Elizabeth May is surprisingly cheerful for an environmental crusader worried that the civilization may be on the brink of collapse by the time her 43-year-old daughter reaches May’s own age of 65.
It’s because after being a party of one for eight years in Parliament and only graduating to a party of two earlier this year, the Green party leader says this federal election — her fourth — feels different.
Support is coming in unexpected places, she says forcing her to run something closer to a truly national campaign and visit ridings that weren’t previously on her itinerary.
The polls reflect some of that. May has the highest approval rating of the leaders on the CBC’s Leader Meter.
Her party’s support has nearly doubled in the past year to close to 10 per cent, which would translate into anywhere from one to eight seats with four seats being the consensus prediction.
But the Greens have been here before. They polled at close to 10 per cent in 2010 long before the prospect of a dystopian future drove tens of thousands of Canadians into the streets last month.
Many of those marchers, like the climate strike’s founder Greta Thunberg, are too young to vote and are too young to be surveyed about voting intentions in Canada’s upcoming federal election.
As a politician, May laughingly told The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board that she should be talking about measuring for new curtains in the prime minister’s resident in anticipation of moving in.
But she’s a pragmatist and what is within reach in 2019 is holding the balance of power — or the balance of responsibility, as she describes it — in a minority government.
Unlike the B.C. Green party, May would make no deals to support either the Conservatives or the Liberals.
She’d use her few seats as a club to force the prime minister to either bend policies — especially on the environment — to something closer to the Greens’ platform or she’d bring down the government.
For many, the Greens’ plan is scary, requiring radical and fundamental changes to retool the Canadian economy, its social programs and even individuals’ expectations and habits.
May admits that.
By 2030, her plan would cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from the 2005 levels, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above global pre-industrial averages. Within a decade, a Green Canada would be fully powered by renewable energy.
Quoting an October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says it’s all do-able and that the needed technology already exists to avoid going above 1.5 degrees C.
Citing a National Research Council projection, the Greens’ platform says four million jobs would be created in energy efficiency retrofits compared with the 62,000 Canadians working in oil and gas in 2018.
But May admits some will disappear and talks about a “just transition” for workers that would include more education spending, bridging of some workers to early retirement and a guaranteed livable income, which would replace and build on disability payments, social assistance and income supplements.
“It’s a tough choice and I’m not saying that people will never sacrifice,” May said. “But we’re talking about whether our children are able to have anything above a deteriorating human civilization all around them …
“A functioning human civilization is at risk within the lifetime of my daughter to be able to have basic elements of a functioning human society.”
But if the Greens hold the balance of power in a post-Oct. 21 Parliament, it’s not just the environmental agenda that may influence new legislation.
May frequently references the 1960s minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson that with support of the NDP (then named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), which resulted in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and the flag (which, bizarrely, was the most controversial).
So beyond an improved climate plan, what do the Greens want? Proportional representation rather than a first-past-the-post voting system has always been high on its list both federally and provincially. The Liberals promised it in 2015 and reneged. A Liberal minority government might be willing to rethink that.
The Greens’ platform calls for decriminalization of drug possession and access to “a safe, screened supply.” The Conservatives have resolutely said no, while the Liberals have said no for now.
May is actively supporting Wilson-Raybould’s bid to win re-election as an Independent in Vancouver-Granville. Wilson-Raybould was forced out of the Liberal Party after she publicly accused Justin Trudeau and his staff of inappropriately pressuring her to stop the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
The only reason there is a Green candidate in that riding is because running the party’s constitution requires one in every federal riding.
But would May be willing to bring down the new government — Liberal or Conservative — if it agreed to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement?
May could play a pivotal role in forging a better response to the climate emergency and even help return Canada to a leadership role if she can muster the kind of patience, diplomacy and intelligence that NDP leader Tommy Douglas exercised in the 1960s.
And if she can’t? Well, we’ll have another election sooner rather than later and by then, at least some of those climate-striking kids will have reached voting age.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cyclists ride across a trestle bridge, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail. Handout/Trails Society / PNG
A historic rail trail that was donated to the province by the Trans Canada Trail society could be opened to logging trucks if a government proposal to cancel its trail designation gets the green light, say trail advocates.
The Ministry of Forests is seeking to transfer management of a 67-kilometre portion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to unspecified agencies to reflect local interests and support “access for industrial activity,” according to a letter sent to stakeholders soliciting feedback on the plan.
A major logging company holds tenure for several cut blocks near the trail, which runs from Castlegar to Fife, east of Christina Lake.
