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One man dead, 2 hurt in explosion at Nisku welding shop





A man in his 40s was killed and two other men were seriously injured in an explosion inside a welding shop in an industrial area south of Edmonton Thursday morning.

The blast occurred in Nisku around 8:15 a.m. MT inside Ja-Co Welding at 1304 8th St. in the Nisku Business Park. 

One man was found dead on scene, RCMP said.

A middle-aged man was transported to hospital in Edmonton in critical, life-threatening condition, Alberta Health Services said in a statement. 

Another middle-aged man was transported to hospital in stable condition, AHS said. 

RCMP previously reported that only two men were injured on scene. Police were not releasing the name of the deceased. 

“Leduc RCMP were called to a business in Nisku, [to] reports of an explosion on site there,” RCMP Const. Mike Hibbs told CBC News. “Upon arrival, they discovered a small fire.” 

Police said there was no concern for public safety, but members of the public were being asked to stay away from the area. 

An explosion at Ja-Co Welding in the Nisku Business Park killed a man in his 40s Thursday morning. Nisku is a hamlet and an industrial park within Leduc County, about 25 kilometres south of downtown Edmonton. (CBC News)

RCMP, firefighters, paramedics and investigators with Occupational Health and Safety remained on scene, police said in a news release around 10 a.m.

Leduc County fire Chief Keven Lefebvre said his crews were at the Nisku fire station about 2.5 kilometres away when they felt and heard the force of the blast.

“We were in the office talking about our daily duties, what was lying ahead for the day, and we felt a big thump in the area, shortly followed by a dispatch to this business,” Lefebvre said.

“We felt it and heard it in our building so it was a pretty significant explosion. Some of my volunteer on-call responders come from Beaumont and they said they felt it in Beaumont.

“It was a pretty good blast, you could hear it for miles.”

When firefighters arrived on scene the building had already been evacuated. 

Fire officials say the force of the blast could be felt more than two kilometres away. (CBC)

After a primary search, a decision was made to allow burning acetylene tanks to vent off, Lefebvre said.

“Once they burn off their contents there is less risk of explosion … so that’s what we’ve been doing for the last little while.

“Those tanks are burning down now. The fire is basically out.” 

Emergency crews were called to the scene of an explosion inside Ja-Co Welding, a welding and machine shop in Nisku, south of Edmonton. (Ja-co welding Website)

As of 11 a.m., the acetylene tanks had burned off almost all of their fuel and firefighters were preparing to turn the scene over to RCMP and OHS.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, Lefebvre said. Crews will remain on scene as required, he said. 

“The initial blast caused some pretty extensive damage so there won’t be anybody else going in here for a while until some engineers check the stability,” he said. 

Nisku is a hamlet and an industrial park within Leduc County, about 25 kilometres south of downtown Edmonton. 

According to the company website, Ja‐Co Welding is a 110,000 square-foot facility divided into fabrication shops, offices and a machine shop.


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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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