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BC  

B.C. boosts July climate action tax credit by $450 due to COVID-19

Climate credit boosted

B.C. families will be getting a $450 boost to their climate action tax credit.

The one-time boost will apply to the July tax credit payment. Through the enhanced credit, eligible individuals will receive up to $218, children up to $64, and a family of four will receive up to $564.

In a statement Thursday, the province said that, starting this week, over 80 per cent of families and individuals in B.C. will automatically receive the enhanced tax credit.

“Many British Columbians are still worried about how they can cover costs such as transportation so they can return to work, pay for groceries and find day camps for their children,” said finance minister Carole James, in a press release.

“The enhanced climate action tax credit puts extra money in the pockets of British Columbians for their household expenses and to spend at local businesses. This is a needed boost as we work together to restart the economy."   

The move is part of the province’s COVID-19 Action Plan – which includes B.C.’s Emergency Benefit for Workers – aimed at helping businesses and people through the pandemic.

British Columbians will receive the climate action tax credit along with their federal GST/HST returns. Those eligible for the enhanced benefit will automatically receive it if they have completed their B.C. 2019 income tax return.

Prior to the boost, the scheduled July payment for the tax credit was up to $43.50 per adult, $12.75 per child and up to $112.50 for a family of four.



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The Trans-Canada Hwy is closed due to flooding

Trans-Canada closed

If you are travelling east towards the Alberta border today watch for delays due to flooding on Highway 1 west of Revelstoke.

DriveBC is reporting that the Trans-Canada is closed in both directions due to flooding between Clanwilliam Bridge and Boulder Mountain Avalanche Gate for 2.8 km approximately 6 km west of Revelstoke. Crews are on scene conducting an assessment but the estimated time of opening is not available. The next update is expected at noon Pacific Daylight Time.



COVID-19 testing wait times have been longer in the Interior

COVID tests taking longer

The turnaround time for COVID-19 tests in Interior Health is significantly higher than the province's average.

In early June, Interior Health had some issues with the PCR instrument at Kelowna General Hospital that analyses the bulk of the region's COVID-19 tests. As a result, many of the Interior's tests have been sent to the BC Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver.

This change can be seen in the BCCDC's daily testing turnaround data posted online. Through most of April and May, IH turnaround times bounced between roughly 20 and 35 hours, but beginning in early June, times rose dramatically, hitting a high of 91 hours on June 17.

Throughout all of June, average turnaround times across B.C. was about 25 hours, while Interior Health saw an average of close to 40 hours in that same time period.

“We had our main PCR instrument at KGH down for some troubleshooting in June and during that time we had to send our outpatient tests to the BCCDC in Vancouver, so that introduces an extra delay just because of the transport time,” said Dr. Launny Lowden, medical director of laboratory for Interior Health.

She added the Interior Health region is relatively large geographically compared to other health regions, with many remote communities.

“It's actually very impressive that we're doing as well as we are compared to the other health authorities, due to that geography we're faced with,” Dr. Lowden said.

While IH said earlier this month that people should expect their test results back within 24 to 48 hours, Dr. Lowden now says most results should be expected within 48 to 72 hours. 

Despite the challenges, she says the turnaround times of urgent tests – those related to an outbreak or of residents of a long-term care home – have been kept under 24 hours, by using smaller testing machines at several hospitals across the region. These machines don't have the capacity to test all cases though, so the majority of tests are being sent to the BCCDC in Vancouver.

Dr. Lowden says the issue they were having with the PCR instrument at KGH was traced back to a certain type of swab that was being used, and so now that the machine is back up and running, they're using it to test and verify the accuracy of other types of swabs.

“We're taking the opportunity right now, while the test volumes are really low, during this kind of lull in the summer, to validate other types of swabs for testing on the instrument,” Dr. Lowden said, adding two of KGH's lab technologists have also been sent to Vancouver for additional training.

“This is a fairly new technology in Interior Health, a new type of testing and it's quite complex. So we're doing all this preparation work while we have the chance, while things are slower, so that we can be better prepared for a possible surge in the fall.”

The large PCR machine at KGH is expected to be back testing local swabs by mid-July.

