Ryan Meili running for leadership of Sask. NDP

Ryan Meili hopes to become the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP.

Meili announced on Thursday his intention to enter the race.

READ MORE: Ryan Meili’s byelection victory could change face of Saskatchewan NDP

“This leadership contest is our chance to develop the kind of healthy politics that works for Saskatchewan people,” Meili said in a statement.

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  • Ryan Meili says more action needed to close health gap faced by First Nations

  • Saskatchewan NDP launch leadership race; will choose leader in vote next May

    “I look forward to speaking with and working alongside longtime party members, recently mobilized voters, and community builders across the province to build the inspiring and effective movement we need.”

    Meili said he will formally launch his campaign in the coming months.

    He has run twice before for leader, losing to Dwain Lingenfelter in 2009 and Cam Broten in 2013.

    READ MORE: Ryan Meili wins Saskatoon-Meewasin byelection

    Meili was elected as MLA for Saskatoon-Meewasin in March.

    Broten stepped down after the 2016 provincial election after the party gained only one more seat.

    Regina MLA Trent Wotherspoon has been filling the role as interim leader, but Wotherspoon has said he won’t pursue permanent leadership because he doesn’t want to lose time with his family.

    The new leader will be elected at a convention in Regina on May 6, 2018.

    With files from

Embattled Victoria police chief steps down from his position

The embattled Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner has stepped down from his position following a number of allegations of misconduct that happened in 2015.

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board made the announcement Thursday morning saying Elsner “will no longer receive payment of his salary, or other employment benefits as provided for under his employment contract.”

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Elsner, who has been Chief Constable for the VicPD since 2014, came under fire in December 2015 after coming forward to apologize for inappropriate private messages on 杭州桑拿会所 to the wife of a subordinate officer. He had his conduct reviewed by the Police Board in an internal investigation overseen by an outside lawyer. The probe into the matter concluded and the board determined they still had full confidence in the chief’s leadership and was given a formal reprimand.

Little more than a week later, Elsner voluntarily stepped aside as police chief after another investigation was launched by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPPC). The investigation was sparked by the chief’s admissions that he was “truly sorry and humiliated” for taking part in inappropriate social media exchanges with the wife of one of his officers.


Victoria police chief faces new allegations of misconduct


Victoria police chief faces new allegations of misconduct


Victoria police chief trying to stop investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour


Victoria police chief taking paid leave amid new allegations


External investigation ordered into conduct of Victoria’s police chief


Police Board weighs Victoria police chief’s future


Victoria Police Chief Scandal

A notice for investigation issued by complaint commissioner Stan Lowe alleged Elsner provided misleading information to an investigator and contacted a witness during an internal investigation, including the officer whose wife the chief had messaged over 杭州桑拿会所. Elsner allegedly provided the officer with information that convinced him no further investigation into the matter was required, said the report.

The member’s wife was reportedly a police officer in a neighbouring jurisdiction.

Lowe said in a statement at the time that he received more information from Victoria’s police union, including allegations by four employees of workplace harassment starting in early 2014.

The union had already called for Elsner to be removed from his job for the “betrayal” of trust of his officers.

Questioning the process

In March 2016, Elsner filed documents claiming Lowe had no authority to order the investigation, which was overseen by RCMP Chief Supt. Sean Bourrie, into his conduct. In his petition Elsner raised concerns over Bourrie heading the investigation saying, “with respect, his rank is not equivalent to or higher than mine.” He went on to say that, “Chief Superintendent Bourrie does not have the necessary understanding and experience with respect to the duties of a municipal chief.”

Elsner also claimed that he agreed to the internal investigation with the understanding that the matter would remain “private and confidential.” He said he was never told the police complaint commissioner had imposed any conditions on the internal investigation.

New Allegations

The petition was still in the courts when Elsner was suspended by the OPCC in April 2016. The suspension occurred after new information of further allegations involving Elnser was found by the OPCC, spurring two separate investigations.

“The new information arises from recent interviews with witnesses, as well as information obtained from the information technology systems at the Victoria Police Department,” reads the 2016 commissioner’s statement.

READ MORE: Investigation of Victoria police chief extended 

The allegations, if substantiated, would involve three separate disciplinary breaches of public trust: one allegation of deceit and two allegations of discreditable conduct.

