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Spiders invade Royal Botanical Garden during kid-friendly exhibit

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HAMILTON — Roses and lilacs aren’t yet in bloom but nature enthusiasts can escape the winter cold by visiting a spider exhibit making its Canadian debut this week at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Spiders Alive, developed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, runs through mid-April.

Seventeen species of arachnids will be on display at Canada’s largest botanical gardens near Hamilton, Ont. In addition to live critters, the show will feature a 100-million-year-old spider fossil, bilingual days, a climbable spider model for kids, a children’s pyjama party and an after-dark adult social.

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to visit the exhibit, which follows one last year that focused on frogs.

The winter exhibit is part of the botanical gardens’ efforts to cater to families with young children, says spokesman Nick Kondrat.

“Hopefully they develop a relationship with the Royal Botanical Gardens and see all the other things we do and ultimately develop a lifelong appreciation for nature and the natural world and the environment,” he said in an interview.

Admission includes entry to the indoor atrium and Mediterranean Garden that features plants currently in bloom as well as four formal gardens within the 1,100 hectare nature reserve and 32 kilometres of nature trails that welcome leashed dogs.

The vast property situated within the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve is a frequent stop for migratory birds, making it a coveted spot for bird watchers, photographers and artists.

Come spring time, the outdoor gardens begin buzzing with visitors looking at blooms ranging from tulips to lilacs and roses.

The RBG has one of the most diverse lilac collections in the world and the rose garden underwent a $3-million rejuvenation last year to introduce hardy varieties that bloom from mid-June throughout the summer.

The gardens also feature a summer music series, Shakespeare at the rock garden, culinary events along with a pumpkin trail and Christmas displays attractive to children.

Outside groups were contracted last year to conduct concerts in the arboretum, a vast area that is home to dogwood, cherry, magnolia, lilac and native trees.

“You’re not going to get a concert venue with that kind of scenery in very many other places,” said Kondrat.

The not-for-profit facility receives funding from the province, city of Hamilton and Halton Region.

The gardens is the only one in Canada with a royal connection. King George V granted a royal charter in 1930 as it changed its name from Westdale Park.

“We’ve really done a lot of work to try to make sure that this is a year-round kind of event facility beyond just the horticultural collections that we have been known for over 80 years.”

It has a mandated educational component and offers courses for all ages, camps and school programs. It is a conservation leader, helping to eradicate much of the carp from the marshland of Cootes Paradise which flows from Lake Ontario. It also works on turtle recovery to prevent roadside deaths.

Although Hamilton is known as a steel capital and industrial city, the gardens offer free access to greenspace used daily by residents and Borer’s waterfall, one of several accessible in the Hamilton area.

“A lot of people who haven’t made their way down here are surprised to see how many beautify natural areas that we actually have.”

If you go:

Dates: Jan. 19 to April 14

Venue: The Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, on the border between Hamilton and Burlington, Ont.

Prices: Adults $18, youth/student/senior $15, child 4-12 $10, child under 4 free; Free with membership except Spiders After Dark.

For more information: https://www.rbg.ca/

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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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