BC distillers call for federal tax reform on par with US

Distillers call for equality

B.C. distillers are calling for swift action from the federal government to match American tax reforms.

The U.S. Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act was recently passed south of the border, which began as a temporary measure but is now permanent. It decreases the excise rate on the first 100,000 proof gallons of produced spirits per distillery.

The stimulus measure was first introduced in 2017 to increase domestic distillery start-ups, expand American-made spirits production and increase job creation and agricultural development.

“The plan worked so well south of the border, that it has now been made permanent,” says Tyler Dyck, president of the Craft Distiller’s Guild of B.C. and co-owner of Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. “Over the last three years, it has led to thousands of new distilleries popping up all across the U.S., with hundreds of thousands of jobs created and has been a massive boon for the U.S. agricultural sector.”

Now, Canadian distillers are urging the federal government to match the program in hopes that Canada will see the same growth as the United States.

“First, it will lead to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, mirroring the positive effects already proven to work in the U.S., and second, if they do not match the U.S. CBMTRA, they will be holding Canadians at a cross-border trade disadvantage with our U.S. counterparts,” says Dyck. “All we are asking for is balancing the playing field for ‘Made in Canada’ and that the Canadian government allow Canadian industry and innovation to power our economy in the post-COVID reality.”

According to the Craft Distiller’s Guild of B.C., Canadian distilleries pay over seven times the federal excise tax rate compared to the U.S., which puts Canadian distilleries at a distinct disadvantage.

The guild has penned two letters to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland regarding its concerns.

“This massive cross-border tax excise imbalance has essentially made it impossible for the Canadian domestic distilling industry to compete and has stunted our domestic distillery and agricultural sector growth potential,” states Dyck’s letter.

Okanagan Spirits, based in Vernon, has spent over $500,000 of its own money during the pandemic to supply free hand sanitizer to frontline and health care workers.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the federal government had paid $375 million to bring in hand sanitizer from other countries, shutting out Canadian distilleries.

Lake View Farms opened at the beginning of the pandemic and shares their experience

Pandemic farming

That was the case with Lake View Farms, a Vernon-based indoor farming company that grows microgreens, herbs and edible flowers. They started their operations about a month before the pandemic began, and they have been navigating the current situation while starting a new business.

“The last winter indoor market was supposed to be our first market, and that was the one that got shut down,” says Greg Hewitt, owner of Lake View Farms. “Suddenly we had all this product that we had to move, and that’s when we came up with the idea of home delivery.”

Their delivery system operates through an e-transfer purchase, and then the customer leaves a cooler on the front step for the food to be deposited in. Lake View also has a curbside pickup option as well.

The pandemic has undoubtedly been tough on all farmers and produce companies, but Hewitt remains optimistic about his company’s future.

“For Christmas and for the winter, we’re trying to supply as many people as we can,” he says.

The company grows all of their produce inside their very own home, using the vertical farming technique to optimize space. They grow a wide variety of vegetables from sunflower shoots to edible begonias.

If you are interested in Lake View Farms’ products you can order on their website, or email lakeviewfarms.2020@gmail.com.

Kal Lake water source back on as algae levels return to normal

Kal Lake water back on

Greater Vernon Water is back to normal as the Kalamalka Lake water source has been turned back on, and the Duteau Creek water source is again being treated with UV light.

The Kalamalka Lake source was turned off in October when an algae bloom forced the Regional District of North Okanagan to switch over to the Duteau Creek source.

UV treatment at the Duteau Creek facility was subsequently halted earlier this month to repair a broken pipe.

The RDNO says algae levels in Kal Lake have now returned to normal and the repairs at Duteau Creek are complete.

Greater Vernon Water is now operating normally by supplying water from both sources, which are the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant supplied by Duteau Creek, and the Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant supplied by Kalamalka Lake.

Vernon care home encourages gifts to locked down seniors as survey shows many dealing with loneliness

Reaching out to seniors

As a recent study found seniors more afraid of loneliness than COVID-19, one Vernon seniors home is helping connect generations by encouraging letter writing.

The Hamlets at Vernon is collecting pens, pencils and paper to use as stocking stuffers so residents will have something to open on Christmas morning.

And this Christmas will undoubtedly be different from years past for many seniors.

“Visitation this year has been very different, so we’re just trying to do something extra for our residents,” says general manager Mark Massar.

“This is something our staff can help our residents with if they want to communicate with their families who aren’t able to visit as often.”

Pen pal services have been set up in other communities, such as middle school students who are writing letters to seniors at Cherry Park Retirement Residence in Penticton. While a pen pal program is not planned for The Hamlets, it isn’t out of the question.

“We think a pen pal program would be great for our seniors. The only thing is that some of our residents who are in long-term care or suffer from arthritis would have difficulty writing,” says Massar. “But I actually do have some entrepreneurs calling me asking if we’d be interested in doing a pen pal program, so I’ll be meeting with them and seeing if it might be able to work.”

Limited visitation during the pandemic has been tough on seniors in care homes and their families across the country. A recent BC study reported people in care homes are actually more afraid of dying of loneliness than of the coronavirus.

“The comments we heard from hundreds of family members is a greater fear of death from loneliness” because of pandemic rules that limit visits, B.C. seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie said earlier this month.

To donate stocking stuffers or money to purchase the gifts for seniors, call Lauren Knapton at 778-686-0282.


Vernon council approves rezoning for potential new affordable housing

A new affordable housing facility project is off the ground after Vernon city council approved the rezoning of three lots near the airport.

The property at 6309 Okanagan Landing Rd. made the switch from rural residential to low-rise apartment residential, and the properties at 6321 and 6335 Okanagan Landing Rd. shifted from airport residential to low-rise apartment residential.

The 13 units on the proposed site will be comprised of four one-bedroom, eight two-bedroom, and one three-bedroom units.

“The project would be for affordable housing targeting seniors, individuals who are differently abled, and families in need of affordable housing,” states the proposal.

This is only the first step in the process for this project, and the proposal will still have to go to a public hearing.

Innovation centre open soon

The brand-new innovation centre in downtown Vernon is set to open in less than two months.

Accelerate Okanagan and Community Futures Okanagan will be opening The VIEW, which stands for Vernon Innovation & Entrepreneur Workspace, on September 1st. The new centre aims to bring together local entrepreneurs, innovators and creators in the North Okanagan.

“In order to fully serve entrepreneurs and community members, we need to create more connection opportunities to the broader innovation ecosystem,” says Brea Lake, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. “By leveraging the existing organizations in our networks, we can help to accelerate economic growth in the North Okanagan.”

The VIEW will offer support services, flexible office space and collaboration opportunities for members of the community. There is also hope that the new space will benefit other downtown businesses as well.

“Something that has been front-of-mind for us is the positive impact we’re hoping to see on surrounding businesses,” says, Leigha Horsfield, general manager, Community Futures North Okanagan. “Our hope is that we’ll see more organizations benefit from the increased activity around the VIEW.”

The new innovation centre will be located at the old Naked Pig restaurant, attached to the Marten Brewpub. There is currently a waitlist available to reserve workspaces. For more information, you can visit www.vernoninnovation.ca.

Rail Trail loo coming soon

Construction on the new Okanagan Rail Trail washroom will be breaking ground next week.

Work will begin on Monday, July 13, and the washroom will provide a unique rest stop area for Rail Trail users once it is complete. The north-end facility will have two fully-equipped stalls, a drinking fountain and a dog water station.

“A simple-to-follow detour will be located around the construction site between the Kickwillie Loop and the Westkal Road trail entrance,” says Mike Fox, General Manager of Community Services. “Trail users are encouraged to park at the parking lot at Coldstream Station, as there will be limited parking at the Kickwillie Loop and Westkal Road trail entrance. ”

The project is set to be completed by the end of 2020, and cost approximately $220,000. Further trail closures may occur, and you can check the RDNO website for up to date information.

Innovation centre open soon

New Vernon innovation centre set to open in just over a month

The new North Okanagan innovation centre, going in at the former Naked Pig site, is nearing completion and is set to open next month.

According to Community Futures Okanagan, the Vernon Innovation & Entrepreneur Workspace will open in mid-August. The 2,400-square-foot centre will be connected to the adjoining Marten Brewpub, and will have space for meetings and shared common areas for daily work.

“This is a grassroots Vernon project that has seen many individuals and organizations work incredibly hard,” says Leigha Horsfield, general manager for CFNO. “To see the walls go up and the lights coming on, it’s amazing, and we’re so thankful for their support and the support of our board, because this was a big leap.”

The centre will open with a health and safety plan to ensure well being for patrons, and it will evolve as the COVID-19 situation changes.

Accelerate Okanagan runs Kelowna’s Okanagan Innovation Centre, and will be taking the reins at the Vernon centre as well.

“We are fielding a lot of queries, and we’re hearing people say with family at home more of the time, they need another place to work and focus, and this way they also get that check-in time with their peers,” says Kazia Mullin, business services manager at CFNO. “We are so looking forward to seeing how members of our tech community with connections and experience will inspire others, including youth and Indigenous people, to take their business ideas forward.”

The innovation centre will collaborate with local organizations, such as the Okanagan Science Centre, Okanagan Regional Library, Vernon Arts Centre, City of Vernon, Okanagan College, School District 22 and others.