15 December 2016

Keep Safe on the Roads this Winter

 10 Tips for Safe Winter Driving from The Cooperators  
(while these good folks are my insurers--this is in no way meant to be an endorsement or a solicitation for business)

If you’ve driven in even one Canadian winter, you know that it takes patience, practice and mindfulness to stay safe on slick roads.

Your safety is important to us. Keep these safe winter driving techniques top of mind – and share them with your family and friends.

1. Invest in winter tires.

Winter tires are worth the investment. Put them on before it snows, and before the temperature drops below 7°C. Also, ensure tires are inflated properly; cold weather can decrease tire pressure.

2. Plan ahead.

Plan for five extra minutes pre-trip to check road conditions and remove all snow and ice from your vehicle.

3. Slow down.

It’s common sense that’s often overlooked: adjust your speed according to road conditions.

4. Stock up on windshield washer fluid.

When you need it most – 50 km from home in a white-out blizzard – you'll be glad to have an extra jug.

5. Leave the lights on.

To increase visibility, keep your headlights on, even during the day. Not sure if you need them? Err on the side of caution.

6. Step lightly.

Maintain steady pressure on the gas pedal and brake gently to avoid slipping and sliding.

7. Exercise patience.

When you're running 10 minutes late and find yourself stuck behind a snowplow or salt truck, take a deep breath and do not pass.

8. Look twice before reversing.

Be aware of snow banks when backing up; not only could you hit one, but they make it hard to see oncoming traffic or pedestrians.

9. Avoid using cruise control.

Cruise control in wet, icy or snowy conditions isn't worth the risk.

10. Pack an emergency kit.

Include:
  • a bag of salt or non-clumping cat litter (for digging out)
  • a blanket
  • a flashlight
  • a shovel
  • an ice scraper/snow brush
  • jumper cables
  • matches
  • non-perishable food 

Don’t forget to always drive distraction-free, especially during the winter. Learn what The Co-operators is doing to encourage distraction-free driving – plus other initiatives that will help build a better world. Take the distraction-free driving pledge today.

14 December 2016

Snow Angels: a gift that keeps on giving

City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
December 14, 2016
 
 
Thanks to the generous help of 29 Vancouver residents, more than 45 City blocks were cleared of snow between December 5 to 11 by volunteer Snow Angels who took the time to help seniors and people with limited mobility clean their sidewalks of snow and ice.
 
Before the recent snowfall, there were 16 registered Snow Angels with the City of Vancouver and that number nearly doubled to 29 following the first snowfall on December 5. The registration process is quick and easy and can be done via the City’s app VanConnect or by visiting the City website. Once registered, volunteers receive requests from our Snow Angel coordinator to clear snow and ice from neighbours' sidewalks.
 
All Vancouver property owners and occupants (tenants) are responsible to clear snow and ice from the full width of sidewalks that surround their property by 10 am the morning following a snowfall. This responsibility is in effect seven days a week. Property owners and occupants who fail to remove snow and ice may be subject to fines. Residents can also help keep storm drains clear of leaves and snow to prevent flooding.
  
Alternatively, those requiring assistance to clear their sidewalks can phone 3-1-1 and staff will connect you with a Snow Angel in your area. With temperatures currently below freezing, Snow Angels are using salt provided by the City to help clear sidewalks for seniors and people with limited mobility who have requested assistance. Between December 5 to 11, the City received 108 requests for help to clear sidewalks.    
 
A majority of the requests to become a Snow Angel or to receive assistance from a Snow Angel come through the City’s 3-1-1 Contact Centre. During the recent snow fall, the call centre received 1,540 snow and ice removal inquires alone. During the same period December 5 to 12 in the previous year, the City received five.
 
The 3-1-1 contact centre is well equipped to handle increased calls volumes from extreme weather events such as the recent snowfall. In preparation for increased calls related to snow, the centre brought in extra Customer Support Representatives on December 5.
 
The 3-1-1 Contact Centre is available from 7am to 10pm, 365 days a year and provides information on City of Vancouver services, including 175 language services. Callers do not need to speak English: (Just call and say, “Mandarin” or “Romanian” in your language of choice and after a short wait, callers are transferred to somebody who can speak that language).
 
