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Focus readers, April 2015

The deer question

Thank you for the excellent story on Oak Bay’s deer. There has been so much misinformation coming from Oak Bay’s mayor that the majority of Oak Bay and other community residents do not know what to believe. Ms Campbell’s article set most of the facts straight out. There has been little other media coverage of these fabrications and I knew that Focus would not be afraid to investigate and comment. Traps placed on private property, obviously to protect gardens, are not helping the deer/vehicle safety issue which the mayor touted from the onset. These mistruths are going to come back and haunt him.

Ingrid Brown


Thank you Focus for this stirring editorial. It scientifically revealed the futility driving the unconscious lurch to kill yet another animal in the name of safety and beauty. 

By Leslie Campbell, April 2015

Campaign finance reforms are welcome but the Province refuses to restrict donations.

Campaign financing disclosure statements from the November 2014 municipal elections are now available for your viewing pleasure. While they prove that votes don’t exactly mirror money invested in a candidate’s campaign, they are still unsettling and provide a good argument for change.

In the November 2014 Victoria municipal elections, former Mayor Dean Fortin spent roughly $40,000 more than Lisa Helps ($128,636 to $88,564), yet lost. Ida Chong, too, outspent Helps by $20,000 ($108,120). Stephen Andrew spent about $49,000, most of it financed by loans and himself. 

By David Broadland, April 2015

Victoria City Council has been fooled again on the Johnson Street Bridge project.

One of the great paradoxes of the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project is that as the costs go up and the benefits to taxpayers go down, the company managing the project for the City of Victoria makes more and more money. In a February 27 letter to the City, MMM Group asked for an additional $1.8 million. Although a precise account of MMM’s likely total take on the project is not yet available, the latest ask appears to push it close to $17 million. Yet in 2010 MMM estimated their services would cost $7.8 million. Since then, while MMM’s bill climbed, the project has undergone a continuous paring away of most of the original objectives of the project.

By Derry McDonell, April 2015

Academics weigh in on the amalgamation question.

In November, voters throughout Greater Victoria said “yes” to studying some form of amalgamation in the Capital Regional District. Even in municipalities where the ballot question was either obtuse (Saanich) or clearly biased (Oak Bay), the overall result endorsed considering, at the very least, how greater service integration and cooperation among the 13 municipalities could benefit the region as a whole. North and Central Saanich, Sidney and Victoria went even further, endorsing a cost/benefit study of amalgamation itself. 

By Katherine Palmer Gordon, April 2015

At a March longhouse ceremony, a cabinet minister promises change, but First Nations are still wary.

In mid-January, under heavy pressure from First Nations and their allies, the provincial government finally took action to halt the building of a house on Grace Islet, a tiny First Nations burial island in Saltspring Island’s Ganges Harbour. The hard-fought battle to protect the 18 graves on the island was at last won, although not without casualties. 

By Leslie Campbell, April 2015

And you wonder why it all takes so much time…

The Westside Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery Select Committee (aka “Westside Solutions”) recently issued the results of an online survey done during December and January.

The committee, with representation from Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood, Langford, and the Songhees Nation, is attempting to evaluate options and recommend sites for potential sewage treatment and resource recovery for those communities. The survey, with 345 respondents, was conducted in conjunction with six open houses. It found that most people place greatest priority on environmental concerns. Treatment costs were chosen by the second highest number of respondents as top priority.

By Judith Lavoie, April 2015

Critics of proposed “anti-terrorism” legislation see it as part of the Conservative’s push to quell opposition to petroleum-related projects.

Activism has been part of Ruth Miller’s life for decades, but, for the first time in her 82 years, the Victoria grandmother fears she could end up in jail.

The Conservative government’s proposed anti-terror legislation (Bill C-51), which beefs up Canadian Security Intelligence Service  (CSIS) powers, hands the RCMP increased new powers of preventive arrest, and makes fundamental changes to human rights, has been loudly denounced by groups and individuals across Canada. Critics include four former prime ministers and five former Supreme Court Justices.

By Leslie Campbell, April 2015

Questions around costs and justification remain

Despite Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen’s attempts to put a positive spin on his municipality’s recent deer cull, to most—opponents and proponents alike—there is little to cheer about in 11 dead deer, especially given the community angst left in its wake.

One of the “lessons learned” according to a CRD press release is that “Our mild coastal climate and the onset of an early spring resulted in an abundance of food sources for the deer, which deterred some from entering the baited traps.” Speaking with local wildlife biologists would likely have saved the CRD having to learn that lesson the hard way.

Perhaps less predictable was that the traps were more attractive to rats and raccoons than deer: “Raccoons and rats triggered the traps on a regular basis. They also challenged the process by chewing the nets, resulting in damage that required repairs.”

By Murray Rankin, MP, April 2015

Harper’s indifference to climate change could mean Canada will lose the opportunity for clean energy investment and jobs.

In 2010, the House of Commons passed a landmark bill, legislating binding greenhouse gas reductions to meet targets set at Kyoto and establishing Canada as an international leader in arresting climate change. This is no dream––it happened. 

