Species at risk in B.C. include grizzly bears

B.C. BRIEFS: Action urged on threatened wildlife

Protection of species at risk doesn't go far enough, environmental groups say.

A task force report that calls on B.C. to bolster its protection of species at risk doesn’t go far enough, environmental groups say.

Critics call the 16 recommendations vague and lacking teeth.

The Species At Risk Task Force report concludes the extremely large number of species assessed at risk – 1,900 and rising – means B.C. should shift from a focus on individual species to a broader ecosystem-based approach when considering new development.

It warns the species-by-species approach “is leading us down a path of increasing complexity, overlapping initiatives and unsupportable costs even as the numbers of at-risk species continues to grow.”

It does not propose a provincial endangered species law equivalent to the federal Species At Risk Act – a tougher legislative approach that conservation groups prefer.

“We are disappointed that instead of calling for a law they recommend tinkering with B.C.’s antiquated patchwork of existing regulations,” Wilderness Committee policy director Gwen Barlee said.

Threats to wildlife highlighted in the report include climate change, degraded ecosystems and challenges in protecting species on private land.

The report suggests offering incentives to private property owners to reward their assistance.

Species at risk in B.C. include grizzly bears, spotted owls, phantom orchids, Vancouver Island marmots and killer whales.

Law-makers eye pesticide ban

A provincial committee has convened to consider a possible blanket ban on home use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes throughout B.C.

Liberal MLA Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, a cancer survivor, heads the bipartisan special committee now weighing the potential to outlaw the sale of pesticides and the possible impact on farmers and forestry.

Dozens of B.C. cities already have local bans on residential use but MacDiarmid said the ability to buy a herbicide or insecticide in one area and use it in another means there are grounds to consider a B.C. standard.

“There’s a real patchwork around the province,” she said.

Retailers currently sell pesticides even in cities where their use is banned.

The Canadian Cancer Society argues long-term exposure to residential pesticides poses a cancer threat to children.

New Democrats have already been pressing for tighter rules.

NDP leader Adrian Dix this spring proposed a ban on the sale of high-risk pesticides, leaving residents only able to use lower risk alternatives.

Teachers demand extra leave

Public school employers say contract demands tabled by the B.C. Teachers Federation would cost the system nearly $2.2 billion more each year.

The demands include doubling the provision for bereavement leave to provide 10 days paid leave on the death of any friend or relative.

The union also wants teachers to be able to take 26 weeks off each year as a fully paid leave of absence to provide compassionate care to any person.

The BCTF also wants wage parity with other provinces, although it hasn’t yet tabled an exact pay hike demand.

Teachers salaries range from around $47,000 to over $75,000 a year.

Salary parity would mean a 21 per cent raise for most teachers to match levels in Alberta and cost an estimated $618 million, according to the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA).

Other top cost drivers in the proposals include extra prep time at $417 million and $445 million for a retirement bonus that would give departing teachers an extra five per cent payout for every year they’ve worked.

The proposals leave a wide gulf between the teachers’ federation and the BCPSEA, which aims to keep overall teacher costs frozen.

Unionized teachers voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action last month.

Any initial job action starting in September is expected to be limited to paring back administrative work and other non-teaching activities.

The employers association said it’s concerned the teachers passed a strike vote at an early stage in talks. Negotiations are to resume in August.

More rioters step forward

Thirty-four people have now turned themselves in to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in connection with their roles in the June 15 Stanley Cup riot.

The 50-member Integrated Riot Investigation Team continues to pore over thousands of photos and videos – sometimes working frame-by-frame to capture the clearest image of a face or an identifying article of clothing.

And they’re now encouraging more photos, tips and information about riot suspects to be sent to a new email address: riot@vpd.ca.

More than 600 GB of data is being reviewed, including 15,000 images and more than 3,000 video files equating to more than 1,200 hours of video.

Those who’ve turned themselves in have not yet been charged.

About 100 people arrested the night of the riot were previously charged.

ICBC had offered to let police to use its driver licence photo database and facial recognition software to detect matches with photos of riot suspects – to the alarm of privacy watchdogs.

But ICBC officials said the VPD has so far made no such request.

Guilty plea in eHealth corruption

An ex-provincial bureaucrat who led B.C.’s troubled eHealth program has pleaded guilty to one charge of breach of trust.

Ron Danderfer, a former assistant deputy minister of health, faces a sentencing hearing July 14 for accepting benefits beyond what is permitted by government policy.

Three other charges of breach of trust and fraud against him are being dropped.

The eHealth initiative aimed to digitize and share health records across the province.

But it toppled into scandal when criminal charges were laid based on allegations a health technology contractor who wanted Danderfer to approve contracts for his firm offered him various income and benefits, as well as employment or trips for family members.

The contractor, Dr. Jonathan Alan Burns, was previously sentenced to three years probation and community service for two counts of offering to bribe a government official.

A third man charged in March 2010 in related events, Fraser Health network services manager James Roy Taylor, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Danderfer was suspended from his government job in 2007 and retired that year.

Because of the guilty plea the province will not pay Danderfer’s legal expenses. That’s in contrast to the $6 million in legal bills the province covered for Dave Basi and Bob Virk after their guilty pleas in the BC Rail corruption trial.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

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