Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit gets underway tomorrow

This year’s 2020 Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit is going to be a little different. 

The annual meeting brings businesses, community members and government leaders together to share ideas, ask questions, network, learn about new initiatives, and explore new opportunities. 

Although it will be held virtually thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will still cover a wide range of topics including: 

  • promoting a sustainable and diversified economy for all residents of Vancouver Island economic region;

  • promoting strong communities and First Nations along with careful stewardship of our natural resources;

  • providing regional leadership for regional business attraction, retention and expansion;

  • promoting regional initiatives that strengthen economic capacity;

  • positioning Vancouver Island as an attractive option for business investment; 

  • And fostering regional economic growth and diversification.

Our newsroom had the chance to speak with the President of the VIEA, George Hanson.

He says the 14th annual summit will feature many keynote speakers and cover important topics for Vancouver Island. 

“The program ranges from indigionmics and reconciliation to dealing with issues related to salmon farming, and opportunities for connection to seaweed aquaculture. We’re looking at land use planning, producing more products on Vancouver Island. We have sessions on the pros and cons of going digital, we have a Minister of the Federal Government, who is the minister of economic development. We have a tech humanist out of New York and a whole range of other speakers,” explains Hanson. 

“The whole intention of the summit is to use this grassroots tool as a way of bringing people together from every corner of the island to look at where we are in our economy in our communities and how we can improve”, he adds. 

Hanson says one of the most important things the VIEA will be looking forward to, is taking a peek at Vancouver Island’s 2020 economic report, which will explain how the global pandemic has affected the local economy. 

“We certainly know that tourism and hospitality have been particularly hard hit and there are ripple effects to that. We also know that international education for instance with the limitation of people travelling is going to have a major impact on the colleges and universities and even in the secondary schools throughout the island regions.”

“It goes by sector by sector because some areas have seen dramatic increases because of the need to order online and have deliveries. The service industries that don’t require people to be closely engaged with other people have done well and the hospitality and retail and service industries have been particularly hard hit. “

The three-day summit kicks off Tuesday and will run until Thursday evening. 

It is open to anyone, but you do have to register.

Visit the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s website for more information.

Need A Hamper?

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Just a reminder that if you, your family, or someone you know is in need or wanting a hamper for our monthly distribution for the month of NOVEMBER OR DECEMBER and have not already connected with me to add your name to the list, please contact me via email (kaitlyn.nohr@viha.ca) or by phone (250-283-2662 option#4) to do so!

The list is based on rotation and need so you will not automatically be added to the next month if you received the previous month unless confirmed at time of distribution.

Each month the distribution list will remain open until filled and will close to applicants on the MONDAY prior to Friday distribution for record keeping.

If you have any questions or want to sign up, please contact me at the information listed above.

THANK YOU!  

North Island election night results: NDP’s Michelle Babchuck declared winner

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It’s being called the “orange crush,” as the NDP appear to have won a majority government, picking up over a dozen seats, in Saturday’s provincial election.

Premier John Horgan and the NDP hold 55 seats, the Liberals have 29 and the Green Party has 3.

NDP Leader John Horgan now becomes the first two-term premier in his party’s history.

There could still be some changes, since the huge demand for mail-in ballots means the final results won’t be known until some time next month.

Each mail-in ballot must be screened to ensure there is no double voting, and the eligibility of each voter must be verified before the counting can begin nearly two weeks from now.

Throughout the campaign, the public opinion polls gave the NDP a comfortable lead over Andrew Wilkinson’s Liberals and Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau in Cowichan.

This is the first NDP majority since 1996.

If the number of seats still stands at 55 it would break the previous party record of 51 seats in 1991.

In the North Island riding, the NDP’s Michelle Babchuck was declared the winner.

