Rear view: a look back at 2021

The Dispatch had barely launched when said goodbye to Ian Waddell, learned to pronounce səmiq̓wəʔelə (suh-Mee-kwuh-El-uh) and started paying for parking at Belcarra.

This spring we saw a rise in office space around Coquitlam Centre, townhouses popping up on Burke Mountain and industrial space added on Coast Meridian Road in Port Coquitlam.

Here’s Part 1 of our roundup of the most intriguing, impactful and peculiar stories of 2021.

A look back at 2021, part 2

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A look back at 2021, part 3

A look back at 2021, part 4

MARCH

Paying for parking at Belcarra park

Nobody’s happy to pay for what they used to get for free but, despite the backlash, Metro Vancouver introduced pay parking ($2-per hour) Belcarra Regional Park.

Coquitlam adds office space

Nearly 10 years after first approving a new office building at 2992 Glen Drive, Coquitlam council approved a bigger, bulkier version of the project in March.

The 14-storey building is expected to house dental, medical, legal, accounting, financial and veterinary services, along with ground floor retail, generating between 250 and 300 jobs. Construction is tentatively slated to wrap up April 2023.

Animal story: the ruse that snared a rooster

photo supplied

A rooster, affectionally dubbed Dennis the Menace, was spotted strutting and heard crowing over two weeks in Port Coquitlam’s Mary Hill neighbourhood.

Tired of fielding noise complaints – not to mention chasing the cock of the walk around the block – a Port Coquitlam animal control officer borrowed a hen from a Maple Ridge farm to flush the rooster out.

Following a wild goose chase, both hen and rooster were relocated to a farm in Maple Ridge.

Riverview Lands renamed səmiq̓wəʔelə

It’s pronounced suh-Mee-kwuh-El-uh. It means The Place of the Great Blue Heron and it’s the new name of the 244-acre parcel just west of Lougheed Highway formerly known as the Riverview Lands.

The renaming is “very significant to our nation’s overall goal of reclaiming and revitalizing our culture and traditional language,” stated Kwikwetlem First Nations Chief Ed Hall.

The name was chosen because the land was once used as roosting ground for the great blue heron, Hall explained.

The səmiq̓wəʔelə name also signals the nation’s intent to reconnect with the ancestral territory by partnering with BC Housing on the master planning process for the land’s redevelopment.

Ian Waddell, legal firebrand and former Port Moody-Coquitlam MP, dies at 78

photo supplied

Whether it was battling B.C. Hydro, bargaining for Indigenous land rights or filibustering to delay construction of a gas pipeline, Ian Waddell had a habit of being at the centre of things.

Waddell died at his home.

At five years old he immigrated from Scotland to Canada with his family, growing up in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke and beginning his political career within only a little upholstery between him and the Prime Minister.

In 1962 and barely out of his teens, Waddell got a job chauffeuring Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. However, by the end of the 1960s Waddell moved left and west. He canvassed for the B.C. NDP, set up shop as a storefront lawyer on East 11th Avenue in Vancouver, and eventually ran up against BC Hydro.
The utility, he learned, was “demanding security deposits from students, unemployed people, artists, and generally anybody it thought might not pay their bills,” he recalled in his 2018 memoir, Take the Torch.

While he was cautioned in court for calling BC Hydro “extortionists,” Waddell eventually prevailed as the judge ruled the power provider couldn’t discriminate against customers. As a result of the case, approximately $400,000 in security deposits was returned to 14,000 low-income customers, according to a Vancouver Sun article.

Shortly after, Waddell campaigned to be MP for Vancouver Kingsway.

In his memoir, he described a friend predicting he would win. “Everyone cheered,” he wrote. “I thought we all must be stoned.”

Described by Maclean’s in 1980 as “young, street-smart and media-wise,” Waddell brought his humorously aggressive style to federal politics, using his first speaking opportunity to assail a bill ostensibly written to allow greater freedom of information. He presented the President of the Privy Council with a dump truck.

