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Outdoor gear is selling out as Canadians stock up for pandemic staycations – CBC.ca

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It’s the summer of staycations — and that’s leading to retail shortages when it comes to outdoor gear in Canada.

Faced with travel restrictions and health concerns over COVID-19, many Canadians have decided this is the year to explore the great outdoors, and they’re stocking up on bikes, tents, stand-up paddleboards, even dehydrated food and binoculars.

“There was this pent-up desire for people to get outside,” explained Brodie Wallace, merchandise director of hard goods at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).

MEC took a huge hit in sales at the beginning of the season, when the pandemic forced the Vancouver-based company to shut down all of its stores across the country.

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But when coronavirus-related restrictions started to ease, Wallace said customers were keen to return both in person and online. 

“As people were able to get outside and get into the backcountry or get into our parks, lakes and river systems, there was a lot of pent-up demand, and a lot of people who were just looking to re-purpose, maybe, some of that still disposable income that they had thought about using to go to Hawaii or maybe take a European trip,” he said. 

‘Peak and valley’ supply problems

Sales of bikes, stand-up paddleboards and tents saw the biggest jump at MEC, with sales in all three categories up 10 to 20 per cent from the same time last year, said Wallace. 

“Sales of stand-up paddleboards really went through the roof,” he added. 

One week we’ll have great sales because we’ve got a shipment, then in the next week there’s nothing available again.– Brodie Wallace, merchandise director of hard goods, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)

Cycling is one of five outdoor activities experiencing explosive growth this season, according to the global market research firm NPD Group. The report, which is compiled based on June sales in the US, says consumers are also flocking to paddle sports, golf, camping and birdwatching. 

The shortage of bicycles, especially those priced under $1,000, is part of a larger global phenomenon which has been exasperated by supply chain disruptions and trade disputes between the United States and China. 

“It can be very peak and valley,” Wallace said about the Canadian market.

A cyclist navigates Calgary’s bicycle pathways in August. (Helen Pike/CBC)

“One week we’ll have great sales because we’ve got a shipment, then in the next week there’s nothing available again.”

Calgary-based travel writer and blogger Karen Ung, who runs the Play Outside Guide, said she’s fielding a lot of questions from readers and friends about where to find tents, life jackets and even smaller items such as dehydrated food for camping. 

“Those are sold out,” Ung said. “All the way down to the little consumables like we were trying to just find some of those zip fire starters because they’re so good for starting a fire even with damp wood.”

More people means more injuries

The surge of interest in outdoor activities means Canada’s beaches, trails, lakes and campsites are at times jam-packed with visitors.

“It’s pretty crazy right now,” Ung said about the Kananaskis region of Alberta. “We were surprised even hikes that were not that popular before, now you go by and the parking lot is overflowing. It’s a little overwhelming and so we just keep driving to another trail head.” 

Travel blogger and Alberta Parks ambassador Karen Ung says she’s getting bombarded with questions about where to go, what gear to bring and more importantly, where to find it. (Submitted by Karen Ung)

Ung said she’s also noticing a lot of improvising when it comes to using outdoor gear. 

“There’s people scrambling and they’re in places where there’s risk of rock fall,” she said. “They can’t find a rock helmet because the stores are all sold out, so they’re wearing bike helmets.”

But some things just can’t be improvised, Ung added, such as proper footwear.

That includes experience.

The number of rescue responses from Alberta Parks has increased significantly this summer, doubling in the month of July compared to the same time last year. 

“Typically, 20 to 30 per cent of search and rescue calls are related to missing or overdue people,” Alberta Parks revealed in a statement emailed to CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living.

“This season, there has been a noticeable increase in mountain biking injuries. The team has responded to mountain bike accidents almost every day for the past few months,” according to the provincial agency.

Second wave of interest in winter sports?

As the summer season winds down, stores like Mountain Equipment Co-op are anticipating a possible second wave of interest in winter sports.

“My suspicion is that Canadians are going to take to the hills and find their powder and really enjoy being outside,” said Brodie Wallace with MEC.

