Heather Scoffield: Canada’s soaring deficit has some people worried. Will the spending change with Chrystia Freeland in charge?


The new federal finance minister personifies how the federal Liberals deal with the biggest economic crisis of our lifetimes, Heather Scoffield writes.
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Quebec school bus drivers want to know if students are diagnosed with COVID-19
The union notes that drivers are exposed to their passengers for long periods of time, in many cases at a distance of less than two metres.
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Fake Facebook pages made in China targeted U.S. presidential election
Beijing has been expanding its influence operations ahead of the 2020 election but has not mounted an operation on par with Russian operatives in the 2016 presidential election who sought to inflame tensions on hot-button issues such as race and immigration.
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Elon Musk says Tesla’s full self-driving Autopilot is coming soon and it’s ‘clearly going to work’
A number of startups and established automakers have been racing to develop self-driving technology. While it has been fielded in tests, a system that completely drives the car in all circumstances without driver input is yet to become a feature on popular cars.
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Post-tropical storm Teddy makes landfall in Nova Scotia
Overnight, thousands of homes and businesses across Nova Scotia lost power.
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Jury to resume hearing testimony in Fredericton murder trial today
Lawyers for Raymond acknowledged their client shot and killed the four people but said he is not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
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Jury to resume hearing testimony in Fredericton murder trial today
Justice Larry Landry of the Court of Queen’s Bench told the 12 jurors last Wednesday that the parties needed to discuss unexpected issues before Matthew Raymond’s trial could resume.
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Ever wondered if you could leave Toronto to pursue foodie passions in the country?
Sometimes making the leap means re-framing what success is.
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Ontario hiring 98 more labour inspectors to speed up pandemic workplace response
The hiring blitz will increase the number of government inspectors from 409 to 507 and will cost $11.6 million.
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Canada’s carbon tax conundrum continues its appearance at Supreme Court today
The second day of hearings in three appeals over the federal carbon tax will go forward in Ottawa starting this morning.
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Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins phase 3 trial
The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world's largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far.
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London’s Laser Quest location announces closure
The message announcing the closure has been shared over 1,100 times on Facebook since Tuesday afternoon.
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Ethics watchdog dismisses conflict of interest charges against PM’s chief of staff
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion says the allegations are “speculative” and do not provide “a factual basis to support the belief that a contravention” of the Conflict of Interest Act may have occurred.
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Teddy Pounds Nova Scotia With 100-Kilometre Winds And Heavy Rain
HALIFAX — The centre of post-tropical storm Teddy is expected to make landfall in eastern Nova Scotia on Wednesday morning, delivering another round of strong winds and heavy rain to a province that has already had plenty of both.At 6 a.m. local time, the centre of the storm was about 70 kilometres off the province’s eastern shore, where residents and first responders are particularly worried about flooding caused by a storm surge.The large storm was churning out winds over 100 kilometres per hour as it neared the coastline.Overnight, thousands of homes and businesses across Nova Scotia lost power.By 7 a.m., about 4,500 Nova Scotia Power customers were still in the dark, though the utility said it had already restored electricity to 16,000 customers overnight — most them in western Nova Scotia.Schools were closed, public transit in Halifax was suspended, many flights were cancelled but no major damage was reported — aside from downed and damaged trees and power lines.Watch: Teddy smashes Massachusetts with high waves. Story continues below. Citizens living in high-risk locations in the Sambro area, Peggy’s Cove and along the eastern shore were asked by Halifax Regional Municipality to make plans immediately to self-evacuate.The storm was reclassified as a post-tropical storm overnight, but that change doesn’t mean Teddy has become a weakling. The designation refers to the structure of the storm, not its strength.On Tuesday, the Canadian Hurricane Centre and provincial officials made it clear that the storm surge ahead of Teddy was their main concern, especially with 10-metre waves in the forecast.Though residents were warned to stay away from the coast, photos on social media and on web cameras showed plenty of gawkers on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove and near the sprawling beaches at Lawrencetown, an area east of Halifax.Officials in Halifax have suspended the city’s municipal bus and harbour ferry services. Garbage collection was also cancelled for Wednesday. RELATED Nova Scotia Braces For 100-Kilometre Winds As Hurricane Teddy Nears Maritimers Prepping For Hurricane Teddy Should Keep Pandemic In Mind: Expert Weather warnings were in effect for virtually all of Atlantic Canada.Nova Scotia Power has 300 crews standing by to handle power outages — 170 of them from other Atlantic provinces.The storm was expected to track over eastern Nova Scotia, the eastern half of Prince Edward Island and southwestern Newfoundland.Though residents of southwestern Newfoundland have been warned to watch for a storm surge later Wednesday, the wind and rain wasn’t expected to pose much of a threat. Marine Atlantic, the Crown corporation that operates the ferry service linking Nova Scotia with Newfoundland, has cancelled all sailings across the Cabot Strait.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.
