Universities relax admission rules for Fort McMurray students

Post-secondary institutions across Alberta are doing their utmost to make life easier for high school graduates impacted by the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Universities say they’ve relaxed admissions criteria and extended deadlines for those students hoping to start post-secondary school in September.

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    The wildfires that prompted a mass evacuation of the town and caused millions of dollars in damage put a stop to high school classes across the city and initially left students in doubt as to how they could complete required exams and finish final courses.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray school inspections start as crews check air quality, structural integrity 

    Students say they’re grateful that those hurdles have been addressed, but still lament the fact they’ll be missing out on typical high school graduation rituals.

    Proms have been cancelled and parties rescheduled, and official graduation ceremonies have been rebooked for the end of August when some students will have already left town.

    Kaylin Lynett has experienced both the benefits and drawbacks of the circumstances imposed by the Fort McMurray fires.

    Relief at having her early acceptance to the University of Alberta confirmed without the need to write normally mandatory diploma exams has been tempered by social media posts of other friends trying on prom gowns and celebrating the start of a new chapter alongside their high school friends.

    “I never realized how much I wanted a grad until I didn’t get a grad,” the 17-year-old said in a telephone interview. “Just the fancy dresses and them with all their friends making funny poses and things like that.”

    Missing out on grad traditions seemed like the least of Lynett’s problems when she and her family were forced to flee the flames engulfing the city in early May.

    READ MORE: ‘Don’t be shy’: Alberta teens offer to take Fort McMurray grads to high school prom 

    Her acceptance to the bilingual business program at University of Alberta had come through, but Lynett said she was nervous that it could be revoked if she failed to complete a diploma exam required of all Alberta high school students and finish her high school course work.

    Accordingly, she registered at a high school in Red Deer, at least an hour away from where her family members were staying.

    Her luck changed less than a week after the fire broke out, however, when Alberta Education announced that students from Fort McMurray high schools were exempt from taking the tests.

    The next day, the six post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton area announced their intention to smooth the path for students impacted by the fire.

    Concordia University of Edmonton, King’s University, MacEwan University, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Norquest College and the University of Alberta all acknowledged the difficulty the fire could present for prospective students and said they were committed to offering what support they could.

    University of Alberta registrar Lisa Collins said the 250 applicants from the area became a high priority and their cases were handled individually rather than according to standard protocols.

Halifax responds to Nova Centre legal action, says claim doesn’t apply to them

Halifax’s legal team has taken a closer look at the legal action taken by three downtown businesses over the Nova Centre construction project and doesn’t believe it applies to the municipality.

On Monday, the municipality was among the defendants named in a mass tort initiated by The Wooden Monkey restaurant, The Carleton Music Bar & Grill, and Attica Furnishings. The businesses have retained Wagners Law Firm.

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READ MORE: Downtown Halifax businesses take legal action over Nova Centre construction impact

The small businesses say repeated street and sidewalk closures, dust, noise, as well as lack of parking throughout the lengthy construction process have driven away customers.

They’re seeking compensation through a claim for injurious affection under the Expropriation Act.

In an e-mail statement, Halifax spokesperson Tiffany Chase says the municipality’s legal team does not believe the claim applies to the municipality in this instance.

She goes on to explain that since a claim for injurious affection only applies to a government if the government expropriates the land or is undertaking the construction activity, there is no basis for the claim.

Chase says if the businesses proceed with the legal action, the municipality would be defending itself on that basis.

All three levels of government, Argyle Developments Inc., its parent company Rank Incorporated and the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation received notice on Monday morning.

The province’s Department of Business also issued a statement on the matter.

“Construction on a project of this scale is always challenging. When it’s complete, this unique facility will continue to support new jobs and growth as a hub that connects our community, visitors and businesses,” the statement read.

The department declined further comment while the legal matter was being dealt with.

Proposed paid-plasma clinic for N.B. moving forward despite strong opposition

There was an emotional call Tuesday for the Gallant government to stop a privately-operated plasma collection from setting up shop in New Brunswick.

