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By 10 local marine scientists, December 2013

Scientists on sewage treatment

Focus Readers, February 2016

Super Intent City

An excellent article by Leslie Campbell on the homeless camp. Perhaps we should all be grateful to the Intent residents for forcing this issue onto the front page instead of languishing among everyone’s “to do” lists. Six weeks of mud and cold are more than most advocates could—or would—endure for a cause. Maybe we should give them a medal!

Instead of spreading fear, Central Middle School and its parent advisory council should be seizing this opportunity for education. Almost every camper, from military veteran to outdoor enthusiast, has a story to tell if teachers have enough courage to cross the street and take their classes to meet them. What could be more important to our children than learning that we are all citizens, we all have rights and we all have something to share. It is up to us to make this issue our issue, not just “their” issue.

Alison Acker


Focus readers, January 2016

Scientists to CRD: petition the feds

In their call for an “evidence-based approach to developing sewage treatment for Victoria,” the marine scientists (Jay Cullen et al) make some claims that require further discussion.

The authors state, “In light of the experience with PCBs, governments were unwise to allow the use of various polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as flame retardants in furnishings and other products. Their use is also now being banned, but concentrations may continue to increase for awhile. Wastewater is presently an important route to the ocean but sewage treatment is only partly effective.”

Focus Readers, December 2015

The last strategic vote

Editor Leslie Campbell is far too hasty in writing her obituary for strategic voting in the November 2015 edition. Every electoral system carries its own political calculus and strategic opportunities and it is always a mistake to underestimate voters’ inclinations to utilize them.

Even where proportional representation promises to make every vote count, if some voters feel they can strategically achieve a larger political goal by abandoning their most preferred candidate and/or party they will do so just as much as under our first-past-the-post system. Their disposition toward a particular individual, to a governing party, or to the potential membership of a coalition government can still override any primary personal preference. Much will depend on the strength of that preference and their optimism about the odds of it being a winning choice.

Focus readers, November 2015

An absence of evidence

Great article by David Broadland on the sewage plant and evidence-based decision making. Unlike many opinion pieces, you actually name names, particularly Murray Rankin’s. Good for you!

I have been an opponent of the sewage plant pretty much from day one and particularly from the point that I read the SETAC Report which acknowledged there was no science behind the decision. Yes, it did weakly endorse the project, saying we should do it anyway to improve our image, and—really big arm-wave here—because sometime in the future when the population increases the ocean-based system might actually have a real problem with polluting the marine environment.

Focus readers, October 2015

Stop Harper—and beyond

In her comment piece, Jo-Ann Roberts condemns party discipline in Parliament. I disagree with her for three reasons:

First, permitting more independence for local MPs would reduce democracy as much as it increased it. It is unusual for voters to know local candidates well enough to vote for them rather than their party. Most of us vote based on a party’s policies and its leader, not on the opinions of our local candidate. I have no idea what my MP’s personal views on many issues are, but I do know what his party’s are.

Second, empowering local MPs could lead us into the morass that the US is in, where congresspeople vote based on the needs of the local interests that finance their elections. This means that wealthy local interests control many representatives’ votes. Goodies for local business interests are tacked onto unrelated bills to buy the votes of individual congresspeople.

Focus readers, September 2015

Saanich investigations

The continuing saga about the trials and tribulations of Saanich and its bureaucrats makes me wonder just how much of that sort of thing is going on in other districts, things that are escaping the public eye and ear. As an example, how many in camera meetings are used for things they were not intended for? How much is being hidden from the taxpayers? How much erroneous information is spread? And how many council members are afraid to speak up to the mayor or CAO? I am certain Saanich is not alone with its problems and would like to see Focus investigate other community councils and staff to see what’s going on.

P. D. Davidson


Focus Readers, July/August 2015

The Whistle Blower’s Tale: Part 2 

I appreciated David Broadland’s article, “The Whistle Blower’s Tale: Part 2.” If the facts are accurate as reported I fail to understand: (1) why employees of the District of Saanich continue to be employed in light of their incompetence regarding the procurement and implementation of the software; (2) how these employees are allowed to disregard and violate their own regulations/ethics; and (3) why the IT employee is the only one showing moral courage by stating the obvious (rather than saying “I don’t know”) and is subsequently disciplined for telling the truth.

When will we as citizens insist on professional behaviour, ethical behaviour and moral comportment from those we put in office and those who are hired to do their bidding?

