Home ARCHIVE – Front Page Breaking News – April 2018

ARCHIVE – Front Page Breaking News – April 2018

ARCHIVE – Breaking News – April 2018


 

Recreational cannabis products

Monday, April 30, 2018 ~ LANGFORD. The City of Langford will be issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the retail sale of cannabis and related products, open May 1 to June 1. [View this article on its own separate page]

The motion was approved at a Special Council Meeting this evening, April 30. The RFP was prepared in consultation with the City’s lawyers.

Following presentation of a staff report by Langford CAO Darren Kiedyk that included details of the guiding principles for the sale of non-medical cannabis products within the Langford municipality, the motion to go ahead with the cannabis RFP was moved by Councillor Lillian Szpak who heads up the City of Langford Protective Services Committee. Mayor and Council supported the motion.

Council has now directed staff to wait to see how the Province of BC and the Capital Regional District (CRD) will be regulating and enforcing issues of cannabis odour and nuisance prior to granting any temporary use permits that are related to retail sales of cannabis and related products.

On April 30, 2018 at a special council meeting, Langford Council approved the issuance of an RFP for the retail sale of cannabis and related products.

Langford says it expects the provincial government to be outlining remaining details of BC’s non-medicinal cannabis regulatory framework in “the coming months”. The federal government is coursing quickly to a July 1, 2018 cannabis legalization deadline that evolved from promises made during the federal Liberal campaign in 2015.

Langford’s guiding principles for the retail sale of cannabis products for non-medicinal use include that businesses selling those products not be located within:
• 500 metres of any other location where the retail sale of cannabis products for non-medicinal use has been authorized (with the exception of Goldstream Avenue, where two locations may be considered);
• 300 metres of any school;
• 300 metres of any group daycare;
• 150 metres of Centennial Park, Veterans Memorial Park, City Centre Park, Westhills YMCA, and regional or Provincial park, or any of the three lakes in Langford (Langford, Glen, Florence); • 50 metres of any land zoned R1 (one-family residential) or R2 (one- and two-family residential) except within the city centre.

Potential cannabis retailers will need to provide a proposed plan for financially assisting the City of Langford with policing and bylaw enforcement costs, including the costs of additional training and administration as associated with:

  • Ensuring that the retail sale of cannabis products for non-medicinal use in a particular location is in compliance with the regulatory framework and all applicable city bylaws;
  • Minimizing the impact on the neighbourhood of the retail sale of cannabis products for non-medicinal use;
  • Addressing nuisance issues relating to public use of cannabis products for non-medicinal purposes;
  • Addressing impairment issues relating to public use of cannabis products for non-medicinal purposes; and;
  • Providing educational initiatives and materials associated with the above impacts are related social concerns.

 

Saturday, April 28, 2018 ~ LANGFORD. Belmont Residences will welcome the public to their show-home opening on Saturday May 5. The new Belmont Residences development is under construction in Langford.

The opening of their new sales centre will be celebrated at a public event coming up Saturday May 5. The opening will feature a fully-built show home, starting at 1 pm (to 3 pm).

Belmont Residences is a new master-planned, 24-acre, 440-unit multi-phase development. Housing options include 1-bdrm (approx 622 sq ft), 2-bdrm (approx 878 sq ft), & 2-bdrm+flex (approx 1,050 to 1,224 sq ft) homes with prices starting from the low $300,000’s to low $600,000’s.

The 2,500 sq ft Belmont Residences Sales Centre features a site model showcasing one of Langford’s most anticipated new communities and detailed information about the first building. Visitors may tour a fully-furnished 2 bedroom + flex display home.

The public opening will include a preview of the new U-Bike service, which is officially expanding to the City of Langford in partnership with Belmont Residences. Visitors will be invited to grab a bike and explore the nearby neighbourhood, parks, and amenities including the adjacent Galloping Goose Regional Trail.

The sales centre is at 915 Division Avenue (corner of Jenkins Avenue), across from the Westshore Town Centre.
Belmont Residences comprise seven residential market and rental buildings targeting first-time home buyers, working professionals, and downsizers. The development is enhanced by 160,000 sq ft of commercial amenities (being developed by Crombie REIT), including a landmark Thrifty Foods spanning 53,000 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. Calling itself the new heart of the West Shore, Belmont Residences is being seen as the ‘it’ place for those seeking an urban-meets-suburban lifestyle.
The Belmont Club area will include common spaces, kids room, music/craft rooms, and multi-purpose spaces.

[This article first published on page 4 in the April 27, 2018 print/PDF edition of West Shore Voice News]


Creative pill presses.

Thursday, April 25 ~ VICTORIA. In a move against the illegal production of illicit opioids and to help keep them off the streets, the BC Government is toughening its regulations on pill-press machines and other similar pharmaceutical equipment.

The new Pill Press and Related Equipment Control Act is comprehensive legislation that is part of a broader scheme of initiatives intended to help law enforcement address the fentanyl crisis in BC. The bill aims at restricting ownership, possession and use of equipment that can be used to make illicit drugs, such as automated pill presses, gel cap machines and pharmaceutical mixers.

“Police have asked for more control and monitoring of who has use of pill presses,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This bill is critical in bolstering police efforts to disrupt the supply chain and get counterfeit pills off of the streets and out of the hands of those who recklessly distribute death-dealing drugs.

“The act will limit lawful ownership of pill presses, and other similar pharmaceutical equipment, to individuals or corporations authorized under the legislation. This includes those with a legitimate business or professional purpose, such as production of drugs or natural health food products, those given a waiver to produce other products that rely on this technology and registered pill-press sellers. The act also sets out significant penalties for offences committed in relation to controlled equipment and activities.

BC’s Pill Press and Related Equipment Control Act is more comprehensive than the legislation that was introduced by Alberta and the federal government in 2016. The federal legislation only requires registration of pill or tablet presses and gel cap machines on import into Canada, and there are no limitations on who can own the equipment.

