Feds approve LNG project

The federal government has approved the $36-billion Pacific NorthWest liquified natural gas project, the first LNG project of its kind.

At a press conference Tuesday night, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Premier Christy Clark announced cabinet's decision, noting the approval comes with 190 conditions.

The project has been pushed by B.C.'s Premier Christy Clark, who campaigned in 2013 on promises of revenue from LNG projects solving any of the province's future financial woes.

The project, which would transport B.C.'s natural gas to a terminal near Prince Rupert, would be run by Petronas, a Malaysian-owned energy company.

Petronas said in August that it would have to reassess the project once it was approved.

The Province has already approved the project, but the federal government had until Oct. 2 to make a decision.

It has faced criticism, both for the carbon emissions the natural gas would produce and the impact the terminal may have on local wild salmon habitat.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency released a draft environmental report in February that found the project would not seriously harm fish habitat, but would produce 5.3-million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and another 6.5-million to 8.7-million tonnes from collection and transportation of the natural gas.

- With files from The Canadian Press


Nicola band sign tax deal

An agreement is in place that will guarantee the Lower Nicola Indian Band both a share of mineral tax revenue and a say in decisions associated with the Highland Valley Copper Mine.

It was announced Tuesday the band had reached agreement with both the province and Teck Highland Valley Copper.

The band is the 15th and final Nlaka'pamux band to sign an agreement.

Under revenue-sharing with the province, the band will receive an initial payment of more than $550,000, plus annual payments based on mineral tax received by the province.

As part of a separate agreement between Lower Nicola Indian Band and Teck, the band will work with the company to develop employment and business opportunities and environmental and cultural heritage planning. Sharing mineral-tax revenue ensures First Nations are partners in resource development.

"This is real progress for our Nation," said Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sam.

"It makes sure we share in the revenue from Highland Valley Copper, but also means we are more closely involved in contracting and hiring and in environmental planning and control. It's an important part of building a strong future for Lower Nicola Indian Band."

LNG decision imminent

Three federal cabinet ministers are en route to Richmond, where they will announce later today whether the Liberal government is approving a controversial liquefied natural gas project.

The proposed $36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project is seen as a litmus test of the Trudeau government's various pledges on environmental stewardship, indigenous reconciliation and energy resource development.

The liquefied natural gas processing plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert would ship 19 million tonnes a year of frozen, liquefied gas to markets in Asia.

The project is also expected to produce more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, creating a conundrum for a Liberal government that has made combating climate change a cornerstone of its political identity.

A group of six First Nations in the Skeena River corridor have issued a pre-emptive release stating federal approval of the project would benefit no one and requires more consultations.

A draft assessment of the LNG project was released in February by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and found the project was "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects."

The announcement by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc — taking place tonight in Richmond — comes a week before a key federal-provincial meeting on developing a pan-Canadian climate plan.


Winter tire time nears

Fall may have only just started, but it's already time to make sure you have winter tires on your vehicle if you're planning to drive on B.C.'s mountain highways.

Winter tire rules come into effect on Oct. 1, this Saturday.

That means you must have tires with either the mountain symbol or the letters M+S to travel highways such as the Okanagan Connector, Coquihalla and others.

"Drivers who travel on high mountain passes and designated routes where weather can suddenly change need to make sure their vehicles are winter ready," Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone said in a press release. "Make sure you are using winter tires that are in good condition, with solid treads, and adjusting your speed to match road and weather conditions."

Winter tires must also have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm and are required until March 31.

Commercial vehicles of 27,000 kg GVW or greater must also carry chains.

Drivers are encouraged to check DriveBC.ca for the latest conditions.

If you don't have appropriate tires, you can be fined $121, plus another $109 for inadequate tread depth.

8 years in jail for Ponzi?

A Crown lawyer says a British Columbia woman who bilked 28 investors out of millions of dollars and potentially compromised the Canadian economy should get a seven- to eight-year prison sentence.

Kevin Mark told a provincial court sentencing hearing that Rashida Samji masterminded a scheme between 2003 and 2012 and involved another person to enlist investors.

Mark says Samji lied to close friends, a cousin and a former employee in her notary practice to collect investments ranging from $50,000 to $12 million.

Samji was found guilty of 28 charges in May, but she'll only be sentenced to 14 counts of fraud after the remaining charges of theft against her were stayed.

Last year, the British Columbia Securities Commission ordered Samji to pay $33 million in fines and $11 million in compensation to investors.

The commission ruled Samji defrauded more than 200 investors of a least $100 million.

Jury mulls mill shooting

Jury members are expected to begin deliberations soon after a British Columbia judge instructs them in the trial of a man accused of using a sawed-off shotgun to kill two former co-workers at a Vancouver Island mill.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robin Baird says jurors must follow their own interpretation of the evidence presented over the past three weeks to decide if Kevin Addison is guilty.

Addison is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and attempted murder after a shooting at the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo, B.C., on April 30, 2014.

His defence lawyer says there's little doubt Addison fired the shots that killed Fred McEachern and Michael Lunn, but that he should be found guilty of manslaughter instead, because his depression made him "unthinking and unfocused."

Crown counsel says Addison, who is 50 years old, was motivated by revenge and planned the shooting after he was laid off at the mill in 2010.

Two other employees were shot but survived.

Shooter was 'depressed'

A defence lawyer says the man accused of murdering two of his former co-workers at a British Columbia sawmill should be acquitted of first-degree murder and convicted of manslaughter.

In closing arguments at the B.C. Supreme Court trial in Nanaimo on Monday, John Gustafson told the jury there is little doubt Kevin Addison fired the weapon, but his actions were not premeditated or intentional, adding that his client suffered from depression that caused him to be "unthinking and unfocused."

