B.C.'s Top Story of 2015 revealed
Once again we asked our CBC audience to pick B.C.'s Top Story over the past year.
Once again we are asked our CBC audience to help pick B.C.'s Top Story of the past year.
And this year the summer drought and the wildfires it triggered was chosen as the 2015's Top Story.
1. Summer drought, water shortages and wildfires
This past summer was one of the driest in recent years.
It started early — with May being the driest on record — and by late July Metro Vancouver had moved to Stage 3 water restrictions.
Meanwhile, parts of Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast Regional District declared Stage 4 restrictions, the toughest water restrictions in B.C.
The tinder-dry conditions also caused massive wildfires, including the Rock Creek Fire, which forced more than a hundred people to evacuate their homes.
At the peak of the season, there were roughly 250 wildfires burning across the province, and the government spent $287 million fighting forest fires.
2. Crisis in foster care
Eighteen-year-old Danny Francis took his life in early December — just one of several teens who have died in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development over the past year.
Also this year, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Advocate for Children and Youth, released Paige's Story, a damning report of how the province's support services had failed a 19-year-old aboriginal teen who died of a drug overdose in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
3. Wildlife culls
B.C. government orders to kill wildlife sparked outrage from animal lovers and celebrities alike this year.
The provincial government announced in January that it would cull hundreds of wolves for the next five years in an effort to save caribou herds on the brink of extinction.
That caught the attention of international pop star Miley Cyrus, who called for a halt of the cull and visited B.C. herself in September.
4. Triple-deleted emails
Earlier this year, B.C.'s privacy commissioner released a scathing report that found the government routinely dodges access to information requests by deleting emails.
Elizabeth Denham's report found evidence that Transportation Ministry staffer George Gretes lied about not deleting emails related to the Highway of Tears investigation.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone later admitted he had also 'triple deleted' emails. The report provoked an accusation from opposition leader, John Horgan, who said the B.C. Liberals had fostered a culture of "delete, delete, delete."
5. Spiking housing prices and foreign buyers
Human needs don't get more basic than a home, and this year, the debate over housing reached fever pitch with properties soaring past $1 million in Vancouver.
But this wasn't just a Lower Mainland story. Residents of Gibsons and Prince Rupert packed hearings on the fate of condo developments.
Prices in Victoria and the Okanagan jumped, while the decline of the oilpatch hit properties in the Northeast of B.C.
You can't beat housing as news. It hits you where you live.
6. Syrian refugees welcomed
The plight of Syrian refugees hit home for many British Columbians after it was discovered that Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey, had ties to B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Momentum picked up after the new Liberal government promised to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of the year, a deadline that was later pushed back to March.
But some in B.C. expressed concern about the possible competition over jobs and resources.
7. Tofino whale-watching tragedy
When a whale-watching boat capsized near Tofino, B.C. with 27 people on board, it quickly became an international story of heroism and tragedy.
Six people died and 21 others were rescued by members of the Ahousaht and Opitsaht First Nations and the community of Tofino.
The investigation into what happened that October day is ongoing, and the Transportation Safety Board says a full report on the accident won't be available for months, but passengers say the boat was hit by a large wave before rolling onto its side in the rough water off Vargas Island.
8. Oil spill in English Bay
Eight months ago a grain carrier spilled 2,800 litres of bunker fuel into Vancouver's English Bay. A marine expert called it a wake-up call, saying the response was anything but world class.
It took nearly two hours before the Coast Guard responded, and another 13 hours before the City of Vancouver was notified.
This summer, the Canadian Coast Guard released its review of the incident, including 25 recommendations. The circumstances of the spill are still under investigation.
9. Pot shops proliferate
In June of this year, Vancouver brought in new bylaws for about 100 marijuana dispensaries in the city, making it the first municipality in Canada to license and regulate pot shops.
The new federal Liberal government is in favour of marijuana legalization, but has not yet announced any timeline, leaving municipalities little guidance on regulating marijuana.
Meanwhile, RCMP officers in some B.C. communities like Nanaimo, Sechelt, Mission, and Vernon have cracked down on marijuana dispensaries in recent months.
10. Fentanyl overdoses spike
The painkiller fentanyl was behind numerous overdose deaths in B.C. this year and was a constant concern for police, health officials and drug users.
Fentanyl is secretly "cut" into hard drugs like heroin or sold as fake Oxycontin. Its incredible potency — said to be 50 to 100 stronger than morphine — puts drug users at greater risk of overdose.
Vancouver Coastal Health estimates that 33 per cent of overdose deaths this year will be connected to fentanyl. That's up from 25 per cent last year.