Lumby resident loses $1,000 in rental accommodation fraud


Beware rental scammers

RCMP are warning the public to be wary of an ongoing rental scam after a Lumby resident was cheated out of $1,000.

In this most recent incident, the fraudster contacted the victim, who was in search of a rental, and told them they owned a house in Armstrong they were willing to rent.

The fraudster sent the victim photos of the property as well as personal identification documents. The victim e-transferred a deposit of $1,000 to secure the property prior to viewing it.

But, they realized they had fallen victim to a scam when they went to the property a few days later and were met by the legitimate homeowners.

“With the limited number of properties available, these con artists are taking advantage of renters who are feeling pressured to act quickly to secure accommodation,” says Const. Chris Terleski.

“Fraudsters can be very convincing, but as a renter, prior to any money changing hands, there are some precautionary steps you can take to protect yourself from falling victim to scams such as this.”

  • Arrange for you or someone you trust to visit the property in person
  • Talk to others in the area to confirm who owns the property
  • Conduct an online search of any photos of the rental or the address to see if it has been associated to scams in the past
  • Ask to see previous utility bills for the address to confirm the person is indeed the landlord
  • Ensure a proper rental agreement is provided and signed by both parties
  • Do not send money as a deposit until you verify the property is legitimately for rent

Report frauds to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

No April Fool’s joke – British Columbians paying more tax as of today


New taxes take effect

It was a cruel April Fools’ joke, but British Columbians began paying more tax on several things, Thursday.

Coming into effect on April1 were an increase to the carbon tax, a new soft drink tax, streaming tax – and, to make it all sting just a little bit more, MPs got a pay raise we’ll all paying for as well.

And so did MLAs.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation notes that the B.C. carbon tax has gone up to $45 per tonne, and that can of pop will now cost you more because the provincial sales tax has been added, whereas food and drink products were previously exempt.

The 7% PST has also been added to vaping products and now also applies to streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and others.

“It’s now going to cost you more to get to work, more to heat your home and more to watch your favourite shows,” says Kris Sims, B.C. director for the CTF. “This is not an April Fools’ joke. It’s going to cost everyday people more to live their lives, and the taxman is going to get you even when you’re relaxing at the end of the day with a drink.”

MLAs are getting a 0.8% raise, bringing their base salary up to $111,912 a year. The raise had been paused last year because of the pandemic, but went ahead this year.

The new B.C. carbon tax rate equates to 9.9 cents per litre of gasoline, 12 cents per litre of diesel or 8.8 cents per cubic metre of natural gas. That’s about $12 on a typical pickup fill.

The streaming tax should rake in about $16 million per year.

The soft drink tax is forecast to collect more than $37 million.

In Ottawa, our MPs will receive an average of $3,200 more per year, while ministers will receive $4,700 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau $6,400. Their raises are calculated against the average annual increase in private-sector union contracts.

This on top of a base salary of $182,600 for MPs, $269,800 for ministers, and $365,200 for the PM.

Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta director, called the raises “a slap in the face to the many taxpayers who have taken a pay cut, lost their job or their business.”

Up to a foot of fresh powder at ski resorts across the Thompson-Okanagan

Fresh pow blankets ski hills

Monday’s winter storm that caused havoc on highways brought an early Christmas present to Thompson-Okanagan ski hills.

Resorts received up a foot of fresh snow across the region.

Vernon’s Silver Star Mountain Resort saw 24 centimetres fall. As of midday Tuesday, conditions were mild, with the thermometer at -8 C and an alpine base of 136 cm.

“Looks like Santa is planning on giving us all an early Christmas present,” the resort posted as the snow began falling yesterday.

Big White Ski Resort east of Kelowna saw the most snow in the region, with 33 cm over the past 24 hours.

The alpine base is currently 148 cm, with a temperature of -10 C.

At Apex Resort near Penticton, it’s -6 C.

The resort received 23 cm of fresh snow during the storm, bringing its alpine base to 91 cm.

