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Vancouver pays second highest gas taxes in the country

The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) has released their 2016 Gas Tax Honesty Report, revealing that Vancouver residents currently pay the second highest gas taxes in the country, and the highest overall gas prices.

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On average, Canadians pay some 37 cents tax for every litre of gas at the pump, and $654 in gas taxes each year. Montreal tops the charts with 50 cents per litre added on for tax, with Vancouver close behind at 47 cents – making up 41 per cent of the cost of filling up the tank. If taxes were completely removed, the cost per litre in Vancouver would be around 67 cents.

The rest of B.C. doesn’t pay nearly as much tax as those in the Lower Mainland because of the 17-cent transit tax imposed in Metro Vancouver.

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While Alberta has been paying the lowest gas prices in the country for some time, that may soon change, as a 4.5 cent per litre carbon tax is introduced in January 2017 and by 2018 will rise to 6.73 cents.

To help lower the financial burden on Canadians, the CTF is recommending the federal government cut gas taxes by five cents a litre and cut diesel taxes by two cents a litre, as well as stop charging GST on top of applied federal and provincial gas taxes, a process known as tax-on-tax.

The CTF’s release came while many Metro Vancouver politicians are debating the contentious issue of bridge and road tolling. Jordan Bateman, B.C.’s director for the CTF, argues there needs to be legislative changes made before any more tolling goes into effect.

With all the infrastructure projects the region has in the works, including $200 million for TransLink, a new Patullo Bridge, a new Massey Tunnel, and paying off the Portman and Golden Ears Bridge, Bateman estimates tolls would need to be as high as $2 per bridge crossing.

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THE CANADIAN PRESS / Patrick Dell

But the CTF believes that future tolls should be put to a vote among residents of Metro Vancouver and if some bridges were to be tolled, all bridges should be tolled – including those within the City of Vancouver, like the Granville, Burrard, and Cambie Street bridges.

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The myth and science of Haida Gwaii’s Balance Rock

Nested behind tall cedars on the Yellowhead Highway near Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, is a narrow gravel trail that leads to one of the most mysterious and photographed sights on Graham Island.

The famous “Balance Rock” has been attracting visitors for decades: its perfect balancing act – both a mystery and a silent dare to try to knock it over.

Many, including the Global BC crew, have tried, but failed to topple it.

It turns out the forces of gravity and friction are largely to thank for the rock’s stability.

Dan Gibson, associate professor of Structural Geology at the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University, says the boulder’s centre of gravity is centred exactly over the point of contact with the underlying rock, creating the seemingly unbreakable bond.

“Because that boulder is so big and heavy, the mass of that rock and its centre of gravity create such a high, contact frictional force that it becomes a very stable object that’s difficult to move,” says Gibson. “The force of gravity is basically gluing it to the rock below.”

PHOTO: A close-up of the base of the Balance Rock resting on another rock

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Gibson says the rock most likely ended up where it is today during a glacial retreat.

He says, during the retreat, boulders become entrenched in the ice or on top of the ice, so when the ice eventually melts, it leaves behind different sizes of rocks, including very large boulders like the Balance Rock.

Gibson says one can only guess that the rock came from the nearby coast mountains, which could have formed either in the Cretaceous Period, about 100 million years ago, or as far back as the Jurassic Period, perhaps 150-200 million years ago.

However, the glacial movement that moved the rock most likely took place only thousands of years ago – a split moment, in geological terms.

“Given enough time, thousands to millions of years, nature has a way of producing very stunning examples, such as this, which is a combination of erosion and how the boulder was left behind,” says Gibson.

However, the Balance Rock is not one of a kind.

In fact, Gibson says, there are hundreds of similar examples around the world, other parts of Canada and even here in B.C.

Regardless, the Balance Rock in Skidegate has left many tourists and locals alike scratching their heads.

“It’s so big and it’s right there on the ocean and you wonder why the waves have not knocked it over yet,” says Gibson. “It looks so amazing that it often defies logic.”

The Balance Rock in Haida history

Surprisingly, not much in the way of oral history survives about the legend of the Balance Rock in the Haida folklore.

Fabled local historian and elder Richard Wilson, better known as Captain Gold, says it’s unusual for such an outstanding rock to not be recognized in oral stories.

Wilson blames the smallpox epidemic that wiped out up to 90 per cent of the local population centuries ago, resulting in many of the oral records getting lost forever.

However, Wilson does remember a story about a local miner, who, at the turn of the century, tried to use dynamite to blow the rock up. Luckily, he did not get far and was stopped by other residents.

Wilson also remembers a group of women going down to the rock in the mid-1990s to make offerings and pray.

It was during the time when many of the Haida remains taken by early colonizers were beginning to get repatriated.

Wilson says the women were trying to make sure the spirits of their returning ancestors are at peace.

PHOTO GALLERY: Haida Gwaii’s Balance Rock 

The future 

While the forces of nature have not managed to knock the Balance Rock over yet, Gibson says nothing is forever.