  • Michelle Babchuck (NDP) – 7,666 votes

  • Norm Facey (Liberals) – 3,931 votes

  • Alexandra Morton (Green) – 3,285 votes

  • John Twigg (Conservatives) – 1,121 votes

The Vancouver Island doctor shortage, explained

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Thousands of Islanders have virtually no prospect of finding a primary physician, but the solution may not be more doctors.

t’s no secret that for newcomers to Vancouver Island, it is basically impossible to find a family doctor. And for thousands of others, the retirement of a family physician can often leave them with no place to turn. In a BC Medical Journal editorial published just before the onset of COVID-19, recently retired Parksville doctor Jonathan Winner wrote that the local doctor shortage has reached crisis proportions

But while it’s not much comfort to those without primary medical care, the situation on the Island isn’t actually that out of step with the rest of the country. “The doctor drought in the Island’s communities is symptomatic of a problem felt by the whole nation,” says Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of BC, a group comprising 14,000 physicians, residents and medical students across the province. “We hear these same concerns echoed, across the province [and] across Canada actually, where we just simply don't have enough bodies.”

“Some provinces fare much worse than BC and Quebec is an example,” said Damien Contandriopoulos, a University of Victoria School of Nursing professor. The situation in Victoria, he said, is about close to the Canadian average. Across Canada, 15.3% or about 4.7 million people do not have access to primary healthcare providers including family doctors, according to 2017 Statistics Canada data released last year. While BC’s 18.2% was higher than the national average (and means about 900,000 in the province had no access to primary healthcare providers) it was not the highest. Quebec and Saskatchewan were at 22.3% and 19.4%, respectively.   To read the full story click the button below.

Pacific Salmon Foundation expands online tool to track fish returning to spawn in B.C.'s rivers

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While some salmon populations are seeing positive indicators, overall pattern is a decline.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation has added some features to their online data visualization tool that shows where salmon are returning to spawn throughout British Columbia. 

The online tool, which provides data for 80 per cent of salmon in the province, now shows data for southern B.C. salmon in addition to the North and Central Coast, as well as trends and summaries per species in B.C. among other features. 

Salmon along the West Coast make their return from the ocean to freshwater rivers and streams from mid-June to October, and the number returning to spawning grounds is being tallied. 

Employment, high quality of life attracting newcomers to Vancouver Island

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A new study suggests smaller to mid-sized communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast continue to draw working-aged Canadians.

​The report, released by Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET), uses the most recent census data. It looks at who lived in one of Canada’s 152 urban centres as of 2016, compared to where they lived five years prior.

All seven of the ICET region urban centres, including Nanaimo, Campbell River, Courtenay, Parksville, Duncan, Powell River and Port Alberni, have had a positive net inflow of residents from the rest of Canada from 2011 to 2016.

Nanaimo, Parksville, Courtenay, Campbell River and Duncan made it into the top 40 in Canada, with all other ICET region communities ranking in the top half of the 152 areas.

In terms of prime working-age Canadian migrants (25 to 54 years), Nanaimo, Campbell River and Courtenay made it into the top 15.

According to ICET, employment, amenities and climate are among the key factors drawing newcomers to the Island and Coastal area.

 

While the country’s largest urban centres are net winners for drawing international migrants, ICET says smaller to mid-sized communities continue to attract Canadians of prime working age. 

 “A younger demographic is increasingly drawn into our region and bringing with them new ideas, businesses and investment prospects that align well with the economic opportunities available here,” says ICET vice-chair Aaron Stone.

“Our communities have historically shown themselves to be adaptable and resilient (particularly more recently with COVID) and for many Canadians, living in this type of environment is highly attractive,” Stone adds.

The Shoebox Project

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Dear Friends,
Subject: Help me spread kindness & compassion to local women this Holiday season!
As you may know, one of my favorite holiday traditions is to volunteer for The Shoebox Project, a national registered charity that collects and distributes gift-filled Shoeboxes to local women impacted by homelessness. This year, due to the heightened risks associated with COVID-19, unfortunately the holiday Shoebox Project gift drive has been suspended.


Seven months into the pandemic, many people are feeling more stressed, lonely and defeated than ever before. Now, imagine what it would feel like to find yourself without a safe, secure home, especially over the holiday season.
I want to remind women in my community who are homeless or are at-risk of homelessness that even though they may be isolated, they are NOT alone. I want to acknowledge and celebrate their strength, resiliency and grit during these truly challenging times, and let them know they belong to a community that cares.
That’s why I’m contributing to The Shoebox Project’s Virtual Shoebox Campaign this season, and I hope you’ll consider joining me!