“I do understand it's really difficult for patients and families waiting on a result,” Dr. Lowden said. “That time can be quite stressful.”



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Rivers in southeast region of B.C. expected to rise rapidly as rains continue

Rivers expected to rise

VICTORIA - British Columbia's River Forecast Centre is issuing a high streamflow advisory for the southeast region of the province.

It says over the past 24 hours, Upper Columbia has received five to 20 millimetres of precipitation, and a further 30 to 50 millimetres is expected through Friday.

The forecast centre says a high streamflow advisory means that river levels are rising or could rise rapidly, but no major flooding is expected.

It says its modelling forecasts the Upper Columbia rivers reaching five- to 20-year flows in response to the wet weather.

The public is advised to stay clear of the fast-flowing rivers and potentially unstable riverbanks during the high-streamflow period.

The centre has posted flood warnings for the upper and middle Fraser River basins, including the Quesnel River, while lower-level flood watches are in place for the Chilcotin and Thompson rivers.



Canada Day celebrations held in cars at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition

Canada Day in cars

VANCOUVER - Organizers at the Pacific National Exhibition hosted a live parade on Canada Day, but with a twist.

Spokeswoman Laura Ballance says it was a "reverse parade" where people stayed in their cars and the route was stationary.

She says people were treated to classic celebrations including a hockey game, dancers in Canadian-themed costumes, large oversized puppets and a logging show, while snacking on popular fair food such as poutine, candy floss and hot dogs.

The sold out event saw about 4,000 cars where people were charged $10 per car regardless of the number of people in them.

She says people stayed in their cars and watched the participants, who followed physical distancing protocols.

Ballance says the event also provided much-needed income to performers and concessionaires who have been hit hard by the pandemic.



Man drowns while kayaking in Slocan River

Man drowns kayaking

A Slocan Valley man drowned last month while kayaking in the Slocan River near Perry Siding.

Police say the 59-year-old man was a skilled paddler, but overturned while navigating in the side channels in the area on the evening of June 17.

He was not wearing a life jacket.

“Neighbours observed him and were able to communicate with him, but he slipped under the water before they could get out there,” said Constable Corey Chaloner of the New Denver RCMP detachment. 

The neighbours were able to pull the man out of the river but could not revive him.

Police can’t say why the man lost control of his kayak, but say the river in full spring runoff can be dangerous.

“Unfortunately, this is a tragedy that did not have to occur,” says Chaloner. “We really would like to remind people going on the water to always wear a personal floatation device. It could save your life.” 



Storm damages private bridge south of Nakusp

Storm takes out bridge

A private bridge across Caribou Creek south of Nakusp was swept off its moorings by flooding as a result of the massive thunderstorm that moved through the area on May 31. 

The bridge now lies in the water, and a log jam is slowly building up behind it.

Officials say they’re on top of the situation.

“When we became aware of the washout we attended the site,” says federal Fishery Officer and Field Supervisor Brian Levitt. “And we explained to the landowner what our concerns would be in terms of protecting fish habitat. We left him with information he would have to review in order to have the bridge removed.”

The Province's natural resources ministry has also investigated and has a team consulting with the owner about the cleanup process, Levitt added.

“The water stewardship team is trying to help the landowner find the best way to get the bridge out of the creek,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, which oversees such situations. “The landowner is working on getting the bridge removed, and the in-stream works have to authorized by [the department].”

Levitt says no further action is planned by the department as the owner has been given guidance on the federal procedures. The owner will have to apply for permits to remove the structure.

The bridge was legally permitted and installed more than 30 years ago and was insured, Levitt says.

Levitt says fish habitat in the creek was likely already impacted by scouring caused by the water and debris from the flooding event.



Duke and Duchess of Cambridge thank B.C. health workers on Canada Day

Royalty thank BC health staff

SURREY, B.C. — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke with health workers in British Columbia via video call about their experiences working during COVID-19 on Canada Day.

Prince William and Kate heard from Fraser Health staff at Surrey Memorial Hospital about the challenges and impact on mental health that comes with caring for COVID-19 patients.

They thanked frontline staff for their work during the crisis and told them their work was appreciated.

The couple also heard from a pregnant social worker about how she balances her workload while taking care of herself.

