Editor’s note: our staff has spent some time looking back at 2015 and we are pleased to present highlights from The NEWS in this 2015—Year in Review special. Today, we look at April through June. In our next edition, we will feature July through September, followed Jan. 5 by October through December. Thank you for all your support in 2015 and best wishes to all for a happy and healthy 2016.
• Citing a stifling of religious freedom in senior-level politics, Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney quit the Conservative caucus.
“I am withdrawing from the CPC caucus voluntarily; the decision is entirely my own,” Lunney said through a news release. “Given the circling trolls, I do not intend to entangle the most multi-racial, multicultural and multi-faith caucus in parliamentary history in my decision to defend my beliefs.”
Lunney’s riding includes the Parksville Qualicum Beach region. He said he has asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to assign him a seat as an independent MP. Lunney announced last year he would not be seeking re-election this year.
• Criticizing the federal government for slashing public health care dollars, about 70 protesters took to the streets of Parksville.
The midday protest marked the first anniversary of the end of Canada’s Health Accord, a 10-year-agreement between the federal government and provinces to provide stable, federal funding for health care and setting national standards for wait times, home care, prescription drugs and team-based primary care.
• Phoenix Pain Management Society’s medical pot dispensary in downtown Parksville was raided by police.
“They arrested Karl (Mitchell), Jackson the dog was taken, they took everything including the medications headed for Autism Calgary,” Phoenix managing director Akil Pessoa told The NEWS. The RCMP said in a news release: “The Oceanside RCMP will be forwarding a charge of Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking against the (29-year-old) male. Considering the nature of the business, investigators located a quantity of marijuana products inside the store. Police seized dried marijuana, along with other marijuana derivatives, products and cash.”
• Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre says the city doesn’t need a smoking bylaw, though it’s one of the rare Vancouver Island communities lacking a local ban on tobacco.
“My initial reaction is that I don’t think it’s a problem,” said Lefebvre. But Island Health’s Dr. Paul Hasselback called Parksville “an anomaly” for its lack of local regulation around cigarette smoke.
• Prescription drugs far outnumber a diagnosis to match the medication in B.C. residential care homes. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie’s report, Placement, Drugs and Therapy… We Can Do Better found 33 per cent of residential care home clients are prescribed anti-psychotic medication while only four per cent are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
• Local and high-profile supporters of a medical marijuana dispensary in Parksville call the police raid harassment and invite supporters to an event tomorrow. While Phoenix helps patients access marijuana for medical reasons, pot activist Marc Emery said the dispensary fight is the front line of the bigger battle to legalize marijuana, stating “It’ll be legal everywhere in the Western World within five years.”
• A Qualicum teacher who was fired over allegations of rape and torture — eventually found to come from the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — has fired back in civil court. He’s now suing the independent investigator hired by School District 69 whose report allegedly resulted in his dismissal and tarnished reputation.
• James Lunney came out swinging against his critics before hastily leaving his news conference with reporters still firing questions. The independent MP for Nanaimo-Alberni told reporters “militant atheists” are behind attacks on Christian politicians. Lunney’s retreat from the government benches was spurred by a Twitter posting in February and the ensuing fallout, a tweet in which Lunney said: “No problem with ‘scientific theory’. Just stop calling evolution fact.”
• Parksville city council may be on its way to imposing what some believe is the smallest property tax increase in the country for 2015. Council instructed staff to craft a bylaw that calls for a 1.5 per cent increase in property taxes for this year. For a house assessed at $300,000, the property owners would pay $9 more this year than in 2014.
• The kids are coming home. Despite the popular perception, youth retention might not be Parksville Qualicum Beach’s biggest problem. According to a 2014 Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) report the “region had a net loss of more than 7,000 people age 20 to 24 between 2006 and 2011… but the trend reverses once people reach their 30s, with about 3,400 extra residents in the 30-34 age range moving into the region.”
• Conservative MP John Duncan says the Canadian Coast Guard was a “bucket of bolts” before his party won office in 2006. Duncan was responding to criticisms from the New Democratic Party and others after an oil spill in Vancouver last week. Duncan’s NDP opponent in this riding, Gord Johns, is urging the federal government to stop its planned closure of Marine Communications and Traffic Centres in Ucluelet and Comox as the NDP promises to reverse cuts to Canadian Coast Guard services across B.C. Duncan told The NEWS his government has pumped money into the coast guard since taking office.
• Finance Minister Joe Oliver said “Canada’s fiscal house is in order” upon unveiling a balanced federal budget, while critics are calling it “political” given the looming election slated for this fall. Oliver tabled the budget promising job creation, growth and long-term prosperity. The budget comes a few months later than usual, but six months before the federal election scheduled for Oct. 19, 2015 and candidates for the new Courtenay-Alberni riding have mixed reviews.
