Drivers will enjoy faster travel along Highway 4 this summer

220610 – If you’re heading out to Port Alberni or the west coasts of our island, it should be faster and easier this summer now that top-of-the-hour closures have been eliminated on Kennedy Hill. From June 30 until Sept. 5, 2022, single-lane alternating traffic will be implemented seven days a week between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. Top-of-the-hour closures will take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and nightly closures will continue to take place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. with a release to clear queued traffic at 2 a.m.

Removing top-of-the-hour closures during the day means delays for drivers will be limited to 30 minutes or less. This will also simplify travel planning for vacationers and tour operators, and make the route more reliable for emergency services and the movement of goods.

The project is expected to be substantially complete by the end of summer 2022 with finishing touches continuing throughout the fall.

Once complete, the Highway 4-Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project will create a safer and more reliable connection between Port Alberni and the west coast of Vancouver Island.

For the most up-to-date information on road conditions, visit: https://www.drivebc.ca/

Windley gets contract to repair Malahat

220526 – Windley Contracting of Nanaimo has been awarded a $14.9-million contract to repair the Malahat Tunnel Hill segment of Highway 1. Permanent repairs will begin soon, improving safety and reliability for the more than 35,000 travellers and commuters along the corridor daily.

"This first contract award for permanent repairs following last fall's catastrophic flooding marks an important milestone as the province continues to build back better," said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. "The Malahat is a critical connection for residents, businesses, emergency services and the transportation of goods between the mid-Island and the Capital Region. This project ensures safety for drivers and increases resiliency during future extreme climate events."

The $14.9-million contract for the project has been finalized and awarded to Nanaimo-based Windley Contracting Ltd. Work is slated to start this summer and includes restoring approximately 50 metres of the northbound lane north of Finlayson Arm Road, and repairing damage to existing drainage and slope stability. An 80-metre retaining wall will also be replaced to secure the slope against future extreme rain events.

All efforts will be made to complete work during the night where possible to maintain traffic movement in both directions during daytime travel hours. Advance notice of any traffic disruptions, including possible periods of single-lane alternating traffic and short, intermittent full closures, will be provided. Drivers are reminded to drive for the conditions, use caution and expect delays. Up-to-date traffic notifications will be posted to www.driveBC.ca

Construction is expected to finish in summer 2023.

Learn More: 

Information on Highway 1 Malahat-Tunnel Hill repair project: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation-projects/bc-highway-flood-recovery/2021-flood-road-recovery-projects-highway-1-malahat

Information on all 2021 flood-recovery projects: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation-projects/bc-highway-flood-recovery

Moth spraying planned for select Vancouver Island sites

April 29, 2022

VICTORIA - The B.C. government will conduct aerial spray treatments in three Vancouver Island locations beginning in early May.

These treatments will prevent lymantria moths, previously called gypsy moths, from becoming established and to minimize the risk they pose to forests, farms, orchards and urban trees.

The planned 2022 treatment areas on southern Vancouver Island are: 

* Nanoose/Lantzville/Nanaimo (1,068 hectares).
* View Royal (50 hectares);
* Lake Cowichan (402 hectares); and

These planned treatment locations are in addition to six areas on the Lower Mainland. Last year's monitoring program trapped an above-average number of male moths on the Lower Mainland, indicating that the moths could become established in those locations if the proposed pesticide spraying is not done.

Trapping and monitoring results from 2021 show clear evidence that lymantria moth populations have increased dramatically in the areas slated for treatment this spring, likely as a result of outbreaks in Ontario and Quebec during the past three years. Egg masses are commonly transported to B.C. on recreational vehicles and outdoor household articles originating from affected areas outside of the province.

If left untreated, the invasive lymantria moths could spread to other areas of British Columbia. Trees such as Garry oak, arbutus, red alder, aspen, cottonwood, maple, orchard fruit trees, nut trees and many species of urban ornamental trees would be affected, as well as food crops such as apples, blueberries and other fruits.

To control the moths, the ministry is planning as many as four applications of Foray 48B in the specified areas beginning in early May and ending in early June 2022. Organic farms in the spray area treated with Foray 48B will not lose their organic certification. The active ingredient, Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Btk), is naturally present in urban, agricultural and forest soils throughout the province. It affects only the stomachs of caterpillars (e.g., lymantria moth caterpillars) and is specific to their digestive systems.

Approval was received by the Ministry of Forests to amend an existing pesticide use permit, issued in March 2021, for lymantria moths. 

Btk has been approved for the control of lymantria moth larvae in Canada since 1961. It does not harm humans, mammals, birds, fish, plants, reptiles, amphibians, bees, or other insects. It only affects lymantria moth caterpillars after they have ingested it.

