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Kelowna widow left blowing in the breeze after city hall denies damage claim

“We wondered what the hell happened,” Stella Robertson said.

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The widow of a long-serving Mountie is literally fighting Kelowna City Hall to reclaim thousands of dollars it cost her when a tree — planted and jealously and solely maintained by the city — blew out all the electrics in her home.

“It was the long May weekend and we’d just finished dinner and we’re sitting watching the news and all of a sudden there was a loud bang!” Stella Robertson recalled.

“All of a sudden the TV went off and (bulbs in a tri-light fixture above the kitchen table) went off —pop! pop! pop!” said the widow of RCMP Staff-Sgt. Gordon Robertson.

“We wondered what the hell happened,” said the retired senior.

Robertson, who lives on a fixed income, ran to the neighbour’s home only to learn they too had heard the loud explosion, but still had electricity.

However, the apparent power surge “… blew the TV and blew the refrigerator,” said Robertson.

The neighbour checked the widow’s breaker panel, only to find the surge had welded all the screws to the metal box.

After running extension cords from the neighbour’s place to her own for a couple of basic electrical necessities, it didn’t take long to discover what went wrong.

Turns out a tree planted by the city several years earlier at Robertson’s curb had rapidly grown to the point the constant motion of the branches abraded the insulation of the power wire going to Robertson’s home.

Picture of the power line after it had been abraded by tree branches.

Because May 23 fell on a holiday weekend, Fortis — a BC natural gas and electricity company — was unable to attack the problem until two days later.

However, when Fortis workers did show up, they confirmed the outer coating of the main power supply line into the home had been worn to the bare wire by the constant friction of a branch of the tree, which resulted in a short that caused a major power surge into the home.

After consulting with her insurance company, Robertson was advised to make a roughly $4,000 claim with the City of Kelowna. The claim included only the direct costs of repairs and replacement.

Now, one might think the city would admit to being on the hook for the several thousand dollars in damage because they planted the tree and banned homeowners from doing any botanical maintenance on it.

A couple weeks later, Robertson received a letter from Steve Easton, an insurance adjuster acting on behalf of Kelowna who wrote: “ … an investigation into the claim is underway.”

Soon after, Easton sent a second letter to the beleaguered homeowner stating the claim was denied.

In the letter, Easton wrote: “The City of Kelowna maintains several thousand city-owned trees which are inspected on a three year basis for any concerns related to pruning or removal. The Parks Department inspected the tree in front of (Robertson’s address) in December 2018 and saw no issues or problems. Pruning of the tree was conducted in May 2020, and at that time, no concerns were identified. The Parks Department had no way to foresee that a branch from the tree would later come in contact with the power line.”

Robertson’s son, Gord, helped his mom file an appeal, but that, too, was denied.

In the letter, again penned by Easton, he wrote: “Please be advised the City of Kelowna’s response to your claim has not changed and if you wish to pursue this matter further you will have to do so through the courts.”

Western Standard interview requests to Easton were not acknowledged. As well, calls to the City of Kelowna — in part, to see if there were similar claims — weren’t returned.

That leaves the widow of a man who served his community for 33 years on the hook for repairs, which she said is closer to the $6,000 mark.

“The intention now is to take the city to civil court,” said Gord.

“They’ve (city hall) left us no choice.”

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

Mike D'Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief and Copy Editor for the Western Standard. He worked as an investigative crime reporter at the Calgary & Winnipeg Suns. mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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Sask Polytech ditches vax policy but burdens unvaxxed with testing costs

The Justice Centre is unsatisfied with the response of Sask Polytech and reiterated its intention to pursue legal action against the institution and against the University of Saskatchewan over its requirement for staff and students to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

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By LEE HARDING

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is unsatisfied with the decision of Saskatchewan Polytech to reverse its vaccination requirement for staff and students because the institute does not recognize natural immunity and imposes testing costs on the unvaccinated.

On November 19, the Justice Centre sent Sask Polytech and the University of Saskatchewan letters demanding they reverse their requirement that all staff and students be vaccinated by January 1, 2022. 

On December 1, Sask Polytech reversed its “vaccinated only” policy but now requires unvaccinated staff and students to comply with testing three times a week at their own expense. In a press release, the Justice Centre called this “unacceptable.”

“Such testing requirements for students are even greater than the Saskatchewan government’s requirements for employees of its ministries. Sask Poly has also failed to recognize the compelling scientific evidence of natural immunity for those who have already recovered from Covid-19 and have proof of antibodies,” reads a JCCF press release on Saturday.

“Testing costs, which could exceed $200 per week, mean that only the wealthy and privileged can bear the burden,” stated Andre Memauri, the Justice Centre’s Saskatoon-based lawyer.

“Sask Poly, which has chosen to impose discriminatory testing requirements for staff and students, has the ability to acquire these tests at wholesale cost.”

