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December 2013 Archives

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Interviews:

Daybreak North's Favourite Stories of 2013

As we bring 2013 to a close, the team at Daybreak chose their favourite stories from the past year. In the end we selected a mix personal stories documenting loss, survival, struggle, hope... and an emu. Have a listen, and let us know what your favourite story was, as well.

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Interviews:

Northern Gateway president talks pipeline safety, Kalamazoo and winning over the opposition

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Opponents to the Northern Gateway pipeline have vowed to keep fighting the project no matter what decision the federal government ultimately makes.


On Thursday, the Joint Review Panel from the National Energy Board recommended the federal government approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, pending 209 conditions being met.

However, opponents of the project say they will continue to fight with protests, petitions, and court action. They argue the effects of an oil spill would be devastating to B.C.'s coast, environment, and jobs dependent on the ocean.

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines president John Carruthers says his company is committed to minimizing risks to the environment and putting in place a world-class safety system. He also says Enbridge is constantly improving and learning from incidents such as the pipeline rupture that resulted in 3.3 million litres of oil spilling into Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

Listen to his full interview with Daybreak's Andrew Kurjata.

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Opponents of Northern Gateway prepare to fight with protests and poetry as Joint Review panel makes its recommendations

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Grafitti in downtown Prince George captures the tension between opponents and proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline project. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)


The Joint Review Panel makes its recommendations on the Northern Gateway pipeline this afternoon.

Former president of the Haida Nation and B.C.'s former chief Treaty Commissioner Miles Richardson believes the recommendations will be in favour of the project, and is preparing for a fight.

"People in the northwest of the province, on the coast, have very serious concerns about the potential effects on their way of life, on the health of their waters, on their lands... They're not gonna just let some panel process whitewash their concerns"

Listen to Betsy Trumpener's full interview with Miles Richardson:

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Carole Brown is one of those opponents. She is a school teacher in Prince Rupert who is fighting Northern Gateway with poetry.

After Enbridge placed poems about the ocean in newspapers, she decided to fire back with some poetry of her own, warning about the risks a pipeline project could pose to oceans.

Daybreak's George Baker went with her as she asked businesses to display the poetry on their doors and windows.

Listen to George Baker's story on Carole Brown's anti-Enbridge poetry:

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Northern Gateway pipeline recommendations to be released today

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An image from Northern Gateway pipeline by the numbers on cbc.ca/bc.

A federal review panel's report on Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will be released Thursday afternoon in Calgary following more than a year of hearings in B.C. and Alberta.

The $6.5-billion pipeline would take bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to the B.C. coast for tanker export to Asia. But the controversial proposal has pitted Calgary-based Enbridge against environmental groups and several First Nations.

Tune into Daybreak from 6 until 8:30 today as we bring you a preview of today's recommendations.

CBC Radio will also have live coverage of the news as it breaks, beginning at 1:30 pm with BC Almanac's Mark Forsythe and the 180's Jim Brown.

There will also be a live chat online at cbc.ca/bc so you can weigh in with your opinions.


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Michael Markowsky makes art while flying upside down at supersonic speeds

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Michael Markowsky wanted to be more like Picasso, so he decided to start drawing while riding in an F-18 at supersonic speeds. He speaks with Daybreak's Betsy Trumpener.

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Find more about Michael at michaelmarkowsky.com and F18Art.com.

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Should we throw drunks out of hockey games and other questions about alcohol up for review in Prince George

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The city of Prince George is reviewing how it will serve alcohol at events such as WHL hockey games.

It has been sixteen years since the city of Prince George last updated its liquor policy. The policy provides rules for how alcohol is served on any city property, from conferences at at the Civic Centre to hockey games at the CN Centre. Now they are hoping to update the guidelines.

Andy Beesley is the manager of the CN Centre and recreation facilities for Prince George. He says that over the last few months, his team has been consulting the public, researching policies in other cities, and conducting pilot projects to see how expanding beer drinking areas at hockey games affects problems with public drunkenness.

"What we learned is that if you congest people in a small beer garden, you're likely to have more problems than if you allow them to spread out a little bit in the general seating area. We've actually found that our incidents have dropped for hockey games."

Listen to the full interview with Andy Beesley about alcohol policy in Prince George:
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Beesley does acknowledge risks associated with alcohol, as well, and says there are policies in place to reduce problems.

"Our beer is priced quite high at concerts and that's not just a money gouge, that's also a security measure. There's a limit to how many drinks you can buy and we really insist people are not coming to the CN Centre just for drinking purposes."

The city is holding an open house on its alcohol policy Wednesday night. Beesley is hoping to get public feedback on the policy on a point-by-point basis.

"For example, do people agree with the policy that if someone is drunking and they're causing a disturbance they're gonna get chucked out of the game or the concert with no refunds, and do we have support for that in the community."

The open house is at 7:00 pm at the College of New Caledonia. Details can be found on the city of Prince George website.

