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Former CBC host joins Greens

A former CBC radio host hopes to take her fight for the embattled public broadcaster all the way to Parliament Hill, as she seeks a federal nomination for the Green Party.

Jo-Ann Roberts announced Saturday with leader Elizabeth May at her side that she is seeking the party's nomination in Victoria for this year's federal election.

Roberts resigned after a decade hosting CBC Radio One's "All Points West" in December because she wanted to fight more openly for the public broadcaster's future.

"I left my job because I wanted to be able to speak out about the CBC, and what worries me about the future of the CBC if we don't start to address funding cuts and independence from government," she said in a phone interview Saturday.

"Once I stepped away from the microphone, I had a chance to reflect on what was it that I thought was most important at this point in my life."

The 58-year-old said the CBC was not the only issue that drove her to join politics. She said she was approached by both the Liberals and Greens, but she chose Elizabeth May's party because of her passion for environmental issues.

Roberts is originally from Prince Edward Island and had been with the CBC on and off since 1978. Before moving to British Columbia, she spent 10 years hosting CBC Radio's morning show in Moncton, N.B.

More than 1,000 jobs were cut at the public broadcaster last year as it continues to grapple with federal budget cuts and flagging advertising revenues. Roberts said morale was at the lowest she had seen in 20 years.

"I was beginning to believe that if the CBC is going to continue to exist as a vital part of our democracy, this election is critical. Quite literally, we can't take any more cuts," she said. "But I was not allowed as a host to say that."

She said she wants to see a $115-million federal funding cut to the CBC restored, as well as gather a Royal Commission or parliamentary committee to examine the public broadcaster's mandate, funding and governance models.

Roberts added eight of the 10 members of the CBC board are contributors to the Conservative Party, and the legislation setting out how board members are appointed must be reconsidered.

She is the first to seek nomination for the Green Party in Victoria, and if she wins, she will face incumbent Murray Rankin. The New Democrat MP won a 2012 by-election in a tight race against the Greens.

The NDP has also promised to reverse recent federal funding cuts to the CBC. But while Roberts praised her potential opponent as a "strong environmentalist," she said Rankin is limited by the constraints of his party.

"I'm in a position where I can vote with either the Liberals or the New Democrats on an issue like that. Murray is not."

As for environmental issues, Roberts said Prime Minister Stephen Harper is refusing to take action on the environment because of a misguided belief it will wreck the economy. She said she wants to promote renewable resources and reduce dependence on natural resources.

Roberts also said she is concerned about the state of democracy in Canada in general.

"I think, quite honestly, Stephen Harper is running this country on fear. It's time to replace that fear with hope, because that fear is changing the very essence of who we are as Canadians," she said.

"And I think if we're going to engage Canadians again in politics, we need to start having transparency and a diversity of voices and civic engagement. We just need to do politics differently."

 

The Canadian Press


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Snowboarder found after 3 days

A missing snowboarder has been found in good condition after spending three nights in the backcountry in Whistler, B.C.

Twenty-one-year-old Julie Abrahamsen went snowboarding on Blackcomb Mountain by herself on Wednesday.

She was reported missing Friday by her roommate although the last time she was seen was Wednesday morning.

Whistler RCMP say crews searched until nightfall and resumed on Saturday morning with a helicopter and search dogs.

Crews found a track in the backcountry and followed the trail until they discovered Abrahamsen at 1:30 p.m. near Wedge Creek.

She was removed by helicopter and transported for medical treatment, but she is in good condition.

 

The Canadian Press


Pineapple Express hits Vancouver

The Pineapple Express that drenched the Vancouver area is now drifting north, with heavy downpours expected to pummel the central coast of British Columbia.

A rainfall warning for Metro Vancouver was lifted on Saturday afternoon, after up to 98 millimetres of rain pelted parts of the southern coast over the previous 36 hours.

Environment Canada said the front is now moving north toward the central coast, with up to 200 millimetres of rain expected to fall between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.

Heavy rain caused flooding in many parts of the south coast of B.C. on Friday, including Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Shore and Stanley Park in Vancouver.

At least one charitable organization, the Lookout Society, opened its emergency shelters for the homeless in Burnaby, Surrey and the North Shore.

