Wet snow and weak squalls will kick off the first weekend of December, as 'seasonably chilly' temperatures lock in through mid-month.
The minimum price of gas is back up over $1 on P.E.I. after spending a couple of months below that mark.The minimum price for regular, self-serve gas was up 1.1 cents on Friday in the regular weekly price review from the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.That sets the price at $1.005 per litre. The last time the price was over $1 was in early October. The price fell as low as $0.938 last month.Diesel was also up, with the minimum price for self-serve set at $1.093. That's 1.2 cents higher than last week.Heating oil prices did not change.Propane prices were up and down, depending on the retailer. Here are the maximum prices for bulk delivery. * Irving: Down 0.1 cents to $0.75 per litre. * Island Petroleum: Up 0.5 cents to $0.752 per litre. * Kenmac: Down 0.5 cents to $0.751 per litre. * Noonan: Down 0.5 cents to $0.751 per litre. * Superior: Up 0.2 cents to $0.752 per litre.The next scheduled price review is Dec. 11.More from CBC P.E.I.
A Calgary police officer has been promoted just weeks after he was ordered to a disciplinary hearing for his role in the shooting death of an unarmed man inside a hotel room. On Nov. 18, Lon Brewster was promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant, six weeks after Chief Mark Neufeld released a decision charging the officer and three others with Police Act offences. Those offences include unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority and neglecting duties as police officers.Anthony Heffernan, 27, was fatally shot inside a northeast hotel room in 2015, after police were called for a wellness check.The latest move by CPS is another gut punch to Heffernan's parents, Pat and Irene. "It's totally unreasonable," said Pat in reaction to news of the promotion.Irene called the promotion "unconscionable." "I guess they don't really consider taking someone's life to be very important."72 secondsHeffernan had relapsed and was taking drugs at the time he was shot.Five officers busted in his hotel room, justifying it because they said they were concerned for his safety.Just 72 seconds later, he'd been shot four times, including three in the head and neck.Brewster was not the shooter or the one who made the call to enter the hotel room but was the highest ranking officer at the scene. According to CPS, Brewster has never faced disciplinary action before or since the hotel incident and has "demonstrated a strong commitment to policing and the community over his 14-year career.""We consider factors like when the incident occurred, what their role was in the incident, whether there is a pattern of misconduct or incompetence, and whether they have demonstrated a commitment to our values over their career," said the service in a written statement provided to CBC News.Losing hopeBut the Heffernans say they are losing hope for accountability."When a person is killed when they're on a health and wellness check, this is extremely serious, this isn't just some minor thing where someone said he misspoke to them or treated them poorly … and yet the police are sloughing it off," said Pat Heffernan."The message it sends to us is that they don't want to be held accountable."On the afternoon of March 16, 2015, officers were called to the hotel after Heffernan stayed past his check-out time. It was determined that Heffernan was likely doing drugs inside the room and officers requested and received permission from an acting staff sergeant to break in. Of the five officers who entered the room, Brewster was the only one who did not walk in with his gun or Taser drawn.Anthony's death an 'inconvenience' to CPS, says familyOnce inside, the officers reported Heffernan was holding a syringe and wasn't responding to their commands. A Taser was deployed but hit Heffernan's shirt. He tried to remove the probes and moved toward the officers in a motion Brewster described as a "lunge."That's when Const. Maurice McLoughlin opened fire, shooting Heffernan four times.The syringe officers had spotted in Heffernan's hand was ultimately found without a needle."Anthony's death to them is an inconvenience but it's not anything they're going to look at to make changes so this does not happen again," said Pat Heffernan.Officer who shot Heffernan resignsThe salary range for a sergeant is $126,922 to $130,728 per year, while the compensation increases to $137,322 to $141,461 for a staff sergeant.McLoughlin, the officer who shot Heffernan, resigned from the force prior to the decision by the police chief and will avoid any hearings or penalties as a result — a move the Heffernan family has previously called "cowardly."Following an investigation, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) recommended he be charged. The Crown prosecution service did not pursue charges. Alberta is one of the few, if not the only, jurisdictions in the country where police officers can resign in the face of discipline and maintain a clean record.The disciplinary hearing is likely to take place in late 2021.
THE LATEST: * Daily update on numbers expected in a written statement around 3 p.m. PT. * Health officials announced 694 new cases Thursday, as well as 12 more deaths. * There are now 9,103 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C. * 325 patients are in hospital, with 80 in intensive care. * 481 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began * New restrictions mean indoor and outdoor adult team sports are banned, kids' sports limited.Though B.C.'s active caseload continues to grow and the death toll keeps rising sharply, there is light at the end of the tunnel with news that COVID-19 vaccine rollout is expected to begin in the first week of January.On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the first shipments of vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna should begin arriving within weeks, and priority patients including residents of long-term care are expected to get the first shots early in 2021.By spring, there should be enough doses in the province for the vaccine to become more widely available, and Henry said the goal is to reach everyone who wants a vaccine by September.But that is still months away, and in the meantime, Henry said it's more important than ever that people buckle down and get serious about following public health orders and advice.On Thursday, she announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are 325 patients in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a slight dip from Wednesday. Eighty are in intensive care.Meanwhile, health officials have announced a ban on all indoor and outdoor adult sports as well as new limitations on children's sports. They've also updated the restrictions for group fitness activities.All the details can be found here.Henry said Thursday that between 10 and 15 per cent of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks have been linked to sports and recreational activities.Public health orders remain in place banning all public and community events and limiting social interactions to people within your immediate household. Those orders will be reviewed on Monday.READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaAs of Thursday night, there have been 396,270 cases of COVID-19 in Canada. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,407.In Quebec, the premier has officially told the public that all Christmas gatherings need to be cancelled this year.Federal officials released their own details Thursday about the plans for a vaccine, cautioning that the initial supply will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get a shot in the first three months of 2021.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Unseasonably warm temperatures so far this month are causing Northwest Territories residents some problems.In Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., Chuck Gruben's truck wasn't having it."I started to back out of the driveway and I started going sideways," he told Wanda McLeod on CBC's Northwind.The thermostat hit zero degrees in the hamlet on Thursday, balmy for this time of year, when the average high is around -20 C. But Tuktoyaktuk's temperatures were frigid compared with other communities in the territory.Norman Wells hit a tropical 11.1 C — smashing its previous record-high for December of 5.7 C, set in 1985. Wrigley also hit 11 degrees Thursday, while Fort Simpson, Sambaa K'e and the South Slave region all saw temperatures above zero. "It's not normal," said Gruben, commenting on the heavy rain he was seeing in Tuktoyaktuk. He said conditions were slippery and many people stayed home."Even to get down your steps, it's pretty scary," he said. "My wife, she went out to her work truck this morning. She had to sit on the steps and go down each step on her bum." The unusually warm weather may be even harder on the animals."For any animals or birds that forage out there, it's going to be hard to dig for food once it freezes," said Gruben.While temperatures in Tuktoyaktuk are forecasted to descend into the minus-teens and twenties over the weekend, these recent days of rain and warmth might not be forgotten by the caribou. "These are the kind of winters that we dread for the caribou," said Gruben, especially considering how animal numbers are declining. "This just contributes to make it worse for them," he said. "Going to see a lot of skinny caribou."
