Forget weather stations; this gadget lets you monitor the entire planet

Luke Dormehl

Kickstarter illustrates one of the great things about crowdsourcing: The ability to garner interest in a new product from thousands of people around the world. Another part of crowdsourcing, however, is the possibility of harnessing that same crowd for large-scale collaborative projects. A new project from Kickstarter veterans Raspberry Shake fulfills both of these criteria. Called the Raspberry Boom, it’s a citizen science project which provides you with a finely tuned atmospheric monitor for your home.

Using it, you can detect infrasonic (read: extremely low frequency) sound waves, which are emitted by a huge number of natural and manmade activities. These infrasonic sounds can be caused by anything from incoming harsh weather or volcanoes erupting to planes flying overhead and potential nuclear testing.

“The Raspberry Boom brings this technology into your home at an affordable price,” Michael Hotchkiss, marketing manager on the project, told Digital Trends. “The complex circuit board and advanced sensor collect and process atmospheric infrasound readings, while the unit itself is powered by the most popular single board computer, the Raspberry Pi. As soon as you plug in your device, it connects with our Station View network and you can start monitoring your local region for activity.”

raspberry boom kickstarter project eag7454

The idea is, essentially, to create a device similar to the many home weather stations around the world, but one which can extend far beyond simply climate tracking. Each device incorporates a powerful 24-bit digitizer, which samples infrasound at 100 samples per second with data transmission rates of four packets per second. It connects automatically to the team’s Earth-monitoring network, thereby allowing you to see atmospheric readings from other users all over the world. Whether it’s a volcanic eruption in Hawaii or tornado season in Florida, as long as there is a Raspberry Boom in the area, you will get to find out about it.

“Our previous campaign for our home Earth monitor, the Raspberry Shake, appealed to hobbyists, makers, creators, citizen scientists and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts,” Hotchkiss continued. “Being the most advanced and first ever atmospheric monitor of its kind, designed for home use, the Raspberry Boom is likely to attract attention from a wider audience — including early adopters who already have some kind of home monitor, to weather enthusiasts, such as fans of the popular Netatmo devices.”

While all our usual warnings about crowdfunding campaigns apply, if you want to get involved with Raspberry Boom you can pledge money over on their Kickstarter page. A complete kit will set $459, although cheaper options are available minus the Raspberry Pi board.

  • Unintended consequences and the change to Alberta post-secondary funding
    News
    CBC

    Unintended consequences and the change to Alberta post-secondary funding

    At Mount Royal University in Calgary, there are two courses that regularly appear on the Top 10 list for most fails, withdrawals and poor grades. The micro- and macro-economics courses are required for those wishing to go into business, economics or policy studies. Both are hard. So if the Alberta government ties funding to completion rates, what would MRU do in order to protect its budget?"If you remove those courses, it's going to make it a lot easier to graduate," says Duane Bratt, a political science professor at MRU. "Do we just remove all of the really tough courses to make it easier to graduate? What is the purpose here?"New model for AlbertaOn Jan. 20, Alberta's Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides stepped up to a podium and announced that starting on April 1, the UCP government would tie funding for the province's universities and colleges to a set of yet-to-be determined performance metrics. It would start with 15 per cent of funding on the table, before ramping up to 40 per cent by 2022-2023.Each school would be able to establish their own priority metrics, conforming to their strengths. But the minister did have a list of what the government would like some of the system-wide measures to be, from completion rates to post-graduate employment to enrolment. If you only achieve 80 per cent of your targets, you only get 80 per cent of your funds. Shape up, or face cuts. Standing on that stage Nicolaides took pains to point out that this wasn't unusual, that 35 U.S. states have implemented some form of performance funding, as have the U.K., Norway, Hong Kong and others. But much like the metrics he was proposing, Nicolaides was measuring the wrong thing, citing quantity as an inherent good.When it comes to the province's places of higher learning, the impact of looking at quantity over quality is, well, immeasurable. The measurablesBratt's fears about the fate of the dreaded first year economics courses is not just idle speculation. Kevin Dougherty, a professor of higher education and education policy at Columbia University in New York City, wrote a book on performance-based funding in the U.S. and says institutions made changes after the funding model comes in.Some reported being more selective of the students they enrolled, typically meaning more advantaged students that are easier to graduate, as well as removing courses that were seen as "impediments" to graduation. "Some of those courses that were being removed had the effect of reducing the academic quality of their programs," he said.Dougherty said the European experience hasn't resulted in improvements in student performance but that the overall impact on research has been positive. And when it comes to saving money? At least in the American experience, the data didn't support the idea of an improved bottom line. In short, there are unintended consequences whenever a government decides post-secondary performance is something that can be distilled on a spreadsheet, or that the value of a university education is in its contribution to the workforce, to the future earnings of its grads.Are social workers less valuable to society than geologists? Should the government get a say in the answer to that question?Lessons from elsewhereIf the government is to have a say, at least it appears to be taking some lessons to heart from other jurisdictions in applying performance-based funding. It has reached out to institutions and student groups and wants them to be part of the process for establishing which metrics to apply. It's allowing different metrics at each university and college. It says it will look at blending metrics to reduce the unintended consequences. It's not making post-secondaries compete with one another. It's allowing time for institutions to grow into the new reality by phasing in the model. And yet, the move is coming fast. April 1 is a tight deadline for proper consultation with all stakeholders and institutions in the province and finding the right mix of metrics will take time, patience and tweaks.Even those supportive of the move, like the Alberta Graduate Provincial Advocacy Council, want to ensure institutions aren't immediately punished for not meeting targets. The group also stresses the need for meaningful consultations.In the current political context, that could be a challenge. The UCP factorSince being elected last year, the United Conservative Party government has shown an insatiable appetite for enforcing structural change in Alberta. It has cut budgets, gone after public sector unions, slashed corporate taxes, tore up a years-long curriculum review to establish its own and threatened post-secondaries with further cuts, just to name a few initiatives. The government has established panels and inquiries with seemingly pre-determined conclusions and is spending $30 million on a war room to aggressively attack critics of the oil and gas industry. It was elected by pounding home three priorities: jobs, the economy and pipelines. By all accounts it intends on sticking to them.The UCP does not pull any punches and has now set its sights on how to transform post-secondary funding in a system that outspends most other provinces."We do fundamentally want to ensure that we are indeed, as government, building a stronger connection between education and jobs," Nicolaides said while speaking to CBC's Alberta at Noon.If the government wants to cut funding and change the priorities of the universities and colleges in Alberta, the short historical record suggests they'll find a way to make that happen. In a system that is, or should be, more than just a factory for churning out good employees, the impact of that is unquantifiable.The immeasurablesBecause university is not just about the job you land. It's not just about your ability to match up column A with row B. It has an immeasurable quality that, yes, does have an impact on someone's ability to function in the world and the workforce. "There is nothing more valuable for a nation than allowing its citizens to explore their potential," said one caller in to Alberta at Noon last week, as the show discussed the looming funding changes.Another told of how he dropped out of university and would register in the performance metrics as a failure but that his university experience helped him, and continues to help him, become a better tradesperson.Even in the context of the workforce, how do you measure critical thinking and its importance to the modern economy?There is, and ought to be, a complexity to universities. Imposing metrics limits what is possible. Once metrics are in place, they become the focus. The metrics come to define us. We stop looking beyond them. "If we're going to have metrics, how do we build those in a way that really captures the complexity of what we want out of universities?" asks Dougherty.To what end?Marcela Lopes, the chair of the Alberta Graduate Provincial Advocacy Council, doesn't believe schools will cheat. They won't make it easier to graduate in order to meet funding targets. She's hopeful the government will listen and be thoughtful in its approach. She says her organization supports more transparency in how institutions are funded.But is that transparency worth the unintended consequences? And what if the UCP government follows its familiar pattern and uses consultation as cover for imposing its own agenda? Is there a price on academic freedom, including the freedom to fail? How much does it cost society to watch a university or college enter a funding death spiral?"Who's going to hold the hammer in establishing the targets?" asks Bratt about final decisions on the metrics. And what strains of thought will be broken off by those swinging it?

