Dear John…Letter #2

Dear John.
It’s been a while since I last wrote an open letter to you – 16 months to be exact, and while so much has changed since then… a lot is sadly still the same.

First let me remark how refreshed you look in your recent ‘phone in questions only allowed’ press conference! One wouldn’t even guess we were in the midst of pandemic where many are still struggling to get by, businesses are closing in alarming numbers, parents are on edge with school reopening, and cases are rising daily. As you can see by my masked up photo on the side, I’m a little weary looking from harvesting crops, getting ready for winter and worrying about what cold and flu season will mean for my family and many other British Columbians this winter.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here, and I only have a short time before I have other things to take care of, so let me get to the clip that I think is the source of many British Columbians anger, surprise and disappointment right now.

First ( for those of you  who may not follow often), I’ve  already made clear my feelings on a snap election this fall in my most recent post here : https://lailayuile.com/2020/09/03/a-bc-election-during-the-pandemic-sure-why-not-they-keep-building-a-dam-with-no-foundation-too/

I also shared my views on how ridiculous it is for you to be jerking around the press and Elections BC, who is getting ready for an election we may or may not have. I didn’t really think you would try and instigate an election…you’ve said all along publicly its working, and reaffirmed this in a letter posted to the BC government website even when Weaver  stepped down to sit as an independent. Even your online influencers immediately started suggesting to everyone and anyone that an election was not a possibility unless the  BC Liberals or  BC Greens prompted one ( via a non confidence vote)

But then you answered Vaughn Palmers questions  in this press conference and everything changed. ( by phone, apparently its safe enough for regular people  to go to work and school  1 metre apart, but not to have reporters  masked and distanced at 2 metres at a microphone … maybe try sitting them in desks, facing forward, like Dr. Bonnie Henrys instructions for school kids )

Now John, I’m going to ask my readers to please watch this entire clip which is just over two minutes. And I am going to ask them to pay attention to your  answers on the CASA agreement with the Greens that allow you to be premier. I can’t even contain my disappointment and surprise at the hubris and arrogance here:

Wow.

So…poli-geeks who watched this will go “WOAH, game on bro!!”

People who are not actively watching or following politics will go: ” Wow, is he actually going to use a pandemic to break an agreement keeping him in power?”

It was a bit remarkable,  because within hours, the online  BC NDP influencers (who have been (rightfully) verbally slapping Trudeau and the Federal Liberals silly  for proroguing government so he can attempt inserting a poison pill into new legislation when the house convenes  to instigate an election and blame it on another party)…were now faced with their leader implying he would do the same thing. But they veered right into attack mode on the Greens, as expected.

Now that is loyalty… and blind partisanship… when followers  will  try to protect you John, from the same criticisms much of Canada has been tossing at Trudeau.

This is no time for an election unless you are an opportunist, pure and simple. British Columbians absolutely want you to focus on the present and future John… but when you openly express ways to justify getting out of an agreement you signed, you only increase cynicism. You literally just showed us that you would be willing to rip up an agreement.

You and your government are losing trust John, because you hoard information and focus on good in your pressers, while glossing over the not so good. And it is starting to show now.

Case in point is this graph released by Dr. Henry in her Thursday presser last week.

I’m not an epidemiologist, nor do I profess to be.

But research is something I do well and I also pay attention to the views and concerns of people outside my own. I do not live in an echo chamber, and you know this well. You acknowledged this years ago when you called me to chat. The charts above presented by Dr.Henry last Thursday show a different story from one told in pressers. I totally get that parties and banquet halls are harder to trace because of all the different people who don’t know each other there, and lack of names and contact numbers.. but letting the public know most kids under 19 are getting Covid from their own household contacts, might get people being more cautious. No parent wants to unknowingly infect their own child.

Letting people know that transmission is happening at work with people we know…. might have them acting more cautious. These numbers alone should not be discounted, and this data was largely not picked up on by a press that still has not remembered they have a duty as a journalist. In combination with the highly questionable cohorts model in full classes…. well… one doesn’t need to be a scientist, only a parent, to understand how fast germs travel in school.

