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Alberta

Invasion of the stink bugs: Pest thrives in British Columbia’s warm October

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VANCOUVER — An aromatic insect shaped like a shield is lurking around homes and feasting on stone fruits in parts of southern British Columbia. 

The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species in Canada, is thriving in the province this season thanks to summer-like weather extending into the fall months, experts say.

“We’ve had a particularly warm, dry fall, which are perfect conditions for this stink bug,” said Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of B.C.

Although population counts aren’t readily available, the unwelcome intruder is earning notice across the Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver and parts of the Okanagan, particularly Kelowna.

“We don’t have the science on that yet, but what we do know is we’re getting way more reports this year,” Wallin said, adding that could also be because people are spending more time outside and paying attention.

The Asian insect was first detected in British Columbia in 2015, five years after making its Canadian debut in Hamilton. It has also been spotted in Quebec, Alberta and P.E.I., according to the Invasive Species Centre. 

The B.C. government describes it online as a “very serious pest” that feeds on more than 100 plant species. In 2010, it caused an estimated loss of $37 million to the apple industry in the mid-Atlantic United States, the province said. 

The presence of just a few adults at crush can taint wine, creating contamination issues for grapes, it said. 

“The stink bug is an excellent hitchhiker and can be moved in shipping containers, wood, packing material, cargo and vehicles. It is also a nuisance to homeowners as the adults aggregate on and in buildings while seeking warm overwintering sites,” the B.C. government said.

Climate change has also eased the adaptation of many new species, Wallin said. The trouble, once they’re introduced, is the way they compete with native species and devastate crops without natural controls on their populations, she said. 

“When you introduce any non-native species that become established, it actually disrupts the natural ecosystem, it disrupts the balance of nature,” Wallin said. 

The brown marmorated stink bug can be distinguished from its native counterparts by its banded white antennae, Wallin added.

So does the stink bug actually live up to its name? If you ask Warren Wong, who studied the brown marmorated stink bug while completing his master’s degree at Simon Fraser University, it’s not so bad. 

“This might be a thing where you’ve got to love your work. For some people, they may find the stink bug very stinky, but for me, I don’t find it repulsive at all,” Wong said. 

“It smells like freshly cut grass.”

Wong, who has moved on to study other pests as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, said it’s most likely that the brown marmorated stink bug travelled on ships, trucks and airplanes to Canada. 

“We suspect that they came through transport, essentially through trade, and most likely through multiple introductions,” he said. 

The population fluctuates with the seasons, with heat waves benefiting the invaders and cool winters slowing their spread, he said. 

Interestingly, the same trade routes that brought the stink bug to Canada also likely carried one of its natural rivals, the samurai wasp, Wong added. 

If you see a brown marmorated stink bug, the Invasive Species Council of B.C. recommends reporting the insect through its website or the iNaturalist app and being careful not to transport it.

The B.C. government asks growers and homeowners to send pictures or samples of suspect brown marmorated stink bugs to the Ministry of Agriculture offices.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

McDavid enters history books, Skinner shines as Oilers top Kings 2-0

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Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 300th career goal, against the Los Angeles Kings during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Thursday March 30, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

By Shane Jones in Edmonton

Connor McDavid scored his 300th career goal, Stuart Skinner made 43 saves for Edmonton’s first shutout of the season and the Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 on Thursday.

McDavid became the first player in NHL history to have five different 10-game point streaks in a single season, breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of four in the 1986-87 season.

McDavid also became the fifth player in league history to reach 300 goals and 500 assists before playing 600 career games. Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Statsny and Bryan Trottier are the others.

Evander Kane scored the other for Edmonton (44-23-9), which has won three in a row and gone 12-2-1 in March.

The Oilers also moved ahead of the Kings for second place in the Pacific Division by one point.

Joonas Korpisalo made 35 saves for Los Angeles (43-22-10), which has lost two in a row on the heels on a franchise-high 12-game points streak.

Kane opened the scoring with just 52 seconds left in the first period. Leon Draisaitl made a beautiful behind-the-back spin pass to Kane, who was able to send a one-timer past Korpisalo for his 15th of the season.

Draisaitl picked up his 70th assist and extended his point scoring streak to 11 games on the play.

Skinner was later able to keep the Kings off the board midway through the second period, making a big glove save on Adrian Kempe’s breakaway backhand shot.

Edmonton outshot Los Angeles 27-24 through 40 minutes after a scoreless second period.

McDavid made it 2-0 3:53 into the third period when he picked off a pass and sped away on a short-handed breakaway to score his 61st goal of the season. It was also his fourth short-handed goal of the campaign.

Skinner made huge saves on Vladislav Gavrikov and Viktor Arvidsson in the dying minutes and collected his 10th win in the month of March to set a franchise record for wins in a single month.