Quick Facts:

* The lymantria moth is an introduced pest. The caterpillars feed on tree leaves.

* In recent years, large lymantria moth populations have defoliated sections of forests and residential areas in Ontario and the eastern United States.

* These moths are unintentionally brought to B.C. on vehicles and equipment from eastern North America.

* Infested locations are often subject to agriculture and transportation quarantines, as well as additional procedures that may include vehicle checks, product certification, and increased pesticide use.

Learn More:

To learn more about Lymantria moths, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/lymantriamoth
or call (toll-free): 1 866 917-5999

For information about the pesticide use permit application or to see a map of planned treatment areas, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/lymantria-news

The amended pesticide-use permit and treatment area maps are also available for viewing at the city or municipal hall and/or on the websites of the affected communities.

Island residents get increased access to surgeries

VICTORIA - People living on Vancouver Island will benefit from an additional 2,300 surgeries and 2,300 endoscopies per year, as Island Health assumes the leases and buys assets from two private surgical centres.

"Adding the View Royal Surgical Centre (VRSC) in Victoria and Seafield Surgical Centre (SSC) in Nanaimo into the public health-care system means that we will be able to increase capacity and reduce wait times for people who need surgery," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "Our government is committed to delivering surgical care for British Columbians when they need it, including recovering from the surgical impacts of the pandemic, and bringing these centres on as Island Health facilities will help all of us achieve this goal."

As VRSC and SSC become Island Health facilities, a broader suite of surgical services will be provided through greater use of unused and underutilized capacity at these sites. This is expected to provide a seamless experience for patients and care providers alike.

Taking over the leases and purchasing the surgical equipment allows Island Health to expand access to procedures instead of having to invest new capital resources in surgical services at hospitals in Victoria and Nanaimo. The addition of these facilities also allows more opportunity to scale surgical services and meet the surgical needs of people within Island Health. Island Health will acquire both locations for $11.5 million.

The transition will be done gradually and is expected to begin in the coming months, with an immediate focus on stabilizing current operations during and after the transition period.

Currently, the facilities perform certain low-complexity day care procedures such as plastic, general, orthopedics, urology, vascular, pediatric dental, endoscopy and cataract surgery requiring a hospital stay of less than 24 hours. SSC currently delivers approximately 2,700 procedures per year. Island Health contracts two operating rooms and two endoscopy suites at VRSC. VRSC delivers approximately 2,500 day care surgeries and 4,000 outpatient procedures per year.

"Surgical Centres Inc. have been a valued partner in helping us deliver surgical care and we are now excited to move forward with these sites under our direction," said Leah Hollins, board chair, Island Health. "The addition of the View Royal and Seafield Surgical Centres will help us efficiently expand surgical capacity in a way that was not previously possible."

Island Health continues to work with Surgical Centres Inc., which owns both facilities, to finalize the agreement.

"We have been pleased to fulfil our mission to increase surgical access and reduce waiting times with Island Health. Our VRSC and SSC teams have excellently cared for tens of thousands of patients," said Dr. Mohamed Nanji, CEO of Surgical Centres Inc. "As well, VRSC is recognized as one of the finest non-hospital surgical centres in Canada. The health-care teams and legacies we've created at our Victoria and Nanaimo facilities will serve Island Health for years to come."

In May 2020, government made a commitment to catch up on surgeries that were postponed due to COVID-19 and significantly increase the number of surgeries performed above pre-pandemic levels. The ministry and health authorities continue to work to fulfil that commitment to patients.

Quotes:

Sheila Malcomson, MLA for Nanaimo -

"People will have improved access to much-needed surgeries and endoscopies, helping them get back to their lives and their families. Today is a great step forward in our drive to make life better for British Columbians."

Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin -

"When a child needs surgery, it creates a sense of vulnerability for the entire family. The last thing a parent needs is a lengthy wait list for their child to receive care. Through this plan, children and families will receive the care they depend on when they need it."

Quick Facts:

* Island Health closely partnered with Surgical Centres Inc. at Seafield Surgical Centre in 2004 and at View Royal Surgical Centre in 2017, with Surgical Centres facilities successfully functioning under a surgery partnership model and as an extension of the operating rooms of Island Health's hospitals.

* Through this partnership, over the past five years, these facilities have cared for more than 40,000 patients.

* VRSC and SSC are accredited by the College of Physician and Surgeons of BC to provide a suite of non-hospital surgical facility services, which is a defined scope of procedures.

Island families benefit from new child care spaces

More parents in central Vancouver Island will be able to pursue work, school and other opportunities while knowing their children are cared for as the Province invests in more than 320 new licensed child care spaces.

