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Lengthy approval process for CaféTO program results in huge financial losses: restaurant owner

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A Toronto restaurant owner who takes part in the city’s CaféTO program says the length of time it’s taking to get approved to participate in the program results in huge financial losses.

Cherrie Stinson says after submitting an application on March 29, the approval only arrived this weekend.

Even with the approval, which Stinson said she received via email, she still does not know when she can start installing a patio.

“The next steps are something to the fact that we have to first send our insurance to the city, and then the second step is to pay for the application, and then we will receive another email as to when the traffic people are going to be reviewing our patio again,” Stinson told CBC Toronto .

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She said the traffic department will come in and install concrete barriers, after which they will be able to set up.

“But there’s no date or time. It just says a couple weeks, which is like going into June, and it’s nice out [right now].

Every day is a crazy day and it would be nice to have some notice, be able to prepare and understand when we will make that extra revenue, but we obviously don’t have an idea. ​​​​​– Cherrie Stinson, restaurant owner

CaféTO allows restaurants and bars to open expanded outdoor spaces on sidewalks and in curb lanes from spring to fall. It was introduced in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to restrictions on indoor dining.

A study funded by the city estimated that CaféTO generated more than $203 million in economic benefits in 2022, with more than 1,300 businesses taking part. A November 2022 city survey of hundreds of restaurant owners and businesses adjacent to patios, as well as more than 7,000 members of the general public, found solid support for the program.

“One good thing from COVID was the fact that Toronto finally allowed us to spread our wings onto the street and give energy to the city,” Stinson said.

“Unfortunately, it’s just very unorganized it seems and we like to prepare things in the restaurant business … every day is a crazy day and it would be nice to have some notice, be able to prepare and understand when we will make that extra revenue, but we obviously don’t have an idea.

“And then this year we have to pay for it of course, so the longer they take, the less profit we make by them dragging their heels,” she added.

A Toronto restaurant patio.
The CaféTO program provides some restaurants and bars with increased outdoor dining areas in the public right-of way . (City of Toronto, CaféTO report November 2020)

Stinson said she wants to take part in  the program because “it does create lots more revenue for us, by having the extra patio.  I’d like to take advantage of the weather and it would be nice if it was quicker.”

According to Stinson, missing out on the Mother’s Day weekend and the upcoming Victoria Day weekend will result in “huge” losses for her business.

“We have to hire extra people in the kitchen and when we don’t have the revenue to pay for those extra people — servers and culinary staff — it’s basically like we have to pay them,” she said.

“We have to train them before this busy season and when there’s no patio ready then we don’t necessarily need them, but we have to keep them because it’s going to be crazy. But it would be nice to have this all planned. It’s not just planning to build a patio. It’s staffing and all types of things.”

City ‘still fairly on target,’ BIA manager says

Meg Marshall, manager of the Queen Street West BIA, said people are “really excited by the weather” and “are chomping at the bit.”

“[People] want to either have their patios up or go and patronize the patio. So, there’s that excitement in the air, which is amazing,” Marshall said.

Meg Marshall.
Meg Marshall is the manager of the Queen Street West BIA. (CBC)

But she said because the CaféTO program is now permanent, the city has to take more due diligence in making sure that every site or every applicant meets the feasibility requirements.

“They can’t be as flexible or as lenient as they were with other situations in previous years,” Marshall said.

“So, it could be permanent parking spaces have to be taken into consideration, proximity to hydro vault, turning radius from corners and intersections. There’s lots of different technical things that most people don’t necessarily take note of or would understand per se. So, things are taking a lot longer than we had hoped.”

Marshall said the city is “still fairly on target,” adding that the program usually starts around the May 2-4 weekend.

“I think the city is moving as fast as it can knowing that there’s different departments that have to be involved as part of the feasibility assessment,” she said.

“Whenever we get a nice stretch of weather, the excitement obviously builds and everyone just wants to be out there. It’s a beautiful weekend right now so we all wish we were out there on a patio … We just have to, unfortunately, be a little bit more patient and we’ll get our patio sooner than later, I think. But we just have to be patient a little bit longer.”

More than 500 applications, city says

Meanwhile, the city of Toronto says it has received more than 500 applications from restaurant and bar owners and operators for CaféTO curb-lane cafés this year.

“Staff are working hard to review all applications as quickly as possible and are contacting businesses in sequential order about their curb-lane café permit areas now,” said Alex Burke, a media relations officer.

“The installation of traffic safety equipment city-wide is a process that takes several weeks and some restaurants will receive their curb-lane closure equipment and café permits before others, similar to previous years.”