“It’s mind-boggling that they’re even considering this,” said Ciel Sander, president of Trails Society of B.C. “The trail is a government asset. It should be protected as a linear park, not an access road for logging trucks.”
The Columbia and Western Rail Trail was donated to the Trans Canada Trail decades ago by the Canadian Pacific Railway for inclusion in the The Great Trail, previously known as the Trans Canada Trail, a national trail network stretching 24,000 kilometres across the country.
In 2004, the committee transferred the trail to the B.C. government with the “expressed intention that it would be used and managed as a recreational trail,” said Trans Canada Trail vice-president Jérémie Gabourg.
While the government’s proposal is clear that recreational access will remain, it marks the first time a group has sought to convert a portion of The Great Trail from a trail to a road in any province or territory.
“Sections of The Great Trail of Canada are on roadways, and we strive to move these sections of the trail to greenways, where possible,” said Gabourg. “To see a trail go from greenway to roadway is disheartening … It could set a dangerous precedent.”
The Columbia and Western Rail Trail connects with the popular Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a route that attracts cyclists from around the world. In accepting the trail from the Trans Canada Trail in 2004, the government made a commitment to preserve and protect it from motorized use, said Léon Lebrun, who was involved in the process as past president of Trails Society of B.C.
“We have a government who has not taken real responsibility,” he said. Officials have “turned a blind eye” to motorized users who have graded parts of the trail and removed several bollards designed to prevent access. “They had no permit and no permission, and the government did nothing.”
In its letter to stakeholders, the Ministry of Forests recognized vehicles are already accessing the trail, explaining the proposed administration change would ensure it was being maintained for that use.
“This portion of rail corridor contains engineered structures including steel trestles, hard rock tunnels, major culverts and retaining walls atypical of recreation trails and requiring management beyond typical trail standards,” said the letter by John Hawkins, director of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.
But Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore said that allowing motorized vehicles would be rewarding people who broke the law.
“While we acknowledge that this change reflects current use, this is clearly the result of years of mismanagement of what was intended as, and should have remained, a high-profile recreation and tourism amenity,” she replied to Hawkins in a letter that was shared with Postmedia.
“Those who have consistently flaunted trail use regulations are now being rewarded … We expect (Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.) to acknowledge this as a tragic failure, and ensure that resources and strategies are in place to prevent further losses of our valued trails.”
Stakeholders were given one month to register their feedback with the Ministry of Forests, ending Aug. 26.
In a statement, the Ministry of Forests said the process is ongoing to receive more information from regional districts. A decision is expected before the end of the year.
Tabitha Montgomery with free materials she’s distributing to B.C. libraries. Francis Georgian / Postmedia News
It was during the International Overdose Awareness Day activities last year when Tabitha Montgomery really noticed it — events that had once been rallies had become vigils.
“There was a feeling that no one was listening. That it was not making a difference,” she recalled Saturday as she set up an information booth at the Vancouver Public Library.
Montgomery’s booth was one of several awareness activities happening in B.C. this weekend to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, a global movement designed to remember those who have died from drug overdoses. And to push for change.
However, some advocacy groups that organized activities in the past were noticeably absent from this year’s list of planned events.
Montgomery attributed that to burnout.
“It can be difficult to keep going,” she said. “I want to thank those who have been paving the path for so long.”
Montgomery’s father, her best friend and her daughter’s father all died from drugs. She believes the only way to end the overdose crisis is to remove the stigma and judgment around drug use and addiction and bring the issue fully into mainstream health care.
“This is a torch in my heart,” she said.
While she doesn’t represent any single group, the former director with From Grief to Action has had success asking B.C. libraries to display free books on grief and addiction in their community resources sections. She’s hoping to get the material into more libraries in the months ahead.
(Postmedia News photo by Francis Georgian)
In a statement, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy recognized those who have died are “parents, children, co-workers, neighbours, partners, friends and loved ones.”
The politician said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control estimates 4,700 deaths have been averted by scaled-up distribution of Naloxone, more overdose prevention sites and better access to medication-assisted treatment, known as opioid agonist treatment.
“We have a responsibility to each other, our communities and the loved ones we have lost to keep compassion, respect and understanding at the forefront of our minds — and to continue to escalate our response,” she said.
In June, 73 people died of suspected illicit drug overdoses across the province, a 35 per cent drop from June 2018 when 113 people died, according to data collected by the B.C. Coroner’s Service.
But Montgomery said addiction is still treated like a “moral and criminal issue,” rather than a health issue.