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Quesnel family searching for answers after stolen dogs found dead

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Nicole Tremblay came home to find all four of her dogs missing. Two were found dead and one is still missing. (Facebook)

There are still no answers in the mysterious and disturbing deaths of two dogs found along a highway near Quesnel last week. 

Nicole Tremblay knew something was wrong when she came home on Friday and didn't hear any barking. She soon discovered all four of her dogs were missing from their kennels. 

Not long after that, one of the dogs, a boxer, was spotted by a driver wandering along the Nazko highway more than 50 kilometers away from Tremblay's home. 

Tracks in the snow lead to the bodies of two of the other dogs, both boxers. 

There was no obvious sign of trauma, but RCMP believe they were killed on purpose. 

Tremblay says a vet examined one of the dogs and found it may have been poisoned with carbon monoxide. 

"There's no reason why. I just don't understand why anyone would do this. Just, I'm a wreck over this. I'm devastated." 

Meanwhile Tremblay's fourth dog, a dachshund, is still missing. 

The family is offering a three thousand dollar reward for information.

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Prince George RCMP warn women not to walk alone after two sexual assaults near high school

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RCMP in Prince George are warning the public about what they are calling two "similar sexually motivated attacks" over the past week.

Both attacks occurred around Massey Drive near Prince George Secondary School and involved a masked man. 

RCMP say a woman was inappropriately touched by a masked man along the golf course side of Westwood Drive between Massey and Ferry at about 4 PM last Thursday. 

The suspect in this attack is described as male, approximately 19-years-old with fair skin, blue eyes, and wearing a black puffy jacket and a mask.

On Friday, RCMP say a man in a black ski mask attacked a 15-year-old female at the top of the stairs off Massey Drive near Prince George Secondary School. 

Police say the victim screamed and scared off her attacker. 

The suspect in this investigation is male, approximately 168 cm (5'6"), average or thin build, and wearing a black jacket, black gloves, and black ski mask.

Craig Douglass of Prince George RCMP says that while investigators acknowledge the similarities between the two attacks, they have no information to link them.

"We are warning all members of the public, especially females walking alone, to be cautious, be aware of their surroundings, and obviously try not to walk alone whenever possible."

Douglass says both women were "shook up" but otherwise fine.


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Interviews:

Joint Review Panel: The Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas Edition

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For the final Joint Review Panel of 2013, pastor Mark Wessner and professor Sarah de Leeuw debate saying "Merry Christmas" vs "Happy Holidays", Secret Santas- and the real Joint Review Panel.

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Interviews:

Terrace is now the no-vacancy capital of British Columbia

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An image from the RE/MAX Terrace website. It is now harder to find a home in Terrace than anywhere else in British Columbia.

A decade ago, Terrace had a vacancy rate of 20%. Now the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has placed it at 0%, the lowest in British Columbia.  David Block is the director of development services for the City of Terrace. He spoke with Betsy Trumpener about the search for a solution.

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Should you stop idling your car in the winter time?

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The Northern Environmental Action Team warns that exhaust from cars can impact children's health for years.

When weather dips to 30 below, it can be tempting to leave your car idling in order to stay warm. But an environmental group in Fort St John wants to cut down on the practice because they say it's bad for the environment and your health. Karen Mason-Bennett is with the Northern Environmental Action Team. She spoke with Daybreak's Andrew Kurjata.

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Interviews, The Story Exchange:

The Story Exchange: Saving Bobby Weir

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The highway between Terrace and Kitimat (photo from DriveBC).
Many people commute between Terrace and Kitimat in northwestern B.C. Dale Hession tells the story of a routine trip that turned into the story of a lifetime.

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Interviews:

Matthew Church is the first person from Prince George to be on Jeopardy!

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Matthew Church with fellow Canadian (and Jeopardy host) Alex Trebek.

Matthew Church was the youngest person to be nominated for Citizen of the Year in Prince George. Now, at age 26, he's the first person from the city to be on Jeopardy! He spoke with Andrew Kurjata.

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Opponents and supporters prepare for Northern Gateway pipeline decision

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The proposed route of the Northern Gateway pipeline would go from Alberta to northern B.C. and Kitimat.

The Joint Review Panel must deliver its recommendations on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project by the end of the year. This means all sides are preparing themselves for what happens next.

The Panel's report could come any day now. Groups like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers believe Enbridge can ship oil safely to the west coast. 

Greg Stringham is vice president of markets and oil sands with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. He believes Enbridge can ship oil safely to the west coast. 

"We've been saying all along that this needs to be done like the best of things, like world class around the world."

Listen to the full interview with Greg Stringham:
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However, even if the panel says "yes" to the pipeline, many in B.C. are prepared to continue saying "no." 

Aboriginal and environmental groups have promised they will fight the project in court and on the ground if they have to. 

Art Sterritt is executive director of Coastal First Nations, and he says he does not want the pipeline to happen no matter what the panel recommends.

