Mayor wanted: some Quebec towns struggle to find municipal candidates

WATCH: Top Montreal mayoral candidates and where they stand on mandatory vaccinations

There’s nobody running for mayor in St-Eloi, a small Quebec municipality that offers panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River.

The 300-person community about 210 kilometres northeast of Quebec City will have to launch a second appeal for candidates after nobody threw their hat in the ring ahead of the Nov. 7 municipal election — and it isn’t alone.

While cities such as Montreal are fielding up to 10 candidates for mayor, many smaller communities in the province are hunting for takers.

As the nomination period closed across the province, 11 towns were still looking for a mayoral candidate, while 109 councillor positions were unfilled. A further 608 mayors and 4,291 councillors have already been declared elected due to a lack of opposition. In 2017, when the last municipal elections were held, five towns had no mayor and 77 councillor positions were vacant.

READ MORE: Nominations close for Quebec municipal elections, over 500 mayors elected unopposed

The number of vacancies is higher this year, but two experts who spoke to The Canadian Press say they remain within the historical averages. Still, they acknowledge recruiting mayors in some communities is a challenge due to small populations and low salaries, as well as the increasing complexity of the job and scrutiny from the public.

Mario St-Louis, the outgoing mayor of St-Eloi, says he’s been doing a job that requires “seven days a week, 24 hours a day” — all for about $6,000 dollars a year. “It’s practically volunteer work,” he said in a phone interview.

While he’s enjoyed the work, he’s now 72 and wants to retire. He’s not entirely surprised there’s nobody to replace him. He said young people in town usually have families and full-time jobs, and most of the local retirees have already taken a turn and are ready to move on.

“People don’t want to work for $2 an hour any more,” he said.

St-Cyrille-de-Lessard, a municipality about 85 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, is also looking for a new leader after current Mayor Denise Deschenes announced she wouldn’t seek a second term due to health reasons.

Deschenes said in a recent phone interview that while she was surprised nobody stepped forward, she understands why some hesitate. The job involves evening meetings and can be hard for work-life balance, especially for someone like her with a family and children.

Mayors also have to contend with criticism from the public, which she said sometimes crosses the line into bullying or harassment. “We have to denounce it,” she said, “because that’s how we’ll get things back on track and make our jobs easier.”

Laurence Behrer, a political science professor at the Universite de Montreal, says small towns will always have a harder time filling positions at city hall because they have a much smaller pool of potential candidates. Candidates also may run unopposed more often because residents know each other.

“They might hesitate to run because they know (their opponent) or their family, so the idea of competition becomes more difficult,” she said in a phone interview.

Behrer says the job of being a small-town mayor has become increasingly complex as provinces have off-loaded more responsibilities on municipalities. They also have to contend with new challenges, such as climate change.

READ MORE: Holness, Desjardins join forces under Mouvement Montréal banner ahead of municipal elections

Daniel Cote, the president of the Union des Municipalites du Quebec, says a mayor’s job now goes far beyond “garbage pickup and snow removal” and into the realms of economic development, infrastructure management and family policies.

“We have to be aware that, as of today, the responsibility of municipal politicians in general is much larger than what it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago,” he said.

Furthermore, he said the advent of social media now means mayors are expected to answer to citizens around the clock instead of once a month at council meetings.

Cote, who is also the mayor of Gaspe, says his organization has had some success in recruiting more young people and women to run and is offering resources to help elected officials deal with issues such as online harassment and work-life balance.

However, he said it’s crucial for some municipalities to raise mayoral salaries, which are often below $10,000 a year, to reflect the new realities of the role.

READ MORE: Plante pledges $110 million to tackle gun violence as Montreal police report 2 more homicides

Increased salaries remain a “taboo subject” and a difficult one to broach, since many small towns also have small tax bases. However, Cote maintains it can be done. He said a number of smaller cities, including Gaspe, have chosen in past years to raise the salaries to allow elected officials to serve full-time.