According to Burke, the city anticipates that the application process will be quicker for returning CaféTO applicants in future years as curb-lane café permits will be renewable using previously approved designs and plans.

Burke said installation of approved CaféTO curb-lane café locations will begin on May 15 and continue through June.

 

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The FDA says people are confusing poppers with energy shots, and dying. Experts want proof – CBC.ca

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It’s not unusual for the packaging of one product to resemble that of another, potentially leading to mix-ups. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned people who drink energy shots to make sure they’re not accidentally chugging a bottle of poppers — or they might end up sick or dead. 

“Don’t be fooled. These poppers, often purchased online or in novelty stores, are unapproved products and should not be inhaled or ingested, regardless of how they are packaged, labelled or displayed,” the FDA notes in its online warning shared in recent social media posts.

But those who work in LGBTQ sexual health say the FDA’s warning that people are confusing poppers with energy shots, with sometimes dire consequences, may actually be doing more of a disservice. 

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Such messaging “borders on inflammatory” and may contribute to the “the stigmatization of the product [and] the stigmatization of the person who’s using poppers,” said Rod Knight, an associate professor at the at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health, who has also conducted research on poppers.

Poppers are a chemical substance that belongs to a class of drugs known as alkyl nitrates. When they’re inhaled as vapour, from a small liquid-filled bottle wrapped in a colourful plastic label, the user can almost instantly get the short-lasting, light-headed sensation of a head rush, Knight explained.

He explained they also relax the sphincter muscle of the anus, making receptive anal sex more comfortable for some people. Poppers have been popular among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men for decades. 

Knight acknowledges that there are sometimes side effects, which may include nausea, headaches, reduced blood pressure — alkyl nitrates are vasodilators, meaning they open blood vessels — and even vision issues. But he suggested such side effects “can be remedied through change of usage patterns.”

According to the FDA’s website, they are usually purchased in sex shops or online — often labelled as other products such as leather cleaner or deodorizers — even though the agency recommends against using them. Alkyl nitrates as poppers are unauthorized in Canada and Health Canada has cracked down on the sale of them since 2013, though they’re not necessarily illegal to purchase, possess or consume.

Does the FDA claim pass the sniff test? 

Energy shots are flavoured beverages containing some amount of caffeine, and vitamins or other natural substances that purportedly boost your energy, like ginseng or ginkgo biloba. They’re sold in small bottles with colourful plastic labels. They’re commonly found at convenience stores, supermarkets or bought online.

If by some chance you had both products side-by-side and didn’t realize your mistake by the time you peeled off the plastic and cracked open the bottle, the distinct smell of poppers should be a red flag, explained Adam Awad, the communications manager for the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance in Toronto.

“If you’re about to drink a 5-Hour Energy drink [a popular energy shot brand] and it smells like nail polish remover, you know, maybe you should ask yourself some questions before touching it to your lips,” he said.

Awad said he isn’t aware of any cases of people dying from a poppers-related mishap like the FDA described — a claim the agency previously made in 2021 — but he said he “would be very keen to see any evidence that they’ve got or reports on the actual number of cases.” 

A box containing small bottle wrapped in colourful plastic sits on a counter with a man, seen, out of focus, in the background.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not revealed the number of deaths related to the mistaken consumption of poppers. But in 2013, the agency claimed to be investigating 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations, over four years, related to related to popular 5-Hour Energy shots. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

CBC News reached out to the FDA for data on injuries or death related to the accidental oral ingestion of poppers and an explanation for the social media warning, but did not receive a response.

In 2012, however, the agency stated that it was investigating 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations related to the consumption of 5-Hour Energy drinks. 

But if serious or fatal mix-ups with poppers and energy shots are happening, it would certainly be a dangerous situation, said Knight. He said he’s curious to know in what context such a serious mistake might have happened and whether there were other contributing factors to these incidents. 

There is also a flip side to poppers, Knight said, that health agencies like the FDA and Health Canada do not mention in their cautionary messaging.

“This drug is being used by gay and queer men for very therapeutic reasons,” Knight said. “[Poppers] can prevent muscle spasm and injury during receptive anal intercourse.” 

Listen | What are poppers and why did Canada ban the sale of them?

The Early Edition7:57We discuss what ‘poppers’ are, and the ban of them in Canada

The sale of poppers was banned almost ten years ago by Health Canada. Recently there has been push to overturn the ban. We learn more about what poppers is and the history of the ban.

Should Canada ease its restrictions on poppers?

