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Health profs vs. UBCO bikes

It seems that when it comes to promoting healthy living, sharing that message in class is a lot different than sharing your road with cyclists.

It was recently brought to Castanet's attention that two of the six petitioners who live on Curtis Road, and legally blocked it for hundreds of cyclists, work in health promotion.

The six residents who took on UBC Okanagan and recently won their battle to partially close their private road to cyclists are David Lafontaine, Kathy Lafontaine, Brian Callaghan, Doris Callaghan, Armand Gilbert, Beth Gilbert and Claire Budgen.

Budgen is an associate professor with the faculty of health and social development. As well as being a well-being initiative director at UBCO, the university website notes her areas of research interest are healthy community development, young adult health and preventive health care.

Callaghan, a former associate professor, now retired, focused her teaching on population health, youth health, health promotion, chronic disease prevention and influencing change.

“It is bizarre. It is very ironic,” says Rebecca Tyson, a faculty member who speaks for the campus cycling community. “It is all about a 'not in my backyard' kind of thing. It is sad.”

She says the UBC Okanagan cycling community is well aware those teachers are involved in the case. Tyson says she does not know the two women personally, but she knew they were involved.

“If I were a cyclist in their department, I think I would find that very difficult, but I have no reason to run into them in my work.”

Tyson feels those six individuals have put everyone in a tough position, including other residents of Curtis Road.

“What I can say is that I am sure, with different people on that road, this all could have resolved years ago,” says Tyson. “There are many wonderful people on that road, and poor them, they have been dragged through a lot as well.”

A safe, legal cycling route to UBCO has been a problem with no solution since UBC took over the campus in 2006. Until recently, nearly 200 cyclists accessed the campus daily via Curtis Road, around Robert Lake.

When the Supreme Court decision came down earlier in the month, cyclists were turned around by campus security, who threatened trespassing charges on anyone who continued on that route.

“If it was just an inconvenience, that would be one thing, but you are asking me to bike on the highway, which is extremely dangerous, versus biking on their road,” says Tyson. “It is a road, for heavens sake. They drive trucks and farm machinery on it; the bikes are not doing any damage.”

She says while some of the cyclists are strong enough and agile enough to manage the alternative mountain biking path, others are riding the highway.

“That just scares the heck out of me,” says Tyson. “If you drive up there and watch as you're approaching the bridge and watch that right hand lane where cyclists go, it gets smaller and smaller and smaller, and then it completely goes away. I did it once, and I will never do it again.”

Tyson says there are now only two legal ways of accessing the campus, but neither are safe or year-round cycling alternatives to Curtis Road.

“We are stuck enough that we are putting in the time and effort to draw attention to the issue. I am hopeful that maybe we can get enough people at the table to start to solve the problem,” says Tyson. “We are committed to seeing a real bike route to campus that works for people and hoping that we can rally the city around that idea.”

Castanet was unable to reach Callaghan or Budgen for comment.  





SOPA construction this year

The SOPA Square project is back up and running with yesterday's announcement that the Aquilini Group has officially taken over the project.

Given the building was initially approved by the city in 2008, South Pandosy residents have long wondered if the grey shell of a empty building would ever be completed.

Vice president of Aquilini Development, Kevin Hoffman, says they hope to have sales start in a few months and construction starting by the end of the year.

“We are working on setting up a new marketing campaign right now, which we hope to launch later this Spring or early Summer,” says Hoffman. “We are also looking at the building itself now and trying to refine what was there and seeing if we can make things a little bit better.”

He says they are working with existing tenants and are optimistic about the high interest from others who would like to move their businesses into the building.

“Now that we are the owners of the building we can go ahead and work with those people to try to get the space occupied, make it a little bit more vibrant and look like it is lived in.”

He says it will take three or four months to get the showroom and sales going again and then construction start time will be based on its success.

“It will depend on how much demand there is,” says Hoffman. “But, our goal would be to start construction some time later this year. If things go really well that would be the plan.”

As for the building design, he says they are looking at all their options, but wouldn't comment on any changes that might be made. 

