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  • Letters to the editor


    Math & ethics argue against Trans Mountain

    Canada’s federal and provincial governments have squandered billions of taxpayer funds to perpetrate the myths that ongoing fossil fuel development will be a net employment generator and revenue producer for the country. The only obstruction to achieving that economic utopia are those “anti-business,” “left-wing,” “drum-beating,” “tree-hugging,” “foreign-funded” environmentalists.

    That’s bovine crap, paid for with our tax dollars. The fact is, subsidizing fossil fuel expansion in genera,l and the Kinder Morgan project specifically, is as much or more about BC’s and, ultimately, Canada’s economy as it is about the environment.

    Continuing to commit more taxpayer dollars to the billions that have been poured into this financial black hole to date would be a crime against those taxpayers who, as evidenced by recent federal and provincial budgets, are being increasingly burdened with additional taxes to fund the subsidies to these non-viable projects.

    Don Gordon

     

    Focus continues to inform me, to encourage me, and to delight me. I very much admire your Editor’s letter opening the March/April edition. It’s understandable that we here on the West Coast and in the western-most province should be nervous about probable tanker mishaps and the escape of dilbit into the sea and onto our coastal shores—to the point of protesting the pipeline’s expansion and rerouting. But your letter takes on a related, truly national aspect: the incongruity of increasing fossil-fuel-export-related emissions from Alberta, while countrywide, reducing overall the fossil-fuel carbon released in order to meet our commitment made in the Paris Accord. And your piece does it with “math,” with reliable numbers displayed graphically. Then the conclusion—from the facts, from the math—is rendered in your column’s final paragraph. Many thanks.

    George Kyle

     

     

    Victoria’s marijuana regulations

    Thanks for your article. Good balance, I thought. I became acquainted with this issue because of the circumstances of Chris Zmuda, but that was just a portal to a realization of the proliferation of cannabis retailing. The City has strived to meet this challenge (with some success). However, this issue is not improving city life (it seems to me), and it’s not going to go away when the Province and the Feds enter the picture.

    I hope you will keep your eye on this issue in the coming months.

    Dave Rodenhuis

     

    Bridge names, continued

    With reference to Steen Petersen’s suggestion for a name for the new Blew Budget Bridge: two or three years ago, in a letter published in Focus, I suggested the name “Fortin’s Folly.” In my imagination, this new monstrosity spans Jackass Gulch.

    Jeremy Hespeler-Boultbee

     

    Gonzales Hill development alarms citizens

    Thanks for Leslie Campbell’s fantastically well-researched and well-written article. I was at Gonzales Hill Park today with my mom, brother and nephew and we spent quite a bit of time on the area sited to be developed. To allow this to happen reveals a complete lack of environmental stewardship. Anybody who spends five minutes on this property can immediately see that it is completely inappropriate to develop on it. This is rare land in the area especially because it is in an almost pristine state. For this reason alone, development should not be permitted. Some of the rocks here are millions of years old. And somehow the CRD considers that it would be appropriate to dynamite and blast these rocks out of their natural location to create a flat ground for a single-family luxury home? It is a travesty that the CRD did not purchase this small parcel and make it part of the park.

    With all the rampant development and need for increased densification in the Greater Victoria area, we need to take into consideration that development and densification should be balanced with some recognition for the need for humans to have green spaces.

    During our time in the park and surrounding area, we met several people who were coming to check out the spot that is going to be developed. One local resident, who has been making use of this park for decades, was extremely upset about the development plans, and she was stopping everyone who was visiting the area today to tell them about the plans for the site. All those hearing the news for the first time expressed utter shock and disbelief. Not one person thought it was a good idea. Of course these people were a biased audience in that they understood the importance of public green spaces as they were making use of one of them. I recommended to all that they read your article.

    People were taking photos of the signs that have been posted with the email address to contact to protest the development. One person who lived nearby said that if she had even known the land was for sale, she would have petitioned all her friends in the neighbourhood and easily raised $1,000,000 among her Oak Bay contacts to buy the land for the park. It seems this was all done in secret, which reveals that something is amiss with the plan.

    This is something definitely worth fighting for because once this piece of land is lost to private development, it is lost forever.

    Wendy Welch

     

    I thought your article on the Gonzales Hill Regional Park was excellent—what some might call a disastrous private/public sector interface. The owners/proponents bought a topographically-challenged property on spec. In order to justify their million-dollar property investment, they needed a bigger house than the zoning allowed, and requested variances. If the variances are not approved, then too bad, so sad. There is no obligation to approve the variances or bail them out. Caveat emptor, buyer beware. It’s all about due diligence.

    I’m usually pro-development, but the two remaining variances are egregious, do not pass the litmus-test, and should not be approved in order to accommodate the proposed residence.