Callers can receive information about City services, send service requests for non-emergency services, share concerns, and provide feedback. Alternatively. citizens can also use the City’s app VanConnect to access these services. The City launched its VanConnect app at the end of May 2015 and there have been almost 35,600  app downloads to date. Approximately 600 service requests per week are submitted via the app covering all areas of the City’s operations. 
 
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Media Contact:
Corporate Communications
604.871.6336

08 December 2016

New deal announced between Vancouver park board and community centre associations

05 December 2016

Information Bulletin: City continues snow mitigation, adds more trucks to fleet

City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
December 5, 2016
 
City continues snow mitigation, adds more trucks to fleet
 
City of Vancouver crews continue to respond to snowfall. The City takes snow removal seriously and has a comprehensive snow response plan in place. Temperatures are expected to drop tonight to below freezing. The City is continuing to add salt to roads and sidewalks, but travelers are asked to be cautious and take their time.
 
At the beginning of the day, the City had:
·         Fourteen salters salting/plowing main routes.
·         Four salters salting/plowing priority hills.
·         Bombardiers clearing seawall paths and sidewalks. 
·         Four small units salting/brining priority bike routes.
·         Crews manually removing snow at bus shelters, gutters that lead to catch basins, and sidewalk let downs at intersections. 
 
In the afternoon, some hills throughout the city were closed to traffic, and additional resources were added, including:
·         15 additional salters, pulled from our street operations and sewer operation fleets.
 
The City plows priority routes. These include major roads, bus routes, bridges, emergency access routes, and the most used bike routes and walkways.
 
Crews worked late Saturday and on Sunday to salt and brine Vancouver's major routes in anticipation of predicted snow and freezing temperatures.
 
Vancouver property owners and occupants (tenants) are responsible for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks that surround their property by 10 a.m. the morning following a snowfall. This responsibility is in effect seven days a week. Property owners and occupants who fail to remove snow and ice may be subject to fines. Snow and ice on the sidewalk can be a barrier for many people, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges. Residents are encouraged to lend a hand to those who are unable to shovel their own sidewalks by adopting their sidewalk.
 
Connect with us on the go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the VanConnect App. Use the app to report snow causing flooding, issues with transit shelter access, uncleared sidewalks, and any other street maintenance issues. Download the app at the AppStore, Google Play, or for Blackberry at vancouver.ca/vanconnect.
 
More information about how to prepare for winter weather is also available at vancouver.ca/snow.
 
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Media contact:
Corporate Communications
604.871.6336
media@vancouver.ca

30 November 2016

Not everyone is happy with the newest tenant in Stanley Park

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –

An artist's rendered image of Stanley Park Brewing moving into the former Fish House restaurant location. (Courtesy City of Vancouver)

It looks like the former Fish House restaurant in Stanley Park has a new tenant and it’s Stanley Park Brewing.

The Vancouver Park Board gave the go-ahead to the plan last night, which includes $4.5 million in renovations to a building which has been around since the 1920s. That plan includes a tasting room, on-site brewing and other major upgrades.

Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung says Stanley Park Brewing has a long connection to the park including support of the local Ecology Society and she’s hoping they’ll stay on long-term. “They have, on more than one occasion since the windstorm back in 2006, or with other brews or programs demonstrated their involvement and support for the park and I think that is a unique option.”

However, Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon voted against the plan. “Stanley Park Brewing is owned by Labatt, who in turn, is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev — the largest multi-national beer company in the world.”

He adds there were plenty of Vancouver businesses who would have loved to have been in that location and likens it to a McDonald’s coming to the park. “I don’t believe our parks are meant for commercial manufacturing of products. There are lots of places within Vancouver to put factories.”

(c) 2016 News 1130

"We feel betrayed” Vancouver Greens on Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline decision.

November 29, 2016 Vancouver, BC — Vancouver Greens express anger and disappointment at Trudeau decision to approve pipeline expansion, vow to fight decision.

adriane_stop_the_pipelines.jpgVancouver City Councillor Adriane Carr expressed her deep disappointment and resolve:

"I feel betrayed by Trudeau. Betrayed
because he promised action and leadership on climate and today’s approvals make that impossible.”

