Prepare for ‘nasty’: Here’s a blow-by-blow of what to expect from today’s storm


Toronto is in for another blast of winter weather Tuesday.

There are 15 to 25 cm of snow and ice pellets in the forecast — plus high winds and possible freezing rain.

Here’s how the day may play out:

Midnight to 7 a.m. – The calm before the storm

It might not look like much in the morning.

The day will start cloudy and cool — but don’t be fooled. That snow is coming.

Meanwhile, the winds will be picking up to around 50 km/h, said Environment Canada meteorologist Ryan Rozinskis.

Can you work from home today? Environment Canada suggests postponing non-essential travel — the roads will soon be snow-covered, with near zero visibility at times.

Check to see if your office or school is open. Centennial College has already announced it’s closing all campuses for the day.

The snow should start in Hamilton and Kitchener around 6 a.m.

8 a.m. — It begins

The snow will start falling around 8 a.m. in Toronto — and it will be heavy from the start, said Rozinskis.

There will also be high winds, up to 80 km/hr, with the strongest gusts along the lakeshore.

That means the morning rush hour may be tough.

« We know there’s going to be an increased number of fender benders and crashes, » said Sgt. Brett Moore with Toronto Police. 

Slow down, he said on Twitter. And if you’re in a minor crash, get your car off the road. Officers will be tied up and won’t be able to quickly get to all accidents. 

10 a.m.

By now, the snow will be engulfing the rest of York Region and Durham.

The City of Toronto says it’ll be de-icing, salting and plowing as required during the storm. You can track the city snow plows here.

There will be high winds throughout the day, and it’s going to be « nasty, » said CBC Meteorologist Colette Kennedy. 

12 p.m. — The ice pellets cometh

Lunchtime might get a little painful.

The snow may transition to ice pellets at some point between noon and 3 p.m., Rozinskis said, depending on where you are in the GTA.

That means less blowing snow, but the road conditions will still be bad.

1 p.m. – Possible power outages

Be ready for anything on a storm day.

In case of power outages, Toronto Hydro says they’ll have extra crews at the ready on Tuesday.

2 p.m. — Chance of freezing rain

There’s also a chance of freezing rain later in the afternoon, Environment Canada says.

Along with ice pellets, the freezing rain could arrive between 2 and 7 p.m.

By now, the wind should be slightly weaker than Tuesday morning — but it’ll still be gusting as high as 60 km/h into the evening.

Areas farther west and south of Toronto, like Kitchener and Hamilton, will see longer periods of freezing rain, Rozinskis said.

7 p.m. — Hello snow, my old friend

The ice pellets will change back into snow at some point Tuesday evening.

That snow will last through Tuesday night into Wednesday, gradually becoming lighter, said Rozinskis.

10 p.m. — It ain’t over til it’s over

Rozinskis warns of  5 to 10 cm of snowfall on Tuesday night, and an overall total of up to 25 cm for the day.

And keep your hat on — winds around 60 km/h should last through the evening and into Wednesday.

The morning after

There may be periods of snow on Wednesday, but only up to 5 cm, Rozinskis said.

But the next day’s commute may still be rough.

Rozinskis recommends keeping up to date, as weather conditions change.


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Expect every year to be ‘awful’: Experts weigh how to protect B.C. public from wildfire smoke


If the last few years are any indication, wildfire smoke is becoming a fact of life in B.C. — and with that comes the inevitable questions about how it’s affecting our health.

As it turns out, the experts still have nearly as many questions as average British Columbians.

On Wednesday, scientists from across North America gathered in Vancouver at a workshop organized by the B.C. Lung Association to share what they’ve learned so far and what they still need to figure out.

One message came out loud and clear — the changing climate means we can expect longer and more severe fire seasons in the future, and we need to do what we can to protect public health.

« We need to go into every wildfire season expecting it to be awful, because if we do that then we’ll be ready for whatever comes at us, » Sarah Henderson, senior scientist at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, told the conference.

Henderson laid out some of the research findings. Living in smoky conditions during the wildfire season might cause lung irritation, trigger asthma and bring increased risk of dying from a stroke or from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

During the record-breaking summers of 2017 and 2018, researchers measured a 40 per cent increase in people needing Ventolin inhalers — commonly used for breathing problems — and an 18.6 per cent increase in doctor visits for asthma, Henderson said.

