Letters to the editor

Focus Readers, December 2015

The last strategic vote

Editor Leslie Campbell is far too hasty in writing her obituary for strategic voting in the November 2015 edition. Every electoral system carries its own political calculus and strategic opportunities and it is always a mistake to underestimate voters’ inclinations to utilize them.

Even where proportional representation promises to make every vote count, if some voters feel they can strategically achieve a larger political goal by abandoning their most preferred candidate and/or party they will do so just as much as under our first-past-the-post system. Their disposition toward a particular individual, to a governing party, or to the potential membership of a coalition government can still override any primary personal preference. Much will depend on the strength of that preference and their optimism about the odds of it being a winning choice.

New Zealand’s success in adopting a mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system that combines a vote for a local candidate in a single member district with a second political party vote to produce overall proportionality has made it a highly favoured model for us to emulate. But while delivering proportional representation, it has also expanded the opportunities for strategic voting. From the outset, New Zealand has had high levels of split voting in the choice of political party and choice of a local candidate from another party. In the last 2014 MMP election, for example, nearly a third of voters split their votes. Many of those split votes, of course, stem from divergent sincere first preferences but others are based on strategic calculations. It was estimated in 2002 that as many as 12 percent of New Zealanders cast at least one strategic vote.

Proportional representation can open up many new political opportunities—including those for strategic voting.

Norman Ruff


Missing in the article is attention given to the likelihood of endless minority governments, just as there are in all the other jurisdictions in the world which have some form of PP…We’ve not had to deal with a series of minority governments, whereby the party with the most MPs is required to form alliances and coalitions with other parties in order to secure a majority of the votes so that government can happen. Coalitions and alliances often make for strange bedfellows, and the resulting government can become completely dysfunctional and inoperative. Bureaucrats would like that, because then they could actually run the show without political interference from those irritating party members and leaders getting in the way. 

Every election involves us in “strategic voting”; it won’t ever “die a good death” as Ms Campbell hopes. For some of us, we will gauge our voting based on the party; for others it will be the leader; and for still others it might be determined on the particular candidate running in that riding. In a pluralistic society, how could it be different?

Dale Perkins


Bridge expense mounts

I’m writing to thank the magazine, and in particular David Broadland, for the excellent investigative reporting he and his team are doing on the Johnson Street Bridge.

I’m appalled at what appears to be a serious lack of integrity on the part of the politicians, designers, and builders of this project. Perhaps also incompetence.

Without David’s investigations into what is going on here the public would never know, as it appears the politicians/engineers/builders are trying to hide the fiasco that this has become.

Keep up the excellent work; it is rare to see investigative journalism of this quality.

Matthew Cencich


Twelve months ago, the Fernwood Mafia was elected to run Victoria City Hall. Now, we are another year older and deeper in debt. The Johnson Street Bridge boondoggle is nigh on double the promised cost and no realistic completion date is in sight.

At her announcement of her candidacy in the summer of 2015, Lisa Helps spoke of many things, but nary a word about the bridge fiasco, nor did any of the compliant media present bother to ask her about the City’s biggest-ever capital project. 

So, I asked her. Helps replied that if the steel turned out to be bad, she would stop the bridge.

Well, a year-and-a-half later there is so much proof that there is something rotten in the state of the steel that even the Daily Press Release has finally reported it and acknowledged the project is over budget and incomplete, with no final cost even hinted at.

Meanwhile, Helps and company are wearing out their grey cells on million-dollar projects such as unasked-for bicycle lanes, tent cities, and a ban on plastic bags.

The bridge and sewage projects just muddle along while Ben & Jerry come up with another feel-good announcement to see how they can soak taxpayers for their dental care while they decide which one of them will take which dipper seat at the legislature.

And, of course, the Department Of Public Engineering Services and the Division Undertaking Major Building, as well as the Division of Monumental Bridge Engineering Review are hard at work scheming on new projects.

With another three years to go for this council, let us hope Mayor Helps, Ben & Jerry and of course DOPES and DUMB and DUMBER leave the few remaining taxpayers with a few sheckles before they join the homeless.

