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Meet the Santas: Inside the holly jolly world of professional Kris Kringles

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Saint Nick isn’t the only white-bearded man gearing up for the holidays.

Across Canada, hundreds of professional Santas don the big red suit at malls, parties and private houses — inhabiting not only the clothes but the mystique of the magical man who delivers gifts to many millions of children around the world in a single night.

The appropriately named Ted Carroll, a Santa-for-hire based out of Halifax, says nothing beats seeing the smile on children’s faces when they see the man of the month on their doorstep.

“I’ve had kid pee themselves, I’ve had one kid say profanely, ‘Holy beep, it’s Santa Claus!”‘ said Carroll, 53, during a phone interview from his home in Halifax. “This stuff, if it doesn’t warm your heart or make you laugh, something’s wrong.”

While Santa is traditionally a Christian figure, Toronto professional Santa Kerry Burns said he’s been embraced by people from all sorts of different religious backgrounds, adding that the magic of Santa “transcends all sorts of different cultures.”

“I get to learn more about life by playing Santa than anything else, because you see people from all different walks of life,” said Burns, 56. “I get to see people every age, every nationality … all the externals disappear, and there’s just love in that moment.”

Burns, who’s been performing as a Santa for the past 15 years both in Toronto and his hometown of Halifax, said a good Santa needs to have three qualities: “You have to have the ho-ho-ho, you have to have the look, and you have to have the heart.”

The “heart” aspect is what matters most to Rozmin Watson, the “North Pole operations manager” with Hire A Santa.

The British Columbia-based company matches up eligible Santas with people holding parties and events. The company works with more than 100 Santas from across the country.

It also holds a one-day “North Pole Santa School” program each fall to help aspiring Santas get off the ground — without the help of a magic sleigh.

While looking the part is important, Watson said what really makes a good Santa is how passionate he is about his job.

“A lot of people say, ‘We want a real bearded Santa versus a designer bearded Santa,”‘ she said.

“But it’s not about their beards. It’s about what’s in their heart.”

For Carroll, it’s something of a family tradition: Carroll’s late father, who was a volunteer deputy fire chief in the Halifax-area community of Rockingham, used to perform as Santa during Christmas parties at the fire department and around the region.

When Carroll was in his mid-20s, his father asked him to dress up and attend an event in his place because he was sick, igniting a passion that led to Carroll “carrying the torch” by playing Santa Claus for the past 25 years.

In 2016, Carroll’s wife, Kim, created a Mrs. Claus costume so she could tag along.

“I was taking him to the different events, and I’d be sitting in the car and freezing my tushie off while he was inside,” she said. “One day it came in my head: What am I doing sitting out here when I could be having fun with him? So I made my own costume and away I went.”

The Carrolls used to mostly make house calls, but they’ve recently begun performing at charity events and Christmas parties. Ted estimates the couple saw close to 2,000 kids last year.

A couple of years ago, Carroll got to give a little girl the present she wanted the most: her father.

He was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and had been deployed overseas. He and Carroll devised a plan to surprise the girl.

“I put him in my extra Santa Claus suit, and when they weren’t looking, we switched places. She lost her mind,” recalled Carroll.

“I came back out after he took the beard and the wig off, and I said, ‘Santa did it all this year.’ The little girl just hugged onto her dad and cried tears of joy. I will never forget that.”

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LIFESTYLES

Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

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Top environment official urges Canadians to back Ottawa’s ambitious plans to tackle plastic trash

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The second in command at the federal Environment Ministry challenged Canadians to continue to speak up about the problem of plastic pollution and push elected officials, scientists and businesses to do more.

Quebec MP Peter Schiefke, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, made the comments online at Vancouver’s annual zero waste conference on Friday.

He said most Canadians want solutions to curb the tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic garbage that ends up as litter each year on the country’s beaches, parks, lakes and in the stomachs of animals. 

“Making sure that message is heard with industry stakeholders, elected officials and make sure that they are constantly putting pressure on it … so we notice that this is something that Canadians want, the backing of Canadians to go and undertake these huge challenges,” he said.

Schiefke filled in for  Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson at the last minute after Wilkinson was called away to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass one of the most expensive fares in Canada

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OTTAWA — OC Transpo’s monthly bus pass is one of the most expensive passes in Canada, and transit riders are facing another 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares on New Year’s Day.

Ahead of Wednesday’s Transit Commission meeting on the 2021 budget, CTV News Ottawa looked at the cost of a monthly adult bus pass at transit services across Canada. Ottawa ranks behind the TTC in Toronto, Mississauga’s “MiWay”, Brampton Transit and Vancouver “TransLink” Zone 2 access to the suburbs for most expensive transit fares in Canada.

The cost of an OC Transpo adult monthly bus pass is currently $119.50 a month.

The 2021 City of Ottawa budget includes a proposed 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares. If approved, an adult monthly transit pass will increase $3 to $122.50, while a youth pass will increase $2.25 to $94.50 a month.  The cost of an adult single-ride cash fare would rise a nickel to $3.65.

The TTC is the most expensive transit service in Canada, charging $156 a month for an adult fare. MiWay charges $135 a month, and the cost of an adult monthly pass with Brampton Transit is $128.

Metro Vancouver’s transportation network “TransLink” has three fare zones. The monthly bus pass cost for “Zone 1”, which covers Vancouver, is $97 for adults. The “Zone 2” fare, which covers Vancouver and the suburbs of Richmond and Burnaby, is $131 a month.

Edmonton Transit Service, which includes a Light Rail System with 18 stations on two different lines, charges $97 a month for an adult monthly bus pass.

An adult monthly bus pass in Calgary costs $109 a month.

The survey by CTV News Ottawa of transit fares across Canada shows Gatineau has higher transit fares than Montreal and Quebec City. The STO charges $99 a month.

A monthly adult bus pass costs $88.50 in Montreal and $89.50 in Quebec City.

The cheapest adult monthly bus fare is in Charlottetown, at $58.50 a month. A monthly bus pass in Whitehorse costs $62 a month.

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