Wednesday, November 26th1.3°C

24-hours without power

Update -- 4:00 p.m.

Many residents in Peachland and Summerland are expecting to be without power for nearly 24-hours. 

For many residents in that area, power went out at 8 p.m. last night and and it remains off this afternoon.  

BC Hydro says power was restored for a short period between 2 a.m and 4 a.m., which is why they are reporting the current outage began at 4 a.m. this morning. 

Their original estimate for the restoration of power has now been extended to 9 p.m. leaving residents without power for most of the 24-hour period.

BC Hydro spokesperson Dag Sharman says crews are working diligently to get power back on but are facing some difficult obstacles.

Power was returned to the 1,600 Lake Country residents affected shortly before 3 p.m.

There are still 46 outages affecting 4,500 customers up and down the valley. 

Update -- 2:00 p.m.

A new power outage in Lake Country brings the amount of Okanagan residents without power to over 6,000.

Over 1,500 Lake Country resident’s power was knocked out just after 1 p.m. this afternoon, an outage BC Hydro attributes to the snowstorm.

They join over 3,800 people in the Peachland/Summerland area that have been without power since early this morning.

In total there are 54 separate outages, affecting 6,429 customers up and down the valley.

BC Hydro says the majority of the outages are due to the snowstorm, which caused many trees to break and power lines to come down.

The currently estimate the power will be returned to all customers by 4 p.m. 

Update -- 11:45 a.m.

Fortis BC is reporting that power has been restored to the majority of affected customers in Glenmore, Joe Rich, Big White and Naramata. 

The company says they are working to restore power to the remaining 100 affected customers. 

In Lake Country and Oyama, the majority of power has been restored. Over 3,800 homes are still without power in Peachland and Summerland.  BC Hydro estimates it will be restored by 4 p.m.

Several hundred people are also without power in Vernon and West Kelowna with an estimated turn on time of 4 p.m. as well. 

Update -- 9:30 a.m.

FortisBC says they've been kept busy this morning with many outages throughout the valley, but most power has been restored to the Naramata and West Bench areas of the Okanagan.

“We’ve restored to most of the customers around there. We’ve also restored to a lot of customers around Princeton. Our largest outage around the Kelowna area is Big White and Joe Rich," says Neal Pobran, Manager of Corporate Communications.

He says about 2,000 people are still without power in those areas, but crews are already responding to where a tree has fallen onto some power lines. 

Turning closer to home, power has also been restored to most areas in Rutland, but there are other pockets in Glenmore and Dilworth that are in the dark. 

In Lake Country and Oyama, there are approximately 1,600 residents still in the dark with power expected to come back on by 4 p.m. And 3,800 homes without power in Peachland and Summerland. BC Hydro now anticipates power to be restored to those customers by noon.

Large areas of the Okanagan are without power Wednesday morning following the region's first major snowfall of the season.

According to BC Hydro, there are just over 1,500 residents in the Peachland area without power this morning and another 2,300 homes without power further south towards Summerland.

Power in those areas went out around 4:30 this morning and it's expected to be restored by 8 a.m.

Another couple hundred more homes are also without power in both Lake Country and Westbank, with BC Hydro anticipating things to get back to normal just after 9 a.m.

And FortisBC is reporting that thousands of homes in Rutland, Big White and the Penticton/Naramata area are also in the dark this morning.

The winter weather has also affected just over 1,000 residents in Salmon Arm, with the power going out around 5:30 this morning. Those customers are expected to get their power back by 9 a.m.


BC forecasts $444M surplus

BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the province had a balanced budget for the second quarter, and is on track to balance the overall 2014-15 budget.

de Jong says the forecast year-end surplus is now $444 million, up $178 million since the first quarter report. He says it's still a modest surplus prediction but indicates continued movement in the right direction.

"While this quarterly update demonstrates there have been some positive short-term gains, we're committed to continuing to exercise fiscal discipline," says de Jong.

Revenue for the fiscal year is projected at $45.5 billion, nearly $200 million higher than previous forecasts. Revenue increased from tax, federal transfer payments and Crown Corporations, but income was lower than expected from natural resource revenues. The gains in revenue are not expected to carry forward to future years.

Since the first quarter report, both revenue and spending figures have been amended.

  • Total government spending is forecast to be $16 million higher
  • Ministry spending is estimated to be $29 million less
  • Taxpayer-supported debt is forecast to be $300 million less

The government says spending increases were driven in part by health authorities, which spent more to meet the demand for services. Decreased ministry spending is attributed to lower debt servicing costs.

BC's real GDP is forecast to grow by 1.9% in 2014 and 2.3% in 2015, unchanged from the first quarterly Report.

Road Report: Highways

Update 2 p.m.

Highway 97C east of Logan is now open.

Highway 5 is now closed northbound at Merritt due to a traffic incident.

