Regional, BC & national BREAKING NEWS  

September 2015 | @SookeVoiceNews & @SookeVoiceLOCAL  


 

Regional & national news


Breaking news:

 

Tuesday, September 1.  A slice of a day in history:  Today, Canada is to hear whether the economy is officially in recession. Today the Victoria Real Estate Board will issue their stats for August real estate sales in the Greater Victoria area. The BC Government is releasing new K-12 curriculum initiatives leaning strongly toward environmental sciences and First Nations issues.

 

 ICBC RATE REVIEW. Monday, August 31.  "ICBC (Insurance Corporation of BC) has advised government that a number of concerning trends and cost pressures are weighing heavily on its projections," says the BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure today.  ICBC says it needs more time "to conclude mitigation efforts... to limit the next basic insurance increase for rate payers".  "ICBC says it is facing an increase in the complexity, frequency and severity of bodily injury claims," said a BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI) news release today.   BC Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure Todd Stone has told media today that ICBC cost increases are presently due to "legal representation rates, the cost of soft tissue damage awards, and the number of claims per collision". Bodiy injury claims are up 10%. Some fraudulent claims have also been discovered. Minister Stone also said that ICBC's revenues from their investment portfolio are significantly decreased due to the "changes to the Bank of Canada lending rate".  A stated goal is to get the rates for basic insurance down to an increase of 3.7% instead of the 6.7% that ICBC is presently bringing forward for approval. Minister Stone said that 6.7% is too high for taxpayers.  Streamlining operational costs within ICBC is one of the areas that MOTI is looking at to help reduce upward pressure on insurance rates to customers.  Minister Stone has "all hands on deck" to assess the various opportunities for keeping the basic insurance rate down, saying an update could be available in a few weeks or next month.

  

BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for all of BC) Monday August 31    There were 176 wildfires burning across BC as of about noon today, August 31.  That is down from as many as 222 last week. Still al of this is still above 168 seen two weeks ago. The daily peak for fires in BC in the 2015 fire season remains as 259 fires (July 21).  There were seven new wildfires over the weekend -- one on August 29 and six on August 30. These were a mix of lightning-caused and person-caused, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.  Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% are person-caused this year.   There are 13 fires of note in BC today (4 in the coastal fire centre, 1 in the Kamloops area, and 8 in the southeast fire center).    A total of 1,792 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with now an estimated 296,000 hectares of forest or land area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires to this date is 1,514 so the 2015 tally at 1,792 is clearly above average. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $255 million while compares exactly to $255 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. As of today there are over 1,800 personnel engaged in the full range of wildfire management on the ground and in command centres (including about 460 contractors). This year's peak personnel tally of 2,200 was in July (at one point with 800 contractors). Rain is expected in most of the southern areas of the province this weekend, he says.  Variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents. The south coast and Vancouver Island saw the most rain this past weekend. "All major fires took some rain this weekend," said Skrepnek. He said that temperatures are now cooler than seasonal throughout the province, during a media teleconference today.  The Fire Danger Rating is reported as HIGH throughout most of the province, with some pockets of EXTREME. Campfire bans are rescinded but burn barrels and fireworks are still prohibited.

 

 FATAL COLLISION   Monday, August 31. Last night around 8:12pm a serious collision on the Malahat has left one motorcyclist dead. West Shore RCMP say the collision involved a motorcycle travelling northbound that appeared to have crossed the centre line and collided head on with a southbound pickup truck which was pulling a 30-ft trailer. Preliminary investigation suggests that speed was a factor in the crash. The 40-year-old motorcyclist died at the scene. The highway was closed in both directions for about five hours, opening again around 1am.

 

 Sunday, August 30 [first posted 7:30am, last update 11:13 am]. About 187,000 BC Hydro customers (households and businesses) remain without power service this morning, Sunday August 30, on the BC Lower Mainland (5am). That means about half the customers without power at 7:30pm last night had their service restored overnight by BC Hydro crews. Map (above) by BC Hydro shows the locations of outages just before midnight last night. A 'customer' is a billing address, so multiplied by about three persons per 'customer', that was about 561,000 people without electrical service from the night before.    List of Vancouver mainland areas still experiencing outages as of 7:30 am this morning, as issued by BC Hydro and then at 8:30 am Restoration times update: as of 9:15am - power in Surrey, Delta, Richmond and Langley expected to be back on around noon today, then West Vancouver by around 4pm, and the remaining outage areas by around 8pm this evening.  Weather forecasts call for another wind storm with rain this evening. BC Hydro said on Twitter last night that crews are working hard, and "they hope to have most customers on before noon Sunday".  The wind storm did not cause as much widespread impact on south Vancouver Island but at 11am there are stilloutages in various locations including Nanaimo, Duncan and Sooke. See Vancouver Island outage update list 11am The BC Hydro website was offline due to overload yesterday, til about 11 am this morning. Now the website is simply one page with a bulletin about the outage, with a link to Twitter for more current updates @bchydro .   

 

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 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE (as at Aug 31):

  • Total wildfires to date in BC since April 1 this year: 1,792; cost to date $255 million
  • Of total fires to date, about 30% to 34% have been person-caused this summer, and the rest mostly by lightning
  • 176 active wildfires are burning in BC at August 31; seasonal daily peak to date is 259 fires (July 21)
  • 7 new fires started on the Aug August 29-30 weekend
  • "One human-caused fire remains one too many," says Steve Thomson, BC Forests Minister (Aug 4).
  • "Respect front line workers (firefighters, hydro, fibre optics) so they have room to do their job," says Chris Duffy, BC Acting Assistant Deputy Minister Emergency Management BC (Aug 16)
  • Use of drones over fires is illegal, says BC Wildfire Service.
  • Drought continues at Level 4 on Vancouver Island.
  • Water conservation in CRD (south island) is at Stage 1. In the Juan de Fuca area and on the Gulf Island it's at Stage 3.
  • Campfire ban was rescinded at noon Aug 28. Was in effect most of the summer, to Aug 28. Open burning ban (burn barrels) is still in effect. Fireworks are prohibited.
  • Fire Danger Rating is HIGH or EXTREME across southern BC (current to Aug 31); HIGH in Sooke (last update Aug 31).
  • Fishing in streams and rivers is prohibited on Vancouver Island: Aug 4 to Sep 30, 2015.