1. Make a donation to the Campbell River chapter of The Shoebox Project.

100% of your donation will go directly to a woman impacted by homelessness or living in a shelter in Campbell River and Port Hardy/North Island.
2. Make a #VirtualShoebox. Again, you can designate your gift to the Campbell River chapter of The Shoebox Project and 100% of your purchase will go directly to a woman in need living in Campbell River and Port Hardy/North Island.
3. If you typically host Shoebox parties or participate in an annual Shoebox-making event, please consider collecting Gift Cards to local restaurants, grocery/drug stores, or your favourite small businesses instead.
4. Drop off Gift Cards (up to $50 value) along with an inspirational message between
November 12th and Wednesday December 9th:
 In Campbell River Coastal Community Credit Union (Discovery Harbour ), La Tee Da
Lingerie (Shoppers Row), or Sundance Java Bar (Sunrise Square at Willow Point).
 In Port Hardy : North Island Crisis & Counselling Centre Society (Beverly Parnham Way) The gifts will look different this year but the goal remains the same as always: to help every woman in the community feel a sense of joy, belongingness and hope this season. Our goal for 2020 is to provide Gift Cards valuing $50 to 410 women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; 360 in Campbell River and 50 in Port Hardy/North Island.
If you aren’t in the position to give this year, I completely understand. Another great way of helping is simply to share this letter, follow The Campbell River Shoebox Project on Facebook, and help me get the word out on this campaign that means so much to me!
All my best wishes for a safe, healthy and peaceful holiday season,


Alison Alison Skrepneck - Local Coordinator - The Campbell River Shoebox Project The Shoebox Project for Women 250-203-9360 / campbellriver@shoeboxproject.com www.shoeboxproject.com Donate Now! Connect with us! FACEBOOK: The Campbell River Shoebox Project YOUTUBE: The Shoebox Project for Women

NIC to offer evening, weekend classes for Health Care Assistant program

Add some more info about this item...Students interested in entering the healthcare field will soon have more access to education, as North Island College offers a new program on evenings and weekends.

The Health Care Assistant program, set to launch on October 31st at the college’s campus at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, will prepare students to work as frontline care providers.

The evening/weekend option is being offered in addition to NIC’s other fall Health Care Assistant offerings in Campbell River, the Comox Valley and Port Alberni.

“We’re excited to be able to offer this evening and weekend program for students who may want to get into the field, but who have other commitments to juggle,” says Kathleen Haggith, dean, health and human services.

The college has offered this option several times in the past, which Haggith says has proved very popular with students.

The program is also accessible to more students throughout the region, thanks to the move to blended delivery.

“Students will take their theory and classroom learning online and then come to NIC at St. Joe’s for their work in the simulation labs,” Haggith adds.

To learn more about the HCA evening/weekend program, click here.

A Wreath For Remembrance Day

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Remembrance day is fast approaching, our wreaths are in, if you have not been contacted for a 2020 wreath or you would like one please contact Jennifer at  283-7474, if you have your own wreath at home please drop off to the legion the week before remembrance day as all wreaths will be pre-layed this year due to covid-19. there will be a post following this one in regards to ceremony protocols, any other questions please contact me. thank you

'The people of Vancouver Island have spoken'; Recent survey shows strong support for rail system

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Vancouver Islanders appear to be in strong support of revitalizing the rail corridor, according to a recent survey.

 

The Island Corridor Foundation has released the results of a recent survey they conducted, aimed at collecting input from Island residents regarding rail service.

According to the data, 80 per cent of survey respondents believe that the Federal and Provincial governments should fund a modern and revitalized rail system for Vancouver Island.

 

The majority of respondents (89 per cent) also felt that they would utilize a rail service, if it met their needs, while 79 per cent felt that rail service would positively impact tourism in the area.

 

The survey also shows that 81 per cent of respondents believe that rail service should also receive a subsidy to support ongoing operations.The Island  Corridor Foundation highlighted that the strongest areas of support were in Vancouver Island’s two most populous cities, Victoria and Nanaimo.  

