Letters to the editor

Focus readers, April 2015

The deer question

Thank you for the excellent story on Oak Bay’s deer. There has been so much misinformation coming from Oak Bay’s mayor that the majority of Oak Bay and other community residents do not know what to believe. Ms Campbell’s article set most of the facts straight out. There has been little other media coverage of these fabrications and I knew that Focus would not be afraid to investigate and comment. Traps placed on private property, obviously to protect gardens, are not helping the deer/vehicle safety issue which the mayor touted from the onset. These mistruths are going to come back and haunt him.

Ingrid Brown


Thank you Focus for this stirring editorial. It scientifically revealed the futility driving the unconscious lurch to kill yet another animal in the name of safety and beauty. 

In January 2012, DeerSafe Victoria was formed to provide unbiased information so the community, SPCA and CRD representatives could make decisions free of special interest influence. 

The patient, respectful and diligent work of DeerSafe’s co-founders Kelly Carson and Jordan Reichert deserves particular mention for their selfless and thoughtful volunteer commitment in this continuing struggle. They raise awareness that how we treat the defenceless is reflected in ourselves.

Larry Wartels


I don’t usually write letters to editors but I had to this time. Your wonderful, reasonable and well-thought-out editorial letter concerning the deer cull in Oak Bay is one that I hope many people will read and ponder. 

Although I’ve had “dear deer” chomp through lots of my garden plants when I was a Saanich resident, I’d never have voted in favour of a cull, had that been on Saanich council’s agenda. In my mind, we are the encroachers. The black-tailed deer have been on Vancouver Island far longer than any of us who now have taken over their territories for our own uses. As one friend often says, the deer aren’t going away—we have to learn to live with them. The fact that we set the table and put out the tempting (and easy) “salads” is our own folly. And, yes, fences are the answer if one must have the perfect garden. I do hope that reasoning such as yours eventually prevails in the CRD and—you never know—even in Oak Bay. Killing is never an answer when it comes to wildlife and humans colliding over territory. Co-existence is by far the best solution.

Michele Crover


Thank you for telling the true story about the mistruths, purposely botched statistics and pure fabrication to promote fear mongering and the need for a cull. Sadly the provincial government knew this and yet approved a permit. Sara Dubois’ final comment that “A real opportunity for leadership was lost by Oak Bay” is indeed fitting.

Gerard Potvin


Thank you for telling it like it is. The mayor of Oak Bay has had one plan from the onset and despite scientific input from knowledgeable persons, he has steadfastly refused to budge. What he is trying to prove is an unknown but we have a good idea. Political gain perhaps? Unlikely and more likely a fall. As you wrote, Jensen trumpets safety yet all of the traps he is hiding are on private property and none are even near the area which had the most vehicle/deer incidents. 

What you did not address in your piece was the complete lack of transparency shown by the mayor along with mistakes, half truths and pure fabrication, not to mention fear mongering along the lines of deer attacking humans, children unable to play outdoors and, of course the smelliest of all, deer poop in the parks.

Now the cull is completed and the mayor of Oak Bay proudly states that the cull was a success. That is like saying that shooting fish in a barrel was a success. But what did it prove? It brutally killed 11 innocent deer and may have left a few orphan fawns who would still need guidance in the world. 

William Jesse


Bravo to the March editorial on this subject. It was by far the most comprehensive article I have read to date.

I have lived in Victoria for over 40 years. There have been deer in Gordon Head all that time yet to my knowledge there has never been any discussion about a cull there. Like Oak Bay, there are gardens, cars, fences, swimming pools, back yards and children in Gordon Head. The deer there urinate and defecate too.

It would certainly seem that this cull is just another Oak Bay NIMBY exclusive mindset. Still, there is no reason why the 25 deer being culled in Oak Bay could not have been trapped and transported back to the wilderness instead of killed. This would be the humane solution and also likely less costly.

Lynda Robson


Bridge’s seismic issue: is it fraud?

Once again your superb investigative journalism, this time regarding the seemingly stealthy lowering of the seismic design standard of the new Johnson Street Bridge, has rightly stirred up a hornet’s nest at City Hall and in the public sphere.