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Woodstock Police issue warning after ‘suspicious’ person approaches children in park
The children were playing in a park in the area when the man approached.
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B.C. election focused on whether there is a need for a campaign on Day One
NDP Leader John Horgan says he called the election because he feared “contempt” and “acrimony” between the parties would divert focus away from the COVID-19 pandemic, making an election necessary.
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Coronavirus: Brantford extends mandatory face covering bylaw
Councillors voted to review the legislation again in November.
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British Columbia coroners service to release latest data on overdose deaths amid recent spike
The province recorded 175 overdose deaths in July following its highest-ever monthly death toll in June, when 177 people died from illicit drugs containing extreme concentrations of fentanyl.
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Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis
The throne speech scheduled today is expected to signal more tweaks are coming to EI, and make substantial commitments in other areas, including child are. For post-pandemic growth, the Liberals will detail plans that connect economic recovery to projects that equally combat climate change.
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Uncle Ben's has a new name: Ben's Original
Mars will change the name of its Uncle Ben's rice products to Ben's Original and drop the logo depicting a Chicago head waiter as part of the company's previously announced plans to create a more inclusive brand.
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Rising COVID-19 cases curtail Trudeau’s spending ambitions
As case numbers climb, Trudeau’s government has made a sharp pivot from talk of boldly transforming the nation’s economy and social programs to the immediate task of tackling the coronavirus and the recession. The rhetorical volte-face will be evident in a key policy speech Wednesday.
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Ex-Liberal finance minister John Manley urges spending restraint as Trudeau readies 'ambitious' throne speech
OTTAWA — On Feb. 27, 1995, a sleep-deprived John Manley arrived in London, England with an unenviable task: trying to convince major investment houses to buy Canadian bonds, which had been nearing junk status as Canada’s fiscal credibility spiralled down the drain. The banks and private equity funds were hardly receptive. Ottawa had just slashed spending by the most since the Second World War in a bid to lower its towering debt servicing costs, which soaked up 37 cents for every dollar spent. Weeks earlier, the Wall Street Journal ran the headline, “Canada Bankrupt?” “I remember very vividly one of them saying to me, ‘You guys are always promising to bring your deficit down, and you never do it. Why should we believe you this time?’” recalls Manley, who was serving as the Liberal industry minister at the time. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau readies his speech from the throne on Wednesday, Manley has joined a chorus of other voices saying the current government is again left with little fiscal room as COVID-19 emergency spending continues to mount. Their concerns come after Trudeau has signalled a desire for “ambitious” new social and environmental spending programs, raising concerns among some observers that the country could lock itself into a structural deficit. A report by the C.D. Howe Institute on Tuesday, headed by Manley and Janice MacKinnon, former minister of finance of Saskatchewan, warns that there is “negligible fiscal room for major post-crisis federal initiatives without further raising taxes.” If Ottawa were to increase permanent spending by just $30 billion per year above pre-crisis levels, the report says, recurring deficits over the next 10 years would reach $75 billion — a decision that “leaves the country vulnerable to adverse shocks.” Manley, who went on to become Liberal finance minister from 2002 to 2003, is in agreement with the vast majority of economists who say the current fiscal situation is not nearly as dire as the mid-1990s. Interest rates are near record lows, and are likely to remain that way in coming years as the economic downturn from