The commissioner determined that it is in the public interest that the new allegations should be investigated by an external police force and chose the RCMP to look into the matter.

In March 2017, two retired judges determined there was enough evidence for allegations of misconduct against Victoria’s suspended police chief to hold disciplinary hearings.

Since Elsner has resigned his position, the VicPD Board will now be taking steps to find his replacement.

Alberta’s economy starting to stabilize: ATB outlook

Alberta’s economy is showing signs of gradual improvement and stability, according to ATB Financial’s latest economic outlook.

ATB Financial points to several economic indicators in its quarterly outlook: retail activity, housing prices and the labour market are all showing modest growth. The rebuild in Fort McMurray will also add to growth in the province.

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  • Modest improvement expected in Alberta’s economy: ATB Alberta Economic Outlook

  • Could Alberta’s oil industry be rebounding?

  • Oil will help Alberta’s economy lead Canada in 2017. But that won’t translate into more jobs

    ATB Financial’s economics and research team is forecasting Alberta’s economy to expand by 2.7 per cent this year and 2.3 per cent in 2018. ATB’s chief economist Todd Hirsch expects Calgary to rebound a bit more than Edmonton.

    “Calgary will probably do a little bit better, only because it was hit harder during the downturn. So, in terms of the unemployment rate in Calgary – rising above 10 per cent last summer – we think Calgary will actually do a bit better, simply because it has lost more ground and it has more ground to gain on Edmonton.”

    READ MORE: Calgary’s unemployment rate continues downward slide, still highest in Canada

    The strongest sector this year is expected to be tourism.

    “It’s much smaller, of course, than the energy sector,” Hirsch said. “But tourism – with that Canadian dollar around 72 to 73 cents, with the U.S. economy firing on all cylinders, more Canadians staying closer to home – I think tourism will be a leading sector in 2017 for Calgary and for Alberta.”

    READ MORE: Alberta looks for economic boost as Calgary hosts major tourism conference

    However, the financial institution notes there are still challenges ahead, citing unpredictability in the White House as one factor.

    “U.S. President Donald Trump is now targeting Canada with regard to trade. Depending on the actions taken, some Alberta sectors – including forestry and energy – could feel the pain,” read a media release from ATB Financial.

    READ MORE: How will Trump’s trade tirade affect the average Canadian?

    Oil prices are another factor when it comes to Alberta’s economy. Oil prices have dipped below the $50USD per barrel mark, which has lowered the bank’s expectations for the average crude price this year.

    Given the sensitivity of Alberta’s economy to oil prices, ATB said any dollar lost on oil prices acts to slow the pace of recovery. Still, there is optimism.

    “The energy patch has stabilized, and that alone has gone a long way to boost sentiment and optimism in the province,” Hirsch said. “While prices in April and May dipped back under the $50USD per barrel mark to the $46USD to $48USD range, lower average prices for the year are not expected to push the province back into a recession, though they could slow the pace of recovery.”

    READ MORE: A sign of an economic turnaround? RV sales spike in Alberta

    The entire economic outlook report has been posted below.

    View this document on Scribd

    Follow @CaleyRamsay

How the dark web is used to sell illegal drugs like fentanyl

The so-called dark web: It’s a place to buy and sell illegal drugs, human organs and weapons, and it’s all taking place in the shadowy depths of the Internet.

Most people don’t have access to the dark web and the encryption techniques make it nearly impossible to locate users.

But what exactly is the dark web and how easy is it to access it?

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The dark web is the virtual equivalent of a black market. People and businesses that want to operate out of the arms of the law usually head to into the dark web.

“It’s the seedy underbelly of the internet,” Peter Culley, a Winnipeg software engineer said. “There are layers of it too. You have to get trust to get down even further.”

Is there a difference between dark and deep web?

There is the surface or visible web, which most of the public uses. Examples include searching on Google, using Reddit or watching videos on YouTube.

Then there’s the deep web, which is not accessible through search engines. Websites on the surface Internet are indexed for search engines to find, but the deep web is not.The deep web also can be accessed by most people as it includes email, online banking, government databases and libraries.

One layer under that is the dark web, which is part of the deep web. Unlike the deep web, this dark portion of the Internet is deliberately hidden.