"There's no thing on this planet, no technology that this industry has put out there that can clean up a spill on the coast of British Columbia. So whether you call it world class or you have an expert panel or you have a world-class expert panel, it doesn't matter what you call it, these people have not come up with anything that gives Coastal First Nations any comfort."

Stringham concedes regulatory approval does not necessarily mean a green light for project. 

"If it is approved, it will have conditions in there that will ensure that these types of issues do have more dialogue associated with them." 

After the panel makes its recommendation, the final decision will be up to Ottawa. 

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Interviews:

Increased train traffic takes Jingle Bell Express off the rails in Prince Rupert

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Santa won't be riding the rails in Prince Rupert this year.
 
For fifteen years, people in Prince Rupert have been able to take a short train ride with Santa Claus to get ready for Christmas. But now increased train traffic due to industry growth has thrown the tradition of the rails. Jingle Bell Express organizer Dave Walker speaks with Betsy Trumpener.

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Oil and gas putting children in the Peace at risk, says UVic study

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A map included in the University of Victoria study. The caption reads "This image provides an overview of the situation faced by these schools. It depicts gas well sites near schools that are or have been within an Emergency Response Zone."



































A new study from the University of Victoria suggests schools in the Peace region of northeastern B.C. are dangerously close to sour gas wells. Betsy Trumpener spoke to one of the studies authors, Tim Thielman.

Listen to the interview with Tim Thielman:
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Thielman and his fellow researchers examined the distance between schools and wells in Peace River North and South.

"We found that there was 96 wells within 2 kilometers of those schools. In one case there was a pipeline as close as 236 meters."

He recommends that wells be at least 1500 meters away from schools.

Thielman says research indicates chronic exposure to sour gas can have adverse health effects.

"Children are outdoors more often, so they're exposed more frequently to environmental pollutants like sour gas. They're also more active so the research suggests that they're breathing harder and ingesting more chemicals because of that."

The safety supervisor for school district 60 in the region says there are safety regulations and procedures in place to keep children safe.

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Strikes and snowfall interfere with events in Prince George, RCMP urge you to avoid driving

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City crews clear roads in downtown Prince George Friday morning after a record snowfall.



Snowfall warning ended

A combination of heavy snow and a looming strike have put a hold on a number of events around the city of Prince George.

On Thursday, record-breaking levels of snow fell, causing havoc on city streets. RCMP urged people to avoid driving as tow trucks, school buses and police cruises succumbed to deep snow and windrows. A number of community events such as dance recitals and after-school pickup programs were cancelled as a result.

The snowfall warning has now ended and city crews have been working overnight to clear city streets. 

RCMP say roads should still be avoided

However, Pat McTiernan with the RCMP's North District Traffic Services says people should still avoid driving as warming weather is creating icy conditions.

"We're recommending take that extra day, hunker down, and let the roads get to the point where we can travel about safely again. That's just sheerly a matter of the weather we've been receiving and the ability of the crews."

McTiernan says RCMP received such a high call volume that they were only able to respond to incidents where there were injuries or traffic flow was impacted.

Listen to the full interview with Pat McTiernan about hazardous roads in Prince George
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Environment Canada is forecasting snow with a possibility of rain over the weekend as temperatures warm to 2 degrees.

Buses and garbage collection operating

Meanwhile, BC Transit issued an alert yesterday advising that buses would only be travelling on main roads until secondary roads are cleared.

After nine school buses became stuck yesterday, four more became stuck this morning with others delayed and routes cut short due to road conditions. All students have made it to their schools.

The city says garbage collection will continue as normal, though delays are expected.

Arenas and pool shut down due to job action

However, looming job action from city unions are putting further events on hold.

CUPE unions representing inside and outside workers in Prince George have served notice that they will be striking on Saturday morning. Snow clearing will continue, but workers will be picketing outside some civic facilities.

This notice has prompted the city to shut down the CN Centre, the Kin Centres, the Prince George Coliseum and the Elkscentre.

The Prince George Aquatic Centre will be closed all day Saturday. The Four Seasons Leisure Pool is undergoing maintenance and is already closed until January.

The WHL Prince George Cougars will not be affected, as they are on the road this weekend, but the midget Cariboo Cougars have opted to move their home games to Fort St James, a two-hour drive away. The BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings are postponing their scheduled home games for a future date.

Meanwhile, the Prince George Ice Oval has postponed a celebration opening event scheduled for Saturday. In a release, the organization say the decision is due to a combination of job action, heavy snowfall, and warming weather.

Unions back to work Sunday and Monday 

Union spokesperson Gary Campbell says even though a complete walkout is planned for Saturday, it will be "business as usual" on Sunday. Unionized workers will not be taking overtime hours or working outside of their contracts.

"People can still expect city services to be as normal."

Unions must give 72 hour notice if they plan to do any future picketing.

