Monthly Archives: July 2019

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Richmond city council to review solutions to so-called ‘megahomes’ on farmland

The City of Richmond’s planning committee will meet on Tuesday to consider solutions to the ongoing problem of increasingly large luxury homes being built on farmland.

City councillors will be reviewing a city staff report, originally published Jan. 10, that suggests adopting one of four proposed bylaw changes that will finally put regulations on these so-called “megahomes.”

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“At one time, the biggest house you would see would be maybe 4,000 square feet, and that was considered big,” Richmond city councillor Harold Steves said. “Now it’s 20,000 [square feet], and the city staff just turned down an application for a 40,000-square-foot house with 21 bedrooms. Very few people have a family of 21 kids.

“We have to put an end to it, and I guess we’re going to start doing it here in Richmond if we can,” Steves, who is also a farmer, added.

At stake is the potential loss of some of the best farmland in B.C., which falls under the Agricultural Land Reserve. The problem is many of these homes are able to pass themselves off as farms despite not using any of their acreage for farming, avoiding taxes as a result.

“If [the property owners] can show that they’ve made $2,500 a year in farm produce – maybe renting [the work] to another farmer for a dollar – then they get farm taxes,” Steves said. “So they get a reduction in taxes, and they get to build these big houses and it simply destroys the farmland.”

Councillors argue a decision needs to be made sooner than later, as developers have been quick to realize that buying up farmland for development is significantly cheaper than city lots, creating another loophole in the midst of the real estate crisis.

“Last I heard, it was about $3-400,000 for an acre…it’s over a million dollars for a single-family lot in Richmond,” Richmond city councillor Linda McPhail said.

“The other part of that is, people may have money to buy that [farmland], but can farmers afford to pay $3-400,000 an acre for farmland? Does it make sense? And what we’re hearing from the farmers is it does not.”

The bylaw changes being proposed include limiting home sizes to roughly 5,400 square feet, as well as shrinking the maximum home plate (the area containing the main house and residences for farm workers). Homes would also be required to not exceed a distance of 50 metres from the road to the front door.

The report also suggests limits on spaces intended for farm workers. The bylaw change would allow additional rooms to be built for farm workers only, meaning estates could potentially be built to current, unregulated levels as long as homeowners can prove the space is being used for staff, rather than what Steves suspects is for illegal hotels or short-term rentals.

READ MORE: Richmond’s short-term rental ban could be tough to enforce: expert

The staff report suggests that Richmond implementing a bylaw is necessary after repeated calls for the province to implement its own regulations fell on deaf ears.

In 2013, despite repeated calls from Richmond and other Lower Mainland cities to impose more strict, province-wide regulations, the Ministry of Agriculture instead released a set of guidelines for municipalities to use in drafting their own bylaws on farmland home size.

The Richmond report suggests this was a mistake, as “guidelines are unenforceable and may be inconsistently applied.”

Richmond is hardly the first municipality to try and implement stricter regulations on farmland development: Delta, Port Coquitlam and Surrey have already passed such bylaws, despite vocal opposition from developers and the homeowners who hire them.

The City knows it will face similar opposition, but feels the time has come to make a change, if only to protect the rich farmland in danger of being lost.

“We [Richmond] are one climatic zone warmer than anywhere else in Canada, and we have by far the best soils of anywhere else in Canada,” Steves said. “And that’s the land that’s being threatened.”

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NB terminally ill teen recreates favourite fairy tale, checks wish off bucket list

A Riverview, N.B. teen battling terminal brain cancer – whose request that people perform acts of kindness went global – has checked another item off her bucket list by recreating her favourite fairy tale.

READ MORE: New Brunswick teen with terminal cancer gets wish – #BeccaToldMeTo goes global

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Surrounded by a large crowd of community supporters, Becca Schofield launched several Chinese lanterns along the Riverview waterfront, trying to replicate a scene from the Disney movie, Tangled. In the scene, the movie’s entire kingdom sends lanterns into the air as the main characters, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, sing the movie’s theme song I See the Light.

“I wanted to let go of Chinese lanterns. But an event like this, I just did not expect,” said 17-year-old Schofield.

More than a thousand friends, family, fellow high school students and even strangers gathered to watch Schofield send the lanterns into the sky.

