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What 7 days without power is like 3:58
Tens of thousands still in the dark in Ontario 3:36
The little generator that could2:11
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- Ice storm aftermath: Staying safe during power outages
About 30,000 customers in Ontario and New Brunswick remain in the dark one week after a major ice storm blanketed Central and Atlantic Canada, and warming temperatures have caused new power outages in Toronto.
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said early Saturday that melting ice falling from trees and other structures has led to fresh damage. At about 1 a.m. ET the number of customers without power had dropped below 20,000 for the first time, but by 8 a.m. it was back up to around 23,000. The number is hovering at 18,000 as of mid-afternoon Saturday.
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“Over the morning hours we’ve been moving backwards, but I’m sure our crews will attend to those and we’ll start moving in the right direction again over the next couple of hours,” he told CBC News Network.
Calling it a “story of ups and downs,” Haines pointed out that the current tally — 18,000 — is about the same number that crews have been bringing power to each day.
The falling ice caused at least one injury when a Hamilton worker was struck in the head, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said. Officials couldn’t provide an update on the worker’s condition.
“This is Day 7 and there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ford in an interview with CBC News midday Saturday. “What that day is, I can not tell you…We’re trying our best.”
In response to the backlash the mayor and other officials have received from people still without power, Ford said “it tears my heart out.”
“We have crews from Ottawa, we have crews from Windsor,” he said. “I share their frustration…it’s all hands on deck [and] we are moving as fast as we can.”
Haines said computer simulations have shown three days, but that there are variables at work like the new outages and the arrival of more crews. The provincial utility, Hydro One, said the outages outside Toronto are largely over, which has allowed it to send crews in to help the city.
“I’m hopeful certainly by the early part of next week the vast majority of customers will be back,” Haines said.
Working around the clock
Haines, who noted that the average Toronto Hydro customer is equivalent to 2½ people, said he sympathizes with people.
“What we can do is work around the clock and we can bring extra resources in from far and wide … we will not stop until the power is on for everybody,” he said.
Haines and Toronto Community Housing CEO Gene Jones (who is still dealing with outages in about 80 housing units) said they will perform a postmortem after the outages are over to see what they might do better next time.
Haines stressed the enormous scope of the damage:
- Forty per cent of the city’s power lines, which would cross Canada twice, have been affected by the storm.
- Thirty-thousand pieces of equipment have been installed back into the grid and about 47,000 metres of cable have gone back up into the air.
- The City of Toronto says about 20 per cent of the city’s tree canopy has been damaged and it could take seven weeks to clean up all the fallen limbs, Haines said.
Amid the rising anger and frustration of those still in the dark, utility companies are pleading for patience, saying crews are working around the clock and nothing else can be done to speed up the process.
That’s little consolation for people who have been in the dark for a week, including Carmen Andronesu, who is one of more than 1,000 residents who live in a condo complex in Toronto’s north end.
“No matter how much you try calling here and there, it’s like you cannot find help from anywhere,” she said.
Wynne promises help for food spoilage
In a morning news conference, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the concern she’s heard most around the province is spoiled food. She said she’s looking at providing help and would offer details over the next couple of days when a plan had been confirmed.
“We’ve reached out to food suppliers to try to come up with a way of compensating people and getting some extra food — or food vouchers, something to folks, so that’s what we’re working out over the next couple of days,” she said.
Ford said Toronto won’t be looking into any sort of compensation until the power has been restored.
“I can’t give any numbers or any assurances that we can reimburse anyone,” Ford said.
11,000 without power in N.B.
About 11,000 customers in New Brunswick are also struggling through a long power outage, mostly in St. Stephen and the Saint John area.
Some people won’t have their power restored until the new year, according to a tweet from NB Power on Saturday. Gaetan Thomas, the utility’s CEO, said extra crews are being brought in from Quebec tonight, which means more than 200 crews will be working in the province to restore electricity.
Thomas said another large storm, forecast for tomorrow, will also hinder their efforts as it brings freezing rain and snow.
In the rural southern New Brunswick community of Titusville, people without power have been heading to the generator-powered general store to buy kerosene, propane, candles and water.
Owner Mark Carline said the storm and outage has caused him to reflect.
