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Hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting for their power to be restored after a weekend ice storm wreaked havoc from southwestern Ontario to the Atlantic Coast.
Across Ontario about 350,000 people remained without power early Monday morning, and hydro officials were advising that it could take until Wednesday to get everyone reconnected.
In hardest hit Toronto where the ice splintered a huge number of trees, and turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks, nearly 250,000 hydro customers were still in the dark by 3 a.m. At a press conference a few hours later, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said crews had brought that number down to 200,000 customers. Some in the city may be in the dark through Christmas, The Toronto Star reported.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told a Sunday afternoon news conference that the province would provide support to municipal emergency crews as they scramble to do their jobs.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called it one of the worst storms in the city’s history, but said he was not yet ready to declare a state of emergency.
The Toronto Transit Commission warned to expect delays on all surface routes and shuttle buses were put into use between some subway stations. The Sheppard Line and Scarborough RT Line were both closed due to bad weather and buses are in service instead.
Buses were also operating betweenWoodbine Station and Kennedy Station Monday morning. Subway trains were also bypassing Yorkdale Station and North York Centre Station due to power outages.
GO Trains were operating on an adjusted schedule to cope with the bad weather.
Air travellers, however, were still being frustrated by numerous flight cancellations and delays at Pearson International Airport. The airport is advising travellers to check with their airline about flight status in advance and to give themselves lots of time.
You can reach Air Canada’s automated flight system at 1-888-422-7533.Travellers flying with WestJet can call 1-888-937-8538.
Flying with Porter? You can find out more about your flight at 1-888-619-8622.
The storm system also coated much of southern Quebec in ice, and continues to produce freezing drizzle in parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Some 50,000 customers in Quebec and about 6,000 more in New Brunswick were still without power as of late Sunday night.
A few local photos:
Landmark ruling comes 34 years after the Supreme Court last upheld Canada’s anti-prostitution laws [Reuters]
|Canada’s top court has overturned all restrictions on prostitution, declaring that existing laws violated sex workers’ right to safety.The Supreme Court of Canada struck down bans on brothels, street solicitation, and living on the earnings of prostitution in a unanimous 9-0 decision on Friday, and gave the Canadian government one year to re-write the country’s prostitution laws.
While prostitution itself is technically legal in Canada, most prostitution-related activities were previously considered criminal offences.
In the decision, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said many prostitutes “have no meaningful choice” but to “engage in the risky economic activity of prostitution,” and that the law should not make such activities more dangerous.
“It makes no difference that the conduct of pimps and johns is the immediate source of the harms suffered by prostitutes,” McLachlin wrote.
“The impugned laws deprive people engaged in a risky, but legal, activity of the means to protect themselves against those risks.”
The legal challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws was brought by a group of sex workers who argued that the now-overturned restrictions put them in danger.
Katrina Pacey, a lawyer for the petitioners, called it “an unbelievably important day for the sex workers but also for human rights.”
“The court recognized that sex workers have the right to protect themselves and their safety,” she said.
Last year, a lower court in the province of Ontario struck down the ban on brothels on the grounds that it exposed sex workers to more danger.
Friday’s ruling comes 34 years after the Supreme Court last upheld Canada’s anti-prostitution laws.
Prostitution is legal in much of Europe and Latin America, and brothels are legal in numerous countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.
(Reuters) – The province of Ontario plans to refurbish units at the Darlington and Bruce nuclear power plants but no longer wants to build new reactors, according to its 2013 long-term energy plan.
Instead the Energy Ministry said in the plan released this week it will encourage conservation and demand management programs before building new generation.
The Ministry said consumer costs will still rise under the new plan but less than in the last plan in 2010, even though Ontario will phase out its coal-fired generation by the end of 2014.
According to the new plan, residential power bills are expected to rise about 2.8 percent a year for the next 20 years, down from a forecast increase of 3.5 percent under the 2010 plan, the Ministry said.
Under the current plan, residential bills will rise to C$178 in 2018 from about C$138 a month in 2013. The 2010 plan forecast residential bills would reach C$191 a month in 2018.
