WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS

What makes this west side of Vancouver Island tick? News & views on business & economy, health & wellness, education, arts, politics, sustainability, the young Z-gen, & social trends.  

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FRONT PAGE BREAKING NEWS

Tuesday, August 21 ~ GREATER VICTORIA.  As of 6:04 pm this evening, Tuesday August 21, there is still a Very High Risk air quality statement for Greater Victoria (noted as Victoria/Saanich and WestShore recordings by Environment Canada).

Air Quality Health Index at 10+ (Very High Risk) as of 5 pm on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 [Environment Canada]

The Environment Canada statement says that today’s smoky skies — still at 10+ (Very High Risk) as of 5 pm, will switch gears tomorrow as winds are expected to change to a westerly direction beginning Wednesday and bring some air quality improvements.

However, the BC Air Quality website says the level will be 10+ overnight, with a reduction still to only 8 (High) on Wednesday.

Today the interior had less smoky skies concerns, but on Wednesday theirs will apparently worsen again as the coastal areas clear up a bit.

For general information about wildfire smoke and your health, contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (toll free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows (or leave air exchangers in full operation) you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned (cooler and filtered).


 

Monday, August 20 ~ LANGFORD. A new professional sports team has burst onto the Langford scene. Today at City Centre Park next to Westhills Stadium it was mid-summer warm with slightly smoky skies, as the recently formed Pacific Football Club (Pacific FC) announced their new coach.

New Pacific FC coach Michael Silberbauer was at the podium there today, being welcomed by the west shore sport community, and dozens of young soccer players and their parents.  In all, about 150 people.

Langford Mayor Stew Young (at podium) congratulates Michael Silberbauer on becoming coach of the new Pacific FC, with Josh Simpson (Pacific FC president) at City Centre Park in Langford, August 20 2018 [West Shore Voice News photo – Mary P Brooke]

Langford Mayor Stew Young and council attended in support, including Councillor Matt Sahlstrom who had made of the initial connections with now the local Pacific FC leadership, and Councillors Lanny Seaton (who chairs the city’s Parks and Recreation committee), Lillian Szpak, Denise Blackwell and Winnie Sifert.

“Thank you for coming out here,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “What Josh and Rob have been able to accomplish in such a short time -– and to have Mike standing here in Langford, this is the talent that you have here that we wouldn’t have expected. You guys have done great,” the Mayor told the crowd.

“I like what they’re saying -– being solution-oriented, getting things moving, let’s get things done. And you’re bringing the partnerships in the community together. We’ve heard the talk, you guys have delivered. Thank you from the citizens of Langford and council. It’s a great opportunity for soccer for the island,” said Young.

Pacific FC CEO Rob Friend gave a big thank you to Langford’s mayor and council for their vision to continue building a sports presence in Langford, which is one of the fastest growing communities in BC (surpassed for growth rate only by Surrey in the Lower Mainland). Friend is excited about Langford’s current momentum to bring 2,000 more seats to the stands at Westhills Stadium, expanding a renovated seating area to 6,500 seats by next spring. Friend called Mayor Stew Young “the incredible power behind this project”.

See the full article here: https://westshorevoicenews.com/?page_id=13003


 

Monday, August 20 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. According to Environment Canada, the Air Quality Health Index for Victoria/Saanich is in the High Risk range of 7 to 8 today, Monday August 20.

That’s expected to subside to Moderate Risk (Level 5) by 7 pm this evening, and to Low Risk (Level 2) by 10 pm. Smoky skies will continue across most of the province for the next few days. https://weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/next18Hourlies/bcaq-010_e.html

Air Quality Health Index for Monday, August 20, 2018 for Victoria/Saanich. [Environment Canada, at 6 am]

Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.

Local smoke levels may vary based on wind direction and fire characteristics but, until a significant change in the provincial weather pattern occurs, widespread air quality improvements are not expected. During a wildfire, smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour.

Wildfire smoke is a natural part of our environment but it is important to be mindful that exposure to smoke may affect your health. People with pre-existing health conditions, the elderly, infants, children and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure. See: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/
air/air-quality/air-advisories

For general information about wildfire smoke and your health, contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (toll free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Be air aware! Check your local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when to take extra care.

More: www.bcairquality.cawww.airhealth.ca


 

Sunday, August 19 ~ LANGFORD. Over 17,000 people attended the 8th Annual Langford Show & Shine vintage car show today Sunday August 19 in Langford town centre. That’s a record crowd, says Langford Mayor Stew Young. [View this article, with more photos, at https://westshorevoicenews.com/?page_id=12957 ]

As well, there was a record number of vehicles in the show — over 300 entries.

Record numbers came out to the 8th Annual Langford Show & Shine, August 19, 2018 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Several city blocks were cordoned off for the 10 am to 3 pm event along Goldstream Avenue and side streets. Next year the popular show might expand its footprint to include the area available at Veterans Memorial Park.

This year’s People Choice awards were announced as follows:  1st Dave Lukinuk 1956 Chev panel truck, 2nd Mike Lausin 1968 Camaro, and 3rd Dan Madison 1961 Ford f100.

As a free walk-about with donations, over $3,000 was raised for Wounded Warriors and the Goldstream Food Bank that serves the west shore area.

While there was a bit of ‘smoky sky’ today which created a slight haze, the day was otherwise comfortably warm and dry.

People who displayed their cars sat alongside in lawn chairs and chatted with onlookers. Some people pored over the cars and trucks quite closely, while others strolled through to take in the ambiance.

