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Thank you to our Holiday Partners

Kyle Mack | posted Tuesday, Dec 29th, 2020

With the help of our product partners, we were able to have another year of Holiday giveaways!

Cedar’s Non-Alcoholic Gin

New to the rapidly growing non-alcohol spirit market in Canada, CEDER’S is a distilled non-alcoholic alt-gin made with classic gin and exotic South African botanicals, found only in the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape. CEDER’S is bottled in Sweden, after blending with pristine Swedish water. It has been created for those being mindful about consumption, looking for a sophisticated non-alcoholic serve, or simply for designated drivers that don’t want to sacrifice on quality. CEDER’S is available widely at fine retailers across Canada and on Well.ca in 3 varietals:
Ceder’s Classic – Floral & Balanced – a blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and coriander combined with hints of geranium, and Cape floral fynbos.
Ceder’s Crisp – Refreshing & Tranquil – a refreshing blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and citrus combined with cucumber and calming camomile.
Ceder’s Wild – Spicy & Intriguing – an intriguing blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and ginger, combined with clove and rooibos.
The prize giveaway will include all 3 varieties of Ceder’s along with an amazing $700 in prepaid credit cards to help you with all your holiday spending.

Rebelstork and Owlet

Sleep More, Worry Less Being a new parent, it’s normal to be concerned about your baby’s well-being–especially at night. But that anxiety and constantly waking to check on baby can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Even as you stare at the monitor, you can’t know for sure if baby’s really safe. The Owlet Smart Sock is a baby wearable that sits inside a washable sock that quietly watches over baby to track baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels. If baby’s heart rate or oxygen levels fall outside safe zones, the sock will notify parents that baby may need your attention. For visual monitoring, Owlet created the Owlet Cam, an HD 1080p video monitor that has a 130° wide-angle lens, the video can be streamed anywhere with the Owlet App. As a pair, they create the Owlet Duo and now anyone looking after baby can get a full window into baby’s health and rest assured that baby is happy. Now you can sleep more and worry less, because Owlet is here to help you keep your baby safe. REBEL STORK: Rebelstork is Canada’s first managed, online marketplace that enables the buying and selling of overstock, open boxed and quality used baby gear at a reduced price, with no hassle or haggle. They take the hassle and haggle out of used baby gear buying and selling – our custom algorithm sets fair pricing for items, then we pick the item up and bring it back to HQ for sanitization, photography and listing. Rebelstork has an active community of buyers and the average Rebelstork item sells within only 48 hours of the listing going live. For more information visit rebelstork.com.


LINDT invites you to savour every moment this holiday season with a chance to win a $500 LINDT chocolate gift basket and a $500 gift card that can be redeemed at any LINDT Chocolate Shop across Canada One lucky winner has the chance to win a $500 LINDT chocolate gift basket and a $500 gift card that can be redeemed at any LINDT Chocolate Shop across Canada

Ninja Kitchen

Prep for holiday cooking with Ninja! With the Foodi, NeverStick Premium cookware, you will have all that you need to entertain this holiday season, PLUS it’s dishwasher safe! Air Fryers have been all the rage lately, and with the Ninja Dual Zone Air Fryer, you can fry with up to 75% less fat than traditional methods. PLUS you’ll get a Ninja Smart Air Grill for your quick grilling needs AND a Ninja professional Plus KitchenSystem allowing you to create smoothies, frozen drinks, and chopped mixtures all at the touch of a button. With this prize pack, you’ll be gearing up to be the host with the most!

Miraj Hammam

Get ready to relax and recharge with a $1,000 gift card from the Miraj Hammam Spa! Located inside the Shangri-la Toronto, the Miraj Hammam Spa will transport you into another world without having to leave the city!  While the spa is currently closed due to the Toronto lockdown, your prize will be ready for indulgence once the regular business has resumed.


