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Shatner comes for fan expo

There are a few constants in William Shatner's career: he will always be working, he will always be mocked — not least by himself — and he will always be James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise.

Those are the reasons why Shatner is appearing this weekend at Vancouver Fan Expo, a three-day gathering at the city's convention centre for fans of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, gaming and the people who make that pop culture.

It's one of "two or three — very few" such shows Shatner said he chooses to attend in a year.

Shatner said in telephone interview from Los Angeles that he continues to attend the events because he encounters constant reminders of the relevance of "Star Trek."

In a recent example, his driver suddenly stopped on the way to the airport to tell Shatner about being tortured as a prisoner of war.

"The only way he kept alive was remembering words that I had said in the part of Captain Kirk," he said.

The series originally ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1969 before NBC cancelled it because of low ratings.

It became a cult classic in the 1970s because of constant syndication reruns, which led to movies, beginning with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979.

Those reruns also provided comedians with fodder for mocking impressions of Shatner as Kirk, often so exaggerated that he didn't recognize himself.

"I'd have to say, 'Who are they doing?' in the beginning. Now I realize they're doing me, so I can put that on and play with that," he said. "But what seems to have happened is everybody's grasped the idea that I'm trying my best."

He said some of his performing quirks, including his stilted dialogue as the captain, came from memorizing pages and pages of lines.

Experiences like that and his encounter with the driver are the basis for an autobiographical one-man show, "Shatner's World," that toured Australia and Canada in 2011.

Touring Canada renewed the Montreal native's appreciation for the country, he said.

"I've been from one end of the country to the other in the last couple of years in a way that not many people do, except for soap salesmen," he said. "And I've seen Canada in all its fresh, glorious beauty."

"Shatner's World" ran on Broadway in 2012 and he continues performing the show.

"It became a show that had as its thrust the desire to work and say Yes to opportunities either professionally or personally and the concept of grasping life and making it work for you as best you can in the limited time we have."

At 84, Shatner continues to say Yes, including recently completing four episodes on the supernatural series "Haven."

"I just finished a show in Halifax in which I had many, many long speeches," he said. "I thought, 'This is going to be an interesting test to see what my memory's like.' I had no problems whatsoever."

He described his health as "superb."

Shatner said in the past weekend, he had ridden five American Saddlebred horses — he raises the animals — competing against a field of a hundred that included 18-year-old riders and came away with nine blue ribbons.

"Why in God's name would you retire when I feel like I'm just discovering how to do it all?"

The Canadian Press


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Feeling the pinch April 1

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) wants to remind British Columbians that things will get more expensive starting April 1.

They point out that significant increases will be noticed at BC Hydro and BC Ferries.

“The nickel and diming of B.C. government increases continues, and cash-strapped taxpayers are the ones being treated as April fools,” said Jordan Bateman, the provinces director for the CTF.

“Tomorrow, it’s hydro, liquor and ferries. Next month, it’s property taxes and likely ICBC. In January, it was CPP, EI and MSP. It never ends for taxpayers.”

They say residents will feel the pinch for the following items:

  • BC Hydro will raise electricity rates six per cent – approximately $72 for the average home.
  • BC Ferries is raising fares 2.9 per cent, meaning a family of four will spend $8.10 more on a return trip.
  • The BC Government is raising liquor prices $1 to $6, depending on the product.
  • Several cities are still working on their 2015 budgets, but a few have already announced property tax hikes for this year, including $63 for the average Vancouver home; $162 for the average Surrey home, and $60 for the average Kelowna home. City taxes are due before July 2nd.

It could get worse for taxpayers. ICBC is in the final stages of seeking BC Utilities Commission approval for a proposed $36 increase on basic auto insurance rates.

These increases come after two January 1st tax hikes:

  • The Medical Services Premium tax, which went up $66 for families of three or more; $60 for couples; and $33 for individuals.
  • EI and CPP taxes went up $23.

In the Lower Mainland, voters are casting ballots on a new 0.5% TransLink sales tax, which would increase costs by $258 on the average household. Results are expected in early summer.



Acting auditor appointed

British Columbia has a new acting auditor general for local government one week after the firing of Basia Ruta.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes says Arn van Iersel will fill the post on an acting basis.

Van Iersel previously served as B.C.'s comptroller general and acting auditor general, and Oakes says he will provide strong leadership during a transition period.