P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.Access PEI has installed new systems to help hearing-impaired Islanders communicate through Plexiglas shields.After the City of Charlottetown announces free parking in December to support downtown merchants during the pandemic, the Green Party wonders why not free buses?In a weekly interview with CBC News: Compass, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, said she is pleased the Island hasn't seen widespread community transmission.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.\Morrison said Thursday in a written news release one additional COVID-19 case has been confirmed in P.E.I. The man is in his 20s and is a rotational worker who recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. He has been self-isolating since arriving in P.E.I. and tested positive on routine testing. Contact tracing has been completed, the release said. The case is not related to any other recent positive cases.P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday; the province now has 119 active cases. New Brunswick reported six new cases Thursday, and is dealing with 111 active cases.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
Both the mayor of Charlottetown and the president of the Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities want time to consult their constituents about the possibility of lowering the provincial voting age.Green MLA Karla Bernard introduced a private member's bill to the P.E.I. Legislature last month to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Mayor Philip Brown said the city should be consulted. "The changes will not only affect the Election Act for the province, but also the Municipal Government Act," Brown said."There is a duty to consult here, and I think that has to be taken into account."The bill had its second reading in the legislature on Nov. 26 and has gone to committee. Brown expressed concern with the part of the bill stating that even if the voting age is lowered to 16, the age when someone could run as a candidate would still be 18. "If we're trying to encourage young people or the youth to be involved, well, you know what? If you can vote, you can also run as a candidate," said Brown. "It's like getting your car licence at 16, but you're not going to be allowed to drive until you're 18." On Monday, Charlottetown council passed a motion to send the proposed voting age amendments to the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities to gauge its feedback. Federation wants discussion "Before anything like this happens, I believe the federation should be consulted, and we haven't been so far," said Bruce MacDougall, the organization's president and a Summerside councillor."It's a very important topic and I believe all our municipalities should have a say in it."MacDougall said he could reach out to each of the 59 municipalities in the federation to ask for opinions on the issue, but he would rather bring it up at the federation's AGM, which he said is "not for a while now." "I think there should be some real good discussion around this and I believe our AGM is our best option."In the meantime, MacDougall said the federation will be sending a letter to the leaders of the provincial Progressive Conservative, Green and Liberal parties to let them know where the organization stands on the issue. More from CBC P.E.I.
A new tenants rights group in the province hopes to help renters navigate the rules and regulations of renting, and work to change those rules."New Brunswick is far behind as compared to other provinces in terms of what kinds of protections are afforded to tenants," said one of the group's organizers, Aditya Rao. The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights was formed by a group of renters. "Tenants in New Brunswick have far fewer rights than almost anywhere else in the country. We've seen this to be quite clear over the last several weeks with stories about rent increases and evictions," said Rao. The coalition is currently calling for a moratorium on all evictions during the pandemic.In Thursday's news conference, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the number of evictions renters have faced this year. "They're currently lower than in previous years," he said.While Service New Brunswick has received 1,525 eviction requests in the first 10 months of this year (2,518 in 2019 and 1,688 in 2018), it doesn't track lease terminations, which are used in many cases to remove a tenant, for reasons such as renovations. Rao said it's a practice he's been hearing is used often. The group wants to institute regulations that would ensure inspections are done regularly at rental properties. "So that they cannot get to the point that they're so dilapidated that tenants need to be unhoused in order for the apartment to be fixed," he said.Higgs said his government is in talks with landlords in an effort to understand the rental situation in the province. Low housing availability has become a big problem in the province's three major cities, with Fredericton's vacancy rate at about 1.4 per cent. "We know that there are new buildings going up," said Higgs. "We know that renovations are going on in apartments. But we're being told by the landlords that … the rental rate increases are low. We will pursue to understand that before we act on a policy that may have been necessary somewhere else, and may, or may not be necessary here."Rao said the coalition will be launching policy proposals over the next few weeks. "We're calling on the government to significantly overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act with a view to protecting tenants rights, including by instituting rent control, of course, but also by creating an eviction prevention program, among other things." On its website, the group is asking people to write their MLA's to add some of these reforms to the Act.
The Nihtat Gwich'in Council is going to court in an attempt to stop the N.W.T. government's proposal to build a wind turbine near Inuvik. The Gwich'in Land and Water Board approved a water licence and land use permit for the Inuvik Wind Project on Nov. 27, the same day the Nihtat Gwich'in Council asked the N.W.T. Supreme Court to overturn an earlier board decision on the project.NT Energy, a sister company of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, wants to build a single wind turbine in an area known as Highpoint, 12 kilometres east of Inuvik. The hub of the massive turbine would be 75 to 100 meters tall.In January, the Nihtat Gwich'in Council argued that the project is located on lands that have long been set aside for reindeer grazing. Established in December 1933, the reindeer reserve is a 17,094-square-kilometre tract of land east of the Mackenzie Delta.Placing a turbine project on the area would contravene their land agreement, Nihtat Gwich'in Council leaders said, and requested the land and water board rule the corporation failed to establish a lawful right to occupy the land.But the Gwich'in Land and Water Board disagreed and, in an October decision, ruled the corporation had a right to occupy the lands and the that permit was valid.The Inuvik Wind Project was originally proposed in 2018, after the viability of the project was studied by the Aurora Research Institute. Shortly after, the power corporation submitted an application and asked for a permit to build and operate a wind farm — along with an all-season access road — to the territorial and federal governments with the hope of seeing the project completed by fall of 2020. According to the decision document, the plan is for NT Energy to build the project on behalf of the government, then transfer the complete project to NT Hydro (the parent company of both NT Energy and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation) to deliver renewable energy, significant fossil fuel displacement, and improve rate stability for 25 thermal zone communities. Going to the Supreme Court, the Nihtat Gwich'in Council called the board's decision to allow the project a "worrying precedent" for the management of public lands.In the application, the Nihtat Gwich'in Council said there were several errors in the board's decision, including allowing a lack of consultation from the government and deciding the government has ownership over the land. The matter is set to be heard before a Supreme Court judge in January 2021.
