First monkeypox cases confirmed in Interior Health region

Monkeypox now in Interior

Monkeypox has now been detected in Interior Health.

According to the BC CDC’s website, two cases have been confirmed in the health region, bringing the total number of cases in B.C. to 98 — the vast majority of them in Vancouver Coastal Health.

“B.C. is working closely with federal and provincial partners to stop the spread of monkeypox,” the website reads.

“The risk to the general population in B.C. is considered low.”

There is no indication where in Interior Health's area the cases were confirmed. Castanet has asked IH for further information.

Last month, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

Most cases have been spreading among men who have sex with other men, but the virus can also spread through close non-sexual contact.

Across Canada, more than 1,000 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed.


BCWS reports 10 new lightning-caused wildfires in Southeast

10 new fires in Southeast

Crews with the BC Wildfire Service are dealing with 10 new lightning-caused wildfires in the Southeast Fire Centre.

The region includes the Boundary region to the Alberta border.

Thunderstorms in the area are expected to continue on Friday with increased winds in the forecast Saturday. It is expected more new fires will be discovered in the coming days.

“Ground crews and aviation resources are being strategically deployed to new incidents in a priority sequence as they are discovered,” BCWS said in a news release. “As of this morning, these newly discovered fires have been initial attack targets; meaning they are able to be attacked directly.”

Fire officials have identified four wildfires of note in the region that crews have been managing for the past several days.

The Briggs Creek wildfire is burning in the mountains 11.5 kilometres west of Kaslo in remote terrain. It has not grown for days now and sits at 1,679 hectares.

The Connell Ridge wildfire is burning 23 kilometres south of Cranbrook and is now 1,500 hectares in size. Crews there have been trying to conduct a planned ignition for three days now, but weather has not cooperated.

The Cummings Creek wildfire is five kilometres south of Sparwood. While it is only 50 hectares, it has been burning aggressively. Access to the fire is limited due to rugged terrain. Structural protection teams are in Sparwood conducting practice drills.

The Weasel Creek fire is straddling the U.S. - Canada border east of Rooseville. 1,087 hectares of the fire is burning in Canada and eight BCWS members are assessing objectives in the face of expected growth.

Currently, 24 fires are burning in the Southeast Fire Centre. Since April 1, 2022, there have been 112 fires covering 4,051 hectares. Of the fires this year, 77 per cent are lightning caused.

The fire danger rating in the Southeast Fire Centre today is a mix of moderate and high with small pockets of extreme and a section of low in the north of the Columbia zone.

Has B.C. already reached peak inflation?

Has inflation peaked?

Canadians will find out Tuesday whether inflation is showing clear signs of easing nationwide when Statistics Canada releases July’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Economists at RBC Economics predict the country likely hit peak inflation in June, forecasting July’s annual rate will fall to 7.7 per cent compared with 8.1 per cent a month earlier.

But has B.C already hit peak ahead of the rest of Canada?

Despite the West Coast experiencing inflation levels not seen in decades, this surge in B.C. consumer prices notably trailed national figures for most of 2022.

It was a trend one TD economist described as a “puzzler” and a “curious case.”

The B.C. inflation surged by a remarkable 1.4 percentage points to land at 8.1 per cent between April and May, overtaking the national rate (7.7 per cent) for the first time this year.

The national rate then grew from 7.7 per cent to 8.1 per cent between May and June. B.C. inflation fell from 8.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent during that same period.

If next week’s CPI numbers show B.C. inflation has fallen for a second consecutive month it would be a clear sign the province hit peak inflation in May – one month ahead of the rest of Canada if RBC’s forecasts are correct.

“The rapid rise in Canadian inflation likely slowed in July as global commodity prices fell – mirroring a drop in the U.S. inflation earlier this week,” RBC assistant chief economist Nathan Janzen and economist Carrie Freestone said in an Aug. 12 note.

U.S. inflation hit 8.5 per cent in July, down from 9.1 per cent in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There continue to be signs that global inflation pressures are easing off,” the RBC economists said in their note.

“Oil prices are down 25 per cent from early June. Global freight shipping costs and times, by air and ocean, have fallen significantly over the past few months. And on the domestic front, though higher interest rates are pushing up mortgage payments, home-buying costs (which have contributed substantially to price growth over the last year) have shifted from record monthly increases over the winter to declines in the spring and summer.”