KITS is Canada’s fastest-growing eyewear company offering a complete eyewear solution including glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses at a revolutionary price. KITS is headquartered in Vancouver, BC and manufactures its lenses locally. KITS is changing the way people shop for eyewear by transforming what has traditionally been a clinical, confusing, expensive, multi-visit transaction into an enjoyable and easy experience. Everything your eyes need, in one place. This includes ● A full (and growing!) selection of eyeglasses, ranging from name brands like Tom Ford, Oakley, Gucci, Ray-Ban and many many more launching every week ● Thousands of hand-made KITS frames that were designed in Vancouver ● The largest selection of branded contact lenses in Canada, and the biggest inventory of contact lenses, so they’re more likely to have your prescription in stock for immediate shipment ● KITS branded, daily silicone hydrogel contact lenses, the highest product quality available in contact lenses at an incredible price point ● A complete eyecare solution on-site, including virtual try-on, an online vision test which is coming soon in Canada, and partnerships with all insurance companies to apply for reimbursement ● Your first pair of glasses with KITS is completely free ● A powerhouse team with decades of optical and consumer experience


For four decades, Audi has been setting the pace with permanent Quattro all-wheel drive. The world’s leading purveyor of luxury and design-forward automobiles, Audi is now leading the way in the electric vehicle category. In summer 2021 the new e-tron GT will be released adding to the all-electric e-tron line. We are happy to provide a lucky viewer with an Audi gift package including beautiful Audi genuine accessories to bring you some Holiday cheer. The prize pack includes Audi Roadster Bicycle and an Audi snowboard for your sporting adventures.


Victorinox, makers of the Original Swiss Army Knife, have the perfect gift for you this holiday season: The recently launched Fieldforce Titanium LE – Timeless meets Titanium. This is the lightest Fieldforce ever, made for any occasion. It offers featherweight strength, a stylish red bezel, and a Super-LumiNova® enhanced display. Super exclusive, available in North America only and limited to 1,400 individually numbered pieces, with an incredible Limited Edition red packaging. This intrepid and pioneering international brand now spans five product categories: Swiss Army Knives, Cutlery, Watches, Travel Gear and Fragrances, Victorinox is also gifting one lucky winner with one Airox Global Hardside Carry-On, a Travel Edge Toiletries Deluxe, an Altmont Pro Compact Laptop Backpack, a Victoria 2.0 Carry-On Tote, 2 x Foldable Paring Knives, and a Swiss Classic Kitchen Set. Find this and more at www.victorinox.com.


Taking your holiday cleaning to impressive new heights with Shark! Shark aims to make revolutionary technology attainable with its diverse and innovative range of home cleaning solutions. Our friends at Shark are giving you a prize pack including The Shark® IQ Robot with Self Empty Mini Robotic Vacuum, a Shark® Genius Steam Pocket Mop System, and a Shark® Rocket DuoClean Stick Vacuum.


Our friends at IKEA are giving you the gift of a good night’s sleep! With a focus on sustainability, The HIDRASUND sustainable mattress is made from natural materials including coconut fibre, natural latex, cotton and more. In this prize pack, you’ll be getting 4 ergonomic pillows, a duvet and a full sheet set! This prize pack is valued at $1800! Want to complete the design? IKEA has announced The TUFJORD (PRONOUNCED TOUGH-YORD)  headframe, designed with soft velvet and beautiful lustre.

Dr. Martens

Dr. Martens, the iconic global footwear brand, is here to help you look and feel your best for the winter season. Their new autumn-winter releases are not only perfect for the cold weather but are classic fashion must-haves in your closet. Their newest Urban Protection collection is perfect to get you through our Canadian winters. With a high-performance WinterGrip sole – a PVC/Rubber/hybrid sole built with grooved cleats with superior traction, grip and durability on slippery surfaces – it’s the perfect stylish boot for the winter.

Sobeys Voila

Shopping for groceries online has never been easier thanks to Voilà by Sobeys. Place your order at voila.ca, select your preferred delivery window, and your groceries will be delivered directly to your home from their automated warehouse, safely and with less handling. Voilà delivers 7 days a week from 6AM to 10PM in the GTA, Hamilton/Guelph, north to Barrie and east to Pickering. Our friends at Voila by Sobeys are giving you a $500 Voilà by Sobey’s grocery credit!

