April 2011 edition

Re: Can Wi-Fi Harm Kids? March 2011

Mr. Wipond’s article mentions that David Bratzer of Scientific Victoria “criticizes one famous, peer-reviewed study that claimed to detect heart rates accelerating in response to EMFs. Bratzer argues the researcher erroneously used a heart monitor that itself dramatically reacts to EMF interference. The citation he provides for this attack? A blog written by two engineers.”

Dr Magda Havas (www.MagdaHavas.com), Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University, whose research since the 1990s has focused on the biological effects of electromagnetic pollution, has performed such a test. This is what she replied when asked about this possible effect: “There is a group trying to discredit any science showing harmful effects of microwave radiation. I refuse to respond to all of their idiotic statements because it is a waste of time. However, I will say one thing. If the radiation was affecting the signal to the machine then it would be consistent for all subjects as the tests were identical. This is not the case. Only 40 percent of the subjects responded and their responses varied from tachycardia to arrhythmia. If the interference was technical rather than biological the responses would be identical for everyone.”

The “precautionary principle” is the only rational approach to all technological microwave- emitting sources—cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi devices and “smart” meters. Industry must prove to us through neutral studies that their electromagnetic radiation emissions do no harm before being allowed to sell us things that are profitable but objectively untested.

Larry Wartel


The consensus of virtually all the world’s public health organizations is that there is no credible scientific evidence that Wi-Fi and other forms or wireless communications are harmful to health. The European SCENIHR has stated: “It is concluded from three independent lines of evidence (epidemiological, animal and in vitro studies) that exposure to RF fields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in humans.”

These conclusions are shared by expert groups from more than 30 countries. The article contains the statements: “Most government regulators are former and future wireless industry insiders. Most studies of possible negative side effects are industry-funded.”  This suggestion of a massive conspiracy, involving virtually all the world’s most prestigious health science organizations, is simply preposterous.

Alarmists and a minority of scientists, whose work is not recognized according to established standards, point to some studies that have shown evidence for harm. However, studies showing harm have not been replicated in follow-up studies, and have been strongly refuted by far more comprehensive and rigorous studies. In many cases, serious flaws have been found with studies that show harm. Rob Wipond’s article cites a perfect example of such a “study,” which he described as “one famous, peer-reviewed study that claimed to detect heart rates accelerating in response to EMFs.” I am one of the “two engineers” [Wipond references] who debunked this “study.” Any amateur fitness buff will tell you that the heart rate chart featured in this “peer reviewed” study is physiologically impossible. We confirmed this with a couple of cardiologists as well as the person who designed the heart rate monitor used in the “study” (we spoke with the manufacturer). They confirmed that the chart is full of artifacts that cannot be real.

Lorne Trottier,  President, Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd.



Re: Don’t worry, be happy, March 2011

Living in Canada’s “City of Gardens,” it’s not surprising that the current mayor wishes to lead everyone down the garden path about what’s really going on in Eden.

Perhaps Mr Fortin, in the spirit of full disclosure, will follow the lead of Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson and set a new standard by becoming the second municipal government in Canada to share records from in-camera meetings.

I agree with David Broadland: “This is an election year and questions about the choices the current City council and staff have made about how money is spent, and on what, ought to be raised.” What do promises of a new level of accountability, transparency and public debate really mean? Do the words and deeds of these elected officials and staff ring true?

What is taking place behind closed doors between private interests or special interests and those who have been elected to serve the “public interest”? Why are those who pay the bills denied the right to know what is going on, and why are they being told by gatekeepers that there is “insufficient ‘public interest’ rationale” to justify the release of information?

If actions speak louder than words, why not ask candidates and incumbents: What have you done to serve the needs of the majority of taxpayers? How have you prevented private interests from plundering the public purse? And, when have you put the interests of society before those of your family and/or your friends?

Victoria Adams


Re: Defending the “premium”, March 2011

Regarding secondary suites not being allowed in Oak Bay, Gene Miller asks the question, “Would anything be lost?” Firstly the short answer to his question is a lot, plenty, heaps, oodles, etc. 

