Monthly Archives: October 2018

Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer won’t seek another term – Edmonton

EDMONTON – Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer says he doesn’t want to be reappointed when his term expires next month.

Fjeldheim announced in a news release Wednesday that he advised the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices of his decision. His current term at the helm of Elections Alberta expires on April 23.

Fjeldheim, a former Vegreville town councillor, was appointed to his second go-round in the job in February 2010. He previously held the post from October 1998 to November 2005.

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“I feel very extremely privileged, honoured and thankful to have been appointed twice to serve Albertans in the very important role of chief electoral officer,” Fjeldheim said in the statement.

Fjeldheim thanks his staff for their loyalty and support during what he calls a “very challenging time.”

Fjeldheim’s office has been investigating allegations of illegal campaign donations to the governing Progressive Conservatives.

At the end of January, he released a report that said there were 45 cases of illegal contributions to the party — totalling just over $20,000 — between 2010 and 2011.

Two days later, a leak to the media said the party planned to keep another $40,000 in illegal campaign donations to help fight the next election — even though Fjeldheim had ordered the PCs to pay the money back.

Fjeldheim has also been reviewing a donation of $430,000 made to the party last year by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, his family and associates.

Questions have been raised about whether the donations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Daryl Katz, his family and employees complied with Elections Alberta’s standards.

Alberta’s campaign finance rules limit donations to political parties to a maximum of $30,000 per person during an election year. But opposition parties have said they believe a single cheque went from Katz to the PCs.

With files from the Edmonton Journal

©2013The Canadian Press

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Map: B.C. Liquor Store sales by region and beverage type – BC

There are plenty of visitors to Whistler’s beautiful ski hills. And those visitors are thirsty.

According to statistics from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, 3.7 million litres of liquor was sold from BC Liquor Stores in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

INTERACTIVE: Map of B.C. liquor purchases by region

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This might not sound like much compared to the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s 61.9 million litres, but when adjusted for the number of adults of eligible drinking age, Squamish-Lillooet sells more liquor than anywhere else in the province – enough for every resident adult over 19 to have 120 litres of alcohol per year on average.

But it’s unlikely that residents are drinking that much by themselves.

“The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is home to a popular international tourist destination – Whistler Blackcomb,” wrote a spokesperson for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch in an email. The official population figures don’t take into account the number of tourists who visit. “As a result, the per capita beverage alcohol sales figures appear to be higher as they do not take temporary population figures into account.”

For example, Whistler’s modest 2010 population of 10,531 swelled to over 28,000 when out-of-town visitors and seasonal workers were accounted for, according to statistics from Whistler2020, an organization managed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler. This huge daily influx of visitors helps to skew the per-capita average.

But British Columbians in general are a thirsty bunch. An average resident of drinking age spends about $330 a year at BC Liquor Stores, to purchase about 37 litres of alcoholic beverages.

Most of that is beer, which accounts for about 23 litres of total consumption. Wine is second-most popular, at about 9 litres per person annually. The balance is made up by spirits and “refreshment beverages” such as pre-mixed drinks, coolers and ciders.

A drink’s popularity varies somewhat by region, though.

Refreshment beverages, for example, are most popular along the northern part of Vancouver Island. Sales in the Mount Waddington Regional District amount to 12.3 litres per person, much higher than the provincial average. The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch isn’t sure why.

And at first glance, people from the Okanagan Valley, known for its wineries, don’t seem to be drinking as much wine as other areas. More wine is sold per capita in the Squamish-Lillooet, Sunshine Coast and the Mount Waddington regional districts. The Okanagan is nearly tied with Victoria in wine sales, at 9.9 litres per person in the Central Okanagan regional district.

But they might just not be shopping at B.C. Liquor.

“A significant amount of wine purchased in the Okanagan Regional District is purchased directly from the wineries,” wrote the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

This data doesn’t show the whole picture, however. There are many private liquor stores in B.C., which account for 42.5 per cent of all liquor sold in the province – actually higher than the dollar amount of liquor sold by government stores (41 per cent). The numbers released by B.C. Liquor only reflect sales from official B.C. Liquor stores.

