Two missing Port Alberni teens last seen near Dease Lake in northern B.C. were looking for work in Whitehorse or Alberta, family members say.
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are considered missing after police found their vehicle on fire about 50 kilometres south of Dease Lake, a community of about 300, on Friday. A body of a dead man was discovered two kilometres away at a highway pullout. Police have confirmed the body is not that of either of the missing men.
RCMP aren’t ruling out a possible connection between the missing teenagers, the body discovered nearby and a double homicide last week on the Alaska Highway.
Schmegelsky’s grandmother, Carol Starkey, said McLeod and Schmegelsky left Port Alberni on July 12 to find work in Whitehorse. When they arrived in Whitehorse a few days later, they decided it wasn’t what they had expected. Starkey, who was last in touch with her grandson on July 13 or 14, isn’t sure what their plans were after that.
Schmegelsky had been living with his grandmother for the last two years. “He was a great kid. I really enjoyed having him,” she said.
Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, a media relations officer for the RCMP, said in a press conference Monday that it is unusual to have two simultaneous major crime investigations in northern B.C. She recommended “heightened vigilance and awareness” for anyone travelling in the area.
The missing men have not been in contact with their family for the last few days. They were last seen travelling south from the Super A general store in Dease Lake at about 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.
Police said it’s unclear what their travel plans were at the time they went missing.
Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer’s father, said the pair, best friends since elementary school, had been working night shifts at Walmart in Port Alberni to save money for the trip.
“They’re best friends who did everything together,” Schmegelsky said. “They even got jobs together at Walmart. They were just out on an adventure.”
Schmegelsky said he travelled to Port Alberni from his home in Victoria every other week to visit his son. He was on his way on July 12 when he received a message from Bryer saying he and McLeod were headed to Alberta and might not have Internet access for a while.
He said he assumed the two were heading to Red Deer, where Bryer’s cousins live. He has been trying to contact him every day since.
Schmegelsky described his son, who did not finish high school, as “a smart kid” who was into computer games, curious about his ancestry and just starting to become less introverted. Schmegelsky said neither Bryer nor Kam is violent or into drugs.
He said both Bryer and Kam love to play games that simulate war and involve hunting and camouflage. He thinks the instincts they learned from playing those games could help explain where they are now.
“These kids are smart,” he said. “If they sensed any kind of danger, they would have gone into the woods and hid. With no cellphones and no GPS, they probably got lost in the woods.”
Schmegelsky, who is separated from Bryer’s mother, said the last time he saw his son was on June 28, and he learned Bryer was missing when he saw a story in a newspaper.
“No one contacted me,” he said. “But they should have. I shouldn’t be sitting in Starbucks seeing my kid’s picture.”
He has since been in touch with an RCMP officer, who told him they were looking into whether there is a connection between this case and that of two tourists found dead on the side of the Alaska Highway.
The bodies of 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese were found about 470 kilometres from the missing men’s burning vehicle on July 15. RCMP confirmed Monday the two were victims of gun violence.
RCMP are investigating the deaths, and have released a sketch of a man who was seen speaking to Fowler the day before the couple’s bodies were found. Police said they are interested in speaking to the man.
Dease Lake RCMP released a sketch of the man found dead close to the burning vehicle, and are working to identify him. He is estimated to be about 50 to 60 years old, and described as Caucasian and five foot eight inches to five foot 10 inches tall with a heavy build, grey hair and a grey, bushy beard.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were travelling in a red and grey Dodge pickup truck outfitted with a camper with the B.C. licence plate LW6433.
McLeod is described as six foot four and about 170 pounds. He has dark brown hair, brown eyes and facial hair. Schmegelsky is also six foot four and weighs about 170 pounds, according to RCMP, although his father said he is closer to 125 pounds.
RCMP are also investigating the disappearance of two Surrey men considered missing after their vehicle was found near Logan Lake, between Merritt and Kamloops. Ryan Provencher, 38, and Richard Scurr, 37, were last seen about 12:30 p.m. on July 17 in Surrey. They were driving a 2019 white Jeep Cherokee.
Anyone with information about the missing Port Alberni men is asked to call Dease Lake RCMP at 250-771-4111. Information about the identity of the deceased man can be shared with RCMP at 1-877-543-4822 or 778-290-5291.
Trudeau spends final day of campaign in B.C.
VANCOUER, B.C. — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is making his final pitch to voters with a whirlwind trip through British Columbia.
The Liberal campaign will make several stops in and around Vancouver today, including in ridings held by the New Democrats, before heading over to Victoria for the last rally before Canadians cast their ballots Monday.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, as well as both NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the Green’s Elizabeth May, are also spending the day in the province.
The Liberals have faced criticism from progressive voters in B.C. over their decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project for $4.5 billion, but in Alberta, they have been accused of not doing enough for people who work in the oil and gas sector.
