Mission Group recently renovated a home for Freedom's Door

Developer helps community

Kelowna's Mission Group has stepped up to help renovate a home owned by Freedom’s Door, a local recovery program.

Recently, the organization reached out to Freedom’s Door to see if there was a project they needed help with.

“We advised them we had a home with a basement suite that was built in 1965. The men we serve live in this home while they receive our recovery program. It is badly in need of an interior and exterior upgrade,” stated Peter Lees, the executive director of Freedom’s Door.

The Mission Group did not hesitate to offer their services.

Mission Group, their employees, and sub trades carried out the entire project. The renovation included the renewal of all surfaces within the upstairs and downstairs suites, new flooring, gyproc, paint, cabinetry, sinks and showers, and light fixtures. The act of kindness was greatly appreciated by Freedom's Door.

“Mission Group has shown us philanthropic generosity, human kindness and caring. From all of us at Freedom’s Door we extend a huge thank you and well done,” Freedom’s Door said in a statement.

Freedom’s Door is a charity that's operated in Kelowna for 19 years. They house 64 men each day, and provide for their needs as they recover and transition back into the community. Their work wouldn't be possible without the help of the community, according to Tom Smithwick, volunteer Director of Freedom’s Door.

“We need the generosity of the community to survive and grow in our work.”


Fire departments in Joe Rich, Wilson's Landing holding food drives

Fire halls hold food drives

Communities in Joe Rich and Wilson's Landing are set to host food drives in support of the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

Last year Joe Rich residents donated more than 748 kilograms of food and over $1,600 and the Wilson's Landing community collected approximately 1,400 kilograms of food and $1,000 in cash donations.

December 5 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Joe Rich fire rescue members will be travelling throughout the community collecting non-perishable food and cash or cheque donations. On December 5, Joe Rich residents may also drop off donations at either Station 51 (11481 Highway 33 East) or Station 52 (6550 Goudie Road).

On November 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Wilson's Landing department members along with Santa will travel with their fire vehicles from Traders Cove to Shelter Cove, collecting food and cash donations for the West Kelowna branch.

COVID-safe protocols include contactless pickup and physical distancing. On November 29, residents are asked to turn on their outside lights and leave their donation on their doorstep, porch or at the end of their driveway for the firefighters to pick up.

“COVID’s impact on family incomes, increased food insecurity in vulnerable populations and the closure or reduction of support services due to health and safety protocols have made this one of the most challenging years for Canada’s food banks. In previous years, our department’s Santa Run food collection has made a significant contribution to help families on the west side of Okanagan Lake and we hope the impact will be even greater this year," said Wilson's Landing fire chief Ronaye Beck.

Okanagan College faculty aim to prove the termination of benefits at 65 is discriminatory

Is it discrimination?

An eight-year long fight between Okanagan College and its faculty association over benefits for senior staff is dragging on, with the union seeking to set a precedent that could impact collective agreements across B.C.

Back in 2008, the BC Human Rights Code was amended to outlaw mandatory retirement ages. But for faculty at Okanagan College, benefits for life insurance and long term disability continued to terminate at age 65, under policies purchased by the school.

The union argues that has resulted in college instructors over the now-arbitrary age of 65 receiving fewer benefits than less-experienced colleagues, despite having more knowledge in their field.

“The nature of our work, we become more and more and more useful, to be honest, with age, much more skilled,” Okanagan College Faculty Association President Sharon Mansiere told Castanet on Friday.

In 2013 the faculty association filed a grievance over the policy, opening a labour fight nobody expected would last a decade. The Attorney General of B.C. intervened in the case on behalf of the school.

Last year the two sides agreed to break the complex labour dispute into two stages of hearings with the understanding that if the first stage succeeded the second would not be necessary.

Earlier this month an arbitrator ruled against the union in the first phase of the dispute that focused on the wording of the collective agreement, setting the stage for a larger battle next year that will see the policy challenged under the assertion that it violates Canada’s Charter and B.C.’s Human Rights Code in the form of age discrimination.

The union failed to convince arbitrator Arne Peltz that the language in the collective agreement promised benefits to “all employees.” Peltz noted that fixed-term employees were not eligible for benefits and ruled the language of the agreement is “more exclusionary than declarative.”