Millions in additional health care

Those poor health outcomes can impact society in other ways, too. When a group of researchers looked into the health effects of a 2001 wildfire that burned for seven days in Alberta, they estimated that smoke inhalation accounted for an additional $10-$12 million in health care costs.

But the actual contents of wildfire smoke and its effects on humans can vary widely depending on what type of tree or plant matter is burning, if the fire is smouldering or flaming, the weather conditions and distance from the fire.

And we don’t have enough information about how the smoke affects babies in utero, infants, pregnant women, or about the long-term effects of repeated exposure. 

« We know almost nothing about the mental health impacts, beyond anecdotes, » Henderson said.

The long-term effects are particularly concerning when it comes to those who spend their time closest to the source — the firefighters who head out to the front lines every summer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently studying a cohort of these men and women, but it’ll take a few more years before data is available, the conference heard.

Researchers are studying the long-term effects of wildfire smoke on firefighters. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

John Balmes, a professor at the University of California’s School of Public Health, pointed out that firefighters are often exposed to toxic gases that don’t reach the rest of the population, including carbon monoxide. At the same time, they generally don’t wear respirators or masks because the equipment isn’t practical for the job and can even melt onto their faces.

« We actually don’t have an effective way to protect the wildland firefighters, » Balmes said. « We need new technology. »

The overarching message of Wednesday’s meeting was that there’s an urgent need for more research and new strategies for mitigating damage to human health from wildfires.

« We need to change the conversation about smoke. There’s this deep desire for these things to go away and not come back again, » Henderson said.

« But we will have more bad wildfire seasons — we may have worse wildfire seasons. »


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Transit delays, icy roads, bus cancellations — expect a messy morning commute, Toronto


Expect a soggy commute this morning, as a flood watch posted by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority last night continues into the morning amid new snowfall.

TRCA posted at 10 p.m. on Wednesday that around as much as 20mm of precipitation had fallen throughout the day and gathered in shallow areas of the GTA. As temperatures are not set to drop below freezing until later today, additional snowmelt could mean that standing water levels continue to rise throughout the morning.

Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C by Thursday evening, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.
Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C by Thursday evening, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

In particular, the TRCA pointed out areas such as the Don Valley Parkway, Bayview Ave., and the GO Richmond Hill Line as low lying roadways that could be places to avoid on this commute.

Shuttle buses are currently operating from Eglinton to Union Station to assist with a service delay southbound at Museum Station

In response to the weather, all school buses in Dufferin County have been cancelled due to icy road conditions. Buses for Durham District School Board and Durham Catholic District School Board have been cancelled in Zone 1, 2 and 3.

Several city bus routes are affected as well and are being forced to detour. The 32 Eglinton West bus is not stopping westbound at Mayfair Rd. due to weather conditions, and 47 Lansdowne is detouring north through Davenport Rd. and Caledonia Park.

Environment Canada says that periods of snow will continue throughout the morning before tapering off, with only a 40 per cent chance of flurries later on in the day. By the evening, Environment Canada says temperatures will drop to a low of -9 C, and then -18 C with the wind chill overnight.


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Your tax bill could change in 2019. Here’s what to expect.


A whole host of federal tax changes come into effect in the new year. Some will hit your paycheque, others your bills — and if you’re a small business owner, there are a couple of changes coming for which you’ve likely been preparing for months.

Starting in January, Canadians’ Canada Pension Plan contributions increase from 4.95 per cent to 5.1 per cent on earnings between $3,500 and $57,400. It’s the first of five years of graduated increases running until 2023, when the rate will reach 5.95 per cent.

The increases are going to pay for what eventually will be an enhanced CPP. The Quebec Pension Plan will see similar changes.

« You can think of it as a cost right now, but you’re actually going to be contributing toward an enhanced Canada Pension Plan benefit over time, ultimately leading to a higher amount of pensionable earnings, » said Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning with CIBC.

« So you’re actually going to get something in return for that extra contribution. »

Partially offsetting that increased CPP contribution on your paycheque will be a drop in Employment Insurance premiums, from $1.66 to $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings.

2019 also will be the first tax year when low income workers can qualify for a more generous Canada Workers Benefit, a program intended to help the working poor stay employed.

The maximum benefit will increase by between $300 and $400, based on whether the applicant is single or part of a family. That brings the maximum benefits to $1,355 for a single person or $2,335 for a single parent or couple, depending on personal incomes.

However, as 2019 is the eligibility year, low income workers will have to wait until 2020 to get the boosted benefit.

Experts say more than half of Canadians who live in poverty are working.

« Gone is this idea, I hope … that people live in poverty because they just need to find a job, they need to pull up their boot straps and get off their couch, » said Michele Bliss of the non-profit advocacy group Canada Without Poverty. « That idea is so antiquated. »

Small business tax changes

One of the big news stories of the past year and half has been the changes the federal government is making to small business taxes. The most controversial change affects the rules on how much passive income an incorporated small business can hold.

Passive income is money earned in interest on funds that sit idle within an incorporated business, without being reinvested or used to cover operating expenses. As of January 1, business owners can hold up to $50,000 in passive income before they start to lose access to the advantageous small business tax rate.

Small businesses pay a relatively low tax rate — currently 10 per cent — on the first $500,000 of business earnings. But staring in January, if those businesses hold in excess of the new limit on passive income, some of that first half-million in earnings will be subjected to the much higher corporate rate, depending on how far over the new limit they are.

The federal government’s goal is to encourage business owners to reinvest their passive earnings into their businesses, or into hiring more people, rather than sitting on the cash.

« I think a lot of small businesses are still unaware that some of the changes are coming, » said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

« In fact, that’s one of my biggest worries. I think a lot of firms are sitting ducks for the Canada Revenue Agency. »

However, the small business tax rate is going down from 10 to 9 per cent in 2019 — a move long promised by the Liberal government, one that many saw as an attempt to placate a small business community angered by the passive income changes.

« But the passive investment increases are going to eclipse any reduction in taxes that a small business might feel, » said Kelly.

Still, the federal government estimates the average small business — one that has eligible business income of $107,000 — will keep an extra $1,600 per year after the cut.

And for some really small businesses — especially those not incorporated and with no passive income to worry about — that tax cut will be very welcome.

« 2018 was actually one of the toughest years we’ve had. We sell a niche product that’s been copied and is now sold in box stores. So we’re competing with a lot of big businesses here, » said Katrina Barclay of Malenka Originals in Ottawa. Her store refurbishes outdated furniture with a special chalk paint.

« At the end of the day, at the end of the month, if there’s a little bit of extra money left over that we can reinvest into the business, then it definitely helps. »

Higher prices at the pump

Possibly the most politically charged tax change coming in 2019 is Ottawa’s new carbon pricing system. In jurisdictions that don’t have carbon pricing mechanisms of their own, Ottawa will levy a tax on fossil fuels of $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions starting in the new year, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Emissions over set limits from large, industrial emitters in provinces without carbon pricing systems will fall under the federal governments carbon pricing rules starting in January. For consumers, the cost of fossil fuels and the services they support will start going up in April.

The government estimates that, once the carbon tax is in place in the provinces where it will be imposed, the cost of a litre of gasoline will go up 4.42 cents, natural gas will go up 3.91 cents per cubic metre and propane will go up 3.10 cents a litre.

People in those provinces will get direct rebates to offset the increased costs. The amount will vary based on the province and the number of people in the household. In Ontario, for example, the rebate for the average household (defined as 2.6 people) would be about $300 a year, or about $248 in New Brunswick, or $336 in Manitoba, or $598 in Saskatchewan.

« I think the government has designed this system in a way that will prevent us from getting a big ding from the carbon pricing system, » said Nick Rivers, Canada Research Chair in Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Ottawa.

In Yukon and Nunavut, consumers will see the cost of fossil fuels rise due to carbon pricing — but because the territories themselves are adopting the federal system, the revenue will go to the territorial governments, not to individual households.

Other tax and price changes coming:

Postage stamp prices are set to increase.

Many personal income tax credit and benefit amounts are being indexed to inflation:

  • The basic personal amount rises to $12,069
  • The annual contribution limit to tax-free savings accounts will increase to $6,000 from $5,500


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What to expect at Wanzhou Meng’s bail hearing


VANCOUVER—Whether or not Huawei executive Wanzhou Meng is a flight risk will likely make up the bulk of the arguments presented at a bail hearing scheduled at B.C. Supreme Court Friday morning, according to a Vancouver immigration lawyer.

