Vancouver councillor says city needs to clean up streets and sidewalks

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A Vancouver councillor wants the city to get back to basics and fix bumpy sidewalks, potholes in the streets and tackle overflowing trash bins and litter.

NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is putting forward a motion Tuesday urging the city to prioritize core services such as maintaining streets and sidewalks and other public spaces, which she said has deteriorated in recent years, eroding civic pride and creating safety hazards for seniors and people with disability.

“I hear this consistently from the members of the public that they feel the city is looking a lot more rundown and it doesn’t look taken care of like it used to,” she said. “People used to be so proud of living in Vancouver — we’re known as a very clean and green city — and I don’t think people feel that anymore.”

The problem isn’t limited to the Downtown Eastside or the neighbouring areas of Chinatown or Strathcona, but throughout the city, said Kirby-Yung, adding overflowing garbage bins on the street are a common complaint.

From her previous tenure as a park board commissioner, Kirby-Yung said she is concerned about the difficulty park board staff has in accessing street medians the park board is supposed to maintain for the city, particularly along stretches of Knight Street where three-foot weeds and litter could be spotted.

A neglected median on Knight Street, south of 33rd Avenue, in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /


The problem of uneven, dangerous sidewalks in Vancouver was also highlighted in a feature by Langara journalism students published by Postmedia in August.

While some may argue the city has more important issues than clean streets on its plate, including an affordability crisis and the homeless camp at Oppenheimer Park, Kirby-Yung said maintaining and cleaning streets and sidewalks are part of a city’s core responsibility — one residents and businesses expect it to fix, especially as property taxes have increased in recent years.

“People feel there has been a neglect of those core municipal services, and I think it goes toward the fact there are other priorities.”

It does not appear the city has shrunk its budget on these services. According to the 2019 budget, money allotted for street maintenance has increased from about $23 million in 2015 to a proposed $30 million in 2019. Street cleaning expenditures also jumped from about $7.3 million to almost $11 million over the same period.

Kirby-Yung said service levels need to be maintained along with population growth. She also noted there are new demands, such as needle pickups and dealing with illegal dumping in specific areas, that also has an impact on resources.

The motion asks council to recognize that maintaining and cleaning Vancouver streets and public spaces is part of the city’s core service delivery, and to upgrade and repair infrastructure as needed to restore civic pride and safety in neighbourhoods.

The motion also asks staff to identify, as part of the 2020 budget process, what expenditures, if any, are needed to clean up the city’s streets and sidewalks, including a proposed reallocation of funds from other budget items that would not add to any increase in property taxes and fees.

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Letters, Oct. 1: The real work on climate change starts with each of us

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Over 100,000 people concerned about the state of the Earth’s climate converged on Vancouver City Hall last Friday as part of a global initiative to bring attention to the environment.

Jason Payne / PNG

Naturally, I was delighted to see so many young people taking climate change seriously, and I truly hope they continue the hard work ahead.

However, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by reality. After watching the very prescient movie WALL-E a few years ago — the story of a little robot left on Earth to clean up the mess humanity made — I was disheartened to note that not a single audience member bothered to pick up their popcorn and drink containers when exiting the theatre. They had been entertained, but learned nothing.

I hope that all the marchers might consider keeping their iPhones, laptops, X-Boxes and such a lot longer than the marketers would prefer, especially given that 350,000 phones are discarded daily in North America, and most of the stylish clothes we all seem to need each season are not recyclable.

While pressuring our politicians is necessary, the real work starts with each of us.

Gorm Damborg, Vancouver

Climate march was no gimmick

The people who marched Friday in Vancouver showed their deep concern for global warning, climate change and the environment.

Perhaps, leaders locally, provincially and federally will truly listen and implement measures that will have healing effects. Hurricanes, floods and forest fires are the results of our selfish actions over past decades and centuries. 

The canaries are singing: Orcas, salmon, caribou and many other species worldwide are threatened.

The climate march was not a gimmick. Let us find solutions to the problems we created. We must come together, cooperate and reach consensus.

Kathleen Szabo, Vancouver.

It’s about time

Finally, climate change is getting the attention it deserves. I was heartened to see The Vancouver Sun’s pictures of hundreds of thousands of people from across Canada who are ready to change how we treat our planet.

If each of us individually is willing to do our own small part, we can have a huge cumulative effect on the Earth’s future. Pledging to have no more than two children (or one child and one pet), staying in our lovely neighbourhoods instead of traipsing the world, and alleviating consumerism as recreation are personal choices that will most certainly make our world a better place for future generations.

Kudos to all who recognize that a solution starts with each of us individually.

Doris Schellenberg, Abbotsford

Changing the status quo

September is when we celebrate the employment of people with disabilities, as highlighted in the recent article, “Untapped talent pool is key to British Columbia’s future” by Ross Chilton. True, many people with disabilities continually face barriers to employment. Thus, there’s been a push to increase the awareness of employers in their hiring practices. However, here are two other perspectives:

First, individuals with disabilities are similar to the rest of the population — some have skills and capabilities for the labour force, others don’t. Everyone has the ability to learn, though some may need support. Unfortunately, assumptions and stereotypes still exist — people with disabilities aren’t capable to learn, thus others have low expectations of them. As a result, some miss out from learning basic protocols, appropriate mannerisms, or creative strategies supporting them in the workforce. We must work together, creating an environment where all feel valued and belonged.