“If we want talented people, we have to compensate them,” he said.

If small towns don’t manage to attract a candidate after a second nomination period, a candidate can be appointed. However, Cote says that rarely happens.

Despite the challenges of the job, St-Louis, Deschenes and Cote all say it comes with significant rewards, such as a chance to make positive impacts on their communities.

Deschenes says that now that her health is improving, she might stay on for a second term if nobody else comes forward. St-Louis is still hoping to retire but says he, too, would rather stay on than see an outsider named to the job.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

RCMP seek missing man after rental truck found on B.C. interior logging road

RCMP in the British Columbia interior are asking for the public’s help to find a missing man whose truck was found abandoned on a forestry road.

Clearwater RCMP says Daniel Ritchie, 35, was last heard from on Oct. 13.

Read more:
Missing man found deceased: Vernon North Okanagan RCMP

Ritchie’s usual vehicle was in for repairs, and the rental truck he was using as a replacement was found about 14 kilometres up the 1130 Forest Service Rd. near Dunn Lake Road in East Blackpool.

Read more:
Missing Port Alberni man may be in Kelowna

Police say the rental was due to be returned this weekend. Ritchie did have some scheduled time off, but was due back at work on Monday, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers if they wish to remain anonymous.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Man charged, 17-year-old sought in connection with 2020 Brampton Christmas Eve shooting

An 18-year-old man has been charged and a 17-year-old boy is being sought after in connection with a shooting in Brampton on Christmas Eve 2020, Peel Regional Police say.

Emergency services were called to a home on Hubbell Road at 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2020 for reports of a shooting.

Investigators said officers found a 24-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound after a fight with two other men. Police said the victim was taken to a trauma centre. The suspects involved fled.

In an update on Sunday, investigators said they have arrested Mississauga resident Eliazar Henry.

He was charged with numerous offences including attempted murder, robbery and possession of property obtained by crime.

Henry appeared for a bail hearing on Oct. 16.

Furthermore, a warrant is out for a 17-year-old Brampton boy, also wanted for several offences, including attempted murder.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police at 905-453–2121, ext. 2233 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

A 'horticultural anomaly': Lone cherry tree blossoms out of season in Burnaby

A cherry tree near Metrotown in Burnaby is in full bloom this October and experts say it could be the last flowering.

Amid the gloomy weather and falling leaves, one lone cherry tree is defying the season and adding a bright spot to the otherwise dreary fall.

The lone Accolade cherry is in blossom, showing bright pink flowers that should normally appear in the late winter or early spring.

Read more:
Heat domes and wildfires: New approach needed in extreme weather fight, report author says

“The flowers look fantastic, but this is probably its dying breath,” Douglas Justice, associate director of the UBC Botanical Garden, told Global News.

“Normally, this is going to flower in March, and typically it would flower without any leaves on it. So flowering now, we know it’s unusual and we know it’s a stress response.”

The “horticultural anomaly” is likely a stress response to the unusually hot summer and the historic heat dome that baked B.C.’s south coast in June and July, Justice said.

Read more:
PHOTOS: Cherry blossoms finally bloom across Metro Vancouver

While some cherry trees are known to bloom in October or November, they are of other varietals, and don’t do so with their leaves on, he said.

Metro Vancouverites who want a touch of colour can spot the tree on a raised walkway at Nelson Avenue and Kingsway near Metrotown.

Otherwise, Justice said, they’ll have to wait for next spring when they can use a map from the annual Cherry Blossom festival to help find the best displays of blossoms in the region.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Restaurant workers dealing with anger, abuse and racism as they try to enforce vaccine mandates

When a proof-of-vaccine policy was announced, Juliana Murphy knew it would be another burden she’d face at work.

“I’ve had grown men yell and raise a fist at me just because of contact tracing,” says the waitress at a Halifax breakfast restaurant. “I knew asking them to show me proof of their COVID-19 shots would be worse.”

Vaccine passports are emerging as the latest challenge for restaurant workers in Canada, as many face verbal abuse, sexual harassment and racism from customers.

Restaurant staff across the country say while most customers are respectful of the new vaccine requirements, others are argumentative and angry.

Read more:
Alberta businesses need more help despite new COVID-19 restrictions exemption program grant

They describe a work environment where they are routinely grilled about COVID-19 vaccine certification policies, with a small number of customers becoming belligerent and intimidating.

They describe the added work of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions as exhausting and stressful.

In response, some restaurant operators have hired security guards to review vaccination records and identification before allowing customers to sit at a table.

But in most cases, the responsibility falls to front-of-house staff — a largely young, part-time and low-wage workforce that’s already under strain from an industry-wide labour shortage.

Read more:
Pandemic hits Alberta’s hospitality industry harder than any other sector: CFIB

“A lot of the hosts working at downtown restaurants are young women and it’s kind of scary for them to be essentially bouncing at the front door,” says Sean Bridge, a part-time server, bartender and host in Toronto. (The restaurants where Bridge and Murphy work are not being named to prevent them from being targeted by anti-vaccination efforts.)

“You can get a really … arrogant crowd around here,” Bridge says.

“I hate that the onus of enforcing these rules has come down to restaurant staff.”

For an industry slammed by pandemic public health measures, the vaccine passport rules have been another blow for bars and restaurants.

While they’re scrambling to stay open and doing their best to enforce the vaccine mandates, the restrictions have further increased the workload for staff and hurt sales, according to an industry group.

Read more:
COVID-19 has caused some Edmonton servers to leave the industry while others work longer days

Restaurants Canada found in a recent survey that more than half of restaurant operators say their employees have experienced hostile confrontations from people opposed to the new rules.

The survey also found that 20 per cent of restaurants have lost staff and more than 60 per cent say they need to hire more workers.

“It’s restrictions on top of restrictions,” says Todd Barclay, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada. “It’s very labour intensive and time consuming to implement ? restaurants are losing money.”

The industry group says restaurants should be compensated for the cost of enforcing vaccine mandates, which would help them hire more workers. It is also calling for capacity and distancing restrictions to be lifted now that vaccine requirements are being enforced.

Still, front-line restaurant workers suggest some customers may be forging vaccine records.

“I had one table that I overheard later in the evening say that they had forged their documents,” says Bridge. “I had looked at their forgeries, and there’s zero way to tell they were fake.”

On the flip side, he says he almost didn’t allow someone who had the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine into the restaurant because he didn’t realize it only required one dose to be fully vaccinated.

“We’re trying to enforce these rules but we’ve had zero training,” Bridge says. “It’s a really uncomfortable situation to be in.”

In Halifax, Murphy says her restaurant provided no training but left a pamphlet on the front desk about the proof-of-vaccine policy for staff to use as a guideline.

“The hard thing is, the vaccine records are different for every province,” she says. “It takes time to verify and some customers get upset. They really do believe it’s the restaurant imposing this.”

The waitress says while younger people, seniors and women generally tend to be understanding, she’s had multiple hostile interactions with middle-aged men.

“Some of them seem to take this as an opportunity to be racist,” she says. “I’ve repeatedly noticed that some customers give our Syrian and Indian employees a much harder time. They get really angry when they ask for their proof of vaccines.”

Murphy says she does her best to help de-escalate these situations, but that the amount of money she makes has dropped.

“By the time they get through the front door to my table, they’re already in this horrible mood and complaining about things that have nothing to do with our actual restaurant service or quality. They’ve already made the decision that they’re going to tip less.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Despite COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment at USask reaches all time high

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is reporting its highest enrollment in the university’s history.

Read more:
Parent, Sask. teachers call for more communication around COVID-19 in schools

There was an overall increase of one per cent compared with the previous year, with a two per cent increase in the number of students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Travel restrictions presented challenges for many students who are attending the university and moved from afar.

As with every other course, the language centre instruction shifted to online learning.

Students are however returning thanks to the resumption of in-class learning for the fall and winter semesters.

Alison Pickrell, USask assistant vice-provost of strategic enrollment management, said the university has not missed a beat, despite the pandemic, due to its reputation for offering a good post-secondary education.

“I think it speaks to students’ goals of getting post-secondary educations,” Pickrell said. “I think it also speaks to the quality of the University of Saskatchewan programming. It’s great to see students and faculty walking around campus again.”

Read more:
3 USask researchers named Canadian Academy of Health Sciences fellows

The university earlier this year announced its plan to move back to in-person learning for 2021-22 school.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Toasty toes sock drive once again providing socks to those who need it most

Chiropractors in Saskatchewan are once again coming together along with the Salvation Army to help vulnerable residents.

The annual toasty toes sock drive has a chiropractor’s team up with the Salvation Army. Their aim is to collect 10,000 pairs of socks.

The idea is to provide an often-overlooked article of warmth for everyone so no one has to suffer through the cold of winter without socks on their feet.

Tracy Bertram, executive director of the Chiropractors Association of Saskatchewan, said 67,000 pairs of socks have been collected and given away through the years from the sock drive.

“Socks are one of the most commonly requested for shelters and other organizations that support vulnerable people, but they are one of the least donated items,” Bertram said. “So they can use them throughout the year.”

Read more:
Saskatoon homelessness report points to gaps in service

Socks will be collected until Nov. 27.

For more information visit the Saskatchewan Chiropractor website.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Local non-profit lending a helping hand to Regina kids

A youth mentorship program that was started by a Saskatchewan Roughrider, is installing an indoor turf facility in the near future in hopes of providing a year-round athletic complex for Regina youth.

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Makana Henry doesn’t want to see the youth in Regina make the same mistakes that he made as a kid.

“I made bad decisions growing up, followed the wrong crowd, led the wrong crowd, got in bad spots, made bad decisions. I was being a kid, running around and I thought I was invincible,” Henry said.

So Henry decided to create his own youth mentorship program called Reggie City, which aims to provide children with the opportunity for sport, education and mentorship.

Read more:
Stamps beat Roughriders on last-second Paredes field goal

That is why Henry has teamed up with the Wolverines football organization, another non-profit organization that trains athletes from the ages of eight to 18 and introduces football to kids aged five to seven, to build an indoor turf facility.

The purpose of the facility is to provide not only a year-round venue for kids to play sports, but also classrooms for educational purposes and a room for massaging and physiotherapy.

A fundraising goal of $20,000 was set to pay for the indoor turf facility, and Henry said they are about $2,000 short of that at this time, but the turf is set to be delivered within the next week, in hopes of being installed in time for the program’s next sports camp in November.

Henry and Justin Nagy from the Wolverines organization decided to team up on this venture because they share the same values and goals.

“We’re teaching the kids the integrity and brotherhood of the game but there’s other aspects to life than just football. It gives the ability for athletes to come and strengthen their skills as they move forward through their careers,” Nagy said.

Read more:
Regina neighbourhood friend group using basketball to bring people together

Single mother Charlene Lewis, who is also a board member of Reggie City, said she appreciates the opportunities that the program has afforded her daughter, Haylee.

She said the program enables Haylee to go to a camp that’s free, where she gets to interact with other kids that are from situations, like a single-parent home, where they might not have the opportunity to play sports.

“It’s a great opportunity and it’s something that I am honoured to be involved with and help out with. It just helps the community and all the kids that can’t really afford to be in a sport,” Lewis said.

Haylee said she has enjoyed the camps and that they have helped her improve her passing skills.

“The thing I like about it is that we do drills in the beginning and then towards the end of it, we’ll play a couple games. And you get prizes and they have food and drink,” she said.

