Home ARCHIVE – FRONT PAGE BREAKING NEWS – Feb 2018

ARCHIVE – FRONT PAGE BREAKING NEWS – Feb 2018

ARCHIVE – February 2018


 

Construction of affordable housing by Knox Vision Society, at Church Rd & Wadams Way in Sooke. [West Shore Voice News photo – Jan 2018]

Wednesday, February 28 ~ WEST SHORE.  Exclusive – by Mary P Brooke – West Shore Voice News.

There have been difficult decisions made by Sooke School District 62 (SD62) over the years, not the least of which was cutbacks affecting classrooms and teachers a few years ago due to insufficient government funding for a fast-growing school district. Movement to a board decision on large issues occurs over weeks and months, sometimes years.

But last night’s SD62 board meeting decision about whether to waive school tax fees to support an affordable housing project in Sooke brought out more discomfort for trustees and senior staff than seen for any deliberations in the past six years. Even the most complex of budget issues in the past did not have so much said, and so much left unspoken.

The issue was whether SD62 — which is responsible to deliver public education to families in Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Highlands, Metchosin and Juan de Fuca — would waive school taxes for the Knox Vision Society 42-unit apartment-unit housing complex in Sooke. In terms of dollars, the request would mean a savings of $23,436 for the Knox Vision Society, or about 2% of their construction budget. That might seem like a drop in the bucket for a large project, but for SD62 that is money not going to education, which is the mandate of a school district board.

SD62 Treasurer Harold Cull explained to the board that if they were to approve the waiver, that the $23,436 would be that much less in School Site Acquisition Charges. That’s money for buying land upon which to build new schools (not directly out of classroom budgets).

Fast-forward, the motion to waive the fees did pass — Knox will get the $23,436. But it was a tight vote, with trustees Wendy Hobbs, Dianna Seaton and Margot Swinburnson voting against the motion (voting for the motion were SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar, Vice-Chair Bob Phillips, Neil Poirier and Denise Riley). Overall, the opposing views were that education dollars should remain within serving the direct needs of providing schools and education. “Stick to your knitting” was how Trustee Seaton put it at one point. Additionally, Cendra Beaton (rep for Canadian Parents for French) said the decision would not go over well with parents in the west shore.

What wasn’t said around the board table — but spoke loud and clear through uncomfortable body language and winding pre-vote commentary — is that there was something ‘off’ about this request from a church society-turned-developer. Something didn’t sit right with the request itself, let alone the requirement to respond. One trustee noted that the District of Sooke has openly and strongly supported the affordable housing project as part of helping their community (Sooke waived about $171,000 in development cost charges toward the Knox project), that other municipalities (noting Langford) and other affordable housing developers (noting Pacifica Housing) have not requested assistance from SD62. The BC Government recently announced its commitment of $5.5 million toward the project.

Trustee Margot Swinburnson explained her dilemma: “Last night was uncomfortable for me personally. The main reason why is that I wholeheartedly support the build by Knox. But I could not ethically support it as a school trustee, guarding our funds for education. So I was very torn about it,” she told West Shore Voice News afterward.

It is only recently that SD62 and other growing school districts have enjoyed the relief from new BC NDP government funding to hire more teachers and relieve other ‘cost pressures’ in the education delivery system. The scars of working through tough-times budgets left a mark on senior staff and most trustees that reminded them of how every dollar counts.

If it can be said that the dollars toward the Knox project (which started as a seniors building then shifted to a broader affordable housing mission statement) will truly help more families with school-age children better afford to live in Sooke, there is some justification for the trustees who voted in favour of the motion. But there was no discussion about requiring accountability for the receipt of funds, such as requiring a report on how many families with children will be ending up in the larger suites (the building will have 15 1-bdrm units, 24 2-bedroom units, and three 3-bedroom units).

Yes, people and communities need affordable housing, but this board truly struggled with whether funding support for that should come from education funds. On top of that, Cull noted that the NDP Government’s new Medical Services Tax now being levied on corporations and entities with payrolls over $500,000 (like the school board) will likely produce a 1% increase in staffing costs for 2018-2019.

Money is a reality in education. It takes money to buy land for schools, and of course it takes money to pay teachers and supply the classrooms with all the many things it takes to deliver the modern curriculum. The February 27 decision at SD62’s evening board meeting is showing the tip of the iceberg over how educators, government and probably now also parents are starting to explore the many aspects of how affordability — in this case housing and education — are playing out in the financial decisions that underpin everything. ~ MPB


Finance Minister Bill Morneau is greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before delivery of Budget 2018 in the House of Commons, February 27. [Web / Canadian Press on CBC]

Tuesday, February 27 ~ NATIONAL. The third federal budget of this present Liberal government was tabled today February 27 by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Billed largely as a budget to carry over to something more election-oriented in 2019, this 2018 Budget still makes good on several Liberal directions. The highest profile rollout was various approaches to gender equity in the workforce including more paid leave for the non-birth parent, along with support for innovation through funding in science and technology.

For the business community there was nothing particularly joyful, in a budget that held the course but did not offer the sort of tax cuts or investment incentives that businesses like to see. Even the capital support for women entrepreneurs is funneled through more backing for the Business Development Bank which isn’t for small startups; the rest of support for women entrepreneurs is the soft stuff — training, mentoring and networking.

The struggling newspaper industry may see some support, but in ways that push journalism into the non-profit sector. This could be seen as fallout for the bad corporate behaviour of some media giants that have spoiled it for smaller players. It also allows government to avoid any criticism for upset to larger newspapers in established markets. This limits real small business competition in the newspaper business.

Psychiatric comfort dog wears the Wounded Warriors banner at an event in Langford February 25. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Something lobbied for out of the Victoria region and by Wounded Warriors Canada nationally, is more funding for psychiatric support dogs for veterans and others with PTSD, seen reflected in today’s budget.

The federal budget boasts that unemployment is at its lowest level in four decades, but that is true of almost every developed nation globally this year.

Overall, the Liberal theme of making life better for the middle class “and those working hard to join it” has enough life breathed into it in this budget to carry the Liberals into 2019 for what is likely a repeat performance on that theme in the 2019 election.


The new Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre officially opens February 27, 2018 in Langford, BC [West Shore Voice News file photo Jan 2018]

Tuesday, February 27 ~ LANGFORD.  Rugby Canada, in partnership with the City of Langford, is celebrating today the official opening of the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre in Langford, BC. Langford Mayor Stew Young and Allen Vansen, CEO, Rugby Canada will mark the occasion later today during a special ribbon-cutting event onsite at the Glen Lake Road facility.

The new 2-storey, 1,900 sq m performance training centre will serve as the home to all of Rugby Canada’s national teams, as well support the training needs of other high performance amateur athletes in the region. It is seen as an economic generator for the west shore region.

The Centre represents the single largest investment ever made by Rugby Canada in its pursuit to grow the sport in Canada. Team operations are now centralized in Langford, in support of building international competitiveness.

Funding for the capital construction project included a federal government contribution of $2,935,250 through the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component, as well as $2.5 million in repayable contributions from the City of Langford, along with over $2.6 million in private donations raised by Rugby Canada to date.

Weight lifting area in the new Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre, Langford, Bc [West Shore Voice News photo]

The Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre has been designed to create the best daily training environment possible, centralizing all the necessary aspects of high performance training. The centre features a state of the art gymnasium featuring elite strength and conditioning equipment, onsite therapy and treatment rooms, hydrotherapy pools, locker rooms, meeting rooms set up for video analysis, kitchen and dining lounge, and three double occupancy bedroom studio units.

The Centre is located adjacent to Westhills Stadium, further complementing the enhanced resources available to Rugby Canada’s national teams. To build on the legacy of rugby in Canada, the facility will also feature the Rugby Canada Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Centre is now in active use by all of Rugby Canada’s national teams as they continue preparations for upcoming international competition.

Federal attention has been paid to this facility. “Infrastructure investments are all about communities and people, and we are proud to be supporting Canada’s amateur athletes through this new and improved high-calibre training facility,” says The Honourable Amarajeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. The Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre will be a major recreation hub for Vancouver Island, attracting even more visitors and tourists and providing new economic opportunities for residents. Projects like this help ensure Canadian communities remain among the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family,” he says.

Langford has been behind the training centre project right from the start. Says Langford Mayor Stew Young: “Langford is proud to be the home of Rugby Canada. From the installation of a World Rugby certified turf, to the construction of this high performance training facility, to the pending expansion of Westhills Stadium, Langford is committed to working with all levels of government and the development community to ensure that all high performance athletes have the resources they need to train right here in Langford.”