“I'm disappointed that we have to go to the second stage. And yet, I'm thinking it's very principled,” Mansiere told Castanet.

“If people are are working and the retirement age changes, there should be a mechanism somewhere, by the employer or by the government, by somebody, that doesn't subject them to discrimination.”

Mansiere says the Okanagan College Faculty Association has about 350 members, a relatively small union to be taking on the unlimited legal resources of the provincial government.

She says just five per cent of Okanagan College faculty members are over the age of 65, meaning the cost to provide benefits to those employees should be manageable.

“The sum total hours of legal counsel that have been devoted to this project… versus what they would have to pay for our union, or potentially any other post-secondary union — we probably wouldn’t get anywhere near that sum.”

Evidence from the hearing shows the majority of long-term disability plans in Canada terminate at 65. Manulife quoted premium increases of 37% for a plan that terminated at 70.

For life insurance, 11% of plans in Canada terminate at 65, 49% terminate at age 70 and 26% have no termination age. Employer premiums would rise by 49% with no termination age, an increase of $45,000 in annual premiums.

Other types of benefits, like dental, extend past 65 already.

The union’s testimony included Dr. Michael Conlin, 75, a business administration instructor at the Kelowna campus.

He was not concerned about the loss in benefits at age 65 until a colleague suffered a sudden illness at age 67 and was forced to retire. He testified it was an “eye opener” for him.

“It dawned on him that he could continue working productively through his 60’s and 70’s, while a colleague across the hall received better compensation, solely due to their different ages,” said a summary of his testimony.

“Conlin emphasized that he still gets great teaching ratings. He mentors junior faculty. Since he turned 65, his involvement in departmental initiatives has only increased.”

While they launched the grievance in 2013, Mansiere says the pandemic has made the issue even more important. The instructors who are the most vulnerable to the virus are teaching in full-capacity classrooms with no fiscal safety net, beyond their pension and retirement, should they get seriously ill with COVID-19.

The Charter and Human Rights Code arguments will be made during a new set of hearings in fall 2022, with the arbitrator avoiding them in the first phase of the hearings. Mansiere says they have been told there are a handful of similar cases working their way through the system ahead of them, and if any are successful, it may make things easier for them.

Okanagan College and the provincial government argued at the hearings that the enhanced benefits requested by the union “cannot be called trivial” and are “administratively unfeasible.”

A consultants report tabled by the employer suggested that the removal of the age limitation on long-term-disability payments would “continue the disability payments for all disabilities for their lifetime.”

“This would be well beyond the expected period of employment earnings the LTD benefits are intended to replace. With the opportunity for a lifetime of disability benefits the incentive to find a way to return to work would be diminished,” the employers report continued.

Mansiere says the union accepts that there may not be as much choice in benefit plans for those over 65 as for those under.

“Them saying that there are none, or that the college will not seek any... we’re wishing they would be reasonable,” she said, suggesting the college could self insure, or, more options will be made available by insurers once there is a demand for them.

The consultants report, however, argued self-insuring the senior faculty would be “too significant” of a risk for a school the size of Okanagan College.

“Pay in lieu of benefits, yet another option mentioned by the Union, was never bargained and the Employer has no obligation to make such payments,” ruled arbitrator Arne Peltz earlier this month.

“Admittedly LTD could be extended to age 70 but this still constitutes an age limitation and would fail the Union’s test that ‘all employees’ must be covered. In the end, neither the Union nor the experts were able to advance a workable concept for LTD with no age limitation.”

Despite the lack of a "workable concept" for benefits over the age of 65, one will have to be found if the current policy is deemed age discriminatory. Those hearings scheduled for next fall will require "substantial additional evidence and argument."

But after eight-years spent on the grievance already, Mansiere says they are prepared to see it through to the end.


Most pedestrian related collisions in B.C. happen in the winter

Pedestrian safety and winter

With winter here and the days shorter, pedestrians are the most at risk for collision with vehicles.

Nearly half of all pedestrian-involved collisions in B.C. occur between October and January.

Brian Cairney, the traffic signal supervisor with the City of Kelowna says knowing how to properly execute a crosswalk and being aware of your surroundings are the key to avoiding an accident.