“Because, if he will look closely at the exemptions, he will see that one can drive a truck through some of them.”

Working with future prime minister Jean Chrétien, Waddell helped draft the First Nations amendment to the Constitution, designed to entrench Indigenous rights.

Waddell’s political career hit a rough patch in the Tri-Cities. After five years of serving as MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, Waddell saw his support wither in 1993 as he garnered only 21 per cent of the vote. The defeat came shortly after a failed campaign to lead the federal NDP.

“When I left politics – or was fired by my constituents – I was at loose ends for a few years,” he recalled.

In addition to a career as an NDP MLA that included stints as Minister of Environment and Minister for Small Business, Waddell backed Vancouver’s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. He also penned the fictional thriller A Thirst to Die For: A Political Mystery, which centred around a shadowy cabal overseeing covert water exports from Canada to the United States. In an effort to reach out to a younger generation, Waddell also co-produced the documentary The Drop: Why Young People Don’t Vote.

Reflecting on his memoir, Waddell called the book: “a kind of road map, landing somewhere between the practical and the visionary, that shows how it is possible to make social change.”

TransLink buys piece of Coquitlam, West Coast Express gets life extension

photo supplied

With SkyTrain expanding, the transit provider decided Coquitlam is the best place to keep and fix their stuff.

The $300-million maintenance centre on the 27-acre swath of land sandwiched between Highway 1 and the Brunette River will initially have capacity for 145 train cars before being bumped up to allow for 170, according to TransLink major projects manager James Low.

The project is crucial as TransLink looks to expand the Skytrain fleet from 294 to 397 cars by 2027, Low explained.

The centre is slated to be up and running by early 2026.

While he stipulated that some jobs may be transferred to Coquitlam from other sites, Low guessed the maintenance centre will create about 100 jobs.

Port Moody poet focuses on the small things

photo supplied Isabella Wang

As the pandemic makes our world feel tiny, miniature art helped a local writer keep her sense of proportion.

Isabella Wang recently unveiled a miniature version of Massy Books on East Georgia Street made of wood and glue.

Wang was moved to try her hand at miniatures after encountering the idea that children’s toys prefigure the adult world.

“I kind of fell in love with miniatures after that.”

The tiny bookstore was the product of six weeks of work. There was something “therapeutic” about listening to relaxing music in the evening as she put all the little pieces together, Wand said, even though cutting out slices of miniature furniture with an X-acto knife often left her with sore hands.

New garden beds in Port Moody

In a bid to mitigate social isolation and benefit local food production, Port Moody council unanimously voted to build 60 garden beds at Art Wilkinson Park and another 20 at Town Centre Park.

The project is set to cost $62,000. However, once the gardens are up and blooming, the project is slated to be handled by non-profit community groups at no cost to the city.

APRIL

Coquitlam library extends amnesty for due-date ne’er-do-wells

The Coquitlam Public Library renewed their fine-free program until Dec. 31, 2021.

The library board opted to keep waiving fines in a bid to: “eliminate barriers that could discourage customers from using the library,” according to a release from the library.

Overdue: While bookworm scofflaws won’t need to reach into their wallets to settle their debts, the library still asks readers to return items when they can.

Murray Street project to be tweaked

When judging a proposed 215-unit development on the 3000-block of Murray Street Tuesday, Port Moody council didn’t reject it but they didn’t quite support it, either, withholding a second reading pending revisions.

Council requested more job space, more below-market housing and more bedrooms with windows.

Port Moody not big on microsuites

Too small and too much of it.

That was the early verdict from Port Moody council last week as they offered their initial thoughts on a proposed three-storey, 52-unit apartment development at the 2900-block of St. Georges St. currently occupied by three single-family lots.

Noting that 39 of the units are smaller than 500 square feet, Coun. Steve Milani said he couldn’t imagine the development taking root in what he called: “a real family neighbourhood.”

“I don’t support micro-suites,” Coun. Meghan Lahti said.