As a city marketing tool, the car show is effective. People walk about at eye-level to the various frontages of stores and offices that otherwise one doesn’t really notice if whizzing by in traffic.  Refreshments were available for purchase from mobile food vendors as well as local restaurants and cafes.

A shout-out to the Langford Fire Department for lifting up media in their ladder and bucket, to get some cool aerial shots of the event.

City staff work very hard to set up the show, some arriving ahead of 6 am to find some cars already ready to come and get parked on display!


 

Saturday, August 18 ~ LANGFORD. This morning the road was ‘owned’ by cyclists taking part in the 160 km 8th annual Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria.

Motorists were patient — for the most part — as traffic control personnel guided cyclists through various intersections in both residential and commercial areas of Langford.

Cyclists taking part in Tour de Victoria make their way through the Glen Lake Rd roundabout in Langford, August 18 2018 [West Shore Voice News photo]

The experienced cyclists whizzed through the Langford stretch of the ride from 8 am to 10 am. The full tour takes place from 7 am to 3:30 pm.

The ride will see as many as 1,800 cyclists riding through Victoria, the West Shore and Saanich, attracting riders from across Canada and beyond. Riders begin and end their event in downtown Victoria on Belleville Street.

 


 

Friday, August 17 ~ LANGFORD. Traffic delays are expected with the 8th annual Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria bike ride will take place on Saturday, August 18 approximately 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The ride is expected to draw as many as 1,800 cyclists riding through Victoria, the West Shore and Saanich, attracting riders from across Canada and beyond. The 160 km ride begins and ends in downtown Victoria on Belleville Street.

8th annual Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria bike ride — Langford portion (MAP) for Saturday, August 18, 2018

Drivers will encounter moderate delays 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. along Highway 14 (Sooke Road) at Happy Valley Road and Glen Lake Road in Langford, and near the intersection of Highway 17 (Pat Bay Highway) and Sayward Road (peninsula) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Motorists are advised to allow additional time to arrive at their destinations and to adjust travel plans where possible. Exercise caution, obey posted speeds and event signs, and watch for traffic-control personnel.

More detailed traffic information including maps: https://tourdevictoria.com/traffic/ 

 


Friday, August 17 ~ BC.  As of this afternoon, August 17, there are 556 fires burning throughout BC, with 55 of those being fires of note. [View this article on its own page]

“I’ve never seen that many at one time and over such an area,” said Kevin Skrepnek, Chief Fire Information Officer, BC Wildfire Service, today during a media conference. Just today, there are 14 new fires.

If a wildfire is especially visible or poses a threat to public safety, the BC Wildfire Service classifies it as a “Wildfire of Note” and provides detailed updates as information becomes available.

So far, the cost to the province for fighting wildfires is $242 million in this 2018 wildfire season, Skrepnek reported.

Active wildfire locations on Vancouver Island as of 2 pm on Friday, August 17, 2018 [BC Wildfire Service map]

There are 3,500 personnel battling these fires, including front line firefighters and support staff, 1,300 contracts (including fire crews and tree fallers), and 600 visiting firefighting support personnel (from elsewhere in Canada and from Mexico, New Zealand and Australia). “There are 208 aircraft are flying today in support of our ground crews,” said Skrepnek.

On northwest Vancouver Island, there are fires of note at Pinder Creek & Zeballos. Link to wildfires of note available on this page: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/wildfire-situation

There is the potential for lightning in the southern part of the province, and the far northeast. “If we see lightning, it will be dry, which guarantees fires,” Skrepnek said. “Conditions are dry and warm. Smoke is going to be an ongoing concern for visibility. Forecast is bone dry. There is no rain on the horizon.” Conditions next week are forecast as relatively static. A ridge of high pressure is expected to break down after Wednesday next week (August 22), with the potential for showers but which bring more wind and lightning, the Chief Fire Information Officer explained. “With no major rain in sight, we’re bracing for the situation to continue for the weeks ahead.”

Other officials addressed media, including Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; and Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, who were joined by representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces, BC Wildfire Service, Ministry of Health, Emergency Management BC and the RCMP.

There are presently 28 fires impacting 2,905 properties across BC, with 49 evacuation alerts affecting 11,300 properties province-wide. Across the affected areas of BC there are 13 Emergency Support Services (ESS) centres actively in place.

Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says wildfire smoke is “dynamic and changing rapidly… it comes and goes in space and time.” She is recommending that people do not evacuate for smoke alone. “It is extremely stressful to be evacuated from home and community. This can divert resources away from people who are threatened by the wildfires themselves.”

“If you have asthma or cardiopulmonary disease or are pregnant, you should reduce your exposure in any way,” says Dr Henry. “Stay indoors, and use a portable air cleaner to create a ‘clean room’,” says Dr Henry. “Regular exercise is important, but when air is smoky move those activities indoors. If you’re outdoors for work or helping on fires – use appropriate protective equipment. Have your rescue medications available,” she said.

The RCMP reported that 200 officers and civilian support staff are assisting with wildfire efforts.

The Canadian Armed Forces presently have 200 soldiers in the Okanagan region with a camp near Merritt, to work alongside their BC Wildfire partners .. notably with mop-up tasks (attended to smaller hot spots and clearing debris) so that frontline BC wildfire expertise can focus on the front lines.


Thursday, August 16 ~ LANGFORD. Cycling and trails are meeting with a lot of progress in Langford. Today at the Belmont Residences sales centre there was a celebration of expanding U-Bicycles throughout Langford. And yesterday there was an unveiling of the Phase 3 section of the E&N Trail that will complete the path from Langford right to Esquimalt. [View this article on its own page]

This is taking a bit of emphasis away from vehicle commuting and the frustrations that Langford and west shore residents are experiencing on the two main corridors from the west shore into core areas like Victoria and Saanich (notably Highway 1 and Island Highway/Colwood Crawl commutes both early morning and late in the day).