If Mr Miller, instead of insulting and railing against Friends of Oak Bay Neighbourhoods (FOBN), had contacted them or visited their website at www.fobn.org, he would have discovered compelling evidence to support their positions.

As FOBN recognizes, Oak Bay residents have not been provided with information that outlines the adverse consequences of legalizing all suites; only one side of the story has been told. So far the process and path presented and followed clearly reflects this. FOBN knows what this change would mean. Oak Bay would be changed from a single-family to an unregulated multi-family community. This change would reverse the intent of Oak Bay’s Official Community Plan. The Plan’s objectives reflect the wishes of the majority of Oak Bay’s residents, who turned out in record numbers to participate in an extensive process to arrive at them. 

Gene Miller would also have been informed by FOBN that there is a very pragmatic, inexpensive, sensible solution that has not been put forward by Council. It is an option all municipalities should have adopted. There is something for everyone in this solution. All that is required is for Council to spot zone, or provide a variance for suite owners who want to license their suites. In most cases this means changing the home’s design from single-family into a multi-family—fire and safety requirements, wiring, firewall, etc. are involved. If this were not the case, there would be no standards. It is a development process, and must be treated as such. 

The Mayor of Oak Bay says he recognizes this and has stated he is against “grandfathering” legislation. After all, “blanket” suite legalization will do nothing to change the number of existing illegal suites but can easily lead to an increase. Council currently has the power to introduce this process—this allows the present self-regulating system, with neighbour protections from abuse, to remain intact, as well as for those who want legal suites and who will contribute to the tax base. Oak Bay presently has many illegal suites; therefore this system is working—and the community is not complaining about secondary suite problems or the present tax inequity.

The present demographics show Oak Bay is a diverse community with a high proportion of rental accommodation. Oak Bay is Oak Bay because it has planned and controlled its growth, and therefore is a very desirable place to live. Gene Miller’s statement that quiet neighbourhoods are not equated with quality of life is ridiculous. How can these concepts not be connected? I suspect this is his developer-for-profit viewpoint: without any planning for additional services, let’s pack as many people into an area as possible, not enforce standards, have many seniors and young families who can’t have a suite pay additional taxes, overcrowd resources and services, and then deal with the fallout from the “Basement Suite Industry,” as it is known in Vancouver.

Anthony Mears

If you buy wild salmon and afterwards find out it was farmed, you would be upset. Similarly, if you bought a leather sofa and discovered it was actually leatherette, most people would not be happy. In fact there are laws against such deceptive practices, and the consumer can take legal action in these circumstances.

Unfortunately, if you buy a home in an area zoned “single family dwellings” and people illegally, or Council legally, turns it into multi-family dwellings, there is no such protection.

And, as Gene Miller clearly demonstrates, any objection to such a change will be mocked and ridiculed with impunity. Why do “truth in advertising” rules not apply to the largest purchase most people are ever going to make? Mr Miller’s view seems to be that John Foxgord has no right to expect to get what he paid for. Why is real estate different from other products?

S. I. Petersen


Suites in Oak Bay are not about not letting “poor people” in, but about the endless push of developers to attack Oak Bay in every way for the benefit of the building industry. Legalizing suites is developer-talk for rebuilding all Oak Bay, at the expense of the community spirit we all cherish so much. We care for each other, and look after our neighbours, their children, and the elderly. There is a slower pace of life here. Our emptier roads are safer for older drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and children.

Gene Miller’s rant is discriminatory, a “they are rich and live like the rest of us only dream of, so we should destroy them and their hokey old-fashioned neighbour values”—if I may put words in his mouth, although he stated this pretty clearly.

I noticed Mr Miller did not quote any statistics, but Oak Bay is not much different in income from other members of the CRD, especially if you were to factor out the tiny but affluent Uplands. And we are already third in density within the CRD. If he feels we should suffer by looking like Victoria in terms of density and crime rate, what does he wish on Victoria? To look like Vancouver?

