Large lots a selling point in prestigious Bronte East

 7 Blue Ridge Tr. (Kennedy and Aurora roads).

Whitchurch-Stouffville

7 Blue Ridge Tr. (Kennedy and Aurora roads)

Asking price: $2.68 million

Sold for: $2.55 million

Taxes: $11,072 (2020)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 6

Square footage: 4,600

Garage: 3

Parking: 6

Days on the market: 17

 

“In recent months, Stouffville has seen an increase in transactions due to its large lot sizes and large homes,” says listing agent Voula Argyropoulos.

“Seven Blue Ridge is in a community called Trail of the Woods Estate, a hidden gem for some time. It was a pleasure to bring more exposure to the neighbourhood, which has only 130 similar estate homes on lots ranging from one to two acres, close to forests and parks, minutes from Highway 404 and with tons of amenities and good schools nearby.”

Seven Blue Ridge has a custom home that is perfectly integrated with its natural environment, she says. “The home although over 25-years-old is very well maintained with pride of ownership. The 4,600-square-fooot house is set on 1.4 private acres with mature trees and an oversized salt water pool with a waterfall feature.”

 Airy kitchen-dining area.

There are large windows so lots of natural light fills the home. The large open-concept lower level has a walkout to the pool and backyard, which has a cabana with wet bar, an outdoor shower and volleyball court. The home also has a three-car heated garage finished with epoxy flooring. A loft provides additional storage space.

Argyropoulos says, “We decided to hold off on showings for five days after we listed as the sellers wanted to move out during the selling process. I arranged for 12 showings over a two-day period, following all COVID precautions and only booking 30-minute showings with minimal numbers of people in the home during each appointment. The family that moved quickly to place an offer loved the property. They are multi-generational family and liked that the home has two master bedrooms, an open-concept layout for family and entertaining and is in a safe and quiet neighborhood.”

The property is close to golf, trails and schools.

 

Listing Broker: Hammond International Properties Limited (Voula Argyropoulos and Jerry Hammond)

 

 

 

 

 

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

An intimate North York low-rise, right by the mall

The 10-storey midrise with towns is on the subway line, a short walk to Bessarion station.

Bayview Village is about to hit peak modern. A large-scale overhaul of its ritzy neighbourhood mall has been proposed by the developer QuadReal, set to include two new residential towers in a piazza-style setting with a park and multi-level access to the mall’s entrance.

Across the road, another, more intimate condo project is coming. Units in Bayview at the Village, a 10-storey midrise on Sheppard with retail at its base, go on sale this month, with occupancy slated for the end of 2023.

“Bayview Village is a thriving part of the city that is rich in urban amenities,” says Brett Miller, CEO of Canderel, “but there haven’t been many launches in the area,” even though prices and demand are rising.

According to TREB, in 2020, the average price of condos and single-family homes in the neighbourhood increased eight to 10 per cent from the previous year.

 Building amenities include a media room, communal workspace, fitness centre and a lounge designed in a warm palette of cream, brown and black.

In 2020, detached homes in the area sold for an average of $1,631,602, and the average condo sold for $609,766, TREB reports.

Suites in Bayview at the Village range from studios to three bedrooms and start in the mid $400s. The project will also include eight two-storey urban towns with private front gardens facing Greenbriar Road. These start at $1 million and “are like a home within a larger project,” says Miller.

An additional 12 one- and two- storey townhomes, planned beside the site’s new park, are still to be released.

Designed by Graziani + Corazza Architects, the 227-unit building is sensitively scaled, using step-backs that make it appear seven storeys from the street, says Miller. A high-contrast black-and-white façade bearing a rectilinear pattern will give it a sharp presence.

“I really like these midrise projects. They’re a nice scale – nothing too dominant –and they fit well into a neighbourhood,” says Miller. “From a developer’s perspective, it’s a controlled risk. We can get into them and out of them quickly, and we can pre-identify our buyers,” he says – a demographic he expects to be a mix of young professionals, families and downsizers.

The building’s scale will make it easier to offer “a more bespoke project,” says Miller.

 Suite finishes are the work of II BY IV Design, who are also behind the dramatic, double-high-ceiling lobby.

Downsizers, used to large houses, can get imaginative and “put two, sometimes three units together to rethink the layout,” he says, a trend he saw at 900 St. Clair West, a Canderel project launched last month.

“We can custom-design their home. You can’t do that when it’s cookie cutter and you’re building 60 storeys. Ten storeys gives (you) more flexibility.”

“Some (of the units) have balconies that are a rare six feet in depth, which is terrific if you want to put (out) a double-sided table and have a dinner party outside,” he says. Suite layouts, meanwhile, have been designed by Graziani + Corazza Architects without corridors or obstructing columns, to maximize living space, says Miller. “And we’ve upped our game in terms of smart home technology, with facial recognition and digital features such as automated-parcel delivery notification.”

Suite finishes are the work of II BY IV Design, who are also behind the dramatic, double-high-ceiling lobby; its installation-like chandelier and upscale millwork give the space a jewel-box feel.

The monochromatic kitchens are European-inspired, featuring clean lines, porcelain tile slabs and Miele appliances. Master bathrooms come with chic, flat-panel vanities and soaker tubs with stone tile surrounds.

 Master bathrooms come with chic, flat-panel vanities and soaker tubs with stone tile surrounds.

Building amenities include a media room, communal workspace, fitness centre and a lounge designed in a warm palette of cream, brown and black. The lounge will have a private dining area with rich cognac colours styled to feel like a private members’ club for intimate parties with families and friends.

