Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

How journos chatted about the great Toronto snowstorm of 1999

I dug up (so to speak) how journalists on CAJ-L discussed the 1999 snowstorm that paralyzed Toronto and led then-mayor Mel Lastman to call in the army.

Jan. 13:

Subject: Voisey’s Bay event POSTPONED

CAJ members:

Please note that this event has been postponed due to the bad weather that is expected this Thursday in the Toronto area.

It will be rescheduled for another date.

Jan. 14:

A Thunder Bay reporter got the reaction ball rolling.

Subject: TORONTO WEATHER COVERAGE…

I notice when a couple of feet of snow fall on Toronto, CBC
Newsworld and the wires are abuzz with stories.  In fact, one wire story I’ve seen this afternoon (Thursday) mentions much of Ontario coming to a halt because of the storm.  Funny, here in Northwestern Ontario have been coping just fine with beak-biting cold temperatures over the past couple of weeks.  Also, when we had our far-from-usual 50 cm of snow in one night, it never led the Ontario newswatches once.

I can just barely deal with the anxiety that the nation is coming to a halt because of the snow falling in Toronto, or at least that’s the general idea I get from the national coverage.

Meteorological girlie-men, all of them (forgive my political incorrectness).

One newsroom wag suggested here that if Mel Lastman spent his hair budget on ploughs, there wouldn’t be a problem.  As my boss also mentioned, Toronto doesn’t have a snow problem, they have a snow _removal_ problem.  I never heard of the Zamboni-like machines used to melt snow into the drains in Toronto – great for an inch of snow or so.

Thanks for tolerating my periphery-versus-the-centre vent.

A senior journalist (and one-time Torontonian) responded:

H.S. responds (from snowy Kingston):

Although like everybody outside Toronto and many in Toronto I sympathize with T’s point, the reality is that there are a lot of people in Toronto and when something hits that many people, it makes news.

A veteran B.C. journo cast a pox on all weather reporting:

Why don’t weather reports have to adhere to the standards other stories are held to?

Sensationalism and hysteria seem required. When I lived in Atlantic Canada  family members in the west would frequently call to see if I was ok, after watching TV reports of the news–which never corresponded to real life and the boring fact that most people coped just fine, thanks very much. We are Canadians, living in winter, after all.

The other thing that bugs me about weather comments, especially on CBC because I expect more of CBC, is the subjective nature of reports. In Vancouver announcers moan and groan about snow or cold weather.

(What is this list coming to, talking about weather … .)

D.J. (former Northerner who cheers when it snows)

The Thunder Bay journo weighed back in:

> Although like everybody outside Toronto and many in Toronto I sympathize
> with T’s point, the reality is that there are a lot of people in Toronto
> and when something hits that many people, it makes news.

Fair call, but does it have to LEAD the casts, or lead to so much live coverage??

Also (minor diversion), why would T.O. have so few plows that they can’t get things moving by themselves?  Even though grapes grow an hour out of T.O., is this not a major winter centre?  Welcome to Canada, eh.

Again, I show my anti-centre bias.

He also replied to D.J.:

> (What is this list coming to, talking about weather … .)

No, we’re talking about COVERAGE of said weather.  That means we’re following the rules :)

The Kingston journo didn’t think the weather coverage was more disproportionate than any other event:

>Fair call, but does it have to LEAD the casts, or lead to so much
>live coverage??

Excess — and live coverage — are the rule of the day in journalism in the 1990s. Why pick on this story?

>Also (minor diversion), why would T.O. have so few plows that they
>can’t get things moving by themselves?  Even though grapes grow
>an hour out of T.O., is this not a major winter centre?  Welcome to
>Canada, eh.

That’s part of the story, properly done. But surely not a reason not to cover it.

The first Toronto journalist, S.C., offered perspective:

If Toronto shuts down, millions of people are affected in the most densely populated region of the country. The largest urban transit system in Canada has not functioned well. Canada’s biggest city cannot adequately handle snow removal. A silly mayor advises people the city will be open
for business, then simultaneously calls in the army.

Equally silly people listen to this silly authority figure and drive downtown to work, only to leave en masse at high noon, when businesses wisely shut down, and endure snarled traffic and fender benders ad nauseum.

I haven’t checked to see if the Toronto Stock Exchange or the Legislature had shut down. Or how hospitals might be affected, but it’d be interesting to know if they have (or will).

50 cm of snow is 50 cm of snow, whether it hits the big cioty or the countryside. But I’d argue that the impact and reults are highly different in each case. This month has been one of the snowiest on record in Toronto.