Focus readers, June 2015

Thoughts on the need for respect

On the evening of April 13, 2015, at a Saanich Council meeting, Councillor Judy Brownoff took the chair and addressed the standing-room only crowd of residents (average age 55+) about the need for respect, before any member of the public had spoken. Indeed, we were subjected to a total of four such lectures during the evening. While I respect Councillor Brownoff’s right to her opinion, I would respectfully like to express a different one.

Focus Readers, May 2015

Petrostate clampdown

Activist Ruth Miller is not too far off the mark when, in Judith Lavoie’s April article, she compares Harper and the Conservative government’s behaviour to Hitler’s and his Nazis.

Bill C-51, combined with C-13, C-44 and C-639, will allow the Conservatives, and successive governments, to ignore the Canadian Constitution and Charter rights, and they will have the right to bypass the courts on all surveillance decisions. The passage of these bills effectively legalizes a totalitarian dictatorship not unlike that found in East Germany before reunification and in Germany under Hitler.

If Harper is allowed to continue with his plan to disrupt and criminalize dissent, democracy in Canada will cease to exist. Voting will become more of a sham than it already is.

Focus readers, April 2015

The deer question

Thank you for the excellent story on Oak Bay’s deer. There has been so much misinformation coming from Oak Bay’s mayor that the majority of Oak Bay and other community residents do not know what to believe. Ms Campbell’s article set most of the facts straight out. There has been little other media coverage of these fabrications and I knew that Focus would not be afraid to investigate and comment. Traps placed on private property, obviously to protect gardens, are not helping the deer/vehicle safety issue which the mayor touted from the onset. These mistruths are going to come back and haunt him.

Ingrid Brown


Thank you Focus for this stirring editorial. It scientifically revealed the futility driving the unconscious lurch to kill yet another animal in the name of safety and beauty. 

Focus Readers, March 2015

TC’s coverage of Richard Atwell

David Broadland’s piece on the Saanich municipal election, its aftermath and the way other news media outlets covered it is the finest piece of municipal reporting I have seen in a long time (Focus, February 2015).

Broadland’s points on the all-too-common use of “sources say” are well-taken. In addition, news media outlets that regularly recite the phrase might want to consider that to the informed reader, it hints at a questionable story.

Some respected newspapers simply will not run stories that include any anonymous sources. At the very least, the “sources” (and I suspect there is often only one) should be identified in general terms, such as “a Saanich police department employee,” even if their names are not published.

Thanks again to Broadland for taking a hard look at the previously unreported murkiness in the back rooms of Saanich’s Old Guard.

Focus Readers, February 2015

Saanich spyware issue

On January 14 two conflicting press releases were issued regarding Saanich Mayor Atwell’s allegation of spyware software being installed on his work computer without his consent. The press release from Saanich claimed the installation is legal, but the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner suggests it violates privacy law.

The Saanich statement acknowledged that Spector360 software was purchased on November 21, 2014 (just after the municipal election while Mayor Leonard was apparently still responsible for the municipality).The software vendor says it is meant to “Deter, detect and detail harmful employee activity.” Basically it takes a picture of the computer screen every second and logs every keystroke.

Focus readers, January 2015

When voter suppression comes calling

The Harper Conservatives picked the wrong person to mess with when they rigged the 2008 election against Briony Penn. The fact that she is very articulate and bright has come back to haunt them in the form of her sharp observations of their sleazy undemocratic ways, and this is the silver lining of what went wrong in Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008. I, for one, hope to attend the Focus/Open Cinema film preview and discussion on this subject on January 28. Thank you Focus for all your dedicated, smart writers. 

Mark Fornataro


Focus readers, December 2014

Vote for Mayor Squishy

My oh my, Gene, what was that which you must have dumped into your yuppie porridge this morning? Too many sour left-wing grapes? It must have given you the bends! Please, a little more civility would be nice.

First off, full disclosure: I am an unpaid volunteer, a door-to-door “leafleteer,” campaigning for Victoria mayoral candidate Ida Chong.

Why? Because I believe she has the experience to assume this office and, I hope, to work with fellow Victorians (not exclusively councillors and City Hall desk-pilots) to help get our fair city “back.”

The drift from that collection of councillors and bureaucrats over the past three years has been dreadful. Victorians have not been served at all, especially on the blue bridge, sewage and local taxation.

Why? History will figure it out, but I believe between council and staff, no one was bright enough to “do the jobs.”

Focus readers, November 2014

Sleeping with the fossils

David Broadland’s “Sleeping with the Fossils” is excellent reporting. Evidence of the comfortable relationships between government and industry are everywhere we choose to look, and you are certainly looking in the right places with the Environmental Assessment Office, a few ministries, and especially the Oil and Gas Commission. At the OGC, it sometimes looks like they’ve all been to a key party with the gas industry, and on Monday everyone looks forward to seeing who they’ll be working with that week.

