Work on the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), one of the biggest construction projects underway in the province, has been halted until April 13, which in turn has postponed the scheduled shutdown of the Deux-Montagnes train line for a second time.
CDPQ Infra, which is responsible for building the $6-billion light rail network, made the announcement through statement issued following Premier François Legault’s news conference on Monday. The premier announced the province would undergo a partial lockdown for a few weeks.
Last week, about 100 workers of the roughly 900 on the project reportedly walked off the job over fears of the spread of the coronavirus.
Work on the REM line requires major construction inside the 100-year-old Mount Royal tunnel, a major part of the Deux-Montagnes and Mascouche lines as they lead to Central Station. Work on the tunnel was supposed to shut down the line in January but CDPQ Infra decided to postpone that to March 30.
A stalled plan to redevelop two big plots of Downtown Fort Langley might be back on the table in the form of a partnership with the Kwantlen First Nation, the partners announced March 4.
The proposal is to arrange a transfer of the 1.2 hectares of prime commercial real estate, in two parcels, from the Eric Woodward Foundation to the Kwantlen, which would apply to have it added to the First Nation’s reserve.
Assuming the addition is successful, Fort Langley Properties, a company wholly owned by the foundation, would lease the land back to co-develop the real estate into a mixed-use commercial and residential district in the heart of the historic village’s shopping district.
The Kwantlen view the proposal as “an amazing step towards reconciliation,” Chief Marilyn Gabriel said in a news release, “helping to strengthen the Kwantlen First Nation and promote ourselves as a key partner and leader in our regional economy.”
“Kwantlen has been growing tremendously in capacity and working tirelessly to promote meaningful partnerships within our territories for the next seven generations,” Gabriel said.
The Kwantlen “are always looking to increase our land base for the Nation,” said Brenda Knights, CEO of the First Nation’s economic development corporation, Seyem.
The 2014 example of the transfer of the 21-hectare Jericho Lands to a Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations corporation “spurred a lot of interest across Canada” for similar ventures, Knights said.
“Squamish as well recently acquired lands,” Knights said, “so we see this as Kwantlen’s time now.”
The Kwantlen still have to submit an application, which could take three-to-five years to complete, under federal rules that were revised last fall to shorten the process from an average of 10 years, Knights said.
The property, valued at $13 million to $14 million, is less than a kilometre away from the Kwantlen’s existing 181-hectare IR 6 lands. Knights said the First Nation previously had property from within that reserve expropriated for the old Albion Ferry and is going through the process to have that returned as well.
Such a downtown addition, however, would remove development from the municipal authority of the Township of Langley, where current owner Woodward has had on-again, off-again plans to redevelop the two properties into a mixed-use neighbourhood with 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 75 residential units. In the past, the Fort Langley community has been divided over the amount of change such development would bring to the downtown district, which is designated a heritage conservation area.
Woodward, who has also been a councillor for the Township of Langley since 2018, withdrew previous applications for development with the township. Woodward said the economics of renovation don’t make sense for 11 of 12 buildings on the two properties, save for the 1928 Simpson Bros. building at the corner of Glover Road and McBride Street, which he had always planned to restore.
“And we’re in this bind where we’ve had delays with getting approvals to move forward, and in the interim, not been allowed to remove them,” Woodward said.
In the meantime, Woodward had begun transferring ownership of the properties, many that sit empty and boarded up, from his company, Statewood Properties, to the non-profit charitable foundation, which he intends to be a legacy for the community’s benefit. And late last spring he started discussions with the Kwantlen about the possibility of a development in partnership with the First Nation.
“In hindsight, it’s fantastic to have ended up here,” Woodward said of the partnership and being able to draw the Kwantlen into economic development on property that is within their traditional territory. “And I think that the way we’ve been talking about it that once this announcement is public, to the people in Fort Langley and Langley, it will seem obvious, inevitable and wonderful. Not about buildings and not about some temporary dispute with a few politicians who won’t be around much longer.”
Knights said the application to add land only initiates the process, which will involve consultation with the Township of Langley to work through concerns and deal with agreements over municipal services, and eventually a referendum for all Kwantlen residents.
“We’re often on the receiving end of referrals from government (over developments) and now we’re playing that role,” Knights said.
And while Woodward had previous plans for the site, Knights said what finally gets built will have to be determined through the planning process.
“Certainly our membership will be interested in having a strong presence in Fort Langley and having the buildings reflect Kwantlen,” Knights said, but whatever it is has to make economic sense.
Kwantlen First Nation Coun. Tumia Knott added that they want to be good neighbours with the township.
I think it’s really important that it’s complementary to the region (and) fits within community values,” Knott said. “Not just Kwantlen’s values, but the values of the region of Fort Langley that we call home.”
In a news release, Knights referred to the partnership as a unique initiative in private-public reconciliation with a First Nation that impressed B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser.
“It’s great to see partnerships like this one demonstrating the real benefits of reconciliation,” Fraser said in a statement, “that by working together, we get better outcomes that benefit First Nations, governments and the communities and people they serve.”
