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By Aaren Madden, November 2013

Sandra Meigs presents overlooked spaces as powerful repositories of mind and emotion.

After she was born in Baltimore in 1953, Victoria painter Sandra Meigs’ family moved around a lot. Still, as one does, she retains a few strong impressions of childhood home interiors. One is of the picnic table and bare bulb in the family kitchen. “My parents weren’t decorators by any means,” she shrugs, smiling. For a time as a teen, Meigs presided over the entire upstairs on her own. “That felt like a world to me,” she remembers. 

As a contemporary artist, Meigs does not always look to architecture as inspiration, but when she has recently, her interior spaces thrum with the presence of the mind’s inner world.

By Amy Reiswig, November 2013

Over the past 30 years there’s been a renaissance of “early music” and Victoria is on its map.

When I decided to move to Victoria from Montreal seven years ago, my arts-loving friends worried “You’re going to be so starved for culture!” Hardly. One might argue that a city the size of Victoria can’t be expected to compete with a city like Montreal, but in at least one area, thanks to the people-power of volunteerism, little Victoria does just that. 

The Early Music Society of the Islands (EMSI) is an extraordinary local success story now in its 29th season of staging a world-class annual concert series of local and international performers. The early 1980s saw a surge of interest in early music—generally, music composed before 1800—all across North America, with enthusiasm for historically informed performance on period instruments. 

By Chris Creighton-Kelly, November 2013

Capital 6’s demise doesn’t discourage the rise of the boutique movie theatre.

So what do we already know for sure? Book stores are shuttering everywhere. CD shops are closing—those that remain open are mostly specialty vendors, many selling vinyl again. The publishing industry—books, magazines, newspapers—is struggling. A lot of folks are cutting their TV cable in favour of online content.

Oh yeah, online content. The new maxim has become: All information available to all people all of the time. 

And movies? The price of admission keeps going up as quickly as attendance keeps going down. Studies show annual movie-going figures (at least in North America and Europe) to be the lowest in 25 years. Victoria’s Capitol 6 multiplex cinema recently closed its doors.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, November 2013

Is the government losing sight of “us” in its rush to exploit resources?

If my mother lived in this province I don’t think Christy Clark would like her much. She contributes so little to the economy that if every British Columbian was like her it would be hard to justify all the frenetic growth the government has planned for the next four years.

By David Broadland, October 2013

The CRD’s own records show it failed to consult taxpayers on the financial impacts of its sewage treatment plan. That's contrary to provincial law. Was the Ministry of Environment napping on the job when it approved the CRD's plan?

Focus recently filed an FOI for the CRD’s record of public consultation on its $783 million sewage treatment plan. We did this so we could compare what the CRD invited the public to provide input on against what seems to be the minimum legal requirement for consultation. The results suggest the CRD has, in significant ways, been avoiding its legal responsibility to consult the public on this massive expenditure of public money. Moreover, giving such scant attention to public consultation would only be possible if the Ministry of Environment—the regulator watching over the process—has been sleeping on the job or looking the other way.

By Stephen Andrew, October 2013

VicPD’s former Deputy Chief John Ducker reveals political infighting, millions spent on legal issues, and a looming crisis in the department.

Last month, when the provincial government allowed the terms of all of its appointees on the Victoria Police Board to lapse, it left the board in a position where it could not legally operate. Though the Province named three new board members 12 days later, it had placed Victoria in a precarious position: The board had selected Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner as VicPD’s new chief, but had not completed negotiations. 

By Rob Wipond, October 2013

When our governments are going rogue, who or what is going to hold them to account?

Lately I’ve been running into so much lack of legal accountability at the most fundamental operating levels of our public agencies, I don’t know where to turn to demand accountability. 

After investigating the BC Premier’s Office and its suspicious dearth of documents about major decisions, for example, the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner this year suggested that public employees should have a “duty to document.” But the Commissioner also mentioned that she did not have jurisdiction over the BC Document Disposal Act (DDA). That caught my attention even more. Who, I wondered, ensures that governments and public employees obey the law when they decide what records to permanently delete or shred? 