I’d agree with T if we were talking about the first storm back on Jan 2-3. But that fell on a weekend (despite my sister’s wedding which also fell smack dab in the middle of the whole thing) and didn’t compound existing clogged streets and already-half-assed public transit.

But I think in a SMALL way this compares with last year’s largely RURAL ice storm, and so it deserves some degree of coverage outside Toronto. I don’t see any “story of the year” so far (unlike the largely rural ice storm).

All that said, I would agree with T if he’s saying rural areas are significantly under-covered, and that the big cities often see themselves as the centre of the universe (didn’t Bob Dylan once call Ottawa the asshole of the universe?) I do think, however, this weather story is not the best example.

Back to making angels in the snow I haven’t seen here since I was a youngster. If anything, this storm has been great for my inner child  ;-)

An aggrieved westerner, F.M., enjoyed some schadenfraude:

Finally, something us Western hicks are better at than the folks from TO – snow removal!

Alberta has also had tons of snow this month although I don’t expect to ever see it leading the national CBC news.  The dump has provided a great deal of fender bender footage for local tv stations though.

I have to agree with S. about TO Mayor.  They are open for business but need the military to restore calm?  Reminds me that the last time I heard from Lastman he was calling Edmonton ” a toilet of a City” or some similar reference to the loo.  Who’s laughing now, Mel?

A St. John’s journalist also loved the spectacle of T.O. grinding to a halt:

>If Toronto shuts down, millions of people are affected in the most densely
>populated region of the country. The largest urban transit system in
>Canada has not functioned well. Canada’s biggest city cannot adequately
>handle snow removal.

NOW! S. … I know you are just pandering to the sadistic joy us regionalites get out of watching those WUSSES! in the Big City (where they know EVERYTHING) suffer at the hand of Mother Nature.

Pathetic?
…yeah, I know, but at this time of the year we all need a little chuckle out here… at least until Tobin calls the election next week.

Well, I think I’ll take my truck with the studded tires out to the Cove and pick up some birch for the woodstove…looks like there is a storm coming…

HA,HA,HA,ha,ha…….

Another Toronto journalist, E.G., tried to correct the record and offer perspective:

T.P. wrote:

>I can just barely deal with the anxiety that the nation is coming to a
>halt because of the snow falling in Toronto, or at least that’s the
>general idea I get from the national coverage.

The Toronto Star’s Jim Coyle wrote last week about a lesson he learned as a young reporter at CP. Toronto snowstorms always made the wire, he was told, because the rest of the country wanted to gloat over Toronto’s misfortunes.

Is the story over-covered? Sure it is, but don’t forget, it’s January — there’s nothing else going on. A week ago, The National led with the anniversary of last year’s ice storm.

And finally, of course a crippling snowstorm is bigger news nationally if it happens in Toronto than if it happens in Thunder Bay. It’s rare that people living west of Winnipeg or east of North Bay are affected by anything that happens in Thunder Bay.

F.M. wrote:

>Alberta has also had tons of snow this month although I don’t expect to ever
>see it leading the national CBC news.  The dump has provided a great deal of
>fender bender footage for local tv stations though.

We’ve broken the record for January snowfalls, and it’s only the 14th. Snow in Edmonton can certainly lead the news — when it happens in June

>I have to agree with Saul about TO Mayor.  They are open for business but
>need the military to restore calm?

To be fair to Mayor Mel, he wanted to call in the military not to restore calm, but to help keep the roadways open and help respond to emergencies.

Why isn’t Toronto ready for this? Good question. We haven’t had a lot of snow in the city in many years, and so presumably snow-clearing budgets have gradually decreased.   Is that a good enough excuse? I’m waiting forour three local dailies plus the national one to figure it out and tell me.

Calgary journalist P.K. (who I believe had once lived here) had other context:

Actually, the problem with the Toronto snowfall is not that so much snow came down, but that there’s so little space
between the buildings and the cars in which to pack it–which nobody has mentioned in newscasts, at least not directly. ;-)

Maybe we could coin a new phrase. You know, “faster
than a New York minute”? How about, “slower than a snowy Toronto minute”? Because most of the complaints seem to be about people feeling thrown off schedule. Unlike the ice storm, nobody’s freezing in their homes, or cut off from power or water.

On coverage: CTV provided some explanation last night, blaming La Nina. At least, Lloyd Robertson asked the meterologist if the weather pattern sweeping up from the Sourth was typical of La Nina, and the meterologist nodded and said that heavy snowfall was a La Nina trait, which was almost an agreement.