The Ministry forecast Ontario’s energy mix in 2025 at 42 percent nuclear, 46 percent renewable, and 12 percent natural gas. None would come from coal.
In 2013, Ontario produced 59 percent of its power from nuclear, 28 percent from renewable, 11 percent from natural gas and 2 percent from coal.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the province-owned power generator, has said it wants to refurbish the four reactors at its 3,512-megawatt Darlington plant, located along Lake Ontario about 70 km (43 miles) east of Toronto, to keep them running for another 25 to 30 years.
Under the latest plan, the Energy Ministry said OPG will work on Darlington 2 in 2016-2019, Unit 1 in 2019-2022, Unit 3 in 2021-2024 and Unit 4 in 2022-2025.
The Ministry has estimated the Darlington refurbishment cost at about C$6 billion to C$10 billion.
OPG also operates the 3,100-MW Pickering nuclear plant along Lake Ontario, about 40 km east (24 miles) of Toronto. OPG said it plans to spend about C$200 million to refurbish four of the six reactors at Pickering, Units 5-8, to keep them running through 2020, when the entire plant will retire.
The Ministry said OPG could retire some Pickering reactors sooner than 2020, depending on projected demand, the progress of fleet refurbishment and the completion of a new substation in Clarington.
Hydro One, the province-owned transmission company, expects to complete the Clarington substation, located between Pickering and Darlington, by 2017, according to the Ministry.
NO NEW REACTORS
OPG had been looking to build two new reactors at Darlington, and in 2012 signed agreements with Westinghouse Electric, a unit of Japanese multinational Toshiba Corp, and SNC Lavalin Group Inc’s Candu Energy to prepare cost estimates.
The Energy Ministry said the deferral of the new reactors in the new plan reduced capital expenditures by up to C$15 billion.
Bruce Power, the other nuclear operator in Ontario, decided not to pursue construction of new reactors in 2009 due in part to weak market conditions.
Over the past few months, Bruce said it was ready to invest billions to refurbish the eight reactors at its 6,300-MW Bruce plant to keep them running through 2040. Bruce is located in Tiverton, about 225 km (139 miles) west of Toronto along Lake Huron.
The Energy Ministry said Bruce will work on Bruce 4 in 2016-2020, Unit 3 in 2019-2022, Unit 5 in 2022-2025, Unit 6 in 2024-2027, Unit 7 in 2026-2029 and Unit 8 in 2028-2031.
In September, Bruce said it was investing C$430 million to overhaul the 750-MW Units 2 and 3 during future planned outages to extend the reactors’ lives.
Bruce Power is partnership between TransCanada Corp; Cameco Corp; Borealis Infrastructure Management, a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System; the Power Workers’ Union; the Society of Energy Professionals; and a majority of Bruce Power’s employees.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
A near-record number of Ontarians are using food banks, according to a new report.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) says that 375,789 people made use of a food bank in the province this March – more than one-third of whom were children.
That’s more than nine-tenths of the number that used food banks in the previous March, when a record high of 412,998 was recorded.
Nearly half of the families (46.1 per cent) making use of Ontario food banks have children at home. A similar proportion of those relying on food banks (43.6 per cent) are single people, while the remainder of families using food banks (10.3 per cent) are couples without children.
Food banks in the province also served more than 1.2 million meals to Ontarians during the month of March, which is part of an ongoing trend in which food banks have expanded the services they offer to meet the needs of clients.
“As a province with so much, there is no reason that any child should have to go to bed hungry,” Bill Laidlaw, the OAFB executive director, said in a statement accompanying the release of the 2013 Hunger Report.
“To meet these growing needs, food banks are now having to do so much more than provide emergency support. They are becoming hubs for social innovation, health and child care support, learning and training opportunities, and community development that stretch far beyond the traditional idea of a food bank.”
TORONTO – Ontario’s privacy watchdog is probing reports that private health information is being shared with U.S. border services, saying it’s a matter “of grave concern” to her.
