October 2011 edition

Re City shoots taxpayers in the foot, on the bridge, September 2011

I think I can assure Mr Broadland that there is no need to worry about whether the service life of the Blue Bridge replacement is 75 years or 100 years.

Eighty-five years ago, the City politicians built a three-lane bridge to cross the harbour. Now they want to build another three-lane bridge as a replacement for the existing structure. What is terribly wrong with this picture?

According to BC Stats, there were an additional 16,675 licensed passenger vehicles on the road in Victoria in the 2000 to 2010 timeframe, which represented a 12.8 percent growth in that decade.

To be conservative, let’s cut the growth rate in half, and project forward. By 2030, the number of passenger vehicles will increase by another 19,396. (Note these numbers do not include commercial trucks or buses.) By 2050, the number of passenger vehicles will increase by 41,344 from the 2010 count. By 2060, a mere 49 years from now, the number of passenger vehicles will increase by 53,378 from the 2010 count.

One has to wonder why the politicians are building a three-lane bridge to replace an existing three-lane bridge, when vehicle count is guaranteed to increase significantly over the next several decades? The CRD is already projecting that there will be a 200 percent increase in traffic congestion by 2026.

This bridge is not increasing capacity one iota, while other bridges recently built or under construction are doubling and tripling capacity around the province.

So not to worry, Mr Broadland. Future politicians will be crying for yet another crossing within 25 or 30 years, well within the range of the service life of the new bridge.

No doubt they will be cursing the current politicians for their short-sightedness.

Rodger Darbey


Re: Proposed LRT rings warning bells, September 2011

Leslie Campbell brings up a lot of valid points in her LRT article. The web of connections between SNC/Lavalin and BC Transit makes you scratch your head, and Lavalin needs to be way more forthcoming about its astronomical cost estimate. We can just send ’em packing if they don’t want to work with community groups. Independent review? Right on!

Victoria’s population is, however, a non-issue. How many people were here in 1890 when our first tram line was laid down? There are at least a hundred cities smaller than Victoria with electric rail transit systems. Do we want to model ourselves after North American examples like Los Angeles? We showed enough lemming-like behaviour in 1948 when we tore up our tram lines. 

Losing the Johnson Street rail link into downtown was a huge loss for our city; why are our provincial politicians letting that happen? That said, though, with any rail transit line you want to link up as many employment, shopping, recreation, health and educational centres as possible. The Douglas St/Galloping Goose corridor blows the E&N into the weeds.

Democracy can work, and no place shows that better than Switzerland. It we were that country, you could take electric trains between Victoria, Campbell River and Port Alberni, as well as trams between downtown, the Western Communities, Swartz Bay and UVic. Policies would favour freight going by rail instead of on congested roads. I think a lot of Victorians would take the Swiss model over the L.A. one.

Louis Guilbault


For your interest, a new LRT line has just opened in Norfolk, Virginia. Population 234,000. The starter line opened on August 19 with 11.8 kilometres of track. Population of Victoria, 370,000 (www.tholden@hrtransit.org).

As you can see, there are smaller cities than Victoria that operate LRT in North America. In Europe, many cities with LRT have much smaller populations than Victoria. 

Wally Young


Editor’s Note: Thanks for pointing that out. Perhaps it is also worth noting that the 12-kilometre Norfolk line cost $318.5 million, which was $86.5 million over budget, compared to the projected $1 billion for Victoria’s LRT (16 kilometres).


Re: Getting a read on smart meters, September 2011

Rob Wipond characterizes my response to the IARC classification of radio frequency electromagnetic fields as 2B “possible human carcinogens” as “dismissive” and “more like public relations than science.” I regret that my stance would be interpreted in this fashion. The IARC classification has caused many people much concern, and my web posting was an attempt to put the thinking and evidence behind the IARC process into perspective.