“To see that the community came together and made it happen for her and then they added the fireworks, which was amazing … She is going to have a glow on her face for days now from this,” said Schofield’s mother Anne.

WATCH: A Riverview teenager battling terminal brain cancer got to realize one of her wishes Thursday night. Surrounded by a large crowd, Becca Schofield launched Chinese lanterns to recreate a scene from her favourite Disney movie. Global’s Shelley Steeves reports.

The event was organized by several community groups, including Riverview High School and the local firefighters association, said Riverview firefighter Captain David Candy.

“It was about fulfilling a wish for Becca,” Candy said. “[She] has done so much not only locally but nationally and globally.”

#BeccaToldMeTo

Schofield’s request before the holidays had asked that people use the hashtag #BeccaToldMeTo when they performed acts of kindness.

READ MORE: #BeccaToldMeTo – Riverview teen with terminal cancer asks people to perform acts of kindness

Her friend Danielle Gregoire said since making her wish, Schofield has inspired goodness around the world.

“I am amazed every time another story comes out and I share it and I am like, my best friend is changing the world right now,” Gregoire said.

Schofield said to see so many people gather together to support her and her family was overwhelming.

“Pretty amazing to see the power that kindness can do. You just got to open your heart.”

Becca Schofield, a 17-year-old Riverview, N.B. teenager battling terminal brain cancer, holds a pillow with a hashtag she asked people to use on social media when they performed acts of kindness in her honour.

Anne Schofield/Facebook

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Earthquakes in Canada: The impact of climate change on seismic activity

Natural disasters are expected to increase as climate change pushes global temperatures higher, and some scientists believe earthquakes will also become more frequent.

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    “An earthquake fault that is primed and ready to go is like a coiled spring … all that is needed to set it off is – quite literally – the pressure of a handshake,” scientist Bill McGuire, author of Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, wrote in the Guardian last fall.

    READ MORE: Scientists not alarmed by growing crack in Antarctic ice shelf… yet

    A warmer world prompting heavy masses of ice to melt, and heavier rains to fall, could trigger that activity, the theory goes.

    “The heavy rain induces thousands of landslides and severe erosion, which removes ground material from the Earth’s surface, releasing the stress load and encouraging movement along faults,” said Shimon Wdowinski, lead researcher of a 2011 study that found earthquakes tend to follow tropical cyclones.

    Already in 2017 a 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled Nunavut, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake was recorded off the coast of B.C, and a 2.7 magnitude quake shook Nova Scotia.

    While many parts of the country are prone to seismic activity, experts say Canadians shouldn’t worry about their city or town suddenly becoming a earthquake hot spot due to a warmer atmosphere.

    Thousands of earthquakes annually

    Earthquakes rattle Canada thousands of times every year —; there are an estimated 2,500 annually in Western Canada alone. Thanks to the Internet, social media and apps, we’re now more aware of the activity that has always commonly occurred.

    “A lot of people think there’s suddenly an increase but it’s just that they’re getting a lot more coverage than they used to,” said Alison Bird, earthquake seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada.

    Climate change, “won’t generally cause more earthquakes to happen,” Bird said.

    A map showing all the earthquakes to strike Canada over a month-long period – Dec. 15, 2016 to Jan. 15, 2017.

    Natural Resources Canada

    “No, climate change will not result in increased earthquake activity,” agreed Gail Atkinson, professor of earth sciences at Western University, in an email to Global News.

    However, in the North adjustments to the changing landscape has prompted some seismic activity, Bird said.

    “The glaciers receded from the last ice age, which was considerable time ago —; we’re talking about thousands of years,” said Bird. “Because the weight of those glaciers receding has been lifted, the ground is slowly moving up after having that weight removed from it, and you can have earthquakes because of that sort of thing. They tend to be quite small.”

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    While there may be more small events, Canada’s sparsely-populated Arctic is unlikely to suddenly see massive seismic activity.

    “Climate change is not something that just started,” noted Christie Rowe, assistant professor in earth and planetary sciences at McGill University.

    READ MORE: Thousands of lakes forming in Antarctica raises concern

    “All the earthquake patterns that we know of are basically [from] the last century. So the patterns that we know of are already happening in the climate changing world.”

    Drop, cover and hold on

    Because of a subduction zone along the coast, British Columbia is prone to “the largest earthquakes in the world, the mega-stress earthquakes with tsunami,” said Bird.

    Those massive earthquakes, often called “the big one”, happen every few hundred years. The last one to strike along the B.C. coast was on Jan. 26, 1700.

    READ MORE: Does recent seismic activity indicate an earthquake coming to BC?

    Earthquakes on the smaller scale —; 4.5 or 5 in magnitude —; can cause some damage, particularly in areas where infrastructure was not designed with quakes in mind. The “big one” would be a 9.

    While Canada is seldom struck by catastrophic earthquakes, experts agree Canadians from coast to coast should be prepared.

    “You can argue that it’s very unlikely that someone in Saskatchewan is going to experience a damaging earthquake in their lifetime, but it’s not just for where they live, but where they play,” said Bird.

    WATCH: Earthquake simulator aims to shock and educate 

    Bird encourages drill exercises in all provinces and territories —; drop, cover and hold on.

    “When you’re in a stressful situation your brain doesn’t function properly, and your instinct is to run. Running is one of the worst things you can do in an earthquake.”

    Earthquakes are pretty much impossible to predict, Simon Fraser University earth sciences department chair Brent Ward told Global News last month.

    “All we can do is prepare. People should have a plan, because they’re not going to be able to use their cellphones. Have a plan about where to meet and what to do in this situation, and have an earthquake kit,” Ward said.

    READ MORE: Experts say Vancouver Island will rip open like a zipper when overdue earthquake hits

    Many parts of Canada are prone to seismic activity.

    According to the Geological Survey of Canada and Natural Resources Canada, there is a 30 per cent chance that B.C. will see an earthquake strong enough to cause significant damage in the next 50 years.

    Ground shake, landslides, tsunami and fire would ensue.

    The region spanning from the St. Lawrence River in Quebec to the Ottawa Valley —; which includes Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa —; has a five to 15 per cent chance of a major earthquake over the next half century.

    With a file from Jill Slattery

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Donald Trump’s team considers moving White House press room out of West Wing

President-elect Donald Trump‘s team could move the White House press briefing room from the West Wing to another location that accommodates more media from around the country, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday.

Esquire magazine reported on Saturday that the Trump administration planned to relocate White House reporters from the press room to the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building next door.

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Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Priebus said the team discussed moving news conferences out of the small West Wing briefing room to the Old Executive Office, which is part of the White House complex. He said no decision had been made.

READ MORE: CIA boss John Brennan rips into Donald Trump over 桑拿会所, Russia

“I know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this, and I understand,” Priebus said. “The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press … the press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny.”

WATCH: New concerns arise over Donald Trump’s ties to Russia

“So no one is moving out of the White House. That is the White House, where you can fit four times the number of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country … That’s what we’re talking about.”

Such a move would mark a potential change in access for reporters as the current briefing room is only steps from the Oval Office. The White House Conference Center had been used as a temporary press room during the George W. Bush administration.

The current press room has about 49 seats. Trump has long had contentious relations with what he refers to derisively as the “mainstream media,” banning some news outlets during the presidential campaign and publicly criticizing individual reporters.

READ MORE: Canada must stay nimble in Donald Trump era: economic adviser

Those tensions escalated last week after some news organizations reported unsubstantiated allegations that suggested the president-elect could be blackmailed by Russia.

The White House Correspondents’ Association objected in a statement to “any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” and said that it would fight to keep the briefing room and access to senior administration officials open. Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent, is president of the WHCA.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said there was a “tremendous” amount of interest in the incoming administration.

WATCH: Trump ramps up his war with the media as allegations of Russian ties continue to mount

“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said.

The briefing room was built in 1970 by Richard Nixon over an old swimming pool installed by Franklin Roosevelt that was used regularly by John F. Kennedy but underutilized by later administrations. But the presence of reporters at the White House dates back even farther.

In addition to theater-style seats where the White House press secretary conducts daily briefings, the press area of the White House includes workspace for television, radio, print and online news organizations that cover the administration on a daily basis. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Caren Bohan and Meredith Mazzilli)