Mayor Young says the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre has been made possible by the hard work of so many people. He is pleased to see that the centre will not only serve as the home base for Rugby Canada athletes, coaches, trainers and management for many years to come, but will also support the training needs of other high performance athletes in the region.

Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen says: “It’s been incredible to see this world-class facility coming to life thanks to the dedicated support of the Government of Canada, the City of Langford, the Canadian rugby community, and the many contractors and service providers who have worked tirelessly to see this project through to its completion. It’s these strong partnerships that are creating an exciting future for the sport of rugby in Canada where our high-performance athletes of today and tomorrow, will have the resources and the facilities they need to achieve unprecedented success on the world stage.”

“A facility of this caliber is a game changer for those of us in the program right now, and for the generations of young players coming after us,” says Harry Jones, Canada’s Men’s Sevens Team Captain. This kind of support is hugely motivating, and we can all benefit from being together to learn from each other, and push each other to build an even stronger rugby culture that’s founded in honour and excellence.”


Langford Mayor Stew Young presents Wounded Warriors rep Channing Knull with donation from Langford city, developers, & Bear Mountain Resort. [West Shore Voice News photos – Feb 25 2018]

Monday, February 26 ~ LANGFORD. Now having supported the Wounded Warriors PTSD trauma support program for four years, the City of Langford and Bear Mountain Resort co-hosted a recognition event at the resort on Sunday morning, February 25. About 80 people attended.

During speeches and presentations, Langford Mayor Stew Young was pleased to announce a combined (Langford city and developers, and Bear Mountain) donation of $5,000 to Wounded Warriors, bringing this year’s donation total to $70,000.

A seven-day run by a group of veterans who are dealing with PTSD covered over 600km starting at Port Hardy and ending in Victoria yesterday. On Sunday their last day of the run, the team left Mill Bay at 8 am, made their stop at Bear Mountain as the first users of the new Bear Mountain Parkway, then stopped at Save On Foods, Langford Legion and the View Royal Fire Department. That was followed by a small ceremony at the Afghan War Memorial in downtown Victoria, then a run to the finish line at the BC Legislature, for some closing ceremonies. The weather was cold with some occasional snow and rain, but bright.

Wounded Warriors runners make a pit stop at Bear Mountain Resort, Feb 25 [West Shore Voice News photo]

One of the Wounded Warriors programs called COPE (Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday) was developed by LCol (retired) Chris Linford, his wife Kathryn and Dr Tim Black PhD, R Psych. Linford and his wife retired to the Sooke area several years ago, where Linford found time to pen a book on his PTSD experiences and which helped launch the COPE program.

The COPE program is offered in both English and French. In its first year, the program was offered four times. This year that’s up to nine times, says Linford. Wounded Warriors hears from as many as four applicants per day for support programs. That includes from emergency nurses, corrections officers and sheriffs. Linford told the crowd that people have “embraced the process of being well”.

The event yesterday highlighted how first responders such as police, fire and ambulance workers have been asking for more supportive programs like Wounded Warriors that military veterans are gaining access to. Mayor Young said that Wounded Warriors executive director Scott Maxwell has worked to see about more funding to include first responders in the scope of funding from the federal government.  Young also announced that some provincial and federal funding can likely be expected for Wounded Warriors programs in the coming year.


 

Red blood cell inventory across Canada is critically low for some blood types [Stats at Feb 16, 2018]

Saturday, February 24 ~ West Shore & Sooke. Get that blood pumping! Donors needed.

Three locations in the west shore now host regular blood donor clinics. Canadian Blood Services regularly sets up their mobile clinics at Church of the Advent in Colwood, at Royal Bay Secondary in the newest area of Colwood, and at the Sooke Legion.

On BC Family Day, Monday February 12, the Sooke clinic saw a strong turnout. Of the 99 pre-booked donors, 85 attended, plus two walk-ins — and 56 re-booked for a future clinic. The target was to collect 67 units of blood… 69 were collected, a 103% success.

Supply Levels

  • The need for blood and donors continues to be urgent. Inventory is at concerning levels after a difficult winter for collections. Winter interruptions include weather, flu, and the holiday season.
  • “As a result, we’re asking 35,000 donors to step up across Canada to ensure we continue to meet patient needs leading up to spring break,” says Ann Chabert, Canadian Blood Services Territory Manager for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
  • “As partners in our work for Canadian hospital patients, we are encouraging people to come in to donate blood at any of our clinics,” Chabert says. Visit www.blood.ca to find out about clinic times and to book appointments, or call 1-888-2-DONATE.
  • As of February 16, there was only a 2.8 day supply of the most common blood type, O+ (considered to be an emergency low level). Rarer blood types, including AB+ and AB-, had a 10+ day supply of red blood cell inventory (considered excess).

Upcoming Clinics

  • The next local clinic is on Monday March 19 at Church of the Advent, 510 Mount View Ave in Colwood (12 noon to 7 pm). As of February 20, the donor target for that day was 101 units (1 unit/donor); about 72 available spots for that Westshore clinic are still available.
  • Clinics after that date come up after Easter — on Mon April 9 at Sooke Legion, 6726 Eustace Rd 12:30-7:30pm (time changed from the previous 11:30am-6:30 pm), and on Mon April 23 at Royal Bay Secondary, 3500 Ryder Hesjedal Way (9am to 4pm).

The Royal Bay component

  • In spring 2016, a large delegation of Royal Bay students attended the clinic at Church of the Advent. “It was so successful that the school decided to host a blood drive on site at their school,” says Chabert.
  • In May 2017, Royal Bay hosted their first blood drive as part of their Graduation legacy. Grad student Jaimey Hamilton (a three-time cancer survivor and recipient of blood and stem cells) “inspired her peers and ultimately the entire school,” says Chabert.
  • The public is welcome to attend the Royal Bay clinic. To book a spot, call 1-888-2-DONATE or go to www.blood.ca . Belmont Secondary students might participate in that blood drive and shuttle students from their school in Langford over to Royal Bay.

> Article first published in the February 23, 2018 print/PDF issue of West Shore Voice News.
>> Tables: Red Blood Cell Inventory in Canada as of Feb 16, 2018 – volumes and level of need [stats by Canadian Blood Services]


 

Short track speed skater Kim Boutin will carry Canada’s flag at the Winter 2018 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.

Saturday, February 24 ~ NATIONAL.  Canadian athletes have captured 29 medals at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Eleven of those are gold, with eight Silver, and 10 Bronze.

Canadian athletes have captured 29 medals at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Eleven of those are gold, with eight Silver, and 10 Bronze. Short track speed skater Kim Boutin — now a triple Olympic medalist — will carry the Canadian flag into Sunday’s Closing Ceremony at PyeongChang 2018.

Boutin has won three medals in her  Olympic debut, including bronze in the 500 and 1,500-metres and silver in the 1,000. The closing ceremony on Sunday Feb 25 will be broadcast on CBC at 3 am Pacific Time.

The ice dance duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir carried the flag in the opening ceremony on Feb 9. Now with five medals to their name, Virtue and Moir are the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. They captured ice dance gold on Feb 20 in the free dance final.


Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to slow down and drive carefully. [West Shore Voice News photo – 2017]

Friday, February 23 ~ A ‘weather event’ has been predicted for the South Vancouver Island area for Friday evening, February 23. Wet heavy snowfall began mid-afternoon.

“Flurries will come and go tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night,” says Rick Gill, manager, Mainroad South Island. Expect up to 5 cm of snowfall is expected across the area, with as much as 10 cm of snow on roads in certain areas especially higher elevations. The forecast indicates the weather front clearing by Sunday morning.

“This event may have negative impacts on driving conditions in some areas,” says Mainroad. Given that many drivers in this region are unfamiliar with winter driving conditions, all drivers are asked to slow down, drive carefully and use additional caution when driving near road maintenance crews.

Mainroad 24 Hour Emergency Hotline: 1-877-391-7310


 

Thursday, February 22 ~ VICTORIA. Today Premier John Horgan outlined how the BC government will move forward on their action to protect the BC coast. It will start with consultation around four bitumen spill safeguards while at the same time referring to the courts the outstanding issue around BC’s right to protect BC’s coast, Premier John Horgan announced today.

“We believe it is our right to take appropriate measures to protect our environment, economy and our coast from the drastic consequence of a diluted bitumen spill,” said Premier Horgan. “And we are prepared to confirm that right in the courts.”

“We’re proceeding with the four points that are not contentious. The fifth point we’re taking to legal counsel and will proceed in the days ahead,” Horgan announced to media this afternoon.