Although the big cities showed the most support, the foundation added that there was seemingly a high level of positive interest from communities right across Vancouver Island.

“We appreciate the time Islanders took to provide their views on the restoration of rail service. The tremendous response underscores the importance of this issue for our communities. The results should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of Vancouver Island want to see rail service restored,” said Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation.

Mayor Leonard Krog echoed the sentiments of Stevenson, suggesting that Islanders are sending a message.

 

“The people of Vancouver Island have spoken loud and clear. They want the Province to get on board with all of us who want our railway restored.”

 

The survey was conducted from September 18 to September 26 by a third-party contractor, Webstation Global Systems Inc.

 

According to the survey results, 3533 responses were received and 2979 of those responses gave a valid postal code for Vancouver Island regions adjacent to the corridor.

North Island: From forestry strike frying pan into pandemic fire

Jack Knox looks at Vancouver’s 14 ridings and some of the issues affecting them. Today: North Island.

A great article from the Times Colonist.  Click the link to read the full article

Gold River council asks B.C. to provide stumpage contribution to small communities

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Gold River is asking for a share of the stumpage fees that the province receives from forest operators when they harvest, buy or sell trees from Crown land.

In a virtual meeting with Forest Minister Doug Donaldson last month, Gold River’s council asked the province to address the need for direct stumpage contribution to Gold River and similar small communities.

“The village sees large dollar figures paid into stumpage fees, however, it does not see any direct injection of support from those dollars collected,” said Mayor Brad Unger.

The council told Donaldson that small rural communities have a limited capacity and “struggle to find new revenue sources” to support the aging infrastructure, new economic development and tourism ideas.

“Council was very clear with minister Donaldson that if the rhetoric of small resource communities is, in fact, the backbone of the province, then it was time to prove it by giving the village their fair share,” said Unger.

Unger said that the council has discussed the cost of stumpage fees in Gold River every time the opportunity presents itself. “We get the same response, ‘costs are the same throughout the Province’. But we have argued that it costs more on the West Coast to bring the logs to market, than it does in other areas of B.C.”

The council also told the forest ministry about Western Forest Products’ decision to change operations, and essentially contract all the works outside of Gold River.

Mayor Unger said that Donaldson and his team were unaware of the events that had unfolded and stated he would provide staff resources from his ministry to the village administration for assistance and further review.

Here's where Vancouver Island's most recent COVID-19 cases are

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The North Island has identified 69 cases of Covid which spans Courtenay to Port Hardy.  No cases are currently active and no additional cases reported in the past week.  click the link for the full report

Fire Hall Home Protection/Prevention Giveaway

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-TO WIN a new Smoke Detector/Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Submit through comment or email, 2 ways you have protected your home from fires

-All enerties made in the comments, or email at grfirechief@conumacable.com will be put in a draw to win 1 of 100 Smoke Detectors

-The draw for a FREE SMOKE DETECTOR will take place on October 15th 2020. Winners will be notified by October 20th

Excited to hear how everyone is doing their part in Fire Prevention

Food Hampers Oct 16

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Just a reminder to folks that October 16th is our next scheduled distribution day for food hampers! If you or someone you know would like to add your name to the list and secure a pick up time slot please contact me ASAP by phone or email!

Kaitlyn Nohr

250-283-2626 option #4

kaitlyn.nohr@viha.ca

Received a write-in ballot for B.C.’s 2020 election? Here is what you need to know

While spelling mistakes are not grounds for rejecting a write-in ballot as long as the intention of the voter is clear, Elections BC suggests making sure to confirm the candidate or party of preference is running in your electoral district, otherwise the vote will be considered “spoiled” and won’t be counted.

“A vote for a party leader will not be counted unless they are a candidate in your electoral district,” Elections BC explained.

Elections BC will start sending ordinary ballots to those who request a mail-in ballot as soon as possible once the list of candidates is finalized. “This means that some voters who have already requested a vote-by-mail package will get an ordinary ballot, because there is a lag between when we receive a request and when the package is assembled and sent to the voter,” Watson said.

Voters have until General Election Day on Oct. 24 to request a mail-in ballot, however the filled out ballot must be returned to a polling station, collection centre or sent to Elections BC no later than 8 p.m. that Saturday.