The federal and provincial governments want to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs this week in a bid to stop a series of crippling blockades in support of those chief’s anti-pipeline stance.
The move comes as local protesters prepare for an unknown action starting in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, met in Victoria to “talk about finding a peaceful resolution to the blockades across the country and other issues arising from the concerns of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.”
In a joint statement, Fraser and Bennett said last week’s string of Canada-wide blockades of rail-lines, government buildings and political offices were “a significant challenge.”
“We have reached out through a joint letter to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs about meeting with us at the earliest opportunity and are hopeful we can all work together to establish a process for ongoing and constructive dialogue and action to address the issues at hand. Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation.”
Postmedia News has seen the letter dated Feb. 16, 2020, sent to Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs (c/o Office of the Wet’suwet’en) in Smithers.
The letter states that it was the result of a request by Gitxsan hereditary chief Spookw to arrange a meeting between the two senior levels of government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline being put through the Wet’suwet’en’s 22,000 square kilometre territory. Spookw is acting as a broker – the Gitxsan’s 33,000 square kilometre territory is north of the Wet’suwet’en.
Five of the six Wet’suwet’en reserve bands have signed on with Coastal GasLink, but 10 of the 13 Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have rejected the Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project outright. The hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline are Woos, Smogelgem, Knedebeas, Samooh, Way tah K’eght, Hagwilnegh, Madeek, Kloum Khun and Na’moks. All 10 chiefs are men.
According to the Council of the Wet’suwet’en (that represents the nation’s reserve bands, five clans and 13 hereditary chiefs) three chief seats are vacant. There are roughly 5,000 Wet’suwet’en.
At least three wing chiefs (the deputy to the chief) are in favour of the pipeline and there are claims that two former hereditary chiefs were deposed because they supported the pipeline.
The Feb. 16 letter goes on to state: “We agree that dialogue is the best and preferred way to deal with these issues,” suggesting the government is not prepared at this point to use force against a well-organized nationwide protest movement.
Local protest spokesperson Natalie Knight told Postmedia News that Wet’suwet’en chiefs were not responsible for the course of action the Metro Vancouver protesters took.
Knight said protestors were meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at 380 East Hastings Street and would commence an action from there. She would not reveal what that action would be, however, last week her group blocked rail lines and two busy intersections.
The Feb. 16 letter came three days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to chief Spookw saying a cabinet minister would meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and two days after B.C. Premier John Horgan made the same promise — although as part of that deal Horgan said the “blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”
The blockade of the main CN Rail line in Northern B.C. (near New Hazelton) was taken down the same day. However, later in the week the West Coast Express commuter train was blocked, as was an East Vancouver rail line.
Protesters also continued to block rail lines as well as highways and bridges in different parts of the country on Monday.
Those included shutting down for the first time the Thousand Islands Bridge border crossing near Kingston, Ont. and a CN Rail crossing on Highway 75 in southern Manitoba.
Trudeau held an emergency, closed-door meeting with cabinet ministers in Ottawa on Monday to discuss the blockades.
He did not answer reporter’s questions after leaving the meeting.
Jen Wickham, a Wet’suwet’en band member who belongs to the Grizzly House of the Gitdumden Clan, has been active in ground zero of the conflict — the Morice Forest Road that leads to a Coastal GasLink work camp southeast of Houston.
Wickham said she was not surprised that the protest had become so widespread.
“I think that Indigenous people have been suffering colonization and the exploitation of our lands and resources since contact and Wet’suwet’en are in a very unique position because we have the Delgamuukw court decision that other nations have used to successfully gain title recognition,” Wickham said, referring to the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision that established Aboriginal title to unceded land.
Wickham said she was unsure how the three hereditary chiefs of her clan would respond to the letter issued on Sunday.
However, she said they “want a nation to nation discussion and they want the RCMP and CGL out of our territories.”
Knight said that the Coastal GasLink pipeline protest was about more than the Wet’suwet’en and pipeline fight, and had spread to “the shared history of violence experienced by Indigenous people, and Punjabi and Chinese communities in so-called B.C. Both Punjabi and Chinese people were displaced from their own lands due to the violence of British colonialism and the parallels between this colonial violence and the violence experienced by Indigenous people here is clear and ongoing.”
The protest movement is backed by the David Suzuki Foundation, B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Coastal GasLink is building the 670km underground pipeline to ship fracked natural gas to the LNG Canada plant being built in Kitimat. The pipeline is scheduled to be complete in 2023.
The company has promised to spend $1 billion of its $6.6 billion budget on contracts, grants and training opportunities for the 20 First Nations bands along the route that it has signed agreements with.
B.C.’s River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for some parts of the South Coast, as flooding in several communities caused road closures, power outages and prompted a local state of emergency on Vancouver Island.
As of Saturday morning, the North Shore and Metro Vancouver remained under the alert that was posted Friday. Areas of concern include the Coquitlam River, Alouette River, Kanaka Creek and MacKay Creek. The western and southern parts of Vancouver Island are also on alert for flooding.
