December 2011 edition

Re: November edition of Focus

The articles in this month’s magazine are absolutely great. I personally learned a lot from them all. Thank you to all the authors of the articles for writing without any embellishments. This is why I always try to pick up Focus. I never buy newspapers.

As far as I am concerned all of you should be at City Hall. Boy, what a great team you would make.

Suzanne Couch


Re: False idol of infrastructure, Nov 2011

All levels of government, whether they be municipal, provincial or federal have lost their way vis à vis priorities. Poverty and affordable housing are the two most urgent issues across the country, not that you’d know it by the media coverage.

If the average pension across Canada is $11,600, then, even at 50 percent of that, only $480 per month is available for rent. Rents here are double that! So Denise Savoie is trying to have pensions doubled, but are the feds listening? There’s a tax threshold that’s not even close to poverty level and that’s why Keith Martin had a private member’s bill to rebate taxes paid on the first $20,000. Anyone listening? Not passed.

We need municipal and provincial policies that address rent control and that assure that no more than 50 percent of a renter’s gross earnings is charged for rent. Ditto for small businesses and their rents. We need living wages that are double the minimum wage. Anyone listening?

Municipal and provincial governments need to get back transfer payments cut by the federal government in the last several decades as they gave huge breaks in both taxes and subsidies to both banks and corporations. Quit asking those of us who are paying 75 to 100 percent of our earnings to have a roof over our heads to pay more taxes (see Mel Hurtig’s Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids). The Tax Justice Network and its Canadian affiliate, Canadians for Tax Fairness, are on the right track.

By the way: My dream for the Blue Bridge is to restore it (e.g., the Kinsol Trestle) and have it only for pedestrians, bicycles and rail. No cars! Cars can use Bay Street and use “Park & Ride” once over it. Get the cars out of the downtown core and rip up the asphalt for affordable housing.

Sharon Keen


Re: Juking the stats, Nov 2011

David’s Blue Bridge articles are so well researched and well written.  Reminds me of the days when we actually had investigative journalism.

Judy Lightwater


My congratulations to David Broadland who did an excellent job exposing how much misinformation is being fed to Victoria taxpayers.

Could I suggest you feature an article that makes readers aware of the exorbitant costs being borne by taxpayers on the peninsula who blindly fund the high-paid bureaucrats for 13 separate fiefdoms. A comparison of staffing salaries of these 13 overlapping administrations with that of a single city of comparative size would make taxpayers gasp and may start a groundswell for unification.

Henry Thiel


I have followed the articles in Focus regarding the Johnson Street Bridge, and it seems that it should be a no-brainer to everyone that complete refurbishment was the only rational solution. The bridge serves every function required of it, it is historically significant and through refurbishment, it could be attractive. With the advent of peak oil (the International Energy Agency has placed the peak production of conventional oil in 2006) we should start seeing a decline in motorized vehicle traffic in the not too distant future.  

In May, I happened to be walking across the Tower Bridge in London, which is also a double-bascule lift bridge and it is 30 years older than the Johnson Street Bridge. They have just completed the restoration work that takes place every 25 years, and I was struck with how attractive the paintwork made the bridge. See

No work has begun on the new bridge and with the disclosure of the Crystal Pool and fire hall costs, perhaps it is time to appeal to reason one more time. The ability to reconsider the facts and change one’s mind is a component of maturity, a quality we would like to see on city council.

Bill Cave


Re: Dispatches from the urban meter wars, Nov 2011

I wanted to let Rob Wipond know how much his articles are appreciated. He’s a lone voice in the wilderness. I’m not sure why there isn’t more media coverage about smart meters but it certainly is suspicious. My mother and I are writing letters and one was printed in the Times Colonist this week but they removed the two very important lines mentioning scientific research and the negative impact of the meters on people and the environment (and it wasn’t because it was too long). Rob’s September article took my breath away—all I could gasp was “Wow!” Now this is real investigative journalism! Something that is sadly lacking in the media these days.

Chris Francis


Excellent article. And, yes, it is absolutely house-to-house warfare in many of our cities. Here in Nanaimo, Corix installers are prowling the streets right now. They are often installing meters right beside the occupant’s posted sign saying “No Smart Meter.” When I verbally told the installer I didn’t want a smart meter on my house, he tore into me saying, “I’m sick of you point five percent” and “You should move to the country,” etc. I was successful in keeping a smart meter off my own home by physically barricading my existing hydro meter with plywood and a metal strap (see Many other occupants are barricading their old hydro meters with everything from padlocks to chains to wire freezer baskets. 

Corix installers are paid by the piece—no installation, no pay—hence their aggressiveness. Physically obstructing their access to your present hydro meter (while still allowing enough access for the meter-reader to read it) is the only sure-fire way to keep a smart meter off your home at this point.

Kim Goldberg


Re: Vote for vitality, Nov 2011

I do love the line in Gene Miller’s latest column: “Most political contests here [in the City of Victoria] are little more than spats over different approaches to inertia.” But, if Victoria’s soooo bad, perhaps he should move over here to Saanich.

I live in what is, quite possibly, the shabbiest corner of Saanich (above Cook Street sandwiched between Maplewood and Quadra). Before Miller proclaims that Mayor Leonard “diligently repaves his roads,” I invite him to accompany me on my walkabouts with the dogs.

Our section of Cook has not seen an upgrade in over 45 years. I remember it as a 12-year-old when we immigrated here in 1975, but my neighbour who’s lived in the neighbourhood longer than that assures me nothing’s changed (read: improved).

We have no sidewalks here, people! I’ve been phoning Saanich about this for years, as well as pushing for garbage cans in several strategic locations.

We do have something here called Camrose Park. It is nothing more than an ivy-infested rock outcrop, full of half-dead Garry oaks, with steep access and no paths, where people let their dogs free-range defecate. (Not me.) And while we have Cedar Hill Golf Course, few know that the farm was donated to Saanich on the condition that it be for “multipurpose” recreational use—but 99.9 percent of it is single use only: golf.

Furthermore, there have been no street cleaners here in years and the gutter at the bottom of our street always floods.

As for opening up new shopping centres, most people’s opinion of that disastrously ghastly Uptown is that it’s disastrously ghastly and how the hell did it ever get approved in the first place? It’s destroyed the landscape. 

Jana Kalina


Re: Occupy Victoria, Nov 2011

The attempt to pin the Occupy Movement down to a specific goal continues. The fact that it isn’t successful points to the significance of this movement. It isn’t about one issue—it is about how the pervasive force of corporate capitalism finds its way into most parts of our lives and corrupts our rights as citizens. Without formal leadership, it is truly a people’s movement—everyone is a leader.

Ideally, in the movement’s mind, capitalism should operate in the interests of the people—not only money. These interests must include a fuller, fair and safe life for all and would be accompanied by the drafting of an act spelling out community citizens’ rights. All great ideas, and obviously only to be put in place through legislation.

Capitalism will surely bristle at any thought of its right to profit being limited or challenged, even though its contribution could be as simple as the Tobin tax. Broad political support will have to be developed, no matter the proposal. The strong dissatisfaction with the systems in place suggest this movement is not going away. One has to assume that its ongoing influence will begin to affect platform positions and political/government speak. I believe the long-expected revolution is here—and this time, non-violent.

When will someone be brave enough to actually begin to talk about the issue?

Roger W. Smeeth


Re: Pensions on trial, Nov 2011

Pensions are not on trial, and neither is TimberWest or its owners. The petition brought by the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights may involve matters for resolution by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, but not by any private party. TimberWest, its owners, and public sector funds are not before the Commission and are not litigants in any suit involving First Nations.

[Briony] Penn casts her net wide in her article, levelling additional criticism against local government, Crown corporations and private sector companies, including TimberWest’s timberlands and real estate divisions. For TimberWest’s part, the company forest professionals, biologists and engineers are accountable for managing its private forest lands to meet current timber management, environmental and social objectives. This includes consultation with neighbouring communities and a high standard of sustainable forest management that consistently meets or exceeds the requirements of over 30 different legislative regulations.