In terms of site selection, Miller notes that Canderel gravitates towards urban locations on transit in established pockets of the city. “We’ve always been drawn to communities,” he says.

At Bayview at the Village, residents will be a two-minute walk east to the Bessarion subway stop, as well as a new community centre with a library and lap pool; parents can drop their kids at its daycare before going for a swim.

Prices at Bayview at the Village start in the mid $400,000s

for

s

uites ranging from studios to three-bedroom layouts. Urban towns from $1 million. For more information, visit canderelbv.com.

Three things

 

The prepared hot meals, gourmet salads and sandwiches at Pusateri’s, across the street at Bayview Village mall, make lunch and dinner easy. Or DIY with groceries from its deli, cheese and produce departments. 2901 Bayview Ave.

Since its founding in 1964, Beth Tikvah Synagogue has served the North York Jewish community. The lively

shul

has a packed and evolving calendar and hosts holiday parties and services, cooking classes and a music lecture series. 3080 Bayview Ave.

Zip over for a day trip to Edwards Gardens and stroll its lovely grounds, with its water features, wildlife and plantings. The four-acre Toronto Botanical Garden is adjacent to the site. 755 Lawrence Ave. E.

 

 

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

The time Irish armies kept invading Canada

Canadian militia pose next to a dead Fenian killed during an 1870 raid into Quebec.

In the roughly four centuries since first contact, only three groups have ever set out to invade and seize the lands called Canada: The British (who did it in 1759), the Americans (who failed twice), and the Irish Republican Army. Not the same IRA whose name would become a byword for terrorism in the 20th century, but an actual honest-to-goodness army of Irishmen bent on fighting pitched battles to conquer and subjugate the people of Canada. To mark St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy this repost of our 2017 article on the exceedingly bizarre events that collectively formed the low point of Canada-Irish relations. 

The plan was simple: Take a bunch of Irish veterans of the American Civil War, take over Canada and then tell Queen Victoria she could have it back in exchange for an independent Ireland. That, or the whole thing would just be a good chance to shoot up some relatively undefended British land. “Canada … would serve as an excellent base of operations against the enemy; and its acquisition did not seem too great an undertaking,” wrote Irish nationalist John O’Neill, an architect of what are now known as the Fenian Raids.

The wildly optimistic planners of the scheme figured they would only need about two weeks to take over Kingston, Toronto and the other major centers of what is now Southern Ontario. From there, they would commandeer some ships, slap together a navy, sail up the St. Lawrence and demand the surrender of Quebec. Then, once the Atlantic Coast was swarming with Irish privateers, the English would have to deal. The invasion’s organizers, the Fenian Brotherhood, even began funding the effort by selling bonds that would be promptly repaid by a future Irish Republic.

 A fundraising bond used to raise finances for the Fenian bid to conquer Canada. It, uh, was never honoured.

But like most rebellions throughout Irish history, the “invade Canada” scheme was big on romance but very deficient in strategic planning. Although the Fenian Brotherhood had envisioned vast columns of battle-hardened Irish-Americans streaming into Canada, their peak showing was only about 1,000. Of those, many forgot to bring guns and many more deserted as soon as they hit Canadian soil.

All told, the Fenian conquests added up to little more than brief occupations of a customs house, some hills, a few villages and Fort Erie. To any worried Brits back home hearing the name “Fort Erie” and nursing visions of Irish forces over-running a mighty Canadian fortification, a letter to the Times of London quickly set them straight. “It may relieve the anxiety of people to know that Fort Erie … consists of a corn mill with a dwelling house,” it read, adding that the “corn mill was burnt a few years ago.”

And, unlike most successful conquerors, the brief rulers of Fort Erie ended up having to bum transit fare in order to finish their retreat. After the U.S. government eventually got around to arresting Fenians massed on the border (staging freelance foreign wars from U.S. soil is illegal, after all), New York’s Tammany Hall political machine put up the train fare to get the raiders back home.

 Canadian militia pose next to a captured Fenian cannon.

And yet, the Fenians just kept invading. They invaded New Brunswick, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. They invaded Canada when it was still a British colony, and they invaded it after it had become an independent dominion. Confederation, in part, had been intended as a defensive union against all these damned invasions. For five full years, from 1865 to 1870, any Canadian who lived within a day’s walk of the U.S. border would never be quite sure whether they might wake up to find that yet another Irish raiding party had taken over a post office. Reportedly, border populations all began to keep guns a bit closer at hand.

“Intelligence has just been received from trustworthy sources that a band of lawless men calling themselves Fenians … intend to make a raid into this province,” was the proclamation issued on the streets of Winnipeg just before the final Fenian Raid in 1870. The message implored Manitoba’s “loving subjects, irrespective of race or religion, or of past local differences, to RALLY ROUND THE FLAG.”

 A painting of the scene at Frelighsburg, Quebec, where British troops fought a Fenian force on June 8, 1866.

As early Canadians would never tire of boasting, the Fenians were often pushed back by hastily assembled militias filled with farmers who barely knew how to work a musket. “Times of ease and quiet are not the times for cultivating a martial spirit,” read one contemporary account of the somewhat lacklustre Canadian forces.

