Wall says key cabinet minister made terrible decision to drive after drinking

By Jennifer Graham

THE CANADIAN PRESS

REGINA _ Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says a key cabinet minister made “a terrible decision” to get behind the wheel after drinking.

Don McMorris was charged with impaired driving Friday after he was pulled over by RCMP in a construction zone east of Regina.

He has said he “should have never got behind the wheel after drinking,” but he has declined to say what his blood-alcohol level was and the impaired driving charge has not been proven in court.

After the charge, McMorris called Wall to resign as deputy premier, as well as minister responsible for Crown Investments Corporation, Saskatchewan Government  insurance Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Public Service Commission.

“To say very, very disappointed really doesn’t quite cover it because of what was risked that day, what Don risked when he made that decision, in terms of the lives of others and his own life,” Wall said Monday.

“Let’s just be very clear, there’s just no circumstance where you can rationalize this decision, even if you think ‘well I’ve only had a couple.’ Not on a grid road back from a small town hotel, not on a town street, not on a city street, not on a highway or in a construction zone.”

Wall confirmed that McMorris was driving a government car at the time, but didn’t know whether he was on government business.

Opposition New Democrat Nicole Sarauer said the good news is that no one was hurt.

“I’m happy to see that Mr. McMorris is taking this seriously enough to step down from his portfolios and step down from caucus and getting the help that he needs,” said Sarauer.

Sarauer said she hopes the situation prompts the government to do more to crack down on drinking and driving in Saskatchewan, which has the highest impaired driving rates per capita of all provinces.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 683 police-reported impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population in Saskatchewan in 2011. The Canadian average was 262.

McMorris said he has indicated many times that drinking and driving is dangerous and unacceptable, which is why the government has strengthened laws and penalties to combat it.

“One incident is too many, and I’m that one incident,” he said Saturday.

He said he will leave the Saskatchewan Party caucus while he deals with case and seeks counselling.

Wall said McMorris is making the right decisions about accountability.

“He’s decided, I think most importantly of all, to get some help, to get some counselling and so as a friend, I’m glad that he’s doing that.”

Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter will take over McMorris’s responsibilities, except for the role deputy premier, on an interim basis. Wall said he will not name a new deputy premier until a cabinet shuffle in two or three weeks.

It’s not likely that McMorris, a former health minister and highways minister, will re-emerge in cabinet any time soon.

“I don’t know how this blows over,” said Wall.

“What’s going to be very important here is what Don avails himself of in terms of counselling and support and I think that will dictate things down the road.”

canada-press

Letting kids walk to school alone a learning curve for parents

By Cassandra Szklarski

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto mom Tanya Barrett has no problem getting her 10-year-old twin boys excited about walking outside unsupervised and taking public transit to school by themselves for the first time in September.

The issue is getting herself comfortable with the idea.

“They’re raring to go, but for me they’re 10,” says the mom of four kids, admitting to feeling a twinge of anxiety as she pushes them into a new realm of independence.

“My neighbours are driving their Grade 7s and 8s to school. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, my kids are going to be all by themselves. Off they go.”

Barrett would prefer that they continue taking a yellow school bus, but they’ve grown out of that service now that they’re entering Grade 6. Barrett doesn’t drive, and has an eight-year-old that needs supervision before and after school. So that leaves public transit as the only option.

She says she’s eager to see her boys mature and take on greater responsibility, but she can’t help but wonder if it’s too soon.

The answer to when a child is ready depends on many factors, says parenting expert Kathy Lynn, citing age, distance, and the travel route.

But there’s no question it’s a valuable rite of passage that every child should experience, she insists.

“Walking to school is an important part of growing up, it’s an important part of actually doing well in school because if you’re walking to school you’re getting some fresh air and exercise,” says Lynn, a Vancouver-based author and public speaker.

“When we have a child who gets up in the morning and sits down to breakfast and sits down in a car and then they get to a classroom and sit down, they can’t sit still. For a lot of them I bet you they don’t pay a whole lot of attention until after recess.”

She encourages parents to prepare their kids for independence between Grades 1 and 3. That might sound young to some, but Lynn argues that today’s kids have been coddled by over-protective caregivers.

“Parents seem to be afraid that kids won’t be safe and kids are used to being taken places,” she says. “And then all of a sudden we have ourselves a child who’s graduated Grade 12 who’s trying to apply for a job and they haven’t a clue how to go anywhere.”

She suggests parents use the month of August to teach kids how to travel safely.

Barrett started training her boys about a month ago for the 25-minute streetcar ride to school. She and her husband bought the twins phones, drilled them on street safety, and started letting them visit the local park and pool by themselves.

That freedom comes with more responsibility, Barrett adds, noting she’s also insisted they learn to check the time frequently and adhere to strict curfews and geographical limits.

“It’s hard because nowadays, everything is monitored, everything is supervised, everything is kept very close, play dates are arranged,” she says of lengthening the leash.

