Nearly half of B.C. EV owners worried about public charging access

EV charging anxiety

Nearly half of British Columbians who own an electric vehicle say they are worried about getting access to a public charging station, according to a recent poll.

The poll, carried out by PlugShare Research on behalf of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), surveyed more than 16,000 EV owners across Canada, including 5,620 in B.C. The results form the largest national survey of the sentiments of electric vehicle owners to date, claims the CAA.

“Once you do buy an EV, your satisfaction levels are overwhelmingly high. Most of your concerns that you had from before you bought it go down significantly,” said Shawn Pettipas, director of mobility marketing at the British Columbia Automobile Association, which partnered with its national counterpart on the study.

“But there are still some areas where you do have concerns and that's mostly around the worry about access to public charging.”

The poll found more than a third of B.C. EV owners charge their vehicle outside of the home. Just under half said when they do that, access to a public charging station “is a worry.” That’s led more than a third of owners to not have confidence in driving their electric car on long road trips, while two-thirds of EV owners still own a gas car.

“A lot of these folks in the survey are early adopters. So they're learning a whole new strategy of how to use their transportation,” said Pettipas. “I think it's gonna change as infrastructure catches up, as technology changes.”

The ability to charge an electric car has long been both a psychological and infrastructure barrier for current and potential EV owners. But the poll found those concerns significantly decline once someone buys an electric vehicle.

Roughly 35 per cent of respondents said they felt “range anxiety” before they owned an EV, which dropped to 31 per cent once they owned an electric vehicle. Worries over cold-weather performance dropped 18 percentage points once drivers owned an EV, while fears over battery degradation plummeted 43 per cent.

That has all combined to lead 96 per cent of B.C. electric vehicle owners to say they would buy another EV if they had to replace the one they currently own. Another 87 per cent said they preferred driving an EV, 96 per cent said their EV was more affordable than their old gas vehicle, and 92 per cent said it's a quieter ride.

The survey was carried out from Nov. 21 to Dec. 11, 2022, in every province across Canada, with B.C. drivers representing the largest share of respondents.

Last year, about one in five new vehicles sold in B.C. were electric, said Trevor Melanson, a spokesperson for Simon Fraser University’s Clean Energy Canada program, which works to accelerate Canada’s clean energy transition.



“It’s a bright spot in B.C., but the story is not quite true right across Canada,” said Melanson.

Almost 15 per cent of all new vehicles registered in B.C. between January and June 2022 were electric. Quebec is Canada’s second EV sales leader, accounting for 11.4 per cent of registrations over that same period.

Other provinces, however, have further to go. In the first six months of 2022, sales of fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles made up just 7.2 per cent of new car registrations across Canada. For all of 2021, the share was 5.2 per cent.

“Canada has actually been kind of middle of the pack in terms of EV adoption, and in fact, is lagging behind a number of European countries and even China in terms of EV adoption,” Melanson said.

That has prompted the federal government to try and play catch-up with B.C. and Quebec on EV rebates (which it has already done) and mandates requiring automakers to supply more EVs, (a policy it’s currently pursuing).

“The federal government now is actually pushing through a version of that policy at a national level to kind of even the playing field across the country,” Melanson said.

In late 2022, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault pledged to pass regulations that would require one-fifth of all passenger cars, SUVs and trucks sold in Canada by 2026 to be electric. By 2035, the plan would require every passenger vehicle sold in Canada to be electric.

Manufacturers or importers who don't meet the sales targets could face penalties under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act through a phased-in approach.

Despite current EV misgivings, the pace of transitioning away from gas-powered cars is only expected to grow faster, and that’s predicted to create a boom in new jobs.



By 2050, nearly 61 per cent of the clean energy sector jobs are expected to be in transportation, according to a report released Wednesday by Clean Energy Canada.

In B.C., the report forecast clean transportation is the biggest employer in the province’s net-zero clean energy sector, with jobs in the EV sector expected to employ 205,800 people in 2050, a 40-fold increase from what’s expected by 2025.

“Clean transportation is the biggest opportunity in Canada's clean energy sector,” added Melanson.

“We have some work to do, but I think it's going to be one of the areas that we can succeed in sooner than some others.”

With files from The Canadian Press


North Van RCMP seek suspect in porta potty fires

Police seek arson suspect

Usually, the expression about lighting a fire under your butt isn’t meant literally.

But in other cases, apparently it is.

North Vancouver RCMP are looking for public help to identify a suspect they believe has been deliberately setting fire to porta-potties in the area.

The suspect is alleged to have set one porta-potty on fire on March 13 at around 8:30 a.m. near 2100 block of Hamilton Ave in North Vancouver. A witness observed the suspect leaving the porta-potty just before it caught fire, according to police.