An atmospheric river pounded the South Coast Friday, and overnight, with the heaviest rainfall measured on the west coast of Vancouver Island and along the North Shore Mountains.
Some rivers flooded, and on Vancouver Island a local state of emergency was declared in Cowichan Valley.
A statement from the Cowichan Valley Regional District says widespread flooding forced more than two dozen residents to evacuate early Saturday as key transportation corridors were cut off by rising flood water.
The district says in a statement that about 28 evacuated residents from North Cowichan and the Halalt First Nation were staying at the local community centre.
Several roads were closed because of washouts on Saturday, according to Drive B.C., including Highway 1 on Vancouver Island. The southbound lane was closed because of flooding at Exit 6 in Saanich.
Provincewide telecommunications issues were being reported, with Bell customers and B.C. Transit Police among those affected.
Due to province wide telecommunication issues, we are having difficulties coordinating with our contractors and crews throughout the province. Some incident related info may not be as accurate as we would like as a result. We appreciate your patience during this time. #BCStorm
Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders were trapped overnight at Sasquatch Mountain Resort after heavy rain and a landslide washed out a one-kilometre section of Hemlock Valley Road in Agassiz.
The slide had left the road impassable to vehicles in both directions. The mountain suspended all skiing and said it was serving food to guests that had to stay on the mountain.
The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement Saturday that residents of the Hemlock Valley community are advised to stay at home.
“People who are currently at the Sasquatch Mountain Resort are advised to stay at the resort until crews can clear the debris from the road for safe travel,” the statement said.
The route is the only available exit for residents of the Hemlock Valley community and for those at the Sasquatch Mountain Resort.
A statement from the resort said it had no choice but to suspend activities until the road is reopened.
Shelby Lim, the director of marketing at the resort, says more people than usual are at the resort because a race was scheduled for the weekend. She says as many as 500 people are in the village and at the resort, including about 100 staff.
The Ministry of Transportation also said that it will require five to six days to create single-lane alternating traffic. A helicopter company is offering a shuttle service off the mountain to the nearby Chilliwack airport for $150 per person.
DriveBC reports that an update on the Hemlock Valley situation will be next provided at 9 a.m. Sunday.
At Harrison Hot Springs, the ministry reports that Rockwell Drive between Dogwood Lane and Rockwell Lane is closed in both directions due to a washout. There is no detour and some residents are being evacuated as of Saturday evening.
TRAVEL ADVISORY – Rockwell Dr between Dogwood Lane and Rockwell Lane is closed due a washout after heavy rainfall (120-140mm). No detour. Rockwell accessible via Green Point. We’re assessing and working with District of Kent on resident evacuation #Agassiz https://t.co/7xk7FbJZzL
In Coquitlam, thousands of BC Hydro customers were without power after the rainstorm brought down some power lines Friday night.
B.C. Hydro crews were also dealing with the Alouette Reservoir in Maple Ridge, which reached capacity Saturday, for the first time since 1995.
B.C. Hydro spokeswoman Tanya Fish said that despite crews’ efforts to discharge water from the reservoir, the extremely heavy rain caused water from the reservoir to be released over the spillway into the Alouette River.
However, she said the total amount of water being discharged to Alouette River is expected to remain the same, as crews reduce discharge from a controlled gate.
“As the heavy rain from last night has subsided, local inflows into the river downstream of Alouette Dam are receding and under the current weather forecast, we do not anticipate water levels on the river to go above peak levels observed overnight,” said Fish, on Saturday afternoon.
“We are asking the public to use caution around the Alouette River and be aware that water levels may change throughout the day.”
B.C. Hydro reports that crews are working in the eastern Fraser Valley to clear debris in order to restore power.
Hemlock Valley Road north of #ChilliwackBC currently CLOSED due to rocks on the road. Assessment in progress, no detour available
Highway 1 was also closed because of rock slides from Lytton to Yale, and at Spences Bridge, 19 kilometres south of Cache Creek.
In Maple Ridge, 112 Avenue east of 240 Street was closed due to a slide caused by the intense rain. The city posted on Twitter that the street would be closed until crews were able to remove the debris and stabilize the slope.
We’re asking citizens to stay away from areas impacted by the heavy rainfall and refrain from moving or driving around barricades. While your vehicle might be able to traverse the area, your wake can erode roads and cause property damage to adjacent properties. Be safe. pic.twitter.com/vOxDLfsCXx
Meantime, a rainfall warning that was in effect has been lifted and a much drier day was expected on Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada forecasted a mainly cloudy, but windy day, with a chance of showers clearing up near noon, and some sunny breaks.
The agency posted rainfall totals on Saturday, showing that many parts of Metro Vancouver exceeded 100 mm since Thursday, including Abbotsford which saw 119 mm and Pitt Meadows, which record 138 mm. Squamish was drenched in 166 mm, while Vancouver had nearly 80 mm.