Born in a church manse on Vancouver's Beatty Street on March 28, 1916, Fred Ko's long life was defined by quiet fortitude and his connections to the people and places around him.Ko died in Richmond Hospital on Saturday from COVID-19. At 104 years old, he is one of the oldest Canadian victims of the pandemic."He was just a super-optimistic, very gentle soul," said his daughter Alison Ko, who lives in Kimberley, B.C. "Everybody calls him the Buddha."Fred Ko had two daughters, a son and two grandsons, but Alison says he was a grandfather to many more."He's the grandpa to all [my sons'] friends and all my friends."She recalls a time her father's generosity and patience stood out when Alison and her sister, Catherine, returned home late from a party."He would be sitting up in the kitchen reading and we'd walk in the door and he would just go, 'Tsk tsk tsk,' and not say a word, close his magazine and walk up the stairs." Advocate for Chinese CanadiansFred Ko was the third child born to Chinese Canadian parents in Vancouver. The family started out with a printing press that produced the first Chinese telephone book, and later opened gift shops in Toronto and Vancouver.While her father was humble, Alison Ko says he sometimes gave hints of the influence he had on the Chinese community.Her cousins told stories of hanging out at his store and seeing members of parliament stop by to see Fred.Once, at a family gathering, he let slip that he had negotiated with former prime minister John Diefenbaker over immigration rights."But he just looked like the guy who sat at a coffee shop," Alison Ko said. She says her father never spoke about experiencing racism until the recent Black Lives Matter protests."He was like, 'Oh, yeah, we went through hard times, too,' but growing up we had no idea about the challenges that they would have had because of racism."'It was so fast'The pandemic was hard on Fred Ko. His daughter says his usual routine of getting up early to go for walks around the malls ended and he lost much of his physical strength."And then he lost a lot of kind of that spark," said Alison Ko. "He would tell me that, 'I hear the words and I know them, but I don't understand them.'"Ko had been living in Richmond with Catherine for the last 10 years before contracting the virus last month from someone who lived in the same building.Alison Ko says her father's passing still feels surreal, despite his age."It's not really a surprise that at 104 life was going to come to an end, but we just didn't think he would," she said. "And all our relatives and our families just thought Fred will get through this. But it was so fast."Once Ko was hospitalized, his three children and two grandchildren were only able to communicate with him by video calls.That's how they said goodbye as he died on Nov. 28."We sat staring at a screen, watching him take his last breath and I didn't even believe it."Fred Ko's death has made his family reflect even more on their own vulnerabilities to the virus. Alison, who has a background in nursing and works on the opioid crisis, says it hit her when she was called to the front line to respond to an overdose earlier this week.Despite the toll the pandemic restrictions took on him, she says her father never complained."He was of the generation that knew that he needed to put everybody else like the community's needs first."
The clipper is buzzing, the scissors cutting, the phone is ringing off the hook.Rick Harris is busy at work, but won't be much longer. On Christmas Eve, he's closing the doors of Harris's Barbershop in St. John's, bringing an end to a family business that was founded 115 years ago. "I always said, 'When the time came, I'd know.' I'm starting to feel a bit tired, a bit weary of it all. So I figure it's time to go while I still got a bit of health and strength and enjoy a bit of life," Harris said, while looking after the hair of a long-time customer.Richard Harris, his father, started the business in 1905, and over the years the shop has operated from several parts of downtown St. John's. It was originally located on New Gower Street, then moved to nearby Brazil Square in April 1977 before ultimately settling on Casey Street, where it's been since 1984.Harris owns and operates the business, where it all began for him as a boy sweeping the floors of his father's shop. He was later promoted to a barber at 18 — 54 years ago."I'm not going to be around until I'm 96 like my dad was, so I better do it now."Harris looks back on the legacy of his family business as it crossed through generations of customers. He said people were less open to talking about their personal lives while sitting in his chair in the old days. And the esthetic was drastically different than what it is today. "There was all kinds of cigarette smoke, and cigar smoke and tobacco smoke, rum. It was all part of the barbershop," he said. "It was more of a family affair really. I think our shop was the place to go, basically. It was a hang out. ... That was one thing we always had, was a good bunch of people around the shop."There was constantly a game of chess happening, Harris remembers, a game his father studied and played against his customers who ranged from United States service members to whaling boat captains. WATCH | Rick Harris reflects on his decision to wind down a family business that has been a mainstay in downtown St. John's for well over a century: Today he feels sadness, Harris said, but contentment as the legacy is slowly drawing to its end. "I don't know what I'll do with my time, but I guess I'll find something," he said. A final sendoffHarris estimates he cuts about 5,000 heads of hair in a typical year, and says he's cut five generations of hair in one family.As Harris looks to throw the switch and lock the doors for the last time on Christmas Eve, his final customer after a long career makes for a proper sendoff. His final cut will be for Randy Gulliver, the son of his first-ever customer."I was probably five or six years old [when] I started going to Harris's," Gulliver told CBC News. "It was back in the early Sixties, Rick's father was the first one who cut my hair. The first haircut that Rick ever cut was my dad's, I think around 1966 or '67 … I was only a small boy. We lived on Brazil Square and it was just around the corner."Gulliver said the shop had four barbers' chairs when he first started going, and he's been going to the Harris family business for haircuts his entire life, in each location, up until what will be his final cut on Dec. 24.He said the Harris family were the only people to ever cut his hair. "I don't know what I'm going to do when he moves," Gulliver said, laughing. "I'm going to have long hair. ... It will be a sad day to see Rick give up the barbershop, let me tell you."Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Organigram now says cooling towers atop its cannabis production plant in Moncton caused a legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city last year that sent 15 people to hospital."Organigram deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year," the company said in a statement Thursday. The company did not provide an interview.Richard Melanson also wants an apology. Melanson is among 16 people who became ill and spent a week in hospital because of the severe form of pneumonia. Last fall, he voiced frustration the province had kept the source of the outbreak secret."I don't know if I'll ever get an apology," Melanson said this week. "I really, really hope I do. It would mean a lot to me."Public Health revealed the outbreak on Aug. 1 and announced it was over on Sept. 12. At the time, the province refused to release where the outbreak originated. CBC News filed several right to information requests to learn more about the outbreak's source. The last batch was released last week, and for the first time the company's name was not blacked out. "I suspected that it was them, but I just didn't want to point a finger or say 'you're guilty,'" Melanson said. "I'm just glad I'm alive, I'm glad it didn't kill anybody in our group."Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling water droplets containing legionella bacteria. Outbreaks are often traced to cooling towers. The mechanical system can be part of a large building's cooling system. Heat is dissipated by spraying water in the towers. But the combination of the heat and water can be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria if the system isn't properly maintained. Mist from the towers can carry the bacteria for kilometres into the surrounding environment. There's no indication Organigram's products were affected.In October last year, CBC reported Organigram had told its staff about "elevated bacteria counts" in a new cooling tower system. However, the company had refused to publicly acknowledge its role. "Organigram is commenting on this incident in co-ordination with information recently released by Public Health," the company said Thursday. "Previously, consistent with directives in the public interest issued by Public Health, Organigram has not provided any comment."The company says testing since the outbreak has found bacteria levels in the system that are "within acceptable limits."Chris Boyd said outbreaks caused by cooling towers are largely preventable. Boyd worked for New York City's health department and was part of its response to the largest legionella outbreak in the city's history.He's now general manager of building water health for NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization based in Ann Arbour, Michigan.Boyd was involved in a report urging creation of cooling tower registries and posting of test results as a way to track and prevent outbreaks.The province of Quebec implemented a registry after repeated outbreaks in Quebec City. Vancouver passed a bylaw last year to create a registry. Hamilton, Ont. has a registry. The City of Moncton last year called for the New Brunswick government to implement a registry. Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Moncton, said the city isn't considering its own bylaw because it believes the issue is a provincial responsibility. A spokesperson for the province has said a report by Public Health about how the outbreak was handled will include a recommendation for such a registry. It's not clear when that report will be complete or whether the province will act on the recommendation. Emails released by the New Brunswick government to CBC show health officials exchanged information with Boyd, who offered to help the province as it considered a cooling tower registry. Boyd says he last heard from the province this fall.He said there has largely been an inconsistent approach to tackling the issue. "What is holding Public Health back from being more proactive and focusing on the preventive ability rather than the emergency response approach, which is the most common approach in North America?"New Brunswick's Health Department did not provide an interview.WATCH | Richard Melanson speaks in 2019 about the outbreakMelanson said he believes the province should quickly implement a cooling tower registry."That would prevent this maybe from taking place again here," Melanson said. "You know, instead of you interviewing somebody in another couple of years and somebody else in another couple of years, this might put an end to it."Melanson and others who became ill retained Halifax law firm Wagners, which specializes in class-action lawsuits. So far, nothing has been filed in court. Melanson said he had lingering health effects and spent time off work because of the illness. He said he's doing better today, but still gets tired faster than he did before he had legionnaires' disease. He said he spent this summer trying to enjoy life as much as possible. He occasionally talks with others who had legionnaires' disease"I think we're all thankful that we're all here still and we might not all be doing as good as we did before, but we're still alive," Melanson said.
Amir Aghaei opened his restaurant Ayla's Social Kitchen on March 9 — mere days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most businesses.For a while in the first lockdown, it was just him and his wife in the kitchen adapting their menu to takeout.Tears well up, when he talks about staying positive for his six-year-old daughter, the restaurant's namesake."We try to do something [so] she doesn't feel it, that anything changed to her life, because it could make a big impact to her when she grows up," Aghaie said.His lowest point was the modified Stage 2 lockdown in October, when new restrictions came into force."It's not easy to layoff people. We all need money," he said. "It's not easy when you have to shut down and live on the takeout."Aghaie is one of many business owners who are feeling the emotional weight of COVID-19.The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says its latest survey of members suggests close to half of small business owners nationwide are reporting mental health issues and stress.The CFIB says that's roughly 54 percent of members who responded to the online survey in Ottawa — with more than 70 percent in the hard-hit hospitality sector reporting stress.'The phone's not ringing'Brian Henry, co-owner of Quality Entertainment, said he's lost 90 per cent of his business over the year due to cancelled conferences and weddings."The phone's not ringing. Everybody's postponed their Christmas parties and weddings to next year," he said.The business has adapted with some online game show-themed holiday events but, he said, the majority of his staff are not working"Each one of these individuals who work for us is a friend, is a family member and they are so special to us," he said. "We feel for them and there's nothing we can do."He said within the industry, a group of business owners have turned to each other to process the turmoil they're facing or just talk about something else. 'Every penny counts'Mona El Hafie, owner of Rekochet Resale in Westboro and Barrhaven, said her message is for people to shop local and she wants political leaders to promote the message too."Every store you go to...every penny counts," she said. She said the constant pressure of changing demands — laying off and rehiring employees, creating an online store and adapting to health guidelines — leaves her feeling numb in the few moments she can take a break."Feeling that desperation is really not a good feeling because we are doing everything we can and even with that, it's still very tough," El Hafie said.She said her biggest hope is that some form of stability will return soon.