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Interviews:

RCMP urge people to avoid driving in Prince George as heavy snow continues

School buses and tow trucks getting stuck

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Crews have been operating overnight and throughout the morning to clear snow in Prince George.

RCMP are advising people to avoid driving in and around Prince George if they are able.

26 cm has already fallen, and Environment Canada says 15 more cm is on the way.

Cars, buses, and vans are getting stuck in large drifts of snow clogging the streets.

RCMP Corporal Craig Douglass says officers are finding many drivers unprepared.

"I saw half a dozen tractor-trailers attempting to go up hills without proper chains on, and they end up getting stuck, and that causes traffic, and of course that's a concern for all emergency services."

The Prince George school district reported nine buses were stuck this morning, and portions of some routes were cancelled.

There have even been reports of tow trucks getting stuck.

Terry Mayhew owns and operates a tow truck company in Prince George. He says after spending two hours clearing out a school parking lot, he had to buy new chains.

"The whole school was stuck, and all the buses, they were up against poles and signs and none of the kids could get out. It was pretty chaotic."

Mayhew estimates the current wait time for anyone needing a tow is two hours.

The Prince George airport has not cancelled any flights, though there are some delays.




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Seniors and non-profits worried about Canada Post changes

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Some Prince George community groups are worried about changes to Canada Post.

Lola Dawn Fennel is the general manager of the Prince George Council of Seniors. She says the end of door-to-door delivery will have an adverse effect on seniors.

"If people have to go out to a central place to pick up their mail they will be challenged," she says. "It will make it more difficult for seniors to keep track of bills and different things."

Meanwhile, Tim Bennett of Prince George Big Brothers and Sisters says a rise in the price of stamps will affect non-profit organizations that still use mail for much of their correspondence.

"Things like paying bills that require to signatures to pay, we still deal with physical cheques and physical invoices," he says.

Bennett estimates the change will cost up to $300 extra a year. He also points out there have  been increases to MSP and BC Hydro rates recently.

Joanne McNeish an assi stant professor of marketing at Ryerson University. She thinks that Canada Post is actually moving in the opposite direction of what it should be doing, and would like to see it partner with delivery services ranging from Amazon to local grocery stores.

"Canada Post is actually flying in the face of what most organizations are doing- more service, more convenience. Consumers are time compressed. That's the solution they need to be looking at."

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Updated: Snow clearing essential service in Prince George, unions set to picket on Saturday

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A snowfall warning of up to 40 cm was issued for Prince George Wednesday as unions prepare for possible job action.


Snow clearing will be considered an "essential service" when city workers in Prince George begin taking job action this Saturday.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board has ruled on a number "essential services". The list includes snow clearing, solid waste spill response, water treatment, and police support.

Union spokesperson Gary Campbell says workers will begin picketing outside city buildings Saturday morning.

He also says the union is pushing for more service cuts, including reduced snow clearing.

Unions initially served 72-hour strike notice on Monday, but since essential services had yet to be decided, the notice was deemed invalid. The earliest workers could go on strike is now Saturday at 8 am.

The interim ruling also states that the unions would have to give 72-hour notice should they decide to picket the Civic Centre or city arenas, and that picketing cannot interfere with police or fire services. 

The city also has the power to call employees back to work in the case of an emergency. 



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A village in northwest B.C. wants to ban ex-convicts from living in their community

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Port Edward has under 600 people (photo from district.portedward.bc.ca)


Following a series of crimes, the District of Port Edward wants ex-convicts and people out on probation to be banned from their community. In a letter to B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, council asks that anyone who has committed a serious crime be removed from the village because they lack the resources to properly police community. Daybreak's George Baker shares the story.

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Dispute between city of Prince George and unions deepens as job action looms

Essential services decision expected today, strike could happen Thursday
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By the end of today, people in Prince George will find out which city services could be shut down by a possible strike.

The Labour Relations Board has been ruling on what is considered an "essential service" should city workers take job action following a 72-hour strike noticed issued Monday afternoon.

Gary Campbell is president of the CUPE union representing outside workers in Prince George. He blames the city for pushing union workers to this level of action.

"Right now it's to show them that we're serious. You know, enough is enough. We don't feel that the employer has been taking us seriously. They keep walking away from the table."

Meanwhile, city administration sent out a press release yesterday evening, claiming to "set the record straight." It says the city is willing to continue bargaining and that there have been several occasions where the unions have been "unprepared" to meet.

Listen to an interview with the city of Prince George's superintendent of operations Bill Gaal.

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The city also says it is "adamant" that waste water treatment, distribution of drinking water, and snow clearing be maintained at safe levels during any job action the union takes.

A ruling on essential services is expected from the Labour Relations Board is expected to be released today.

The unions could being striking as early as Thursday afternoon.

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Joint Review Panel: Pat Bell and Gwen Johansson on Site C

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Site C hearings are underway in Fort St John, so we convened a special edition of Daybreak's joint review panel.