Everything that appears on the surface of the Internet resembles the tip of the iceberg, Culley said. Below the surface of the water, is 80 per cent of the iceberg, which makes up for the deep and dark web, he added. It’s invisible and untraceable for the browser.

Is the dark web easy to access?

A person needs special software to connect to this part of the Internet. For example, many dark web websites are only accessible through networks such as Tor —; a secure web network that hides the user’s IP address in order to maintain anonymity.

READ MORE: Fact file: What is Tor and how is it used?

Tor was originally created by the U.S. military to help protect government communications. The organization consists of a few employees and many volunteers.

A 2016 study called, Cryptopolitik and the Darknet found 57 per cent of the sites designed for Tor facilitate criminal activity, including drugs, money laundering trading of firearms.

The study looked at 5,205 live websites, out of which 2,723 were successfully classified into “illegal categories.”

The sites that weren’t used for illegal activity were mainly about the dark web itself, the study showed. They included hosting services and tutorials on using Tor and personal blogs.

Is it legal?

Although there are many websites that exist to provide illegal service, the dark web is still legal, Culley said.

“You cannot be charged with anything for simply searching the dark web,” he said.

How do people make interactions?

The dark web operates in virtual currencies, the most popular being bitcoins. This is because regular currency, like credit cards, can be traced. Bitcoin uses an encrypted method of payment, making it untraceable.

For example, in the recent cyberattacks involving WannaCry ransomware, the program encrypted people’s files and demanded payment in bitcoin, ranging between $300 and $600.

While some people use the dark web in order to browse innocuous websites anonymously, it also a home to shady, often illegal dealings – like the fentanyl trade.

READ MORE: How the WannaCry ransomware attack spread around the world

How are people using it to sell fentanyl?

Bruce MacFarlane is a former federal prosecutor from Manitoba. Starting in 1987, he worked on drug trafficking cases and then was promoted to assistant deputy attorney general in Ottawa, where he was in charge of all federal prosecutions in Canada.

He said people are using the dark web to sell illegal and deadly drugs, like fentanyl and carfentanil. Because many of the drug dealers are using hidden IP addresses, many are unafraid of being caught.

READ MORE: Buying fentanyl is just a few clicks and a phone call away. And it’s making things difficult for the RCMP

“It’s like the old carnival game of whack-a-mole,” MacFarlance said. “They know they can move their website very quickly and they are ahead of law enforcement.  These major fentanyl dealers have dodged the law enforcement bullet.”

David Horton owner of InterFusion Media, a technology company in Winnipeg, Man., said anyone with a computer can access this.

“How fast can you set up these accounts, get onto the internet and go from there? About an hour and a half,” Horton said.

“Whatever you’re looking for, whatever you want to do. The sky’s the limit.”

How are police cracking down?

A famous example of the FBI cracking down on the dark web is with the illegal underground drug-selling website Silk Road.

Silk Road was an online black market that was housed on the dark web. It was used to sell illegal drugs and other products and protected users with an encryption technique, like Tor, making it impossible to physically locate the computers hosting or accessing websites on the network.

READ MORE: Break in Silk Road website case came from Canada

In 2013, the FBI shut down the website and the founder, Ross William Ulbricht was arrested convicted of seven drug and conspiracy counts. Two years later he was sentenced to life in prison.

Cpl. Scott Hanson with Manitoba RCMP’s clandestine lab enforcement response team, said it’s difficult to crack down on websites that sell drugs.

“You can’t regulate the Internet and cannot shut down our borders,” Hanson said.

“Some of these sites can be up and down in a matter of hours,” RCMP said. “The best we to establish patterns and identify the source countries.”

To stop illegal substances from coming into Canada via the dark web, Horton said it should be done so at the border.

“More focus on how is it being brought into Canada,” he said. “Someone can log into the Internet, go into the deep web and order it. The only way to protect ourselves and our kids is to put better enforcement at our borders to stop it from coming it.”

4 water safety tips for the May long weekend

As Albertans head to lakes around the province this May long weekend, experts are cautioning them to be careful around water.

According to the Alberta Drowning Report, 183 people drowned in Alberta’s lakes and rivers between 2009 and 2013, with 59 per cent happening between May and September, and 54 per cent occurring on weekends.

