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Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver here.

Like many people at this time of year whose families don’t fit into the idealized Christmas tableau of warmth and closeness, Paul Balog, a Victoria-area engineer, was finding himself struggling.

His family had a difficult year after Mr. Balog and his partner separated and he was eager to bring some Christmas cheer to his seven-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. So he did something he said was natural: He reached out to his Oak Bay community for help.

"Will you miss some of your beloved family members around your Christmas table this year? Or have you always wished [for] a larger family or grandchildren? Would you like more giggles and chatters in your house at Christmas?” he wrote in a post on Reddit and VarageSale, a community buy-and-sell website.

“Do you miss some fancy decorations of a 13 y/o artistic little lady? Would you like to be entertained by a 7-year-old cheerful boy while he peels potatoes in your kitchen? Do you need a semi-professional hand with cooking and then cleaning up dishes ...”

Within hours, the ad was reposted to a Facebook group in Oak Bay, a seaside suburb of Victoria, and the responses began to pour in. Mr. Balog had 20 invitations within the first 12 hours and even more messages of support.

As Kristen Holliday writes today, Esquimalt resident Lynn Millar saw something familiar in Mr. Balog’s post.

“I was that person five years ago when I moved to Victoria,” Ms. Millar said. “People are really wanting to help. If you can make someone’s day a bit easier, why not? ... That’s what Christmas should be about. That’s what I want my daughters to learn.”

Ms. Millar reached out and is now planning for the two families to get together on Christmas Day.

Mr. Balog’s family is looking forward to dinner, but also to making connections with some of the others that responded to his post.

Mr. Balog said he wasn’t surprised by the support he received. He said he and his family were new to the community four years ago and they’ve always received kindness in Oak Bay.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.

Around the West

CARBON TAX: Alberta’s challenge of the federal carbon tax is in court this week, setting the stage for the province to join Ontario and Saskatchewan at the Supreme Court of Canada next year. Alberta government lawyers argued the tax is an unconstitutional intrusion on the province’s affairs and the lives of its citizens. The federal government, in turn, said climate change is such a grave threat that it demands a national response overseen by Ottawa.

TRANS MOUNTAIN: Also in court this week, several First Nations in B.C. are fighting their renewed challenge of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. A court ruling last year stalled the project as the federal government conducted additional consultation with Indigenous communities. The First Nations plaintiffs argue the level of consultation was still inadequate. The federal government told the court yesterday that it treated those consultations seriously and took steps to address concerns.

SURREY CANAL: Surrey’s mayor, Doug McCallum, is floating the idea of building a canal in the city after being inspired while travelling in Qatar and Venice. He has described his vision as a “wandering canal” running from the Fraser River along “a street that’s not used that much” to agricultural lands in south Surrey. The idea – which he has raised on multiple occasions now – has been met with ridicule from some of his colleagues on Surrey’s city council, with one councillor calling it “perhaps one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard in all of my years of public service."

BULLYING LAWSUIT: The parents of a 13-year-old girl are suing a private girls school in Vancouver, alleging the administration didn’t do enough to protect their daughter from bullying. The parents, who include actor-turned-restaurateur Uwe Boll, say that Crofton House School created an environment that fostered homophobia, racism and harassment, which eventually led their daughter to having suicidal thoughts. The school rejects the characterization of the events portrayed in the lawsuit and said it works to create “an environment free from all forms of discrimination and unacceptable behavior."

E-SCOOTERS: New data from the City of Calgary show that e-scooters, which suddenly became ubiquitous in and around the downtown core this summer, made a dent in car trips. There were 750,000 e-scooter trips from July until October and the city says one-third replaced a ride in a traditional vehicle.


Dermot Kelleher on why UBC medical school has decided to admit refugees: “For a medical community to grow and better serve its population, it must continue to expand beyond its borders, seek alternative insights and a greater understanding of the human condition. That’s part of the social contract between health-care practitioners, patients and their advocates.”

André Picard on Alberta’s switch to biosimilars: “The group [Crohn’s and Colitis Canada] is arguing that drug prescription decisions belong strictly to physicians and their patients. That is true. But it is nonsensical to suggest that every drug prescribed by a doctor must be covered by an insurer, either public or private.”

Eric Reguly on the Teck’s Frontier oil sands project: “Alienation in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which say federal policies hurt their oil and gas sectors, has become a focus since the Liberals were shut out of the two provinces in the October election. The question is how much weight the federal government will put on the project’s environmental impact, notably its greenhouse gas emissions in an era of ‘climate crisis’ – in Mr. Wilkinson’s words.”

Colleen Collins on frustration in the West: “Good intentions that were ‘too big,’ ‘too ideological’ and done ‘too fast’ have led to legislation that is rife with problems – including massive government discretion rather than regulatory independence, and major loopholes just asking for court challenges. It’s not just pipelines."

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