I could hardly believe my ears when CBC’s Adrienne Arseneault said that Toronto had the lowest snow removal budget per capita of any major city in Canada. Guess she forgot about Vancouver. I had visions of Vancouverites marching through the rain to the CBC, carrying buckets of ice cubes to bury the station.

Winnipeg is a city that knows extreme winter weather, and a radio journalist there, F.J., offered up these thoughts:

I have also been watching the snow coverage with great interest. And all the points about how significantly this effects a large, and ill-prepared city are well taken.  There is no question this is a big story.

But I tend to think that a significant part of the avalanche of coveragestems from the fact that the decision makers for the big national newscasts are in the middle of the story.  The significance of it is driven home by
their own, personal experience.

The same snowstorm in Winnipeg would be covered for sure, but it probably would be the lead or second story once. And it certainly wouldn’t merit multiple stories.  I think that’s partly because it’s something happening farther afield, that comes in on the video feed.  It becomes part of the basket of stories that go into a lineup. It isn’t felt locally by the editors who make such decisions.

Of course, a snowstorm in Winnipeg affects a fifth or a sixth as many people, and the city has more resources to deal with it, so there is less potential for snow chaos stories here.

I chim in the for the first time:

Given the dominant thread today, the third sentence of the first paragraph is rather interesting.

Bill Doskoch
Saskatoon, SK

CAJ-L moderator

———————
>>>
THE INTERNET NEWS AUDIENCE GOES ORDINARY
Online Newcomers More Middle-Brow, Less Work-Oriented  The Internet audience is not only growing, it is getting decidedly mainstream. Two years ago, when just 23% of Americans were going online, stories about technology were the top news draw. Today, with 41% of adults using the Internet, the weather is the most popular online news attraction.

Quebec City gets a lot of snow, and M.S. said the T.O. story got big play there:

In Quebec City, the local CBC french TV station has run the story about Toronto’s snowstorm at the top of the newscast two days running.

For a station that rarely runs any stories about the ROC (rest of Canada), but often runs pieces from the U.S., this is astounding.

Does this does mean Toronto editors aren’t nasal gazing but have a story that interests the whole country?

Of course, it could be gloating.

A snippy Winnipeg journo, J.W., found the whole thing overblown:

I found it all vaguely amusing until I switched on Newsworld to see Alsion Smith bravely anchoring outside, a light dusting of snow on her over-sized toque. Which was taking it all just a bit too seriously.
So, from a city where this weather is a daily routine from November until April: get a grip, people. Its A LITTLE SNOW for godsakes! Shovel the snow, not the overblown news coverage!

H.S. of Kingston believes that people treat weather as big news:

Three more thoughts on weather coverage (rather than how Toronto should handle snow and whether Mel Lastman is acting properly, which aren’t list subjects).

1) F.J. s is right about the fact Toronto news decision-makers are in the middle of the storm and affected by it, which clouds judgement. That happens on other stories, but when one gets personally inconvenienced, it  an intrude on news judgement. But his Winnipeg analogy is wrong. The questions is: How should the national news media, if stationed in Winnipeg, play a major, 100-year  Toronto in a subway and car, urban society, it being different when this last happened in 1800-whatever (not how should Toronto editors play a 100-year  snowfall in Winnipeg)? I think they would have to play it as a very big event, but probably not quiet as big as is happening now. Distance does reduce the impact.

2) While we talk about national media, in fact we’re talking Toronto-plus media. A national newspaper that didn’t deliver to Toronto or a national newscast not seen in Toronto would naturally play this smaller than a national newscast seen in Toronto. But again, the Quebec City play reminds us that it will still be played big.

3) Weather stories are stories people like to talk about. Inconvenience getting to work, snow shovelling — it always surprises me how well read or watched those stories are. I used to be skeptical, not particularly reading or wtaching them myself, and I can remember times at the Whig-Standard when I would argue strenuously against playing weather big.

Editors would come to work after an all night blizzard for 6 a.m., after shovelling ourselves out and on horrid streets, but knowing it was starting to stop. They would be so pumped they would play it like WWW3 for a paper that most readers would read at dinnertime, long after the snow had been cleared and the sun had shone for most of the day. I had logic on my side. I even won some arguments. But as I watched people read the paper, I learned I was wrong. Very wrong.

A Toronto journalism student who worked at a press release distribution company attested to the event’s newsworthiness within T.O.:

When I showed up for class at 10am today at Ryerson – after a biting, cold, 15 minute walk – my classes was cancelled.