This promotion of trails and use of community-shared bicycles is a further acknowledgement that many west shore residents are dependent on commutes to employment and post-secondary.

U-Bicycles expanded in the west shore, with a demo today at the Belmont Residences sale centre. From left: Chief Russ Chipps, Beecher Bay; Langford Councillor Denise Blackwell; Eric Gerlach, Belmont Residences VP Development; Langford Councillor Lillian Szpak; Marcela Corzo, Director of Development, Belmont Residences; Langford Mayor Stew Young; Angel Fu, Chief Strategy Officer, U-Bicycle; Langford Councillor Lanny Seaton; Langford Councillor Winnie Siefert. [West Shore Voice News photo – August 16, 2018]

Langford Mayor Stew Young told a crowd at Belmont Residences today that over the past 25 years more than 30 kilometres of bike lanes have been built in Langford. Mayor Young acknowledges the support of the development community in helping to make that possible.

To make use of those bike lanes, the U-Bicycle initiative is timely. “With a population over 40,000 now, the density is there,” Stew Young told West Shore Voice News. “Development is paying for the bike lanes. And now Belmont Residences and Ledcor are helping bring this service to Langford,” Young said. “Without density we wouldn’t have this. There’s a lot of economic activity in Langford (to support it),” he said.

The U-Bicycles (including E-bikes) and now also electric scooters are available at the U-Bicycle station at the Belmont Residences sales centre at 915 Division Avenue (corner of Jenkins Avenue). “People can ride them to work, or use them here for recreation,” says Eric Gerlach, VP Development, Belmont Residences. The U-Bicycle service is available throughout Greater Victoria, serving all demographics, explained Gerlach.

“These bicycles are an amenity, a key part of our development,” said Marcela Corzo, Director of Development, Belmont Residences. “We have been amazed at the forward-thinking of Langford,” Corzo said today. She is excited about the proximity of Belmont Residences to the Galloping Goose Trail.

Langford Councillor Lanny Seaton is quite pleased with finally seeing Phase of the E&N Trail connector (construction starting soon, for completion in September 2019). “We’ve been after them for 10 years,” he said today with reference to CRD which is responsible for the trail development. Starting next fall, residents will be able to cycle into Victoria core areas. “It’s a two percent grade all the way,” said Seaton, because it follows the rail grade.

The first phase of the E&N Trail (started in 2009) was to distribute the construction activity amidst the various impacted municipalities (Langford, View Royal, Victoria, Esquimalt, and the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations), says Brett Hudson, Manager, Planning, Resource Management and Development, CRD Regional Parks. That way “the benefits were spread over the region,” says Hudson.

E&N Rail Trail Humpback Connection — phase 3 in red (in center) will connect Langford to Victoria. [CRD map]

In the last couple of years, Langford has pushed for paving along the actual E&N rail line itself, allowing for at least the use of buses along that route. That would improve and enhance the public transit options for west shore commuters. The E&N rail line is overseen by the non-profit Island Corridors Foundation. Earlier this year, Premier John Horgan said the provincial government has ample reports about the possibilities for the E&N rail corridor.

Meanwhile, Langford Mayor Stew Young continues to push for High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the Trans Canada (Hwy 1). Last week the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) reiterated that ‘bus shoulder lanes’ are being installed as part of the McKenzie Interchange Project. Stew Young reiterated his view that HOV lanes right from Langford into Victoria would reduce vehicle commuting time more than the ‘bit of reduction’ that the McKenzie Interchange will provide. MOTI says the McKenzie Interchange will reduce commute times by as much as 20 minutes for some commuters (that project is due for completion at year-end 2019).


Air Quality Health Index is ‘3’ at 6am on Thurs August 16, 2018

Thursday, August 16 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. The Air Quality Health Index by Environment Canada is down to 3 today (scale of 1 to 10), for the Greater Victoria area today August 16.

This is significantly lower than in previous days.

Generally speaking, this is considered sufficiently good air quality for normal outdoor activities for seniors, young children, and anyone with heart/lung and breathing challenges.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Bill Blair newly appointed as Ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime, in Ottawa, July 18, 2018.

Wednesday, August 15 ~ BC. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hold a Cabinet retreat in Nanaimo from August 21 to 23. It will be the first meeting of the new Cabinet before Parliament resumes in September.

During the retreat, Trudeau and and ministers will “discuss ways to deliver economic growth and create good, middle class jobs for Canadians,” it was stated in a news release yesterday.

Discussions will focus on diversifying international trade, eliminating trade barriers between provinces and territories, and maintaining the integrity and security of Canada’s borders.

Since launching the historic Oceans Protection Plan in 2016, the Government says it has played a leading role to protect Canada’s oceans and coasts, and support coastal communities such as Nanaimo.

“I look forward to meeting with our new Cabinet in beautiful Nanaimo, British Columbia. Nanaimo is a gateway to Canada’s markets and a tourist destination known around the world. It is a perfect setting to discuss how we can promote Canadian exports, expand tourism, and diversify our trading partnerships, to continue making life better for people from Nanaimo to Corner Brook.”

Trudeau’s July 18 cabinet shuffle indicated a more intent focus on trade protection and diversification, border issues, resources and economy. See the July 20, 2018 issue of West Shore Voice News (page 1).