Consultations will begin soon on the “four remaining safeguards” as announced in January by Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman. Those are:

  • Spill response time
  • Geographic response plans
  • Compensation for loss of public and cultural use of land
  • Application of regulations to marine spills

Premier Horgan says his government will be retaining expert legal counsel to ready a reference to the courts, adding that it may take several weeks to bring the reference forward. This reference will seek to reinforce BC’s constitutional rights to defend against the risks of a bitumen spill.

“I am absolutely hopeful that we can get back to a place where British Columbians and Albertans can share our common heritage which is our coast and our mountains and our streams,” Horgan told media today. “There are commonalities between our two provinces. And I would think all of us would want to get back to a place where we can enjoy the absolute privilege of being Canadians, and making sure that we all benefit from the distinctiveness of our individual provinces. That’s my objective, that’s been my objective from the beginning.”

Horgan continued: “But I believe that the federal government and the government of Alberta do not understand the depth of feeling that the transport of diluted bitumen has on British Columbia. I’ve been quite clear about that. It’s not about Rachel Notley, it’s not about Justin Trudeau. It’s about the people of British Columbia and as the leader of the government I want to make sure I’m representing their interests.”

Horgan says the BC right to defend against the risks of a bitumen spill is a safeguard that has “generated disproportionate and unlawful reactions from the Alberta government, specifically their decision to ban the import of wines from British Columbia”.

“The actions by the Alberta government threaten an entire industry and the livelihoods of people who depend on it,” said Premier Horgan. “We have taken steps to protect our wine industry from the unwarranted trade action by the Government of Alberta.”

“It’s not about politics. It’s not about trade. It’s about British Columbians’ right to have their voices heard on this critical issue,” said Premier Horgan. “And it’s about BC’s right to defend itself against actions that may threaten our people, our province and our future.”

The premier said he intends for his government to continuing focussing on “things that matter to British Columbians”, itemizing from this week’s budget the focus on affordability, the housing crisis, and ensuring there are child care opportunities for families and a whole range of other issues. “That’s our preoccupation.”

“To have government of Alberta using these issues as tactics is not of any interest to me. I believe in the rule of law.
We’ve had one province and the federal government making suggestions that they know best, but we’re going to wait to hear from the courts,” Horgan said.


 

Wednesday evening, February 21 ~ West Shore & Sooke. Yes, it’s snowing out there.

About 5 to 10 cm of snowfall in total is what’s in the forecast. Looks like the wet heavy snowflake type — started mid-afternoon and will continue through the evening.

While road crews do get out there to do sanding and application of salt to the roads, driving with extra care (and slower) is a reasonable thing to do. Not everyone in this region is experienced with winter driving, and likely the roads will be slippery and/or visibility can be restricted when snow is falling.

The weather forecast is for temperatures to reach about 4 degrees Celcius on Thursday, so a lot of that snow will melt. Forecasts indicate more snow on Friday.


 

BC Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan share a happy pause during delivery of Budget 2018. [Screenshot]

Tuesday, February 20 ~ VICTORIA. Today February 20 in the BC Legislative Assembly, Finance Minister Carole James was met with jubilant support from her NDP colleagues as she delivered Budget 2018. Investing in people and a creative approach to the economy is what the BC NDP are riding on now.

Throughout the approximately one-hour delivery, both Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James (a former leader of the BC NDP) appeared fully pleased, with beaming smiles, at the socially progressive accomplishments that the budget represents.

“Seven months ago, we were sworn in as a new government. It was clear in the election, as it is now, that British Columbians want a better BC,” Minister James began.  “We live in a province rich in people, resources, natural beauty and opportunities. Yet those opportunities have become further and further out of reach for many,” she said.

“Families are working and can’t get ahead. Young people starting out can’t find affordable housing. And seniors can’t get the services they rely on. It’s time for a different approach. It’s time everyone in our province is part of our prosperity,” the Finance Minister said. She said that the budget is designed to “make life more affordable, improve the services you count on, and build a strong, sustainable economy that supports jobs in every corner of the province”.

Unlike budgets of the past, this new budget will look to injecting well-being into the society and economy on several levels, from which fresh new levels of prosperity can possibly evolve. This is in contrast to relying primarily on revenues from natural-resource industries and the speculative housing market.

The Opposition in a response from BC Liberal MLA Shirley Bond (Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour in the previous government), claims the NDP government will be spending more than generates in revenues and imposing tax increases on job creators to be “the biggest revenue generators”. Overall, the BC Liberal response sounded tired, hoping for a return of times past.

However, it is now-determined that the previous government under a BC Liberal majority bled the coffers of ICBC and increased BC Hydro rates on the backs of mostly those who could least afford it, and did not examine any ways to reduce or eliminate MSP fees until 2016 and only after pressure by the public and the NDP.

The NDP philosophy is generally to provide more supports and services to the broadest possible range of citizens. Even in business it is a known that ‘you need to spend money to make money’. When investments are astutely made in ways that will improve productivity of people and businesses and the well-being of communities, that in turn should pay off.

Actions to improve people’s health, ability to get to work (by supporting child care), improving affordability of housing and the flow of transportation for commuters, are socioeconomic infrastructure that can build a stronger future. doing nothing in those areas (or maintaining the previous status quo) was a recipe for continued economic hardship for many people in BC.

Waiting until there is an overflowing pot of funds is a pipe dream in any economic situation — from household and community, to business and in government. Aside from dolling out a few social program improvements toward the end of the 16-year BC Liberal run (which was based largely on increased property tax revenues from a booming real estate market) the working, low-income and many middle-income people of BC were slowly starved and suffocated of any real ways to remain financially stable let alone get ahead during the worst of the post-recessionary years. Not to mention an entire generation of children who – through education cutbacks during 2001-2016 — missed out on the best an education system can offer.  In response to this, came the shift in power to the ‘progressive vote’ of 2017 that we see represented in the agreed-upon union of 41 NDP and 3 Green seats in the present legislature.

The present government is looking to the innovative economies to carry BC’s economy forward. That includes digital tech and green/clean tech, and also supporting that with stronger education initiatives (more money for teachers and schools, as well as training funding in post-secondary).

The Official Opposition is correct in effectively saying this is not what was done in the past. Moving toward the future requires some new thought, creative initiatives, and the courage to serve the people first.

It does seem a bit of stretch that the promised 114,000 new housing units promised by the NDP in the 2017 election campaign might in fact be hard to achieve. To date, 1,700 units have been initiated.  Taking action against housing unaffordability is complex. “A piecemeal, reactive approach won’t work,” said Finance Minister Carole James in her speech today. She outlined, instead, a “comprehensive housing plan that commits to long-term solutions”.“It starts with taking action to stabilize the market and curb demand,” Minister James said.

“BC’s real estate market should not be used as a stock market. It should be used to provide safe and secure homes for families, renters, students and seniors,” James stated in her Budget 2018. Cracking down on speculators is a start, which is admirable but at least in the short term will hurt those with entry-level homes (seller or buyer) the most.

When it comes to foreign and domestic speculators, a new annual speculation tax will apply to property owners who don’t pay income tax in BC, including those who leave units vacant. “This is penalize people parking their capital in our housing market simply to speculate, driving up prices and removing rental stock.” The additional property transfer tax rate (foreign buyers tax) will increase to 20%. Currently applied only in Metro Vancouver, the tax is now extended to include the Capital Region, Nanaimo, Fraser Valley and Central Okanagan Regional Districts.

Homes valued over $3 million will be taxed more, with revenues there being targeted toward school funding.On the housing supply side “we are going to build the homes people need”. These homes will be a mix of housing for students, people with disabilities, seniors and families, and will range from supported social housing to market rental housing.

“We will also make significant investments to preserve and protect our existing social housing for the people already living in them. Our commitments will total more than $7 billion over the next 10 years. This will be the largest investment in housing in the history of our province, building almost 34,000 units across our province, including:• Units for mixed-income social housing,• New beds for students at colleges and universities, and• Units dedicated for people who are homeless.We know housing affordability can hit renters the hardest and many of our most vulnerable citizens are at risk. The 2018 budget boosts two rental assistance programs: Our Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and Shelter-Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER).

The 114,000 affordable housing units “can only be done by building partnerships”, which the government aims to address and achieve through their new ‘HousingHub’ at BC Housing. The idea is to find, use or redevelop available land in communities hardest hit by the housing crisis. The idea is to partner with non-profits and faith-based organizations that have land.

