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by Sam Williams, November 2010

Did the City ignore the recommendations of their consultants on what to do with Big Blue? Or have they wisely adopted them? Did Delcan hype their report to profit from Infrastructure Stimulus Fund cash? Or will the bridge really collapse, as the Mayor has said, in any seismic event? Is a new bridge necessary for the greening of the City's transportation system, or is it being bought on impulse with little planning and knowledge of expected future use? Will fibs, big and small, win the referendum on November 20?

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by Leslie Campbell, November 2010

Scary stories in the last dash to the bridge referendum.

In my wanderings around town, I have been pleasantly surprised by the people who congratulate me on Focus’ coverage on the Johnson Street Bridge and tell me they plan to vote “No” in the November 20 referendum to replace it.

by Rob Wipond, November 2010

A public inquiry is revealing how BC’s Attorney General is letting BC’s legal system plunge into disarray and widespread injustice.

Let’s throw judges, Crown prosecutors and stenographers off the taxpayer gravy-train. Victims of crimes can pay the thousands of dollars per hour necessary to take criminals to court.

Sound like an unfair, unjust and, well, hugely stupid suggestion? Then is it really conversely acceptable to stop funding criminal defence lawyers?

This question was asked repeatedly during the Public Commission on Legal Aid in Victoria in October. The province-wide Commission was launched by the Canadian Bar Association, Law Society, and other legal organizations after years of growing public concern. By day’s end, it was clear BC’s justice system is in alarming trouble.

by Andrew MacLeod, November 2010

The large number of candidates opposed to a new bridge may split the protest vote and give the Mayor’s choice the edge.

Of the 11 people competing for the single open seat on Victoria city council in the November 20 by-election, at least six would make fine councillors and will likely find significant support from voters.

Oddly though, the race is stacking up to favour the candidate who may be the most out of step with the public sentiment on what’s emerging as the key issue—what to do about the Johnson Street Bridge.

“I hope we don’t just talk about the bridge,” said candidate Marianne Alto, who cites social issues like housing, mental illness and addictions among her interests. “I hope we have an opportunity during the campaign to talk about a variety of issues.”

by Aaren Madden, November 2010

For “economic artist” Donna Morton, sharing power in its many forms is essential to a healthy community.

Donna Morton imagines a scene taking place in the near future in the Hesquiaht community on Vancouver Island’s west coast. A wind tower, adorned by local carvers, stands tall behind the beautiful new school in Hot Springs Cove. Its turbine churns slowly and silently. On the shore in the tower’s shadow, the entire community watches a barge retreat, slowly and silently, to the horizon. It carries the community’s odious diesel-powered generator into the mist.

by Gene Miller, November 2010

Mike Littrell viewed history as the story of a culture’s effort to confront and heal its wounds.

Mike Littrell, cultural mythologist, died in hospice at the Royal Jubilee Hospital late in September, a month short of his 62nd birthday. He had a good death, though still a grief-filled loss to his friends and a loss to the world; but, then, time runs out for all of us and nature has a habit of being annoyingly vegetative and indifferent to sainthood.

by Briony Penn, November 2010

Delicious revenge or deep forgiveness? We have apt role models for each.

There are two good women on my mind this month: Lisbeth Salander, the girl who played with fire and Helen Stewart, the woman who aches for beauty. They have nothing in common. Yet, they have everything in common. Both are sick of the relentless exploitation of the vulnerable. 

One is a fictitious Pippy-Longstocking-turned-punk-hacker who takes out the bullies with cunning and force in a gritty crime novel set in urban Sweden. The other is a real mother-artist-turned-naturalist-writer who endures great loss and destruction by calling on the restorative quality of nature and art in a children’s book set in the forests of BC. 

by Amy Reiswig, November 2010

John Gould’s new novel blends humour and tragedy as it wrestles with some Big Questions.

We all want to cure disease. We want to cure disease so that people can live—our friends, family, even ourselves. But more people living longer means more consumption of resources, means more stress on the planet. So is curing disease really as good as it sounds? 

This is the kind of tough question Victoria writer John Gould doesn’t shy away from in his new novel Seven Good Reasons Not to be Good (HarperCollins, August 2010). With a background in philosophy and environmental studies, Gould is well-girded for battle with existential issues, and it turns out that some of his most useful tools are things like irony, deflation and laughter. At once heady and humorous, this is a book contemplating what it is to be alive. 

by Linda Rogers, November 2010

In her performance art, painter Sheila Norgate pokes fun at both the constraints of women and the realities of the artistic process.

In one of this year’s Fringe Festival shows, an actor sat naked onstage, allowing her audience the opportunity to interact, bringing their own expectations to the blank canvas she offered. The shape of every show depended on the connectivity of artist and theatre patron, a dynamic that gave everyone who participated in the exchange a heightened sense of the courage it takes to be an artist.

by Mollie Kaye, November 2010

Renowned potter Robin Hopper’s new glaze-paintings are just one reason to check out the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

Firmly rooted in my “city life,” Metchosin seems like a long haul; it really isn’t that far, but I do sense I’m in another world when I arrive at ’Chosin Pottery, the home, gallery and studio of celebrated local ceramicists Robin Hopper and his wife Judi Dyelle. Turning up their circular drive, the mature trees towering over the quaint heritage house are charming enough, but it’s the 2.5-acre, Japanese-inspired garden out back that really steals the show. On this dreary autumn day, I savour the decay, the colours and forms that the vegetation takes as it decomposes. I’m in a philosophical mood. Nothing dies, I’m thinking. It just changes. It becomes pure, nourishing energy to feed new life.

by Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, November 2010

A food garden will give you even more to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.

