the talk of the town
By Liz McArthur, December 2015
Victoria prepares to help Syrian refugees make a new home.
As if there were a link between refugees and terrorists, fears have been expressed by some about the new Canadian government’s commitment to soon welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees. Yet there is no evidence for such a link. According to experts like Ottawa University law professor Errol Mendes, the refugees Canada will resettle will have been thoroughly pre-screened by UN officials—and then undergo extensive additional screening by Canadian officials.
While 25,000 refugees may seem like a lot, back in 2005 Canada accepted close to 36,000 refugees. As a result of rule-tightening by the Harper government in 2012, refugee claims dropped from 20,223 in 2012 to approximately 10,000 and 12,000 in the two subsequent years.
By Liz McArthur, October 2015
Why are marijuana dispensaries the growth business in Victoria?
In downtown Victoria empty retail storefronts are quickly being filled with marijuana dispensaries and business is booming for the legally ambiguous operations. In what has been likened to a new gold rush, it is not the federally approved “Licensed Producers,” but these rogue dispensaries who are successfully tapping in to an eager market. If marijuana is Canada’s new gold rush, then British Columbia is the Wild West. Regardless of a warning shot fired at them by Health Canada in September and proposals to regulate them at the municipal level, the retail marijuana industry seems likely to grow.
By Derry McDonell, May 2015
Former BC Premier Mike Harcourt tells a pro-amalgamation crowd that citizens will have to lead the way.
If the 75 percent of Greater Victoria residents who voted in favour of making changes to the governance structure of the region last November actually want it to happen, they had better get involved and be prepared to drive the process forward themselves. That was the frank advice of former BC Premier Mike Harcourt, speaking to a meeting organized by Amalgamation Yes on April 21. About 75 people attended.
“Don’t wait for the politicians to do something,” said Harcourt. “If you do, nothing will happen.”
The politicians are too invested in the status quo, he explained. “They are worried about their mayor’s perks and planning director’s salaries.”
By Derry McDonell, April 2015
Academics weigh in on the amalgamation question.
In November, voters throughout Greater Victoria said “yes” to studying some form of amalgamation in the Capital Regional District. Even in municipalities where the ballot question was either obtuse (Saanich) or clearly biased (Oak Bay), the overall result endorsed considering, at the very least, how greater service integration and cooperation among the 13 municipalities could benefit the region as a whole. North and Central Saanich, Sidney and Victoria went even further, endorsing a cost/benefit study of amalgamation itself.
By Derry McDonell, February 2015 (Updated)
Will breaking into two groups create a consensus solution on sewage treatment? Or new unresolvable problems?
Last August Saanich councillor and CRD Director Vic Derman presented a motion calling for the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee, otherwise known as “the sewage committee,” to shift its focus away from a “one size fits all” approach. He advocated a best practices sounding of “individualized” solutions to sewage treatment.
The motion failed to pass. The sewage committee remained wedded to the plan to put a single treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.
Since then, however, the CRD’s failure to get the necessary zoning for McLoughlin—along with local elections in Greater Victoria— appear to have altered both the balance of votes at the sewage committee and the will to consider alternatives to the original plan.
By Roszan Holmen, December 2014
(In 2015 Roszan Holmen was awarded a Jack Webster Award for community reporting for this story.)
Records recently obtained by FOI show that after explicit warnings about the condition of the E&N Railway tracks in 2009, the BC Safety Authority allowed 22 months of further deterioration before passenger service was finally terminated in 2011. Now, with $20 million in public money allocated to upgrade tracks and restart service, critics say the plan is under-funded, won’t provide long-term safety, and therefore isn’t worth pursuing. At the same time, impassioned advocates see rail as a low-carbon solution to the increasingly congested and accident-prone Island Highway—and a potential boon for tourism.
"Look out!” That was the warning from the train conductor to his companions as he approached a tree lying across the railroad tracks, some five miles from Courtenay.
By Leslie Campbell, November 2014
Oak Bay mayoral challenger would bring a different approach to solving the sewage impasse.
In conversation with Cairine Green, her significant skills in communication and diplomacy are apparent. While she’s confident that she can provide better leadership than incumbent Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, she says it in the nicest way possible. Since Jensen won by only 428 votes in 2011, it’s likely he’s taking her challenge seriously.