Lawyer Richard Kurland said it’ll be up to Meng and her legal team to prove she is not likely to flee Canada if she is released from custody. Meng is being sought by the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District of New York office to face unspecified charges after being detained while transferring planes in Vancouver on Dec. 1.

Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is seen in a portrait photo. (Huawei via AP)
Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is seen in a portrait photo. (Huawei via AP)  (Huawei)

Kurland said the review of whether or not Meng should remain behind bars while awaiting a later hearing to determine her extradition will likely take weeks. The extradition hearings themselves could take years depending on whether there are appeals, he said.

“You’ll have a burden to demonstrate you’re not a flight risk and that you’re going to comply with the process. The way it’s typically done is the person engages, at their own expense, 24-hour security, private guards that monitor them independently,” Kurland said.

“Second, you’ll also put together electronic monitoring and you need a place (to stay). So you have to have a residence where all of this is possible.”

“In the systems I know, someone like this would be highly likely to be in custody while their matter is being adjudicated. They’re such a flight risk, and because we know that if she leaves Canada, she’ll go to China and she’ll be beyond the reach of process,” Cunningham said.

“I would be shocked if she were released on bail.”

Meng is listed as the deputy chairwoman and chief financial officer of Huawei and is the daughter of Zhengfei Ren, the founder of the company. China’s embassy in Ottawa opposed the detention and called for Meng’s “personal freedom” to be restored.

The Canadian Extradition Act requires that a person must be facing charges for an offence considered criminal in both Canada and the country seeking extradition. It’s anticipated that the offence Meng is accused of could be revealed during the bail hearing. However, the Globe and Mail has reported that Meng is facing allegations she violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Cunningham suspected Meng’s arrest could be seen as a warning against those who defy U.S. sanctions, which cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors.

“Within the Trump administration, there are powerful cross-currents here,” he said. “Because they very much want to punish Iran by limiting trade with Iran, and by punishing companies that violate those sanctions.”

But the move could also have repercussions with Canadian-Chinese relations.

“I could imagine the Chinese government could be putting a great deal of pressure on the Canadian government,” Cunningham said.

“There’s a big disagreement right now between the U.S. and its closest allies, I believe Canada being one of them, over how to interpret what sanctions ought to be enforced against Iran and what sanctions should not.”

Kurland, meanwhile, wonders whether Canadian business interests in China may be the target of any retaliation by the Chinese.

“Is it riskier (now) for Canadian business people to visit China? What if China decides to retaliate with the nab and grab of a senior Canadian business person in China? Now what?” Kurland said.

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: perringrauer

Jeremy Nuttall is the lead investigative reporter for StarMetro Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports

Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours

Joanna Chiu is assistant managing editor of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu


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Sinkhole closes busy street in Davisville, expect commuting delays


A large sinkhole in midtown Toronto has closed down a busy street, Toronto police say.

Listed as a hazard, police say a large sinkhole formed near the intersection of Eglinton Ave. E. and Mt. Pleasant Rd. overnight. Large puddles of water could be seen forming over the sinkhole outside alongside lifted pavement, sectioned off by pylons.

Eglinton Ave. is closed in both directions between Mt. Pleasant Rd. and Taunton Rd.

According to a series of tweets, the Toronto Transit Commission says Routes 34 and 54 are experiencing detours both east and westbound via Cardiff Rd. and Roehampton Ave., off of Mt. Pleasant Rd. due to a watermain break, which formed the sinkhole. Routes 334 and 354 will also see detours in both directions until the watermain outbreak is contained.

311 Toronto has been advised, police say. Drivers should expect the closure to last through the morning rush on Tuesday.

This sinkhole marks the second sinkhole in two days, with the other on lower Bayview Ave. and Dundas St.

Emerald Bensadoun is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @twerk_vonnegut


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RCMP expect massive spike in blood test requests with new impaired driving law


The RCMP are expecting to see their national forensic labs flooded with blood test requests over the next four years as Canada’s new impaired driving laws mature.

