Capital News review of 2012 (part 1)

We begin our annual look back at the year that was with what made news from January to June.

  • Dec. 25, 2012 3:00 p.m.


The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association announced it would be looking for a new president after Joe Sardinha, who lead the organization for seven years, stepped down.

A group of B.C public health officers, including the former senior health officer with Interior Health, Dr. Paul Hasselback, came out in favour of legalizing and taxing marijuana in the province.

Kelowna’s new city council was presented with a draft municipal budget from staff that included a slight tax decrease. But once council had finished its deliberation in February the final figure was a 1.1 per cent take hike.

Neil George Snelson, convicted of manslaughter in the 1993 death of Jennifer Cusworth in Kelowna, files an appeal of his October 2011 conviction.

The average residential property assessment value in the Central Okanagan dropped between 2011 and 2012 said the B.C. Assessment Authority. The average assessment dropped to $504,000 in Kelowna from $511,000, to $493,000 in West Kelowna from $509,000, and to $449,000 from $456,000 in Peachland, The only area that bucked the trend was Lake Country, where it jumped to $522,000 from $520,000.

The province was asked by the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative to pump more than $30 million into the orchard industry to buy land so money could be freed up to allow the co-op to invest in newer technology. The call was in a series of recommendation in a report released by the co-op.

The first medical school students started to arrive in Kelowna to study at UBC’s Southern Medical Program.

UBCO opened a tiny research winery on its Kelowna campus.

A study by Kelowna Tourism found more visitors were coming to the city in 2011 than in 2006 but they were spending less than they did five years earlier.

A large rock tumbled down the hillside above Highway 97 two kilometres south of Oyama and onto the hood of a passing vehicle. The rock was believed to have come from the road work above where a new four-land section of the highway was being built that will replace the existing stretch of Highway 97 below.

Steering clear of a debate over what stores should be located there, Kelowna city council approved a plan to rezone land on Kane Road in Glenmore for a new strip mall.

The new Kelowna city council axed the city’s advisory planning commission, housing committee and women and community advisory committees, after reviewing all city committees and fulfilling promise to do so by new Mayor Walter Gray in his an inaugural-night speech.

He went looking for six more officers but Kelonwa’s top cop, Supt. Bill McKinnon would later have that number doubled thanks to a report commissioned by the city on local police strength. The report, presented just before budget liberations recommended 22 more officers should be added to the local detachment.

Kelowna council endorsed downtown building heights as tall as 26 storeys.

Kelonwa council adopts a $332 provisional budget, with a proposed tax increase of 0.11 per cent tax hike. Later in the spring, after adding more police officers, the final hike would jump to 1.1 per cent.

The city received $1.25 million from the federal gas tax fund to help pay for energy saving measures at the Kelowna airport, Rutland Arena and the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

The city put residents who live on streets with posted parking restrictions on notice that starting in April it would charge those residents $50 per year to park on the street outside their homes. The fee would pay for a permit which was being introduced as a revenue generator by the city.

MP Justin Trudeau, son of the late former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, spoke to local Liberals in Kelowna.

The executive director of the Tourism Kelowna

said her organization needs to be more aggressive in its marketing

of spring and fall tourism here if it wants to bring numbers back up to where they were before the recession. Nancy Cameron said tourism numbers were still three per cent lower than in 2008 after dropping 10 per cent lower in 2009 and only seeing small recoveries in 2010 and 2011.

Kelowna went public with its long-awaited Downtown Plan, a blue print for how it wants the downtown to develop in future.

Construction was completed on the new, six-storey Centennial

Building at Kelowna General Hospital. The $250-million addition gave several departments new, larger areas and added much needed space to the hospital.

The annual Wendy’s Dreamlift Day raised $114,276 dollars to sent kids with life-threatening illness to Disneyland for the day, raising the total gathered since 1995 to help Sunshine Dreams For Kids deliver the trips to more than $1.1 million.

For fifth year in a row, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Index ranked Kelowna as “severely unaffordable.” The only Canadian cities ranked more unaffordable were Vancouver, Abbottsford, and Victoria. The study pegged the median house price here at $385,100 and the median household income at $58,100.