Our main concern is that Oak Bay council, in continuing to override its own Community Plan, does not respect the democracy of its residents’ wishes. The council has, by and large, no vision of what Oak Bay is, or what they want Oak Bay to be; it’s just rebuild bigger and more, collect more taxes, and keep up with the Saaniches. We don’t need more substandard and unsafe building as a tax grab.

The council’s aim is to rebuild and infill for developer and tax profit, with no interest in community, sustainability, or the advantages of community spirit. Another council and police force might be able to develop a sensible secondary suite program, but Oak Bay’s idiosyncratic and erratic governing style is already the bane of its residents, who know they are quite beyond the capability to administer such a change. Their preferred method is to pit neighbour against neighbour—and we don’t like it.

For many of our citizens, the biggest concern is the loss of our tree canopy. We have lost over 100 Garry oaks and other protected trees in the last three years alone to development. Often to new driveways! And small, affordable houses are being destroyed in a domino effect, replaced by monster houses, often, I am told, with suites built in. Density is not necessarily green.

We need to attract more young families by keeping our smaller homes and through providing more green space, safe biking and recreational facilities, not killing off our trees and building luxury suites for snowbirds or rickety holes for students. Take a drive down Bartlett Street, where virtually every smaller house and big tree, on both sides of the street was razed to put in monster houses, driving the residents to distraction with the mess, year after year. On my own street, we’ve had six renos and one new house in the last 10 years.

One always hears the argument that older residents on pensions need to have a suite to subsidize their income. But on the other hand, why should pensioners without suites subsidize others’ income-generating suites? And why should we be subsidizing UVic, which won’t provide affordable housing for its foreign students?

What we increasingly find in Oak Bay is fewer small houses; torn up, unrepaired or badly repaired streets and roads after the builders have been in; broken sidewalks, along with builders’ vans and cars strewn all over a neighbourhood, a hazard to all. Add to that green boulevards chewed up, paved over and disappearing for car parking. And a lot of bad feeling.

Mr Miller’s rant didn’t even begin to touch on the real Oak Bay.

T. Hunter


City tax load grows heavy for business owners

The important question now facing downtown Victoria is: How is the city to survive in our rapidly changing business world? The peripheral shopping centres, like Uptown or farther out in Langford, the Costco shopping area, are attracting a good deal of the action.

As a Victoria businessman for many years, I am fearful of the business community being taxed so heavily that there will be an exodus away from the downtown. In 2010, the business owners of Victoria paid 50.28 percent of the taxes, while homeowners bore 48.10 percent of the taxes. The largely unrecognized fact, however, is that in the case of the business property owners, their taxes are paid for by their tenants; it’s called triple net. In the business world only the competitive survive; it is obvious that the heavy tax load being born by the business community will make it less and less competitive. “Vacancy” signs will multiply.

The future will bring with it a heavier tax load. Just consider what is planned for the years ahead: a new Johnson Street Bridge at $77 to 100 million, sewer system repairs of $30 million, Victoria’s share of the capital region’s sewage treatment system—possibly $100 million, and the multimillion dollar pledge for the purchase and operation of bankrupt Traveller’s Inns for the homeless. And on and on it goes.

At least the homeowner taxpayer can have some consolation from the fact that their home keeps appreciating in value. And downtown property owners may take comfort in the fact that they do not have to pay the increasing tax burden—as long as the tenants don’t flee to greener pastures or simply go broke due to increasing taxes.

It is the business group, largely lessees on triple net leases, who bear the increasing burden of increased taxes.

We are assured by Victoria’s mayor that the City has a good deal of borrowing capacity. This is possibly true but to many concerned businessmen, their capacity to bear ever-increasing taxes is limited. We are assured by Victoria council and its public relations officers that the Blue Bridge replacement will not be a burden upon the city taxpayer. If we taxpayers believe that, we must also believe in the tooth fairy.

Peter Pollen