I have to say though, I’m glad that a journalist finally asked Dr. Henry about Covid Long Haulers this week. I haven’t watched the video, but I did see Lizda Yuzda post this:

Well you might be wondering why this matters John, but in case our readers don’t know, let me expand on this. Across the world, there are increasing reports of those reported as ‘recovered’, who actually have long term impacts of Covid, that have become known as Long Haulers. For some its months of recovery where they cannot work, for others its intermittant flares not unlike those known to us with autoimmune conditions.

So.. for the 5000 plus people listed as recovered in BC, please tell us how many of those people are being followed for long term effects, and how many are unable to currently work? Because this is also what people deserve to know about.

Why, for the love of all the transparency you rightfully harassed the BC Liberals for, are you giving incomplete info on Covid 19 patients? If  you want people to comply,.give them the truth of risk in their own area. Daily. Weekly if need be.

It doesn’t help you, it hinders you, not unlike how forcing reporters to call in while expecting everyone else to go to work doesn’t help you either. For a party espousing to be of the working person, you are all acting more like the elite than Andrew ‘where did he go?’ Wilkinson is.

John, I strongly suspect there is  going to be a time this winter when the people of BC need a leader they can trust, and that will tell them the real deal… and that leader will likely be you.

I can tell you now though, that using this pandemic to justify an election no one wants, will work against you

I can guarantee it.

You will end up in another minority government and it may not work in the NDP’s favour this time.That is where  we are John.

We, the average people, have no patience for this right now.. We see California and Oregon burning.Many are treading water to stay afloat.Some have already given up, closing businesses even here in tourism driven Comox Valley. Your swing ridings will not work in your favour if your advisors are as out of touch as I think they are. ( and the record of NDP losses in BC over a decade supports this)

Don’t do it John. BC deserves better than this.

 

Best regards, Laila Yuile

 

** I leave you John, with this thread by a Green candidate. I do not know him,and have no knowledge of anything about him beyond this thread.  I am still not a member of any party. But this speaks so concisely as to why snap elections by any leader – Trudeau, Horgan  or anyone else – removes the average person from democratic process ,and why it is so offensive.

This isn’t right, and it isn’t what the people of BC voted for. It is the opposite of everything the NDP claim to stand for… and more

https://twitter.com/JamesVanCentre/status/1304158147628560385


 

A BC election during the pandemic? Sure why not – they keep building a dam with no foundation too.

If there is one thing we can all probably agree on, its that 2020 is pretty much a gongshow of things we never thought we would see, hear and in some cases, do.

After a fairly slow start to summer, daily reported  cases in BC have steadily crept up, doubling in around every two weeks at some points during the last two months. Recently we surpassed the 100 cases a day mark, and the lagging indicator of hospitalizations and those in ICU, is finally creeping up as well. As a result, Dr. Bonnie Henry has once again seriously urged everyone in BC, to return to small bubbles, to limit social interactions and activies to keep those who are vulnerable and elderly, safe.

That, all while sending thousands of kids back to school across BC, with little to no physical distancing in classes and hallways, and no masks required except in those high traffic areas or face to face learning, like an Educational Assistant and student interaction.

While partisan boosters have been outright stating the NDP will not be having an election this year,  in truth, both Elections BC and all parties are preparing for one. And when faced with direct questions, Premier Horgan has been jerking reporters around for weeks on this when asked, but today he did make a point of saying Elections BC can do it safely. And when questioned, Elections BC confirmed they are preparing for the possibility of an early, snap election.

Bob has more on this, here: https://thebreaker.news/news/fall-election-pondered/

So let me get this right…..

  • We are potentially facing a “surge” or second wave, with cases rising daily, hospitalizations increasing, ICU rising
  • We have just seen thousands of small businesses closed as a result of the first restrictions, which people are now increasingly starting to question why that had to happen when nearly everything is open now….with far more cases than we ever had this spring. Keep in mind, many small businesses and restaurants are mom and pop, or family owned and run. ( quite a few have closed in the valley here alone. )
  • We have thousands of people still out of work, companies laying off and restructuring to close outlets, parents are keeping kids home from school to protect family members who are vulnerable, or alternately, being forced to say tearful goodbyes to in person visits for who knows how long?  All while still being told to keep bubbles small which is impossible once school returns.
  • We have seniors and others still in long term care who were cruelly kept from seeing their loved ones while staff continue to bring in the virus, had a period of brief visitation ( not all families got this in time) and some are now being told they may not be able to visit again with rising cases.
  • We have a government that said it wasn’t safe to have all mla’s in the legislature, and have continued to refuse to allow reporters at press conferences this entire time, even distanced and masked, but continues to assert this is acceptable for students of all ages and teachers.

Could this government be so clueless as to call or instigate an election during the thick of this?

How does one reconcile this under these conditions we all must live by?

If  government expects teachers and students to make it work with no distancing , perhaps this government should get back to work, and make it work, and stick to the regular election schedule next year.

It’s my strong belief, that voters would be brutal to any party triggering a snap election.

No one I have spoken to agrees with it. In fact the suggestion it may happen elicits anger because of the obvious.

It smacks of being power hungry which is exactly why Clark got rightfully booted, and let’s not forget how narrow the last election result was. Everyone said I was crazy for suggesting a minority was the likely outcome and I was right.

The BC NDP have a demonstrated history of misreading both polls and the publics overall mood. We have seen this time and time again in every prior election I’ve followed since 2009ish, when even with ample and copious  ammunition against the BC Liberals, they couldn’t pull in the vote. And now, we have a perfect storm of evictions beginning because renters cant afford to pay their current rent and back pay on CERB.. or their regular pay.

We have rampant homelessness in every community, getting markedly worse in metro Van as people have fled west to escape winter on the streets elsewhere.

Opiod crisis is getting worse, not better.. the list goes on and on to the points above.

I get why Horgan would want an election now… he knows site C and the coming bills for this pandemic will be a perfect storm of discontent, particularly if this winter cold/ flu/covid season proves to be as bad as some think it will be. But if he wanted to show leadership, trying to hold a snap election in a pandemic while telling people to keep their bubble home and limit interactions is just wrong and selfish. It shows a complete lack of understanding how bad things are for a lot of people. And I think they will try to push the Greens to pull the plug on the CASA, which would be the stupidest thing they could do and political suicide as well.

The right thing to do right now is be honest about the game he is playing with the press and the public. Elections BC will not randomly spend money, book venues and look for staff in ridings unless someone gave them an indication it was a very real possibility.  And every poli-geek and reporter knows this.

Thats why the only option Horgan has now is to confirm he has no intention of breaking the CASA signed with the Greens. That would put all the jerking around he’s started to rest so he doesn’t blow his lead.

Screenshot_20200904-163934_Samsung Internet

I’m glad the NDP have been in power for this clusterfuck called Covid.  But I’m terribly disillusioned with all politicians and politics in general. We used to have the NDP’s help to file FOI’s to get info on government, especially if they were really expensive. Now, we can’t even get info out of government, because they have been breaking their own laws to keep people .. and the opposition… from getting FOI’s in a timely manner. https://www.burnabynow.com/b-c-government-breaking-law-in-extending-information-request-times-privacy-commissioner-1.24196499

You can read the full report here. Its not good. Adrian Dixs office and John Horgans are the worst offenders ( No surprise there with Meggs presence) https://www.oipc.bc.ca/special-reports/3459

This may not matter to most people, but this is something they promised to change, that they campaigned on . The BC Liberals were the most secretive government.. we thought. In that aspect, nothing has changed. And that’s tremendously disappointing.

And the latest on Site C, from Vaughn Palmers opinion piece, once again has Ralston pointing to the BC Liberals, as if they have forgotten that they made a choice to continue the dam, while pretending to supporters they were going to cancel it. https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-site-c-instability-issues-making-ndp-nervous-about-escalating-costs

“B.C. Hydro is going ahead with diverting the Peace River past Site C, despite not having decided how to fix a geological instability under the foundation for the giant earthfill dam itself.