A few days later, on March 20 at 2:44 a.m. police and firefighters were called to a porta-potty also set on fire in the 1900 block of Jones Ave in North Vancouver. No suspects were seen at that location, but police believe the two incidents are related.

The suspect in the March 13 arson is described as a Caucasian man, about 5-9 tall, 180-220 pounds, wearing a tan jacket, green and black camouflage pants and a baseball cap with a red backpack.

To further the investigation, North Vancouver RCMP are releasing a composite sketch of the suspect.

Anyone with information is asked to call the North Vancouver RCMP at 985-1311, quoting file 23-4854.

Prince George Pulp job losses reduced to 90 union workers

Mill job losses reduced

On Jan. 11, when Canfor Pulp announced the pending closure of its pulp line at Prince George Pulp and Paper mill, it was feared 300 jobs would be permanently lost.

Of those positions slated to be eliminated, 220 were union jobs.

But because employees at the three Canfor pulp mills in the city have accepted early retirement packages or have decided to leave the company, that layoff number had been reduced to about 90 unionized workers.

Chuck LeBlanc, president of the Private and Public Workers of Canada Local 9, said 32 PPWC members have accepted early retirement packages, which the company has extended to employees 60 or older who will now retire this year.

A similar offer was made to Unifor Local 603, which represents unionized workers at Northwood Pulp Mill, and LeBlanc said about 30 Northwood employees accepted retirement packages.

Another 28 union positions were made available when workers decided to leave for other jobs, some in the city and some in other locations.

The announced closure also affects about 80 Canfor Pulp management and union-exempt staff. The Citizen is awaiting a response from Canfor Pulp to confirm how many of those workers will lose their jobs.

LeBlanc said those accepting packages will apply to the provincial government’s Bridging to Retirement program to help forestry workers affected by the decline in the forest industry. The program will provide up to $75,000 for eligible employees and contractors whose jobs are dependent on the mill.

“We would have liked to have seen packages offered down to a younger age, maybe 55, but the company wasn’t willing to go that far at this point,” he said. “They’re going to follow what was in our collective agreement and very little else but the bottom line.”


Nearly $24 million lost to crypto scams in BC last year

Warning of crypto scams

The RCMP is warning British Columbians to be on the lookout for crypto scams, after nearly $24 million was lost to these types of scams in the province in 2022.

While British Columbians reported $8.5 million lost to crypto scams in 2021, this number nearly tripled in 2022. And the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says only five to 10 per cent of victims report fraud.

In a press release issued Wednesday morning, the B.C. Securities Commission, B.C. RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warned the public of these growing scams, which they say use the “popularity and complexity of crypto assets to target vulnerable investors.”

“Recent BCSC research shows young adult investors in B.C. are more likely turn to social media for investing advice and information and that they are taking a more speculative and risky approach to investing, with 18 per cent holding only crypto investments,” the joint press release states.

The RCMP says the following are characteristics of possible crypto scams:

  • Promises of guaranteed high returns on an investment: All investments have risk. Investors should question any investments that have a guaranteed return.
  • Complicated jargon and language that is difficult to understand: Scammers often exploit the mystique of complex new technologies, like blockchain or artificial intelligence, to project a veneer of expertise and authority.
  • Unregistered salesperson: Many investment frauds involve individual or firms that aren’t registered to buy or sell investments. Always check AreTheyRegistered.ca before investing.
  • Unsolicited offers: Be extremely cautious if you receive unsolicited communication over email, by phone, pop-up ads and videos on the internet, or direct messages on social media.
  • Pressure to buy: Scammers may try to create a false sense of urgency to take advantage of an investment before it’s too late. Take your time and research an investment opportunity, ask questions, and talk to a registered professional before making a decision.

“If promises of high returns on an investment seem too good to be true, you’re probably right,” says Kurt Bedford of the BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime Operations and Financial Integrity unit.

“Although our dedicated investigators at the BC RCMP Financial Integrity unit work hard to solve some of the most complex financial crime related offences, investor education and prevention still remain the first line of defence against becoming victims of investment fraud.”

B.C. teacher banned after assaulting student in his office

Teacher banned for assault

A former B.C. high school teacher, whose name remains anonymous due to a court publication ban, has received a lifetime ban from teaching in the independent and public school systems.

That's according to a March 21 consent resolution agreement with the B.C. Commissioner of Teacher Regulation.

In September 2020, the commissioner’s office received a report from the RCMP regarding the teacher, who had previously been disciplined in 2019.

