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By Gordon O'Conner, February 2011

Proposals to extend municipal water services suggest the municipality is being primed for real estate development.

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By Briony Penn, February 2011

Corporate mergers raise questions about who really owns BC.

I used to report on the colourful species that inhabit this part of the world, but those articles are diminishing with their populations. Now I’m as likely to report on the colourful CEOs of companies who are doing their best to liquidate these last “distressed assets.” It’s quite a challenge, as one has to be able to follow the ever-changing mergers, selloffs and vertical integrations that the big players concoct through Byzantine-like structures and deals. 

One also has to be able to remember three-word acronyms which often change. To follow the money in this region right now, the most important ones to be aware of are BAM and TAM. Look out your window anywhere from Crofton to Sooke and you’ll be gazing at a piece of real estate owned in some fashion by BAM or TAM.

By Amy Reiswig, February 2011

Stephen Hume’s new book offers reflections on why we love this place.

Ah, February, when the minds of marketers turn to love. Often branded “V-month,” February can suffocate with its consumer focus—on candy, cards, roses, etc. But if you’re looking for something truly from the heart to nourish the heart, Stephen Hume’s recent collection of essays, A Walk With the Rainy Sisters: In Praise of British Columbia’s Places (Harbour Publishing, September 2010), offers one man’s deep, diverse and, ultimately, infectious love: of BC’s nature and people as well as a great and simple love of life itself. 

By Aaren Madden, February 2011

Jane Baigent’s fascination with rocks have nurtured her love of place.

One evening last fall, I sat at one of several tables in the new Vic West Community Centre with a few neighbours. There we were presented with a large map of the block of Craigflower Road containing the Spiral Café, Sailor Jack kids’ consignment and all the other great shops my family frequents.

By Mollie Kaye, February 2011

For the women of Chicktoria, online dating sites provide hard evidence of real, live, single men, right here.

I have a vivid memory of the visceral reaction I had 16 years ago at the home of some friends. They’d just revealed to me and my then-husband how they’d met—through a personal ad! No way! We tittered about them as we drove home. We had met at a party given by a mutual friend. They were SWM and SWF. We saw them as pathetic outcasts whose union was tainted from the word “go.” What sort of desperation led people to use the personal ads to find a spouse? 

At that time, in 1995, the web was in its infancy, and I hadn’t yet heard of anyone meeting their better half online—but if I had, you can bet I would have been equally derisive.

By Gene Miller, February 2011

Self-interest should be the starting point for Victoria’s transportation planning.

Hop in the car. What? Oh, you don’t like the butt-warmer? Just turn that thumb-wheel to zero. Not that one, that’s for dashboard lighting level.

Where are we going? We’re just conducting a Wednesday afternoon experiment. What does your watch say? 3:41? Good. So, here we are turning onto Blanshard from Broughton, by the Royal Theatre. We’ll stay to the right because cars can still make left turns up until four o’clock. Hey, nice! It’s 3:43 and we’re just hitting our first red light at Fisgard at the arena corner. Less than a minute later and we’re cruising through Bay Street when the traffic light second-counter still says five…four; and it looks like we’re going to make it through the Hillside Avenue green also. Damn! The truck ahead of us had to pause for a pedestrian, and now the light’s turning yellow.

By Rob Wipond, February 2011

How can we lift ourselves out of the despair our politicians too often inspire?

Former minister George Abbott introduced his campaign for the BC Liberal leadership by promising to give disengaged voters more say. “It’s how government makes their decisions that is just as important to people as what those decisions are,” he explained to a reporter.

I dropped my head into my hands. A string of exasperating political proclamations like this began the new year, each one hitting me more personally, until I didn’t know how to stop my descent into bitter cynicism.

Abbott’s 18-point plan for leading our government, entitled “The People are Coming,” included “promoting public participation in government decisions,” restoring regular legislature sittings, and championing “proactive disclosure of government information.” 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2011

That’s costing us too much, in too many ways.

When my children watched Sesame Street years ago, one of the skits they especially enjoyed involved a group of items and a discussion on how these were interconnected. What do these things have in common, the viewers were asked by way of a singing ditty that still hums around in my head once in a while. Sometimes the humming starts when I see issues with a significant cause-and-effect relationship nonetheless presented as polarized stories in the media.

By Linda Rogers, February 2011

Early music is enjoying a renaissance in Victoria.

What is more appropriate to the season of lengthening days than the word enlightenment? If winter is our Dark Age, the annual Pacific Baroque Festival, which has brought the sound of light to Victoria for a decade of Februarys, strikes promising notes for the gardening seasons.

This year’s festival is designated Stylus Fantasticus: Music for Bishops and Emperors, after the baroque flowering in Austrian music that followed the Thirty Years War, a shadow time for artists. The play of light and darkness, chiaroscuro, which gives an intense vitality to music of the Baroque period, is a metaphor that appears to reinvent itself at appropriate times.

By Mollie Kaye, February 2011

Danny Everett Stewart: seeing life’s intrinsic beauty.

