As Environment and Climate Change Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips often says: “There’s never a shortage of weather stories in Canada.”
Once again, from coast to coast to coast, 2019 proved to be another record weather year for Canada.
Here are the top 10 weather events for Canada in 2019, compiled by Phillips.
1. Another record-setting Ottawa River flood
In the No. 1 spot is the spring flooding of the Ottawa River.
It was a perfect set-up along the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers: Temperatures were below normal for seven straight months — from October 2018 to April 2019 — meaning the ground never experienced the gradual thaw that often comes with spring, nor could it absorb any falling rain. Upstream, the heavy snowpack was unable to thaw, and the region experienced several rounds of heavy rains over five weeks.
On May 1, the Ottawa River swelled, breaking the previous record in 2017. More than 6,000 residents were flooded out of their homes in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., and hundreds more from Pembroke, Ont. to Sherbrooke, Que. not to mention the flooding of precious farmland. As a result, two people died.
2. Active hurricane season as predicted
The 2019 hurricane season was a particularly active one, just as the Canadian Hurricane Centre and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration had both forecast.
Post-tropical storm Erin was the first to reach Canadian shores, on Aug. 29. It triggered flash flooding, though it was a bit of a blessing to farmers who had endured a dry summer until then.
But it was Dorian that will be most remembered. The powerful Category 5 hurricane produced winds of 300 km/h over the Bahamas and lingered, almost at a standstill, for 24 hours. Eventually, it made its way to Nova Scotia, transitioning to a post-tropical storm with winds of 155 km/h. It knocked out power to nearly half a million people across Atlantic Canada. The Insurance Board of Canada estimated that Dorian caused $140 million to insured property, with most of it in Nova Scotia.
3. (S)no-good Prairie fall
The West is no stranger to early snowfalls, but 2019 turned out to be a dinger. At the end of September, Calgary experienced a harsh, early, snowy surprise. Over four days, 32 cm fell in the city, the greatest depth of snow left on the ground in 65 years.
Southern B.C. wasn’t left out of the snowy mess; 35 to 50 cm of snow was dumped across many mountain passes. And a few weeks later, it was Manitoba’s turn. From Brandon to Winnipeg, snow blanketed the area. States of emergency were declared in 11 communities and more than 6,000 people were evacuated from First Nations communities.
4. A brutal FFFFebruary in Canada
February is often thought of as the harshest month of winter, and 2019 certainly lived up to that expectation.
Though the planet was experiencing an El Niño event — a warming in a region of the Pacific that typically brings milder weather to parts of Canada — the Arctic air took an icy grip on the country and wouldn’t let go.
In B.C., along the coast, reaching into the Interior, it was 9 C below normal. In Calgary, February was the coldest month in 83 years. And southern Alberta could just forget about the Chinook: in 2019 it was 14 C colder than normal in the region.
Meanwhile, Toronto received a year’s worth of snow in January and February alone. And Atlantic Canada? The region experienced its coldest February in 25 years.
5. Record heat continues in Arctic
Unfortunately, nothing changed in the Arctic.
Once again, 2019 proved to be another record warm year. In September, the Arctic sea ice reached its yearly minimum at 4.15 million square km, the second-lowest on record, tied with 2007 and 2016.
“The North is the most important story,” Phillips said. “It will be the most important story of the century.”
And it wasn’t just the climate — it was the weather itself, he said.
On June 2, an EF-1 tornado was spotted near Fort Smith, N.W.T., just the fourth confirmed north of 60 degrees latitude in Canada. In mid-July the Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, recorded a searing temperature of 21 C — 14 C warmer than average. And on Aug. 10, there were several lightning strikes within 500 km of the North Pole, a true rarity indeed.
6. Too dry early, too wet later on the Prairies
While weather may just be an inconvenience to most people, for farmers it can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not.
And in the Prairies, farmers had to deal with some truly inconsistent weather in 2019.
Even before the growing season began, farmers struggled with some of the driest conditions since record-keeping began 133 years ago. Edmonton had its driest spring on record, Regina had its driest March and Winnipeg its driest first half of the year with a measly 91 mm of precipitation (its average is 235 mm from January to June).
But once the rains started, they didn’t stop.
