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By David Broadland, March 2012

The long-term environmental consequences of a mistake made by Victoria City Hall are uncertain.

What’s the purpose of federal environmental regulations as they pertain to construction projects like the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline? Are they intended to protect the environment from negative impacts caused by construction? Or are they intended to protect construction projects from the negative impacts caused by public concern and scrutiny?

These questions floated to the top of my mind recently after I posed a series of questions to Transport Canada about the Telus duct relocation project in Victoria Harbour. It appeared that a key stipulation of a Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) environmental assessment had been ignored or misunderstood by the City of Victoria, and the regulatory body that was supposed to be protecting the environment and enforcing the law was instead defending the City.

By Gordon O'Connor, March 2012

In its desire to keep streets safe, has the City spent too much on ineffective and discriminatory policing?

The majority of people in our community appreciate the role that police play in society. Excepting the frustration felt after being stopped for a speeding ticket, most adults have faith in and feel protected by police. Statistics Canada reports that 83 percent of Canadians have a high level of confidence in law enforcement agencies.

Recently, however, a number of reports from across the country have demonstrated that the opposite is true for people experiencing poverty or homelessness. This inspired the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) to investigate the relationship between Victoria’s street-involved people and its police department by interviewing over 100 members of Victoria’s street community. 

By Leslie Campbell, March 2012

The A-word and other tales of participatory democracy.

There’s a global movement afoot—participatory democracy—which empowers people to play a more central role in directly shaping their communities. You can see it erupting in everything from communities that engage in participatory budgeting and “conversation cafés” to the occupy movement. It generally involves large assemblies of ordinary citizens coming together to learn about and discuss issues, and eventually decide on action. 

While participatory democracy might be a bit cumbersome and slow, its benefits are numerous and deep: inclusivity and engagement, higher quality of life, greater transparency, accountability and trust.

By Gene Miller, March 2012

Three local events, three different ways of looking at what the future might hold.

You wake from the dream dislocated, exhausted, a sweaty mess. It was a sci-fi doozy: a narrow wisp of silver-grey dust, manifest and purposeful, blows in between the bedroom window and the window-frame, floats toward your sleeping form, settles on your face; and within seconds, a tracery of grey veins begins to spread across your cheeks, moving toward your eyes, nostrils, lips....

Aaaarrggghhhh!

Hoping to smooth the corduroy in your nervous system, you go to the darkened bathroom and root around in the medicine cabinet to find the Atarax. Your jumpy fingers grope for the pill bottle and you turn on the light. There it is, behind the lip cream. Waiting for the water to run cold, you glance in the mirror. Faint but visible, is a spreading web of grey lines marching across your cheeks, moving toward your eyes, nostrils, lips....

By Briony Penn, March 2012

Author Wade Davis will be in Victoria March 7 to talk about efforts to save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass headwaters.

"This isn’t a souvenir coffee table book that the mining companies will take back home under their arms,” says Wade Davis about his new book, The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save tbe Stikine, Skeena and Nass (Greystone, Oct. 2011). 

By Aaren Madden, March 2012

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard weighs the pros and cons of the “big bang” approach to municipal politics.

Frank Leonard is an incrementalist. The mayor of Saanich since 1996 and councillor for ten years previous illustrates what that means by way of reminiscence. “I was appointed chairman of the environment committee of the CRD in 1988. A day later, the recycling depot burned down. I was off to a great start,” he chuckles. At first, volunteers were handing out white pails. “Incrementally,” he says, “we added recycling programs, including the blue box.” 

By Amy Reiswig, March 2012

John Shields’ journey from priest to union leader to spiritual seeker.

How do you approach mystery? Do you suspend disbelief and assert with Hamlet that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”?  Or is your instinct to look behind the curtain—seek out the facts, test and prove? The seeming divide between faith and science has been the subject of debate for centuries, and their dynamic tension has led to rich exploration in many disciplines. In The Priest Who Left his Religion: In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality (Influence Publishing, Sept. 2011), Victoria’s John Shields—a former Catholic priest turned social worker and union activist—shares his own exploration and conclusions around “the potential of reuniting science and spirit into a unified way of knowing.”

