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Extreme cold warnings blanket Western Canada as winter officially arrives

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Weather warnings or special weather statements are posted in every province and territory except Manitoba as winter storms or extreme cold usher in the official start of the season.

Environment Canada says wind chill values across all of Alberta and more than half of Saskatchewan will make it feel like minus 40 or colder, while some areas of northern Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories will endure wind chill of minus 50.

The cold is expected to continue through this week and the weather office says 20 daily low temperature records were set in Alberta Tuesday, along with three in Yukon, including a record of -49.2 C in Watson Lake, breaking a mark set 67 years ago.

Brian Proctor, a meteorologist with Environment Canada based in Alberta, said the chilly temperatures will remain in the Prairies for a few more days until some warm air is pushed across the Rockies, bringing more seasonable temperatures.

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“So really, we’ve probably got another day to two days of cold air on the Prairies and then we start to moderate things nicely for the Christmas season,” he said.

Alberta’s frigid temperatures this week prompted the province’s electrical system operator to declare a grid alert.

The daytime high Wednesday was -32 C in Grande Prairie, -27 C in Edmonton and -25 C in Calgary with overnight wind chills of -40 C.

The Alberta Electric System Operator recorded a new all-time peak demand Monday but continued extreme cold, high demand and an unplanned outage has resulted in the alert.

The body is preparing to use emergency reserves to meet demand and is asking consumers to reduce electricity use or face rolling brownouts.

The arctic front pushing frigid air south also extends over British Columbia, where most of the province is shivering under extreme cold or arctic outflow warnings as a high-pressure system shoots icy air from the Interior outward to the coast.

More than a dozen daily minimum temperature records were set Tuesday in B.C., including -47 C west of Williams Lake, while the arctic outflows were numbing usually balmy areas such as Victoria and Metro Vancouver where wind chill values were forecast to reach -20 C.

BC Housing opened emergency warming centres in communities across the province as concern grew that the extreme conditions could be deadly for the province’s vulnerable residents.

The City of Vancouver plans to keep additional shelter spaces open through Thursday at more than a dozen locations.

Nicole Mucci with the Union Gospel Mission, which advocates for the homeless in Vancouver, said deaths have occurred in each year that the city has had a major snowfall or deep freeze as homeless residents use candles or space heaters to stay warm.

“That is something that concerns us deeply,” Mucci said.

“Nobody should have to choose between potentially freezing to death or putting their life at risk to stay warm.”

Face-to-face exams were cancelled for a second day in a row at the University of Victoria.

The University of B.C., Simon Fraser University and the B.C. Institute of Technology were operating as scheduled Wednesday after cancelling in-person exams on Tuesday.

In Ontario, Environment Canada issued special weather statements for the entire southern half of the province and parts of the north ahead of a storm expected later this week.

It said southern Ontario was expected to see rain or snow late Thursday that could transition to rain in many areas early Friday, after which temperatures are expected to plunge, leading to a potential flash freeze.

Blizzard conditions are possible late Friday into the weekend for areas downwind of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in southern Ontario.

In northern Ontario, snowfall is expected to begin Thursday in areas near Lake Superior and will reach James Bay on Friday.

Much of Quebec is covered in either a winter storm warning or watch.

Environment Canada says a major weather system will reach the province Thursday evening bringing with it significant snowfall, very strong winds and blowing snow.

Between 15 and 30 centimetres of snow are expected Thursday night and into Friday morning. By end of day Friday, as much as 40 centimetres of snow may have accumulated in some locations.

Areas near the St. Lawrence River will receive less snow but precipitation will change to rain, making freezing rain a possibility in that area Thursday night and Friday morning.

Drivers are being asked to consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve.

— with files from Bill Graveland and Brenna Owen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2022.

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UPEI students offered $1,500 to leave residence during Canada Games – CBC.ca

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Some UPEI students are earning extra money during the mid-semester break this year, simply by packing up and leaving campus. 

The 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society offered $1,500 each to students living in Andrew Hall if they give up their residence rooms to make space for arriving athletes. 

The students have to leave a few days before the break starts, on Feb. 17, and can return March 7. They also had to give up their meal plan for the duration.

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Many athletes are staying at UPEI’s new 260-bed residence, built to meet accommodation requirements for the Games’ temporary athlete village.

But Wayne Carew, chair of the Games, said there are 120 more athletes coming than originally planned. 

A portrait of a man standing outside, wearing a jacket with the Canada Winter Games logo.
Organizers want the athletes all to stay on the UPEI campus so they can have ‘the experience of a lifetime,’ says Wayne Carew, chair of the 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“We ended up getting 44 rooms [in Andrew Hall] and that’s great,” said Carew.

He said the athletes staying at UPEI “are going to have a wild experience on the campus of the beautiful University of Prince Edward Island.” 

Carew said the costs of doing this are a “lot cheaper” than arranging accommodations elsewhere. But he said the main reason is to provide all athletes the same, “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

“Where they live, the food and the camaraderie and the experience of a lifetime: that’s what they’ll remember in 20 years’ time about P.E.I.,” he said.

‘Pretty good deal’

Some students were eager to take the organizers up on their offer.

“I’m going away to Florida during the two-week break anyways. So I was like, ‘May as well let them use my room then,'” said Hannah Somers. 

