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B.C. teachers' strike named top B.C. story of the year

12/19/2014 09:00 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST
Each year, CBC News B.C. picks out the top stories that dominated the headlines in this province. This year, we consulted with the CBC's editorial team and with you, our audience, to narrow it down the top three.

Here are the winners:

1. B.C. teachers launch full-scale strike

Students lost five weeks of education this year as a teachers' strike around the province began at the end of one school year, and continued through the beginning of the next.

​"This story had it all," said CBC digital and radio reporter Steve Lus, who covered the teachers' strike daily, as it unfolded.

"Parents forced to find alternative child care. A high stakes labour dispute involving one of the most powerful unions in the province.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and tensions within the labour movement as the government fought to keep teachers increases in line with the rest of the public sector."

Lus said the story also has a range of long term implications. The issue of class size and composition — which was central to the dispute — will be left to the courts.

Premier Christy Clark has said she expects the issue will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

2. Mount Polley tailings pond spill

The breach of the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine near Likely, B.C. contaminated several lakes, creek and rivers, devastating an area in the central Interior of the province.

Four months after millions of cubic metres of contaminated water and mine waste spilled into surrounding waterways, clean-up and restoration efforts continue.

​Likely resident and biologist Richard Holmes said the full impact of the spill still isn't known.

​"I think the jury is still out on that," he told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"I think the landscape can be put back together and it will heal itself. What's happening in Quesnel Lake and in Polley Lake, it's going to take some time to determine the full effects."

The unknowns that remain for residents are the reason this story is one of the province's most important news stories of 2014, according to CBC TV reporter Kirk Williams, who was on the ground in Likely shortly after the spill.

"It looked so big at the time, and right now you still have people that are struggling to make some sense out of it all," he said. 

"They're still waiting for all these things to unfold before they can get their lives back together."

To hear more about the Mount Polley devastation and cleanup, click the audio labelled: TOP STORIES 2014: Mount Polley spill.

3. Temporary Foreign Worker Program revamped after CBC investigation

Our nation's temporary foreign workers program underwent a major overhaul, after the federal government responded to a series of CBC stories this year that revealed abuses of the program.

It all started in B.C. in April, when employees at McDonald's locations in Victoria told the CBC's Go Public the company prioritized Temporary Foreign Workers over local hires.

The CBC report prompted an immediate moratorium on workers in the fast food industry.

In June, Ottawa announced a series of reforms including caps on the number of employees an employer can hire under the program, and tougher sanctions for abuses of the system.

​CBC TV reporter Bal Brach said the wide reaching implications of the changes are the reason this is one of the top stories of the year.

​"The story went on for months, and it prompted major changes in the Temporary Foregin Worker program," she said.

"For months, there was fallout from across the country … business groups said that restaurants and the tourism sector were desperately needing the Temporary Foreign Worker program to survive because of a labour shortage."

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has proposed a two-year "Introduction to Canada" visa to replace the program.

"In terms of fixing the Temporary Foreign Worker program, I think we actually need to look at replacing it with something that actually works for the employer and obviously, for these workers," director Richard Truscott said.

To hear more from about changes to the temporary foreign worker program, click the audio labelled: TOP STORIES 2014: Temporary foreign workers.

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