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By Alan Cassels, February 2016

The likely cost of the unjustified firing of eight Ministry of Health researchers is staggering, yet no one has been held accountable.

Mike de JongNEXT MONTH WILL MARK four years since  whistleblower Alana James raised concerns to BC’s Office of the Auditor General about contracting and drug research irregularities in the BC Ministry of Health. Her complaint ignited a tiny fuse that led to a powder keg within the Ministry of Health. Thus began a truly unprecedented and bizarre chain of events that included the botched firing of eight employees and researchers, numerous investigations, a suicide, apologies, settlements and reinstatements.

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


By Gene Miller, February 2016

Local politicians are bumbling toward a multi-billion-dollar sewage treatment plan the community doesn’t need.

SewercideWITHOUT INTENTIONALLY WISHING TO set a fecal tone throughout this column, I have to say that Chris Corps, a local capital projects financial strategist, scares the crap out of me. By the time he finishes one of his patented rants about the long and still continuing history of CRD misstep on the wastewater treatment file, I’m left with the impression that we are being governed and managed, and our precious money sluiced down the drain, by Financial Limit Deniers.

By David Broadland, February 2016

Fisheries Act requirements for sewage treatment in Victoria could be met for less than $200 million.

Option 10 @ Macaulay PointARE POLITICIANS BETTER AT solving problems or creating them? After following Victoria’s billion-dollar sewage treatment issue for several years, I’ve concluded they’re awfully good at creating them. The failure to find a reasonable solution to the treatment issue seems to stem from local politicians not being able to decide whether the problem they’re trying to solve is an environmental question or a question about how to meet funding deadlines.

By Leslie Campbell, February 2016

After 28 years as a monthly print magazine, we’re going to begin to decarbonize.

Focus editor Leslie CampbellIN 1988 I STARTED the pre-cursor to Focus, a monthly magazine called Focus on Women. Those were the days when a person with no money, a friend’s Mac Plus, a waxer, a bit of moxie, and a lot of help from friends, could start a magazine. And survive. Although when I think of producing page layouts on that six-inch screen, I am not sure how we did it. 

By Judith Lavoie, February 2016

Shawnigan Lake residents dig in for a long fight to protect their water from a controversial contaminated soil landfill.

John HorganUNDER ROCKS COVERED WITH SNOW, between a barbed wire fence and a sign warning of potential contamination, water is running underground and emerging in a small stream. The sound of flowing water, combined with an eerily empty settling pond behind the fence at a controversial contaminated soil landfill, reinforces the absolute conviction of Shawnigan Lake residents such as Cliff Evans that untreated contaminated water is flowing from the landfill into Shawnigan Creek and, ultimately, into Shawnigan Lake, the community’s source of drinking water.

By Briony Penn, February 2016

How the National Energy Board found itself under attack by everyone in January.

Humpback in Haro StraitJANUARY 2016 WAS full of news around Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. As dozens of intervenors gave their final arguments in the closing days of the National Energy Board’s hearings, the federal government made moves towards living up to their pre-election promises.

By Amy Reiswig, February 2016

The Climate Nexus calls for a transformative discussion on adapting our life-support systems to climate change.

Jon O'RiordanMOST PEOPLE I KNOW would never say “I support ocean acidification” or “I support soil degradation” or “I support drought and food price increases.” Many of us pledge to fight these and other effects of carbon emissions—as if we can, like Superman, step out on the tracks and stop the runaway train. Yet often, through our actions, we unknowingly support the very things we say we stand against.

By Maleea Acker, February 2016

Knowing our fellow creatures inspires Ann Nightingale’s passion.

Ann NightingaleWHEN LIFELONG Vancouver Island resident Ann Nightingale started birding in the 1990s, she had in her head American naturalist Ken Kauffman’s words. If people could name 50 plants and animals in their own area, said Kauffman, it would fundamentally change how they fit into the world. A chance opportunity with a co-worker took Nightingale out to Skirt Mountain (now Bear Mountain) on her first birding trip. “It knocked my socks off,” she tells me. Within a year of studying, she could identify most of the birds in the Capital Region. 

By Aaren Madden, February 2016

Barbara Callow uses light to bring life to the painted form.