Health Canada states alkyl nitrites can only be used when prescribed by a doctor, but there are currently no approved products sold as poppers. In a statement to CBC News, the agency said “there have been no submissions filed by any company [or] manufacturers for authorization of a popper product.”

Knight said it would be difficult and unlikely for many producers to go through the clinical trials and regulatory processes needed to get approval for prescription use and, even if that did happen, it would only create other barriers to accessing the drug.

“This drug is not really well known among a lot of clinicians, except for those who specialize in sexual health,” he said. 

He said the current restriction has done little to prevent people from acquiring poppers one way or another, whether it’s ordering them online, buying them over the border in the U.S. or procuring them by some other means. 

A smiling man stands in front of a glass pane, with a building in a background, wearing glasses and an orange sweater over a collared shirt.
Rodney Knight, an associate professor at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health, says he is skeptical about claims people are confusing poppers with popular energy shot drinks and falling ill or dying. (Submitted by Rod Knight)

He noted a survey from the Community-Based Research Centre that showed only a slight drop in the percentage of people using poppers, after the ban on sales, and had little effect on regular use.

“If this was a drug that was being used among, for example, straight guys at a rate of 30 per cent of straight guys across Canada, there would be a very different approach to how the drug would be treated,” he said.

He believes the restriction has done more harm than good, pushing poppers into a form of “illicit market,” making it unclear what ingredients they may contain because manufacturers aren’t “incentivized” to label their products with accurate health information. 

There is also the possibility poppers may be packaged in a way that resembles other products in order to “disguise them” because of the restriction, added Awad, potentially setting up that very mixup scenario.

Listen | How poppers became an issue in the 2021 federal election:

Day 69:04‘Poppers’ have emerged as an election issue. But what are they?

Poppers, a common name for the drug alkyl nitrite, have been essentially banned in Canada since 2013. Despite that, they’ve thrived in the grey market and are an open secret within in LGBTQ communities. Earlier this month, Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole made headlines when he hinted that his government would be open to legalizing poppers. Writer and LGBTQ history podcaster Adam Zmith explains the drug’s history and why in many cases, even people who use poppers don’t know much about them.

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Why are mosquitoes so bad in 2023? – CTV News

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Mosquitoes. 

They’re thirsty bloodsuckers that annoy those who cross into nature, feasting on their salty life source while leaving behind red, itchy bumps.

And this year across Canada, it seems the pesky insects are worse than ever.

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Those who’ve wondered about an increase in mosquitoes may be right, according to Laura Ferguson, assistant professor of biology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

“It’s definitely been a trend to some extent that people are noticing anecdotally,” she told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Friday. “New Brunswick, in particular, over the last couple of years, has noticed big bursts in mosquito populations, especially in this mid- to late spring.”

Why mosquitoes may be worse than normal in some areas has more than one answer.

WHY MOSQUITOES ARE SO BAD THIS YEAR

Ferguson works with a team to study mosquitoes, understand the different species and track their abundance across North America.

“It’s for a few different reasons why we’re seeing more mosquitoes than we may have at least in the past couple of decades or so,” she said.

The first contributing reason is that there are more species of mosquitoes than in years past.

Different species travel with human goods across the world. They then breed in their new homes, creating populations of specific types of mosquitoes where they’d never existed before.

“Here in Nova Scotia for instance, we didn’t have a (species) a couple of decades ago — it came over from Japan in tire, we think — and it’s just exploded across the province and you can find it anywhere now,” Ferguson said.

Additionally, Ferguson said, warmer winters caused by climate change allow mosquitoes that would die off in the winter to survive and continue reproducing.

Along with being able to survive the milder weather, some types of mosquitoes are able to reproducer faster in warm temperatures because of the type of insect they are. Ferguson says mosquitoes are ectotherms, meaning their regulation of body temperature depends on external sources like the sun.

Precipitation also plays a factor in how well mosquitoes can survive, because they lay eggs in stagnant water.

Ferguson said if it’s a particularly dry spring there may be fewer mosquitoes around, depending on the species. Others lay eggs in the fall, so there would only be a large drop in mosquitoes if the previous year was dry.

Another theory that needs more research, Ferguson said, is the waning effects of the chemical Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was used in the past to control insects in crops, but was phased out in the 1970s due to its harm on other species.

Despite this, the chemical can still be found in water and is circulating in ecosystems. 

“Those kinds of holdover effects from these really persistent insecticides may have also suppressed mosquito populations for a few decades,” she said. “And now we’re experiencing a bit of this rebound of these populations as these insecticides and their effects start to wear away in the environment.”

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT MOSQUITOES? 