“Other parents will try to parent your kid, so that’s kind of it, too, right? We have a lot of shaming and parent-shaming.”

Data from a Greater Toronto Area public transit agency suggests fewer kids than ever are heading to school unaccompanied.

Earlier this year, a report from Metrolinx found the number of students being driven to school in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area has more than doubled in the last few decades. It jumped to nearly 31 per cent, while the number of kids who walked to school declined to 39 per cent from 56 per cent.

The safety organization Parachute refrains from designating what age kids are ready to navigate the city by themselves, but encourages parents to begin discussing traffic safety when their kids are toddlers.

Even though Barrett has already been through this process with her eldest now 21 she still worries about how her twins will manage come September.

“It’s hard to let your kids grow up. You want to protect them,” says Barrett.

“You kind of have to learn to let go, let them be independent, hope you’ve given them the tools and then trust them.”

canada-press

Hail and Rainstorms in Prairies cost $50 million in insured damage

Press Release:

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that a severe storm that swept across the prairies last month has resulted in more than an estimated $50 million in insured damage according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

The warm, humid air mass that crossed the region between June 28 and 30 resulted in multiple severe thunderstorms, heavy rainfall causing localized flooding, strong winds gusting over 100 km/h, intense lightning, significant hail in Okotoks and a small tornado nearPonoka, Alberta.

“Storms like this bring the message home that we are seeing more extreme weather events and resulting damage to property,” said Bill Adams, Vice-President, Western and Pacific, IBC. “To help Canadians protect their property, the insurance industry continues to share information about emergency preparedness and create new products that offer Canadians more choice and flexibility in protecting their homes.”

While most of the damages occurred in Alberta, claims were also reported in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Adams encourages those affected by these severe weather events to speak with their insurance representatives if they have questions about their coverage. For more information, call IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $8.2 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and@IBC_West or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About CatIQ
Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit www.catiq.com.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Survey highlights thoughts about cyclist safety on busy Canadian streets

Survey highlights thoughts about cyclist safety on busy Canadian streets

Press Release:

CNW – Aurora, ON (July 27, 2016) With bicycling season now in full effect Canadian cyclists are taking to the roads; but how they can arrive safely at their destination is a constant concern in communities large and small.

Whether it’s encountering distracted drivers and pedestrians, construction, road obstacles, or other cyclists who don’t follow the rules, safely sharing the streets is a daily adventure. So it’s not surprising that one out of four Canadians think that it’s unsafe to ride a bicycle on city streets.

Friction between cyclists and motorists is well-known. According to a recent national survey from State Farm Canada, 55 per cent of Canadian drivers find cyclists to be an annoyance on the road. But it’s a two-way street, almost the same number (54 per cent) of cyclists find motorists to be annoying while they’re biking.

“Motorists and cyclists have had a contentious relationship for years. A lack of cycling infrastructure and confusion about the rules of sharing the road has a lot to do with it,” says John Bordignon, Media Relations, State Farm. “Small things to drivers, like drainage grates and potholes are major dangers to cyclists. Cyclists that disobey traffic laws or take up lane space en masse can have motorists seeing red. Having a better understanding of the laws in your area, staying focused and sober on the road whether you’re driving a car or riding a bike, is essential to ensuring all of us remain safe.”

Cycling on Busy Streets

It’s understandable that the busier the street, the higher the level of danger is for cyclists, but that does not deter everyone. Almost 20 per cent of survey respondents state they bike on busy streets. Of those respondents who do, more than half have either personally been in, or know someone who has been in an accident while cycling on the road.

Impairments and Distractions

Cycling can be dangerous enough, according to Statistics Canada close to 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured every year, but the danger increases if a cyclist is impaired or distracted. Alarmingly, 36 per cent of cyclists who say that they ride on busy streets and more than half of Canadian teens admit to texting while biking.

When it comes to cycling impaired, more than 72 per cent think cyclists should face the same penalties as drivers.

Increasing Safety

There are small steps cyclists can take to better ensure their safety – eight out of 10 respondents think cyclists should be legally required to wear a helmet. Making sure cars are able to see and hear them by having a bell and lights or reflectors is also important. Unfortunately, almost 40 per cent of Canadians are unaware and don’t know that cyclists are legally required to have a bell and lights or reflectors equipped on their bike.

Giving the appropriate amount of distance when passing those on a bike, especially when there’s no designated bicycle lane, is important. However, almost 45 per cent of Canadians state that drivers should only give cyclists one meter or less when passing them on the street.

Additional Resources

This is the second of three news releases State Farm will distribute in 2016 revealing survey results and the opinions of Canadians about their driving habits and road safety.

To find out more about how State Farm works to improve road safety in Canada, please visit www.statefarm.ca/autosafety

About the Survey

The online survey, conducted in March, 2016, polled 3,000 respondents of driving age across Canada.