La Presserie

La Presserie, is a Toronto-based cold-pressed juice brand that makes it easier to achieve your daily fruits and vegetable intake! To sweeten the deal, No water, sugar or preservatives are ever added. La Presserie’s juices and smoothies unpasteurized and flash-frozen to retain freshness and nutrient value for juice that is as fresh as the day it was pressed Our friends at La Presserie are giving you a one-year subscription to La Presserie with a weekly delivery of a 6pack of juices for the year! This is valued at over $1,500!

Best Buy Canada

Shop Best Buy Boxing Day sales early and confidently with their Boxing Day price guarantee For the latest and greatest tech gift ideas, visit the Holiday Hub on BestBuy.ca Customers in the GTA have the option for Quick and Easy pickup at Best Buy stores. This includes purchasing and reserving an item on BestBuy.ca and picking it up at their local store through curbside pickup via text message

Wholly Veggie

Toronto-based company Wholly Veggie places a focus on food sustainability aims to solve this problem by creating plant-based, better for you foods without the reliance on animal agriculture This full product line is non-GMO and completely soy and gluten-free and provides up to 20 grams of protein and over 50% daily fibre requirements! Enter to win a Wholly Veggie Prize Pack!


“There’s no question that this year has been a stressful one. 1 in 4 Canadians are now suffering from anxiety or a lack of sleep and that number continues to grow. Luckily, many Canadian businesses are aiming to solve this problem, and Toronto-based brand Hush is doing that with its collection of premium weighted blankets. A few seconds under one of these heavy blankets and your entire mood and energy changes. Complete calm really washes over you and the mind seems to quiet. Hush Blankets can be found online at hushblankets.ca ”

The Body Shop

These holiday essentials from The Body Shop are a mix of their best sellers and limited edition season releases, including their highly lusted after Ultimate Advent Calendar which features 25 full-sized products. From their Himilayan Charcoal line to Almond Milk & Honey, these must-have face hair and body products will keep you feeling your best from head to toe.


This is Kiehl’s greenest holiday campaign to date. Focusing on less waste and sustainability, Kiehl’s holiday collection is made with fully recyclable gift boxes and is now made with zero plastics and 100% previously recycled paper. The whimsical packaging was created in collaboration with Lyon-based illustrator, Maïté Franchi. Kiehl’s offers some great last-minute gift sets that cater to everyone on your shopping list, or treat yourself this holiday season! The sets can be purchased online at Kiehls.ca and are also available in-store. Make holiday shopping easy at your local Kiehl’s boutique. Here’s how it works: Call your preferred Kiehl’s boutique to place your order and pay over the phone. Curbside Service: Park in a designated area and a Kiehl’s Associate will make a contactless delivery to your car.


Osmo’s new Coding Starter Kit is designed to help kids build coding skills block by block. Transform your tablet into a hands-on coding adventure. Designed for ages 5–10, Coding Starter Kit builds coding skills in progression with 3 hands-on learning games. Watch your child learn to code as they connect colourful blocks of code in the physical world to chart the adventure on their screen. Wherever your kids are in their STEAM education, these games will keep them engaged and entertained. Here’s how this latest addition to the Osmo interactive learning system teaches coding skills in progression. Coding Awbie–String together commands to guide Awbie on an epic strawbie-munching adventure. Coding Jam–Arrange coding blocks in patterns and loops to compose your own music. Coding Duo–Solve advanced side-by-side puzzles solo or with a friend for double the fun and challenge.

Cadillac Fairview

Details: $1,000 CF SHOP! Card giveaway as part of Holiday giveaway series This holiday season, Cadillac Fairview (CF) is providing a safe and comfortable space for shoppers. With one week to go until Christmas, CF is helping shoppers finalize their lists ahead of the big day. From extended hours at select shopping centres to convenient curbside pick-up, shoppers can efficiently plan their trips to support their holiday needs. New this year, customers can skip the line by pre-booking an appointment at participating retailers or to purchase a CF SHOP! Card. Offers are available by storefront and curbside pick-up appointment only by visiting CFguestlist.com. CF also recently launched a new mobile shopping app called LiVE by CF where shoppers can: Have a mall directory in their pocket complete with enhanced wayfinding, property-specific maps and icon-based navigation cues to help plan the most productive shopping routes. Access helpful information related to COVID-19 safety protocols, location of hand sanitizer stations and mall and retailer hours of operation Search and tag favourite products right in the app for quick recall when shopping. Receive special offers directly from CF retailer partners for in-property savings. Visit www.cfshops.com for information regarding operating hours, safety protocols or to learn more about the helpful shopping services offered at your local shopping centre. Cadillac Fairview is helping brighten the spirits of one lucky BT viewer with a $1,000 CF SHOP! Card. The gift card can be redeemed at one of the nine (9) CF shopping centres across Ontario. Happy Holidays from Cadillac Fairview!