Meanwhile, online accommodation providers will have to pay PST, municipal and regional district taxes, being bundled as a hotel room tax. Local governments will be able to use their hotel room tax revenue to build housing in their communities; this will make a difference in tourism-based communities where housing is seen in shortage.

James outlined that the “scale and complexity” of remedies for housing affordability challenges will not happen overnight. The aim is to “join with mayors, businesses and community leaders to speed up approvals and find ways to build more housing, faster”. The City of Langford’s approach to speedier development may well have been a model for this, as Premier Horgan has seen this up close in his riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca.

The present MSP system is easily seen to be skewed toward levying proportionally more revenue from low and middle income families. All MSP premiums will be eliminated effective January 1, 2020 (already being cut to 50% as of January 1, 2018). That will save families up to $1,800/year and individuals up to $900/year. Carole James announced an Employer Health Tax to replace MSP revenue. This will impact businesses with payrolls above $500,000 (a lower rate for businesses with payrolls $500,000 to $1.5 million, and a full rate for businesses with payroll over $1.5 million). Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland have similar taxes. Ontario’s rate is 1.95% while the others are higher. The Opposition hit hard on that one, saying businesses are being asked to take on the burden of health care costs. The Finance Minister introduced her section on health care by saying “without your health, not much else matters”.

Read the full BC Budget 2018 speech.


 

Sunday, February 18 ~ WEST SHORE. Tight housing market increases demand for property management specialty services  | by Mary P Brooke =========

As the rental crunch in Greater Victoria continues at a fever pitch, there is even more of a demand for well-maintained and well-managed rental properties that are priced right for both renter and landlord.

Taking this long-term approach to generating quality on the supply side, property management specialist George Holmes focuses on building a stock of rental opportunities within single family homes and apartment buildings.

Holmes deals directly with property owners to determine the best fit for their property as part of the booming rental market, particularly in the west shore and Sooke.

For strata complexes, Holmes under Sutton manages the financial operation and maintenance for the owners under the Strata Property Act.

Working out of the Sutton Advantage Property Management office in Saanich for the last seven years, in total Holmes has over 30 years property management experience including in the non-profit housing market. He has seen the west shore market mature in ways that can benefit by his experience in meeting the needs of his clients in balance with market conditions. Insightful and resourceful, Holmes takes pride in his work.

This article first published in the February 16, 2018 print/PDF issue of West Shore Voice News


About 900 BC Hydro customers are without power west of Sooke this morning, February 18.

Sunday, February 18 ~ Vancouver Island. Strong winds and snowfall throughout the night have caused extensive damage and multiple outages to customers in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

BC Hydro says their crews are working in all regions and restoration times will be provided once full damage assessments are complete.

There were strong winds overnight, continuing into this morning, along with moderate snowfall which is already melting mid-morning.

As of 10 am this Sunday morning, about 4,000 BC Hydro customers on South Vancouver Island are without power. There are 10 listed outages, showing almost 2,700 customers without power west of Admirals Road in an area that clusters Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, Saanich and View Royal.

West of Sooke up to Port Renfrew, about 900 customers are without power (which is a significant number in a sparsely populated area).

There are clusters of outages on the Gulf Islands, as well as in North Saanich. A handful of customers are without power in Saanich.

Over 8,000 customers are without power on North Vancouver Island, with over 9,700 without power in the Lower Mainland/Sunshine Coast.


Belmont Residences & Belmont Market will be developed on 24 acres at Jacklin Road and Jenkins Ave. [West Shore Voice News photo – Feb 2018]

Saturday, February 17 ~ LANGFORD. Belmont Residences, a new 24-acre, 440-unit multi-phase development at Jenkins Avenue and Division Avenue in Langford, will officially break ground on Thursday, March 1.

Members of the Ledcor Property Development team will be joined by representatives from the City of Langford for the ground-breaking ceremony.

Belmont is a new 24-acre community being created on southern Vancouver Island’s west shore. Belmont Residences will comprise seven residential market and rental buildings targeting first-time home buyers, working professionals, and downsizers. The development is enhanced by 220,000 sq ft of commercial amenities (being developed by Crombie REIT), including a landmark Thrifty Foods grocery store spanning 52,700 sq ft.

Adjacent to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail and numerous parks, lakes, and outdoor spaces, Belmont Residences is set to become a vibrant centre for the City of Langford.

Promoting themselves as the new heart of the west shore, Belmont Residences will be marketed as the ‘it’ place for those seeking a healthy, urban-meets-suburban living.

The entire site is across the street from the longstanding Westshore Town Centre, and on the land where the former Belmont Secondary School used to be before the land was sold by SD62. The new ‘Belmont 2.0’ high school opened at its new location on Langford Lake Road in Westhills in 2015.

Jacklin Road traffic is now being detoured until mid-summer through the Belmont housing and commercial construction site, along the new Division Avenue that has access points on both Jacklin Road and Jenkins Avenue.

 


Thursday, February 15 ~ JUAN de FUCA.  Siren testing has been scheduled for earthquake and tsunami early warning systems at Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation and Jordan River Regional Parkbetween Thursday, February 15 and Sunday, February 18, 2018. People in the area can expect to hear loud intermittent warning sirens while testing is underway.

The systems are in the process of being set up and are not operational at this time. Testing is scheduled as follows:

  • Jordan River Regional Park: Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Testing of the warning system will take place between 11am and 1pm.
  • Port Renfrew and Pacheedaht First Nation: Thursday, February 15 – Saturday, February 17, 2018. The siren will sound intermittently between 9am and 5pm as system settings are adjusted, followed by a full test on Sunday, February 18 at 11:30am.

These tests are in advance of both systems becoming operational in 2018.


 

Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin) has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity [West Shore Voice News photo, 2017]

Thursday, February 15 ~ VICTORIA. Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean will serve as BC’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, Premier John Horgan announced today February 15.

“Mitzi Dean has devoted her career to justice, fairness and support for the most vulnerable,” said Premier Horgan in a news release today.

“Dean is uniquely qualified to promote gender equity and the advancement of women in her new role as Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity,” Premier Horgan said.

Dean is a first-time MLA. She will serve in this new role of Parliamentary Secretary under the direction of Minister of Finance Carole James. Responsibilities will include:
* ensuring gender equity is reflected in government budgets, policies and programs;
* co-ordinating cross-government action on gender issues, including gender violence, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment;
* tracking progress on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women;
* liaising with feminist and women’s organizations; and
* promoting gender equity and leadership at senior levels in the public and private sector.

Mitzi Dean has a social work background from Britain, her home country. She worked for about 10 years at the Pacific Centre Family Services Association (PCFSA) in Colwood, most recently as their executive director before running for an NDP seat in 2017. Ahead of the 2017 election she relocated her home with her family, to rural Metchosin. PCFSA serves the west shore including Langford which helps fund various counselling and outreach programs at PCFSA, as well as providing satellite services in Sooke.


Scott Stinson, incoming SD62 Superintendent (starting Aug 2018)

Thursday, February 15 ~ LANGFORD.  Today the SD62 Board of Education has announced their selection Scott Stinson as their new Superintendent of Schools and Chief Executive Officer of School District 62, effective August 1, 2018.  Stinson will replace Jim Cambridge who has been Superintendent since 2009. Cambridge will wrap up his 36-year education career in August 2018.

“We’re really excited to welcome Scott back to our school district,” says SD62 Board Chair Ravi Parmar. “The Board of Education collaborated extensively with different groups to find the best fit for our rapidly growing and successful school district. We’re confident Scott will be a great leader as we continue to build on the successes of both the students and the district.”

SD62 says it conducted a nation-wide search, mostly through an internal education system advertising network.

Jim Cambridge, SD62 Superintendent [West Shore Voice News photo 2017]

For more than 30 years, Stinson has worked in education throughout the Victoria area, including SD62. Previously, he was Principal at David Cameron Elementary and also SD62’s District Principal of Student Support Services before moving to his current role as Assistant Superintendent with Saanich School District 63.

“I’m thrilled and honoured to accept this position and I’m really happy to return to SD62,” says Stinson. “I can’t wait to work with the Board of Education, staff, Aboriginal and partner groups as well as stakeholders to continue offering students rich learning opportunities in such an innovative school district.”

Back in October 2017, current SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge told West Shore Voice News that modernization of the school system as well as acquiring land and buildings will need to be the focus of SD62 for the next decade or so.

SD62 delivers public education in the fast-growing urbanized area of south Vancouver Island encompassing Langford, Colwood, Highlands, Sooke, as well as the rural areas of Metchosin and Juan de Fuca.

Cambridge says that teaching now recognizes that students learn in a variety of ways, and that teaching is now about facilitating, not the old lecture-style.


