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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


 

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 Horgan this 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.


 

Saturday, April 14 ~ NATIONAL. WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS 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.


 

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.

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.


 

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.

 

Federal Justice Minister & Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould

Friday, March 30 ~ OTTAWA. Judicial system changes announced

Mandatory minimum sentences that were introduced under the Harper Conservative government (thought to restrict the discretionary powers of judges) have not been changed. But many other changes to the judicial system — aimed at speeding up access to justice as delivered by the courts federally and in provinces and territories — were announced by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on March 29 in Ottawa.

The changes in the proposed 300-page Bill C-75 also include an end to peremptory challenges in jury selection (i.e. jurors now can’t be disqualified by legal teams without providing a reason). A need for this came to light in a recent case in Saskatchewan where five apparently-Indigenous jurors were excluded from the jury without reason.

To help reduce backlogs and system overload, the proposed legislation would restrict preliminary inquiries to those accused of an offence punishable by life imprisonment, which is expected to reduce the number of preliminary inquiries (presently over 9,000 per year) by 87%.

The legislation proposed in Bill C-75 also takes steps to address the over-representation of Indigenous persons seen within the criminal justice system and addresses domestic (‘intimate partner’) violence. It would impose a reverse onus on bail applications by people who have a history of abuse, requiring them to justify their release following a charge.

According to the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada, as of March 1, 2018 there are 1,158 judges presently in office; of those, 453 (39.1%) are women. There are 56 judicial vacancies across Canada as of March 1 (five of those federal, the rest being provincial/territorial including 14 vacancies in Alberta, eight in Ontario and seven in BC). Minister Wilson-Raybould told national media that it takes time to achieve hiring for the range of representation sought by the Liberal government for these appointments.


 

BC Premier John Horgan announced a financial framework for potential LNG project, March 22 at the BC Legislature.

Sunday, March 25 ~ BC.  And just when few people expected to be hearing about LNG in the NDP/Green renewed political landscape of BC, it was announced on March 22 by Premier John Horgan that he has opened the door to at least one possible LNG project.

Some serious players are involved in the project — notably Shell Canada, South Korea’s Kogas, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp and PetroChina Co Ltd; they are reportedly meeting next week to discuss their options, with a final announcement expected later this year.

The consortium’s proposed $40 billion LNG Canada project for Kitimat (extraction, pipeline, export) would enjoy a deferral of having to pay provincial sales tax (PST) until revenues are actually rolling in from liquefied natural gas production, as well as seeing electricity billed at regular industrial rates (instead of a higher LNG rate that was set by the former BC Liberal government).

As in any business deal, each side offers generally something to sweeten the pot. What LNG would bring to BC is stable long-term revenue (potentially $6 billion over 40 years), and for the producers the ‘let’s make a deal’ tone of the tax framework is likely attractive, including the component of freezing the carbon tax at $30/tonne.

What Horgan is now up against is not only public opinion on the climate protection side of things, but a blustering stance from the BC Greens about “an undue burden on existing industries and the public to reduce their emissions beyond what is already required”, as stated by Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, adding: “We would no longer have confidence in government (if the LNG deal went forward unamended).”


 

Saturday, March 24. Yes, tonight is the night for Earth Hour. For now 12 years, electricity usage reduction for one hour on a Saturday night in March has been a way to raise awareness about energy conservation around the globe.

At local time this evening March 24, it’s lights-out (and turning off electricity-drawing appliances) from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Starting as a symbolic lights out event by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) in Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour organizers say their event is now the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature.

The movement is people-driven. “From pushing for environmentally-friendly laws and policies to crowdfunding for a better future, YOU make Earth Hour possible. Coordinated by WWF and other volunteer organisations, Earth Hour’s greatest strength is the power of people,” say organizers. This year’s hashtag is #CONNECT2EARTH. More at www.earthhour.org

In BC, the reduction of electricity usage in each community is tallied by BC Hydro each year. Overall, the percentage drop has been lower in recent years, likely as most people already take care to reduce their electricity usage on a regular basis.


More hip and knee replacement programs in BC.

Wednesday, March 21 ~ BC. The BC government is launching a new, four-part surgical strategy aimed at reducing wait times for the health care British Columbians need, it was announced today in Vancouver.

One of the first components of the strategy is aimed primarily at the seniors population with five hip and knee replacement programs implemented throughout the province, announced today.

“For far too long, far too many British Columbians were left on waitlists instead of getting fast access to the surgery they needed to enjoy full, active, lives,” said Premier John Horgan today. “We’re getting people back on their feet faster by dramatically increasing access to hip and knee surgeries.”

These programs will address the long waits faced by people. In 2016-17, 30% of people waiting for hip surgery and 38% of people waiting for knee surgery waited more than 26 weeks.

“We are embedding the innovations of the former Richmond Hip and Knee Reconstruction project into our program because it is a public health-care system solution that is proven to work for patients,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Our strategy will not only mean people spend less time waiting for hip and knee replacements, but that we keep up to demand for all surgeries by investing in more surgeries and implementing operating room efficiencies.”

The strategy is supported with ongoing targeted funding of $75 million starting in 2018-19 and increasing of $100 million in 2019-20.

The hip and knee replacement programs are designed to support increased surgical volumes, reduce wait times, and improve continuity of care for patients by coordinating all the services a patient requires to prepare for, undergo, and recover from surgery. They build on the Richmond project by adding new components like dedicated operating room time, pre- and post-surgical support, centralized intake, standardized assessment, first available surgeon and ongoing evaluation.

“We are thrilled to be part of this important work and announce the new hip and knee replacement centre at Vancouver General Hospital,” said Dr. Bassam Masri, Vancouver Coastal Health’s surgeon-in-chief for Vancouver Acute and the head of the orthopedics department. “Streamlining the intake and assessment process for hip and knee replacement surgery reduces wait times for patients, providing them with comprehensive, wrap-around care before and after surgery so they can get back to living their lives in the best way possible. With people spending less time in hospital, we are able to perform more surgeries.”

In 2016-17, approximately 14,390 hip and knee surgeries were performed, and by 2018-19, more than 19,250 will be done annually. The additional surgeries will mean a 34% increase in hip and knee surgeries. This will significantly reduce the number of patients waiting.

In total under the surgical strategy, 9,400 more surgeries (4,000 additional hip and knee, 900 dental and 4,500 other surgeries) will be done throughout BC by the end of March 2019, compared to the previous year.

The surgical strategy has four areas of focus:
* Providing more surgeries in areas with long wait times, starting with hip and knee surgeries and incrementally tackling other surgeries with long waits;
* Investing to keep up with growing demand for all other surgeries;
* Making surgical programs and operating rooms in the province more efficient through better planning and scheduling and, establishing centralized booking and a single point of contact for patients; and
* Making sure the right number of health professionals are in place to deliver the services needed to meet demand both now and into the future, including surgeons and anesthetists, as well as nursing and rehabilitation health professionals.


 

Emergency Management BC will conduct a test of Alert Ready on March 21, 2018 at 1:55 pm PDT.

Tuesday, March 20 ~ BC.  There will be a test of the BC Emergency Alerting System at 1:55 pm PDT on March 21, 2018.

The test is being conducted by Emergency Management BC.

This is part of a Canada-wide Alert-Ready system that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters. This system will only be used during large-scale disasters or emergencies where loss of life is imminent and possible.

Please note that text messages will NOT be tested at this time. Testing of wireless alerts will begin in May 2018.

You can currently expect to receive emergency alerts via Canadian radio and TV, cable and satellite operators.

Alert Ready is a Canada-wide program that allows government officials in each province and territory to issue emergency alerts.


 

Tuesday, March 20 ~ VICTORIA. Premier John Horgan welcomed Canada’s Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, on her first official visit to British Columbia today, as part of a ceremonial welcome at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

“It is an honour to welcome the Governor General to British Columbia,” said Premier Horgan. “Her extraordinary list of accomplishments makes her an inspiration to all Canadians.”

Upon arrival, Her Excellency was presented with flowers by Elayna Loehr, 7, on behalf of The Make-A-Wish Foundation of British Columbia and Yukon.

The Governor General was welcomed with a performance by the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers of the Songhees First Nation.

Her Excellency received a 21-gun salute fired by the 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. The Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific played the Vice Regal Salute in tribute to her visit.

The Governor General inspected the 100-member Guard of Honour from Maritime Forces Pacific and Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, and met with veterans in the Upper Rotunda Memorial Hall in the legislative precinct.

Accompanied by the Premier, Her Excellency signed the Distinguished Visitor’s book in front of the Coat of Arms.
The Governor General will participate in several events during her visit to Victoria and Vancouver from March 20 to 22.


 

Tuesday, March 20 ~ VICTORIA. The Honourable Judith Guichon has offered her congratulations to Janet Austin, OBC, on the announcement of Austin’s appointment to be the 30th lieutenant-governor of British Columbia.

“I am so pleased to welcome Janet Austin as the next lieutenant-governor of British Columbia. As someone who has dedicated her career to championing women’s equality and social change, she is a wonderful choice to represent Her Majesty The Queen in this great province,” said Guichon. “Ms. Austin will continue to inspire and connect British Columbians in this role.”

Guichon will remain lieutenant-governor until the installation of Austin in the coming weeks.


 

Wednesday, March 14 ~ COASTAL BC.  BC Ferries will add extra sailings on their busiest routes for the Easter Long Weekend.

From March 29 to April 3, the additional sailings between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island — on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route and the HorseshoeBay/Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay/Langdale routes.

The most popular travel times are expected to be mid-day Thursday March 29 to late morning Friday March 30, with traffic returning on the holiday Monday, April 2 in the afternoon.

Checking the bcferries.com website and making reservations are options for busy travellers.

Early morning and late evening sailings are available on select sailings during the Easter long weekend and Spring Break travel period. From March 15 to April 3, standard under-height vehicles with driver can travel from $39 on the four main routes.


Doug Ford wins the Ontario PC party leadership, March 10, 2018

Sunday, March 11 ~ Late last night the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party chose Doug Ford as their new leader. Until recently he was going to run for Mayor of Toronto, but shifted to the provincial race after

Ford won on the third ballot. But after a long night of vote counting and discussions about the rules of that, there is now a challenge from candidate Christine Elliot who in fact may have had more of the popular vote among PC members voters. [Update March 12 – Christine Elliot has rescinded her challenge.]

Elliott is a long-time member of the Ontario Legislature. She is the widow of the late Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Her three grown sons were supportive to her during this short 3-week campaign.

Ford represents a voter interest in populism, with the usual promises of more money back in people’s pockets instead of being spent by government.

The Ontario Provincial Election will be held June 7. The PC party is hoping to unseat the Ontario Liberals after a 15-year run in Canada’s most populous province.


 

Wednesday, March 7 ~ Tomorrow March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year in particular sees the federal and BC governments taking heed of gender equity. Here is the BC Government statement from Premier John Horgan and Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Mitzi Dean:

“On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the work of women who have stood up against sexism and discrimination, and we recommit to advancing equity each and every day.

“We are doing our part by making gender equity a priority across government, and making choices that lift women up. That is why our latest budget works toward gender equity by taking real steps to make life more affordable, to improve the services people count on, and to build a strong, inclusive economy.

“Our investments in child care, the largest in BC history, will help parents, especially women, build families while pursuing their careers.

“Our increase to the minimum wage will boost incomes for the lowest-paid people in BC, which will disproportionately benefit women.

“We are also working hard to break down barriers and open up careers for women in trades. Women deserve the opportunity to pursue these rewarding, high-paying jobs, and we need their help building the province.

“Everyone has the right to live without fear. That’s why our latest budget reverses years of declining supports and provides ongoing funding for the services women and girls depend on, including housing, counselling, and crisis supports for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“We have shown our belief in equity from the very first day of government, by swearing in British Columbia’s first gender-equal cabinet.

“Together we are building a stronger, fairer and more-inclusive province, where everyone has the chance to realize their full potential.”


 

The BC Government has launched a survey to find out how BC residents feel about automated and online ticket sales.

Tuesday, March 6 ~ VICTORIA. The BC government announced today March 6 that it is “moving to clamp down on high-priced ticket scalping to make live-event tickets more affordable for British Columbians”, and may even ban automated ‘bots’.

“Live events should be an enjoyable experience for British Columbians, not a windfall for scalpers,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “The action we’re taking is aimed at protecting people from unscrupulous scalpers and unfair practices that shut average people out from events in BC.”

A three-week survey (launched March 6, running to about March 26) has been launched online at //www.engage.gov.bc.ca/ticketbuying where BC residents may indicate their experiences with ticket buying, reselling, and buying from resellers. Survey results will be used to develop recommendations for improving affordability, fairness and transparency.

“British Columbians are frustrated by ticket price gouging, and want action,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End. “Working with the people of BC, our government is acting and will develop and bring forward new consumer protections to help make the ticket-buying experience fairer and more affordable.” Improving improving fairness and transparency is the government’s goal, to inform the creation of suitable legislation.

The 30-question survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. It is aimed at people in BC who buy tickets for live events, and those who sometimes resell their tickets, to ensure that changes will improve fairness and transparency in how tickets for live events are bought and sold. Survey results will be publicly available later in the spring.

The public consultation will look to find out specifics on how people feel about parts of the ticket-buying process, such as: how often they purchase event tickets (from resellers, online, through a venue, etc.); experiences reselling tickets; and what changes are needed to improve the fairness in the buying and selling process.

British Columbians have many opportunities to see sports, concerts, live theatre and other cultural or recreational events throughout the province. This survey will help shape the way government gives everyone a fair chance at seeing their desired events.

Alberta and Ontario have passed legislation and had public consultations on ticket-buying practices, and acted on this issue. A Canada-wide Angus Reid poll showed that four in five Canadians would agree with outright banning of software (“bots”) to jump the queue when tickets go on sale; that poll showed that 50% of Canadians feel it’s up to governments to make the necessary changes to protect Canadians. Additionally, the poll said most Canadians see ticket reselling as a significant problem, and 80% believe that purchasing tickets with the specific purpose of reselling them is unfair.


Many speakers paid tribute to former BC Premier Dave Barrett, on Saturday March 3, 2018. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Saturday, March 3 ~ VICTORIA. The presence of former Premier Dave Barrett loomed large today. Not only on the screen above the stage at the State Memorial in his honour, but in the hearts of everyone there and those watching via livestream.

Nearly 1,000 people attended at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium for the 10 am occasion.

By all accounts, this is a man who is now fully and joyfully remembered as both a ‘giant’ of the people and a ‘giantslayer’ of lesser glories. He was BC’s 26th Premier.

Former BC Dave Barrett during a short three-year term in office (1972-1975) is forever in the history books for preserving agricultural land in BC by creating the Agricultural Land Reserve, bringing in public automobile insurance so that all vehicle owners could be covered, and creating Pharmacare drug plan coverage for seniors. His government brought in Hansard and Question Period in the legislature, and abolished corporal punishment in schools. And making all that possible his nimble political fervor brought down a 40-year-run of the right-of-centre Socred government of the day.

Speakers delivering tributes included BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, Premier John Horgan, Retired Roman Catholic Bishop Remi J de Roo, Former BC Minister of Labour Bill King (former MLA Shuswap-Revelstoke), former BC Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources Bob Williams (former MLA Vancouver East), Former BC Cabinet Minister and MLA (Vancouver-Hastings) and now Chair of ICBC Joy McPhail, and Marc Elisen who was Barrett’s Deputy Minister and Planning Secretary.

Lt Gov Judith Guichon acknowledged Barrett as BC’s first NDP premier, calling him a champion of the underdog. “He is part of the very fabric of the province,” Guichon said, noting that 357 Bills were passed in the Legislature during his time in office.

BC Premier John Horgan addressed the crowd with this: “He captured the hearts of each and every one of you.”  Remarking further on Barrett’s power of oratory, Horgan noted in particular Barrett’s “passion and power of the message of social justice”. Horgan declared that no one will ever forget Dave Barrett.

Barrett’s three grown children spoke about their father with memories, fondness, and emotion.

The on-stage emcee today for the 1-hour-20-minute occasion was BC Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Carole James.  A powerful rendition of O Canada was led by a Grade 10 student from Esquimalt High School, Isolde Welby. On stage ahead of the formal portion was the Chroma String Quartet.

Visual presentations on the large screen were modest and brief. The entire event was light-hearted, with a good balance of remembering Dave Barrett for both his political contributions and his happy family life. His wife Shirley attended, and was clearly seen by everyone in her husband’s life as a steady, loving source of support.

In the audience was a wide range of VIPs and the general public, many of whom have been long-time NDP supporters. Mayors of many of Greater Victoria’s municipalities were there, as well as several MLAs.

Dave Barrett (October 2, 1930 to February 2, 2018) had Alzheimer’s leading up to his death at age 87.


 

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.”


 

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

Saturday, February 24 ~ 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]


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

Friday, February 23~ BC. BUDGET 2018 BACKGROUNDER. Here is the background on how the BC Government plans to phase-out Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums and shift the tax burden to business payroll [ as released to media by the BC Ministry of Finance ]:

Eliminating Medical Services Plan premiums

Budget 2018 will eliminate Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

By eliminating these unfair and regressive fees, the BC government will help lift a significant financial burden off individuals and families. Eliminating MSP premiums will save individuals up to $900 per year and will save families up to $1,800 per year.

MSP premiums disproportionally affect low- and middle-income earners. Currently, all households with adjusted net income of more than $42,000 per year pay the same amount. This means a person earning $45,000 per year pays the same premiums as someone earning $250,000 per year. Eliminating this regressive fee for all British Columbians will result in a fairer tax system that works for everyone.

British Columbia is the only province in Canada that levies MSP premiums. They are complex and expensive for businesses to administer. They also lead to substantial administrative costs for government.

The BC government committed to eliminating MSP premiums within four years. The government took the first step in Budget 2017 Update by cutting MSP premiums by 50%, starting Jan. 1, 2018, and increasing the threshold for premium assistance by $2,000.

The decision to eliminate MSP premiums was informed by the MSP task force’s interim report, including the decision to eliminate premiums all at once, as opposed to phasing them out over time, and to provide advance notice of the changes.

In order to continue to deliver the services British Columbians depend on, the Province is replacing the revenues from MSP premiums with an employer health tax.
This new payroll tax will come into effect Jan. 1, 2019, with the following rate structure:
* Businesses with a payroll of more than $1.5 million, will pay a rate of 1.95% on their total payroll.
* Businesses with a payroll between $500,000 and $1.5 million, will pay a reduced tax rate.
* Businesses with a payroll under $500,000 will not pay the tax.