Record high water levels in the Northwest Territories led to record amounts of trace metals and hydrocarbons in watersheds over the summer, but the territory's environment department says that aren't expecting to see much of an impact on local wildlife.The findings were presented to a standing committee of MLAs on Thursday, during a presentation on transboundary water agreements.Deputy minister Dr. Erin Kelly delivered the presentation, saying turbidity reached historic highs in July, exceeding Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.However, she said, the dissolved concentrations of those metals were much lower, and turbidity levels returned to regular levels starting in August. "The concentrations of metals in the Slave and Hay rivers this July should not have had any chemical-related impacts on aquatic organisms or fish," she said, adding that the dissolved concentrations of those metals were well below Health Canada guidelines for safe drinking water.The concentration of hydrocarbons in the water, which the government attributed partially to oil sands development downstream, were also much higher than usual in July, but dropped back to regular levels in subsequent months.Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge, who chaired the meeting, questioned the long-term impacts of contaminants flowing downstream from oil sands development, saying that meeting guidelines now may not portend a sustainable future."I take it you guys are just saying, 'well, it's dissolved into the water. It's dissipated somewhere.' I kind of have a hard time fathoming such a scenario," he said. "Because many times, you're also stating that they're within guidelines. Just saying that alone — within guidelines — does tell me that there is something in that water coming from the tar sands."In her response, Kelly said that they are tracking long-term trends related to hydrocarbons, and that dissolved metal concentrations are the indicators the department most concerns itself with, due to their direct impacts on bugs and fish. "From our perspective, we've looked at this and what we see is there's this one peak, and then it's gone down from there. And from a health perspective, we're not concerned for the bugs and fish, and we're not concerned with the levels in the water."Monitoring restored at 12 of 18 sitesKelly also said water monitoring activities had resumed at 12 of 18 priority sites in Alberta. Monitoring at the sites was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of monitoring activities — done without the territory's knowledge — led MLAs to question the effectiveness of the territory's transboundary water agreement with Alberta, which it has had since 2015."Water monitoring was suspended during the highest levels ever recorded, and the Alberta government didn't bother to inform us," Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly said. "What sort of lessons do we take away from this, and how do we improve the implementation of these agreements?"Shane Thompson, the minister of Environment and Natural Resources, said that while the government has learned lessons from the ordeal, the transboundary agreements the government has with southern provinces are "world class.""Unfortunately, we weren't informed. But as soon as we were informed, we reached out to both the provincial minister and federal minister to have these open and frank discussions ... we were on it right away," he said.Kelly said that the incident has led to the government changing how it communicates with Alberta. The province put an assistant deputy minister on the bilateral management committee, and is meeting with N.W.T. representatives quarterly.Testing underway for Great Slave Lake plumeThe environment department reported in its presentation that water levels in Great Slave Lake are the highest they've ever been, reaching record highs for every month beginning in July 2020. Though the government wasn't able to pinpoint the exact reason for the high levels, it attributed them to very high precipitation in watersheds that flow into the lake, starting in September 2019. Kelly said the analysis suggested the flooding of B.C.'s Bennett Dam, which took place this summer, did not have a significant impact on the levels.Territorial government officials are working with researchers from the federal, Alberta, and B.C. governments to further examine the factors contributing to the high levels, she said.Kelly said that the government also took samples of a larger than normal plume in Great Slave Lake after hearing concerns from residents, and that results from that sampling are expected to be available in the next few weeks.WATCH | Take an aerial look of the Great Slave Lake plume, as seen in August 2020:As for what's next, officials say they aren't sure at this point, and that rain and snowfall in northern B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan and the southern N.W.T. will be the biggest factors. "It's not just an average high water year," said Kelly. "It's unprecedented. It's very hard to predict what happens next when we have no data on what's happened previously."
Plexiglass and masks have become a part of everyday life on P.E.I., but for people with hearing loss, those safety barriers create another obstacle to communication."That's making it very difficult for a lot of people to actually comprehend what is being said — some people can't hear," said Daria Valkenburg, co-president of Hear P.E.I. "I basically limit where I go. So for businesses that don't have a system where I can hear out there, unless I have to go, I don't go. So basically that's what it's done is it's limited me."To help those with hearing loss, Access PEI has installed speech transfer systems in Charlottetown and Summerside.Two stations are set up with the device in Charlottetown. There is a microphone on either side of the station, with speakers on the customer-facing side providing extra volume when needed. There's also a function that allows certain hearing-aid users to connect directly."It also has a telecoil, which means that the person speaking has their voice going instantly into the hearing aid or the cochlear implant, meaning that it is completely accessible," said Valkenburg. "There is such a clarity of sound that it's unbelievable."With that method, all the background noise is eliminated, only delivering the audio coming out of the microphone — handy for busy, noisy places like Access PEI, said Valkenburg. The booths that are equipped with this new technology are marked by a universal hearing loop symbol.For those who don't have a hearing aid with telecoil, people can get a hearing loop device that allows users to dial into the frequency and hear it through headphones.'Seemed like a natural fit'The pilot project came about after Access PEI reached out to Hear P.E.I. to see what it could be doing to better serve that community. "It just seemed like a natural fit for us in an attempt to make our sites more accessible, to create a more inviting experience," said Mark Arsenault, director of Access PEI. "They don't have to speak loudly, you know, from a privacy perspective.… It's just your own voice level and their own voice level. So, nobody shouting or anything like that." While it is just a pilot project right now, Arsenault said he'd like it expanded across the Island."Then we'll look at it from there and see whether or not we need it in every stall or is it just one or two per site, so that we can make sure that we can serve that part of the population perfectly well."More from CBC P.E.I.
Clearwater Seafoods is dropping Marine Stewardship Council certification for its Canadian offshore lobster fishery, calling it "a voluntary decision driven by business considerations."The blue MSC eco-label tells consumers the seafood they are buying is sustainably caught and has been a point of pride for North America's biggest shellfish producer.Clearwater's offshore lobster fishery off southern Nova Scotia was the first fishery on the Eastern Seaboard to receive MSC certification in 2010.The current five-year certification expires at the end of the month."Clearwater is confident in the ability of this fishery to meet the MSC standard today, but has chosen not to initiate recertification at this time given the internal resources required to support recertification," Clearwater vice-president Christine Penney said in an email statement to CBC News.Maintaining certification has become more onerous recently for the fishery.Two years ago, Clearwater was convicted of a gross violation when it was caught illegally storing thousands of lobster traps on the ocean floor even after it had been repeatedly warned by Canadian authorities to stop the practice because it was a conservation risk. The traps were left on the bottom with escape hatches open, but continued to catch and kill lobsters.The conviction triggered a Marine Stewardship Council audit and new conditions were imposed to demonstrate compliance."The question comes to mind whether they're unable to show that evidence and therefore they wouldn't pass the certification," said Shannon Arnold, an environmentalist