B.C. kicked off the year with an annual rate of inflation at 4.3 per cent in January –substantially lower than the nation’s 5.1 per cent.

The gap between B.C. and Canada, respectively, continued for months:

February: 4.7 per cent vs. 5.7 per cent 
March: 6 per cent vs. 6.7 per cent 
April: 6.7 per cent vs. 6.8 per cent 

“[B.C.] job markets are among the tightest in the country and the economic backdrop is generally solid, yet inflation has lagged that of Canada. This is not a typical phenomenon,” TD economist Rishi Sondhi said in an April 28 note.

He pointed out that food and energy prices make up the smallest share of the CPI basket out of all the provinces at just over 20 per cent. Sondhi said this shielded the province from rapid inflation in those categories.

He also found that food inflation had been slower in B.C. due to restaurant menu prices remaining relatively stable.

“However, the biggest wedge between Canada and the West Coast province is in transportation costs, as gasoline prices haven't grown as sharply [as] the latter. In addition, there was a steep cut to vehicle insurance premiums in B.C. last year, lowering vehicle operating costs.”

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Province hands over 2,276 hectares near Campbell River to First Nation

2,276 ha to First Nation

In a deal designed to improve the economic circumstances of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, the province has signed over 2,276 hectares of land to the nation near Campbell River.

The transfer of traditional territory in an Incremental Treaty Agreement should help increase Wei Wai Kum First Nation’s participation in the ­forest industry while providing its citizens access to lands for cultural and harvesting ­activities.

“This agreement and transfer of land back to our nation is a significant milestone in the treaty negotiations process and ongoing journey of reconciliation,” said Chief Chris Roberts.

“It’s a strong sign of good faith from government on their commitment to supporting First Nations in reclaiming our lands and resources and restoring our positions as the beneficiaries from the values and gifts of our lands and those responsible for their enduring stewardship and sustainability.”

Roberts said the nation has been engaged in treaty negotiations for 25 years — too long to decide the question of land ownership and access to resources.

“We are now the rightful beneficial owners of these land parcels and will resume management and utilization in a sustainable manner that balances economic, environmental and recreational values,” he said.

The Crown land handed over was chosen carefully to balance support for Wei Wai Kum’s interests while maintaining public access to recreation sites such as Loveland Bay Provincial Park and areas required for B.C. Timber Sales operations.

The land parcels represent a potential allowable annual timber harvest of 17,054 cubic metres, valued at $1.2 million per year.

There are also a small number of campsites at three locations within the parcels, which will be managed by Wei Wai Kum.

The province, federal government and Wei Wai Kum are in the final phases of treaty negotiations. The land transferred under the Incremental Treaty Agreement are an early benefit as the final treaty is negotiated.

The tripartite treaty negotiations have been underway since 1997, with Incremental Treaty Agreement discussions between the nation and B.C. regarding this specific land parcel ongoing since 2019.

“Treaties are one of the most important pathways to reconciliation,” said Murray Rankin, minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation.

“Wei Wai Kum and B.C. have made great strides and built trust while negotiating a final treaty, including ensuring the benefits of the treaty are able to flow to Wei Wai Kum more quickly through this ITA.

“This agreement supports a strong relationship with Wei Wai Kum in the future, advances Wei Wai Kum’s economic prosperity and returns significant lands to their use and benefit.”

Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island, said: “This is an important step forward for Wei Wai Kum, reconciliation and Indigenous economic self-determination.”

Climate change, health and cost of living top priorities for next B.C. budget

Govt's top priorities

The province’s next budget is expected take into consideration the high cost of living, climate change and access to health care following the Select ­Standing Committee on Finance and ­Government Services’ report on budget consultation.

The 127-page report contains 216 recommendations to guide the provincial finance minister’s next budget, to be delivered next February.

The report is a summary of priorities, concerns and ideas identified by citizens and ­organizations over a month-long consultation. The committee heard 306 presentations, and received 372 submissions and 861 responses to an online ­survey.

“During the consultation, we heard about the effects of climate change with respect to natural disasters, food security and supply-chain challenges,” said committee chair Janet ­Routledge, MLA for Burnaby North.

“The committee recognizes that the next budget is an opportunity to invest in climate mitigation to improve resiliency, particularly with respect to transportation infrastructure and agriculture.”

On tackling environmental issues and climate change, the committee made several ­recommendations including that government should ­continue incentivizing greener ­technologies and ­supporting the transition to cleaner energy, provide substantive ­investments into climate ­adaptation, ­mitigation and ­prevention ­strategies, and make concrete commitments to reduce ­greenhouse gases.

Karin Kirkpatrick, deputy chair and MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, noted the province made clear it has concerns about the rising cost of living.

She said there were recommendations shared to increase affordability and improve access to housing and health care throughout the province.

“We also heard that inclusion, cultural responsiveness, and local needs must be considered when addressing these challenges,” she said.

On housing, the committee is recommending the private sector be encouraged to be ­innovative and creative in addressing the low housing stock and that B.C. Housing should be ­supported in funding and building public non-market housing.

The committee suggested the construction of complex-care housing sites across the province should be accelerated while investments should be prioritized for the homeless to help reduce their risk of being evicted and increase access to stabilized housing.

Health-care recommendations include an immediate review of primary care to determine how the system can work better and starting a long-term care forum to develop a plan to reform that system.

The committee made several recommendations to improve recruitment, training, credentialing and retention of health-care professionals, especially family doctors, as well as ­exploring the use of physician assistants, midwives, and mental-health counsellors to improve access to health care.

The committee stressed the need for improved data collection and accountability to ensure better decision-making that is rooted in reconciliation, equity and inclusion.

On reconciliation, the committee highlighted the need to engage in government-to-government conversations, support Indigenous cultural infrastructure and Indigenous-led conservation efforts, and advance economic reconciliation through revenue-sharing and equity ­ownership.

UNBC researcher to study extracting resources from wastewater

UNBC scientist mines poop

A researcher at UNBC is trying to take waste out of ‘wastewater’.

Valuable resources that can be re-used for biomedical, pharmaceutical and geotechnical purposes are flushed down the drain every day.

UNBC Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Dr. Oliver Iorhemen is examining methods to extract xanthan, curdlan, tyrosine and phenylalanine from wastewater. 

He’s being supported by a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant to do this work.

If successful, the resources can be used again in everything from producing waterproof dressings for wounds to creating agents that inhibit HIV infection, to developing absorbent materials to help clean up contaminated sites.

“Part of this research program’s focus is to develop suitable extraction and purification methods for high-value products from biological wastewater treatment systems and organic waste,” Iorhemen says.

“This concept is also in line with the biorefinery concept in wastewater management which seeks to mine resources from wastewater, offering the opportunity of obtaining high-value products from wastewater.”

Iorhemen’s study will build on the research into aerobic granular sludge (AGS), a promising biotechnology made up of a dense consortium of millions of bacteria per gram of biomass held together by bacteria by-products.

Both municipal and industrial wastewater have been effectively treated using AGS biotechnology. Currently, phosphorus, polyhydroxyalkanoates, alginate-like exopolysaccharides, and tryptophan can be extracted from AGS systems, but Iorhemen wants to find ways to take out additional resources.

“The research will involve extensive lab work. I plan to start this research in the environmental engineering lab at UNBC using lab-scale bioreactors,” Iorhemen says. “Once stable operating conditions have been established at lab-scale, pilot-scale testing will be explored for both simultaneous efficient wastewater treatment and high production of these resources in the AGS systems as well as the development of their recovery protocols.”

If successful, the recovery of these resources could be done in a separate facility either attached to a wastewater treatment plant or offsite, or by a new innovative start-up company. 

“The outcome of this research will open a new vista of opportunities for economic success as many companies in Canada require these four resources as raw materials, including the food, biomedical, pharmaceutical, petroleum, petrochemical, construction, cosmetic, agricultural, and environmental remediation industries,” Iorhemen says. 

The grant worth $147,500 over five years over five years, will support the research of one post-doctoral fellow, two PhD students, two Master of Applied Science students and five undergraduate students.

“UNBC is well placed for this type of research because the institution strongly supports research that is pioneering in its innovation such as this one,” Iorhemen says.

“UNBC also has a highly stimulating research environment for all graduate students, and this will enable graduate students recruited for this research to thrive. In addition, the state-of-the-art equipment available at the Northern Analytical Lab Services within UNBC will allow for high-quality analyses.”