August archive:

 

Saturday, August 29. Some BC Hydro customers in the lower mainland area might be without power overnight into Sunday, says BC Hydro. Most of the outages are due to tree branches falling onto hydro lines, says BC Hydro community relations rep Ted Olynyk. "It's Mother Nature doing a cleansing of trees and debris," he said this evening in an interview with Sooke Voice News. About 350,000 customers are without power tonight (approx 7:30pm), down from a peak of about 400,000 reported earlier. That equates to about 2 million people without power (approximately three person per 'customer'/household/business). The ferry terminal area and north shore have been particularly hard hit, says Olynyk -- also major sections of Greater Vancouver.  Lines that feed hospitals and emergency services (such as police, fire and ambulance) are restored first, says Olynyk. Heavily populated areas are also set as a higher priority, to get as many customers up and running as soon as possible.  More winds are expected tomorrow (Sunday, August 30) so any branches that didn't fall today could meet their fate with nature tomorrow, causing more outages tomorrow night, says Olynyk. Summer outages are generally less difficult for doing without power, as heating is not likely an issue. Olynyk makes the comparison to an outage of this size in winter, which would have more significant consequences to households and communities. The winter storm in December 2006 that caused outages for up to a week on south Vancouver Island would be an example of a more serious impact.  Much of the deadwood that people had not cleared off trees on their properties -- or municipalities in wider areas -- caused most of the impact to lines. The peak of customers without power in the Greater Victoria area today was 11,000, according to BC Hydro.  The BC Hydro website has been offline for a few hours (afternoon/evening) due to inquiry overload. Hydro has been doing some Tweets @bchydro but it looks like most efforts are being focussed on the repair work underway. "We've brought in contractors and everyone who is available, including people who were on their annual vacation," says Olynyk.

 

Saturday, August 29. The lights flickered for people west of Sooke town centre at 10:50am, due to a power outage that sees 359 BC Hydro customers out of power now. No estimated-time-on has been posted yet.  Wind is likely part of the issue. Trees have become dry, and now with the rain and winds today, power outages are not unexpected.

 

Saturday, August 29. The Malahat area of Highway 1 was closed -- from mid morning to 1:10pm -- in both directions from Goldstream Provincial Park to Shawnigan Lake Road, north of Langford due to a vehicle collision.  Alternate routes were Pacific Marine Route and Brentwood Bay Ferry.  The BC government's Drive BC website said to expect major delays on these routes due to congestion.  Estimated time of reopening was estimated as 3 to 5 pm today, but the road opened at 1:10 pm again.

 

Friday, August 28. The August 28th 'Election Momentum' courtesy edition is now online. Front page: interview with Conservative candidate Shari Lukens (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke).  Front page: Prestige hotel in Sooke celebrates four years at the Sooke waterfront!   It's those independent voters who will make the difference this election (editorial, page 2).  The role of a newspaper in elections (editorial, page 2).   The District of Sooke Parks & Trails Advisory Committee will hold its inaugural meeting on Tuesday, September 1. Sweeping scope. Who will Mayor Tait appoint as the Chair? See page 2.  The roundabout project has winners and losers (page 3).  CRD water supply is expected to hold up through the rest of this hot dry summer (page 3).  CANDIDATE PROFILE THIS WEEK:  incumbent Randall Garrison, NDP (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke), see page 3.  EVENT: The District of Sooke is holding a public recognition event on September 9 (12 noon to 1pm) to honour Queen Elizabeth II as the longest-reigning British monarch.  EVENT: Official opening of Randall Garrison's campaign office: Sept 1 (6pm).

 

CAMPFIRE BAN NOW RESCINDED. Friday, August 28. The campfire ban in the Coastal Fire Centre is lifted as of noon today Friday August 28, says the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. A lot of rain is expected this weekend, as forecasted by Environment Canada.  BC Wildfire Services and CRD Water Services say it may be difficult for the ground to readily absorb moisture, due to the prolonged drought.  Info: www.bcwildfire.ca

 

BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for all of BC) Thursday August 27     There were 177 wildfires burning across BC as of about 1 pm today, August 27.  That is down from 180 on Monday,199 last Friday, and 222 earlier last week. All of this is still above 168 seen two weeks ago. The daily peak for fires in BC in the 2015 fire season is 259 fires (July 21).  There were five new wildfires yesterday and 28 new fires since Monday, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.  Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% are person-caused this year.   There are 12 fires of note in BC today (4 in the coastal fire centre, 1 in the Kamloops area, and 7 in the southeast fire center), most considered due to lightning. These are mostly in the BC southern interior.    A total of 1,774 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 292,000 hectares of forest or land area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires to this date is 1,486 so the 2015 tally at 1,774 is clearly above average. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $244 million compared to $242 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. As of today there are over 2,000 personnel engaged in the full range of wildfire management on the ground and in command centres (including over 700 contractors). This year's peak personnel tally of 2,200 was in July (at one point with 800 contractors). Nine support personnel from out of province have arrived from Yukon and Alberta, along with amphibious water-skimming aircraft and a bird dog spotting aircraft, said Skrepnek.    Rain is expected in most of the southern areas of the province this weekend, he says.  Variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents. There could be rainfall warnings in southern BC and on Vancouver Island this weekend, if these areas are expected to bear considerable rainfall.  Due to dry ground conditions, a lot of rain would not be readily or easily absorbed into the ground.

 

Thursday, August 27.  Expression of interest is invited from Coast Salish artists, for the interior and exterior artwork on three new BC Ferries vessels -- the Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven.  The deadline for expressions of interest is September 24, with info at the First Peoples' Cultural Council website: www.fpcc.ca  . Shortlisted artists will be contacted to submit conceptual designs by October 30. Final selection will be made in November. The Salish Orca will be the first vessel to arrive and will sail on the Comox-Powell River route. The Salish Eagle and Salish Raven will arrive next in that order, both to sail in the southern Gulf Islands, said BC Ferries in a news release today. Graphic courtesy of www.earthartinternational.com

 

Wednesday, August 26.  The BC Ministry of Education has revamped their scholarship offerings starting for students graduating from Grade 12 in the 2015-2016 academic year.   A substantial scholarship previously only issued to those pursuing a career in teaching has been broadened out with the BC Excellence Scholarship of $5,000 per recipient. Those 55 scholarships for the year are to recognize well-rounded students who demonstrate community service and leadership as well as a commitment and aptitude to a particular career path. The Pathway to Teacher Education Scholarship remains in place -- there will be 20 of those at $5,000 each this year.  In its last year is the BC Achievement Scholarship (phasing out after 2015-2016). It recognizes academic achievement beyond exam scores.  The Passport to Education has finally been phased out. Its last recipients received funds based on a blend of academic achievement and school-specific criteria in June 2015.  The District Authority Scholarship of $1,250 issued to each of 5,500 students is for the Independent School system only.  More info: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/awards

 

Tuesday, August 25.  NDP candidate Randall Garrison (incumbent) will hold his official campaign office opening on Tuesday, September 1 at 6pm.  The office is at C-3 100 Aldersmith Place in View Royal.   Polls released this week show the NDP in a five-point lead, said Garrison today in an interview with Sooke Voice News. "People I'm meeting at the doorstep are getting ready for change," says Garrison. He cited "the environment, the economy and integrity" as the key reasons many voters "want to see Harper gone".  When NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair came to a pre-election NDP rally in downtown Victoria in April, about 1,700 people attended, says Garrison.