with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax."And so by just walking away from it, they're not forced to show that to the consumers that they're actually fishing within the law."Clearwater defends lobster fisheryClearwater said the fishery was always and remains sustainable."While Clearwater has chosen not to enter into recertification of the offshore fishery MSC program at the end of 2020, the sustainability measures that were in place for 10 years of successful certification continue to be in effect," said Penney."The offshore lobster fishery remains sustainable. The fishery has not been suspended or failed, and it maintains its current certificate until December 2020."The Marine Stewardship Council declined to directly comment on Clearwater's decision to drop its lobster certification."Clearwater is a long-standing partner of the MSC, and its other MSC-certified fisheries in Canada and globally remain in our voluntary program," spokesperson Vianna Murday said in a statement.Those core Canadian species are staying with the council.They include offshore scallops, snow crab, arctic surf clam, cold water shrimp and lobster harvested in the Maritimes by an inshore fleet independent of the company.Clearwater said an internal tracing system will allow it to separate lobster it buys from the inshore and the 720 tonnes it harvests under its offshore licences."This fishery accounts for a small portion of Clearwater lobster volumes, and the use of the eco-label is very limited on products from this fishery," Penney said.Partnership buying companyClearwater is in the process of being sold. If approved by shareholders, the new owner of the company will be a partnership between Premium Brands of British Columbia and a coalition of Mi'kmaw First Nations led in part by the Membertou band in Cape Breton.Membertou had previously bought two of the eight offshore licences held by Clearwater. No one from the band was available for comment.Clearwater management and the company lobster boat, the Randell Dominaux based in Shelburne, N.S., will continue to run the coveted offshore lobster fishery.Offshore lobster fisheryClearwater has enjoyed exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it has said represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.For environmentalists like Arnold, the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification is a blow."That transparency from the MSC process, that extra layer, is what really allowed us to dig in and see what was happening with this fishery in the offshore and how they were fishing outside the legal boundaries," she said. "So we're concerned that we're losing that level of oversight."MORE TOP STORIES
Large ships may soon be able to travel through a deep channel in Nova Scotia's Sydney harbour that has not been used since it was created eight years ago.The navigational aids that guide ships along an existing channel were thrown out of alignment by the angle of the new, deeper one that was dredged in 2012.The coast guard, which manages navigational aids such as buoys and range lights in Canadian waters, has always said the cost of fixing the aids in Sydney harbour was the responsibility of the local port authority.Marlene Usher, CEO of the Port of Sydney Development Corp., said money was set aside from the dredge to cover the cost of the aids, but the coast guard has never done the work."It's an impediment for growth ... and it is a bit of a chicken and egg, because they were always of the mind that well, if nobody's using the dredged channel, then you don't need the aids," she said. "But you can't use it."Some large ships have been turned away because the old channel is too shallow and other ships, such as those carrying coal for Nova Scotia Power, have been operating with less than a full load.'Very positive thing'Usher said the deeper dredged channel could be used immediately if the navigational aids were aligned properly."It hasn't silted in," she said. "We have it surveyed every second year so it would be a very positive thing for the entire harbour."Harvey Vardy, director of navigational programs for the coast guard's Atlantic region, said the port authority was the only user of the aids after the dredge.He said according to policy, that made them responsible for the costs. However, a review last year found there were more potential users, and that changed things."Preliminary work has begun on the engineering design requirements for the port of Sydney and coast guard is now prioritizing the requirements for the port of Sydney with all other aids to navigation requirements across the country," Vardy said.He would not elaborate on the new users, but mentioned Nova Scotia Power and Provincial Energy Ventures, both of which were using the harbour in 2012.Nova Scotia Power even contributed $1 million toward the $38-million dredge, which was mostly paid for by the three levels of government.Usher said the only new user since the dredging was Kameron Coal, owner of the Donkin mine that went into production in 2017, but has since closed.After the dredging was done, $2.5 million was left over and an agreement was struck allowing the port to use that money for specific purposes, including fixing the navigational aids.Usher said initial estimates put the cost at about $1.5 million, but that grew to $3.5 million.Under an agreement with the federal government, the port set aside $819,000 for the aids. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic killed the cruise ship season and sank the port's revenues this year, Ottawa agreed to allow the port to use that money to cover its deficit.'You can't do it piecemeal'Vardy said the coast guard did not miss out on an opportunity to have at least part of the navigational aid work covered by the port.He said the project still has to be designed and costed, and then full funding has to be available."You can't do it piecemeal," Vardy said. "It has to be a complete redesign."There is no cost estimate yet, but the work will be done as soon as possible, he said."We're talking into the multimillion-dollar range," Vardy said. "Now, further analysis is required to give us some more finite costs."MORE TOP STORIES
Even though Lacie Krzemien knew she had been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, she still had to book an appointment and wait to get tested. "I think what should change is anyone that wants to get tested and is saying they have a close contact should be tested and even waiting 24 hours for me was very stressful," she told CBC News. Krzemien works with Windsor's Overdose Prevention Society and is helping to house people from Tent City. After a man they housed tested positive, Krzemien knew she had to get tested as she said she was a close contact. But, because of a province-wide rule, she wasn't able to just walk-in.Yet, Krzemien isn't the only one who had to wait. Pharmacies conducting tests and one local assessment centre is finding the demand for testing in Windsor-Essex has spiked in recent weeks as cases continue to climb. On Thursday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) reported 63 new COVID-19 cases and 19 outbreaks. WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette said in some cases there could be up to a three-day wait for an appointment at assessment centres, though lab results are coming in within a day or two. Testing demand has more than doubled"All of that combined, there is a little bit of delay in people getting tested and then getting their results at this time," she said.Erie Shores HealthCare Chief of Staff Ross Moncur told CBC News Thursday that they're testing more than 160 people per day at their assessment centre, which is more than double what they were seeing back in October. "As the cases have gone up, [we] have seen increased number of folks looking to be tested," he said. "So our teams have regrouped. This is a year of re-invention and we have re-invented our assessment centre a few times now and in response to the demand we'll be increasing the capacity at the assessment centre by about 20 per cent immediately with eyes to increase it further than that in the coming weeks as we see what happens with demand." The wait time to get a test is about two days right now, Moncur said, adding that he hopes that will decrease as they increase their capacity on Friday. He said they are also willing to set up another assessment centre, though it all comes down to having enough staff on hand. Meanwhile, pharmacist Tim Brady of Brady's Drug Stores in Essex, Ont. and Beller River, Ont., who has been testing at his Essex location for about a month says he's also seeing an increased demand. "It's definitely escalating, the amount of people that are coming in," he said. The pharmacy performs tests for asymptomatic people only, Brady said, meaning it's for those who need a test for work or travel. "These are people that we need to make sure aren't positive so that they don't potentially be the spreader to a bigger issue," he said. They are doing tests three to four days a week and people are typically waiting a day or two to get in.His pharmacy is receiving results in 48 to 72 hours.