The teacher was found to have invited a student into his office and pulled the student onto his lap where he had “inappropriate physical contact” with the student. The teacher subsequently pleaded guilty to assault and received an unspecified sentence, according to the commissioner’s agreement, which notes a publication ban on the criminal proceedings.

In October 2020, the teacher admitted to professional misconduct and agreed to never apply for certification again.

The teacher had been previously suspended by his school district in October 2019 for “responding inappropriately to a student’s threat of self-harm,” according to the commissioner.

B.C. public sector set for 6.75% wage hike, costing up to $2.6B

Public sector getting a raise

B.C. public sector employees will receive a 6.75 per cent wage increase this year, which is the maximum allowance under the ratified collective agreements dubbed the “Shared Recovery Mandate.”

There are just over 500,000 public sector employees, of which 393,000 are unionized. The B.C. government has been signing the agreements since last year, with the likes of the BC General Employees' Union, BC Teachers' Federation and various smaller unions covering health-care and community service workers.

The three-year mandate was not pegged exactly to inflation but stipulated a “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) minimum increase of 5.5 per cent and a maximum increase of 6.75 per cent, depending on the provincial consumer price index (CPI) increase between March 2022 and February 2023, which turned out to be 7.1 per cent.

Last year the public sector cost taxpayers $38.6 billion, accounting for roughly half of expenditures, according to the ministry. Each percentage point increase costs $386 million total, or $311 million if only accounting for unions and other negotiated agreements. A total increase of 6.75 per cent across the board will therefore cost $2.6 billion this year. If accounting for only unionized workers, a full suite of agreements will cost an additional $2.1 billion, according to the ministry.

To date, more than 295,000 of unionized employees (about 75 per cent) are covered by tentative or ratified agreements reached under the mandate, according to the Ministry of Finance.

A key outlier is the BC Nurses' Union, whose 48,000 members remain without a contract, according to the ministry. The government has 184 “collective agreements and compensation arrangements” of which health-care providers account for 222,921 employees (45 per cent of the sector in 2022) and $19.6 billion (51 per cent of 2022 expenditures).

The mandate covered a roughly 3.5 per cent increase in 2022 and next year the mandate stipulates a two to three per cent increase, depending on the CPI next year (if CPI is greater than three per cent, the wage increases will still not exceed three per cent).

Watch: Drones are delivering prescriptions to B.C.'s remote communities

Drones delivering medicine

Drones have been flying over rivers to bring medical supplies to remote and Indigenous communities in British Columbia and now the project is expanding further. 

The University of British Columbia worked closely with the Stellat’en First Nation to pilot the drone initiative, clocking in 1,200 flights over 12 months, between October 2021 and October 2022.

Dr. John Pawlovich, a clinical professor in UBC’s department of family practice and telehealth lead for the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, believes this first phase of the project was extremely successful.

“Those communities that are on the edge of our health-care system, deserve better than what the health-care system has traditionally been able to deliver,” he says.

Originally, the first phase of the project was not designed to fly supplies but instead to do test runs to build knowledge.

"The goal of the exercise is and was to continue to understand how drone technology could influence hopefully positively the medical supply chain as it relates to rural, remote Indigenous communities,” explains Pawlovich. 

Over the test period, a drone flew between the communities of Stellat’en First Nation and the Village of Fraser Lake. It's a distance of about five kilometres with a lake in between. 

"I can tell you there's a tremendous number of moving parts that need to be worked on,” he tells Glacier Media.

The drone, called Sparrow, was tested in all weather conditions, multiple times a day, five days a week. 

Pawlovich said this was done "to try to understand what we could do or [couldn't] do."

As the project continued, prescriptions and medicine were transported to the communities. 

“The patients did get to experience that,” he says. 

Family physicians would see the patient virtually, understand their needs, send a prescription to a pharmacy and then have it delivered by drone to their home.

“That’s transformative,” he says. "Being part of the project was really noteworthy, really special."

Pawlovich has worked as a family physician that has supported Stellat’en First Nation for more than 20 years. 

Health-care equality needed

The first part of the drone initiative was a ‘baby step’ in understanding how medical supplies can be delivered to remote Indigenous communities and rural non-Indigenous communities. 

“We know very clearly that rural communities, remote communities, Indigenous communities are disadvantaged in the health-care system on many levels,” says Pawlovich.

After a successful first phase, he believes this project holds the potential to expand. Communities that have a lack of pharmacies or doctors could benefit. Products like blood or medical supplies can be transported faster with the drone than in a vehicle or on a boat. 

“This creates an opportunity to enhance the number of modalities of transportation in the medical supply chain that can strengthen rural communities and bring care closer to home to where patients and families are,” he says.

