Price growth to slow again — which isn’t great for economy, experts say – National

OTTAWA – Does Canada still have a too-low inflation problem?

The recent upward drift in the consumer price index, which the Bank of Canada watches like a hawk, appeared to put to rest concerns that the country was headed for disinflation, a period of low and declining inflation.

But it appears the relief may have been premature.

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  • As grocery chains ramp up deals, some see new danger in falling prices

This Friday’s inflation reading for February is likely to again grab central banker Stephen Poloz’s full attention, with some economists predicting the Statistics Canada report will show the annual CPI falling below one per cent, and even as low as 0.5 per cent, from January’s comfortable 1.5 per cent setting.

READ MORE: As retailers ramp up bargains, some see new danger in falling prices 

That will put inflation, or lack of it, back on the central bank’s radar in time for next month’s quarterly monetary policy report and possibly elicit more fretting from Poloz that the lack of price pressure suggests the economy’s output gap continues to grow, or at least is not closing as fast as it should.

The central bank had been breathing easier of late after the economy’s healthy 2.7 and 2.9 per cent jumps in output in the final two quarters of 2013.

But early indicators are that growth has fallen back again — partly due to an unusually bitter winter — but also because the global picture continues to disappoint. CIBC recently downgraded its estimate of growth for 2014 to 2.1 per cent, four-tenths of a point behind the bank’s.

“Very low inflation could be combined with the possibility that the Bank of Canada might have to revise upward its estimate of spare capacity (in the economy),” said Scotiabank Economics vice-president Derek Holt.

“That would continue the long pattern of pushed-out optimism on the output gap’s closure and the return of inflation to the two per cent target.”

The reason this is important is that the longer the bank feels it will take to return inflation to two per cent, the longer it is likely to keep interest rates low to push the economy in that direction. That’s good news for borrowers, such as those wishing to buy a home, but its not so good for the economy generally, Holt says.

“Even soft inflation can influence consumers to hold off spending and business investment decisions,” Holt says. “If business think prices for their end products are not going up or going lower, they will be less inclined to ramp up production.”

Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter is also projecting a weak inflation number for February, although he thinks it will be in the order of one per cent, which currently is the consensus. That shouldn’t worry the central bank overly, he says, even though it is below its target.

“If they could actually hold inflation at one per cent, I don’t think the bank would be too uncomfortable with that,” he said. “The concern is you are too close to deflation for comfort and if anything hit the economy, we could dip into the dreaded deflation territory.”

The classic example in the modern era of deflation damaging the economy is Japan in the 1990s, where actual average price drops had the unwanted effect of convincing consumers to hold off buying decisions in order to take advantage of lower prices down the road, triggering a reinforcing cycle of lower economic activity and still lower inflation.

Canada is nowhere near that point, economists note. Canada’s low inflation record of the past two years is almost certainly a symptom, rather than a cause, of both a weak domestic and external economy.

Even if Friday’s CPI comes it at the low end of expectations, it will likely be an aberration due to what Jimmy Jean of Desjardins Capital Markets calls an “arithmetic quirk.”

Inflation jumped through the roof February 2013, meaning Friday’s reading will be based on that inflated base effect. On a month-to-month basis, it is known that gasoline prices rose as have utility costs.

Another reason to take a more benign view of inflation is that the Canadian dollar has lost about 10 per cent value over the last several months — with some lag, that depreciation should pump up import prices and heat up inflation across the economy.

Still, Holt said should Poloz take note of the low inflation phenomenon in next week’s speech or next month’s policy report, it could have a dampening impact on long-term interest rates, as well as place more drag on the low-flying loonie.

At the very least, the inflation report will reinforce the message that the bank is not even close to raising interest rates, agreed Porter.


Medical staff say services stretched as self-harming teens seek help – Winnipeg

Mental health services are strained as a growing number of teens show up at emergency rooms across Canada with self-inflicted injuries and suicidal thoughts, say pediatric psychiatrists.

“We’re seeing twice as many kids as we were 10 years ago,” said Dr. Hazen Gandy, division chief of community-based psychiatry at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.

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“Commonly it’s cutting,” he said of kids typically aged 12 to 17 who slash their arms, thighs or bellies with everything from razor blades to the sharp edges of protractors.

“It could be burning themselves. It could be bruising themselves by repeatedly banging their fist against the wall. It’s a way of kind of giving the body a whole different set of inputs that allows them not to feel so awful inside.”

