Thank you Focus for persisting in maintaining a “Journalism Refugia” from whence so many of southern BC’s endangered investigative journalists can disseminate information into the rest of the world. I always end up reading every word in every issue with great relish for the well-researched, straightforward, illuminating and expertly written articles.
Easter Island 2.0
In reading Leslie Campbell’s “Tug-of-war over school lands,” followed by David Broadland’s “An insurance policy against the failure of local climate action plans,” then “Density on trial” by Ross Crockford and “The vanishing ancient forests of Vancouver Island” by Stephen Hume—all in addition to Leslie Campbell’s Sept/Oct article “Strong sanctions needed for destroying public records” and Stephen Hume’s “The Cowichan River: loving and logging it to death”—I hit upon a Eureka moment.
What Saanich and Victoria (though not excluding other regions, up to and including the federal government) are embarking on is nothing less than Easter Island Redux (or the more up-to-date nomenclature Easter Island 2.0). Those unfamiliar with the collapse of the civilization of Easter Island can google it.
In essence, we have an unresponsive leadership, set on one course and only one course, and sadly with the encouragement of the general population, by non-participation or active support or ignorance. We use our renewable forests and fisheries much faster than they can regenerate for either future use or as carbon sinks. We throw off any natural systems by the simple expedient of wiping out keystone species and introducing foreign species (Victoria is the second “rattiest” city in BC).
We build our version of Easter Islanders’ “Moai” but we call them condos and high-rises, all the while encouraging a steady (if not cascading) influx of people, testing Greta Thunberg’s “Fairytales of eternal economic growth.” The only prerequisite seems to be BC—Bring Cash.
With a willful series of municipal councils, provincial and federal governments, all of which pay lip service to the “climate emergency,” we are as lemmings.
Tug-of-war over school land in Fernwood
I was interested to read Leslie Campbell’s article on the proposed CRHC housing development in Fernwood. I understand the development will include a childcare facility operated by Fernwood NRG, as well as 154 units of below-market-rate housing. I also understand that this childcare facility will likely be part of the $10/Day pilot program, and workers there will likely be represented by BCGEU.
As an early childhood educator (ECE) and an activist for economic justice for childcare workers, I encourage Fernwood residents to consider that a housing development such as this is absolutely necessary if the community wants low-cost childcare in the neighbourhood. Childcare wages in Victoria are very low: for example, Fernwood NRG advertised a childcare position recently at just $16/hour, while ECEs at local non-profits represented by BCGEU make around $19-21/hour. Current childcare policy sets a low goalpost of raising wages to $25/hour for ECEs within ten years (yes, you read that right, $25/hr within ten years), while increasing wages for non-credentialed childcare workers is even less of a political priority.
This means that an experienced ECE working full-time at a facility like the one in the proposed development meets current CRHC eligibility requirements, and will be able to apply for a housing unit in the development. It also means that ECEs in the Fernwood area, and other working people rendering useful services, are currently totally screwed for housing. Take a quick look at rental listings in Fernwood and surrounding areas, compare them with the wages above, and you’ll understand why there is a shortage of childcare workers and low-income workers generally.
So: want affordable childcare in the neighbourhood? You need to either pay childcare workers a wage that matches up with living expenses—in Victoria, $28/hour is the current “rental wage,” the wage at which workers can afford market rent—or subsidize our housing. If the community chooses to do neither, you can expect the shortage of experienced ECEs to continue and get even worse as older staff isolated from the housing crisis retire, and rent marches upwards four percent each year while wages don’t.
Suzanne DeWeese, ECE
Density on trial
Change is inevitable; unfettered change is not. A 2017 Victoria News article remembering Peter Pollen—Victoria’s mayor for eight years in the 1970/80s—states, “During his time…Peter kept a phone book in his office that had a photo on the cover of Vancouver’s skyline…It was an image he didn’t want for Victoria.” The article noted that the Hallmark Society—the region’s oldest preservation group—honoured Peter with an award of merit for his contribution to heritage preservation.”
