DEc 13

PORCH PIRATE SUSPECTS HAULED ON THE CARPET – Two suspects in the theft of home-delivered parcels have been arrested. A 31-year-old woman and a 33-year-old man were arrested on numerous charges on Sunday on Milton Street. Through home security footage, intelligence gathered by investigators and tips from the public, two suspects were identified. During the vehicle stop, the local man was arrested for three charges of Theft under $5,000 and the woman, also from Nanaimo, was arrested for two charges of Theft under $5,000. 

HORGAN TALKS TOUGH – Premier John Horgan the province will beef up enforcement of public health orders. “Those who do not want to obey the rules that the rest of us are following will have to pay the consequences.” He said a handful continue to bend the rules and that they must be held accountable. That means ensuring the fines that we levy are collected. Once due process has been completed, “if you do not pay the fines we will send collections after you,” he said. A handful of churches continue to congregate despite public health orders introduced in November banning all in-person faith-related gatherings. Those orders also banned other types of events and gatherings, and restricted people’s ability to socialize with others outside their immediate household.

RESTAURANTS, TAXIS FEEL THE PAIN – This year’s pandemic restrictions are felt by businesses relying on Christmas parties – restaurants and taxis. Ian Tostenson, president of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, says Island restaurants could lose anywhere from $300-350 million, and across the province up to $1 billion in revenue in December. Restrictions allow for people to attend with members of their immediate household, or in smaller individual bubbles for singles — Christmas parties, room rentals and generally large crowds are not allowed.

THE BONUS PAY IS COMING – Health Minister Adrian Dix says the provincial government’s promised temporary pandemic pay is on the way to eligible healthcare workers who haven’t received it. Dix apologized for the lengthy delay and assured workers they would be getting the money. He said the process of pandemic pay has been quite complicated. He agreed it has taken too long. People are working through it very diligently but everyone who is eligible for pandemic pay will receive it without question, he added. Premier John Horgan promised in May to provide 250,000 eligible front-line workers with a one-time temporary pandemic pay of about $4 per hour covering a 16-week period from March 15 to July 4.

PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL – MP Paul Manly wants and end to exports from Canada. He has introduced a private member’s bill to ban thermal coal exports. It would also result in fewer cargo ships sitting near the Gulf Islands waiting to be loaded. Environmentalists have long called for such a ban, saying thermal coal is the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy producer in the world. California, Oregon, and Washington have banned the export leading much of the U.S. product to be shipped through Canada. Private member’s bills have a very limited chance of passing, but they allow members to post their issues on the record.

BACK ON THE BRECHIN JOB – Construction is expected to resume soon on the affordable housing and Brechin Church development. More than 70 affordable rental housing units and are under way at the corner of Estevan and Brechin Road. A new company was hired to manage and complete the project after a bidding process in consultation with BC Housing and a consultant. Don Evans of the United Church of Canada’s B.C. Chapter said completion units is expected before the end of 202

FREE RIDE ENDING – If you drive an electric vehicle (EV) in Greater Victoria, the free ride will be coming to an end as user fees are coming to some vehicle charging stations next year. Starting in January, the City of Victoria and the District of Saanich will charge $1 per hour to use municipally-owned EV charging stations. It’s supported by a group that represents more than 1,000 electric car owners in the Capital Region. Victoria will add the new charging fee on Jan. 1. The revenue will also support other efforts including participation in the top-up grants for EV retrofits in multi-unit residential buildings as part of the CleanBC Home Charging program. The Victoria Electric Vehicle Association reports the number of EV’s on British Columbia roads has doubled in the past year. 

ONLINE TOWN HALL – Our member of Parliament Paul Manly is holding an online town hall meeting on Thursday on YouTube Live beginning at 7 p.m. You can ask him about recent happenings in Parliament. Send written questions in advance to Paul.Manly@parl.gc.ca. Clarify that your question in for the town hall meeting, and include your full name and postal code in your email. youtube.com/c/PaulManlyGPC

CORONAVIRUS REPORT – B.C. reported 2,146 new positive test cases of Coronavirus over the weekend, including 29 in Island Health, There were 49 deaths. Bringing the death toll to 647. The number of people in hospital rose by 17 to 359 over the weekend, while the number of patients in intensive care remained unchanged at 87. There are 11,177 people in self-isolation across the province.

IMMUNIZATIONS BEGIN THIS WEEK – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the immunization program will start this week with 4,000 doses. Workers in long-term care facilities will be the first to get the doses starting this week. She expects about 400,000 residents to be vaccinated by March. That will cover health-care workers, people over 80, vulnerable populations and front-line workers, including teachers and grocery workers. The first vaccine doses are expected to reach Vancouver Island next week.

WHAT ARE THE RULES? – Recent Coronavirus orders put in place by B.C.’s provincial health officer have left people with many questions. Global TV posed some questions directly to health officials. Everyone’s situation is different, but answers enlighten some specific questions. Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have been consistent is asking everyone to limit non-essential travel and social gatherings. Global TV has a comprehensive list.

CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE – While some people in the food business are on the ropes, expecting to be forced out of business, the Ironworks Cafe & Creperie is opening a new outlet in downtown Nanaimo on Friday. Owner Dina Stuehler obviously knows what she’s doing. This will be the fourth Ironworks to open up since 2018 when she launched in Ladysmith. Now she’s putting down roots at 200 Commercial Street. Ironworks, like many other cafes and restaurants, has seen a decrease in sales during the pandemic. Stuehler is active in the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, and is the Vice President of the Duncan Downtown Business Improvement Association. In her spare time, she works with WorkBC to give guidance to budding entrepreneurs.