The greenhouse gas emissions from Kinder Morgan's pipeline make all other efforts to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions moot and make climate change catastrophic
and unstoppable.

The Green Party of Vancouver has consistently held the position that the proposed pipeline expansion is far too risky for this region, with no economic benefits.

Two-term Park Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon states, “I’m devastated. It will only take one small spill to ruin our pristine prize of Stanley Park and forever change Vancouver’s beaches and our local environment."

Says local restauranteur and Park Commissioner Michael Wiebe, "It’s hard to watch our federal government promise more to protect our coastline and then months later approve something that will completely destroy it."

"We cannot mitigate the risks of a spill: 99% of accidents in restricted waters are caused by human error and there's no way to clean up tarry bitumen. This decision was not based on science. There was no modelling at all of a marine bitumen spill by Kinder Morgan.” says Carr. "There's no good economic case: only huge costs to clean up spills and deal with global warming. The world is investing in renewable energies with their more stable, long term jobs. Fossil fuels are increasingly becoming stranded assets as world moves to low carbon future to mitigate climate change.”

Councillor Adriane Carr vows to rally fellow Greens to join the fight: "Clayoquot Sound will be like a picnic in a park compared to the protests against Kinder Morgan. I have been a law-abiding citizen all my life but feel compelled, for my children's sake, to join First Nations and other concerned citizens in non-violent civil disobedience to stop the construction of Kinder Morgan's pipeline."
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Media Contacts:

Adriane Carr - 778-886-4560 (cell)
Jacquie Miller - 604-340-8897 (cell)

Green Party of Vancouver
http://www.vangreens.ca/

14 November 2016

Fall street leaf cleaning to begin this week


City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
November 14, 2016
 
 
With the majority of our tree canopy now bare, City crews will begin to sweep and clear leaves from streets starting this week. Residents are asked to do their part by following all temporary “no parking” signs that will be posted the day in advance of cleaning activities.
 
If temporary “no parking” signs are posted, residents are required to move their vehicle(s) to another spot before 7 am on the date indicated. It is very important that vehicles are moved as it allows our crews to do a much better job of clearing all of the leaves from the street. Vehicles that are not moved may be towed to a nearby location or ticketed. Vehicles with a SPARC permit will be returned to the same location once the street cleaning is completed. 
 
Crews will initially focus on streets with higher volumes of leaves and may need to do one or two passes with the sweeper. To view a map and schedule of street leaf cleaning activities, visit vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/leaf-collection-from-city-streets.aspx
 
Do not rake leaves onto the sidewalk, catch basin, bike lane or street — this this can cause flooding and is a safety hazard to pedestrians and cyclists.
 
Residential Leaf Collection
Residents are encouraged to rake leaves that fall on their property, the sidewalk, catch basin or boulevard and add them to their Green Bin. Extra leaves that do not fit in residents Green Bins should be placed in paper yard waste bags or store-bought bins and set out on the following designated extra leaf collection weekends:
 
  • November 19 to 20 (updated date)  *this weekend*
  • December 10 to 11
  • January 14 to 15, 2017 (Christmas trees will also be collected)
 
Leaves in plastic bags are not accepted. Residents are asked to set their leaves out for collection before 7 am on the scheduled Saturday and to download the VanCollect app on their smartphone for collection reminders.
 
Helpful guidelines on the City’s fall leaf program can be found at vancouver.ca/leaves.
 
Disposing of leaves on boulevards or City property (including parks) is illegal dumping, and can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
 
 
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Media Contact:
Corporate Communications
604.871.6336

08 November 2016

What Do We Have to Lose? Everything.



In the United States of America it is election day. Some say this is the most important election ever. Some always say that. But today's election is different. It has been the most vitriolic election of my lifetime. I've never heard candidates call others criminals. I have never heard so many out right lies. I have rarely seen government agencies weigh in during a campaign to seemingly sway voters.

This election is different because of the candidates.

