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News in review – part one

Year in review
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Photo illustration by Valerie Durnin

The year in news for 2012.

January

• A West Sechelt family who lost their home to a massive fire, was singing the praises of the Sechelt volunteer fire department for their efforts in saving a beloved family pet, their dog Scooter.

• Sunshine Coast RCMP were investigating two stabbing incidents — one in West Sechelt and one on Sechelt Indian Band lands. Both incidents were unrelated, but did result in several arrests and various charges against several suspects. In both cases, alcohol was involved.

• The District of Sechelt started off 2012 with some good fortune as they received $8 million worth of gas tax money — money that will be used towards the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country member of Parliament John Weston was on hand for the announcement.

• The District of Sechelt shut the doors and changed the locks at the Porpoise Bay Golf and Country Club (formerly Sechelt Golf and Country Club) due to unpaid lease fees. The club re-opened days later under District control. While this was going on, an advisory committee was struck following a public information meeting to try and sort out the future of the club.

• Destin Hans Myles Nooski came two-and-a-half weeks early, but was just in time to be the first baby born in 2012 on the Sunshine Coast. Destin was the third son for proud parents Nina Skadsheim and Tyler Nooski.

• Growers of medicinal marijuana for personal use don’t want to be restricted to an industrial or agricultural area to grow because they can’t afford it. That was the assertion from home growers who attended the District of Sechelt’s medical marijuana zone consultation meeting.

• A rash of ecstasy-related deaths in the province was linked to a highly toxic and yet unpredictable chemical found in the toxicology results of its victims.

Paramethoxy-metamphetamine (PMMA) was associated with at least five ecstasy deaths in B.C. over the last six months and two cases where young girls on the Coast overdosed on the drug.

• B.C. Ferries needs a shift in focus and a change in funding to make the service viable again according to review of the Coastal Ferry Act by BC Ferry Commissioner Gordon Macatee. The review showed declining ridership and financial losses for B.C. Ferries in the current year coupled with a planned $2.5 billion investment in capital projects over the next 12 years, calling into question how the ferry operator will be able to keep afloat.

• Local governments felt they were left out of the process to assess a proposal to build a sand and gravel mine at McNab Creek in West Howe Sound. The proposal was currently making its way through a federal environmental assessment, recently reaching the first public commentary period. Begun April 27, 2010, the Burnco Rock Products Ltd. proposal places the development approximately 22 km southwest of Squamish.

February

• As quickly as the doors were opened the rooms were full at the Jack Nelson Annex seniors’ apartments on Medusa Street in Sechelt. The new four storey, 65-unit affordable housing project was officially opened by the Sunshine Coast Lions Housing Society.

• The District of Sechelt had an offer on the table from someone who wanted to take over the operations of the Sechelt golf course, pay the lease arrears in full, honour 2012 golf memberships and add a bowling alley to make the site profitable, but the District wasn’t biting as they were waiting for direction from its advisory committee, struck to look into the golf course and a request for proposals process.

• B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) said it would not honour requests from governments and community organizations on the Sunshine Coast to halt the sale of cutblock A87124.

The Roberts Creek Community Association (RCCA) and Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) joined the community group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) calling for a halt to the sale of A87124, which rests in the borders of ELF's proposed expansion of Elphinstone Provincial Park.

• Sunshine Coast RCMP had several investigations underway following what they described as “an out of control” house party in Sechelt.

It took police two hours to clear the home of the estimated 150 guests. Two accidents, as a result of the party, were also attended to by police. Several youths were injured and a 17-year-old girl was being investigated for possible impaired driving.

• A dog rmauled a sheep on Pratt Road in Elphinstone, but Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) bylaw manager Peter Longhi said a lack of eyewitnesses left bylaw officers unable to press charges.

• School District No. 46 announced they will spend nearly $1.2 million on a district-wide enhancement plan that includes money for health and safety, technology, training, facility improvements, international education and direct school allocations.

• Sunshine Coast Tourism Association (SCTA) president Celia Robben was making the rounds with accommodation providers on the Coast, hoping to get at least 51 per cent of them to agree to institute a two per cent room tax locally.

The SCTA was preparing a submission to government asking for their approval of the new taxation, which could triple the organization’s funding.

• A report called into question the adequacy of seniors’ health care in the province, making 176 recommendations to address what critics called a ‘crisis’ in B.C.

Ombudsperson Kim Carter released her 400-plus-page report highlighting concerns across a broad spectrum of seniors’ health care issues, including access to information, prevention of abuse, equal treatment and the role of in-home care services.

• Another lawsuit was filed against the District of Sechelt for their handling of the Target Marine Hatcheries rezoning application. The petition was filed by Tillicum Bay resident Shirley Kuciuk on and it alleged procedural issues with council’s granting of zoning and official community plan bylaws needed for the application to proceed.

