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By Aaren Madden, June 2011

Locavores may be disappointed to know the “local” label on restaurant food doesn’t always mean it’s from around here.

The best farming advice Tom Henry ever got came from established Metchosin farmers John and Lorraine Buchanan. Their words? “Don’t do it.” To which Henry and wife Violaine Mitchell, determined to expand their farm, replied, “No. We’re gonna do it.” To which the Buchanans repeated, “Don’t. Do. It.” 

Now, six years later, they partner on many projects. At first, “they just really tried to scare the shit out of us,” Henry laughs. 

By Briony Penn, June 2011

A few thoughts on the lifeboats that pulled away from the wreck on May 2.

On the evening of May 2, along with the majority of Canadians, I was stunned. “Like winning bingo on the Titanic” was the saying that captured the mood of progressive islanders. Saanich–Gulf Islands had made history by electing the first Green Member of Parliament in Canada, while NDP undergrads fresh out of McGill were heading off to Ottawa as the official opposition. But as one of my friends remarked, it was a homeopathic remedy for a very serious illness—that of a Conservative majority. 

Now that the dust has settled, I have come to realize that young Canadians have been handed an opportunity—one that is larger than the tar sands and more exciting than being in a crowd with a cellphone in Cairo. First, a little bit of background.

By Christine Clark, June 2011

Marlene Jess’ maps and performance pieces draw attention to the natural, under-appreciated luxury of our lives.

Marlene Jess makes art that is about luxury; not the kind of luxury that involves vast garden estates, fast cars, and endless purchasing power, but a kind of relative luxury; something as simple as fresh, drinkable water gushing from the faucet each time a hand turns the tap.

What we now know as Ecological Art has been evolving as a genre since the early ’60s, when artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson began using the Earth as the medium. Although their work was exciting and new, and tended to revolve around concepts related to decay and reclamation, the message was essentially in keeping with traditional values, with the dominion of humans over the Earth largely accepted. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, June 2011

Sometimes turning the page is the most compassionate and sensible act.

There are many reasons to rage over the heinous crime that was committed against Kimberly Proctor last year, and, honestly, I hardly know where to begin. As a parent, I weep for her family and the endless, unimaginable burden of their loss and sorrow. I feel a white-hot anger against the cruel young men who took her life, but I’m just as furious with the families and systems—or lack thereof—that allowed them to evolve, seemingly unchecked, into sly and insidious barbarians.

By Danda Humphreys, June 2011

How a 1960s mayor saved City Hall from the scrap heap.

If Richard Biggerstaff Wilson could see Centennial Square today, his face would probably break into a big grin, for it was during his decades-ago mayoralty that it was created in its present-day form. And it was largely thanks to his efforts that the oldest City Hall in Western Canada is standing to this day.

Wilson came by his civic-mindedness honestly. He was, after all, a native son. His grandfather and great-uncle, British-born William and Joseph Wilson, had opened a clothing store on Government Street way back in 1862, the year Victoria became a city. 

By Leslie Campbell, May 2011

BC should start clinical trials for venoplasty for MS patients.

My old friend Ernie Stigant has jumped off the fence and decided to have “liberation therapy” for his MS. He wanted to have it in Canada for both practical and political reasons, but with his granddaughter Marley reaching toddlerhood, he decided he couldn’t wait any longer, so will soon head to Seattle. “I want to be able to interact with her more, not just sit and watch,” explained Ernie.

Ernie is not a rich man. So he is lucky his daughters, along with pals at his Rotary Club, are raising money for the surgery and follow-up therapy.

Ernie’s MS was diagnosed in 1998 after eight months of tests, preceded by close to three years of wondering what the heck was wrong. 

By Zoe Blunt and Mark Worthing, May 2011

When a 2009 rezoning application by Peninsula Co-op to convert several acres of farmland into a supermarket was opposed by candidates seeking election to the Co-op’s board, the Co-op acted in a way that an arbitrator later found was “unlawful.” Now, on the eve of a new election for a board of directors, Peninsula Co-op has filed a legal suit against seven people, including one of the candidates.

