Point of View

Hey Nova Scotia — are we becoming winter wimps?

A panel on CBC Radio's Information Morning in Cape Breton digs into the question.

'We have become increasingly obsessed with weather'

This buried car was typical of many during Tuesday's blizzard. (Rob Doublett/CBC)

Are we becoming a nation of winter wimps?  

That was the question posed Thursday morning by host Steve Sutherland to a panel on CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning. 

It comes a day after the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board cancelled classes from Sydney right up to the northern tip of the county, even though the weather was calm Wednesday following Tuesday's blizzard.

Roads were described as snow-covered but passable with caution on Wednesday. Even so, the board decided buses should not be out. 

Information Morning panellist Jenn Power, a mother of four and regional director for L'Arche Atlantic, said we have become "weather panickers."

"I think we have become increasingly obsessed with weather, and the more we talk about it, the more we hear about it on the radio, the more we're inclined to take unnecessary action against a problem that doesn't exist," she said.

Power said there are times when schools should be allowed to stay open, and the school board should leave it with parents to decide if they want to send their children or not.

"There's a cost to this kind of weather panic we have," she said.

The panel on CBC Radio's Information Morning in Cape Breton: from left to right are host Steve Sutherland, Vanessa Childs-Rolls, Jenn Power and Brandon Ellis. (Hal Higgins/CBC)

Power said when school is called off it has a "huge impact" on her and her husband since they both work outside the home.

"I would like to see those decisions based on data, based on real information, not based on this kind of collective panic."

Another panellist, historian and community activist Vanessa Childs-Rolls, disagrees.  

"It was based on snow removal," she said. "There were no sidewalk plows out, the roads were a mess. That's a safety concern. If your kids cannot walk on the sidewalk to get to school and they have to walk on the road, that's a huge problem. It's not safe."

But Childs-Rolls said people are becoming wimpier about winter in general, and it's starting at an early age.

Snowplows sit at the ready in Cape Breton as their operators take a break. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

She said her 10-year-old son tells her teachers will often decide that an "indoor recess" — which he detests — is the rule on some wintry days. The boy blames it on many children who are not dressed properly.

"They have indoor recess because the girls are wearing their tiny little skirts and they don't have snowpants," she said.

School boards should still make decisions for parents and children, according to panellist Brandon Ellis, an "avid indoorsman" who is outgoing president of the CBU Students' Union and political science major.  

"I do believe it's an organizational responsibility to close the school for the safety of the collective," he said.

Childs-Rolls adds that as a person who has very little downtime, she loves storm days since there's no pressure to go anywhere or do anything.

"It's heaven," she said.

But it's not for everyone: "I spent four hours in my driveway [shovelling]," Ellis said. "That was not heaven."


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