COVID-19 lockdowns linger on. The most popular idea that won't be in Wednesday's throne speech? A four day work week Jack M. Mintz: The throne speech you'll never hear in new tab But concerns remain over Ottawa’s longer-term fiscal position, particularly after Ottawa abandoned its fiscal anchor and has declined to provide a plan to return to budgetary balance. Agencies have downgraded Canada’s credit rating in recent months as spending climbs. The COVID-19 pandemic has further muddied its longer-term fiscal plans, after Ottawa funnelled vast amounts of cash to businesses and people to keep them afloat during economic restrictions. It is now projected to run a $343 billion deficit next year. “I think we have at a minimum given up enormous flexibility in our options,” Manley said in an interview. “We’ve done the right thing by protecting people’s incomes and keeping businesses alive. But it’s not without cost,” he said. Higher spending and economic lockdowns caused Ottawa’s net debt as a percentage of GDP to balloon, from 30 per cent to around 49 per cent today. It was around 66 per cent in the 90s. The C.D. Howe report on Tuesday said that reducing Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio by just one per cent per year would require Ottawa to trim spending by five per cent annually, beginning in 2022. Adding to Ottawa’s fiscal woes are demographic challenges: Canada’s aging population is expected to put strain on the healthcare system in coming years, raising expenditures. Elderly benefits, which already make up Ottawa’s single-largest expense, are expected to nearly double to $99 billion by 2030, according to a report by Royal Bank of Canada earlier this year. In a separate report Tuesday, the Fraser Institute estimates that elderly benefits transfers and other seniors costs could inflate the federal debt-to-GDP ratio to as high as 69.6 per cent by 2050, if spending elsewhere is not curbed. “Any significant deterioration of federal finances will bring with it serious consequences for the Canadian economy, including the risk of repeating the mistakes of the 1960s to 1990s,” the report said. Some economists suggest Ottawa can easily absorb its current spending plans if it would focus more on growing the economy, especially at a time when spending cuts remain politically unpopular. The C.D. Howe report on Tuesday suggested there was “little appetite in the population for the spending restraint that would be needed to shrink the debt-to-GDP ratio immediately.” Public funds should instead be spent in a way that “promotes growth and incentivizes a return to work more broadly,” it said. That could include spending on daycare to help women return to work, or investing heavily in infrastructure to boost productivity. The federal government, at least in its rhetoric, has so far focussed more on public safety and on the redistribution of wealth. “They have not articulated the growth agenda, and that’s important,” Manley said. Manley can easily recall the severe cuts he had to absorb as industry minister in the mid-1990s. Programs under the industry portfolio were whittled down from 54 to just nine. He doesn’t see deep cuts as the correct course of action today. But without robust economic expansion, the current fiscal trajectory is likely unsustainable, he said. “Where’s the growth going to come from?” • Email: jsnyder@postmedia.com | Twitter: jesse_snyder You might also be interested in… Jordan Peterson’s year of ‘absolute hell’: Professor forced to retreat from public life because of addiction If North Korea’s Kim Jong Un dies, who will be his successor? ‘Everybody will love it’: A four-day work week could help rebuild Canada’s economy post-COVID-19, experts say
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As coronavirus cases spike, Trudeau must strike throne speech balance: strategists
The Liberals must strike a balance as coronavirus continues to rage, say strategists, among the Canadian populace as well as politicians.
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COMMENTARY: Justin Trudeau doesn’t have much to gain from an election right now
Sure, campaigns matter and standings can change, but Darrell Bricker says the data shows it would be difficult for the Liberals to justify risking an election right now.
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Calum Marsh: Do you seriously miss the old world badly enough to board a flight to nowhere?