“There’s so much misunderstanding,” she said.
Overdose awareness events were held around the world, including in many B.C. cities such as Vancouver, New Westminster, Kamloops, Kelowna, Powell River, Prince George and Quesnel.
In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Overdose Prevention Society supported the creation of a mural in the alley near its injection site. The project wrapped up with an art show.
Busy schedules, resistant bugs and, of course, the ‘ick’ factor.
B.C.’s lice busters say there are several reasons more parents are seeking professional help to deal with lice infestations — and as kids head back to school on Tuesday, they’re bracing for a busy month.
“By the end of September, we’ll likely see a few outbreaks,” said Rochelle Ivany, a Chilliwack nit picker who runs The Lice House with friend Ashley Wall. “Over the summer, kids have been off at camp, sleepovers and grandparents’ houses. When they come back to school, lice can come with them.”
Ivany entered the business when one of her kids came home with lice.
“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “Lice can be a taboo subject. No one wants to be the kid with it. Parents dread the letter coming home from school saying that there’s an outbreak in their kid’s class.”
After research and practice, Ivany set up shop in her home last year, offering people in the Fraser Valley an alternative to over-the-counter pesticides and hours of combing.
The key is to be “meticulous” while manually removing all lice and eggs with a special comb, she said.
Confidential sessions at The Lice House take between one-and-a-half to three hours depending on the severity of the infestation and the length of the client’s hair. Ivany charges $50 an hour — a lower rate than many of the services closer to Vancouver — and does comb-outs every three days until the client gets three clean comb-outs. She also provides treatment at cost for people who are referred to her through a social worker or community support worker.
“I get calls from a lot of panicked parents,” she said. “The message is that it’s OK, it’s going to be OK. We can help you.”
While it’s unclear if lice outbreaks are increasing — the B.C. Centre for Disease Control does not keep data on cases — more people are turning to professional lice removal services for help.
In Maple Ridge, Lice911 owner Barbara Pattison has been nit picking for 18 years.
“We’re the original,” she said. “When I started, there were four companies in North America.”
In the last decade, she’s expanded to provide mobile service in communities across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. In addition to Lice911, there are almost a dozen other companies offering treatment in B.C.
Pattison said lice seem to be more resistant to chemicals, which have become weaker in the last 10 years, while people may be too busy, or unwilling, to spend hours combing out bugs. In the last few years, she’s also seen a shift toward more teens and young adults arranging treatment for themselves, which she attributes to selfies and people putting their heads together to look at phones.
“All it takes is three seconds of hair-to-hair contact,” she said.
The lice expert advises parents to check their kids’ hair regularly for lice, looking for sticky black, brown or grey eggs half the size of a sesame seed attached to strands of hair. Some kids may have an itchy head or a rash at the nape of their neck.
“If you can catch it early, when there are 30 or 40 eggs, it’s much easier to deal with,” she said. “An average infestation is about 500 eggs.”
Emrys Horton’s first instinct when he saw flames engulf a boat in a Yaletown marina was to run to help. He wasn’t thinking of the ground beneath him. But in his sprint to the boat, Horton rolled his ankle on a large lump in the sidewalk.
Horton, manager of the nearby Provence Marinaside restaurant, had reacted to the billowing smoke from flames that had engulfed a 10-metre pleasure vessel on Oct. 12, 2017. The blaze took eight fire trucks and a fireboat to put out.
No one was hurt in the fire — but Horton suffered more than just a sprain. He twisted his ankle so much that he tore the tendon off his bone, taking a piece of bone with it, in what’s known as an avulsion fracture.
“My ankle will literally never be the same as it was,” said Horton, 43.
He reported the sidewalk hazard, but didn’t report his injury. It never occurred to him.
“I suspect I probably should have, but I didn’t at the time,” Horton said about the idea of taking his case to a personal-injury lawyer. “I probably won’t now.”
Everyone walks on them. But not many people pay much attention to the city’s sidewalks, even though they are among the most ubiquitous pieces of city infrastructure.
Horton is one of many people to have injured themselves by tripping or falling because of sidewalk disrepair in the City of Vancouver. Their experiences highlight a public lack of knowledge about recourse when it comes to injuries caused by sidewalks. It also highlights what some advocates say is infrastructure sorely neglected by the city and a maintenance system that may not be adequately serving the public’s needs.
The sidewalk network
The City of Vancouver has about 2,200 kilometres of sidewalks. Put end to end, they would stretch from the city to Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone uses sidewalks at some point, whether walking is their primary mode of transportation or not: Drivers walk on them to and from their cars, transit riders travel on them to their stops and stations, cyclists lock up their bikes and walk to their destination on them.