 

Tuesday, August 25.  Pacific Marine Drive has been reopened to vehicle traffic between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew. Fire crews have removed danger trees and cleared away debris related to the Spring Road / Lizard Lake along this route. However, multiple potential hazards remain in those areas, including wildfire activity, danger trees and the operation of heavy equipment.  The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has posted "No Stopping signs from the 7-kilometer mark to the 3-kilometre mark along this road. The regular posted speed is 60 kph.  Latest info on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions: www.bcwildfire.ca   Smoky skies advisory continues for the Cowichan Valley area (as of 11am August 25).

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for Lizard Lake area fire) Monday August 24   (updated August 26).   The fire at Lizard Lake that was discovered August 12 is now 65% contained.  An estimated 393 hectares has burned and the fire's status with BC Wildfire Service is still active.  Crews have cleared the Pacific Marine Circle Route roadway but road access still remains closed. A 16-person Incident Management Team has been in control of the fire in brush, and new and mature tree growth since August 14-15 and will be transitioning control to other BC Wildfire Service personnel beginning August 25. The air quality smoky skies advisory remains in place for the Cowichan Valley area (cancelled Aug 26, 2015).

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for all of BC) Monday August 24     There were 180 wildfires burning across BC as of about 1 pm today, August 24.  That is down from 199 on Friday, and 222 earlier last week. All of this is still above 168 seen last week. The daily peak was 259 fires in BC on July 21.   Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% are person-caused this year.   There were nine new wildfires on Saturday and two on Sunday, most considered due to lightning. These are mostly in the BC southern interior.   A total of 1,753 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 296,000 hectares of forest or land area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires to this date is 1,454 so the 2015 tally at 1,753 is clearly above average. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $233 million compared to $229 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Last week about 1,400 personnel were fully engaged in wildfire activity (including at command posts and coordination centres), including about 200 contract personnel. By Friday August 21 there were 500 contractors as part of the 2,000 tally of personnel. Today there are over 2,000 personnel engaged in the full range of wildfire management on the ground and in command centres (including over 600 contractors). This year's peak personnel tally of 2,200 was in July (at one point with 800 contractors). Nine support personnel from out of province are arriving in BC have arrived or are still arriving from Yukon and Alberta. That includes amphibious water-skimming aircraft and a bird dog spotting aircraft which have already been used over the weekend, said Skrepnek.    Continued hot dry weather is expected to continue in the southern areas of the province, he says.  Variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents.

 

Monday, August 24. A Smoky Skies advisory was issued by BC Health & Island Health for areas affected by the Lizard Lake area fire back on August 13, lifted August 16 and was back in place Aug 20-22): Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley. As of August 23 the advisory is now only for the Cowichan Valley: Cowichan Lake, Duncan, Crofton, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake. www.bcairquality.ca 

 

Monday, August 24. "Vancouver Island could go Green in every single seat," said federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the Victoria area yesterday. Elizabeth May was spearheading public support among about 40 Green supporters, waving Green signs alongside Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidate Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi yesterday at Goldstream and Veterans Memorial Parkway -- a major highway intersection in Langford. The Greens aim to "find common ground so we can do the work Canadians want done", said May in an exclusive interview with Sooke Voice News. "We want to try to change the climate in parliament from a toxic faux-wresting exhibition to something more respectful that focuses on the priorities of Canadians instead of political partisan pettiness".   "No party is going to have a majority," said May amidst the supportive honking of vehicle traffic. "The effectiveness of Green MPs in a minority parliament is something Canadians have not yet quite begun to think about."  "We have too much of the national media acting as if it's a US presidential election.... as if there's an imaginary ballot out there somewhere with the names of Mulcair, Trudeau, me and Harper. There is no such ballot.  We elect MPs and together we decide who holds the confidence of the house." "A strong group of Vancouver Island Green MPs will give British Columbians and Vancouver Islanders the strongest voice we've ever had in government."  "The other parties focussing on BC shows the growth of the Green Party," claims May.  "Which is a compliment to us," she says, referring to "whenever Mulcair shows up in BC".   "What BC voters will do will be unprecedented.  For the first time in Ontario goes to bed, they won't know how the election turns out."  "This election will strengthen the Greens in BC ... it changes the whole election.  People in Toronto will go to bed thinking that they know what the minority parliament looks like and they'll wake up in the morning and find out all those Green votes and seats in BC really changes everything," said the Green Party leader amidst the mid-day glad-handing and sign-waving.  And with a plan in mind for after the October 19 election, May said: "Then we're in a position of getting down to work and let's figure out how we can be a productive four-year productive stable government by working together."

 

Sunday, August 23. As campaign signs begin to pop up on lawns and along roadways, 'waving signs' are also part of the political landscape during an election. Today, Sunday August 23 there will be a wave event by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May with candidate Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) from 1 to 2 pm at the corner of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway in Langford. 

 

Sunday, August 23.  BC's tourism sector continues to show growth in international overnight visitors, it was reported this weekend by the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism & Skills Training and Responsible for Labour.  There were 52,872 more visitors in June 2015 compared to June of last year, showing a 9.5% increase in that 12-month period. Apparently this brings the total number of visitors to BC up by 156,856 visitors in the January-June period, up 8.3% over the same period in 2014. The tourism industry refers to overnight stays in hotels, motels, B&Bs and other tourism accommodations as "heads in beds". BC's largest international market for visitors is the United States,. There has also been growth from the Asia-Pacific region, notably Japan, India and South Korea.

 

Saturday, August 22.  The August 21 edition of Sooke Voice News is jam-packed with local federal election campaign news.   Front page story about Justin Trudeau's visit to Esquimalt this week, and how the Liberals are looking to win urban-rural ridings across the country.  This week's BC wildfire update is on page 2. Costs to battle the blazes will likely surpass last year's $290 million expenditure.  Sooke Council approved further expenditure on paving and lighting to be done during the current roundabout project, bringing the total project cost to almost $3.2 million.  Sooke RCMP has a child pornography investigation underway; one man has come forward already.  The editorial this week looks at empty-nest but also the deeper issues between families and the education system. 

 

Saturday, August 22. The wildfire at Lizard Lake remains active, and as such the BC Environment Ministry along with Island Health has issued a continued smoky skies advisory due to the level of particulate from the forest fire. The affected area includes the Cowichan Valley (including Cowichan Lake, Duncan, Crofton, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake) up to Port Renfrew. Air quality concerns would be applicable to infants, the elderly, and anyone with an underlying health condition such as heart or lung disease. Strenuous outdoor activity may need to be cut back if a person experiences symptoms of difficult breathing.  Info at www.bcairquality.ca

 

  BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for all of BC) Friday August 21     There were 199 wildfires burning across BC as of about 1 pm today, August 21.  That is down from 222 earlier this week but up from 168 last week week, yet still below the peak of 259 fires in BC on July 21.   Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% are person-caused this year.   There were 13 new wildfires yesterday, most considered due to lightning.   A total of 1,734 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 293,000 hectares of forest or land area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires to this date is 1,413 so the 2015 tally at 1,734 is above average. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $224 million compared to $218 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Earlier this week about 1,400 personnel were fully engaged in wildfire activity (including at command posts and coordination centres), including about 200 contract personnel. Today August 21 there were 500 contractors as part of the 2,000 tally of personnel.  This year's peak personnel tally of 2,200 was in July (at one point with 800 contractors).   Continued hot dry weather is expected to continue in the southern areas of the province, says Skrepnek.  Variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents. 