Her office “will investigate the matter and ensure that the personal health information of Ontarians is not being compromised by any organizations under my jurisdiction,” Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said in an email to Ontario’s New Democrats, who requested her help.
Cavoukian added that she’s already contacted the Health Ministry to confirm that no personal health details are being provided to U.S. border services.
NDP provincial health critic France Gelinas said she’s been contacted by three people who have been denied entry to the U.S. based on their personal health history.
One woman she spoke to, Ellen Richardson, has gone public with her story, saying she was turned away Monday at Toronto’s Pearson airport by a U.S. customs agent because she was hospitalized in June 2012 for clinical depression.
Richardson attempted suicide in 2001 by jumping off a bridge, which left her a paraplegic. But her mental health has improved with medication and professional help from a psychiatrist, she said.
She said she travelled through the United States several times in recent years and never had a problem.
This time, the agent cited the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare” of themselves or others, she said.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s utterly ridiculous,” she said.
“I was never a threat to others. I would never harm anyone.”
Richardson, who takes medication to combat depression, said she provided the U.S. agent with the name and phone number of her psychiatrist, but it wasn’t enough.
She was told she would have to get “medical clearance” and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security, she said.
Richardson, who has a website and wrote a book about her struggle with depression, said she has no recollection of police being involved in her 2012 hospitalization.
She said she had become suicidal, wrote a suicide note and called her mother, who came over and called 911.
“I wasn’t a threat to anyone, other than myself,” Richardson said.
Gelinas said another person she spoke to told her that they had been turned away at the border over a physical ailment that had nothing to do with mental health.
She wouldn’t provide any details to protect the person’s privacy, but Gelinas said she was told that the U.S. agent in that case also mentioned a fairly recent, specific medical episode that happened in an Ontario hospital.
Gelinas said at first she tried to find some explanation for why U.S. authorities might have the information, such as police records. She asked many questions, but nothing seemed to explain how the Department of Homeland Security got the information.
“The amount of their personal information that is spit back at them is astonishing,” she said.
“I have no idea how this could happen, but it did. I believe those people. They have given me physical, tangible proof that this happened.”
A person’s medical history must remain confidential, she said. To hear that specific details of a person’s medical history is being shared with a foreign government is “extremely alarming.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews owes Ontarians an explanation, Gelinas added.
U.S. authorities don’t have access to medical or other health records for Ontarians travelling to the United States, said Samantha Grant, a spokeswoman for Matthews.
Government officials referred all other questions to police services, saying it was an operational matter.
Federal law allows personal information to be transferred outside Canada, even without the consent of the individual to whom the information relates. Once the information is in foreign hands, the laws of that country will apply.
Canada’s privacy commissioner has called for the federal government to re-examine the circumstances under which it allows personal information about Canadians to be processed outside Canada.
Mike Sullivan, the New Democrat MP who represents the Toronto riding where Richardson lives, says he has sent a letter to the federal privacy commissioner’s office asking for an investigation into the matter.
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We’re Sick Of Emailing Fox News About This, So For The Last Bloody Time, The 9/11 Bombers Did NOT Cross Over From Canada!
Next: The Most Canadian Words
WHAT IT MEANS: A toonie is a $2 Canadian coin, which followed the cue of the loonie (named after the image of the aquatic bird that graces the $1 coin). IN A SENTENCE: “Hey buddy, can I borrow a toonie? I need to get a Double Double (see the next slide).”
WHAT IT MEANS: A Double Double refers to a coffee (often from Tim Hortons) with two creams and two sugars. IN A SENTENCE: “Yes, hi, I’d like to order a Double Double.”
WHAT IT MEANS: When food, however unappealing it is, is all you crave at the end of the day. Or, you’re just very hungry. IN A SENTENCE: “Your mind wanders when it’s gut-foundered. Is it going to be take-out? Is it going to be pizza?”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong>Shit-Kickers are nicknames for cowboy boots. Hee Haw! <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “I can’t go to the Calgary Stampede without my shit-kickers.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Something that is in a diagonal direction from something else. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “The grocery store is kitty-corner to the school.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A warm wind that blows east over the Canadian Rockies, warming up Calgary in the winter. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “This chinook is giving me a headache.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A slang term for cigarettes <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “Get your darts out.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Stagette is another name for bachelorette party. IN A SENTENCE: “Are you heading out to that stagette this weekend? There’s going to be a stripper.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Cowtown is a nickname for Calgary. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “I’ve been living in Cowtown my entire life.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Another name for underwear used mainly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and often referring to men’s or boys’ briefs. A gotch refers to women’s underwear. IN A SENTENCE: “Pull your pants up, I can see your gitch.”
WHAT IT MEANS: According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland, a bedlamer is a seal that is not yet mature. IN A SENTENCE: “This harp seal is giving me a hard time, it’s such a bedlamer.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A toque is a hat most people wear during winter months. And sometimes, you will see this hat reappear in the summer. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “Listen son, don’t go out into this weather without your toque.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> No, no one is getting married. In Western Canada, a matrimonial cake is another term for a date square or tart. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “I wish this coffee shop had matrimonial cakes.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Someone who loves spending time on an ice rink. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “I can’t get any ice time, I have to deal with all these rink rats.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Slang for homogenized whole milk, but shockingly, this term is actually used on milk packaging. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “When you go to the grocery store, don’t forget to pick up the homo milk.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Common slang for a case of 24 beers. IN A SENTENCE: “Are you heading to the beer store? Pick me up a 2-4 of Molson.”
WHAT IT MEANS: The Canadian way of saying coloured pencil. IN A SENTENCE: “Do you have a pencil crayon in that pencil case?”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Another word for soda. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “That can of pop has 200 calories.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Another word for bathroom or restroom. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “This washroom doesn’t have any toilet paper.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Slang for “what are you doing” in Newfoundland. IN A SENTENCE: “Did you just get in? Whaddya at?”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> For the most part, a mickey is a flask-sized (or 375 ml) bottle of hard liqueur, but on the East Coast, a mickey is an airplane-sized bottle. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “We’re going out tonight, can someone grab a mickey.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Not a slang term, but this is how Canadians pronounce the letter “Z”. Not zee.
WHAT IT MEANS: A hockey (surprise, surprise) technique when a player gets past their opponent by “faking it.” It can also be used to replace the world detour. IN A SENTENCE: “I am going to deke into the store after work.”
<strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Hydro refers to electricity, particularly on your energy bill. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “My hydro bill went up $10 this month.”
WHAT IT MEANS: A mountie is a nickname for a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. IN A SENTENCE: “Stop speeding, a mountie will catch you.”
NEXT: 50 Of the Best Canadian Foods
Poutine — French fries generously slathered in gravy and cheese curds — is a classic Canadian treat that is said to have originated in Quebec in the 1950s. Since then, it has been adapted in many weird and wonderful ways from gourmet versions with lobster and foie gras to —believe it or not — a doughnut version. It’s also inspired a crop of trendy “poutineries” and a “poutition” to make it Canada’s official national dish.
There are some snacks that define a nation, but not many that taste good to only those who live there. What do we love? The fact they leave our fingers dyed red after we’ve had a whole bag. Ketchup has never tasted so salty, non-tomatoey and outright good. Our U.S. friends may go nutty over Doritos, but we love our ketchup chips. Did you know that Lay’s dill pickle and Munchies snack mix are also exclusively Canadian?
What could be more Canadian than syrup that comes from the maple tree, whose iconic leaf has come to symbolize Canada and its national pride? Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, accounting for about 75 to 80 percent of the supply. Maple syrup — superfood.html” target=”_blank”>recently elevated to “superfood” status — is a classic sweet topping on pancakes and waffles. Still, that hasn’t stopped some people from thinking of surprising savoury pairings such as maple-bacon doughnuts.
It’s no secret that Canadians are obsessed with bacon. The delicious cured pork product can be made oh so many ways, including ever popular strip bacon and peameal bacon, often referred to as “Canadian bacon” abroad. In fact, Canadians are so passionate about their favourite food that many would probably choose it over sex.