M∙A∙C Cosmetics, the Canadian-born brand, is your destination for last-minute gifting this season. Whether you’re looking for the hottest kits of the season or the best bang for your buck, they’ve got the products, tools, and expertise to OoOoh and AaAah everyone on your list. You can now click and reserve your items online and call your local store to process your order for the fastest and safest pick-up! Shop at maccosmetics.ca


To help get into the holiday spirit and evoke wonder and Joy among families, BT and Mattel Canada have rounded-up a selection of toys and games for kids of all ages and we’re giving away Three Top Toys Prize Packs to a few lucky viewers! Valued at over $500, the Mattel Top Toys Prize Packs feature the hottest new toys and fun for the whole family For Elsa and Anna fans we’ve got Disney’s Frozen Elsa’s Ice Palace by Little People If you’re into classic games there’s the newly revamped UNO Showdown And for the HotWheels fan we’ve to the HotWheels Monster Trucks Scorpion Playset! PLUS SO MUCH MORE

Toys R’ Us

Toys“R”Us is the ultimate destination for all of your Holiday gift needs! Toys”R”Us is available for in-store shopping (at select stores), in-store pick-up, curbside pick-up, and same-day, next-day, delivery! Toys”R”Us will be giving you TWO $500 gift cards, one for your holiday gifting and ONE for you to give to someone in need this Holiday season.


Add some tech to your holiday season with our friends at LG! LG will keep you connected with the LG Velvet Phone and the LG Gram laptop!  Weighing less than three pounds, the LG gram laptop when paired with the LG Velvet phone, will make for the ultimate way to increase your productivity in the new year!


The Z 5 has a full-frame sensor (in contrast to the Z 50’s crop sensor) for clean low-light shots. The kit comes with a 24-50mm lens. As with other Z series cameras, it works with hundreds of Nikon lenses with an adapter, as well as the expanding lineup of NIKKOR Z lenses. The Nikon Z 5 is a full-frame mirrorless camera, which means it works great in low-light and is incredibly fast – This kit comes with a camera and 24-50mm lens that retails for $2,299.00 – You can use it as a webcam to make your video calls look sharp – The Nikon Z 5 will immediately improve your videos and photos, and you can hone your skills for years with hundreds of compatible lenses – Everything you capture transfers to your phone or tablet in the background – you just set it up once

40 Crew Whiskey

This holiday season, Grimsby made – Forty Creek, is the perfect gift for whisky enthusiasts and those looking to support the local Ontario Made community. Forty Creek Whisky is ready to lift up your holidays with a $1,000 visa gift card! Enter now!

Tru Niagen

Making 2021 your year of wellness with the Health Canada approved Tru Niagen! Tru Niagen is a unique form of vitamin B3 clinically proven to increase levels of NAD which supports your cellular health.


The new Oral-B iO is the perfect self-care gift that gives you a professional-clean feeling at home! The Oral-B iO comes with game-changing features to elevate your brushing experience and is available in black, white, rose quartz, and violet and starts at $279.99!

Jenny Bird

Add some glamour to your accessories with Canadian brand, Jenny Bird! One lucky winner will receive the Toni Collection, a return to elegance with a reinvented shape and modernized classic pieces.

Tim Hortons and Keurig

Stepping up your coffee experience with Keurig and Tim Hortons! Keurig and Tim Hortons are giving one lucky viewer a K-Supreme Plus, a Milk frother, a rolling storage drawer, a reusable coffee filter and a collection of Tim Horton’s coffee!


