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Toronto’s snow divide: Why the city might plow your neighbour’s sidewalks, but not yours

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In a new occasional series, the Star delves into 311 data to see what our concerns say about the city. In this third instalment, we look at an issue that’s top of mind as the temperature drops: snow clearing.

In the heart of winter, Gina Stoneham’s sidewalk does not get plowed by the city.

Gina Stoneham lives in Rockcliffe-Smythe, the Toronto neighbourhood with the most 311 complaints about snow and ice removal. The city does not clear Stoneham’s sidewalk — but it does plow the same street a short distance to the east.
Gina Stoneham lives in Rockcliffe-Smythe, the Toronto neighbourhood with the most 311 complaints about snow and ice removal. The city does not clear Stoneham’s sidewalk — but it does plow the same street a short distance to the east.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

Less than a five-minute walk away, Abigail Manzano’s does.

Both women live on Pritchard Ave., a quiet mostly residential stretch of the West Toronto neighbourhood Rockcliffe-Smythe, dissected by Jane St.

But when it comes to snow and ice, theirs is a tale of two sidewalks. Only the eastern stretch of Pritchard, where Manzano lives, makes the cut for city sidewalk snow clearing.

Manzano says the city usually shows up to clear the sidewalk in front of her home “within 24 hours.”

Meanwhile, the west side, Stoneham finds, often turns into a treacherous icy pass.

“I am so paranoid that my husband bought me a pair of boots last year for Christmas that, with a special key, flip out these spikes,” says the 64-year-old. “Those things saved my life a few times.”

The neighbourhood’s winter partition hints at a deeper divide in the city.

Across Toronto, the city plows the majority of sidewalks, especially major routes. But in a vast and complicated Toronto “no plow zone” — which includes stretches of sidewalks in the old city of Toronto, York and East York — residents are responsible for clearing the sidewalk in front of their own properties.

The city says it’s because of those sidewalks don’t meet criteria for clearing — that they’re too narrow, or there are other obstacles such as utility poles. Critics says it’s the legacy of a pre-amalgamation inequity that’s been carried on.

The no-plow areas are an issue pedestrian and seniors’ advocates say puts people of all ages at risk.

Stoneham, 64, shows off her winter boots with built-in studs for walking on icy sidewalks.
Stoneham, 64, shows off her winter boots with built-in studs for walking on icy sidewalks.  (Andrew Francis Wallace)

A Star analysis of 2018 snow and ice-related calls to 311, the city’s non-emergency hotline, broken down by the first three postal code digits, found the most (165) came from the west Toronto area that includes Rockcliffe-Smythe. Those stats cover complaints in 19 categories, including general snow removal, icy sidewalks, road plowing and sidewalk snow clearing.

Nestled between Weston Rd. and Lambton Woods, just north of the Junction and south of Mount Dennis, Rockcliffe-Smythe is part of zone where some, but not all, sidewalks are plowed. In between the downtown core (where most sidewalks can’t be plowed) and suburban Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York (where most sidewalks can be plowed), according to the city.

Dylan Reid spokesperson for pedestrian advocacy group Walk Toronto calls this approach “perverse.”

“The places where we have the most people using sidewalks and where we have the greatest density of people, are the places where we don’t actually clear snow and ice from the sidewalk.”

The snow divide, Reid says, is a legacy from before amalgamation.

“The old city of Toronto didn’t plow its sidewalks and the suburbs did, and when they amalgamated they didn’t want to spend the extra money to actually expand sidewalk clearing through the old city of Toronto,” he says.

The city’s 311 complaints show fewer calls about snow removal in the downtown core closer to the waterfront.

There’s a concentration of snow complaints in the west-end neighbourhoods around Rockcliffe-Smythe that would fall into the some-sidewalks-cleared-some-not area, as well as the East Beaches/western edge of Scarborough.

Per capita, the western chunk of the old ward of Scarborough Southwest — which also had the most overall noise complaints — topped the list for snow and ice related grumbles.

Stoneham, 64, shows off her winter boots with built-in studs for walking on icy sidewalks.
Stoneham, 64, shows off her winter boots with built-in studs for walking on icy sidewalks.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

Out of the roughly 7,000 kilometres of sidewalk in the city of Toronto, about 5,900 are plowed mechanically by the city, according to city spokesperson Eric Holmes.

“There are some sidewalks that, unfortunately, equipment cannot safely clear using mechanical means due to encroachments and existing structures (e.g. retaining walls, utility poles, on-street parking, narrow sidewalk etc.),” wrote Holmes in an email. The city offers free sidewalk clearance for seniors and people with disabilities who live in these areas.

The western side of Prichard Ave. does not meet the criteria for sidewalk snow removal, he said, but could not point to which, specifically. The eastern side of Prichard Ave. is cleared because it’s considered a school route, he added.

So far in this relatively mild winter, the city has issued just four notices of inspection in response to complaints across Toronto and they were resolved without fines to homeowners, according to Holmes.

Last winter, the city issued eight fines.

This logic of plowing some areas but not others leaves “a critical piece” of snow clearance missing, says Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), who calls on the city to clear all sidewalks, like Ottawa does.

Residents don’t always shovel, even though they can be fined for not clearing their stretches of sidewalk within 12 hours of snowfall. And even one icy patch can be dangerous.

“For many people this is the way that they move around the city,” she said, calling it an equity issue.

“The people who are held prisoner in their homes tend to be the elderly or people with disabilities, people who don’t have cars.”

A 2016 Toronto Public Health report found there were almost 30,000 emergency department visits and 2,800 hospitalizations among Toronto residents due to falls on snow or ice from 2006 to 2015.

This cost the provincial health-care system almost $4 million per year and the city $6.7 million a year in insurance liability claims.

And most falls happen in the areas that the city does not clear, according to the report.

Back in Rockcliffe-Smythe, it’s something Stoneham worries about.

“I can’t afford to fall down and break my hip because I work for myself,” she says, adding it’s unfair there’s sidewalk clearing in some areas and not others.

Aside from sidewalks, she thinks the whole neighbourhood is “neglected,” and often seems to be last on the list when it comes to road plowing.

Rockcliffe-Smythe Community Association co-chair Miriam Hawkins notes it has “wide streets and sidewalks,” sitting up against the western edge of Etobicoke. So there’d “be no issue” with them being too narrow to plow — if that’s why the city isn’t doing it.

“It almost sounds like they’re not committed anywhere in Toronto but if you’re lucky they might do it,” she says.

But as the dual global “mega-trends” of an aging population and climate change intersect, cities need to start paying more attention to snow clearing, said Laura Tamblyn Watts, chief public policy officer at CARP, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

“It’s not going to go away, it’s going to get much more complicated,” she said, with more older adults and more extreme storms.

Even in an average winter, a fall can result in a broken bone or hip and send older adults into a downward spiral, Tamblyn Watts says.

“A safe and clear sidewalk is quite literally the difference between life and death for many older people,” she adds.

“The human cost is real.”

The Star’s 311 Toronto series

Part 1: Toronto is known for dead raccoons and potholes. The city’s 311 nerve centre knows this reputation is well-earned

Part 2: Is this the noisiest neighbourhood in Toronto?

May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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