A butter tart is a classic Canadian dessert made with butter, sugar, syrup and eggs — filled in a buttery (yes, more grease) pastry shell, and often includes either raisins or nuts. They can be runny or firm — so it’s hard to mess them up when you’re baking. Also, they never seem to go out of style.
BeaverTails, or Queues de Castor in French, is a famous trademarked treat made by a Canadian-based chain of pastry stands. The fried-dough treats are shaped to resemble real beaver tails and are often topped with chocolate, candy, and fruit. These Canadian delicacies go hand in hand with skiing, and even gained White House recognition during U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2009 trip to Ottawa.
These legendary Canadian no-bake treats originated in (surprise!) <a href=”http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html” target=”_blank”>Nanaimo, B.C.,</a> and are typically made with graham-cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts, vanilla custard and chocolate. Need we say more? Common variations include peanut butter and mint chocolate.
No one likes to think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as dinner, but game meat is abundant in Canada and can be found in butchers, restaurants and homes across the country. Among other popular Canadian game is boar, bison, venison, caribou and rabbit.
KINCARDINE, Ont. – Ordinarily, a proposal to bury radioactive waste in a scenic area that relies on tourism would inspire “not in my backyard” protests from local residents — and relief in places that were spared.
But conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in Ontario, where a publicly owned power company wants to entomb waste from its nuclear plants 680 metres below the surface near Lake Huron.
Some of the strongest support comes from Kincardine and other communities near the would-be disposal site at the Bruce Power complex, the world’s largest nuclear power station, which produces one-fourth of all electricity generated in Canada’s most heavily populated province. Nuclear is a way of life here, and many residents have jobs connected to the industry.
Meanwhile, the loudest objections are coming from elsewhere in Canada and the U.S. — particularly Michigan, which shares the Lake Huron shoreline with Ontario.
Critics are aghast at the idea. They don’t buy assurances that the waste would rest far beneath the lake’s greatest depths and be encased in rock formations that have been stable for 450 million years.
“Neither the U.S. nor Canada can afford the risk of polluting the Great Lakes with toxic nuclear waste,” U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, Sander Levin, John Dingell and Gary Peters of Michigan said in a letter to a panel that is expected to make a recommendation next spring to Canada’s federal government, which has the final say.
Michigan’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, have asked the State Department to intervene. Business and environmental groups in Michigan and Ohio submitted letters. An online petition sponsored by a Canadian opposition group has collected nearly 42,000 signatures.
The decision on the $1 billion Canadian project could influence the broader debate over burying nuclear waste deep underground, said Per Peterson, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who served on a national commission that studied the waste issue in the United States. The U.S. government’s plan for building a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been halted by stiff opposition.
“Demonstrating that this facility can be approved and operated safely is important because it can improve confidence that future high-level waste facilities also can be operated safely,” Peterson said.
The Canadian “deep geologic repository” would be the only deep-underground storage facility in North America, aside from a military installation in New Mexico. Other U.S. radioactive waste landfills are shallow — usually 30 metres deep or less.
The most highly radioactive waste generated at nuclear plants is spent fuel, which wouldn’t go into the Canadian chamber. Instead, the site would house “low-level” waste such as ashes from incinerated mop heads, paper towels and floor sweepings. It also would hold “intermediate waste” — discarded parts from the reactor core.
The project would be operated by Ontario Power Generation, a publicly owned company that manages waste generated by its nuclear reactors and others owned by Bruce Power, a private operator. Officials insist it’s the safest way to deal with radioactive material that has been stored aboveground since the late 1960s and needs a permanent resting place.
“We’ve had many scientists and engineers studying this for many years,” OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said. “They’ve concluded that it will not harm the environment or the public.”
Most of the waste would decay within 300 years, but the company acknowledges the intermediate waste would stay radioactive for more than 100,000 years. That’s too long for Eugene Bourgeois, who has a wool yarn business near Bruce Power.
“We have only recently discovered radioactivity,” he said. “It’s arrogant to think we’re smart enough to know what it will do to life on this planet over such a long time.”
Larry Kraemer, mayor of Kincardine, says most of his constituents don’t share those fears. The risk of radioactive pollution is “so low as to be almost unimaginable,” he said. “The people here draw their drinking water from the lake. We’re certainly not going to take any chances with it.”
Kincardine is among several small communities hugging the shoreline in southern Ontario’s Bruce County, which has miles of sandy beaches popular with tourists — particularly from Toronto, about three hours southwest. The downtowns are lined with shops, restaurants, parks, museums and woodsy footpaths.
The area’s first nuclear plant was built in the 1960s in countryside north of Kincardine. The sprawling Bruce Power site now has eight reactors and employs about 4,000 people. Kraemer says about half the jobs in his town of 12,000 are connected to the industry.
“We don’t have the knee-jerk reaction when someone says ‘nuclear’ that other people do,” said Joanne Robbins, general manager of the chamber of commerce in nearby Saugeen Shores. “We grew up with it.”
Beverly Fernandez, leader of the group that started the online petition, lives in Saugeen Shores but admits she’s focusing on rally opposition outside the area because the industry is so popular in Bruce County — which she dryly labels “the nuclear oasis.”
Company specialists say the waste would be placed in impermeable chambers drilled into sturdy limestone 680 metres below the surface, topped with a shale layer more than 180 metres thick. The lake’s maximum depth in the vicinity of the nuclear site is about 180 metres.
But Charles Rhodes, an engineer and physicist, contended seeping groundwater would fill the chamber in as little as a year, become contaminated and eventually reach the lake through tiny cracks in the rock.
“It’s only a question of how long, and how toxic it will be when it gets there,” he said in an interview.
Kraemer, the Kincardine mayor, said naysayers should be grateful his town is willing to shoulder a burden few others would accept.
“Opposition without responsibility is just a little too easy,” he said.
Ontario Power Generation: http://opgdgr.com/
Opposition group: http://www.stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com/
Mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources’ decision to halt work on the largest project in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire region has aroused a sudden interest in the lumbering development.
The opposition at Queen’s Park pounced to lay blame on the province for the squandered opportunity.
Financial analysts scurried to advise clients on what it means for their shares. And usually blasé news outlets called on pundits to discuss whether the loss of the U.S. mining giant was a death knell for the much-hyped but little-understood development.
The biggest player in the Ring of Fire, a 5,000 square kilometre tract of land in Ontario’s Far North that is said to hold a potential $50 billion in mineral deposits, announced late Wednesday it is halting work on its $3.3 billion chromite project indefinitely, blaming, for the most part, an “uncertain timeline.”
If Cliffs’ decision to stop development is the death of that high stakes mining discovery, it was anything but a sudden one.
This past summer, I was one of just two reporters covering a historic three-day meeting of the Matawa First Nations, a group that represents many of the communities that are affected by Ring of Fire development. As part of my reporting for HuffPost’s Staking Claim series, I’ve spoken to the major players in the First Nations community, in government and from the mining companies involved.
They all saw this coming. And none are panicking that the Ring of Fire has been extinguished.
Any insider could see the signs: the many stalls, delays and conflicts between miners and First Nations; miners and government; and government and First Nations.
Just about the only thing the players have agreed upon is the need to “get it right.” The problem is no one has agreed on what that means.
Cliffs has been telegraphing its frustration with the development process every time I have spoken with execs over the past year. It has warned, with growing severity, that it might be “forced” to pull out of the Black Thor chromite project if it doesn’t see better progress. It said so in June, when it halted its Environmental Assessment over a number of uncertainties, and it said so even louder in September when the province denied it the rightto build a road on land held by a rival miner.
For the debt-strapped company struggling with funding expansion in an era of low metal prices, the choice to stop work in the Ring of Fire was simple math. Patricia Perisco of Cliffs explained that projects compete internally for funding and Black Thor was a tough sell.
