News in support of successful living: business & economy, health & wellness, education, the arts, politics, sustainability & social trends. Featuring news of the west side of Vancouver Island.

Click on other pages for deeper stories and local news:  BC & NATIONAL | VANCOUVER ISLAND (island-wide impact) | LANGFORD, COLWOOD & METCHOSIN | SOOKE |  JUAN de FUCAREGIONAL EVENTS


DropCoverHoldonTuesday, March 28 ~ WEST SIDE of VANCOUVER ISLAND. Funding to support a wider tsunami warning range on the west side of Vancouver Island has been announced today by Emergency Management BC (EMBC).

Residents of Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht First Nation will receive increased capability for tsunami warnings and the potential to provide earthquake early warnings, thanks to a $550,000 contribution from the BC Disaster Mitigation Program to the Capital Regional District (CRD), it was announced today March 28.

The funds will replace existing obsolete tsunami sirens with new warning technology to help residents to be quickly informed in the event a tsunami threatens the region. The tsunami siren upgrades will include voiceover capability and remote activation, expanding the audible warning zone to include the Pacheedaht First Nation community. The proposed system will have the potential to provide early warning prior to an earthquake actually occurring. This could allow residents time to drop, cover and hold on, and head to high ground.

The funding is all a part of a broader set of more than $80 million invested in emergency preparedness and mitigation. Some of these investments, which will have positive benefits throughout the province, include:

  • $32 million to the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to be administered by UBCM that will include items like $3 million for flood risk assessments, floodplain maps and flood mitigation plans, $20 million to fund flood mitigation projects, and $4.2 million emergency social services.
  • $5.5 million for the BC Search and Rescue Association for essential supports to search and rescue (SAR) volunteers, the SAR prevention program AdventureSmart, the acquisition, maintenance and upgrading of rescue equipment, and deployable communication systems to assist in communication in BCs backcountry.
  • $500,000 to Avalanche Canada to support public education and avalanche alert throughout BC.
  • $100,000 to PEP Air to support capital purchases and recognize the effort of the volunteer air search and rescue teams throughout the province.

Mike Hicks, Director, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area [Photo 2017: West Shore Voice News]

Mike Hicks, Director, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area [Photo 2017: West Shore Voice News]

“The over $80 million in investments in community emergency preparedness will help us better withstand floods, fires, or earthquakes that could impact our province. Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility that begins in every home, in every business and across all levels of government. This funding is another of many provincial investments and initiatives to help keep British Columbians safe,” said Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness.

“͞This investment will provide a much needed replacement of the current tsunami warning system. It will be critical to the safety of the residents and visitors to Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht First Nation,”‘ says Mike Hicks, director, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. “This new world-class, state-of-the-art warning system will help to protect the community from the very real threat of tsunamis.”

“͞The threat of earthquakes and a resulting tsunami is part of Pacheedaht community life,” says Chief Jeff Jones, Pacheedaht Nation. “It is not a matter of if, but when the event will occur; this has been a part of Pacheedaht͛’s history since time immemorial. We are grateful for the upgrades to the tsunami warning system, and hope this builds momentum for other emergency preparedness initiatives in Pacheedaht traditional territory.”

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier

Saturday, March 25 ~ BC.   MORE MONEY TO HIRE BC TEACHERS. Working with “language that was 15 years old”, the BC Ministry of Education and BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) negotiated for several months to get the numbers right. “We tried to build in some flexibility for employers,” said BC Education Minister Mike Bernier in a news conference on March 24.

With now $330 million more per year (i.e. $150 newly announced plus $100 already announced and $80 million from the Learning Improvement Fund), there’s now more money to every BC school district to hire more teachers — about 2,600 in total. School districts will in total also receive $30 million each year for “soft costs” like additional classroom supplies and CUPE janitorial services that go along with having more classrooms in active use.

The ‘old language’ was from an agreement that was overturned by the BC Government in 2002, only to be reinstated in November 2016 by the Supreme Court of Canada. Clauses that had been stripped out of the contract covered class size and composition.

Classes grew larger over the years, the number of special needs students (who usually require more attention) increased, and technologies have changed. Funding to education budgets did not always allow for enough educational assistants to help out with increased load on the teachers. School libraries eventually closed or were staffed minimally by teachers for specific class visits. The number of counsellors per school was considered low, based on the need of increasing mental health demand. Budgets for supplies and classroom equipment became squeezed by teaching salaries demand on overall school board budgets. As a result, a few generations of students have gone through the BC school system not even knowing what they missed.

Bernier said $1.7 billion is now in the BC budget over three years for K-12. There are about 65,000 fewer students in BC (compared to 2002). Bernier said the drop in student numbers was 75,000 two years ago, but that enrollments have been increasing again in the last two years.

TravelAlert-BCFerries-Mar25&26-2017-webFriday, March 24 ~ VANCOUVER ISLAND SOUTH COAST & MAINLAND.  BC Ferries has advised has the Spirit of Vancouver Island vessel has been temporarily removed from service with modified schedules on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay <Vancouver-Victoria> route for Saturday March 25 and Sunday March 26.

The interruption is due to a hydraulic issue with the port side controllable pitch propeller. Engineers continue to troubleshoot the issue and will determine early next week the further status of the vessel. This removal from service means only three vessels are available
to operate on the route on Sunday as opposed to four. There is no change in number of vessels operating the route on Saturday.

Heavy traffic is expected on some sailings between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island this weekend. BC Ferries advises customers travelling on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route this weekend with a set travel time in mind to make a reservation by calling 1-888-BCFERRY. Customers travelling on this route without reservations are advised to consider travelling via the Tsawwassen – Duke Point or Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay routes.

As a result of the mechanical issue, the following sailings have been cancelled on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route:

  • Saturday, March 25 – From Tsawwassen 2 pm | From Swartz Bay 12 noon
  • Sunday, March 26  – From Tsawwassen 12 noon & 4 pm |  From Swartz Bay 2 pm & 6pm
  • Customers with reservations on the sailings above are being notified by BC Ferries’ Customer Care team and accommodated on the next scheduled sailing.

To assist customers travelling between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and due to the reduced capacity, the Queen of New Westminster will perform additional sailings on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route as follows:

  • Saturday, March 25 – From Tsawwassen 12 noon & 4 pm |  From Swartz Bay  2 pm & 6 pm
  • Sunday, March 26 – From Tsawwassen 10 am | From Swartz Bay 8 pm & 11 pm* (* by Coastal Rennaissance)

There are additional sailings on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point route:

  • Sunday, March 26  – From Tsawwassen 5:15 am & 7:45 am | From Duke Point 5:15 am & 7:45 am

BC Ferries says they appreciate customers’ patience and will provide an update when more information about the status of the Spirit of Vancouver Island is available.

EarthHour-lightbulbThursday, March 23 ~ BC. Most people are pretty good at conserving electricity nowadays,
so Earth Hour doesn’t have the same megawatt-punch as it did when the one-hour worldwide event started in 2007, as most people actively conserve electricity nowadays.

In fact, the BC Government now sees it as a symbolic gesture: “While the one hour without lights is intended to be a symbolic act encouraging people to consider conservation throughout the year, the collective impact of this global action is significant. I encourage everyone to participate,” says Mary Polak, Environment Minister.

So here we go again — this Saturday night March 25, there will be Earth Hour 2017 activity between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm (local time) around the world. People are encouraged to reduce their electricity usage as much as possible during that evening hour, particularly ‘lights out’ so as to make a visual impact.

The BC government says it will be demonstrating its on-going support for climate action by joining the worldwide grassroots movement, most noticeably by turning off the Jubilee Lights at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria and the Lions Gate Bridge lights in Vancouver to celebrate the 11th-annual Earth Hour. Where possible, more than 170 provincial government offices will power off non-essential lights and electronics.

Earth Hour is a global event in support of climate change action. Participants from six continents, over 170 countries and 24 time zones will be united as a global community through individual action.

The global event started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about the effects of climate change. Earth Hour has grown to engage more than 7,000 cities worldwide and continues to be recognized as a leader in uniting people all over the globe to combat climate change.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m because it is the closest hour to sunset in both hemispheres, allowing for the biggest visual impact of lights out everywhere. Last year Earth Hour 2016 took place in more than 7,000 cities, in more than 24 time zones.

After Earth Hour, BC Hydro usually publishes the percentage reductions in electricity use for each town and city in the province.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivers his second budget [live stream March 22, 2017]

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivers his second budget [live stream March 22, 2017]

Wednesday, March 22 ~ OTTAWA/National. Today Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered their 2017 Budget in the House of Commons today. It’s the second budget delivered by the Trudeau Liberal government.

Last year’s budget in February 2016 focussed on large investments in infrastructure and programs to support the middle class. This year’s budget on March 22 aims to support the technology/innovation job market (through education and retraining during affected-worker unemployment) and provides more social benefits like longer maternity leave.

The budget revises the deficit for the year just ended, rising slightly to $23 billion, and forecasts a deficit for the coming year of $28.5 billion, including a $3-billion “risk adjustment”.

Here are highlights from the 2017 federal budget (as summarized by the CBC):
• Deficit: $28.5 billion, up from $25.4 billion projected in the fall.
• Trend: Higher deficits for next three years before dipping to $18.8 billion in 2021-2022.
• Housing: $11.2 billion over 11 years, already budgeted, will go to a national housing strategy.
• Child care: $7 billion over 10 years, already budgeted, for new spaces, starting 2018-2019.
• Indigenous: $3.4 billion in new money over five years for infrastructure, health and education.
• Defence: $8.4 billion in capital spending for equipment pushed forward to 2035.
• Caregivers: New care-giving benefit up to 15 weeks, starting next year.
• Skills: New agency to research and measure skills development, starting 2018-2019.
• Innovation: $950 million over five years to support business-led “superclusters”.
• Startups: $400 million over three years for a new venture capital catalyst initiative.
• Families: Option to extend parental leave up to 18 months [added note: no additional funds; available monies spread over 18 months instead of 12].
• Uber tax: GST to be collected on ride-sharing services.
• ‘Sin’ taxes: One cent more on a bottle of wine, five cents on 24 case of beer.
• No more Canada Savings Bonds.
• Transit credit killed: 15% public transit tax credit phased out this year.

The National Post has summarized the five top highlights as follows:

  • Canada Savings Bonds will no longer be available.
  • Get used to deficits. They’ll be on the books until at least 2020.
  • $7 billion for more affordable childcare plus longer mat leave
  • $11 billion for a national housing strategy
  • Higher taxes for alcohol which will be tied to the rate of inflation.

WSV-ReadershipSurvey-March2017-webSPRING 2017 WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS READERSHIP SURVEY ~ March 22, 2017.

We invite all West Shore Voice News readers to take part in a 3-minute survey about reading our publication (print / online).

Your input will be anonymous, but only one set of responses per IP address will be accepted.

We appreciate your input. We are always striving to reach and serve our many readers in the best ways possible — including aspects of technology, content, and marketing support.

Here’s the survey link. Responses will be accepted up to April 5, 2017. Thank you!

Shooting in London UK, March 22, 2017. Web-source photo.

Shooting in London UK, March 22, 2017. Web-source photo.

BREAKING NEWS: Wednesday, March 22. There was a terrorist incident (in two locations) in London, England today. [first posted 9:30 am, updated at 11:45 am PDT, updated at 3:30 pm; last updated at 3:55 pm PDT].

About 40 people have reportedly been injured (many rather seriously), with five confirmed fatalities (one of those being the attacker).

One incident occurred on Westminster Bridge, next to Parliament.  Witnesses reported that a motorist operating a large vehicle mowed down people before coming to a halt.

In a second incident, outside the British Parliament buildings, one police officer was stabbed. The assailant was shot by police.

British Prime Minister Theresa May standing firm against terrorism [live stream March 22 2017]

British Prime Minister Theresa May standing firm against terrorism [live stream March 22 2017]

British Prime Minister Theresa May was promptly taken by secure vehicle to an undisclosed location. The House of Commons and government offices were under lockdown until each floor of each building were checked to be clear of threat; employees were then directed to go home.

Apparently a nearby subway station was closed as part of securing the area.

Given the current state of socio-political unrest in Europe and with terrorism in general, the UK was reportedly expecting such a level of attack — not a matter of if, but when.

Today in Canada’s House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau called the attack “a cowardly and reprehensible act that we condemn in the strongest terms”. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale says there is no reason to change the security alert level in Canada in response to this event.

BC Premier Christy Clark has issued a statement: “Like all British Columbians, I am shocked and saddened by today’s tragic events in London. British Columbia’s ties with the United Kingdom run deep. With so many shared institutions, a common language, and for millions of Canadians, ancestral or family ties, events in the UK can hit very close to home. Any attack on or near a symbol of democracy and freedom, such as the Houses of Parliament, can create fear and division. An earlier generation of Londoners kept calm and carried on – and I have no doubt this one will too. My thoughts are with the victims, and the emergency and security personnel who risk their lives to keep us safe.”

