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30Sep

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

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https://vancouversun.com/


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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28Aug

New mixed-income housing for families coming to View Royal

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People in need of affordable rental housing in View Royal will have access to more than 150 new housing units following development of a new mixed-income housing project.

Located at 1938 West Park Lane near Thetis Lake, the West Park Lane development is a partnership between the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and the Capital Regional District (CRD), that will build 152 units in two six-storey wood-frame buildings.

Funded through the Regional Housing First Program, the project will provide a minimum of 44 affordable homes, 74 near-market-price homes and 34 shelter-rate homes rented at the provincial income assistance rate of $375 per month.

Building amenities will include laundry, a playground, bicycle storage, electric bike plug-ins and an electric car charger. The Capital Region Housing Corporation will operate the building.

Construction is expected to start in October 2019, with an anticipated opening date of September 2021.

The $90-million Regional Housing First Program is an equal partnership agreement between the federal government through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the B.C. government through BC Housing, and the CRD. The program was launched to create more affordable rental housing and address the needs of people experiencing homelessness in the capital region.

Quotes:

Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for CMHC

“West Park Lane’s innovative mixed-market approach and unique funding partnership brings all levels of government to the table. Through the National Housing Strategy, we are making historic investments in View Royal and across the country to help middle-class Canadians in communities hit hardest by housing challenges. Soon, people from all walks of life will have a safe and affordable home here, and I look forward to celebrating this project opening its doors in the near future.”

Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin –

“Housing affordability affects all of us and, for too long, people in our community suffered as the previous government ignored B.C.’s housing crisis. We’re working hard every day through partnerships like this one to tackle that crisis and make sure more people in Greater Victoria, and throughout the province, have homes they can afford.”

Colin Plant, board chair, Capital Regional District –

“Housing affordability and availability is a critical issue and a key priority for the CRD and requires a strong, collaborative response. The Regional Housing First Program partnership is a shining example of working together with our federal and provincial partners to build affordable and accessible communities that benefit the people who need it most.”

David Screech, mayor, Town of View Royal –

“This project will go a long way to addressing the crucial shortage of affordable and market rental housing in View Royal. We thank our partners at the Capital Regional District, along with the Province and the federal government, for making it possible.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Regional Housing First Program is expected to create up to 2,000 rental units throughout the CRD.
    • 20% of the units will be rented at provincial income assistance rates within projects that will also include at least 31% affordable rental units and up to 49% near-market rental units on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
  • This housing development brings the number of projects approved to date through the Regional Housing First Program to eight, which will create 907 units, including 211 shelter-rate units:
    • Langford – three projects (Millstream Ridge – 713 and 715 Treanor Ave., 830 Hockley Ave., 2763 Spencer Rd.): 382 units
    • Salt Spring Island – one project (Croftonbrook – 132 Corbett Rd.): 56 units
    • Sooke – two projects (6418 Sooke Rd., 2170 Charters Rd.): 245 units
    • Victoria – one project (Cedar Grove – 210 Gorge Rd. East): 72 units
    • View Royal – one project (1938 West Park Lane): 152 units

Learn More:

To learn more about the Regional Housing First Program, visit:
https://www.crd.bc.ca/project/regional-housing-first-program

To find out more about the National Housing Strategy, visit:
https://www.placetocallhome.ca/

A map showing the location of all of the Regional Housing First Program sites announced to date, as well as other provincially funded housing projects in B.C., is online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC

To find out what the Province is doing to improve housing affordability, visit:
https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/bc-government-addressing-housing-affordability-challenges

23Aug

Rate increase coming to supportive recovery homes

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For the first time in 10 years, the daily rates for eligible income assistance clients living at registered or licensed residences are increasing.

Additionally, changes to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act will ensure that people living in supportive recovery homes throughout B.C. will be better protected and receive more personalized services and supports.