The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association reported a drop in membership numbers, blaming it on a growing number of orchardists leaving the industry because they cannot make enough money to continue.

A new era was born at the BCFGA convention when Kirpal Boparai was elected president, the first Indo-Canadian resident of the organization.

The sale of what was being touted as the largest facet-cut emerald in the world proved to be a bust in Kelowna after its owner was arrested here on an outstanding warrant from Hamilton, Ont. Regan Reany was accused of multiple frauds. Despite the arrest, the auction of the 57,500 carat emerald, reportedly valued at $1.15 million, went ahead but failed to garner much interest and didn’t sell.

The B.C. Tree Fruit Co-operative embarked on the first phase of an ambitious $44 million infrastructure modernization with a $2.7 million grant from the federal-provincial AgriFlex fund. The total cost of the work at the Winfield plant was pegged at $5.25 million.


The Grey Cup made an appearance in Kelowna as members of the B.C. Lions, who won the cup at B.C. Place three months earlier, toured the province to show off the holy grail of Canadian football.

A plan to monitor, with video cameras, what locals throw away in their garbage containers started throughout the Central Okanagan.

A consultant hired by Kelowna to review its police strength said the city needs a minimum of 15 more RCMP officers to deal with crime here.

Environment Canada officials reported that snow pack levels in the mountains above the Okanagan we at normal levels despite the unseasonably warm weather conditions.

The University of B.C.’s Kelowna campus welcomed its new principal Deborah Buszard. She replaced Doug Owram, who retired.

Kelowna RCMP Const. Christopher Brinnen was found guilty of assault stemming from an altercation at downtown nightclub and placed on administrative duties while police assessed what to do next.

Local food bank executive director Vonnie Lavers was one of the first locals to receive the special Diamond Jubilee Medal, crafted in Canada to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

A man drowned on Wood Lake near Winfield after falling through the ice when he rode his bicycle onto the frozen lake.

The population of the Central Okanagan continued to grow with StatsCanda releasing figures that showed the Central Okanagan ‘s population grew 10.8 per cent in the previous five years, nearly doubling the provincial average of 5.9 per cent. Kelowna grew 9.6 per cent to 117,312, West Kelowna grew 13.5 per cent to 30,892, Lake Country 21.9 per cent to 11,708 and Peachland 6.5 per cent to 5,200.

Failing to meet provincially mandated targets for the number of knee, hip and cataract surgeries in its area, Interior Health had $3.4 million in funding clawed back by Victoria.

Ground was broken on a 160,000-square-foot Valley First Credit Union building in Rutland. The city hoped it would serve as a catalyst for further development in the area.

As part of it plan to review city some committees and cut others, council announced it would keep the agriculture advisory committee. Earlier, it axed the advisory planning committee and the women’s committee.

Nine of the top chefs in Canada gathered at the Delta Grand Hotel for the Canadian Culinary Championships and chef Mark Lepine of Ottawa cooked his way to the gold medal.

Local realtors said the number of residential properties sold through foreclosure here jumped significantly in the last three years to 155 from just 11 in 2008. InFebruary there were 175 properties listed as being in foreclosure in the Central Okanagan.

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick announced he would hold a town hall meeting using Twitter in order to take constituent questions about housing issues.

FourChange, a private group of businesspeople who worked during the municipal election to have four incumbent councillors replaced with four candidates it supported spend $30,766 dollars to achieve three quarters of its goal. Three of the four candidates it supported were elected, as well as two newcomers it did not endorse.

Police announced no criminal charges would be laid as a result of a boating accident on Okanagan Lake that claimed the life of a 10-year-old girl. Emily Chaplin was riding on a Yamaha Waverunner when it was hit by a speedboat.

Kelowna council said it wanted Interior Health to continue testing water samples from local beaches after IH said it was up to local municipalities to do the collecting because it did not have to money to do so anymore.

Public pressure convinced Kelowna council said it would reconsider its plan to scrap the No. 9 shopper service bus route in the city.

Local garbage truck operators expressed their concern after a surveillance camera was installed in the cab of a local garbage truck to watch the driver.