Second, I observe that many leadership and management positions in organizations for people with disabilities, are filled by able-bodied (and white) people. Rarely, we see a person with a visible disability in the role. Why? If we want to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities, then I believe it is the responsibility of disabled organizations to lead the way. Having able-bodied people in these positions emphasizes the power dynamics and perpetuates the stereotypes of individuals with disabilities always needing help. Placing a person with a disability in a leadership role challenges the status quo and shifts the perception of disability.

Karen Lai is an independent consultant in accessibility and inclusion.

Letters to the editor should be sent to [email protected]. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at [email protected].

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].


B.C. teen vaping plan coming within the month, says minister

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B.C. will get an action plan to curb teen vape use within a month, says Health Minister Adrian Dix.

VICTORIA — B.C.’s plan to tackle the alarming increase in teen vaping and e-cigarette use will come within a month and likely include a new licensing system similar to tobacco sales, says the province’s health minister.

Adrian Dix said he is concerned by the rising number of cases across North America of youth who have suffered lung damage and other health problems after using e-cigarettes.

“We’re going to act soon,” Dix said Monday. “I think it’s a serious situation. We’re disappointed, despite our considerable efforts, that the federal government didn’t act before the election. But we remain optimistic they will (act). People expect us to act very soon and we will lay out our plan certainly within the next month.”

Although B.C.’s fall legislative session begins next week, the government does not necessarily need a new law, said Dix.

Instead, cabinet could change regulations under a 2015 law that made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19, he said. That could be accompanied by public health advertising campaign.

“We need to restrict certain kinds of vaping products, that’s pretty clear,” he said. “We need to raise the standard of vaping products, we need to address issues collectively, the federal and provincial government around advertising, because we need to ensure people understand the risks of vaping — that harm reduction may still mean harm, and if you aren’t a smoker, you shouldn’t vaping.”

There are roughly 90,000 businesses in B.C. currently selling e-cigarettes and vape products, including local corner stores, convenience stores and gas stations. They do not require a license, and health inspectors are stretched thin to catch anyone selling illegally to minors.

A government licensing program would bring the number of retailers down closer to the 6,000 B.C. stores licensed to sell tobacco, with the addition of extra licenses available for dedicated legal vaping stores and cannabis outlets, said Dix.

Governments across Canada and the U.S. are wrestling with the rise of teen vaping, as well as the wide variety of flavoured vape juices that appear designed to appeal to young children.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that usually contain nicotine-infused liquid, which is combined with vapour when the user inhales. They have been marketed as a way to reduce cigarette addiction, but an increase in lung problems recently has caused some states, like Michigan and most recently Washington State, to ban flavoured vape juice.

Dix said the federal government has draft regulations on e-cigarette standards and flavours, and he hopes Ottawa will enact a national standard quickly.

Opposition Liberal critic Todd Stone, who brought in a private member’s bill earlier this year on flavoured e-cigarettes, said he is frustrated that B.C. is taking so long.

“The strongest action we could take is to ban that flavoured juice,” he said. Stone suggested limiting sales to vape shops, tobacco stores and pharmacies.

“This is a public health crisis that has really only emerged in the last 18 to 24 months,” he said. “It’s really come on fast and it’s getting worse by the day. I don’t take much comfort at all in waiting for Ottawa to act.”

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Search continues for 74-year-old Kelowna man missing since Thursday | CBC News

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The search continues for a 74-year-old Kelowna, B.C., man who went missing on Thursday.

Gordon Solloway left home in the morning and was headed to the James Lake area, about 25 kilometres east of the city, to sight his rifle. He was expected home by noon.

Kevin Birnie of Central Okanagan Search and Rescue said Solloway’s truck was seen on a security camera in a rural area east of Kelowna.

“A local resident had captured some images of his vehicle going up into the Goudie [Road] area,” said Kevin Birnie of Central Okanagan Search and Rescue. “That is the only evidence we have to support that he is in that area.”

Gordon Solloway was seen in this image captured at a gas station in Rutland shortly after he left home. He was driving a 2012 Dodge Ram with a B.C. licence plate HM3 670. (RCMP)

Searchers on foot, in ATVs and in helicopters have failed to turn up any trace of the man.

Solloway was driving a silver 2012 Dodge Ram 1500, with B.C. licence plate HM3 670. 

He is described as white, five foot nine inches tall, weighing 250 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. 

Solloway has mobility issues and uses a cane. 

Vernon Search and Rescue, Pentiction Search and Rescue and the RCMP are also helping in the search. 


Call for new shelter to house Oppenheimer Park tent city holdouts

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Gary Humchitt at Oppenheimer park in Vancouver, BC Wednesday, September 25, 2019. Nearly a hundred tents dot the landscape at the park which has pitted various levels of local government and agencies against each other as to how best handle the homeless encampment.

Jason Payne / PNG

Calls will be made to Vancouver city council on Tuesday to create a new shelter, or rent a hotel, to house about 60 people who remain at the Oppenheimer Park tent city.

The first of two motions to council will be presented by COPE councillor and longtime anti-poverty advocate Jean Swanson.

Swanson’s motion is called Emergency Action to Support Vancouver’s Homeless People, Including Those in Oppenheimer Park and states that there are no more B.C. Housing units available to remaining campers.


The Oppenheimer Park camp in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside began in Oct. 2018 with a few tents and grew to 200 tents in early Aug. 2019.