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  • Campaign underway to prevent drownings in Alberta

  • 5 tips to stay safe on the water this summer

    “Sometimes people aren’t familiar with the dangers that water can present. It looks beautiful when you’re there and when you’re on it, and maybe you’re not aware what precautions people are taking who are on the water,” safety expert Patti Stark, a community mobilization coordinator, said.

    “Sometimes we get busy and excited and we forget too. We just need to take a step back and just take a minute and think about what we need to do to keep everybody safe.”

    READ MORE: Water safety season kicks off in Calgary

    Belton provides five safety tips for Albertans heading to lakes this holiday weekend:

      Actively supervise childrenGet safety trainingWear a life-jacketDon’t drink and drive – whether it’s a car or a boat

    The number-one cause of boating-related drownings is the victim not wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device, according to the report.

    “A life-jacket is only useful if it’s being worn,” Stark said. “It can’t save your life if it’s sitting on the bottom of the boat.”

    When it comes to children, it’s reported that drowning is the second leading cause of preventable deaths involving kids under 10 years old. Stark said parents often overestimate the abilities of their children.

    “When it comes to water, err on the side of caution and provide more attention and focus than you might initially think is necessary.”

    It’s recommended that a child’s life-jacket includes a collar handle, so the child can be more easily grabbed from the water.

    It’s also reported that alcohol is a factor in nearly a quarter of boating-related drownings.

10 year old once given 48 hours to live has ‘miracle’ recovery a year later

Almost a year ago, Patty Furco was told she was going to lose her daughter.

Her second child, Abby, was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of four. Today the 10 year old based in Virginia Beach has made a “miracle” recovery even doctors can’t explain.

“Sometimes we can’t grasp what has happened and what continues to happen,” the 41-year-old mom-of-three tells Global News. “We had prepared for Abby to die.”

Abby’s long journey

In the last few years, Abby went through several hospital visits, intense chemotherapy sessions and radiation treatments, Furco says, but in 2015, things took a turn.

After being in remission for 11 months, Abby relapsed in September 2014. A year later, she had a bone marrow transplant that caused acute graft versus host disease (GvHD) — a common side effect of the transplant.

“Late last spring the side effects [of GvHD] were out of control and started a downward spiral leading to continuous dialysis [and] a long pediatric intensive care unit stay,” Furco says.

Abby’s organs weren’t keeping up and her kidneys began to fail.

“[My husband] and I tried to be hopeful, yet we prepared everyone, including our other daughters, for the end.”

Her family was told by doctors their little girl would die.

“I still have flashbacks to sitting at my dining room table with the head hospice nurse, choosing a funeral home. [My husband] Joe and I talked about where we wanted her remains. I clearly remember thinking about specific songs I wanted played during her memorial service,” Furco says.

Living in a tight-knit military community, Furco says her friends gathered together to give support.

Last year she remembers driving Abby to a girl scout event in another part of town, and passing by the funeral home she had picked out for her daughter.

“My heart sunk and I called Joe crying,” she says. “It just caught me off guard. Here I am in the car with my thriving Abby and we’re driving by the funeral home I picked six months earlier.”

Her recovery can’t be explained

Abby’s doctor, pediatric hematologist and oncologist Jacob Wessler, told People magazine there’s no real explanation of Abby’s recovery.

“We have no idea [how she got better] and there is no way to test it,” he tells Global News. “She’s the only patient I have to do this. She is one for one as far as our experience.”

Wessler was the first person to diagnose Abby and has been working with the Furco family for six years.

READ MORE: Saskatoon family appealing for more childhood cancer research funding

Although he adds there have been ups and downs throughout the journey and continues to be, last June he remembers bringing Abby home to feel more comfortable. At this point, he had believed she wouldn’t survive.

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He reduced the amount of medication and check-ins, as her family prepared for the worst.

“But she sat there and just started getting better,” he says. “It was really interesting and fascinating.”

At first, Wessler told the family there was no absolute timeline of when her organs would fail, but weeks and soon months went by and Abby was feeling better. Almost a year later, she is the best she’s ever been.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened, but it’s a good news and bad news situation,” he says. “It’s great that it has happened, but it is a little maddening we don’t know why. But for Abby it doesn’t matter why — what matters is she’s better.”