As of midday, its Quickdraw Quad lift was on standby due to high winds.

At Sun Peaks, near Kamloops, not quite so much snow came down, but the mountain still received 9 cm of fresh powder.

Its alpine base is 122 cm, and it was -11 as of midday.

“Powder Alert! … 33 cm over the last seven days means there are plenty of fresh turns to be found out there,” the resort posted on its Facebook page.

Vernon martial arts gym trying to navigate murky provincial health orders

Gym waits for rules clarity

The owner of a Vernon martial arts gym says he’s just trying to understand public health orders as he awaits clarity from health inspectors.

Mario Deveault of NOS Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu says he’s still operating as allowed under the latest pandemic restrictions from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, which permit group fitness classes for youths.

Where his questions arise is in instances where families come in together to train – parents and children.

Deveault says such groups are already part of their own family bubble, so there is no risk of virus transmission, and he has continued to allow them to train, pending advice from health inspectors.

“I am allowed to train kids, but not adults … but what about when it’s kids and adults together in their own family?” he asked.

The latest provincial restrictions regarding physical activities and gyms, updated Dec. 9, state that high-intensity group fitness activities must be suspended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

These include adult group fitness activities such as aerobics, hot yoga, circuit training and spin classes.

Lower-intensity group fitness activities are also temporarily suspended.

The province says businesses that close due to COVID-19 restrictions could be eligible to receive rent support of up to 90 per cent.

But, the rules become a little more murky as they pertain to gyms. Recreation facilities that offer individual workouts and personal training sessions can remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 safety plan.

Meanwhile, all adult indoor and outdoor team sports are suspended, including martial arts, but youth classes and team sports can continue with physical distancing. Games, tournaments and competitions are suspended, however.

Individual drills and modified training activities can continue, the provincial website states.

Deveault says he has been in communication with health inspectors and is awaiting clarity on the matter.

“It’s definitely not a defiant action,” he said in reference to the provincial guidance. “I’m just trying to keep my business alive while navigating some vague outlines until I can have that conversation with the health inspector and clear up the confusion.”

Meanwhile, Deveault said the seeming inconsistency of being allowed to go to the mall, restaurants but not to church doesn’t make sense to him.

“I have families come in with their kids, and what am I supposed to say? The kids can train, but you can’t?

“I’m still waiting for an answer to that question.”

He says his business “took a huge hit” during the first provincial lockdown that has continued during ever-tightening restrictions.

“They keep moving the goal posts,” he said. “I’m doing my best to stay open and play by the rules.”

Thinning of forest growth in Kal Lake Park to reduce wildfire risk

Thinning underway in park

Ecosystem maintenance and wildfire mitigation work is underway in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.

The work will continue through March of next year.

It’s a partnership between BC Parks, the Ministry of Forests, and the District of Coldstream.

The ecosystem maintenance has the additional benefit of wildfire risk reduction.

The project will focus on removing forest in-growth.

The park’s ecosystem has historically been an open forest grassland that relied on frequent low-intensity wildfires to maintain healthy flora and fauna. With the park’s proximity to homes, that natural fire regime has been suppressed, the District of Coldstream says on its website.

The treatment will replicate the effects of historical wildfires by removing forest in-growth and opening the forest canopy, which will benefit grassland species. Removing the fuels will also reducing the risk of a high-intensity wildfire.

The project area is comprised of four units, located in the Red Gate and Twin Bays area, totaling 31 hectares.

Crews will cut and remove small-diameter conifer in-growth and prune and limb larger diameter trees. Slash and debris will be burned in a smoke-free air curtain burner on site.

This is the second phase of a multi-year project.

Temporary trail and area closures can be expected.

Masks mandatory at City Hall

City of Vernon steps up mask policy at all public city facilities

Starting Monday, you’ll have to wear a face mask when entering any City of Vernon public facilities.