 

Photo Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News Thursday, August 20. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau drew a huge crowd in Esquimalt today [Photo: Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News] for an announcement at the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Liberal campaign office with candidate David Merner this morning. The Liberals would introduce more flexibility into Employment Insurance support for when a person takes time off to care for unwell loved ones or friends.  The new Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits policy would better support caregivers and growth for the middle class, the popular Liberal leader said. That met with significant applause from the crowd of about 200 people. The benefit is an investment of $190 million per year, and would require no increase to EI premiums, Trudeau told the crowd.  "We know that too many Canadians shoulder the responsibility of caregiving, and a Liberal government is committed to making a real difference for those who need it most," Trudeau said. Much of Trudeau's campaign is centering around benefits for the middle class and improvements to employment and how the economy impacts families.    The proposed new program would see EI benefits coverage for time spent after work hours for seriously ill family members, as well as when parents are caring for children who must be home from school due to illness. A six-month benefit could be used in chunks of time during a 12-month period.  "Caring for each other is an essential part of what it means to be Canadian," said Trudeau. He reiterated as well that the Liberals would cut taxes for the middle class and create a larger Canada Child Benefit.  Photo Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News In answer to a question from the media about marijuana legalization, Trudeau said it would be better to control and regulate marijuana as a way to keep it away from youth, and "to keep it out of the hands of criminals" who are presently seeing "millions of dollars to street gangs and gun runners".   Trudeau again heard a lot of applause when he said the Liberals would not govern with an ideology of fear.  After the official event which was relatively relaxed on stage, Trudeau greeted as many people as possible as he made his way through the crowd to the street.  [Photo: Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News. Outside, Trudeau spent another 20 minutes meeting some of the other 200 or so people who couldn't find room inside the campaign office during his speech.  [Photo: Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News]. Security and police were present at the various corners of the Esquimalt Road / Head Street intersection.  Photo Copyright 2015 Sooke Voice News There were callouts of Trudeaumania 2, and indeed there seemed to be celebrity excitement about the event that is part of an increasing momentum for the Liberal campaign across the country.  Regarding vote-splitting in island ridings, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau replied to that question asked by Sooke Voice News following the televised media questions: "One of the great things about elections is that Canadians get to decide who gets elected."  I don't believe in limiting choices at the ballot box." Trudeau said that the Liberals are "bringing forward the best possible plan for the middle class and the economy, and that's what I'm focussed on".

 

Thursday, August 20 (pre-event). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will be visiting with Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Liberal candidate David Merner this morning. The media event will be at the Merner campaign office in Esquimalt. Trudeau is expected to make an announcement about what the Liberals as the next government would do to help benefit Canadian families. BC is one of the key areas of the Canadian political landscape that Trudeau is focussing on to gain seats for the Liberals in this 42nd federal election.

 

Wednesday, August 19 [updated August 20]. A fire near Beacon Hill Children's Farm today caused evacuation of the farm, with the farm therefore closing early.  The farm will be open again tomorrow at 10am.  All the animals are safe and so is the farm, say organizers.  "Beacon Hill Children's Farm would like to send out a huge Thank You to the Victoria police and Victoria fire department for the quick response to the fire beside the farm today," said Beacon Hill Children's Farm on Facebook around 6:15 pm this evening.  Twenty firefighters, three fire engines and a ladder truck came in response to a 4:30pm call to the Victoria Fire Department.  The fire involved about 15,000 sqft of short grass beside Camas Circle in Beacon Hill Park, says Chris Royle, Deputy Fire Chief, Victoria Fire Department. "The quick action of Victoria Firefighters resulted in the containment and extinguishment of the fire within minutes of the arrival of firefighters," said Royle. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

Wednesday, August 19. RBC Bank says Canada's housing market is poised to post one of its best years on record in 2015 "despite the Canadian economy being hit by a significant negative shock (plunge in oil prices) and a spike in condo completions". In their August 19 Canadian Housing Forecast, RBC says "low interest rates continue to provide substantial stimulus for housing demand at this stage".   They do, however, "expect a cooling in housing activity in the period ahead, although this should be seen as event driven rather than time driven".  The main event is that "there will be a rise in interest rates," says RBC. RBC says that rates will "gradually rise starting in 2016 (in the latter half of the year for short-term rates but before then for longer-term rates), thereby causing housing activity to slow down modestly nationwide next year".  "A prolonged slump in Canada's economy -- and resulting rise in unemployment -- would magnify downside risks for the housing market".

 

Wednesday, August 19. A new pediatrics residency training site on Vancouver Island will see residents training at Victoria General Hospital (VGH), as well as other health-care facilities in the region. It's part of the Province's "strategy to strengthen access to family doctors and other health-care providers for individuals throughout British Columbia". Through this work, almost 66,000 patients in BC have been matched with a general practitioner since 2013. As of February 2015, there were 5,942 family doctors registered to practise in BC. That's an increase of 7% over the previous five years (5,548 GPs as of December 2009).   "Families on Vancouver Island will have better access to pediatric residents," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "Bringing doctors in training to more communities in BC is part of our commitment to enhance medical education and make sure families have access to health care services, when and where they are needed." "The new site, part of the University of British Columbia's (UBC) pediatrics residency training program, demonstrates government's commitment to distributing and expanding postgraduate medical education," says the BC Ministry of Health in a news release. Evidence has shown that when a doctor completes residency training in a community, they are far more likely to remain in the area to practise later.   There are currently two pediatric residents on Vancouver Island and the site is expected to have a full slate of eight residents by July 2018. The residency lasts a minimum of four years, though residents may do another one to two years of sub-specialty training in Vancouver or elsewhere. Overall, there are approximately 60 UBC pediatric residents participating in UBC's pediatric residency training program.   

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - Lizard Lake (on Vancouver Island)  Sunday, August 16.  At Lizard Lake on Vancouver Island, the air quality advisory has been lifted but the Pacific Marine Circle Route from Cowichan Lake to Port Renfrew remains closed. About 250 hectares have burned, with heavy winds being a huge factor in expansion from the initial five hectares. There are 74 firefighters on site (up from 40 the other day), with seven helicopters and heavy equipment. "It's still a pretty concerned effort," says the BC Chief Fire Information Officer.