Super warm. Super cool. Super super. It’s The Super Puff™ and it lives up to its super name. Back for Winter 2020 in 8 styles, 12 innovative fabrics and over 65 colours, Aritzia’s iconic puffer is fully loaded with top-of-the-line technical details and available at all Aritzia stores and aritzia.com. Worn by the likes of Ariana Grande, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, Margot Robbie and Hunter Schafer, The Super Puff™ has officially transcended cult-status.


Canada’s leading online mattress brand helps Canadians wind down, relax and get a good night’s rest – something that is arguably more important in 2020 than in previous years. Meet Endy, Canada’s best-selling online mattress. As one of Canada’s fastest-growing e-Commerce companies, Endy was recently named Best New Product Canada 2020 and is the go-to mattress that hundreds of thousands of Canadians turn to for a good night’s sleep. Proudly Canadian-made with over 16,000 5-star reviews, The Endy Mattress is made with proprietary Endy Comfort Foam. Endy’s foam has a unique open-air cell structure that provides the perfect balance of comfort and support, plus temperature control, pressure relief, and reduced motion transfer.


Bartesian is a fun and convenient way to enjoy and serve premium cocktails or Mocktails in the comfort of your home. Made with 100% recyclable material, a cocktail capsule contains real juices, bitters, and extracts to mix with your favourite spirits. Enter to win your very own Bartesian cocktail machine!


Laderach is giving you a box of premium Swiss chocolates! Each Läderach chocolate box is valued at $150 and includes a variety of fresh, artisanal chocolate from Switzerland, such as its iconic FrischShoggi (fresh chocolate in Swiss German), the Master’s Collection Tablet & Bonbon created by Elias Läderach, the World Chocolate Master, and much more.  If you’re outside of Toronto, to learn more and order online visit, ca.laderach.com.

Ontario to initially receive 53,000 doses of recently approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

Ontario says it expects to receive approximately 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end this month.

Premier Doug Ford says the new vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, is a “‘game-changer.”

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s health minister says the province expects to receive the doses next week and they will first be taken to long-term care homes.

She says the province is working with public health units on a plan to start administering the shots in long-term care facilities during the first week of January.

Ford says the Moderna vaccine can be more easily transported than the Pfizer-BioNtech dose – the only other immunization approved by Health Canada – which is why it will be taken to long-term care homes first.

The premier says other priority groups, including Indigenous communities and residents of retirement homes, will also receive the Moderna vaccine soon.

“We are taking another step towards ending this terrible pandemic,” Ford said of the vaccine’s approval in Canada while noting the need for residents to keep heeding public health advice.

“As we await the arrival of more vaccines, I continue to ask all Ontarians to remain vigilant and keep following the public health measures.”

Ontario began administering the Pfizer-BioNtec vaccine to health-care workers on Dec. 14. The government has noted, however, that COVID-19 immunizations aren’t expected to be more broadly available to the general public until April.

The Moderna doses are set to arrive shortly after Ontario enters a provincewide lockdown on Boxing Day in an effort to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.

The province’s lockdown that begins Dec. 26 is set to last 28 days for southern Ontario but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

It will shutter all non-essential businesses, ban indoor gatherings, close restaurant dining rooms, and see all schools move classes online for the first week of the new year. It also means Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the news of the Moderna approval during a news conference in which he also announced that Canada will receive more doses next month of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine than previously expected, after it was approved by Health Canada on Dec. 9.

Between the early doses already in the country, and the shipments now scheduled, Canada should have at least 1.2 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31, Trudeau said outside his Ottawa home.

“After assessing all the data, we concluded that there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks,” Health Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Supriya Sharma told a news conference in Ottawa.

“Today’s authorization is one more tool in our toolbox to bring COVID-19 under control.”

While the Pfizer vaccine has already started to be distributed in different cities across Canada, Sharma indicated the Moderna inoculation will likely be distributed to more remote communities.

That is because it does not require the same level of extreme-cold storage as the Pfizer version.

“Since many Canadians live outside major urban areas, this vaccine can be used in communities that haven’t had access to COVID-19 vaccines to date,” Sharma said.

The first doses are prioritized for front-line health staff, residents and workers in long-term care, adults in remote Indigenous communities, and seniors over the age of 80 living in the community.

Canada is to get 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine in 2021, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or about two-thirds of the Canadian adult population.