They were also pushed back despite stunningly bad leadership at the top. Future Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was serving as minister of militia during the largest raid in 1866. As telegrams poured in with updates about the rebel advances, Macdonald remained far too drunk to read any of them. “Hypothesis A would be that he went on a bender from time to time and unluckily the Fenians chose one of those moments to invade,” historian Ged Martin, author of a 2013 biography of Macdonald, told the National Post in 2015. “Hypothesis B would be that he freaked out and took to the bottle.”

And yet, the 1866 Battle of Ridgeway — fought between Fenians and the first-ever all-Canadian military force — is one of only a handful of modern military victories won for the cause of Irish nationalism. As the rookie Canadians mistakenly began to retreat, they were chased off the field by a Fenian bayonet charge.

 A painting by Toronto artist Alexander von Erichsen of the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866.

Canada had been one of the main ports of call for refugees fleeing the Irish Potato Famine of only 10 years prior, and their new home hadn’t been the most welcoming of places. George Brown, founder of The Globe, was one of Canada’s most vocal anti-slavery activists in the mid 19th century, but his compassion absolutely did not extend to the country’s new Irish expats. In an

1858 column

, Brown called the Irish “lazy, improvident and unthankful; they fill our poorhouses and our prisons.” Needless to say, rampant Canadian prejudices against Ireland were not improved by the Fenian Raids.

To be sure, the Fenians were not official “armies of Ireland,” a country that was then still part of the United Kingdom. But the invaders can claim a direct line to the forces that ultimately established the modern Republic of Ireland. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, a sister organization to North American Fenian groups, would eventually stage the 1916 Easter Rising, an attempted armed takeover of Dublin that would ultimately precipitate the Irish War of Independence. The men marauding Canada’s border areas were also carrying many of the same symbols that would come to define the modern Irish Republic.

 A heavily stylized lithograph of the Battle of Ridgeway published soon after the clash. In reality, the lines weren’t nearly this close, and the Fenian forces weren’t nearly as green.

The Fenian Raids had leaned heavily on the idea that once first blood was drawn, it would stir the hearts of Irishmen everywhere: Thousands of sympathetic Irish-Americans would pour over the border, Irish-Canadians would pull down the Union Jack and countrymen back home would be emboldened to stage a revolution.

The strategy ended up being dead wrong for a Canadian invasion, with some dissident Irish nationalists even saying that it would have made as much sense to invade Japan. One of the most prominent Irish critics of the raids was Thomas D’Arcy McGee. An Irish Catholic and Father of Confederation, he objected vehemently to secret paramilitary societies trying to tear down the very country he had just helped to create. McGee called the Fenians “impediments to Ireland’s reconstruction” and urged Irish nationalists to put down the gun and obtain independence the way Canada had; peacefully, and by remaining in the British Empire. A Fenian fatally shot McGee outside his home in 1868.

 Wanted poster issued after McGee’s assassination.

Fifty years after the Fenian Raids, however, the “public sentiment” card would work wonders for the 1916 Rising. Although a military failure that was initially opposed by the Irish mainstream, the harsh British putdown of its leaders ended up sparking a wave of Irish nationalism that would see the Irish Free State established only six years later.

As for a Canada that was still relatively short of military achievements, it’s easy to forget the immense, over-the-top pride the young country took in dropping everything to beat back some ragtag Irish republicans. Canadians of the era were so wildly pro-British that it was even known to creep out Britain at times. And for thousands in this sleepy, agrarian corner of the British Empire, it had been their chance to fight back was what soon being lambasted in the press as “barbarians” and “bands of plunderers.”

 What “standing on guard for thee” would earn you in 1866.

Better yet, it had been a stupendously cheap victory: In a testament to the poor marksmanship or humane sympathies of the combatants, the whole invasion was pushed back at the cost of only about three dozen Canadian dead. There were patriotic songs, epic poems, gripping bestsellers and government grants of 160 acres apiece to veterans. For decades afterwards, a column of proud be-medaled Fenian fighters were a regular feature of Canadian parades. As one particularly jingoistic poem put it, “your proud valour made them flee, and the wildest jubilee sound o’er our loved land again.”

• Email: thopper@nationalpost.com

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Bombed First World War tunnel found, with remains of 270 German soldiers still in it

The bodies of more than 270 German soldiers from the First World War have been found where they lay for more than a century — after they died agonizing deaths.

In a surprising irony, a tunnel built by the Germans in French territory during the First World War has been found after more than 100 years — and it’s of utmost urgency that its location be kept secret.

By 1917, German troops had held a hilly area some 200 km northeast of Paris for two years. From there, on what became known as the Chemin des Dames battlefront, they were able to watch for advancing French soldiers. During this time, the German soldiers, from the 10th and 11th companies of the 111th Reserve Regiment, had dug an intricate system of tunnels into the limestone for underground defences and stores, some as deep as 20 metres. One was a supply tunnel that ran 300 metres from the north side of the hill to the south side, to where the first line of German trenches lay.

In May 1917, the French tried to retake those hills, seeking to break the stalemate along the Western Front. They knew where the entrances to that Winterberg tunnel were, and bombed them.

One shell closed off the entrance, the BBC reports, and triggered explosions from ammunition stored inside, sending poisonous fumes into the shaft. Another shell closed off the exit.

Inside, the 270 soldiers, one by one, over the next six days, either suffocated or took their own lives as their oxygen ran out. Some asked comrades to kill them. Miraculously, just a day before the Germans retreated, three men were rescued, and one wrote an account of the horror they had faced in the tunnel. Read his harrowing description here.

 Nine of the 270 soldiers, including these three, whose lives were lost in the Winterberg tunnel have now been identified.