Patrick Murphy


Maltby Lake’s ecological wonders

Your November article by Maleea Acker was, in my opinion, an informative, fair and well-balanced depiction of a complex situation. I would, however, like to clarify the provenance of the Maltby Lake property.

About 120 years ago my great-great grandfather, Henry Dumbleton purchased from the Crown (for which J.D. Pemberton was Surveyor-General and assigned or sold properties) a parcel of land almost surrounding Maltby Lake, then known as Highland Lake. Thomas and Richard Maltby were at the time farming a small parcel of land around the south-west corner of the lake.

In about 1865, Henry Dumbleton built a small hunting lodge overlooking Maltby Lake from the east; a rustic building which has been gradually expanded over the last 100 years.

Dumbleton’s daughter Clara married William C. Holmes who then passed the property to his son H.C. Holmes (my maternal grandfather). In the late 1950s I recall Grandad buying the Maltby brothers’ portion thus completing his ownership of the lands surrounding Maltby Lake. H.C. Holmes married Philippa Pemberton, (grandaughter of J.D. Pemberton); their eldest child was my mother, Cicely Thomson (nee Holmes).

It is my hope to have the small “pothole” lake just north of Maltby officially named Philippa Lake, in memory of Grandmother, a true environmentalist in her time, and also to name two seasonal creeks flowing into Maltby as Peter’s Creek and Vicki’s Creek, commemorating two cousins who died too young. I will be seeking family and community approval in this regard.

Woody Thomson, co-owner of the Maltby Lake property


Mason Street blues

I have lived on Mason Street for several decades.

Firstly, my sincere thanks to Ben Isitt, Pam Madoff and Jeremy Loveday for their eloquent and sound reasoning on the Bosa plan for the Saint Andrew’s property [corner of Pandora and Vancouver Streets].

Once again, a venerable and perfectly useful old building will be demolished in the tired old name of progress.

The mayor and some on council seem to think that the homelessness issue will somehow be alleviated if a nice new building fills that block. How unfortunate that it will not do a single thing to alter the homelessness issue.

We did hear council member after member prefacing their statements with an apology, and with most also saying that they felt the public input process had been flawed from the start. To me, many on the council sounded like they were using favoured buzzwords until they reached a long foregone conclusion.

Indeed, the public input process regarding the Bosa North Park proposal has prompted me to reconsider the meaning of democratic process. It’s in print that Mayor Helps opined long ago that a no vote on Saint Andrews would send the wrong message to developers. Is it just me, or is there currently a multitude of new developments in progress around town?

There are 1200 signatures against the proposed Saint Andrew’s development. Some 85 people spoke against it at City Hall; some 45 people (several of whom said they were from northern Saanich) spoke in favour of it. And bingo, proposal passed.

Was there a point to asking for public input? Make no mistake, many North Park residents have experienced three years of worry and stress regarding this development, and for them to be more or less completely ignored is perplexing to say the least.

The buzzword “affordable” was used by council many times throughout the various meetings. The word has very different meanings to different people. Does council need reminding that it has now been some decades since rents (for instance) were “affordable?” In future, it would be more appropriate to say, “affordable—to the right person.”

The large majority of North Park residents have a feeling that we were led up the path; given platitude after platitude; were met with point counter point; and somehow, we actually believed that we had a voice. In a last-second attempt to humour the gallery, our mayor took the mic and started explaining how bad she felt after the first public meeting, and about chicken soup being the remedy. I left; it was as if we were being addressed as something other than intelligent adults. 

Stuart Munro


Exxon’s climate lie

Hindsight is always 20-20. Yes, archives and leaked documents did tell us that Exxon knew by the early 1980s that a “temperature increase of this magnitude [2-3 degrees Celsius] would bring about significant changes in the Earth’s climate,” and that they decided to fund institutes devoted to outright climate change denial instead of taking climate change seriously.

However, in singling out Exxon, Bill McKibben does a great job of taking the heat off institutions that are every bit as culpable. While it may be that “[Exxon] had the singular capacity to change the course of world history,” Exxon isn’t alone in spreading lies, fostering denial, promoting ignorance and making sure no one takes climate change seriously. Today’s society is beset by political, economic and religious institutions that depend on manufacturing a “reality” that ensures their ideological or economic survival, regardless of the damage that often accompanies societal compliance.