To vote by mail, British Columbians must request a voting package at elections.bc.ca/ovr or by phone at 1-800-661-8683.

Council Meeting Change of Location

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The Council meeting for Monday October 5, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. will be held in the Gerry Morgan Memorial Centre. Follow the posted signage and directions to the community hall where both the Council meeting and Public Hearing will be held.

Remember that COVID-19 protocols are still in place. The agenda can be found on our the village website.

DFO working with First Nations to address fish farm concerns on the Discovery Islands

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is continuing to work with First Nations to address issues over fish farms. Starting immediately, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be holding consultations with the Holmalco, Klahoose, Komoks, Kwiakah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) and Wei Wai Kum (Campbell River) First Nations about the current aquaculture sites in the Discovery Islands. 

Those discussions will help form the government’s decision on whether or not to renew open-net fish pen licenses in the area.

The DFO says it will continue to use a collaborative and area-based approach with the First Nations, meaning it will be taking into consideration Indigenous knowledge, social, economic, geographic, and environmental factors when making decisions. 

The department has completed nine peer-reviewed, scientific risk assessments to determine the impact of interactions between wild Pacific salmon and pathogens from salmon farms.

The results of those assessments determined that the transfer of the pathogens pose a minimal risk to the diversity of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon in the area.

Regional Director, for Fisheries Management in the Pacific Region Andrew Thomson, says both the response to the risk assessment report and the opinions of members will be heard. 

“(We will try) To make sure that we have a clear understanding of the room as to the risk assessment and what the science advice says. But we will then also be trying of course to respond to their concerns about any potential impact that the aquaculture sites are maybe having to their food, social and ceremonial needs or any other concerns that they may have.”

“Our intent in these discussions and the ones we’ve had in the past is to try to address and answer the questions the First Nations have and address the concerns they may have and whether or not changes are required to traditions of life or other modifications that could be made in order to address those concerns more fully,” added Thomson.

The DFO has been renewing aquaculture licences in the Discovery Islands on an annual basis and the goal of talking with local First Nations will be to see if the licenses should be renewed when the December deadline comes around. 

To learn more, visit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website

Wing Night Returns To The Ridge

Wing Night returns Oct 7th!  10 wings for $6.50

Plus...

Friday Oct 2 Prime Rib Dinner

Friday Oct 16  Chinese Dinner

Appy Tuesday:  Your choice of 3 appies for just $21.95

Interested In Becoming A Volunteer Firefighter?

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It's September! That means, we are RECRUITING! if you are interested in becoming a Volenteer Fire Fighter. Please come down to the VILLAGE OFFICE during business hours. Or leave a messgae for Chief Lisa Illes here at 250-283-2522

The Anne Fiddick Aquatic and Sports Centre will be opening Saturday October 3rd. The Arena will be open Oct 5th.

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The Anne Fiddick Aquatic and Sports Centre will be opening Saturday October 3rd, 2020 with a maximum facility occupancy of 48 persons. Watch for Fall schedule in the mail.  The arena will only be open to approved user groups at this time. Please contact Mick Mann at mmann@goldriver.ca or at 250-283-2251 for a list of approved user groups.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Our first meeting was with Minister Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Members of Council and the CAO discussed the overall condition of Highway 28 as the road is heaving substantially (not only the main portion linking Campbell River to Gold River) but also the road towards the wharf, Grieg Seafood, West Coast Terminals and Mowachaht/Muchalaht properties. The Village of Gold River relies on the highway to be safe, and in good condition for not only our residents, but for visitors and for those providing services or goods to the community. We have asked that the Ministry complete an over all road assessment, and provide upgrades, and review with Village staff. The Ministry’s response was that they will review their plans for overall works, and are aware that the roads extending to Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations and Tahsis need to be addressed. The Ministry was somewhat unaware as to the boat visitor traffic to our area and will begin a review of the highway towards the Village wharf.

Council and staff then broached the subject of the increases of tourism to our area and the increased traffic/parking issues that this has presented; specifically, at trail heads and pull off areas. Safety and congestion were identified as the two key drivers for this discussion. We have asked the Ministry to either expand the parking lots at trail heads, or widen the shoulders to create parking off of the highway.