KIWIS ARE PANDEMIC FREE – The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC reports that New Zealand is now coronavirus free. Under new rules, social distancing is not required and there are no limits on public gatherings, but borders remain closed to foreigners. New Zealand has reported no new cases for more than two weeks. New Zealand went into lockdown on March 25, setting up a four-stage alert system and going in at level four, where most businesses were shut, schools closed and people told to stay at home.

APPARENTLY, PIGS CAN FLY – ICBC is applying for 15-per-cent decrease in rates beginning next year as the province moves to a no-fault system. The decrease would last until 2023 at the earliest. ICBC is also reducing rates for optional third-party liability coverage starting on Feb. 1. The commission's approval is not needed to adjust optional insurance rates. The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has promised that drivers with basic and optional coverage should expect an average annual savings of 20 per cent, or about $400, when the province switches to its new Enhanced Care system next spring. Keep in mind, you'll be paying less and getting less coverage.

Dec 12

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO  – You've really got to hand it to the folks at Harmac. What started as an informal partnership between workers and management and the local Boys and Girls Club has blossomed into an abundance of holiday joy. Over the last six years it has grown from collecting a few hundred dollars for the boys and girls club to raising about $20,000 for area families and a multitude of non-profits. Linda Janes, manager of the Chase River division of Boys and Girls Club, estimated the last donation BGCCVI received was around $10,000. "One year we had money left over and we ended up at Walmart buying bicycles and delivering those on Christmas Eve.”

HOUSING HELP FOR SENIORS - Nanaimo Family Life Association has launched the Seniors Housing Information and Navigation Ease (SHINE) program to assist seniors in their search for housing. Accessing age-appropriate housing is a real challenge for seniors; the population is aging, large numbers of seniors are on fixed incomes and the pandemic has intensified the need for housing, food security and mental health programs. The challenges of the rental market combined with low wages and pensions means many seniors pay more than 70 per cent of their monthly income for housing. SHINE won’t directly provide housing, but supports seniorsin navigating housing agencies, such as B.C. Housing, advice on the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act, eligibility for federal and provincial housing supports and referrals to other seniors programs. “Accessible and affordable housing is the No. 1 priority for many of our vulnerable seniors," said Kirsten Brooker, seniors’ housing navigator. To learn more, visit http://nflabc.org or call the Nanaimo Family Life Association office at 250-754-3331.

WIND WARNING ISSUED – Environment Canada has issued a strong-wind warning for northern Vancouver Island. Strong winds are expected to hit the Island on Monday evening. A full-frontal system is forecast to hit Vancouver Island’s coast, bringing winds of 80 to 100 kmh.The system is expected to develop over Haida Gwaii, the central coast and the areas of Port Hardy, Port McNeil and Port Alice.

HEALTH CARE WISH LIST – Island Health has great plans for Nanaimo Regional Hospital, so the Nanaimo Regional District is starting to put money into the kitty. A $1-billion patient tower is a potential future expense. The province picks up 60 per cent while the region pays the remaining 40 per cent. Island Health’s draft capital plan estimates $2.6 billion in projects through 2035. The tax rate is $16.13 per $100,000 of assessed value, and directors are weighing increases to $21.15, $35 or $50. Mayor Leonard Krog favours the $50 option, saying it’s better to begin saving now. Coun. Sheryl Armstrong didn’t mince words, saying the costs should be borne by the province. She said health, under the constitution, is the responsibility of the province. "I don’t think we should be putting any dollars into the hospitals, let the province do what they’re paid to do, which is support the hospitals 100 per cent,” she said.

FERRY LINEUP IS ALREADY FULL – Ferry traffic these days might lead you to believe that people are adhering to pandemic rules. Vehicle traffic on major routes is down about 50 per cent, and passenger traffic is down about 70 per cent. But Christmas is another story if reservations are any indication, the chances are slim. In the days leading up to and following Christmas, many sailing reservations are already sold out. Part of the reason for the sold-out reservations may be because they have fewer sailings than a typical holiday season. Last year they added 171 extra sailings, and this year only a handful.

SUCH A SAD STORY ­– An elderly woman was conned out of $6,000 despite a headsup warning from her bank. She fell for the “grandson scam” in which someone calls claiming to be her grandson. The man phoned her claiming to have been in an accident in Quebec, was in jail, and needed bail money. She went to a bank and even after being told by a cashier that it appeared she was being scammed, she carried on and sent the money, said the RCMP. Const. Gary O’Brien said the scam is just one example of many that can have a financial and emotional impact. Scammers may also contact victims asking for donations to local charities and for causes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pedestrian killed while crossing Island Highway

1212 - A pedestrian crossing the Island Highway near Woodgrove Centre was killed when he was hit by two vehicles on Friday evening. He was not in a crosswalk when he was struck. 

The man had crossed over two north-bound lanes and had entered into the south-bound lanes when he was struck by two south-bound vehicles. He died at the scene. The drivers involved were visibly shaken. They remained at the scene and co-operated with investigators.