August 18, 2019. The Oppenheimer Park tent city at its peak.



On Aug. 19, Vancouver park board manager Malcolm Bromley ordered all tents/structures be removed within two days. At the same time, B.C. Housing made available to campers 123 B.C. Housing units, 11 City of Vancouver units and stated there were 60 shelter spaces available (some tent city residents have told Postmedia News that they would rather be in a tent than at a shelter.) A Supreme Court of B.C. injunction is required to remove campers by force, and as there was no injunction the remaining campers and their tents stayed in the park.

Last Thursday, during a presentation to Vancouver parks board by City of Vancouver deputy city manager Paul Mochrie, he stated that 130 campers accepted the housing offers, over half of whom were First Nations, and 34 per cent women.

August 20, 2019. Some residents are packing up to leave Oppenheimer park in Vancouver, BC, August 20, 2019.

Arlen Redekop /


Mochrie said that there were currently 120 tents on the site — between Powell Street to the north and East Cordova in the south, with Dunlevy Avenue on the west and Jackson Avenue to the east — with about 55 people still staying in the park who were in contact with city outreach workers. He said 40 were male, 14 female and one trans and noted “a small number of people have declined to identify themselves or are not interested in Outreach’s assistance.”

In her motion, Swanson calls for city staff and agencies to meet with residents “about an accessible alternative site that ensures health and safety, access to services and supports, and is acceptable and appropriate for people currently living in Oppenheimer Park. Swanson states the site needs a community kitchen, electricity, storage, toilets with running water and there be a warming tent in Oppenheimer Park.

She also calls for an emergency homelessness task force to be formed to look at buying or leasing one of more hotels for Oppenheimer Park residents.

The second motion is being put forward by Green councillor Michael Wiebe and NPA councillor Lisa Dominato and is titled A Collaborative and New Approach to Oppenheimer Park and Other Public Spaces.

It starts by stating “Vancouver is experiencing unprecedented housing and mental health and addiction issues,” and that “there are a significant number of persons living on the city’s streets, or out of their cars, due to the shortage of appropriately affordable housing who simply require access to shower and washroom facilities to support them on their path to permanent housing or employment.”

At last week’s park board meeting, commissioners heard that the number of people sleeping on the streets in Vancouver had risen almost 300 per cent since 2011 — to 614 in 2019.

In the motion, Wiebe and Dominato ask that Mayor Kennedy Stewart — who in early September unsuccessfully asked that parks board hand over the Oppenheimer Park file to the city — send a letter to parks board asking that the “current impasse” at the park be “resolved swiftly” for all concerned. They also want council to develop a decampment plan with the goal of “restoring the park for broad public use.”

The pair are also calling for council to direct staff to apply for provincial government funding “for the establishment of a low-barrier shelter in the city that can suitably address the specific needs of those currently encamped in Oppenheimer Park.”

The majority of councillors and mayor need to vote in favour of a motion to be passed, and often the motion is amended during the council meeting.

Vancouver’s council is comprised of an independent mayor, five from the Non-Partisan Association, three from the Green party and one from COPE.

The Vancouver park board has the power to apply for an injunction to end the tent city, but are not prepared to do that at this point. In 2014 the park board did use an injunction to end another homeless camp in Oppenheimer Park.

Oct. 16, 2014. A woman sorts through her belongings as tents come down and police and city workers clean up Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver on October 16, 2014.


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Liberals promise billions in new spending in 2019 election platform

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OTTAWA – The Liberal party has released its costed 2019 platform, and it includes promises of billions in new spending for students, families, and the environment, continuing their so-called economic approach of “investing in Canadians,” while targeting corporations and the wealthiest Canadians to help pay for these proposals.

The platform titled “Forward a real plan for the middle class” spans 85 pages and includes chapters on the middle class and jobs, the environment, social and cultural programs, Indigenous commitments, parliamentary reforms, as well as pledges focused on international and domestic trade, justice, and security. Sprinkled throughout are photos of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his candidates.

The document is a mix of already-announced campaign promises, and new ideas that they’d yet to announce, alongside a costing analysis done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) of 22 key pieces.

Central to what the Liberals are promising to deliver should they be re-elected on Oct. 21 is a boost to the Canada Child Benefit, relief for student debtors, new taxes on the rich, and new regulations for multinational tech giants.

In total, the Liberals estimate that the new commitments they’re making would cost $9.3 billion in 2020-21 and rise each year following, but would also bring in just over $5.2 billion in new revenue in 2020-21 also rising over time. This would leave Canadians with an additional $4.1 billion added on to the deficit in the first year, which the Liberals project would be at $27.4 billion in 2020-21, with no time frame for getting back to balance. Based on today’s platform, a re-elected Liberal government would run another four years of deficits, but the party points to the continued decrease of Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio as a more favorable figure.

“Our economy is driven by people. So we will keep investing in Canadians, and doing the things that make it better for the middle class,” said Liberal incumbent candidate and co-chair of the national platform committee Ralph Goodale during a press conference with reporters who received the platform under embargo in Ottawa. “Over the last four years we’ve seen what happens when you put people first,” he said.

In a statement sent ahead of the Liberal plan being publicly released, the Conservative Party—which has released the costing for certain pieces of its plan but not yet for the entire package—said that these Liberal promises are “not worth the wasted ink and paper it’s printed on.”

Relief for the middle class

The first chapter of the platform is focused on the middle class, and measures the Liberals say will make life more affordable for those within that income range.

Early days in this campaign the Liberals promised to increase their Canada Child Benefit program by 15 per cent for children under one; exempting parental and maternity leave employment insurance benefits from tax; and extending those benefits to adoptive parents.

According to the PBO, this suite of measures would cost $777 million in 2020-21, rising to just under $1.2 billion by 2023-24.

The Liberals have also promised to make the first $15,000 of income tax-free for Canadians earning $147,000 a year or less, which the Liberals say will help lift another 40,000 people out of poverty. Billed as helping more people keep what they earn, it’s projected to cost $2.9 billion in 2020-21.

A promise to increase Old Age Security by 10 per cent for seniors once they turn 75 would cost $1.6 billion in 2020-21, rising to $2.6 billion in 2023-24. The Liberals would also increase the CPP survivors benefit by 25 per cent.

And for families who qualify for the Canada Child Disability Benefit, it would double from $2,832 to $5,664 for each child, estimated to cost $391 million in 2020-21.

There are also new or expanded measures for first-time home buyers; initiatives and measures for entrepreneurs and small business owners; more accessible and affordable childcare; strengthening public health care; increasing EI sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks at a cost of $306 million in 2020-21; and implementing a new EI career insurance benefit.

The Liberals are also promising a variety of other middle-class targeted initiatives, but not all were costed by the PBO. One of the biggest commitments left un-costed was the Liberal’s plan to move towards a universal pharmacare system.

Throughout the platform the Liberals stack up their commitments to those by the Conservatives, noting the differences between what each party is offering.

Trudeau spoke about the costed platform at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus.

“Under a Conservative government, a person making $400,000 a year would benefit more than a person making $40,000 with their tax cuts,” said Trudeau on Sunday.

Help for student debt

As CTV News reported Saturday, the platform also includes measures aimed at students and Canadians who still have student debt. All these commitments are promised to come into effect in 2020-2021, and apply to new graduates and people already paying off student loans.

These measures include:

  • Allowing new parents to put their student loans on hold by giving them an interest-free break from paying off their loans until their youngest child turns five years old.
  • Extending the grace period on payments after graduation from six months to two years, and even after that time only will people have to make payments once they are earning at least $35,000 per year after graduation.
  • Increasing student grants under the Canada Students Loans and Grants program by $1,200, to reach $4,200 per year.

According to the PBO’s assessment of the post-secondary measures, it would cost $172 million in the first year, rising to just over $1 billion by 2023-24. The Liberals estimate up to 470,000 students could benefit.

In Ontario, Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford has reversed previous student assistance measures and it appears the Liberals are looking to make a direct appeal to those impacted by that and other provincial cuts.

“Conservative provincial governments are trying to balance the budget on the backs of families and students, all while the cost of tuition keeps going up,” said Trudeau.

“Cuts to education. To healthcare. To environmental protection. We can’t afford to double down on the Conservatives, not here in Mississauga, not across Ontario, not anywhere in Canada,” he said.

Corporate and tech crackdown, luxury tax

In an effort to help generate new revenue and crack down on corporate tax evasion, the Liberals would introduce new tax measures that’ll hit wealthy Canadians and are promising regulations for multinational tech companies.

The Liberals would impose a 10 per cent luxury goods sales tax applied at point of sale, for purchases of personal cars, boats, and aircraft that are valued at $100,000 or more. This, according to the PBO, will bring in $585 million in 2020-21, rising to $622 million in 2023-24.

And, changes would come to corporate taxation under a re-elected Liberal government. They would review current policies to ensure the wealthy aren’t benefitting unfairly, and target tax avoidance and corporate tax loopholes. The PBO has estimated that the corporate tax crackdown could bring in $459 million in the current 2019-20 fiscal year, and would raise $1.7 billion in 2020-21.

The Liberals had already said they’d impose a one per cent tax on properties owned in Canada, by non-Canadians and non-residents, to limit housing speculation. The PBO estimates this would bring in $217 million in revenue in 2020-21, rising to $256 million by 2023-24.

Another major aspect of this is a new effort the Liberals are billing as “making multinational tech giants pay their fair share.” What this entails is a new three per cent tax on the income of businesses in the digital economy sector. It would come into effect on April 1, 2020 and target advertising and digital companies like Google or Amazon, with worldwide revenues of at least $1 billion and Canadian revenues of more than $40 million.

The Liberals estimate this would bring in $540 million in 2020-21, rising to $730 million by 2023-32.

As well the Liberals are promising to impose new privacy measures on large digital companies like Facebook, because they hold massive troves of Canadians’ personal data. The Liberals would install a new set of online rights for people to be able to erase their data from platforms, know who has access to it and how it’s being used, standards for reporting and compensation when data breaches occur, and force companies to report to a national advertising registry. All of this they say, would be part of the job for a new Data Commissioner.

Some climate measures costed

The platform document lays out the Liberals promised next steps to tackle climate change, including the promise to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This broad commitment doesn’t have a price tag attached but would include five-year goals decided on with help from experts, and new supports for those who will be impacted by the transition.

The carbon tax regime would remain, but no new information on the price per tonne it would reach in coming years.

The environmental measures that the PBO costed include the promise of interest-free loans for environmental retrofits, and grants for zero-emission homes, which the PBO pegs at costing $300 million in 2020-21, up to $411 million by 2023-24.

As well, the promise to cut the tax rate for companies that produce zero emission technology like electric cars or batteries in half would cost $14 million in 2020-21, according to the Liberal platform.

And, the Liberals estimate that once fully completed—something they say is still three years away— the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would generate $500 million in revenue, which the Liberals would put back into clean energy projects and climate change solutions.

Gun control, victim supports

As part of the broad promise to make Canadian streets safer, the Liberals have already said they’d ban all military-style assault rifles, create a buy-back program for legally-purchased assault rifles and allow provinces and municipalities to beef up their bans or restrictions further if desired.

In the costed platform the Liberals are earmarking an additional $50 million a year to help cities crack down on gun and gang crime.

Other justice-related measures pledged that include costing are:

  • Hiring and retaining 425 Crown prosecutors and 225 judges, the cost of which will be split between the federal government and promises;
  • Hiring and retaining an additional 100 RCMP officers; and
  • Providing sexual assault and domestic violence survivors free legal representation for application hearings, another cost to be split with the provinces.

According to the PBO this trio of measures will cost $122 million in 2020-21

Relatedly the Liberals are also promising to make it mandatory that all judges in Canada take sexual assault law training, which was an initiative from former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose that was thwarted in the Senate. This chapter also has promises for drug treatments, elder abuse, and targeted at first responders.


The 2015 federal election was largely centred on accepting refugees and contrasting the parties’ immigration policies, this time around the proposals from the Liberals are limited.

They include a promise to eliminate the processing and right of citizenship fees for new applicants. The PBO says this will have a limited cost, estimated at $75 million in 2020-21, rising to $110 million by 2023-24.

The Liberals say they will “move forward with modest and responsible increases to immigration,” focusing on welcoming highly skilled immigrants. And a re-elected Liberal government would also continue talks with the United States about updating the Safe Third Country agreement, which some believe has resulted in the influx of irregular border crossings into Canada from the U.S.

Equality-focused commitments

  • The plan also includes many social policy and equality-centered commitments that don’t have dollar signs attached, such as:
  • Appointing another gender-balanced cabinet and improve federal diversity in appointments;
  • Protecting abortion rights and improving how women are treated in the health care sector more broadly;
  • Making it so people are “free from discrimination online, including bias and harassment”;
  • Re-stating the not-met commitment to completely end the current 3-month blood donation ban for men who have sex with men;
  • Amending the Criminal Code to ban the practice of conversion therapy that targets LGBTQ people;
  • Study extremism like racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy and attempt to combat radicalization; and
  • Establishing the Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government, along with other supports for similar international institutions.

Parliamentary reform

While there is zero mention of reviving the now long-broken promise of electoral reform, the Liberals are looking to make a handful of tweaks to the parliamentary system, should they be re-elected. These include:

  • More time for private members’ bills to be dealt with in the House of Commons;
  • New technology to connect constituents with their MPs, without specifics;
  • Eliminating whip and party lists to give the Speaker more freedom in picking who to let in on debates;
  • More resources for parliamentary committees;
  • Upholding the Independent Senate; and
  • Implementing the Anne McLellan-issued recommendations around role and structure of the minister of justice position.

Victoria to join conversation on accessibility, inclusion

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People in Greater Victoria are invited to participate in a community meeting to discuss the development of accessibility legislation for British Columbia.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will host an in-person session for people with disabilities, their friends and families, accessibility advocates and self-advocates, as well as organizations, experts, businesses and individuals to help define what future legislation to make B.C. a more accessible and inclusive province could look like.

The meeting will be held at Central Middle School, 1280 Fort St., Victoria, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. All are welcome to attend, participate and offer feedback about their experiences with accessibility, inclusion, barriers and what matters most in the development of accessibility legislation.

To register for a meeting or to read the document that provides information on how the meeting will be structured, visit: engage.gov.bc.ca/accessibility

People can also provide their feedback through an online questionnaire at the above link until Friday Nov. 29, 2019, at 4 p.m.


Seeking Bali bliss

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In Bali beauty and blessings are an industry. Hotels advertise “meditation area” on road signs, shoppers visit Reborn Gifts, graffiti is simply “KARMA” spray-painted in capitals. Its allure is obvious and since 2006’s book Eat, Pray Love, the island’s come under increasing pressure from tourism: international visitors rose from 4.8 million in 2006 to 6.5 million in 2018. But if Bali’s on your bucket list, there’s beauty to behold and sustainable ways to see it.

I’m about to share a bath with a hundred people, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The Pura Tirta Empul is one of the most popular water temples, and it’s colourful chaos – like most things in Bali – crowded with supplicants heaving armfuls of offerings for purifications. This ornate 960 AD temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the protector, and he’s overseen centuries of devotees washing karmas clean.

Pura Tirta Empul is a 960 AD temple. It’s stone petirtaan pool is used for purifications.

Elaine O’Connor

Swathed in a sarong, I lower myself into the icy water of an ancient stone petirtaan pool to be purified in the holy spring with scores of soaking strangers.I bow repeatedly, splashing water over my head. As I emerge from my melukat (water blessing), it seems like something’s washed away.

If you’re interested in wellness and spirituality, you know Bali, jewel of the Indonesian islands, where orchids grow like weeds by the road and hydrangea and chrysanthemum fields colour the countryside.


We begin at Puri Bagus Jati Resort and Spa, near the heart of the island’s wellness centre, Ubud, but worlds away in a deep bamboo-forested valley. Our guide, Hesti Rialita Elvandari, joins us for morning hatha yoga followed by dragonfruit juice and homemade yogurt with coconut muesli. The five-hectare grounds invite strolls to temples, koi ponds, organic gardens, exotic orchid, Balinese statuary and even a waterfall. Being in this valley feels like resting in the curve of a lush, green palm.

The Puri Bagus Jati Resort and Spa, offers a complete health and wellness centre as well as a temple.

Elaine O’Connor

Rest is only one route to wellness. With instructor Buda Siwantara Ida Bagus Gede we make palm basket offerings called canang, pile them with petals, burn incense and are blessed with rice pressed to foreheads and a gentle, “Om Swastiastu.” (May god give every kindness.) 

I’m here with G Adventures, a Canadian small-group-adventure company offering 700 trips in 100+ countries. Among them, ten new Wellness tours to that feature a slower pace, daily yoga, meditation, visits to Balian healers and temples, cultural immersion, outdoor exercise and healthy food to restore and renew. Travellers support charity projects, eat at family restaurants, hire area guides and stay at locally-owned hotels to grow the economy: wellness abroad includes travelling ethically.

Come afternoon at Puri Bagus Jati, there’s lounging by the infinity pool post frangipani oil massage listening to monkeys, then a garden tour – the resort grows avocados, mangos, jackfruit and more – and an outdoor cooking class. We pound spicy sambal with mortar and pestles, chop fiddleheads for lawar pakis, make chicken satays and dadar gulung, pandan-leaf pancakes with palm-sugared bananas.

Puri Bagus Jati offers an outdoor cooking class.

Elaine O’Connor

Then it’s time to explore; head into Ubud to visit the Monkey Forest, shop the Gianyar night market, join a vinyasa session at Yoga Barn, or pay $35 USD for a “Bali swing” Instagram photo op.

“When I came in 2009, there weren’t so many hotels, no traffic, no swings, no Instagram,” Elvandari says of development. “You can’t stop it. But Balinese are still doing rituals and offerings. That is the best thing, to respect the culture, tradition and local people, especially if they’re performing ceremonies. It may be unusual, but this is what Bali is.”

Next, we head through highlands, stopping at spectacular scenery: the 15-metre Munduk waterfall, spring green rice terraces, sparkling Twin Lakes – to explore the northwest coast in Permuteran and relax at Taman Sari Resort.

The twin Lakes Tamblingan and Buyan Lakeare surrounded by lush vegetation.

Elaine O’Connor

Here, fruit drips off trees and staff sweep frangipani blooms at sunrise like floral snow. Follow a morning “smiling yoga” session by basking on the beach. The underwater views are even better.

Nearby Menjangan Island, one of 17,508 in the Indonesian archipelago – many disappearing with tides – is home to Hindu monks and some of Bali’s best coral reefs. We take a traditional boat over the swells and float weightless in the warm sea, swimming with unicornfish.

Come evening, I watch sunset and dine on king prawns with my toes in the sand.

I’m at ease knowing my vacation matches my values: protecting the marine environment from over-tourism and fishing is a community priority, with plastic bag bans, bamboo straws and reusable water bottles on offer on the island. Taman Sari supports a biorock project to restore reefs and guests can visit an adjacent baby turtle sanctuary.

There are three waterfalls in the area around Munduk.

Elaine O’Connor


We finish in Sanur, a former fishing village, stopping to marvel at UNESCO-protected Jatiluwih rice terraces, then settle into Puri Santrian Resort and Spa.

In the morning, we stroll the beach to The Power of Now for anti-gravity yoga – upside down in swings! Afternoons, visit the Bali Orchid Garden, try Balinese dance or introductory massage. Sanur’s a parasailing paradise, so get air on your own or watch from a beach cabana, gorging on seafood from beach warungs (food stalls).

There are lovely shops – Daun for Balinese sarongs and wood toys – and fun food – Soul in a Bowl delivers opur ayam (chicken coconut curry) and duck laksa (curried noodles) and Gaya Gelato serves lemongrass, mangosteen, and ginger gelato. Evenings, find serenity in a spa, join a beach bonfire or stargaze under the eye of a giant stone Buddha with a wise smile.

Before I leave, I savour a treatment in town at charming Chantara Spa, known for boreh body wraps and eastern massage. I’m soothed with a scented foot bath, slathered in ylang ylang oils and soaked in a candlelit bath of rose petals, orchids and marigolds.

It occurs to me, with a considerably less-wise smile, that I’m now the offering, and blessed.

I leave knowing I supported a company that travels sustainably, preserves the environment and empowers women. After all, a wellness journey is incomplete unless it’s an inner journey too – one everyone’s invited to pursue.

Elaine O’Connor travelled as a guest of G Adventures, which did not review this article.

Ethical travel empowers people. Our guide, Hesti Rialto Elvandari, says it changed her life.

G Adventures guide and trainer Hesti Rialita Elvandari

Elaine O’Connor

Her conservative family wished she’d become a teacher close to home. Longing to travel, she studied German, using it to lead Germans around Java during breaks in university. In 2014, she joined G Adventures – their first female guide in Indonesia.
She removed her hijab – her father didn’t speak to her for a month – and went to build her career and see the world. She’s spent 13 years in tourism, training in Thailand, Europe, India and the UK and was promoted to regional G Wellness Guru and trainer.

“I was with others from Southeast Asia and their stories are amazing,” Elvandari said. “Some used to be street children or drivers, now they’re tour leaders. G is really open to help people work in tourism. They treat people equally and use locals. That’s important for us to know who will represent our country to travellers.”

Meanwhile, she’s helped pay for three siblings to earn university degrees and a new house in West Java – one that doesn’t leak. “In the new house,” she says, “everyone fits and we must not worry. I’m thankful after years working I have something to give for my family. Everything I dreamed slowly came to reality.”

From daily yoga practices to traditional Balinese healing ceremonies to stops at serene beaches G Adventures Bali Wellness tour offers 9 days of nine days of rejuvenating activities.


It’s a steamy Indonesian afternoon and I’m sipping a mango smoothie listening to Balinese songs and lunching on spicy mie goreng noodles. It’s idyllic, but no regular roadside stop – it’s a meal with a side of meaningful – every employee has a disability.

Disabilities are seen as bad karma and kids are often kept hidden. Bali’s Senang Hati Foundation is changing that. It educates disabled young adults in hospitality and arts and with Planeterra’s support, they run a restaurant and handicraft shop.

G Adventures founded Planeterra as a registered charity in 2003 to give back to countries they visited. There are now 75 projects in 45 countries, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, benefitting 50,000 locals – often women, vulnerable youth and people with disabilities – and attracting 500,000 travellers each year.

In Vietnam, G supports Oodles of Noodles, where former street children are trained in restaurant service. In Peru, a woman’s weaving collective built new markets in the Sacred Valley. In Cambodia, New Hope restaurant provides youth chef training, scholarships and medical care. In Tanzania, Planeterra funds a women-only business school; in Belize, a youth-run bicycle outfit provides tuition.

“It’s amazing to create opportunity,” Elvandari says. “In India, we support female taxi drivers in New Delhi with Women on Wheels. Some were abused, but got driver’s licenses and now practice English with travellers. How impactful is that to come to a country but also help people?”


Taman Sari Resort and Spa

Puri Santrian Resort and Spa




Beedie Living goes big in Coquitlam

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The Heights on Austin is a project from Beedie in Coquitlam. [PNG Merlin Archive]


Big changes are coming to the Austin Heights neighbourhood of Coquitlam. In recent weeks, one of Western Canada’s oldest Safeway stores was reopened on Austin Avenue after a rebuild by Beedie Living. On either side of the new 65,000-square-foot grocery store, the same developer has just broken ground on the first of two 25-storey residential towers that will be part of a major revitalization of the area.

The new development is appropriately named The Heights on Austin. But buyers of the homes won’t necessarily have to choose a plan at the top of one of these buildings to enjoy spectacular views, according to Beedie’s director of marketing and strategy, Sunny Hahm.

“Our views are one of our biggest selling points and they compare favourably to any development that’s been launched recently in Burnaby or Coquitlam,” Hahm said. “Even when you’re only on the third level, you’ll already have incredible southward views of Surrey, the Port Mann Bridge and the Fraser River. Every home on every residential level in this building has a view to immerse yourself in, which is very unusual. Typically, you’d have to purchase something on the tenth floor or above to get any type of view.”

The Heights on Austin is a project from Beedie in Coquitlam. [PNG Merlin Archive]


The east tower will be completed first and have 177 homes (out of a total of 344 for the whole project), including five three-bedroom townhomes. This first phase will also include 12 affordable housing units to be developed in partnership with B.C. Housing and the not-for-profit Vancouver Resource Society. The west tower – the second phase of Austin Heights – will include additional retail space and commercial office space.

“The accessibility that the Austin Heights area provides to the rest of Metro Vancouver is a one of the key reasons why real estate in this neighbourhood holds its value so well,” Hahm added. “You’re still very much part of a residential community, but you’re also only a five-minute drive away from any one of three SkyTrain stations. There’s Burquitlam, Lougheed Town Centre and Braid stations, serving three different SkyTrain lines that connect you to all of Metro Vancouver. You’re away from the craziness and the hustle and bustle, but still well connected to transit options if you’re a commuter. In terms of driving, you can get to anywhere in Metro Vancouver within about half an hour.”

That’s assuming you need to leave the neighbourhood in the first place, of course. The brochure for The Heights on Austin lists no fewer than 60 educational institutions, restaurants, shopping outlets and activities in the neighbourhood. In addition, there are 750 acres of green space within four kilometres of the site, including the prestigious Vancouver Golf Club.

“Just behind our site, Ridgeway Avenue has been designated by the City of Coquitlam to be a new pedestrian area with an incredible new streetscape,” Hahm said. “It will be a beautiful promenade with cafes, restaurants and public art installations – a fully walkable neighbourhood right on your doorstep. Austin Heights is not just another highrise development. We’re building a new town centre for the City of Coquitlam and the local business community.”

“When it comes to the issue of affordability, we’re seeing purchasers shift from west to east and there’s a level of expectation that comes with that,” Hahm added. “Somebody who’s been living for a number of years in somewhere like Yaletown or Coal Harbour will have certain expectations when it comes to the appliances in their homes and the quality of living they’re looking for.”

The Heights on Austin is a project from Beedie in Coquitlam. [PNG Merlin Archive]


Beedie is aiming to exceed those expectations at The Heights on Austin. As a result, kitchens will feature premium Fisher & Paykel integrated appliance packages, including 32-inch fridges with bottom freezers, 30-inch stainless steel gas cooktops and 30-inch electric convection ovens. There are white upper Shaker cabinets with wood-grain lower cabinets, soft-close cabinet hardware with polished chrome pulls, LED under-cabinet lighting and quartz countertops and backsplashes.

Bathrooms will have custom mirrors and medicine cabinets, matte porcelain floor tiles, quartz countertops and undermount sinks. There are porcelain beveled subway tiles with niches, as well as polished chrome Grohe shower systems and adjustable shower wands in all ensuites. Main bathrooms feature luxurious soaker tubs.

The Heights on Austin is a project from Beedie in Coquitlam. [PNG Merlin Archive]


“We’ve seen mostly end users showing interest in these homes and that’s partly because of the quality of the finishes we’re putting in here and the expansiveness of the floor plans,” Hahm said. “They’re just a little bigger and more livable than what you might typically expect in a development like this. Our primary demographic is an end-use, first-time homebuyer and they’re typically coming from the Tri-Cities or Burnaby.”

There are multiple plans to choose from at The Heights on Austin. East tower homes have one to three bedrooms, range in size from 482 to 1,292 square feet and are priced from $441,900. Completion for the first phase is expected by the spring of 2022 and the presentation centre at 1032 Austin Avenue in Coquitlam is open from noon until 5 p.m. every day but Friday.

The Heights on Austin

Project location: 1045 Austin Avenue (east tower) and 505 Nelson Street (west tower), Coquitlam

Project size: 344 homes with one to three bedrooms. (East tower: 177 homes; West tower: 167 homes) East tower homes range from 482 to 1,292 square feet and priced from $441,900

Developer: Beedie Living

Architect: Chris Dikeakos Architects Inc.

Interior designer: Bob’s Your Uncle Design

Sales centre: 1032 Austin Ave, Coquitlam

Sales centre hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

Sales phone: 604-492-2882

Website: http://www.theheightsonaustin.com



Climate top-of-agenda on last day of Union of B.C. Municipalities conference

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Premier John Horgan on the Rural Dividend Fund: “I’m not at all concerned that people would prefer to have everything right now. When I was a kid I always wanted everything right now too and I ended up turning out OK even though I didn’t get everything I wanted at the time I wanted.”

Jason Payne / PNG

Climate change was top-of-mind for delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) conference, who passed a series of resolutions calling for everything from more government action on the climate emergency and stopping subsidies to fossil-fuel companies, to investments in low-emission transportation.

“The work that UBCM has been doing when it comes to climate change is really, really provocative, and I think at this time when we see tens-of-thousands — in fact millions — of people coming together, mostly young people, it’s great to see leadership like that at the local government level,” Premier John Horgan said after his closing address at the convention Friday.

However, delegates decided not to urge the province to come up with legislation that holds fossil-fuel companies financially liable for climate-related harms, with some calling it divisive and asking instead for politicians to work together.

A resolution asking the UBCM to look at a class-action lawsuit on behalf of members to recover costs arising from climate-change from fossil-fuel companies was withdrawn because a Vancouver lawyer is preparing a legal opinion with options for local governments free-of-charge.

With ride-hailing vehicles expected to hit the road before the end of the year delegates decided against urging the UBCM to oppose the Passenger Transportation Board’s ride-hailing policies and ask for consultation about licensing requirements. The resolution was narrowly defeated, with 51.7 per cent opposed.

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, whose city put forward the late resolution, said they’re not opposed to ride-hailing.

“It has to be a level playing field,” he said. “The taxi industry has been around a long, long time and done a wonderful service to communities throughout the province.”

However, a resolution that asks the province to come up with rules that make it easier to establish ride-hailing in small rural and remote communities — as well as other communities outside of the Lower Mainland — passed.

Enderby Coun. Brian Schreiner said his small city and others like it that don’t have taxis or transit would benefit from ride-hailing, but restrictions like the requirement for drivers to have a Class 4 licence will get in the way.

“We’re just looking for a level playing field for small communities to get involved with ride-sharing,” Schreiner said. “Yes, we do want it to be safe … but we just want to be able to get into the process.”

A last-minute resolution asked the UBCM to have the province reconsider its decision to divert $25 million from the Rural Dividend Fund to help communities affected by the mill closures and curtailments. It asked for the government to find another source of funding.

“We polled and talked to people right straight across B.C. and this was identified over-and-over again because small rural and remote and Indigenous communities cannot get dollars for their projects,” said Grace McGregor, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary director.

After the conference, Horgan said the money was reallocated because it was available and there was an urgent need. He reiterated that the program will continue at a later date.

“I’m not at all concerned that people would prefer to have everything right now. When I was a kid I always wanted everything right now too and I ended up turning out OK even though I didn’t get everything I wanted at the time I wanted,” he said.

Delegates decided against asking the province to consider eliminating or reducing fines for those under age 18, and looking at restorative justice or community service for settling fare infractions by low-income people. However, they did endorse a call for free or further subsidized transit passes for those on income or disability assistance.

A late resolution from the City of Port Coquitlam asking the UBCM to end its practice of accepting sponsorship and facilitating receptions from foreign governments was referred to the union executive.

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