A Butternut Squash Recipe for the Worst Winter Days | Healthyish


February isn’t an easy month to be healthyish, even when it’s your job. I started January extremely ambitiously, but now I’m staring down the contents of my fridge, unable to contemplate another root-vegetable-centric meal. So it makes sense that, when this Butternut Squash Parmesan recipe emerged from the Test Kitchen a few weeks ago, I had a complete meltdown…a happy meltdown. « It’s SO goooooood, » I told freelance recipe developer Lauren Schaefer, who developed this riff on eggplant Parm for Healthyish. Then basically everyone else on staff got their hands on a piece, and they agreed. It’s everything we want in a Parm, with the ideal ratio of tomato sauce to cheese and squash that cuts like butter and melts in your mouth. Winter, touché.

Remember our friend squash pasta from last year? He’s still great, but I give Parm a slight edge for coming together faster (no need to pre-cook the squash) and being optionally gluten-free (if you omit the bread crumbs). « Making eggplant Parm is usually an all-day affair, and there are so many dishes involved because you’re frying, transferring, baking, all of that, » Schaefer says. This Parm, on the other hand, can be done in under two hours and involves mostly just assembly. You start by making a quick tomato sauce using a can of whole tomatoes, anchovies (it won’t taste fishy, we promise!), garlic, and red pepper flakes. While that cooks, you peel and cut the squash, which is the only real labor here. « Everything else is pure satisfaction, » Shaefer promises, and she’s right.

Eggplants have tons of water in them, which is why you have to salt and fry the slices before baking. Squash, on the other hand, is a very different vegetable (it’s actually a fruit, but what kind of annoying person says that?). It will release a little liquid in the baking pan, but just enough to soak up the sauce and cheese and bind all the delicious flavors together.

Speaking of the cheese, Schaefer uses Parmesan because, uh, it’s a Parm; mozzarella for that photogenic cheese pull; and a dark-horse addition of Greek yogurt, which adds richness and tang. (And protein? Sure!) The dairy gets mixed together, then all that’s left to do is put it together—sauce on the bottom, then squash, then cheese, then repeat until you’re out of stuff to layer—and bake. Ten minutes before it’s done, Schaefer adds some breadcrumbs for a crispy bite.

I’d make this Parm on a Sunday night and serve it alongside a romaine salad with a bright, lemony dressing, and I’d be very happy reheating it for lunch the next day. But the nice thing about this Parm is that it’s sized for a very reasonable 8×8″ dish—not one of those massive casserole pans—so you’re not drowning in leftovers for weeks. If you’re into long-range meal prep, you could assemble it, seal it tightly, and pop it in the freezer for the next time you have an impromptu winter dinner party. It’ll thaw beautifully, and hopefully, someday, I will too.

Get the recipe:


This hearty winter squash recipe is a twist on traditional eggplant Parmesan with fewer steps (there’s no need to wait around for the squash pieces to dry, plus you don’t have to fry them!) but no less satisfaction.



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Sudden snow days ‘little less problematic’ for some parents, challenging for others


When the Toronto District School Board made the rare move to cancel classes across the city because of Tuesday’s winter storm, it was the first time it had done so in eight years — in part because of the impact a decision like that has on thousands of families.

As the country’s largest school board in Canada’s largest city, the TDSB represents some 246,000 children. An email sent Monday ahead of the impending storm by John Malloy, the board’s director of education, noted that closing all schools « causes significant hardship for many families, some of which have no other options readily available for their children. »

British Columbia, too, has had to deal with unlikely school closures this week. Snow forced the shutdown of almost every school district in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford.

For some single parents, challenges persist. But technology, including social media, has made it easier for some parents to unexpectedly work from home for the day or find caregivers for their children.

‘Little less problematic’

« I think with more and more companies providing their employees with the tools to work from home, it’s a little less problematic than it might have been in years past, » said Kim Shiffman, editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent magazine.

