B.C. to raise minimum wage by 50 cents an hour and promise $15 an hour by 2021

The new B.C. NDP government will raise the minimum wage by 50 cents an hour in September, and move to a $15-an-hour rate by 2021 — a long-sought move by labour and anti-poverty groups but one met with wary concern in the business sector.

On Sept. 15, the minimum wage will increase to $11.35 an hour, a commitment from the previous Liberal government the NDP will implement. The government will also increase liquor servers’ wages by 50 cents to $10.10 an hour.

Minister of Labour Harry Bains said on Tuesday that the hike this fall is just a “stepping-stone”.

“Raising the minimum wage is only one way the new government will make life more affordable for British Columbians, but it’s an important start,” he said.

Bains said the government listened to business owners and recognized the need for a gradual strategy for increasing wages to minimize the impact on businesses.

“It’s predictable. It’s incremental. (Business owners) can look at their structure and costs ahead of time knowing full well what their costs will be,” he said.

The NDP did not provide a timeline for the gradual implementation of the $15-an-hour rate. It plans to set up a commission that will consult with stakeholders and determine how to increase the hourly minimum wage to $15.

A wage hike to $15-an-hour by 2021 is too much, too soon, for small businesses, said Richard Truscott, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s B.C. and Alberta spokesman.

“To get to $15 an hour you’re looking at much larger increases the next four years to get there. We’re talking a dollar or more depending on the implementation schedule,” he said.

Large corporations can use economies of scale or automation to mitigate higher labour costs, but many small businesses would not have the resources to absorb the hike and may have to resort to cutting jobs, foregoing hiring, scaling back on employee hours, or passing along the cost to consumers with higher prices.

“There are adjustments that have to be made. It’s not going to be an easy pill to swallow,” said Truscott, calling on the government to consider a longer phased-in period, perhaps six years, similar to Seattle.

Anita Guberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said her group supports a minimum-wage increase tied to the consumer price index, but said small businesses will be impacted by the wage hike.

“We need to be cautious and sensitive and help small business,” said Huberman. “I understand the path (the government is) going down, taking care of citizens, but they also have the opportunity here to take care of business.”

Huberman and Truscott said the government can use other policy levers to soften the blow on small businesses, whether that’s in the form of tax cuts or backing off on other policy changes such as the carbon tax increase or changes to employment rules.

When asked whether the government is considering any mitigating measures, Bains said that will be under consideration when Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan put together the budget.

Machiko Purse, who works at a hotdog stand in downtown Vancouver, said a $15-an-hour minimum wage is much-needed.

“Vancouver is a very expensive city. Many people are living paycheque to paycheque.” She did wonder, however, whether the cost of goods would also go up, and added “maybe there won’t be much change.”

Originally from Japan, Purse, 42, said she can only afford to make ends meet because her husband also works. “But if I’m a single mom and I have a 10-year-old daughter, it is not possible to live on a minimum wage.”

Connor McRae, an ESL teacher in Vancouver, said he sees both sides of the argument, but his gut reaction is that a $15-an-hour minimum wage is a good thing. “I’d say it comes down to principles and what are your ideals,” he said. “It’s taking care of our people, same thing if you think people deserve the right to health insurance, they deserve the right of a minimum wage that’s livable.”

By CHERYL CHAN

(Vancouver Sun)

B.C. government offers down payment loans to first-time homebuyers

VICTORIA — The B.C. government will loan first-time homebuyers some of the cash they need to afford their down payment, Premier Christy Clark announced Thursday.

The program will provide a government-backed loan of up to $37,500, or five per cent, of the purchase price of a home for qualified buyers, starting Jan. 16.

The goal is to match part of a person’s down payment to help them afford to buy their first home, as long as they already qualify for a mortgage under federal rules and the home is worth less than $750,000.

“What we know is for many first-time home buyers qualifying for a mortgage is hard, but getting past that down payment and scraping together the $25,000 or $50,000 you might need to be able to get into your first home is just impossible,” said Clark.

“So we want to be there to help first-time home buyers get over that hump.”

Clark said the move is a way for government to “be a partner in your home” and move renters into home ownership where possible.

The 25-year loan is interest-free for the first five years, and does not require the homeowner to even pay down the principal during those first five years, as long as they keep the home as their principal residence. It will be recorded as a second mortgage on the title of the property.

After the first five years, the province expects monthly payments at the current interest rate, with the loan repaid over the remaining 20 years. Extra payments or full repayment at any time will be allowed, according to the government.