The force’s National Forensic Laboratory Services operation (NFLS) receives bodily fluid samples, including blood and urine, that require forensic toxicology analysis to hold up in court.

Bill C-46, in effect since Parliament passed it in June, introduced three new drug-related offences for drivers who have consumed drugs within two hours of driving. All of them require a positive blood test from a suspect before a Crown attorney can secure a conviction.

When RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki took over the top job earlier this year, she was warned those requests could increase 12-fold over the next four years.

Waiting longer for samples is only going to increase court delays.– Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association

« The RCMP estimates the volume of samples submitted to the NFLS for analysis and interpretation will increase to 6,400 by 2021-22, from the approximately 550 samples already submitted annually, » notes Lucki’s briefing book, obtained by CBC under access to information law.

The national lab service receives forensic service requests from across Canada — except from Ontario and Quebec, which run their own public forensic laboratories for provincial and municipal investigations.

Unlike the case of alcohol-impaired driving, which has seen an overall decline, « the number and rate for almost all drug-impaired driving violations has increased, » notes the briefing book.

« While the actual demand for forensic services and court support required for cases involving drug impaired driving is yet unknown, the RCMP anticipates a steady increase in drug impaired service requests over the next five years, » said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Marie Damian in an email to CBC News.

Court concerns

Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association, said an increase in sample requests likely will cause more court delays.

« That’s going to be completely unmanageable for the RCMP labs, » she said in an interview.

« There’s a significant wait time already for blood results in impaired driving investigations. If you increase 12-fold the number of cases that are being sent to the lab, you increase those delays 12-fold, and that has a huge impact on the administration of justice. »

Kyla Lee, founder of the Canadian Impaired Driving Lawyers Association. (CBC)

The RCMP say that, between April and September of this year, the average turnaround time for a routine toxicology service request connected to impaired driving was 130 days.

Both suspects and victims in impaired driving cases might have to wait longer to see where their cases stand if the RCMP labs are backed up, Lee said.

« Waiting longer for samples is only going to increase court delays, » she said.

« Any time you have an issue where there’s this long period of waiting, it raises certain kinds of scientific concerns about the reliability of the analysis and whether that analysis is viable as proof in court. »

Courtrooms across the country have been more conscious of delays since the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Jordan decision in 2016, which set limits on the amount of time defendants should be expected to wait between charge and trial. Since then, hundreds of criminal cases have been tossed due to unreasonable delays.

Robert Solomon, a law professor at Western University in London, Ont., and the national legal policy director for MADD Canada, said he expects to see an uptick in convictions.

« I think the recent amendments for drug impaired driving will improve the apprehension rates, and (to) the extent you improve the apprehension rates, you discourage driving after drug use. So that’s good, » he said.

So far, there’s nothing to suggest requests for lab testing of samples gathered under the new law have started flooding in.

During a media briefing earlier this month, government officials said they weren’t aware of anyone having been charged with one of the new offences

Estimate called into question

Damian said the RCMP based their 12-fold estimate on the experience in the United Kingdom.

« After increasing the amount of police officers who were trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired drivers, the U.K. had a 12-fold increase in bodily fluid samples submitted for toxicological analysis, » she said.

Lee was quick to point out that the U.K. has a different legal system.

« They don’t have the same rules around searches and seizures and constitutional rights that we do, » she said.

In preparation, the RCMP plan to set up next year a department within the lab dedicated to drug-impaired driving investigations, and expect to hire 26 additional full time lab employees by the spring of 2021. Their training is expected to take 15 to 18 months.

Lee said the force should have started the hiring process months ago.

« Frankly, I think they’ve been dragging their heels, » she said.

In 2012, the RCMP announced the closure of forensic labs in Halifax, Winnipeg and Regina as part of a plan to save $3.5 million a year and create a more efficient service, officials said at the time. (CBC)

Solomon said law enforcement will be playing catch-up for quite some time.  

« There are inherent limitations … fact is, we have no simple, fast, highly accurate way of screening large numbers of drivers for drugs. So there are technological limitations on our ability to enforce the law, » he said.

The RCMP closed their forensic labs in Halifax, Regina and Winnipeg in 2012 and consolidated labs in Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa.

The closures were expected to save the federal government $3.5 million per year.


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