Regrettably, City Hall has long since abandoned Pollen’s measured and sensible approach toward Victoria. With today’s condos-first agenda—out with the old and never mind the sustainable—Lisa Helps and her council have taken Victoria’s aesthetic and functional demise to the next level.
Helps sees herself as an anti-global-warming activist and spends millions on bike lanes, but the growth she encourages effectively grinds ever-increasing amounts of traffic practically to a halt, thus ensuring ever increasing amounts of emissions from congestion and all those idling cars at the far-too-many newly installed intersections. At 2019’s Climate Summit, she proclaimed that Victoria will plant hundreds of trees—where and when not mentioned—while not mentioning the mature trees razed, by the dozens, by developers—under her watch. Therefore, is it any wonder she’s managed to infuriate residents by consistently ignoring the Official Community Plan in so many different neighbourhoods? So finally, the City of Victoria is being taken to court over the matter. Bravo, grassroots!
As I write, Helps is on CBC radio declaring the need for, and benefits of, healthy, resilient communities just as council members—who, by the way, are not City Hall staff—want a staggering 50 percent wage increase while other public-sector employees scrape by on two percent.
So, from the macro to the micro reality on the streets, what will be the legacy of all of this? With the exception of a few tourist-designated streets and areas, Victoria’s core is neglected and filthy, with ridiculous, childish and poorly-visible crosswalk patterns which are already fading into obscurity. I have been avoiding the Downtown core since walking past the smeared remains of excrement—at waist height—against a wall on View Street. Many times I have seen homeless people trying to relieve themselves discretely, even though that’s entirely impossible in public. Which to despair over more: the climate crisis, or extreme homelessness?
Victoria, how did we come to normalize extreme homelessness? What happened to all those promises, plans and funds for converting inns into social housing? I bet the cost of one, traffic-jamming bike lane alone would have repurposed enough suites and probably built a few public toilets around town to avoid the crime of allowing humans to suffer the indignities of having to urinate and defecate on the outside of buildings. Alas, we are no longer behaving like a sane society.
Back in 1975, my parents found here a charming little city set in a magnificent landscape with probably more trees than people. A place with a pace of life that came as a tremendous relief compared to the one we left behind in busy, overpopulated Melbourne, Australia. To my 12-year-old self, this was heaven.
Today, walking the few intact trails remaining on the outskirts of Victoria (mainly in Metchosin and further out), it’s heartbreaking seeing everything that’s already been lost on the landscape and the continuing dismemberment of what remains. My husband and I are planning to leave Victoria as soon as possible. Our ideal is a tiny, forgotten hamlet somewhere that’s both off the electronic, wireless grid and off the map. Hopefully where someone with common sense—in the style and in the spirit of a Peter Pollen—still runs things, and where island time still runs on actual island time and not on those recently popped-up, wishful thinking, throw-back bumper stickers.
The vanishing ancient forests of Vancouver Island
It may seem like inverse logic, but the best way to conserve the BC coast’s legendary Douglas Fir biome is to commit to make wood products that will endure. And the only wood in a Doug Fir log that has any chance of endurance is heartwood. But the reality is that 80-year-old second growth Doug Fir is usually about 50 percent sapwood by volume, and all that sapwood will rot or get eaten by bugs in a very short time. Logging of this immature second growth is actually accelerating the burn of BC’s biggest carbon bomb.
Let the herring live
Briony Penn has provided a very thorough and interesting article on a very important issue with huge implications to the Salish Sea and beyond, including migrating water fowl that rely on herring and their roe to nourish them for their long journeys to nesting sites in the north. Herring are vital to the web of life in the marine ecosystem and in the traditional diet of coastal Indigenous peoples for millennia, as shown in archeologic studies of fish bones in middens.
Good science indicates a serious decline in spawning populations of herring which are crucial to salmon, including chinook, which are vital to resident orcas.