The new down-payment program will cost government an estimated $703 million over three years, and is expected to help 42,000 people, according to government figures.

To be eligible, a homeowner must:

  • Have saved a down payment amount at least equal to the loan amount for which they are applying from government.
  • Have been a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for at least five years.
  • Have lived in B.C. for at least one year prior to the sale.
  • Be a first-time buyer who has not owned an interest in any residential property anywhere in the world at any time.
  • The home must have a purchase price of less than $750,000.
  • The buyer must already be able to qualify for an insured high-ratio first mortgage for at least 80 per cent of the purchase price.
  • The combined gross household income of all people on title must not be more than $150,000.

Provincial officials provided a few examples Thursday of how the program would work.

On a home worth $600,000, federal mortgage rules dictate a person must have a down payment of at least $35,000. If the person has saved only $30,000, the government would provide a matching $30,000 loan, giving the buyer $60,000 for the down payment.

On a home worth $750,000 (the program maximum), the minimum down payment would be $50,000.  If a person had saved a $52,500 down payment, government would provide five per cent of the $750,000, adding $37,500 to the down payment and allowing the buyer to pay almost $90,000 as the down payment. That could save $5,200 on interest payments on the mortgage over five years, say government officials.

Applications for the program will start on Jan. 16, 2017, for purchases that close on or after Feb. 15, 2017. The province said it will be a three-year program.

Government officials told media Thursday they hoped the program would have a very small default rate on the loans, because the owners would be meeting federal mortgage rules and qualifications under federal stress tests.

The premier said she was not concerned the program would raise housing prices.

“Our analysis tells us that it won’t because everybody who is going to be eligible for this program will have to have been accepted for a mortgage already,” said Clark.

The changes for first-time homebuyers are the latest in a series of housing reforms by the Clark government.

The province introduced a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in August, which data suggests has sharply curtailed foreign purchases in the Metro Vancouver real estate market. The tax has done little to lower the price of most detached homes, but the real estate industry expects prices to drop next year.

The government had also offered tax breaks to first-time homebuyers in its February budget. The budget reforms included removing the property transfer tax on newly built homes worth up to $750,000 (a tax savings of up to $13,000), while increasing the property transfer tax to three per cent from two per cent on homes sold for more than $2 million. At that time, the province chose not to change the $475,000 threshold on used homes that allowed first-time homebuyers to also avoid the property transfer tax.

Abbotsford police hand delivers letters to Indo-Canadian parents of sons involved in gangs

Recently, Chief Bob Rich authored a letter to the parents of the young men involved in the conflict.  The letter is an earnest attempt to change the direction of the conflict and the lives of those involved.  They shared this letter with the media and the public with the hope that it again informs citizens on what the APD is doing and becomes a catalyst for others to be part of the positive change that is so desperately needed.

Golden’s Sikh heritage recognized on new Stop of Interest sign

GOLDEN – A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history.

“This new Stop of Interest recognizes the important contributions early Sikh settlers made in Golden and throughout the Interior of B.C.,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “This is a good example of the Stop of Interest signs we want to add across the province, to tell the stories of how B.C. was shaped through the contributions of many different ethnicities and cultures.”

“We acknowledge the Gurdwara in Golden as the first in B.C., and quite likely the first in North America,” said Pyara Lotay, on behalf of the local Sikh community. “We thank the B.C. government for recognizing Golden’s Sikh pioneers and their place of worship with this Stop of Interest.”

The sign recognizing Golden’s Sikhs was originally a small local area history sign located next to the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign at the viewpoint off Golden View Road. The new sign will replace the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign, and the refurbished ‘Golden’ sign will be relocated to a site to be selected in consultation with the Town of Golden.

“The story of our community’s Sikh pioneers is one of hard work and determination,” said Golden mayor Ron Oszust. ” This Stop of Interest means a lot to our present-day Sikh residents, and highlights an important chapter in the rich history of our region, of which we’re all proud.”

B.C.’s Stop of Interest signs were first installed in 1958 to commemorate the Colony of B.C.’s centenary and recognize significant historical places, people and events. The ministry is refurbishing existing signs in need of repair and updating language where necessary.

In addition, the Province is adding up to 75 new Stop of Interest signs. British Columbians are invited to submit ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways.

Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2017. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will install the majority of the new Stop of Interest signs in late spring/early summer 2017.

Governments of Canada and British Columbia investing in Highway 16 improvements

The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia (B.C.) today announced $37,737,949 to improve Highway 16.

