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‘Van life’: While most seek out sun, these people chase the cold

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On a recent fall night in Saskatoon that dipped well below 0 degrees, Jesse Boldt slept without a heater in the converted Dodge cargo van he chooses to call home.

Wearing two hoodies and tucked under six blankets next to his dog Layla, Boldt felt alive.

“I felt like I was doing the right thing for myself,” he told CTVNews.ca in an email interview. “Sounds odd but I remember smiling underneath all my blankets and just feeling good. Like I was on the right path.”

The 30-year-old kickboxing instructor sold his home of nine years in April and moved into a van, which he spent $2,000 purchasing and renovating, with his 6-year-old kuvasz-German shepherd mix. But Boldt chose not to install either air conditioner or heater, and until recently he spent most cold nights in his van. It was part personal challenge and part competition.

“I thought I’d be in a heated garage all winter, but instead I decided to see how long I could last,” he said. Boldt has practiced cold endurance before and enjoys testing himself. “Plus, a fellow van-lifer told me she survived -15 without a heater… So my dumb a** had to beat her.”

Boldt is among a cohort of nomads who’ve adopted the increasingly popular “#vanlife” (an Instagram hashtag with more than 4.2 million posts). Some live in renovated Volkswagen Westfalias, others in souped up Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. No matter the hardware, the typical van life aesthetic is as follows: legs outstretched across a narrow bed dangling out open trunk doors to a beachside oasis, waves lapping a shoreline just steps from the rear tires.

But while most chase the sun, Boldt and a small fraction of van-lifers are practicing the lifestyle in different temperatures: the bitter cold.

“I enjoy doing things that are uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ve tried my best to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Boldt is the rare van-lifer who is public about his choice to go without heat in winter, because most spend hundreds if not thousands prepping their vans for cold conditions.

Recently married Collingwood, Ont., couple Madison McNair, 28, and Raynor Vickers, 33, who operate a mobile mechanic and outfitting business, spent about $1,200 on a diesel heater that Vickers installed himself under the passenger seat. It taps the fuel tank of their Mercedes Sprinter, but has only ever used as much as 1.5 litres of the 95 L tank to keep the van toasty. One night in -20 C was the biggest test.

“It was the first time our heater didn’t keep up,” said McNair. Though the heater didn’t technically pass the “test,” the temperature in the van only dropped from 22 C to 19 C. “The reality is 19 C is still very comfortable and very far from being a problem,” she said. On a recent night of -1 C temperatures in B.C., the heater conked out all together, but the temperature only dipped as low as 15 C inside the van before they got it working again.

“Far from being dangerous for us or our water system,” the couple wrote on Instagram. “We knew and prepared for the reality that things can and will break. Travelling with the replacement parts these heaters sometimes need is important for keeping repair times to a minimum.”

While Saskatoon’s Boldt has yet to install a heater of his own, he has been using a small space heater (with electricity offered by his gym or a friend) and calls it a “game changer.” Though it still might not be enough for the worst of winter. He’s well aware that temperatures can drop to -40 C in Saskatchewan, so he found someone who offered his heated garage for a monthly fee.

Boldt has been overwhelmed by the positive responses he received from people on Instagram and in person, and the outpouring of offers of spare bedrooms, laundry services and warm meals. For the most part though, he’s never accepted any of it.

“I figured I signed up for this life,” he said, “so I must fully embrace it.”

 

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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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