“I think people just need to know the safe way to do it, and that's kinda the key, is making sure everyone knows how it operates so everyone can cross safely, and they know how the traffic is going to react to a situation,” said Cairney.

According to Cairney, there are many misconceptions when it comes to crosswalks.

“When you approach the crosswalk, you press the button once. Some people think you should press it several times or play a tune, and the light will change, but that's not the case, said Cairney.

“Another one is when people see the white walk signal, that's up for eight seconds, they think that's their whole time to cross, but it isn't. It's just telling them that they can enter the crosswalk safely. The next phase is the flashing orange hand, which is the pedestrian clearance time and that's the time you've got from one side to the other.”

Cairney says larger crosswalks will give users more time to cross, but if pedestrians are unaware of the rules of a crosswalk, it could cost them.

“It is an offence to cross against the orange hand, which is the ‘don’t walk’ symbol, and for that, you can get fined $75 dollars.

The traffic signal supervisor also mentioned when it comes to flashing amber crosswalks, it's important for pedestrians to press the button which signals to drivers someone is crossing. It may be obvious, but it's crucial to look both ways and make eye contact with the driver before entering the amber crosswalk.

In B.C., 79 per cent of crashes involving pedestrians happen at intersections, and drivers have an equally critical role to play as the pedestrians. A good tip for drivers is to focus on the road at all times, and always leave your cell phone out of reach to prevent distraction.

Vancouver's Faithwilson brokerage setting up shop in Kelowna

Luxury brokerage eyes city

Kelowna is becoming quite attractive to people who want to live the kind of elite lifestyle that can be found in the Okanagan’s largest city and surrounding area.

Faithwilson of Christie’s International Real Estate is noticing this as well, which is why the Vancouver-based luxury real estate brokerage is going to expand its roster of agents in the Okanagan Valley and set up an office in Kelowna as soon as possible.

The brokerage, which is led by Faith Wilson, is currently seeking office space in Kelowna and wants to expand its roster of Realtors from about six to more than 30 in the coming months.

The brokerage specialists in luxury listings and super luxury listings that can climb to well over $20 million and beyond.

“As more attention turns to the unparalleled Okanagan lifestyle, the brokerage sees potential for the market as tastes and preferences shift from big city luxury to tranquillity, space and breathing room,” according to a press release. “The organization is expecting a Kelowna housing boom over the next five years.”

Comedian Ron James making three stops in the Okanagan

Ron James tours Okanagan

Stand-up comedian Ron James is set to perform in the Okanagan next week.

James is currently on tour in B.C., and he’ll be making his first stop in the Okanagan on November 29 in Vernon at the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre, followed by a show in Kelowna on Nov. 30 at the Kelowna Community Theatre and in Oliver on December 1 at Venables Theatre.

James is an award-winning comedian, and has been selling out theaters for 20 years.

The Edmonton Sun said his performance was “a wheezing, snorting, chortling, gasping night of hilarity,” while the Victoria Times Colonist called him “funniest man in Canada.”

Along with five seasons starring in his own series, ‘The Ron James Show,’ his record breaking nine critically acclaimed one-hour comedy specials quickly became a New Year's Eve viewing tradition for millions of Canadians.

The story-teller also didn’t let the pandemic slow him down, as he capitalized on free time during lockdowns and wrote his first book, ‘All Over the Map: Rambles and Ruminations from the Canadian Road,' released by publishing giant Penguin-Random House, September 28th.

To reserve seats for the ‘Ron James - Back Where I Belong’ tour, click here.

Humane society nursing hurt cat back to health in Kelowna

Stray cat in need of help

A cat in Kelowna who's had a bit of a rough go as of late is in need of someone with a big heart.

Comet was recently spotted by a good Samaritan in downtown Kelowna, cold and barely able to walk. “He came up to me very clingy and limping,” says Rachel, the good Samaritan.

The woman noticed the cat was in discomfort and decided to call the Okanagan Humane Society (OHS) for help.

OHS had her rush the feline to the vet for x-rays, and discovered his leg was broken in two spots. He also had ear mites and was very dirty but friendly. They quickly checked for a collar, microchip, or tattoo to find the cat’s owners, but unfortunately there was no identification linked to the cat.

