‘It’s something new every single time:’ Kelowna music school gets ready to rock n’ roll – Okanagan


Rehearsals are underway for one of Kelowna’s biggest rock concerts of the year.

But the performers are not rock stars: They’re students.

“We’re putting on a tribute to our fallen heroes,” said Noel Wentworth, vice president of education at Wentworth Music. “It’s a musical celebration, so people like Prince and David Bowie and Michael Jackson.”

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Wentworth, the largest music school per capita in Canada, has been hosting these rockin’ recitals twice a year for over a decade and it’s their 25th recital this time around.

“We’ve received international attention. We’re doing something that very few other schools are doing,” Wentworth said. “I get people on a regular basis saying ‘this is a really good show.’ The seven o’clock show usually sells out.”

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The music school has over a thousand students –- anywhere from six years of age to 76 — with many performing at the recital.

“I’m nervous but I’m excited because, apparently, a lot of people come to watch it,” said piano student Emily Fortin.

Fortin is new to Wentworth and this is her first rock concert performance.

“If you want to pursue music, you have a lot of open doors for you instead of just taking at-home lesson,” Fortin said.

And from newbie to veteran, Reece Wernicke has been with the school since he was three years old and has performed in 23 of the 25 recitals.

“It’s really evolved and it’s gotten so much bigger,” Wernicke said. “It’s just a really exciting thing that I get to do twice a year and it’s something I look forward to.”

The concert is a fundraiser, with all proceeds going to support youth.

“We’ve raised over $212,000 now for the Kelowna General Hospital to help children,” Wentworth said. “We’re making a difference in people’s lives by doing something that we love to do.”

Watching these students perform, it’s difficult to believe many of them are beginner musicians.

“I love seeing students succeed,” Wentworth said. “I love seeing them go from square one, and the process of them stumbling and learning, and then, by the time we get to do the show, they’re nailing it. That’s what it’s about.”

The Legacy – A Musical Celebration of Our Lost Legends concert takes on Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite but they are selling out quickly, especially for the evening show.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Trump fights while Trudeau and Ford roll over on GM plant closure


General Motors’ decision to close its Oshawa plant is treated by the federal and Ontario governments as irreversible — as the inevitable result of global market forces. It is neither.

Rather it is a self-serving decision made by a multinational adept in navigating the areas where politics and economics intersect. In making it, GM has taken advantage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s fascination with high technology and Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s laissez-faire approach to industrial policy.

True, there is an important economic element behind the automaker’s plan to close eight plants worldwide. Consumers no longer buy many of the cars GM makes, including the Chevrolet Impala sedan manufactured in Oshawa.

Nor are they buying the hybrid Chevy Volt, once touted by GM as the car of the future. The Detroit plant that makes the Volt is one of the eight due to be shuttered.

Rather, consumers are buying gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks — including the Silverado and Sierra models assembled in Oshawa.

So when GM says it wants to focus on developing electric and self-driving autos, it isn’t being entirely straightforward.

What the company really wants to do is shift production from vehicles that people don’t buy — including electric hybrids like the Volt — to those they do buy, such as pickup trucks.

GM would be pleased if, along the way, its engineers happened to develop a revolutionary electric car. But until that day arrives, it will concentrate on the more mundane task of making as much money as possible.

In a nutshell, this is the economics behind GM’s Monday announcement that it will close four plants in the U.S. and three overseas as well as Oshawa.

The politics of the decision has to do with where GM will manufacture those models it still plans to produce.

Its preference is to assemble them in low-wage countries like Mexico. But like all car companies it is willing to be enticed by government subsidies and is susceptible to pressure from government threats.

In strict efficiency terms, it would make sense for GM to shift the production of profitable models to its Oshawa plant. Oshawa’s flexible assembly line can handle both cars and trucks. Oshawa already performs the final assembly stage of two profitable pickup models. GM itself says the Oshawa workforce is one of the most productive in its stable.