Self-harming is a symptom of deeper issues such as anxiety or depression that stem from complex causes, Gandy said. But what’s clear is how climbing caseloads are affecting the health system, he said.

“One of my greatest concerns is that as these services are stressed, greater numbers of mental health providers are now themselves showing wear and tear and are on the verge of burnout,” said Gandy. He has practised in Ottawa for 20 years and says he has seen wait times grow to eight to 10 months for outpatient services.

“This is an issue across the country.”

The hospital says recent statistics show an unprecedented spike in ER visits for kids in mental health crises. In 2012-13, it reported that 2,900 children and teens under 18 sought help – up 64 per cent since 2009-10 and the highest number of pediatric emergency mental health visits in Ontario.

Doctors say they are not only seeing a distressing rise in the number of kids seeking help for self-inflicted wounds, but many specialists report that they don’t have the hallmarks of a psychiatric disorder. That is leaving doctors with no clear answers as to why they’re seeing so many more kids with these kinds of injuries.

Dr. Kathleen Pajer, chief of psychiatry at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, says she has watched the number of kids with self-inflicted wounds or suicidal thoughts rise steadily in her ER and colleagues in Canada and the U.S. are seeing the same trend.

“A lot of kids don’t really meet the criteria for these disorders,” she said. “Instead, they seem to be suffering an existential crisis that is sort of, ‘I’m empty, I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t have any grounding and I don’t know how to manage my negative feelings.”‘

She suspects there are many factors that may drive teens to hurt themselves. Families are more fragmented, kids in her area appear to be smoking more marijuana and many don’t have the skills to deal with stress, conflict or loss, she says.

Gandy agrees and said both girls and boys who show up at the hospital often share a troubling trait: they lack coping skills.

“They don’t actually experience a lot of adverse events in their lives,” he said of those who enjoy increasingly affluent upbringings with supportive parents.

When something does go wrong – like a breakup, a death or poor grades – many young people are completely thrown, Gandy said.

“They kind of go from pretty average, functioning kids to suddenly they can’t cope. They can’t manage. They’re depressed.

They’re presenting to emergency departments, hopeless.”

Dr. Laurence Katz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba who also sees patients at the children’s hospital in Winnipeg, agreed that many kids don’t have the skills to manage their emotions.

They sometimes turn to self-harm as a result, he said.

“We’ve had a five-fold increase in the number of psychiatric consultations being done at our children’s hospital emergency room in the last 10 and 15 years,” he said.

“We’re all trying to figure out (why) we’ve all got this large increase in presentations to our emergency rooms and we don’t have answers to that.”

He uses a method of treatment called dialectical behaviour therapy, which helps give kids alternative ways of coping so they don’t harm themselves.

Many kids also say they’ve been bullied on social media, but they also appear to be using it as a way to share information on how to self-harm, Pajer said.

She said kids seek related advice online without parents or teachers knowing, contributing to a contagion effect for those struggling to cope with stress or, sometimes, to fit in with others who are cutting.

Kim St. John, divisional head of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Janeway children’s hospital in St. John’s, N.L., said the number of children arriving for mental health help has soared over her 25-year career.

“We would probably get maybe two or three in a week maximum,” she said. “Now we’re getting several in a night.”

The province’s largest health authority, Eastern Health, started tracking mental health statistics in 2012. Those results so far suggest the number of youth who arrived at the Janeway emergency department for depression, suicidal thoughts or self-harm jumped to 418 last year from 280 in 2012.

“It has become almost a fad to cut now,” St. John said. “And many of the young people that I see that cut do it to belong to a group or to stay within a group. They post it on Facebook.”

Bullying in the schoolyard is different than the sort of virtual pile-ons that happen as kids feel emboldened to say things online that they would never say face-to-face, she added.

“Personally, I would love to see that access to social media was significantly restricted until adulthood.”

The fallout includes crowded wait rooms and longer waiting lists for outpatient care, doctors say.

Katz said even though demand for adolescent mental heath services has increased, resources have not.

“If a child needs to be contained in a safe place within a hospital then we do that, but it’s clearly overburdening our hospital beds,” he said.

“There is definitely increased demand and that’s creating a crisis in the system.”


Taber police investigate man’s death

EDMONTON – The Taber Police Service is investigating the death of a man who’s body was found Friday night inside of a home.