Westbound traffic on Highway 1, heading out of Victoria [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

Westbound traffic on Highway 1, heading out of Victoria [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

TRAFFIC ADVISORY – VICTORIA AREA. Monday, March 20.  Highway 1 night-time single-lane closure.  The west-bound slow lane (or curb lane) on Highway 1 will be closed nightly from Monday, March 20, to Saturday, March 25, inclusive, during the hours of 8 pm to 5:30 am.

This closure will allow crews to work safely alongside a section of the highway west of McKenzie Avenue as they prepare for and perform drilling operations.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are reminded to obey traffic-control personnel and construction signs, and to watch out for workers.

Updates are available at: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/mckenzieinterchange/  | Travel alerts: www.drivebc.ca

The Salish Eagle will service the Twassassen - Southern Gulf Islands route.

The Salish Eagle will service the Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands route.

Monday, March 20 ~ VICTORIA.  The newest vessel in the BC Ferries fleet — Salish Eagle — is arriving in BC today. The vessel took 38 days to travel 10,440 nautical miles from Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. in Gdansk, Poland.

This ship will make its way to Ogden Point in Victoria, where the public can take exterior photos of the vessel today. Once Salish Eagle clears Canadian Customs and final inspections are complete, the vessel will be officially handed over to BC Ferries. On Tuesday, March 21, the ship will proceed to BC Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond to prepare for operational service. The vessel will move to Tsawwassen terminal in mid-April for crew training and familiarization, and to continue to ready the ship for regular operation.

“We are proud to welcome Salish Eagle, our second natural gas-fuelled ship, home to BC and into our fleet,” said Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Engineering. “The Salish Class are well-built vessels that will help reduce our environmental footprint and our operating costs.”

The artwork created to adorn Salish Eagle, designed by Stz’uminus First Nation’s John Marston, will be applied on the ship here in BC. The winter weather in Poland has temperatures below ideal for the application.

Salish Eagle will enter service on the Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands route at the end of June. Her sister ship, the Salish Orca, will start service on the Comox – Powell River route late next month. Salish Raven, the third Salish Class vessel, will depart Poland for BC in April.

The 107-metre Salish Class ships will carry 145 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew. The vessels feature two car decks and have a service speed of 15.5 knots. Each ship is powered by three Wartsila 8L20DF engines. Gross tonnage of each ship is 8,728 tonnes.

VIRL-logoSaturday, March 18 ~ SOOKE [2pm]. The Vancouver Island Regional Library Board today March 18 has given unanimous approval to build the Sooke Library on ‘Lot A’ in Sooke town centre. Construction could be completed in 2018, in time for the completion of the lease at the current library location on Anna Marie Road.

Lot A is the 5-acre land patch with access off of Wadams Way. The land was purchased by the District of Sooke in February 2016 as a way to accommodate a new Sooke Library, with land remaining for other municipal uses.

DoS-logoSooke Councillor Kerrie Reay announced the approval today, shortly after today’s meeting of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) Board in Nanaimo. The VIRL board consists of representatives from 27 VIRL-member communities. Reay has served on the VIRL board since 2012; this year she sits on the executive.

Lot A seemed to be off the table as an option, after VIRL had wanted more than one acre of the five acres. The District of Sooke was clearly looking out for the community, trying to keep the remaining 4 acres available for other uses or even resale given the ever-increasing value of land (especially in town centre).

In recent weeks, an option to build the new Sooke Library on land adjacent to the SEAPARC Leisure Complex arena was given solid pushback from the user community, saying they wanted the library to be in town centre as a ‘walkable’ location.

VIRL has said for several years that they would build a 10,000 sqft library, at their cost. Sooke was to provide the land. In the past year, the District of Sooke has paid $2,400 in interest fees to carry the purchase cost of Lot A about one year ago.

More to come.

ferry-TRUCKFriday, March 17, 2017 ~ VANCOUVER ISLAND.  BC Ferries rates for commercial vehicles that are 13 feet wide (or wider) will more than double on April 1, 2017 from $6.50/ft to $13.24/ft, to reflect that they take up two lanes, said BC Ferries in a news release March 16.

Probably in short order, this increase in shipping overhead will spill over into higher costs of consumer goods that are being transported by truck to Vancouver Island. It will also impact the cost of shipping raw products from the island.

It’s yet another way that the cost of living on Vancouver Island is expensive in unique ways compared to other parts of BC and Canada.

FerryFares-SouthCoastRoute-Apr0117-webThursday, March 16 ~ BC. Vehicle fares are going up on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point, and Horsehoe Bay-Departure Bay routes on BC Ferries sailings by 1.9% on April 1, 2017 — that’s up to $55.80 (from $54.80) for vehicles up to 20ft in length. There will be no increase in passenger fares on these routes. The current adult passenger fare on these routes is unchanged at $16.70 per person.

Effective April 1 there will also a $5 reduction in reservation fees (from $15 to $10) if you book seven days in advance on reservable routes. Reservations made less than seven days and up to one day prior will decrease to $17 (from $18.50). Reservations booked day of travel will go down to $21 (from $22).

Rates for commercial vehicles that are 13 feet wide (or wider) will increase from $6.50/ft to $13.24/ft, to reflect that they take up two lanes. In time, this increase will likely spill over into higher costs of goods that are being shipped by truck to the island.

Cancellation fees on northern routes will double, to discourage customers from booking space they don’t need, and to allow more customers access to the vehicle deck space.

BC Ferries says the increases are necessary to cover operating costs and major capital replacement projects. The company needs to replace one ship per year on average in order to maintain safe, efficient and reliable service, it was stated in a BC Ferries news release today.

Sooke RCMP have confirmed the homicide of Mike Widner of Sooke, BC.

Sooke RCMP have confirmed the homicide of Mike Widner of Sooke, BC.

Thursday, March 16 ~ SOOKE. A homicide has occurred in the Sooke area. As reported last weekend, Michael Widner, 39, of Sooke, had gone missing on March 8, as reported to RCMP on March 9.

Speculation has swirled for days that the death of Widner (the death itself confirmed by his spouse on Facebook several days ago), is related to his association with the drug-trafficking community and/or Hells Angels. Until today, Sooke RCMP would not confirm whether the death was a murder.

Today March 16, the RCMP reported out on the results of a forensic autopsy by the BC Coroner. As of March 15, it was confirmed that the body located on the Pacific Marine route near Port Renfrew had been identified as that of Michael Gregory Widner.

Widner’s death is considered a homicide and the investigation is being conducted by the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU). “We wish to emphasize that this is not a random act – and that there is no threat to public safety,” says Sooke RCMP Detachment Commander S/Sgt Jeff McArthur.

RCMP now say that on Wednesday March 8 it is believed that Widner arranged to a meet at William Simmons Memorial Park, near Poirier Lake, on Otter Point Road. This occurred sometime after 8 pm. His vehicle (a 2003 black Volkswagen Golf) was found abandoned at that location. Widner’s body was located along the Pacific Marine route several kilometres from Port Renfrew. The specific cause of death was not released.

Sooke RCMP repeats that they wish to speak to anyone who may have information regarding persons or vehicles seen at either of the locations associated with this crime. Contact the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) information line at 250-380-6211, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Widner was known to police. In 2011, he was stopped by Sooke RCMP and found to be in possession of $4,980 in cash, 25 grams of marijuana, a hunting knife and four cellphones. That all led to a suit by the BC Civil Forfeiture director in 2012. “Mr Widner either directly participated in the selling of illegal drugs or obtained the money directly or indirectly from the sellers of illegal drugs,” it was stated in the lawsuit.

As a somewhat eerie coincidence, District of Sooke council as part of their budget deliberations during March 6 to 9, said they wanted to be prepared with a contingency fund in 2017 for unforeseen extraordinary expenditures, including homicide investigations.  Municipalities pay for policing services, and must handled additional costs for extraordinary investigations that happen outside the work of regular policing.  For regular policing, the District of Sooke pays 70% of 12 (soon 13) officers; the other four officers in the Sooke detachment are paid for by the BC government to cover the rural areas beyond the immediate town of Sooke.

The Facebook post by Widner’s wife Sabrina was as follows: “It is with a broken heart and overwhelming sadness that I share that the police have informed me that my husband’s body has been found. I am with our children holding them tight and keeping them safe and removed from all the attention. His children know that he is in heaven with his brother Steve and at peace.”

According to other media reports, Mike Widner was a “prospect” for the Hells Angels. In some manner, it appears that some sort of process of initiation or acceptance didn’t work out.

In perhaps an unrelated event but during the same time frame of Widner’s disappearance, there was a theft of about $50,000 in hand and power tools occurred in East Sooke sometime between 3:30pm on Wednesday March 8 and 8:30am Thursday March 9.

Monday, March 13 ~  SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND. Another week on the BC provincial election campaign trail on this west side of the island.  BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver will be meeting with homeschool students at the BC Legislature (Wednesday). Then on Thursday evening March 16 Weaver will be at Andy MacKinnon’s campaign launch (Green Party candidate for Esquimalt-Metchosin) at the Royal Colwood Golf Club in Colwood.

NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis (green scarf, black suit) got big thanks from John Horgan. Photo: West Shore Voice News

NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis (green scarf, black suit) got big thanks from John Horgan. Photo: West Shore Voice News

Towards the May 9 provincial election, the Esquimalt-Metchosin electoral area sees a race between Mitzi Dean (NDP candidate), Barb Desjardins (BC Liberal candidate), and Andy MacKinnon (BC Green).  Dean is a social services administrator, Desjardins is currently the mayor of Esquimalt and CRD Chair, and MacKinnon is a nature-study author.

The current BC NDP MLA for the Esquimalt-Metchosin riding that covers a voter base in Esquimalt, Colwood and Metchosin is Maurine Karagianis — she is retiring from politics. Karagianis was given upbeat accolades this past weekend at John Horgan’s campaign launch in Langford. Karagianis will be campaigning alongside NDP candidate Mitzi Dean to toward maintaining that side of the south island as part of the NDP stronghold.

RCMP reports Mike Widner of Sooke as missing. Shown here in what he was wearing prior to disappearance.

RCMP reports Mike Widner of Sooke as missing. Shown here in what he was wearing prior to disappearance.

Sunday, March 12 ~ SOOKE (first posted on March 11 on the SOOKE page of this website).

UPDATE: 5 pm Monday March 13: Sooke RCMP say a man’s body was found on Sunday, March 12, by a hiker, near Port Renfrew. The identity of the body has not yet been established. An autopsy is scheduled for later this week, after which further information will be released.  The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) , Sooke RCMP and BC Coroner’s Service are investigating.

UPDATE 8:30 am Monday March 13: RCMP have confirmed a body has been found. Details to come.

UPDATE (10:50 pm Pacific Daylight Time, Sunday March 12, 2017): We have seen on social media that a body has been found. We are awaiting an official RCMP report, before confirming this.

Sooke RCMP are seeking public assistance with a missing person’s case. Michael (Mike) Gregory Widner of the Tugwell Road area west of Sooke was reported missing on Thursday, March 9.

He was last seen Wednesday March 8, in Sooke.  Widner, age 39, is described as Caucasian, 6 feet tall, 225 pounds, with short dark hair.

Clothing shown in the photo (photo from Closed Circuit Camera at SEAPARC Leisure Complex in Sooke, March 8, 2017):
– a dark blue or black “Under Armour” brand hoody with large chest logo
-black zipper front jacket
-black pants
-black running shoes with white “Nike” logo
-black “Metal Mulisha” ball cap with large white logo

His vehicle, a 2003 black Volkswagen Golf, was located abandoned at Poirier Lake, in William Simmons Memorial Park in Otter Point.

Anyone having any information about this person’s present whereabouts, or anyone who may have seen him, is asked to call Sooke RCMP at 250-642-5241. To provide information anonymously contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

ClocksFORWARDat2am-DaylightSavingsTime-March2017Saturday, March 11 ~ BC.  Well, you might lose an hour of sleep on Sunday morning! Yep, it’s that time of year again, to move the clocks forward by one hour for Daylight Savings Time.

Officially Daylight Savings Time starts on Sunday morning at 2:00 am. But most people will set their clocks ahead 1 hour before bed tonight. Except of course on all those digital gadgets that do the time adjustment automatically!

Daylight Savings Time gives us more daylight for outdoor activities. Depending on your work/leisure schedule, the shift might also save you a few bucks on your electricity bill over the summer months.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan at his local campaign launch in Langford, as the candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca [Photo Copyright 2017 West Shore Voice News]

BC NDP Leader John Horgan at his local campaign launch in Langford, as the candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca [Photo Copyright 2017 West Shore Voice News]

Saturday, March 11 ~ LANGFORD.  BC NDP Leader John Horgan held his local Langford-Juan de Fuca campaign launch today, Saturday March 11, at the Langford Legion.