One person whom I have always admired and respected is Harry Belefonte. A man who has seen much change in his life. A man who has been part of that change. A man who has overcome overwhelming prejudice and injustice to reach a position of stature. This is an editorial, written by Harry Belefonte, from last night's New York Times. I hope they don't mind me re-printing it. It is worth reading.

“O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!”
— Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”

What old men know is that everything can change. Langston Hughes wrote these lines when I was 8 years old, in the very different America of 1935.

It was an America where the life of a black person didn’t count for much. Where women were still second-class citizens, where Jews and other ethnic whites were looked on with suspicion, and immigrants were kept out almost completely unless they came from certain approved countries in Northern Europe. Where gay people dared not speak the name of their love, and where “passing” — as white, as a WASP, as heterosexual, as something, anything else that fit in with what America was supposed to be — was a commonplace, with all of the self-abasement and the shame that entailed.

It was an America still ruled, at its base, by violence. Where lynchings, and especially the threat of lynchings, were used to keep minorities away from the ballot box and in their place. Where companies amassed arsenals of weapons for goons to use against their own employees and recruited the police and National Guardsmen to help them if these private corporate armies proved insufficient. Where destitute veterans of World War I were driven from the streets of Washington with tear gas and bayonets, after they went to our nation’s capital to ask for the money they were owed.

Much of that was how America had always been. We changed it, many of us, through some of the proudest struggles of our history. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but we did it, together. We won voting rights for all. We ended Jim Crow, and we pushed open the Golden Door again to welcome immigrants. We achieved full rights for women, and fought to let people of all genders and sexual orientations stand in the light. And if we have not yet created the America that Langston Hughes swore will be — “The land that never has been yet” — if there is still much to be done, at least we have advanced our standards of humanity, hope and decency to places where many people never thought we could reach.

What old men know, too, is that all that is gained can be lost. Lost just as the liberation that the Civil War and Emancipation brought was squandered after Reconstruction, by a white America grown morally weary, or bent on revenge. Lost as the gains of our labor unions have been for decades now, pushed back until so many of us stand alone in the workplace, before unfettered corporate power. Lost as the vote is being lost by legislative chicanery. Lost as so many powerful interests would have us lose the benefits of the social welfare state, privatize Social Security, and annihilate Obamacare altogether.

If he wins this Tuesday, Donald J. Trump would be, at 70, the oldest president ever elected. But there is much about Mr. Trump that is always young, and not in a good way. There is something permanently feckless and immature in the man. It can be seen in how he mangles virtually the same words that Langston Hughes used.

When Hughes writes, in the first two lines of his poem, “Let America be America again/ Let it be the dream it used to be,” he acknowledges that America is primarily a dream, a hope, an aspiration, that may never be fully attainable, but that spurs us to be better, to be larger. He follows this with the repeated counterpoint, “America never was America to me,” and through the rest of this remarkable poem he alternates between the oppressed and the wronged of America, and the great dreams that they have for their country, that can never be extinguished.

Mr. Trump, who is not a poet, either in his late-night tweets or on the speaker’s stump, sees American greatness as some heavy, dead thing that we must reacquire. Like a bar of gold, perhaps, or a bank vault, or one of the lifeless, anonymous buildings he loves to put up. It is a simplistic notion, reducing all the complexity of the American experience to a vague greatness, and his prescription for the future is just as undefined, a promise that we will return to “winning” without ever spelling out what we will win — save for the exclusion of “others,” the reduction of women to sexual tally points, the re-closeting of so many of us.

With his simple, mean, boy’s heart, Mr. Trump wants us to follow him blind into a restoration that is not possible and could not be endured if it were. Many of his followers acknowledge that (“He may get us all killed”) but want to have someone in the White House who will really “blow things up.”
What old men know is that things blown up — customs, folkways, social compacts, human bodies — cannot so easily be put right. What Langston Hughes so yearned for when he asked that America be America again was the realization of an age-old people’s struggle, not the vaporous fantasies of a petty tyrant. Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose, and we must answer, only the dream, only everything.