The heartache living with a sick child

Parenting coach Julie Romanowski of Vancouver says for any family or parent who is going through a similar situation with a sick child, the most important thing to do is to be aware of your situation.

“It sounds obvious but when people are in crisis mode, we think life is ‘normal’ and we need to keep going,” she tells Global News. “Get a good support network and let them know you are in crisis. Pretending nothing is going on adds more stress.”

READ MORE: Hundreds of Calgarians take part in annual ‘Run for Childhood Cancer’

And if you have other children, it can get difficult to talk about what their sibling is going through, especially the topic of death.

Romanowski says siblings also need a support network and parents need to be honest with them.

“If you pretend nothing is happening, that’s what makes the situation dangerous. We have to get real and accept our current situations… younger children will look at their parents on how to deal with the crisis and mimic it.”

Her recovery is also inspiring others

Furco says since 2012, the family has been very active in raising awareness for childhood cancer. They raise money for cancer research and put time into learning about Abby’s medication.

Abby is also an ambassador for the St. Baldrick`s Foundation, a private fund of childhood cancer research grants. Since 2012, her fundraising campaign has raised US$133,226.

Patty Furco and her daughter Abby.

Courtesy of Patty Furco

But Furco says hearing from other families with similar situations has been the most heartening. Some people tell her Abby has inspired them to get out of bed or keep fighting their own disease.

“That’s a gift that could only come out of this dark journey that has consumed our lives for many years,” she says. “It’s giving people hope and letting them continue dreaming about the future.”

Abby is looking forward to summer

Today, like many children, Abby is looking forward to her Grade 5 graduation. She is once again in remission and is receiving steroids twice a day.

Her mom says she loves to play Minecraft, hang out with her friends and plans on being a chef when she grows up.

“This is amazing as last year around this time, she was barely walking then wheelchair-bound. Through very hard work she is now able to walk on her own, currently working on long distance stamina,” she says.

Furco says her daughter is also looking forward to summer camp, a place where she meets other cancer patients and survivors.

“Our hope for Abby is that she gets to live a full life full of happiness. We take each day as it comes, so we hope that each day continues down the path of good health and growth in every way possible.”

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William Sandeson murder trial hears full day of testimony ahead of holiday weekend

The seven-woman, seven-man jury sitting on the first-degree murder trial of Dalhousie medical student William Sandeson heard a full day of evidence on Thursday.

Sandeson, 24, is accused of killing fellow Dalhousie student Taylor Samson, 22.

Samson was studying physics and about to start his fifth year of university when he disappeared in August, 2015. His body has never been found.

WATCH: Murder trial hears from police, Taylor Samson’s girlfriend

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Staff Sgt. Andre Habib, a forensic identification officer with Halifax Regional Police was the first witness on the stand Thursday.

The crown had questioned Habib the previous day but court ended before the defence had an opportunity to complete their cross-examination.

Lawyer Eugene Tan questioned Habib about what protective clothing he wore when at Sandeson’s apartment on Henry Street. He told the court he wore both gloves and booties.

READ: Jury hears William Sandeson told roommate not to come home on night of alleged murder

The defence also questioned Habib about his experience using a trajectory kit. He testified not only did he take a two month course but he also did a seminar with a firearms expert in Calgary a few years ago.

Habib told the court he was not a ballistic expert but that he and other identification officers are able to use the trajectory kit to determine which way an object, like a bullet, may have come from.

Habib also testified that he was involved in the search at the Sandeson family property in Lower Truro, N.S.

He said he had been involved in searches of that nature “numerous times” and was satisfied that police did the best they could at the scene. “We left no stone unturned,” he told the jury.

WATCH: William Sandeson murder trial hears police searched family farm looking for body

The second witness to testify on Thursday was Rick Chadwick who currently works with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Chadwick told the court before going to RBC he worked as an RCMP officer.

Chadwick says he was served a production order – which requires documents to be made available to law enforcement  – for the banking information of Taylor Samson.

He told the court that Samson was a client at the bank for eight years and had an everyday account, a tax-free savings account and a MasterCard.

Chadwick testified that until August 13, 2015, there was “actual activity by the client.” Following Samson’s disappearance, the only activity he said was on the accounts was automatic.