  • Volatility defines Democratic race as candidates flood Iowa
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Volatility defines Democratic race as candidates flood Iowa

    DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidates roared back into Iowa on Saturday touting fresh endorsements, critiquing their rivals and predicting victories in the caucuses that will soon launch the process of deciding who will challenge President Donald Trump.Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she was “delighted" to pick up a coveted endorsement from The Des Moines Register. The state's largest newspaper called the Massachusetts Democrat “the best leader for these times" and said she “is not the radical some perceive her to be." But Warren's progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, predicted victory in Iowa and campaigned alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the most prominent leaders on the left.Joe Biden, meanwhile, appeared for the first time alongside Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, who is the latest in a growing list of local politicians backing the former vice-president's candidacy. And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, sought to position himself a Washington outsider above the partisan fray.But as the candidates set out to make their best case to voters, the volatility of the race was evident. Several candidates began their day in Washington, sitting as jurors in Trump's impeachment trial. They will have to return to Capitol Hill early next week as the trial continues, sidelining them from campaigning during a critical period.More fundamentally, there's no clear front-runner despite the fact that many candidates have now spent more than a year courting Iowans. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Saturday showed Sanders with a slight — but not commanding — edge in Iowa. But several polls show Biden, Buttigieg and Warren remain among the front-runners.“There’s still plenty of time for movement,” said Kurt Meyer, chairman of the Tri-County Democrats in northern Iowa. “Every part of the ground game counts.”Still, Sanders returned to Iowa exuding a sense of confidence. Hundreds of supporters filled the municipal auditorium in Ames and additional voters crowded an overflow room. Earlier in the night, he told voters in Marshalltown that he had an “excellent chance to win here in Iowa" and argued that his is the only campaign that can weave broad support from voters.“I believe that our campaign, our energy, our grassroots movement, our agenda is the approach that will speak to working people who, in many cases, have given up on politics,” he said. "I think we will resonate with them. I think we have in the past, I think we will in the future.”Polls suggest Biden also has a substantial appeal among Democratic voters, especially African Americans. While he has been critical of Sanders in the past, he kept his focus instead on the threat of four more years of Trump in the White House.“I don't believe we are the dark, angry nation that Donald Trump tweets about at night," he told a large crowd in Ankeny. “We are so much better than Donald Trump.”Biden scored the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, which called him “the candidate best positioned to give Americans a competitive head-to-head matchup with President Trump” and said he would be best at attracting support from “independents and disgruntled Republicans.”Compared to Biden, Buttigieg was more dire in his reaction to the prospect of Sanders gaining strength in the Democratic contest. Hours after The New York Times/Siena College poll was released, his campaign sent an email to supporters with the subject line: “Bernie Sanders could be the nominee."“We need a nominee who can galvanize our country," the email said. “The Trump presidency will end one way or another, and when it does we need a president who can rally this country around a vision for the next generation. We know that candidate is Pete.""Speaking to reporters later in the day, Buttigieg stopped short of directly hitting Sanders, but noted that “we are getting into the heart of the competition."“I believe that we should be very mindful that the very worst risk we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington-style of political warfare that that brought us to this point,” he said. “If we believe it’s important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward a candidate who offers something new."Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigned in Muscatine, Iowa, but won a key newspaper endorsement in New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation primary just a week after Iowa’s caucuses. The Union Leader picked the Minnesota Democrat after saying any realistic challenger to Trump called for a nominee with “a proven and substantial record of accomplishment across party lines, an ability to unite rather than divide, and the strength and stamina to go toe-to-toe with the Tweeter-in-Chief."___Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut in Washington, Thomas Beaumont in Storm Lake, Iowa, Sara Burnett in Muscatine, Iowa, and Will Weissert in Marshalltown, Iowa contributed to this reportBill Barrow, The Associated Press

  • Ransomware attack on construction company raises questions about federal contracts
    News
    CBC

    Ransomware attack on construction company raises questions about federal contracts

    A construction company that's won millions of dollars worth of contracts with the military and other federal departments has been hit by a ransomware attack — raising questions about how the federal government does businesses with outside firms open to cyberattacks.Ransomware attacks involve malicious software used to cripple a target's computer system to solicit a cash payment. Last month, a group known as Maze — infamous for publicly shaming victims until they pay up — claimed to have run a successful strike against the Toronto-based company Bird Construction, stealing 60 GBs of data."Bird Construction responded to a cyber incident that resulted in the encryption of company files," wrote a company spokesperson in an email to CBC."Bird continued to function with no business impact, and we worked with leading cyber security experts to restore access to the affected files."The company wouldn't say whether they paid their cyber-assailants — something police forces warn against.A company spokesperson said government officials were notified at the time of the breach.While it doesn't appear that any secure government files were compromised in the hack, the Bird case raises concerns about how secure government contracts are as the number of ransomware incidents multiplies.Between 2006 and 2015, Bird scored 48 contracts with the Department of National Defence totalling more than $406 million. Bird also helped build the RCMP's Surrey detachment headquarters and has done work for Public Services and Procurement Canada.Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, said Canada could learn from the United States and Britain, countries that have taken steps to ensure the security systems of all government contractors are locked down — even those not dealing with classified information."When we look at the major hacks that have occurred, especially on the defence side, where you know fighter aircraft information was stolen — it wasn't stolen from the prime contractor, it was stolen in a tiny, tiny shop supplying widgets," she said, citing the 2017 theft of sensitive information about Australia's defence programs through a government contractor."Whether they're done by nation states or by criminal organizations or by rogue actors, it's a characteristic of these kinds of attacks to get to governments using businesses as the point of entry, especially ... small businesses that tend to be the most vulnerable."Cianfarani said Canada needs to start working on its own cyber security certification program for vendors.Apart from federal work, Bird also has worked on renovations at multiple Ontario Provincial Police detachments and a wastewater treatment plant in Wood Buffalo, Alta., and helped to build Calgary's new emergency operations control centre. The company also has held contracts with oilpatch and potash companies, including Suncor.A spokesperson for the RCMP said the police service is aware of the hack but would not say whether it's investigating.Little recourse for feds after an attackPublic Services and Procurement Canada, which oversees how the government buys goods and services, has different levels of security clearance depending on whether a contractor has access to classified information."The government of Canada does go a long way to do that when there is sensitive information in play. When there's not sensitive information at play, companies do need to realize that this is a growing [trend]," said Aaron Shull, managing director and general counsel for the Centre for International Governance Innovation.A spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada said the department is working to ensure all companies are properly vetted."Ransomware and the impacts of this type of attack are monitored by Public Services and Procurement Canada in collaboration with other government security agencies," said spokesperson Stéfanie Hamel."Public Services and Procurement Canada is working closely with relevant departmental stakeholders to ensure that, as part of the procurement process, companies it does business with have gone through intensive screening and meet all of our security requirements before any contract is granted."Shull said there's little recourse for government departments once their confidential information is caught up in a cyberattack."The problem, of course, is that once a company has been breached it's a little bit like trying to nail the barn door shut after the horse is already gone," he said."The tools that are available to the federal government to penalize these companies are unsatisfactory. You're going to end up with a lawsuit for breach of contract or negligence, or something like that."The Bird Construction case is just the latest in a series of ransomware attacks hitting Canadian networks — a series that includes attacks on a number of Ontario municipalities, including Woodstock, Stratford and The Nation. 'The tools that are available to the federal government to penalize these companies are unsatisfactory.' \- Aaron Shull, CIGIThe RCMP has reported an uptick in ransomware attacks and a recent survey of Canadian organizations found the vast majority (88 per cent) had experienced a data breach over the last 12 months.Brett Callow, a security analyst with the anti-virus software firm Emsisoft, said any stolen data could be used to perfect a future scam. He said implementing a bolstered audit system could help the government identify information that has been put at risk. "If data has been stolen, there's obviously no way of getting it back. The most you can do is pay the criminals for a pinky-promise that they will not use that data," he said.Vendors need better cyber hygiene: expertsBoth DND and the RCMP said they follow Public Services and Procurement Canada's directions when it comes to contracts for goods, services and construction."The protection of information is a priority for the Department of National Defence," said Jessica Lamirande."We continue to take every precaution to ensure the proper security and privacy measures are in place, including complying with all relevant Government of Canada policies."A RCMP spokesperson said the force also reviews the security requirements for all contracts and may include security clauses that require contractors to safeguard information.Justin Fier, director for cyber intelligence and analytics at the online security firm Darktrace, said companies need better cyber hygiene and more training to prevent human error."The unfortunate and sad truth is no matter how much we educate our workforce, people will get duped into clicking the link in the email or ... doing something that they probably shouldn't be doing just because it gets the job done quicker and more efficiently," he said."It's not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as we pay the ransoms, they're going to keep coming back."