From visiting friends and relatives to getting goods to market, we rely on our roads, bridges and highways to support a vibrant economy and great quality of life. Investing in modern transportation infrastructure will help create jobs and grow the middle class now, while building the foundation for a strong economic future.

“One of the commitments we made in B.C. on the Move was to increase the number of passing lanes on highways 16 and 37. We’ve already built three and this new investment means five more safe opportunities to pass slower vehicles. Another one of our provincial priorities is to provide better access into communities, and upgrading the junction of highway 16 and 37 will ease congestion and improve traffic flow through Terrace.” says Todd Stone, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

That is why the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia (B.C.) today announced $37,737,949 to improve Highway 16. The project includes the construction of five additional passing lanes along Highway 16, as well as an upgrade to the junction of Highway 16 and 37 in Terrace, where there is currently a four-way stop.

“The Government of Canada is working in close partnership with British Columbia to ensure we make smart infrastructure investments that create safer roads for travellers, help grow the middle class, and promote sustainable development. By supporting improvements to Highway 16, we are helping local businesses move their goods to market and fostering long-term prosperity in the region for years to come.” Said The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Once completed, the project will improve safety and traffic flow for all highway users, including local residents, tourists and commercial drivers by providing additional opportunities to safely pass slower-moving vehicles. It will also support future economic development in the region by contributing to a more efficient transportation network in northern British Columbia.

Richmond Mounties investigating alleged sex assault of young woman

BY CASSIDY OLIVIER

Richmond Mounties are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a young woman.

Mounties say the 18-year-old woman was walking northbound along Ash Street toward General Currie Road on the evening of Oct. 7 when she was approached from behind by an unknown man.

The man allegedly pushed her to the ground near the Paulik Park Community Garden and forcibly sexually assaulted her, Richmond Mounties said in a statement. She managed to fight him off and escape.

In the days following the alleged assault, investigators have canvassed the neighbourhood and scrutinized video surveillance footage taken from the area.

Mounties describe the suspect as standing between 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-11 inches tall. He was wearing dark pants, dark dress shoes and a dark puffy jacket.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

 

Thousands crowd legislature grounds to greet royal couple

The Duchess of Cambridge greets a large crowd of admirers during the welcoming ceremony at the B.C. legislature on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, began their week-long tour of British Columbia and the Yukon in Victoria Saturday with a welcome ceremony that honoured Canadian military service, young people and First Nations in front of a lively crowd of thousands.

“Catherine and I have asked to meet as many people from as many walks of life as we can while we’re here,” he said in a speech at the legislature, where an estimated 25,000 people were in the crowd. “We’re very much looking forward to learning about how Canadians are tackling some of the biggest challenges of the day.”

The prince recalled his visit to B.C. as a teenager in the late 1990s, when he was a heartthrob greeted by screaming girls. “We feel very fortunate to have time to get to really know parts of this country that we did not get to visit in 2011 but of which I have very happy memories as a shy teenager,” he said, pausing and grinning. “A few of you remember it too well, I think.”

At the legislature, the crowd’s biggest screams came at the first sight of the royal couple’s children arriving at 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at Victoria International airport, shown on a large screen. The Royal Family arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule on a military plane carrying Prince William’s seal. They were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, Premier Christy Clark and her bowtie-sporting teenage son Hamish, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife Sharon, and Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon.

The Prince William emerged from the plane holding the hand of three-year-old Prince George, dressed in a light blue sweater and shorts. Kate — wearing a blue maple leaf hat by British design house Lock and Co. and the Queen’s maple leaf brooch — carried 16-month-old Princess Charlotte. Prince George appeared more interested in a Sea King helicopter landing at the base than he did in the official receiving line, while Princess Charlotte waved goodbye to the plane.

This was the first of two public appearances the children will make during the visit. The second will be at their departure from Victoria at the downtown seaplane terminal on Oct. 1.

The family left in a motorcade of two dozen vehicles that stopped at Government House, where they will stay for the week, before heading to the legislature. People stood on the side of the highway from the airport to downtown Victoria cheering and taking photos as the royal motorcade passed. Overpasses were packed with waving people. The windows of the car carrying the royals were down so that they could wave back.

Some of the thousands waiting at the legislature lawn had staked out spots before dawn.

“We got here around 6:15 a.m. and a few other ladies were already here,” said Sarah Larson, who drove down from Courtenay with her mother Gloria Zimmer Friday night.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them … I’ve been researching royal stuff all week,” said Larson, who sat on a blanket alongside the red carpet walkway with snacks, travel Boggle and enough crosswords to fill the day. Larson also prepared a bouquet with the Canadian and Union Jack flags and small picture of a friend who died. “She was a major royals fan. She would have loved this.”