The pandemic highlighted the need for health-care supplies and exacerbated inequitable access to health care, he adds. 

“There's a clear and present need to improve how medical supplies get to the communities that need those medical supplies,” he says. “If we don't innovate, if we don't think outside the box... we're never going to get to a better place. And so in the spirit of equity, this work must happen.”

Going the distance

Transport Canada has granted the program a special certificate that allows the drones to go further. The drone's operator also doesn't need to have it in their line of sight at all times.

Pawlovich says this will allow his team to fly into more remote communities and over mountains, “where those disparities are much more pronounced.” 

For the second phase of the project, they'll be working with partners like the University of Northern British Columbia, Northern Health Authority and the First Nations Heath Authority. They also hope to bring organizations like Canadian Blood Services, LifeLabs and different pharmacies into the fold.

"We're not there yet, but we're quite hopeful and optimistic that we have a lot of people interested,” he says, noting the group recently met with Prince George Airport staff.

"Having drones that will eventually have to navigate to larger airports like Prince George, is going to be necessary,” he says. “We would really love to start to focus on advancing part of this work.”

He’s now questioning if they could move blood products and blood specimens to places that don’t have access to that medical service. 

"I think British Columbia is really set up well to lead out on this type of research,” he says. “There's tremendous potential to build on the expertise from the communities themselves.”

Technology is advancing rapidly, he adds, and there is potential to use different drone vendors depending on the need and location they would fly to. 

“We understand what history is going to do, it's going to keep changing, and this technology is not going to go away. It's going to advance,” he says. 

Police seize large amount of vaping products for sale to students

Vapes destined for schools

Over $100,000 worth of vaping products destined for sale to youth at local schools has been seized by Saanich police detectives.

The seizure stems from an investigation that began in November after police received reports that people were going to middle schools and high schools in Saanich to sell vaping products to students under the age of 18.

“It is clear that the items are branded and marketed in such a way to entice youth into buying them, and these individuals specifically targeted schools to sell their products,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades.

The federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act prohibits the distribution of tobacco or vaping product to anyone under 18.

Over the course of the investigation, officers saw the products being sold at schools across the capital region, both during and after school hours.

People were also seen selling items to youth at malls and parks — even accepting payment through portable point-of-sale machines.

The products were put in food-delivery bags, duffle bags and plastic totes to conceal what they were.

Saanich’s Street Crime Unit and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team executed a search warrant on March 17 at a business in the 700-block of Vanalman Avenue in relation to the case.

Items located included vape kits, pens, e-cigarettes, e-liquids, tanks and disposable items, along with tobacco and liquids that were up to 98 per cent THC — the active ingredient in marijuana.

It was determined that the sellers were primarily using the social-media platform Snapchat to contact customers, then followed up by sending direct messages to confirm prices and set delivery times and locations.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation continues.

Saskatchewan First Nation says B.C. willing to keep talking to resolve concerns

BC, Sask. to keep talking

Leaders of Saskatchewan's Key First Nation say they held a "productive discussion" with senior officials from British Columbia and have agreed to keep talking about critical outstanding issues.

The First Nation released a statement one day after a news conference in Vancouver that outlined its first steps to control its own child welfare services.

Vancouver was selected because the First Nation is still waiting for answers from B.C. about 13-year-old Noelle O'Soup, a Key First Nation member who disappeared from a B.C. group home and was found dead a year later.

The statement says the Key First Nation chief and council met with Attorney General Niki Sharma and Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean and all sides agreed to continue work toward a joint strategy to address important issues.

Chief Clinton Key says he and council are "cautiously optimistic" about talks with the province.

He says the nation remains dedicated to protecting its children and hopes B.C. will work with it "in a good way" to achieve meaningful action on child welfare reform.

Former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart wins $100,000 costs in NPA defamation case

Former mayor wins case

A B.C. judge says former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart can recover more than $100,000 in legal costs related to a failed defamation case launched by political rivals in the once-dominant Non-Partisan Association.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker says in her March 20 ruling that the defamation case against Stewart by current and former members of the NPA's board of directors was a "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

They sued Stewart after he issued a press release in January 2021 denouncing "hate and extremism" in the NPA in response to media reports on the party's internal turmoil over an ideological shift to the right.

Baker's judgment says the defamation claims had "substantial merit," but found Stewart's statements were not malicious and were fair game because the issues were in the public interest and had been widely reported.

Baker says the NPA board members also tried to strategically and inappropriately disqualify Stewart's lawyers from the case, increasing his legal costs.

The ruling says Stewart wanted damages, arguing the lawsuit was filed in bad faith for an improper purpose, but Baker says that awarding full costs addresses any harm the case may have caused.