The U.S. mining giant has called the region unprecedented both in the opportunity to open a new mining region and in the scale of the challenges the company faced.
When Ontario announced earlier this month its idea for a loosely formed development corporation to bring the players together, it was too late. Cliffs didn’t even hold an initial meeting on the topic — it wanted out. And yet, it hasn’t ruled out getting back in, either. The company will continue to talk with First Nations and government (whom it will no doubt lobby for its preferred transportation route).
Cliffs may be ready to re-enter the region by the time Matawa and Ontario finally reach agreement on a number of preliminary issues, which could still be years away.
For its part, the Ontario government, which stands to gain billions in royalties from the potential development, moved swiftly to assure would-be investors the province is still open for business and that the potential in the Ring of Fire is alive.
But it has been anything but swift when it comes to action. More than a decade after discovering riches in the frozen muskeg of the north, no one has been able to penetrate either the earth or ill-defined regulatory walls.
Opposition parties that have for years blamed the government for mismanaging and underestimating the importance of the project used Cliffs’ announcement as an “I told you so” moment.
The government’s nonchalant attitude about the potential loss of the biggest player in the region belies the fact that the piece of the royalty pie it has to divvy up with First Nations just shrunk substantially. There may still be some 20 other miners in the region, but Cliffs’ decision is like Wal-Mart pulling out of a major retail development: it doesn’t mean the project won’t go ahead but it puts the onus on a number of independent boutiques whose pocketbooks are considerably smaller.
As for the people who will be most directly affected by the project, the First Nations communities surrounding the area, they are neither surprised nor fazed by Cliffs’ decision.In fact, they welcome it. They’ve been on this land since time immemorial, have been the victims of development for centuries, and are in no rush for a snap decision or quick resolution.
The people of the Matawa First Nations are ambivalent about the Ring of Fire. They have deep concerns about the impact a new mining region will have on their pristine land, on the animals and fish on which they rely and on their way of life which involves a deep connection to the land.
In Webequie, the fly-in reserve some 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay that is closest to the Ring of Fire, animals are already fleeing from exploration activities to its east.
There is a tempered enthusiasm toward the jobs, roads and prosperity they’ve been promised, but they’re also jaded following years of broken promises. One young man in Webequie beginning a heavy equipment training program with the possibility of a Ring of Fire job had already trained as a firefighter, land staker and diamond driller with the promise of a steady income. He is still unemployed, like 70 per cent of the reserve.
Matawa’s CEO David Paul Achneepineskum said this week the setback will give First Nations more time to assess the environmental impacts of the development as well as prepare their people for the opportunities it may present.
The tribal council’s chief negotiator Bob Rae made it clear in a tweet that he’s hellbent on pursuing a fair deal “to end (a) cycle of poverty for First Nations,” even with the biggest player gone.
Still, with pressure from Cliffs removed as an impetus to reach a deal quickly, negotiations with the province risk losing focus and dragging on longer.
While no one denies that Cliffs’ move is a game changer, the looming question is whether it’s a game ender.
The First Nations, government and industry players I spoke with answer with a resounding “no.” But industry-watcher and Native legal rights expert Bill Gallagher says their stances are either spin or delusion. The Ring of Fire, he says, is in the “project death zone” and “the biggest missed opportunity on Ontario’s road to resources in a generation.”
Fault will inevitably be assigned: was it that First Nations were “anti-development”? Was the province too slow or too unorganized to act? Or did the miner misjudge how quickly they could put a shovel in the ground?
Any attempt to analyze what went wrong, and whether it can be put right, must go far beyond those surface level questions.
It is a wake-up call that should be answered not with dwelling on what went awry, but instead determining, once and for all, what it actually means to “get it right” in the Ring of Fire.
A line of severe storms swept across southern and eastern Ontario Sunday night, bringing heavy rain and winds gusting to 90 km/h.
Hydro One says at the height of the storm the power was knocked out to well over 100,000 homes and businesses between Windsor and the Kingston area.
The power was back on for some by 6 a.m., but through the early morning some 86,000 Hydro One customers were still without power.
High winds responsible for outages across the province. Crews working to restore power to those affected.
— Hydro One (@HydroOne) November 18, 2013
In the Greater Toronto Area some 70,000 customers were left in the dark, and another 24,000 in London. Crews worked through the night to get the lights back on, though by early morning “small pockets” of Toronto were still without power according to Toronto Hydro.
We’re experiencing outages in a few small pockets as a result of winds. Approx. 150 customers affected. Hope to have all restored by 6 a.m.
— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) November 18, 2013
The weather system roared into Ontario after punishing the American Midwest with tornadoes and thunderstorms that left at least six dead in Illinois.
In the central Illinois town of Washington, a twister obliterated entire neighbourhoods, flipping vehicles, uprooting trees, and ripping down power lines.
The storms also caused damage in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
Seven years ago, the Ontario Liberal government trumpeted its new law to curb urban sprawl as bold and visionary.
“People want to see action,” David Caplan, the province’s then infrastructure minister, said after announcing the province’s fully fleshed-out Places to Grow Act in 2006.
Acting in tandem with the Liberal plan to create a green belt, Places to Grow was designed to protect farmland in southern Ontario’s so-called Golden Horseshoe.
Unless something drastic was done, an earlier government study had warned, rampant urban development would result in an additional 1,000 square kilometres of mainly agricultural land — an area twice as big as the entire City of Toronto — being paved over by the year 2031.
Caplan called the new law Ontario’s “last chance to build the future we want.”
The Liberals were lionized for the new scheme by both press and public. The government even won a prestigious U.S. planning award.
But seven years later, it is as if nothing had ever happened.
A new study by the Neptis Foundation, an urban think tank, calculates that the amount of prime farmland slated for urban development by 2031 has in fact increased since the government uttered its first, dire warning.
That new total now stands at 1,071 square kilometres.
What happened? As the Star’s Susan Pigg reported this week, Neptis found that the Liberal government simply never bothered to implement its bold new law.
That law, Neptis writes in its just-released report, “has been undermined before it even had a chance to make an impact.”
At the heart of the Places to Grow Act was a requirement that municipalities in a belt running from Peterborough to Niagara Falls authorize fewer sprawling subdivisions.
Instead, most municipalities were expected to locate at least 40 per cent of any new residential development in areas that were already built up.
In practical terms, it was a requirement to concentrate on higher-density accommodation — from highrise apartment buildings to row housing.
New subdivisions wouldn’t be banned. But under the law, they had to be dense enough to support public transit.
Because the area covered by the law was so diverse (it includes both cities and cottage country), municipalities were allowed to seek exemptions.
The theory, apparently, was that while the government would grant exemptions that made sense, it wouldn’t allow the act to be subverted.
However, the reality, as Neptis researchers found, was quite different.
In effect, the Liberal government allowed every municipality that wanted to be exempted from the new standards to be exempted.
“There was very little justification given as to why exemptions were permitted,” report co-author Rian Allen told me.
“Those who asked for exemptions appeared to get them.”
This was particularly true of municipalities in the so-called outer ring of the Golden Horseshoe, in places like Simcoe County (near Barrie) and Wellington County (near Guelph).
All in all, more than half the municipalities in the outer ring have received exemptions from the density minimums.
And because those minimums are so low, even municipalities that meet provincial targets will remain subject to sprawl.
Allen points out that York Region, for instance, is expected to have only half of Toronto’s population by 2031 even though it occupies more than twice the space.
The province had predicted it would save 800 square kilometres of farmland from development. That goal won’t be met says Neptis.
That the Liberals undermined their own plan should, perhaps, come as no surprise. Land development is big business in Ontario.
Municipal governments pay a great deal of attention to developers. So do provincial political parties seeking financial contributions.
More to the point, many voters want to live in the sprawling subdivisions that these developers build.
Still, even for a government that has specialized in big talk and minimal action (nursing homes; poverty reduction), this is an astonishing failure.
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.