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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Baby it's cold outside; Canada caught in the deep freeze

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 7/18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   They’re talking about the weather in eastern Canada but unable to do much about it aside from keeping warm and away from blizzard “bombs.”
   Unrelenting frigid air has much of Canada in its grip, setting record low temperatures in Toronto and many places.
   In Atlantic Canada, a ferocious storm cut power to 150,000 customers, flooded coastal roads, battered sailboats and downed trees with hurricane-force winds.
   Affected by the “weather bomb” with up to 20 inches of snow were Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
   Just as things appeared to be warming after Toronto set a record -23 C (-10 F) overnight Friday, plus wind chill, Environment Canada issued a province-wide warning to prepare for more cold and snow.
   Toronto has opened additional warming centers and is using armouries as shelters for the homeless.
   The so-called polar vortex with frigid Arctic air has turned the usual free-flowing Niagara Falls into a frozen spectacle.


   A public and corporate backlash has erupted as two Tim Hortons’ coffee shop operators have cut benefits for employees over Ontario’s new $14-an-hour minimum wage.
   Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri Horton-Joyce, the children of the company’s billionaire co-founders, told staff they will no longer receive paid breaks and must pay more for their benefits.
   Not only was there reaction from the public and politicians about the two Cobourg, Ontario franchised locations, but Hortons’ Canadian head office called it “reckless” and “completely unacceptable.”
   Staff should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an expense, the company said while Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called it “a clear act of bullying.”


   News in brief:
   - More cities are banning plastic, single-use grocery and shopping bags to protect the environment. Montreal’s ban begins next Jan. 1 while Victoria will follow on July 1 next year. Vancouver is planning a ban on coffee cups and foam containers. Other cities with bag bans are Leaf Rapids and Thompson, Manitoba; Brossard, Deux-Montagnes and Huntingdon, Quebec; and Wood Buffalo, Alberta.
   - Chief executives earn more in less than a day than the average worker makes in a year, a study by the Center for Policy Alternatives says. Corporate executives’ average annual compensation in 2016 was $10.4 million, compared with the average worker pay of $49,738, it said. CEO compensation rose 8 percent while the average for staff was 0.5 percent.
   Facts and figures:
   Good economic numbers with 79,000 jobs created last month pushed Canada’s dollar higher to 80.58 cents U.S. The U.S. dollar returns $1.24 in Canadian funds before exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3.2 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 16,349 points while the TSX Venture index is 895 points.
   The average price for gas in Canada is $1.18 a liter or $4.48 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (Jan. 3) 3, 13, 20, 35, 37 and 39; bonus 14. (Dec. 30)  8, 12, 23, 25, 45 and 47; bonus  43. Lotto Max: (Dec. 29) 22, 23, 26, 35, 37, 39 and 47; bonus 14.


   Regional briefs:
   - Bill Lishman, a writer and filmmaker known for leading a flight of Canada geese with an aircraft, has died at age 78. The feat for the Scugog, Ontario man inspired the 1996 Oscar-nominated film Fly Away Home and his autobiography Father Goose. He trained the geese to fly alongside him in his tiny ultra-light plane. An eccentric artist, Lishman created massive replicas of Stonehenge formations – one out of rusty old cars and the other out of lake ice.
   - Only in Canada, eh! What happens when drivers are stuck in wintry conditions on the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia and no one’s moving? A hockey game breaks out. When crashes and avalanche hazards brought traffic to a standstill, drivers dropped the puck for a pick-up game of hockey. “Bless this country,” someone wrote on Twitter.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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