Apples in a Wooden BowlWHEN BARBARA CALLOW is at the grocery store or the farmers’ market making produce selections, she has a larger set of criteria than most. Fruit and vegetables in particular need to meet standards not just of freshness and nutritional value, but of aesthetics as well. Such is the case for many a still life painter like herself. “An artist is always looking at the world in terms of what they can paint,” she says, admitting, “Quite often I will buy something just because I like the look of it, then I will bring it home and take photos, then eat it later.” 

By Mollie Kaye, February 2016

Swain on swing: The 5th Annual Victoria Django Festival.

Oliver SwainFEBRUARY CAN BE A TIME of conflict in many hearts and relationships, as most of us fall into one of two opposing camps: those who would rather ignore the culturally-enforced mass celebration of romantic love in the middle of the month, and those who crave some kind of significant observance. 

By Monica Prendergast, February 2016

Issues around policing and mental health lie at the heart of award-winning playwright Joan MacLeod’s work.

Joan MacLeodTHE PRODUCTION OF The Valley by Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod at the Belfry Theatre is a cause for cultural celebration. We are very fortunate to have MacLeod call herself a local playwright since moving to Vancouver Island in 2004. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2016

The yarn that keeps us knitted together, especially through winter.

April CaverhillON A RECENT MOONLESS NIGHT when the wind was once again mitt-slapping rain against the house, I was curled up on the couch with an article about life in Norway’s far north. Winter hits cold and hard in these small tundra towns: Even the sun shrinks away to just a thin, indifferent glimmer on the horizon. You’d think the people who live here would be more prone to seasonal depression, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

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.”

By David Broadland, January 2016

A study by DFO scientists found that secondary sewage treatment will have a negligible effect on environmental conditions in our waters.

The CRD is poised to spend upwards of $1 billion on sewage treatment for Victoria in response to new Fisheries Act regulations aimed at protecting fish, yet a recent study led by DFO research scientist Sophie Johannessen says upgrading the level of treatment at two plants in Vancouver and two in Victoria will have a “negligible effect” on environmental conditions in the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait.

Is a mistake of grand proportions about to be made?

By Leslie Campbell, January 2016

The encampment at the law courts grounds provides evidence of our collective failure to meet the need for housing.

The homeless camp at the Provincial law courts grounds might be getting most of the attention these days, but the whole latter half of 2015 experienced gusts of action on the homeless front, starting with Mayor Helps’ and Councillor Ben Isitt’s proposal last summer to devote a corner of Topaz Park to a regulated tenting area for the homeless—something angrily rejected by local residents.

By Ken Wu, January 2016

If the BC government were serious about addressing climate change, it would protect old-growth forests.

Timber-industry rhetoric would have you believe: “To counteract climate change we need to replace our old-growth forests with healthy, fast-growing young trees that quickly sequester carbon.” On an intuitive level, this may seem to make sense—and indeed, it has become the mantra of timber industry ideologues. 

But according to the actual science, is it true? More fundamentally, according to logic, is it sound?

No and no, actually. The reality is that there is a massive net release of carbon from logging and replacing our old-growth forests with second-growth tree plantations. I’ll explain why in a moment.

By David Broadland, January 2016

The Commissioner’s report, by example, challenges other government officials to meet his high standard for transparency.

At the height of calls for Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps to resign as co-chairs of the Victoria Police Board last month, the Times Colonist quoted SFU criminologist Robert Gordon: “If I was in their position I would be stepping down. I don’t know how they can carry on, honestly. There is something fundamentally rotten about the way in which the Victoria Police Board has been doing its business. I don’t know what that is but hopefully it will come out as a result of this blue ribbon investigation.”

Wait a minute. In one breath Gordon says “There is something fundamentally rotten” and in the next he says “I don’t know what that is...” Why, then, was he suggesting Helps and Desjardins should step down?

By Gene Miller, January 2016

The delusional desire for amalgamation.

Just received an email, with the subject line: “GENIUS PILLS Are Changing Lives!!!!—Boost Your IQ. Order Now!”

Should I click “open” and go for it?

Nah, because I don’t take IDIOT PILLS and I know that the lurking electronic predators who produce this stuff would attempt to quickly strip my net worth to the last available penny.