About State Farm:

In January 2015, State Farm’s Canadian operations were purchased by Desjardins Group, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and among the three largest P&C insurance providers in Canada. With its 500 dedicated agents and 1700 employees, the State Farm division provides insurance and financial services products including mutual funds, life insurance, vehicle loans, critical illness, disability, home and auto insurance to customers in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick. For more information, visit www.statefarm.ca, join us on Facebook – www.facebook.com/statefarmcanada, or follow us on Twitter – www.twitter.com/statefarmcanada.

®State Farm and related trademarks and logos are registered trademarks owned by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, used under licence by Certas Home and Auto Insurance Company and certain of its affiliates.

©Copyright 2016, Certas Home and Auto Insurance Company.

-30-

For more information, please contact:
Ginger Shewell
Media Profile
ginger.shewell@mediaprofile.com / 416-342-1802

John Bordignon
State Farm Canada
john.bordignon.pgr8@statefarm.com
905-750-5567/416-801-6078

Heartbleed CRA hacker heading to U.S. competition after judge lifts travel ban

LONDON, Ont. _ A judge has agreed to lift a travel ban imposed on a London, Ont., university student who pleaded guilty to mischief in connection to a major data breach at the Canada Revenue Agency in 2014.

The London Free Press reported Wednesday that Stephen Solis-Reyes, 21, who has been called the Heartbleed hacker, will be allowed to leave the country in September to compete in a computer programming competition in San Francisco.

The London judge told the computer whiz in court Wednesday the move is “exceedingly exceptional.”

“It means a lot, for sure,” Solis-Reyes told the newspaper outside the courthouse. “I think he is expecting big things from me. He’s expecting what I do in this competition is going to help society and help me in the future.”

The Western University student was invited to the competition in San Francisco after he was named as one of the 10 finalists in an international, IBM-sponsored computer programming competition, called Mastering the Mainframe, that drew 15,000 entries worldwide. If he finishes in the top two places in San Francisco, he will go to Las Vegas for two more days, the Free Press reported.

Solis-Reyes was convicted in May of four charges  two counts of mischief, unauthorized use of a computer and obstructing a police officer after he was able to steal 900 social insurance numbers from Canada Revenue Agency files. He said at the time he wanted to illustrate online vulnerability to the Heartbleed computer bug.

The agency’s website was shutdown for four days after the security breach and prompted the CRA to extend Canada’s tax-filing deadline.

canada-press

Fort McMurray wildfire

By Marc Montgomery | CBC News

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has released its preliminary report on damage claims from the Fort McMurray wildfire in northern Alberta.

The giant forest fire in western Canada was dubbed ‘the beast” because of its size, speed, the destruction caused and the difficulty in controlling and extinguishing it.

The fire burned into the town destroying well over two thousand homes and other buildings. Over 80,000 people were evacuated from the region.  The fire moved so quickly people were driving out of town even as flames towered about both sides of the highway.

Insurance claims so far amount to C$3.58 billion. This is a new record for damage claims and is  more than twice as much as the previous mostly costly natural disasters, the flooding in Calgary and southern Alberta in 2013 with claims of $1.78 billion.

Claims from that massive flood could have been much higher except that many homes and businesses were not covered for overland flooding. However, the provincial and federal governments paid some 4-billion dollars for a variety of uninsured losses.

One of the other major disasters with insurance claims over a billion dollars was the ice storm in 1998 affecting eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, and parts of New Brunswick. That storm resulted in insurance claims of $1.6 billion (in 1998 dollars)

“This wildfire, and the damage it caused, is more alarming evidence that extreme weather events have increased in both frequency and severity in Canada,” said Don Forgeron, President and CEO, Insurance Bureau of Canada

The wildfire claims include more than 27,000 personal property claims; with the average claim of $81,000. There are also more than 12,000 auto insurance claims, averaging $15,000 per claim. In addition, there are more than 5,000 commercial insurance claims that average over $250,000 per claim.

Climate change causing more disasters

“In recent times, wildfires and flooding have turned extreme and at times tragic,” said Forgeron. ” We must build a more resilient country to better protect those affected by the very real impacts of our changing climate. By taking action now, we can minimise costs to taxpayers and better equip homeowners for the risks and challenges that lie ahead.”

He added more needs to be done in consideration of climate changes including the way homes are built, especially in fire and flood-prone areas.IBC vice-president Bill Adams said, “ultimately, what we are seeing is that our climate is changing. And the long-term trends are directly the result of some of those dynamics”.

Beyond the costs of insurance claims, there are other economic losses from the fire. This includes well over a billion dollars in lost oil production. Then of course, there is the intangible losses in terms of irreplaceable personal items, lost wages and jobs, and the emotional toll on individuals and families.

However, as in previous cases, public funds to pay for firefighting and evacuee relief, police services, and other associated services could push the cost to the public purse into the billions.The total cost has yet to be determined, but the federal government has already announced a $300-million cash injection as part of its Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements programme.

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