03 November 2016

QMUNITY responds to B.C. Court of Appeal decision on Trinity Western University

From the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
 (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. 
Below is a press release from Qmunity in Vancouver. QMUNITY is a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, BC that works to improve queer and trans lives. They provide a safer space for LGBTQ/2S people and their allies to fully self-express while feeling welcome and included. 
I wanted to share this because I believe what they say is important and true. I believe that an institution that practices discrimination should not train people who will practice our laws--laws that include the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
November 2, 2016  

 QMUNITY responds to B.C. Court of Appeal decision on Trinity Western University

QMUNITY is disappointed by the November 1, 2016 decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal which will allow future Trinity Western University graduates to practice law in B.C..   
QMUNITY participated in the appeal by providing important evidence about the lives of LGBQ/T/2S people and the potential harm done if the Court refused to uphold the Law Society of British Columbia’s decision not to approve the proposed Trinity Western University law school.  
The unanimous decision by the Court has a number of significant impacts on wider communities:
  • It sends a clear message that the exclusion of LGBQ/T/2S people from law school, and in turn, post-secondary education and related important positions in public life, is acceptable; 
  • It disproportionately values the religious rights of one small group over the human rights of LGBQ/T2S people;
  • It teaches Trinity Western trained law graduates that exclusion of members of LGBQ/T/2S communities is reasonable and acceptable;
  • It signals to LGBQ/T/2S communities that we are not as worthy of dignity and opportunity because we engage in same sex intimacy; and,
  • It sends a devastating message to current and future law professionals by increasing barriers to individuals in an industry already lacking in diversity.

QMUNITY will actively participate in and support any further appeals of the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal in our support for the extraordinary significance of the inclusion of Sexual Orientation in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms relative to institutional decision-making and the design of climates that respect diversity and inclusion.

Media inquiries can be directed to communications@qmunity.ca or 604-684-5307, extension 101.

01 November 2016

Germany Found a Cheap Way to Fix Its Lack of Public Restrooms

Welcome to the “Nice Toilet.”

 

   @FeargusOSull

  There are few things more frustrating than struggling to find a public restroom when you’re desperate. Hunt for a city-run facility and too often you can’t find anything nearby (and if you do, the chances are it’s a dump). Dive into a cafĂ© or bar and you either have to go through the charade of pretending you’re a customer or hope that staff are too busy to stop you. None of this is meant maliciously, of course. Public restrooms are expensive to maintain, while few employees relish cleaning up after people who aren’t even contributing to their wages. Still, you can’t help wishing there was some sort of solution.

In Germany, it looks like there may be one that really works. The country’s Nette Toilette (“Nice Toilet”) system has created a compromise between public and private restrooms that makes such obvious sense it’s hard to believe that other countries aren’t doing it already too. It works like this. German cities pay businesses a monthly fee of anything from €30 to €100 ($33 to $110) a month to open up their restrooms for the general public. These businesses then put a sticker in their window to let the public know they’re welcome to use the facilities even if they’re not buying. First launched in 2000 and now including 210 member cities (including some in Switzerland), the network is a private one that charges participating cities a modest fee to use their branding. Sixteen years in, it’s still on a roll. At the end of October, the network announced that it is expanding to Munich, which will be its largest urban area yet.

The advantages of the scheme are obvious. By creating the Nice Toilet network, many German cities have hugely increased the number of publicly accessible restrooms without having to pump in major investment. It’s estimated that the city of Bremen, for example, has managed to create a restroom network that, if it had been run exclusively by the city, would have cost €1.1 million ($1.2 million) to run. Instead, it costs the city just €150,000 ($165,000) annually — a sum that covers the €100 per month the city pays participating businesses to keep their restrooms open. So popular has this stipend proved that Bremen now has Germany’s best ratio of public restrooms to residents. Each Bremen public toilet shared by an estimated 3,210 people, a statistic that makes Frankfurt’s ratio of 22,000 people per toilet (the worst in Germany) seem pretty risible.