A council member for Oak Bay for the past three years, Green earlier served on North Saanich council for six years. “Politics was always part of my life,” explains Green. Her parents met through politics, and her father served as both a Liberal MLA and, later, reeve of Saanich (1952-58).
By Ross Crockford, January 2014
By Simon Nattrass, December 2013
By Alison Watt, December 2013
By Simon Nattrass, November 2013
Warriors are essential given competing visions for indigenous peoples’ traditional territories.
For many of us, the landscape is a neutral backdrop to our daily lives—the place in which we play out our activities and the source of resources with which we meet our needs. For cultures that have existed here since time immemorial, the land has been as much a character in life’s drama as any friend or family member. Prior to the arrival of settler culture, the land was in turns a teacher, a provider, and many things besides as part of a complex relationship between indigenous peoples and the places with which they lived—a relationship which the process of colonization has endeavoured to suppress for a century and a half.
By Ross Crockford, October 2013
Backroom debates intensify.
Despite an August 31 deadline announced by Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) executive director Graham Bruce, negotiations are continuing between Southern Rail of Vancouver Island (SVI) and VIA Rail to craft a new passenger-rail agreement for the Island.
“We are coming closer and closer together,” says SVI president Frank Butzelaar. “We are confident we will reach a deal.”
In April, SVI submitted a proposal to have VIA’s trains based in Nanaimo instead of in Victoria, as they were before VIA stopped service in 2011 due to poor track conditions. VIA has said it prefers the original arrangement, under which it paid an average annual subsidy of $1.4 million. The SVI proposal would require an annual subsidy of $1.8 million, plus $6 million over five years for track maintenance.
By Ross Crockford, September 2013
The fight to save the E&N Railway enters the final round.
It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and the Malahat is jammed. The safety improvements are done, but it still takes 90 minutes to drive from downtown Victoria to Crofton. The highway is full of Islanders hauling groceries and building supplies, and I get stuck at practically every traffic light enroute. Judging by the growing numbers of mini-malls along the road, by 2030 the same drive will probably take twice as long.
By Ray Grigg, September 2013
The latest deadly threat to BC’s wild salmon.
If the research recommendations of the Cohen Commission Report are to be implemented, then the study of pathogens emanating from net-pen salmon farms would be a useful place to begin. Indeed, Justice Cohen is quite explicit that rigorous testing be undertaken on “the hypothesis that diseases are transmitted from farmed salmon” to wild species.
By Stephen Andrew, September 2013
How politicians avoid journalists’ and voters’ questions.
What you are meant to be reading in this space is an article on one man’s quest to revisit the City of Victoria’s bylaw pertaining to skateboarding in the Downtown core. As the bylaw currently exists, it’s against the law to ride a skateboard and if you do, police and bylaw officers can issue a $75 fine and confiscate the skateboard. But, according to Victoria’s Mayor Dean Fortin, it’s an inappropriate topic right now.
By Dorothy Field, September 2013
Our forests, our minerals, our fish, and our clean water come from Crown land, that is, unceded territory.
I recently returned from my second trip up to the Action Camp hosted by traditional elders of the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The camp is on the path of the Pacific Trails Pipeline as well as the many other pipelines that intend to use that route from the Alberta tar sands and BC’s fracking fields out to Kitimat. Several Wet’suwet’en families have moved onto their traditional clan land, determined to protect the pristine Morice River and their salmon run, their moose and their wild berries from the inevitable spills and seepages that will accompany the oil and gas bonanza.
By Simon Nattrass, September 2013
Upping our 2-3 day food supply
Victorians have been repeatedly warned about The Big One, the apocalyptic earthquake which threatens at any moment to engulf our fair city and send it sliding into the sea. But while engineers and safety-conscious citizens are busy building life-line bridges and packing granola bars into their emergency kits, it turns out the rest of the Island is in no position to deal with even a minor catastrophe—that is, if it affects our food supply.
For over half a century, the amount of food produced on Vancouver Island has steadily decreased in proportion to the population. In 2011, a study by the Local Food Project stated that 85 percent of food was imported, leaving locals with only enough to support ourselves for two or three days in the winter season.
By Simon Nattrass, July/August 2013
From dishonouring treaties to fostering inauthentic relationships, colonialism hurts us all.
In late May, a crowd of several hundred people gathered to watch as members of the Tsawout, WSÁNEC, and Songhees people reclaimed the traditional name of PKOLS for what has been called Mount Douglas. The mood was both celebratory and somber. Speakers at the event drew upon the current swell of support for indigenous peoples across Canada, but throughout the day conversation inevitably returned to the forgotten history of the mountain. Over 150 years earlier, Sir James Douglas signed a treaty with indigenous peoples on the site of the day’s celebration. The broken promise of that treaty—that colonists were not to interfere with local clans’ lands or way of life—was to become the theme of a century and a half of colonization on the South Island.
By Simon Nattrass, July/August 2013
Elders’ stories illustrate challenges.
Misconceptions abound when it comes to active illicit drug users in our community. Police, Block Watch programs, and neighbourhood associations repeating the not-in-my-backyard mantra too often encourage us to view addicts as people to be feared and avoided.
In early June, I was one of the few people outside Victoria’s street community to be invited to the second annual Convergence of People Who Use Illicit Drugs. The day-long event is the culmination of a program called Street College, organized by and for members of the street community in partnership with AIDS Vancouver Island and the Society of Living Illicit Drug Users.
By Barbara Julian and Maleea Acker
Airplanes, leaf blowers, whipper snippers, chainsaws, automobiles and a host of other sources of noise are creating a growing din in our daily lives. The cacophony is creating health risks and, increasingly, quiet refuge is getting hard to find.
Part 1: The noise crisis cometh
By Rob Wipond, Derry McDonnell and Alan Cassels, April 2013
• Trend to “oral government” undermining accountability
• Faux consultation on City budget?
• Another fired drug researcher files suit
Trend to “oral government” undermining accountability
Last September, the non-profit Freedom of Information and Privacy Association complained to BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham about a growing trend for public information requests to the provincial government to come up empty. Denham investigated, and in March issued her report.
The Commissioner verified that “no responsive records” replies to Freedom of Information requests have dramatically increased across the BC government from 13 percent in 2008/09 to 25 percent of all requests in 2011/12.
By Gerry Bliss and Brad Densmore, April 2013
In BC, two decades post-FIPPA, it’s harder to get government information than it was before the legislation came into force.
When the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) was introduced in 1993, BC was at the leading edge of citizen access to government information. Architects of transparency and accountability legislation around the world had a vision of better educated citizens, the press holding government accountable for its policies and actions, and legislators bringing the light of day into the public service.
In fact, there hasn’t been a major political party in Canada in the last 30 years without a formally stated commitment to transparency and strengthening public access to government information. People today have every reason to expect to be able to get any information they need to be informed citizens and stakeholders of government services.
By Simon Nattrass, April 2013
Heavy-handed policing of homeless and poor people is the focus of a new affadavit campaign.
Marianne was visiting a friend the first time it happened. Like a scene from a TV crime drama, officers with the Victoria Police Department entered the home and, after a brief search, began accusing her of using illegal drugs based on her proximity to paraphernalia belonging to the house’s occupant. Marianne told the officers that she had stopped using. Finding no evidence to support their assumption, police left without pursuing charges.
By Pete Rockwell, March 2013
A proposal for a new 200-unit building shows competing visions for a quiet North Park neighbourhood.
It’s almost warm in the sun on this cold clear day as I walk down Mason Street, which runs parallel to Pandora, just off Cook Street. On my left is a modest park. A few trees. Couple of benches. A small playground where two mothers push their kids on swings. Two older women sit and talk on a bench. A Hipsterish couple walk their dog. Across the street a young guy with a beard talks to his cell phone and leans against the brick wall of a coffee shop called Yoka’s.
Walking west, I pass the Mason Street City Farm. Neat, well-tended vegetable gardens and a few greenhouses occupy the back and side yards of older wood frame houses. Earlier era houses extend down to the end of the block. Narrow Mason Street seems a modest, friendly, quiet place. So close to downtown, yet a world away.
By Rob Wipond and Leslie Campbell, March 2013
The right to sleep, continued; RCMP agrees to stop tracking innocent drivers; A healing journey in dangerous times; Ombudsperson pans incapability assessments
The right to sleep, continued
If David Arthur Johnston gets his way, the City of Victoria’s bylaw disallowing camping during daylight hours will be challenged in BC Supreme Court soon.
By Sylvia Olsen, February 2013
Idle No More is a healthy sign, a rejection of victimhood.