City reports show that the city’s sidewalks are heavily used — and that getting even more people to use them is a priority. The City of Vancouver’s 2017 Walking and Cycling report card found that 25 per cent of all trips in Vancouver are completed by walking — meaning that it’s the dominant mode of transportation for a person’s trip. Meanwhile, the city’s Transportation 2040 Plan says that walking should be the “top transportation priority” for future growth.
The city’s 2019 budget includes $1.75 million for the construction of new sidewalks and $798,000 to rehabilitate roughly one kilometre of existing sidewalks. According to the budget, priority for sidewalk rehabilitation is given to areas that get a lot of pedestrian activity, such as commercial areas and transit routes. In addition, an uncertain amount of sidewalk is rebuilt each year as part of broader road-replacement work.
By comparison, the budget allocates $9 million for bikeways and greenways, and $8 million to repave major arterial streets.
Some feel that sidewalks are still an afterthought.
“I think it’s an overlooked form of infrastructure,” said Andy Yan, a director with the City Program at Simon Fraser University. “I mean, one hopes it’s seen as a form of central infrastructure.”
Yan defines sidewalks as formalized pathways that connect a city and facilitate movement across it by foot. But he says the pedestrian experience can quickly turn bad and even lead to injury and distress, when sidewalks fall into disrepair.
‘I have started walking a different route home’
A fall on an uneven sidewalk one dark and wet November night in 2018 left teacher Ellen Michelle with pain all over her body and so much anxiety that she permanently changed the route for her daily walk home from work.
Michelle, 26, was walking home along Cambie Street from the King Edward Canada Line station after a day of teaching when she fell.
“There was one part of the sidewalk that was raised, and it was right beside a tree,” Michelle said.
A tree root had pushed the sidewalk section up on the east side of Cambie Street between 26th and 27th avenues. The raised sidewalk caught Michelle unawares and sent her sprawling to the ground.
“I ended up flying forward a few feet, at least. Dropped everything I was holding, including a bag of student midterms that I was taking home to grade,” Michelle said.
Michelle ended up with a bloody, fat lip for three days and soreness in her entire body that lasted a week.
“It was very difficult to move the next day,” she said.
Injuries sustained from disrepaired or broken sidewalks can leave lasting marks. The most common injuries are broken ankles. The odds of injury increase during the rainy months of winter.
Michelle’s experience highlights how sidewalk accidents have more than physical consequences.
“One thing I’ll say is that since that fall, I have started walking a different route home to avoid that spot,” Michelle said.
Michelle wishes the city would “just fix the sidewalk when roots grow out of them,” so no one else has to sustain injuries, trivial or severe.
Tree roots pushing up from underneath are a common cause of damage to Vancouver’s sidewalks. Shifting ground also breaks sidewalks: As the ground moves, the sidewalk is not able to adjust.
In order to monitor the disrepair, Vancouver has a sidewalk maintenance policy that requires a team of city workers to visually examine every sidewalk in the city annually for such defects. According to the city, the inspection team of six or seven people examines the city’s sidewalks from about November or December to July or August and identifies any cracks or bumps that could present hazards. The policy states that any hazards that measure over one inch are scheduled to be repaired within seven days.
The city also relies on residents to report damaged sidewalks. But not many people know this.
Michelle, for example, didn’t report the sidewalk problem that caused her to fall. She says she was unaware she could.
It’s one reason why it’s difficult to determine the extent of the city’s liability for sidewalk injuries.
Cities can be held liable for injury if they have not met a minimum duty of care to ensure that sidewalks are safe for people to use.
This falls under the concept of “reasonableness,” according to personal-injury lawyer Mark Carter. That means that as long as the city has made an effort to maintain the sidewalk, it has fulfilled its duty of care.
Yan said that such reporting methods give the public the opportunity to hold their city accountable in maintaining the standard they have set when it comes to sidewalks.
VanConnect appears to have led to an increase in the number of complaints. When the app went online in the middle of 2015, the number of sidewalk complaints from people increased more than 40 per cent, from an average of 1,250 to 1,760 a year.
Yan also said that just checking a sidewalk complaint isn’t enough. Action, in many cases, must happen as well.
“You can imagine that if something happened and it’s a part of a sidewalk that’s been complained about several times, it does present the city with a certain liability,” he said.
Is it enough?
This raises the question of whether the current system is good enough for those who live and work in the city.