Coquitlam approves Queenston Avenue townhouse project, adds daycare to Burke Mountain

The public was divided but council was united, advancing a proposal for 52 stacked townhouses and a childcare centre arrayed over five buildings.

The townhouses – slated to start at around $600,000, according to the applicant – will provide an option for people who can’t afford $1.8 million for a house, according to Coun. Brent Asmundson.

Supporters of the project described the struggles of finding childcare and the travails of working parents in the neighbourhood while opponents objected to increases in traffic caused by dense development inconsistent with the Smiling Creek Neighbourhood Plan.

Paddling to the Podium: Port Moody rowing club charts course for future Olympians

photo Marissa Tiel

It’s relatively quiet around Port Moody’s Inlet Rowing Club. Fair-weather members emerge like daffodils in spring when the skies are blue and vanish when it’s grey.

However, a recent initiative could see the club transformed into a year-round hub for elite athletes.

The club is waiting to see if the Old Mill Boathouse at Rocky Point Park will be selected for Rowing BC’s new NextGen Training Centre, an intensive program designed to help young athletes reach the Olympic podium.

Click here to read the story

Port Coquitlam bulks up industrial space on Coast Meridian Road

A big chunk of industrial space was approved for 1725 Coast Meridian Road near the Northern Gold Foods, following a unanimous vote from Port Coquitlam council.

The addition of an 85,000 square foot concrete building should create jobs and boost the economy, according to council.

Police look for witnesses following Town Centre Park killing

A man was shot and murdered near the skate park in Town Centre Park in what police said was a targeted attack.

The victim’s name was Bailey McKinney. He was 20.

His mother subsequently issued a plea for police to catch McKinney’s killer.

Port Coquitlam gives final approval to 302-unit rental project

Five months after giving the project third reading, Port Coquitlam council gave their final go-ahead to a long-gestating project spanning eight properties at the 2400-block of Gately and KIngway avenues and Ticehurst Lane.

The swap: The project, which features three six-storey buildings and a 4,300 square foot childcare facility, replaces four houses, a duplex and two small industrial properties as well as a vacant city-owned property.

Records related to Port Moody Mayor’s sexual assault case stay sealed as BC Supreme Court Justice cites “chilling effect”

The files are locked and that’s how they’re going to stay.

That was the decision from B.C. Supreme Court after three media outlets petitioned for the release of information related to the Alternative Measures program completed by Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov following a sexual assault charge.

Timeline: The sexual assault case, which stemmed from a 2015 incident, was winding through provincial court in late 2019 when the charges were adjourned and ultimately stayed after Vagramov successfully completed the Alternate Measures program.

A note about the program

Alternative Measures are used in cases when the accused accepts some responsibility for the act. The approach can’t be used if the accused chooses to settle the matter in court or if they deny: “participation or involvement in the commission of the offence.”

The alternative approach also could not be used if the accused had a history of violence or of sexual offences.

The victim must also be consulted and have their views considered. Confessions are not admissible as evidence in future civil or criminal proceedings.

The request

Following the adjournment of the sexual assault case, CBC, CTV and Global News petitioned the court to see the forms, notes and correspondence between the prosecutor, probation officers and Vagramov’s lawyer in an effort to confirm:

While Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson noted the media has a valid interest in the proper administration of justice, Hinkson ultimately concluded that releasing the documents would:
“Create the potential for manipulation of the Alternative Measures program and have a chilling effect on the cooperation of complainants and accused persons.”

Long-term impacts: If personal information about Vagramov and his meetings with probation officers – which are generally considered confidential – become public, other accused individuals could be less forthcoming in the future, according to a submission from B.C. Corrections.

MAY

Murder suspected in Trina Hunt disappearance

photo supplied

More than three months after Trina Hunt went missing, police now suspect homicide in the disappearance of the Port Moody wife, daughter, sister and aunt.

On March 29, police found human remains south of Silver Creek in Hope.

B.C. Coroners Service examined the remains and identified Hunt.

“Foul play is suspected in her death,” stated a release from the RCMP’s homicide division.

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