Heavy-duty trucks in Prince George being converted to hydrogen-diesel

Hydrogen-diesel trucks here

Hydra Energy achieved another significant milestone in its Prince George project rollout by signing with eight commercial truck fleets in the region.

This represents 82 Class 8 trucks to be retrofitted using Hydra’s proprietary hydrogen-diesel, co-combustion conversion technology

Once converted by Hydra installation partner, First Truck Centre, these trucks will refuel at the world’s largest hydrogen refuelling station Hydra is currently building in Prince George to be operational in 2024, which uses green hydrogen produced on site by two 5-megawatt electrolysers powered with hydroelectricity.

“Upon signing our first commercial fleet customer in Prince George and breaking ground on our local refuelling station last year, we had an initial goal to secure 65 heavy-duty trucks to leverage the new station once operational next year. We’re pleased to surpass this target with the signing of these eight fleets highlighting the continued interest in hydrogen trucking and the benefits it delivers for fleets of all sizes, even with heavy payloads in challenging weather and road conditions like those found in Northern B.C.,” explained Hydra Energy CEO Jessica Verhagen.

“We look forward to working with First Truck Centre to start converting these trucks about six months prior to our station’s opening and to continuing to work with the City of Prince George as the flagship stop in the Western Canadian Hydrogen Corridor we’re building between the B.C. Coast and Edmonton.”

Hydra Energy has signed memorandums of understanding with Arrow Transportation Systems, Excel Transportation, Edgewater Holdings, Wilson Bros. Enterprises, Burke Purdon Enterprises, Godsoe Contracting, Keis Trucking, and Peace Valley Industries, who all service the Prince George and Northern B.C. region.

“We also continue to have ongoing discussions with additional local fleets who are keen to explore how hydrogen can benefit them,” said Hydra’s service delivery lead Ilya Radetski.

Activist investor wants Parkland to sell or spin off Burnaby refinery

Push to sell Burnaby refinery

A U.S. activist investor has set its sights on Calgary-based Parkland Corp., urging the fuel retailer to consider selling or spinning off its Burnaby, B.C., refinery.

New York-based Engine Capital LP., which owns about a two per cent stake in Parkland, sent a letter to the company's board on Wednesday. In the letter, Engine criticized Parkland for being "unable to translate its advantaged strategic position and quality assets into adequate returns for shareholders," and said the company could achieve better performance by becoming a pure play fuel and convenience retailer and getting rid of non-core assets.

"We are particularly troubled by Parkland’s staggering underperformance compared to Canadian convenience retailer champion, Alimentation Couche-Tard," Engine managing partner Arnaud Ajdler and partner Brad Favreau wrote, adding the investment fund proposes Parkland sell or spin off its Burnaby refinery as well as its heating oil and propane distribution businesses.

"We aware of several parties interested in these different assets," they wrote.

Parkland purchased the Burnaby refinery — which refines 55,000 barrels per day of crude and synthetic oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuels and more — from Chevron Canada for $1.5 billion in 2017.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Parkland acknowledged the receipt of Engine's letter. It said while it continues to work to enhance shareholder value, it is expecting to achieve record adjusted earnings in 2023 and has high confidence it can achieve its goal of reaching $2 billion in adjusted earnings by 2025 without further acquisitions.

"The company appreciates constructive shareholder input and will provide an update in due course," Parkland said in its statement.

On the retail side, Parkland is one of the fastest growing independent fuel suppliers and marketers in North America, with a network of retail service stations across Canada, the northern U.S., and the Caribbean. 

Its On the Run convenience store brand is expected to have more than 1,000 locations by 2024.

Engine is also calling for a refresh of Parkland's board. The activist investor criticized the company for the length of time some board members — including chair Jim Pantelidis — have served, as well as its approach to executive compensation. 

Engine, which is requesting a meeting with the board, said in its letter that if the board is unwilling to consider its proposals it should consider a sale of the entire company to either private equity or "strategic buyers."

On its website, Engine Capital says it launched in 2013 and often engages with management teams and boards of directors to create value for the benefit of all shareholders.

"We are looking for undervalued companies where we understand the reason for the mispricing and where change is occurring to close this value gap," the investment fund states.

In a note to clients Wednesday, RBC Capital Markets analyst Luke Davis said he believes that in general, Parkland's major shareholders are aligned with the company's current strategy and "tend to be passive, though the key concerns outlined have been points of contention for select investors and could gain some traction."

Engine said in its letter to the board that it believes Parkland's stock could be worth around $45 per share, a 55 per cent premium to its recent price. 

Parkland shares were up close to nine per cent as of midday Wednesday, at $31.82.

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