Carter said the answer to this depends on three things:
• Whether a city policy exists.
• Whether that policy can be considered “reasonable.”
• Whether the policy was followed.
Carter says Vancouver is not meeting a “reasonable” standard.
“Let’s say they had a program, and they would check the sidewalks once per year to see if they’re safe or not. Well, that’s not very reasonable. They would have to check it several times a year,” Carter said.
Yan isn’t quite so critical of the city’s sidewalk maintenance standards, saying they stand up well compared to other cities.
He said the one-inch minimum for defects warranting repair, for example, may seem like a poor standard, but he argued it’s reasonable given the amount the ground can shift or the fact that so many sidewalks run beside trees.
However, he says the city needs to better define its maintenance policy.
“If you do see a problem on your sidewalk, how do you report it in? What are the protocols for maintenance that the city has towards maintaining sidewalks, much less maintaining public infrastructure?” Yan said.
“I mean, we arguably have minimum standards towards maintaining our roads; one might expect that one has standards towards maintaining our sidewalks.”
Ultimately, it means that the city’s duty of care is arguably open to question — and that could invite legal action.
However, Carter said that while lawsuits against the city do happen, they are rare. A freedom of information request revealed that between Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2019, there had been 28 “civil lawsuits brought against the city as a result of injuries incurred on city sidewalks. A total of $117,000 was paid out by the city to settle these lawsuits, an average of less than $24,000 a year.
Carter said many people don’t file civil lawsuits, and those who do will settle because of the cost of seeing it go to trial.
However, he said many people injured in sidewalk falls do not even think about a lawsuit, and have no idea where to turn to or what recourse they have available to them.
‘I didn’t hear back’
Reporting sidewalk issues to the city isn’t a guarantee of their repair, say people who have tried to navigate the system.
Erik Hearn broke his collarbone when he tripped on a West End sidewalk during his regular 10-kilometre morning walk.
Hearn was aware he could report the damaged sidewalk to the city, and took action.
“I did take a picture and I did send it to the website,” Hearn said. “But I didn’t hear back.”
Hearn said the city “planted trees that are huge trees and with that comes huge roots. And the roots are now the ones that are causing the problem with the sidewalks, curling up and making the sidewalks uneven.”
Hearn said he is worried that his neighbours may have similar accidents and injure themselves as he did.
“The city has neglected totally to repair sidewalks here, which is probably an area of the city where they should pay specific attention to that because a big portion of the residents in this area are seniors,” he said.
Since his own fall in Yaletown, Horton has reported several other damaged sidewalks. He, too, questions the city’s response to reports of disrepair.
“Some of the things that I’ve personally reported multiple times have not been fixed within months or years,” Horton said.
While on the job at Provence Marinaside, Horton said he has repeatedly seen unsuspecting pedestrians trip and get hurt.
“I’ve had customers fall on their face,” Horton said. “A guy just went down face-first on the ground right outside because he tripped on the edge of one of the cobblestone bricks there that’s starting to lift. Broke his nose, lost consciousness.”
Even when reported sidewalks are fixed by the city, some say the repairs aren’t adequate.
Horton said the fall that severely injured his ankle was caused by a piece of sidewalk that had been previously repaired by the city with asphalt, a common fix. He said city crews covered the damaged area with asphalt, which then chipped away over time.
Accessibility advocates like Gabrielle Peters say that such repairs aren’t good enough — and that’s compounding problems for those with mobility issues.
Peters, who has served on the city’s Active Transportation Policy Council, says her advocacy began when she began taking photos of sidewalks and posting them online.
“The city will instruct people to contact 311. Every block, I could be calling 311,” said Peters.
She refers to some of the repairs she’s seen as “almost a work of art.”
“Literally, they poured asphalt on top of pouring asphalt on top of pouring asphalt. And you honestly have this little sort of pyramid, built in the middle of the sidewalk.”
For those with mobility issues, such uneven sidewalks pose an obstacle in reaching public transit or personal vehicles.
‘Pedestrians are disenfranchised’
For Sandy James, improving the state of sidewalks in the city is about more than repairing cracks and bumps. It’s about making journeys better for the most vulnerable road users, like people with mobility challenges and those who use wheelchairs or push strollers.
James worked at city hall for nearly three decades, including 22 years as a city planner. As a greenway planner, she designed streets to give walking and biking priority over car traffic.
She left the city in 2011, and is now the managing director of Walk Metro Vancouver, a group that advocates improved walkability. She’s critical of the city’s sidewalk policy.