    Boards of Variance should be accountable to someone, but then the City of Victoria could refuse the request somehow?

    CRD staff could be criticized for their ho-hum non-comments regarding the development, and then not approving the requested driveway easement/land swap which would ameliorate the development somewhat. The CRD politicians have not been helpful in this situation, which brings to mind Gene Miller’s column on “Amalgacide” and the distant non-accountability of our fourth and well-paid level of government.

    The CRD should have bought the property. It’s an obvious solution. I felt the neighbours’ frustration, a combination of NIMBYism and the inability of the proponent and government to work out compromises or solutions to the problem.

    Based on what I read, I hope the development does not proceed and the property owners are not in any way “kept whole” by government.

    Tony Beckett

     

    Editor’s note: In late March, the City of Victoria’s Board of Variance denied both requested variances by the owners of the property. It’s not clear what the lot owners will do now, but neighbours are hoping to help purchase the lot for public use.

     

    Saanich’s EDPA

    I am the President of SCRES, the Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA (Environmental Development Permit Area). I believe the article by Briony Penn is very one-sided with significant misunderstandings and mistruths about the issue. I have been the public face of SCRES since it was created. Penn made no attempt to contact me, despite saying that she did try to find a spokesperson for SCRES. Penn implies in the article that loss of property value due to the EDPA bylaw was something that SCRES or landowners made up to try to get rid of the Saanich EDPA.

    The Rollo report that the District of Saanich commissioned stated that “some recent public concerns regarding the adverse impact of the EDPA on property values are justified, with substantial impacts on some” and then goes on to specifically list the types of properties that are likely to be impacted. BC Assessment, in meeting with SCRES, indicated that most properties in their report were bought and sold with no knowledge of the EDPA’s existence on the part of the buyer and real estate agents, and that sale prices likely did not reflect any potential impact of the EDPA on property value. Most landowners did not know that their property was in the EDPA because Saanich did not directly tell them. Saanich never told BC Assessment about the EDPA when Saanich passed the legislation. Real estate agents mostly had no knowledge of the EDPA. When the EDPA was disclosed in property sales, we have seen losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in what was a very hot market at the time.

    Penn indicated in her afterward to the article that she was involved in the original Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory (SEI) which was used as the basis of the mapping for Saanich’s EDPA. What she failed to point out was this mapping was never verified on the ground, as was done in many other jurisdictions. If she had, she would have found out that many of the Garry oak ecosystems, mapped in areas that have been developed for many decades, no longer exist. They consist of homeowners’ lawns, gardens, homes, driveways, and areas covered by invasive species, all which no longer meet the criteria of Sensitive Ecosystems as required by the bylaw. As an example of how poor the EDPA mapping is, the photo in Penn’s article shows a Garry oak ecosystem that is not actually mapped as being in the EDPA. The EDPA on this property was mapped in the back of the property which no longer had any natural vegetation remaining.

    The reason Saanich has had such a pushback on the EDPA is because it is still trying to protect fully developed lots that have not had natural vegetation for 50 to 100 years. This, and what many people have called heavy-handed implementation. Penn talks about measurables from the bylaw and 20 cases of successful plantings of native species and removal of invasive species. What Penn failed to find out was that these were just native plant gardens that were required in exchange for a building permit, that were placed in areas that did not have any native species before. Not only is this not required by the bylaw, but this is not restoration of Garry oak ecosystems, or any natural ecosystem. These are small pockets of areas that now have common native landscaping material. Other landowners were required to place large covenants on their properties, in some cases up to sixty percent of the property, in areas that were completely covered by invasive species, with no restoration planned.

    Penn missed an opportunity to put a focus on Garry oak ecosystems in Saanich Parks, which are mostly severely degraded, and overrun with invasive species. Many hard-working volunteers remove invasive shrubs; however, invasive grasses have severely degraded many Garry oak ecosystems that were wonderful wildflower meadows just a few decades ago. Saanich needs to find funding to maintain what still exists and restore the rest. This will have far more impact, and less conflict, on the remaining Garry oak ecosystems than expecting landowners who no longer have these ecosystems to leave their properties alone, in which case invasive species will dominate in perpetuity.

    SCRES has always supported a well-crafted and well-implemented EDPA bylaw. SCRES has put forward recommendations for a landowner stewardship program to Saanich Council and provided significant recommendations for improving biodiversity in Saanich in a report to Council that is front and centre on our website.

    I feel that Penn has provided a biased, unsupportable article on the Saanich EDPA which misleads and ignores many important facts and information.