Wednesday, August 15 ~ BC. [Text of BC News release, August 15, 2018]. The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of emergency to support the province-wide response to the ongoing wildfire situation. [Wildfire information at Emergency Info BC: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca ]

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, made the declaration based on the recommendation from BC’s wildfire and emergency management officials.

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a coordinated response to protect the public, which remains the provincial government’s top priority.

“Public safety is always our first priority and, as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” Farnworth said. “Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts.”

As of August 14, there were 566 wildfires burning in BC, with 29 evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,050 people (1,521 properties), in addition to 48 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 18,720 people (9,359 properties).

The extended weather forecast calls for continued hot and dry conditions, with risk of thunderstorms in some parts of the province.

Currently, more than 3,372 firefighters and contractors are actively engaged in fighting fires in all fire regions of the province. This includes 1,427 BC contract personnel, as well as 436 out-of-province personnel from Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

The federal government has responded to and accepted British Columbia’s request for assistance. In the coming days, federal personnel and resources will be arriving in BC to assist with wildfire efforts.

“Given the unpredictable behaviour of wildfires and the number of significant wildfires in all areas of the province, we’re bringing in the additional resources we need to keep people and communities as safe as possible,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We’re asking British Columbians to do their part and follow burning bans and restrictions to prevent human-caused fires.”

The state of emergency gives agencies, such as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Emergency Management BC, the fire commissioner and the RCMP, the authority to take every action necessary to fight the wildfires and protect people and communities.

Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the Emergency Program Act. The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible, for further periods of time. During the 2017 wildfire season, the Province was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks, from July 7 to September 15.

The last provincial declaration of state of emergency before the 2017 wildfire season was issued in August 2003, to deal with wildfires.


 

Air Quality Index for the Victoria/Saanich area, as of 8 am on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 [Environment Canada]

Wednesday, August 15 ~ SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND. As of 8 am, the Air Quality Health Index by Environment Canada is at 6 (on a 1 to 10 scale) for Victoria/Saanich this morning, Wednesday August 15.

That’s listed as ‘moderate risk’ (at the top of the 4 to 6 range), though yesterday health officials were calling the smoke levels ‘high risk’. The forecast shows the Air Quality Health Index could reach 7 (7 to 10 is officially High Risk) in the next 18 hours.

Seniors, young children, and anyone with lung, heart or chronic health disorders can find breathing to be more difficult when the air quality is poor. Reducing strenuous activities outdoors is applicable to everyone under these conditions.

The smoky skies are a result of wildfires burning in north-central BC and on Vancouver Island. A ridge of high pressure is preventing the dispersal of the smoke from the south-island region.

The smoke may contain some degree of chemicals from the fire retardants used to battle the wildfires.

According to the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, fire retardants, foam and water can all be used to slow down a fire’s growth. They support the efforts of ground crews in containing the fire. Water-soluble fire retardants are commonly used in fire suppression because of their long-lasting effect on fires. They contain ammonium salts which affect the burning process of forest fuels. The fire retardant liquid concentrate is mixed with water at a ratio of 5.5 parts water to one part concentrate to form the working solution. Retardant has a much longer-lasting effect than water in fire suppression because it does not evaporate. On average, about 9.4 million litres of fire retardant is used each fire season in BC.


Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey [West Shore Voice News photo 2017]

Wednesday, August 15 ~ LANGFORD. Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey this morning around 8:30 am just received word that a joint team of firefighters from Langford, Sooke and Metchosin had arrived safely in Fort St James after a 14-hour drive.

“Sooke was requested by the Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) to provide a fire engine and crew to Fort St James yesterday morning,” says Chief Aubrey. “Sooke, Metchosin and Langford partnered together last year by sending 1 to 2 firefighters each at a time to make up a 4-person crew. This allowed us to help while not depleting our resources locally and it worked extremely well.”

“We decided to continue that partnership and there are two Sooke firefighters, one Metchosin firefighter and one Langford firefighter on the current deployment using a Sooke fire engine,” said Chief Aubrey today August 15.

The team was to depart as soon as possible after the OFC call and they left for the interior at 5pm, August 14. “No doubt will be receiving their orders shortly, but their primary role will be structure protection of any homes or businesses,” explains Langford’s fire chief.

“They are all volunteer firefighters who have taken time off work to head to the interior and it was incredible to see so many of our local volunteers drop everything to go and help out another community in need,” says Aubrey. He says that each deployment period will be seven days and that the three fire departments will continue to send joint teams as long as the province needs firefighters.


Fort St James is in the north-central part of BC.

Tuesday, August 14 ~ WEST SHORE. A joint crew of Sooke, Metchosin and Langford Fire firefighters headed to Fort St James today to help with the wildfires.

They will be working with fire crews from all over the province to help with fire suppression and protect structures.

Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop said “she just got there” around 10 pm this evening.  Earlier this evening, Langford Fire Department posted a photo of their four volunteers before they headed to Fort St James. [More on Langford page]

Fort St James is in north-central BC. The 1,600 residents there have been on evacuation alert since Saturday, August 11.


Drought level rating is 4 (highest level) for the east side of Vancouver Island [August 14 2018]

Tuesday, August 14 ~ Vancouver Island. Continued warm and dry conditions have prompted the Province to elevate the East Vancouver Island drought rating to Level 4, said the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development today, August 14.

As a result, a maximum reduction of water use is recommended and regulatory action may become necessary.

The west side of Vancouver Island remains at Level 3 and will be re-evaluated as conditions deteriorate, the government says.

A map of the affected areas is available online: http://ow.ly/BY7z30lpdi0

The Province is urging all surface water and groundwater users, including residents, industry, farmers and municipalities, to voluntarily reduce water consumption.