• Michelle Stilwell will be shifting her focus from the political arena to the track this summer as she aims for a spot on Canada’s Pan Am Games team. Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum and the Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, confirmed she intends to be racing in the 100M and 400M events of the Parapan Am Games in Toronto in August.
• Food trucks replacing the concession in Parksville Community Park, an idea that looked like it was going to fail, may be rescued through a plan developed by the local chamber of commerce. The chamber says it has five food trucks ready to rotate through the two pads built by the city to replace the old concession.
“We are ready to go the day after they (city council) approve,” said Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden. “We expect to be successful.”
• A loaded handgun was found on the beach in Nanoose Bay, according to police. Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman confirmed a nine millimeter black pistol was located by a woman beachcombing near Madrona Drive and Arbutus Drive.
• It’s difficult to imagine a more excruciating 10 hours for any family. Tammy Roy woke up early Saturday morning at her Columbia Beach home and checked her social media feed. What she learned rocked her to the core. A massive earthquake had just hit Nepal. Roy’s son Tyler, a 22-year-old Kwalikum Secondary School graduate, was in the mountainous country. Finally, 10 hours after she woke to the news of the quake, the Roy family (Tammy, husband Greg and Tyler’s siblings, Brooke and Jordan) learned through social media that Tyler was OK.
• The Qualicum Beach Farmers’ Market wants to expand to Wednesday night, but town council is concerned it might hurt local business. Market manager Mimi Shewchuck sent a letter to council explaining the need for a “top- up” market mid-week, giving farmers a chance to sell their freshest produce more than once a week. The main farmers market is held Saturday mornings, and while some farmers take part in the Downtown Business Association’s Thursday night street market, Shewchuk said there is a need for a separate, food-only evening market further from the weekend.
• Enshrine the right to a healthy environment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That’s the end goal for environmental activists undertaking a national campaign starting at the grassroots level. “One hundred and ten countries in the world have environmental rights enshrined and Canada isn’t one of them,” Paul Manly, Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green Party candidate told Regional District of Nanaimo board members.
• Maggy Gisle will celebrate one year of sobriety this month, but like most things in her illustrious — at times unbelievable — life, the accomplishment is overshadowed by a stroke of bad luck. As of May 1, Gisle has been homeless with two teenagers in tow, a moving container brimming with furnishings and no place to put anything, let alone a place to sleep. She doesn’t seem infuriated or resentful, but hopeless; perhaps exhausted.
• Another popular service on Parksville’s famous beach is in danger of disappearing. Kevin Forsythe of Windsurfing Parksville told city council he has been asked to leave the location he’s had for years, providing paddle boards, kayaks and windsurfing lessons. Forsythe was asking council for a spot somewhere in the park to continue his rental business after he said the owners of the boarded-up Parksville Beach Resort told him he must vacate their property just off the boardwalk.
• A former Qualicum Beach sailor and star soccer player is now standing guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the National War Memorial. The ceremonial guard posting means more than ever after the tragic death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo late last year — an event that stunned the country, shedding light on the importance of sentry duty. Kwalikum Secondary graduate Liam Chambers started sentry duty last week and stood in the exact same spot as Cirillo. “It was a pretty intense moment for me,” Chambers, 23, told
The NEWS from Ottawa. “I tried to think about everything and make that connection for myself.”
• Their contract has been expired since 2013 and Qualicum Beach town workers recently voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action, CUPE Local 401 vice president Laurence Amy confirmed. “That’s with 100 per cent turn-out from our membership,” Amy told The NEWS from Nanaimo, noting 67 ballots were cast.
• Food trucks will roll into Community Park this holiday long weekend after Parksville city council consummated a deal with the chamber of commerce at a special meeting. The Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce will manage the rotation of five trucks through the two serviced pads currently under construction next to the old concession building, which is being renovated into a larger washroom/changeroom facility.
• A private members bill to deal with derelict vessels in Canada drowned at second reading in the House of Commons. Bill C-638 was put forward by Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder earlier this year. It would have made the Canadian Coast Guard the sole receiver of wrecks, taking on full responsibility for aging, abandoned boats in the country.
• As the “unofficial start to summer,” May long weekend is notoriously busy for police officers and Cpl. Mike Elston said this year was no exception. “We had in the central/north Island amongst my guys alone, four impaired drivers and there were I’m estimating probably 200 other offenses that were located… everything from speeding to no drivers licence to basically anything under the sun,” Elston told The NEWS after the Victoria Day long weekend.
• Green Party leader Elizabeth May said we need a government that’s “excellent” not just “better than awful” to save Vancouver Island from environmental threats like ocean acidification. May spoke to a room of 115 at the VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station during a recent campaign tour event with Green Party candidate Glenn Sollitt.