Canadian Plasma Resources (CPS) says it has met with the province about setting up a facility in Moncton which would compensate blood donors.

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“The plasma that is collected by a private blood broker will be exported out of Canada for sale,” said Kat Lanteigne of BloodWatch长沙夜网.

“This is absolutely outrageous and it’s dangerous.”

Lenteigne says she is fundamentally opposed to paid-plasma donation.

READ MORE: Pay for plasma: Calls for and against it from those affected

The proposed clinic is licensed by Health Canada and will compensate plasma donors with 25 dollars per donation.

Opponents say a paid-plasma clinic will create competition for Canadian Blood Services and put the voluntary system in jeopardy. However, CPS says Canadians are already receiving blood that’s not voluntary donated.

“More than 80 per cent of the plasma protein products used in this country are coming from the private sector and from paid donors,” said CEO Dr. Barzin Bahardoust. “It just happens to be that those are American donors.”

Canadian Blood Services has recently stated it would not be purchasing plasma from Canadian Plasma Resources.

Lanteigne says the practice of paying for blood contravenes the Krever inquiry on the tainted blood scandal.

“Selling off the blood of New Brunswickers —; that will undermine our voluntary blood system for a handful of jobs, after 8,000 people will die in this country because of tainted blood is absolutely objectionable,” she said.

READ MORE: Pay for plasma: The ethical debate

Lanteigne says she’s been unable to secure a meeting with the government on the issue. The province seems prepared to keep moving forward with the plan.

“Even if Canadian Blood Services doubled or tripled their collection, its still not enough to satisfy the demand we have as Canadians, so that’s why I do believe there’s a role for these private clinics to play,” Health Minister Victor Boudreau said.

Canadian Plasma Services says it would like to be operating in Moncton in 2017.

These Vancouver homeowners made over $1M last year by doing nothing

You could work as long or as hard as you can to make a living in Vancouver.

Or you could own a single-family home in the city and earn twice as much by basically doing nothing.

A sold home is pictured in Vancouver on Feb. 11, 2016.


That’s the conclusion of Dr. Jens von Bergmann, a data visualizer with Vancouver-based firm MountainMath.

He analyzed BC Assessment data for 2016 and found that people who owned single-family homes in the city last year earned double what local residents did by working.

In other words, a select group of lucky Vancouverites made $1 million or more last year by “twiddling their thumbs.”

This map highlights properties whose land value grew by over $1 million last year:

This map shows Vancouver single-family homeowners who made $1 million on their properties last year.

Jens von Bergmann/MountainMath Software

And this map shows how much land values grew all over the city in 2016:

Red colours indicate that Vancouver land values grew by anywhere from $1 million to $2 million last year. Yellow colours indicate land value growth of closer to $50,000 per year.

Jens von Bergmann/MountainMath

Von Bergmann’s latest research comes a year after he completed a similar project which found that single-family homeowners could earn more by holding on to their properties than the whole population of Vancouver did by working.

He was inspired to do the research after seeing how much assessed values were increasing, and he was looking for something to compare them to.

READ MORE: Chip Wilson’s Vancouver home now worth over $75 million

This time, however, “the comparable doesn’t even work anymore,” von Bergmann told Global News.

“Just single-family houses alone went up twice as much, the rise was twice as much as the income of the City of Vancouver.”

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Figuring out Vancouver’s cumulative income required some estimating, as Statistics Canada only has data up to 2014.

Von Bergmann extrapolated the data for the two years up to 2016 and came up with an estimate of $26.8 billion of pre-tax income, or $22.3 billion after-tax.

That number is dwarfed by the land value increase for single-family homes — $46,717,326,799, according to von Bergmann’s research.

That’s about $239 per hour last year alone. It was $126 per hour in 2015.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver homeowners face home assessment ‘sticker shock’ as real estate market poised to cool further

Of course, these increases don’t necessarily mean that homeowners immediately brought in $1 million just by owning their homes — it’s not like they can access the money until they sell.

