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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

 

By Leslie Campbell, April 2014

Another way the personal is political.

Call me retro but I’ve never been inside a Walmart or ordered from Amazon.com. I also avoid chain-filled malls, preferring the uniqueness of locally-owned shops and services—not just for their more individual character, but because I know shopping in them is a smart investment in my community.

I recognize we live in shifting times, where many see it as cool and contemporary to buy online from Amazon. And that some among us, earning a low wage, might need to seek out the “best deal” and that may occasionally lead them to Walmart, Target or Amazon. 

By David Broadland, April 2014

Awarding of a CRD sewage treatment project contract to Stantec that turned out to be worth $43 million was overseen by two former Stantec employees.

Let’s parse Stantec’s expected $43 million share of the $783 million CRD sewage treatment program, one meeting at a time, and figure out how that happened. To start, we need to crank our minds back—way, way back—to 2006. That’s when it all began.

Just three working days after Environment Minister Barry Penner wrote the Capital Regional District and ordered it to develop a plan for sewage treatment, Dwayne Kalynchuk was promoting his former employer— Stantec—as the go-to company to meet the Minister’s challenge. Kalynchuk was then General Manager of the CRD’s Environmental Services Department.

By Judith Lavoie, April 2014

By the end of this century, local marine ecosystems are likely to have shifted beyond recognition due to ocean acidification and temperature rise.

For those who did not have ocean acidification on their radar, news last month of a massive die-off of scallops at Nanaimo-based Island Scallops came as a surprise. But the shellfish industry has been aware of the problem for almost a decade.

In 2005 billions of baby oysters died along the Washington coast and low pH, a measure of acidity, was suspected as the culprit. It wasn’t  until 2012 that scientists believed they had proof that was the case.

By Briony Penn, April 2014

Have the BC Liberals made it easier for pipelines to be built through provincial parks?

In March, the Park Act that once enshrined the protection of our parks, was pried apart by Christy Clark’s government with no public discussion. The amendment to the Act opens the door on pipelines, mining and industrial development in our parks. One voice alone was allowed to comment in the legislature: Opposition Critic for Tourism, Culture and the Arts Spencer Chandra Herbert was given five minutes. He argued at least for one simple, non-partisan amendment to the motion: “I hope, out of the goodness of mind and heart, the government will take the call from thousands upon thousands of British Columbians to put a pause, take a moment, and ask people what they think—to really be open, to really engage the people who pay our salaries, to give them the chance to have their say about their favourite areas.”

By Rob Wipond, April 2014

When it comes to complex international issues, does following the news increase or diminish our understanding?

I want to talk about something that’s difficult to talk about in person: Ukraine. But not the actual place or events surrounding it, which I know less than nothing about. (Emphasis on less, an issue I’ll return to shortly.) I want to discuss the local Victoria aspect of “Ukraine”— which is more influential over my own life.

It seems we’re talking, writing and posting online about Ukraine a lot more than we used to. We debate what’s happening there, who’s to blame, and even about what actions we should be taking: providing financial support, boycotting, brokering negotiations, sending troops, the whole gamut. 

By David Broadland, April 2014

More civil servants playing fast and loose with the public interest.

Although the Request for Proposals portion of building a new Johnson Street Bridge closed on November 1, 2012, what actually happened back then is still being unravelled. And that’s revealing secrets within secrets at Victoria City Hall.

Following the closing of the RFP, a press release from the City noted the process of evaluating the proposals by a four-person team could take “several weeks.” The council’s role in the process was outlined by the City’s Communications Director Katie Josephson: “Following the completion of the evaluation, staff will recommend to Council the selection of the preferred proponent and the rationale for the selection based on the set criteria laid out in the RFP.”

By Andrew Weaver, April 2014

The BC Liberals’ LNG dream needs a reality check.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development provides British Columbia with a “generational opportunity”—one that will create 100,000 new jobs, add $1 trillion to the provincial GDP and provide for a $100 billion prosperity fund that will be used to eliminate both the provincial debt and the provincial sales tax. Our opportunity is now; we must act quickly and invest immediately—before it’s too late.

If you think this hyperbole sounds too good to be true, I fear you might be right. 

By Gene Miller, April 2014

As we near the tipping point…it’s time to start singing.

I had an adventure dream recently about Shivon Robinsong’s suitcase—smallish, with drum-nailed metal corner bumpers, cardboard-and-ply-walls, with a pinewoods-in-winter printed design, and old-fashioned Cheney-style snap clasps. A bunch of us were racing on foot to the airport in an undisciplined wedge, lofting the suitcase and chanting “Ulan Bator! Ulan Bator!” (the capital of Mongolia) for reasons that never became apparent within the dream. 

By Amy Reiswig, April 2014

Displacement—whether by prostate cancer or hydro development—is the powerful, subterranean theme of Aaron Shepard’s new novel.

Sometimes it’s easy to ignore what you can’t see. Out of sight, out of mind. But the unseen can still exert tremendous force. Take, for instance, grief, anxiety, memory, hope. Such unseens can wrench us out of all comfort, safety, even sense of self. In his debut novel, When is a Man (Brindle and Glass, April 2014), Victoria writer Aaron Shepard explores how you grapple and adapt when much of what you’re wrestling with is hidden from view, below the surface.