The vaccine is not yet recommended for use on children as tests on adolescents only began in December and tests on children younger than 12 won’t begin until next year.

Moderna will have to continue to provide information to the regulator on the safety of the vaccine, Sharma said.

People with severe allergies have been advised against getting the Pfizer vaccine after several people in the United Kingdom had reactions to the inoculation. Sharma said the same advice is being given for the Moderna inoculation.

Canada’s doses of the Moderna vaccine are being made in Europe.

Two more vaccines are being reviewed by Health Canada, one from AstraZeneca and the other from Johnson and Johnson, Sharma said, but more information is needed before they can be approved.

Ontario to initially receive 53,000 doses of recently approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Heavy rainfall ahead of possible white Christmas in the GTA

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

A white Christmas is expected for Toronto and the GTA after a special weather statement was issued for the region by Environment Canada.

The weather agency says there is the potential for heavy rain followed by significant snow early Friday.

Overnight rain is expected to continue into Thursday, becoming heavy at times, with some areas receiving upwards of 25 mm.

By Thursday evening, the rain is expected to transition over to snow as a strong cold front moves through the region.

“Several centimetres of snowfall accumulation will be possible Thursday night through Friday morning, which is Christmas morning,” said Environment Canada.

The weather service is forecasting 5 and 10 cm of snow is possible but just how much snowfall areas will see is uncertain and will depend on the timing of the changeover from rain to snow.

Wind gusts of up to 70 km/h will also be felt in some areas, further hampering the conditions.

“Motorists should be prepared for deteriorating winter driving conditions in areas that receive snow from Thursday evening through Friday morning.”

A number of rainfall warnings have been issued for eastern Ontario, including the Ottawa region, with between 30 to 50 mm expected.

“The frozen ground will have a reduced ability to absorb this rainfall,” says Environment Canada. “Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Watch for possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.”

Raptors lose first season opener in eight years in loss to Pelicans

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and JJ Redick added 23 as the New Orleans Pelicans beat Toronto 113-99 in the Raptors’ season opener Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

Pascal Siakam had 20 points in one of the bright spots of the loss, the Raptors’ first defeat in a season opener in eight seasons. Kyle Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, Aron Baynes had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Norman Powell and Chris Boucher chipped in with 12 points apiece.

The Raptors led for most of the first half but went ice cold in the third quarter. They went 0-for-10 from three-point range and were outscored 38-22 in the frame, and trailed 88-79 to start the fourth.

The Pelicans kept their foot on the gas in the fourth, and when Redick knocked down a three-pointer with 5:15 to play, New Orleans led by 14 points.

The Raptors went a horrible 2-for-17 from distance in the second half.

Siakam had been enjoying a career year before the NBA shut down for COVID-19 last March, and was never quite himself when the league resumed in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World. Fans weren’t kind to the 26-year-old when the Raptors were eliminated by Boston in the second round of the playoffs.

Siakam said he’d lost his love of the game. It looked like it was back on Wednesday.

Siakam not only scored on an array of shots, but pitched some excellent passes out of crowds.

The night marked the beginning of the most bizarre season in Raptors history, a small crowd of about 3,000 fans dotting Amalie Arena. The venue will be Toronto’s temporary home for at least the first half of the season due to Canada’s travel restrictions around COVID-19.

In a sign of these strange times, the Raptor mascot waved the team flag before the game clad in a black protective face mask.

The Raptors tipped off a few hours after the league announced Houston’s game against Oklahoma City was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests plus James Harden’s violation of the league’s coronavirus protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight available players.

It was a discouraging blow on Day 2 of a season that feels like the league is playing with its collective fingers crossed while the pandemic continues to rage in the U.S.

The Raptors had their own scare earlier in the day. Powell was listed as questionable after some inconclusive tests with someone in his “circle of people,” coach Nick Nurse said.

Nurse said despite the rocky start, he’s “fairly comfortable” about playing.

“I understand that there are some people – players and staff, et cetera – testing positive. I’d be much more concerned if there was a number of players going to the hospital, a number of staff going to the hospital, and I just don’t see that as the case with all these colleges and universities and all the athletes that test.”