That French attack was one small victory in what was one of the greatest disasters in French military history, HistoryNet.com writes. Because of their complex defensive system, the Germans were able to stop the majority of the French advance. But the French got in that one parting offensive.

In the aftermath of the German withdrawal and France’s disinterest in saving German soldiers, the tunnel was abandoned, soon forgotten, and eventually its location was lost to the overgrown forest. Today, the BBC says, the spot is popular with dog-walkers.

But one local man, Alain Malinowski, didn’t forget it. He was certain it was out there on the ridge.

For 15 years he researched the military archives in the Château de Vincennes, gathered descriptions, maps and prisoner interrogations. But the area had been so damaged that identifying it seemed impossible. Then in 2009, he lucked on to a wartime map that showed the tunnel location and two paths to it, and, after careful analysis, he was able to locate it. At least he found an area of unremarkable woodland that he thought must be it.

“I felt it. I knew I was near. I knew the tunnel was there somewhere beneath my feet,” Malinowski told Le Monde.

 An entrance to the tunnel can be seen at left on the war-torn hill.

The authorities paid no heed to his information. Perhaps it was because they thought him just another odd duck hunting for war treasures in the forest — or perhaps they had no desire to open up a mass war grave.

But as fate would have it, Malinowski’s son, Pierre, was running a foundation tracing war-dead from the Napoleonic and other eras — so he added the First World War site to his must-find list.

The 34-year-old former soldier wasn’t going let paperwork or permissions get in his way. He put the French and German governments on notice by opening up the tunnel himself. This was illegal, as the BBC reports, but he thought it would be worth the punishment.

Under cover of darkness, Malinowski brought in a mechanical digger to the spot his father had identified, had his team dig out four metres — and found the entrance to the tunnel.

There they saw a bell that was used to sound an alarm, hundreds of gas-mask canisters, rails for transporting munitions, two machine-guns, a rifle, bayonets and the remains of two bodies.

“It was like Pompeii. Nothing had moved,” one of the team said.

Pierre Malinowski then covered up the hole and contacted the authorities — again to no avail. Ten months later, he went public and told the story to Le Monde.

The public’s reaction has been mixed, with some historians and archaeologists believing the unsanctioned actions not only dishonour the dead, Historynow.net writes, but force the French government to open and protect what lays buried there from looters, most of whom will be digging for purely mercenary motives.

Tracking descendants of those who died in the tunnel is underway. Nine soldiers have so far been identified. The rest remain in situ, but for how long? Looters had been on site, and had dug down three metres, but missed the actual entrance. When the BBC’s reporter visited the site the next day, he saw axes, spades, unexploded shells — and a human ulna, the forearm bone.

Clearly the location is not too much of a mystery anymore. This is France’s most important discovery from the First World War since the 1970s, and inattention will see more looters come to dig for its military artefacts. The German War Graves Commission, for its part, told German radio “to be honest, we are not very excited about the discovery. In fact we find it all most unfortunate.”

Pierre Malinowski, at least, has respect for — and fascination with — the site.

“Remember the tunnel was where these soldiers lived from day to day — so there will be all their normal possessions,” he told the BBC. “Every soldier will have a story. It will be the biggest ever reserve of human material from the First World War.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Liberals accused of ignoring unanimous motion to grant Canadian citizenship to jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

Activists demonstrate outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy against the recent Saudi court ruling that upheld a previous verdict of ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for Saudi blogger Raif Badawi on June 11, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

Opposition MPs are accusing the Liberal government of ignoring a unanimous motion in the House of Commons to grant citizenship to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who is languishing in jail.

“It seems to me the government isn’t taking this file seriously, and it disappoints me greatly,” Bloc MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe said in French in an interview.

Brunelle-Duceppe said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino didn’t oppose the motion when it was presented in the House on Jan. 27. He then wrote to Mendicino on Feb. 16 expressing concern that the government had not yet moved to follow through on the motion. A month later he has still not heard back.

Badawi has one year left in his 10-year sentence, for hosting a blog that was critical of aspects of the Saudi Arabian regime. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, came to Canada as a refugee, and she and their three children are now Canadian citizens living in Sherbrooke, Que.

In an emailed statement, NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris said the Canadian government should “put maximum pressure on the Saudi government to see that Raif Badawi is finally released and act on the House resolution to grant him citizenship to aid in this effort.”

Brunelle-Duceppe argued granting Badawi citizenship would give him access to Canadian consular services, and would help him leave the country after he is released, when he’ll be subject to a 10-year travel ban.

According to Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal cabinet minister who is part of Badawi’s legal team, it would also give added weight to Canada’s calls for his release, both when it comes to public opinion and in bilateral and multilateral relations. “We will then also be making representations on behalf of a person who is a Canadian citizen,” he explained in an interview.

But the Liberal government doesn’t seem to be convinced extending citizenship to Badawi is the right step to take. A government source said because Saudi Arabia doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, they would likely continue to see him as Saudi, not as Canadian.

The source also said there are concerns that the Saudis could see such a move as provocation, and the treatment of Badawi could get worse.

A spokesperson for Mendicino said in an emailed statement that “Canada will always stand up for human rights around the world, and we remain seized with the case of Raif Badawi. We continue to raise his case at the highest levels and we have repeatedly called for clemency to be granted. We remain in contact with Ms. Haidar and we want to see Mr. Badawi reunited with his family.”