Double-digit growth in Metro Vancouver city hall budgets

Metro Van budgets soar

Every major municipality in Metro Vancouver has increased its per capita expenditures, adjusted for inflation, in the decade prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by fiscal conservative think tank the Fraser Institute.

The average increase in per-person spending (inflation-adjusted) was 15.2%, from 2009 to 2019, based on an analysis of annual financial reports. And, double-digit growth occurred in 15 of the 17 municipalities with a population greater than 5,000.

Such expenses have corresponded with city halls extracting more money from residents, as per capita revenue from taxes and user fees grew, on average, 22.7%.

The analysis is broad and apolitical and does not examine what those residents may be getting in return for their dollar, be it services or infrastructure.

The municipal average in per capita spending in 2019 was $2,035. The eight entities under this allotment were all in the Fraser Health region.

West Vancouver topped the list with $3,267 spent per person in 2019, followed by New Westminster ($2,558), Vancouver ($2,415), Richmond ($2,262) and Delta ($2,149).

Conversely, Surrey placed last at $1,435 spent per person in 2019, followed by Maple Ridge ($1,490), Port Coquitlam ($1,627), City of Langley ($1,705) and Pitt Meadows ($1,754).

Most cities or districts showed little variation in rankings over the decade; White Rock jumped from 11th place to eighth after increasing spending 27.7% and, showing more restraint, the City of North Vancouver declined five spots to ninth overall after increasing spending by only 4.7%.

Those who upped their spending the most, after White Rock, were Richmond (24%), Port Moody (23.6%), District of Langley (20.6%) and, despite still spending the least per capita, Surrey (19.8%).

Those whose spending growth was least are: Maple Ridge (2.6%), City of North Vancouver (4.7%), Vancouver (10.2%), Coquitlam (10.8%) and New Westminster (11.6%).

So how are municipalities managing their increased expenditures? By increasing revenue from taxes, user fees and development charges.

The average per capita revenue in 2019 was $2,525 and the average increase in growth in spending per person was 19.6%, the report stated.

On the extreme ends, Coquitlam upped its revenue by 58.7% over the decade, to become the top revenue generator with $3,181 per person, whereas Port Coquitlam decrease its revenue 1.6% — the only municipality to do so. Port Coquitlam took in the least amount of dollars from residents, at $1,813. Following Port Coquitlam was Surrey at $1,929 per capita, a 24.6% jump from 2009.

The City of North Vancouver had the most notable decline, moving six spots from sixth highest to 12th in revenue collected per person in 2019, the analysis showed.

“As with spending, there is great variation in the levels of per-person revenue collected by the 17 Metro Vancouver municipalities,” stated the Fraser Institute report.

Ranking third in per capita spending, Vancouver increased its spending by 10.2%, representing one of the lowest figures (15th) among the 17 Metro Vancouver municipalities.



Its expenses of $2,415 are above the average of $2,035.

In terms of revenue per capita, Vancouver ranked second in 2009 but now ranks fifth, with $2,848 in revenue per capita. As such, its revenue growth is well below the 22.7% average, at just 13.6%.

Passerby spots smoke early, Colwood firefighters kill fire at Royal Roads University

Royal Roads fire doused

The Colwood Fire Department quickly extinguished a brush fire at Royal Roads University in suburban Victoria on Thursday morning.

When firefighters arrived, flames had reached 20 feet into an old-growth Douglas fir tree, burned a fallen log and scorched a 10-square-metre area, said Lt. Kyle Smith of Colwood Fire.

He said the department was alerted at 5:30 a.m. by a dog walker on the Esquimalt Lagoon, who reported seeing smoke rising from a forested area near the north end of the lagoon.

“If it hadn’t been for that person reporting the fire, it would have been a different story,” Smith said. The department arrived on the scene in just over four minutes as shifts at the fire hall were changing.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Smith warned against smoking in forested areas and said smokers should make sure butts are extinguished and disposed of in a proper manner.

He said conditions are extremely dry and Royal Roads is surrounded by several homes.

Fire officials are encouraging all homeowners, especially those living around parks and other public spaces, to “fire-smart” their homes.

Property owners should move fuel sources like firewood and lawn furniture away from your house, trim branches near your roof and cut lawns shorter.

Langdale paddleboarder rescued after fall in ferry wake

Flipped in ferry's wake

A paddleboarder bashed and immobilized in a ferry wake was rescued Sunday by a Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team that had been training nearby and some quick-thinking neighbours.  