« I know, for example, the parents on my team, everyone brought their laptops home last night in anticipation of this possibility. »

Shiffman herself has two children, aged five and 10, and said she was able to work from home on Tuesday.

« Luckily they are at an age where they don’t require constant supervision, » she said. « And I can get a pretty significant amount of work done with minimal distraction. »

Vehicles make their way along a snow-covered highway in Victoria on Tuesday. A winter storm has pounded British Columbia’s capital, as well as Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

There are certainly parents in jobs who cannot work from home, but Shiffman believes those parents are a little more prepared for these kind of snow-day situations, from having to deal with staying at home with a sick child.

In her community, she said she noticed some stay-at-home parents and those on maternity leave offering assistance through messages posted online. Facebook has been a boon in creating tight-knit communities that allow people to reach out to try and support other parents, she said.

« I saw home daycare providers in my neighbourhood Facebook mom group saying: ‘I usually have this many kids, but today I only have one. So I actually have room to take two kids if anyone’s desperate. »

Not everyone has flexibility

But for some single parents, friends can’t step in, and grandparents and family don’t live near enough to help, according to Marianne Sorensen, executive director of the 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre in B.C.

« There isn’t another parent who can maybe take a day off work and stay home or help figure it out, » Sorensen told CBC’s On The Island.

« Lots of the single parents we work with are relatively isolated, » Sorensen said. « They’re really busy taking care of their kids and working jobs to make ends meet, and so many of them don’t have a strong social network of support. »

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said hundreds of thousands of children can be at loose ends when their schools and daycare are shuttered, causing a considerable impact on parents and on the companies who employ them.

High school teacher Melissa Watson takes advantage of a snow day by cross-country skiing on the streets in Burlington, Ont., on Tuesday. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

In some cases, kids are able to come to work with their parents. But in other cases, that’s just not possible.

« One of the things that has been helpful though over the last little while is … increasingly people are able to work remotely, where that was just not possible a decade or two ago, » he said.

« We’ve got people that are taking telephone calls, small-business owners across the country [where] that can be done using VoIP and other systems — they can pretty much be done from wherever. »

Kelly acknowledged, however, that if you’re in if you’re in bricks-and-mortar retail, a restaurant or a factory, that doesn’t give you very much flexibility — or comfort.


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90 Days and Nights in the Cold has Paul Tavares travelling the province.


A local man is taking to the wilderness to raise awareness for the homeless across Ontario by sleeping out in the same cold winter nights that many across the province, Canada and North America face each night.

Paul Tavares is once again embarking in his 90 Days and Nights in the Cold campaign, but this year he hopes to raise funds and awareness for 13 individual communities across Ontario.

Cambridge man taking ’90 Days & Nights in the Cold’ campaign across Ontario

Tavares began his initiative two years ago to promote awareness for the homeless in Cambridge, and did so by spending cold nights out in the same environment as the homeless.

In that effort, Tavares raised $10,000 for charities and organizations in Cambridge including Cambridge Shelter Corp., CVCF Urban Hope and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.

This time around, Tavares is doing things a little differently. He’s aiming to raise $150,000 through stays in 13 communities. He hopes to raise $10,000 during each of his stays in 12 cities. He hopes to bring in $30,000 in his home base of Cambridge.

Ontario man nears end of 90-day campaign in the cold for homelessness awareness

All donations raised in one community will stay within that city, according to Tavares. He expects the brunt of the donations to come in near the end of his campaign.

CJOY News in Guelph caught up with Tavares in hopes of speaking with him ahead of his stay in the Royal City, but on Tuesday morning he told us that he was no longer in town.

“I left Guelph last night,” Tavares said over the phone on Tuesday.

“Twice in three weeks, I stayed one night in Guelph and moved on because I didn’t have a secure location. I guess some of the neighbours were a little restless and thought I was only going to be there for one night.”

Tavares said he didn’t want to cause any trouble for the person who agreed to host him in Guelph. But it’s not the first time that a complaint from a concerned citizen has resulted in Tavares moving. He mentioned a similar situation in Kitchener. In that scenario, a local business stepped in and offered its property.