    Anita Bull

     

    Briony Penn responds: Anita Bull raises an important point about Saanich’s capacity to maintain and monitor the ecological integrity of their own parks, and the ongoing issue of invasive species on both public and private lands. However, it was not the focus of the article. Mayor Atwell and fairness of the public process/governance was the main focus. There was also no intention to verify or provide evidence for the various claims which Bull makes on behalf of SCRES. The issue was the toxicity of the debate, and the failure of a council to bring different parties together with accurate information and provide a forum for constructive dialogue. Citizens’ charter rights to ask questions and get straight answers about why information wasn’t made available, and why recommendations were not implemented, was the issue being discussed. There are a lot of important questions to be discussed, and the issue requires a respectful forum. Residents on both sides of the issue that I spoke to early on showed a great deal of fear of speaking to the issue, which was consistent with the Diamond Report—this is why it became an article on the toxicity of public discourse.

     

    Should farmland be reserved for food?

    In the lucid article by Judith Lavoie, Kent Mullinix, director of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, states: “We have got to get real. We can no longer allow a bunch of capitalist cowboys to run roughshod over the natural resources and the ecosystems that all our lives, livelihoods and—literally—happiness rely upon.”

    Capitalist private profit is the problem Dr Mullinix shows. Ten other accompanying Focus stories also covered private profit’s various impacts and defects: The bridge, nuclear bombs (investors profit from these too), Trans Mountain, Gonzales Hill Park development, EDPA, drug over-prescription, marijuana regulations, the Holocaust (scapegoating Jews to mask Germany’s capitalist crisis), “Amalgacide” and Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s citation of the Site C Dam.

    Albert Einstein, in an essay “Why Socialism?” in the socialist Monthly Review Magazine’s inaugural May 1949 edition, stated: “Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.”

    Evo Morales, Bolivia’s President, speaking at the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2008 put it this way: “If we want to save the planet Earth, to save life and humanity, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system. If we do not put an end to the capitalist system it’s impossible to imagine that there will be equality and justice on this planet Earth. This is why I believe that it is important to put an end to the exploitation of human beings and to put an end to the pillage of natural resources; to put an end to destructive wars for raw materials and for the market; to the plundering of energy, particularly fossil fuels; excessive consumption of goods and the accumulation of waste. The capitalist system only allows us to heap up waste.”

    Larry Wartels

     

    Not in our space

    Monica Prendergast’s piece in the latest issue prompts me to write. Ms Prendergast regrets that “fifty years of feminism” has not changed some negative aspects of male behaviour. Personally, I do not see any reason why it would.

    It seems that society as a whole has not yet come to terms with the way we have viewed men over a long stretch of history. We are still subjecting little boys to conditioning aimed at suppressing elements of tenderness and vulnerability within them. Male roles have kept men set in the hardest and most dangerous jobs, including soldiering. Psychosocial inclinations have pushed men toward the darker reaches of human imagination and interaction. In story and symbols, and in actual life, men are typically the ones to be regarded with suspicion and fear.

    The worst thing in all of this is the resistance by a lot of men to change. Maleness, almost certainly, evolved as a necessity for survival in much earlier stages of human development and it had to be programmed into male psyches. And it still is. Many men continue to view being a “real man” as an indispensible part of their existence.

    It is necessary that we come to see that the behaviours of certain men can be linked with the reality that they are, in fact, themselves victims and casualties. This understanding does not obscure the criminality, nor the culpability surrounding their deeds. But the fact that men are operating in that part of the field serves to illustrate that it is they who are driven to playing the B side, not women.

    In order to foster the degree of change that women claim to want, and which some men, including this writer, want, we need to evolve more progressive movements deeper and farther-reaching than what feminism has been. Even with that, it’s probably liable to take some time before we see the kind of change where numbers of men can more easily transcend the confines of traditional maleness. Then we really might be able to honestly claim that we have gender equity.

    Peter Halling

     

    Backyards fight climate change

    I thought, in terms of neighbourhood planning, that people might like to read a recent article in the New York Times: “A Secret Superpower, Right in Your Backyard.” It states: “Your average backyard has hidden superpowers: Its soil can absorb and store a significant amount of carbon from the air, unexpectedly making such green spaces an important asset in the battle against climate change. Backyard soils can lock in more planet-warming carbon emissions than soils found in native grasslands or urban forests like arboretums, according to Carly Ziter, a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

    Aside from the abundant lifestyle and health advantages (gardening and recreation) of preserving generous backyards, this research shows a definite climatological benefit as well.

    It has become commonplace in Fairfield to tear down one house and fill the lot with two big houses almost completely filling the lot and leaving scarcely enough room for a narrow strip of green in front and back.

    Is this really the way we want our neighbourhoods to go? Is it good for our community values, our health, our food security and, even more importantly, helpful to the environment?