WATCH: Former teammate of William Sandeson tells court he saw bleeding man, bloody cash

Two volunteers with Ground Search and Rescue were also called as crown witnesses.

Wayne Burns, a volunteer with search and rescue for 15-years, told the court that he and a team of volunteers searched the farm property for hours.

Burns was the one who located the refrigerated ice cream truck and informed police. He testified he looked inside and saw three bags but did not enter the truck.

READ: Court hears bag found in ice cream truck at Sandeson farm smelled like decomposition

Lawrence Corbin, also a volunteer searcher, testified that when he arrived to search at the farm in August 2015 he was told by officials that searchers could possibly find human remains. None were ever located.

Corbin and his team found a pair of gloves located in some brush, not far from where the ice cream truck was. He told the court that he flagged the gloves and called his command centre before searching the rest of the area.

READ MORE: William Sandeson says during interrogation video intruders may have shot Taylor Samson

Cpl. Shawn Reynolds, an RCMP officer, was the incident commander for the Sandeson farm search. He told the court that he helped coordinate and run the search, as well as pass information along to the Halifax Regional Police major crime unit.

Reynolds said he was notified by search and rescue that a pair of gloves were located and helped seize them. He also secured the scene where the ice cream truck was located until ident officers arrived to process it.

READ: Jury shown gun, bullets and cash seized from William Sandeson’s apartment

David Webber, a civilian member of the RCMP was also called to the stand. He is a forensic lab technician and was tasked with examining Sandeson’s DVR.

He told the court that although the DVR was passport protected he found a back door to access the video. Webber testified that he was able to dump video from Aug. 13-18, 2015 from the DVR and give it to investigators.

Webber said he did not splice or edit any of the video. After the initial video dump from Aug. 13-18, Webber said he was able to go back and locate video for two and a half months, which was also turned over to investigators.

Under cross-examination, Webber admitted he originally thought he had discarded his notes from the case but later found them.

WATCH: Last images of Taylor Samson shown to jury in William Sandeson murder trial

The final witness to take the stand Thursday was Det. Const. Jonathan Jefferies, a Halifax Regional Police officer. He told the court that he was the scene coordinator for the farm search.

Jefferies said he executed a search warrant at the property and explained to William Sandeson’s father what police would be doing.

When questioned by defence lawyer Brad Sarson, Jefferies said that police and volunteer ground search rescue members did search some property that was not covered under the search warrant. However, Jefferies said they asked the owners of the property if they could search there and had them sign consent forms.

Jefferies was also tasked with getting a DNA sample from Sandeson after he was arrested and remanded to the Central Nova Correctional Facility in Dartmouth. While there, he also told the court he questioned Sandeson about the whereabouts of Samson’s body but Sandeson did not speak about it.

READ MORE: William Sandeson ‘confident’ as murder trial begins in Halifax: defence

The trial is scheduled to sit for 32 days over the course of eight weeks.

The case does not hear evidence on Friday and because Monday is a statutory holiday, the jury is scheduled to resume hearing testimony on Tuesday morning.

To buy or rent a cottage? These 5 questions will help you decide

To buy or rent a cottage? It’s the eternal question Canadian families face, especially as summer draws near.

Ask your friends and relatives, and you’re likely to find an even split between those who can’t imagine life without a lakeside property and those who see a second home as a ball and chain.

READ MORE: Why this may be the best summer ever to spend your vacation in Canada

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Coming up with a list of pros and cons isn’t much help, either. In theory, there as many good reasons to purchase a cottage and as there are not to.

In the buy camp: Building priceless memories by the same lakes as the kids grow up. Having an affordable gateway for every break and long weekend. Eliminating the risk of a ruined vacation because your rental cottage looks nothing like the pictures. Similarly, avoiding massive family disappointment — especially for the little ones — when it turns out the rental you have been booking every summer and have grown to love isn’t available this year. And so on.

READ MORE: Think you don’t need insurance when travelling in Canada? Think again

In the rent camp: The kids’ memories may be priceless, but owning a cottage certainly has a price tag — and a hefty one. Renting means your hard-earned vacation time won’t be sucked into a black hole called “cottage upkeep.” It also means being able to explore a different lakeside spot every summer — or deciding, guilt-free, that you’d rather go to Paris instead.

A more productive approach may be examining your specific circumstances and financial situation, according to Maureen Reid, Meridian Credit Union branch manager in Penetanguishene, a popular cottage country destination on the southeasterly tip of Georgian Bay, Ont.

For the undecided cottage vacationer, she has a list of five key questions:

1. How much will it really cost you?

Step one is assessing whether you can really afford to own a cottage. The question goes beyond whether you can carry two mortgages, Reid points out. As with any residential property, buying involves a slew of legal fees and taxes, as well as monthly expenses like utilities. Heat in particular can be a financial back-breaker in a cottage, said Reid, especially if you have to rely on electricity to keep it cozy inside.

READ MORE: The genius life hacks that working moms and dads use to get it all done

Other potential costs include owning, maintaining and docking your own boat if that’s the only way to reach your property, said Reid.

And then, of course, there’s upkeep. Although Reid told Global News it’s hard to come up with an average estimate for this kind of expense, it’s safe to say it will likely be higher than whatever your average yearly spend is on your first home. From rodent infestations to pipes that burst in winter, the fact that cottages are usually immersed in nature and used only for part of the year tends to drive up the maintenance bill.

READ MORE: Flooding, flooding everywhere – do Canadians have insurance for it?

2. How much will you (realistically) use it?

Once you’ve come up with a comprehensive cost estimate, ask yourself how much R&R bang you’re going to get for your buck, according to Reid. Is the cottage close to home? Do you get lots of time off in the summer? Will you be able to use the property in the winter as well? If so, then great.

On the other hand, if you only have two weeks to spend lakeside every year, will the stress of the drive and the upkeep work eliminate your ability to relax?

READ MORE: Here’s why a good school isn’t always worth the home price premium

3. Are you going to rent it?

This one goes back to question No. 1. Being able to rent your cottage for periods of time when you’re not there will make it easier to afford it, noted Reid.

Doing so has become easier than ever with online home-sharing services like Airbnb. And if you’re worried that the tenants who presented themselves as a “a quiet middle-aged couple’ will turn out to be a horde of partying teenagers, Facebook groups, which tend to be more community-focused, are another great resource. A short post advertising your property among friends and neighbours can quickly locate a trustworthy tenant.

READ MORE: Buying and selling online? Instead of Craigslist or Kijiji, try Facebook

Still, not all cottages rent easily, cautioned Reid. Remote properties in less well-known areas might have fewer takers.

4. Is it a good investment?

This is really a two-part question. The first thing to consider is whether using your savings to buy a cottage makes sense. Owning two homes could mean tying up a lot of your investments in real estate, which can be risky.

READ MORE: Moody’s downgrades Canadian banks: Beginning of the end for the housing market?

Speaking to your financial advisor is always a good idea, said Reid.

The second part of the equation is figuring out what the rate of return on your cottage will likely be. A winterized property in a coveted, easily accessible location will be easy to sell and likely to appreciate over time, said Reid.

The opposite is generally true, if your version of a cottage is only a few steps removed from a wooden shack, or if it becomes inaccessible in winter.

READ MORE: Here’s how much climate change can cost homeowners in damages

5. What financing is available to you?

Location and features like insulation, heating and running water will also dramatically affect what kind of financing you’ll be able to access in order to purchase your cottage, said Reid.

What Reid calls a “type A” cottage — one with all the amenities — usually guarantees you’ll be able to get a regular mortgage.

For a more rustic “type B” property, on the other hand, your only option might be a personal loan, for which the going interest rate is generally 7 per cent, much higher than currently available mortgages.

Alberta aims to speed up orphan well cleanup with $235M loan

Alberta’s NDP government is trying to speed up the cleanup of old, orphan oil and gas wells with a $235-million loan.

The province announced legislation Thursday that will allow it to lend the money to the Orphan Well Association.

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    The industry-funded, not-for-profit group manages the shutting and cleanup of oil and gas sites where there is no longer anyone legally responsible for those tasks, often because a company has gone out of business.

    “The number of orphaned wells in Alberta is a growing problem that has been made much worse by the collapse in oil prices,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said at a rural property north of Calgary.

    A well was first drilled on the land just outside Carstairs, Alta., in 1980 and passed through the hands of 10 different owners over the years. It was orphaned in October 2015. A storage tank and pumpjack still remain even though nothing is being produced.