In  School District 68:

* Cilaire Early Learning and Child Care Centre; 52 spaces (12 infant-toddler, 16 2.5 years to kindergarten, 24 school age), located on school grounds

* Pleasant Valley Elementary Learning and Child Care Centre; 52 spaces (12 infant-toddler, 16 2.5 years to kindergarten, 24 school age), located on school grounds

* École Quarterway Elementary Child Care Centre; 24 school-age spaces, located on school grounds

"Parents and caregivers deserve to know their kids are in safe hands while they are at work, and with these new spaces, high-quality care will be accessible for many more families," said Adam Walker, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum. "We are creating a child care system where care is available for every family who wants it, across Vancouver Island and B.C."

The Province is supporting eight child care providers to create 321 new licensed child care spaces in the central Vancouver Island communities of Crofton, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Tofino and Ucluelet.

In addition to these child care locations, 1,139 new spaces have been funded in Crofton, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Tofino and Ucluelet since the launch of ChildCareBC in July 2018.

"We know that access to affordable child care makes an enormous difference in people's lives, and we're seeing that first-hand in our communities as our government has created more spaces and made them more affordable," said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. "We know there's still more work to do to build a future where child care is a core service that's available and affordable for any family that wants it. That's why we will keep working to build more new spaces, and I'm so grateful to our partners who are coming forward to help make this a reality."

Pam Moore, manager, Qualicum First Nation Child Care Centre, said: "On behalf of Qualicum First Nation and the child care centre, we are looking forward to receiving funding to build a new infant and toddler centre to serve all families in the local community. This, along with our application for $10 a Day funding, will see affordable and accessible child care for children up to three years old. Together with our child care centre for children three to five years and our after-school centre, we will be able to provide all child care needs for families in the area."

Since 2018, the Province has invested $2.7 billion in ChildCareBC, including funding more than 26,000 new licensed child care spaces through the New Spaces Fund and other space-creation programs.

"For years, parents in B.C. were left with a patchwork system where child care was treated as a luxury. As we enter the fifth year of our 10-year ChildCareBC plan, we are making significant progress to reverse this," said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. "We've been working to turn the corner by building new spaces, lowering fees and training the skilled professionals needed to offer quality child care as a core service available to every family that wants it at a price they can afford."

"Our government is creating new child care spaces in communities throughout B.C. to ensure child care is available when and where families need it," said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education and Child Care. "With some of the new child care spaces on school grounds, we're able to better integrate child care into the broader learning environment so children can more easily transition from their early care programs into their school community."

New spaces require new early childhood educators (ECEs). A recruitment and retention strategy was included as part of B.C.'s 10-year ChildCareBC plan, launched in 2018. Progress since then includes:

* providing more than 10,000 bursaries to support nearly 6,000 ECE students;

* creating 1,150 new ECE student spaces at post-secondary schools, which more than doubles the number of seats since 2018; and

* enhancing ECE compensation by $4 per hour.

Budget 2022 builds on this through a $3.9-million investment over the next three years to add another 390 new ECE seats at public post-secondary institutions in B.C.

As a result of ChildCareBC investments, parents in Nanaimo-North Cowichan; Parksville-Qualicum; and Tofino-Ucluelet have saved more than $30 million, $8 million, and $11 million respectively.

Quick Facts:

* In 2022-23, Budget 2022 is providing an additional $30 million for the ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund to further expand the number of licensed child care spaces with a focus on spaces for school-aged children.

* More than 30,000 children receive support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit every month. Parents making less than $45,000 can receive 100% funding and those making as much as $111,000 can receive partial funding.

* In 2021-22, fee reductions were approved for more than 68,800 child care spaces at more than 3,600 child care facilities in B.C. through the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative.

* Through the Canada-British Columbia Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, the Government of Canada has provided a one-time $49.2-million investment that will reduce barriers and increase access to post-secondary ECE programs and professional learning to support ECE graduates to transition to the workforce.

For more about ChildCareBC, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/childcare

The intake for the 2021-22 ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund opened Sept. 13, 2021, and closed on Nov. 16, 2021. Applications were evaluated against criteria set out in the ChildCareBC New Spaces Fund guidelines to align with provincial priorities and with federal direction outlined in the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement to focus on spaces that are run by public and non-profit institutions.