An Environment Canada forecaster said it's unlikely that Vancouver will break any rainfall records with only 40 millimetres falling at the city's airport. The hardest-hit area was in North Vancouver where 98 millimetres fell.

Greg Pearce said that so-called Pineapple Express fronts are not unusual for B.C., with about two or three reaching the province every winter.

A Pineapple Express results when a strong flow of moist air that originates near Hawaii moves along the western coast of North America, causing heavy downpours.

"It just kind of keeps this strong flow of moist subtropical air pointed right over southern B.C.," said Pearce, adding that the "pineapple" refers to Hawaii.

There's one silver lining for Vancouver residents who recently braved stormy, wet weather. The weather will be unseasonably mild over the next several days, said Pearce.

"With the Pineapple Express pushing north, that will allow this large dome of warm air over California to push up into extreme southern B.C," he said. "We're forecasting near-record temperatures for daytime highs over the next couple days."

The high in Vancouver was 11 degrees on Saturday, while the normal high is 7 degrees, said Pearce. He added there will be low clouds and drizzle over the next few days.

Environment Canada continues to warn central coast residents about possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre issued a floodwatch for the Kingcome River in central B.C., which is expected to hit peak levels late Saturday or early Sunday.

(The Canadian Press/CKNW)

The Canadian Press


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Arrest made in historic homicide

Surrey RCMP say they have made an arrest in a historic homicide dating back to 2006.

Mahdi Halane was shot in the neck following a confrontation at a gas station in October 2006.

His spinal cord was severed and he was left a quadriplegic until his death in 2012, which was attributed to the shooting.

Thirty-year-old Fushpinder Singh Brar of Surrey was arrested in Vancouver Friday without incident and remains in custody.

Brar has been charged with manslaughter.

Investigators are still appealing to the public as they believe there are other individuals involved in the incident who have yet to be identified.

The Canadian Press


Fire victim charged with murder

A woman who died in a mobile-home fire in Chase, B.C., last week was the victim in a domestic-dispute case in 2007 and charged with killing her husband less than a year later.

Fifty-three-year-old Sherry Leah Skjeie was found dead on Jan. 16 in the fire, which destroyed her unit in the Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park.

The B.C. Coroners Service said the fire is not considered to be suspicious but the investigation is continuing.

Sherry’s husband, Douglas Skjeie, received an 18-month conditional sentence in May 2007 in lieu of jail time after allegedly shooting at his wife with a .22-calibre rifle during a drunken rage.

Sherry told police her husband of 26 years had shot at her following an explosive argument, and she managed to dodge the bullet storm by running down the corridor and diving into the couple's bathroom.

Eight months later, in January 2008, Douglas was found stabbed to death at their home and Sherry was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

At the time of his death, the 47-year-old Douglas was under a court order to not contact his wife, stemming from an incident the year before.

 

The Canadian Press


Travel advisory on Hwy 1

UPDATE 10:15 a.m.

Avalanche control on Highway 1 has been completed 26 km west of Revelstoke to 8 km west of Revelstoke.


Intense precipitation and rapidly warming temperatures have prompted a travel advisory for the Trans-Canada Highway today between Three Valley Gap and the Alberta Border. 

Avalanche closures are expected, DriveBC warned early this morning.

Eastbound commercial vehicles must chain up at Albert Canyon. Westbound commercial vehicles must chain up at the Golden weigh scales. 

There will also be avalanche control 32-52 kilometres east of Revelstoke between noon and 3 p.m. with delays of up to three hours expected. 

Avalanche control will also take place from the west boundary of Glacier National Park to the east boundary from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m. from Golden to 17 kilometres east of the community.

Check DriveBC for updates on road conditions.



Highway 1 reopens

UPDATE 9:20 p.m.

Highway 1 is now open in both directions from Revelstoke to West Boundary of Glacier National Park.


UPDATE 7:15 p.m.

Highway 1 is closed to eastbound traffic only.

DriveBC estimates the road will open in both directions at 7:30.

Check DriveBC for updates.


Highway 1 is closed in both directions from Revelstoke to West Boundary of Glacier National Park due to spun-out commercial vehicles on Albert Canyon Hill.

