In the news today: Wildfires prompt evacuation orders for thousands in N.W.T., B.C.

Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to bring you up to speed on what you need to know today …

Thousands left in Yellowknife urged to get out

Officials in the Northwest Territories are urging thousands of residents remaining in its capital to leave by noon today before a nearby wildfire could cut off access.

The evacuation of Yellowknife was ordered late Wednesday and sprinklers, water cannons and fire guards are being set up to protect the city of 20,000 people.

Convoys of vehicles have steadily been leaving for hotels and evacuation centres in Alberta.

On Thursday, in additional to commercial planes, about 1,500 people left on evacuation flights, more flights scheduled for today that could take about 1,800 people out of the city.

Here's what else we're watching …

Fire rages for third day near West Kelowna, B.C.

A fast-burning wildfire threatening West Kelowna, B.C., is challenging fire crews as they brace for what the operations director with BC Wildfire Service has predicted will be the most challenging days of the provincial wildfire season.

Thousands of people have been placed on evacuation alert in the Okanagan city, while about 800 properties have been placed on evacuation order because of the McDougall Creek wildfire.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operation Centre issued a local state of emergency because of the fire, which is threatening suburbs, schools and businesses in the city.

The City of Kelowna has also declared a state of emergency, as fire crews responded to spot fires coming across Okanagan Lake from the McDougall Creek wildfire.

N.W.T. threatened by fire — and lack of local news

Residents of the Northwest Territories are likely among the first Canadians to feel the full effects of the news vacuum now in place on Facebook as they flee their home communities under threat of wildfire.

But industry observers say the regional media landscape was barren long before Meta, Facebook's parent company, announced plans to pull Canadian content from its platforms and the current situation merely highlights a dearth of local news coverage and resources.

Dwayne Winseck, professor of communication and media studies at Carleton University, says up to half of Canadians use social media or Google as a pathway to news.

He says an emergency situation such as the fires in the Northwest Territories underscores the importance of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in disseminating news.

How feds can spur more rental construction

Canada is facing a shortage of purpose-built rentals that's driving up rent prices.

Strong demand for rentals, a shortage of homes, high population growth and interest rates are all adding to the problem — though experts say construction of rentals has been lagging for decades.

Experts say the federal government has the tools to encourage housing developers to build more rental units.

A new report calls on Ottawa to change tax laws to give relief to builders, and provide low-cost, long-term financing to help reduce the risks developers take on with purpose-built rental projects.

Tent cities dot Halifax two years after protest

Two years after a downtown Halifax homeless encampment was razed and a largely peaceful protest took a rough turn, the clash is still fresh in the minds of many.

On Aug. 18, 2021, riot police clashed with more than 100 demonstrators, some of whom were injured, pepper-sprayed and arrested, as city officials cleared out sheds and tents set up outside the old central library on Spring Garden Road.

Criminal charges were filed against protesters, and a review of the police response is underway.

But some observers question how much progress has been made confronting Halifax's homelessness problem, which has grown over the past two years, and tent cities crowd green spaces across the municipality.

Yukon eyes connection to B.C. electricity grid

Yukon says it plans to promote a possible link between its electricity grid and British Columbia as part of roundtable discussions on Canada's future power needs.

Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources John Streicker says the idea, which has been mused about for years, takes on particular importance as the country pushes for more green energy and a net-zero electricity grid.

Streicker says linking B-C and Yukon's power grids would help the move to renewable energy and support the mineral extraction required for green projects.

He says Canada is approaching a moment when it's going to want an electricity grid that stretches to all three coasts.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press