Sadly, Comet’s leg cannot be saved and he will need amputation along with other medical procedures including resolving his ear mites, neuter, vaccines, deworming, and of course a chip for identification.

“Once, we are able to ensure all of Comet’s medical needs are handled, he will receive the appropriate medical rehabilitation he needs and then we will place him up for adoption to his new loving home,” said Romany Runnalls, the President of the Okanagan Humane Society.

OHS says it will cost approximately $2,600 to help Comet. This will include surgery, medication, treatment, regular health check, and daily care for him until he’s ready for adoption.

Last year, OHS helped care for more than 1,100 animals in the Okanagan, but they need some help. If you'd like to help contribute towards getting Comet back to good health, click here.

Castanet Apparel will be hitting up its last market of 2021

Last chance to get your T's

You won't want to miss it.

Castanet Apparel will be hitting up its last market of the year on Sunday November 28.

The East Kelowna Market will take place from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. located at 2704 East Kelowna Rd.

This is the last in-person event of the year, but apparel is always available online.

Castanet Apparel, which is available online, offers numerous T-shirt designs that celebrate Kelowna’s past, present and future—and make a perfect Christmas gift. Wild ’n’ Wet, Rose’s Waterfront Pub and Flashbacks are just a few of the old haunts that are featured on the T-shirts.

Okanagan Hot Chocolate Fest coming to valley in January

Hot chocolate lovers rejoice

Hot chocolate in the winter?

Yes, please.

That is why Food Tours Kelowna has created the inaugural Okanagan Hot Chocolate Fest, which will take place in the new year, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14.

“We saw the success other Canadian cities had and were envious. Like, wow, I hope someone does that here in the Okanagan,” said Taryn Shalapata, who created Food Tours Kelowna with her sister, Murissa Shalapata. “We both paused and looked at each other. Well, why don’t we make it happen instead of waiting?”

A growing list of Okanagan restaurants, cafes, bakeries and chocolate shops are going to be creating unique hot chocolate flavours with optional pairings from the menus. They will all be battling for a grand prize provided by sponsors Valrhona Chocolate, Food Tours Kelowna, The Okanagan Food Show Podcast and others.

The event will also be raising money for charity during the event, asking participants to donate towards Mamas for Mamas, an Okanagan-based organization that helps mothers in need.

“Each year we hope to select a different charity in order to do some good in our community,” Murissa said. “We’ve watched Mamas for Mamas do some great things both here in the Okanagan and nationwide, and couldn’t be prouder to select them for our annual event.”

Those who take part in the inaugural Okanagan Hot Chocolate Festival will also have a chance to win prizes donated by Big White Ski Resort and participating locations through an Instagram photo contest.

More information can be found at the festival's website.

Kelowna's Hindu community rallies to help flood victims

Hindus help evacuees

A group of humanitarians from the Kelowna Hindu Cultural Society have rallied together to try and help
people from Merritt struggling to make ends meet after their town was devastated by flooding.

Ashok Tyagi with the Kelowna Hindu Cultural Society says they have been trying for days to get a semi-trailer loaded with supplies through to evacuees from Merritt, some of whom have had to take up temporary residence in Kelowna.

"The highways have been closed too, so that has been challenging, we did get one delivery through to Merritt earlier this week," Tyagi says.

The Hindu community has rallied to gather everything from milk to blankets to blow-up air mattresses to help. Despite challenging supply routes, they have not been deterred.

"We donated to the Lower Nicola food bank (Merritt) on Monday morning . Then we donated 2,500 pounds of groceries, including milk, eggs, other food stuffs, juices and drinks for evacuated people in Kelowna from Merritt. Tuesday morning we delivered 500 loaves of bread. But people really need help," says Tyagi.

Tyagi says they actually ordered almost $1,500 worth of fresh bread baked in Kelowna from Dale's Distribution on Tuesday because the shelves in Kelowna grocery stores were bare at the time.

The container in Vancouver is loaded and ready to go. They are hopeful it will arrive in Kelowna sometime this weekend, "we are trying to bring a container from Vancouver to Kelowna by road, Hwy 3, as soon as possible."

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