Still, not everyone is in love with the concept, and in some towns with limited options or tighter regulations it has failed. The small Swiss city of Rheinfelden, for example, found that too many participating restrooms were in bars that banned children, that the facilities were not all open for enough of the day and caused some insurance concerns. Meanwhile, some Munich businesses are grumbling that providing public toilets is not their stock in trade — a somewhat unnecessary complaint given that the scheme is not compulsory. Still, the network seems to have had no trouble finding businesses ready to open their restroom doors, possibly because, aside from the small fee the city pays them, the scheme gives them extra footfall that can help push up their profits. In cities that are frankly bursting for relief from their public restroom drought, it’s pretty hard to find a flaw in this sensible, affordable compromise.

When you have to go... (again)

City Councillor Elizabeth Ball was talking about the lack of public washrooms in our city on CBC radio. This has been a concern of mine for many years, in fact I brought a motion to Park Board to ensure that there was soap and hot water in all of our public washrooms --a motion that passed unanimously. So I thought I would reprint my blog post from September 2009 for the benefit of those visiting for the first time:

It’s a fact of life, perhaps one we don’t want to acknowledge, but we all have to go sometimes. We all try to go at home, but sometimes we can be caught short. For most of us this is an inconvenience, but for those who don’t have a home or for those who need to go frequently, this is a chronic problem. Public conveniences have been available since at least the time of the Roman Empire—in fact until recent times, public lavatories were all that was available except for the very rich. Towns and cities had public conveniences for the masses but over time a lot of them have been decommissioned and removed. Many cities are now rebuilding these.


Here in Vancouver we are fortunate to have several public washrooms installed by the city, and many more throughout the city in our public parks. A debate on the cost and necessity of these park facilities is coming before the Park Board in the next year, and I would like to know your views on these facilities. Do you think they are important? Should scarce public funds be used for public toilets? Every park can’t support a public washroom, so which ones should?

Let me know what you think. Write to me at: betterparks@gmail.com or drop a line to the Park Board.

13 October 2016

Annual Fall Leaf Guide


City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin

October 13, 2016 
  
 
Stormy fall and winter weather can cause clogged catch basins (also called storm drains) to flood. Help prevent flooding in your neighbourhood by raking and clearing leaves from the catch basin in front of your home and putting the leaves into your Green Bin.

All leaves that are cleared from catch basins, sidewalks, boulevards and residents property should be added to their Green Bin until it is full. Leaves that do not fit in their Green Bin, should be stored in a dry area and added to the Green Bin again once it is emptied. Green Bins will continue to be collected weekly according to residents’ regular collection schedule.

Extra Leaf Collection
Extra leaves that do not fit in residents Green Bins should be placed in biodegradable paper yard waste bags and stored in a dry area until our extra leaf collection program starts.  Bagged leaves will be collected city-wide by crews on the following designated weekends: 

·         October 29 to 30
·         November 19 to 20 (updated date)
·         December 10 to 11
·         January 14 to 15, 2017 (Christmas trees will also be collected)

Leaves may be collected on either Saturday or Sunday (not both days). To avoid a missed collection, residents are asked to set their leaves out for collection before
7:00 am on the scheduled Saturday and to download the VanCollect app on their smartphone for collection reminders.

Street Leaf Cleaning
City crews will begin to clear streets of leaves on November 14 with added focus on streets with higher volumes of leaves. If temporary "no parking" signs are posted on a side of the street, residents are required to move vehicles to another parking spot before 7:00 a.m. on the date indicated. Vehicles that are not moved may be ticketed or towed. At times, crews may be delayed in some neighbourhoods with large amounts of leaves but will return as soon as possible to complete the work. Moving your vehicle enables crews to do a better job of clearing streets of leaves.

Leaves to Compost
Collected leaves are turned in to nutrient-rich compost at the Vancouver Landfill. This compost can be purchased by residential gardeners, commercial landscapers and municipal park boards. Leaves and other yard trimmings can also be dropped off for composting at the Vancouver South Transfer Station located at 377 West Kent Ave North and at the Vancouver Landfill located at 5400 72nd Street in Delta.

Helpful guidelines on the City’s fall leaf program can be found at vancouver.ca/leaves.

Disposing of leaves on boulevards or City property (including parks) is illegal dumping, and can result in a fine of up to $10,000.

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Media Contact:
Corporate Communications
604.871.6336