalling his dinner at a place called Jungle Jim’s.

    “I had never seen people that fat before. The strange thing was that none of them looked as if they were trying to hide

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  • Farewell message on Frosted Flakes also a fitting epitaph for branch plants

    It’s not unusual to find a surprise inside a box of cereal. Often it’s good, like a coupon or a little toy. Sometimes it’s something nasty, which warrants a stern letter to the manufacturer of said cereal.

    And sometimes it's poignant, like the surprise high school teacher Stephane Gaudette got when he opened a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes on Monday morning. The wax paper package inside contained this message:

    “This is the very last bag of Canadian cereal for the Canadian market from Kellogg’s London Ontario plant. Fri. Dec. 5, 2014.”


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    The bag was signed by three workers who’d been employed at the nine-decade-old plant between 24 and 29 years.

    According to the London Free Press, Kellogg’s London plant shut down for good on Dec. 21, putting 500 people out of work. It made 27 cereals, including Corn Flakes, Frosted

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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