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October 2014

Winner of letter writing contest.

In the July edition of Focus, a concerned citizen ran an advertisement calling on the CRD to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that would compare the CRD’s proposed plan for McLoughlin Point, the current screened sewage discharge system, as well as one of the variations of expanded treatment being proposed by region citizens.

To encourage the public to write to their political representatives and request such an analysis, a prize of $1000 was offered for the letter “judged to present the best case,” with all letters received eligible for a draw for a $300 prize.

The winner of the draw is David Ferguson. The following letter, written by Brian Belton, was chosen for the $1000 prize. Belton also sent his letter to the federal and provincial Ministers of Environment and the Chair of the CRD Board.


Waste not, want not

By Brian Belton

Focus Readers, October 2014

The high cost of conducting the public’s business in private

More open decision making is not going to improve things if the structure in which those decisions are made is flawed. As some members of the CRD are saying, the Regional District model is not suitable for large metropolises dealing with complex infrastructure projects and services and they have called for a provincial review of this arrangement. 

Amalgamation Yes has also called for the Province to look at options for better local government. It’s the job of the senior government to see that local government works well. Evidence of failure here is manifold. Calls are being made but no one is answering the phone.

John Olson


Victoria taxes and the election

By David Broadland, October 2014

An FOI request for the record of how environmental assessments for gas plants were axed last spring catches government and industry in flagrante.

Perhaps you already know that fossil fuel corporations get the satisfaction they desire in BC when it comes to regulations affecting their industry. But have you ever wondered how, precisely, that business takes place? Is it done behind closed doors? Over the telephone? In a back alley behind the convention centre?

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, October 2014

A recent scientific report implies we are close to a point of no return on climate change. UVic’s Dr Tom Pedersen weighs in.

Last August, a draft report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leaked to the news media, set out some cold, hard facts about global warming.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million in pre-industrial times to 400 now. The rate at which emissions are rising has never been higher. In 2013 alone, the concentration of carbon dioxide increased by nearly 3 parts per million.

By Leslie Campbell, October 2014

With civic elections coming, we need to demand bold, visionary action on climate change.

At the Climate Change Summit in New York City, our prime minister was conspicuously absent, and Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq committed to only modest reductions in transportation emissions, something the US is forcing on us with its car manufacturing standards anyways.

The People’s Climate March, however, offered more hope—that a movement of the people might be powerful enough to force the political and corporate foot draggers to get on with an appropriate response to the threat to all species posed by climate change.

By Gene Miller, October 2014

Why do some find God a certainty but man-made climate change implausible?

Of course I was dying to read “Kim Kardashian—Way Tighter Butt Than Mother Teresa” in Huffington Post online, but got distracted by this timely bit of current affairs, even though it reads like something hot off the press in, say, 622 AD: “Sunni militants earlier captured Iraq’s biggest Christian town, Qaraqosh, prompting many residents to flee, fearing they would be subjected to the same demands the Sunni militants made in other captured areas—leave, convert to Islam, or face death. The Islamic State, considered more extreme than al-Qaeda, sees Iraq’s majority Shi’ites and minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community, as infidels.”

Which answers two burning questions: Where’s a good infidel when you need one, and “...then Ali Baba escapes from the Sultan’s palace on a magic carpet, right, Dad?” 

By David Broadland, October 2014

A de facto referendum on the issue is gaining momentum.

Where did the sewage treatment issue go? With the apparent collapse of the CRD’s $782-million centralized sewage treatment plan, the issue seems to have disappeared. Problem solved? Hardly.

Faced with being unable to use Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point, the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (sewage committee) instructed CRD staff last summer to prepare terms of reference for an “options study.” The proposed terms of reference for that study were delivered by CRD staff at a meeting of the CRD’s sewage committee on September 10.

Oddly, the staff report argued to keep a central treatment plant at McLoughlin as one of the options to be considered by the study. Tellingly, the report’s recommendations were developed without any non-CRD input, and that brought a rain of criticism down on the CRD at the September 10 meeting.

By Rob Wipond, October 2014

Victoria Police change policies on Mental Health Act arrests.

When arrested under the Mental Health Act, people will now be advised of their rights and allowed to make telephone calls “if reasonable and safe to do so,” according to new Victoria Police Department policies. Police will also leave written reports at the psychiatric hospital.

The changes came about after complaints by Gordon Stewart and Vince Geisler, and an article in Focus (see “An Overabundance of Caution,” December 2013). 

In Geisler’s case, a human resources manager fired him and then contacted police to express concern about his well-being. Geisler was surrounded at his home by heavily armed police officers. Even though Geisler was “calm and cooperative” according to police records, he was denied the right to contact a lawyer, taken to hospital, locked in seclusion, and drugged unconscious. He was released the following day. 

By David Broadland, October 2014

With everyone asking for more money, is the bridge project still “on budget”?