 

  BC WILDFIRE UPDATE - (for all of BC)  Sunday, August 16.    There are 222 wildfires burning across BC as of today, August 16.  That is up from 168 earlier this week, but down from a peak of 259 fires in BC on July 21.  Wildfire information updates have been reported frequently over the past few weeks by BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, in teleconferences with media.  Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% remain person-caused this year.   There were 44 new wildfires yesterday, most due to lightning.   A total of 1,609 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 291,000 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires for this date is 1,312 to this date so 2015's tally at 1,609 is above average. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $200 million compared to $196 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Today and all of this week, the BC Fire Information Officer said about 1,400 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity (including at command posts and coordination centres). That presently includes about 200 contract personnel.  This year's peak personnel tally of 2,200 was in July. Some firefighter personnel from South Africa are still working alongside BC wildfire personnel at the Woodlake Fire near Harrison Hot Springs on a trial basis. This is through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fighting Centre.   Continued hot dry weather is expected to continue in August, says Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC.  Variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents.  A substantial amount of rain would be required to lift the campfire ban before Labour Day Weekend. Ideally that precipitation would occur over several days so that drought-dry soil has a chance to absorb the water.   There have been no serious injuries or fatalities in the last few days due to the fire at Rock Creek, says Chris Duffy, Assistant Acting Deputy Minister, Emergency Management BC. "Thank you to firefighters, command centres, front line workers and volunteers in reception centers" for the working they are doing, Duffy said today in a news conference. He asks that people be patient and respectful of firefighters, BC  Hydro and Telus personnel who are working hard to restore services. At Rock Creek, 29 homes and 11 outbuildings have been lost due to fire. So far, 11 of the homeowners have been contacted about their losses, said Duffy.  Info and updates on Evacuation Orders and Alerts: www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca

 

Sunday, August 16. The smoky skies advisory for the Cowichan Valley to Port Renfrew area has ended, as of 9:00 this morning, August 16. The BC Ministry of Environment in collaboration with Island Health says that the forest fire remains active but current smoke concentrations at the Cowichan Valley monitoring stations are low. "Smoke modelling indicates low potential for smoke impacts in the near term."   "The advisory could re re-issued later this week depending on fire behaviour and meteorological conditions". Info: www.bcairquality.ca

 

Saturday, August 15. The August 14, 2015 "Still No Rain" edition of Sooke Voice News is online. Page 1: Forest fires rage on into August, now mostly in the southern areas of BC.  Editorial page 2: Talking about the weather is no longer just small talk.  Page 3: CRD water supply is holding up during this summer drought.  Page 3: SD62 has two new high schools (Langford & Colwood areas) and say they'll be open on time for the start of classes in September.   Page 4: Rural areas and the Gulf Island are on Stage 3 water restrictions.  Page 4: CRD releasing water into rivers to help the fish.

 

Friday, August 14 (updated August 15). A smoky skies advisory in place since August 12 continues as of August 15 for areas affected by the fire at Lizard Lake, as issued by BC Health and Island Health. These areas are affected by the smoky skies air quality advisory: Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley including Cowichan Lake, Duncan, Crofton, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake.   This fire is more smoky than some others, due to the type of material that is burning.  The burning slash, young trees, and mature timber are holding heat more deeply in the ground, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.  Infants, the elderly, and anyone with heart and lung conditions are at possible risk by breathing the smoky air. All persons should use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity. Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.   Info / air quality health index: www.bcairquality.ca   Smoke concentrations will vary as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.

 

  BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Friday, August 14.    There are 168 wildfires burning across BC as of today, August 14.  That is up from earlier this week, but still below the 166 seen across the province on July 27, and down from a peak of 259 fires in BC on July 21.   Wildfire information updates have been reported frequently over the past few weeks by BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek [photo], in teleconferences with media.  Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, says Skrepnek, but about 30% to 34% remain person-caused this year.   There were 27 new wildfires yesterday, most due to lightning. Yesterday's firefighting cost was $2.7 million.   A total of 1,524 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 285,000 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires for this date is 1,279 so 2015 is above average at 1,486. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $199 million compared to $187 million at this point last year, said BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek in a media conference today. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Today and all of this week, the BC Fire Information Officer said about 1,400 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity (including at command posts and coordination centres). That presently includes about 200 contract personnel.  The peak personnel tally of 2,200 this year was seen in July. Out-of-province assistance from Ontario and Australian has wrapped up. Some firefighter personnel from South Africa are still working alongside BC wildfire personnel at the Woodlake Fire near Harrison Hot Springs on a trial basis.  Continued hot dry weather is expected for much of August, says Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province. However some variability in rainfall and wind will affect the likelihood of fire incidents.  A substantial amount of rain would be required to lift the campfire ban before Labour Day Weekend, said Skrepnek. Ideally that precipitation would occur over several days so that drought-dry soil has a chance to absorb the water.     The Mars water bomber aircraft is presently not available, while the contractor finds another qualified pilot, after their previous certified pilot had a "significant health issue", says BC Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Minister Steve Thomson today [Government photo of Minister Steve Thomson, MLA, Kelowna-Mission]

Friday, August 14. A smoky skies advisory continues today for areas affected by the fire at Lizard Lake, as issued by BC Health and Island Health issued a smoky skies advisory. These areas are affected by the smoky skies air quality advisory: Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley including Cowichan Lake, Duncan, Crofton, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake.   This fire is more smoky than some others, due to the type of material that is burning. The burning slash, young trees, and mature timber are holding heat more deeply in the ground, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.  Infants, the elderly, and anyone with heart and lung conditions are at possible risk by breathing the smoky air. All persons should use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity. Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.   Info / air quality health index: www.bcairquality.ca   Smoke concentrations will vary as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change. 

 

Thursday, August 13. A fire on Vancouver Island about 1km from Lizard Lake (about 27 km southwest of Cowichan Lake) started on Tuesday evening, August 11. This fire was human-caused. About 30 to 34% of fires this summer have been human caused, the rest caused mostly by lightning strikes.  The cause of the fire is being investigated by a specialized fire-cause investigator says the BC Wildfire Service. The fire is burning in slash, young trees and mature timber on a steep slope. The blaze is generating a lot of smoke The fire was discovered on Tuesday evening, August 11 around 10pm.  It had covered about five hectares by the morning of August 12 but due to extreme dry and windy conditions, it quickly grew to about 150 hectares. When the smoke clears the fuller extent of land burned will be easier to assess. About 40 personnel are attending to the fire, including with seven helicopters, and heavy equipment. The fire is not yet contained but is not threatening homes, structures or any other developed areas. The fire is burning in a north-easterly direction. Air tankers dropped retardant on the fire yesterday, but extremely smoky conditions prohibited them from continuing to fly in the area. The Lizard Lake recreation site is closed. The Fairy Lake recreation site remains open at this time. Info: www.bcwildfire.ca & www.sitesandtrails.bc.ca    The Pacific Marine Circle route between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew is closed due to the Lizard Lake fire but Hwy 14 on the west side of the island (through Sooke) is open. This afternoon BC Health and Island Health issued a smoky skies advisory. Infants, the elderly, and anyone with heart and lung conditions are at possible risk by breathing the smoky air. All persons should use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity. Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.  Info: www.bcairquality.ca   These areas are affected by the smoky skies air quality advisory: Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley including Cowichan Lake, Duncan, Crofton, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake.   Smoke concentrations will vary as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.  To report a wildfire call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your mobile phone.

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Thursday, August 13.    There are 140 wildfires burning across BC as of today, August 13.  That is up from 127 earlier this week, but still below the 166 seen across the province on July 27, and from a peak of 259 fires in BC on July 21. Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, but about 30% to 34% remain person-caused this year.   There were 21 new wildfires yesterday, most due to lightning. Yesterday's firefighting cost was $1.9 million.   A total of 1,486 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 283,000 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.). For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires for this date is 1,154 so 2015 is well above average at 1,486. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $195 million compared to $182 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Today and also on August 10 the BC Fire Information Officer said about 1,400 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity (including support and command roles) at this time. That presently includes 200 contract personnel.  The peak personnel tally of 2,200 this year was seen in July. Out-of-province assistance from Ontario and Australian has wrapped up. Some firefighter personnel from South Africa are still working alongside BC wildfire personnel at the Woodlake Fire near Harrison Hotsprings, on a trial basis, said BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek in a media conference today.  Hot dry weather is expected in August, says Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province. A substantial amount of rain would be required to lift the campfire ban before Labour Day Weekend, said Skrepnek. Ideally that precipitation would occur over several days so that drought-dry soil has a chance to absorb the water.  

 

Thursday, August 13.  A scheduled power outage affecting about 800 customers west of Sooke will take place tonight August 13 starting at 11pm, running to 5am on Friday morning, August 14. Impacted customers will have received a notice from BC Hydro, but it mistakenly had some incorrect geographical info. Impacted customers are in the areas along West Coast Road west of Blackfish Road (including side roads) and up through Shirley, Jordan River and Port Renfrew.    BC Hydro apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause anyone. Regular technical maintenance at the Jordan River substation will be done during the planned outage period. Questions may be directed to the BC Hydro island community relations number: 250-755-7180

 

Wednesday, August 12.  The Mike Duffy trial took up most of the national news coverage of the federal election today, as the Prime Minister's former chief of staff Nigel Wright took the stand. In response to some of the revealed information, the Liberal Party sent out a release saying that then-Senator Marjory LeBreton (who conferred with Nigel Wright about covering up for Senator Duffy's expenses) should not be a senior advisor to Prime Minister Harper on his current campaign.

 

Monday, August 10.  A scheduled power outage affecting about 800 customers west of Sooke will take place on Thursday night August 13 starting at 11pm, running to 5am on Friday morning, August 14. Impacted customers were to have received a notice from BC Hydro, and they did -- but it mistakenly had the wrong info. A notice was received by customers in the areas along West Coast Road west of Blackfish Road (including side roads) and up through to Shirley, Jordan River and Port Renfrew. The notice mentioned an outage in Surrey, but of course it was to specify the West Coast Road areas up to Port Renfrew.  BC Hydro apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause anyone. Basic technical substation improvements at Jordan River will be done during the planned outage. Questions may be directed to the BC Hydro island community relations number: 250-755-7180

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Monday, August 10.    There are 127 wildfires burning across BC as of today, August 10.  That is a drop from 166 across the province on July 27, and from a peak of 259 fires on July 21. Lightning is the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, but about 30% to 34% remain person-caused this season.   There were 3 new wildfires yesterday, due to lightning.   A total of 1,447 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 283,000 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figure continues to be adjusted as further fire investigations are done.).For the past 10 years (2005-2014) the average number of wildfires for this date is 1,177 so 2015 is well above average at 1,447. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $190 million compared to $166 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Today the BC Fire Information Officer said about 1,400 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity (including support and command roles) at this time. The peak personnel tally of 2,200 this year was seen in July. Out-of-province assistance from Ontario and Australian is wrapping up. All 100 firefighter personnel from Ontario have returned home. Australian personnel "have been leaving in waves", with the last departing on August 12.  Some firefighter personnel from South Africa are working alongside BC wildfire personnel at the Woodlake Fire near Harrison Hotsprings, on a trial basis, said BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek in a media conference today.  Hot dry weather is expected in August, says Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province.  Continued caution in the back country is requested by the BC Wildfire Service. "Make sure campfires are fully extinguished before leaving the area," said BC's Chief Fire Information Officer. Heat off the exhaust pipes of off-road vehicles can start fires.  There is a repeated request to the public to not become complacent with any cooler weather or sporadic rain showers.

 

Sunday, August 9.   A hiker was rescued today at Mt Finlayson by West Shore Fire Department. An overhead drone shaved several hours off the search time, allowing the injured hiker to be located and more quickly found, so he could be taken to medical care sooner. Langford Fire is now considering investing in a drone for improving the efficiency of future rescues.

 

  Saturday, August 8.  Coverage of the federal leaders debate, and more in the August 7, 2015 edition of Sooke & West Shore Voice News. Profiles of the five candidates running in the west shore riding of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke. Editorial: lowest of the low attack ads are political porn.  Editorial: debate outside the 'consortium' gives a boost to the journalism profession.  Continued hot fire season expected in August.

 

Friday, August 7. The National Leaders Debate yesterday showed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau gaining in popularity after his tough stance on issues and against both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Trudeau made clear his position that the middle class is the heart of the economy. He reminded viewers that the NDP promise of a $15/hour minimum wage is just for federal employees (a small portion of minimum-wage employees across Canada).  Trudeau was able to put forth that level of concern about Canada as a whole country that goes beyond the nitty gritty of the day.  Green Party Leader Elizabeth May provided a freshness of spirit and depth of connection with the issues that voters have been hungry for. She was strong in all her responses, not just about the environment. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair held his own, sparring equally well with the Prime Minister and the other two party leaders. He pushed the $15/day child care proposal that his party insists it would bring in under an NDP government.  Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done a lot of election debates over the years. His level of comfort with the process was clearly evident. He told media today that he's "leaving it to the political pundits" to determine how he did. He did particularly well in defending the safety aspects of the Bill C-51 anti-terrorism bill. If the Liberals gain more seats in the October 19 election, expect to see good relations between the Liberals and Greens, if the happy after-debate greeting between Trudeau and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is any indication of share interest in turning around some of the policies and economic realities that have evolved in the last 10 years under the Harper Conservatives.

 

 

Thursday, August 6. A federal election National Leaders Debate will be held this evening, August 6. It's the first debate of this 42nd Canadian federal election. Participating in the English-speaking debate will be Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative), Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.   The debate will be aired live on TV and streamed online where comments can also be made: www.macleans.ca/national-leaders-debate The debate will be held 5pm to 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time (8 to 10 pm Eastern). Use hashtag #macdebate on Twitter or comment more broadly: #elxn42 . There's also a Facebook page..

 

 BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Wednesday, August 5.    There are 147 wildfires burning across BC as of today, August 5.  That is a drop from 166 across the province on July 27, and from a peak of 259 fires on July 21. Lightning was the cause of most of the current wildfires in BC, but about 30% to 34% remain person-caused this season (higher on the BC Day long weekend -- 39% were person-caused).   "One human-caused fire remains one too many," said BC Forests Minister Steve Thomson yesterday.   There were 17 new fires yesterday, most due to lightning.   A total of 1,418 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 282,000 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figure will be adjusted since further fire investigations have been done.) The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $180 million to date compared to $133 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season saw a total $290 million expenditure tally.  The number of wildfire personnel in active duty tends to fluctuate. Today the BC Fire Information Officer said about 2,200 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity at this time, back up to that peak of 2,200 seen earlier this month. That includes contract personnel and specialists from out-of-province. Out-of-province assistance from Ontario and Australian will wrap up soon. Later this week 25 firefighter personnel from South Africa will come to work alongside BC wildfire personnel, arriving in Abbotsford on August 6; their work will be evaluated on a trial basis, said BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek in a media conference today.  Hot dry weather is expected in August, says Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province.  Continued caution in the back country is requested by the BC Wildfire Service. "Make sure campfires are fully extinguished before leaving the area," said BC's Chief Fire Information Officer. Heat off the exhaust pipes of off-road vehicles can start fires is a repeated warning.  Today the request to the public is to not become complacent with the cooler weather and sporadic rain showers today. The weekend (Aug 8-9) is expected to once again be hot and dry in BC.

 

Tuesday, August 4. The deadline for written input to BC's climate action plan has been extended to September 14, 2015. An online survey at www.engage.gov.bc.ca/climateleadership  previously stated a deadline of August 17 for public input online as well as the more detailed plans invited from individuals and organizations. The online survey deadline remains as August 17.

 

FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN - Aug 4. Tuesday, August 4. A renovation credit that helped a lot of families in 2009 and boosted the economy through expenditures on home retrofitting improvements was promised by Stephen Harper today as he campaigned in metro Toronto -- if the Conservatives win in the October 19 election. The program was previously cancelled in early 2010, with the government at that time saying it had served its purpose.

  Monday, August 3.  FEDERAL ELECTION - Editorial Aug.3   Criticism of the couple-of-hours time lag by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to launch his campaign yesterday (he made his announcement for the 2015 election race in Vancouver, a few hours after Harper and Mulcair gave their speeches in Ottawa) reveals two striking oversights on the part of Canadian political pundits and the media who repeated the so-called time lag in news coverage.  First, that Canada is a big country, with more than one location in which politics matter and unfold. And secondly, that even though today's technology allows for 'instant' communications, a few hours in a 78-day campaign is not a big deal and really doesn't matter.  Hopefully media coverage gets to the content of messages, policies and issues and helps readers/viewers grasp the broader scope of things, rather than picking on off-beat details (that perhaps the opposition has plugged into the pundits' heads!)?  Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also held her announcement in BC, right here on south Vancouver Island.  Maybe BC won't be left out in the cold in the federal political landscape quite so much in this election.

 

Sunday, August 2. A federal election National Leaders Debate will be held on Thursday evening, August 6. Participating in the English-speaking debate will be Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative), Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. The debate will be presented by Rogers and moderated by Maclean's Magazine political editor Paul Wells. Promotions for the event are making a big deal about this being the first national televised debate not given by a consortium of the three major TV stations (CBC, CTV and Global have together monopolized election debates for decades). The shift seems to be in-keeping with changes in how people follow news and interact online.  None of the questions will be shared ahead of time with the leaders, says Maclean's. Unlike in debates held by major TV news stations in past elections, all questions will be prepared and asked by the moderator.  The debate will be aired live on TV and streamed online where comments can also be made: www.macleans.ca/national-leaders-debate . Translation of the debate will be made available in French, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin and Italian. The debate will be held 5pm to 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time (8 to 10 pm Eastern). Maclean's has a  Facebook page for this debate and invites people to user the hashtag #macdebate on Twitter .

 

Sunday, August 2. The 2015 federal election has officially begun, as announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This is Canada's 42nd election, and with 78 days (just over 11 weeks) of campaigning ahead of the October 19 fixed election date, is the longest campaign period of modern times. Harper emphasized that the Conservatives wanted to join the "other parties" who have already been campaigning, so that government money is not being used for election advertising. However, now that the election is officially active, the other parties can no longer raise funds. The Liberals, NDP and Green will have 'low budget' campaigns relative to the amount of money the Conservatives have apparently raised.  All candidates get rebates from the government for campaign expenses, and this only lengthens the period of time for that total expenditure by Canadian taxpayers. The longer election period allows each candidate to spend up to an additional $675,000 after the first 37 days of the campaign. One estimate is that about $500 million in election costs for the government (i.e. Canadian taxpayers), compared to about $375 million had the campaign been shorter.  Top issues for Harper are the economy and safety, he said in his announcement from Ottawa around 10am Eastern Time --- saying this is "not the time for a risky plan". Harper brought many global issues into his comments including global political instability, a global economy that is "uncertain and unstable", and said the USA is recovering "slower than expected" from the Great Recession. Harper took questions from the media  following his announcement outsideRideau Hall in Ottawa. By comparison, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in a "stick to the script" sort of statement focused on domestic Canadian issues, primarily jobs and financial stability for workers and the middle class. Mulcair launched his campaign at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. He did not take questions from the media.  Mulcair will be taking time in the next few days to prepare for a leadership debate hosted by Maclean's and Rogers, coming up August 6.  Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau launched his campaign today in Hudson, Quebec. He focussed on growing jobs and the economy: "We want change that will make a real difference in the lives of all Canadians - change that will help families make ends meet, put more money in their pockets, and bring this country together."  Green Party Leader Elizabeth May launched her campaign today in Sidney, BC at an outdoor event. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe also launched his campaign today, in Montreal.  Seat count: When the House of Commons was dissolved prior to this election, the Conservatives had 159 seats, NDP 95, Liberals 36,Green 2, Bloc 2, Free Dem 2, Independent 8, vacant 4. The Liberals were the only major federal party to add to their seat total through byelections during the least session of Parliament. A poll on July 31, 2015 by Nanos shows the Conservatives, NDP and Liberals all pretty close in results, having asked "who would you vote for in your area": 31.5% (Con), 30.1% (NDP), 29.3% (Lib).

 

Saturday, August 1 (9pm PDT).   It's been learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit Canada's Governor General tomorrow morning, Sunday August 2 around 10am EDT. The writ will drop, and an 11-week federal election campaign will begin. 

 

Saturday, August 1.   This is the BC Day long weekend.  Monday August 3 is statutory holiday, with banks and government offices closed.  The July 31st edition of Sooke Voice News gives a view to August: drought, water levels, no fishing in rivers and streams on Vancouver, Extreme fire danger level in Sooke (and most of southern BC), and more wildfires expected across BC. PAGE ONE: The City of Langford pulled off a hat-trick in July with funding for highways, affordable housing and a new athletic training centre. PAGE TWO: BC Wildfires update. PAGE THREE: The CRD water supply is at 78.8% capacity (as of July 30).

 

 NO FISHING. Saturday, August 1.   Fishing in lakes and rivers has been suspended by the BC government for all of Vancouver Island for August 4 to September 30. This action is to protect fish stocks that are struggling in ongoing warm water temperatures and low flows due to now long-standing drought and warm temperatures in summer 2015.

 

Friday, July 31.   Blue moon. The second full moon in a calendar month is upon us today July 31 (the previous one was earlier this month on July 2). It was actually full at around 3:30 am this morning, Pacific Daylight Time but will also look good tonight. The previous blue moon was in 2012 and another will occur again on January 2, 2018. The moon will not appear blue. The reference to blue is as in being an oddity.  Blue moons occur approximately once every 2.5 years. The oddity has more to do with fitting in a lunar cycle into the Roman calendar than anything else.

 

Thursday, July 30.   BC woke this morning to a leadership shuffle as Premier Christy Clark announced changes to her cabinet.  After that tough slog with the BC Teachers Federation last year, Peter Fassbender moves from being Minister of Education over to two new portfolios: he is now Minister of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development and also Minister Responsible for Translink.  Small business was the area for Naomi Yamamoto who now moves from that portfolio over to Emergency Preparedness, which will now be in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Leaving Community, Sport and Cultural development is Coralee Oakes, who is now Minister of Small Business, Red-Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch. Mike Bernier, MLA (Peace River South) is now the Minister of Education. As well, Premier Clark has moved Jordan Sturdy, MLA (West Vancouver - Sea to Sky) from Transportation & Infrastructure over to being Parliamentary Secretary for Energy Literacy and the Environment. Sturdy will chair the Climate Leadership Panel. "Today's changes are about making sure British Columbians in every region benefit from our plan to create jobs by growing our strong and diverse economy," said Premier Clark in a news release. "We have the opportunity now to build on a record of student achievement with long term labour peace in place, to strengthen our support for small business, which is the backbone of our economy, to work together with communities to prepare for the future, and to put in place a plan to prevent and manage emergencies or natural disasters so that our province can recover with our future secured."

 

BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Wednesday, July 29.   There are 135 wildfires burning across BC as of today, July 29.  That is a drop from 166 across the province on July 27, and from a peak of 259 fires on July 21. Lightning was the cause of 98 of the current wildfires in BC, the remaining 37 likely person-caused. There were four new fires yesterday.    The estimated cost of wildfire active management was $2.6 million yesterday July 28.  A total of 1,342 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 276,431 hectares of forest area having burned. (This figures has been adjusted since further fire investigations have been done.) The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $162 million compared to $102 million at this point last year. Last year the end of the 2014 fire season say a total $290 million expenditure tally.  About 1,800 personnel are fully engaged in wildfire activity at this time, down from a peak of 2,200 earlier this month. That includes contract personnel and specialists from out-of-province. Hot dry weather is expected in August, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in BC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province, Skrepnek said today in a media teleconference.  Continued caution in the back country is requested by the BC Wildifre Service. "Make sure campfires are fully extinguished before leaving the area," said BC's Chief Fire Information Officer.

 

  Tuesday, July 28.   BC Ferries has 'gone Salish' with the names of three new vessels that are still under construction. From over 7,100 contest entries (received May 19 through June 9 this year), three names were chosen and announced today at a ceremony in Victoria. The Salish Orca will start on the Comox-Powell River route later in 2016, replacing the 50-year-old Queen of Burnaby.  Salish Eagle (replacing the 51-year-old Queen of Nanaimo) and Salish Raven will begin operations in 2017 on the Southern Gulf Island routes. BC Ferries is working with the First Peoples' Cultural Council to select Coast Salish artisans to design artwork for the exterior and interior of the vessels.

 

Monday, July 27.   Names for BC Ferries' three new intermediate class vessels will be announced tomorrow, July 28. The three names were selected from among 7,000 entries in a contest that opened in May. The announcement will take place at the Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria. The first of the three new ferries that are being constructed in Poland will arrive in BC in 2016.  One new ferry will take over from the 50-yearold Queen of Burnaby on the Comox-Powell River route.  Another of the new vessels will replace the 51-year-old Queen of Nanaimo on the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Island route. The third ferry will fill in during peak and shoulder seasons on the Southern Gulf Islands and be employed when other ferries are being refitted.

 

BC WILDFIRE UPDATE  Monday, July 27.   There was some sporadic rain in BC over the weekend, and the official fire danger rating has been lowered in some areas. The number of active wildfires has fallen to 166 across the province, from a peak of 259 fires seen on July 21. There were 121 lightning-caused fires yesterday July 26, with the rest being person-caused or are under investigation. Five new fires started on Sunday.  The estimated cost of wildfire active management was $2.9 million yesterday.  A total of 1,340 wildfires have occurred in BC since April 1 this year, with an estimated 297,000 hectares of forest area having burned. The total cost of wildfire management to date this year is $157 million compared to $95 million at this point last year.  Hot dry weather is expected in August, says BC Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek, that being the usual weather trend in bC. That could cause increased fire activity once again across the province, Skrepnek said today in a media teleconference.

 

Sunday, July 26.   Flora MacDonald was a pioneer for women in Canadian politics. She passed away today July 26 at age 89.  MacDonald served as a Member of Parliament for 16 years, from 1972 and 1988. Her riding was Kingston and the Islands in Nova Scotia. In 1979, she became the first woman secretary of state for foreign affairs representing Canada. She also served as minister for employment and immigration, and also communications. MacDonald was a member of the Progressive Conservative party, and served as their executive secretary for five years in the 1960s.  After leaving federal politics she pursued humanitarian efforts including chairing an international development research centre.  MacDonald publicly opposed the Progressive Conservatives' merger with the Canadian Alliance in 2003 (from which Harper emerged to lead the new Conservatives). Her concerns were over some Alliance members' views on women's rights, immigration and bilingualism that she said were not compatible with those of the Tories. MacDonald received the Order of Canada in 1992, and Companion  in 1998. She received a lifetime achievement award in 2014 from Maclean's Magazine.

 

See July archive: JULY 2015 ARCHIVE SOOKE VOICE NEWS


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