It took love and death, according to artist Danny Everett Stewart, to extract him from Toronto’s big-city intensity. “I had two extremes, both pushing me.” His spouse Stephen had moved out here to Victoria, but Stewart was still reluctant. A few months later, he was robbed at gunpoint. Remembering that fateful day in 1994, he says, “I had four dollars on me—a two dollar bill in each pocket. They had the gun in my chest...I thought, ‘I’m dead, or I’m paralyzed.’ Everything had slowed down; not a car was going by, no one was around. Then, all of a sudden, everything sped up, cars went by, and [the assailants] were gone.”

By Danda Humphreys, February 2011

A burned-out brick façade reminds us of a former chief factor and mayor.

News of upcoming redevelopment in our historic Chinatown would bring a smile to the face of at least one long-ago civic personage if he were still around to hear it. Roderick Finlayson died almost 120 years ago, but his legacy will live on in a soon-to-be-revitalized Pandora Avenue building.

by Andrew Macleod, January 2011

The recent shake-up in BC politics may give politicians more room to say what they think.

Premier Gordon Campbell stepped down as Liberal leader in early November as his caucus quietly prepared to push him out, only to be followed a month later by opposition leader Carole James succumbing to a much more public coup in the New Democratic Party.

Both parties are seeking new leaders, and those who want the job would do well to consider some of the criticisms levelled at Campbell and James about the roles of MLAs in the government and their parties.

by David Broadland, January 2011

What are they hiding at Douglas and Pandora?

In late November, WikiLeaks, the organization founded by Julian Assange, began distributing transcripts of secret American government cables, and that unleashed a torrent of discussion around the globe about the efficacy of government secrecy. But almost immediately, the high-minded considerations about how much government secrecy is tolerable in a democratic society were pushed aside by the question of whether Julian Assange’s condom had merely leaked or was purposely torn. The trajectory of human progress is a rather like the flight of a butterfly, isn’t it? We’ll get there, but not in a straight line.

by Leslie Campbell, January 2011

How the City turns off the very citizens it needs. 

Do you have the sense that we are on some sort of cusp? People are demanding greater transparency from institutions as well as more involvement in decision-making the world over. “The public is feeling abused,” said a friend of mine. Yet, the powers-that-be are resistant—both on the macro, international levels, and the local ones—to sharing information and power. They have to be dragged into it via forced referenda, whistleblowers and auditor generals.

by Alexandra Morton, January 2011

An update from the frontlines in the battle to protect wild salmon.

A paper on sea lice released in December suggests that salmon farms or feedlots don’t have to be removed from wild salmon migration routes. This is very favourable to the Norwegian feedlot owners and indeed these are the only scientists who have been given salmon feedlot sea lice infection data. Gary Marty, first author on the paper, uses the affiliation of the University of Davis California, which suggests impartiality. However, he is a veterinarian for the provincial government and works closely with salmon farmers. 

by Rob Wipond, January 2011

Gordon Campbell’s reorganization of our resource ministries is costly, chaotic and destructive.

One of Gordon Campbell’s last major acts as BC Premier, a government reorganization, is old news. However, unless reversed by a new leader, the devastating consequences will be unfolding for years, from Peace River forests through bureaucratic halls to Victoria shores.

The decisions affected nearly every ministry, and thousands of civil servants. But the most significant changes hit our important resource ministries, where many of the highest-level decision-making branches and powers governing lands, mining, agriculture, energy, forests, fish and wildlife, water and the environment were moved to a new Natural Resource Operations (NRO) super-ministry. 

by Aaren Madden, January 2011

Victoria’s newest media source focuses on diversity for democracy’s sake. (They’re not in it for the money.)

The coffee shop is empty save for Andrew Ainsley and Chris Johnson, who are seated at a round wooden table concentrating on nearly-identical glowing white laptops that contrast with the knickknacks and scuffed pine and fir of table and floor. When I enter, they look up, fold their computers closed and slide them off the table in one smooth motion. As the main forces behind B Channel (, they squeeze work in wherever possible. 

by Gene Miller, January 2011

The New Year Message: not for the faint of heart.

So, in your version of the movie, who’s streaming across the border? Soulful young upstanding families? People calmly reading the classics as they walk? Tomorrow-eyed pioneers eager for organic farming opportunities in a new, healthy land? University professors, healers, poets, Pan-pipe-playing hippies wearing daisy-chain crowns, a vast creative community? And as they cross under the Peace Arch, we take them by the arm and lead them to a bounteous harvest meal and their new homes in Canada?

Give your head a shake and steady yourself.

By Briony Penn, January 2011

The vicissitudes of life in the intertidal zone mirror that of today’s middle class.

A new term has been coined to describe the disintegrating middle class of the western world—the precariat—who live a precarious and frantic existence of juggling jobs, families, mortgages and civic duties within a crumbling social and environmental net. 

The British economist Guy Standing, who coined the term, suggests that half the British population—shortly to swell ever larger as another 300,000 civil servants are dismissed by the Cameron regime—would describe themselves as members of this class. 

By Amy Reiswig, January 2011

The civilizing influence of children on a gold rush.

As the year turns over and many of us look forward to keeping (or breaking) resolutions, I look eagerly forward to the new crop of books from Victoria’s writing community—as strong and vibrant as arbutus in winter. What better way to inaugurate the new literary year than talking to Victoria’s currently-crowned Butler Book Prize winner, Frances Backhouse?