As a long-time follower of the bridge saga and Co-Director of the JohnsonStreetBridge.org watchdog group, I am eternally grateful to your magazine for your continued focus on the minutiae of the new bridge’s construction, as well as the politics surrounding it.

Now that there has been a definitive response to your article with MMM Group’s March 20 letter to Jonathan Huggett confirming “that the 1:2500 year event is not part of the seismic design criteria specified in the JSB 2012 PDR and was not analyzed in the design,” it certainly begs more questions to be asked of the City and its contractors.

Let me re-hash some germane facts and dates that will help make sense of it all.

On June 14, 2010, MMM Group, in their presentation to council, translated the seismic design category of “Lifeline” into earthquake magnitudes (M) from design seismic events. This was done so as to not overwhelm the audience (mayor and council) with technical jargon they would not easily understand. In its presentation MMM stated that after an M6.5 earthquake the bridge must suffer no damage, and after an M8.5 earthquake it must not collapse, be available for emergency traffic, yet need some unspecified amount of repair at a later date.

In the same presentation MMM recommended that either a refurbished or a replacement  bridge must be “designed for an M8.5 earthquake,”and stated there would be “potential for loss of major investment if seismic performance is reduced below M8.5.”

Brochures produced by the City of Victoria and mailed to citizens in the run-up to the November 2010 referendum stated that “The bridge will be upgraded to a lifeline structure able to withstand an M8.5 earthquake—the highest standard of earthquake protection— to ensure the safety of users, disaster response capability, protection of investment and post disaster recovery.”

In July 2012, MMM Group produced the JSB 2012 Project Definition Report (PDR), including in the project requirements the M8.5 lifeline standard: “Design to a lifeline standard (non-collapse after an equivalent M 8.5 seismic event).”

On August 17, 2012, MMM produced the document referred to in your last article, JSB Seismic Design Criteria, where they stated the seismic design is to be based on an earthquake with a return period of 1000 years. (This same return period standard was confirmed by MMM’s recent March 20 letter to Jonathan Huggett.) Gone was any reference to the M8.5 lifeline standard.

Considering all that, the following questions come to mind, though I am sure you and other readers have more:

• What was the real purpose of the “M8.5 lifeline” standard? Was it simply for marketing, added to appeal to non-technical councillors and the safety fears of voters, leading up to the referendum, as well as being one more way of making the refurbishment option appear to be impossibly expensive?

• If it is a real standard, is there a formula that can be used to calculate the expected magnitude the current bridge design will safely withstand?

• If the magnitude safety standard was nothing but expensive, yet pointless marketing window dressing, who can we hold accountable? Is it fraud? Would it invalidate the referendum?

• Can a borrowing referendum be considered invalid if what is purchased is significantly different from what was promised? I remember that JSB.org sent an open letter to the City, asking if it would be wise to use an existing bascule mechanism rather than the untested one which required aircraft tolerances. The reply from the City was that they couldn’t change the design because it would invalidate the referendum. How is this different? 

• If it hadn’t been specified as a requirement, but was a legitimate concern, would the design of the bridge be any different than what it is now? What return period would have been used instead of 1000 years? 475 years?

• Is it ever wise to designate a moveable bridge as a critical piece of infrastructure? 

Points to ponder. In any event, with the City asking for the project contingency fund to be expanded by $4.8 million and more than $10 million outstanding in change orders from the contractors, one thing’s for sure: We’ll never be done talking about the bridge, even if it really is completed in 2017, more than two years late and likely 50 percent over budget.

Brian Simmons, JohnsonStreetBridge.org


Focus helps with data swirl

No one would question that we live in interesting times. The sheer volume of the data that is available to us at any moment is unbelievably impressive by any measure. 

Frequent statements in scientific and public press or on the web speak about how the total amount of recorded data doubles every 2, 5, 10 years (pick a number—it doesn’t matter). And all the recorded data is merely a tiny subset of unrecorded data we are exposed to every moment of our existence. We all exist in a constant whirlwind of data.