Finally, Council raised our concerns again over access to the Village wharf due to the contested piece of roadway which runs through Mowachaht/Muchalaht Territory. Council reiterated that this was in fact a Provincial Highway and that this needs to be clarified with all parties as uncertainty creates a significant difficulty in future planning the Village wharf. The Minister acknowledged this issue and indicated negotiations were underway to once and for all, put the issue to rest.

Parliamentary Secretary, Emergency Preparedness

Council and staff met with the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Emergency Management/Response in the Province. Council gave an explanation of the current problems with the fire underwriter model of vehicle replacement, in that rural municipalities cannot afford to replace low milage, low use apparatus at the current costs. The model requires replacement based on age, not use, and this ends up costing small municipalities a significant portion of its finances. Council requested the Parliamentary Secretary work with the Fire Underwriters to re-evaluate its model of apparatus replacement so that providing emergency services does not become a financial impossibility. Council pressed the Secretary on the costs of road rescue in which the Village equipment/services leave the municipal boundaries. The Secretary provided some information of new funding models for ground search and rescue, and that road rescue was next to be addressed to provide sustainable funding.

Our final Ministers meeting was with Minister Donaldson, Forests, Lands, and natural resources.

This meeting was Friday morning, and after hearing the news regarding WFP, our agenda items changed.

Council again raised the issue of stumpage funding allocation with the Minister as the Village sees large dollar figures paid into stumpage fees, however the Village does not see any direct injection of support from those dollars collected. Council impressed upon the Minister that rural communities such as ours struggle to find new revenue sources(as we are limited in this capacity) to support both our infrastructure and overall health of the community.

Council has again asked the Province to address the need of direct stumpage contribution to Gold River and similar small communities. Council was very clear with Minister Donaldson that if the rhetoric of small resource communities is in fact the backbone of the Province, then it was time to prove it by giving the Village their fair share.

While the next agenda item was Community Forest Agreements, Council shifted the agenda to make the Minister aware of the decision of Western Forest Products to change operations, and essentially contract all the works out. Minister Donaldson and his team were unaware of the events that had unfolded. Council provided as much information as available and the Minister stated he would provide staff resources from his Ministry to the Village administration for assistance and further review. Based on this turn of events, Council implored Minister Donaldson to suspend the 2/3 “fee in lieu of” for raw log exports, and suspend any action on the new forestry management survey as Council believed the questions were both misleading and were of a pre-determined nature.

Council briefly discussed the Community Forest License process and relayed the struggles of multi-partner requirements as well as a further divvying up of available forest for this type of license. The Ministry provided some forms of explanation; however, Village staff will follow up for clarification on specifics.

Council finished with an overall synopsis of the status of the community and the importance of forestry for our residents. Council challenged the Minister on his assertions of “looking at other options” by asking to have some provided to us. The Village did not receive a response to the questions.

On Behalf of Council,

Mayor Brad Unger
Village of Gold River

BC Ferries launches new 'mobile-friendly' website

ravellers looking to plan a trip aboard a BC Ferries vessel can now book, plan and pay for their ferry ticket on BC Ferries’ new “mobile-friendly” website.

The new website launched Tuesday and has been streamlined for customers, especially those looking to book their trip on a mobile device.

The website will update in real-time and will list current travel conditions at all major terminals.

A new trip planner tool is also available which can help customers book their sailings more efficiently, as well as calculate their fares.

Starting Tuesday, customers along Northern and Central Coast routes will be able to book and pay for their vehicle or passenger fares online, incluging special resident fares. Cabins and seats can also be reserved in advance along northern routes.

BC Ferries notes that under the new website, sailings will list how much space is available by percentage. Previously, BC Ferries listed how full a sailing was by percentage.

“As British Columbians return to safely travelling within B.C., BC Ferries’ new website will make it easier for customers to get where they need to go,” said the company in a release Tuesday.

Gold River Part Of Group Demanding COVID 19 Locations To Be Made Public

An investigation into the provincial government holding secret the locations of COVID-19 outbreaks by B.C’s privacy commissioner is being welcomed by a group of First Nations and information freedom advocates.