The River Forecast Centre said that while some snowmelt was expected during this weather event, snowpack at higher elevations should absorb the water.
Another cold front is moving across the region this weekend, and freezing levels are expected to rise, according to Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
On Saturday, the temperature was forecast to drop to 4 C in the afternoon with an overnight low of zero. Then there is a chance of snow at higher elevations on Sunday.
At the Montreal International Auto Show, it’s estimated two-thirds of the 200,000 visitors are “habitués” — aficionados who come out of a love for cars, but aren’t looking to buy. At Toronto’s car show, by contrast, two-thirds are there because they’re in the market.
Montreal’s show, featuring more than 500 cars from 38 carmakers and now in its 77th year, is in some ways geared more toward dreams than practicality, which is perhaps an apt way to describe the difference between the two cities.
Herewith, some of the multi-hued dreams on display.
Attendees were lined up to get in Saturday morning, and most rushed to the seventh floor to see the electric cars. One took out folded pieces of cardboard, assembled them, and placed them in the trunks.
“He has kids,” spokesperson Denis Talbot explained. “He wanted to see if their hockey bags would fit in the car.”
Four years ago, there were only about five electric models on display. This year, there were more than 20.
Maxime Gauthier eyed the Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid going for $35,000, less several thousand dollars in government rebates, while his one-year-old sat in the driver’s seat. It might be his next car.
“With the cost of gas, and the environment, it’s starting to make sense,” he said. One booth featured electric bicycles, another growing trend.
Two dozen protesters from Extinction Rebellion gathered outside the show, chanting “they stink, they pollute, they kill.”
A study released this week by HEC Montréal on the state of energy usage found Quebecers bought a record-breaking number of light trucks and SUVs and are using more gas than ever before. Electric cars represented three per cent of new car sales in 2018. Light trucks and SUVs made up 64 per cent. “It’s time for car culture to come to an end,” protesters said.
The mighty Model T
Guy Dufresne’s car is 108 years old. Last year, he drove his 1912 Ford Model T, with its original engine, more than 1,000 kilometres on Quebec roads, at a top speed of 80 kilometres per hour. He found it in Pennsylvania, bought it for $4,000, and spent 10 years rebuilding it, restoring its brass kerosene lamps and doors made of oak. It sold originally for $690 — today, it’s worth about $50,000, but it’s not for sale. Dufresne’s father was an auto mechanic, and Dufresne was a machinist technician. Now he rides with the Model T club of Quebec. The only changes needed to make it roadworthy were to install disc brakes and turn signals.
Next car over, in the Classics section, Daniel Jean’s 1929 Ford Model A, built in Ontario and assembled in Montreal, sold for $495 in its day, cheaper than the 1912 Model T. During the Depression, Henry Ford dropped the price of his cars and increased salaries of his workers so they could buy them. Unlike many car makers of the time, Ford didn’t go bankrupt.
After a search of many years, Jean found the car, sitting in a barn for decades in St-Paul-de-Joliette. He paid $4,000, and spent close to $50,000, and 3,000 hours restoring it. In its earlier life, it logged 55,000 kilometres in Sherbrooke.
Is it for sale? “Never,” said Jean, showing pictures of his grandmother sitting on a Model T back in the 1940s “I restored this with my son, my daughter. They drive it. This was a work of love.”
Prancing horses in the field of dreams
Over at the Ferrari corral, the 488 Pista, hot red and 720 horses, retails for $458,000. The 812 Superfast, top speed of 340 km/h, is cheaper at $422,000, but its gas mileage is not as good. The price tags elicit sarcastic comments of “That’s in the budget,” and “Oh, not too bad.” Ferrari rep Roberto Soccio notes those are base prices, however, and extras will bring up the price.
“You don’t need a Ferrari,” he said. “You want one.” There’s a one to two year waiting list for the Portofino Ferrari at his Jean-Talon dealership, a relative steal at $246,000 — without the extras.
Car as self
Jose Mendes estimates he’s spent $50,000 upgrading his tricked up 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart on display at the “My Car” section of the show. The passion for cars was passed on by his father. He races it against other car nuts, who express themselves through their cars, he said. What does his say about him?
“It’s loud,” Gomes said. “But it’s also charming.”
Over at the Porsche section, the tagline for the 718 Porsche Spyder two-seater convertible, $110,000 and 414 horsepower, is: “Perfectly irrational.”
Which sums things up nicely.
The Montreal International Auto Show runs until Jan. 26 at the Palais des congress. General admission tickets are $17 for adults.
Thousands of B.C. Hydro customers remained without power Thursday after a winter storm whipped across the South Coast Wednesday, causing road and school closures, travel alerts, and ferry cancellations.
By 9:30 a.m., B.C. Hydro said crews were making good progress, with just over 6,000 customers without power in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. Earlier in the morning, more than 15,000 customers were without power.