Use the map below to explore B.C.’s liquor purchases per capita. Use the drop-down menu on the right to switch between types of alcohol.

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EU hopes for trade pact with Canada by summer – National

OTTAWA – A senior European Union official says he hopes his continent’s free trade deal with Canada will be final by mid year.

Roland Schafer, the Americas director of the European External Action Service, said that’s when he expects Europe’s major free trade talks with the United States to begin.

Schafer said that doesn’t necessarily mean the Canada-EU deal would be consigned to the back burner. But his remarks suggested that European Commission negotiators could soon become preoccupied with their American counterparts.

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“The big issue for the next two years is going to be EU-U.S. negotiations,” Schafer told reporters on Wednesday, after meeting Canadian officials the previous day.

“This is going to be a major piece of work for both sides, especially for the commission. And it’s going to take a lot of political attention.”

Schafer said he doesn’t think the pending talks with the U.S. would “affect the capacity” of commission to finish the deal with Canada.

“It’s more a matter of where Canada wants to position itself with regard to a negotiation process that will take political attention.”

Schafer added that a successful conclusion with Canada would send a positive signal to the world and set the tone for the U.S.-EU process.

Schafer said the deal isn’t just about increasing trade.

“It’s also a signal to the rest of the world that we’re there to stay, that Europe and Canada look together with optimism into the future and that they, by themselves, can create wealth and jobs and growth,” he said.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said considerable progress had been made towards a deal, but obstacles remained.

During a visit by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Harper said Canada “will only sign a deal when we’re convinced we have a deal that is comprehensive and in the best interests of the Canadian economy.”

Schafer was reluctant to offer new details on what specific obstacles remained, saying that was a matter for the negotiators.

Last week, Ayrault told reporters in Ottawa that the remaining hurdles are in the agricultural and intellectual property sectors.

Last month, the European Union’s trade commissioner said Canada must change its positions for a deal to be struck, but gave no details.

Karel De Gucht told a committee of the European parliament that he hoped the deal would be sealed soon.

Schafer brushed back a suggestion that the European negotiators are presenting Canada with a take-it-or-leave it proposition.

But he did say that EU negotiators are a “tough crowd” and that both sides are in “a real negotiation.”

Schafer said trade was one of many subjects he discussed in a day of meetings Tuesday with the Foreign Affairs Department and the Privy Council Office, the political arm of the prime minister’s office.

They also touched on other issues including climate change, the Arctic, the security situation in West Africa and the fight against illicit drugs in the Americas.

The Latin American illicit drug trade, said Schafer, concerns Europeans because it is directly linked to the financing of the terrorist groups that have been active in Mali and across West Africa.

“The troubles in Mali stem partly from the fact that the Islamist terrorists … have been able to finance themselves very strongly and mainly through money derived from drug trafficking and human being trafficking, which starts actually in Latin America and the producer countries of cocaine, coca in Bolivia and Colombia,” he said.

He said Europe has good co-operation with Canada on working to stem the flow of illegal drugs from the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean.

Schafer said Europe is co-operating well with Canada on justice and governance projects in the Americas.

©2013The Canadian Press

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Yahoo buys Silicon Valley startup, bringing 5 former engineers back – National

SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo has bought Silicon Valley startup Jybe so it can bring back five of its former engineers to help the Internet company build better mobile applications.

The deal announced Wednesday marks Yahoo’s fourth acquisition of a small startup during the past five months. In each instance, Yahoo been more interested in obtaining the startups’ brainpower than the services that they provided.

As with its other recent acquisitions, Yahoo Inc. didn’t disclose the purchase price.

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Jybe’s mobile service that gathered people’s recommendations about food and entertainment is closing down so its five employees can focus on other projects at Yahoo Inc. All five Jybe workers were formerly employed at Yahoo before the company hired former Google Inc. executive Marissa Mayer as its CEO eight months ago.

The recent acquisitions are part of Mayer’s effort to bring in more expertise in designing mobile applications to give Yahoo a better chance of connecting with the steadily growing audience that are relying on smartphones and tablet computers to reach online services instead of personal computers.