The data is also based on the BC Assessment, which only accounted for home values as of July 1, 2016, before B.C. slapped a 15 per cent Property Transfer Tax on foreign buyers on Aug. 2.

A sold sign is pictured outside a home in Vancouver, B.C., on June, 28, 2016. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says home sales in Metro Vancouver in September fell by 32.6 per cent compared to the same month last year.


Von Bergmann thinks it’s possible that the new tax could dampen home values.

But he remains concerned that rising property values could mean that the next generation can’t buy a home in the city.

“If I look at my son who is now seven years old, I would like to tell him that if you work hard and study hard, you can be whatever you want to be,” von Bergmann said.

Now, he said, members of his generation often need a financial boost from their parents to make it happen.

“And it’s just not the story I want to tell him.”

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How to avoid issues during home renovations this summer

Planning is the key to a successful home renovation project.

Just ask Calgarian Earle Allen, who paid a contractor $3,200 to fix some old, leaky windows. Unfortunately, Allen said the work was never completed and the contractor was eventually charged with fraud.

“I thought he knew what he was doing, but I came to know very quickly that he didn’t,” Allen said. “I kind of lost faith over human nature over this incident.”

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Luckily for Allen, the owner of Concept Building Systems, Kurtt Wulff, heard his story and offered to fix his windows for free.

“I was kind of flabbergasted to see what was done with the place, the workmanship was very poor,” Wulff said.

Choose a reputable contractor

According to Leah Brownridge with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), choosing a contractor is the key to a successful renovation.

“It really pays off to do your research beforehand. It can be quite risky if you don’t take the time to check [the contractor] out or you take the first person that will agree to do the job. Then you end up paying more money to fix mistakes,” Brownridge said.

The BBB recommends making sure your contractor has a valid City of Calgary business licence, as well as workers compensation and insurance to cover injuries on the job and damage to your home.

In addition, Brownridge said you should check their references and talk with past customers about their work.

If you have to pay a deposit or any money before the work is finished, the contractor must have a Provincial Prepaid Contractor Licence.

Get everything in writing

Once you choose a contractor, the Better Business Bureau recommends getting a written description of what work will be done and who will be completing the work. List the start dates and completion dates, the cost of materials and labour and how the payments will be made.

“That contract is the consumer’s and the business’ recourse should problems arise – and that holds both parties accountable should anything go wrong,” Brownridge said.

Lastly, clarify who is responsible for the permits and inspections.

You are entitled to hold back 15 per cent of the cost in case there are outstanding bills after the job is finished, or any workers or subcontractors aren’t paid.

For more information about renovations, visit Service Alberta’s website,  ConsumerInformation长沙夜网 or the Canadian Home Builder’s Association website.

Restrictions lifted on wild boar hunting in Saskatchewan

Restrictions on hunting wild boar in Saskatchewan have been lifted.

No longer will hunters be required to have a licence to hunt feral or free-ranging wild boar.

“Free-ranging or feral wild boar have the potential to become a serious provincial problem,” said Environment Minister Herb Cox.

“These amendments address ongoing concern for public safety and protection of wildlife and habitat.”

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    READ MORE: Saskatchewan hunting guide, American hunters fined for illegal hunting

    Wild boar were imported into Saskatchewan in the late 1970s as domestic livestock. Some escaped from farms and created reproducing populations in the province.

    They have now been reported in over 60 rural municipalities in southern Saskatchewan, damaging golf courses and crops, harassing livestock and threatening people.

    READ MORE: Saskatchewan beaver derby causes controversy

    There is also the potential for diseases to be transferred to domestic hogs.

    “SARM is pleased with these changes as escaped wild boar pose a danger to people, personal property, other wildlife and to livestock,” said Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM).

    “We need to make sure their population is kept under control and are hopeful these regulatory changes will achieve that.”

    Officials say hunters should still ask for permission to hunt on private property and to not hunt along roads or road allowances.

Canada’s limitations on gay blood donations ‘ridiculous’: HIV researchers

Canada’s current limitations on blood donations from men who have sex with men don’t match the science, according to some HIV researchers.