October 2014

Winner of letter writing contest.

In the July edition of Focus, a concerned citizen ran an advertisement calling on the CRD to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that would compare the CRD’s proposed plan for McLoughlin Point, the current screened sewage discharge system, as well as one of the variations of expanded treatment being proposed by region citizens.

To encourage the public to write to their political representatives and request such an analysis, a prize of $1000 was offered for the letter “judged to present the best case,” with all letters received eligible for a draw for a $300 prize.

The winner of the draw is David Ferguson. The following letter, written by Brian Belton, was chosen for the $1000 prize. Belton also sent his letter to the federal and provincial Ministers of Environment and the Chair of the CRD Board.


Waste not, want not

By Brian Belton

Focus Readers, October 2014

The high cost of conducting the public’s business in private

More open decision making is not going to improve things if the structure in which those decisions are made is flawed. As some members of the CRD are saying, the Regional District model is not suitable for large metropolises dealing with complex infrastructure projects and services and they have called for a provincial review of this arrangement. 

Amalgamation Yes has also called for the Province to look at options for better local government. It’s the job of the senior government to see that local government works well. Evidence of failure here is manifold. Calls are being made but no one is answering the phone.

John Olson


Victoria taxes and the election

Focus readers, September 2014

The truth about dilbit

In your July/August issue, Katherine Palmer Gordon comprehensively addressed the question whether a dilbit (diluted bitumen) spill will or will not float. But there is a simple solution to the problem: Don’t send any dilbit down a pipeline, and don’t ship it by tanker. Instead, construct an Alberta refinery near the oil sands, or if you prefer, at the BC/AB border, and transport only refined westbound petroleum products by pipeline and then by tanker. The refined products float, are far easier to clean up than dilbit, and land or sea spills are appreciably less damaging to the environment than dilbit spills. 

Focus readers, July/August 2014

Statins in the real world

In his recent article, Alan Cassels, quoting Dr Batrice Golomb, was being kind when he said, “…when physicians misunderstand the evidence of harm of statins ‘many patients remain on the drugs and die.’” My choice of words would have been something more like “when physicians are inexcusably ignorant of the evidence of the harm of statins…” In this world of Google, typing in “statins + side effects” brings up a whole raft of links that, for any thinking person, would at least raise some kind of cautionary flag—enough so that a few pointed inquiries before prescribing these drugs would be in order.

Richard Weatherill


What would Gandhi do? 

Focus readers, June 2014

A wonderful read

What a wonderful read, back to front, the May issue of Focus is.

Starting with Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s “Composting Conundrum,” surprise, surprise; Victoria’s composting program is not working as planned and now all kitchen scraps will be shipped to Richmond for 20 months at a cost of $4.7 million. Of course, Victoria did not have a Plan B in place. Gracious, the only Plan A Victoria has is a Fortin photo-op. Forget about rewarding ratepayers for composting, they will have a green bin and pay for it used or not. Mind you, for $4.7 million, Victoria could hire four people at $50,000-a-year to go around and build and turn everyone’s compost heap for the next 23 years.

Focus Readers, May 2014

Concern about political ad 

I write to you today to express my deep concern about a paid advertisement from CAIA Victoria which claims that Israel is guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” This is an outright lie which is propagated by, among others, the organization sponsoring the ads—which is devoted to dismantling Israel as a Jewish homeland. You can find a detailed and thoughtful discussion of “ethnic cleansing” at where it is defined as: the attempt to get rid of (through deportation, displacement or even mass killing) members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically homogenous geographic area.

Focus readers, April 2014

A pivotal moment

Many thanks to Focus for continuing to cover the sewage issue. Shameful that our CRD directors can’t get off the rock often enough to learn that land-based communities simply pick up the phone and order an out of the box tertiary system when needed, and not fumble about for almost a decade spending tens of millions of dollars to choose an antiquated technology that will not meet the evolving complexity of our waste. 

Our sophisticated soup of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and the toxic leachate from our landfill will continue to be pumped into the ocean with the secondary system the CRD is championing. We have an opportunity here to uphold our reputation as an innovative green community. How could we be so far behind the crowd that we can’t even see what the finish line could look like?

Shellie MacDonald


Focus readers, March 2014

Christy Clark’s terrifying math

I want to thank David Broadland for clarifying “Christy Clark’s terrifying math.” As David says “Twenty-odd years doesn’t leave much time to reshape the world economy to run on low- or no-carbon energy.” To stay within the range of a 66 percent chance of keeping temperature rise to 2?C we need the leadership of the Premier in promoting alternate forms of energy, not an active encouragement of the exploration and development of traditional fossil fuels and the global warming that form of industry brings. 