William said he's proud of frontline staff who have led the way stoically and bravely, adding that they're putting patient care at the "top of the list."

Kate also said she admired the work of frontline staff, adding they're playing a "hugely tough" role.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2020.



Why B.C. paramedics recorded their busiest day ever in overdose calls

Busiest day for ODs ever

Paramedics had their busiest day ever in B.C. last Friday in responding to overdose calls —131, which is roughly double the average number of such calls answered in a single day across the province.

The calls were spread from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which generated 15, to Langford on Vancouver Island with six and Kelowna with seven. Surrey had 14 and Haney recorded four.

Why the increase?

Data from the B.C. Coroners Service, B.C. Emergency Health Services and the Vancouver Police Department, along with insight from a public health doctor, suggest a combination of factors that explain the spike.

The main driver is a higher concentration of fentanyl being found in the illegal drug supply, with 119 of the 170 deaths recorded across the province in May connected to the deadly synthetic opioid.

Those 170 deaths were the highest ever recorded in a month in B.C.

That sobering statistic makes the news about the number of overdose calls responded to June 26 not unexpected, said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, the deputy chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.

“I’m not surprised because I know we’ve been seeing a lot of overdose deaths, and know that the toxicity of the drugs are going up,” Lysyshyn told Glacier Media Tuesday.

“That has been the cause of this overdose crisis throughout the entire public health emergency and we’ve done nothing to change that.”

The most recent coroners service report revealed that post-mortem toxicology tests showed a greater number of cases with “extreme fentanyl concentrations” in April and May compared to previous months.

Testing in those two months found approximately 19 per cent of cases had extreme fentanyl concentrations, as compared to nine per cent from January to March.

Lysyshyn suggested the pandemic’s influence on tighter border controls has led to more manufacturing of fentanyl in Canada by people unfamiliar with setting potency of the drug.

Another worry for Lysyshyn has been the increased contamination of opioid drugs with illicitly-made benzodiazepines, with high rates of detection of the deadly combination seen over the last year.

Public health officials have also noticed a significant drop in recent months of people visiting drug injection facilities, overdose prevention sites and treatment clinics because of fears associated to the spread of COVID-19.

In Vancouver, police told Glacier Media in an email Tuesday that 81 per cent of the overdose deaths in the city since March involved people using drugs alone, meaning no one was with the person to administer the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, or phone 911.

The correlation between many drug users receiving their monthly social assistance cheque on a Wednesday and spending it to buy drugs over the next couple of days has long been a concern of public health officials and harm reduction advocates.

That reality, which has been documented in coroners service reports, is another likely factor in the 131 calls paramedics answered last Friday, said Lysyshyn, noting the call volume came two days after what is more commonly known as cheque day.

“It does cause surges of overdose, and we’ve long advocated to break up that distribution [of cheques] in some way to try to allow the system to handle overdoses better,” he said.

B.C. Emergency Health Services did not have statistics on how many, or if any, of the people who overdosed Friday died, but said in an email that patients have a 99 per cent chance of survival when responded to by paramedics.

But Brian Twaites, a paramedic specialist who responds to overdoses and works in the Vancouver dispatch centre, said reviving overdose victims is requiring higher doses of naloxone.

“Overdoses are getting more intense,” he said in an email to Glacier Media. “So the entire time, they’re not breathing. So we’re going to be ventilating these patients for a longer period of time and waiting for [the naloxone] to respond.”

Overdose calls responded to by paramedics fluctuated between 10,000 and 15,000 per year between 2004 and 2015. But in 2016, when fentanyl entered the street drug supply, paramedics saw a dramatic increase in overdose call volumes and reached more than 23,000 per year by 2017.

In Vancouver alone last year, paramedics responded to 8,589 calls, which was up from eight per cent over 2018. Vancouver was followed by Surrey with 2,151 calls and Victoria with 1,412. All three cities have year over year recorded the highest number of overdose deaths.

The previous record for overdose calls answered by paramedics in one day was 130, which occurred twice — first on April 26, 2017, and a second time on July 27, 2018.

The coroners service released a report two weeks ago that detailed the mode that drugs were being consumed in the province had shifted. A review of overdose death cases from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2019 found that more people died from smoking illegal drugs than injecting them.