Oakes says the Audit Council, which monitors the local government auditor office, recommended van Iersel's appointment.

Ruta was dumped last week just days after she complained about a possible bias by the man appointed to investigate her work.

"Arn van Iersel is an accomplished professional ... I am confident that this appointment will bring stability to the office and provide strong leadership during the transition period," said Oakes.

"In addition, a review of the Office of the Auditor General for Local Government's operating structure and processes, led by Chris Trumpy, is also underway. The review process will help to build an effective office that is accountable to government and the taxpayers of British Columbia."
 

The Canadian Press


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TV housewife must pay up

A former reality TV star has been ordered to pay special costs by a judge who says she was manipulative and lied during divorce proceedings.

The decision by Justice Miriam Gropper follows several 2014 family law rulings against Jody Claman, who appeared in the now-defunct "Real Housewives of Vancouver" series.

Gropper says Claman tried to mislead and deceive the court numerous times, did not comply with orders and used delay tactics as part of her "reprehensible conduct throughout the proceedings."

She says Claman deliberately and persistently failed to disclose documents and dissipated assets, which she is "probably concealing."

A court registrar will now calculate just how much Claman will have to pay her ex-husband, Eran Friedlander.

Gropper has already awarded the pair joint custody of their daughter but gave Friedlander the final say in her education while ordering Claman to pay him nearly $600,000 and dismissing her claim for spousal support.

The Canadian Press


VPD chief responds to video

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has responded to national media coverage of a YouTube video in which a VPD officer smashes a car window.

Chu says the officer involved is being criticized for doing his job.

The chief specifically singles out a National Post report headlined: Cops Run Amok.

"In reviewing the article, ... I thought it may be helpful to include some facts that may have been lost in the way the story was reported," Chu said Tuesday.

"This was not a traffic stop, it was a drug arrest. Impaired driving alerted the officer to the danger the driver posed to public safety, and marijuana smoke billowing from the car made the cause of that impairment obvious. In order to make the arrest, force became necessary when the person refused to exit the vehicle, which is understandable since he allegedly knew what would be found in his car if he did."

Chu said the officer acted proactively when he saw a car weaving "that could at any minute strike another car or pedestrian causing injury or worse."

"The video shows the driver was evasive and lying about not having drugs in the car. In fact, there was enough marijuana for Crown counsel to accept a charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking. While it was necessary to use some force to extract the driver, it is also important to remember that no one was injured and no complaint was made."

Chu said officers know that every arrest they make and practically every move they make will be scrutinized, analyzed and occasionally criticized. "Through it all they routinely prove that preserving life and public safety trumps whatever slings and arrows they may endure."

"It would be ideal if force of any kind was never necessary to make an arrest. But for those who are trying desperately to avoid apprehension, it is not always the option they choose," he said.



Freeze on migrant workers

The B.C. government has put a three-month freeze on most new applications for a program used by prospective immigrants wanting to come to the province to work.

Labour Minister Shirley Bond says the pause will allow the province to speed up processing times for the Provincial Nominee Program so people can apply online when applications are accepted again starting July 2.

Bond says the program allows B.C. to nominate 5,500 foreign nationals to the federal government every year for a chance at permanent residency in Canada.

But Bond says B.C. currently has 8,300 applications in the queue so far this year, partly because more people are applying through the PNP rather than the reformed temporary foreign worker program.

While investment-ready entrepreneurs and some skilled workers will have to wait three months to apply through the program, applications will still be accepted for other categories including health-care workers.

Bond says jurisdictions across Canada are also grappling with revamping their own Provincial Nomination Program to meet labour needs.

The Canadian Press


Rockslide closes KVR

A large rock slide has forced the closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Trail and Kettle Valley Rail Trail between Princeton and Coalmont until further notice.

According to the Ministry of Forests, the significant rockfall event occurred last week, approximately 10 kilometres west of Princeton (at the 125-km mark of the KVR).

“The trail is currently impassable and unsafe for recreational use,” writes the ministry.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC is currently working with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Vermillion Trails Society to repair and reopen the trail.

RSTBC is also assessing the area's stability and installing signs to warn users of the closure.

The ministry says the trail will be reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.



Auditor rips computer plan

A government computer system nominated for the annual Premier's Award of Innovation and Excellence is incomplete and doesn't meet expectations of improving service delivery for vulnerable children and families, says B.C.'s auditor general.