“It was just one person, two people maybe,” Tavares said. “It’s still something that homeless people face on a regular basis. It’s a daily struggle if they’re not in the shelter system, or even if they are. Find a place to stay, find a place to eat or find a friendly face. It’s a struggle.”

Tavares’ journey will take him across Ontario as far east as Ottawa and Cornwall all the way north to North Bay and all the way north and west to Thunder Bay, where temperatures will feel like -40 C on most nights.

He’s dealt with extreme weather before.

“I expect some extreme weather,” he said. “Minus 40 C has been reported several times. Minus 36 C was my lowest temperature while I stayed in Hamilton. I had three consecutive days which averaged about -35 C. That’s really nothing compared to what’s possible in Thunder Bay.”

Many of his stops have featured good and humble receptions. Tavares says the further he is from his home base of Cambridge, the more well-received he is. In North Bay, he already has a good plan in place in case of extreme weather. “I will be out in a parking lot adjacent to a social services building,” he said. The people there “will actually give me a key-fob to use for bathroom or emergency use should extreme weather come.”

While he was in his home base of Cambridge two years ago, many locals would stop by with donations and coffees as he became well-known throughout the community.

The good faith continued when Tavares visited Hamilton. A member of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs connected Tavares, along with the local advocacy group Helping Hamilton Homeless. They asked Tavares if he would join them in raising local awareness.

The organization will hand out tickets to the Bulldogs game that day to several of the homeless community in Hamilton. Following the game, Tavares says he’s already been given the green light to set up his tent and materials outside the FirstOntario Centre where he will raise awareness and hopefully collect donations from Hamiltonians and Bulldogs fans alike.

Paul Tavares’ initiative continues until April 13 and donations are accepted in many outlets until then.

You can donate online at the 90 days and nights in the cold website.

E-Transfer to Paul@90daysandnights.com
Residence Visit at 84 Roseview Avenue, Cambridge ON (Clothes and Food Donations)

Listen below to Paul Tavares’ chat with CJOY.

View link »




© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Left to decay, the Toronto Coach Terminal offers a fading glimmer of the glory days of travel


Toronto has never been kind to its architecture. This is a city, don’t forget, that has happily allowed countless heritage buildings to be demolished or reduced to empty facades that hide the modern mediocrities that replace them. Such is progress in this busy conurbation.

No surprise then that a town that once contemplated tearing down two of its most important landmarks — Old City Hall and Union Station — would stand by while the Toronto Coach Terminal at 610 Bay St. slowly falls apart. The stylish Art Deco facility, which opened in December 1931, could have done double duty as a nightclub. It was the kind of place where one imagines elegant women in long gowns making their entrance on a grand stairwell.

The Toronto Coach Terminal was designed by architect Charles Dolphin, who also designed Toronto’s General Postal Delivery Building, which survives as the façade of the Air Canada Centre.
The Toronto Coach Terminal was designed by architect Charles Dolphin, who also designed Toronto’s General Postal Delivery Building, which survives as the façade of the Air Canada Centre.  (Lucas Oleniuk / The Toronto Star)

The stairwell is still there, but today it serves no purpose. The second floor and the restaurant that was once there are closed. Designed by architect Charles Dolphin, who also gave Toronto the General Postal Delivery Building, which survives as the façade of the Air Canada Centre, and the Consumer’s Gas Showroom on 2532 Yonge St. north of Eglinton Ave., the terminal is a remnant of a more optimistic age.

Though Canada was in the midst of the Great Depression, which devastated the country — at one point the unemployment rate was fully 33 per cent — Toronto somehow managed to build a bus terminal that had limestone cladding, stained glass windows, hand-painted faux stone walls and an interior illuminated by a cluster of crystalline chandeliers. Clearly, these were different times — attitudes to public architecture, let alone public transport, weren’t what they are today. Mobility was something to be celebrated, even glamourized. Men wouldn’t have thought of entering the terminal without a jacket and tie. Women wore hats and gloves.