Priority areas for this intake included child care providers who will deliver on the creation of:

* infant-toddler child care spaces

* spaces serving priority populations including:
* low-income families

* children with support needs

* Indigenous children and families

* families new to Canada

* young parents (25 years and younger)

* Black and other children and families of colour

* francophone children

* spaces co-located with other community or family services, such as on school grounds (including K-12 and public post-secondary)

* fully inclusive and accessible child care spaces that allow children of all abilities to participate meaningfully (i.e., accessible physical design and application of program inclusion policy)

* projects with a provincial cost per space of $40,000 or less

The 2022-23 intake of the New Spaces Fund applications will open in spring/summer 2022.

Make waves planning for Tsunami Preparedness Week

People living in coastal communities are encouraged to participate in Tsunami Preparedness Week, April 10-16,  by taking time to prepare before a tsunami occurs.

"B.C. is a seismically active area, and coastal communities are at risk for tsunamis caused by undersea earthquakes or even a volcanic eruption like we saw near the Tonga Islands earlier this year," said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. "I encourage everyone on the coast to learn about your local public alerting and to do a high ground hike with your family to learn how to find high ground, which is sometimes only a block or two away."

Launched in 2016, High Ground Hike is an annual community event held during Tsunami Preparedness Week. The goal is to raise awareness about B.C.'s tsunami risk and give coastal residents an opportunity to practise reaching their tsunami safe zone.

High Ground Hikes have been offered virtually since 2020. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were held in person. This year, 10 communities, ranging from Stewart to Victoria, are co-hosting virtual hikes but anyone living in a risk zone is encouraged to learn their tsunami-safe location and practise their local evacuation routes.

"In the event of a tsunami, people must be ready to respond quickly. The key to that quick response is knowing how you'll receive information about a threat, where to go and how to get there. High Ground Hike is an opportunity to build muscle memory, so you can react swiftly and safely," said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. "It's also crucial that residents in risk areas have grab-and-go bags for each member of their household and that they're kept in an accessible location."

On Jan. 14, 2022, a volcano erupted near the Tonga Islands, which triggered a tsunami advisory in parts of B.C. It is important to understand the level of concern and what the advisory means. During Tsunami Preparedness Week, people are encouraged to get together with their family and learn about the different levels of tsunami alerts:

* An information statement is issued when there is no threat or when a very distant event occurs that is good to be aware of.

* A watch is issued when a distant tsunami is possible. People should stay tuned for information and be prepared to act.

* An advisory is issued when strong currents and waves may occur that could be dangerous to people close to the water. People should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways.

* A warning is issued when dangerous coastal flooding and strong currents are possible. People will be instructed to move to high ground or inland.

A tsunami is a series of waves that result from a large and sudden displacement of the ocean that is most often caused by a large undersea earthquake. To prepare before a tsunami occurs, Emergency Management BC recommends:

* Become familiar with local evacuation routes and reception centre locations.

* For people near the coast when an earthquake occurs, drop, cover and hold on, and then move to higher ground immediately. In areas along B.C.'s outer coast that do not have evacuation plans or maps, this means at least 20 metres of elevation.

* Once reaching high ground, stay there. Wait for the "all clear" from local authorities to confirm the threat is over. Tsunami waves can last several hours.

* Find out how your community plans to share emergency information. Alerting methods include radio, television, telephone, text messages, door-to-door contact, social media and outdoor sirens. Always follow instructions from local authorities during an emergency. People in coastal communities should subscribe to local alerts.

* If you are not in a tsunami zone, stay home and be prepared to help family, friends and neighbours in need of shelter.

Quick Facts:

* Emergency Management BC is the Province's lead co-ordinating agency for emergency management activities, including preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery.

* Emergency Management BC issues emergency alerts on behalf of the Province and relies on several alerting systems in the event of a tsunami.

* There are local government emergency alerts, coastal siren systems, door-to-door notifications, social media and the National Public Alerting System, publicly branded as Alert Ready. 

* The last major tsunami to hit B.C. shores was on March 27, 1964, when waves hit the B.C. coast and Port Alberni was flooded following the 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake.

Learn More:

Coastal communities co-hosting virtual high ground hikes and how to participate in the #HighGroundSelfie22 contest: preparedbc.ca/highgroundhike (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=FD557A75B7404C599A20D40C42C6FBFB)

Information about tsunami risks and how to prepare, visit: gov.bc.ca/PreparedBC/tsunamis (http://www.gov.bc.ca/PreparedBC/tsunamis)

Information about how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in grab-and-go bags, follow @PreparedBC (https://twitter.com/PreparedBC) on Twitter or visit: preparedbc.ca (http://www.preparedbc.ca)

For information during active provincial emergencies, follow on Twitter at @EmergencyInfoBC (https://twitter.com/EmergencyInfoBC) or visit: emergencyinfobc.ca (https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/

Factsheet on public alerting systems in B.C.: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/public-alerting-systems-in-bc

NDP tops in political donations in 2021

2021 annual financial reports for provincial political parties, provincial constituency associations, and local elector organizations (civic political parties) are now available.

