Weather bomb brings out the Canadian wimps

I am a Canadian. I live in the North. Therefore, I should expect it to be a little cold in the winter.

That’s the theory at least.

This is what I don’t understand. Those living in Florida have a slight right to freak out at the sight of a small flurry, but those in Canada? They have no excuse! Winter is something people should be preparing for in September, especially with the impact of global warming!

The fact is, it is cold in Canada. It snows in Canada. There are storms that hit every year in Canada. And yet — no one is ever prepared for them. These storms shut down subways, cause car accidents, and down hydro lines. Politicians seem shocked when suddenly they have to deal with homeless shelters at capacity, as if this is something that has never happened before. And this is just a regular Canadian winter.

So, imagine the panic when a meteorologist says a storm called a “bomb cyclone” was about to hit the East Coast.

A bomb cyclone was a term created more for social media than anything else. The actual term for a storm like this one is cyclogenesis or bombogenisis, and refers to a low pressure cold front that falls “24 millibars in 24 hours or less”. In simple terms, it means a cyclone in which the air moves up into the atmosphere to create precipitation. Due to the cold weather, this precipitation falls in the form of snow or hail.

Millibars measures the pressure of a cyclone. The standard pressure on Earth is 1013.2 millibars, so dropping to 24 millibars would indicate an incredibly “explosive” storm; hence the term bomb cyclone.

The so-called bomb cyclone dropped about 60 cm of snow to parts of New Brunswick over a period of 24 hours. The winds were a hurricane force of 170 km/h in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.The power is out for tens of thousands of residents and certain regions are still under blizzard warnings.

While the storm did result in some crazy photographs and video on social media, there were no deaths.

This is what irks me. Storms like these, albeit a bit frightening, happen every year. Maritimers survived, just like they always do. But, the Maritimes are different from the rest of the country. When a storm hits, they stand strong. They know it is coming and they work double-time to make sure neighbours are safe and infrastructure is repaired. The rest of the country? Big wimps!

With weather reaching -30 degrees with windchill, Ontario is freaking out. Politicians and news anchors are pleading residents to stay indoors. Events are being cancelled. All because of a little cold weather.

Sure, you can argue that -30 degrees is incredibly chilly. I would agree with that statement; however, this doesn’t just happen when the temperature drops below 30. The first snowfall in Toronto is hell! It’s like everyone forgets how to drive or dress for the winter. During the first snowstorm, it took me two hours to get home. It is usually a 30 minute commute. I look out my window and see teenage girls wandering around in short dresses and heels, and then complaining about frostbite!

Can the rest of Canada pull itself together and act…well, Canadian? Winter is not going anywhere, and you can’t hibernate for the next three months!

And if you do decide to hibernate, here is a tip: Next January, it may also be a bit nippy.

5 yurts that offer idyllic winter escapes

Winter’s harsh elements may drive plenty of North Americans inside the house and under the covers. This is the season where homebodies take refuge and more travel-savvy folks might head south of the equator. But, in the snow-covered territory of the great white north lies quiet, wintery lands to be explored — and there’s perhaps no better way to go about it than by booking a yurt-style retreat. From toasty lodges in northern Ontario, to rustic cottages in the Alaskan woods, to remote cabins in a most idyllic pocket of Vermont, AirBnB’s grand selection of winter yurts is bound to appeal to travellers of all sorts. These Instagram-worthy lodgings beckon both the woman in need of a cozy weekend escape as well as the seasoned outdoor adventurer looking for a new experience in nature.

Here are five winter-yurts that will have travellers saying yes to a winter getaway:

Stowe, Vermont

Skiers and beer connoisseurs alike have reason to escape to this Stowe, Vermont dwelling. The area is famous for its multitude of powder-covered mountains and The Alchemist brewery is one of the most sought after in the United States. (don’t leave the state without sipping its infamous Heady Topper double IPA!). As for the yurt itself, it’s a rustic one with no electricity where visitors can enjoy the views of the Nebraska Valley while sipping hot chocolate by the wood stove. This is certainly the ideal spot for those in need of a tech-break.

The Buffalo Farm: Mattawa, Ontario.

This yurt looks like a scene taken straight out of Pinterest and it happens to have all the makings of a perfect wintery escape: hiking trails nearby, the sparkle of the Amable du Fond River, an animal sanctuary with horses and buffalo and a wood-burning stove for snug winter nights. Going with a large group? This two-storey accommodation in Ontario’s coveted Algonquin region can sleep 12. With the owners having more than one property, there’s no reason not to book a stay in this beautiful part of Ontario.

Bolton, Quebec

A weekend in Quebec will feel like being plopped down somewhere in the middle of Europe and yet this yurt is just an hour outside of Montreal. After a good snowfall, this lodging looks like a scene straight out of a fairytale. One thing that makes this adorable abode stand out: it’s near to Quebec’s wine route. So make sure to stock up on local wines, jams, and cheese during the stay.

Talkeetna, Alaska

This yurt is so picturesque it barely seems real. Situated in the midst of a forest in rural Alaska, this cottagey yurt is intended for the traveller with a strong set of outdoor skills who doesn’t shy away from vacationing in rustic settings. Those who stay here can expect to be wowed by views of the northern lights through the skydome. In the morning, the local coffee shop is within walking distance. Talkeetna attracts other outdoor adventurer types and visitors are most likely to bump into like-minded folks at the Talkeetna Roadhouse – a one-stop shop for a shower, satisfying breakfast, and warm, homemade pies. When staying here, strap on a pair of cross-country skis and check out the local trails to get the full experience.

Maple City, Michigan  

Experience farm life while staying on this Maple City property that’s home to pigs, ducks and goats. If contemplating a winter escape, consider that this quaint lodging is so idyllic it even has its own sugar shack for homemade maple syrup. The owners also make their own cheese (yum!). The yurt itself has everything a visitor needs – if roughing it in a yurt without running water or electricity is a no-go, this one with its modern bathroom and private bedroom will make visitors feel a little more pampered.  

Where are you heading this winter? Let us know in the comments below!

Greedy Tim Hortons just lost my business

My heart bleeds for you Tim Hortons. Last year, you only earned $3 billion (US) in revenue, so with this minimum wage increase, I’m wondering how you will keep afloat? Those extra two dollars you now have to pay your hard working employees is bound to create havoc. Owners of the stores will need to work even harder to make ends meet.

Hopefully, you detected the sarcasm.

It was all over the news Thursday. A Tim Hortons, owned by the children of the business’ founder, has told employees they will no longer receive benefits or get paid for their breaks. The reason?  It’s that darn minimum wage increase. Without “assistance” from head office or the government, Tim Hortons apparently cannot afford to continue offering 15 minute paid breaks or health and dental.

Here are some of the changes Tim Hortons — at least this particular store — is making to accommodate the new labour laws:

  • Breaks will no longer be paid. This means that someone working an eight hour shift will be paid for seven and a half hours instead of the full eight.
  • No more bonuses for covering shifts when called on days off.
  • No “day of pay” when you have a death in the family and cannot work
  • Dental and Health benefits will no longer be covered. Those who have worked at Tim Hortons for five years or more will have to cover 50 per cent of the cost. Those working between six months and five years will have to cover 75 per cent of the cost.

Essentially, for some employees, having to pay 50 per cent of the cost of their benefits and with the loss of paid breaks, an employees biweekly paycheck could be even less than it was prior to the minimum wage increase.

But, the owners? Oh, they won’t be affected now. The revenue will continue to stream in. Problem solved, right?

This is what I hate about the world we live in. It’s run by greed. While small, mom and pop businesses have a right to be a little concerned, this province-wide freak out by large franchise businesses is disgusting. It’s proving that employers really don’t care about the people who work for them. It’s all about the bottom line, and if that means your cashier can’t afford to actually eat at your restaurant, then that’s too bad.

As a former Tim Horton’s employee, I know first hand how hard these people work. It is a fast-paced environment, with high expectations of quality and service. Most employees are immigrants or young people trying to support themselves and their families. They come in before the sun rises and sometimes leave after the sun sets. They cater to the whim of all customers, no matter how rude or inappropriate they may act. They clean bathrooms, work the food line, stand at cashier, and make runs to the garbage dump wearing t-shirts in -30 degree weather. They do all of this, every shift, regardless of whether they are feeling well or just spent the last 12 hours in classes or writing exams.

Can you imagine doing that job?

The raising of the minimum wage is causing unnecessary fear among business owners. They think they need to immediately cut staff and raise prices. A December report by the Bank of Canada didn’t help with its statistic that 60,000 jobs could be lost by 2019. But, can you judge the financial repercussions of these labour laws after only one week, based on predictions and rumours? As with most big changes, businesses need to give the process time to work. The economy will bounce back after a few months of uncertainty, and if it doesn’t, owners can deal with it at that time. Acting pre-emptively to ensure larger revenue does nothing but make you look foolish and heartless.

In fact, before making any changes to your business, I challenge every business owner, manager, or executive to try living off $14 an hour while paying into benefits. Do this for a year. Only then can you complain about the minimum wage’s affect on the economy.

As for Tim Horton’s, it’s a damn shame. As a fervent Timbit lover, I’m incredibly disappointed. The franchise is saying that each store owner has a right to enact their own rules, but this store is owned by the family founders. What kind of example are they setting for everyone else? This precedent is incredibly dangerous for those working for so little money to begin with.

Honestly, I would rather buy a more expensive coffee at a local business and reduce my caffeine intake than spend money at a restaurant that treats its employees with such disdain.

Sorry Tim Hortons, but you just lost me as a customer.

Hey Toronto, the minimum wage is going up

No matter what happens in 2018, at least Ontarians will have some solace in the fact the minimum wage will increase by a dollar.

Ontario Minister of Labour announced that as of Jan. 1, the minimum wage will rise to $14. This means an estimated 55 per cent of all retail workers in the province will be getting a raise. Employees will also be eligible for an extra 10 days of personal emergency leave and increased family medical leave for eight to 28 weeks. The government is also instituting a new domestic or sexual violence leave of up to 10 individual days.

“Our plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs provides a minimum wage people can actually live on and modernizes our labour laws to address today’s world. Too many families struggle to get by on part-time or temporary work. Those working full-time can be living in poverty. This is unacceptable in Ontario. Our plan will help ensure everyone who works hard has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” said Flynn in a statement.

This is the first step towards the province’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019.

Toronto: Metrolinx reaches new contract with Bombardier for Crosstown

Over the holidays, Metrolinx negotiated new contract terms with Bombardier, the transit agency responsible for producing light rail vehicles for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) system. According to a press statement, these new terms offer “significant financial penalties for Bombardier if they fail to deliver quality vehicles on-time.”

“This clearly resets the relationship with Metrolinx under its new leadership, and provides a clear path forward to ensure certainty on the technical and financial obligations of both partners,” a Bombardier press statement said.

Bombardier is contracted to manufacture 76 light rail vehicles, which is 106 less than the original contract for 182.

“We want our suppliers to succeed,” Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said in a statement. “The new agreement provides compelling incentives for Bombardier to allocate the right resources and attention to the production of our Eglinton vehicles.”

The new agreement includes performance deadlines and a new late delivery penalty. Bombardier has also committed to be more transparent when it comes to production plans and progress, which means that Metrolinx will have the opportunity to address progress on a regular basis. Bombardier will ensure vehicle quality is sustained throughout the lifespan of the vehicles.

The GO Transit Operations and Maintenance contract was extended by 18-month.

In May, the provincial government signed a new agreement with Alstom Canada to provide vehicles that would be used on the Eglinton Crosstown. Alstom is still contracted to manufacture 61 cars, but they will be used on other transit lines such as Finch West LRT.

“We have always been resolved to find a clear negotiated path forward, one that delivers value to all parties, and foremost to the people of Ontario. Bombardier is fully committed to the Metrolinx project and to the people of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA),” said Benoit Brossoit, President, Americas Region at Bombardier Transport. “I look forward to working with Metrolinx’s CEO, Phil Verster’s, to advance this project and ensure that riders have the most efficient, comfortable and reliable transit system in the world.”

Ontario PCs wants to take over TTC – but only part of it

This past weekend has seen two group of people argue for provincial ownership of aspects of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives released their election platform on Saturday called “The People’s Guarantee.” In this document, the PCs say they will assume responsibility for maintenance and investments in Toronto’s subway system. Toronto would still retain control of the streetcars and busses.

“In partnership with the Mayor of Toronto, Patrick Brown and the Ontario PCs will assume responsibility for the physical subway infrastructure – tunnels, tracks, and stations. This will allow the province to amortize subway investments and costs on the province’s books over the life of the asset. The city would maintain complete control of day to-day maintenance and operations,” the document says.