Toronto's motor coach terminal at Bay and Edward Sts., North Mezzanine, looking west, on Dec, 19, 1931.
Toronto’s motor coach terminal at Bay and Edward Sts., North Mezzanine, looking west, on Dec, 19, 1931.  (Alfred J. Pearson)

Ninety-odd years later, people definitely do not dress up for travel. Whether by bus, boat, train or plane, getting around is something to be endured not enjoyed. Travellers today are better off dressing for comfort. Buses aren’t as uncomfortable and unhealthy as airplanes, but at a time when the car rules, they are considered the lowest form of public transportation, abandoned to those who can’t afford anything better. Even on the TTC, they rate well below subways and streetcars. Maybe that’s why the commission cares so little for those unfortunates consigned to ride the bus.

The GO bus terminal at Union Station confirms the lowly status of the vehicles it serves. Little more than a series of bays, it offers benches and a simple glass enclosure to shelter passengers. It’s so basic it seems more a structure than a building, engineered rather than designed. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. As long as it’s not raining, snowing or freezing cold, it’s as comfortable as one would expect a loading dock to be.

If it represents anything, it is the triumph of austerity. We applaud the new terminal because it was constructed cheaply. The materials — steel, glass and concrete — are industrial. No limestone here. And don’t expect chandeliers. That would have been not just excessive, a waste of money and an affront to hard-working taxpayers, it would have been laughably — wildly — inappropriate.

The grandeur of Union Station across the road feels anachronistic, even ironic. With its massive stone columns, enormous arched windows and vaulted ceiling, its Great Hall was designed to impress those arriving in the Big City. Hearts raced and mouths gaped at the sheer scale, the spectacle and opulence of the space. The experience of Union Station was not quickly forgotten. But by the 1970s, trains and buses were in decline; people preferred to drive. Travellers gave way to commuters, and with the ongoing transformation of Union Station into a shopping mall, commuters are now being turned into consumers. Airports have met a similar fate.

Passengers arrive at the Toronto Coach Terminal through the Bay St. entrance.
Passengers arrive at the Toronto Coach Terminal through the Bay St. entrance.  (Lucas Oleniuk)

Meanwhile, the Toronto Coach Terminal, that relic of a lost world, has never felt so lonely and isolated. Through all the changes, however, the remakes and neglect, the building retains a glimmer of its former glory. The attentive user will be rewarded with the odd glimpse of a city that could afford to be optimistic even during the worst of times. By comparison, contemporary optimism feels forced, even false. It is merely rhetorical.

Overwhelmed by demand, drowning in expectations, poorly run and bullied by its provincial masters, modern-day Toronto simply can’t cope. It does what it can but it’s never enough. The past isn’t just a foreign country; it’s also a foreign city.

Christopher Hume is a former Star reporter who is a current freelance columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @HumeChristopher


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Search for missing Merritt cowboy suspended after 7 days amid frigid conditions


After seven days of combing the Merritt, B.C., backcountry for a missing cowboy amid frigid conditions, officials have suspended their search.

Sixteen search and rescue teams from across B.C., along with three dog teams and two aircraft, were active Sunday, looking for Nicola Ranch manager Ben Tyner before the search was called off.

Tyner was last seen on Saturday, Jan. 26. His horse was found saddled but riderless two days later, sparking the search.

Merritt search continues with some questioning if cowboy’s disappearance is suspicious

“We are into day seven, we’ve covered a lot of terrain, we’re quite confident that most of the terrain that we’ve covered is our highest probability,” said Merritt RCMP spokesperson Const. Tracy Dunsmore.

“Without any further evidence to look anywhere else, with the weather … it’s very icy, we have a skiff of snow, so its becoming dangerous for the searchers and they’ve been out for seven days so fatigue starting to set in.

“We call it a suspension, so our file is ongoing, the RCMP will continue to investigate. If we find another area that we need to search or find other evidence that we need to search we can cal the search back on and look in those areas.”