Highway 5, 6 km south of Exit 336, Junction with Highway 97D, to Logan Lake has been reduced to single lane alternating traffic with up to 20 minutes delay.

Update 12 p.m.

DriveBC is reporting that Highway 97C is still closed 15 kilometres east of Logan Lake.

The road is reduced to single lane alternating traffic to light passenger vehicles only.

This incident is also affecting traffic on Highway 5, north of Merritt. That part of the Coquihalla is closed eight kilometres south of Exit 336, near the junction with Highway 97D. 

There is no estimated time of opening, but an assessment in progress. 

Update: 8:45 a.m. 

Highway 97C is open once again, but traffic is reduced to single lane alternating.


Heavy snow continues to fall on the major highway passes leading to and from the Okanagan.

A travel advisory had been in effect for Highway 3 in both directions from Hope to Princeton. That has recently been lifted, but motorists are still advised to use extreme caution.

The Okanagan Connector is closed in both directions 15 kilometres east of Logan Lake due to a vehicle incident. A detour is available via Hwy 97D and Highway 5.

It is expected to reopen by 9 a.m., but Environment Canada is calling for another 15-30 centimetres of snow to fall by this evening.

Both the Coquihalla summit and the Allison Pass have received 45 and 50 cm of snow respectively since Monday evening.

More snow is also anticipated to fall along the Trans-Canada Highway east to Alberta with 15-25 centimetres forecasted by Thursday morning.



4,300 Grey Cup tickets unsold

Grey Cup organizers say about 4,300 tickets remain unsold for Sunday's game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Jamie Pitblado, 102nd Grey Cup Festival general manager, said Wednesday there was a spike in sales after the two clubs advanced with playoff victories on Sunday, but added there are still plenty of seats available.

"We're definitely headed in the right direction," he said. "(We) will keep focused and keep working with the teams and their fans to make sure we can accommodate whatever requests and needs are coming in."

The last three Grey Cup games have featured the host team, but the B.C. Lions were eliminated in the first round of the 2014 post-season, while the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their rabid fanbase were also knocked out at the same stage.

That has made the job of selling the game at the 54,500-seat B.C. Place Stadium more difficult, along with the fact that Vancouver also hosted the Grey Cup just three years ago.

"I think the excitement's building," said Pitblado. "I think it's building for more than just the game, but the festival as well — the whole experience."

Prior to the East and West Division finals there were about 6,500 tickets left to sell. As of Wednesday, the remaining 4,300 seats were mostly in the corners of the upperdeck and priced around $250 apiece.

"(Sales) are starting to pick up again," said Pitblado. "We're kind of where we want to be, where we expected to be. We've still got some work to do and we're going to keep plugging away at it."

The newly renovated B.C. Place hosted a sold-out Grey Cup in 2011 when the Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the venue's first major event following the 2010 Olympics.

While Pitblado would not guarantee a sellout for this year's game, he said he expected it to be close.

"We're going to work darn hard," said Pitblado. "That's our goal, that's what we expect and we're going to try out best to get there."

The Canadian Press

Gov't gives green light to LNG

Three proposed multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas projects in northern BC have been awarded the environmental green light by the provincial government.

The ministries of Environment and Natural Gas Development now have environmental assessment certificates for two pipelines and one export facility.

The Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline and the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline would start near Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope, respectively, and end hundreds of kilometres away on the coast in Prince Rupert.

Capital costs for the proposed projects are expected to hit $7.5 billion and $5 billion.

The Pacific NorthWest LNG export facility would be built in the Port of Prince Rupert and its estimated capital cost is $11.4 billion.

The Environment Ministry says the projects still need permits from all three levels of government, and the LNG export facility is still subject to a federal environmental assessment.

The Canadian Press

Snow slams high passes

Update 7 p.m.

Heavy snow continues to fall over the the mountain passes tonight.

Environment Canada now expects snow accumulations of up to 40 centimetres overnight, with the Coquihalla summit and Allison Pass being two of the hardest hit areas.

However precipitation in those areas may change to rain overnight as the weather system moves eastward.

Heavy snow is also expected over Kootenay Pass and Rogers Pass into Wednesday afternoon.

Original story Nov. 25

A frontal system bringing heavy precipitation will blanket BC’s Interior highways dumping as much as 30 cm.

Extending through tonight, conditions throughout the Coquihalla, Hope to Kamloops and the Hwy. 97C, Merritt to Kelowna are expected to be treacherous over the next 24 hours.

Environment Canada warns that the Coquihalla Summit will be particularly hard hit, as well as Highway 3, Hope to Princeton which expects up to 15 or more centimetres crippling Alison Pass.

Drive BC webcams show very limited visibility particularly approaching and descending the Summit on 97C all the way through to Brenda Mines. A reminder to drivers is being issued that all vehicles are required to have proper winter tires on all BC highways.

