Wintering in Canada

Submitted by Neil Simpson

At 8:00 this morning (November 16) I headed out the door in my shorts. If I had been in Tanglewood, I would have ridden my bike to the pickleball courts. As I am still home in Ontario, I walked the trail back of our condo building, along one of the many ravines that bisect our city. How was I to know that minutes after I hit the trail, the first snow of Canadian Winterthe season would start to fall? Big fluffy flakes floated down from the sky.

The walk through a winter wonderland reminded me that Shirley Kabet, esteemed chair of the TWRTimes Committee, had asked recently if I could submit a story about winter in Canada. When she suggested the assignment, I wasn’t sure what I could write that would enlighten readers.

This fall has been far from ordinary (how unusual in 2020 !). The weather has been great with many warm, sunny days to kick off the month of November. Spring wasn’t typical either. We had snow in mid-May but that was followed by a great summer.

Our deck

Many Americans, surely none of those who will read this article, may not be aware that those of us living in Southern Ontario actually live further south than many of our friends from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Our weather is, therefore, much like that experienced by many of our American friends.

This summer we moved from Port Perry to Oshawa, a city of nearly 170,000 located on the shores of Lake Ontario. We purchased a condo in a high rise building. From our sixth floor balcony we can actually see a smoke stack on the south shore of the lake somewhere between Buffalo and Rochester. Being so close to upstate New York, we do share weather conditions, however, those in Buffalo, Rochester and environs receive far more snow than we do.

Just like several American cities, production at the Oshawa GM plant ceased at the end of 2019. This year some workers were recalled to produce PPE and in the past week it was announced that truck production would start again in 2022.

Early in March, the Canadian Government warned snowbirds that we had to hurry home before the border was closed to non-essential travel. As well, we were advised that our out-of-country insurance might not be valid for coronavirus illnesses. We finished up our Tanglewood yard work and were soon on our way back home where we quarantined for two weeks, as required, then got on with life wearing our masks and social distancing.

In the early stages of the pandemic, Ontario’s long term care homes were ravaged by the disease. Then, for the longest time, we were pleased that our number of daily cases was low. For a few weeks in late summer, Ontario, with a population of 14,500,000 had only 100 new cases daily while Florida was registering thousands each day.

Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday of October and it appears that holiday gatherings and the cooler fall weather led to a spike in numbers. For the past two weeks our new cases have numbered in excess of 1,000 daily.

Mask wearing hasn’t been much of an issue here. We have had only the odd display of resistance with small demonstrations at our provincial government buildings in Toronto.

Schools were closed from mid-March through the end of the school year then reopened in September. Students have a choice of online or in person learning. We have granddaughters in kindergarten and grade seven and neither has experienced any problems attending school daily. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been outbreaks in schools, but our family hasn’t been directly affected.

As the numbers change, so too do the regulations. Indoor gatherings were limited to a maximum of 10 over Thanksgiving so we accommodated our family of 13 with two dinners at our place. Restaurants have been closed then opened and in some high risk areas, closed again. In our city, restaurants are still open with reduced seating capacity.

The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to non-essential traffic. This closure has been renegotiated each month since March. For some reason, it is still permissible to fly across the border. Some of our friends will be flying south for the winter but most are hunkering down here, forgoing the great winter weather Florida offers.

News of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is very promising. If one or both are approved and can be widely distributed, we hope to be back in Tanglewood in the fall of 2021. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our first Canadian winter in close to two decades without having to shovel any of the snow.

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