By Christine Clark, March 2012

A physician and reproductive rights advocate has returned to her first love: art.

Growing up in St Andrew’s by the Sea in New Brunswick, population 1500, Mary Conley always wanted to go to art school, but says, “I didn’t even know where they had them.” She says that the public schools didn’t offer arts programming back then in the late ‘50’s. Instead, after graduating from high school, this daughter of a lobster wholesaler and his wife (a retired telephone operator), won a scholarship to the University of New Brunswick to study science and began what would eventually develop into a long and storied career in medicine as a champion of human rights, and in particular, women’s reproductive rights. 

By Leslie Campbell, March 2012

Ninety-two and still working, she credits genes, work, family and faith for her longevity and health.

Connie (Holmes) Isherwood greets me graciously from behind her large desk in her legal office in a heritage building on Fort Street. Framed by a big bay window behind her, she seems but much the same as when I first met her—which hails back to the heyday of the Women’s Business Network over 20 years ago. Her hair is still strawberry blonde; her nails carefully polished.

By Amy Reiswig, March 2012

We begin our series on the everyday jobs that hold our community together.

When you think about the people who hold our community together through the work they do, where better to start than with those behind the wheel at BC Transit. Bus drivers ferry thousands of us—on average over 90,000 per weekday—to and fro on our daily adventures, be it for work, play, family events, medical appointments, job interviews, you name it. Whether going up the peninsula, through the heart of downtown or braving the crawl to the western communities, bus drivers are the pilots we trust, perhaps unconsciously, to get us to where we need to go safely, on schedule and with a smile. Given the ever-changing obstacle course that is their asphalt workplace, this sounds a lot easier than it really is. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, March 2012

Nobody wins when the environment and economy are pitted against each other.

Like most people, I’d never heard of Klaus Schwab, a German-born business professor and founder of the decades-old World Economic Forum for the ultra-rich and powerful. That is, I’d never heard of him until he opened his mouth at the Forum’s annual gathering in the Swiss Alps last January to announce to his exclusive audience: “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us.”

Sounding like a man who’d been doing some heavy pondering, he spoke of the growing inequities within and between countries and suggested the time had come to “embrace a much more holistic, inclusive and qualitative approach to economic development…A global transformation is urgently needed and it must start with reinstating a global sense of social responsibility.” 

By Aaren Madden, February 2012

To win the battle for envionmental health, mass mobilization will be necessary.

"Hello, I am Tria Donaldson, and I am calling to register my opposition to the government’s position on…” That was the gist of the very first phone call Tria Donaldson made to a politician. It was Environment Minister-of-the moment Jim Prentice, just before they both attended the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. Aside from having been a tad nervous, she barely remembers it now. “They all kind of blend together after a while,” she smiles.

By Gene Miller, February 2012

Reflections on what makes Esquimalt the real deal.

Esquimalt’s the real deal. Everywhere else is exegesis. That’s a slap in the face of quite a bit of regional exegesis, and ovation for a place that receives far too little applause, so it may be useful if I tell you what is on my mind—especially timely, right now, as Esquimalt is going through a tiny spasm of funk, self-study, and media-fanned ignominy over its worry about a proliferation of payday loan shops along the main drag. (Funny, I would have targeted Tim Horton’s.) 

By Leslie Campbell, February 2012

Tapping into the wisdom of the elders, with your help.

As I’ve written in my editorials from time to time, I have three elders with whom I am intimately connected: my mom, and husband/publisher David’s parents. They range in age from 83 to 88, and all live here in Victoria.