The group of Jybe employees returning to Yahoo includes Arnab Bhattacharjee, who was a vice-president of search at the company before leaving nearly two years ago while Carol Bartz was CEO. Bartz had negotiated a deal that turned the responsibility for providing most of Yahoo’s search results to Microsoft Corp. That move triggered a wave of defections on Yahoo’s own internal search team.

After focusing on nothing but small acquisitions under Mayer’s command, Yahoo may be working on something bigger. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Yahoo is in preliminary discussion to buy a controlling stake in online video site Dailymotion from France Telecom SA. The report cited anonymous people familiar with the talks.

Yahoo declined to comment on The Journal’s report.

The Journal indicated Yahoo is considering buying a 75 per cent stake in Dailymotion for about $225 million.

Yahoo’s stock dipped 6 cents to $22.11 in early afternoon trading.

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Conn., rifle maker end aid deal after killings – National

HARTFORD, Conn. – Just days before 20 children and six educators were killed at a Connecticut school in December, state development officials offered the maker of the rifle used in the massacre a $1 million loan to bring new jobs to the state.

The offer, capping six months of negotiations between the Department of Economic and Community Development and Freedom Group, was dropped after private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15.

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The deal was ended four days after the killings, according to a letter released in response to an open records request.

The Hartford Courant first reported the deal and its unraveling.

Deputy agency commissioner Ronald Angelo said Wednesday that Cerberus’ announcement made the deal untenable. The announced sale led to several “cordial, amicable” phone conversations between the state and the company about the deal no longer being workable.

He said the killings also were a factor.

“It would be naive to think that that would not weigh on people’s minds,” he said, referring to the shooting deaths.

Freedom Group did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In a Dec. 6 letter — eight days before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School — the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered a $1 million loan at 2 per cent interest for 10 years to encourage Freedom Group to move its corporate headquarters to Stamford from North Carolina. The state would forgive $550,000 in exchange for the creation of 25 jobs.

Twelve days later — and four days after the massacre — the agency informed Freedom Group that the offer was withdrawn. Angelo said

Angelo said in an interview that Freedom Group approached state officials in June 2012 with a proposal to move the company’s headquarters. The announcement by Cerberus that it would sell Freedom Group was “an adverse financial condition,” he said.

Days after the killings, investors started to avoid some of the nation’s largest gun makers. Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell the maker of the rifle used in the massacre, which it called a “watershed event.”

“We are investors, not statesmen or policy makers,” Cerberus said at the time.

Stocks of other gun companies fell, and one sporting-goods chain said it would temporarily stop sales of military-style firearms.

As Malloy and Connecticut lawmakers were drafting gun control legislation, the governor wrote to manufacturers asking them to stay in the state despite what he said are differences over how to regulate firearms.

“Additionally, some of the issues related to gun violence prevention require the expertise of the manufacturing community and I welcome your involvement in crafting certain guidelines and strategies,” Malloy wrote on March 6.

___

©2013The Canadian Press

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Media interest in Lululemon’s yoga pant recall is priceless, says expert – BC

Whether it’s a real crisis or a manufactured one, the exposure Lululemon is getting from this week’s yoga pants recall is priceless, according to a marketing expert.

On Monday the Vancouver-based yoga clothing icon attracted a flurry of international media interest — and bad puns — when it announced a recall of a recent shipment of pants and crop pants in its “signature Luon fabric” for being so sheer that they left little to the imagination.

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“We believe the affected items represented approximately 17 per cent of all women’s bottoms in our stores and for the near term there will be a shortage of these styles available to our guests,” the company warned while offering no immediate explanation for the cause of the problem.

The suspect batch of pants, which was first offered for sale March 1, was removed from store shelves and the company’s Internet sales site after “some store managers expressed concern over the sheerness of some of our women’s black Luon bottoms.”

“We are working closely with our manufacturing partner to understand what happened during the period this specific fabric was made,” the company said in a statement.

It warned investors of a “significant impact” on its projected first-quarter sales revenue, saying it could fall as much as $22 million short of projections as a result of the recall.