Carol Bellringer said the province spent seven years and $182 million trying to modernize aging computer systems but failed to replace two thirds of the old system.

In an audit released Tuesday, Bellringer concluded the government's Integrated Case Management system did not adequately protect sensitive personal information.

"The ICM project did not fully replace legacy systems as initially planned," Bellringer said in a report. "At project completion, about one third of the legacy systems had been replaced. This means that a number of systems characterized as antiquated and expensive to maintain must continue to run."

The report makes eight recommendations, including regularly monitoring the system for inappropriate access and activity and preparing full accounting of its capital and operating costs.

At a news conference, Bellringer did not directly counter last November's government statement that the ICM project was completed on time and on budget, but said, "while it was, if you will, on time and on budget, that was with a reduced scope."

She said she only recently became aware the project was nominated for an award of excellence within B.C.'s civil service.

"I found it interesting," Bellringer said.

The ICM project dates back to 2008 and was meant to replace outdated computer systems used to deliver social programs including child protection, child-care subsidies and income assistance.

Last May, the system crashed regularly and frustrated staff but the government said it was still able to meet the needs of social services clients.

B.C.'s independent representative for children and youth has been raising concerns about the system for the past three years.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said vulnerable children and families could be at risk because information for social agencies and police is not being properly processed.

A report by Turpel-Lafond in July 2012 prompted the Children's Ministry to admit its computer program needed fixing.

Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell said the ICM project is now providing services to 200,000 clients. She said seven of the audit's eight recommendations are already in place.

"We have met our key objective and successfully implemented a very modern technology platform," she said.

Stilwell said the ministry will continue to work towards replacing the remaining systems with the ICM model.

But B.C. Government and Services Union spokesman Doug Kinna said ICM is not making life easier for social service staff who work with ministry clients.

He said monthly client report cards that were previously completed in seven steps now take 21 steps to do the same work.

"This isn't a better tool," he said. "The (ICM) system is cumbersome and clunky."

Kinna said documents that took two or three days to process under the previous system now take between five and seven days.

NDP social development critic Michelle Mungall said the government's comments about the ICM system being on time and on budget are hardly fitting considering the auditor general called the multimillion-dollar system dysfunctional and unfinished.

The Canadian Press


New calf for J pod orcas

Researchers say yet another baby has been born to an endangered population of orcas off British Columbia's coast.

Scientists say it's the fourth calf to join the J pod group of southern resident killer whales in the last three months.

The Pacific Whale Watch Association spotted the baby Monday near Active Pass off B.C.'s southern Gulf Islands.

Researcher Jeanne Hyde says she first thought the baby was a different, three-month-old calf when she saw it near Galiano Island.

Crews then realized there were two calves and noticed heavy creases — or fetal folds — on the first orca's body, indicating it was a newborn.

The association's executive director Michael Harris says that despite the recent baby boom southern residents are still a long way from recovery, with just 81 whales left in waters off B.C. and Washington state.

The Canadian Press


Furlong feels vindicated

Former Olympics CEO John Furlong says he feels vindicated that he's been cleared of sexual assault allegations after suffering an unimaginable nightmare for nearly two years.

Speaking a day after a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed a third and final sexual assault lawsuit against him, Furlong says he felt paralyzing pain but is now ready to move on with his life.

A man who failed to show up for the start of a trial on Monday claimed Furlong sexually abused him 45 years ago at a Roman Catholic school in northern B.C.

Since December, suits against Furlong by two women have been withdrawn or dismissed that made similar allegations, which he says have caused him incalculable financial loss.

Furlong says he has fought against being angry with the three plaintiffs and hopes they find inner peace, though noting they will have to live with what they have done.

Furlong on Tuesday also dropped a defamation lawsuit against a reporter whose story in a Vancouver weekly newspaper in 2012 sparked the three cases against him, but he says he will still defend himself against a counter defamation filed by Laura Robinson.

The Canadian Press


Heiltsuk in fishery talks

B.C.'s Heiltsuk Nation says it is now in talks with federal officials about a disputed herring fishery in its central coast territory but has yet to see a resolution.

The First Nation issued a news release that says its representatives met Monday in Heiltsuk territory with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regional director general, Sue Farlinger.

Farlinger's visit comes as Heiltsuk members occupied a federal field office on Denny Island by locking themselves inside and camping outside in objection to an expected gillnet fishery.

