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Walk Off the Earth band honours Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor at massive memorial concert

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As they’ve done time and time again through the years, Walk Off the Earth performed to an adoring crowd in Burlington, Ont., Sunday night — but this time, one member’s absence weighed heavy in the air. 

The band was there as part of a concert to honour the life of keyboardist Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, who died of natural causes in his sleep on Dec. 29.

Thousands of people packed Burlington’s Civic Square to pay their respects, and catch a glimpse of the band performing for the first time without the 51-year-old father of two.

“Music heals,” vocalist Sarah Blackwood said. “We’re hoping that eventually, over time, it will help us keep his memory alive and bring him with us on the road, and bring him with us in all the music that we continue to make.”

It was an emotional night, with tears staining the cheeks of the band and audience members alike, as they huddled together in frigid temperatures.

The band said Taylor died ‘peacefully from natural causes … in his sleep.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The indie pop group was joined onstage by several juggernauts of Canadian music, including members of Arkells, Barenaked Ladies, Monster Truck, Saint Alvia, Scott Helman, USS and The Dare Nots.

Many spoke of Taylor’s passion for music and community, and thanked the crowd for being there to support the band and his family.

Shawn Kelly and his family came to Burlington from Niagara to catch the show, and have seen the band several times.

“They’ve just been like a really big part of our family, and the fans are like a big family themselves,” Kelly said.

“So when you lose one of your own, you want to come out and pay your respects.”

Walk Off the Earth exploded on YouTube with a cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know back in 2012. It featured all the band’s members playing the track on one acoustic guitar, and has since been viewed more than 185 million times.

The band has also released several singles and EPs, with the most recent being Subscribe to the Holidays, which came out last November.

Many in the crowd at Sunday’s show held candles. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

The band won a Juno in 2016 for group of the year, and has also won a CASBY Award, Canadian Radio Music Award, and a Streamy Award.

As the band’s star rose, Walk Off The Earth never forgot the city where it got its start, said Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. She told the crowd that Taylor, who was a hockey coach and ran a freight company, will be the honourary recipient of the first “key to the city” program in Burlington’s history.

Members of Walk Off the Earth watch a video of Taylor at the tribute concert in his honour held in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

“Walk Off The Earth and Mike never forgot us, and never forgot their roots,” she said.

“We will never forget the legacy he left.”

Next month, the band is embarking on the first leg of a world tour that was planned before Taylor died. The first show is scheduled for Truro, N.S., on Feb. 9.

Arkells frontman Max Kerman joined The Barenaked Ladies for a rendition of the band’s hit, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time.’ (Adam Carter/CBC)

The band said it isn’t planning on immediately replacing Taylor. His keyboards stood untouched on stage throughout the show Sunday night, covered in candles to mark the man who was on everyone’s minds.

“I think we’ve all taken a moment to slow down and think about what means most to us. Think about family, think about what we’ve done, and what legacy we’re going to leave,” said Joel Cassidy, the band’s drummer.

The candle-lit keyboards of Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor during a Walk Off The Earth Memorial & Tribute Concert in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

“The one bit of comfort I’ve found in this is he lived life to the absolute max. He really did live life like every day was his last, and he left an incredible legacy.”

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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City staff propose ‘gold belt’ to hem in future Ottawa development

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The City of Ottawa is about to have a second marathon debate about where to allow future suburbs to be built, and this time staff propose hemming in development by creating what’s being dubbed the “gold belt.”

Eight months after city council decided to expand the urban boundary by 1,281 hectares to help house a growing population, senior city planners have released the map of which properties should be developed — and which property owners stand to see values soar if their lands are rezoned. 

They include areas north of Kanata on March Road, near the future Bowesville O-Train station in the south end, and at the southern edge of Orléans.

Scoring rural properties on such things as how close they are to transit and how costly it would be to build pipes and roads proved a challenge over the past several months, however.

“The easy land has been gobbled up in years past, in previous boundary expansions,” said Coun. Scott Moffatt, who belongs to a group of councillors that meets about the new official plan. “So now we’re looking at those leftover pieces and where we can [grow], knowing council was clear we would not be touching agricultural lands.”

270 hectares short of goal

Staff struggled to come up with all 1,281 hectares council approved adding in May 2020 because they had too many issues with “sub-optimal” lands.

Instead, they recommended converting 1,011 hectares of rural land to urban for now to meet provincial requirements, and then spending the next five years studying three options for making up the 270-hectare shortfall.

That opens the door to creating an entirely new suburb. 

For instance, one option involves a huge parcel near the Amazon warehouse southeast of the city where the Algonquins of Ontario envision a community of 35,000 to 45,000 people called Tewin, which they would build with developers Taggart.

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How an Ottawa woman built a majestic snow dragon in her front yard

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OTTAWA — You may sometimes feel winter drag on, but one Ottawa woman is not letting that dim her creativity.

Dr. Mary Naciuk is family doctor and rural emergency room physician. She spent some of her free time this weekend building a majestic snow dragon in front of her south Ottawa home.

“It’s just fun to get outside and do something creative,” she told CTV News on Sunday.

There was plenty of snow to use, after Ottawa saw a record 21 cm of snow on Saturday.

She said that after her husband cleared the driveway, the pile of snow left behind lent itself to being turned into a magnificent dragon, but it takes more than just the right kind of snow to make a sculpture like this.

Naciuk tells CTV News a shovel, a butter knife, a spoon and even a blowtorch were used to give the dragon its sharp edges and defined scales.

“Anything pointy with a small detail is really hard to do with just your fingers or the butter knife and spoon I was using, so (the blowtorch) just makes a fine point,” she said.

Her son tweeted about it on Saturday and Naciuk says many people have stopped to take a look.

My mom has reached the pass me a blowtorch and shovel and watch me make a snow dragon stage of the pandemic

(I was only allowed to shovel piles of snow) pic.twitter.com/aphZotpHiC — Tom Naciuk (@NaciukThomas) January 16, 2021

“A lot of people stop on their way to the ice rink and have a look and take pictures. It’s kind of fun,” she said.

It was a welcome relief to spend some time working on something creative outdoors, Naciuk said.

“Get outside, get some exercise, clear your mind, do something that is not COVID for a few hours. It obeys all the rules. It was great,” she said, adding that the dragon took her about five hours to build.

She’s been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for months. 

“It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s been exhausting,” she said. “A lot of the time is learning how to deliver care to people and maintain all the precautions that we need to. That’s been hard. A lot of people are not able to work from time to time, so we fill a lot of extra shifts. It’s been a lot more hours of work than it used to be, that’s for sure.”

Naciuk returns to work on Monday after a weekend of respite but says if the conditions are right—a nice mild day, a good snowfall, and some free time—another sculpture may well appear.

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Keeping the vaccines flowing, staying at home, and a new American President: Five stories to watch this week

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OTTAWA — The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa continues, but there are questions about supply. How are police and bylaw handling the new stay-at-home order? And, a day of prayer for a beloved spiritual leader.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at five stories to watch this week.

Vaccine rollout continues

Residents of Ottawa will continue to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines but there are new questions about how much supply the city will have.

Last week, it was announced that Pfizer would be cutting shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada in half over the next month because of an expansion of its European factory. That means it’s unclear how many additional doses Ottawa will be receiving in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, Mayor Jim Watson told the CTV News at Six that between 5,800 and 6,000 doses were expected in the city on Tuesday, but now he’s unsure if that will be delivered.

The City’s vaccination teams have visited all 28 of the city’s long-term care homes and are expected to begin working with residents and staff of the city’s high-risk retirement homes soon.

Will COVID-19 cases keep climbing?

It has now been three weeks since the provincewide shutdown began in Ontario and it remains to be seen if Ottawa’s curve will start to bend toward lower rates.

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa more than doubled in the first two weeks of January and the number of people in hospitals nearly quadrupled. However, the number of new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period has been slowly dropping in the past few days.

It is still too early to tell whether the stay-at-home order that came into effect on Jan. 14 has had any effect on transmission.

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