Back in June I wrote about growing food in the backyard and asked you to share your own gardening stories at the end of the harvest. We can all agree this wasn’t the best year for a garden, at least starting out: Spring was a cold clammy hand that wouldn’t let go. Then, almost overnight it seemed, we entered the season of heat and drought, punishing enough to flag even the dandelions. Did a fledgling food crop even stand a chance?

by Danda Humphreys, November 2010

The 1889 Provincial Court House in Bastion Square now houses a remarkable heritage collection.

More than 150 years ago, Bastion Square formed the northern perimeter of the Hudson’s Bay Company fort, but by the mid-1860s it was part of the newly incorporated City of Victoria. Gone were the fort’s palisades and square, rather bare buildings. Gone too were the bastions, or gun-towers, that had once stood sentinel over the Company’s finest. 

by Leslie Campbell, October 2010

Why did the City delete the original Delcan report?

Last month, Focus writer Sam Williams noted that the same consulting engineer who is now telling the City that a refurbished Johnson Street Bridge would cost $80 to $103 million, recommended—less than two years ago—a complete retrofit that would cost only $8.6 million.

Email from Delcan's Dr Joost Meyboom to City of Victoria's Mike Lai.

What gives? 

Admittedly the scope of the project has increased, but even allowing for meeting a higher seismic standard, the leap in cost is huge and needs to be explained in order for many of us to feel comfortable about how  we vote in the upcoming borrowing referendum on a new bridge.

by Ross Crockford, October 2010

Voting “no” on the delusions and deceptions of Victoria’s bridge project.

Not long ago, while looking through old newspapers, I found an omen of what may happen with the City of Victoria’s plans to replace the Johnson Street Bridge.

It was an ad in the December 8, 1948, edition of the Victoria Daily Times, when the City was four years into construction of the Memorial Arena. Back in 1944, Victoria needed a new hockey rink, and the City decided a landmark arena would commemorate those fighting in World War II. Estimates came in at $215,000, so a citizens’ group raised funds for the project, and voters passed a bylaw to borrow the rest.

Then construction started, and things went sideways.

by Sam Williams, October 2010

Is Postmedia placing a new bet on global warming?

According to a story in the September 15 Times Colonist, “Climate change could make Canada’s North an economic hothouse.” The article was based on an interview with UCLA geographer Laurence Smith, author of the new book The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future. The story quotes a “UCLA summary of Smith’s vision” as saying “While wreaking havoc on the environment, global warming will liberate a treasure trove of oil, gas, water and other natural resources previously locked in the frozen North, enriching residents and attracting newcomers.” This same story appeared in Postmedia’s daily papers across Canada.

by Rob Wipond, October 2010

Between rocks and hard places, flexibility is desperately needed.

I taught yoga at the prison for five years. If you’ve ever taken yoga, you know it’s common in the first class for instructors to ask if anyone has had any major injuries or surgeries during their lives. It’s a safety protocol, so the instructor can provide extra guidance to vulnerable students. Typically, two people in 20 mention a car accident or appendectomy.

My first day teaching at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre, though, was different. 

“I broke my hand when I punched a guy a few weeks back,” explained one inmate. He followed that with an incredible childhood tale of an abusive father, run-down truck, and backyard scrap heap. “My feet were crushed.” 

by Briony Penn, October 2010

Heroes of coastal ecosystem protection are not extinct… yet.

Last month, I wrote about unreported crimes against the natural world, and got feedback that the next column should be on the unreported heroes trying to prevent those unreported crimes.

Some of you will have come across Laura Matthias before. She’s a Balkan Babe—one of the talented, young, all-female singing group that won a prestigious place in the national showcase of top Canadian singing ensembles this time last year. She’s also the author of ExtraVeganZa—a best-selling vegan cookbook that makes eating vegan a culinary adventure, not an ethical ordeal. 

by Linda Rogers, October 2010

A show of this master artist’s work will raise funds for the disease that claimed his wife.

In the First Nations belief system, there are four stages of human existence: birth, reproduction, death, and the spirit life. The final stage is a natural transition, just as rotting trees become a nursery for seedlings. While all of us die, some get to live on in constructive ways. 

That is the legacy of artist Herbert Siebner—we won’t say painter because that is too narrow a definition of his fluency which included pottery, lithography, silkscreen, woodcut, encaustic, and sculpture as well. Siebner’s overflowing exuberance extends past the boundaries of his life, which ended in 2003, to include a posthumous generosity.

by Amy Reiswig, October 2010

Set in Bangladesh and Salt Spring Island, a debut novel takes us on a trip through world events and the psyche.

Walking the winding, autumn-spiderwebbed path to Peggy Herring’s front entrance, one passes a strange wooden door in the middle of the rocky garden. A hedonistic—and, in this residential neighbourhood, slightly scandalous—outdoor shower? “No,” says the resident. “My nine-year-old son asked if we could hang a door there. So I did,” she laughs, flashing the open and playful mind that makes this mother, traveller and writer a master craftsperson of unexpected doors.

by Mollie Kaye, October 2010

Chin Yuen helps us visualize energy on a human, and planetary, scale.

As soon as we hear, touch, or lay eyes on something, we’ve got a story about it; it’s unavoidable. This is the nature of our human experience, and also what makes art, in all its forms, so subjective. Before us is the text or image in its literal or physical “truth” (whatever that may be), but within us is the subtext and meaning, informed by our collective experience, based entirely on our minds’ and hearts’ interpretation—an infinite number of interpretations, because inevitably they change as we evolve, moment by moment.