The Justice Centre said it would commence legal proceedings against Sask Poly in the Court of Queen’s Bench unless Sask Poly immediately absorbs the testing costs and recognizes natural immunity. 

On October 28, the U of S and Sask Polytech announced mandatory vaccinations for all students, staff and faculty, removing the alternative of twice weekly testing which had been in place since the start of the school year. The Justice Centre will also commence legal action against the U of S for refusing unvaccinated students. 

On November 26, Global News reported a 19-year-old student was hospitalized briefly with breathing problems after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The student’s mother, Michelle Marciniuk, publicly called for the university to reconsider its policy.

The U of S’ policy includes exemptions on medical and religious grounds in accordance with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. But according to the Justice Centre, the university usually rejects exemption requests or does not respond to them for several weeks. Besides this, the university has made itself the arbiter of faith considerations for religious exemptions. Medical exemptions have become a difficult document for patients to receive in Canada, due to regulatory pressure on physicians not to provide them based on their medical judgement except in very rare circumstances.

The U of S crowns itself for academic freedom, diversity, equality, human dignity and a healthy work and learning environment, yet it has harshly terminated faculty for speaking on the hallmark principle of informed consent for Covid-19 vaccination of children,” stated Andre Memauri, a U of S alum. 

“Now, the U of S seeks to exclude and villainize those who decide for various reasons not to be vaccinated…Without question, our community has been through a great deal of difficulty and it requires these institutions to lead as vessels of science not ideology…The Justice Centre demands both schools follow the science and adopt policies that bring students together in the most safe and lawful manner.”

The letters sent to both schools from the Justice Centre on November 19 warned that the schools are seeking to deprive students from education on the basis of vaccination status, contrary to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Sections 2(a), 7, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Harding is a Western Standard contributor based in Saskatchewan

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CRA wants more tax filers to file online

The government’s own research shows millions of paper filers resist change.

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The taxman is angry that too many Canadians are still filing by mail, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

The government’s own research shows millions of paper filers resist change.

“Those who submit their taxes by mail most often say they use paper rather than filing electronically because it is simply how they prefer to do it, e.g. they do it out of habit, because ‘it’s what they are comfortable with,’ they like it, etcetera,” said a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) report.

“Just 13% cite security issues.”

Data show of 30.5 million tax returns filed this year a total 2.7 million or 9% were filed on paper. Millions of taxpayers, a total 4,234,772 including Internet filers, demanded refunds be paid by mailed cheque instead of direct deposit.

The CRA complained it would be “more timely and efficient” if all taxpayers used the Internet. The Agency spends $6.9 million annually mailing T1 general tax forms alone.

“There is still a sizable proportion of taxpayers who are conducting their business with the Canada Revenue Agency through paper rather than taking advantage of digital services which are much more timely and efficient,” said the report.

Research showed typical paper filers were working age men under 55 who completed their own return without a tax preparer, had a university degree, earned more than $80,000 a year and were more likely than other Canadians to prefer in-person teller service rather than online banking.

“The most important factor influencing why respondents file by paper instead of online is disinterest,” wrote researchers, who added: “Apathy is a barrier. Fifty percent of likely switchers say they are simply not interested in switching. Therefore the agency will have to demonstrate the value of switching.”

Findings were based on questionnaires with 2,000 taxpayers who filed returns by mail. The Agency paid Earnscliffe Strategy Group $130,061 for the survey.

The research follows a failed 2012 campaign to have all Canadians use direct deposit for payment of tax refunds and benefit cheques. The attempt by the Receiver General of Canada, the federal office responsible for processing payments, was intended to save costs. Paper cheques cost 82¢ apiece to process compared to 13¢ for electronic transfers, by official estimate.

An estimated 13% of taxpayers refused to surrender bank account information to the Receiver General. “Cheque recipients have become harder to engage,” said a 2020 Department of Public Works survey.

“A few have a general distrust of the Government of Canada’s ability to protect data,” wrote researchers. A total 23 percent of Atlantic residents said they wouldn’t rely on the government to protect their privacy, followed by 22% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 21% in Ontario, 19% in Alberta, 18% in BC and 12% in Québec.

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WATCH: Alberta Oil drives Guilbeault to meeting with Nixon

Federal Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault’s tour of Alberta has already kicked off with a whiff of hypocrisy.

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Attended by a sizable entourage, Guilbeault exited his black gasoline-powered SUV and hustled into the McDougall Centre in Calgary for a meeting with Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon.  

Guilbeault has dedicated most of his career to telling Canadians they need to transition from petrochemically fueled transportation. During this meeting though, Guilbeault chose not to find an utilize an electric-powered SUV in order to demonstrate his environmental virtue. With the resources of the entire federal government behind him, one would have thought that Guilbeault could have arranged appropriate transportation for his cross-Canada tour.  

It’s almost as if electric vehicles are still not ready for mainstream use yet. 

At least Guilbeault contributed to the Western economy with his conspicuous consumption of local petrochemical products.  

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