Called “an essential piece of legislation” by Sierra Club Canada, the Climate Change Accountability Act was built on scientific assessments of the emissions reductions needed to hold global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius and avert runaway climate change. Under the bill, Parliament required Canada to reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

By Gene Miller, April 2015

The task of positioning Victoria as a centre for innovation and investment demands, among other things, desire.

There may be a fabled war going on in the heavens between Light and Darkness, but however great the celestial battle, we can’t hear it. Conflict requires noise to get our attention. I recently sent an urgent, anxious email all in caps and the receiver wrote back: “DON’T SHOUT AT ME!”

By Amy Reiswig, April 2015

Through statistics and personal stories, Andrew MacLeod delves into the realities and costs of poverty in BC.

By Aaren Madden, April 2015

Using light and shadow, technique and subject matter, Clement Kwan paints to bring joy to viewers.

Clement Kwan has an ingenious, hand-made easel against one wall of his garage. Vertical two-by-four brackets hold two cross bars that adjust to fit the size of his canvas. Another vertical beam slides on a track in front. It holds a small, cushioned block of wood, also adjustable along the vertical column, which supports his wrist while he applies oil paint onto the canvas with brush or palette knife. 

By Monica Prendergast, April 2015

An upcoming production of Madama Butterfly encourages discussion of how to represent race properly in theatre.

Theatre scholar Harvey Young, in his 2013 book Theatre & Race, warns his reader upfront: “To talk about race feels dangerous. There is the possibility of slippage, a verbal gaffe or, perhaps worse, a sincere and honest opinion that does not jibe with contemporary groupthink.” It is most difficult to talk about the representation of race on the stage when one is a member of the dominant culture, as I am. Yet that is what I wish to reflect on this month, in particular because April sees a remount by Pacific Opera Victoria of the perennial favourite Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, April 2015

More is not better, and actually, more could be worse, says one cardiologist.

Three years ago I started training for a 10K race only because a close friend asked me to be her running buddy. I’d previously always evaded recruitment to running, being particularly averse to exertion that sears the heart and lungs and turns perfectly normal legs into silly putty. And, at the end of all the torment, what do you have to show for it besides malodorous armpits and laundry?

Focus Readers, March 2015

TC’s coverage of Richard Atwell

David Broadland’s piece on the Saanich municipal election, its aftermath and the way other news media outlets covered it is the finest piece of municipal reporting I have seen in a long time (Focus, February 2015).

Broadland’s points on the all-too-common use of “sources say” are well-taken. In addition, news media outlets that regularly recite the phrase might want to consider that to the informed reader, it hints at a questionable story.

Some respected newspapers simply will not run stories that include any anonymous sources. At the very least, the “sources” (and I suspect there is often only one) should be identified in general terms, such as “a Saanich police department employee,” even if their names are not published.

Thanks again to Broadland for taking a hard look at the previously unreported murkiness in the back rooms of Saanich’s Old Guard.

By Leslie Campbell, March 2015

Living with wildlife can be a community-building project. Oak Bay chose a different path.

Reading Oak Bay’s Request for Proposal for the contractor that will kill up to 25 deer, one gets a glimpse of the difficulties envisioned. Besides the required covered truck, steel-toed boots, smart phone, and data plan, the RFP warns applicants in bold: “Experience dealing with angry, aggressive or hostile people an asset.”

By David Broadland, March 2015

Engineers recommended a high level of seismic protection for the new bridge and then, as their cost estimates went south, they secretly cut that level of protection to the bone.

A document obtained through an FOI shows that the new Johnson Street Bridge could experience “possible permanent loss of service” following a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that engineers have estimated has a “30-35 percent chance of occurring within the next 50 years.”

By Briony Penn, March 2015

The federal government seems intent on propping up corporate fish farming despite the high costs.

On the afternoon of February 10, a whale watching boat docked at Port McNeill, packed to the limit with 48 Malcolm Islanders from the small village of Sointula. 

They weren’t whale watchers; well, not the usual type. These were shrimp fishermen, fishing lodge operators, First Nations people, residents, members of local organizations, and biologist Alex Morton, who were coming to an open house of Grieg Seafood, the company that is proposing an expansion of two salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago that would set a precedent of replacing shellfish tenures with finfish. The reason the islanders were delivered by a whale watching boat was because their ferry doesn’t run passengers on Tuesday afternoons; the meeting was scheduled at the time when it only carries dangerous cargo. 

By Judith Lavoie, March 2015

Divestment on its own won’t keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground—but it might help.

The divestment movement estimates it has encouraged over $50 billion to be moved out of fossil fuel stocks worldwide in the last two years. From the industry’s viewpoint, however, in the context of trillions invested in fossil fuels worldwide, such divestments from university foundations and endowment funds amount to peanuts.

But that is not the point, say divestment advocates, who want to persuade universities and other institutions to ditch carbon-related stocks. They point to recent slightly testy responses from the energy industry as proof the divestment movement is being taken seriously.