Emily Emery and her mother Jill Boudreau drove from Mount Vernon, Washington, for the event. “I admire their work and how they use their celebrity for good. They’re big on children’s health and as a nurse, I admire them,” Emery said.

Patrick Wilson stood for nearly 12 hours at a metal gate along the red carpet to see the royal couple. He said as a First Nations person, from the north Island Kwakiutl First Nation, it is meaningful for him to see the Royal Family’s interest in B.C.’s Indigenous peoples. “I don’t have the words for it but it’s good,” said Wilson, wearing a cedar bark top hat.

The royal couple arrived at the legislature around 5:30 p.m., about a half hour behind schedule.

A solemn ceremony at the legislature cenotaph marked the start of the ceremony, featuring the skirl of bagpipes and a lone bugler.

The cheerful crowd grew silent as Kate and William placed a wreath at the cenotaph. Retired colonel Paul Paone, who was with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, was happy to see a new plaque honouring Afghanistan veterans unveiled. “It’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It took long enough.”

William and Kate spoke at length with three veterans, including Gordon Quan, who served as a commando in Burma during the Second World War.

Also meeting the royal pair were Afghanistan veterans Cpl. Mireille Poulin and Petty Officer Wayne Clarke. Prince William, who flew helicopters in the Royal Air Force, asked Poulin what kind of helicopters were used in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The royal couple was welcomed to traditional Lekwungen territory by Esquimalt and Songhees dancers as they walked the red carpet to the stage with the prime minister and his wife, the Governor General and his wife, the lieutenant governor, and the premier and her son. They were met by a line of local politicians, including Mayor Lisa Helps, First Nations chiefs, Victoria MLA Carole James and federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

In his speech, the Governor General noted that the royal couple first came to Canada in 2011 as newlyweds of three months, “and now you’ve come back as a family. We couldn’t be happier for you,” he said. For Canada, the monarchy “represents a family and reminds us that people come first.”

Trudeau got a few laughs when he jested about travelling with kids. “As any parent who has travelled with children knows, it is a whole different experience when you bring your family with you. I want to commend you and thank you for introducing our part of the world to Prince George and Princess Charlotte,” he said.

“Though let me caution you from my own experience, if they’re anything like our kids, getting them back on a plane after a visit to our beautiful West Coast will really be a challenge.”

William and Kate rewarded many of the fans who’d spent hours waiting to see them with greetings as they walked along the red carpet after the ceremony.

“He said he liked my flower,” said Teresa Bell, who shook Prince William’s hand on the walkabout. Bell and her friend Kisha Cook, both from Nanaimo, wore black decorative fascinators. “I can’t believe it.”

Standing next to them, Lori Hitchcox said she was shaking after her encounter with the prince.

“He asked if I lived in Victoria. I said yes. And he said, ‘I see we’re taking up most of your city,’ ” said Hitchcox, wearing a maple leaf scarf. “I told him I loved his grandmother. He was so sincere. They really are as nice as they look.”

Monique Girard was surprised to be approached by the duchess while holding her six-month-old daughter Scarlett. “She told me that after this small stage, it only gets better,” Girard said. “I told her that she’s beautiful. It was like this goddess in front of me.”

Kate told Girard and Loreen Topping that she wished she had brought her children, particularly Prince George, so that they could enjoy the lights on the legislative buildings.

Dayna Mottishaw and her friend Courtney Simcoff were decked out in pearls, fascinators and tea cups.

“We’re both moms of young kids so it’s not easy to get out and do something like this,” said Mottishaw. It panned out. They saw the royal couple up close and shook the prince’s hand. “He really looks you in the eye.”

Mottishaw said it was a once in a lifetime chance to see the royals, then quipped, “Although I am off to see the Royals tonight. They’re playing Prince George,” she said, referring to the local hockey game.

After the one-hour ceremony, the duke and duchess returned to Government House, where they had private meetings with the prime minister and Governor General. They are scheduled to leave Victoria today at 10 a.m. by seaplane for a day of events in Vancouver.

Surrey RCMP arrest six males allegedly linked to gun violence

Metro Vancouver — It was with “a joyful heart” that Surrey’s mayor joined the officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP on Monday to announce that police had made more headway in the fight against street-level gun violence in the city.

“Today is a day to say we’ve made another round of significant progress with these most recent arrests,” Linda Hepner told reporters.