  • After the apology, Indigenous groups seek firm commitments from Quebec government
    News
    CBC

    After the apology, Indigenous groups seek firm commitments from Quebec government

    There was optimism last fall when Quebec Premier François Legault stood before the National Assembly, turned to First Nations and Inuit leaders in the gallery and apologized for the province's mistreatment of Indigenous people. The apology was the first recommendation in a report prepared by retired Quebec Superior Court justice Jacques Viens.The report — the result of nine months'  testimony about decades of abuse, mistreatment and neglect — concluded that Indigenous people in Quebec are victims of "systemic discrimination" when it comes to accessing public services.It laid out 142 recommendations for the province regarding policing, social services, corrections, justice, youth protection, and health and social services.Legault promised to closely examine those recommendations and act swiftly to improve the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities.Since then, things have not gone as well.Legault a no-showLegault didn't show up to the first meeting with Indigenous leaders last October. His absence prompted questions about the government's level of commitment to a "nation-to-nation" relationship.He isn't planning to attend the follow up, scheduled for Monday, either."It's really disappointing," Lac Simon Chief Adrienne Jérôme said last week.Legault's minister of Indigenous affairs, Sylvie D'Amours, who was on vacation for most of January, will be there in his stead. Legault told reporters he has "full confidence" in D'Amours."Obviously, during the year I will meet the Indigenous communities, but I cannot go to all the meetings," he told reporters.Ghislain Picard, the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, said Friday he wants Indigenous leaders to "be bold" and "take the lead on matter and, hopefully, get a positive response from Quebec.""As we've said many times before, an apology is something, but it's got to be supported by proper actions by the government."Monday's meeting, to be held behind closed doors, is scheduled to run all day in Montreal. On the agenda are both the Viens commission recommendations and those of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.But other concerns have emerged since. 'Shameful' challenge to child welfare reformThe Coalition Avenir Québec government upset First Nations leaders when it announced, right before the Christmas break, that it would ask the province's Court of Appeal to rule on the constitutionality of a new federal law governing Indigenous child welfare.The federal legislation, which went into effect Jan. 1, allows Indigenous groups to take over their own child welfare systems and prioritizes the placement of Indigenous children in care with members of their own extended families and Indigenous communities.Picard called the decision to challenge the long-awaited federal law "shameful" and "unacceptable.""Defending its so-called jurisdiction is one thing, but doing it on the back of our children is another," he said at the time."The Legault government is well aware that the current child welfare system does not work for First Nations children."The challenge remains before the courts.

  • Libya's Haftar makes push in western Libya
    News
    Reuters

    Libya's Haftar makes push in western Libya

    BENGHAZI, Libya/TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar sought on Sunday to open a new front by moving forces towards the city of Misrata, which is allied to the country's internationally recognised government, officials and residents said. In another sign that a shaky truce was faltering, Tripoli's Mitiga further to the west airport was hit by two rockets, which wounded two civilians and damaged the tarmac and buildings, the U.N. mission to Libya said. The airport has been used to launch Turkish-supplied combat drones to counter unmanned aircraft used by Haftar's Libyan National Army and provided by the United Arab Emirates.

  • R.I.P. Kobe Bryant: NBA legend and daughter Gianna's relationship in photos
    Yahoo News Canada

    R.I.P. Kobe Bryant: NBA legend and daughter Gianna's relationship in photos

    The world is in shock as news of Kobe Bryant’s death spread Sunday morning.The NBA legend and five-time champion was killed in a helicopter crash along with four other passengers, including his daughter Gianna, 13.Gianna was a familiar face courtside and at press conference during her father’s long and esteemed career in the league.Kobe Bryant was 41.

  • News
    CBC

    Tofino highway cutoff a 'real eye-opener' for potential emergencies, says mayor

    The mayor of Tofino, B.C., says a recent rock slide that cut off highway access to the Vancouver Island tourist town has been a lesson in disguise. "It's been a real eye-opener in retrospect to what we could expect to when we have a highway closure for any reason," said Josie Osborne.Like many parts of the West Coast, people in Tofino are on alert for the "Big One" — the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that is expected to hit the B.C. coast someday. Road access to Tofino and nearby Ucluelet became limited early Thursday when a rock blast, undertaken as part of a road improvement project, resulted in a slide that caused major damage to Highway 4.Travellers were advised to reschedule their holiday plans, and locals reported dwindling supplies of fresh produce before the highway was reopened Saturday evening to single-lane alternating traffic."There's hardly a green vegetable to be found, I'm told," Osborne said. "Those who have a garden are harvesting lots of kale right now."Cars and light trucks were able to get through Saturday morning in single lane alternating traffic, but larger trucks weren't permitted.By Saturday evening crews had installed a temporary bridge, which reopened the road to all vehicles.Osborne says it was lucky that access to the town was the only thing cut off. Power is still running, and the town is still intact — which wouldn't be the case if there had been an earthquake or tsunami. "We're literally just living without access and getting to understand what that really means in terms of groceries and supplies and fuel," she said. "It's a good trial run. This is the kind of exercise you can't ever really plan for." Osborne said the highway closure came at a good time, when tourism is relatively low. The town of about 2,000 people is currently at about 25 per cent of its full capacity, she said, noting Tofino swells to about 8,000 people at the height of tourist season.

  • Triple shooting in Scarborough leaves one dead, another critically injured
    News
    CBC

    Triple shooting in Scarborough leaves one dead, another critically injured

    One person is dead and another has been critically injured in a triple shooting in Scarborough, Toronto police say.Emergency crews were called to the area of Markham and Kingston roads around 9:20 p.m. for reports of gunfire. Insp. Jim Gottell said the shots are believed to have been fired inside a restaurant.Police say one man was shot in the chest and pronounced dead at the scene. A second man was shot in the head and rushed to a trauma centre.Both are believed to be in their early 20s.A female victim suffered a hand injury and was being treated at the scene. Her age is not yet known and it's unclear what relationship she might have to the other victims, police say.There's no word yet on any possible suspects, however one witness reported seeing two males fleeing westbound on Kingston Road. A heavy police presence is at the scene, along with a canine team. Roads in the area are expected to be closed for some time for the police investigation.Anyone with information is asked to contact police or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stopppers by calling 416-222-TIPS.

  • News
    CBC

    Vacant historic B.C. theatre to re-open as multi-use venue

    A historic theatre in the Kootenays that closed its doors 20 years ago is about to get a facelift, and a new life as a multi-use venue. After regularly passing by the shuttered Armond Theatre in downtown Cranbook and watching it slowly deteriorate since it closed in 2000, Ferdy Belland and his friends decided to purchase it. "There's a great need here in Cranbrook for more venues which can handle attendees in the 200 to 400 range," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "Now we've got a four-phase project on our hands."Phase one was purchasing the building. Phase two is going to be the toughest part of the process, according to Belland, because they'll have to deal with hazardous materials like asbestos and address structural issues in the nearly 70-year-old building. Once those concerns have been addressed, Belland and his partners Spencer Kerr and Casey Wright are planning some major renovations to the theatre. Their vision is to mimic the original art deco interior, with a copper ceiling, wooden wainscotting, wall sconces, velvet drapes and a hardwood dance floor. Belland estimates the project will cost about $1.2 million. All three of them have construction experience; Belland has worked in construction for more than 20 years, Wright owns a local roofing company and Kerr is a journeyman plumber, so they feel fit for the task. As for running a theatre, Belland's 30 years of involvement in the Cranbrook arts scene, including concert promotion with a local promoter, makes him confident it will work out. Belland hopes to have the theatre up and running for July 1, 2021, but because he is familiar with the way construction projects often work out, he's not rigid with the completion date. "As anybody knows, taking on projects like this, things flex and the schedule goes into flux," he said. Once it's done, he wants it to be open for use as a venue for dance recitals, concerts, lectures, film screenings and more.

  • News
    Reuters

    Heavy rains dampen fires in Australia's Queensland state, cause flooding

    Australia's bushfire-stricken state of Queensland saw heavy rainfalls on Sunday dampening some of the fires that have razed 2.5 million hectares (1.2 million acres) of land since September, but the wet weather caused major flooding. Some areas received a quarter of the annual average rainfall, according to Reuters' calculations, with the state's Bureau of Meteorology saying coastal areas experienced up to 160 millimeters (6.3 inches) of rain in the 24-hour period to 9 a.m. on Sunday. Recent rains across drought-hit Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales states have substantially dampened many of the hundreds of bushfires that have burnt an area nearly the size of Greece and killed 33 people and millions of animals since September.

  • News
    CBC

    Wolf spotted near downtown Victoria

    Police say a wolf was spotted in the James Bay neighbourhood near downtown Victoria Saturday afternoon.Officers patrolled area parks and asked people to keep their children and pets inside.Police say an animal control officer saw the animal, and confirmed it is a wolf.Video submitted to CHEK News in Victoria appears to show the animal trotting down a neighbourhood street.Around 6:45 p.m. Victoria police said it had received no new reports of sightings but asked anyone who sees the animal to call 911. It also advised pet owners to keep their animals inside overnight.According to Parks B.C., it is best to stay as far away from wolves as possible. Anyone who spots a wolf should begin scare tactics if it gets any closer than 100 m. This includes raising one's arms and waving them in the air, using noise makers and throwing sticks. If a wolf displays aggressive behaviour, anyone nearby should back away slowly and not turn their back on the wolf.

  • Presumed coronavirus in Canada: 'We got this well-managed,' official says
    CBC

    Presumed coronavirus in Canada: 'We got this well-managed,' official says

    Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa says a team is tracking down those who might have been in contact with the man, whose family members are already in self-isolation.

  • News
    CBC

    Vancouver asks residents to weigh in on how to spend $100K in city's West End

    The city is inviting Vancouverites with ties to the West End to vote on how to spend $100,000 for up to 14 community improvement projects. The process, which the city calls participatory budgeting, is open to anyone with a strong connection to the downtown neighbourhood — through work, living arrangements or volunteering. Coun. Pete Fry says it's the first time the city has implemented participatory budgeting, and he's hoping there will be more of it in other neighbourhoods. "I'm very excited to see this project succeed," Fry said. "It's a really good opportunity for communities to come forward and say, 'Hey, this is how we'd like to see our community benefit.'"Voters choose and rank up to four of 14 projects. The projects with the highest number of votes and that fall within the $100,000 budget will be implemented. Fry said money for the budget came from parking revenues. Some of the projects include a chalk art block party, a pedestrian crossing and increased mental health services.Voting takes place between Jan. 25 and Feb. 4. People can take part online or in person. Results will be announced Feb. 8 and projects have to be implemented within 18 months. 'Finding our way'Fry said participatory budgeting takes place in cities around the world, including Toronto and New York. The city said it chose the West End to pilot the process because of its manageable size. Kendal Fish, a volunteer with the project, says the process started last January when citizens submitted more than 1,700 ideas. Volunteers then grouped those and whittled them down to the current choices, based on inclusivity, the project's impact, and feasibility. "It's been extremely interesting. We've been finding our way," Fish said, adding that volunteers hope to share what they've learned with other neighbourhoods.

  • News
    CBC

    Wetaskiwin shelter fire deemed suspicious after body found inside

    Wetaskiwin RCMP and the major crimes unit are investigating after human remains were discovered in a burned out structure known as Manny's Motel.The fire started shortly before midnight on Jan. 14 at the property which is used for low-income housing and a shelter, near the corner of 40th Avenue and 54th Street in Wetaskiwin, about 70 kilometres south of Edmonton.Police officers entered the building to alert numerous residents and evacuate the building on the night of the blaze. Firefighters remained on scene for hours contending with extreme cold as the temperature hovered around –35 C, with windchill of –50.  The extreme cold weather hindered efforts to examine the scene and conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire, police said in a news release Saturday.Crews managed to thaw enough ice to begin an examination of the scene by Jan. 20, six days after the fire.  Human remains foundOn Thursday, human remains were discovered in the building. The fire investigator determined the fire was suspicious the same day.An autopsy was completed on the body on Friday, but the identity of the person who died and the cause of death have not yet been confirmed, police said, adding that additional tests will be conducted as they continue to examine the scene of the fire. Anyone with information regarding the incident is being asked to contact Wetaskiwin RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

  • News
    CBC

    B.C. health officials comment on Canada's 1st case of coronavirus

    As a man in his 50s receives treatment in a Toronto hospital for the coronavirus, health officials in B.C. are reassuring people that there are no cases in the province and medical professionals are prepared to deal with a case should someone be diagnosed.On Saturday, health officials in Ontario confirmed that the man, who is in stable condition at Sunnybrook Hospital, had recently travelled to Wuhan, China and fell ill upon his return. Lab results appear to show he has the coronavirus, which has sickened hundreds of people, mostly in Central China, and resulted in dozens of deaths.The virus has also been detected in several other countries, including the United States, where a Washington state man in his 30s was diagnosed on Tuesday.Ontario's health minister and chief medical officer of health were joined by several other officials during a Saturday news conference, where they presented details of Canada's first case of coronavirus. They said they were confident steps had been taken to prevent its spread and protect the public from the virus.Following the news conference, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and the province's health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, issued a joint statement that mostly reiterated what the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said at a news conference on Friday."To date, there have been no cases of illness caused by the novel coronavirus in British Columbia and the overall risk to B.C. is still considered low," said the statement.The pair expressed confidence in their Ontario peers to prevent the spread of the virus and noted that B.C. is ready to deal with cases should they emerge here. The statement also said that the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has developed a diagnostic test for the new coronavirus. Efforts are also being made to make sure adequate medical supplies are in place. Health-care workers have been asked to be vigilant and to ask patients with respiratory symptoms to report their travel history.The majority of cases of the new coronavirus worldwide have been linked to people being in Wuhan, China.Dix and Henry are asking B.C. residents who may have been exposed to coronavirus — or who are experiencing symptoms associated with the disease, such as a fever and cough — to call their doctor, local health office, or 811.The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is sharing the latest information about the coronavirus on its website and Twitter feed.

  • 'I was livid': Single mom hit with $32,000 bill to break furnace, air conditioner rental contract
    News
    CBC

    'I was livid': Single mom hit with $32,000 bill to break furnace, air conditioner rental contract

    When Tracy Spence tried to get out of her rental contract for a furnace and air conditioner, she was outraged by the price tag. After paying more than $7,000 total in monthly rental fees since 2016, she was told she'd have to pay another $32,406 to buy out her contract, giving her ownership of the appliances. "I was livid," said Spence, who lives in Toronto. "In what universe does a furnace [and] an air conditioner cost that much money?"According to her contract, Spence's furnace and air conditioner had a combined "cash selling price" of $10,798. That's a far cry from the approximately $40,000 she'd be out for renting the appliances and then buying out the rest of her 10-year contract  — which includes service and warranty protection. "I feel so completely stupid for getting myself involved in this," said Spence, who was sold on the rental deal by a door-to-door salesperson.She's one of many Canadians who've complained to CBC News over the years that they feel duped after signing up to rent a home energy appliance — such as a furnace or water heaterDue to a flood of consumer complaints, Ontario banned unsolicited door-to-door home energy appliance sales in 2018. All other provinces, with the exception of Alberta, still allow the practice.Toronto-based paralegal John Robinson said he currently represents more than 50 clients involved in disputes over their home energy appliance rental contracts. He said the main complaints from clients are that the deal is more expensive than they had anticipated, and that it's too costly to buy out their contract."They're feeling very stuck and they're feeling taken advantage of. And they're down, because they think there's no way out."Fortunately for Spence, her case was quickly resolved after she shared her story with CBC News. CBC contacted Toronto-based Crown Crest Capital, which took over in July 2017 as Spence's service provider and the lender financing her contract. The company said it had no involvement prior to that date. Crown Crest's external legal counsel said that an error had been made in quoting Spence a $32,406 buyout price."It was just something everyone missed," said lawyer Alfred Apps. "We're going to step in and resolve this positively in favour of the customer."The matter was resolved to Spence's satisfaction, but CBC isn't privy to the final buyout price. According to Spence's lawyer Tyler Declute, Crown Crest had her sign a confidentiality agreement which prevents Spence from speaking any further about the issue.'I was really vulnerable'Before signing her confidentiality agreement, Spence said she felt pressured to sign up for her rental deal when a "fast-talking" salesperson showed up at her home on a hot day in June 2016. Shortly before, her air conditioner had died and her live-in brother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's."It was really a stressful time," said Spence, a 59-year-old single mother of two adult sons who also live with her. "I was really vulnerable."She said the cost savings the salesperson had promised she would enjoy by switching from her oil furnace to a new gas one never actually materialized, because they were offset by high rental fees."The spiel that they gave me wasn't exactly how it played out."The company that brokered Spence's deal — Consumers Choice Comfort Services — appears to no longer exist.Even so, it currently faces 18 charges under the Ontario Consumers Protection Act, including charges of false or misleading business practices, according to the Ontario government. Spence decided to quit her contract in December 2019 when she faced complications trying to refinance her mortgage, because a lien for the air conditioner and furnace had been placed on her home. Often, the lender financing a rental contract does this to ensure it recoups its money if the customer sells the property. "I just wanted to be out of it," said Spence. Crown Crest sent her documents stating that she owed $32,406 total to buy out her contract.In emails to the company, Spence's lawyer Declute informed Crown Crest that because his client signed a contract with a 10-year term, he calculated that the buyout price should be about $15,000. The company's manager of collections wouldn't budge on the price, according to the emails. Declute said he got the same response when he called the manager."She goes, 'You're under a time crunch. You need this paid out. Here's the payout. If you don't pay us this amount, we're not going to get rid of it.'"An employee mistakeCBC News contacted Crown Crest, inquiring how it justified Spence's $32,406 buyout bill. Apps responded that the manager was mistaken in how she calculated the bill. "She has it dead wrong," he said. "We'll be resolving it today."CBC News pointed out that other Crown Crest employees were copied on the email correspondence between Declute and the manager, but that no one from the company caught the error. "We've launched an internal inquiry to figure that out," said Apps.He said that he suspects there are some shady companies in the home energy rental appliance business, but that Crown Crest Capital isn't one of them.

  • How 3D holograms and AI are preserving Holocaust survivors' stories
    News
    CBC

    How 3D holograms and AI are preserving Holocaust survivors' stories

    Max Eisen, 90, has lived his life by stubbornly looking ahead.He survived losing his mother and siblings in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and survived the camp himself, by focusing on getting through each day one hour at a time. He survived a 13-day death march by willing himself to keep moving his body forward a step at a time. He emigrated to Canada and started a business and a family by refusing to look back at what he'd lost.Last month, though, he spent five full days in a studio in Los Angeles not only looking back, but going over every minute detail of his life for an high-tech project that will preserve his voice long after he's gone."I thought this was a very powerful tool, it was important," Eisen says.The tool Eisen is referring to is the New Dimensions in Testimony Program.It's part of Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation, which the director founded after making the film Schindler's List. For the past 25 years, the foundation has been recording the testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. This new project, however, goes much further than simple recordings.Interactive hologramUsing proprietary technology, the USC initiative employs machine learning and artificial intelligence to create holograms of survivors' stories that audiences will be able to interact with and question for years to come.Eisen is the 25th person and the first Canadian to undergo the process, after another Canadian, Pinchas Gutter, piloted an earlier and less-polished version of it several years ago.The process starts on a Monday morning and goes straight through until Friday afternoon. Eisen, like others before him, has to sit in a chair in the same position and wearing the same clothes while a USC Shoah Foundation staff member peppers him with hundreds of questions about his life and experiences during the holocaust.The two are sitting in a specially constructed tent of green screens and surrounded by 26 mounted cameras that capture Eisen's responses from every angle.After the week of filming, the USC team begins the arduous editing process. They transform Eisen's week-long interview into an interactive hologram.The finished hologram will work with technology that allows users to ask it any question they want. The system will recognize words in the question and match it with an answer in its database in real time. Children and adults will essentially be talking to a person on a screen, who will look like they're listening to them and answering the questions in real time."When I first saw this, I sort of thought it was kind of eerie and this meant the end of life — you're only on a wall there hanging down now," Eisen says."But I've sort of come to realize this is a new technology and it could do a very big, important job."Quest to preserve the pastFor Eisen, participation in the New Dimensions Program is just the latest part of his personal quest to educate others about the horrors of the Holocaust. For the past two decades, he has been giving speeches in schools and at community gatherings. He's returned to Poland many times with The March of the Living, a group that takes Jewish teenagers and adults on tours of concentration camps and ghettos in Poland.He agreed to start talking about his past only after retiring from his business in 1991. It was his granddaughter who first started questioning him about it when she began learning about the Holocaust in school. "I made up my mind then that I'm going to do this, I have to talk about it," he says. "I did promise my father that I would tell the world what happened there, so it was time."Eisen's mother and siblings were killed upon their arrival at the Auschwitz concentration camp in May 1944. He lost his father a few months after they arrived. For months, he and his father had suffered on a gruelling work detail, often labouring for 10 to 12 hours a day and surviving on very little food. After his father was selected for medical experiments, Eisen never saw him again.Eisen credits his own survival to the mercy of the camp's surgeon, a Polish prisoner himself, after he was badly beaten by an SS officer. The surgeon kept Eisen in his clinic and put him to work as his assistant after he recovered from his injuries, sparing him any further labour."Of my entire family, over 70 people, I was one of three to survive," Eisen says, Once he started opening up about his experiences in the Holocaust, Eisen has never stopped. His memoir, By Chance Alone, was published in 2016 and was the winner of 2019's CBC Canada Reads Competition.The endeavour, spreading the truth about what happened to him and those around him during the Holocaust, has now become his full time job."This is actually my career now," says Eisen. "I was in business and I closed that book and I opened this book. And all these opportunities are just coming now and I don't refuse anybody."His determination to educate as many people as possible about the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism is something he thinks is still relevant.This was reinforced when an image of him in front of synagogue promoting Holocaust education in 2018 was defaced with the German word "achtung," which translates to "attention" — a word Eisen vividly remembers guards yelling at the prisoners in Auschwitz.Eisen admits reliving his past hasn't gotten easier, but says the work is too important for him to stop — and the feedback he gets from students keeps him going."They keep telling me, you know, 'I've been a principal in this school for 25 years, I've seen these students, they have a span of attention of 15 minutes, and they were sitting here for an hour and a half and they didn't blink an eyelash.' That's rewarding," says Eisen.Gruelling interview processKia Hayes, from the USC Foundation, has been tasked with interviewing Eisen for the New Dimensions project. She and her team spent months researching every aspect of his past, a process that culminated in more than 1,000 questions for him.She says knowing Eisen could handle the gruelling interview process is why they selected him for the project."It's not just that the survivor can physically can sit for the five hours a day, five days a week, to tell their story. It's also, mentally and emotionally, are they able to? Do they want to? Do they feel comfortable sharing?," says Hayes."We want to know that we're not overburdening them with the amount of questions that we're asking, and that's really important to us."The types of questions Hayes asks Eisen are interesting, too.Beyond questions about his childhood and wartime experience, her team has to think of what a child without much knowledge of history might ask of a Holocaust survivor in the future. So, questions like 'Have you met Hitler?' and 'Do you hate Germans?' are included, because of the fact that children are likely to ask them."They [children] are curious. They want to know things like that. So we need to make sure the questions we're building out include that level of curiosity," explains Hayes. And Eisen is more than willing to answer all of those questions. He says it's essential that the stories of Holocaust survivors do not die with them, and the interactive holograms help keep the stories alive for future generations."It's amazing, who would've thought something like this would be possible?"Eisen's interactive hologram is now in the editing stage and will be ready to be installed in museums and travel to schools in about a year's time. He says the experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve his legacy."That's why I keep doing this, and moving, and going, and talking. And this is what other survivors are doing — when we are no longer going to be here, there's got to be some other tools that these students and next generations will need to hear and see."

  • 2020 Grammy Awards: The Canadians, the contenders and the controversy
    News
    CBC

    2020 Grammy Awards: The Canadians, the contenders and the controversy

    With Canadian stars Drake and Shawn Mendes among the nominees, breakout artists Lizzo and Billie Eilish considered top contenders and controversy looming behind the scenes, this year's Grammy Awards are already shaping up to be must-watch TV.Here's what you need to know about this year's big night in music.Leading contendersTruth Hurts singer Lizzo leads this year's nominations, with eight, including best new artist and record of the year. Her album Cuz I Love You is up for the coveted album of the year prize.Lizzo, 31, has been working in the industry for years but only recently captivated mainstream audiences with her body positivity and empowerment anthems, unfiltered social media commentary and classical flute playing.In fact, Truth Hurts was originally released in 2017 but didn't get any traction on the charts. It was re-released in 2019 and added as a bonus track to Cuz I Love You after gaining popularity on the short-form video app Tik-Tok. The catchy tune was further bolstered when it was featured in a pivotal breakup scene of the Netflix romantic comedy Someone Great."Lizzo, I work with her and it's just such an amazing story," Atlantic Records executive Juliette Jones told CBC News in Los Angeles. "She's been working so hard and I think it's so cool that this black girl who plays the flute has become a pop star."Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X are close behind, with six nominations each.Like Lizzo, Eilish scored nominations in the top four categories (best new artist, song of the year, record of the year and album of the year). At age 18 — she was 17 when the nominations came out— Eilish is the youngest artist in Grammy history to do so.Lil Nas X, 20, will compete against both women for best new artist as well as album and record of the year for Old Town Road, featuring a collaboration with country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.The three artists are among those expected to perform as well.Powerful role modelsEilish and Lizzo are leading the charge against another all-too-common facet of the music industry: judgment over a woman's physical appearance.Both have eschewed industry stereotypes in favour of staying true to themselves. Eilish refuses to conform to a particular pop star look and has been called the voice of her generation as much for her music as for her defiance of convention.Lizzo, who celebrates being black and having a curvy body, has developed a significant social media following and fan base for her refreshing take on beauty and image. But her outlook has also invited critics to take aim.Fitness enthusiast Jillian Michaels criticized Lizzo's size in a recent Buzzfeed interview, saying: "It isn't gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes."Michaels, known for her appearances on the weight-loss reality series The Biggest Loser, faced backlash for the comment and later said she regretted involving the pop star in her discussion.Watch as female artists take centre stage: Lizzo, who stepped away from Twitter due to persistent negativity, told Rolling Stone in a feature released this week that people just have to get used to her. Because she's not going anywhere."That's not new — for her to feel good about herself and be comfortable in her own skin," Jones said. "I love her response to it all."Canadian prideAnother musician pushing against double-standards in the industry is Toronto-born Jessie Reyez. Reyez, who says, "I still deal with people that are trying to tell me what to wear," is a first-time nominee in the category of urban contemporary album for Being Human in Public."Through my experience, through my growth, through thickening my skin, through knowing how to handle hate with a smile, through learning all those things, I feel like that's a positive change that I've been able to see in the last few years," Reyez said about navigating the music business while attending soundcheck for a performance at L.A.'s iconic Troubadour club Wednesday.Watch Reyez talk about her Grammy nomination:Drake, Shawn Mendes, Michael Bublé, and Daniel Caesar are among the other high-profile Canadian nominees.A number of other canucks are vying for hardware as well, including central Alberta's Northern Cree, based in Maskwacis, Alta., for best regional roots album When It's Cold – Cree Round Dance Songs."We want to show all the youth back home ... that you don't need to be somebody else," said group member Joel Wood. "You can be proud of who you are."London, Ont.-based Dan Brodbeck, who's engineering and writing on The Cranberries' final work, In The End, earned a nod for best rock album.The Irish band's lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan, died in 2018 at age 46. Despite the alternative rock group's massive success in the 1990s with hits such as Linger, Dreams and Zombie, The Cranberries have never been nominated for a Grammy until this year."It means a bit more to me because it's their first nomination and she's not with us anymore," Brodbeck said about O'Riordan while attending a pre-Grammy event held by SOCAN celebrating Canadian nominees in Los Angeles. "And we were very close friends."Cloud of controversyDespite the shining talent, there's a cloud hanging over the Grammys after its CEO was ousted from her position less than two weeks before the ceremony. Deborah Dugan was hired last May by the Recording Academy, the non-profit which oversees the awards and which has been facing ongoing criticism for a lack of diversity and inclusion. She alleges she was put on leave after reporting sexual harassment as well as conflicts of interest in the nomination process.Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week. People in the industry recognize the seriousness of the allegations but hope they won't take the spotlight away from nominees."This is real stuff we're talking about and we have to get to it," said Yvette Noel Schure, head of Schure Media Group and Beyoncé's publicist, at a red carpet event Thursday in Hollywood."But just for Sunday I want us to focus on the artists that so deserve to be celebrated. And then come Monday, let's get back to what's really going on."The Grammy Awards, hosted by Alicia Keys, will be broadcast live at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 from Los Angeles, Calif. CBC News will be on the red carpet.

  • Writers, producers warn streaming content boom is squeezing out Canadian creators
    News
    CBC

    Writers, producers warn streaming content boom is squeezing out Canadian creators

    Scroll through your favourite streaming service and you're likely to come across some Canadiana, whether homegrown hits like Schitt's Creek and Kim's Convenience, or shows filled with familiar landmarks like The Expanse and The Handmaid's Tale.But amid the tidal wave of content coming from an increasing number of streamers, members of the Canadian film and TV industry are expressing concern about local storytellers being left out.This week, a government-appointed panel is set to release a long-awaited report on recommendations to modernize Canada's broadcasting laws. Industry veterans are eager to see if it will recommend that Netflix, Amazon Prime and other foreign companies streaming programming to Canadians contribute a portion of their revenues directly to funding Canadian-made projects. "We're now really focused on a lot of international content and that is fantastic — provided you can still provide some balance with your own stories and your own culture. That's really what's missing in the tale of all the new streamers," said Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC).According to the guild, scripted programming — such as dramas, sitcoms and kids' shows — commissioned by the major English-language private broadcasters has fallen significantly since 2014.The total hours WGC members were commissioned to work on scripted Canadian shows has plummeted since 2014, by between 61 and 82 per cent, depending on the broadcaster. Meanwhile, the production of U.S.-led film and TV shows in Canadian cities has skyrocketed, attributed in part to new programming for streaming services.Production by services such as Netflix and Apple TV Plus has increased 298.8 per cent since 2014, the WGC said.The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) has seen a similar trend. In its 2018 annual economic report, for instance, it said Canadian television production dropped by $309 million and in-house productions by Canadian broadcasters, specifically, decreased $201 million. Foreign service productions have become "the largest single segment of the Canadian screen-based production sector," said the CMPA report. They jumped by 26.3 per cent to $4.77 billion in 2017-2018. About three-quarters of these productions come from the U.S., where the copyright resides, the CMPA noted.As it stands now, the Broadcast Act requires all traditional broadcasters, cable and satellite providers, and others to contribute to the Canadian Media Fund (CMF), a key source of funding for Canadian content creators. The act currently does not require foreign streaming services to contribute. "The private broadcasters feel like they're up against the streamers, who have no regulatory requirements," Parker noted. Watch | We ask Canadians how much more they'd pay to fund Canadian content:Netflix, the current streaming leader, argued against paying into the CMF last January in its submission to the broadcasting review panel. In 2017, the company vowed to pour $500 million into original, made-in-Canada programming and noted last year that it would "significantly exceed" that earlier pledge. A Netflix spokesperson declined to offer additional comment to CBC News, beyond referring to its review panel submission a year ago."Netflix is not reporting how they're spending whatever they're spending," Parker said.Foreign productions shooting in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are a boon for the service economy in those respective cities, but they don't inject actual content by Canadian creators into a streamer's lineup, Parker said.'Branch plant' vs hub of creation?Some industry veterans see a danger of the Canadian industry becoming "a branch-plant economy" rather than a hotspot where quality programming originates. They believe compelling foreign streamers to directly contribute to funding structures like the CMF is a key way to combat this."[If] you're just working on someone else's show and, one day, if it's cheaper to produce in Mexico or in the Ukraine, the production will get up and move to those studios. And you'll be left without a base of production, a base of intellectual property, a base of ownership that can carry on," said film and TV producer Martin Katz, a former chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television."Netflix didn't makes Schitt's Creek ... Netflix bought Schitt's Creek after it was a beautiful, successful, smart, innovative and groundbreaking show. Same with Kim's Convenience. Same with Working Moms."From Amazon Prime to Apple TV Plus and more, streamers are definitely spending to create their own original content. A new report projects that streaming leader Netflix, for instance, will invest more than $17 billion US overall on content in 2020, including on its original productions.Most often, however, "we discover things on Netflix that were funded and supported by someone else," Katz noted."All those great Danish noir shows? Those weren't created by Netflix. They're created by a whole infrastructure in Denmark that is government-supported, local content creation."Streamers "are getting a great deal with access to our market," said Katz."All we're saying is they should be leaving something here and that thing that they leave here isn't an amount that they should make up on their own."Worldwide calls for local investmentIt's an argument that the U.S.-led streaming companies are also facing elsewhere.In Australia, officials have questioned whether streamers should be required to support local productions and operate under content quota rules closer to those followed by Australian TV networks.France is pondering legislation requiring foreign streamers to invest 25 per cent of their revenue from French subscribers into local content production. The European Union has given foreign video streamers until September 2020 to ensure that a minimum of 30 per cent of content available to EU subscribers is from the EU. In response, Netflix has been vigorously expanding its European operations, including opening a large, 40-employee office in Paris this month (its fourth in Europe) and touting new French projects and partnerships. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had previously dismissed the notion of taxing digital services, during the last election campaign he and all the major party leaders seemingly embraced the idea that international tech giants should contribute to Canada's economy. The chair of Canada's broadcast and telecom regulator called it "inevitable" that foreign streamers will have to contribute to the production of Canadian content."Companies who are extracting a profit — they are participating in the Canadian market and deriving revenues — should be contributing," Ian Scott, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.But, the situation is not as simple as Canada introducing a so-called Netflix tax, he said.  "The manner that they contribute is what's at issue."The CRTC's Communications Monitoring Report, released this week, estimated that subscription-based video-on-demand services — including Netflix, Crave and Quebec-based Club Illico — had an estimated revenue of $2.5 billion Cdn in 2018. Netflix was by far the biggest player, representing 65 per cent of the pie, while Amazon Prime Video was second with an eight-per-cent share of that revenue total.Netflix has said Canada represents roughly 10 per cent of its overall North American business and it counts about 6.5 million Canadian subscribers. On Tuesday, the California-based company's latest earnings report revealed it generated $20 billion US in revenue globally in 2019, with about $10 billion coming from its U.S. and Canada division.

  • Gatineau fire service falling behind in long-term care home inspections
    News
    CBC

    Gatineau fire service falling behind in long-term care home inspections

    The Gatineau, Que., fire service has failed to meet its own inspection standards for publicly run residential and long-term care centres, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada under access to information.The documents show the fire department is supposed to conduct inspections of the Centres d'hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) every three years, according to municipal regulations. However, half of the city's long-term care centres haven't been inspected in at least five years. One of those facilities, CHSLD Renaissance, hasn't been inspected in seven years.  The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), which manages the city's eight centres, says its fire prevention technicians carry out regular inspections, including annual checks of fire alarm systems and sprinklers.However, the fire service is also supposed to conduct inspections of fire alarms, sprinklers and evacuation routes, and also make sure buildings are accessible.The lack of inspections between September 2010 and September 2019 is a breach of municipal fire safety regulations, as mandated by Quebec's ministry of public safety.Infrequent inspections, lax documentationThe documents show that CHSLD La Pièta in Hull has not been inspected since 2014, while the most recent inspection at CHSLD Renaissance in Gatineau dates back to 2012.CHSLD Vigi de l'Outaouais was inspected in 2017, but that was over seven years since its last inspection. Inspections at residential and long-term care facilities are particularly important as it's more difficult for seniors to evacuate during emergencies. That's also the case for hospitals and private seniors' residences, which must also be inspected every three years in Gatineau.Inspections usually take three to four hours. Writing up documentation afterward, including issuing infraction notices, can take an additional six to eight hours.Gatineau fire inspectors have issued around 20 infraction notices to CISSSO since September 2010. Only once in that time did fire officials confirm to the health authority that the infraction had been corrected. This was for an inspection follow-up at CHSLD Vigi de l'Outaouais.Fire service in 'catch-up mode' in 2020Anthony Savard, chief of prevention at the Gatineau fire service, says while seniors in Gatineau's long-term facilities are safe, his department is playing catch-up when it comes to municipal inspection standards.Savard said the delay in inspections is due to the major disasters that have recently hit the region — like the floods in 2017 and 2019 and the tornado in 2018 — which caused the organization to re-prioritize their resources. Savard added that since CISSSO has its own in-house fire prevention technicians, his 12-person team focused its limited resources on inspecting private seniors' residences.Seniors' groups want regular inspectionsThe lack of regular inspections, however, has seniors' associations in the region concerned.Marc Desjardins, director of la Table de concertation des aînés et des retraités de l'Outaouais, a group that represents seniors, said the delays are alarming and unacceptable.The Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens also said it wants more frequent inspections from the Gatineau fire department.Stéphane Pleau, the director of technical services and logistics with CISSSO, said annual inspections of fire alarms and sprinklers are carried out for each CHSLD by its own inspectors.  "It is our primary responsibility. We are, of course, assisted and supported by the fire department, but we have our own much tighter protocol for doing our inspections," he said.In addition to the annual inspections, CISSSO also conducts regular inspections of the centres, ensuring the doors are properly closed and there's no congestion in the corridors, among other things.  This spring, the Gatineau fire department will table its risk assessment plan. The guidelines that require CHSLD inspections every three years may be under review during this process.

  • Basketball game held in memory of Manyok Akol, 18, who died in downtown shooting
    News
    CBC

    Basketball game held in memory of Manyok Akol, 18, who died in downtown shooting

    A fundraiser basketball game brought a community together Saturday to help support the family of an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed earlier this month. Manyok Akol was gunned down in his sleep on Jan. 8. He was with friends at a Gilmour Street Airbnb when intruders broke in around 7:30 a.m. and started firing. Three other people were shot, including a 15-year-old boy. Akol, who was a recording artist, also went by the name FTG Metro. The Ball 4 Metro event at La Cité was organized by Prezdential Basketball and The House Podcast, which is about the Ottawa neighbourhood where Akol grew up — Britannia Woods. People packed the bleachers in the gym. Many wore t-shirts with a picture of Akol and the word "Metroworld" written on them.A moment of silence for Akol was also held before the game."We're just providing an opportunity for as [many] people as possible to get into one location and heal," said Manock Lual with Prezdential Basketball, a training company that also does social outreach work. "When tragic things happen, you don't have the opportunity right away to express yourself. So this is an opportunity for everybody that has been affected by the situation to come here today and just express themselves through healing and through unity," said Lual.   'He's the type of young man that wouldn't want people to sit around and cry, he wants people to keep going.' — Athiep Lual, Akol's cousinLual said he wants Akol's family to know the community is prepared to help."When this happened, I wanted to do something…we felt like we couldn't sit back," said Lual who has also worked with Akol's brother. "I think that he was a powerful soul for sure." 'Amazing' turnout"He was the type of person that made everyone smile. If he was around you, he'd make you laugh and he was always encouraging other people to strive harder, work harder, be the best that they could be," said Athiep Lual, Akol's cousin.She believes the basketball game was something Akol would have appreciated, bringing people together around sports."He was the type of person that made everyone smile. If he was around you, he'd make you laugh and he was always encouraging other people to strive harder, work harder, be the best that they could be," she said.She was also happy to see the "amazing" turnout for the fundraiser and said she hopes Akol's legacy carries on."He's the type of young man that wouldn't want people to sit around and cry. He wants people to keep going," she said."It's been hard, but we know he's here. We know he's watching."