Cameron Capozzi entered a surprise guilty plea to the manslaughter charge he was facing during his trail for killing his mother Josephine “Babs” Capozzi, 79. Cameron Capozzi, believed to have been drunk at the time, stabbed his mother and she was later found dead in her home.

A report on the inaugural RBC GranFondo Kelonwa cycling event in July 2010 showed it generated $3.5 million in economic activity, attracted 1,200 riders who covered the 115 kilometre distance.

ArmorWorks Canada, an Okanagan company located on the site of the former Hiram Walker distillery near Winfield, secured a $9.5 million National Defence contract to fit Canadian military vehicles with specially made seats.

After its decision to build a new Okanagan jail near Oliver, the province announced in its budget that it planned to sell off the site at the north end of Kelowna, near Winfield, that it bought in the 1990s to originally build a jail on.

The garbage truck driver who blew the whistle on the company that hauls the Central Okanagan’s residential trash installing a surveillance camera in the cab of his truck said the complaint got him fired. But Okanagan Environmental Waste said Shane Collins was fired for not doing a mandatory pre-route inspection of his truck.

Teachers in Central Okanagan rallied to protest the government’s decision to legislate them back to work.


A group of Rutland Senior Secondary students vowed to “strike” to support their teachers in the B.C Teachers Federation’s ongoing labour dispute with the provincial government.

A growing call for a pain management clinic in Kelowna attracted the attention of local MLAs.

The B.C. Teachers Federation served strike notice and announced it would hold a three-day strike. Meanwhile, the province prepared to legislate the teachers back to work.

The daughter of Kelowna’s top cop, Supt. Bill McKinnon, was arrested for her role in an alleged drug trafficking scheme. Lisa Hope McKinnon appeared in court on a charge of trafficking heroin/cocaine and two counts of possession of heroin/cocaine.

A Hungarian student won the annual spaghetti bridge contest at Okanagan College with a structure that held 384 kilograms.

Paul Macklem, Kelowna’s the head of the city’s finance department and general manager of corporate services was named the acting chief administrative officer of the Central Okanagan Regional District. The appoints was to last a year while a full-time replacement for the retired Harold Reay is sought.

The owners of the Streaming Cafe in Kelowna were the first to take advantage of a new city tax exemption for an addition they were planning. The city hoped the exemption would help spur development on Leon and Lawrence Avenues downtown.

Charges were laid after an ill-fated party in the Bear Creek area resulted in the death of a young man who was “surfing”on the roof of a car as it was being driven.

Kelowna city hall welcomed the announcement of a three-member panel to review B.C. Transit’s operations and performance in the B.C. Interior. The city had long wanted more control over transit operations here.

Spending figures from the November 2011 municipal election showed winner Walter Gray outspend defeated incumbent Sharon Shepherd 2:1 in the campaign. Gray spent $56,920, while Shepherd spent $29,729.

A 59-year-old motorcyclist was killed in traffic accident on Harvey Avenue and his 55-year-old wife was sent to hospital after a Jeep struck the bike they were riding from behind.

Kelowna city council approved a deal with Westcorp Properties to build a new day-use marine and public pier on the downtown lake shore at a cost of $3.2 million. The company would pay for the project and operate for 15 years with an option for another five years. Later, the price of the project, to be built in 2013, would jump to $5 million.

Kelowna winery Sandhill Estate Vineyard won golf at the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde international wine competition in France. It was the only gold medal for any Canadian winery in the competition.

Kelowna’s airport set new marks with a record number of passengers filing through its terminal. According to officials, January and February became the busiest months ever at the airport.

The plan to build a new marina and pier downtown meant an end of an era for the Fintry Queen. Planners said a berth for the faux-paddlewheeler tourist boat was not included in the plan.

The body of a West Kelowna man, missing since January, was found off Elk Road in West Kelowna. A search for Andrew LaLonde had been underway. Foul play was not suspected.


Cameron Capozzi sentenced for manslaughter in the death of his mother, Babs Capozzi. He was told he would spend 18 months more in jail on his six-year prison sentence.

West Kelowna lost its bid to win Hockeyville to Stirling-Rawling, Ont., though it was no surprise. The public relations firm handling the contest for CBC flubbed its release and let the cat out of the bag several hours early.