On Friday, investigators arrested six males linked to a conflict over drug turf involving low-level members of two groups of dial-a-dopers.

Police released the names and photos of four men who have been arrested and charged. Baltej Singh Gill, 18, of Surrey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of recklessly discharging a firearm. Gill was previously arrested in connection with an unrelated incident and charged with four firearms offences. Himmat Singh Virk, 18, of Surrey, is charged with two counts of conspiracy. Randeep Singh Johal, 18, of Surrey, is charged with one count of conspiracy. Manpreet Michael Johal, 24, of Delta, is charged with two counts of conspiracy.

Also charged is a 16-year-old young offender, who cannot be named because he was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences. The Surrey youth is charged with four firearms-related offences. A sixth man — a 24-year-old from Surrey — has been arrested but has not yet been charged. His name was not released.

Assistant Commissioner Bill Fordy, who is also the acting officer in charge of Surrey RCMP, said the men were arrested after they were “strategically targeted” by police.

Investigators received information that individuals had plans to commit a drive-by shooting. Surrey RCMP teamed up with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and Lower Mainland emergency response team to investigate and conduct the arrests.

“These arrests and charges stem from an ongoing investigation — a series of ongoing investigations that flow directly from shots fired complaints and incidents that have played out on our streets over the past five months,” Fordy said.

Fordy told reporters that he’s confident that there will be more announcements about arrests related to the conflict the coming months.

Public safety is a priority, Fordy said, and he believes these arrests have prevented further violence from playing out on Surrey streets, where there have been a total of 51 shootings — both related and unrelated to the conflict — since the beginning of 2016.

He said that since March, there have been 30 arrests related to the conflict. Fifteen firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition have been seized. He could not say how many charges have been laid against those individuals. Their cases are currently before the courts.

Hepner said the next step is for the courts to deal appropriately with those who are convicted of gun-related crimes in Surrey. She said she has spoken to federal and provincial politicians on the subject.

“I think that what is happening now on our streets is so unacceptable that when these folks get before the courts I hope the courts recognize the severity of a crime utilizing a gun on city streets and come down with a full — with some very significant acknowledgment in the punishment phase of this should all of those who are currently before the courts be found guilty,” she said.

Surrey-Tynehead MLA Amrik Virk, who is also a former police officer, said he thinks all people in society generally want to see the toughest possible sentence imposed.

“I expect the full weight of the law to come down upon these individuals,” he said.

Five farm workers injured in Delta crash

By GLEN SCHAEFER

Delta police are investigating after five farm workers were injured when the van they were riding in was involved in a crash with a passenger car at Nordel Way and Brooke Road.

The workers suffered minor injuries in the crash, and the van operated by farm labour contractor BKS Enterprises had enough seatbelts for its passengers, a police spokesman said.

“They are licensed and registered,” Delta police Const. Leisa Schaefer sad Tuesday.

Police and paramedics were called to the crash site just after 8 p.m. on Monday. The workers were heading home after work.

The van was to be inspected as part of the crash investigation, Schaefer said.

WorkSafe B.C. released four inspection reports done on the company’s vehicles in the past year, indicating that the firm had complied with that agency’s orders. Roadside checks are done in partnership with police, as WorkSafe B.C. doesn’t have the authority to pull vehicles over, a spokesman said.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said farm-worker safety remains a concern nine years after three women died in the Abbotsford crash of a van that was found to be unsafe.

“We don’t know all the details about (the Delta accident), but inspections aren’t happening at the rate they should be happening,” Lanzinger said.

She reiterated the federation’s call for mandatory independent annual inspections of worker transport vehicles, adding that after the 2007 Abbotsford fatalities a blitz of inspections led to 35 per cent of those vehicles being taken off the road because they didn’t meet safety standards.

The Vancouver Sun

Gas prices expected to rise

CKNW News Staff

You might want to gas up today.

Gasbuddy.com has issued a warning – get ready for a big jump at the pump.

Senior analyst Dan McTeague notes that wholesale prices have gone up a nickel in the past 2 days.

“That would mean that any gas station is buying gas for about a buck-a-litre today so it’s quite likely that within the next 24 hours, maybe even today, but more than likely by Monday or Tuesday you’ll see prices increase.”

McTeague blames a U.S. report about a decrease in oil supply, prompting speculation.

But he says as quickly as the prices will rise, they’ll go down again next week.

“Once you see the increase, as quickly as it goes up you’ll start to see some retailers shaving those margins back back down, likely by this time next week.”

He says the increase and then decrease is expected from Ontario to Vancouver Island.