In Taiwan this past weekend, 120 tourists boarded a passenger plane at Taipei’s Taoyuan airport and went on the briefest holiday in world history. Up they soared, some ten thousand feet into the immaculate morning air, gliding smoothly toward the South Korean island of Jeju, banking left and then — turning around and heading home. The 1,000-kilometre excursion, hosted by Tigerair Taiwan, was one of a new wave of “scenic flights,” or “flights to nowhere,” conceived as a way to offer the much-yearned-for experience of travelling — or at least an approximation of it — while travel itself remains off limits. Similar flights have appeared in Australia, Brunei and Japan, and to considerable success. A flight to and from Sydney next month went on sale this week. Tickets sold out in ten minutes. Now there is a great deal I miss about the world as it was in the time before coronavirus, much of it unexpected, and indeed, some of it unpleasant: the restless, writhing crowds at the multiplex cinema, loudly gnawing on popcorn and whispering to one another inane remarks about the plot. The groaning sweaty sufferers at my local gym, tearing up valuable muscle mass in a cyclone of health-minded toil. And I am surprised to find I even miss the office. The unprecedented emotional turmoil produced by a global pandemic, compounded by the alien abnormality of life under lockdown, has made us all nostalgic for mundane pleasures. We miss a lot. We miss the old ways. Travel-sick customers snap up Qantas Airways' scenic 'flights to nowhere' Coughing mannequins put to work as Boeing, United Airlines try to figure out how COVID moves through planes Flying safely during COVID-19: Tips from a public health researcher But air travel ? That prosaic agony that is merely — and woefully — the price of going somewhere nice? Travelling by airplane, especially on any date after 9/11/2001, is an interminable chore of demoralizing tedium and bureaucratic humiliation — an exercise in standing around and lining up whose only reward is the forced invitation to sit down for several hours. The mild mind-torture of the customs questionnaire, the patience-sapping enmity of the security check-point, the drab queues before the departure gate and the coach aisle and the baggage claim: who seriously misses any of that? I appreciate that it is not the destination but the journey that counts. But I think Emerson meant it figuratively — and he never had to deal with overhead bin space and carry-on bag requirements. I will gladly suffer the boring indignity of flying across the Atlantic again as soon as it has been deemed reasonably safe to do so. Because then it will be worth the boredom: worth it to enjoy the thrill of another place. I can’t imagine how strange it must feel, stepping off the plane after several stupefying hours, only to see the same tarmac and terminal, the familiar domestic sky, exactly as you left them — like the movie In the Mouth of Madness , in which Sam Neill desperately attempts to flee a cursed town and just keeps winding up back there, again and again. The vexing inconveniences of air travel are justified by the end result: Getting from point A to point B. Getting from A to A simply isn’t enough. You might also be interested in… Jordan Peterson’s year of ‘absolute hell’: Professor forced to retreat from public life because of addiction If North Korea’s Kim Jong Un dies, who will be his successor? ‘Everybody will love it’: A four-day work week could help rebuild Canada’s economy post-COVID-19, experts say
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Her kid had a stuffy nose. Now hers is one of many Ontario families in COVID-19 testing limbo
Longer lineups and wait times for COVID-19 testing have health experts calling for re-examination of Ontario’s testing strategies and priorities
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Investigation into Trudeau’s chief of staff dismissed by ethics commissioner
The federal ethics watchdog has dismissed Conservative allegations of conflict of interest involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff and her husband.
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COVID-19 milestone: World races toward one million deaths, leaders plead 'stay the course'
The United States reached a dismal milestone Tuesday, its official COVID-related death count surpassing 200,000, moving the world ever closer to one million deaths from one of the most disastrous infections the planet has seen. As of Tuesday afternoon, the global death toll was 967,035. How do we wrap our minds around the numbers? U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Tuesday new coronavirus rules for England, which include a 10 p.m. curfew for pubs, and a plea for people to work from home again if possible, could last up to six months as the country reaches “a perilous turning point” in the pandemic. In Madrid, a quarter of hospital beds are filled with people with COVID-19 amid surging cases in Spain and large swaths of Europe, while in Canada, the country’s top doctor warned the country is at a “crossroads,” that the pandemic will surge back “faster and stronger” if people don’t minimize contacts with other human beings. According to the latest federal modelling update, the epidemic growth outside Atlantic Canada is accelerating and while deaths remain low, hospitals are starting to show signs of increasing numbers. The reproductive number — the average number of people infected by each case — is around 1.4 nationally, meaning every 100 cases are passing the virus on to 140 new people. In order for the epidemic to die out, the reproductive number needs to remain consistently below one, and Tam warned the situation will escalate — “we don’t want it to go up a giant ski hill” — if people don’t reduce their contacts. “There is definitely evidence of increased risk-taking and growing infection rates in many countries,” said Jay Van Bavel, a social neuroscience professor at New York University. “It’s hard to tell if that is from the pandemic fatigue of citizens or the relaxation of certain policies,” Van Bavel says. But it’s not clear whether the one-million deaths mark will change behaviours or “move people in the way that it should.” “Although the number is fodder for disturbing mental images, what’s unknown is how it will affect people’s