Simon Fraser University marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said a recall that ties the company to revealing clothing would do nothing to hurt the Lululemon brand with its target market — women aged 18-35.

“My take is that you’ve got some pretty sophisticated spin doctors working the backroom,” Meredith said.

Young women’s contemporary fashions seem to be emphasizing skin tight materials and “fairly risqué” designs — and Lululemon “are very much in line with the current fashion, current trends,” he said.

“If their target market has moved into that direction of fashion, where tight is better and revealing is pretty good, then Lululemon are dead on the money here with the product,” Meredith said.

He added that he’d be less skeptical of the company’s motives if they’d simply pulled the product instead of issuing a lengthy statement about the recall — and attracting significant media coverage in the process.

“The average consumer is exposed to over 5,000 hits a day and in that clutter of course everybody gets disappeared. Then the issue is, among all the clutter, how do you get noticed?

“The way you get noticed is you turn the story into a news item. Did I mention you don’t pay any money for advertising, either?

“This would have had more veracity, if you will, more of that believability for media, if in fact an external watchdog had jumped in and said ‘OK, we’re forcing you to pull the stuff off the shelves.’ But that didn’t happen.”

Some retail sector analysts, meanwhile, portrayed the recall as part of a recent series of production flubs by the billion-dollar clothing empire that was founded in Vancouver in 1998.

The debacle marks the fourth quality problem in the last year for Lululemon, according to Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss — and not the first see-through issue.

First, the Vancouver-based company had sheerness problems with certain swimsuits for spring 2012, Buss noted. And some light-coloured pants on sale carry this disclaimer: “You may experience sheerness with some of our bright-coloured bottoms because of the lightweight nature of the fabric. We recommend you do a couple of Down Dogs in your brightly coloured bottoms to ensure you’re happy with the fit and coverage.” The company also has had problems with bright dyes bleeding.

Faye Landes, an analyst at Cowen & Co., thinks it was customers, not store managers, who first suggested there was a problem.

“If this is indeed the case, we suspect a serious lapse in (the company’s) supply chain, quality control and vendor management and specifically in its quality assurance program,” she said.

Until now, Lululemon has been as much a star for investors as it has for yoga devotees. Its shares rocketed from less than $3 in 2009, to around $65 this year. Lululemon’s stock price dropped nearly three per cent in New York trading Tuesday to close at $64.08. The stock is down 16 per cent in the year to date while the broader U.S. markets have been hitting multi-year highs.

Analysts expect to get more details when Lululemon posts earnings for the final quarter and full fiscal year on Thursday. But already some Wall Street analysts have downgraded the stock.

Other marketing analysts dismissed the debacle as a temporary glitch and said Lululemon’s loyal customers won’t switch to rivals like Nike Inc. or Champion anytime soon.

“It’s a late-night TV joke, and it’s going to pass,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York customer research firm.

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Wickenheiser moves hockey event to Calgary – Calgary

CALGARY – Hayley Wickenheiser is moving her international women’s hockey festival to Calgary after three years in Burnaby, B.C.

The captain and all-time leading scorer of the Canadian women’s hockey team says an offer from WinSport to use their new facilities at Canada Olympic Park, as well as a decrease in sponsorship dollars in Burnaby, prompted the move.

“Financially, it was really tough to stay in Burnaby,” Wickenheiser said. “It’s tough to raise sponsorship dollars.

“Just the connections and access here in Calgary was a really big reason and just being able to move it into a state-of-the-art world-class facility, it is exactly what we want to do with aligning the festival.”

Wickenheiser held her first festival in Burnaby in November, 2010, in the wake of the Winter Olympics in nearby Vancouver. The five-time Olympian said she wanted to boost the level of girls hockey in the province.

The event expanded from 54 teams in its inaugural year to 70 last year.

In addition to tournaments Novice, Atom, Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget clubs, “WickFest” includes skills clinics and off-ice seminars on nutrition, strength and conditioning and how to prepare for college and university hockey.

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While the event was heavy on B.C. lower mainland teams while in Burnaby, a Czech team, the Mexican national women’s team and some U.S. squads have attended the previous three years.