On one side is Hudson's Hope mayor Gwen Johansson. She lives near the proposed project, and opposes the flooding that would take place.

"There's not a lot of information out there about Site C. The strategy, I suppose,  has been the hearings are only being held up here. There's been no opportunity for the people in the south to learn a lot about Site C and the impact of it on this valley. Proponents look simply at a dam, what we look at is a valley. And there is a difference between that."

Taking the opposite stance is former B.C. Liberal MLA Pat Bell.

"I think that the fight has actually been won already. If you look at what the public mood is, across British Columbia and the Peace, it's split between full support for the project, and support if it is done in an environmentally-sensitive manner... I think people get it's important to build for the future."

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Cranberry jelly research gets 16-year-old published in scientific journal

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A 16-year-old from northern B.C. is having his research published in a scientific journal today.

Kiri Daust lives in Telkwa, near Smithers. His research into cranberries is being released in the Canadian Field Naturalist today.

Daust's work started when he was helping his mom make cranberry jelly.

"We always pick highbush cranberries every year, and I've been around these plants since I was three years old," he told CBC. "Then all of a sudden all these plants were covered in these darks spots and I thought that was very odd because I'd never noticed them before."

Daust took samples of the plants and sent them to a fungal expert. He then started mapping out incidents of the disease and found there was a correlation to climate.

His research could have implications on climate change, local ecosystems.. and his mom's jelly.

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Enbridge's Janet Holder on Prince George, chainsaws, and lifting over twice her bodyweight (really)

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Enbridge's Janet Holder has been named one of the 100 most powerful women in Canada by the Women's Executive Network (Enbridge).



Janet Holder grew up in Prince George and then moved into the corporate boardrooms of Canada's power centers. Today she is back in Prince George, working as an advocate for a project she believes in. As vice president of Western Access for Enbridge, Holder is pushing for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline to be built.

Unusually, Holder is doing her work from Prince George rather than a power center like Calgary or Vancouver. She says it's important to her that the northern project have advocates in the north.

Her work has been attracting attention. She's been named one of Vancouver's most powerful people by Vancouver Business Magazine, and one of Canada' 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network.

In this interview with Daybreak's Andrew Kurjata, Holder speaks about her background as a competitive power lifter, why she loves working outdoors, and why she believes a northern pipeline is a good idea.

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City of Prince George unions could be on strike by Thursday afternoon

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Snow is in the forecast for the city of Prince George, just as city workers have issued strike notice. (City of Prince George).




Snow clearing, garbage collection, and city pools could all be coming to a standstill in Prince George. 

Yesterday unions representing city workers issued 72-hour strike notice.  The notice comes after mediated talks between the city and its unions broke off over the weekend.

Gary Campbell is president of the CUPE union representing outside workers in Prince George. He says the decision to take job action was made because the city has not been responding to union concerns

"We're to the point now where we're saying hey, look it, you have to pay attention to us, you have to be serious when you come to the table, and sit down and actually bargain with us."

The Labour Relations Board is currently ruling on which services will be deemed essential should job action take place.

The city of Prince George declined to comment on this story.

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Interviews, The Story Exchange:

The Story Exchange: Stars at the Rainbow

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Have you ever met a celebrity? Prince Rupert's Patrick Witwicki has. Four in fact-- and all in the same night. However, not all the celebrities were excited to meet Patrick's friends.

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Updated: Evacuation ends after tanker truck crash in northeastern B.C.

200 people evacuated after tanker truck crashes on Alaska highway Sunday night


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Wonowon is 88 km north of Fort St. John on the Alaska Highway (Google Maps)


The Alaska Highway is now open, and people are being allowed back into their homes following an evacuation near the community of Wonowon.

At about 7:30 Sunday night, a tanker truck rolled over into a ditch near a work camp.

The truck was carrying 60,000 litres of gasoline.

RCMP evacuated 200 people from the site, including a work camp, gas station, and a few residences. The Alaska Highway was closed for 10 hours.

Police are now allowing people back into their homes and businesses, although Wonowon Elementary will be closed for the day.

A hazardous material team is on the scene assessing the leak. It is not yet known how much fuel leaked from the truck.

There are no reported injuries.

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Talks between city of Prince George and unions break off once more

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Talks have once again broken off between the city of Prince George and its unions. 

The two sides were supposed to spend the weekend hammering out what would be considered essential services should the unions strike, but according to CUPE local 1048 president Janet Bigelow, the city walked away from negotiations Saturday night. 

The unions and the city will now spend the next two days presenting their cases to a Labour Relations Board adjudicator. 

Union workers in Prince George are in a strike position until mid-December.

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Site C hearings begin in Fort St. John today

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An artist's rendering shows how the Peace River's Site C dam would appear after completion. (BC Hydro)

Public hearings begin in Fort St. John today for a controversial hydroelectric project. For forty years, the Site C Dam has divided those who say the province needs the extra power, and those who say the environmental cost is too high. 