Some work on the diversion is already underway, including dredging the approaches to the twin diversion tunnels, wet-testing of the tunnels themselves and construction of a large rock berm across the Peace..”

~snip~

” He ( Ralston) traced the problem back to the Liberals, who went ahead with construction after forestalling an independent review of Site C by the utilities commission.

“They signed off on a design that included geological risks,” Ralston told the house. “We are now facing geological risks in the design that the old government approved.”

Yeah  Bruce, we know Christy Clark approved a bad idea with no business case, in a geologically unstable portion of the valley. Many of us talked to you and your fellow MLA’s about this. You all agreed. It was brought up in the approvals, in expert presentations, and you all used that info against the Liberals time and time again.

But then your government went ahead, signing impact and benefits agreements, contracting agreements and a Tripartite land agreement to which the govt was a party to, in March, even before sending it to the BCUC for an expedited review. We knew then you werent going to approve it. There was never any intention of stopping it. There was only a show to appease the crowd.

And thats how we go to where we are today. There is no more pointing fingers when you had a chance to stop it, and chose not to. In hindsight now the public debt that would have come from stopping the dam, is a drop in the bucket of the forecast deficit for next years public accounts. Horgan has continued down the path of Dwight Ball since late 2017.  He is on his second minister on this file, who is also treading water. Everything I wrote in the last blog post before they approved Site C to continue, is coming back to haunt them. https://lailayuile.com/2017/11/13/the-billion-dollar-question-with-only-one-right-answer/

I still don’t think Horgan has the courage to do the right thing and stop the dam. Even with an untested and never used before design, even with no stable foundation to the dam itself and even with lives downstream.

But I would love to have them prove me wrong. https://lailayuile.com/the-case-to-stop-site-c-construction-links-news/

Just for once, I’d like to see a leader do the right thing, especially when he knows in his heart, he made the wrong decision…It’s the kind of leadership we really aren’t seeing anywhere right now.

** update for your daily dose of confusion.

This is from today’s press conference. There’s been increased transmissions at workplaces between coworkers…so of course now it makes sense to tell people it’s ok to be one metre instead of two….🤨

Reflections on Covid, the BCED back to school plan… and why we have to get it right.

Its 6 am in the morning and after grabbing a coffee, I’m sitting back in bed with my laptop propped on a pillow on my lap. It’s been 6 months since my kids went to school and looking back, opting not to send them in June at half capacity seems suddenly silly considering we are about to go back at full capacity in most areas of BC.

There is a lot on my mind with the arrival of September, school of course is at the top of the list, but there are a few other things on my mind as well. For my own ease of writing, I’m going to simply jump in and headline each one separately, starting with….

How the pandemic laid our social inequities bare
 

One thing I am thankful for about this entire experience, is how the pandemic stripped away everything and laid bare the state of our social supports in BC, and Canada, within our communities. Politicians everywhere talk a good line about funding education, funding families, but the truth of how things actually work quickly became apparent when schools closed and business closures began

Schools for example, have become de facto social service agencies and teachers are part time social workers. One of the first things every family was asked when called by classroom teachers or supports, was how things were at home: did you have enough food, was anyone out of work, did you need anything? Teachers became front line workers for many, the lifeline to food baskets and help where needed. Many may not be aware that the Vancouver Sun adopt a school initiative, is still a thing many schools depend on for funding things like bus passes for low income kids, breakfast programs to feed hungry kids not getting enough at home, lunch programs….etc. School isn’t just school, its a place that makes the difference for a lot of marginalized children. And to me, that speaks volumes to how ineffective and under funded social and family services continue to be funded in this country. And it speaks volumes to how we have become used to and accepting that this is how things are, not unlike how people on disability were stunned at the 2000 CERB in comparison to their monthly cheques. Nothing says ” You don’t matter” more than seeing millions of Canadians get more than you have been trying to survive on for years.

But now, CERB is coming to an end and people transitioned back to EI or one of the other three categories of benefits listed, all of which still tell me people making decisions in Ottawa have no clue whats going on out here in the real world. There are more than a few issues with this new stream of proposed benefits.

  1. many people were laid off already due to lack of work in the 2 weeks prior to the March 15th date listed for CERB beginning. Those people, despite asking, were not converted to CERB like everyone else who applied after March 15th, and were forced to use all their EI benefits first. While some have been able to go back to work, many have not due to physical distancing cutbacks and business closures, and have had to apply for CERB. Under the transition, some are being told they will not qualify for any of the new benefits as their EI hours entitlement has now been used up. Big fail.
  2. Parents who have kids in school and also live with elderly parents, or parents who don’t trust the shitty back to school plan the government here in BC came up with, who choose to keep their kids home to school online, and not to return to work, will lose their benefits. Choosing not to work, is not the same as having no work available. What kind of choice is this to make in a pandemic? The health of your family or work? Most families still require two incomes and single parents are faced with no choice but to go back to work…even if it isn’t the right choice for their kids.
  3. The government has now set the standard as $2000 a month being the minimum people can live on, which is pretty accurate, at least in BC where everything from rent to food to medical supplies is overpriced anyways, but moreso since this all started. It will be extraordinarily cruel to force those on disability to go back to their old rate. Its just wrong

If this prime minister had any sense, he would do away with the myriad of benefits like GST rebate and Child Tax credit etc, and convert CERB into a UBI – universal basic income. One payment would streamline bureaucratic offices and do away with multiple redundancies. It could be managed through CRA and Service Canada, based on prior year individual tax returns as current benefits are, at least for the next year, in lieu of at least child tax benefits and GST, and EI. Have a reporting system for income, so if you do make funds, then they are deducted.

This would ensure that when the inevitable school closures or quarantines occur and parents are suddenly forced into quarantine for 2 weeks too, that no family falls behind. If kids cannot attend with any kind of symptoms, this is going to be a disastrous winter financially for many families on the edge due to this springs restrictions.. which brings me to…

The BCED back to school plan gong show.

Its my belief that there are a couple of reasons why the push for kids to go back fulltime with rising cases. One is listed above, its very accurate to state that schools are front line agencies for marginalized and vulnerable kids.

The other is that with kids in school, parents will be hopefully back to work and fewer people will be on EI or CERB or the other benefits.

While it is true that in many areas of BC, going back to school may turn out to  be fine where case counts are low and kids were distanced,  in Metro Van and other areas right now its absolutely ridiculous to think of having full capacity in any classroom. But therein lies the issue.

After 6 months of daily reminders that physically distancing is the best way to stop the spread, the government has decided that having full classes grouped into cohorts where no distancing is required…is ok. And Dr. Bonnie Henry keeps insisting there will be distancing in classes at the very same time parents are getting emails stating the exact opposite. Yesterdays presser was an eye opener because for once, reporters seemed to remember they are reporters and that no one is unquestionable. And even though her statements contradict each other, she insists school is ‘different’.

No one was buying it, and this series of tweets from yesterday show reporter and parent/teacher reactions.

This, on top of the very badly done ad featuring Bonnie Henry, in which the governments own response inadvertently supported the very action teachers and parents are asking for: distancing in class, which can only be achieved by smaller classes. https://globalnews.ca/news/7306040/coronavirus-b-c-teachers-union-back-to-school-ad/

The government has really screwed this back to school plan up. First of all, they changed the parameters of stage 2 over the summer, suprising everyone. The slides below the difference between Junes stage 2, and late July stage 2

The second screw up, was offloading responsibility to enact this plan onto school districts without mandating the requirement for parents across BC to have equitable options for supported online learning and to not lose their space in their neighbourhood school. There is no standard, with some schools allowing parents to keep their space until September 2021 if they choose alternate learning now, and others won’t.  Some are offering a hybrid supported learning to keep kids who have to learn at home engaged in class with classmates, others are not. It’s only serving to create unnecessary resentment and anxiety, in an already challenging time.