Brunelle-Duceppe said if the government has been acting behind the scenes, that strategy hasn’t worked. “He’s been in prison for nine years… where’s the progress?” he asked. “All we have as a result are new accusations against Mr. Badawi and his wife.”

Cotler said he has been representing political prisoners for 45 years, and in almost all cases, “there is always some anonymous government source that would say we shouldn’t be doing A or B because that will cause country A or B to act in a retaliatory way.” He added such statements are “not helpful, and in this case, not reflective of Canadian foreign policy.”

At the moment, Badawi’s case may be at somewhat of an inflection point. With a year left in his sentence, Saudi Arabia has now launched a new investigation of both Badawi and Haidar. The threat is that the country could lay new charges of inciting public opinion, and damaging the reputation of the kingdom, Cotler said.

The start of Ramadan next month could also offer a potential window for his release, since that is a time Saudi Arabia traditionally grants pardons to prisoners. Cotler has conveyed a clemency petition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month.

The Canadian government should be pressing for Badawi’s release now, ahead of Ramadan, according to Brunelle-Duceppe. “We have another chance to ask for the liberation of Mr. Badawi, using Saudi traditions,” he said.

The new investigation by Saudi Arabia is also targeted at Haidar, and amounts to what Cotler called a “kind of an extra-territorial threat.”

“I think the Canadian government has to make it clear we will not tolerate our citizens being targeted for any threats,” he said.

Cotler pointed out some of the things Badawi was arrested 10 years ago for saying the crown prince has himself been speaking about in the past four years, such as talking about a more open Saudi Arabia and a more moderate Islam.

Badawi “also never criticized neither [bin Salman] nor the Saudi kingdom,” Cotler added. He said it’s in the crown prince’s “strategic interest” to release Badawi, considering Saudi relations with the United States and European Union.

Badawi’s sister, women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, and his lawyer and brother-in-law, Waleed Abulkhair, have also been imprisoned by the Saudi government.

When Samar Badawi was arrested in 2018, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland publicly criticized the arrest. In response, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, froze new trade and suspended flights between the two countries.

Cotler said at the time, no other democratic country came to Canada’s defense, a situation that emboldened the Saudis and “took us down the road” to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul two months later.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Majority of Canadians think Canada should boycott Beijing Olympics: poll

The Declaration of Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations was inspired by Canada's efforts to secure support from other countries in the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

A poll by the Angus-Reid Institute of 5,004 Canadians from Feb. 26 to March 3 has found that opinions of China sit at record lows and that there can be no moving forward until two detained Canadians are released from prison.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by Chinese authorities on Dec. 10, 2018, shortly after the detention in Canada of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant. Here are the results from the poll.

The two Michaels

Question: Unless Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are released from detention in China, the two countries cannot have a good relationship.

The view of China

The number of Canadians who hold a favourable view of China continues to fall.

Beijing Olympics

Question: Canadians (athletes, coaches, fans, etc.) should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.


Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

More than the Second World War: Here's the eyewatering debt Canada is racking up

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland delivers the 2020 fiscal update in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 30, 2020.

Remember when, in the 2015 Canadian general election, candidate Justin Trudeau made the controversial pledge to run up a $10 billion deficit? The Conservatives hated it, of course, but even the NDP

accused

the Liberals of spending on the “shoulders of future generations.”

Fast forward six years, and Canada’s

deficit for fiscal year 2021

is projected to top out at an eyewatering $381.6 billion. We’ve all gotten used to massive quantities of borrowed money being thrown around during COVID-19 (particularly when the Americans

keep approving trillion-dollar spending bills

) but Canada is currently burning through borrowed money at a rate that is unprecedented in our history.

We can discuss debt-to-GDP ratio and other such metrics at a later time, but below are a few comparisons to illustrate the utterly gargantuan amount of debt-financed money currently flowing out of federal coffers.

Canada is borrowing $27.80 per citizen, per day

There are 37.6 million people in Canada as of last count. Divide that by our total 2020 federal deficit and you have $10,151.63 in borrowed money for every single homo sapiens with a pulse living under the Maple Leaf. This means that for each day of 2020, every single one of us was having roughly $27.80 borrowed on our behalf — or a

15-pack of Molson Canadian from The Beer Store

. The amount owing goes up considerably when you consider that upwards of 40 per cent of Canadians

do not pay any effective income tax

. When the figure is broken down among the taxpayers who will actually be expected to cover it, we’re looking at about $46 per day (

which will buy you a two-four at The Beer Store

). Oh, and the federal debt

just passed $1 trillion for the first time

.

 Borrowing beer in such daily quantities rarely ends well.

We could have paid for another Second World War

Until the onset of COVID-19, it was generally agreed that the Second World War was the most expensive thing that Canada had ever undertaken. Government expenditures rose 4,000 per cent nearly overnight, and by 1943 Canada had one of the world’s largest navies and a powerful enough army to capture and occupy swaths of Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands. From 1939 to 1950, the conflict

cost Canada $21.8 billion

. When converting that into 2021 dollars, that’s about $386 billion. Granted, modern-day Canada has a much larger population and GDP. Nevertheless, in a single 12-month span, we ran up enough deficit to pay the shipping and handling on every single bullet, shell and bomb we threw at Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

 Just some of the shells that Canada lobbed at fascist Europe. At the time this photo was taken, the country was paying and equipping more than 1 million uniformed personnel.

The COVID deficit is more than double every other 21st century deficit combined

After 11 consecutive years of posting budget surpluses, in 2008 Canada’s finances veered back into the red as a result of the Great Recession. Even then, the worst year for spending yielded a deficit of only $56.4 billion. In fact, if you add up all the deficits from 2008 to the first fiscal year of the COVID-19 pandemic,

the total is $147 billion

. These years were definitely not Canada’s finest hour in terms of living within our means, but it’s worth noting that 10 years of blow-out-the-budget spending was matched by only five months of spending under COVID.

 Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009, back when a $50 billion deficit was considered extreme.

Just one year of Canada’s borrowed COVID spending could have bought two Apollo programs

The U.S. program to land humans on the surface of the moon cost about

US$25.4 billion

in the early 1970s, which is equivalent to roughly $194 billion in modern Canadian dollars. This means that with only one year’s deficit, Canada could twice cover the entire cost of a pioneering space exploration program. And Apollo wasn’t just Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin getting a trip to the moon in 1969: That money covers five manned expeditions to the lunar surface, one

failed expedition that turned into a Ron Howard film

and even

that weird 1975 mission where an Apollo capsule mated with a Russian one in orbit

.

 Like this, except the astronaut would be named Gord.

It’s more than five years’ worth of global gold production

From Klondike streams to South African pits, there are thousands of gold mines around the world employing millions of people in the search for everyone’s favourite shiny metal. And if Canada could somehow seize every single gold-producing facility on the planet earth, the resulting mountain of treasure would only cover one fifth of our most recent COVID deficit. World gold production was

3,531 tonnes

in 2019, which is about as heavy as a respectable mid-sized cargo ship. At

current gold prices

(which have been driven up substantially by the pandemic), all that gold is still going to cover only about CAD $76.2 billion.

 This 100 kg gold coin would fund about 15 minutes’ worth of Canadian deficit accumulation.

The deficit could have paid for enough Confederation Bridges to join Canada and Ireland

Completed in 1997, the 12.9 kilometre bridge to Prince Edward Island was constructed for the modern equivalent of about $1.54 billion. This means that at Canada’s rate of 2020 deficit accumulation, Ottawa could have financed a Confederation Bridge roughly every 36 hours. By year’s end that would be equal to 248 bridges spanning a total of 3,200 kilometres. Obviously the Atlantic Ocean would demand a much more complex bridge design, but 3,200 km happens to be the near-precise distance between St. John’s, Newfoundland and Dublin, Ireland.

 Give or take a few bridges.

Remember when we ran up that massive surplus in 2001? We’re borrowing the equivalent every 28 days

In 2001, years of fiscal belt-tightening under Prime Minister Jean Chretien yielded one of Canada’s proudest moments of fiscal responsibility: An 11-figure surplus of $19.891 billion. It was a magnificent comeback after a 1990s fiscal crunch so dire that Canadian debt could only be loaned out at Third World interest rates. In 2021 dollars, however, the 2001 surplus is only about $28.5 billion or, about 28 days’ worth of federal deficit under the current budget. Canada’s economy is much larger than the 1990s and thus able to handle higher quantities of sovereign debt, but this might be a good place to mention that our debt-to-GDP-ratio is

fast approaching

the 66 per cent rate that almost ruined Canada 30 years ago.

 Paul Martin weeps.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

What it went for

1197 Pinegrove Rd.

Oakville

1197 Pinegrove Rd. (Speers Road and Fourth Line)

Asking price: $2.388 million

Sold for: $2.2 million

Taxes: $4,464 (2019)

Bedrooms: 4+1

Bathrooms: 5

Square footage: approximately 3,200

Garage: 2

Parking: 4

Days on the market: 24

 

This new custom home with about 3,200 square feet of luxury living space in prestigious Bronte East attracted lots of interest and there were a lot of showings, says listing agent Sam McDadi.

A young family who likes the area and the size of the home, which has four bedrooms and five bathrooms, purchased it. “There were a few different offers over the course of the listing and it sold in 24 days.”

The residence was built in 2019 in the Bronte East area in southwest Oakville. It’s a neighbourhood in transition, with bungalows on big lots being replaced with larger new homes.

 Open-concept kitchen.

The home at 1197 Pinegrove has a classic stone exterior and a designer interior that is light-filled thanks to an open-concept design and large windows. McDadi says no details missed. The contemporary home features a fresh neutral palette and a combination of tile and hardwood floors.

The living room has a vaulted ceiling and a floor-to-ceiling marble fireplace. The chef’s kitchen has a centre island and the dining room, which is open to the living room, has a porcelain floor and a coffered ceiling.

A floor-to-ceiling fireplace, crown moulding and a walkout to the terrace are features of the main-floor family room. There are two covered porches that offer additional outdoor space to enjoy day or night. The main floor also includes an office with crown moulding and a large window.

 Light-filled living room.

Each of the bedrooms has an ensuite or semi-ensuite bathroom, a feature appreciated by families. The primary bedroom has a walk-in closet and a four-piece ensuite bathroom.

The lower level offers a walkout to the backyard from the recreation room. It also has an additional bedroom and a second office. The bedroom offers flexibility – it could be used as an additional office, a hobby room or a gym.

The 65×116-foot landscaped lot has a private double driveway, parking for four cars and an attached two-car garage.

The Bronte area offers access to the waterfront trail system. The waterfront park has a pier, a boardwalk beach and lighthouse. The home is close to schools, community centres, recreational amenities, parks and shopping.

 

Listing Broker: Sam McDadi Real Estate Inc. (Sam McDadi)

 

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Study finds COVID U.K. variant 55 per cent more lethal, as ICU admissions in Ontario creep up

A doctor speaks with a patient on Monday during a demonstration of a mass vaccination clinic in Cobourg, Ont.

Yet more unnerving research is linking a fast-spreading variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 with a higher likelihood of dying.

The latest findings come from a

paper published Monday by the journal Nature

, in which researchers estimate the variant technically know as B.1.1.7, the so-called U.K. strain, is, on average, 55 per cent deadlier than earlier versions of the virus.

The findings are based on an analysis of more than one million people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England between September 2020 and February 2021. Researchers compared death rates between those who had B.1.1.7 infections and those infected with earlier strains, adjusting for age, ethnicity, sex and other factors. They only compared death rates among people who were tested on the same day and lived in the same city or town, to control for changes in testing rates and hospital pressures.

People infected with the variant were between 39 and 72 per cent more likely to die.

The absolute risk of death remained low, increasing, for example, from 0.6 to 0.9 per cent, for 55- to 69-year-old males.

“We don’t want this 55 per cent number to scare people into thinking ‘this is a big risk for me,’” unless people are elderly or otherwise very sick, said lead author Nicholas Davies, an epidemiologist with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

But there was already evidence the variant is more contagious —  between 43 and 90 per cent more transmissible, depending how it’s measured, earlier work by Davies and his colleagues found.

Add in that it is seemingly deadlier, “and that really does add up over an entire population,” said Davies.

Davies is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. For the past 10 years, he’s lived in the U.K., where the B.1.1.7 variant spread swiftly, from the county of Kent, in southeast England in early October, to London, and to the rest of the U.K. by December’s end.

It now accounts for more than 99 per cent of COVID-19 infections in the U.K., which saw as many COVID-related deaths — some 42,000 — in the first two months of this year as were experienced in the first eight months of the pandemic. “Over the course of 2020, treatments for COVID-19 had improved so much — the survival rate by the end of summer was twice as good as the beginning of the pandemic,” Davies said.

“And yet we’ve had this huge burden of death since B.1.1.7 arose.”

The same variant, scientists warned last week, is poised to drive a third surge of infections in Ontario, where hospitalizations and ICU admissions have begun to creep up. As of Monday, the new “variants of concern” accounted for 49 per cent of confirmed COVID infections in Ontario. The reproductive number — the number of people each infected person goes on to infect — was 1.41. It needs to be below one to slow the spread of the virus.

The Nature paper comes days

after another British study,

using the same data over a slightly different time period, and using a different statistical method, estimated the B.1.1.7 strain could be 32 per cent — to an alarming 104 per cent — more deadly than previously circulating variants (the increased death risk in the “largely unvaccinated population” averaged out to 64 per cent.)

The emergence of the variant, and others identified in Brazil and South Africa, “highlights the capacity of SARS-CoV-2 to rapidly evolve new phenotypic variants, with mutants that evade vaccines being a real possibility,” the authors of that study wrote in the British Medical Journal.

So far, all the vaccines that have been tested against B.1.1.7 have shown good protection against it.

Taken together, the data are rattling some scientists, who are warning the variants could spark a third surge of COVID-19 within days in Ontario.

Across Canada, a total of 3,302 people have tested positive for “variants of concern,” the vast majority — 3,031 — the U.K. strain. Some say the reported number of cases is almost immaterial because there is so little genomic sequencing of the viruses. The variant is also spreading quickly in the U.S., in Florida, California and Texas.

While Davies is sympathetic to people who say individual risk is low, “it’s still very high for an infectious disease, and we’re talking about millions of people getting infected. It’s not just something you can ignore.”

It’s not clear why those infections are more severe. People tend to have higher viral loads— “the virus replicates to larger numbers within the person,” Davies said — and there’s some evidence that people shed virus for longer periods. It could be that treatments don’t work as well against the variants. “But it’s still not really super clear,” he said. It also appears more infectious across all age groups.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

The new Canada: How COVID-19 pushed real estate buyers into the hinterland

A promotional shot from Live for the Moment NB, a campaign by the Government of New Brunswick to lure remote workers to the province.

It was last June when Haligonians started noticing something weird was happening. After weeks of hibernation, their real estate market had suddenly exploded into bidding wars, with some sellers reporting “

30 or 40 offers on a single property

.” At first, analysts brushed it off as “pent-up demand,” but then the prices just kept climbing — not just in Halifax, but across the Atlantic coast.

For years, Atlantic Canada has been a land of almost comically cheap real estate. Where Victorian mansions

sold for less than a Toronto bachelor pad

, and where historic churches in dying small towns

could be picked up for $1

. But after decades of losing people to Ontario, COVID-19 — and Atlantic Canada’s relative safety from the virus — was sending them all right back.

Charlottetown realtor Michael Poczynek

summed up the view

of his Ontario clients plotting a move to the Atlantic time zone: “We can’t get out of here fast enough.”

 The PEI capital currently has an average housing price of $331,760.

One of the most unexpected repercussions of the latter half of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an

unmitigated explosion in coast-to-coast real estate prices

. What’s more, there has been an unprecedented exodus of Canadian home-buyers to so-called “secondary markets”: The East Coast, the Okanagan, even the Yukon Territory. In a post-pandemic Canada that has seen workers untethered from the traditional centres of finance and industry, the country’s real estate future is increasingly lying with the likes of Barrie, Lethbridge and Charlottetown.