Their journey through their 80s has been bumpy, to say the least: widowhood and two broken hips, plus uterine cancer for my mom Jade (and breast cancer in her late 70s); lymphoma and vascular dementia for my mother-in-law Pat—which has meant her husband Bob Broadland has become a full-time caregiver at age 88. It’s been, he admits, “a steep learning curve,” not the least of which was accepting he needed a little help. To any question whose answer depends on the vagaries of the future, he sagely admits the futility of prediction and answers, “Time Will Tell” (yes, the caps are purposeful).

By Christine Clark, February 2012

The art of Lance Olsen contains both a wild complexity and a profound serenity.

It’s a surprise. The space is small. Much smaller than expected and very unlike any studio I’ve ever visited before. It’s oblique. His materials are there, but it’s so sparse. There are no posters or trinkets or oddities on display to illustrate his worldly experiences. Other than a block of paintings stacked in a dark corner, there are no finished works in plain view either. This is a work space and not at all romantic. It looks more like a storage room, filled with random objects. Everything seems grey or some variation thereof. It’s entirely utilitarian, like the office of a mid-level manager in a warehouse somewhere.

By Amy Reiswig, February 2012

Coastal first peoples lived a life rich in technology, trade and ritual.

For cultures lacking the promise (or threat) of Valentine’s Day to keep hearts fluttering, February can have quite different connotations. To the Northern and Central Whaling People, for instance, this month is either ?Axhami?, bad weather, or ?Ita·mi?, false spawning, and to the Southern Whaling People it is the more specifically inauspicious Pa·kwischis saba?—canoe drifting up sideways. This is just one of the many eye- and mind-opening lessons in coastal First Nations life presented in the Royal BC Museum’s latest publication, The Whaling People of the West Coast of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery (November 2011).

By D.F. Bailey, February 2012

Both whimsical and provocative, Leonard Butt’s sculptures testify to a healthy imagination.

Learn to trust your imagination.” That’s the hard-won lesson Leonard Butt now imparts to his students and admirers.

It’s also the guiding principle that serves as his passport into the cosmos of his fantastic sculptures. A guest to his home studio—a north-facing, well-lit space framed on one side with floor-to-ceiling windows and a French door leading onto a lush garden—is confronted by statues of men and women locked in an exploration of their own worlds.

By Trudi Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2012

Despite the minor annoyances and even fiascos, life in this corner is pretty darn good.

As I write this, the Christmas interlude is rapidly being displaced by the Days of Disarrangement at our house, a season that unfailingly descends on us every year at this time, sometimes even before the tree is down. Suddenly everything around us seems to be coming undone. It’s gotten to the point where I fear the cupboard doors will fall off their hinges if I touch them, and I really shouldn’t even be on the computer right now.

The microwave leads the calamity parade this year, having belched an acrid whiff of electrical-fire breath as a way of calling it quits on Christmas Eve. Now it sits in my office awaiting disposal, as dead as the warranty that accompanied it off the boat from China just four years ago.

By David Broadland, February 2012

At Victoria City Hall, the truth doesn’t come cheap. Or fast.

BACK IN OCTOBER, Victoria City councillor Marianne Alto brought forward a couple of motions introducing the concepts of “Open Data” and “Open Government” to the battened-down-tight City of Victoria.

Coming as it did just before the civic election, Alto’s proposal was seen by some as an attempt to pull the rug out from under the new electoral organization Open Victoria.

I’m concerned about her proposal for other reasons. Firstly, it may create a public perception that the City has become more transparent without actually creating any greater access to the kind of information that defines transparency—the City’s internal communications that show how and why decisions are being made and who is making them. 

By David Broadland, January 2012

Two competing visions emerge on how to mitigate climate change at the regional level.

This community’s most notable response to the threat of climate change—BC Transit’s proposal to spend $1 billion on light rail transit (LRT) from Downtown to Langford—has been guided by the belief that the bulk of population growth in the CRD over the next several decades will inevitably occur in Langford and Colwood. The idea is that LRT will lower the carbon emissions associated with more people travelling between Langford-Colwood and the core municipalities (Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal).