Canadians still face refund headaches more than a year into COVID pandemic

People who purchased passes to the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia are wondering if they will see refunds after the season was abruptly cut short due to COVID-19 in March.

While airlines seem to have received the brunt of the complaints regarding COVID-19-related refunds, there are any number of instances where consumers are trying to get their money back after the pandemic wrecked their plans.

But just as the pandemic interrupted winter plans — and now potentially spring and summer plans as the third wave rages — it is also playing havoc with refund policies.

Those who purchased passes to the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia, for example, are wondering if they will see refunds after the season was abruptly cut short by public health orders in March. While there’s an insurance program that covers some of the ski passes, that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward.

David Lie of Toronto is one of those struggling to get his money back after purchasing a Whistler Blackcomb pass in 2020. When COVID restrictions meant his family couldn’t go, the money was put towards a credit for a 2021 pass.

But with Ontario under a stay-at-home order, his family was once again unable to take their ski holiday this spring, and they applied for a refund that, as of yet, hasn’t come.

The problem for him, he said, lies in dealing with ACM Claims, the company contracted by Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb. The company has failed to get his address correct, Lie said. They wanted a U.S. zip code, not a Canadian postal code, and the claim was denied.

“Basically, they’re just not responsive,” said Lie.

Vail Resorts did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment.

There are numerous other instances where people have paid upfront, only to have their plans yanked out from under them by the COVID-19 restrictions. Wedding halls and golf courses, for example, collect  fees upfront.

Refund policies vary depending on the company, and what’s been paid for. They can also vary by jurisdiction. Most provinces have laws that govern what happens when a contract cannot be fulfilled, and someone has already paid for a service.

There is the Frustrated Contract Act in British Columbia, for example. A frustrated contract means there was an unforeseen complication that “frustrated” the contract, and therefore, the person who paid for the service might get some or all of their money back.

Consumers should also check the language within their contract that covers off refunds.

“Either way, any person who’s contracting services might not find that a very satisfactory result, and both the common law and the contractual provisions often don’t mean you’re getting repaid in full,” explains Thomas Boyd with Lawson Lundell LLP in Vancouver.

“The contract should make it clear whether you’re going to fall within the refund policy … Where that’s more complicated is when terms were written before anyone had any idea about COVID.

Ian Shemesh, of Shemesh Paralegal, said he’s involved in a number of cases where parties are feuding over contracts messed up by the pandemic.

“Weddings, parties, golf courses, it’s endless,” said Shemesh.

“Various paralegals are taking steps in small claims to enforce the other party to return a substantial portion of the money,” said Shemesh.

 Via Rail, which offers all customers a full refund up until departure, is among the companies that have been proactive with pandemic refund policies.

There can be complications, because the contract provider might be able to provide partial services. For example, a golf course membership: You might not be able to golf now because of health restrictions, but you might still have access to other services at other times of the year, such as the clubhouse. This would affect negotiations over a refund.

The Consumer Protection Act is another possible avenue for consumers. It sets out a 30-day period when the service must be delivered, Shemesh said.

Some companies have been proactive with pandemic refund policies.

Allstate Insurance, for example, offered rebates last year to its car insurance customers. “Our customers are staying at home to help prevent the spread of the virus and care for themselves and their families. As a result, customers are driving less and filing fewer claims,” Allstate explains.

Via Rail says everyone who’s booked a ticket can get a full refund up until departure. “They will receive a full refund and incur zero service charges, regardless of when they purchased their ticket,” said Via Rail in a statement.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Blue Jays, MLB 'sever ties' with Roberto Alomar after sexual misconduct allegations

Roberto Alomar at bat for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1994.

Roberto Alomar, the Hall of Famer who won two World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays, has been effectively booted from Major League Baseball after an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct dating to 2014.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has put Alomar, 53, on the league’s ineligible list, and terminated his consulting contract — where he was working in his native Puerto Rico — after a law firm investigated the incident, allegations of which were recently brought forward by an employee of the baseball industry.

The Blue Jays said they agreed with the decision and, based on their review of the findings, “they are severing all ties with Alomar, effectively immediately.” His number will be removed from the Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre and the banner celebrating his Hall of Fame selection will be taken down.

“We commend the courage demonstrated by the individual who bravely came forward, and in order to respect their privacy, the organization will have no further comment at this time,” said a statement from club president Mark Shapiro.

Alomar posted a statement on social media saying he was “disappointed” and “surprised” by the findings. “My hope is that this allegation can be heard in a venue that will allow me to address the accusation directly.”

The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., said Alomar’s plaque will remain, reflecting his status at the time of election in 2011.

Alomar was a key player on the World Series-winning Blue Jays teams in 1992 and 1993. He played in Toronto for five seasons of his 17-year Major League career, retiring in 2005.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Tillsonburg, Ont. golf course charged with defying shutdown order, faces $10M fine

The Bridges at Tillsonburg was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act with failing to comply under section 10 (1)(c) – the section of the act that applies to corporations.

A Tillsonburg golf course was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act, police announced late Thursday night, after the course opened last weekend in defiance of provincial pandemic restrictions.

The Bridges at Tillsonburg

, which opened Saturday to a sold-out week of golf, was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act with failing to comply under section 10 (1)(c) – the section of the act that applies to corporations.

An OPP spokesperson said Thursday night the amount of the fine will be determined in court. Fines, if convicted, can reach up to $10 million for corporations.

Police declined to say whether any golf course patrons had been charged Thursday night.

“The OPP is requesting that businesses and members of the public voluntarily comply with the government-mandated shutdown and the Stay At Home Order,” OPP said in a statement.

The charges are expected to be heard in court on June 3.

The golf course opened Saturday to sold-out tee times for the weekend and said in a statement that it was thankful to the community for its support. Under provincial pandemic restrictions, outdoor recreation, including golf courses and tennis courts, are expected to remain closed until May 20 to curb the spread of COVID-19.

CBC News reported Friday morning that tee times continue to be booked. “We’re still golfing,” an employee said.

Read the original article here.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

COVID's third wave is younger and sicker. Here's everything we know about why

Alex Kopacz, 31, a gold medal Olympian brakeman in men’s bobsled, was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Canada’s COVID face is changing — for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear.

COVID wards are filling with young and middle-aged adults. At one Toronto hospital’s ICU, nearly as many under-50s died from COVID-19 in the first 48 days of this now cresting third wave as in the entire September to February wave. At another, harrowing numbers of pregnant women are landing in intensive care. By mid-April, half of those in Mount Sinai Hospital’s ICU were pregnant or had recently given birth. At the Toronto General Hospital on Wednesday, a record 28 of the sickest people were connected to artificial lungs “and still younger than the first two waves,” reported Dr. Eddy Fan, medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support Program at Toronto’s University Health Network. Doctors are reporting multiple people born in the 1990s.

In London, Ont., 31-year-old Alex Kopacz, a gold-medal Olympic brakeman in men’s bobsled, spent four days in hospital with COVID after a business trip to Calgary. He doesn’t know his ground zero — Calgary or Toronto’s Pearson Airport. But “this whole thing has been a terrible experience, period. In the hospital, awful. I said goodbye to many people,” he said in an interview with the

National Post

on Thursday. “I’m grateful I’m alive, I’m grateful I can breathe.” He’s home now, but he’s tired. His spirits are worn. He’s developed a blood clot in his leg and a pain in his back that he thinks is from all the coughing, and he’s wondering, “What other little surprises am I going to get from all of this?”

In addition to sidelining strong athletes, this wave isn’t like classic COVID in other ways. Usually what gets a person into an ICU is severe COVID pneumonia leading to serious respiratory distress. In the first wave, it took 10 to 14 days after symptoms started to reach that point, a week or so of feeling unwell, of “grumbling along,” mostly staying at home, until people became short of breath and ended up in emergency, or straight to the ICU, said Dr. Paul Warshawsky. Now, “it’s becoming more in the neighbourhood of five to seven days,” said the chief of the division of adult critical care medicine at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital.

 Alex Kopacz, Olympic gold medalist in two-man bobsleigh with his parents Joe and Janet at a Polish club in London, Ont., on April 27, 2018.

Why it’s different is hard to know. “Is it because younger people react differently to the virus, and we’re only seeing younger people now? Is it because of the variants? It’s still not 100 per cent clear to me,” Warshawsky said.

Some are dying at home. They stay at home, self-isolate and die, without having called the ambulance, some from silent hypoxia, a baffling condition that causes abnormally and dangerously low levels of oxygen, without people realizing just how sick they are. “Their hypoxemia was really out of keeping with their symptoms,” said Ottawa palliative and critical care specialist Dr. James Downar.

“The bulk of the ICU cases are still people in their 50’s and 60’s, but the ones that are standing out in everyone’s attention are the ones in their 40’s and into their 30s,” Downar said. Calgary ICU nurses are reporting entire families — husbands and wives, mothers and sons — in critical care. “Younger daycare workers, ride share drivers, factory workers … and their families, are dying,” tweeted Dr. Michael Warner, head of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital.

Many of those coming to emergency are essential workers or racialized populations who don’t have work-from-home options, people living in multi-generational homes or cramped student housing. “They’re in a demographic that hasn’t been vaccinated yet, and the variants are more infectious,” Toronto respirologist Dr. Anju Anand told reporters during an Ontario Medical Association briefing Wednesday. “We’re seeing this greatly in all of the hospitals,” she said, and there are theories as to why.

Younger adults were never invulnerable to COVID-19, and the higher the community transmission, the higher the likelihood of getting sick.

But in waves one and two, the people getting sick and dying were predominantly much older, with multiple underlying health problems. A population that’s now been at  least partially immunized. Nearly 90 percent of seniors in Canada aged 80 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and while people aren’t fully protected until they’re fully vaccinated, “we’ve taken the elderly, the above 80’s and, to a large extent, the above 70’s, our most vulnerable patients, out of play,” Warshawsky said. “We vaccinated them, they’re no longer at risk of the disease which is amazing, and it’s a great accomplishment.” “But what we’re left with is a group of patients who have a good chance of being saved, but the resources required to save them are sometimes astronomical.”

People are staying in intensive care longer, and the number being intubated and attached to a ventilator is increasing. “And I think that’s because we have a more salvageable population,” Warshawsky said. “They are appropriate to intubate, they are appropriate to care for, for a very long period of time, in the hopes that they eventually improve.”

Still, the increase in younger adults can’t be fully explained by having vaccinated older generations. The fact that older people are vaccinated doesn’t inherently make younger people more vulnerable, Downar said. “There is clearly something different about this wave. It does seem like it’s affecting younger people more.”

Many believe variants are driving the “younger and sicker” code blue. Nearly 95,000 confirmed cases of “variants of concern” have been reported across Canada, with the B.1.1.7 version first identified in the United Kingdom accounting for 96 per cent of them. In Ontario, variants are behind 90 per cent of new infections. According to the province’s science table, the mutants carry a 63-per-cent higher risk of being hospitalized, a 103-per-cent increased risk of needing intensive care and a 56-per-cent increased risk of dying compared to other incarnations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

However, a recent paper couldn’t identify an association between B.1.1.7 and more severe disease. People hospitalized with the U.K. strain weren’t markedly sicker than those hospitalized with non-U.K. variants, though they were more likely to be younger than 60 and from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The P.1 variant that first emerged in Brazil’s Amazonas State, and is now spreading in Canada, has been linked with a dramatic jump in the number of 20- to 59-year-old Brazilians admitted to intensive care for ventilation, “as well as increased mortality in this age group during the second wave,” researchers reported in the European Journal of Epidemiology. In Manaus, deaths among the 20 to 39 age group are nearly three times higher in the second wave than the first, but only 1.5 times higher for the general population overall.

There is evidence the variants deliver a higher virus dose when they do infect, and the amount of virus a person is exposed to might affect how sick he or she gets. The variants are also exhibiting some immune evasion. The mutations make the spike protein that adorns the virus stickier, and better able to gum to receptors lining the human respiratory tract.

It’s undoubtedly true that most COVID-19 infections are mild, and even while the number of people experiencing severe and critical illness continues to rise, death rates are falling. Vaccines have been used to shield the people at the greatest risk while the younger, slightly healthier people now ending up in intensive care are doing better overall, “even if they are critically ill,” Downar said.

Still, severe COVID can cause long-lasting damage to the lungs. People don’t have the same exercise capacity they had before. “They get short of breath doing activities that they wouldn’t have even thought twice about before,” Warshawsky said.

The daily wave of pregnant women coming into Ontario’s ICU’s is also alarming. Changes in a woman’s immune response during pregnancy can make her more susceptible to the virus, “or your immune response changes in a way that causes harm,” Downar said. “And of course we’re seeing lots of parents of younger kids getting sick.”

Children can spread the virus, but they aren’t the main drivers of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. “It’s workplace exposure that’s driving most of these infections, not children getting it at school and bringing it home to their parents.” And while there have been heart-wrenching deaths in young children — a 13-year-old Brampton girl, an infant and toddler in B.C., a 17-year-old Alberta teen — COVID-19 is still a mild illness in the vast majority of children. The zero to 19 age group accounts for 1.6 per cent of all COVID reported deaths in Canada.

 SickKids Hospital in Toronto in a 2018 file photo.

At Toronto’s SickKids hospital, about 170 children have been admitted with COVID since the start of the pandemic. While a few older teens have required ventilation, “all have been discharged in pretty good health. So kids have done well,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, associate paediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children. While the hospital has seen an uptick in admissions in the third wave, driven by high rates of infection in the community, “I don’t think we’ve seen more severe illness over the course of the year,” Friedman said. They also haven’t seen the dramatic sudden deterioration being seen in some adults.

In the end, trying to find rational explanations for why some end up critically sick with COVID is a bit of a mug’s game, Warshawsky said. “There are some people in whom it was 100-per-cent predictable they were going to get bad disease because they have really bad co-morbidities,” he said, meaning underlying health problems like advanced cancer or conditions that impair the immune system.

“But then we have a lot of people who either have no co-morbidities or just the usual things that so many people in that age group have, and why did they end up in the ICU? They were really unlucky. They got a really bad disease, or their body reacted to it badly. You give the same virus to 20 people, one of them ends up in ICU, five of them don’t have any symptoms, and they caught the same disease.” Like the case of Olympian Kopacz, “it’s bad luck. And nobody likes that answer.”

The Jewish General Hospital has seen the most critically sick COVID patients in Montreal throughout the pandemic. “About a third of my ICU beds are taken up with COVID patients,” Warshawsky said. “We’re not seeing waves, we’re seeing non-stop COVID for over a year. But we’ve been very lucky; we’ve been able to handle it.” He’s watching what’s happening in Toronto, “and we’re terrified.” He worries that the policy throughout much of Canada has been, “How much can I get away with?

“How much can I open, and get away with it?”

National Post

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Family-friendly Forest Hill home sold in one day

10 Killarney Rd. (Avenue Road and Davisville Avenue).

Forest Hill

10 Killarney Rd. (Avenue Road and Davisville Avenue)

Asking price: $6.688 million

Sold for: $7 million

Taxes: $27,790 (2020)

Bedrooms: 5+1

Bathrooms: 8

Square footage: 4,700

Garage: 2

Parking: 4

Days on the market: 1

Despite its price tag, response was abundant, many showings were booked in a short time and the house sold in one day for 105 per cent of the asking price. “I was amazed at how many showings were booked,” says listing agent Leeanne Weld, who had to cancel many appointments because the property sold so quickly. “It’s a testament to the house and the neighbourhood.”

Young families with children at nearby private schools were among the potential buyers, drawn by the size of the home, its turn-key condition and abundance of features inside and out.

 The interior is light and bright, an ideal backdrop for the owners’ contemporary furniture and art.

The circa 1940s house was renovated about a decade ago. “The clients did an interesting thing,” Weld says. “They clad over the red brick with buff yellow brick.”

The roof was raised and an addition extended the house out and up at the back. The central staircase was retained and highlighted by a new Palladian window that floods the staircase with natural light.

The transitional interior is light and bright, an ideal backdrop for the owners’ contemporary furniture and art. “It has clean lines and an open, airy feeling,” she says. “It literally showed out of a magazine.”

There are multiple walkouts to a huge patio that overlooks a second patio and the award-winning pool. The backyard also includes a waterfall and an integrated whirlpool, which she says extends pool season.

Landscaping of the 50×150-foot lot includes heated pathways at the front and side of house, as well as a heated driveway.

The primary bedroom has his-and-her closets, a six-piece ensuite bathroom and a walkout to a balcony. “Throughout the house the outdoors is invited in,” Weld says.

 Stay-at-home amenities include a gym, movie theatre, music room and pool.

She describes the home as “deceptively large. All the kids’ bedrooms are generous and each has an ensuite bathroom.”

The lower level offers a gym, a movie theatre and a music room where the drummer of the family hangs out.

The house has everything – people don’t have to go anywhere, even if they could. Weld says right now she calls it a COVID escape palace (instead of a party palace) because it offers so much to do indoors and out.

Listing Broker: Royal LePage J&D Division (Leanne Weld)

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

How to jump the queue by getting your COVID shot in the U.S.

In this file photo taken on February 16, 2021 medical worker Robert Gilbertson loads a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to be administered by nurses at a vaccination site at Kedren Community Health Center, in South Central Los Angeles, California.

Canada has made great strides in its vaccination regime in recent weeks. Nevertheless, as tens of thousands of envious locked-down Canadians are well aware, we’re still way behind the United States. At

37 per cent coverage

, the United States is now one of the most vaccinated countries on earth. And, unlike Canada, the U.S. does not mandate a four-month gap between its vaccine doses, meaning that Americans are fully immunized 3.5 months sooner than their Canadian counterparts.

It’s inevitable that a vaccine-poor country sharing a 9,000 km border with a vaccine-glutted country would yield some arbitrage. Below, how Canadians are slipping over the border to capitalize on some sweet, sweet American COVID shots.

It’s remarkably easy for non-residents to get a COVID shot in the U.S.

“We landed in the USA Friday night, and Saturday morning we were fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” reads a

recent blog post

by Montreal’s Andrew D’Amour, co-founder of the travel website Flytrippers. In early April, D’Amour booked a vaccination appointment at a Tom Thumb grocery store in Dallas, caught a flight the next day to Texas, and will eventually re-enter Canada by road to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine.

With virtually all of the U.S.’s most vulnerable demographics now fully vaccinated, most states have opened up vaccination to everyone over the age of 16. Proof of U.S. citizenship is not required to get the shot. However, many state immunization authorities have also made it clear that their shots are intended for their own residents, and not out-of-staters or foreign nationals. “If you do not live or work in Washington, please do not make vaccine appointments,” reads the

official webpage

of the Washington State Department of Health.

 Another thing the Americans have: Online booking for drug store vaccine appointments.

Enforcing those residency requirements has been another story. U.S. vaccination has increasingly been outsourced to private pharmacies, some of whom, like the drug store giant CVS, have openly declared

they would not be checking IDs

. As one vaccine patient at a California Walgreens


the San Francisco Chronicle in March, “there’s zero requirement to prove anything.” For Canadians willing to fib about their eligibility on an online form, a COVID-19 jab could be obtained at a cross-border pharmacy simply by making an appointment online.

In recent weeks, meanwhile, some states have begun dropping even the most basic residency requirements for immunization. Texas, where D’Amour got his shot, does not require any proof of state residency. Since March 29, the vaccine eligibility webpage for the Louisiana Department of Health has just been a large banner reading “everyone in Louisiana ages 16 and older is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

 Seriously, that’s it.

Not all Americans have been pleased with foreign nationals swooping in to receive vaccines paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. In January, Florida

tightened residency restrictions

on its COVID shots after it emerged that the state was being targeted by vaccine tourists from Canada, Central America and even South Asia.

D’Amour, for his part, justified his Texas shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine by


“if they didn’t want non-residents getting vaccinated, they simply wouldn’t allow non-residents to get vaccinated.”

The Americans are surprisingly liberal about letting Canadians over the border

U.S./Canadian land border crossings are closed to non-essential travel. This means that if you drive up to Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge and tell them you’re going to Disneyworld, Homeland Security agents will probably turn you away.

 Which is a shame.

But the “non-essential” restrictions

do not apply

to anyone arriving in the U.S. by air, sea or rail. Right now, to fly into the United States for any reason (including hitting up their excellent domestic vaccine regime),

all you need is a negative COVID-19 test


Although Ottawa has discouraged non-essential travel since early 2020, it’s actually been possible for Canadians to fly into the U.S. throughout the entire pandemic. That’s how thousands of Canadian snowbirds were still able to spend the winter of 2020 at their second homes in Florida. When Florida began rolling out vaccines to seniors around Christmastime, these snowbirds

would become some of the world’s first Canadians to be fully vaccinated

. And even after Florida’s crackdown on vaccine tourism, most of these snowbirds continue to be eligible for shots

by virtue of having a fixed Florida address


However, it’s on the return trip that Canadian vaccine tourists risk getting in trouble at the hands of their own government if they aren’t careful. Just this week, a B.C. dual-citizen was

slapped with a $3,450 ticket

by federal quarantine authorities after he took a day trip into Washington State to obtain his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It wasn’t the vaccine that got him the ticket, but the fact that he hadn’t

fulfilled the Canadian border requirement

of securing a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of his re-entry to Canada.

Many U.S. border towns are now openly giving shots to Canadians

If an elaborate trip into the U.S. just to get the COVID jab seems a bit much, you’re in luck: A growing number of U.S. jurisdictions are now freely handing their extra vaccines to Canadians either out of pity, largesse, or economic expediency.

North Dakota led the charge earlier this month with a program to use excess doses to immunize Manitoba-based truck drivers who cross their shared border. “With adequate vaccine supplies and all North Dakotans having access to vaccine while Canada is dealing with a vaccine shortage, we want to do our part to ensure essential workers from Canada who are frequently travelling through our state are vaccinated,” said North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. This week, North Dakota then expanded the program further to

include Saskatchewan truckers

and even

Manitoba teachers


Last week, the Blackfoot Confederacy in Montana administered its surplus vaccines to First Nations over the Canadian border, as well as residents of the town of Cardston, Alta., a largely Mormon settlement of 3,500 people. “The mobile clinic was a great success, very emotional and no one who attended was turned away,”

wrote the confederacy in a statement

. The shots were administered at the appropriately named Medicine Line, the Blackfoot name for the U.S./Canadian border.

And in Alaska, Governor Mike Dunleavy has just offered to vaccinate the entire B.C. town of Stewart, hoping it would facilitate a quicker reopening of the border Alaska shares with both B.C. and the Yukon. As Dunleavy told the Associated Press, “our neighbors to the east are fantastic. We couldn’t ask for better neighbors than the Canadians. But the virus has really hit them hard and as a result, their mitigating approaches have affected us greatly by slowing down traffic, limiting traffic.”

For thousands of Canadians already jumping the queue on Ottawa’s laggardly vaccine rollout, it has simply been a matter of asking their American neighbours very, very nicely for extra shots.

 Have we mentioned how sorry we are about the War of 1812?

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Don’t short-change home electrical jobs

Regular electrical inspections should be part of your home maintenance calendar, Mike Holmes advises.

May marks Electrical Safety Month — and it’s our reminder to do things right, and to do them safely. We have code for a reason, and that’s especially apparent when it comes to your electrical wiring.

On average, between 2015 and 2019 in Ontario, there were 614 electrical fires per year — the second leading cause of house fires, only behind cooking. To me, that number is too high, and preventable with regular electrical inspections and maintenance.

Getting an electrical Iispection

An electrical inspection is different from a regular home inspection. For most of us, we’ll get a home inspection when we are preparing to buy or sell a home — but aside from maybe testing a few electrical outlets in the dwelling, your inspector won’t perform a full electrical inspection. This inspection will help provide you a snapshot of what the home looks like at the time of inspection, but it can’t source every issue, or tell you exactly what’s lurking behind the walls (though it’s still an incredibly valuable buying tool).

Electrical inspections see the inspector come in and check your wiring, electrical panels, and electrical boxes that power your home. These are valuable tools that help ensure that your electrical system is up to date and in good shape.

How often should you have an electrical inspection performed? To me, the bare minimum should be every four years or so. That may seem like a lot, but the expense is worth it. Electrical problems that aren’t addressed quickly can lead to dangerous outcomes, such as an electrical fire. If you’re doing a renovation, that’s a great opportunity to also have an electrical inspection performed. Build it in to your next renovation budget.

Can you do your own electrical work?

Legally, yes, as a homeowner you are entitled to take on your own electrical work if you wish. However, I do not recommend it. Minimum code is in place to ensure that your home is in safe standing and won’t cause you or your family harm. It takes time to properly learn how to perform this kind of work. An afternoon spent online digging through DIY videos on YouTube isn’t a good enough education.

I remember a job from a few years back — an older gentleman remodelled his entire basement on his own, including the electrical. From the jump, the project was done incorrectly. The wrong types of lights were used in the bathroom, the electrical panel was overloaded, and fuses blew all the time — it was truly only a matter of time before somebody got seriously hurt, either via an electrical fire, or a potential electrocution.

This is why you MUST hire the right professional for your renovation projects. They will install things to code, make sure it’s safe, and make sure that your electrical panel is capable of managing the load properly. A licensed electrical contract is some of the best money you can spend on your home. Not only is it a matter of safety, should you suffer a fire due to your own faulty wiring, you may have a lot more trouble getting insurance to pay for the damage. It’s not worth the risk.

Warning signs 
you need an upgrade

The reason I preach frequent electrical inspections is because you can’t always notice problem when the wiring is hiding behind your walls. That said, there are some red flags that you should keep an eye out for.

Be mindful if you have circuits that frequently trip. This happens when the power supplied to the panel exceeds the circuits abilities. We make use of a lot more electronics, appliances, and devices than we did 40 years ago. Older homes weren’t designed with our current electrical needs in mind, so your panel may be due for an upgrade.

Pay attention to your electrical outlets. Do they feel hot? Do you see sparks when you connect plugs? Are there visible scorch marks? Do you smell something burning? This can be caused by a bad device, but it could be an electrical overload. Turn off electricity to any affected outlets, and call a licensed electrical contractor.

To find out more about Mike Holmes, visit

For Postmedia News

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

'Have self-compassion': Three in five Canadians say they've experienced undesired pandemic weight changes

According to a new study from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, 51.4 per cent of Canadians tend to eat when they feel stressed about the pandemic.

It shouldn’t be too much of a revelation that you’re not alone in turning to a box of cookies, bag of chips or tub of ice cream as a way to lighten lockdown gloom. Food is one of our few pandemic pleasures; it makes sense that the lines might blur between snacking as pastime and coping mechanism.

According to a new study by the

Agri-Food Analytics Lab

at Dalhousie University, 77 per cent of Canadians are under more stress as a result of the global health crisis and over half (51.4 per cent) are finding comfort in food.

For its report on wellness and stress management, the lab surveyed 9,991 Canadians earlier this month. Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents said that the pandemic has affected their eating habits and almost three in five (58 per cent) reported undesired weight changes.

Of the 42.3 per cent of Canadians who say they’ve gained weight, 37.3 per cent report an increase of six to 10 pounds since last spring.

“I’m not surprised that people reach for a cookie (or whatever it is) to make them feel better because it’s easy and it’s quick, and it’s right there,” says Janet Music, the lab’s research program coordinator. “Ten pounds isn’t going to break your life, so if those cookies got you through a bad day in isolation, then I think that it’s worth it.”

Prof. Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report and l


director, points out that a similar

American study

recently found that 61 per cent of U.S. adults reported weight gain during the pandemic.

“People have been affected by the lack of normalcy in their lives,” he says. “Food can be a source of comfort and you don’t tend to measure the impact of those extra calories. After 14 months, it adds up.”

The researchers note that many people struggle with weight management as they age, regardless of changes in eating or exercise habits. According to a 2019 study published in the journal

Nature Medicine

, lipid turnover in fat tissue lessens as people get older, making it easier to gain weight.

While the survey suggests that regardless of region, Canadians are experiencing similar levels of pandemic-related stress, there are notable generational differences.

Younger generations reported feeling more stressed now than they did before COVID-19: 83 per cent of millennials, 82 per cent of Gen Zers, 78 per cent of Gen Xers, and 68 per cent of boomers.

“Generations Zs and millennials are much more affected by what’s happening and could be affected permanently,” says Charlebois. “In the (scientific) literature, bad eating habits tend to go from one generation to another. Unhealthy lifestyles will impact subsequent generations. So I think we’re looking at a really, really important issue here.”

Self-isolation from family and friends is seen as being the most profound personal pandemic stressor (67 per cent) followed by fear of COVID-19 itself (47.8 per cent) and work-life balance (46.9 per cent).

Results suggest that meal management has presented a significant challenge for Canadians during the pandemic, with just 8.8 per cent saying they’ve been able to handle mealtimes happily. Healthful noshing doesn’t appear to have been a priority, with 73.9 per cent of Canadians occasionally or never eating “healthy snacks.”

We may have been in pandemic mode for over a year, but the unpredictability of COVID-19 has made it difficult for people to adjust. “It’s like we all ran a marathon and got to the finish line, but still have untold miles to go,” says Music. “And that’s really difficult, especially for people who are working with children, or who have children and lost their jobs.”

Charlebois adds: “(The study) really shows that the pandemic came violently into our lives and a lot of people are still trying to find their food bearings.”

Calgary dietitian

Vincci Tsui

, intuitive eating counsellor and author of

The Mindful Eating Workbook

, doesn’t find the results of the survey surprising.

Many people self-identify as emotional eaters or stress eaters, she says. Seeking solace in food during times of worry is not only normal, it’s “a relatively benign coping response when we think of some of the other potential coping responses that are out there.”

When people feel as though they’ve lost control, food can seem like one of the few areas of their life they can take hold of. While eating for comfort “is often pathologized,” Tsui adds, “I would invite people to ask themselves, ‘Is my eating really the problem, or am I just trying to do the best that I can with the resources that I have available?’”

As the pandemic continues, she highlights, “the most important thing is self-compassion and compassion for each other.”

The emotional connection many people have with food is evident in the report: 61.3 per cent of respondents agreed that when they’re feeling down, a snack lifts their mood; 49.1 per cent reported more of a desire to eat when they’re depressed; 48 per cent said that eating makes them feel better when they’re lonely.

“Somehow gaining 10 pounds is a negative reflection of your time during the pandemic when there really shouldn’t be a value judgment on it. It’s just something that happened,” says Music. “It’s so frowned upon because it’s outside the ideal, and I think that’s pretty unfair to everyone, really.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

'Wuhan pneumonia’: Ontario MPPs urge Chinese-Canadian doctor to remove ‘divisive’ sign

Two Toronto-based politicians are pressing a Chinese-Canadian doctor to remove a sign on his office door – in Chinese – that refers to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan pneumonia,” complaining the wording could incite anti-Asian hatred.

The English part of the sign, which explained Dr. Kester Kong’s office protocol during the pandemic, referred only to COVID.

The incident raises thorny questions about when citing the coronavirus’s origins constitutes a form of racism, and whether it makes any difference if the audience is Asian itself.

Vincent Ke, a Progressive Conservative member of the provincial legislature with a

history of ties

to the Chinese government, said Kong may have made an innocent mistake, but it doesn’t matter that the mention of Wuhan was in Chinese.

“No matter the language spoken or written, the term ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ to describe the COVID-19 virus is not just incorrect, it is inflammatory,” a spokesman for the politician said by email. “In fact, many Chinese Canadians feel extremely offended and vulnerable by the term used by Dr. Kong … MPP Ke has confidence that if Dr. Kong learned how divisive and hurtful the term ‘Wuhan pneumonia’ is to the people in our communities, he would remove the sign.”

Ke had earlier posted about the issue in an anti-racism forum on the China-based WeChat social media site, saying that if the physician did not change the notice, he and fellow Tory MPP Aris Babikian would hold a news conference to publicize the issue.

Kong could not be reached for comment.

But Babikian, who represents the Scarborough-Agincourt riding where the doctor’s office is located, said he spoke to the neurologist on Tuesday, and the physician agreed to change the sign.

“This pandemic, it is international, it is worldwide,” the MPP said. “To just try to label it as a pandemic caused by a certain ethnic community and group, it is unfair.”

He said there have been a number of incidents since the pandemic started of harassment against people of Asian descent in his constituency, where he said about 40 per cent of residents are ethnic Chinese. In one recent case caught on video, a Chinese-Canadian senior citizen waiting in line at a take-out restaurant was pushed to the ground by a man behind him, Babikian said.

But a critic of the Beijing regime suggested the sign affair may have more to do with standing up for China in its

bid to evade blame

for the pandemic than fighting racism.

Anti-Asian bigotry is a real problem in Canada, but most people of Chinese descent don’t mind references to Wuhan and the virus, said Cheuk Kwan, spokesman for the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.

“They don’t see this as a big deal.”

Ke, the member for Don Valley North, seems “over-eager to defend China, rather than being too worried about anti-Asian hate,” he added.

“This is the playbook of Chinese consulates in Canada,” said Kwan. “They are using this anti-Asian hate to rally the troops, (win) the hearts and minds of Chinese Canadians.”

There is little doubt that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China, with a

recent World Health Organization investigation

concluding it likely originated in bats, passing to humans through another animal. China has also been criticized for

attempting to cover up

the new pathogen and its seriousness in the outbreak’s early days, allowing it to spread widely.


scientists and others

referred to SARS-CoV-2 as the Wuhan virus at first, before the WHO coined the term COVID-19 in line with its policy of avoiding geographic monikers for new pathogens.

But former U.S. President Donald Trump revelled in still calling it the “Chinese virus” or even


terminology that has been linked to a rise in anti-Asian attacks in the U.S.

In fact,

a recent study

concluded that most COVID cases introduced into Canada from other countries came from the United States.

Ke recently helped found a new group, the Asian-Canadian Anti-Racism Alliance. Its initial members — announced at a virtual news conference for Toronto-area Chinese-language media — included the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations (CTCCO) and other groups f

riendly with Beijing

. Not among them was the

Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter

and Elimin8Hate, which collaborated on a report last month that documented a sharp rise in anti-Asian racism incidents.

Ke, an immigrant from Quanzhou, China, was a student cadre at his undergraduate university there, organized an overseas Chinese students society — a type of group often close with local consulates — at the German university where he did a Master’s degree, and in 2013 was chosen by the Toronto consulate to attend a training session in China for ethnic Chinese leaders from other countries.

He and Babikian have

repeatedly attended

CTCCO and related events alongside China’s Toronto consul general, including celebrations in 2018 and 2019 of the 69


and 70


anniversary of the founding

of the People’s Republic of China.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

'We do not welcome interference': When First Nations break with environmentalists

Active logging near Fairy Creek protest camps in Port Renfrew, B.C., on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

It’s been dubbed the new “War in the Woods”: A growing Vancouver Island protest encampment aimed at disrupting planned logging in Fairy Creek, an expanse of old-growth rainforest located just north of the British Columbia capital of Victoria.

But this month yielded an unexpected twist in the Fairy Creek saga: Local First Nations leadership are definitely not on board.

“We do not welcome or support unsolicited involvement or interference by others in our Territory, including third-party activism,” read an April 12 letter drafted by the Pacheedaht First Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses the Fairy Creek watershed. The letter was posted to Twitter by Nathan Cullen, B.C.’s Minister of State for Natural Resource Operations

The letter denounced “increasing polarization” over forestry activities in the area, and asserted the Pacheedaht right to determine how the forest is used. “Our constitutional right to make decisions about forestry resources in our Territory … must be respected,” it read.

It’s a phenomenon that is becoming not all that uncommon in British Columbia which – unlike much of Canada – sits largely on untreatied land. As the province’s Indigenous communities acquire greater control of development and natural resources, they are increasingly butting up against environmentalist groups who claim to represent them.

In early 2020, Southern Vancouver Island’s Scia’new First Nation denounced Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island after the group blockaded the home of B.C. Premier John Horgan, ostensibly in defence of the recognition of Indigenous rights.

“We find it disturbing that you would ignore our rights and titles over our traditional territory and not follow protocol and ask permission to enter,”

said the letter,

which also demanded an apology to the Scia’new community, chief and council.

Around the same time, a different Vancouver Island faction of Extinction Rebellion was also denounced by K’òmoks First Nation for an illegal highway blockade that activists asserted was devoted towards “defending our home in the K’omoks Territory.”

“This event was organized by non-indigenous Comox Valley residents who aren’t connected to our territory in the same way as K’òmoks, and in no way represent K’òmoks or our values,” wrote K’òmoks chief Nicole Rempel

in a statement at the time


Fairy Creek, located about a two-hour drive from the B.C. capital, is one of the last unlogged valleys of coastal rainforest in all of British Columbia. According to the Ancient Forest Alliance, Fairy Creek is

home to some of the world’s largest yellow cedars

, including several specimens that may be more than 2,000 years old.

 A demonstrator pictured next to trees in the Fairy Creek watershed on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Pacheedaht First Nation encompasses 284 members, 97 of whom live on reserve. Pacheedaht

is in the process

of negotiating a modern treaty with the B.C. government, and in recent years

has moved heavily into the forestry sector

. The nation owns a log-sorting facility, a sawmill and cutting rights to several woodlots. In 2017, the nation

signed a memorandum of understanding

with TimberWest Forest Corp.

In the April 12 letter, Pacheedaht noted their use of forestry resources is guided by a stewardship plan, “which will include the identification of special sites, traditional use areas and places where conservation measures will be in place.”

Although two thirds of Fairy Creek are subject to existing protections, the remaining third is subject to a tree-cutting licence owned by the Surrey-based forestry company Teal-Jones Group.

After Teal-Jones began moving equipment into the area in August, a group calling itself the Rainforest Flying Squad quickly moved into the area to blockade roads. While Teal-Jones successfully obtained an injunction earlier this month to arrest protesters, the area remains at a stalemate.

 A Rainforest Flying Squad blockade of a logging road in Fairy Creek.

The original “War in the Woods” occurred in the early 1990s in Clayoquot Sound, about 100 kilometres north of the Fairy Creek watershed. In one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history, hundreds of protesters ignored a court injunction and faced arrest in order to prevent MacMillan Bloedel logging operations in the area.

In the case of Clayoquot Sound, local Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations — most notably the Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht —

had been among the first to oppose planned logging operations in the area

by declaring a tribal park over Meares Island, one of the most celebrated areas targeted for clear-cutting.

Although First Nations and environmental groups had a mutual desire to prevent wholesale clearcutting in Clayoquot, conflict did emerge over the latter’s goal to preserve the region as a pristine wilderness. Speaking at a Clayoquot Sound fundraiser at the time, Ahousaht spokesman Clifford Atleo said that his nation did not oppose logging on its face and that “natives become annoyed when non-native environmental leaders make public statements such as ‘not another tree will fall’ in Clayoquot Sound.”

 Clayoquot Sound logging protesters pictured in July, 1993.

Clayoquot Sound never came under formal protection from logging, but the protests ultimately caused MacMillan Bloedel to pull out of the region. Clayoquot tree farm licences then reverted to smaller, First Nations-owned companies.

The last major B.C. resource battle to galvanize Canadian public opinion came just before the onset of COVID-19. The country saw nationwide rail blockades put up in support of Wet’suwet’en opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a 700-km pipeline to carry natural gas from around Dawson Creek to the port of Kitimat.

Coastal GasLink had the support of elected band governments along its route. But anti-pipeline activists backed a dissenting faction of hereditary chiefs, asserting that they represented a more legitimate form of Indigenous governance as opposed to elected band councils established by the Indian Act.

Lost in the resulting national controversy — ginned up by both environmentalist and gas industry influence — was an intra-community fight over power and legitimacy. Elected chiefs accused hereditary chiefs of going rogue, as did female subchiefs who accused the all-male anti-pipeline chiefs of acting outside of their nation’s matriarchal traditions. “To ignore their clan members and Elected Councils, something is terribly amiss,” Dan George, chief of the Ts’ilh Kaz Koh First Nation,

told APTN in March 2020


 Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Costal Gaslink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020.

In the case of Fairy Creek, the Pacheedaht letter was signed both by the nation’s elected chief councillor, Jeff Jones, and hereditary chief Frank Queesto Jones, the grandson of Queesto, a legendary Pacheedaht chief who, when he died in 1990 is believed to have been 114 years old.

Within days, however, a counter statement had come out from Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones claiming that Frank Jones is not a legitimate hereditary chief. “He is not eligible to make the claim for the Jones family line, and is not informed by the hereditary system amongst our peoples. In fact, the Jones family is not originally from the territory, and have no chief rights to the San Juan valley. The Jones family is ancestral to this place, through many intermarriages and ties to the land, but that is within the last 400 years,” read the statement, which came out in the form of an interview with Bill Jones’ niece Kati George-Jim (xʷ is xʷ čaa), a former coordinator with the Sierra Club who posted it to her Facebook page.

Statement by Bill Jones from an Interview with Kati George-Jim.
Originally released to my Facebook page on April 13.


Posted by Kati Raven George-Jim on Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Rainforest Flying Squad has not acknowledged the Pacheedaht First Nation’s letter in any of its official social media channels, but they did issue an

April 18 statement

saying they “stand with Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones.”

Other B.C. environmental groups have been more willing to address the Pacheedaht call for an end to outside interference. is the descendant of Friends of Clayoquot Sound, one of the main organizers from the War in the Woods era. In

a release

, the group said it “fully supports and upholds the sovereignty of the Pacheedaht Nation,” but also renewed their call for deferring old-growth logging.

“Our hearts go out … to the Pacheedaht Nation in this difficult moment as a result of lack of provincial leadership.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques