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  • Letters from readers

    Leslie Campbell

    A perfect storm for Victoria renters
    Clearly the government has been negligent in not making any kind of decent effort to build social housing for the past number of years. The result is money being spent on mopping up the mess of lives that become broken and dysfunctional. 
    But I don’t like to see landlords being targeted as the root of the problem. One of the biggest costs to a landlord, after the initial mortgage on the property, is taxes. There is something unsustainable when it costs almost $500 a month just for property taxes. People who own their own homes are struggling to hang on and so end up adding one more room to an existing suite in order to make it a two bedroom. Sometimes people are moved to take a serious look at the idea of an Airbnb because the income is so much higher—anything that will help with the crushing taxes.

    Our house taxes went up 10 percent this year. The money has to come from somewhere. It’s hard not to increase the rent allowed by the BC rental rules [for 2017, 3.7 percent] every year when your taxes go up by 10 percent. So it is no wonder that there is a rental problem in Victoria.

    My point is that taxes are suffocating people who own any kind of property. It’s not about greed. It’s about families trying to make ends meet.

    Deryk Houston


    Cash-for-access flourishes in BC politics
    Houston oil dude Richard Kinder is one of the most loaded guys around, meaning really loaded. Net worth what? Nine billion or something. Friends call him Rich, and the joke is that Rich should be his middle name and Very his first. Kinder Morgan co-founder Bill Morgan isn’t picking up cans and bottles for extra spending money either.

    So these guys need more money? Your article “Cash-for-access flourishes in BC politics” shows how money poisons the palace of mirrors in this province. As you point out, Justin Trudeau is trying to kiss the oil biz’s lardy ass and paint himself as a climate warrior at the same time. You’re in or you’re out, Mr 10,000-Selfies-and-Counting.

    Alan Cassels’ article about the Health Ministry firings shows a criminally-warped ministry treating hard-working public servants with contempt. Good on Cassels and Ombudsperson Jay Chalke and his staff for exposing a disgraceful episode.

    Louis Guilbault


    An Orwellian path to fraud in BC forests
    Now that the BC Green Party has established a foothold in the BC Legislature, and holds the balance of power assuming that it votes as a block on legislation, we’ll see if Briony Penn’s exposure of the plunder of BC resources abetted by “professional reliance” is addressed in any substantial way. I am not holding my breath.

    Richard Weatherill


    It seems when the professionals are hobbled and threatened by their superiors and not able to voice their concerns and be a professional for the greater public good, there is no fairness. Shame on the federal and provincial governments for strong-arming these public servants who have a greater awareness of the public interest. The upper management and upper government seem to prefer the public blind and ignorant.

    We grow up and try to instill fair and just traits in our children, and the governments train those under them to be conniving and withholding of the truth. The norm is going out the window.

    Gasper Jack


    Biketoria woes
    The mayor has been an avid if not fanatical bicyclist since childhood and still is. Waywardly, unconcerned by adult objections from merchants on our principal east-west arteries, she is determined to turn our once graceful city into a child’s playground she rejoices in calling Biketoria. Could there possibly be an uglier name? Such ludicrous transformation defies all mature opinion and all logic.

    Lower Fort Street, like Pandora, in no way will benefit from bicycle traffic swishing past its many shops and businesses. The mayor seems complacently ignorant of the fact that for many, many years Victoria has had the largest percentage of elderly in all of Canada. With a compliant City council, Helps is determined to push through with this scheme by September. Already she is threatening Cook Street. Indeed there is no end to her profligacy.

    Last year Helps “felt like crying when people say she doesn’t care about seniors or people with disabilities,” but the evidence is there before our eyes. These bike lanes cost us millions of dollars, money which could well help feed our many destitute and house some of our many homeless.

