Saturday, December 4, 2021
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Economy expected to show continued strength, flood recovery poses challenges: Province

Selina Robinson

BRITISH Columbia’s economic growth is expected to outpace Canada’s in 2021 and 2022, according to projections from the Economic Forecast Council (EFC), according to the Province.

However, yet-to-be-determined economic impacts from recent flooding and extreme weather may affect future forecasts.

Each year, B.C.’s finance minister meets with the 13-member council of private-sector forecasters as part of preparation for the next year’s budget. This year, an additional set of discussions was added, providing an opportunity to consult with a new Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Advisory Council to further explore how the provincial government can continue to build resilience and support well-being in British Columbia.

Private-sector forecasters anticipate that, despite the pandemic, the province’s economy will grow by 5.3% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022, which is above the respective national GDP estimates of 4.9% and 4.1%. Although B.C.’s economy contracted in 2020 due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. was among provincial leaders last year and the economy’s 3.4% decline was smaller than originally projected.

“Momentum from our strong recovery and increasing vaccination rates over the last few months has helped put B.C. on a good path for future economic growth,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance, on Friday. “There are more challenges ahead, but forecasts signal the work we have done so far has put us on the right track and provided us with a solid foundation to continue responding to the pandemic and recent flooding and support a strong recovery for British Columbians.”

Discussions with the EFC and the ESG Advisory Council focused on current events, issues affecting B.C.’s economy and the environmental, social and governance opportunities and challenges facing the province. Key topics at the meetings:

* climate change risks and impacts on people,

* housing affordability,

* reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,

* trade tensions and supply chain disruptions,

* standard of living, poverty and inequality,

* diversity and inclusion,

* economic resilience and sustainability,

* natural resource development, and

* policies and measures that build shared prosperity.

“As we look to our recovery, we are aligning our investments with our priorities to ensure that while we grow our economic resilience, we are also making progress on addressing climate change, reducing poverty and inequality, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,” Robinson said. “Following the incredible hardship our province has faced with this year’s floods and fires during a pandemic, it’s never been more important for us to share ideas about building resilience and sustainability.”

Several forecasters noted that the provincial government’s commitments to addressing climate change, its 10-year housing plan, record levels of capital investment and continued work to diversify the economy, have helped to insulate the province from some economic impacts and position the province well for longer-term sustainable growth.

Forecasts and feedback from the two councils will be used to inform the next provincial budget, which will be released on February 22, 2022. EFC members will also have an opportunity to submit revised forecasts in early January.

Quick Facts

* In the Province’s Second Quarterly Report, which does not yet incorporate impacts from the recent extreme weather and flooding, B.C. projected a revised deficit of $1.7 billion for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which is a significant improvement from the deficits previously estimated in Budget 2021 and the First Quarterly Report.

* Environmental, social and governance are three main categories often discussed when evaluating sustainability performance, risk mitigation planning and societal well-being.


Firearms and drugs seized from Langley residence after vehicle flees from police

TWO men and a woman were arrested as a result of fleeing from the police and are now the subjects of a firearms and drug-related investigation after officers from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) seized guns and drugs from a Langley residence on Thursday night.

On the evening of December 2, CFSEU-BC Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) members were conducting proactive gang suppression patrols in the Lower Mainland when they came across a vehicle in the area of 201A Street and 56 Avenue in Langley with licence plates that did not match the vehicle.

When UGET officers attempted to stop the vehicle, it fled. With the assistance of the RCMP’s Air 1 helicopter (Air 1), and the Lower Mainland District Integrated Police Dog Services (IPDS), the officers were able to coordinate their efforts and contain the vehicle, locating it at a residence in the 20400-block of 78 Avenue, Langley.

The occupants of the vehicle, as well as people inside the residence, were safely taken into custody with the assistance of the IPDS.

Officers seized several firearms, ammunition, body armour and quantities of what are believed to be fentanyl and cocaine.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing.

“This is yet another example of a UGET-initiated investigation taking dangerous weapons and drugs off our streets. This incident highlights the cooperative and coordinated response between units such as the Integrated Police Dog Services team and RCMP Air Services,” said Superintendent Duncan Pound, Operations Officer for CFSEU-BC. “Our UGET officers have a tremendous ability to detect criminal activity and they, along with all of CFSEU-BC, are committed to ensuring our communities remain safe.”