Provincial filers
The table below shows total political contributions raised by the major provincial political parties in 2021:

Political party

Total political contributions raised in 2021

BC Green Party

$1,096,224.39

BC Liberal Party

$1,416,232.87

BC NDP

$3,595,882.86

Nineteen provincial reports were required by the March 31, 2022 deadline. Due to extenuating circumstances, the filing deadline for the Conservative Party of British Columbia has been extended to April 29, 2022. The Wexit BC party, Boundary-Similkameen Constituency Association Wexit BC and Peace River South Constituency Association Wexit BC did not file reports by the deadline. These filers may do so by June 30, 2022 with a $100 late filing fee.

In addition to political contributions raised, provincial reports are required to contain:

  • assets, liabilities, surplus or deficit as of December 31, 2021,
  • total dollar amount of income tax receipts issued,
  • transfers of money, goods, or services received and given,
  • fundraising function information,
  • other income and expenditures, and
  • details of permissible loans and guarantees.

Provincial political parties must also disclose the details of contributions made to the party, its constituency associations and its candidates, where the contributor gave more than $250 in total.

Scanned annual reports (political party and constituency association – https://bit.ly/3JaIlPD

Political party and constituency association political contribution data – https://bit.ly/3jdGkI4

Political party combined contribution data – https://bit.ly/35L8S8C

Fifteen elector organizations were required to file a report by the March 31, deadline. All required reports were received by the deadline.

This is the first time that elector organizations were required to file annual financial reports with Elections BC, following legislative changes to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act passed in 2021. This requirement came into force on December 1, 2021. Elector organization annual financial reports for 2021 cover from when the elector organization registered until December 31, 2021.

In addition to campaign contributions raised, local reports are required to contain:

  • election expenses incurred during the reporting period,
  • assets, liabilities, surplus or deficit as of December 31, 2021,
  • transfers of money, goods, or services received and given,
  • fundraising function information,
  • other income and expenditures, and
  • details of permissible loans.

Scanned annual reports (elector organizations – https://bit.ly/3NTbemZ
Elector organization campaign contribution data – https://bit.ly/3KkajKb

Province announces tender for Malahat permanent repair

VICTORIA - Permanent repair work will begin soon on the portions of the Malahat section of Highway 1 damaged during November's flooding.

The project tender for the Highway 1 - Malahat Tunnel Hill Washout repair project has been posted to BC Bid. The work will include restoring approximately 50 metres of the northbound lane north of Finlayson Arm Road and repairing damage to existing drainage and slope stability. An 80-metre retaining wall will also be replaced to secure the slope against future extreme rain events.

This is the first of the province's permanent repair projects following November's historic storms to go to tender. All permanent repair projects will improve resilience to future extreme weather events, part of the province's commitment to building back better to ensure B.C.'s infrastructure is better able to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring. All efforts will be made to minimize traffic disruptions during peak travel times and to complete work overnight where possible. Traffic delays are expected throughout construction, including periods of single-lane alternating traffic and short, intermittent full closures. Advance notice of any traffic disruptions will be provided.

Drivers are reminded to drive for the conditions, observe construction zone speed limits and follow the direction of traffic-control signs and personnel.

Updates will be available online at DriveBC.ca and on Twitter at @DriveBC.

ICBC relief rebate coming for drivers

The Province is announcing that B.C.'s public auto insurer will provide a one-time relief rebate of $110 to customers to ease the financial burden of increased gas prices caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

This rebate will total more than $395 million and comes at time when the global increase in gas prices and other cost pressures have affected day-to-day life for British Columbians.

“People are facing increased costs through no fault of their own, but as a chain reaction that started with Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine,” said Premier John Horgan. “As a result of our work to fix ICBC, we’re in a position to put money back in people’s pockets to help a little with these increased costs.”

Most ICBC customers with a basic auto insurance policy during the month of February will be eligible for the $110 relief rebate. Most commercial customers will receive a rebate of $165 because they generally incur higher expenses.

ICBC is in a position to provide the relief rebate as a result of its forecast annual net income of $1.9 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022. The remaining income will be reinvested into ICBC’s capital reserves to ensure rates remain affordable for the long term.

“This rebate is going to help a lot of people in this province,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This is another opportunity to put money back in the pockets of the hardworking people who make this province a great place to live.”

Eligible ICBC customers can expect to receive their rebate in May if they are registered for direct deposit with ICBC or as a refund to their credit card. All other customers will receive cheques in June.