Eastbound traffic is being held just east of Revelstoke. Commercial vehicles are required to chain-up.



LNG pipeline deal nets millions

Millions of dollars are expected to flow to a First Nation in British Columbia's northwest as a result of two new deals tied to proposed liquefied-natural-gas pipelines.

The Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation says it has signed benefits deals with the Moricetown Band.

One deal is tied to TransCanada's proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline and will give the First Nation located between Smithers and New Hazelton $6 million as project milestones are reached.

Moricetown is also the 16th and final band to sign onto the First Nations Limited Partnership and will share in $32 million in benefits once construction begins on the proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline.

The ministry says the Moricetown Band will receive a share of $10 million in benefits tied to each project, as well.

Pipeline benefits agreements are negotiated between First Nations and the provincial government and are separate from deals signed between aboriginals and project proponents

The Canadian Press


Puppy cruelty charges for CEO

Animal cruelty charges have been laid against the former CEO of a high-profile catering company who is accused of mistreating a friend's puppy.

British Columbia's SPCA says Desmond Hague has been charged with two counts under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as a result of the July 2014 incident in a Vancouver apartment complex.

The SPCA says images captured on an elevator surveillance video allegedly show Hague mistreating the young Doberman pinscher.

The society says the puppy was taken into the SPCA's custody and returned to its owner on the condition it have no further contact with Hague.

Hague announced his resignation in September from Centerplate Inc., a company that provides services to venues across North America, including B.C. Place, the home of the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions.

He also issued a statement to Global News saying he was deeply embarrassed and had apologized to the animal's owners.

The Canadian Press


Search called off for missing hiker

Weeks after Liang Jin set out for a hike on Vancouver's North Shore mountains, the search for the 21-year-old man has been called off.

Jin was last heard from Dec. 31 when he sent a text to his father saying he was going for a hike, and a further search of his computer suggested he was heading to the Hanes Valley or Lynn Headwaters.

Mike Danks, team leader with the North Shore Search and Rescue, says much of the snow has melted in the Hanes Valley area and they took search dogs in on Wednesday for a final look, but nothing more was found.

Crews were concentrating on Hanes Valley because they had reports of a single set of tracks spotted on the trail around the same time that Jin would have been in the area.

Danks says every time rescue crews are in Hanes Valley they'll look for Jin and for Tom Billings, the British tourist who disappeared in November 2013 and was believed to be hiking in the same area.

He says people hiking in these areas need to tell others where they're going, be prepared to be caught out overnight and have the proper gear, and they should not depend on a cellphone to get them out of trouble.

The Canadian Press


VPD chief announces retirement

Vancouver's police chief is set to retire after leading the department for more than seven years.

Chief Jim Chu, who has been on the force for 36 years, announced his retirement on Twitter.

Chu inherited the legacy of the Robert Pickton case, publicly apologizing for the department's failure to stop the serial killer and leading its response to a public inquiry.

He received national attention when he admitted the city was facing a gang war in 2009 and he was the force's public face in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup riot.

He also oversaw the department as it relaxed its approach to marijuana, which has led to the proliferation of illegal storefront dispensaries.

Chu is the former president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Canadian Press


Women denied equal pay at mill

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear a complaint made by a former human resources manager at a Castlegar pulp mill who says she and other female supervisors were denied equal pay and promotions.

Adrienne McKellar says she rose to a senior position that was previously held by a man and performed the same duties, but was given a different title and lower salary.

She alleges she was fired in June 2012 after complaining about her situation as well as what she described as systemic discrimination against women at the mill operated by Zellstoff Celgar Ltd.

Three other female employees in supervisory roles are named in the complaint and claim they were also denied equal pay or promotions based on their gender.

The mill previously sought to have the complaint dismissed, saying each of the women made substantially different allegations, but the tribunal decided there were enough similarities for the complaint to be heard.

The company denies the allegations and says non-unionized salaries are set by an external firm, which evaluates each position with names and references to gender removed.

The Canadian Press


First Nation launches mine study

A small First Nation says it has given up waiting for government and industry to address its concerns about the Gibraltar Mine expansion in British Columbia's Interior and has launched its own investigation.