TransLink says it’s ready for the snow

Photo: TransLink

WITH the possibility of snow in the forecast for the weekend, TransLink is activating plans to ensure transit service stays as reliable as possible.

Environment Canada is forecasting periods of rain or wet snow on Saturday with local snowfall of 2 cm over higher terrain. TransLink is encouraging customers to dress for the elements and use proper footwear to avoid slips and falls.

Here’s what TransLink is doing right now

  • Calling in extra staff to assist customers and coordinate service.
  • Coordinating with municipalities on snow clearing if priority routes are impacted.
  • Coupling Millennium Line trains into four-car configurations to increase capacity while SkyTrain attendants monitor guideways.
  • Deploying special trucks to spread anti-icing solution on trolley wires.
  • Installing brass “cutters” on some trolley buses to cut through ice on trolley wires.

What TransLink will do if conditions are severe

  • Replace articulated buses with 40-foot conventional buses when necessary, as they are more agile on steep, slippery areas.
  • Install tire socks on buses on Burnaby Mountain and on key North Shore and Vancouver routes where hills and traction are an issue.
  • Implementing a UBC Snow Shuttle, UBC from Alma to UBC via Blanca Loop.
  • Position attendants at the front of each Expo and Millennium Lines train to improve reliability on the system by limiting emergency braking triggered by heavy snowfall.
  • Run a special SkyTrain that sprays de-icer on the power rail to keep trains moving.
  • Run trains through the night if snow is especially heavy, to keep tracks clear.
  • Send HandyDART out with two staff per vehicle, to ensure customers get safely to their door, and assist in digging out the bus if required.
  • Activate further staff increases to assist customers right across the system.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Build in extra travel time.
  • Plan your trip using our Trip Planner.
  • Get up-to-the-minute information about your route: Sign up for transit alerts.
  • Check for updates on transit service impacts across the system: Twitter (@TransLink).
  • Get help by calling Customer Information: 604-953-3333.

405 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths in B.C.

B.C. is reporting 405 new cases of COVID-19, including five new epi-linked cases, for a total of 219,584 cases in the province.

In the past 24 hours, six new deaths have been reported, for an overall total of 2,351.

The new deaths include:

* Fraser Health: three

* Island Health: two

* Vancouver Coastal Health: one

As of Friday, 85.1% (4,240,459) of eligible people five and older in B.C. had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 81.8% (4,079,299) had received their second dose.

In addition, 91.2% (4,229,649) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, 88% (4,079,277) have received their second dose and 10% (469,176) have received a third dose.

Also, 91.6% (3,963,783) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose, 88.5% (3,829,103) have received their second dose and 11% (468,509) have received a third dose.

Since December 2020, the Province has administered 8,761,618 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer Pediatric COVID-19 vaccines.

From November 25 to December 1, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 58% of cases and from November 18 to December 1, they accounted for 65.9% of hospitalizations.

There are currently 3,071 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 214,047 people who tested positive have recovered. Of the active cases, 276 individuals are currently in hospital and 95 are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

The new/active cases include:

* 110 new cases in Fraser Health
– total active cases: 990

* 45 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health
– total active cases: 498

* 97 new cases in Interior Health
– total active cases: 585

* 57 new cases in Northern Health
– total active cases: 351

* 96 new cases in Island Health
– total active cases: 646

* no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada
– total active cases: one

There is one new health-care facility outbreak at Ponderosa Lodge (Interior Health). The outbreak at Peace Villa (Northern Health) has been declared over.

There is a total of five facilities with ongoing outbreaks, including:

* long-term care:
– George Derby Centre (Fraser Health); and

– Ponderosa Lodge (Interior Health)

* acute care:
– Ridge Meadows Hospital (Fraser Health); and

– St. Paul’s Hospital (Vancouver Coastal Health)

* assisted or independent living:
– Laurier Manor (Northern Health)



Malahat open to two-way traffic for oversized vehicles

THE Malahat (Highway 1) is now open to continuous two-way traffic around the clock for oversized vehicles, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has announced.