Amalie Arena is one of just a few facilities around the league that is permitting a limited number of fans this season.

The Raptors trailed in the early minutes, but Siakam’s three capped a mini 7-0 run that put Toronto up by four. The Raptors led 26-23 to start the second quarter.

Siakam knocked down back-to-back three-pointers – both off passes from sharp-shooter Matt Thomas – to put the Raptors up by 11 with 1:46 left in the first half. Toronto took a 57-50 advantage into the halftime break.

The Raptors now depart on their first road trip of the regular season, playing against former teammate DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs in San Antonio on Boxing Day. They play at Philadelphia on Dec. 28.

11 COVID-19 cases confirmed at four Mississauga fire stations

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

The City of Mississauga has confirmed 11 positive cases of COVID-19 at four of its fire stations.

An additional 36 staff members are currently self-isolating, according to a statement released Wednesday night.

“With a team of more than 630 firefighters at 21 stations, we are able to adjust our crews and ensure public safety is never compromised,” said Acting Fire Chief Nancy Macdonald-Duncan. “We remain ready to respond and provide fire safety across Mississauga.”

The city says it is working closely with Peel Public Health to notify impacted personnel and ensure isolation and testing protocols are being followed.

Peel Region reported 484 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday with Mississauga accounting for 161 of the new infections.

Province cancels in-vehicle road tests due to COVID-19

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

New drivers hoping to take a road test as part of the province’s vehicle licensing requirements will now have to wait, as nearly all in-vehicle tests have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government said Tuesday afternoon.

Testing done in Southern Ontario has been shut down until at least Jan. 23rd, the ministry said. In Northern Ontario, testing will not be available until after Jan. 9th.

“We know that these measures may be a serious inconvenience for people waiting for a road test,” said Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney in a news release Tuesday. “However, these are unprecedented times and our number one priority remains protecting the health and safety of individuals, families and workers.”

The government said commercial road testing and other commercial vehicle services will continue “to ensure the continued safe movement of essential goods and services.”

DriveTest centres will also stay open, while observing COVID-19 precautions.

The government said people who have to wait to take the in-vehicle test won’t be penalized.

“DriveTest clients will receive a credit in the system in order to rebook their test when the provincewide shutdown period ends and the region is at a lower-risk COVID-19 level,” the government said.

‘Fighting for our lives’: Canada’s theatre industry tries to plan for uncertain 2021

VICTORIA AHEARN, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

TORONTO — Outdoor productions. Concert versions of musicals. Shorter shows with no intermission.

As the Canadian theatre world grapples with closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, producers are thinking of ways to safely put on live performances for audiences in the coming months, as a vaccine rollout offers the possibility of productions resuming.

But with constantly changing guidelines and uncertainty over when crowds can gather again, those who mount shows say they’re trying to be as nimble, flexible and innovative as possible, knowing that everything can be shifted on them at a moment’s notice.

“Our new philosophy here is: Nothing is certain until after it has happened,” John Karastamatis, director of sales and marketing at Toronto-based Mirvish Productions, said in an interview.

“Building the plane while you’re flying it is a really apt description of how we’ve been operating,” said Kevin Loring, artistic director of Indigenous theatre at the National Arts Centre Canada.

“Our weekly operations are planning, planning, planning — and then at the same time, unplanning, unplanning, unplanning.”

Mirvish halted productions in March and the start of its new subscription season has been pushed to September 2021The theatre giant had hoped to safely stage the sound-installation production “Blindness” before the new year, but rising COVID-19 case counts and more lockdowns scrapped that plan.

In an interview early last month, Karastamatis said they still want to put on “Blindness,” once lockdown ends. Safety measures at the Princess of Wales Theatre would include patrons sitting physically distanced onstage with a “very powerful air circulation system.” There would be no concession stands, no physical tickets and no intermission.

Financially, Mirvish wouldn’t even break even from the production but wants to do it as a symbol of hope for the theatre community, said Karastamatis.

Mirvish has also considered doing concert versions of musicals, including the homegrown hit “Come From Away,” because it would cost less than putting on an entire production, he said.