• It is a bylaw infraction not to pick up after your dogs, and that includes once you bag the evidence. “This is a great example of what not to do with your doo,” said Bentley Dzogan who stumbled on 71 individually bagged surprises in a few square meters of bush along Moilliet Street in Parksville.
• Regional district directors want more answers from the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF). The board passed a motion unanimously at the regular meeting to apply pressure on the ICF to provide the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) with a copy of its consultant’s report on the effectiveness of the proposed E&N railway repairs.
• After a near record hot and dry May, water and fire restrictions are coming into effect.
The rain gauge at the Parksville city works yard registered an average of 47 mm of rain in May over the last 10 years. From April 29 to May 29 this year it measured rain on just three days, totalling 5.6 mm.
• Members from the French Creek Coast Guard Station rescued a killer whale caught in a crab trap off Columbia Beach. “Around 4:20 (p.m.) we were advised by various concerned citizens, a pod of whales off Columbia beach was acting erratically circling a yellow crab trap float,” officer in charge, Gord Gibb said. Within minutes they were in a zodiac headed to the scene where they slowly approached the pod of six whales, including two small ones.
• A wolf in the Pheasant Glen Golf Resort area in Qualicum Beach has attacked dogs. Conservation officers are warning people to be aware of the wolf hanging out in the area, but point out it hasn’t threatened humans.
• It may have been a record busy weekend for Arrowsmith Search and Rescue, with three searches on top of their practice and parade plans.
• Released to the sidewalk at 3:30 a.m., a local senior’s recent trip to the hospital has her wondering about who is responsible for the well-being of patients. “I had a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) attack and couldn’t breathe, so I called the ambulance and was taken to the hospital in Nanaimo (NRGH) in my PJs with nothing, not even my purse,” said a 67-year-old Parksville resident who didn’t want her name used. She said they got everything under control pretty quickly and released her at 3:30 a.m. “wrapped in a hospital blanket with no help, no idea how to get home.”
With limited options at that time of the night and not wanting to disturb anyone, she ended up taking a taxi home for $85.
• The Oceanside Health Centre’s only family physician is resigning, leaving 1,700 local people without a doctor. Island Health has confirmed that Dr. Marlene van der Weyde has decided to retire from general practice.
• In a speech reminiscent of her campaign focus more than two years ago, Premier Christy Clark highlighted the differences she believed voters should note between her B.C. Liberal Party and the NDP when she spoke to chamber of commerce members in Parksville.
• Organizers of what’s likely the most successful one-day event in the 15-year history of the Parksville Community and Conference Centre have been told they are no longer welcome. The What Women Want event in March sold 835 tickets and raised $4,000 for Haven House, a facility for women seeking safety and help. Event co-ordinator Donna Andres said she was surprised by the reaction she received when she tried to book the event for March of next year.
• Parksville city council has asked staff to bring back changes to the permissive tax policy that would effectively give the curling club tax-free status. An issue that has dogged council for years may get some form of closure at an upcoming meeting if council endorses the policy changes staff suggested.
• The carcass of a sea lion found on Parksville Beach will not be removed from the shoreline, said a DFO official. “If it’s fairly decomposed it’s doing its trick with the food web,” said Paul Cottrell, a marine mammals coordinator for the Pacific Region of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). “We try to let animals go back to nature.”
• Build it and they will . . . tear it down?
The high-profile downtown land beside city hall and the conference centre on Jensen Avenue in Parksville has been sold and the new owner has applied for a demolition permit to rip down the structure built by the previous owners just months ago.
• Local NDP candidate Gord Johns says MP John Duncan owes an explanation to constituents for acting on behalf of the prime minister instead of the people of Vancouver Island during the parliamentary session that just ended. “John Duncan voted against restoring coast guard services, he voted in favour of the C-51 surveillance bill, and he spoke out against better federal support for ferry service on Vancouver Island,” Johns said through a news release.
• The proposed location of a cell tower in French Creek is still causing concern for some local residents. Two of them voiced their opinions with Regional District of Nanaimo directors. They say they are not happy with plans to put the tower at 1421 Sunrise Dr.
Kelly Olson asked the RDN’s Electoral Area Planning Committee to revoke the board’s approval of the location and asked for a hold of all tower sitings until a policy is prepared and other sites are considered.
• The federal and provincial governments announced they will contribute $3 million each in taxpayer money to the $24 million plan to upgrade the Englishman River Water Service. Residents of Parksville will be asked in a referendum to support approximately $5.5 million in borrowing for the city’s part of the bill. Construction is not likely not to start until May or June of next year.