Thirty-nine years ago I moved to Tsartlip First Nation on Vancouver Island. The reserve was my home for 35 years. I was an 18-year-old “white” girl then. Now I’m a non-indigenous mother, auntie and grandmother to some of the next generation of indigenous Canadians.
From my perspective, Idle No More is a movement, make no mistake. My Facebook feed indicates that the news is vastly understating the numbers of gatherings and attendees. But then why wouldn’t there be thousands of frustrated young indigenous people in our country? They are educated. They have been learning their history and it’s not a great story.
By Simon Nattrass, January 2013
A First Nations group denies access to its sovereign territory.
After hours of searching through a labyrinth of logging roads, local activist Julie Anne Gilchrist and several others arrived at the Wedzin Kwa (or Morice River) crossing at 4 am under the light of a full moon. The bridge was watched over by a sign declaring “No Access Without Consent. Stop and Honk,” placed there by activists from the Unist’ot’en Action Camp to ward off surveyors for the Pacific Trail pipeline. That’s the pipeline planned to deliver natural gas from northern BC and Alberta to a proposed liquid natural gas terminal at Kitimat for shipment overseas—key infrastructure in BC’s drive to become one of the biggest exporters of LNG in the world.
By Pete Rockwell, January 2013
Is Victoria just too darn cantankerous for pipeline PR personnel...and review panels?
Energy giant Kinder Morgan wants to build a new pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. This would facilitate pumping solvent-diluted bitumen over the Rocky Mountains and across southern BC to Westbridge Marine Terminal, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers. Oil tanker traffic—through Burrard Inlet, past Vancouver, across Georgia Strait, through the Gulf and San Juan Islands, past Victoria, and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca—would increase by 500 percent. Preceding their application to the National Energy Board for this project, Kinder Morgan is holding “public information sessions” in various places along the proposed route. I decided to attend the one held on December 5 in a back room of Saanich’s Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.
By Simon Nattrass, December 2012
Young people on the streets are often denied support by the very Ministry that’s supposed to help them.
In 2008, a conservative estimate by the Community Social Planning Council placed the number of homeless youth in the Greater Victoria region at 616. Educated guesses place that number higher today. The Council readily admits—and most service providers will confirm—that many homeless youth are not visible enough to provide an accurate count, meaning that youth on or near our city streets could number over a thousand. With only 69 reliable beds and a handful of shelter mats, many young people survive by sleeping on couches and staying with friends before seeking shelters and doorways. Unsurprisingly, a good number of them seek help from the Ministry of Children and Family Development at some point in their lives.
Posted by David Broadland, November 15, 2012
Three researchers, including Focus writer Rob Wipond, say they are encouraged by the findings of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's investigation into Victoria Police Department's use of an Automatic License Plate Recognition system.
Following publication of two articles in Focus by Rob Wipond (see here and here), which included research assistance from Christopher Parsons and Kevin McArthur, Parsons presented a brief to BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham on the use of ALPR in BC. In late July Denham announced her office would investigate. Her findings were released November 15.
In response, Wipond, Parsons and McArthur released the following statement:
By Dr. Perry Kendall, November 2012
BC’s Provincial Officer of Health responds to last month’s Focus article.
I am writing in response to Alan Cassels’ article “Will a flu shot keep you healthy?” Science advances by asking tough questions and challenging accepted “truths.” It is thus essential to have skeptical thinkers like Alan Cassels, Dr Jim Wright and Dr Tom Jefferson active in the field. Our endeavours are all the richer for the questions and concerns they raise.
And I would like to assure your readers that in fact the issues raised by Alan and others are not new to those in public health who, like me, continue to support influenza vaccination as one of the more effective ways of preventing influenza. Nor have we ignored those issues or those criticisms. There are some very compelling reasons why we continue to promote influenza vaccination and I hope to make that case in the following paragraphs.
By Leslie Campbell, October 2012
Longtime Focus journalist is a finalist for 3 Jack Webster Awards.
Each year, the Jack Webster Foundation sends out notification by email to the three finalists in each of the 12 categories of Jack Webster Awards. When I saw the first one announcing Rob Wipond was a finalist in the Community Reporting category for two pieces he wrote on the RCMP’s and VicPD’s Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) programs, I wasn’t surprised. The stories, written earlier this year, garnered tremendous attention on our website from all over the planet. And after Rob, Christopher Parsons and Kevin McArthur took the research done for the story and presented it as a brief to Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, she launched an investigation into the way the program is operating here in Victoria. It was great that the Websters had noticed.