Edmonton recorded 55 days of rain through June to August, tying for the most number of days since 1881. And it wasn’t just the rain: Alberta and Saskatchewan had an early, mid-September snowfall with more of the same — including rain — in October. As a result, many farmers lost large amounts of their crops.
7. How the Grinch stole…Halloween?
Sadly, instead of a treat, many children this Halloween received a nasty trick.
Unfortunately, for kids in the East, it was donning a snowsuit, carrying an umbrella or, well, no Halloween at all.
It was wet and windy in southern Ontario: the town of Stratford received the most with 109 mm of rain. In Port Colborne, winds topped 129 km/h.
Meanwhile, in Chibougamau, Que., 30 cm of snow fell. And there was snow and rain across Newfoundland.
But it was a delayed Halloween for 20 municipalities across Quebec, including Montreal, as the festivities were postponed by a day.
8. Spring missing in the East
Spring means longer days, the sight of green grass, budding trees and warmer weather. But that just wasn’t the case in much of Canada in 2019. And once again, it was the dreaded Polar Vortex who squelched our fun.
Across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin, it was the coldest spring in 22 years. By the end of May, less than five per cent of Ontario farmers’ crops had been planted.
In April, the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia had endured almost triple the month’s rainfall with some of the coldest soil temperatures in two decades.
In New Brunswick, Moncton’s average May temperature was almost three degrees colder than average. And once again, farmers felt the crunch across the region.
9. Saint John River floods again
Persistent rain and snow and a lack of thaw was behind the flooding of New Brunswick’s Saint John River once again.
At the New Brunswick-Maine border, the river had its largest stream flow in 67 years. In Fredericton, the river reached its peak at 8.37 metres, breaking 2018’s record, and coming in second highest after 1973.
It was particularly difficult for residents as they desperately tried to protect their property. Canada’s military was eventually called in to assist after 1,500 people were evacuated. Ultimately, 16,000 homes and buildings were damaged by floodwaters with 145 roads were shut down.
And while the province is no stranger to floods, Phillips points out that the last two floods — both the 2018 and 2019 ones — were considered to be once-in-a-hundred-year floods. However, the past year saw less of an impact than the year previous.
“There are lessons to be learned from some of these [stories], too, that we realize that the 100-year storm is becoming the 10-year storm,” Phillips said. “So we need to do things differently. We just can’t sit there and [say] ‘Oh,well Mother Nature is going to get us.’ We need to do something about it.”
10. Fewer fires, more burning
After an intense fire season in 2018, it was a fairly quiet fire season in 2019, with fires down 40 per cent across the country.
Roughly 422,000 lightning strikes were recorded in B.C. — which experienced its worst season in history in 2018 — far surpassing the average of 266,000. But the good thing is, it was accompanied by wet weather.
But it was Alberta that broke from the trend, where fires consumed an area roughly 14 times that of the average. It was the second-worst season on record. By the end of May, 10,000 people had been evacuated from their homes.
Ontario also experienced severe forest fires. In northwestern Ontario, forest fires caused poor air quality in several First Nation communities for almost two weeks, resulting in 2,500 residents being evacuated.
In the end
Phillips said there’s a message to be taken away from these weather events.
“There’s no region that I would say had the worst weather,” said Phillips. “It’s not new weather, though … it’s the same old weather that our grandparents talked about, but it’s just that the statistics are different: the frequency, the intensity, the out of season, out of place, anything like that that just seems to make it different than it was.”
And he reminds Canadians: “Mother Nature holds all the trump cards.”
Here is Phillips’ complete list of Top 10 Weather Stories of 2019 including a breakdown for regions across the country.
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world this week – CTV News
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week:
An official from the British High Commission in Ottawa will give an update on Brexit and discuss the implications for Canada in Calgary on Monday. Experts told The Canadian Press in November that a post-Brexit United Kingdom will present Canadian business with tremendous uncertainty over billions of dollars worth of trade and investments, as the U.K. represents one of Canada’s top five destinations for investments and top 10 markets for goods and services.
Interest rate decision
The Bank of Canada will make its interest rate announcement and release its monetary policy report on Wednesday. Positive December employment numbers from Statistics Canada have helped convince economists that the central bank will continue to keep its key interest rate on hold at 1.75 per cent, where it has been for more than a year.
