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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)

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Thousands attend Bernie Sanders rally in show of support for Obamacare

WARREN, Mich. – Thousands of people showed up in freezing temperatures on Sunday in Michigan where Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Americans to resist Republican efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, one of a number of rallies Democrats staged across the country to highlight opposition.

Labour unions were a strong presence at the rally in a parking lot at Macomb County Community College in the Detroit suburb of Warren, where some people carried signs including “Save our Health Care.”

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Lisa Bible, 45, of Bancroft, Michigan said she has an auto immune disease and high cholesterol. She says the existing law has been an answer to her and her husband’s prayers, but she worries that if it’s repealed her family may get stuck with her medical bills.

“I’m going to get really sick and my life will be at risk,” she said.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to overturn and replace the Affordable Care Act and majority Republicans in Congress this week began the process of repealing it using a budget manoeuvr that requires a bare majority in the Senate.

“This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. It is time we got our national priorities right,” Sanders told the Michigan rally.

The law has delivered health coverage to about 20 million people but is saddled with problems such as rapidly rising premiums and large co-payments.

WATCH: Congressman Mike Coffman leaves town hall meeting early after huge crowd of constituents shows up to speak out against repeal of the Affordable Care Act

Britt Waligorski, 31, a health care administrator for a dental practice, said she didn’t get health insurance through work but has been covered through the health law for three years. While the premiums have gone up, she said she is concerned that services for women will be taken away if it is repealed.

READ MORE: Obamacare repeal vote passes in U.S. House of Representatives

“It’s done a lot for women for their annual checkups, for mammograms —; women’s health in general. If this gets repealed, we’re going to go back to the old days when that’s not covered,” she said.

The health law has provided subsidies and Medicaid coverage for millions who don’t get insurance at work. It has required insurers to cover certain services such as family planning and people who are already ill, and has placed limits on the amount that the sick and elderly can be billed for health care.

WATCH: Bernie Sanders warns U.S. Senate that ‘many thousands’ will die if they repeal Obamacare

Sanders, a strong supporter of the law, made several visits to the state last year during the Michigan primary and defeated Hillary Clinton in the state. But in a major surprise, Michigan narrowly voted for Trump on Nov. 8, the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1988.

Rallies in some other cities in support of the health law also were well attended. Police estimated about 600 people showed up in Portland, Maine. Hundreds also attended a rally in Newark, New Jersey.

READ MORE: States move to protect birth control options before Donald Trump repeals Obamacare

Republicans want to end the fines that enforce the requirement that many individuals buy coverage and that larger companies provide it to workers.

But they face internal disagreements on how to pay for any replacement and how to protect consumers and insurers during a long phase-in of an alternative.

WATCH: Thousands rally across the U.S. in support of Obamacare. Claudia Rupcich reports.

Mark Heller, 45, a civil rights, immigration and labour attorney who drove to the Michigan event from Toledo, Ohio, said that stopping Republicans from repealing the law may take more than attending rallies.

“I think that it’s going to take civil disobedience to turn this around because they have the votes in both the Senate and the House, and the president,” he said.

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Virtual demo at Mewata Armoury creates realistic battlefield scenarios

A computer simulation exercise called Virtual Scout was conducted at the Mewata Armoury Sunday.

The command post exercise, conducted by the King’s Own Calgary Regimen (KOCR), creates realistic battlefield scenarios to help soldiers prepare for upcoming training events. It focuses on “route and zone reconnaissance.”

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    “They will practice their basic crew skills in this environment, so they are able to re-find those skills prior to going out into the field later this spring,” Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hunt, commanding officer of the KOCR, said.

    “They will see a virtual replica of what they would see on the battlefield. So they will see other armoured vehicles and explosions. They are able to practice their communication skills and use a radio. Crew commanders will be able to give their gunners gunnery commands prior to getting into the real vehicles and going into the field.”

    Captain Brandon Frizzell said it’s also a cost effective training program and gives soldiers the opportunity to practice basic skills in a controlled environment first.

    “We can follow our crawl-walk-run mentality and practice the basics here, before going out into the elements and increasing the difficulty,” Captain Frizzell said.

    “Taking what these guys are doing here right now, in terms of controlling their vehicles … in a scenario like this, is significantly easier than doing it out in the field when it’s -30 C and it’s snowing and the elements play a huge part in the difficulty of controlling soldiers.”

    Cpl Hunt said, “It’s gotten more realistic and I think for anyone that has experience with computer software and computer games, the graphics have gotten better, there’s more complexity, it’s able to model things more accurately, and so that has progressed with the training simulators over time as well.”

    The King’s Own Calgary Regiment is a reserve armoured unit that is part of 41 Canadian Brigade Group in 3rd Canadian Division. The Regiment trains armoured fighting vehicle crews of part-time professional soldiers.

    There are two armoured reconnaissance squadrons. ‘A’ Squadron is based in Calgary at Mewata Armoury, and ‘B’ Squadron is now recruiting in Foothills communities and is based near Okotoks and High River.

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Should authorities in B.C. ‘name and shame’ alleged drunk drivers?

British Columbia already has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country, but would naming and shaming alleged impaired drivers act as an even stronger deterrent?

In Ontario, the Durham Regional Police Service has taken to publishing the names of those accused of driving under the influence.

Bob Rorison, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Metro Vancouver, thinks it’s time authorities in B.C. consider a similar strategy.

“If public shaming will work and it’s legal, let’s use it,” he said.

WATCH: Ontario police posting alleged drunk drivers names on the web

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Defence lawyer Paul Doroshenko has concerns about naming people suspected of driving under the influence, since under the law they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“More innocent peopled are charged with that offence than any other offence in the country,” he said. “There are a lot of innocent people who go through that process of being charged with that offence.

“Should they be stigmatized as well by the police going out and publishing their names and publicizing it? I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Social media analyst Jesse Miller said even if a suspect is found not guilty in court, posting charges online means an innocent person could face a different verdict in the court of public opinion.

READ MORE: 3 B.C. cities make top 10 drunk driving list

“The scary part here is that once you do publish something online, it is part of their dossier online for the rest of their lives,” he said. “How do you directly impact their career?”

In a statement to Global News, the Ministry of Public Safety said:

“British Columbia’s tough drinking and driving penalties take alcohol-affected drivers off the road immediately and are a serious financial deterrent.

“Public humiliation is not considered an effective way to change behaviours around drinking and driving.”

– With files from Rumina Daya

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Nazi camp excavations unearth link to Anne Frank

JERUSALEM – Researchers excavating the remains of one of the most notorious Nazi death camps have uncovered a pendant that appears identical to one belonging to Anne Frank, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial said Sunday.

Yad Vashem says it has ascertained the pendant belonged to Karoline Cohn – a Jewish girl who perished at Sobibor and may have been connected to the famous diarist. Both were born in Frankfurt in 1929, and historians have found no other pendants like theirs.

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The triangular piece found has the words “Mazal Tov” written in Hebrew on one side along with Cohn’s date of birth. The other side has the Hebrew letter “heh,” an initial for God, as well as three Stars of David.

READ MORE: Anne Frank may not have been betrayed to Nazis: new study

Researchers are now trying to reach out to any remaining relatives of the two to confirm whether they were related.

Since 2007, the Israel Antiquities Authority, together with Yad Vashem, has been conducting excavations at the former camp in Poland in a novel approach to Holocaust research. The camp was destroyed after an October 1943 uprising, with the Nazis levelling it and planting over it to cover up their crimes. Yet, archeologists have managed to uncover the gas chamber foundations and the original train platform.

More than 250,000 Jews were killed in Sobibor, in eastern Poland, one of the most extreme examples of the Nazi “Final Solution” to eradicate European Jewry. Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen camp, in northern Germany, in 1945.

Unlike other facilities that had at least a facade of being prison or labour camps, Sobibor and the neighbouring camps Belzec and Treblinka were designed specifically for exterminating Jews. Victims were transported there in cattle cars and gassed to death almost immediately.

“These recent findings from the excavations at Sobibor constitute an important contribution to the documentation and commemoration of the Holocaust, and help us to better understand what happened at Sobibor, both in terms of the camp’s function and also from the point of view of the victims,” said Havi Dreifuss, of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.

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Injured Calgary paramedic highlights risks first responders face every day

A Calgary paramedic is undergoing surgery on Monday, after a dangerous takedown at a home in the community of Parkhill last week.

Three paramedics were allegedly assaulted while treating an apparent drug overdose.

According to Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the patient became violent and one paramedic had their finger broken. All three practitioners remain off-duty, recuperating from various injuries.

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“One practitioner will be requiring surgical repair to a significantly injured finger. The injuries obviously resulted in that physical altercation. The other two practitioners still remain off-duty,” Adam Loria, with EMS, said.

It happened in the 3900 block of Stanley Road S.W. at around 8 a.m.

READ MORE: Suspect in custody after 3 paramedics injured during southwest Calgary medical call

EMS said incidents like this are a reminder of the unique risks their first responders face every day.

“That scene turned unsafe very quickly,” Loria said. “It happens and yes it’s an inherent part of our job and we do our best to mitigate it, but we do work in a very dangerous environment and things can happen in a moment’s notice.”

Loria said paramedics take a non-violent crisis intervention course when they’re hired but they also work closely with law enforcement and the dispatch centre to ensure the scenes are safe to the best of their ability.

EMS said all involved will have full support as a result of any traumatic event.

WATCH BELOW: An attack on paramedics, a lengthy standoff with police, and dramatic video showing how it ended. Mia Sosiak has more on a frightening incident in the southwest neighbourhood of Parkhill.

A man is facing criminal charges after the incident, Calgary police said Thursday.

“We believe it was a heroin overdose,” Staff Sgt. Peter Siegenthaler said. “EMS initially attended to check on him. A family member called us.”

Police said the investigation is ongoing and such incidents happen “frequently” for first responders.

“A medical distress call can easily turn into a struggle,” Siegenthaler said.

“We try to de-escalate it at any point, but it happens more often than we think that emergency personnel, fire, police and EMS get assaulted. That does happen.”

EMS have not confirmed how long the three practitioners will be off-duty for.

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Edmonton PC leadership debate draws hundreds with Jason Kenney vowing to unite the right

The gloves came off at Alberta’s Progressive Conservative leadership debate Sunday, with three candidates telling former Conservative MP Jason Kenney his plan to unite with the right-leaning Wildrose is cynical and a shortsighted folly.

About 650 people attended the debate where candidates Stephen Khan, Jason Kenney, Byron Nelson and Richard Starke sold their vision for the Tories.

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“Folks, this is a hostile takeover of our Progressive Conservative party,” candidate Stephen Khan told those attending the debate at a southside Edmonton hall, to a smattering of cheers and boos.

PC legislature member Richard Starke referred to Kenney as “the career politician” and said political parties have to be about principles and not simply “a quest for power.”

“The career politician is focused on the next election, but I am focused on what happens after that,” Starke said, the MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster.

Kenney is the only one of the four candidates running on a platform to dissolve the party and seek a merger with the fellow right-centre Wildrose party.

Kenney said vote splitting is harming the conservative movement and allowing Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP to come up the middle to victory to implement policies that are hurting families, killing jobs and stifling initiative.

Kenney told the crowd Alberta “is the beating heart of free enterprise in Canada and we cannot afford to have that beating heart stilled by an ideological socialist government.”

The Wildrose party began more than a decade ago as a splinter group of provincial Tories disaffected with a party they believed had become fiscally wasteful, was governed from the top down and didn’t respect private land rights.

While Kenney said he believes all conservatives share core values of limited government and free enterprise, the other candidates say the social conservatism of the Wildrose makes it a poor fit for their big-tent party.

“I can’t stand by and allow our conservative family to be torn apart by the contrived and hollow promise of unity,” Khan said.

“(It’s) an undertaking that will not only result in four more years of NDP rule but will surely be the end of the party that (former PC premier) Peter Lougheed built.”

Candidate Byron Nelson, a Calgary lawyer, agreed, saying a merger is “an unrealistic, unworkable plan that will only lead to the destruction of the party and the re-election of the NDP.”

Party members will convene March 18 in Calgary to select a new leader in a delegated convention.

The idea has exposed divisions in the Wildrose. Leader Brian Jean is taking a wait-and-see approach, while finance critic Derek Fildebrandt is openly pushing for a merger.

The PC party was ousted from its 44-year-long rule to third party status by Rachel Notley’s NDP party in the May 2015 provincial election. The late Jim Prentice stepped down after losing the election, and Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver became interim leader.

with files from