The snow is expected to turn to rain overnight as the front pulls northward potentially making for slushy conditions in lower elevations rising to icy patches higher up.

As the first warning of the season is issued, travelers should prepare for harsh winter conditions.  A collision near Revelstoke Monday evening due to poor road conditions resulted in one fatality.

Environment Canada advises anyone using Interior highways to be prepared and to monitor warnings and forecasts as they may be extended.

For current highway conditions and updates check DriveBC.

Top Gear trapped in Trail

As Castanet reported last week, the BBC show 'Top Gear' was scheduled to be in the Okanagan to shoot a segment for their show, but as it turns out, their trip to our province was not without some bumps in the road.

Jeremy Clarkson -- the host of one of the world's best-known television shows -- and his crew found themselves stranded in Trail on Sunday. And not knowing what to do, he took to Twitter to ask for suggestions on how to pass the time in the small town of 8,000 people.

He was quickly flooded with ideas, including one person who suggested a tour of the local lead and zinc smelter, or wine tasting at a local winery, and visiting the famous Italian Trail restaurant 'The Colander'.

What struck a cord with the BBC host though, was an invite from the local deli/grocery store for a lesson on how to properly butcher a goat.

It is unclear what the crew decided to do with their time, but we know they were able to fly out of the town's tiny airport later that day.

Top Gear was in the Southern Interior over the weekend filming a segment for their show, as the team tested out the Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV on highways in the South Okanagan and Boundary Regions.

Ivory smuggler pleads guilty

A Vancouver-area antiques dealer has pleaded guilty in an American court to attempting to import endangered rhinoceros horns into Canada in a smuggling operation that also saw carved elephant tusks and other items illegally transported across the border.

Xiao Ju Guan, also known as Tony Guan, pleaded guilty Tuesday in a New York City court to one count of attempted smuggling.

The 39-year-old, who owns an antiques business in Richmond, B.C., pleaded guilty to one count of attempted smuggling, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

The release said Guan travelled from the Vancouver area to New York, where he met with undercover agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a storage facility in the city's Bronx borough.

The agents sold Guan two endangered black rhinoceros horns and then accompanied him as he shipped the horns to an address in Point Roberts, Wash., located just across the border south of Vancouver. He labelled the box "handicrafts," the release said.

"Guan indicated that he had people who could drive the horns across the border and that he had done so many times before," said the news release.

Guan's plea included an admission that he and people working for him have smuggled more than $400,000 of rhino horns and sculptures made from elephant ivory and coral from numerous U.S. auction houses into Canada, either by shipping them to Point Roberts or directly to Canada with false paperwork and without required declaration or permits.

The offence carries a maximum term of ten years in prison and a sentencing hearing is set for March 13 next year. Guan also agreed to forfeit items seized during a search of his business in Richmond and he agreed not to participate in the trade, purchase or sale of wildlife in the U.S.

His arrest came as part of an ongoing American investigation labelled Operation Crash, which is targeting the illegal trafficking of rhino horns. A herd of rhinoceros is referred to as a crash.

The Department of Justice notes all species of rhinos are endangered, while elephants are either endangered or vulnerable. Because of that, trade in rhino horns and elephant ivory is severely restricted.

"Rhinos and elephants are not antiques, as the president of an antique company engaged in international trade should know" Sam Hirsch of the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

"The illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory and the escalation of black-market prices are directly related to horrific poaching on living animals."

The Canadian Press

BCFED calls for $15 minimum wage

The BC Federation of Labour has launched a new campaign calling on the province to increase the minimum wage.

The campaign, 'Fight For $15' calls for an increase in the minimum wage to $15.

"At the current minimum wage, working full-time is not enough to lift a worker out of poverty,” says Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour.

“It has been almost three years since the last increase to the minimum wage. Workers fall behind when their wage is stagnant, yet the cost of living goes up each year.”

Currently, the minimum wage in BC is $10.25. It was last increased in May, 2012.

The federation says more than 120,000 workers in BC are earning the minimum wage. Of those, 47 per cent are over 25, eight per cent are 55 or older while 63 per cent are women.

Sinclair says BC has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country yet the province is the 'most expensive and unequal' according to Stats Can.

He says increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would put a full-time worker 10 per cent above the States.

“Seattle and San Francisco know that increasing the minimum wage gives a boost to local economies,” says Irene Lanzinger, Secretary Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour.

"Low wage earners are more likely to spend their money at businesses in their neighbourhood. Businesses may also experience improved employee retention and productivity when employees feel valued and respected.”

A recent public opinion poll, conducted by Insights West, suggests that British Columbians agree it is time to increase the minimum wage.