 

BC Lt Gov Judith Guichon, February 13, 2018 after the Throne Speech

Tuesday, February 13. The BC Throne Speech this afternoon February 13 delivered in the BC Legislature laid out a preview of what can be expected in BC Budget 2018. Making life more affordable for British Columbians was the expected theme, seen strongly in directions for housing and child care.

“British Columbians have made their priorities clear. After years of rising living costs and stagnant wages, they expect government to make life more affordable,” said Lt Gov Judith Guichon in her introduction. “Too many British Columbians are working paycheque to paycheque. Many cannot pay the bills without going further into debt,” she said.

The Throne Speech is of course composed by the Premier and government of the day. The NDP directions for a social framework and economy that serves the broadest possible range of citizens was evident in the many initiatives that were introduced. Details will come in the Budget on February 20.

Today is was announced that more funds will be put toward training for early childhood education as a way toward increasing the number of licenced child care spaces. As Premier John Horgan explained afterward, this ultimately helps more women, as mothers, to get back into the work force to help boost family income and further their careers.

A creative approach to providing more lower-cost rental accommodation in larger cities is to build more accommodation for students on post-secondary campuses. This will free up a range of accommodations in housing in the general community for other low-income renters.

Further action on the effort to reduce the high cost of housing takes aim at speculation: “Government’s first step must be to address demand and stabilize BC’s out-of-control real estate and rental market. Safe, decent housing is a right that is under threat by speculators, domestic and foreign, who seek windfall profits at the expense of people who work, live and pay taxes in BC. We see the results of speculation in all parts of our province—distorted markets, sky-high prices and empty homes. Too many British Columbians are paying the price,” said Guichon in the Throne Speech.

Horgan spoke strongly in support of the forestry industry, saying that forestry is a 21st-century industry that can benefit from the application of advances in technology. There was absolutely no mention of LNG in the budget, which later BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said was “refreshing” as LNG is “not profitable” in a world market that is glutted with natural gas (mentioning that the USA and Russia have ample supply of their own).

BC Premier John Horgan

All references in today’s speech to fast-growing communities and transportation challenges were to the Lower Mainland, but oddly (as Langford-Juan de Fuca is the Premier’s own home riding) there was no mention about the west shore of Vancouver Island that is booming and in need of more housing, schools and transportation resolutions.

The BC NDP government says it is working toward a sustainable, diverse economy.  “Your government’s vision for a fair and inclusive society will be built from the foundation of a healthy, growing economy, and from a clear understanding that we must create wealth in order to share it,” it was stated in the Throne Speech.

To media afterward, Premier Horgan reiterated his position about consulting with the people of BC as well as industry, communities and First Nations about the environmental protections that are needed to ensure protection of the environment in BC that is so entwined with the economy of this coastal province.

Horgan said he looks forward to “cooperative not coercive” actions between provinces. “All British Columbians want to see cooperative not coercive federalism. BC will continue to be cooperative equal partners in Canada,” said Horgan this afternoon.


Monday, February 12 ~ LANGFORD. International rugby is coming to Langford this week. There will be some on-field training in Langford this week ahead of the Canada vs Brazil men’s rugby game on Saturday February 17 at Westhills Stadium in Langford. Kick off at 6:30 pm. The game will be televised on TSN.

Stadium tickets for the February 17 game can be purchased online at events.rugbycanada.ca

Meanwhile, toward the end of February there will be an official opening celebration of the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre. Construction of the facility on Glen Lake Road in Langford was completed in recent months and weeks.

Attending the opening will be members of Rugby Canada’s National Men’s Fifteens, Men’s Sevens, and Women’s Sevens Teams.


 

Monday, February 12 ~ BC. Today February 12 is BC Family Day, making for a 3-day long weekend. Pretty much everyone appreciates a day off in cold dreary February, mid-winter!

“BC Family Day is a day for people to spend time with their loved ones and join in community celebrations. To make sure Family Day events are accessible to everyone, the BC government has partnered with the BC Recreation and Parks Association to fund free family-friendly activities and events in communities around the province,” it was announced in a statement from Premier John Horgan this weekend.

Many rec centres in BC are offering special deals and admissions. Admission is free all day at SEAPARC Leisure Complex in Sooke today, within Horgan’s home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca.

“It’s part of our commitment to make life better and more affordable for you and your family. Take some time today to have fun in your community, and have a happy BC Family Day!”

Starting next year, British Columbia’s Family Day will be moved to the third Monday in February “so families across the country can celebrate together”, it was announced by BC Premier John Horgan ahead of this Family Day long weekend.
Family Day was established in British Columbia in 2013 (several years after most provinces already had a Family Day in February) following a consultation process that had recommended the holiday be on either the second or third Monday of February. The government of the day decided on the second Monday, even though it was inconsistent with other Canadian provinces and the United States.

At the time, the main reason for choosing the second Monday of February was given as input from the winter sport industry, particularly the ski industry which appreciated packing in business from BC residents and locals, leaving room for Family Day visitors the following weekend from many other parts of Canada where Family Day is on the third Monday of February.

In announcing the change for 2019, Premier Horgan said Family Day will now be better aligned for businesses and families. “Moving Family Day is the right thing to do for businesses small and large, and is better for families who may be spread out across the country,” said Premier Horgan. “This gives families an opportunity to schedule and spend more time with loved ones from other provinces.”

“The misalignment of Family Day causes inconvenience, increased costs, and lost opportunity for businesses of all sizes and in various industries,” said Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman. “The economic benefit from this change will greatly assist our members, and especially small- and medium-sized businesses, across the province.”


 

Construction of affordable housing by Knox Vision Society, at Church Rd & Wadams Way in Sooke. [West Shore Voice News photo – Jan 2018]

Friday, February 9 ~ WEST SHORE.   The construction of two affordable housing projects that are already well underwaywas the packaged-up subject of a BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing news release this week.

The commonality is that both projects are in the fast-growing west shore (more specifically in Premier John Horgan’s Langford-Juan de Fuca home riding) where affordable rentals are sorely needed, and that the BC government has provided funding support to both.

This is along with the now oft-repeated message that the Province is developing “a comprehensive provincial housing strategy to make housing more affordable for British Columbians”. And, since taking office in July 2017 saying that the BC government “has set a target to build, in partnership, 114,000 new units of affordable housing throughout BC”.

Both projects are located on busy main roads near bus transit routes and within walking distance to retail and other services.

The Oak Park redevelopment project in Langford at 616 Goldstream Avenue received a provincial injection of $7.5 million toward the two-phase construction of 73 rental units (61 apartments and 12 townhomes) to be operated by Pacifica Housing. The expected monthly rent levels are: Studio $800; 1 bdrm $1,020; 2 bdrm $1,200; 3 bdrm $1,550; 4 bdrm $1,700.

The project in Sooke at 2110 and 2120 Church Road (corner of Wadams Way) has received $5.35 million in BC funding. This long-planned project was first designed by M’akola Housing in 2014 for seniors but the Knox Vision Society in 2016 opened up their parameters, intending to appeal to all low-income age groups and broaden their access to funding. They are approaching CRD and SD62 among others, for additional funding. The District of Sooke has been supportive throughout the Knox Church’s process with this project. The expected monthly rent levels are: 1 bdrm $875; 2 bdrm $1,100; 3 bdrm $1,300.


 

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix

Friday, February 9 ~ BC.  $105-million investment to make prescription medications more affordable for families starting 2019

The British Columbia government is eliminating PharmaCare deductibles for working families with the lowest incomes in the province, helping to make sure they get the prescription medicines they need but currently are struggling to afford, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced today. “It helps low income people and seniors,” said Dix.

“No parent should have to make the difficult decision between their family’s health and putting food on the table,” said Dix. “The investment we’re announcing today will make life more affordable for British Columbians, while making sure they get the care they need.”

“I am unbelievably enthusiastic. I think this is fantastic news,” said BC Health Minister Dix in a news teleconference today. “There has been remarkable work by the Ministry of Health,” he said.

Dix said the new changes are “consistent with our agreement with the Green Party”, saying the Green MLA Sonia Furstenau “contributed enormously to this project”.

“The costs of prescription drugs prevents too many British Columbians from addressing treatable conditions, saddling them and our healthcare system with the effects of untreated illnesses down the road,” said Furstenau in a release to media.

“Our caucus is very pleased that the government is making this investment in the health of British Columbians. Especially with so many communities facing an affordability crisis, this will go a long way to improving the lives of the people of BC,” said Furstenau.