    READ MORE: Inactive oil and gas wells in Alberta should have time limits: report

    Notley said $30 million earmarked in the recent federal budget will cover the interest costs of its loan, which it expects to be repaid over 10 years.

    “By using this funding from the federal government to backstop a loan this large, we’re able to get much more favourable rates than the Orphan Well Association could access on its own,” she said.

    Listen below: News Talk 770’s Angela Kokott speaks with Brad Herald, chair of the Orphan Well Association. 

    The repayment will come out of the association’s existing levy. Its budget is set to double from $30 million to $60 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

    The idea came up when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Notley, other provincial officials and the industry in February 2016.

    The province estimates the loan will help create up to 1,650 new jobs over the next three years. Work could begin as early as the summer.

    As of March, the Orphan Well Association had a list of 2,084 wells to be dealt with. It closed 185 last year.

    READ MORE: Alberta landowners’ advocate speaks on ‘mushrooming’ problem of abandoned oil wells

    To date, industry spent $250 million to reclaim 600 sites, said association chair Brad Herald.

    “The government of Alberta’s assistance will accelerate that work, returning properties to their original state at a much faster pace.”

    In Alberta there are 83,000 inactive wells, which are no longer producing but not necessarily orphaned.

    There are another 69,000 abandoned wells, which have been plugged, cut and capped so that they’re safe.

    The Petroleum Services Association of Canada lobbied for government funds to accelerate the decommissioning of dormant wells. It initially asked Ottawa for $500 million in infrastructure spending, but later amended its request.

    PSAC president and CEO Mark Salkeld welcomed the loan, especially while costs are low and workers are available.

    “The funding and strategies announced today will go a long way in helping PSAC members retain and rehire employees, keep equipment active and at the same time ramp up the efforts required to take care of oil and gas wells that no longer have owners.”

    The move helps address the major environmental risk that comes with having so many neglected wells, said Nikki Way, an analyst at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank.

    “It’s a positive step in addressing the problem of orphan wells and we look forward to seeing more proactive rules to ensure that there are adequate funds collected in the future.”

Man who lost fingers to frostbite crossing into Canada wins case to stay

WINNIPEG —; A man who lost all ten of his fingers crossing the border into Manitoba this winter has been granted the right to stay as a refugee.

Seidu Mohammed, who came to Winnipeg as an asylum seeker, has won his court case.

“I feel so excited and so happy that the decision I was hoping for has come true,” Mohammed said Thursday. “I was so happy and emotional that I got a chance to stay in this country for the rest of my life.”

WATCH: Seidu Mohammed speaks with Global News after finding out he’s won his case to stay in Canada

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He was one of two men who crossed into Canada on Christmas Eve, in a minus thirty degree windchill. They were rescued by a Canadian truck driver who called 911.

RELATED: Ghanaian community in Winnipeg comes together to help frostbitten refugees

Mohammed lost all of his fingers and has been living in Winnipeg, waiting for news.

His immigration lawyer, Bashir Khan, said he received a decision by mail Wednesday afternoon.

“I called him into my office and I told him, you won. I gave him a big hug. He didn’t let go for nearly three or four minutes, it seemed like an eternity,” he said. “He kept saying ‘thank you, thank you’. He was in tears. He was over, over, overcome.”

RELATED: Canada a ‘dreamland’ for Somalis in Minneapolis

Khan said Mohammed had a “straightforward” case because of his sexuality. He is bisexual, which is a serious crime in his home country of Ghana.

“His profile is high enough, the fact that he has lost his hands, he stands apart and he stands out. If he were to go to Ghana, everybody would recognize him in Ghana,” said Khan. “His life is severely at risk.”

Mohammed said he plans to stay in Winnipeg and make it his new home.

“I’m happy I’m here now and I will do anything I can to contribute for this country,” Mohammed said. Once he’s recovered, he said he plans to play and coach soccer.

RELATED: Asylum seeker who lost fingers crossing border ‘very confident’ after first refugee hearing

“Seidu really is going to be a great contribution to Canadian society.”

The man Mohammed entered Canada with, Razak Iyal, is still awaiting the outcome of his case.

According to numbers from the federal government, 477 asylum seekers have crossed into Manitoba in 2017.​