In RE/MAX’s

most recent report

on the state of the Canadian housing market, one area stood out above nearly all others: Muskoka, Ontario. In just one year, house prices in cottage country had jumped by a dizzying 20.3 per cent. For any Muskokaites who owned a $350,000 rancher at the beginning of 2020, each day of the COVID-19 pandemic saw their home jump in value by an average of $200.

Muskoka’s COVID-19 property rise dwarfs even the most ridiculous highs of Calgary in the grip of early 2000s oil fever. The cottage country surge is matched only by the most eye-watering days of Vancouver’s real estate surge. The West Coast metropolis needed avalanches of foreign cash to

push up its real estate prices by an unprecedented 20.9 per cent in 2016

. Muskoka, by contrast, did it when the borders are closed and the economy is in the toilet.

 Muskoka: The extremely quaint face of one of Canada’s hottest real estate markets.

While Muskoka is one of the most dramatic examples, all throughout Ontario it is clear that tourist towns, retirement communities and once-flagging industrial centres are seeing their real estate gobbled up at shocking rates. Collingwood, Ont., population 21,000, saw price rises of 19.5 per cent. Homes on the Niagara peninsula spiked by 19 per cent. Even Windsor, the capital of Ontario’s oft-embattled auto sector, saw house prices shoot up by 21 per cent in 2020 to an average of $406,000. This is a city where, only five years ago, the average house

cost less than $175,000

.

Typically, real estate prices in secondary Canadian markets retain at least a cursory link to economic realities. An Edmonton home rides the tide of an oil boom, while a Port Renfrew home feels the pinch of a forestry collapse. But this boom is striking almost everywhere at once — particularly in smaller cities. If you live anywhere that has the occasional cougar or bear sighting, the ground beneath your feet almost certainly ranks as one of the country’s fastest earning investments.

Interior British Columbia is still riding one of the greatest real estate price explosions in its history. “Buyers snapped up homes almost as soon as they were listed,” Association of Interior Realtors president Kim Heizmann said in a

statement earlier this week

. Just this week, Kelowna saw the listing of something that has never before existed in the non-Vancouver parts of B.C.: A

$10 million condo penthouse

.

 A rendering of the $10 million penthouse at Kelowna’s One Water Street.

After years of darkness brought about by oil price collapses, cancelled pipelines and government austerity, Alberta saw real estate rise 7.5 per cent over the course of 2020, with some of the most dramatic movement in smaller centres. Cochrane, Alta., saw properties snapped up at their list prices after

500 days on the market

. The small Alberta town of Coaldale just reported its

first-ever million-dollar-home sale

.

Even the North, usually insulated from the real estate travails of southern Canada, is seeing homes bid up by a wave of newcomers. In Whitehorse, Yukon, the average house

gained $73,100 in value over 2020

, an increase of 13.9 per cent over pre-pandemic levels.

None of this was supposed to be happening. It was only in May that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation was forecasting nationwide real estate price dips

of between nine and 18 per cent

. Instead, 2021 is now expected to

yield nationwide gains of five per cent

.

RE/MAX, for its part, attributes the whole phenomenon to a trend of households “relocating to less-dense cities and neighbourhoods.” An Okanagan realtor interviewed by Global News

speculated

that in a world without travel or live entertainment, households were better able to stash away money for a down payment. The Brookfield Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank, has echoed the beliefs of many in a recent report pointing to a “

rural boom

” brought about by the popularization of remote work. Statistics Canada reports that an incredible 38 per cent of Canadian workers

can plausibly work from home,

representing untold millions whose only criteria for a home is whether it has an internet connection.

 Collingwood, Ont., which saw real estate prices rise more than 19 per cent in 2020.

The financial factor undergirding all this, of course, is Canada’s rock-bottom interest rates. “Interest rates have been dropping for 40 years, which means basically the only market that homebuyers have known is one where rates were lower every time they renewed their mortgage,” B.C. real estate analyst Leo Spalteholz told the National Post by email. COVID-19 has driven Canada’s cheap-debt binge into overdrive. The Bank of Canada announced this week it is

holding rates steady at 0.25 per cent

— the rate it has held throughout the entire pandemic.

Nevertheless, the data also shows that a seismic cultural shift is underway as Canadians flee the cities for lives in the country. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal

all saw record population losses

under COVID-19 as residents filtered out into surrounding low-density municipalities. Statistics Canada chalked some of this up to “personal health” reasons as Canadians ditched “large urban centres hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Canada is essentially experiencing a micro version of what’s happened in pandemics throughout history. The Black Death in Europe spurred its own exodus to the countryside, most famously sending Isaac Newton into the rural isolation where he invented calculus. In the great smallpox outbreaks that battered Indigenous North America in the 18

th

and 19

th

centuries, groups in what is now B.C. abandoned sprawling coastal villages and moved to impromptu doomsday shelters on small islands or remote coves.

The effects on Canada’s 21

st

century urban centres won’t be nearly as dramatic, but within months of the first COVID-19 lockdowns, an entire generation that had planned to spend their days living in condos and riding the subway were suddenly buying cars and moving to the hinterlands.

The private car market, by the way, is undergoing its own curious renaissance. In September 2020, just as the rural boom began hitting its stride, Canadians

bought $7.6 billion worth of automobiles

, making it the 13

th

most car-buying month in Canadian history — not bad for a time when

unemployment stood at nine per cent

.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques