Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

It may be time to start looking for higher ground, by Gerry Warner

It may be time to start looking for higher ground   
“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner
They say history never repeats itself, and after the long winter and cold spring we’ve had this year, we better hope it’s true because otherwise we could be facing an ominous possibility.
I’m talking about the Great Flood of 1894, now an almost forgotten chapter of BC history, but a calamity nevertheless that ravaged the entire Pacific Northwest more than a century ago and one that we could be on the brink of again in the next few weeks.
Even though this calamitous event is no longer in living memory you can read about it in the dusty annals of BC history and I’ve done just that and I’d like to share the results with you.
The document is called “Flooding and Landslide Events Southern British Columbia 1808 – 2006” by D. Septer and is an official BC Ministry of Environment document. On page 21, it says the following: “During the winter of 1893-94 record snowfalls were recorded in many of BC’s Interior mountains. The spring of 1894 was cold and wet. (Sound familiar?) Of the first 15 days in May, 10 were wet. In the remaining fortnight, there were 11 fine warm days . . .” And after a few rainy days, these were followed by even hotter days that extended into early June. And the result? “The greatest flood known to the early white man,” but not unknown to the aboriginal people of BC who lived in the province for hundreds of generations before. I now paraphrase the document.
“Almost all bridges were swept away near Chilliwack . . . Col. James Baker (that’s our Col. Baker, who was Provincial Secretary at the time) reported on the evening of June 4 he was able to pull in a boat up to the Queen’s Hotel (in Chilliwack)  . . . a series of washouts on the CPR line west of the Rocky Mountains severed train connections with eastern Canada for 41 days . . . in the Fort Steele District, four bridges were carried away . . . on account of the high water, about 150 Native Indians at the Saint Eugene Mission were unable to mine.”
And there’s more: “Kootenay Lake rose to unprecedented heights . . . the Kootenay River flooded all the bottomlands turning the country in (sic) one vast lake. A steamer could sail from the head of Kootenay Lake to 10 mi (16 km) south of the (American) boundary, a distance of 60 mi.”
The flood of 1894 also caused havoc around the province and the Lower Mainland. “Floods on the Columbia River were interrupting rail traffic at Golden . . . at Matsqui the water was up to the top of the telegraph poles . . . On May 31 in Vancouver, the Fraser River, with large amounts of debris, backed up into Burrard Inlet . . . mail from Vancouver and Victoria for eastern points were (sic) forwarded via San Francisco . . . all bridges on the Kettle river were lost” . . . And there was loss of life: “Workmen found a small raft floating on the Fraser River at Ruby Creek carrying the dead bodies of an entire family of five . . .”
Without trying to be unduly alarmist, what this shows is that floods are a fact of life in BC and no era is immune. Big rivers like the Fraser, Kootenay and Columbia have moderate floods every 20 to 30 years, major floods like the flood of 1948 every 50 years and catastrophic floods about once every 200 years. Back in 1894, BC was barely a province and the flood damage, though severe, would pale in comparison to the catastrophe it would cause today.
Consequently, the next six weeks are going to be critical. Look at the mountains. Above six thousand feet (1,828 meters) the snowpack has barely started to move. There was fresh snow at that level today (April 28) and the highway passes are still getting snow. The BC River Forecast Centre will issue its April snowpack report early in May and that report will be critical. If it shows the snowpack level high or extreme, we’re facing the possibility of a massive province-wide flood that can only be prevented by alternating periods of warn and cool weather that will let the snowpack melt gradually.
But if we get a prolonged heat wave in the next six weeks call me Noah and I will be looking for high ground.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and sometimes historian with a special interest in rivers and streams.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Provincial election all-candidates forum brings surprises, by Gerry Warner

Provincial election all-candidates forum brings surprises
“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner
After Tuesday’s all-candidates forum at the Key City Theatre we know at least one thing about the four candidates in the race – they all favour the legalization of marijuana and don’t seem to have any qualms about its commercialization either.
However, the candidates did differ on other issues in a surprisingly upbeat forum attended by almost 200 local residents.
MSP health care premiums was one of the issues that provoked some interesting debate, which wasn’t surprising considering that BC is the only province left in Canada still charging the notorious tax which enriches provincial coffers by more than $2 billion every year.
Libertarian candidate Keith Komar jumped into this one with both feet, exclaiming “Ha, we’re the party of cutting taxes. That’s our thing,” which was easy for him to say considering his party’s unlikely chances of winning any seats in the upcoming election May 9.
Liberal candidate Tom Shypitka, who has to be considered the frontrunner in the Kootenay East race, was a little more circumspect on this issue which has a direct financial effect on every person in the constituency. Shypitka said the Liberals will end the premiums eventually “if the economy runs right.” Nothing like qualifying your promises.
NDP candidate Randal Macnair and Yvonne Prest of the Greens were more forthright on this money-laden issue saying flat out they would get rid of the hated tax that no other Canadians pay. Both said they considered MSP premiums “regressive” but admitted other tax increases would have to be considered to offset lost medical care premiums.
And so it went for two hours with all the candidates empathizing how the ideologies of their particular parties would shape their stands on the issues of the day. Shypitka spoke about the strong BC economy and how the Christy Clark government recently brought down its fifth consecutive balanced budget. Prest responded that was all fine and good but added “a healthy economy yes, but at the cost of our environment, no.”
BC Liberal fund-raising practices, which are now being investigated by the RCMP, also came up for discussion. Macnair said BC was getting a bad reputation internationally from the millions in corporate donations it was getting from companies inside and outside the province. “There’s no place for corporate or union funding in politics,” Macnair said, adding the New York Times recently called BC “the Wild West” of campaign donations.
Shypitka responded the NDP weren’t exactly blameless in this regard and recently received a $672,000 donation from the Steelworkers Union. Meanwhile the Liberals have started to list all their donations in “real time” on their party website and are the only BC party doing this, he said.
At one point the candidates were asked to say something “positive” about one of their opponents. Komar said the Liberals “tried hard” in bringing down balanced
budgets. Shypitka said he loved the Green Party “because they keep us in check.”  Prest said there are good values in every party “and that’s how things get done.” Macnair commented “we’re truly all in this together and that’s what makes politics work.”
At this point, the forum was almost starting to look like a love-in, a rare event in BC politics which is often called a “blood sport.” However, this quickly changed at the end when the candidates gave their final summaries. All of them were moderate in their remarks except for Shipitka, who launched into a Bill Bennett style rant claiming that when the NDP were in power in the 1990s BC became “a have-not province” and the economy was left in a mess. “We can’t afford to go back to that economy,” he said.
But Libertarian candidate Komar got in the final word saying Premier Clark may have brought in balanced budgets, but the provincial debt has soared to $65.3 billion under her leadership.  “That kind of math doesn’t work for me,” he said.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist who has covered more BC elections over the years than he would like to remember.