At the height of the storm Wednesday, hurricane force winds of up to 150 km/h blew across Howe Sound, knocking down trees and power lines, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
“Crews made good progress overnight restoring power to most customers affected from yesterday’s heavy snow and winds. Crews will continue to work to restore remaining customers throughout the morning and the rest of the day,” B.C. Hydro said, in a statement Thursday.
B.C. Ferries has resumed sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo after some were cancelled earlier Thursday because of the wind.
Most public schools, universities, and colleges in the region were open again Thursday after a rare snow day Wednesday, with some districts reminding parents that if they felt it was not safe to drive then to keep their kids home. Some remained closed, however, including all public schools in Chilliwack and Mission. Many private schools also remained closed.
TransLink said early Thursday that conditions have improved and crews worked overnight to fix some of the problems that occurred Wednesday.
TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy said transit users should expect service to be slower than normal, and budget extra travelling time.
He also said that because the streets remain icy, HandyDART will remain at essential service levels only.
As of 2:15 p.m., a snowfall warning was still in effect for parts of the Fraser Valley, including Abbotsford. Environment and Climate Change Canada said bands of heavy snow could bring up to 10 centimetres of snow. Once the bands move through, a chance of flurries continues in the afternoon.
A snowfall warning has ended for the rest of Metro Vancouver.
A blizzard warning for the Sea to Sky Highway also remained in effect Thursday, with authorities warning drivers to avoid the highway unless necessary.
As temperatures are expected to warm up this weekend, with rain in the forecast, and highs of around 6 C or 7 C on Saturday and Sunday, there are concerns about flooding.
David Campbell, head of B.C.’s River Forecast Centre, which issues flood advisories, said they are monitoring the situation closely but don’t anticipate any serious flooding in the Lower Mainland.
There will likely be issues with street drainage, water pooling on roads, and maybe some minor flooding of basements, he said.
Campbell said there are more concerns, however, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where significant rainfall is in the forecast.
B.C.’s Ministry of Transport late Wednesday warned that conditions may lead to bridge closures given the weather conditions on the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges.
Transit users are asked to go to alerts.translink.ca to check which routes are closed or delayed.
Wednesday’s wild weather led to several major routes being closed as travellers faced dangerous driving conditions, delays and heavy crowding on SkyTrain. Buses jack-knifed, snarling traffic, and B.C. Ferries cancelled afternoon sailings because of anticipated high winds.
It was a busy day for ICBC, with 1,882 dial-a-claim calls in Metro Vancouver on Wednesday, though that number was significantly down from the day before, when 2,773 people placed calls. The highest number of calls over the last week was on Friday, when 5,075 customers called in a claim. ICBC notes that not every call represents a claim.
Emergency crews were also stretched over the last few days. Though Emergency Health Services said it responded to a higher number of motor vehicle accidents in Metro Vancouver on Monday (77 incidents) and Tuesday (43 incidents) than during the big snow storm on Wednesday, when it responded to 34 car accidents in the region.
There was an uptick, however, in the number of cold exposure calls. BC EHS said they responded to 11 such incidents on Wednesday, compared with six on Tuesday and five on Monday.
Many commuters waited for buses that did not show up in freezing weather, with wind chill factors forecast at – 11 C, while others swapped their bikes for a pair of skis to get to work.
The conditions prompted TransLink and the B.C. government to issue rare statements early Wednesday asking people not to travel unless necessary.
On Thursday, however, the message was downgraded, with a statement asking motorists in Metro Vancouver to exercise caution on the roads and to be prepared for winter driving conditions.
Icy sidewalks, curb ramps, and bus stops were being cleared of ice and snow Thursday by Vancouver city crews. The city said it feared the roads would become icy once the snow turned to rain. Staff were also busy clearing catch basins in anticipation of possible flooding on the weekend.
Vancouver has spent approximately $1.5 million on snow response, with approximately $500,000 spent on salt, according to a statement from the city Thursday.
The next snowfall is expected Friday evening through Saturday morning, but accumulation is expected to be washed away with rain by the end of the weekend.
Last night’s system brought some very strong winds to the South Coast – up to 150 km/h through Howe Sound! Lots of power outages & trees down. Winds are gradually easing this morning.#BCStormpic.twitter.com/Z2ASBrdgIh
Here’s a rundown of what happened across the region on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Environment Canada re-issues snowfall warning, then issues wind warning
After cancelling an earlier snowfall warning around 9 a.m., Environment and Climate Change Canada issued another warning around noon. The latest warning forecasts up to 10 centimetres over higher elevations of the region late in the afternoon – just in time for the evening commute.
At 1 p.m., Environment Canada issued a wind warning, stating a deep low pressure system crossing Vancouver Island on Wednesday night would bring up to 90 km/h winds to Metro Vancouver. The winds are expected to ease by Thursday morning, however, damage to roofs is expected.
Overnight, there will be a slow transition to rain in areas closer to the water, however the cold air will remain in place over the North Shore, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, as well as northern sections of Langley and Surrey.
The snow is expected to ease to scattered showers or snow flurries Thursday.