Rogers Communications will hold its fourth-quarter conference call on Wednesday. Federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said last week that expected cuts to wireless rates by mobile-phone service providers must be in addition to price reductions already seen since 2016, a position described by an industry organization as “confusing.”
Statistics Canada will release its consumer price index for December on Wednesday. The agency’s previous report stated that inflation rose 2.2 per cent in November compared with a year ago to end a three-month streak where the annual pace of inflation had held steady at 1.9 per cent.
Statistics Canada will release its fourth-quarter “StatsCannabis” crowdsourced cannabis prices on Thursday. The agency previously reported that the average cost of a gram of cannabis fell 6.4 per cent to $7.37 in the third quarter as the legal price fell for the first time, although illicit weed continued to be significantly cheaper.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020.
Caught on camera: Man chases dangerous driver after 911 puts him on hold – CBC.ca
Sam Gill says he had a knot in his stomach as he watched a driver in front of him barrelling down a busy road in Mississauga, Ont., weaving in and out of oncoming traffic, jumping a curb and hitting a snowbank so hard the impact knocked his headlight off, though that didn’t stop him.
When Gill dialled 911 for help, he was put on hold.
Just before 8 p.m. on a Sunday last month, Gill spotted the other motorist “driving erratically — can’t stay in his lanes, can’t maintain control of the vehicle.”
“Every second that passed, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god, somebody is going to die,” he said.
Canadians make an estimated nine million calls to 911 every year, taking for granted that someone will answer, says Holly Barkwell, the Canadian region director of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), an international organization that works to improve 911 service.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case everywhere across Canada,” she says. In reality, Barkwell says, the 911 system might not work as expected because it’s fragmented, underfunded and operating on technology that’s over 50 years old.
“It’s been ignored too long. It’s an issue of public safety.”
There are no mandatory standards in Canada, but voluntary standards set by NENA in 2006 say 90 per cent of 911 calls should be answered within 10 seconds, and 95 per cent within 20 seconds.
But because there is no national oversight on 911 service, there’s no way to tell how Canada measures up.
In Gill’s case, he was on hold for almost six minutes (his phone was hands-free) while he chased the dangerous driver — honking and flashing his lights, trying to warn others to steer clear.
“At this point I’m saying to myself … if  doesn’t answer, should I push him off the road? I might hurt him in the process, but I might save his life and potentially the lives of others,” he said.
Peel Regional Police, which runs the 911 service in Gill’s area, says it was swamped with double the usual number of calls at the time, adding it had a “record number” of calls in 2019, though an exact number wasn’t available.
By the time an operator answered and police arrived, the driver had crashed into another snowbank and passed out behind the wheel, with his vehicle still in drive, Gill said.
He says an officer told him the man was drunk. Peel Regional Police wouldn’t confirm that with Go Public.
Similarly, Helena Shepherd-Snider couldn’t reach 911 when her husband had a heart attack in 2016. Instead, she got a recorded message saying the number was not in service, and to dial zero for the operator.
Initially, she says the operator refused to call for her, telling Shepherd-Snider she should do it herself.
“It felt like a double whammy. [I was thinking] where else can I go? What can I do? Time was of the essence,” she said.
After about 15 minutes, she convinced the operator to call 911. She credits fast-working paramedics for saving her husband’s life.
When the dust settled, Shepherd-Snider discovered everyone on her block — about half a kilometre outside Sudbury, Ont. — had 911 service except the last four houses including hers.
Depending on where you live, 911 is run by municipalities, the police or the province, while telecom companies are responsible for supplying the network needed to connect the calls — an example of how the system is fragmented, according to Barkwell.
When Shepherd-Snider called Bell and the municipality, she says they “passed the buck” — neither correcting the issue. Instead, Bell cut off 911 service to her neighbours. ]
The company tells Go Public that their block is outside Sudbury’s service boundaries and that Shepherd-Snider’s neighbours “had been erroneously provided with 911.”
The city says those houses are a provincial responsibility and have separate emergency numbers for ambulance, fire and police.
Shepherd-Snider had no idea.
The shortcomings of the 911 system were flagged back in a 2013 CRTC report and, says Barkwell, haven’t changed. The report found:
- A wide gap between Canadians’ expectations and the reality of the 911 system.
- No mandatory standards for 911 services.
- Inconsistent funding.
- No federal oversight.