Where did the view go? Smoky skies heading to the west shore, mid-day August 13 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Tuesday, August 14 ~ There are smoky skies throughout much of Vancouver Island today, due to forest fire smoke from about 600 fires burning in the BC Interior and on the island. Skies have a heavy haze; viewscapes are diminished. [ View this article on its own page ]

In Greater Victoria today, daytime road traffic was lighter than usual. Many people were indoors where possible, as even those without chronic health conditions can feel the impact of breathing air containing the smoke particles.

The air quality index is at High for large areas of the province. Seniors, young children, and anyone with lung, heart or chronic health disorders can find breathing to be more difficult when the air quality is poor. Reducing strenuous activities outdoors is applicable to everyone under these conditions.

A lack of wind in the forecast means the intense level of smoke is likely to continue for the next few days, according to Environment Canada. A light westerly wind is in the forecast for Thursday.

As of 6 am this morning, Victoria was at level 4 on the 1-10 air quality health index scale. By 9pm this evening the level was up to 6. The Island Health Smoky Skies Bulletin August 14 included ‘West Vancouver Island’ (Tofino, Uclulet, Port Renfrew, Sooke) and ‘Greater Victoria’ (includes Sidney, Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Metchosin).

Click for link to current Island Health smoky skies advisories.

Island Health says to stay cool and drink plenty of water. Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning candles and frying foods. And to carry ‘rescue medications’. Also, to be sure that children and others with health needs are given the same level of care and attention regarding any impacts from the higher level of smoke.

The full Island Health Smoky Skies Bulletin of August 14 is here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/air/advisories/2018-08-14_smoky_skies_amended.pdf .


Sunday, August 12 ~ METCHOSIN. UPDATE at 9:30 pm – Hwy 14 is now open.

[First posting at 3:30 pm / updated 5:45 pm]: Road closure of Highway 14 (Sooke Road) in both directions from about 2 pm to probably mid-evening, due to vehicle crash in the Metchosin stretch of that highway between Langford and Sooke.

It was a single-vehicle crash, resulting in minor injuries, said Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. Attending on scene were Metchosin Fire Dept, BC Ambulance Service, RCMP, and BC Hydro.

As of 5 pm still awaiting TELUS crews to come deal with lines down. Detours at Happy Valley Road and Kangaroo Road. www.drivebc.ca


 

Sunday, August 12 ~ NATIONAL. Today Sunday August 12 is International Youth Day. This year’s ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’ theme encourages youth coming together to actively participate in society without fear or intimidation.

“When young people have access to safe and welcoming spaces, they are more engaged in their communities,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement, as part of a new phase of recruitment for his government’s youth council (third round since 2015).

Of the 10 newest members of the 21-member youth council, from BC is Jack Campbell who developed an app with instructions on how to treat a fentanyl overdose.


 

Friday, August 10 ~ NATIONAL. This week’s most far-reaching news story has been how Canada is seemingly now in the tight clamp of Saudi Arabia. Economically we’re a small country, figuratively now very publicly twisting and squirming to the delight of a middle-eastern country built strong by the luck of having oil underfoot. [ Read the rest of this editorial on its own page at https://westshorevoicenews.com/?page_id=12757 ]

 


Friday, August 10 ~ BC. The BC Government announced today August 10 that it is now accepting private cannabis retail store licence applications, which will allow for the sale of non-medical cannabis in the province.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has posted a complete suite of application materials and guidelines found at this link: www.gov.bc.ca/cannabisregulationandlicensing

In July, the LCRB posted detailed information at the above link regarding applicant eligibility requirements and the rules that will govern future private non-medical cannabis retail stores. “Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to carefully review all of this material prior to applying.” it was stated in a news release from the Ministry of the Attorney General today.


View of Hwy 1 near McKenzie & Admirals, from the temporary pedestrian bridge, August 10, 2018 [West Shore Voice News photo | click to enlarge]

Friday, August 10 ~ WEST SHORE / SAANICH. Things are rolling right along with the McKenzie Interchange Project along Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway / TCH), with construction work now past the 20-month mark.  [View the full article here: https://westshorevoicenews.com/?page_id=12691 ]

Motorists have adapted well to the lane changes during construction. The current traffic pattern will remain in place for the summer and into the September back-to-school season (there are three schools in the area).

Those temporary detour lanes will become the future off-ramps from Highway 1 at McKenzie Avenue and Admirals Road. See some current drone footage (courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure): https://youtu.be/ef8e3w2qmRs

The next major change in traffic flow will be in the southbound lanes (heading into Victoria) with detour ramps off Highway 1 onto some new detours. That will happen in November, according to the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure today. That still sees the overall project construction being on track for completion by the end of 2019.


Thursday, August 9 ~ BC. The BC Government says it is aiming to modernize the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) rate design to make insurance fairer.  [Read this article on its own page]

“The provincial government wants to make sure BC drivers pay ICBC premiums that more fairly and accurately reflect the risk they represent on the roads,” it was stated in a new release today August 9, following a media conference in Vancouver.

ICBC’s current rate structure is over 30 years old. It is built around insuring the vehicle rather than the driver, and allowing discounts to drivers despite multiple crashes. Combined, this has resulted in British Columbians with crash-free, clean driving records subsidizing bad drivers, including those with multiple accidents. David Eby, Attorney General, said the submission ICBC is making to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) will include revenue-neutral proposals aimed at levelling that playing field.

“We want to modernize ICBC so that British Columbians pay according to their crash history, driving records and level of risk, and take responsibility for their driving habits. It’s only fair,” said Eby.