Search-and-rescue incident commander Paul Berry said crews had turned their attention towards drainages and rivers downhill from where Tyner’s horse was found.

WATCH: Search continues for missing cowboy near Merritt

“Downhill travel is very common for people who are lost or injured, or it’s a place to get out of the weather,” said Berry. “Each of those drainages is being searched by teams of three.

“Teams were dropped by helicopter up in the higher elevations earlier this morning. They were working at temperatures of -24 C at elevation and winds and snow, so difficult search conditions today.”

READ MORE: Mystery of missing Merritt cowboy deepens as search continues amid plunging temperatures

There has been some speculation that Tyner’s horse was transported to the area by trailer, though police have downplayed any suspicions of foul play.

Berry said it’s still unclear how the horse ended up in the location where it was found by hunter Kim Robinson on Monday.

WATCH: Search underway near Merritt for missing cowboy

“Part of the work we’ve been trying to do is piece together a timeline and piece together information about how Ben was transported — was he transported by a trailer — and we don’t have any confirmation of that at all,” he said.

“Nothing has been identified at this point to indicate Ben or any of his footprints or any sign of Ben in relation to the horse.”

Berry said that as the search has continued, the Merritt community has been doing its best to support Tyner’s family, who travelled to the area from Wyoming on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Ben Tyner’s family joins desperate search for missing Merritt, B.C. cowboy

“We’ve had a great opportunity to meet with the family on a daily basis. Clearly, this is a family that is deeply worried about their son,” said Berry.

“They are fully aware of the weather conditions that we’re operating in and that a search can only go on so long, but they are a wonderful family and are being very supported by people here in the Nicola Valley.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Trump’s shutdown hand weakens again after dreadful two days


WASHINGTON— His poll numbers cratered. Six Republicans defected. He lost a staredown he started. He and his senior officials outraged people with tone-deaf remarks. FBI agents, air traffic controllers and former homeland security chiefs warned of risks to public safety.

Already losing the public battle over the partial government shutdown he initiated, U.S. President Donald Trump’s hand has weakened again this week after perhaps his worst 48 hours of the 34-day impasse — a cascade of errors, indignities and criticisms that laid bare the precariousness of his position.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures talks tariffs in the cabinet room of the White House Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures talks tariffs in the cabinet room of the White House Thursday.  (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

His problems were made most obvious on Thursday, when the Senate voted Thursday on competing proposals to reopen the portions of the government Trump has refused to fund unless Congress also gives him billions for the wall he promised to build on the Mexican border.

Neither Trump’s proposal, which included wall funding, nor the Democrats’ proposal, which didn’t, received the 60 votes necessary to pass. But the Democrats’ proposal got more votes — 52 compared to 50 — because six Republicans, including two who face challenging re-election battles in 2020, broke ranks to support the Democratic proposal after Trump’s proposal failed, a sign of growing discomfort in some quarters of the party.

The unsuccessful votes triggered a new round of negotiations between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders. Trump suggested he would be open to “some sort of pro-rated down payment” on the wall. Senators did not understand what he meant.

The developments came a day after Trump tried and failed to bluster his way into delivering a State of the Union address in the House chamber next Tuesday. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who effectively controls the chamber, had told him she wanted him to reschedule for some date after the government was reopened. With characteristic bravado, Trump sent Pelosi a public letter on Wednesday declaring that he would be giving the speech as originally planned.

Read more:

Trump-backed measure to end government shutdown fails in Senate

Ending showdown with Pelosi, Trump postpones State of Union

Jared Kushner thrusts himself into middle of shutdown debate

Pundits speculated about a dramatic showdown at the House doors, the kind of made-for-TV base-rallying moment Trump usually cherishes. Trump and his spokespeople suggested they would instead choose some sort of “alternative” venue. Instead, within 12 hours, Trump made a rare decision to publicly cave — announcing on Twitter that he would simply wait to speak until “the Shutdown is over.”