It’s a stormy spring for Peninsula Co-op, and two pivotal events this May will shape the future of the influential 56,000-member gas and grocery chain. On May 4, the Co-op’s rezoning application for a larger food store in Central Saanich goes to public hearing. And on May 25 comes a court-ordered board election that could turf out the pro-development majority.

By David Broadland, May 2011

Why did the City of Victoria suddenly close the Johnson Street Railway Bridge?

On the afternoon of March 29, engineer Andrew Rushforth wrote a one-sentence letter to the City of Victoria. His message, stamped in red ink with the seal of a Professional Engineer, stated “Following our inspection of the Johnson Street Railway Bridge (bascule span) this morning, it is my considered opinion that it should be closed until emergency repairs are completed.” In a hand-written notation, Rushforth added, “To Railway traffic.”

By Will Horter, May 2011

The CRD should be able to enforce its own plan.

Nothing in the world is static. Biological forces such as natural selection and competition for scarce resources compel organisms to evolve, transform themselves, or potentially die out. The same is true for communities. 

There are major challenges on the horizon. The combination of global warming, the rising cost of fuel and food and the increasingly unstable global economy means our local governments are going to have to quickly restructure how we feed ourselves, house ourselves and transport ourselves.

By Briony Penn, May 2011

Will the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation log the ancient forests of Flores Island?

Nuu-chah-nulth territory, the edge of the world where Captain Cook decided to anchor his boat and step ashore, is back in the news again—indeed it has hardly been out of the news over the last 200 years. It has a habit of making us reconsider how the West relates to aboriginal cultures and the rich natural environment that supports their commitment to self-sufficiency.

The deep sheltered sounds and forests on the west coast of the Island have been branded as bonanzas for two centuries. From fur traders to sealers, miners to missionaries, and loggers to fish farmers, they come from all over the world. They come to conquer but inevitably fail. They come to domesticate and the wild inevitably wins. The priests’ feral cows, Cougar Annie’s dahlias, and the Norwegians’ Atlantic salmon don’t linger long. 

By Gene Miller, May 2011

Notes on the illusion of administrative triumph over the random and unknowable future.

It was a brilliant, crystalline moment. At the end of Saanich Councillor Vic Derman’s hour-long presentation called “The Natural City,” recently delivered to about 75 of us in a Reynolds High School auditorium, the first audience question came from a woman who noted: “When you asked us earlier about the most important feature of a single family home, I wasn’t thinking ‘the back yard.’ I was going to say ‘privacy.’” 

Vic had spent much of his hour logically building up the case for density. It was his point that carefully planned density represents victory over sprawl, that there are ecological and environmental imperatives for moving away from a car-based culture, and that nature and ecological design can be brought more fully into urban planning to produce an attractive arcadian urbanism.

By Aaren Madden, May 2011

With income and housing accessible for all, people in Janine Bandcroft’s dream city would be free to live their values.

It’s the late 1980s and Janine Bandcroft, a student at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, is filled with trepidation. Her History of Latin America teacher has urged her class to engage in social change instead of just studying it, so she ventures out to a meeting of the local Communist party. But instead of braving the red menace, she feels her entire worldview shift.

By Amy Reiswig, May 2011

Rosemary Neering’s latest book proves that even—or especially—in BC, life is pretty damned funny.

Think you know BC history? Are you up on the $5 million-a-year opium trade of the 1880s, complete with processing factory located behind today’s Victoria City Hall? Or how about how Richmond’s Lulu Island got its name, or that rogue camels once roamed Cadboro Bay, or that Russian anarchists ran a counterfeiting operation on Nootka Island?

By Christine Clark, May 2011

Boldy coloured and sculpturally complex, Jeff Molloy’s new work comments on Cuban realities.

It’s a grey, misty afternoon and I’m standing with a small group of foot passengers, all of us with either backpacks or duffel bags, waiting for the boat to dock at Gabriola and bracing ourselves for the inevitable bump against the pilings.