On September 11, Johnson Street Bridge Project Director Jonathan Huggett dropped a bomb on an already contentious City of Victoria council meeting. Huggett announced that on July 22, “serious problems” with the quality of work being done at the Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Company (ZTSS) in Jiangsu, China, had brought a halt to fabrication of the project’s lifting span.

By Judith Lavoie, October 2014

It all depends on who you include, and there’s an affordability crisis that could lead to more.

Pale morning faces emerge from the shadows and chilly hands reach for a coffee, doughnut or first cigarette of the day. Many, with hoodies pulled tight or blankets wrapped around their shoulders, have spent the night under a bush or in a doorway while others have scored a shelter bed or crashed on a friend’s couch.

Some are too twitchy to hold a cup, others are ready to face another day on their own terms, and some need a hug even more than a smoke.

It’s 5:15 am and Reverend Al Tysick, founder of the Dandelion Society, is on his morning rounds of Victoria’s streets, handing out coffee, checking on those needing medical care and, as ever, pondering the homelessness conundrum.

By Briony Penn, October 2014

This summer’s marine life survey provides something to celebrate: resurgence.

On Bell Island off the northern tip of Vancouver Island this summer, I was restored to good health by, amongst other things, a wicked shot of vodka supplied by a passing group of Russians and Ukrainians wandering the coast on two small inflatable sailboats. They had an agreement amongst themselves not to discuss the war, while my own paddling companions—teachers—had an agreement to forget the strike for awhile. With the two dominant news items off the driftwood camp table, there was only our health and news of the coast to discuss around the vodka bottle at night. 

By Amy Reiswig, October 2014

A family and an ecosystem in crisis is the subject of Ann Eriksson’s latest novel.

"You know, Ruby, understanding a human being is as difficult as studying a killer whale. Every once in a while, you see a dorsal fin or the whale heaves itself above the surface, but where the whale goes when underwater, what it does, or thinks are anyone’s guess.” So says one of the whale researchers in High Clear Bell of Morning (Douglas & McIntyre, April 2014), the fourth novel by Thetis Island author and biologist Ann Eriksson. 

By Aaren Madden, October 2014

In a new series of paintings, Meghan Hildebrand offers visual delight.

A great way to experience a new city is to tuck away the map, forget about the must-see landmarks and museums, and just let the sidewalk take you. Let your eye get caught by an enticing window, some intriguing architecture, even a compelling stranger, and follow. The opportunities for delight and discovery can be multiple. The place becomes your own, in a way, and you share some of its secrets. You develop your own private narrative.

By Monica Prendergast, October 2014

Adaptations—from Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis and Mitch Albom—are on stage in October.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, October 2014

Conjuring the magic of a healthy neighbourhood.

Have you noticed what’s different in neighbourhoods these days?” asked one of my elderly friends on a leisurely drive around suburbia. “You don’t see kids playing outside anymore. You rarely see anyone in their yard.”

It’s true. Children have largely moved indoors with their electronic devices or are being ferried to structured programs by parents too fearful to let them roam their own beat. Adults, when you do see them about, are always on the go, mowing or pruning or heading out to walk the dog. 

Focus readers, September 2014

The truth about dilbit

In your July/August issue, Katherine Palmer Gordon comprehensively addressed the question whether a dilbit (diluted bitumen) spill will or will not float. But there is a simple solution to the problem: Don’t send any dilbit down a pipeline, and don’t ship it by tanker. Instead, construct an Alberta refinery near the oil sands, or if you prefer, at the BC/AB border, and transport only refined westbound petroleum products by pipeline and then by tanker. The refined products float, are far easier to clean up than dilbit, and land or sea spills are appreciably less damaging to the environment than dilbit spills. 

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, September 2014

Is the Supreme Court of Canada’s declaration of Aboriginal title the death knell for proposed resource projects in BC?

Tribal chairman of the Tsilqhot’in National Government Chief Joe Alphonse, 46, was sitting in the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 this year when it declared that the Tsilqhot’in Nation holds Aboriginal title to more than 1750 square kilometres of what is now former provincial Crown lands. “This decision will be remembered as a turning point in the history of Canada and its relationship with First Nations,” reflected Alphonse.

By David Broadland, September 2014

Decisive moments in the bridge and sewage projects illustrate the need for more politicians willing to work in broad daylight.

The Victoria region’s two largest public infrastructure projects are in deep trouble. The proposed $800 million sewage treatment program had already cost $90 million by the end of June even though the project didn’t have a site on which a central treatment plant could be built. Of that $90 million, $45 million appears to have gone up in smoke, and three month’s after Environment Minister Mary Polak backed Esquimalt’s right to decline hosting a central treatment plant, there’s no political agreement on how to proceed. 

By Leslie Campbell, September 2014

We can invest profitably in this community.

In Focus’ July/August edition I wrote about the divestment movement—the push to shift investments out of oil, gas and coal stocks into something less harmful to the human project on this finite planet. Given the effects of climate change, why nurture the development of resources whose emissions could make it impossible for future generations to live comfortably on Earth?