March

• Teachers across the province voted 87 per cent in favour of escalating job action. That escalation included a full withdrawal of duties for three consecutive days in response to Bill 22 legislation that was put forward by the government during the teachers’ contract dispute.

• The Sunshine Coast Community Foundation received a $1.9 million bequest representing the largest single donation ever received by the foundation.

The money came from the estate of Vera Elizabeth Barron, a Gibsons woman who died at the age of 93 on May 14, 2011. Barron was a hard worker who made her millions the old fashioned way, by scrimping and saving. The funding announcement was made during a special gala event at the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club.

• Teachers were back to work after three days on the picket line, but more action could be on the way, as teachers planned to consider a new “action plan” at their annual general meeting.

• Asbestos-containing drywall could end up in the woods unless action was taken at all steps of the disposal process, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) worried at its infrastructure services committee.

The committee sounded the alarm over what it saw as an impending problem in hazardous waste disposal, calling for a meeting of stakeholders at all levels of the disposal process and requesting the provincial government take action.

• The decision to allow Target Marine Hatcheries to harvest sturgeon for caviar onsite was struck down in Supreme Court with the District of Sechelt admitting to an error in the process used to adopt the required bylaws. That process was questioned by Tillicum Bay resident Shirley Kuciuk who put forward a petition against the District. In preparing to respond to the petition the District of Sechelt found a “possible procedural defect,” according to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson.

• Disaster struck the Sunshine Coast, but not really.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), in league with almost 20 organizations, staged a full-scale emergency exercise. Together they proceeded as if a large earthquake had pummeled the coastline. Among the areas being tested were response times, radio communication, evacuation procedures and the establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

• B.C. teachers decided to fight Bill 22, the “so-called” Education Improvement Act. B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Susan Lambert announced that a legal challenge to the controversial Bill would be mounted. The decision came after about 700 teachers gathered for a four-day annual general meeting in Vancouver. BCTF members decided to proceed with a “bold plan of action with the ultimate goal of having the so-called Education Improvement Act repealed.”

• The search and rescue (SAR) operation to locate 56-year-old Gibsons man Greg Welstead, missing since March 12, came to a close. While SAR could be activated again at any time, a lack of evidence is holding back the search. Welstead’s car was found crashed into a tree on March 12 and the driver had left the scene. The next day, search teams began canvassing the area for any sign of the man, who had reportedly been acting ‘out of character’ the day of his disappearance.

• Nearly a year after a dog was caught in a leg hold trap in Sechelt the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals was imploring council to finalize a bylaw that would ban the use of body gripping traps in the District.

• Campaign financial disclosure statements from the November 2011 municipal election showed big money was spent by the group For a Better Sechelt, and Sechelt Mayor John Henderson and Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe not only topped the polls, but topped the election spending among their fellow candidates.

April

• The government of B.C. doubled back on an agreement with the province’s pharmacists, following an announcement that it would pursue a legislated reduction to the cost of generic prescription drugs.

On July 9, 2010, the Ministry of Health under then-Minister Kevin Falcon, announced a deal with the B.C. Pharmacy Association to reduce the price of generic drugs to 35 per cent of the brand name price. Expectations that the plan would save PharmaCare some $7 million annually by April 2012 fell short.

• Conservative MP John Weston reported the most travel benefits of any elected official in his party for 2011.

Federal politicians are required to report travel benefits every year to Mary Dawson, the federal conflict of interest and ethics commissioner. Dawson compiled the information into a report, which she released at the end of March.

Nearly 60 MPs reported receiving more than $420,000 collectively in sponsored trips. Conservative MPs reported the most expenses, accepting $236,503. Liberals had about $131,740, New Democratic Party $33,911 and Bloc Quebecois reported $17,979. Weston, who represents West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, reported $15,761, the most among Conservative MPs, for two trips to Iraq and Hong Kong.

• The public would have their say on a bylaw allowing medicinal marijuana production for more than one user to take place within industrially zoned areas in Sechelt. The bylaw was brought forward after an application was made to the District to renovate a building in an industrial area to grow for various legal users who can’t grow for themselves.

• It was a seemingly tough night for member of Parliament John Weston, who held a town hall meeting in Sechelt only to be bombarded with criticism — including three separate calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. That night the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP turned aside demands for the resignations of Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay while battling a chorus of heckles from the hostile Sechelt audience.

• After five years of waiting, School District No. 46 officials signed a deal with the provincial government for a new $14.3 million Gibsons Elementary School. When completed, the new school should be open by September 2014.

• Smoking pot has become as common as smoking cigarettes among Coast youth who are now turning to cocaine to get high. The smorgasbord of hard drugs available to Coast youth was a surprise to many in attendance at the April 19 Odd Squad presentation for parents at the Seaside Centre.


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