“Its rock base will erode progressively through time and the boulder will fall over.”

How much time that process will take is anyone’s guess, but for now, the Balance Rock continues to gracefully balance in the horizon, overlooking the Hecate Strait and delighting herds of photo-snapping tourists, always ready to give it another push.

$1,000 reward for missing goat

KELOWNA–A Kelowna woman is offering a $1,000 reward for the safe return of her missing pet goat.

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Natalie Stolz got the miniature goat, which she named Sophie, from her boyfriend this spring as a birthday present. 

 She often left the goat at a friend’s farm in East Kelowna in a pen with other animals while she went to work.

On May 4, she got a call that her goat was missing, and an extensive search of the area turned up no sign of the pet.

Stolz says she doesn’t the small goat could escape the pen she was in, and doesn’t think Sophie was attacked by a predator either, because the rabbits that were also in the pen are fine.

“I think maybe somebody has her and they’re just not giving her up,” says Stolz.

Two business owners in the complex that Stolz works in have offered to help her, each offering $500 for a reward.

Mike Forman’s automotive shop is a couple of doors down from where Stolz works and he used to see her walking her goat on her work breaks.

“We talked to Natalie about a reward and she said ‘Yup, if I had a reward I’d get her back tomorrow’, so I offered a reward.  We’ll see what happens,” says Forman.

And Stolz’ own boss, Colin Redisky at Lyman Lures matched the 500 dollar offer.

“I hope she gets her goat back, for sure,”says Redisky.

Regina’s first intervention dog helps put abuse victims at ease

REGINA – Police dogs are known for their strong noses, and fast legs.

But Merlot, the K9 intervention dog, does the opposite. Most of the time she sits very still, very quiet and uses her puppy presence to simply listen.

Merlot is the first ever K9 intervention dog to be a part of the Regina Police Service.

She’s got a serious doggy day job, assisting all ages in uncomfortable situations.

Merlot and handler Sgt. Tia Froh start the day with commands, a daily practice to keep her in tip-paw-shape.

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The pair often find themselves in the courtroom. Merlot assists on the stand, simply by laying down next to the victims as they share their story.

Most of the time, however, is spent at the Regina Children’s Justice Centre.

Those who have been abused, sexually, physically or through neglect come to share their stories.

Merlot helps victims of all ages, but for children specifically it can be a very scary time.

Dog owners know the joy of coming home to a wagging tale, this is now a feeling that victims can share.

For youth in the justice centre, interviews with officers can be very intimidating,

“As an interviewer, you can’t show emotion, you can’t take sides,” Sgt. Froh said.

But that’s where Merlot comes in. Flashing puppy dog eyes that set children at ease without saying a word.

“If you’re talking to the dog and not having to look at the interviewer, it’s just a comforting aid for the child.”

Studies have proven that dogs help to decrease blood pressure and anxiety.

Erica Schenk is a Victim Services Responder and has only praise for Merlot’s work.

“When [victims] know Merlot is there for a support, they’re more willing to move forward with an investigation or more willing to go up on the stand and testify,” explained Schenk.

Merlot was bred and trained though Pacific Assistance Dogs (PADs), a non-for-profit that works to raise assistant dogs. Merlot was raised by Tara Dong in Burnaby, BC who knew early on the pup was destined for greater things.

“Merlot, from the time she was a baby, wanted to be good. She wanted to do the right thing,” explained Dong.

Unlike most puppies, hyper and easily distracted, Merlot showed early signs of sympathy. It was then an easy decision to begin intervention training.

“She was very in tune with the people around her, so if somebody was upset that is who she wanted to be with.”

Merlot, the three-year-old black Labrador Retriever, has proven her worth; a four-legged friend beneficial to both victims and to the system as a whole.

‘Hope From the Ashes’: Calgary rescue worker helps Fort McMurray fire relief with book of poetry

What he experienced in the Fort McMurray area this month had a big impact on Johnny Walker.

“Really, really overwhelming just to see people so worried about whether they have anything to go back home to,” Walker said.

Now he’s turning those experiences into a book of poetry he’s selling, donating all proceeds to the fire relief effort.

Walker spent a week in the fire zone, volunteering his services as an emergency rescue technician, “putting out spot fires, helping people that got small cuts.”

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    He’s now trying to help with his book “Hope From the Ashes”.

    In one poem, called “Into the Gates of Hell,” Walker writes, “darkness fills the sky, even in the daylight. Plumes of thick smoke, billowing from within the earth’s floor.”

    “I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child,” Walker said. “Words just come into my head and I start writing things down.”

    Walker published a similar book after volunteering in the aftermath of the southern Alberta floods in 2013.

    Sales of that book raised more than $8,000 for relief efforts, and Walker’s now hoping for a similar response to “Hope From the Ashes.”

    The book is available through Facebook here.