Its my view, that government should be mandating reduced class sizes equally across the province as they are mandating the same worksafe and health and safety requirements across the province. This is a big reason why they are quickly losing control of the narrative… and the publics support. Why would child actors have different standards for safety than children in class? Why would you expect youth not to party when the governments own plan says  distancing not required in cohorts of 60 to 120 youth?  These questions lead me to the last segment…

The difference in opinions between epidemiologists and doctors when it comes to Covid and how to handle it.

There is a lot we do know about Covid, and there is a lot we don’t know.

We do know it impacts the elderly.

We know those who are at high risk for complications or more serious cases are those with underlying conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart and lung conditions.

We know that while most kids,teens and youth usually get by with no or few symptoms,  some kids can develop multisystem inflammatory Syndrome- there have been 8 suspected cases in BC and this is now being tracked. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-reports-8-suspected-cases-of-multisystem-inflammatory-syndrome-in-children-1.5082451

We also know now, that many countries are reporting the bigger and longer term issue with Covid isn’t the actual initial disease incidence itself, but the long term symptoms and damage that thousands of ” recovered” patients are reporting. To me, this is where the precautionary principle comes into play. To me, this is where the big unknowns are, and this article gets to the heart of it ( its a really good read, overall) : https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/08/the-human-cost-of-the-pandemic-may-dwarf-its-death-toll.html

“Over the last few months, however, we’ve heard more and more stories about coronavirus “long-haulers,” those still sick well after that one-month cycle should have come to a close, many of them still quite incapacitated by the illness. I don’t think our collective understanding of the disease has properly incorporated those stories, in part because most of our accounts have been, to this point, anecdotal — with the result that the experiences of those suffering in these extended and often confusing ways appear to the rest of us like eerie outliers, tragic but unusual.

But we are beginning to get more systematic research into the aftereffects of COVID-19, and though that research is early and limited, it suggests the possibility that these post-recovery complications may prove to be a more significant health trauma to the country, and the world, than the pandemic death toll. The numbers from that emerging research are genuinely hair-raising: 87 percent of Italian patients who had “recovered” from the disease after hospitalization reported at least one ongoing symptom of the disease. 78 percent of recovered German patients were found, two months later, to have suffered structural changes to their hearts; the study focused largely on those with asymptomatic or mild cases, and in follow-ups 76 percent exhibited a biomarker associated with cardiac injury following a heart attack. Another study, of 1,200 patients hospitalized across 69 countries, found that 55 percent had long-term damage to their hearts; subtracting those whose hearts may have had preexisting damage, the study found 46 percent of previously healthy patients showed some amount of long-term scarring and dysfunction. Another study of COVID-19 patients found that roughly 90 percent of those with “severe” cases, 75 percent of those with “moderate” cases, and 60 percent of those with “mild” cases were still experiencing at least one symptom after three months, the most common symptom being breathlessness and fatigue. (Though the findings were less alarming than a few of the other studies, with only about 30 percent of severely sick patients showing abnormal chest X-rays, and other acute issues at even lesser prevalence.) Experts now believe that as many as one in three patients could suffer neurological or psychological aftereffects, according to STAT News. “It’s not only an acute problem,” one critical-care physician told STAT. “This is going to be a chronic illness.”

This brings questions forward I have never heard a reporter ask in government pressers.

How many of the thousands reported recovered, are actually healthy?

Are any of these people discharged from hospital still sick at home? Are they able to work?

Are we seeing “recovered” patients with long term symptoms or damage to their organs ? And why, you might be asking, does this matter?

Because  in a followup on SARS patients from 15 years ago, about 20 percent of those infected with the first SARS suffered lasting lung damage, and those left with lung lesions by that disease still had them 15 years later.

20% might not seem like much…unless you are one of those people.

This is what bothers me about how school is being treated differently than everything else.

Teachers are not going to be able to be distanced from students and others and its not true that school is a controlled environment. Its only controlled in the sense of what happens in the building.