The new regulatory requirements for registered supportive recovery homes will include:

  • ensuring employees have necessary training, skills and qualifications;
  • providing program and policy information upfront to individuals and families so they can make informed choices about whether the service is right for them;
  • developing a personal service plan for each resident to help them reach their recovery goals; and
  • supporting individuals to safely transition and connect to ongoing services and supports in the community when leaving recovery homes.

“For far too long, people and their families have struggled to find safe, appropriate care during the most vulnerable times in their lives,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “These changes will help ensure the individual needs of people on a recovery journey are heard, understood and respected when seeking help from a supportive recovery home in B.C.”

Changes to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act for supportive recovery homes will come into effect in December 2019. 

Daily rate changes for eligible income assistance clients will take effect Oct. 1, 2019. Rates for registered mental health and substance use homes will increase from $30.90 to $35.90 per day, rates for licensed mental health homes will increase from $30.90 to $45 per day, and rates for licensed substance use homes will increase from $40 to $45 per day. The daily rate is paid on behalf of eligible people receiving income assistance directly to their mental health or substance use facility.

“A lot of the people supported by these facilities face additional and significant barriers as a result of poverty,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Rate increases are a step toward addressing the cost pressures that facility operators must manage, and these increases will ensure that our most vulnerable populations have access to the support they need, when they need it.”

To assist supportive recovery home operators in meeting the new regulatory requirements, the Province is partnering with the Community Action Initiative to provide one-time grant funding. Registered supportive recovery operators can apply for up to $4,000 per residence. Applications for these grants will be available this fall.  

Supportive recovery homes offer services like psychosocial supports, relapse prevention and coping skills, peer counselling, medication management, meal services and social opportunities to people with addiction challenges in a residential setting.

These regulatory changes and increase in daily rates are part of government’s actions outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making the system of mental health and addictions care better for people by providing safe, quality supportive recovery services, no matter where a person lives in B.C.

Implementing the mental health and addictions strategy is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quotes:

Scott Kolodychuk, operations manager, Trilogy House One

“People who turn to a supportive recovery home are often at the end of their rope — desperate for help wherever they can find it. These changes will help families find some peace of mind ensuring registered supportive recovery homes will keep people’s loved ones safe and offer consistent, high-quality care no matter where they are in B.C.”

Melinda Markey, provincial secretariat director, Community Action Initiative (CAI)

“Over the past year, CAI has convened dialogue between community stakeholders and the provincial government regarding regulatory changes that will impact supportive recovery home operators and the individuals and families who access their services. For many who access a supportive recovery assisted living residence, engaging with staff is often the first support they receive. Staff use a variety of tools to build and maintain relationships with program participants and will now be supported through training grants to increase their knowledge in several key areas. With the provincial grants, operators will have additional resources to ensure their recovery home employees have the necessary training and skills to be able to work effectively with people on their journey to recovery.”  

Susan Sanderson, executive director, Realistic Success Recovery Society

“Recovery home operators have been struggling to provide professional services without the financial recourses to adequately meet their obligations. This funding is essential for a strong and viable addiction recovery sector to meet the growing needs of our clients.”

Learn More:

Assisted Living Registry:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/accessing-health-care/assisted-living-registrar

Mental health and substance use residences:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/accessing-health-care/assisted-living-registrar/assisted-living-residences/mental-health-and-substance-use-assisted-living

Community Care and Assisted Living Act:
http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/00_02075_01

13Jul

Updated voting technologies coming to B.C., likely in time for next provincial election | CBC News

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A new, modernized voting system will likely be in place when British Columbians cast their ballots in the next provincial general election.

Elections BC received a letter July 3 from Attorney General David Eby, indicating the province’s intention to introduce the legislative changes aimed at increasing accessibility and efficiency come election day.

“Should voting modernization be adopted, it will improve the voting experience for British Columbians, make voting faster, improve accessibility, speed up results, and provide candidates with current participation information to assist them in their efforts to get out the vote,” said Anton Boegman, B.C.’s chief electoral officer, in a news release Thursday.