I’m here to meet Jeff Molloy, to visit his studio and to talk about his recent paintings, a series he calls Fachada Cubano (The Cuban Façade). He’s been working hard in preparation for his upcoming show at Winchester Galleries, which runs from May 7 to 28, and although the studio has (as he told me) been recently swept, there are the tell-tale signs of creativity everywhere, and especially on the walls. 

By Amanda Farrell-Low, May 2011

Ken Faulk’s painterly gaze is often drawn above the horizon.

Upon meeting Ken Faulks, one might not immediately peg him as a fine artist. The gregarious, down-to-earth man, who looks younger than his 40-odd years, seems more like the kind of guy who would be applying coats of paint to the side of a house as opposed to a canvas or piece of board. But Faulks is an accomplished Victoria artist who works in a wide variety of mediums, from digitally-crafted abstract works to hand-drawn illustrations to en plein air landscape paintings.

“It keeps me off the streets,” Faulks jokes. “It’s almost like a public service.”

Faulks only briefly flirted with the idea of living the blue-collar life. After graduating high school, he delivered for McGill & Orme Home Health Care and loaded trucks at Canadian Tire for a couple of years before deciding he wanted to do something different.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, May 2011

David Suzuki knows that Canadians need not choose between the environment and the economy.

In late March came the news that we would once again get to ride the $300 million election carousel—an exercise in stepping right up to go round and round and likely end up where we started. 

By Danda Humphreys, May 2011

Government grants another reprieve to long-time guardians of our coast.

The federal government’s recent decision not to remove staff from BC lighthouses has lightkeepers and sailors everywhere breathing a sigh of relief. For almost three decades, the government has maintained that, in these days of automated weather readers, foghorns, and other high-tech navigational aids, lightkeepers are obsolete. But here on our rough and rugged West Coast, they play a crucial role. 

Lighthouse-keepers have been part of our history since Fisgard Light was built in 1860 at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour. Eventually, more than two dozen lighthouses cast their warning beams along our coast. Stories of disasters and rescues abound, including a few in the first two decades of the 20th century that illustrate how lightkeepers saved others’ lives while risking—and sometimes losing—their own. 

By Leslie Campbell, April 2011

What doesn’t the CRD understand about its own regional growth strategy?

If there was ever any doubt in my mind that a resort involving 257 housing units, a spa, recreation centre, and store on land alongside the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail—a provincial park—should be denied, a gathering of 300 people in late March ended it.

We were sitting in the pews of the First Metropolitan Church. The event, hosted by half a dozen environmental and community groups, was facilitated by former federal environment minister David Anderson, who noted “Everyone in the province has an interest in protecting the park, so it isn’t entirely a [Juan de Fuca electoral area] issue.”

By Andrew MacLeod, April 2011

Concurrent provincial leadership races have given voters an unusually clear look at the parties’ core values.

In the March afternoon when Lieutenant Governor Steven Point swore in Christy Clark as premier of British Columbia, interim NDP leader Dawn Black observed, “Ms Clark never once mentioned the environment in her victory speech, nor today did she mention the environment.”

Nor for that matter had Clark said much about the environment throughout the campaign that saw her chosen leader of the BC Liberal Party, and thus premier of the province. Indeed, it was one of several key policy areas, including health and fighting poverty, that received scant attention.

There’s a reason she ignored those issues: she could. 

By Aaren Madden, April 2011

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond believes the most important thing Victoria can build for its kids is community.

Once when I was a child, my mother became suddenly ill. My sister and I were at school, so my younger brother Dustin set out to find her some help. He walked a block to the bus stop, waited, boarded the bus and told the driver to take him to a doctor. Dustin had just turned three at the time. With no way of knowing who this child belonged to, the flabbergasted driver drove him one stop and deposited him on the counter of the corner store—“John’s Store.” Upon seeing my brother’s familiar blond mop, John called my ailing mother. “He’ll be fine here with me,” he assured her. Dustin gleefully sat on the counter taking customers’ money until suppertime, when John brought him home, my mother now recovered. All was well (though admittedly, Mom was somewhat mortified).