Cancellation of the annual Taste of Kelowna event was deemed a sign of the times as restaurants tried to weather the perfect economic storm—a series of slow tourist seasons, HST implementation, minimum wage increase and changes to the liquor laws.

The WFN announced ground could be broken on a privately funded private medical facility on WFN land, a first of its kind in Canada,  as early as this year; as of the end of the year it hadn’t happened.

Kelowna city council rejected the Monacco Towers, a massive condo project proposed for the downtown core with several green-themed options, like a built-in car share program. It was said to vary wildly from the recently adopted downtown plan.

The Okanagan hit the top of the pile in Mr. B-Listed, a real estate service offering a listing for “For Sale By Owner” homes. Its founder, Shawn Brown, said he suspects the dip in real estate prices in the region was behind its popularity.

A chlorine leak emptied the Rutland YMCA, forcing the everyone in the pool out into a chilly April morning.

The UBCO fine arts students held their final show, launching the careers of 34 new artists in the Okanagan.

Local chef Tanya Jennens, of Whisk Cake Company, made one of the tallest wedding cakes ever produced in the Okanagan. It was a replica of the space needle.

Both the City of Kelowna and West Kelowna adopted new contracts with the RCMP, despite a last minute wage increase announced federally that was never planned during the negotiations. Kelowna city council also decided to add new members to its RCMP contingent.

Matthew Foerster, the man charged with the Halloween slaying of Armstrong teenager Taylor Van Diest, made his first appearance in court. The 26-year-old appeared calm and stared straight ahead during the brief showing.

Several social service agencies struggled to comprehend why the federal government would cut funding for public Internet portals, including the Okanagan Regional Library.

Thousands braved the rain to celebrate Vaisakhi in Rutland. The Sikh celebration included the largest parade of the calendar year.

A ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada on bawdy houses managed to waylay the right-to-die case in which West Kelowna resident Gloria Taylor was a co-plaintiff; a decision had been expected within the month of April.

A new airport hotel was announced and lauded as evidence of Kelowna’s growing economic profile.

A fake gun frenzy washed over Kelowna with three incidents involving replica fire arms. One was a grad prank, the other someone waving a fake gun in a hostel parking lot.

The Interior Health Authority issued a letter to West Kelowna Council to keep the ball rolling on a possible public-private partnership to secure a health centre on Elliott Road.

UBCO won a $1.2 million grant for GHG emission reduction in agriculture.

Angie Lohr, of Hope Outreach, won one of the provincewide Courage to Come Back awards for overcoming drug addiction and life on the streets to become an entrepreneur who helps women struggling with addictions, mental health issues and living and working on the street.

Kelowna Mountain caused another ruckus at the Central Okanagan Regional District as the developer and his representatives held up the Official Community Plan, haranguing local planners and politicians in an attempt to compensate for a build-out already underway, though it does not conform to the new guidelines and never received approvals.

Reports of a rogue grizzly bear on Knox Mountain were deemed unlikely by conservation officers, though the trail runner who spotted the beast maintained he’s seen grizzlies before and knows the bears when he sees one. The officers later reversed their decision and decided the sightings were likely true.

Okanagan teachers removed themselves from extracurricular activities in the wage increase fight.

Central Okanagan East director Patty Hanson started pursuing incorporation by demanding the chairman of the Regional District board, Robert Hobson, and the planning director, Dan Plumondon, step down. The following day she qualified it by saying she wants them only to step down in issues relating to her community, saying its growth has been stunted by people unwilling to let the community grow.

Const. Christopher Brennan, of the Kelowna RCMP, was told his criminal record would remain clean, his assault charge cleared. The incident involved the officer punching a man during the bar flush in downtown Kelowna.


Kelowna’s mayor refused to sign onto a letter supporting the decriminalization of marijuana, unlike the mayors in Lake Country, Enderby, Armstrong, and Vernon.

Rick Hanson rolled through town on his 25th anniversary tour. Some 7,000 people across the country helped to replicate the journey he made on his own in 1987, continuing on around the world, raising money for spinal cord research.

At the request of Ethel Street resident Kris Stewart, neighbours in the region of Mission Creek rallied to help fellow neighbours as the creek exceeded its banks in a scary flooding episode.