For decades, the Province and BC Hydro have been making the case for a third dam on the Peace River. Site C would generate 11 hundred megawatts of energy, enough to power almost half a million homes.

Listen: Matthew Evenden is a professor of geography at UBC who has written about Site C. He tells Betsy Trumpener the project is not "inevitable" and it is important for both sides to treat it as an open question.

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Pat Pimm is the Liberal M-L-A for Peace River North. He says the dam's power is needed to meet demands from BC's growing population, and economy. 

 "We've got a very active mining sector, we've got some LNG projects that hopefully are going to be able to move forward as well, and you know I think all in all it's a vision, not that much different than the vision that WAC Bennet had way back when we built the first dam." 

While the Province increases capacity, some say the losses for the Peace Region are huge. The dam would flood 85 kilometers of river valley, destroying First Nations sites, a highway, and the homes of farmers like Ken Boon. 

Boon has fought Site C for decades. He hopes this environmental assessment will be the last, and the project will be permanently shelved.

"Yeah, it's frustrating, actually. You know, In this day and age to still have to be fighting a dam." 

Public hearings start today in Fort St. John at the Pomeroy Hotel, and continue until late January.

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Highlights from CBC Prince George's Food Bank Day and Open House 2013

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CBC Radio One's Daybreak North held a special open house for CBC's annual Food Bank Day on Friday December 6, 2013.

You can make a contribution to the Food Bank of your choice at the Open House, online anytime or call our pledge lines 1-866-226-4642 or 604-662-6470 on Friday December 6, 2013.

Be part of CBC British Columbia's 27th Annual Food Bank Day and Open House. Share your spirit.

Highlights:

Piano players give back

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Indra Egan

Prince George piano teacher Lori Elder and one of her students, Indra Egan talk about using music to give back to the community.

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The Science of Santa

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Todd Whitcombe of UNBC


Todd Whitcombe is a professor in the University of Northern British Columbia's science department. He explains the physics behind Santa's magic.

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Francois Lake's Rachelle Van Zanten performs

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Rachelle Van Zanten with some Prince George fans.

Internationally-known slide guitarist Rachelle Van Zanten visits from her home in northwestern B.C. to perform in CBC's Prince George studio.

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Need for food banks in Prince George growing
Salvation Army Captain Neil Wilkinson speaks about the growing need for food banks in Prince George, and how his organization is trying to help people in need create five-year-plans for self-sufficiency.

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The Fugitives perform

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The Fugitives


Vancouver band the Fugitives speak about meeting moose in Smithers and play a song in CBC's Prince George studio.

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Rachelle Van Zanten teams up with Ben Elliot of the Fugitives

Rachelle Van Zanten and Ben Elliot team up for a performance.

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Rachelle Van Zanten performs "Take Me Back to Francois"

Rachelle Van Zanten plays Take Me Back to Francois at CBC Prince George from Andrew on Vimeo.

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HIV/AIDS infection rate in Prince George drug users among highest in Canada

One in six of those survey infected with HIV/AIDS

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Prince George has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection among injection drug users in Canada, according to a new national study.

The rate is down from five years ago, but one of the lead researchers says it is still unacceptably high. 

Russ Callaghan is with the Northern Medical Program at UNBC, and helped lead the study. He says the work was done by speaking with injection drug users at the needle exchange in downtown Prince George in 2012. They found one in six people tested positive for HIV.

"It was one of the highest estimates of HIV across the country in the other twelve or thirteen sites."

He also says the people they spoke with also moved around a lot across the north. 

"It's a particular concern for us because some of the smaller cities in northern B.C. don't have the same kind of services, so we think that may be an important mechanism for the spread of HIV."

Callaghan says Northern Health is making progress getting more vulnerable people tested, and noted the rate was down two percent from a survey in 2008.

However, he says more needs to be done, starting with making sure at-risk people have a stable place to live.

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Fort St John apartment without heat for three months

Temperatures dropping below minus 20
 




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A Fort St. John woman says she's been living without heat in her apartment for the past three months. 

Cassidy Wald says the situation has become unbearable since temperatures dropped below minus twenty this week. She describes the situation as "horribly cold, and bundled in my bed and kind of snuggling with my dog for warmth and still just being cold."

Neighbors in the building also say they have no heat. Wald says she has complained numerous times to the property manager, Northern Property. 

"They do say that somebody is working on it, and they do frequently tell me it will be fixed you know on Friday, or by the end of the week. But, you know, they've been saying this for three months, so it's very difficult to believe that anymore." 

"You can build an entire apartment building just about in three months, so I can't understand why they can't get the heat working." 

Temperatures in Fort St John have been dipping to below minus 20. The forecast for Thursday evening is minus 26, and Environment Canada is forecasting a windchill value of below minus 40.