“The big fear is that the artists that exist won’t have a way of practising their art,” he said. “And the industry that has been built around the performing arts will wither and die, and it won’t exist anymore. And we, as an industry, are fighting for our lives.”

Ottawa’s National Arts Centre says it’s been thinking on a more local scale these days rather than counting on productions with international artists or even those from other regions in Canada who might face travel restrictions.

Beyond the typical pandemic protocols like masks, sanitizer, distancing measures and virtual tickets, the NAC is also looking at more solo works or outdoor projects, said Loring.

The NAC’s Indigenous theatre is creating an online audio project, featuring Indigenous storytelling about the land of certain locations within cities.

The organization is trying to plan seasons for the next year or two with budgets that “have been deeply slashed,” while also taking things “week by week,” said Loring.

“The vaccine is promising and hopeful, and as soon as it’s available to us, we’ll all take it. But we’ll still have to combat the reticence to come back into public spaces,” Loring said.

Like many arts institutions, the NAC went in a digital direction when the pandemic began, including livestreaming performances on Facebook as part of a partnership with the social media giant.

“We’ve had to really rethink our business, reshape our business, find ways to get art to people, find ways to get money into the hands of artists,” said Robyn Gilcrest, the NAC’s senior director of visitor experience and patron services.

Sponsorship partners are vital but tough to find, with every sector facing cutbacks and layoffs, said Loring.

“The big fear is that we’re going to lose so many artists in the ecology as this thing drags on — people just jumping because they don’t see anything for the next few years,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., announced its first deficit in 21 years due to the pandemic.

Stage and screen star Colm Feore said he has friends and colleagues in the industry who’ve started working factory jobs to get by.

“It’s been absolutely catastrophic,” Feore, who narrates Audible.ca show “True North Heists,” said in a recent interview from Stratford, Ont., home of the Stratford Festival.

“And particularly in Stratford, where we live and my wife (Donna Feore) is a director-choreographer. She was busy working on ‘Chicago’ and Steven Page’s, new musical, ‘Here’s What it Takes.’ And I was doing ‘Richard III’ — we were in full swing, and then it just stopped. And a couple of weeks later, we were all released from our contracts.”

The renowned Stratford Festival had to issue nearly 500 temporary layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

To help reach audiences and provide work to artists, the southwestern Ontario theatre company launched its own streaming service, Stratfest@Home, in October.

Organizers plan to announce the festival’s summer programming by early March. Beyond the usual COVID protocols, they’re considering digital program books, new ventilation systems in venues, Plexiglas separation indoors and no-contact service. They’re also considering shorter plays that won’t need an intermission, to prevent crowds from gathering.

Stratford is also looking at physically distanced experiences outdoors, like the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake did with concerts in the fall. The Shaw also staged some indoor concerts under strict pandemic protocols and announced its 2021 season in October, with plans to return to the stage in May.

“People cry, because it’s just such a privilege to gather with humans and hear live music,” said actor-singer Alexis Gordon, who was part of the Shaw outdoor performances after a summer spent cutting and wrapping cheese at a Stratford dairy to make money during theatre closures. She’s also in two projects for Stratfest@Home —  “The Early Modern Cooking Show” and “Up Close and Musical.”

The past year also has theatre companies wanting to stage shows that reflect the current racial reckoning and social justice issues.

“I think that representation and diversity conversations that are being had are going to shape the work and the nature of the work and the ways in which we work for the years to come,” said Loring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Ontario to cut hydro rates, provide student funding during 28-day lockdown

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

Ontario says it will provide new financial assistance for residents during a provincewide lockdown that starts on Boxing Day.

The province says it will cut hydro prices for 28 days, starting Jan. 1, as Ontarians are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The reduction to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour will automatically be credited on ratepayers’ bills.

The government says it will also provide $200 to families with high school students aged 13 through to Grade 12.

The money can be used to help offset education expenses as all schools move lessons online for the first week of January. Students will then gradually return to in-class learning depending on their location and grade level.

The lockdown, announced Monday, is being imposed as Ontario tries to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.

It will shutter all non-essential businesses, ban indoor gatherings, close restaurant dining rooms, and means Ontarians are advised to leave home only for essential trips.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario – where there are fewer cases – on Jan. 9.

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