About 11 a.m., as RCMSAR Station 14 members were practising rescue docking in Plumper Cove. Meanwhile, about three kilometres away in Smith Cove, Katie Behboudi glided on a paddleboard. 

Smith Cove is the second inlet after the Langdale ferry dock, going toward Port Mellon. As ferries cruise by, they generate strong waves that sweep toward shore. Such a wake tossed Behboudi off the paddleboard. 

The board flipped and she shot into the air near a floating raft. As she came down, her arm hit the raft.  

“My shoulder just popped,” Behboudi, a Grade 1 teacher and Langdale homeowner, said later. 

Neighbour Marilyn Crichton, a former nurse, was nearby in the water. She saw Behboudi was wearing a life jacket. Crichton was able to grab on and help her injured neighbour toward shore. Another neighbour called 911 and asked for marine search and rescue. 

“It took half an hour [for me] to get her close to shore,” said Crichton. “I was worried that she was starting to show signs of hypothermia.” 

By then, many neighbours had gathered on the beach and Behboudi’s two young children stood by.  

With her injury, Behboudi hurt too much to move. 

Three neighbours managed to lift her onto a beach chair, which they positioned in the water. She could not get up and walk to shore, much less make it across rocks that stood between the beach and stairs mounting a 50-metre cliff to the road.  

One of the many frantic calls at that point went to Marilyn’s husband, Ian Crichton, who is a RCMSAR volunteer and was engaged in the practice drills. The RCMSAR boat soon arrived. Low tide allowed the rigid-hull inflatable to land close to Behboudi.  

As Behboudi couldn’t lie down, the crew performed a four-handed seat lift in which two rescuers form a seat with their arms. They got her into the boat and then to the ferry terminal where an ambulance whisked Behboudi to Sechelt Hospital. In a few hours she was back at home, where she is recovering from a fractured shoulder. 

Charges in machete attack that seriously injured two in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Charges in machete attack

An appeal for information about a suspect in a machete attack on two people has led to charges against a Vancouver man.

Vancouver police say the 37-year-old suspect was arrested Wednesday near the city's Chinatown neighbourhood.

He is now charged with two counts of aggravated assault and remains in custody awaiting an Aug. 17 court date.

Police appealed for public help after the attack on June 19 left the victims with serious head and neck wounds.

They had been loading luggage outside a Downtown Eastside hotel at the time.

Police say surveillance video from the scene, coupled with tips from the public, led to the arrest.

Assault charge laid after Vancouver police say officers were 'swarmed' by crowd

Officers 'swarmed'

Police say a charge of assault with a weapon has been laid against a woman after officers in Vancouver were allegedly attacked in the same area as a tent encampment was being removed from the city's Downtown Eastside.

A statement from Vancouver police says 44-year-old Alene West was charged after an officer was hit in the head with an object on Tuesday.

The statement says several other suspects are also under investigation for what is described as a "swarming" of officers who were responding to reports of an unruly man at a community centre in the same block as the encampment.

Sgt. Steve Addison says officers were surrounded, pelted with objects, bitten and punched by people trying to stop police from taking the man into custody.

Addison says the arrest was not related to removal of the tents and police were not involved in that action, which was ordered by Vancouver's fire chief due to safety concerns.

He says dozens of people had gathered to watch city workers talk with campers and begin the tent removal but officers were surrounded as they arrived at the community centre for the unrelated arrest.

“This incident is another example of our officers facing violence while trying to maintain some degree of public safety in an increasingly hostile neighbourhood," Addison says in the statement.

In total, seven people were arrested and Addison says three will return to court later, including West and the man whose actions led to the initial police response.

Nanaimo house fire includes suspicious death

Suspicious death in fire

Police in Nanaimo are investigating after a body was found in a south-end home that had been gutted by fire.

A statement from Nanaimo RCMP says emergency officials were notified about the fire around 5 p.m. Thursday, at a home on Athletic Street.

City of Nanaimo fire crews were first on the scene, as dark clouds of smoke billowed from the structure.

It took firefighters about 40 minutes to knock the fire down. After the blaze was out, a search of the building was conducted and the remains of an adult male were discovered.

RCMP have deemed the death suspicious and turned the investigation over to the force's Serious Crime Section.

No other details have been released. Anyone with information is asked to call police.

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