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  • Coquihalla, Highway 5, Scheduled to Reopen Monday December 20th

    Update to this story: December 15th: Transportation Minister Rob Fleming posted this message on Twitter this afternoon, "Since the Coquihalla was so heavily damaged just 31 days ago, crews have been working around the clock to get the corridor back into working order. Thanks to this extraordinary effort, we’re able to reopen the highway to commercial trucks and buses on December 20th." On a separate Twitter post, the Minister said, "The re-opening of the Coquihalla to trucks will allow for the travel restrictions to be lifted on Hwy 99 and Hwy 3. These are difficult highways to navigate. If you must travel these routes, make sure you’re well prepared for winter mountain conditions." The Coquihalla was originally scheduled to reopen to commercial traffic early to mid-January. Check out the ENTIRE PRESS CONFERENCE here:

  • Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki Apologizes to Ms. Wilson: VIDEO

    Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki wasted no time at Tuesday's special council meeting publically apologizing to "Ms Wilson", a senior whos $420,000 home was sold at auction for $150,000 to pay a late tax bill totalling $10,000. During the apology, Mayor John Vassilaki reiterated the cities position that much of the information provided to the ombudsperson by the city of Penticton was not included in his report. He also said the city was following the process laid out by the province, and the whole event happened before the current council was in place. Mayor Vassilaki hoped that now the anger directed toward council over this issue would cool. Immediately after the apology, the Mayor made a motion to accept the Ombudsperson's recommendation to reimburse Ms. Wilson 140,922.99. The Mayor then opened the floor for debate. The general tone of the discussion was the City of Penticton didn't break any laws, that the process in place was followed, but now compassion was the way forward. The motion to reimburse Ms Wilson passed 5 to 1, only Councilor Watt voting no, saying in part the taxpayer shouldn't be on the hook for this error. You can watch the council meeting here You can read previous stories wrote on this issue here

  • Caravan Farm Theatre Experience

    Caravan Farm Theatre We recently visited the Caravan Farm theater located at 4886 Salmon River Road to take part in an outdoor version of an old Christmas classic. The performance was a version of It's a Wonderful Life, called Joyride by the outdoor theatre. The unique aspect of the Caravan Farm Theatre player's rendition of the play, besides being outdoors, is that the audience sits in one of 8 sleighs that are pulled by a team of horses from "set" to "set". It's a fun and rewarding experience that takes about an hour. The audience experience begins around fire barrels in preparation for a chilly sleigh ride. Bring a blanket if you chill easily. Then you're off to meet the players. Eight performers make up the troupe, their character for each performance being picked out of a hat by a member of the audience. Once on the sleigh, we wound our way along a narrow trail under snow-covered trees to the first set. A familiar one for most, George Baily looking over the rail of a bridge, regretting ever having been born. The story has been updated. The players sing contemporary songs between characters' dialogue, the audience joining in at times while the 16 large horses snort and pound their hoofs. After the ride was over we warmed ourselves at the fire barrels while sipping a cup of hot chocolate. A good time! Sorry, no pictures were permitted during the sleigh ride. Kid-friendly, COVID rules apply. For more info:

  • Victorian Christmas at Historic O'Keefe Ranch

    We decided to visit the historic O'Keefe Ranch "Victorian Christmas" event and were not disappointed. The ranch is a "living museum" of sorts. A reminder of what Okanagan life was like for those living in a European settlement in the late 1800s. At one time the ranch was at the end of the road, the wagon road that is. A self-contained community complete with a stagecoach depot, church, blacksmith and cemetery. Many events, both public and private are held at the ranch. From weddings to high tea and much more. For the Victorian Christmas at O'Keefe Ranch visitors can walk along the ranch's narrow roads that wind past the ranch's historic buildings and Christmas displays, the aroma of roasting chestnuts wafting in the air. Travel back in time by entering the "General Store" or the pottery shop. There's even an impressive miniature train display in one of the ranch's buildings. There is so much to see. Kids will love it! The O'Keefe Ranch is pet-friendly. It's operated by the O’Keefe Ranch & Interior Heritage Society. The event is free, but a donation is encouraged For more information visit

  • Penticton vs BC's Ombudsperson?

    There is an update to this story: The city of Penticton has scheduled a special in-camera council meeting for 9 am on December 14th. On the agenda: (g) litigation or potential litigation affecting the municipality; Section 90 (2) (c) a matter that is being investigated under the ombudsperson act of which the municipality has been notified under section 14 [Ombudsperson to notify authority] of that Act. Is there a connection to last week's report from BC Ombudsperson Jay Chalke? We don't know. Last week the BC Ombudsperson published a report criticizing the City of Penticton's handling of a case involving the sale of a 60-year-old woman's home to pay $10,000 in overdue city tax. The home was sold for $150,000 at auction. At the time it was assessed at $420,000. The woman lost an estimated $270,000 worth of equity in her home. The Ombudsperson made 6 recommendations in the report. Wednesday, December 8, 2021: A Bid For Fairness details the case of Ms. Wilson, a vulnerable 60-year-old woman, who failed to pay her property taxes due to personal challenges and ended up losing her home. The report makes six recommendations – five to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and one to the City of Penticton. Specifically: 1 - Develop plain language template letters for tax sales; 2 - Develop guidelines to notify a property owner before a tax sale occurs; 3 - Amend the Local Government Act to require a municipality to provide notice by registered mail or personal service before a tax sale; 4 - Examine whether the Local Government Act should establish a starting price at auction that reflects the assessed value of a property; 5 - Issue best practice guidelines about how municipalities are to protect vulnerable property owners within the tax sale scheme; and, 6 - Compensate Ms. Wilson in the amount of $140,922.88. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs accepted all five recommendations. The City of Penticton rejected the Ombudsperson’s recommendation. The City of Penticton took issue with the Ombudspersons report. Penticton City CAO Donny van Dyk is quoted as saying: “We were disappointed that the Ombudsperson chose not to include our complete and detailed response to the recommendations in the report, particularly information that does not support the Ombudsperson’s conclusions,” “City staff were unaware that Ms. Wilson was a vulnerable person in need of support or assistance until after the conclusion of the tax sale process,” The regular public council meeting scheduled for 1 pm December 14th can be viewed here. Notice for a special closed council meeting has been posted on Penticton's website for Tuesday, December 4th at 9 am. Adjournment to a Closed Meeting Resolution THAT Council adjourn to a closed meeting of Council pursuant to the provisions of the Community Charter as follows: Section 90 (1) (e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the Council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality; (g) litigation or potential litigation affecting the municipality; Section 90 (2) (c) a matter that is being investigated under the ombudsperson act of which the municipality has been notified under section 14 [Ombudsperson to notify authority] of that Act.

  • Real Estate in the Okanagan

    Okanagan Real Estate, Buy sell or Stay put? That's the question, the short answer is nobody really knows. But lots of data continues to be collected and scrutinized. "An inventory Shortage Persists for Local Real Estate across the region," so says Association of Interior Realtors President Kim Heizmann in the December edition of their newsletter. The Association represents realtors across a wide swath of BC's central interior (see Map). The Association is a formal amalgamation of the OMREB and SOREB According to Heizmann, "Residential sales for the entire region serviced by Association decreased 10% over the same month last year, clocking in at 1,063 residential sales in November. This was also less than October’s 1,115 sales." "there's a persistent drought of inventory in the market all year as new listings are just not coming on to market quick enough to meet demand,” While a reduction in sales is expected for the holiday season the lack of homes on the market is making the slowdown even worse. According to the Association's newsletter, "the supply of active residential listings was down 39% across the region compared to the 3,574 active listings during November 2020. The 916 new listings for November were 10% lower than last year's November’s units." The low supply is a factor in rising prices. Okanagan house prices on the rise since at least 2016 According to data published on The Mortgage Sandbox, house prices in the Okanagan have been on the rise since at least 2016, with only a few bumps. Since August of 2020, Okanagan house prices have made significant gains - Kelowna's average house price climbed from just over $700k to the low $900k area. - Penticton and the South Okanagan average house prices have been a roller coaster ride over the last 16 months. Average house prices started to climb in August 2020 from the mid $600k, climbing to about $680k in Oct 2020. By November the average price was back down in the $600k region. Average house prices started to climb May 2021 saw average house prices climb to the low $800k. November 2021 saw a drop to the low $700k. - Vernon and the North Okanagan average house prices saw the largest average increase over the last 16 months. Mid $500k in August 2020, to $680k November 2021. Source: Mortgage Sandbox Average Okanagan house price since 2016 to present - Vernon, $339k to $687k 102% increase. - Penticton, $433k to $709k 64% increase - Kelowna, $488k to $947k 94 % increase Average house prices over last three month period published - Kelowna and the Central Okanagan, 5.3% increase - Vernon and the North Okanagan, 8.2% increase - Penticton and South Okanagan 7.9%. drop Sources: the association of interior realtors Mortgage Sandbox, OMREB and SOREB

  • Real Estate Cooling Off Period, More Harm Than Good?

    The NDP government is making changes to how homes are bought and sold in British Columbia. Early last November Selina Robinson, NDP Minister of Finance, announced she will introduce new legislation this spring changing how real estate is bought and sold in BC. If passed the legislation will introduce a "cooling off period" for real estate sales in BC. The proposed legislation would apply to the sale of both new and existing properties. According to the announcement, it will be similar to the cooling-off period already in effect for pre-construction condominium sales. “People looking to buy a home need to know they are protected as they make one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. Especially in periods of heightened activity in the housing market, it’s crucial that we have effective measures in place so that people have the peace of mind that they’ve made the right choices,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. Announcement Causing confusion How long will the cooling-off period be? That's just one of the questions being asked. The proposed legislation is being compared to the existing seven-day cooling-off period for pre-construction sales of multi-unit development properties like condominiums or townhouses. Those in the business of buying or selling real estate warn such a "cooling off period" will have a domino effect. Rippling through the entire buying and selling process. Sellers often tie the sale and subsequent purchase of a new property on the condition of the sale of their current home. For example, what if a buyer backs out of the deal? What happens to the seller if they were trying to purchase a new residence themselves using the equity from the sale of their home? What if alternative buyers have moved on? Could the cooling off period be abused? Might a buyer bid on 2 or 4 or 10 properties at once? That's a lot of what ifs. In other words a lot of uncertainty. Caught by Surprise The announcement caught many by surprise. Real estate brokers and real estate boards have been flooded with calls from clients asking for details on what this means. British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) Chief Executive Officer Darlene K. Hyde. is quoted as saying: "While we would have liked to answer these questions clearly and concisely, we simply can't because of the way this decision was made. There really are no answers yet and that's causing a lot of concern." The BCREA research department found this proposed legislation may actually reduce homes on the market. Fewer listings obviously mean higher prices. There are unintended consequences Liberal and NDP governments have both introduced measures intended to cool BCs hot real estate market over the last decade. Experts are divided if the foreign national tax has had any significant effect. The empty home tax has filled some dwellings but the high cost of housing and shortages continue. Other measures like those for first-time buyers will only increase demand. Currently, Boomers are holding on to their homes. At the same time, 25-39-year-olds are looking to buy. That's already creating a huge demand for a small number of units. The research concludes buyers rarely opt-out A 2016 Australian study conducted by the Deakin Business School concluded cooling-off periods don’t work for consumers. In fact, the lead researcher suggested rather than an opt-out clause an opt-in provision may offer more protection for the consumer. For example, after a sales agreement has been signed, the agreement won't be "official" until the consumer "re-confirms" the contract 24 to 48 hours later. If the buyer does not "opt-in" within the predetermined time frame the contract lapses. According to the BCREA, the high cost of housing was one of the single most important issues on the minds of Canadians last federal election The bottom line according to industry insiders, realtors, real estate professionals and the public needs to be consulted.

  • Colour Map of BC Road Closures

    Update to this story: Update to this story: CURRENT ROAD ADVISORIES AND INFORMATION: The Ministry of Transportation stresses "Safety is always our number one priority". The Ministry is working towards opening the Coquihalla to commercial traffic with the goal of reducing truck traffic on both Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton and Highway 99 between Pemberton and Cache Creek. Neither of those roads were built to handle the volume of heavy truck traffic they are currently seeing. For example, according to the ministry, over 3000 trucks are using Highway 3 every day. Mixing those heavy trucks with passenger vehicles through winding mountain passes in winter is a recipe for tragedy. Highway 99 is even less advanced, with steep grades narrow stretches combined with tight corners. Highway 99 is open for essential travel but only for vehicles under 14,500kg GVW. SPECIAL NOTE – According to the Ministry of Transportation there are options for bus transportation from the Lower Mainland to Kelowna and Kamloops through companies like Ebus, Rider Express and Mountain Man Mike Bus Service. From Drive BC: Highway 1 – Abbotsford to Hope OPEN - The eastbound lanes of Highway 1 are open in the Bridal Falls area, fully reopening the highway with two lanes in each direction between Abbotsford and Hope. Highway 1 – Fraser Canyon, Hope to Spences Bridge OPEN - Hope to Boothroyd for local travel from Hope as far as Boothroyd (through Yale, Spuzzum and Boston Bar), with some Single Lane Alternating. Expect delays. Could close at any time CLOSED - Boothroyd to Lytton CLOSED - Lytton to Spences Bridge Highway 3 – Hope to Princeton OPEN for essential travel only - Areas of Single Lane Alternating Traffic. Drivers should be aware that this portion of Highway 3 has several steep grades, sharp curves and speed limit reductions. Highway 5 – Coquihalla CLOSED – Hope to Merritt Highway 7 OPEN from Glasgow Ave at Murray Street in Mission to 1 km east of Hope. Essential Travel restrictions have been lifted (Highway 7 has been removed from the Ministerial Order). Highway 8 CLOSED from Merritt to Spences Bridge Highway 11 OPEN – Hazelwood Avenue and Clayburn Road for 2.9 km. - Now OPEN to commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, municipal service vehicles and emergency service vehicles only. - One lane in each direction, expect delays. - People are asked to limit their travel on Highway 11 if unnecessary to support the safe movement of goods and services. Highway 99 – Pemberton to Lillooet OPEN – for essential travel only - Only vehicles up to 14,500kg licensed GVW will be permitted.

  • Weather Warnings for BC

    Friday 10 December 2021: There's a Special Weather Statement for much of southern BC. Environment Canada is predicting high winds gusting to 90 km/h, heavy snowfall and strong crosswinds and low visibility for drivers on some BC highways. Strong crosswinds are expected from 100 mile to the Okanagan Valley along highway 97, the Coquihalla from Merritt to Kamloops and along the Okanagan connector to Kelowna until late Saturday. High mountain passes may be the hardest hit, experiencing blowing snow and whiteout conditions. High winds are also predicted for the South Okanagan and Penticton. There's a Snowfall warning in effect for Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton. Higher areas like Allison pass will see an accumulation of 20 to 30 cm of snow by Saturday evening. Winds gusting to 70 km/h and whiteouts are expected. Travellers are encouraged to postpone travel until conditions improve. Strong winds may damage roof shingles windows, break tree branches or turn loose objects into dangerous projectiles.

  • Can International Travellers Enter Canada This Holiday Season

    There's an UPDATE to this story: What you need to know if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Canada and you're planning a visit. Entry to Canada from countries other than the United States has unique rules and regulations that must be followed. Many of these regulations affect Canadians returning home from abroad as well. Quarantine or isolation COVID travel restrictions now include new temporary border restrictions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. - Fully vaccinated travellers who have been in any country other than Canada and the United States in the 14 days prior to entry to Canada may be selected for arrival testing. They must quarantine in a suitable place until they receive a negative test result. If they’re selected for arrival testing, they may take connecting flights to their place of quarantine. The Canadian Border Service is in the process of increasing COVID testing to include ALL fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada who have visited countries other than the United States. Requirements for unvaccinated travellers remain unchanged Travellers who have been in the following 10 countries within 14 days prior to arrival in Canada will be subject to enhanced pre-entry and arrival testing, screening, and quarantine measures. Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people with status under the Indian Act are NOT EXEMPT, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19. List of countries requiring enhanced testing and isolation measures: - Botswana - Egypt - Eswatini - Lesotho - Malawi - Mozambique - Namibia - Nigeria - South Africa - Zimbabwe: The Government of Canada has created a simple online questioner to help if youre entering Canada by air or at a land border crossing. Meet these requirements to see if you are eligible to enter Canada, and do not qualify for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption, or other special exemptions for your situation. - Find out if you can enter Canada - Assess your quarantine plan before you travel - Get your pre-entry molecular test result - Register in advance for your arrival test - Use ArriveCAN to submit your travel and quarantine plans You must Have your ArriveCAN receipt, test results, and quarantine plans ready for assessment by a Border Services Officer has previously written about the ArriveCan APP There are exceptions for people who can not be vaccinated. Follow this link for details Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 are not required to quarantine upon entering Canada if they meet the following conditions: - have a medical contraindication for getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and comply with the public health measures outlined in the handout provided to them at the border Mandatory Requirements you must follow even if you are exempt from quarantine - You must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces - You must maintain a list of all close contacts for your first 14 days in Canada - You must monitor yourself for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 Related reading - Holiday Travelling Within Canada - Canada Border, New COVID-19 Rules, New App