“Whether it’s backcountry ski touring, or snow shoes and Nordic ski or even alpine ski — we’re looking at those areas as real opportunities within the business.” 


Download the Cost of Living podcast for more stories like this one each week.

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Snowbirds debate winter plans as temperatures drop and COVID-19 cases rise – CTV News

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TORONTO —
As temperatures begin to cool down in Canada, some snowbirds are considering toughing out the winter months north of the border, while others hope border restrictions ease so they can make the trip south.

Jack Deneboom is among the estimated 350,000 Canadians who spend between three and six months in Florida. He and his wife are still unsure if they will try to head to their winter home in Naples, Fla. this winter.

“Too many people are not taking it seriously and down there we see a very politicized situation,” he told CTV News.

On Monday, the state of Florida reported 1,701 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing their overall total to 685,439 cases since the pandemic began. Canada reported 1,308 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, hitting a total of 145,418 confirmed cases of the virus.

While the Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel until Oct. 21 and may be extended, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Canadian air passengers can still enter the country, provided they haven’t visited Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or countries in the Schengen Area in the 14 days prior.

Depending on the state, Canadians entering the U.S. may have to self-isolate upon arrival.

Joanne Atherton faces a similar decision. She spends hers summers at a gated RV resort in Peterborough County, Ont. but drives down to Northport, Fla. every winter.

Atherton said she isn’t comfortable taking a flight, meaning she may have to stay with family members this year if the border isn’t opened sometime soon.

“I don’t think I’m COVID crazy,” she said. “I’m cautious.”

COMPANIES NOW PROVIDE COVID-19 INSURANCE

Due to the growing demand for international travel, several insurance companies have begun offering COVID-19 medical coverage as part of their travel insurance.

Medipac, a service with ties to the Canadian Snowbirds Association, offers four months of coverage for less than $900, provided the customer is below the age of 70 and in good health.

“There was a large outcry from Canadian snowbirds at the beginning of this travel season, asking if there was going to be coverage for COVID-19 related illness,” said Christopher Davidge, Medipac vice president of sales and marketing.

Manulife announced a similar service last week, designed to provide medical coverage for COVID-19 infections and some coverage in the event a trip is cancelled or interrupted.

While the Canadian government continues to advise against all non-essential travel, there are several destinations Canadians can fly to with few, if any, restrictions, including Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and much of Europe.

Experts do point out, however, that many of the attractions may be limited or closed down as countries experience a second wave of cases.

Upon return from any international travel, Canadians must still self isolate for 14 days.

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Survey finds working Canadians are better off financially, more stressed about money – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new survey has found that Canadians who’ve been able to continue working through the pandemic are in a better spot financially than they were a year ago, but are more stressed about money.

The survey from the Canadian Payroll Association shows 62 per cent of working Canadians were able to save more than five per cent of their paycheque so far in 2020, compared to 59 per cent last year

Additionally, 37 per cent of Canadians reported living paycheque-to-paycheque, a decline of six percentage points from 2019 and the lowest in the 12-year history of the survey.

The researchers hypothesize that less commuting, not having to pay for child care and saving on lunches contributed to the improved financial well-being of working Canadians through the pandemic.

However, the survey also found 43 per cent of Canadians are financially stressed, and just 22 per cent consider themselves “comfortable.” The results had previously remained steady at about 33 per cent in each category since 2009.

The Canadian Payroll Association believes this jump is above the historical trends, meaning there is an outside factor impacting this stress, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While it’s not a surprise that more Canadian workers are financially stressed, the variance between this year’s results and what was expected based on the historical trends, caught us off guard,” Dr. Adam Metzler, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of the survey leads, said in a news release.

“The algorithm recognized that, despite remaining on payroll and being in a measurably better financial position right now, financial stress this year was impacted by a complex combination of new factors — including those that are more psychological than financial in nature.”

The survey also found the majority of Canadians are concerned about inflation, their ability to retire, their job security and a possible recession.

Additionally, 69 per cent of Canadians said they spent time at work thinking about their personal finances, which the association estimates represents $20.3 billion in lost productivity.