NOTES

The Kings entered the game with a 9-1-2 record in March and the league’s best point percentage for the month, while Edmonton was second. Edmonton leads the NHL with 4.71 goals per game in March, while the Kings are fourth at 4.00. A major difference is that the Kings also had the lowest goals against per game at 2.08 during that span … Edmonton had also scored four or more goals in 11 of its 14 games this month and its power play has operated at 42.3 per cent during their 7-0-1 run coming into the contest. … Edmonton became the first team to have two players record 70 assists in the same season since the 2008-2009 Pittsburgh Penguins and just the 21st team in NHL history to do so … The Kings were without Gabriel Vilardi (upper body), while the Oilers were missing Ryan Murray (back), and Ryan McLeod (upper body).

UP NEXT

The Oilers play host to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

The Kings play the third game of a four-game road trip in Seattle against the Kraken on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.

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Alberta

Appropriate for Alberta premier to discuss COVID case with accused, deputy says

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Kaycee Madu shakes hand with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith after he was sworn into cabinet in Edmonton, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Madu says it was appropriate for his boss to phone up a pastor charged over pandemic-rule protests and discuss the accused’s upcoming criminal trial. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Alberta’s deputy premier says it was appropriate for Premier Danielle Smith to phone up a pastor and discuss his upcoming criminal trial on charges stemming from protests over pandemic restrictions.

Kaycee Madu, who is also the province’s former justice minister, said Thursday that Smith is working to make Alberta better, adding that she is free to contact whomever she wants in pursuing that mission.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley labelled Madu’s comments a dangerous “la la land” rationale and the start of a slippery slope toward a “tinpot dictatorship.”

Smith faces renewed criticism over a leaked phone conservation she had with Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski in January about his looming criminal trial for his role at a protest over COVID-19 health measures that blocked the United States-Canada border-crossing at Coutts, Alta., in January 2022.

Audio of the call was obtained by the Opposition NDP and played for reporters Wednesday.

In it, Smith is heard commiserating with Pawlowski over her government’s trial tactics, offering to make inquiries on his behalf and saying the Crown is pursuing politically motivated charges against him.

Legal and political observers say the call is a profound breach of the firewall separating politicians from those who decide who gets prosecuted.

Smith has long been critical of COVID-19 masking, gathering and vaccine mandate rules, questioning if they were needed to fight the pandemic. She has called them intolerable violations of personal freedoms.

Madu, when asked by reporters whether it was proper for Smith to have called Pawlowski, said: “COVID policies were divisive for the people of Alberta. I am looking to see us pass that particular era and focus on the people’s priorities.”

He said Smith’s focus as premier has been on things that matter to Albertans, such as affordability, economic growth and taking care of the vulnerable.

“In the course of that particular work, the premier is free to speak with anyone that she wishes to speak with.”

Notley said those remarks, coupled with Smith’s words on the phone call, put Alberta on a slippery path to the politicization of its justice system. She called for an expedited independent inquiry into the matter before the writ is dropped next month for a scheduled provincial election.

“We’re on the verge of a tinpot dictatorship,” Notley said.

“You start ripping apart the fundamental tenets of democracy, you move into dictatorship. It’s that simple.”

Madu moved out of the justice portfolio under former premier Jason Kenney after a third-party report found he tried to interfere in the administration of justice by calling up Edmonton’s police chief to complain about a traffic ticket.

Madu was given a new portfolio under Kenney, then promoted to deputy premier when Smith won the party leadership and became premier in October.

Smith has not spoken to reporters since the audio was released, but in a statement Wednesday reiterated she has acted strictly within the parameters of advice from justice officials and has not spoken directly to Crown prosecutors.

“There is no need for further investigation of this matter,” Smith said in a statement Thursday.

Notley said the call is dramatic and disturbing proof of Smith breaching the judicial firewall.

“You cannot have unfettered power in the office of the premier. There are limits,” Notley said. “Our Constitution for as long as we’ve been a country has said that those limits are defined by an independent judicial system.”

Calgary-based pollster Janet Brown said the controversy will reanimate voter concerns with Smith.

“Why was she even taking a call from someone facing a criminal offence and talking about their criminal charges?” said Brown in an interview.

“This will give undecided voters pause. They will be wondering about her judgment, and her judgment is her Achilles heel.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt said Smith is exerting pressure on the justice system by constantly questioning justice officials about why they are pursuing COVID-19 cases.

“Even if this isn’t about talking to Crown prosecutors, this is clear pressure on (Justice Minister Tyler) Shandro,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Constitutional law professor Eric Adams, with the University of Alberta, said the call threatens public trust in the courts.

“You expose the administration of justice to the reasonable concern of the public that some people have access to the premier and preferential treatment and some people don’t,” said Adams.

“Our system can’t function on that basis.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.

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