At the time of the collision, the road was wet, but it was not raining. Investigators are asking for any drivers who have dash cam video of the incident to contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 and quote file # 2020-44217

Ec. 11

PORCH PIRATES – This is an especially heavy year for shopping online, with more parcels being dropped off at doorsteps, a perfect opportunity for parcel pirates. But crooks also reside on the internet, so make sure you know whom you are dealing with. Make sure you don’t have parcels delivered when you are not home, or arrange with an alternate drop off location. Online criminals will make websites that mirror real companies. The only difference may be the spelling of the web address. Double check that you correctly entered the web address before purchasing anything,” police say. To report fraud attempts, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501.

QUICK ENTRY – Nobody appeared to have been serious hurt when An SUV crashed through a wall and window at Man Lee Oriental Market on Terminal Avenue Thursday after noon. The vehicle ended up inside a store. It had been travelling northbound on Terminal when it veered off the road for unknown reasons. The woman driving the vehicle was taken to hospital with injuries that didn’t appear to be serious.

FOOD FOR THE NEEDY – Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Culinary Arts program prepares a lot of food in its courses, but with the drastically reduced student body, employee and faculty population at all campuses. They no longer offer food sales to the public. The cooking hasn’t stopped so is the program is donating the equivalent of about 200 meals every week to the Nanaimo Salvation Army New Hope Centre on Nicol Street. “Just like a carpenter needs wood to work with, the culinary students need food to work with in our internationally-recognized chef training programs,” says Jason Lloyd, Chair of the Culinary Arts Program.

PLEASE DON’T GO – B.C. Ferries is in the business of transporting passenger, but this Christmas season their wish is for passengers to avoid non-essential trips. The ferry corporation asks customers to heed public health authorities and avoid travel unless it is necessary. Ferries says the priority will be to keep essential goods, groceries, holiday letters and packages moving. Health and safety guidelines at terminals and on board vessels must be adhered to. Masks are required, and those who cannot wear a mask “may be asked to provide a medical certificate.” Those who refuse to mask up can be refused passage. Reservations can be made at www.bcferries.com.

GOOD TIMES AHEAD – Port Alberni is breathing new life with a $13-million investment in the Paper Excellence mill. That will boost its output of food-packaging-grade paper. Mill manager Marc Bodin said they have been working hard for the last two-plus years to develop food-grade products and demonstrate it can be done here. He said it’s been the ingenuity and hard work of the people who work at the facility that has made it happen. About 300 people work at the mill and those positions will be secured long-term, the largest investment at the mill since 2008.

TEN MORE CASES of Coronavirus were reported on Vancouver Island on Thursday, as the total number of cases province wide has passed 40,000 since the pandemic began. The province had 723 new cases since Wednesday and 28 more people died, including one person on Vancouver Island. The total death toll has reached 587, while 40,060 have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 71 new contact tracers have been hired in the Island Health region to help fight the pandemic.

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION PLANNED – Thousands of doses of Coronavuris vaccine will reach B.C. in a few days, Island Health likely won’t get any until early 2021. The first shipments of the vaccine will go to two sites in the Lower Mainland, one in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and one in the Fraser Health Region. Other areas of the province are expected to get the vaccine as more doses arrive in early 2021. The plan is for the two sites to be expanded to nine across the province, before eventually expanding to 30 in the spring. Health officials are planning to administer the first 4,000 doses of the vaccine to health-care workers before expanding to residents of long-term care homes.  As more immunization doses arrive, other essential workers, British Columbians over the age of 80 and those who may be in living conditions where the virus can spread easily will be next in line.

Dec 10

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – I did some people watching earlier this week while manning one of the Salvation Army Christmas kettles in North Nanaimo. You should try to do this at least once during this season. It’s an eye-opener to meet hundreds of people who are all masked up. You can’t really judge their reaction although it is possible to see a smile in some people’s eyes. I got one ‘Happy Holidays’ greeting and the rest of those who spoke up said ‘Merry Christmas’. Generally, people are in a good mood in spite of the challenges we face this year. If you want to put in a two-and-a-half hour shift collecting cheer, call the Salvation Army and they’ll very happily find a spot for you. Call them at 250-740-1004 and they'll find a spot for you to meet some very great people in our community.

THE OLD TAX RATE SHUFFLE – It’s an old game. I have been involved with Nanaimo City Council for more than 35 years either as a journalist or city councillor, and the tax rate game has gone on all that time. It’s simple, come out with a bigger figure – basically a wish list – at first and then go into deliberations and trim it down to make it more palatable. That came out of the finance committee this week, with council trimming about half a per cent off the rate increase by digging into savings. What a great concept, use up some of your rainy day fund, and it is a rainy day now. 

NO VIRUS AT RANDERSON RIDGE – A lab error led to a false Coronavirus exposure reported at an elementary school, says the school district. The district announced Ed. 6 that Randerson Ridge Elementary School had seen an exposure between Dec. 2-4. Island Health identified an error with lab results – there was no exposure and all individuals self-isolating have been cleared to return to school immediately.

NEW AIR AMBULANCE HUB – Air ambulance services for Vancouver Island and the sunshine coast are now operating from Nanaimo and Parksville. One helicopter and a plane serve Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast to quickly transport patients from rural and remote communities such as Port Hardy, Tofino and Gold River to medical centres with higher levels of care in Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver. The specialized helicopters with night vision will base from Parksville while Alkan Air will operate one of its turbo-prop planes out of Nanaimo Airport.

