Lack of funds affects wildlife

Concerned over the future of B.C.'s wildlife population, the BC WildLife Federation is holding a series of town hall meetings across the province, including in the Okanagan Valley.

The issues are declining fish and wildlife populations, more pressure on natural resources and a lack of funding for fish and wildlife management, according to a federation spokesperson.

“What we've seen, probably since the 70s, is a big shift in funding fish and wildlife management in B.C. and around natural resource management as a whole," said Jesse Zeman of the BC Wildlife Federation. "We've seen significant declines in wildlife populations all over B.C. in the last 30 to 40 years and without funding we can't do much.”

Zeman said smaller U.S. jurisdictions, including Washington state, Idaho and Montana, operate on budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars while B.C. is three-to-four times larger and spends $34 million per year.

Town hall meetings in the Okanagan include:

  • Kelowna, Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m., Kelowna & District Fish & Game Club, 4087 Casorso Road
  • Vernon, Thursday, April 6 at 7 p.m., Lakers Clubhouse, 7000 Cummins Road
  • Oliver, Wednesday, April 12 at 7 p.m., Elks Lodge, 477 Bank Avenue

Town hall meetings are also scheduled for:

  • Kamloops, Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m., Calvary Community Church, 1205 Rogers Way
  • Salmon Arm, Friday, April 7 at 7 p.m., Prestige Harbourfront Resort & Convention Centre, 251 Harborfront Drive NE

More information can be found online.

Give peace a chance

About 15 people people walked around downtown Kelowna Saturday spreading a message of peace, in solidarity with several other peace walks held throughout Canada.

Nadene Rogers, co-chair of the Season for Nonviolence Peace Walk in Kelowna, said the walk honours the 20th anniversary of the Season for Nonviolence, a global initiative started by Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Dr. Arun Gandhi.

The 45-minute walk started in City Park and ended at the Kasugai Garden and included the reading of peaceful affirmations from a variety of cultures and the handing out or laying down of “peace rocks, whereever we sense a little more peace would be fruitful,” Rogers said.

“Peace begins within, as long as each person takes responsibility for peace in their own lives and the lives of their families and communities, and works together, eventually peace will rise.”

This is the third year the event has been held in Kelowna. Similar walks were held in Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg on Saturday as well. 

Promoting local dining

With yet another pre-election funding announcement, the province is looking to launch a new program to encourage B.C. restaurants to carry more local food and drinks.

Norm Letnick says Eat Drink Local is a “cousin” of the province's Buy Local program, but is geared towards those eating out.

The $225,000 for the first year of the five-year commitment by the government will go towards organizing a “massive dining event all throughout British Columbia to encourage restaurants to serve local” in the fall, according to Ian Tostenson, president of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Tostenson, with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, designed the Eat Drink Local campaign.

Additionally, the money will be used to organize four meetings across the province to engage with the restaurant industry, as well as to set up a website to highlight local options in restaurants.

“There'll be a reference for people to go to to get information, right now it's all kind of scattered,” said Tostenson.

He says he's spent the last three-and-a-half months working on the campaign.

The government expects this program will increase sales of local food in restaurants.

Letnick said the success of the program can be easily monitored by tracking the local products sold by Cisco and GFS, food distributors that provide 90 per cent of food to restaurants in the province, according to Tostenson.

“We can benchmark what they're selling local now and what they're going to sell local a year from now,” Tostenson said. “If we can't move the needle then we haven't done a very good job.”

Tostenson says after the first year, government investment will decrease year after year, as the initial investment will go to setting up “infrastructure” like a website. 


KFX takes over downtown

Over 2,000 people of all ages came to celebrate their favourite movies, shows, comic books, anime, and everything else pop culture at the fourth annual Kelowna Fan Xpo Saturday.

The event had activities, vendors, artists, cosplayer and performers in the Rotary Centre for the Arts and the Kelowna Community Theatre.

Last year, the event had 2,378 people attend, and this year, all of the advance tickets were sold out in advance, putting them at over 2,000 people before at-the-door sales were even counted.

Hundreds of people stood in a very colourful lineup outside the Community Theatre just after noon, when the venue first opened up.

“Some of these things, gaming, watching anime, interest in comic books and things like that, are individual pursuits, and it's such an exciting thing when you can talk about a show that you love with another person," said Bonnie Gratz, artistic director at New Vintage Theatre and an organizer of the KFX. “ Where do you get a chance to do that and to find those people? You kind of find your tribe at a thing like this.”