“We weren’t dead set on staying one location for a long time,” Wickenheiser said.

“Another reason for coming a little bit more east is we’re hoping to get Saskatchewan, Ontario, more American teams. Next year we definitely have a Finnish team coming. We’re hoping to have the Mexican team back.

“It lends itself to a little bit easier access to people coming from around the world.”

WinSport, which oversees the legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics in the city, is putting the finishing touches on a winter sport institute at Canada Olympic Park.

The facility includes three NHL-sized rinks and an Olympic-sized ice surface.

Wickenheiser says outgoing WinSport chief executive officer Dan O’Neill extended an invitation to hold her festival there in November.

Wickenheiser lives in Calgary and will train full time at COP next winter with the women’s team in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But the 34-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., says that wasn’t a primary reason for relocating the women’s hockey event in her name.

“That was way down the list,” she said. “I wish we could have stayed in Vancouver. I really did. I thought we were doing a great thing for women’s hockey there.

“If I had $100,000 more a year to put into it, we could have. The dollars were getting too tight. It’s already become easier (in Calgary).”

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Researchers aim to eliminate food waste with mould-free 60 day old bread – National

TORONTO – Would you eat bread that’s 60 days old? A group of engineers and scientists hope so.

Texas-based technology company MicroZap claims it has developed technology that has the ability to keep bread mould-free for 60 days. Inventor Don Stull said the microwave device he and a group of engineers and scientists helped design can potentially reduce the amount of food Canadians waste.

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“Food waste should be considered unacceptable and we are spoiled to an abundance of food in Canada and the U.S.,” said Stull in an e-mail interview with Global News. “Imagine being able to kill any bacteria on your fresh produce without cooking it, and be able to use it as a standard cooking appliance.”

A study released in October 2012 found Canadians are throwing away a whopping $27 billion dollars worth of food annually-a majority of which is from households. Bread is one of the worst offenders as it usually begins to grow mould spores within roughly 10 days.

FEATURE: Food waste – by the numbers

Stull said the technique uses patent pending technology that delivers microwaves from multiple sources to get even distribution of energy-without any hot or cold spots-and that it uses a combination of thermal and not-thermal effects to kill pathogens without cooking or changing the food’s quality.

According to Stull, a group of scientists monitored mould growth after treating sliced bread in the company’s machine prototypes for 10 seconds. In the e-mail to Global News, Stull stated mould count was the same as a piece of bread out of the package and that consumers saw no noticeable change in quality.

The microwave-like device has already been used to treat food like raw turkey, peanuts and jalapenos from bacteria like salmonella and listeria. The company has already expanded its technology to kill the deadly superbug MRSA in hospitals and healthcare facilities, locker rooms and homes.

Stull said the health concerns associated with eating food that has been treated with this microwave technology are no different than those associated with your home microwave.

“It’s considered safe for your home use, however ours is different in that we are not cooking the food that we treat,” said Stull. “We use a combination of thermal and non-thermal effects to kill pathogens at temperatures below their known kill temperatures. More like a cold pasteurization process. Food is heated but not to the point where it is cooked or where its quality is changed.”

Food expert and assistant professor at University of Toronto’s Department of Molecular Genetics, Dr. William Navarre said that microwave treatment of food to reduce contamination by mould spores should be considered safe.

“It would certainly be as safe or safer than the addition of preservatives to bread,” said Navarre. “Have you ever read the list of ingredients on bread from a typical industrial-sized baking company? In theory we could get back to bread that has very simple ingredients – just flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water.”

Navarre said that while he believes the treatment would be effective at increasing the shelf life of products both on store shelves and in the home, the question that remains is whether a great reduction in waste is what the bread companies would make a priority out of.

“It’s not cheap to introduce this technology and there is an anti-incentive because customers would not have to buy as much bread if each loaf lasted longer,” said Navarre. “The selling point would have to be that the bread stays fresher without preservatives and the baking companies would have to see that this is something customers are willing to pay for.”

Stull said he believes the technology also has the potential to help the bread industry in several ways as it would allow regional bread companies to expand their territory.

