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These are the creatures Canada has failed





Like almost everything else in 2018, the Living Planet Report Canada from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was bleak: of 903 monitored vertebrate species in the country, half are in decline. Of those, the average decline since 1970 is—you might want to take a year-end whisky shot here—a massive 83 per cent. Globally, some 26,500 bird, mammal, amphibian and other species are threatened with extinction, and more than 500 currently sit on Canada’s Species at Risk list. So where do conservationists begin? At the WWF, a select few are declared “priority species” worth extra attention. But choosing them can be a heartbreaking task, admits Emily Giles, senior species specialist with WWF-Canada. “Some are selected because of their ecological importance, significance to Canadians, representation of an issue or even social appeal,” she says—though really, any reason that will make Canadians notice, care and take action will do. Here are three species that the WWF wants you to know need help in 2019.

Spotted owl

For decades, the round, knowing eyes of the spotted owl have made it “a sort of poster child for anti-logging, since it’s so sensitive to the effects of industry in their old-growth forests,” says Giles. At last count, just six were spotted in the Canadian wild—and there are zero breeding pairs. “We’re getting to the point that, at any time, they’ll be wiped out of Canada,” she says—but maybe not if an upcoming captive-breeding program in Langley, B.C., sees success: “It’s a last-ditch effort to save the species from extinction. It’s expensive and labour-intensive and not guaranteed to work, but we have no other choices.” Once a species lands on the Species at Risk list, they typically do not come off. But typically is not never, Giles notes. “Conservation successes are few and far between, but they do happen,” she says, citing the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, both rescued through human effort, ingenuity and a sense of obligation.

A 3 year old female killer whale (Orcinus orca) and her cub in Puget Sound, Washington, U.S. (William W. Rossiter/WWF)

Southern resident killer whale

The world watched for 17 days last August as a mother orca carried her dead calf along the West Coast. Some much-needed context: J35, as she is known, is one of just 74 members of the southern resident killer whale pod, which hasn’t had a live birth since 2015. Their population is being decimated, explains Giles, due to their dependence on salmon they must share with a greedy species: humans. “Other orcas are generalists who’ll feed on different things; the southern residents primarily eat Chinook salmon, whose population is also in decline.” The WWF and others requested that Ottawa issue an emergency order for protection; the feds instead promised $60 million to help fund research and conservation in the New Year.

(Peter Mather)

Barren-ground caribou

Caribou also landed in the public consciousness this year when a last-resort conservation effort brought six remaining herd members to a rearing pen north of Revelstoke, B.C. Much farther north, though, are the barren-ground caribou, a subspecies of reindeer spread across Nunavut and the Northwest Territories that munch on lichen, grass and twigs. “Since the 1980s, the population of almost every caribou herd has declined, many by over 80 per cent and others up to 96 per cent,” says Giles. Threats are ample: habitat disturbance from the mining and oil industry, inaccessible food, changing migratory patterns and, of course, climate change. The Arctic is warming at twice the global average, and barren-ground caribou are particularly affected. These regal animals are a priority, too, for their special importance to Indigenous communities, who for generations have depended on them for food and clothing.



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Dreessen: Ottawa has to shed its image as a town that doesn’t like fun





Ottawa has long held a reputation as a place that fun forgot. People who live here know that there is a lot to love about the city: its history, the Rideau Canal, proximity to parks and rivers, excellent clubs, museums and galleries all make Ottawa a great place.

More spontaneous fun things are harder to come by. We’ve created a process that makes it hard for small businesses to thrive and where the process is more important than the outcome.

In 2016, a local artist planned to give away free T-shirts celebrating Ottawa 2017 on Sparks Street, until the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) asked him to move, squashing a fun event to bring people together.

In 2017, business proposals to the NCC executive committee made a business case to open cafés at Remic Rapids, Confederation Park and Patterson Creek. In the summer of 2020, two opened; the Patterson Creek location, opposed by neighbours, has yet to see the light of day, though the NCC website indicates it may happen in 2021.

In each case, the cafés are only open for a few brief summer months. Despite the fact that Ottawa celebrates itself as a winter city, we can’t, somehow, imagine how people might want to enjoy a café in the spring or fall, or during winter months while skiing along the river or skating along the canal. Keeping public washrooms open, serving takeout and, yes, using patio heaters, could make these cafés fun additions to our city for most of the year.

More recently, Jerk on Wheels, a food truck with excellent Caribbean chicken and two locations, has run intro trouble. The one on Merivale Road continues, but the Bank Street location in Old Ottawa South has to close. According to social media posts from the owners, despite the business having all permissions in place, local restaurant franchises of Dairy Queen and Tim Hortons have objected to its presence.

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Ottawa businesses frustrated with slower pace of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan compared to other provinces





OTTAWA — As Canada plots its roadmap to reopening, each province is choosing their own path to reopen the economy and lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some are moving towards loosened restrictions at a faster pace than Ontario, which is frustrating for business owners who say they are ready to receive customers safely.