By Leslie Campbell, October 2013

Empathy, facts and logic are needed to protect the public square.

As I write I am having one of those days filled with miscommunication. Even the email I sent asking a friend “A or B?” came back saying “sure.” It seems many of us are too busy these days to listen carefully to each other—myself included, I realize, as I repeat a question to David, having forgotten to listen the first time he answered. Time to slow down and hear each other!

This was one of the themes I heard at The Walrus Talks event at the Belfry Theatre in mid September. The topic under discussion was “The Art of Conversation.” On the bill were six speakers, who each offered up pearls of wisdom around what doesn’t work and what could—in communicating with each other, reinvigorating the public square, finding common ground, and reconciliation.

By Ross Crockford, October 2013

Backroom debates intensify.

Despite an August 31 deadline announced by Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) executive director Graham Bruce, negotiations are continuing between Southern Rail of Vancouver Island (SVI) and VIA Rail to craft a new passenger-rail agreement for the Island. 

“We are coming closer and closer together,” says SVI president Frank Butzelaar. “We are confident we will reach a deal.” 

In April, SVI submitted a proposal to have VIA’s trains based in Nanaimo instead of in Victoria, as they were before VIA stopped service in 2011 due to poor track conditions. VIA has said it prefers the original arrangement, under which it paid an average annual subsidy of $1.4 million. The SVI proposal would require an annual subsidy of $1.8 million, plus $6 million over five years for track maintenance.

By David Broadland, October 2013

Another key player leaves the project.

Last month’s story here on how the design of the new Johnson Street Bridge is being simplified in a process that’s taking place beyond the public lens prompted the City of Victoria to hit the local airwaves. Director of Engineering Dwayne Kalynchuk told CFAX listeners that councillors were aware of changes to the design of the bridge’s superstructure. In fact, drawings obtained from the City through an FOI indicate that in mid-March, two months after councllors agreed to a fixed-price contract with bridge builder PCL Constructors Westcoast Ltd, the superstructure’s configuration included major elements that mimicked the complexity of the original referendum-approved design. By the end of May, new drawings showed that complexity had been eliminated.

By Gene Miller, October 2013

If life is becoming an app, what’s next?

I just read that a matrix printer will be able soon to print living tissue. Stick around for a while and you’ll be able to get new kidneys at Staples. It’s just another skip along the way to a perfected life. Remember, nothing gleams like the future.

Actually, I have seen the future, and it’s soft. Not fluffy, three-ply tissue soft. Software soft. What’s quickly taking shape in our time—for emphasis, in our time...you, me, right now—is a technological transformation, the latest in a remarkably short list of evolutionary novelties (or inevitabilities), promising staggering consequences for the way nature is currently ordered. 

By Amy Reiswig, October 2013

Katherine Palmer Gordon’s latest book celebrates the stories, strength, and diversity of BC’s First Nations people.

One way to combat prejudice is to get personal. And one way to get personal—to find out what someone thinks and feels, what they’ve been through, what they hope and work for—is to simply ask them. That’s exactly what author Katherine Palmer Gordon does in her latest book We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us: Lives and Stories of First Nations People in British Columbia (Harbour, September 2013), and it’s a testament to the power of simple conversation.

By Aaren Madden, October 2013

Is everything for sale? This and other questions are addressed by contemporary Northwest Coast artists at the AGGV.

In this medium-sized Canadian city and so many others like it, we are bombarded with images. Walking in any retail area, be it shopping mall or downtown, one is sure to come across the iconic stripes of the Hudson’s Bay blanket. And avoiding the Starbucks logo is near impossible, be it peeking out from behind a hand clutching a paper cup or broadcasting its siren call from what seems like every downtown corner. After a while, these images, though fraught with colonial and corporate implications, tend to wash over us due to their very ubiquity.