Earlier Wednesday, two polls suggested that the damage to Trump is worsening as the shutdown drags on. His approval rating in an Associated Press poll dropped to 34 per cent, his lowest in more than a year. He hit a new disapproval high in a CBS poll, 59 per cent, with just 36 per cent approval.

Comments from Trump and two of his senior appointees on Thursday were unlikely to help. Told that some federal workers have resorted to food banks while they have gone unpaid, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, said, “I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” He said they should be able to get loans. Later in the day, chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow described the shutdown as a mere “glitch.” Then Trump himself claimed, with no apparent evidence, that federal workers get free groceries at their local stores.

As Trump tried again to make the case that the border situation is a security crisis, the news was dominated by others arguing the shutdown itself is a serious hazard.

On Tuesday, the FBI Agents Association issued a report detailing how the shutdown was hampering work against terrorism, drug trafficking and even the MS-13 gang Trump has cited in promoting the wall. On Wednesday, the president of the air traffic controllers’ union said his members are making “routine mistakes” because of their financial stress.

Also Wednesday, five former chiefs of the Department of homeland security sent Trump and Congress a letter telling them to fund the department, suggesting the shutdown was “putting national security at risk.” One of the signers was John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8


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Arrest made after man allegedly robs 3 Toronto banks in 4 days – Toronto


Toronto police say they’ve charged a 25-year-old man after three banks were robbed in four days.

They say a man entered a bank in the city last Wednesday afternoon and allegedly gave staff a note saying he had a gun and demanded cash.

Second suspect arrested, charged for string of GTA bank robberies: Toronto police

Police say two other banks were robbed in a similar fashion on Thursday and Saturday.

They allege the man took off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The man faces numerous charges including three counts of robbery with a firearm and three counts of disguise with intent.


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Nearly $4K stolen from Cape Breton church days before Christmas


Cape Breton police are investigating the theft of thousands of dollars from a church just days before Christmas.

« Violated is a good way to describe it, » said Father Patrick O’Neil, the parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sydney River. « It’s sad that anybody would break into any building, but especially a church. »

O’Neil said he had just finished mass the evening of Sunday, Dec. 16, when he noticed something wasn’t right with the parish office door.

« The casing had been broken and cracked and obviously somebody had forced the door open, » he said. 

The cash was inside an envelope in the parish office. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

It wasn’t until the next morning that O’Neil and the parish secretary realized an envelope containing close to $4,000 was missing. The money had been raised at several fundraising concerts that were held that weekend.

Security cameras offer clues

O’Neil said security cameras in the church showed a man who O’Neil recognized. 

« This person in question — I know innocent until proven guilty — but if it is this person, he’s known to have done it before and probably will keep doing it unless someone … challenged him on that, » said O’Neil. « Especially the police which could maybe give you a little scare to change your ways, if possible. »

Fr. O’Neil says, ‘ultimately, I would like to see the person stop stealing.’ (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

The video footage from the security cameras has been turned over to Cape Breton Regional Police.

O’Neil said he’s hoping for accountability and justice. 

« I don’t think the person in question is going to have anything left, or much, or we won’t get anything back, » said O’Neil. « I’m always open to the possibility that someone might say, ‘I’ve changed my mind. I want to ask for forgiveness,’ but regardless, we will recoup the loss through insurance if we have to. »

No arrests have been made so far.


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4 days and counting: More delays expected for power restoration to thousands of B.C. homes


About 44,000 B.C. homes are on their fourth day without power after a powerful windstorm hit the south coast, and it’s likely to be a while longer before crews can fix the damage in some areas.

On Sunday morning, BC Hydro said its personnel had restored power to over 550,000 customers since Thursday’s storm — one of the worst it has seen in 20 years.  

But impassable roads blocked by downed power lines means crews can’t fully assess the worst of the damage on some of the Gulf Islands and in Vancouver Island communities like Duncan, Nanaimo and Lake Cowichan.