“Wimps,” I muttered.  “It’s only snow.”

So I came home and went back to sleep.  Now, after reading the list and watching some news coverage I have realized why snow coverage is quite valid.  To what extent I am unsure in my journalistic youth, but when practically EVERYONE is affected by this, yes, it is news.  Important news.

I work at Canada Newswire and, I swear, almost every release I set up yesterday had something to do with the snow.  Meetings cancelled, schools closed, fines for not shovelling your sidewalk… all this news is really important.  I didn’t know you could be fined thousands of dollars for shovelling snow back on to the street!  And after walking home today having all my exposed skin frozen, I turned on the news to learn that “exposed skin can freeze in just minutes”.  Dammit, if only I got up five minutes earlier to watch the news.

The TTC closure yesterday was the biggest one since the transit system opened in the 50s.  The army has been called in to help “deal with” the snow.  If you’re due for surgery, call the hospital because it has most likely been cancelled or delayed.  Bring your pets in.  Don’t let your kids play on snowbanks.

Yes, this is Canada, but Torontonians aren’t used to this much snow and it is affecting a lot of lives – be it in minor ways or major ways.

An Ottawa journalist thought S.C. got it wrong about the ice storm:

But I think in a SMALL way this compares with last year’s largely RURAL ice
>storm, and so it deserves some degree of coverage outside Toronto. I
>don’t see any “story of the year” so far (unlike the largely rural ice
>storm).

LARGELY RURAL ICE STORM?  Hello?  Have we already forgotten that the city of Montreal and most of the surrounding communities were shut down by last year’s ice storm?  Oh, and how about that ‘largely rural’ city of Ottawa?

My guess on why Toronto doesn’t have enough equipment to dig out of this storm is because, in fact, it is not a ‘major winter centre’, and most seasons doesn’t need a gazillion plows to deal with the snow it does get. This storm has already pushed them past last season’s total snow
accumulation.

That said, as someone who spent the day lining up newscasts for CBC Radio in Ottawa, I sure was sick of the story by day’s end.  But, hey…it was a slow day, so it led most of the newscasts.  Besides, Mel Lastman’s clips are so entertaining!  ;-)

K.L., a very senior editor with the National Post, explained things from his perspective:

I am stranded in Hamilton today (it took me three and a half hours to get to work yesterday, and I am learning in my dotage to not repeat blunders as quickly), so I haven’t seen what our front page will look like in the morning.

But our decision yesterday was to put a small story on the front page nationally and, in our last update for Toronto, switch to main art of the city problems (we relegated Michael Jordan to secondary art) and carry some inside material on the storm.

Of course, we also had Christie.

Our judgment on this has not just been that the country’s largest city is having trouble moving the first pile, then the second pile, now the third pile away. But that the airport is strangled, many nationally and internationally significant businesses are operating at a snail’s pace, and
that the impact is felt outside of the Greater Toronto Area. It’s an as-goes-Toronto, so-goes-Canada story; the impact is real, not in the minds of Torontonians.

Also, to be fair, the scope of the local impact dwarfs anything outside of the ice storm in recent memory. The population affected, if nothing else, is sizeable. And weather, no matter where, is always a big talking point; on days when you don’t have many, a good weather story will work wonders.

I grew up in Toronto, but I have lived most of my adult life in Ottawa, where snow like this is just another Thursday in January. It’s an astounding problem here, and I think tomorrow it will be much more chaotic. I can’t easily understand why, except that the snowfalls so close together this month has simply overloaded the system to take it away. I take the point on this list that Toronto decision-makers are caught in this thing, therefore it’s big news. I think it’s actually that the big media determine that hating Toronto is a national sport,  herefore let’s put the city’s big problems front and centre. We’re being very, very cautious about putting what affects only Toronto on our front page. We thought long and hard about whether the story on Mel Lastman donating his belongings to charity for a tax receipt merited front-page play. If anything, I think we’ve gone out of our way not to put Toronto-centric items on the front page or in the line position (today’s was on the Calgary declaration’s death). But, on the other hand, you can’t pretend Toronto doesn’t exist for the sake of democratic, balanced coverage of the country’s terrain; much as we hate to admit it, Toronto occasionally has something happen to it that the rest of the country needs to know about.

There was little sympathy in New Brunswick from J.P.:

Man, some of you people really need to get out of Toronto. As Toronto goes, so goes Canada? No, not exactly. Unless you’re waiting for a UPS parcel or planning to catch a plane, I think life can go on quite nicely despite this Very Important Storm. I know mine did. I went to work, went out to a news conference, had lunch, and was at the curling club tonight. The Toronto snowstorm did not ruin my day.