Retired captain George Borden, an air force veteran who spent many years promoting the history of Black Canadians in the military, has died.He died Nov. 29, just weeks shy of his 85th birthday.Borden served with the Royal Canadian Air Force for more than 30 years.In his civilian life, he was the former executive director of the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, the executive director of the Black United Front, and the first Black executive assistant to a provincial cabinet minister in Nova Scotia.His nephew, Sgt. Craig Smith, the president of the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia and an officer with the RCMP, said his uncle was an ever-present force in his life.The Black Cultural Centre, a museum dedicated to African Nova Scotian history, was the brainchild of Borden's uncle, the late William Pearly Oliver. Borden later served as its executive director, and now, as current president, Smith is carrying on their legacies."It's been instilled in me the need to continue to tell our stories, to give a voice to a community that for a lot of years had its stories told by somebody else and wasn't being done in an authentic African Nova Scotian voice," said Smith."And … as I look back at the accomplishments that I've had, I think that nobody stands alone when they do these things. You're standing on the shoulders of those who came before you."Borden dedicated much of his time to educating people about the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the first militia unit in Canada made up largely of Black personnel. It was formed during the First World War, during a time when Black soldiers were often rejected from enlisting in the military.Speaking with CBC in 2017, Borden said he was able to have a successful career in the air force because of the No. 2 Battalion."Basically I represent the legacy," he said at the time."The fact that today, in the Canadian military, a Black person can hold any position that they're capable of holding, and in that day you couldn't even get a position to hold a rifle."Borden knew more than a dozen of the men — including his own grandfather — who served in the battalion, and said many of them continued to face racism and discrimination when they returned to Canada.In 2018, Borden penned an open letter to the Canadian military demanding an apology to the members and the descendants of the members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion."I'm sad in the fact that he won't be here when that apology finally comes," said Smith. "But I'm sure he'll be looking down, smiling."'The trails that we blazed'Borden was also an accomplished poet and songwriter.His poem about the No. 2 Battalion, The Black Soldier's Lament, is read during Remembrance Day ceremonies in Preston and during other events commemorating the battalion."I think it's definitely become a centerpiece to honouring those men," said Smith. "And I think it's probably one of his biggest legacies that will last."Even in his later years, when his health began to fail and he lost both his legs, Borden continued to chase creative pursuits. Not long before he died, he released a CD of gospel music he wrote and composed."So, somebody kind of had his fingers in a whole lot of pots, was very dedicated to wanting to make sure that the story and the history of Black Nova Scotians was recorded," Smith said."Strong-willed fella. He was very strong-minded — he had a way and an idea of which he wanted to do something. Sometimes it was real hard trying to convince him otherwise. "But he was dedicated to making sure that the next generations were going to know who we were, and the trails that we blazed while we were here."For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.MORE TOP STORIES
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
Preventing and controlling the spread of infection is all in a day's work for Dr. Natalie Bridger. In the early weeks of the year, well before COVID-19 commanded complete attention, she was focused on preparing for a pandemic she knew was going to hit North America. She's not just a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, but also the clinical chief of infection prevention and control with Eastern Health. She and her team are responsible for ensuring infections don't spread through hospitals in eastern Newfoundland. "I guess that put us in a good position to lead the way through COVID, or help lead the way, I should say," said Bridger."We were working hard to prepare between January and March. There's no doubt about that. But I wasn't certain that we were going to see cases. And then I guess when we did start seeing cases in March, everything changed." > I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight. \- Dr. Natalie BridgerBridger shifted from planning for coronavirus cases to response mode, and her actions during the pandemic have now been recognized with a Pediatric Chairs of Canada (PCC) 2020 COVID Leadership Award."I was totally shocked to hear that I'd won to be honest. I guess it's meant a lot because I was nominated by a few of my colleagues at the Janeway. And I think that it caused a lot of reflection for me and for my team about about how far we've come since January," Bridger told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. According to a release from MUN's Faculty of Medicine, Bridger was nominated for going above and beyond to provide safe and high-quality health care. In one example given, she advocated for appropriate personal protective equipment for health-care workers when confronted with dubious deliveries.She also managed testing and quarantines for health care workers who were exposed to COVID-19, and "answered texts and emails at all hours with calm professionalism, knowledge and wit."A stressful part of the job for Bridger has been trying to figure out best practices while battling the misinformation and uninformed opinions found on social and mainstream media.Saying no to Facebook"It does make it difficult because a lot of people just don't know who or what to believe. So, honestly, I got off Facebook, I just couldn't handle it anymore. That was probably cowardly, but it became just too overwhelming and stressful to be on social media and to deal with this professionally."Bridger is feeling optimistic about the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19, and her stress levels are under control because there hasn't been any evidence of community spread with the recent spate of travel-related cases of coronavirus in the province. LISTEN | Natalie Bridger describes how a team effort helped prepare for and manage coronavirus, during an interview with Ramraajh Sharvendiran: "We're a little ways away from actually having vaccines in people's arms or legs. And so while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I don't think we can use that as a way to back off from from the extreme amount of discipline that's been shown by Newfoundland and Labrador."Bridger is quick to point out the team effort involved in keeping people safe during a pandemic — one that can come with a high price for people on the front lines."Oh, my goodness, everyone is burnt out. Every single person who works in health care … they're stressed out," she said."Health care is complicated at the best of times. And when you add in this extra layer of this unknown illness that you could catch, you could spread, it could do a lot of harm to people in your family. That adds a whole layer of stress that that I've never encountered before. So I think people in health care are burnt out, but pushing through with hope that there is an end in sight." Bridger will received the PCC 2020 COVID Leadership Award during a virtual ceremony on Dec. 11.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Three Ottawa-area conservation authorities fear major changes proposed by the Ontario government could cost them their voice in development decisions, particularly when it comes to environmentally fragile watersheds.The province began its review of the role of Ontario's 36 conservation authorities a year and a half ago, but the "sweeping" proposals tucked inside an omnibus budget bill tabled Nov. 5 still "shocked" the general manager of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA).> It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated. \- Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority"It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated," said Sommer Casgrain-Robertson. "These changes are so numerous and so significant that it really goes to the heart of what conservation authorities do and how we function."While the legislation would affect their budgets, mandates and boards of directors, Casgrain-Robertson's biggest concern relates to a conservation authority's diminished role in cases where there are concerns about flooding, soil erosion or altering waterways.The changes aim to "streamline" the development permit process, allowing the minister to decide on permit applications and even override a conservation authority's decision. The bill also allows for appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.Casgrain-Robertson said RVCA staff make local decisions based on science, and she fears development permit applications in watersheds could now become politicized."We are not an impediment to development," Casgrain-Robertson said, noting the RVCA approves upward of 95 per cent of development permits and cut wait times by half last year.Government aiming for more accountabilityThe Rideau Valley, Mississippi Valley and South Nation conservation authorities have joined counterparts across Ontario in calling on the government to withdraw the proposals for more work.But Ontario's minister of the environment, conservation and parks said a minister's power to take part in the permit process "will be rarely used, if at all," and wouldn't "step outside of the science".Fixes were needed because the appeal process wasn't working, Jeff Yurek told CBC Sudbury earlier this week."What we heard through our consultation was that conservation authorities throughout the entire province were lacking in accountability, transparency and consistency," he said. The changes to Bill 226 worry Ottawa city council, too, because the boards of conservation authorities would be made up solely of municipal councillors, rather than a mix of councillors and residents with expertise, ostensibly to provide better oversight over the spending of tax dollars.City staff said if the changes go through, nearly every council member would need to take a seat on the board of a conservation authority, and take on the workload associated with it.The Association of Municipalities of Ontario also told the government it had a "growing number of serious concerns," especially "at a time when the public is very concerned about climate change and increased flooding and storm events."Ontario's standing committee on finance and economic affairs held a hearing on Bill 226 earlier this week, and is expected to consider amendments in the coming days.
