May 2013 edition

Grassroots copwatch

Simon Nattrass very effectively covers two indispensable steps toward policing accountability and fairness: an end to 1) discrimination (“profiling”), and 2) selective harassment and prosecution of low income persons, often engaged in the substance use economy (i.e. “drug dealers” and “abusers.” It’s worth noting that legal pharmaceuticals kill many more people than all street drugs combined, including crystal meth, according to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

A critical element remains before full accountability and fairness can occur. When Ben Isitt proposed revisions to the police budget to contain costs last year, no council members supported the motion. This year he proposed capping the 2014 and 2015 police budgets at no more than a one percent increase, an initiative supported by councillors Helps and Gudgeon.

Only when the police budget is reduced will the police department have to justify its purchases and practices openly. They will be caused to choose between new machines, high tech communications and surveillance equipment and systems, and massive amounts of wasted labour time on non-violent behaviours—or seriously solving violent social deviance.

All violence is preventable with a strong dose of social justice.

Frances Pearson


The smoking gun and accountability

The taxpayers of Victoria for years have been treated like docile lemmings. Since Focus came on the scene and informed the public how their tax dollar was being squandered, information conceived, and the City poorly managed, the public has become aware of the situation.

Instead of pay increases, all salaries should be frozen and management salaries rolled back 10 percent per year until such time as the public gets its money’s worth. Any employee not in agreement can look for employment elsewhere.

Keep the exposures coming—the public needs you.

Mike McSorley


Grow op

Excellent outline of the urban planning stages used to destroy economic growth in a city. Victoria is following the prescription; it should achieve your forecast easily.

The concepts of “capital account” and “depreciation” do not exist in the language understood by the City administrators. Your yeoman effort to stop this comedy and to insinuate common sense into City Hall is laudable. I would certainly be willing to contribute; I am a retired economist with experience primarily in less developed countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Robert O’Regan


Thanks Gene for words that had to be said. Two points. First, the financial management by the City demonstrates the skill of amateurs. Second, in the interests of the life of Victoria’s citizens, dare I suggest that the noble approach would be to cancel the bridge project as currently planned and revert to the minimal restoration (paying the penalty)—appropriate mea culpa for a mistake.

Roger Smeeth


Gene Miller’s thesis that the City of Victoria is robbing the future to pay for today has merit.

For the most part, we’ve loved living downtown for the last three-and-a-half years and have eight ideas that will help rescue the downtown:

1. New bus depot: The bus depot is a scruffy embarrassment for a major tourist destination and needs replacing. Let’s get on with it in co-operation with the other 12 fiefdoms. City of Victoria taxpayers are weary of going it alone on these capital projects.

2. Showpiece art gallery: To service the regional population and a $850-million tourism industry, the Victoria art gallery is poorly located and simply not up to standard. Let’s build a showpiece gallery in co-operation with the 12 fiefdoms in the region.

3. Building tax incentives: Agreed we need another 10-15,000 new residents living and working south of Bay Street and west of Cook Street. Let’s offer some short-term City tax incentives to make that happen.

4. Close Government Street to weekend traffic: Strolling and people watching Downtown is a huge draw for the public and tourists. At little or no cost, let’s maximize this attraction by closing Government Street to vehicles during summer weekends.

5. Crackdown on cyclists: A lot of the public won’t come downtown because of maniac cyclists going through red lights, stop signs, riding on sidewalks and worse.

6. Support year-round farmers’ market: The new farmers’ market at the Hudson complex is a major improvement and draw to the downtown. Let’s patronize it and support local agriculture. 

7. Focus special edition on the “Grow op”?

8. Bolster economic development: Negligible dollars from the City of Victoria are budgeted for economic development. The budget must be vastly increased as a major priority of City Hall.

Stan Bartlett


Gene Miller’s perceptive and visionary article reminded me of the late ’70s and the slow but certain decline of the city which seemed to be in evidence. A long-time businessman and great friend of Victoria Tom Denny (Standard Furniture) put forth a vision to transform the downtown. Tom’s idea was to redevelop the entire four blocks bounded by Yates, Broad, Johnson and Douglas. Part of the development would include a central transit hub below ground level.

The result would have influenced the long term future of the City. Just think how many buses would be removed from traffic along Douglas as well as the wonderful concentration of people embarking and disembarking and creating a dynamic atmosphere and renewal of a tired part of our Downtown. The transit hub in downtown Seattle is not only a sight to behold but also a significant contributor to the dynamism of their Downtown. Each of us shares responsibility to support and encourage those who put forth creative and selfless visions which go beyond two- or four-year election cycles. If UpTown could be built with no obvious vision, just think what could be done Downtown.

Thanks to Gene and Focus for (re)igniting a process.

Tony Southwell


Re-branding Victoria

Thanks to Chris Creighton-Kelly for sowing the seed to re-brand Victoria. I’m all for it.

First, I suggest we need to change the image of a capital city that does not care enough for its citizens to empower them to get off the streets. I think citizens and councils need to support the creation of a tent city with services and dignity—a place where people are safe while waiting for affordable housing. 

Second, we need to address the many empty commercial spaces downtown. We have so much local, exceptional, creative expertise in BC. Why not subsidize rentals in specific buildings, like the Convention Centre, to attract the myriad of crafts and products made in BC—a centre for BC sustainable products with a local food market? 