WE’RE BOOZING MORE – Sales of alcoholic beverages are up across Vancouver Island and people are drinking at home. A report from UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research shows just how the pandemic is changing our habits. As restrictions increased at the start of the pandemic alcohol sales also increased, up by 30 to 40-percent and then levelled off before spoking in early April. When home delivery was first allowed private store sales went up sharply and government liquor sales went down. Private liquor stores sales went up 18.5 per cent from March-July compared to last year.

NANAIMO ABORIGINAL CENTRE is in the publishing business – Strong Nations Publishing has been acquired by the Aboriginal Centre with a mission to publish indigenous literature from across North America. The company also has online and retail stores. Chris Beaton, aboriginal centre executive director, said the business model will continue for the time being. First and foremost, Beaton said, the centre’s goals are to see profits come back into the community to support its work. Secondly, it hopes to look for ways to further include indigenous voice in some of the work that is being published.

THE VACCINE IS HERE – The first batch of Coronavirus vaccine, around 3,900 total doses, will be delivered to two sites in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health next week. “Eventually everybody who can and wants to get a vaccine will have access, but to be clear this will not happen right away,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. The vaccine must be given in two doses, 21 days apart. An initial rollout will be for healthcare workers in long-term-care homes and those on the front lines, Dr. Henry said. Long-term-care residents and other seniors are also high on the province’s priority list. Subsequent immunization priorities include people who are homeless and those in remote, Indigenous communities.

MISSING WOMAN SAFE AND SOUND – The Nanaimo RCMP reported this morning that the 27-year-old woman, reported missing on December 4, has been located safe and sound. Great work on part of the Nanaimo RCMP Bike Unit who scoured the streets and parks, and were rewarded by locating her early this morning.

Dec 9

WHO IS FIRST? – Premier John Horgan said 4,000 high-risk residents will get the first injections of the Coronavirus vaccines by the end of next week. More details will be announced today. On Tuesday, the province recorded 566 new test-positive cases, as well as 16 more deaths. The new death toll comes as the province also recorded 566 new cases of the novel coronavirus. There are 9,315 active cases with 352 in hospital, 74 are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

IT’S NOT AUTOMATIC – You’ll be able to apply for a tax-free $1,000 Coronavirus grant direct deposit by the end of the year. Finance minister Selina Robinson said about 3.7 million British Columbians will be able to apply online for the benefit starting on Dec. 18. Families with less than $125,000 income will get up to $1,000. Families, including single-parent families earning up to $175,000, will qualify for a reduced benefit.

YOU CAN PITCH IN – If you would like to provide Christmas food packages to local needy families, here’s a way you can help. The Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats are teaming up with B&C Foods with delivered food packages that can be given out. 
$39 Holiday Pack
Two 8-ounce striploin steaks, 1 turkey breast roast, 1 lb. Argentinian prawns ~16-20
$99 Premium Holiday Pack
2 pack 500g pork sausage links, 2 pk ground beef (1 lb.), 1pc outside round roast (5 lb.), 2 8oz Stirling NY steaks, 1 kg 3/4" boneless pork chops, 1 lb. Argentinian prawns ~16-20
$149 C2C Seafood Variety Pack  - Limited Quantities, 45 available
6pc 6oz Wild Sockeye portions, 6pc 6oz Boneless Wild Lingcod portions, 4 pc 6oz Wild Albacore Tuna Steaks, 2 bags 1b Peruvian Raw Scallops 40-60, 2 bag 1lb Argentinian Raw Prawns 16-20

These are ideal for a family in need, for staff appreciation, or for family and friends. Contact the HarbourCats office at 778-265-0327 or e-mail chris@harbourcats.com and provide your phone number to order. This is a strictly charitable effort, no funds from the package sales will go to the teams.

Dec 8

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – Not really such a great morning, we just learned the annual Yacht Club Christmas Cruise in the harbour has been cancelled. The cancellation follows on the heels of public restrictions from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. The concern was over crowds gathering along the shoreline to watch the cruise. So sad that such a little brightness and joy in our lives can’t go on. 

WE’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – Provincial restrictions on social gatherings and events will remain in place until at least Jan. 8. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that restrictions on social gatherings, events, visiting others outside of one’s household will be extended. However, drive-thru and certain drive-in events will now be permitted under strict guidelines, said Henry. Drive-in and stay events will be capped to a maximum of 50 vehicles under the new order and people must remain in the vehicles at all times. Restrictions on adult team sports, indoor and outdoor, as well as group fitness activities will remain in place until further notice. Travel is also prohibited for all teams in B.C. There were 2,020 presumed and confirmed new cases of Coronavirus over the weekend – 45 in Island Health – and 35 presumed and confirmed deaths from Coronavirus – one in Island Health. The province’s death toll now stands at 527 while the total number of cases climbs to 38,152. 

FERRY DECK OFFENSES REVIEWED – Close to 1,000 cases of passengers who refused to leave their car while on BC Ferries over the last two months are being reviewed by Transport Canada. Fines of up to $12,000 could be issued to rule breakers, though most will result in a letter to the vehicle owner. If deemed appropriate, fines start at $600. Three-quarters of the incidents were on the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay route, and mostly in October. BC Ferries staff conduct car deck patrols to check for people who have remained in their cars, and the RCMP and Transport Canada conduct random compliance checks. 

A RESPECTFUL ROBBER – If you’re going to rob a house, at least have the courtesy to take off your shoes. A homeowner awakened by his dog early Sunday morning found his front door wide open and a shoeless man on his front lawn on Beverly Drive. The homeowner gave chase and subdued the shoeless bandit until police arrived. Nothing appears to have been taken from the home. Investigators also believe that alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the suspect removing his shoes prior to entering the home, said Constable Gary O'Brien. The 31-year-old man was held in custody overnight and released on an undertaking on one count of Break and Enter. His first appearance in court is set for Feb. 2. Oh, and he got his shoes back.

Dec 7

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – Today is the "Day that will live in infamy", the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii 79 years ago. 

VACCINES ON THE WAY – Close to a quarter of a million doses of Pfizer’s Coronavirus vaccine will arrive in Canada by the end of the month, with the first doses delivered next week. Health Canada is set to approve the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for use in Canada within days. Canada will get four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by March, enough to inoculate two million people with two doses each. The federal government has purchased 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and has the option to buy 56 million more. Health Canada is also reviewing other vaccine candidates, including Moderna, which is set to deliver two million doses to Canada in the first quarter of 2021.

THREE MORE SCHOOL INFECTIONS – Three Nanaimmo schools have been added to the Coronavirus exposure list this morning by Island Health. The health authority said exposures have been reported at Randerson Ridge Elementary, Wellington Secondary School, and Forest Park Elementary School. Exposure is defined as a single person with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection who attended school during their infectious period.
Randerson Ridge December 2, 3 and 4.
Wellington Secondary School  December 3 and 4.
Forest Park Elementary School between Nov 30 and Dec 4.

ANIMAL CRUELTY – Folks living in the Nanaimo Regional District are asking for a ban on fireworks. Organizers have a petition with more than 2,000 signatures asking for regulation of the sale and use of fireworks. They want the RDN to follow the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s footstep by enacting a bylaw that restrict the sale of fireworks to specific days of the year such as on Canada Day or New Year’s Day and require permits to set off the fireworks. presentation highlighted the impact fireworks have on the quality of the lives of people, household pets, livestock, wildlife and the environment.

FOCUS ON CHILD EXPLOITATION – The two new staff for Nanaimo RCMP, approved for the 2021 budget last week, will be digital forensic technician and major case file specialist able to focus on child pornography. Insp. Lisa Fletcher said the city has been aware of the need for the additional staff members since about 2017. She said there is a backlog of approximately 100 devices that need to be examined. “Our prosecution rate and our successful investigation rate is one of the best in the province which is something I’m very proud of, because we are keeping young people who are being harmed safer. We are literally changing lives,” said Fletcher.

CHRISTMAS ANGELS – The volunteer group that operate through Volunteer Nanaimo has been challenged during the Coronavirus pandemic. Christmas Angels have collected hundreds of supplies and gifts for families in need during a difficult season. Executive Director Rita Innamorati said they’re seeing families going without basic essentials. Angels collect gifts for families throughout the year but place special emphasis on the holidays. “We try to help people out throughout the year with different needs and requests we get from agencies. We’re always trying to help people all throughout the year.”

Dec 6

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – It's budget time and we can all get involved in the planning. The city is holding virtual meetings – you can ask questions at an eTown Hall on Monday. Look up budget info at www.nanaimo.ca/goto/budgetinfo and submit your questions at www.nanaimo.ca/etownhall, on Twitter using #NanaimoTH or call 250-754-4251 during office hours. All Finance and Audit Committee meetings can be viewed virtually. It is strongly recommended participating in the eTown Hall virtually as well. View all meetings, find agendas or tune in and watch at: www.nanaimo.ca/meetings.

KROG SAYS TIME TO FIX IT - “Either we fix this with compassion, or those who have none will deal with it. Or worst of all, we will complete our descent into lawless barbarism because that is what you have described.” Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog doesn’t mince words when he talks about what Canadian cities need to do to deal with overlapping crises — Coronavirus, drug overdoses, mental health and addiction issues, and housing. This is part of an excellent article in the Vancouver Sun by Daphne Bramham.

HATS OFF TO GORDY DODD – His new Dodd’s Furniture location in north Nanaimo is open and he’s passing on to the community. He donated 150 blankets to the Salvation Army in Nanaimo, and is also passing along other donations of food, clothing and the like. He believes it is important for us to give back. “We are doing good, we just opened up this new store … Every year we are trying to do more and more. We are local and we want to be helping local people and we love the local community.”

Dec 5

GOOD MORNING NANAIMO – Worse than living on the street is not even having a street. Many of the people who were displaced from their downtown Nanaimo homeless encampment after a fire and propane explosions have now dispersed into the bushes. Many of them spent the night in parks and bushes after being evicted. St. Peter’s Church had only 12 beds available and BC Housing had no vacancies in Nanaimo’s two temporary housing facilities. Everyone who couldn’t find a bed Thursday night was dispersed throughout the community. The Nanaimo Homeless Coalition hopes to talk with the City as soon as possible to develop a plan is for those who were impacted by the fire.

COUNTER ATTACK SEASON – That “one for the road” could prove costly in many ways. The RCMP are conducting their seasonal Counter Attack campaign this month to keep our roads and streets safe from drinking drivers. Since we should not be going out and socializing any way, that’s all the more reason not to drink and drive. Cst. Gary O’Brien said they’ll target non-traditional areas. O’Brien said their entire traffic division is focused on looking for impaired drivers, which will see eyes in high traffic areas in and around the downtown core and secondary roads.

IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE – Mount Washington opened two chairlifts yesterday and more runs are expected to be available siib as crews work on opening more sections of the mountain. The snowmakers have been busy getting the slopes ready. With help from Mother Nature the mountain will open as scheduled.