Bob Peart, Executive Director, Sierra Club BC


I was most impressed with your February issue, with no fewer than three major articles sounding the alarm about pipelines, global warming, the power of the oil and gas industry and the head-in-the-sand reaction of leaders like Christy Clark and Stephen Harper.

Focus Readers, February 2014

Who will pay for heritage?

I am compelled to write to bring some clarity to the issues raised in this article. There are several errors in fact including the notion that the National Historic site designation of the Binning House gives it protection. Unfortunately, this designation carries no protection; it is a ceremonial commemoration only.

This article is a good example of “cherry-picking” – the selection of examples that fit the thesis with no mention of those who do not. There is no mention of Langley Heritage Society that currently manages 8 buildings and assisted in the restoration of 7 more in conjunction with the Greater Vancouver Regional District. It is the most successful non-profit society operating heritage sites in BC, perhaps in all of Canada.

Truth and irreconciliation?

As I read the excellent and deeply moving article “Truth and irreconciliation?” by Katherine Palmer Gordon I felt angry, heart sick, and powerless. The very idea that victims of sexual abuse are forced to testify before government lawyers in a quasi-legal setting, and given points relating to the level of abuse is to me an indication of the heartlessness of the whole process. It makes me shudder to think of the type of people who could think up such a system.

And when I read about the federal government’s nutritional tests in which children were starved to study the effects of poor nutrition, it was too much, tears rolled down my cheeks.

Wildlife, wild strife

After reading the article “Wildlife, wild strife” I wondered how the writer and the scientists questioned could overlook the most glaring example of the species that is doing the most damage to the environment, mowing down whole hillsides of native species of trees, plants and wildlife habitat, building highways through wildlife corridors, erecting more and more cell phone towers across the countryside,which are taking a terrible toll on songbirds, polluting streams and rivers, spewing poisons into the atmosphere, creating dams and pipelines, changing the face of the Earth forever. How can that compare to the damage done by a deer who has lost his/her natural habitat and has been forced to migrate into our urban one for survival? 

The deer is being made the scapegoat here because we can’t admit that we are the most destructive species this Earth has ever seen.

Val Boswell


The gift of understanding

The loving portrait of Leslie’s mum’s deteriorating health due to childhood radiation exposure was a gift to us all. 

I was saddened by the story—her physician X-rayed her brain for an infection of the scalp, unaware of the harm. Outrageous today, but in that time (1932) X-ray technology was widely adopted without rigourous testing for potential long-term damage.

Once again we are hurtling headfirst into unknown territory with our brains and whole bodies irradiated with medical imaging and wireless microwave radiation from cell towers, mobile phones, tablets, “smart” meters, and other Wi-Fi exposures.

The sewage treatment question

Many thanks for your editorial urging the CRD to “get their shit together.”

My wife and I moved to Victoria in 1980 and have lived in several parts of the city. We have developed a great appreciation of it and respect for it. 

From its very conception of the various routes and choices of locations for the sewage disposal plans, the CRD has exhibited a callous dislike of the very environment in which we city-dwellers live. I recall one of the routes proposed for an excrement pipeline along Dallas Road and in James Bay, right next to Beacon Hill Park. The present idea is to build a plant, the design of which has never been published in its present form, at the very entrance to our harbour; and then there’s the 36 kilometres of pipeline to and from the Hartland yard. 


Cry my beloved city

Our magnificent little city is in peril. The core of this wonderful Greater Victoria Regional District is showing signs of rot.

Victoria, with its small population of 75,000 largely modest-income citizens and fragile business community is fast being overwhelmed by huge financial undertakings, undertakings far exceeding the population’s financial capability. Well over 50 percent of the population are tenants; well over 90 percent of the business community are tenants—and they are showing signs of trouble.

The city I love, the city that has given us so much, needs capable leadership. It needs a well-informed mayor and city manager to meet the natural challenges of city governance.

Inspiring a girl to vote

I applaud Sandy Mayzell’s mission to educate young people, and particularly girls, to the possibilities of changing our country through the political process. I saw no mention, however, of the history of politics and women of colour. While the “Persons Case” declared women to be persons under Canadian law in 1929, Aboriginal women, Asian women and other women of colour waited much longer for the opportunity to be seen as agents and persons in their own right, as well as waiting much, much longer for the right to vote. Aboriginal women and men were first granted the right to vote federally in 1960; and until Bill C-35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights in 1985, Aboriginal women (and their children) lost their Aboriginal status if they married men who were not Aboriginal.