Meanwhile, a snow warning for the Fraser Valley was changed Wednesday afternoon to a winter storm warning as a combination of wind chill values, blowing snow, and the potential for freezing rain were expected to cause hazardous conditions. Environment Canada said the wind chill was expected to be around – 20 C in the region and that driving visibility could near zero with the blowing snow.
A wind warning remained in effect for Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, with gusts of up to 90 km/h anticipated in some areas Wednesday evening.
The city of Vancouver reminded homeless people that warming centres would be open through the night, and that all pets and carts were welcome.
Meantime, much of the province was under a winter storm or extreme cold warning on Wednesday.
Wind, snowfall, and winter storm warnings were in effect for much of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, while some parts of the Interior and northern regions of B.C. were under extreme cold warnings.
Bitter Arctic winds in Dease Lake, for example, were expected to create a wind chill factor of – 50 C or – 40 C in other areas such as B.C.’s Peace Region.
B.C.’s Central Coast and Inland regions are under an Arctic outflow alert, with “severely” cold wind chill factors of – 20 C.
Buses delayed and SkyTrain stations closed due to track issues, crowds
Due to the heavy snowfall, TransLink warned of “significantly slower service” on the transit system Wednesday.
As of 7 a.m., there were nearly 200 transit alerts for buses, and an alert saying SkyTrain is significantly impacted because of the weather.
Commuters were told to expect crowding on trains and at SkyTrain stations. TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy says station attendants will be on board trains to monitor guideways and limit emergency braking on the system, which can be caused by heavy snowfall or ice build up.
Several SkyTrain stations – including King George, Sapperton, Braid, and Bridgeport – were closed Wednesday morning for a brief time due to switch or track issues. Those stations were re-opened shortly after noon.
The Canada Line was also placed on hold for some time but was up and running again later in the day though at reduced frequencies, according to TransLink.
Transit users were told to expect lengthy delays because of switch and door issues caused by freezing temperatures. Trains were also moving at a slower speed.
TransLink said their 60-foot articulated buses have more trouble operating in the snow than the 40-foot buses. This is because articulated joints can cause jack-knifing in winter conditions, with the back end of the bus being more likely to get stuck while turning.
Photos on social media showed a group of people pushing an articulated bus that had jack-knifed at Hastings Street and Boundary.
Dan Mountain, a spokesperson for TransLink, said it was one of several buses that had trouble Wednesday.
“Road conditions are causing some buses to get stuck. It was a large snow event and we thank municipal crews for working hard to improve conditions,” he said, in an email.
Mountain said during extreme weather, TransLink implements a snow desk which liaises with municipal partners to recommend which roads most need snow removal and clearing.
The snow desk employees collect information from transit supervisors, support workers, and bus operators before sending that information to municipal partners as a recommendation, he added.
HandyDART is operating at essential service levels, meaning all trips other than those deemed essential will be rescheduled.
Murphy says customers are asked to consider whether they need to travel today, and if there is a need, whether they could consider travelling outside of rush hours, as commutes will take significantly longer than usual.
Snow snarls highway driving, Highway 1 closed
Severe whiteout conditions on Highway 1 forced authorities to close a section of Highway 1 from Lickman Road to Sumas in the Fraser Valley early Wednesday. Drive BC says Highway 7 can be used as an alternate route, but conditions are still extreme.
Also, some counterflow lanes were shut down early Wednesday at the Alex Fraser Bridge and Massey Tunnel, as was the Barnston Island Ferry.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation warned drivers not to travel in Metro Vancouver and in the Fraser Valley Wednesday if possible. A travel advisory also applied to Vancouver Island on Highway 1 from Nanaimo south to Victoria, as well as Highways 14, 17 and 18.
“Those who must travel are asked to use extreme caution and drive to the conditions. The ministry advises travellers to expect winter conditions for the rest of the week,” a travel advisory stated.
Several other highway alerts are in effect, including a blizzard warning for the Sea to Sky Highway.
“Blizzard conditions with gusty winds and visibility frequently near zero in snow and blowing snow are expected or occurring, warned Environment and Climate Change Canada on Wednesday.
Cold Arctic air will continue to funnel through Howe Sound producing strong northerly winds of 90 to 110 km/h near Bowen Island into the evening, the agency said.
The agency says drivers should postpone non-essential travel until conditions improve.
“If you become stranded in a vehicle do not leave. The vehicle offers a form of protection from the cold. A single person walking through the snow is harder to find than a stranded car or truck. Protect yourself from wind, cold and disorientation by staying sheltered, indoors or with your vehicle,” the warning stated.
BC Ferries cancels sailings
BC Ferries cancelled many of its Wednesday afternoon sailings, including routes between Vancouver and Victoria and West Vancouver and Nanaimo, because of heavy snow and high winds in the forecast.
Southeast winds of 70 to 90 km/h will develop in Greater Victoria early in the evening and spread to the Southern Gulf Islands, East Vancouver Island – Duncan to Nanaimo, southern and western sections of Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast later in the evening, BC Ferries said, in a travel alert.