“That estimate is a conservative one,” said Peter Tzanetakis, president of the Canadian Payroll Association. “The costs of increased absenteeism, decreased motivation, strained relationships with colleagues, and turnover that many respondents cite as consequences of financial stress, also need to be taken into account.”

As a means of lowering financial stress levels in the workplace, the association suggests employers can work with employees to establish long-term saving habits, engage with employees during a crisis and to establish a payroll continuity plan.

According to the August Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, the national unemployment rate is at 10.2 per cent. That’s an improvement of 1.4 per cent from July, but still a ways away from the 4.5 per cent unemployment rate in February, before the pandemic.

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Spouse witnessed N.S. gunman torching their cottage, court documents say – CBC.ca

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The man responsible for April’s mass shootings in Nova Scotia took a leisurely drive around a community close to his rural cottage, stopped to chat with a fellow denturist and oversaw work being done on his property in the hours before the massacre began.

The details of a seemingly mundane day leading up to the shootings are contained in sections of court records that a provincial court judge ordered released Monday following a court hearing.

The documents also say that on the evening of April 18, the gunman’s spouse was present inside as he doused the floor of the cottage they shared with gasoline — before grabbing guns and igniting the log building he’d prized. The woman, whose name is redacted from the records, later told police he said, “I’m done, I’m done. It’s too late [redacted], I’m done.”

On April 18 and 19, Gabriel Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several communities in rural Nova Scotia. He torched his own cottage and garage, and three other homes over a 13-hour period before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. after a lengthy search.

The faces of the 22 victims. The rampage that left 22 people dead unfolded over about 13 hours, before police shot and killed the gunman. (CBC)

A judge on Monday approved the release of six more of the approximately 23 judicial authorizations RCMP have obtained since the massacre — to search gunman’s properties in Portapique and Dartmouth, and for his financial records. Redacted copies of seven were previously released. 

Though the new documents are heavily redacted, each is about 90 pages long and includes information about how the gunman procured decommissioned RCMP cruisers and police equipment and about his financial transactions months prior to the attacks. All information related to the type of firearms used remains blacked out. 

Expected to head to Dartmouth

It’s unclear why the gunman “snapped,” as his spouse described it to police. The documents also offer little information about why Wortman targeted his victims, some of whom he knew. His partner told police she did not know their neighbours well. 

She also told police that, that night, she believed he was going to take her to Dartmouth, where they had another home and a clinic, to kill people or burn buildings, according to the documents. The specifics are blacked out. The woman has never spoken publicly about what she saw on April 18. Her lawyer has declined requests for comment from CBC News. 

A search warrant document says police recovered cash on the shooter’s property that he had stashed in an ammunition box. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

At some point after Wortman loaded guns and ammunition into his mock cruiser, the woman escaped. She told investigators she initially hid in a truck before spending hours in a wooded area in Portapique. Though she heard someone announcing they were police on a loudspeaker, she said she feared it was her partner. Around dawn she went to the home of a neighbour who called 911.

Large cash withdrawal

RCMP have previously said Wortman liquidated his assets and stockpiled gas and food due to COVID-19 fears. A warrant that the court released in May revealed people told the investigators the gunman was paranoid and had a history of abuse.

According to the new documents, his spouse also told police in the weeks prior to the attacks he was “consumed” by the pandemic, talking about it constantly and saying he “knew he was going to die.”

She also said he feared that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would find a way to control money and that prompted him to withdraw nearly half a million dollars from his own accounts. The RCMP interviewed officials from CIBC and Brinks about a March 30 withdrawal in Dartmouth.

The gunman’s cottage in Portapique was destroyed in a fire he set, but a large deck along the shore was mostly intact. Pictured is the area under the structure. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Officials from the bank told police that Wortman asked to liquidate investments and then transferred the money to his business accounts. On March 25 at a branch in Dartmouth, he asked the bank’s director that his $475,000 be paid out in $100 bills, according to the court documents. 

The records state the bank worked with Brinks to set up a pick-up on March 30. 