Grassroots copwatch

Simon Nattrass very effectively covers two indispensable steps toward policing accountability and fairness: an end to 1) discrimination (“profiling”), and 2) selective harassment and prosecution of low income persons, often engaged in the substance use economy (i.e. “drug dealers” and “abusers.” It’s worth noting that legal pharmaceuticals kill many more people than all street drugs combined, including crystal meth, according to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

A critical element remains before full accountability and fairness can occur. When Ben Isitt proposed revisions to the police budget to contain costs last year, no council members supported the motion. This year he proposed capping the 2014 and 2015 police budgets at no more than a one percent increase, an initiative supported by councillors Helps and Gudgeon.

Romancing the harbour

The harbour affair certainly does raise questions about governance in the region. There are many problems, and they stem from the fact that the region should be a metropolitan city but is not. Instead we have the CRD. Where a metro-run transit department should exist—as in OC Transpo in Ottawa (and this arose after the Ottawa region had to amalgamate)—there is BC Transit and various committees. Without metropolitan government, odd entities like the harbour authority arise. The province apparently cannot demand amalgamation, as was the case in Ontario some decades ago. So the real question for the region isn’t: What’s next for the harbour authority (or for that matter, transit authority)? It is: How will Victoria ever unify into a coherent metropolitan city with professional operating divisions capable of running services such as the harbour and transit?

John Olson


A significant risk

I would like to thank Leslie Campbell for her February editorial with its poignant report of her conversation with Beverley Mitchell. The whole piece spoke in clear and completely understandable human terms about the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, as she sat looking out of Bev’s window pondering the outcome of an oil spill in our front yard. 

Not only is media reportage often unreliable but sometimes even well-informed writing is couched in terms that make it difficult to fully understand the implications for the general reader. 

Dr Graham’s presentation at the hearings was hugely significant. I also particularly liked, in Bev’s letter to BC’s Minister of the Environment, her reference to Jesus walking on the water because, in many ways, miracles are what are often being discussed regarding the progress of these oil tankers. This one has particular significance coming from a Sister of St Ann’s!

Turning the City around before it sinks 

Bravo Leslie on your January Editor’s Letter about the City of Victoria’s budget. Your argument that the staff complement and the excessive wages are the main problem to tackle in order to bring fiscal sanity to City Hall is accurate. But City finances and the challenge ahead are even more dire than you suggest.

First, it’s hardly something to cheer about when council has agreed to limit tax increases to 3.25 percent over the next three years. Based on recent inflation of less than one percent, it still represents an increase of more than three times the rate of inflation.

The cost to taxpayers of an average City worker is $91,000 including benefits and employer costs, according to your numbers. This analysis excludes the City tax contribution to the Capital Regional District and that rich layer of bureaucracy.

Getting a grip on spending at City Hall

Victoria City council has started budget-building with a target of no more than a 3.25 percent tax increase every year for the next three years. From watching the initial steps in the process, the public must imagine that they’re watching a B-movie train-wreck in slow motion.

We have seen a collection of unrelated decisions that won’t do a lot to help meet the target. And these have been followed by backtracking that must have most people scratching their heads.


Focus apologizes for two errors in last month’s edition. First we misspelled Joyce Clearihue’s name in the “Survivors” story. And second, we misidentified the jewellery designer for the Langham Court Theatre’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”—the correct name is Joyce Bezusko. Our sincere apologies!


The case for electroshocking Mia

Thank you to Focus and Rob Wipond for the horrifying exposé of VIHA and the BC Mental Health Act. I felt like I was reading something out of an ancient crime drama when reading about Mia. I can’t believe that we can’t opt out of such a questionable treatment in our Advance Directives.

Joanna Wilkinson


Will a flu shot keep you healthy?

Thank you for including this informative article. The general public is extremely vulnerable with regard to pharmaceuticals, and well-researched, unbiased information such as this is critical to making good personal choices for health. 

Candis Elliot


BC battles Northern Gateway

Thank you for your editorial on Enbridge and its Northern Gateway project. Vocal opposition is growing. It is grassroots and widespread, despite Mr Harper’s claims that opponents are just foreign extremists. 

Enbridge is just one head of the hydra. If Northern Gateway doesn’t fly, there are several other pipelines—Kinder Morgan, Pembina, etc.—waiting in the wings. They will, if approved, carry bitumen from Alberta and fracked un-natural gas from BC and Alberta to service the ravening maw of the Chinese market, which Harper seems determined to feed. China is being given increasing and unexamined control of the Canadian economy with no real benefit for Canadians. We are fast becoming a petrostate with all the lack of democracy and environmental degradation that involves, as we are swept backwards into a role we should have outgrown—hewers of wood and drawers of water. 