“Right now, the system is broken. A driver with no crashes could be paying the same premium as a driver with three at-fault crashes in a year. We heard from British Columbians that their insurance rates need to be fair and we agree – good drivers shouldn’t have to continue paying more to cover the costs for those who cause crashes or present a higher risk on our roads.”

The proposed changes align with feedback government received from nearly 35,000 British Columbians on how to make insurance fairer. Key proposed changes to basic insurance include:

  • Moving to a driver-based model, so that at-fault crashes are tied to the driver and not the person who owns the vehicle;
  • Increasing insurance discounts for drivers with up to 40 years of driving experience, up from the current limit of nine years; and,
  • New discounts available for vehicles with original, manufacturer-installed automatic emergency braking technology and for vehicles driven less than 5,000 km per year.

If approved by the BCUC, these changes will benefit an estimated two-thirds of ICBC’s customers. The changes will not increase the total funds that ICBC collects through basic policies, but instead will rebalance individual driver premiums and reset the way rates are determined.

“The changes we are proposing are the most significant updates to how ICBC’s basic insurance premiums are set in more than 30 years,” said ICBC Chair Joy MacPhail. She said that when British Columbians were this year asked for their feedback that “one message came out loud and clear – lower-risk drivers shouldn’t be paying the same as some high-risk drivers”. MacPhail said: “We wholeheartedly agree.”

Other proposed changes include:

  • Basic insurance discounts for inexperienced drivers will be adjusted to better reflect their risk;
  • At-fault crashes will have a larger impact on the premium a driver pays;
  • Rate classes and territories data will be updated for the first time in more than 10 years to reflect significant changes in traffic density, population growth and changes in the urban infrastructure; and,
  • An increase to the Driver Penalty Point (DPP) and Driver Risk Premium (DRP) programs of 20% in fall 2018 and 20% in fall 2019, as previously announced.

ICBC is also proposing a “transition cap” that limits how much the premium can change annually based on a customer’s driving record and at-fault crash history. Most customers will fully transition to their new basic premium within three years under the proposed changes.

The BC government has directed ICBC to file an application with the BCUC by August 15, 2018. Subject to approval, the changes would come into effect September 2019. Separately, the government has also directed ICBC to move the timing of its basic insurance rate application to the BCUC from late August to December to align any rate change with the other product changes already announced.

Other things to know:

  • ICBC basic insurance is the mandatory coverage drivers need for a vehicle in B.C. It helps ensure that British Columbians who own and drive a motor vehicle in this province are protected with a basic level of coverage.
  • Under the model ICBC currently uses to determine premiums:
    * A customer at the highest level and receiving the top discount can have up to three crashes in one year and still pay the same basic premium as a driver who is crash free.
    * Over 40% of claims are forgiven each year, which means the cost of those claims is borne by everyone, including drivers who do not cause crashes.
    * At-fault crashes affect the vehicle rather than the driver, allowing some drivers to hide their true risk and avoid paying a fair rate.
  • Based on today’s rates, in the first year of this transition, an estimated 67% of customers would see basic insurance premiums that reflect a lower risk:
    * 39% of all drivers – up to $50 reduction
    * 13% of all drivers – between $50 and $100 reduction
    * 15% of all drivers – more than $100 reduction
  • Based on today’s rates, in the first year, an estimated 33% of customers would see basic insurance premiums that reflect a higher risk:
    * 11% of all drivers – up to $50 increase
    * 5% of all drivers – between $50 and $100 increase
    * 17% of all drivers – more than $100 increase

 

Tuesday, August 7 ~ BC. The red-light cameras at 140 high-crash intersections throughout BC are now operating at all times – up from six hours a day – to help reduce deaths and serious injuries on the province’s roads. Today’s announcement was made by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. [read this article on its own page]

A map of the 140 ISC locations throughout BC is on the ICBC website: https://www.icbc.com/road-safety/community/Pages/Red-light-cameras.aspx

In the Greater Victoria area there are two camera locations: at Shelbourne Street at Hillside Avenue (62 crashes per year, resulting in 21 injuries/year: 2009-2013) and on Hwy 1
(Trans Canada) at Tillicum Road in Saanich (52 crashes per year, resulting in 29 injuries/year: 2009-2013). Travelling up island? There is also an operable camera at Trans Canada Hwy at Trunk Road in Duncan (49 crashes per year, resulting in 24 injuries/year: 2009-2013).

“For too long, cameras with a proven record of curbing red-light runners and the serious crashes they cause were not operating at full capacity,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General today in a news release.

“Last year, we saw a record 350,000 crashes in BC, with about 60% of them happening at intersections. The full activation of these cameras is overdue and an important step for safety on some of our busiest roadways.”

Since announcing the move to full activation in September 2017, the Intersection Safety Camera (ISC) program has updated service and data-transmission capacity. It also increased its staff to review incidents and process additional tickets in a timely manner. Some locations began to operate at higher levels in November 2017, with all locations fully activated by the end of July 2018.

The Province’s increased ISC activation is consistent with international jurisdictions and every province west of Quebec. In BC, a red-light camera offence occurs when a vehicle enters an intersection after the signal light turns red. The vehicle’s registered owner is responsible for the ticket even if they are not driving, but does not receive penalty points on their licence.

In March 2018, the ministry announced plans to add technology at certain ISC locations to ticket the fastest drivers passing through those intersections on red, yellow or green lights. Analysis of crash and speed data is ongoing to determine which locations will receive this technology. New signs will warn approaching drivers about the enhanced intersection enforcement. The number and locations of the speed-activated cameras will be announced in fall 2018.