CELTIC CHRISTMAS FEST – CeltFest Vancouver Island is co-hosting an online Christmas with the Barra MacNeils on Dec. 12 – this is a first in the series of concerts. They feature traditional seasonal fare along with classic favourites, stories and dancing, all stamped with the Barra’s harmonies and instrumental stylings. Go to the webpage to book your spot, click the referral tab and select CeltFest Vancouver Island. The Nanaimo group gets $5 from each $25 ticket sold. Show time is 4 p.m. Pacific.

HMCS NANAIMO TRAINING OFFSHORE – HMCS Nanaimo and Whitehorse are doing mine counter-measure training with Canadian and U.S. forces off the coast of Vancouver Island until mid-December. The Canadian Navy, Air Force, U.S. Navy aircraft and the U.S Coast Guard are participating in Trident Fury 20 –­ a joint and multinational naval exercise. The training has been taking place since the early 2000s, for air and sea tactical warfare training. However, with Coronavirus, what is usually a multi-nation event has only Canada and the U.S. Sailors went through a pre-sail quarantine before going out on ships, and were tested for the virus.

MAGIC IN THOSE MUSHROOMS – Research into magic mushroom derivatives has potential to help in mental health and addiction issues, say experts. The research is being conducted at Vancouver Island University and UBC. Numinus Wellness, which has a facility in Nanaimo, recently cultivated its first harvest of magic mushrooms for research purposes. Most of the research is into “end-of-life anxiety, depression, addiction issues and anxiety issues.” Elliott Marchant, a neuroscientist and VIU psychology professor, said the only completed clinical trials using psilocybin have been for treating people who were about to die from a terminal disease. The drug alleviated many of their fears and provide some respite, he said.

TRANSIT SURVEY EXTENDED – BC Transit, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, and the Regional District of Nanaimo are looking for feedback about transit service between the two regions. The online survey is open until Dec. 18. The survey deadline was extended in order to accommodate the recent provincial election. It’s your chance to provide feedback on the need for an interregional route. The website is available for more information on the service, which offers the public a web-based map to pin the start and end of their travel, while providing an opportunity to ask questions or provide comments to staff – engage.bctransit.com/cvrd-rdn

GREATER ACCESSIBILITY AT VIU – A $240,000 grant from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Rick Hansen Foundation is making accessibility a lot easier at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus and the Cowichan Trades Centre. They will see power door openers, wayfinding signage, grab bars in washrooms and plus size chairs. The Foundation recently granted the VIU Foundation $240,000 for accessibility projects in 12 of the least-accessible buildings at VIU. Dr. Linda Derksen, Universal Access Committee chair, says improvements for people with disabilities have the effect of making things easier for everyone. There are also handrails on ramps, high-contrast signs pointing to accessible routes, hearing equipment at service desks, change tables in washrooms, adjustable desks and rolling workstations. FULL STORY.

Dec 4

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – B.C. health officials want you to stay at home, including at Christmas. Their message is to follow the public health orders, stay close to home, avoid all non-essential travel and only see people in their household or bubble. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says “We need more than ever to stay local, stay small, not mix with others. What I want for Christmas is for everyone to stay home and stay safe so we can get through to next year,” says Dr. Henry. MORE DETAIL

VACCINE DETAILS COMING NEXT WEEK – British Columbians will get more-detailed “Operation Immunize” details next week. Provincial Health Office Dr. Bonnie Henry said there will be limited amounts at first. So we won’t be able to broadly achieve what we’ve been calling community immunity, or herd immunity. right off the bat, but that will come, she said. The first to receive the vaccine in January will be seniors, targeting those in long-term care facilities, and also vaccinating people most at risk from severe illness.

FINES UP TO $12,000 FOR STAYING ON CAR DECK – Transport Canada has issued a leaflet warning if you try to stay on the car deck of B.C. Ferries it could cost you dearly. The leaflet states Transport Canada may issue fines of up to $12,000 to any passenger staying on the enclosed decks while a ferry is under way. When passengers refuse to leave their vehicles on the lower car deck, ferry staff knock on windows and inform drivers of the rules. Refusal to leave is reported to Transport Canada. To date close to 1,000 drivers have been reported, though fines have yet to be determined.

WHAT COMES FIRST - City councillors are working on a shopping list of projects for the next five years, determining what gets priority and what goes on the back burner. Staff has presented $314 million in capital projects in the 2021-25 draft financial plan. There are more than $72 million in water infrastructure projects over the next five years, including a $19.8-million mid-town water supply upgrade scheduled for 2021-23. The five-year financial plan also includes $71 million in transportation infrastructure work, notably Metral Drive, Terminal Avenue from Esplanade to the Pearson Bridge, and the Mid-Town Gateway, formerly the Boxwood connector.

YOU’LL GET A CHARGE OUT OF THIS – Homeowners can get a rebate of up to 50 per cent of the cost of buying and installing an electric vehicle charging station in their home, up to a maximum of $700, doubling the previous rebate. Another thing to add to our tax bills. The B.C. government said workplaces and residents of condos or apartments that buy and install an EV station can also apply for a rebate of up to 50 per cent of their costs, up to a maximum of $4,000 per charger. The previous rebate limit for these Level 2 charging stations was $2,000. Applications for the new rebates open Dec. 4 and are available here.

