By David Broadland, June 2013
What do Christy Clark's LNG industry, the CRD’s sewage treatment plan and Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge project all have in common?
Key elements of the BC Liberals’ blitzkrieg-like bombing of the NDP in the recent election campaign began coming together last February. This included delivery of a report produced for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas by the accounting and business advisory firm Grant Thornton LLP that seemed to provide respectable, independent verification that the province was on the verge of an explosion in jobs related to production and export of liquified natural gas. The report predicted the creation of 114,600 jobs in BC, instantly providing Christy Clark with her campaign mantra of “100,000 jobs for BC families.”
By Rob Wipond, June 2013
Over 20 years, Bruce Saunders has built Movie Monday into one of Victoria’s most enduringly popular arts events.
The police looked uncomfortable the night they came to Movie Monday. We’d just watched Crisis Call, an absorbing, emotional documentary exploring often volatile, sometimes deadly encounters between Canadian police and people with severe mental health problems. After the film, host Bruce Saunders introduced us to two Greater Victoria police officers whom he’d invited to share their perspectives and answer audience questions.
By Leslie Campbell, June 2013
Will the break-through win of a green politician reshape BC’s politics?
The historic election of a Green Party candidate to the BC Legislature should be encouraging to that party and to the rest of us too. Let’s forget the complaints about “splitting the votes,” which can be used against any candidate—or voter—and embrace the possibilities inherent in a Green win. It’s a party that foregoes the old right vs left dichotomy, and for now at least, endorses free votes in the legislature and proportional representation, and is opposed to corporate and union donations. These are some of the measures I believe are needed to re-energize our democracy.
By Katherine Palmer Gordon, June 2013
Kelly Paul’s Island marathon aims at awakening hope among First Nation youth.
In May 2012, the Cowichan Tribes, population 4,400, declared a local state of emergency in response to a horrifying spike in community suicides. Several people had died at their own hands in just the first five months of the year; 52 suicide alerts in total came into Cowichan’s tribal health centre over the same period.
Sadly, Cowichan Tribes are far from being the only First Nation haunted by shocking suicide rates. It’s a statistic that plagues hundreds of Aboriginal communities across the country. Among Aboriginal youth, the rate shoots up to as much as six times the national average. “We are losing our most valuable resources—our children and our caregivers,” Cowichan Chief Harvey Alphonse lamented in 2012.
By Rob Wipond, June 2013
Thousands of Victorians affected
The international war raging between the titans of psychiatry and psychology may not seem like “local” news. However, tens of thousands of local citizens have been seriously injured and now desperately need caring attention.
By Briony Penn, June 2013
Three Peace River residents talk about the changes they’re seeing as resource extraction ramps up.
“The feeling you get up here is that the Peace region is the sacrificial lamb for bailing out the economic troubles of the province. For many people, we are out of sight, so out of mind. But even people in industry up here are thinking: ‘this is getting crazy.’”
This is the message that local Peace River valley farmer Ken Boon wants people in the capital region to hear. Decisions about the Peace will be made in Victoria, yet many local residents and First Nations don’t sense that urban British Columbians are hearing their voices over the clamour of LNG boosters, political fear-mongering about job losses, and corporate ad campaigns.
By Rob Wipond, June 2013
Local surveillance round-up
After discovering that local police are conducting illegal mass surveillance through their automatic licence plate recognition (ALPR) program, Focus tried to find out which other local public bodies are conducting video surveillance on the general public. So far, we’ve found nothing too worrying—except for schoolchildren in the western communities.
The City of Victoria is using ALPR cameras to monitor parking and issue tickets. They retain the images of illegally-parked cars for seven years, but their privacy impact assessment indicates that they only retain the data about law-abiding drivers for 12 hours.
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 Amy Reiswig, June 2013
Growing food locally is a political act of community preservation.
Summer is a-comin’ and those not worshipping the sun at the beach might be found, as Victoria poet and food writer Rhona McAdam says, on their knees in their yards, doing their part to earn Victoria its reputation as the City of Gardens. But what kinds of gardens? Consider the aggregate acres of lawns, hedges and ornamental flowers; then consider that Vancouver Island only grows about five percent of its own food. Something has grown terribly wrong.
“But what can I do?” It’s a thought said often to one another and to ourselves in the face of Big Concerns demanding attention. Climate change, pollution, poverty and human rights, to name just a few, compete with issues like food security for the limited emotional energy and time we have for learning how to make a difference, whether in the wider world or our own communities.
By Gene Miller, June 2013
Why do we penalize those who are trying to densify the city core?
I’m tempted to devote this entire column to the news that while the McDonald’s on Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street charges four cents less for a large coffee, the McDonald’s on Esquimalt Road near Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Recreation Centre is a masterpiece of tasteful, intimate restaurant decor, especially the leather armchairs and the booth seating. Yes, leather armchairs, booth seating.
The Pandora McDonald’s is straight out of the prison cafeteria riot school of interior design (the “lockdown” look), and evokes Agent Smith’s disgust in The Matrix when he describes humans as a disease, a virus. The beautifully furnished and finished Esquimalt restaurant, however, communicates trust, love of people, belief in the goodness of the human community, faith that someday we will overcome our differences and all be as—
By Aaren Madden, June 2013
With light and shadow, Catherine Moffat creates sanctuaries in paint.
Picture a girl of 17 standing in front of a gallery window staring at a painting. Intently—with intent, in the truest sense of the word. She is absorbing what she can before she returns from her lunch break, back to pressing down, ca-chunk, on the keys of an old Underwood in an office of the Legislature building.
That was Catherine Moffat, creating her life as an artist. “I had to stand in front of [the painting] until I learned something that you could put into a sentence,” she recalls. “I really tried to study, and fantasized that I was studying under a master; I would give myself exercises to do. It was just so corny,” she laughs dismissively.
By Chris Creighton-Kelly, June 2013
Emerging artists are attempting to thrive outside the mainstream arts infrastructure.
They are not exactly dropping like flies, so maybe it is a little early to call it a trend. About a year ago, the 50-year-old Vancouver Playhouse Theatre called it quits. In February of this year, Toronto’s Queen of Puddings Music Theatre announced it was closing in the fall after 20 years of producing new Canadian opera works. Today, I got a message that Stage West Theatre in Mississauga, one of the last dinner theatre venues in Canada, is finishing its run after 27 years.
By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, June 2013
Most of us are lucky enough to be able to choose our health destiny.
A few months ago the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation released an ad that’s both jarring and profound. On a split screen the video streams two very different scenarios for life in the senior years—one from the vantage point of robust health and the other from the chronic sickbed. “What will your last ten years look like?” asks the narrator as the actor laces up his runners in the left screen but struggles his foot into a slipper on the right. “Will you grow old with vitality or get old with disease?” Wheels roll across the screen, those of the actor’s bicycle on the left and his wheelchair on the right. Dinner on the left happens at table with family over a glass of wine; on the right the actor is in his hospital bed, unable to lift a styrofoam cup without help.
“It’s time to decide,” the narrator says grimly.
By Leslie Campbell and David Broadland, May 2013
Its $17-million purchase of property in a residential neighbourhood as a possible location for biodigesters has critics—and at least two NDP candidates in the BC election—calling for a rethink of the entire plan.
The day after we attended a Victoria West Community Association meeting, a massive explosion destroyed a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, where 15 people were killed. Most Victorians wouldn’t have made any connection between the explosion in Texas and a proposed sewage treatment facility in Victoria. But along with a hundred or so other citizens at that meeting—called to discuss a CRD proposal to locate several anaerobic biodigesters in a residential neighbourhood—we heard land economist Chris Corps say such biodigesters occasionally blow up. There’s nothing like the possibility, however faint, of an explosion in your neighbourhood to focus the mind.
By Rob Wipond, May 2013
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Registrar of Lobbyists are hot on their association’s trail. But a former BC police chief and solicitor general doubts they’ll ever be caught.
There’s one thing the police tell you never to do when they want to question you, right? Run. Running makes you look even more suspicious. So why do British Columbia’s chiefs of police keep running from me? Fortunately, I’ve gained some high-profile help in this now year-long chase.
By David Broadland, May 2013
Was Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin accurately briefed on the financial state of the City’s largest-ever infrastructure project before the last election? If he wasn't, as he claims, why isn't he concerned?
Shortly after Focus went to press last month with my “The smoking gun & accountability” story, a group of 12 Victoria citizens sent letters to Victoria City councillors and City Manager Gail Stephens.
The letter to Stephens included a copy of an August 12, 2011 memo produced by the City’s Assistant Acting Director of Finance Troy Restell in which he reported that the Johnson Street Bridge project had accumulated $5.2 million in unbudgeted costs.
By Katherine Palmer Gordon, May 2013
A new film is making sure salmon are on the menu of the provincial election.
Here’s the good news: While the documentary Salmon Confidential is an incredibly disturbing exposé of government efforts to hide the truth about devastating diseases affecting the West Coast’s wild salmon population, it does end on a positive note. Both filmmaker Twyla Roscovich and wild salmon expert Alexandra Morton, the film’s protagonist, believe strongly that there is still time to save our wild fish.
By Briony Penn, May 2013
The Liberals have fumbled the biodiversity ball; so what are the alternatives offering, and what are they hedging on?
As mentioned in last month’s article, the BC Liberals have left a perfect vacuum for other political parties to fill on the biodiversity file. It’s been five years since government scientists warned that immediate action was necessary to avoid rapid deterioration of BC’s flora and fauna, especially in light of climate change.
During the last provincial election, the NDP’s axe-the-carbon tax policy cost them seats in tightly-contested ridings as environmentally-concerned voters migrated to the Greens. This time round, the wedge issue could be around the very stuff that sucks the carbon out of the atmosphere: BC’s biologically rich flora—and the fauna that digest it.
By Leslie Campbell, May 2013
History lessons do make a difference.
Back in the 1970s, during the second wave of the women’s movement, I often felt angry as the blinders came off, exposing the injustices of the patriarchal culture I lived in. But I also recall sweet pleasure in discovering my foremothers. I devoured books and articles about women in history, both Canadian and otherwise. I went to see Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Table.” I even bought and restored Nellie McClung’s house in Winnipeg. Those inspiring history lessons had a profound influence on me: I ended up teaching women’s studies, then starting a women’s magazine. And, as you’ve likely noticed, they ignited in me a keen interest in politics and democracy. In other words, they made me, if I can be so bold, a good citizen.
By Rob Wipond, May 2013
Former federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page exhorts Canadians to "wake up."
Parliamentary institutions that bolster Canadian democracy “are under attack right now like I’ve never seen them before in my 35 years of public service.” The warning had a particularly sharp sting coming from recently departed federal Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. Brought to UVic by the Green Party, Page was speaking to a packed lecture hall in April. No partisan firebrand, Page is just a lifelong bureaucrat and self-described “numbers guy” who became increasingly frustrated, then appalled, and then positively worried witnessing important national financial decisions being made “based on ideology alone” and without accountability to anyone.