The DFO “Integrated Management Plan” serves the interests of the commercial fishing industry, but has led to the decimation of all of the herring populations of the BC coast except for one—near Hornby Island and Denman Island, between Comox and Parksville. The logical plan would be to suspend this fishery to allow a recovery to recur before it is too late.
David Wiseman, Board member, Conservancy Hornby Island
An insurance policy against the failure of local climate action plans
David Broadland’s informative and insightful article on conserving selected BC forests for carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in optimizing our collective response to the accelerating climate crisis. It will form an important part of the curriculum for the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project, a community based, Indigenous-led climate action education for the Southern Gulf Islands.
Please check our website at www.sgicommunityresources.ca and click on “climate-action-project.”
David Broadland unfortunately omits the need for all governments to invest in climate adaptation strategies, simply because there is little likelihood of governments anywhere actually meeting the challenge of mitigating climate change. Better than just a “plan B,” adaptation is really the best “insurance policy” for our municipalities to protect their residents by climate-change-proofing our infrastructure. While mitigation is important, climate adaptation strategies may also serve to protect residents against a broader range of risks and threats, even beyond those attributable directly to climate change. While most governments include a brief mention of the need for adaptation, it will only be when significant resources are invested that we will know our leaders are seriously addressing the need for climate change adaptation.
This article was courageous because it revealed new construction’s detrimental Earth/climate impact. Every new structure anywhere on the planet creates an extraction hole or swath 10 times the building’s size somewhere else on the planet, in addition to the carbon emitted. That hole or swath applies to the cement, wood, steel, granite, glass, drywall…everything in new construction. New structures should only be built for democratically well-established community need—not private developer profit. They also need to be zero-carbon.
See the online study “New Tricks with Old Bricks” by the British Empty Homes Agency charity. It’s a compelling case for a mass renovation program rather than new construction.
Developers are not building new homes for bigger families and population growth. There’s already enough housing stock for the existing Canadian population in total. We need to improve and make affordable the places that people already live in.
The Green New Deal’s (GND) renovation mass-employment program will invest billions to upgrade existing homes and apartments, starting with the Indigenous. The new GND jobs will allow folks to stay where they are currently living or move with the GND livable-wage job corps to wherever the work is needed. Homeless shall be given nice empty apartments or condominiums. There are more than enough sitting empty right now.
Any demand for Alberta bitumen in Asia?
My thanks and congratulations to Briony Penn for her excellent article in the Sept/Oct Focus thoroughly debunking the “need” to get Alberta bitumen to tidewater. As she points out, current tanker capacity at the Westbridge Marine Terminal is greatly under-utilized and most tankers leaving the terminal are headed for California, not China, where the price per barrel is lower. It’s refreshing to read a well-researched article with references, instead of press releases from oil companies which too often contain figures that seem to be pulled out of thin air.
The facts presented in Penn’s article make it very difficult for anyone to make a convincing case for building the Trans Mountain Pipeline. She also points out that mainstream media continue to under-report on this issue. Given the cost of the pipeline and the environmental ramifications, this story should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country.
It’s particularly galling to me that, as Penn reports in her article, oil sands production has increased by 376 percent since 2000, when oil companies already knew that CO2 emissions contributed to global warming. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the oil companies made the calculated decision to get as much bitumen out of the ground and build as many pipelines as they could before public pressure forces the government to take strong action against climate change. We’re still waiting for that action.
Climate change is now top of mind
I read with great interest Trudy Duivenwoorden’s latest column on the climate emergency we are experiencing. I always enjoy her thoughtful writings, and I know many people do.
I agree with her that the politicians, for the most part, are doing next to nothing to solve the problem. They just talk and talk, and they hope the talking would be good enough to get them off the hook and reelected. By the time they actually start taking meaningful action, it’ll be too late.
The press is doing a lot more these days, spreading the bad news ever more frequently, and often, like in Trudy’s case, offering suggestions for general policy and individual actions.
However, in my view, the press is also late. The coverage that we see now should have been there 20 or 30 years ago. They could have offered suggestions, carried out frequent interviews of the scientists doing the research, performed more science journalism. So many things. All this would have created widespread awareness of the danger ahead, and most likely would have pushed people to action, individually and at the ballot box. The press can be a powerful force.
Timely reporting nowadays would be to start telling people that if we manage to solve this crisis, whatever we do—unless an unlikely miracle technological fix is found—it’s going to be painful. A smooth transition to a “new order” is no longer possible, as it would have been 30 or 20 or even 10 years ago. Now the fire is at the gates, and we won’t be able to come out unscathed.
Sounds bleak and dark, but it is sadly realistic.
COP25 concluded without an agreement to combat the climate crisis, leaving a worsening mess for younger generations to clean up and survive—if they can.
“Canada is no longer the worst,” writes Elizabeth May, “but we still won a few Fossils of the Day [Awards].” Prime Minister Trudeau found the climate crisis insufficiently important to be worth attending. One wonders what would!
Our youth have every right to be angry, but anger needs channelling. Calling people stupid doesn’t help. But what is one to think when on a radio call-in show someone says there’s no point in Canada combatting the climate crisis because we contribute so little to it globally?
We contribute little because we have a small population compared with many other countries. Per capita, however, we contribute more than most to climate change. And Canada, having a smaller, well-educated population, is ideally situated to lead in significant actions that others might find difficult to take.
Sweden is similarly small, but Greta Thunberg created more awareness about the climate crisis than any politician in the super-powers.
Canada could take the lead!
Don’t mention LNG!
Regarding Russ Francis excellent piece on LNG and where all those wonderful jobs-jobs-jobs have gone, adding to the confusion is this: if Canada’s corporate media is your only source, you may not have read enough to understand what happened over there. Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already issued measures that amount to moratoriums on fracking.
Canadian media, so often forgetful of detail, whether deliberately or not, have helped pro-fracking politicians (both federal and provincial) avoid having to answer several awkward questions, including: How can two countries arrive at opposite conclusions about whether fracking is sufficiently safe?
Why are we in trouble?
I love Maleea Acker’s story on establishing her own native garden—such inspiration! I have a dream where I go around restoring and replanting the most degraded plots of land I can find—of course, starting at home. Thank you so much for doing this and sharing your story!
Thanks for Maleea Acker’s piece in the November/December Focus. There are so many things wrong with our current approach. I will pick on just one. As climate change dries up tadpole pools early, we are not allowed to move them to a new pool to save their lives. Huge fines prevent this. We are not allowed to release them into our back gardens that they inhabited 30 years ago. So they can never repopulate areas again. It is absurd.
I think BC needs new rules to allow us to help our native amphibians and reptiles repopulate areas that they lost in the past. My old house in Vic West had salamanders in the basement in about 2002. The only way salamanders can ever return to Vic West is with human help. Why not change the rules to allow this?
UNDRIP in theory—but in action?
On October 24 the BC government tabled their Bill on adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With the support of the Greens, the Bill will surely pass.
Last year I attended a meeting at our local college to hear three guests talk about the BC government’s decision to proceed with the Liberal project to build the Site C dam. Amnesty International presented, as did Indigenous leader Bob Chamberlin, and journalist Sarah Cox (award-winning author of Breaching the Peace). I took home a copy of UNDRIP and am astounded at how many articles in this document have been violated by the ongoing construction of the Site C dam. Is there any chance that this bill could be made “retroactive” in order to address these serious violations? Probably not.
Sadly, in my elder years, I’ve become somewhat cynical. I see the BC government, hydro, forestry, mining companies, and the LNG promoters publicly getting that “free, prior and informed consent” and then carrying on as planned! The Minister has said so himself: “NO veto over development…minimum standards,” obviously business as usual. Very disheartening.
Bicycle lanes on Kimta Road?
City council is engaging in what it calls consultation for a new bike path along Kimta Road to link the E & N Rail trail ending at Catherine Street to the Johnson Street Bridge. As part of the consultation process there was a walk through of the proposed route. The plan is to put a two-way bike path on the north side of Kimta Road between the sidewalk and street parking. There were a number of questions asked about this plan.
Why not continue the bike path along the E and N rail from Catherine to the Johnson Street Bridge? The answer was, this is very complicated, that part of the trail is privately owned. The long-term plan is for a bike path to be included in the rail corridor—therefore the path along Kimta will be temporary, or so we are lead to believe. In my experience, once something is put in, it is very rarely, if ever, removed. Recently, an article in the Capital Daily indicated very positive signs that the Rail trail may open again to commuter trains. This could happen as early as 2022. I’m guessing this will also include the bicycle/pedestrian corridor. The “temporary” bike path on Kimta Road won’t be completed until 2020 or 2021, so why not wait a year or two for a more permanent solution instead of potentially needing to make two trails? Why the rush?
There is already a bike path along Esquimalt Road, so instead of disturbing a residential street, why not put money into linking an already established path and improving it? Supposedly, a lot of cyclists don’t feel comfortable cycling on a busy street, and city council wants to make cycling accessible to all levels. It is interesting that council uses that argument for not improving an already established path along Esquimalt Road, yet they didn’t hesitate to spend huge amounts of money to put new ones along busy streets through the Downtown core.
Finally, as Kimta is already a wide street, there is ample room for pedestrians, cyclists and all types of vehicles, so why not just leave it as is, and continue to work on opening up the E & N corridor? The City’s answer was, some cyclists don’t feel comfortable riding by parked cars. This is so absurd as to be ridiculous. I guess if I, as a pedestrian, said I was uncomfortable sharing pathways with cyclists, city council would immediately work to mitigate that situation. No, wait: I have sent numerous emails to council suggesting ways they could make the shared pathways more pedestrian- friendly, and a year later, nothing has happened.
These legitimate questions and ideas were virtually ignored, and it soon became obvious this wasn’t a true consultative process. The Kimta Road route is a done deal. In fact, signs have already gone up in the neighbourhood indicating the proposed route. City council is encouraging people to interact in the process, but only as far as picking one of the three types of paths from the options provided, not the proposed route.
True to council’s myopic view, this decision has been based on some very old information about the amount of parking allowed on Kimta, disregarding the fact that the Bayview condo complex is not complete. There are very poor sitelines when turning from the sidestreets, and narrowing the street is going to potentially impact traffic flow. Parts of the route behind The Delta Hotel are too narrow, badly paved, and poorly lit for two-way cyclist and foot traffic. This area can’t be widened because it is right up against the hotel wall. The lighting belongs to the condo next door, and although residents have attempted to improve this, in eight years, nothing has happened. Council is going to do it anyway despite these concerns.
I am not against bicycle paths in this city. I am, however, against the way City council has gone about creating them. They claim to consult or engage the public, but in reality, it is lip service only.
Council has chosen to support their preferred method of transportation to the exclusion of every other form, including transit, pedestrian, and yes, the dreaded car. Council claims that bicycle lanes are good for the environment, and that there are now less cars in the Downtown core. I would agree with this in theory, however when bike lanes impede the flow of traffic, leaving cars idling for longer periods of time, how environmentally friendly is this? We will never know, because council chooses to provide numbers and statistics that support their views only.
The increased number of bike lanes have also contributed to cyclists feeling very entitled. They believe they can do whatever they want, including illegal right hand turns, blowing through stop signs and crosswalks, riding on sidewalks and pedestrian-only walkways, cycling the wrong way on one-way streets, cycling on wheelchair accessible ramps…the list goes on. Instead of council acknowledging this, and working at ways to mitigate the situation they continue to ignore it. This only serves to contribute to the belief that again they are supporting one group of commuters in this city.
City council claims they want to make the city accessible to all levels of cyclists. Why not try to make it accessible to all? They could start by not putting an unnecessary bike path along Kimta Road and work harder to open up the E & N trail onto the Johnson Street Bridge.