The relief rebate follows two COVID-19 rebates issued by ICBC last year, which provided drivers with a combined average of $300. ICBC’s COVID-19 rebates were made possible because crash rates fell during the early part of the pandemic when British Columbians were driving less. Enhanced Care refunds were provided to eligible customers after the launch of the new insurance model on May 1, 2021.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, most customers renewing their full-coverage personal auto insurance under Enhanced Care have had annual average savings of $490, or 28% per policy renewal, compared to the previous model.

New supportive homes open in Nanaimo

People will soon begin moving into Samaritan Place, providing safe and secure homes for people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo.

"These homes will make a significant difference for people in Nanaimo who are experiencing homelessness by giving them a stable home with the supports they need to stabilize their lives," said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. "We are grateful to be working with the City of Nanaimo and Island Crisis Care Society to provide a place to call home for people in need."

These homes are the first of four supportive housing facilities that the Province and the City of Nanaimo have committed to create for people experiencing homelessness.

Located at 702 Nicol St., the four-storey building has 51 self-contained studio homes. Each home has a kitchenette and washroom. One secured floor has been reserved for vulnerable women and includes studio homes, plus 14 shelter spaces to provide a bridge to permanent housing.

There is a two-bedroom family unit on the ground floor. This will serve as an emergency shelter space available to women and their children on a short-term basis. A community amenity space with its own entrance is also located on the ground floor, which will be used for community events.

"These homes opening up at Samaritan Place show how strong partnerships can deliver for people in Nanaimo," said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo. "B.C.'s opened 490 affordable homes in the community since 2017, with hundreds more to open in the next few months and more to come."

The building will be managed by Island Crisis Care Society, which will have staff on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Residents will have access to on-site support services including life-skills training, employment assistance and counselling, physical and mental-health resources, as well as addiction-recovery services.

An innovative partnership with Island Health will see community health workers embedded at the site. These workers will have specialized mental-health and substance-use training to support their work delivering a variety of health-care services.

"At Island Crisis Care Society, we have dreamt of the day that we could open the doors of a new Samaritan House," said Violet Hayes, executive director, Island Crisis Care Society. "After years of making do and trying our best to support those who walked through our doors, we are so excited to be welcoming people into the new Samaritan Place, which will have one floor designated for women. We so appreciate all those who have made this dream a reality."

"Council and I are delighted that the new Samaritan Place building at 702 Nicol St. is ready for its new residents," said Leonard Krog, mayor, City of Nanaimo. "This supportive housing is part of the agreement the City of Nanaimo has with BC Housing to provide a welcomed 51 studio homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, as well as 14 bridge-to-housing beds for women and one family unit."

Residents will start moving into the building on March 22. Priority has been given to people staying at the emergency response centre at 285 Prideaux St. and the temporary supportive housing site at 250 Terminal Ave.

Once all tenants have moved in and the former Community Services Building at 285 Prideaux St. is vacant, demolition of the building will begin. This will allow construction to get underway on the next permanent supportive housing building under the memorandum of understanding with the City of Nanaimo.

Quick Facts:

* The Province provided a grant of approximately $15.3 million for the project through the Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund and will provide approximately $1.6 million in annual operating funding.

* The City of Nanaimo provided approximately $139,000 in development cost charge waivers.

* Since 2017, through investments by the Province, more than 1,200 new homes have opened or are underway in Nanaimo.

Malcolmson's statement on lives lost to poisoned drugs

Sheila Malcolmson

VICTORIA, March 11, 2022 - Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimon MLA snf Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement regarding the BC Coroners Service's report on illicit drug toxicity deaths for January 2022:

"January brought more tragic loss of life due to the poisoned drug crisis in British Columbia. An unprecedented number of families, friends, communities and care providers carry the pain and sorrow of the 207 lives lost. 

"People in small and large communities across the province are losing their lives because of illicit drugs, which have become increasingly toxic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first months of 2020, fentanyl concentrations in illicit drug deaths were between 4% and 8%. By the end of 2021, this had increased to between 24% and 28% - a staggering increase. We have also seen a significant increase in benzodiazepines, the effects of which cannot be reversed by naloxone.

"One of the most important ways we can save lives is to separate people from the toxic drug supply. Last month, I stood with clinicians to share progress on our safer supply policy. B.C. is leading Canada with our prescribed safer supply program, and we are supporting health authorities with $22.6 million to implement this program.

"Earlier this week, the BC Coroners Service released the results of its third death review panel of illicit drug toxicity deaths. This report confirms that the work underway by our government is crucial to saving lives and ending the toxic drug crisis and that more work is needed.