While BC Ferries cited “hurricane force winds” as the reason for cancelling its sailings, winds must be sustained for one minute at 119 km/h to be classified as a hurricane.
The company asked customers to avoid travel is possible, and to check the website for travel advisories.
Horgan picks snow blower over wood chipper
On a lighter note, B.C. Premier John Horgan tweeted out a photo showing the fountain frozen at the B.C. Legislature, saying that he hoped everyone was taking extra time with their travel and joking that the Legislature should have “got a snow blower instead of a wood chipper.”
With more snow on the way for much of BC, I hope everyone is taking extra time when they head out.
At the Vancouver International Airport, crews worked to clear and maintain runways, taxiways and aprons to ensure planes could take off safely.
Passengers were advised to check their flight status before attempting to make their way to the airport in case of delays and cancellations, and to allow extra time when making the journey.
Don Ehrenholz, vice president of engineering at YVR, said there were about 30 to 35 flight cancellations on Wednesday, but mainly regional airlines flying to Victoria or Seattle, where there was also heavy snow. International flights were unaffected by the snow storm.
He said they have crews working 24/7 to keep the runways clear, and they are ploughing and de-icing every hour.
Airline passengers were advised of delays because all planes had to be de-iced before takeoff, and Ehrenholz said anyone travelling through the airport should check their flight schedule and budget extra time.
Metro Vancouver school districts closed for the day
All schools in the region were closed Wednesday because of extreme weather, including all universities and colleges. Many daycares shut their doors as well.
ICBC provides tips for drivers
While authorities were asking people not to drive Wednesday, ICBC said those who do need to drive should follow these tips:
1. Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal conditions only. Adjust your driving in winter conditions. Allow yourself at least twice the normal braking distance on snow-covered or slushy roads.
2. Headlights on. Use your headlights in poor weather and reduced visibility – not only at night – to help you see ahead and be seen by other drivers.
3. Watch for other road users. Look twice for pedestrians crossing the road particularly when visibility is poor.
4. Prevent a skid. Black ice is commonly found on roads with shaded areas, bridges, overpasses and intersections where car exhaust and packed snow freeze quickly. If you drive over black ice and start to skid, ease off the accelerator, and look and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Don’t brake—this will make the situation worse. You may need to repeat this manoeuvre several times until you regain control.
5. Check your vehicle. Prepare your vehicle for winter driving. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Check the condition of your windshield wiper blades and replace them if they’re worn out. Top up wiper fluid for clearer visibility and carry extra washer fluid in your vehicle. Fill up your gas tank. Pack an emergency kit and make sure it includes a flashlight and extra batteries.
6. Plan ahead. Check road and weather conditions on drivebc.ca before heading out.
BC Hydro prepares for possible storm events
While power outages in the Metro Vancouver area were at a minimum on Wednesday, BC Hydro is preparing for possible storm events heading into the remainder of the week.
“While we prepare for storm season year-round, we’ve taken extra measures ahead of this particular storm, and crews are on standby to restore power should the lights go out,” the company said in a statement.
“Because it is difficult to predict how much damage a storm may cause to the system and how long a power outage will last, it is important for customers to be prepared for an outage.”
Residents were reminded to check their emergency kits and ensure they are stocked with a flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, three days’ worth of ready to eat non-perishable foods and bottled water.
Anyone who sees a downed power line is reminded to stay back and report it to 911.
However, only eight per cent of first-time-buyer clients got more than half of their down payments from parents, compared with 19 per cent in 2015.
“While more first-time buyers are getting financial help, they appear to be getting a lower proportion of their down payment over the last four years,” the report states.
Fifty-nine per cent of notaries said their clients typically get less than 25 per cent of the down payment, while a third said their clients typically got between 25-50 per cent of their down payment.
The survey, released Monday, found 74 per cent of notaries thought house prices were an issue in their communities. Only notaries in northern B.C. and the Okanagan indicated “house prices were not an issue in their community.”
Notaries also reported increased mortgage restrictions and lack of supply were making it harder for first-time buyers than in previous years.
In the Fraser Valley, notaries reported more first-timers were buying strata units compared with other years.
Northern B.C. was the standout in the report, with 40 per cent of notaries saying there had been an increase in first-time-owner activity — provincially it was reported to be flat. This was attributed to resource sector growth. The multibillion-dollar Site C dam and LNG Canada projects are underway in northern B.C.
Northern B.C. is also expected to be one of the few areas in the province that will see climbs in assessed values when the 2020 assessment roll is released Jan. 1, 2020.
You know your day can only get better when you start off by getting run over by an Uber Eats bicycle.
Montrealer Theodore Ushev was out for his morning jog Monday in Paris when the incident occurred. He emerged relatively unscathed, and by evening his NFB-produced film The Physics of Sorrow had been shortlisted in the Oscar category of best animated short.