Unfortunately, all these factors lead to an increase in mosquitoes, a problem without fast solutions.

“I think for the most part, what we need to do is just figure out the ways to protect ourselves from contact with mosquitoes because they are a part of the ecosystem,” Ferguson said.

“On a regular basis it’s going to be things like hanging out in a screened porch instead of right outside, making sure that you dump standing water anywhere in your yard.”

Using repellents like DEET and some natural oils can help when out in the woods, Ferguson said.

“Wear light colours, long sleeves, those kinds of things to reduce the area of your body that’s exposed to potential bites,” Ferguson said. “That kind of thing is sort of our best bet of that trying to sort of prevent our contact with them as much as possible.”

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China defends buzzing American warship, Canadian frigate in Taiwan Strait – CBC.ca

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China’s defence minister defended sailing a warship across the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world’s top defence officials in Singapore on Sunday that such so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation to China.

In his first international public address since becoming defence minister in March, Gen. Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn’t have any problems with “innocent passage” but that “we must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation [patrols], that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation.”

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same forum Saturday that Washington would not “flinch in the face of bullying or coercion” from China and would continue regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to emphasize they are international waters, countering Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims.

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Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said Canada would continue to sail where international law allows, including the strait, and that “actors in this region must engage responsibly.”

Concerns accident could lead to escalation

On Saturday, a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate (HMCS Montréal) were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they transited the strait between the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China.

The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and then veered across its bow at a distance of about 140 metres in an “unsafe manner,” according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Additionally, the U.S. has said a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month “performed an unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre” while intercepting a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, flying directly in front of the plane’s nose.

Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident occurring that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high.

A woman with long black hair is pictured looking beyond the camera. She is the only thing in focus.
Defence Minister Anita Anand, pictured in Ottawa last month, said Canada will continue to sail where international law allows. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Li suggested the U.S. and its allies had created the danger, and should instead focus on taking “good care of your own territorial airspace and waters.”

“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.”‘

In a wide-ranging speech, Li reiterated many of Beijing’s well-known positions, including its claim on Taiwan, calling it “the core of our core interests.”

‘Meddling in China’s internal affairs’

He accused the U.S. and others of “meddling in China’s internal affairs” by providing Taiwan with defence support and training, and conducting high-level diplomatic visits.

“China stays committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrifice the nation’s core interests,” he said.

“As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song go: ‘When friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns.”‘

In his speech the previous day, Austin broadly outlined the U.S. vision for a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights.”

In the pursuit of such, Austin said the U.S. was stepping up planning, co-ordination and training with “friends from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean” with shared goals “to deter aggression and to deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict.”

Li scoffed at the notion, saying “some country takes a selective approach to rules and international laws.”

“It likes forcing its own rules on others,” he said. “Its so-called ‘rules-based international order’ never tells you what the rules are and who made these rules.”

By contrast, he said, “we practise multilateralism and pursue win-win co-operation.”

A large gun is visible on the front of a large ship. The sun hangs low in the sky.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius conducts a Taiwan Strait transit in April. (U.S. Navy/The Associated Press)

Li is under American sanctions that are part of a broad package of measures against Russia — but predate its invasion of Ukraine — that were imposed in 2018 over Li’s involvement in China’s purchase of combat aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow.

The sanctions, which broadly prevent Li from doing business in the United States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defence officials have said.

Still, he refused Austin’s invitation to talk on the sidelines of the conference, though the two did shake hands before sitting down at opposite sides of the same table together as the forum opened Friday.

Handshake no substitute for engagement, U.S. says

Austin said that was not enough.

“A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement,” Austin said.

The U.S. has noted that since 2021 — well before Li became defence minister — China has declined or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the U.S. Defence Department to talk with senior leaders, as well as multiple requests for standing dialogues and working-level engagements.

Li said “China is open to communications between our two countries and also between our two militaries,” but without mentioning the sanctions, said exchanges had to be “based on mutual respect.”

“That is a very fundamental principle,” he said. “If we do not even have mutual respect, than our communications will not be productive.”

He said he recognized that any “severe conflict or confrontation between China and the U.S. will be an unbearable disaster for the world,” and that the two countries need to find ways to improve relations, saying they were “at a record low.”

“History has proven time and again that both China and the United States will benefit from co-operation and lose from confrontation,” he said.

“China seeks to develop a new type of major-country relationship with the United States. As for the U.S. side, it needs to act with sincerity, match its words with deeds, and take concrete actions together with China to stabilize the relations and prevent further deterioration,” Li said.

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