By exempting businesses with payrolls under $500,000, the employer health tax is designed to help protect small businesses. At 1.95%, it is the lowest rate among provinces with a payroll tax in Canada.

Further details about the employer health tax will be provided prior to its implementation on Jan. 1, 2019.

The Province estimates the new tax will raise approximately $463 million in 2018-19. The B.C. government will use this revenue to help people by investing in services and the economy.

* In 2016-17, MSP premiums provided a total of $2.6 billion in revenue.
* The new employer health tax is estimated to provide $1.9 billion in revenue per year in 2019-20 and 2020-21.


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.


 

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.


 

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 ~ 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.”


 

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.”


 

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 among 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/


 

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.


 

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.

 

BC Premier John Horgan in South Korea, January 2018.

Saturday, January 27 ~ BC.  BC Premier John Horgan says what’s impacted him most so far on his 10-day economic development trip to three countries in Asia is “the staggering magnitude and scale of China… to see it first hand – the traffic, people, air quality.”

With enthusiasm, addressing media by phone on Friday January 26: “These are real opportunities for the clean tech sector. (Canada is) a small player on the international stage compared to China.”

Horgan’s trip that includes urban stops in Beijing, China, in Seoul, South Korea (where he toured a new tech hub that popped up over the last 10 years), and Tokyo, Japan is about “job creation and investment for BC”.

He added: “This trip has shaped my perspective of the enormous potential for BC to diversity our trade.”

“Trade between BC and South Korea is important to our province’s economy, and ultimately job creation in BC,” said Premier Horgan in a news release today January 27. “We’re meeting face-to-face with our partners in South Korea to encourage further business relationships, and to strengthen the economic and cultural ties we already share.”

Premier Horgan and Ralston also visited Netmarble, Korea’s largest social-gaming company. Netmarble confirmed that its Vancouver subsidiary, Kabam, will expand studio space to create new jobs in the growing BC tech sector.
One of the virtual partnerships of note was the launch of a BC agrifoods marketing prtomotion on the Korea-based Coupang e-commerce website. Coupang has the largest customer base in the South Korean e-commerce market, with more than 28 million users.

During the BC Partnerships luncheon, Premier Horgan helped launch the Coupang marketing promotion, where 23 BC agrifoods companies will list more than 100 products. The e-commerce market in South Korea was worth $41 billion in 2015, representing nearly 11% of total retail market share.

Another highlight of the trip to South Korea was the recognition of the 10th anniversary of the BC-Gyeonggi sister-province relationship. Gyeonggi is Korea’s leading technology province, and shares many mutual bilateral objectives with British Columbia. To support this relationship, Premier Horgan and Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil have signed a renewed three-year economic action plan, enhancing co-operation in the areas of digital media, information and communications technology/wireless technology, agrifoods, wood products and low-carbon construction, and tourism.

Following the signing of the three-year action plan, a collaboration agreement was signed between DigiBC and the head of the Gyeonggi Content Agency, which will support the growth of the digital media sector in BC and Gyeonggi.

The events in South Korea follow activities that have taken place over the past few days in China as part of government’s first business trip to Asia. The Premier and ministers will be in Japan for the next three days before returning to BC on January 30.

 

 


 

Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Thursday, January 25 ~ OTTAWA – Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) has been named as the Agriculture Critic in the NDP Shadow Cabinet. The appointment was announced today in Ottawa by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

In this role MacGregor will also be appointed as the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“As someone who owns a small-scale farm property in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, I am excited to accept this appointment to serve as the NDP’s Agriculture Critic,” said MacGregor.

“The issues surrounding how we produce and consume our food are always on the forefront of the national conversation, and I am looking forward to leading the development of NDP policy on these matters and holding the government to account,” added MacGregor.

“Agricultural producers are among the most important actors in the Canadian economy, and I will make sure their voices are heard in Parliament.”

The appointment was announced today at the NDP Caucus Retreat in Ottawa. MacGregor previously served as the NDP’s Critic for Justice and Attorney General and for Seniors.

MacGregor maintains two constituency offices within the broad geographical region of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford — one in Duncan, and one in Langford.


 

Dr Bonnie Henry is BC’s new Provincial Health Officer.

Wednesday, January 24 ~ Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed as BC’s new provincial health officer (PHO). She will replace Dr. Perry Kendall, who will retire on Jan. 31, 2018.

Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement to media today, including that Dr Henry is the first woman to hold that position in BC.

Dr Henry says she will contribute independent, evidence-based advice including on the overdose crisis, legalization of cannabis, and drinking water. She said there is still work to do around communicable diseases and acknowledged that British Columbians “are in the middle of a bad influenza season right now”.

Dr Henry has concerns about co-locating cannabis and alcohol in the same provincial liquor-store outlets “and impacts that might have”. “We have expressed that but it’s up to others to make decisions,” she said.

The incoming Public Health Officer says that under Dr Perry Kendall BC has “led the country” in recognizing the overdose crisis and that “a myriad of different measures to try and keep people alive” have been implemented. Dr Henry says the focus is on communities “and what we can do with their unique needs”.

She says progress will be about “building a system that will support people where they are in their journey”. She articulated that pain can be psycho-social, emotional or physical and that it’s not easy to change a chronic relapsing condition under such scenarios.

Providing a safer drug supply is part of the solution, Dr Henry said. The drugs are “toxic and killing people”. She feels strongly about not criminalizing people who use drugs and instead focusing on “helping them wherever they are”.

Today Dr Perry Kendall — who has been BC’s Public Health Officer since 1999 — thanked media for continuing to report factual stories and getting the message out properly in a new world of ‘fake news’.


 

Tsunami Warning on Tuesday, January 23 after 8.0 quake in Alaska at 1:32 am.

Tuesday, January 23 ~ WEST COAST / VANCOUVER ISLAND. An 8.1 Earthquake has occurred south of Alaska at 01:32am.  As of 4:12 am the TSUNAMI WARNING WAS CANCELLED: https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/tsunami-warning-coastal-areas-of-bc-jan-23-2018-at-0135am/

==== Previous post:A Tsunami Warning has been issued for all coastal areas of British Columbia.  It is believed the waves generated may impact low lying areas under 20 metres.

Follow the instructions of authorities in your area. Do not call police or 911 for updates. Visit Emergency Preparedness and municipal websites as well as Twitter for updates.Minimize phone use in affected areas. For further information go to the emergency management British Columbia website at https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/

No evacuations for Sooke are ordered at this time, says Sooke Fire Rescue. Fire crews are patrolling Whiffin Spit (CLOSED) and Billings Spit.District of Tofino has advised residents to evacuate to higher ground.

The tsunami is expected to arrive at Tofino at 4:40 am Pacific Time. See Twitter: @TofinoCA

Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop emailed out “this is not a drill”.

The National Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning that includes the following zones of coastal British Columbia:• Zone A – the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.• Zone B – the Central Coast and Northwest Vancouver Island Coast, including Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy.• Zone C – the Outer West Coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew.• Zone D – the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula.“

At this time it is believed that a tsunami has been generated. The tsunami may impact low lying coastal areas in these zones. Local governments in these zones are urged to activate their emergency plans and immediately begin evacuation of identified areas at risk for tsunami impacts,” said Chief Dunlop.

No other zones of coastal British Columbia are at risk.The Township of Esquimalt is monitoring the tsunami warning situation and are setting up a reception centre in case evacuation is necessary – details to follow.


 

Saturday, January 20 ~ VANCOUVER. Premier, ministers depart for Asia to strengthen relationships, create good jobs in BC. BC Premier John Horgan departed today to Guangzhou, China, as part of a 10-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan to strengthen economic and cultural ties with three of BC’s largest trading partners, expand markets, and create good jobs for people throughout BC.

Premier Horgan will promote bilateral relationships between British Columbia and key government and business leaders. The Premier will be accompanied by Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston and Minister of State for Trade George Chow. Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare will participate in the China portion of the mission to foster tourism opportunities in support of the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism.

The agenda includes bilateral meetings to advance collaboration with BC’s sister provinces, Guangdong, China and Gyeonggi, Korea. Other meetings and events will focus on opening up investment and trade opportunities in key sectors, including tourism, low-carbon and clean technology, forestry, energy, mining, innovation and tech, agrifoods, seafood, and arts and culture.

China, Japan and South Korea are BC’s second-, third- and fourth-largest trading partners, respectively. Developing strong business relationships in priority markets around the world is a key strategy in government’s commitment to building a strong, sustainable economy.

Travel Itinerary: * Jan. 20 – Depart from Vancouver * Jan. 21 – Guangzhou, China * Jan. 23 – Beijing, China * Jan. 25 – Seoul, South Korea * Jan. 27 – Tokyo, Japan


 

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announcing rate hike on January 17, 2018.

Thursday, January 18 ~ NATIONAL. The Bank of Canada’s increase in their benchmark interest rate to 1.25% (from 1%) follows two increases of .25% that were implemented in summer/fall 2017.

The bank rate is usually moved upwards as a mechanism to control or contain an inflationary market. The new rate of 1.25% is the highest level in Canada since 2009.

As of Thursday, January 18, all five big banks (TD, Scotia, BMO, RBC and CIBC) now have the same prime lending rate of 3.45%. Prior to the Bank of Canada’s move, their rates were all 3.2%.

While job numbers were apparently strong in the latter part of 2017, that data appears not to have been fully explored for job quality (i.e. part time / full time / level of benefits) and may include a wave of seasonal hiring ahead of the Christmas retail season.

In the fall of 2017 — with the anticipated impact of the mortgage stress test that is now in place (as of January 1 2018) — there began a ‘rush on the bank’, if you will. People locked into low-rate and fixed-rate mortgages and/or buying properties at all. The lower end of the market was squeezed — fewer entry level buyers were qualifying, and owners of lower-end properties were challenged to find available buyers.

The level of household debt in Canada is at its highest level ever seen, sitting at 171.1% as of the 3rd Quarter. That includes mortgages, lines of credit and credit card debt.

So while “savers will benefit” (i.e. people who already have money set aside), most of the rest of the middle class, workers and consumers will be further hard pressed to maintain lines of credit and pay down mortgages and credit cards.


 

Thursday, January 18 ~ COASTAL BC. BC Ferries vessels and terminals will become a smoke-free environment starting January 22, 2018. This policy change was first announced last summer.

The coastal transportation provider says it is introducing a smoke-free environment to support the health and wellness of customers and employees.

The new policy applies to the smoking of tobacco and any other substance, including the use of e-cigarettes. All vessels and terminal properties will become smoke and vape-free environments, including the interior of all vehicles that are on BC Ferries property.

BC Ferries says it has received many requests from customers to offer a smoke-free environment.


 

Amazon has shortlisted 20 cities for its Thunderdome (second headquarters).

Thursday, January 18 ~ LANGFORD. Only one Canadian city is among the top 20 finalists in the highly sought-after prize of being the location for Amazon’s Thunderdome (its second headquarters or HQ2), and that’s Toronto.

Bids were received by Amazon from 238 cities across North America. Here in BC, a bid had been submitted by Vancouver and the growing City of Langford on Vancouver Island. In Alberta, Calgary had also shown interest by submitting a bid.

Of the other 19 cities on the shortlist, many are clustered on the eastern seaboard of the US or in America’s midland heartland, with only one on the west coast:• Atlanta, GA• Austin, TX• Boston, MA• Chicago, IL• Columbus, OH• Dallas, TX• Denver, CO• Indianapolis, IN• Los Angeles, CA• Miami, FL• Montgomery County, MD• Nashville, TN• Newark, NJ• New York City, NY• Northern Virginia, VA• Philadelphia, PA• Pittsburgh, PA• Raleigh, NC• Toronto, ON• Washington DC

It was one of Amazon’s goals to build its second headquarters some distance away from its original Seattle headquarters, which as a different shipping location would reduce distance and time for many deliveries. As well, the ‘elephant in the room’ is that Seattle is smack dab within the west coast earthquake zone.

Amazon has said it will work with each city to “dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community.”

The selected candidates will move to the next round of Amazon’s selection process, the company said today, January 18. Amazon says it will make a final decision on the site of its new headquarters this year.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of economic development. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Amazon provided little detail about how it picked the finalists for its second headquarters, which it is calling HQ2, other than to say it based it choices on the criteria it laid out for the search earlier.

As reported by the New York Times, the H2Q bidding process has also attracted critics. They quote Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization that serves as an advocate for local businesses, who said that local politicians were enhancing Amazon’s image just as the company’s market power was under growing scrutiny from groups like her own. “As these cities woo and grovel, they are basically communicating this idea that we should want Amazon to be bigger and more powerful in our economy,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Other critics have said the magnitude of Amazon in any given city would displace smaller businesses in part by drawing away talent to the mega-Amazon. Whatever city gets the prized HQ2 contract will probably see an additional burden on municipal taxpayers for things like more roads and other infrastructure and require a larger system of services including housing, retail and medical. Likely appreciating this, Amazon did specify in the bid criteria that potential locations should have a population of at least 1 million, so that knock-on impacts could be absorbed.


 

Tuesday, January 16 ~ BC. Premier John Horgan will help kick off the 2018 Mining for Miracles campaign in support of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation with an announcement being held at 2:45 pm at the Prince George Civic Centre in Prince George on Wednesday January 17.


BC Premier John Horgan and his brother Pat Horgan.

Thursday, January 11 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan is “very much in family mode this week”, upon the passing of his oldest brother, Pat Horgan on January 6.

The Premier’s office announced the news today, January 11: “It’s with great sadness that we announce that Pat Horgan, Premier John Horgan’s brother, passed away on Saturday, January, 6, 2018. Pat passed away from cancer at the age of 71. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.”

A service will be held in Pat’s home community of Port McNeill on February 10, 2018. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the BC Cancer Agency in support of lung cancer research. Messages to the family can be sent by email to: shirpath04@gmail.com

According to the Premier’s staff, John Horgan, 58, looked up to brother Pat Horgan as a father figure. John Horgan has another brother and a sister. His mom passed away about nine years ago. John Horgan was born in Victoria, the son of Pat and Alice Horgan, who had four children. Horgan has been heard to say that he has no memories of his father, who died when Horgan was quite young. But based on stories from his family, he apparently takes a lot after his dad.

John Horgan has been the MLA for what is now the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding (including Sooke), since 2005.


Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in Vancouver, Aug 2017)

Wednesday, January 10 ~ BC. Three-term Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced today that he will not be seeking reelection in the October 2018 municipal election.

Robertson has left a strong footprint with his work in climate change, transportation and housing concerns in Canada’s western-most major metropolis. He was the only Canadian mayor invited to discuss climate change with the Pope in Vatican City in July 2015.

Having held the position of mayor for 10 years, Robertson today described his decision as ‘intensely personal’ and says he will not continue in politics.  “An important part of leadership is to know when to make space for new voices and leaders,” he said from Vancouver City Hall today.

In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Robertson included that Vancouver has led the national effort to fight for health-focused drug policy and saving lives in the opioid overdose crisis.

In response to this news today, BC Premier John Horgan released the following statement about Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision to not seek re-election in 2018: “I have known Gregor Robertson for many years. He was a trusted colleague when we worked together as MLAs in Victoria, and he is a valued partner as we work with local governments to make life better for people. From transit and transportation, to housing and homelessness, Gregor has been a passionate advocate for people. He can be proud of the work he and council have done to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. On behalf of British Columbians, I want to thank Gregor for his many years of public service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted today: “Thanks, @MayorGregor, for your friendship, partnership, and years of service & work for people in Vancouver. Wishing you all the best.”


 

Wednesday, January 3 ~ VICTORIA. The BC Government is raising the 2018 homeowner grant threshold to $1.65 million, ensuring the same percentage of British Columbia homes are below the threshold as in 2017.  That percentage was about 91% in 2017.

The increase is one very firm indicator of how much the value of housing has increased in the past year (in 2017 the threshold was $1.6 million, which jumped from the level of $1.2 million in 2016).

Eligible homeowners must apply for the homeowner grant each year. To be eligible for a grant, the home must be used as the owner’s principal residence. The homeowner grant is automatically calculated on a homeowner’s property tax notice.

The homeowner grant amounts are: $570 for the basic homeowner grant | $770 if the home is located in a northern or rural area | Up to $845 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability. | Up to $1,045 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability if the home is in a northern or rural area.

Some low-income owners, such as seniors or people with disabilities, can apply to supplement their homeowner grant if it has been reduced or eliminated because of the high assessed value of their principal residence. Homeowners may also be eligible for property tax deferment if they are 55 years or older, or are financially supporting a dependent child.

Homeowner grants will return an estimated $825 million to British Columbians this year. The Province reimburses municipalities for the full cost of the homeowner grant to make sure municipal revenues are not affected. In the majority of BC communities, almost every home is valued below the threshold.

Home Owner Grants: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant
To apply for low-income grant supplement: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant/senior/low-income
Qualification for property tax deferment: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes


 

High-density housing in Langford, BC. [West Shore Voice News photo – Aug 2017]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 ~ BC. Feedback on proposed technical changes to the next edition of BC’s building, plumbing and fire codes can be submitted online up to February 28, 2018 at this BC government link (access open since Dec 12): https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…/building-c…/the-codes/public-review

In general, over the years, standards in the BC Building Code have become increasingly strident or strict. In many cases this has added to the cost of new housing construction and therefore the ticket price of homes new homes available for sale.

While builders and those in and around the construction industry are usually the main providers of feedback, there is room for consumers to have their say.

Building Code topics for input include Accessibility, Area Calculation of Exposing Building Face, Asbestos, Energy Efficiency Standards, Exit Signs, Factory-Constructed Buildings, Fenestration (windows), Heritage Buildings, Mid-Rise Combustible Construction, Outdoor Design Conditions and Air Cleaning, Radon, Stairs (dimensions of tapered treads, handrails in curved stairs, no spiral stairs).
> BC Plumbing Code topics for input include Asbestos, and Plumbing Fixtures.
> BC Fire Code topics for input include fire systems, emergency lighting, smoke alarms and use of elevators.

The current BC Building, Plumbing and Fire Codes came into effect December 20, 2012.


 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the beach at Sidney Spit {Aug 2017 – photo by Mary P Brooke – West Shore Voice News]

Sunday, December 31 ~ OTTAWA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement to mark the new year, 2018: “Happy New Year, Canada!

“This past year, we marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and looked back on the remarkable achievements Canadians have made throughout our history. We recommitted ourselves to our shared values, and we celebrated the diversity that makes us strong. Millions of people – of every background, origin, culture, and faith – have come together to make Canada the diverse, open, and prosperous country it is today.

“The 150th anniversary of Confederation was also a chance to reflect on the moments Canada has not lived up to its ideals. Indigenous Peoples, and many Canadians, have faced prejudice and oppression in our history. In the New Year and the years to come, we must continue to work to right these wrongs, and make sure everyone has a real and fair shot at success.

“In 2017, we made real progress toward these goals. Our government took action to build a better future for families across Canada – from taking steps to strengthen the Canada Child Benefit and investing in early learning and child care, to creating new opportunities for young people, to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protecting the rights of LGBTQ2 communities. We made gender equality a priority at home and abroad, and took strong steps to fight climate change and protect our environment, for generations to come. We launched Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy and lowered the small business tax rate – and together, we continued to create jobs, grow our economy, and strengthen the middle class.

“But we still have a lot of hard work left to do. In 2018, let’s continue to celebrate the values that unite us – openness, compassion, equality, and inclusion. Let’s move forward together, put those values into practice, and work to build a better future for all of us.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I wish you a wonderful night and all the best in 2018.”


 

 

BC Premier John Horgan, Dec 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, December 31 ~ VICTORIA.  Premier John Horgan has issued the following statement in recognition of New Year’s Day 2018:

“The new year brings new beginnings and new opportunities. It is a chance to look back at the challenges we have faced, and to resolve ourselves to overcome obstacles in the year to come.

“From addressing housing affordability to tackling the opioid crisis, and the ongoing recovery from last year’s devastating wildfires, we have no shortage of important work to do in the coming year.

“On New Year’s Day we are given the opportunity to think about where we are and where we have to go. It is a day to consider the path ahead and to set our minds to meet our goals.

“In 2018, we will be working hard to create a strong, sustainable economy that benefits everyone, to make life more affordable for families and to improve the services people rely on.

“On behalf of the government of British Columbia, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy new year with many more to come.”


 

Sunday, December 30 ~ WEST SIDE of VANCOUVER ISLAND. As you ring in the new year tomorrow night, those who are politically inclined and civic minded are already well aware that 2018 is a big municipal election year in BC.

Elections BC says that the municipal and school board election period starts January 1, 2018, even though election day isn’t until October 20. That’s a lot of months of preparation for exposure to the community!

Candidates for Mayor, Council, and school trustee seats across BC may submit nomination papers starting September 4. The official campaign period begins September 22.

West Shore Voice News will in particular follow the campaign action all year in Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke, Juan de Fuca and View Royal (and school district 62 on the west shore) as candidates shuffle into place.

In our nearly 10 years of covering political and community news of this region, West Shore Voice News (formerly Sooke Voice News) election coverage has proven to get broad readership and good advertising traction.

This is the first municipal/trustee election after a 4-year term. Previously in BC, municipal and school board terms were for three years.


 

Friday, December 29 ~ BC.  Baby names in BC for 2017 are today’s hot topic. Final statistics will not be available until later in 2018, but stats from BC Vital Statistics (January 1 to December 15) are showing the trends.

The top baby girl name is Olivia (same as in 2016), with Emma in second place.  For the past six years, Olivia and Emma have been the top two girls’ names. So far, the other names for girls in the top five remain Sophia, Charlotte and Ava.

So far it looks like the top baby boy name in BC this year is Benjamin, followed by Liam, Logan and Lucas.  It appears Ethan and Oliver might not make it into the top five this year; possibly being replaced by Logan and James.

There were 45,399 babies born in BC in 2016 – 22,188 girls (49%) and 23,210 boys (51%). In 2016, Lucas was the number 1 boys’ name, followed by Benjamin, Ethan, Oliver and Liam. Olivia was the top girls’ name in 2016, followed by Emma, Charlotte, Ava and Sophia. List of the most popular baby names in BC for 2016


Drinking alcohol in any private or commercial vehicle is illegal in BC, whether the vehicle is moving or not.

Thursday, December 28 ~ VICTORIA.  The BC government is reminding party-goers who intend to use for-hire vehicles such as limousines and “party buses” to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations that govern these vehicles, to plan ahead for a safe ride home.

Passengers should be reminded that drinking alcohol in any private or commercial vehicle is illegal in BC, whether the vehicle is moving or not.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, consumers are encouraged to look for companies that advertise strict policies related to consuming alcohol in vehicles. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has distributed over 800 decals to operators for display in their vehicles, reminding passengers that consuming alcohol in any vehicle is illegal in BC.

Operators using any size vehicles with limo-style or party bus perimeter seating must have a special authorization licence. These licences state where vehicles can operate and limit fleet size. Passengers should look for a passenger-transportation licence plate and decal on the front of the vehicle, or if there is no plate, ask to see a temporary operating permit, before boarding a bus.

Police will be monitoring limousines and party buses during the holiday season. Operators that allow the consumption of alcohol in their vehicles will be penalized, and passengers in these vehicles also have a responsibility to adhere to the Province’s liquor laws. Operators who do not comply with liquor laws run the risk of losing their licence, and minors in possession of alcohol are subject to a $230 fine.

Make sure the company you are considering is properly licensed in BC by looking it up on the Licensee Report on the Passenger Transportation Branch’s Registry at: www.th.gov.bc.ca/rpt/registry.htm


 

The BC Medical Services Plan billings still continue.

Wednesday, December 27 ~ VICTORIA. Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums in BC will be cut by 50% effective January 1, 2018. The BC Government says this marks “an important step toward improving fairness for all British Columbians”.

“MSP premiums are unfair and place a significant burden on British Columbians,” said BC Finance Minister Carole James in a Ministry of Finance news release. “I’m proud that we are moving away from these regressive fees and creating a more equitable system by eliminating MSP premiums entirely within four years.”

In addition to the 50% rate cut, the income threshold for full exemption from MSP premiums under the premium assistance program will also be raised by $2,000 (up to $26,000), as of January 1, 2018.

In November 2017, the Minister of Finance established a task force to examine the best approach to replacing the revenue from eliminating MSP premiums. The task force is comprised of respected experts in economics, law and public policy, to advise on the best path to eliminating MSP premiums. Government will receive its report by March 31, 2018.

Enhancements to premium assistance, effective Jan. 1, 2018, mean an individual earning up to $26,000 per year will pay no premiums.  A couple earning up to $29,000 per year will pay no premiums.  Senior couples earning up to $35,000 per year will pay no premiums.

A single parent with two children earning up to $32,000 per year will pay no premiums. A couple with two children earning up to $35,000 per year will pay no premiums.

In all other Canadian provinces the process of collecting medical system fees is done through various methods within the tax system. In BC, even though premiums will now be reduced (an idea introduced under the former BC Liberals due to public pressure), the billing system for overdue payments continues to be punitive, including putting a lien on a person’s property or garnishing their wages, if payment is not received all of which further erodes the person’s credit rating and damaging their future ability to recover a difficult financial situation.

The MSP Task Force is still receiving public input up to 4 pm on January 31, 2018 — to submit your ideas visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/msptaskforce/

Eligibility for premium assistance can be determined using the online eligibility calculator: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/msp/eligibilitycalculator/


Blood donation service at the Sooke Legion (April 2016). File Photo: West Shore Voice News

Monday, December 25 ~ NATIONAL. Last week, Canadian Blood Services was calling on eligible blood donors to help fill 35,000 appointments by January 6 to ensure that Canadian patients continue to have access to the blood and blood products they need over the holidays.

The next blood donor clinics coming up in the west shore area are on Monday January 15 at CFB Esquimalt, 1575 Lyall St (9 am to 4 pm); on Monday January 22 at Church of the Advent, 510 Mount View Ave, Colwood (12 noon to 7 pm); and on Monday, February 12 at the Sooke Legion, 6726 Eustace Rd (11:30 am to 6:30 pm).

New and existing donors are welcome and walk-ins are usually accepted. Some of the usually temporary impacts of giving blood include bruising, continued bleeding, dizziness, light-headedness and nausea. After giving blood, donors are offered juice and a cookie and are monitored for a while on site before they leave.

“The holiday period always presents challenges for us as we work to ensure we have enough blood and blood products to meet patients’ needs,” says Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services’ Chief Supply Chain Officer. “We know that Canadians are busy with travel and activities over the holidays, and we hope that they will make time to save a life and give blood. Canadian patients’ lives depend on them.”

Platelets pose a particularly difficult challenge. Patients with serious bleeding or those undergoing cancer treatments rely on platelet donations, but with a shelf life of only seven days, the need for platelets is pressing and ongoing.

Canadian Blood Services manages the national supply of blood, blood products and stem cells, and related services for all the provinces and territories (excluding Quebec). Their integrated, pan-Canadian service delivery model includes leading an interprovincial system for organ donation and transplantation.


 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered his 2017 Christmas Message on Dec 24.

Sunday, December 24 ~ OTTAWA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today issued the following statement on Christmas: “Merry Christmas, Canada!

“In 2017, people across Canada gave us much reason to be proud, and showed us the strength in our diversity. Canadians are neighbours helping neighbours, sharing warmth, compassion, and generosity—not just at Christmas, but all year round.

“For Christians around the world, this season is a time to celebrate Jesus Christ and his message of compassion. For all of us, it is a chance to come together to give thanks for everything that unites us.

“As the 150th anniversary of Confederation draws to a close, all of us have a role to play in shaping our world for the better. In the New Year, and throughout the years to come, let’s commit to making a difference. Whether by lending a hand to a neighbour, or volunteering for a cause we believe in, let’s give generously, and live out the values that bring us together.

“Let’s also reach out and listen—to those next door, across the aisle, and at the dinner table. Building a better world starts where we work and live, in our communities, and at home.

“During the holidays, I also ask you take a moment to remember our brave servicewomen and men, and their families. They make extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe.

“From our family to yours, Hadrien, Ella-Grace, Xavier, Sophie, and I wish you joy, health, love, and peace this holiday season. Merry Christmas.”


 

BC Premier John Horgan, Dec 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, December 24 ~ VICTORIA. Premier John Horgan has released the following statement in celebration of Christmas:

“Dec. 25 is a special day for Christians around the world. It is a day set aside to recognize the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to give thanks to God for the gift of salvation.

“For people of many backgrounds, Christmas is an opportunity for families to gather together and celebrate warmth, good food and good company.

“It offers us a break from the worries of the everyday world and a chance to focus on things that really matter – the people we love and the communities we care about.

“It is also a time to reach out to people in need, and work in a spirit of generosity to help and support each other.

“We hope that British Columbians throughout the province have a safe and joyful Christmas season.

“On behalf of the Government of British Columbia, Merry Christmas.”

To see Premier John Horgan’s interview in West Shore Voice News, click here: December 15, 2017 issue


 

Amazon will deliver parcels right into your home.

Friday, December 22 ~ EDITORIAL ~ by Mary P Brooke: “How far will you go? Reality check in the digital age”

Apparently you can order something online from Amazon and have it shipped to your door, and right inside your house if you want. If you want?

It made national news this week that someone hacked the delivery-into-your-home system. Really, you’re kidding — people didn’t think that digital thugs weren’t licking their chops to get their hands on this one? Once a delivery was digitally confirmed, stuff would be promptly stolen off the parcel recipient’s front step or even from inside their home by blocking the cameras.

Shakin’ my head here. How far will people trust the new technology? There is virtually no privacy left for anyone anymore. Much of the younger generation doesn’t even really understand what privacy means, they’ve never known it: cameras in most public places for safety and security, multi-layered digital ID cards, and voluntary release of scads of personal details onto Facebook and other social media. So it’s easy to see how parcels inside the door ‘to alleviate your worry about theft’ could naturally arrive in the ‘ok zone’.

At Christmas we reach for the stars in our minds and for the beauty in our hearts. And so it should be. But it’s always been common sense, planning for the inevitable, and tough critical thinking that has saved people in the end.

By all means dream big, you must. Make real the visions of your mind and desires of your soul. It’s what we’re here for. But while expanding your horizons, remember the basics of human nature, including the dark side. And don’t be surprised if you get fooled because you sought convenience or a short cut.


 

Sharing the limelight at the new schools announcement in Langford Dec 18 (from left): SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge; City of Langford Mayor Stew Young; SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar; and BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming. [Photo: Mary P Brooke ~ West Shore Voice News]

Monday, December 18 ~ LANGFORD. The fastest-growing community in BC will be getting two new schools, it was announced by BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming today in Langford. 

The Sooke School District (SD62) which serves the communities of Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Highlands, Metchosin and Juan de Fuca will receive $23.3 million toward the purchase of 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land from within the Westhills development.

The site for a middle school and elementary school at the corner of West Shore Parkway and Constellation Avenue will tie together a string of educational and recreational facilities in the area, said Langford Mayor Stew Young, including Belmont Secondary School (where the announcement was made) and nearby public library, arena, bowling alley and sports stadium. Ball fields will be developed as part of the overall project, says Young. He points out the cooperative use of the recreational facilities by students during the day and by the community in non-school hours.

In this his last year of his education career, SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge was pleased to host the announcement today, in the commons area at Belmont — the largest school in SD62. He noted that Education Minister Rob Fleming is the former education critic “who knows every rock in the education system”, as a benefit in particular to the fastest-growing area.

A main impetus for gearing up for new schools is to reduce the number of portables currently in use in the overloaded west shore area of SD62. There are presently 13 portables at Dunsmuir Middle School in Colwood and seven at Spencer Middle School in Langford. “We hope to eliminate those in a few short years,” said Cambridge in his remarks at the podium.

Since the availability of new education funding this year, about 3,700 teachers have been hired to help support about 5,000 more students in the community. “We’ve been poaching teachers to come teach in BC,” said Cambridge at the podium. He spoke highly of the SD62 board as being “unique in BC for putting children and learning spaces first”.

Langford Mayor Stew Young called the schools announcement “an early Christmas present”. The mayor who is proactive for community growth and development says “everybody is now taking notice of Langford”. He says that people are excited to be in Langford “because we’re actually providing what is needed by our community”.

SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar addressed the room of about 80 people, thanking the BC Government for “supporting our vision and capital plan” with funding for purchase of the 16 acres in Westhills. Parmar — himself a graduate of Belmont Secondary — said “when this government gets money they spend it”.

Building a new middle school will be SD62’s first priority on the site,followed by an elementary school to address the shortage of K to 5 spaces brought about by an influx of young families to the west shore. About 1,800 more students are expected to arrive in the SD62 catchment area in the next five years.

Present for the announcement by Minister Fleming in the bright spacious Belmont commons room were SD62 trustees and staff; City of Langford Mayor, Council and senior staff; Westhills owners, executive and staff; Education Ministry staff; Belmont principal Ray Miller; STA president Ian Johnson; CUPE reps; parent association reps; members of the business community; and students in study mode upon whom this little event came as a surprise!


 

Tuesday, December 12 ~ BC. WorkSafeBC has released six new ladder safety videos to remind workers, employers and homeowners to use ladders safely, both on the job and while decorating at home for the holidays.

WorkSafeBC has released six new ladder safety videos to remind workers, employers and homeowners to use ladders safely, both on the job and while decorating at home for the holidays.

“Last year, more than 1,000 workers were seriously injured in falls from height, including while using  step ladders, extension ladders and scaffolding,” says Dan Strand, Director of Prevention Field Services, WorkSafeBC.

The new videos and resources illustrate how the right ladder, the correct positioning and hazard assessments could prevent a serious injury or death. www.worksafebc.com

From 2012 to 2016, six workers died and there were 4,920 accepted time-loss claims — including 1,634 serious injuries — as a result of falls from ladders across all industries in BC.

Ladder safety tips: • Select the right ladder for the job. It should be long enough to extend 1m above the upper landing. •  Place the ladder on a firm, level surface and inspect it before each use to ensure it’s in good working condition; look for cracks or loose rungs. • Always maintain three points of contact while climbing a ladder: two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot.  • Don’t carry heavy or bulky objects while climbing up or down a ladder. • Don’t work from the top two rungs of the ladder or have more than one worker on a ladder at once. • Wind, rain, and snow may pose additional hazards that need to be mitigated.  • Check for power lines and ensure a minimum distance of three metres can be maintained at all times before starting work.

WorkSafeBC serves about 2.3 million workers and 231,000 employers throughout BC. In administering the Workers’ Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the BC government.


Announcing Site C on December 11, 2017 at the BC Parliament Buildings: Premier John Horgan with Environment Minister George Heyman and Energy & Mines Minister Michelle Mungall. [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

Monday, December 11 ~ VICTORIA.  Today December 11, 2017, the BC government has committed to completing construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam. The cost of the project on the Peace River near Fort St John in northern BC is now estimated at $10.7 billion (up from the original 2014 estimate of $8.775 billion by the previous government).

Site C will provide 1,100 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year – enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in BC.

In making the announcement, Premier John Horgan stated that while Site C should never have been started, the project has been pushed past the point of no return over the past few years. To cancel would have meant asking British Columbians to take on almost $4 billion in debt with nothing in return for the people of the province and, even worse, with a high risk of cuts to services and projects families count on.  Horgan reiterated his campaign promise to work hard to help keep life affordable for British Columbians.

However, the electricity load (demand) forecast used to underlie the decision to continue with Site C includes a realistic and responsible recognition of greater electrification in BC homes and industries in the future, especially as carbon emission reduction is a socioeconomic and political goal. The forecast by Deloitte as commissioned by the former government was said to have not incorporated any enhanced electrification of the economy.

Much of the increased future demand is likely to be required by the time Site C is completed and its power comes onstream in 2024. However, today the government said there will be surplus at first, and it will be sold to create revenues. The remaining shortfall between costs and revenues will be made up by electricity consumers (aka ratepayers).

The government has announced a Site C turnaround plan to contain costs, provide enhanced project oversight, and expand benefits to people and communities. Government says it will be putting in place enhanced oversight to ensure final costs are at or below $10.7 billion.

If the Site C project had been cancelled, losses would have meant insufficient funds for the things the BC NDP promised to BC voters in the 2017 campaign including more schools, hospitals and highways as well as expanded child care support. Cancellation would have produced an immediate rate hike of 12% on BC consumers all at once in 2020 without any benefit other than servicing debts and cancellation obligations.

In his public announcement today in the Library Rotunda at the BC Parliament Buildings in Victoria, Premier Horgan delivered “with a heavy heart” his decision to proceed with the Site C hydroelectric project.  He was flanked by Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall.

In a way, he had no choice but to give the green light to Site C. It was the goal and intention of the previous BC Liberal government to get the project past the point of no return (notably for contracts with workers, businesses and some First Nations), and they succeeded. The only reason to have started the project in the first place is to keep up with electricity demand into the future, but for years even that premise has been debated.

Not only does the continuation of the project present a long-term financial commitment including continual electricity rate increases for everyone in BC, it presents a quagmire of political challenges for the BC NDP government. Many groups who fought hard against Site C — including environmental, food sustainability and indigenous — feel they are on the losing end of this decision. And the BC Greens (with three MLAs who hold the balance of power in the current NDP-led minority government) are saying they feel betrayed. All of this sets up a myriad of immediate tensions and possibly some political brick walls in the future (including that the NDP caucus was divided on the issue, and that Energy Minister Michelle Mungall could face tensions in her constituency at the next provincial election).

A media briefing ahead of Horgan’s announcement began with this: “After review by BCUC, meeting with Treaty 8 First Nations, advice from independent experts and lengthy deliberation, Cabinet has made the difficult decision to complete Site C construction.”

Right out of the gate the presentation showed that hydro rates have been “rising significantly” since 2003. In 2014, a 5-year package of rate hikes would have seen rates were go up 28.5%; four of the past five years saw hefty increases loaded on the backs of consumers – notably 9% in the first year (followed by 6%, 4% and 3.5% this year); for 2018 the BC NDP government has issued a reprieve on the previously approved 3% increase.

With Site C going ahead, increases for electricity usage will occur year after year – up about 30% over 10 years (2019 to 2028). The government says hydro rates in BC are still relatively low compared to other provinces and cities in Canada and North America. Highly industrialized areas like Ontario and California have among the highest rates. Quebec has the lowest.

So-called ‘new power’ (from Site C) will cost $60/MWh to produce, compared to $32/MWh from the present generation system. The elephant in the room is the cost of energy production having been privatized under the Gordon Campbell BC Liberals back in the early 2000s — private companies that produce power and feed it into the grid are costing BC Hydro $100/MWh. And the share of supply by Independent Power Producers (IPP) is growing, which continues to push up the cost of electricity for British Columbians.

Studies apparently show that where the sources of power are varied in a jurisdiction – including hydro, fossil fuel, solar and wind, and nuclear, that the cost of power to produce power is somewhat less strident where hydro takes the lead.

The Site C decision was a complex equation, which Horgan said today was the most difficult in his 30 years in public service and politics. He knows all too well who he needs to please, and who he has disappointed. Included in the decision by Horgan and his cabinet was that shareholders who have invested in the expansion of electricity in BC will expect a good return on investment. If shareholders are spooked, BC’s bond rating could go down and that would affect many other aspects of the provincial budget.

Horgan said in his announcement today that BC Hydro had been “raided” by the previous government in order to produce a balanced BC budget. Part of cleaning up the mismanagement of BC Hydro was to appoint a new Chair. In one of his first actions as the new Premier, in mid-July Kenneth Peterson was appointed to replace Brad Bennett who was one of BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark’s election campaign advisers and president of real estate investment firm McIntosh Properties) and a few more directors considered more qualified will still be appointed, it was stated today by government.

To “lessen the burden” on BC Hydro and on British Columbians, Horgan announced some mitigating actions such as creating a food security fund to ensure we’re increase the productivity of agricultural land, and making it more viable to farm in the Peace and across BC. Reopening standing offer so indigenous people can build clean renewable energy and sell it back into the grid.  More training opportunities for local businesses and workers (much better than the 49 apprentices we have in place today). And a new oversight committee to make sure that the current budget is met in the next number of years.

Horgan said he and his colleagues made the Site C decision upon finding themselves in a situation where they had to accept realities, “not as we wish it to be”.  Horgan said: “It’s not the project we would have favoured, and not the project we would have started. But we’re three years in. It must be completed to meet the objectives our government has set.” He said the costs can be recovered “over a long period of time by the sale of electricity” which of course includes rate increases for consumers.

To those who Horgan expects will be disappointed by the government’s decision today on Site C, he said today: “I respect the strength of your convictions. I share your determination to protect BC farmland.  Decisions must be done in tandem with indigenous peoples but those decisions have passed (as negotiated by the previous government).”

Knowing he was disappointing ‘family and friends, Horgan said that “proceeding is the best way forward” but the decision was not an easy one: “We do it with a heavy heart.  But we have to focus on the future and on delivering for people.” ~ WSV

TECHNICAL and TIMELINE BACKGROUND: The Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C) will be a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast BC. Site C will provide 1,100 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year – enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in BC. The Site C project received environmental approvals from the federal and provincial governments in October 2014, then got the green light from the Government of BC in December 2014.  Construction of the project started in summer 2015 and will be completed in 2024. After a review of Site C by the British Columbia Utilities Commission in the fall of 2017, the B.C. Government chose to continue construction on the project. Site C will be a source of clean, reliable and affordable electricity for more than 100 years.


 

 

Sunday, December 10 ~ VICTORIA (posted at 6pm).  Premier John Horgan is ready to announce his decision about whether or not to proceed with construction of the Site C hydroelectric project. He will make the announcement in Victoria tomorrow, Monday December 11.

Update later Sunday evening (posted at 11:30 pm): For some reason, longtime political journalist Keith Baldrey thought it necessary to upstage the Premier and tonight leak out that Site C will go ahead. Professional journalists need to do better than that. So the project is going ahead. But without details in the ‘scoop’ (as to why the go-ahead decision was made), there is really no benefit to the public to give a half-day’s advance notice. Ethics in journalism still matter.

A month ago, when pressed about his decision whether to proceed with or stop the Site C hydroelectric project, Premier Horgan replied that it is a $12 billion dollar project and that if it proceeds it will affect contracts, indigenous interests in the area, and individuals.

If the project is cancelled, the cost would be about $4 billion (over $2 billion already spent or committed, plus another $1.8 billion to remediate the site).

“Site C is over budget and off schedule,” said Premier Horgan, adding it’s something he’s been saying “for some time”. He reiterated having run on a platform of affordability for British Columbians. He said it was “bad policy making from the start” for former Premier Clark to try to “get the project past the point of no return”.

BC Premier John Horgan

Having information made public about Site C decision-making is something Horgan promised during the 2017 election campaign, and he seemed pleased that the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) report was made available to the public last month.

At present, Horgan says there is an oversupply of electricity in the North American market. He says the estimates by BC Hydro for future electricity demand are wrong. However, the jury may be out on that, given the increase in use of electric cars and charging massive batteries (in size and/or number) for other uses in the modern digital age. While alternative energy sources are moving forward in various ways, there is no way of telling whether natural gas, biomass heat capture, wind power and other methods will be far enough along should a growing population require more electricity in five to 10 years time.

“It’s not an easy choice or decision. I will be grappling with it for the next couple of weeks,” Horgan said on November 8. And now the time for announcement of his decision has arrived (Monday December 11).

Read the West Shore Voice News editorial about the impact of the new BC NDP government on the lives of British Columbians, page 2 in the December 8, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir [2010] in Vancouver

Friday, December 8 ~ BC. Tipping a hat to Canadian winter sport, this week the BC Government announced a contribution of $110,000 to support the upcoming national skating championships by helping bring some of the biggest names in Canadian figure skating to Vancouver.

Taking place at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at the University of British Columbia January 8 – 14, 2018, the week will also be high-profile exposure for Vancouver and Canada’s west coast and a winter tourism draw for people from all over BC (tickets $19.99/day Jan 8-11 up to $40-75 for final days; $10 at the gate to watch junior and senior practices).

The event is an Olympic-qualifier for Canada’s team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. The championships will feature about 250 skaters, competing in the men, women, and pair ice dance disciplines. About 8,000 spectators are expected to attend, with thousands more throughout Canada watching via CTV’s live broadcast.

The anticipated economic activity generated by the competition is approximately $6 million, said a Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture news release on December 8.


 

Tuesday, December 5 ~ BC.  Today December 5, the Province of BC has released a number of key decisions on cannabis regulation in BC. 

The following policy decisions were shaped by feedback provided by individuals and municipalities who participated in the engagement (48,951 British Columbians, and 141 local and Indigenous governments):

  • Minimum age – British Columbia will set the minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis at 19 years old. A minimum age of 19 is consistent with BC’s minimum age for alcohol and tobacco and with the age of majority in BC.
  • Wholesale distribution of cannabis – Like other provinces, BC will have a government-run wholesale distribution model. The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in BC.
  • Retail of cannabis – The Province anticipates establishing a retail model that includes both public and private retail opportunities and will share details regarding the model in early 2018.

Legalization of non-medical cannabis in Canada is anticipated to start July 1, 2018 following the passage of federal legislation in the new year.

“Looking at the responses received, it’s clear that British Columbians support the priorities of protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe, which will guide the Province in developing BC’s regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

From September 25 to November 1 of this  year, the public and stakeholders were asked to share their input and expertise on a range of issues related to the regulation of non-medical cannabis in BC, including minimum age, personal possession, public consumption, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, wholesale distribution and retail models. Most of the public input was received online.

The policy decisions announced today also reflect the feedback received from the local government members of the Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation (JCCR) and are endorsed by the Union of BC Municipalities executive.

“We thank all British Columbians who provided their input during the important public and stakeholder engagement process,” said Farnworth.

“We will continue to consider your opinions as we further develop policy and legislation that is in the best interests of this province, ensuring a made-in-BC approach to the legalization of non-medical cannabis that will keep our roads and communities safe, protect young people, and promote public health and safety.”

The provincial government says it “still has a number of key decisions to make as it prepares for the legalization of cannabis”. These decisions “will be informed by the feedback collected through the public and stakeholder engagement” but there will be further consultation with local and Indigenous governments and other key stakeholders.

Link: Cannabis Regulation in B.C.: What We Heard report on public and stakeholder engagement: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/BCcannabisregulation/


 

Premier John Horgan congratulates Langford Mayor Stew Young on 25 years of service. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Monday, December 4 ~ LANGFORD. After hosting his own open house at his constituency office this evening, BC Premier John Horgan dropped into the holiday season open house at Langford council chambers.

Saying he moved to Langford 25 years ago, Horgan says Langford has been “transformative” for him: “I raised my family here, became a member of legislature here, and became the premier here.”

As part of recognizing 25 years of municipal service by Mayor Stew Young and Councillors Denise Blackwell and Winnie Sifert, the premier called Langford’s success “an extraordinary accomplishment”.

“it’s absolutely unparalleled to have that much dedication and commitment to your community,” said Horgan about Langford’s mayor and council. He said that Langford has demonstrated “the things that you can do when you work together and have a vision, and have a community this inclusive.”

Horgan noted Langford’s amenities for young families such as good schools, good sports, great arenas, the YMCA, and libraries. “It just keeps getting better, month after month, year after year. It’s been an extraordinary 25 years in Langford, I have a great deal of gratitude for you,” said Horgan to Mayor Young, Langford council, and city staff.

“People are coming and bringing families here, starting businesses here, and creating opportunities for themselves. It is all because of the work that you do in this room,” Horgan said.

Premier John Horgan attends 25-year recognition ceremony at Langford Council, Dec 4, 2017 (From left): Councillor Denise Blackwell, Premier Horgan, Councillor Winnie Sifert, Mayor Stew Young. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Mayor Young thanked the Premier, and also acknowledged Langford’s team effort. “We’ve got a lot of great workers in the City of Langford. Everybody’s excited to apply and get a job in Langford.” People see leadership here: “Everybody sees how well we work together with our council and our staff. We’re always able to do great things in Langford when we all work together like that,” said Stew Young, noting how his city is known for an open door policy to business.

“It’s one of the things our council prides itself on. Helping everybody who’s in business,” said Young, noting how using the services of local businesses is key. “The business community comes to our community.”

Noting his 25 years as Mayor, Stew Young said he is happy and proud to have a team behind him that works so hard to improve the community where he was born and grew up.

Guests this evening included local developers, to whom Horgan gave a nod: in a recent speech to the Urban Development Institute in Vancouver Horgan had highlighted how well things get done to speed along with building permits and the growth of the community.


 

Friday, December 1 ~ VICTORIA.  November 2017 saw the highest number of property sales of any November in the Greater Victoria area since 1996 — 671 in total (12% more than sold last November). The number of active listings for sale dropped 7.4% in one month from October to November.

The Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) predicted last month that buyers might accelerate their purchase timeline to buy a home ahead of ‘stress test’ rules set for January 2018.  Overall in Greater Victoria there were 307 single family home sales in November selling at a raw average price of $902,985.

It should be understood that VREB’s data-adjusted HPI figures show $693,200, which means people are paying far above what most people hear as the selling price.

In the west shore, the real price of a house in Langford last month was $696,933 (61 sales) while the HPI was given as $593,800. In Colwood there were 15 sales averaging out at $725,290 while the HPI was $658,100. In Sooke there were 18 house sales in November at a real average sale price of $509,418 while the HPI was $483,300.

So that’s almost a million dollars in overall Greater Victoria for a house and over half a million in Sooke where housing is considered to be affordable.

Condo sales rolled in like this: 219 in Greater Victoria averaging $437,822; Langford 26  sales averaging  $330,298; Colwood 5 sales averaging $396,900; and one sale in Sooke at $229,000. All stats: www.vreb.org


 

BC Premier John Horgan

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC.  Premier John Horgan told media today that he considers the Fall Session of the legislature to have been a success. He itemized that his minority government has passed a number of key bills and that they worked on a number of initiatives that were laid out in the election platform.

He jumped right into how a 4-year mandate to achieve “all of the results” will be helpful to “working for people and delivering the services that they depend on”.

“Elimination of big money will be transformational,” he said, not just at the provincial level but municipal as well.

Premier Horgan is keen about the public engagement about the upcoming electoral reform referendum as available online at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/howwevote/ . The wording of the referendum question will be announced in the new year after input from public engagement has been reviewed, said Horgan.

About the referendum question that ends up on the ballot: “I want it to be as clear as possible, and I want the public to make this choice.” Horgan said that Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said ‘just do it’. “But I think that’s not the right way to proceed in the 21st century. We want to engage with people and ask them how they want us to proceed. I want it (a winning referendum result) to be 50+1 and that the public makes the choice,” Premier Horgan said today.

With a bit of retrospection, Horgan said that the period between the May 2017 election campaign and the swearing-in that was held mid-July will be seen as a “most heightened period in political history, with people “suddenly interested in what happened here … the role of the speaker and the role of the Lieutenant Governor in our democracy.”

He called the first minority government in 50 years in BC a “unique opportunity… where parties are working together to make life better for citizens in this great province”.


 

BC Premier John Horgan

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC.  Today in a media session from the BC Legislature, Premier John Horgan defended his position on opposing increased tanker traffic through BC waters, and vowed to maintain that position for the sake of BC’s economy and environment. “I have a great deal of respect for Premier Rachel Notley and the progressive work she’s doing as leader of that province, but my response is to stand firm for the interests of our province,” Horgan said about Alberta’s premier who today continued her pitch to expand pipelines that would bring more crude oil to the coast.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Earlier this week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley had called on the federal government to step up its efforts to support the project. Today November 30, Notley said while speaking in Vancouver to BC business leaders about the future of energy in Canada and local pipeline projects, that she was pleased with the federal government support the National Energy Board process to resolve permit delays.

“I hope (the federal government) will continue to embrace their role as a key player in promoting what is, in my view, a national project,” Notley said. She noted that several years ago, 44,000 British Columbians earned $2 billion in income by working in Alberta. But today BC Premier Horgan said his government’s opposition to pipeline expansion remains in the interest of economic and environmental benefits to BC.


 

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC. HORGAN ON HOUSING. “Housing is the number one issue on my desk right now,” said Premier John Horgan today, though last week his top concern was the decision he is soon to make about whether the Site C hydroelectric project continues or gets cancelled. For housing , the Premier said that his government will have “a comprehensive plan in February”.

He itemized the need for more 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units “to allow families to grow and maintain a connection to community”. On the demand side, he indicated that his government will aim to “remove speculation in the market”.


 

Alliance of World Scientists

Wednesday, November 22 ~ VICTORIA. BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver today read to the BC Legislature a warning from a letter signed by from 15,364 scientists in 184 countries.

The letter, published last week by the Alliance of World Scientists entitled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: a second notice warns world leaders that there needs to be change in order to save the earth.

The full letter is posted here http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/ and scientists from any scientific discipline (e.g. ecology, medicine, economics, etc.), are invited to endorse the letter.

“As leaders, we have a responsibility to younger generations to ensure that our actions today do not leave them worse off than we are,” said Weaver.

Weaver said he was proud to deliver the scientists’ message to the BC legislature “so that we may be reminded of this responsibility and take urgent action to address climate change”. Weaver continued: “BC has a history of leadership in climate action. I am proud that our Agreement with the BC NDP has once again moved us in this direction, but there remains much work to be done.”

“BC has a highly educated workforce, abundant natural resources and is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live. If we have the courage to champion a bold vision, we can ensure that BC is a leader not only in climate action, but also in the low-carbon economy that is emerging as world leaders step up to reduce emissions.”

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver at UBCM [UBCM photo, Sept 2017]

The letter states that in order “to prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual… soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

The warning comes 25 years after Dr. Henry Kendall, a Nobel Laureate and former Chairperson of the Union of Concerned Scientists, organized a similar statement signed by 1,500 scientists in 1992.

Weaver is a renowned climate scientist who prior to his election to the BC Legislature in 2013 served as Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

Weaver was a Lead Author on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific assessments and has authored or coauthored over 200 peer-reviewed, scientific papers and was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate from 2005-2009.


 

Tuesday, November 21 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov Jay Inslee have issued the following statement after their first official meeting and the governor’s address to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia:

“Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to work closely together and strengthen the enduring and unique partnership between British Columbia and Washington state.

“We recognize our shared responsibility to protect the environment, grow our economies, find new opportunities to expand our flourishing tech and innovation corridor, and create good jobs on both sides of the border.

“Our governments remain committed to joint action and leadership in the fight against climate change, and in the pursuit of strong, sustainable economic development that works for the people of Washington and British Columbia.”


Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre under construction in Langford [Photo: West Shore Voice News ~ Nov 2017]

Tuesday, November 14 ~ LANGFORD. Rugby Canada is making another shift to Langford which includes not only the new Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre (construction near completion) but an internal restructuring of the organization.

As announced yesterday by Rugby Canada, a restructuring within the burgeoning National Sport Federation will be implemented “to drive operational excellence”.

The restructuring announced today allows the organization to align and focus its resources with its evolving high performance objectives and expanded National Team operations in Langford, along with the opening of the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre at 3019 Glen Lake Road in early 2018. The cost of the joint project of the Government of Canada, City of Langford, and Rugby Canada is $7.84 million.

As part of the restructuring, several departments will relocate to Langford over the next three to six months from the organization’s corporate office in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Rugby Canada’s Finance, Marketing and Communications, General Operations and Governance departments will relocate to the Federation’s existing Centre of Excellence facility at 3024 Glen Lake Road.

The Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre price tag is $7.84 million.

“This is a good organizational change from the top down,” says Langford Mayor Stew Young. “It is good for rugby’s advancement on the world stage and good for the athletes. Most of the teams Canada competes against have made changes and are showing results,” he said this week. “Centrally focusing on the front office is good for rugby in Langford. We are are strong partner and supporter of Rugby Canada and look forward to a long committed relationship with rugby players and staff.”

Mayor Young is looking forward to the grand opening of the Al Charon Centre for excellence which he says “will be a huge benefit for the Canadian men’s and women’s teams and give them the extra advantage while playing for Canada on the world stage.”

The Rugby Department within Rugby Canada has been led by Jim Dixon for the past two and a half years. “On behalf of the Canadian Rugby community and everyone at Rugby Canada, I would like to thank Jim for his commitment to the organization, our National Teams and Development programs. We wish Jim every success in the future,” said Allen Vansen, CEO, Rugby Canada.

Rugby Canada office on Glen Lake Road in Langford [West Shore Voice News photo – Nov 2017]

Positions being established in Langford by the organization that has grown rapidly over the last five years are: Chief Operating Officer, Director of Communications and Marketing, Director of Finance, and finance coordinators. Myles Spencer, current Chief Operating Officer, Linh Nguyen current Chief Financial Officer, and Carlos Ferreira, current Director of Marketing and Communications, along with the existing finance staff, will remain with Rugby Canada for the coming months as these new positions are recruited for and filled by new staff based in Langford.

An external party with relevant expertise in the Canadian sport system was called in to help assess and guide the restructuring toward “increased synergies in the daily operations of the staff and permit a downsizing of Rugby Canada’s office requirements in Richmond Hill for efficiencies”. Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors says it fully supports and endorses this new organizational change. It is absolutely necessary,” said Tim Powers, Chair of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors. “We would also like to thank Jim, Myles, Linh, Carlos, Nina, Audrey and Cindy for their unwavering commitment to our sport.”

“This marks the beginning of a new era for Rugby Canada, as one of Canada’s fastest growing sports,” added Vansen. “While always difficult to reach these tough decisions, this is the best path forward to reach our organization’s performance and growth objectives. These changes will help Rugby Canada build a world class organizational culture and enhance the performance of our Sport development and National Team programs, today and into the future.”


 

Screenshot: Governor General Julie Payette at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa on November 1, 2017

Sunday, November 12 ~ NATIONAL. Working hard toward the open-minded view. INSIGHT-EDITORIAL by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News

Canada is fast gaining an international reputation for advancing by leaps and bounds in various social areas, like flinging open the doors to immigration, working fast toward legalization of cannabis by next summer, and labouring toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples in various areas of concern. Zero tolerance for sexual harassment and bullying have become, finally, pretty much mainstream. Remembrance Day this weekend should remind all of us how much sacrifice has been made over the last century to uphold all manner of freedom and personal dignity in our country.

So in the context of this fast-action swirl of progressive social movement in this country, it was odd — and made national headlines — that Canada’s new Governor General took a swipe at ‘believers’. Religious or not, most people realize this is a country based on a founding faith and where all faiths are respected, or at least the freedom to hold beliefs that might be different from yours or mine.

In a speech at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa on November 1, Governor General Julie Payette mocked with a wide brush the entire art and science of astrological interpretation and calculation. While astrology is not exactly a belief-system, it has been shown to be an effective tool for self-awareness and understanding. The math to calculate planetary transits isn’t easy … before the advent of modern computing the charting was done by hand. Some world-class astrologers such as the industrious Neil F. Michelsen (organizer of the modern ephemeris) and the uniquely brilliant Jim Lewis (inventor of astrocartography) in the late 1970s and early 1980s generated entire volumes of analysis based on math done with calculators and good ol’ brain cells.

There was a time, long long ago, when the stirrings of modern science and medicine were mocked. Germs we can’t see? Nonsense! Today’s accurate science is essential and should rightly guide the development of technological civilized nations. But we should remember that over time many scientific ‘truths’ have been debunked, followed by further advancement. Meanwhile, the evidence of one’s life purpose can be examined through competent natal astrological analysis based on one’s geographical entry point into time and space on earth (i.e. birth), pointing to congruence for the individual within their social framework.

Years ago it was actually a mainstream university administrator in my world (not a hippie with sun signs and moons pasted up around the room) who pointed out the value of a system of personal insights that accepts a myriad ways of being ‘right’ and whole. Today’s mental health movement that is based dangerously on models that lead to labeling and medication could well take a page from that book to recognize that not all pegs fit into the same holes. [Footnote: there is value in utilizing therapeutic levels of nutritional supplementation as an approach to managing mental health, rather than by rote reverting to drugs and psychotherapy. ‘We are what we eat’, entirely scientifically proven – cellular microbiology at work. Canadian founder of that research and clinical application: Dr Abram Hoffer.]

Youth are stressed by frantically working hard to ‘fit’ and find a place in the big scheme of things (that’s always been the challenge of approaching adulthood but it’s incredibly more complex in a digital, global, hyper-social era). It takes a constellation of personalities to create the universe of humanity, and while our culture gives lip-service to diversity, it’s still tough for those who don’t find a ready niche.

It’s a fool’s path to wake up in the morning and guide one’s every move of the day based on sun-sign astrology. But utilizing deeper astrological principles as a tool for the continual work of personal self-actualization (e.g. providing direction for choices in lifestyle and career), family dynamics (noting the insightful work of international depth astrologer and author Erin Sullivan), and sociocultural examination (e.g. all baby boomers were born with transformational Pluto in fiery self-focused Leo) is a principled choice that flies neither in the face of science nor religion. Understanding of self and society, by whatever tool or system, is clarity worth achieving.

With her one fell-swoop mocking astrology, Payette gave Canadians a glimpse of an old-school intellectual arrogance that does not fit within Canada’s newfound bent for exploring with an open mind all things ‘wonderful and new’.


 

BC Premier John Horgan placed a wreath at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Langford, November 11, 2017 [Photo by Mary P Brooke – West Shore Voice News]

Saturday, November 11 ~ LANGFORD.  BC Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) laid a wreath and made some brief remarks at the podium during the Remembrance Day ceremony in Langford today. In total, 62 wreaths were laid.

VIPs arrived in a parade. At Veteran Memorial Park, about 1,000 people were gathered under threat of rain, standing or seated in some bleachers in the cold for the one-hour event.

Service personnel in uniform stood in formation for the entire hour. Music by the Westshore Community Concert Band, Gordon United Church Choir and Westshore Girl Guides.

Roads were closed in central Langford, including by large trucks positioned horizontally across roads. Helicopters and airplanes flew overhead at various points. On-the-ground security was present but not overtly obvious.

Four mayors from the west shore area laid wreaths immediately after Premier Horgan: Langford Mayor Stew Young, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns and Highlands Mayor Ken Williams.


 

Saturday, November 11. 

To see the Remembrance Day messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, BC Premier John Horgan, and BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, see the November 10, 2017 Remembrance Day issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Children at the Sooke Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony (2013). Photo: West Shore Voice News

Friday, November 10 ~ BC. Premier John Horgan released the following statement in honour of Remembrance Day tomorrow.

“On Remembrance Day, people around British Columbia honour veterans, armed forces members, merchant marines and families who have sacrificed in service of our country.

“For many of us, it’s impossible to imagine the courage it takes to put on a uniform and go into harm’s way. Yet for generations, Canadians have bravely risked their lives to protect ours.

“Today, in moments of silence all around the province, we pay tribute to loved ones lost, and to those who have returned with injuries, both visible and invisible.

“We cannot forget the tragedies of war, and we must all work together to build a more peaceful world. Lest we forget.”


Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall

Wednesday, November 8 ~ VICTORIA.  A significant announcement about freezing BC Hydro rates was made today by the BC NDP government, fulfilling a key campaign promise about affordability for British Columbians.

It puts “an end to the years of spiraling electricity costs that have made life less affordable for BC homeowners and renters,” Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall announced today.

BC Hydro rates have gone up by more than 24% in the last four years, and by more than 70% since 2001. This was part of a five-year roll-out that started in 2014 under the former BC Liberal government. The steady march of increases appeared to be tone-deaf from the start as to the overall recession-recovery financial struggles of households and small businesses in BC.

Mungall says that in 2016, BC Hydro applied to the BC Utilities Commission for three years of increases, with a 3% increase planned next year, but will be pulling back its request “consistent with this administration’s commitment to a rate freeze”.

The rate freeze will provide government the time to undertake a comprehensive review of BC Hydro, it was stated in a Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources release. “That review will identify changes and cost savings to keep rates low while ensuring BC Hydro has the resources it needs to continue to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity.”

Details of the scope and process for the review will be developed once government has made a final decision on Site C, which earlier today Premier John Horgan said would take another couple of weeks.

After completing a comprehensive review of BC Hydro, any cost and revenue adjustments identified will be reflected in rates starting in April 2019, the government said. This likely gives consumers just a one-year reprieve.

The rate freeze follows government’s commitment in its September budget update to phase out the provincial sales tax on electricity for small businesses.


 

BC Premier John Horgan

Wednesday, November 8 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan in his weekly media session at the BC Legislature reiterated the degree of pressure he is under to decide about Site C. 

Making a decision about whether to proceed with or stop the Site C hydroelectric project is a $12 billion dollar decision, affecting contracts, indigenous interests in the area, and individuals, he explained.

If the project is cancelled, the cost would be about $4 billion (over $2 billion already spent or committed, plus another $1.8 billion to remediate the site).

When pressed by media as to what appears to be slow action on calling a by-election in Kelowna West (a seat left empty by the departing Christy Clark) Horgan used the magnitude of this decision, in part, to defend not calling the by-election this fall. His other reason is seasonal timing… too close to the Christmas holiday season, saying people wouldn’t appreciate that.

Having information made public about Site C decision-making is something Horgan promised during the 2017 election campaign, and he seemed pleased that the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) is now available to the public.

At present, Horgan says there is an oversupply of electricity in the North American market. He says the estimates by BC Hydro for future electricity demand are wrong.

“Site C is over budget and off schedule,” said Premier Horgan, adding it’s something he’s been saying “for some time”. He reiterated having run on a platform of affordability for British Columbians. He said it was “bad policy making from the start” for former Premier Clark to try to “get the project past the point of no return”.

It would be costly to shut down the project, but that must be weighed with the social and economic costs of falling short on electricity demand in the future. While alternative energy sources are moving forward in various ways, there is no way of telling whether natural gas, biomass heat capture, wind power and other methods will be far enough along should a growing population require more electricity in five to 10 years time.

“It’s not an easy choice or decision. I will be grappling with it for the next couple of weeks,” Horgan said today.


National NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed a full house at the Victoria Convention Centre November 4, 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, November 5 ~ VICTORIA. Yesterday it was pretty much a full house at the BC NDP convention in downtown Victoria, giving a rousing clamor of applause for the new leader of the national NDP party, Jagmeet Singh. Singh was elected by NDP membership to head up the party,

just over one month ago in Toronto. Since then he has gained a unique flavour popularity in the NDP camp and attracts a curious level of fascination across the country.

Bounding onto the stage at the Victoria Convention Centre on November 4, Singh was accompanied on stage for the duration of his 20-minute speech by elected members of parliament and party leaders.

He began with accolades for BC Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP for “changing the course of 16 years and bringing in an NDP government”. He commended the new BC NDP government for their comprehensive strategy to tackle poverty in BC, and for working to re-establish a Human Rights Commission. In followup to a final point about raising the corporate income tax “so that everybody pays their fair share”, Singh said to Horgan and the provincial NDP: “Thank you for showing us the way.”

Singh came right out to say that the national NDP party experienced a “pretty significant setback” in the 2015 federal election, but was upbeat about the NDP MPs holding six of seven seats on Vancouver Island.

As for his fast-track to the 2019 election campaign, he is already challenging the federal Liberals for “not implementing any strategy to fight climate change”. Singh says the NDP are opposed to the infrastructure bank set up by the Liberals, though perhaps not realizing the jobs and community growth that it supports.

Singh got two spontaneous standing ovations during his speech… once for his statement that no Canadian should have “less of a sense of self worth” because of the colour of their skin, and again with his statement of the obvious that “poverty, mental health issues and addiction are social justice problems, not a criminal problem”. As a former criminal defence lawyer, that last statement really had some punch.

It is always evident how the NDP across Canada rally together to support new stars on their team. The only chink in that armor is the differential between Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley and BC Premier John Horgan over the pipeline issues.

Singh wrapped up his articulate, in-depth yet buoyant speech with “yes we can”.


 

BC Premier John Horgan addressed BC NDP convention delegates Nov 4 in downtown Victoria. [CTV screenshot]

Saturday, November 4 ~ VICTORIA. The BC NDP annual convention is underway in downtown Victoria, continuing through Sunday. This morning BC Premier John Horgan made his first address to his followers as premier. This afternoon national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will address the crowds.

In his speech to delegates this morning, Premier John Horgan said: “Guided by our values, we will do what is right for the people of BC.” Horgan generated large cheers throughout his speech, but the loudest came when he told delegates he will set his sights high and not accept second best.

After a special welcome to delegates from the BC Interior who were impacted by this past summer’s wildfires, Horgan continued: “Helping people and building community — these are BC values, and they are New Democrat values. BC is with you, and together we will help you recover. Helping people is what our government is all about. The BC Liberals left people behind. They gave tax breaks to millionaires while making families pay more. They ripped up contracts. They rolled back rights for workers. They cut vital public services. And they mismanaged BC’s crown jewels, ICBC and BC Hydro.”

Horgan re-promised the increase to a $15/hour minimum wage, and took additional pride in having created a standalone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. “Help, hope and opportunity is what a better BC is all about,” the Premier said. “Our government is opening the doors of opportunity for people. We lifted social assistance rates by $100 a month, the first increase in 10 years. We hired thousands of teachers to give students the support they need in our classrooms. We ended the heartless bus pass claw-back for people with disabilities. We eliminated tuition fees for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs, and for former kids in care who want to go to college or university.”

Getting deeper into the political, Horgan said “the BC Liberals say we haven’t acted fast enough. We’ve had 16 weeks, they had 16 years.” We are going to build hospitals, schools, transit, with BC workers to benefit BC communities.

He pledged to continue supporting traditional industries like forestry and mining, and to promote value-added and manufacturing. He says the BC NDP government will “grow the new economy and create good jobs for people as we build our province”. And in wrapping up: “Together, we will build a stronger, fairer, more just province, where no one is left behind.”


Friday, November 3 ~ VICTORIA.  Today through Sunday (November 3 to 5) over 1,000 New Democrats are gathering at the Victoria Conference Centre for the BC NDP’s 45th Convention.

Party Leader John Horgan will address fellow party members for the first time since becoming Premier, on Saturday morning. “We’re thrilled to be here in Premier John Horgan’s hometown,” said Raj Sihota, the Provincial Director of the BC NDP. It’s the first convention in 16 years with an NDP government in the Legislature. There will be discussion about how to grow the party to “support the good work of our government and keep building a movement for a better BC,” said Sihota in a news release.

Delegates will debate policy resolutions, participate in training and workshops and hear from guest speakers including Jagmeet Singh, newly elected federal NDP leader.

The BC NDP say they remain committed to the issues British Columbians voted for this spring: “making life more affordable, improving the services we all count on, and building a sustainable economy that works for everyone”.

There will be caucus and committee meetings, the Young New Democrat Convention, the Women’s Rights Committee Convention, and an election for Party leadership.


 

Friday, November 3 ~ VANCOUVER. BC is jumping deeper into the Amazon world. Today November 3, BC Premier John Horgan welcomed Amazon’s plans to double the size of its professional workforce in British Columbia.

“We’re growing a strong, sustainable economy that benefits everyone, by bringing good-paying jobs to BC and investing in training the workforce of tomorrow,” Premier Horgan said at a media announcement in downtown Vancouver this morning.

“We will build on Amazon’s plans to bring 1,000 new jobs to BC by continuing to open up access to education and skills training.” The Seattle-based company has announced plans to double its BC-based professional workforce to 2,000 by early 2020.

The announcement is unrelated to Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters.

Amazon will be leasing a 50,000 sq ft building on Dunsmuir St in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Premier Horgan was joined by Alexandre Gagnon, Amazon’s vice-president for Canada and Mexico, announcing that the company will lease a new 4,500 sq m (50,000 sq ft) building on Dunsmuir Street.

“Tech companies employ more than 100,000 people in BC, with significant opportunities for growth,” said Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston. “Amazon’s investment contributes to an industry that creates well-paying jobs that will benefit every corner of our province.”

Jobs in tech pay 75% more than the provincial average. The BC government will help British Columbians develop the skills they need to get these high-paying jobs with more tech-related seats, co-op programs and other post-secondary and skills training opportunities.
“The message we are hearing from leaders in the tech industry is they will hire as many people as we can train,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Technology Rick Glumac. “We’re bringing down barriers for BC workers because the more we invest in people, the more companies will invest in BC.”

The provincial government says it is investing in the future of BC workers by bringing down barriers to post-secondary education and skills training. Since August 2017, government has cut the provincial student loan interest rate in half, removed tuition fees for adult basic education and English as a second language programs, and eliminated post-secondary tuition for children who grew up in government care.

BC Premier John Horgan at media conference Nov 3 [CBC photo]

Bill Tam, president and CEO of the BC Tech Association, said BC’s skilled workforce is one of the reasons tech investors are attracted to the province.

“Amazon’s decision to expand in BC is a testament to the growing recognition of our tech sector on the global stage,” Tam said. “BC continues to be a desirable destination for tech companies to locate and grow, because of our province’s vibrant tech community, our attractive investment climate and exceptional talent base.”

BC saw a 1.9% rise in the number of new technology companies in 2015, growing to over 10,000 businesses. More than $200 million is being invested over the next two years in tech and science post-secondary capital projects in British Columbia.  The GDP of BC’s tech sector expanded 2.4% in 2015, contributing $14.1 billion to BC’s overall economic output.


Mike Farnworth, BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Thursday, November 2 ~ BC. After a final push to invite public input, the number of people filling out the BC Cannabis Regulation Engagement survey online saw about 18,000 engagements in the last of five weeks.

As of October 25 about 30,000 British Columbians had participated, and by the November 1 closing, 48,151 individuals had provided feedback on on topics about non-medicinal cannabis such as minimum age, personal possession limits, public consumption, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, and distribution and retail models.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says “an unprecedented number of people shared their opinions to help shape the way non-medical cannabis will be regulated in BC”.

In five weeks (September 25 to November 1) the BC Cannabis Regulation Engagement website saw 127,952 visits, with 48,151 British Columbians filling out the feedback form. As well, through a random survey by phone, 800 opinions were received from a representative cross-section of British Columbians. Government also received over 130 written submissions from organizations including local governments, school districts, cannabis industry, advocacy groups and law enforcement.

Engagement with local governments, Indigenous governments and organizations, and stakeholders from law enforcement, health, agriculture and other sectors is ongoing. In addition, the Province and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) have established a Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation made up of 12 representatives from UBCM and provincial representatives from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

The BC Government says the feedback collected through this engagement process will help ensure the provincial regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis reflects the needs and values of British Columbians, while prioritizing the protection of young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe. Over the next few weeks, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General will review and analyze the feedback received and create a summary report on what was heard that will be made available to the public.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our various engagements regarding cannabis legalization over the last five weeks. It’s now our job to do the hard work, take your feedback and perspectives and use them to develop a responsible, made-in-BC approach to regulating non-medical cannabis that maximizes public health and safety.”


 

Wednesday, November 1. Daylight Savings Time is coming to an end for this year. On Sunday November 5, 2017 Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 am. That’s the time to turn your clocks back one hour to instead be 1:00 a.m.

Sunrise and sunset will be about one hour earlier on November 5 than the day before. There will be more light in the morning.

If you forget which way to turn the clock, just remember ‘Fall Back’ (and ‘Spring Forward’, when it comes time for that in spring 2018). Of course, nowadays most clocks are within automated devices like computers, appliances and cars, and so the displayed time is programmed to change without you having to do anything.


 

Tuesday, October 31.  BC Premier John Horgan wrapped up his weekly news conference at the legislature today with “Happy Halloween everybody” after he had touched on various important matters that media queried him on.

Regarding the BC NDP convention coming up this weekend November 3 to 5 at the Victoria Convention Centre, he said that delegates will be discussing a range of policies and initiatives, with debate on each. “People are passionate about issues on the convention floor,” said Horgan. He identified contentious issues as things people are discussing across BC in every community including “the transforming economy, and the carbon constrained economy. Attending to matters of climate change is “now mandated by the federal government” along with many other countries, “to change the way we’re doing business”. On that Horgan said: “I want to lead a government that’s enabling that change in a positive way.”

Premier Horgan says his government will “take every step to protect rural representation” during the process of riding redistribution. In his 12 years in the legislature he says he’s seen in the three redistributions that rural representation is being lost through a deviation of seat sizes.  And with a tip of the hat to proportional representation, Horgan says he will “not shy away from changing a system that gives 100% power to 50% of the voters.”

BC Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (July 2017).

The matter of BC Hydro billing rates came up. The BC NDP government hopes to be “protecting rate payers from rate shock,” Horgan said, noting that hydro rates under the previous government went up “far faster than rate of inflation and far faster than in other jurisdictions”. The BC Liberal government set a five-year rate increase of 28.5% in motion in 2014 that has burdened families and households with a significant increase to the cost of living.

On provincial budget: “We have a team working now through the Minister of Finance, to get to some solution on deferred debt. It’s just not sustainable.” The previous BC Liberal government used BC Hydro rates “as a cash cow … borrowing money and deferring debt to make the budget look balance,” Horgan explained. His government will try to “reduce the long term costs on rate payers”.  “(Former Energy Minister) Bill Bennett said it was under control, it’s far from under control,” said Premier John Horgan.

The opioid problem is across BC. “It’s not acceptable to the public and not to me,” said Horgan. “All British Columbians want this to get this wrestled to the ground.” He says the federal government has given the “right language, but not sufficient resources it seems to me”. A formerly strong and high profile Minister of Health Jane Philpott in August was moved to another file, with Horgan saying it’s taking time for the new Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor to bring things up to speed.  In BC, Horgan says there are more safe injection sites and replacement programs in place.  “I’m personally disappointed at the numbers of deaths going up right across the province.” Horgan says later this week he expects to be talking with the federal government on other issues and that whenever he gets the chance he’s ‘pushing’ for more attention to the opioid crisis. “It’s not moving fast enough,” he said, but feels that his “positive working relationships with Ministers here in BC and with the Prime Minister” will help.


 

Sunday, October 29 ~ BC.  There’s still time to have your say on how BC should regulate the use of non-medical cannabis when the federal government legalizes marijuana in July 2018.

The BC government says its goal is to build a provincial regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis that “prioritizes the protection of young people, health and safety, locking criminals out of the industry, and keeping roads safe”.

Specifically, to help ensure that BC’s provincial cannabis regulatory system reflects the needs and values of British Columbians, government is seeking feedback on the following issues:

  • minimum age;
  • personal possession limits;
  • public consumption;
  • drug-impaired driving;
  • personal cultivation; and
  • distribution and retail models.

It’s an opportunity to “become a part of history and help ensure the framework best represents their interests and priorities”, it was stated in a release from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General on October 25.

The deadline is 4 pm on Wednesday November 1 to comment on issues such as minimum age, personal possession limits, consumption in public, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, distribution and retail models. See: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/BCcannabisregulation/

Since September 25, over 30,000 British Columbians have completed the survey and provided feedback.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017 ~ BC. Local governments throughout BC have until November 1, 2017 to provide feedback on the provincial discussion paper, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in British Columbia.

The Province will draw upon feedback obtained through the engagement process as it considers key policy decisions that will form the foundation of its legalized cannabis framework, it was stated today by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).

UBCM encourages all local governments to provide submissions to ensure that feedback provided to Province represents the diversity of our membership. Local government responses to the discussion paper will be considered as a separate cohort among the feedback provided.

Many people across Canada already use cannabis products for medicinal reasons. Recreational users often incur criminal records for simple possession, something that will likely fade away after the federal government brings in their new laws and regulations in July 2018.

Considered by pretty much all stakeholders to be a positive aspect of the upcoming legislation is to keep marijuana products out of the hands of youth (for health and safety reasons), and to control or eliminate the current black-market and criminal element of marijuana sales. The federal government will gain tax revenues under the new legislation. Provincial and municipal governments also stand to gain financially under the new laws and regulations.

For many, a major concern remains about road safety related to cannabis use. While for alcohol consumption the roadside blood-alcohol level testing has become mainstream, the ways and means for testing one’s state of clarity while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana remains to be fully determined.

Presently on the west shore of Vancouver Island:

>> In Sooke, a few marijuana-product outlets have already been operating in the town centre area for almost two years. About that… Sooke Council has had discussions but is essentially waiting for federal legislation to come into effect. Today Sooke Mayor Maja Tait (who sits on the UBCM executive) told West Shore Voice: “We received a staff report on Monday and will send a response summarizing the highlighted concerns within. These regulations and the Provincial request pertain to the Federal Government’s legalization of non-medical cannabis, that was the focus of our Agenda.”

>> In Colwood, the City of Colwood Council has had discussions about cannabis legalization and regulation, as well as participating in discussions at the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities and Union of BC Municipalities conferences. “The City will adhere to the current Colwood Land Use Bylaw and Business Bylaw until such time as the Federal and Provincial governments provide direction regarding legalization,” said Colwood’s communications manager Sandra Russell today. The Colwood Land Use and Business Bylaws currently prohibits marijuana dispensaries other than a licensed pharmacy or premises licensed under the “Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations”.

>> In Langford, a few marijuana product outlets that have opened have been quickly shut down through bylaw-related mechanisms. No statement on this topic was provided from the City of Langford today.

> Link to the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in BC discussion paper: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/217/2017/09/Cannabis-Legalization-and-Regulation-in-BC_Discussion-Paper.pdf


Deer in an urban area of Greater Victoria.

Wednesday, October 25 ~ BC. Funding from the BC Government is available to manage urban deer, it was announced today by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Up to $100,000 will be provided to local governments and First Nations communities (that are involved in urban deer activities or research into population control methods) to help fund urban deer management projects under the 2017-18 Provincial Urban Deer Cost-share Program. Applications due on or before November 17, 2017, info: 2017-18 Urban Deer Cost-share Program Application Guide

Eligible proposals will be evaluated by members of the Provincial Urban Deer Advisory Committee which includes reps from the Province,  local governments, the Union of BC Municipalities and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Successful proponents will be advised in December.

Projects that address human-deer conflict in areas where traditional deer management techniques are not appropriate will be given priority. Matching funds are required from any local government or First Nation that applies.

There are about 135,000 mule deer, 128,000 black-tail deer and more than 100,000 white-tail deer in BC. Deer are managed in BC by the BC Government which authorizes municipalities to undertake urban deer management actions. Provincial support includes technical advice, regulatory authority, necessary permits, specialized equipment and other management tools.


BC Health Minister Adrian Dix

Tuesday, October 24 ~ BC. BC’s three nursing colleges will be able to form one organization, providing a single set of bylaws for consistent structures, processes and an improved patient experience, as a result of amendments introduced today by Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Amendments to the Health Professions Act set the stage for the provincial nursing colleges to amalgamate, providing greater consistency for the profession and one point of contact for patients and partners.

The amendments allow for any of BC’s health profession colleges to amalgamate. This was prompted by a request from the nursing colleges to help streamline regulation.

In recent years, the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of BC (CRPNBC), College of Licensed Practical Nurses of BC (CLPNBC) and College of Registered Nurses of BC (CRNBC) have been working together on nursing regulations and standards, and have become more aligned in their efforts. This legislation lets them take the next step and amalgamate.

A group of Registered Nurses with Vancouver Coastal Health (2014)

The Health Professions Act states that it is the duty of the college to protect and serve the public at all times. With this in mind, the legislation will also allow for the appointment of an administrator for a health profession college. This is a safeguard in the event that a college board is seen to be acting to protect the interest of the health profession instead of the patient.

Patient safety will also be further supported as amendments will ensure that infection control breaches can be reported to public health officials in a timely manner. For example, if poor sterilizing practices are observed, the amendments will ensure they can be reported immediately. Currently, while any breach can be reported, it must first go through college investigation processes instead of directly to public health officials in a timely manner.

There are approximately 55,000 nurses licensed in BC. The CRPNBC regulates registered psychiatric nurses, the CLPNBC regulates licensed practical nurses and the CRNBC regulates registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

A single nursing regulator also exists in Ontario, the United Kingdom and Australia, with Nova Scotia exploring a similar approach.


 

Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s Hospital, to open October 29, 2017

Friday, October 20 ~ VANCOUVER. Newborns, children and expectant mothers from all around the province will be cared for in the new Teck Acute Care Centre, located on the campus of BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital, officially opened today by BC Premier John Horgan, health care workers and patients.

“When children need hospital care, they should be in a place that feels like home, where they can play, exercise their imagination, and be surrounded by family to help them heal,” said Premier Horgan. “This new centre means better care for thousands of patients and their families from every part of B.C. who access the building.”

Each area of the building is modelled after a different part of BC with the hope that children, women and their families can feel at home. The room where medical procedures, such as bone marrow extractions, are performed will have a ceiling lit with as many as 100 twinkling LED lights. These lights will recreate the night sky over Vancouver and show major constellations.

“The new acute-care centre will provide improved comfort and privacy for families in their time of need,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “A perfect example of this is the centre’s neonatal intensive care unit, which is designed to keep new moms together with their babies in the same room, helping to promote bonding and reduce stress. This model of care means less separation for families and is a key way to help ensure these vulnerable babies get the very best start in life.”

The Teck Acute Care Centre — which opens to patients on October 29, 2017 — will serve the entire province. It features a larger children’s emergency department, additional patient beds and an expanded neonatal intensive care unit – all equipped with single-patient rooms. Patients and families will have access to laundry facilities, family lounges and dining rooms, play areas, resource rooms, and storage space. Natural light and green spaces will add to the health and well-being of patients and staff.

The eight-floor, 59,400 sq m (640,000 sq ft) centre has 231 private patient rooms, medical/surgical in-patient units, medical imaging, procedural suites, a hematology/oncology/ bone marrow transplant department, a pediatric intensive care unit, and a high-risk labour and delivery suite.

Also opening is the BC Women’s Urgent Care Centre, which will provide care for women throughout their pregnancies and up to six weeks post-birth. The urgent-care centre, which is expected to see approximately 13,000 patients a year, includes 10 larger, single-patient rooms that will provide a quieter space with increased privacy for new moms and families.

The Teck Acute Care Centre opening marks the completion of the second phase of the BC Children’s and BC Women’s Redevelopment Project, a three-phase, multi-year initiative at BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.

“We want to recognize the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the BC government for having built an extraordinary facility that will transform child health care in BC,” said Don Lindsay, chair of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, and president and CEO of Teck. “We also want to acknowledge the generous support from over 80,000 British Columbians who supported the Campaign for BC Children. Teck and its employees throughout BC are incredibly proud to have played a role in making this new hospital a reality.”

“I am proud to say phase two of this ambitious project was delivered on time and on budget,” said Tim Manning, Provincial Health Services Authority board chair. “Today we applaud the countless hours of work by our partners, our patients and families, and our health-care teams, along with those who generously donated to the project.”

Susan Wannamaker, president of BC Children’s and Women’s Health, praised the efforts of staff and physicians at both hospitals. “They have great enthusiasm for the new space, technology and equipment that will continue to support the exceptional care they provide. It showed in their willingness to embrace the training and preparations in anticipation of patient move day.”

“The new facility will help the hospitals attract and retain the very top health professionals and clinical staff,” Wannamaker added.
Phase three of the redevelopment project includes relocating Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children to the Oak Street Campus and the addition of 10 single-room maternity-care spaces at BC Women’s Hospital. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018. The total cost of the three-phase redevelopment project is estimated at $676 million.


BC Premier John Horgan (center) looks on as Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston talks about small business in BC, October 16, 2017 [BC Govt photo]

Wednesday, October 18 ~ BC. Premier John Horgan delivered a message of strong support, including lower taxes, to help kick off Small Business Week and Manufacturing Week (Oct. 16 to Oct. 20). British Columbia’s small businesses are showing strong signs of growth and creating jobs for people throughout BC according to a new report issued on Monday, October 16.

“Small businesses are the economic engines of BC’s communities and create good jobs for people throughout the province,” said Premier Horgan. “We’re working hard to make sure that small businesses and manufacturers have the support they need. That’s why we’re reducing the small business tax rate to 2% from 2.5% and establishing a Small Business Task Force to help strengthen and grow the sector in BC”.

The Small Business Profile 2017 report shows that employment in BC’s small-business sector grew faster in 2016 than at any time in the past decade, with more than one million people employed in small businesses last year. However, that growth statistic is not surprising, in that most small businesses were severely impacted by the long drawn-out recession and recovery period after the crash in 2008.

The BC government says that small businesses produced more than one-third of provincial GDP in 2016 and $15.8 billion in exports in 2015, an increase of nearly $3 billion over the previous year.

Long the entrepreneurial energy in BC, the latest numbers show that BC leads the country in growth in the number of new small businesses and has the highest number of small businesses per capita across Canada, with small business making up 98% of all businesses in the province.

“There are significant growth opportunities ahead in advanced manufacturing, while the growth of small and medium-sized businesses can be fast-tracked by relying more on the use of technology,” said Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston. “Small businesses and manufacturers help create well-paying jobs for British Columbians throughout the province, and are major contributors to the provincial economy.”

As part of Small Business Week, the Province has partnered with Small Business BC to offer free professional seminars, webinars and ‘Ask the Expert’ services for small businesses during this time. Entrepreneurs and organizations representing small businesses and manufacturers will be marking both Small Business Week and Manufacturing Week with events throughout the province.

“We at Small Business BC are thrilled to partner with the Government of BC for Small Business Week to provide our high-quality training and expert advice to small businesses, free of charge,” said Sandra Miles, chair of Small Business BC. “By making it possible to share these valuable tools for free, the Province is giving small business owners the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed in their endeavours.”

As many of BC’s manufacturers are small businesses, declaring Manufacturing Week and Small Business Week together provides an opportunity for stakeholders to take advantage of events supporting both sectors.

“Manufacturing is a critical part of BC’s economy, contributing 7.2% of GDP,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters BC Division. “We also produce some fascinating products in BC and Manufacturing Week gives us an opportunity to profile for the public the nature of the industry and some of the cool things we make.” Manufacturing Week in BC is part of a broader national Manufacturing Month initiative led by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) to profile manufacturing across Canada, and is intended to boost the public profile of the manufacturing sector’s contributions to the economy.

Small businesses make up 98% of all businesses in BC, generating 34% of provincial GDP in 2016, above the Canadian average of 31%. Small businesses were the source of 32% of all wages paid to workers in BC last year, the highest share of all provinces and above the Canadian average of less than 27%.

Employment in BC’s small business sector climbed 3.1% in 2016, the highest rate of growth in over a decade. Approximately 1,056,300 British Columbians worked in small businesses in 2016, accounting for 54% of total private-sector employment, above the national average of 49%. Small businesses in BC shipped $15.8 billion worth of goods to international destinations in 2015, making up 42% of all provincial exports. Small businesses comprise almost 96% of employers in the high-technology sector.

British Columbia had the highest number of small businesses per capita in Canada in 2016, with 83.4 small businesses per 1,000 people. The national average was 69.9.

When it comes to the manufacturing sector, that’s a significant economic driver for the province, generating $16 billion for BC’s economy and supporting approximately 170,000 jobs. Manufacturing wages are 15.5% higher than the overall average for all industries, according to CME. There are more than 7,200 manufacturing companies in British Columbia. The manufacturing sector’s focus on export markets and innovation supports job growth across every manufacturing sub-sector in the province, including aerospace, marine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and apparel. Manufactured goods account for 58% of BC’s total goods exports to international destinations. Manufacturing Week is held in conjunction with CME’s Manufacturing Month and highlights the role BC’s manufacturers play in creating well-paying jobs throughout the province.

Small Business Profile 2017 | Small business in BC  | Manufacturing in BC  | seminars, webinars and services by Small Business BC for Small Business Week


 

Small Business Week October 16 to 20 across Canada.

Tuesday, October 17 ~ NATIONAL. Small businesses are the getting the break they were promised! Announced yesterday at the start of Small Business Week across Canada, the federal government announced that the small business tax rate in Canada will get back to 9% by 2019, as promised by Trudeau during the 2015 federal election campaign. Presently it’s 10.5% and it will go to 10% at January 1, 2018 before it gets to 9% the year after that.

Naturally this is good news for small business. No one can argue or resist a reduction in tax rate. As part of the federal announcement was the claim that it could save up to $7,500 per year for small businesses once the full rate reduction is in place. While that helps, it’s not an enormous sum in light of the continued struggle of small business in an economy where big players largely rule the roost.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) put out a statement welcoming the federal government’s decision to reinstate its promise to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to 9%.

“I am pleased to see the government make good on its commitment to lower the small business rate by 2019,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “This decision will pump hundreds of millions of dollars back into the small business community, helping them create more jobs and grow the economy.”

“Still, the changes to rules allowing business owners to share income with their family members remain a concern for middle-income businesses.”

CFIB is pleased the government has provided some clarity on the new rules around income-sprinkling – particularly, they will no longer be moving forward with measures that limit access to the lifetime capital gains exemption. However, CFIB remains concerned that the changes may not reflect the many formal and informal ways family members participate in the business.

“We are worried that the income sprinkling changes will keep the benefits of business ownership out of the hands of many spouses who participate in more informal ways in the business – particularly women,” said Kelly.

CFIB is anxiously awaiting details on passive income rules and the treatment of capital gains related to business succession. “We will wait for details and analysis on all the changes before passing judgment on the entire package,” added Kelly.

“As Small Business Week begins, I am heartened by the ‎outpouring of support for small businesses over the past three months. CFIB will be providing direct feedback to government on the full package of changes in the weeks ahead.”

For Small Business Week check out www.shopsmallbiz.ca and on Twitter #SmallBizSaturday


Jennifer Rice, BC Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness

Friday, October 13 ~ BC. “ShakeOutBC is a great opportunity to break from our routines, practice our earthquake response and take a moment to reflect on our level of preparedness,” says Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness.

“We each have a duty to prepare our family and our community for emergencies.” We encourages people to participate in the Drop, Cover and Hold On drill on Oct 19.

BC sits in one of the world’s most seismically active regions, with more than 3,000 earthquakes recorded every year. Most are too small to be felt, but the risk of one being big enough to cause damage is real.

The best immediate response in an earthquake is to Drop, Cover and Hold On. Thousands of people practice this life-saving technique every year as part of the Great BC ShakeOut which is Canada’s largest earthquake drill.

Families, schools, businesses or organizations can register for ShakeOutBC at www.shakeoutbc.ca/register


Tuesday, October 10 ~ BC. BC Premier John Horgan is visiting Alert Bay today following an invitation from Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation. Premier Horgan will hear from local First Nations leaders, elders and community members on a range of topics and particularly on the challenging issue of Atlantic salmon aquaculture. The meeting will run from 10:15 am to 2:30 pm at the ‘Namgis Traditional Big House.

Two Atlantic salmon fish farms in the region are currently being occupied by protestors. The industry generated $787 million in annual value in 2016 and supports about 5,000 rural and coastal jobs. B.C.’s new government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Cohen Commission and working with Indigenous communities, the federal government and industry on the issue of Atlantic salmon aquaculture.

With Premier Horgan today in Alert Bay will be Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation as well as Agriculture Minister Lana Popham and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and MLA for North Island Claire Trevena.

First Nations participants include: ‘Namgis First Nation, Dzawadaenuxw First Nation, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, Mamalalikula First Nation, and Kuterra land-raised salmon farm.

There were similar problems with Atlantic salmon acquaculture on the west side of Vancouver Island this past summer where an enclosure lost containment, allowing for the possible cross-contamination with natural Pacific salmon as well as competition for natural food sources.


 

President Donald Trump greets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau upon his arrival at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Tuesday, October 10 ~ OTTAWA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau are off to Washington today for two days, for business talks, social events and photo ops.

This visit takes place amidst a time of NAFTA negotiations, stresses with North Korea, and the political strain of the Black Lives Matter kneeling issue at professional sports events. Trudeau’s official public engagements focussing on women in business is a soft-edge diplomatic touch.

On Tuesday evening, The Trudeaus will attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and Gala. On Wednesday morning,along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, the Trudeaus will participate in the Women One Roundtable Discussion. After that, the Prime Minister and Freeland will meet with the Committee on Ways and Means.

On Wednesday afternoon October 11, the Trudeaus will arrive at the White House and be greeted by US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Trudeau and Trump will meet privately around 2:05 pm, after which Trudeau is scheduled to meet with media around 3:40 pm.


 

Saturday, October 7 ~ WEST SHORE. Duality in Greater Victoria real estate this fall season.  Real Estate Analysis by Mary P Brooke ~ West Shore Voice News

There’s been a stone-cold drop in activity and a significant cooling in prices in many average-price areas of the Greater Victoria real estate market in recent weeks.

But in three areas actual sales price averages jumped dramatically between August and September: Langford was up by $55,150, East Saanich was up by $42,565 and North Saanich prices skyrocketed by $152,407. Prices in high-end Oak Bay notably dropped by almost $94,000 (only post-peak stock may have been available).

In September there were 18.1% fewer properties sold than a year ago. East Saanich is normally the bell-weather of pricing trends, and Langford seems to be following suit.

The Victoria Real Estate Board says the market is “trending slowly towards more balanced conditions and overall price increases are levelling”. But their own stats tell a different story. The trend is not slow. prices are ‘acting out’, and the most stable areas (East Saanich and Langford) show distinct upward pressure.

Two Bank of Canada interest rate hikes this summer cut the legs out from under the lower end of the market, hurting entry-level buyers and sellers of modest homes.

Housing inventory rose in September 2017 (up 3.1% from August) as properties have become more difficult to sell. In the fast-growing City of Langford the actual sale price of single family homes surpassed $700,000 last month while Colwood and Sooke prices plummeted.

This article was first published in the October 6, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Todd Stone, MLA

Friday, October 6 ~ BC. BC Liberal MLA Todd Stone (MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson) will be making “a special announcement regarding the future of the party and the province” on Tuesday, October 10 in Surrey. He will also do campaign-style stops in Victoria and at Thompson Rivers University in his home town of Kamloops. He is expected to announce his candidacy to run for the BC Liberal leadership.

Stone was the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure under the Christy Clark Liberal government from June 2013, during which time his Ministry launched a 10-year plan to expand and enhance highways and roads throughout BC.  He also served as Minister Responsible for Emergency Management BC and Deputy Government House Leader. He was also a member of the Priorities and Planning Committee.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Peter Fassbender says BC needs a fresh vision to keep the province on track. The first of six BC Liberal candidate debates is set for October 15 in Surrey, with party members embarking upon their process to select a new leader to replace former premier Christy Clark by early February 2018.


 

The Coastal Rennaissance vessel in the BC Ferries fleet.

Friday, October 6 ~ COASTAL BC. This morning was the first of several 6am sailings by BC Ferries vessels between Metro Vancouver and Victoria. The additional sailing time (sailings normally start at 8 am) is part of accommodating heavier ferry traffic on the busy Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

“It was a good load from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen this morning on the Coastal Renaissance,” said BC Ferries communications rep Deborah Marshall. There were 250 vehicles on board the Super C-Class vessel, which is about 80% of the ship’s 310-vehicle capacity.

There was also good use of the 6 am sailing from the Vancouver side over to the island. The Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay sailing on the Queen of New Westminster carried 150 vehicles which is 60% of the 250-vehicle full capacity.

There will be another set of 6 am sailings on Saturday October 7 and on Thanksgiving Monday October 9 plus Tuesday October 10.

There will also be some midnight departures on October 6 and 9 from both terminals on the Metro Vancouver-Victoria route (Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay) as part of the additional 90 sailings on BC Ferries for this long weekend.

The most popular travel times are expected to have been yesterday afternoon (October 5) and this afternoon Friday October 6, as well as tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

BC Ferries says the busiest day of the long weekend is likely to be Monday, October 9, with traffic returning to the mainland from the Departure Bay, Swartz Bay and Langdale terminals. Duke Point terminal tends to be less congested than Departure Bay, so customers returning to Vancouver from the Nanaimo area may consider travelling through the Duke Point terminal.

Parking lots at the major terminals may reach capacity at the height of the weekend, so public transit is suggested as an option for foot passengers.

Route info and sailing conditions: www.bcferries.com


 

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver at UBCM [UBCM photo, Sept 2017]

Thursday, October 5 ~ BC. Addressing the issue of housing affordability and availability, this week BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver questioned housing Minister Selina Robinson on the BC NDP government’s intentions to take action to cool the housing market.

“Last week at UBCM the Premier indicated that his government’s solution to the problem of housing affordability is to simply add more supply,” Weaver said. Supply is required, but it goes deeper than that.

“Once more our government has missed the glaring problems on the demand side,” said Weaver. Weaver pointed out that when in opposition, Minister Eby (now Attorney General) was a fierce critic of the government’s failure to act, and argued that the bare trust loophole costs British Columbia hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used for affordable housing initiatives.”

Weaver is calling for the Horgan NDP government to “take action immediately to close the bare trust loophole that incentivizes speculation, discourages transparency and encourages property tax avoidance”.

Weaver is calling for bold solutions to the affordable housing crisis that is facing many communities. He is targeted the non-resident foreign buyer’s tax as something that should be extended to the entire province. The BC Greens are also calling for a ban on foreign ownership of ALR land over five acres, as a way to stem speculation and protect British Columbia’s food security.

BC Premier John Horgan addressed delegates at UBCM in Vancouver Sept 29, 2017 [Photo: UBCM]

Weaver states the obvious: “The purpose of housing should be to provide homes for British Columbians – not a commodity that is wide open to international speculation.” He called it a “terrible reality” for people to be priced out of their own community due to real estate speculation.

Last week at UBCM, presenters armed with data in a presentation about the housing market argued that housing prices in Victoria and Vancouver will remain consistently high due to the desirability of people wanting to live in these urban areas of the BC coastal region.

In a presentation on September 25, Josh Gordon, Assistant Professor in Public Policy at SFU said there is “too much investment in the housing market” which is increasing transaction costs. “Private housing was never meant to be an investment vehicle,” said Gordon. As he was addressing municipal officials, he added: “No action by local authorities can have any impact on pricing.” He continued that housing prices have reached “unprecedented levels” in Vancouver and Victoria, but showed with housing trends data that squeezing regular homeowners out of the market is “not a Canada-wide issue”. Professor Gordon called it a “two-track market”. He left those in room a bit overwhelmed but arguably convinced.

Langford Mayor Stew Young at Council, October 2, 2017 [Photo: Mary Brooke, West Shore Voice News]

Last week at UBCM when Premier John Horgan in his speech to wrap up the conference on Friday morning tossed out a glib offer of manufactured homes (calling them ‘cans’) for municipalities to use for providing housing, it did offer supply. But it smacked of a ‘step down’ for people who have been pushed out of access to regular housing due to the bigger market forces that Weaver and the data-laden experts are talking about.

Municipalities like the City of Langford are keen to boost housing supply, having added about 500 to 600 homes (single family, townhome, condo, apartment rental and subsidized housing) per year in the past few years. Further, Langford Mayor Stew Young sees continued supply as a way to provide jobs and build the local and regional west shore economy, where businesses increasing flock to be part of the burgeoning economy there.


 

Sunday, October 1 ~ EDMONTON. Attack in Edmonton. A police officer and four others were taken to hospital in Edmonton on Saturday night September 30 following a violent rampage by a 30-year-old Somali immigrant man. Police say the man showed no active signs of terrorist recruitment or radicalization.

Today BC Premier John Horgan issued a statement, including: “I was shocked and saddened to learn of last night’s violent attacks against police and the people of Edmonton. British Columbians stand united with the people of Alberta – and all Canadians – against violence and hate in all its forms.”


 

Jagmeet Singh is the new federal NDP leader.

Sunday, October 1 ~ NATIONAL. The federal NDP have a new leader. Today October 1, Jagmeet Singh won the NDP Leadership race on the first ballot with 53.8% of valid votes cast.

An Osgoode Law School graduate, Singh won with 35,266 votes. Overall turnout was 52.8 per cent of eligible NDP member voters.

Fundraising, polls and membership sign-ups suggested that Singh was on track for a strong first ballot result, though winning on the first ballot is an NDP feat only achieved in the past by Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton.

There were strong indications throughout the campaign that Singh’s support was largely being drawn from new members, though some seasoned MPs (like Randall Garrison, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) were vocally supportive in recent weeks. Pre-existing members of the party opted largely for the other three leadership candidates — Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron — who are sitting MPs and long-time party figures.

The NDP are obviously looking for new hope and a fresh start with a leader who brings new skills, talents and celebrity charm to the role.  This will put Singh as the NDP leader up against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal) and Andrew Scheer (Conservative) in the Fall 2019 federal election.


 

BC Premier John Horgan addressed delegates at the 2017 Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver, September 29 [photo by UBCM]

Friday, September 29 ~ VANCOUVER. He said he’d heard it was unusual to hang out for the entire week at a Union of BC Municipalities convention, but Premier John Horgan made it clear he was there to integrate as deeply as possible with the mayors and councillors of municipalities from across British Columbia. These are the people who are ‘on the ground’ meeting with constituents face to face. He needs those connections.

In his speech on Friday, September 29 — joking it would be rivaled as ‘the biggest speech ever’ at a UBCM convention (playing on the spoof popularity of crowd-size assertations on Saturday Night Live) — he went light on specifics about the wide range of deliverables that his NDP government still plans to roll out. Already, in the first few weeks since taking office in July 2017, Horgan and his ministers have been going down the checklist of campaign promises, including increased disability and income assistance, promising to build more housing considered ‘affordable’, and a focus on mental health and addiction.

Today he reiterated what is already in Selina Robinson’s mandate letter as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, that the promised 114,000 housing units will be in market rental, non-profit, co-op, supported social housing, and owner-purchase housing. However, some specifics included an announcement about 600 modular homes in being available for the Vancouver area, with 150 in Surrey, and more in Smithers “and any other community that modular will fit with your package of solutions”. The Premier described the homes as inexpensive, quick to place, and movable. He told municipal leaders officials: “If you’ve got land and zoning, we’ve got the cans. Let’s get this going.”

And while on the surface it sounded positive, Premier Horgan did level a bit of a blow to his own home riding, where the City of Langford is bidding on bringing the new Amazon Headquarters 2 (HQ2) to south Vancouver Island. As reported in West Shore Voice last week, the Amazon project is an opportunity for some 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars in investment. In the same breath as saying “let’s bring more high tech jobs to BC,” and encouraging all communities to step up to the Amazon bid process, Horgan said the BC government will financially back only Vancouver’s bid for Amazon HQ2, to the tune of $50,000.

Horgan pitched to “work with everybody in this room” to come up with innovative ways — all levels of government working together – for “a better BC for all of us”. He itemized the need for resource jobs, as well as in high tech, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. “Every corner of BC has something to offer the world. It starts by working together,” Horgan said.

He talked about the opioid crisis, with solutions seen as being in opening up more treatment centres, increasing anti-trafficking in law enforcement, and having already set up a new ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.
Regarding the threat to the BC softwood lumber industry, Horgan gave the crowd in Vancouver some verbal muscle, without specifics: “If the US wants to go to court… we’ve won every dispute we’ve had, and we’ll win this one as well.”

Premier Horgan said he had a bit of fun while in Vancouver by suiting up with professional firefighters of BC at the Vancouver fire operations centre, in the wake of having visited wildfire areas of the BC Interior this past summer. The worst fire season in BC’s history, this past summer saw communities devastated, people dislocated, and small businesses seriously set back. Dealing with the wildfire scenario was Horgan’s first major requirement for action after he became Premier on July 18. ~ WSV


 

BC Finance Minister Carole James

Tuesday, September 26 ~ BC. Government undertakes fiscal sustainability review

“Trust but verify” and “garbage-in garbage-out” are sayings that come to mind with this BC finance announcement about checking the quality of the information upon which earlier budget projections were based.

It’s a fiscal sustainability review and it makes good sense for a new government to do this.

Indeed, the BC Ministry of Finance released a statement today saying that the review will “help inform the development of Budget 2018 and the next three-year fiscal plan”. It will include a review of financial information submitted to the Province by specific Crown corporations and the broader schools, universities, colleges and health (SUCH) sector.

Independent consultants have been contracted to help the provincial government assess the quality of financial information built into the baseline assumptions in the budget development process. The goal of the review is to assess the information, evaluate risks and identify options that will assist the Province with developing, monitoring and managing to its overall fiscal plan targets.

The review covers selected significant Crown corporations including: BC Lottery Corporation | BC Hydro |  Insurance Corporation of British Columbia |  Liquor Distribution Branch | BC Housing Management Commission (including Provincial Rental Housing Corporation).

In addition, the review will include a high-level assessment of the information provided by SUCH (schools, universities, colleges and health) sector entities through the ministries responsible for their fiscal planning, monitoring and management.

The review will be completed in advance of Budget 2018 in order for information to be incorporated and reflected in Budget 2018.

“This review will help inform the decisions we make as a government as we work to build Budget 2018,” said Minister of Finance Carole James, in a news release September 26. “My expectation is that the review will give government a better picture of the risks, finances and fiscal forecasts of significant Crown corporations and SUCH sector entities, so that we foster long-term fiscal sustainability in planning and developing our budgets and decisions.”

Minister James said that “every additional dollar that is carefully managed can be used to help make life more affordable for people, invest in services and build a strong, sustainable economy.”


 

Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

Saturday, September 23 ~ LANGFORD.  If you don’t try, you’ll never know. The City of Langford with its go-after-it can-do attitude and team approach has assembled a bid to attract Amazon to the west shore of Vancouver Island.

They’re responding to a tender put out by Amazon on September 7 for a location at which the online retailer can set up their second North American headquarters (HQ2 for short). HQ2 would be a full equal to the company’s main headquarters in Seattle, WA said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in a statement earlier this month.

After their October 19 deadline, Amazon will be seeing Langford’s pitch in front of them along with at least 50 bids from major cities across North America (likely including, in Canada, these — Ottawa, Calgary, London, Edmonton, Toronto).

If nothing else, it’s good international exposure for Langford, but Langford Mayor Stew Young and senior staff are optimistic.

“We have great transportation routes, an international airport and seaplanes,” said Mayor Young this week. Of course, the $5 billion that the online retailer would spend to build HQ2 would be the first great part of Amazon putting down roots in Langford.

Amazon HQ2 would eventually employ up to 50,000 people full time over a 10-year period. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 would create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

City of Langford Mayor Stew Young [West Shore Voice News photo]

Langford offers an already established commercial hub within the west side of the island lifestyle, similar to the laidback lifestyle that Amazon offers their employees. Here the perks would be lots of indoor and outdoor recreation, modern digital services, universities and colleges, and relative housing affordability. And more… including locally three lakes that Langford has in within its boundaries plus nearby hiking, fishing and trails along the west coast.

As well, being in Canada would offer the US company a cheaper dollar as well as trade agreements into Europe and Asia that are separate from NAFTA, which is probably why the Request for Proposal (RFP) was not limited to American cities.

Stew Young was approached by the business community to give this bid a shot, even though the Amazon RFP states the need for a base population of 1 million people. Greater Victoria is about 370,000 people, but the extended region could be seen to include adjacent regions of Vancouver Island, and by ferry-extension, the lower mainland.

In the last few years Langford’s population has surpassed 40,000 and the development community keeps on building houses, townhomes, condos and rental apartments to help Langford try and keep up to housing demand.

Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle is comprised of 33 buildings, in total about 8.1 million sqft. That includes 24 restaurants/cafes and eight other services. Their capital investment in buildings and infrastructure was $3.7 billion. Operational expenditures are $1.4 billion (utilities/maintenance). Employee payroll is about $25.7 billion/yr. About $43 million is paid into Seattle’s transportation system. In 2016 about 233,000 hotel nights were booked by visiting Amazonians and guests.

Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy (2010-2016) – every dollar invested by Amazon generated an additional 1.4 dollars for the city’s economy overall.

Naturally there is buzz in cities across North America to throw their hats into this enormous ring. Some financial critics say the magnitude of the project could overwhelm a city or region that is not prepared to handle it. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity that likely comes once in a city’s lifetime.

The closing date for the RFP is right around the corner. The entire tech industry and community of municipalities in Canada and the US are keen to see how this one plays out.

This article was first published in the Print/PDF September 22, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Wednesday, September 20 ~ BC. VICTORIA – The Government of British Columbia has introduced legislation to put an end to big money in politics and put people back at the heart of government decision-making. Premier John Horgan made the announcement yesterday.

And while it fulfills a campaign promise toward fairness in the electoral system, there’s a catch. This fiscal year it will cost the taxpayers big bucks to fund the transition, with a dwindling effect over five years to 2022.

“We’re reforming campaign finance rules to make sure government’s actions and decisions benefit everyone, not just those with deep pockets,” said Premier John Horgan yesterday in a news conference and news release.

“This legislation will make sure 2017 was the last big-money election in our province,” said Attorney General David Eby. “The days of limitless donations, a lack of transparency and foreign and corporate influence over our elections are history.”

The Election Amendment Act, 2017, will:
* End corporate and union donations
* Limit individual contributions to $1,200 a year, the second-lowest limit in Canada; fundraisers at private residences will have an imposed cap of $100 per person.
* Ban out-of-province donations
* Cap contributions to third-party election advertisers
* Require ongoing public reporting of all fundraisers attended by major party leaders, cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries, including those held in private residences
* Reduce campaign spending limits for candidates and political parties by about 25%
* Set new fines and penalties for contraventions of election financing and advertising laws

“These unprecedented changes will not only end the ‘wild west’ of campaign fundraising, they are an important step in modernizing our democracy,” Eby said.

The bill contains several transitional provisions, including restrictions on the use of contributions received before the legislation comes into force. Political contributions previously collected that are not allowed under the new rules – including prior donations from unions and corporations or funds collected from a person in excess of $1,200 – cannot be used in future elections.

The Election Amendment Act, 2017, introduces a transitional annual allowance for political parties over a set term of five years. The allowance diminishes in value over time and is intended to help political parties transition to the new campaign finance rules. A special committee of the legislature will review the allowance to determine if it should be continued. If no action is taken, the allowance will expire in 2022.

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver had this to say about it:  “This is a historic day for our province’s democracy. Big money has been the defining feature of what is broken in BC politics. Now, one year after BC Greens banned corporate and union donations to our own party, we will ban it province-wide once and for all. I am delighted that 2017 will go down in history as the last big money election in BC.” He insisted that this is not an extraordinary move, in that the federal government funds political parties the same way.

Weaver thanked David Eby and his office for their diligent work bringing this bill forward so early in the session. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will work with the government to ensure that this legislation is comprehensive and adequately addresses the issues with the current system.”

Over the next four years, taxpayers will foot a bill of $6.8 million for the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Liberal parties. The Green Party will be allotted $2.8 million over the same four year period.

The BC Liberals had long refused to limit political donations despite repeated criticism of the party’s fundraising practices, including cash-for-access events in which donors paid up to $10,000 for a chance to sit down with the premier.


 

Wednesday, September 20 ~ NATIONAL. The Angus Reid institute says that Canadian entrepreneurs are divided over the fairness and impacts of proposed federal small business tax changes.

“As Prime Minister Trudeau’s government doubles down on plans to change the way Canadian small business owners are taxed, entrepreneurs themselves are divided on the potential impacts of two of the most significant amendments – a divide driven largely by the size of their own ventures, and the amount of risk their businesses are carrying,” says an Angus Reid Report today based on their latest public opinion survey.

Both entrepreneurs and Canadians who don’t own businesses were surveyed. The results apparently show neither blind support for the government’s so-called “tax fairness” agenda, nor blanket outrage suggested by the fiercest opponents of proposed changes. “Small business owners do not react in a monolithic way to the amendments,” says the report.

Regarding proposed alterations to income sprinkling, the survey showed that 24% feel it will negatively affect their business and 44% said it would be unfair. When it comes to changes dealing with passive investment income, the perceived negative impact among business owners is higher at 42%, as is the view the changes are unfair (55%).

Overall, Canadians are evenly divided as to whether the changes will make the tax system fairer or harm business investment, with small businesses not surprisingly lean toward the harm factor.

See the editorial “On this one, Trudeau has it all wrong” in West Shore Voice News – September 8, 2017 issue (page 2), for further analysis on why the Trudeau government might want to cancel these proposed changes.


 

Saturday, September 9 ~ NATIONAL.  BUSINESS EDITORIAL. On this one, Trudeau has it wrong.

For the most part, Justin Trudeau as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister has pulled this country forward in many admirable and respectable ways. He helped out thousands of refugees, set leadership for gender equity, brought youth into the political loop, has bridged relations with Trump and the USA well enough so far, and is standing firm on a broader goal to peace regarding North Korea.

However, when it comes to truly understanding the impact of proposed tax revisions for small business in Canada, Trudeau and finance minister Bill Morneau are completely off base.

It’s simply just not accurate, shows poor observational skills and short-sighted analysis to lump all smaller-than-the-largest corporations under one umbrella. And then essentially assume that most of them are up to no good.

Accountants will tell you they’re seeing more scrutiny already against small businesses, and that’s even before the tax legislation has been changed. This is the Liberal strategy to ‘take from the rich and give to the poor (middle class)’.

But what they don’t seem to get is that there is really no firm middle class any more — everybody is a worker. What vestiges of a middle class that remain will meet their deathknell by way of these proposed spirit-crushing tax strategies.

Trudeau says tax changes are aimed at ensuring wealthy Canadians pay their fair share. But these are in many cases not ‘wealthy’ people, just people who work hard at their game to achieve a good living. Affected by the proposed new legislation (which seems to be barreling ahead) will be such a range of small businesses that no one will be unaffected. Professionals like doctors will be impacted, as well as your car repair shop, your web designer, your fitness trainer… anybody who runs their own enterprise, particularly if they are incorporated.

Not only does this shrivel up the last remaining hopes of starry-eyed entrepreneurs and the self-employed, it will have a trickle-down effect into the rate of hiring and the cost of services. Small businesses generate most of the new jobs. And nowadays not many people are much above keeping their heads above water in a paycheque-to-paycheque/fixed-income economy, additionally burdened by two Bank of Canada interest-rate increases in recent months.

Small businesses incorporate for various reasons, not the least of which is to create an arms-length relationship between owner and enterprise (which is healthy). If going after the incorporated small business owner as the key source for shoring up federal coffers to pay for other programs, they are shaving away the success of some of the country’s hardest-working, most devoted citizens whose talents and enterprise create jobs and prosperity for those around them. Leveling the playing field between proprietors and wage earners shows a deep unawareness of or disregard for the level of risk and often self-imposed responsibility that proprietors take compared to wage-earners. One could also say it’s a bit of divide-and-conquer, by pitting the ‘working class’ against those ‘nasty’ so-called ‘wealthy’ folks who on the surface generate more income, but at the end of the day are often left with a similar take-home pay and more incorporation-related overhead to pay.

The proposed tax changes would undo tax incentives that middle-class entrepreneurs have relied on for decades to fund their retirements, retain cash in their companies to tide them over in leaner times, provide for their families, and protect their businesses if they choose maternity or become ill. Small businesses don’t have pension plans or sick leave like salaried employees do. In many ways they live on the edge, with nothing or no one to bail them out if they falter. And yet as a society we benefit by and appreciate their services. If running one’s own business becomes nothing more than an overly-responsible job without any perks, then the proposed tax changes are a death knell to a wide cross-section of industrious, creative people who contribute a special edge and verve to the economy. It’s an unkind, unthinking blow to that high-spirited innovative drive that is almost uniquely Canadian. It’s like a targeted kill of a treasured natural resource. Odd.

As Capital Regional District (CRD) Chair Barb Desjardins put it this week: “I’m quite worried about it. I understand the direction but it’s been targeted to the wrong group of people. This will target middle income earners. It will affect small business in a significant way and will be problematic. They aren’t the people you want to hurt.”
Write a letter to the Minister of Finance on this one, or do what you can to support the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which has effectively articulated concerns about this for a quite a while. Even several federal Liberal MPs have publicly voiced opposition to their government’s plan on this.

If it goes through, this legislation will be a game-changer for the overall fabric of the Canadian economy that in many ways would over time become irreversible. And let’s get down to brass tacks. At the very least, Trudeau may wish to rethink the small business tax revisions in order to retain for 2019 many of the business-class votes that shifted his way in 2015.

This is a government that seems prepared in almost every instance to barrel ahead with the right to rule. And it’s tolerated, because most Canadians seem satisfied with having seen Canada advance in many ways since 2015. But in this instance, it’s time to admit a wrong turn, back up, and change direction.


 

BC Premier John Horgan accepts a handshake from BC Lt Gov Judith Guichon after she read his government’s Throne Speech, September 8 [livestream screenshot]

Friday, September 8 ~ BC. First BC NDP Throne Speech in 16 years

EDITORIAL INSIGHTS by WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS.

The tone of a Throne Speech as penned by an NDP government would of course sound different than that of the previous longstanding BC Liberal government. Listening to and supporting the people was espoused.

What was notably “21st century” for an NDP budget was a more definitive articulation of interrelationships with municipalities, industry, business and a wider range of population sectors.

The 30-minute address was delivered by Lt Gov Judith Guichon at 2pm on Friday September 8. Just a few months ago she had made the tough decision to pull the plug on the Christy Clark BC Liberals and give the NDP (with threeGreen Party MLAs in tow) a chance at leading British Columbia with a minority government.

To that point, the speech dropped something of a ‘bomb’ by announcing the next fixed election date as being in Fall 2021. That gives BC Premier John Horgan and his government a full four years to roll out their people-first policies and make them stick. Fixed-date elections would follow every four years.

The new government is also promising to deliver on Proportional Representation by setting the terms for a referendum by November 2018, in favour of reform “so that citizens can be sure that every vote counts”. Big money donations (corporate and union) will be eliminated and individual donors to political parties will have to be residents of BC.

Answering to one of the overriding NDP themes in the May 2017 election, came this: “Too many families were left behind for too long. It’s time that we made life more affordable.” Most families will be happy to hear that, but opponents will watch to see how that is accomplished with stability in the budget.

The government says it will consult with the public on various things ahead of delivering the first full budget in February 2018. Meanwhile, the Throne Speech purported some first steps toward making life more affordable such as helping renters by closing fixed term lease loopholes, and increasing support to the Residential Tenancy Branch toward fair treatment for both tenants and landlords.

A Fair Wages Commission will put BC on a path to a $15/hour minimum wage, by setting the course for stable and predictable increases over time.

Action is being taken to fix the problems at ICBC and BC Hydro, it was stated in the speech, to make sure that Crown corporations can deliver the “best possible service… at the lowest possible cost.”

A legislated poverty reduction plan will be brought in, with that work getting underway in the coming weeks.
Government says it will deliver a province-wide child care program, starting with the creation of more spaces and training more early childhood educators. Consultations with families and child care providers will be undertaken this fall.

Housing affordability was addressed with a statement about working with municipalities, cooperatives and the private sector to increase the supply of rental, social, co-op and owner-purchase homes.

The promise overall is for “relief from high costs and fees, better access to services, and an economy that works for everyone.”

Meanwhile, BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said in a news release after the Throne Speech that he is “pleased to see so many BC Green ideas included in the new blueprint for government.” He continued: “This session, we will finally see corporate and union donations banned following the lead we took a year ago in banning them from our Party. We will see lobbying reform, a BC Green initiative, which will go even further towards ending the undue influence of special interests in our politics. BC will also have an Innovation Commissioner, one of the ideas in our emerging economy platform that will help ensure BC’s long term economic prosperity.” Weaver was encouraged by increased funding for public education as one of “the best investments government can make”.

The Greens are integral to maintaining a go-forward minority government. However, Weaver explained that the Green MLAs will not always agree with everything the government does. “As with any relationship, this disagreement is healthy. All three parties share many values and goals, though we might sometimes differ on the best ways to implement them. There is much we can accomplish together if we are willing to engage in thoughtful, productive debate and to consistently put the interests of our constituents first.”


Thursday, September 7 ~ BC. Things are gearing up for an active session at the BC Legislature under the new BC NDP government.

Lt Gov Judith Guichon will open the second session of the 41st Parliament of British Columbia on Friday, September 8. She will read the speech from the throne starting at 2 pm. The speech will be viewable live at www.leg.bc.ca


 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in Saskatoon Sept 1). CBC Photo

Sunday, September 3 ~ OTTAWA. North Korea announced this weekend that it had detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear test yet, which it declared a “perfect success.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued the following statement in response to North Korea’s latest testing of a nuclear weapon:

“Canada unequivocally condemns North Korea’s‎ nuclear test of September 3 which, combined with its aggressive program of ballistic missile testing, represents a clear and present threat to the safety and security of its neighbours and the international community.

“This most recent test, which appears to have been of a much greater magnitude than its five previous nuclear explosions, is in direct contravention of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and‎ demonstrates once again North Korea’s flagrant disregard of international law.

“These continued provocations by North Korea’s leadership, along with their profoundly dangerous push to develop nuclear weapons and test ballistic missiles near neighbouring countries, only serve to further isolate them.

“Canada has been steadfast in insisting that North Korea abandon its current course, including its aggressive rhetoric, and asks that it resumes constructive dialogue toward a comprehensive and verifiable solution.

“We urge the UN Security Council to take further decisive action to effectively constrain North Korea’s proliferation efforts, and call on all states to fully implement relevant UN sanctions.

“We will continue to work with key regional partners – including the United States, South Korea and Japan – as well as the broader international community, to counter the North Korean threat.”


 

BC Premier John Horgan (Government of BC photo)

Sunday, September 3 ~ VICTORIA. Statement from Premier John Horgan for Labour Day (September 4):

“On Labour Day we recognize the hard-working people of British Columbia, who built this province from the ground up. 

“Labour Day is a day of rest, and an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by working people. The hard-fought victories of the labour movement over generations made life better for everyone.

“People who work hard deserve a government that works hard for them. Our government will increase the minimum wage, open the doors to apprenticeships and skills training, strengthen employment standards and create safer workplaces for all. Because building up our province starts by building up our people.

“I join you in celebrating this special day.”

On Monday, September 4, Premier John Horgan and Minister of Labour Harry Bains will be joining others, including Patty Hajdu, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, in an annual Labour Day celebration with the New Westminster and District Labour Council. Starting at 11:30 am in Holland Park, 13428 Old Yale Road, Surrey.


 

BC Labour Minister Harry Bains

Saturday, September 2 ~ OPINION-EDITORIAL. At the crux of this Labour Day: ensuring worker safety. By Harry Bains, BC Minister of Labour. 

Many forget that Labour Day is much more than an opportunity for backyard barbecues, community picnics and for some, a day off work. However, the true purpose of the holiday is a celebration of the achievements and progress of the working class.

Communities, big and small, urban or rural, depend on business and industry, not just for maintaining jobs and the tax base, but because they help define the culture and spirit of the place we call home. They rely on the bakeries, the unique gift shop, the local mechanic’s garage and community grocer that sponsor the little league team; and the large employers, the chains and franchises that invest in our cities and employ our families and neighbours. We owe much to these employers, but Labour Day is about what is also owed to the workers.

Throughout my career as a trade unionist, I have known one thing: workers want fairness. They want a level playing field for all workers. I have devoted my time to helping people gain a voice when discriminated against, when treated unfairly by the employer, when rights and freedoms are not respected. However, the biggest impact on me personally, professionally and politically was helping families find their voice after tragedy. I have stood beside loved ones mourning the loss of a family member, a husband or wife that they kissed goodbye in the morning for a day filled with promise, who never to return home because the promise of a safe workplace was broken.

Workers deserve and should demand safe working conditions. The legacy I hope to leave as the new Minister of Labour and first NDP Labour Minister in more than 16 years is to make British Columbia the safest jurisdiction in Canada for workers. We have come a long way, but more can be done and must be done!

Whether it’s ensuring safety for workers, giving workers a long overdue raise by increasing the minimum wage, or bringing back the Human Rights Commission dismantled by our predecessors, you can trust that your BC government is fighting for families on real issues, like affordability, good paying jobs and improved public services, as well as an economy that works for and is inclusive of everyone. Central to our promises this Labour Day is also our pledge to do everything we can to help reduce preventable work accidents, enforce regulations and support workers in their journey to get back to work.

On this Labour Day, join me in celebrating all that workers have done to make life better for themselves and their families.


 

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: July-August 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: June 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: April & May 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: March 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: February 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: January 2017

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: October through December 2016

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: September 2016

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: August 2016

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: July 2016

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: February through June 2016

 


Contributions of articles, insights and photos welcome. Write to: editor@westshorevoicenews.com or tel/text 250-217-5821. Twitter: @WestShoreVOICE .