So what is our track record on managing a data tsunami? In the long view, it must have been pretty good. For the past 1000 centuries, our species has survived and prospered to such an extent that it has become the dominant species on the planet. We could not have been so successful if we had not been adept at identifying individual and collective threats. So we start from a good foundation.

But many things suggest we may now be losing our edge. Assessing the data swirl and selecting useful data to be recorded and acted upon now calls for skills that our current cognitive resources may lack. Technology has upped the flow over the past few hundred years and the past few decades have modified the very size, shape and scope of the information whirlwind. It’s foolish to think that evolution can keep pace with such rapid change.

At the end of the last millennium (2000), the Globe and Mail performed an interesting experiment. Each day during that year, they printed what their editorial staff felt was the most important front page of their paper during the past century (i.e. best one of 100). I had expected to see a summary of history by reading them so I saved them (I’m a bit of a pack rat). 

Half way through the year (I’m a slow learner) I was surprised at the mundane content that appeared in each day’s historic front page section. Most days, the main historic headline had little relevance and almost all the minor historic headlines were of no interest from our vantage point. These pages were the pick of the best and almost all of them contained no information of any long term use. (I still have them should someone want to confirm my assessment.)

There is no question we are going through a paradigm shift as we move from the world of hard copy to the world of electronic copy. The same occurred about 100 years ago when we moved to a world of personalized vehicle transport, or 100 years before that when we moved to a world where hydrocarbons replaced muscle power. 

In each instance, we failed to see the impacts of the change and are still trying to determine what we can do about the collateral damage the changes incurred. Our primary medias and social leaders have not shown that they are capable of leading us through the data blizzard and we frequently have to rely on outliers to distill and report on what is truly important to our long term liability.  

Bad city design, climate warming, our alienation from the world’s plant and animal life forms, our hydrocarbon fuel dependency, wealth distribution issues, etc. are all issues that reinforce why we collectively and individually need to think about where we gather data and how we use that data to survive and prosper.

Independent information providers such as Focus Magazine often identify key trends when the “big boys” have failed to see the big picture. This does not always mean we slavishly should always believe their messages and ignore the mass media and our leaders (after all we have given them their power and authority). It does mean that we must focus on getting as much data as possible before we follow an information highway that may be leading us to an environmental, social or economic cliff.

This suggests we all need to support those independent magazines, blogs, speakers, etc. They may operate on society’s edge, interpreting that flood of data raining down on us, trying to extract and disseminate their version of what the data tells us (and may often get it wrong). But their initial digestion of the data is a tremendous help to each of us. These alternative analyses can be valuable bricks for us to use when we each build our individual data, information, knowledge, wisdom pyramids. 

Since our belief structures ultimately control our individual and collective activities and objectives, it is critical that they are comprehensive and inclusive.

If you think about it, our evolution is built on the success of the outsider’s ability to see beyond the collective’s constrained vision. Thank you Focus for continually expanding our information base through your in-depth analysis of our local world.

Jim Knock


BC’s expensive fish farms

UN scientists have documented that a majority of species in our world oceans are in a diminished state and can’t sustain current harvest levels. But it seems that fishers are slow learners and it has only been in the last half century that we in the Western world began to realize we were overfishing the ocean, and that to be able to access healthy seafood we need to increase production by learning how to farm the seas.

Salmon farming in BC began in the mid 1980s and, with the benefits of applied research and technology transfer, salmon farmers became quick learners. In less than a half century, aquaculture, guided by fish health veterinarians, adopted best practices of animal husbandry with significant gains in smolt survival and herd health. Gains in feed conversion reduced costs and feed wastage (feeding salmon is now almost as efficient as poultry production and much better than pork). Concurrently, market demand shifted—away from canned salmon to delivery of fresh non frozen fish that earn the premium prices. As such, by its third decade, farmed salmon production in BC has increased in value from around $300 million to over $500 million. Without our production (and even more from Norway and Chile) consumers of Europe and North America would not have the salmon that our doctors advise us to eat.

In its early stages, salmon farming did make some mistakes and still has much to learn, but it has achieved remarkable results in just three decades both in terms of responsible husbandry and economic contributions. It still requires ongoing monitoring but let’s end the demonography.

James D. Anderson