Over 400 people were there for the event including long-time supporters from throughout the riding, several MLAs (including Melanie Mark and Jodie Wickens who came over from the mainland), two local NDP MPs (Randall Garrison and Alistair MacGregor), some local municipal leaders, many campaign workers and some media.

Horgan cut into Christy Clark’s BC Liberals and chastised the current government for the hardship imposed on regular working British Columbians. Horgan urged teachers, health-care workers and seniors not to forget how the last 15 years in BC have been hard on them and most British Columbians who are not “wealthy or well-connected”.

Horgan promised to work on bringing in a $15 minimum wage if the NDP is elected to government, as one way to offer a bit of a break to struggling workers. He resurrected remembrance of the ground-breaking work of 1970s NDP premier Dave Barrett for having started ICBC as an affordable auto insurance entity, not as it is used today as a ‘cash cow’, said Horgan.

First Nations elder Shirley Alphonse gave her absolute support to “her friend Horgan”, as part of her opening blessing.

The upbeat event included Horgan’s 30-minute speech as well as remarks from NDP finance spokesperson Carole James and education spokesperson MLA Rob Fleming, along with NDP candidate for Esquimalt-Metchosin Mitzi Dean.

Horgan was invited to the podium by his nominator, SD62 School Board Trustee Ravi Parmar.

See this article as a front page story in the March 10 (11th) issue of West Shore Voice News.

GRAPHIC-EducAgreementRatified-Mar1017-webSaturday, March 11 ~ BC.  Members of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) have voted 98.4% in favour to ratify an agreement that serves to restore collective agreement language in their collective agreement with the BC Government.

This comes 15 years after clauses that guaranteed class size and composition were ripped from the collective agreement by the BC Liberal government in 2002 under then Education Minister Christy Clark, and following a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the contract changes were unconstitutional.

Not only teachers — but parents and most importantly, students — bore the painful and loss-filled scenarios that accumulated over the past 15 years under these conditions.

A few generations of youth have graduated from high school in BC not even realizing what they missed. The challenges for young adults to fit into the current workforce — and perhaps even the stresses made evident through rising levels of mental health issues — can in part be traced back to the systematic crumbling of the education system in BC.

Here is the BC Government’s statement from Education Minister Mike Bernier on the  BCTF vote results on implementation of restored language. released to media on the evening of March 10, 2017:

  • “I am very pleased that teachers have ratified the agreement because working together for student achievement is at the core of ensuring British Columbians can benefit from a strong, growing and diverse economy. The parties had to deal with some very complex issues. The challenge was how to restore nearly 1,400 old clauses across 60 different collective agreements within the context of an education system that evolved dramatically over the past 15 years.
  • “We have a system today that has far more choice and flexibility for students and parents. There is more diversity in programs and courses. We have a system that is more inclusive of individual student needs. Student outcomes are up across the board and are amongst the best in the world. And we’ve seen dramatically improved outcomes for students with special needs and First Nations students.
  • “So a key objective was to protect equitable access to learning and build on the significant gains that students have enjoyed. The parties agreed to make the old language work to the extent we can and to continue the dialogue until the next round of bargaining where we can pursue longer-term solutions.
  • “Teachers will see reduced workloads and will be welcoming thousands of new colleagues into the system over the coming months. And students will benefit from knowing that they have access to the same learning opportunities as before.
  • “I want to thank the parties for the significant effort and professionalism that was brought to the table. I hope we can build on this constructive approach. Government and the BCTF are working collaboratively on files, such as the new curriculum and Aboriginal education. If we continue in a spirit of collaboration, I am confident we can deliver even better results for our students in the years ahead.”

Here is the BCTF statement from their website on the evening of March 10, 2017 (member voting took place March 8-10… see March 4 article lower down on this page):

  • With 21,156 BC Teachers’ Federation members participating, 98.4% voted in favour of ratifying the agreement to implement their restored collective agreement language. The agreement will see all the substantive working conditions that were unconstitutionally stripped from teachers’ collective agreements restored.
  • “With this vote, BC schools are finally on the verge of having better working and learning conditions back in place,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman. “With our restored language in effect, BC schools, students, and teachers will see significant improvements in class sizes, support levels for children with special needs, and access to specialist teachers this September.
  • The unconstitutional stripping of our collective agreement never should have happened in the first place, and a whole generation of students have gone without the frontline service they ought to have had during the entirety of their K-12 experience, but we are proud that we’re able to turn our Supreme Court of Canada victory into positive change so quickly. We can never forget, though, what happened.
  • I want to thank all of our BCTF members for their tenacity and solidarity over the last 15 years. By sticking together and acting as outspoken advocates for our rights and our students’ education, we are finally going to see meaningful improvements in our schools. Thank you as well to parents who have supported us all these years.”
  • Hansman said the focus will now shift to the collective agreement-based school staffing processes that will begin later this month as well as holding the government accountable for its commitment to fully fund all the costs.
  • “The government stated it will fully fund the costs of implementing this agreement,” said Hansman. “All eyes will be on the BC Liberal government this March and April to ensure the necessary funds materialize. It’s also important to note that our restored language does not solve many of the other urgent funding pressures facing school districts. The government needs to step up and properly address overcrowding in many of our districts, the lack of resources for the revised curriculum, and all of the seismically unsafe schools across the province.”

BCFerry-fromBCFerriessiteFriday, March 10 ~ VICTORIA – The regular passenger fare will be half price fleet-wide on over 2,000 BC Ferries sailings during March 11 to 30. Youth age 11 and younger will travel free during that promotion period.

The 50%-off promotional discount is applicable on regular passenger fares for adult, BC senior, student and persons with disabilities. The complimentary travel for children 11 and under is applicable on a child’s fare.

On the Tsawwassen-SwartzBay route that means an adult will travel on available sailings for $8.60 and seniors for $4.30.

  • South Coast Routes: the promotion will be in effect Monday through Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays on select sailings March 11 – 30.
  • North Coast Routes including Port Hardy – Prince Rupert, Prince Rupert – Haida Gwaii and Alliford Bay – Skidegate routes as well as the Discovery Coast Connector: the 50% discount and kids-travel-free applies on every sailing March 11 – 30.

Experience™ Card users who receive a year-round discount that is less than 50% will have their discount increased to match the promotional fare. “This promotion allows those customers who do not participate in the Experience™ Card program an opportunity to travel at a discounted rate,” says BC Ferries.

Space on the select promotional sailings is on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are recommended. The discount is also available on select BC Ferries Vacations packages for customers looking for a Spring Break getaway.  www.bcferries.com


Historical photo when trains were running on the E&N [Photo: John Luton]

Historical photo when trains were running on the E&N [Photo: John Luton]

Thursday, March 9 ~ GREATER VICTORIA AREA. The government of BC is going to review options for commuter train services in the Capital Regional District (CRD). As announced this morning, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will look at options around using the E&N rail line for transit services between Langford and Victoria West. This move is based on support from communities across the CRD, including Langford, Victoria, Esquimalt and View Royal.

“There has been strong community support for establishing a commuter service from the West Shore,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “Previous referendums held in Langford and Colwood showed more than 90% of residents were in favour of the idea. We’re listening to what residents are telling us, and we are excited about the possibilities and want to engage further with the local governments as we work to turn this concept into reality.

BC Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure Todd Stone {Government photo]

BC Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure Todd Stone {Government photo]

“As with any major initiative, the first step is to ensure that this idea meets the criteria for safety, sustainability and affordability, and that it makes good business sense before moving forward,” said Minister Stone.

The proposal to use a portion of the E&N line for transit service on the 15-km stretch between Westhills in Langford and Vic West has been endorsed by the four communities. The proposal centres on how quickly the population is growing in the region and how the population growth is continuing to cause congestion along Highway 1 into Victoria.

“If feasible, transit service along the E&N corridor from the West Shore would complement the investments we’re making in transit infrastructure in Greater Victoria, including a $10 million extension to the Douglas Street northbound bus lane, from Tolmie Avenue to the McKenzie interchange project, and the investment in the McKenzie interchange project itself, to address traffic congestion in the region,” added Stone.

“The province is aware that Langford, Sooke and the western communities have been growing quickly and are projected to continue to grow significantly,” Stone said.

The E&N rail line is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation, which has been working for several years to resume passenger rail service.

Victoria council endorsed a motion in the fall of 2016 to look at the viability of a commuter train on the line. Langford has been notably vocal about the need for commuter rail, as that city has continued to grow rapidly.

A working group, including representatives from the ministry, local government, BC Transit, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) and BC Safety Authority, will be established to provide input on a corridor analysis the ministry will be undertaking, which will look at the options and potential opportunities for this part of the E&N rail corridor. The analysis is anticipated to be completed by the summer of 2017. As with all transit services in the region, any new service would be seamlessly integrated within the BC Transit system in Greater Victoria and overseen by VRTC.

“We look forward to participating in the study to examine transit opportunities on the corridor,” said BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha.

“New transportation options are critically important for the economy and social well-being of our growing region,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “It makes good sense to explore the potential of using the E&N rail line for moving people between the Westshore and downtown.”

“I thank the Province for taking on this initiative,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech. “I believe the use of the E&N corridor is essential in the transportation planning for this region.”

Langford Mayor Stew Young [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

Langford Mayor Stew Young [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

“I would like to acknowledge all the assistance the Province has provided to Langford in constructing the numerous infrastructure projects undertaken in our growing community,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “We welcome the Province’s active involvement in the E&N Commuter Rail project to ensure a currently inactive corridor can be used to provide a vital link between Victoria and the vibrant community of Langford.”

Langford as a growing community is the most significantly impacted by congested commuter traffic. Mayor Young has pushed for opening up the E&N as an active train line for several years now.

“There has been concerted effort over a number of years to get this corridor seriously looked at; we are closer than ever now with the support of the Province,” said Township of Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. “The need for another corridor is illustrated every day when unfortunate incidents restrict traffic flow. Thanks to the Province for moving forward on this significant opportunity for improved transit in the region.”

The E&N rail line is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation, which has been working for several years to resume passenger rail service on the line. The foundation has expressed its support for the commuter train service proposal between Vic West and Langford.

Candidates in two key west shore ridings on Vancouver Island. Click on image to enlarge.

Candidates in two key west shore ridings on Vancouver Island. Click on image to enlarge.

Thursday, March 9. And so the race card is firming up! West Shore Voice News is covering two electoral areas (ridings) on the west side of Vancouver Island during the election campaign toward the May 9 BC provincial election.

The main slate for the key riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca (which now includes Langford, Sooke and Juan de Fuca up to Port Renfrew — but no longer Metchosin) includes three candidates.  BC NDP Leader John Horgan has built and held a stronghold in the riding since 2005.

  • Long-time MLA John Horgan is the BC NDP incumbent candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca.  Horgan is holding his local campaign launch this weekend on Saturday, March 11 in Langford (Langford Legion, 761 Station Ave, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm). As party leader, he will be travelling all over BC during the campaign toward the May 9 election.
  • The BC Liberals are running Cathy Noel as their candidate in Langford-Juan de Fuca. Noel has a broad reach in the sport-fitness community.
  • The BC Green candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca is Brendan Ralfs, a provincial emergency manager on southern Vancouver Island.

Another electoral area on the west side of South Vancouver Island long held by the NDP is Esquimalt-Metchosin (which includes Colwood). The current NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis is retiring from politics.

  • The BC NDP candidate is Mitzi Dean, a long-time advocate for well-funded social services through the Pacific Centre Family Services based in Colwood.
  • The BC Liberal candidate is Barb Desjardins, who is presently serving as both Mayor of Esquimalt and Chair of the Capital Regional District (CRD) board.
  • The BC Greens today announced Dr Andy MacKinnon as their candidate for Esquimalt-Metchosin. He is a  Professional Forester and Professional Biologist in BC, and author of books about plants of western North America.

CERAWEEK-trudeauheadshotWednesday, March 8.  Tomorrow Thursday, March 9 will be another whirlwind day for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is heading to Houston, Texas to participate in a roundtable discussion on the future of energy. He will also meet with the Chairman of CERAWeek, Daniel Yergin.

In the evening The Prime Minister will attend and deliver remarks at the CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award Dinner at the Hilton Americas Hotel and participate in a Q&A.

Tomorrow night, Trudeau will be presented the “Key to the City” by the Mayor of the City of Houston, Sylvester Turner.

CERAWeek is the premier annual international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial, and industrial communities – and energy technology innovators. This year 2017 marks the 36th anniversary of this influential event, ranked among the top five “corporate leader” conferences in the world.

Livestream of the CERAWeek presentations can be viewed at http://live.ceraweek.com

Premier Christy Clark responds to bomb threat hoax.