It is important that your readers know that the 2B classification was based on “limited evidence of carcinogenicity” and that “chance, bias, or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence” for the few positive associations reported in the literature. Nor was the ruling by the committee unanimous.

The IARC press release is fairly explicit in stating that the ruling was “based on a reported increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless cellphone use.” Furthermore this increase was only noted in the highest decile of reported use. The only published report from the IARC yet available (The Lancet “Oncology” vol 12, issue 7, p624-626) is more explicit in stating that the findings are susceptible to recall bias and participant selection bias—and that this could not be ruled out, and therefore that a causal association is possible.

In reviewing other studies of occupational or population exposures for other cancers, the IARC found that “the available evidence was insufficient for any conclusion.”

The working group also noted that up until now, reported rates of glioma incidence in populations have not shown any parallel increase in the rates of increased cellphone use.

This is equally true for BC.

When looking at the more than 40 animal studies that Mr Wipond accuses me of ignoring, the IARC states “there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals” (six of seven chronic exposure studies showed no increase of any tumour type in tissues or organs in exposed animals; 10 of 12 showed no increase in malignancies in tumour-prone animals).

Similarly the working group reviewed many studies on genotoxicity, immune function, gene and protein expression, cell signalling, oxidative stress and apoptosis (cell death), blood brain barrier and other effects. The working group noted that while there was evidence of an effect of RF-EMF on some of these endpoints, the overall conclusion was that these results provided “only weak mechanistic evidence relevant to RF-EMF induced cancer in humans.”

Given that the statement from the IARC that RF-EMF cannot be ruled out as a human carcinogen, is in effect solely related to some (not all) epidemiological studies of high and prolonged  exposure to cellphones, that selection or recall bias cannot be ruled out, that occupational and animal studies are so far inconsistent and unhelpful, and that experimental evidence looking at putative cellular mechanisms is “weak,” I would argue that an appropriate and prudent response is to monitor the science and not to panic.

Perry Kendall, OBC, MBBS, MSc, FRCPC, Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health



Rob Wipond responds:

When discussing the International Agency for Research on Cancer investigation into EMP health effects, Dr. Kendall quotes the IARC press release when he writes, "that “chance, bias, or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence” for the few positive associations reported in the literature."

It is of extreme concern when our provincial health officer cites a press release on matters of medical opinion. Notably, the article published in the Lancet Oncology, unlike a press release aimed at influencing public opinion, is subject to peer review by medical professionals, and does not include this or any similar broad-swathed dismissal of all the evidence.

Dr. Kendall further writes that the IARC study is "explicit in stating that the findings are susceptible to recall bias and participant selection bias—and that this could not be ruled out..."

That is incorrect. There is only one reference to "recall error" and, with my emphasis in bold, the study states:  "Although both the INTERPHONE study and the Swedish pooled analysis are susceptible to bias—due to recall error and selection for participation—the Working Group concluded that the findings could not be dismissed as reflecting bias alone..."

Another finding not mentioned by Dr. Kendall: In animals, "Four of six co-carcinogenesis studies showed increased cancer incidence after exposure to RF-EMF in combination with a known carcinogen..." Obviously, this is particularly concerning in the context of our environment already polluted with carcinogens.

I never suggested "panic". However, I would suggest that a provincial health officer should let the public decide how they "feel" about the facts, while he should be focusing more on providing scientific accuracy in his public summations of health issues than on anything else.

(This note has been edited at the request of the writer.)


Thank you, Rob Wipond, for an excellent article on smart meters. BC Hydro has been installing these things, beginning August 1 in Victoria, with no debate. I am part of a large and growing provincial group of people who are refusing to allow these dangerous meters to be put on our homes. 

One last concern: Corix, the installer, is hiring inexperienced, unqualified persons when electricians should do this job. 

We should fight this program with all of our might for many reasons. There is no benefit, and so many problems.

(This letter has been edited at the request of the writer.)