SCHOOL TRUSTEES GET THEIR ASSIGNMENTS – Charlene McKay will serve another year as the head of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board with Jessica Stanley as vice chairman. Greg Keller heads the business committee, with Chantel O’Neill as the backup. Lisa Marie Barron chairs the education committee with Tania Brzovic as vice. Barron is also B.C. School Trustees Association provincial councillor for the district, with Stephanie Higginson as her alternate.

RENTAL RELIEF IS ON ITS WAY – Renters who have trouble paying their rent due to emergencies or other circumstances, can turn to B.C. Rent Bank which is setting up an office in Nanaimo by January. It’s a Vancity Community Foundation project funded by the B.C. government. It provides small interest-free loans to renters when their ability to pay rent is compromised due to emergencies or other circumstances. The Nanaimo branch will serve Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Lantzville. John McCormick, of the John Howard Society, said the opening is “truly significant and needed”, a community effort with the City of Nanaimo and stakeholders. 

Dec 3

IT TAKES ALL KINDS – A family in Revelstoke reportedly tried to contract Coronavirus to “build their natural immunity” at a time when his city is discouraging visitors and grappling with a slew of active coronavirus cases. Revelstoke has 32 active COVID-19 infections and a population of only 13,500 people, which is more than double the active cases per capita that in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, said Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz. “We’ve become a little complacent because we haven’t seen this through the community in a big way over the last eight months so what we’re saying now is ‘it’s here, it’s not just those who are travelling in who are bringing this in, it’s here in our community,’” he said. 

CHEQUE IS (ALMOST) IN THE MAIL – Premier John Horgan wants Coronavirus relief payments to British Columbians as soon as possible, once the legislature returns next week. The premier promised the $1,000 payments during the Oct. 24 election. The benefit will be a one-time, $1,000 direct deposit to families whose household income is under $125,000 annually, with a sliding scale up to $175,000. Individuals earning less than $62,000 annually would be eligible for $500, with a sliding scale up to $87,000. The premier has not committed to a firm delivery date, but said he hoped to have them by Christmas, or “very, very early in the new year.”

HYDRO CREDIT COMING – Residential customers will get an average one-time credit of $4 early next year on their bills to reflect a change to its rates. The BC Utilities Commission requested that Hydro amend its rate reduction for 2020-21 to reflect last year’s results and its latest financial forecast. That dropped the rate decrease to 1.62 per cent from 1.01 per cent.

REAL ESTATE SETS RECORD – Last month was a record setter for real estate north of the Malahat, the best November on record. Kevin Reid, president of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, said the average home is now priced at $540,000, an increase of four per cent from a year ago and the number of properties for sale is also at a near-record low. The data is all part of brisk real estate sales seen across Vancouver Island this fall. Reid said the pandemic has driven a lot of activity, with people retiring earlier than anticipated. “We have all kinds of buyers who have pulled their retirement plans ahead,” explained Reid. “They were planning on retiring in the next few years and having the reality of the pandemic and how life can change in a moment. They’re rolling their plans ahead. Josh Wynia of 460 Realty, said Nanaimo is becoming an attractive place for more and more people, with its relatively affordable housing market.

‘ISLAND GOOD’ IS THE WAY TO GO – More than ever, people are shopping local for gifts for the holidays. Think ‘Island Good’ when holiday shopping and send a ‘taste of Vancouver Island’ to isolated friends and relatives anywhere in the world, advises the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance. The Island Good brand and website is a simple, headache-free way to source Island Good products and retailers.  For example, order an Island Good Gift Box—a ‘taste of Vancouver Island’ shipped anywhere in the world. Current boxes include the Breakfast Box with Level Ground Trading CoffeeStonehouse TeasSaltspring Kitchen Co. fruit spread Gathering Place Trading dried fruit and Singing Bowl Granola and the Pantry Box with Saltspring Kitchen Co.Spread, Singing Bowl Granola Paleo Bites, Gathering Place Trading spices, Ed’s Soup Shack+Pixie Chicks Spicesand Yeshi Dressing. There’s a big list of things and places to do your Christmas shopping, check out their link.

Dec 2

END OF THE LINE – Another era is coming to an end, BC Transit is parking Victoria’s double decker buses, an iconic symbol of the city for many tourists. The double deckers were the first be used in a North American public transit system. They’ve been part of Victoria’s bus fleet since 2000. 

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST – While we’re talking about icons fading into history, former Winnipeggers in our midst will be interested to hear that the Hudson's Bay store in downtown Winnipeg has shut its doors permanently. The store and building had faced problems over the last several years and a recent appraisal from a real-estate evaluator said the building was worth $0, saying it would cost millions to sell the building. On a side note, the Hudson Bay store in Coquitlam was taken over by the landlord last week for delinquent rent.

MAARTMAN ELECTED IN AREA H – They may call him “Landslide Ben” – Ben Maartman is the new Cowichan Valley Regional District director for North Oyster/Diamond, winning by eight votes over Murray McNab after a recount. He will be sworn in on Dec. 8. After his orientation, he will dive into the deep end with a full day of CVRD budget meetings on Dec. 9.

CURTAIN COMES DOWN FOR PORT THEATRE – The Port Theatre has shut down for the rest of this year. The province-wide restriction on social gatherings is set to expire on Dec. 7, but theatre management anticipates the order could be extended due to rising Coronavirus numbers. Concerts featuring Eric Harper and Ken Lavigne, originally set for Nov. 27 and Dec. 6, have been rescheduled to Feb. 19 and March 13. A performance by ballet dancer Jillian Vanstone Dec. 12 will also be rescheduled to a later date.  General manager Bruce Halliday said the venue has been offering events in ways that adhere to the virus guidelines. Refunds will be available for all cancelled and rescheduled events. If you have questions you can e-mail tickets@porttheatre.com.