The PCs will invest $5 billion in projects throughout Ontario, including the Relief Line and extension to Richmond. It also pledged to pay the city’s share of funding for the Scarborough Subway Extension, but only if Toronto makes a “significant financial contribution” to the Eglinton Crosstown West.

The PCs will not support the tolling of the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway to fund transit and infrastructure projects.

The political party is not the only one who thinks the province should take control of Toronto’s transit network. The Toronto Region Board of Trade released a report that calls for the consolidation of planning, construction, and operation of transit into one provincial transit agency. The idea is that politics would no longer interfere with the delivery of projects and provide extra revenue for other city issues.

This agency, dubbed “Superlinx”, would merge GO Transit and 12 different transit operators together to “provide the vision, scale and resources to finally provide the world-class transit system that the corridor needs.” Superlinx would be responsible for paying for the region’s transit operations.

As the provincial election gets closer in June, more and more of these proposals will pop up. Transit is the priority item, with almost every municipality in the province looking to expand and grow their networks. Is a provincially-run agency the best way to go about building transit? Will this reduce the bureaucracy preventing shovels from getting in the ground or will it create a whole new set of problems?

What do you think?

Metrolinx announces discount for GO, UP Express, and TTC riders

Friday morning, Metrolinx announced a 50 per cent discount for transit users who transfer between GO Transit, UP Express, and the TTC using a PRESTO card. The provincial government will subsidize the co-fare in the first step towards “regional fare integration”.

The discount comes up to $1.50 per ride, or half of a TTC fare. This equates to savings of around $720 a year for the regular commuter. The cost to subsidize the discount is about $18 million a year for the province.

The discount is not available for those who download monthly passes on their PRESTO cards.

“Our region needs fare integration,” said Phil Verster, President and CEO of Metrolinx, in a statement. “This discount is an important first step in breaking down barriers to fare integration across the network, making it easier and more convenient to take transit.”

Over 50,000 daily trips include transfers between these three transportation lines — GO, UP Express, and the TTC. The new co-fare system will launch in January 2018 following the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension in December. The subway extension is the first TTC line to cross regional boarders, connecting York University and the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre with the Yonge Line 1 subway.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, joined Verster for the announcement.

“Transit will not be more affordable for Toronto residents who ride a mix of the TTC, UP Express, and Go Transit to get around the city,” Tory said. “This agreement also moves us a step closer to make sure that SmartTrack will cost Toronto residents the same as the TTC.”


Ontario proposes a bill to have safe access zones near abortion clinics

The government of Ontario is proposing legislation that would ensure all women can make their own decision safely and freely.

The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017 was introduced on Oct.4 by Minister for the Status of Women, Indira Naidoo-Harris and the Attorney General, Yasir Naqri. If the bill is passed, women can access abortion services without fear of intimidation or harassment. ‘Safe Zones’ will be located around clinics and other abortion service centres. These zones will protect the privacy of women as well as the safety and security of proper health care services.

In safe zones, anti-abortion protests or intimidating individuals would be prohibited from lurking or giving out anti-abortion information. If the bills is passed it would also mean it would be illegal for clinic staff or other health professionals to harass women about their abortion choices.

“Our governments proposed safe access zones would protect a woman’s fundamental right to fair and equal access to safe abortion,” Harris said in a statement. “It an important step forward, and one that strengthens the rights of all women in Ontario. Women in our province should be able to access health care free form the threat or fear of violence or harassment.”

There are eight abortion clinics in Ontario and the safe access zones will extend from 50 to 150 meters around the clinic. Similar safe access zones have been functioning in other provinces such as British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson warmly welcomes this move as the city has had to deal with various protestors and anti-abortion activists who harass women as they leave the Morgentaler Clinic along Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. Watson is calling on the government to consider the legislation so police can now deal with the activists.

The safety zone will also automatically apply to the homes for abortion clinic staff, hospitals and pharmacies that offer abortion services. People who violate the zones can face a fine with a range of $5000-$10,000 and from six months to a year in jail. Anti-abortion groups such as the Campaign Life Coalition think the proposed legislation is drastic and far-reaching. Jim Hughes,the president of the organization, said this form of ‘bubble zone legislation’ is not about protecting women from violence that doesn’t exist, instead he said it a form of silencing pro-life campaigns.