“They are currently limited to a certain driving distance from the oven. A longer shelf life could help them expand their offering to new territories.”

Experts, however, say there are easier ways to cut down food waste. Old slices or pieces of bread can easily be turned into bread crumbs or used as croutons in your soup or salad.

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Hundreds of Toronto businesses cited with rat, mouse, insect problems since 2011 – Toronto

TORONTO – Over the past two years, a total of 973 health citations involving rodents, infestations or inadequate pest control have been issued to 754 different establishments in Toronto, an analysis of data from DineSafe suggests.

Over the weekend, photos of rats crawling across the furniture at New Seaway Fish Market in Kensington popped up online, prompting Toronto’s public health agency to temporarily close the facility pending a cleaning and re-inspection.

The market is now open again, after undergoing repeated inspections and Jim Chan of Toronto Public Health says people shouldn’t be worried about past negative inspections.

“If it’s not safe, inspectors would not allow them to re-open,” Chan said.

Using data freely available on the city of Toronto’s Open Data website, Global News analyzed and visualized health citations issued to restaurants in Toronto.

Of the 754 establishments cited, a total of 87 were forced to close – at least temporarily – as a result.

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The majority of the citations were for inadequate pest control, however 25 were handed out for failing to prevent an insect infestation and 19 were issued for failing to prevent a rodent infestation. According to Michael Goldman of Purity Pest Control, controlling rodent populations is of the utmost concern for restaurant owners.

But for establishments in older neighbourhoods such as Kensington or Chinatown, local BIA’s have taken the step of hiring pest control companies to manage the entire area.

“It’s always a concern because you want to make sure that people dine in an environment that is pest free and disease free,” Goldman said.

However, there are a number of challenges when trying to keep an area free of rodents.

Some of those challenges, Goldman said, may be beyond a person’s control.

“Restaurants in older areas it may be a little more difficult to keep pest free. The walls are falling apart inside and outside and all you need is a small hole for a rat or a mouse to get through,” Goldman said. “Having one restaurant or grocery store be very proactive and work hard to maintain a pest free environment and your neighbour not do the same thing is a problem.”

Rodents can fit through very small holes, Goldman said, from the size of a quarter for a rat to the size of a dime for a mouse.

“Because these are old buildings, they are attached, sometimes wiring is shared, etc and a mouse, a rat, a roach can go from one building to the next just by going through a crack or a hole,” Goldman said.

And warm winters may allow more rat and mice populations to grow, meaning more rodents crawling through small holes pining for food.

“If there’s a lot of snow, food is harder to find, and the rats or mice, some may not be able to over-winter, and so the populations stay low. When it’s a mild winter and there is food all around, the garbage bins are very accessible, rat population and most populations will increase dramatically,” Goldman said.

– With files from Leslie Young

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Record setting snowmobile season in Saskatchewan

SASKATOON – While many people are grumbling about all the snow on the ground, one group is happy.

After the lack of snow last winter, snowmobilers have been taking to the trails in record numbers with record amounts of snow on the ground in some parts of the province.

The proof is in the numbers, with snowmobiles registrations up over 4,000 from last year.

“We’re up over the 20 thousand mark already and still have March’s numbers to come in,” said Chris Brewer, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association.

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“That’s telling us snowmobiling is growing in the province and dealers are telling us sales are way up.”

In some cases sales have reached new heights. FFUN Motorsports has sold over 200 sleds, almost double what it’s used to.

“We’ve obviously seen that in unit sales. Running out of snowmobiles at the end of December, we wish we would have had way more inventory than we did but obviously nobody was expecting a winter like this,” said Paul Ottey, product specialist at FFUN Motorsports.

Saskatchewan’s number one winter tourism activity has boosted the economy, benefiting hotels and gas stations, but that hasn’t come without some issues. The amount of snow has caused constant trail grooming and more signage stretching volunteers thin.

There are somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 recreational snowmobiles in Saskatchewan.

With spring now here, the end of the snowmobile season is approaching. So far this season, there has been one snowmobile fatality in the province.

Chris Brewer hopes not to see another one and warns snowmobilers not to drink and ride.

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