This includes the reception and lobby areas of: City Hall, the Community Services Building, Operations Building, Vernon Water Reclamation Centre, Vernon Regional Airport, Bylaw Compliance Office, Fire Station 1, the Community Safety Office, and RCMP detachment.

Additionally, everyone is asked to wear a mask in lobbies, hallways, concourses and change rooms of all Greater Vernon Recreation facilities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be dynamic, and it requires us to regularly review and update our processes as necessary,” Mayor Victor Cumming said in a press release. “Over the last several months, Dr. Henry – B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer – has talked about the layers of protection we can use to reduce the spread of infection and keep ourselves, each other, and our communities safe. The use of face masks is one of these layers of protection.”

Changes in city facilities include:

  • The installation of plexiglass windows at reception counters
  • Physical distancing markers for queuing
  • Hand sanitizer and / or hand washing stations at facility entrances
  • Facility / room occupancy limits
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols

“When you visit one of our facilities, such as the cashiers’ desk at City Hall, you may notice the staff member behind the plexiglass barrier is not wearing a mask,” said Mayor Cumming. “We understand and appreciate this can create some confusion around the expectation of when and where masks are to be worn in our buildings.

“The city has an expectation that staff wear masks when proper physical distancing cannot be maintained or when they are moving through, or working within, a publicly accessible space such as a lobby. However, where physical distancing can be achieved and a protective barrier such as plexiglass is in place, they will not be required to wear a mask in staff areas. This is an example of us using the layers of protection.”

Vernon-Monashee candidates answer: What can be done to improve housing affordability in our riding?

Candidates on affordability

Castanet put the provincial election candidates in Vernon-Monashee on the hot seat with a series of questions on issues of importance.

The topics were selected from among the top concerns of British Columbians in a recent Angus Reid survey.

We’ll run all eight questions and the candidates’ answers leading up to election day on Oct. 24.

Today’s question: What can be done to improve housing affordability in our riding?

Harwinder Sandhu, BC NDP

Too many B.C. residents struggle to afford a place to live. In the old days, this was an issue primarily of supply and demand. Now, with such a wide gap in incomes and redevelopment of city spaces, among other factors, the private sector no longer meets the market demands. Sixteen years of BC Liberal policies supported a ‘playground’ for real estate speculators and developers, driving up prices, and supportive housing supply lagged far behind the growing need.

The NDP’s Homes for BC Plan seeks to bring relief with a wide variety of initiatives. Significant progress has been made with measures to reduce speculation and unoccupied homes at the higher end of prices and with major investments in supported housing for those at the low end of pricing. Rent freezes and inflation-based increases will help improve affordability. The promised rent subsidy program for low-income families was blocked by the Liberals and the Green Party. A number of other approaches can be viewed on the BC Gov’t website.

To date, there have been about 150 new supported housing units built or approved for construction in our constituency operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society and the Vernon Native Housing Society.

I am eager to join John Horgan and his caucus to learn much more about the impediments to meeting our housing needs here and to contribute my thoughts on the creation of additional long-term solutions.

Keli Westgate, BC Greens

Encourage building affordable rental units. Establish public and co-op social housing.

We need to curb speculation and the impact of global capital:

  • Restrict the impact of global capital on our real estate market, and reduce all types of speculative activity. This is key to cooling the overheated real estate market and bringing house prices more in line with local incomes.
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing.
  • Free up existing supply and ensure that new supply meets the needs of average British Columbians, not wealthy speculators. This is key to ensuring that we have adequate rental supply and that properties are used by those who need them, rather than sitting empty.
  • Collect and disseminate key data to support decision-making and to crack down on tax evasion and fraud.

We could expand the speculation tax to Vernon to cool the market, support affordable housing strategies and plans.

Kyle Delfing, BC Conservatives

The BC Conservative party proposes reviewing the existing 95% of land in British Columbia that is Crown land – in consultation with First Nations, municipalities, urban planners, and other stakeholders.

We want to allocate up to 1% of existing Crown land to develop affordable housing for British Columbians.

Upon completing the review and successful implementation of our plan, the BC Conservatives would be encouraging all financial institutions in British Columbia to finance the development of affordable housing released from Crown land.

Also, we would Increase the threshold to qualify for the Property-Transfer-Tax exemption for first-time home buyers based on fair market value in respective B.C. regions.

Eric Foster, BC Liberals

Anyone who has lived in the Vernon-Monashee riding for a few years has witnessed the unprecedented increase in the value of local real estate and the cost of rental accommodation. Rental vacancy hovers around 1% and there simply isn’t enough supply for the demand. While real estate is market driven and there is little government can realistically do to lower the price of housing, there are policies and partnerships that could be encouraged that would help make housing more accessible.

It really depends on a future-driven mindset that provincial government takes while looking to partner with local government in achieving this goal. As land is developed or protected, and planning takes place, we must ask ourselves, “Is this the absolute best use of land?”

As a region of farming and rural living, certainly it is important to protect our precious agricultural land. But outside of the ALR, let’s encourage the building of higher-density housing projects when it makes sense to do so.

In addition to planning and partnerships, the Residential Tenancy Act in B.C. is often administered in a way that discourages purpose-built rental properties. It should be reviewed.


Okanagan Regional Library branches reopen for browsing

The Okanagan Regional Library has reopened most of its branches.

People can now browse the library’s collection and self-checkout books, DVDs, and other materials, the library says.

Staff are closely following recommendations from the public health authority and WorkSafe BC.

Safety measures include:

  • Risk assessments have been completed by each library to determine mitigation strategies to minimize risks where possible.
  • Signage to advise on safety protocols for staff and public.
  • Public computers in the libraries have been moved to ensure physical distancing.
  • Acrylic barriers have been installed at the desks.
  • Hand sanitizing stations have been set up in each branch for patron use as they enter the buildings.
  • Books are to be returned at the external book return areas only and will be quarantined for 72 hours.
  • All libraries have set occupancy limits. These limits are posted at the library entrance.
  • Visitors to the library are encouraged to wear a mask.

Meeting rooms, meeting spaces, study rooms, public seating, and other gathering areas in the library will remain closed to the public, however.

“While our curbside delivery service which has been running since early June has proven to be very popular (over the first couple of weeks we checked in over 75,000 physical items and re-loaned almost 80,000 new ones), we know that the public is anxious to enter library space once again, browse for their favourite materials, and use our computers to access the web and other needed online services. We ask that visitors follow the outlined process and rules so that everybody stays healthy and safe,” says CEO Don Nettleton.

Customers are encouraged to select materials quickly, check them out using the self-checkouts if possible, and leave to allow others to enter. Online programming – including the ever-popular children’s summer reading club – will continue.

The Okanagan Regional Library serves over 400,000 residents through 31 branches from Golden to Osoyoos.

Vernon’s community compost project expands into Phase 2

Composting project expands

The City of Vernon is launching Phase 2 of its pilot community food composting project.

Residents are encouraged to deposit household organic materials in collection bins at four locations to reduce food waste going to the landfill.

The following sites will be operational starting Monday until November, weather permitting:

  • City Centre: along 29th Street railroad tracks across from the 33rd Avenue intersection
  • Recreational Centre: on gravel area just north of the 35th Avenue parking lot entrance
  • Operations: on 47th Avenue just east of 20th Street
  • Kin Race Track: south west corner of parking lot off 43rd Avenue

“I’m glad we’re able to continue to provide this service,” said Mayor Victor Cumming. “Our residents have demonstrated strong support for composting, and continuing the community bin program will divert a substantial amount of organic material from the landfill. Organics diversion through composting can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90% compared to sending the same waste to the landfill.”

Residents are encouraged to compost primarily food scraps, including vegetable, fruit, meat, and bone scraps. Yard waste should go to the landfill yard waste collection facility. The compost sites will not accept commercial materials or any kind of metal, plastic, glass, Styrofoam, or pet waste.