The safe access safety zones will also be able to increase or decrease in size based on regulation, if this bill is passed. This proposition is completely different to a bill that has been recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, legislating that all abortions after 20 weeks will be criminalized and punishable by up to five years in prison. This bill is a direct hit to women’s rights. This move has been supported by the Trump administration and is gathering a lot of criticism in the U.S. Planned Parenthood Action Fund says this move is just a way to slowly end all abortions. They say that 99 per cent of abortions take place before 20 weeks.

What are your thoughts on this proposed legislation? Comment below!

Metrolinx Transportation Symposium: tolls, single-payment, and connectivity

Metrolinx hosted a Transportation Symposium Monday with the goal of hearing insight from transit leaders, residents, and influencers from across the region. With their 2041 Regional Transportation Plan still in the draft stage, Metrolinx is looking for reactions and input.

The day began with opening remarks from Metrolinx’s new CEO Phil Verster, who was only 30 minutes into the job. He talked about how the consultation process the transit agency is going through isn’t boring or redundant, but rather an important part of city building. “Great plans succeed because everyone is invested in it,” he said.

Leslie Woo, Chief Planning Officer for Metrolinx, provided an overview of the Draft 2041 plan. She said that over 10 million people will live across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Region by 2041. For that reason, the region must look past the Big Move and continue to work together and increase public transportation. Woo also warned about building based on technological advancements, saying the GTHA allowed a love affair with the car to influence how cities were designed. She doesn’t want Metrolinx to make the same mistake. At the same time, she admitted that no one can deny the importance of incorporating shared-services and autonomous vehicles into future plans.

Participants spent the rest of the day listening to panels on connectivity, customer service, and funding models. Many of the panellists touched upon the vulnerability of transit funding. While Canada is experiencing a boom of infrastructure funding on all three levels, it is not enough to make up for a 30-year gap. What’s required is dedicated funding for transit, perhaps through the direct use of road pricing and tolls, something that was called “inevitable” by one of the panelists.

Another common theme was the idea of a single-payment system. While fare integration is a necessity for Metrolinx’s 2041 plan, as well as any future Toronto Transit Commission plans, the idea of paying not only for public transportation, but also for car-sharing and bixi bikes, is a relatively new one. This would require one card or mobile app that customers could use across the board.

Above all else, the consensus was that transit needed to be comfortable, reliable, frequent, and be able to get customers to their destination without too many transfers.

Metrolinx thinks to the future in new transportation plan

Metrolinx is thinking about the future — at least as far as 2041.

The board released their Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at their Sept. 14 meeting, with the intention of gathering feedback over a 90-day public consultation period. The information they get will be considered for use in the final draft, which will be available in December.

By 2041, Metrolinx says over 10 million people will live across the Golden Horseshoe Area. The new transportation plan will move beyond The Big Move.

The report reads: “We need to plan for a future characterized not only by continued population and employment growth, but also by changing demographics (including an aging population), the changing nature of work, new transportation technologies and services, and the impacts of climate change. In short, we cannot stop.”

There are five different aspects of this new transportation plan.

  1. Completing delivery of current regional transit projects: Metrolinx is in the midst of increasing their Rapid Express Rail, working on the Hurontario, Eglinton, Hamilton, and Finch Light Rail Transit, as well as the York VIVA. Delivery is expected by 2025.
  2. Connecting more of the region with frequent rapid transit: The goal is to create 15-minute all day service so that people can get around the region without delay.
  3. Optimizing the transportation system to make the best possible use of existing and future transit assets: Metrolinx has determined that fares by distance is the most efficient structure. It also wants to ensure that more people take alternative modes of transportation on their way to use the transit system. Their goal will be to increase the number of people who bike, walk, or carpool from 38 per cent to 62-64 per cent.
  4. Integrating land use and transportation: This strategy will help create mobility hubs and new developments, with the goal of intensifying certain areas so that transit becomes more accessible. The designs wil encourage cycling and walking as primary modes of transportation.
  5. Preparing for an uncertain future: The plan encourages a regional approach to transit planning as opposed to municipal or private enterprises. Metrolinx will also continue to study new technologies to help reduce greenhouse gasses.

The public will be able to provide feedback at six regional roundtables prior to the final draft.