collective and individual psyches,” Sarah Elizabeth Richards writes in National Geographic . “Is 200,000 deaths an important threshold that kicks us in the gut and creates a new level of urgency and outrage? Or will it lead to numbness and disengagement?” U.S. braces for third wave of COVID-19 as country approaches 200,000 deaths ahead of flu season Canadians must be vigilant to avoid massive COVID-19 second wave, Trudeau says As we enter The Great Unknown, the second wave of COVID-19, is Canada better prepared than we were before? Van Bavel, who grew up in Fox Creek, northern Alberta, isn’t sure the one-million mark will have a psychological impact. “Stalin famously said that the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic,” he said. “Research suggests that people are more moved by a single identifiable victim rather than a large number of faceless victims.” Tam on Tuesday urged Canadians, particularly younger ones driving the surge, to “stay the course,” no matter how weary they feel, and experts worry that a certain numbness has set in amid the messaging, the daily case counts, the ticking off of the latest number of people tested and infected. “Both citizens and policymakers are trying to make sense of the magnitude of the crisis and the lives that it threatens,” Joshua R. Goldstein and Ronald D. Lee write in the journal PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. “Our view is that COVID-19 should be seen as an extremely large mortality threat.” In their paper the University of California, Berkeley authors explore what one million hypothetical American deaths due to COVID-19 would mean for life expectancy and remaining life years. According to their estimates, life expectancy for 2020 would drop by about three years, while 250,000 deaths would reduce lifespans by about a year. While not nearly a monster on the scale of the Spanish flu, “COVID-19 mortality could in a matter of months be equal in overall magnitude to the decades-long HIV and opioid epidemics,” they said. The latest forecast from a University of Washington research institute is projecting a deadly December, with up to 30,000 deaths a day, globally. But here is where “psychic numbing,” as University of Oregon psychologist Paul Slovic has described it, comes into play. One person in distress will shock us, Slovic said. “Once you get into the hundreds or thousands or millions, these are just numbers,” Slovic said. What resonate are stories about individual lives touched by the pandemic. Yet the incidence of COVID-19 is still low. In Canada, studies suggest as few as 0.7 per cent of adults have been exposed to the virus. “Most of the time you don’t know many people who have been ill, if any. You look around — everything looks fine, people seem healthy,” Slovic said. The grim milestones, the prominent numbers, briefly catch our attention, “but they’re not going to change our behaviour,” Slovic said. “We’re not suddenly going to say, oh, it’s 200,000 (deaths) now, I’m really going to have to do something.” “Lacking therapies or vaccines, it boils down to distancing and masks and sometimes lockdowns — that’s what’s needed,” Slovic said. But it’s hard to maintain that vigilance, because to keep motivating people to do something has to come with some reward. “The rewards and cost of doing the right thing or wrong thing are kind of backwards” for the coronavirus, Slovic said. “When you put that mask on or you avoid doing something you want to do and stay away from something you want to do, you don’t feel immediate benefit, but you feel a cost.” Where death tolls become important is when they catch the attention of public health authorities, the experts watching the numbers, Slovic said, to make sure guidelines are followed and enforced. On Tuesday, Ottawa medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches announced that people who break COVID-19 isolation rules could be fined up to $5,000, a day. McGill University epidemiologist David Buckeridge worries that infections in Quebec are starting to spill over into older age groups. “We’re in the situation now where, even though people know the right thing to do, they somehow aren’t there, because they just wish this was over, and I completely understand that,” Buckeridge said. “But we need a little bit more discipline in terms of how we think about this if we’re going to get out of this without having a very large wave over the fall and winter.” • Email: skirkey@postmedia.com | Twitter: sharon_kirkey You might also be interested in… Jordan Peterson’s year of ‘absolute hell’: Professor forced to retreat from public life because of addiction If North Korea’s Kim Jong Un dies, who will be his successor? ‘Everybody will love it’: A four-day work week could help rebuild Canada’s economy post-COVID-19, experts say
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5 things to know for Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Canada has had more than 146,600 total cases of COVID-19, with more than 10,500 cases still active.
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Carbon tax hearings continue as Supreme Court hears arguments from Indigenous leaders
Appeals courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario ruled in 2019 that the federal carbon tax legislation was constitutional, but in February of this year, the Alberta Court of Appeal said it was not.
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Four arrested after Black man's body found burning in a ditch in Iowa
Authorities have arrested three men and one woman in connection with the death of a Black man whose burning body was found in a ditch in rural Iowa.
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Ontario hiring 98 more labour inspectors to speed up COVID-19 pandemic workplace response
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the government will begin to recruit the workers in October.
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Montreal weather: The leaves, like Quebec's regions, are turning orange
It's going to be a warm Wednesday.
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LIVE BLOG: Post-tropical storm forces closure of N.S. public schools
Nova Scotia is expected to receive the worst conditions late Wednesday morning.
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