Premier Christy Clark responds to bomb threat hoax which targeted the Vancouver Jewish Centre on March 7. [News 1130 photo]

Wednesday, March 8. BC Premier Christy Clark issued a statement today regarding a bomb threat in Vancouver last night, which turned out to be a hoax. The targeted building was the Vancouver Jewish Centre at West 41st Avenue and Oak Street.

“Last night, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC) was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. The threat turned out to be a hoax, but the fear caused by acts of anti-Semitism and threats like this at Jewish community sites across Canada and the United States is very real.

“We cannot allow hatred to become routine. We will only stop hatred by calling it out, condemning it – and continuing to lead by example, as a thriving, vibrant example that diversity leads to strength, not weakness.

“British Columbia is, and must continue to be, a welcoming, safe home to peoples of all faiths and ethnicities. There is no better example of this than the JCC, where people of many cultures come together and are welcomed. We will not be divided, and we will not change the values that define us.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on International Women's Day 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on International Women’s Day 2017

Wednesday, March 8. Today on International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $650 million in sexual and reproductive health programs for women overseas, over a period of three years.

This is doubling Canada’s current investment, helping to shore up the shortfall that resulted from the withdrawal of the USA from funding any international NGOs that support or counsel on abortion (as resulted from an executive order by US President Donald Trump in January). The United Nations recently had to find $850 million to make up the shortfall that resulted from the US pulling out, so today we see Canada doing its part.

“Like men, women should be able to choose, when they want to start a family, how big that family should be, and who they want to start that family with,” said Trudeau in Ottawa this morning. “Women and girls around the world are counting on countries like Canada to lead the way,” he said in support of the funding. “Equality matters. Today we’re taking steps to prove it,” said Trudeau, as a self-affirming feminist.

An official statement from the Prime Minister’s office was also released today on International Women’s Day:

“Today, we join people all over the globe to celebrate the remarkable achievements that women have made everywhere, and reaffirm our commitment to gender equality worldwide.

“This year, Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EqualityMatters, which reminds us that society is better – more prosperous, peaceful, secure, and cohesive – when women’s rights are respected, when women are valued and empowered, and when they lead the way in our communities.

“While we have taken significant steps toward gender equality, we know that much more work needs to be done. Women around the world continue to receive lower pay and fewer promotions. They are denied legal control over their bodies and reproductive health. They face much higher rates of harassment and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In impoverished communities, women are the least likely to have access to healthcare, the last ones to eat, and the most vulnerable to the hardships brought on by disease.

“That is why we will continue to place gender equality and rights, and the empowerment of women and girls, at the heart of our international development work. These efforts received a considerable boost this morning with the announcement that Canada will provide $650 million in funding to address gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

“Today, I remind Canadians that we all have a role to play in the fight for gender equality, and that we all benefit from a more gender equal world. Women and men, girls and boys, we must all step up and speak out, because half of the population cannot solve a problem that affects us all.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I encourage all Canadians to join us in celebrating International Women’s Day, as we renew our commitment to a more positive, just, and equal world.”

The Government of Canada's campaign for International Women's Day makes use of graphics this year.

The Government of Canada’s 2017 campaign for International Women’s Day makes use of stylized graphics, without photography or one main thematic logo.

Wednesday, March 8.  Today March 8 is International Women’s Day.

This year the International Women’s Day theme put out there by the International Women’s Day website www.internationalwomensday.com is #BeBoldforChange — calling for “help in forging a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world”.

Canada’s Status of Women page at www.swc-cfc.gc.ca is promoting International Women’s Day as a day to recognize women’s achievements and acknowledge the challenges they continue to face in the quest for gender equality. A curious choice of 1950s-style comic-book graphics has been chosen to support this year’s campaign. In one graphic the caption reads: “Women in science, yes please” which sounds at the same time bold and submissive. The government is promoting the hashtag #EqualityMatters .

Announced on March 6 by Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, the Planned Parenthood branch in Ottawa is receiving $285,000 for a three-year project to improve services for women in the Ottawa area who have experienced violence related to sexual and reproductive coercion. No national campaign of a similar nature was launched.

The Government of Canada says it is taking a multifaceted approach to reduce and prevent violence against women and girls. This includes the development of a Federal Strategy to Address Gender-based Violence. “Reproductive and sexual coercion involves behavior intended to maintain power and control in a relationship. This includes but is not limited to behaviors such as: explicit attempts to impregnate a partner against her will, coercing a partner into unprotected sex, interfering with contraceptive methods, imposing unhealthy sexual practices, or controlling the outcome of a pregnancy.”

The United Nations 2017 theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50”, saying International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.  “The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day in Russia and Europe, commemorates the struggle for women’s rights. The earliest Women’s Day observance in North America was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was later adopted in 1975 by the United Nations, and observed in Canada starting 1977.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation at www.canadianwomen.org is “investing in the strength of women and the dreams of girls”, including annual violence protection grants, economic development grants. Their platinum partners are Winners/HomeSense and Rogers. National corporate partners include three banks (CIBC, RBC and TD). as well as Proctor & Gamble and the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation.

Canada150-logoTuesday, March 7 ~ NATIONAL. Write it, snap, draw it!

Are you age 8 to 18 and feeling creative? Try the Canada Day Challenge by submitting a story, essay, poem, photo or drawing in celebration of Canada 150. Deadline Friday March 31, 2017.

Winners will have their work displayed as part of a special summer exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History.

Check it out! http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1449088858795

Firefighters Memorial at the BC Parliament Buildings, March 6, 2017. BC Government Photo.

Firefighters Memorial at the BC Parliament Buildings, March 6, 2017. [BC Government Photo]

Monday, March 6 ~ VICTORIA. The 2017 Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial was held today at noon at the BC Legislature. Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, issued the following statement on the observance of the 2017 Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial:

“Firefighters work tirelessly throughout the province to save lives and protect property for all British Columbians. The job they perform is difficult and dangerous, yet vitally important. Their skills, dedication and courage are touchstones of a profession that deserves our highest commendation,” said Bond in a government news release.

“That is why I was honoured to stand with provincial firefighters and their families today at the Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial to remember all who gave their lives to protect others,” she said. “We paid tribute to 14 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. Their sacrifice is an unimaginable loss for their families, friends and colleagues.”

“On behalf of the Province, we honour the sacrifices of the fallen, and we thank the BC Professional Firefighters Association, and all firefighters in British Columbia who continue to serve, for the work they do to keep our communities safe.”

BCElectionUpdate-Graphic-webMonday, March 6 ~ South Vancouver Island. Well, Saturday March 11 is ramping up to be a politics-of-the-left sorta day on the south island.

  • BC NDP Leader John Horgan will be holding his local campaign kickoff, in his home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca. That’s at the Langford Legion from 10:30am to 12:30pm.
  • BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver will be holding a BC Green Party rally at the Grand Pacific Hotel in downtown Victoria, from 2 to 4pm.

The official BC provincial election campaign period (i.e. when the Writ drops and the current session of the legislature is dissolved) is expected to start April 11. The election is on Tuesday, May 9 (with plenty of Advance Voting opportunities ahead of that).

Voter registration notices went into the postal mail on February 14, says Elections BC. Registering to vote can be done online at www.elections.bc.ca/ovr or by calling 1-800-661-8683.

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier

Saturday, March 4 ~ VICTORIA. Less than four months after the BC Teachers’ Federation won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, a tentative agreement with the employer and government has been reached.

The BC Ministry of Education announced this afternoon, March 4, that representatives of the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat, and the Ministry of Education have reached a tentative Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) negotiated pursuant to Letter of Understanding (LoU) No. 17 to the 2013-2019 BCPSEA-BCTF Provincial Collective Agreement.

On November 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision regarding the deletion of certain BCPSEA-BCTF Provincial Collective Agreement provisions by the Education Improvement Act. The Court’s decision restored the deleted provisions, which triggered the negotiation process under LoU No. 17, which states:

“If the final judgment affects the content of the collective agreement by fully or partially restoring the 2002 language, the parties will reopen the collective agreement on this issue and the parties will bargain from the restored language. The Education Fund provisions will continue in effect until there is agreement regarding implementation and/or changes to the restored language.”

The Ministry of Education says: “Given the Court’s restoration of nearly 1,400 clauses across 60 collective agreements, it was important for the parties to determine how to implement the restored language within the context of an education system that had evolved over the past 15 years. The tentative MoA provides clarity related to class size and composition, non-enrolling staff and process language that are now restored.”

BCTF-logoLoU No.17 negotiations began on Nov. 30, 2016 and spanned across 27 bargaining sessions. The BCTF will put the MOA forward for ratification by its members over the coming week. Details of the MOA will be available once the BCTF ratification process is complete.


“This is great news for students, parents, and teachers,” says Mike Bernier, Minister of Education. “If ratified, the agreement means thousands more teachers, more resources and more classroom supports. If ratified, it will build on the $100 million for up to 1,100 new teachers announced in January’s interim agreement with the BCTF and the record funding increase we just announced in the budget.”

BCTF President Glen Hansman said, “The tentative agreement, if ratified, will allow the next school year to start with thousands more teachers, smaller class sizes, better class composition, and specialist-teacher ratios. BC teachers have been fighting for 15 years to defend our rights and to restore our working conditions. If ratified, this agreement will mean the beginning of a new chapter in public education in BC, one in which teachers will once again have the time to give students the individual care and attention they need and deserve. School libraries and counselling offices will be re-opened, shop and lab classes will have safety standards restored, and all classrooms will be properly supported.”

“The agreement fully restores all of the substantive collective agreement language that was unconstitutionally stripped in 2002 by then-Education Minister Christy Clark,” reports the BCTF.

The tentative agreement is still subject to a province-wide vote of BCTF members, as well as the BC Public School Employers’ Association’s process. BCTF members will vote March 8-10, 2017.

Bernier continued in today’s government news release: “I want to congratulate the parties and thank them for the significant effort and professionalism that was brought to the table. The parties had to deal with some very complex issues, it involved a lot of work, and everyone remained focused on problem-solving. We hope to build on this constructive approach and relationship in the years ahead.”

“Student outcomes have improved dramatically over the past 15 year and are among the best in the world. We already have a world-leading education system,” says Minister Bernier. “With this agreement, we can expect even greater results for our students in the years ahead.”

In the past few years, school boards have credited the commitment of their teachers and parents going the extra mile for helping produce the success of students over the 15 years that the school system has been systematically underfunded.  It is unknown how the impact of education under-funding has contributed to family financial strain and also  the stark rise in youth stresses including mental health issues.

Click on image for larger view.

Click on image for larger view.

Friday, March 3 ~ WEST SHORE. Housing prices continue to surge upward in Greater Victoria, showing a raw average sale price of $852,111 in February.

The low number of properties listed for sale in February at 1,537 (very low compared to 2,562 a year ago) is only one pressure on prices. Buyers also hope to ‘beat the clock’ before super-low interest rates someday go up.

The raw average sale price of homes in getaway-lifestyle-Sooke has almost reached the half-million dollar mark ($495,789 in February). That’s up over $100,000 in one year.

In an economy where it’s mostly part-time and non-benefits jobs on the rise, the financial stability required for ownership of a single family home is increasingly beyond the reach of many.

This month’s MLS stats at www.vreb.org

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Victoria, March 2, 2017 [Canadian Press photo]

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jogging in Victoria, March 2, 2017 [Canadian Press photo]

Thursday, March 2 ~ VICTORIA.  [Posted at 5 pm]. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted out at 9:03 am this morning that he had arrived on the West Coast with Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan for a visit to Victoria today, March 2.

Trudeau and Sajjan started off the day with a jog from the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt near Victoria, along with about 300 military personnel on their monthly timed 5K run. Trudeau reportedly achieved the five-kilometer jog in under 25 minutes.

He toured the HMCS Ottawa and HMCS Chicoutimi including a battle control room, calling those activities “a real treat”. There was a photo op meet-and-greet with military families. The HMCS Ottawa will soon be setting off for a 6-month tour in the Asia Pacific.

After 1 pm, Trudeau met with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps at Victoria City Hall. Their discussion reportedly included aspects of affordable housing, innovative technology including green tech, and local opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, as well the opiate crisis and local infrastructure projects such as Crystal Pool and the Victoria fire hall. There was a large crowd – numbering in the hundreds – comprised of both anti-pipeline protesters as well as well-wishers.  There was heavy police security.

Some of the protest signage included messages like “We Vote No” and “You Promised Us Change”. Trudeau said briefing to media that “the environment and economy need to work together”, emphasizing the need for economic growth “while protecting the extraordinary natural inheritance” in BC.

In  the Greater Victoria area there are several shops selling marijuana products, ahead of changes to federal legislature that would make pot sales legal. Trudeau answered a media question about marijuana, saying the current law remains in place “until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana”.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the meeting with Trudeau today was the beginning of a relationship. The last sitting Prime Minister to visit Victoria City Hall was Lester B Pearson in 1965. Trudeau was gifted with a pair of Converse runners, with orca images on one side, as a way to ‘take a walk in our shoes’.

After the brief meeting at Victoria City Hall, Trudeau headed by air to Vancouver to meet with BC Premier Christy Clark at the downtown Fairmont Hotel at 5:30 pm. They are expected to discuss the upcoming BC Election, the fentanyl crisis and softwood lumber issues.

On Friday (March 3), Trudeau will visit Vancouver’s Downtown East Side to get a firsthand look at the drug overdose situation.

Prime Minister Justin Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit B.C. later this week. Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan [Photo in Poland, July 2016]

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan [Photo while in Poland, July 2016]

Wednesday, March 1 ~ VICTORIA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Victoria tomorrow, Thursday, March 2.

Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will be at Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt, BC. They will tour the base later in the morning and meet with sailors, and be available to media at 12:30 pm.

Around 1:20 pm Trudeau will meet with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps at Victoria City Hall.

The Dogwood Initiative group has called an ‘Emergency Town Hall’ to “make sure he hears the voices of real British Columbians”. They will be assembling at Centennial Square outside Victoria City Hall for 12:30 pm. Dogwood members have for several years been protesting any increase in oil tanker traffic off the coast of BC.

Trudeau is scheduled to meet with BC Premier Christy Clark at 5:30pm on Thursday, at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in downtown Vancouver, to discuss the opioid crisis and softwood lumber. On Friday, Trudeau will take a first-hand look at the drug crisis in Vancouver.


Brenda Butterworth-Carr, new Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer of the RCMP in BC. [Photo from 2015]

Brenda Butterworth-Carr, new Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer of the RCMP in BC. [Photo from 2015]

Wednesday, March 1 ~ BC. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris has announced of the appointment of Brenda Butterworth-Carr as BC’s new Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer of the BC RCMP.

“Policing is no ordinary career. It takes courage, determination and perseverance,” says Morris. “Years ago, when I first met Brenda Butterworth-Carr, I was immediately struck by her professional and personal integrity and passion for public safety. I’ve observed her progression over the years as a leader in the RCMP and continue to be impressed.”

Butterworth-Carr is from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Han Nation Yukon. She joined the RCMP in 1987 as a Native Special Constable. A government release today says Butterworth-Carr’s career “has been diverse and has provided her with a strong understanding of the provincial, municipal and First Nations service agreements,” adding that she also brings a wealth of experience working collaboratively with the many agencies and contract partners that support policing in BC.

In 2015, Butterworth-Carr received The Order of Merit of the Police Forces, awarded by Governor General David Johnston.

Deputy Commissioner Craig J. Callens leaves the post after 32 years of RCMP service.

Brendan Ralf, BC Green Party Candidate in Langford-Juan de Fuca

Brendan Ralfs, BC Green Party Candidate in Langford-Juan de Fuca

Wednesday, March 1 ~ West side of Vancouver Island. The BC Green Party has announced their candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca.  Brendan Ralfs — a provincial emergency manager on southern Vancouver Island — will be running on the same ballot as BC NDP Leader John Horgan and BC Liberal candidate Cathy Noel.

“After spending 20 years as a forest firefighter in BC I am passionate about seeing our province protected for future generations,” Ralfs said today in BC Greens news release. Ralfs has helped communities respond to a broad array of weather-influenced emergencies, including floods, storms and drought.

“I am honoured to welcome Brendan to our team. His experience managing emergencies across the province means he has a firsthand understanding of the impacts of climate change,” says BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.

Ralfs calls Weaver a “clear choice to lead us in working together to ensure our home is a place where social justice prevails, the natural environment is protected and everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams while leading safe, productive lives”.

The Explosive Disposal and Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Response (EDU/CBRN) Unit is comprised of full time, highly trained Police Explosives Technicians who are outfitted with state of the art specialized equipment and are capable of dealing with a multitude of Explosives / CBRN related emergencies. {Photo: BC RCMP]

The Explosive Disposal and Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Response (EDU/CBRN) Unit is comprised of full time, highly trained Police Explosives Technicians who are outfitted with state of the art specialized equipment and are capable of dealing with a multitude of Explosives / CBRN related emergencies. [File Photo: BC RCMP]

Tuesday, February 28 ~ Northern BC [2:40 pm] . Burns Lake RCMP are investigating after an unconfirmed explosive device was brought into the William Konkin Elementary School this morning. The BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit is on its way this afternoon to Burns Lake to ensure the device is dealt with appropriately. [UPDATE 4:45 pm: The BC RCMP’s Explosives Disposal Unit has attended to William Konkin Elementary School this afternoon, Feb. 28. They confirmed the device was inert, and could not have exploded, and have removed it for disposal.]

The school has now been determined safe and open for business as usual.

“The principal of the school called us right away when she learned of the device and immediately evacuated all the staff and students,” says Corporal Aaron Semmler, Acting Detachment Commander for Burns Lake RCMP.

“Their reaction time was excellent, and it was very reassuring she was able to quickly account for the safety of all staff and students.” There were no injuries to any staff or students, he notes.

“We took the step of calling for the Explosive Disposal Unit to attend, out of an abundance of caution,” he says. He also added his appreciation for the cooperation of parents, staff and students.

As this investigation is active right now, the RCMP will not be able to comment on the nature of the device, or how it was brought into the school.

Burns Lake is a rural village in the North-Central Interior of British Columbia ‘Lakes Region’, population approximately 2,000.

Trevor Linden

Trevor Linden’ s approach to hockey inspires leadership in the NHL

Monday, February 27 ~ BC. Are the Canucks redefining NHL hockey culture? Hockey culture is adopting a leadership style that nurtures skilled communicators, system thinkers, and compassionate collaborators who build teams and community.

At least that’s the aspirational view University of Victoria leadership studies researcher Carolyn Crippen puts forward in her new study of servant-leader philosophy in the NHL, as exemplified by Henrik and Daniel Sedin and key members of the Canucks organization.

“A Case Study of Servant Leadership in the NHL,” published in Interchange, a Quarterly Review of Education, provides evidence of the influence of the Sedins, Trevor Linden, Pat Quinn and others on the changing culture of the Vancouver Canucks, and provides expert comment on how their example could influence the NHL, aspiring professional hockey players, and sport in general.

“This study is about a side of hockey that’s often overlooked,” Crippen says.

Servant-leadership, a term coined by management researcher Robert Greenleaf in 1970, is described as a more humane, value-based and creative management style in which the leader focuses on the needs of the followers first.

The leadership philosophy that Crippen studies mostly within corporate and organizational cultures, she hadn’t expected to find in hockey until the Sedins and their playing style caught her eye when she moved to BC from Manitoba in 2009. As described in an earlier study in 2013, she says the Sedins stood out for their civil, respectful approach to their teammates, coaches, opponents and officials. She came to see them as the “culture carriers” of the team, a term used by Canucks GM Jim Benning in an interview with Vancouver sports writer Ed Willes.

“Daniel and Henrik lead by example with strong values and an unparalleled work ethic,” said Trevor Linden, Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations. “They demonstrate the finest qualities of character both in the game and as community leaders to future generations of players and fans.”

A self-funded research project seven years in the making, Crippen’s study includes: hundreds of hours of close observation and analysis of games broadcast between 2009 and 2016, as well as at a number of live games and practice sessions; a lengthy interview conducted with the Sedin twins and, more recently, with Trevor Linden and two Vancouver sports writers; archival news research; and data analysis.

The Sedins, she found, demonstrate accountability, responsibility, proficiency, diligence, empathy, civic values, inclusivity, and continual growth of self and others. “All of these traits contribute to building better communities, both on and off the ice,” she says.

The original beliefs, values and norms established by Pat Quinn and then disseminated by Trevor Linden during his time as a player, team leader and now as an executive, continues through the Sedins. Because of their lengthy and stable history (18 years) with the team, she asserts that they’ve disseminated and reinforced a culture of civility and skill-based play that’s now embodied within young players.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan will officially launch his campaign on March 11.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan will officially launch his campaign on March 11.

Monday, February 27 ~ West side of Vancouver Island. BC NDP leader John Horgan will kick off the 2017 re-election campaign in his home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca on Saturday March 11.

The big-crowd event will be held at the Langford Legion, 761 Station Avenue starting at 10:30am.

Horgan has held the Langford-area riding (by various electoral area names, including the areas of Sooke and up to Port Renfrew) since 2005. He has also built an NDP stronghold on Vancouver Island that has repeatedly proven to have a far-reaching and deep reach into many communities and economic sectors.

For this election, the reboundaried riding has lost the largely rural area of Metchosin. Ridings are rebalanced over the years based on population numbers. Both Langford and Sooke have seen population increases in recent years, due mainly to the relatively lower cost of housing on the west side of south Vancouver Island.

The BC provincial election is set for Tuesday, May 9.

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver

Monday, February 27 ~ VICTORIA. BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, MLA (Oak Bay – Gordon Head) will be out campaigning in his riding on Saturday, March 4.

Ahead of that, this week he’ll be attending an all-candidates listening session on March 2 in Victoria. Then to Vancouver on March 3 to take part in a senior executive roundtable at the Business Council of BC, and a BC Chamber of Commerce Leaders’ Power Lunch in downtown Vancouver.

Weaver is presently the only Green Party MLA in the BC Legislature.


Sample image of a live-in van.

Sample image of a live-in van.

Saturday, February 25 ~ SURREY, BC.  Today the sad result of not having a roof over one’s head: Today just before 7 am, Surrey RCMP was advised by Surrey Fire Department of a vehicle that was on fire in the 10500 Block of Scott Rd in Surrey.

Surrey Fire Department was already on scene when officers arrived, and had extinguished the fire. The vehicle was a camperized van, and a person was found deceased inside of the vehicle. The man, a 55 year old resident of Surrey, had been sleeping in the van, when it caught fire.

Fire investigators attended to the scene, and an examination of the vehicle has determined that the fire was accidental caused by a short in the electrical system, that had been modified. Attempts to notify the Next of Kin of the male are present on going.

The BC Coroners service attended to the scene, and the matter has been turned over to their office for further investigation.

AlistairMacGregor-headshotSaturday, February 25 ~ VANCOUVER ISLAND. Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) is elated that after several years of public pressure, the BC Liberal government has finally and permanently this week revoked the permit for the toxic soil dump near Shawnigan Lake.

MacGregor has stood in solidarity with the Shawnigan community and has supported its work in the fight against the toxic soil dump over the years. As a new MP, MacGregor introduced a bill (his first) in the House of Commons in Ottawa which would have brought federal protection to Shawnigan Lake under the Navigation Protection Act.

“Not only was the entire process that allowed the toxic soil dump permit flawed from the onset, but during the first serious rain event of its existence the project failed and discharged contaminated soil directly into the watershed,” said MP Alistair MacGregor.  “It shouldn’t have taken this long for the BC Government to put an end to this irresponsible and dangerous soil dump that risked inflicting irreparable damage to the Shawnigan watershed and its aquatic life,” MacGregor said.

“I want to specifically thank the Shawnigan Lake Residents Association and the Cowichan Valley Regional District for their hard work and diligence on this issue,” said MacGregor. “Our collective action is what makes our communities vibrant and strong, and this has finally forced the BC Liberal government to correct their mistake.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced Monday that the B.C. government would fund the extension of the Douglas Street northbound bus lane between Tolmie Avenue and Saanich Road. The $6.45-million project is part of B.C. on the Move, a 10-year plan for the improvement of the province's transportation network.

Extension of the Douglas Street northbound bus lane between Tolmie Avenue and Saanich Road.

Friday, February 24 ~ GREATER VICTORIA.  Commuters will be pleased to know that the construction tender to extend the northbound bus lane along Douglas Street to Saanich Road has been posted. Work is anticipated to start this spring. The original funding announcement was made a year ago.

“I’m happy to see this key BC on the Move project moving forward to the tender phase,” said BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone in a news release today. “This extension to the northbound bus lane will reduce travel time for bus users on the busiest transit corridor in the Victoria region.”

When construction is complete from Tolmie Avenue to Saanich Road later this year, there will be continuous northbound transit priority from Fisgard Street to Uptown. Design work is continuing on the section that will run north from Saanich Road and tie into the future interchange at Admirals and McKenzie.

The estimated total cost for the northbound bus lane from Tolmie Avenue to the McKenzie interchange is $10.05 million, with the Province contributing $5.425 million and the Government of Canada providing up to $4.625 million under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF).

“The extended bus and bike-priority lanes on Douglas Street will improve on-time performance and make transit a more effective and efficient transportation option,” said Manuel Achadinha, president and CEO, BC Transit. “By reducing travel times, the existing bus and bike priority lanes have helped us better connect people and communities.”

The BC government says their record investments in modern, safe infrastructure projects throughout BC are creating well-paying, family-supporting jobs.

Construction projects are posted on the BC Bid website.

The new AED installed in the waiting room at Long Harbour terminal. {Photo by BC Ferries]

The new AED installed in the waiting room at Long Harbour terminal. {Photo by BC Ferries]

Thursday, February 23 ~ VICTORIA.  BC Ferries has announced the installation of an additional 24 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at minor terminals for customers to use in the event of a medical emergency.

Heart disease and stroke take one life every seven minutes. February is the Heart and
Stroke Foundation’s ‘Heart Month’, a key time to reach millions of Canadians and alert them to the risks of heart disease and stroke. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has supplied BC Ferries with the signage and cabinets for this potentially life-saving equipment through the BC Public Access to Defibrillation Program (BC PAD).

With the advent of increasingly easy to use AEDs, BC Ferries saw an opportunity to improve the possibility of treating a customer or employee at remote locations in a timely manner. Training is not required to use the AEDs that BC Ferries has installed at the minor terminals as the devices are fully automated. The company has registered the locations of all the devices with the BC PAD AED registry so that in the event of a 9-1-1 call from a site with an AED, the dispatcher will be able to direct the caller to the location of the equipment.

“BC Ferries has been pleased to work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation over the past
year to implement an enhanced level of access to the devices for the public,” said Corrine Storey, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Customer Services.

“The safety of our customers and our employees is a top priority at BC Ferries and with 20 million people travelling throughout our system each year, this is another important way we are striving to become a world-class safety organization.” and CPR, the chance of survival from sudden cardiac arrest decreases by seven to 10 per cent for each minute that passes,” says Adrienne Bakker, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation, BC & Yukon. “It’s wonderful to see employers like BC Ferries take the initiative to ensure increased safety for their customers and employees by placing AEDs in their terminals.”

The major terminals (Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Departure Bay, Duke Point, and Langdale) as well as the vessels have had AEDs available for use by BC Ferries’ Occupational First Aid Attendants for a number of years. The AEDs for Denman Island East, Denman Island West and Hornby Island terminals will be installed later this year due to construction on the waiting rooms, which will bring the number of terminal locations up to 37. BC Ferries was not able to install the equipment at some minor terminals that do not have a secure waiting room.

Automated external defibrillators now available in the event of an emergency at the following terminal locations: Tsawwassen | Swartz Bay | Horseshoe Bay | Departure Bay | Duke Point | Langdale | Port Hardy | Prince Rupert | Skidegate | Bella Bella | Ocean Falls | Klemtu | Port McNeill | Sointula | Alert Bay | Campbell River | Quathiaski Cove, Quadra Island  | Heriot Bay, Quadra Island | Whaletown, Cortes Island  | Buckley Bay  | Litte River | Westview, Powell River | Blubber Bay, Texada Island | Saltery Bay, Powell River | Earls Cove | Nanaimo Harbour |  Descanso Bay, Gabriola Island |  Chemainus | Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island | Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island | Otter Bay, Pender Island | Village Bay, Mayne Island | Sturdies Bay, Galiano Island | Lyall Harbour, Saturna Island

Automated external defibrillators will be available in the event of an emergency at the following terminal locations later this year: Denman Island East | Denman Island West | Shingle Spit, Hornby Island.

A construction worker with eye and ear protection operates a compressed air powered high speed cut-off tool to remove bolts embedded in concrete.

A construction worker with eye and ear protection operates a compressed air powered high speed cut-off tool to remove bolts embedded in concrete.

Thursday, February 23 ~ BC. New 2016 data from WorkSafeBC indicates young construction workers are less likely to wear hearing protection at work compared to other age groups in the same industry. In addition, young workers in construction are less likely to wear hearing protection as compared to young workers in other industries, such as manufacturing and primary resources.

Among construction workers age 21 or younger, 24% reported not wearing hearing protection as compared to 13% of workers over age 50, and 11% workers in all other age groups. The data was collected in 2016 from more than 160,000 hearing tests conducted by BC employers as part of hearing loss prevention programs.

“Noise-induced hearing loss needs to be taken very seriously,” says Sasha Brown, WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist. “It can be caused by a single exposure to loud noise or more typically by repeated exposures to consistent noise. While the damage may be painless, it is irreversible and may go unnoticed for years or even decades until it reaches a point where it has a significant effect on one’s quality of life.”

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Guidelines, employers are required to provide hearing loss prevention programs, monitor noise levels and conduct annual hearing tests for workers exposed to hazardous noise to prevent noise induced hearing loss and permanent hearing damage. All workers are responsible for wearing appropriate hearing protection and to take part in their employer’s hearing loss prevention program. Hazardous noise levels are defined as 85 decibels in the ‘A’ scale for eight hours or the equivalent; the A scale is used for measuring environmental noise.

Hearing loss can go unnoticed by a worker for years or even decades after the initial exposure or series of exposures. Since 2006 there have been more than 37,000 accepted claims for noise-induced hearing-loss in BC, says WorksafeBC.

“We want to raise the level of awareness among employers of the prevalence and seriousness of this occupational disease, as well as the need to have prevention programs and testing in place, so workers don’t have to live with its debilitating effects for the rest of their lives,” Brown says.

WorkSafeBC has online resources to assist in understanding and preventing noise-induced hearing loss: read this WorkSafeBC Bulletin, see A Guide to Hearing Loss Prevention Programs and watch The Hearing Video.

More about hearing loss prevention and safety plans: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/newsletters/worksafe-magazine/worksafe-magazine-janfeb-2017/ask-officer?lang=en

Screenshot from BC Hansard live stream, February 21, 2017

Screenshot from BC Hansard live stream, February 21, 2017

Tuesday, February 21 ~ VICTORIA. This afternoon BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong read out his lengthy Budget Speech 2017 in the BC Legislature... almost word for word to the printed document that you can find online at http://bcbudget.gov.bc.ca .

In watching the live Hansard stream online, Premier Christy Clark appeared to sigh with relief at the end of it all.

Overall it seems like a well-crafted budget, boasting five consecutive years as a balanced budget with a surplus of $295 million in 2017-2018 to help reduce the operating debt. And a triple-A credit rating to boot!

The Finance Minister says almost $3 billion was spent over 3 years on enhanced programs and services. And that record levels of infrastructure investment supported over 30,000 jobs.

“Balanced Budget 2017 provides an additional $796 million over three years to support families, individuals and children most in need,” says a Ministry of Finance news release.

After hearing all of it, this question comes to mind: How far can budget spending treats go toward erasing 16 years of hardship memories? Will families who’ve seen their children under-served in education or who’ve traded off grocery expenditures to pay the hydro bill, really be baited to switch their vote?

During the BC election campaign, the NDP intends to hammer home a reminder of how hard it’s been on families for 16 years, and that an NDP government would do better. BC NDP Leader John Horgan in a media session following the budget said the government has “been riddled with gimmicks from day one”.

Here are just a few of the goodies announced today in the BC Liberal Government 2017 budget that covered a lot of ground both economically as well as politically:
> A promise to begin reducing MSP premiums to an eventual elimination. For starters (as of January 1, 2018), the low-income cutoff for full premium assistance will go up to $26,000, and a family with 2 children can earn up to $35,000 before paying fees. Many people don’t pay directly, but through their company payroll; that will also produce savings for employers.
> PST-portion of hydro billings for businesses to be cut in half to 3.5% starting Oct 1, 2017, and be eliminated by April 1, 2019. But the billing rate for electricity continues to climb.
> The First Time Home Buyers’ Program property purchase tax exemption threshold going up to $500,000 (saving 1st-time buyers up to $8,000, instead of the average $7,600 in 2016).
> Small business tax rate will drop to 2% (from 2.5%) effective April 1, 2017.
> Rural volunteer firefighters and SAR volunteers to get a $3,000 tax credit.
> New mental health funding with a focus on youth including $45 million to the Ministry of Children and Family Development over three years for more mental health counselling and treatment for children.
> 1,900 new campsites promised, to help meet growing demand.
> New park rangers throughout the province.
> And lots more. Full budget speech online

BalancedBudgetBC2017Tuesday, February 21 ~ VICTORIA. The BC provincial government’s Budget 2017 will be available today on the BC Government website as soon as Minister Finance Mike de Jong stands in the House to deliver the Budget Speech (approximately 1:30 pm) on Budget Day, February 21st, 2017.

The BC Government has promoted the achievement of a balanced budget for now five years in a row. This being an election year, it is no surprise that many government expenditures in areas of infrastructure, health, education and social programs are being rolled out to the tune of millions of dollars.

The challenge to the NDP as Official Opposition leading up to the May 9 provincial election will be in effectively reminding BC residents and voters that continual privatization and cutbacks — as well as stripping certain parameters out of the BC Teachers Union contract — have been damaging (in some ways permanently) to BC families for now 16 years under a BC Liberal government.

CRD-ArstFundingMonday, February 20 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. Arts Development 2017 operating grants have been announced today by the CRD Arts Commission.

A total of $2,153,060 distributed among 29 arts organizations will provide assistance to the organizations and is intended to help generate economic and social benefits for the Capital Region. One of the largest amounts goes to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, with Pacific Opera Victoria and Belfy Theatre receiving the next two largest grants. Here is the full list:

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria $443,430 | Atomic Vaudeville $25,000 | Aventa Ensemble $22,930 | Ballet Victoria $45,000 | Belfry Theatre $217,460 | CineVic $23,000 | Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria $24,000 | Dance Victoria $62,930 | Deluge Contemporary Art $38,210 | Early Music Society $12,000 | Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival $8,000 | Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra $8,000 | Intrepid Theatre $97,930 | Kaleidoscope Theatre $55,000 |  MediaNet $19,000 | Open Space $82,930 | Pacific Opera Victoria $220,450 | Puente Theatre $31,000 |  Story Theatre $40,000 |  Theatre Inconnu $27,500 | Theatre SKAM $34,000 | Victoria Children’s Choir $13,930 | Victoria Conservatory of Music $55,000

Last year, organizations funded through the Operating Grant program produced over 2,600 events including in dance, visual and media art, music, and theatre. These activities bring visibility to the region. The activities generate numerous audience and volunteer opportunities for citizens and visitors of all ages as well as economic benefits through the employment of artists, technicians and the staff of local organizations.

“Operating grants are a vital investment in the development of the arts and in the cultural fabric of the entire region,” said Colin Plant, Chair of the CRD Arts Commission. “Municipal boundaries don’t apply when it comes to the arts and the Arts Commission is committed to working towards full participation from all jurisdictions in the Capital Region,” he said in a media release today.

The CRD Arts Development Service is currently supported by eight municipalities: Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Metchosin, Highlands, View Royal and Sidney. For further information please see www.crd.bc.ca/service/arts-funding .


Refugeepoll-AngusReid-Feb20-2017Monday, February 20 ~ NATIONAL.  A majority of survey respondents support the Canadian government’s decision not to increase 2017 refugee targets.

As the American travel ban on refugees, visitors and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries creates serious foreign policy differences between Canada and the US, border communities in Manitoba and Quebec are bearing witness to the fallout, watching asylum seekers trudging through the snow to cross the border.

Against this backdrop, the latest survey from the Angus Reid Institute finds public opinion in this country is onside with its government’s approach and response on domestic refugee policy, but is showing signs Ottawa may be testing the limits of how many migrants Canadians are willing to accept.

The majority of Canadians approve of how the Trudeau government has handled the refugee file. There is, however, a notable split in opinion regarding refugee targets for 2017. While a plurality of Canadians say the government has hit the mark with 40,000 total refugees expected to be entering the country this year, a significant segment say this number is too high.

Key findings from the poll:
• One-in-four (25%) Canadians say this country should have responded to President Trump’s executive order by adopting the same policy, i.e. a temporary ban on Syrian refugees. Most (57%) say the government made the right decision in standing pat.
• The Canadian government has done a good job overall in handling the resettlement of Syrian refugees since taking office in November 2015, say 60% of the respondents.
• Close to half of Canadians (47%) say the government is taking in the right number of refugees (Syrian and other nationalities) in 2017. A large group (41%), however, say that the total is too high, while 11% say Canada should be granting access to more asylum seekers.

Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation

Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation

Saturday, February 18 ~ BC.  For the second year in a row, the BC government is increasing disability assistance rates by investing $199 million over three years. This came as part of an announcement from the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation on February 17

This investment is in addition to the $170 million announced last year to increase disability rates. It will benefit about 107,000 people with the ‘persons with a disability’ (PWD) designation. As of April 1, 2017, disability assistance rates will increase by $50 per month (annual total of $600). A single person with the PWD designation will then be receiving $1,033 per month in disability assistance, up from $983. A couple in which both have PWD will receive an additional $100 per month (total $1,773).

The increase in disability assistance rates complements a number of changes the Province has made over the last few years to further support people with disabilities, including:

  • Raising asset levels for people with the PWD designation to the highest level in Canada (along with Alberta);
  • Annualizing earnings exemptions to $9,600 per year, so people with disabilities can have more flexibility in their work schedule;
  • Exempting child maintenance and federal Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits for people receiving income or disability assistance; and
  • Launching the Single Parent Employment Initiative to reduce barriers to employment for single parents on income or disability assistance. Since its launch in September 2015, more than 4,375 single parents have become involved in the initiative and more than 830 have already found employment.

“The increase also supports Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year action plan to make BC the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada for people with disabilities, and continues government’s ongoing efforts to remove barriers for people with disabilities,” it was stated in the release.

Almost always a Minister’s name is associated with an announcement in a BC government release. In this case, no Minister’s name was included. BC Liberal Michelle Stilwell is the Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. A recent Times-Colonist editorial suggests it was because it was about the lowest amount that could have been issued to the program. To hone that point, it’s the sort of funding increase (minimally speaking) that an NDP government might do.

BC NDP social development spokesperson Michelle Mungall

BC NDP social development spokesperson Michelle Mungall

When it comes to bus passes, persons receiving disability assistance can receive a Transportation Support Allowance either as a bus pass or as $52 added to their monthly payment. While that might work on on balance for seniors (who in the Greater Victoria area would pay $45 for a BC Transit monthly bus pass), for adults the BC Transit one-month bus pass costs $85.

The ministry has eliminated the annual $45 BC Bus Pass administration fee and the annual renewal process for people receiving disability assistance who have the Persons with Disabilities designation. The BC Bus Pass allows for for travel anywhere within the TransLink and BC Transit service areas. It cannot be used on HandyDart (BC Transit fee for that is $22.50 for 10 tickets).

The BC NDP’s social development spokesperson Michelle Mungall says: “Christy Clark has only given back the money that she took away last year with the bus pass clawback, minus a toonie. Last year she decided to charge people with disabilities $52 per month for their bus pass, and this raise doesn’t even cover it. They are still living in poverty, they are still struggling to feed themselves and they are still finding it difficult to be included in their community.”

“We need a poverty reduction plan in BC, just like every other province, because plans work,” says Mungall.” I will once again introduce legislation for a plan next week, and with any hope Christy Clark will put the corporate interests and partisan politics aside and support my bill. If not, people can have their say at the polls on May 9.”

Barb Desjardins. BC Liberal candidate, Esquimalt-Metchosin

Barb Desjardins. BC Liberal candidate, Esquimalt-Metchosin

Thursday, February 16 ~ WEST SHORE. Two successful women are running as BC Liberal candidates on the south island.

Cathy Noel, BC Liberal candidate, Langford-Juan de Fuca

Cathy Noel, BC Liberal candidate, Langford-Juan de Fuca

Three-term Esquimalt mayor and Capital Regional District (CRD) chair Barb Desjardins has today been officially acclaimed as the BC Liberal candidate for the riding of Esquimalt-Metchosin in the upcoming BC provincial election.

“After years of serving local residents, I recognize that Esquimalt-Metchosin and the South Island need a strong voice on provincial issues like housing, transportation, and healthcare. I have a proven track record of representing my constituents, often against the odds – and as MLA, I will stand up for the needs of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood, and Metchosin with the same regard.”

A physiotherapist and small business owner by profession, Desjardins was elected to Esquimalt council in 2005 and as mayor in 2008. She says she is known for her accessibility, collaborative approach, and personal attention to the issues raised by her constituents.

In the newly named Langford-Juan de Fuca riding, BC Liberal candidate Cathy Noel will be running head to head against long-time Juan de Fuca MLA and BC NDP leader, John Horgan.

Noel came on board as a candidate in November 2016. She has a strong entrepreneurial background through her many years organizing marathon races around south Vancouver Island, more recently including the Times Colonist 10K Run, the Goddess Run in Langford, and the 10K run in Sooke. Herself a runner, she took part in the Boston Marathon in 2012. Noel says she brings strong project management skills to the table and sees the need for more jobs in the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding area which she explains will come from economic development.

Last week, Desjardins and Noel joined fellow Island BC Liberal candidates and Premier Christy Clark to discuss the party’s first-ever Island-specific election platform, which is being overseen by Comox Valley MLA Don McRae. Much of the BC Liberal focus in times past has been on the Lower Mainland and BC interior regions.

For many years the BC NDP have held most Vancouver Island ridings as a stronghold. With Horgan as their leader the Official Opposition has stood strong on issues like the environment, green technology, and the need for fairer social programs.

The BC Liberals have now nominated 76 candidates province-wide. The provincial election is set for Tuesday May 9, 2017.


trump-trudeau-roundtable-Feb1317Monday, February 13, 2017 ~ Canada/US. A roundtable discussion on ‘women in the workforce’ this morning at the White House started at the top with women CEOs of major corporations in the room with President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau and Trump were seated across the table from one another, with the live-feed TV camera featuring Trump. Ivanka Trump was seated to the left of Prime Minister Trudeau. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was seated diagonally across the table from Trudeau.

Trump called it ‘unique’ that women handle both career and family, and that women (indeed all businesses) need better access to capital. One of Trump’s recent Executive Orders is designed to deregulate the US financial industry to a degree that is not yet known.

Trudeau addressed the approximately 30 people at the table, saying that in addition to fostering the success of women in business as “the right thing to do, that women in business provide “powerful leverage” to their businesses and their communities. Toward the end of his remarks, he delivered about two sentences in French, the repeating those brief remarks in English.

trudeau-Ivankatrump-20170213-roundtableOn a first-name basis around the table, Trump and Trudeau’s comments were followed by a brief comment by Ivanka Trump, then brief introductions by first Canadian women executives, then American. Included among those representing Canadian women in business were two CEOs based out of western Canada: Dawn Farrell. President and CEO of TransAlta Corporation; Tina Lee, CEO at T&T Supermarket Inc.

Also at the meeting today are Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Dina Powell, assistant to the president and senior counsellor for economic initiatives. Powell, Telford and Freeland were involved in setting up the council and recruiting the CEOS.

The council includes many of the meeting attendees, as well as Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock and Catalyst CEO Deborah Gillis.

It is not yet clear whether the roundtable will delve into the details of maternity leave and childcare, how to recruit and retain women, and how to better support women entrepreneurs.

Ivanka Trump does not have an official White House role. Her husband Jared Kushner is a senior advisor to the president. Ivanka Trump’s clothing and lifestyle brand has suffered in the retail market in recent weeks.

Trudeau&TrumpSunday, February 12 ~ NATIONAL.  Wow, if you think you have a busy day scheduled for Monday, February 13, look at this schedule set up for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a one-day return trip to Washington, DC! Most of Trudeau’s day will be open to media coverage.  Trudeau took the February 10-11 weekend off for personal time ahead of this busy Monday representing Canada in the USA:

  • The Prime Minister will depart at 7 am (EST) for Washington, DC, giving a photo op to media at the Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa. He will arrive in Maryland at Joint Base Andrews at 9 am.
  • By 10:50 am Trudeau will arrive at the White House and be greeted by the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump in the West Wing of the White House. At 11:10 am they will hold a tête-a-tête meeting in the Oval Office. That won’t last long, as they will at 11:25 am hold an expanded bilateral meeting with the President of the United States, still in the oval office.
  • Starting at 12:15 pm Trudeau and Trump will participate in a roundtable discussion with women executives, followed by luncheon — all of that in the Cabinet Room, West Wing.
  • At 2pm Trudeau and Trump will hold a joint media availability at the White House. Then at 3pm Trudeau will meet with the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan at the United States Capitol. At 3:40 pm Trudeau will meet with the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.
  • Then back to Ottawa at 6pm.

Our editorial on how the meeting might go best for Canada is on page 2 in the February 10, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.

Governor General David Johnston & Mrs Johnston with Prince William: Official Welcome for the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge at the BC Legislature, Sept 24, 2016. WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS photo.

Governor General David Johnston & Mrs Johnston with Prince William: Official Welcome for the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge at the BC Legislature,
Sept 24, 2016. WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS photo.

Saturday, February 11 ~ OTTAWA. A visit to further a bond with northern countries is planned for Feburary 19 to 23.

Governor General of Canada David Johnston and Mrs Sharon Johnston will conduct a state visit to Sweden. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will host the Johnstons during the visit that will focus on building innovative, sustainable societies that benefit everyone.

“Canada and Sweden have a great deal in common as Northern countries that are firmly committed to human rights, the environment, free trade, and the well-being and prosperity of their citizens,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “This visit by the Governor General of Canada will help further strengthen our social and commercial ties, and reaffirm our warm friendship.”

arcticcouncilCanada and Sweden collaborate on Northern issues within the Arctic Council, including sustainable development and environmental protection. There is significant trade and investment flow between the two countries, with close cooperation in innovation, science and technology.

“Sweden is one of Canada’s top priority countries for investment as it is home to a number of large, technologically sophisticated, multi-national companies and dynamic and innovative small-to-medium sized enterprises,” it was stated in a Prime Minister’s office release on February 10.

Actual sale price averages vs benchmark prices ~ January 2017. Cllck on image to enlarge.

Actual sale price averages vs benchmark prices ~ January 2017. Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 8 ~ WEST SHORE COMMUNITIES.  The real estate market is landing softly at its new high level. The robust level of sales transactions and persistent steep price increases in 2016 (on the heels of many years of price increases) were of course not sustainable.

Greater Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) president Ara Balabanian says this: “Over the last few decades, the historic cycle in Victoria is longer periods of stable activity and price followed by a rapid rise in activity and property values over a relatively short period of time.”

Look where prices have arrived as of January 2017 (VREB figures). The benchmark (data-adjusted) for single family homes in Greater Victoria overall was $636,100 last month, which is up by $111,000 over the figure for January 2015 (note, the average of actual sales was $804,558 last month). In the west shore area, the benchmark was $515,700 last month, which is $88,000 higher than a year ago. Nothing else in the economy comes anywhere close to that level of inflation.

Langford’s single family home benchmark was $516,100 in January 2016, with Colwood at $565,000 and Sooke at $436,100. All of those are peak price points.

A total of 478 properties sold in the VREB region last month, which is 11.3% fewer than the 539 sales transacted in January 2016. It’s worth noting the reverse trend in the western communities: in Langford, Colwood and Sooke combined, sales volume in January 2017 was steady, and a bit higher than in December. Comparing Langford and Sooke, there were more sales in January 2017 compared to a year ago, not fewer. This can generally be attributed to relative housing affordability compared to the Victoria/Saanich/Oak Bay core.

Condos are not frequently available in Sooke, and only three sold in Colwood last month. But in urban-style Langford last month there were 23 condo sales at a raw average sale price of $287,478 (and with a benchmark notably pumped up to $325,300 as an indication of where market interest is heading).

It remains that those already in the housing market are generally doing fine by their investment (usually so long as they don’t try to ‘buy upwards’ in the market upon resale), while affordability for others appears to be continually out of reach.

The ‘new normal’ in Canada’s housing market appears to be that there are those who play the home ownership game and those who simply don’t. And it’s something that some demographics are getting used to.

The millennium generation (adults in their 20s and early 30s) has in large part been forced into a renter’s lifestyle, where investments are instead made in wellness, travel and technology rather than the overhead of home ownership maintenance (and oftentimes becoming landlords with secondary suites to deal with). Seniors finding themselves without adequate pensions may oddly find themselves taking up the trademark millennium work-and-get-by-on-less lifestyle by default.

Wednesday, February 8 ~ South Vancouver Island. Snow is forecasted to develop mid-afternoon today February 8, increasing this evening, and turning to freezing rain.

Snowfall or freezing rain over the Pacific Marine Route (including Sooke Road / Hwy 14 / West Coast Road), Lake Cowichan and the Malahat may be quite heavy.

Mainroad South Island winter operations will be in effect on all highways. That includes additional personnel and equipment. The priority is highways, bus routes and school bus routes as well as main corridor roads. Side roads are done after that. Clearing access for police, fire and ambulance gets priority. Motorists are reminded to drive safely around highway maintenance vehicles.

snowdayTuesday, February 7 ~ SOOKE. Schools in Sooke, Colwood, Langford and Metchosin are closed today in School District 62 (SD62) due to challenging road and sidewalk conditions.

Recent snowfall has piled up. “All Sooke schools closed due to ice & uncleared sidewalks,” was the official Tweet out from Sooke School District 62 (SD62) today.

Schools are also closed in Saanich (SD63) but are open in Victoria (SD61).

Highway clearing is top priority for road crews. Photo: Feb 6 on WEst Coast Road, [ Copyright 2017 West Shore Voice News]

Highway clearing is top priority for road crews. Photo: Feb 6 on West Coast Road, (Hwy 14) Photo: Copyright 2017 West Shore Voice News

Monday, February 6 ~ SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND.  Snow that has been falling lightly but steadily since Sunday night, through today — with about 15 to 20 cm forecasted for overnight into Tuesday February 7 — sees Mainroad South Island doing operations on all highways.  The roads contractor announced this afternoon that regular winter crews are on shift 24/7 with additional personnel and equipment brought in as conditions warrant.

This 24/7 winter road crew status will continue “until the conditions change and highways are back to normal”, it was stated in a Mainroad news release.

Motorists and residents are reminded that during a snow event, winter operation services are provided on a priority basis. That means starting with highways, bus routes and school bus routes and main connector roads. The crews begin servicing side roads when the snowfall stops.

‘The public can be assured that in emergency situations where police, fire and ambulance are requiring assistance that our crews will assist them to reach their destination,” says Mainroad in their release.

During winter driving conditions everyone is reminded to drive safely, especially when approaching a highway maintenance vehicle.

“For visibility, It’s a good idea to keep your headlights fully on during the day in snow or rain, which also lights up the tail lights on your vehicle,” says Juan de Fuca Emergency Program coordinator Jeri Grant.

Highway conditions or issues can be reported to the 24-hour communications centre at 1-877-391-7310.

[Photo Copyright 2017 West Shore Voice News: westward view on West Coast Road on Monday, February 6]

082556_snowyforest-Feb0617-WestShoreVOICENews-webMonday, February 6 ~ WEST SIDE of VANCOUVER ISLAND.  Snow continues to fall today on south Vancouver Island (Greater Victoria area), though not nearly as heavily as what the BC mainland Metro Vancouver area is experiencing.

Our current issue of West Shore Voice News carries an editorial about how lucky we are to get “a bit of snow” each winter (as published on page 2, February 3, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News):

“A little bit of snowfall on this lovely west side of the island this week, and people are rattled enough to change plans. Road safety is of course of the utmost importance, and if people’s driving skills or vehicles are not up to snuff for handling snowy, slippery roads then cancelling or changing travel plans is of course the responsible thing to do.

But it’s a reminder (perhaps an annual one) that we enjoy the blessing of mild weather virtually year-round. Unprepared as most of us are for snow or cold weather produces a chuckle (or chagrin) for most of the rest of Canada where sub-zero temperatures and months of weather-imposed inconvenience is the name of the game every winter.

This region is flocked to by many, but how many truly handle well the cost of it? South Vancouver Island is one of the costliest of Canadian regions. In the island cost-of -living (takes bucks to ship or fly things here) we pay dearly for the breathtaking views, the mostly non-interruptive weather, the long garden/crop growing season, the wonderful seaside air, the opportunity for outdoor recreation on a moment’s notice, and remoteness from the mainstream.

During a lengthy power outage in New Brunswick this past week several people died. Died right there in their homes, from the extended cold (well, mostly from the fumes of generators and gas BBQs that were being inadvisedly used for heating and cooking). If there were ever an extended power outage on this west side of this island in winter, well… it would be mighty uncomfortable, but if prepared, people could survive the temperatures for a week or more if properly sheltered and prepared with their emergency kits and stocked pantries.

Canada is a country of shared values of fairness, compassion, and oh yeah our worldwide reputation to be oh-so-polite. But regional economic disparities are becoming starkly clear — whether as seen in astronomical housing prices in the most sought-after cities (Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria), or evidence of failing infrastructure that challenges the basics of living (as seen in the NB outages). Stabilizing people’s economic well-being and building up community infrastructure hopefully remain as top priorities for leaders across Canada.”

1953-Hwy14-snowy-Dec0616-WestShoreVoice-webFriday, February 3 ~ 3:40 PM Pacific Time. Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for Greater Victoria. Total snowfall amounts of 15 to 25 cm are expected by Saturday morning.

“A low pressure centre is bringing heavy snow to the inner south coast tonight. 5 to 10 cm of snow has fallen since this morning. An additional 5 to 15 cm of snow is expected by early Saturday morning. The snow may become mixed with or change to rain at lower elevations especially near the Strait of Georgia tonight.”

“Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow.”

Further Environment Canada alerts and forecasts are likely to be issued. To report severe weather, send an email to ec.tempetepacifique-pacificstorm.ec@canada.ca or tweet reports to #BCStorm.

[Photo by West Shore Voice News: Highway 14 after a light snow fall, December 2016]

BCFerry-fromBCFerriessiteFriday, February 3 ~ VICTORIA. BC Ferries has added sailings during peak travel times on the BC Family Day weekend. Heavy traffic is expected on some sailings between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

The added sailings are on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay and the Departure Bay – Horseshoe Bay routes starting February 10. The extra sailings are:

Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route:

  • Fri Feb 10 – 10:00 am, 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm depart Tsawwassen
  • Sat Feb 11 – 8:00 am and 12:00 pm depart Tsawwassen
  • Sun Feb 12 – 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm depart Tsawwassen
  • Mon Feb 13 – 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, 6:00 pm depart Tsawwassen
  • Fri Feb 10 – 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm depart Swartz Bay
  • Sat Feb 11 – 10:00 am and 2:00 pm depart Swartz Bay
  • Sun Feb 12 – 4:00 pm depart from Swartz Bay
  • Mon Feb 13 – 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm depart Swartz Bay

Departure Bay – Horseshoe Bay route:

  • Mon Feb 13– 7:00 p.m. depart Departure Bay
  • Mon Feb 13 – 9:00 p.m. depart Horseshoe Bay

As usual, travellers are advised to check the website for current conditions.

BC Ferries reminds customers travelling in vehicles with reservations to inform the ticket agent that they have a reservation when they arrive at the ticket booth. This self-identification helps expedite the check-in process.

WSV-GroundhogDay2017Thursday, February 2 ~ This west side of the island. Groundhog Day on February 2 each year is a lighthearted acknowledgement that winter has been long, and that spring might soon be in the air. 

Here’s an angle on Groundhog Day that might give those poor hardworking North American ground hogs a bit of a break this year on February 2. In long-ago European weather lore apparently the badger or bear was the prognosticator of spring weather to come. So perhaps it kinda depends on what animal you have handy in your neighbourhood.

The change of season when daylight first makes significant progress against the night (as recognized by the Celtic Imbolc celebration) or the quirky acknowledgement of groundhogs seeking the light, February 2 is a turning point… we’re one step closer to spring!

HouseofCommons-Feb0117-webWednesday, February 1 ~ OTTAWA.  ELECTORAL REFORM. The Liberal government has dropped its initiative to change Canada’s electoral voting system.  In a mandate letter for newly appointed Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes it clear that electoral reform is no longer on the agenda.

Electoral reform had been among Liberal campaign promises during the 2015 federal election campaign. Trudeau repeatedly promised — both as a campaigning Liberal leader and as prime minister in a speech from the throne — to eliminate (and replace) the current first-past-the-post voting system in time for the 2019 federal election.

The Liberals claim there is no consensus, after holding a variety of consultations across the country both online and in forums. Canadians made their views known through the House of Commons special committee on electoral reform, town halls held by MPs from all parties, the travels of former minister Maryam Monsef and a much-maligned online survey called MyDemocracy.ca.

The mandate letter shows that Trudeau does not believe those consultations have produced a clear path forward to reform or more specifically, a preferred replacement.

The NDP have called for a system of proportional representation for a long time. Nathan Cullen gave a long news conference today from Ottawa expressing his exasperation with Trudeau over the decision to abandon electoral reform.

The Conservatives in official opposition had pushed for a referendum on electoral reform. But they are likely pleased with today’s reestablishment of the status quo given that first-past-the-post generally favours either Conservatives or Liberals, in turn. The Conservatives were the least favourable to electoral reform during the 2015 campaign, which shows their political posturing today of being offended by Trudeau’s decision to be somewhat thin.

CYBER SAFETY. Some significant new items in the mandate letter today include Gould, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale be charged with finding ways to defend the Canadian political system against cyber threats and hackers.

In the heat of the moment in the House of Commons today, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair somewhat mocked the importance of working to stop cyber-threats (compared to the importance of electoral reform), a comment which could come back to haunt the NDP.

Trudeau wrote: “This should include asking the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to analyze risks to Canada’s political and electoral activities from hackers, and to release this assessment publicly.” Trudeau also wants the three ministers to ask the CSE to “offer advice” to Elections Canada and political parties — including opposition parties — on “best practices” regarding cyber security.

FUNDRAISING TRANSPARENCY. Members of all federal parties undertook private political meetings in people’s homes during the 2015 federal election campaign, at which fundraising was not an unlikely occurrence. But in recent months the federal Liberals have come under fire for high-profile private fundraisers with big-ticket entry fees (some as much as $1,500).

So it’s safe territory — something that levels the playing field among all parties — for Trudeau to be asking Gould to take the lead on developing legislation to bring stricter rules — and greater transparency — to political fundraising, a response to months of negative headlines about so-called cash-for-access Liberal fundraisers. The promised legislation would require cabinet ministers, party leaders and leadership candidates to publicly advertise their fundraisers in advance, and release a report after the fact with details of the event. The proposed new law, if passed, would also require events to take place in publicly available spaces, where anyone from the public — including the media — would be allowed to attend. “Other measures may follow after discussion with the other political parties,” Trudeau writes.

FAIR ELECTIONS. The mandate letter repeat an earlier commitment to repeal some elements of the previous Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act (which tended to make voting more difficult for some in the electorate) and exploring the idea of an independent commissioner to organize leaders’ debates during federal elections. When the Conservatives brought in their Fair Elections Act ahead of the 2015 election it blocked the ability of Elections Canada to impartially motivate citizen interest in the voting process. Gould has also been charged with reviewing campaign spending limits and working with Treasury Board President Scott Brison and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to increase the openness of government, including reviewing the Access to Information Act.


SPCA_-_Speaking_for_AnimalsWednesday, February 1 ~ BC.  An additional $5 million to support the BC SPCA’s eight-year Facilities Development and Service Plan has been issued by the BC Government, it was announced yesterday. The funds are for use to replace or renovate aging animal shelters.

The funding announcement will allow the BC SPCA to embark on the initial stages of Phase 2 of its facilities plan, which includes a new Vancouver campus. Plans for the new Vancouver site are in the early-planning stages, but n addition to being BC SPCA’s provincial office will include a Community Animal Centre, full-service veterinary hospital, education centre. “This will increase their capacity to serve as the Lower Mainland’s primary hub for surrendered animals, and support rescued animals that are looking for their forever homes,” it was stated in a release from the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

“The BC government recognizes and values the important work of the BC SPCA and its contributions to the welfare of animals,” the release continued, saying the funding builds on the $5 million announced in Balanced Budget 2015 to support the first phase of their facilities plan, and supports the Province’s commitment to working with the BC SPCA to address animal-welfare issues throughout the province.

The government says that Phase 1 funding supported a large animal-seizure facility, which opened in Kelowna in March 2015, and in June 2016, a new state-of-the-art SPCA facility opened its doors in Nanaimo. Recently, plans were unveiled for a new community animal centre in Kamloops to help address the overwhelming pet population in the area.

The BC SPCA’s mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in BC. The not-for-profit organization has been serving animals in need for over 120 years, caring for neglected, abused and homeless animals and offering a wide range of outreach, education and advocacy programs to promote the welfare of animals.

The BC government is making record investments in modern, safe infrastructure projects throughout the province. In doing so, these construction projects are creating high-paying, family-supporting jobs. The government says these investments are possible because of the fiscal plan of the BC government.

“Animals everywhere deserve proper care and housing. With this additional $5 million from the provincial government, we will see more animals under the care of the BC SPCA receiving the treatment they need to be healthy and protected,” says Jane Thornthwaite, North Vancouver-Seymour MLA.

“We are extremely grateful to the Government of British Columbia for their ongoing support of homeless, abused and vulnerable animals,” says Craig Daniell, chief executive officer, BC SPCA. “This $5-million contribution provides a valuable launch as we move forward with community fundraising for second phase of our capital building plan, which will include a new community animal centre in Vancouver. The government has contributed a total of $10 million since 2015 towards our $53.8 million Facilities Development and Services Plan to replace or refurbish aging SPCA shelters, which has enabled us to carry out work in eight BC communities to date.”

MVIonSookeRd-WordMarkTuesday, January 31 ~ WEST SHORE. This afternoon around 3:10 pm there was a collision of a logging truck and car on Sooke Road (between Luxton Road and Happy Valley Road in the Langford area). Three people in the vehicle were injured — two adults (a man, and a woman who was driving), and a child.

The three people who had been travelling in the Kia Forte sedan that was badly damaged in the crash were taken to Victoria General Hospital following the collision. The truck driver was reported as not injured.

Sooke Road was closed in both directions for more than six hours, once again affecting access to/from the community Sooke for which Highway 14 is the “one road in and out”. Traffic was diverted at Happy Valley Road as crash-scene analysts gathered evidence. The road was cleared and traffic flowing again around 9:30 pm this evening after the logging truck was towed away.

Langford Fire Rescue, BC Ambulance and RCMP attended the scene.  Police are continuing their investigation and seeking witnesses.




FRONT PAGE Breaking News Archive: January 2017

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BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: September 2016

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BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: July 2016

BC & NATIONAL Breaking News Archive: February through June 2016