Infected at birth

When in early August a Facebook friend posted a copy of the “150 Forward” poster promoting Victoria’s 150th Anniversary Celebration, I was reminded of Rob Wipond’s  article in Focus. I found Rob’s examination of Tom Swanky’s new book, The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific, compelling and devastating. I commented on my friend’s post that while Victoria is a lovely city well worth celebrating, a silent vigil of remembrance is also called for. I pointed her and other friends to Rob’s article and Tom’s book for an explanation as to why a vigil is in order. Kudos to Rob and Focus and particularly to Tom Swanky and his monumental detective work for providing a more fulsome presentation of the historical record. It deserves our vigilant and respectful attention.

Patrick Wolfe


May Day, M’aidez

Thank you very much for publishing this article by Dr Briony Penn in your June edition. All she writes is so true and terrifying. I am circulating the article to everyone I know.

Dr Pamela Stanton


Thank you for your continued commitment to excellence in both the content of Focus and the calibre of your columnists and journalists.

Briony’s article “May Day, m’aidez” on Bill C38 exposes the frightening agenda of our Federal government. It’s a sad commentary on the priorities of the Harper government when our school children are flown across the country in order to study and glorify war, while huge cuts are made to Parks Canada and environmental protection agencies are gutted.

Gail Pritchard


Drawing a line in the sand

Thank you for the excellent editorial about Enbridge. You listed all the sad details so well—the suspicious Federal Government accusing those concerned with being “radicals” and “extremists” (as a pensioner, I don’t think I fall into that category); the dangerous channel the tankers will travel down; the sincere concerns of the First Nations; the rush to send our resources overseas; the fact that Enbridge apparently contributed a $32,000 donation to the BC Liberals; and the insulting impression that the Prime Minister has already decided that the pipeline and tankers will happen regardless of thousands of Canada’s citizens giving testimony at the hearings.

Maureen Applewhaite


Re: Forced drugging of seniors still increasing

I was very surprised to learn in Rob Wipond’s recent column that I am a “dogged campaigner against civil rights.”

Re: Digging for copper in the Sistine Chapel, March 2012

Environmental gobbledegook continues to run about as often as the logging trucks up and down the Sooke Road.

In the review of Wade Davis’ The Sacred Headwaters, we read that it’s not “just another photo essay” about a landscape “about to be pulverised;” we hear about communities being “ripped apart” by globalization; about a narrative being not about “mines or no mines,” but rather about “how many, where, and to whose benefit;” that we should be standing as one in a chorus of “These places are too valuable to destroy.”

Opportunity lost

I just returned to Victoria from a year travelling through southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand and was shocked to find the Johnson Street Bridge missing. Or at least part of it. So I picked up my favourite local magazine to find out what had happened and there it was—on the back cover!

Where did they send it? The moon? Mars? They should have sent it to the intersection of the Trans Canada and McKenzie Avenue. They didn’t? Another lost opportunity.

Whereever it is now, the last flight of the Blue Bridge must have been a real blast!

Thanks Denton Pendergast—for the laugh.

Allan Charlesworth


Smoke and mirrors at City Hall

For those who have not watched a sheep-herding demonstration, I commend to you a Victoria City Council committee of the hopeless I snoozed through recently.

Re: Hidden surveillance, Feb 2012

Am I the only person who had alarm bells with Rob Wipond’s article on surveillance? Combine this vehicle surveillance with the “communication devices” we will soon have on our homes (Smart Meters), the soon-to-be BC Identity Card, internet providers giving us updated wireless devices, and we have something frightening going on. Do the government and the police think we are stupid? There is no doubt in my mind that everything about us will soon be known to these agencies. Everything. The computers for these agencies will be “talking to each other” and gathering data about all of us. The days of privacy are soon to be a thing of the past unless we rise up and do something about it. Great article, Rob.

Lia Fraser


I wonder how Rob Wipond will react when Canada begins buying unmanned drones like the ones being operated along the 49th parallel by the DEA/Homeland Security?

Re: Derailed, January 2012

I’m extremely happy that Ross Crockford and others worked to get real informed debate happening over the Johnson Street bridge. But if he’s impressed with the Dallas Trinity diesel commuter rail line’s weekday ridership of 9800, maybe he’d like my collection of wind-up toys.

The Dallas Fort Worth metro area is the fourth-biggest city in the US, with about 6.4 million people. Trinity ridership represents a whopping 0.0015 percent of the city’s people. By contrast, Calgary has 1,240,000 people and the C-Train tram network carries 252,600 weekday passengers, or more than one Calgarian in five.