Portrait of a man in a toque and a grey sweater standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Benji Dueck is moving in with a friend during the Canada Games so he can get the $1,500 offer. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“It’s $1,500. Pretty nice,” said Benji Dueck, who agreed to vacate the room with his roommate.  “We’re moving out, living with a friend in the city. So, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”

As part of the agreement, the students had to clear out their rooms. Canada Games organizers made arrangements so students could store their belongings.

But not all students thought it was a good deal.

Portrait of a woman in a black down jacket standing in front of a residence hall.
UPEI student Maria de Torres won’t be leaving residence during the Canada Games. ‘It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic,’ she says. (Tony Davis/CBC)

“I’m not giving up my spot in Andrew Hall for $1,500,” said Maria de Torres. “It’s just too hard to pack up. It’s just too hectic. And since I’m an international student, I got a lot [of things] right now.”

Shelby Dyment is also staying in Andrew Hall. Dyment said she and her roommate are working as residence life assistants during the mid-semester break and she’s also doing directed study, so she has to stay on campus.

“There’s a lot of people doing it. It’s just for our situation it just wasn’t working for what we were doing,” she said.

In a statement, UPEI said that enough students had accepted the offer to host all the athletes. 

It said the host society made all the arrangements with the students, including paying for their incentives and arranging for storage.

Organizers expect about 3,600 athletes, coaches and officials to participate in the Games. The event will run from Feb. 18 to March 5.

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Germany won't be a 'party to the war' amid tanks exports to Ukraine: Ambassador – CTV News

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The German ambassador to Canada says Germany will not become “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine, despite it and several other countries announcing they’ll answer President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleas for tanks, possibly increasing the risk of Russian escalation.

Sabine Sparwasser said it’s a “real priority” for Germany to support Ukraine, but that it’s important to be in “lockstep” coordination with other allied countries.

“There is a clear line for Germany,” she told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday. “We do want not want to be a party to the conflict.”

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“We want to support, we want to do everything we can, but we, and NATO, do not want to be a party to the war,” she also said. “That’s I think, the line we’re trying to follow.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced this week Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks — with the possibility of more in the future — to Ukraine, along with Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

Canada first needed permission from Berlin to re-export any of its 82 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. After a meeting of 50 defence leaders in Germany earlier this month, it was unclear whether Germany would give the green light.

But following what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called “intensive consultations,” Germany announced on Jan. 25 it would send tanks to Ukraine, and the following day, Canada followed suit. It is now joining several other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland, which are sending several dozen tanks to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the tanks would allow Ukraine to “significantly strengthen their combat capabilities.”

“It demonstrates also the unit and the resolve of NATO allies in partners in providing support to Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile Sparwasser said Germany is “walking that fine line” of avoiding steps that could prompt escalation from Russia, while supporting Ukraine, and staying out of the war themselves.

“I think it’s very important to see that Germany is very determined and has a real priority in supporting Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and sovereignty,” Sparwasser said. “But we also put a high priority on going it together with our friends and allies.”

Sparwasser said despite warnings from Russia that sending tanks to Ukraine will cause an escalation, Germany is within international law — specifically Article 51 of the United Nations Charter — to provide support to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is under attack has the right to self defence, and other nations can come in and provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself,” Sparwasser said. “So in international law terms, this is a very clear cut case.”

She added that considering “Russia doesn’t respect international law,” it’s a more impactful deterrent to Russia, ahead of an expected spring offensive, to see several countries come together in support of Ukraine.

With files from the Associated Press

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COVID: Canada retaining Evusheld – CTV News

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While Health Canada says it is “aware” of the U.S. decision to withdraw the emergency use of Evusheld, a drug by AstraZeneca used to help prevent COVID-19 infection— the agency is maintaining its approval, citing the differences in variant circulation between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Jan. 26 that its emergency use authorization of the drug was pulled due to its inefficacy in treating “certain” COVID-19 variants.

The FDA stated in a release on its website that as the XBB.1.5. variant, nicknamed “Kraken”, is making up the majority of cases in the country, the use of Evusheld is “not expected to provide protection” and therefore not worth exposing the public to possible side effects of the drug, like allergic reactions.

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In an email to CTVNews.ca, Health Canada said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled the drug as the main variant of concern in the U.S. is XBB.1.5.

“Dominant variants in the [U.S.] may be different from those circulating in Canada,” the federal agency said in an email. “The most recent epidemiological data in Canada (as of January 1, 2023) indicate that BA.5 (Omicron) subvariants continue to account for more than 89 per cent of reported cases.”

On Jan. 6 the FDA said in press release that certain variants are not neutralized by Evusheld and cautioned people who are exposed to XBB.1.5. On Jan. 26, the FDA then updated its website by saying it would be limiting the use of Evusheld.

“Evusheld is not currently authorized for use in the U.S. until further notice by the Agency,” the FDA website states.

On Jan. 17, Health Canada issued a “risk communication” on Evusheld, explaining how it may not be effective against certain Omicron subvariants when used as a preventative measure or treatment for COVID-19.

“Decisions regarding the use of EVUSHELD should take into consideration what is known about the characteristics of the circulating COVID-19 variants, including geographical prevalence and individual exposure,” Health Canada said in an email.

Health Canada says Evusheld does neutralize against Omicron subvariant BA.2, which according to the agency, is the dominant variant in many communities in Canada.

The drug was introduced for prevention measures specifically for people who have weaker immune systems and are unlikely to be protected by a COVID-19 vaccine. It can only be given to people 12 years and older.

“EVUSHELD is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended,” the agency’s website reads.

Health Canada says no drug, including Evusheld, is a substitute for vaccination.

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