Currently, gay men can donate blood if they have not had sex with a man for at least five years. On August 15, that waiting period will be reduced to one year.

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    That’s still much longer than warranted, said Dr. Paul MacPherson, an HIV researcher with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s chronic disease program and associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa.

    READ MORE: Blood donation ban for gay men dropped to 1 year from 5

    Although gay men are at higher risk of HIV infection — they represent slightly less than half of HIV cases in Canada, according to estimates by the Public Health Agency of Canada — he believes that the risk of HIV getting into the blood system if that timeline was reduced is very low.

    That’s because of how Canadian Blood Services tests donations, he said. Blood Services does two tests on every batch: a test for antibodies and a “nucleic acid test”. The concern is what’s known as the “window period” — the time between when someone contracts HIV and the time at which it can be detected.

    For an antibody test, he said that the window is about 42-50 days. For the nucleic acid test, results can be detected in approximately nine days, according to Canadian Blood Services. That’s much less than a year.

    “I would say the window period should match the science,” he said. “I think Canadian Blood Services is just being super extra-cautious in putting it out to a year, but there’s really no good data to say it needs to be one year.”

    So, to be cautious, he thinks the window period should be closer to two months.

    And both he and Dr. Mark Wainberg, a professor of medicine and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, believe that Canadian Blood Services should include some questions about donor behaviour in its screening of gay men.

    “If you’re a man in a long-term, stable relationship and you and your partner are both negative, then the risks are exactly the same as those of a heterosexual couple,” said Wainberg, who is also a former president of the International AIDS Society.

    “Why is it ok for a heterosexual college student who’s 19 years old who’s had sex with 40 women during his hormonal years, why is he able to give blood and a gay man who’s in a long-term stable relationship is not? It’s just stigmatizing, it’s demeaning, and it doesn’t make any scientific sense.”

    “All gay men are not at risk for HIV,” said MacPherson. “A good proportion of gay men, like heterosexuals, are in monogamous relationships. So yes they may have had sex yesterday, but if they’re in a closed partnership, you can’t introduce HIV unless they’re having sex with multiple partners. So is it gay men, or should it be people who are sexually active?”

    Incremental steps

    Canadian Blood Services’ policy regarding men who have sex with men dates from the 1980s, when HIV screening was nowhere near as good as it is now.

    Originally, it was a complete ban on donations from any man who had had sex with a man anytime from 1977 onwards.

    Then, in 2013, it was reduced to banning any man who had had sex with a man in the last five years.

    This was seen as an “incremental step” toward opening up the policy, said Dr. Mindy Goldman, medical director of donor and clinical services for Canadian Blood Services.

    “It was a safe change. We did not see any decrease in safety, any increase in the number of donors found to be HIV-positive for example after going to the five-year deferral period.”

    Soon, it will be a one-year deferral — something that she agrees is “greatly in excess” of their testing window periods. But testing isn’t everything, she said.

    “How it’s supposed to work is we complete all testing before products are put into inventory, so that blood products of people who test HIV-positive or for hepatitis or whatever are destroyed and are not used,” she said.

    “But you could have situations where your test doesn’t work properly or you have an error and products are put into inventory or you’re in an emergency situation where you cannot do the test before shipping product, etc. For those types of situations obviously you would prefer not to have a lot of HIV-positive units in that.”

    WATCH: Liberals could reverse ban on blood donations from gay men (Oct. 2016)

    Canadian Blood Services will monitor the effects of the new one-year limitation on blood donations, looking for whether more HIV-positive samples are detected, and surveying donors to see whether they truthfully answered all the questions on their screening form, she said.

    And, the agency will consult with interest groups like patient groups, the medical community and LGBTQ groups to come up with an updated donation policy — a process that could take years. It took three years to reduce the waiting period from five years to one, and further changes will require research, as there are fewer examples from other countries to look to, she said.

    All that means that it’s unlikely the restrictions on donations from gay men will be lifted during this current federal government’s mandate — as the Liberals promised during the election campaign.

    And although Wainberg believes that it’s a sensitive and delicate issue, he thinks that policy change has been held back by political interest groups to the point where it no longer makes sense.