Crews worked overnight Thursday to pave, adjust barriers and add centre line delineators at the recent repair site at Tunnel Hill. The wider lanes will now allow oversized vehicles and loads up to 3.8 metres (12.5 feet) wide to safely pass through the corridor. This supports the safe and efficient movement of goods between the south and north Island.

Regular-sized vehicles, semi-trucks and fuel trucks have been able to travel the Malahat since the initial reopening on November 19.

Additional repairs to fully restore the site will continue for the coming months. Drivers should expect reduced speed limits and active construction equipment on the roadway.

For additional updates, check:

Vancouver school teachers’ associations and CUPE 15 support workers call for better supports for students

THE Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association, the Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association and CUPE 15 support workers on Friday in a joint statement called on the Ministry of Education and the Vancouver School District “to commit to properly funding and staffing inclusive education and ensuring the meaningful, equitable inclusion of all of our diverse learners.”

Here is their statement:

Teachers and support staff in Vancouver schools care deeply about inclusion and the full participation of students in our classes.  We are committed to ensuring that our classrooms are responsive to the diverse and exceptional learning needs of all students. Today, we stand together calling on the Vancouver School Board and the Ministry of Education to increase funding and staffing supports for students.

Schools are diverse, active and dynamic places, and public schools are proud of our mandate to serve all learners and to create learning spaces that embrace and welcome all students.  Teachers and support staff do our part to ensure that barriers to student participation and learning are addressed, and that our inclusive schools embrace diversity.  Our schools and society are better for it.

We want to see students receiving the supports they need and deserve.  Increasingly, we are finding that the support is not regularly provided, resulting in untenable classroom situations, concerns about health and safety, and challenges in providing fully adapted and equitably accessible education for all.

For more than a decade, school districts received far less than what they spent on special education from provincial special education grants.  Teaching and Support Staff desperately need increased funding for resources and supports for students with special needs, early identification and support, the provision of appropriate support programs, and the training and recruitment of teaching and support staff is essential to address the impact of insufficiently supported inclusion. Inequity impacts everyone.

BC teachers and support staff have risen to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it has taken its toll. The sentiment that “this has been the hardest year of my teaching career,” has echoed across the province, with significant impacts on physical and mental health. Already acute recruitment and retention challenges have been exacerbated. Staffing shortages in both teaching and support roles need to be addressed, but so do the increasing workload demands, accountability measures that don’t translate into support for students, and long waits for assessments and designations.  Additional challenges include the de-designation of students who previously were entitled to learning supports and now go without.

Teachers and support staff are worried about their students and are keenly aware that an already underfunded public education system is further buckling under the strain of unmet needs. These needs are not bounded by the school bell; they are entangled in the deeper societal and economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.

Teachers and support workers are also on the front-line of witnessing what is needed to move BC from a crisis response to a longer-term—and public-led—recovery and reconstruction effort.

We call on the Ministry of Education and the Vancouver School District to commit to properly funding and staffing inclusive education and ensuring the meaningful, equitable inclusion of all of our diverse learners.  We’ve been making do with less for far too long, and so have our students, and our frustration seeing students go without the supports they need – and deserve – has reached a crisis point.

BC Liberals: Surrey NDP MLAs continue to break promises on Surrey Hospital

Stephanie Cadieux

THE BC Liberals on Friday accused Surrey NDP MLAs of continuing to abandon their commitments to the region despite repeated promises from Premier John Horgan and the NDP that bed capacity at a new Surrey Hospital would match the growing needs of the city,

“The people of Surrey are relying on the new hospital to meet the growing demand, yet the NDP seemed to have abandoned that promise with a commitment of only 168 beds — a small fraction of what is being allocated for other new Metro Vancouver hospitals and what is needed to serve the third fastest-growing city in Canada,” said Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux. “Not only is there no funding allocated to begin construction for the next three years, but the NDP has also provided two conflicting timelines for completion of the project, which has further confused Surrey residents as to when they will finally see new hospital services.”

The delays to the Surrey Hospital completion come as hospitals throughout the Lower Mainland continue to see reduced surgical services and chronic staff shortages.

“It’s clear that the NDP has forgotten about and abandoned the promises it made to voters south of the Fraser,” said Trevor Halford, MLA for Surrey-White Rock. “Not only is there serious confusion around the new Surrey Hospital, but the NDP has also left a trail of broken promises including eliminating all portables from Surrey schools. The people of Surrey deserve so much better than this continued disrespect.”

The list of broken ​NDP promises continues to grow, with no $400 annual renters’ rebate, no universal $10-a-day childcare, a 32 per cent increase in school portables since the NDP first took office, and no funding in the government’s three-year fiscal plan for a new Surrey Hospital. People are also still waiting for key transportation investments to move forward like the George Massey Tunnel Replacement ​Project and Skytrain to Langley.

Changes enhance emergency care for British Columbians, says Province

Adrian Dix Photo: BC Government

THE Province announced on Friday that it is expanding the care and treatment paramedics and first responders can provide to British Columbians in emergency situations.

“By increasing the care, information and support that both paramedics and first responders can provide in an emergency, we are taking action to ensure that patients get the best care possible from a team of emergency providers,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “For patients, this means that paramedics and first responders who respond to medical emergencies will be even better able to manage it all and get you through the most critical moment of your life.”

As these changes are implemented, paramedics and first responders will increasingly be able to better help patients on scene. For paramedics, this means the ability to provide more life-saving interventions, which at various licensing levels can include:

* needle decompression for major chest traumas to support breathing;

* using portable ultrasound to better assess patients and inform care decisions;

* enhancing airway management skills; and

* providing life supporting or sustaining medications during transport.

These changes are further supported by increases to the care that first responders can provide, including:

* additional diagnostic testing, such as blood pressure and blood glucose, that can better inform paramedics;

* administering epinephrine when needed for a life-threatening allergic reaction; and

* supporting the preparation or packaging of patients for transport by paramedics.

In making these changes, the Province will work closely with training institutions, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873), first responder agencies and the Fire Chiefs Association of BC to ensure the consistent and appropriate oversight, continuing competency, licenser and standardized training of paramedics and first responders.

“We hear gratitude from patients on a daily basis for the expert care they receive from our paramedics, and these practice changes will help support that work,” said Leanne Heppell, interim chief ambulance officer, BC Emergency Health Services. “We very much appreciate our important partnership with firefighters/first responders, and look forward to collaborating even more closely on the scope of practice changes announced today.”

The changes stem from recommendations made by the Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board (EMALB) to provide better outcomes for patients needing emergency health services. The EMALB is responsible for examining, registering and licensing all emergency medical assistants, including all first responders and paramedics.

“The scope of practice changes being adopted today represent a larger step forward than the cumulative changes over the past three decades,” said Ryan Sinden, chair, Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board. “This initiative is the culmination of significant efforts by all stakeholders under a demanding timeline. At all licence levels, emergency medical assistants will have their ability to assess and treat patients greatly expanded. The Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Board will be active going forward to ensure that all licensees complete appropriate board-approved training and demonstrate competency with the new skills and equipment prior to their use.”

The recommendations have been made after input and consultation with stakeholders, including Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873), the BC Professional Fire Fighters Association, the Fire Chiefs Association of BC, BCEHS, Emergency Medical Assistant training programs and paramedics in the industry.

To better support paramedics, dispatchers and call-takers, the BCEHS and the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873) have worked closely together on an immediate and a long-term plan to increase appropriate mental health supports and resources due to the nature of their work.

“We need to help our emergency responders, who we all rely on when we need help most. We know our emergency service providers will come face to face with challenging situations, and we need to be there to support them through that. That is why in July, I gave direction to the BCEHS to provide dispatch staff and paramedics with the mental health and wellness support they need. I thank the BCEHS and the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873) for working on immediate actions and on a long-term plan to best support them,” Dix said.

Immediate actions to support the wellness of B.C.’s front-line staff include:

* increasing clinical supports and resources through the critical incident stress management program to better support and help front-line staff and their families navigate resources available to them and to make it easier to access important mental health services in a timely manner;

* adding resources for all BCEHS staff and their families to the network of trauma informed and occupationally competent counsellors who provide psychological care; and

* creating a BCEHS and Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873) joint committee to implement collaborative recommendations on a comprehensive, short-, medium- and long-term psychological health and safety strategy.

In addition, as announced in July 2021, BCEHS will conduct a joint workload review, with the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873), to better understand and address optimal resource and workload levels, to support greater patient care and the wellness of the front-line staff who provide that crucial care.

Avjaut Bassi, Grade 11 student at North Delta Secondary, organizes hope 4 hope flood food drive

Photos: Delta School District

OVER the past two weeks Avjaut Bassi, Grade 11 student at North Delta Secondary, has been busy organizing a fundraising campaign to help victims of the recent flooding in Hope.

By last Friday (November 26), the Hope 4 Hope Flood Food Drive had collected more than 1,200 food items for this very important cause.

“I was horrified to see the devastation caused by the recent flooding. It was heartbreaking to see this happening in our own backyard. I thought to myself ‘If I have the power to make a difference, why wouldn’t I?’ I made my mind up to help and a day later the food drive was up and running.” said Avjaut.

“The response has been amazing. We are so thankful for the generosity of our school and local community. Every little bit of help for the flood victims is going to make a big difference in peoples’ lives.”

At the end of the day on Friday, November 26, Avjaut and her mom packed up the food items and delivered them to Northside Community Church in Delta and Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey, the collection points for food items for the Surrey Food Bank and the Guru Nanak Food Bank, respectively. These organizations have arranged to have the food taken to Hope by helicopter and given to those in need.

Among the food items collected were canned food, peanut butter, jam, rice, dried lentils, dried pasta, mac and cheese boxes, noodles, cereal, cookies, crackers, flour, sugar, cooking oil, condiments, granola bars, pancake mix, baby formula and food and juice boxes.

“What a great initiative by Avjaut to help those impacted by the recent devastating floods,” said North Delta Secondary Principal Aaron Akune. “I am so proud of her and the entire school community for their dedication to helping those in need. Way to go Huskies!”


(Courtesy: Delta School District)






Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new parliamentary secretaries

Justin Trudeau Photo: Twitter

PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced the new parliamentary secretaries:

  • Gary Anandasangaree becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  • Vance Badawey becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services
  • Jaime Battiste becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
  • Terry Beech becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
  • Rachel Bendayan becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance
  • Chris Bittle becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage
  • Élisabeth Brière becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
  • Paul Chiang becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Diversity and Inclusion)
  • Julie Dabrusin becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
  • Pam Damoff becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety
  • Francis Drouin becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Terry Duguid remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
  • Greg Fergus remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board
  • Andy Fillmore becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
  • Darren Fisher becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors
  • Peter Fragiskatos becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue
  • Anthony Housefather becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
  • Yvonne Jones becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Northern Affairs
  • Mike Kelloway becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • Annie Koutrakis becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport
  • Irek Kusmierczyk remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
  • Marie-France Lalonde becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
  • Stéphane Lauzon becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Rural Economic Development
  • Soraya Martinez Ferrada becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)
  • Bryan May becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence
  • Yasir Naqvi becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness
  • Jennifer O’Connell becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities
  • Rob Oliphant remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Ya’ara Saks becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
  • Darrell Samson remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
  • Marc G. Serré becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages
  • Terry Sheehan becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour
  • Maninder Sidhu becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Jenna Sudds becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
  • Anita Vandenbeld becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development
  • Adam van Koerverden becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Sport
  • Arif Virani becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development

The Prime Minister announced that Fergus and Oliphant will be sworn in as members of the Privy Council.

Trudeau also announced that under the leadership of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Mark Holland, and the Chief Government Whip, Steven MacKinnon, the following team will work with all parliamentarians:

  • Kevin Lamoureux will continue to serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
  • Mark Gerretsen will serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)
  • Sherry Romanado will serve as Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
  • Ruby Sahota will serve as Deputy Government Whip
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