"We know the toxic drug crisis needs to be tackled from all angles. That's why our government has made unprecedented investments in mental health and addictions supports across the spectrum of treatment, recovery and harm reduction. Tragically, this has not been enough.

"Never before have so many people worked so hard to stand up supports, from physicians and nurses to social workers, counsellors and other front-line workers. The work they do on the ground every day is absolutely vital and for that I am eternally grateful.

"We are swimming against a rising tide of need but we need to keep going and keep working together. There's much more to do, and we won't stop working until we turn this crisis around."

Learn More: 

Updated actions on the drug poisoning response: https://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/escalated-drug-poisoning-response-actions-1

New affordable homes coming to north Nanaimo

Work is starting on a new rental housing building in north Nanaimo that will provide affordable homes for people with a range of incomes.

Located at 6010 Hammond Bay Rd., the four-storey wood-frame building will provide 53 one- and two-bedroom rental homes geared toward low- and moderate-income individuals, families, seniors and people living with disabilities. The development will include outdoor green space with walking paths and meeting areas, and the building's ground floor will have communal space for tenants.

Rent for half the units will be geared to income where rent is 30% of the tenant's income. Some of the units will be rented to households with very low incomes, such as those receiving income or disability assistance, or a seniors' pension. Others will be at or below market rent.

The project is a partnership between the federal and provincial governments, Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society (NAHS) and the City of Nanaimo.

The federal government, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), is providing a Federal Bilateral Canada Community Housing Initiative grant of $6.25 million. The Province, through BC Housing, is providing $125,000 through the Building BC: Community Housing Fund and will provide approximately $340,000 in annual operating funding. The city is waiving $221,000 in development charges.

NAHS will operate the building, which is scheduled to open in summer 2023.

Ahmed Hussen, federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation -

"Everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. That's why our government is pleased to provide funding support that will create 53 homes for those most vulnerable, including seniors and people living with disabilities, in North Nanaimo. This is the National Housing Strategy at work."

Adam Walker, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum -

"This project will be a much-welcomed addition to North Nanaimo, providing rental homes for people with a range of incomes. We need to keep working with all levels of government and non-profit partners like the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society to build quality, affordable homes for people in Nanaimo and throughout the province."

Leonard Krog, mayor, City of Nanaimo -

"Council is excited to welcome to North Nanaimo these affordable units in a project specifically designed to accommodate a diverse range of people and families. In a community that is desperate for housing, this is cause for real celebration."

Andrea Blakeman, CEO, Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society -

"NAHS is very excited to be part of this stunning new development - the first of its kind in this area of Nanaimo. Close to shopping, schools, the library and many other amenities, this unique project brings affordability to North Nanaimo where no similar housing currently exists."

* As Canada's authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need and offers unbiased housing research and advice to all levels of Canadian government, consumers and the housing industry. CMHC's aim is that by 2030, everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that meets their needs.

* Canada's National Housing Strategy is a 10-year plan worth more than $72 billion that will give more Canadians a place to call home.

* This project is part of B.C.'s 10-year, $7-billion housing plan. Since 2017, the Province has funded more than 30,000 affordable new homes that have been completed or are underway for people in B.C., including more than 1,200 homes in Nanaimo.

* The Community Housing Fund is an investment of $1.9 billion to build more than 14,000 affordable rental homes for low- and moderate-income families and individuals over 10 years. More than 8,800 of these homes are already open, under construction or in development.

For more on CMHC, visit: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en

To find out more about the National Housing Strategy, visit: www.placetocallhome.ca

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/

A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online at: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC

Farnworth has issues statement on the tsunami:

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth

"Last night, a volcanic eruption occurred underwater in the southern part of the Pacific Basin in the Tonga Islands. Due to this event, a tsunami advisory was issued for British Columbia by the National Tsunami Notification Centre. It is expected that this advisory will remain in place for several hours. 

"To be clear, this is an advisory only, and not tsunami warning. The risk is limited to increased tidal currents. Until the advisory is lifted, stay away from beaches, shorelines and marinas, and follow the directions of local governments. 

"Overnight, several communities along the coast activated their emergency plans. 

"Emergency Management BC immediately activated the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and all provincial regional operations centres on the coast. The agency has also been supporting local governments and First Nations with updates and a series of co-ordination calls. 

"Two Pacific Emergency Notification System alerts have been issued to emergency managers and media to update on this event. 

"Local communities are communicating this information to residents as per their emergency protocols for an advisory of this type.

"Although this is not a tsunami warning, this event demonstrates that coast warning systems do work. 