The $105 million being invested in Fair PharmaCare over three years will eliminate or reduce the deductibles for 240,000 B.C. families. All families with household net incomes under $45,000 will benefit. Dix said the biggest impact will be felt by families with net annual incomes between $15,000 and $30,000. They will have no deductible, starting Jan. 1, 2019.

“This is a crucial step forward in improving the health and lives of thousands of British Columbians,” said Dix. “We know that in families earning under $30,000 in net income, needed prescriptions go unfilled too often because PharmaCare deductibles are too high. The step we’re taking today is a significant one, as deductibles have not been changed in 15 years.”

These will be the first changes to deductibles since 2003. Prior to these changes, Fair PharmaCare families faced relatively large jumps in their deductibles, as incomes increased past certain thresholds. Deductibles went from $0 to $300 when a family’s income reached $15,000 and jumped another $300, from $600 to $900, when a family’s net income reached $30,000.

BC Green MLA Sonia Furstenau

Ministry of Health analysis indicates that these jumps are often accompanied by decreases in drug spending, suggesting that families are not filling prescriptions due to affordability. Families earning under $45,000 are also less likely to fill prescriptions, or make trade-offs with other essentials, like groceries, heat and housing.

Co-payments will also be eliminated for families with a family member aged 79 years and older with net incomes below $13,750, and lowered for all families with net incomes under $45,000.

“Prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them,” said Dr. Michael Law, Canada research chair in access to medicines at the University of British Columbia. “Research shows that many people in this province have not filled or skipped prescriptions because of the cost, and these changes being announced will improve health outcomes by significantly increasing access to important and effective medicines.”


 

Minister of Democratic Institutions, Katrina Gould

Friday February 9 ~ OTTAWA. Something new for the House of Commons… a new baby.

Following the birth of her child, the Honourable Karina Gould will take a leave of absence from her role as Minister of Democratic Institutions to go on parental leave, it was announced today by the Prime Minister’s office.

During her absence, the Honourable Scott Brison will serve as acting Minister of Democratic Institutions, in addition to his role as President of the Treasury Board. Andy Fillmore will continue to serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions.

“Our country is stronger when we empower decision-makers who reflect the diversity of Canada,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement. “Part of encouraging the next generation of young women to run for office is demonstrating that our institutions are modern, family-friendly, and that the experiences they bring to the table will contribute to their success.”

Trudeau said that Minister Gould “makes Canadian history” as the first federal cabinet member to give birth while in office, saying Ms Gould and her family will be “welcomed back to Ottawa when the time is right for them.”


 

Thursday, February 8 ~ BC.  British Columbia’s lowest-paid workers will earn a $15-an-hour minimum wage by June 2021, Premier John Horgan announced today, endorsing the recommendations of the Fair Wages Commission.

“Regular, predictable increases to our minimum wage are one important way we can make life more affordable for people,” said Premier Horgan.

“For too long, the lowest-paid workers in our province have been left to fall behind, with their wages frozen for a decade at a time. That’s not fair and it’s not right. Like all British Columbians, our lowest-paid workers deserve a fair shake and a fair wage.”

The plan to reach $15 an hour provides for an immediate increase of $1.30 an hour on June 1, 2018, to a new minimum wage of $12.65 an hour. Additional increases will take place on June 1 of each year for three more years. By June 2021, B.C.’s minimum wage will rise to at least $15.20 an hour. The four increases between 2018 and 2021 represent a 34% increase over four years.

The next wage increase, on June 1, 2018, will benefit 94,000 minimum-wage earners, while increasing the minimum wage to over $15 an hour on June 1, 2021, will benefit 400,000 workers throughout the province. The commission’s scaled approach will allow businesses and employers to plan for predictable and stable increases to wages over time.
“Freezing the minimum wage for 10 years hurt people, and then increasing it in a sporadic and unplanned way hurt businesses. We are taking a balanced approach that will work better for everyone, by bringing in measured and predictable increases over time,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “I’m thankful for the incredible work done by the members of the Fair Wages Commission, who worked together to come up with a fair path forward.”

The Fair Wages Commission was established in October 2017 as an arm’s-length government body to help guide public engagement on how B.C. should achieve a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and also the timeline for implementation. In a report delivered to government in January 2018, following public consultations and receipt of research and submissions, the commission recommended four minimum wage increases over four years.

The Fair Wages Commission recommended the following schedule of increases:

  • * June 1, 2018: $12.65 an hour ($1.30 increase)
  • * June 1, 2019: $13.85 ($1.20 increase)
  • * June 1, 2020: $14.60 ($0.75 increase)
  • * June 1, 2021: $15.20 ($0.60 increase)

Depending on economic conditions, the commission recommended that government consider of an additional hourly increase of up to $.20, to $15.40 an hour in 2021. The Fair Wages Commission report with recommendations can be found here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/237/2018/02/Report-1_BC-Fair-Wages-Commission_Jan-2018.pdf

The minimum wage was initiated in BC in 1918. The current minimum wage is $11.35 an hour, and applies to 4.8% of employees in BC. Over 20% of all workers in BC earn less than $15 an hour.

Of workers earning less than $15 an hour, 52% are over age 25, more than three-quarters are not students, 61% are in coupled families, and over 51% have gone to college/university. 46% of minimum-wage earners work for small firms (under 100 staff), while 54% work for large employers.

BC has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, the strongest job growth and a rising labour force participation rate. Total employment rose by 3.6% in 2017, twice the national pace. Private sector hiring is particularly strong, growing 4.4% last year. Yet, BC is a low-wage province and average wages are below the national average.


BC Premier John Horgan

Wednesday, February 7 ~ VICTORIA. BC & ALBERTA – consultation vs goading.

In response to a stream of media questions on the topic, Premier John Horgan used up pretty much all of his 15-minute news conference from the BC Legislature today February 7 battling off questions about essentially what he is treating as pesky interference by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in her impassioned guerrilla-style defense of the Alberta oil industry.

Horgan reminded the media that he intends to continue focusing on the broad needs of British Columbians, particularly around ways to integrate affordability into the socioeconomics of this province.

Horgan said that Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has been in discussions with the BC wine industry growers in the Okanagan and that top officials in government are actively “exchanging notes and phone calls” to keep channels open. But that the Premier himself will “not be distracted”.

“I would hope we’ve seen the end of the back and forth. I deliberately wasn’t available to you (media) yesterday because it’s not in anyone’s interest to having dueling premiers,” said John Horgan. He noted that BC and Alberta share a political flag “but that’s secondary to my obligations to the people of BC”, Horgan said, adding: “What Alberta does is entirely up to them.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Horgan reiterated that BC will be engaging with stakeholders, First Nations, and the people of BC as part of establishing some environmental protections in the case of an oil spill. BC is still in federal court about the need to ensure environmental protections before the TransMountain pipeline proceeds.

In today’s media conference, Horgan said he didn’t appreciate that one jurisdiction would goad another to take action against a third jurisdiction. And defending BC getting organized to consult British Columbians: “Consulting is not provocative,” he said, adding that it is his “right to consult with British Columbians about putting in place protections for environment and economy”

“I will defend our wine industry. I’m here for BC, not Alberta,” said the Premier.


 

Tuesday, February 6 ~ VICTORIA. BC Green Party Leader had a supportive response to the BC NDP Government’s release of changes to ICBC policy.

“I am encouraged that the government is putting British Columbians’ health outcomes at the centre of these policy changes,” said Weaver. ” These changes mean that a larger share of our public insurance funds will go directly towards helping British Columbians who suffer accidents recover from their injuries.”

“A successful, affordable public insurance system requires government to act in the best interests of the people who participate in it. The B.C. Liberals betrayed the trust of British Columbians when they pillaged ICBC’s capital reserves, and ignored and concealed the evidence-based recommendations put forth by their own consultants. The mess left behind by the Liberals’ reckless fiscal mismanagement necessitates major changes, and I’m glad that the current government is taking this seriously.

“I look forward to seeing the proposed changes to the rate structures, but am encouraged that the Attorney General has signaled a move towards a fairer model that rewards good drivers while ensuring bad drivers pay their fair share based on risk.”


Tuesday, February 6 ~ VICTORIA. Today the BC NDP Government announced several changes to tackle both the financial challenges and service delivery model of the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC).

“Together, these changes will reduce the amount ICBC spends on legal fees and expenses, which have grown to consume 24% of ICBC’s budget,” said Attorney General David Eby in a media announcement today.

“The savings from this change, when coupled with other planned initiatives, will restore ICBC to financial sustainability and finance the planned accident benefit improvements.”