“The challenge here is that pedestrians are disenfranchised,” she said. “It’s just not been on the radar.”
To improve the city’s walkability, James said streets need to be “clean, curious and comfortable,” meaning wider sidewalks, curb ramps for those using wheelchairs, streets clear of gum and other garbage and installation of plants or other street decorations to enhance the overall experience.
James also highlighted the problem of trees. In a city that loves its leafy boulevards, there’s a struggle between maintaining both trees and sidewalks. James said ash trees on Commercial Drive, for example, destroyed the sidewalk. New sidewalks were installed, but that didn’t address the underlying problem.
“Trees sometimes have a shelf life,” James said, adding that’s something she thinks many in Vancouver don’t understand.
Taryn Scollard, the city’s director of streets, said the city’s engineering department works with the park board to select trees that are less disruptive to sidewalks, and have developed root barriers to try to guide root growth downward instead of popping up and leading to sidewalk hazards.
The city has also installed rubber sidewalks made of recycled tires in a couple of locations to see if they are more durable than pavement.
“We’re always looking for new ideas to meet everybody’s needs,” Scollard said.
‘A high priority for the city’
Scollard said while the city could always use more money to address concerns, she believes Vancouver’s sidewalks are in much better condition than those in other Canadian cities. She added that the city makes the most of their budget by combining sidewalk maintenance projects with other construction work whenever possible.
“All areas of pedestrian movement are a high priority for the city,” Scollard said.
She said the city has made a number of changes to sidewalk standards in recent years, including making them wider, putting sidewalks farther away from roads when possible, and installing “pedestrian bulges” at the corners of sidewalks to reduce the amount of time pedestrians spend on the road while crossing the street.
Nathan Durec, Roxanne Egan-Elliott and Mandy Moraes are among this year’s recipients of the Langara College Read-Mercer Journalism Fellowship. This feature was produced through the fellowship.
Lyft plans to start serving the ride-hailing market in Metro Vancouver in the fall of 2019. PNG
The ride-hailing company Lyft intends to operate in Vancouver, according to a prepared statement released by the company on Monday.
Lyft, which competes globally in the ride-hailing market with Uber, has also appointed Peter Lukomskyj as its general manager in B.C. The managing director of Lyft in Canada is Aaron Zifkin.
In the prepared statement, Lukomskyj thanked the NDP government and provincial Green party for allowing ride-hailing in B.C.
Last month, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena revealed its long-awaited regulations on licensing and insurance for ride-hailing, saying it was now possible for ride-hailing companies to enter the market this fall “with vehicles on the road later this year, while ensuring the safety of passengers and promoting accessibility options in the industry.”
“British Columbians have been asking and waiting for these services after more than five years of delay by the former government,” Trevena said at the time. “We took action to allow for the services people want and we’re delivering on that promise. Our plan has made it possible for ride-hailing companies to apply to enter the market this fall.”
Ride-hailing companies have to apply to the Passenger Transportation Board for permission to operate, with applications being accepted starting Sept. 3. The board also sets guidelines for fares, boundaries and numbers of vehicles.
All drivers will have to have a Class 4 commercial driving licence in order to drive for one of these companies.
At the time of Trevena’s announcement, Zifkin said this ruling would limit the number of drivers available in the Vancouver market.
“Ninety-one per cent of the drivers on our platform drive less than 20 hours a week. These are people like single moms, students in school and people trying to supplement their incomes. As soon as you introduce that Class 4 commercial licence, these people tend not to apply for that type of work,” Zifkin said.
In Monday’s statement, Lukomskyj said the company would work with all levels of government in the region — including the Ministry of Transportation and the Passenger Transportation Board — “to be a part of the province’s transportation network and help create a frictionless experience for British Columbians.”
Lyft was founded in the U.S. in 2012 and operates in Toronto and Ottawa.
First off, it’s going to be crowded. You’ve been warned. If you still insist on seeing the fireworks live, then read on.
Here’s what you need to know about watching the Honda Celebration of Light in downtown Vancouver this summer.
When are the fireworks? Who’s competing this year?
In 2019, the Celebration of Light will take place over three nights:
• Saturday, July 27: India: Amir Morani Fireworks • Wednesday, July 31: Canada: Firemaster Productions Inc. • Saturday, Aug. 3: Croatia: Mirnovec Fireworks
The fireworks begin around 10 p.m. each night, with the winning team being announced on Aug. 6.
Where do the fireworks take place and how can I watch them?
