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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.