In BC, 60% of all crashes occur at intersections. Intersection crashes are often the most serious, because they may involve head-on and side-impact collisions. On average, over 11,000 crashes happen at ISC sites each year. ICBC’s 2016 Road Safety Tracking Study found that 81% of BC motorists supported the existing ISC program.


 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh looking to run in Burnaby-South.

Monday, August 6 ~ NATIONAL.  Shuffling the NDP leadership.

UPDATE August 7 – Singh will make his official announcement on Wednesday, August 8, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, in Burnaby at 5784 Byrne Road. 

At the quiet tail-end of the August long weekend, Elections Canada announced that on Friday, August 3 the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada received official notice from the Speaker of the House of Commons that the seat for Outremont (Quebec) is vacant.

The by-election date must be announced between August 14, 2018 and January 30, 2019. By-elections must last at least 36 days and be held on a Monday. The earliest date for the Outremont by-election could be Monday, September 24, 2018.

Outgoing NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair publicly stated in December 2017 that he would give up his seat in June of this year. The NDP confirmed that Mulcair sent his letter of resignation to the Speaker of the House on July 21, with notice of vacating his MP seat as of midnight, August 3.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (a former Ontario MPP) — who was voted in by the NDP membership at the party’s leadership convention October 1, 2017 in Toronto (with a resounding 53.6% on the first ballot), did not look to run in Outremont. That’s even though it usually considered politically strategic for a party leader to have a seat in the House of Commons, so as to be actively seen by Canadians.

Burnaby-South MP Kennedy Stewart will be running in the Vancouver mayoralty race in Fall 2018 [Vancouver Courier photo]

Meanwhile, over the BC Day long weekend it was revealed that Singh aims to run for the Burnaby-South federal seat where NDP MP Kennedy Stewart will vacate his seat to run in the Vancouver mayoralty race this fall.

Singh would be the first incoming federal leader to look for his first House of Commons seat outside his home turf. Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien and Joe Clark (in his second incarnation as Tory leader) all initially ran successfully in by-elections in Atlantic Canada. They returned to their respective provinces in the subsequent general election.

No party has tried to parachute an out-of-province leader into Quebec, let alone in a riding that would not be considered a safe seat. Before Mulcair scored the first of four back-to-back victories in Outremont in 2007, the riding had carried a consistent Liberal track record.

For the Toronto-based Singh, there are similar urban issues in Burnaby (within the Greater Vancouver area) including transportation, uncertain and precarious work, tax loopholes for the super rich, rising out-of-pocket health costs and longer wait times, housing unaffordability, and environmental consciousness.

NDP support for Singh would be strong in BC, where of all 14 NDP seats in the House of Commons are held in BC (six of those on Vancouver Island), and BC Premier John Horgan leads an NDP government.


 

BC Minister of Advanced Education, Skills & Training Melanie Mark in her office at the legislature: working together [August 2018]

Monday, August 6 ~ WEST SHORE. FEATURE INTERVIEW with Minister of Advanced Education, Skills & Training – Melanie Mark | by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News [View this article on its own page]

Upbeat and excited to be doing the full scope of her high-profile job as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training since July 2017, Melanie Mark also proudly carries the role of matriarch as a member of her nation and clan and house. “I take on those responsibilities out of respecting our family.” 

“I don’t have a private life,” with all that’s on her plate, she says. “The public doesn’t understand inter-generational trauma” -– something front of mind for Mark for what her extended family experienced through the residential school system.

She is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree, Ojibway, French and Scottish and a proud mother of two girls – Maya, 15, and Makayla, 7.

Melanie Mark was appointed Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training on July 18, 2017. A lifelong champion of children, youth and her community, she was elected MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in 2016 and re-elected in 2017. She is the first female First Nations Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and the first female First Nations Cabinet Minister.

On a typical day there are meetings, travel and public appearances. In the evening — sometimes quite late — she’ll get calls from former youth in care who she has taken under her wing. She also recently married.

What keeps her going? “I had such an allergic reaction to injustice, I want change. I get lit up when I have a feeling that something’s just wrong,” Minister Mark told West Shore Voice News this week.

Saying she’s always been known for “having a big mouth and seeing through a glass half full” has given Mark the “courage to stand up against the storm”. If something’s wrong, her response is: “What are we going to do about it?”
First chatting with Ms Mark at the Royal Roads University (RRU) grad scholarship funding announcement June 26 in Colwood, it was an opportunity to ask about the setbacks that propelled her forward. She also talked about maintaining her broader family ties even thought they “see her as different” as she propels ever forward in the mainstream society that originally held the source of her oppression.

She gets comments from relatives like “we’re not like you”, and from a First Nation chief (who refered to her as a chief) saying she “sits alone” at their leadership table (because she now is a cabinet minister in the mainstream government) and belongs to a ‘different family’, the BC NDP.

So, oddly enough, battling to change the system from within both immerses Mark in a number of sociocultural worlds while also isolating her into somewhat unexpected but powerful silos: an almost 24/7 public eye and being a perpetual fighter within a political system that embraces functional conformity.

Here’s what contributes to her confidence: “Most of my life was not about choices, it was about resilience. I didn’t choose to grow up in poverty. I didn’t choose to be a victim of abuse. I didn’t choose to live in a racist society surrounding me in the workplace and at school,” she fluidly articulated. For Mark, resilience is about never being a passive victim.
What is she doing differently for her daughters? “As a mother I have made a concerted effort to protect my children from abuse.” And she is quick to note that she does not mean abuse from within native community. “Abuse has no name”.