Mill employees Fred McEachern and Michael Lunn died in the shooting on April 30, 2014, while Tony Sudar and Earl Kelly were shot but survived.

Addison, 49, a former Western Forest Products employee, was arrested at the mill office minutes after police received calls about an active shooter.

Gustafson told the jury that the question they must answer is what was going on in Addison's mind and if the evidence of his intention to kill has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

"What is in dispute is what was happening in Mr. Addison's mind," he said.

"Something was going wrong inside of his mind."

The trial earlier heard a witness describe Addison as in a zombie-like state when he shot and killed a man in the mill's parking lot and then went to the office to shoot three others, killing another man.

Addison is also charged with two counts of attempted murder.

Crown attorney Scott Van Alstine argued Addison intended the shootings and was motivated by revenge after being laid off from the mill in 2010.

"Mr. Addison was angry and frustrated because he was never taken back by Western Forest Products," he said.

"This dominated his thoughts and actions."

Van Alstine also questioned the defence's argument that Addison was depressed, saying: "If he was, as Mr. Gustafson described, he wouldn't be able to function in society, period."

Crash closes Alex Fraser

A multi-vehicle crash closed down lanes on the Alex Fraser Bridge overnight in the Lower Mainland.

As of 2 a.m., the northbound lanes were still closed, but Delta Police report a separate incident in the southbound lanes, which also resulted in a closure, was expected to be resolved within a few minutes.

No other details were given on the nature of the second incident.

The crash happened about 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Police have not released the number of vehicles involved, but an unknown number of victims sustained serious injuries and were transported to a local hospital.

Deas Island Freeway Patrol responded to the mid-span collision, along with other emergency services.  

Tourism passes 3M mark

It isn't just royalty leaving the British Isles for the scenic beauty of British Columbia.

Brits in ever increasing numbers made that trek this year.

According to statistics released Monday, overnight visitors from the United Kingdom jumped by 35.8 per cent in July over the same month last year.

But, it wasn't just visitors from the UK enjoying what B.C. has to offer. More than 880,000 international visitors checked out the province in July, an increase of 11.8 per cent. For the year, January to July, 3.2 million international visitors have visited the province, a 12.5 per cent jump.

The numbers broke down this way:

  • Australia - up 30.4%
  • Mexico - up 20%
  • China - up 11.4%
  • Europe - up 21.1%
  • United States - up 10.1%
  • South Korea - up 22.4%

Several factors are cited for the increase, including, increased air access and capacity to Vancouver, a low Canadian dollar and Destination BC’s new international marketing strategy.

“With successful marketing activities and increased air capacity, especially for Australia and Mexico, we are seeing greater visitation from all our key markets," said Grant Mackay, with Destination British Columbia.

"Tourism operators have reported a strong summer and we’re hearing they have positive fall and winter bookings, too. As the Royal couple’s visit approaches, and hundreds of international journalists turn their attention to our province, B.C. will continue to shine on the world stage.”

Nearly 19,000 businesses and about 127,000 employees are directly supported by tourism.

Rain dampens royal parade

Plans to show off one of British Columbia's most beautiful areas to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been scuttled by miserable weather.

The aerial tour of the Great Bear Rainforest and a boat tour of Bella Bella Harbour for Prince William and Kate has been cancelled.

Winds are gusting, the water is choppy and it was pouring rain on B.C.'s central coast, an area well known for its wet weather.

William and Kate were greeted by a rousing cheer today when they arrived at the Wawiskas Community Hall, where they met community members and about two dozen hereditary chiefs who were part of the official welcoming party.

The royal couple are in the area to experience indigenous culture in the small First Nation community of Bella Bella and will officially pronounce the Great Bear Rainforest part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

The initiative was launched in 2015 to create a network of forest conservation programs involving all 53 countries in the Commonwealth.

As part of the network, regions can share ideas and innovations about forest conservation and receive global attention for their efforts.

Early this year, the province and the Coast First Nations including the Heiltsuk announced they would increase protection of the area, conserving 85 per cent of the forested areas from industrial logging.

Ahead of the visit, Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilyn Slett said in a statement: "We are greatly honoured to be in the world spotlight with this recognition of our work to protect our lands, waters and resources."

Christmas buck turns heads

There are no reindeer on Gabriola Island, but there may be the next best thing.

A local buck has been turning heads after its antlers became tangled in a string of Christmas lights.

"Looks like he is trying to hook into the solar panels," joked one area resident.

Residents on Gabriola, located off Vancouver Island near Nanaimo, say the animal doesn't appear to be stressed by its festive makeover.

Deer shed their antlers every year and then grow new ones.

No appeal for serial killer

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has rejected a serial killer's application to have a new trial based on a belief that a judge implied his lawyers behaved unethically.

Cody Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in September 2014 to life in prison for killing three women and a girl in central B.C.

His lawyer Eric Gottardi told the B.C. Court of Appeal that the judge made disparaging comments about Legebokoff's counsel but those views were only made public after a sentence was imposed.

The judge said Legebokoff's lawyers had exaggerated and distorted evidence in a 2012 application to have the trial moved to Vancouver, but the man argued in appeal court that he should have been made aware of those beliefs before the trial.

However, B.C. appeal court Justice David Frankel says in a written decision that a judge's view that counsel has acted unprofessionally does not convey bias because judges must decide cases based on facts and the law.

Frankel says Legebokoff was competently represented throughout the trial and there is no suggestion that the judge's views affected how he conducted the proceedings.

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