By Amanda Farrell Low, July/August 2012
Two Shakespearean comedies set in the 1920s and ’30s are staged in a Garry Oak meadow.
In some ways, it feels like the Victoria Shakespeare Society is coming full circle. Not only does this year’s Shakespeare in the Summer festival denote a decade of the current incarnation of the VSS putting on shows, but it also marks artistic director Michael Glover’s return to a role reminiscent of the one he took when first acting with the VSS in 2004. Back then, he played Don Adriano de Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost; this year, he’ll be performing as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing.
“I got to play the fool and I get to play the fool again this year,” he quips. “It’s full circle for the fools.”
Posted by David Broadland, July 30, 2012
Three independent researchers are praising the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia (OIPC) for today's announcement that it is launching a review into the use of Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) in the province.
See OIPC release here: http://www.oipc.bc.ca/news/2012Releases/NR_ALPR-s25-Investigation.pdf
For the past year, the researchers have been using access to informationlaws to investigate BC police ALPR programs, and have shared their findings through articles, presentations, and blogs."The Commissioner's decision to investigate and issue a public report is an important validation of the concerns we've been raising," said freelance journalist Rob Wipond. "Authorities have frequently represented the ALPR program to the public as having been 'reviewed and approved' by Canada’s privacy commissioners, but that's not true."
By Simon Nattrass, June 2012
Victoria is a great place. But who can afford to live here?
When Robin, 62, moved here in 1991, away from the noise and chaos of Vancouver, his rent was $410 per month for a small bachelor suite. For a few years his rent was stable, but in 2004, things quickly began to change when a letter arrived announcing an 8 percent increase—the first in a series of yearly increases. Since then, Robin’s rent has climbed 35 percent to rest at $555 per month.
For Robin, the first round of rent increases meant coming out of retirement and finding a full-time job just to make ends meet. Since then, a heart attack has forced him to shorten his work week. As a result, the next significant increase will leave him with little option other than moving out of the city or onto the street.
By Craig Spence, June 2012
An unsolicited offer to buy City-owned land has highlighted the absence of guiding policies for land disposal in Victoria.
Perhaps the most important piece of real estate for the City of Victoria to identify as it considers policy around the sale of City-owned lands is the office at Number One Centennial Square where the whole process of land disposition and acquisition is supposed to be managed.
There’s a lot of interest in locating that sanctum after it was announced April 30 that the City would consider an offer by the Ralmax Group to purchase four parcels on Harbour Road (see map on page 20), just north of the Johnson Street Bridge. The land in question is currently home to several Ralmax-owned companies, including Point Hope Maritime, United Engineering, Island Plate and Steel, and Harjim Industries, as well as several other non-Ralmax businesses.
By Craig Spence, May 2012
The horrors of the residential school system come perilously close to genocide.
An individual apology might seem woefully inadequate in the face of gut-wrenching statements being gathered from “survivors” of Canada’s residential school system by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which met for two days at the Victoria Conference Centre in April.
But getting non-aboriginal Canadians to acknowledge the truth and apologize for it is one of the commission’s objectives. Giving survivors a chance to unburden themselves by telling their truth is another.
So here’s my first step: As a Canadian, British Columbian and Victorian, I apologize to people of aboriginal decent for the horrendous damage inflicted on them by the residential school system, and for the institutionalized racism that characterized my nation’s historic policy of assimilation.
By Simon Nattrass, April 2012
Why are there hundreds of young people living on the streets of the CRD?
SINCE LEAVING HOME AT 13, Dianne* has divided her life between shelters, care homes, and the street. She’s 20 now, and has just left Holly House—a girl’s home run by Threshold Housing Society—for a detox facility. Dianne’s life will be unstable while her case worker looks for another supportive living space, but she says things have been worse—for a long time, her life revolved around her addiction. “I spent most of my time trying to score, most of my time using. Everything revolved around using and getting dope, using dope, being dopesick and trying to get un-dopesick and getting clean, relapsing and getting clean again. That was my life for a long time.” (*The young people in this story are real but we've changed their names to respect their privacy.)
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 Ross Crockford, January 2012
What happened to the plans for commuter rail?