It was announced the Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna is scheduled to shut its doors in the next two years as operations shift to the Penticton branch.

Ron Taylor received the Ted Barsby Conservationist of the Year award at the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s 56th annual general meeting.

The Rotary Centre for the Arts hired a new executive director, Valerie Cooper, only to discover she was being sued for stealing from her previous employer; she was later arrested and charged with fraud.

Boat owners were being warned to watch for debris in the wake floods, heavy rains and rising lake waters.

Kelowna city council approved a 1.12 per cent tax increase, unable to avoid the boost due to the need for more police officers.

The British Columbia Automobile Association announced Westside Road is now the worst stretch of road in the province, as voted on by the public.

Parkinson Recreation Centre was yarn bombed, a process whereby the trees were covered in pieces of knitting, by an anonymous artist or group of artists.

High temperatures were being blamed for the flooding causing havoc throughout the valley.

A plane went down near the Okanagan Connector killing everyone on board and questions started arising about the area near Brenda Mines where it was lost. It seems to be a hotspot for plane crashes.

The City of Kelowna was applying for money to deal with the pine beetle infestation. Some 24 per cent of the trees in the city are pine and 60 to 80 per cent are expected to be effected.

A dramatic house fire at 3363 Springfield Road was contained to one house after the Kelowna Fire Department managed to curtail a wall of flames.

A major showdown between organizers for the Kelowna Mountain development and the Central Okanagan Regional District board of directors turned a meeting to deal with the new Official Community Plan for the regions outside Kelowna city limits into a fiasco. Three bus loads of development supporters were brought in to the meeting where directors complained the developer was trying to bully the board into rejecting the planning scheme so the development would not need to make changes.

The regional district offered to pay for a fourth floor at the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre for $8.3 million.

It was predicted there would a be a massive cherry crop due to ideal weather conditions.

A long weekend fishing trip ended in tragedy when a 43-year-old Lower Mainland man died after his fishing boat capsized on Headwaters Lake.

The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Kelowna Yacht Club promoted the importance of wearing a personal flotation device, saying seniors were the most likely to be delinquent.

The provincial government announced a $2 million replant program to encourage orchardists to replant apple orchards with newer more marketable varieties; but the orchardists said what is really needed is consumer support and more government intervention to improve the industry’s plight.

Provincial Conservative leader, John Cummins, stopped in to laud his party’s resurgence and declare he will win the spring (2013) election.

Patients moved into KGH’s new Centennial Tower in one of the biggest moving days the city has ever seen—25 per cent of the hospital patients were moved in a single day.

Results of a March survey of members of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, done by Ipsos Reid, showed orchardists would participate in a program to help them with the costs of replanting to more marketable varieties of apples. More than four in 10 agreed they would increase their replanting with assistance.

The Kelowna RCMP declared the local detachment was heading into summer in better shape than ever before with the addition of the 11 new officers added by city council. All positions were filled before summer.

The owner of the North End Café decided to donate a kidney to a young woman she only knew peripherally. The woman had grown up with café owner Julie Evaskevish’s sons and the business onwer-turned-donor never forgot how dialysis seemed to drain the life from the young girl. The recipient, Tina Lumbis, is now 27 years old and the procedure was scheduled for September.

Kelowna resident Shelley DeCoste, a self-advocate with cerebral palsy, launched her campaign to change the word disability to diversability.

Some 40 nurses rallied outside the new Centennial Tower at Kelowna General Hospital saying the tower will be under-staffed.

West Kelowna banned ice cream trucks from playing their music, causing headlines across the country and spurring debate on American late night talk shows.

Mayor Walter Gray proclaimed Pride Week, Aug. 12-19, and the gay community praised his change in attitude.


Census figures revealed single women are right, there is an abundance of women over men. Some 61,030 of Kelowna residents are women, compared to only 56,280 men.

The federal NDP introduced a motion calling for a standing vote on a private member’s bill aimed at allowing free trade in wine among Canadian provinces; the vote later occurred, allowing people to buy wine for personal use and bring it home from vacation.

Access to UBCO via Curtis Road was officially cut off after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that cyclists are not to use the privately owned extension of Curtis Road.