Patio season is upon the city, and at Banditos Restaurant on Bank Street, owner Matt Loudon is staging the large outdoor dining area to prepare for the summer rush. But the patio will have to remain closed until at least June 14, when it is expected Ontario will move into Step One of the three-step Roadmap to Reopen plan

“I hope they push it up a little bit,” says Loudon. “It’s beyond frustrating all the other provinces are opening up before us, we’ve been locked down longer than anybody else.”

Loudon, who owns two restaurants, says their outdoor seating has always been safe and that they have invested in added measures like sanitization stations and personal protective equipment for the staff. Indoor dining will continue to remain off limits in Ontario until Step Three. When patios do open, tables will be limited to four people. 

Unlike British Columbia’s four-pronged approach that began May 25. Residents in the province are now allowed to dine both inside and out, with a maximum of six per table, not restricted to one household.

Quebec will enter into its first step Friday, where outdoor dining will be available for two adults and their children, who can be from separate addresses per table. This applies to red and orange zones in the province. The curfew will also be lifted. 

In Gatineau, hair salons opened their doors to customers last week. Ten minutes away at Salon Bliss in Ottawa, all owner Sarah Cross can do is hope she can reopen sometime in July.

“Most people think that government funding covers all the bills but it’s far from it,” says Cross. Her upscale salon has nine chairs and over the course of the pandemic, in order to comply with regulations and keep staff and patrons, safe, only three chairs can now be filled. She says the hardest part is that the rules constantly change and vary in each region, adding it doesn’t make sense how one is better than the other.

“Our livelihood is dependent on what the decisions are made and if they were aligned with one belief system then I think they would have the trust of the public to follow these protocols.”

Many Ontario business owners say it’s not only a matter of necessity they open, but can do so safely. Infectious disease physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti agrees, and says the province needs to expedite its timeline.

“Especially with the fact that we are in the post vaccine era,” says Chakrabarti.

“It’s important for us to remember that we have been following this case count very closely for the last year and certainly we’ve had some experiences with opening things, especially with the second and third waves we have to remember that as we go forward now vaccines are a huge difference maker to the situation. Cases may go up but that doesn’t mean the most important thing will go up which is hospitalizations.”

Chakrabarti says while people will still get infected with COVID-19, with the reduced risk of hospitalization in large numbers there is no reason to restrict the community. He says while it’s not time for packed stadiums, it’s also not time for lockdowns and Ontario should re-think its strategy.

“We have to faith in the vaccines. We have seen in the other parts of the world like Israel, the U.K.,and the U.S. our neighbours to the south,” says Chakrabarti. “They are very safe and effective and our ticket out of this pandemic. We really should be taking that.”

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$2.9 million tax break for Ottawa Porsche dealership receives the green ligh





OTTAWA — Ottawa city council has given the green light to a $2.9 million tax break for a new Porsche dealership in Vanier.

Council voted 15 to 9 to approve a grant under the Community Improvement Plan initiative to build a Porsche dealership at the corner of Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard.  The project by Mrak Holdings Inc., a.k.a. Mark Motors of Ottawa, would be built at 458 Montreal Road.

Under the Community Improvement Plan approved by Council, business owners can apply for a grant equal to 75 per cent of the municipal tax increase attributable to the redevelopment. A report says the goal of the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan is to “stimulate business investment, urban renewal and property upgrades in the area.”

Coun. Catherine McKenney was one of nine councillors who opposed the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“I agree with the Community Improvement Plan, but I know and what people see here is that this application does not meet the criteria,” said McKenney about the CIP proposal for the Porsche dealership.

“A car dealership, no matter whether it’s Honda, or a Porsche or a Volkswagen, it does not first off belong on a traditional main street. This does not the meet the criteria of a CIP, it will do nothing for urban renewal.”

Approximately 70 people gathered at the site of the proposed Porsche dealership Tuesday evening to oppose the tax grant.

Coun. Diane Deans told Council she doubted any councillors who supported the Community Improvement Plan when it was developed in 2019 thought it would support a luxury car dealership.

“I don’t think it fits. I don’t think a clear case has been made that this incentive is required for the Mark Motors project to move forward at all,” said Deans. “I don’t believe there’s a clear community benefit.”

Coun. Riley Brockington, Deans, Jeff Leiper, Carol Anne Meehan, Rick Chiarelli, Theresa Kavanagh, Keith Egli, McKenney and Shawn Menard voted against the tax break for the Porsche dealership.

“It will lead to a $17 million investment on Montreal Road, it will create about 20 jobs in that neigthborhood,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

Watson noted auto dealerships were not excluded from the Community Improvement Plan when approved by committee and Council.

A motion introduced by Watson was approved to use property tax revenue generated by the redevelopment for affordable housing.

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