The fireworks are set off from a barge located in English Bay, with the show visible from several vantage points in and around the West End, Kitsilano and some spots along the downtown Vancouver False Creek area.
Your best bet will always be to transit, walk or cycle. TransLink will be offering more frequent service, modified routes and extended hours for buses, SkyTrains and SeaBus. You can find all that information here.
Some viewing points are more crowded than others, and some are easier to access than others. Take your pick.
English Bay Beach
This is by far the busiest spot from which to watch the fireworks but also where many of the official festivities take place, including music stages, the Pete McLeod airshow, the judges, VIP seating and official Celebration of Light PA system where the fireworks soundtrack will be broadcast.
For a good view, you’ll need to park yourself on the beach early in the day with a beach blanket to wait for the show. The buzz is undeniable but be warned — it will be crowded and could be a challenge meeting up with friends close to showtime. The exit afterward is usually slow-moving as well.
Crowded? Very. VERY.
Food? Great West End selection nearby or pack your own. Food trucks will be parked along the beach.
Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.
Best way to get there? Take transit downtown and then walk from central downtown into the West End; it’s a 20- to 40-minute walk, depending on where you start from.
Cycling in along the seawall is good too — there will be complimentary bike valets set up from 6 p.m. onwards along the beach, though leaving with a bike could be a challenge if crowds take over the pathways.
Don’t bother trying to drive — it’s usually a nightmare unless you park far away from the beach, and nearby roads shut down beginning at 7 p.m.
This is a partially obstructed view of the fireworks but that also means it’s a bit less crowded than English Bay Beach. A good spot if you’re exploring Stanley Park before hunkering down at Second Beach to watch the fireworks.
The Second Beach Stage will host official festival entertainment, as well as other family-friendly activities nearby. A site-wide liquor licence means you’ll be able to enjoy a cold brew at this venue.
Food? Food trucks will be parked nearby but your best bet is to pack some food and snacks since restaurants aren’t within walking distance.
Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.
Best way to get there? Take transit downtown early in the day and walk into Stanley Park. Cycling would work well too since the beach is located on an easy riding route. You could drive into Stanley Park, but be mindful of parking fees and the lots will likely fill up quickly.
Kitsilano / Vanier Point
This is a great alternative if you want the atmosphere but don’t want to be trapped downtown, or if you’ve got kids and want to keep out of the downtown fray. There’s both sand and grass, as well as some benches if you’re lucky enough to snag one.
You’ll be able to see the fireworks happening downtown, though there usually aren’t any loudspeakers broadcasting the show’s soundtrack. For that, you’ll have to bring your own radio to tune into LG 104.3 FM or a smartphone equipped with the festival’s mobile app to play the simulcast.
Food? There are a few restaurants and bars nearby and will likely be some food trucks, but your best bet is to pack a picnic.
Bathrooms? Beach bathroom facilities and portable toilets.
Best way to get there? Take transit along Broadway or West 4th and get off between Burrard and Arbutus, then walk about 20 minutes down to the beach.
Cycling is also a good bet, but driving will be a challenge. If you plan to bring a car, you’ll have to park in the nearby residential area and walk in. Nearby road access shuts down at 6 p.m. and reopens around 11 p.m.
What else is there at the Celebration of Light Festival?
Before the fireworks, there is live music and entertainment throughout the afternoon.
The Park Stage at Second Beach will host live music beginning at 2:15 p.m. and wrapping just after 9 p.m., while the Z-Fest Stage at English Bay will have music beginning at 7 p.m. and ending around 9:30 p.m. To see the full lineup of bands expected on each day of the festival, click here.
There’s also the Honda Zone at English Bay from 2 to 6:30 p.m., where family-friendly activities will take place along with the Pete McLeod Airshow above the English Bay Beach at 7:45 p.m.
As for food, there is no shortage of food trucks that will be located near English Bay Beach and Second Beach as part of the festival. Those who prefer a less crowded experience can purchase dining packages. There are VIP lounges offering live music, food and drinks if you’re so inclined.
What’s with the tickets? I thought the festival was free?
The Celebration of Light is free to watch, but those who prefer can buy a ticket for a dining package. The package includes food and drinks through a partner restaurant and a seat in the VIP section during the show. There are several packages:
The Keg Steakhouse + Bar Lounge: This ticket gets you into the party on top of English Bay’s Bathhouse Roof beginning at 6:30 p.m. and is 19+ only. There’s music, panoramic views of the beach, live music, two complimentary drinks and access to a private bar, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and grill station and VIP washroom facilities. Tickets are $159 and up.
Concord Lounge: This ticket puts you into an exclusive sectioned-off area of English Bay near the Inukshuk sculpture. It’s the closest viewing spot and your ticket includes live music, two complimentary drinks and a private bar, a BBQ and VIP washrooms. Tickets start at $169 with reserved tables starting at $209.
YVR Observation Deck: This ticket does not include complimentary food or drinks but does get you a reserved seat in the VIP viewing bleachers, access to dedicated washroom facilities and an all-ages licensed area. Tickets are $44 and up. There is a cash bar available as well as alcohol-free zones by request.
Air Canada Business Class Cabanas: If you’re rolling in with a big crew, then this spot is for you. Private cabanas complete with complimentary appetizer platters and bar service; dedicated washroom facilities and bar access are available for rent, allowing you to host up to 24 of your friends and colleagues.
What should I bring and what should I leave at home?
You should definitely bring:
• Radio or smartphone with Celebration of Light app to broadcast fireworks soundtrack.
• Beach blanket to mark your territory and some cushions/seat mats for comfort.
• Water, food and snacks.
• Sunscreen and bug repellant — when it gets dark and you’re watching the show, it’s a bug’s feast.
• Playing cards or a book to pass the time while waiting for the show.
• If you plan to take videos or photo, you’ll want a good camera for low-light settings and a small tripod.
You should definitely not bring:
• Alcohol — you can be sure police will be on the lookout.
• Lawn chairs — heavy to carry in and out and you’ll likely obstruct someone’s view.
• Beach umbrella — the idea of having shade is great but an umbrella is a challenge in a crowd.
Over 2,000 doses of opiates were stolen from Vancouver General Hospital by staff last year, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information request.
Over 1,600 tabs and 853 millilitres of hydromorphone were reported stolen from the hospital in two unrelated incidents last January.
“The diversion or misuse of narcotics is rare,” spokesperson Matt Kieltyka explained in an email to Postmedia. “Vancouver Coastal Health takes this issue seriously and has several systems in place to ensure narcotics are dispensed and accounted for as prescribed.”
Kieltyka said staff were involved in both instances, but he was not able to give details on what disciplinary measures were taken.
Such theft, known as “drug diversion,” has been a rising concern in recent years.
Data from Health Canada shows 13,221 doses of opioids were reported stolen from medical facilities in 2018.
Over 3,200 of those were in B.C., which is more than any other province except Ontario, where over 9,700 were taken.
Theft of hydromorphone, which is sometimes sold under the name Dilaudid, jumped sharply in B.C. between 2017 and 2018, according to Health Canada data, with 3,211 units stolen in 2018 compared to just 12 the year before.
Mark Fan, a researcher at North York General Hospital who studies drug diversion, said data on stolen drugs is likely incomplete and that rates of diversion as “probably underestimated.”
“At any point in the medication use process, it’s possible for it to be transferred away from legitimate use,” said Fan.
He said diversion usually occurs when a staff member manipulates documentation or falsifies prescriptions to over-order medication. They also may physically steal the substances.
In such cases, the theft may not be discovered until an audit is conducted.
The authority says they have also piloted use of “containers that contain a solution that renders the drugs unusable” at two units within Vancouver Coastal Health and may implement them province-wide.
Const. Steve Addision with the Vancouver Police Department says hydromorphone is fairly common in the city’s illicit drug market, and that a 2-mg pill usually sells for around $10.
But the major driver of diversion is addiction.
Dr. Shimi Kang, an addictions psychiatrist who has worked with hospital staff involved in drug diversion, said workplace stress and access to potent opioids creates a “perfect storm” for substance use.
“We have to recognize that healthcare practitioners are human too,” she said.
She said nurses often face high levels of stress and violence in the workplace and that adequate sleep, time off and support are the best ways to prevent addiction.
“We get so caught up in being the healer that we forget to heal ourselves,” said Kang.
Dr. Mark Haden, a professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and a supervisor with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, said it shows the indiscriminate nature of addiction.
“Being employed by the system does not protect one from addiction,” he said.
Hydromorphone is sometimes used in opiate-replacement therapy as a substitute for stronger street-level drugs. Last month, Canada became the first country in the world to approve use of injectable hydromorphone in treating opioid use disorder.
Haden said making the drug legally accessible could prevent thefts — and deaths.
“If hospital staff who are also addicted to opiates had (open) access to them, they wouldn’t steal them,” he said. “I think the solution to the fentanyl crisis and people stealing from hospitals is the same.”
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