  • Holiday Travelling Within Canada

    There's an UPDATE to this story: Update to this story: Provincial and territorial restrictions For those wishing to travel within Canada's borders this holiday season, there are travel restrictions and exemptions in effect. We've compiled a list of helpful links to Canada's provincial or territorial requirements. Travelling by commercial plane or train between provinces and or territories - If you're travelling by plane or train between provinces and or territories and you're over 12 years of age (plus four months), or older, you must be fully vaccinated in order to board The requirement is in effect for all domestic or international flights departing from most airports in Canada. The rule is in effect for charter and foreign airlines carrying commercial passengers as well. - VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains also require full vaccination Medivac and Private flights - Regardless of where they take of f or land, Medevac flights are exempt. - Private flights that don't require access to airports with a vaccination requirement are also excluded. Check the provincial or territorial requirements for air, road or rail restrictions and quarantine requirements. - Alberta - British Columbia - Manitoba - New Brunswick - Newfoundland and Labrador - Northwest Territories - Nova Scotia - Nunavut - Ontario - Prince Edward Island - Quebec - Saskatchewan - Yukon Some provinces and territories have their own entry restrictions in place for travellers coming to Canada from another country. They may be stricter than federal quarantine requirements. * Information obtained from Gov of Canada websites Related reading - Canada Border, New COVID-19 Rules, New App - Can International Travellers Enter Canada This Holiday Season

  • 60 Year old Penticton Woman's Home Sold at Auction to Pay Late City Tax Bill

    There is an update to this story The ordered sale of the home belonging to a 60 year old Penticton woman, described as being "a vulnerable person", to recover $10,000 in overdue taxes, has resulted in calls for compensation and law reform from the Ombudsperson of British Columbia (OBC). A report written by the OBC titled "A Bid For Fairness" details how 60 year old Ms Wilson, not her real name, had her home sold at a tax sale auction for $150,000 dollars, when, according to the OBC report, its fair market value at the time was assessed at $420,000. The OBC report says even though Ms Wilson had the funds she "had personal challenges that made it difficult for her to pay her $10,000 tax bill". “The results of this investigation are disturbing,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “Ms. Wilson was a vulnerable member of the Penticton community and just needed some extra assistance to pay her taxes. The City of Penticton called Ms. Wilson once but did not contact the Public Guardian and Trustee or Interior Health who have the legal mandate to make inquiries as to whether an adult is vulnerable and needs support or assistance. The city’s failure to reach out to one of these helping organizations contributed to a devastating and preventable loss.” The OBC report makes six recommendations, five to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and one to the City of Penticton. One of the recommendations is for Penticton to compensate Ms Wilson in the amount of $140,922.88. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has accepted all five recommendations. The City of Penticton has rejected the Ombudsperson’s recommendation. You can find the Ombudsperson of British Columbia report and recommendations here The City of Penticton has reportedly taken issue with the OBC report. Penticton City CAO Donny van Dyk is quoted as saying: “We were disappointed that the Ombudsperson chose not to include our complete and detailed response to the recommendations in the report, particularly information that does not support the Ombudsperson’s conclusions,” “City staff were unaware that Ms. Wilson was a vulnerable person in need of support or assistance until after the conclusion of the tax sale process,” It remains to be seen how this will play out in the court of public opinion.

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