It’s a gigantic loss that Victoria lost its rail link into downtown; the province seems oblivious. The solar system revolves, as we know, around the mainland.

Re: Hunter, Luton and Lucas booted off council, Dec 2011

Thank you for the article by David Broadland writing about Victoria City council electoral changes. Almost all of my friends and acquaintances here in Fairfield were unusually concerned with this last election. Nearly all wanted much more clarity and transparency from the City, particularly with respect to financial issues. Many of us want a Council that knows the difference between needs and wants. Canada’s rough times are far from over, so we must deal only with essential issues for the near future. 

Ron and Alexandra Stewart


One of the major bricks in the City’s platform to sell a new Johnson Street Bridge was that it needed to be seismically safe. But if Victorians were asked to vote tomorrow on which project is more pressing as far as the safety of the city goes, would it be a new bridge, or would it be a seismically safe Number One Fire Hall?

Re: November edition of Focus

The articles in this month’s magazine are absolutely great. I personally learned a lot from them all. Thank you to all the authors of the articles for writing without any embellishments. This is why I always try to pick up Focus. I never buy newspapers.

As far as I am concerned all of you should be at City Hall. Boy, what a great team you would make.

Suzanne Couch


Re: False idol of infrastructure, Nov 2011

All levels of government, whether they be municipal, provincial or federal have lost their way vis à vis priorities. Poverty and affordable housing are the two most urgent issues across the country, not that you’d know it by the media coverage.

Re: Letters, Oct 2011

Dr Kendall appears to miss some important parts of the WHO/IARC news release. Part of the reason radio frequencies were classified as a group 2b carcinogen is their association with some very serious benign tumours. The Lancet article he refers to also states “The Working Group also reviewed many studies with endpoints relevant to mechanisms of carcinogenesis, including genotoxicity, effects on immune function, gene and protein expression, cell signalling, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. Studies of the possible effects of RF-EMF on the blood-brain barrier and on a variety of effects in the brain were also considered.”

Dr Kendall does not acknowledge that virtually all the research reports state the health effects generally take 10 years before their negative effects are noticed. One should also be aware that the studies defined high cell phone use as half an hour a day. 

Re City shoots taxpayers in the foot, on the bridge, September 2011

I think I can assure Mr Broadland that there is no need to worry about whether the service life of the Blue Bridge replacement is 75 years or 100 years.

Eighty-five years ago, the City politicians built a three-lane bridge to cross the harbour. Now they want to build another three-lane bridge as a replacement for the existing structure. What is terribly wrong with this picture?

According to BC Stats, there were an additional 16,675 licensed passenger vehicles on the road in Victoria in the 2000 to 2010 timeframe, which represented a 12.8 percent growth in that decade.

Poppycock at City Hall

Election season is upon Victoria, and for city taxpayers there is a serious issue of soaring property taxes, bloated City staff, and the veracity of council itself.

In a letter to ratepayers this year, Dean Fortin wrote: “For 2011, City Council approved an overall property tax increase of 3.96 percent.”

This is utter poppycock, and Fortin is treating voters as nitwits. Even the Times Colonist had to admit it was a minimum seven percent hike, but the reality is even more, for property assessments have risen and that means more taxes.

Let’s take the City’s own figures: According to the fact sheet, the general tax rate is up eight percent. That translates to 16.15 percent on a house with an average assessment increase. 

Re: A Silent Spring for Psychiatry, June 2011

In your editorial you state at one point that in 2008, 1 in 76 people suffered a mental illness and then you state that 1 in 50 suffer bipolar depression. This latter number seems ridiculously high, but it is impossible to have 1 in 50 with bipolar depression if only 1 in 76 suffer mental disease. Did you drop a zero somewhere?

This is a dangerous article. It makes no distinctions between severe clinical depression and the type of “depression” which a few decades ago was more about 1970s housewives being bored with being 1970s housewives. It makes no distinction between serious mental illnesses and the minor phobia that I have. 

A Dream of Sagacity in Ottawa (May 2011)

The very good qualities Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic praises David Suzuki for—and then some—are in fact available in one of our national party leaders: Elizabeth May. No need to dream or “fantasize,” Trudy. Just eschew the rest of the media’s shunning of Ms May and the Green Party, and you will help to familiarize Canadians with a woman named by Newsweek as one of the world’s 100 most influential women. Perhaps you can do your part to see that one day soon she is prime minister, since obviously Mr Suzuki never has, and never will apply for the position.

Murray Gudmundson


The Future: Let’s Procrastinate Until Then (May 2011)

Re: Can Wi-Fi Harm Kids? March 2011

Mr. Wipond’s article mentions that David Bratzer of Scientific Victoria “criticizes one famous, peer-reviewed study that claimed to detect heart rates accelerating in response to EMFs. Bratzer argues the researcher erroneously used a heart monitor that itself dramatically reacts to EMF interference. The citation he provides for this attack? A blog written by two engineers.”

Re: Sprawl momentum builds in Central Saanich, February 2011

The article states that, while Vantreight’s consultants suggest the development would require 2.5 litres of water per second from wells to be dug on the property in question, research from the provincial government indicates that the median supply from existing wells in the area is only .25 litres per second, or only one-tenth the requirement. It then goes on to say that, “If the province’s research is correct and the new subdivision does dry out the aquifer under the Vantreight subdivision, the municipal water main will have to be extended to service these houses....”

Re: Blue Bridge Coverage, 2010

Your solid reporting on the issues surrounding the Johnson Street Bridge replacement was a credit to the city. You provided vitally important, unbiased information that was blindly overlooked by other local media. I profoundly admire the stand taken by the editor and the magazine in response to the propaganda spread by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. You have earned a dedicated reader with your journalistic integrity.

Anita Willis


Re: Secrecy and City Hall, January 2011

Re: Lost in Translation, December 2010

I was absolutely delighted to read Katherine Gordon’s article on indigenous languages. The passion and excitement of the Sencoten language apprentices for the recovery of their language is admirable. New technologies, like iPods, are now assisting in this process—that is just fantastic!

Janet Poth


Katherine Gordon’s story on recovery of First Nation’s languages was marvellous. The passion of the young men and women working at rebuilding their cultures is truly inspiring. The clarity of their purpose was captured so well in the words of the young man from Port Hardy, Mike Willie: “My achievments in life are totally attributable to knowing my language and my origins. Without that, I would be completely lost. Where do people go when they’re lost?”


Re: Why We Quit the Chamber of Commerce, November 2010

Congratulations! I think you made a good decision quitting the Chamber of Commerce. I made the same decision a long time ago, after a membership of 20 years. My beliefs about the Blue Bridge are the same as yours.

I think we are killing this beautiful City with stupid decisions, and I hope you and your magazine will help to awake the hypnotized citizens of Victoria.

Roberto Marquez


Re: Seeking Answers and Input, October 2010

In your most recent editorial, “Seeking Answers and Input, October 2010, you offered your assessment that the City of Victoria has not provided the public with “proper process” in its deliberations around the reconstruction, refurbishment or replacement of the Johnson Street Bridge. You comment that, “At no time…has the public been truly consulted…” This is not the first time I have heard these words in relation to the current Council’s actions regarding various City projects.

Re: Pitfalls of a Postmedia World, September 2010

When I first read Sam Williams’ online “Media Watch” piece about the possible relationship between the City of Victoria’s advertising expenses and the Times Colonist’s depth-less coverage of the Blue Bridge debate, it seemed more than plausible. I didn’t want to believe it had to do with incompetent reporting and analysis, poor financial support for truly investigative journalism, or too little page space available for tough local issues. 

Re: The Big Burn, August 2010

As a concerned citizen, I am distressed on three counts by what I read in Briony Penn’s feature, “The Big Burn.”

First, Forests Minister Pat Bell is mismanaging our public forests so completely that, if present policy is not reversed, our own generation and future generations of British Columbians will be dispossessed of our most valuable economic and recreational resource. The government’s selloff (giveaway?) of the forests to private industry and failure to remain informed of the status of much of BC’s forests are instances of this mismanagement.

Second, Bell and his forests ministry are no longer accountable to the electorate. This is evidenced both in the failure to maintain the inventory of BC forests and by the lack of reporting on forest management—and on the nature and status of the forest resource—in the public record.

Re: The City's inedible Golden Apple, July 2010

Re: Standing up for salmon, June 2010

I have just read your editorial on “Standing Up for Salmon” and must write to you before I turn another page of your interesting magazine. I too attended the Get Out Migration rally and was impressed and moved by the diversity of people there—from teenagers to seniors, First Nations representatives, people from every kind of background and from every part of the Island, Gulf Islands, Mainland and right up to Lillooet. There was such unity in that mass of people and I was appalled by the lacklustre media coverage of the event, and the parroting by many reporters of the fish farm industry’s viewpoint. Thank you for your positive report on the rally and your thoughtful editorial. I just wish Focus had BC-wide circulation.

Laura Farquharson