By Aaren Madden, April 2014

Kylee Turunen moves between abstract and landscape to create a unique visual world.

"Golden Ocean” is an acrylic on canvas painting that is at once abstract and landscape. The foreground undulates with the ripples of clear water advancing over firm sand perfectly reminiscent of a Long Beach scene. As the viewer’s eye travels upward, the textures of the painted surface suggest breaking waves. In palette, it is quintessential west coast, with a crisp, clear sky that gradually deepens into cobalt. Yet in between the buff hues of sand and the intense blue of sky there exists a painting within, one that plays tricks with the horizon, presenting and re-presenting the meeting between sea and sky. A series of textures and contrasting colours pulls the viewers under the landscape surface and into an abstract realm before releasing them back to the sky.

By Monica Prendergast, April 2014

Atwood’s The Penelopiad is just one of the myths to think about in April’s theatre offerings.

Want to write a play? Or an opera? Touch base with a myth for inspiration. As did the ancient Greeks. And the Romans. Many times I have seen myths transformed into staged versions: Lysistrata by Aristophanes, Medea by Euripides, Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman, Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, Phèdre by Jean Racine. The original pagan stories, at once both naturalistic and metaphysical, portray the interacting lives of gods and humans. These tales make comic and tragic approaches equally great.

By Amy Reiswig, April 2014

Drummer, composer, educator and band leader Kelby MacNayr.

A jazz drummer inhabits a world of two unfortunate sets of jokes, from “That’s not a mistake, that’s jazz!” to “How do you know a drummer’s at the door? He never knows when to come in.” 

It requires an, ahem, offbeat sense of humour to be able to slough off and laugh at societal jabs at what you love. But no amount of joking could dampen the love Victoria percussionist Kelby MacNayr has for his calling.

By Chris Creighton-Kelly, April 2014

When different folks are at the table, different outcomes occur.

In February's Culture Talks, I wrote about the tendency of our arts system to marginalize the works of Aboriginal artists and artists of colour. I mentioned that even in 2014, almost all of the funding and resources go to European art forms and traditions.

Why does this happen? These are some of the stock answers: “That’s the way we have always done it.” “It would take new funding to address new concerns.” “The work in the European tradition—symphonic music, ballet, opera, museum theatre, etc—strives for artistic excellence.” 

Hmmmm? I would answer that Indigenous artists and artists of colour are “racialized” in the very construction of their identity.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, April 2014

Wood pellets are the latest resource BC is shipping west.

The air outside my window is cool and pristine but at the moment I’m struggling to breathe, thanks to a nasty, stubborn cold. Laboured breathing is a bad feeling but for me the ordeal is almost over. Not so for the millions of people living in Beijing and northern China who, for the seventh day in a row, are caught under a dome of smog so thick and toxic that the World Health Organization has declared it extremely hazardous to human health.

Don’t let my use of the word “dome” keep you from thinking big: The poisonous cloud covers a landmass larger than that of British Columbia and the Yukon combined. And that’s not the extent of China’s air quality crisis. More than a thousand kilometres to the south, pollution is also stifling the massive port city of Shanghai, home to another 14 million people.

By David Broadland, March 2014

Emails between top-level BC civil servants show Premier Clark’s 100,000 LNG jobs were based on dubious assumptions thrown together at the last minute for her 2013 throne speech. Were those civil servants working for the public interest or Clark’s election campaign?

The BC Prosperity Fund got barely a mention in last month’s Speech from the Throne. But a year ago Premier Clark’s apparently far-sighted plan to develop a massive LNG industry that would create “100,000 jobs for BC families” and pump billions into Provincial coffers fuelled the launch of the Liberals’ election campaign. Their compelling clean-energy-and-jobs message brought them from 20 points behind to a surprising victory in last May’s election.

By David Broadland, March 2014

Documents recently obtained by FOI show the City of Victoria was warned by engineers of two of the three companies bidding on the Johnson Street Bridge project that the floating-ring design was too risky to build. The City went ahead anyway.

By Leslie Campbell, March 2014

Moves by Esquimalt and Colwood around the sewage treatment plan will make March a great month for political theatre.

Last month I told you about a forum at which Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver and others urged the CRD to at least ask for an extension of the time frame demanded by upper levels of government to finalize the region’s sewage treatment plans. Unfortunately, while a motion to that effect had been made by Victoria City councillor and CRD director Marianne Alto, it was voted down by the majority of the CRD board in mid February.

Not a good sign. That vote will just add to the growing cynicism and distrust of local residents. The CRD seems intent on damaging its own credibility. Some sort of demonstration by the board that it is hearing the dismay and discord it has generated is needed—a sign that it is open to modifying its plans in light of new information, reason, and community concern.

By Briony Penn, March 2014

International courts and BC teachers try to make up for government and corporate abuse of human and environmental rights.

The extraordinarily rich forests of Vancouver Island have been fought over since James Douglas had 14 Vancouver Island chiefs sign a blank piece of paper. The frustration in losing virtually every battle by four generations of First Nations and concerned citizens has bred some sophisticated new approaches to the old task of protecting Indigenous rights and nature. These reach out internationally and to corporate shareholders. As a result, 2014 is off to a difficult start for Island Timberlands, the corporation most in the news these days for questionable logging practices.