It sounds to me like the Post managed to get it right with different editions. Too bad the National couldn’t do the same. But since its producers had to drive through snow to get to work, and find sitters for their 2.3 kids, heck, it’s big news — let’s lead the show with it.

Ah, of course, the TTC closure — that makes it national news. Damn, I knew there was a reason the Go Train station here in Moncton seemed empty this morning.

My favourite bit: The mayor of Moncton was on This Morning talking to Avril about how this city coped with *five feet* of snow in 1992. (I don’t think that one led any national newscasts.) It took a snowstorm in Toronto for our mayor to get on national radio.

Some reaction to Christie Blatchford from P.K.:

egad–weather “pussy”, “girlish” tones, longing for “macho” men, premature ejaculations before the chick has her coat off, save the cute breedable girls and kick out the uglies and the men? Now I see the problem: there’s some chemical IN the snow that’s affecting the coverage. Estrogen? Testosterone? Exactly what part of her body is Blatchford writing with?

Jan. 15:

A Haligonian sneered at Toronto:

Thought everyone would be interested to hear what The Chronicle-Herald in Halifax thinks of poor snow-bound Toronto. This ran on the top left-hand column on the front page, but it’s interesting that it is not on its online edition. Perhaps they don’t want the rest of the country to know…

>From the Chronicle-Herald:

Wimp Watch

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the sissy city by the lake.

Toronto, so prosperous, so perfect–so very world-class–can’t cope with all the snow.

How bad was it?

Bad enough  that Mel Lastman was “petrified.”

Bad enough that the army was called in.

Bad enough that the Gobe and Mail compared stranded commuters to “Napoleon’s troops returning from Moscow.”  One commuter complained about getting snow in her nylons  after she chased a non-compliant cab.

The horror, my frinds, the unimaginable horror of it all — snowstorms, in January, in Canada.

I had this observation on the snowmania:

With at least 29 messages on this thread alone yesterday, can there be any
doubt that nothing is more fascinating to Canadian journalists than a
Toronto snowstorm? <g>

There aren’t too many other topics that generate that much traffic in a
single day. I don’t think the ice storm or the N-P’s launch stirred such a
burst of discussion.

For anyone who cares, it will be zero degrees and sunny in Saskatoon today
with strong, gusty winds. All part of the curse of prairie living.

Bill Doskoch
Saskatoon, SK

CAJ-L moderator

Place determines newsworthiness of a weather event, as this posting from a Canadian journo in Guatemala notes:

Snow seems to be the journalistic worry of the week. I seem to remember once having to like it because it was cold, clean and white.

Just thought I would share my own concerns about cold weather in Antigua Guatemala.

It is so cold that I had to put on a T-shirt this morning. And it was too cold to drink Margaritas before 10 a.m. And the bougainvillea and poinsettia-trees are definitely affected by the cooler nights — down to 65 degrees. But the National Disaster Network has reported the cold wave will end before next week, and we will be able to continue our work in the manner in which we have become accustomed.

The Thunder Bay journo complained about a news event in his area being ignored by the wires:

A follow-up to the kindling I dropped re:  coverage of Toronto’s snow woes.

Did you know the Trans-Canada highway was closed to cross- Canada traffic for 33 hours because of a 3 vehicle accident east of Thunder Bay?  Hundreds of truckers and drivers inconvenienced, but nary a mention on the wires we get in the newsroom.  Yes, I did feed the material.

Am I being a whiner???

S.C. tried to explain away the “rural” ice storm remark:

What I meant by “largely rural” ice storm was that much of the coverage seemed to be of rural areas coping, and also that most of the geography affected was rural. In this case, the storm that hit Toronto was considerably weaker north of the city. (Though some areas to our west and southwest also got hit, in some cases harder than Toronto, these areas are closer to snowbelt regions where snow-removal is a more regular activity.

That all said, it sure was weird watching army trucks drive up and down my downtown sidestreet. Sure wish they cleared me a parking spot, but they just drove on through.

Hey, it was bad enough that our local CAJ chapter called off an event. Not to worry, we will reschedule and we’ll post an update to this list.

A Toronto journo thought Thunder Bay guy was indeed whining:

– Did anyone die in the crash?
– Were the trucks held up for 33 hours, or was a detour available?
– What was the approximate total value of the goods that were held up?
– Was just-in-time delivery affected at any major plants? Were there shutdowns
as a result?

Unless the answer to any of these questions is particularly interesting, it’s a local traffic story.

A Toronto business journo said get over it, a massive weather event hitting T.O. is news:

Sure as Quebeckers will eternally debate separation so too will journalists across the country argue about the placement of any Toronto story on the front page of the national and regional papers (or top of the newscasts). Come on, get over it. Snow in Toronto will always be a big Canadian story, always, and Monctonites will always laugh at it (although not as much as when Vancouver gets hit, I’m sure). Why is it that any time there’s a big Toronto story the local media feel guilty about publicizing it, while anyone from anywhere else curses the fact that they have to know anything about it? You’d think that if both sides had their druthers, the city would disappear from the map altogether! I don’t think any media decision maker in Toronto needs to suffer the bleatings of regional carpers. No apologies. Hey, do you think they give a rat’s ass in New York when their snowstorms take up more space (in the newshole) than those in Peoria? And J., believe me, we in central Canada have to read all about those crazy, multimetre snowfalls in Atlantic Canada when they happen(Just the same as when snow snarls traffic in Vancouver.). Would you feel better if the next major snowfall that hits New Brunswick gets the front page of the Post two days in a row?  Maybe we should all feel ashamed the national media isn’t doing enough to report on snowfalls in Moosonee or Yellowknife.

One more thing – I’ve read somewhere (was it on this list, or in a column? I forget) that those of us in Toronto didn’t really understand or care that last year’s ice storm was such a big deal. I don’t buy that at all. Of course I’m sure you couldn’t know what it was truly like unless you lived through it (such as my ninety-something grandparents, who spent a terrifying night without heat or electricity in their Montreal home) but I think our national and local media did a splendid job in conveying the urgency to the rest of the country and keeping the story at the absolute top of the pile (same as with the Winnipeg flood) as long as it was news.

Jan. 16:

N.B. journo J.P. couldn’t let that pass:

>Why is it that any time there’s a big
>Toronto story the local media feel guilty about publicizing it

Not much guilt in evidence this week.

>Would you feel better if the next major snowfall that hits
>New Brunswick gets the front page of the Post two days in a row?

How about the first 10 minutes — i.e. three items — of the National? Sure, storms here get covered, but I can’t really them leading newscasts to that extent.

K.L. tried to straighten out J.P.:

J., I think you’re missing the thrust of the conversation on this one. When huge snow hits Canada’s biggest city, it essentially waylays a large part of the national economy for a day or two. It’s not the same as a good New Brunswick blast of winter.

When I alluded earlier to the as-goes-Toronto, so-goes-Canada syndrome, I certainly didn’t mean it in an arrogant sense. In and of itself, what happens in Toronto isn’t important; but when it has an effect outside of the city, then I’d argue it has major importance as a story.

Ask any national business or institution if it was able to conduct its affairs without impact yesterday. I would expect the answer would be it couldn’t because key people were unable to work in Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa.

When the ice storm hit last year, we were actually able to measure the impact on the GDP, not unlike the Asian market and currency calamity. I would bet that there was a discernible impact on the GDP yesterday and Thursday (you can’t lose one per cent of the working year and not have it affect the economy), and that’s principally why it was big news. That, and the fact that in knocking some three or four million people into submission for a couple of weekdays (if the big snowfall had happened on a Saturday morning, not the same deal), the weather is bound to generate some interesting human stories. Which are, no matter where they happen and under what conditions, good to tell.

An expat from an undetermined location sent along this:

In response to what he’s read of the Toronto snow, a Canadian ex-pat and journalist with the South China Post recently posted this on a small listserve I maintain:

Greetings from Hong Kong

Dear Toronto,

I lived in Montreal for six years and lived through a lot more snow than what you are getting now. I understand you are not used to the dumpings that Montreal gets, but really! Frankly, I think you are being a little wimpy. I could understand all the fuss if you were, say, Vancouver, but you are not. You are an eastern city pretending to be, what,  some balmy destination! I say, grow up.

Dear Canada,

If you think you are cold . . . it is 8C here, not a heater in the house and because it’s an old building, several of our windows are rusted open, so we have a fresh (bloody freezing) wind blowing throught the
kitchen and bathroom. Okay, okay . . . so it isn’t snowing, but all of you have central heating, non?

Dear Montreal,

I was reading on the wires yesterday that it is colder there than at the North Pole. Chin up, you are still the coolest place in Canada, despite the unemployment and lack of an economy.

Wed, January 14 2009 » CAJ-L postings, Main Page, Media