Heiltsuk Nation says discussions with Farlinger will resume Tuesday, and members will meanwhile continue to occupy the office where protests began Sunday night.

The First Nation says Farlinger has now offered to set aside areas for Heiltsuk food, social, and ceremonial fisheries, but the nation wants a guarantee that the fishery will be closed to commercial harvesters.

Heiltsuk Nation says there's not enough herring for a commercial fishery, but the federal government maintains that the stock can support a modest harvest.

The Canadian Press


Goose control returns

The egg addlers are back.

In an effort to control the Canada goose population in the Okanagan, a regional goose-management program is about to get back into gear. 

Now in its ninth year, the egg-addling (or shaking) program helps prevent an increase in the non-migratory resident goose population of about 2,500 birds. The geese inhabit the valley year round and do not migrate.

Contractors have already been searching for pairs and nesting sites, and hope to complete the addling program by mid-May.

“Most communities along the valley struggle with management of non-migratory Canada geese,” said program co-ordinator Kate Hagmeier. “What many people fail to understand, and a large part of the message that we want to provide, is that the geese we are targeting are not native species to the area. These geese are largely descendants of geese that were translocated here as part of an introduction program in the 1960s and '70s. Young geese and eggs were brought here from different areas in Canada to encourage the creation of an Okanagan goose population.”

What was not foreseen was the inability of these geese to migrate because they had no natural parents to teach them, along with their ability to adapt and thrive to the mild Okanagan climate. The consequences have been a growing population with few natural controls and a need to manage that population.

The egg addling program involves shaking eggs or coating them with non-toxic biodegradable food-grade corn oil within 14 days of incubation to make them non-viable. The U.S. Humane Society supports the technique.

Once addled, eggs are returned to the nest. Geese continue to incubate until they realize the eggs will not hatch. At this point, it is generally too late in the year to produce more eggs. Adults are not harmed. 

Key to the success of the program is finding new nests. The public is asked to report lone geese, pairs of geese, or nest locations on private or public land by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-877-943-3209. Information about the program is available at okanagangooseplan.com.

In addition to egg addling and population surveys, grants from the Western Canada Turfgrass Association in 2012 and 2014 contributed to a leg-banding program, which helps track bird movement patterns and lifespan.

“The data collected during the leg-banding program and addition of the second grant allows us to further improve our understanding of how the population is formed and where to target management strategies,” said Hagmeier. 

The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a partnership between the City of Kelowna, Central Okanagan Regional District, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, District of West Kelowna, City of Vernon, City of Penticton, District of Lake Country, Town of Osoyoos, Town of Oliver, District of Peachland, District of Summerland, Westbank First Nation, Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District and Western Canada Turfgrass Association.

During the past eight seasons, more than 10,000 eggs have been prevented from hatching through this minimally invasive approach. Taking into account natural mortality of young through predation or nest failure, that is equivalent to, at minimum, 7,500 fewer geese in the valley and all their potential young. 



3 rescued from Fraser River

Three boaters have been rescued from the Fraser River near Richmond.

The Coast Guard was called when a passenger vessel began taking on water during some stormy weather at about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

People onboard were able to get the engine running, and were escorted to shore near Vancouver's airport.

No one was hurt, but the Coast Guard is now reminding people that even experienced boaters can end up in trouble during wet conditions.

A similar warning was issued from rescue crews in North Vancouver on Sunday after an experienced canoeist fell overboard in the Seymour River during heavy rainfall.

The woman was able to walk out of the river on her own but was shaken up and taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The Canadian Press


Amazon tests drones in BC

Amazon is testing drone delivery at a secret location in British Columbia.

The online shopping giant has set up several testing sites outside the U.S., including one in rural B.C., to avoid strict rules set by the Federal Aviation Authority.

Spokeswoman Kristen Kish declined to give any further details.

Transport Canada issued a one-year drone operating certificate to the online retailer in December.

The Special Flight Operations Certificate details “maximum altitudes, minimum distances from people and property, operating areas, and co-ordination requirements with air traffic services” the agency told CTV.

Amazon says Prime Air, its drone delivery system, will eventually be capable of getting packages to customers’ homes in 30 minutes or less.

The drones will be capable of travelling at more than 80 km/h, carrying packages weighing two kilograms, Amazon says.

“One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road,” Amazon says on its website.

Transport Canada has had regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles since 1996. It issued 1,672 certificates for drones in 2014.

– with files from CTV Vancouver





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