There is a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon. But first, winter. We've been hearing the warnings for weeks. It's going to be a long, hard few months. People who live in Canada fashion themselves as cold weather warriors — able to withstand -20 C temperatures. This year, that could be an especially good thing. The advice from medical experts is to resist retreating indoors where COVID-19 is much more easily transmitted. Bundle up, mask up if necessary, and get outside as much as possible. "You know, if you've ever wanted to learn broomball, this is your chance," said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University. But what about masks in winter? Do they still work if they get wet? Do you really need to wear them outside anyway? Here's some advice for how best to tackle the coming winter pandemic months.Will my mask work if it gets wet and/or freezes?The short answer is probably not. Oughton, officials from Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States pretty much agree that once a mask gets wet, it's no longer fully effective. And that's why you should always have back-up masks.There is no concrete, scientific data on mask efficacy in cold weather. However, when you breathe through a mask in cold conditions, the moisture from your warm breath collects on the mask. It tends to stay warm enough on the inside due to your body temperature to remain liquid, but will freeze on the outside. WATCH | Why health experts recommend three-layer masks: That leads to two mask issues Oughton said: they become harder to breathe through; and become less effective at "capturing respiratory droplets and preventing them from leaving the proximity of someone's mouth and nose."But that doesn't mean they are completely useless, according to Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. "Masks offer a little bit more [protection], particularly in those settings where people are bunched up outdoors, where there may be a bit more risk of transmission."Oughton said if you are going to wear a mask outdoors in the cold for a long period of time, you should have two or three back-ups, so you can keep a dry one on.And most important: make sure the mask is cloth. The paper kind — the surgical style ones — degrade and tear far more easily when they get wet, said Oughton. Do you really need a mask out in the cold? It depends on the circumstances. Being outdoors while observing proper distancing measures is "really, really protective" on its own, according to Chagla. He said the documented cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 have involved situations like barbecues or people watching a sports event, gathered together for longer periods of time.For activities like going for a walk in your neighbourhood or skating on a not-too-crowded rink, he said the risk of transmission is very low. But he does advise that if you are going in and out of stores, or getting on and off transit while doing errands, it is best to just keep the mask on the whole time to minimize touching the mask and potential contamination. The advice is the same if you are planning to gather with others over the holidays for an outdoor gift exchange or short visit. If you can maintain distance, you should be fine as long as there is no eating and drinking or singing, all of which create more droplets in the air. If you're going to be closer, exchanging gifts perhaps, best to put on a mask. Is a scarf a good alternative to a mask?No. Medical experts point out that there is too much variation in scarves and neck gaiters for them to be used as masks. Stitching can be too loose and the material too thin to be an effective barrier to potentially infected droplets — both going out or coming in.But both physicians agree it might keep your mask from freezing and therefore be more comfortable for the wearer to put a scarf up over it.Cold temps bring runny noses. Here's how to deal with that joy when you're wearing a mask. Unfortunately, people tend to pull their mask aside or off when they sneeze or cough, which kind of defeats the purpose of it, Chagla said. "It is horrible to sneeze in a mask," he said. "I give you that." But he urges people to make sure they are in an area away from people if they are going to pull it off to sneeze, or even to blow their nose, as that is one of the best ways to spread infection. And be careful when you pull your mask aside to blow your nose. Don't let it get snotty, both doctors say, and after blowing your nose, sanitize your hands before you replace your mask. So with all the issues with masks, is it best just to stay indoors this winter?The resounding answer to this one is no. On the contrary. "The indoor stuff is like a hundred times more worrisome than the outdoor stuff," Chagla said. He cites factors including poor ventilation, crowded rooms, people being together for prolonged periods of time, eating and drinking together. He said this year, people are going to have to change the way they think about socializing if they don't want to just get stuck for months with the people they live with or having nothing but virtual get-togethers. "I think we have to start changing our attitudes and saying the outdoors is going to be the way. We just have to make it appropriate for people to do it."Municipalities across the country are coming up with guidelines for outdoor activities, such as skating, to make sure they don't get too crowded. Many are restricting the number of people allowed on the ice at any given time in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, with some bringing in online pre-registration to book ice time.If you go, change your skates in the car or out on a bench, rather than in a public hut, Oughton said.Among other outdoor measures, Toronto is also adding an additional 60 kilometres of paved recreational trails and pathways with snow maintenance and is encouraging communities to apply for permits to build and maintain new rinks. The City of Calgary is also adding to its outdoor options with the North Glenmore Ice Trail, where people can skate 730 metres of connected track and the installation of fire pits in key spots around the city.Todd Reichardt, a Calgary parks manager, said the plans should enable people to maintain social distance and make the most of the season. "There's something about being outside when it's cold and you smell like wood smoke," he said. "It just puts a smile on people's faces." In Manitoba, ski resorts have been working on plans to make skiing a safe pandemic activity, while Montreal is setting up cross-country ski trails at each of the city's large parks, as well as trails for snowshoeing and walking.
Hundreds of COVID-19 tests conducted at two Ottawa schools detected no new cases, the city's medical officer of health said Thursday.Public health officials swabbed about 200 staff, students and some of their family members at Manordale Public School in Nepean on Sunday, in addition to about 100 students and staff at another undisclosed school the previous weekend.All the subjects were asymptomatic, and included close contacts of confirmed cases as well as a random sampling of others within the school community, said Dr. Vera Etches."That's encouraging so far. We're going to continue ... to examine the situation in other schools," Etches told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Thursday."We are finding when we bring the testing to the school community, more people are likely to be tested."In Toronto, similar asymptomatic testing at Thorncliffe Park Public School this past weekend saw 18 students and a staff member test positive.In a statement to CBC, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) spokesperson Darcy Knoll thanked everyone who took part in the voluntary testing."It is wonderful to see the school community come together in an effort to stop the spread of this virus," Knoll said.An outbreak was declared at Manordale on Nov. 23, several days before the asymptomatic testing began. Three students and one staff member tested positive in the outbreak.Ottawa Public Health told CBC it will continue to test in schools where there's a benefit to the school community, or to its own COVID-19 surveillance work.Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, whether they belong to a school community or not, should book a swab at a regular COVID-19 testing centre, public health officials say.