  • We spent a day taking rideshares in Vancouver. Here's what we learned
    News
    CBC

    We spent a day taking rideshares in Vancouver. Here's what we learned

    After years of waiting, James Su didn't get to test out his Uber license the day the service launched in Vancouver. His wife wouldn't let him."It was Chinese New Years Eve," he said, laughing. "[She] stopped me from going out."But on Saturday, he made up for the lost time, taking to the road at 9 a.m. PT and barely finding time for a break for the next six hours.CBC News spent the day taking rideshares across Vancouver, chatting with drivers like Su, who say there is demand from eager passengers. Here's what we learned from taking rides around town.Cab drivers already making the switchIf you can't beat them — join them.That's the attitude of one Uber driver, who asked not to be named fearing repercussions from his employer at a Vancouver-based taxi company."Nobody can fight with technology," he told CBC News, which agreed to protect his identity."We couldn't get Uber here because of politics and power, but the funny thing is, nobody can fight it — there is nothing more powerful than technology. So, I wanted to be ahead of the game."He said the choice was made easier by complaints people have about the taxi industry."I was trying to give very good service to people [as a cab driver]," he said. "But people have a very bad impression of the taxi industry, no matter how good you are.""I believe in the end, most of the taxi drivers are going to switch to this. They have no choice," he said.The Vancouver Taxi Association said Friday its members are extremely upset with the Passenger Transportation Board's (PTB) decision to approve ride-hailing.It says the new service will be devastating to the taxi industry and those who work in it.The association is pursuing a judicial review of the PTB's decision and asking the board to regulate the number of ride-hailing vehicles in the same way it restricts the size of taxi fleets.Wage disappointmentsLyft driver Donald Chang took to the streets shortly after the service officially launched in Vancouver on Friday. He said he worked for about three hours and made just over $100.He was hoping to have earned more."I don't think it's what I expected, the price isn't that high" said Chang, who bought a new vehicle so he could become a rideshare driver.It's a sentiment echoed by James Su, who expects he'll average about $300 per day."I just [drove] a South African couple from Richmond to East Vancouver, and that only gives me $17," he said. "It was a long trip — I think it should have been over $20."Su would like to see a lower commission taken by ridesharing companies. He says Uber takes about 25 per cent of each fare. Lyft's driver fees vary.Ride-hailing services use demand pricing, as opposed to fixed taxi charges.Wait times, wait times, wait timesBoth companies are eager for more drivers and currently offering a $500 bonus for those who sign up.The shortage can be noticeable when hailing a ride, with wait times sometimes exceeding 15 minutes. Despite being available across Metro Vancouver, numerous Uber requests by CBC News expired before the app was able to assign a driver.Lyft has limited its operations to the core of Vancouver to optimize its service.Still, drivers say its early yet for the service and expect there will be more cars on the road day by day — and plenty more passengers, too."I think it's going to get a lot busier in the future," said Chang.

  • News
    CBC

    Why more Nova Scotians lose power in a storm than you realize

    During severe weather, many Nova Scotians click on Nova Scotia Power's outage map to find out how many customers have lost electricity and where.But the map doesn't tell the whole story.The actual number of customers without electricity during a recent storm was higher than indicated by the outage map, according to information provided to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.And that's a normal occurrence says Paul Casey, Nova Scotia Power's vice-president of transmission, distribution and delivery service.The Utility and Review Board asked the power company for detailed information on the interruptions and restoration times associated with a big windstorm on Dec. 10, 2019.At the time, the company said a maximum of 52,000 customers were without power at the same time during the storm. That's what appeared on the outage map.Casey said about 78,000 households lost power at least once during the storm, while the number of instances of households losing power was about 116,000.He said the peak outage number doesn't include households experiencing a second or subsequent outage, or households temporarily taken off the grid by Nova Scotia Power when the company is carrying out restoration work.It's unclear what the peak number would be if those instances were included in Nova Scotia Power's figures."That would total a larger number [than 52,000]," said Casey.Highest sustained winds on recordIn its submission to the board, Nova Scotia Power released a graph tracking cumulative hours of winds above 80 km/h between 2005 and 2019 at stations in Yarmouth, Greenwood, Halifax, Truro and Sydney. The December windstorm capped a year that saw the most hours of sustained high winds on record.These winds weaken trees and equipment, increasing the probability of outages.Nova Scotia Power spends $100 million a year to maintain and upgrade transmission and distribution equipment, including $25 million for vegetation management.The company said it's investigating battery storage and microgrids as it tries to harden its system as sustained high winds become more frequent.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Hop to it: Rescue group holds 'bunny blitz' adoption event
    News
    CBC

    Hop to it: Rescue group holds 'bunny blitz' adoption event

    Folks looking for a fluffy new friend will get the chance to meet some adoptable bunnies Sunday afternoon.The first rescue group in the Maritimes focused on the long-eared lagomorphs — 10,000 Carrots Rabbit Rescue — is holding a "bunny blitz" in Halifax. More than a dozen of the twitchy-nosed animals can be scoped out by potential new owners.Denise Halliday, a volunteer with the organization, said they decided to hold the event following their first successful blitz in September."It's quite the day," she said. "It's really interesting to have people come in and go, 'Oh my gosh, this is how many rabbits you guys have!'"Halliday said the rabbit rescue was started nine years ago "basically just because there was nowhere for rabbits to go." Since then, she said the volunteer-run group has rescued and found new homes for more than 700 bunnies.Right now, there's about 17 rabbits up for adoption, but she said the group normally has between 20 and 30 in its care — though it can change suddenly if they take in a pregnant female. The rescue doesn't have an actual shelter, so its volunteers foster the bunnies in their own homes. People can view available rabbits and apply for adoption through the 10,000 Carrots Rabbit Rescue website.Know what you're getting intoHalliday stressed that while the group wants to help the rabbits find homes, anyone looking to adopt needs to be aware of what's involved."They're living, breathing, sentient creatures, and if you're adopting, it needs to be a well-thought-out family decision that everyone is on board [with] and everyone is part of," she said. "The life expectancy is 10 to 14 years. So, you know, it's a long-term commitment."Halliday said the rescue organization isn't just trying to find homes for abandoned bunnies. They're trying to keep bunnies from being abandoned in the first place."Finding them homes, it's really a Band-Aid," she said. She said around 90 per cent of the rabbits they take in are found outside, which means they were likely dumped by someone who got bored or decided they were too much work.But Halliday noted that rabbits aren't native to Nova Scotia — only hares are — and said domestic rabbits can't fend for themselves or find food in the wild."It's the same as dumping a cat or dog. They can't survive outside by themselves," she said.She also said it's a bad idea for parents to get their child a pet rabbit because kids don't have the capacity to care for them properly.Halliday said bunnies are social creatures that like to be kept in pairs and that they shouldn't be cooped up in a cage all day."Having them in your kid's bedroom in a cage on top of the dresser, they're not going to be happy, they're going to miss that social aspect of being part of the main area, part of the family," she said.In fact, the rescue also discourages giving rabbits as gifts in general, so it closes down around Christmas and Easter.But she did say bunnies can make "amazing" family pets if the parents know the responsibility falls on them.The 10,000 Carrots Rabbit Rescue bunny blitz is taking place at the Citadel Community Centre on Trollope Street Sunday afternoon from 3-7 p.m.Halliday said anyone is welcome, even those who aren't in the market for a new pet. She said people can come and find out more about what the rescue does and how to care for a bunny."Or if you just want to come snuggle," she said.MORE TOP STORIES

  • News
    CBC

    Bus Stop Theatre closer to municipal funding for building purchase

    Halifax's Bus Stop Theatre Co-operative is a step closer to securing funds to buy the space it's leasing.On Tuesday, Halifax regional council will vote on a staff recommendation to provide a one-time contribution of $250,000 that would go toward the non-profit's purchase of 2203 Gottingen Street and 2268 Maitland Street."I'm very pleased, it's great news that city staff is recommending funding," Sebastien Labelle, executive director of the co-op said Saturday."Obviously, I won't feel totally relaxed about it until the vote goes through and it's fully confirmed."The estimated cost of the project is $1.21 million, which includes building and land purchase expenses, construction and development costs, contingency and administration and fundraising support. This is down from an original estimate of nearly $6 million.In June, the co-op got a $250,000 commitment from the municipality that hinged on the group receiving financial assistance from other levels of government.At that time, council supported the project unanimously. LaBelle is hoping for the same outcome on Tuesday."I feel very positive about all this, and this will unlock other avenues for funding and financing partners," he said.LaBelle said the co-op is an important part of the city's north end. He said there are many people who care about the future of the space."More than anything, it's a space, a place of gathering, a place for celebration and expression and coming together to witness talent in our community and talent from elsewhere coming to our community," he said."It's a place where local artists get to flourish and showcase what they've got. And it's a place that is known to be accessible and affordable to so many different people."MORE TOP STORIES