RCMP have not said how much cash police have recovered. The search warrant documents show that on April 22, investigators found cash folded in tinfoil packets inside an ammunition box discovered at the Portapique property. 

Suspicious transactions flagged 

Canada’s money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Fintrac), reported on Wortman’s personal and professional financial activities after the massacre, according to the newly released documents.

The records say Wortman’s PayPal account was used to buy vehicle accessories labelled as being for police use on eBay. The court documents describe the purchases as “for items utilized in the facilitation of domestic terrorist activities.”

Police searched the Atlantic Denture Clinic in downtown Dartmouth on April 20. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

According to the court documents, the Fintrac review found that PayPal flagged suspicious transactions between March 22 and Dec. 5, 2019 — though it’s not clear from the records if that’s when they were reported as suspicious or if that’s when they occurred.

Those purchases included accessories for police vehicles such as:

  • A centre console for a 2013 Ford Taurus.
  • A ram for the front bumper of a Taurus sedan.
  • Siren lights. 
  • A dashcam.
  • Thin blue line vinyl decal.
  • Hubcaps.
  • A gun rack.

Other transactions listed as suspicious include $15,045 worth of items — including decommissioned cars — purchased with credit cards from GCSurplus in Ottawa. The site is run by Public Services and Procurement Canada.

There’s also reference to cash deposits payable to Wortman from Northumberland Investments, one of his companies. The Fintrac review found three questionable transactions: two cash deposits in 2010 totalling $200,000 and another for $246,000. The transactions happened in Fredericton and Dartmouth, but the documents don’t elaborate on the circumstances.

Border crossings

What is clear is that over the years, people around the gunman knew he had a penchant for acquiring car parts and collecting motorcycles. Some also knew he had guns and one car that he’d outfitted to resemble an actual cruiser.

The documents reference interviews with two people who responded to a Kijiji ad about an off-road vehicle in the weeks prior to April’s attacks. In both cases, Wortman showed off his replica cruiser inside the large garage he had in Portapique.

Using one of his companies, he purchased the 2017 Ford Taurus used in the attacks on July 3, 2019, from the RCMP, according to the search warrant records. 

A friend of Aaron Tuck, who was one of Wortman’s victims, told police that in August 2019, Tuck told him that Wortman’s mock cruiser was indistinguishable from an actual police vehicle and that he kept a holster for a gun in the back of it. Tuck was killed alongside his wife, Jolene Oliver, and his daughter, Emily, at their home in Portapique.

Gabriel Wortman carried out his rampage using a vehicle made to look like an RCMP cruiser in every way, with the exception of the numbers police circled in this photo. (Nova Scotia RCMP)

Peter Griffon, a neighbour who was on parole and who printed the decals for the cruiser, initially lied to police about his involvement but later showed investigators images of the vehicle he kept on his phone. He did odd jobs for Wortman and on April 18 had been splitting wood for him. He last saw him around noon that day, before Wortman headed out for a drive.

Wortman also stopped and talked with a fellow denturist, who is not identified, about work and COVID-19.  

The gunman’s spouse said Wortman was constantly scouring sites for police gear which he bought in both Canada and the U.S.

Records the RCMP obtained from Canada Border Services Agency showed that Wortman crossed the U.S.-Canada border in Woodstock, N.B., 15 times over a two-year period, with his last return to Canada on March 6. He did not have permits to import supplies for his denturist business, but the CBSA said he was personally importing car parts.

Wortman appears to have had a long history of threats and violence. A former neighbour has spoken out about being harassed by Wortman after reporting to RCMP that Wortman abused his spouse. The spouse and another relative relayed to police an account of Wortman’s vicious attack on his father during a trip to the Caribbean. In 2011, someone reported to Truro police that the denturist threatened to “kill a cop.”

The documents released Monday are the second batch of search warrant documents the court has agreed to release. CBC applied in April for access to the records and seven other media outlets joined the application.

David Coles, the lawyer representing the media organizations, has filed a request for a judicial review of decisions Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie had made in the case. Halfpenny MacQuarrie will consider that request Oct. 2 in Halifax provincial court.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians. 

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