- Some outlying communities have no access to 911.
- Some call centres in urban areas are overwhelmed and don’t have the funding to fix the issue.
One of the biggest problems, according to Barkwell, is that 911 services still use old analog technology, which makes it difficult to locate people using mobile phones.
She says mobile apps have a better chance of locating someone than 911.
“The biggest question I get from people often is how come Uber can find me and how come Domino’s Pizza can find me but 911 can’t find me?” Barkwell said.
A number of recent deaths have highlighted other problems with 911 services, and how they co-ordinate with emergency personnel.
B.C. is promising changes to its 911 system after a woman bled to death after waiting 35 minutes for an ambulance in Vancouver in 2018. An ambulance was dispatched promptly, but attendants were unable to reach her because the doors and an elevator in her building were locked, and firefighters were called in too late.
“People have lost their lives and people will continue to lose their lives,” said France Gélinas, the NDP MPP, who last year put forward Bill 75, which is currently before the social policy committee.
Gélinas says she doesn’t believe the Tory government will pass the bill, however, and, when asked by Go Public, the provincial Ministry of Health wouldn’t say. Spokesperson David Jensen said the government has established a task force to look at the problems with the system, including the coroner’s recommendations.
Ontario does not have legislation to govern delivery of 911 service or to provide secure funding for it. Certain provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec do.
In March, the CRTC introduced a plan to modernize 911 networks in Canada. As part of that plan, telecoms must upgrade from analog technology to digital by June 30, 2023.
It’s a good start, says Barkwell, but doesn’t address the many other problems like inconsistent or inadequate funding.
In the meantime, after his experience with the dangerous driver in Mississauga, Sam Gill says he worries what might happen to his family or others if there is another emergency.
“We’ve lost our faith and that’s not a good feeling,” he said.
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More than half of Canadians think 2019 was a bad year for Canada: Ipsos poll – Global News
According to a new poll, more than half of Canadians think 2019 was a generally bad year for Canada.
Among the results, 75 per cent of Canadians expect an increase in global temperatures in 2020 while over six in 10 Canadians said they believe gender wage equality won’t be reached this year.
Jennifer McLeod, Ipsos vice president of public affairs, said a majority of Canadians are actually still feeling positive for this year — despite their view of 2019 as well as the negative predictions they’ve made for 2020.
“You know, while some things that Canadians are worried about have met these negative predictions … I do think that on the whole, they are feeling positive,” said McLeod.
The poll also found that about three-quarters of Canadians feel that 2020 will be better overall year than 2019, as well as about four in 10 feel that the global economy will be better.
“Though Canada isn’t quite as optimistic about this as some other countries, you know that’s still not a bad number — we’re looking for that silver lining,” she said.
Canada’s outlook on the last year was still not as negative compared to other countries around the world, the poll found.
Almost two-thirds of those polled globally thought of 2019 as a bad year for their country compared to 54 per cent of Canadians.
Why climate change in the Arctic affects us all
When it comes to their personal experience, only 42 per cent of Canadians thought last year was bad for them and their family compared to 50 per cent of those polled everywhere on average.
McLeod said that although she wasn’t surprised by the results, what stood out the most to her were the predictions on both climate change and loneliness.
“It’s turned into the issue of our generation,” McLeod said of climate change.
“We see that this is continuously an important issue for Canadians today and it has been a growing issue over the last (few) months. Environmental responsibility is important to most Canadians.”
One question on the Ipsos poll asked whether or not a person would feel lonely most of the time in 2020, a question Canadians measured 29 per cent in compared to the global average of 33 per cent.
McLeod attributes it to the prevalence of mental health issues.
On a lighter note, Ipsos also asked how likely it would be for aliens to visit Earth in 2020 — a scenario only 1 in 10 Canadians thought was likely.
“Some might see that as a good thing, some might see that as a bad thing but it’s just a minority of Canadians that feel that way,” said McLeod.
This Ipsos poll was an online survey of 22,512 interviews conducted between Nov. 22-Dec.6, 2019. The results were weighted to balance the demographics of the adult population among the countries surveyed. The precision of the Ipsos online poll with an unweighted probability sample and 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for a sample of 1,000, and an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points 19 times out 20 per country of what the results had been if the entire country’s adult population had been polled.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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