For TimberWest’s real estate division, Couverdon, it is a given that development activities regularly meet or exceed the same legislative requirements, in addition to local government bylaws. Where Couverdon takes great pride is in its approach to development that strives to balance sustainability with market demands and, importantly, the long-term vision of the community. In all cases, it is the local community that takes the lead in defining the direction of Couverdon projects on Vancouver Island.

I trust you will take the appropriate actions and publish this letter in your next edition so as to ensure that your readers have a more informed understanding of the situation.

Bev Park, Interim President and CEO, TimberWest Forest Corp


A decision by the Inter-American Commission against Canada in the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG) case will certainly expose Canada’s new international image as a warmongering nation tolerant of human rights abuses both at home and abroad.  

No longer a defender of international human rights and a promoter of world peace, Canada will likely ignore any decision by the Commission in favour of the HTG knowing full well that the HTG cannot appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because Canada refuses to become a member.  

Canada’s not joining the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in itself speaks volumes. This will mean that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, having already established Canada as a rogue nation in other international forums (e.g., around climate change), will further damage the country’s international reputation.

And this is the same man who asserts that the Occupy movement— one of the largest, underground, social justice movements in history—is not relevant to Canada!

Anthony Britneff


Re: The Poppy and the Dove, Nov 2011

I would suggest that some people, who did not grow up in a house where public service was fundamental, would mistake how we remember the fallen and those they left behind as a celebration of war and militarism. I feel sorry for those people.

I was almost moved to make a poster with an image of my father and his two brothers in uniform marked “Brothers Marshall 1957, 5 Column RCASC” and hold it up at the cenotaph in solidarity. But I didn’t because Remembrance Day is not about me, it’s about them.

They gave their time and lived their lives so that you would have the opportunity to modify the poppy with your doves. Make the day meaningful in your own home. For me, I have the smell of silver polish, body odour, stale beer and pickles in my mind because I grew up as an armed forces dependant in the Sergeant’s Mess in an armoury that does not exist anymore. Every day is Remembrance Day.

Cousin David was one of the last group to leave Afghanistan and will retire this year. I live on Shelbourne Street where the tree canopy still meets and forms a lane of remembrance. I fly his regimental flag for the Royal Canadian Artillery on my house while he is away and I will fly a Canadian Flag for other members of our families that have served, not only as soldiers in war, but as firefighters, police and social workers.

“The Poppy and the Dove” got it wrong. The Victoria School District planted the wrong type of trees, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons. Let’s make sure that what remains of “Canada’s Remembrance Road” is preserved and respected and let everyone else wear their doves. Those trees on Shelbourne Street stand not for the fallen, but for those they left behind.

Patrick Nelson Marshall


Why can’t the CRD get it together?

Victoria is talking about the issues being affordable housing, homelessness, food security and sustainability. Saanich is talking about farming, sustainability and affordable housing. Central Saanich is complaining about farmers not being able to make a living and the high cost of farming—but they don’t want the “riff- raff” in their part of town.

The Creating Homefulness Society (Woodwynn Farms) has a 193-acre farm just waiting to be used. It plans to offer housing, food, support and job training for up to 96 people, and provide mentorship and care through its many volunteers. It plans to farm the land to address the food security issue, it plans to house those who are currently homeless to address the homeless issue, to provide jobs to address job creation and give those without skills training so they can contribute to society.

So why, when Woodwynn invites candidates, do they not come and visit? Why, when Woodwynn makes an application to Victoria for an event downtown, does it first get approved and then denied? Why are politicians in the CRD not working with Woodwynn to house the poor, to feed the masses and to educate the illiterate? When a recent poll suggests that 64 percent of Central Saanich approves Woodwynn Farms as a therapeutic community, why do politicians listen to the nay-sayers who want things to stay the same?

Politicians, you need to get your act together and start talking to each other and jump on ideas that make sense rather than protecting your job—how about speaking for the masses? Let’s not tie up good solutions and smother them in red tape. Let’s get some action happening!

We are community, my friends. It’s time we started acting like it. Rather than just looking after our own interests, how about we each start caring for each other? We need to give each other roots in this community. We need to fill the storehouses of places like the Mustard Seed, and lean on the powers-that-be to remove the red tape so Woodwynn Farms can work the land and provide food, jobs, and housing.

Kathleen Busch