For a few hours in 2008 and 2009, residents got an idea of what it would be like to take a commuter train between Langford and Victoria.
One Saturday in August, in both those years, Jim Sturgill ran a 70-passenger VIA Rail “Budd” car back and forth between Goldstream Avenue and the old CPR roundhouse in Vic West, as part of E&N Days, a summer celebration of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. “It worked very well,” says Sturgill, a veteran trainman who operated locomotives on the E&N for 30 years. During 2008’s one-day test, he made six round trips, taking about 25 minutes each way—a challenge for any car driver trying to reach the same destination by navigating the stop-and-go traffic on Douglas Street or Craigflower Road.
By Pete Rockwell, November 2011
Citizens unite against corporate greed and power.
Occupy Victoria joined in solidarity with 900 protests around the world. Starting a month ago on NYC’S Wall Street, the movement against continuing disenfranchisement of the “99%” at the hands of corporate/military/police power, generally summed up as “corporate greed,” has gone global.
Here in Victoria, about 1000 people showed up at Centennial Square, marched through Downtown to the Legislature for a rally, and returned to establish an “occupation” in the square—where some still remain.
By Ross Crockford, September 2011
Can a hallucinogenic tea help people overcome addictions?
This medicine changed my life,” says Gabrielle. “It changed the way I experience life, every single day, for the better.”
A slim, enthusiastic woman, Gabrielle tells me in her Cedar Hill apartment that she’s been living with chronic pain since 1993. For years she managed the pain with exercise, and focused on her job as a municipal administrative assistant. But in 2008, the pain got so bad that she could barely get out of bed. She tried conventional therapy without success, took disability leave, and became dependent on prescription morphine.
By Linda Rogers and Leslie Campbell, June 2011
A lawyer has launched a civil suit against the City and five police officers.
In his sunny home office in Cordova Bay, lawyer Rajinder Sahota admits “I always wanted to be a lawyer and fight for justice.” Growing up in Esquimalt, where he played hockey with cops from the police station across the street, he never imagined he’d one day be trying to right what he believes is an injustice done by police to him and two friends.
Yet his studies have certainly prepared him: After graduating from UVic with degrees in commerce and law, he received a Master of Laws degree from the London School of Economics where he focused his studies on international economic law, human rights, and the law on the use of force.
By Yule Heibel, June 2011
Living over the store may seem quaintly old-fashioned, but it’s a direction that might keep downtown Victoria healthy.
Victoria City Council recently offered the business community an olive branch when it addressed the tax ratio of commercial to residential rates by voting to reduce marginally (very marginally) that ratio by 0.004 percent in favour of commercial rates. While the Chamber of Commerce responded with tepidly mumbled words of encouragement for council’s decision, the daily newspaper merely reported the other side of the coin: that residential property taxes will rise by 7 percent compared to 1.1 percent for businesses.
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 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 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 Gordon O'Conner, February 2011
Proposals to extend municipal water services suggest the municipality is being primed for real estate development.
This article has been removed.
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 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 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 Sara Cassidy, January 2011
Fiction from here
My last running group was a disaster, but my girlfriend says I benefited from it, we benefited from it. So she’s forced me to sign up for another one. Running calmed me, she says. I’ll admit it mellowed me. I liked running under the wide leaves of the city parks, past happy couples with their dogs, the shangri-la amnesia of it. I even liked being sore the next day, actually feeling the red meat of my muscles somewhere inside my mass of blubber and gristle.
The meeting places were cool: “the stone bridge” in Beacon Hill Park or “the Terry Fox statue at Mile Zero.” It was like James Bond. We’d all materialize in place, our watches beeping the top of the hour.
By Zoe Blunt, December 2010
Developer Ender Ilkay’s latest scheme draws heavy fire.
At his presentation, Vancouver-based developer Ender Ilkay was calm and self-assured—until he got angry. Then the claws came out.
Ilkay and his company, Marine Trail Holdings, plan to develop seven parcels of forestland purchased from Western Forest Products—land that, until recently, was part of a publicly-managed Tree Farm License. In 2007, the province’s sudden decision to release 28,000 hectares of forestland from TFL status to WFP, without consultation or compensation, triggered a storm of controversy and court actions. Complications scuttled Ilkay’s earlier plans to develop two of the parcels.
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 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.