Last night in Calgary, the Liberal campaign was greeted by protesters carrying signs accusing Trudeau of treason, as well as about 1,500 supporters who showed up for a late-night rally.
Trudeau told the crowd there are thousands of progressive voters in Alberta, where the Liberals won four seats in 2015 after having not won a single riding in the province since 2004.
“I know that there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of progressive Albertans who do not feel that (Alberta Premier) Jason Kenney speaks for them,” Trudeau said.
NDP turned low expectations into high spirits on the campaigns
PORT ALBERNI, B.C.— It’s about the energy.
Ed Ross felt it when he pressed a long, slate grey eagle feather into Jagmeet Singh’s hands. Ross was among a group of drummers from the Tseshaht First Nation who sang and played for the NDP leader as he disembarked from his campaign bus Friday morning in this valley town in the mountainous interior of Vancouver Island.
“When I gave him the feather at first, he grabbed it, embraced it, and then went in and held it through the whole (event),” said Ross, dressed in an orange T-shirt and black vest with a band of sweetgrass tied around his head.
“I’m an energy guy. It’s how I feel when I meet you,” he said. “I can see that he’s listening. I can see that he’s engaged. I can see the eye contact that he makes …
“You can see that he’s a good man.”
For weeks before the start of the federal election campaign, top NDP officials were saying Singh — the 40-year-old rookie leader of Canada’s social democratic party — had personal magnetism and charisma that could ignite on the campaign trail. Now that the campaign is in its final days, polls suggest they may have been right. Singh has seen a bump in recent weeks, both in national voting intentions for New Democrats, and in his own personal favourability ratings, that one pollster characterized as “through the roof.”
Marie Della Mattia, the NDP’s campaign co-chair, said the party has stayed true to its plan. At every turn, Singh has cast the Liberals and Conservatives as beholden to the interests of the rich, and tried to convince Canadians that New Democrats will tax corporations and the wealthy to pay for broad and expensive social programs that would benefit everyone.
A big part of why people might be listening, Della Mattia said, is Singh himself.
“He’s a really good campaigner. He’s energetic. He’s enthusiastic. He loves doing this,” she told the Star on Friday outside the NDP’s campaign office in Port Alberni. “We couldn’t wait for the campaign to start.”
When it finally did start, in early September, the NDP appeared to have a rough road to voting day. Annual fundraising returns had tanked from more than $18 million in 2015 — when the party was the official opposition in the House of Commons — to just $5 million last year. Several high profile incumbents, like B.C.’s Nathan Cullen and Quebec’s Hélène Laverdière, had decided not to run again, and the party lagged in filling a roster of candidates for the coming campaign.
There were also questions about Singh himself, who had stumbled repeatedly in the early months of his leadership, sometimes appearing ignorant of his own party’s policies as he tried to lead the NDP caucus for more than a year without his own seat in the Commons.
Farouk Karim, who was press secretary to Singh’s predecessor as NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, said the struggles that Singh appeared to endure may have given him an advantage in disguise: he entered the federal campaign this fall with low expectations.
This “allowed Singh to introduce himself for the first half of the campaign without being a threat and therefore without attacks from his opponents,” Karim said. “It also allowed Singh to make a very good impression to Canadians who might have written him off because of the negative chatter on the party.”
Della Mattia believes the seeds of the NDP’s momentum were sown in the early days of the campaign as Singh hammered a message of contrast, with the NDP on one side and the Liberals and Conservatives on the other. At the first debate in early September, which Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau skipped, she said Singh tried to show that he’s preoccupied with everyday Canadians by citing examples of their struggles to afford prescription drugs or find housing.
Lorne Bozinoff, president of the polling firm Forum Research, said he believes a turning point for the NDP was Singh’s emotional reaction to images of Trudeau in brownface and blackface. After Singh listened to Trudeau’s first apology that night, he decided to make a late-night statement urging people of colour not to “give up on Canada, and please don’t give up on yourselves.”
“That got people looking at him and listening to him,” Bozinoff said. “He was very, very compelling.”
Della Mattia said the reaction was pure Singh. “He reacted with such humanness and it was super raw … It was just what he was feeling and thinking at the time.”
But rather than being the turning point, Singh’s campaign co-chair sees the moment as one of several through the campaign that set the stage for the recent lift in the polls. In Grassy Narrows, Singh shot down a question about spending unspecified amounts of money on Indigenous infrastructure and social services by asking whether resources would be a concern if Vancouver or Toronto didn’t have access to clean water. He was generally seen to have performed well in the official campaign debates, and flared on social media with a viral “Tik Tok” meme video.
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“What I said all along … it doesn’t happen right away,” said Della Mattia. “It takes five to 10 days to percolate into the consciousness of dental hygienists with two teenage boys.”
On Friday, as Singh toured Vancouver Island, he was questioned — as he has been all week — about how the New Democrats will handle a minority parliament, given that they’ve ruled out supporting the Conservatives in any way. He refused to say whether he would try to defeat a Conservative minority before it tries to scrap the federal carbon price, or whether he would make the cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — a key priority for federal New Democrats — a condition for supporting the Liberals.
But regardless of what happens when votes are counted Monday, Della Mattia argued that the NDP campaign has already succeeded. Singh could be the kingmaker in a hung parliament, just weeks after many questioned whether the NDP would even retain official party status in the House.
“Despite the smaller budget than the other parties, our campaign has actually looked better and been stronger,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything I could say we would do differently.”
Singh won’t confirm if he would trigger snap election
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been unequivocal in saying he would not help the Conservatives to form a government in the event that no party wins a majority, but he won’t say if that means he’d be willing to trigger a snap election.
Opinion polls suggest many progressive voters remain undecided with only three days left until election day. They also suggest the Liberals and Conservatives remain locked in a tie among decided voters, and that Singh’s New Democrats remain in third place, but have made significant gains since the election began.
The numbers look increasingly like there could be a minority government.
Singh has been firm in saying he would be unwilling to prop up a Conservative minority government. While campaigning in British Columbia Friday, he reiterated his stance, saying he would be willing to work with any of the other parties in a potential minority scenario, including the Liberals, but never with the Conservatives.
“We’re not going to support a Conservative minority government. We’re not going to support in any way Mr. Scheer being put into the prime minister’s seat,” Singh said in Port Alberni.
“That’s something that we’ve ruled out entirely, unequivocally.”
However, when questioned by reporters whether this means he would be willing to trigger a snap election if the Conservatives win the most seats but not a majority, Singh remained vague.
“What they should know is the Liberals have let you down and the more New Democrats you vote for in this election … we’re going to form government. But if you vote for enough of us either way we’re going to fight for the priorities we put forward.”
The Liberals have spent much of the campaign warning Canadians against voting for the NDP or Greens, arguing that to do so would split the progressive vote and let the Conservatives, who have promised to eliminate the carbon tax and cut federal spending, take power.
Singh has used every public appearance — rallies, stump speeches, whistle stops, media interviews — in the last week encouraging voters not to fall for this push for strategic voting. He calls them Liberal scare tactics aimed at keeping themselves in power.
He has also added an another detail in his messaging over the last 24 hours — expressing disappointment at Green Leader Elizabeth May for saying she would be willing to work with the Conservatives in a minority government.
May’s own riding includes the southern tip of Vancouver Island and some polls suggest her party has been doing well in a number of ridings in the province that the NDP hope to capture.
On Friday, Singh pointed to abortion and same-sex marriage — issues Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has struggled to stickhandle politically due to statements he has made saying he is personally against both — as key reasons he has absolutely ruled out working with the Conservatives.
“Ms. May hasn’t done that and that’s one of the big differences,” Singh said.
“We don’t think you can negotiate with a woman’s right to choose, with same-sex marriage, with services.”
Conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriage also landed Singh an unexpected ally on Friday.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she will vote for the NDP candidate in her riding, despite disagreements with the federal party on energy policy.
Notley released a statement saying she was not planning to take a public position on the federal election, but the prospect of a Conservative minority government backed by the separatist Bloc Quebecois has her deeply concerned for the future of the country.
She criticized Scheer’s plans to roll back action on climate change and cut spending, as well as anti-choice, homophobic and xenophobic views within his party.
That’s why she said she is endorsing the NDP candidate in her riding of Edmonton Strathcona, Heather McPherson — the only candidate she believes can beat the Conservatives there.
Notley, a former Alberta premier, has clashed with Singh over the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and other energy issues.
They still don’t see eye-to-eye on these issues, “nor has my resolve to challenge him on these matters,” Notley said Friday. “However, it is also my view that there is no parliamentary makeup that will allow Mr. Singh to assert those views.”
Later at a rally in Victoria that drew an overflow crowd of more than 800 people, Singh got a more ringing endorsement from B.C. Premier John Horgan.
Federal Election 2019: Singh disagrees with Obama’s Trudeau endorsement
Federal Election 2019: Singh disagrees with Obama’s Trudeau endorsement
The New Democrat premier, who presides over one of three provincial minority governments in Canada, joked to the crowd that he feels an excitement about the party that he’s not felt in a few years — referencing the NDP’s electoral breakthrough in B.C.
“It was as if the mainstream media didn’t know he existed and now everyone in Canada knows the most compassionate, hardest working person on the ballot is Jagmeet Singh,” Horgan said.
Horgan also tried to counter concerns about the increasing possibility of a minority government in Ottawa.
“I’m here to tell British Columbians who know this, but most importantly Canadians: fear not a minority government. Celebrate a minority government.”
From The Canadian Press
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