BC’s legislation requires those who want to sell the equipment to register and agree to a criminal record check. There are also notification requirements for when people acquire and dispose of the equipment, as well as powers to appoint inspectors, so that compliance with the legislation can be monitored. All the provisions will make it easier to track where controlled equipment is, and easier to take it out of the hands of those who are not authorized owners.

“We are losing too many people from all walks of life – friends, neighbours and loved ones – whose lives have been tragically cut short by a toxic, illegal drug supply,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We know that no illegal drugs are safe, and introducing this legislation will make it harder for people to produce and distribute illegal drugs. We need to approach this problem from all sides and at all levels to save lives and prevent future tragedies.

“Pill-press machines, and other similar pharmaceutical equipment, can be used to turn illicit drugs, like fentanyl, into counterfeit tablets that are sold on the streets, and are able to churn out thousands of pills per hour.

“The BC Association of Chiefs of Police is pleased to see the Province take a leadership role in regulating pill presses and related equipment,” said president of the BCACP and chief constable Del Manak. “This is an important new tool that will be critical in helping us get counterfeit pills off the streets, and will serve as a model for the rest of Canada.

“In addition to this legislation, BC is undertaking action to escalate the response to the overdose crisis, including:

  • creating new dedicated anti-trafficking teams within the provincial RCMP and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit;
  • providing additional resources for all police agencies to support actions against‎ organized crime importers and traffickers, to help stem the flow of fentanyl into BC;
  • increasing support for police-based outreach in communities to proactively reach people who are seen to be high-risk;
  • providing additional funding for the BC Coroners Service to expand the Drug-Death Investigations Team, and meet an increase in workload and lab testing;
  • supplying the City of Surrey with a $175,000 grant to help in their effort to combat the opioid crisis, and to fund collaborative interventions that will help connect vulnerable people to the services they need through new approaches; and
  • investing $322 million in new funding and launching the Overdose Emergency Response Centre to combat the overdose crisis and spearhead urgent action to save lives.

The Province will continue to work on a multi-pronged strategy targeted at gangs, drug traffickers and importers to get deadly drugs off the streets, and remains committed to addressing some of the core causes of the opioid crisis, including homelessness, poverty, trauma and the need for improved enforcement.


 

Deliberate vehicle attack on pedestrians in a highly populated area of north Toronto on April 23 2018 [Canadian Press photo]

Monday, April 23 ~ TORONTO. A deliberate vehicle attack upon pedestrians along a major street in the North York area of Toronto has left nine people dead and 16 injured. 

[Update at 5:45 pm April 23: 10 fatalities, 15 injured]

[Update at 10 am April 24: 10 counts of 1st degree murder against the driver of the van, 13 counts of attempted murder; the 15 injured are in three hospitals — Sunnybrook, North York General, and St Michael’s]

[Update evening April 24:  officials have updated their numbers as released to the public: 10 fatalities, 14 injured. The distance of the incident as travelled by the van was 2 km. The officer who made the arrest is Cst Ken Lam]

The incident along a highly populated and active commercial office/retail area of a 3km stretch of Yonge Street between Finch Ave and Sheppard Ave saw a man in a rented van appearing to plow down pedestrians at random. The incident occurred around 1:30 pm EDT (10:30 am PDT) on a sunny day.

There were multiple eyewitnesses who have spoken to TV media, describing the incident in various aspects including the actual impact scenario.

Ten of the injured were taken to nearby Sunnybrook Hospital — two were found to be deceased at arrival, and eight are in hospital (five in critical condition, three in serious condition). The identities of the injured and deceased have not been released, but there is a Family Information Line that people possibly related to the victims and injured can call to find out more: 416-480-4940

Investigator at the scene of the vehicle attack on pedestrians in north Toronto, April 23 2018. [photo from web]

The threat level in Canada remains at medium. This is not considered to be an organized attack. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the terror threat level hasn’t changed (since October 2014, put into effect apparently just days before the attack at Parliament Hill in Ottawa). Medium threat level indicates that a violent act of terrorism could occur (low level would mean possible but unlikely).

Name of the alleged attacker (driver of the rental van used in the attack) is Alek Minassian, 25. He is a student at Seneca College in the Toronto area, as reported by CBC News today.

Government leaders at all levels have addressed citizens through TV media, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto Mayor John Tory. People are asked not to go to that area. Businesses were asked to close for the rest of the day.

Investigators are on scene. Some bodies remained on the sidewalk under orange covering, while investigators made their way around the incident area.


 

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver today on CTV’s Question Period (screenshot), April 22 2018

Sunday, April 22 ~ BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has issued the following statement for Earth Day:

“Earth Day encourages us to appreciate the natural environment in all its forms, but it also reminds us of the responsibility we have to ensure the health of our planet.

“The theme for this year’s Earth Day campaign is ending plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is visible close to home in BC; it marks our beaches, landfills and lives. If you are interested in learning more, getting involved, or signing the Earth Day Network petition, we encourage you to visit www.earthday.org . We have committed to ending plastic pollution in our office and everyday lives by using reusable coffee cups and staying away from plastic straws!

“We would also like to acknowledge the incredible beauty and diversity of British Columbia as a whole. As BC Green MLAs, the mission of Earth Day to promote environmental sustainability underlies all our work. We continue to work hard every day to champion evidence-based policies that will enable British Columbians to enjoy our unparalleled beautiful natural environment for generations to come.”


 

Colwood Councillor Rob Martin

Sunday, April 22 ~ COLWOOD. Colwood Councillor Rob Martin (a 2018 mayoralty candidate) is challenging the municipality’s OCP process. Martin will be requesting at Colwood Council on Monday April 23 to allow a late addition agenda item that will put forward a motion to suspend the future Official Community Plan (OCP) process until after the October municipal election.

“The building of the new Official Community Plan has been a 2-year process that falls perfectly within the window of the next municipal election period. This is an excellent time for the community, through the election process, to decide how Colwood will look and grow moving forward for the next decade,” said Rob Martin this weekend. “I believe there are some philosophical and policy decisions that need to be highlighted and debated in the coming election. By postponing the future OCP process to after the election, this will allow candidates to deliver their vision of Colwood’s future,” he said.

“Staff have worked hard developing our newest OCP,” says Martin. He calls the OCP  “a collaboration of input from the political, public and staff”. However, Martin says that as he continues to have numerous meetings with members of the community ” it appears that significant changes are needed to the draft OCP”.  He says: “These are political decisions which the Mayor and Council should be debating during this election cycle.”

The development community was represented by development consultant Mark Holland at earlier council meetings, expressing first generally and then in great detail about various aspects of the OCP that would contribute to housing unaffordability in Colwood at it grows forward.


 

Royal Roads University gets fund to help Langford develop post-secondary options [West Shore Voice News photo – April 2018]

Sunday, April 22 ~ LANGFORD. Improved access to post-secondary education and training for people living in the fast-growing west shore and Sooke communities will be explored by developing a community solution, the BC Government announced this week. [View this article on its own HTML page]

“I’m excited that we’re engaging with community partners to improve access to post-secondary education and training,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

For this project, Royal Roads University (RRU) will receive $250,000 from the province on behalf of the three public post-secondary institutions on southern Vancouver Island. RRU has been charged with managing the development of a report for potential program delivery options in Langford, based on need.

RRU is the appropriate choice to lead the study, says RRU President and Vice-Chancellor Allan Cahoon. RRU has a successful track record for offering a unique, applied, demand-responsive, ‘change maker’ approach in its academic model.

“I welcome the ministry funding and opportunity to work with other post-secondary institutions and community partners in the region,” says Cahoon. Community partners for this initiative include students and parents, Sooke School District 62 (SD62), West Shore municipalities, Royal Roads University, Camosun College, the University of Victoria and First Nations. The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training will also be involved in the local planning process.

Cahoon sees the initiative leading to the creation of a solution that meets the post-secondary educational needs of fast-growing west shore which includes Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Highlands and View Royal.“This is about supporting a community need with a collaborative approach and innovative solution. That’s a net gain for everyone, especially for students and families,” he said this week.

In 2017, the west shore area had an estimated population of about 74,000, while Sooke has a population nearing 14,000. For the City of Langford (itself with a population over 40,000) the annual average population growth rate over the last 10 years was 4.7%, making it one of the fastest growing regions in BC.

“We need to guarantee easy affordable access for our students to post secondary education,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “The west shore and Sooke are 19% below the average for students transferring on to university and we must remove the barriers and find the solution to get more students from Langford and westshore area to enroll in post secondary,” he said this week.

“We’ve been looking at ways to advance the delivery of post-secondary education and training to programs in the west shore for a number of years,” said Mayor Young. “It makes a lot of sense to give students pursuing a post-secondary education the opportunity to do that in the community they live in.”

“Giving our students the ability to transition to post-secondary education or training, while continuing to live in their home community, is a great option,” said SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge. “Students can stay in a familiar place where they are comfortable, continue working locally and potentially save money by living at home,” said Cambridge.

Not all Grade 12 grads go on to post-secondary right away. As of 2013-2014, the provincial average of Grade 12 grads going directly into post-secondary in September following their June graduation was 49.7% while SD62 only saw a 38% transfer rate.

According to BC Ministry of Education stats, after two or three years (for employment, travel or life in between), there is also a significant number of high school grads who return to the education system in post-secondary.


 

Sunday, April 22 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. The Capital Regional District (CRD) has launched a new set of climate action activity kits in partnership with the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL). Climate Action To-Go Kits are available in all 12 branches of the GVPL as well as the Sooke, Sidney/North Saanich and Port Renfrew branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, the Salt Spring Island Public Library and the Camosun College Library.

Available to borrow from libraries across the region, these take-home kits contain a range of practical tools and activities that will help residents learn about and take action on climate change in their everyday lives.

“Our Climate Action To-Go program is a highly interactive way for residents to better understand how their household can reduce energy use and prepare for the realities of climate change in the future,” says CRD Director Judy Brownoff, chair of the region’s Environmental Services Committee. “Earth Day is the perfect time to re-launch these kits in our region, building on the past success of this program with a number of new tools focused on transportation and climate adaptation.”

Each updated Climate Action To-Go Kit gives residents the opportunity to:
• Measure their home’s optimal lighting using a digital illuminance light meter
• Measure their household’s appliance electricity use with a Kill-A-Watt meter
• Discover air leaks in walls and around windows using a thermal leak detector
• Tune up a bike or track steps while learning about local active transportation routes
• Test showerhead water efficiency
• Learn about expected climate changes while preparing for both adaptation and emergencies

“These kits provide the public with free tools and information to monitor—and ultimately adjust—the consumption of valuable resources,” says Maureen Sawa, CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library. “They connect learning with action.”


 

Wednesday, April 18 ~ VICTORIA. Today in Victoria, Premier John Horgan announced his government’s new Building BC Community Housing Fund with an investment price tag of $1.9 billion.  The funding is for building 14,000 new rental homes throughout BC to help make housing more affordable for seniors, families, and low- and middle-income seniors.

“Too many people struggling to find a place to live,” said Premier Horgan, with a further explanation that improved housing opportunities also helps businesses because then employees can find places to live. As a way of putting the new funds into context, Horgan said that this is “not about building individual condos, stratas, or a house but a systematic and methodical plan” to help those with middle incomes, who are homeless, and “those who are struggling to make ends meet”.

The announcement was made along with Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, on Wilson Street in the VicWest area of the Victoria core. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was on hand to support the announcement as well where new housing will be built. The project has three target components: 30% of the units will be for households with moderate incomes, 50% for low-to-moderate income at market-driven rent levels, and 20% for low income on deeper subsidy (such as income assistance).

“It will capture the continuum of housing needs in the community,” said Premier Horgan, adding that it’s first time that the coop housing sector can access funding. Horgan identified Pacifica Housing, M’akola Housing, and communities (municipalities) with new opportunities now to meet the broad range of needs.

“We’re building British Columbia by investing in homes for people who live and work in our communities,” said Premier Horgan. “Fixing the housing crisis is not just about ownership. It’s about making sure that British Columbians who rent rather than own can find homes they can afford and have a future in.”

The $1.9 billion investment over 10 years is set to deliver safe, secure and affordable housing for BC renters. This housing will be built through partnerships with municipalities, non-profits and co-ops.

“People are struggling in the midst of this housing crisis. We need to do everything we can to make housing more affordable,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Through the Community Housing Fund, people who have been squeezed out of the tight rental market will be able to find a place to call their own, so they can stay in their community.”

BC Housing is issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) to identify prospective partners, including non-profit societies, housing co-operatives and municipalities, that want to develop and operate mixed-income rental housing projects.

“Providing new affordable rentals for low- to moderate-income families and individuals keeps them living and working in our city,” said City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We look forward to working with the Province on developing new, affordable housing for the city.”

Projects will be prioritized based on a number of criteria, including targeted clients and the impact the project would have in reducing the community’s affordable rental housing need.

“Non-profit housing providers have been anxiously awaiting this day – the launch of a historic investment in affordable housing,” said Dean Fortin, executive director, Pacifica Housing. “We all know the fundamental importance of decent housing to enable the building of strong and resilient families and children and how important quality housing is to individuals in determining a quality of life every citizen deserves.”

Each project built under the Building BC: Community Housing Fund will reflect the following mix of incomes:
* 30% of the units will be for households with moderate incomes. These are defined as household incomes up to $71,200 for homes with fewer than two bedrooms, or up to $104,000 for homes with two or more bedrooms.
* 50% of the units will be for low- to moderate-income households. These are defined as household incomes below the Housing Income Limits, which range from $21,000 to $95,000, depending on the community and the unit size.

Housing Income Limits represent the income needed to pay the average market rent. Average rents are derived from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) annual Rental Market Survey.

Rents for these units will be targeted at the CMHC definition of affordability, at or below 30% of the household income. 20% of the units will be for households with low incomes.  Households requiring a deeper level of subsidy, such as those receiving income assistance. These are incomes below $15,000 to $30,000, depending on unit size.

Budget 2018 launched the biggest investment in housing affordability in BC history: more than $7 billion over 10 years. The Province has set an overall target of creating 114,000 new homes, including affordable market rental, non-profit, co-op, supported social housing and owner-purchase housing through partnerships.

LINK: Homes for B.C.: 30-point plan to address housing affordability for British Columbians: bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2018/homesbc/2018_Homes_For_BC.pdf


Otter Point Road (west of Sooke) to see $2.5 to $3 million in improvements [West Shore Voice News photo – April 2018]

Sunday, April 15 ~ SOOKE. More funds for road improvements in the Premier’s riding! 

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) will upgrade approximately 2 km of Otter Point Road, a key access point for Highway 14 (Sooke Road), and an important alternative route when the highway is closed.

“Over my years as MLA, I have heard many safety concerns from the community about Otter Point Road and many suggestions on how to make it better for people. These upgrades will help keep drivers, cyclists and pedestrians moving safely,” said Premier John Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca in a news release.

The project and its funding of $2.5 to $3 million was announced by Juan de Fuca Electoral Area (JDFEA) Director Mike Hicks on behalf of Premier Horgan at the AGM of the Otter Point, Shirley and Jordan River Ratepayers Association (OPSRRA) today April 15 at the JdF Services Building in Otter Point.

More intersection upgrades, passing opportunities, improvements for transit, highway shoulder widening and alignment improvements are under development in consultation with the community. Existing lanes will be resurfaced and lanes will be widened wherever possible for cyclist/pedestrian safety, said Ryan Evanoff, Operations Manager, MOTI, at the Otter Point AGM today. The cost to move utility poles is a large part of the project cost, Evanoff told the 30 people in attendance at the AGM. He added that there are no “property take” costs (no private lands will be required or purchased to compete these road improvements).

The proposed improvements will widen and pave approximately 2km of Otter Point Road between the municipal boundary and Kemp Lake Road. Once survey and design work is complete, the ministry will provide an estimated project cost and schedule for the construction of these improvements.

“Community input has been vital to enabling the ministry to get to work quickly on planning work for safety improvements on Otter Point Road, and I look forward to continuing this engagement on more essential upgrades to the Highway 14 corridor,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena.

The Otter Point Road project funding and project work is in addition to the suite of Highway 14 corridor improvements that were first announced in January (i.e. transit pullouts and a queue jump lane, safety signs, new Gillespie Road 2-lane bridge, Sooke River Road intersection upgrade, Muir Creek slow-moving vehicle pullout, and Sombrio rest area).

Work will get underway once the list of specific improvement requirements and possibilities are finalized, said Evanoff.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his office on Sunday April 15 with BC Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. [photo on web]

Sunday, April 15 ~ OTTAWA. “The Prime Minister is taking over the file, Ottawa will be the lead,” said BC Premier John Horganthis morning around 9:25 am (PDT), as he addressed media in Ottawa after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

The Trans Mountain pipeline will go ahead, but it sounds like with stricter conditions in the Oceans Protection Plan which Horgan pushed hard for.  In particular, those protections would be about cleaning up any spills of diluted bitumen.

Legislative and financial measures will be brought forward by the federal govt in the days ahead, said Horgan. Prime Minister Trudeau is scheduled to address media shortly (10 am PDT).

Horgan said that “all three parties to this morning’s discussion have common values on a whole range of issues”. He said he gives “full credit to Trudeau for bringing Premier Notley and I together.”

Seeing not much room for more he can do on the pipeline file, Horgan turned comments to his mainstay governance in BC: “My concerns are for the people of BC, including balancing the budget over the next two years and delivering services for people,” said Horgan. He articulated overall lifestyle affordability and the importance of affordable accessible child care.


Sunday, April 15 ~ OTTAWA. BC Premier John Horgan is about to make a statement to the media (8:30 am PDT) about his conversation this morning with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, about the Trans Mountain pipeline project.   West Shore Voice News is attending (teleconference) live. More to come.


 

Saturday, April 14 ~ NATIONAL. 

[Editorial] In the hot seat this Sunday will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On Thursday he had headed off to Lima, Peru for a long-planned trip to represent Canada at the Summit of the Americas. But brewing here at home is a calamity that is ready to boil over.

BC and Alberta are at loggerheads over the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline (project activity now suspended to May 31 by its corporate owner Kinder Morgan), and their political positions seem immovable now.

The remarkable people skills that Trudeau has exhibited in other high profile situations (e.g. the much-noted in-control handshake with Trump at the White House last year) will probably be put to their greatest test yet in this, his first term in office. How does one get two NDP Premiers to capitulate even an inch from their understandably entrenched positions that are essential for political survival past their own first terms in office — John Horgan to protect the natural environment that is the soul of BC, and Rachel Notley to resurrect the oil-rich economy of Alberta.

The private meeting on Sunday April 15 at 10 am EDT in Trudeau’s office at Parliament Hill will be relatively short, as media will be addressed by Premier Horgan at 11 am EDT (8 am Pacific) and by Trudeau at 1 pm EDT, followed by Trudeau’s departure to Paris, France at 2 pm. pm.

The fact that Trudeau announced the relatively awkward shift in his itinerary literally moments before he boarded the plane in Ottawa on his way to South America on Thursday, somehow indicates the difficulty he had in making a decision about how to finally step into the pipeline issue boxing ring. Trudeau has been criticized of late for remaining passive while Alberta and BC duked it out in Alberta’s brief trade war tactics and BC’s sidestep move to let the courts decide.

Among media who follow the PM’s daily itinerary, there was puzzled chatter about why he took a ‘personal day’ off mid-week, ahead of his trip. Given Trudeau’s load, a day off ahead of a long international trip for contemplation about larger issues is not unreasonable. In fact, it shows good judgement and a deeper awareness of how significant the BC-Alberta issue is, than people give him credit for.

The BC-Alberta crisis leans close to being a constitutional one, over and above the significant impacts for politics in BC and Alberta and for the Canadian economy (jobs and investor confidence). That’s enough of a challenge to tackle. But Canadians may also witness the ‘Ottawa summit’ of western NDP premiers with their prime minister as a moment in which Trudeau demonstrates his most masterful problem-solving yet.

These are tough times for leading Canada — NAFTA negotiations with the Trump-led USA, taking a bit of a back seat in the USA-led attack on Syria Friday night, legalizing cannabis in a somewhat frenzied hurry, and a true housing affordability crisis. On top of this, brokering a successful outcome from his meeting with Horgan and Notley would be a helpful shining star in Trudeau’s leadership cap.

Read this Editorial on its own HTML page.


 

Friday, April 13 ~ INTERNATIONAL. This evening Friday April 13 at 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time (6 pm Pacific), the Pentagon announced that the US military together with the UK and France as Allies, had this evening launched a targeted missile strike on chemical weapon research and development sites as well as command post locations in Syria.

US Military officials said that targets were chosen that would minimize risk to innocent civilians – which likely means not having destroyed actual stores of chemical weapons.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has issued the following statement today on airstrikes in Syria: “Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria. Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people. We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice.”‎

The aim of the strike was to deter the Syrian regime from using or producing more chemical weapons. The most recent chemical agents used in an attack in Syria this week were determined to have included the use of chlorine, and possibly the nerve gas sarin.

The US Military told media that more information would be provided tomorrow morning, April 14, approx 9am Eastern Time.

[This summary compiled from watching live coverage of the Pentagon’s media conference and followup live news commentary on CBC TV, and the Prime Minister’s website.]


 

A hockey stick adorned with the green-and-yellow colours of the Humboldt Broncos rests near the entry to the sports-friendly Bear Mountain Resort in Langford, BC. [West Shore Voice News photo – April 10, 2018]

Thursday, April 12 ~ NATIONAL. Worldwide attention has been paid all week to the tragic crash of a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. Of the 29 passengers on the bus, 16 died.

The bus collided with a semi-trailer unit include 10 players, the bus driver, two coaches, the athletic therapist, a volunteer statistician and a broadcaster. The truck driver had two weeks driving experience for driving a truck of that size. The driver of the semi was not injured but is now receiving trauma counselling.

RCMP had initially indicated 14 fatalities having occurred as a result of the Friday April 6 crash. But by the next afternoon, police said in a news release that another person had died (due to a mixup in identities by medical personnel). This week, on Wednesday April 11, athletic therapist Dayna Brons, 26, who had been injured in the crash, died in hospital. She had been the only woman on the bus.

The 13 others on the bus were injured, some of them critically. At least one has a broken back and will not be able to walk, but he is already talking about taking up Paralympic hockey.

The first funeral of more to come was held today April 12 in Humboldt.

A crowd-source funding page on Go Fund Me — for victims and those impacted by the crash — is at https://ca.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos .

The page was started by a hockey mom with the Humboldt Broncos Jr Hockey Association Inc within hours of the crash. Now just over five days later, the $4 million goal on that page has been immensely exceeded, reaching $9,888,498 by about 3 pm PDT.

There have been 117,258 donors contributing to the support fund as of this afternoon. The list includes families, individuals, hockey clubs and sports teams, businesses (including a bank branch, car dealerships and travel agency, a couple of Tim Hortons franchises, health associations and schools, professionals including a financial services company and the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and the Toronto & Area Road Builders Association.

The donations made today range from $5 to $5,000. Most are in the $20 to $250 range. Many are made in a person’s name but some are anonymous whether the amounts are large and small.

Hockey sticks are being laid to rest against walls, porches and public places. It’s a gesture of empathy and support has been adopted worldwide following this tragedy, showing support for the families, friends and team-sport community that has been impacted by the crash. Today April 12 people were asked to wear hockey jerseys to demonstrate their support.

Weather conditions were bright and clear on the day of the accident. But the corner at Hwy 35 and Hwy 335 in northern Saskatchewan has been considered by locals for years to be a dangerous one due to crossing management (a stop sign for one highway but through-traffic for the other) and a tall stand of old-growth trees that might be found to have blocked the sightlines for traffic from one or both directions.


 

Brand new bus pullout on Highway 14 (Sooke Rd) at Laidlaw Road was incorrectly sized. Contractor asked to remove and start again. [West Shore Voice News – April 8, 2018]

Monday, April 9 ~ SOOKE. All six bus pullouts that have been under construction for several weeks along Highway 14 to/from Sooke are now in a temporary phase of deconstruction. Then to be rebuilt. The cost to make revision is about $90,000. About 10 cm in height was incorrectly measured in the height of the bus pullout feature.

The contractor and design team have been asked to identify how this error occurred. The pullouts are to be restored to meet accessibility standards for all transit users.

The necessary road widening for these pullouts has been completed at all three bus pullout locations — 1 pad on each side of the highway at West Shore Parkway, Laidlaw Road, and Harbourview Road.

The pullouts are for the purpose of allowing buses to move fully out of the way of traffic. It’s one measure that the BC Government feels will help reduce interruptions in vehicle traffic flow on Highway 14, as first announced by Premier John Horgan in Sooke on January 19. Horgan is MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca.

Highway 14 (Sooke Road) is pretty much the one way in and out of the town of Sooke, population about 13,000. At least 70% of Sooke residents leave Sooke daily for employment and post-secondary in more central regions of Greater Victoria.

The BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI) says: “It was discovered that the elevation of the concrete pads for the bus shelters was a bit too high. The discrepancy in height is quite small (less than 10 cm), but there is still potential for the curb to be bumped by the bus bumpers when using the pullouts.”

Installation of bus pullouts and shelters will be done April 16 to 27 along Hwy 14 (Sooke Rd). Photo: West Shore Voice News April 2018

“The Ministry explored all possibilities for addressing the concern with the pads, and determined that the best option for getting the pullouts operational as quickly as possible is to remove and rebuild the concrete pads at a lower height,” it was confirmed today by MOTI.

“The bus pullouts are still expected to be completed and ready for use this spring as originally announced.”

Roadside marquee signage shows April 16 to 27 as the traffic-interruption dates during bus pullout reconstruction.

Those signs have been up for at least two weeks, so this problem only discovered after the six pullouts were completed.

“A number of groups were involved in design and construction, and the ministry continues to work with them to determine the cause of the issue and address the resulting cost increase,” says MOTI.


 

“Own or rent: caught in between”
Housing Analysis by West Shore Voice News
First published in our April 6, 2018 print/pdf/subscriber edition
=====================================

With the continued price increases in the Greater Victoria housing market combined with stricter mortgage-borrowing requirements, a chunk of would-be buyers are deliberately prevented from becoming homeowners. In the financial world it’s referred to as ‘cooling the housing market’.

That strategy ends up targeting those at the cusp of home ownership … first-time buyers, and the home sellers with lower-end properties that appeal to the entry-level buyers. Individuals and families in that sector are generally the ones who can least afford the costs associated with the risks and overhead costs of dealing with real estate transactions.

Costs include legal fees, Realtor commissions, property purchase tax, and extended dual costs while waiting for homes to sell — like higher rates for vacant home insurance and requiring the cash flow for temporary renting or couch-surfing in the meantime (which contributes to productivity loss and lifestyle stress).

The big chill served to hurt that vulnerable sector of would-be buyers and entry-level homesellers who literally live on the edge of the market — in or out of homeownership, which will it be?

Last fall and in early 2018, as the list price of lower-end homes frequently dropped in order to find buyers who could qualify, those who tried to make the most of having owned a home may have suffered the most.
With qualification for mortgage financing becoming tougher, these previous homeowners often now end up as renters — and usually at the top end of the renter food chain where houses rent for as much as $2,500 per month in Greater Victoria or more. That may be the only portion of the rental market with a relatively higher vacancy rate, due to the price point.

Seeking input from resources like www.readytorentbc.org where their goal is to help with housing stability and successful tenancies, or dealing directly with a property management firm, are two ways to manouevre in the complex waters of housing decisions for those who will not ever, or cannot now, afford to buy.

FEATURE ADVERTISERS [West Shore & Sooke]:
>> George Holmes, Sutton Advantage Property Management – 250-216-4684
>> Clive & Kirsten Greenaway, Greenaway Realty – 778-352-4771


 

Trans Mountain Pipeline construction at Burnaby.

Sunday, April 8 ~ BC. Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was put on hold today April 8 as Kinder Morgan Canada suspended all non-essential activities and related spending on the project in the face of mounting opposition from both the government of British Columbia and environmental protesters.

Kinder Morgan said its decision is based largely on the BC government’s legal challenges to the pipeline and the need to protect its shareholders. The company will consult with various stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements by May 31, 2018.

BC Premier John Horgan issued a statement around 4:30 pm this afternoon, regarding Kinder Morgan’s decision to suspend non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project:

BC Premier John Horgan

“British Columbians expect their government to stand up for their interests and our coast, and to do everything we can to protect our land and waters, our coastal communities and our local economies. The federal process failed to consider BC’s interests and the risk to our province. We joined the federal challenge, started by others, to make that point. We believe we need to grow the economy, while protecting the environment. We want to work to address these challenges together. But we will always stand up for British Columbians, our environment and the thousands of jobs that depend on our coast.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said her government would consider taking on an equity stake in the pipeline if Kinder Morgan investors are considering backing away. “If we have to, Alberta is prepared to do whatever it takes to get this pipeline built,” said Notley, without discussing the dollar value of such a significant investment.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has seemingly been waiting for the cards to fall one way or another, today federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr issued a statement: “The government of Canada calls on Premier Horgan and the BC government to end all threats of delay to the Trans Mountain expansion. His government’s actions stand to harm the entire Canadian economy.”


Saturday, April 7 ~ SASKATCHEWAN. Junior hockey team in crash: 15 fatalities.  Mid-afternoon on Friday April 6 a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was hit by a semi-trailer truck in northern Saskatchewan (about 300 km north of Regina). Of 29 people on the bus, 15 died: 10 players (ages 16 to 21), the bus driver, two coaches, a volunteer statistician and a broadcaster. The other 14 were injured.

As of 9:15 pm on April 7 a GoFundMe page at https://ca.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos had raised $2,743,903 of their $4 million goal (raised by 40,705 people in one day) to help support families of the victims. Additionally, WestJet has offered Bronco hockey family members assistance getting to Saskatoon by plane.

The Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team was on their way to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks in northeastern Saskatchewan.

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy recalled to TV media about a team — oddly enough also with a Broncos name (Swift Current Broncos) — that in 1986 had a bus accident in which four of his teammates were killed. His team’s bus had hit a patch of ice and crashed while the hockey team was en route to Regina. Kennedy said the collective trauma is far-reaching and residual.

Thursday, April 5 ~ LANGFORD. The West Shore RCMP Detachment will be unveiling a Wall of Honour today April 5 in memory of fallen West Shore RCMP officers.

On this 2nd anniversary of the on-duty death of Cst Sarah Beckett, the ceremony will be held in the lobby at the West Shore RCMP Detachment in Langford at 12 noon.

Beckett will be recognized and remembered on the Wall of Honour.

West Shore RCMP Cst Sarah Beckett

As space will be limited, it is requested the public respectfully provide space within the foyer for family, RCMP members, and invited guests.

“We cannot thank the community enough for the outpouring of support they have given us since Sarah’s death. Sarah was killed two years ago but it seems like yesterday for us. This is a chance to give her the honour she deserves,” says Constable Matt Baker of the West Shore RCMP.

The lobby will be remain open throughout the day and during business hours for anyone who wishes to view the Wall of Honour and offer their respects.


Wednesday, April 4 ~ BC. There’s only one day left to contribute your opinions to the proposed changes to ICBC auto insurance rates. The BC Government’s aim is to make rates more fair for all vehicle owners (excluding those with fleet vehicles).

Feedback is being accepted online to  4pm on Thursday, April 5 at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/ratefairness/

Input from this survey will help inform ICBC’s application on Basic insurance rate design to its regulator, the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC). The survey was launched March 5.

Changes to the current system would make all drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour, says the government on the survey website. The survey takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. You will be asked things like how long you’ve been driving (and how much of that time in BC) as well your opinion on a range of questions about penalties, rate increases, and discounts.

“The model ICBC uses to help determine insurance rates is more than 30 years old. While it has seen some improvements over the years, it is out of date. This means that right now some drivers are paying more and others are paying less than the risk they represent,” the government says. Adding: “British Columbians have been saying for years that the system would be more fair if lower risk drivers paid less for their insurance, and higher risk drivers paid more. We agree. Currently, most high-risk drivers are not paying enough to cover the future risks they represent on our roads.”

Submissions on the proposed changes by organizations and experts will be posted online.


Wednesday, April 4 ~ LANGFORD.  A groundswell of discontent has arisen in Langford over the BC NDP Government’s housing policy. 

Set off by a public and political vocal backlash about the BC Speculation Tax that was allowed room to grow for about five weeks between rollout of BC Budget 2018 and a fuller explanation of tax implementation, now the complaints are widespread about housing. The cost to build housing and the prices at which market homes must sell… these are economic issues of supply and demand.

The pushback is coming not just from those who will be directly affected by the tax that sees vacant homes. It’s also from the developers who produce homes and rely on a marketplace that can afford them, including Realtors who will feel the squeeze in trying to sell continually more costly homes. In Langford, about 70% of residents are homeowners. The Westhills area alone sells about 150 homes per year.

Now the City of Langford — the fastest growing municipality in BC — has broken ground at a formal level, their Council agreeing at their April 3 regular council meeting to write a letter to the BC Ministry of Finance requesting that Langford be exempt from the Speculation Tax. Further to that, Langford Mayor Stew Young on behalf of the city was authorized by his council to write a letter to the Minister of Finance Carole James and BC Premier John Horgan expressing concerns over the tax.  And on top of all of that, Council hopes that the entire Capital Regional District (CRD) will be excluded from the Speculation Tax or that the Province will consider allowing municipalities within the CRD to opt-in or opt-out of the tax on a case-by-case basis.

Clearly leading Langford in its fast-paced economic growth in recent years, Langford Mayor Stew Young said at council last night that Langford attracts investment from outside the region as a way to help the economy. The Speculation Tax is already spooking would-be buyers from Alberta and beyond. Young feels that other Canadians should not be pushed away from BC, that the tax was supposedly originally intended to eliminate speculation by foreign buyers.

At the council table, Mayor Young suggested that perhaps those who have written the new tax details at the Finance ministry are missing the impact of the consequences of their policy-driven paperwork, that “they don’t understand, or perhaps they don’t own homes”. Langford Councillor Lillian Szpak pitched out “what happened to co-op housing and rent control?” as two examples of “housing choices that are missing in their plan”.

After hearing presentations from developers, the president of the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB), and others on the supply-side of the housing equation, Langford Council readily adopted this break-rank move to be the first municipality in BC to formally oppose the Speculation Tax. However the part about getting the CRD on board -– not so much, said Councillor Denise Blackwell, who reminded fellow councillors that due to the governance structure of the CRD board that Victoria and Saanich (which of all CRD municipalities are probably feeling the most pressure on housing affordability and supply) have the majority of votes at the CRD board table.  And Mayor Young said that in his recent meeting with the Finance Ministry that there didn’t appear to be much room for sway.

Keeping in mind that this was in March at the tail-end of the winter season in which the housing market is in its usual pre-spring quiet zone, Westhills reports a 20% drop in visits to their show homes (detail update since last night) and a 15% drop in visits to their website in recent weeks . “The market doesn’t like uncertainty,” said Dale Sproule, Manager of Real Estate Sales & Marketing , Westhills Land Corp.  “The best way to keep the housing crisis in line is to have more product, not more taxes,” he told Council.

VREB president Kyle Kerr said that a 10% drop in housing values would result in a $90 billion loss in equity across the province. However, he reiterated what housing analysts have long surmised, that housing values in south Vancouver Island will always see high demand due to desirable geographical factors. Indeed, house prices went up again in March 2018 to now an average sale price of $903,052 in overall Greater Victoria (up over $26,000 in one month from the February overall average sale price of $876,397). The west shore breakdown for March 2018: $754,867 in Colwood (12 sales), $723,450 in Langford (53 sales), and $554,704 in Sooke (27 sales).

In that light, like all the other speakers, Kerr concluded that increased supply is the way to maintain an active market. He noted that some homeowners are now not able to renew their mortgages under present market conditions. Since last fall, the dampening effect of the mortgage qualification ‘stress test’ effective January 1, 2018 coupled with now three interest rate hikes since summer 2017 has had the Bank of Canada’s desired impact of putting the brakes on an overheated (over financed) housing market. Naturally, the developers and Realtors are going to squeal at the impact.

The BC Real Estate Association in their April 4 Market Intelligence report calls the BC Government’s attempt “ to drive down the price of homes through demand-side policy” would cause home construction activity to “fall dramatically” and that home builders would cut back production 25%. “That’s 10,000 fewer housing starts in the first year alone,” says BCREA, saying the overall impact of the new housing policy will have a “negative shock” on home prices that would impact both homeowners and renters. BCREA reports are penned by their chief economist Cameron Muir and economist Brendon Ogmundson.

Last week, Finance Minister Carole James clarified that the speculation tax applies only to non-residents with multiple properties that are sitting empty in major urban centres. “Home prices didn’t spike overnight, and our housing problems can’t be fixed with a single budget,” she said.

In the BC Government’s 30-point Plan for Housing Affordability in BC  a $6.6 billion investment over 10 years to deliver 114,000 affordable homes is listed, intended to “fill gaps in the market including homes for growing families, home for seniors, housing options for women and children fleeing violence, and homes for students”. Rental units for “the missing middle” defined as “skilled workers” are being addressed with $378 million over three years and over $1.8 billion over the next 10 years.  None of this directly addresses the supply side of the traditional mainstream real estate market that the developers and Realtors are calling the alarm on.  But if the provincial government fully intends on dampening house prices (hand in hand with federally-imposed efforts that seem to be working), it seems they have indeed already stepped on the toes that make housing happen.


The Alert Ready system will be able to send messages to wireless devices in BC effective April 6, 2018.

Tuesday, April 3 ~ BC. Effective April 6, 2018, emergency alerts in British Columbia issued through the national Alert Ready program can also be sent to compatible wireless devices, such as smartphones, to ensure more people have the information they need to act quickly in an emergency.

To find out if your wireless device is compatible with the Alert Ready system, visit: www.AlertReady.ca

Wireless alerts will be publicly tested for the first time in BC on May 9, 2018, at 1:55 p.m. (Pacific time), alongside routine television and radio tests. Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is the sole agency responsible for issuing emergency notifications on the Alert Ready system in the province, and will initially issue such alerts for tsunami threats only. The Province is considering expanding the use of Alert Ready beyond tsunamis to include other hazards and emergencies in the future.

“Accurate and timely information in an emergency situation can save lives and livelihoods, and we need to deploy every tool available to alert people of potential public safety threats,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “As technology improves, we are always looking for new ways to broaden our reach and reduce the time it takes to communicate critical safety information. Wireless alerts will help us achieve both of those objectives.”

Wireless alerts will contain instructions for a safe response, and all British Columbians are urged to abide by these instructions without delay. In order to receive alerts, mobile phones must be connected to a cellular network, be alert-compatible and within the alert area. They will be broadcast automatically at no cost to the user. Wireless-compatibility information is available at: www.alertready.ca

“Wireless alerts are a welcome addition to our current alerting tools,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “These alerts will complement the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS), social media and, at the community level, sirens, subscription-based text message alerts and other mechanisms,” says Rice.

“As the Province continues to refine its emergency management system, it is equally important that all British Columbians take their own steps to prepare by understanding the risks where they live and work, creating an emergency plan and assembling an emergency kit,” Rice said.

The National Public Alerting System (NPAS), publicly branded as Alert Ready, is a collaborative initiative between federal-provincial-territorial governments and industry partners. It provides a standard alerting capability to rapidly warn the public of imminent or unfolding hazards to life.

Currently, in accordance with a 2014 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision, all radio and television broadcasters in Canada are mandated to broadcast public alerts. On April 6, 2017, the CRTC mandated wireless service providers to be capable of sending wireless public alerts in Canada by April 6, 2018.


 

Lots of advance notice on Hwy 14 (Sooke Rd) about bus pullout construction traffic slowdowns set for April 16 to 27. [West Shore Voice News photo]
Monday, April 2 ~ WEST SHORE & SOOKE. The traffic marquee signs are already up on Highway 14 (Sooke Road), advising drivers about bus pullout installations coming up April 16 to 27.

Given the lead time — and that one of the messages on the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure sign board says “thank you for your patience” — it appears the traffic delays are something that commuters and on-road business travelers will want to accommodate in their scheduling.

Three bus pullout locations have been developed since the January 19 Hwy 14 improvements announcement by Premier John Horgan who is MLA for the Langford-Juan de Fuca area through which Hwy 14 runs.

There is a bus pullout almost ready in the four-lane section just west of the West Shore Parkway, and two just east of town as you’re heading westbound into Sooke.

 


 

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