"Please do NOT call 911 for information on the tsunami in B.C. Call 911 only when a life is at stake. It is important these lines remain free for those in immediate need. 

"In the event of a future tsunami warning, stay calm, stay safe, listen to your local officials and head to higher ground." 

For updates on this event, visit: emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca
Or follow on Twitter @emergencyinfobc

British Columbians urged to prepare for winter conditions

Heavy snowfall is forecast across southwestern B.C. so now is the time for British Columbians to prepare for cold temperatures, power outages and slick streets. 

From this evening into Thursday morning, Environment Canada is calling for heavy snow and freezing rain for the Malahat. Heavy snow is forecast across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, with freezing rain expected in the Fraser Valley and the eastern sections of Metro Vancouver. Drivers are reminded to plan ahead and drive according to weather and road conditions if they must travel during this storm. Commuters should expect delays and service disruptions on transit routes.

For those who must travel, enhanced winter maintenance services are in place where necessary and will remain for as long as needed through winter. Drivers are advised to reduce their speed and use caution when they encounter poor weather or limited visibility.

* Highway 1 is expected to see more than 30 centimetres of snow, particularly in the east Fraser Valley, where snow accumulation could continue throughout Thursday.

* The Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler will receive 10 to 20 centimetres of snow beginning this evening, with rain expected to continue through Thursday.

* On Vancouver Island, 15 to 25 centimetres of snow is expected to fall on the Malahat.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and its maintenance contractors closely monitor conditions when the temperature is near freezing and snow is in the forecast. On Lower Mainland highways, maintenance contractors will proactively apply anti-icing brine when low temperatures are forecast, and plows are mobilized to quickly deal with any accumulation of snow.

Commercial drivers who travel outside the Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria areas in the winter are required to carry chains, or other acceptable traction devices, and comply with all signs and regulations. A good practice is to keep chains on board at all times and to know how to install them.

As winter tire regulations are in effect on designated routes, drivers are encouraged to get the best tires available. These include tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol, which provide the best traction and handling in the most challenging winter weather conditions.

Residents should follow directions from First Nations and local governments. Warming centres may be opened to help protect vulnerable populations. Emergency Management BC will continue to work in partnership with First Nations and local governments to respond quickly to the changing weather conditions.

A little preparation can go a long way to keeping people safe during stormy, wintry conditions. Here are some tips to keep safe this winter:

* Wear your winter gear: Always wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Dressing in layers, with a wind- and water-resistant outer layer, provides flexibility for changing conditions. To avoid frostbite, cover as much exposed skin as possible by wearing hats, scarves and gloves. Try to stay dry and change out of wet clothing as soon as possible.

* Be prepared for power outages: Severe weather can cause power outages. Be prepared for up to one week by developing a household emergency plan and putting together an emergency kit. If you encounter a downed or damaged power line, assume it is live and a danger. Stay back at least 10 metres (the length of a bus) and call 911 immediately to report.

* Emergency shelters available: People in need of a warm, safe place to stay during the cold and wet winter months have access to additional emergency shelter spaces. All shelters, including extreme weather response shelters, are open throughout B.C. This winter, the Province is providing more than 1,900 temporary shelter spaces and nearly 360 extreme-weather response shelter spaces to ensure people experiencing homelessness have a warm place to sleep and get out of the cold and rain. These emergency shelters supplement more than 2,250 permanent, year-round shelter spaces. The extreme weather response shelters are available overnight when a community issues an extreme weather alert.

* Be prepared on the road: People should bring warm clothing that does not restrict movement when driving and ensure their vehicles are equipped with a full tank of fuel, a windshield scraper and snow brush, food and water, a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies. If stuck or stranded, people should stay in their vehicles and call 911 for roadside assistance.

Learn More:

For a list of shelters, visit: https://smap.bchousing.org/Shelters-ViewController-context-root/faces/shelters_map_frame.jsf

For the weather forecasts and current road conditions, before leaving, check @DriveBC on Twitter or: https://drivebc.ca/

Environment and Climate Change Canada weather notifications for B.C.: https://weather.gc.ca/warnings/index_e.html?prov=bc

PreparedBC is British Columbia's one-stop shop for disaster readiness information. For tips on seasonal readiness, how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in an emergency kit, visit PreparedBC: Preparedbc.ca (http://ow.ly/C28u306UJ1P)

Follow PreparedBC on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PreparedBC/

Follow PreparedBC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PreparedBC

For road advisories and information: https://www.tranbc.ca/current-travel-advisories/

For information on winter tires and chains regulations:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/seasonal/winter-driving

For winter driving tips: http://www.shiftintowinter.ca