Police said when officers arrived at the home in the 5200 block of 48th Avenue they found the man unresponsive with injuries to his upper torso.

Police attempted CPR on the victim until EMS arrived and took over medical care.

The victim was pronounced dead by EMS.

A woman was arrested at the scene and she remains in custody.

The Taber Police Service is investigating the man’s death.

An autopsy is schedule for Monday morning in Calgary.

The name of the victim has not been released.



  • UPDATE: Alleged animal abuse near Taber not criminal

  • Taber man dies in farm machinery accident

  • Former Taber man found guilty in sexual abuse cases

©2014Shaw Media


Comedian David Brenner dies at 78

LOS ANGELES – David Brenner, the lanky, toothy-grinned Tonight Show favourite whose brand of observational comedy became a staple for other standups, including Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, died Saturday. He was 78.

Brenner, who had been fighting cancer, died peacefully at his home in New York City with his family at his side, according to Jeff Abraham, his friend and publicist.

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“David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing. To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy,” comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. “He mentored me from day one. … His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”

The tall, thin and always sharply dressed Brenner became one of the most frequent visitors to Johnny Carson’s Tonight in the 1970s and ’80s.

His 150-plus appearances as guest and substitute host turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian, one who was ubiquitous on other talk shows and game shows.

He also briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1987 and starred in four HBO specials.

Brenner moved with the times, trading routines about the humour of everyday life for jokes about social and political issues, and appearing on MSNBC and Fox News Channel cable programs.

Although his career faltered, he worked steadily through 2013 doing standup. A four-day gig last December included a New Year’s Eve show at a Pennsylvania casino-resort in which he showcased young comedians.

Brenner, who was raised in working-class south Philadelphia and graduated with honours from Temple University, was “always there helping a bright young comedian, whether it be Richard Lewis, Freddie Prinze or Jimmie Walker, and he was still doing it until the very end,” Abraham said.

In a statement, Walker called Brenner “a true comic genius” who was “my mentor and taught me about life and comedy.”

Although Brenner took a brief stabs at TV fame, with the 1976 sitcom Snip and the talk show Nightlife he hosted in 1987, he didn’t achieve the success of Seinfeld’s self-titled NBC sitcom or Reiser’s Mad About You, and he saw Jay Leno follow Carson as Tonight host.

Brenner’s take on his career path, as he described it in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, was that he put family before stardom.

He said a long custody battle with a girlfriend over their son, Cole, forced him to curtail his TV appearances and visibility beginning in the mid-1980s, when Brenner lived in Aspen, Colo.

“In a nutshell, I couldn’t work more than 50 nights a year (out of town) or I’d be an absentee father,” he said. “That was when they were giving out the talk shows, the sitcoms.”

He was asked if he regretted his decision.

“I didn’t even make a decision. I didn’t even think about it. How could you not do it? I don’t mean to sound noble,” Brenner said. “Besides, I come from the slums of Philadelphia and everything in my life is profit. My downside is what most people would strive a lifetime to get to.”

Decades ago, he had burned out on filmmaking — “You don’t change the world by doing documentaries,” he told CBS Sunday Morning in 2013 — and decided to give comedy a try. He was on the verge of quitting when his effort to impress talent bookers at Tonight worked.

His career soared after his first appearance in January 1971. He went from being nearly broke to overwhelmed by a then-hefty $10,000 in job offers the day after he was on the show.

“I never thought this was going to turn my life upside down and give me my whole future,” he told Sunday Morning.

He also recalled how hard Carson made him work on Tonight, asking Brenner to do a monologue each time he appeared. Other veteran comics headed straight for the couch to banter with the host.

Carson’s explanation was “I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes,” Brenner recalled.

In a 1995 interview with the AP, Brenner imagined a different path with Tonight.

“I really believe that had … Johnny Carson retired in the early ’80s, then I would be sitting behind that desk,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt.”

Brenner wrote five books, including the post-9-11 I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup, published in 2003. His last HBO special, David Brenner: Back with a Vengeance, debuted live in 2000.

In a statement, his family said he left a last laugh: A final request that $100 in small bills be placed in his left sock “just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going.”

Besides son Cole, Brenner is survived by his wife, Ruth, sons Wyatt and Slade and a grandson, Wesley. Funeral plans were not immediately announced.

©2014The Associated Press


Students, teachers help design new Saskatchewan schools

Watch the video above: Designing new Saskatchewan schools

SASKATOON – This past fall, Saskatchewan announced it would be investing in nine new joint-use schools to address the province’s booming population and bursting classrooms.

Saskatoon’s Hampton Village is just one of the neighbourhoods slated for a new school and new details were released this week about the expected design.

Story continues below



  • Province to build nine new joint-use schools

  • NDP urges independent review of P3 schools

Come 2017, a Catholic school will be situated on one side, a public will be on the other and they will be joined together by shared facilities, like a gym and library.

“Lots of outdoor learning, outdoor environments and just lots of open area,” recommended Luke Yakubowski, a grade eight student.

After a week of brainstorming and 140 blueprints to choose from, 11 students identified an open concept as the number one priority necessary for learning.

Their ideas are reflected in small scale models, to be passed to the design consultant to be incorporated.

“They’ll have a lot of common features but there will be unique things based on the size and shape of the lot in the school so there will certainly be some significant variations,” said Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s education minister.

Four new schools will be built in Saskatoon, three in Regina, one in Martensville and one in Warman.

All are a public private partnerships and the tender will be bundled as one package, expected to cost about $400 million.

“What happens when you bundle a project is you take small contracts that would be accessible to local contractors and that would be subject to a lot of competition and you role them up into a larger project that now becomes inaccessible to local contractors,” said Mark Cooper, Saskatchewan Construction Association president.

The association is in talks with the provincial government, encouraging a split in the construction of the nine schools, into three separate projects.

Controversy aside, students say the big picture cannot be lost.

“We just need more room and a better way for the kids to learn and achieve their success,” said Yakubowski.

During the students’ week of brainstorming, a lot of thought was given as to how the neighbourhoods would be able to use the schools as a community space.

The design phase is expected to be complete by June.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 students will attend the elementary schools.


U of S college of dentistry skeptical about new ‘oil pulling’ trend – Saskatoon

Watch the video above: Does ‘oil pulling’ really improve your oral health?

SASKATOON – It’s the latest health fad to be making the rounds on social media. Oil pulling – the  ancient Indian practice of gargling oil to cleanse the body and mouth of toxins.

At Sangster’s Organic Market in Saskatoon, owner Julie Sylvester has seen a 70 per cent jump in coconut oil sales over the last week ever since oil pulling hit social media.

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    Is coconut oil a superfood?

“It could be a fad but it might work, it might not. I can’t really say if it works or not,” said Sylvester.

So Julie gave it a try, putting coconut oil in her mouth and using it basically like mouthwash. Although she didn’t do it for the recommended 20 minutes, she admits it wasn’t as uncomfortable as she first thought it would be.

“Actually it wasn’t the bad but definitely I used half a teaspoon and it wasn’t enough but it actually felt kinda nice so definitely going to try it every day, see if it works out so maybe I’ll have whiter teeth and fresher breath by the end of it.”

Social media sites also claim that oil pulling can prevent plaque build-up and treat gum disease.

“I think just because it’s ancient and just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s necessarily effective,” said Ken Sutherland, acting dean for the college of dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan.

“As scientists we need to look at not what the claims are but what the actual results are and to-date while there is modest implications that it may dismiss some of the bacteria inter-orally many of the claims at this point are unproven.”

Sutherland says although oil pulling doesn’t appear to be harmful.

“Rinsing edible oil in your mouth shouldn’t cause any problems as long as you don’t swallow a significant amount of it or not personally harmful but it’s not a good idea to spit it in your sinks or toilets and plug them up with oil but I don’t think there’s any indication that there’s any significant harm.”

Whether or not it works for you, dentists stress this practice should not replace good oral hygiene.

“This particular technique, oil pulling is recommended 10 to 20 minutes a day, if you spend half that time brushing and flossing your teeth we have proven scientific, positive effects for doing that,” said Sutherland.


Saskatoon students’ 5 Days for the Homeless wraps – Saskatoon

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan students braved the elements and slept outside, all for a good cause in Saskatoon this past week.

Friday marked the last of “Five Days for the Homeless” – a national campaign aimed at raising awareness for at risk youth.

Giving up the comfort of their own homes and basic necessities, five students from the Edwards School of Business slept outside anywhere and everywhere, including loading docks.

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    Five-year Saskatoon poverty reduction plan announced by coalition

They went without access to showers – while still attending classes at the U of S since Monday.

Proceeds of the campaign go to EGADZ youth centre in Saskatoon.

“There’s actually a lot of students on campus that are homeless and you can’t even tell so for us to spread awareness about that issue it’s a big task because not a lot of people know but at the end of the day we’re spreading awareness about that,” said David Liebrecht, campaign VP internal affairs.

“We’re also donating towards EGADZ. Not a lot of people know about EGADZ. They help out a lot with the homeless around Saskatoon and with our donations we really hope to make a difference with that.”

The students raised just over $11,000.

The campaign goal this year was $15,000. If you would like to donate you can go online to 5Days苏州纹眉学校.


Cargo ship runs aground off Newfoundland

PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. – An investigation is underway after a cargo ship lost power off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and ran aground Saturday.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax said the 180-metre bulk carrier MV John 1 ran aground Saturday afternoon about 1.5 kilometres from Rose Blanche, but all 23 people onboard were rescued safely.

The Canadian Coast Guard said the vessel was en route to Montreal from Spain when its engine failed and it lost power Friday morning.

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Spokeswoman Jan Woodford said the vessel was not in danger, so it hired a tugboat from Mulgrave, N.S., to help. The coast guard vessel Earl Grey was also called to the area, she said.

Overnight, winds shifted and the cargo ship began drifting dangerously close the coastline, said Woodford.

“The CCGS Earl Grey attempted several times to connect a tow line to the vessel to prevent it from running aground,” Woodford said in an email statement. “These attempts were unsuccessful.”

A Cormorant helicopter from Gander was flown to Stephenville, N.L., about 200 kilometres north of Rose Blanche, as a precaution. Another Cormorant from Greenwood, N.S., was also standing by.

When the ship ran aground, all 23 people hoisted into a helicopter and brought to Burgeo, N.L. No one was injured.

A spokesman for the rescue centre said there was no indication that the ship was taking on water.

Woodford said a federal environmental response crew was headed to the area to investigate.

©2014The Canadian Press


Gunmen kill 6 Egyptian soldiers at checkpoint – National

WATCH: Aftermath footage of Egyptian checkpoint attack, six military police officers dead

CAIRO – Gunmen stormed an Egyptian army checkpoint outside Cairo early Saturday morning and killed six soldiers, including some still in their beds, officials said, in what amounted to an escalation by militants on military targets near the capital.

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Just days earlier, masked men opened fire on a busload of military police inside city limits, another rare attack on soldiers this far from the restive Sinai Peninsula, where the army is fighting a counter-insurgency campaign.

READ MORE: UN declaration criticizes Egypt over violence used against protesters

Provincial security chief Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Yousri told state news agency MENA that the gunmen also planted explosive devices after Saturday’s attack in Shubra al-Kheima, but bomb disposal experts managed to diffuse two and detonate another in a controlled explosion.

The military blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack, calling the group “terrorists” and saying they had planted the additional bombs to target rescue workers rushing to the scene.

Armed Forces Spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said the soldiers, of a military police unit, were attacked just after morning prayers. The Health Ministry confirmed the death toll.

“These cowardly operations will only increase our determination to continue the war against terrorism,” Ali said in comments on his official Facebook page.

Amr Darrag, former head of the Foreign Relations Committee for the Brotherhood’s political party, condemned the attack on his 苏州纹眉学校 account and denied responsibility.

“How can the (Brotherhood) be accused (a) few minutes after the attack with no evidence or investigation?” he wrote.

Egyptian authorities say the Brotherhood has orchestrated a series of bomb attacks on police and other targets following the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Islamist group. This week, prosecutors referred about a dozen Brotherhood members to trial for allegedly forming an armed unit that has carried out attacks in the Nile Delta.

READ MORE: Freelance Canadian photographer killed in bomb attack in Syria, family says

They have produced little evidence open to public scrutiny to bolster these claims, however, and most attacks have been claimed by the country’s most active militant group, an al-Qaida-inspired organization based in the Sinai called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem. The Brotherhood denies being involved in the attacks.

Authorities in recent days have also said they arrested a number of individuals they accuse of planning attacks on the police, including a group of 12 in the Delta governorate of Menoufia and others in northern Sinai.

Separately, Champions of Jerusalem said that one of its founding leaders was killed when a bomb he was carrying was set off by a car accident.