Overall, Reggie City was founded by Henry to give the youth in Regina a positive outlet for their free time.

“I would just like them to know that no matter where you come from or what you do, it’s never too late for you, you can always make something of yourself,” Henry said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Calgary fire, CPS call northeast blaze on Sunday morning 'suspicious'

Calgary Police and fire crews are investigating what they’re calling a “suspicious fire” in the city’s northeast.

Police found a large fire at a commercial building in the 5200 block of Marlborough Drive while they were responding to an intruder alarm.

Large volumes of dark smoke and fire were found in both the front and back of a multi-unit two-storey building when fire crews arrived.

Calgary Fire confined the blaze to a single unit as police assisted in evacuating homes in the nearby area as a precaution, CFD said. No injuries were reported.

Fire officials said the damage to the property is extensive and firefighters remain at the scene to continue to put out hot spots. Businesses in the same complex have extensive smoke damage as well.

The investigation continues and involves both Calgary Fire and the CPS arson unit.

Read more:
Blaze causes extensive damage to northeast Calgary garage, firefighter injured

Meantime, the Calgary Fire Department is looking for photos, video or information regarding this fire, especially prior to CFD arrival. If you have information, contact them by email.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

‘It’s all I had’: Kelowna, B.C. senior shares details of elaborate scam

A 77-year-old woman is out thousands of dollars after falling for a cryptocurrency scam. Jules Knox reports on the elaborate ploy.

After seeing an ad for bitcoin and pondering the possible investment, 77-year-old Lynda Krauza decided she wanted to get into the cryptocurrency market.

Krauza said her husband has been in and out of Kelowna’s hospital, and she could use the money.

Read more:
Bitcoin price tops US$60,000, nearing record high

“My kids have helped me tremendously, and I just wanted to be able to pay them back,” she said.

It all started in June, when Krauza entered her email and phone number into a bitcoin website.

She said it didn’t take long for the phone calls to start rolling in.

Krauza said she started out by investing $250 at first.

Read more:
Bitcoin’s fossil fuel use criticized. But some Canadian companies hope to turn it green

“It snowballed from there,” she said.

Krauza said she was soon e-transferring $3,000 lump sum payments from her bank to a supposed bitcoin account.

“These people walked her through every step and gave her ideas to do things and go to the bank and get an increase on (credit),” said Colleen Greer, Krauza’s daughter. “And they got into her iPad with any desk and then they could see everything, so they knew exactly how much money she had.”

Her daughter became suspicious after she noticed Krauza was receiving two dozen calls a day.

“And so we started writing down the numbers of who’s calling, but she had a name for every one of those people that called her,” Greer said.

Read more:
El Salvador becomes 1st country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender

The elaborate scam even has a supposed banking portal with two-factor authentication showing a fake balance, Krauza said.

“It does look real when you look at the websites,” Greer said.

After she realized something was going on, Greer answered her mom’s phone and demanded a withdrawal.

That would be the fraudsters final phone call to Krauza.

The senior said she tracked the phone numbers and emails of people she was speaking with, but they’ve now all been blocked.

She estimates she’s out $34,000.

“It’s all I had. They even took my pension cheque,” Krauza said. “Some people treat people worse than animals.”

“They’ll take every last cent you have.”

Krauza says her bank’s fraud department is looking into the matter, and she’s hoping at least some of the money can be recovered.

RCMP confirmed they are investigating.

Read more:
Tempted to invest in Bitcoin? Here are a few things to consider

“Unfortunately, it is a very common scam that occurs not only here in Kelowna, but all over Canada and affects individuals of all ages,” Const. Solana Paré said in an email.

Bitcoin transfer is virtually untraceable and provides fraudsters with protection and anonymitiy from their victims, she said.

“Scammers can access the coins from anywhere in the world which further hampers their prosecution, even if they could be identified,” Paré added.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

You May Also Like

Top Stories