In the case of climate change, politicians, at every level, are not being truthful about finding ways of dealing with our fossil fuel dependency, or the results of that dependency.

The public is constantly bombarded with political sponsorship of the corporate growth-is-good mythology. They are told that the only way to ensure prosperity is to “grow the economy.” In the real world, infinite growth is not possible. To claim otherwise is a lie, and yet denial and ignorance of the limits to growth constantly over-power reason.

McKibben may be right in believing that nothing much will happen to Exxon or its executive, but venting all of his “deep, blood-red anger” at Exxon diverts attention away from those who are every bit as complicit in keeping us on a path to an unlivable world.  

The saddest part? The lies are working: Any suggestion that our survival depends on leaving fossil fuels in the ground, abandoning laissez faire capitalism, reining in corporate power, and living with a lot less, is met, for the most part, by public scorn and derision.

Ken Dwernychuk


I’d argue that an even greater eco-villain than Exxon was General Motors’ honcho Alfred Sloan.

Long before anyone thought about climate change, Sloan was secretly destroying electric railway systems across the US. He wanted to improve sales of Yellow (GM) buses powered by noisy and dirty Detroit Diesel (GM) engines.

This very smart guy also gave us, along with Exxon (surprise!) and du Pont, leaded gasoline.

Like the executives of Exxon, Sloan never saw the inside of a jail cell. It can take the judicial and political systems an inordinately long time to keep up with our environmental needs.

Louis Guilbault


Gimme shelter

As a child, we often encountered Clifford [the man mentioned in Gene Miller’s November article] Downtown. A fixture of the era, we called him “Odd Job” due to his rote offer to do “odd jobs around the house.” Too young to frequent the Churchill, we mostly met him on Yates, near the Odeon.

There were rumours, as there always are, about Clifford being a secret millionaire, but I believe his poverty and “uncertain control of his limbs” were genuine. I’m not sure Odd Job was the only panhandler in the city at the time, but if punk kids like us were excluded, he would have been one of just a handful hitting strangers up for change.

I remember, too, the ’70s hippies (some of whom ran art galleries and newspapers) who morphed into real estate developers, and, in collusion with the bankers, drove up local property values—and rents with them—to the stratosphere, even as they mowed down the farms and fields that were my playground. We hated them then, and used to tear up their surveyor markers. Those orange strips meant the end, not beginning of something, to us.

I suppose it’s still the same. The prospects of making a genuine False Creek 2.0 of Victoria leaves the penniless and the young punks a little cold.

Chris Cook


TimberWest’s response to Briony Penn

One might think that, in terms of what is now known of climate science alone, the various principals involved with the partitioning of the Great Bear Rainforest could have looked at this mere three percent of BC’s land mass, walked away, and left it alone—in the spirit of “Let’s make a statement of evolving the provincial GDP away from resource extraction.”

In world GDP rankings done by agencies such as the UN and World Bank, consistently in the top ten can be found Japan, Italy, India, Germany and France. You don’t have to be commodity-based to be big time.

Maybe part of the problem lies in BC’s fossiliferous Burgess Shale, a remarkable site for advancing paleohistory, but as a symbol to behold for modern economic growth? Maybe not.

Brian Nimeroski


Orthopaedic waiting game

In your last issue there was a letter which was directed toward a letter that I had written the previous month about orthopaedic wait times. I feel what I said was misrepresented.

I never meant to imply that no one ever benefited from joint replacement. My point was that in my case at least, the urgency was exaggerated and getting on the list was strongly promoted, even though I was far from desperate.

The classes that I attended in which I did ask questions and receive information were held after my surgery date was booked. It was booked because I was again strongly urged to take advantage of the “opportunity.” 

While I tried to make it clear in my original letter to Focus that I was describing my own experience, I did so because I suspect my situation was perhaps not unique. If even a few cases were triaged according to urgency or desperation there would be less waiting time for those who are truly in need. Maybe that already happens. It didn’t seem that way to me.

The response you published came from someone who had a different perspective. That is fine but I feel there was no need to imply that I was a victim of my own ignorance.

R. Lindsay