“I still cannot realize if it’s real or not,” he said, reached on his cellphone shortly after the news broke. It was past midnight for Ushev, but he had already written off sleeping.
Fellow Montrealer Meryam Joobeur was in her family’s hometown, Seyada, Tunisia, when she learned her film Brotherhood had made the shortlist for best live action short. She, too, was having trouble processing her good fortune.
“It’s really surreal,” Joobeur said. “I feel like the whole journey of this film is very surreal. When I was making the film, my only intention was to be able to show it to the community who helped make it. I didn’t think about how it would impact others. The fact that it has gone this far is pretty crazy, to tell you the truth.”
Ushev and Joobeur are now halfway to the Oscars. The Physics of Sorrow and Brotherhood were culled from pools of 92 films and 191 films, respectively, to reach their respective 10-title shortlists. Each now has a 50-50 chance of ending up in the group of five nominees in their respective categories.
Ushev has been here before. His eight-minute film Blind Vaysha was nominated for an Oscar in 2016.
“That year, we lost to Pixar,” he said. “Luckily this year Pixar didn’t make it, so we are going to lose to someone else.”
Jokes aside, his previous Oscar experience didn’t make the wait any easier.
“This year, I felt like it was much more difficult, because this film is much more personal,” Ushev said.
A brooding exploration of love, loss and the meaning of home, The Physics of Sorrow is the first animated film made using the encaustic painting technique. Ushev, a Bulgarian immigrant who came to Quebec in 1999, says it’s dedicated to his father, who died in December 2018.
Fittingly, he recruited another father-son team for the project. The filmmaker convinced Rossif Sutherland to lend his striking baritone to the film, and Sutherland in turn convinced his father, Donald, to contribute a secondary voice-over.
Launched at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, The Physics of Sorrow has been racking up the accolades since.
“Up to now, it has won 16 (festival) prizes in only three months,” Ushev said. “It’s going extremely well.”
There’s still a way to go before the Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 13, and Ushev isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“No one knows what’s going to happen,” he said, “but I’ll be very happy if we end up speaking again in a month.”
Monday was a doubly good day for Joobeur. Just a few hours before the Oscar shortlist announcements, Quebec funding agency SODEC announced that her feature film Motherhood was among the new projects it had chosen to support.
Joobeur was in Tunisia doing research for the Motherhood, which is based on Brotherhood’s dramatic tale of a Muslim couple in the Tunisian countryside who must adapt to the return of one of their sons from fighting in Syria.
The film has screened at 150 festivals in 48 countries, winning 63 prizes since its premiere at TIFF in September, 2018, where it was named best Canadian short.
For Joobeur, all the accolades are confirmation that she’s on the right path.
“Going into Brotherhood, I decided to change my way of approaching filmmaking,” she said. “I decided to listen to my instincts, to let go of any pressures I had regarding success or festival acceptance, and just enjoy the process.”
It’s potentially the second straight Oscar nomination for Brotherhood co-producer Maria Gracia Turgeon, who also produced Jeremy Comte’s Fauve, one of two Quebec films nominated for best live action short at the 2019 Academy Awards.
“Firstly, it’s due to the fact that both Fauve and Brotherhood are wonderful films,” said Turgeon, who is also working with Joobeur on Motherhood.
The two spoke Monday night.
“It’s a lot of excitement,” Turgeon said. “We were trying not to think about it, and to say it probably won’t happen so we didn’t have expectations. But when the news finally comes, it’s hard not to be excited.”
There is one other NFB co-produced film in the animated short category: Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa’s Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days.
Montrealer Paul Cadieux, of Filmoption International, also had cause to celebrate, as Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche’s film Advocate, a film he co-produced about Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel, was shortlisted for best documentary feature.
The Vancouver School Board will revisit an anti-racism motion at Monday’s meeting before heading to a vote.
The motion, put forward by Trustee Jennifer Reddy and developed in consultation with parents and community groups, seeks to create a strategic plan for both the short, medium and long term on how the district should handle and prevent racism and discrimination in Vancouver schools.
An interim report on the progress of the plan is expected in June 2020.
The motion comes after multiple incidents in the previous school year, including one that involved a racist video that prompted a Black student to transfer out of Lord Byng Secondary.
Another aspect of the motion to be discussed Monday looks at hiring an expert to advise the school board on how best to handle such incidents in the immediate aftermath of hate-motivated acts.
The B.C. Community Alliance is among those in support of the motion and will be in attendance at Monday’s meeting, alongside members of the Byng community.
“As we have recently seen several racist incidents at Vancouver schools and the way these incidents are currently being handled, it is urgent that it passes now. If it doesn’t pass, racialized Vancouver students will not see any significant change in the 20/21 school year, as it will not make it into the budget,” read a statement shared by Marie Tate of the BCCA.
“These motions also benefit the broader spectrum of students who need support when incidents of hate arise, such as homophobia, anti-Semitism, gender violence and more.”
The meeting takes place Monday at 7 p.m. at the Vancouver Board of Education office’s boardroom.