Schools don’t control what families do once they leave or who they see. Lots of people don’t believe this virus is a big deal and don’t have family bubbles. Fact. This is quite apparent with recent cases following gatherings of not just youth parties, but older people getting together and family celebrations at banquet halls and homes. So as much as Dr. Henry says these cohorts are all going to be fine, its just not true if no one is distancing because all these kids are bringing along unknowns the schools have no clue about.  And she is incorrect in stating there will be distancing in classrooms right now, no matter how many times she repeats it.

Has she and this government forgotten the Precautionary Principle I wrote about early on? https://lailayuile.com/2020/03/31/lessons-not-learned-from-the-sars-inquiry-the-precautionary-principle-be-expressly-adopted-as-a-guiding-principle/

I definitely think schools need to be open. But they need to be open in a manner that protects staff and kids alike and to minimize cases and subsequent quarantines. And there doesn’t seem to even be agreement between epidemiologists and doctors. Case in point is the slide below in which an epidemiologist presented to an Ontario school board. Parents there are really upset with the full classes as well.

We know distancing works. Dr. Henry has stressed it continuously and I must ask why she now thinks it is ok for the government to issue a plan where it is written distancing is not required in cohorts.

It is good for no child or teen’s mental health who has been forced to bubble away from friends to protect family members, to now be worried about bringing Covid home now that their bubble is gone. And it is gone once school starts, under this BCED plan.

https://mobile.twitter.com/RobShaw_BC/status/1293649570182791168

 

*** updated Sept 3rd, 2020. 

I have to add these. Because this doesn’t make sense. Today graphs were presented show that workplace transmissons were increasing which had not been mentioned before. Between coworkers moreso than worker to customer, which makes sense. 

But this series of screenshots shows how fast this contradictory info was presented. And many missed it at the time but media is catching this now. 

Old Fort residents still denied answers and resolution after two years… and two separate slides.

A sad thing about Covid – now that we know more about it – is that its provided plenty of cover for other important issues that have gone unaddressed and largely ignored. The daily media pressers and updates continue to dominate BC news, most recently with the back to school plan both parents and teachers are rightfully pushing back on.
But beyond Covid, there are a group of people who have been living in limbo for almost 2 years, with few answers and even less transparency : the residents of the small community of Old Fort, located downstream of Site C construction.
That’s why, when I recently heard about the second big slide a couple months ago, I was shocked to read the report into the first slide was still being withheld!

 “As an active new landslide severs the only road to the Peace Valley community of Old Fort, residents want to know why the B.C. government is refusing to release information about an earlier landslide in the same location, near the Site C dam construction site. 

“What kind of information do you have that is so bad that you can’t share it?” asked Kali Chmelyk, one of 150 Old Fort residents who has been under an evacuation alert since June 19, shortly after residents first noticed cracks and buckling in the road following a heavy rainfall.

Since then, an advancing wall of mud has eliminated more than 150 metres of the Old Fort access road, which was rebuilt after an October 2018 landslide wiped out part of the road, destroyed a home and prompted a local state of emergency.

~snip~

Last year, The Narwhal learned through a Freedom of Information request that the 2018 landslide, in an area underlaid by numerous natural gas leases and near one entrance to the Site C dam worksite, was classified as a “dangerous occurrence” under B.C.’s health, safety and reclamation code.

That triggered a geotechnical assessment to identify “the root cause and contributing factors” of the slide, according to a briefing note for Peter Robb, mining and energy assistant deputy minister.

In November 2019, the ministry told The Narwhal the assessment was not yet complete.

The Peace River Regional District subsequently filed a Freedom of Information request seeking all reports related to the landslide, which displaced eight million cubic metres of earth, cutting off Old Fort for one month.

But the provincial government refused to release the reports, telling the district, as reported by the Alaska Highway News, that disclosure would be harmful to law enforcement.

“What does that even mean?” Brad Sperling, chair of the Peace River Regional District, asked at an April board meeting. “I’m really kind of confused about their response to this.”

The district has requested that B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner review the decision.