But in the real world of politics, GM knows it wouldn’t get away with keeping a Canadian plant open when it was shutting down four U.S. operations. Donald Trump wouldn’t let it happen.

Indeed, the U.S. president has already signalled that he expects GM to backtrack on at least one plant closure in Ohio. If the company can’t make money selling the compact cars manufactured there now, he warned Monday, then “They’d better put something else in.”

What can Trump do? He’s already shown he can use tariffs with devastating effect. I’m sure he’d think of some way to punish GM if it didn’t comply.

But the importance of the Trump threat is that he’s not taken in by arguments of economic inevitability. He knows that when it comes to the auto industry, nothing is written in stone.

By contrast, Canada’s federal and Ontario governments have convinced themselves that nothing can be done. The Trudeau Liberals are so focused on high-tech jobs of the future that they too often — as in this case — forget the needs of the present.

Trudeau, who has spent some time cultivating GM head Mary Barra, appears to have accepted her claim that the Oshawa decision is irreversible.

Ford, for different reasons, has taken the same tack. He blames the planned federal carbon tax in part for GM’s decision, yet insists that nothing can be done to change it.

Both Canadian leaders fail to see what Trump instinctively understands: This is the auto industry we’re talking about; nothing is immutable.

Thomas Walkom is a Toronto-based columnist covering politics. Follow him on Twitter: @tomwalkom


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Keystone pipeline is Trump’s latest failed attempt to roll back environmental regulations


Climate activists did cartwheels. Alberta’s landlocked, lacklustre oil patch wailed. U.S. President Donald Trump spat contempt, calling a U.S. court-ordered halt to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline “a disgrace” — and then proceeded to do what he does pretty much every day, igniting a new volley of news-grenades, drawing attention elsewhere.

The bombardment of daily distraction may be this president’s best friend, sucking up oxygen that might otherwise help drive a deeper understanding of what happens — and what doesn’t — after the sound byte explodes.

In this photo taken on May 08, 2017, Indigenous leaders and climate activists disrupt business at a Chase Bank branch in Seattle. A Montana judge has stopped the White House’s approval of the project.
In this photo taken on May 08, 2017, Indigenous leaders and climate activists disrupt business at a Chase Bank branch in Seattle. A Montana judge has stopped the White House’s approval of the project.  (JASON REDMOND / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

But it’s worth a look at the 54-page ruling that dropped late Thursday at a U.S. court in Montana, putting the brakes yet again on the meandering, decade-long saga of KXL. All told, Judge Brian Morris’s ruling amounts to a scathing indictment of a dog-ate-my-homework administration that still appears incapable, even two years in, of crossing its Ts or dotting its Is.

In rejecting Trump’s green light for a pipeline that already enjoys the uneasy backing of the Trudeau Liberals, the Notley NDP and an Alberta industry screaming for greater export capacity, Judge Morris essentially assigned blame to an incompetent White House.

It’s not the end for Keystone XL, of course. As TransCanada regrouped Friday, saying it would review the ruling before looking to next steps, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd acknowledged the “frustrating setback” but vowed, “We still believe we will get through.”

The TSX and the Canadian dollar reeled on the news and left Alberta’s leaders pleading anew for help from Ottawa to increase crude-by-rail to help address a widening differential that has the province’s heavy oil massively discounted against U.S. light-crude prices. McCuaig-Boyd called the price differential “horrible right now.”

But at its essence, the court injunction halting the $10-billion project is a U.S. decision against another U.S. decision, leaving Canada as a spectator to what happens next.

It remains unclear whether the Trump administration will go back to the drawing board and actually do its homework and re-submit or simply appeal its way up the judiciary in search of a friendlier ruling, if not at the 9thCircuit then perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court.

Judge Morris nailed Trump’s state department for a series of shortcomings that violated several laws, saying it “fell short of a ‘hard look’” at the pipeline’s evolving viability and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. It also questioned the absence of any updated modeling of environmental cleanup in light of major oil spills in 2014 and 2017 that “qualify as significant.”

On paper, some of that blame might seem to belong to former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, on whose watch much of department’s submission was prepared. But Tillerson, to his credit, recused himself of any involvement in the Keystone XL pipeline file shortly after taking office in 2017 to avoid any perceived conflict of interest relating to his former role as chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp.

Some U.S. observers noted a pattern in the admonitions that, coupled with other rulings against Trump efforts at energy deregulation, called into question the administration’s ability to actually deliver.

“One of the biggest political myths in America is that, say what you will about Trump, but he’s managed to cut environmental regulations to the bone,” tweeted Jerry Taylor, founder of the DC-based think-tank, Niskanen Center.

“Nonsense on stilts. He’s been screamingly incompetent at that job as well. Not for lack of trying.”

A case in point: last month Slate put the Trump deregulation mantra to the test, concluding that the administration had “largely failed” after multiple attempts to put Obama-era regulatory efforts on ice.

Instead, the Slate analysis argued, Team Trump now was abandoning its attempts to short-circuit the process and was instead shifting to the more cumbersome task of crafting new regulatory policy.

“But having squandered half of its four-year term, the White House faces an uphill climb in developing its major environmental rollback initiatives, and getting them past now-skeptical courts, before the clock runs out.”

For a project whose saga now has spanned three presidencies, the fate of Keystone XL remains baffling — and, likely, overblown. Barack Obama himself — in pursuit of an all-of-the-above energy policy not unlike that of Justin Trudeau’s government — split the difference on the Canadian pipeline in 2015, approving the southern leg but blocking the northern extension from Alberta.

In so doing, Obama lamented how this one Canadian pipeline somehow had become a convenient political football for everyone.

“For years, the Keystone pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse,” he said.

“It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”

That symbolism seemed to have faded into the history books — as a done deal, under Trump — as the debate over carbon taxes and the absence of American climate leadership amid worsening scientific climate data filtered forward.

But no longer. Like it or not, Keystone XL — the controversy, if not an actual pipeline — is back on centre stage.

Mitch Potter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites


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Simcoe County Archives launches region’s first WW1 honour roll – Barrie


The County of Simcoe Archives has launched a virtual memorial to honour 1,006 men and women with ties to Simcoe County who died while in service or as a result of injuries sustained during the First World War.

According to a news release issued by the county on Thursday, the memorial, titled Simcoe County Remembers, is the first known First World War honour roll in Simcoe County which centralizes multiple lists and sources into one database.

“Following the war, many of the region’s townships, towns and villages established their own individual forms of commemoration,” the release reads. County officials say the honour roll complements the existing public memorials with one consolidated list.

“This is a tremendously important undertaking and truly documents the significant sacrifices of our men, women and families during WW1,” Simcoe County deputy warden, Terry Dowdall, said in the release. “Simcoe County has a deep military history and the Archives continues to play an important role in preserving our past so it can be illuminated for future generations.”

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According to the county, staff conducted extensive research of public memorials, published local histories and official military records in order to establish the Simcoe County Remembers database.

The release says databases found on the websites of the Library and Archives Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada Books of Remembrance and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were also searched to find the names of the region’s deceased war veterans.

The county says the following criteria were used to develop the list of names:

  • Was the individual born in Simcoe County?
  • Did the individual reside in Simcoe County at the time of enlistment?
  • Did the individual’s official next-of-kin reside in Simcoe County?
  • Is the individual’s name on one of the public war memorials located in Simcoe County?
  • Did the individual die while in military service prior to Nov. 11, 1918, or soon after the Armistice of causes directly connected to his or her war service?

According to the release, while the Townships of Mara and Rama did not join the County of Simcoe until 1974, the names of fallen men and women from the communities have been included in the Simcoe County Remembers database.

The county says the database is intended to be as inclusive as possible. Anyone who feels a name is missing or finds there is a documentation error is encouraged to contact Simcoe County Archives at 705-726-9331.

Simcoe County Remembers can be accessed on the county’s website.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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