Northern Property did not return CBC's request for an interview. Wald is now taking her complaint to the BC Residential Tenancy Branch. Her dispute resolution hearing is scheduled for December 20th. 


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Steel construction industry challenges B.C.'s Wood First building policy

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The Wood Innovation and Design Centre under construction in downtown Prince George.


The president of the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction wants B.C. to review its "Wood First" policy launched in 2009.

According to the B.C. government, the policy was introduced as a way to "encourage a cultural shift toward viewing wood as the first choice for construction, interior design and daily living". Among the intiatives from this policy is the construction of a Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, and a preference to wood as a building material in government buildings. It is hoped that this will create new jobs in B.C.'s forest industry.

However, other industries say the policy is hurting them. Charles Kelly is President of the BC Ready-Mix Concrete Association.

"This is four years later. The wood industry has recovered. So now's a chance to stand back and say, 'Well, was this really the best policy for British Columbia?'"

Edward Whalen with the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction says the wood first policy has hurt concrete and steel suppliers, and is ready to fight back.
 
"We're not going to sit around and take it anymore. We need governments to realize that a strong construction industry is a balanced one. Certainly we don't believe governments should be choosing who the winner is."

The B.C. Government says it has no plans to review the policy.

Listen to Edward Whalen explain why he thinks Wood First is hurting B.C.
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Kitasoo First Nation clarifies Spirit Bear vodka lawsuit

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The organization behind Spirit Bear Coffee worked with the Kitasoo First Nation in order to use the name and image of the spirit bear.

The technical advisor to a northwest First Nation is clarifying a lawsuit launched against an Okanagan distillery

The City of Terrace and the Kitasoo First Nation are taking Urban Distilleries to court over its Spirit Bear vodka and gin products. The city and Kitasoo band say they have a trademark over the name Spirit Bear.

Larry Greba is the technical advisor to the Kitasoo band. He says the Spirit Bear is an important symbol to the Kitasoo and so they filed an official mark over the name. 

"Years ago I was told people rarely spoke of the spirit bear to outsiders for fear that they would actually go and hunt and trap and try and take these animals for their pelts."

Greba says other companies have worked with the Kitasoo to use the name Spirit Bear. Canterbury Coffee, for example, has a Spirit Bear line of blends that was developed with the permission of the Kitasoo band and city of Terrace, with proceeds from the licencing deal going to protect and research the bear.

However, he doesn't think a similar arrangement could be reached for Urban Distilleries.

"Alcohol use and abuse is a problem in many communities, and can be acute in First Nations communities as well. And in fact Kitasu itself, or Klemtu, which is actually the village name... has a partial prohibition on alcohol," he says. "It's something, they don't want it associated with the Spirit Bear mark."


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City of Terrace takes vodka maker to court over the name "Spirt Bear"

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Urban Distilleriers makes a line a line of Spirit Bear vodka, gin and espresso infused vodka. (Urban Distilleries)

A liquor distillery in Kelowna that markets Spirit Bear vodka and gin is facing a lawsuit over the name of its product. 

Mike Urban of Urban Distilleries says he trademarked the name Spirit Bear Vodka three years ago. 

But the City of Terrace and the Kitasoo First Nation challenged the trademark, saying along with the province they had already trademarked the name Spirit Bear in 2004. 

City spokeswoman Alisa Thompson says they asked the company to change its brand, but that hasn't happened. So now they and the Kitasoo are taking the distillery to court. 

"It's a unique part of our culture here in Terrace," said Thompson. 

"We do have a trademark. We do need to enforce our trademark, or there is no point in having one, so the decision was made to take legal action." 

But Urban says he has hired a lawyer and plans to fight the lawsuit because he has invested too much money to establish the brand to change now.

"To start from scratch would kill the company," said Urban. He also disputes the notion at anyone can trademark the name of a native animal in B.C. 

"I'm going to continue using it. Being able to trademark an animal of B.C. -- I don't think it is a trademark for one, so that's our stance."

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Canadian Federation of Independent Business wants province to help Prince George in union dispute

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Mike Klassen is the director of of provincial affairs for British Columbia with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business wants the province to step in to help municipalities struggling to reign in workers' wages.

Mike Klassen is with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. He says public sector wage increases across B.C. have gone beyond the rate of inflation, and wants the province to set some "ground rules" for contract negotiations. "I think there needs some ideas put on the table to try and reign in the spending, and give the tools to mayors and councils so they have the option of saying, 'no this is all we can spend,'" he says of his proposal. 






Listen to the full interview with Mike Klassen
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Wages one of the issues in Prince George contract dispute

In Prince George, wage increases are a part of a contract dispute between the city and its unionized workers. CUPE Union members voted overwhelmingly to reject the latest offer from the city of Prince George, when the city proposed no wage increases for the first two years of the contract, then a two percent increase in years three and four. The union is now in a position to strike. 