In a statement posted on militant websites early Saturday, the group said Tawfiq Mohammed Freij died Tuesday when an accident set off a “heat bomb” he was transporting in his car. It did not say where the accident took place.

READ MORE: Parents of jailed Australian journalist haunted by his appearance in Egyptian court

It said Freij, also known as Abu Abdullah, was one of the founders of the group, who masterminded its attacks on pipelines to stop Egyptian gas supplies from being shipped to Israel.

It called him the “field commander” of an August 2011 cross-border attack into southern Israel that targeted a bus and other vehicles near the resort city of Eilat, killing eight people. Egypt’s Interior Minister identified Freij as a key figure in the extremist group in January. David Barnett, a research associate with the Washington-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said that Freij is the highest ranking member of the Ansar identified thus far.

The wording of the most recent statement suggests that Freij moved from either Sinai or Gaza to Cairo or elsewhere in Egypt in early 2013 to supervise the group’s operations, including a failed suicide car bomb attack on the interior minister in Cairo in September 2013.

The statement could not be independently authenticated, but militant groups regularly use the websites to make announcements.

Also Saturday, a Cairo court sentenced 68 members of the Brotherhood and other youth movements to two years jail for participating in a protest without a permit. They had been arrested during protests on the third anniversary of the 2011 uprisings that led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities have been cracking down on Morsi supporters and other regime critics since the Islamist’s overthrow last summer, saying they seek to establish law and order.

Following Saturday’s attack, the National Defence Council, headed by the president and attended by military chief and other security officials, held a meeting in which members discussed security arrangements in advance of the upcoming presidential elections. They stressed the need for an atmosphere of “security and peace” to ensure a high turnout.

Meanwhile, Giza’s criminal court sentenced Zohair Garana, the Mubarak-era tourism minister, to five years in jail on corruption charges. He still faces other corruption charges in a pending case.

©2014The Canadian Press


City of Vancouver approves Downtown Eastside community plan

The City of Vancouver voted to approve their local area plan with several amendments for the Downtown Eastside Saturday.

The city hopes the plan will guide change and development in the area over the next 30 years and improve quality of life for its low-income residents and community members.

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[email protected]: “This plan is balanced, it’s thoughtful. This plan speaks to pushing harder to foster community health.” #DTES #vanpoli

— Van Mayor’s Office (@VanMayorsOffice) March 15, 2014

“In recent years, the Downtown Eastside has struggled with many complex challenges including drug use, crime, homelessness, housing issues, unemployment, and loss of businesses in the community,” the city said in a statement.

The new plan will be developed in partnership with the DTES Neighbourhood Council, Building Community Society and the Local Area Planning committee.

“The Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan represents a thoughtful, balanced, and resident-driven vision for Vancouver’s oldest and most diverse neighbourhood,” said Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. “This plan reflects residents’ aspirations for a community with safer and more stable housing, protections for low-income residents, stronger support for mental health and addictions, and a more vibrant local economy.”

Amendments to Saturday’s motion included a strategy to engage partners and funding for an Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, ensure a third of new units rent at a shelter rate and increased protection for SRO residents.

Thousands of people, including Downtown Eastside residents, participated in the public consultation process to design the plan.

The plan will include affordable housing options both in and outside of the neighbourhood, including 3,350 social housing units over the next three decades. It will also add new rental and ownership housing for middle-income families without displacing existing residents, the city said in a release.

The city also hopes to attract new retailers, jobs and economic development to the area. The city said the plan will create 3,500 new jobs and reduce empty storefronts.

Under the plan, Hastings Street will be revitalized as an economic engine, the city said, while offering community facilities and services for every age and income.

Strathcona, Gastown and Japantown will not be rezoned in order to preserve heritage buildings and new developments will be placed near Clark and Hastings hubs.

“After three years of community input, the approval of this plan marks a historic opportunity to protect the best of the Downtown Eastside and to shape a more hopeful future for the neighbourhood and its residents,” said Robertson.

The Downtown Eastside is currently home to approximately 18,500 residents, 67 per cent who are considered low-income. 6,300 of those residents are on social assistance.

The median household income in the area is only $13,691, compared to $47,299 citywide.

City of Vancouver infographs:

City of Vancouver infographic on the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.

City of Vancouver

City of Vancouver infographic on the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.

City of Vancouver