    Arnold Porter

     

    Amalgacide & governance review

    One cannot think of anything much healthier that citizens asking each other if there are better ways that they might be governed when confronted with realities of their life that give them pause. Greater Victoria is now a region of some 350,000 people. Politically it comprises 13 governments. They all have to deal with issues that cross their borders. Transit does not end at these borders, neither does sewage. Growth affects everyone in the region. So does traffic congestion. The list is long and the issues often divisive and requiring intervention.

    When they boil over, the Province has to provide what the region cannot: government. Thus we are not really in control of our own affairs. Edith Slack of the Munk Centre—a doyenne of local government thinking—suggests that this state of affairs is not to be endured for it is a drag on citizen efforts to enjoy better lives. To become “masters of our own house,” the region needs to be in charge of its own affairs while local governments—however many—do likewise. Calls for a review of governance—local and regional—are increasing. It’s time to heed them.

    John Olson

     

    Human impacts wide & deep: witness the orca

    The impact of human activity on the planet has been identified and discussed at great length by Focus. If you look around the planet it is impossible to ignore the changes we have wrought in the past half century. Our species is only 1000 centuries old by most reckonings but our impact is wide and deeply ingrained in the world we currently occupy.

    Some of us are deeply concerned by what has changed, and even more concerned by what will change in the next few centuries. Some of us are desperately insisting that many things must change very quickly before it is too late. Can we revert back to an earlier time? Can we revert to a past that did work for most of human history? I am concerned that many people do not fully appreciate the ramifications of what they propose should happen.

    Let’s take some simple examples that I think illustrate my concerns. The orcas in the Salish sea are dying. As Focus’ David Broadland illustrated through available scientific research (November/December 2017), they are starving. Their food is no longer as readily available as it was a few decades ago. Their normal migratory and hunting patterns are being widely disrupted due to human activity. The waters they swim in are less friendly to their physical well-being. Yet ecologically-minded people propose that we stop farming fish and eat more wild salmon, their historic food source. In other words, they propose we compete more aggressively for the orca’s food source. I think we can guess who will win that one.

    Another example. Between 1830 and 1870, whales were the world’s primary source of liquid hydrocarbons. The demand for it resulted in the decimation of whales worldwide. The first successful oil well in North America was drilled in Oil Springs, Ontario in 1857, and soon followed by one in Oil Creek, Pennsylvania. The subsequent oil rush and new source of liquid hydrocarbons saved the few remaining whales. We can all be thankful to the oil industry for that. Look out whales if we shut down all the oil wells.

    The next time you go for a walk or ride your bike, glance down and see where 10-15 percent of the 90+ million barrels of oil currently consumed per day ends up. Concrete produces a ton of carbon dioxide for every ton of cement used. The return to cobblestone streets is our current best future road surface option.

    An electric vehicle should be in everyone’s garage. However, I am sure that electric planes are not going to be a travel option any time soon.

    Can the world support 9 billion humans? How about 1 billion? By what process do we transition between what we have and what is sustainable? Do we revert back to the 4 horsemen to ride herd on our future? As Pogo said over 60 years ago, “We have met the enemy and they are us!”

    Jim Knock

     

    Why Bambi and friends moved to town

    Many of us long-time Island residents have wondered why deer have invaded urban areas all along the east coast of Vancouver Island over the past 10 to 15 years. I put that question to both the guys at a local sporting goods store up here in the Comox Valley, which caters to local hunters, and Focus’ Briony Penn. They had the same answer.

    To quote Dr Penn: “Our coastal black-tails are very dependent in the winter on arboreal lichens which accumulate on older trees and most particularly on the old growth of south facing slopes where the sun hits the slope and the combination of sun and old growth canopy reduces snow cover. It is places like McLaughlin Ridge (near Port Alberni and recently mowed down by TimberWest) that provide critical winter habitat, especially when bad weather hits. When you lose this habitat the deer die or move to the cities to munch in garden beds in the winter. And, of course, cougars follow the deer. It is the fundamental reason we have cougar problems…”

    Just another environmental disaster (like the flooding and subsequent boil water alert up here in the Comox Valley last winter) all thanks to the creation of the Private Managed Forests Land Act back in 2003 by a newly elected Liberal government. In essence, the bill served as one colossal giveaway to TimberWest and Island Timberlands since there’s been virtually no government oversight of their operations here along the east coast of the Island since. As one old logger so aptly stated, “the fox was left in charge of the chicken house.” As a result, not only has all our incredible first growth virtually disappeared but now any mature second growth (70 to 120 year old timber) is going, going…gone! All of which would have provided ideal habitat to blacktail deer and their close associates, the cougar.

    Rick James



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