Gary Campbell is president of CUPE 399 representing outside workers for the city of Prince George. He argues the city isn't suffering from a lack of money, but of priorities. "They need to change their thoughts on where they're spending the money. They're doing trips to China," he says. "Before they do something like that, they should be looking after what's happening here, now." 

Janet Bigelow represents inside workers for the city, and she says the city also needs to shoulder blame for the dispute. "In the past month the city has been more interested in pursuing a public relations campaign that devalues civic workers than bargaining,"she said in a release. "They've surveyed residents about negotiations, put out damaging press releases and plan to hire new communications staff - all tactics waging war on their own employees. This isn't how bargaining is supposed to happen." 

Klassen says it is disputes like this that require the province to step in. "What we need I think are some new ground rules that really reflect upon the state of the economy, the local government's ability to pay, and recognize the fact that taxes cannot continue to go up on an ongoing basis." 

The city of Prince George and the unions will meet this week to hammer out essential services, should there be a strike. Both sides have said they would like to return to negotiations.

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New program provides homeless people with answering machines

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The Metis Housing Society of Prince George is launching a new program to provide voicemail to those who don't have phones. The initiative comes out of the understanding that a lack of a phone number can be a barrier to helping people get off the streets or into shelters. 

"Homelessness wouldn't be such a problem if everyone had opportunities to get employment," says Kay Robinson of the society. She points out that finding help can be tough when employers or housing organizations don't have any way of contacting the people in need. She recalls her own experience trying to find work while staying in a local shelter.  "People were not calling me back. No one would help me take messages for me."

The "Community Voicemail" will provide banks of phone numbers with voicemail to agencies that work with impoverished people. Robinson says people will be able to check their messages from any phone.

Listen to the Metis Housing Society explain the importance of answering machines:

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Major decline in number of strays coming to Prince George SPCA

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This chart shows the number of cats surrendered to the Prince George SPCA every year from 2006 to 2012.

The SPCA in Prince George is receiving less than half the numbers of cats and dogs thatn they were seven years. Marcie Moriarty is the SPCA's chief prevention and enforcement officer and she says there are many factors, but cites one initiative in particular. "I think that there's many factors, but I think that one that is unique to the Prince George is that back in 2005 we opened up a low-cost spay neuter clinic, recognizing a great need in the community... and I think that's definitely contributed to the decline, especially in the numbers on the kitten and puppy side."

Moriarty also says education is a key component of the society's work, and wants to continue to work to educate people about how best to care for their pets.

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The Story Exchange:

The dangers of riding the rails

Riding the rails isn't recommended. But today's edition of The Story Exchange has more on why it was a desperate choice for Mark Lowe. Daybreak's Andrew Kurjata introduces the piece produced by associate producer Shaam Semere.

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Kitimat converts old council chambers into homeless shelter with pet-friendly sections

Will also have section for people with allergies

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Kitimat in winter (photo via District of Kitimat)

After plans for using trailers to create temporary homeless shelters fell through, the community of Kitimat decided to convert its old council chambers to a temporary housing project for the winter.

"We have a minus nineteen windchill," says Mayor Joanne Monaghan. "I certainly wouldn't want to be out in the weather in this kind of windchill."

Listen to the full interview with Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan
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Monaghan is using her past experience working with homeless to inform how the building is set up. "Many of the homeless have dogs, and they don't like to leave their puppy dogs outside. So we have the head of the animal shelter here... who said that she would give them flea baths and put flea collars on them." There is a separate section for people who don't want to be around dogs, as well as a third section for women.

Monaghan says part of the homeless problem is the result of people heading to the northwest looking for work. "There are jobs, but they have to have number one, a high school education. Number two, they have to have a trade, and number three they should belong to a union. If they don't have those three aspects, they probably won't get a job."

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Prince George police still looking for suspect

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Police cars and SUV line 5th Avenue in Prince George (Photo Credit: CBC/Andrew Kurjata)

 

Prince George RCMP are still looking for a 31 year old man who officers say has an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

On Friday, officers surrounded a home on Moffat Street on Friday, and asked people to stay away from the area.  They were looking for Christopher Ross Blaney.

"Although we do not believe the public's safety is at risk, he should not be approached as he will likely make efforts to elude capture," says Corporal Craig Douglass.  

Blaney has long brown hair, hazel eyes, has a medium build, stands 183 cm tall (6'0 feet), and weighs 81 kg (179 lbs).

If you have any information, you're asked to call Prince George RCMP.

 

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Prince George police search for 31 year old Christopher Ross Blaney (Photo Credit: RCMP)

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Heavy snowfall cancels school buses in Fort St John

There was heavy snow in Fort St John on the first day of December. According to Jay Scotland at CBC's weather center, Sunday saw 20-25 cm of snow fall, due to an Arctic ridge coming in from the north.

Scotland says there will be less snow today, although cold weather is expected with temperatures of minus 19, and wind chill of minus 30.

School district 60 for Fort St John and area has cancelled all buses, though schools are still open.