“We are exploring that right now. We love the concept that was there, I think it just has to be refined.”

All investors that had previously purchased homes in the building had their deposits returned so Hoffman says they are starting with a clean slate.

Although Hoffman cannot talk numbers, he says the units will be priced to sell.

“I think we always do our best to price it aggressively so that we can make it a successful marketing campaign, so ya it will definitely be an attractive offer in the Kelowna market."

Hofffman says there will be a range of unit offerings from 1-bedroom to 3-bedroom with different floor plan types.

“We are really excited to be in the Kelowna market again and we are happy and proud to be the new owners.”



School cuts coming - but where?

The Central Okanagan School District knows it will have to cut costs over the next two years, but it’s unclear at this point how much belt-tightening it will be forced to do.

School boards across the province have been told they must find $29 million in savings next year, and slightly less the following school year. But until the province provides more information, board chairperson Moyra Baxter says they can’t plan for the cuts.

“What I can say is that we don’t have the full information yet. We haven’t received our budget allocation; we usually get that in the first couple weeks of March.

“But we also know that the provincial government does expect school boards to cut $29 million this year – they call it 'finding savings.'”

Until the province announces how it will allocate the amounts for each school district, things are up in the air. The one thing Baxter is sure of is that it’s going to be another tough year of covering extra costs that are downloaded to the districts and not covered by the province, such as increases to MSP payments.

In addition to higher MSP premiums, electricity costs continue to climb as hydro rates are raised – although she did point out that lower fuel prices will help with school busing costs.

During Christy Clark’s luncheon appearance in Kelowna last week, the premier suggested school districts find back-office savings, possibly in administration.

“We’re very lean with our administrative costs,” Baxter responded on Thursday.

“I don’t know what that actually means, and anything you cut is going to affect students. That’s the business we’re in. It would be like saying a hospital has to make cuts, but it isn’t going to affect patients.”

No matter what happens, Baxter says the Central Okanagan doesn’t expect to receive any less money than it did last year, but any increase will also go toward raises negotiated last year for teachers.

“We have to fulfill our contractual responsibilities, so we expect that any extra money will probably be needed to go to employee costs,” she says.

“We’re going into our budget deliberations soon, and it’s going to be extremely difficult again. We pride ourselves on providing innovating programs, and you just hate the thought of stopping some of the things we do, such as giving teachers time to collaborate and talk. It really helps the students.”

Other possible cuts could include dual-credit programs the school district has with Okanagan College and BCIT, however, it’s still too early to say until the district sees the figures for its bottom line.





Kelowna to host rugby's best

Kelowna will host the 2015 Canada West Rugby Championships this summer.

Eight teams will play back-to-back games July 30 and Aug. 2.

Four provincial sides (under-16 men, under-18 women, under-18 men, and the provincial women's team) will take teams from the prairie provinces.

Players will be selected from the tournament to travel to Ottawa in August to represent Western Canada at the national championships.

Canada West and Rugby Canada selectors will be in attendance in Kelowna, observing games and providing skill-development clinics.

Jim Dixon, CEO of BC Rugby, says “BC Rugby is very proud to have been awarded the hosting of the inaugural Canada West Rugby Championships, and Kelowna is the perfect host city. Great venues, a strong volunteer community and proven track record of delivering great events were a significant reason for choosing Kelowna.”

The event will be supported by the Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts (CORE), a local society dedicated to growth of the game.

"We are very pleased to host these eight elite rugby teams in Kelowna," said president Doug Manning. "By featuring top-level games in our community, it promotes a modern awareness of the fast, enterprising and fitness-oriented sport that rugby has become."