Why so much secrecy has plagued these 2 landslides has been a topic of concern since day 1, and something Ben Parfitt covered here, concerning the conflict of interest of the ministry investigating an incident they themselves have been questioned by residents as holding liability in:  https://thenarwhal.ca/b-c-investigation-into-old-fort-landslide-caught-up-in-conflict-of-interest-residents-say/
But over a year later, in November 2019, Sarah Cox once again detailed how residents  continued to be left in the dark. https://thenarwhal.ca/its-not-right-residents-left-with-safety-concerns-following-2018-landslide-near-site-c-dam/

“The ministry did not respond to a question asking what information must still be gathered in order to conclude the investigation into the slide, which displaced eight million cubic metres of earth and blocked the only road to Old Fort for a month.

Old Fort resident Kali Chmelyk said community members are getting contradictory messages about the landslide, noting “everything surrounding the slide is very hush-hush.”

For example, when residents ask about the temporary road into the community and when it will be paved, they’re told the slide is still dangerous and still moving and not to stop their cars on the road because it isn’t safe, Chmelyk said.

“But then when you bring up ‘so it’s dangerous, what does that mean?’ Then you get the response of ‘oh no, everything’s fine, it’s not dangerous, it’s not moving anymore, there’s no danger to safety, blah, blah, blah.’ ”

“These are our homes and we want to know we’re safe where we are. I don’t want to be told in six months ‘it’s possible that this could happen again, so we’re just going to buy you out.’”

Old Fort Landslide location
And here we are now, August of 2020, another slide did happen and no one is any closer to getting any information for the residents of Old Fort. And they are getting tired, and reaching out for help from anyone who can help them get answers so they can find out once and for all what their future is.
That this is taking so long, is extremely worrisome. As discussed in my prior post, the instability of the valley in this area once slopes are dug into and exposed in particular, is worrisome. Despite the gravel pit operations being allegedly found to be not the root cause of the initial slide 2 years ago, there was a failure at that site previously and the permit was issued without the mine site being in compliance ,and without a geotech slope study being done. And while weight to stock onsite is being negated, there is no mention of the vibrations associated with equipment on site, and how that would impact a slope. ( my own thoughts there as to why a conflict still exists, in my opinion, which is why the questions in my prior post linked to above still are relevant )
In addition, the continued construction of the money pit without a price tag known as Site C, definitely impacts  these residents downstream, along with others further down. The photo from The Narwhal article above, shows how close they are. The concerns about instability under the powerhouse and dam at Site C, probably keep these people from sleeping at night even more than these slides already do.
A few residents have reached out to me, and I promised a post detailing unanswered questions and concerns. In fact, over the last two weeks, I was CC’ed on emails to the premier, the ministers involved and every politician in the area. To date, no answers or replies have appeared, except standard form acknowledgements and one reply from a constituency aide for Bruce Ralston asking me for my postal code to confirm I lived in his riding. ( insert eyeroll here)

There is no valid reason to withhold information from these residents. Continuing to do so, only breeds more bad feelings and is at this point, cruel. Its untenable to live with this over your heads. Is the province trying to find a way to avoid culpability and liability? I don’t know ,but  I do know that when government officials go to this extent to keep info from people left in limbo, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I also know the city of Fort St.John has some questions to answer they don’t seem to want to address either.

This is the info passed onto me, that residents still want answers to.

The questions can be read in this PDF, downloadable document : Copy of SUMMARY – QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS captured through pigeonhole (002) (1)
( happy to email that to you as well, just send a line through the contact page )
In addition, another frustrated resident forwarded these questions, which no one should have to wait 2 years for answers for. This pandemic should not be frustrating the flow of information between the ministry and these residents and without any reason why releasing info would harm law enforcement, it appears as nothing but a stall tactic.

A copy of this post has been forwarded to all relevant parties and I will update if I hear from residents or officials that these questions or a plan, has or is being addressed for these residents, once and for all.

And remember,  Just because this isn’t happening to you personally, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention – you should. Because as I have said many many times in a variety of different stories I have covered, this time it is Old Fort and 2 slides. Next time it might be a serious issue in your own backyard…. and who will fight for you then? These people need recognition and support.

** read more concerning new reports on instability st site c  which is just upstream, here: