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Family, friends and colleagues mourn loss of Windsor firefighter

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Family, friends and colleagues are reeling from the loss of off-duty Windsor firefighter Wesley Orr.

Orr died Friday morning, just shy of his 26th birthday, in an accident at Blue Mountain Resort, his family said. 

According to a news release from provincial police, officers called to the popular tourist spot near Collingwood, Ont., found that a man had tried to climb the outside wall of a building on the resort’s property. He lost his footing and fell to the ground, police said. 

He was taken to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

“It’s honestly still pretty surreal,” said Dillon Orr, Wesley’s brother. 

He said relatives have gathered at the family’s farm in Tecumseh to be together during this “tough time.”

Left to right, Orr’s sister Erin, brother Dillon, sister Melanie, mother Louise, father Terry, and Wesley. (Submitted by Dillon Orr)

“When we were kids, I had a younger brother that was better than me at everything,” he remembered. 

“Any kind of sport, he was amazing in school, and anything he wanted he did right away, he was very adventurous.”

He explained that his brother had a habit of scaling buildings ever since they were teenagers, and that it was his “favourite thing to do.”

Dillon added that Wesley had been on his way to taking over the family’s trucking business while juggling his job as a firefighter. 

Fire services feeling the loss

Wesley joined Windsor Fire and Rescue Services in 2016. This year, he would have become a first-class firefighter. 

Fire Chief Steve Laforet says he was shocked to hear the news of Orr’s death.

“Any time you hear about the passing of a co-worker, of someone so young — just absolutely shocked and devastated.”

Fire Chief Steve Laforet says the service is reeling from the loss of Wesley Orr. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

He said the loss has impacted every person in the department. They have been expressing a tremendous amount of care and support toward Orr’s family and friends, he added. 

“He was well respected by his peers, by his officers. He had a passion for the job and he had a certain knack for customer service,” Laforet said. 

“He truly cared about people, and that came through on every call that he went on.”

‘Leaning on each other’

Keith Traquair, president of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association, echoed those words about Orr. 

“Good person, works hard, takes care of people,” he said. 

“All the basic attributes that we see in a firefighter or would like in a firefighter, he had them all.”

He said that local firefighters are all stunned by the news. 

Wesley Orr is remembered as a good person who was dedicated to his job. (Submitted by Dillon Orr)

“What we will do is we will sit around the table, some people might cry, some people will laugh,” he said.

“We’re going to lean on each other, and with that, by leaning on each other, we’ll be able to move forward.”

Condolences pouring in

Online condolences have been pouring in from the community, including from nearby fire stations.

Dillon Orr said the family deeply appreciates the words of support. 

“But because it’s been so soon,” he said, “and because it’s so much so quickly, it’s hard to process.”

Wesley Orr’s brother Dillon says he always succeeded at everything he tried to do, whether it be a sport or academics. (Submitted by Dillon Orr)

He said right now, the family is just taking time to be together and make funeral arrangements. 

Laforet said there is a funeral protocol that the service follows in these situations, and that the service’s involvement is up to Orr’s family. 

On Saturday, the flag outside of Windsor Fire & Rescue Services headquarters was at half mast in his honour. 

According to the OPP, an investigation into the death is ongoing and an autopsy will be scheduled in the coming days. 

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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