The championships schedule is:

July 31 (Apple Bowl)
2:30 p.m. – BC Under-16 Men vs Prairie Under-16 Men (Game 1)
4 p.m. – BC Under-18 Women vs Prairie Under-18 Women (Game 1)
5:30 p.m. – BC Under-18 Men vs Prairie Under-18 Men (Game 1)
7 p.m. – BC Women vs Prairie Women (Game 1)

Aug. 2 (Parkinson Fields)
10:30 a.m. – BC Under-16 Men vs Prairie Under-16 Men (Game 2 on P9)
10:30 a.m. – BC Under-18 Women vs Prairie Under-18 Women (Game 2 on P10)
Noon – BC Under-18 Men vs Prairie Under-18 Men (Game 2 on P9)
Noon – BC Women vs Prairie Women (Game 2 on P10)

For further information, email Doug Manning at [email protected]



Get ready for Megathon

The Kelowna Family Y hosts its second annual Megathon this Saturday.

Local heroes will challenge themselves in activities ranging from the FlowRider to zumba, basketball and other feats of athletic awesomeness – all in support of local children and families in need.

The fun takes place at the Kelowna Family Y and H2O Centre on Gordon Drive, and it continues all day, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m..

Megathon activities include Amazing Race challenges, a four-hour Zumbathon, 100 x 100 swim, three on three youth basketball, the "Big Lift," a FlowRider competition and more.

Last year a member who struggled with swimming, swam 10 kilometres in the triathlon challenge and a senior member, age 67, held a plank for 10 minutes and seven seconds.

 

All proceeds go to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. 

One in five Okanagan children who participate in Y programs are subsidized through the Strong Kids program. Many families simply cannot do it alone, communications co-ordinator Erica Hudson said in a press release.

Find the full YMCA Megathon schedule or make a donation at ymcaokanagan.ca



Funding for the Arts

Funding has been announced for the Kelowna Visual and Performing Arts Centre Society, through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund.

Local MP Ron Cannan announced Thursday that the Government of Canada will be providing $30,000 over the next three years ($15,000 in 2015–2016 and $15,000 in 2016–2017).

“The Rotary Centre for the Arts is such a beacon of light and creativity in Kelowna’s cultural district, and is helping grow our reputation as a leader in arts and culture in British Columbia,” says Cannan. “I am excited to see it continue to showcase top-notch performances for residents of Kelowna and the Greater Okanagan.”

From September to June, the Kelowna Visual and Performing Arts Society will showcase its RCA Presents Series, which features dance, theatre, music, comedy and interdisciplinary performances.

Other activities will also be offered, including a local Jazz Jam, workshops, school performances, lectures, and pre-show presentations by local artists.

The Kelowna Visual and Performing Arts Society is a multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts presenter that manages the Rotary Centre for the Arts on behalf of the city. It’s the only facility of its kind in the Central Okanagan and includes the 326-seat Mary Irwin Theatre; a set-building workshop; art, dance and pottery studios; a painting and drawing room; and a rehearsal hall.

“The Rotary Centre for the Arts is proud of its role in fostering the arts in the Central Okanagan,” says Patrick LeBlanc, general manager of the centre.

“Funding from Canadian Heritage plays a huge part in providing the support to make our arts programming for youth and families possible. Thank you, Canadian Heritage.”



Exhibit examines WW1

First, the bugle sounds, and war is declared.

Kelowna Museums is interpreting the realities experienced by Okanagan members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force with a new exhibit about the First World War.

The Glory Passes exhibit opens at the Okanagan Military Museum this Saturday.

According to Kelowna Museums, the exhibit stresses the transition from the ideal "happy warrior" to a fatalistic, pragmatic soldier, in a hands-on way, with interactive displays designed to appeal to children and adults.

You can try using a periscope to view out over a replica of a trench wall, or a long-distance sighting device with maps to calculate distances to familiar locations in Kelowna.

The various objects, props and stagecraft also promise to show what living conditions were really like in the trenches.

The public is welcome to celebrate the exhibit opening with games, activities and refreshments, from noon to 3 p.m., at the military museum.



New bill protects bus drivers

Transit drivers across Canada, and right here in the Okanagan, have battled and won greater protection, as an amendment to the criminal code was given royal assent Wednesday.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association says it is pleased to announce that its proposal, Bill S-221, will come into effect immediately, and amend the Canadian Criminal Code in relation to assaults on public transit operators.

The bill now requires judges to consider a transit driver's occupation as an "aggravating circumstance" in the offender's sentencing.

CUTA hopes the bill will improve consistency in sentencing for offenders who assault public transit operators, and discourage would-be assailants.

"Bill S-221 represents the fruition of many years of hard work by CUTA," says Michael Roschlau, CUTA's president and CEO.

"Protecting our transit service providers and operators is a priority for the industry. We have been diligently collecting statistics on incidences of assault and harassment, and knew that legislative action would be required.”

This is welcome news for local bus drivers who have been the victim of several assaults over the last few years.

One such case took place in June 2013, when 44-year-old bus driver Mike Vasko was stabbed with a dirty needle after offering his assailant, Amanda Chrystal Best, a free ride.

With such attacks in mind, the City of Kelowna has long supported CUTA's bid, and is excited by Wednesday's news.

“We've actually been pursuing this with other municipalities across Canada, as well as transit unions across Canada, who have been raising this issue nationally,” explains city regional services director Ron Westlake.

“It is really great news because there were a number assaults on our transit operators over the last few years. In 2013 alone, I know of four incidences where the operator was threatened or attacked by someone. Some of those potentially put other transit riders, as well as the operators, in harm's way.”

Westlake believes the new bill will help combat the troubling attacks.

“Certainly, there will be more consistent examples of sentencing across Canada,” says Westlake. “So, somebody doesn't get off for a pretty substantial attack. One case in Edmonton should be handled the same as another case in Kelowna or Vancouver.”

Westlake says this is a positive step in improving conditions, but feels more needs to be done to protect drivers and their passengers.

“We need to be on top of incidents so that we are learning from what happened and figuring out how we better support the operators and provide security measures or deterrents,” adds Westlake. “Not only in our buses, but on the ground at our transit exchanges as well.”

He says the city is implementing a security pavilion at the Queensway bus loop and will be looking at other options to increase safety.



New university housing

With Kelowna's extremely low vacancy rate and an ever-growing student population in the Okanagan, the need for housing is an increasing concern that one company hopes to help quell.

At only one per cent, Kelowna’s low vacancy rate is fuelling success for Okanagan builder Mission Group.

The company is seeing a surge of interest in its U-One hilltop condominium community located next to UBC Okanagan.

“Kelowna is nearing a vacancy crisis, particularly in student housing,” says Mission Group president Randy Shier. “We’ve seen rising enrolment at UBC Okanagan and a rapid decline in rental accommodation in our city.”

According to Mission Group, Kelowna has the lowest vacancy rate in Canada.

“The supply of rental accommodation in Kelowna has not kept up with the demand. With a growing population and an improving labour market, we’re seeing downward pressure on apartment rental vacancy rates. It’s all great news for investors looking for rental property," says Shier.

Among Canada’s largest centres, both Kelowna and Vancouver reported vacancy rates at one per cent, with Guelph at 1.2 per cent, Calgary at 1.4 per cent and Victoria at 1.5 per cent.

The 66-home, three-floor U-One community offers one-, two- and three-bedroom suites ranging from 507 to 1,086 square feet with prices starting at $189,000.

Onsite trails and a paved pedestrian walkways will link to the university and regional hiking and biking trails offer recreational options.



Spontaneous love poems

Kelowna residents have been finding little bits of love strewn around the city and it’s all thanks to a one woman.

Lesley-Anne Evans launched her Pop-Up Poetry initiative in 2012, but most recently she has been garnering attention with her love poems. She along with other local poets have been writing words of love on the back of recipe cards and posting them spontaneously around the city.   

Founder of the heART School, Carrie Mitchell, says the love poem project has been taking place all month long in anticipation for Wednesday (Feb. 25) night's event. Evans, along with a few others, will be reading their art at 1546 Pandosy at 7:30 p.m.

“The poems have been contributed by a few others as well, who don’t call themselves poets but we have all been contributing on the (heART School) Facebook page.”

The event cost $15 at the door, and those in attendance will be treated to the love poems so many others have been finding posted around Kelowna, and posting to their Instagram using the hashtag #allwedoismakelovepoems

Watch the video here.



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