Letters to the editor

Focus Readers, October 2014

The high cost of conducting the public’s business in private

More open decision making is not going to improve things if the structure in which those decisions are made is flawed. As some members of the CRD are saying, the Regional District model is not suitable for large metropolises dealing with complex infrastructure projects and services and they have called for a provincial review of this arrangement. 

Amalgamation Yes has also called for the Province to look at options for better local government. It’s the job of the senior government to see that local government works well. Evidence of failure here is manifold. Calls are being made but no one is answering the phone.

John Olson

 

Victoria taxes and the election

Property taxes for the City of Victoria are out, and while ratepayers reel at the total bill, the tax notice gives a handy breakdown of how much more City Hall is clawing from our wallets. The mayor churns out the annual bafflegab newsletter about how low the tax hike is, but reading the rates reveals the truth.

The cost for general government—that pays for everything from running the City to luncheons, junkets, and severance pay to staff—has gone up to $2.84 per $1000 of assessment from $2.68/$1000, or 5.78 percent. Since Fortin took over with the 2009 budget, this rate has gone up from $2.01/$1000 or 29.24 percent; this while inflation over that time has been considerably less than 10 percent.

The police budget has gone up 4.9 percent this year to $1.47/$1000 and 15.43 percent since the arrival of Fortin.

The good news is debt rose 3.62 percent this year to just 16 cents per $1000 assessment and the really good news is it has gone down by 89 percent since 2009. Now City Hall is adding on more debt to burden future homeowners.

All this is in addition to the taxes—Fortin calls them fees—for sewage, water, garbage and such, which adds another few percent to the tax bill. This year alone, the water tax has gone up 6.2 percent and the sewer rate another 7.3 percent. Of course the CRD sewer rate for a system not even planned is up 16.4 percent.

So, at nearly 30 percent over six years, ratepayers can look for even more onerous bills if this bunch gets back in for another four years.

For this, council has given us an over-budget, over-time, under-produced Johnson Street Bridge, an exclusive luxury marina in a prime public location in Victoria Harbour for the well heeled (if you are down on your luck, don’t even think of mooring in the Gorge), and, of course, the urinal in front of City Hall.

Surely Victoria deserves better. But if only one in five bothers to vote in November, maybe we get the government we deserve.

Patrick Murphy

 

A world-class case of ironitis

The article on “Ironitis” (Focus, May, 2014) by Gene Miller was as pointed and excellent a piece of opinion writing as I have seen anywhere. It is gratifying to see such a complete counterbalance to Victoria’s “other” free magazine with its fluffy writing and unabashed emphasis on consumer excess and individual greed.

Keep up the environmental emphasis and the good work!

Jim Walker

 

The Sonora Stump Reports

In the September issue of Focus, Briony Penn writes an interesting article about the public getting involved in managing forests. I would like to clarify a couple of statements about the Forest Practices Board. When the Sonora Island residents first contacted the Forest Practices Board with their concerns, we met with them and with representatives of TimberWest and we believed the concerns over logging plans were reconcilable. The Board always encourages parties to find a resolution to their issues if possible. 

We told the residents that if they were not satisfied with the results of their discussions with TimberWest, they could file a complaint with us, which is what ended up happening. We don’t require a violation of the law before we investigate a complaint from the public, but we do ask that the parties make all efforts to resolve their concerns before we get involved. We are now investigating the complaint and will provide our final report to the public and to the government. 

On another note, we are also auditing TimberWest’s Tree Farm Licence #47, which includes Sonora Island. We do about 10 audits annually and these may include one or more TFLs. You can learn more about the Forest Practices Board, who we are, what we do, and how we do it (including the complaint process), by visiting our website at www.bcfpb.ca.

Timothy S. Ryan, RPF, Chair, Forest Practices Board

 

The teachers and the Province

As a former Greater Victoria School Board trustee and councillor for Saanich municipality, I am disgusted with the behavior and lack of leadership demonstrated by our neoliberal provincial government.

Its lack of real commitment to our public education system since 2002, when Christy Clark was Minister of Education under the Gordon Campbell government, is having serious, widespread negative outcomes with more to follow if the refusal to provide adequate resources and political posturing continues.

Add to this the Clark government’s refusal to obey the laws of BC, not once but twice, regarding the rulings of the Supreme Court of BC, and we have a serious problem. This behaviour shows a blatant disregard for decisions made by the highest Court in our province; if any individual citizen refused to accept such rulings, they would be in contempt of court. And to make matters worse, this government is wasting scarce tax dollars to appeal—for the third time—the Supreme Court’s decisions!

An adequately funded and supported public education system is the foundation of a healthy and democratic society, a society which promotes both individual and common good, as well as nurtures a healthy economy.

Private schools should not receive public funding. They represent a choice that parents make to opt out of our public system—and that involves taking responsibility to pay for that choice. The public system serves all children, regardless of income or special needs; the private system does not. As former Premier W.A.C. Bennett once said: “Public funding for public schools; private funding for private schools.” The $300 million given by the province to private schools should be invested back into our public system now.

Carol Pickup

 

Open letter to Stephen Harper

Since voting for you, I’ve felt you’ve done a decent job looking out for Canadian interests, even though I didn’t agree with some of your decisions. [But now,]I’ve read through a large part of the FIPA agreement and I’ve come to the conclusion that it heavily favours Chinese business over Canadian business. Simply put, Canada isn’t set up to take full advantage of this agreement. Canadian investment in all sectors amounted to just over $4 billion within China in 2012, while Chinese business investment in the Canadian energy sector alone was well over $30 billion in 2012.

FIPA dangerously erodes our sovereignty in a number of ways. It disallows voting Canadians from having any say in the management of our commons. Looking down the road, FIPA, combined with the erosion of many of Canada’s environmental protections through Bill C-38, will create a “perfect storm” against my children and my children’s children, as clean air, water, and soil become less of a priority than the economic interests of business people on another continent. How could it be otherwise?

The last straw for me was your apparent disrespect of the Canadian courts. It would have been wise to allow the courts to review FIPA to ensure it is constitutional. Why did you wait two years to ratify FIPA if you were not going to allow Canadians to weigh in through this process? All I can surmise is you never intended to listen to Canadians.

Mr Harper, you’ve lost my respect, and my vote.

Mathieu Powell