Sharon Noble


Re: Psychedelic revival, September 2011

Dr Maté’s selfless work with Vancouver’s oppressed is unparallelled. But ayahuasca for addictions? Deep end, sorry. And I’m no war-against-drugs puritan. Dr Maté gave it away here: On ayahuasca, “You don’t get to escape your pain—you see your pain. You see what it’s about.” Translation: You see your pain—but don’t feel your pain. 

We are a deeply repressed culture, starting with the words we use to indicate our core feelings. Our culture of personal growth is actually based on the continued denial of feelings: we can “talk” about feelings, “understand” feelings, “manage” feelings, “cope” with feelings, “soothe” feelings, “meditate” and “medicate” feelings, “honour” our “inner child,” and now apparently “see” feelings with psychedelics—but never simply feel feelings.

By the time we are adults, we have all sorts of falsely defined labels found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Less than 10 percent of them are genetic. The DSM is basically a glossary for mental professional and pharmaceutical profiteering, but has nothing to do with feeling alive again. 

Psychedelics just become one more way to avoid our most repressed feelings: deep grief, tears, non-violent anger or non-blaming rage. Nature doesn’t require us to have any kind of drug for feeling our feelings again. Infants need no drugs to feel deeply. Neither do adults. 

We just have to have the courage to feel the feelings with a trusted person. Doesn’t have to be a psychedelic soothsayer, psychiatrist, psychologist, MSW, MFCC, Freudian therapist or the Dalai Lama. Just has to be someone who will sit quietly and attentively with us without interrupting when we start to cry or non-violently rage—someone who has felt their own painful feelings. 

No doubt there are some positive healing outcomes on psychedelics—I had one myself. But upon closer examination, these occur despite the drugs’ influence. They happen because people cried and felt years of repressed rage.

John Lennon healed through just such a feeling process. Read “John Lennon Primal Therapy” at www.PrimalTherapy.com. He let go of psychedelics to do it. Romanticizing psychedelics is not the same as reclaiming ourselves through genuinely and deeply felt feelings.

Larry Wartel


Re: Damming evidence, July/August 2011

I am a retired dam engineer from New Zealand, on a visit to Vancouver Island. It was therefore with interest and insight that I read Briony Penn’s article about the Three Gorges Dam, illustrating the sometimes unexpected consequences of building dams. The author expresses the pious (but no doubt futile) hope that the example of the Three Gorges Dam will act as a deterrent to development of the BC Hydro proposal to build a third dam on the Peace River.

Sad to say, the track record of dam owners everywhere suggests that once again, nothing will have been learned, and of course Three Gorges Dam itself was the subject of fierce criticism on an international scale that was ignored. We should not therefore be surprised if the predicted “urgent problems” have in fact come to pass. Nor has it been the only large dam in the not-so-distant past that has had predictable and undesirable consequences. Examples include the Akosombo Dam in Ghana (wrecked the tide water fisheries and related livelihoods through dramatic alteration to the tidal regime arising from reduced river flows); the Clyde Dam in New Zealand (had to be redesigned after the discovery of an active fault at the dam site, plus reservoir slope stability issues); and the Bakun Dam in East Malaysia (already subject to many complaints, including loss of wildlife habitat, prior to impounding having even started). Going back a bit farther, we should not forget the Tarbela and Mangla Dams in Pakistan, and the Dokan Dam in Iraq that flooded many priceless archaeological sites.

The truth seems to be that dam engineers and owners don’t want to know about the side effects, an attitude that was made clear to me the day I delivered a paper to the Canadian Dam Safety Association in Sudbury, Ontario, with the message that it was time for dam engineers to consider the net benefit to society at large of building large dams, and to move away from the ingrained attitude that all dams are necessarily good. I congratulate Ms Penn on her well-thought-out article, but suspect that it will have little effect where it really matters.

Michael Palmer



In September’s “Is Victoria ready for the Big One?” two pictures of Christchurch’s earthquake are incorrectly captioned as being in Auckland.