    “We now have these fantastic ultra-sensitive screening tests. We didn’t have those in 1983 and 1984 and now we do. So you have to really ask the question, is it still worth maintaining an official policy of discrimination against gay men in light of all this advance in technology? And when they say the science supports this, I think that’s nonsense. The science doesn’t support it.”

Backstreet Boys hint they’re heading into country-music territory

Backstreet may be back, but they may have a whole new sound this time around.

The Orlando, Fla., band formed 23 years ago, so it’s not ill-advised for the Backstreet Boys to try different forms of music.

READ MORE: Backstreet Boys testing Las Vegas residency, making new music

As teased by band members Nick Carter and Brian Littrell, the Backstreet Boys are experimenting with country music, apparently with country pair Florida Georgia Line.

Carter posted to his Instagram account from what appears to be a recording studio.

View this post on Instagram

In the studio with my @backstreetboys recording a song for @flagaline new album. Also working on the new backstreet album as well. Get ready!!! #backstreetboys #countrymusic #floridageorgialine #new music #collaboration

A post shared by Nick Carter (@nickcarter) on Jun 27, 2016 at 3:37pm PDT

Littrell posted a similar picture to his Instagram page.

View this post on Instagram

In the Lab…… Doing something we’ve never done before…. BSB feature with FGL….. Great record…. Comes out late August….. 💥

A post shared by Brian Littrell (@rokspics) on Jun 27, 2016 at 1:51pm PDT

Florida Georgia Line has collaborated with many artists in the past, including Luke Bryan and rap artist Nelly.

READ MORE: Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter arrested at Florida bar

Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley recently told the crowd at a South Dakota show that “Backstreet Boys was my first concert.”

The Backstreet Boys are also working on a new album, due shortly, and are planning a residency in Las Vegas.

Follow @CJancelewicz
Backstreet Boys – Studio Albums | PrettyFamous

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Brexit: 4 scenarios eyed to keep Britain in the EU despite the vote to leave

LONDON – As continental powers pressure a nervous Britain to formally apply to exit the European Union, die-hard “remain” supporters are taking on the mission to put the brakes on the so-called Brexit.

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    The challenge is formidable: Britons turned out en masse for last Thursday’s vote to leave the EU, deciding the matter in a close but credible election long promised by the ruling government. Britain’s Conservative Party and opposition Labour Party have both pledged to respect the popular vote and work quickly toward easing the U.K. out of the EU.

    Britain’s jilted partners have also shown little inclination to revisit the matter.

    “I don’t think we should see any shadow boxing or any cat-and-mouse games,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday. “It is clear what the British people want and we should act accordingly.”

    READ MORE: English language could be dropped from European Union

    But between the vagaries of Britain’s unwritten constitution and the determination of the losing side to stay in the EU, some lawyers, lawmakers and “remain” activists see room for hope.

    “The beauty about this situation is that nothing seems to be impossible. So I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point, including the United Kingdom staying in the EU. I think it would be a very difficult thing to pull off, and I think a lot of things would have to happen first, but at this moment don’t discount anything,” says Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs.

    WATCH: Protesters gathered at a pro-EU rally outside the UK Houses of Parliament on Tuesday following last week’s historic referendum result.

    Here are some of the suggestions from the pro-EU camp on how Britain could end up staying in the bloc, and an evaluation of each one by Gavin Barrett, an expert on European constitutional law at University College Dublin:

    Ignoring the referendum

    Parliament has no explicit legal obligation to implement the referendum’s decision. Conceivably, elected representatives in Westminster could just ignore the electorate’s verdict and opt to stay in the EU.

    That’s the argument put forward by Labour lawmaker David Lammy, who implored colleagues on 桑拿会所: “Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in Parliament. Our sovereign Parliament needs to now vote on whether we should exit the EU.”

    Lawmakers could slow the invocation of Article 50, the exit clause enshrined in the EU’s governing Treaty of Lisbon, perhaps playing for time.

    But Barrett says the idea that lawmakers could shrug off the popular vote altogether is fanciful.

    WATCH: PM David Cameron hopeful England won’t ‘turn our back on Europe’ following Brexit vote.

    “On a likelihood scale, I’d say zero per cent,” he says. “Governments cannot simply ignore the directly expressed will of the people.”

    Invoking a Scottish veto

    Britain’s Parliament cannot normally legislate on Scottish matters without the assent of Scotland’s staunchly pro-EU parliament in Edinburgh. Given that a withdrawal from the 28-nation bloc would likely mean quashing the application of EU laws in Scotland, some argue that gives Edinburgh a veto over the final decision. By the same token, some say that Northern Ireland’s legislature could also stand between Britain and Brexit.

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s separatist-minded first minister, appears to have endorsed that view.

    “The option of saying we’re not going to vote for something that’s against Scotland’s interests, that’s got to be on the table,” she said in a recent television interview.

    READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon is the only credible leader left in British politics after Brexit vote

    So what are the chances that the Scots will ride to the rescue of England’s pro-EU minority?

    “Zero per cent as well,” says Barrett. “Under the British constitutional system, Westminster is sovereign at the end of the day.”

    Holding another election

    British politics have been thrown into turmoil. Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to resign and his rivals are jockeying for position. The opposition Labour Party is in meltdown amid a bitter fight over the party’s leadership.

    Could a pro-EU party, or a pro-EU wing of the Tories or Labour, emerge from the chaos and fight an election on a platform of bringing Britain back into the European fold?

    READ MORE: How low can the British pound go?

    A major challenge to that scenario is that elections aren’t scheduled until 2020 and that between now and then the Conservatives’ euroskeptic wing is likely to remain in power.

    “Political circumstances have combined to make it quite unlikely that a pro-European government will be elected,” says Barrett. “Very, very unlikely.”

    Holding a second referendum

    Calls for a second referendum actually predate the first one, and a well-publicized web petition calling for a new vote has already attracted nearly 4 million names (although how many are linked to genuine British voters is anyone’s guess.)

    But what if, instead of a do-over, the referendum were presented as a choice between the EU membership Britain has had until now and whatever new deal governing trade relations it could secure in its exit negotiations with the bloc.

    Conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt — a contender to replace Cameron — has floated the idea of a second vote on any new deal. In an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, he wrote that “we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.”

    Barrett predicted that any exit deal negotiated by Britain would be “bound to be inferior” to what the U.K. had before — and that EU powers would put aside their pride to welcome a wayward Britain back into the bloc if voters then endorsed a decision to stay. Of all the possibilities, he said, “I’d put my bet on that.”

‘Star Trek’ actor George Takei to take part in Jasper Dark Sky Festival

A festival west of Edmonton will boldly go where no festival has gone before this fall when it welcomes Star Trek legend George Takei.

Best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, Takei will speak at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival in October.

More recently, Takei has become well known for his increasing popularity on social media, where he’s become an advocate for several issues including LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.

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    WATCH: George Takei on musical theatre, marriage and Howard Stern

    Now in its sixth year, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival celebrates the wonder of one of the world’s largest dark sky preserves, an area kept free of artificial light pollution. Jasper received dark sky preserve designation in 2011.

    As daylight hours begin to recede, October is the ideal time to celebrate the skies, according to the festival. Over the past few years, the festival has grown into a celebration over the course of two weekends during dark sky month, including speakers and activities that promote science, space and conservation.

    READ MORE: Where you can go to see the stars this summer

    Other notable speakers at this year’s festival include scientist Bill Nye, best known for his educational television program Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

    Nye will present two shows – one on Friday, Oct. 14 and another on Saturday, Oct. 15. Hanson will speak on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Centennial Field.

    READ MORE: William Shatner explores relationship with ‘Star Trek’ co-star Leonard Nimoy in new book

    Takei will speak at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival on Friday, Oct. 21.

    Tickets for the festival go on sale on Monday, July 4. For more information visit the Jasper Dark Sky Festival’s website.

    Follow @CaleyRamsay