In 2016, injection was the most common way users took their drugs. From 2017 onwards, smoking has become the most common mode, with injection use declining from 37 per cent in 2016 to 25 per cent in 2019.

Smoking increased from 28 per cent to 40 per cent during the same period. Snorting, or intranasal use, saw slight declines each year, from 26 per cent in 2016 to 20 per cent in 2019. Evidence of multiple modes of consumption was found in about 14 per cent of cases each year.

The report warned, though, the data is not complete, with a “proportion of unknown cases,” citing the difficulty of collecting information, as there may be no evidence at the scene of the death, no witnesses or the death occurred in a hospital.

 



Residents speak out about man cutting skull out of dead sea lion

Raft man takes sea lion skull

Parksville residents who say they witnessed a man cut off the head of a dead sea lion to take its skull are speaking out.

This comes after a series of reports of decapitated seals and sea lions on Vancouver Island beaches, according to CTV News Vancouver Island.

Parksville resident Lorraine Young Olson was watching the man cut apart the sea lion for hours on June 18.

“I saw him take a big chunk of wood and ‘chop, chop, chop’ the whole time,” she told CTV.

Another resident, Ray Eely, says he witnessed the man work on the dead animal from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., after he used a rope to pull it to shore.

“He was using sticks to hack away at it,” says Eely. “Without any tools, he decided to start beating up on this thing for the better part of the day... he was trying to get the head off this thing with sticks and a board.”

Eely says the smell coming from the carcass was overpowering.

“Everybody smelled it, and he kept on hacking away and every now and then he would go into the water to clean himself because it was grotesque,” he told CTV.

Both residents then watched the man take the skull and paddle away towards the forest on a homemade raft.

“It was just sad,” says Eely.

CTV News then spoke with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who says it is not illegal to take a skull from a deceased marine mammal. However, it is illegal if you kill the animal first.

“It was dead prior, three or four days. It was bloated," says Eely.

Recently, there have been several other instances of headless marine mammals being discovered on shores between Nanaimo and Campbell River. It is not clear if this incident is related.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says that while some cases where humans are believed to be the cause of death for a marine mammal, a fisheries officer would attend the area to get more evidence however, “In these specific cases no further investigation was warranted."

“It was unbelievable. We had no idea why he was doing that," says Young Olson.

-With files from CTV News Vancouver Island



Probe launched into handling of allegations against B.C. police chief's wife

Complaint in investigation

The office of B.C.'s police complaint commissioner says it has started an investigation into allegations of misconduct over the Delta Police Department's handling of allegations involving the spouse of the police chief.

The watchdog says it has also forwarded a complaint to the Delta police board regarding the adequacy of the department's policies for handling matters where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest.

The office says in a news release issued Tuesday that it learned of the incident through media reports and requested more information from the Delta department before then receiving a misconduct complaint from an affected person.

It says it has found the complaint admissible and assigned the Vancouver Police Department to carry out the external disciplinary investigation.

The probe will focus solely on whether any Delta police officer committed misconduct, and is entirely separate from the RCMP criminal investigation currently underway.

On Monday, Deputy Chief Const. Norm Lepinski said an assault complaint filed against the wife of Chief Const. Neil Dubord had been handed to the RCMP for an independent review because the woman who made the complaint said she was dissatisfied with the outcome of Delta's investigation.



Finance minister says 'benefit companies' would think beyond profits

'Benefit companies' planned

The British Columbia government has created the option of so-called benefit companies that would measure their success through service to the community, not just profits.

Finance Minister Carole James says B.C. has introduced historic and collaborative legislation to become the first province in Canada allowing companies to create a corporate structure that includes giving back.

She says businesses would commit to responsible and sustainable practices while promoting public benefits and serving the interests of stakeholders.

A variety of causes could reap the benefits, including those that are charitable, educational, environmental and artistic.

James says benefit companies will help propel B.C.'s economy as the province works to rebuild from the impact of COVID-19.

A bill introduced in May 2018 by then Green party leader Andrew Weaver led to the legislation that requires businesses to specify their public benefit goals in their articles of incorporation.



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