Joanna Wilkinson


Here’s the challenge, BC Hydro

Many thanks to Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic for last month’s piece on BC Hydro.

Is Hydro a charitable organization run by Santa Claus? Nope. So why would anyone believe that the cost of meter reading wasn’t already incorporated into the billing price? Hmmm.

Yet curiously, Mr Coleman and Mr Horgan are unanimous. Trudy, in her wickedness, is insufficiently sensitive to poor BC Hydro’s dire needs. By perversely electing not to participate in the smart meter boondoggle, Trudy will harm Hydro with unconscionable “additional cost.” Sounding like parakeets, so sayeth Horgan and Coleman.

Could someone impartial, like an auditor general, show us what “additional” cost both the Libs and NDP imagine is there?

For those unaware of how impoverished BC Hydro is, Wikipedia shows its revenues (2010) as $3.822 billion, with total assets of $16.5 billion, and net income of $447 million.

Avery Moore


How will we re-democratize government?

Rob Wipond canvassed some who are running for office in the upcoming provincial election for ideas on how to improve democracy. Canadians do not have the mindset, education, or training they need by which to democratically govern themselves.

Liberal democracies the world over, as they were born, knew that the existence and strength of a liberal democracy is based on a citizenry with a political education, a citizenry which could govern itself. And so the liberal democracies created free and universal education towards that end. Without political education the sovereign people is like a child playing with fire and constantly endangering the home. [But] the people who are supposed to be sovereign are now going to schools and universities and colleges and brought up by parents, caregivers, and teachers who know no better than that their goal is to prepare the subjects of the state for the tasks corporations (whether small or large, incorporated or not) have for them. 

If we really wish to re-democratize government, we, the people, must take back our education system, both the formal and the informal. We need to have a non-partisan constitutional assembly to reform the constitution so as to improve our democracy, increase transparency of decision-making, and eliminate the power of special-interest groups (mostly corporate-paid lobbyists).

We must have freedom of the press. We wrested the press away from censorship by oligarchic state power only to hand it over to corporate oligarchic power. Corporations and their interests own it and use it to mould public opinion and enforce their own ideology.

Human history has been a struggle for liberty, equality, and fraternity of the mass of people against the tiny minority of the powerful and moneyed rich. A civilization worth living in starts and becomes strong with a citizenry with a political education.

R.D. Helm


Carbon conversation

The ongoing effects of oil spills like the Valdez in Alaska, the Deepwater Horizon leak on the Gulf Coast, and the Canadian train that recently spilled 30,000 gallons of crude in Minnesota are devastating. Obviously, every effort must be made to prevent them. The proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines would create serious spill risks in BC (there are virtually no major pipelines in North America that are spill- free); however, the focus on pipelines can distract us from the fact that any diluted bitumen carbon that gets through successfully is destined to be dumped into our atmosphere anyway.

At the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, 167 countries agreed that the average global temperature rise should be limited to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It doesn’t seem like much, but scientists believe that a 2ºC rise would be extremely disruptive to humanity. For perspective, consider that the last Ice Age was only 5ºC below pre-industrial average global temperatures. We are now 0.8ºC above pre-industrial temperatures and there are already serious effects. In Texas, for example, there have been billions of dollars of annual crop loss over the last few years due to droughts that are completely consistent with climate models. What about fisheries? Wikipedia shows that the world’s oceans have more than 400 oxygen starved “dead zones” and rising acidity, both of which are also linked to global warming.

According to Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the very conservative International Energy Agency, “under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would be likely to send global temperatures at least 6ºC higher within this century.” Parents and grandparents of children who are already born hope for them to live to the end of the century. Given the problems we face today, what kind of effects could we expect on food and water production in a 6ºC hotter world? The recurring quote that I hear from climate experts referring to food and water collapses, species extinctions, sea level rises, evaporating rivers, hurricanes, etc. is “game over.”

Project briefs for pipelines, refineries and other oil infrastructure projects often assume a useful life of at least 40 to 50 years. Sinking billions of dollars into oil infrastructure that would take decades to realize a return on is a poor investment when peer-reviewed mainstream science is clear that we need to reduce fossil use drastically now. Why not recognize that we have to think in new ways, and follow the advice of Amory Lovins and many other credible experts on improving the economy while getting off fossil fuels?

Focusing only on measures to reroute oil transport away from dangerous or sensitive passages misses the point: we need to focus immediately on policies and mechanisms that drastically reduce the burning of oil, and eventually stop fossil fuel burning altogether. As BC ticks over another four-year election cycle, I hope we find the will to raise the price of carbon (while reducing income tax) and consider better alternatives to fossil-fuel business as usual.

Bob Landell


Salish Sea Regional Trail

You continue to do meaningful, top-quality work. Your readers will appreciate knowing about the Salish Sea Regional Trail, particularly during this BC election season. Please check out Salish-Sea-Regional-Trail-Opportunities for the document I’ll be circulating to all candidates in the nine South Island electoral districts connected by the Salish Sea Regional Trail. We need the vision to complete it, enhance it, and promote it to keep our region vibrant and green.

Brenda Guiled, Chair, Island Pathways