  • 72% support an increase to $15/hr
  • 75% support making a significant and immediate increase to the minimum wage
  • 93% support reviewing and adjusting the minimum wage on a regular basis

“A lift for our lowest paid workers is long overdue,” says Sinclair. “$15/hour is a fair wage. We need to build an economy that works for everyone.”

Ironically, it was back in March of this year that the BCFED called on the province to increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour.

Crash closes Highway 3

A multi-vehicle incident has closed Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.

The road is closed in both directions south of the town, approximately six kilometres west of Saturday Creek.

DriveBC is reporting there is no estimated time of reopening -- an assessment is currently in progress.


Anti-pipeline grandma


An 84-year-old retired librarian says she's willing to violate a court injunction and go to jail as she and other anti-pipeline protesters take a stand against fossil fuels by interfering with survey work in Burnaby, B.C.

Barbara Grant joined activists near Burnaby Mountain on Tuesday to demonstrate against Kinder Morgan's proposed plan to nearly triple its pipeline capacity to transport Alberta oil to British Columbia.

Grant says she has the support of her three children and three grandchildren, some of whom have joined the protest as crews drilled two bore holes into Burnaby Mountain before a decision on the project by the National Energy Board.

Grant says she may walk past a no-go line on the mountain later Tuesday and risk being arrested to make a point against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

She says B.C. stands to gain little from any pipeline project that would jeopardize the environment if there's an oil spill from more tanker traffic.

At least 78 people have been arrested since last week, and most of them have been charged with civil contempt.

The Canadian Press

Hwy.1 reopened after crash

Update 11:30 a.m.

Hwy. 1 has reopened 30 kilometres west of Revelstoke after a fatal crash closed the highway Monday evening. 

Details below. 


An accident on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Revelstoke has claimed one life.

Two commercial vehicles collided around 8:45 p.m. Monday night, with the driver of an eastbound semi dying at the scene.

According to Revelstoke RCMP, the westbound commercial tractor-trailer jack-knifed and crossed into oncoming traffic, and the eastbound vehicle struck the trailer at the axles, causing serious damage to the vehicle and killing the driver.

The accident happened approximately 20 kilometres west of Revelstoke, closing the highway all night. 

Tow companies were still in the process of clearing the roadway this morning and an RCMP traffic analyst and the BC Coroners Service were both on scene overnight.

The road is expected to reopen between 10 and 11 a.m.

Motorists can stay up to date on the current driving conditions by visiting DriveBC.

An earlier accident just east of Sicamous also delayed traffic Monday evening, and a lane closure was still in effect Tuesday morning.

Black Friday deals or 'white lies'?

Savvy Black Friday shoppers should pay attention to products’ final price, not just how much they’re supposedly saving.

That’s the takeaway from a new report released by Vancity Credit Union, which warns some major U.S. retailers inflate prices before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to make discounts seem deeper than they actually are.

Mo Ladak, vice-president of member services for Vancity, said shoppers should always do their homework before getting swept up in what seems like an exciting deal.

“They see these big signs saying 50, 60, 70 per cent off, but we’re just encouraging our consumers and members to look at the final price,” Ladak said.

Despite what the report calls “mounting evidence” of questionable sales tactics, a survey of Lower Mainland and Victoria residents suggests the vast majority of people believe they’re getting a real steal on Black Friday.

CTV Vancouver reports that 94 per cent of respondents said they believe Black Friday prices are lower than the rest of the year, by an estimated average of 23 per cent.

Seventy-six per cent said retailers are making less profit or losing money on Black Friday sale items.

But apart from a few door-crasher specials and other scattered savings, Vancity claims much of the Black Friday phenomenon is mere hype.

Ladak said there are some legitimate deals on big-ticket items, and shoppers can find them if they do a little homework about how much products normally cost.

“There’s some great deals to be had out there, whether it be on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other shopping period,” he said. “Take your smartphone with you, do your research, and look at the final price rather than the perceived savings on the product.”

The Vancity report, titled “White Lies on Black Friday: Pricing Integrity in Black Friday Sales,” focused exclusively on major US retailers. North of the border, Vancouver businesses assured there will be legitimate deals for people shopping at smaller, locally-owned stores.

“It makes such a big difference for the owner to be standing there and giving that discount to people,” said Jane McFadden of the Kitsilano-4th Avenue Business Improvement Association.

“We’re not necessarily looking for that 60 per cent off deal, we’re looking at 20 per cent off that brand we really like or supporting that retailer that we go and see all the time anyway.”

Hwy 1 closed near Sicamous

A traffic collision has forced closure of Highway 1, the Trans Canada, near Sicamous.

According to DriveBC, the closure affects eastbound lanes 17km east of Sicamous.

A detour is in effect eastbound via Oxbow Frontage Road and westbound via Malakwa Frontage Road.

There is no estimated time of re-opening

The situation was last updated shortly after 8 p.m.

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