PRECRIPTION FOR HEALTHY EATING – Nanaimo Foodshare and Island Health have a prescription for better health, a new Good Food Box Prescription for healthy food in our community. A $28,250 grant from The McConnell Foundation’s Patient Food Security Fund helped the program get off the ground. The new Good Food Box Prescription initiative will see local physicians, dietitians and health professionals be able to “prescribe” a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables to their patients to aid their recovery. Registered Dietitian and Foodshare Executive Director Jen Cody says diet has a huge impact on health, for good and for ill. NRGH will be a key partner in the program. Chronic Disease Management and Nutrition Therapy manager Heather Tant says access to adequate and healthy food can reduce the need for hospital admission.

Dec 1

GOOD MORNING – Prime Minister Trudeau promised to plant one billion trees in Canada, and Nanaimo is doing its share by putting 600 plants in green spaces in November. During About 250 trees and 350 shrubs were planted, including Douglas fir, red alder, big-leaf maple, giant sequoia, Nootka rose, Oregon grape and snowberry. Planting trees highlights the city’s commitment to sustainability.

TRAVEL COMMISSION PAYBACK – The federal government is weighing the idea of a bailout package for airlines. But there’s always a catch – travel agencies might have to refund commissions they earned for trips that were later cancelled and refunded by the airlines. CHEK TV’s Joe Perkins talked to Cathy Scott of Departures Travel, about the impact the proposed bailout plan will have on travel agencies. She says the airlines are now asking for commission recalls, money the agencies simply don’t have. “The problem is eight or nine months later after we been paid for these trips, they are asking for us to repay them and the problem for us is that is what we have been using to pay staff and rent and keeping our lights on,” she said. 

$1 MILLION FOR NEW ICU – Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s new Intensive Care Unit campaign got a real shot in the arm ­– $1 million from the Windsor Plywood Foundation. The Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation is raising $5 million toward state-of-the-art medical equipment in the new ICU. While our ICU is one of the oldest in B.C., an external review in 2013 found NRGH’s ICU ranks near the top nationally for positive patient health outcomes. 

CAMBIE PARK COMPLETE – Cambie Park in Harewood now has a playground, a half sport court and fencing. Park development was made possible by community volunteers and a number of generous donations, in-kind donations and volunteer labour through local businesses and community groups with a City grant of $25,000 through the Partners in Parks Program. Planning was guided by community volunteers and championed by Cambie Road Block Watch Captain Shirley Gremyachev.  FULL STORY 

GOOD MORNING – Eleven pages off the 2020 calendar in this eventful year, and there’s no end in sight. We’re hoping the best for the Christmas season with family and friends, but that may have to be different this year. Even in family units there have been cases of Coronavirus. All the regulations we abide by now, in most cases, can be confusing. For instance, a report about a young school child “in isolation” at home while three other family members go about their everyday routines outside the house. Explain me that. 

FERRIES CANCELLED – Gale force winds forced B.C. Ferries to keep ships in port for a number of morning sailings. The wind also caused numerous power outages. Environment Canada predicted damaging strong winds already this morning along both the west and east coast of Vancouver Island. The Pacific frontal system is bringing southeasterly winds of 70 – 90 km/h over the exposed coastal sections of Sunshine Coast, as well as the Central and northern sections of East Vancouver Island.

RONA ADVISES ON VIRUS CASE – Rona posted a notice on social media over the weekend, advising that a worker at the Nanaimo store tested positive for Coronavirus. “To protect the health and safety of our associates and customers, we proceeded to an extensive cleaning and disinfecting of the premises on Nov. 28 after closing the store. These actions were in addition to the enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures already in place”, the notice read. The store was open Sunday. The employee’s most recent shift was Nov. 26 and Rona says other staff members deemed to have been in close contact have been put on paid quarantine.

TRAVEL RULES EXTENDED – Travel restrictions and rules to curb the spread of Coronavirus will be extended into January. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the measures would be in effect until Jan. 21, for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States. The ministers said restrictions for visitors crossing the border from the U.S. are in place until Dec. 21, but may be extended. Among the new rules is a requirement for anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days.

MASKS NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL – Some inconsiderate people are still refusing to wear masks, even arguing mandating them is unconstitutional. Victoria criminal lawyer Michael Mulligan says the constitution does not give people generalized right to do whatever they want. He says ordering everyone to wear masks is no different than any other laws that protects the public. Just like mandatory seat belts, bike helmets and posted speed limits, the government is allowed to implement laws to protect the public and public interests. There are those who still don’t want to wear masks, but it’s the law, he says.

C O M M E N T – Michael Mulligan is quoted about the constitutionality of mandatory mask wearing. I note he is a criminal lawyer. No reference to his constitutional qualifications. His quoting other health matters as precedents to bolster his case like set belts and helmets are likely not relevant in that many years of debate (in Newfoundland at the time we had special parliamentary committees) and many studies were available proving the benefits of those measures before legislation  then debated) were elected. In the case of masks there has been no legislative activity and the science is anything but clear. Funny how non experts can suddenly get quoted as if it was gospel.
Brian Peckford