Archive for March, 2019

Temporary stadium no easy ride for Lions’ fans

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

"When it was overcast, the fans were snotty. All you heard was, why don’t they have a better facility? Or comfortable chairs? How about someplace where you don’t get rained on or covered in pigeon guano?"

– Bob Ackles, talking about Empire Stadium, in his biography, The Water Boy

With a respectful nod to late B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles, Friday’s blustery, autumnal weather was a reminder that a return to outdoor football and old-timey touches might take some getting used to for the modern fan.

The 27,500-seat temporary stadium at Empire Fields that will be used by the Lions for the 2010 season and possibly half of the 2011 Canadian Football League schedule is a throwback to simpler times. In truth, however, complications abound in the return to the dreamy football field of memory at the corner of Hastings and Cassiar, which was the team’s home from 1954 to 1983.

The move, made necessary by the $458-million refit to BC Place, will require thousands of fans to change the transportation patterns they’ve used for the past quarter century. According to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis, about 30 per cent of fans traditionally took SkyTrain directly to Stadium-Chinatown station, a short walk from BC Place. Now, those spectators will have to consider taking alternate bus routes, carpooling, ride sharing, walking or cycling to football games.

As a cold wind and rain sprinkles stirred ghosts of Empire’s past, Jarvis, Pacific National Exhibition president and CEO Michael McDaniel and Lions president Dennis Skulsky held a joint news conference at parking lot 16, across from the stadium, stressing the need for new commuting habits.

"This isn’t on a rapid transit line," Jarvis said. "We’re certainly trying to remind people that buses moved people effectively in and out of here when figure skating was on at the Olympics. It worked. So we don’t want people to think the bus alternative isn’t effective."

The first test is scheduled for Sunday, June 20, five days after the facility is handed over by the PNE, when the Lions play the Edmonton Eskimos in a pre-season game. McDaniel said the stadium will have 150 Port-a-Potties and another 13 washroom trailers, fully plumbed with hot and cold running water, strategically located around the stadium.

McDaniel said the stadium will open two hours before game time so fans can learn the ins and outs of the new park, where it won’t be tough to maintain that old-time feel.

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Here are some bus routes suggested by TransLink to get to games at Empire Fields:

No. 10 from downtown Vancouver or Kootenay Loop

No. 135 from Burrard Station or Burnaby

No. 28 from Phibbs Exchange (North Vancouver) or from Gilmore SkyTrain Station

No. 16 from downtown or 29th Avenue SkyTrain Station to Hastings and Renfrew

Rideshare (visit: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛ride-share.ca to register)

Coast Mountain Bus Company provides "special event" shuttle buses to 29th Avenue Station after each game

Want Google’s help finding a way on Transit? Click here and replace the default departure point with your address.

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HST petition reaches referendum target

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

With just six weeks to go for those campaigning against the BC Harmonized Sales Tax, organizers are claiming an early victory, with 83 of 85 ridings reporting at least 10% signature threshold.

Elections BC requires 10% of the population sign petition to trigger a referendum.

Fight HST organizers believe they’ll reach 15% in all ridings by the second week of June.

“There is nothing more to wait for,” says Fight HST lead organizers Chris Delaney. “There is no need for a referendum, no need for more delays and wasting of taxpayers’ time and money. The petition has become a referendum.”

Delaney says the petition’s success makes it clear British Columbians don’t want the HST.

Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm wants the BC government to cancel the HST immediately.

“The people of BC are waiting for you to act on their behalf,” says Vander Zalm. “Failure to do so will result in you becoming the first premier in Canadian history to be fired by the people in a Recall.”

Vander Zalm was BC Premier from 1986 to 1991, but was forced to resign for conflict of interest.

The anti-HST petition will be submitted on July 5 to Elections BC, which will have 42 days to check the petition.

Once the petition is validated, Fight HST hopes the legislature will reconvene in September to vote on the bill to repeal the HST.

Vander Zalm says if the BC government votes it down or tries to play games by delaying it or going to a costly and time wasting referendum, then his organization will immediately begin recalls in selected ridings.

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Harper heads to Europe for G20, G8 setup meetings

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper jets to Europe next week for separate meetings about the global fiscal crisis with the leaders of Great Britain and France.

Harper, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will likely spend a significant amount of time discussing the crisis prompted by the near financial collapse of Greece. The country’s debt problems have prompted fears of another global credit squeeze.

The meetings will also be a chance for Harper to build some consensus on some policy objectives with two key European leaders ahead of next month’s G20 and G8 summits, which Canada is hosting in Toronto and in Huntsville, Ont., respectively.

"Both the United Kingdom and France are important members of the G8 and G20 and (Harper) intends to raise with both leaders his view that the G20 summit should focus on recovery from the global economic and financial crisis," Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, told reporters Friday.

One key issue for the G20 summit to resolve is whether there should be some kind of levy applied globally to banks and financial services companies that could be used to pay for any future bank bailouts.

Sarkozy and Cameron favour this idea but Harper is vehemently opposed to it.

"There is general agreement with the principle that taxpayers should not bear the costs of rescuing the financial sector," said Soudas. "But there are obviously different opinions within the G20 on the issue of a bank tax or a levy. Countries have varied approaches for dealing with the cost of the financial crisis. As we’ve said all along, there is no one-size-fits-all solution."

Earlier this month, Harper sent a letter to all G20 leaders asking, when they come to Toronto at the end of June, they be prepared to commit to some benchmarks on the fiscal health of their national governments.

Harper, along with many other world leaders and central bankers, is worried that rising debt and deficits of some of the world’s largest economies will derail the global economic recovery.

"We now need to reassure markets not just that we’ve been prepared to intervene when we had to, but that governments can run responsible and sustainable balances over the long term," Harper wrote. "The levels of deficit and debt in many countries are reaching levels that markets judge to be unsustainable."

A senior Canadian government official involved in the discussions with other countries on the fiscal crisis said Harper’s letter appears to have struck the right note with G20 members.

"Certainly the feedback from finance deputy ministers and (G20) sherpas has been very positive on Prime Minister Harper’s letter," said the official. "The identification of the need to elaborate clear and more credible fiscal consolidation plans is increasingly recognized."

Sherpas are designated bureaucrats or emissaries who represent each G20 leader in talks leading up to the actual summit.

Harper will be the first foreign leader that Cameron will meet as prime minister, a role he took over on May 11 after his country’s May 6 general election. He leads a coalition government of Conservatives – Cameron’s party – and Liberal Democrats.

Harper has met Cameron before, as the leader of the British Parliament’s opposition.

World leaders, central bankers, and financial investors have been concerned about the fiscal probity of countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, but there are also concerns that giants like the U.S. and Japan must also provide credible assessments of their return to sustainable government fiscal policies.

"We can confront our fiscal challenge with clear and realistic plans for fiscal consolidation, or we can wait for markets to dictate the terms for us," Harper wrote.

Harper departs for Europe next Wednesday. He will meet Cameron on Thursday over lunch at 10 Downing Street and will meet Sarkozy the next day in Paris. He returns to Ottawa Friday evening.

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Sod turned on Circle Drive South project

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Nearly a century after a ring road in Saskatoon was first discussed, work has begun on the last piece of Circle Drive.

On a rainy Friday morning, Mayor Don Atchison was joined in Diefenbaker Park by Premier Brad Wall and Conservative MP Stockwell Day at the official sod turning for the Circle Drive South project. At a total estimated cost of $288 million, it is far and away the most expensive public project ever in Saskatoon.

“This is a moment in history,” said Atchison.

“The Circle Drive South project, including the new south bridge, will finally make Circle Drive a complete circle. It will allow our citizens get to where they need to go faster and more efficiently, and connect our east and west end communities. With tremendous support from the federal and provincial governments, we have improved the connectivity and cultural well-being of our city, now and into the future.”

Cost of the project is being shared between the federal government ($96 million), the provincial government ($98.5 million), the City of Saskatoon ($93 million) and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park ($200,000).

The South Bridge project includes:

– A bridge across the South Saskatchewan River north of the CN bridge;

– Seven kilometres of four-lane freeway leading up to the bridge; the bridge will be six lanes;

– Interchanges at Idylwyld Freeway, Lorne Avenue and Valley Road;

– Once the city’s population hits 250,000, the bridge is expected to carry close to 30,000 vehicles per day;

– Benefits include an estimated 35 per cent reduction in traffic on the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge during afternoon rush hour;

– Some truck traffic would be diverted off 22nd Street West.

“This is one more step the provincial government is taking to support the growth of our major urban centres,” said Wall.

“This massive project will improve the flow of traffic in and around Saskatoon, improve efficiency for shippers to connect with national and international trade routes, reduce congestion and enhance safety.”

Among the benefits being touted by government officials are shorter commuting distances and a 35-per-cent reduction in traffic on the Sid Buckwold Bridge during afternoon rush hour.

City council in March awarded the contract to build the bridge, freeway and interchanges to joint-venture Graham Construction-Flatiron Construction Corp. for a guaranteed $224 million, a price estimated to be between $30 million and $40 million under budget.

The price was also $47 million less than any of the other bidders.

The new south bridge is expected to open October 1, 2012.

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