The Esdilagh First Nation has secured a research grant for a team of international experts to lead a health impact assessment, which the group is calling the first of its kind in Canada.

Chief Bernie Elkins Mack said that existing studies of the copper-molybdenum mine near Williams Lake, B.C., are not rigorous enough, yet the mine was approved for an expansion that doubled its output.

"My number one priority is to encourage our members to use the land that we have next to the mine. Government and industry are always telling us, 'No, it's safe,' but they have no real evidence on the ground that it is," he said in an interview.

But Taseko Mines Ltd., which owns the mine, said it was required as part of its permit to conduct a human health and ecological risk assessment, which the province requested to alleviate the First Nation's concerns.

Brian Battison, Taseko's vice-president of corporate affairs, said the company has been trying to meet with the ?Esdilagh to incorporate the nation's questions into the study, but the band has repeatedly refused.

"It's pretty frustrating for us to be criticized now by this band, given the effort that we've gone to to try and satisfy their concerns," he said.

Battison said the company has spent more than $200,000 on the study so far. The mine has been operating for more than 40 years and the company has continuously collected data on soil, air quality and water, he added.

"That's a big part of what this is, is to take all of this information that we have and put it into a format that's completely understandable to laypeople," he said.

Mack denied his band has refused to meet with Taseko. He said he last met with the company in December and a planned meeting for this month fell through due to a scheduling mix-up.

"The bottom line is that we feel the study they're doing is too narrow," he said. "We've asked for broader research and both the government and Taseko are not on the same page, so that's why our review will be broader."

The B.C. Ministry of Environment said environmental studies, focusing on issues like contaminant monitoring and sturgeon migration, have been completed and shared with the Esdilagh.

The province confirmed it required Taseko to conduct a human health and ecological risk assessment after a review of the mine expansion. The company was also asked to do additional groundwater monitoring and develop a site-wide water quality model, the ministry said.

The ministry said it is interested in receiving the results of the community study and will review it to see if it can incorporate its findings.

The Gibraltar Mine is the second-largest open pit copper mine in Canada. Originally designed to process 36,000 tonnes of ore per day, the mine underwent an expansion in 2012 and can now process up to 85,000 tonnes daily.

The Esdilagh's lands are adjacent to the mine and the nation is concerned about impacts on fishing, farming and hunting.

The Esdilagh is one of six that make up the Tsilhqot'in National Government, which became the first aboriginal band in Canada to win title to its land in a historic Supreme Court decision last June.

The First Nation study is being supported by grants from the Vancouver Foundation and the Canadian Institute for Health Information. It will be led by Dr. Janis Shandro and Dr. Aleck Ostry of the University of Victoria as well as Dr. Mirko Winkler of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Switzerland.

Shandro said the study will meet international standards and will explore environmental, health and cultural impacts of the Gibraltar Mine and provide recommendations for Taseko and the government.

She said the mine has never undergone an environmental impact assessment because it was built before legislation requiring such studies was introduced. The current study Taseko is undertaking is too limited, Shandro said.

"The reason for the commissioning of this project is that we want to see communities, governments and industry working together in a more rigorous fashion," she said.

"This isn't an anti-mining or anti-government project. This is a project that we hope will bring all of these parties together to really address risk aspects and opportunity."

The Canadian Press


Pitching a tent to cost more

It'll cost you more to pitch your tent at your favourite campsite this summer.

The province announced Thursday it would be increase the fees people pay in provincial parks in order to 'maintain high service levels.'

According to information provided by the Ministry of Environment, BC Parks has invested approximately $60 million in park facilities and has about $700 million invested in infrastructure that has to be maintained.

Fees will go up between $2 and $5 per night with a majority of the increases at the lower end of the scale.

This is the first system-wide increase in five years.

The province expects to generate approximately $1.3 million in additional revenue as a result of the fee increase which it says will go back into maintaining and enhancing the park system.

In the Okanagan, fees are going up to $35/night at Bear Creek, $32/night at Fintry and Ellison in Vernon and $30/night at Haynes Point in Osoyoos.

Fees are not going up for sani-stations, mooring buoys, backcountry camping, picnic shelters or group camping.





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