By Chris Creighton Kelly, October 2013

Community theatre transforms us and reinforces our connectedness.

So where were we? Oh yeah, trying to figure out what community theatre is. In the September edition I looked at one example of community theatre and others that were not true examples. I concluded with a quote from Laurie McGrady that emphasized the notion of an interactive collaboration between artists and community that gives rise to “ethical space.” 

Academic and theatre critic Baz Kershaw describes community theatre a bit differently—and broadly— as “an attempt to build another way of life within modern culture.” In theatre professor Judith Ackroyd’s words, it reveals “a belief in the power of the theatre form to address something beyond the form itself…to inform, to cleanse, to unify, to instruct, to raise awareness.”

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, October 2013

A crucial link in the food security chain.

Today we picked about 50 pounds of pears from a tree that received hardly a drop of water over the dry summer. After trundling the boxes into our cold-storage room I had to stop for a minute and marvel at the bounty of our smallish, non descript backyard garden. What happens here every year is a miracle, really. Despite the dry summer, the apple trees have produced enough fruit to supply us with applesauce for a year, and the blackberry and raspberry bushes near the fence have provided a good stash of fruit for the freezer. (I should make clear that owning a blackberry bush is like owning a bronco—you have to keep a very tight rein. I allow just a single vine to run along the fence and keep everything else severely curbed. Every year my ruthlessness is rewarded with several litres of mouth-watering berries.)

By Stephen Andrew, September 2013

 

Nobody seems happy with BC’s police complaint process. It appears to be a system rife with distrust, allegations of being unfair, and it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. But, according to BC’s Police Complaint Commissioner, it’s the best in Canada. Now a young Saanich man is about to find out for himself how the system works. So far, he’s unimpressed.

 

Dallas Wigmore was walking home with two friends late in the evening this past June when a Saanich Police cruiser careened up beside them. “An officer jumped out and started screaming at us,” the 20-year-old recalls, “He didn’t even tell us why we were being stopped, or ask us for information.”

By David Broadland, September 2013

The CRD made a fundamental planning decision about future development in the region based on strictly theoretical considerations and without including any public input. The result may leave the City of Victoria with limited sewage treatment capacity to grow and puts the CRD plan for how to expand treatment in the future in question. 

While a pitched battle raged last fall between pro- and anti-sewage treatment advocates, a little-understood provision for allocating the cost of the $783-million project to the participating municipalities was quietly passed by the Capital Regional District, with no fanfare and no public input.

By Rob Wipond, September 2013

Doctors’ relationships with drug company representatives have changed, say knowledgeable readers. But for better or worse?

A recently-unemployed friend of mine went into a Victoria walk-in clinic in June complaining about unease he couldn’t explain, and walked out with enough free packets of the antidepressant Cipralex and the stimulant Ritalin to last for weeks. If he liked these drugs, the doctor said, he should come back and get prescriptions for more. “It all happened so fast, in less than five minutes,” my friend said with both fascination and wariness. 

By Leslie Campbell, September 2013

A case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Many of my peers are helping their elders cope with the trials of aging these days. We understand that there’s only so much we can do—decline just keeps coming. So we strive to make the best of the changing scene and pray for support and comfort along the way. Peace, love and understanding too!

Over the summer, my family had some experiences that brought this home. It started in July when my mom Jade landed in Royal Jubilee Hospital with an infection that exaggerated all her other issues. Hospitalized for the ensuing six weeks, Jade, as well as my sisters and I, were all thoroughly impressed by the diligent, kind care she received.

By Ross Crockford, September 2013

The fight to save the E&N Railway enters the final round.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and the Malahat is jammed. The safety improvements are done, but it still takes 90 minutes to drive from downtown Victoria to Crofton. The highway is full of Islanders hauling groceries and building supplies, and I get stuck at practically every traffic light enroute. Judging by the growing numbers of mini-malls along the road, by 2030 the same drive will probably take twice as long.