BC Hydro said it has brought in additional personnel from Alberta and Eastern Canada to help out, but it still expects it will be several days before power will be restored in hard-hit and remote areas.

In the Lower Mainland, there are still 4,000 customers without electricity. BC Hydro says that even there it could take up to 36 hours before the power is restored.

Environment Canada said gusts hit 128 km/h across Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley on Thursday. The strongest winds were clocked at 144 km/h on a small island near Tofino.

Updates on power outages can be found on BC Hydro’s website.


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U.S. government unlikely to get fully back to business for days


WASHINGTON—The federal government is expected to remain partially closed past Christmas Day in a protracted standoff over U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico.

On the second day of the federal closure, Trump tweeted Sunday that what the country needs is “a good old fashioned WALL that works,” as opposed to aerial drones and other measures that “are wonderful and lots of fun,” but not the right answer to address the problem of “drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into” the United States.

An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. The partial U.S. government shutdown is likely to stretch on past Christmas in a protracted standoff over funding to build a border wall with Mexico.
An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. The partial U.S. government shutdown is likely to stretch on past Christmas in a protracted standoff over funding to build a border wall with Mexico.  (Olivier Douliery / GETTY IMAGES)

With Trump’s insistence on $5 billion (U.S.) for the wall and negotiations with Democrats in Congress far from a breakthrough, even a temporary measure to keep the government running while talks continued seems out of reach until the Senate returns for a full session Thursday.

From coast to coast, the first day of the shutdown played out in uneven ways. The Statue of Liberty was still open for tours, thanks to money from New York state, and the U.S. Post Office was still delivering mail, as an independent agency.

Yet the disruption has affected many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and were expected to work unpaid. An additional 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay. The Senate had already passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay, and the House was likely to follow suit.

No one knew how long the closures would last. Unlike other shutdowns, this one seemed to lack urgency, coming during the long holiday weekend after Trump had already declared Monday, Christmas Eve, a federal holiday. Rather than work around the clock to try to end the shutdown, as they had done in the past, the leaders of the House and the Senate effectively closed up shop. But they didn’t rule out action if a deal were struck.

“Listen, anything can happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after he closed the Senate’s rare Saturday session hours after it opened.

But after ushering Vice-President Mike Pence through the Capitol for another round of negotiations, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, said a quick end to the shutdown was “not probable.”

At the White House, Trump hosted a lunch Saturday with conservative lawmakers. Absent from the guest list were GOP leaders or any Democrats, who would be needed for a deal.

“I am in the White House, working hard,” tweeted the president, who cancelled his Florida holiday getaway to his club Mar-a-Lago due to the shutdown. First lady Melania Trump was flying back to Washington to be with her husband.

Trump’s re-election campaign sent out a fundraising email late Saturday launching what he called “the most important membership program ever — the OFFICIAL BUILD THE WALL MEMBERSHIP.” The president urged donors to sign up.

With Democrats set to take control of the House on Jan. 3, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on his way out, the shutdown was providing a last gasp of the conservative majority before the new Congress.

Trump savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall for months. Last week he said he would be “proud” to close down the government. He had campaigned on the promise of building the wall, and he also promised Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused to do so.

In recent days, though, Trump tried to shift blame to Democrats for not acceding to his demand. He has given mixed messages on whether he would sign any bill into law.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Pence on Saturday at the request of the White House, according to Schumer’s office. But the senator’s spokesman said they remained “very far apart” on a spending agreement.

Schumer said the “Trump shutdown” could end immediately if the president simply dropped his demand for money. “If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall,” Schumer said.

Democrats said they were open to other proposals that didn’t include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.

But Trump, digging in, tweeted about “the crisis of illegal activity” at American’s southern border is “real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall.”

Senators approved a bipartisan deal earlier in the week to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for “caving” on a campaign promise, he pushed to House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall.

The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

Those being furloughed included nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service were to stay home; many parks were expected to close.

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded and will operate as usual. Also still functioning were the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers continued to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers were on the job.


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