The proposed changes include:

  • Being able to vote at any polling place in the province.
  • All votes, including absentee ballots to be counted on election night.
  • Voting activity recorded in an electronic voting book covering the entire province, for faster ballot counting.
  • Participation captured in real-time, electronically, with votes uploaded to central servers.
  • Uploaded votes to be instantly shared with candidates and political parties. 

The new technologies would also increase accessibility for voters with disabilities by way of updated assistive voting devices.

The goal is for the new systems to be in place for B.C.’s next scheduled general election on Oct. 16, 2021.

The estimated cost to develop and implement the proposed voting model in B.C. is $11 million.

If the Legislative Assembly adopts the amendments, it would be the most significant update to voting procedures in at least 20 years, according to Boegman.


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20Feb

Report coming Thursday to outline proposal for regulated heroin sales

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6Dec

Public washrooms coming to Metro Vancouver transit system

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Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, outside TransLink headquarters. The board approved a policy that will see washrooms added to stations along the transit system.


Jennifer Saltman / PNG

TransLink customers looking for public restrooms on Metro Vancouver’s transit system could soon find relief.

The transit authority’s board of directors on Thursday approved a recommendation from management to increase the number of washrooms available for public use.

“This is a very big change from where we’ve been in the past, and I’m really pleased to see us moving in this direction,” said board member Larry Beasley.

Public washrooms have been a hot-button topic over the years, and TransLink did not previously have a policy. The new one was developed during 2018.

In the past, TransLink has cited the high cost of maintenance, and passenger safety and security as reasons to avoid adding washrooms on transit.

Currently, the only public washrooms are found at both SeaBus terminals and on West Coast Express trains, and they are required by federal transportation regulations.

A survey conducted as part of the review asked more than 2,000 people about washroom availability, and 72 per cent said that more washrooms would improve their transit experience. About 25 per cent said they would use transit more often if there were more washrooms.

“We do see this as an important ridership growth, ridership development objective,” said Andrew McCurran, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy.

Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, said four city committees had appealed to TransLink to add more washrooms to the transit system.

“How can you deny people the ability to do a basic human need every day?” Mackenrot asked the board. “This is not just a disability issue, it’s an accessibility issue that affects us all — all ages and all abilities.”

Mackenrot said she knows people who don’t use public transit because they have no access to washrooms, and urged TransLink to make sure any washrooms it adds are universally accessible and gender neutral.

According to a staff report, washrooms should be placed at major transfer or connection points for a high number of transit passengers, in places where there will be many passengers who have long journey times and evenly spaced on the system.

TransLink will look at existing spaces within stations, adding washrooms during upgrades or construction of new stations or partnering with developers, municipalities or private businesses.

An implementation strategy will be brought to the board for consideration next year, which will include potential washroom locations, costs and a timeline.

Mackenrot said after the meeting that she was very happy with the board’s decision.

“We worked really hard on this for the last couple of years and I think it’s a great first step in the right direction to be including washrooms in our stations,” she said.

One TransLink policy that won’t change is related to pets on transit.

Currently, TransLink allows pets — other than certified service animals — if they are in small, hand-held cages that fit on your lap. Transit operators can refuse a pet if there is a concern for safety or comfort of other passengers, or if there is standing room only.

It was anticipated that allowing more pets would negatively affect people travelling without pets, worsen safety and well being of passengers and staff, hurt system efficiency and increase administrative costs.

Management recommended that TransLink maintain its current policy, but continue to monitor industry trends and public sentiment to see if changes are needed in the future. The board endorsed that recommendation.

“Our current policy strikes a reasonable balance, providing an option for individuals who travel with pets without unreasonable, negative impacts to other transit riders,” said Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development.

Margaret Halsey has long advocated for allowing more dogs on transit. She said that if the board won’t consider changing the policy, then there should be a pilot project to see how it might work to have more pets on board.

“I’m certain that dogs that are allowed only at set times or on specific trains or buses would alleviate a considerable amount of challenges,” Halsey said.

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