The Okanagan’s two biggest ski mountains split. Big White and Silver Star severed ties. According to Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president, it was for “personal family reasons.”

Club Penguin co-founder Lane Merrifield was made an honorary fellow by Okanagan College and told graduates he never excelled in school and could not have imagined himself giving a commencement speech like the one he gave at the spring convocation. “Back when I was in school, inventing new ways of doing things was called ‘cutting corners,’ creating characters and stories was called ‘day dreaming,’” he said.

The technology industry retreat Metabridge got underway.

Irish singer Julie Feeney flew into Kelowna to support a fan, Robert Jung of Annegret’s Chocolates. She played a benefit concert for the charity of his choice, Project Literacy, and gave a performance in the mall where his wife’s chocolate shop is stationed. Jung wrote to her after drawing on her songs as inspiration in his fight to come back from a life-threatening motorcycle accident that took him from being a marathon running to a man who couldn’t walk.

The new director of the Kelowna Museums was named and Wayne Wilson, long-time employee and eventual director, retired.

Flooding saw beaches littered with debris and Enterprise Way, where the Capital News is located, floating in watery slough that required sandbags to contain.

Adam Scorgie, producer of The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, was invited to Ottawa to screen the film for Members of Parliament.

Kelowna Rockets coach Kim Dillabaugh fulfilled a childhood dream as a member of the Los Angeles Kings coaching staff when the Kings won the Stanley Cup. It marks the first time a Rockets coach or former coach has been associated with a Stanley Cup win.

Trevor Shannon was back in court on second degree murder charges over the death of Evan Wilkes, who was fatally shot at a Vimy Road house party five years ago.

Rising flood waters continued to cause havoc, damaging the abutments on McCullough Road bridge beyond Gallagher’s Canyon and causing landslides on Myra Canyon Trail.

The Central Okanagan Food Policy Council launched a gleaning program to help salvage some of the fruit going to waste on Okanagan trees.

Kelowna city council streamlined its secondary suite process, cutting the cost in half and the wait-time to establish a legal suite to four weeks from four months.

The Kelowna Museums launched a play related to its summer exhibit. Mary’s Wedding showcased the Something Borrowed, Something Blue show in an attempt to attract new audiences to the museums.

The B.C. Supreme Court found the law banning physician-assisted suicide to be unconstitutional, but the judge put a ban on moving forward for a year so the courts could draft appropriate legislation. West Kelowna resident Gloria Taylor, whose lawsuit, along with several others, prompted the legal query was given special permission to die by assisted suicide in the intervening time, should she so choose. She died of natural causes months later.

A property on Truswell Road almost washed away, forcing a 3 a.m. State of Emergency declaration allowing city crews to send large machinery in, between buildings, to bolster the sides of Mission Creek with large boulders.

It was revealed the new wine trade bill will not allow wine to be shipped freely across provincial borders; it will be up to each province to set its own rules.

The world’s smallest known operating sawmill made its debut at the Westbank Museum.

A new awareness program targeted at boaters was implemented to try and stem the advance of two alien mussel species—the quagga and zebra mussels—causing problems in waterways throughout the province.

The $75,000-plus a year club at Kelowna City Hall increased by 30 people as salaries continue to rise.

A state of emergency was declared in Joe Rich as rising floodwaters threatened a property near Forks Bridge.

TEDx held its first event in Kelowna with business and community leaders giving talks on how they are helping to change the world.

School teachers signed on to a short contract offer set to end within two years as local BCTF rep Alice Rees said the union made the best of a bad situation.

The local hunting community cleaned up more than 4,000 kilograms of junk in the area of the Gillard Forest Service Road.

Kelowna city staff threw their support behind an application to allow alcohol to be served at the Rutland Arena during events.

UBCO vice-chancellor Doug Owram retired telling the business community in his last public address that the university will be critical to the region’s survival as Kelowna needs more than beaches and peaches to survive.

It was revealed the government may have misled growers when it announced its apple replant program as the funds won’t reach growers hands until September 2013, making it difficult to start replanting apples in 2012.

Watch for a review of the last six months of 2012 in the Capital News edition of Friday, Dec. 28.

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