    David Price

    Time for Metro Victoria
    Metro Victoria is now a reality. A mid-size city region of some 350,000 souls. Some, like Gene Miller, and no doubt others in the Eastern Communities, yearn to hang onto the Victorian past. Others are on to the future—as evidenced by recent manifestos from the Chamber of Commerce and the Grumpy Taxpayers.

    While their concerns arise from tax and commerce issues, their critique of the political/cultural status quo—dare I say nostalgiaville—point to the dismal effects of not recognizing that the region is now a large metropolis and needs to be governed accordingly.

    The dark effects of an absence of regional government are manifest, not the least in the pages of Focus. All should hope that the provincial panel looking at this issue will set the metropolis on a path to progress through effective governance.

    John Olson


    Gene Miller responds:

    It’s very important to respect readers’ feelings, so I want to acknowledge that the writer, John Olson, a director of Amalgamation Now, feels that governance within and among the region’s individual municipalities is retrogressive, out of step and not effective. This, in spite of endless studies by objective analysts that have determined that local rather than regional or metropolitan governance delivers more and better service at a lower cost. (My, how counter-intuitive!)

    What does it matter if Greater Victoria has a metropolitan population of 350,000, or 2,500,000, like the Vancouver Region? Oh, right, the Vancouver Region which, in fact, consists of the politically and administratively autonomous cities of Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Delta, White Rock, Langley, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack.

    What’s the matter with those Lower Mainland people? Uncourageously hanging on to the past? Nostalgiaville? Failure to embrace the future? How do they survive?

    Olson uses the word future as if he and his gang owned it. This is a moral and intellectual hat trick—to claim to speak for the future, or progress, while suggesting that those who have a different perspective are hopelessly stuck in the past. Invoking the complaints of the Grumpy Taxpayers and the Chamber of Commerce, pronouncement-prone Olson notes that “the dark effects of an absence of regional government [here] are manifest.”

    Can anyone tell me what CRD stands for? Couldn’t possibly be Capital Regional District—the regional structure here that provides all necessary extra-municipal administrative services.

    Gene Miller


    Christie Point Development impacts bird sanctuary
    I am writing Focus in an attempt to find someone who can help prevent an environmental disaster from occurring here in the CRD, specifically in View Royal.

    Recently the Times Colonist ran a front page story about Realstar, a Toronto developer wanting to replace 161 rental units from the 1960s with 473 units comprised of eight six-story apartment blocks on a peninsula, known as Christie Point, inside the Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Portage Inlet.

    The proposed project is three times taller than the existing RM 1 zoning allows and, despite the developer saying the buildings will be put on the same footprints of 8700 square metres, the proposal is for 18,000 square metres.

    The proposal does not say many things clearly and View Royal’s report, at 254 pages, is misleading and lacking the full disclosure to allow a reasonable person to make a proper decision about the future of the neighbourhood or the environment.

    An example of this is when View Royal’s planners asked Realstar if fill would be brought to the site. Realstar answered that fill would be used from the site itself. The conclusion one might come to is that not much fill will be needed for the project.

    But, in fact, the developer will be changing the grade up to 50 percent on the 15.8-acre site by breaking rock and crushing it on-site to build up the peninsula by 1-1.5 metres.

    The area may require retaining walls hundreds of feet long along the shores of the tidal waterway that is a salmon spawning route that also contains endangered clams. The quantity of crushed rock may approach 150 tandem dump-truck loads, which would be a row of trucks nearly 2 kilometres long.

    Further issues are: The present height for the RM 1 zone is 7.5 metres and the proposal is 26 metres plus. Also, some buildings will be built on existing footprints that are outside the building envelope and inside the riparian 15-metre setback on the shore adjacent to midden and archeological areas on the site map.

    There are so many things wrong with this plan I can’t even tell you how much this is contrary to what the people want, but View Royal is getting around everything by creating a special Development Permit Zone called CD-22.

    Most people want new buildings. We would even be happy with four-story buildings, but it needs to conform and avoid destructive cutting and filling. The planned 473 units will put over 1000 people in a very ecosensitive area. It can’t end well for our delicate waterway.

    On a recent Tuesday evening, View Royal council pushed through first and second reading even after Mayor Screech scolded people saying something along the lines of, “I know most people do not want or like this proposal.” He has also discounted Saanich residents because “it’s none of their business.”

    The Official Community Plan says rental units are needed in View Royal and we are in a rental crisis. But these high-end waterfront buildings will not be affordable.

    The Province and the federal government says it’s View Royal’s jurisdiction. This municipality is not paying attention. If the project size is reduced by two stories, the permit and associated fees might be reduced (i.e. 30 percent property taxes reduced to 17 percent). If the developer built to a higher quality, those figures would reduce further and rental rates would be higher, so its returns would balance despite the reduction in units.

    Unfortunately, the developer claims it is not financially feasible at a smaller scale. But why should its wish for an 11-year return mean our loss of our wildlife and environment?

    We need as many people as possible to write Mayor Screech and View Royal council about the negative environmental impact.

    Shahn Torontow


    Why are we in thrall to Seattle on sewage?
    What with the announcement in the Times Colonist on May 6 of the “retirement” of Mr Floatie, I find it strange that this  announcement had to be made at the Canadian Consulate in Seattle.

    Mayor Lisa Helps is doubtless aware of the existence of Focus Magazine. The article by David Broadland, entitled “Washington’s phony sewage war with Victoria” in May 2016 definitively put the pollution of Puget Sound in Washington State’s court.

    I again find it strange that virtually every bit of information presented by Mr Broadland has been completely ignored by not only Mayor Helps, but by all of the municipalities impacted by the sewage plant, as well as by the Province which, in my estimation, could care less if the sewage system chosen actually works.

    Why are we in thrall to Seattle over this? Are we that gutless? I refuse to believe the impact of a boycott on tourism is so monumental that we must crawl on our knees as supplicants, grateful for any wee morsels thrown our way.

    In a conversation I had with the late and lamented Saanich Councillor Vic Derman a year ago, he mentioned then that he was seriously thinking of not running in the next municipal election because, in his words, “nothing gets done.” The retirement of Mr Floatie speaks volumes to that conclusion.

    Richard Weatherill


    Provincial Health Officer on HPV vaccine
    We are writing in response to the article and subsequent responses by Alan Cassels in which he urges readers to be cautious about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. He focuses his concerns and his arguments about the efficacy and safety of this vaccine on two issues. Neither position stands up to critical analysis and unfortunately he omits some very important evidence from his arguments.

    Firstly, he states categorically that the manufacturer’s claims that this vaccine will prevent cervical cancer are unproven. This is technically true as the vaccine has not been in use long enough for any statistically measurable reduction in cervical cancers to appear. However, there are a number of important considerations that Alan Cassels has not communicated.

    The natural history of cervical cancer is very well established. Pre-cancerous lesions precede all cervical cancers. As such, the vaccine manufacturers appropriately used pre-cancerous lesions as their clinical trial endpoints, as it would have been highly unethical to let women progress to cervical cancer as part of a study.

    What Alan Cassels fails to mention are the numerous, published, peer-reviewed articles (including from BC) that demonstrate significant reductions in pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia or CIN) in women who have received this vaccine prior to the onset of sexual activity. In summary, they demonstrate that the vaccine results in 90 percent reductions in infections with HPV 6/11/16/18 (which are responsible for the majority of cancers and genital warts), a 45 percent reduction in low grade cytologic cervical abnormalities and an 85 percent reduction in high grade cervical dysplasia.

    In BC alone this has resulted in thousands of women not undergoing colposcopy (a surgical procedure) to check for and treat pre-cancerous lesions. Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that preventing pre-cancerous lesions will prevent cancers? While it remains a possibility that the gap left by preventing these four strains of HPV may be filled by other strains, there is, as yet, no evidence that this is happening, or will happen.

    His second argument is that administration of the HPV vaccine has resulted in thousands of reported adverse reactions and hundreds of deaths. He does note that these reports are anecdotal and not proof of causation. However, many, perhaps most readers will take away from this that the vaccine is unsafe and dangerous.

    We think it shows a definite bias in that he omits to note that there are published, peer-reviewed studies comparing the frequency of these reported adverse reactions in vaccinated populations against their frequency in unvaccinated populations. These studies include a 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association analysis of adverse events reports, showing the HPV vaccine is as safe as any other vaccine and that the most common adverse event related to the HPV vaccine is fainting.

    A more recent British Medical Journal study, involving about a million girls in Denmark and Sweden, found there was no association between the vaccine and a range of harms, including autoimmune, neurological and venous thromboembolic adverse events.

    While there is much to critique about big pharma, and we need to be skeptical about many of the claims originating from that source, Alan Cassels does a great disservice to the readership of this magazine by presenting such a biased, one-sided view of a vaccine that is helping whole generations of women (and men) avoid preventable morbidity and mortality.

     Perry Kendall, BC Provincial Health Officer 
    & Professor Gina Ogilvie, UBC



    Alan Cassels responds
    Thank you Drs Kendall and Ogilvie for your letter. You have made me look closer at this issue and I have consulted with peers and spent more time looking at the literature—at least the unbiased literature, which doesn’t cherry pick the good stuff and ignore the uncomfortable which, may I humbly suggest, is the approach that often describes those who feel that vaccines need to be defended at all costs.

    I direct readers to my original article in Focus’ March/April edition. While I mentioned some of the adverse reports associated with girls receiving the vaccine, the article was really questioning the wisdom of vaccinating all boys in Grade 6 in BC. I accepted that all girls are already being vaccinated and as I noted in the article, boys with “increased risk” are already eligible for free vaccination.

    I also noted that the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes over 40 distinct types of HPV infection which can infect the genital tract, and “about 90 percent of infections are asymptomatic and resolve spontaneously within two years.”
    Further, I wrote: “In the marketing of the two HPV vaccines which target a few strains of the virus believed to lead to some forms of cancer, they often downplay one simple fact: The vast majority of us will get HPV in our lives and clear it like the common cold virus.” Is it possible that the drug manufacturers, with the help of public health officials, have reconfigured a small risk factor into a deadly disease?

    I believe Drs Kendall and Ogilvie have missed the mark widely on the HPV vaccine. While glossing over the very real dangers of the vaccine that have been experienced by many girls around the world, they also fail to address the many flaws surrounding how the vaccine was studied. Dr Tom Jefferson at the Cochrane Collaboration, for example, is an unbiased scientist who has looked closely at the registration of trials of the HPV and wondered to me, in an email, “why they compared HPV vaccines with their adjuvants, hence testing only the antigenic part of the vaccine?” What this means is there was not a true placebo used in the HPV trials. Hence if it is the adjuvant that is damaging to the young girls being vaccinated, the rates of adverse effects would appear equally in the intervention and the control group, thus “appearing to show” the vaccine is as safe as its controls. The use of the vaccine in the “real world” cannot be ignored.

    There is no evidence (yet) on the effect of the vaccine on cancer. Instead we have noted the vaccine may alter the appearance of surrogate markers, things which may or may not lead to cancer. In other words the defenders of the vaccine misleadingly overstate the potential of the vaccine to prevent cancer. I believe parents who are being asked to vaccinate their children, whether girls or boys, need to know this uncomfortable fact.

    There are a number of scholars outside the orbit of public health or the pharmaceutical industry around the world who have studied the Gardasil vaccine and believe it to be an utter scandal. Should parents also be aware of the controversies surrounding the research around the vaccine, the many unanswered questions, and the growing numbers of girls around the world who appear to be harmed by it? I think so, even as I see Drs Kendall and Ogilvie would beg to differ.

    Alan Cassels 

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