Mark’s early life was one of “a feeling of helplessness”. But she listened to mentors. “I’ve had amazing people in my life that saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” she said this week. That included a rugby coach who saw tenacity and courage, a lawyer who saw an advocate, and teachers who saw smarts and intelligence. For her, these leaders “extended the vision of hope”, including “apply for this, try this, don’t quit”.

“I was surrounded by and set up for failure in our society,” said Mark, who grew up in social housing, frequently changed schools, and endured various types of abuse while in poverty. “I am setting up my daughters for possibility and opportunity. I will empower them, but the choices are going to be up to them,” she said.

Some of this powerful understanding of adversity’s damage to the human spirit is of course now beneficial in her work leading the post-secondary education system for the province. Starting with Premier John Horgan’s now well-known mantra that “education is the great equalizer”, she is proud that one of the first acts of the new NDP government last year was to waive fees for adult basic education. And there is now free post-secondary tuition for youth in care, and no fees for English language learning programs.

Particular to the west shore, the Ministry is collaborating with RRU and Sooke School District 62 (SD62) to try and improve the below-provincial-average transfer rates of local Grade 12 grads into post-secondary. One of the solutions could be to offer a variety of unique entry-level courses at RRU so that students can still live at home and avoid some of those initial housing and transportation costs that come with relocating to college or university afar.

This article was first published on page 1 in the August 3, 2018 print/PDF issue of West Shore Voice News


Saturday, August 4 ~ BC. Premier John Horgan has issued the following statement in celebration of BC Day:

“On BC Day, the Government of British Columbia is joining people who are coming together to celebrate this beautiful province that we are so lucky to live in.

“British Columbia has been shaped by the people who have come together to help build and protect this extraordinary place. Our communities are made great by the talent and ingenuity of the people who live here, and by the values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect that bring us together.

“As we celebrate BC, we recognize our shared responsibility to advance reconciliation together with Indigenous peoples who have lived on this land since time immemorial, and to work together to right historical wrongs and build a better future.

“Let’s take the time to celebrate what we love about British Columbia. Visit a local farmers market, community event, go hiking or camping, or spend time with friends and family.

“We’re going to keep investing in people and working to make life better, with more opportunities for every person in every part of the province. I’m excited for the bright future ahead – for everyone in BC. Happy BC Day!”


 

Single Family Home sales averages in the west shore and Greater Victoria, for July 2018 compared to June 2018 [click on image for larger view]

Thursday, August 2 ~ WEST SHORE. Greater Victoria area real estate stats for the month of July 2018 were released yesterday by the Victoria Real Estate Board. Let’s start with the basics.

In the west shore, the average sale price of single family homes sold in Langford was $723,388 (48 sales) which is up by $29,219 from June. In Colwood the average was $774,180 (22 sales) which is down by $13,395 from June. In Sooke the average sale price was $552,100 (21 sales) which down by $26,536 from the June average sale.

For overall Greater Victoria the average sale was $929,543 in July 2018. Other than in February of this year, the average house price in GV this year has been above $900,000 (Jan $925,715, Feb $876,397, March $903,052, April $917,793 May $921,046).

Sales volume this year increased steadily from January (431) to May (755) then edged lower in June (708) and July (651). Summer is traditionally a slower sales period after the springtime burst usually seen March-May each year as homeowners with families try to set up summer move dates ahead of school starting in September or generally take advantage of good summer weather for moving.

Notably, the inventory of properties for sale has steady increased each month in 2018. From a lowpoint of 1,384 properties for sale at year-end 2017, inventory in January at 1,481 grew month by month to 2,607 in July 2018. The market supply is being replenished. This results from a few different factors: prices are high and going higher; the mortgage stress-test has eliminated easy fluidity for low-end sellers and first-time buyers; and the economy is some ways more uncertain (tariffs affecting some industries and the cost of living in general).

As well, uncertainty has resulted for the higher-end sector by their reaction to the looming BC Speculation Tax which has already chilled the interest of buyers in the higher end of the market. Those same factors that the current BC government hopes will free up more housing are in fact creating market uncertainty that is beginning to spook some development projects, which perhaps have minimized, slowed or even been cancelled. BC housing policy that ramps up construction of affordable housing projects is numerically achieving ‘roofs over heads’ for people at the low end of socioeconomic scale – a good thing. But for people looking to buy a regular home with regular income, the prospects are not likely to improve under current conditions.

Last month condos sold in Langford on average broke the $400,000 price point, selling at $407,343. In Colwood in July condos sold at a whopping $532,450 (more than $100,000 higher than the June average). Condo product is infrequently available in Sooke (no sales in June or July). Condos overall in Greater Victoria in July sold at $474,924 which is drop of over $10,000 from June.

In the townhome market in July, the overall average dropped by over $52,000 from June to July 2018, setting at $563,718 in July. In Langford the average was $486,473, in Colwood $671,880, and in Sooke $563,718.


 

Construction zone for August 2, 2018 on Hwy 14 west of the 4-lane section. [Click to see larger image]

Thursday, August 2 ~ SOOKE.  Highway 14 Traffic Alert. Maintenance work will take place on the westbound portion of Sooke Road (Highway 14) between 7pm and 9pm this evening, Thursday August 2.

The work will take place approximately 1.5 km west of the 4-lane section. Westbound traffic will be stopped for brief duration periods (5-7 minutes) while repair work commences.

The area that the repair work will take place is confined and has poor sight distance. Please drive with extreme caution and obey all construction signs and Traffic Control Person direction.

This notice was released by Mainroad South Island.


 

 

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