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Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.

The name evokes scenes from a horror movie: Murder Hornets have made another appearance in North America.

Officially called Asian giant hornets, the insects were first spotted on Vancouver Island last year, where local beekeepers snuffed out a nest buried in the woods. There were also hornets spotted on B.C.'s mainland and in Washington State.

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Now, their reappearance in Washington has prompted fears they could get a foothold in the region, potentially endangering people with their stings and – more significantly – destroying honeybees.

Experts say the chances of that happening are low. But invasive-species experts in B.C. and Alberta are currently assessing the risk and figuring out what they will need to do if the hornets are spotted.

Michelle Allen spoke to the beekeeper in Nanaimo, B.C., who was the “trigger man” on a mission to find the nest in September and destroy it. He recalled how he added a Kevlar vest and other equipment to his usual getup, and even then he was still stung seven times.

She also spoke to beekeepers in B.C. and on the Prairies, who say they aren’t overly concerned about the possibility the hornets could become a long-term fixture in the region, though even a small risk isn’t what the industry and the species needs right now. Honeybees are already facing risks that could hurt the species as well as the ecosystems they support.

No one knows how the hornets got to Vancouver Island, and Michael Paradis of Paradis Honey in Girouxville, Alta., says that fact is on his mind, comparing it to another pest.

“Raccoons are starting to be a problem in Western Canada,” Mr. Paradis said. “They’ve never been here before, but they’ve managed to hitchhike their way around on trucks. ... [Asian giant hornets] didn’t get across the Pacific by flying. They spread with human aid.”

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.

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Around the West

HOMELESS MOVE: The B.C. government announced on April 25 that it would move hundreds of homeless people from three encampments in Vancouver and Victoria indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. One day earlier, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued an order under the Emergency Program Act that cited the camps’ risks to health and safety, and the fact that fewer supports and services are available there owing to the pandemic. The order said people were to move from the three locations by noon on May 9, but the province extended the deadline for Victoria on Friday to May 20. There was relief that help was being provided and anger that it took a pandemic to make the government move people indoors.

SASKATCHEWAN OUTBREAK: More than 150 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Saskatchewan’s far north, including in vulnerable Indigenous communities. The cases span a region that extends north over a large geographic area from the town of La Ronge. They include cases in La Loche that are linked to travel from a Kearl Lake oil sands work camp north of Fort McMurray, Alta. Georgina Jolibois, a former mayor of La Loche and former NDP MP, says housing and overcrowding is a major concern.

LONG-TERM CARE TRANSFERS: Long-term care homes in B.C. that have not had an outbreak of COVID-19 are continuing to admit new residents, giving priority to people coming from hospitals. The emphasis on admissions from hospital over people who may be waiting at home for a long-term care spot is part of B.C.'s overall pandemic response, because it makes more hospital beds available for a potential surge in patients with COVID-19. Still, the policy has raised questions about whether long-term care facilities, which have proved to be vulnerable to deadly outbreaks of the virus, are able to manage the protocols required to keep staff and patients – both those coming in and those already there – safe.

COVID-19 DEATH: The father of a worker at Cargill’s High River slaughterhouse is the latest to die in the outbreak at the facility. More than 900 workers have been infected in the largest single-outbreak in Canada. Armando Sallegue, who was living with his son, died last week after falling ill. Carrie Tait spoke with his family, who described a deeply religious man.

REOPENING THEATRES: B.C. announced on Wednesday that museums and galleries could reopen as soon as mid-May. Movie theatres and symphonies, it said, could potentially restart in June – but not in gatherings of more than 50 people. Professional sports and large concerts will have to wait for a vaccine, treatment or community immunity. Theatre companies were not specifically mentioned in Wednesday’s announcement, but audiences at Western Canada’s largest theatre company, the Arts Club, generally exceed 50 people at all three of its venues. “There’s something between a gathering of 49 and GM Place being full,” said Ashlie Corcoran, artistic director of the Arts Club. “We want to do whatever is safe, we are happy to do our part. We just hope that the government is going to realize how important arts and culture is to the fabric of our society.”

EDUCATION: Alberta is pushing ahead with a plan to use performance-based funding for post-secondary education, even as Ontario backs away from a similar plan because of the destabilization caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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DEADPOOL 2 DEATH: A Vancouver company involved in producing the feature film Deadpool 2 has been fined $289,562.63 by WorkSafeBC over the death of a stunt performer in a motorcycle crash during work on a scene for the movie. The B.C. workplace safety agency, which previously found various failings in the planning and execution of the stunt while the film was being shot in 2017, levied the administrative penalty against TCF Vancouver Productions Ltd. over the fatal incident.

CALGARY STARTUP: A Calgary startup that combines artificial intelligence, behavioural science and compassion to help large billers collect from delinquent customers has raised one of the city’s largest venture-capital financings. Symend Inc. raised US$52-million from investors and plans to more than double its 90-person staff by year’s end.

COVID-19 COURT DISPUTE: An Alberta judge says a full trial is needed to decide whether the COVID-19 pandemic is a material change that could justify terminating a deal to buy a company. The case has been closely watched by the legal and business communities because there is little Canadian law on the topic.


Gary Mason on senior care: “It’s clear many of our seniors have been grossly mistreated. Pets are treated better. We have not allowed many to enjoy the type of dignity they deserve in their final years. What has happened, in many cases, has been a complete disgrace.”

Jeffrey Jones on oil-production cuts: “Even with increasing business activity, oil storage won’t start to dissipate until gasoline and jet fuel inventories drain and refineries get back to more normal production rates. This could take months. Still, the industry has proved its ability to adapt when forced to do so.”

Adrienne Tanner on Vancouver’s tax increase: “I was among those who considered this year’s budget too rich to begin with. Now, as we head into a recession and most people are looking for ways to cut costs, the optics are even worse. But so far, no one on council has proposed a budget review and it seems likely to pass next week with the 7-per-cent increase intact.”

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