The changes come in the wake of multiple revelations about decisions and inaction by the previous government, leading to ICBC projecting a 2017-2018 net loss of $1.3 billion. BC drivers could face premium increases averaging $400 or more, if no action is taken, it was stated in a news release.

Disputes over certain motor vehicle injury claims, including the classification of an injury, will be adjudicated by BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), an independent body that already adjudicates strata and small claims disputes in the province.

“For too long, difficult decisions have been put off and growing financial problems at ICBC hidden from the public. The changes we’re initiating today will reduce ICBC’s claims costs by more than $1 billion every year, helping make it sustainable for decades to come,” Eby said.

Taking effect April 1, 2019, the changes include:

  • A new limit of $5,500 on pain and suffering for minor injury claims. The cost of those claims has increased 265% since 2000. British Columbia is the last province in Canada to take this kind of action.
  • The first major improvements in accident benefits in 25 years, dramatically increasing the care available for anyone injured in a crash, regardless of fault. The overall medical care and recovery cost allowance will be doubled to $300,000. This change will be made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, so it will effectively be in place to protect injured drivers and passengers immediately. See more on this benefit below.
  • An independent dispute resolution process for certain motor vehicle injury claims.

“British Columbians can no longer afford to keep paying more and more for their auto insurance every year, and this is the decisive and immediate action which is needed to relieve the pressure on ICBC’s rates,” said Joy MacPhail, chair, ICBC board of directors. “These changes make the injured customer our top priority, by redirecting payments away from legal costs into significantly enhancing the care and treatments for anyone who is injured in a crash.”

Accident benefit details:

  • Doubling the lifetime allowance for medical care and recovery costs for those catastrophically injured in a car accident from $150,000 to $300,000. Legislation will be introduced with the intention of making this benefit retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, in order to start immediately helping seriously injured British Columbians.
  • Covering a greater variety of treatment services.
  • Significantly increasing the amount covered for treatments, so customers don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.
  • More than doubling wage loss payments to $740 per week, almost doubling home support benefits to $280 per week, tripling funeral cost coverage to $7,500, and increasing death benefits to $30,000.

In 2016, injury claims totalled $2.7 billion, an increase of 80% in seven years. The average claim paid out for minor injuries rose from $8,200 in the year 2000 to $30,038 in 2016 (increase of 265%). At the same time, the average pain and suffering awards paid out for minor injuries increased from $5,004 in 2000 to more than $16,499 in 2016.

Vehicle damage claims costs have increased 30% in just two years, to a total of $1.5 billion in 2016 alone.

Use of the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) for minor injury dispute resolution means claimants who don’t use a lawyer will get to keep their entire settlement, rather than paying a portion of it toward lawyer’s fees.

The use of the CRT for these disputes will also reduce ICBC’s legal costs, which account for 24% of the corporation’s total annual costs. These costs are greater than the cost of running ICBC, the government revealed today.


 

Monday, February 5 ~ VICTORIA, BC. The following is the BC government’s new release about Cannabis retail, driving laws amongst new firm-on-safety policy decisions

As British Columbia works towards the federal timeline for legalization of non-medical cannabis in July 2018, the Province continues to set policy direction to meet the needs and expectations of British Columbians.

“As a result of months of engagement, additional research and analysis, we continue to build the Province’s regulatory framework and have set policy direction on other key aspects of how non-medical cannabis will be regulated in B.C.,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “These decisions include safeguards for the retail sales of non-medical cannabis and are driven by our priorities of protecting youth, promoting health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe.”

The following decisions will inform the development of legislation in preparation for federal legalization of non-medical cannabis in July.

Retail framework
As was announced in December 2017, government is releasing details on the Province’s proposed retail framework. British Columbians of legal age will be able to purchase non-medical cannabis through privately run retail stores or government-operated retail stores and government online sales. B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will operate a new standalone network of public retail stores and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) will be responsible for licensing private stores and monitoring the retail sector.

The operating rules governing public and private retail stores will be similar to those currently in place for liquor. However, to promote responsible use, licensed retailers will not be able to sell cannabis in the same stores as liquor or tobacco. In urban areas, licensed retailers will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories, and will be prohibited from selling other products, such as food, gas, clothing and lottery.

The B.C. government recognizes that retail access for people in rural areas will require a different approach than those used in urban communities and will establish exceptions for rural non-medical cannabis retail stores, similar to those of rural liquor stores. The criteria for determining these rural areas are currently under development.

This spring, the Province will launch an early registration process for individuals and businesses who are interested in applying for a cannabis retail licence. Although B.C. will not cap the number of retail licences available, licences will not be issued without the support of local governments, which will have the authority to make local decisions, based on the needs of their communities.

Additional details on the retail framework, including frequently asked questions for potential applicants, are available at: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Cannabis_Private_Retail_Licensing_Guide.pdf 

Personal public possession limits
Adults aged 19 years and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place, which aligns with the federal government’s proposed possession limit for adults.

Those under the legal age of 19 years will be prohibited from possessing any amount of non-medical cannabis. Additionally, cannabis transported in a motor vehicle will need to be in a sealed package, or inaccessible to vehicle occupants.

Places of use
B.C. will generally allow adults to use non-medical cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted. However, to minimize child and youth exposure, smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children, including community beaches, parks and playgrounds. Use of cannabis in any form will also be banned for all occupants in vehicles.

Local governments will be able to set additional restrictions, as they do now for tobacco use. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able to restrict or prohibit non-medical cannabis smoking and vaping at tenanted and strata properties.

Personal cultivation
B.C. will align with the proposed federal legislation and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but the plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property. Home cultivation of non-medical cannabis will be banned in dwellings used as day cares. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able restrict or prohibit home cultivation.

Drug-impaired driving
Drug-impaired driving will continue to be illegal and B.C. will increase training for law enforcement in this area. B.C. will also toughen provincial regulations to give police more tools to remove drug-impaired drivers from the road and deter drug-affected driving, including:
* B.C. will create a new 90-day administrative driving prohibition (ADP) for drug-affected driving; and
* The current zero-tolerance restrictions for the presence of alcohol for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) will be expanded to include zero tolerance for the presence of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

“National legalization of non-medical cannabis represents an historic shift in public policy. This provincial regulatory framework provides a sound foundation to support the provincial goals that prioritize public health and safety,” Farnworth said. “That said, July 2018 is only the beginning of our journey, and these changes will not happen overnight. We fully anticipate all levels of government will need to continue to assess and refine cannabis policy and regulation in the months and years to come.”

In December 2017, the Province announced that British Columbia’s minimum age to possess, purchase and consume non-medical cannabis will be 19 years old, and that the LDB will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in B.C.

Government plans to introduce legislation in the spring legislative session to affect these policy decisions. It will also launch a public education campaign to ensure broad public awareness of the provincial rules before they come into force. For more detailed information, please visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/public-safety/cannabis

Learn More:
The draft federal Cannabis Act (Bill C-45): http://www.parl.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=8886269
B.C.’s cannabis public engagement: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/BCcannabisregulation/


 

Sunday, February 4 ~ WEST SHORE.
Real estate stats show burgeoning sales on west shore
by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News

Langford and Sooke together saw 62.3% of the Greater Victoria area’s house sale transactions volume in January 2018. In Langford the raw average sale price was about the same as Colwood, but Sooke prices were a full $200,000 lower.

The average sale price of a single family home in Langford last month was $712,247 compared to Sooke at $511,437. The overall sale price of homes across Greater Victoria was $925,715.

Note, these numbers are determined using the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB)’s own sales figures. They do vary from VREB’s HPI numbers, which are data-adjusted based on a set of criteria considered impactful on the value of a home (e.g. proximity to transportation, schools and services).

The numbers:
WEST SHORE: Single Family Homes Jan 2018
(averages of actual sale prices)
> Colwood $721,774 (8 sales / 8.6% of GV sales)
> Langford $712,247 (32 sales / 34.4% of GV sales)
> Sooke $511,437 (26 sales / 27.9% of GV sales)
> Greater Victoria (GV) $925,715 (93 sales)

The inventory of properties for sale in Greater Victoria has been low in 2016-2017 — 1,491 active listings at Jan 31, 2018 virtually the same as a year earlier (1,493 at Dec 31, 2016).

The number and range of properties for sale in 2013-2015 was higher, but dwindled as recessionary recovery saw homeowners selling properties (and downsizing) as a way to liberate cash and take advantage of increasing house prices. In Dec 2013 there were 4,772 properties for sale, down to 3,489 in Dec 2014, and sagging further to 2,517 in Dec 2015.


 

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson

Sunday, February 4 ~ VICTORIA. Andrew Wilkinson has been chosen by the BC Liberal Party membership as their new leader.

The BC Liberal Party has operated with an interim leader (Rich Coleman) since former Premier Christy Clark resigned August 4 last year following the power shift to a progressive minority government a try under the NDP’s John Horgan.

A slate of six BC Liberal candidates vyed for their party’s top job, with the membership on February 3 choosing the relatively new Vancouver-based MLA Andrew Wilkinson (first elected in 2013 and served as the minister for Advanced Education and also Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services).

It is interesting that the more celebrity-style candidates who made a vibrant mark with outgoing moves during the Clark era — Mike de Jong and Todd Stone — came in fourth and fifth respectively.

Wilkinson grew up in Kamloops, and earned his higher education as a medical doctor at the University of Alberta, followed by law degrees at Oxford and Dalhousie.

Prompt congratulations were issued by Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, adding: “One of our caucus’ key priorities in choosing a confidence and supply agreement over a coalition government was to ensure we could work with both parties to advance our shared priorities in the legislature.”

On behalf of the BC NDP, Ravi Kahlon, MLA (Delta North) issued congratulations to new BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.  In a late-evening news release, the NDP said: “Right now, the stakes couldn’t be higher for British Columbians. People are counting on (the NDP) to make life more affordable, protect the services they count on and keep investing in a sustainable economy,” said Kahlon. “Our government has made great strides towards these goals, but major challenges—like the dumpster fire at ICBC — still remain”.


 

Sunday, February 4 ~ SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND. There was a small earthquake at 10:57 pm on south Vancouver Island last night, Saturday February 3. First called a 2.7 quake by Natural Resources Canada Geological Survey of Canada, then upgraded to 2.8 Magnitude, there were no reports of damage, and none would be expected. The quake occurred at 19 km east of Sidney where it was lightly felt, as well as being felt throughout the Saanich Peninsula, Victoria, and Sooke.


 

Dave Barrett, BC Premier (1972-1975)

Saturday, February 3 ~ VICTORIA.  “Today, BC has lost a giant, former premier Dave Barrett,” said Premier BC John Horgan in a statement released late Friday afternoon, February 2.

Barrett, who led an NDP government 1972 to 1975 died February 2 at age 87. His health deteriorated in his later years due to Alzheimer’s.

Barrett led BC’s first NDP government, busting out of office a 20-year centre-right Social-Credit government.  “His visionary leadership and unflinching commitment to the well-being of ordinary people around the province led to lasting change that shaped our province for the better. In just one short term, his government delivered our first modern ambulance service, the Agricultural Land Reserve and public auto insurance. We are all better off, thanks to his tireless work and immeasurable contributions to public life,” said Premier Horgan.

Horgan said that Barrett’s sense of humour and ability to command a room with his oratory was legendary. “First and foremost, I will always remember his commitment to working for regular people.”

“He was an inspiration to me and many other British Columbians, and I am grateful for his friendship and guidance over the years. His legacy will live on in our hearts,” said Horgan. Since taking the reins of the first NDP government in 16 years in BC last July, Horgan seems to have taken a page from the Barrett book of politics by getting many initiatives in place right off the bat.

Back in 1972 Barrett took a bold path, writing in his 1995 memoir: “We agreed unanimously to strike while the iron was hot. Our government represented the first real break from the traditional power base of the province. We were free and unfettered to roam in new directions.”

Today BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said about Dave Barrett: “As Premier, he enacted bold, sweeping changes that touched on every aspect of life in BC. He has left a lasting imprint on our province. Many of the reforms enacted under his leadership are still with us today, including lasting protection to our agricultural land through the Agricultural Land Reserve, and Pharmacare.”

Barrett’s education minister at the time did away with corporal punishment in BC schools.


 

West shore mayors at Vision Westshore 2018. From left: Langford Mayor Stew Young, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, View Royal Mayor David Screech, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, and Highlands Mayor Ken Williams. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Thursday, February 1 ~ WEST SHORE. Tonight five west shore mayors covered a wide range of issues in response to questions from businesses and community leaders. Among those attending the Vision 2018 event hosted by the Westshore Chamber of Commerce were municipal leaders, MLA Mitzi Dean, SD62 school district senior staff and chair, developers, Royal Roads University senior leadership, and non-profit organizers.

Langford Mayor Stew Young, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, View Royal Mayor David Screech, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, and Highlands Mayor Ken Williams fielded such topics as regional transportation, housing affordability, educational opportunities, expanding economic and business opportunities including new tech, and the arts.

They even once again addressed that old bugaboo issue – amalgamation, saying that overall the distinct needs of the various municipalities would not be well served by amalgamating all existing 13 municipalities. However, Stew Young reiterated his idea of creating three regional boards (to replace the CRD), which would allow municipalities with similar concerns to work together more than they already do. That would roll out as a west shore region, core region, and peninsula.

It was evident throughout the couple of hours of discussion that these five mayors enjoy and appreciate their communities. They have clearly evolved in both depth and scope over the years in understanding the nuances of issues in their municipalities to the point where rather creative, co-supportive solutions and services have been found.

Like an ecosystem, these west shore communities are in some ways productively co-dependent. For example, Colwood relies on Langford for robust retail, and fire rescue services in several west shore municipalities have reciprocal agreements to help each other out throughout as required. Metchosin contributes their preserved natural landscapes (underscored with a no-growth policy) as a ‘carbon sink’ for the west side of the island, said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns.

On the broadest scope, Langford’s mayor spoke about bringing more offices and technology companies to Langford, which will help provide jobs and reduce the need for long commutes. Metchosin’s mayor added that “technology is the only thing that will get us out of global warming” and appreciates the job and recreational opportunities for his residents in nearby Langford. Last year Langford, Metchosin and Beecher Bay signed a 3-way agreement that brought more development land to Langford, more greenspace to Metchosin, and more economic opportunity to Beecher Bay.

About 175 people attended the event that was held at the Olympic View Golf Course, emceed by retired broadcast journalist Bruce Williams. Williams took the opportunity to remind the room (in this day and age of ‘fake news’) that the role of media is “to hold people’s feet to the fire”.

The relaxed nature of the evening allowed this experienced group of mayors to wax eloquently and use some ‘insider’ humour to address the news-attentive audience. As a major fundraiser for the Westshore Chamber, the dinner event was $85 per plate for members, $100 for non-members.


Thursday, February 1 ~ VANCOUVER ISLAND. The Dogwood Initiative in the south Vancouver Island area is organizing a bus for early in the morning on Friday, February 2 to take their supporters to Nanaimo to attend the town hall meeting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be holding at 11 am.
 
The town hall will be in the gymnasium at Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street. Registration for attending the meeting begins on-site at 9 am. 
 
This will be Trudeau’s sixth of six town hall meetings held in recent weeks across the country, as “an opportunity for Canadians to discuss ho2 we create more jobs and grow the economy”. This is the only one scheduled in BC.
 
With angst building between the premiers of Alberta and BC over the TransMountain Pipeline, the Dogwood Initiative is expected to hope for a chance to address environmental issues during questions to the Prime Minister.

 

Thursday, February 1 ~ COLWOOD. Municipal election season is warming up in the west shore. Two-term Colwood Councillor Rob Martin has announced today February 1 that he will enter the Colwood Mayoral Race in 2018.

Also with experience as the Board Chair of the Greater Victoria Public Library (2016 to present) and Board Chair of Westshore Parks & Recreation (2012-2016) as well as being an active member of the Colwood Emergency Preparation Committee since 2011, Martin brings a broad community approach to his interest in being Colwood’s next mayor.

A resident of Colwood with his wife Sheila for the past 21 years, their children have attended SD62 schools.
As well as Council duties, Martin runs his own small business, Precise Surgical & Medical Supplies.

“Colwood is at a pivotal time in its history,” says Martin. He has four main areas of concern: housing affordability, honouring truth and reconciliation with indigenous neighbours, the complexities of transportation issues for the west shore, and fostering the West Shore rec centre for use by residents.

With still a chunk of this year to continuing serving as a Councillor on Colwood Council, Martin says he loves being a Councillor. “The work is engaging. I really want to spend the next six months working on some projects that I am excited about. I really believe the best way to campaign is to show it through my works, not just my words,” he told media today.

At Colwood council meetings, Martin often ably summarizes what is going on while handily moving the conversation forward with observations and options.

Rob expects to informally talk with residents about his vision and listen even more over the next four to six months. “Announcing today was about being able to start the conversation,” he says.