Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh. (Canadian Press photos)

Blackface, a gifted skull and an ICBC ‘dumpster fire’: B.C.’s top political stories of 2019

Here’s what caught our eye in 2019

It’s been a busy year for the political junkies out there. Truly, it’s been a busy year even if you tried to keep away from the political drama.

Here’s a look back at the moments that kept us glued to our screen in 2019.

Federal election

Justin Trudeau celebrates the Liberals’ election victory with wife Sophie. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Although the official campaigning period in Canada is quite short compared to our neighbours to the south, politicians made up for lost time this year.

Months before the campaign began, a Conservative candidate in Skeena-Bulkley Valley ricocheted into the headline when she bought her boyfriend a human skull. Yes, a skull. Claire Rattée told Black Press Media she spent “spent about six months researching” the skull to make sure it was not inappropriately seized from local First Nations, but was a European skull from the 1700s.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley Conservative candidate under fire for human skull gift

The election news didn’t stop there. In September, a photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface at a 2001 party showed up in TIME Magazine, and in news outlets far beyond B.C. Trudeau apologized and said it was his love of costumes that got him into trouble. This Halloween, he avoided dressing up altogether.

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

After blackface scandal, Trudeau shuns photo ops of trick or treating

The election campaign took a turn for the worse in October, as video surfaced of a man telling NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to cut off his turban so that he seemed more Canadian.

Racist encounters on Day 23 of the campaign

The campaign took a slightly lighter, albeit bizarre, turn at its very tail-end when Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer claimed to be an insurance broker but his credentials didn’t measure up to a closer look.

Then of course, the results. Trudeau and the Liberals secured a second mandate to govern, although Conservatives made up ground and won the popular vote.

Liberals return with minority government in Election 2019

ICBC overhaul

B.C. Attorney General David Eby announces overhaul of ICBC rates and handling of claims at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 6, 2018. (B.C. government)

British Columbia’s favourite “dumpster fire” only grew in size this year, as young drivers saw big spikes in insurances costs after an overhaul in September. Premier John Horgan said he regretted the increases for young drivers and they were “glaring examples” that more work needed to be done.

Premier John Horgan regrets big ICBC rate hikes for young people

New drivers pay most for optional ICBC coverage, David Eby says

Tensions with China

Trouble with the Chinese government ramped up in 2019, after Chinese authorities detained two Canadians in retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver last December.

Meng Wanzhou’s extradition to the U.S. continued to wind its way through the courts in 2019, and the two Canadians remained in custody overseas. In B.C., civic politicians and residents alike gathered at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September to demand the organization cut ties with China and nix the Chinese consulate’s reception.

‘Shame on you’: Demonstrators protest China-sponsored reception at UBCM

Huawei’s Meng ‘no longer fears unknown’ despite ‘torment, struggle’ of last year

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Logging truck convoy takes over Vancouver

It was a hard year for the forest industry and it all came to a head in September when a logging truck convoy turned up at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. Dozens of trucks blared their horns to draw attention to B.C.’s forestry workers struggling in the face of significant job losses.

VIDEO: Logging truck convoy stalls traffic in downtown Vancouver to protest job losses

Ride-hailing limps into existence

Ride-hailing is still not available in B.C. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

It’s been a long road for ride-hailing in B.C., and it’s not over yet. In August, the province announced ride-hailing would come into effect with the same minimum fares as taxi, but with larger operating zones. They will also need Class 4 licences for all their drivers. Although Premier John Horgan said British Columbians would get ride-hailing by Christmas, that hasn’t quite turned out.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Ride hailing might be B.C.’s Christmas present, John Horgan says

First ride-hailing licence approved in B.C.

UNDRIP becomes law

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Assembly of First Nations regional chief Terry Teegee calls on Ottawa to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Ottawa, Dec. 3, 2019. (AFN)

The B.C. government became the first in North America to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

UNDRIP has become an international rallying cry for Indigenous people to leave behind colonial rule and achieve “free, prior and informed consent” for resource development and other activity in their traditional territories.

B.C. to be first to implement UN Indigenous rights declaration

UN Indigenous rights becoming law in B.C., John Horgan tells chiefs

B.C. treaty commissioner expects UNDRIP bill to speed treaty talks, more deals

B.C. legislature speaker scandal

Speaker Darryl Plecas speaks to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media)

Is this over yet? We’re not sure – it started in late 2018 with a wood chipper, but has continued throughout 2019. Legislature clerk Craig James retired in May after a report by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada found he improperly claimed benefits and used legislature property for personal reasons.

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz retired in October despite the Supreme Court report clearing his name.

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

B.C. legislature clerk in spending scandal retires after wrongdoing found

B.C.’s sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz resigns amid spending scandal

Resignations let B.C. legislature ‘turn the page,’ John Horgan says


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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