“I think we were all reminded and humbled by the fact that at any given time we could be set back to this state, where we’re scrambling [to get] the basic necessities.”
In Quebec, the outages are almost over: Hydro-Québec tweeted late Friday night that they were “almost there” with only about 400 customers left who needed power restored.
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:
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.
JONATHAN HAYWARD FOR THE TORONTO STAR
John Adams, chief of the Communications Security Establishment, doesn’t think “oversight” is realistic, but supports a robust “review” of CSEC’s activities and sees the value in having a committee of security-cleared parliamentarians “fully briefed on what CSEC is doing.”
Creepy truth: American spies with access to everyone’s data do occasionally succumb to the urge to snoop illegally through their love lives, peering into the private communications of former paramours.
Creepier truth: if you’re Canadian, you have no way of knowing whether one of your own spies does it to you.
Hypothetically, they don’t. Legally, they can’t. But that’s the problem, say critics of the fast-growing Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Ottawa agency that scours global telephone logs, email and Internet trails for worrisome patterns — with CSEC it’s all hypothetical because Canada’s electronic watchers enjoy a secrecy second to none.
Nearly six months after former computer specialist Edward Snowden began tearing back the curtain on America’s National Security Agency with a series of stunning disclosures about the true extent of U.S. mass surveillance, Canada’s CSEC remains a silent bystander.
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Apart from a single report by journalist Glenn Greenwald accusing CSEC of eavesdropping on Brazil’s mining and energy ministry, Canada’s electronic spies have thus far escaped the brunt of Snowden’s cascading disclosures.
That’s good, right? Sure it is. But it also leaves Canadians, including Parliament, almost completely in the dark on what the underscrutinized CSEC actually does, even as outraged Americans and Britons shine a bright light on — and mobilize to change — the ways their own governments consume private data.
“Canadians who think they are in the clear on these ongoing scandals need to grasp that we are the ones who need the debate the most,” said Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
“The Canadian checks and balances just aren’t there. We have no parliamentary oversight of CSEC, no adequate independent entity to watch the watchers and act as a constraint on misbehaviour. It just doesn’t exist now.
“It’s not a question of people shrugging and saying, ‘Well, I’ve got nothing to hide.’ The real problem is oversight — and the potential for abuse if left unchecked.”
It’s an idea that even CSEC’s former chief, John Adams, concedes would be helpful.
Adams doesn’t think “oversight” is realistic, but supports the robust “review” of CSEC’s activities and sees the value in having a committee of security-cleared parliamentarians “fully briefed on what CSEC is doing.
“It would be an opportunity for them to provide feedback and observations and raise concerns perhaps about what CSEC is doing and CSEC could also use that forum as an opportunity to talk about what they might be doing or consider doing or to bounce off of them some thoughts,” said Adams.
“It would be an opportunity for (Parliament) to have some public debate but it would be a limited public debate because they’d have to be sworn to secrecy.”
This review does exist in the United States, though many argue the checks and balances have been abused and subverted in light of Snowden’s NSA disclosures.
Yet in the U.S., as the scandal grew, so too did Congressional scrutiny, with American politicians like Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon leading the pushback against secrecy.
A case in point came in August, when the leak of a top-secret document revealed the NSA broke privacy rules and overstepped its legal authority thousands of times a year after 2008, when the agency was granted broad new powers by Congress.
Most of the violations were “unintentional,” but that sparked congressional queries for details on cases involving wilful misconduct by NSA spies. As pressure mounted, the NSA took the extraordinary measure of a public statement, acknowledging that a handful of its officers had used the agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on romantic interests.
Those instances, though rare, were common enough to warrant their own spycraft label — LOVEINT, or “love intelligence.” Most of the officials involved resigned, were dismissed or were demoted to a lower pay grade with limited security clearance, the agency said.
But that’s only one piece of a much broader debate taking place in Washington, as two competing pieces of legislation emerge with the intent to rein back NSA powers and place congressional checks and balances on a stronger footing. An important element of that debate is whether America’s massive metadata effort — the gathering up of the entire haystack of phone and Internet communications — is worth the cost.
These questions are hardly ever asked north of the border, even though Canada is a partner in the so-called Five Eyes, sharing intelligence-gathering chores alongside the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Little is known of what that entails, precisely, although the Globe and Mail penetrated one layer of the CSEC bubble in June. The newspaper disclosed that a secret Canadian metadata surveillance program first launched in 2005 under then-prime minister Paul Martin was frozen amid privacy concerns, only to be reinstated in 2011 under new rules.
Hundreds of pages of records on the program, obtained through Access to Information requests, came back with large passages blacked out on grounds of national security, the Globe reported.
The lone watchdog agency overseeing CSEC, the Office of the CSE Commissioner, has given its blessing to the metadata program. But critics say the office and its staff of eight, which until recently received its funding directly from the Department of National Defence, as does CSEC, remains too close to Canada’s security establishment to effectively safeguard privacy concerns.
Once a year CSEC’s watchdog reports to Canadians. But far more often, it reports secretly to the defence minister with recommendations for adjustments in how CSEC conducts its business. In his most recent public report, released in August, outgoing commissioner Robert Decary ended his three-year term proclaiming that all activities complied with Canadian law with the exception of “a small number of records (which) suggested the possibility that some activities may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to the law . . . I was unable to reach a definitive conclusion.”
Decary, in a final assessment of his time as CSEC watchdog, wrote that he saw little value in a confrontational relationship. “With my years of experience, I see the office more CSEC’s conscience than as a sword of Damocles,” he wrote.
But even Decary nudged Canada’s spymasters toward greater openness, writing that “I believe that the ice has been broken and that the security and intelligence agencies understand they can speak more openly about their work without betraying state secrets or compromising national security.
“The greater the transparency, the less skeptical and cynical the public will be.”
University of Ottawa scholar Wesley Wark, who specializes in national security and the history of intelligence agencies, says the CSEC watchdog is simply not enough.
Unlike Britain and the United States, Canadian oversight leaves a “gaping hole . . . a big gap” because Parliament is not involved in holding intelligence agencies to account as Adams suggested, Wark told The Star.
The issue has simmered for years, said Wark, with failed attempts, most recently in 2005, to create a British-style Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security.
But oversight actually grew worse in 2011, said Wark, when CSEC was deemed an independent agency within the Department of National Defence, effectively eliminating a requirement to report to the national security adviser and Privy Council office. “It took that away entirely,” said Wark, “and put it all within (DND), where it’s very easy for CSEC to disappear down its secret hole.
“There’s a question about who is really in charge and who’s deciding to apportion CSEC resources in terms of current operations,” he said.
Among the key questions Wark says remain unanswered is how much bang CSEC gets for its buck. And whether, in Canada’s haste to satisfy the obligations of its Five Eyes commitments, we sell Canadian interests short.
Deibert, who this year published Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, argues that while parliamentary oversight remains an admirable goal, the evolving issue of privacy-versus-surveillance warrants something more ambitious.
“I would go further: There needs to be somebody who is not part of Ottawa culture, who is adversarial, something with the authority and credibility of the Privacy Commission’s office,” said Deibert.
“Parliamentary oversight is necessary. But you also need oversight that doesn’t depend on favours or look through the lens of partisan politics.
“I just don’t think, as a society, Canada has caught up with the epochal scope of what has changed in the last 10 years. We’ve gone through the most profound transformation in how we communicate. Mobile and broadband technologies have turned us inside out — and at the same time these Cold War agencies are now turning their gaze inwards on us.
“It’s no longer spy-versus-spy and concern over foreign states with nuclear weapons. Now it’s about somebody blowing themselves up in a shopping mall. And so the threat model has turned toward all of society.”
Canada’s security agencies cannot do their jobs in total transparency, of course. Some degree of secrecy is crucial. But that is no hindrance, if a committee of Parliament were to be vetted and cleared — a commonplace practice in other jurisdictions — and thus able to absorb firsthand the full heft of CSEC activities.
But if CSEC’s critics and former bosses agree on at least some increased scrutiny, Adams doesn’t buy into all the Snowden hype. He shrugs, for example, at the furor that followed October’s disclosure of U.S. eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
“Every leader in the world knows that people would love to know what they’re thinking, where they’re heading . . . anyone who doesn’t think that is happening is in never-never land,” Adams said.
“It’s not illegal but it’s embarrassing. There are 12 rules and 11 of them are, ‘Don’t get caught.’ ”