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More than oilsands: Mayor has eye on new brand for Fort McMurray

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The mayor of Canada’s oilsands capital says one of his priorities for 2019 is changing the way Canadians look at Fort McMurray.

In the new year, Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott has set his sights on a charm offensive with Canadians.

When people talk about Fort McMurray, Scott wants people to think beyond oilsands mines and camps, and instead imagine family-friendly communities with world-class recreational facilities surrounded by more protected forests and parks than most communities in Canada.

“They know that we are the economic engine of Canada. They’ve heard of us. Some have positive views. Some don’t,” Scott said in a year-end interview with CBC. “If people saw the reality of how great this region is, I think they would have a much easier time believing that this is a place to live and invest.”

By getting out a better brand for Fort McMurray, Scott hopes to attract more investment and convince more people to move to the community rather than flying in and out for work.

Other oil patch boosters have taken more confrontational approaches — especially when it comes to getting a pipeline built that could take Fort McMurray’s bitumen to new foreign markets.

Political figures such as former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean recently called for a boycott of Quebec-made products after Premier François Legault said there was “no social acceptability” in his province for a “dirty energy” pipeline from Alberta.


WATCH former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean call for a boycott of Quebec products.


Earlier in 2018, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley issued an outright ban on British Columbia wine and passed the so-called “turn off the taps” legislation that would allow the province to cut off energy shipments to B.C.

Notley’s actions were sparked after B.C.’s made further attempts to block the Trans Mountain pipeline, arguing it posed environmental risks for the province.

Scott did not mention the tactics of others, but said he will be using a softer public approach in the hopes of changing hearts and minds

Meanwhile, he says he’s still working all political back channels, including meetings in 2018 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Notley.

“I think the advocacy by Albertans has really worked. When I travel and I talk to other Canadians they are much more familiar with the challenge right now,” Scott said. “And they are much more supportive of pipelines. I feel like we are heading in the right direction.”

Promoting the Fort McMurray brand will happen, in part, through the newly created Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation, which recently appointed Kevin Weidlich as the new CEO.

More goals for Mayor Don Scott in 2019

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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