The groups said in a Sept. 15 application to commissioner Michael McEvoy that B.C.’s government must disclose COVID-19 infection locations by law.

 

“If COVID-19 proximate case information does not represent information about a risk of significant harm to our communities, we don’t know what does,” Heiltsuk Nation chief councillor Marilyn Slett said as the complaint was filed.  So, McEvoy said Sept 18, he would initiate an investigation and proceed with a written hearing followed by a written decision.  

In the hearing notice, McEvoy said there have been “extensive communications between the complainants and the Ministry, which suggest that an attempt to resolve the complaint informally would be unlikely to succeed.”

The notice said the communities involved are Port Hardy, Haida Gwaii, Klemtu, Ocean Falls, Denny Island, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Prince George, the Metro Vancouver Regional District, Williams Lake and Quesnel, Bamfield, Port Alberni, Uculelet, Tofino, Campbell River, Duncan, Tahsis, Zeballos and Gold River.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been among those resistant to such information release and has maintained the risk is everywhere.

“It would be irresponsible to mention only a few communities and give people outside those areas a false sense that they are not susceptible or at lower risk. Every health region in British Columbia has people with COVID-19,” Henry said in an April 6 opinion article. “Every community and home town – no matter how large or small – is at risk.”

However, the Heiltsuk Nation, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government and other First Nations, civil society groups and doctors assert the government’s refusal to share information violates Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

That section says information must be disclosed in the public interest whether or not a request for access is made. It says the information must be disclosed without delay to the public or affected group of people “about a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public or a group of people, or the disclosure of which is, for any other reason, clearly in the public interest.”

However, the nations said B.C.’s own Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act requires that government “take all measures necessary” to ensure the laws of B.C. are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
That declaration includes rights to self-determination, self-government and to develop and determine programs for maintaining the health and well-being of Indigenous people.

BC Ferries to get $308 million in federal-provincial funding

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Federal and provincial cabinet ministers have announced more details about how the money from the Safe Restart agreement will be used to support transit systems and BC Ferries.

The joint funding totals $1.08 billion, with the province and the federal government each contributing $540 million.

“This significant one-time funding will cover the operational losses that happened to date, and the losses we project through the current and next fiscal years,” B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said during Friday’s funding announcement.

“It will ensure service levels for transit and ferries are maintained across the province, and that fares remain affordable,” she said.

“The province will formalize the Safe Restart funding relief through contribution agreements with each transportation agency.”

BC Ferries president Mark Collins said the ferry company has already submitted a detailed plan to the government that will “meet the public interest and the interests of customers in the provision of safe, reliable and affordable ferry service.”

He said BC Ferries looks forward to working out the formal agreement with the province, “so we can maximize the benefit of the Safe Restart Funding Program for ferry users, and help restart the B.C. economy.”

BC Ferries has just wrapped up an online engagement to be followed by meetings with a 20-person working group to develop “a practical list of solutions that can be implemented in the near term, including potential changes to operational procedures, schedules, reservation policies and communications” to improve service to the Sunshine Coast.

Asked by Coast Reporter whether the Safe Restart funding would assure BC Ferries is able to implement any recommendations the working group puts forward, Trevena said the money is specifically to help BC Ferries and the transit agencies deal with the impacts of COVID.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was asked whether the federal government was considering Premier John Horgan’s request to pull back from plans to reinstate the Transport Canada rules against passengers staying on the lower car decks on many BC Ferries routes.

“When a premier makes a request, of course we look at that request,” Wilkinson said.

However, he added: “At the beginning of the pandemic we didn’t really understand a lot about the virus, so there was a decision taken to allow people to remain within their cars. We now know a lot more about the virus [and] about the protocols that need to be put into place to keep people safe, including the requirement to make people wear masks on BC Ferries.

“There is a risk for people to actually remain in their cars in a ferry or other boat and at this stage the federal government’s view is that risk is higher than requiring people not to be in their cars.”

The Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route will be exempt from the rules when they go back into force Oct. 1, but they will apply to routes such as Powell River-Comox and Horshoe Bay-Nanaimo.