The KFX closes Saturday with a premiere screening of The Recall, a movie filmed in the Okanagan.  

Cash for local golf tourney

The provincial government is hoping to drive golfers and golf fans to B.C.

The government announced Friday it will provide $100,000 towards the BC Golf Swing, which includes a professional tournament at Gallagher's Canyon in Kelowna.

The BC Golf Swing includes three tournament as part of the PGA Mackenzie Tour.

Tour stops include:

  • Vancouver - Freedom 55 Financial Open at Point Grey Golf and Country Club - May 29-June 4
  • Victoria - Bayview Place DC Payments Open at Uplands Golf Club - June 5-11
  • Kelowna - GolfBC Championship at Gallagher's Canyon Golf and Country Club - June 12-18

Each tournament has a field of 156 golfers from around the world. The province expects the three events to generate about $8 million for the provincial economy.

"Every year, we look forward to kicking off our season in British Columbia, and the three tournaments rank among the players' favourite stops all year," said PGA Tour Canada president Jeff Monday.

"It's a common sight to see players bringing their friends and family to these tournaments to show them this beautiful part of the country, and our event host organizations do a tremendous job to give players, fans, sponsors, staff and volunteers a world-class tournament experience. We're thrilled to have the support of the province to create the BC Golf Swing and look forward to our events making an even greater charitable and economic impact in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna this year."

Open burning today

For Central Okanagan residents with a burning desire to get rid of yard waste, today is a good day to it - providing they have a permit that is.

Regional district officials said open burning is allowed today for those eligible Central Okanagan property owners with permits from their local fire authority.

There is also a big burn underway in a portion of Black Mountain/sntsk‘il’ntÉ™n Regional Park (sinch-KEEL-en-tin).

Bruce Smith, communications and intergovernmental affairs officer, said fire hazard debris collected as part of a five-hectare fuel-modification project in the park is being burned when weather conditions are favourable.

“The park located on the east slopes just outside Kelowna is closed to the public,” said Smith. “The fuel management work is part of the ongoing effort to prepare it for future access. Today’s burning has been authorized with appropriate permits for fire fuel hazard reduction. All local fire departments and local media have been advised of today’s activity in the park and will be notified when further burning takes place.”

For more information go to the regional district's website, email [email protected], or call 250-469-6232.

Castanet's week in review

Castanet's week in review with Nich Johansen.

Half billion building boom

Kelowna hasn't seen a building boom like this in a decade.

Figures released by city hall this week show the value of building permits in 2016 exceeded a half-billion dollars for the first time since 2007, right before the market collapse.

Permit values last year totaled $537.5 million, significantly higher than the most recent five, and ten-year-averages.

The latest five year average is slightly less than $400 million. The value has increased steadily over the past five years, from a low of $286 million in 2012.

The city also saw more building permits issued for residential units since the late 1980's. Permits for 1,950 new units was only surpassed in 2005.

Last year's numbers also far exceeded five and 10-year-averages. Of those, 64 per cent were for multiple housing units, while nearly half were for structures with an urban or village centre.

Commercial development saw permits issued for 343,000 square feet of new floor space, slightly higher than five and 10-year-averages.

Both industrial and institutional permits were above the five-year-average, but below the most recent 10-year-average.

The boom doesn't appear to have slowed through the early months of 2017.

According to city figures, permits have been issued for 858 new residential units in 2017, a 216 per cent increase over the same period a year ago.

The complete detailed report will be presented to city council Monday afternoon.

Wellness centre unveiled

A new seniors health and wellness centre was opened Friday in Kelowna.

The centre is located within the Cottonwoods Care Centre. 

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick noted more than 22 per cent of residents in the Interior Health region are over 65 – "and that number is on the rise,” he said.

“Enhanced community care and improved access to specialized services will help ensure seniors with complex care needs continue to receive the care they require now and in the coming years.”

Services provided by the centre include health assessments and treatments, as well as connections to other community services and wellness programs.

“The level of support offered through the new model will help seniors age in place while reducing emergency department visits, preventing hospital admissions, and avoiding premature placement in long term care facilities,” said Interior Health board chair John O’Fee. 

The wellness centre model will also be introduced in Kamloops this spring.

Evening Update March 24

Castanet's Evening Update for Friday March 24, with reporter Wayne Moore.

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